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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 11, Number 10 October 2011 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Ann's Bookshelf Applegate's Bookshelf
Bethany's Bookshelf Buhle's Bookshelf Burroughs' Bookshelf
Carson's Bookshelf Clark's Bookshelf Crocco's Bookshelf
Daniel's Bookshelf Deb's Bookshelf Dollycas' Bookshelf
Edward's Bookshelf Gary's Bookshelf Gloria's Bookshelf
Gorden's Bookshelf Harwood's Bookshelf Henry's Bookshelf
Joanne's Bookshelf Karyn's Bookshelf Katherine's Bookshelf
Kaye's Bookshelf Keira's Bookshelf Logan's Bookshelf
Margaret's Bookshelf Mayra's Bookshelf Nicole's Bookshelf
Richard's Bookshelf Sandra's Bookshelf Theodore's Bookshelf

Reviewer's Choice

Pirate King
Laurie R. King
Random House
9780553807981 $13.99 hardcover; $12.99 Kindle

Aaron Paul Lazar, Reviewer

I have long loved Laurie R. King's books, from my first taste of her writing in THE MOOR, to Kate Martinelli's dark mysteries, including A GRAVE TALENT. Without fail, I preorder each new release, looking forward to the hardcover arrivals to treasure and store on my bookshelf. Lately, I've also ordered the Kindle versions, just to have the books close at hand when a stray chance to read presents itself.

Mary Russell, originally an apprentice to Sherlock Holmes and now his wife and partner in solving puzzles around the world, is featured in these books with her erudite and delightful husband, in a world of high culture and gentle civility. Of course, things are not quite so civil when they run across villains. When that happens, all bets are off.

The series is most appealing because of its intellect combined with delectable humor, particularly shown through the pithy dialogue of husband and wife. Mary Russell's voice is strong - profound, most definitely British, and delightfully independent. Her relationship with Holmes, while they dash across the globe to solve mysteries and rescue innocents, is what hooked me from the beginning, particularly its dry humor and subtle eroticism.

What amazes me most about this author is her ability to set a story in the voice and time of the early 20th century, in such a way that readers feel an integral part of that era. And yet, she also has perfected the art of writing contemporary genre crime stories, such as TO PLAY THE FOOL and the other Kate Martinelli mysteries. I've loved them all, including the standalones, but what astounds me the most is King's ability to switch between these distinct and very different writing styles so effortlessly. Both series have garnered high awards in the literary world, and both have found space on my bookshelf.

About the new book:

In THE PIRATE KING, the eleventh Mary Russell book, Russell is challenged to uncover secrets in a nest of villainous characters spanning the misty shores of Lisbon to the heady-scented harems of Morocco.

Inspector Lestrade of Scotland Yard convinces Russell to go undercover in the film company, posing as an assistant to the director. What happened to the missing secretary? Why were her shoes found near a ledge, but no suicide note? And what about these rumrunners, cocaine dealers, and arms sellers who seem to be linked with every silent Fflytte film that's ever been produced?

With Holmes unavailable, Russell is rushed undercover in this colorful, crazy world of silent filmmaking, where she is immediately put in charge of a bevy of blonde actresses and is the primary peacekeeper and runner of errands.

A band of real pirates is hired in Lisbon to act in "the film about a film about pirates" loosely based on Gilbert and Sullivan's Pirates of Penzance. (Although quite complex, the story within a story didn't bother me, since one of my own books involves a deeply layered story with multiple actors, their roles in a musical, and the story behind the story that inspired the musical. I was used to thinking in these convoluted terms!)

Vibrant characters, subtle hints, questions that layer one upon the other, they weave a tight and fascinating tapestry. Suffice it to say that a complete plot description would take up too much room here. You can read more details in the product description on Amazon, or on King's website at

As an aside, I did have one minor complaint about PIRATE KING. I missed Sherlock Holmes in the first two-thirds of this book. Mary writes letters to him, but he doesn't write back, so we don't hear his voice or see him for much of the story, and I yearned for their witty repartee. He does finally show up, however, and it's at that point where the suspense and action really pick up. Yes, PIRATE KING has a different feel from the previous novels, but is enjoyable in its own right.

Mary Russell's voice is distinct and unique; it's what stamps the eleven books with King's signature, book after book. As an example, see the following excerpt from a letter penned to Holmes.

"It may not have escaped your notice that this missive contains a dearth of data concerning the true reason for my presence, namely, a missing secretary and the illicit selling of cocaine and firearms. Perhaps that is due to the circumstances of my employment, which is rather that of a person attempting delicate surgery whilst standing in a hurricane.

I shall persist."

It is Russell's sardonic wit exemplified in lines like this that always make me laugh out loud.

Some of the lovelier aspects of PIRATE KING—aside from the fun of meeting all of the actors, pirates, and staff—are the delicious descriptions of Lisbon and Morocco. Exotic and intriguing, the sights, sounds, and aromas tantalize. It's clear that the author has been in these locales (you can read about it on her Mutterings blog at

In addition to the intricately woven plot, King paints delightful portraits of her featured characters, such as Mr. Pessoa, based on a real Portuguese poet from the same time in history.

"All this talk about pirates had made Mr. Pessoa's gaze go far away. Two lengths of ash had dropped unnoticed as his monologue unfurled. Then he looked at me as if in expectation of an answer, to a question I could not begin to recall. I felt an absurd urge to lay my head down on the table and go to sleep. Or to weep."

One aspect of King's writing that thrills me is the use of certain verbs, such as "...his monologue unfurled." How appropriate (since we're reading about sailing and sails unfurling), and what pure poetry. I love the thought of words unfurling from a poet's lips.

Russell's humor continues, never failing, even in the most dire situation.

"It was getting on to eleven o'clock; I had not slept a full night since leaving London; I had not eaten a full meal in that same time. I was exhausted and cold and so hungry that the plate of fly-specked objects on a shelf (pies? Boiled eggs? Bundled stockings, perhaps?) made my mouth water."

I still laugh when I picture whatever it was on that shelf. Eggs, pies, or stockings?

My favorite line in this entire story, however, again comes from one of Russell's letters to Holmes.

"Holmes, I am awash in a sea of megalomaniacs."

And indeed, she was. Surrounded by film directors, actors, pirates, poets, and spies, this staunch and feisty young woman took on more than her share and made Holmes and her readers very proud.

If you begin to read the book and wonder where the threats are, where the mystery is, when the action will start, don't despair. Although the first section is a bit different from other Mary Russell books (albeit enjoyable in its own right), the last pages will woo you with dazzling tension, heart pounding action, and wonderful imagery. I'll never forget the image of Russell hanging outside a Moroccan jail cell on a silk rope thirty feet above the cobblestones below, having in-depth conversations with the prisoner inside; it was sheer delight.

If you haven't read a book by Laurie King, please check them out now. Whether you're a modern day crime aficionado or a British mystery fan, both genres will fill your days and nights with superb writing and entertainment. You can find all the books on her website.

Landing Place
Marina Snow
Lost Coast Press
155 Cypress Street, Fort Bragg, CA 95437-5401
9781935448068 $19.95

Anne M. Petty

Haight-Ashbury Revisited!

If you're old enough to remember the "Summer of Love" in San Fancisco's Haight-Ashbury district, and such musical headliners as The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane and Janis Joplin; or if you just know these names and their psychedelic rock music, Read. This. Book. Powerful writing and evocative dialogue will take you back—or introduce you to—this defining moment in the 1960s when the hippie countercultural movement first came into public awareness. Major media interest in the hippie subculture popularized the movement both across our country and around the world, its cultural and political rebellion reverberating with us still.

Disgraced by the denial of tenure, Celeste Castle's husband, Cal, a physics professor has grudgingly accepted a position at a community college in New Mexico. En route to his new job, Cal has disappeared in the Las Vegas airport. "Where's Daddy?" their children ask fearfully. After searching the terminal and all Vegas casinos to no avail, the police have issued a missing persons all-points bulletin. In hopes that Cal will show up, Celeste, with her children, travels on to their destination. She finds the desert town so appealing, she decides to stay. In her husband's continued absence, she draws on all her strength and determination to create a life for herself. She meets a kindred spirit who shares her feelings about New Mexico, "The Land of Enchantment," and finds herself having to reevaluate her marriage while struggling to understand how the countercultural rebellion has affected her family.

This novel may very well join the author's previous award-winning titles—The Walking Wounded (2001), Look No Further (2004) and, more recently, Ailanthus Park 2008).

Dan Quixote-Boy of Nuevo Jersey
Shevi Arnold
Play Along Media, LLC,
9781936242030 $5.99 (pb), $0.99 (ebook)

Christina Francine

Friendship, freedom, and bullies. These are what young people in their adolescent years think about. Adolescence is a time when the opinion of peers is more important than parents'. Arnold knows this and weaves her story, and her eighth-grade characters, around these topics, using humor to soften the seriousness.

Dan and Sandy have been friends for most of their lives and often share the same classes, hurdles, and viewpoints. Sandy sees herself as Dan's sidekick, his squire, his troubadour, like Don Quixote's companion, Sancho Panza. Both Dan and Sandy face the history teacher known as "The Dragon," the class bully known as "The Queen Bee," and Gwen, Dan's object of affection.

Dan and Sandy struggle with The Queen Bee because she tries to rule them as she does most of the eighth-grade and is always surrounded by her "drones." They wonder why many adults accept bullying as a right of passage. It's dangerous and they feel treated unfairly. Sandy decides to become a judge when she grows up. Then, if The Queen Bee did to Dan what she did, she could be arrested for assault. The Queen Bee could also be sued for libel for defiling Dan's reputation by spreading nasty rumors about him.

Dan becomes known as the "Geek King" because of The Queen Bee. At one point, he finally has enough and stands up to both The Queen Bee and The Dragon in the most surprising way.

Sandy addresses her English class one day, even though she's normally quiet. Maybe Dan's bravery was contagious. Sandy talks about Robert Frost's poem called, "The Road Not Taken." She talks about how it takes courage to take the road less traveled. Sandy goes on to say that Dan has taken the road less traveled and isn't worried about what others think, even though they make fun of him. They try to take from him that which makes him special, she adds. In reality, Sandy explains, those who don't take the road less traveled are actually jealous and wish they were brave. The real losers, Sandy says, "lose the chance to become the greatest possible" people they could have become, because they took the safer road.

Sandy worries that Dan's feelings for Gwen might come between them. After a few misunderstandings, Sandy realizes that no matter what happens, Dan is and will always be her friend.

Arnold approaches the difficult world of middle-school with a light approach. Her story is an accurate profile for those who've forgotten what it's like at this age, how serious problems at this age can be, and how friendship can help. Dan Quixote questions the fairness of, "Bullying as a right of passage." We all know that if adults don't help young people, they'll feel powerless and possibly do something drastic. After all, democracy gives Americans the right to be who they are no matter what their age is. A delightful story. Important. Strongly recommended.

The Bird Sisters
Rebecca Rasmussen
9780307717962, $24.00

Paul Lappen, Reviewer

The Bird Sisters. An intriguing name for Rebecca Rasmussen's critically acclaimed and much-beloved debut novel. What does it mean? Who are these sisters? Creating a beautiful metaphor for her two lead characters, Milly and Twiss, Rasmussen unveils a portrait of unconditional love. On the surface, these two elderly women are known in their small Wisconsin town as the healers of injured birds. But on a deeper level, as the summer of 1947 is revealed via flashback, an understanding and appreciation of their utter resiliency becomes apparent. They each carry their own internal wounds and scars, and the only balm they find is in each other. The other's presence is the sole elixir that alleviates the pain and loneliness of their quiet, isolated existence. They are kindred spirits to the nth degree - two halves of the same tortured soul.

Of course, their present condition is the end result of their parents' actions. A beautiful, but frustrated, mother. A jaded, cyncial father. A crumbling, distant marriage. Things weren't always like this, but in 1947 when their father gets into an accident and loses his job, despair takes hold of the entire family and never lets go.

Milly is a shy, yet natural, beauty. She begins to attract the attention of Asa, the son of a neighboring farmer. She is a quiet, gentle soul full of grace and dignity. Twiss, on the other hand, is a helter skelter tomboy roaring with energy and mischief. She bases her life around honesty and says what's on her mind. She expects people to be straight with her, and demands the truth, no matter how hurtful it may be, when they are not. Ultimately, Twiss yearns to get out and see the world, while Milly wants a family she can devote her entire life to.

Rasmussen has a deft touch for creating a pitch-perfect setting for the novel. You can feel the sun on your face as the girls float arms outstretched in the local swimming hole. You can smell the freshly cut grass behind the wheels of Asa's lawn tractor. You can see the light on in the barn where their father keeps his solitary vigil. You can hear the lure of the carnival barkers at the country fair. You can taste the sugary icing on Twiss' cake. The imagery is pure, down home comfort.

But it is not enough to keep the family in tact. Through an act of betrayal, it is up to the self-sacrifice of the sisters to set right a grievous wrong. They are both denied the lives they have dreamed about. Instead, they are left to pick up the pieces and band together under their shared sense of solidarity and loss. They gave up everything for the sake of preserving the dignity of others. They made the hard choice, and accepted the consequences of what came with it. All that remains for them, is the love that they have for each other. And even if it is not enough, it is what ultimately sustains them even as they enter their final years.

Overall, sometimes you don't get what you want, you get what you need.

Witches of East End
Melissa de la Cruz
114 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York 10011
9781401323905, $23.99

Stephanie Ward

Witches of East End by Melissa de la Cruz

This book is the first adult novel by bestselling YA author Melissa de la Cruz. It follows the mishaps and trials of the Beauchamp women; Joanna and her daughters Freya and Ingrid. The women live in North Hampton, a small coastal town in New York. They are witches, but have been forced to not use their magic for centuries. Soon the three ladies are met with situations that can only be resolved by using a bit of magic. Adventures, mishaps, love, and heartbreak soon follow. The novel shows the importance of being true to oneself, the strong family ties that hold us all together, and how far we would go for the ones we love.

I have not read any of the author's previous YA books, but decided to take a chance on her first adult novel. I was not disappointed! The book was an easy, fun read filled with magic, mystery, family, and love. The Beauchamp women were very accessible to the reader as characters; the reader is able to identify with at least one of the women, if not all. From the very first page, Melissa de la Cruz captivated my attention and drew me into the world of North Hampton and the people who live there. Her descriptive abilities are remarkable! There were times when I could almost hear the sound of the waves crashing against the shore and smell the books in the old library. The novel has some good twists that the reader does not expect, as well as a good dose of lightness and humor to keep it fun. I loved how the author mixed in mythology and legends along with some American history and magic.

In conclusion, I loved this novel. I highly recommend it to adults who want to escape from their everyday lives for a bit - even if they are not a regular paranormal reader. I am very happy that this is just the first in the Beauchamp series - I am now eagerly awaiting the next installment!

The Ghosts of Watt O'Hugh
Steven Drachman
Privately Publishered
9780578085906, $14.00,

Valentina Cano

This book refuses to be labeled. It begins a memoir, turns into a Western with some flashy fantasy heels, then becomes an action and adventure novel, followed closely by a time-traveling extravaganza.

I knew I was going to like it from the first page. How? Because the narrator has a fresh, unique voice that captures the reader's attention from the very beginning. This is not as easy to do as it might seem. Watt is charmingly sarcastic, with wit enough to send the reader laughing.

The plot itself is a bit complicated, but it tends to hold itself together well. The time travelling was handled carefully, with the author not allowing his Roamers to change any events during their travels. A wise choice, since otherwise the novel would resolve itself without much trouble. The love story which is at the book's center, I think could have been built up a tad bit more. I didn't get a real sense of the love Watt and Lucy held for each other, which makes many actions on Watt's part not as coherent as I'd like.

There are many action scenes that really leave the reader breathless, the pacing is wonderful. The writing itself is comfortable, not ostentatious but clear and to the point.

This was a very fun book, and I can recommend it to all of those who like to read "different" books.

Ann's Bookshelf

Machiavelli's Lawn
Mark Crick
97818470881346 A$24.99

I am not sure whether Mark Cricks' skill is ventriloquism or parody. Whatever it is, this small book purports to be full of the voices of "great writers". Bertolt Brecht, Raymond Carver, Sylvia Plath, Martin Amis and Machiavelli are just a few of the writers whose style Crick mimics in order to offer us expert gardening advice. It is an ingenious notion, but it relies on us having read enough of the work of these authors to recognize a few distinctive features of their style in Crick's versions of their horticultural guidance.

The patronized "little squirrel" wife of Ibsen's A Doll's House, for example, is re-cast as 'Julia' in Act 1 of a play called 'Planting a Fruit Tree with Henrik Ibsen'. Julia, pretending to be a helpless wife, does all the work whilst her husband, Helder, looks on and criticizes from his bath chair. Secret passions and secret liaisons are hinted at. A boy and a gardener are glimpsed and the importance of "good root-stock" is emphasised. Underlying psychological games-playing pervades the scene and it ends with the threat of devastating revelations.

Machiavelli, who humbly introduces this book to "the magnificent reader", tells us that it offers the learning, knowledge and worthiness of "great gardeners and plantsmen". He also instructs us, later, 'On The Art of Mowing'. Gardens are, after all, akin to Principalities, about which he was an authority, and good governance of a lawn requires "rules and discipline", a willingness to be severe, and the determination to "punish delinquent plants" which threaten the borders.

Alan Bennett, it seems is an expert on 'Caring for Heather'. Heather is a performer of Scottish ancestry whose unexotic career and sturdy and reliable performance make her the star of civic presentations. She features in sea-side shows, fund-raising ventures and, latterly, as a star performer in the overheated communal lounge of a nursing home.

Other writers demonstrate surprising skills. Raymond Carver, it seems, knows all about 'Planting a Hanging Basket'; and Pablo Neruda writes loving instruction on 'How to Prune a Rose'.

If you are not familiar with the genuine writings of Crick's gardening experts, the irony of the pieces will be somewhat lost on you. And if you are very familiar with a particular author's genuine work you may find Crick's parody amusing but limited.

My own familiarity with Sylvia Plath's work, for example, made the maternal theme in Crick's 'Burying Bulbs in Autumn with Sylvia Plath' seem quite appropriate, but his oblique use of her suicide in his final paragraphs I found un-necessary and distasteful.

Parody, as Nabokov once said, is a game. Crick's mimicry and his versions of art works by "famous artists" are clever, inventive and good games-playing, but this is a light-weight book in every sense. It is amusing to dip into but quickly forgotten.

Alan Bennett
9781846685255 A$24.99

I was bribed to write about this book. My review copy came with an extra package in which I found a paper bag emblazoned in large letters: 'WARNING: contains Smut', and in smaller letters "the wicked new book by Alan Bennett. Inside the paper bag was a lurid orange T-shirt with the command "Ask me about Smut" splashed across the front.

Alan Bennett is surely well-known enough not to need such gimmicky advertising. Who would wear this T-shirt? Young bookshop assistants perhaps? Literature festival devotees? Certainly not me.

And how much does such advertising add to the cost of the book?

More importantly, is the book worth it?

I like Alan Bennett's writing. I like his humour and his generous appreciation of the foibles and quirks of human nature. I would have written a review without the ghastly T-shirt. But there is no doubt that sex sells and the cover blub of the book says plainly enough what the book is about. It contains, we are told, two "unseemly stories", both of which "concern women in middle life. Mrs Donaldson, whom sex takes by surprise, and Mrs Forbes, who is not surprised at all". And Yes, the book is what it says it is: "Naughty, honest and very funny".

The large image of a keyhole on the book's cover is appropriate, because 'smut' is what we primly label all those sexy things which go on behind closed doors. In this book, Bennett lets us look through the keyhole at a huge range of sexual antics, predilections, sexual fantasies and embarrassments. All of which happen to seemingly ordinary, upright (well, not always upright!), moral citizens. Whether readers find this prurient or not depends on their view of sex. Mostly, Bennett enjoys the contradictions between the way in which we humans present ourselves to the world and, often, to our partners, and the secret thrills, untapped desires and bizarre situations in which our sexual urges are likely (or unlikely) to embroil us.

Mrs Donaldson, after an exemplary moral life as wife and mother, finds unexpected rewards when her husband dies and she takes in a couple of impoverished students as lodgers. One of her lodgers is a medical student and, at her suggestion, Mrs Donaldson becomes a part-time demonstrator at the hospital, acting out medical conditions to test the diagnostic skills of a group of student doctors. This is just part of her adventure, but when the students fall behind with their rent the sexual revelations which follow are equally novel to her and unexpectedly stimulating and addictive.

Mrs Forbes's husband is very much alive, but his secret homosexual predilections cause complications which she is well equipped to handle, having secrets (especially financial secrets) of her own. His troubling and troublesome liaisons are described in some detail, but so too, are her dissimulations as good, submissive, financially incompetent wife.

In the end, for both women, keeping up appearances becomes less important than the thrills of exploring their own secret selves.

Alan Bennett show us that so-called 'smut' is a fact of life. And that the thrill of discovering smutty secrets about others is a common human failing. Look through enough keyholes and you will no doubt discover this for yourselves. But maybe the advertisers should have added this to the T-shirt: "WARNING: you may never regard your ordinary seeming neighbours in the same way again".

GRANTA 115: The F Word
John Freeman
12 Addison Ave., London, W11 4QR, U.K.
9781905881345 A$27.99

GRANTA, if you have not met it before, is one of the very best literary magazines. It has no manifesto but it "believes in the power and urgency of the story both in fiction and non-fiction". Since 1979, it has consistently published the best writing of new and established authors, and many who made their debut in Granta have gone on to become well-known. In recent years, photo-journalism and poetry have become a regular part of Granta's offerings and it has begun to publish the work (in English) of writers from around the world. Frequently, too, it publishes large samples of work-in-progress which will shortly be published in full by major publishing houses.

I have been a reader of Granta for many years now and generally each issue has a theme. Selecting at random from earlier issues, I find 'The Best Young Writers', 'Travel', 'History', 'The Best New Nature Writing' and, from 1980, 'The End of the English Novel', which includes chapters from a new work by Salman Rushdie called Midnight's Children, and contributions from Angela Carter, Russell Hoban, Alan Sillitoe, and Emma Tennant, amongst others.

Granta 115, 'The F Word', with its theme of feminism is an issue to which I was not initially attracted but, as usual, the contents are surprising, entertaining and thought -provoking. What is new about Feminism? How radical do you have to be to be called a feminist? Aren't all women feminists? Has feminism in earlier times changed anything in the world? All the usual questions are raised but in interesting and unusual ways.

There are the thoughts of a Japanese migrant woman adapting, with her children, to a new culture. There are the childhood perceptions of an African women in a male-dominated world. There is a man's perspective (written by a woman); a poem about Ariadne, her god/lover and an empty tomb; a lesbian encounter; and the view of the 'other woman' in an adulterous relationship. Most vivid, terrible and extraordinary is the account of the experiences of a group of French women who, in 1942, were arrested on suspicion of having links with the French Resistance and who were held in the Nazi death camp, Birkenau. Through mutual support, fifteen of the thirty-five women arrested survived.

Louise Erdrich explores enslavement. Laura Bell describes her feelings about willingly giving up her independence to be a so-called "kept woman". Clarissa d'Arcimoles' photo-essay recreates and compares childhood photographs with shots of the same family members fifteen years later. And to prove that things have changed for women in the world, A.S Byatt recalls being told by a male lawyer that "women can't be ambassadors" when, as a teenager, she expressed this ambition.

For a complete list of the contents of this and earlier issues you can go to the Granta Home page at And there you can also sample some of the stories - be they fiction, non-fiction, essays, memoir, poetry or reportage.

The Cat's Table
Michael Ondaatje
Random House
9780224093620 A$29.95

"I try to imagine who the boy on the ship was. Perhaps a sense of self is not even there in his nervous stillness in the narrow bunk, in this green grasshopper or little cricket, as if he has been smuggled away accidentally, into the future"(p.4-5).

This boy, whose name is Michael, like Ondaatje's, shares some of his creator's history. But how much of his story is invented and how much of this novel is autobiographical is impossible to tell, partly because Ondaatje has created such a believable story-teller. In spite of the fact that Ondaatje says clearly in an Author's Note that his novel merely uses the "colouring and locations of memoir and autobiography" and is definitely fiction, its brief chapters have the feel of memory and it is a teasing fiction.

Michael, as an eleven-year-old boy, is put aboard the Ocean Liner Oronsay by relatives. He has with him only a small suitcase, and he is to travel from Sri Lanka (Ceylon, as it was then) to England to join his mother, just as Ondaatje once did. The only people he knows on board this ship are Mrs Flavia Prins, to whom he is introduced shortly before he leaves Sri Lanka and who, unlike him, is travelling First Class; and a distant cousin, Emily, a seventeen-year-old who is also travelling alone but who has "her own plans for the voyage".

Michael and two other boys of similar age are seated for meals at 'The Cat's Table', so-called by Miss Lasqueti because it is "the least privileged place", as far from the Captain's Table as possible. Miss Lasqueti and five other adults share the table with the boys and gradually, through Michael's eyes, we come to know more about all of them. Years later, looking back at his younger self, Michael sees a child who is "as green as he could be about the world", but Michael has a child's curiosity about everything and a young boy's boundless energy. This voyage is to be an education for him in many ways, but Ondaatje's book is not just a rite-of-passage story, it is a wonderful recreation of a boy's perceptions and of what it is like to be an eleven-year-old with almost unlimited freedom from normal adult supervision.

Young Michael and his friends, Cassius and Ramadhin, organize their time so that they have free run of the ship in the very early morning and late at night. They swim in the First Class swimming pool, slide on the still-wet, freshly-scrubbed decks, spy on people from their secret lair in one of the suspended lifeboats, steal sandwiches when no-one is around, and get up to the usual sorts of mischief which eleven-year-olds are capable of getting up to. But they are also inquisitive and observant, and over the course of the voyage they learn a great deal from and about their fellow passengers.

Miss Lasqueti, it turns out, is not the staid spinster they first thought her to be. Intriguingly, she keeps a cage of pigeons and she wears a special vest with pockets in it for carrying the birds around. She also has "something to do with Whitehall"; and Michael is sure, on one occasion, that he sees her use a gun. Mr Davies, another Cat's Table diner, takes the boys to see his medicinal garden deep in the bowels of the ship. And Mr Nevil, a retired ship dismantler, introduces the boys to his friends in the engine and furnace rooms. There is also the well-travelled, failed pianist, Max Mazappa, who takes the boys under his wing, regales them with "confusing and often obscene lyrics" and tries to instill in Michael a love of jazz. The fifth adult we meet only towards the end of the book

Other passengers have more exotic stories. Baron C, briefly trains Michael to act as his accomplice in petty theft. Mr Fonseka, whose nostalgic hemp-rope burning lures Michael to his cabin by its familiar smell, is a reclusive English teacher, travelling, like Michael, to a new and unknown life in England. And Sir Hector de Silva, a wealthy entrepreneur and philanthropist, is bound for Harley Street as a last resort after being bitten by a rabid dog. As I write this, I remember more and more characters, each of whom Ondaatje makes memorable with Dickensian skill. Our narrator, Michael, has a story-teller's ability to bring them to life and a self-confessed ability "like any experienced dog" to read the gestures of those around him and to "see the power in relationships drift back and forth", even if he does not fully understand what is happening.

There is adventure when Michael and Cassius are willingly tied to the open deck by Ramadhin during a tremendous storm. There is a mystery surrounding a chained prisoner who is seen by the boys when he is brought on deck by his guards for exercise during the night. There is intrigue, too, in the friendship of cousin Emily with the deaf girl Asuntha, and with Sunil, The Hyderabad Mind, who is a member of the Jalanka Entertainment Troup which performs for the passengers.

Dramatic things happen. There is sadness and doubt. And there is a poignant account of Michael's meeting with his mother when he eventually disembarks in England. He is full of uncertainty, not even sure he will recognize his mother after their long separation. For her, too, as Michael reflects years later, "it must have been a hopeful or terrible moment, full of possibilities"

It is hard to tell whether it is the fictional Michael or Ondaatje himself who "once told someone" that "this journey was to be an innocent story within the small parameters of my youth". Perhaps it was both. The Cat's Table is, in any case, a beautifully told, humorous and adventurous exploration of the mysterious way in which people, events and memory can shape our lives and our own stories.

