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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 8, Number 9 September 2008 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Amin's Bookshelf Bethany's Bookshelf
Betty's Bookshelf Bob's Bookshelf Buhle's Bookshelf
Burroughs' Bookshelf Carson's Bookshelf Cheri's Bookshelf
Christy's Bookshelf Clark's Bookshelf Daniel's Bookshelf
Debra's Bookshelf Dustin's Bookshelf Gary's Bookshelf
Gloria's Bookshelf Gorden's Bookshelf Harold's Bookshelf
Harwood's Bookshelf Henry's Bookshelf Karyn's Bookshelf
Kaye's Bookshelf Kevin's Bookshelf Larsen's Bookshelf
Liana's Bookshelf Margaret's Bookshelf Paul's Bookshelf
Peggy's Bookshelf Richard's Bookshelf Slessman's Bookshelf
Sullivan's Bookshelf Theodore's Bookshelf Tonya's Bookshelf
Victoria's Bookshelf    


Reviewer's Choice

At the Stroke of Midnight
Karen Michelle Nutt
Lulu.com
9780615237862 $10.95 http://www.lulu.com/content/3091803

Amy J. Ramsey "Trinagon"
Reviewer

Tricia Lancaster is a reporter working for her small town newspaper. She has received an opportunity covering a story documenting the memorial service, marking the anniversary of Dean McCloud's death. Dean McCloud was known for being an American icon in the 70's; he starred in a western series called "The Long Trail". Dean was working towards obtaining a thriving career as a celebrity movie star; until he committed suicide.

There was a diversity of theory in the manner of which Dean died. Some people suspected he was murdered, while others believed it was an accident. Now every year, on New Years Eve, thousands of people gather around his house (now recognized as a museum) bearing flowers and gifts, waiting for the precise moment of his death, a stroke of midnight.

Tricia is transported back in time and finds herself face to face with her obsession, Dean McCloud. She is mystified that he is no longer a figment of a dream, but is tangible. Dean is not only gorgeous, but is perceived as a philanderer; women can't resist his charm. Tricia strives to convince Dean that she is from the future and he will commit suicide in three days. She is determined to save Dean from killing himself, but when certain events in history are changed, she begins to question his intentions of suicide. Is it possible someone is out to kill him?

Now, Tricia has to delve further into the past of the once American Icon and uncover the truth behind his death. The clock is ticking and the future is waiting. Tricia wonders what her connection to Dean is and why fate chose her. Will she be able to solve the mystery of how Dean died? Could it have been suicide or murder? If it was murder, then who would have done it and why?

At the Stroke of Midnight is a fabulous read that will take the reader on a fascinating and delightful journey back in time. Karen Michelle Nutt is a remarkable writer, who will impress any reader, by creating such vivid and lively characters, which compliments a cleverly designed plot. I would absolutely recommend this short tale to anyone interested in romantic time-travel genre.

For more information and upcoming releases on Karen Michelle Nutt, visit her web site at www.kmnbooks.com.

Shaping a Life: Reconstructing My First Thirty-five Years
Wm. F. Powers, PhD.
Infinity Press
1094 New DeHaven St. Suite 100, West Conshohocken, Pa. 19428-2713
074144805X $16.95

Bernadine Fawcett
Reviewer

In an interesting twist "Shaping a Life" by Wm. Powers answers the question "How do we eliminate terrorism permanently? In an attempt to discover his own subliminal indoctrination which led him to accept priestly vows unquestioningly due to his tight, narrow ethnic Irish American culture that focused only on God, loyalty, & family which in turn limited his world view into "cloistered" pockets of narrow perspectives that metaphorically highlights the avenue of exploration to prevent the "births" of terrorism. Just as Dr. Powers breathed fresh viewpoints into his life which radically changed his opinions and behaviors; his book nudges us into realizing that we must invade the third world with broader concepts so that their stereotypical and prejudicial thoughts are washed away. Freeing the terrorists mind as it is forming will bring peace to the world.

Wm. Powers, Phd. was my sociologist professor years ago and it is serendipitous that both he and I have approached terrorism from different angles. My book, Missing Links to the Culper Spy Ring? allows the reader to explore the mentality of America through personal accounts of the Revolutionary war letters while we were trying to extricate ourselves from perceived tyranny, but choose to use legal means backed by a declared war.

S.O.A.R.[Registered Trademark] Study Skills: A Simple and Efficient System for Earning Better Grades in Less Time
Susan Woodcock Kruger, M.Ed.
Grand Lighthouse Publishers
Grand Blanc, MI
9780977428007 $24.99 http://www.soarstudyskills.com

Bonnie Jo Davis
Reviewer

When my son was growing up he spent most of his time during the school year struggling with homework assignments and studying for tests. Study skills were not taught in school so he had to struggle on his own with only my help. According to the author of S.O.A.R.[Registered Trademark] Study Skills, Susan Kruger, this is an all too common occurrence. She experienced the same issues until she entered college where she discovered study strategies that eliminated her frustration and made studying more efficient.

Susan went on to become a Certified Teacher with a Master's Degree and is a Reading/Learning Specialist. She developed her own, unique study skills system that includes live and web based classes, educator training, this book and a CD set based on the acronym:

(S)oar

(O)rganize

(A)sk Questions

(R)ecord Your Progress

The S.O.A.R.[Registered Trademark] Study Skills soft cover book is beautifully designed, easy to use and filled with illustrations and photographs. There are separate introductions for parents, students, educators and students with ADD/ADHD. Family involvement is very much part of the S.O.A.R.[Registered Trademark] Study Skills program and the author invites parents to read the book with their children.[LOHS1]

Readers will learn about task-management, organizing at home & school, prioritizing, goal-setting, note-taking strategies, paper organization, test-taking strategies, homework/project planning, communication & effective skills[LOHS2] , reading skills and writing strategies.

The goal of the book is to help students of all ages get better grades in less time. The amount of homework assigned to students is overwhelming but this book can help reduce the time and frustration involved. Unlike other study skills systems I have researched[LOHS3] the techniques in this book are meant to be simple and easily implemented.

I was impressed with the quizzes, charts and forms to record goals and accomplishments. These features make the book truly interactive and involve the reader in not only learning but exploring their own learning styles while developing a set of goals for eliminating homework hassles and improving grades.

There is much focus in this book on helping students both at home and at school and I really enjoyed the chapter on interacting with teachers. Students are encouraged to ask questions of their teachers and there is even a clever graphic included in this chapter that shows readers the best place to sit in a classroom!

This is a book that needs to be given to every student of any age and it needs to be a tool that every teacher uses in the classroom. I found the book to be fun and easy to read and I learned organizational skills that I can use in my office today. I only wish that this book had been available when I was in school so many years ago! You can purchase the S.O.A.R.[Registered Trademark] Study Skills book at http://www.soarstudyskills.com

Hot Issues Cool Choices – Facing Bullies, Peer Pressure, Popularity, and Put-Downs
Sandra McLeod Humphrey
Prometheus Books
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst, N.Y. 14228
9781591025696 $13.95

Christina Francine, Reviewer
http://www.CFrancine.bizland.com

Maybe the first step in not leaving a child behind is to address the social climate of school. Schools have always had bullies, been a place where labels are placed, and have held groups who exclude others. More than ever before, this is a problem today. School is a nightmare for many children socially. Add that to the rising need to meet scholastic standards, and school morphs into a place of terror. Children do not learn in this kind of environment. The only thing they think about is a way out, a way to stop the pain. Adults need to step in and help. That is just what Sandra McLeod Humphrey, retired clinical psychologist, did. She is a writer and consultant for the Heroes & Dreams Foundation, which provides character education materials to grades K-8 throughout North America. Her book, Hot Issues Cool Choices: Facing Bullies, Peer Pressure, Popularity, and Put-Downs provides numerous real-life situations that will generate discussions for children, tweens, and teens. First, the main character presents their problem, they set the scene, and then they ask questions to readers. "What do you think I should do? More questions present themselves and finally a "Trading Places" questions is asked: "Have you ever felt like Kevin?" "Why do you think Alyssa still remembers Tyrone's harassment almost a whole year later?" At the back of the book, Humphrey provides alarming statistics, website references, and a sobering note for adults.

An indispensable resource for educators, parents, counselors, and for children. Its power lies in that it asks children for solutions and strategies. This is a much needed book and I highly recommend it. After all, learning cannot take place when children worry over their safety. They then get left behind.

A Portable God: The Origin of Judaism and Christianity
Risa Levitt Kohn and Rebecca Moore
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., Lanham
9780742544659 $22.95

Fred Reiss, Ed.D.
Reviewer

History shows that Christianity and Judaism have generally been antagonistic towards each other. Christians viewed Israelites as a faithless people who contend with God and are consequently punished. They say that God promised a messiah to usher in a time of love; and that that messiah is Jesus Christ. Jews declare that God made an irrevocable covenant; granting them the land of Israel and His benevolence. They also assert that the Christians have misinterpreted the Torah: the Five Books of Moses, the books of the Prophets and the sacred writings; the messiah has yet to come.

