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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 13, Number 10 October 2013 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Ann's Bookshelf The BarJD Bookshelf
Beni's Bookshelf Buhle's Bookshelf Cheri's Bookshelf
Daniel's Bookshelf Gail's Bookshelf Gary's Bookshelf
Gloria's Bookshelf Gorden's Bookshelf Howard's Bookshelf
Janet's Bookshelf Karyn's Bookshelf Katherine's Bookshelf
Marjorie's Bookshelf Susan's Bookshelf Suzie's Bookshelf
Teri's Bookshelf Theodore's Bookshelf  

Reviewer's Choice

The Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England
Ian Mortimer
Simon and Schuster, Inc.
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York
9781439112908, $15.00,

Paul Binford

A very short quote on the cover of The Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England explains why I was drawn to this title. It reads: "A gem for history buffs as well as travelers." I am both, as well as a descendant of old England. I am interested in the connections, the things and beliefs from the medieval times which might have carried on to our modern times.

Written by Ian Mortimer, a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, The Time Traveler's Guide is organized into useful sections. Readers will learn about The Landscape, The Medieval Character, What to Wear, What to Eat and Drink, as a few examples. For his sources, Mortimer did quite a bit of exhaustive research; the bibliography is a full seven pages of what looks like very dense reading. One of the sources is Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales, which Mortimer refers to throughout the book.

There are two sections of colored illustrations, provided by the British Library. One might be interested to see the "Wheel of Fortune," which is nothing like the game show. There is a surprise, after reading how men are free to beat their wives at any time they choose, a graphic illustration titled "Woman Beating Her Husband." Their sense of geography ( the book covers the 14th century, well before Columbus) is displayed by a quite awkward and incomprehensible map of the world, which only includes Europe and the Mediterranean.

As far as the link between the past and the present that I was looking for, well, there isn't much of that. It was different, a modern human would not have been comfortable with the social stratification. There were three types--those who fight, mainly the nobility; those who pray, the Catholic clergy; and everybody else who would be called those who work. Perhaps modern humans would have been comfortable in the merchant class, or as a yeoman with enough acres to be self-sufficient, but generally the hierarchy was well entrenched and inflexible.

However, in the section relating to what people do, it's mainly about their leisure time, we see a number of games that persist. The children's game "blindman's bluff" began with a game they called Hoodman blind. The standard clothing of the day was a woolen article with a hood (all the peasants were "hoodies"). The children turned the hood around, back to front, and there was a "blind" child. For the adults, there was the game played with two or three dice. It was gambling, and in some parishes it was outlawed on account of the men of the house who lost everything, even their clothes. They also played chess. A rough and tumble game of football was played, as well as tennis, the name which came from the server's exclamation as he serves.

In the area of law and order, we still hear of "common law." This was a contribution of the 14th century, but it's origins came from the old Saxon invaders. Basically common law means "commonly applied to everyone in the kingdom and it takes precedence over local customary laws and ordinances." We might also recognize their sense of humor, for example: "One merchant asks another, 'Are you married?' 'I had three wives.'" You might guess the punchline, or read the book.

I sometimes found the writing style a bit dry and perhaps clinical. This is unavoidable, to an extent, in most any book of historical non-fiction. Mortimer makes it a point to alternate the dry "Just the facts" with humor, anecdotes, some tangential information, asking "What if you were...?", and that works for me. I also would have liked to have seen a decent map of England, other than the illustrated one. He begins the chapter titled "Traveling" with this: "Imagine that you are in London and you need to go to Chester." It's hard to imagine, because I and many other readers have no idea where Chester is. Except for those two points, I found The Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England quite a good read and it's highly recommended, even to those who aren't exactly history buffs. I haven't read it yet, but I intend to read Mortimer's recent book, Medieval Intrigue: Decoding Royal Conspiracies. Perhaps that book is a worthy rival to The Da Vinci Code.

42 Rules for 24-Hour Success on LinkedIn
Chris Muccio with Peggy Murrah
Super Star Press
c/o THiNKaha (R)
20660 Stevens Creek Blvd., Suite 210, Cupertino, CA, 95014
9781607731009,$19.95 (pb), 9781607730194, $14.95, (eBook)

Bonnie Jo Davis

Although this is a second edition "42 Rules for 24-Hour Success on LinkedIn : Learning To Generate Results Using LinkedIn for Leads" and it has been completely refocused and rewritten. The new focus is on getting and converting leads from LinkedIn. I've been using LinkedIn ineffectively for a long time so I was eager to read this book.

What caught my eye first was a statement from the author in the introduction that reads "Interestingly, many businesses miss out on using LinkedIn to generate new business leads, even though it should be an integral part of their sales and marketing process." The author goes on to teach the reader how to use LinkedIn as a real business tool rather than a social media site. This focus makes "42 Rules for 24-Hour Success on LinkedIn (2nd Edition)" different from every other book on this topic.

The material in this book is structured in the following way:

Section I: The Basics
Section II: Strategize
Section III: Profile
Section IV: Attract
Section V: Engage
Section VI: Convert
Appendix A: #1 Fast Facts
Appendix B: Beware Of Addictive Behavior
Appendix C: 42 Things You Can Do With LinkedIn

This book covers both the free and paid ways to use LinkedIn and offers so many ideas and tips that you'll want a notebook and pen handy. When you buy the book you'll be offered a free workbook that includes a roadmap for implementing what you learn while reading. This gift is worth the price of the book alone.

Although I have been on LinkedIn for some time I realized after finishing this book that I hadn't been using it correctly and I certainly haven't been getting leads from it. I made just a few tweaks based on what I was reading and already received an inquiry from a potential client.

There are lots of stories and case studies from people who use LinkedIn the way it is intended to be used. These people also share their favorite tips and tricks with readers. I particularly enjoyed learning about what content to share, how to share it and when to share it. The emphasis is on helping the people you meet on LinkedIn rather than bombarding them with sales messages.

This book is a real gem and has tons of actionable advice. You'll get a roadmap for setting up your profile, joining groups and interacting. If you think your potential customers are on LinkedIn then you need to buy this book, download the workbook and get to work!

Want to be a Writer? Then Do It Properly by Albert Jack
Albert Jack Publishing
Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
B00AM16DXK, $3.00,

Mary Crocco, Reviewer

Better Late Than Never

Discovering Albert Jack's book of advice for new writers came too late for my own first book, but perfectly timed for my second.

Packed with information and guidance, I took copious amounts of notes before concluding I needed the book in print, so I ordered a paperback.

I found the most appreciated recommendation about writing narrative: to get the plot and ideas down first, and then add dialogue. This relieves my current struggle of interrupting the flow of ideas while trying to write dialogue, the simple fact to write first and add dialogue later, works. I'll try a chapter at a time, but the way my mind works, I'm confident in success.

Unaware all submissions should be presented with 1.5 line spacing surprised me, I thought 2.0, double spacing.

Consider reading, "Want to be a Writer? Then Do It Properly by Albert Jack", because it includes easy and significant approaches for writers to develop their skill.

Pelican Bay
Jesse Giles Christiansen
Imajin Books
3715-14 Street NW
Edmonton, AB, Canada, T6T 0H9
9781927792124, $3.99, Paperback, $3.99, Kindle

Dollycas, Reviewer

Some things are better left alone...

After Ethan Hodges discovers an undersea cemetery just off the beach of Pelican Bay, South Carolina, he seeks answers from a grandfatherly fisherman named Captain Shelby. The captain wants the past to remain buried, and he warns Ethan to stay away. But Ethan doesn't listen.

Ethan's best friend and secret love interest, Morgan Olinsworth, joins in the investigation, unearthing intriguing secrets about the mysterious fisherman. When Captain Shelby is suspected of murder and disappears, a manhunt ensues, revealing a truth that unnerves everyone in Pelican Bay.

Dollycas's Thoughts

The title of my blog is Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book and until I read this book I thought I had escaped into quite a few. Then I started reading Pelican Bay and I would have to say I was not only escaping into a book but immersing myself into it. Jesse has a very unique writing style. He has a very descriptive style that paints not only the images into your mind but feelings on your soul. It didn't take long to enter the ghostly realm of Pelican Bay. You can smell the sea and hear the waves and feel the sand blowing into your face by the winds. In fact Captain Shelby jumped right out of the pages and seeped right into the floor in front of me. His dialect was spot on!

This is not a mystery although there is a mystery. It is a contemporary mystical myth of a story featuring fantastic characters set in idyllic place. There is romance but falling in love with your best friend makes moving forward hard especially when there are such awesome, incredible, unbelievable and tragic things happening all around you. Intrigue, uncertainty, and suspense. The story builds slowly and before you know it you are so engrossed things happening in the real world around seem to disappear.

The author says he was influenced by Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea and I really saw the correlation. I think I was the only person in my English class that loved that book when we were forced to read it. It is a book I have reread several times since. Santiago in Hemingway's story had the same relationship with the sea as Captain Shelby.

I don't think is possible for me to put the measure of my enthusiasm for this book into actual words. This is one of the best stories I have read in years.

This is not a story for everyone. You really need to be able let go of the reality and step into the magical fantasy world Christiansen has created. Or is it really fantasy, who knows what lies beneath the sea. Maybe things are better left alone........... but maybe not!

About The Author

Jesse Giles Christiansen is an American author who writes compelling literary fiction that weaves the real with the surreal. He attended Florida State University where he received his B.A. in English literature. His newest novel, "Pelican Bay," focuses on a very old fisherman, Captain Shelby, and the mysterious happenings linked to him surrounding a nosy, sea-battered beach town (release date: July 20th, 2013, Imajin Books). One of his literary goals is to write at least fifty novels, and he reminds himself always of something that Ray Bradbury once said: "You fail only if you stop writing."

Web Site:

Thicker than Blood
Mary Finley
4900 LaCross Rd, North Charleston, SC 29406
9781468135800, $12.99,

Emanuel Carpenter, Reviewer

What would you do if you met your fiance's brother the night before your wedding only to discover the attraction was irresistible? In the debut novel "Thicker than Blood" by Mary Finley, Camilla Strong-Lamar must answer this question for herself. Though she loves protagonist Gerald Lamar, one look at his brother Ramon awakens her inner-freak. But when Ramon is murdered, a million secrets are revealed.

When private investigator Patrick Collier is hired to find out the truth about Camilla, readers will experience lots of "Oh-know-she-didn't" moments. And that's just the beginning of the unraveling.

The first half of "Thicker than Blood" is intriguing and fun to read. The drama will keep the pages turning. And Finley has created some memorable characters in police officer Gerald Lamar, private eye Patrick Collier, and Ramon Lamar. For that she gets kudos.

However, the second half of the novel stretches the imagination to the point of unbelief. Hardly anyone is who they claim to be, and the reader must learn this through by-the-way revelations.

As for the writing, the transitions from scene to scene are bumpy. The narration is awkward, including actually using the words pause and silence when the characters are quiet. There aren't sufficient red herrings set up for the whodunit. And the edit could be a lot stronger, especially when it comes to the use of compound words.

Finley hints of a sequel to "Thicker than Blood." While the idea of a 2nd novel is certainly plausible, the author should enlist a top-notch editor to make it a success. Overall, "Thicker than Blood" is a so-so read. In fact, some readers will love it. For the rest of them, it will be a matter of suspending belief.

Dragon Fire
Dina von Lowenkraft
Twilight Times Books
PO Box 3340, Kingsport, TN 37664
9781606192917, $21.95 (print)
B00ECNEZ6G, Kindle $0.99,

Mayra Calvani

Set in the mysterious, alluring Arctic, Dragon Fire is a mesmerizing debut novel about a girl torn between the shape-shifting dragon she loves and the best friend she must stay loyal to.

When Rakan is sent to Tromso high school by his mother in order to restore their family's honor and destroy their enemy dragon Jing Mei, he never thought his attraction to Anna, a human, would complicate matters. But, for one thing, Jing Mei - aka June - is none other than Anna's best friend, and to make things worse, Rakan's mother expects him to seduce and deceive Anna to get information.

In fact, she expects him to stop at nothing and to stay loyal to the dragon code, which includes disregarding humans and using them as pawns. Yet, something different about Anna touches a deep core within him, and even though loving a human is
punishable by death, he can't stop.

When Anna first sees Rakan, she immediately senses the strange animal-like energy emanating from him. He seems to like her, but his mood swings leave her hurt and frustrated. What is going on between him and her best friend June? Do they share a past? If yes, is it a romantic one? What, in fact, does Rakan want from Anna? Does he really care about her, or is he only using her for his own ends?

Dina Von Lowenkraft's world-building is rich, original, and fascinating. The setting is vividly laid out, transporting the reader into a genuinely different world. There are also an array of intriguing, interesting characters, such as Rakan's wilful half-sister Dvara, and Anna's predator-like soon-to-be-stepfather Ulf.

The prose is beautifully clean and the dialogue sparkles. Filled with intrigue, romantic tension, and sensual imagery, this is a must-read for fans of dragon stories and young adult paranormal!

The Demon Left Behind
Marie Jakober
EDGE Science Fiction & Fantasy Publishing
PO Box 1714
Calgary, Alberta, Canada, T2P 2L7
9781894063494, $14.95,

Paul Lappen, Reviewer

Melusine is a female demon. No, she doesn't have horns and carry a pitchfork. She is an otherworldly being who lives on a different plane of existence. As leader of a group of demons who have come to present-day Earth (in human form) to investigate the 21st century, she realizes that one member of the group is gone.

Wye-Wye is the youngest member of the group, and insatiably curious, so it is very easy for him to follow his own path to satisfy that curiosity. After much diligent searching, and several broadcast summons (respond immediately or else), the group concludes that Wye-Wye is not just hiding or has lost track of time, he is Seriously Missing.

Melusine takes a big chance, and calls in Paige Ballantyne, human investigative reporter, to help in the search. She tells him all about their origin, and why they're on Earth. As a professional cynic, it takes him a while to accept it. Their search takes them to several different cities. In Toronto, Melusine meets Cyprian, an old friend and fellow demon. He has spent too many years in human form, so he is now "stuck"; he can't change back to demon form. Meantime, the relationship between Melusine and Ballantyne turns serious.

The search moves to Austin, texas, and has to do with an academic conference on the "Left behind" series of novels. It's a place where the residents take their religion (specifically, the End Times) very seriously. Stand-up comedy jokes about it are not acceptable. The group of demons gets involved with the leader of a small local militia group. He has a very well-stocked underground bunker, and is not going to just wait for the End Times to come.

This is a gem of a book. It is an easy to read love story, and a search-for-missing-person story, with just enough weird in it. This is recommended for everyone, even those who think that they won't like fantasy or paranormal books.

Ann's Bookshelf

The Signature of All Things
Elizabeth Gilbert
9781408850114, A$29.99 (paperback), 499 pages.
Viking Adult
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780670024858, $28.95, (hardcover), $11.99 (Kindle), 512 pp.,

Alma Whittaker is a remarkable woman - and a remarkable creation by Elizabeth Gilbert.

But this story begins with Alma's father. Henry Whittaker despises his own father for lacking initiative. As a boy, helping his father in King George III's botanical gardens at Kew, Henry sees how royalty and gentlefolk live and he decides to better himself. He begins to steal exotic and rare plants from the gardens and sell them to collectors, and he buries the money he earns in the gardens for future use. When his father discovers what he is doing and hauls him before Sir Joseph Banks (Kew Gardens' Director), Henry, by sheer cheek, convinces Banks not to have him hanged but to employ him. So, in 1776, Henry embarks as botanical assistant to Banks's chosen botanist on Captain Cook's third voyage around the world.

The narrator of Henry's story has a wonderfully sardonic tone which mirrors Henry's view of the world. And Henry, through his own initiative, flourishes. He uses his hidden hoard, and the knowledge and botanical skills he has learned from his father and on two world voyages, to begin a business importing Cinchona bark (the source of quinine) and manufacturing medicines in the newly established colony of Philadelphia. Alma, grows up on the opulent estate which Henry builds, and amongst the many exotic and native plants which Henry's skills enable him to grow there.

It says something for the power of this story that it was only towards the end of the book that I suddenly realized that the narrator's sardonic tone was missing. But Alma is an altogether more serious character, having inherited a large dose of her Dutch mother's practicality and love of order. She is none the less likeable for that, and it is when she breaks out of her carefully ordered ways that extraordinary things happen.

Alma is encouraged from a young age to think and speak for herself, and she is clever, inquisitive and stubborn. She learns botanical skills from her father and whilst quite young she begins to draw and study plants. Eventually, her fascination with mosses, and her close study of them, leads (through a young publisher with whom she falls in love) to a few publications. Over many years, Alma's continuing interest in mosses leads her to develop an almost unique theory about the evolutionary development of plants, based on their struggle for survival - almost unique, because she learns of similar theories developed by Alfred Russel Wallace (whom she meets) and by Charles Darwin (who publishes his as On the Origin of Species). Alma, although having written up her theory before either of these men, never publishes it, because it raises a question about the evolutionary value of altruism which she cannot explain. Nor, she discovers, can Wallace or Darwin. And, even today, this question is still the subject of scientific debate.

The botanical theme is an important part of this book and some fine botanical illustrations separate each of its five parts. But other stories are developed, too. Prudence, a young orphan brought home by Henry, becomes Alma's sister, and her quite different character brings unexpected twists to the tale. The strange and enigmatic Ambrose Pike becomes Alma's husband, and her efforts to understand his puzzling mental condition take Alma, as a widow in her fifties, to Tahiti. There she learns to live a totally different life in a culture with totally different values. Slavery; the Abolitionist Movement; loyalty; the dangers, strange experiences and beauty of long ocean voyages; colonial and island life; philosophy; religion; scholarship: all are themes in this book. The title itself is taken from the sixteenth century theory of Jacob Boehme, who saw all of nature as a divine code (a 'signature'), containing proof of God's love. This, too, is something Alma questions, finding that scientific method cannot prove it.

Alma's interests are intellectual and challenging but her curiosity is boundless, her experiences absorbing, and her life is never dull. She is also a woman whose sexuality is strongly developed, initially through discovering erotic books whilst sorting through the boxed libraries which her father buys from neighbours whose business enterprises (unlike his) have failed.

Alma Whittaker is a woman who deserves to stand alongside all the famous heroines of English literature. Like them, she has strength, resilience and determination. And, as the Acknowledgments at the end of Elizabeth Gilbert's book reveal, her life reflects the passion and dedication which has driven "all women of science throughout history".

The Lowland
Jhumpa Lahiri
9781408844557, A$29.99 (paperback), 339 pages.
Alfred A. Knopf
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780307265746, $27.95 (hardcover), $6.99 (Kindle), 352 pp.,

This is a good story and well told, but I had problems with it from the beginning.

My firs problem was with the author's abrupt, telegraphic style. Short paragraphs are broken into brief subjectless phrases which often make complete nonsense. Paragraphs, too, are arbitrarily divided into small blocks of text, as if the author is afraid that the reader's attention will lapse if she uses longer sequences of words. It was a while before the story absorbed me enough to distract me from these stylistic quirks.