Ann Skea

Applegate's Bookshelf

Blue Heaven
C. J. Box
St. Martin's Press,
0312365713 $7.99 (pb), $24.95 (hc), $7.99 (nook)

Blue Heaven by C.J. Box . . . In this mystery set in North Idaho, C.J. Box has gathered a diverse group of characters, among them:

A tough and headstrong rancher who is trying to save his family's once-thriving property from creditors

A UPS driver who is dating the mother of two children who turn up missing

A rural mail carrier who has a hankering to be the center of attention, even if she has to get a little fanciful about the tales she tells

Mysterious men spied upon by a young girl who gives them made-up names - Driver, Ball Cap Man, Dark Man, and Wavy-Haired Man

The driver of a red pickup truck who may, or maybe not, be the salvation of two youngsters

A banker who finally understands the shocking consequences of his decisions.

Retired LAPD police officers who seem to find this area just right for their "final resting place"

The local sheriff, a weak-kneed sort, who takes the easiest way out, no matter what harm it may do

A volunteer search party, which includes some volunteers who are up to no good

Box weaves these characters and many others, both two- and four-footed, into an uncompromising, unsentimental, suspenseful tale that, in the manner of a well-plotted hard-boiled mystery, has good and evil built into its characters. Even though we are on the outside looking in, and we see the various threads that weave themselves into this mystery, it isn't easy to separate the good from the evil, and the reader is shoved back and forth between yes-he-did-it-and-no-she-didn't almost from the opening scenes. Jess, his central character, isn't playing at being a rancher; he is the working owner of a working ranch, as were his father and grandfather before him - and he has no intention of giving up and walking away, leaving his land to be used for purposes he cannot accept. He leads a tough, lonely life these days, making hard decisions that are forced on him by circumstance. Still, the reader soon sees Jess for what he is - one of the good guys, the really good ones, who try always to make decisions based on what's the best thing for everyone in whatever situation they find themselves in. But Jess is surrounded by corruption and venality, some of it he can see and sense, some of it well hidden, existing in people he should be able to trust. He soon finds that he must take a step, make a decision that could change his life and that of two innocent youngsters. And not in a good way. But, Jess is Jess, one of the good guys every good mystery needs, and he risks his home, his good name, maybe even his life to find and stamp out the evil that is growing around him.

This story goes to the limit in mystery guessing games, although Box always gives readers a fair chance to decide for ourselves before he outfoxes us. And he sets up interesting conundrums for us to mull over while we're reading, and maybe for days after we've finished the story and the mystery is solved. A well-plotted mystery such as Blue Heaven raises many ethical and moral issues along with the requisite legal ones.

We find ourselves wondering: Why do men who have spent their lives in law enforcement tarnish the badges they wore for years by falling so far away from their oath to serve and protect?

Why do bankers in a remote mountain community in Idaho fall into today's temptations and find themselves mimicking their counterparts in the financial centers of the country?

Why do some men and women cling to the right path, even when it would be so much easier to just take that one step across the line that separates right from wrong.

Box makes us think about these things, but never steps away from the characterizations he has built, and resists the temptation to lecture his readers as some authors do. Box describes the rugged North Idaho mountain country and its equally rugged residents from the point of view of a man who knows the area and loves it. Jess's love for his ranch and the community around it is easy to see and understand; he belongs in this place and time. As the story wound its way through treachery and hate and fear, through courage and honesty and love, I found myself so involved with Jess that I almost stopped reading, fearing that Box would end it in what for me would be the wrong way.

But of course I read to the end. Was it the right conclusion to Jess's story, from my point of view? Every writer and every reader knows that there is really no such thing as a right or a wrong way to finish a mystery, or any kind of fiction, for that matter. So I leave that question unanswered. Blue Heaven is a bang-up good read, lots of action, lots of twists and turns of plot, just the right number of good and evil characters. You'll have to decide for yourself about the conclusion.

A River in the Sky
Elizabeth Peters
Harper Collins,
0061246271 Nook eBook $8.99, $9.99 (pb)

A River in the Sky, by Elizabeth Peters . . . I love the names Peters has given her characters. Emerson and Peabody. Ramses and Nefret. Gargery. Reverend Panagopolous. Even the cat, Horus.

I bring this up only because years ago, when I was quite small, I read a book all the way through before I discovered that the heroine's name was ABigail, not aBIgal. Then there were the Sigh-ox Indians. And aGAtha Christie. Ever since, I have to decide before I begin reading how I'm going to mentally pronounce all the names.

Emerson is an easy one. Peabody could be Peebody (American) or Pibbidy (English); I went with English (they're English, after all). Ramses, no problem. For Nefret I emphasized the first syllable. Gargery is like Gregory as in Peck. And the reverend? Well, I've always been good at Greek names. And the cat's Horace. Okay, now that we've got pronunciation out of the way, let's talk about the book.

A River in the Sky is, according its foreword, ". . . another volume of her (Mrs. Emerson's) memoirs" and chronicles events that occurred in 1910. The point of view - it is a memoir, after all - is that of Amelia Peabody, who is always referred to as Peabody. The reader doesn't need to get very many pages into the book until it becomes obvious that Peabody is a woman with 21st century sensibilities, despite having been born at the end of the 19th. She may live in an age where women take a secondary role to the men in their lives, but Peabody in no way lets that stand in her way. She is in charge in the family adventures, by hook or by crook, and most of the time by stealth. Professor Emerson is, at least in Peabody's estimation, " . . . the greatest Egyptologist of this or any other century." He also, according to Peabody, is a man of "splendid physical endowments," including muscles that ripple across the breadth of his chest, becomingly disheveled thick black hair, and sapphirine blue eyes. Gasp! (Bad tempered, though, and is known in the archeology world as "Father of Curses.")

Peabody is an accomplished individual, comfortable in a number of languages, is a bit of an expert in Old Testament times, and has acquired a well-deserved reputation as a solver of difficult puzzles. Among the other central characters, Ramses is the Emerson's son; Nefret is their adopted daughter; Gargery, a butler extraordinaire, and Reverend Panagopolous is possibly a minister of the gospel, possibly demented and/or obsessed, possibly - well there are lots of possibilities.

The Emerson/Peabody family get themselves into - and out of - some serious scrapes. The tale takes the reader from home base in England through much of the Middle East. I hasten to remind the reader that the Middle East of the late 19th and early 20th century is not the Middle East of today, but it still roils with political, religious and geographical stresses, and is an ideal setting for a mystery novel full of wild characters and much intrigue. Ramses, a budding archeologist, has a lifelong penchant for getting into trouble, and while in the Middle East on a dig, he is kidnapped. His parents, by the time they learn this, have already made plans to go to Palestine to intercept an imposter who may be using a search for an historical relic as a blind for spying activities for Germany. Nefret, to her parents' dismay, decides to save Ramses on her own. Reverend Panagopolous travels with the family, and once the group is underway, there ensues an endless variety of trials and tribulations within different countries, involving a wild assortment of subsidiary characters. How it all works out is, of course, the meat of the story. The characters are consistently inconsistent, and there are surprises all along the way. I made plot assumptions that were promptly discarded and replaced with others to be discarded. Peters gets lots of historical and biblical references and descriptions in amongst the goings-on and they add a sense of authenticity to the book.

The overall tone of the novel is, to put it in American-style slang, snarky - as in irreverent or impertinent, a style I mimicked somewhat in this review. But A River in the Sky is a well-told, clever tale, with interesting characters and an entertaining, multi-faceted mystery. I found myself annoyed from time to time with Peabody's manipulations of Emerson, but it didn't get in the way of my enjoyment of the antics described. What else was a smart woman to do, in those times and places?

It's a good read, entertaining, not intellectually challenging, but fun. I recommend it.

Murder in the Senior Manor
Kathryn Braund
9780972058551, Kindle $9.99, Paperback $14.99

Murder in the Senior Manor, by Kathryn Braund . . . If you think that life begins at 40, but the fun stops sometime around 80 or so, let me introduce you to the residents of Senior Manor in Great Falls, Montana. In this mystery, Kathryn Braund's characters are more real, you might say true-to-life, than some writers, whether of mysteries or otherwise, allow their elderly to be.

They aren't the kind of old folks you see in a nursing home. Nor are they dressed in the latest running shorts and shoes at the starting line for the Boston marathon. These people, be they white-haired and wrinkled, hard of hearing or sight, leaning on canes or walkers, getting around in wheelchairs, all have had a long life, have some of the blemishes of a long life, and have learned life's primary lesson - keep on keepin' on because every day you wake up is a good day.

Braund describes the attitude of the people in Senior Manor this way: The residents . . . in the Manor have a lot of resiliency; we seniors all come from the same places - homes we said goodbye to, husbands and wives we lost. . . changes in our health and bodies, loss of money in our pockets. Most elders adjust . . . even though this senior home adventure may well be our last.

The tale is told in the words of 90-year-old Louise Knight, who gets up one morning at 3 a.m. to do her laundry - you can do that when you're a nonagenarian; everyone expects you to be a little dotty - and instead finds herself in the middle of a mystery, when she discovers another resident lying dead on the laundry room floor. Louise, even though horrified and with failing vision, can see that the woman has been brutally murdered. Louise, having been the first person on the scene, finds herself a "person of interest" to the local constabulary. Not one to just wait and see what happens next, Louise decides that now is the time to be proactive, to prove her own innocence with the help of as diverse a group of detectives as anyone could assemble. None are under the age of 70 and all believe that, by putting their heads together, they can solve the crime. The oldsters set about to help the police solve this mystery by looking for clues among the rest of the Senior Manor residents, since Louise and friends are convinced that this was truly an inside job.

They gradually narrow down their search to several who could well have done the deed, and whose backgrounds may not be what they have claimed to be. On the way to the mystery's solution, Louise is put into jeopardy in some of the most harrowing and life-threatening circumstances anyone would imagine. Locked up, in great peril, afraid and in pain, Louise will need all the courage and resiliency that she has acquired over the nine decades of her life.

Throughout the book, Braund blends the mystery with an unusual approach to creating back story for the various characters. Louise is developing a "memorial book" that will tell whatever story about his or her life that each person wants to share with today's and future residents of Senior Manor. The stories are as varied and eclectic as the individuals themselves, and they provide not only personalities for the characters but some history of the part of Montana where the tale is set.

Louise's four-footed friends, Sarsaparilla and Clementine, a pair of small Havanese dogs, play a large role in Murder in the Senior Manor. Braund has written a number of books about these and other dogs, and her love for them comes through clearly in this book. On the inside front cover, Braund has a picture of herself with two dogs. Maybe one is Sass and the other Clem. I like to think so.

This is an entertaining book, easy and fun to read, and a pleasant way to gain some insight into what may be ahead for us when we reach our own "golden" years. We should all be as lucky as these intrepid residents of Senior Manor - to have good friends, an optimistic outlook on whatever days are left to us, and the ability to focus on what we can still do rather than what we can no longer do.

With best wishes to Louise, her friends and her dogs, I'll say goodbye to Senior Manor, and its mystery. I think you'll enjoy spending a few hours with them all.

The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt
Edmund Morris
Random House Group
9780812958638, $9.99 (nook), $12.67 (pb), $20.11 (hb),

The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, by Edmund Morris . . . Typically, when we hear the name Theodore Roosevelt, some particular things will pop into our heads. A mustachioed man sitting erect astride a horse. San Juan Hill. TR. Teddy. The Rough Riders. Walk softly and carry a big stick. A stuffed teddy bear. And, of course and most importantly, a President of the United States. Theodore Roosevelt was, in the broadest sense of the term, a man of many parts. This book, The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, will add immensely to anyone's knowledge and understanding of this many-faceted man. In fact, this book could be just the beginning of the reader's education about the nation's 26th president. Theodore Roosevelt was such a complex, energetic, gifted, brilliant and accomplished man that it required not just this volume, but two more, for Edmund Morris to capture the man, his life and his times.

This first volume of the trilogy, originally published in 1979 and not followed by the second for two decades, is considered by many to be the best TR biography. But having read the following two, Theodore Rex and Colonel Roosevelt, I would be hard-pressed to pick one of the three as the "best." To me, in the three volumes, Morris did an extraordinary job of giving me as a reader a strong sense of the fascinating and contradictory character of this man of so many dimensions. Before reading the three volumes, my knowledge of TR was what I had retained from American history classes, and of course, the things I delineated in the opening paragraph of this review. I believe that anyone who reads and enjoys The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt will want to read the other two - Theodore Rex - and Colonel Roosevelt. The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt pulls you into not just the book, but the life and the spirit of the man. A reader feels a part of every scene, every situation TR finds - or puts - himself in, from early childhood through his adventures in the west to the death of his predecessor William McKinley and Roosevelt's ascendancy to the presidency. It is a long book but an exciting one, full of action, from big game hunting in the Wild West to hard-nosed politicking for elective office. We see Roosevelt's relationships as a son, brother, husband, widower, husband again, father, hunter, environmentalist, soldier, politician, president. We see him displaying his intelligence and ambition, his love of children, and his comic side, his charisma, his good humor and cheerfulness, his sense of morality and dedication to his country. And we share and empathize with him as he goes through the frustrations, fears, sorrows and disappointments that come to all, especially a man of his enormous and eccentric enthusiasm for life.

TR, although of only slightly above average height and small-boned, had that quality that can only be described as "presence." This physical aspect of the man, according to Morris, was once described this way by an English statesman who was asked what he liked best about the U.S. "Niagara Falls and the President of the United States, both great wonders of nature!" TR is also, in his way, very human, and, although born into wealth, a man of the people. Morris, who makes this book almost novelistic, invites us to meet TR with a prologue which begins on New Year's Day, 1907. A ". . . line of people waiting four abreast . . . runs in serpentine reflex along Pennsylvania Avenue . . . dissipating itself over half a mile away." Those citizens are waiting to shake the hand of their President at his annual New Year's Day reception at the White House. People are eager to see their president in person but patient, knowing that Roosevelt has " . . . hundreds of bejeweled and manicured hands to shake privately before he grasps the coarser flesh of the general public."

Morris adds that " . . . Roosevelt may be the fastest handshaker in history (he averages 50 grips a minute), but he is also the most conscientious, insisting that all citizens who are sober, washed, and free of bodily advertising be permitted to wish the President of the United States a Happy New Year."

Morris writes elegantly yet with precision and a touch of humor. The annotations are many and well-documented; his research on his subject is flawless. Not surprisingly, he won a Pulitzer for the book and, as I said earlier, this volume is considered by many to be unsurpassed in its capturing of this essence of this extraordinary man.

I do want to emphasize that I don't think a reader should stop with just one of the trilogy. On the other hand, if one volume is your choice, The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt is probably the one I would recommend you read. And I do understand that no one will read any of these books in a weekend at the beach. To truly appreciate and enjoy the story and the man, it takes some time and some diligence. The notes Morris includes are also a treasure that adds to a reader's understanding of the life and times of Theodore Roosevelt. The three volumes are presented as a set in hard cover, paperback and electronic versions. I downloaded mine to my Nook. I am sure they are available at your local public library.

I have added another name to my pantheon of favorite Presidents of the United States. I will always be grateful to Edmund Morris for his powerful, informative and immensely entertaining TR books. And please be aware that I have not done justice to this first volume in the space I have allotted myself for reviews. There is so much knowledge and enjoyment in this book that I do hope you will take the time necessary to digest it.

The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, by Edmund Morris . . . Typically, when we hear the name Theodore Roosevelt, some particular things will pop into our heads. A mustachioed man sitting erect astride a horse. San Juan Hill. TR. Teddy. The Rough Riders. Walk softly and carry a big stick. A stuffed teddy bear. And, of course and most importantly, a President of the United States. Theodore Roosevelt was, in the broadest sense of the term, a man of many parts. This book, The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, will add immensely to anyone's knowledge and understanding of this many-faceted man. In fact, this book could be just the beginning of the reader's education about the nation's 26th president. Theodore Roosevelt was such a complex, energetic, gifted, brilliant and accomplished man that it required not just this volume, but two more, for Edmund Morris to capture the man, his life and his times.

This first volume of the trilogy, originally published in 1979 and not followed by the second for two decades, is considered by many to be the best TR biography. But having read the following two, Theodore Rex and Colonel Roosevelt, I would be hard-pressed to pick one of the three as the "best." To me, in the three volumes, Morris did an extraordinary job of giving me as a reader a strong sense of the fascinating and contradictory character of this man of so many dimensions. Before reading the three volumes, my knowledge of TR was what I had retained from American history classes, and of course, the things I delineated in the opening paragraph of this review. I believe that anyone who reads and enjoys The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt will want to read the other two - Theodore Rex - and Colonel Roosevelt. The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt pulls you into not just the book, but the life and the spirit of the man. A reader feels a part of every scene, every situation TR finds - or puts - himself in, from early childhood through his adventures in the west to the death of his predecessor William McKinley and Roosevelt's ascendancy to the presidency. It is a long book but an exciting one, full of action, from big game hunting in the Wild West to hard-nosed politicking for elective office. We see Roosevelt's relationships as a son, brother, husband, widower, husband again, father, hunter, environmentalist, soldier, politician, president. We see him displaying his intelligence and ambition, his love of children, and his comic side, his charisma, his good humor and cheerfulness, his sense of morality and dedication to his country. And we share and empathize with him as he goes through the frustrations, fears, sorrows and disappointments that come to all, especially a man of his enormous and eccentric enthusiasm for life.

TR, although of only slightly above average height and small-boned, had that quality that can only be described as "presence." This physical aspect of the man, according to Morris, was once described this way by an English statesman who was asked what he liked best about the U.S. "Niagara Falls and the President of the United States, both great wonders of nature!" TR is also, in his way, very human, and, although born into wealth, a man of the people. Morris, who makes this book almost novelistic, invites us to meet TR with a prologue which begins on New Year's Day, 1907. A ". . . line of people waiting four abreast . . . runs in serpentine reflex along Pennsylvania Avenue . . . dissipating itself over half a mile away." Those citizens are waiting to shake the hand of their President at his annual New Year's Day reception at the White House. People are eager to see their president in person but patient, knowing that Roosevelt has " . . . hundreds of bejeweled and manicured hands to shake privately before he grasps the coarser flesh of the general public."

Morris adds that " . . . Roosevelt may be the fastest handshaker in history (he averages 50 grips a minute), but he is also the most conscientious, insisting that all citizens who are sober, washed, and free of bodily advertising be permitted to wish the President of the United States a Happy New Year."

Morris writes elegantly yet with precision and a touch of humor. The annotations are many and well-documented; his research on his subject is flawless. Not surprisingly, he won a Pulitzer for the book and, as I said earlier, this volume is considered by many to be unsurpassed in its capturing of this essence of this extraordinary man.

I do want to emphasize that I don't think a reader should stop with just one of the trilogy. On the other hand, if one volume is your choice, The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt is probably the one I would recommend you read. And I do understand that no one will read any of these books in a weekend at the beach. To truly appreciate and enjoy the story and the man, it takes some time and some diligence. The notes Morris includes are also a treasure that adds to a reader's understanding of the life and times of Theodore Roosevelt. The three volumes are presented as a set in hard cover, paperback and electronic versions. I downloaded mine to my Nook. I am sure they are available at your local public library.

I have added another name to my pantheon of favorite Presidents of the United States. I will always be grateful to Edmund Morris for his powerful, informative and immensely entertaining TR books. And please be aware that I have not done justice to this first volume in the space I have allotted myself for reviews. There is so much knowledge and enjoyment in this book that I do hope you will take the time necessary to digest it.

Marcia K. Applegate, Reviewer

Bethany's Bookshelf

Sid Thatte
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781461121084, $14.95,

Sid Thatte has been teaching students to take competitive academic examinations such as the GRE, the GMAT, and SAT for the past five years. In "SAT/PSAT Math: A Systematic Approach" he draws upon his expertise and experience to compile a 287-page compendium that addresses and explains every math topic and question to be found on the SAT/PSAT. The "SAT/PSAT Math" is a complete do-it-yourself instruction manual the features 450 practice questions (will their complete solutions) and features more than 450 solved examples. Replete throughout with graphs, charts, and geometry, the instructional text is presented in an effectively conversational style. Of special note is an appendix on multiplication tables and interger squares. A complete course of test preparation, this 'reader friendly manual should be considered mandatory for anyone wanting to score their very best on the math portion of the SAT/PSAT.

No Mo' Broke
Horace McMillon
Privately Published
9780578084855, $8.95,

It's hard to be charitable as a Christian when you're the one on the verge of needing charity. "No Mo' Broke" is a personal finance book with a Christian lean from Horace McMillon. With humor and sound and practical advice, "No Mo' Broke" is worth considering for the Christian who is walking the line financially, recommended.

Come Home, Joe
Tim Callahan
Tate Publishing & Enterprises
127 E. Trade Center Terrance, Mustang, OK 73064-4421
9781617395383, $17.99,

Trying to connect with a world after decades with the world proves quite difficult. "Come Home, Joe" tells the story of Joe Hawkins, who scarred by the events of Vietnam, locks himself in the mountains away from the world. But as he tries to return, he finds a terrifying world that is so different from the one he remembers. But the kindness of children may help an old man get back to the world he left behind. "Come Home, Joe" is a moving read of finding something worthy in life.

Let the White Doves Soar
Robert S Dahl
Privately Published
9781460953747, $19.95,

War is a terrible thing, and you need all the support you can find to endure it. "Let the White Doves Soar" is a war drama following Jake Bradford as he copes with his task in fighting in Greece in World War II against the armies of Hitler. With few friends, he faces the horrors of war head on, hoping on luck, God, destiny, or whatever wants to help see him through. "Let the White Doves Soar" is an excellent and very much recommended pick for those seeking a good war tale.

Drowned in the Grenadine
Dan Gilvezan
Privately Published
9781461012306, $11.95,

A taste of success makes one desperate not to surrender it. "Drowned in the Grenadine" follows Nathan Lindeman, a man of unconventional success in Hollywood, as he tries to put his pieces of his life back together by snatching a chance at stardom and success through it all. With plenty of humor as one man faces life's tragedy to find something worth it all in spite of it all, "Drowned in the Grenadine" is a choice pick for general fiction collections.

My Lady Gisborne
Charlotte Hawkins
Privately Published
9781461001607, $11.99,

For many women, the conflict of love and duty led them in their own crusade against society. "My Lady Gisborne: A Love Story" is a riveting read of historical romance, as one young noblewoman in Evelyn Gisborne faces the classic conflict of being arranged to marry another but having her lust and love lie with someone else who she would be spurned from. For lovers of high society romance, "My Lady Gisborne" is just what they would enjoy.

A 1000-Mile Walk on the Beach
Loreen Niewenhuis
Crickhollow Books
9781933987156, $16.95,

Some people need a long walk to sort things out. Loreen Niewenhuis opted for a 1,000 mile one. "A 1000-Mile Walk on the Beach: One Woman's Trek of the Perimeter of Lake Michigan" is the journey of Loreen, sharing her story as she chose to walk around the lake, and what she learned about life with her thoughts and the countless people she met along the way. With humor and dedication, she writes not only of thought but love for Lake Michigan. "A 1000-Mile Walk on the Beach" is an excellent pick for anyone seeking a unique flavor of memoir.

Susan Bethany

Buhle's Bookshelf

The Cloven
R. Muir
Privately Published
9781441405760, $16.00,

The discovery of AIDS threw people into terror, a supposed death sentence that could be avoided yet no one knew about. "The Cloven" follows Malcolm Poole, a man crushed with worry over his own diagnosis with the disease. R. Muir uses the tale to explore faith, torture, those who use it, and the nature of life and writing. Thoughtful work, "The Cloven" is writing that is very much worth considering, highly recommended.

Butterfly Messages
Jamie Elizabeth Tingen
Privately Published
9780578082653, $3.99 Kindle,

The freshness of love is something that will never be forgotten. "Butterfly Messages" tells the story of Southern bell Magnolia Gardner Winston, who after decades from her first love, returns to what she left behind in her old high school. While looking fondly at the past, she finds she will be opened up to the future. "Butterfly Messages" is a riveting and thoughtful read that should not be overlooked.

Destined to Live, Despite Me
Yolanda Shanks
Privately Published
9780578054681, $14.99,

When all hope is lost, finding some once more can mean the world. "Destined to Live, Despite Me: Biblical Truths for Suicide Survivors" is a poignant recollection as Yolanda Shanks hopes to reach out to those in despair and considering taking their own life, reminding them that God's love is absolute and realizing as such is key to finding one's purpose. "Destined to Live, Despite Me" is inspirational and should strongly be considered to those who are struggling or know others who are in such a plight.

The Last Prophet
Jeff W. Horton
Privately Published
9781937085032, $12.99,

No one wants to be a player in the end of the world. "The Last Prophet" tells the story of John March as he discovers his duty as one of the prophets of the book of Revelations, and that he must be the one to stand against the Anti-Christ. Through it all, he must stand for faith in a time where people will have none. "The Last Prophet" is a riveting religious thriller, highly recommended.

Dieting with my Dog
Peggy Frezon
Hubble & Hattie
9781845844066, $19.95,

Obesity in any creature can lead to shortened life, and Peggy Frezon knew that helping her dog also meant helping herself. "Dieting with my Dog" is a unique memoir as Peggy recollects her own struggles with her weight as her dog too was threatened by obesity. With renewed drive, she recollects her own struggles in this dual weight loss adventure. "Dieting with my Dog" is humorous and very much recommended reading for pet lovers.

How to Meet Broads
Jeff Cagney
Privately Published
9781461112778, $10.99,

Getting over shyness is the first step to catching the opposite sex. "How to Meet Broads: A Comprehensive Guide to the Art of Seduction" is a relationship guide from Jeff Cagney as he advises readers to keep it together when looking to land a girlfriend and how to understand the relationship gang and life through it all. "How to Meet Broads" has plenty of advice worth considering and shouldn't be overlooked for those who want to get into the game and stay in the game.

Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye
D. Bruce Foster
Privately Published
c/o Smith Publicity
1930 E. Marlton Pike, Suite I-46, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003
9780615493886, $14.99,

When pursuing the art of healing, one can find themselves surrounded by anything but. "Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye" follows Dr. Alex Randolph, a middle aged gentleman who is trying to piece together his life and understand it all. Dragged into a drug war and political intrigue, this healer is forced to make many decisions that will decide the life and deaths of certain individuals. "Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye" is a thoughtful thriller, highly recommended.

Willis M. Buhle

Burroughs' Bookshelf

Solving the Puzzle of IRR Equation
Yuri K. Shestopaloff & Alexander Yu. Shestopaloff
AKVY Press
9780981380094, $29.95,

Understanding the mathematics of investment is key to success. "Solving the Puzzle of IRR Equation" is a study of economic theory in many writers from Yuri K. Shestopaloff & Alexander Yu. Shestopaloff as they present the many key elements of economics in maximizing one's profit through investments and dealing with the many variations with the sense of a mathematician. "Solving the Puzzle of IRR Equation" is an excellent pick for anyone who wants the hard numbers of investment.

Saving Redwind
Kris Yankee
Privately Published
9781463616670, $8.95,

Wallpaper doesn't seem like the most exciting thing, but for Nick Stevenson, it may as well be. "Saving Redwind" follows eleven year old Nick finds something unusual beyond his bedroom's wallpaper, and finds himself in another world. Finding an adventure of his own, he finds that their continued existence may just rely on him to succeed. "Saving Redwind" is a fine read, not to be overlooked for young fiction readers.

Letting Go of Ed
Pippa Wilson
O Books
9781846946981, $16.95,

In our pursuit for greater health, we often fall down paths that lead us in the wrong way. "Letting Go of Ed: A Guide to Recovering from Your Eating Disorder" discusses how to combat eating disorders that lead to irregular habits and the dangers they pose. With a focus on the general health in finding the eating disorder, it seeks to cure the cause instead of the symptoms. "Letting Go of Ed" is a read very much recommended for those who are in constant conflict with their diet.

Life Your Way
Amy Wood
Privately Published
9780615420769, $14.95,

Being the master of your own destiny just requires the willpower to plot the path of one's life. "Life Your Way: Refresh Your Approach to Success and Breath Easier in a Fast-Paced World" is an inspirational read from psychologist Amy Wood as she advises readers to reclaim control of their life and try to discover what they truly want out of life, and how to adjust one's course to make that dream a reality. "Life Your Way" is an inspirational spin to help lean towards what you want out of life.

