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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 7, Number 9 September 2007 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Afrika's Bookshelf Anthony's Bookshelf
Bethany's Bookshelf Bob's Bookshelf Buhle's Bookshelf
Burroughs' Bookshelf Carson's Bookshelf Christy's Bookshelf
Clay's Bookshelf Debra's Bookshelf Franci's Bookshelf
Gary's Bookshelf Gloria's Bookshelf Gorden's Bookshelf
Harwood's Bookshelf Henry's Bookshelf Kathleen's Bookshelf
Kaye's Bookshelf Kristina's Bookshelf Lockstein's Bookshelf
Lori's Bookshelf Margaret's Bookshelf Mayra's Bookshelf
Molly's Bookshelf Paul's Bookshelf Richard's Bookshelf
Sullivan's Bookshelf Terrilyn's Bookshelf Theodore's Bookshelf
Victoria's Bookshelf    

Reviewer's Choice

The Highway War
Maj. Seth Folsom, USMC
Potomac Books, Inc.
22841 Quicksilver Drive, Dulles, VA 20166-2012
1574889885 $29.95 1-800-775-2518

Andrew Lubin, Reviewer

Years ago Marine artist Col Charles Waterhouse drew a cartoon of a grizzled Marine Gunny, complete with cigar, pulling on a Santa outfit as he prepares to entertain young children, as compared to his normal demeanor of an intimidating Gunny. Maj Seth Folsom's book details a similar transformation, as he grows from a nervous young officer facing his first combat to that of a skilled and articulate officer and husband.

A Captain at the time, Folsom is a blunt and honest writer who discusses his fears and concerns of what he is about to encounter in Iraq. The likely-hood is that many Marines and soldiers, both officers and enlisted, can identify with his worry of how he will fare in his first combat: Can he hack it? How well will he perform? Will he make any mistakes that might cost the lives of his Marines? The difference between them and Folsom is his frankness in discussing these concerns.

Folsom uses the story of his role as company commander to tell the story of Delta Company, 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion as they participated in the March 2003 invasion of Iraq. From watching and waiting as his fellow Marines fought at An-Nasiriyah, to the fighting on the way to Baghdad and beyond, Folsom pulls no punches and spares no feelings in his descriptions of leading 130 Marines into combat. The invasion in March 2003 was the beginning of an unusual war against a non-traditional enemy, and Folsom has to find his balance as an officer when dealing with both his superiors and the Marines under him while learning how to lead Marines in combat. Sand, stink, rain, lack of sanitation, fatigue, grime, and nerves are just some of issues with which he dealt even before he and his men even encountered the enemy. Folsom covers the military actions from 21 March 2003 through the April 2003 capture of Baghdad, and he accurately recounts the stress, excitement, and confusion of those historic days.

With the book written from the notes and recollection of his wartime journal, this is a fascinating memoir revealing are his feelings as he dealt with his Marines, and how he matured as an officer and as a human being. Many readers, especially his fellow officers will find much to critique in his rough and abrasive leadership style, and his dislike of the media is at odds with Marine Corps policy. But it is Folsom's same bluntness that lets him write so revealingly – and perhaps these same readers can use his vignettes as an 'after-action report' in order to guide themselves in similar circumstances.

In perhaps a reflection of the asymmetrical nature of this war, Folsom recounts participating in briefings with the generals and colonels leading the invasion, and later singing with his men as they blast rock & roll music at rock concert levels. Perhaps one unexpected bonus of war in the wired age is that we readers can share in our warrior's thoughts and experiences while they are still fresh, and as such, Maj Folsom's book is both an exciting read and highly recommended.

Of Time and Place: A Farm in Wisconsin.
Richard Quinney
Borderland Books
608 Frederick Circle, Madison WI 53711
9780976878124 $28.00 608-232-0135

Paul Buhle

This is a very special volume of family farm and small town, Midwestern memories with a far wider philosophical scope. Quinney is a retired sociologist of note, a considerable influence upon the study of criminology among a generation of scholars. He came back home in retirement, to the college town closest to the family farm and one-room schoolhouse sites of yore (the farm is still in business, though turned over largely to conservation purposes). There, tucked away in the farmhouse, were photos going back generations, and living memories that could be tracked down through oral history. Quinney is reconstructing a world that seems to have vanished with the days before pesticides.

So this is four generations, seen in words and in photographic images actually improved through software and probably clearer than in the tattered family albums. One side, the most remembered of the two came from famine-stricken Ireland in the mid-nineteenth century, worked their way to the Midwest and bought the farm three years after the US Civil War ended. The other side came from North Devon, Britain, and included a Revolutionary War veteran. The historic moment of the farm purchase was a tumultuous time of Radical Reconstruction in the South and of struggles for women's rights and labor rights in the North, but these great events had little apparent effect upon the farming life. Except, of course, that the visions of equality summoned up in the titanic battles counted less on the ground of the emerging Gilded Age than the sudden spurt of wealth among the already wealthy. While some family members worked the farm in those hungry, depressed 1870s and after, others found their way, intermittently, into the resorts and cities and nearer roadside taverns, working the various trades. It was an Irish way, and they were far from alone in the shuttle from countryside to city life and back.

Much of this is intimate, and includes Quinney's own discovery of crucial details. One great aunt leaves the farm to work for the railroad, then in a packing house, marries and has eight children, divorces, and lives alone, supporting herself by washing and ironing. Her sister, Quinney's grandmother, is dead at 35, from tuberculosis or s they called it, "consumption." In the cities it was known as the "Factory Disease," because the cramped conditions and poverty of the immigrant working class made them vulnerable; but tuberculosis swept the countryside as well, especially visiting itself upon the poor.

Life grows somewhat more prosperous in the twentieth century. Farm folk even take vacations to far places, bringing back mementoes of a lifetime less exotic, more predictable. In Quinney's farm family, unlike mine, a ten year old girl could own a camera and begin a lifetime of amateur documentation, making Of Time and Place almost a history of the popular art form, in the experience of one extended family.

For children growing up in the 1930s-40s, the horses to ride and the omnipresence of cowboy popular culture nurtured the imagined exoticism of the Wild West, in reality generations gone already, exciting adventures with men in black and white hats (especially the Lone Ranger, albeit with no hat at all, on the radio and in comic books). The Quinney boys of this generation had a mother who was a schoolteacher until forced out, by law, with her marriage. She made them her star pupils, naturally, and the inevitable message, intended or not, was to get up and out: the leave the farm life behind.

We never, of course, leave anything behind. As an oral historian knows, memories of childhood and adolescence grow ever-stronger with the passing of middle age into older age. Hardly anyone will look as carefully and thoughtfully as Richard Quinney does at the lives of the ordinary farm folk whose biographies rarely if ever reach the pages of the New York Times. But these are lives documented and ruminated. It makes for a valuable study in passages of modern culture.

War Memorials
Clint McCown
Graywolf Press
2402 University Avenue, Suite 203, Saint Paul, MN, 55114
1555973124 $23.95

Desiree Parker

War Memorials by Clint McCown brings to the forefront what it means to be a contemporary southern writer: revealing the poignancy of rural southern life in America with subtlety and heart. McCown adds another trademark dimension, one that makes all his books even more appealing, and that is a gentle humor that only adds to the readers' empathy for his quirky, flawed characters.

The novel follows Nolan Vann, a thirty-three-year-old man whose life is falling into shambles as quickly as his new living room did when a tree fell on it during a storm. His wife of more than a decade, Laney, is having an affair with a man and is pregnant with her lover's child, he has lost his job as an insurance salesman for his father's company for insurance fraud, and for much of the novel he is working as a part-time repo man with his friend, Dell.

Nolan's despair is mirrored by the state of the town itself and its inhabitants: the local bridge that is famous for not being destroyed during a war is barely holding together, the local hardware store owner is giving up his business to sell marbles, the local diner where all the workingmen gather for a too-greasy breakfast is slowly deteriorating, and even the fair that brings all the townsfolk together has rides that are held together with rusty screws and a prayer. Yet there is hope to be found, too, in the hearts of the characters as they find a way to muddle through their bleak surroundings. One of Nolan's repo victims has lost all her possessions, yet wants to open a zoo, and though one character is attacked by a snake and another is shot by an arrow, they persevere, they go to work and limp along because that is all that they know to do, and this is the key to the poignancy evoked by the novel. In Nolan's world, surviving is heroic, and those that give up – his mother, his wife's lover – these are the true losers, not those that have no jobs and no possessions.

The unifying theme and title of the book, war memorials, draws the reader's attention to the irony of celebrating wars and death in this town, a place where plaques and signs celebrate the history of battles while the inhabitants struggle to survive without honorable mention, where people discuss bygone days and soldiers who have died as though they were more real than the man sitting across the counter.

Throughout the novel, McCown embellishes the quirky escapades of Nolan and his buddies with little insights that make the story even richer: "I admired that about cats: they never looked guilty, no matter what they'd done. Unlike dogs. Dogs understood the difference between good and evil. Or at least they understood what it meant to break a commandment – and they'd hang their heads in shame when they got caught… I figured we all started out like cats, but then the world put us on a leash and a collar and turned us into dogs." It's gems like these that make Nolan a rich character and make McCown a modern southern author that deserves attention.

The Golem and the Wondrous Deeds of the Maharal of Prague
Y. Yudl Rosenberg, edited and translated by Curt Leviant
Yale University Press
PO Box 209040, New Haven, CT 06520-9040
9780300122046 $25.00 1-800-987-7323

Fred Reiss

A golem is a Jewish robot. Unlike today's robots, which are fabricated from some amalgam of metallic alloys and digitally controlled, a golem is made from the clay of the earth and brought to life through Jewish magic. The idea of inanimate objects becoming animate dates back to the time of the Greeks and the story of Pygmalion and his statue of Galatea. The Talmud, the written compilation of the Jewish oral traditions, is the source of the word golem as an automaton, or soulless being. The Talmud tells the story that Rava created a golem using his knowledge from a very early kabbalistic book, Sepher Yetzira, the Book of Formation. He sent the golem to Rav Zeria. After speaking to the golem and getting no reply, Rev Zeria realized that the being was a golem and ordered it to return to the dust. Golems, according to tradition, are speechless because speech comes from the rational soul, which only God can give.

A golem is incapable of disobeying its creator, but in one story, a sixteenth century rabbi, Eliyahu of Chelm, created a golem that grew bigger and bigger until the rabbi was unable to kill it without deception. Upon its death, the golem fell over the rabbi and crushed him to death. Additionally, there are those who believe that the great Middle Ages' Jewish mystical poet Solomon Ibn Gabirol created a female golem to serve as a housemaid.

The first story about a golem printed in the popular press appeared in 1847, in a book of stories by Wolf Pascheles of Prague. Since then, stories about golems have appeared in both print and in the movies many times beginning in the twentieth century. Stories appeared in German and Yiddish through the teens and twenties, and in German and French films in twenties and thirties. In the 1980s, both Elie Wiesel and Isaac B. Singer wrote children's books about a golem. The golem even made it to television by appearing in a 1997 X-files episode. In these and in many other stories and movies, authors and screenwriters portrayed the golem like Mary Shelly's Frankenstein, a monster and an evil killing machine.

The original story about Rabbi Judah Loew (1525-1609), known as the Maharal of Prague, and his golem appeared in 1909 by the Polish orthodox rabbi and kabbalist, Y. Yudl Rosenberg. Because the rabbis at that time considered any writing unrelated to Talmudic and other erudite learning frivolous, Rosenberg successfully argued that the books' author was actually the Maharal's son-in-law, Rabbi Isaac Katz, and that he obtained the book at great expense. These stories became so popular over the years that fact and legend grow to be indistinguishable. Yet, Rosenberg was all but forgotten. Curt Leviant does us an immense service by providing the English-language reader with a wonderful first-ever translation of Rosenberg's The Golem and the Wondrous Deeds of the Maharal of Prague from the original Hebrew and bringing Rosenberg's name to the forefront.

Judah Loew ben Bezalel, an important religious figure in Prague, was well-known for his scholarship in the Talmud and knowledge of the Jewish mystical arts. He eventually became the Chief Rabbi of Poland, and the people lovingly called him the Maharal, a Hebrew acronym for "Our Teacher, Rabbi Loew." The Polish government held him in high esteem, and he even met with Emperor Rudolf II on more than one occasion.

Blood libels, an insidious form of anti-Semitism, are accusations by Christians that Jews kill Christian children (ritual murder) for the purpose of draining their blood to make matzos for Passover. Blood libels are an urban legend first documented in Germany in 1475. Although the extent to which blood libels were a problem during the Maharal's leadership is open to question, Rosenberg has the Maharal create a golem, a superman, through Jewish mysticism to assist him bring-to-justice those who falsely accuse Jews of this crime. It should be noted that blood libels were a growing problem in Eastern Europe during Rosenberg's formative years, and perhaps his book was his plea for divine intervention.

The Golem and the Wondrous Deeds of the Maharal of Prague, which covers the exploits of the Rabbi and his golem from 1580-1590, is more than a set of stories. Rosenberg gives us glimpses of the dependence of the Jewish people on their God; and allows us to observe the complex set of beliefs held by the Maharal's archenemy, the priest, Thaddeus, who constantly attempts, and in a few cases succeeds, in converting young Jewish girls to Christianity. He also supports those who accuse Jews of blood libel. In addition, Rosenberg's stories allow us to compare the actions of Thaddeus with the more liberal, but unnamed, cardinal.

Through these stories, readers also come to appreciate some of the sixteenth century's Jewish rituals of the Sabbath, Passover, and Purim; and learn how the Polish government and court system operate and interact with Jews. Most important of all, Rosenberg takes us back to the golem's Talmudic roots where the golem is not a Frankenstein-like monster, but rather a soulless being that struggles to comprehend the world and abide by its master's directives to the extent that it is able to understand them. The Maharal's golem, like all golems, has neither feelings, nor desires, nor wants. The golem is a silent servant. Nonetheless, one cannot help but feel a bit of sorrow when the work of the golem is through and the Maharal ends its existence through another kabbalistic ceremony. The stories in The Golem and the Wondrous Deeds of the Maharal of Prague are adult Jewish folklore at its best.

If the Creek Don't Rise
Rita Williams
Harcourt Inc.
525 B Street, Suite 1900, San Diego, CA 92101
9780151011544 $23.00 619-231-6616

Judy Jacobs

I picked up this book to read based solely on the title. I expected to read a frontier type story with all sorts of sage advice and comments about how mean people can be to one another. What I found was a moving, poignant account of a sensitive, insightful young girl growing up with an aunt who had a limited capacity for love.

Rita Williams memoir is of the only black girl in 200 miles, living in the Colorado Rockies in the 1950's and 1960's. Without an ounce of self pity and with vivid word pictures she relates the story of her life from her earliest recollections through her teen years. With unvarnished clarity she tells us about her unstable existence, her attempted suicide, a date rape and an unwanted pregnancy. The total difference in the personalities of the two main characters is what sets this book apart from others of its kind. Rita is a normal, loveable, questioning, perceptive and observant child who has nowhere and nothing to channel her emotions into. Her aunt is a harsh domineering opinionated woman who looms over all Rita does like a dark cloud that sucks all the self confidence, happiness and creativity out of her. The fact that Rita never gave up struggling with this tyranny speaks volumes about her tenacity.

Rita's story is proof that perseverance and dogged determination can allow one to rise above the circumstances life has plunged them into. This was riveting reading.

The First Thirty
Jillip Naysinthe Paxson
IdeaList Enterprises Inc.
PO Box 10-1187, Chicago, IL 60610
0975879405 $10

Melvyn Manapsal

An inspiring story about a boy who always followed his dreams despite constant criticism, doubt, and obstacles, The First Thirty by Jilip Naysinthe Paxson recounts the first thirty years of Greg Forbes Siegman's life, his efforts to make a difference, and the first thirty lessons he learned along the way.

The book starts out with Greg's late arrival for his first meeting with author Paxson. Once he arrives, the two men delve into the story of Greg's life.

The First Thirty details all of Greg's ups and downs, and there are many. Amid the description of his many successes, the inclusion of Greg's setbacks and losses (such as the one involving his loyal childhood dog, Tug) in the book brings the reader to the refreshing and inspiring realization that Greg is a normal human being, with pain, regret, anger, and hardships to overcome like everyone else.

Despite his many hang-ups, Greg's optimistic attitude shines throughout the book. Greg responded to the social problems he saw in ways that helped people. What was especially touching was when one of the kids Greg had mentored earlier became a mentor himself, showing how Greg's efforts to help one student became something positive for many.

Greg's story also offers the thirty lessons that he had learned before turning thirty to the readers. These words of wisdom are both practical and symbolic, offering insight and advice on topics such as perseverance, interacting with others, and goal-setting. Paxson's interweaving of the lessons throughout the book reveal how Greg learned each lesson after a particular event, and so the lessons and the events of Greg's life create a journey for the readers as well.

The inspirational story of The First Thirty is a mix of the films Old Yeller (Robert Stevenson, 1957) and Big Fish (Tim Burton, 2003), as Greg experienced the real-life loss of his dog, Grandma, and others he was close to, and at the same time held a steadfast belief in his exceptional imagination.

The First Thirty is a great story, both entertaining and educational, and readers will appreciate its brevity and its simple clarity. It is a pleasant surprise to come to the end of the book and recognize that Paxson formats the book so that it ends with the same meeting with which the book started. It is a perfect end to a book in which many things come full circle. The second time around, there is one significant difference: by now, the reader understands exactly why Greg was late to the meeting and everything that happened along the way – a reminder that there is more to life than meets the eye.

A story relevant to students in middle school to college, teachers, parents, executives, and senior citizens, this 96 page treasure full of valuable life lessons and experiences will benefit anyone who reads it.

Mysteries of the Middle Ages
Thomas Cahill
Nan A. Talese (an imprint of Doubleday)
1745 Broadway, 22nd floor, New York, NY 10019
9780385495554 $32.50 212-782-8918

Rose Rankin

Writing a series named "The Hinges of History" demonstrates an author's bold intentions: namely, to publish a sweeping narrative encompassing the turning points of mankind's story. Mysteries of the Middle Ages, the fifth book in the Hinges of History series by Thomas Cahill, shows just how tantalizing, and nearly impossible, it is for historians to retell "the great central Synthesis of history," as twentieth-century author G.K. Chesterton called it. While attempting to explain the society of the High Middle Ages, Cahill sometimes loses focus among the numerous threads that constituted the tapestry of medieval culture. But this book's detailed narratives and deft storytelling compensate for its occasional lack of coherence.

After presenting the political, intellectual and religious foundations of medieval Europe, Cahill discusses various facets of European society between, roughly, the 12th and the 14th centuries. Monasticism, dynastic politics, science and art show the progression of society from late antiquity to the eve of the Renaissance in the 15th century.

Cahill establishes his pattern quickly: an in-depth chronicle of one individual is placed within a larger context. First, the life of 12th-century-abbess Hildegard demonstrates the practice of monastic cloistering. In chapter two, Cahill relates Eleanor of Aquitaine's story to explain the secular side of courtly love. These vivid biographies, as well as an oddly-placed one of St. Francis of Assisi in the courtly love chapter, are surrounded by references to larger ideas but never fully anchored in them. For example, Hildegard's monastic experience and the adoration of the Virgin Mary are placed side-by-side as connected phenomena. But the popularity of the Virgin doesn't explain Hildegard's exceptional impact on the intellectual and religious establishments of her day because most nuns never reached her status. Nor are the stories of Eleanor and St. Francis coherently linked by the simplistic summary, "And that is how romance became prayer." Despite this analytical weakness, however, Cahill's depth of detail and evocative language keep the biographies rich and engaging.

The interplay between detailed biography and broad-based themes becomes smoother as the book progresses. The growth of universities and the reliance on human reason follow a brief interlude about the rise of Islam. The third chapter features Abelard and Heloise's dramatic love story, and thoughtful philosophical discussions enter as well. Cahill shows how Abelard's abrasive demeanor prevented widespread acceptance of his ideas about the worthiness of reason. This discussion leads seamlessly into one of St. Thomas Aquinas, who succeeded in popularizing the logic of Aristotle because he reconciled it with Christianity.

In the fourth chapter, the analysis of medieval science (including things now considered pseudo-science such as alchemy and astrology) skillfully presents the medieval European worldview. Artistic achievements dominate the final chapters. Giotto's frescoes and Dante's poetry display changes in artistic interpretation and literature. These chapters showcase Cahill's impressive knowledge of Italian art history and the complexity of medieval Florentine society.
But the reader is left waiting for a conclusion that does not come. The final chapter and Postlude are unfortunately bogged down in the author's disputations on the present state of the Catholic Church and the West's current political situation. His opinions are sensible and well informed, but they do nothing to tie his many themes together.

This book's strength is its biographical sections, which give readers vivid looks into fascinating individuals and episodes from medieval Europe. It is indeed disappointing that Cahill's analyses don't always succeed at connecting his ideas, but his vibrant storytelling brings to life figures shrouded by the centuries between us and them. One can surmise from his frequent references to Chesterton's idea of the "great central Synthesis of history" that he is trying to create just that. But in this volume of the series, his analyses don't provide a cohesive explanation of the synthesis, possibly because it doesn't exist or can't be constructed. Although this "Hinge of History" may not always function smoothly, it will, however, connect the reader to enlightening people and places.

The Closers
Michael Connelly
Little, Brown and Company
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
0316734942 $26.95 1-800-759-0190

Rocky Reichman, Reviewer

He's back.

Detective Harry Bosch comes out of retirement—to finish his life mission in law enforcement. Harry and his partner, Kiz Rider, make a perfect match for a crime novel. And Connelly is able to show that, as his characters delve into their case and try to solve it.

And the case they're assigned? If you think it has to deal with a murder, then you've guessed right. Only Connelly has added a twist here, to make things harder for his protagonist but more mysterious for his readers. That twist is time. Harry Bosch returns to the Los Angeles Police Department and is assigned to work on Cold Cases, or Open-Unsolved cases as Bosch and the rest of the detectives prefer. (Have your way, Detective Harry Potter—I mean Harry Bosch; I'm sticking with Cold Cases.)

The case is about a young teenage girl who was murdered seventeen years before Harry and Kiz Rider re-open the investigation. Throughout the story, Harry is confronted with trials from antagonists and family members of the deceased girl. Potential suspects are plentiful, but are almost impossible to find. And on top of all this, Harry has to deal with antagonistic co-workers.

The case sounds exciting, but the way Connelly delivers it slows everything down, and takes away a lot of the story's energy. The entire buildup of the plot is slow as well, leading readers wondering "and…what's your point, Doc?" It creates anticlimactic feelings.

Connelly's characters speak crisply. His own words come smoothly. He delivers information to his readers in a very clear way. Strong characters populate this book. And in the end, it turns out to be a very good mystery. If you become impatient while reading this book, you know what to do. Close it.

SunShines: The Astrology of Being Happy
Michael Lutin
Rockefeller Center, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
978074327726 6 $AU 29.95

Rose Glavas, Reviewer

Don't let the cover fool you! This book, on first glance, looks like it might be a bit of a light-hearted read, and that you could flip through in half an hour or so. I got hooked, not only by the down-to-earth language and style the material was presented in, but at the same time, the ease in which Lutin presents emotionally complex information.

Michael Lutin's background as a writer for 'Vanity Fair', and the author of many astrology books shows in the skillful way he presents the information in 'SunShines'. The author is the current President and Certified member of the National Council for Geocosmic Research, New York Chapter, member of the San Diego Astrology Society, ISAR, AFAN and of the International Society for Communicative Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy. Sounds like a busy man!

Being happy sounds simple enough, but as most of us know life can get pretty complex at times making it difficult to concentrate or achieve some of the simplest pleasures in life. 'SunShines' brings the focus back in on what is actually important to achieve happiness using a fairly simple, but powerful astrological technique. For those of you with as understanding of astrology, Lutin uses the Nodes as the basis for his book.

The book is broken up into two parts: part one looks at the individual sun signs which are further broken down into subsections according to the year you were born (this will let you know which sections to look at in part two). Part two looks at the deeper issues that may need attention in order for you to understand the astrology of being happy. For example, you can find money, love, recognition and escape as part of the themes examined here. There is also an Appendix explaining the astrology in more detail behind the book for those, like me, who are astrologers.

I must say that I am very impressed with the quality and content of this title, as it delivered much more than I expected: although it was very easy and fun to read, it was also deep in the information that was presented.

In summary, I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in self-improvement or in learning about themselves more – as well as those that are trying to find more happiness in their life! This is an excellent, easy to understand title. You don't need any astrological knowledge at all except to know the date of your birth – although people with a background in this subject will also get a lot of information out of it.

Mockingbird Come Home
Stephen B. Wiley
Oasis Publishers
PO Box 626, Largo, Florida
9780976625117, $14.95

Dr. Tami Brady

Yesterday afternoon, I sat in my backyard and read this collection of poems. It was a beautiful summer day. Perhaps it was the perfect day for contemplation. Mockingbird Come Home brought me back to a million memories that I had forgotten and details of the magic of everyday life that normally seem to get lost in the chaos of my regular life.

Stephen B. Wiley has a gift for seeing the beauty in everyday life and seemingly normal things. Some of his pieces reflect images of the past. After reading a number of these poems, I found my reminiscing and remembering similar times in my own life.

Other works in this book looks to the present: situations, people, and thoughts. I often found myself agreeing wholeheartedly with the author's way of thinking or resonating with the feelings in his works. I think that often we are so busy that we forget about the beauty and wonderment in our own experiences and in our daily life.

Afrika's Bookshelf

Love Reparations
Jackie Young
1st Stream Publishing
9780978760205 $11.95

If Love showed up bearing an IOU, what would you do? This is the underlying question and lesson tucked poetically inside the pages of this debut poetry collection, Love's Reparations: The Learning Curve between Heartache & Healing. In simple language, provocative imagery, and thought-provoking honesty, Jackie Young poetically peels back layers of love and life until all that remains is the heart.

Love Reparations is a very profound book that focuses on various subjects and is divided into three categories which include HEARTACHE, LEARNING CURVE AND HEALING. I particularly was not favorable to the cover, but more so to the title that Jackie chose for her first book, Love Reparations. This is a perfect example of you can not judge a book by its cover.

Jackie has done excellent job with her book and is very interesting from the beginning to the end. My favorite poems from HEARTACHE include A Dream Deferred (very imaginative and powerful); Feng Shui (very spiritual and profound);Last Super(very sensual and emotional write); Blind Spot (very interesting and very vivid); Beauty is Only Skin Deep (very imaginative and striking write);Truth on the line( is a piece that most people find it hard to tell and is a deep emotional piece);FOREIGN LANGUAGE (is a very sensual piece that most women can relate to); and i built me daddy outta words (is a very unique and emotional write that most women or daughters can relate to). My favorite poems from the next section, LEARNING CURVE include Stepping Stones (through life we have to go trials and tribulations, and sometimes heartache and pain); Character Assassination (a descriptive self reflected and self help write); Revelation (spiritual and powerful piece); and Mellow Memories (an emotional write that most women who miss a special love one can relate to); and from the last section HEALING include Choices (a very striking piece that everyone can relate to); Love makes The world Go round (is a powerful write and very true indeed); and Baby Steps - in life we all have to take baby steps in order to get to where we really want to go and is a very striking piece.

I believe with each section, one will gain their own insight to what Jackie has depicted and will very much be inspired, healed and uplifted after reading her first book, Love Reparations. Congratulations Jackie! I look forward to reading your next book! Stay blessed.

Grandma's Purple Flowers
Adjoa J. Burrowes
Lee & Low Books
9781880000731 $15.95

Grandma's house has always been the narrator's favorite place. On her way to visit Grandma, she plucks daisies and sunflowers, and best of all, purple flowers--Grandma's favorites. Whenever Grandma sees the purple flowers, her smile grows wide--like the Mississippi River. One winter day Grandma is too tired to bake, but she rubs her grandchild's back gently and ties a ribbon that unraveled in her hair.

Later that night, Grandma passes away, and all winter long, the young girl is sad, missing her grandmother terribly. When spring finally arrives, and flowers begin to shoot up from the ground, the girl discovers her own special way to accept her grandmother's death and keep Grandma with her always.

In this moving story, author/illustrator, Adjoa J. Burrowes deals sensitively with the difficult experience of death, and tells a moving story that celebrates the triumph of hope and spirit during a difficult time.

Grandma's Purple Flowers is a remarkable story about how a young girl deals with the difficulty of coping with the death of her Grandma passing away and could not wait for Spring to return to see her Grandma's purple's flower shoot up from the ground. I think that most young girls will relate to this story when missing a love one, they will look forward to seeing and experiencing a new journey to overcome the passing of a significant love one. I think that Adjoa did an excellent both depicting the story and generating the illustrations.

The illustrations themselves tells a story and are captured very well. Congratulations on a remarkable job! Thank you for sharing this book with me! Five Stars Rating.

Step Up to the Mic: A Poetic Explosion
Michael J. Burt, editor
Poetic Press/Xpress Yourself
9780979250056 $12.95

Step Up to the Mic: A Poetic Explosion, a written version of an all-stair open mic, and features poets and spoken word artists of the new millennium.

Featuring HBO's Def Poets Red Storm & Georgia Me and Essence Best Selling Author.

Featured Poets: Afrika Midnight Asha Abney, Akua, Michael J. Burt, Tichaona Chinyelu, Gaudemus, Def Poet Georgia Me, Veronica J. Hill, Bill Holmes, Tinisha Nicole Johnson, a. Kai, Stephanie L. Kemp, Marc Lacy, TS Murphy, Grace Ocasio, Dana Rettig, Nyah Storm, Def Poet Red Storm, Queen Sheba, A. Shakur Towns, Neil G. White, and Estrell Young.

Step Up to the Mic: A Poetic Explosion is an anthology that is edited by Michael J.Burt and published by Poetic Press/Xpress Yourself Publishing. The cover designed was created by The Writer's Assistant and will be released on September 25, 2007. The layout of the anthology, Step Up to the Mic was simply outstanding.

Step Up to the Mic is created in an open mic format and gives an opportunity for various known and established poets/contributing authors to share their words and messages with the mainstream society. Each poet/contributing author offers a different message and touches on different subjects. Some of the subjects that are highlighted include love, inspiration, war, politics and revolution.

I think that the introduction to the anthology was phenomenal and very unique and was written by Michael J. Burt and entitled: A Cappella. This piece was very vivid and strong full of imagery and strength.