Because of this enmity, their common roots are often overlooked. In A Portable God: The Origin of Judaism and Christianity, authors Kohn and Moore argue that these two great religions are much more interdependent than independent of each other because Christianity emerged from the same religious traditions as Judaism. In fact, Christians were not the only religious group to declare that they are the sole inheritors of the Jewish traditions. Many Jewish sects existed between 200 B.C.E. and 200 C.E., including the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the Christians, the Essences and Diaspora Judaism. Each of them put forward the legitimacy of their rituals and beliefs based on their unique interpretations of the Old Testament texts.

The division of Judaism into sects arguably began soon after the Babylonian Captivity, which occurred in the sixth century B.C.E. The few Jews (meaning the Hebrews from Judea) remaining in the land of Israel mourned the loss of the temple and the days of glory, while the Jews in exile found themselves believing in a God who has no fixed place for Him to appear. This was unique to Judaism. From the time of the Exodus through the life of King David, God appears in a fixed location. First in a tabernacle between the Cherubim that flank the lid of the Ark of the Covenant, then from the time of King Solomon to the Captivity, God appears above the Ark in the temple's Holy of Holies. With the destruction of the temple and exile, Jews conclude that God is portable – He is wherever they are; He needs no fixed dwelling place.

Seventy years after the obliteration of King Solomon's Temple, King Cyrus allowed the Persian Jews to return to Jerusalem to rebuild their temple. Since, only a remnant of Jews returned under the leadership of Ezra and Nehemiah, two centers of Jewish life developed, Babylonia and Judea. The former was wealthy; the latter poor. It was during this period that the first Jewish sects emerge – the Sadducees, who believe in a fundamentalist interpretation of the Torah and the centrality of the Second Temple and the Pharisees who follow the teaching of the scribes who interpreted the Torah according to the needs of Babylonian Jewry.

Kohn and Moore draw on the many primary-source materials, such as the Old and New Testaments, the Apocrypha, Dead Sea Scrolls, rabbinic literature and the work of contemporary writers, including Josephus and Philo to present their point-of-view. They employ these works to examine the legacy of biblical Judaism, the effect of Hellenism on Jewish beliefs, the Roman conquest of Judea and the rise of apocalyptical thinking. A Portable God also describes in some detail how the various Jewish sects extant at the time of Jesus differ in their understanding of historical events; giving rise to diverse ceremonies and convictions through interpretation of biblical sources.

The Babylonian captivity exposed Judaism to Zoroastrian ideas, including its assertion that there are two gods; one good and the other evil. By the time the Jewish exiles return home, a nondescript angel, Satan, becomes a source of evil. Centuries later, Christianity extended the realm of Satan and made him a demigod. After the conquest of Judea by Alexander the Great, Judaism became Hellenized. Jewish scholars and sages were exposed to Greek philosophies, such as Platonism and Aristotlianism, which greatly influenced the religion's development. Hellenism gave rise to Philo's allegorical interpretation of the Bible as well as the Schools of Hillel and Shammai. Roman rule was a bitter pill for Jews to swallow. The crackdown against Judaism and their lust for blood sports were too much for some to bear. The Essenes, rejecting the Roman world and Roman rule, withdrew to the desert city of Quamran and developed a narrow, apocalyptical view of the future; believing in an ultimate war between the sons of light and darkness that will usher in a time of peace under the rule of God. In contrast, when Paul was caught in a debate over the practices of Christianity, he chose the global culture of Hellenism over the parochial beliefs of the Torah.

A Portable God is a well-written summary of a college course Kohn and Moore teach at San Diego State University. The authors also provide an ample glossary of terms, which the lay reader will find useful and succeed in showing the common roots of Judaism and Christianity; leaving for others the history of their divergence. The book's conclusions are and will continue to be debated in theology schools for a long time. None the less, the book is worthy of reading alone just for the historical information that it provides to the reader.

Transcendence of the Western Mind
Samuel Avery
Compari
308 Madison Place, Lexington, Kentucky 40508-2516
0974197602 $12.00

Stephen J. Hage
Reviewer

The book is only 170 pages including endnotes but its sweep is vast, its subject matter epic in scope and its conclusions breathtaking.

What Samuel Avery accomplishes is to provide a glimpse, under the veil, to reveal how the universe works. What makes his conclusions so satisfying is that they are firmly grounded in well established scientific and philosophical principles. You'll find no dancing here just lucid and carefully crafted explanations which flow smoothly from the page onto your image screen and into observational consciousness.

Neither he, nor the book, is intellectually faint of heart. He unflinchingly tackles difficult problems like "why do space and time shrink and curve and blend into each other?" Einstein showed unequivocally that this is so but Samuel Avery is the first author, in my experience, who explains why with metaphysical answers firmly grounded in physics. He never throws the physics away thus forcing the reader to give serious consideration to what he has to say. And, at the same time, he never resorts to or burdens the reader with mathematics.

In his earlier book, The Dimensional Structure of Consciousness, he introduces the concepts of the photon screen, the quantum screen, and the image screen. In this one, he expands on those explanations making them more clear and easier to understand. Another explanatory device he uses helped me understand what he means when he talks about orthogonal rotation of the axis of one dimension around the axis of another; using examples of things we do every day, all the time.

He deals with light, which is so enigmatic physicists still do not understand it. He explains why light is not in space-time but rather, space-time is in light.

His explanations of consciousness, its dimensional structure, and how it is related to individuals and the world cut a wide swath through particularly thorny issues like the "hard problem" (is consciousness something that happens in the brain or is it something extra that happens outside of what's going on in any individual's head?). And most satisfying, he deals with the abyss of solipsism not by banishing it but by putting it where it belongs; within the Dimensional Structure of Consciousness he has created.

I found the book almost impossible to put down. I'm looking forward to reading it again and again. If you are interested in the topics discussed in this review; if you're ready to gain deep understanding of how the universe works; read Transcendence of the Western Mind and be prepared to have your own mind blown to smithereens

My Mother, Your Mother
McCullough, M.D.
HarperCollins Publishers
New York, NY
9780061243028 $25.95

JoAn W. Martin
Reviewer

Dr. Dennis McCullough suffered an illness that changed him from an experienced caregiver to a care-receiver. This situation offered new insights into the disability of elderly patients. He attempts to convince caregivers to face the fact that after age eighty, the caregiver must search for ways to bring comfort and offer quality of life to a person's later years. The child and the parent have reversed roles.

"Fast Medicine" creates over scheduled doctors and nurses. Modern medicine is hospital based, medication obsessed, with high-tech procedures that may hurt more than heal. Doctors have been trained to solve and fix. They have the best of intentions but are they considering the whole? There is no time for listening enough to get to know the Elders. Dr. McCullough's mission is to find ways to empower Elders' families to create high quality care. "The polar distances between the technologies of modern medicine and the age-old practice of caring for the whole person can be overcome." There has been an erosion of head and heart care. In our desperate desire to protect our Elders, we allow doctors and the drug industry to medicate beyond reality.

"Slow Medicine" is a commitment with specific strategies for making life better for Elders and their families. The aim is not to restore youthful vitality. Late-life Elders do not move or think as clearly. Families need to focus on capacities. Whether home-based or institutional care, beware of a quick decision to relocate your parent. Most Elders recognize that life must come to its natural end. If a family has practiced slow medicine by being engaged in it through all stations, both the Elder and the supportive friends and family are better prepared for closing the circle of life

The eight stations of late life that Dr. McCullough identifies begin with the loved one continuing to take care of herself – the calm before the storm. This is a quiet time of blessed STABILITY. COMPROMISE comes next, which is an occasion to assess their medication, their activity levels, then a CRISIS looms. RECOVERY occurs slowly. Generally speaking, everything will not get back to where it was before the crisis. After the crisis be sure she is with a compatible roommate if that is the decision for the recovery stage. We would like for her to go on living forever, but eventually this is followed by DECLINE, which is a slow drift down a widening river. This is when the health care system doesn't perform well. Checking in is a vital thread. A period will come when there is nothing more the caretaker can do. A lengthy decline is a prelude to death. and the grieving of those left behind.

When does the family contact hospice? The hospice provider enhances the life of the patient and allows her to live as comfortably as possible. Most families will admit they wish they'd called hospice sooner. Anyone can make a hospice referral. It should not be viewed as giving up.

Kindness is the most fundamental position to maintain, especially when the days are so long and difficult. This existence requires patience in performing an endless cycle of chores. The goal of aging well is to extend quality living as far as possible before disability eventually and inevitably arrives. How much energy does the patient have to endure medical treatments? None of them wants to spend his remaining time being stuck, poked, prodded and screened. Should an Elder be encouraged to embark on a course of therapy for a worsening health problem? Is the cure worse than the disease?

Chilling and comforting in equal measure, My Mother ,Your Mother can help us cope with the balance between quality of life and further fast medical treatments. Less can be more for elderly patients.