The Family That Wasn't
Gene Twaronite
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781450245173, $11.95,

The shame we have in those closest to us can lead us to very strange delusions. "The Family That Wasn't" follows the family of John Boggle, a thirteen year old whose family is not. Faced with the insanity of his real family, he creates something else to present to the outside world that is bought entirely. But truth is stranger than fiction and he finds his lie just may come true. "The Family That Wasn't" is a fine and very much recommended pick that shouldn't be overlooked.

Ship for Brains
Brian David Bruns
Privately Published
9780974521725, $15.95,

Perhaps the icon of excess, cruise ships carry may strange diversions for those with money to burn.. "Ship for Brains" : This Ain't No Galley Tour" looks into the world of art auctioneering on cruise ships, and the twists and turns of politics that often occur when one lives on a ship and what can be experienced upon it all. With a grand dose of humor and a good dose of memoir, "Ship for Brains" is a fine pick, not to be overlooked.

One Voice Too Many
Paul Martin Midden
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
Maryglenn McCombs (publicity)
2817 West End Avenue, Suite 126-274
Nashville, TN 37203
9781463413262, $21.00,

For love, we go over many obstacles, even if they seem to defer us for good reason. "One Voice Too Many" is a psychological romance of sorts as Jeremy Walker seeks a bond with Macy after constant failures. But in his pursuit, he finds the challenges aren't easy and may prove all his efforts for nothing. "One Voice Too Many" is an intriguing and very much recommended read.

Permanent Damage
D. M. Thompson
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South New York, NY 10016
9780533163601, $12.95,

Lies destroy relationships, no matter how people try to keep them together through it all. "Permanent Damage" follows Allison Whitmark as she faces the lies that her relationship with her love Mark was built on. With lies sitting on both ends of the pair, the lies make being faithful all the more difficult, as it all seems to fall apart. "Permanent Damage" is a fine novel of what ends loves and the challenges with it all.

John Burroughs

Carson's Bookshelf

Return of the Ancient Mariners
Jack Enright
Privately Published
9781463551469, $14.95,

When it seems the world is young, the natural world is more than a match for humanity. "Return of the Ancient Mariners: Ice Age Saga of America" is a novel set in the Ice Age following young men Tim and Phil as they embark on a journey through the wilderness with lots to wonder and not much understood. For those seeking a fun read of pre-history. "Return of the Ancient Mariner" is an exciting and very much recommended read.

Susan May Warren
Summerside Press
9781609362188, $14.99,

With fame and glory promised to you, you may find that promise empty. "Heiress" follows two young women under the pressure of high society. In order to have comfort, they seemingly must surrender the power to choose their own way through life and the option of love. Set in the gilded age, "Heiress" is a riveting read of high society drama, highly recommended.

Deadly Straits
R E McDermott
Privately Published
9780983741701, $14.99,

It's hard to stay away from the spy job for too long. "Deadly Straits" is a story of Tom Dugan as a hijacking comes close to him and leaves him implicated for the crime. As he tries to prove his innocence along with a friends, the CIA operative finds he's racing against the time before those truly responsible leave him and his friends kaput, traveling across the world to find the truth. "Deadly Straits" is a thrilling read that will be hard to put down.

Galloping with Light
Felix Alba-Juez
Privately Published
9781456373856, $24.99,

Science was founded when something started burning around our ancestors. "Galloping with Light: Einstein, Relativity, and Folklore" is a discussion of science through history and legend from Flex Alba-Juez as he seeks to grant readers an understanding of science and help even the most scientifically illiterate reader gain a comprehensive understanding of how it all really works. "Galloping with Light" is an excellent pick that blends humor, common sense, and knowledge into one entertaining package, highly recommended.

The Cremation
Donald Jordan
Outskirts Press
10940 S Parker Road - 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432770600, $9.95,

There are virtues we want to share through the ages. "The Cremation" is a collection of simple thoughts and ideas as Donald Jordan shares anecdotes of the world that he hopes readers will embrace to find their own inspiration through life. "The Cremation" is charming and has plenty worth considering.

The Reason She Left
Kristen Baumgardner Caven
Privately Published
9781451587814, $13.99,

Understanding relationships is quite the futile effort. "The Reason She Left: and Other Stories" is a collection of cartoons from Kristen Baumgardner Caven as she explores life and its various eccentricities as she forms a story of many characters dealing with life and the challenges behind it all. "The Reason She Left" is a quite humorous choice for any lover of slice of life cartoons, highly recommended. Also recommended from Caven is "Perfectly Revolting: My Glamorous Cartooning Career" (9781441415431, $13.99), another comprehensive collection of Caven's work, dedicated more to her struggles with her career.

Michael J. Carson

Clark's Bookshelf

Tony and Susan
Austin Wright
Grand Central Publishing
9780446582902 $24.99

Almost two decades ago, Austin Aright published his novel titled, "Tony and Susan," but never gained wide readership. Wright passed away in 2003 at 80 years old. This novel has been resurrected from the original edition published in 1993. Wright published six other novels, several critical studies, and for many years was Professor Emeritus of English at the University of Cincinnati.

Susan Morrow, mother of three children and a doctor's wife draws us into her comfortable suburban life that suddenly becomes disturbing. She receives an unexpected package from Edward Sheffield, her ex-husband that contains a manuscript, which he wants her to read. Susan could not believe after 20 years had passed that Edward wanted her to read his novel. Old memories returned to her, good and bad. She recognized that she would need to set her past life aside in order fairly critique his book.

She is reluctant to read and waits three months until her husband goes out of town. She finally opens the book! As Susan reads the manuscript, we join her into the fictional bizarre life of character Tony Hastings, a math professor who takes his wife and daughter on vacation to their summer home in Maine.

While traveling at night East on the Interstate approaching Pennsylvania, strange things began to happen. A car traveling in the same direction began to play games. When Tony tried to pass, they constantly cut him off and he eventually hit their car. Three men exited the vehicle and it appeared they were willing to exchange insurances and get ahold of the police. To Tony, it seemed the men were just out for a good time as they did offer to fix his flat tire. To his surprise, the men began to intimidate the family, one-by-one, and would not let up! Two men took the wife and daughter with them in their car and one man took Tony by force in his own car.

The good for nothing thugs set the stage for an unfolding eerie thriller that would change the lives of the Hastings' family forever! The pace moves quickly and becomes terrifying with events that will disturb, horrify, and make one's blood run cold. Revenge and murder take place in the dark of night in the unfamiliar Pennsylvania woods that will keep you guessing and fretting.

Susan finishes the story of Tony and Susan. She arranges to meet with Edward to discuss his book. When she tried to contact him numerous times, she found he had departed from the hotel and she could not meet with him to discuss her views.

This is a 3-star thriller brilliantly written by Austin Wright, which is an engrossing tale of two lives, one fictional and one real. This is a good learning experience about leaving readers hanging without a satisfactory conclusion. This novel never tied the characters together at the end.

Shatner Rules: Your Guide to Understanding the Shatnerverse And the World at Large
William Shatner with Chris Regan
9780525952410 $21.95

William Shatner is an icon who is most recognizable and has come a long way since he played Captain James T. Kirk on Star Trek. He is an award-winning actor, director, producer, writer, recording artist, and an avid equestrian. Then there is Bill, who says, "he is a normal guy", quite laid back, and not like the characters he has portrayed.

"Shatner Rules" is the latest book written by William Shatner and one of nearly 30 fiction and non-fiction titles, including his autobiography, "Up Till Now," a New York Times best seller. Chris Regan, an Emmy-Award-winning comedy writer is the co-author.

William Shatner just turned 80 years old this year. His new book shares his long career from the very early years up to his now being famous for the "Priceline Negotiator."

Recently, Mr. Shatner had the honor of providing the wakeup call for the final voyage of the Space Shuttle Discovery. This was a moving experience for him to be able to send the astronauts off on their last mission while the theme for Star Trek played on. How fitting for a man who was involved with NASA in his early years.

Shatner admits he was broke at the age of 40, but now he is doing very well financially.

Currently on the Biography Channel, he hosts and produces the show "Aftermath," where he interviews guilty people who have done wrong telling their side of the story. The other, called "Raw Nerve," has guests who are comedians and stars. He says his comedian guests do not reveal much, but if he presses hard, he gets the stars to tell all! Both endeavors have become quite successful.

Mr. Shatner is an avid horse rider and breeder of Saddlebreds, a unique breed that came out of Kentucky 200 years ago. For over 20 years, he has organized the Hollywood Charity Horse Show. All monies raised go to charities and to the advancement of hippotherapy. He says he would not give up acting for horses because what he earns pays for his horses; Shatner does this for fun and never considers having horses a job.

There are some things you know about William Shatner and some things you may not know about him. He was born in Montreal and started acting at age 6. When acting, he never uses understudies, does all his own camera rehearsals, and is never late. The only money he has ever made is by acting. He loves music that has always been a part of his life. His latest album is Black Sabbath's "Iron Man." There are conventions held all over the world where Star Trek organizers hold shows and come in costume. Shatner appears for question and answer sessions.

"Beam me up Scotty" is one of the most well-known phrases for trekkie fans who believe it will live on forever.

"Shatner Rules" is a book you will enjoy and is jammed-packed hilariously funny. You will find out who his best friends are and all the movies in which he has starred. A 5-star read by a great storyteller!

Clark Isaacs

Crocco's Bookshelf

Turn of Mind
Alice LaPlante
Thorndike press
New York
1410440974, $24.00

Is Turn of Mind a murder mystery or a 1st person narrative of an orthopedic surgeon living with Alzheimer's/Dementia? Alice LaPlante has combined the two for an extraordinary read inside the deteriorating mind of Dr. Jennifer White.

Dr. White is a 64 year old hand surgeon who becomes the prime suspect in her best friend, Amanda's, murder. Reason being, four of her fingers are surgically removed from her hand.

Realizing this book is indeed a novel, I thought it was a fascinating way to enter the confused mind of a person suffering from this horrid disease. LaPlante's use of a murder mystery for readers to experience this journey is genius.

Dr. White has two children, a son and a daughter, whose characters highlight the family dynamics brilliantly. It is another malfunctioning family, true, but LaPlante's characterization of the family, friends, even the caretaker, make the difficult subject matter an outstanding read.

One who has a medical background may have some issues with facts, no doubt, but to the naked eye, Turn of Mind is a book of interest which leaves the reader feeling compassion for anyone suffering from Alzheimer's/Dementia disease.

I recommend this book for mystery lovers as well as readers curious about Alzheimer's or Dementia. My favorite books are written in first person, and I was not disappointed. For a first novel, you knocked it out of the park Alice LaPlante!

A Moveable Feast
Ernest Hemingway
New York
9780684833637, $24.00

When I read Hemingway's first paragraph in his story, A False Spring, I was captivated: "When spring came, even the false spring, there were no problems except where to be happiest. The only thing that could spoil a day was people and if you could keep from making engagements, each day had no limits. People were always the limiters of happiness except for the very few that were as good as spring itself." These words epitomized young Hemingway's harsh life in Paris.

In his story, The End of an Avocation, there is a paragraph where Hemingway described his feelings when he stopped working on horse races: "When I stopped working on the races I was glad but it left an emptiness. By then I knew that everything good and bad left an emptiness when it stopped. But if it was bad, the emptiness filled up by itself. If it was good you could only fill it by finding something better. I put the racing capital back into the general funds and I felt relaxed and good." These words expressed a complicated time in young Hemingway's life in Paris.

In the story, Hunger was a Good Discipline; Hemingway is a starving artist, literally. He shared his feelings: "I had not been worrying, I thought. I knew the stories were good and someone would publish them finally at home. When I stopped doing newspaper work I was sure the stories were going to be published. It is necessary to handle yourself better when you have to cut down on food so you will not get too much hunger-thinking. Hunger is a good discipline and you learn from it." These words represented the reality in young Hemingway's life in Paris.

During the tumultuous 1920's, Hemingway struggled as a writer. In A Moveable Feast, he vividly tells his stories and describes his grueling daily routine walking the streets of Paris to settle into a cafe in his effort to become a successful writer. He wanted to be recognized and praised in the literary world.

Hemingway writes with his direct style about his eccentric friendships with Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and Scott Fitzgerald, to name a few. These relationships and conversations are priceless. His wife and son are mentioned, but Hemingway's purpose is to recollect his memories as a struggling writer.

The stories in A Moveable Feast are worth reflecting upon as they are thought provoking and real. I will end with the story Scott Fitzgerald where Hemingway says, "I was getting tired of the literary life, if this was the literary life that I was leading, and already I missed not working and I felt the death loneliness that comes at the end of every day that is wasted in your life."

Hemingway began writing A Moveable Feast when he was fifty-eight years old. It was published posthumously in 1964. He committed suicide at the age of sixty-two.

Mary Crocco

Daniel's Bookshelf

Directive 51
John Barnes
Ace Books
The Berkley Publishing Group
A Division of the Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780441020416 $25.95

I started out from my early reading outset being a younger reader, and a big fan of the old fashioned 'who done it' type mystery stories. This got me reading books when I was a teenager, and a prime example was the Hardy Boys mystery series. I enjoyed that simple time of basic plots, and young men solving those crimes their own sleuthful way .That particular one that comes to mind was the Hardy Boys Tower Treasure story, which was aired on tv on the Disney Mickey Mouse Club show. They did it in a serial form to be shown that same day every week. I believe that motivated the reading bug in me to go for more of those Hardy Boy books, and then later I dabbled into my second genre' of science fiction. It started with Robert Heinlein, where I read Farnham's Freehold and Starship Troopers along with his other books laced with an added layer of social comment built into them. I restored my interest today many years later with One Second After by Willaim R. Forschen. His story gives a frightening look, if the United States was attacked with a electromagnetic pulse technology weapon. This would be leaving the country at a standstill without electricity and computers to operate the equipment, refrigeration along with cars for every day living needs. It would turn the entire population living backward into time.

John Barnes uses some of those ideas along with others to show what could happen, if in a modern-day technology was disabled. The world would be thrust it back to the 19th century,where only the crudest of motors where working or not at all. The disablement would have caused the electronic devices, motors, and machinery from functioning making it diffcult for people used to operate and live in a society without them. A plan was put into place to do this, and eventually set to bring down the system of the Federal government. This would force the nation to put into action the emergency contingency program. I selected this book to see what the story would reveal of such ideas and plotting.

The 'Big System,' alias the Federal Government moves at a snails pace while the Daybreakers move at fast one to tear down the country using nanotechnologies to destroy over two centuries of technology. The Directive was set up in 2007 so the National Security Presidential Directive (NSPD) 51 would be used by the executive branch to claim extraordinary power during a catastrophe. After twenty years after that annoucement of NSPD 51, Heather O' Grainne, Assistant Secretary of the Office of Future Threat Assessment leads an inquiry into the a local terriorist cell, Daybreak. This group has a vision to bring upon destruction of the "Big System."

Around the globe catastrophes leaving billions dead and America is starting to go backward in technology. NSPD 51 is implemented, but is more than likely too late as the two spirals of death and technological collapse continues without any means of stopping the drop. Seemingly random events are to be part of a plan by Daybreak to destroy the modern civilization and to place America at the dawn of non-tecnological age. This becomes a cautionary tale, that is the first of a trilogy. This is leaving the story with the only people left to see little hope. The means of turning the tide of a descending apocalyptic end of the world type story, and a destructive political thriller.

I am late into discoverning John Barnes, as this series is his sixth one including twelve other novels, and a number of three books building the series. The series include Century Next Door series, Thousand Cultures series, Time Raider series, Timeline Wars series, Jak Jinnaka series, and this current one I am reading known as the Daybreak series. I do have the second book entitled Daybreak Zero, and I noticed on Wikipedia a new one listed with a title The Last President. I have enjoyed the read so far in this series, and although a more thoughtful political read, I guess science fiction has expanded to include interesting new ideas and thoughts on the world.

Gideon's Sword
Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child
Published By Grand Central Publishing
A Division of the Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780446564328 $26.99

I was looking forward to any book by these authors, and I was pleasantly surprised to learn their latest joint effort was to premiere a new series between them. I had advanced knowledge of this upcoming novel coming out this year. It does pay to be on their email list besides having met Lincoln at a booksigning, and my emailing the authors giving input on their exciting novels. I have enjoyed their co-authored novels since the first book Relic, and I know reading their adventures is fullfilled by sitting back to read them.

At the young age of twelve Gideon Crew had the misfortune to witness his father gunned down, because his mother was asked by the police to talk him out of surrending and releasing a hostage. He father was Melvin Crew a world-class mathematician, and he was accused of treason. Later on in his adulthood, at the age of twenty-four, Gideon was called to a hospital intensive care unit bedside to see his mother. She was dying, and she begged her son to avenge his father's death. Gideon uses his own talents and his natural learned skills to improvise to begin a mission to comply to his mother's request. His plan is clever, thorough, and eventually works beyond his wildest dreams. His mother's wishes for revenge after his father's untimely death are satisfied. Someone else from a quiet, but in need of Gideon's skills to complete a task to help the Government of the United States. It does bring other people into the mix, and Gideon is in way over his head. The operation creates situations, and dangers he is lead into does take him by surprise. Gideon's Sword has to be mightier than his pen or his agreement to go ahead with his renegade's skills and ability to accomplish the impossible.

Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child began with their first novel together entitled Relic, and they have the Pendergast series, alongside with some stand alone novels with other characters. They have a list of solo novels dabbling with their own interest. I understand the next Pendergast novel is following right off from the last one Fever Dream. I eagerly await all of their books either when they write solo or collaborate together something new to be released for publication. Cold Vengeance has recently been released to continue the Pendergast series.

Daniel Allen

Deb's Bookshelf

Nate Rocks The World
Karen P. Toz
9781463510824 print $6.99, ebook, $2.99

It's so tough to be ten-years-old. Nobody knows this better than Nate. He has to put up with his bossy big sister and listening to his father's never - ending stories about when he was growing up. Not only this, but his mother doesn't know how to cook. She thinks she does and even makes meals for Nate and his family. The problem is, all the meals taste like cardboard! To make matters even worse, the teacher pairs him up to do a science project with a (ugh!) girl.

On Christmas morning, Nate's world seems to look up when he and his sister get a small package. The family is going on a trip. Is his bossy sister happy about this? No. She whines and complains how she has nothing to wear on the trip and has to work on her tan before they hit the beach.

So, how does Nate escape the atrocities of his life? Drawing! Give Nate a sketch pad, pencils, crayons and Nate's imagination can take him anywhere, do anything and most importantly, do it his way. In practically every chapter Nate's imagination takes him on another adventure. He also has a way to get out of eating his mom's cooking. The problem is that this only works some of the time. Nate plays with his best friend and hopes he is invited for dinner.

I just loved this book! Karen P. Toz shows all of the trials and imaginative solutions of a ten-year-old boy perfectly.

To learn more about Karen, just surf over to her website at: You can also join her fan page for Nate Rocks The World at:

Nate Rocks The World can be purchased in several places in either print or ebook formats. Some of the places you can get it are: either in print or as a nook book, and either in print or kindle in the United States. In the United Kingdom you can pick up Nate in either format at:

Whichever way you purchase this book, Nate Rocks!

Nettie Parker's Backyard
C.V. Smith
Avid Reader Publishing Group
9781612860329, $2.99, (ebook), $7.95 (pb),

Nettie Parker's Backyard is a gentle yet action packed and war - torn story. It's the story of Nettie's life which is full of prejudice and bullying. Early in her life she starts seeing and hearing signs. What do these signs mean? Are they magical? Only Nettie can find that out.

When Nettie is nineteen-years-old, she travels to London, England to study to be a nurse. Upon her arrival, the nursing administrator is very nice to her but soon she is met with more prejudice from others. Is this because of her physical challenge or because of her race?

Nettie meets two young boys one day when their ball flies across the fence and into the Charring Cross Hospital grounds. The boys don't think they'll ever get their ball back and are very hestitant to talk ask for it. Nettie's caring and compassionate nature can't understand this but she soon will. She talks with the boys for awhile and is surprised to learn that the boys were sent to London by their parents to escape the horrors of World War II. Kind, compassionate Nettie doesn't think there's enough hate or fear in the world to make parents and children separate! She soon finds out differently!

It was very hard for this reviewer to put this book down. Throughout this well written account of Nettie Parker, not only do you learn about her ancestry and her adventures in London but you learn a secret language too!

I highly recommend Nettie Parker's backyard. Although the historical fiction is written for children, adults will thoroughly enjoy this magical book too!

To learn more about C.V. Smith and Nettie Parker's Backyard visit her author's website at:

If you would like to purchase this magical and fact-filled story, you can find it several ways. You can find it in kindle edition at or as a nook book at If you prefer a print edition, that can be found at

Deb Hockenberry, Reviewer

Dollycas' Bookshelf

Tempest in the Tea Leaves
Kari Lee Townsend
Berkley Prime Crime/Penguin
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014 USA
9780425242759, $7.99

In the fortune telling business there are a lot of pretenders, but Sunshine Meadows is the real deal - and her predictions can be lethally accurate...

Sunny is a big city psychic who moves to the quaint town of Divinity, NY to open her fortune-telling business in an ancient Victorian house, inheriting the strange cat residing within. Sunny gives her first reading to the frazzled librarian and discovers the woman is going to die. When the woman flees in terror, Sunny calls the police, only she's too late. The ruggedly handsome, hard-nosed detective is a "non-believer." He finds the librarian dead, and Sunny becomes his number one suspect, forcing her to prove her innocence before the real killer can put an end to the psychic's future.

I fell quickly and fell hard in love with Sunny and Morty. You can't help it. Sunny, her real name is Sylvia, but she is only called that by her parents, has her hands full. She has moved away from her home, her parents and their money to live a life of her own. Her parents believe she is just going through a phase.

Wonderfully written. As a mom, I know her parents are only trying to protect her. As a daughter, I completely understand the need to strike out on your own. This whole relationship adds a lot of humor to this story, as does Sunny's unique relationship with Detective Mitch Stone, the big tough cop who is afraid of a lovable harmless cat.

The murder mystery itself was full of plenty of "red herrings" that kept you guessing.

I have not been a fan of paranormal mysteries until recently and then relatively tame ones. The psychic elements of this story are very light and fun and I loved it.

I rarely give the first book in a series a five star rating because I believe you have to get comfortable with the characters and watch them evolve, but I absolutely love the characters in this book, especially Morty, closely followed by Sunny of course. I hope we won't have to wait too long for another trip back to Divinity. As you can tell from my rating this book is the "purrfect" escape!!!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Berkley Prime, A Division of Penguin Publishing in exchange for an honest review. The opinions stated are entirely my own. I am stating this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission 16 CFR part 255. "Guides Concerning Use of Endorsement and Testimonials in Advertising"

Barbara Delinksey
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019 USA
9780385532723, $25.95

Have you ever felt like running away and leaving everything behind? The pressures are just too much for you to handle and all you want to do is ESCAPE?

That's what Emily Aulenbach, a successful lawyer, married to a successful author, living in Manhattan feels. She spends her days in a cubicle listening to victims on the phone of tainted bottle water and she is on the bottler'side. She dreamed of finishing law school and defending victims, this is so not what she wanted.

Her sister is depending on her to plan a huge party for their mother's birthday. Her husband, James, it so caught up with work, trying to become a partner, that their marriage is crumbling. The only true connections she makes everyday are with her BlackBerry, her laptop and her watch. Is this anyway to live?

Emily was talking to a woman on the phone who had been drinking the bottled water and who had already suffered a miscarriage only to find the baby she is now carrying in not developing correctly broke Emily's heart. She decides she just can't do this anymore. She leaves work, goes home, packs a bag and takes off, leaving her watch and laptop behind. With no real plan she has a few false starts but ends up in a the small New Hampshire town where she spent one fabulous summer. She reconnects with a college friend and starts to try to figure out where she wants to go from here. This is the place to relax and think. The perfect place to escape or is it?

Yes, this is a really good book to "escape into". The past Emily has in this town is very interesting but I don't want to give away too much. I do think the author didn't take this part of the story far enough or fully develop the key characters. There seemed to be a lot of repetition and it didn't flow effortlessly in a few places as her other books do.

The book does address a very real problem though. Our lives seem to run in overdrive everyday. Relationships are tested and tested again. With the development in all this wonderful technology we really have to work at stepping away from it. Take a day for ourselves and our families and let the cell phone go to voice mail. Ignore the emails until the next real work day. Take a day to live technology free. When is the last time you have done that? Really escaped from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

The message is really good, the story is entertaining but there are a few bumps along the way. In the end I do give this book 4 stars because underneath it all there is a love story that really is quite strong. You just need to wait for the characters to catch up with what you can already see as the reader.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Doubleday. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

To Catch A Leaf
Kate Collins
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014 USA
9780451235237, 7.99

Bloomers Flower Shop owner Abby Knight is engaged to be married to the love of her life, Marco Salvare, and nothing is going to bring her off the cloud of happiness she is riding on, not even her future mother-in-law who is trying to take over all the wedding plans.

Abby and Marco do get a bit distracted when Catherine Newport, one of the area's wealthiest woman, and Abby's assistant Grace's friend, is found dead at the bottom of the stairs by none other than Grace. Then Grace turns out to be the prime suspect because she not only found the body but is left a huge sum of money in Catherine's will.

Before Abby and Marco can take back control of their wedding they must do their own investigation to find the real story, the real killer and save Grace. Then maybe life can go back to tea, scones, and bridal bouquets.

My Thoughts

You already know I loved To Catch a Leaf but I truly believe this is the best book Kate has written. This story is multifaceted and complex and perfectly paced. There are twists and surprises along with the comfort of the characters we have all grown to love.

When reading about Marco's mom trying to overtake the wedding I had to pause and think "did Kate ever meet my mother?" While we are not Italian reading about Francesca was just like conversations I had with my own mother while planning my own wedding. I had a real feeling of Deja vu. If you are a fan of this series you know Kate characters are so true they almost jump off the page as is absolutely the case in this installment.

I don't want to give to much away.

This story is a must read!!

I wish I could give it 10 STARS!

If you have not started this series or are behind you have until November to find out everything about Abby, Grace, Lottie, Marco and all the rest of the characters from New Chapel, Indiana.

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

A Family of Strangers
Tim Myers
7290 B. Investment Drive Charleston, SC 29418
9781463785109, $9.99

"All it takes is one phone call to change your life forever."

Josh's life has been unsettled since his parents divorce. He goes from one relationship to another, has had over a dozen jobs in the last fifteen years since he graduated from college, all trying to figure out what he wants to do with the rest of his life. His current relationship has reached it's end and he is surprised when he packs up all his stuff to move that his life only fills two bags.

He is literally on his way out the door with no plan for his future when his phone rings and he learns he is not as alone in the world as he thought. He has a cousin in North Carolina, he is intrigued by the call until the man on the other end of the phone tells Josh that she has been seriously injured in a car accident and is begging to see him. He had forgotten all about her. They haven't seen each other since they were kids. Why in the world would she be wanting to see him?

Without any other pressing engagements Josh decides to hop on a plane and fly across the country to find out why Helen wants to see him. Little does he know how that phone will "change his life forever."

My Thoughts

I started this book and I couldn't put it down! The plot grabbed my attention immediately. You couldn't find a better set of "misfits" for characters and they are full and rich and endearing. I wasn't prepared for Josh's journey but was so happy to go along for the ride.

Tim Myers is a wonderful author who writes under several pseudonyms and I am so happy to see this book under his own name even if it is self published. This book is one that should be enjoyed by the masses.

If you have enjoyed any of his other work you will love this story. If Tim is a new author to you and you enjoy stories with a little Southern charm, and the perfect imperfect characters you will love this story as much as I did.

Tim has written under his own name, as well as Elizabeth Bright, Chris Cavender, Casey Mayes, and others.


Edward's Bookshelf

Ania Ahlborn
Kindle Books
B00537SDWM, $.99 (Kindle)

I reviewed "Seed" by Ania Ahlborn because it's a self-published horror e-book and it's been getting a lot of good reviews out in cyberland. But having finished it, I'm left wondering if those reviews are really telling it like it is.