My second problem was that now that the book has been short-listed for the 2013 Man Booker Prize I expected it not just to be well written but also uniquely different in some way. The Lowlands, however, is a family saga which fits into a well-established genre in which life in the protagonist's home country, where war, terrorism and/or civil strife prevail, is contrasted with life in (usually) America or England. . Maybe I expected too much. Literary prizes, as Julian Barnes famously said, are "posh bingo" - a lottery which says more about the judges than about the quality of the listed books, and clearly very many equally deserving books remain unlisted.

The Lowland, is different in that it deals with a family, all of whose lives are radically affected by one member's active involvement with the Maoist Naxalite movement in Calcutta. Compared with wars and unrest in other parts of the world, this is a little-known, and ongoing, part of the history of West Bengal. Jhumpa Lahiri sets her story in the late 1960s, early 1970s when the movement began, and historical events and characters are woven into her narrative easily and naturally as the story unfolds.

Beginning in Calcutta, the book follows the life of Subhash Mitra from his early years of closeness with his brother Udayan; through his college years to graduate study in America; marriage to his brother's widow, Gauri; his realtionship with his parents and with Bela, the daughter of Gauri and Udayan who believes him to be her father; and the eventual the disclosure of Bela's true parenthood. All the characters are well-developed and each has chapters which deal with their lives and feelings, so that different psychologies, perspectives and attitudes to life are explored. Occasionally, especially in the chapters dealing with Gauri's life in California, my interest lapsed but on the whole I was held by a desire to know what happened next.

In the end, I thought this a fairly interesting story but no better or worse than a number of others I have read this year.

On the Trail of Genghis Khan
Tim Cope
9781408842218, A$29.99 (paperback), 509 pages
Bloomsbury USA
175 Fifth Avenue, Suite 315, New York, NY 10010
9781608190720, $30.00 (hardcover), $9.99 (Kindle), 528 pp.,

"It is my great great honour to introduce you to a very unique person....A modern day Marco Polo, speaker of fifteen languages, employee of the Royal Geographic Society, traveler on Mongolian horses, he carries a sheep in his pocket. I welcome here tonight...Kimofi Pope". The vodka soaked Director of the Bakchisaray Historical and Cultural Preserve in the ancient Tatar capital of Crimea may not have got his facts right, but it would be difficult to exaggerate Tim Cope's achievements.

In 2004, knowing nothing about horses and with just a five day pack-horse trip and three days of expert advice behind him, he set out to ride 10,000 kilometers across the Eurasian steppe following the trails of ancient nomads from Mongolia to the banks of the Danube. This was not his first adventure. Having given up a law degree to study wilderness guiding in Finland, he went on to hone his survival skills by riding a recumbent bike 10,000 kilometers from Karelia in European Russia to Beijing. Then, with friends, he rowed down the Yenisey River through Siberia to the Arctic Ocean.

Undeterred by the difficulties he had faced in both those journeys, Cope was keen to experience the sort of freedom he had seen in wild Mongolian horsemen as he had pushed his bike through the sands of the Gobi Desert. He was fascinated, too, by the Mongolians' nomadic way of life and by their ancestors who, under Genghis Khan, had ridden through the harshest climates and terrains to establish a vast empire which stretched from Korea, across Asia as far as Vienna, south to Baghdad, and north into the Sub-Arctic. The Mongols' fast, horse-borne, military tactics and their terrifying attacks and pillaging are well documented: yet, they were clearly effective administrators who established efficient public services in the countries they conquered, and created fast, reliable, communication and trade networks which lasted for centuries.

As well as wanting to experience the exhilaration of the nomads' fence-free journeying, Cope was also keen "to discover the human face of the nomadic cultures which history and legend has obscured". In this respect he succeeded admirably. Throughout the book, his knowledge of the history of the countries through which he rides is constantly reinforced by the people he meets: people whose still live or remember the traditional nomadic life and its customs; people whose lives are shaped by the needs of their animals; old people who have survived the famines, exile and ethnic unrest caused by Soviet era policies and practices; and those who live with the results of the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Cope's journey began badly when two of his three horses were stolen from outside his tent on his sixth night. By luck, he managed to get them back but he quickly understood the nomads' custom of accepting passing horsemen into their gers (family tents) and sharing shelter and fodder, the common 'door-knock' being a loud throat-clearing and spit. As the herder who stole (and returned) his horses told him: "A man without friends is as small as a palm. A man with friends is as big as the steppe".

Many of Cope's new friends were nomadic people with few possessions. Others were thieves and drunkards, and some were shockingly corrupt, but he could not have survived without any of them, especially when it came to dealing with bureaucratic nightmares over visas and quarantine regulations. Of all the dangers he faced in the three years which it took him to complete his journey - camping in sub-zero temperatures and in scorching deserts, surviving precipitous mountain tracks, wolves, wild stallions and plagues of flies and tics - bureaucracy was the challenge which he found the hardest.

With such a long and varied journey to describe, this is a big book. But it is never dull. Cope captures the magic of the land through which he rides as well as the hardships. And his connection with the animals which share his journey is part of the charm. "These same animals I had been terrified of in the beginning had transformed me", he says as he end his journey.

Taskonir, the Kazakh horse, and Ogonyok, the stallion whose gelding he describes in eye-watering detail, accompanied him for most of the way. Tigon, the puppy which had been annoyingly foisted on him because he "needed a friend on the road", is a constant companion and is often seen as just ears and a tail forging through tall grasses or dramatically posed on a distant craggy skyline. On his web page (, which contains a wealth of notes, maps, photographs and video clips, Cope writes that Tigon marked his way all along their tracks and probably now owns the largest territory of any dog in the world.

With his animals and with occasional companion riders, Cope was never alone, and his equipment, which he lists on his web site, included compass, GPS and a mobile phone. Occasionally, he broke his journey for bureaucratic or personal reasons. One early break was made when he flew to London to be made a Fellow of the Royal Geographic Society. Later, in Australia, he was made Young Adventurer of the Year by Australian Geographic. Most distressing, was the four-and-a-half month break he made to return to Australia after his father was killed in a car crash.

This is an absorbing, exciting and informative book and the maps, photographs and glossaries included in it are excellent. So, too, are the notes, which often add interesting and surprising details. Cope wears his knowledge lightly, and he writes vividly and almost poetically when he is stirred by the natural world around him. In his Epigraph, he ponders recent political and economic changes in the countries of the Eurasian steppe and, in particular, he notes the establishment of commercial mining in Mongolia and the potential threat to the already marginalised nomadic life there.

In the end, Cope's greatest challenge came once the journey was complete and he had to be parted from his horses and, temporarily, from Tigon, and then learn to live again in a more mundane, domestic environment. Needless to say, he is already dreaming of new adventures, preferably "on foot, with animals".

Jeet Thayil
978 0 571 27578 6, A$19.99 (paperback), 292 pages
Penguin Books
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, 4th floor, New York, NY 10014
9780143123033, $16.00 (paperback), $7.99 (Kindle), 304 pp.,

Jeet Thayil's hallucinatory novel is semi-autobiographical. He spent his early years in Hong Kong; studied for his BA degree in Bombay, where he became addicted to heroin; moved for a while to New York; then returned to India to live in Delhi. It was twenty years before a health crisis caused him to give up his heroin habit. Now, in his fifties, he says that poetry is his only addiction.

Narcopolis is his first novel and it is set in the opium dens and amongst the poorest most marginalised people in Bombay. Zeenat, or Dimple as she is usually called, is a eunuch. Castrated as a child, she lives as a hijra, travelling between genders and working first in a brothel, then as a pipe-maker, preparing opium pipes for addicts in a slum where the poor, the deranged and the addicted lead sordid and violent lives.

Narcopolis was rejected by every Indian publisher it was sent to and it has been badly received by Indian reviewers, who objected to it as being unnecessary sleazy and sensationalist. But it was short-listed for the Man Booker Prize 2012 - a remarkable achievement for a first novel.

Certainly, it immerses the reader in the degraded lives of child prostitutes, pimps, casual violence, addictive drug-taking and the terrible poverty that exists behind the modern, middle-class facade of the city.

The opening chapter is one long, seamless, opium-dream of a sentence. "I'm not human", says its narrator. "I'm a pipe of O telling this's writing it down straight from the pipe's mouth". But the story focuses mostly on Dimple, her past, her present, and the stories of those she lives with and works for. The history of opium in India and China underlies the narrative of the old Chinese man who teaches Dimple to make pipes. There is religious debate, too, but only because Dimple moves between religions, as she moves between genders. And there are stories and conversations; scraps of Indian history, literature, bits of music and poetry, all woven together in a language which is as hypnotic as the opium fumes in which it is soaked.

Narcopolis is vivid and compelling but it is not an easy book to stomach, and it immerses the reader in a world which most would prefer not to see, and certainly not to experience.

Ann Skea, Reviewer

The BarJD Bookshelf

Chocolate Covered Baloney
Confessions of April Grace Series
K.D. McCrite
Thomas Nelson Publishing
565 Royal Parkway, Nashville, Tennessee 37214
9781400320684, $9.99

April Grace's experiences in this Chocolate Covered Baloney, as in the other two stories, are touching, with some humor and lots of tear-starting empathy.

Learning to tolerate and accept people. Learning how much family means. Learning how to love the unlovely and find them lovely in the process. April and her best friend have their eyes opened to being tolerant and accepting at a tender age; that lesson will serve them well.

April and Myra pass through another 'sisters' stage. The story is told from April's point of view, but there are more characters who learn the life lessons along with her. And Myra learns a few life lessons of her own.

New baby brother, Eli, creates a sweet pivot point for the family and friends of Rough Creek Road to gather round. They all come together, do what needs to be done and help each other generously. Everyone of them makes some quiet change that supports others and strengthens the bonds they are building. New characters come into our story as the long-missing grandmother, Lily's birth mother returns -- not particularly welcome at first. We learn the sad truth of Lily's life with a great-aunt when her mother left. April and Myra Sue learn the truths of loving the unlovely, then watching the changes come forth.

Chocolate Covered Baloney is the third book in an excellent series for young people, yet has a reading level that can be enjoyed by their parents and caregivers. If you have this series on your shelf, you will be offering a good read to all age groups. I highly recommend it.

The time frame is in the 1980s; as the author explains, she wanted to have the characters work out their lives without dependence upon technology. Plus we all know about 'retro'; those and other good old days are intriguing to younger generations. The author has done her research and she doesn't leave loose ends to distract you. The editors are good -- if there were any typos, I missed them.

I am acquainted with the author, K.D. McCrite. Our author is able to envision the young adult point of view without writing 'down' to the reader. Not baby books at all, the series of three have better continuity for the story if read in order, but each is of stand along quality. Book #1 is "In Front of God and Everybody", Book #2 is "Cliques, Hicks and Ugly Sticks" and this charmer, Book #3, "Chocolate Covered Baloney."

Cliques, Hicks and Ugly Sticks
Confessions of April Grace Series
K.D. McCrite
Thomas Nelson Publishing
565 Royal Parkway, Nashville, Tennessee 37214
9781400318261, $9.99,

In the pages of Cliques, Hicks and Ugly Sticks, April Grace Reilly faces social challenges that are totally different from those she handled with her witty opinions in the first book in this series, In Front of God and Everybody.

Cliques in April's middle school carry the odor of bullying, while injury slows the dramatic Isabelle. Family members are all under stress as April tried to solve the mystery of her mother's health. April also has to take a look at her own critical opinions that may not be fair or kind. She just matures fanatically through this very empathetic book...I like her better and better as we go along.

Author K.D. McCrite brings out the best in everybody and brings tears to readers' eyes along with the smiles April Grace's analogies always stimulate. April Grace and Myra Sue do some major maturing as they deal with changes in their family. They get a chance to develop sensitivity both the bullied and the insecure potential of the bullies. Cliques is a book that will help the younger reader understand that there are other kids in the world working through growing up while the grown-ups can be assured of a clean, upbeat read for their kids. A read that is also a good read for grown-ups.

While the youngsters are suffering their personal angst, there is concern at the Reilly household as April watches her mother's health seem to deteriorate. April doesn't understand why her mom and dad get impatient with her and her mother is growing more tired. April is the youngest member of her family; she's clueless about pregnancy. When a troublesome pregnancy further threatens her mother's health, April has strong hostile thoughts about the new little interloper brother or sister coming to the peace of Rough Creek Road.

When their strength is called for, Ian and Isabelle rise from their doldrums and complaining. They pitch in and help the family and community.

I am personally acquainted with the author and our conversations have included the points that she feels April Grace has much more to bring to young readers about issues and conditions in their lives. Now is a good time to learn that it is okay to laugh about things like this and more healthy than letting them get the best of you. Life skills stories that can be applied to their experiences. While there are three books in this series and reading them in order can promote continuity, each book stands on its own for quality and story.

In Front of God and Everybody
Confessions of April Grace Series
K.D. McCrite
Thomas Nelson Publishing
565 Royal Parkway, Nashville, Tennessee 37214
9781400317226, $9.99,

K.D. McCrite has done a very good job of getting inside the head and heart of a pre-teen girl and showing her views to us in this first book in a series of three.

In Front of God and Everybody introduces us to characters in the Rough Creek Road neighborhood, including extended family for April Grace Reilly. April Grace is a watcher and she has a pretty good view of the way the people in her world think and work.

Subtle tones of the book show us supportive adults, growing children, helpful neighbors and the drama of a false friend/boyfriend. April Grace can see right through that false friend and has a challenge getting the rest of the culture on Rough Creek Road to see the truth. But, right rules in the end and all ends well. Neighbors of the Reilly family include Ian and Isabelle who've only recently moved to Rough Creek Road; Ian is from the 'country', but Isabelle's city girl past leaves her in deep culture shock. Forrest and Temple who've embraced the 'off-the-grid' and 'back-to-nature' lifestyle in a nearly shower-less state of being while delivering lots of neighborly love and herbal remedies are valued neighborhood friends.

April Grace has a way with the descriptive phrase and a sharp little tongue that will tickle your humor. She thinks her older sister, Myra Sue, is a pain; the opinion is returned. Myra Sue is overly concerned with her image -- readers get a hint of a family dealing subtly with eating disorders.

In Front of God and Everybody covers summer break from school, focusing on the personal life of Grandma and her boyfriends, the neighbors and April's changing relationships with school friends. April is a kind-hearted kid who doesn't have to try very hard to get crossways with the grown-ups. Readers become quite attached to April which is good because she becomes more complex with the second and third books of this series. Your little friend will tickle your funny button with In Front of God and Everybody.

Finding good reading for youngsters that their families can also enjoy is difficult. This book is mildly Christian, but one of the best parts for me is that readers don't have to endure children practicing their cussing. Yet, there are family lessons to be taken away and applied in the lives of young readers and the practices of harried parents.

Author K.D. McCrite specifically staged the story in the 1980s when children had to devise their own entertainments and solutions without benefit of high technology.

I highly recommend this book even as I disclose that I am personally acquainted with the author. And proudly acquainted as well. You can learn more about April Grace and even her a note at her own website -- Confessions of April Grace. K.D. McCrite has a heart for the young adult group whose angst and joy are part of her books.

JudyAnn Lorenz, Reviewer
BarJD Communications

Beni's Bookshelf

Kris Longknife: Defender
Mike Shepherd
Ace Books
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, 4th floor, New York, NY 10014
9780425253410, $7.99,

Kris Longknife: DEFENDER has Kris and company, on the opposite side of the galaxy, defending the Alwans and a group of colonists from eminent destruction by rather xenophobic aliens. Kris's small fleet of frigates get reinforced by another battle fleet from home.

The only problem is long-term provisioning of the new, much larger fleet; plus the invasion of the alien fleet and a search for the
alien home world.

The use of a "smart metal" variable geometry spacecraft is fairly new in sci fi writing. Mike Shepherd makes good use of it to solve problems with shortages in equipment, etc. This reviewer is wondering how the smart metal, differentiates between oh, say, hull metal, copper/silver conductors, glass and insulation. Not to mention how the smart metal keeps pipes from leaking as fluids are not compressible. Still, it's a novel idea.

All in all the Kris Longknife series is well written, well executed and remains entertaining. Defender is the best yet.

The Lost Stars - Perilous Shield
Jack Campbell
Ace Books
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, 4th floor, New York, NY 10014
9780425256312, $26.95,

The Lost Stars - Perilous Shield creates a delightful web of political intrigue surrounding a new president and her chief of the military, both former CEO's under the old Syndicate government. President Iceni must learn to trust not only General Drakon, her military leader, but also deal with pending Syndicate and alien invasion fleets.

The Syndicate fleet wants to crush the Midway rebellion. The aliens just want to kill what they see as an invasive species in the human settlement.

Iceni and Drakon must learn to trust each other while asking for help from the Alliance fleet. They also send half their space fleet to help retrieve Syndicate POW's held by the Alliance.

This story drips with political intrigue, assassination attempts and suspense as well as enjoying more then a few surprises. The well- thought-out military battle engagements make Perilous Shield a most excellent read. Well done!

Blood Bond
Jeanne C.Stein
Ace Books
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, 4th floor, New York, NY 10014
9780425258873, $7.99,

In Blood Bond, Anne and Daniel head to Europe to visit Anne's ailing mother. While there she finds herself in the middle of a vampire power play by the Euro vampires.

Daniel proposes to Anne. Ailing mom helps Anne plan a quick wedding. Mom learns Anne is a vamp. Anne's invited to a
vampire event where she meets the legendary Vlad Dracul. Heads will roll. The only question remaining is: whose?

It's a delightful twist having Vlad show up in a urban fantasy, complete with cell and Assistant. A fun, entertaining story.

Benedict Jacka
Ace Books
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, 4th floor
New York, NY 10014
9780425264298, $7.99,

In Chosen Alex Verus, who's a Diviner (one who can see probable futures), is under almost constant attack by a group of adepts bent on vengeance. And like a bad penny they keep attacking him time and time again.

This is a fun, fast-paced story. Alex has no real powers except that he can see the futures unfold before him: being chased by a hoard of adepts who can throw fire, have swords and who always know the direction he's in. Alex learns that sometimes all futures lead to a rather nasty end.

Like the other Alex Verus novels, Chosen leads the reader on a thrilling, action-packed adventure. Once again Benedict Jacka has come up with a marvelous morality story.

Beni Bacon

Buhle's Bookshelf

Starship Century
James Benford & Gregory Benford, editors
Microwave Sciences
c/o MindBuck Media Book Publicity
9781939051295 $24.00

Continuing the mission of October 2011's "100 Year Starship Symposium" event, Starship Century is an incredibly anthology by diverse authors, filled with both scientific and science fiction writings about the possibility of space travel. Science writers include Stephen Hawking, Peter Schwartz, and Ian Crawford; science fiction writers include Neal Stephenson, Nancy Kress, and Richard Lovett. A handful of black-and-white illustrations enrich this thoughtful, serious minded examination of how star travel might one day become possible, even practical. Highly recommended for readers of all backgrounds with a keen interest in mankind's efforts to open up the heavens!