Mosquito
Alex Lemon
Tin House Books
2601 NW Thurman St., Portland, OR 97210
0977312747 $10.95

Kristina Marie Darling
Reviewer

When introducing Mosquito, Alex Lemon's first collection of poetry, author Mark Doty describes the book as "something larger than any narration of personal experience," preparing readers for a memorable debut. In describing his journey as a patient before and after brain surgery, Lemon takes on the physical body as his subject, alternating between the grotesque and the humorous throughout the book. While exploring the role of the physicality in illness, love, and everyday life, Lemon often invokes the lofty alongside the everyday, raising fascinating questions about the way individuals experience pain, as well as the manner in which this often leads to art. Structured as a brief, four-part collection of interrelated poems, Mosquito introduces readers to a dynamic new poet, whose work proves compelling in a small narrative space.

Particularly impressive in his juxtaposition of the worldly with the religious, Lemon often communicates physical experiences in spiritual terms, suggesting an affinity between the two. This trend proves particularly apparent in the poem "The Pleasure Notebooks," in which Lemon narrates the pleasures and pains of a love affair. He writes, for example:

I need breath thick with fire, syrup spilled from a swollen heart

I need bites promising grace. Luminous, a tongue that prays for wounds (27)

By conflating grace and prayer with pain inflicted on the body, Lemon imbues sensory experience with otherworldly significance, suggesting that a spiritual aspect exists to physicality. Exemplified by his depiction of the poem's speaker praying for tangible pain while experiencing emotional turmoil, Lemon's pairing of spirituality with the physical often lends sensory events new significance, an idea that he conveys in an exuberant narrative voice.

Although many poets working today treat the physical alongside the metaphysical—Kerrie Webster's We Do Not Eat Our Hearts Alone and Brenda Shaughnessey's Interior with Sudden Delight are a few recent examples—Lemon's book offers a keen analysis of these themes in medical settings, a novel contribution to the poetry landscape.

Exemplified by his poem "MRI," Lemon's explorations of the sensations of surgery often take the form of tercets and couplets, suggesting the restraint with which Lemon's speaker must experience pain in a hospital setting. He writes in Mosquito:

…The machine worse
than any death—the powerlessness

of a shaved and strapped-down body.
Even in the purgatory you can wear earrings
& though the music might crack a spine,

at least in that torture, the tears from your arm's
needle marks are mouth wateringly sweet. (4-5)

This poem, like many of the others in Mosquito, juxtaposes the stylized with the fervent, creating thought-provoking incongruities between form and content. Lemon's use of tercets in conveying intense physical experience, as well as his breaking the form with a two line stanza near the end of the poem, mirrors the strict decorum of hospitals that Lemon describes, as well as the unrestrained pain that often inhabits such places, which often overpowers such codes of conduct. A thoughtful execution of provocative subject matter, Lemon's "MRI," like many of the poems in Mosquito, embodies the contradictions that it narrates, conveying its message through an ironic use of form.

Mosquito is an enigmatic, engaging read. Ideal for those who enjoy formal and experimental poetry alike, Alex Lemon's book is a truly remarkable debut.

Webster's New World Grant Writing Handbook
Sara Deming Wason
Wiley
Hoboken, NJ
9780764559129 $16.99

Mary Paruszkiewicz
Reviewer

Webster's New World Grant Writing Handbook is a source of information on how to write a grant. The author, Sara Deming Wason, has a master's degree in nonprofit management from Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. She is currently the Executive Director of Corporate and Foundation Relations at Syracuse University. She has experience in nonprofit administration and higher education development.

Giving trends and philanthropy have changed due to the economic downturn, grants have become more competitive. Grant writers need to be more innovative and more creative in selling their projects to organizations offering grants. This book guides you through the process of researching the grants you need for a particular project, writing a proposal and defining the need for your project. It helps you fine tune your project, write a mission statement and determine if your goals match that of the organizations that will fund your project.

Many foundations and organizations along with federal and state government organizations offering grants have cut back dramatically on their staff. Many grant applications have become available on the internet through their website. This book helps you understand how to fill out such applications, who to submit them to, and the importance of being concise and to the point about your project, when applying electronically. Webster's New World Grant Writing Book gives you instructions on how to write a concept paper, the length of each segment and the level of detail you need or don't need for the paper. Throughout the book samples for various parts of the grant writing process are given to show you their format. This book explains the best practice to use when approaching a prospective donor, how to present yourself and your organization along with advice on how to be prepared.

This book was a required book for a grant writing course that I was taking. While it offers a lot of information, I found this book to be very dry and boring. I had to force myself to read it and found myself re-reading some of it because it lost my interest. For the novice grant writer such as me, this book lacks a lot of information. It uses grant writing terms that are not listed in the glossary. This makes it very confusing for the reader and they need to refer to other sources for the definitions of these terms. Instead of having the reader flip back and forth to the glossary to look up terms that may or may not be there the book should have sidebar notations for the definitions of the terms used including the terms that were not in the glossary.

Throughout the whole book the author repeats the same points over and over again sometimes verbatim. In part 2 the author talked about scandal and fraud and how it has lead to the Sarbones-Oxely (SOX) Act of 2002. She then brought it up again in part 3 where she discussed measurements, accountability and scandal. Parts 2 and 3 could have been revised and combined into one chapter. In part 7, the same material on endowments is presented as in part 1 (see pp. 191 and 9). Information previously covered in part 6, Organizing the Proposal was again covered in part 7. In part 8 Proposal Review and Follow Up the author again repeats previously discussed topics. Pages 149 and 245 are the same subject on how to handle rejection.

This book also assumes the grant writer works for a non-profit organization and does not mention that individuals can apply for grants. I would have found a discussion on this topic very helpful. The author does give good points on what the proposal outline should contain and goes into detail what should be included and how these aspects of the proposal should follow one another.

Overall the book needs a major revision, combining chapters and synthesizing information that is repeated. A format and style that keeps the readers interested and maintains a consistent flow that doesn't confuse the reader would be appreciated. The author's intended audience is for experienced professionals, as well as for novice grant writers, but the manner in which the book was written does not target the inexperienced or independent grant writer.

Acheron
Sherrilyn Kenyon
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave, New York, N.Y. 10010
9780312362157 24.95

Mindy K. Paige
Reviewer

I think the first place to start is how long all of Kenyon's fans have been waiting for this book- not as long as she has been waiting to write it. Acheron is actually two books in one about the same character who the book is named after. I will have to admit that I, along with countless others out there, was breathless with anticipation waiting to see if the book could live up to our expectations.

It not only lived up to my expectations, it blew them straight out of the water. Kenyon is a dependable paranormal writer who has given the genre a new face, but with this book she just upped the bar again.

Acheron sucks you into Kenyon's world and keeps you there from the first page until the last. Then makes you want to read all seven hundred and twenty two pages again.

I can't wait for more from Kenyon!

The Man Who Loved China: The Fantastic Story of the Eccentric Scientist Who Unlocked the Mysteries of the Middle Kingdom
Simon Winchester
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780060884598 $27.95

Reed Stevens
Reviewer

China's 'Attitude': The Old Key to China's Humiliation

Discussing "Dreams of My Father" in July at a Santa Clara County Book Club Meet Up, the group gave the book a thorough investigation, winding up with a discussion of minority experiences. Then a Chinese woman spoke up for the first time to announce in a soft voice that she was, in her words, "a racist".

"I believe the Chinese people are inferior to Westerners," she said very clearly. Then she explained that since she had come to the U.S. in 1989, she has seen how advanced this country is compared to China.

We were quite taken aback. As she spoke I thought, all we hear about China is Tiananmen Square, the Cultural Revolution and political repression.

Spurred by her confession, humiliation, perhaps, I plowed through Simon Winchester's "The Man Who Loved China", the biography of a China scholar, hoping to find some consolation for her bitterness. Joseph Needham produced several highly regarded volumes on every aspect of China's history. Yet nothing in this biography of an obsessed Oxford don would make that Chinese woman feel proud of China.

But in the epilogue I hit pay dirt. China's 'attitude' of isolated superiority, of not needing anything from the west, is only a mask for saving face. Disguising humiliation. Just like the rest of us, the Chinese always felt and still do believe they are superior.

Winchester says that isolated attitude was only a minor pause in the development of oldest civilization on earth. Apparently much has changed just since 1989. Good-bye Chinese inferiority, hello Number ONE: at the Games and in technology, manufacturing, art and science.

The appendix lists China's astonishing inventions, the compass, gunpowder and the printing press, even an airplane in the thirteen century. Today ChinaMobile has more than half a billion cell phone subscribers. The West is only beginning to feel the power of this brilliant people as they shape themselves and the rest of us into our common future.

Simon Winchester's other works include "The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary" and "River at the Center of the World, Revised: A Journey Up the Yangtze and Back in Chinese Time."