I admit that "Seed" is competently written, professionally copyedited, and some of Ahlborn's descriptions are quite funny and outrageous. It's formatted well for Kindle, and at 99 cents it's a no-risk buy for the reader, but beyond that it's a mediocre novel at best.

"Seed" is about a six-year-old girl named Charlie (Are little girls really cuter with old men's names?), who is actually a demon in human form. Her father, Jack, was (is) also a demon in human form, and when he was young, he killed his parents in a most gruesome manner.

Though Jack has tried to forget his past, it nevertheless comes home to roost in this youngest daughter who ends up committing similarly grizzly acts of her own. Jack had hoped he could leave his past behind him (after hacking up his parents and running away), and he hoped he could live a normal family man's life, but apparently his destiny was to be a demon and carry on the demon line by making another demon to replace himself.

Unfortunately, Ahlborn didn't research the details of her story very well, and at times this is embarrassingly obvious. For instance, she talks about a picture of a man standing next to a B-52 near its propellers. B-52's are jets, of course, and don't have propellers. She also makes reference to Charlie singing Cheap Trick's "Cherry Pie" into her hairbrush. But that song was done by Warrant.

The weakest part, however, has to be the exaggerated info dump given to us by a waitress named Ginny at a bowling alley in Jack's hometown. With that info dump, what seems to be 90% of the backstory is summarized by one minor character that apparently exists for no other reason than to provide it.

Nevertheless, this story is not without merit. The concept of a demon traveling time through the bloodlines of a family is fairly original. The author does keep you wondering how the story will resolve itself (until the info dump that is), and I'm sure those parents who have oppositional-defiant disordered kids running around the house will find camaraderie with Jack and his wife Aimee as they try to control the satanic seed that has sprouted from their loins.

But maybe they shouldn't feel too comfortable in their commiseration. Because as much as this novel is a retelling of the same old demon-child theme, it delivers an important and often forgotten message that all parents need to know: Kids will imitate mom and dad - for better or worse

Ultimately, the moral of "Seed" may be that you raise what you are, and what you were makes up what you are - there's no escaping it. The example we set is the life we live, and there's no point hoping our children will be better than we are; hope counts for nothing against the power of our example.

"Seed" is definitely worth reading if you're looking for a new writer with a creative way of seeing things. Ania Ahlborn is a great wordsmith, and she'll no doubt create a masterpiece in the future. When she does, you'll want to say you read her when she was just starting out. As for me, I'd like to see what her second novel brings.

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War
Max Brooks
Crown Publishing
9780307346605, $14.23

"World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War," by Max Brooks (Crown Publishing, 2006), is the follow-up to his bestseller "The Zombie Survival Guide" (Three Rivers Press, 2003), but in "World War Z," Brooks uses the zombie motif in a much more important way than is traditionally accomplished in other zombie fiction.

He credits George Romero (director of "Night of the Living Dead," "Day of the Dead," "Dawn of the Dead," et al) as an inspiration for his work. Yet Brooks, in my opinion, reaches further into this subgenre and creates a greater work of fiction by using the zombie to make an important statement about the human condition.

The novel purports to be a record of interviews conducted by a journalist following an apocalyptic war with the zombies. These are the recorded memories of people who survived those times and what they experienced. Hundreds of millions of zombies were formed by hundreds of millions of other zombies attacking human beings anywhere and everywhere and causing the near-extermination of the human race. Countries were evacuated, governments collapsed and reformed, and a whole new way of waging war had to be learned.

There are many individual stories in the book and many of them could be considered short stories by themselves, but taken together they remind one of "American Psycho" or the movie "Starship Troopers." The stories are gory, exciting, and interesting, yet their real purpose is to provide a social commentary. Horror is the vehicle, but social change is the purpose.

If "American Psycho" was all about the narcissism of the 1980's, and "Starship Troopers" was all about the propaganda that supports unnecessary wars, then "World War Z" is all about how we eat each other alive on a daily basis and think nothing of it. The theme of the novel is fictional zombies, but Brooks' zombies become a symbol for the dog-eat-dog mentality that is a very real and prevalent in our society today.

Key to the symbol of the zombie is the fact that their brains must be destroyed in order to kill them. It's no wonder, really, because the zombie disease - the dog-eat-dog mentality - resides in the minds of people. And it proves to be a contagious mentality inasmuch as the more people treat each other badly, the more they want to treat each other badly.

Toward the end of the book, Brooks' character, Jessica Hendricks, is a good example of the underlying occult motivations of a zombie mentality, and our reaction to her shows that the zombie virus is alive and well in all of us. In a thinly veiled reference to the existence of the radio personality, Howard Stern, she says:

"He was doing his usual thing - fart jokes and insults and adolescent sexuality - and I remember thinking, "This man survived and my parents didn't." No, I try not to be bitter."

Of course we can sympathize with her, but it's that very sympathy any of us would have that reveals the zombie contagion. For what she's really showing us is a thought process whereby it's perfectly okay to loathe another person simply because they exist. He should be dead and her mother should be alive - but this bitterness, in my opinion, ultimately becomes the zombie mentality, because justifiable as it may be, it is mindless and cruel in its implications. After all, those who love that radio show host wouldn't want to lose him either.

One imagines Max Brooks might have found inspiration from The Cranberries in their 1994 song, "Zombie." The lyrics thereof describe almost the exact mentality he describes in WWZ. Of course, instead of a fictional zombie war, Dolores O'riordan sings about the real decades long war between the British and Northern Ireland. In her song, and in his book, the bottom line is created: The human race is infected with the very contagious disease of inhumanity.

One walks away from this novel understanding the seeds of ultimate apocalypse live within the brains of each and every one of us - and that must be eradicated at all costs. That kind of brain must be destroyed. Inhumanity is inherent to the mind of man, but ultimately human beings have the ability to change their minds. And when we pull away from the fictional aspect of this theme and moral, we realize that the best way to destroy a zombie brain is simply to change our own minds.

"World War Z" is a story rich in symbolism, irony, humor, horror, gore, excitement, and tragedy. It's a no-miss book for any lover of horror, and certainly any zombie aficionado. It pushes the boundaries of what even the godfather of zombies, George Romero, has established, and serves not only to entertain us but also to enlighten us. It's one of those books that put the "great" in great fiction.

"World War Z" is soon to be a major motion picture by Plan B. Entertainment and comes out in 2012. It stars Brad Pit and is directed by Marc Forster. It will be quite something to see what they make of this story. I hope they retain its depth as well as its action and ghastly horror.

Caretakers of Eternity
Edward Gordon
Black Spirit Publishing
978-0983897101, $9.99 (paperback), $0.99 (Kindle, Nook)

"Caretakers of Eternity" by Edward Gordon (Black Spirit Publishing, 2011) is a ghost story set in a desolate winery near Sonoita, Arizona. It's not for the weak of heart (or stomach for that matter), but it ends with a resolution that inspires hope for the future and better relationships with those we love.

The story begins with Jennifer Dickerman, an Arizona real estate agent trying to make it on her own. She's given the chance of a lifetime when William Maddock, an old man in the last days of his life, contacts her to buy his family's multimillion-dollar winery near Sonoita. For a mere one hundred thousand dollars, Eternity Vineyards is all hers - but on one condition: She can never resell it. She must give her word to keep it and become its new caretaker.

Little does the old man know that Jennifer has no intention of keeping her word once he's off the property, but little does Jennifer know that Maddock hasn't told her everything about the place, especially its gruesome purpose and the demonic winemaker who wants to fire the vineyard back into production in her absence.

It will take the ghost of a lonely twelve-year-old girl, bound to the estate by her own guilty secrets, to convince Jennifer to honor her promise and prevent the Satanic bloodbath that is about to begin - again.

"Caretakers of Eternity" is a fast-paced, suspenseful ghost story for anyone looking to read a great novel this Halloween.

Mile 81
Stephen King
B005COO1X6, $2.99 (Kindle)

"Mile 81" by Stephen King (Scribner, 2011), is simply ridiculous. Twice I stopped reading it to read a self-published debut horror novel by an unknown author.

It's a long short story, more of a novella really, that details the events surrounding an abandon rest stop along I-95 at mile marker eighty-one. It begins with a ten-year-old boy who finds a bottle of Vodka therein, and we are treated to his thoughts in detail as he looks at pictures of naked women. Eventually he falls asleep and the story then becomes about a human-eating alien disguised as a broken down car that drifts into the rest stop and munches on several adults who come near enough to touch it.

Stephen King frequently gets dirty with his child characters. This is evident throughout his work even from the eighties. Why he also feels the need to have this child looking at dirty pictures and drinking vodka when it seems to have no particular purpose within the story is beyond me. But when it comes to King, a lot of what he writes is beyond me.

I don't recommend this book unless, like me, you have been following King for a long time and just feel duty-bound to read whatever he publishes. At the back of this novella is an excerpt from his upcoming novel, "11/22/63," and it seems the writing in that is quite good. So, I suppose come November when it's released, we may get a chance to read some of King's best work yet. But "Mile 81" is not it.

Edward Gordon

Gary's Bookshelf

Devil Eyes
Prudence Foster
Wings ePress Inc.
403 Wallace Court Richmond, KY 40475
9781613099971, $17.95,,,

Take an ancient Seminole Indian curse, a hurricane on a track to hit a small south Florida town, and a small child who has unusual visions. These are part of what makes "Devil Eyes" such a good chilling story to enjoy. Foster for a third time delves into the world of horror that will have readers spellbound as they turn pages to find the revealing conclusion. Foster has combined elements of the occult and the rites and rituals of the Seminole Indians set against the backdrop of a small Florida city. She also has created memorable characters who have several conflicts that also help move the story along. "Blood Legacy" and the "Vow" her two other books in the realm of horror were very good but "Devil Eyes" is much more chilling which shows why Foster is a master horror suspense writer.

Is She Naturally Thin or Disciplined? Insider Secrets of the Sexy and Slim!
Sally Shields
Blooming Twig Books
P.O. Box 4668 #66675 New York, NY 10163-4668
978193918716, $12,,,

Sally Shields is back with a new slant to the subject of how women stay so thin. "Is She Naturally Thin Or Disciplined? Insider Secrets of the Sexy and Slim" shows the techniques that women use to stay thin. Shields divided the book into ages starting with women in their twenties to ones in their sixties. There are many similar things all have in common. Eating certain foods in moderation, regular exercise programs, dealing with stress better, more awareness of what is in food are just some of the things they talk about. "Is She Naturally Thin or Disciplined? Insider Secrets of the Sexy and Slim" is an interesting look at how women of different ages and professions stay thin and physically fit this is a great resource for anyone to stay healthy.

Kill Me If You Can
James Patterson and Marshall Karp
Little Brown and Company
Hachette Book Group USA
1271 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9780316097543, $27.99,,

"Kill Me If You Can" grabbed my attention from the first page where Mathew Bannon, a poor art student finds a medical bag filled with diamonds at Grand Central Station. Later he finds out several hired killers are after him because of the bag he found. The novel held my interest until it took a twist with the character of Mathew Bannon that was just not believable. From then on it is a tedious contrived novel that finally reaches its end "Kill Me If You Can" was a very disappointing novel that was not as well thought out as it should have been.

Guilty As Sin
Joseph Teller
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada M3B 3K9
9780778312338, $7.99,,,,

Joseph Teller is back with "Guilty As Sin," another great legal thriller in the Jaywalker series. Jaywalker always takes on the impossible cases and this one of a career criminal since age fifteen looks like an impossible to win situation because his client is guilty as charged. Teller, who was once a defense attorney, is a master of the legal thriller and like his other novels "Guilty As Sin" is based on one of his cases.

You Never See Fat Vampires
Mark H Newhouse
Court Jester Publications
7043 SE 173th Arlington Loop Lady Lake, Fl 32162
9781456499426, $9.99,,

Mark Newhouse has written an interesting twist to the vampire tale with "You Never See Fat Vampires." The Midnight Diet Club is not what it seems. Yes, the members have lost weight but it is how they have done it and what they have had to give up that make it such a different approach to weight loss. "You Never See Fat Vampires" is geared to a YA audience because the kids are in public school but the novel is one that any age reader can enjoy because the conflicts, characters and story are so interesting.

If You Had Wings
Kayton D. Scarboro
Legacy Publishing Services Inc
1883 Lee Road, Winter Park, Florida 32789
9781934449974, $16.95,,

Scarboro mixes elements in generous doses similar to "Indiana Jones" "Ghost" and "Star Wars' in this first of a trilogy "If You Had Wings" The novel also has characters in the conflicts that race the story along to its final surprising ending that is left wide open for book two. I have a complaint that there are too many characters with similar names like Eve and Eva, Stan and Samuel. This is a mistake many authors make that causes confusion throughout the novel. Otherwise "If You had Wings" is a very good novel that is a fast paced thriller.

Stay Tuned For Murder
Mary Kennedy
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780451232359, $6.99, www,

"Stay Tuned For Murder," the third in the series of this series, is lots of fun with many different things going on. In this one talk show host Maggie Walsh has her hands full with her guest Madame Chantel who talks to the dead on the air, and the station is promoting a fifty year old time capsule. Along the way Maggie has to solve several murders as well that somehow are tied into Madame Chantel. Kennedy is a writer who makes it fun to read mysteries and "Stay Tuned For Murder" is a prime example.

Hollywood Hills
Joseph Wambaugh
Grand Central Hachette Book Group USA
1271 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9780446584081, $7.99,,

Its been a long time since I've read anything by this author but "Hollywood Hills" is a delightful read with great writing and lots of memorable characters. An art dealer plans to steal two paintings from a mansion while a group of teenage criminals named "The Bling Ring," and a pair of drug addicted thieves also plan to take the same paintings. The cops at Hollywood Station will have their hands full protecting the public from these criminals. "Hollywood Hills" is a great addition to the list of novels by this author.

Poison Pen
Shelia Lowe
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
978045123223692, $6.99, www,

"Poison Pen" is the first of a series of novels of forensic handwriting expert Claudia Rose. The body of Lindsey Alexander is found floating in her Jacuzzi. A friend of Claudia Rose tries to get her to understand that this woman would not commit suicide even though there is a note. Claudia becomes involved in a case that could get her killed. "Poison Pen" is a tightly written mystery that is a fast paced read with interesting situations and characters.

One Second After
William R. Forstchen Foreword by Newt Gingrich
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York 10010
978765356864, $9.99,,

What would happen if America as we know it was shut down by a silent enemy? The novel opens with that kind of scenario with the entire nation affected. No modern cars work, electricity is shut off, lights at intersections are blank, phones are shut down computers don't work; the country is at a complete stand still. "One Second After" is a chilling tale that is not that far fetched because the author has based this situation on our present day technology currently in use. "One Second After" is this generations' "Alas Babylon" or "On the Beach" novel that is a red flag warning of what could happen.

The Prostitutes' Ball
Stephen J. Cannell
St Martins Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York 10010
9780312557300, $25.99,,

I am sorry to say this is the last Shane Scully novel by this author. Cannell died just as this book was coming out. "The Prostitutes' Ball" is another great story of detective Shane Scully delving into the underworld of the Hollywood Hills to solve a murder case. The novel is a fast paced tale of mystery that has lots of fun characters and situations only an insider in the world of film would know about.

The Collaborator Rules 101 Surefire Ways to Stay Friends With Your Co-Author
Sally Shields
Safflower Publishing Inc
9780974761718 $12.95,,

I'm not a big fan of partnerships in writing because so many of the ones I've been in and that I've seen end up so negative. I have to say though if there is a formula to not have problems this is the best resource to guide the two writers to a happy working relationship. Shields easily points out 101 surefire ways to avoid major problems. The book is easy to follow and has a lot of simple things that people never think to do. Class 101 Collaborator Rules is now in session.

The Switch
Sandra Brown
Grand Central Publishing
Hachette Book Group USA237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780446609944, $7.99,,

Sandra Brown's thriller "The Switch is one of her most complicated plots. It begins with Gillian and Melina, identical twin sisters who meet for lunch. Gillian tells Melina she has been trying to conceive a child by artificial insemination at the Waters Clinic. The talk is light and later in the meal Melina proposes an idea that the two sisters switch like they did when they were children. At first Gillian is not interested but later decides to do it just for the fun of it. She impersonates Melina while Melina is Gillian. Simple enough all Melina has to do is escort a Colonel Christopher Hart also known as "Chief," a former astronaut, to a NASA. Banquet. Everything is fine until Hart and his escort go to a Taco Bell where the two encounter Dale Gordon who calls her Gillian. Gillian as Melina plays along and tells Hart that Gordon has her confused for her twin sister Gillian. It happens that Gordon works for the Waters Center and knows Gillian is one of the patients. He follows them and realizes that Gillian is going to Hart's hotel room. Gordon is obsessed with Gillian. After the sisters have switched back Gordon breaks into Gillian's home and ends up killing her. Melina is called by police and told her sister is dead. With the help of Colonel Hart they track down information. As they piece the data together they find that other women who have gone to the Waters Center have had children kidnapped or turned up dead. They are also able to track down Gordon because he had introduced himself when they had encountered him at the taco restaurant. Gordon, a disciple of Brother Gabriel a religious spiritual leader, asks for forgiveness for killing Gillian. Later Gordon is found dead. The police conclude their investigation but Melina and Hart have just begun theirs. Brother Gabriel at first is a backdrop character until later in the book when Brown ties all of her puzzles together in a nice neat package. Gillian and Hart are attacked several times while they piece together the pieces of the mystery. Brown has written a tight plot with believable characters. The story unfolds in waves until the final shocking revelation of Brother Gabriel's real purpose. "The Switch is an evil tale at its best.

Stuart Woods
Harper Fiction
10 East 53rd Street, New York, New York 10022
9780061711923, $9.99,,

Stuart Woods, is always high on the must read list, "Dirt" is novel that is sure to please. Part of the reason is Stone Barrington is one of the most likable characters Woods has ever created. Amanda Dart, who writes gossip on anyone she can, now has the tables turned. She is the victim of someone who is anonymously faxing to press people vicious things about her. She has hired Stone Barrington to find out who is sending the transmission and stop them. "Dirt" is a bit slower than some of Woods other works but it is a very satisfying read

Guilty Pleasures
Lawrence Sanders
Berkley Books
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014
9780425166390, $7.50,,

Sanders novels are usually fast paced exciting reading. His books are filled with interesting likable characters involved in fascinating situations. That sadly, is not the case here. "Guilty Pleasures is the story of the wealthy Folsby family from the '70s to the '90s. Emmet Richard Folsby, founder of a huge publishing firm is the patriarch of the family. He has a wife, Constance Louise, and two children. Barbara Ann and Brett Sherwood. The book centers around the Barbara and Brett relationship. Barbara is an aggressive ambitious businesswoman while Brett is a lazy dashing playboy with strong sexual needs. He is also Barbara's worst enemy. A more interesting part of the book is the relationship between Judge Seth Parnell his housekeeper and her son Noah. He takes care of them and becomes somewhat a father figure to Noah. He also seems to know many secrets of the Folsby family. With this mix of characters one expects the novel to be an exhilarating thriller that the author is known for. But something is wrong here. The characters are flat, boring and unlikable while the writing is slow and very uneven. Nothing really exciting ever happens. The author plays on a relationship between Barbra and Noah that goes nowhere. Brett is wearisome as he has wild sexual escapades and the book would have been a lot more interesting if it had been about the Judge. There is no mystery or humor like the author's "Deadly Sins" or "McNally" series that are so much fun to read. What is also lacking here is the wit Sanders usually provides in his novels. "Guilty Pleasures doesn't even have the class of his novel "Capital Crimes" in which an evangelist advised the President of the United States on policy. Sanders, who is no longer with us, should have gone out with a bang instead he left with a whimper.

The Adventures of PJ and Split Pea Volume 1 Fine Feathered Friends
S.D Moore illustrations by Bobb Switzer
Outskirts Press Inc, Denver, Colorado
9781432712884, $19.95,,

"The Adventures of PJ and Split Pea Volume I Fine Feathered Friends is the first of a series of books for young kids. P J is a little boy who for so long has been laughed at by other kids. He and his parents go to the pet store to buy an animal for him to pal around with. They pick Split Pea a talking green parrot. Together they work to solve problems. What I liked abut this book is how the two characters become great friends. What's nice is that all ages can read this book and enjoy. No one is ever too old to like "The Adventures of PJ and Split Pea Volume I Fine Feathered Friends"

Modern Day Gettysburg A Portrait of the Most Famous Little Town in America
Lisa C. Phillips
Outskirts Press Inc, Denver, Colorado
9781432710286, $44.95,,

"Modern Day Gettysburg A Portrait of the Most Famous Little Town in America" takes the reader on a journey of the town of Gettysburg. She talks about the role it played in the Civil War and she shows that there is more to the area than the War between the States. She shows how close it is to other big cities in several bordering states and ones in Pennsylvania. She talks about famous people who have lived there and there are so many colorful pictures that add to the feel of the book. The writer has done a great job in "Modern Day Gettysburg A Portrait of the Most Famous Little Town in America showcasing the area as an attraction that makes you want to go and visit.

Swimming to Catalina
Stuart Woods
Harper Fiction
10 East 53rd Street, New York, New York 10022
978006171193, $9.99,,

With a walloping beginning in which Stone is almost killed by two thugs, "Swimming to Catalina" then picks up where "Dead in the Water" ended and moves along to a dashing finish. In this narrative Woods does some things that don't really add up with the situation he has created. For instance Stone, who many think is dead does not keep a low profile and he even takes some time out for some very graphic sexual activity with a woman who could run back to some other characters and reveal that he is not dead. Even so, "Swimming to Catalina" is exciting with great writing and fascinating characters that move the tale along.

Where's My LD? Little Dinosaur
Donnell Robinsom illustrated by Irene Michel
Outskirts Press Inc, Denver, Colorado
9781432718251, $12.95,,

Malcolm is having a very bad day. He can't find his dinosaur. He looks everywhere he can think of, but he can't locate him. His parents take him to camp where he meets and plays with lots of other kids. Only readers will find out if he finds his best friend. The best kid's books always have little messages for youngsters to learn. This one has several good ones. "Where's My LD? Little Dinosaur" is another fun little gem that is very interesting reading.

Pajamas and the Days of the Week
Higina Da Guia illustrated by John da Guia
Outskirts Press Inc
Denver, Colorado
9781432720551, $18.95,,

"Pajamas and the Days of the Week is for all ages. The story is all about pajamas. I loved how the author compared snuggling under the covers to a snail. He also tells a nice little joke at the end. What's unique though, is the work is told in two languages, English and Portuguese. The bright happy colors of the artwork also convey the cheerful feel. "Pajamas and the Days of the Week" is a witty story about why we wear pajamas.

Gary Roen

Gloria's Bookshelf

Trick of the Dark
Val McDermid
Bywater Books
P.O. Box 3671, Anne Arbor, MI 48106
978932859959 $24.95, 734-662-8815,

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

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

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

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

Dying for Justice
L.J. Sellers
Spellbinder Books
1755 Lorane Hwy., Eugene, OR 97405
9780983213833 $13.99, 541-342-7349,

Detective Wade Jackson, with the violent crimes unit of the Eugene, Oregon Police Department, An investigator with the best track record of closing cases, he has never worked a cold case before. In the fifth and newest entry in this terrific series, he is faced with two of them, one in particular of a very personal nature: the murder of his parents, ten years earlier. Convinced that the man who has been imprisoned for the crime, now terminally ill with cancer, is innocent, he is determined to find justice for them, and peace for himself.

The second case has to do with Gina Stahl, now 46 years old, who has been in a coma for two years, believed to be the result of a suicide attempt. When she awakens for the first time, she quite lucidly tells the authorities that she had been attacked by a man wearing a ski mask but who she believes was her ex-husband. That investigation is complicated by the fact that her ex is a police officer.

Jackson ultimately works both cases, assisted by 32-year-old detective-in-training Lara Evans, the chapters for the most part alternating p.o.v. between the two. The tale, as much as anything, is one of dysfunctional families in general, and siblings in particular. The author's expertise in creating deeply human characters is again much in evidence, together with a plot that keeps picking up speed as it hurtles to an ending that, quite literally, sent chills up and down my back and arms, and just as that was settling down, the last page had me again in goosebumps. Ms. Sellers' books just keep getting better and better, and accordingly this is her best one yet. Highly recommended.

The Retribution
Val McDermid
Little, Brown
100 Victoria Embankment, London Ec4Y 0DY
9781408703199 18.99 BPS

[This book is only available at present in/through the UK, not yet in the US or Canada]

In her twenty-fifth novel, Val McDermid brings back Jacko Vance, introduced to readers in "The Wire in the Blood," and to television viewers in its wonderful series adaptation. As the book opens, this truly malevolent serial killer, whose resume includes "killer of seventeen teenage girls, murderer of a serving police officer, and a man once voted the sexiest man on British TV" as well as an Olympic athlete and an outwardly charming and charismatic man, has served over 12 years in prison, owing mostly to the efforts of DCI Carol Jordan and psychological profiler Tony Hill. Vance has spent most of that time meticulously planning his escape, as well as his future after its successful completion: the revenge suggested by the books title, directed toward those who had caused his imprisonment, first among them Jordan and Hill, as well as his ex-wife whose betrayal he sees as making her equally culpable. Of course, his plan for vengeance merely begins there.

Carol Jordan, as yet unaware of what is about to happen, is dealing with a shake-up at the Bradfield Metropolitan Police, where the powers that be are disbanding her Major Incident Team. In an attempt to go out in a 'blaze of glory,' they are faced with finding a killer who has been killing street prostitutes in gruesome ways, and branding them with a distinctive tattoo on the wrist of each. Suddenly, Jordan's priorities change with Vance's escape, and its implications. Tony's priorities as well must be divided between these investigations.

The relationship between Jordan and Hill has always been difficult to define, becoming more so all the time. They are not quite lovers, although they share space, and different flats, in Tony's house. But their emotional entanglement has always been obvious to all, even if they themselves do not admit to one. That relationship, both professionally and personally, is about to be threatened now as never before.

The author goes into more of Tony's background, and the emotional and psychological paths that have shaped him, and caused him to work at "passing for human," than I remembered having been done in the past. He tells a colleague "I won't deny that the people who do this kind of thing fascinate me. The more disturbed they are, the more I want to figure out what makes them tick." It is his empathy and his oft-times brilliant insights that have made him so successful. But this is a challenge unlike any he has ever faced.

The pace steadily accelerates along with a sense of dread as Vance begins to carry out his plans, and the resultant page-turner is as good as anything this acclaimed author has written. Highly recommended.

Gloria Feit

Gorden's Bookshelf

Pride & Prejudice Hidden Lusts
Mitzi Szerero
Cleis Press, Inc,
2246 Sixth Street, Berkeley, California 94710
9781573446631 $15.95

Satire--witty language used to criticize the accepted, and often pretentious, view of something.

I thought I would start with a definition of satire for this review. Pride & Prejudice has, over the centuries, taken the mantle of literary greatness. Although it is a good story, it is just a story. Szerero takes this story and characters and turns everything on end. Every situation and character in the tale is given a deliciously fanciful and twisted sexual peccadillo. Every time you turn the page you wonder what new erotic extreme will invade your memory of the story.

Good satire requires a deep knowledge of the subject and a timing that surprises and shocks the reader. Szerero pushes the satire to such extremes that the readers will be divided into two camps. The first group is the offended but the second will lavish joy on every page turned. The timing and audacity of the eroticism can slap the reader in the face with thrills and laughter as cherished assumptions in the story are replaced with an erotic undertone that, although extreme, might seem in some odd way more real than the original story.

Pride & Prejudice Hidden Lusts is not for the faint at heart. But if you can stand the ride it will tantalize and tease you in every page. It is an easy recommendation for the erotic reader. It is also a good selection for the adventurous reader who has had some past experience with the original story. But beware--you have to have the fortitude go past the visceral reaction to the intense erotica and appreciate the satire.

Black Elk Speaks
John G. Neihardt
Excelsior Editions
Imprint State University of New York Press
22 Corporate Woods Boulevard, 3rd Floor
Albany, NY 12211-2504
9781438425405 $19.95

Black Elk was a Sioux shaman who lived through the conflict period of the expansion of the US into the Great Plains region. He was in or nearby most of the major fights and events from the conflict over the Bozeman Trail to the battles over the Black Hills to the final massacre at Wounded Knee. Black Elk Speaks is a written version of his oral history and uses his shamanistic visions as a key to understanding the Sioux beliefs, culture and Native American individuals.