The One Thing
Gary Keller with Jay Papasan
Bard Press
c/o Keller Williams Reality (publicity)
1221 South Mopac Expressway, Suite 400
Austin, TX 78746
9781885167774 $24.95

A Russian proverb states, "If you chase two rabbits, you will not catch either one". In other words, too much multitasking or too many demands at cross-purposes can and will sabotage one's highest dreams. The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results is a self-help guide to focusing on what one wants most in life. This might be improved productivity on the job, the drive to complete personal projects, or just more time to be with family and friends. Chapters walk the reader through tips, tricks, and techniques to achieve balance in life, focus on priorities, make a habit out of success, and avoid four of the most common pitfalls or "time thieves" - the inability to say "no", fear of chaos, poor health habits, or an environment that doesn't support one's goals. Thoroughly accessible to readers of all backgrounds, The One Thing is an excellent and enlightening motivational guide, highly recommended.

I Am Not Afraid
Robert H. Bennett
Concordia Publishing House
3558 South Jefferson Avenue
Saint Louis, MO 63118-3968
9780758641984, $24.99,

Demonic possession is held by Christians to be the control of an individual by a malevolent preternatural being. Descriptions of demonic possessions often include erased memories or personalities, convulsions, "fits" and fainting as if one were dying. Other descriptions include access to hidden knowledge (gnosis) and foreign languages (xenoglossia), drastic changes in vocal intonation and facial structure, the sudden appearance of injuries (scratches, bite marks) or lesions, and superhuman strength. Unlike in channeling, the subject has no control over the possessing entity and so it will persist until forced to leave the victim, usually through a form of exorcism. One of the powers Jesus granted to his disciples was the ability to end a demonic possession by casting out the demon from the afflicted person. "I Am Not Afraid: Demon Possession and Spiritual Warfare" by Robert H. Bennett (Administrative Pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church and School, Reese, Michigan and Adjunct Professor of Missions at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Indiana) is a 215 page compendium comprised of accounts of confronting demonic possession taken from the annals of the Lutheran Church of Madagascar. A fascinating read, "I Am Not Afraid: Demon Possession and Spiritual Warfare" is informed, informative, and compelling, making it highly recommended reading. It should be noted that "I Am Not Afraid: Demon Possession and Spiritual Warfare" is also available in a Kindle edition ($14.99).

Willis M. Buhle

Cheri's Bookshelf

A Heretic's Bible Study Guide
A.H Tique
Aeon Publishing Inc
1800 NW 88th Way, Coral Springs, FL 33071
9781625500489, $3.99,

Taking us on a journey through the Bible, the author A.H. Tique covers such topics as the original sin, which goes in-depth into Genesis, the first book of the Bible. Second, we journey into God's law, which takes us into Exodus, the Ten Commandments, Leviticus, Numbers, and Job. The New Testament chapter which dives into Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and Jesus even goes into John 3:16, which is about God's love. Lastly "Impetus for Change" is loaded with interesting facts and figures of today that makes for an interesting case against the Bible.

Tique is a remarkable writer and has definitely done his homework to have researched this subject well. It's a short read and can be read in a day or two. But as an in-depth study, something new will appear each time you read the book. The mind can't comprehend so much information in one read, so this book is definitely a must read and read again. A great resource for agnostics and atheists, but I don't believe those who are truly Christian will buy into a change from what they already believe.

A full in-depth review cannot explain all that is in this compact book. A reader must read for themselves with a Bible in one hand and "A Heretic's Bible Study Guide" in the other and come to their own conclusions. There is no doubt you will come away either believing in God or not, as there is no middle ground after reading this unique, concise book. Of course, there is room for debate on both sides, at least as a conversation starter. Whether you are a believer or not, this book is not to be overlooked as it is
excellently written and makes a strong case for the heretic side.

Psychic Reprieve: Deception and Reality
Mitchell Nevin
Lemon Press Publishing
9781936617191,$17.99 Paperback, $6.99 Digital

Baseball, terrorists, psychic, gang members, murder, prison, cops and detectives what a lineup but this novel has all that and more! At the heart of it all stands the young, well-built, Raunold Choquet or R.C. for short. R.C. the promising baseball pitcher from Milwaukee begins playing ball for Milwaukee State only to get involved in a hazing prank and due to the nature of that prank sends him on his way to federal prison.

While in route to prison R.C. has a layover at the Ramsey County Jail where he has an altercation with a gang member which results in head injuries leaving him with strange dreams and a psychic ability to see things that have happened and about to happen. In exchange for his testimony against the gang member R.C. gets sent to a "Club Fed" prison camp with a lighter sentence where he meets identity thief Luigi Fabriano and ex-police sergeant Gannon Burke and all three become fast, great friends. Also along the way are a few skeptical detectives who eventually turn believers once R.C.'s abilities help them in solving a murder case.

Once out of prison all three end up at Drina's (Luigi's niece's) Pasta Palace an Italian restaurant where she gives them all jobs and a chance to start their lives over. Luigi and Gannon also see a chance to cash in on R.C.'s new abilities by setting up psychic reading shows. All the while R.C. is determined to do what he needs to do to get a shot at playing baseball which is difficult with his prison record.

This is Nevin's second novel; the first is "The Cozen Protocol" which appropriately was nominated for's Breakthrough Novel of the Year Award. Which is an outstanding not to be missed read for anyone looking for excellent plot twists, crime and corruption, gang wars and law enforcement and more. The first chapter of this awesome book is included in the Kindle edition of "Psychic Reprieve" leaving the reader desiring to read more.

But "Psychic Reprieve" does not leave the reader disappointed. The author has about 30 years experience in law enforcement and with true to life form brings his novels to life. Nevin has written an exceptional novel with a unique ability to develop great, colorful and powerful character backgrounds. The especially noted character development of R.C. is excellently written with nothing left out in his life or background including the details of his mother's murder. Also worthy to note is the character of Gannon Burke while a minor character his story is excellently played out. As stated on the author's website Burke was even voted in a poll as the favorite character one can only assume this was for his wit and humor especially in the situation with the priest. While Burke's character doesn't overshadow R.C. this story gives room to the possibility of two major characters and sequels for either characters. Even all the minor characters that weave in and out of the storyline are well developed from R.C.'s grandparents, Jose the cook, Luigi, and Drina to even the detectives.

Taking place in Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul, and Eau Claire, Wisconsin, are the plots and all the subplots which are not overwhelming but only add to the main storyline as all the pieces of the puzzle come together. So if you like a thriller with suspense, mystery, intrigue and a touch of humor with baseball thrown in this novel is not to be missed.

But along with great writing the novel leaves the reader with a nice underlying moral to this story that life may throw you curveballs but it's up to you to throw the "forkball" which is whether to stand tall or fall under the pressure. It's better said by the author through character Gannon Burke "R.C. I'm really proud of you. Life's thrown the kitchen sink your way and yet you've managed to hang there and keep on chugging along when others would've thrown in the towel."

This amazing novel is definitely a five-star but really deserves a ten. "Psychic Reprieve" would no doubt make an awesome movie which we can only hope for. But hopefully Nevin is not through writing and that there perhaps there is more of our trio of R.C., Luigi and Burke to come, especially with this only being Nevin's second novel as we wouldn't want this great new breakout talent to stop writing. So add "The Cozen Protocol" and "Psychic Reprieve" to your reading list you won't regret it!

Cheri Clay

Daniel's Bookshelf

Shadow Pass
Sam Eastland
Bantam Books
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780553807820, $ 25.00, 289 Pages,

I found his first book in this series, and I luckily found another copy of his second which I just finished now. I liked his historic series set in early twenty century and it continues through the leaders after the revolution. Lenin and Josef Stalin are Pekkala's bosses who have him due their bidding in helping control Russia by being an Inspector. His power is strong considering their manipulating his actions in this country. I will continue to seek more copies of the series and keep reading it. Eastland's books read like a novella where there are no chapters, and the book flows through time with events and story.

Inspector Pekkala is back investigating a site that is secret in the Russian countryside with the official name of T-34. It is a mysterious new weapon which is a thirty-ton killing machine. Its inventor Colonel Rolan Nagorski is the genius behind the weapon. His horrific death is considered an accident only by the innocent. Josef Stalin is not an innocent by any means of the word. He brings in his best if not his most obedient detective to the scene. He wants him to solve this not accident that's leading to possible to treason. Pekkala is answerable to no one, he has the dictator's permission to go anywhere and interrogate everyone who might have a clue to the Colonels' murder. The problem is that the closer Pekkala gets the more questions he unravels, and why does Commissar Major Lysenkova investigating the same case when she is the only assigned to internal affairs. Pekkala finds himself on a collision course with the Soviet secret police, but USSR's military secrets.

The real problem surfaces from his investigating could bury the country, Stalin and Pekkala right alongside them. It will take great skills from Pekkala to get that problem unraveled, and his detective skills seem to be getting better in each case he is working on. He better or he will die trying. He learns that the killer isn't one he saw under his radar. What he doesn't know is that, the perpetrator would be someone he doesn't suspect. He has to learn through events that take place, when that person surfaces into action. Pekkala needs then, to protect the integrity of the country, and try to do the right thing. The T-34 disappears as it has been improperly taken, and Pekkala and the scientists have to use a weakness in it to make it vulnerable, before it becomes an International issue. Pekkala races off to pursue and disable the tank, because he must protect his boss Stalin's political standing, along with anybody exposed to the tanks improper usage.

Sam Eastland is the author of the Pekkala series, which I discovered by pure accident. It is an excellent series and I hope to read them all in good time. His first novel in that series was Eye of the Red Tsar. His next novel was this one, also entitled The Red Coffin, and now he has two more. Siberian Red aka Archive 17, and the Red Moth. Next year he has listed on one site The Beast in the Red Forest. Historic fiction thriller fans will like that about Russia on par with Rob Smith's Child 44 and Martin Cruz Smith's Gorky Park. The Library Journal also lists David Benioff's City of Thieves on the same note.

The Kill Room
Jeffrey Deaver
Grand Central Publishing
c/o The Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9781455517060, $28.00, 477 Pages,

I have been waiting quite a spell for a Lincoln Rhyme novel with Amelia Sachs and the people who are usually around this forensic expert. His previous novels about James Bond is one I missed. I have to be selective to read all the authors and main characters they write, which I like so much. I can't read everyones right away or a complete library. I have too many favorites. His stories are lengthy and detailed, but his stories are main villains are interesting and worth it. I am glad I waited. As I insist the idea, that 'to one who waits good things happen'.

The story begins with a sniper shooting a person in the Bahamas with other victims getting killed too in the attack. Due to the fact that he supposedly an American citizen, Lincoln Rhyme is called upon to figure out what happened there, based on the evidence of the 'Kill Room'. The case was presented to Lincoln Rhyme by the ADA Nance Laurel and Bill Meyers introduced by detective Lon Sellitto. Bill Meyers was the captain of the Special Services Division. After inroductions, the information of who was killed in the Bahamas and the pointing of whom to blame was attributed to an U. S. government official. He was to be the head of NIOS, which is the National Intellligence and Operations Service. They were based right here in Manhattan, New York City.

Lincoln uses his team including his partner Amelia Sachs, which traces the steps back to Manhattan. While Amelia is checking on leads and investigating in the city, Lincoln and his man servant Thom and NYPD patrolman Ron Pulaski head back to the Bahamas to check the 'Kill' scene. The problem is the unsubs have plans to eliminate the visiting Lincoln with his man-servant along with Lon Sellitto and Amelia is been tracked cleverly by the assassin. He is keeping an eye on the investigation, and it's only a matter of time before Amelia becomes one of his victims. The assassin has eliminated witnesses, and their team has cleaned up evidence before the Lincoln Team can get to the clues. It all boils down to noticing finer details learned, without knowledge of the hunt for each other. Sachs pools some insight, which might help before it gets any worse. The Kill Room in the Bahamas seems to be the beginning, but not the end. Rhyme and his team have to step up to the plate and foil matters before all is lost.

Jeffrey Deaver is the author of more than thirty novels. He also is noted as the #1 international author. His novels of a series carries the main character of Lincoln Rhyme while another one features Kathryne Dance. I eagerly await any novel these two main characters appear, and I was happy to see he wrote this novel this year. XO was the last novel, that featured both of them.

Daniel Allen

Gail's Bookshelf

Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter (Christian Guides to the Classics)
Leland Ryken
Crossway Books
1300 Crescent Street, Wheaton, IL 60187
9781433526084, $5.99,

A piece of classic literature is read because it's "the best in its class," a piece of writing that has "stood the test of time" and earned the label "excellent" with its accurate portrayal of human experience. The classics "represent the best that has been thought or said," writes author Leland Ryken, 45-year, Wheaton College English professor.

However, there is a general decline in reading the classics because they are considered "hard and too old," writes Jesse Rutigliano in his Op-Ed column: Decline in Reading Classic Literature:

It's because of that attitude, Ryken penned a series he calls Christians' Guide to the Classics, a series that makes the classics easier to read and understand, especially for the home-schooled or those who teach home-schooled children.

This review concerns The Scarlet Letter, the classic penned by Nathaniel Hawthorne, first published in 1850. Click through the list above the review for additional classic titles.

The guides include an introduction to the author, the cultural context, the setting, critiques of the work, and definitions of literary terms where Ryken explores "setting, plot and character." Chapters begin with plot summaries and end with questions for individuals or for reading groups to reflect on and discuss.

A running story commentary, set off by a dark page line, runs alongside the text. For example, in chapter 13, "Another View of Hester," Ryken writes. "Storytellers love to work by contrasts and juxtaposition. After several chapters that have unfolded the ongoing story of Dimmesdale, this chapter shifts the focus back to Hester...."

He also includes reading tips and common misconceptions of the classic he's writing about. The guide would make an exceptional companion volume when reading the book, since the guide doesn't include the actual story, but is only about the story, characters, author and setting.

Look for more of this popular series in the spring of 2014 when Dickens' "Great Expectation" and Bunyan's "The Pilgrim's Progress" join the series. Crossway Blog:

The Gift of a Legacy
Jim Stovall
David C. Cook
c/o Cook Communications
4050 Lee Vance View, Colorado Springs, CO 80918
9781434705778, $14.99,

Jim Stovall, bestselling author of The Ultimate Gift that 20th Century Fox made into a major motion picture, continues the Ultimate series in The Gift of a Legacy, an inspirational account of personal responsibility, life lessons and legacies.

This story, like others in the series, is told in the voice of attorney and friend, Theodore J. Hamilton. Sallie May Anderson, fondly known as "Miss Sally" is Hamilton's client and executor of her will. Jason Stevens, Red Stevens grandson, once in need of mentoring, in this story, mentors a young man like he once was. Then there's Hawthorne, Miss Sally's devoted "chauffeur, traveling companion or assistant," whatever she needed. He had devoted sixty years of his life to the care of Miss Sally and Anderson House.

The story opens as Hawthorne escorts Miss Sally into Hamilton's legal offices. Once they had brought one another up to date Miss Sally gave the attorney her full attention and said, "Theodore, I need to make arrangements for the next phase of my life...which includes Anderson House and my great grand-son Joey."

Over the years, Miss Sally managed hundreds of acres of land and turned the 150-year-old ornate mansion into " extremely profitable and growing business enterprise," a pristine bed and breakfast known as "Anderson House." Hawthorn assisted her, while Oscar, another lifelong staff member took care of the elegant mansions needs. Claudia, world-famous chef, baker and gardener prepared custom cuisines for their world-renowned guests who were also Miss Sally's friends.

Although Hamilton quickly agreed to help the attorney had never met Joey and had no idea of what was being asked of him until the day they met at the reading of the will and Joey said, "Just tell me how I can get my money and get out of here."

Thus begins an inspirational tale about a "selfish little rich boy," who only focused on fun, games and entertainment, a young man who brought his motorcycle to a disrespectful squealing stop in the midst of his great-grandmother's eulogy.

Would Joey agree to the challenge of living at Anderson House and the performance of twelve challenging steps? Was he too selfish and self-centered to learn challenging life changing lessons about work, values, money, family and more?

Learn along with Joey the impact of what he's asked to do, the choices he makes and how everyone has the choice of what type of legacy they leave behind. It's not about money, although in Joey's case that's the "carrot" that leads to acceptance or rejection of twelve daunting challenges. The book is a quick, feel good read and would be excellent to share with children, family and loved ones.

Losing Megan
Tom Kohl
Westbow Press
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781449776374, $13.95,

"Losing Megan: Finding Hope, Comfort and Forgiveness in the Midst of Murder", by Oregon Judge Tom Kohl is a narrative of "hope, comfort, and forgiveness," where what Satan intended for evil turned into a life-changing ministry of courageous faith and forgiveness. Although the narrative opens in the spring of 2011, the real story begins with a knock on the door, July 21, 2006.

Judge Kohl, accustomed to unexpected late-night visitors in need of his signature, opened the door to an officer and a woman from the victim's assistance program. The man introduced himself as Detective Luke Streight. Judge Kohl noticed the detective swallowed hard before he heard the words no parent ever wants to hear, "Judge, Megan is dead." reports June 2007, "Murder-for-hire allegations surface in murder of judge's daughter"

The Judge's uncontrollable sobs drew his wife to the front door where they clung together and cried while the couple at the door waited for the storm of sobs to subside. Megan was the judge's twenty-one-year-old daughter and Judge Kohl knew his prayers had been answered although not in the way he expected.

Many parents today face this tragic dilemma when their drug addicted children turn eighteen and they no longer have a say in their children's lives just as it did in Judge Kohl's family. However, his story has a different ending than most because of Megan's brutal murder.

Although the murder prevented Megan from realizing her dream of helping and comforting the lost that first surfaced when she was ten-years-old and made business cards with her contact information that read, "If you need a friend, call, Megan." Judge Kohl would be the one to fulfill her dream in unexpected ways.

The year before Megan's murder Judge Kohl had helped establish the "first adult drug court" in Washington County, Oregon. There addicted offenders were connected to a high-intensity "treatment, counseling and accountability" program that gave addicts the opportunity for a fresh start. Washington (Oregon) County Drug Court YouTube: Judge Thomas Kohl and Duane Worley answer the question "What is the best way to keep young people away from drugs and alcohol?"

The narrative also includes Judge Kohl's meeting with "the man who had brutally murdered his daughter." It wasn't a meeting the Judge wanted, yet he knew it was a "divine appointment," orchestrated by God.

This riveting true story of God's power, grace and forgiveness extended to others through those who walk with Him is compelling. Yet, it's also a story of murder, reconciliation and restoration, of coping with the unimaginable that stays with the reader long after the book ends. The chapter "To the Reader" on forgiveness that completes the book is a must read and not one to miss!

If You Will Ask
Oswald Chambers
Discovery House Publishers
P.O. Box 3566, Grand Rapids, MI 49501
9780929239064, $12.99,

This small book on prayer is taken from lectures Oswald Chambers gave at the Bible Training College in London where he focused on all aspects of prayer, from prayer's simplicity to intercessory prayer for others. He believed that "prayer changes the one praying" as much as "prayer moves the hand of God."

The foreword introduces readers to a simple man of keen insight who, regardless of who he was with or what they were doing, without warning would say, "'Off with your hats, it is good to pray everywhere,' followed by a brief prayer." This was a common occurrence among the group of young men Chambers took hiking on Saturday mornings.

Even though the world was at war, Chambers made plans to travel to Egypt in 1915 to "serve as a YMCA chaplain." Shortly after his arrival he asked to deliver a "week-night religious service" even though skeptics warned him no one would attend since it wasn't Sunday. Soldiers were too busy during the week writing letters and playing cards.