Another piece that I found to speak of honor and commitment was entitled, Pledge of Allegiance by Akua. I think that this piece is a self-reference and very well crafted. It serves as piece for all of us to reflect and refer to. It also is an educational and historical piece.

Older Than Hip Hop by Tichaona Chinyelu is a revolutionary piece that all of us can relate in some point our lives and also refers to the experiences that are occurring in today's history with Hip Hop. Older Than Hip Hop is very well crafted and profound.

The poems listed above were just some of my favorite poems. After reading, Step Up to the Mic: A Poetic Explosion, I am in total awe for words and am thankful for the opportunity to be included in the anthology. Congratulations to all of the poets/contributing authors for a job well done! Five Stars Rating

Afrika Midnight Asha Abney, Reviewer

Ann's Bookshelf

The Verneys
Adrian Tinniswood
Jonathan Cape
c/o Random House
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780224071557 25.00 Brit. pounds 1-800-726-0600

"Sir Francis Verney lay on his bed in the great hall of the sick at Messina. He was thirty-one years old. He was a long way from home. And he was dying". He had been a Barbary Coast pirate, a "sometimes great English gallant", a convert to Islam and, for two years at the end of his life when his fortunes lapsed, a galley slave. All of which makes for a dramatic opening scene in this family saga which has all the ingredients for a gripping television series. And it is all true.

The story of the survival of the Verney family papers, on which Adrian Tinniswood has based this history of the family and the times in which they lived, is an interesting story in itself. Briefly, it hinges on the mass of documents - letters, bills, parliamentary notes, playbills, rent-rolls and much more - which were found "in a dusty old gallery" by a distant relative who, in 1827, inherited what remained of the Verney family's estate. Through these papers, as Tinniswood notes, the family comes to life and the remarkable events (including the English Civil War, the beheading of one king and the replacement of another) which shaped their world and their daily lives become so vivid that "we know the Verneys almost too well, and it is impossible not to care". And he is right.

The book is divided into three parts. The first deals with the life of Sir Edmund Verney who, in 1615, inherited the estate from his piratical half-brother Francis. Death, arranged marriages, re-marriage and the Seventeenth Century laws of inheritance, plus the great importance of extensive and extended family connections, shaped the lives of every gentry family at that time. The Verneys were no exception. Edmund's mother had married three times. So, too, had his father, and Edmund was his second son. At the time of the eldest son, Francis's, death, Edmund was twenty-five years old, a Knight serving at the court of King Charles I, a staunch Protestant, and a happily married man, with two children. Tinniswood lays out the many and various family relationships in an easy, confident way so that the reader is only occasionally lost amongst them all. He is equally good at filling in the historical and social context of their lives without getting overly academic. So, we get to know Edmund and his wife Mary, and we are drawn into their close, loving relationship as they live through good and bad times, deal with the births and deaths of children and relatives, and face disasters, debt, war and also the constant more (and less) trivial demands of their relatives and friends.

Of Edmund and Mary's twelve children, we get to know three of the boys very well. Ralph, the steady, serious, eldest son, who became a Member of Parliament and supported the Parliamentarians against the King (to the great distress of his Royalist father and brother) was the one who saved and stored all the family papers. Tom, the ne'er-do-well scrounger of the family, was the second son. When he seemed inclined to run wild, his parents packed him off to Jamestown, Virginia, in 1634, to make his fortune. He returned after only one winter in this new colony in the Americas, "to the exasperation of his father".

Mun (short for Edmund), the third son, was a professional soldier in the King's army. He fought Cromwell's troops in Ireland and survived one of the bloodiest sieges only to be stabbed to death in the street two days later. The girls and the youngest son, we come to know less well, but it is clear that all the Verney women were independent-minded and determined, and that they were not inclined to be dictated to by their menfolk in spite of the conventions of the time.

Part two of the book deals equally interestingly with the lives of Ralph Verney and his wife and family. Ralph, ever the serious one, helped his father to shoulder the responsibilities of the family from a very young age. After his father's death, he inherited debts, and later faced the possibility of losing the estate altogether when Parliament threatened to sequester it because of his family's Royalist sympathies. He avoided this threat by putting the estate into trust and escaping to France. His loyal and loving wife Mary (they were married at a very young age, even for those times) was know by her closest relatives as 'Mischief'. She accompanied him to France, but a few years later returned to England to lobby for the lifting of the threat of sequestration. At Ralph's instruction, she even forged a document (a capital offence) in order to achieve this. Eventually she succeeded, but after returning to France she became seriously ill and only after her death was Ralph able to return to England. Ralph's grief at the loss of his Mary, exacerbated by the death of her recently born baby and of their much loved eight-year-old daughter, Peg, at about the same time, was intense and he never really got over it. But his later travels around Italy with his eldest son, Mun, make fascinating reading. So, too, does the career of his youngest son, Jack, who, as a baby, had been left in England during his parents' exile in France. Jack became a successful Merchant Trader in Syria, and Tinniswood paints a vivid picture of this exotic but very difficult part of the world in which Jack eventually made his fortune.

The lives of Jack and Mun make up most of part three of the book, but it also deals with the short lives of their four siblings. And it includes some vivid digressions on romantic myths about Seventeenth Century highway robbers and the real, but no less exciting, exploits of two distant but well-known Verney relatives who took to a life of crime and were hanged for it. Mun's fate was different but in many ways no less cruel. A charming character, Mun is described under his portrait in this book as "a complicated mixture of lecherous clown, tender father and loving husband". He married, under family pressure, at the age of twenty-six. But within weeks his wife began to suffer fits of madness, which continued periodically for the rest of her life. Mun, against all expectations, lovingly looked after her himself during these times rather than consigning her to the care of others. Tinniswood's brief examination of her madness, set in its historical context, makes interesting reading.

There is so much in this book that it is difficult not to write a book-length review of it. Suffice it to say that Tinniswood tells a fascinating story and he tells it well. He acknowledges his debt to those who earlier sorted through the documents and chronicled some of the contents, but as a social historian his approach is different to theirs. His accounts of the turbulent history of the times and of the wars which took place in Scotland, Ireland and England, often show the astonishing and ludicrous mismanagement and stupidity which accompanied the bloody events. And his occasional humorous asides throughout the book are a delight. I particularly warmed to his admission that one letter to Sir Ralph, which may have been a joke but probably was not, shows a distressing insensitivity in the sexual mores of the Verney men and he wished he had never seen it. Everywhere else, in this book, he clearly enjoys the ordinary humanity of the Verneys and it is this which makes the book a delight to read and which allows all the Verneys and their relatives and good friends to live again in our imaginations. What more could a reader (or a television producer, for that matter) want?

The Devil's Footprints (Novel) and Gift Songs (Poems)
John Burnside
Jonathan Cape
c/o Random House
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780224074889 14.00 Brit. pounds hc
0224 07997 9.00 Brit. pounds pbk. 92 pages

The Devil's Footprints is a strange and haunting book written by a poet who seems always to have a sense of some shadowy presence which exists just on the limits of consciousness. That shadow is there in Burnside's poetry and it is there, too, in this novel, where the Devil's footprints of a local Scottish folk-myth frame the story and are paralleled at its end by those of Michael Gardiner, who is its narrator.

Michael's story is both ordinary and extraordinary. Ordinary in that it represents the thoughts of a solitary, introspective man looking back on a seemingly unremarkable childhood and adolescence. Extraordinary, in that at one time in his childhood he killed a boy who had been bullying him and he has carried that secret with him ever since. We know almost from the beginning of the book that he has killed a boy. What we do not know, is how this came about and what people and events in his childhood brought him to do it.

The threads of past and present are woven together in Michael's narrative. A newspaper report of the death of a woman and her two young sons in a burning car throws up old memories and poses new questions. Both lead him to re-visit his past, but also throw him into what he calls a temporary "insanity".

Burnside is a master story-teller, and this story, like the folk-myth with which it begins, has depths and mysteries beneath its surface which reflect the primal instincts of human life and the loves, guilts and fears which drive us all. Michael's description of his life, and of the events and people he remembers most vividly, gradually reveals his character. His sense of being an outsider, his mild alienation from his fellow beings, his fears, justifications, frailties, and his suppressed guilt, all become apparent. But so, too, does his sensitivity to the unique and terrifying beauty of the natural world of the Scottish coast around him, and his sense of belonging to it in some mysterious way. It is this, ultimately, and the long, hard journey he makes through the countryside back to this 'home', which cures his insanity. This a hero's journey to self-knowledge with a difference, for the hero is a very ordinary human being, much like any other.

Gift Songs, Burnside's most recent book of poems, explores this sense of place and belonging further. The title comes from a Shaker belief in the value of songs as gifts. And the Shakers are a group of people who, like Michael Gardiner in Burnside's novel, are outside the general community: Unlike him, however, they are intensely connected to their own community by their particular religious practices.

Gift Songs explores the sort of belonging which comes not only from faith but also from our sense of connection to the natural world. That sense of something other, some mystery present in particular surroundings, in light, music, silence: "phantoms we carry away / from our edited lives".

As always, the rhythm and music of Burnside's poetry has the power to suggest this shadowy presence. This, for me, is its appeal, although it may puzzle others, since the numinous is not something which can be spelt out. Nevertheless, there are simple gifts here, such as the beautiful 'Five Animals' poems, as well as more complex meditations. And Burnside crafts his gifts with loving care and with a skill which imbues them with magic.

Dead Lucky: Life and Death on Mount Everest
Lincoln Hall
Random House Trade Group Publicity
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
978 1 74166 461 4 $34.95 1-800-726-0600

At 7.30pm on May 26th 2006, at 8600 metres on the face of Mount Everest, Lincoln Hall died. At 9am that morning he had stood on the summit and spoken by radio-phone to Alexander Abromov, the expedition leader at Advance Base Camp. He spoke briefly, letting Alex know that he and the three Sherpas, Lakcha, Dorje and Dawa Tenzing who were with him, were on their way down. One hour later cerebral oedema struck him and he began to hallucinate. For the next few hours he lapsed in and out of coherent consciousness. At times he was lucid and capable, at other times crazy: he refused his oxygen mask, fought to go back up the mountain, and tried to jump off Kangshung Face. The three Sherpas, soon joined by another, Pemba, pushed and pulled him down the mountain.

At Mushroom Rock, still 300 metres above Advance Base Camp, the Sherpas were exhausted, they had no oxygen, no food or drink, Hall was unresponsive and dying, and the weather forecast was bad. The Sherpas were ordered to cover Hall with stones and leave him.

No-one had ever survived a night on Everest at 8600 metres. Exhaustion, hypothermia, lack of oxygen, the retention of fluid in the brain so that the whole metabolism is affected, snow blindness, detached retinas, all these things are common at this altitude and all can be fatal. At the time of Hall's descent eleven climbers had already died on the mountain in the few months of the climbing season, the last just hours before Hall and the Sherpas reached Mushroom Rock. Alex, at Base Camp, phoned Hall's wife, Barbara, and broke the news to her that at 7.30pm, on Everest, her husband had died.

Barbara told their two teenage sons, rang a few people, and family and friends began to rally round to support her. Amongst others, she contacted Ang Karma, a Buddhist friend in Kathmandu, and asked him to perform the appropriate Buddhist ceremonies for her dead husband, who had become a practicing Buddhist in the late 1960s. Only late in the evening of the next day did Barbara hear that her husband was still alive, but that he had only a 50-50 chance of surviving.

Hall had tackled Mount Everest twenty-two years earlier but had been forced to turn back before he reached the summit. He joined the 2006 expedition as an experienced, high-altitude cameraman for a fourteen-year-old boy, Christopher Harris, and his father, who intended to climb the highest mountains on each continent, seven summits in all. Unfortunately, Christopher had experienced a severe drop in blood pressure shortly after leaving Advance Base Camp. A second attempt had produced the same result, so, recognizing that it was too dangerous for them to press on, he and his father turned back. Hall however, was urged to go ahead, and did.

Lincoln Hall is a very experienced mountaineer, veteran of some thirty-six years of mountaineering expeditions both as a climber and a guide. He is also a writer and film-maker, and he is co-founder of the Australian Himalayan Foundation.

Dead Lucky tells the story of his last expedition to Mount Everest, his death and his survival. Even for a non-climber like me, it is a fascinating story. His account of the difficulties of the climb, the expeditions and climbers he met, the harrowing descent, and his subsequent treatment for frostbite is gripping and well-written. He has no doubt, just as the Sherpas had no doubt, that he died. His description of his psychological state, his hallucinations, and the few moments of lucidity which surrounded that death alone on the ridge at 8600 meters is totally absorbing.

I was surprised to read of the large number of people who now climb Everest during the brief season when summiting is possible. I was surprised, too, to read of the fixed ropes and crevasse-crossing ladders which are put in place by Sherpas each season for some expedition organizers and which make the ascent marginally safer. Nor did I expect to hear that Hall reach the summit after passing a number of dead bodies, some of which have lain there for years, and that the summit was littered with empty oxygen cylinders and marked with yellow urine stains. I was shocked to read his account of the two Sherpas who were sent to help him when another climber found that he had survived the night at Mushroom Rock, and who bullied and threatened him, cut a rope at one critical moment, and attacked him with an ice pick (he had bruises to prove that this was no hallucination). Luckily, other Sherpas arrived in time to save him.

In spite of the organized expeditions, the final stages of the ascent of Everest are still extremely hazardous. Survival above 8300 meters is, to use Hall's word, "desperate". The oxygen level is so low that even with oxygen support just speaking is exhausting. The final stages of the ascent are begun in darkness, vision is restricted by an oxygen mask, and clothing is cumbersome. Gaining the summit and the euphoria of doing so often takes all the climber's energy, so descent is even more hazardous. As Hall discovered.

Dead Lucky tells an amazing story. Occasionally, I found the listing of names daunting and confusing. Hall seems to have felt obliged to name everyone on the mountain that year. His acknowledgments, too (thankfully tucked at the back of the book) run to seven pages and even include the cafe where he typed part of his manuscript whilst attending hospital for the treatment of his frostbitten fingers and toes. Nevertheless, the book is a pleasure to read, the photographs are interesting and the glossary useful.

One is still left wondering what prompts anyone to expose themselves to the agony, danger and trauma of trying to reach the top of Mount Everest. Hall's own list of reasons doesn't solve that riddle. Looking back, he sees the mountain as a mirror into which climbers look to find themselves. His brush with death has given him a new perspective on life and, as he says at the very end of the book, now that he has summited Everest his life can move on.

Ann Skea, Reviewer

Anthony's Bookshelf

Ben Olson
Alphar Publishing
130 Church Street, #413, New York, NY 10007
0978602412, $19.95, 356 pages

WANDERLOST captures the essence of that strange period of life after college and before looming adulthood; when idealism is still a good thing, when one must choose to embrace the often mediocre task of mundane existence, or burn free and live according to the principles of our hearts. It is a coming-of-age tale, a humorous road narrative and an acerbically accurate portrayal of modern America Life in all its beauty and futility, written in a personal uninhibited style of journalistic prose.

Ben Olson says, "The book is a backlash to this dumb culture taken over by a crassness of people who are all passionately apathetic. This is a truthful account of a common man's struggle… and that is why it has merit. Sure it's fiction, but I only write fiction because I have to. I need the protection that it provides. Every writer knows that there is no real fiction, for what we put on the page stems from our experiences. I believe in something that will never die – the notion that you can still live free in America."

Ben Olson is only 25 years old and has already had a couple dozen articles published in weekly newspapers and some literary journals. Ben is a prophet howling at the American landscape, a straight shooting voice destined for an impact in American literary circles.

Mister Pip
Lloyd Jones
Random House
375 Hudson St. New York, NY 10014
9780385341066 $20.00

In "Mister Pip", Lloyd Jones weaves a narrative that will transform lives… in a voice that lives on long after the final page.

During the 1990 blockade of Bougainville, a south Pacific island rich in copper, only one white man chooses to stay behind: the eccentric Mr. Watts, who sweeps out the ruined schoolhouse and begins to read to the children each day from Charles Dickens's classic Great Expectations. So begins this brilliant award-winning novel about the strength that imagination, once ignited, can provide. As artillery echoes in the mountains, thirteen–year–old Matilda and her peers are riveted by the adventures of a young orphan named Pip.

A private, linen-suited figure with a native wife, Mr. Watts is a mystery to the children of the island But Matilda's fascination with the story of Pip begins to trouble her devout, practical-minded mother. She starts to wage a not-so-silent campaign against Mr. Watts and nineteenth-century England, and the distance between her and Matilda, who is immersed in the new world of Dickens, grows.

Then the real war, which has been inching closer every day, arrives. The redskin soldiers visit the island and come to believe that Pip, the central character of Great Expectations, is a real, live man, being hidden by the villagers. Vengeance is extracted in increasingly terrible ways as the island fails to produce him. Yet as the villagers lose almost everything, for the children and Mr. Watts, the imaginary world exerts a stronger pull than ever. And for a moment, the power of story-telling seems as though it will save everyone.

The narrator's voice is that of Matilda, a village girl. She was named by the Australians who opened up the world's richest copper mine in Bougainville, and her name stands throughout as ironic comment on responsibilities intimate and global. Lloyd Jones has a special insight into the intricacies of the human situation - intimate and global.

Lloyd Jones, writing with the voice of an adolescent girl, is a middle-aged New Zealand author who has mastered a great novel: Wrought with the purity of grief, urgent in every cadence, and expanded by a faint lingering hope. But the end does not bring wonder but despair. And that's a wonder in itself, that such a grim subject can still carry something as luminous and as revealing to us readers worlds away from a forgotten village on the pacific.

Anthony Chaytor

Bethany's Bookshelf

Boomer at Midlife
Mark Cain
iUniverse, Inc.
2021 Pine Lake Road, #100, Lincoln, NE 68512
9780595411863, $15.95

Boomer at Midlife is an original novel about Walter "Boomer" Stapleton, the quintessential baby boomer: divorced, middle-aged, tired of his job, in a relationship with a woman much younger than he is. His only child is about to attend college. As his fiftieth birthday draws ever nearer, Boomer yearns to break away from the stereotypes of his generation and radically reinvent himself. Quitting his job, he moves to New Orleans to pursue his dreams, playing zydeco on his accordion. But what awaits him in The Big Easy will pull him even further into his mire of uncertainty about who he is and where his place in life is. At times irreverent, at times soulful, Boomer at Midlife is at its core an engaging parable about the human condition.

God's Healing Herbs
Dennis Ellingson
Cladach Publishing
PO Box 336144, Greeley, CO 80633
0975961934, $16.99

Now in a newly revised and significantly expanded edition illustrated throughout by Matthew Kondratief (writer, pastor, counselor, and owner of Sprague River Herb Gardens in South Central Oregon), "God's Healing Herbs" by Dennis Ellingson presents the history and showcases the value and use of some 130 popular herbs. Ellingson aptly provides the reader with an informative tour of a biblical herb garden, offers invaluable tips and even recipes for growing and preparing herbs, as well as offering resource listings of reliable herb suppliers. Organized alphabetically, readers will discover medicinal and medicinal charts to guide them with respect to the cited herbs. Of special note is the section devoted to 'Jesus and the Herbs'. A welcome addition for personal and community library gardening reference collections and supplemental reading lists, "God's Healing Herbs" is enthusiastically recommended for its herbal facts, lore, recipes, and advice.

A Geometric Analysis Of The Platonic Solids And Other Semi-Regular Polyhedra
Kenneth J. M. MacLean
Loving Healing Press
5145 Pontiac Trail, Ann Arbor, MI 48105
1932690999, $49.95

"A Geometric Analysis Of The Platonic Solids And Other Semi-Regular Polyhedra" by writer, researcher, and original thinker Kenneth MacLean provides teachers, science students, and non-specialist general readers with an informed and informative introduction to the Phi Ratio as it is commonly encountered in the world. Offering a fascinating perspective, the reader is provided with a view of geometry and its patterns that is fully accessible to anyone with a high school level of competency in mathematics. Methodical, even elegant, the formulas and equations reflect the beauty of numbers and three dimensional figures. Enhanced with more than 140 full-color illustrations, "A Geometric Analysis Of The Platonic Solids And Other Semi-Regular Polyhedra" is a very highly recommended addition to personal and academic library Mathematics & Geometry reference collections and supplemental reading lists.

The Real College Cookbook
G. P. McDonald
Outskirts Press
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
1598007890, $9.95 1-888-672-6657

"The Real College Cookbook: 50 Essentials For All College Students" is a compilation of recipes that G. P. McDonald has acquired during his ten years as a college student. These are particularly 'student friendly' recipes that college kids can make themselves with a minimum of time and effort. Ranging from Hash Noodles; Frozen Pizza; Oshkosh Stew; Sugar Tortillas; and Funky Ramen; to Beer Cubes; Salisbury Pot; Studio Pie; Tangy Macaroni; and Cheesy Biscuits, "The Real College Cookbook" is an ideal 'how to' reference that are palate pleasing and appetite satisfying economic alternatives to the usual junk food selections of young adults living on or off campus.

Susan Bethany

Bob's Bookshelf

Femme Fatale: Loves, Lies, And the Unknown Life of Mata Hari
Pat Shipman
William Morrow
10 East 53rd Street, New York, New York 10022
9780060817282 $25.95

She was beautiful, brilliant, and dangerous. Born Margaretha Zelle in Holland, Mata Hari was the most notorious femme fatale in history. In her new book, "Femme Fatale: Love, Lies, and the Unknown Life of Mata Hara" Pat Shipman reveals the real woman behind the decades of hype that have distorted this historical figure.

Married at 18 to a Dutch naval officer, Margaretha and her husband moved to the Dutch Indies where she gave birth to two children. After the mysterious death of their son, the marriage began to unravel and it ended with Margaretha giving up custody of her daughter.

In 1903 the young woman arrived in Paris where she began her transformation into Mata Hari. Starting as a circus performer, Gretha switched to dancing as a way to connect with society ladies who might put her in the right circles.

As a dancer "Mata Hari" was wildly successful. "Her genius lay not in what she did but in how she presented herself," Shipman writes. "She offered spectacle, emotion, and the mystery of the Orient, which was just beginning to be fashionable."

With fame and fortune came a stable of high profile lovers. At the outset of World War I, one of those lovers recruited Mata Hari to join the German Secret Services as a spy. To complicate matters, she then offered to spy for the Allies as well.

As a double spy, Mata Hari was taking orders from Germans at the same time she was working for the French. Eventually the French ensnared her in a trap that resulted in her sensational trial and a conviction for espionage. Mata Hari was sentenced to death by firing squad and was executed in 1917. An engrossing account of one of history's most enigmatic and mysterious figures, "Femme Fatale" exposes the truth behind a woman whose many myths and legends still persist today.

Get Smart!
Ron Dietel
989 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94103-1741
0787983349 $24.95 1-800-567-4797

Subtitled "Nine Sure Ways to help Your Child Succeed in School", this informative book uses the latest educational research to show parents how to help their children become better students.

The author discusses nine areas that can make a radical difference in how well a youngster does in the classroom. He begins with "ability" and points out ways a parent can increase his or her child's ability to acquire knowledge.

Next, the discussion turns to how to help a child want to learn more. That is followed by a look at some techniques on how one can develop in a youngster a positive attitude towards both school and learning.

The school is the focus on sections that explain how to develop positive and open relationships with teachers, how to encourage good learning habits in the classroom, and how to make sure the school is meeting the needs of the child.

In the concluding chapters home learning is addressed as well as evaluation methods for ascertaining if a child is performing to the best of his or her ability . Finally, the author emphasizes that effective communication between parent and child is essential in making this all work so that the child can get the most out of the schooling experience.

Narrative Writing
George Hillocks, Jr.
361 Hanover Street, Portsmouth, NH 03801-3912
9780325008424 $19.50

The emphasis of this guide is on producing content rather than form when it comes to student writing. The author's intent is to boost the students' engagement, making them active learners - not passive recipients of knowledge.

This is achieved by breaking the learning task into small, doable pieces which allow the young person to master these tasks thus, preparing him or her for more complex learning. By providing clear instructions and objectives while focusing on the procedural knowledge that accompanies academic success, Hillocks creates a scaffolding that will create confident and fully engaged writers. Students on the secondary school level would benefit most from the program set forth here, but it would be appropriate for some middle school youngsters also.

Bob Walch

Buhle's Bookshelf

Bumping and Other Stories
W. Jack Savage
Xlibris Corporation
International Plaza II, Suite 340, Philadelphia, PA 19113
9781425746018, $10.99

Bumping and Other Stories is an anthology of original fiction by Vietnam veteran and stage actor W. "Jack" Savage. The twelve tales diverge widely in setting, mood, and memories. From a Ukranian prisoner's firsthand account of the wildly unlikely events in an abandoned slaughterhouse that led to his incarceration, to an estranged anniversary couple compelled to choose each other once again, to an off-stage player forcibly reminded of past choices that remain irreconcilable with his present life, Bumping and Other Stories touches a raw nerve with its passion, severity, and moral dilemmas. A twistedly thought-provoking collection.

The Brogan Book
Thomas Brogan
Lulu Press
860 Aviation Parkway, Suite 300, Morrisville, NC 27560
9781430317845, $12.95

Occasionally illustrated with black-and-white photographs, "The Brogan Book: Your Daily Blarney" is a compilation of prose poems and free verse lyrics employed by Thomas Brogan and range from rants, accusations, and sarcasm to novel ideas, original thoughts, and a great deal of what can only be described as 'blarney', nonsense, and old-fashioned hooey. Iconoclastic and ironic, Thomas Brogan is also entertaining, original, and a quite obviously gifted wordsmith well worth the reader's time. 'Feet': Feet are guides, that lead the way./Giving support and taking no pay.//Sometimes feet really begin to stink and smell./But, where you've been they will never tell.

An Afterthought Of Light
Victor M. Depta
Blair Mountain Press
2027 Oakview Road, Ashland, KY 41101
9780976881728, $15.00

The inevitable infirmities of aging and death are difficult for most people to consider and only then in moments of crisis. "An Afterthought Of Light" is a compelling and very highly recommended collection of superbly crafted poems by Victor M. Depta that address the 'fear, sorrow and helplessness' that infirmity and death inject into daily life. These deftly crafted free verse lyrics also contemplate the spiritual meanings that might be embedded in our experiences with these inevitabilities. 'Iraq': there was just himself/absorbed in his modest unassuming way/by the slow, black spiraling--/his days sloping down/swirling and choking/toward the endpoint of the cone/the dot, the horrifying moment/for himself alone//until his grandson/flung backward by a rocket-propelled grenade/in faraway Iraq/sped past him, impetuous youth/spattering flesh until the spiral was a messy blur/which clogged and stopped/endlessly/obliterated by grief.

Poems For A Beautiful Woman
Pasquale Varallo
Privately Published
7944 Ridgeway Street, Phila, PA 19111
097733791X, $12.00

The poetry comprising Pasquale Varallo's "Poems For A Beautiful Woman" run the gamut of forms and styles from articulated prose poems, to free verse, to classical lyrics -- all in celebratory expressions of romance, love, courtship, loss, and general appreciation of woman. Inspired and inspiring, "Poems For A Beautiful Woman" is strongly recommended to the attention of anyone who has ever loved, lost, or found a woman. 'Cara Mia': I need a hand to hold/To cuddle when its cold/A back to scratch when it itches/A joke to leave me in stitches/Pretty blue eyes to look into/When I say, "I Love You!"/Be my Valentine?

Willis M. Buhle

Burroughs' Bookshelf

Relationship Related And Other Poetry
Anthony B. Ashe
Reconstruction Books Publishing
12705 Longwater Drive, Mitchellville, MD 20721
9780978975203, $12.95

Arranged in five parts, with each segment unfolding to reveal the constant yet changeable essence of relationships, the poetry of Anthony B. Ashe as compiled in "Relationship Related And Other Poetry" is contemporary in their themes and universal in their appeal. These are very highly recommended and intellectually stimulating free verse compositions that deftly utilize metaphor, simile and symbolism to reveal complex elements of human kinship. 'Kiss Me Now': succulent lips/or forever hold your piece//keep the measurement and directions/we're not trading recipes//cook with raw/unadulterated skin on skin//;when we scream/when we moan/when we writhe and grind//are you giving all to me?/does that make you mine?

The Republic Of Lies
Ed Ochester
Adastra Press
16 Reservation Road, Easthampton, MA 01027
0977666743, $14.00

A past president of the Associated Writing Programs, Ed Ochester edits the Pitt Poetry Series published by the University of Pittsburgh Press, co-edits the literary journal "5 AM", and has authored twelve books of poetry, including two previous Adastra Press chapbooks. Comprised of fourteen of his poems, "The Republic Of Lies" is the latest chapbook to present his unique poetry style as he critiques contemporary social and lifestyle values using the forum of free verse to 'speak truth to power' -- especially the powerful influences of ideologues. Expertly crafted with an especially articulate elegance, "The Republic Of Lies" is highly recommended reading both as poetry and as social commentary. 'Why I Love Teenagers': In Holiday Park, PA/the Burger King/has put out a signboard/advertising/for late-night employees/and some kid/contemptuous/of minimum wage/or the "free enterprise" system/and possible even/"In God We Trust"/has stolen the "C" form the sign/so that it reads: "NOW HIRING LOSERS"

Letters To Early Street
Albert Flynn DeSilver
La Alameda Press
9636 Guadalupe Trail NW, Albuquerque, NM 87114
University of New Mexico Press (distributor)
1 University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM 87131-0001
9781888809503, $14.00

Originally begun as letters to a colleague, Albert Flynn DeSilver's writing began to transform into a whimsical epistolary experiment that turned writing a traditional letter into a unique poetic exercise addressing emotions, elements of landscape, and the act of writing itself. The poems compiled and presented in "Letters To Early Street" represent fresh, lyrical and inventively articulate acts of communication. "Letters To Early Street" is emotionally rewarding, intellectually entertaining, and very highly recommended reading for anyone who appreciates the art and craft of writing poetry. 'Letter Forty Three': Dear equivalence,//I can feel a letter/welling up from that massive//fathom at the cusp/of what breath borders//upon hesitant/heights, here//where my absences/are all up to spec.//Soon this letter will shed its dilemma,/like an exasperated lemon-cloud--//Then the diehard physicalists/will have to absorb//the difficulty of such spendy/ephemera. How I enter//endless confrontation with no/emblem but skin.