The visions used in shaman type religions are both unique and similar to the visions and prophecies in the major religions of the world. A careful look at Black Elk's visions will demonstrate to the reader that many aspects of the story show strong parallels to passages from the Bible, Koran, etc. The variations occur with how the visions are translated into the language and culture of the different groups of people. Black Elk translates many features of his vision into horse characters and animal characters. This becomes an obvious translation when you consider how important those animals were to a nomadic people for life.

Most people don't realize how deeply culture colors their perceptions of the world and events. You can see both sides of this issue in the book. The brutality on both sides can be seen in the variety of events and massacres. Since the US was successful in the expansion, its brutality dominates the narration in scale. Any incident will result in a response and those responses are seldom balanced. The Sioux had a relatively short interaction with the expanding US culture. One of the biggest problems is that the US culture had hundreds of years of interactions with other indigenous tribes and carried the history of these interactions in their contact with the Sioux. An event that might be considered minor by the Sioux brought back memories of major importance from the past history of confrontations which resulted in responses more expansive than the Sioux could logically expect.

Black Elk Speaks is a must read book for anyone interested in the history of the Western Plains. It brings out both the romantic mythology of the West pictured today and the darker reality of the past. It doesn't cover many of the events in detail but it does cover the events in a direct and personal way. You get a direct feeling of what Crazy Horse meant to the Sioux and you feel the euphoria of the Sioux success against Custer and the agony of the massacre at Wounded Knee. Throughout the story you recognize the sadness of an old man who lived during the period when his culture was the dominate force in a rich land to its demise. This is especially poignant when you realize that Black Elk considers that his poor interpretation and use of his vision helped bring about the collapse of his people.

S.A. Gorden, Reviewer

Harwood's Bookshelf

Frauds, Myths, and Mysteries: Science and Pseudoscience in Archaeology
Kenneth L. Feder
McGraw Hill
P O Box 182604, Columbus OH 43272
9780078116971 $43.20

Kenneth Feder writes, "I am quite confident that Everest is the world's tallest peak. But how do I know that?" He proceeds to spell out the procedures used by scientific investigators to test and verify beliefs and hypotheses. He states that, "Anyone can claim there was a Lost Continent of Atlantis, but often it takes a truly inventive mind to suggest precisely what archaeologists must find if the hypothesis of its existence were indeed to be valid." One obvious expectation would be that the west coast of Europe and Africa would not fit so snugly against the east coast of North and South America if there had once been a large continent in the intervening space.

Feder agrees with virtually all scholars who have investigated the Atlantis myth, that Plato tried to provide a geographic location for the imaginary Utopia that he called Atlantis, by associating it with a tale he had heard about an island that sank into the sea. The claim that the inspiration for Atlantis was the eruption of the Santorini volcano in the Aegean Sea has been thoroughly blown out of the water. The hypothesis that it was an island in a small lake in western Anatolia is devoid of supporting evidence. But equating the culture of a now-submerged island with Plato's Atlantis dreamworld can be compared to equating the life of the Jewish rebel Paul of Tarsus capriciously chose to be the posthumous figurehead of his new, gentile religion, with the purely imaginary Jesus of the Christian gospels. "There was no Atlantic continent; there was no great civilization called Atlantis."

Feder describes the Cardiff Giant and Piltdown Man hoaxes in much more detail than I had read before. He observes that scientists who inspected the Giant denounced it as a hoax from day one. In contrast, archaeologists continued to accept the legitimacy of Piltdown Man until evidence that the bones had been artificially altered became irrefutable.

Not until I read the comments posted to Amazon did I fully believe Feder's contention that an enormous number of scientific illiterates continue to believe in Atlantis, Noah's ark, and the Shroud of Turin, each of which has been falsified beyond a reasonable doubt. One can understand the desperation of god-addicts to cling to a belief that reinforces their brainwashing. But what psychological need does a belief in lost continents fulfill?

The chapter that most surprised me by its inclusion was about psychic archaeology. I tend to forget that there are gaggles of True Believers who take such "yesterday's fantasies" seriously. I was less surprised that there are still believers in dowsing. Feder makes clear that psychic archaeology and dowsing have no legitimacy. "The verdict on psychic archaeology based upon experiments under controlled conditions is decidedly negative." Ditto dowsing.

Feder devotes six pages to rebutting the masturbation fantasies of Barry Fell. I see that as analogous to taking six pages to rebut Linus's endorsement of the Great Pumpkin. One could argue that a complete debunking of archaeological fantasies would have been incomplete if Fell had gone unmentioned. Or Feder might have been remembering that the initial refusal of astronomers to dignify the outlandish fantasies of Immanuel Velikovsky by acknowledging his existence led the masses to believe that Velikovsky could not be rebutted, and he was unwilling to make the same mistake.

He devotes a whole chapter to annihilating the "nonsense concerning ancient astronauts" that Erich von Däniken plagiarized from an earlier fantasizer and passed of as his own. Again, he probably either felt that his book would be incomplete if he failed to mention a "fantasy of the month" that is no longer taken seriously; or he was concerned that ignoring von Däniken might be interpreted as an inability to rebut him.

Feder agrees that the evidence of Viking settlements in North America dating from pre-Columbus times is definitive. Yet he equates testees who agreed that, "America was discovered by Europeans many years before Columbus," with the gullible ignoramuses who agreed that, "Aliens from other worlds visited the earth in the prehistoric past." Did the Vikings attempt to colonize America before Columbus or not? He can't have it both ways.

I have a minor quibble with Feder's grammar, and a major objection to elements of his vocabulary. He refers to "an hypothesis" rather than "a hypothesis," as if the initial letter of hypothesis were silent. He uses the offensively Christian dating system, AD, instead of the scientifically neutral CE, apparently unaware that even liberal theologians are now using CE in recognition that AD is a confrontational insult to the 5.6 billion persons on this planet who do not believe they are living in the Year of the Master. And in referring to Jesus of Galilee as "Jesus Christ," he apparently does not realize that he is thereby conceding that a self-deluded preacher was the mythical "anointed one" he believed himself to be.

But the book's weaknesses are trivial. While whole books have been written demolishing such nonsense as lost continents, Noah's ark, and alien visitations, Feder's chapters on the subjects are more than sufficient to satisfy anyone but incurable True Believers that nonsense is nonsense is nonsense.

Letter to a Christian Nation
Sam Harris
Random House
1745 Broadway, New York NY 10019
9780307265777 $16.95

Letter to a Christian Nation has a message for every Christian in America, as well as every non-Christian. But it is written in the form of a letter to a specific Christian who is an archetype of the 17% of the population (maximum) who are so dangerous to civilized society that they hail such events as the World Trade Center atrocity as a welcome precursor of the second coming of a hunchbacked dwarf psychopath who was executed 2,000 years ago. It is to this hypothesized Christian that he writes (p. 4), "The fact that my continuous and public rejection of Christianity does not bother me in the least should suggest to you just how inadequate I think your reasons for being a Christian are."

"Despite a full century of scientific insights attesting to the antiquity of ... the earth, more than half of our neighbors believe that the entire cosmos was created ... a thousand years after the Sumerians invented glue" (pp. x-xi). The neighbors Dr Harris refers to are Americans. And as a consequence of their ignorance (p. xi), "Our country now appears ... like a lumbering, bellicose, dim-witted giant. Anyone who cares about the fate of civilization would do well to recognize that the combination of great power and great stupidity is simply terrifying, even to one's friends." As a Canadian, I consider myself America's friend, and America's current status as the most superstitious, ignorant, scientifically illiterate, theofascist nation in the civilized world is terrifying to me. Even more terrifying is that Harris's words were written before the election to Congress of such dim-witted ignoramuses as Michele Bachmann and her "Tea Party," who want to turn America into a mirror image of the Taliban's Afghanistan. Despite an increase in the number of nontheists in America, now up to 36%, the danger of such theofascist Luddites, Christian ayatollahs, heretic-haters, and evolutionary throwbacks bringing about the extermination of the human race has actually increased since Harris wrote his warning in 2006.

One of Harris's points is more front-and-center now than when he wrote it. A Luddite candidate for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination denounced another candidate for promoting the use of an HPV vaccine that is 100% effective in preventing a cancer-causing sexually transmitted disease that currently infects half of the American population. Her "Christian" position, not shared by the majority of Christians, is that victimless recreation is so evil that making it unnecessarily life-threatening is justified. Harris writes (p. 27) that, "These pious men and women want to preserve cervical cancer as an incentive toward abstinence, even if it sacrifices the lives of thousands of women each year." He quotes an Evangelical CDC adviser (p. 28) who is on record as opposing an HIV vaccine, "thereby condemning millions of men and women to die unnecessarily from AIDS each year - because such a vaccine would encourage premarital sex by making it less risky. This is one of many points on which your religious beliefs become genuinely lethal."

It is only the kind of Christians Harris is rebutting who should be tried by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity. But all Christians are brainwashed that safe, responsible, nonconsequential joy-sharing is intrinsically evil and can only be justified by special circumstances. That makes them incapable of telling right from wrong - the legal definition of insanity. And it is a virtual certainty that the 2012 Republican presidential nominee will be a deranged theofascist (tautology) who is determined to impose his concept of "Christian" morality on the 83% of Americans, half of them Christians, who see him as an American Khomeini.

Harris defines atheism very well. He points out to his hypothetical Christian (p. 7), "The truth is, you know exactly what it is like to be an atheist with respect to the beliefs of the Muslims.... Isn't it obvious that anyone who thinks that the Koran is the perfect word of the creator of the universe has not read the book critically?" He also notes (p. 14) that, "Anyone who believes that the Bible offers the best guidance we have on questions of morality has some very strange ideas about either guidance or morality."

Harris shows that he is not completely free of cultural brainwashing when he writes (p. 27), "There is nothing wrong with encouraging teens to abstain from having sex." Only Christianity and Islam preach that premarital safe sex is undesirable. Judaism teaches (Talmud, Nazir 19a) that causing oneself anguish by abstaining from victimless pleasure, whether sexual, gastronomic or other, is an ungodly perversion.

As a biblical historian, I have a problem with many of Harris's inaccurate assertions about who wrote what and what the written words were intended to mean. But since such assertions do not detract from his essential message, instead of citing them I will say only that Harris ventures into areas where he is a well-meaning amateur. As such, he makes no more mistakes that could reasonably be expected, although his capitalizing of pronouns referring to the Christian deity is a practice even liberal Christians have abandoned. He also gullibly swallows propaganda from surveys rigged to elicit a politically-correct answer: "80% of the population expects to be called before God on Judgment Day" (p. 46; see also p. 51). Reality (check Ronald Aronson's Living Without God): Godworshipper of every stripe comprise only 65% of all Americans.

However, when Dr Harris's arguments stem from assumptions that I know to be incorrect, it is reasonable to conclude that he is using the legitimate tactic of treating his intended audience's beliefs as true in order to falsify them. To rebut a flat-earther, one must start from the assumption that the earth really is flat, and show where such an assumption necessarily leads. The assumption that Christianity is true leads to the consequence that humans are the domesticated livestock of the most sadistic, evil, mass-murdering psychopath in all fiction - as the Sky Fuhrer's official biography, "The Bible," makes unambiguously clear.

Religion is the sickest perversion ever seen on earth. Harris does not say so in those words. But when his statements, including those quoted above, are taken as a whole, that it the only conclusion a reasonable person can reach. But Letter to a Christian Nation does not demonstrate the absolute unspeakable evil of religion more effectively than any other book currently in print. The books that do that are the Tanakh, Bible, and Koran.

If godworshippers had as much logic and rationality as a great white shark with rabies, the books of Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Victor Stenger, and Christopher Hitchens would already have wiped religion from the face of the earth, and it would not be necessary to admonish them (p. 54), "It is time we acknowledged how disgraceful it is for the survivors of a catastrophe to believe themselves spared by a loving God, while this same God drowned infants in their cribs." It is the unwillingness of moderate, liberal Christians to denounce the fanatics that is the reason for their continued existence. Some humanists make the mistake of refusing to recognize that reality. Harris does not.

Absolute Monarchs: A History of the Papacy
John Julius Norwich
Random House
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
9781400067152 $30.00

John Norwich acknowledges in his introduction (p. xii), "I am no scholar, and my books are not works of scholarship." He got that right. I counted more errors of fact and gullible parroting of Christian propaganda in his opening chapter than could be considered tolerable in a whole book. He argues (p. xiii) that, "as an agnostic Protestant I have absolutely no axe to grind, still less any desire either to whitewash [the RC church] or to hold it up to ridicule." Agnostic Protestant? I am reminded of the Catholic atheist who claimed that there is no god and Mary is his mother. Yet even when he voices his doubts that a Catholic or generically Christian doctrine is factual, he leans over backward to avoid offending that nice Mr God, perhaps as insurance against it zapping him with a thunderbolt.

Norwich cites (p. 206) the arrest of the Knights Templars' grand master on Friday, October 13, 1307, as the origin of the "Friday the thirteenth" taboo. In fact male-god religion anathematized Friday the thirteenth as a double-feminine, since Friday was named after the sex goddess, Frig, and thirteen was the size of the female-supremacist zodiac before it was reduced to twelve by the phallusocrats. He is equally unreliable when he writes of Lucretia Borgia (p. 272) that, "There is absolutely no evidence for the rumor of incest with one or more her brothers - or indeed with her father." Are the historians all wrong who recorded that, when Lucretia gave birth, her father, Pope Alexander VI, at first acknowledged his paternity but, when hostile reaction exceeded his expectations, then attributed it to her brother Cesare? He describes Pope Benedict XIV (p. 358) as, "a deeply learned theologian," an expression analogous to "a deeply logical doublethinker."

As for Norwich's mutually exclusive statements (p. 468), that the RC church has two billion members, yet numbers one-sixth of the global population, anyone who has passed third-grade math would recognize that, for both statements to be true, the world population would have to be twelve billion. It is under seven billion. The most defensible approximation is that there are 1.1 billion Christians, of whom only 0.75 billion are Catholics. The reason for the inflated claims is that religious propagandists pretend that half of the world's 2.2 billion nontheists are god addicts.

Most of Norwich's inaccuracies can be attributed to mere absence of expertise rather than gross ignorance, although there are some notable exceptions. He writes (p. 9) that, "It seems more likely than not that St. Peter did in fact come to Rome and was martyred there, probably somewhere on the Vatican Hill." He supports that piece of Catholic propaganda by citing supporting circumstances and dismissing the overwhelming evidence that Peter never visited Rome in his life. But his declaration (p. 9) that Luke was a source of Mark, rather than vice versa, is so far removed from anything a biblical scholar could take seriously, that it calls into question the usefulness of his whole book.

The errors continue into the second chapter. For example, he credits the presbyter Arius with originating the "Arian heresy." In fact Arius supported the less-than-divine-Jesus doctrine that had been Christian orthodoxy for three centuries. The Council of Nicaea voted to recognize Jesus as part of a trinity as a consequence of the trinitarian minority rigging the vote at a time when the majority of bishops who were unitarian had not yet reached Nicaea. And his listing (p. 15) of "Jesus Christ," a title that in effect endorses Jesus' claim to be the prophesied fairy tale character he believed himself to be, as a contender for "the most influential man who ever lived," reveals his unawareness that Jesus was a nobody who did nothing. If the inventor of Christianity, Paul, had not arbitrarily chosen Jesus from the dozen recently crucified messiahs to be the posthumous figurehead of his new, gentile religion, his name would be as unknown today as it was to the contemporary historians who made no mention of him. Indeed the only reason a majority of biblical historians believe there was ever a historical Jesus is the enormous number of negative anecdotes - such as starting a war of independence and losing - that no Jesus fan in his right mind would ever have invented.

Norwich devotes a chapter to Pope Joan, alleged to have reigned from 855 to 857 even though she was first mentioned in a document written in 1265. After several pages in which he summarizes the writings about her, he asks (p. 69), "With so much conflicting evidence, can we be absolutely sure that Pope Joan never existed? Alas, we can." That competent historians agree is pure coincidence. His description of the "Pornocracy," appointees of the power-wielding matriarch Marozia, "Lover, mother, and grandmother of popes" (p. 78), is likewise supported by historians. If it were not, I would find myself urging, "Consider the source."

In his pages on the First Crusade, Norwich reports (p. 121) that in 1099, "the soldiers of Christ battered their way into Jerusalem, where they slaughtered all the Muslims in the city and burned all the Jews alive in the main synagogue." He explains (p. 120) that, in the twenty years since the Turkish conquest of Jerusalem, "Christian pilgrims were regularly being robbed and persecuted by the city's Turkish overlords," as if that was the sole motivation of Pope Urban II's solution to Rome's unemployment problem. Robert Spencer put it more bluntly (The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam): "The Crusades were not acts of unprovoked aggression by Europe against the Islamic world, but a delayed response to centuries of Muslim aggression." If Norwich had been equally willing to be politically incorrect, his book might have been more useful.

I was discomforted by Norwich's adherences to practices an agnostic terrified that there just might be a vindictive god was bound to observe, such as his use of the offensively Christian dating system, AD, instead of the scientifically neutral CE; his references to "the Throne of St. Peter," as if Peter had any connection whatsoever with the institution that usurped his name; and his identifying canonized Catholics as "Saint ...", as if Catholic canonization differed in any way from the deification of emperors by the Roman Senate. But what I found particularly grating was his repeated references to "antipopes," as if that retroactive label had some objective reality; and "Christian heresies," as if other sects were less legitimate than the Catholic. Reminder: Norwich has no ability to distinguish between history and religious propaganda.

Most of Absolute Monarchs describes the political battles between opposition popes and between popes and emperors, a questionable focus for a book aimed at a general public more interested in whether Benedict XVI's cover-ups of kiddy-diddling and facilitation of sixty million homicides by his prohibition of condoms parallels equally self-serving practices of his predecessors or is an aberration. While Norwich cites some popes' less-than-admirable qualities, there is more information about papal crimes and hypocrisy in the "pope" entries in my Dictionary of Contemporary Mythology. For a more complete account see Crimes of Christianity, by G. W. Foote and J. M. Wheeler (Kanya Books, 1965). Only Norwich's detailed account of the antihuman activities of the unspeakable Pius IX and Pius XII have my unqualified approval. His chapter on Benedict XVI, while it gives a clear picture of the unrepentant Nazi pope's intolerant hatred of Muslims, Jews, Protestants and women, provides no new information to anyone who watches world news broadcasts on television.

Norwich's jacket biography describes him as, "one of Britain's preeminent historians." Both his acknowledgement, quoted above, and this book, testify that he is nothing of the sort. Even his catalogue of popes and antipopes at the end of the book is an uncritical rubberstamp of Catholic propaganda. He parrots the Big Lie that there was only one real pope at any given moment, even though "antipopes" were only designated as such retroactively, based on contradictory criteria. He lists Peter as the first pope, followed by two successors who did not exist. And he shows the papacy existing from early in the first century, ignoring a point he actually raised earlier in the book, that the first pope (by the modern definition) was Siricius, and all predecessors as bishop of Rome claimed no precedence over the concurrent popes of Alexandria, Antioch, Constantinople, and Jerusalem. Norwich may not have set out to whitewash the Papacy's status as a self-appointed totalitarian dictatorship comparable with Ron Hubbard's Scientology, Joseph Smith's Mormonism, Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe, and Al Capone's Mafia. But that is precisely what he has done.

A Wealth of Insights; Humanist Thought Since the Enlightenment
Bill Cooke
Prometheus Books
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst, NY 14228-2119
9781591027270 $29.98

According to a Prometheus Books publicist, "A Wealth of Insights looks to provide an overview to the many competing and contrasting ways the idea of humanism has been used in the two hundred years since the word was coined." Without disputing that Bill Cooke accomplished his purpose in providing such an overview, I find myself echoing Clarke Gable's last speech in Gone With the Wind, "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn." That may sound strange coming from an author whose defining work traced Christian beliefs to their pre-Christian sources. But I see an enormous difference between showing that Christian fairy tales were plagiarized from pre-Christian religions, with nothing changed but the names of the gods, and showing that modern humanist beliefs echo the moral philosophy espoused by scholars who wrote years, decades or centuries earlier, but would be just as valid if no one had thought of them before.

Cooke traces the humanistic concepts espoused by a whole bunch of people I had never heard of, and those of a dozen or so persons with whom I am familiar, including Margaret Knight. He writes (p. 143), "Like so many people, Margaret Knight began university conventionally religious and left it an atheist." I can relate to that, since my own escape from religious mind-crippling occurred the same way, as it did with most of the nontheists with whom I am acquainted. He wonders how anyone could not leave Cambridge as an atheist in the 1930s, presumably because the means of guaranteeing that students left as ignorant as when they came in had not yet been perfected. If I had not taken an ancient history course from a professor who did not manipulate the facts to suppress dangerous truths, I might never have been cured.

Cooke shows that the idea of humanism means different things to different people. "In England humanism had developed in the theological sense as the belief that Jesus Christ was merely and only human" (p. 44). He writes (p. 52), "What is apparent in this account of nineteenth-century humanism was how little it intersected with major trajectories of atheist and other non-Christian thought." In my view, humanism can incorporate many mutually-exclusive philosophies, including belief in the disinterested god of deism. What it cannot include is any belief in a god that intervenes in human affairs, is the ultimate arbiter of right and wrong, lays down laws that must be obeyed, and can be bribed or flattered. "Religious humanism" is an oxymoron.

Not everyone agrees. In reporting that a bishop of Oxford described Richard Dawkins as a "fellow humanist," Cooke writes (p. 163), "Just imagine what the bishop of Oxford would have said about the world's best-known atheist in 1808!"

Cooke spells out the evolution of what he calls humanism, and I call humanistic values, in the culture and religions of Europe, America, India, China, Africa, and the Near East. While acknowledging that it was a federal judge who first ruled, in a footnote, that secular humanism was a religion and as such qualified for the protections granted to all religions under the First Amendment, he points out the fraudulence of religionists citing that ruling in order to denounce humanism as a mere belief system analogous to their own. He questions whether Hinduism can be considered a religion, or whether the multitude of belief systems covered by that term have sufficient in common to categorize them under any single name. But he ends up concluding (p. 449) that, "Out of the wealth of insights generated by such different people from different culture over the past two centuries, we are not going to reach some kind of consensus." While anyone can make such a statement, Cooke backs it up with 500 pages of evidence that the meaning of words such as religion, humanism, and even secularism, varies with the eye of the beholder.

William Harwood

Henry's Bookshelf

The Rio Grande - an Eagle's View
Edited by Barbara McIntyre
Photographs by Adriel Heisey
Foreword by Robert Redford
Essays by John Horning, Steve McDowell, and Senator Tom Udall
WildEarth Guardians
Distributed by U. of New Mexico Press
1312 Basehart Road SE
Albuquerque NM 87106-4363
9780615234533, $75.00,

More than a work of exceptional nature and aerial photography, this "Rio Grande" also means to call attention to the environmental protection required for the river to survive as both a resource and incomparable natural wonder in the Southwest. Robert Redford writes a personal memory of the River from when he was a boy which begins, "The Rio Grande is an important part of the way I see the American West..."; and ends with the note alluding to both the wonder and purpose of Heisey's photographs, "Photographs, however beautiful, can't surmount the Rio Grande's many modern challenges. But they can show why it's important that they be surmounted." Senator Tom Udall in his short closing essay writes, "The Rio Grande is part of who we are as Westerners. It is central to our identity and to our sense of self, as well as to our economy." He is speaking as well for all Americans as the Rio Grande is a part of the history and the legend of the West. Udall points to the deterioration of the Gila and the Santa Cruz rivers for what could happen--is happening--to the Rio Grande.

Heisey's aerial photographs vary in subject and perspective, including a few which are close-ups among the majority which are panoramas of sections of the River and the mostly vast open spaces it traverses. The professional photographer whose photographs have appeared in National Geographic and other popular, large-circulation periodicals and professional pilot built an ultralight, customized airplane used for the project of this book. In his work in piloting Navajo officials to appointments throughout the Southwest, he knows the Rio Grande and the Southwest terrain and its population centers well. The photographs, many full-page and some double-page, follow the Rio Grande from its source in Colorado's San Juan Mountains to the Gulf of Mexico.

Taken during different seasons, times of day, and weather conditions along different stretches of the river, the photographs take in wilds and also cities. The photographers do not conform to a uniform style of Heisey's, but rather capture the full range of the terrain and views along the long course of the river--each photo holding a different scene and scale inviting examination so as to respectively absorb the mood connoted by a variously rugged, desolate, or forested view or the layout and pattern of a city. Thus do the expertly done and thoughtfully selected photographs leave a lasting impression of the varied facets of today's American Southwest all bound together by the defining feature of the Rio Grande.

The Horse Rider in African Art
George Chemeche, with essays by John Pemberton III, et al
Antique Collectors Club
New York, NY
9781851496341, $90.00,

Chemeche opens this learned study with bountiful color photographs by contrasting the African art incorporating horses with Western art. A statue of Alexander the Great, for instance, in Greece displays this Greek conqueror with sword drawn and cape flowing on a rearing horse representing Alexander as heroic and individual. Similar statues often of military figures are familiar throughout cities of Europe. By contrast, the African carvings incorporating horses represent beliefs about humanity, power, and society found throughout African tribal society in terms of particular tribal or regional styles or forms.

Horse and rider in African art compare with carvings of mother and child to depict the physical interaction and social significance of each; with the former representing power, protection, and rulership and the latter, nurture and bonding. The four following essays expand on Chemeche's introduction by closer study of particular regional or tribal art with horses in terms of historical examples as well as elements of the carvings and tribal values and beliefs. John Pemberton in his essay on Yoruba carvings discusses the role of cavalry in the expansion of one empire, and how different terrains from open plains to thick forests affected this expansion. Permberton's credentials as a professor emeritus of religion and African studies at Amherst College typify credentials of each of the authors.

After the essays come over 200 works of African art with horse riders (pages 41-377) grouped by their material of wood, metals, terra cotta, stone, ivory, and beads. There's a page for each carving except for a few pages where there are close-ups of a part a particular one. The high-quality photographs of the individual art works against a plain background allow for appreciation of color, details, and integration of elements as well as overall form. Points from the essays are found to be instructive in appreciating and understanding the many, varied sculptures ranging in style from naturalistic to abstract.

The expertise of the essays on basics and background of this field of African art is welcome. In addition to this the usually taken-for-granted visual matter is noteworthy. Notes at the back list the varied, extensive sources for this. Among these sources are museums, galleries, and auctions, but also reference to 24 private collections which are not named. Thus an extra effort has been made by the editor and the publisher to present an exceptional gathering of African sculptures which is not likely to be superseded or repeated. The authoritative essays with a direct, useful relationship to study of the sculptures of the book as well as supplementary content and the incomparable visual matter assure the book to be a permanent central, fundamental work in this area.

Monsoon Traders - The Maritime World of the East India Company
H. V. Bowen, John McAleer, and Robert J. Blyth
Scala Publishers
London, United Kingdom
9781857596755, $60.00,

"Between 1600 and 1833, ships sailing under [East India] Company colours made about 4,600 voyages from London to Asia. It was England's, and later Britain's, single biggest commercial venture." The East India Company was inseparable from the British Empire. Kings and prime ministers concerned themselves with the Company's standing and affairs. International affairs too were strongly colored and in many cases determined by the Company's activities and growth. Economic rivalry at times leading to military conflict between England and particularly the Dutch and Portuguese in places from India to Southeast Asia, the East Indies, and China shaped this large part of Asia down to today.

"Monsoon Traders" is illustrated popular history. Bountiful color illustrations of all facets of the East India Company are set alongside narrative of the dramatic, romantic story of the beginnings, rise, and ending of this fabled enterprise. Most of the illustrations are prints and paintings from the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, England, where authors Blyth and McAleer are curators. Illustrations of English government bodies and buildings emphasize the role of the government in the success and longevity of the Company. Other of the many illustrations are exotic scenes and people from the Company's widespread Asian economic sphere. There are some too of porcelain, wood boxes, and other Asian items making up the Company's trade.

Embedded in the narrative of the Company's history are portraits of important figures and vignettes of their activities, accounts of diplomacy and alliances, and analyses of significant junctures. The varied content strikes just the right balance in historical narrative and visual treat.