Chambers quietly organized his sermon, What is the Good of Prayer and prepared to deliver it on Wednesday, November 4, 1914. Even though it wasn't Sunday, "four hundred men packed the large hut" where they met. In wartime many men cried out to God for the first time in their lives and Chambers said, "When a man is at his wits' end, it is not a cowardly thing to pray."

Chambers was a "spiritual realist" who believed prayer "enabled God to perform His order through" those who pray, even though he didn't consider prayer a "natural function of the worldly minded." However, he knew prayer was a way of "getting to know God" that would "develop the life of God" in those who prayed.

Readers learn why Chambers believed "circumstances are like featherbeds," why "God answers prayer on the ground of redemption" and the most important reason of all. "Prayer is not what it costs us but what it cost God to enable us to pray."

Even though Oswald Chambers died in 1917, relatively unknown at the age of forty-three, he lives on in the works he left behind, the most famous his devotional classic, My Utmost for His Highest.

This powerful book on prayer, filled with wisdom and keen perception, is one to savor slowly and return to time and time again. Written by a devout man of God who "shows us what we are missing when we don't have 'the life of God in us.'" There aren't enough stars to value its worth, whether five, ten, fifty or a hundred.

Seven Men: And the Secret of Their Greatness
Eric Metaxas
Thomas Nelson
P.O. Box 141000, Nashville, Tennessee 37214
9781595554697, $24.99,

Award winning author Eric Metaxas, features snapshot biographies of great heroes and role models of the past in Seven Men and the secret of their Greatness. These inspiring, trustworthy men modeled strength of character, authentic manhood and fatherhood for many generations. However, "that has changed in recent years," writes Metaxas, "with troubling results." Our culture today is in a "crisis of manhood in the absence of men of virtue and strength."

He believes Americans lost trust and began to question authority in the Vietnam War and Watergate era where they learned to distrust "the official version of things and of our leaders." That's when our nation moved from a "naive" attitude to a "cynical" attitude, where " one is believed to be trustworthy." He argues, when all authority is questioned appreciation of real leadership is destroyed with little of the heroic to model. That's why he penned this book because it's time to "reverse that trend."

The men he features are humble, selfless men of God, who "surrendered themselves to a higher purpose and gave away something they might have kept" for the greater good, which took self-sacrifice, courage and faith.

Seven stand-alone chapters include mini-biographies of George Washington, William Wilberforce, Eric Liddell, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Jackie Robinson, Pope John Paul II and Charles W. Colson. Their powerful accounts offer insights into their lives, their faith and the principles that made them great.

Readers learn about their choices, their adversities and the sacrifices they made that left a significant historical impact. Small vignettes of stories within the larger story offer insights into memorable moments of these men's true characters.

Metaxas explores the concept of what it means to be a man, how that relates to authenticity, faith, fatherhood and the role self-sacrifice plays. Their biographies leave little doubt that each believed in God and modeled a walk of faith.

Inspirational, personable, well-researched and very well-written, Seven Men is a delight to read while at the same time he illustrates a stark contrast between the role models of yesteryear and the celebrity-role models of today. Metaxas's inspirational profiles of these great men are examples of what God intended man to be. Copies of his book belong in all school curriculums and libraries. Metaxas was awarded ECPA book of the year for New York Times bestseller - Bonhoeffer:

Under Fire: The Untold Story of the Attack in Benghazi
Fred Burton &Samuel M. Katz
St. Martin's Press
175 - 5th Avenue NY, NY 10010
9781250041104, $26.99,

Recognized security experts Burton and Katz, write what they believe happened in the Untold Story of the Attack in Benghazi, the subtitle of Under Fire scheduled to release September 1. Their eyewitness and confidential source account describes the first 40 minutes of hell when "the attackers first burst through the gates of the American compound in Benghazi."

Besides a "minute-by-minute narrative" of the prolonged fire fight that took the lives of Ambassador Chris Stevens, Information Officer, Sean Smith and former Navy SEALS, Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty, the account testifies to the courage, bravery and sacrifice of the men and women who unselfishly serve their country in the dangerous Middle East and elsewhere.

The authors also provide the influences and stories behind the story of Benghazi rooted in the revolutionary riots, demonstrations and protests known as the "Arab Spring" that began December 2010 and "lit the fuse to the Libyan civil war."

Stories that include Secretary of State Hilary Rodham Clinton's dispatch of Ambassador Stevens to Benghazi, even though "Special Mission Benghazi," unlike its Tripoli counterpart had bypassed normal security standards and wasn't a "heavily fortified facility."(pg. 46)

Why the first attack June 6, 2012 was later considered a "probing action" and how the customs and culture of Benghazi aided the attackers. Why the attempt to assassinate the British Ambassador Asquith failed and prompted "the British to abandon Benghazi days later." (pg.8)

Other influences included the predator Drone attack that launched Hellfire antitank missiles that killed senior terrorist commander and heir apparent to Osama bin Laden, abu Yahya al-Libi, commonly known as "The Libyan," June 4th, 2012. The Long War Journal.

Perhaps the most surprising was the attacker's savvy use of chat rooms, Twitter and FaceBook with iPhones and Nokia smart phone devices to further their agendas on the 11th anniversary of the September 11th attack on America.

An attack that came during the relaxed "smokin' and joking'" down time when all was quiet over Benghazi - until the "sounds of slow moving tires" at 2130 hours. Ten minutes later, armed invaders and vehicles flying the black flag of jihad swarmed onto "official U.S. territory" and the "Special Mission Benghazi compound was officially under attack" (pg. 103)

Thus begins an amazing, exciting narrative that keeps the pages turning like a good piece of fiction, yet nothing about the event was fiction. Four American lives were lost. While Burton and Katz tell the "who, what, when and where" of Benghazi, the larger question of why no one arrived to help is not answered.

Hilary Rodham Clinton said "What difference at this point does it make?" yelled a flailing and histrionic Hillary Clinton during a January 23, 2013, congressional hearing on Benghazi: Why indeed - really?

August 2, Conor Friedersdorf The Atlantic staff writer wrote: "CNN reports that dozens of CIA agents were on the ground there [Benghazi]-- and that they're being pressured to keep quiet. Why?"

Burton said in an interview with The Stratfor Blog: "...the best they can offer is informed speculation...since post-Qaddafi Libya was a tangled web of allegiances and interests...nearly impossible to sort out."

The book is a compelling read, however the question of why is left un-answered.

Under Fire: The Untold Story of the Attack in Benghazi: YouTube

Davis Bunn
B&H Books
127 Ninth Avenue North
Nashville, TN 37234-0143
9781433679407, $14.99,

Unlimited, Christy award-winning author, Davis Bunn's new book Unlimited releases September 1 while the movie version releases October 11, 2013:

It's a fascinating tale of murder, greed and political corruption that former MIT student, Simon Orwell stumbles into when his old professor invites him to Mexico. The email he received spoke of a breakthrough on a device he and the professor developed when Simon was a student at MIT. Simon wanted to talk with the professor again, but it didn't concern the device, he wanted to ask forgiveness for an unforgiveable act.

The story opens as Simon crawls from the burning wreckage of his car now resting on its side " the shallow trench...alongside the Mexican highway." His beloved Mustang, tires blown and shredded, destroyed by a plank full of ten inch nails someone dragged onto the road at his approach.

Disoriented from the crash, Simon knew to stay out of sight though he didn't remember why until he peeked across the road and saw a man waiting for a break in the traffic to cross over. The fear he felt when he first saw him at the border crossing rushed back and he knew he had to hide, first the canvas duffel he'd pulled from the wreckage, then himself.

The bag held the apparatus, diagrams, graphs and spreadsheets he'd developed, but never finished with Professor Vasquez. Now they were all that remained of Simon's life as a MIT student researcher. Although the duffel bag was too heavy to carry far, Simon slithered over the ditch's edge to search for a hiding place in the dessert.

Thus begins a tale of assassins, murder and suspense wrapped in romance, unrealized dreams, treacherous acts and political corruption set in the small border town of Ojinaga, Mexico. Add beautiful Sofia, intrigued by Simon, although engaged to a corrupt and dangerous politico. An orphanage Sofia runs with the help of Pedro Simon unintentionally puts at risk and Harold Finch who left a lucrative NASA career to "serve a higher cause."

It's a world of mysterious secrets wrapped around a device to harness "wasted energy" and turn it into cheap energy for the Mexican poor. Although the story borders on science fiction, quantum physics recognizes the existence of wasted energy: Yet, it's also an inspirational story of encouragement and hope based on the life of "successful entrepreneur/NASA spacecraft scientist, Harold L. Finch" who believes everyone has unlimited potential that few realize.

This compelling read will only whet your appetite to see the movie. Unlimited movie trailer:

Appointments with Heaven
Reggie Anderson w/ Jennifer Schuchmann
Tyndale Momentum
351 Executive Drive, Carol Stream, IL 60188
9781414380452, $15.99,

Dr. Reggie Anderson with Jennifer Schuchmann writes "Appointments with Heaven: The True Story of a Country Doctor's Healing Encounters with the Hereafter", an autobiography of a rare country doctor who visits the "front porch of Heaven" when the "veil" between this world and the next parts, a doctor also known as the "midwife to souls." He sits with patients, their hand in his and experiences what they see and feel when their souls depart. His soul-stirring accounts with the afterlife are shared in Appointments with Heaven: the True Story of a Country Doctor's Healing Encounters with the Hereafter that releases Friday, August 30.

In the first part Anderson writes about his early years and the tragedy that challenged his faith and drove him from God where he questioned If There's A God Where Was He? His journey into that desolate "spiritual wilderness" would end with a "fantastical" dream seven years later.

He recalls the dream as an "enhanced version of reality," complete with lush meadows, vibrant colors, cascading crystal blue waters and fragrant citrus and lilac scented breezes. That's where he saw Jesus and felt the warmth of His love wrap itself around his heart and soul. He couldn't know it was only a foretaste of divine "appointments with heaven" as future babies arrived and souls departed.

Readers meet several patients with severe medical problems, among them a lady named Irene who was Anderson's favorite from his "eighties ladies" group. She arrived at the ER with a heart attack and they both knew her time was near. She asked Dr. Anderson to be her "escort to heaven" since she'd heard "Jesus calling her name." Anderson said, "of course" and sat with her until he smelled a "citrus, lilac" scent, saw a soft glow and felt soft warmth caress his cheek as Irene's breathing slowed to a stop.

However, not all encounters had such sweet endings. Eddie was a heavy smoker under treatment for cancer who thrived on "being mean and hurting others." Anderson had treated many of Eddie's victims and felt the man was "truly evil." While he cared for him, Anderson tried to talk to him about spiritual matters, but Eddie said, "Shut up...take care of my cancer."

Two weeks later he sat at Eddie's bedside praying and saw his eyes widen, his labored breathing and a look of terror overshadow his face. Instead of the warmth and heavenly scent of God's presence Anderson saw the lights dim, felt the temperature plummet and smelled diesel and sulfur as dark shadows turned the room into a fearful "dark abyss." These and other encouraging, supernatural encounters illustrate the reality of eternity and the important choices that determine our eternal futures.

Grammy-award winning Steven Chapman, whose son Caleb married Anderson's daughter Julie wrote the foreword and said, "Reggie's appointments with heaven...provide a glimpse of God's eternal purposes...that you and I need to hear, know and experience in our own hearts." The Chapman's lost their five-year-old daughter to a freak accident in 2008.

Writer Jennifer Schuchmann captures Anderson's sweet sense of humor and his remarkable journey from atheism to faith-filled Christian after experiencing murders, suicides and a horrific massacre of six extended family members. However, the real story is his return to faith after his encounter with Christ and the souls he escorted through the valley of the shadow of death to heaven's doorway.

Appointments with Heaven by Dr. Reggie Anderson: YouTube:

Gail Welborn

Gary's Bookshelf

Calico Joe
John Grisham
Dell Books
c/o The Random HousePublishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
9780345541338, $7.99

Normally Grisham is known for great legal thrillers but this time he throws readers a curve. "Calico Joe" is a great sports book as well as a fantastic novel that moves along at a brisk pace to its final pages. It is the story of two baseball players who have only one meeting in a game back in the year 1973. Joe Castle is an incredible player for the Chicago Cubs who has everything going for him while Warren Tracey is a pitcher for the New York Mets who is much older in a career that is on its way down. Their meeting in this game will change both men's lives forever. Tracey's son Paul is in the stands that day and roots for both his father Warren and Joe at the same time. He, like fans of both teams, is bothered by what happens in this game. "Calico Joe" is the third novel Grisham has written that takes place in the world of sports. "Playing for Pizza" and "Bleachers" were both tales involving football. This time the story is filled with many real baseball figures as well as writing that is character driven which makes the novel a pleasure to read. Fans of Grisham should not miss "Calico Joe."

Kevin Egan
c/o Tor/Forge
175Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780786032877, $9.99,

"Midnight" poses the question "how far will a person go to save their job?" It is New Year's Eve and people are getting ready for the New Year. For Carol Scilingo and Tom Carroway their world is toppling around them on the last day of the year because the man they work for, Judge Alvin Canter, dies in his chambers and they are faced with a dilemma. To keep their jobs they will have to conceal the details of his untimely death. To add to their misery in order to protect themselves they are forced in only three days to undertake many criminal tasks that get more complicated "Midnight" is a first class legal thriller that should not be missed.

James Patterson and David Ellis
Little Brown and Company
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
1271 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9780316211079, $28.00,

I love novels by James Patterson and his co authors. Unfortunately I can not say that here. "Mistress," like their last collaboration "Guilty Wives" did not thrill me. In fact "Mistress" is so confusing it got to be boring. The main character Ben lives in a world of trivia of movies and politics that slows the pacing of the novel down to a crawl. "Mistress" is very disappointing and should be missed.

Robert B. Parker's Damned if You Do
Michael Brandman
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399159503, $26.95,

Jesse Stone is back in "Damned if You Do" and that's a good thing. The novel opens with a dead body found at a beachfront motel. Paradise Police Chief Jesse Stone has no idea who she is. He makes this case his own and delves into the dirty world of pimps and prostitutes as he tries to solve the homicide. Michael Brandman once again takes the reader into the world created by Robert B. Parker and does it very well. The dialogue is snappy and the story races along with a great conclusion. "Damned if You Do" is a great addition to the series.

Sleep Tight
Jeff Jacobson
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp
119 West 40th Street, New York, NY 10018
9780786030782, $7.99,

Yes, the bedbugs do bite in the chilling horror novel "Sleep Tight." Jacobson is a new writer who takes the reader on an unsettling tale of insects on the prowl with nail biting suspense. The world will never be the same with these creatures who are taking over the city of Chicago. The CDC has its hands full containing these bugs. "Sleep Tight" will have readers checking out their bed sheets every night to see if they are safe.

The Executioner Rouge Assault
Gold Eagle
c/o World Wide Library
225 Duncan Mill Road
Don Mills, Ontario, Canada M3B 3K9
9780373644162, $5.99,

Mack Bolan is back striking against drug kingpins in a great thriller that races along with exciting action adventure. For years these books have been known as guilty pleasures. One thing is certain, these stories are great escapism for any reader who wants a fast paced electrifying military fiction escapade. "Rouge Assault" is a thrill packed attack on terrorism by a great fiction hero.

The Great Heinlein Mystery
Edward M. Wysocki, Jr.
4900 LaCross Rd, North Charleston, SC 29406
9781477410202, $24.95,

The question is did a fictional device that Heinlein wrote about in an early work influence naval technology of World War II? Starting with that premise, author Edward M. Wysocki, Jr. in "The Great Heinlein Mystery: Science Fiction, Innovation and Naval Technology" takes the reader on a journey to find the answer and solve the mystery. First appearances are often deceiving as is the case here, because it seems that this will be a boring piece meant for academia. Instead the author has a very easy style of writing that takes the reader into the world of science fiction of that era while exposing little known facts about other writers in the genre. "The Great Heinlein Mystery: Science Fiction, Innovation and Naval Technology" is an excursion into the universe of science fiction.

The Official Dick Van Dyke Show Book
Vince Waldron
Chicago Review Press
814 N. Franklin St, Chicago, IL 60610
9781569768396, $18.95

"The Official Dick Van Dyke Show Book" was a great book about the series. Now this newly revised and updated edition, with a forward by Dick Van Dyke, tells all there is to know and more about one of the greatest hits of television that many can watch on Nick at Nite, TVLand, Me TV, or just about any station in the country. There are episode guides, stories about the show, bios on the stars and newly added features including what happened to the actors after the show left the air, and a detailed account of the reunion show "The Dick Van Dyke Show Revisited.". This new edition is better than ever and no fan of the series should miss "The Official Dick Van Dyke Show Book Revised and Updated Edition."

Two Car Garage
Poems by Peter M. Gordon
CHB Media
725 Laurel Bay Circle
New Smyrna Beach, Florida 32169
9780988631519, $9.99,

"Two Car Garage" exposes many slices of everyday life in poetic form that are very different perceptions. For instance, there is a lot of symbolism in the very short piece "Collection Day." "Two Car Garage" is not as simplistic as it appears.

Skinny Little Tree
Jayme Martin author
Clark Andrews Jr., illustrator
Outskirts Press Inc
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781478708704, $13.95,

"Skinny Little Tree" is a little fun book for kids. A young boy finds a new friend in a tree that talks to him about many things. The story moves along, with art work that adds to the mood of the tale. Skinny Little Tree" is a delightful multi layered story that should please readers of all ages.

Gary Roen

Gloria's Bookshelf

The Wrong Girl
Hank Phillippi Ryan
c/o Tor/Forge
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780765332585, Hardcover, 364 pp., $24.99

In the opening pages of the newest book from Hank Phillippi Ryan, Tucker ("Tuck") Cameron contacts Jane Ryland to ask for her help in what has been a long quest to find her birth mother. Only acquaintances, the lives of both women had taken them along somewhat similar, if negative, professional paths: Tuck had been fired from her job as a reporter at the Boston Register for sleeping with a source. Jane is now working at the Register, after having been an award-winning investigative tv reporter before she lost her job for refusing to give up a source. Her job at the Register is a somewhat shaky proposition, what with all the paring down of personnel at newspapers around the country. The two had only worked together at the paper for about two weeks, but Tuck doesn't know where else to turn.

Seeking to find the truth about her birth parents, Tuck had years ago gone to Brannigan Family and Children Services, the name her adoptive mother had given her. It had been a closed adoption, with the records sealed, but apparently her birth mother had now given permission for them to be opened. Tuck finally has the information she is so desperate to acquire. We quickly meet some of the personnel at the Brannigan, whose theoretical purpose is making connections and putting families together. But now Tuck has reason to believe that her newly found mother has been sent the "wrong girl" of the title. And soon things take a sinister turn as two of the people at the Brannigan are found dead. And more deaths swiftly follow.

Initially the p.o.v. was constantly and quickly changing and revolving among the lead characters, with many balls in the air at one time. That was a bit dizzying in the early pages, less so as the story picks up speed and suspense, which it quickly does. Jane is still ambivalent about her romantic attachment to Jake Brogan, the cop who is assigned to investigate the deaths that take place, and they still find that their respective professional obligations make any relationship difficult. The investigation takes many unexpected turns, and the suspense is well-sustained throughout.