Twilight Son
Nina R. Schluntz
Llumina Press
7915 W. McNab Road, Tamarac, FL 33321, USA
9781595269270 $12.95

Dr. Tami Brady
Reviewer

The greatest biological weapon the universe has ever seen is a who not a what. Simply called Dee, this man of sorts carries a deadly Decompose Plague within him. At full strength, it kills whole populations. However, Dee can also torture his victims by turning them into cannibals. For 500 years, Dee has been kept heavily sedated, a trick that is accomplished with large quantities of chemicals and the blood of a Queen Dragon.

Unfortunately, dragons are becoming quite rare so scientists have been experimenting with synthetic versions to keep the monster comatose. Thus begins a chain of mistakes that proves to be quite deadly. Dee escapes.

Twilight Son is the third book in the Twilight series, yet I found the book fully self contained. The thing that I most enjoyed about this work was the characters. The author had a group of rather unique individuals whose interacted in interesting ways. Ironically, Dee was a particularly pleasant individual, despite his deadly abilities.

Empire of Humiliation
James Brusseau
Overflow
4646 South Prairie Street, 3S, Chicago, IL 60653
9780980056785 $15.95 http://www.overflowbooks.com

Teressa Iezza, Reviewer
http://www.myspace.com/teressaiezza

Empire of Humiliation is the intelligent and rewarding debut novel by James Brusseau. Set in Mexico City, a pair of Americans—Anderson and Marina-- find themselves blamed for a string of disconcerting and ultimately fatal events. To save themselves, they have to discover who's really behind the scenes and why. Answering exposes them to an elegant manipulator of personal humiliation, as well as the dangers of a third-world megacity, and the fierce resentment of the locals. There is a way out of their predicament, but they have to discover how everything happening around them actually fits into a stunning and broad experiment in imperialism. And, finally, they'll have to decide whether American empire is good, bad or just an opportunity to get rich.

The author holds a Ph.D. in Philosophy and has taught at universities in several nations, currently in Mexico. He has authored two scholarly books before writing his first novel...

The strengths of this book include it's very strong and complicated female protagonist, and an adversary who manages to be elegant, funny and terrifying at the same time. The depiction of Mexico City is spot-on, down to the most remote details. The pacing is fast, and the human-angle of the story intriguing. In most of these basic ways the novel stands in line with an expertly-written contemporary thriller. What sets it apart, however, are the keen insights into how humiliation, shame and inferiority really work on people. This book is almost Russian in that sense, in its psychological depth, but it has none of that heaviness or European depression. Also, there's a lot here about the international scene, and as a foreigner living in America, I can tell you that Brusseau understands the dynamic and captures it perfectly.

Readers Theatre For African American History
Jeff and Nancy I. Sanders
Teacher's Idea Press
88 Post Road West, Westport, CT 06881
9781591586937 $30.00

Terrilyn Fleming
Reviewer

Approximately 1/3 of all American students are minorities. The census bureau has estimated that by 2025 half of all students will fit into this category. Jeff and Nancy Sanders have crafted a Readers Theatre book covering African American history from before the slave trade to modern-day events. The book is appropriate for every color of middle-school students.

The readers theatre format encourages the shy as well as the class clown to participate. It improves reading skills and increases vocabulary while using cooperative learning. A preface to the book provides teachers with information on how best to prepare for, perform, and evaluate the scripts with students.

The Sanders's include a number of possible extension activities to go along with each script providing a whole unit to study. Background on the story, ideas for projects, and references to books for additional information are provided for each script. Also included in an appendix are a list of books for teachers and students to more fully review different eras of African American history.

Some of the scripts have only a few characters and others could involve an entire classroom of students. Most of the scripts are very short, just a few pages. There are a few long character speeches, but most of the character parts are weighted equally so no one performer will lose focus before he is "on" again. While most of the dialogue is clear, some characters seem to just spew facts and dates which may be boring to some children. The Sanders' style is definitely more toward telling than showing.

Though the title explicitly states it is readers theatre for African American history, all colors of American students should be exposed to the stories contained in this volume. It would be an appropriate buy for any middle school library, speech or drama classroom, or any classroom that studies history or storytelling.

Antics: Passionate Stories About Folks in the Antiques Trade
Carol Berge
Regent Press/AWAREing Press
2747 Regent Street, Berkeley, CA 94705
1587900882 $25.00 www.carolberge.com 510-845-1196

Richard Tretheway
Reviewer

As a recovering collectibles dealer and an avid fan of both Antiques Roadshows and, of course, the British television series Lovejoy, I couldn't resist this title. And I was truly gratified for my effort. Ms. Berge spins many tales of the slightly shady world of antiques, with the hustlers, crooks, and characters; she differentiates them by environment. From posh shops to flea markets, she creates characters with feeling and substance, and a passion for the trade and the rewards it can bring.

Finn
Jon Clinch
The Random House Publishing Group
New York
9780812977141 $14.00 www.randomhousereaderscircle.com

Wanda Maynard
Reviewer

The characterization was remarkable! Jon Clinch, the winner of the Athenaeum Literary Award, took "Finn" to a whole new level by putting a fascinating suspense-filled new-fangled twist on an old story, which, to this reader, made it a more interesting murder mystery. That element of surprise which hooks and keeps the bookworm dangling was there, along with the gruesome aspects of what happened throughout the story, and kept this reader busy turning the pages.

What talent! What voice! Thoughts were stimulated as to the outcome. As soon as the story opens the secrecy begins. My imagination ran wild the moment I was drawn into the spellbinding tale of untamed horrifying acts. Suddenly a body is clearly seen floating lazily along the Mississippi. How and why did the corpse find its way to the river? Who is the victim? Who did such a dastardly deed?


Amin's Bookshelf

Military Control in Pakistan: The Parallel State
Mazhar Aziz, Editor
Routledge
9780415437431 $150.00

Mazhar Aziz's book on military and politics in Pakistan is a new addition to books dealing with civil military relations in Pakistan.

Mazhar Aziz Mazhar Aziz (PhD, University of Nottingham, 2006) is a former Pakistani civil servant and an independent scholar with research interests in democracy and political representation, civil-military relations and foreign policy.

He is an outsider to the Pakistani military having observed it as a civil servant who at times are junior partners in the civil military nexus in Pakistan barring few exceptions like the old fox Ghulam Ishaq or the half military half civilian Iskandar Mirza.

Aziz in words of a reviewer "introduces the concept of institutional path dependency. According to him, the institutional innovations of the formative years of Pakistan's history (1947-54) created a form of path dependency that has been responsible for thwarted democratisation, military intervention and post-military withdrawal crises. " Aziz however fails to define this concept of " Institutional Path" precisely and also fails to connect it with the negative British colonial military legacy particularly the British Imperial policy in Punjab from 1849-1947.

Under the British the Punjab the preferred British recruiting area for the army from 1857 till 1947 had a special status. It was a non regulation province where the deputy commissioner was far more powerful than in any British province and most of the initial deputy commissioners were ex army. It was a province where the feudals and the British had a special relationship. It was a province where the vast bulk of British intelligence resources were employed as its location was the most strategic in entire British India. It was a province which had the closest link and the largest contribution to the British war effort as far as 1857, First World War and Second World War were concerned.

While the Indian Army and notably the Punjabis, and most particularly the Punjabi Muslims were the closest collaborators of the British immediately after partition the Pakistani Army particularly its pro British generals were the most valuable political asset of the British. The Pakistani generals led by Ayub Khan soon out of personal ambition became the self styled guardians of Pakistans territorial and ideological boundaries. Ayub Khan with open support of civil servants like Ghulam Mohammad and the military cum civil servant Iskandar Mirza on his own started negotiating with USA and boasted that the US Director CIA was his best friend. At this point in time Ayub was propelled to do so by personal ambition and by the declared intention of safeguarding Pakistan and the army's institutional interests on the pretext of acquiring US weapons. In this case he was however not alone. The initial move for US aid was made by Mr Jinnah and later by Liaquat Ali Khan and Ghulam Mohammad. From 1954 onwards however Ayub was picked out by USA as USA's best bet. India was too large to be manipulated and India's Congress too formidable a party to be messed with. In Pakistan however manipulation was simpler because of the pre partition feudal military civil service connection. Thus in case of Ayub the mafia was not military alone but civil military West Pakistani feudal with Punjabis in lead and all conspiring to reduce the Dravidian Bengalis politically. What followed was a joint conspiracy by the army with a linguistically Punjabi chief in league with Punjabi feudals and civil servants to snatch legitimate political power from the Bengalis. Mazhar Aziz misses this point or has practiced selective distortion.

The Yahya takeover of 1969 was the most credible intervention by the army done out of national interests. General Yahya did make an honest attempt to introduce direct franchise and provincial autonomy. Unfortunately he failed because all of Pakistan's rulers starting from Jinnah had mishandled the Bengalis and the situation became unmanageable.

Zia on the other hand acted out of personal motives because he feared that Bhutto wanted to sack him and the top army generals feared Bhutto who was a popular leader. Again a case of class interests rather than institutional interests.