Henry Berry

Joanne's Bookshelf

1000 Sisters: My Journey into the Worst Place on Earth to be a Woman
Lisa Shannon
Seal Press
Perseus Books
9781580052962, $24.95

The genocide in Africa of 1994 was horrendous, but the atrocities happening in the Congo during the last 15 plus years are unbelievably horrible. Who can imagine having a son ordered by a militiaman to eat his mother's amputated leg? Or watching family members raped and mutilated? This is often the fate of Congolese women described by Lisa Shannon in her book 1000 Sisters: My Journey into the Worst Place on Earth to be a Woman. When the author gave a speech about the Congo not long ago, a woman in the audience reacted, "This was way too dark for my church." [270] But this darkness is reality for women in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the world seems blind to it.

Shannon's book consists of her two visits to the DRC, filming and interviewing 'sisters' who had endured unspeakable killing and violence. Sister after sister could recount attacks, killing of family members, dismemberments, burning alive when homes were soaked in petrol, set afire, and escapees were shot, shocking mutilations of eyes, noses, mouths, and the most horrible rapes that included defiling their bodies so severely with metal, branches, or broken bottles that infected fistula eventually led to death.

One sister, "Generose," (her pseudonym) lost her leg when renegade soldiers attacked her home, cut off her leg, and ordered her son to eat the leg. When he refused, they shot him and her husband. The 'soldiers' were members of the Interahamwe, a militant group that fled to UN refugee camps in the Congo. Generose, hobbling with crutches, met Shannon on one of the visits.

It seems both economic and cultural. Where most families live on about $20 a month, armed groups, including soldiers, often aren't paid so they loot and plunder to survive. [287] Culturally, one of the militia groups, the Mai Mai, thinks raping before battles gives them prowess. Mining locations are often controlled by military groups who collect taxes from the workers or take a portion of the workers' productivity. Congolese are reluctant to report brutalities to other Congolese for fear of reprisal. Attacked victims scream for soldiers' protection, but often have to run to the soldiers instead, who sometimes don't always rescue them. Shannon likens it to "tossing teaspoons of water on a raging fire." [244] A New York Times article on October 4, 2010, said, ", order, electricity and medicine are non-existent in many corners of the country." The U. S. Embassy warned on March 3, 2011, that "American citizens are advised to stay inside." They also said on November 24, 2010, that groups were pillaging, stealing, kidnapping, raping, killing, and engaging in military operations where civilians were indiscriminately targeted." A UN peacekeeping force of 18,000 to 20,000 is disturbingly inadequate. UN officials have also said "sexual violence in the Congo is the worst in the world." [NYT 10/4/10] That such an abomination exists in the 21st century is deplorable.

Shannon ends with 10 things people can do to help: sponsor a sister, run for Congo women, join Raise Hope for Congo, share her book, purchase Lisa Jackson's film The Greatest Silence and show screenings, protect Congo's forests, urge politicians to deal with the Interahamwe, visit her Facebook, visit website, or create a new way to help.

The Suppressed History of America : The Murder of Meriwether Lewis and the Mysterious Discoveries of the Lewis and Clark Expedition
Schrag, Paul and Haze
Bear and Company, Div Inner Traditions International.
9781591431220, $15.00

A race of giants, a New England Stonehenge, Egyptians on Long Island, early Chinese, Celtic, Arabian, and Phoenician visitors long before Christopher Columbus? These are some claims made in The Suppressed History of America by Paul Schrag and Xaviant Haze. They provide archaeological evidence to substantiate such history and blame some historians and investigators who suppress the findings. They state, for instance, that the Smithsonian Institute investigations "...are like letting Charles Manson investigate the Sharon Tate murders." [106] Evidence is ignored, buried, even destroyed. A recent PBS documentary about 19th century paleontologists Leidy, Cope, and Marsh also revealed some chicanery and artifact destruction.

The U. S Army Corps of Engineers covered the Kennewick Man site with 500 tons of rock fill after anthropologists studied the Kennewick bones found in the Pacific Northwest and had determined that the skeleton was around 9200 years old. [82] As recent as 2005, leading scientists met in Seattle to study the Kennewick remains, but their findings are still secret. [85]

Other archaeological finds are also unavailable for study because they often end up in private collections versus public collections.

Linguistic studies of writings and ancient rock art are also ignored or suppressed. A Harvard professor, Dr. Barry Fell, who studied stone pillars (steles) and other artifacts, has been largely ignored because he found evidence of Egyptian, Iberian, and Libyan scripts in New England, Iowa, Illinois and Kentucky, some estimated as old as ninth century BCE. [107]

Native American history often reveals clues of earlier explorers that are also ignored. The Mandan tribe of North Dakota with blue and hazel eyes, light hair, and half-white skin suggest Celtic or European origin. Their language is so similar to Welsh that they seemed to understand spoken Welsh. [65] Their folklore included the Noah's Ark story, complete with the dove that returned to their "canoe" with a willow branch. [66]

A Foreword by Michael Tsarion, an expert on occult and histories of Ireland and America, says that a "vast amount of...evidence proving...several Native American Indian tribes were...descendants from ancient European visitors to the New World" has been "systematically destroyed." [vii]

The book also describes the controversy over whether Northwest explorer Meriwether Lewis committed suicide or was murdered. Lewis' descendants have tried to exhume his body for forensics that would, today, resolve the controversy, but since 2009 have been unsuccessful as the federal National Park Service and the U. S. Dept. of Interior will not grant permission.

Another bit of history, perhaps relevant to today's economic issues, but a digression over the Lewis suicide/murder controversy, involves the Hamilton/Jefferson disagreements about a central bank to control currency. Harvard University President Joseph Willard in 1812 warned that "Our republican government would be annihilated." [114] Earlier, Ben Franklin had attributed the "prime reason for the Revolutionary War" was the British Currency Act of 1764, which became the showdown known as Taxation Without Representation." [115] Today's Tea Partiers may want to revisit the tea party story and the results of the British Currency Act of 1764 that the authors say "ended the growing economic success of the colonists' independent trade." [115] It's also ironic, especially in today's economy, that the authors say Jefferson believed a national bank (along with banks' fractional banking) would acquire too much power over the government...[and be] more of a threat than any army." [116]

The foregoing may have been included because of the controversy over publishing Lewis' journals and diaries that were missing large chunks of time and because Nicholas Biddle, an influential financier in favor of a central bank, was in charge of getting Lewis' findings published. Nevertheless, these bits may add some 'history' to both the Revolutionary War and central banking issues, some of which may be plaguing us today.

This is a quick and interesting read and gives a pause about the veracity of "history."

Joanne B. Conrad, Reviewer

Karyn's Bookshelf

Epic Adventure: Epic Climbs
John Cleare, author
Kingfisher/MacMillan Children's Books
175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010
9780753465738, $19.99

There's no way around it: scaling a mountain peak is dangerous. "Epic Climbs" the latest title in the "Epic Adventure" series, details 200 years of advancements that have made mountain climbing safer. But even today, the amount of planning and skill needed to reach the summit of the world's highest peaks is daunting. Cleare packs a lot of information into 60 pages, but the design, with scores of small inset boxes and great illustrations that are a mix of old and new photographs and various sized informational graphics, are reader-friendly to appeal to kids as young as age 10. But even adults will be pulled in. The inclusion of poster-sized fold-out pages adds interest. The book follows the efforts of mountaineers too reach the summits of five of the world's highest peaks: Eiger, K2, Everest, McKinley and Matterhorn. In great detail, readers are introduced to climbers who made it to the top...and those who did not, many of whom died in the process. Some of the insets also deal with natural phenomena, such as the geology of Mount Everest, common avalanche triggers and high-altitude weather. An excellent addition to an existing, exciting informational series that also includes "Epic Voyages," "Epic Flights" and "Epic Treks."

Grace Norwich, author
Scholastic, Inc.
557 Broadway, New York, NY 10012
9780545273329, $5.99

Norwich aims for the juggernaut then segways into information in a great backdoor approach to science learning that elementary readers (ages 7-10) will love. Scary fangs grace the cover of "Snake-A-Phobia" and the introductory text sends shivers. But very quickly, kids are asked to weigh where their fear of snakes comes from. Then, they're told that the best way to get past the fear of something is to learn all you can about it....and the learning is underway. From then on, Norwich offers a primer about snakes, including the parts of a snake's body and species found in various parts of the world. The language is appropriately simple and the design, with special features such as brief informational "Fright Bite" insets, is very reader friendly. Abundant photographs are one more plus. Every aspect -- concept, information, design -- screams elementary schoolers. Just right.

The Case of the Vanishing Golden Frogs: A Scientific Mystery
Sandra Markle, author
Millbrook Press/Lerner Publishing Group
241 First Avenue North
Minneapolis, MN 55401
9780761351085 $29.27

The scientific process is front and center as young readers are led on a mission to find the mass killer of the Panamanian golden frog. Markle doesn't tip her hand until nearly halfway through the book, finally revealing that a fungus is the cause of death of the frogs, which in less than two decades have been virtually wiped out in the wild. In the early pages kids are introduced to the frogs and their habitat, and then one by one potential fatal causes are suggested, such as pollution and climate change. Neither of those are the culprit. The second half of the book, then, focuses largely on how the fungus kills the frogs, efforts to save them by breeding them in captivity and the environmental effects of their disappearance in the wild. A thoroughly engaging, well written account that teaches kids not only about golden frogs, but about what a scientist does. That the story isn't over yet, that a cure is still being sought, adds intrigue. Finely done.

In Trouble
Ellen Levine, author
Carolrhoda Lab/Lerner Publishing Group
241 First Avenue North
Minneapolis, MN 55401
9780761365587, $17.95

It's the 1950s in New York City and two teenage friends are both pregnant. The award-winning Levine zeroes in on a point in time with cultural references like classic movies and the legendary Automat cafe. But it's also a point in time for reproductive rights, a generation before Roe vs. Wade. Levine is a master writer and the story lingers. It's a stark reminder of how much has changed. Some scenes particularly resonate, such as an intensely awkward trip to a doctor's office by the heroine, Jamie, for a pregnancy test. To get a test she must bring along a male friend (purportedly her spouse). The novel could have been a bit broader-minded; it slants distinctly pro-choice. Jamie and her friend Elaine are cast pretty stereotypically in that mindset. Jamie, who was raped and ultimately finds a doctor to do an abortion, is the smarter and savvier of the two. She wants to live her life and doesn't want to raise the product of a rape. Elaine, meanwhile, is a bit dimmer and more naive and hopes that her longtime boyfriend will marry her. Ultimately, her unyielding, arch conservative Catholic parents send her to a young mother's home to give birth and the baby is given up for adoption, though Elaine might have liked to keep it. A third scenario might have been nice, with an alternative choice to balance things out. Well done, if from a limited viewpoint.

Goodnight Owl
DwellStudio, author and illustrator
Blue Apple Books
515 Valley St., Maplewood, N.J., 07040
9781609050832, $8.99

Extra-sturdy construction, with heavier than normal lift-up flaps and pages, means a board book that can take all young children dish out. Toddlers will delight in the story. An owl flies along at night, calling "Who, Who..." and wondering who is asleep behind each page's flap. There are clues, such as the moose's big nose and antlers peeking out from behind a tree. Who sleeps in the pond, in the forest and among the marsh cattails lining the pond? Soothing blue and green hues and a gentle, simple story make this a perfect bedtime read.

Karyn Saemann

Katherine's Bookshelf

Mathen's Secrets
Barbara Dumas Ballew
7290 B. Investment Drive, Charleston, SC 29418
9781463618506, $14.95

The fact that Barbara Ballew is a talented writer is not a secret, but the secrets she imparts to the readers of her novel, Mathen's Secrets are secrets that are fun to unearth. Her book is set in the 1920's, the era of the Charleston, speakeasies and flappers. I especially enjoyed this book because it's about the lives of normal people of the era rather than the dark world of gangsters and bootleggers so often depicted in novels about the 20's.

Mathen Mosely secretly leaves her home to get away from an abusive husband. She boards a train and goes as far as Natchitoches, Louisiana. There she meets Grace Glenn and her family. ""I sometimes think that you were sent into our lives at a time when we needed you." (Grace)

"I know I needed you. You took a young girl's dreadful life and turned it into a lovely dream."" (Mathen)

Mathen quickly makes herself indispensable to the Glenn family as she works in the family restaurant, sews for the ladies, and cooks for the whole family on special occasions. Her life becomes intertwined in their lives and she learns to love and care for every member of the family. They include Grace, her husband, Chris and their three children, Sam, Lora and Lily and Chris' father, Jacob. As the story progresses, Mathen's secrets are revealed one by one until the Glenn family knows her and loves her as much as she loves them. One of the best parts of her new life is her new love, Sam Glenn. Follow her story of romance and fun as Mathen picks up the pieces of her life and makes a new one with this new, understanding family.

This book is a great read for all ages - teens to seniors.

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

Just Breeze
Beverly Stowe McClure
4RV Publishing LLC
PO Box 6482, Edmond, OK 73083
9780984070824, $15.99

Who would want to go through life with a name like Breeze? Breeze Brannigan had no choice and her looks and personality as described by Beverly Stowe McClure in Just Breeze complement that name. This contemporary novel tells just what it is like for eighth graders through the interactions of the major characters, Amy, Cam, Tony, Allison, Sara and Noah. There are also the wise parents and other adults who are not averse to meting out sage advice to the 'harem scarem' teens.

The story centers on Breeze and her relationship with the 'new boy in town'.

"But I barely heard Tony, for standing behind was this boy I'd never seen, an average-looking guy. Not take your breath away handsome, but surprise, surprise, he was as tall as me. Correction, his spiky-like hair was as tall as me. His eyes struck me at nose level."

There are the usual teenage angst scenes as well as the interesting revelations. She is attracted to him, but has to wonder about him. Why does he like her? Or does he? Where is he from? Is he an alien? All of these questions and more are asked and answered in this rousing book. You will have to read this book to follow the metamorphosis of Breeze and her friends as they begin to grow up.

Beverly Stowe McClure lives in Texas with her husband, Jack. She is a mother to three sons, grandmother to four granddaughters and two grandsons and great grandmother to one great grandson. Her official bio says she married very young.

Beverly is a member of both the North Texas and the national Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.

Sleep, My Child
Eyvonna Rains
Tate Publishing
127 E Trade Center Terrace, Mustang, OK 73064
9781615664917, $9.95

Eyvonna Rains has written a lovely little book for children that will be requested at bedtime over and over by children from 4 - 8 years. Even children a little younger will like the lilt of the story as they go through each page. I wish I had young 'grand's to read it to at night. Some of my favorite memories at that age are of my mother and grandmother sitting next to my bed at night telling stories or reading to me.

The author relates all of the beneficial aspects of sleep such as helping a child to grow and retain things that a child has learned. Then, she tells of dreams that a child will have.

"Think, now, of unicorns, stars, and moonbeams"

Read this book to your child, or download the audio that comes free with the book and let them listen to it as they pour over the pages with the bright and colorful illustrations by Kristen Polson.

Caves, Cannons, and Crinolines
Beverly Stowe McClure
Twilight Times Books
PO Box3340, Kingsport TN 37664
9781606191125, $14.95

Beverly Stowe McClure has crafted an accurate and exciting historical novel for young adults in Caves, Cannons, and Crinolines. She describes the Siege of Vicksburg through the eyes of a young Southern girl, Elizabeth "Lizzie" Stamford. Lizzie and her family, consisting of her mother, younger brother, Nat and their two servants have to live in a cave during the siege in an effort to keep safe from the Yankee bombardment. Her father is a doctor who cares for the wounded at the local hospital and is not home very often. Ms. McClure gives a faithful account of the townspeople's plight during the siege - cave dwelling, lack of food and horrors of war.

Wanting to do something to help with the cause, Lizzie disguises herself as a boy in a misguided attempt at joining the Confederate troops. She soon learns that this is not the way to help, but meets a Yankee soldier who has been wounded. Her natural caring and the thought of her brothers make her take him to her house to nurse his wounds. She realizes that friendship comes through caring, not necessarily where you live or who you are. Read about Lizzie's experience and a small part of our history. Lizzie's spunky attitude shows throughout the story and does not waiver for long as she accepts what is happening and looks forward to the future when the war is over and all is returned to normal.

Beverly Stowe McClure lives in Texas with her husband, Jack. She is a mother to three sons, grandmother to four granddaughters and two grandsons and great grandmother to one great grandson. Her official bio says she married very young.

Beverly is a member of both the North Texas and the national Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.

Caves, Cannons, and Crinolines is a finalist in the 2011 Next Generation Indie Book Awards and a finalist in the Dan Poynter eBook Global Awards for Teen Literature - Fiction.

A Distant Summer
Mike McNair
4RV Publishing LLC
PO Box 6482, Edmond OK 73083
9780982588680, $17.99

Mike McNair introduces this coming of age story, A Distant Summer, with the memories of Mike Long, a physics professor, who has returned to his home town to attend The Commander's funeral.

"He looked about. At least some things in the little southern Indiana town that straddled the Gibson-Vanderburgh county line had stayed the same. Oak was narrow, like most Potter streets, in sharp contrast to the familiar Madison, Wisconsin multilane thoroughfares."

Players in this memory included Jim, the owner of Squall Baby, a barn pigeon, Mike's grandfather, Heidi, Mike's secret love interest (as far back as first grade) and various other relatives and townspeople, both good and bad.

As the story unfolds, Mike visits some of his old haunts that bring back memories of his fifth grade year and the following summer. During this time frame, Jim and Mike accept a new member of the secret agents, come up with a few new types of "secret missions" involving Squall Baby, save a mother and son from an abusive husband and the boys are kidnapped. The story of these and other escapades are the core of the adventures the three boys and the pigeon go through.

You must read this book to fill in the missing pieces and find out what happens. It will surprise, sadden and delight you.

The author is a retired English teacher and counselor who now spends his time writing. He writes a biweekly humor column for the Midwest News, an online newspaper that serves southwest Wisconsin and northwest Iowa. He also writes an e-publication called the Hooticat Newsletter that he sends out to annoy relatives. He has two grown children and lives in Richland Center, Wisconsin with his wife, Nancy.

Sparrow Alone on the Housetop
Jean James and Mary James
4RV Publishing LLC
PO Box 6482, Edmond, OK 73083
9780982659489, $19.95

"She ran toward the cavorting plane, positive something terrible would happen in the next few seconds, but it still took her totally by surprise when it did. She plunged into the large hole of Ruben's stump. Her foot went down deep beside the taproot, and her chin hit hard on the ground. A ton of loose dirt slid into the hole along with her, filling her shirt and shorts and even her mouth. When she tried to climb out, her left foot wedged under the root, and she couldn't make any progress except to bring more dirt into the hole. She wiped the dirt from her eyes in time to ascertain the plane had landed safely after all, and she was the only casualty.

"A-Are you okay?" the pilot shouted and ran toward her. She suffered the most humiliating moment of her life when he stepped halfway into the hole to render aid.

"I'm fine. I can get out.""

So goes the ignominious introduction of Anne Sumner to Jim Orr. Their relationship will take them back and forth between the United States and Mexico on a mission to solve the mystery of strange illnesses in the small towns where Anne has been working as a missionary. Jim is a pilot for her father's company. He transports the payroll for the large company and does some crop dusting for them.

Several of the villagers who work in the fields start becoming ill with a mysterious flu-like disease. When Anne is struck down by this same disease and is rushed to a hospital in Houston, the questions begin. Why won't the doctor give her any information about what might be wrong with her? Why did her father put her to work in her old job in public relations? Why did only she and a couple of others get sick in their little village, but many in a neighboring village were struck down? The answers to these and other questions lead her to the horrible truth. She begins to unravel the mystery through talking with many of the villagers who had become ill and by getting a second opinion about her own illness. What she uncovers is the inner machinations of her father and her sister to cover up the true reason for the mysterious illness, as well as other questionable events. She does not know who she can trust - her new friend, Jim, her cold sister, Angeline, her brother Fred - but she certainly cannot trust her father.

Anne's faith is tested, even as Jim's grows. With his help, she begins to regain her conviction and trust in the right people. Together they untangle the web of deceit that has overtaken the whole Sumner Company and the small towns in Mexico.

This book, written by the mother and daughter team of Jean James and Mary James, tells an exciting story about death, intrigue and romance that the reader will enjoy. The very interesting final confrontation between Anne and her father leaves the reader wondering.

Jean James was active in many outdoor pursuits before becoming a full-time writer. She collected live mammals and reptiles for international distribution, collected live venomous snakes for antivenom production, and worked on sundry wilderness construction projects. She's married to WW2 veteran, William James, and they have six children.

Mary James has spent half her life writing and the other half making music. From age five she has written songs and performed as a touring singer/musician. Today, she spends most of her time on the road but is always anxious to come home to her photographer husband and troublemaking horse.

Katherine Boyer

Kaye's Bookshelf

Backdrop: The Politics and Personalities behind
Sexual Orientation Research
Gayle E. Pitman, Ph.D
Active Voice Press
Sacramento, CA
9780615518121, $16.95

Quoting from the back cover:

"In Backdrop, Gayle Pitman narrates the 'story' behind the science of sexual orientation - a science that has been rife with contradictions and controversies. Pitman argues that, when it comes to sexual orientation research, we could potentially glean more powerful insights from the backdrop of politics and personalities behind the research than from the actual studies themselves. Beginning with a focus on the causes of sexual orientation, moving then to the politics of transgender and intersex identities, and culminating in the political controversies of reparative therapy, 'don't ask, don't tell,' and same-sex marriage, Backdrop brings into focus the rich and textured landscape behind the scientific research findings. Filled with plot twists and development, variegated characters (the scientists as well as the activists and reactionaries), and thorny political, moral, and philosophical questions, Backdrop brings the science to life, raising more complex questions while simultaneously providing us with a more nuanced understanding of gender and sexual orientation.

"Gayle E. Pitman, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist and Professor of Psychology at Sacramento City College. She has conducted research on the physical and mental health of lesbian women, and she has written numerous articles and book chapters on gender and sexual orientation. She lives in Northern California."

When I received Backdrop: The Politics and Personalities behind Sexual Orientation Research. to review, I thought, This is probably a boring, history college text...politics, research, but then again, sexual orientation might be interesting.

From the first page I could not put the book down, except to rest my eyes and sleep. Of course the subject matter is interesting and complex, but it is Gayle Pitman's style of writing that makes this book a success, whether you are reading it for enjoyment, information or as a college text.

It is well organized - divided into three sections: The Biology Story, The Gender Story, and The Activism Story; contemporary - providing current nomenclature; and realistic. She takes a very complex subject and makes it understandable to the average person

Pitman brings to life the significant research, researchers and the impact of their research: Irving Bieber and Charles Socarides who supported the idea that homosexuality was an abnormality; Simon LeVay from the Salk Institute in 1991 who postulated that the size of INAH-3, a tiny area of the hypothalamus, is correlated with sexual orientation - larger in heterosexual men and lesbian women, and smaller in heterosexual women and gay men; Dean Hamer, with an ironclad scientific pedigree, working at the National Institute of Health, studying the genetics of sexual orientation, found a shared marker on the X chromosome in an area called Xq28 in gay brothers. He published his findings in Science on April 2, 1993, A Linkage between DNA Markers on the X Chromosome and Male Sexual Orientation; and a host of others - Gregory Herek, Ritch Savin-Williams, Lisa Diamond, J. Michael Bailey, Angela Patttatucci, Richard Pillard, Vivienne Cass, Paul McHugh, Janice Raymond, Alice Dregers, John Money, Evelyn Hooker, etal..

To be sure, real life is more fascinating, colorful and controversial than fiction, and Pitman has done a excellent job of interweaving such elements for our entertainment, education, and contemplation. I highly recommend Backdrop: The Politics and Personalities behind Sexual Orientation Research to anyone who can read.

The Phoenix Inheritance
Derek Rossitter
Authors Online
99780755202867, $14.95

Quoting from the back cover:

"This enthralling and nostalgic tale is set in the same period as the author's companion novel, Splendour Postponed, i.e. the hundred years between 1870 and 1970. It recounts the story of three families caught up in an intricate web of love, hate, prejudice, hope, despair, treason, murder, forgiveness and reconciliation. The action moves between Germany, England, Switzerland, Austria and France and embraces both world wars and the Holocaust."

The novel begins in Berlin 1871 with Josef Aronberg, proprietor of an international textile import/export business, deciding what to do about his unproductive business manager in London, Reuben, his wife's only brother. Josef decides to send his son Isaac and family to replace Reuben and set Reuben up with his own bookshop.

As there are several families involved over a one hundred year period, the 252-page novel moves fairly rapidly until about the middle where it slows down over the issue of prejudice and anti-Semitism just before World War II. After the war, the pace resumes. The primary families are 1) the Aronbergs, Threlfalls, Arbitants, Prestons, and Winslows. The central theme throughout deals with discrimination, prejudice and violence against people of Jewish heritage.

Derek Rossitter does a good job in keeping his reader interested and moving forward, in developing his characters, and weaving it all together. He includes the genealogies of 4 of the families which is very helpful in keeping tract of who's who, their marriages and children. The only criticism I have is that the editing with regard to punctuation is poor...not just a few errors, and this takes away from a professional presentation.

In general, however, it is a good read and if you like this type of family fictional saga, give it a try.

Kaye Trout

Keira's Bookshelf

The Pepins and their Problems
Polly Horvath
Thorndike Press
10 Water St, Suite 310, Waterville ME 04901
9780312377519, $6.99,

Award-winning American writer Polly Horvath has written many successful children's books, and her books have been translated into many languages, including German, French, Thai, Japanese, Danish and Italian.

In The Pepins and their Problems we get to know the life of the Pepin family: Mr. and Mrs. Pepin, their children, their pets, and also that of their neighbors. The daughter is called Petunia, and the son Irving is thought to be a little genius. What all the Pepins have in common is that neither of them are very clever, and this is a problem to such an extent that it makes them incapable of solving any problem.

The story is a series of adventures and funny situations, which all start with an unexpected event. With new problems constantly arising until they manage to find a solution with the help of the reader, it's always a long way to go.

Such inexplicable events include the appearance of frogs in all the shoes, the cow switching to drink lemonade only, or the sudden appearance of a stranger, who later turns out to be the long lost relative Bartholomew William Culbert Pepin, and his wife Junebug. The family has talking animals, who also have their share in working out the solutions. These include a dog named Roy, Miranda the cat and a cow named Nelly. Valuable contributions are also made by their neighbor, the inventor Mr. Bradshaw.

The book is written for the very young, and requires active contribution from the reader, whose task it is to help the Pepins, by adding a special sort of interactivity. If the reader concentrates hard enough, the writer will hear the proposed solutions and will forward them to the main characters.

On the other hand, the repeated use of such interactive parts makes the stories much less exciting, and I am not convinced about their credibility, even for the target audience. If readers, however, believe the author to be the only one in the world with whom they can get into a telepathic contact, thus acquiring a sort of invisible friend, we can also think of this interactivity in terms of marketing, and this raises certain questions with regards to ethics.

Nevertheless, as the Pepins learn to solve their problems in the end, the writer has the opportunity to teach something about self-reliance, and the utterly unexpected events described have the potential to entertain.

Seven Strategies in Every Bestseller: A 186-Page Guide to Extraordinarily Successful Writing

Tam Mossman
Tiger Maple Press
4105 Christacy, Marietta GA 30066-2780
9780963294715, $12.99

"To earn my definition of best-seller," says Tom Mossman, "a book must soar onto the New York Times bestseller list and stay there, month after month, purely under its own steam." And then the book must remain in print and continue to sell in healthy numbers year after year.

While every writer fantasizes about writing just such a book, given the high rate of rejections in the industry, ninety percent of books received by agents are rejected, and ninety percent of those remaining ten percent agented books are rejected by publishing houses, the majority of the writers are bound for disappointment. So when a guide comes along that

claims to have extracted seven strategies inherent in every bestseller while guaranteeing success to the writer who employs them all, the book is naturally treated with great skepticism.

However, careful reading of Mossman's book reveals a step-by-step logical examination of what works and what doesn't work. He illustrates his propositions with practical examples from the classics, modern bestsellers and manuscripts he has perused in his career as an editor. The strategies and lessons from the slush pile are all geared towards achieving that most important objective of every book: two or three compelling "...motives for the reader to keep on reading."