Yes! You Can Stop Smoking Even if You Don't Want To, fourth edition
David C. Jones
E & E Publishing
1001 Bridgeway, No. 227, Sausalito, CA 94965
9780979160608, $18.95

Written by the founder of "Stop Smoking Recovery Programs" and former three-pack-a-day smoker David C. Jones, Yes! You Can Stop Smoking Even if You Don't Want To: Recover From Nicotine Addiction is now in an updated fourth edition. A groundbreaking guide, Yes! You Can Stop Smoking treats smoking as an addiction; dissects the self-talk and harmful false beliefs that prevent one from quitting; advice for avoiding self-sabotage; true-life stories of people who quit smoking; and much more. Affirmations for the first ninety days of quitting smoking, each with a blank half-page where the one quitting can write down his or her feelings, rounds out this invaluable, keen-minded and encouraging guide.

John Burroughs

Carson's Bookshelf

All You Have To Do Is Ask
Meredith Walters
Anhinga Press
PO Box 10595, Tallahassee, FL 32302
9780938078975, $14.00

Meredith Walters was warded the Anhinga Prize for Poetry in 2006. Highly recommended reading for poetry enthusiasts who appreciate unique word skills, "All You Have To Do Is Ask" showcases her distinctive voice and originality which is clearly discernable throughout all of her free verse poetry. 'Li Po Made Me Think': Beside the water lotus all talk of our collective future/did not include separating into teams.//To no fanfare of clouds in the west/pilgrims anointed their troubles intimately.//The merganser seemed to inquire/into a second, more secret night.//By brute immensity or a chirp/we awoke to a white light//arriving through the wicks/of a dreamed-up and blossomless pear tree.

California Healthy
Patricia Hamilton
Park Place Publications
PO Box 829, Pacific Grove, CA 93950
9781877809439, $19.95

California Healthy: The Adventurer's Guide to Local Delicacies, Fine Wine, Great Walks and the Good Life is a guide for California residents as well as vacationers. What distinguishes California Healthy is its close attention to the healthy food and fitness-promoting activities. County-by-county listings give the address, telephone number, and open numbers of everything from restaurants with healthful cuisine to parks ideal for walks to art galleries, botanical gardens, artisan's markets, colleges, special holiday celebrations and much more. Full-color maps and photographs on almost every page add a splendid visual touch to this high-quality guide for anyone in the Southern California area seeking to stay in shape.

Above the Gravelbar
David S. Cook
Polar Bear & Company
PO Box 311, Solon ME 04979
9781882190690, $12.95

Army veteran David S. Cook presents Above the Gravelbar: The Native Canoe Routes of Maine, a reminiscence of great canoe travels along Maine's many interconnected waterways, combined with a deep respect for now Maine's Native peoples once used their watercraft to traverse the state. A handful of black-and-white maps illustrate this thoughtful chronicle, which delves deep into the history of individual routes. Above the Gravelbar is not a travel guide per se, but rather gives itself over to the rich, scenery-capturing detail sure to intrigue armchair travelers and canoe connoisseurs.

Aristophanes, author
adapted by Edward Einhorn
Theater 61 Press
2373 Broadway, Suite 802, New York, NY 10024
9780977019724, $14.95

Lysistrata is playwright Edward Einhorn's new off-Broadway adaptation of the 2500-year-old classical Greek play by Aristophanes. In addition to the text of the play itself, Lysistrata features essays by Einhorn, sample musical scores, and also a version of the play with the characters and stage directions removed, for directors who wish to make the decisions of who speaks what line for themselves. Retaining the bawdy humor of the original, Lysistrata is undeniably a laugh-out-loud comedy of war, sex, and wicked fun. Lysistrata is an excellent contribution to theater shelves, though the raunchy subject matter is decidedly for adults only.

Michael J. Carson

Christy's Bookshelf

Hollywood Station
Joseph Wambaugh
Little, Brown and Company
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316066143 $24.99 1-800-759-0190

LAPD's Hollywood Division is not as glamorous as it sounds. Here the prostitutes and transvestites troll for johns while "tweakers" fish envelopes out of mailboxes in search of anything they can use toward the purchase of their next hit of crystal meth and celebrity clones stroll along the Hollywood walk of fame seeking gullible tourists. Since Rodney King, law enforcement officials, from the beat cops to the detectives, must bide by rigid rules and continual scrutiny, from their internal affairs division to Washington DC. But they have the protective eye of their Sergeant on their side, a man they refer to as the Oracle, who has been on the Job for 46 years.

The story centers around a tweaker named Farley Ramsdale and his girlfriend, whom he calls Olive because she resembles Popeye's Olive Oyl. Farley is a small-time crook who thinks he is being smart by making Olive do all the dirty work: fishing envelopes out of mailboxes, trying to pass counterfeit bills in stores, and stealing magnetic cards from hotels which Farley sells to other criminals specializing in identity theft. When Cosmo, an Armenian immigrant and Ilya, his Russian girlfriend, steal diamonds from a jeweler, Farley quickly puts two and two together; Farley is the one who passed on to Cosmo a letter from the jewelry store inventorying the diamonds. When Farley demands a cut of the action, Cosmo decides he and Olive must be eliminated, but from that point on, everything begins to spin out of control.

Wambaugh is a master at characterization and witticisms. His humorous style and observations make this a fun read, with quirky, offbeat characters and plenty of action. What seems at first to be a loose, albeit amusing, telling of the goings on within the Los Angeles Police Department Hollywood Station and the criminals that surround it, comes together at the end to form one heck of a good story. The situations the officers find themselves in are at times laugh-out-loud funny, as are the interactions between the characters. Hollywood Station provides a poignant look into the inner workings and ever-present political wrangling behind the scenes of the LAPD. Highly entertaining; recommended.

Nature Girl
Carl Hiaasen
Alfred A. Knopf
c/o Random House
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780307262998 $25.95 1-800-726-0600

Sammy Tigertail, half-white, half-Seminole, has yet to find his place in the world. Raised by his white father, Sammy returned to the Seminole reservation at a young age, where he has since tried to fit in. Sammy has a failed work history as an alligator wrestler, and now he's trying his luck with the tourist industry. When Sammy takes his first vacationer on an airboat ride, the man dies from a heart attack. Sammy panics and dumps the man's body into the water, then goes into hiding on Dismal Key. His first night there, Sammy scares a group of college students off the island, but one young woman refuses to leave.

Honey Santana is a strong woman determined to raise her son to be a good man in a corrupt world in Southern Florida. Honey hears song lyrics in her head and is prone to an obsessive need to make a point. When Boyd Shreave, a telemarketer who hasn't done an honest day's labor in his life, interrupts her dinner one night, his rude response to her attempt to tell him he's calling at a bad time prompts Honey to take action. Honey lures Boyd to Florida with promises of a major investment in land, where she intends to teach him a lesson in civility. Boyd arrives with his mistress, Eugenie, and the three embark on a kayak ride through Ten Thousand Islands. Unknown to Boyd is that his wife has hired a private investigator to trail her husband and catch him in the act. Honey also has a man after her, Piejack, her former employer with a bandaged hand and mismatched fingers, who's been lusting after Honey and is determined to make her his.

Throw into this wild mix Honey's levelheaded son, Fry, and her ex-husband, Perry, a former drug runner who is still in love with Honey. The two have come to rescue Honey from Piejack, which leads to one hilarious romp through the Everglades with characters bumping into and chasing one another all over the island.

On par with Elmore Leonard, Carl Hiaasen delivers a fun read, with wacky, outside-the-box characters and a laugh-out-loud plot. The story moves quickly and is vastly entertaining throughout, so much so that the reader will not be quite ready to put the book down at the end. This must-read is highly recommended.

The Frugal Editor
Carolyn Howard-Johnson
Red Engine Press
Branson, MO
9780978515874 $18.95

As the literary market continues to tighten its proverbial belt, today's writer must assume more of the responsibilities surrounding book publishing than ever before. No longer can a writer depend on a publisher or agent to accept a manuscript in need of editing, and submitting a manuscript that isn't as near perfect as possible will, in all probability, result in rejection. To the rescue comes acclaimed author Carolyn Howard-Johnson with The Frugal Editor, the latest in her How to Do It Frugally series. This little gem is a must-have for any writer, published or not, bestselling or unknown. Filled with valuable tips, The Frugal Editor touches on all aspects of self-editing, such as how to spot common grammatical errors, from superfluous adverbs to confusing dangling participles, as well as how to organize the workspace, format the manuscript, and use Word's tools to the fullest. Also included are sample query and cover letters, and pointers on correcting intrusive taglines, when to use an ellipsis, and correct spacing, to name a few. The book takes the reader step-by-step through the editing process, from rough draft to galley. No questions are left unanswered, no topics left uncovered. This generous writer goes so far as to recommend resources through other books and websites, with plenty of advice from agents and editors.

The Frugal Editor is one of those reference books every writer should have by their computer for constant use and study. Highly recommended.

The Mephisto Club
Tess Gerritsen
Ballantine Trade Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
0345476999 $25.95 1-800-726-0600

Boston Medical Examiner Maura Isles is called to a gruesome scene early on Christmas morning, where a young woman has been brutally killed and dismembered, with satanic symbols all around her body and the Latin word "Peccavi" (I have sinned) scrawled backwards across her bedroom wall. Detective Jane Rizzoli, back on the job after maternity leave, suspects a serial killer is on the loose when Maura's nemesis, psychiatrist Joyce O'Donnell, is murdered in the same manner. Dr. O'Donnell was part of a group of scholars from around the world calling themselves the Mephisto Club that track demons. When members of this group are murdered and Maura's life is threatened, the action moves to Europe in search of a young woman whom the Mephisto Club is certain will draw the demon to them.

This captivating thriller touches on a fascinating subject: demonology, its origins and presence in the world today. Gerritsen's outstanding characterization is once more on display along with a thrilling, fast-paced plot. Jane Rizzoli remains a strong character, a jaded woman whose marriage and baby have become a calming force. Maura is a lonely woman intrigued by a priest, and this relationship is a painful one for Maura as well as the reader, who longs for Maura's happiness. Gerritsen offers a galvanizing look at Rizzoli's parents, the two people who shaped her, which helps the reader understand her cynicism and insecurities. An electrifying read.

Christy Tillery French

Clay's Bookshelf

Coral Moon
Brandilyn Collins
5300 Patterson Avenue SE Grand Rapids, MI 49530

Leslie Brymes, reporter for the Kanner Lake Times has dreams of going national. Hoping her coverage of actress Edna San's murder last year would raise her to the stardom she dreams of. But when she awakens one morning to find seventy something year old Vesta Johnson, a woman loved by all murdered and put in her car she has second thoughts about being a reporter.

Police Chief Vince Edwards is at a lost as to who would murder Vesta. But all clues point to one person and that is impossible, that person being Henry Johnson, Vesta's late husband who passed away fourteen months ago! But what of the eerie feelings he has experienced? And even Leslie feels an evil presence is trying to kill her.

With a police department of only five men and with the Idaho State Police looking for clues at the crime scene Vince must figure this out, does he have a serial killer on his hands, a ghost or a one time murder? But what of the note found pinned on Vesta's chest? Vince is racing against time will the murderer strike again and what does Leslie have to do with all of this?

Leslie feels that she can't trust anyone but has to find out if in someway Vesta's murder is her fault. The second body appears and the notes begin to appear what does all this have to do with the new proposed hotel? And what about the teenager that calls Leslie with information that Leslie has to pursue? What of the evil that seems to have fallen on Kenner Lake? After all the twists and turns the climax will have you seating on the edge of your seat.

If you love mystery, intrigue and suspense than hold onto your seat as author Brandilyn Collins gives you a glimpse of the unseen realm of demonic forces and how God places prayer on the hearts of His people even those who question who He is and has everyone looking to the pastor for guidance.

Coral Moon is the second book of the author's new series, the first being Violet Dawn all revolve around the sleepy little Town of Kenner Lake. Brandilyn Collins has a way with words so much so that you find yourself not being able to put down this awesome page turner. The characters jump right off the page at you, characters or people you feel you know and become entangled in their lives.

If you're new to Brandilyn Collins as this reviewer is you'll find yourself wanting to read all ten of her other 3 series of books, while waiting in anticipation as to what is in store next for the people of Kenner Lake in the third book Crimson Eve. Word of advice don't read Coral Moon alone on a dark and stormy night!

The Dead Whisper On
T. L. Hines
Bethany House Publishers
1140 Hampshire Avenue South Bloomington, Minneapolis 55438
9780764202056 $19.99

It's been eleven years since Candace MacHugh's father died. Living in Butte, Montana with nothing but her memories, Canada feels alone, she misses her father so much and has no contact with her mother since she blames her mother for kicking her father out. Then one night she hears her father speak to her from the shadows wanting her to join him and the work the dead are doing attempting to make contact about dire warnings and great dangers. The dead want her to become an "operative", one of the contacts between the living and dead but to do so she must become "dead" to the world. Canada is so happy to hear her father's voice and gets caught up in the excitement of at least working with him and talking to him that she says yes without really thinking. And she is whisked away to her first assignment. But Canada doesn't seem to be fitting in at least to the "operatives" thinking. Her "death" is staged, her car flies off the road and flies into the Berkley pit the biggest Superfund site in the United States.

Her father and the operatives tell her to watch out for Keros the golem who is out to get her but no one can tell her why. But the shadows and the operatives are afraid of him. Then Keros finally catches up with her and makes her realize he is not the bad guy and is not out to kill her which makes Canada begin to question as to what is really happening with the shadows or Nothingness as Keros calls them and the operatives. Keros tells her "The heart is deceitful above all things" and "What you see isn't always what's real. Often isn't, in fact."

Meanwhile people in Butte are disappearing, actually turning to ash and burning up. And Canada questions why the shadows and the operatives don't want her in Butte, for that is where the truth lies. Once Canada gets it all figured out that the shadowy figure is not her father and that the shadows are living underground in the mines in Butte waiting for their time to take over. Canada knows they must be stopped but how? Can she trust Doug, the computer geek operative who has figured out the truth, too but even if she can't she knows she needs his help.

The author T.L. Hines will leave you spellbound in this awesome page turner that will have you on the edge of your seat. A must read for anyone who likes suspense for this one will leave you guessing as to what will happen next. And the author admits that Butte is his favorite city in Montana, and it shows as Hines goes into great detail describing the town. It really makes you feel you are there as you go to the Columbia Gardens; see the Our Lady of the Rockies and to the Berkley Pit. And go on the run with Canada first trying to get away from Keros and later the operatives for you will feel you are there. As a Christian suspense it may leave some questioning about someone speaking to the dead but trust this reviewer there is a bigger story here. "The Dead Whisper On" is T.L. Hines second book the first being "Waking Lazarus" and on the surface both seem to be about the dead but as the author states "They're about living, and specifically living the life God has called you to". So whether you are a Christian or not this is a must read for all suspense lovers.

Hippies of the Religious Right
Preston Shires
Baylor University Press
One Bear Place 97363 Waco, Texas 76798
9781932792577 $29.95

The title says it all in this novel about the counterculture movement. Turn the book over and the line at the top of the book will really peak your interest "From the Counterculture of Jerry Garcia to the subculture of Jerry Falwell", so how can you resist reading and the author does not disappoint. The author is Preston Shires who has a PhD from the University of Nebraska and teaches history at the Southeast Community College in Lincoln, Nebraska and makes a strong but interesting point of how the hippie counterculture movement of the 1960's evolved into the Jesus Movement of the 1970's and the 1980's. But than again as Shires points out the 1960's hippies seem to follow the Golden Rule philosophy of the Bible which is "Whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them; for this is the law and the prophets" (Matthew 7:12) even if they themselves did not know it at the time. From this philosophy it just seemed to birth into the Jesus Movement as the hippies grew older and looked for a deeper meaning of the whole "love" thing and still didn't want any part of their parents' religion. This reviewer feels the author puts it best - "Although the youth of the sixties rebelled against many of the strictures of their parents' generation, they did retain at least two important older-generation principles. They never abandoned in the main, a commitment to the golden rule ideal, and they never relented in their pursuit of freedom or expressive individualism. What they did reject was the conformism that forbade them the right to do new things and think new ideas".

Read how the religious leaders at the time became involved such as Billy Graham, Pat Robertson, David Wilkerson and many others. Also read of some of the leaders that came from the hippie movement into the Jesus Movement like Keith and Melody Green and the beginning of their ministries.

Exceptional book at explaining the Jesus Movement, a definite read for the 60's historical buffs, or even a great subject for a debate team, great for Christians or anyone interested in how modern day Christianity evolved from the hippies to the Jesus movement to now. Overall this book would be great for a group study as it does read like a textbook but it's amazing that so much information is contained to only 242 pages. The notes at the end of the book; just give an added depth to some of the information and requires reading as well. The bibliography book list is really great for a further reading or study. There is even an index that makes it great for going back for rereading of certain sections. This book has this reviewer's vote in agreeing with the author's argument but read it for yourself and than decide. And what better time for this novel to arrive on the scene as we celebrate the great Summer of Love of 1967.

Cheri Clay

Debra's Bookshelf

The Hades Project
Lynn Sholes and Joe Moore
Midnight Ink
2143 Wooddale Drive, Woodbury, MN 55125-2989
9780738709307 $14.95 1-800-843-6666

Cotten Stone is peculiarly suited to fighting the forces of evil. By day a senior investigative correspondent for the Satellite News Network, Cotten also happens to be the mortal daughter of Furmiel, the only one of the Fallen Angels to have sought forgiveness for following Lucifer over to the dark side. In this third installment in Lynn Sholes' and Joe Moore's series of Cotten Stone mysteries, Cotten and her off-limits love interest Father John Tyler, director of the Vatican's intelligence gathering arm, uncover another fiendish plot hatched by the "old man" and his cronies. The "Hades Project" of the book's title, a marriage of modern technology and ancient religious artifact, threatens to unleash a hell on earth unless Cotten and John can do the Lord's work in time. The fate of the world is at stake, of course, but of more immediate concern is the welfare of two extraordinary children whom the bad guys need to have in their power if their diabolical scheme is to succeed.

The Hades Project, like its predecessors in the series (The Grail Conspiracy and The Last Secret), is a smoothly-written, nicely paced page-turner. The prose is transparent--which is to say that one doesn't notice it much, for good or ill, while reading, which is appropriate for the genre. The plot is not edge-of-your-seat gripping, but it definitely holds one's interest. The characters are likable but not as fleshed out as they might be. This time around the story is furthered both by the introduction of a character, one of the children, who is likely to become a fixture in the series and by--if I'm not imagining it--a ratcheting up in intensity of the just-this-side-of-licit relationship between Cotten and Father John. it will be interesting to see what happens to these characters in subsequent installments.

Practically Perfect in Every Way
Jennifer Niesslein
G. P. Putnam's Sons
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399153914 $24.95 1-800-847-5515

Jennifer Niesslein has reason to be content. She lives with her husband and son and two dogs in a nice house in a nice neighborhood in Charlottesville, Virginia. She is reasonably young (in her early thirties) and reasonably successful (Niesslein is the cofounder of Brain, Child magazine), reasonably happy (her "average" happiness is in fact a 6 out of a possible 10) and reasonably well-to-do (having married into money). She is also a more than reasonably good writer. Still, Niesslein thought her life could stand some improvement....

Practically Perfect is a type of book we seem to be seeing more of these days (unless I'm just noticing them more): the author undertakes a project of some kind--outlandish or unusual in some way--and invites the reader to come along for the ride through the magic of creative nonfiction. A sort of travelogue without the travel. Watch while the author reads the entire Encyclopedia Britannica, say, or spends a year cooking Julia Child recipes. It's a conceit, of course, but one for which I have a particular weakness. With the appearance of each of these new books I kick myself for not having come up with the idea myself.

For her book, Niesslein--why didn't I think of this?--immersed herself for two years in the advice of an assortment of self-help experts, from Dr. Phil to Dr. Laura, from Cosmo to Oprah to Dale Carnegie to Dear Abby. She divides the spectrum of self-help possibilities into seven general areas--house, finances, marriage, mothering, community, health, and spirituality--and approaches these topics serially, exploring the programs of a number of different experts on each topic. Niesslein does not follow the various gurus' advice slavishly, but she is more serious about adopting their programs than most readers probably are. She journals her feelings for Dr. Phil, religiously cleans the "hot spots" in her house per the advice of her cleaning expert, and she exercises for 8 minutes every morning because Jorge Cruise told her to.

There is a practical benefit to reading this book. Readers are introduced painlessly to a host of different self-help programs. Like me, you may find yourself Googling some of them to find out more. But with books like this I'm really just in it for the ride. I want to spend time with an interesting character who can entertain on the page: check, and check. Niesslein's personality is spiced with a dollop of misanthropy (which, frankly, I find attractive):

"Just because I learned some tips on how to interact better with people doesn't mean I find it enjoyable or even worthwhile."

She is wont to be riled by petty grievances:

"One evening, Brandon walks into the kitchen and catches me, while I load the dishwasher, playacting the scene that will happen when the recycling bin thief is confronted. You had to have known that wasn't your recycling bin, I snap. That nasty-ass green one is. My ire is contagious, and soon Brandon and I have, together, painted a devastating picture of the perpetrators' moral vacuum."

And she writes well. It's a winning combination. My only complaint is that the book could use an index--for help with all that self-help Googling the book inspires.

The Real Festivus
Dan O'Keefe
Perigee Books
c/o The Berkley Publishing Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399532290 $12.95 1-800-847-5515

If you're a Seinfeld fan you know all about Festivus, the faux holiday that was invented by George Costanza's father Frank:

Frank Costanza: Many Christmases ago, I went to buy a doll for my son. I reached for the last one they had, but so did another man. As I rained blows upon him, I realized there had to be another way.Cosmo Kramer:
What happened to the doll?

Frank Costanza: It was destroyed. But out of that a new holiday was born: a Festivus for the rest of us!

In the Seinfeld episode ("The Strike"), the celebration of Festivus involves an aluminum pole, feats of strength, and a ritual airing of grievances. It is not, at least in George's view, an occasion of celebration, but rather a holiday to be endured. The idea of Festivus has nonetheless leapt from the small screen into the popular imagination. Need a Festivus pole for your own real-life celebration? You can buy a six-foot floor model online.

As it turns out, Festivus did not spring fully formed from the heads of Seinfeld's writers. It sprang from the imagination of Daniel O'Keefe Sr., the father of one of those writers. The O'Keefe family actually celebrated Festivus annually during the 1970's and 80's while Dan O'Keefe and his two younger brothers were growing up. But as the author explains in The Real Festivus, the holiday they observed was rather different from--if no less bizarre than--the celebration popularized on television:

"Though only a family of five originally celebrated Festivus, these days it is celebrated by literally dozens of prisoners, college students, and bored people in rural areas across this great nation. And some crappier nations like Canada and Uruguay. And God bless them all and keep them from rape and thresher accidents. But they're doing it all wrong."

In this record-straightening book, O'Keefe explains the genesis of Festivus, its symbols (a clock and a bag, but no pole) and rituals. Festivus was celebrated (irregularly, with no set date) with depressing music and the recitation of poetry and the ingestion of meat. There were strange hats and coarse political statements. Each year one or more themes were assigned to the holiday. (In 1977, for example, the theme was, "Are We Depressed? Yes!") But the most important element of Festivus was the annual tape recording. More than half of this book is taken up with a transcription of some of those Festivus tapes--jokes and pronouncements and embarrassing family secrets and summaries of the family's history since the last recording.

Do these transcripts make for interesting reading? Well, not per se. We readers are like outsiders peering through the O'Keefe's windows. The boys are teasing one another, their mother sitting to the side, for the most part quiet. Their father is hamming it up in front of the cassette recorder, now speaking German, now breaking into song, now declaiming in some more or less meaningful pidgin Romance language. Most of the jokes are lost on us, but we can appreciate the atmosphere within. And so the Festivus transcripts, if not riveting, wind up providing us with a surprisingly intimate portrait of a family, its members intelligent and deeply odd, playful but mutually supportive.

In his humorous introduction to The Real Festivus Jason Alexander (George Costanza on Seinfeld) says of the book that it is "a shameless attempt to cash in on an international phenomenon. It is airport or bathroom reading at its best." Which is true enough. But it's also mildly informative and funny and charmingly written and brief. Recommended, in short, for the Seinfeld aficionado.

Power Play
Joseph Finder
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780312347482 $24.95 1-888-330-8477

Jake Landry is a junior executive with Hammond Aerospace, a company riven more than usually by corporate infighting since the recent selection of a new CEO intent on cleaning house. Jake is exceedingly competent, and in fact knows more than anyone else at Hammond about the new wide-bodied jet the company is rolling out. His expertise lands him a last-minute summons to the company's annual leadership retreat -- three days off the grid at a remote fishing lodge in British Columbia, team-building with a bunch of alpha male execs. But once they're arrived at the lodge, professional backstabbing takes a back seat to more immediate dangers: a gang of dead-eyed hunters take the group hostage and demand an enormous ransom for their release.

Like Joseph Finder's previous corporate thrillers, Power Play is laced with technical jargon, which lends the story credibility yet somehow doesn't weigh down the pages. The story is narrated in the first person by Jake, who turns out to have a complicated past that makes him particularly well suited to dealing with a bunch of heavily-armed baddies. Jake is arguably a bit cartoonish, a hero who stands up for the underdog and doesn't kowtow to power, who gets himself in hot water for his troubles. But he's sufficiently fleshed-out to carry this adrenaline-rush of a read. Finder is adept at dripping Jake's back story into the text. Come to that, he's expert at writing smart, edge-of-your-seat fiction that you'll want to read in one sitting: feed the kids before you start on this one.

Debra Hamel, Reviewer

Franci's Bookshelf

Deborah Ellis
Fitzhenry & Whiteside
311 Washington St., Brighton, MA 02135
9781550415735 $16.95

Deborah Ellis dedicates her book to "The children of those we keep in cages."

This remarkable book centers on a bus load of inner city black and latino kids traveling by bus to spend Mother's Day visiting their moms, an aunt, and a grandmother who are in prison. These children are in foster care and their only relatives are in jail. Jake DeShawn and his older sister Shosone take a gift to their mother, of only the allowed items; white socks, two bars of white soap etc. The list is utilitarian, and the items are allowed only three times a year. The socks Jackman picked out have a thread of blue along the tops. They are thrown out by the guards because they vary from the allowed. The children's visit which is framed by yellow lines they can't cross, hands visible at all times on top of the table, gives a taste of the real thing. Chilling.

Jack is an artist who has created an image for himself. He is Jakeman, a superman type with barbed wire surrounding him. He gathers strength from this image of himself. The kids become the sum of their parts, adding up to a force which makes them all stronger. But, there is no protection from his mother's words, that her being incarcerated is her kid's fault.

"You both kept asking for stuff," Mom said. "You wanted singing lessons and science camp, video games, paints, and other art supplies. Fancy running shoes. How was I supposed to pay for all that? I could barely pay my night school fees."

There was so much truth to this I felt stunned reading it, even though I balked at the mother blaming her kids for her committing the crime that put her behind bars. At the close of this heart rending visit Jake thinks, "A quick good-bye was easiest, like yanking an old bandage off an arm."

I recommend this story to all readers in this age group, and for all prison libraries. This is a book their mothers should read, too.

Emma Jean Lazarus Fell Out Of A Tree
Lauren Tarshis
Dial Books For Young Readers
c/o Penguin Readers Group
345 Hudson Street, 15th floor, New York, NY 10014
9780803731646 $16.99 1-800-847-5515

Imagine closing a book, feeling as though you have lived other lives. Lauren Tarshis takes the reader on a journey into hearts and minds you will never forget. When Emma Jean Lazarus Fell Out of A Tree, changes in her life had prepared the ground. She stood up to face the changes.

Emma Jean is brilliant, scientific, a logical thinker who analyzes everything, but somehow her feelings are not part of the equation. Emotions are messy. In spite of her stoicism you find yourself loving Emma Jean. The girl Colleen, who she is placed at odds with, is in every way except one, her opposite. They are both kind. Colleen is not logical and cares too much what people think.

"Colleen Pomerantz had this idea---a faded, crumpled, smudged idea---that being nice counted for something, even in the seventh grade."

The viewpoint changes between the girls works very well to show the characters in depth. Tarshis is unusually deft in keeping these view point switches clear and in character in this first novel. The voice of the narrator is never heard, everything comes through dialog and action.

The popular, self centered, manipulative Laura, has made life miserable for Colleen. Emma Jean explains to Colleen;

"Chimps are very much like humans. In their communities, certain individuals become dominant. These individuals are known as alpha chimps. They achieve dominance through intimidation. They bare their teeth and beat their chests and achieve control of the group because the others feel threatened."

"That's very interesting, Emma Jean. But why are you telling me this?"

"Because you think Laura Gilroy is the alpha chimp."

This novel transcends age categories. I would recommend this book not only for this age group but anyone who loves a good story and needs to learn how to face the alpha chimps in our society.

Franci McMahon

Gary's Bookshelf

The Quickie
James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge
Little Brown and Company
Hachette Book Group USA
1271 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9780316117364 $27.95

I did not like the first book "Step On A Crack" by these same two authors. There were several reasons. Among them was the pacing was very uneven and I had no interest in some of the characters. I am happy to say that is not the case here. In fact this one has all the elements that make Patterson one of most read authors. The story is full of conflicts, good cops and bad ones, the characters are interesting, believable, and the novel speeds along until its surprising ending. Though Patterson has several co-authors, most of the books are rapid-fire thrillers. This one is a new addition to that list.

Kill Now, Pay Later
Robert Terrall
Hard Case
299 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
9780843957754 $6.99

Hard Case has another winner with this mystery that reads like a Mickey Spillane Mike Hammer thriller. There are women galore, gunplay and lots of hard-hitting action. Though published in 1960 the novel, of course, is a little dated but not very much because the writing is fast and furious with fun characters and situations. Speaking of Mickey Spillane, Hard Case has one of his last novels set for publication in November.

Cafe Indiana
Jeanne Raetz Stutigen
The University of Wisconsin Press
1930 Monroe Street, Madison Wisconsin
9780299224943 $19.95

The author of "Cafe Wisconsin" now takes the reader to Indiana and shows the best eateries that are family owned diners. She tells who the owners are, what type of food is served, location, hours of operation and a lot more. I noticed there are so many places that are only open for breakfast and lunch. The book is also broken down into regions of the state like the Wisconsin book. This is a food lovers guide to some of the best eating places in the state of Indiana.

Kiss Me Deadly
Susan Kearney
Tor Romantic Suspense
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780765356673 $14.95

From the first page in which Mandy Newman is followed, crashed into and sent into the waters of Tampa Bay, to the final revealing page the author takes readers along a whirlwind of exciting suspense that is a page-turner. The author also does a great job of setting the tone of what it is like to live in the Tampa Bay area.