Aziz misses the point that the army or its top clique was used by the USA to achieve its geopolitical ends in Pakistan. Every military takeover in Pakistan had some link with USA or became a servile instrument to further US geopolitical objectives.

Aziz also fails to note that initial military takeovers were more personality oriented while starting from Zia the army's generals very correctly called the trade union of generals acted out of class interests. After 1977 it became the stated objective of the Pakistan Army's top generals and its intelligence agencies to destroy all independent political leadership in Pakistan. Thus every political party was penetrated and every effort made to destroy independent political leadership. The Punjab again was the centre of these efforts and the emergence of Nawaz Sharif in 1988 was the high point of these covert efforts.

General Zia's successor General Beg did hold the elections of 1988 but failed to control the ISI pursuing a parallel policy or simply ignored what it was doing thus destabilisng and removing the first PPP government in 1990. In 1990 Mr Nawaz Sharif was the best choice of the army's ruling clique but he was removed in 1993. In this case again the matter was not entirely or even 50 % institutional but a collusion of a Pashtun president and a Pashtun army chief to remove a Punjabi PM who was becoming too assertive. Their natural choice was a Sindhi lady . This move again was unconstitutional and motivated by personal and ethnic motivation rather than institutional motivation.

In 1999 the Musharraf coup was again motivated by personal considerations rather than any institutional considerations. Many generals supported Musharraf because they had been fired by Nawaz Sharif notably General Mahmud Corps Commander Rawalpindi.

After 2001 however Musharraf got a great opportunity to play the role of USA's best collaborator. Again a continuation of the Punjab loyalty to British of 1857 and Ayub loyalty to USA in the Cold War or Zia loyalty to USA in 1979-1988.

It would be more correct to describe the army in Pakistan as a mixture of institutional and class loyalty with personal motivation and ambition of the army chief as the main catalyst. The army is divided into many classes and the real culprits are the top 150 or 200 generals around the chief. Their ambition distorts the whole scenario and their selfish actions cannot be called institutional interests.

Unless there is total defeat as happened to the Russian Army in 1917 the hegemony of the army signified by these top 150-200 windbag generals would continue come what may!

Now how to bell the cat. Only defeat in war can reduce the army's role in Pakistan. The same happened in Russia in 1905 and 1917. In Turkey in 1918. In Japan in 1945, Alone the Pakistani politicians cannot do it. They are the test tube babies of many army intelligence agencies.

It appears that change is round the corner. The army is facing internal fractures. Its lower ranks for the first time in its history were involved in at least two major assassination attempts against the army chief and these included many soldiers from Musharraf's own SSG commandos. The army is being challenged by Islamists and its credibility is being reduced. Conventional war is out but the secret war at covert levels continues. India intelligence knows that the war never ended and so does the Pakistani intelligence. For the first time in West Pakistan's hopeless history the army is being challenged in NWFP and Balochistan and the threat has not been contained. This is an ethnic war as it's a Punjabi Army with junior Pashtun auxiliaries like the Yusufzais and Khattaks fighting the Baloch and tribals .

The army is trying to sell itself to USA as its best bet but it appears that the USA has decided that some structural changes are needed in the Pakistan Army.

The bottom line however is not the Pakistani generals but US policy, at least at the Defence Department, State Department, CIA and DIA level. They want the Pakistani generals. They do not trust the Pakistani politicians and that's the main reason why the Pakistani generals and only the top 20 are guarding their class interests . A small class by numbers but very influential and destructive.

Only defeat in war or Balkanisation will reduce the role of Pakistani generals. Mazhar misses this point.

To conclude Aziz fails to present a comprehensive case for the Instutional path theory although he makes many repetitions in the core 100 pages of his book.

A History of the Pakistan Army
Brian Cloughley
Oxford University Press
Pakistan
9780195473346 $29. 95

Brian Cloughley's book on the Pakistan Army is a welcome addition to the extremely limited number of books on the Pakistan Army. The fact that such a book was not written by a Pakistani soldier or a civilian scholar does not paint a very bright picture about the state of history writing, or to be more specific military history writing in Pakistan. Brian Cloughley has the singular advantage of having served for a relatively long period in Pakistan as a UN Official and as a military attache. In addition he is also a soldier and thus his perception of military affairs is different from a scholar who is a civilian and thus suffers from certain limitations which can only be overcome by extraordinary analytical ability and painstaking hard research. Brian Cloughley has made an honest attempt to present things as they are or as he perceived them to be with whatever facts he could lay hands to and the result is a relatively significant work on Pakistani military history with reference to on ground military performance of the Pakistan Army in three Indo Pak wars.

On the whole Cloughley's account is fairly balanced and the layman reader can form a fairly continuous picture of the progress of the Pakistan Army from 1947 to date. The initial history of the Pakistan Army however is given a broad brush treatment and the British Indian Colonial social and military legacy is totally ignored. This leaves the reader with an impression that the Pakistan Army was an entity created in 1947 and all that it did from 1947 onwards had little connection with the pre 1947 British Colonial policy and the military experience of the Indian Army in the two world wars. The 1947-48 Kashmir War where the Pakistan Army got its baptism of fire as the independent army of a sovereign country is hardly discussed. Thus important military controversies like the Operation Venus Controversy etc are not discussed at all. The conduct of Kashmir War by the Pakistani civilian leadership and its resultant impact on the army's perception of the civilian leadership is not discussed. The British recruitment policy and their irrational advocacy of the "Martial Races Theory" is not discussed at all. The impact of the conservative British military heritage on the intellectual development of the post 1947 Pakistani military leadership is totally ignored. The Ayub period has been given a relatively more detailed treatment and the conduct of 1965 war is reasonably detailed and the analysis of military operations is objective, critical and thought provoking. No serious effort is however made to explain why the Pakistan Army failed to achieve any decisive breakthrough despite having technically superior equipment as well as numerical superiority in tanks. The 1971 war which was more of a one sided show and a war in which Indian victory in the Eastern Theatre in words of Field Marshal Mankekshaw was a "foregone conclusion" keeping in view the overwhelming Indian numerical superiority1, has been discussed in much greater detail than 1965 war. This is a serious draw back since 1965 deserved more space because it had more lessons keeping in view the fact that both sides employed their strategic reserves. The post 1971 history of the army has been given a better treatment and enables the layman reader to understand many aspects of the present state of confrontation in the Sub Continent.

There are many factual and analytical errors in the book which were entirely avoidable and were not beyond the author or the publishers control. The publisher shares a major responsibility in ensuring accuracy of facts while analytical errors or analytical drawbacks are more within an authors sphere of responsibility. 15 Lancers was not raised in 1948-50 but in 19552. Iskandar Mirza was not from the ICS (Indian Civil Service) but the Indian Political Service3. The author has asserted that Ayub Khan was "gallant in combat" 4but there is no record of it in terms of gallantry awards or mention in despatches. On the contrary Ayub was accused of tactical timidity in Burma5. Akhnur has been mentioned as the only road link to Kashmir6 whereas Akhnur, as a matter of fact was the only road link to Poonch Valley only. The Indian 50 Para Brigade was not moved on 7th September to relieve the 54 Brigade as asserted on page-87 but made its appearance in the 15 Division area only on 10th September and that too in the Hudiara Drain area7. On page-96 the author states that 13 Dogra in 4 Indian Mountain Division area captured Bedian but was driven out by 7 Punjab's counter attack the next day. In reality 13 Dogra never attacked Bedian, nor was Bedian defended by 7 Punjab. Bedian was defended by 7 Baluch and attacked by 17 Rajput. Further Bedian was not attacked by a unit from the 4 Mountain Division but by a unit of 7 Indian Division which failed to capture it in the first place8. Jassar was not defended by a Pakistani Tank Troop as written on page-110 but by the whole 33 Tank Delivery Unit9. The Jassar operation did not result in release of a whole Indian tank regiment but release of two infantry battalions and a squadron minus10. 4 FF was not part of 6 Armoured Division as stated on page-117. The whole "Order of Battle" of the Pakistan Army on the Western Front as given on page-225 is incorrect. Formations of the I Corps have thus been shown as formations of 11 Corps and vice versa. 8 Armoured Brigade which was a part of 1 Corps has been shown as part of 4 Corps. Rahimuddin Khan has been promoted to Zia's son in law on page-275 whereas Ejaz ul Haq was Rahim's son in law. Aziz Ahmad the famous civil servant has been described as Aziz Alia. The order of battle of the Pakistan Army on page-284 has also some factual errors; e.g. Pakistan Army does not have any mechanised infantry divisions whereas the author has shown two divisions as mechanised divisions. One tank unit allotted to Pakistan in 1947 i.e. the 19 Lancers has not been listed at all in the list of armoured units allotted to Pakistan10.