Strategy One is "The Paranoia Formula," which "always yokes the negative [stick] with a positive [carrot], hoisting the dramatic stakes as high as possible." This is usually employed on the first page of the first chapter, or when a major character is introduced, or when an important event occurs. Sometimes, this is done in the title and subtitle itself. While the conflict remain unresolved, a glimmer of a solution is offered. The inducement here being that if the reader were to continue reading, they would be able to decipher the solution in its entirety.

The second strategy "Best Seats in the House" exploits the real-estate mantra: location, location, location. A bestseller takes the reader directly heart of the action or to the place where the action is taking place. This is a good strategy for a chapter opener, however, it is a technique to be employed all throughout the book. The characters need to be deeply enmeshed in the scene: in the events, in the dialog, in the ambience. That is how we live our lives, and that is what readers find vicariously entrancing, especially if the locales are exotic or unfamiliar.

"Gifted Underdogs," the third strategy, talks about sketchy ancestry of the main characters. Lack of overprotective parents or other authoritative figures, gives the characters license to take risks and indulge in hair-raising adventures. As a strategy for a bestseller, this one is the shakiest. There are plenty of bestsellers with strong memorable parents as role models for equally strong memorable children. Atticus and Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird immediately spring to the mind.

The fourth strategy says that an author, by being "A Kind and Trusty Guide" to the reader, provides the motivation to the reader to invest their time and money. One way to reassure them that the author is worth their investment is to fulfill the carrot part of "The Paranoia Formula." Many writers make the mistake of writing a killer prologue and first chapter only to fail in following through with the promises made therein.

Strategy Five explains how "Every Fact Tells a Story." By miserly using telling details and allowing the reader's attention to linger on them, without flooding the reader's conscious with too many details or repetition of the old ones, the writer allows the reader to participate in the storytelling, one observation at a time.

Strategy Six outlines "The Slope of Curiosity." Simply put, this is the technique of foreshadowing. This can be within a sentence, such as in Dante's Inferno, or within a paragraph, such as in Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin, or within a short succession of paragraphs. And because the author has successfully proved to be trustworthy by employing the fourth strategy, this strategy will willingly tug the reader along through seemingly tangential digressions, because they know the author will untangle threads and clarify the muddled skeins of the story. Foreshadowing works powerfully well for mystery writers.

"Progress, Wisdom, Evolution" is the last of Mossman's strategies. Every book needs an overarching path of achievement and a relentless drive towards a goal. Characters need to change and grow (whether good gets better or evil gets worse). They need to learn from the events thrown at them and modify their personalities accordingly. There always needs to be something extremely important at stake for the main characters, which is the driving reason for the story to move forward, and for the reader to hang on to every written word.

All in all, this book is a gem and requires multiple readings to gain a thorough understanding of the seven strategies from their various angles.

Keira Soleore, Reviewer

Logan's Bookshelf

The Invisible Spotlight
Craig Wasserman & Doug Katz
Privately Published
9781460926017, $15.95,

Being a manager is more than ordering people around. It's feeling the full brunt of the results of ordering people around. "The Invisible Spotlight: Why Managers Can't Hide" discusses the pressure that is on managers and how excellent managers realize such pressure and use it to its fullest. With plenty of sage advice for performing well under this pressure and how to work more effectively with your employees, "The Invisible Spotlight" is something that should be considered by any manager who wants to be someone their employees look up to.

Sea Buoys
N. S. Burns
Privately Published
9781453615393, $6.50,

To go with the flow is so easy, so tempting. "Sea Buoys" is the story of a boy turned fish in search of his cousin. Through his journey, he must fight the nature of being a fish, and face the growing challenges of his new form, and losing his mind to his fishy nature. A unique novel with plenty of twists, "Sea Buoys" is a fine twist of drama and adventure, recommended.

First Night
Gabriel J. Klein
9781848766921, $7.99,

What life destines you for is not always what you seek. "First Night: The Gift and the Sacrifice" tells a story of Jonas Pring, an aging master of a secret brotherhood as he tries to look forward to the destiny of his wishes. In a web of destiny, oaths, and horsemanship, Jonas must teach an apprentice to rise to the challenge before time runs out for him. "First Night" is a choice pick for lovers of plot-driven fantasy, recommended.

Planting Design Illustrated, third edition
Gang Chen
Privately Published
9780984374199, $32.99,

A magnificent garden is an excellent way to add flavor to typically flavorless structures. Now in its third edition, "Planting Design Illustrated" is a guide for making the most out of planting design and its influence on architecture and how to work the two concepts together for a complimentary aspect. With plenty of designs and discussion for making the most of it all, "Planting Design Illustrated" is a strong pick for any exterior planner who wants to make the most out of their next project.

Marlin R. Bollinger
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781463415099, $15.99,

If you can't sell your product you aren't going anywhere. "Cross-Marketing: Here's Your Wake Up Call" is a business memoir from Marlin R. Bollinger as he shares his business experience and what he has learned as a marketer on many fronts and how to make sense out of it all. "Cross-Marketing" comes with a straightforward collection of business knowledge, worth considering for anyone who wants tips and tricks for making their business marketing work.

Clerical Error
Alan D. Murray
Outskirts Press
10940 S Parker Road - 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432772284, $36.95,

Questioning one's faith is only natural. "Clerical Error" follows the story of unconventional pastor Paul, who was viewed as having a non-standard birth. As he proceeds through life, he is left with many doubts of what is expected of him as a man of God, and what it all means. He places pen to paper with uncertainty of what it all means. "Clerical Error" is a strong pick for any seeking a unique religious thriller.

Bad Seed
Eric McCuller
Outskirts Press
10940 S Parker Road - 515, Parker, CO 80134
9780578088457, $53.95,

Somehow through it all, we try to put together our lives. "Bad Seed" is the biography of Eric McCuller as he tells his story of clawing his way up through life and trying to gain an understanding of a world that isn't fair and getting through harsh life, prisons, and the hunt for something that is worth living for. For those searching for a biography of clawing up through the streets, "Bad Seed" may very well be worth considering.

Carl Logan

Margaret's Bookshelf

Hey Kids, Want Some Chocolates?
Melitta Strandberg
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781456717933, $9.95,

Being born around the world wars was a bad hand to be dealt. "Hey Kids, Want Some Chocolates?: My Family's Journey to Freedom" is Melitta Strandberg telling her own and her families own stories of struggling to survive under the pressures of Europe and World War II. A struggle that goes from Romania to the desire to get to Western Germany from the East, "Hey Kids, Want Some Chocolates?" is a moving and poignant story about the desire to survive and thrive.

Hoop Hussies
Hollie M. Woods
Outskirts Press
10940 S Parker Road - 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432770396, $11.95,

The game off the court often comes more entertaining than the game on the court. "Hoop Hussies" tells the story of star player Jackson Midas, the NBA's latest star and his cross overs with love and everything else. With an assortment of girls and plenty of romance and intrigue, "Hoop Hussies" is presented in screenplay format and proves to be an intriguing and worthwhile read to consider.

The Brothers Krimm
Cecile Wehrman
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781456458454, $17.95,

From the same family, two men can go in very different directions. "The Brothers Krimm: The Bank Robber and the Hero" tells of Rob and Jimmy Krimm, their family, and what happened to create such different results. Jimmy Krimm was a serial bank robber who rather than be caught, chose suicide. Rob is a U. S. Air Force officer who works with Rob to tell the brother's story of childhood tragedy. "The Brothers Krimm" is a unique look at the family and why life sometimes goes the way it does in many different ways.

The Knot Artist
India Wilson
Lightning Strikes Press
c/o Kelley & Hall
5 Briar Lane, Marblehead, MA 01945
9780982958513, $19.95,

The men who make the laws in this country have their own dirty vices. "The Knot Artist" tells of a famous dominatrix on the East Coast who runs into an accident in one her dungeons involving a United States Senator. Blending unusual sexual vices into political intrigue and the career of a niche celebrity of sorts, "The Knot Artist" is an excellent and fun read that shouldn't be overlooked.

After the Falls
Brad Anderson
Outskirts Press
10940 S Parker Road - 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432771829, $14.95,

Treasure comes with the challenge of keeping it. "After the Falls" follows Patrick Kingrea as he tries to manage his stolen gemstones as he hikes through the Grand Canyon. A follow up to Brad Anderson's previous novel Ribbon Falls, it follows the continuing adventures of the jewel heist as Patrick races against an enemy he can't identify. "After the Falls" is a fast paced and much recommended read for thriller fans.

A Black Girl's Poetry for the World
Kimberly La Rocca
Privately Published
9781456595494, $12.99,

When the world comes at you hard, your only option is to learn quick. "A Black Girl's Poetry for the World" is a collection of poetry from Kimberly LaRocca as she reflects on the world coming after her and her harsh realization of becoming an adult. Through motherhood, womanhood and everything it entails, "A Black Girl's Poetry For the World" is moving and unique reading, highly recommended. "Anger": I've just realized/I have to let go of the anger inside./It's eating me alive./I'm ignorant to let it survive./I've got to let it die./I can't continue to let it control my life./It's too much, and it won't hide./I'm letting go to save my life.

Margaret Lane

Mayra's Bookshelf

Dina's Lost Tribe
Brigitte Goldstein
iUniverse, Inc.
1663 Liberty Drive
Bloomington, IN 47403
9781450251075 $22.95, ebook $9.99, 1-800-AUTHORS (288-4677)

Dina's Lost Tribe is a historical novel that weaves four different stories and spans from the 14th century to our present time.

Henner Marcus is a professor of French Medieval Jewish Philosophy based in Chicago. One day he receives a letter from his cousin, Nina Aschauer, who's been missing for the last five years. A historian with a brilliant, promising career, she had left Chicago and travelled to France in search of the place she was accidentally born while her parents fled from the Nazis, a remote village in the Pyranees by the name of Valladine, a place not even present in maps.

In the letter, Nina urgently begs him to meet her in Toulouse with a large sum of money. Deeply intrigued and out of concern for his cousin's safety, Henner makes the 5,000-mile trip. Once in Toulouse, he receives an unexpected package containing a mysterious manuscript. The manuscript appears to be a codex written in medieval Occitan, a language still spoken today in the area of Languedoc. Henner also meets Etoile, a historian and Nina's best friend.

Together, Henner and Etoile begin deciphering the codex and soon become entranced by the fascinating first-person account and by its author, Dina, a Jewess born into a wealthy, pious family who falls prey to a deceitful, lustful priest and eventually ended up incarcerated in the prison of the Inquisition. Her tale describes the expulsion of the Jews from France in the early 1300s. Thus the novel moves back and forth in time and interweaves Henner's, Nina's, Etoile's and Dina's persecution stories.

Who is this Dina Miryam? Did she really exist? Is her account real? How is her story connected to Nina's and why did Nina disappear five years ago into a presumed village no one knows about?

Dina's Lost Tribe is an interesting, at times engrossing read. The author does a skillful job in keeping each story distinct in flavor from the other. I'm not a historian so I can't comment on the veracity of the facts, but from a reader's point of view, the book seems extensively researched. As I read Dina's tale, I was transported to a time and place where horrible injustices where committed. Like Henner and Etoile, I too was entranced with Dina, a woman who tried to remain brave and strong against all adversity. The author draws interesting parallels between Dina and the old biblical character with the same name. She also explores various themes, such as the hypocrisy of religion, the capacity of one human being to hurt another, the harmful consequences of ignorance and superstition, and the power of one individual to overwhelm and control another.

This is a slow read, for the simple reason that there's a lot to be absorbed. The paragraphs are often long and written in heavy-handed language. If what you're looking for is a fast-paced page-turner, this isn't the book for you. However, it is the perfect novel for those who enjoy history, meaning and depth in their stories. The premise is intriguing and original and I felt I had taken a little history course at the end, which is always a plus.

Before You Say I Do, Again
Benjamin Berkley
Frederick Fell Publishers, Inc.
1403 Shoreline Way, Hollywood, Florida 33019-5007
9780883911730, $14.95

According to Psychology Today, 60% of remarriages fail. What are the reasons? Why do people believe that whatever went wrong the first time won't happen again?

Have you gone through a divorce, found a new partner and are considering remarrying? Perhaps you're afraid of making the same mistake twice and are thinking of living together first? Do you wonder if you're doing the right thing?

Before You Say I Do, Again answers these important questions, and much more. Written by a divorce attorney with over 30 years of experience, the book is filled with insightful information, practical advice and statistics supported by research studies.

Other questions discussed include: Does your new partner have debts that will affect you?

Will her/his kids ever like you? Are there any health concerns? Do you know why your previous marriage failed or how you contributed to its destruction? Have you wondered at the legalities of the new marriage? How much are attorney fees? The author points out all the vital questions you should be asking yourself at this important and critical time in your life.

Before You Say I Do, Again is divided into 4 parts:

Part I takes you back to revisit your first marriage and the reason you're now single; Part II discusses what you'll need to do before remarrying so that you'll be emotionally, financially and legally ready to take the first steps (this section includes a test to help you determine if you're ready); in Part III, the author uses the 'buying a car' analogy to show the importance of 'knowing' before saying 'I do;' finally, Part IV is a compatibility test to determine how your new partner compares to your former spouse. There's also an appendix that provides useful forms such as a testament, a pre-nuptial agreement and an asset organizer.

Besides being chock-full of information, author/attorney Benjamin Berkley writes in a simple, light, engaging style, making the reading experience enjoyable. The structure is clear and well organized. Best of all, it is written by someone who really knows what he's talking about. If you or someone in your life is considering remarrying, please do yourself a favour and get a copy of this book. It is definitely an eye opener.

Mayra Calvani

Nicole's Bookshelf

That Day in September
Artie Van Why
Van Hughes Publishing
9781411683150, $9.95

It was, in fact, one of those moments in which history splits, and we define the world as ''before'' and ''after.''
-New York Times, September 12, 2001

Without question, 9/11 stands as the defining moment of the 21st century. It is a day that rocked the United States to its very core. Everyone has a story to tell about where they were and what they were doing on that monumental date, but nothing can compare to the accounts from the actual eyewitnesses. Ordinary people who were at the World Trade Center and saw - not on a TV screen, but with their own eyes - the death and destruction that unfolded around them. It is imperative for history's sake that their testimonies are preserved for the better understanding of future generations.

Artie Van Why was there, and of his own initiative, published his firsthand account in That Day in September. Van Why's story isn't headline grabbing. It's not the stuff movies are made of. And that's what makes it powerful. It is the kind of story that usually gets lost in the rubble. It is how thousands of everyday working people experienced the events around the World Trade Center. Van Why shows what it felt like to be on the ground during a turning point in history. For him, it started as just another day on the job.

How did he arrive at this place? As a one-time struggling actor, he was a word processor working for a law firm across from the World Trade Center. A law firm that ironically moved to the location just three months before 9/11. Fate places us where it will, and Van Why is no exception. To make sense of the trauma, he turned his horrific memories into a written record of what it was like to be there so that others could get a more complete picture of what really happened that day.

With a deep sense of empathy and feeling, Van Why is an extremely compassionate narrator. His memories are detailed and vivid. He hears an explosion as his office building shudders. He exits onto a street covered in paper. He is transfixed by a burning, gaping hole in the North Tower. He sees people falling to their deaths, arms and legs flailing. He is bombarded with the sounds of sirens and shattering glass. What does he do? He runs into the chaos desperately wanting to help. He heads toward the familiar - his favorite bookstore in Building 5 of the World Trade Center complex - but is assaulted by this ever present new reality as Flight 175 strikes the South Tower. Pushed into a stampede, he is carried away as those on the ground run for their lives. He is caught up in the cloud of debris that envelops the area after the towers collapse, then makes the long walk home to his apartment amid a silent group of fellow travelers.

The aftermath is also tellingly described. The day after, his regular coffee shop opens in order to be a source of communal support. He doesn't want to be alone. The city is covered with handbills of missing people. He is haunted by the question, "Did he see any of them that morning?" A memorial area is set up in the lobby of his apartment building for two residents who perished. He makes sure to replace the flowers and relight the candles. Ground Zero is closed to visitors. He returns and is led onto the periphery of the site to make his condolences by a pair of sympathetic cops who learn he was there that day. Continuous media coverage floods the airwaves and newsstands endlessly repeating the story. He turns off the TV, throws away his newspapers and takes the pants and shoes he was wearing on 9/11 placing them in a box for safekeeping.

But what really changed for Van Why was his mindset. He would no longer live his life on autopilot. He wouldn't settle. He would make his own decisions about his destiny. Those that died were not granted that opportunity, and he would live the remainder of his life in honor of their sacrifice. He would not take things for granted and would live life to the fullest.

And that he did. Encouraged by friends and family to turn his emails from that time period into something larger in scope, he initially wrote That Day in September as a one-man play that ran in Los Angeles and off-Broadway in New York. Now a self-published book endorsed by the Los Angeles Times (not an easy feat), That Day in September is a wonderfully written personal account told in under 100 pages with 17 fast-paced chapters.

Overall, a must-read for anyone who wants to know what it was like to be in New York on 9/11.

Thunder Dog
Michael Hingson
Thomas Nelson, Inc.
PO Box 141000, Nashville, TN 37214
9781400203048, $22.99

On September 11, Michael Hingson escaped the 78th floor of the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Minutes later, the South Tower collapsed within 100 feet of him. It is a miracle that anyone could survive such horrific odds. Yet, Hingson is alive today thanks to a dog named Roselle. A guide dog who led her blind master from a burning building, down 1,463 steps, through a choking cloud of debris - to safety. Their remarkable story is told in Hingson's 10th anniversary release, Thunder Dog.

Can a blind man have the wherewithal to offer a detailed account of such a history-changing event? Absolutely. While unable to visually see what was going on around him, Hingson gives a fact-filled, accurate testimony of what went on inside the North Tower and in the streets of lower Manhattan that day. He recounts how upon impact he felt the North Tower shudder violently and slowly tip to the southwest. How he recognized the scent of jet fuel long before he learned a plane had crashed into the building. How he heard the heavy breathing of those rushing a burn victim down the left side of the stairs. How the railings began to feel warm to the touch as the thousands fleeing began to sweat profusely in the confined stairwells. How he trudged through water ankle deep while making his way through the lobby. How the encroaching plume of debris literally smothered him as he gasped for breath. Regardless of sight, his observations are acute, precise and vividly depicted.

What most stands out about Hingson is that he is incredibly tough. Even before 9/11, setting out at 6 a.m., he would take a cab, then a train, then an escalator, then an elevator before reaching his World Trade Center office every morning. Not to mention, he would be traveling into New York City, one of the busiest places in the world. And he would do all of this on a daily basis in the dark with a white cane in one hand and Roselle's harness in the other. That alone is extraordinary. Knowing what their teamwork and trust accomplished on 9/11 makes their partnership one for the ages.

Roselle, herself, showed a remarkable ability to stay focused under extreme pressure. The night before, she quivered in fear during a thunderstorm, thus earning the moniker - "thunder dog." However, the next morning she performed beyond any trainer's wildest expectations. She breathed in smoke and noxious fumes. She was, for the most part, without water. She, herself, was blinded in the dust cloud. Yet she continued doing her job until she brought her master back to their home in New Jersey. Through fatigue, panic and unbearable physical conditions, she persevered.

The book is divided into 14 chapters that are each partitioned into sections related to Hingson's blindness interspersed with his 9/11 account. Throughout, he drives home the point that he doesn't consider his blindness a disability, but rather the innate prejudice he encounters in a world dominated by the sighted. For example, a fireman tries to persuade Hingson into accepting help in order to descend the remaining stairwells, but Hingson held his ground saying he was able to manage on his own. Over the course of his life, he has even driven a car, obtained a master's degree in physics and flown an airplane. This is a man who refuses to be defined by his physical limitations.

Above all, the light touches are what make this book accessible. While trying to get north of Canal Street after the collapse, Hingson stops with his friend and colleague, David Frank, at a Vietnamese restaurant for a much needed bowl of soup. A van driven by a group, that doesn't speak much English, gives them a ride to the apartment of Frank's friend. On the final leg of his journey home, his fellow PATH train passengers besiege him with questions after noticing that he and Roselle are covered in dust. Finally around 7 p.m., he is able to embrace his wife, Karen (who happens to be paralyzed from birth) after a few frantic, sporadic phone calls throughout the day. Waking the next morning, he is emotionally numb and physically sore from the ordeal, yet agrees to appear on Larry King Live just days after the attack.

Hingson's account doesn't end there. He relates how his company just did not understand the trauma that survivors, family members of the deceased, those living in the New York area, etc. continued to experience months after the attack. They berated him for low sales figures regardless of the fact that not many people were interested in buying computer security systems in late 2001. Instead, many were attending several funerals a day. The push to return to normal was made too soon. People needed more time to recover and cope with this new reality. In response, Hingson made the decision to move to California and take a lower salary position at Guide Dogs for the Blind. He realized his priorities had shifted, and the demands of a high stress, high profile job just didn't complete him the way it used to.

Above all, Hingson stakes his life after 9/11 in hope. He was not afraid to take a different direction and try something new. At first reluctant to talk about his experience, he later reached out to people interested in hearing his story by becoming a public speaker. While he discusses what happened to him that day, he also uses his new found notoriety as a platform to advance the cause of blind people everywhere. Through education, he hopes to encourage others to view blindness in a whole new light. He feels that teamwork - whether it be between a blind man and his guide dog or a nation struggling through tragedy - is the only way to move forward since the future is hidden in shadow for everyone.

Overall, a remarkable 9/11 memoir shows how a life of blindness prepared a man to trust his dog when it mattered most.

Peace at the Edge of Uncertainty
Neil Hanson
High Prairie Press
20443 Goldenrod Lane, Parker, CO 80138
9780982639108, $17.95

Death is the final frontier. It is the destination of every person to walk the face of the Earth. It is unavoidable, inescapable, unknowable - yet it holds such a mysterious fascination. Any book examining death from a personal perspective immediately becomes universal in scope. We all seek to find out what lies beyond. We yearn for answers, yet fear what is impossible to discern. In Peace at the Edge of Uncertainty, Neil Hanson recounts the spiritually charged moment of experiencing firsthand his father's passing. In that hospital room, he witnessed the veil, separating life and death, briefly lift in his presence. It was a profound encounter that continues to shape his outlook on life.

Hanson wrote the book 15 years after his father's death. It is composed in letter format as he attempts to correspond with his father on a spiritual plane. He hopes that by expressing his thoughts and emotions on paper the message will reverberate to where his father's soul now resides. Hanson stresses two points. First, he says he's sorry for any stress his youthful misbehavior may have caused and that he forgives his father for not always being there for him when he was growing up. Second, he tells his father that he loves him. Contrition, forgiveness and love are what Hanson yearns to tell his father from the very depths of his heart.

The emphasis behind this communication is that Hanson's father was brought to the hospital in a coma from which he never recovered. The unexpected nature of the situation left no room for closure. Hanson was never able to talk with his dad again. While his body was still physically present for the remaining time they had together, his mind was not. This absence of words prompted Hanson to write this book. He longed to be able to communicate with his father one last time.

While Christian in nature, the book is pluralistic in tone. Hanson does not endorse any particular faith and in fact finds that many organized religions hinder people from connecting with the divine. He feels people are desperately searching for ways to experience God in their lives, and that they are not provided with the proper spiritual instruction on how to achieve this desire.

His own divine awakening began as a teenager at a high school wrestling tournament. When he was thrown to the ground during a match, he felt his soul leave his body. The atmosphere around him became suffused with light and harmony. Everything was silent, but for what seemed like a chorus of angels filling his ears. He felt a sense of peace he never knew existed. He had entered a state of utter bliss. It was magical, mystical. Until he floated up to the ceiling and noticed the dust on a light fixture, his soul with a pop immediately reunited with his body on the mat. Being able to notice something ordinary like dust, Hanson took to mean that he was still tethered to the ties of this world.

It wasn't until his father drew his last breath that this doorway opened to him again. Albeit, this time he was only allowed to peek through the keyhole and not walk through the door. The same immense feelings engulfed him as his father's soul became separated from his body. While ultimately feeling sad for their impending separation, Hanson also experienced an overwhelming sense of joy as he felt a divine presence enter the room. With his heart rapidly beating and tears streaming down his face, he was granted the privilege of witnessing his father cross the dividing line between life and death.

In a beautiful passage, Hanson recounts the joy of impending fathers in the hospital's maternity ward at the arrival of their newborn babies. What happiness to be there for your child on such a momentous occasion. As his father's soul slips away he realizes the circular nature of the journey. As the son is now there for the father as he returns to the place from which he was born.

Overall, Hanson beautifully relates the privilege of being able to witness the last breath of a loved one.

The Bird Sisters
Rebecca Rasmussen
9780307717962, $24.00

The Bird Sisters. An intriguing name for Rebecca Rasmussen's critically acclaimed and much-beloved debut novel. What does it mean? Who are these sisters? Creating a beautiful metaphor for her two lead characters, Milly and Twiss, Rasmussen unveils a portrait of unconditional love. On the surface, these two elderly women are known in their small Wisconsin town as the healers of injured birds. But on a deeper level, as the summer of 1947 is revealed via flashback, an understanding and appreciation of their utter resiliency becomes apparent. They each carry their own internal wounds and scars, and the only balm they find is in each other. The other's presence is the sole elixir that alleviates the pain and loneliness of their quiet, isolated existence. They are kindred spirits to the nth degree - two halves of the same tortured soul.

Of course, their present condition is the end result of their parents' actions. A beautiful, but frustrated, mother. A jaded, cynical father. A crumbling, distant marriage. Things weren't always like this, but in 1947 when their father gets into an accident and loses his job, despair takes hold of the entire family and never lets go.

Milly is a shy, yet natural, beauty. She begins to attract the attention of Asa, the son of a neighboring farmer. She is a quiet, gentle soul full of grace and dignity. Twiss, on the other hand, is a helter skelter tomboy roaring with energy and mischief. She bases her life around honesty and says what's on her mind. She expects people to be straight with her, and demands the truth, no matter how hurtful it may be, when they are not. Ultimately, Twiss yearns to get out and see the world, while Milly wants a family she can devote her entire life to.

Rasmussen has a deft touch for creating a pitch-perfect setting for the novel. You can feel the sun on your face as the girls float arms outstretched in the local swimming hole. You can smell the freshly cut grass behind the wheels of Asa's lawn tractor. You can see the light on in the barn where their father keeps his solitary vigil. You can hear the lure of the carnival barkers at the country fair. You can taste the sugary icing on Twiss' cake. The imagery is pure, down home comfort.

But it is not enough to keep the family in tact. Through an act of betrayal, it is up to the self-sacrifice of the sisters to set right a grievous wrong. They are both denied the lives they have dreamed about. Instead, they are left to pick up the pieces and band together under their shared sense of solidarity and loss. They gave up everything for the sake of preserving the dignity of others. They made the hard choice, and accepted the consequences of what came with it. All that remains for them, is the love that they have for each other. And even if it is not enough, it is what ultimately sustains them even as they enter their final years.

Overall, sometimes you don't get what you want, you get what you need.

The Bird Sisters
Rebecca Rasmussen
9780307717962, $24.00

The Bird Sisters. An intriguing name for Rebecca Rasmussen's critically acclaimed and much-beloved debut novel. What does it mean? Who are these sisters? Creating a beautiful metaphor for her two lead characters, Milly and Twiss, Rasmussen unveils a portrait of unconditional love. On the surface, these two elderly women are known in their small Wisconsin town as the healers of injured birds. But on a deeper level, as the summer of 1947 is revealed via flashback, an understanding and appreciation of their utter resiliency becomes apparent. They each carry their own internal wounds and scars, and the only balm they find is in each other. The other's presence is the sole elixir that alleviates the pain and loneliness of their quiet, isolated existence. They are kindred spirits to the nth degree - two halves of the same tortured soul.

Of course, their present condition is the end result of their parents' actions. A beautiful, but frustrated, mother. A jaded, cyncial father. A crumbling, distant marriage. Things weren't always like this, but in 1947 when their father gets into an accident and loses his job, despair takes hold of the entire family and never lets go.