I have loved all of this author's previous novels, especially the last one, "The Other Woman," which introduced Jane Ryland and set a high bar for its follow-up. "The Wrong Girl" is a fine addition to the series, and it is recommended.

Like This For Ever
S.J. Bolton
Bantam Press
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780593069165, $14.39 (hc); $16.40 (pb),

The current obsession of Barney Roberts, a bright young boy with OCD, is something with which many in London are currently preoccupied: Five boys his age had disappeared in the last five weeks in South London, where Barney himself lives, their bodies turning up soon afterwards with their throats cut. And as the book opens, the bodies are being found more and more quickly, the killer seemingly escalating. Barney's den is covered with posters, maps and photographs about each boy, his kidnapping, and his death.

The police investigation is headed up by D.I. Dana Tulloch, of Lewisham's Major Investigation Team. Sure of only one thing, that the killings will continue, they have no clues. And someone, perhaps the killer, is taunting them online. On the periphery of the investigation is D.C. Lacey Flint, still recovering from the horrific event of her last case, in the aftermath of which she is still seeing a psychiatrist twice a week, fighting her own demons, unsure of whether or not she still wants to remain a policewoman.

Barney is the youngest of a small group of kids (five boys and one girl) who are brave, and foolhardy, enough to do some investigating of their own. He also happens to live next door to Lacey Flint. One day he works up the nerve to ask her to help him find his mother, who apparently left several years ago, when he was four years old, and he is determined to track her down, going so far as to use all his meager wages working for a newsagent to run anonymous classified ads in very methodically and geographically plotted newspapers in London and beyond.

The novel is but the newest of several suspenseful books from this author, and characters, plotting and tension seen in her prior work are fully present here. The reader is never more than guessing at the possible identity of the killer, as are the detectives whose work is detailed here, knowing that if they do not succeed another boy will die. Obsession is a constant theme. This is another winner from S.J. Bolton, and is recommended.

Twilight is Not Good for Maidens
Lou Allin
Dundurn Press
c/o The Dundurn Group
3 Church Street, Suite 500
Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M5E 1M2
9781459706019, $17.99 (pb),

The title of this newest book in the Holly Martiin series derives from a Victorian children's poem, circa 1862, entitled "Goblin Market." This is only one of several poetic references mixed in with the frequently poetic writing found here.

The title soon strikes a cautionary note. In its early pages, a girl in her late teens is assaulted, in what one would think is the peaceful parkland and the surrounding area of French Beach on the "wild south coast" of Vancouver Island, apparently known as "Canada's Caribbean." Similar incidents soon occur, and Holly Martin's tiny RCMP police detachment in Fossil Bay is nearly overwhelmed by the apparent fact of a predator on the loose: "The odds of solving this assault were slim to none. Endless beaches surrounded by wilderness was big territory for three people and a communication system on a par with smoke signals."

Holly is a terrific protagonist. She lives with her sixty-something father, a professor of popular culture at the University of Victoria, and Shogun, her rescue border collie, a 44-pound half-Karelian bear dog She has her own demons: trying to find the answer to her mother's disappearance ten years earlier, still haunting Holly and her father.

This US reader found several terms here that were totally unfamiliar, e.g., "inuksuk," "erabliere," and the use of the word "nosed" to indicate "smelled." Expanding one's vocabulary to include vernacular of neighboring countries is always a good thing, to be sure. The wonderfully detailed descriptions of a culture and of geographical areas unfamiliar to most Americans and Europeans are certainly a plus in this well-wrought mystery/police procedural, which has an unexpected and suspenseful conclusion.


Board Stiff
Elaine Viets
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780451239853, $23.95, 272 pp.,

Elaine Viets' newest entry in the Dead End Job Mysteries begins shortly after her protagonists, Helen Hawthorne and Phil Sagemont, have gotten married and started a private detective agency out of their condo office in Riggs Beach, Florida, a beach town just south of Fort Lauderdale.

Helen and Phil, now in their mid-40's, with a reputation as the best private eyes in South Florida, are hired to work undercover for a paddleboard rental concession owner in Riggs Beach, where he needs help finding out who is behind the vandalism and sabotage at his business, theft of his equipment, and competitors who seem to really want to put him out of business. The couple accepts the job, Helen feeling that "I'm getting paid to sleep late and sit on the beach," and Phil that he can get paid while sitting drinking beer with some guys on the beach trying to gain their confidence and information, seemingly a win-win situation.

The crimes have been reported to the authorities, but they are convinced that no "official action" can be expected in a town like Riggs Beach (known as Rigged Beach since Prohibition days and rumored to be fairly uniformly corrupt). Their client's problems multiply exponentially when a female tourist, one of his clients, tragically dies; he is threatened with revocation of his license and the City lease on his valuable beach property, as well as a wrongful death lawsuit by the victim's husband. Helen and Phil are tasked with proving their client was blameless in her death.

Things become more complicated, on a more personal level when a situation regarding Helen's sleazy ex-husband, thought dead, comes back to haunt them, almost literally, affecting their marriage and their partnership, and overshadowing the case they are trying to solve.

Ms. Viets always manages to come up with a good old-fashioned mystery, which, while containing a murder or two, is more lighthearted and contains less blood and gore than many others in the genre, and is a decidedly pleasant way to spend a summer, or even late summer, day. It is, as were the prior books by this author, recommended.

Liza Marklund
Emily Bestler Books/Atria
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781451606973, Hardcover, 369 pp., $26.00,

Liza Marklund's newest book opens with scenes detailing more than one instance
of marital infidelity (a recurring theme), followed in short order by the firebombing of a house where a woman and her two small children reside. The woman is Annika Bengtzon, a reporter for Sweden's Evening Post and the protagonist in this author's earlier novels. Then, in the next scene, the police discover the body of a murdered man, and find his wife apparently in a state of shock, in an adjacent room, murmuring something about "the other woman" who had killed her husband and taken the couple's young son. (The woman is police officer Nina Hoffman, also a character in Ms. Marklund's prior novels.) The police, however, find no evidence of the son's presence, nor that of any alleged "other woman." And that's just in the opening pages. As one might expect, after that kind of beginning, calling this novel a "page-turner" doesn't begin to do it justice. Soon after I started reading, what I had guessed were 10 pages read were actually 50; I cannot say I finished the book in one sitting, though - it took two sittings, within 24 hours.

The murdered man was a perceived "supercop" widely admired and one of the best-known police officers in Sweden; his wife, Julia, is the prime suspect. The two women, Julia and Anna, are closely connected, close friends having both entered the Police Academy nearly a decade earlier and both serving for years as neighborhood police officers in Stockholm. Scenes alternate between the two plot lines and the two protagonists, Annika and Nina, often within the same chapters (which I sometimes found a bit disorienting). The investigations of both crimes take unexpected turns, and develop another recurring theme, as stated by the author: "Was there any hope for humanity at all with so much evil everywhere?" and "If everything's going to hell, I think human beings are capable of absolutely anything." As Annika's own investigation continues, she is told: "Are you really sure you want to know? Are you willing to pay the price of knowing? Believe me, it isn't worth it." But the reader surely will want to know, and the plot is carefully constructed and moves briskly along.

I read this novel having just returned from Stockholm (using a Stockholm-imprinted bookmark), and delighted in finding much familiar here. Beyond that, of course, the writing was terrific, the protagonists wonderfully well-drawn, and the book is recommended.
Lies at Six
Sarah Scott
Sarah Scott Books
P.O. Box 114, Ashford WA 98304
9780615827957, $16.99, 348 pp.,

Sarah Scott, formerly a TV journalist in Memphis and Atlanta originally from east Tennessee, follows the maxim to write what you know, bringing us Joanna Leland ("Jolie") Marston, on-air reporter for fourteen years, working in three newsrooms, ten years in Memphis at WTNW News [apparently now spoken of as the station Where Trash News Wins). Jolie chafes at what she perceives as a mind-set determined in any way to hold onto their viewers in the desired demographic, "keeping this town more scared than it needs to be," turning whatever news comes their way into something sensational enough to make their loyal viewers put down their forks and pay attention, thereby keeping the ratings growing. She feels the effects of constantly having to deal with the content, or lack thereof, of the stories she's told to cover and making them into something sensational. Finally unable to deal with what she perceives to be their pattern of "Lies at Six," she effectively blows up her career with an on-air rant, however justified it may have been.

Divorced at 23, Jolie is now 36. Fast upon the heels of her firing, a truly sensational event takes place: The murder of Ellis Standifer, respected former Mayor of Memphis, and a dear friend and mentor to Jolie Marston. Despite the fact that she is no longer employed, she tries to find out whatever she can about the murder through her contacts at the police department and otherwise, to little avail. But then some information comes her way, and she determines to try to find the story behind the murder of her friend, with no idea where or to whom it will lead.

Threats start to come her way as well to those who have been assisting her in her investigation. Despite the fact that she had come to love her riverside city, she feels she must leave, returning to her home town of Singleton, in East Tennessee, where she had first met and come under the influence of her friend, Ellis Standifer (although "she usually described her hometown to people as the place where the fire station had been burned and the sheriff's department had been busted for bootlegging."). Her family welcomes her back into the hearth; she even finds that her mother had become willing to "overlook her [ex-]boyfriend's Jewishness." (The hostility toward inter-marriage raises its ugly head more than once.) She soon learns more than she had bargained for, as some old secrets come to light, as well as hints at corruption at the highest level, with unexpected sources being a couple of women who were very close to the great man, and one enigmatic old-world gentleman keeping long-held secrets.

The tale initially proceeds at a pace befitting the deep South, but soon amps up that pace with the mounting suspense of trying to find a killer, taking unexpected twists and turns in the process. A recurring theme seems to be that "there is no such thing as truth. Not when it comes to the past. Just different versions of it." It is amazing how so many disparate situations reveal that to be true.

I was thoroughly intrigued by Jolie and her tale, and her depiction of the old (and new) South (including the old family recipe for mint juleps!), and look forward to where Ms. Scott will take her next.


Gloria Feit

Gorden's Bookshelf

The Original Alibi, A Matt Kile Mystery
David Bishop
Telemachus Press, LLC
5380 Gulf of Mexico Drive, Suite 105
Longboat Key, FL, 34228
9781938135491, $4.99 ebook

The Original Alibi is a contemporary Noir detective novel. What makes it interesting is that it reads more Noir style than most classic Noir detective tales. The story is fun but there are times when the Noir writing style feels forced. This is most noticeable in historical references. The story itself seems to be relatively contemporary in setting but some of the historical details referenced for the individual characters date back to the 1950s to the 1930s. If you like the Noir detective with a dash of Mickey Spillane's sex and hard edge, you will enjoy this story.

Matt Kile is a detective who just wants to write novels. Axel, Matt's houseman and newly released convict, arranges for a meeting with a lawyer about a detective job. The lawyer is offering a thousand dollars just to listen to the case. Axel convinces Matt to take the meeting. The lawyer is the representing retired General Wittaker, a very wealthy and powerful man. The General is dying and wants to find out if his grandson killed his pregnant girlfriend eleven years earlier. The General was coerced into paying for an alibi for his grandson and wants to find out the truth before he dies. The cast of suspects spans the General's daughter, grandson, staff and possible unknown criminals. Matt soon finds out that nearly every suspect has a motive and each uses everything they can to stop Matt from finding out who the killer is before the General dies.

If you enjoy the gritty Noir detective style, you will enjoy this book. Bishop's writing style is a little over the top but the whole story stands up well and the mystery is solid. The sex, violence and overall grit add a nice layer to the mystery. The Original Alibi is recommended for when you need a dash of Noir in your weekend.

Maids of Misfortune: A Victorian San Francisco Mystery
M. Lousia Locke
Amazon Digital Services
9781449925031, $3.99 ebook

This is a nice cozy murder mystery set in San Francisco in the late 1800s. The main protagonist is a struggling upper class widow trying to solve the murder of a friend. Much of the story focuses on the class distinctions of the time and the social and financial problems of women. The details have a near accurate feel to them but the story is lacking the intimate touch of other writers who have commented on the historical class distinctions in their writing. It is hard not to compare the story with Jack London's female character in The Valley of the Moon even if that story is a romance and not a murder mystery. Somehow London's story has a stronger feel of reality, possibly because he lived in the time period Locke has written about.

Widow Annie Fuller is living on the financial edge. She has inherited a San Francisco home and converted it into a boarding house. She pretends to be a fortuneteller to make ends meet. Growing up she learn about financial matters from her father and her using her social and business skills with her fortunetelling clientele has given her the needed income to keep her solvent. A client and customer Mathew Voss has died, a possible suicide. She doesn't believe it and decides to investigate as a maid in the Voss home. Her prodding raises suspicions of murder. The killer has to kill again to protect his/her identity and Anne's prodding soon puts her in the killer's sights.

Maids of Misfortune is a well written and researched cozy mystery. Any mystery reader will find the story fun and the class history of the Eighteenth Century illuminating. It is an easy recommendation for the cozy mystery reader or the history buff. It is a little tame for those who prefer the more visceral storyline of the contemporary action/suspense murder mystery. It is well worth the minimal cost of the ebook version.

S.A. Gorden, Reviewer

Howard's Bookshelf

The Venus Complex
Barbie Wilde
Comet Press
9781936964444, $14.95 paperback (232 pages), $4.99 Kindle,

Dark thriller The Venus Complex by Barbie Wilde begins with a bang when professor of art history Michael Friday crashes his car into a tree to kill his cheating wife. Escaping with a limp and a head injury that makes him less right than he ever was, as Friday recuperates he also degenerates, developing a dark and disdainful perspective on society in general and women in particular. Spurred by disturbing dreams and twisted sexual cravings, he seeks to forge a new identity - to "be somebody" - by seducing his victims and strangling them in the throes of passion. He makes his mark by arranging the women's bathed corpses in poses reminiscent of past painters who gave tribute to Venus.

Friday's first-person diary entries reveal a mixture of philosophy, in which he indicts society at every level, and action, through which he takes out his frustration by planning and perpetrating his erotic murder fantasies. As his crimes mount, he sets his sights on the ideal target, psychology professor Elene, who aids the local Syracuse police department in profiling violent criminals. Will she get away?

I love dark crime, and this is by far the darkest story I've ever read. I felt guilty for enjoying it so much. The Venus Complex is tense and fast-paced, dizzying in its bold perversion. But like a serial killer obsessed with his next victim, I could not turn away.

Best known as the female Cenobite in Clive Barker's movie Hellbound: Hellraiser II, dancer Barbie Wilde follows the tradition of Ellis's American Psycho and Oates's Zombie yet breaks new ground in the field of sadistic crime fiction. If you like the lurid and shocking, you'll love The Venus Complex. It's Dexter, without a moral code.

Book trailer:

Quicksand House
Carlton Mellick III
Eraserhead Press
9781621051008, $11.95 paperback, 240 pages,

Quicksand House, the latest bizarro novel from Carlton Mellick III, is a futuristic survival tale that ushers in odd but likeable characters Tick and his older sister Polly. Polly, like all girls, has antlers. They live cloistered in a nursery with their nanny and new baby grub-sister, Leech, and none of them have ever left. The children have never seen their parents before but hope to when they one day return.

When the food machines go kaput and their environs disintegrate, they must venture forth into the enormous house, which is filled with menacing "creepers" that appear only when the lights go out. Along the way they meet Darcy and Drool, who live in another failing nursery. Together they search for their parents in a house as huge a city, a home that is crumbling and which poses dangers at every turn. What they finally find is not what they expect, setting them up for the fight of their lives.

Quicksand House is longer than most of Mellick's 40+ works, and his best book yet, built solidly upon perfect classic story structure that simply happens to overflow with weird characters, settings, and events, as with all of Mellick's fiction. Billed as "a survival horror rendition of Flowers in the Attic," Quicksand House is apocalyptic and dystopian, yet thoughtfully nostalgic, positive, and even hopeful.

Can you find the parents you idealized as a child? Maybe not, but perhaps there's something better waiting in the future - for as long as the future lasts.

Lee Allen Howard, Reviewer

Janet's Bookshelf

Salvation Jane
Ann Massey
4900 LaCross Rd, North Charleston, SC 29406
9781456506223, $9.58 (PB); Kindle $2.99;

If your name is Jane and you aren't beauty pageant material then inevitably the rhyming prefix of 'Plain' is bandied about by less than sensitive acquaintances. It is though, unusual to have 'Salvation' coupled with 'Jane' unless that's what you are into. The lead character of Ann Massey's new book, Salvation Jane is a young woman, Jane Patterson, who doesn't start off in the salvation business but through unavoidable contact with those society classifies as less-fortunate-than-ourselves or dependent on your point of view, social-welfare-cheats, she becomes the real deal; a supplier of help and haven to the homeless and hopeless.

Salvation Jane is an unusual likeable story; difficult to slot into a genre - on the one hand it is a funny appealing story of an innocent young woman's rites of passage, on the other, a peek into the life of a social/political activist.

So what's it all about? Jane Patterson, her uncle recently deceased, inherits his Perth, Australia hotel. Things haven't been going too well for Jane; her boyfriend has exited and as a parting gesture has emptied her bank account. Jane, convinced her inheritance will change not only her luck but her life heads for Western Australia's capital, Perth, mucho fast.

Arriving at the hotel, unexpected and as it transpires, unwelcome, Jane's expectations of a smart boutique hotel are shattered by the unbelievably dirty dump she walks into. Author, Ann Massey paints a convincing picture of a downtown hotel that may have seen better days but nobody can remember when. The odours of grease, urine and other substances best not mentioned are freely available not only in the hotel's nooks and crannies but pretty much everywhere Jane turns. Disappointed but not downhearted, Jane figures all that's required is to throw out the equally smelly clientele and by the application of guts and a few dollars, her inheritance will morph into an up-market back-packer's hostel.

Jane's dream of money in the bank is shattered by the reality of the situation her late uncle's guests are in; with no money, no family and no place to go, her hotel is a bulwark between a faint semblance of home and a life lived under the bridges and back alleys of a big city. She becomes involved in their plight and determined to help, stands for parliament. Similarly to Australia's recently removed female Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, Jane encounters verbal abuse and dirty tricks as she struggles to become the people's representative in parliament.

Jane meets macho politician, Leonard Hardie, spunky and ambitious, his agenda includes cleaning up Perth's homeless problem by running them out of town... if they won't leave, then a spell in prison might change their mind. Don't know what it is about the profession of politics that brings out the worst in some men (happens a lot) but Leonard is an A-grade creep.

He's also really groovy and Jane is attracted to him but she can't desert her homeless mates (particularly the families with small children) and despite a tragedy, does what she set out to do - get them a fair deal (good on Jane).

Ann Massey is a talented writer who gives an insight into the lives of the homeless; marginalized by society, they do whatever it takes to survive - her novel, Salvation Jane is an interesting, realistic, funny and compassionate read. I liked it.