The author rightly wonders why some military commanders guilty of timidity in Khem Karan were not immediately sacked! But he fails to mention that one of them was promoted to the rank of major general few years after the war. His analysis of the Khem Karan operations is considerably thought provoking. But the major reason for failure of the Khem Karan offensive ie poor initial planning which led to traffic congestion and poor engineers effort and delayed the concentration of the Pakistani 1st Armoured Division has not been discussed at all. The author however rightly points out that failure to carry out thorough reconnaissance was one of the major reasons of failure of the Pakistani armoured thrusts failure in Khem Karan. However his assertion that the Indians had considerable reserves to contain Pakistan Army even if it had achieved a breakthrough is not based on material facts. India did have its 23 Mountain Division, but this formation was nowhere near Khem Karan when the Pakistani offensive was launched. In any case a Mountain Infantry division could have been of little value against the Pakistani 1 Armoured Division.

The analysis of the tank battles in Sialkot is not comprehensive and lacks depth. The authors assertion on page-120 that the ad hoc force under direct command of the I Pakistani Corps forced the Indians back to the border is not correct. The 24 Brigade which did so was a part of the 15 Division and 25 Cavalry the tank unit which in the words of Indians stopped them acted on orders of its commanding officer alone and 1 Corps Headquarter had little idea of what 25 Cavalry did in stopping the Indians till the evening of 8th September. The author has not mentioned 25 Cavalry at all which in words of the Indian Armoured Corps's historian; was the unit whose " performance was certainly creditable because it alone stood between the Indian 1st Armoured Division and its objective, the MRL Canal 11a" and stopped the 1st Indian Armoured Division on 8th September, all by itself. The authors reproduction of the Indian writer Verghese's views that the Indian 1st Armoured Division dashed forward rashly is not based on facts. The Indian advance was fairly balanced and it was halted on 8th September not because the Indians had completely committed their armour but because the Commander 1st Armoured Brigade lost his nerve because of false and unsubstantiated reports of his flanks being under counter attack at a time when both the advancing Indian tank regiments had committed a total of only three squadrons with three squadrons uncommitted and the Indian 1st Armoured Division had a third tank regiment totally fresh and in a position to easily outflank the Pakistani armour in Gadgor area12. The author has also not discussed at all the Indian armours total lack of activity on 9th and 10th September. This inactivity at a time when there was just one tank regiment to oppose five Indian tank regiments was the main reason for the Indian main attack's failure in Sialkot Sector.

The treatment of the 1971 war is far more detailed than 1965 war. All the emphasis is however on the Eastern Theatre where the Indian victory in words of the Indian Chief was a foregone conclusion. The author has highlighted actions of bravery at small unit level and has shown that the Pakistan Army put up a good show in East Pakistan as far as the junior leadership was concerned. The battles on the Western Theatre have however been largely ignored and the battle of Chhamb which was described by the Indians as "the most serious reverse suffered in the 1971 war 13" has not been discussed in much detail. Major General Eftikhar was the finest commander at the operational level as far as the Pakistan Army is conerned and any history of Pakistan Army is incomplete without discussing Eftikhar's brilliant opearational leadership in Chhamb. Eftikhar was one of the only two Pakistani senior commanders praised by the Indian military historians. One Indian military historian described him as one who "showed skill and determination in carrying out his mission" . 14

The analysis of the Bhutto period is quite comprehensive and the personality of Mr Bhutto and his attitude towards the army has been described quite correctly. The sycophantic personality of Zia has however been given a generous treatment and many of Zia's well known antics to please Mr Bhutto like orders to all officers of Multan Garrison to line up their wives to greet Mr Bhutto's cavalcade passing through the Fort Colony have not been discussed at all. No Mard i Momin except one solitary EME officer Major Kausar had the moral courage to disobey this illegal order and Zia immediately got him dismissed from the army.

The intelligence and operational failure in Siachen on part of the ISI and the formation responsible for the defence of Siachen as a result of which the Indians were able to infiltrate 35 miles inside Pakistani territory have not been discussed at all. On the contary General Pirdad who was the formation commander during the Siachen debacle has been praised as an admirable officer15. The authors assertion that English language was neglected during the Zia era is not based on facts. I was a cadet in Zia's tenure at the Pakistan Military Academy. Any cadet who failed in English was not promoted to the next term and English teaching and examination standards were very tough. The crux of the problem was the overall deteriorating English standards in Pakistan following Bhuttos nationalisation of educational institutions and the relatively poor material joining the army in the post 1971 era. The post Zia era has been covered in a very incisive manner. The authors assertion that the "Director infantry" was a post that any infantry officer would welcome is incorrect. Mahor General Zahir Ul Islam Abbasi was posted as Director Infantry following a disastrous Charge of the light Brigade type attack in Siachen which he had ordered without prior approval of his next senior operational headquarter. in which one of the Pakistani units suffered unnecessarily high casualties including the death of a brigade commander. The authors criticism of the ISI is forthright, accurate and thought provoking. In this regard he has shown courage in criticising a top heavy agency whose much trumpeted reputaion is not matched by actual on ground performance and which suffers from a tendency to embark on private wars.

Brian Cloughley has done a remarkable job in writing a fairly critical history of the Pakistan Army. Most of the factual errors were avoidable but something which should have been taken care of by the publishers who knew that the author was a foreigner and did not have the time to cross check or recheck all the facts because of not permanently residing in Pakistan. The author appears to be too much of a gentleman to critically analyse many of the Quixotic blunders of Indo Pak military history. Nevertheless Brian Cloughley's book has filled a void in Indo Pak military history by at least constructing a continuous and fairly comprehensive picture of one of third worlds important armies. Regardless of the fact whether any one may agree or disagree with Cloughley's analysis, the book by and large retains the position of a book which is compulsory for any layman or foreigner doing research on the Pakistan Army.

Behind the Scenes
Major General Joginder Singh (Retired)
Lancer International
New Delhi
1897829205 $42.00

When I saw this books short description on LANCER BOOKS promotional leaflet I immediately ordered one through Bharat Verma's London UK office. I was very excited and thought very seriously that this book would be a really fine magnum bonum type of an effort on the Indian Army.

At that time I was writing my book Pakistan Army till 1965 and hoped that this book would be a tremendous help.

Following are my personal observations written in late 1999.

"Behind the Scenes", setting aside other factors discussed in the succeeding paragraphs still is a welcome addition to the limited number of books available on the Indo Pak wars. Major General Joginder Singh possesses the distinction of being an insider in the higher Indian command and staff echelons in the period 1958-65 and his analysis carries the weight of authority of a man who saw how various operational and higher command decisions were taken from close quarters.

Major General Joginder Singh the author was commissioned in the 5th Battalion 14th Punjab Regiment more popularly known as " Ali Baba's (its commanding officers designation) Forty Thieves" British Indian Army in 1937 after having joined the army through the "Y Cadet Scheme".

Joginder saw military action in the British operations against the Frontier tribes in the late 1930s. He attended the 1945 Army Staff Course at Quetta, served in various command and staff appointments including a stint at the Indian Ministry of Defence, command of an Infantry Battalion (7 Punjab), Commander 80 Brigade-Nowshera Sector), Deputy Commandant Infantry School, Brigadier General Staff 15 Corps during the Sino-Indian War, GOC 5 Infantry Division and Chief of Staff of the Western Command under three successive GOC in chiefs. The last assignment included 1965 War after which Joginder finally retired in 1967.

The book is divided into five parts and covers the entire modern post-1947 Indian military history with maximum space devoted to the 1965 conflict while smaller tracts are devoted to the 1971 War, Interwar years followed by a small section dealing with the more recent developments.

The first part dealing with "National Strategy" feels that strategic insight is sadly lacking in India's higher decision making echelons. He feels that politicians leading India are short-sighted and self-centred and feels that Indian higher leadership lacks the qualities necessary to attain India's position of natural leadership in Asia.

Joginder discusses in considerable detail his experiences as 80 Infantry Brigade Commander where he first advanced the possibility that Akhnur bridge by virtue of being the sole link to Poonch Valley and the fact that it was defended by the weak 191 Infantry Brigade defending Chamb Sector represented a serious imbalance in Indian defensive posture in South Kashmir and that it was most likely that Pakistan Army in case of war may capture it with ease using a force of an armoured brigade infantry division.

Joginder states that a divisional exercise was held based on this scenario in April-May 1956 but the only outcome was that "GOC 26 Division was asked to proceed on pension" (Page-28) while no other changes were made in operational plans or organisational structure till 1965. The layman readers may note that shortly before the September 1965 War the Indian High Command did agree to upgrade the Chamb Brigade to a Divison in August 1965 but at the time of Grand Slam Chamb was defended only by an infantry brigade and a squadron of light tanks.

Joginder devotes a small chapter to his experiences as Brigadier General Staff 15 Corps responsible for Indian Occupied Kashmir and discusses his recommendations which included creation of an infantry division to defend Chamb, construction of a bridge on Chenab at Riasi as an alternative to Akhnur bridge stationing of an independent armoured brigade in Jammu area and stationing of an infantry division size force as 15 Corps Reserve. None of the recommendations were followed by Joginders bosses!