High Profile
By Robert B. Parker
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399154041 $24.95

Parker is back with a new Jessie Stone and that's a good thing. A talk show host is murdered and Stone has to find out who did it and why. Stone investigates and finds many different layers to this stars life. Parker also has Sunny Randall involved in the hunt for the killer. The story has all the elements of the Spenser novels and more because of the combined characters from his two different series.

Lost Trails
Edited by Martin M. Greenberg and Russell Davis
Pinnacle Books Kensington Publishing Corp
850 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10022
9780786018246 $6.99

Some of the best writers in the field of western fiction tell new stories of the long ago era. There is gunplay, outlaws, marshals, bar fights and all the elements that make the sagebrush tales so much fun to read. I enjoyed the different views of the old west by so many authors.

Rush Hour 1 2 3
Newmarket Press
18 East 48th Street, New York, NY 10017
9781557047830 $19.95 1-800-669-3903

This is the book for any fan of the series of "Rush Hour" movies. There are behind the scenes stories about all three films, how each film was made, pictures of all three movies and lots of trivia that is sure to please anyone who likes the Jackie Chan, Chris Tucker escapades.

Slip and Fall
Nick Santora
State Street Press
2500 S. State Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48104
9780681127494 $24.95

The author who has written for "Law and Order" and The Sopranos" now writes a novel that is a fast read. The story unfolds with an attorney who is so quick to rise to the top of his profession he doesn't care how he gets there. He just wants to get ahead and please his father. He becomes involved with gangsters who dictate to him how his office is going to run. One interesting thing is that this is the first of many books published by Borders Book Stores. This one would make a great film in the tradition of the "The Firm."

The Rabbit Factory
Marshall Karp
MacAdam Cage Publishing
155 Samsome Street Suite 550, San Francisco, CA 94104
9781596922174 $14.00

This is the first in the Lomax and Biggs mysteries. It begins with the murder of a child molester who just happens to work at a theme park as a rabbit character. There are many twists and turns as detectives Lomax and Biggs investigate the case. I liked the story but found it just a tad too long.

The Quotable Woman
Elaine T. Partnow
Checkmark Books
An imprint of Facts On File Inc
11 Penn Plaza, New York NY 10001
0816045755 $29.95

Women have always had something to say on just about everything. Now the author has collected some of the most famous women through the ages. There are many topics and unique perspectives females have. Some are very deep thinkers while others are very simple. The pieces are fun reading and very educational. This book should be used as required reading for courses in women's studies.

Echoes of Love
Kathleen Pickering
Lionhearted Publishing Inc
P. O. Box 618, Zephyre Cove NV 89448-0618
1573430366 $8.00 888-546-6478

Melissa Ryan inherits half of a very prestigious auction house. She finds out that not everything is as it seems. She travels to England and becomes involved in many adventures with some interesting characters along the way. The novel is fast paced light reading sure to please any romance fan.

Gary Roen

Gloria's Bookshelf

The Ever-Running Man
Marcia Muller
Warner Books (now Grand Central Publishing)
237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10017
9780446582421 $24.99 800-759-0190;

Sharon McCone, who has married her long-time boyfriend Hy Ripinsky, has been hired by the latter's company, an international security firm, to investigate a series of bombings at their facilities around the world over a period of two years. No one has been killed – so far – and the company has finally decided to call in Sharon, a San Francisco private eye. No sooner is Sharon hired than the ever-running man [so called because all anyone has ever seen of him is a fleeting figure leaving the scene of the bombings] strikes again. Sharon comes dangerously close to being a victim, and relates: "I was hiding behind my car, watching an inferno that I missed being trapped in by less than a minute." And this time there is a fatality, a young security guard well known to Sharon and Hy.

As things escalate, Sharon becomes convinced that either Hy and/or one of his two partners are the primary targets, and has no choice but to launch investigations into their pasts, including that of her husband. For his part, Hy has assumed that would be necessary, which doesn't make it any less unpleasant to do, and indeed that quest has unexpected repercussions. Each of the three partners has a somewhat murky past which has included some acts that were less than legal or ethical.

Ms. Muller, the author of 24 previous entries in this series [one co-authored with her husband, mystery writer Bill Pronzini] and three standalones, has written another enjoyable novel. It is always a pleasure to re-enter the world of Sharon and Hy, and the California coastal and hilltop areas so beautifully described. Suspense mounts as the puzzle gradually is solved [albeit not before their lives are put at risk], with an ending that is unexpected but makes perfect sense.

Christietown, a Cece Caruso Mystery
Susan Kandel
Harper Paperbacks
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780060883690 $13.95 800-242-7737

Cece Caruso, divorced mystery biographer and expectant grandmother, has been hired to help promote a new mystery-themed housing development just east of Los Angeles named Christietown, and who better for the job, since Cece's latest project is a book about Dame Agatha, the mystery of whose life and marriage have spawned several books. [The logo for Christietown, designed by the developer [who claims to be a distant relative of the famed novelist], is "a white-haired, hatchet-wielding spinster sitting inside a spinning teacup, the word Christietown spelled out in dripping blood." For the grand opening weekend, Cece is putting on a play inspired by Miss Marple, casting in it her friends, acquaintances and gardener. But when her leading lady's dead body is discovered on the night of the play, the celebration turns somber. Cece, having brought the dead woman on board in the leading role, feels responsible. She already has a lot on her plate, planning not only a baby shower for her daughter but her own wedding, and now finds herself searching for a killer as well. She employs her burgeoning Christie research to find the answers. Cece is an amateur sleuth [this is the fourth book in the series] and her fiance is an LA Hollywood Division detective, and this produces some not-unexpected conflict between them. She must also contend with her ex-husband, who has shown up several days early for their daughter's baby shower with both his own fiancee and her mother in tow—just to add to her challenge.

In addition to the murder mystery, the reader is treated to a good bit of fascinating Christie lore [including, importantly, the eternal Christie question: when she was 35 years of age, where did she disappear to for 11 days in December of 1926], as well as the occasional insights into the love of vintage clothing, which I found to be a lot of fun, contrary to my expectations. It must be admitted that "fun," in fact, is a very apt description of the book – lighthearted [albeit dealing with not one, but two murders], with characters with just the right amount of zaniness. All in all, a perfect summer read. Cece is a nostalgic charmer.

Innocent as Sin
Elizabeth Lowell
Wm. Morrow
c/o HarperCollins, 10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780060829827 $24.95 800-242-7737

In the latest of her 60-plus novels, Elizabeth Lowell tells a tale inspired by facts [relatively] 'ripped from the headlines' – brutal wars far from home shores, money laundering, the smuggling of blood diamonds, the inter- and trans-national illegal arms trade, among other things. Kayla Shaw, a private banker in Arizona, is unwittingly forced to become involved in money laundering on a huge scale when her client's husband blackmails her into complicity. The philosophy from which the title derives comes from a statement by Kayla: "Even sin was innocent once. The rest is timing and opportunity."

Rand McCree is a painter who becomes a reluctant participant in events that ended in the murder of his identical twin brother. That loss has motivated him, five years later, to find and track down the killer, an evil man who is Kayla's nemesis as well, and their shared hatred for the man and all he represents propels the plot. Circumstances have them both in the employ of St. Kilda Consulting, a "necessary organization in today's world of transnational crime, failed and failing states, feral cities, and the just plan savage places in between. All the places where duly appointed and lawful governments are just short of useless and corrupt governments thrive." Another player is John Neto, described as "a black man speaking Scots Gaelic—who was also a former British intelligence officer—was presently chief of intelligence of a small African country that was besieged by transnational criminals from Russia, Brazil, Europe, and the UAE. And this man was being interviewed for American TV in a room in British Columbia, Canada, about a murderous Siberian gunrunner presently living the high life of a socialite in Phoenix, Arizona."

I had some problems with this book, not the least of which was that I found the protagonists rather two-dimensional. I also felt the adjective "feral" was annoyingly over-used. As well, the reader is aware of Rand's anguish at his brother's death almost from page one, and I didn't feel it was necessary to be reminded of it on what seemed like every page, e.g., "his twin's loss was still an open wound on his soul." But almost in spite of myself I was pulled into the intricate tale, the timeliness of which makes it one many readers should find enjoyable.

Bill Pronzini
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780765309334 $24.95 212-388-0100

Nameless, the protagonist in this wonderful, long-running series by Bill Pronzini, receives a call from Celeste Ogden, a woman who was a previous client, in connection with her sister's sudden 'accidental' death. Nameless had been asked by Celeste to investigate her sister Nancy's prospective bridegroom four years ago, and Nameless had been unable to come up with any basis for the head-over-heels-in-love Nancy not to marry him. Now, after her sister had been found dead at the bottom of the stairs in her home, doors locked and no sign of forced entry, Celeste is convinced that her brother-in-law was responsible. The man in question was, on the night in question, conveniently out of town on business. As Nameless says, "I couldn't b lame her. Her hatred of her brother-in-law may have been misguided, but both her grief and her conviction were genuine." He tells her that "I don't doubt that you believe she was murdered and your brother-in-law arranged it," and reluctantly agrees to look into the matter. The man had been controlling to an extreme, apparently, and his wife's utter devotion to her husband caused her to become malleable, and to stay away from her former friends and family, but always accessible to her successful husband – he is, after all, about to take his company public, bringing all kinds of strain to bear on both parties. He, and the reader, are presented with a classic, locked-room mystery in the old style – a good thing, to be sure.

In a separate story line, Jake Runyan, the firm's relatively newly-hired investigator, has a seemingly routine assignment: serve a subpoena on an out-of-town witness on an assault case that is about to come to trial. But it turns out to be anything but routine, as a hanged Latino who worked for the intended subpoena recipient is found murdered on the man's property, and said witness is nowhere to be found. And then things get even uglier, with several cases of arson involved, and some as-yet-uncovered motives, which Jake must try to run down when he almost becomes a victim himself. The suspense builds steadily along both story lines to surprising endings in each. Along the way, the read er learns a bit about the three detectives: Nameless, his cat, Shameless, his adopted daughter and his adored wife Kerry who is undergoing radiation therapy for her recently-discovered cancer, but the prognosis is now a good one and Kerry is anxious to try to regain some control over her life again; Jake Runyon, a twelve-year veteran of the Seattle P.D., still trying to recover from the death of his beloved wife Colleen, of ovarian cancer; and Tamara, now Nameless' partner and a "far cry from the grunge-dressed, wiseass militant she'd been when she first came to work for me. A lot had happened in her life in those five years, personal and professional both, the combination of which had matured her, added character and patience and determination. She was still very much her own woman, but she had goals and direction now, where before she'd been something of a loose cannon. What she wanted now was for this agency to be successful enough to rival McCone Investigations* and the other big outfits in the city, and by God she intended to have her way. I envied her. For her drive and her youth and her health and all the possibilities that lay in her future." What he doesn't know is that her boyfriend has left her for another woman, and her best friend, another strong, African-American woman, is in love with and pregnant by a white, Jewish man and planning to get married, which has Tamara re-thinking her whole philosophy of life.

The Northern California setting is very well portrayed, there is terrific dialogue, great characterizations, and wonderful writing, e.g.: "The kid quit making eye contact. Not that it mattered. You couldn't read anything by watching his eyes. They were like a cat's, more mirrors than windows, and even if you could see through them, all you'd be looking at was mostly empty rooms." Nameless is now sixty-two years old and after having founded, built up and nurtured the agency for thirty years, is now thinking of partial retirement. I suspect that may not work out too well for him, and not at all well for his readers. A terrific read, and recommended.

*an aside referring to the detective agency run by the protagonist of the equally long-running series written by the author's wife, Marcia Muller, whose new book, by the way, "The Ever-Running Man," has just been published to fine reviews.

Death at the Old Hotel
Con Lehane
Thomas Dunne Books
c/o St. Martins
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312323004 $24.95 212-674-5151/646-307-5560

Con Lehane started his working life in and around New York City as a union organizer, a college professor and, for more than a decade, a bartender, so it should come as no surprise that Brian McNulty, the protagonist of this series, is a New York City bartender [albeit a would-be actor] with a soft spot for the working man's plight.

The action begins in the New York City of the early '90's, initially at a fictional hotel just west of the theater district, where Brian McNulty [making his third appearance in this novel] works. His partner behind the bar is a fellow Irishman, Barney Saunders, described as a veteran of the Troubles in Ireland and "one of those rare human beings who kept his own troubles to himself but was always willing to heave a should under yours. Barney would do you a favor, as if he were required by law to do it." When Barney is badly beaten one night, his fingers chopped off with a cleave r, reattachment attempted but the outcome--and the possibility of his ever again working as a bartender--questionable, Brian (who that same night was given a not-so-subtle warning] knows the union local was behind it. Barney is convinced that there was a deal between the hotel manager and the union business agent [one reason that wages and benefits there were below scale] and was trying to obtain the manager's books. Brian, with his dad, now in his 70's but still active in the labor movement, try to find who was behind the attack on Barney. Brian feels uniquely well-qualified to take on the investigation, that a "keen-eyed man of the world—someone like the cop on the beat, or a man who works behind the bar and has a knack for listening and watching what goes on about him—knows how things work and can find out things the run-of-the-mill detective doesn't find out." Things come to a boil when the workers go out on strike, and matters escalate from there. And then two men are killed.

The working life of a bartender is made palpable by Mr. Lehane, as usual in this series. The novel is very well-written, and the sights, smells and sounds of the boroughs rang very true to this reader. I found myself completely captivated by Brian, a man concerned for his friends, worried about his teenage son [who he describes as "the kid with the chain around my soul"], has a previously undiscovered love for kittens and a long-standing one with the music of John Coltrane, and quotes Snoopy – who could fail to love a man like that?

End in Tears
Ruth Rendell
Vintage Crime/Black Lizard
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019, 212-572-2882
9780307277237 $13.00

When the body of 18-year-old Amber Marshalson is found in the early hours of the morning, not far from her home in a wooded area not far from Kingsmarkham [well-known to Rendell fans], the bludgeoning death is investigated by Inspector Wexford. When it appears that the murder may be linked to a death a few weeks earlier of another woman, in what was at first thought to be an accident, things take a much more sinister turn.

Amber's father and stepmother [about whose marriage the best that could be said was that the ardor had cooled] have been left with the care of Amber's year-old son, something to which Chief Inspector Wexford can relate only too well, as his own daughter, Sylvia, is now pregnant and without husband or partner, a situation with which Wexford and his wife are dealing with great unease. But the Marshalsons' situation is particularly poignant: "Poor little boy. His grandfather can't bear to look at him because he reminds him of his dead daughter. His stepgrandmother makes no bones about finding him a nuisance. His mother is dead and by the sound of it she wasn't winning any prizes for nurturing." And then, three weeks later, there is a third murder, with the victim another young girl, who was a friend [for lack of a better word] of Amber. The exact nature of the way in which the two girls are linked is a difficult puzzle for Wexford to unravel, and the investigation takes some startling turns, in the way only this author can weave a plot, with a theme of young single women choosing to have babies for their own varying and distinctly personal reasons, and the lengths to which a woman might go to have/obtain a baby.

Ms. Rendell's always wonderful writing is much in evidence in this book, the weather very much a presence – the hottest summer on record in England, soon to be followed by a November blizzard. The personalities of the other police officers are very well drawn, among them DS Hannah Goldsmith, in whom political correctness is carried to a fault, and DC Bal Bhattacharya, her Anglo-Indian subordinate, to whom Hannah is strongly and uncharacteristically attracted. The ending is nothing less than stunning. [This book first came out in England in 2005 and in hardcover in the US in 2006; this imprint has brought it out now in paperback, and it is most welcome in whatever form.] This author's work has only gotten better over the years, and this book is no exception. Recommended.

The Follower
Jason Starr
St. Martin's Minotaur
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010, 646-307-5151
978031235974-4 $23.95

"Follower," as used by Jason Starr in his new novel, is simply a nicer word for "stalker," for that's what Peter Wells is. The object of his obsession is Katie Porter, who is from the same hometown of Lenox, Massachusetts and, at 22, is five years younger than Peter. Both now part of the New York City singles scene, it seems to Katie that Peter is the perfect guy, after a contrived, "accidental" meeting between the two.

Peter has a very vivid fantasy life, visualizing every scene of what he sees as an incredible relationship, courtship and marriage, right down to the 2-carat ring and sumptuous apartment he has already purchased. At one point he worries that he might come off as obsessed or as a "nutcase." Is he kidding? That doesn't begin to describe it! The fly in the ointment, so to speak, is that Katie has recently started dating Andy, a 23-year-old who shares apartment space with several friends, all of whom seem to talk about and do nothing but watch porn and seek out sex partners. Just the thought of how Peter will handle this impediment is a chilling one.

A more truly delusional man than Peter would be hard to imagine, but the author has managed to imagine this one in an alternately scary and funny portrait, a remarkable feat. Mr. Starr has gotten the tone of the NY singles scene and the gritty, not-so-much fun part of living in the Big Apple, down pat. I must admit I found it difficult to sympathize or even like any of the characters at first – Katie too much a "valley girl," Andy too much a "frat boy," but I'm sure 'shallow' is what the author was going for. The suspense increases and the run-up to the conclusion is nothing less than excruciating. The book is an exciting thriller, and recommended.

Lost Echoes
Joe R. Lansdale
Vintage Crime/Black Lizard
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019, 212-572-2882
9780307275448 $13.95

Harry Wilkes, at the age of six, after falling seriously ill and developing a severe ear infection, develops something apparently called audiochronology, described as "ability to determine past events through the transference of sound and its transformation to visuals of past events contained within the sounds hidden within objects or structures." When triggered by a normally innocuous sound such as the slamming of a door or the moving of furniture in a place where a violent event occurred at some time in the past, Harry will actually visualize that event, seeing the faces of the participants and feeling the terror of the victims. The fear these experiences engender take over a good part of Harry's life, making him constantly on the alert for places where violence took place and where he may hear 'noises in which the past may lurk.' Knowing "trapped memories can be anywhere," he turns to alcohol and its numbing effects as an escape, becoming an alcoholic in the process. A turning point is reached when he meets Tad, an older man who is also an alcoholic and who has studied martial arts and become a sensei, and they become fast friends, each strengthening the other in a mutual resolve to quit drinking. Perhaps inevitably, a childhood friend who has returned to their East Texas town asks him to use his strange ability to determine the truth about the death of her father, a cop long believed to have committed suicide [she has always believed he was murdered], by going back to the scene where he died. What he "sees" uncovers long-buried secrets.

A recurring theme is control and self-control, whether by a murderer or by Harry in the learning of the martial arts. Tad teaches him "Anything and everything is about self-control, Harry. Discipline. Organization. Even creativity. It's not about wild abandon. It's about control of yourself to the point where you can feel what you need to feel and reject what is unnecessary." The author makes Harry's "condition" seem totally real and believable [it may very well be, now that I think of it], and this reader became completely immersed in his world and Mr. Lansdale's wonderful, lyrical writing. The ending had me sitting on the edge of my seat. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and it is highly recommended.

Gloria Feit

Gorden's Bookshelf

The Conspiracy Club
Jonathan Kellerman
Ballantine Trade Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
0345452585 $7.99 1-800-726-0600

Kellerman is a mystery writer. He seldom pushes the boundaries but this might be his strength. His stories bring you into the life of the character. This personal connection makes his mysteries a satisfying read at any time.

Jeremy Carrier is a good psychologist struggling with his own personal problems. Jocelyn Banks was his girlfriend. After her kidnapping and murder, the police look at him as the prime suspect. Arthur Chess is a strange elderly pathologist at the hospital Jeremy works in. Arthur takes an interest in Jeremy just as another murder occurs. Arthur seems to know something Jeremy needs to find out. Jeremy is pulled farther into a vortex of murder and clues until he realizes that only way out for him is to find the killer.

The Conspiracy Club is a mystery worth reading. You will not be disappointed in the tale. It is also a fairly standard mystery. It is a gem of a find in a used bookstore but a possible pass by on the full price shelf.

The Kills
Linda Fairstein
Pocket Star Books A division of Simon & Schuster Inc.
Rockefeller Center, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
0743436687 $7.99

Fairstein writes a busy story. She produces an illusion of the busy life of a prosecutor. This makes an excellent change in the typical lawyer mystery.

Assistant District Attorney Alexandra Cooper is getting ready for a very difficult he said/she said rape trial. A young boy is a possible witness but she has been unable to talk to him and a batch of lawyers from the child welfare system to the defense seem to know more about her case than she does. Her whole case seems to be falling apart when clues from the murder of an elderly woman seem to connect to her trial.

The Kills is the type of lawyer mystery case you love to read, detailed storyline with clues hidden in a mass of events. To top it off, you have lethal threats on the heroine. The Kills doesn't stand out from the genre until you get into a historical back story about a legendary Double Eagle gold coin. The ending is a little weak but the action/mystery in the second half of the story is intense enough to warrant a little time alone, away from the distractions of work and family. The Kills is a mystery for a long weekend away.

S.A. Gorden, Reviewer

Harwood's Bookshelf

In Defense of Atheism
Michel Onfray, translated by Jeremy Leggatt,
Penguin Group Canada
90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto ON, M4P 2Y3
9780670067244 $32.00

This appears to be the same book published in the USA under the title, Atheist Manifesto (with the same subtitle as the Canadian edition). It was first published in France in 2005, and has been a runaway bestseller in a country in which a full third of the population have come out of the closet and acknowledged that they are nontheists. (The same percentage of North Americans are nontheists, but half of them continue to fear the social and economic consequences of admitting it to pollsters). Probably the unprecedented sales of books by Sam Harris, Victor Stenger, Christopher Hitchins, and Richard Dawkins triggered the realization that an English translation of Onfray could do equally well. As one who is revolted at the way religion is pursuing policies calculated to exterminate the human race, in depraved indifference to the probability that the deus ex machina they are counting on to intervene and save us in the last act does not exist, I certainly hope so.

Michel Onfray begins with a statement of his basic philosophy (pp. 1-2): "I do not despise believers. I find them neither ridiculous nor pathetic, but I lose all hope when I see that they prefer the comforting fairy tales of children to the cruel hard facts of adults. Better the faith that brings peace of mind than the rationality that brings worry—even at the price of perpetual mental infantilism…. Far better to swallow fables, fictions, myths, or fairy tales than to see reality in all its naked cruelty." I share Onfray's sympathetic view of believers who have the excuse of simple ignorance, since they have never encountered the falsifying evidence. But incurables who can, for example, rationalize away the recent Asian tsunami as their imaginary playmate's justifiable retaliation against randomly chosen victims for the alleged offenses of other people, I assuredly do view as ridiculous and pathetic. And I share his "burning anger toward those who perpetuate the deception."

Chapter subheadings include, "Down with intelligence," "Hatred of science," "Ravings of a hysteric," "Hitler, Saint John's disciple," "Allah's problem with logic," "The Jewish invention of holy war," "The Vatican admired Hitler," "Hitler admired the Vatican," "Muslim fascism," "Toward a post-Christian secularism," and "Tissues of contradictions."

Onfray offers a somewhat abstract defense of atheism that adds nothing to the writings of Dawkins and Harris. Perhaps his most useful subsection is "Tissue of contradictions," in which he spells out absurdities in the Christian bible, and shows that it was composed by clerics with an axe to grind. For example (pp. 126-127): "Was Jesus a vegetarian, or did he resuscitate a cooked rooster at a banquet?" To any reader whose reaction to such a question is, "Duh?" Onfray explains that this and other fairy tales that did not make it into the Christian canon were written in "several thousand pages of apocryphal Christian writings. Why were they left out? Because they compromised the goal of an unequivocal narrative … Who put together this corpus and decided on the canon? The church, its councils, and its synods toward the end of the fourth century of our era." In other words, a priestly caste sorted through dozens of would-be gospels, and created a "bible" out of those that agreed with their predetermined dogmas.

"Yet this culling failed to remove an incalculable number of contradictions and improbabilities." Onfray points out some of the more obvious inconsistencies, such as the incompatible gospel accounts of Jesus' crucifixion, and such improbabilities as, "Pontius Pilate, an important Roman governor … conversing with a Jesus who was … a petty local jailbird. Moreover, Pontius Pilate spoke Latin and Jesus Aramaic. How could they have conversed as John's Gospel says they did, back and forth, without an interpreter, translator, or intermediary? Sheer myth" (pp. 127-128). He adds, "There is no end to this kind of contradiction in the body of the gospels themselves, even though those writings were retained by the official church in order to manufacture a single unequivocal myth" (p. 127). In other words, the bible creators who tried to exclude contradictions that would destroy the pretence that their Book was Revealed Truth failed miserably. Can Onfray, who is not writing for scholars who already know that, get the message through to the brainwashed masses? That remains to be seen. But judging by some of the insane responses to Dawkins and Harris, I would have to say that, if a video made by aliens showing Jesus' body, still nailed to his stake, being stripped to a skeleton by crows, were discovered, it would not change the beliefs of hardcore addicts one iota.

David and Solomon
Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman
Free Press division of Simon & Schuster Inc
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9780743243629 $26.00

Israel Finkelstein and Neil Silberman are the authors of The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of its Sacred Texts, a groundbreaking re-examination of early biblical history that later scholars can ignore at their peril. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for David and Solomon. While it expands some of the information in the previous book, it says nothing new, and appears to have been written to cash in on the authors' previous success, with little regard for anything but the "publish or perish" reality that academics must face as a fact of life.

David and Solomon reiterates the authors' previous finding that, "Although it seems probable that David and Solomon were actual historical characters, they were very different from their scriptural portraits. We will show that it is highly unlikely that David ever conquered territories of peoples more than a day or two's march from the heartland of Judah. We will suggest that Solomon's Jerusalem was neither extensive nor impressive, but rather the rough hilltop stronghold of a local dynasty of rustic tribal chiefs" (pp. 21-22). Certainly those objectives were accomplished, but no more so than in their previous book.

On the historicity of Saul, F & S write, "The absence of contemporary confirmation outside the Bible is thus no reason to deny that an early Israelite leader named Saul could have existed" (p. 64). And they recognize that the final Deuteronomic History was an amalgam, that, "The stories that look at Saul favorably have generally been considered to have arisen in the northern kingdom of Israel and preserved genuine, though vague, memories of the time of the first king of the north. Like the stories of David the bandit in the southern highlands … they include what may be memories of events in the tenth century BCE" (p. 86), whereas, "The anti-Saul, pro-David elements in the narrative reflect an entirely different perspective" (ibid). Similarly, "The books of Chronicles present an entirely different David and Solomon [from the books of Samuel]…. This is not simply a matter of abridgement. All critical or unflattering stories about David and Solomon have been intentionally and selectively omitted" (pp. 222-223). But while F & S mention David's initial role as a musician engaged to amuse Saul, David's role as Saul's boy toy, who "entertained" the king with his hand until Saul was "relieved" is ignored, as is David's unambiguously homosexual relationship with Saul's son.

F & S consistently quote from translations that falsify the Hebrew to make it conform to the beliefs of modern religion. For example, their version of 2 Kings 21:2-6 reads, "He did what was evil in the sight of the LORD…. For he rebuilt the high places … and he erected altars for Baal, and made an Asherah … and worshiped all the host of heaven, and served them." (p. 281). The Fully Translated Bible renders the same passage, "He did what Yahweh perceived as heretical…. He rebuilt the vulva shrines … and he erected altars for Baal, and planted a vulva … and paid homage to the whole army of the skies and slaved for them."

The possibility that Finkelstein and Silberman are insufficiently skilled in biblical Hebrew to recognize the extent of the falsifications can be dismissed as absurd. They know as well as I do that "the LORD" is a blatant falsification of "Yahweh," a proper name no different from Zeus or Jupiter. And they cannot be unaware that "Asherah" meant "vulva," as did "high places." Can their choice of such propagandistic mistranslations be attributed to political correctness? Since they were not unwilling to draw attention to the Tanakh's status as fiction, perhaps making points that were outside of their primary purpose, at the risk of outraging incurable believers, was simply inexpedient? More charitable than that I cannot be.

In the appendix, "Did David Exist?" F & S effectively refute the conclusions of "minimalists" that he did not. They write that, "To assume, as the minimalists do," that scribes as late as the second century concocted a fictitious history, "without using ancient sources was itself taking an enormous leap of faith" (p. 263). In other words, while historians who accept that there really were kings named David and Solomon have some problems to explain away, those who reach the opposite conclusion have even bigger problems. The same applies to Solomon's temple. It was not remotely comparable with Herod's temple, but it did exist.

For anyone to whom the findings of two competent archaeologists reported in this review are new, David and Solomon can be recommended. For anyone looking for a definitive analysis of the history (or lack thereof) behind the biblical narratives, it cannot.

William Harwood

Henry's Bookshelf

Limoges Price Guide
Debby DuBay
Krause Publications/F+W Publications
700 East State Street, Iola, WI 54990-0001
9780896894525 $24.99 888-457-2873

Two hundred and forty pages of color photographs illustrate why the Limoges porcelain has been a favorite of collectors for more than two centuries. The many kinds of Limoges pieces are grouped in their own chapters--brooches, charges, cider pitchers, fish sets inkwells, punch bowls, and others; for thirty chapters in all. Many readers will be surprised at the great variety of Limoges pieces. There is wide decorative variety within each type too. Although each piece is distinguished by detail and rich coloration. Captions for each piece include identification, a note on the coloration (mostly underglaze or overglaze), factory marking, and in most cases a current value. The 26-page appendix Limoges Factory Markings or Backstamps groups hundreds by periods of years with pictures of each one. The author Debby Dubay is a widely recognized expert on Limoges porcelain who has written previous studies and price guides.

Actions Speak Louder
Eric Lichtenfeld.
Globe Pequot Press
Middletown, CT
0819568015 $24.95

Lichtenfeld has worked both in making films and as a film critic and commentator, including doing extra features for DVDs of several action films. He sees this popular film genre as "derived from the Western, film noir, and the police procedural (with special guest appearances made by the disaster film and others [with an evolution] quite analogous to the horror film." Though many films depict violence and mayhem, the action film is distinguished in that it ushered in a "new violence [which] would be deployed more to pleasure audiences than to jar them." This "new violence" came about from a shift in standards marking a "New Hollywood" and related changes in structures and pacing of films and cinematographic techniques such as lingering on the violence by slow-motion and close-ups. It is these and other elements, not merely the violence and plotting, which account for the new genre of the action film. The cluster of elements reflected changes in the culture's psychic relationship with violence and what it looked for in entertainment. Bonnie and Clyde is pointed to as a seminal action film, with the films Billy Jack, Shaft, and The French Connection closely related to it in paving the way for the action film by demonstrating its popularity and giving guidance for filmmakers. Advertising, publicity, and marketing of action films has as much a part in the author's multifaceted study of this major contemporary film genre as film history, film editing, and cinematography. References to numerous action films over the past couple of decades make for enjoyable as well as engaging and stimulating reading.