Milly is a shy, yet natural, beauty. She begins to attract the attention of Asa, the son of a neighboring farmer. She is a quiet, gentle soul full of grace and dignity. Twiss, on the other hand, is a helter skelter tomboy roaring with energy and mischief. She bases her life around honesty and says what's on her mind. She expects people to be straight with her, and demands the truth, no matter how hurtful it may be, when they are not. Ultimately, Twiss yearns to get out and see the world, while Milly wants a family she can devote her entire life to.

Rasmussen has a deft touch for creating a pitch-perfect setting for the novel. You can feel the sun on your face as the girls float arms outstretched in the local swimming hole. You can smell the freshly cut grass behind the wheels of Asa's lawn tractor. You can see the light on in the barn where their father keeps his solitary vigil. You can hear the lure of the carnival barkers at the country fair. You can taste the sugary icing on Twiss' cake. The imagery is pure, down home comfort.

But it is not enough to keep the family in tact. Through an act of betrayal, it is up to the self-sacrifice of the sisters to set right a grievous wrong. They are both denied the lives they have dreamed about. Instead, they are left to pick up the pieces and band together under their shared sense of solidarity and loss. They gave up everything for the sake of preserving the dignity of others. They made the hard choice, and accepted the consequences of what came with it. All that remains for them, is the love that they have for each other. And even if it is not enough, it is what ultimately sustains them even as they enter their final years.

Overall, sometimes you don't get what you want, you get what you need.

Becca Fitzpatrick
Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
1230 Avenue of the Americas
11th Fl.
New York, NY 10020
9781416989431, $18.99

Well, all you fan girls - hold onto your belt loops because Patch is back in Becca Fitzpatrick's Crescendo, the sequel to her New York Times best selling debut, Hush Hush. What could be hailed as the second coming of Edward Cullen is the dark, brooding guardian angel known as Patch and his forbidden romance with his all-too-human girlfriend, Nora. This bad boy known for his tight black jeans and chiseled washboard abs has teenage hearts aflutter across the country. And it's not just adolescents who are into this young adult phenomenon - female readers of all ages are propelling this paranormal series into the stratosphere.

So, what's all the hype about? Nora, a high-strung, emotional girl, is a bundle of nerves throughout the book. She is perpetually conflicted about Patch's true feelings for her. She wants to move on, but she can't. She can't have Patch, but she still wants him. She can't stand seeing him with other girls, but she makes sure to kiss other guys right in front of him. A typical high school relationship.

But where Nora and Patch differ is that they find themselves battling the elements of a supernatural realm. When Patch first met Nora, he was a fallen angel. Bad news. After he saved her life, he automatically became her guardian angel. Which sounds good, however his new role stipulated that he was not allowed to fall in love with his charge or he would earn a one-way ticket to hell. So who's keeping tabs of Patch's love life? The archangels. A group that monitors and enforces otherworldly law. They're watching Patch and Nora. To prevent a terrible fate from befalling her beloved, Nora after openly declaring her love, puts an end to their relationship. Chapters full of longing and heartache ensue.

Fitzpatrick knows her audience and her dialogue is spot on for the social media generation. Vee, Nora's BFF, perfectly represents this banter. She's worried about being too fat. She's obsessed with cute guys. She's on her cell phone, 24/7. You get the idea. While Scott, the new boy in town with a secret past, is the ideal model of the surly boy. He talks back to his mother. He throws spur of the moment drinking parties. He hangs out in the bad part of town. His wise guy persona masks an inner turmoil that he is failing to alleviate on his own. Will Nora put her feelings for Patch aside and be a source of comfort for her new admirer?

While full of Fitzpatrick signature scenes - car chases in the library parking garage, danger at the amusement park and make-out sessions in Patch's Jeep, the sequel takes a more serious note when Nora begins seeing her murdered father walking around town. Is he really dead? Is he really her father? Is he out to harm her? A new level of intrigue is introduced in regards to why Marcie Millar, Nora's archenemy and now rival for Patch's affections, is so obsessed with making Nora's life a living hell. While an unexpected twist has one character abruptly switching sides.

Overall, Crescendo is a bit long on narrative at over 400 pages - the on-again/off-again nature of Nora and Patch gets a little tedious and the paranormal terminology gets a tad intricate and confusing. But the multiple surprise revelations at the conclusion will certainly leave fans eager for the third installment of Fitzpatrick's uber-popular series.

Before I Fall
Lauren Oliver
Harper Collins
HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780061726804, $17.99

Lauren Oliver nails emotion in her writing. Her words make you achingly feel something in the core of your being. It is a gift not many authors possess, and when you come across such a talent, you treasure it. She provides the type of writing that remains lodged in your consciousness making you feel like you've learned something about yourself that you never knew before.

And sometimes that knowledge is painful. Before I Fall is not a feel-good novel. It may be aimed at a young adult audience, but it is not light and fluffy. It holds a mirror up posing the question, "Are you strong enough to do the right thing if it would make you the object of ridicule?" Most people would answer in the affirmative, but how many would be telling the truth? When push comes to shove, how many of us would slink away in order to save face? It is a fascinating look at a dilemma that everyone faces on a continual basis. While magnified in a high school setting, the ultimatum reoccurs throughout life. We're repeatedly presented with the act of deciding between building up our common humanity or protecting the image we strive to present to the world.

But sometimes, we run out of opportunities. When Sam, the lead character, is unexpectedly killed in a car crash, her choices have already been made. She opted for the shallow, superficial route. Dressing provocatively, humiliating others and advancing her social status were all she cared about. However, fate intervenes when she starts reliving the day of her death seven times in succession. Hindsight is a harsh taskmaster, but bit by bit she begins setting things right.

Oliver is adept at fashioning realistic teenage characters. Their dialogue rings true. Their obsessions are on target. Their interactions are believable. Sam's posse of friends hits the mark. They are bonded by their collective insecurities that they try to pretend don't exist. They belittle, yet love each other. They're ferociously passive aggressive while at the same time fiercely loyal. You wouldn't want to mess with them because you'd want them on your side.

But the tender moments of the book occur between Sam and her childhood friend, Kent. They've occupied different social orbits during their adolescence. Sam confers to every aspect of the dogma of popularity, while Kent is brave enough to be his own man. Sam is embarrassed for his lack of coolness, while Kent is embarrassed for her lack of character. He challenges her to be a better person, and she resents him for it. Their interactions during Sam's seven days are utterly poignant. The depth of their bond is explored and reborn in a tragically beautiful way. The annoying self-absorption of Sam's friends serves as a perfect contrast highlighting to a greater degree the selfless nature of Kent's love. Oliver's writing shines in the passages featuring the unfolding of Sam and Kent's new-found relationship.

On the flip side is Lindsay, the character who shows the ugliness of Sam's personality. She is the girl that Sam's friends take delight in torturing. They view her as an empty vessel that they can use as their plaything. Little do they know how deeply their words cut and the level of pain they are inflicting on an innocent girl. The result of Lindsay's torment is the ultimate demonstration of what can happen when someone is pushed too far. She represents the painful cry of the bullied and the misunderstood who refuse to cower in the corner any longer. When that plea for help goes unanswered it can lead to unimaginable consequences.

For me, the book is the dual tale of both Sam and Lindsay. They represent two sides of the same coin. Sam is all about maintaining her status, while Lindsay has hers forcibly taken away. Sam is the perpetrator and Lindsay is the victim. However, on the spiritual seven day plane, they are inextricably bound together. They can't move on without first freeing the other. Fate is demanding a resolution to the actions that have been put in motion.

Overall, a fresh take on taking responsibility for bad decisions.

Across the Universe
Beth Revis
9781595143976, $17.99

Selfishness. A human malady that can strike anytime, anywhere. But it is truly universal in scope when it festers in the mind of a teenage boy on a spaceship that's been hurtling through the galaxy for hundreds of years. Yes, author Beth Revis has a stellar imagination. Her sci-fi canon blasts off with spectacular imagery as she creates an entire world down to the last detail aboard the vessel, Godspeed. In her debut work, Across the Universe what anchors the story through this never-before-seen terrain is the motivations of its lead characters. A guy so desperate to be with the girl of his dreams that nothing will stand in his way, not even a cryonic suspension chamber, and a girl trying to salvage a life she was not meant to have.

Our heroine, Amy, is frozen in a capsule before being stored in a compartment on Godspeed along with the immobilized bodies of her parents. The process is cringe-inducing, bordering on barbaric. A tube is shoved down her throat and she is submerged in a tank filled with ultra-frigid preservation fluid. She is literally suffocated to sleep. Her terror as she claws at the confines of her glass prison is palpable in the extreme. What she endures is supposed to be worth the trauma - a reanimation when Godspeed reaches its new planetary destination - in 300 years.

However, the architect of this grand design did not count teenage infatuation into the equation. Elder is a young guy destined to rule the inhabitants of the ship. He's in training, but seems like he can never live up to the expectations of the current leader, the appropriately named, Eldest. They are thrown into a tizzy when Amy is mysteriously broken out of her capsule and almost dies. On-board pandemonium ensues.

But who are these minions Eldest is lording it over? The worker drones who keep the ship on course. They even have an artificial farming area to grow food. They've been doing this for generations. Yes, generations. They've become mechanized themselves. They're told when to breed, when to eat, when to speak. Those showing signs of an independent streak are placed in the hospital ward and deemed mentally ill. It is certainly not an open, free society.

Needless to say, Elder is forcibly attracted to Amy. She is the only girl on Godspeed his age. At first, Amy doesn't reciprocate his feelings to the same degree. She's distraught on being awakened 50 years before her parents. She fears that she will never see them alive again. She doesn't know who to trust. Who woke her up? And why?

There are many strange occurrences in this metallic city in the sky. The water system is tainted with medication to keep its inhabitants docile and obedient. Men and women engage in intimate relations in public. The star-studded sky is, for the most part, hidden from view while a false sun separates night from day by an over-sized light bulb. And things aren't exactly going according to plan. Is the ship on course? Is it on track to reach its final destination according to its scheduled time frame?

Issued as an on-going series, Across the Universe ends with a shocking betrayal. It will be interesting to see how the established relationships are affected moving forward. Will cataclysmic breaches be overcome? Will new leadership prevail? Will festering wounds be put aside so that all can work together in order to reach a common goal?

Overall, human frailty is not limited to the confines of Earth.

Kudos, as well, to the design team that crafted the book cover. It is exceptional and conveys the message of the ill-fated love story and its deep space setting in one eye-pleasing image. The full scale of Revis' vision is articulated in this breathtaking, attention-getting package.

The Weird Sisters
Eleanor Brown
Amy Einhorn Books
9780399157226, $24.95

If realism in fiction is an art form, then characterization is the piece de resistance. Getting it right is oh so hard to achieve. Stereotyping is a common pitfall, one-dimensional personalities are abundant. But when the essence of a flesh and blood person is transferred to the page, the result is pure magic. Make no mistake, a fully actualized character does not have to be likeable. In fact, how many people are completely honorable when it comes to dissecting a real life? Would the sum total of anyone's actions, desires and motives pass such a litmus test? In Eleanor Brown's The Weird Sisters, a trio of adult women are brilliantly captured as living, breathing human beings - bitchy moments, bad decisions and all.

Perceived failure permeates the psyche. All three sisters feel that they are not living up to expectations. Over the course of a summer, they all return home seeking refuge from the world only to find that their mother is battling for her life. Her illness may bring them under the same roof, but they have a lot of individual issues to resolve before they can come together in any meaningful way.

Rose is terrified of change. She becomes immobilized when confronted with the dilemma of bravely starting a new life with her fiance or clinging to the safety of the familiar. She still lives and works in the same hometown as her parents, and her obstinate loyalty in remaining close to them hinders her ability for growth. Her dedication, while selfless, leaves her stifled. She would rather accept the consistency of a humdrum existence rather than push the envelope. Will she seize the opportunity for love and happiness or let it slip through her fingers?

Bianca, a.k.a. Bean, is a Manhattan socialite in retreat. Her designer handbag didn't contain the cash needed to maintain her expensive lifestyle. Drowning in debt, she leaves everything behind succumbing to depression. She pulls the covers of her childhood bed over her head in disgrace. Small town life does not sit well with her and her pride is further wounded when she ventures out to the local watering hole alone with disastrous results. While trying to keep her financial predicament a secret, she goes on to betray the trust of a longtime friend. Will she sink deeper into immorality or will she find the inner strength to rally and pull her life together?

Cordelia is the free spirit. Sometimes she doesn't wash. She is known to take off for months at a time with no one knowing her exact whereabouts. She's a wanderer, a drifter. Freedom is her religion. Being tied down isn't for her, until she realizes she is pregnant. Her new found sense of responsibility pricks her conscience. She's alone, and she's scared. For the first time, she wonders if she can make a sustained commitment to anyone or anything. Will she run again or will she finally put down roots - in of all places - her hometown?

Literary buffs will appreciate the varied allusions to Shakespeare throughout. From the girls' names to their father's frequent outpourings of soliloquy, the Bard, himself, is cast in a supporting role. His immortal words intertwined with Brown's modern approach fuse together forming a literary style all its own.

Overall, reality is anything but weird.

Nicole Langan, Reviewer

Richard's Bookshelf

Divine Revelation A Call from Christ to Join the Armies of Heaven
John Meacham
Tate Publishing & Enterprises, L.L.C.
127 E. Center Terrace
Mustang, Oklahoma 73064
9781613460863, $12.99

Spiritual Encounters Leading to a Deeper Relationship with God

In his book "Divine Revelation: A Call from Christ to Join the Armies of Heaven" John Meacham shares his personal testimony, his struggles, and revelations received during times of devotions and scripture reading.

John's writes to:

Spark a spiritual fire in the life of the reader

Guide the reader into a better understanding of the Holy Spirit

Encourage the reader to become more serious in their Christian walk

Draw the reader into a deeper relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ

Meacham uses personal parallels and familiar Biblical selections to illustrate spiritual applications and to inspire and encourage the reader in their Christian walk. For example: John uses the story of Nicodemus and his response to being born again to personally challenge help the reader understand.

The importance of being born again

How to grow as a Christian

The risk of taking a stand for Christ

Life change applications.

John candidly shares experiences from his life and ministry to emphasize for the reader the importance of relying on God's Word and the Holy Spirit's power in ministry.

Meacham introduces a five year plan of Christian growth, living, and evangelism. Although this is not a book on theology, John's writing is Biblically sound, clearly stated, and practically applicable. A powerful message from an ordained layman, author, and prophet.

I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the author.

Just Believe: The Story of Stanley Walters
Tracy J. Trost with Jim Stovall
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768437881, $15.99

Time Tested Actionable Steps to Guide You on Your Road to Success

"Just Believe" is an adaptation of the movie "The Lamp" the story of Stanley Walters. The first half of the book begins two years after a tragic accident has left Stanley traumatized. Bitterness and grief have overtaken Stanley. He descends into a deep depression which leaves him unable to focus on his writing career and is destroying his marriage.

A timely meeting with a man named Charles and a simple action message beginning with "just believing" lead to a series of events which restore purpose and meaning to Stanley's life. He returns to writing, his financial situation improves, and his marriage is healed.

Through unexpected meetings with Charles and other "Messengers" Stanley is introduced to ten key principles that lead to success. In the last half of the book Stanley himself becomes the "Messenger" as he shares these time tested actionable steps with the reader on an inspirational journey to success. I appreciate the fact that these steps appear in the table of contents available on the Amazon website.

Stovall and Trost bring into this collaboration a creative story and writing skills that touch the heart and inspire the reader with a message which can lead to life transformation.

"Just Believe" is a heartwarming, incredible story of the power of believing faith and the fulfillment that comes with sharing this message with hurting people caught up in tragedy, financial crisis, or broken relationships. A beautiful story with strong message and time tested principles for new meaning and purpose in life.

I received a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes with no obligation to post a positive review.

Burning Ones: Calling Forth a Generation of Dread Champions
Jerame Nelson
Destiny Image Book, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768440089, $15.99

A Call to Embrace the Fire of God

Jerame Nelson is a fresh voice with a unique calling from and for a new generation of radical disciples eager to make revival fire history that impacts today's culture.

Burning ones:

Have a now outlook

Are set apart, anointed to destroy the works of darkness through love

Are willing to step out of their religious enclave

Nelson's writing:

Captures the heart of God

Imparts truth, equips and challenges the reader

Articulates a fresh message of revival

Describes divine spiritual encounters and intimate experiences in which the Lord's presence ignited him with the burning fire of the Holy Spirit

Candidly relates personal his experiences and exciting testimonies of others who stepped out in obedience to God

Demonstrates a commitment to integrity, humility, and Christ likeness

Jerame draws spiritual lessons learned from the lives of Moses, Elijah, and David, John the Baptist, Jesus, Paul, and Barnabas to illustrate the supernatural power of "Dread Champions" touched by the fire of God. He points out how David and his army of "mighty men" are examples of what God can do with ordinary, even down trodden men, anointed by Him for extraordinary exploits.

I found the "Burning Questions," "Response Page," and the powerful, anointed directed prayer of commitment at the end of each chapter especially helpful in implementing and applying a personal call to action.

"Burning Ones" is written for anyone eager to experience the supernatural fire of God with hearts aflame to fulfill the mandate of the great commission, hearts burning with compassion for the lost, to those ready and willing to embrace the fire of God.

I received a complimentary review copy of this book for review purposes.

Richard R. Blake

Sandra's Bookshelf

3 Steps to Recovery
Dan Farish
T-87 Publishing
P.O. Box 773
Freeland, WA 98249
9780983581109, $12.99,,

This book is sad but also powerful. It is the story of Dan Farish, a man who came from a family which proves truth is stranger than fiction. Within all of us, we hold secrets. Dan has shared all of the skeletons of his past so that we will see what was, and what can be.

Dan was raised in a terrible dysfunctional family. Physical abuse was almost daily. There was no one who would help him or his two sisters. Even relatives would not step in. His father was a big and intimidating man. The memories of growing up in his family would last him his whole life. There was no getting away from them except in a bottle of alcohol. He started drinking as a teen and it continued for twenty years. He had to hit bottom before he could begin the healing powers of overcoming his addiction.

After going into an addiction rehab hospital that was based on the twelve step program of Alcoholics Anonymous, which has help thousands of people all over the world. Dan was kicked out of the thirty day program after twenty seven days. Dan will be the first to tell you that the program is good, but there are some who do not fit into the whole program.

The author took three of the steps and with the help of God overcame his addiction. He prayed hour after hour and day after day for help. Then one night his prayers were answered. I won't tell you about what happened. I will just say that a miracle did happen.

Whether it is you or someone you know that has any type of addiction you need to buy this book. I have read a lot of books about addiction and I believe that this book will help anyone who reads it.

Excellent book

On The Edge of the Forest: Book One
M. Desiree
Xlibris Publishing
1663 Liberty Drive Bloomington, Indiana 47402
9781456831127, $19.99 (pb), $9.99 (ebook),, 1-888-795-4274

This is the story of Olivia Mayor who was in a car accident along with her parents. While she survived her parents did not. She carries a lot of weight on her young shoulders, as he blames herself for the accident.

Olivia is sent to live with her sister and husband in Pinecrossing, WY. Even though it has been two years since the terrible accident, for Olivia each day it seems to get harder and harder for Olivia to survive. Her nights are filled with nightmares of the accident. She wakes up screaming each night. No matter how much her sister Christine tries to help, she knows her sister maybe slipping away from sanity.

It was on a school bus one day she finally makes a friend. For me it is then that this book starts to get really interesting. I am not going to tell you much more about this book, but Olivia falls in love with a young man who warns her not to go outside at night when there is a full moon. Stay inside because of the wolves!

The first thirty-eight pages were a bit disjointed and she has some editing problems. But the author who is a sophomore in high school wrote this book in one month. There is no doubt in my mind that she is a rising star, and one day will become a best-selling author.

Sandra Heptinstall

Theodore's Bookshelf

Stolen Lives
Jassy Mackenzie
Soho Press
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9781569479094 $25.00, 212-260-1900,

Four subplots coalesce in this second novel featuring Jade de Jong, the South African PI who makes her home in Jo'burg, where it all comes together. However, the story begins in Great Britain, where a Scotland Yard raid on a brothel finds six victims of kidnapping later forced into prostitution.

Unfortunately, the brothel owner is not present as expected, and remains at large, and the manager escapes as well, setting off a manhunt for the two.

At the same time, Jade is retained by the wife of the proprietor of an "upscale" strip joint called Heads and Tails as a bodyguard when her spouse goes missing. And the woman also wants Jade to protect her daughter, who manages one of the clubs. This draws Jade into a series of situations involving the human trafficking scheme.

There is some violence in the novel, especially with Jade's predilection for committing murder, but it is relatively unobtrusive. The writing is vivid, and the character development solid. The plot moves forward at a steady and interesting pace, so that the novel is an excellent follow-up to "Random Violence," its predecessor in the series. Recommended.

Rag and Bone
James R. Benn
Soho Press
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9781569479964 $14.00, 212-260-1900,

Last year, the Russian Parliament acknowledged that country's responsibility for the slaughter of more than 20,000 Polish officers at the Katyn Forest early on during World War II over the protests of the Communist Party. Katyn plays a prominent role in this novel, the fifth in the Billy Boyle World War II mysteries. When a Soviet officer is found murdered on a London street, hands tied behind his back and shot in the back of the head as were those murdered at Katyn, Billy is sent ahead to London from Italy by his Uncle Ike to solve the murder just days before the General and his staff were to arrive to set up Supreme Headquarters for the invasion of France.

While the Poles in London, especially Billy's friend Kaz, have proof of the Russian complicity in the massacre, it was not in the interests of the British or American governments to upset the delicate balance in the wartime alliance, which depended on the pressure of the eastern front to offset the German defenses of the west. Now a First Lieutenant, Billy has to tread a fine line between all elements to find the killer and seek justice, while saving his friend, who is Scotland Yard's number one suspect.

As usual, the author uses and depicts history to set the stage for an intriguing murder mystery, with cameo performances by Uncle Dwight D. Eisenhower, FDR and Winston Churchill, among others, carrying forth the series from North Africa to Sicily and Italy to blitzed Britain, just before the Normandy invasion. Written with a blend of fact and fiction, the novel is a first-class crime novel, transcending the vivid scenes of Luftwaffe bombings, war-time shortages and deprivations, and is recommended. [The author's next book in the series, "A Mortal Terror," is due out in mid-September.]

Buried Prey
John Sandford
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780399157387 $27.95, 800-847-5515,

Discovery of the bodies of two young girls, murdered 25 years earlier, sets the stage for a look at the popular protagonist, Lucas Davenport, both as a rookie patrolman and later as the seasoned investigator of the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension a quarter of a century later. Soon after joining the Minneapolis police department, Lucas worked with the Intelligence Division on a couple of murder investigations, especially the case of the two young Jones Girls.

He became so involved in the work that he solved one of them, and came close to discovering the identity of the culprit in the girls' slaying. The facts continued to haunt him and 25 years later, when the bodies are found during the excavation at a construction site, he pursues finding the killer with an obsession, using all his training and intelligence (and a lot of luck) in the chase.

The depth of the plot and taut writing give the reader incentive to keep turning pages. The dialogue is sharp and the pace well-measured. Character development is extremely effective. Another welcome addition to the series, and recommended.

Stuart Neville
Soho Crime
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9781569479858 $14.00, 212-260-1900,

This follow-up to the highly praised "The Ghosts of Belfast" deserves the same reception. It picks up where the earlier noir ended, carrying forth the characters and events, and, presumably, planting the seeds for the third novel. "Stolen Souls," due out in October, 2011 [which hopefully will develop into a full-blown series.]

Jack Lennon, a Catholic detective in an otherwise Protestant police force in Northern Ireland, is warned off investigating the deaths of three persons associated with the massacre of numerous criminals and politicians at Bull O'Kane's farm in Belfast. But having knowledge of the event, at which his girlfriend, Marie McKenna, and their young daughter, Ellen were present, pressures him to continue pursuing knowledge of the murders and their relationship to the past. Marie was whisked away from the massacre by the notorious killer, Fegan, and into hiding, promising to return whenever she needed protection. He leaves for New York City for adventures of his own.

O'Kane has a grudge against Fegan and employs The Traveler, a killer of equal stature to Fegan, to kill the three victims as well as his nemesis, who was responsible for a gut wound which incapacitated the gangster. When Marie comes out of hiding to visit her dying father, she and the child are abducted, serving as lures to draw Fegan out of hiding and resulting in an unlikely collaboration between Lennon and Fegan to rescue Marie and Ellen.

The novel develops the characters in more depth than was exhibited in "Belfast," and the pace is steadier. But the writing is the same tense hard-driven prose which made the first so highly readable. It is a graphic tale of the corruption between the politicians, criminals, British authorities and others in the fraught Northern Ireland of the era. It is powerful and tragic, with intense violence and deep insights into a country still affected by long-continued terror. It is highly recommended, and we look forward to the sequel.

The Preacher
Camilla Lackberg
Translated by Steven T. Murray
80 Broad St., NY, NY 10005
9781605981734 $25.95, 212-504-2494,

This Swedish author has written seven novels, of which this is the second to be published in the United States. The first, "The Ice Princess," was widely accepted as on a par with the best of the recent Scandinavian noir novels. As with that debut book, this novel also is set in the small fishing village of Fjallbacka and is a police procedural that seems to drag until the miracle of science, rather than good old-fashioned footwork, brings it to a conclusion.

The plot is relatively simple: A body is discovered, with the remains of two skeletons over 24 years old underneath. It's up to the local police, led by detective Patrik Hedstrom, to conduct the investigation. Customarily, they usually look into bicycle thefts. Then two more women go missing, increasing the pressure. Attention centers on one family, the offspring of a man known to all as the Preacher: misfits, religious fanatics and criminals.

The length of the novel seems overly long, and probably could have used some judicious editing. And the translation does not seem to be up to the level of "The Ice Princess." Nevertheless, the story is clever, and the plot twists, which in a sense were somewhat obvious, keep the reader moving ahead. Despite these misgivings, the book is an enjoyable read, and one hopes for US editions of the author's other five novels. Recommended.

Arnaldur Indridason
Translated by Victoria Cribb
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312610593 $15.00, 646-307-5151,

The past usually plays a large role in this author's Reykjavik mysteries, and "Hypothermia" is no exception. To begin with, the reader is treated to another recurring event in the life of Erlender Erlendsson, a detailed description of how he and his younger brother were once lost in a raging snowstorm. The 10-year-old Erlender was found buried in snow, suffering from frostbite. His younger brother was never found, something that has haunted him all his life.

Erlender becomes fixated on two very old missing persons cases and a current apparent suicide. The cases seem to be unrelated, but his intuition grasps at straws and as he keeps unofficially probing the current case, he discovers a possible clue to the 30-year-old mystery of the disappearance of a young woman and a younger man. A clue to the links between the various themes, of course, is in the book's title.

Erlender is among the few protagonists in today's fiction who haunts the reader with his moods and introspection to such a degree. Written with a smooth eye for detail, the translation is on a par with the prose. Another beautifully presented Erlender mystery to join the previous five, and one that is highly recommended.

The Burning Lake
Brent Ghelfi
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. 1st Ave., Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781590589250 $24.95, 800-421-3976,

Unlike the previous three novels in the Volk series, this story is a little different. It brings Volk into a sort of international plot involving the United States, France and Russia seeking to circumvent and hide the errors and dangers in atomic plants and spent fuel. What brings Russian agent Alexei Volkovoy into the picture is the murder of a sometime girlfriend, a talented and courageous journalist, known professionally as Kato, who had uncovered two stories: one involving a wide area of radioactive contamination in Russia and an attempt to ship spent fuel from America to that location.

When Volk learns of Kato's death, he remembers a notebook she had given him for safekeeping. Upon reading her notes, Volk embarks on a trail to finish her work, and along the way, avenge her death by finding and killing her murderers. The journey takes him to the radioactive village of Merlino and the burning lake, the dumping ground of spent fuel from a nearby facility, and then to Las Vegas and Mexico.

The author's ability to capture contemporary Russia and its politicians, such as Putin, is impressive, as is his ability to cram into few pages the depths and insights of the subject of the dangers of atomic waste. Written with tight prose, this fourth Volk novel is, perhaps, the most interesting and satisfying of the series, and is recommended.

Theodore Feit

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

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