Havana Queen
James Bruno
Bittersweet House Press
P.O. Box 306, Canastota NY 13035
9780983764267, $13.99 (PB); Kindle $4.99;

Around four years ago, after holidaying in Mexico I caught a flight to Havana, Cuba. Mistaken for a North American, (I'm Australian) a week in Havana was way too long for me. My hotel room, windowless and expensive, the staff were surly; they didn't like North Americans but really liked North American money. I felt like a cash cow; it seemed like every Cuban I met or passed in the street expected a handout. Deciding to make the best of it, I tripped around and did meet some nice people, heard some great music and realized that Cubans were doing it tough. After the breakup of the Soviet Union the funding that allowed the Castro government to keep the revolution on track stopped. As a result, the government's charter to supply basic necessities to its citizens: food, shelter and health/education services began to falter quite badly. The future for Cuba's socialist revolution didn't and doesn't look good.

It was with great interest I picked up James Bruno's latest thriller, Havana Queen, for an update on how Cubans are faring. Unfortunately, not too well. Author, James Bruno is a guy who would know, as he was employed by the US State Department for twenty-three years, with some service in Cuba, and is a former diplomat and military intelligence analyst. His writing has the ring of verisimilitude about it; there were times when I was reading a chapter about events in Havana that I thought, 'Hey, how come I didn't know this had happened?' The answer: James Bruno is a good writer and these events were just part of the story; seemed real to me, though.

You get a lot for your money with Havana Queen - inside info on the workings of the FBI and CIA, spies and their modus operandi, past history of the Cuban revolution, current Cuban politics and street life, insight into US Cuban born dissident organizations, all wrapped up in a rattling good yarn which stars FBI agent, Nick Castillo and his nemesis/hot chick, soon-to-be-head-honcho-of-Cuba, Larisa Montilla.

Spies on both sides, Cuba and the US are winding up dead and nobody knows why. The FBI and CIA, taken by surprise (you get the feeling that both these agencies spend a lot of time being surprised) decide to work together to uncover the whys and wherefores of the murders. Nick is teamed with CIA agent, Kate. Nick's sure he's not getting the whole story from ice maiden Kate in regard to the CIA's interest and action plan to solve who is behind the assassination of Cuban agents in the US.

Nick and Kate don't get on and he starts to paddle his own canoe. A canoe that finds Nick beached in a Cuban jail; his jailor, the disturbingly beautiful but more than likely evil, Larisa Montilla, President-elect of Cuba as soon as octogenarians Fidel and Raul quit the earthly revolution for the commune in the sky.

Luckily for Nick, Larisa fancies him big time and he is removed from prison to join her in her mansion. Nick is attracted to Larisa but is alarmed by her kinky sexual practices. Agreeing to her demands though, is better than being water boarded and reluctantly he joins in, surprised and guilty to find that it's pleasurable. This on-again-off-again relationship continues throughout the story; Larisa and Nick's attraction becoming a powerful force which neither is able to explain or tame.

The story picks up pace when Nick makes contact with a Cuban rebel force. Escaping Larisa's clutches he joins the rebel band, becoming part of the guerrilla force dedicated to ousting the Castro regime. Washington wants him back; there are spies deep within US Government agencies and the combined forces of the FBI and CIA are stymied, Nick is needed.

One thought that will stay with me after reading Havana Queen is the lack of success or less charitably, stuff-ups that both the FBI and CIA have in identifying and bringing to justice any of the bad guys and gals. Might be time the American people took a look at their collective track record.

The plot zips along, Nick zigging and zagging with consummate skill, does what good guys always do, saves the Pres from trouble deep and lives to fight another day.

Havana Queen is a likeable, rip-roaring thriller written by an author, James Bruno, who knows how to merge a realistic absorbing account of life in Cuba with fast paced action into an exciting fun read.

Janet Walker, Reviewer

Karyn's Bookshelf

More Than This
Patrick Ness, author
Candlewick Press
99 Dover St., Somerville, MA 02144
9780763662585, $19.99,

Virtual and actual reality blur when a teen dies, only to awaken in the house he lived in as a young child. Both the house and surrounding neighborhoods are mysteriously abandoned. His parents and younger brother, kidnapped by an escaped convict at age 4, but later found, are nowhere in sight. A wide swath of the community has burned to the ground; remaining structures are crumbling. As the teen, named Seth, grapples with where he is and why he's still alive, an acutely contemporary, unsettling message emerges about intolerance and online escapism. The twisted, mutli-layered, sci-fi tale oscillates between Seth's present and past... or so he thinks. What is actually his past? And is this his personal eternal hell...or someplace even more sinister? Amid shocking twists and revelations Seth weighs whether he would reprogram his life, if he could. Can he accept what is real? Brilliant writing, masterfully exploring the choices people take when afforded an alternative course.

The Very Big Carrot
Satoe Tone, author and illustrator
Eerdmans Books for Young Readers
c/o Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
2140 Oak Industrial Dr. NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49505
9780802854261, $12.00,

Beautiful illustrations elevate the simple premise of this half-sized picture book. Six bunnies dig up a massive carrot and fantasize about what they might do with it. Turn it into an airplane and explore the skies? Or a boat on which to sail the seas? Or house in which to live? In the end, they decide that the best course is to eat it. The art is distinctive and finely detailed, sophisticated yet child-alluring with soft edges and a gentle palate of mostly orange and green shades. Sweet.

Animals Upside Down
Steve Jenkins, author and illustrator
Robin Page, author
Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
c/o Houghton Harcourt Mifflin Publishing Company
9780547341279, $24.99,

Different animals turn upside down for different reasons. Sometimes it's to lure prey. Striped skunks and stink bugs invert themselves before they spray. The fire-bellied toad's belly markings are a warning to predators. More than two dozen animals are featured this informative, yet somewhat starkly illustrated compilation. It does lots of pull tabs and lift-the-flaps and one double page bird pop-up. Great concept, but previous books by Jenkins and Page have had more to offer in their content and art.

Karyn L. Saemann, Reviewer

Katherine's Bookshelf

Kimberly Packard
goodmedia press
25 Highland Park Village, 100-810
Dallas, Texas 75205
9780988323742, $17.95,

Kimberly Packard has written an unusual mystery with a major suspect as the protagonist in her book, Phoenix.

Amanda Martin's boss and boyfriend, Josh, set her up as an unwitting accomplice while he and his partner embezzled funds from their company. By the time she discovers what they did; the men had fled and the police were after her. A tragic event gives her an opportunity to hop a bus and go after Josh. Join her on her journey and try to outguess her.

"Good looking girls don't get on buses like this unless they are running from something. So, what's the story? You catch your man cheating?"

This bus jockey Casanova had no clue how right he was. Yes, Amanda caught her man cheating, but not in the arms of another woman, although it wouldn't surprise her if infidelity was part of his crimes."

She ends up in the small, sleepy town of Phoenix, Texas. At least she thinks it is a sleepy, little town. Mandy, as she is called in Phoenix, gets a job as a reporter and general office worker at the local newspaper. She discovers an old mystery and decides to try to find out 'who dun it'.

As she settles into the town, she puts her "other life" on hold. Is she going to go back to her search for her old boyfriend to clear her name or is she just going to sit back and enjoy her new life? This is a book that you definitely cannot leave on the bookshelf at the store.

Kimberly Packard received a degree in journalism from the University of North Texas and worked in public relations and communications for nearly 15 years. She is Vice president of her writers group, Greater Fort Worth Writers. She is an avid rollerblader, a devotee of yoga and a voracious reader. She lives in North Texas with her husband Colby, Jerome the cat and a 56 pound lapdog named Charlie.

A Wandering Warrior
Harry E. Gilleland, Jr
4RV Publishing LLC
PO Box 6482, Edmond, OK 73083
9780985266196, $18.99,

Harry E. Gilleland, Jr. is a master at writing about the Middle Ages. He conveys the lifestyle without being gory and sensational. In A Wandering Warrior, he tells a story of knights, barons, princes and the ladies they love. He tells of battles, trials on the field of honor and saving ladies in distress.

Thomas Beaumont is saved and brought back to health by a band of Travelers when he has been badly wounded in a battle. He then begins a quest to find and exact revenge on the killer of his brother. "Eagerness and nervous energy filled him as he thought about his chance to avenge his brother's death at the hands of Mowbray."

In his travels, he comes across two noble ladies whom he rescues and delivers to their home in Yorkshire. This eventually leads him to other exciting, dangerous adventures and to his love, Emalda.

Due to dire circumstances, Thomas' life changes - some good and some bad changes. When he returns to Yorkshire from a battle, he finds that his love, Emalda has disappeared with her family, due to her being accused of theft. Thomas begins another adventure to find her. His travels lead him to more battles and eventually to finding Emalda; they marry and have a short time together. OK, no more spoilers. Read the book to find out what happens. You will be surprised.

Harry E. Gilleland was born and raised in Macon, Georgia and now lives in Shreveport, Louisiana with wife, Linda. Retired from a career as a Professor of Microbiology at LSU Health Sciences Center in Shreveport, he now devotes himself full-time to his writing. He writes poetry and prose as well as novels and novellas.

Grandpa Jack
Jeff Hampton
Tate Publishing
127 E Trade Center Terrace
Mustang, OK 73064
9181622951055, $17.99,

What if happenstance catapulted you into the national spotlight as a "third party candidate" for president of the United States? That is exactly what happened to Jack Dodger in Grandpa Jack by Jeff Hampton. Jack is an almost 70 year-old, retired man who just wanted to play cards with his friends in the back of his "retirement" barbershop business and spend time with his granddaughter, Wendy, dubbed by Jack as his "Little Blossom" and his constant canine companion, Blackie. What ensues is a sometimes funny, sometimes sad, sometimes passionate run for the presidency with a motley crew of people as advisors and the backing of the Golden Eagles, a national organization of senior citizens.

The campaign workers had to make decisions on a "platform", make plans on how and where to campaign and most of all pick a running mate for Jack.

"Jack did not like playing verbal games and initially he was uneasy with the implied meaning of the statement - that they had talked to a "real" contender. But Billy reasoned that they had indeed spoken to a candidate - even though she was just in grade school - and in truth they had not heard from others yet, though they had no idea who those others were."

With this accomplished, they began to campaign in earnest. The road to the White House was filled with surprises, meeting new people and winning them over to their way of thinking. How did Jack run his campaign? What promises did he make? What were the obstacles and rallying points? Will he make it all of the way to the White House and the Presidency? Read this stimulating and attention-grabbing take on the presidency to see what happens.

Grandpa Jack is a quick, enjoyable read. You will enjoy the premise put forth as well as the tale of this senior citizen hero. I know I did and I am looking forward to future books like this from Mr. Hampton.

Jeff Hampton has covered election campaigns and the civic and business leaders who have shaped the Greater Dallas region. His bylines have appeared in publications such as the Dallas Morning News and The New York Times. He is the author/editor of several regional and corporate history books. He is the co-creator of "The Last Cowboy" an award winning stage play. He now lives in old downtown Garland with his wife, LeAnn.

Hazardous Unions; Two Tales of a Civil War Christmas
Kat Flannery and Alison Bruce
Imajin Publishing
3715-14 Street NW
Edmonton, AB, Canada, T6T 0H9
9781927792322, $12.99,

Two very talented authors, Alison Bruce and Kat Flannery, teamed up to write Hazardous Unions; Two Tales of a Civil War Christmas, the story of twin sisters, Matty and Maggie Becker. The sisters are separated by unfortunate circumstances at the beginning of the Civil War. Each story is written by one of the authors.

Due to unfortunate circumstances, the girls are separated. Maggie goes to a southern locale and Matty goes to a northern locale. One major thing ties them to each other - the upbringing by loving and wise parents. In recalling their background as their stories unfold, they are both able to make a difference in the lives of the people they hold dear. They each solve a different mystery and, at the same time, fall in love. They also witness a form of racism within each of the families, reflecting the mores of the thinking of the north and the south.

The letter they write to each other reflects their feelings and indicates much about their lives and the times. They each begin their letters:


Dearest Matty,

I miss you more than I would ever have thought possible.

When we set out, I felt I was on a grand adventure. Then we reached St Louis. The city has changed since we were there together, travelling west with Mama and Papa. It isn't so much the landmarks that are different, though the city has grown. It is the climate. All around me I could feel a level of excitement about the coming war that was almost frightening. No one doubts that war is coming, but truly, sister mine, I wish they had read their history. What they are wishing upon themselves is not the glorious venture they all expect.


My Dearest Mag,

Much has happened since I last saw you. After you left Fort Leavenworth, General Worthington was ordered to volunteer at Camp Douglas in Illinois. We travelled by train, a most horrendous experience due to my motion sickness, and Mrs. Worthington was not happy to see me way laid for the entire trip. In between bouts of illness, Abigail, much to her mother's disapproval, read me Tamerlane and Other Poems, by Edgar Allan Poe. You know the one, it was Pa's favorite. Mr. Poe is remarkable, Mag, a real gem. I almost love him as much as Shakespeare. His words are that of a genius, and when I read them I can feel Pa around me.

I highly recommend this novel to Civil War enthusiasts, as well as to the reader who enjoys a well-written historical romance. It will hold your attention and is a quick read that you won't be able (or have to) put down until the end. The characters and the times are well depicted in this short novel by the two writers. If you like intrigue, mystery and romance, this book is for you.

Alison Bruce has an honors degree in history and philosophy. A Liberal arts education did prepare her to be a writer, however. She penned her first novel during lectures while pretending to take notes. She has authored mystery, romantic suspense and historical romance novels Kat Flannery's love of history shows in her novels. She is an avid reader of historical, suspense, paranormal, and romance. She lives in Guelph, ON, Canada with her three sons.

Kat Flannery has had her writing published in numerous periodicals. She's received her diploma for Creative, Freelance, and Business Writing. She is co-owner of Prairie Dog Publishing, where she devotes her spare time as head of Marketing and Communications. She has written two novels, CHASING CLOVERS and LAKOTA HONOR. When not writing, or spending time with her family, Kat's on the couch with a hot chocolate and a good book.

Katherine Boyer

Marjorie's Bookshelf

The Butterfly Mosque: A Young American Woman's Journey to Love and Islam
G. Willow Wilson
Atlantic Monthly Press
841 Broadway, New York, NY 10003
9780802118875, $24.00,

I have trouble these days getting interested in a book, but this one held my interest and was refreshing. It is written by a young American woman and takes place in the last ten years so it is very much in real time. Real time events and politics. Willow Wilson is raised by atheist parents, is educated at Boston University, is very much a product of her generation and a modern western woman. She is interested in the Middle East and its writers and studies Arabic at school. After graduation she lands a job at a school in Cairo where she confronts her attraction to Islam and eventually converts. Almost as soon as she arrives she meets Omar, her future husband, and has to come to terms with loving a man from a different culture. All of this unfolds in a series of essay like chapters. Refreshing is her insight and perspective not only of Egyptian culture but American also and how they compare and contrast. In the book we see how she comes to live with both in sort of an uncomfortable reconciliation. I loved learning about how her Egyptian family enfolds and protects her, about the women's car, about wearing the veil, about the real role of women in modern Islam. We come to experience how the repressive Egyptian military state operates, but we learn nothing of the Arab spring as it takes place after the book is written. She gives us insights into her love of Islam and why she converted which I found very helpful in understanding the modern Middle East and what is happening there. She's a good writer and has had articles published in the Atlantic Monthly, the New York Times Magazine and others. I think this is an important book for all of us to read and discuss.

Cairo: A Graphic Novel
G. Willow Wilson
DC Comics
1700 Broadway, New York 10019
9781401211400, $24.99,

I have not read a comic book since I was a kid but know that graphic novels are very popular now. I wanted to read this one because I heard Willow Wilson, the young American woman, who wrote the superb memoir, The Butterfly Mosque, about her life in Egypt and conversion to Islam, interviewed on The graphic novel was recommended as well as the memoir. I found the story line in Cairo difficult to follow because it was complex and filled with a few too many jinns and genies for my taste. However, the young characters were heroic in confronting both jinns and gangsters, who figure prominently in the story. The two main Egyptian characters looked a lot alike and both had first names starting with A so it was difficult keeping them straight. There a young American woman student who teams up with one of the Egyptians, and an Israeli female soldier who teams up with the other. There's another youth who gets saddled with the hookah and the jinn but I couldn't follow well what their role was in the story. The drawing was good, the writing very modern complete with the "f" word, guns and violence. This sort of tale is popular now. I'm not sure why. But I know the younger crowd will probably like this.

Marjorie Thelen, reviewer

Susan's Bookshelf

Gerald Patrick
B008VDMB1O, $9.99,

Genre: Fiction, Action & Adventure, Fiction, War & Military

About Gerald Patrick:Coming of age in tumultious times, Gerald Patrick has mixed life's experiences with an imagination and actuality to spin a tale of intrigue fullfilling a challenge to himself.

Conscripted into the United States Army in 1969, Gerald relates trials of being an infantry soldier from the jungles of Vietnam, to the post war street drugs that continue to plague our society today.

Raised by a single parent in Detroit, he credits the never quit attitude of the working class to move himself through life and strive to always do more.

Privatized into leaving a 28 year career as a public school maintenance woker, he began this personal endeavor while relocating to rebound from a career change.

As with true life's events, Gerald takes us through harrowing times of his characters and proves love and work combine to overcome the worst of times living presents.

About the book: Inside the unforgiving jungles of the Amazon rain forest a Bolivian drug lord and human trafficker, Eduardo Enrique, adds the daughter of a United States Congressman to his "collection" of women. Major Dominic Lopez, is tasked to lead a unique squad of Special Forces into the the mercenary protected jungle to extract the women from his clutches and end the tyranny perpetrated on the souls of innocent lives. Even when it appears the forces of nature turn against the commander, he finds the means necessary to assure the mission's success.

The book opens with Captain Lopez, U.S. Special Forces hiding deep in the Amazon jungle, watching - the object of his observations is Eduardo Enrique, Bolivian drug lord and human trafficker.

Eduardo is a self-made man, a man who has learnt his lessons in the school of life and hard knocks. Having built up his empire with the help of his lifelong friend Benito, he is now rich, living the life of a playboy feeling secure in the knowledge that he's surrounded by loyal staff and mercenaries, after all, is there anything money can't buy?

With the scars of his life visible for all to see, and never having been a handsome man, he learns the hard way that women will use him, take advantage of his money, but in the end, they leave. However, a man with his extensive resources at his fingertips is not going to let this interfere with his fun, there are ways round everything, you just have to apply your mind and eventually a solution becomes apparent.

Then a U.S. Representatives daughter, celebrating her graduation with friends goes missing on holiday in Cancun, Mexico, her disappearance draws the attention of those in high places and her name is added to an existing list of missing women.

Politics is a clever game, politicians are always looking for opportunities, never missing the chance to shine as a hero to the American people, to stand out and be remembered for doing good. This is one such occasion, and combined with the added accolade of being seen to make a stand against the world of drug smuggling, its importance cannot be missed. Soon those who are in charge are making plans and the newly promoted Major Lopez, a man who is already up to speed with the subject, is given the task of handpicking a team of top Special Forces operatives to join him in this mission.

Soon the team find themselves deep in the heart of Bolivia, far into the Amazon rainforest, their mission underway, aware that they will be facing danger, both from nature and the powerful drug lord whose domain they are about to enter...

Written by an ex soldier, the military detail in this book is extensive and fascinating. I found myself transported deep into this dangerous world by the author's highly descriptive writing and absorbing storyline in this action packed exciting epic novel.