A New Light on Tiffany
Martin Eidelberg, Nina Gray, and Margaret K. Hofer
New York Historical Society
New York
9781904832355 $49.95

Looking into how the highly-valued Tiffany lamps and other fine objects came to be, the three authors disclose the critical, unique part Clara Driscoll had in this. Driscoll served as a major creative force for many Tiffany lamps by her own artistic sense and as director of a staff of other talented women. Recently found correspondence of Driscoll's--an Ohio native who lived from 1861 to 1944--verifies that she was mostly responsible for the classic Tiffany designs of the Wisteria, Dragonfly, and Peony.

The authors do not aim to devalue Louis Comfort Tiffany's (1848-1933) role and reputation in giving Driscoll her due. They seek mainly to lay out a broader, more informed understanding of the creation of the timeless Tiffany works. Parts of the book go beyond Driscoll's place in the company to see her as representative of sprightly, adventuresome, and bright young American woman coming into the American workforce and into large cities in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Besides Driscoll, there were a number of other similarly-talented and -natured women who contributed to the inimitable design and outstanding status of the Tiffany lamps and other objects. Collectively known as the "Tiffany Girls," many are pictured in available period photographs; and all known are given biographical notes.

Metalsmiths and Mentors
Fred Fenster and Eleanor Moty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison by Jody Clowes.
U. of Wisconsin Press
Madison, WI
9780932900814 $29.95

Fred Fenster came to the metals program at the U. of Wisconsin-Madison in the early 1960s, followed a decade later by Eleanor Moty. Together they put their stamp of the highest artistic standards and workmanship while allowing for individual penchants and visions on the program. They ideally complemented each other in that "Moty's on surface treatments, while Fenster's [was] on form and structure."

Different sections take up their complementary effects as heads of the metals program and also each of them individually as exceptional, distinctive artists in metalwork. Coming after the chapters on each individually are lengthy photographic galleries of numerous art works over the years. A photographic section at the end has works by program graduates and current faculty.

The metals art works done by and inspired by Fenster and Moty are distinctly, often strikingly, modern, as in Modernism. It's hard to grasp until you see the many photographs the range of creativity and high quality of the art works by mentors Fenster and Moty and those students and faculty influenced by them. Tradition, familiar, objects such as cups, jewelry, and teapots and other pots have innovative forms and details. Most of the purely artistic, aesthetic, works have imaginative shapes and proportions, including often sharp angles and unexpected circular parts. All of the works, despite their individuality, share a boldness of concept and have an almost graphic presence. Fenster and Moty were not only exceptional artists, but gifted mentors who imparted to others how to nurture and achieve the best art within them.

Enriching Children, Enriching the Nation
Robert G. Lynch
Economic Policy Institute
Washington, DC
1932066284 $14.50

Lynch--a professor of economics with specialties in public finance and comparative economics--gives a dollars-and-cents analysis of the financial, budgetary benefits which would be derived from significant investment in high-quality prekindergarten from "raising GDP, improving the skills of the workforce, reducing poverty...strengthening U.S. global competitiveness" and lowering crime rates. Costing $6,300 per prekindergarten-age participant for more than a $40 billion start-up cost and over $30 billion per year for a number of years, within 17 years costs would be down to zero considering money saved from reduced poverty and crime programs, for example, plus taxes from more workers at higher incomes. If started within the next few years, "in 2050, every tax dollar spent on a universal prekindergarten program would be offset by $2.00 in budget savings and [Federal and state] governments would be enjoying $96 billion in surpluses due to their prekindergarten investment." In a policy-wonk, academic sociological style with charts and tables and for example, one appendix titled "Explanation of the methodology for estimating the budget, earnings and crime effects of investments in prekindergarten," Lynch succinctly, yet comprehensively puts forth the financially-based argument for the socially-desirable enterprise of good prekindergarten schooling for all American children.

Strange Tribe
John Hemingway
Lyons Press/Pequot Press
Guilford, CT
9781599211121. $24.95

Grandson of Ernest Hemingway, the author delves into the disturbing effects this major author's macho persona had on the author's father and thus inevitably on himself. Ernest Hemingway committed suicide. The author's father, Ernest's youngest son Gregory, struggled with gender identification his whole life, and died in the Women's Correctional Facility of the Miami Dade County Jail in 2001. The author was spared the worst of the traumas of his grandfather and father. But for the longest time, he lived a rootless, vagabond life exacerbated by concerns about his helplessly irresponsible and unpredictable father and trying to fill in gaps in his life his father had suppressed or ignored in his own life. John Hemingway does not emerge from the cloying shadows cast over him by his father and grandfather until the birth of a son with his wife Ornella in Italy in the Fall 2006, so he ends the memoir. The reader is not assured, however, that his turmoils are behind him for good.

Hemingway's tale is told mostly in illustrative vignettes, not an in-depth or intricate narrative searching for the roots of the gender abnormalities of the characters. The style is honest, genuine, and engaging. Hemingway does not strive for the luridness, sensationalism, confessional slant of so many contemporary memoirs. Undoubtedly, the memoir was purgative in some respects for him. But he wrote it as much to present his unique contribution on the Hemingway legend and its reverberations in succeeding generations of his family.

The Triumph of the Sea Gods
Steven Sora
Destiny Books/Inner Traditions
Rochester, VT
9781594771439 $18.95

Sora places the site of Troy--and thus the sources of Homer's epics the Iliad and the Odyssey--at the western edge of the Iberian peninsula. His provocative view is abundantly supported by etymology, geography, geology, archaeology, and elements of ancient mythology plus a six-and-a-half-page bibliography. The sea god Neptune's trident--a spear or staff with three prongs--is seen as representing the three Iberian cities of Lisbon, Setubal, and Troy. About 1200 BCE, these city-states engaged in a war whose outcome determined the history and culture of the entire Mediterranean region and parts of Europe for centuries. Troy and its allies battled against a group of city-states identified as "Atlantean," the basis for the myth of Atlantis mentioned in Plato's dialogues and elsewhere. One of the most fateful changes brought by the victory of the Atlantean states was the dominance of their patriarchal government and values over the matriarchal of Troy and its allies. Sora develops his fascinating ideas to chart the wanderings of Ulysses after the Trojan War as poetically recounted by Homer in the Odyssey; and also account for the presence of the Etruscans in northern Italy, whose origins continue to baffle archaeologists. Sora has written similar previous challenging, provocative, and enlightening books on the Knights Templars and secret societies in American culture.

What Do Pictures Want?
W. J. T. Mitchell
U. of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL
9780226532486 $22.50

In the chapter titled the same as the book title, in laying out the grounds for his innovative exposition on images and culture, Mitchell explains, "[Images] present not just a surface but a face [italicized] that faces the beholder." Elsewhere in this chapter, he remarks that images may not have the power attributed to them; which supposed power is seen as absolute and all-encompassing in postmodern culture. Not suggesting that images ave no power, Mitchell takes the position that "the problem is to refine and complicate and refine our estimate of their power and the way it works." The author allows that his perspective based on what pictures "want" rather than what they "do" can at first blush seem to anthropomorphize pictures or give them an aboriginal animistic nature. But Mitchell explains that he means this as metaphorical, conceptual, and theoretical; not literal as in animism or even symbolic as with icons. Mitchell's provisional approach thus corresponds to the provisional quality of postmodern culture to bring extraordinary illumination to this contemporary culture.

Fantasy, multiple selves, and virtual reality are other terms used to express this provisional quality of postmodernism. Playfulness is another--and Mitchell's book, while sound literarily and with extensive learning and cogent though, exercises the principle that playfulness can take one farther in some cases. Whereas in postmodernism, play with its provisional, usually somewhat artificial attributes is a manner of avoiding commitment and engagement with fundamentals, with Mitchell it is a technique for coming to grips as much as possible with the elusive, ethereal nature of postmodernism. It is impossible to encompass or define postmodernism; whose primary attributes are contingency, continually changing imagery, and pseudo-events and provisional personas to play to the media. But Mitchell has managed to relate postmodernism's sprawling nature and what accounts for this.

Damming the Grand Canyon
Diane E. Boyer & Robert H. Webb
Utah State U. Press
Logan, UT
9780874216608 $34.95 800-239-9974

Diaries and letters of 10 of the 12 men in the 1923 U.S. Geological Survey to obtain detailed and useful information on the Colorado River including the Grand Canyon stretch make the "backbone" of the book. The 12 men included a variety with particular knowledge and skills to accomplish the purposes of the expedition. Among them were a hydraulic engineer, a photographer, a writer, and topologists and geologists. The main aim was study of the River for favorable places to build dams to supply water to the fast-growing Western states, especially California with its large agricultural areas, and make the area suitable for additional development and tourism.

Though the locations for dams recommended by the 1923 Expedition were not accepted, its findings were used to determine locations where dams were built, notably Hoover Dam. The publicity given to the Expedition, in the periodical Scientific American for example, and appearances and writings by several of its members brought national attention to the large, unique natural area about which little was previously known despite previous explorations and expeditions going back to the first half of the 1800s. The Grand Canyon has since become a popular tourist area.

The format of much of the book is to follow the progress and varied work of the Expedition by excerpts from its members' diaries and letters covering the same day or short period of time. Background on the Expedition and its aftermath are provided in surrounding chapters by the coauthors, both of whom have done much work and writing relating to the region's natural environment.

Private Passions and Public Sins
Maria Emma Mannarelli, translated by Sidney Evans and Meredith D. Dodge
U. of New Mexico Press
Albuquerque, NM
97808263822791 $23.95 800-249-7737

Spanish conquest and rule of Peru could not undo the natural sexual attraction between men and women or sweep aside the reasons for sexual relations ranging from love to expediency and calculation. Mannarelli covers the range of sexual relationships from marriage and adultery to concubine or mistress to examine the role these had in maintaining the class and ruling structure instituted by the Spanish. In some cases, the various types of sexual relationships could change the social status of either the man or the woman or work to make for instances of the melding of Spanish and native Peruvian society. An important factor in the effects of a sexual relationship was the handling of offspring. Children could be raised by man and woman no matter what their relationship; they could be taken into the family of one or the other; they could be sent to live with relatives; or they could be abandoned, in which case many were cared for by the Catholic Church in its hospitals.

The society adapted to the large numbers of illegitimate children in ways to maintain the social structure while also face reality. "Illegitimacy formed a particular kind of hierarchal system...[with] a wide spectrum of discriminatory behavior and attitudes against those born out of wedlock." Nonetheless, "[i]llegitimacy did not always prevent men and women from ascending socially or aspiring to a place in the dominant sectors of urban colonial society." As with the variety of sexual relationships between adult men and women, Mannarelli treats the variety of ways illegitimate children were assimilated or recognized in the colonial society, especially the large numbers among Lima's "subordinate ethnic groups."

Mannarelli is an associate professor of history at a Lima university. In this scholarly work, she takes up a largely ignored or peripheral subject to find out how sexual relations and offspring affected the urban society of the time and figured into the future of Spanish colonial rule and shaped Peru's history after contact with the Europeans.

Norman Rockwell
Richard Halpern
University of Chicago Press
Chicago, IL
9780226314402 $29.00

While Norman Rockwell's paintings are generally seen as imagery of all-American virtues, values, individuals, and scenes, the John Hopkins English professor Halpern sees them as "more challenging and complex" than even the most sophisticated critics have imagined in the recent revival of interest in Rockwell; which revival has mostly reaffirmed the general regard of his paintings. Halpern looks to Rockwell's famous painting "Triple Self-Portrait" for indication--and in a way confession--that there was more to Rockwell's paintings than is realized from the first impressions of their imagery and recognition and often identification with their subjects. Rockwell's insistent, undying "jokey inventiveness," evidenced more directly in his autobiography "My Adventures as An Illustrator," is seen in the often overlooked details of his paintings. The woman in "Rosie the Riveter" celebrating American women's role in the war effort of WWII has Irish facial features which identify her with the ethnic and working classes, not the middle-class matrons, businessmen, and shop owners who see their mainstream, traditional values represented by Rockwell. Also, Rosie's muscular arms go against the typical image of women as slender and in need of male protection. Halpern similarly interprets details of other paintings to find symbols or intimations of homosexuality, voyeurism, and other sexually-laden topics. Halpern does not go so far as to make Rockwell out to be lascivious or meanly subversive. The author does, however, argue and abundantly demonstrate the point that Rockwell's paintings are more complex, more Freudian, than this painter openly admitted to and than nearly all viewers realize.

Shakespeare's Wordcraft
Scott Kaiser
Limelight Editions/Hal Leonard Corp
New York
9780879103453 $18.95 www.limelighteditions; 800-637-2852

Kaiser has the entertaining idea of using brief quotes from Shakespeare--hundreds and hundreds of quotes--to impart lessons for effective, occasionally memorable writing, mostly word usage and sentence structure. Thus one is treated to numerous Shakespearean quotes as examples of notable word usage and fundamental writing techniques identified by Kaiser. He names these words, additions, repetitions, reverberations, transformations, substitutions, omissions, order, and disorder. Within each of the nine chapters are several subsections for different aspects of the technique. Delayed Repetitions and Landings are two of the eight aspects under Reverberations. "Shame, and eternal shame, nothing but shame" from "Hamlet" is one example of the former. "Dost thou teach pardon, pardon to destroy?" is an example from "King Richard the Second" of Landings, explained as "[t]he last word or words of a phrase repeated as the beginning of the next phrase." The unique writer's handbook can be studied systematically or be a bedside companion to dip into randomly for enjoyment and instruction.

Outdoor Living
Andrea Boekel
Images Publishing
187690755X $55.00

Eighty-one courtyards, decks, and patios from homes in all parts of the world are featured--from Japan to South Africa, Iceland to Australia, the United States to South America. With each are at least two or three and in many cases more sharp color photographs showing the courtyard, etc., from different angles and in varying detail. Where there are the more photos, these are usually of the entire house, then closing in on the outdoor feature. With many of the individual sections for each of the numerous outdoor areas are architectural floors plans of the entire residence so the location, adjacent parts of the home, and the relative size and configuration of the area can been seen. In each section are a few paragraphs on the idea behind the particular patio, etc., and its materials, lighting, and other design elements. With the design and quality of a coffee-table book, "Outdoor Living" is more than an attractive book with pleasing photographs on a subject of interest to homeowners meant to be displayed. With its multiple photographs of each courtyard, deck, and patio, its expertly-drawn floor plans, and the details in its commentary, it provides design ideas and also construction guidance for homeowners, interior designers, and architects.

Henry Berry

Kathleen's Bookshelf

Writing in an Age of Silence
Sara Paretsky
180 Varick Street, New York, NY 10014-4606
978844671229 $22.95

An inspiring memoir of this popular writer's journey to "live in hope, the hope that your work can make a difference in the world." According to Paretsky, she traveled a long path from silence to speech—finding her voice along the way while helping others find their voice—and coming to terms with questions of power and powerlessness.

Paretsky does indeed have a strong and independent voice not only in this book, but also in her more than a dozen successful V.I. Warshawski novels. She always found refuge and solace in books and words. In this latest volume, she provides refuge and solace to readers--as did the poet Sappho whom she quotes:

Although they are Only breath, words Which I command Are immortal.

Paretsky has written an enjoyable book. She serves as a role model for both women and writers and shows how to fulfill one's destiny as well as make a difference in the world.

Between the Lines
Ivan R. Dee
1332 North Halsted, Chicago, IL 60622;
9781566636568 $35.00

The fascinating story behind the more than $100 million bequest to Poetry magazine by amateur poet and pharmaceutical heiress, Ruth Lilly. The book shares the rich history of Poetry magazine from 1962-2002 and reveals the inside stories of aspiring authors, the inspirations behind classic poems, and the practicalities of publishing.

Edited by Joseph Parisi, former longtime editor-in-chief of Poetry magazine for two decades and Stephen Young, senior editor of Poetry magazine for several years, the book includes nearly five hundred letters which have never been printed before. In addition, the book includes numerous illustrations—author photographs, drawings, and newspaper clippings to enliven this amazing story. Poets featured in the book include a "who's who" from T.S. Eliot, Erica Jong, and Rita Dove to Billy Collins, Robert Pinsky, and Mary Oliver.

This book provides enjoyable insights into what James Merrill once quipped, "Life is fiction in disguise."

Kathleen A. Welton

Kaye's Bookshelf

Stingy Jack
R. Scott Taylor, Inc.
PO Box 2399, Bangor, ME 04402-2399
9781601452511 $16.95

Stingy Jack is a fast-paced, fun read about a professional thief named Adam Beesler. It is two tales in one–Adam's jewel heist and 17th century Ireland as told by a spectral rogue name Jack O'Keeffe. Can this young thief stay alive as he unravels the mystery?

R. Scott Taylor is an interesting writer with a snappy style. The book is well written and edited. Here's a sample of his writing from page 5:

Police sirens ripped the silence, getting closer if Adam's exceptional senses remained so. His light steps intensified. A man running on a cold night might turn a head or two and draw unwanted attention. A straight line beats a meandering one, and Adam's path couldn't have been much straighter.

Adam cursed the face-chilling wind while facing a well-lit gas station within walking distance. Frostbite might claim him as its victim if he lingered. Ears ached, making him wish for earmuffs; his hands provided the earlobes little comfort as his breath steamed from his chattering teeth.

A lone driver topped off his yellow taxi's tank; the nozzle spurted precious fuel onto the concrete. The older man's wool scarf draped his heavy brown polyester jacket. The right sleeve's rip was double stitched in a frugal attempt and his cotton gloves bore multiple tatters.

To have such fortune on a chilly night, Adam wasted no time in taking advantage of the luck. " Excuse me, Sir!" Adam trotted over to the cabby, making sure nothing escaped his pockets. "Excuse me, but are you taking fares?"

If you enjoy a good mystery, you may enjoy this story.

Dear Dad - Life Through the Eyes of an Adult Child of an Alcoholic
Kelly Phillips Bookamer
Llumina Press
7915 W. McNab Road, Tamarac, FL 33321
9781595267979 $9.95

This small book of poetry is divided into nine chapters: Roots, Refuge, Unfortunately, Relationships, Life and Death, Darkness, Beloved, Miracles, and Dear Dad. Kelly Phillips Bookamer is an adult child of an alcoholic–her father–and Dear Dad is the story of her life expressed through poetry as she struggled to come to terms with a troubled childhood. And here's Dear Dad.

Your future was full to tomorrows

Yet, your tomorrows end today

You sat so close to Utopia

But you were a million miles away

You carried a heavy burden

Your soul was black and blue

But all along the answers

Were buried inside of you

Every shoulder was for leaning

Every arm was open wide

But how does one swim freely

Against an impossible tide?

Waiting for you to change

Into the person you could be

Was like waiting for the sound of ashes

To fall upon the sea

Now your pain is only a particle

Floating on a quiet breeze

Your weariness is washed by waves

Over kind, contented seas

I wish you an eternity of laughter

I pray you think of me

Dad, your anguish is over

You're free. You are finally free.

You decide if this appeals to you.

The Greedy Pigeon and the Hungry Porcupine and Friends - Twenty-six Rhymes for Children
Derek Rossitter &Grace Horne
Authors Online
0755201426 $7.50

The Greedy Pigeon is a collection of fantasy poems beautifully illustrated by Grace Horne. Allow me to share one of the poems with you to give you an idea:

The Curious Little Hedgehog

A curious little hedgehog was looking for a meal,

When it fell into a dustbin with a little squeal.

As it lay upon the rubbish it found some lovely food

Which it gobbled up most greedily saying "This is good!"

Along came the dustman and put it in his cart

So, next time your feeling hungry, think before you start!

This small book of moral and comic verses might make a delightful gift for any young child.

How to Love Your Wife
Dr. John Buri
Tate Publishing & Enterprises
127 East Trade Center Terrace, Mustang, OK 73064
1598864858 $13.99

There are many books on love and marriage, and here is another one. Dr. Buri's contention is that thriving marriages can actually be achieved through sensible effort by reasonable people, and he places significant responsibility upon the men, as they hold the key . . . to which I agree.

Books such as this one typically tell us things we already know but have no control over. However, Dr. Buri's book is extremely contemporary, dealing with new problems such as the increased interest in pornography and husbands using the internet for sexual contact. Studies have shown that men who view porn on a regular basis eventually find their partners less attractive and appealing. Dr. Buri clarifies the positive and necessary aspects of conflict, talks about rapport-talk versus report-talk, and concludes with "The Heart of Intimacy: Communication."

How to Love Your Wife is well written and edited. It progresses in a logical manner, is insightful and informative. Based on its contemporary focus, I can highly recommend it as food for thought to help in our personal relationships.

Republic: A Novel of America's Future
Charles Sheehan-Miles
Cincinnatus Press
963 North Harrison Ave #112, Cary, North Carolina 27513
9780979411427 $16.95

Quoting from the back cover:

"A domestic terrorist attack evokes a violent and oppressive response from the U.S. government . . . a labor dispute ends in violence . . . a young boy lies dying of a rare disease with no hope in sight.

"When the conflict focuses on a small town in West Virginia, Ken Murphy, Iraq veteran and Lieutenant Colonel in the West Virginia National Guard, must find a way to protect his family and community in a world turned upside down.

"In a future America terrifying to behold, Republic evokes the specter of civil war in a world that is simultaneously familiar and changed beyond recognition."

Republic is a very interesting, thought provoking story about the loss of jobs due to corporate greed, abuse of power by government agencies, and a civil war.

Charles Sheehan-Miles is an exceptional writer, and Republic is his second novel. I reviewed his first novel, Prayer at Rumayla - A Novel of the Gulf War in June 2007. And I repeat . . . I like his writing style, honesty and courage and hope you will too.

Avenging Victorio
Dave DeWitt
Rio Grande Books
925 Salamanca NW, Los Ranchos de ABQ, NM 87107-5647
9781890689261 $24.95

Quoting from the back cover:

"A rag-tag group of Apache warriors, led by an elderly man in his late seventies, took on the U.S. army's Ninth Cavalry in revenge for the death of the great Apache war chief Victorio. Using guerilla warfare, they led raids through New Mexico, slaughtering men, women, and children and evading the Cavalry and the Buffalo Soldiers. In the end, they won!

"Interesting historical characters abound. Billy the Kid was killing people in the southern part of the territory. The New Mexico Territory was governed by Lew Wallace (author of Ben-Hur and territorial governor). Colonel Edward T. Hatch (the chile town of Hatch is named for him) was in charge of the U.S. Army's Ninth Cavalry. And the great Apache war chief Victorio had been killed by the Mexican Army. After Victorio (a supposed treasure trove is named after him) was killed, the elder war chief Nana led the Apache to victory."

Avenging Victorio is indeed a fast-paced, fascinating, historical novel bound to entertain and educate at the same time. DeWitt's technique of telling this tale from two perspectives–the Apache's and the military–provides a truer sense of history and the cultures.

As I live in the four-corners area just north of New Mexico, I personally enjoyed it immensely and highly recommend it to readers who enjoy historial, western-type novels.

LifeMoxie! Ambition on a Mission
Ann Tardy
LifeMoxie Press
1210 Sanchez Street, Suite 4, San Francisco CA 94114
9780979585708, $19.95

LifeMoxie! is a self-help book to get readers motivated. This information is presented in nine strategies. At the end of each chapter is a summary of the significant aspects of the chapter.

It is my opinion that most of the information is common sense and covered in just about any self-help book on the market. The bulk of the text is what I call 'fluff and fill' with the few words of wisdom delineated in the summaries. If you're interested in a good self-help book, why not save your $20 and pick up an old copy of How to Win Friends and Influence People at a thrift store for $.50.

I will say the book is well written and well edited, and we could all use a little moxie.

Penelope and Priscilla and the Enchanted House of Whispers
Jennifer Troulis
Twin Monkeys Press
Dunellen, NJ
0976860201 $13.95

Quoting from the back cover:

"When 12-year-old identical twin sister Penelope and Priscilla Post move to the small town of Dunville with their mother, they are greeted with cold, angry stares from the townspeople. Over the next few weeks, mysterious events take place within their house, causing the girls to argue about their origins. When Priscilla suggests that her house is enchanted, Penelope becomes angry. She wants nothing to do with magic.

"Upset over the growing distance between her daughters, Mom enlists the help of Penelope and Priscilla's grandmother to devise a plan to help mend the girl's relationship. Little do they know that their plan will do much more than intended. With the help of a 200-year old magical book, their house, and its talking inhabitants, the girls come together to defeat their sinister neighbor and protect their family secret."

This is a delightful book to entertain young teenage girls. It is fast paced and imaginative and kept me reading till the end. Jennifer Troulis is a good writer; however, the book could benefit from further editing.

A Song for Sarah
Pat Frank
Brundage Publishing
33 West State Street, Binghamton, NY 13901-2300
1892451417 $19.95

Quoting from the back cover:

"Best friends Sarah Brogan and Jim Conner have the perfect childhood friendship, but it is shattered by the devastating power of secrets as Jim uncovers the truth about Sarah's family. In an attempt to save Sarah and her brother, Jim exposes the truth and watches as his best friend's family is torn apart."

This is a complex story with complicated characters. Pat Frank does a good job of telling this tale in a straight forward style, but the story lost its credibility about halfway through when Chad and Harry, his father, could recognize Sarah, now calling herself Lynn, when she returned to her hometown and her best friend Jim, whom she was now dating, could not. There were other aspects which I felt to be unbelievable, such as Sarah living with Chad for two years, not having sex with him and dating Jim at the same time. It's a sad tale with a sad ending.

A Song for Sarah is Pat Frank's second novel. Beyond Jack Squat, her first, which I reviewed in July was most entertaining and informative.

Kaye Trout

Kristina's Bookshelf

Dr. Identity, or, Farewell to Plaquedemia
D. Harlan Wilson
Raw Dog Screaming Press
5103 72nd Place, Hyattsville, MD 20784
9781933293233 $14.95

D. Harlan Wilson's Dr. Identity is a hip, darkly funny satire that focuses on newly minted assistant professor Dr. Blah Blah Blah, the robot he occasionally sends to teach his students, and the overall absurdities of academic life. Shortly after beginning his stint at Corndog University, Dr. Blah finds that his colleagues demonstrate a covert animosity toward him, which, in addition to his students' tardiness and apathy, renders his new job altogether intolerable. When a discouraged Dr. Blah sends his robot, Dr. Identity, to teach his class for him a second time in one week (which is normally a risky undertaking at Corndog U.), the machine's accidental murder of a student sets the stage for a fun, mind-bending journey, which, although completely surreal, becomes eerily reminiscent of the reader's own college experience.

In addition to the well-read hilarity of the book, Wilson's juxtaposition of the realistic and the bizarre does a great job of reinforcing aspects of the novel that parody academia and its strange, unspoken codes of conduct. This pairing becomes an elegant, economical way of suggesting that the pretensions within Corndog University's English department are just as absurd as electric sheep or neozuters having a conversation in Donaldduckspeak. For example, Wilson writes: "Bob had legally changed his surname to an author in his field who was of interest to him in some pedagogical or scholarly way. Additionally, he had done his best to dress himself up like the Russian novelist, sporting dimestore spectacles, a long greasy beard, and a motheaten overcoat. He had grafted eyebags on his face, too" (16). Poking fun at the way academics, like many other professionals, feel pressured to assume a persona, Wilson takes Dr. Blah and his colleagues beyond the stereotypical tweed blazer with suede elbow patches, often emphasizing some characters' desire for plastic surgery and other physical changes to better perform their jobs. Depicting commonplace behavior in an exaggerated and surreal way, Wilson's parody subtly hints at the ridiculousness of doing a job and trying to act the part at the expense of one's individuality, keeping the reader laughing out loud all the while.

Dr. Identity's exploration of technology and the ways it shapes the characters' sense of self is also impressive. Often focusing on the way electronics and other innovations begin to dominate rather than merely mediate one's day-to-day experiences, characters sometimes demonstrate a desire to imitate technology or even become mechanical themselves. For example, Wilson writes in Dr. Identity: "I thought he was an android. He was wearing mechanical contact lenses. Apparently it's a new fashion statement that surfaced yesterday and was disseminated last night via the Schizoverse…That was the de facto scoop your student-things gave me. To be nonhuman. Nobody told me about that kind of technodesire" (32). Using the same juxtaposition of the everyday with the bizarre found in previous passages to help the reader envision his or her own comfortable world becoming the futuristic one in this novel, Wilson's depictions of the characters' identity being shaped by media and technology forces prove both realistic and chilling.

A mix of Orwellian satire, existential philosophy, and strikingly original humor, Dr. Identity is an erudite and entertaining read. Anyone who enjoys zoot suits, fedoras, an intellectually engaging parody, or a skillfully constructed narrative will be missing out if they don't add this book to their library. Five stars.

And Your Point Is? Scorn and Meaning in Jeff Lint's Fiction
Steve Aylett
Raw Dog Screaming Press
5103 72nd Place, Hyattsville, MD 20784
9781933293172 $10.95

In his new anthology of critical essays, Steve Aylett presents readers with a diverse set of perspectives on both Jeff Lint's writing and the place of science fiction in American literature. Dealing in depth with several short stories, the essays chosen for inclusion in And Your Point Is? Scorn and Meaning in Jeff Lint's Fiction often emphasize the ways Lint's work questions traditional approaches to constructing a narrative and redefines the relationship between the writer and his or her audience. Offering insightful readings of this author's complex body of work, these essays never attempt to reduce Lint's stories to a single definitive message but instead provide varied and thoughtful possibilities for interpretation.

In addition to a well-rounded and highly qualified list of contributors, Steve Aylett has done a great job of choosing critical essays that analyze not only Lint's fiction but also its relationship to other works, both traditional and experimental. Characteristic of the literary criticism in And Your Point Is?, Aylett's own piece "'Rise of the Swans': Doing Bird With Jeff Lint" presents a fascinating analysis of the ways Lint anticipates and manipulates the reader's expectations of a short story. For example, Aylett writes about a short story in which a group of intelligent swans descends upon a city: "Man and swan seem in agreement on attempting to make life a bit more bearable rather than fussing about whether humanity represents the pinnacle of creation…Critics have complained that Lint's stories lack conflict – they do, in fact, conflict with every story written by everyone else" (61). Aylett observes that by toying with the reader's expectation that stories contain a conflict and resolution, Lint makes a larger statement about crafting a short story, challenging the assumption that stories follow a predetermined blueprint. Many essays in the anthology, such as "The Retrial" and "Redemption and Ordeal in Jeff Lint's 'Broadway Creamatoria'" also examine the ways that Lint, in being aware of literary conventions and manipulating them, brings these same tropes under scrutiny. Reading his work as an attempt to initiate a dialogue about what constitutes a work of literary fiction, these essays are both insightful and comprehensive, consistently examining Lint's work as well as its place in a larger literary context.