The author's discussion of Sino-Indian War is not much different from the other much known discussions in various well circulated books, so it is pointless to burden the readers with repetition of much discussed issues.

The most valuable albeit controversial part of the book is the one dealing with the authors experiences as Chief of Staff of the Western Command before and during 1965 war.

The author had a high opinion of his first GOC Western Command who died in a helicopter crash in 1963 along with four general officers and an airforce air vice marshal. Joginder also had a very high opinion about his second GOC Manekshaw.

It was during this period as the author discusses that the Western Command carried out a detailed appreciation dealing with a future Indo-Pak conflict and recommended an offensive posture with attack aimed at isolating Lahore (going for Balloki Headwork's) and Sialkot (from Jammu-Samba area) and against the Mangla Dam-Mirpur area were planned. It was during this period that the Western Command's proposals for opening a second front across the international border Joginder states that the Army Chief Chaudhry accepted the idea of opening a second front in case of war across the international border. Joginder, however, noted that by 1964 Nehru incapable of taking any decisions due to bad health and indifferent mental state while defence held a very low priority with Nehru's successor Shaastri. Thus the 1964 memorandum prepared by the Western Command was simply filed away. Joginder felt that General Chaudhri was not assertive in presenting the Indian political leadership with the true defence requirements.

The controversial part of the book begins once Lieutenant General Harbaksh Singh enters the scene as the third boss of the author as GOC Western Command in November 1964. It appears that there was a personality clash between Joginder and Harbaksh while Harbaksh's book "War Despatches" published before Joginder's book indicates that Harbaksh did not have a very high opinion about Joginder.

Joginder states that Harbaksh wanted to base India's main defence on River Bias while abandoning the entire territory from the international border till Beas. While it is impossible to confirm or deny this assertion it seems highly improbable that Harbaksh could hold such an opinion whether one takes Harbaksh as an Indian or a Sikh.

Joginder states that at a conference held in May 1965 the GOC of 1st Indian Armoured Division advanced the thesis that the most likely axis of Pakistani main attack was Patti-Harike -Beas Bridge. It was this conference that the Indian Chief as per the author agreed to deploy an armoured brigade in Khem Karan area to meet the Pakistani armoured threat emanating from Kasur area. Harbaksh Singh as per the author thought otherwise giving a higher priority to a Pakistani frontal threat in the Ravi-Sutlej Corridor. Harbaksh Singh on the other hand states in his book that he had appreciated before the war that a Pakistani armour threat from Kasur towards the Beas bridge was most likely. There is no way in which Joginder's assertions can be proved or disproved.

Joginder's approach towards Harbaksh Singh while discussing almost all aspects of the 1965 war is hostile to the point of being irrational. Thus he defends Major General Nirinjan Prasad who was sacked for exhibiting timidity and cowardice by Harbaksh Singh. Joginder thinks that Niranjan was sacked not because he was irresolute but because he was a difficult subordinate. Again it is not possible to agree or disagree with Joginder about this assertion. However, Niranjan's sacking was even justified by very neutral and dispassionate Indian military historians like Major Praval. There is one fact which stands out in 15 Division's conduct on 6th, 7th and 8th September, i. e its conduct keeping in view its numerical superiority in infantry and the degree of surprise that it had achieved on 6th of September was not commensurate with the overwhelming advantages that it enjoyed. As a matter of fact many Pakistani defenders of Lahore who were interviewed by this scribe were surprised at the lack of initiative exhibited by the 15 Division in its operations on the 6th of September 1965. No one can deny the fact that two infantry brigades of this division bolted away in face of Pakistani counterattacks and that this led to a serious operational crisis on the 8/9 September once the 96 Brigade was brought forward to check the conditions of near rout.

I am not implying that the Indians were non- Martial as many Pakistanis earnestly believe since it is a fact that a Pakistani unit from the Punjab Regiment opposite Barki also bolted away. What I am merely trying to point out is the fact that there was something seriously wrong with 15 Indian Division at divisional as well as brigade level. However, Joginder denies it and sees Niranjan as an angel of a man since Harbaksh sacked him. Niranjan was also called Dhoti Parshad in Indian Army.

Joginder asserts that he gave a suggestion that the BRB should be crossed at Barki, after the main Indian attacks against Lahore had failed on 6-9th September, but does not explain how it could have been successfully done, keeping in view the net performance of all Indian brigades of 7 and 15 Division tasked to contact the BRB, was pathetic by all definitions. He asserts that he also suggested that the 26 Indian Division should bypass Sialkot and capture Sambrial west of Sialkot but does not explain how an infantry division would do so when an armoured division supported by two infantry divisions had failed to capture even Chawinda which was hardly 11 miles from the border.

The author asserts that Harbaksh Singh took no interest in the main Indian attack i.e. the 1 Corps operations opposite Chawinda but does not explain why it was so. Was it due to some inter arm rivalry or because Harbaksh was not interested that India should win the war?

The author's conclusion that there was no worthwhile higher direction in 1965 war as far as the Indian Army is concerned stands out as one of the most credible conclusions of the book. His assertion that the 1965 War was a show of some "20 Lieutenant Colonel and their units and about seven regiments of the armoured corps. . . . " is valid for both the armies conduct in 1965.

Joginder flatly denies that General Chaudhri ever asked Harbaksh Singh to withdraw to the Beas River. General Kaul whose book was published many years before Harbaksh Singh's "War Despatches" had also made a similar accusation (i.e. that such a withdrawal was suggested by Chaudhri).

I came across a similar assertion in another book by an Indian Colonel H. C Karr's book. It appears that Chaudhri did discuss something with Harbaksh about re-adjusting his position but since there is nothing on record, therefore, only a Prophet or a Jinn may ever know about what exactly happened. The possibility that Joginder dismisses this incident since Harbaksh Singh had written that it occurred cannot be denied since "opposition for opposition's sake" is one of the cardinal attributes of the Sub Continental psyche.

The author agrees that the main failure at Chawinda occurred in the handling of 1st Indian Armoured Brigade on the 8th September 1965 but has spent far more energy in painting Harbaksh Singh as the main reason for the Indian failure all over the book. In this regard it appears that the book had the support of the Indian military establishment who were outraged by Harbaksh very frank and forthright remarks about the mishandling of Indian Army at various levels in the 1965 War. In this regard the book stands out as more of a "Rejoinder" to Harbaksh's "War Despatches" than a study carried out in a detached manner with the aim of correctly analysing the 1965 War.

The author gives no explanation why the Indians wasted two complete days doing nothing following their failure at Gadgor on the 8th of September. This was the most critical phase of war for the Pakistanis when they were off balance and it was possible for the Indian armour to regain its freedom of manoeuvre by outflanking the Pakistani force opposite them.

The situation after 10/11 September when the Pakistani 1st Armoured Division started reinforcing the 6th Armoured Division was totally transformed. The major Indian failure occurred on 8th 9th and 10th September and was entirely because of indecisiveness and lack of resolution in pressing forward on behalf of the Indian 1 Corps/1 Armoured Division/1st Armoured Brigade Commander.

The author has also discussed 1971 War in brief but here his criticism is very mild about the higher direction in the war. Indian Western Command Chief Candeth has acknowledged in his book that had the Pakistanis attacked in late October 1971 all Indian plans to attack East Pakistan would have been blown into winds. This proves that the plans to invade East Pakistan were not as sound as they appeared and that the Indian plan was only carried out successfully since Yahya was irresolute enough not to launch a counteroffensive in the Western Front as had been planned before 1971 War.

Joginder does not explain how establishment of the Bangladesh strategically helped India in the long run since Bangladesh is militarily stronger than the old East Pakistan and is not an Indian satellite as Indians had envisaged.

Even Indian thinkers are divided about the strategic success of the 1971 War! Was it fought to add another feather to the Durga Devis cap or to liberate the Bengalis! Indira's conduct after the 1971 War does not paint a very bright picture about her motivation to start the 1971 War. Even if the aim was to help the Bengalis it failed since major killings by the Pakistan Army whatever their quantum took place in April-June 1971 and by November 1971 the situation was far different from that of June 1971. Genocide was committed but the Indians came not with a missionary's motive to help the oppressed but for other reasons.

Wars are not fought for missionary purposes alone and 1971's only enduring legacies are "a more aggressive and militarily viable Pakistan eager to vindicate its honour" and the creation of a smaller ethnic state which proves that after a decade or two all provinces of present day Indo Pak are tomorrow's full time members of the UNO! In this regard the 1971 war as far as India was concerned was a strategic failure and only a symbolic success! It would have been a success only if India had the resolution to overrun West Pakistan or to at least recapture Pakistan held Kashmir.