Dark Lullaby
Mayra Calvani
Amazon Digital Services
B005UI7FOG, $0.99

A Dream Realm Awards Finalist, Mayra Calvani writes fiction and nonfiction for children and adults and has authored over a dozen books, some of which have won awards. Her stories, reviews, interviews and articles have appeared on numerous publications such as The Writer, Writer's Journal, Multicultural Review, and Bloomsbury Review, among many others. Represented by Serendipity Literary.

She lives in Belgium with her husband of 25+ years, 2 wonderful kids, and her two beloved pets. When she's not writing, reading, editing or reviewing, she enjoys walking her dog, traveling, and spending time with her family.

Visit her website at For her children's books, visit

About Dark Lullaby At a tavern one Friday night, astrophysicist Gabriel Diaz meets a mysterious young woman. Captivated by her beauty as well as her views on good and evil, he spends the next several days with her. After a while, however, he begins to notice a strangeness in her...especially the way she seems to take pleasure in toying with his conscience.

The young woman, Kamilah, invites him to Rize, Turkey, where she claims her family owns a cottage in the woods. In spite of his heavy workload and the disturbing visions and nightmares about his sister's baby that is due to be born soon, Gabriel agrees to go with her.

But nothing, not even the stunning beauty of the Black Sea, can disguise the horror of her nature...

In a place where death dwells and illusion and reality seem as one, Gabriel must now come to terms with his own demons in order to save his sister's unborn child, and ultimately, his own soul.

Tumbling into a second relationship straight after finishing one, is not a good idea, however who could have known that Gabriel Diaz, relaxing in a bar with an ex-girlfriend, would have his world turned upside down when the beautiful, mysterious Kamilah comes over and introduces herself, or could have foretold the incredible repercussions which were to follow.

From that night, they are inseparable, Gabriel is infatuated with Kamilah, and in turn, she seems fascinated by him. Although he is due to visit his sister for the birth of her baby, when Kamilah announces that she's decided to visit her homeland, Turkey, Gabriel decides to go with her.

When they arrive in Rize, Gabriel discovers another world, where things are not always what they seem, superstitions and folklore are rife and the locals appear strange and aloof, perhaps afraid...

They hike to Kamilah's remote cottage, high in the mountains, looking forward to a romantic holiday away from the world, but soon Gabriel discovers that things are not as they seem, the forest holds dark secrets. As the story unfolds, he finds himself doubting what he hears, or sees with his own eyes, even his sanity.

I loved this story, which started as a romance, then quickly evolved into a spine chilling horror, transporting you back to a land where folklore legends, based on truth are alive, and unimaginable creatures walk the earth.

Susan Keefe

Suzie's Bookshelf

Master's Pet - Master of Submission Book 6
Jan Bowles
Siren Publishing, Inc.
9781627405317, $4.99 ebook, 185 pages

Contemporary Romance

Three years ago, Cole Rossi saved Jessica Summers from destroying herself after her Master abandoned her to venture across the world. Through her dark days to find the light of living again, it was Cole that stood beside her until she realized she was worthy of finding love again.

Today, Jessica has turned into everything that Cole seeks in a dutiful submissive. Nine months ago, the two had gone through a collaring ceremony to pledge to love and commitment to one another. Jessica's perfect world is shattered, when she receives a call and learns her former Master, Quinn Sutherland, is back in town.

Quinn returned to his hometown to bury his father. He wanted to revisit Club Submission to see if any of his friends were around. When he comes into contact with his former friend Cole Rossi he is puzzled by Cole's hostile treatment of him.

When Quinn learns that Cole has taken over as Jessica's new Master he is determined that he can easily win Jessica back. Which master will Jessica serve? When Cole gives her an ultimatum and she refuses his command, will it be the end of their relationship?

MASTER'S PET captures the beauty and grace of talented author Jan Bowles. It is six in the highly popular MASTER OF SUBMISSION series. This review cannot rave enough at how impressed she has been with each offering she has experienced of Ms. Bowles. She feels privileged as having reviewed all titles in the series. For anyone who has ever wanted to learn more of the BDSM scene, there is no better author than Jan Bowles to educate your curiosity.

The Bodyguard - The Pleasure Club
Neila Carlyle
Cobblestone Press
B00E8JD7V8, Kindle $2.99, 29 Pages

Contemporary Romance

Chelsea Nelson wanted to live out her fantasy dream; it revolves around being a world famous singer, who was being stalked. To help protect her, she would require the services of a bodyguard. To turn her fantasy into a reality, she enlists the aid of The Pleasure Club. The Pleasure Club is an elite member's only group that specializes in offering their clients their ultimate fulfillment of their wishes.

Dean Peterson is the "bodyguard" who is assigned to protect Chelsea. Chelsea is rebellious in having her life in someone else's hands. When she tries to escape Dean, she endangers both of their lives. As punishment, Dean's BDSM side comes to light and he teaches Chelsea the consequences of disobeying a master.

Will the master be able to convince his submissive that he is the one who is complete control of her body?

THE BODYGUARD is an excellent addition to THE PLEASURE CLUB series. This reviewer has an addiction for THE PLEASURE CLUB series, with this new offering I am pleased to say that this newest title is worthy enough to stand with the other wonderful titles in this series.

Unmasking the Knight
Terri Lyndie
Amazon Digital Publishing
B00EZ85HA6, Kindle ($0.99),

Historical Romance

At the young age of sixteen, Ranulf and Gisella had lived a carefree existence. They enjoyed spending their time together exploring the forest and swimming in their secret secluded location. At that young age, Ranulf was assured that he could never love any other woman as he did Gisella.

When the king's army came Ranulf was torn away from Gisella and forced to fight in Viking attacks. Gisella was heartbroken when Ranulf failed to meet her at their secluded swimming location. She feared that something tragic had occurred to him.

Five years passed, and Gisella heart still called out to finding Ranulf. When a Druid priest insists she find a husband she knows that it will be impossible with the feelings she still holds in her heart for Ranulf. She knows if she refuses to select a mate that he will step in and do the matchmaking himself.

Unknown to Gisella, Ranulf returns to him homeland. Gone is the boy of sixteen, and in his place is a scarred, battle weary warrior. Ranulf hides his disfigured face from the world by wearing a mask. He knows that he can't return to Gisella for she deserves more than his scarred image can provide her.

When Ranulf learns that Gisella is seeking a mate, his heart breaks with that knowledge. Will he be able to keep his presence hidden from the love of his life, and give her an opportunity to offer her a chance to find a mate worthy of her love?

UNMASKING THE KNIGHT is Terri Lindies' debut novel. It is one that shows that Ms. Lyndie possesses exceptional writing talent. The romance world is happy to welcome her with open arms, for she has provided a story that rivets all the heartfelt emotions that true blue romance fans crave. I look forward to discovering more of Ms. Lindies' future works; I have a feeling she will quickly make a name for herself in the romance world!

Suzie Housley

Teri's Bookshelf

The Twins
Saskia Sarginson
Redhook Books
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017-0010
9780316246200, $16.00, 384 pp.,

Identical twins have a special bond. For Issy and Viola, they feel that life with their mother is perfect. Having attempted communal living, now just a single mom and her twin daughters are establishing a new life in a small Welsh town. It seems perfect especially when the twins develop a friendship with a set of identical twin boys. To all of them, it seems like fate has given them the unusual gift of a special relationship with identical twin girls meeting these identical twin boys.

The one constant in the universe is change. When the girls' mother sees a new life with a local widower who teaches math and his young daughter, the twins are not as excited as everyone else. Being that they are older, naturally the girls are expected to babysit the younger girl who is thrilled about gaining sisters. Issy and Viola really have no concept about taking care of anyone else. They have never seen babysitting in action. Their plan had been to meet with the boy twins. So how do they ditch the little girl? Their plan is to coax the young girl into a tree and to leave her there while they run off.

Frequently though, plans don't quite work out the way we plan. This one incident changed everything for everyone.

Many years later, Issy is working for an upscale magazine while Viola is still having difficulty with her haunted past and is being treated by mental health professionals. Unfortunately for Issy, new management at the magazine is not impressed with her artistic layouts and she quickly discovers herself unemployed with a generous severance package.

Issy decides to return to her home and to find the boys. Just because she is ready to confront the past, does not mean the others are at this same stage in their lives. Can Issy discover what is needed for Viola to heal?

The Twins is a haunting debut novel about relationships and unresolved childhood issues. With uneven pacing, the novel reveals the past interwoven with the present. What really happened?

Excelling in character descriptions makes this novel fascinating with truly visual traits for each person. The tale is bewitching with a realistic ending with many issues not neatly wrapped up in a package.

Inspired by her own experiences, Saskia Sarginson based this story on her own daughters, identical twins. She received an MA in Creative Writing at Royal Holloway after a BA in English Literature from Cambridge University and a BA in Fashion Design & Communications. She also wrote for women's magazines as a health and beauty editor as well as a ghost writer for BBC and Harper Collins. She resides in London with her four children.

The Twins is a different novel regarding twins and truly is a haunting tale of sibling love.

Dragon Bones
Lisa See
Ballantine Books
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
0345440315, $12.95, 350 pp.,

Building the largest dam in the world was a daunting task even for an immense nation like China. The creation of this humongous structure also involved the massive relocation of entire villages that were in the path as well as the permanent loss of any archeological artifacts that would be forever buried under tons of water. As with many massive dig sites, certain ancient objects mysteriously were not catalogued and disappeared to private vendors usually ending up at auction sites or private sales.

Liu Hulan is an Inspecttor in China's Ministry of Public Security and her former husband, David Stand. Their relationship suffered after the devastating loss of their daughter who died of meningitis. This loss coupled with their own personal guilt and insecurities caused this loving couple to split. However, even after five years, those around these two knew that they continued to have strong loving feelings for each other. Could working together rekindle their relationship?

David continued to live in China as an attorney from the United States solving problems for those who need assistance in the bureaucratic systems within and between the two nations. Liu Hulan and David have both been assigned the task of investigating the death of an American archeologist whose body was found downstream, severely beaten and decayed from a long river journey along one of the many construction sites along the soon to be built dam. Was he beaten before he died or did the river do the brutal damage to his body? Was it suicide, an accident, or murder?

Dragon Bones is an intricately woven tapestry combining mysteries, romance, legend, history, geography, with a riveting action adventure tale telling the inside story of the Three Gorges Dam in China and displaying just a small picture of the enormity of this project. The characters are each realistic revealing their strengths and weaknesses into a memorable story interlocking the history and legends of this area of China.

Lisa See is one of those authors where I read everything that she has ever written. Her stories are intense based on real history, well-researched, where the reader is literally with the main characters and making their personal choices as each page is revealed.
Somehow, I had purchased this book years ago and realized that I had not read it. Dragon Bones is an addictive reading story that constantly changes perspectives so that the reader does not see a linear story but an involved tale with multiple issues surrounding the introductory death. Lisa See beautifully wove a story that is informative, entertaining, and masterful.

Captain No Beard: An Imaginary Tale of a Pirate's Life
Carole P. Roman, author
9781478151708, $9.99, 40 pp.

Pepper Parrot's Problem with Patience
Carole P. Roman, author
978147811553, $9.99, 40 pp.

Stuck in the Doldrums
Carole P. Roman, author
9781479182701, $9.99, 40 pp.

Strangers on the High Seas
Carole P. Roman, author
9781480177222, $9.99, 40 pp.

4900 LaCross Rd, North Charleston, SC 29406

Living on an island as his home, Captain No Beard sails his pirate ship with his cousin, Halle, his monkey, Mongo, his lion, Linus and Fribbit who is a frog. With a child's imagination, a young boy turns his bed into a pirate ship complete with his visiting cousin and his stuffed animals. Through a variety of adventures, the crew quickly learns pirate and boat terms in order to survive their imaginary quests.

In the first book entitled, Captain No Beard, as they depart, the captain who has years before he sees a whisker along with his first mate learn the lingo of the pirate life and parts of the ship. Many vocabulary terms will need to be discussed as the story progresses for preschoolers to truly enjoy this imaginative and colorful story. The pictures perfectly match the storyline and reinforce the visualization for young and old alike. This particular book Captain No Beard: An Imaginary Tale of a Pirate's Life was the winner of Kirkus Reviews' Best of 2012 and won the star of remarkable merit as well as The Pinnacle Book Achievement Award of 2013 by Children's Indy Best.

In the second book in this series, Pepper Parrot's Problem with Patience a new member is added to the crew, Pepper, a parrot who is the cook. Learning the parts of the boat like port and starboard also reinforces a discussion of left and right. The use and word meaning of patience as well as a deep understanding of this word, continues the adventures of the nautical cruise.
Stuck in the Doldrums: A Lesson in Sharing is the third book in this series. Power goes to the captain's head with the problem of controlling others. Quickly, the captain learns about what it takes to lead his crew.

With the fourth book, Strangers on the High Seas, Captain No Beard, Cayla joins the crew as the cabin girl. Cayla is a young child still in diapers and does not completely understand this imaginative pirate adventure. The group encounters a black sail ship commanded by Barnabas, the scurvy dog. The lesson in this book is learning to value each person.

In each small book, the illustrations are picturesque descriptions of each story and event allowing reinforcement of the vocabulary along with the story. The vocabulary in all four books possesses many nautical terms as well as words that are not common for preschoolers. These books are perfect for early readers and preschoolers. The short stories are perfect for limited attention spans. The true value of these short gems is unquestionably the life skills that are quickly and concisely taught as the
story progresses.

Carole P. Roman as a former teacher and businesswoman who has now turned her talents to writing and illustrating while residing in Long Island.

These books are gems with the winning combination of a simple story complemented by wonderful illustrations with an enriching vocabulary and a life lesson while being creative and imaginative.

No Mark Upon Her
Deborah Crombie
William Morrow & Company
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780061990625, $13.99, 369 pp.,

Anyone who competes at any level in the Olympic trials tends to be an outstanding athlete. These are the rare few that physically are able to outshine the rest of us and to become a legend. Rebecca Meredith was one of those rare individuals.

She was considered to be an Olympic contender in rowing years ago but because of a reckless choice, a broken wrist left her not being able to compete. She created a new life for her after that incident, marrying, and divorcing while developing a career in law enforcement as a high-ranking detective in London. Untypical of most, her former husband has remained a close friend even through the dissolution of their marriage.

Now Becca has made the commitment to compete again in rowing as an individual athlete. Daily she practices on the Thames pushing her body to extreme limits with her goal of Olympic gold while she plans to minimize her duties with law enforcement.
Her last practice on the river was last night and so far people are becoming concerned because she is missing. Unlike her, she has not called into work or returned her boat. Immediately, local K-9 search-and-rescue teams are called out to search along the river for any clues. Eventually body is found in the river. How could an athlete of her level drown?

This begins the search into Becca's life, the good, bad, and the revealing personal little secrets that everyone hides.
Leading the investigation, is Duncan Kincaid who recently has agreed to adjust his work schedule for his family with the adoption of a daughter. Duncan's wife, Gemma James who also works in law enforcement and the two of them hope to rotate with having one parent at home and one working while their young child adjusts to a new life. Unfortunately, plans are difficult to always succeed with a job that doesn't have set hours.

Gemma is asked to also assist in an investigation that is completely unrelated to Duncan's. Balancing home and work also is quickly overlapping.

No Mark Upon Her is riveting. By alternating the perspective as the investigation progresses, the reader receives a more realistic and almost a desperate aspect of both cases. The feeling is one of circling the actual crimes with sometimes spiraling and at other times drawing concentric circles around the investigations. This style creates an engrossing quality to the story.

Even though No Marks Upon Her is part of a series. This easily could be read without any prior knowledge of the characters and their relationships.

Deborah Crombie is a Texan who has spent extended periods of time in England. She has won numerous awards including the Mactavity Award three times, been nominated for an Edgar, and is a New York Times Notable author.

No Mark Upon Her is a memorable novel about law enforcement realistically balancing family and career in an engrossing mystery that is difficult to predict but easy to appreciate from this masterful storyteller.

Teri Davis

Theodore's Bookshelf

Best Kept Secret
Jeffrey Archer
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9781250000989, $27.99, 373 pp.,

The saga of the Clifton and Barrington clans resumes in this novel, just after World War II. It opens with the controversy on just who should win the Barrington title and fortune. A tie vote in the House of Lords is broken by the Lord Chancellor's vote in favor of Giles Barrington, while Harry Clifton is left to marry Emma Barrington. Between Giles and Emma, they own 22 per cent of the Barrington shipping line. Harry goes on to become a successful mystery novelist.

Politics, of course, plays an important part in the plot, with Giles having to run for reelection after previously squeaking by with a handful of votes. Of course, as the author is a former member of the House of Commons and the House of Lords, the subject should dominate his prose, and does. The chronicle continues to reflect the development of the next generation in the form of the Clifton's teenage son, Sebastian, laying the groundwork for the next book in the series, with a cliffhanger ending.

There is no doubt that Mr. Archer writes novels with fully developed characters and plot twists to keep the reader turning pages. Introducing some dangerous situations, and characters such as the Lady Virginia, to who Giles is briefly married, can strain one's credulity. However, he probably can be forgiven because it usually sets the stage for some ensuing action or incident further on, and the book is recommended.

Mad River
John Sandford
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780425261316, $9.99, 432 pp.,

The chase is on. Non-stop.

Virgil Flowers, the top investigator for the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, takes on another weird case when a murder is discovered, followed by a trail of several more. It quickly is determined that three young people are on a murder spree, and just about everyone in law enforcement, with reinforcements from the National Guard, is deployed to find them before another person is killed.

The plot involves locating the perpetrators with sub-plots occupying some of Virgil's analytical thinking. Not much is in doubt as far as the story is concerned, just an exciting chase. There could even be a western movie or a television show in its future.

Mr. Sanford knows how to write a crime novel, and keeps the pace moving forward to keep the reader's interest. There really are few twists to the novel, which is more or less, in straightforward fashion, an exciting police procedural.


An American Spy
Olen Steinhauer
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9781250036974, $9.99, 544 pp.,

This final novel in the trilogy picks up after the slaughter, in the previous novel, of 33 "tourists" engineered by the Chinese spymaster, Xin Zhu, head of the Expedition Agency of the Sixth Bureau of the Ministry of State Security, setting the stage for a complicated plot in which Milo Weaver, one of the few surviving "Tourists," is a reluctant participant. The ensuing events are like a chess match played blindfolded.

The Tourists department of the CIA is shut down in the aftermath of the slaughters, and its chief of six months, Alan Drumond, and Milo are unemployed and seeking jobs. But Alan can't let go and comes up with a scheme to "get" Xin Zhu and revenge what has happened. This sets off a chain of events causing each participant to make moves and countermoves without really knowing what the game really is all about. Nor does the reader.

All in all, the trilogy is a wonderful work, and this novel caps the previous two by being even better-plotted and -written. The characterizations are marvelous and the unexpected twists in the plots sometimes ingenious. The insights into the way the Chinese Republic is governed, and the minds and machinations of its officials, is worth every struggle the reader has with the myriad number of names and the devious plotting of the principals. By all means go out and get a copy and read this fine work.

Highly recommended.