Also notable is Daniel Guyal's "Give, Take, and Take: An examination of Jeff Lint's 'The Crystalline Associate,'" which, like other essays in the collection, examines the infinite possible readings of one of Lint's stories and what this ambiguity adds to the text. For example, Guyal writes: "Did he regard bears as overmind puppeteers, clinical observers? A fertile area of theory is the fact that there are eleven bears, the bare eleven being two figure ones, implying that both main characters are similar pillars of salt? Or a hint that the story's reasoning is so garbled that it would read the same if it were upside down? Or are they the eleven faithful apostles, the agent a Judas, and Mary…Mary?" Arguing that the story is not only rife with potential readings, but that these possibilities present both trivial and disconcerting messages from which the reader can choose, Guyal's essay shows how the reader can plot his or her own course while reading Lint's work. Several other essays in And Your Point Is?, such as Chris Diana's "The Lintian Waiter in 'Tectonic'" and Steve Aylett's "Jeff Lint's 'Snail Camp'" and deal in depth with this theme from different angles, weighing the strengths and weaknesses of this aspect of Lint's fiction with an impressive clarity and linguistic economy.

And Your Point Is? takes readers on an enjoyable, informative tour of Jeff Lint's shorter writings, offering diverse perspectives on a selection of challenging texts. Aylett's book is a great resource for Lint enthusiasts, as well as a fabulous introduction to this writer's complex body of work. Highly recommended.

Kristina Marie Darling

Lockstein's Bookshelf

The Penny
Joyce Meyer & Deborah Bedford
Little, Brown and Company
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780446578110 $21.99

The Penny by Joyce Meyer and Deborah Bedford is the bittersweet tale of Jenny Blake, growing up in 1950s St Louis. This young teen espies a penny in the pavement and her picking it up sets off a chain of events that changes the course of not only her own life, but her entire family's and those around them as well. The authors tackle the tough issue of sexual abuse and handle it with delicacy while facing up to the damage it does to families. Jenny's father rules his family with an iron fist, and her older sister Jean can't wait to escape from his abuse and his attentions. When Miss Shaw, the local jeweler, hires Jenny to work in her store, Jenny is given the opportunity to see Christianity in action. Her friend Aurelia also shows Jenny what friendship means. Jenny clings to the penny as she gives her heart to the Lord, but then is disappointed to go home and find that her father still comes into her bedroom at night. Jenny speaks for all those who give themselves to God expecting every circumstance of their life to change immediately and become disheartened when they don't. Jenny and Aurelia's friendship is tried by both Mr. Blake and the racial tension in their schools. The authors do a wonderful job of creating the racial tension in the 1950s South, even if they do sound a little preachy on occasion. Jenny starts giving out pennies in hopes of bringing change and light to others' hearts, and when her world starts to crumble, pennies start coming back to her from the lives she helped. Ultimately the penny gives Jenny the courage to stand up for what is right for Aurelia, her family and Miss Shaw. This is a book to make you start looking for the pennies that God puts in your path and encourages you to look for ways to put pennies in others' paths as well.

To Dance in the Desert
Kathleen Popa
Cook Communications Ministries
David C. Cook
4050 Lee Vance View, Colorado Springs, CO 80918
9871589190948 $9.99

To Dance in the Desert by Kathleen Popa is the beautiful story of Dara Brogan Murphy as she struggles to recover from the horror of losing her husband and father in one horrible day. She retreats to the desert to hole up and hide from the world. Instead she meets Jane who introduces Dara to a world she never knew. I am completely amazed at the depth and scope of Popa's writing. Her descriptions of the desert let me breathless. The story starts out in short disconnected sentences as Dara hides within herself. As she opens up to Jane, the writing becomes more fluid until by the end when Dara has rediscovered herself, the words fairly flow across the page. The way the words are kept tight at the beginning and then loosen kept me reading and helped give new insight into Dara. So many different themes are touched on in this story: works vs faith, judgment against other forms of worship, abuse, and each one is handled with delicacy and grace. Even the harshest critics of Dara and Jane are viewed through God's loving eyes. I had to struggle to put this book down, because I didn't want to leave the characters or the lovely stark desert setting behind. It's a story with many truths to tell.

What Happens When Women Say Yes to God: Experiencing Life in Extraordinary Ways
Lysa TerKeurst
Harvest House Publishers
990 Owen Loop North, Eugene, OR. 97402-9173
9780736919227 $9.99

What Happens When Women Say Yes to God by Lysa TerKeurst is a wonderful devotional for women on the go. We have so much going on in our lives, and this books short chapters and easy readability make it perfect for tucking in the car or your purse. TerKeurst encourages readers to listen carefully for God to speak in their lives, and when he does answer yes with an unrestrained YES! She relates several times in her life when she did so and was amply rewarded for it, and her stories, as well as her humble attitude, are inspiring. My one and only complaint was that sometimes the telling felt a bit rushed. I think that each chapter could have been made into a book; she packs in so much good information, I wasn't ready to stop reading, and sometimes I felt like I needed just a bit more advice or aid to really get the point. I've passed this book on to my aunt; it's a good enough read that you want to pass it on.

Her Royal Spyness
Rhys Bowen
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780425215678 $23.95

Her Royal Spyness by Rhys Bowen is the first in a new series starring Lady Georgie, 34th in line to the English throne and penniless. Her brother has cut off her allowance, and the queen is trying to get her to marry Prince Siegmund of Romania who Georgie and her friends have nicknamed Fishface. So Georgie moves into the family townhouse in London and attempts to make a go of it on her own. But with no servants in residence, she has to learn how to lay a fire, do basic housekeeping and feed herself. She gets a job at Harrod's and loses it five hours later, so she hires out incognito as a light housekeeper. In the midst of all this, a dead body shows up in her bathtub, and she's a top suspect. In order to lift the blame from her family, Georgie investigates the murder and digs up all sorts of dirt. I love Bowen's Molly Murphy series, and this is equally delightful. Georgie is hilarious in her ineptness, and her family is filled with the types of quirky characters necessary for a true cozy mystery. The book has lots of royal trivia and etiquette, as well as appearances by Wallis Simpson. While the murderer may seem a bit obvious, Georgie's lack of guile makes it ok for her not to pick up on it as quickly as readers do. God bless Bowen for giving readers as much info as Georgie so that we can solve the mystery on our own. This is a series that promises to be loads of fun.

How to Make Love Work: The Guide to Getting It, Keeping It, and Fixing What's Broken
Michelle McKinney Hammond
c/o Little, Brown and Company
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780446580618 $19.99

How to Make Love Work by Michelle McKinney Hammond is a fun, enjoyable book about love from dating all the way through marriage. It's written tongue-in-cheek as a technical manual, so there are references to the Manufacturer (God) and the Manufacturer's Manual (Bible) along with other humorous tidbits throughout the book. But for its fun writing style, the book is filled with fantastic tips on how to improve your relationships. Hammond starts with getting yourself right before entering into a relationship, moves on to how to pick the right Man, continues through engagement and the wedding and finally into marriage. The tips for dating are on the money, but as a married woman, I especially enjoyed the sections on marriage. She uses the gifts of the spirit from Galatians and the Love guide from 1 Corinthians 13 to detail how each person needs to be in a relationship for it to work. The book is geared toward women, but there is a lot that a man could benefit from reading as well. I've been memorizing several of the verses she included, and I've been using the tips as well. Occasionally the humorous "manual" speak falls a little flat, but that's a small point on an otherwise fabulous book. Hammond has an enormous amount of wisdom to share, and this book exemplifies it. I'm giving this book to an engaged friend of mine to read next.

All in One Place
Carolyne Aarsen
Little, Brown and Company
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780446696821 $12.99

All In One Place by Carolyne Aarsen is the sequel to last year's The Only Best Place. This book features Terra Froese, the sister of Leslie VanderKeere. Terra is on the run from an abusive boyfriend and turns to the only family she has: Leslie. Unfortunately, she meets Amelia who takes her to a bar and soon Leslie is paying Terra's bail and picking her up from jail. Not a fortuitous reunion. Terra takes a job at the local diner to pay Leslie back and soon finds herself falling for police deputy named Jack. Terra's fear of trust and rebellious ways mean she's in for trouble. I loved The Only Best Place, and I was not disappointed in its sequel. Terra is a wry character always ready with her cynical wit to defuse a situation. Aarsen does an amazing job of writing Terra from a completely different point of view from Leslie. Leslie was easy for me to relate to as a wife and mother trying to make it through each day in unexpected circumstances. Terra is very different, and yet Aarsen is able to make her come alive. Terra's vulnerability cracks through on rare occasions, and when it does, it shines. St. Francis of Assisi said to preach the Gospel always, and if necessary use words. Terra sees the Gospel working through the various denizens of town, and while it frightens her, it also pulls her toward the Lord. The ending with Eric seemed a bit cliched to me, but Terra's will to fight put a different spin on a scene that has been written in many books before. The resolution was never truly in doubt to anyone except Terra. This is a wonderful read.

MySpace, MyKids: A Parent's Guide to Protecting Your Kids and Navigating
Jason Illian
Harvest House Publishers
990 Owen Loop North, Eugene, OR. 97402-9173
9780736920445 $8.99 128 pages

MySpace My Kids by Jason Illian has bettered my relationship with my daughter. We've had troubles with MySpace for over a year. I banned it in our house and kept discovering that she had been on the site. After multiple infractions, I deleted her site at the beginning of the year. A few months later, she was grounded for putting up a new site. Then I got Illian's book, and he changed my mind. He says that there are three types of parents: Those who don't know much about MySpace and think that their children don't either, those who think MySpace is evil and have banned it from their home, and those who are cautious about the site and allow their children to participate with supervision. I definitely fell into the second category. Illian points out that MySpace is not in itself a bad thing; it's all about how it's used. For some people it's simply an opportunity to keep up with their friends and express themselves. There are others whose intent is not pure and are trying to seduce children or engage in violent and unhealthy behavior. As a parent, it's my responsibility to make sure that my daughter's time on MySpace is safe, and Illian gives the tools to do so. He explains how to set up your own account and walks you through his own as an example. He shows where trouble can start and how to avoid it. After reading the book, my daughter and I sat down at her site, and she was very willing to make the changes the book recommends to keep her safe. We talked about content and friends that are ok, and because I wasn't raving like a maniac about the site anymore, she listened and together we implemented the changes. The book is short and entertaining to read with easy to follow instructions. This is a book every parent should read before allowing their child to use the site. It will alleviate some concerns and teach how to avoid pitfalls. My daughter actually thanked me for letting her use the site. My thanks go to Jason Illian.

Christy Lockstein

Lori's Bookshelf

Close Enough
Jane Vollbrecht
Regal Crest Enterprises
9781932300857 $19.95

Two women, a mother and daughter, are separated by dire circumstances and misunderstanding. Hilda is nineteen when she gets pregnant in 1942, and there's no way she can keep the baby. Rather than go through official channels, she entrusts her infant – not even knowing if it's a boy or girl – to a soldier friend of her brother Martin. The soldier and his wife are never heard from again. Hilda must go on with her life, but she can never forget that child whose memory haunts her.

Frannie Brewster, who we immediately discover is Hilda's long-lost child, has grown to maturity in a hardscrabble existence with an alcoholic adoptive father and a very unhappy adoptive mother. Her solution is to flee by first going to college, then joining the Women's Army Corps. Frannie has long dealt with the world by deflecting everything with humor. One time a friend was mentioning how another gal's mother had made her a lesbian, and Frannie quipped, "Hey, Margo, maybe if you buy her the material, she'll make you one, too" (p. 80). Regardless of the scrapes she gets in, the problems that arise, the people who cause her trouble, Frannie makes a joke of it. Women are drawn to her because of her ready wit, but she uses her humor to hold people at a distance. Nobody ever gets close enough to stick. Not for too long anyway. The journey Frannie takes to find love and her roots is by turns hilarious and engrossing.

After years of running for Frannie, and decades of grief for Hilda, both women long to discover where they came from to try to find what they lost. Hilda's journey, even with her partner's support, doesn't seem fruitful. Frannie's investigation into the past is frustrating. But neither woman gives up. In the process of searching for their roots, will they find each other? Even more important, will they find themselves?

While sections of this book were quite serious and dramatic, overall this book was also a hoot to read. In Chapter Twelve, when Frannie arrives at Fort Sill for basic military training, she's confronted by a drill sergeant who lines up all the women and says, "There's miles and miles of penis on this Army base, and you aren't going to get even a single inch of it" (p. 134). Little does the drill sergeant know that men are just about the furthest thing from Frannie's mind! The drill sergeant "didn't talk, she roared, and that was one of her more feminine qualities" (p. 134). I could go on and on quoting the funny lines in this book. Vollbrecht's writing style and sly humor kept me chuckling throughout.

From the time of World War II and the Korean Conflict, through Vietnam and up into the 1980s, this book covers the life of a remarkable woman. Frannie is so alive, she's someone you'd want to know, and her problems are so human that I couldn't put the book down. When the story ended, I wanted to know what would happen to her and how the rest of her life would go. I give this book my highest recommendation.

Rick R. Reed
Quest Books of Regal Crest Enterprises
9781932300796 $17.95

Timothy Bright, a handsome young character in this horror thriller, hides a past full of sexual abuse and rage. He takes out his grief and anger upon gay men by instant messaging at and killing the guys who meet up with him for sexual encounters.

Ed Comparetto, a gay Chicago police detective, catches the cases and is put through a nightmarish investigation which culminates in his suspension from the job when doubt is cast on his findings. He's sure that Timothy Bright is the murderer, but he can't figure out how to prove it. Once he's suspended, the cases become Ed's personal crusade. He'll have to put his own life on the line – and that of someone else he loves – in order to stop this killer. Will he risk it all?

Reed has created an engrossing story – albeit brutally violent and sometimes gory. The writing is crisp and carries the reader along on a wave of suspense and horror. Reed expertly uses third person for Comparetto's investigation, first person for the murderer, and diary entries about Bright to bring this novel to life. He has capitalized on the phenomenon of people meeting via the Internet and dating services, and IM ends up being quite the scary cautionary tale.

The book is not for the faint-hearted, but is highly recommended for all those who enjoy horror a la "Silence of the Lambs." If you enjoy a bit of gore, a tense thriller, and well-crafted characters, you'll be utterly captivated by this book.

Victor J. Banis
Carroll & Graf, an imprint of Avalon Publ. Group
1400 - 65th Street, Suite 250, Emeryville, CA 94608
9780786719525 $14.95 www.avalonpub.com1-800-345-5473

When Buck, a young cowboy who is part Nasoni Indian, appears out on the prairie where the Double H crew is rounding up longhorns, the foreman, Les, doesn't quite know what to make of him. The two men are opposites. Les is 41, tall, broad-shouldered, blond, and has been a solitary man for many years. Buck is only 18 or 19, small, wiry, and dark. "Despite his size and his youth, he had a cocksure air about him, like a man who has just wrestled the puma and is waiting for you to send in the grizzly" (p. 2).

Buck immediately makes bawdy jokes, double entendres, and pointed references to sex. He's young and seems harmless, but he makes Les uncomfortable. Still, they're shorthanded and can use another wrangler, so he hires Buck. The young man sets out to prove himself to the crew which he manages to accomplish spectacularly in the first couple of days.

The cowboy world is often a lonely one. The men can go weeks on end without seeing civilization, and sometimes they satisfy themselves by discreetly sharing the bedroll of another fellow. This is not spoken of; the cowboys politely turn a blind eye. Buck's sexual encounters with his first bedroll mate, Red, are gritty and sometimes graphic. But Red is not the one for whom Buck yearns.

Too bad Les is not so impressed and wants little to do with Buck. The tone is light as the story begins, but as time goes on, it's clear that Buck is completely smitten with Les. The ranch foreman's heart is closed off, though, and not available to anyone.

This Western moseys along through the notable events that take place on a ranch and in the surrounding community while the most entertaining and captivating romantic arc plays out. Can a young fellow and a taciturn man with no belief in anything but the solitary life find true love?

Banis employs a wonderful balance of cowboy colloquialisms and rich, evocative language. You feel that you're there with the cowboys, whether it's at a barn dance, mucking out stalls, or facing down horse thieves. About a cattle stampede that the men are trying to stop, he writes: "The banging of horns together was like the clicking of castanets in one of those fandangos the Mexicans were fond of dancing, but this was a deadly dance they were at now, and the darkness and the thunder-drums and the alto cries of the cattle only made it more eerie" (p. 9).

LONGHORNS is an outstanding book, full of high spirits and true grit, and proving once again that Victor Banis is the master of any genre he chooses to write, whether it be Western, contemporary novels, comic mysteries, short stories with sci-fi underpinnings, or erotica. Highly recommended for anyone who enjoys an engrossing tale and graphic man-on-man action.

Miss McGhee
Bett Norris
Bywater Books
PO Box 3671, Ann Arbor, MI 48106,
9781932859331 $13.95 288 pgs

What if you're a girl, at age 16, who falls in love with another girl – but it's the 1940s? And then you moved on, only to get in trouble again? What if you had no reasonable expectation of finding love and living happily ever after?

This is Mary McGhee's life. She's been in that situation one too many times. Now in her late 20s, once again she's starting over, in a new town called Myrtlewood, Alabama. This time she's taken a position as a secretary at the town lumber mill, owned by the rich and prestigious Dubose family. Little does she know she's walking into a town full of busybodies and vipers, and the job she's taken is no simple matter. The head of the family has died, leaving his wealth and the mill to his incompetent son, Tommie Dubose, and Mary must come on the scene and somehow turn the business around while not angering the men in town, many of whom work at the mill.

But Lila Dubose, Tommie's wife, is a port in the storm, and as Lila and Mary get to know each other sparks begin to fly. Will Miss McGhee once again find herself exiled – or worse?

Bett Norris has crafted an impressive story that takes place after World War II and at the brink of the civil rights movement. Her prose is clean and clear with moments of great beauty and lush description. Readers definitely feel as though we are THERE – living in this small town, at a time when white men seemed to rule all, and opportunities for women, minorities, and gay people were all but impossible to find.

This is no typical romance, and the various characters in the story face mounting obstacles. Anyone stepping outside society's rules for women and blacks was bound to suffer, and there is great tension and drama in the way Norris rolls out this tale. But the love that grows between various people, in particular, Miss McGhee and Lila Dubose, is a joy to watch. The alliances Mary and Lila make and the stands they take kept me poring over this novel until late into the night.

MISS MCGHEE is an excellent novel, filled with drama, excitement, and passion. The tone is pitch perfect, and the author has created a terrific cast of characters you'll remember long after finishing the book. I give this one my highest recommendation.

Lori L. Lake

Margaret's Bookshelf

Tomas Fuller & Garth Fuller, editors
Agnes Huff
6601 Center Drive West, Suite 100, Los Angeles, CA 90045
9780978724511, $23.50

Passages: The Mystery of Death Finding Meaning in Life is a compilation of brief poetry concerning that most somber and mysterious of events, death. Inspirational writings from the ancient Greeks, Confucius, Lao-Tzu, Buddhist monks, Sufi mystics, and classic American and European thinkers offer a broad range of wisdom and insight. "From too much love of living, / From hope and fear set free, / We thank with brief thanksgiving / Whatever gods may be / That no man lives forever, / That dead men rise up never; / That even the weariest river / Winds somewhere safe to sea." Highly recommended.

What Gives?
Chelsea Marie
Togi Entertainment
56 Expressway Place, 5601 NW 72nd St., Ste. 342, OK 73132
9781425985448, $26.95

What Gives? is the poetry-memoir of Chelsea Marie, a remarkably alert and aware sixteen-year-old girl. At the time she wrote What Gives?, she was contemplating suicide, and decided to write down her thoughts instead - "because who wants to die with half a book written?" What Gives? combines poetry with prose passages and elements of memoir, as it takes on the harsh issues of life. The language is harsh and at times adult, reflecting how difficult it can be to struggle on day after day, yet the emotion and connection are directly from the heart. What Gives? was ultimately written not only to help the author, but also its readers, and is very highly recommended. "something inside cracks / and something inside shivers // i want to leave and / i want to stay forever. // i want to hold the 7 / all tight in my arms // i wanna blow bubbles / i wanna live on a farm. // i want anything / everything / but i still feel alarm. // can anyone keep me from self bodily harm?"

The Pale Surface of Things
Janey Bennett
Hopeace Press
617B Warsaw Ave,Winnepeg, MB R3M1B4
9780973400724, $21.95

The debut novel of the multitalented, modern Renaissance woman Janey Bennett, The Pale Surface of Things is a dark story of archaeology, lies, betrayal, and murder, set in a crucible between two cultures. When an American archaeologist flees his forthcoming marriage and cozy future, he runs to the traditional world of a Cretan village... where he must confront all the anger, fear, envy and shame within himself. He becomes entangled within an utterly ruthless family vendetta. Years ago, in World War II, the village suffered horrifically at the hands of the Nazis; today, its present-day priest labors to heal the lingering wounds from that time. Ultimately a story about maturing and developing the strength to confront both internal and external demons, The Pale Surface of Things is an absorbing novel, difficult to put down.

Revealing the Tao Te Ching
Hu Xuezhi, translation and commentary
Ageless Classics Press
13315 Washington Boulevard, Suite 200, Los Angeles, CA 90066
978188775188, $19.95 1-800-578-9526

Taoist adept and teacher Hu Xuezhi presents Revealing the Tao Te Ching: In Depth Commentaries on an Ancient Classic renders an ancient Chinese classic of spirituality, Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching, into English with an extensive spiritual commentary to help readers understand its esoteric spiritual meaning. Each passage from the Tao Te Ching is translated in the form of a poem, with line-by-line elaborations on the next few pages. For example, the in-depth explanation for the line "When storing up both Congenital Nature and Life Force" has the explanation "The cultivation of Congenital Nature and Life-Force is a general rule recognized in Tao-pursuing circles. Originally, Congenital Nature is united with the Life-Force as one, and is no different than the state that existed before a single sperm combined with an ovum. Later, when an individual is given birth, the divided, congenital mind-will (Congenital Shen) resides in the heart, while Primeval Qi resides in the kidneys. This state of division will last throughout an individual's entire life. Tao-pursuing practice (also called qigong practice) travels along the common individual's life course in a reverse direction. It combines the separate natures into one again and reaches the state that existed before the sperm combined with an ovum." Highly recommended for college and public library collections, and anyone seeking to better understand Lao Tzu's timeless text.

Margaret Lane

Mayra's Bookshelf

The Frugal Editor
Carolyn Howard-Johnson
Red Engine Press
18942 State Hwy 13, Ste F #107, Branson West, MO 67537
9780978515874 $18.95

The publishing world is so incredibly competitive nowadays, both aspiring and experienced authors who wish to succeed need to make sure that their submissions—be that queries, proposals, partials or complete manuscripts—are as flawless as they can possibly be. It goes without saying that these submissions must be free of spelling and grammatical mistakes; that's only the beginning. Editors and agents pay attention to a lot of other amateurish mistakes in a submission. In this her latest book, award-winning author Carolyn Howard-Johnson reveals what those other mistakes are, what you can do to spot them on your manuscript and, more importantly, correct them.

Johnson demystifies how to spot dangling participles, gremlins of the passive voice (which stubbornly keep appearing after having edited your manuscript twice), and innocuous agreement errors, among other sneaky problems like overuse of adverbs and adjectives, gerunds, unnecessary question marks and exclamation points, handling possessives and apostrophes, hyphens, double adjectives, and more.

You'll learn how to make the editing process more effortless, including how to set up your Word program to make markings easier, as well as manual and electronic techniques for spotting errors. The book also includes helpful sidebars with particularly important information on all aspects of self editing. Johnson also discusses the most common amateurish mistakes writers often make. At the end of the book there is a chunky appendix with lots of pertinent and relevant resources.

One of the things I found more interesting about this book is the 'inside' information from the point of view of various agents. I also think Johnson gives very valuable advice when she recommends NOT doing the final two edits on the computer screen, but on printed copy instead. I particularly like the chapters on how to set up Word for optimizing the self editing process; I have read many books on editing but never came upon this practical element before. Moreover, Johnson writes in a friendly, engaging style, making the reading of this book both an enjoyable and enlightening experience.

Ideally, hiring a professional editor is the best way to go, but unfortunately, not every writer has the resources to hire one. Getting a copy of The Frugal Editor and using it as a reference guide is the next best thing. Highly recommended for authors who are serious about their work and willing to beat the odds.

The Missing Locket
Mary Cunningham
Quake (Echelon Press imprint)
9735 Country Meadows Lane 1-D, Laurel, MD 20723
1590804414 $9.99 410-878-7113

The Missing Locket is a paranormal mystery featuring two lovable young sleuths that girls 9 and up will absolutely love. It is the perfect, darkly atmospheric story for young fans of intrigue and adventure to cuddle up with on those gray, rainy afternoons or read in bed.

It is the summer of 1964 and Gus and Cynthia, two best friends who are very different from each other yet very close, are bored out of their minds. Then they have an idea—why not explore Cynthia's old and mysterious attic? After all, Cynthia lives in one of those huge mansions with three floors and lots of rooms, the perfect kind of house that stimulates young imaginations. In the attic, among all the antiques, spiders and cobwebs, they discover a huge, dust-covered old trunk. When they open it, they find an old, dirty, pink ballet costume and slippers, which Cynthia, unable to resist, quickly tries on. Then something very strange happens… Cynthia begins to dance and twirl with the effortless beauty of a ballerina! Stunned, she soon takes it off. As they head towards the door, the unimaginable happens—they're 'pulled' back to the trunk as if by magic, and the attic changes, becoming cold and still when only a moment ago it had been hot and muggy. What's even more strange, the ballet costume and the trunk now look brand new!

Under the costume, they discover a sailor dress, and this time Gus tries it on, with drastic consequences… she's whisked in time back to 1914, to the time when their grandmothers were only twelve years old. Of course, later on, Cynthia joins Gus, and together they must help their Aunt Belle and solve the mystery of the missing, bell-shaped locket, an adventure that takes them over on a steamship across the Atlantic and where they make friends with a young boy's ghost.

Talented author Mary Cunningham has drawn a delightful, intriguing fantasy world that will delight middle readers. Her love for storytelling and for the genre really comes through the pages. The pace is quick and there's enough twists and turns to keep juvenile fans of mystery guessing. The characters of Gus and Cynthia are sympathetic and interesting and young girls will be able to identify with them. This is the first book in the series and I certainly look forward to read the second book, The Magic Medallion, soon.

Mayra Calvani

Molly's Bookshelf

Who Me Paranoid?
Erica Stux
610 East Delano Street Ste 104 TUCSON AZ 85705
9781587366765 $13.95

Attention-grabbing Read … Recommended … 4 stars

'Who Me Paranoid?' is presented as a series of humor laced essays. The Section designated as HOUSEHOLD HANG-UPS consists of 'Who's Really in Charge Here,' and a hilarious accounting of newlywed bliss. 'Don't Upset My Ecosystem,' 'The Dinner Party I'd Most Like to Forget,' was a chuckle from beginning to end as the writer set down her mishaps experienced during a party she hosted for thirteen people on the thirteenth of the month. 'The Bachelor Apartment,' 'The Care and Feeding of Dishwashers,' 'Phantoms in My Fridge.'
HOW DID LIFE GET SO COMPLICATED proffers 'Fowl Play,' which mirrors what has been my own experience when dining out with family members. I was caught between giggling and renewing my vow to never join my sibling in a restaurant. 'May I Have My Attention,' 'A New Car, or How Can I Fill Up If I Can't Open the Gas,' is a hysterical recounting of trying to get the new vehicle off the lot and onto the highway without reading the manual and learning beforehand exactly WHERE every knob, dial and doohickey is. Brings back memories of driving a new car and as night fell stomping every inch of floor on the driver's side in an effort to locate the dimmer switch. 'How Does One Program This Thing,' 'Courses for Today's Women,' 'Just a Memory,' 'Is Now the Right Time.'

FAMILY FUNNY TIMES includes 'No Sense Complaining,' 'To Lend or Not to Lend,' in which the writer treats readers to the joys of teens in the home. It is the –been there, done that- aspect of the writers work that makes the reading so enjoyable. 'In the Throes of Fashion,' 'New Math for the Family,' is a fun chuckle of an eight list read as the author explains time and effort needed to get a family ready for going out, probability of losing parts of toys and the difficulty facing most households in discarding an item as opposed to accepting a new one to the meld. 'Taking Stock.'

WHO ME PARANOID? Offers 'Movie Titles That Come alive at My Home,' and a fun explanation of movie titles and meanings for households: The Sound of Music – the ice cream truck is coming, The French Connection – a new recipe for quiche, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum – the kid has lost her Latin homework, AGAIN. 'Short-cut to Drama,' 'Taking Up a Collection,' 'The House Detective on Duty,' 'Math for Mothers,' 'Hairdo and Don'ts,' 'A Little Adjustment Needed.'

CRAZINESS IN MY COMMUNITY incorporates 'Fate or Fortune,' is an often all too true picture of the life of a landlord of rental properties. 'Cat-alyst,' brought a smile to my lips as the writer lists woes of a cat who will not catch mice. Been there, done that, and enjoyed the read. 'A Paneful Story,' 'You Mean the Plumber Didn't Show Up Yet?' 'Squeeze Play,' is a hysterical recounting of tenants and their adventure with a snake in the apartment. 'Rock City Nature Club Bulletin,' 'New Bird Species,' 'The Agony and the Ecstasy,' 'Needed: A Few Capable Women,' 'It's Party Time!' 'Doing Time in The House of (Medical) Detention.'

IT'S A WEIRD WORLD OUT THERE presents 'Only Groupies Need Apply,' is a fun read of little known associations, groups and association. 'Confessions of a Paranoid,' 'A Taxing Situation,' the writer manages to interject a bit of humor into a tax audit. 'Whatever Happens To,' 'The Faunal Touch,' 'WCs I Have Known,' 'The Rewards of Anguish,' 'Quickie Reviews of Fictional Music Groups of the Past,' 'Going Third Class: Avoiding Symptoms of Affluenza,' 'Driver's Aide,' 'All This, Just to Listen to Bartok?' 'Phoney Business,' 'Whales and Wails.'