Robert B. Parker's Fool Me Twice
Michael Brandman
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780425261286, $9.99, 320 pp.

In the second Jesse Stone novel not written by the series creator, the same characteristics of the originals are on view: a major plot line with a couple of minor sub-plots, Jesse's quips and sardonic humor, short sentences and the like. Not that it should be compared to Robert B. Parker's efforts. As with the first novel by the author to continue the series at the publisher's request, "Fool Me Twice" should be judged on its own merits and, suffice it to say, it does keep the reader turning pages.

To begin with, Paradise, MA, where, of course, Jesse is Chief of Police, is selected as the site for the filming of a motion picture, creating all the complication that an influx of Hollywood personnel and equipment demands. However, the two minor themes present us with a new insight into Jesse's character. One is ecology, and the world's problems with water shortages; the other is his attitude toward juvenile behavior, taking it upon himself to educate and allow a teenage girl to learn more about herself and her apparent poor attitudes toward society.

One can question whether the Grand Master would have raised the questions brought forward by the subplots, much less the conclusion of the novel, which ties all the loose ends together. However, that should be of no concern in judging a novel on its own worth. Is it a good read? Is it well-written? Plotted well? And this book is substantially all of that, and is recommended.

Target Lancer
Max Allan Collins
c/o Tor-Forge
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780765361479, $7.99, 320 pp.,

There are so many conspiracy theories about the assassination of President Kennedy that another one hardly is necessary. Except that this entertaining mystery novel is not only entertaining, but actually based on a little-known event that took place in Chicago, days before Dallas. It is another in the Nate Heller series, all of which are based on some historical occurrence, such aske the Lindbergh kidnapping, the assassination of Chicago Mayor Cermak (when the real attempt was meant for FDR), Huey Long, and the death of Marilyn Monroe.

In each, detective Heller plays a key role to unveil the "facts" of the case. In "Lancer," the code name for JFK, a little know assassination attempt on his life is recounted, eerily similar to the one that took place in Dallas. All the elements of the well-known conspiracy theories, e.g., the Cuban connection, the CIA, the Mob, are all present in this book, with Heller involved each step of the way.

By including real life persons, such as Sally Rand, actual Secret Service personnel, Bobby Kennedy, Jimmy Hoffa, Lee Harvey Oswald, Jack Ruby and others, alongside fictional characters, the author creates a bona fide flavor to the tale. The narrative flows smoothly, the dialogue is sharp, and the book is recommended.

Little Green
Walter Mosley
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780385535984, $24.95, 194 pp.,

Apparently, the author got tired of Easy Rawlins six years ago, and had him drive over a cliff on the Pacific Coast Highway in what was either a possible suicide attempt or an accident. But like Conan Doyle, he could not resist bringing him back to life in this fascinating novel, leaving it to Mouse to find Easy and then struggle to carry him up a mountain and to a bed in which Easy lay in a semi-coma for months. When, finally, Easy wakens, still weak, Mouse asks him to help find Evander, whom he calls Little Green, the 19-year-old son of an acquaintance.

It seems that Evander went up to the Sunset Strip, where he met a "hippie" girl, ingested LSD and ended up in possession of more than a quarter of a million dollars belonging to a gangster. Weak but fortified by a voodoo elixir, Easy finds the boy and then embarks on a beguiling journey to learn just what happened while Evander was in a drug-induced fog and to whom the money belonged, and then eliminate the dangers to the boy.

Walter Mosley's Easy Rawlins mysteries are in a class by themselves, featuring a black PI who is a survivor of the Battle of the Bulge and other World War II battles, in '60's LA just after the Watts riots when the area is rampant with mistrust and prejudice against the minority blacks, irreverent, well-read, and the father of 'found' children, one of whom who lives both inside as well as outside the law. It's wonderful to have him back after a too-long hiatus, and the novel is recommended.

A Conspiracy of Faith
Jussi Adler-Olsen, author
Martin Aitken, translator
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780525954002, $26.95, 504 pp.,

Carl Morck made his series debut in "The Keeper of Lost Causes." In reviewing the follow-up novel in the Department Q series, "The Absent One," I noted that it was quite different from the introductory book. It is more complicated, while the character of the protagonist and his assistant, Assad, essentially remain the same. And to spice things up, another "assistant" is provided to Morck, the head of the office devoted to solving cold cases. This time it is a female, Rose. The same set of characters appears in this newest entry in the series, the third translation into English, but we see a progression in the complexity of the plot construction.

The cold case which falls into their bailiwick occurs when a bottle floats into Scotland containing an almost illegible plea for help, apparently written in blood. It is determined that the message originated in Denmark, and it is sent to Copenhagen. The message is dated five years earlier and, decayed almost beyond recognition, offers few clues. But that doesn't stop the intrepid trio as they look into the case, leading them to a most unusual serial killer.

While the story is pulse-raising, the length of the novel is offputting and could have used some judicious pruning. Nevertheless, the interactions of the protagonist with not only his assistants, but also others in the Copenhagen police department, sometimes amusing, other times frustrating, soften the harshness of subject matter. Some readers might question Assad's almost superhuman ability to decipher the rescue plea and other of his abilities, but that is the nature of the character's appeal.


Dead Man's Time
Peter James
Minotaur Books
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9781250030184, $25.99, 407 pp.,

In the beginning we are introduced to Gavin Daly, a five-year-old boy sleeping in his parents' Brooklyn apartment when some men enter, shoot and kill his mother, and abduct his father, after which Daly and his sister are taken to the British Isles by their aunt. The tale opens ninety years after these acts took place in this latest D.S. Roy Grace procedural in Brighton, England. Now violence again occurs when the 92-year-old sister's home is invaded and she is killed. In addition, about 2 million pounds worth of antiques are stolen, and, more importantly, a valuable watch, practically the only remembrance of their father, is removed from a secret compartment in her safe.

Daly tells Roy he cares less about the antiques, but he wants the watch back. Thus begins an extensive investigation by Roy and his team, paralleled by one conducted by Daly and his son, Lucas. It leads to some intriguing developments, as the perpetrators turn up either murdered or beaten. Two incidental themes intertwine the plot: Roy is now married to his present love, Cleo, after his ex-wife's disappearance more than ten years earlier, and they have a new baby boy, but the fate of his ex remains a conundrum; and a particularly nasty man Roy had sent to a long term in prison is released, vowing to take revenge.

Written in a lively manner in the author's trademark short chapters, the story moves back and forth between and among the characters, which are thoroughly developed. The plot is clever, and once again, Brighton provides an appealing backdrop to the story, supplemented by the streets of New York City, which sets the stage for both the beginning and end of the book.


Black Skies
Arnaldur Indridason, author
Victoria Cribb, translator
Minotaur Books
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780250000392, $25.99, 336 pp.,

With Erlendur traveling and incommunicado and Elinborg away from the Reykjavik police station, only Sigurdur Oli is left of the team to conduct police business. However, first he's asked by his good friend Patrekur to do him a favor. It seems that his sister-in-law and her husband got involved in wife-swapping, and now are being threatened with exposure if they don't pay blackmail money. Sigurdur Oli is asked to have a word with the female blackmailer, retrieve the pictures and get her off the couple's back.

When Sigurdur Oli goes to the blackmailer's home, he finds the door unlocked. When he enters he discovers her body on the floor and determines that she's been killed by a blow to the head. And then he's hit with a baseball bat, and the perpetrator runs out of the house. The policeman chases but loses his quarry. Thus begins a long and complicated plot which ultimately also involves a banking scandal and another murder.

The novel is pretty much a straightforward police procedural, and an intense look at Sigurdur Oli's personal life. It is a departure from other of the author's efforts, and certainly not as intense as "Jar City" or "Hypothermia." This reader can't tell whether it is the translation or the original prose which is different from the haunting style of the author's previous works. In any event, it should not be missed, and is recommended.

Robert B. Parker's Wonderland
Ace Atkins
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780399161575, $26.95, 306 pp.,

Well, Ace Atkins signed a contract for three Parker novels, but apparently he didn't agree to the tried and true formula. In this interesting book, he deviates from the usual cast of characters, concentrating on some of the background participants, like Henry Cimoli, proprietor of Spenser's gym, and his sort-of assistant-in-training, the Cree Indian Zebulon Sixkill ("Z"), sending Hawk away to Miami, and Susan Silverman to the Carolinas to teach for a semester. It's an interesting change of pace, contributing strongly to the plot's progression.

The plot revolves around the competition for a casino in Boston, with the usual strong-armed tactics, bribes, politicians and underworld interests. Henry, along with a lot of other senior citizens, lives in a condo on the beach in Revere near a bankrupt dog track named after its former occupant, Wonderland. The coop is a key plot of land giving the proposed casino site on the Wonderland site access to the beach. Physical pressure is put on the coop owners by thugs, and Henry asks Spenser for assistance. And it's Spenser and Z, off to the races.

Atkins has Parker's style down pat, and the dialogue and smart aleck cracks flash by regularly. Spenser remains Spenser and the chapters remain short although some of the paragraphs are longer than in the master's versions. While the conclusion turns out to be an old-fashion motive for some murders, it is entirely believable and appropriate, and the novel is recommended.

Paradise City
Archer Mayor
Minotaur Books
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9781250036230, $14.99, 320 pp.,

A Joe Gunther novel can be counted on for tight dialogue and a detail-oriented police procedural. That is the case in this latest addition to the series, which begins with a burglary in Boston. The investigation soon spreads to Northampton and Vermont, where a similar string of burglaries has taken place. What is strange, however, is that the usual targeted items such as TVs and computers are left behind, and only jewelry and silver go missing.

Somehow the Vermont and Boston capers are brought to the attention of Joe and his VBI team, and they follow a rumor that Northampton is a key to the mystery. So everyone convenes in the Massachusetts town and follow the trail.

As in the past, this book's characters are well-drawn, and the surroundings are pictured graphically and delightfully. The plot is finely drawn, although the conclusion is less than surprising. But Joe Gunther remains one of the more interesting protagonists around, and the novel is recommended.

(It should perhaps be noted that the author's newest novel, "Three Can Keep a Secret," is due out in October.)

Stuart Neville
Soho Crime
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9781616953027, $15.95, 368 pp.,

Starting with the historical fact that many Nazi war criminals escaped after World War II with fortunes stolen from their victims and became ensconced in various countries like Franco's Spain, Peron's Argentina and anti-British Ireland, Stuart Neville has created a first-rate mystery. The protagonist is a Lieutenant in the Directorate of Intelligence, Albert Ryan, who lied about his age to enlist in the British army and fought in the European theater, Egypt and Korea before returning home.

Ryan is asked at the behest of the Minister of Justice to investigate the murder of a German national, weeks before a pending visit by Pres. John F. Kennedy because he fears the publicity might force cancellation of the trip. The authorities are desirous of hiding the fact that the country is providing sanctuary to a bunch of Nazis. Ryan's efforts become more complicated than a mere murder investigation, and thereby hangs one helluva tale.

The title refers to escape routes by which Nazis were able to travel, avoiding detection, and the methods used to finance their travels to and establishment in new locations. While based on historical fact, more important is the plot, which twists and turns in wholly unexpected directions. And the character study of Ryan is deep and penetrating. Another top-notch novel from this author, and highly recommended.

Onion Street
Reed Farrel Coleman
Tyrus Books
c/o F&W Media
10151 Carver Rd., Ste. 200, Blue Ash, Ohio 45242
9781440539459, $24.95, 289 pp.,

After seven novels in the Moe Prager mystery series, a retrospective is in order, especially after Moe has undergone surgery and chemotherapy for stomach cancer. The occasion follows the funeral of a boyhood (and best) friend, after which his daughter, visiting from Vermont, asks him why he became a cop, and what follows is a story by itself.

Moe looks back to events in 1968 when he and his friends were attending Brooklyn College. The Vietnam War was raging, radicalism was in the air, and Moe was at loose ends. One night his girlfriend is found in a coma on the street, apparently having been viciously beaten, and suddenly Moe has a mission: to find the man who beat her up, taking him on a journey that later led him to become a policeman and PI.

It is a hard-boiled tale involving all the worst elements of the period, bomb-throwing radicals, dope pushers, rotten cops and the like. It also is a deep moral story involving right and wrong. The humor of past Moe Prager novels is missing from "Onion Street," but that is completely understandable: it is not a light-hearted subject with deaths strewn along the way. And some of Moe's various actions can be questioned, while his intentions are always honorable. All in all, it is a very human saga, and we get to know Moe a lot better in a serious way. Recommended.

A Delicate Truth
John le Carre
Viking Press
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780670014897, $28.95, 310 pp.,

In the present atmosphere of clandestine operations, the result of which the public has been ill-informed and too often kept in the dark, John Le Carre has fashioned a novel built around a bungled black op covered up for three years. The story begins with the hatching of "Operation Wildfire," comprising British special force soldiers and American mercenaries employed by a private company. The aim is to capture an arms dealer who, according to intelligence, is to visit the British colony of Gibraltar.

A Foreign Office functionary is selected to be the on-the-spot eyes-and-ears for a minister of Her Majesty, nominally in charge of the operation. Like many such actions, it results in failure, but is declared a total success, despite the fact that two innocents are killed and the subject never captured. Three years later, various persons, directly or tangentially, separately begin to question the silence and attempt to uncover the facts. The promised "transparency" never seems to arrive.

After a somewhat muddled beginning, in which Mr. Le Carre jumps all around, a bit confusing to the reader, he begins to move the plot straightforwardly and with dispatch. The author raises the basic question of right and wrong, also lambasting the use of private armies to wage "little wars" around the globe and old boy networks where mistakes are covered up and witnesses bought off. A topic that is, unhappily, very timely.


The Dying Hours
Mark Billingham
Grove Atlantic
841 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9780802121486, $25.00, 400 pp.,

As a result of his importune actions in the previous novel in the series, "Good As Dead," Tom Thorne finds himself demoted to uniform duties, while remaining an inspector. You can put him in a patrol car, but you can't take his analytical and detecting abilities away. So, when several senior citizens are discovered to have committed suicide, Tom sniffs a different story: murder.

But when he tries to convince a detective on the Murder Squad about his analysis, he is ignored. So Tom Thorne, being the person he is, goes about it on his own, without the tools or assistance needed, relying on friends to chase down whatever information can help identify the murderer, jeopardizing not only his own position as a policeman, but theirs as well.

Thorne is an enigma: A talented detective, he defies the standard demands and set ways of established police methodology. This novel is the 11th in the series (Mr. Billingham has also written two standalones), all well-written page-turners. "The Dying Hours" is a welcome addition, and happily, according to an interview included at the end of this book the 12th is already in the works.

Free Fall
Chris Grabenstein
Pegasus Crime
c/o Pegasus Books
80 Broad Street, 5th Floor, New York, NY 10004
9781605984759, $25.00, 320 pp.,

Super Storm Sandy did a lot of damage to the Jersey Shore, but at least John Ceepack and Danny Boyle survived. After a short stint as Chief of Police, John hired his successor and became Chief of Detectives, a department of one. Danny, because of budget cuts, is reduced to patrol duty, except when John needs another "detective." And in this, the eighth in the series, the two are once again a team.

The gist of the plot is the death of a popular 94-year-old retired dentist. The possibility of murder rears its ugly head, and the list of suspects is several, including a potential love interest for Danny in forthcoming novels (John is now married), the dentist's two sons and daughter-in-law, and two health aides. To complicate matters, John's father, Joe Ceepack, turns up in town to operate a boardwalk ride, providing some element of drama.

The plots of the Ceepack mysteries are not overly complicated. The real asset of the novels are the charming characters, especially strait-laced John and his acolyte Danny and the amusing style of writing moving the tales ahead at a brisk pace. Always good fun, and recommended.

A Serpent's Tooth
Craig Johnson
Viking Press
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780670026456, $15.00, 352 pp.,

Now in his ninth appearance, Walt Longmire is confronted by dual adversaries when a homeless boy shows up on his doorstep. The youth, Cord Lynear, has been cast out of a Mormon cult enclave searching for his mother. Walt discovers that his mother approached the sheriff of an adjoining county, looking for her son. In attempting to reunite the two, Walt is unable to find the mother, leading him into investigating an interstate polygamy group, well-armed and with something to hide.

It is an intricate plot, one fraught with danger for Walt, his pal Standing Bear (also known as "Cheyenne Nation") and his deputy (and lover), Victoria Moretti. I felt Walt's overdone bravado, and the resulting violent confrontations, were a bit overdone. But that is Walt. And TV.

This entry in the Walt Longmire series, now also in a popular TV dramatic form about to enter its second season, appears to be expressly written to provide another episode. That is not to say it isn't another well-written novel with all the elements of the Wyoming sheriff's customary literary observations and acts of derring-do. It just seems to me that it's a bit too much of a manufactured plot with an overtone of a popular protagonist and his sidekicks. That said, the novel is recommended.

North of Nowhere
Steve Hamilton
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
Paperback, 259 pp., $14.99
9781250029249, $14.99, 259 pp.,

A reader can always count on vivid descriptions of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, Lake Superior, the weather, and similar environmental factors. To some degree, these all play a role in this tale. However, human greed and stupidity are the major components of the plot, which begins with Alex McKnight suffering from an apparent fit of depression. (It should perhaps be noted that this novel was written over a decade ago, now available for the first time in paperback.)

His friend, Jackie Connery, who runs the Glasgow Inn, Alex's usual hangout. drags him out of his cabin to fill in a slot in a poker game, which is soon invaded by three masked men who rob the host's safe and destroy a collection of artifacts. From this beginning, Alex becomes more and more involved in discovering the reason for the home invasion and with the help of his ex-partner (he still insists he is no longer a PI despite the fact that he continues his predilection for investigating every little thing) seeks to solve the mystery.

Written with Steve Hamilton's accustomed smoothness, the novel moves forward with the usual complications. As it progresses, the reader is kept off balance, and the conclusion is most unexpected.


Complex 90
Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins
Titan Books
144 Southwark St., London SE1 OUP, England
Katharine Carroll (publicity)
9780857684660, $25.99, 244 pp.,

This novel is based on an original manuscript written by Mickey Spillane, one of two entrusted "for safekeeping" to Mr. Collins shortly before his death. It was originally scheduled for publication in the 1960's, but never appeared. It is now made possible through Collins' collaborative effort.

Complex 90 is set during the Cold War, pitting one-man army Mike Hammer against the entire might of the USSR. It begins when he takes on a job as a bodyguard to protect a U.S. Senator during a party in his home. A gunman invades the home, shoots and kills another security person, a friend named Marley, and a bullet hits Mike in the thigh. Mike replaces Marley as the Senator's bodyguard on a trip to Moscow on a fact-finding tour. There Mike is arrested and taken to a prison, from which he escapes, killing 45 Russians, and, after two months, crossing into Turkey, where he gets on a plane to return to the U.S. Russia demands extradition, and Mike thumbs his nose. (All of this action transpires very early in the book.)

Will it be a major international incident, or will Mike overpower both the American and Soviet governments? Of course, the gore and sex which play a prominent part in the novel are trademarks of Spillane, purely Mike Hammer at his wise-cracking best. It's hard to tell where Spllane leaves off and Collins picks up.


Theodore Feit

James A. Cox
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