The writer says 'I knew early on that Life is out to get me. … But, does that make me paranoid?' I like the format of short essays; perfect for reading while waiting for the train to pass, the kids to finish up in the dentist's chair or whenever an uplifting, giggle packed pick-me-up is needed.

What an uplifting, fun read. The author takes situations from her personal life and presents them in a wonderfully humorous manner. The reading should go quickly – writing is perky, well laid out and grammatically correct. It is the stopping to giggle hysterically and wipe tears from my eyes that slowed me down a bit. As an advocate of the Erma Bombeck view of life I find Writer Stux presents her work in a like manner – there is humor to be found in nearly every situation, you just have to look for it.

'Who, Me? Paranoid?' is a nice addition to the home library, the personal reading list and the school and public library. I do not keep all the books I receive for review. 'Who, Me? Paranoid?' is one I shall be keeping and turning to often. The format lends itself to quick reads, does not need to be read in any order, just locate a favorite essay, turn to and prepare to giggle. Enjoyed the read, happy to recommend.

The Mad Days of Me: Escaping Barcelona
Henry Martin
Chevalier Editions
9780615138848 $14.99

Interesting read … Recommended … 4 stars

When Rudy arrives in Barcelona he is a young adult planning for a bit of adventure, a bit of time away from home and a time for learning to live on his own. He has no idea just how 'on his own' life is to become. Rudy is accosted, robbed, raped and left with only the clothes on his back and his wit for survival.

Alone in a foreign country he takes to the street where survival becomes a day to day confrontation. When Rudy discovers his missing passport is in possession of a madman, Pietro, Rudy knows he must somehow retrieve the document. His attempt to get help at the American Consulate was nothing he expected, and his only hope now is to stay alive long enough to get the passport back so that he can leave Barcelona.

Sleeping in corners, on concrete floors, and in the open, bathing in the sink at the train station or not at all, begging for money or food, luxuriating in the burgers thrown into the bin behind the McDonalds, growing more and more dirty and more hopeless each day; Rudy does make acquaintance with kids his own age. Some allow him to spend a night or two, to actually shower in a real shower and sleep in a real bed. At last with the passport in hand his escape from Barcelona can become a fact. Now if only he had enough money to board the ferry.

The resiliency of the human spirit is explored to depth in Henry Martin's first novel. The Mad Days of Me: Escaping Barcelona is not a work for the faint of heart. Rudy is a strong character, he befriends social rejects when he finds he has become one, he faces the panic of reality, steps away from emotion in order to survive, and gains an appreciation for life that might never have realized if his weekend jaunt had only been one filled with ease and carefree moments. He has been forced to face himself, and he has won. Delving into sexuality, drugs, petty crime he bucks authority and ultimately creates his niche in the mishmash roaming Barcelona streets.

At times unrefined and raunchy The Mad Days of Me: Escaping Barcelona carries the reader along on a philosophical journey toward acceptance of realizing what can and cannot be changed, of playing the cards that are dealt and making the most of them. Writer Martin is proving himself as an adept poet and novelist. Rudy comes to value that hope can exist, in even the most bleak of circumstances. The reader is propelled along a fast past in this psychological moment in a young man's growing awareness of himself, of the strength he possesses and never before realized. He learns that the will to survive is too strong to allow it to fade and that he can do whatever he must to survive and move on.

Not for the faint of heart, some language will offend the easily offended. Not a book for a lazy afternoon, but an excellent one for the reader who likes a little substance between the covers.

Good choice for the high school reader, the personal reading list and the high school library. I was sent a soft cover copy for review. Intriguing read, happy to recommend for those who enjoy the genre. Not for everyone.

Ordinary Miracles
S David Nathanson MD
Greenwood International
Linacre House, Jordan Hill, Oxford OX2 8DP, UK
9780275994693 $49.95

Positive, Uplifting Read . Recommended . 5 stars

In his acknowledgments Dr Nathanson states 'My patients inspired this book." Chapter titles are revealing : Chapter 1 Case Study Pamela Brady: A Bump in the Road of Life; Chapter 2 Detection: It Was a Nice Spring Day; Chapter 3 Diagnosis: This Can't Be Happening to Me, Chapter 4 Case Study: Sally Sawyer: Life Beyond Cancer; Chapter 5 Surgery: This Wasn't Bad; Chapter 6 Chemotherapy: Fear Is Diminished When You're Aware, Chapter 7 Radiation: Your Personal Battery Runs Way Low; Chapter 8 Support Systems: An Extremely Emotional Time for My Family and Friends; Chapter 9 The Spiritual Connection: Make Me Feel Like a Whole Person; Chapter 10 Case Study Wendy Goldberg; I Am Here; Chapter 11 Afterward: An Abundance of Resilience; Chapter 12 Case Study Linda D'Antonio: A Thief in the Night; Chapter 13 Advice : Trust in the Lord. See Your Doctor; Chapter 14 Case Study Arlene Kalley: Hope Again!; Chapter 15 Case Study: William C Rands III: You Had a Mastectormy?; Epilogue : What I Learned From My Patients.

Pamela Brady had her yearly physical September 2000, had her mammogram in November and five days later received a call to come for a recheck. The soonest she could do the recheck. twenty five days during which Pamela did lots of housework in the effort to keep her mind busy and not think about the report. Dr Nathanson points out that early detection is a crucial factor in the 'miracle' of recovery from breast cancer. That some patients become hysterical at the news that they have cancer is not unusual. Detection followed by diagnosis does not always mean breast cancer, cancer does not always mean instant death. Diagnosis is not the result of detection, rather it is the conclusion of the detection. Upon receiving the diagnosis more than one patient voices the fear of death, of leaving their family friends, of surgery, treatment and disfigurement.

Surgery may or may not mean removal of the full breast, a lumpectomy followed by radiation is one option. Patients who are fully understanding of what options are their regarding which procedures may be undertaken, what to expect and what may or may not be accomplished; express confidence in their doctors and in the procedures they undergo.

Chemotherapy is a word that may strike fear for some patients. Many patients lean on their nurses and get through the process with greater success. Fear is diminished when you know what is coming and what the outcome may be. Many of the patients interviewed offered humorous accounts regarding their hair loss during Chemo. Chemo may or may not include hair loss as was learned by more than one patient.

Dr Nathanson interviews male and female breast cancer patients for this work covering all aspects of cancer diagnosis, treatment, survival, hope, spiritual help and at times death. Even today there are those who don't realize that men as well as women are at risk.

I knew when I accepted his book for review I would be reading and then writing the review through tears, I recommend the book to those who may suspect or have received a diagnosis of cancer, and for the families and friends of those who may be going through treatment, along with those who perhaps as I; have lost a dear family member to the condition.

Ordinary Miracles is a well written work filled with so many clips, vignettes and snippets provided by a wide range of patients the reader is reminded over and over that the human spirit is strong even when the physical body may be at its weakest. The miracles set down in this book are not necessarily that every patient makes full, long life recovery, rather the miracle can be that a terrified patient faces their fear and lives life to the fullest with or without recovery, or the miracle may be that even in death there is peace and faith and hope. The miracle may not be stated, but is clearly spoken to the reader by the power of the words of the teller.

Highly recommended for patients, their family, therapists and those who simply need a positive, hope filled read. "The theme of human strength and resourcefulness in the face of the terrible fact of cancer is one that we have seen again and again."

100 HATS to Knit and Crochet
Jean Leinhauser & Rita Weis
Sterling publishing co. inc
387 Park Ave South NYC NY 10016
9781402723131 $

Instructive Read ..... Recommended ...... 4 stars

Needlework enthusiasts Jean Leinhauser & Rita Weis have more than twenty five years experience creating distinctive needlework projects. The 100 designs offered in this edition include patterns requiring beginner to more advanced knit or crochet prowess. The patterns include those for men, women, adults, children and babies as well as some for each season of the year. There are stylish hats, functional hats and just plain meant for fun hats.

Materials used range from common crochet thread available at the local Wal Mart as well as more specialty shop type yarns. Not truly hats; however the book even includes a crocheted tennis visor along with a Russian influenced knitted winter hat and muff set, a crocheted Yarmulke, and an ear warmer with straps over the head,

Intricate Geometric designs, lace crochet, cables and simple single crochet are all included among the patterns. I particularly like to knit designs having either geometric patterns, or cables. The ANDEAN ADVENTURER with its complete head cover and rows of Andean girls interspersed with bars of color and geometric hearts is an intriguing pattern I intend to make up for winter. Pattern for this particular piece covers 3 pages, lists materials used to make the one shown in the photo, thread and needles, offers step by step directions presented in clear, easily understood terms for the brave beginner to knitting or for the more advanced-moderate talent knitter. On the third page of the pattern is a nice diagram for the patterning designs of girls, bars and the like. The design is large enough for aging eyes to see without resorting to magnifying glass.

The geometric patterning offered in the LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON design is a common pattern easily achieved by the moderate ability knitter and the ready to take on the next step beginner. Dad's hat is standard winter type while the child's hat includes ear flaps suited to cold winter days out in the snow. Again the design is presented with a nice photo of the finished product, list of materials needed, instructions for knitting both hats, diagrams that are large enough and clearly seen without magnifying glass, and instructions for finishing the piece once it is knitted. This design comprises 2 separate hats and covers 4 pages.

From a High Roller to Beret to Skull Cap to a Bonnet with ties HATS to Knit and Crochet offers the reader a wide variety of chapeau.

Each pattern is set down with a color photo of the finished product, I like that, as both a knitter and crocheter who can understand both knitting and crochet terms I do like to see the item as well. For the crafter who has learned to knit or crochet by only looking at the picture and then figuring out how to accomplish the work, and there are some even in this advanced world in which we live today, the photos offer enough detail to allow success without being able to read the directions.

About 1/3 of the designs offered are knitted, 1/4 are meant for children, and only 4 of the hundred are for men, and that includes the ear warmer and the yarmulke. As with every pattern book there are designs that will have more appeal to one needle worker than another, on the other hand I have yet to find a needle enthusiast who buys any pattern sheet or book having more than 1 pattern and loves them all.

I personally like all the knit patterns. I don't keep all the books I am sent for review I will be keeping this one and knitting from it this winter. Happy to recommend for needle work enthusiasts, homemaking teachers, boutiques specializing in needle arts as well as home and public library shelves.

Rainbow Rhino
Fox Carlton Hughes
Ovation Books
PO Bx 89107, Austin TX 78758
9780979027536 $16.95

Child Pleasing Read … Recommended … 4 stars

Homer lived somewhere far away with his Momma and his Poppa Rhino. He spent a lot of time playing by himself. The kids at school teased him because he had an exceptionally long tusk, and his tusk embarrassed him. He tried hiding the tusk under a trash basket, that didn't work. Poppa tried to help Homer feel better, that didn't work either. Momma baked his favorite dessert, Homer couldn't even take a bite. Homer cried himself to sleep that night, but next morning Homer saw a rainbow. This was not just any rainbow, this was a tearful rainbow with a great big hole in its side. Can Homer help?

On the pages of Rainbow Rhino Fox Carlton Hughes has fashioned a magical self esteem tale sure to please and provoke to thoughtful discussion for youngsters in the target group of 4 – 8 year olds. Rainbow Rhino has a compelling story line enhanced by Writer/Illustrator Carlton Hughes' wonderful bright illustrations. Momma and Poppa are typical concerned but unable to 'make it all better parents.' Homer is a little boy who sees himself as less than his classmates due to a physical variance over which he has no control at all. Rather than see his supposed anomaly as part of who he is and going forward triumphant Homer is allowing the thoughts of others control him. How he comes to accept himself and in doing so promote acceptance of himself in others is a lesson children need.

Illustrations are well done with children in mind, counting activities will be achieved on the pages showing classmates, cows in the field, rainbow tear drops, dew fairies and then the last page with the groups all coming together. Color identification can be checked by parent or teacher as adult uses the rainbow page to subtly note whether or not children know the colors presented.

Homer with his massive tusk is a character children who have 'imperfections' can easily relate too. Rainbow Rhino will lend itself to furthering children understanding that different is okay discussions, as well as how it feels to be singled out because of something physical i.e. out of the child's control. We can control our behavior, we cannot control our height, color, or 'imperfections.' The imperfections we each have or imagine can serve either to crush us, or to identify us as very special people. I plan to use Rainbow Rhino on the first day of school this year.

I am the parent of a 'handicapped' child … he limps. This is a book I would like to have seen available when my own child was first attending school. It is one I would have bought for his class. Rainbow Rhino has a place in the classroom as a content area supplement as well as a work to use for teacher's to guide children's thinking about self esteem, what it means to be 'different' and whether being 'different' is good, bad, or just is a part of our lives and is what make us a special, unique person.

Rainbow Rhino is a nicely wrought work sure to please the target audience. The work is a read to for the 3 – 7 year set, a read with help for the strong 7 reader to – 9s and a 'I'll read to you' for the 9 – 11 set as they read to younger siblings or take with them to read to the 'little kids' in kindergarten.

Enjoyed the read, happy to recommend for the classroom, public and school library shelves, in addition to home use.

Sins of a Nation
Don McGraw
Bridgeway Books
2100 Kramer Lane Ste 300 Austin TX 78758
9781933538679 $13.95

Stimulating Read . Recommended . 4 stars

In the prologue; the reader steps into the thoughtful musings of Jannelle Lucinda Hacourt. Jannelle is one of 134 in the graduating class of Georgetown University Law School which will soon descend upon Capitol Hill. At the time Jannelle and her fellow graduates have little awareness that their lives have been carefully programmed. Professor Emeritus Miriam Larson, card carrying Democrat, magistrate U.S. Court of Appeals, and law professor she is also Jannelle's mentor, confidante, and strength. It is Professor Larson who announces Jannelle's name propelling the young woman toward her degree and a future filled with intrigue, mystery and disillusionment.

The narrative opens with a shackled man hoping for respite from the torture he is enduring. Apparently a misstep has brought US diplomat Trent Marin into the hands of the Colombia government. Marin realizes his chances for survival are slim to non existent.

In Washington D.C. the upcoming presidential race fills the airwaves. Jannelle is a member of the team working to effect the nomination of the Republican front-runner, Senator John McCord. The race is tight, Jannelle is worried, and Miriam is calm, patient, and shrewd. McCord is frantic, even with his six point lead over Peter Allen he just may lose. Independent Glen Brooks is siphoning off important support. A single bullet shot from the crest of a Vermont hill suddenly changes everything.

Kinnard Lythe, Ecuardorian lattes, Trent Marin's taped 'confessions' are retrieved from CIA files by a hacker , news of Glen Brooks' murder, scrambling to present John McCord in the best possible light, Kinnard's disappearance, and Vint Hill Farms military base in Virginia move the tale at break neck speed toward the concluding paragraphs. Jannelle's life hangs in the balance as she moves to confront the person controlling the situation.

Writer McGraw has crafted an exciting political thriller peopled with fully fleshed characters, settings redolent with realism and a storyline that might well be lifted from the headlines of newspapers covering the presidential elections in modern times. The deviousness, actual dishonesty and chicanery that fills many political instances is set down in fine form by writer McGraw. Janelle, the story's main character is a likeable, enthusiastic young woman who quickly learns that there is little room for naivety in Washington DC. Writing is hard hitting, dialogue is filled with grit and determination. Writer McGraw presents enough red herrings as well as twists and turns to keep the reader on their toes. Tying up all loose ends can be arduous, McGraw has done so with skill.

Sins of a Nation is a must have for those who enjoy political thrillers, and has a use for the high school or community college government, history, or political science class where it can be read and served as a discussion starter for similarities to political mischief today.

I received a soft cover edition of the book for review by the publicist. Enjoyed the read, happy to recommend.

It's a Guy Thing: The Essential Guide Helping Guys Become Men, Husbands, and Fathers
Dr. John King
Destiny Image Publishers
PO Box 310 Shippensburg PA 17257
9780768423716 $14.99

Motivating Read … Recommended … 4 stars

In part one of his revealing work Dr. John King discusses his own story which includes his father becoming a parent at only eighteen year of age. Dr. King was driven to not repeat the pattern that is prevalent in so many homes today of fathers who are too young for the job, or of fathers who are absent from their children's lives. Dr. King is a conference, business and church speaker who is unrelenting in his passion regarding men's and leadership issues.

Part 1 includes the realities that too many children are in search of a dad while being raised in a single parent home. Dr. King offers the notion that in one generation men have moved from being the mainstay of the family to a person who can demolish lives, hopes and dreams for their children. And he suggests that men knuckle down, and see that the pattern reverses itself in one generation. I especially liked reading King's poem regarding Fathers and Coaches.

Part 2 offers suggestions for parenting. King presents six keys to raising kids, the five A's of adolescence, the necessity for physical affection, how to discipline, and the importance for honoring the mother of the family. He suggests that girls tend to marry men who are like their fathers and that sons will emulate dad when they become adults.

I enjoyed reading the section in which Writer King presents the importance of DOING with your kids as opposed to just being there. Fatherhood is not a spectator sport, kids thrive on parenting that includes being with and doing things with dad. As a teacher I often see the result of what happens when dad is there in the flesh and still missing from the child's life.

It's a Guy Thing is an easily read work comprising 183 jam packed pages. I like the format of short quick reads suitable for carrying the book along for a quick read as the reader is waiting for a child after school, or as a topic for a meeting at church when the discussion centers around men and their role in the family. Sprinkled among the various short vignettes are quotes from notables: including Bette Davis' famous 'If you have never been hated by your children you have never been a parent.' Mario Cuomo recounts how his life was shaped by watching his hardworking emigrant father.

The work presents the belief that in our culture the absence of fathers in the home is rampant. Dr. King is firm in his notion that, if the problem is to be solved it is men who change the cycle as they reevaluate their roles as men, husbands, and fathers. Where there is no positive male role model in the home, boys grow up lacking the essential guiding principles for their becoming well adjusted husbands, fathers, and members of society.

As with all books of a self help nature there are parts that all readers will be in agreement with and will like and there are parts they will not. The one additional chapter I would like to have seen is one that addresses the single parent home that is broken not by desertion, divorce or abandonment but by death. Not every widow with children remarries, and a chapter to help guide the men in society for filling that gap would be beneficial. Boy Scout Leaders, members of the religious community to which the family belongs and the like can and do step into the breach to provide the role models for boys we are raised in a single family home where the father has died.

It's a Guy Thing has a place on the reading list of fathers and their wives as well. It will prove an excellent resource for use by school counselors and therapists as they offer guidance and something to read to clients. The book is written for men, it has much to offer adolescent young men who may be contemplating marriage and family along with the ones who view a pregnant girlfriend as 'it is her baby.' I plan to take my copy to offer to our school counselor for her use as she works with the high school students in our district.

Molly Martin, Reviewer

Paul's Bookshelf

The OOBE File
Harry Highstreet
Publish America
P.O. Box 151, Frederick, MD 21705
1413785628 $15.00

Hubert Wright is an American Army private serving on a missile base in England. One day, he falls asleep while on duty, and suddenly finds himself outside his body; he is having an out-of-body experience. In his astral travels, he meets a man who calls himself Roger Matthews, who asks for a tour of the base, including the secret parts.

Meantime, Wright's body has been found. Sleeping on duty is a serious offense, and he doesn't have anything like a good explanation, so Wright stays out of his body. Because no one knows what to do with it, his body is moved to the base hospital. Wright's spirit meets that of a young woman named Cora, the other patient at the hospital.

The ability of two of the base officers, Captain Razig and Doc Thomlin, to be permanently transferred off the base depends on an inspector coming for a visit. Everything is perfect, except for Private Wright. While the inspector is in Wright's room, he returns to his body and tells everything to the inspector. Immediately, the inspector swears to secrecy everyone with any knowledge of the situation. They now find themselves in a Top Secret project. Paul Villeant, an intelligence agent who has been tracking Matthews for years, is called in. Matthews has experience on the wrong side of Middle East terrorism, so his wish to see the secret parts of the missile base does not bode well. The story moves to the Persian Gulf, where it becomes an old-fashioned thriller, half in the "real world," and half in the astral world.

This is not a complicated novel, possibly a young adult novel, but it is a very good novel about weird things going on all around us. It is easy to read, and the reader will not go wrong with this story.

And the Angel with Television Eyes
John Shirley
Night Shade Books
348 Pierce Street, San Francisco CA 94117
1892389134 $27.00

Max Whitman is a moderately successful actor in present-day New York City. Cast member on a soap opera, he seems to have acquired a stalker who dresses exactly like his TV character. One day, the stalker is found dead in the middle of the street. Indications are that he was dropped from a great height.

In preparation for a big audition, Max agrees to spend some time in a sensory deprivation tank. His soul is taken to a place of tall buildings made of energy and hears voices talk to him like he is someone named Lord Redmark. Max also meets neon colored snakes in glass tubes, and harpies who look human, except for their wings of blue-black vinyl and mini-TV cameras for eyes. A door seems to have been opened between "here" and "there." Max starts talking like Lord Redmark, and, more than once, he is attacked, in midtown Manhattan, by these vinyl-winged harpies.

Quantum theory speculates about each physical body having an interrelated body made solely of subatomic particles, a "soul." Such bodiless beings do exist on their own, and they are called plasmagnomes. They are divided into two factions, one of which is ready to declare war on mankind. Man's computers, cell phones and other electromagnetic generators are causing real problems in the plasma world. Antoinette, a friend of Max's, does human-looking metal sculptures. More than once, he sees what looks like her sculptures coming to life. Max is taken deep beneath the streets of Manhattan, where he meets people who have turned into various beings. Their true, plasmagnome self has been awakened; Antoinette becomes one of them. To put it simply, reality is being turned upside down and pulled outside out.

John Shirley seems to make a habit of exploring parts of the human psyche that few other writers even wish to visit. In a way, this book is vintage John Shirley; very weird and very, very good.

Paul Lappen

Richard's Bookshelf

The Legend of Baeoh
Lucas Taekwon Lee
Robert D. Reed Publishers
PO Box 1992, Bandon, Oregon 97411
97819631741880 $17.95

The Courage to Change A Book on Leadership

Inspired by the story of his father and of how he overcame the struggle of poverty and hardship in Korea, Lucas Taekwon Lee has written "The Legend of Baeoh." After immigrating to America, Haeng Ung Lee formed the world largest martial arts organization based on Taekwondo. Grand Master, H. U. Lee believed he could achieve more than his destiny would have thought possible.

The unique brightly colored illustrations of Max Forward bring to life this remarkable story of Baeoh, the young tiger, born without stripes. The story parallels Lucas' father's courage, perseverance, and discipline, as he pursued an impossible dream to its fruition.

This is an extraordinary story and inspires confidence for young and old alike. The story will help anyone to set their goals just beyond the destiny set by circumstances. Like Baeoh, we can earn our stripes through honor, nobility, respect, courage and leadership.

There is an interactive exercise at the end of the book to help the young reader determine his destiny. It is suggested to set three goals, to measure their achievement by earning the three stripes, even as Baeoh did. Motivational and challenging the narrative and beautiful illustration combine to make this a noteworthy book.

Living a Balanced Financial Life
Deborah Nayrocker
AMG Publishers
9780899572468, $14.99

Practical Stewardship Principles

Following the format of the "Following God Christian Living Series," Deborah Nayrocker has written this guide for "Living a Balanced Financial Life." The book is made up of twelve individual lessons using an interactive study plan which allows the reader apply these truths from God's word personally.

The book proposes a plan for devotional study to be used over five days each week. Topics included are: stewardship, debt, virtues, God's will, life goals, handling money, getting our finances in order, borrowing and credit, saving and planning for future needs, and exploring the riches we have as Christians.

The chapters are carefully planned with instruction, suggested Bible readings, stimulating questions, ideas for prayer and an opportunity for personal notes. Side bars highlighting key scripture passages related to the study material and extensive end notes are provided within the chapters.

Based on the parables of Jesus, as well as other Old and New Testament, these studies and stories help the reader discover what God's word has to say regarding personal finances. You will find this to be an ideal study for personal and group use, in small group Bible studies, or an Adult Sunday school class.

When I Lay My Isaac Down
Carol Kent
NavPress Publishing Group
3820 N. 30th Street, Colorado Springs, Colorado, 80904
1576834743, $18.99

Surrendering Your Isaac on the Altar

A midnight phone call alerted Carol and Gene Kent that their only son, Jason Paul, had been arrested for first degree murder. "When I Lay My Isaac Down" is the story of their desperate response to this shocking news.

Carol clearly and openly communicates the pain they suffered through this tragedy. Feelings of hurt, shame, guilt, and unspeakable horror left them devastated. A support group of "stretcher bearers" surrounded them with prayer, offered words of encouragement and comfort, and in very real and practical ways helped, Carol, Gene, Jason Paul, and his wife April work through their sorrow and the sense of bereavement.

Carol's writing resonates with hope. She shares her story and the stories of others who have also been faced with loss and trauma. These stories vividly portray the message of God's love, redemption, and the way to reconciliation in times of calamity.

The chapters close with questions for reflection. Responding in writing to these exercises will help the reader interpret the obscurity between the strange providential circumstances allowed by God and what we know of Him theologically or in theory.

Carol urges the reader to change the way we think about personal trials. Eight power principles are presented which will help the reader through process a personal crisis, those circumstances that call for laying your Isaac, as an offering on the altar.

Carol's compassion, comfort, and caring come through as genuine as Carol communicates her personal struggle with relinquishing her Isaac. "When I Lay My Isaac Down." is a poignant and memorable account of triumph in the midst of tragedy.

Richard R. Blake

Sullivan's Bookshelf

The Fabric of America
Andro Linklater
Walker & Company
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
139780802715333 $25.95 1-800-289-2553

Here's America's 'inside history' handbook. Linklater gives readers the 'lay of the land.' More accurately, the author tells the fascinating and mostly unknown stories of how borders between the states, U.S. territories, and North American countries came to be.

The author writes in his 'Foresight,' "Boundaries of all kinds--imperial frontiers, colonial borders, property limits--were inseparable from the development of colonial America. When the people of the independent states declared their intention to assume 'a separate and equal station' among the powers of the earth, the need for clear-cut boundaries was as obvious to them as the right to life and liberty."

How such famous and unusually controversial geographical demarcations as the Mason/Dixon Line, between Pennsylvania and Maryland; the Northwest Territories, located northwest of the Ohio River, which was ceded over when the Revolutionary War Peace Treaty was signed; and the line between Mexico and Texas, initially based on the meandering Rio Grande River; among other boundaries; came to be are relayed in historical detail.

Though many surveyors from George Washington to Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon (of Mason/Dixon Line fame) to perhaps the most fastidious, expert, trusted, and precise of them all--Andrew Ellicott of Pennsylvania, the man who would lay out Washington DC and much, much more of the U.S. is conveyed entertainingly.

Though all the history chapters in this volume are hard to stop reading, the one describing the nation's capital is full of new information and the intrigue involved in its establishment and makes the cost of this read worth the price of the entire book. Linklater, in his final two chapters, did have a tendency to philosophize rather than stick to history. Otherwise all sections of the book are well written and easy reading.

Andro Linklater, the author, resides in Britain. He's penned other tomes including MEASURING AMERICA; HOW AN UNTAMED WILDERNESS SHAPED THE UNITED STATES AND FILLED THE PROMISE OF DEMOCRACY. Recommended.

Travels with Herodotus
Ryszard Kapuscinski
Alfred A. Knopf
c/o Random House
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9781400043385 $25.00 1-800-726-0600

Kapuscinski, the author, was a globe-trotting, foreign correspondent for various news publications in the world. In many different countries, from India to China, and in different nations within Latin America and Africa, he reported the events of the day: wars, assassinations, world conferences, politics, etc. The book relates these experiences entertainingly.

During his constant travels he carried reading material with him to fill his lonely, dark, and dull times. His primary reading was a classic: the old Greek historian Herodotus. His books of history were in 9 volumes. Kapuscinski probably took only one volume with him at a time.

The old Greek historian, Herodotus, lived 2500 years ago and was given life in the Halicarnassus in Asia Minor (today's Turkey) on the Aegean. Kapuscinski took a real interest in what this first historian had to say about the world back then. Mostly the stories of the ancient historian were about kings, wars, and the division between East and West. In those days, the East, or Asia, meant Persia (present day Iran), perhaps the strongest nation in all of the world at that time. The West, or Europe, was represented by Greece.

Reading about how one nation did an injustice, thanks mostly to its leaders, to another country or city-state and how it then took revenge on the first seems to be the history of the world. Certainly it was more than two millennia ago. And as anyone can see, things haven't changed much down through the years. Interestingly, there are numerous parallels from that ancient period with today, Iraq being the Asian representative and the U.S. being the Western one. Even some kings back then seem to be personified in the current U.S. president.

The author of this easy-to-read volume, thanks to its excellent and colorful writing and short chapters, also breaks up Herodotus' words within each chapter and only quotes brief and relative commentary.

The reader will come away from this book with a new and insightful appreciation for Herodotus. With virtually no training in the collection of history and himself not being an eye witness to most of what he writes, he certainly leaves no stone unturned in getting as many perspectives of historical episodes like the Peloponnesian War, the Plataea War, the Plains of Thermopylae, Battle of Salamis, and many, other great struggles and battles between the Persian leader Darian, and, later, his son Xerxes, and the contentious-amongst themselves Greeks, like Themistocles, commander of the winning Greek fleet at the Battle of Salamis. Other Athenians and Spartans led the Greeks, too.

The author writes of the old historian, "Biographers tend to agree that Herodotus was born between 490 and 480 b.c.e., perhaps in 485. These are greatly important years in the history of world culture. Around 480 b.c.e., Buddha departs for the other world; a year later, in the Lu principality, Confucius dies; Plato will be born fifty years later. Asia is the center of the world; even insofar as the Greeks are concerned, the most creative members of their society--the Ionians--also live in Asia. There is no Europe yet; it exists as myth only in the name of a beautiful girl, Europa, daughter of a Phoenician king Agenor, whom Zeus, transformed into a white bull, will carry off to Crete to have his way with her."

Ryszard Kapuscinski, the author, was a native of Pinsk, Belarus. Born in 1932, he passed away in 2007. He has written other books, among them are THE SOCCER WAR and IMPERIUM. His writing has been translated into nearly 30 languages. Recommended.

Lives of the Planets A Natural History of the Solar System
Richard Corfield
Basic Books
387 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10016
9780465014033 $27.50 1-800-242-7737

Corfield writes in his Preface, "The modern study of our solar system is where science and history intersect in a unique way. The VOYAGER and PIONEER deep-space probes, for example, left Earth decades ago and are still going strong and who knows what they may yet discover. Simultaneously they are our past and our future."

The book covers the 8--9--10--or? planets in our solar system. Starting with the sun and moving outwards from Mercury through to Xena and beyond, Corfield details them all. He also elaborates on the numerous moons, many with similar sounding names, and their potential for life, of the various planets. Further, he describes the Kuiper Belt, the Oort Clouds, etc. Each orb is described in as much detail as has been learned from space probes.

Factoids about each planet and their moons abound in this volume. One factoid that stands out in the mind of this reviewer is that Mars, or was it Mercury, has a volcano that is 15 miles high! Now that's more than a tad higher, about ten miles higher, than Earth's Mount Everest the tallest rock on old Terra Firma.

This book is well written, humorous in places, and interesting, almost to a fault. Frankly, it's too much to remember. The reader goes from one astounding thing to another. But this reviewer would say that though the read is defined in its title as the 'lives of the planets' the book seems actually to be more about the lives of the space probes, rockets, and missiles, like the Apollo, Gemeni, Pioneer, Cassini-Huygens, et al., and all the other equipment launched and traveling into outer space to learn more about the planets and solar system in general.

Richard Corfield, the author, is an Englishman living in Oxfordshire. He holds a Ph.D. Two of his previous books are THE SILENT LANDSCAPE and ARCHITECTS OF ETERNITY. He lectures and researches at Britain's Open University. Recommended for all space buffs.

The Meaning of Life
Terry Eagleton
University Press

It's a little book in physical size but a big book in subject matter. Eagleton, an English Professor at the University of Manchester, England, takes on the big boys in philosophy and the cosmic question of the ages that everyone is asking, and have been wondering about since time immemorial: What is the meaning of life?"

The author considers and reconsiders all possible reasons from the past and the present: are we here to find happiness?, to find love?, to learn about God?, are we here to learn why we are here?, and on and on. Eagleton goes into the deepest insights of the famous philosophers: Aristotle, St. Augustine, Camus, Jerry Falwell, Hegel, Heidegger, Kafka, Kant, Marx, Monty Python, Nietzsche, Satre, Schopenhaur, Spinoza, Gertrude Stein, Oscar Wild, Wittgenstein, and others of their ilk. The conclusion is, as ever, no one really knows why we're here.

The book is interesting, humorous, and frustrating by turns. But, no matter what--it is a fast, enjoyable read.

The author writes, "Philosophers have an infuriating habit of analyzing questions rather than answering them, and this is how I want to begin. Is 'What is the meaning of life?' a genuine question, or does it just look like one. Is there anything that could count as an answer to it, or is it really kind of pseudo-question, like the legendary Oxford examination question which is supposed to have read simply: 'Is this a good question?'

Terry Eagleton has also penned THE DEATH OF CULTURE, HOLY TERROR, and SWEET VIOLENCE: THE IDEA OF THE TRAGIC. Highly recommended (not for its answers but for its questions!)

Jim Sullivan

Terrilyn's Bookshelf

Mary Castillo
Harper Collins Publishers
10 E 53rd Street,New York, NY 10022
9780060876081 $13.95

Unlike other body swap stories such as It's a Boy Girl Thing, Freaky Friday, Dream a Little Dream, Being John Malkovich, Vice Versa, or 18 Again Mary Castillo's new novel, Switchcraft is fresh, mesmerizing, and unmatched in what could have been a very derivative story in the genre.

Aggie and Nely, two life-long friends, accidentally switch bodies at new age spa while attempting to commune with Aggie's deceased mother. Aggie finds herself as a pudgy super-mom with an impossible, meddling mother-in-law from hell, and Nely finds herself in a sleek, single body with a failing business and a scary stalker. The two spend the next month realizing what they had and what they have lost biding their time until the guru can switch their consciousness's back to their own bodies.

Castillo's unique story is creative in that it deals with Latina peers and the culture of their machismo men. It is modern without being stereotypical. Fans of women's fiction will adore the very hot, erotic dream Nely has of her husband, Simon, and romantics will appreciate the way tough-guy Simon sees through the exterior of Aggie to find the soul of his wife, Nely. Castillo spends enough time creating three-dimensional Aggie and Nely characters that the reader feels a clear connection with both.

Castillo's book is smart, inventive, and an extremely satisfying read! She is also the author of Hot Tamara and In Between Men.

My First Monologue
Kristen Dabrowski
Smith and Kraus
PO Box 127, Lyme, NH 03768
1575255332 $11.95

Monologue books for older students saturate the market, but Dabrowski offers 100 short, children-driven monologues that encompass a child's known universe (organized into games, families, food, friends, wishes). Each monologue "sounds" like a child speaks (short simple sentences with an easy vocabulary), and the students' limited life experience will not prohibit them from understanding each monologue.

The experiences and the emotions in the monologues run the gamut from funny to serious. Though the "crisis" in each monologue may seem laughable to an adult, they are exactly what elementary school students think about, fear, and wish for. Included in these monologues is Mary Jane (p. 76) a hilarious tale of a little girl speaking to a nun and who realizes too late that she has said too much, a treaty on broccoli (Hannah p. 61) which is reminiscent of Shel Silverstein's "I'm Sick and I Can Not Go to School Today", a story about a boy who hates math and is hiding in the bathroom in order to avoid the teacher (Will p. 83), and Emmett's lament about his bossy older sister (p. 41).

While there are other monologue books for elementary children (Minute Monologues by Ruth Roddy, 71 One-Minute Monologues by Janet Milstein, Magnificent Monologues for Kids by Chambers Stevens) Dabrowski's book has monologues that are much shorter and easier to memorize or analyze.

Drama! Everyone's a Critic
Paul Ruditis
Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781416933922 $8.99

Ruditis' sequel to Drama! The Four Dorothy's continues the saga of Bryan Stark, privileged, gay teen, and his search to find himself. In this novel, Bryan and his best friends compete with other drama students during Orion High School's summer drama camp program for a coveted spot in Hartley Blackstone's Acting School.

The story is told from Bryan's irreverent and flippant point of view creating a quick read. Bryan interrupts himself with parenthetical asides to clarify himself or explain theatre lore or definitions. While having a gay narrator may turn off some readers, Ruditis includes plenty of heterosexual characters and plot lines to keep a variety of reader's interested.

The themes in this novel closely follow those of the first in the series. Bryan complains about favoritism, nepotism, and how the rich and famous get special treatment. He also points out that teachers often submit to the wishes of over-protective parents or face dismissal.

Ruditis accurately captures the rhythm and sarcasm often present in intelligent teens' speech; but Bryan and his friends toss about words such as phalanx and plethora that average high school students may not understand. Ruditis includes some out-dated references to Barry Manilow songs ("Can't Smile Without You") and the two Corey's of 1980's TV (Haim and Feldman), which also might be missed by contemporary teens.

The Malibu, California setting, the wickedly absurd extravagance, and the sarcasm with which the story is told will appeal to middle and high school girls. A third installment in the series, Encore, encore! is to be published in early 2008.

Terrilyn Fleming

Theodore's Bookshelf

Raven Black
Ann Cleeves
Thomas Dunne Books
175 FifthAve., NY, NY 10010
9780312359669 $24.95 646-307-5560

Inspector Jimmy Perez makes his debut in this thriller. He is a quiet, hardworking, introspective detective who transferred to a remote hamlet in the Shetland Islands, off the coast of mainland Scotland, because he felt overwhelmed and washed out in his former post, and looked forward to a restful assignment. Instead, he finds himself in the midst of a high profile murder. A beautiful 16-year-old girl is found strangled on the moor. And all fingers point to a half-witted man, Magnus Tait, who is believed to have been responsible for the disappearance and presumed murder of a young girl eight years earlier, although no proof was found and no charges filed. A high-powered team is brought in from the mainland to conduct the investigation.

Perez and the lead detective pursue working the case with an open mind, amassing background on the latest victim, but eventually arrest the unfortunate Tait. Neither detective is satisfied, but they are at a loss as to how to proceed. Both persist, however, and Perez finally unlocks the secrets leading to a solution of both murders and possibly to a third that could be prevented if he acts in time.

All during the case, Perez is haunted by his need to make a decision whether to continue as a policeman, or return to his boyhood home and take his place in the family structure, eventually to inherit his father's job. He wavers back and forth, coming to no conclusion. The descriptions of life on the Shetlands and its bleak geography are graphic, even overwhelming, the writing and observations pithy. Human emotions are recorded with intensity. It's a great read, and recommended.

Ken Bruen
St. Martin's Minotaur
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312341459 $13.95

In the beginning of this rambling novel, a contract killer shoots maverick inspector Brant in the back while he's drinking in a pub. Everyone is surprised it hasn't happened many times before. The question is who ordered the hit and why, of the many enemies Brant made over the years conducting his unusual type of policing in southeast London.

The novel includes portrayals of the various police and their reactions to the shooting, from wondering why it hadn't taken place before to glee as Brant holds on to life in the hospital, ornery as ever. And it is obvious that another attempt will be made on his life. But, of course, with Brant you had better succeed the first time—or else.

This reviewer's reaction to the novel is ambivalent. The writing is interesting, characterizations poignant. Yet the story is confusing, except for the main theme of the shooting and Brant's reaction to it. But the other players and their stories are less meaningful, and, more important, perplexing, at least to me.

Honeymoon for Three
Alan Cook
1663 Liberty Drive, Ste. 200, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781434309501 $14.49 800-839-8640

Obsession and stalking plague Gary Blanchard and his new bride, Penny, as they travel to various national parks on their honeymoon. They are followed by Alfred, a nerd who was a high school classmate of Penny. He followed her to California, where she is a teacher, spying on her from afar, never approaching her, but convinced she was/is his big love. He does, however, secretly send her notes suggesting she not marry Gary.

Gary and Penny leave LA and get married in Reno. But before they do, Alfred attempts to prevent the union, telling the receptionist at the wedding chapel that Gary murdered his parents in Kentucky. The police apprehend Gary and eventually discover the falsity of the accusation. After the ceremony, the newlyweds take off on their planned trip, stopping off or camping at various locations including Crater Lake, Seattle, Glacier, Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks.

Alfred follows closely behind. When he runs out of money, he robs a grocery store and shoots the clerk. Eventually he kidnaps Penny in an attempt to separate her from Gary and "win her over." It is a tale well-told, with graphic descriptions of the sites and an exciting conclusion.

Lying with Strangers
James Grippando
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022, 800-242-7737
9780061138386 $24.95

The twists and turns in this novel are treacherous for the reader who attempts to solve the story line before reaching the end. It is a complicated but fascinating tale of Peyton Shields, a first-year resident at a top Boston children's hospital. She's married to an attorney, an associate at a leading Boston law firm. Then everything seems to go wrong.

There are a series of incidents, and it seems someone is stalking Peyton, causing several embarrassing occurrences and even forcing her off the road one snowy night, resulting in multiple injuries. Then the marriage goes on the rocks and she ends up getting drunk with an old boyfriend, waking up in his bed clad only in her panties and one of his old T-shirts. For his part, the husband has a one-night stand. Guilt all over the lot on both sides.

Then Peyton receives a blackmail threat, asking for $10,000 or her ex-boyfriend would be killed. Peyton and her husband decide not to pay. Peyton then turns up in her car unconscious with a half bottle of sleeping pills by her side. The boyfriend is discovered in the trunk dead of a single bullet wound to the head.

Peyton and her husband are arrested and charged with second degree murder, setting the stage for a fascinating description of a trial How the novel turns out demonstrates the author's skill in creating a most unusual plot, with writing and dialogue as sharp as can be. Highly recommended.

The Burnt House
Faye Kellerman
William Morrow
c/o Harper Collins, 10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780061227325 $25.95 800-242-7737

The return of Peter and Rina Decker is always welcome. It combines good police procedure and the smell of good food. This novel is no exception. It begins with the crash of a small commuter plane out of Burbank (Bob Hope) airport early one morning and the supposed death of an airline steward. When all the victims are accounted for, her body is not identified, although the remains of bones beneath the destroyed structure into which the plane plunged are discovered.

Thus begins the hunt for the truth behind the disappearance of two women. The skeleton is finally identified as someone gone missing thirty years before. The stewardess' body remains the subject of a continued search. Is the husband somehow responsible for her disappearance or even her possible murder? Or is it a contractor in San Jose with whom she had a brief affair? What started out as two unrelated incidents draws Decker and his team back and forth to San Jose and New Mexico in an effort to uncover 30-year-old information in attempt to solve the cases.

With more questions than answers the investigation unearths more dead ends than answers. But perseverance is virtue that pays off in the end. And the interrelationship of Peter and Rina is on display deeply, as she provides a sounding board to guide him both supernaturally and professionally. Tightly plotted and well-written, the series remains a joy to read.

Justice Denied
J. A. Jance
William Morrow
c/o HarperCollins, 10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780060540920 $25.95 800-242-7737

The J.P. Beaumont series just rolls on and on, and keeps getting better. Beau and his partner Melissa ("Mel") are working for the State Attorney General's Special Homicide Investigation Team (the acronym is an inside joke) when the AG assigns each to a separate, secret "off the books" assignment without explanation. Beau is asked to look into the murder of a recently released convict exonerated by DNA evidence after several years. Mel is asked to analyze the whereabouts of recently released persons convicted of sexual offenses. Neither is to discuss his/her case with anyone. In addition, Beau is checking on missing person cases never solved as well.

Somehow, however, their cases begin to intertwine and they begin to work as partners professionally as well as in their private lives. Their investigation takes them into what might be a conspiracy involving cops or persons in high places. Meanwhile, Beau has to confront all kinds of personal problems. This novel is the 18th in the series published in the last 20 years. It is of the customary high caliber, and let's hope they keep coming.

Secret Asset
Stella Rimington
Alfred A. Knopf
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019, 212-782-9000/800-726-0600
9781400043958 $24.95

The bane of any intelligence service is a mole—sleeper or activated, and as the retired head of MI5 the author is more than qualified to write this well-constructed story. It is the second in what appears to be a series featuring Liz Carlyle, an MI5 intelligence officer. She is asked to vet several personnel, one of whom is presumed to be the mole.

The mole was placed by the IRA years before, but never activated. Meanwhile, another case involving a radical Muslim plot arises, and along the way Liz suspects the two begin to merge. As she progresses in her efforts, the likelihood grows that the mole has switched from IRA terrorism—after all the Good Friday agreement makes such terrorist activities moot—to directing the other plot.

All of Liz and her co-workers' efforts are directed not only at uncovering who the mole is, but what the plot is and when and where it will take place. All the analyses and hunches lead to a thrilling conclusion. The suspense is sustained throughout the novel, reflecting the author's solid background as a spymaster. Recommended.

From Doon with Death
Ruth Rendell
Ballantine Books/Mortalis
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780345498458 $12.95 800-726-0600

There have been 20 Inspector Wexford published after this novel, in which he made his debut. It is now reprinted by a new imprint, Mortalis, created to bring back classic mysteries and thrillers such as this book, first published almost a half century ago. It brought forth one of the more enduring and enjoyable characters of the genre.

We find Wexford in a quiet English town leading the local police constabulary in his slow, methodical manner. A plain woman is found murdered in nearby woods, with only two clues: a lipstick tube and a burnt match. At her carefully tended home, several books inscribed to her by a mysterious person called Doon are found.

Wexford and his sidekick begin to piece together the rather uninspired life of the strangled woman. Poetry pervades the story, giving Wexford the opportunity to exhibit his knowledge. Along the way, various clues and false leads are interspersed until the case culminates in a clever conclusion.

For admirers of mystery fiction and of the author, this is an opportunity to revisit the start of the series. It is more than welcome.

Fire Prayer
Deborah Turrell Atkinson
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. 1st Ave., Scottsdale, AZ 85251, 800-421-3976
9781590584026 $24.95

Storm Kayama narrowly escaped death in the second installment of this series, so in this third what can one expect? She and her law partner (and paramour?), Ian Hamlin, journey to Moloka'i, a small island in Hawaii, on a double mission: he to investigate the possibility that a local tour company is responsible for the missing son of a rich client, she at the behest of a high school friend to make sure his ex-wife is taking good care of his adolescent diabetic son.

Amid the excellent flavor of local customs, mores and language customary in this series, the plot thickens. To begin with, soon after Storm visits Jenny, the ex-wife, she is found dead by her 12-year-old son of a head wound – the boy having possibly seen the murderer as well. Then there is a question of the death of the client's elder son ten years before in a fire. Subsequently, suspicions arise about a possible link between these events.

The story races through the scenes of the island: the rain forests, beaches and ocean, as the dangers to the boy both from his disease as well as being pursued by his mother's killer. And Storm, of course, is placed in danger as well.

The novel paces the reader with all the beauty of the islands, the legends and folklore of its peoples. As in the past two novels in the series, the writing is fluid and the plot well-constructed. It's a good thing aloha means goodbye as well as hello: it will hopefully greet the fourth in the Hawaii series.

The Takedown
Patrick Quinlan
St. Martin's Minotaur
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312349820 $21.95 212-674-5151/646-307-5560

This intricately-plotted thriller is filled with greed, gruesome murders and weird characters bent on outwitting each other. The heart of the story is an embezzled million dollars on which the characters all are focused. It seems Dot Racine skimmed the money from the company she worked for and salted it away in safety deposit boxes in Nassau with the help of a computer geek, Andrew.

A lovely, beautiful blonde, Dot liked the good life and sex. One of her lovers, Nestor Garcia, a psychopath and freelance cocaine trafficker, on the run from the cartels, seeks to obtain the keys to the boxes in the Bahamas. To offset Nestor, Dot takes on Dick Miller as another lover. Dick is an ex-con, handsome and strong. Then a few days before Christmas, Dick wakes up with a hangover after having drinks with Dot in a bar. Is he hung-over from drinking or was he drugged? It doesn't matter, because when h e goes to his car, he finds Dot dead in his trunk. Did he murder her? Doesn't matter, he has to get rid of the body or face going back to jail, this time a lot more serious than the two years he served.

Other characters include Lydia, who worked with Dot and is a co-signer to the deposit boxes with possession of the keys, and Cool Breeze, another psycho, though beautiful, lover of Andrew, and Henry, another nut [to use the technical term]. All the characters intertwine, with Cool Breeze scheming to eliminate them, Nestor concentrating on obtaining the money and not stopping at killing anyone standing in his way, and Dick hell bent on saving Lydia.

If the reader can abide the gore, murders, twists and turns to reach the conclusion, the story reads fast and furious. On the other hand, it may be too much for some.

Lee Vance
Alfred A. Knopf
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780307266323 $23.95 800-726-0600,

This debut novel has all the attributes of a much more seasoned author. It is well-plotted, intriguing and well-written, with an ending so unexpected that it makes the reader wonder how it could have been conceived. The story begins with the murder of Peter Tyler's wife, and weaves through a combination of stock and art fraud, Peter being accused of not one but three murders, including that of his wife, and Russian strong-arm tactics.

The author's own background as a retired general partner of Goldman Sachs lends an authenticity to the story. In an attempt to clear himself, he travels to Moscow to find a friend who sent his wife a package which was stolen from their Westchester home when she was murdered. While there, Peter discovers the friend's computer, analyzing data indicating he lost a billion dollars for the firm for which he worked.

Along the way, Peter recounts his unhappy childhood, his shaky marriage, and his values, all of which add to the progress of the tale. Somehow, the unrelated aspects of the various factors coalesce into a solid denouement. It is well worth reading and highly recommended.

The Indian Bride
Karin Fossum, Translated by Charlotte Barslund
15 E. 26th St., NY, NY 10010
9780151011827 $23.00 212-592-1000,

A haunting novel, filled with all kinds of ambiguities, set in a small Norwegian village, this novel is the fourth in the Inspector Sejer Mystery series. It begins with a penetrating study of Gunder Jomann, a 50-year-old bachelor, a salesman of agricultural equipment, who decides to travel on a two-week vacation to Mumbai (formerly Bombay), India, where he meets and weds an Indian woman. He returns to Norway, and she follows two weeks later.

The day she arrives, his sister is injured in an auto accident and he is called to the hospital, unable to meet her plane. Instead he asks a cab driver to pick her up, but she can't be located. Later, a woman is found bludgeoned to death not far from Gunder's home. The body turns out to be that of the Indian bride.

As Inspector Sejer, taciturn and methodical, and his colleagues conduct their investigation, with few clues to go on, the reader is treated to a deep look into the small community of about 2,000, where everyone knows each other and their secrets. More important, we look into the minds of each of the main characters for penetrating insights.

This novel is equal to the best of the chilling, dour Scandinavian (and Scottish) mystery writers. One somewhat curious side note: like the incomparable Spenser, Sejer has a woman psychiatrist for a girlfriend.

Mark Billingham
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022, 212-207-7000/800-242-7737
9780061255694 $24.95

The latest Tom Thorne episode finds him still on the sidelines, suffering from an injury sustained in a previous caper, champing at the bit for a juicy murder case. But it is not to be. Instead, he is shunted off on special assignment to the Kidnap Section at Scotland Yard, which needs extra bodies for a sensitive case. The son of a retired Chief Inspector has been abducted.

The case is unusual. The lad is 16, not the customary age for a kidnapping. No ransom demand is forthcoming. No clues. The obvious places to start with are those who might have a grudge against the ex-DCI. But making assumptions isn't always the route to follow. And that's the case in this plot. Nothing is at it seems to be.

Together with his Scotland Yard counterpart, Louise Porter (a possible love interest?), Thorne looks for leads and connections which are many and unrelated. Most significant is one name which the father omits from a list of those who might be seeking revenge against him.

Step by step, the procedural builds to a mighty climax, with time always short. Is the boy still alive? What is the motivation? The result is so unexpected and twisted, one can only marvel at the intricacy as the plot unfolds. Highly recommended.

Power Play
Joseph Finder
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010, 646-307-5151
9780312347482 $24.95

Jake Landry is too good to be true in this exciting but somewhat contrived thriller. In keeping with the author's specialty, it encompasses the corporate world, sort of an Enron in disguise. Jake is a relatively low-level employee at an aircraft manufacturer when he is asked to accompany a group of high-level executives to a corporate retreat as a substitute for his boss, who is in India. A new woman CEO has instituted an internal review of any 'hanky-panky,' setting the stage for all kinds of corporate intrigue among the men. And she is accompanied by Jake's former girlfriend as her assistant.

The group flies to a deluxe lodge hundreds of miles north of Vancouver and completely isolated from civilization—no phones or other means of contact. At the opening dinner, the lodge is invaded by several men who take the group hostage with the intent of extorting hundreds of millions of dollars. The men (and two women) are bound with rope and made to sit in a room, guarded by armed men.

Jake is the only one who attempts to save the situation, acting as Superman, Spiderman and all them other good guys rolled into one. The story is well-constructed and –written if you can get by the super-human efforts of Jake. Even the surprise ending is a bit hackneyed, but believable.

The Wheel of Darkness
Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
Warner Books [now Grand Central Publishing]
237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10169
9780446580281 $25.95 800-759-0190,

At the beginning of the seventh Pendergast novel, the Special FBI agent and his ward, Constance Greene, are in a remote Tibetan monastery, he to contemplate, she to receive instruction. While there, Pendergast is told of the theft of an ancient box containing an unknown but threatening menace which could destroy mankind. The Lama asks him to retrieve the mysterious object.

The task takes them to Venice and on to Paris, as they follow the path of the box containing the Agozyen. They discover the original thief murdered and trace the whereabouts of the box to the maiden voyage of the world's largest and most modern luxury ocean liner. The pair go to Southampton and board the Brittania in an attempt to find the possessor of the Agozyen. Pendergast narrows it down to five suspects and has only days to find the right one.

Descriptions of the boat are authentic and colorful, and the story progresses to a supernatural thrust beyond the imagination. It is terrifying, as the descriptions of the perils befalling the ship and its passengers and crew are described. It is an exciting journey into the mind as well as the unknown. Recommended.

The History Book
Humphrey Hawksley
Warner Books [now Grand Central Publishing]
237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10169
9780446527446 $24.99 800-759-0190

Combine elements of 1984. intrigue of the Cold War, power politics, technological and communications science fiction and terrorism. and you have some of the flavor of this novel. Whether one can bring oneself to the stage of believability is another matter. For the most part, the story takes place in an unimaginable England, so closely monitored by cameras, police and computers, that most people would be afraid to go to the bathroom. But that's essential to the plot.

Kat Polinski is a hacker par excellence entrapped by Homeland Security to assist it in what appears to be illegal invasions of embassies in Washington, D.C., in exchange for escaping a jail sentence. She finds out that her sister, working under an alias in England on what is euphemistically called Project Peace, was murdered. She goes to England where she is engulfed in a bizarre plot to force the signing of a treaty between the United States, Russia and China to divide the world into three spheres of influence.

Through superhuman efforts, using all the tools at her disposal, Kat moves forward to find her sister's killer while saving the world. This reader has previously expressed an intolerance for protagonists who outdo Superman, Captain Marvel, Spiderman, et al, and Kat is no exception. If you're not disturbed by this factor, then the book reads well and is exciting.

Cornell Woolrich
Hard Case Crime
c/o Dorchester Publishing
200 Madison Ave., NY, NY 10016, 800-481-9191
9780843957747 $6.99

One of a series of reprints of lost pulp fiction classics, this novel, first published more than a half-century ago, is replete with irony. This publication bears the author's name for the first time. It is the story of a man who believes he murdered a blackmailer on his wedding day and runs away in fear for the rest of his life.

The plot has all kinds of twists and turns, and escalates as it progresses. The writing is taut and tense. The novel exhibits why the author is regarded as one of the masters of the genre.

Tug of War
Barbara Cleverly
Carroll & Graf
254 W. 17th St., NY, NY 10011
9780786719570 $24.95 212-981-9919

In this sixth Commander Joe Sandilands novel, Joe is about to leave on a two-week vacation, the first in three years, with his niece, to visit various battlefields on which he served during World War I before bringing her to her father in the south of France. Before he leaves, he is summoned to the War Office where he is requested to take a diversion while in France.

It appears that a long-lost soldier has been repatriated after being held in Germany as a POW. Suffering from amnesia and shell shock, he cannot be identified. Four separate families or persons claim him. However, the doctor treating him witnessed a nightmare during which he spoke English, giving the British War Office reason to ask Joe to investigate.

Each of the claimants has identified the unknown man, and Joe and his "niece" check each one's story, cooperating with the French authorities. During his efforts, Joe uncovers a cleverly concealed murder which plays a role in his investigation. Nothing is as it seems and, in the end, a Solomon-like solution is required.

The narrative and characterizations are superbly done, the descriptions of WWI intense, the plot intricate and mesmerizing. Recommended.

Theodore Feit

Victoria's Bookshelf

False Witness
Aimee & David Thurlo
St. Martins Minotaur
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010
9780312322120, $23.95, 262 pages

Sister Agatha isn't your typical nun. I went to parochial school when I was growing up and I don't remember any of the sisters being like her. She does however remind me of my great-aunt who was a nun and quite a character herself.

The good Sister Agatha is an extern, a nun in charge of taking care of the worldly needs of the convent. Her usual form of transport is a beat-up old car affectionately known as the Antichrysler. Then there's the big red motorcycle she drives with a sidecar for her dog Pax. (The thought of a nun riding a motorcycle always gives me a good chuckle.)

There's trouble brewing at Our Lady of Hope Monastery. A hacker threatens one of the only sources of revenue for the convent. To make matters worse, someone drives through the gates of the monastery destroying them and leaving the sisters vulnerable to outsiders. Sister Agatha takes it on herself to solve the problems, with the help of God and permission from the Abbess. The future of the convent is at stake and she can't afford to fail.

An old murder and stolen money are all a part of the trouble and Sister Agatha's former boyfriend Sheriff Tom Green is there to lend a hand. The spunky nun's life is in danger and it's not certain whether she'll be able to solve all the problems and keep herself safe as well.

I always enjoy the antics of Sister Agatha; she's a fun character to follow and it's interesting to get an inside view of cloistered convent life. The Thurlo's have succeeded once again in writing another delightful mystery full of humor and intrigue. Other books in the series include: Bad Faith, Thief in Retreat and Prey for a Miracle.

Fitness Kills: A Nora Franke Mystery
Helen Barer
Five Star Mystery
295 Kennedy Memorial Drive, Waterville, Maine 04901
9781594145858 $25.95

Nora Franke, a New York food writer, is on temporary assignment in Baja. It's her chance to get away from friends and family and her ex-boyfriend Max. Their breakup has caused Nora such anguish that she's been overeating. Nora is small, barely over five feet tall and weight gain isn't something she needs. She decides that working in the spa will give her time to heal and drop some pounds.

Unfortunately, there's been an accident at the spa, or is it murder? The deceased's friends are a group of returning regulars with many secrets. Nora makes friends with a few of them, and one of them, a rugged looking type named Tom, likes her. If she could just get Max out of her head, she'd be doing great. Max is dominating and critical of her, Tom accepts her as she is.

It's a shock when one of her new friends dies right in front of her. Two murders in two days and the victims belong to the same circle of friends. Nora doesn't believe it's a coincidence and she decides to find the murderer.

Could the murders have anything to do with the fields of marijuana growing around the spa? Or is something more sinister going on? Nora enlists Max's aid and keeps snooping around. She soon becomes the target of the killer's attacks and her life is in danger.

I recommend Fitness Kills; it's an entertaining and fun read. It takes mystery, romance and humor and blends them into an irresistible mix. The book is the first in a series of mysteries by Helen Barer.

Evacuation Plan
Joe M. O'Connell
Dalton Publishing
P.O. Box 242, Austin, TX 78767
9780974070384, $13.95

This is a fictional account of life's last journey. A screenwriter named Matt decides to volunteer at a hospice for inspiration and help with his writing. The hospice is a last haven for the living and it's chalk full of stories for those who listen. Matt takes the people he meets and changes them into colorful characters with lives of his choosing.

We go back and forth between Matt's time in the hospice and his imaginary tales. The book is compassionate and like life, often absurd, sometimes funny, sad, or bittersweet, but never boring. We're human and we've all screwed up more times than any of us can count. It's about forgiveness of oneself and others and a new way of looking at death.

We're all on the fast track to death and each moment is precious. Mr. O'Connell's wise words will help us remember that. Life is too short to forget.

Victoria Kennedy

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

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