Joginder has not discussed anywhere the relative failure of the Indian command system especially with reference to the Western Command. A dispassionate glance at the conduct of 1965 and 1971 wars proves that the Indian command system is too unwieldy and keeping in view the frontage, location of formations and their number it is very difficult for any man whether it is Harbaksh or Manekshaw to effectively command anything like the Western Command as it is and as it was in 1965 and 1971 wars. Joginder's hero Manekshaw had nothing to do with actual operational command of any corps division or command in any of the three Indo Pak wars.

The Indian failure at Chamb in 1971 which was criticised by Joginder definitely had a connection with the confusion in the Indian GHQ as the narratives of Candeth and Gurcharan Singh prove. Joginder does not explain why Chamb, which was adequately defended in 1971, lost to Pakistan in 1971. It was a command failure and had a deeper connection with the divisional commanders personality and handling of armour than with anything at brigade or unit level where the Indian 191 Brigade was brilliantly led and managed to hold three infantry brigades supported by three tank regiments for more than two days.

An interesting revelation of the book is the fact that Ayub Khan commanded the Chamar Regiment and was under fire in WW Two and seen as not fit to command a battalion of his parent regiment Punjab Regiment.

How should we analyse the Indian Army's failure in 1965 or how should I put it as a Pakistani? Joginder sees the hand of Harbaksh Singh in all Indian failures in 1965! This, however, is too simplistic an approach.

There were deeper reasons for the Indian (as well as the Pakistani) failure to function as dynamic entities beyond unit level in 1965.

The Indian Army of 1965 was like the Austrian Army of 1809. It consisted of perhaps equally brave junior leaders but was severely handicapped since rapid expansion since the Sino-Indian war of 1962, despite being impressive on paper had not made the Indian military machine really effective because of poor training at divisional and brigade level. It was numerically strong but organisationally ineffective having dashing young leaders but tactically and operationally inept brigade divisional and corps commanders from the older pre- 1947 commissioned generation whom were initially supposed not to go beyond company level, had the transfer of power not taken place in 1947. The strike corps was a new concept and the Indian 1 Corps which was shortly created before the 1965 war was a newly raised formation whose corps commander and armoured divisional commanders were about to retire in 1965 when war broke out. The Indian commanders beyond unit level, as was the case with Pakistan Army, consisted of men who had experience of infantry biased operations in WW Two and did not understand the real essence of armoured warfare. It was this lack of understanding that led to the failures in achieving a decisive armour breakthrough in both sides. It was a failure of command as well as staff system where even the staff officers on both sides were too slow for armoured warfare and worked on yards and furlongs rather than miles. Their orientation was position oriented rather than mobility oriented and their idea of a battlefield was a typical linear battlefield. Their Burma or North African experience where the Japanese and Germans frequently appeared in their rear had made them extra sensitive about their flanks.

These were men who thought in terms of security rather than speed. Conformity rather than unorthodox dynamism, having been trained in the slavish colonial orders oriented British Indian Army was the cardinal script of their life. It was this British system in which every senior commander was more interested in doing the job of those one step junior to him that led to the lack of dash and initiative at brigade and battalion level. They were trained that way and there behaviour as far as the timidity at brigade and divisional level has to be taken in this context. How could one man, an army commander responsible for three corps is made responsible for failures that occurred at battalion brigade and divisional level!

Once I heard about Joginder's book in 1998, I had very high expectations and was convinced that a man who has been the Chief of Staff of the Western Command will be the best judge of 1965 War. In this regard the book was a big disappointment since instead of analysing Indian military history it is more of a proof that Joginder Singh was a very fine staff officer and that Harbaksh Singh was a horrible man! Joginder's book is a welcome addition to the limited number of first hand/direct participant accounts on 1965 War.

The fact that the writer has made some controversial assertions and has made an effort to write a rejoinder to Harbaksh Singh's more famous "War Despatches", however, does not diminish the historical value of the book, at least for the Pakistani readers of military history.

I still maintain that the book thus retains the status of "must be read and indispensable books" on the list of all keen students of Indo Pak military history. However, his anti-Harbaksh bias should be taken with a pinch of salt.

In addition his discussion of what could have been done must be viewed in relation to the relatively pathetic performance of both the armies in all three wars.

The under employment of Pakistan and Indian Armies in all three wars have a deep connection with the conservative British colonial legacy.

Harbaksh and various other actors were a product of that system and were relatively better or perceived to be better than their contemporaries and thus elevated to the higher command ranks. It was the outmoded system that proved to be a failure in all three wars. Individuals were just the tip of the iceberg.

History of The Baloch Regiment 1939-1956
Major General Rafiuddin Ahmad (Retired)
Baloch Regiment Centre
Abbottabad
Printed by Central Army Press Rawalpindi
9781845740948 $35.75

The second volume of Baloch Regiment history is a welcome addition to the extremely limited number of books on Indo-Pak military history. Maximum part of the volume deals with the Second World War.

The author has laid greater stress on the general military history of the Second World War than on Baloch Regiments' role in it. This appears to have been done since limited material was available on the regimental histories of the Baloch units which participated in the war and the fact that the Baloch Regiment was relatively a much smaller regiment than the Punjab or the FF Groups.

The first chapter contains a good description about the organisation of the Baloch Regiment. The details pertaining to units raised during World War Two are sketchy. A casual remark states that "new classes and areas were included" but no specific figures have been given.

The portions dealing with events of Second World War are excellent for the layman readers. The author has also dealt with the political aspects of Indian perceptions about the Second World War, with special stress on the difference between Muslim League and Congress Party positions.

The descriptions about circumstances in which various gallantry awards were won in WW Two are very well written. Yahya Khan's escape is described in a very interesting manner, however, the author has not discussed the Axis Camp Commandant's warning to Yahya about having him shot once he was caught escaping before his final successful escape. This incident has been mentioned in one of Shaukat Riza's books (The 1965 War).

The author made a passing reference to General Messervy's getting captured by the Germans in North Africa while giving his designation but not name. Had he mentioned his name the narrative may have been more interesting since Pakistan Army's first C in C was a German prisoner for some time as a general officer before he escaped (the Germans not knowing that they had captured the British general officer commanding a British armoured division).

The author's treatment of 1947-48 War could have been more extensive. He has once again quoted Fazal Muqeem's criticism of Liaquat about calling off Operation Venus but has not given detailed reasons as to how it may have succeeded when the Indian Army in December was well poised to meet it. Even the Pakistani official account of 1970 written many years later refutes Fazal Muqeem's criticisms. Rafi should have been more critical and should have given a dispassionate and concrete analysis rather than repeating Muqeem's criticism. It should not have been difficult for the author to analyse the detailed pros and cons of the projected operation Venus. This discussion would certainly have added meat to the bones i. e. reproduced judgement of Fazal Muqeem Khan. It is fifty two years now from 1948. One wonders whether the 1948 war would ever be properly analysed or not!

The volume contains some minor factual errors. The German Blitzkrieg struck across Western Europe not in June 1940 (Page-16) but in May 1940. Rajauri was not captured by a brigade group (Page-206) but by a tank squadron of Central India Horse by a surprise attack through a nala. The infantry brigade later joined the tank squadron after Rajauri had been captured.

The book contains extremely elaborate and detailed appendices dealing with various aspects of Baloch regiment history. The research scholars, very rare in Pakistan, will find these particularly useful.

The second volume on the whole is a fine contribution to Pakistani military history. We hope that the book will cover many blanks in Pakistani military history. We hope that General Rafi will be more forthright, critical and blunt in his third volume which covers the 1965, and 1971 wars.

History of The Baloch Regiment 1820-1939
The Colonial Period
Major General Rafiuddin Ahmad (Retired)
Baloch Regiment Centre
Abbottabad
Printed by Central Army Press Rawalpindi
9781843422228 $23.00

The two volumes on the history of the Baloch Regiment are a welcome edition to the extremely short list of books on Pakistani Military History. The first volume covers the period from 1820 to 1939 while the second volume covers the period from 1939 to 1956. Major General Rafiuddin Ahmed took to military writing at an early stage in his military career and came to be regarded as an accomplished military writer by the time he reached colonel rank in the mid early 1970s. This scribe read a bunch of one of his excellent writeups on German Airborne Warfare in 1975-76 at Quetta. These were presented to my father by then Lieutenant Colonel Rafi and as far as I recollect the general was then an instructor at the command and staff college Quetta. The writers father in laws family were active members of Aligarh Old Boys Association Rawalpindi . The readers may note that the most active members of this association included a prominent Baluchi Brigadier Gulzar Ahmad, and most meetings of the association were held at this scribes grandfathers residence in Rawalpindi, which now houses the Darya Abad Girls School. A major qualification of General Rafi is that in essence he is not a member of the "Typical Prototype Generals Trade Union" having been promoted to general rank a little late! Before we proceed further it is important to caution the layman reader about the immense odds that a military writer confronts once he writes a regimental history! Writing a regimental history of an infantry regiment consisting of many battalions which participated in many wars including two world wars spread over an 180 years period is a gigantic undertaking! It is but natural that any such enterprise cannot be perfect or free of factual as well as analytical errors! In addition it must be remembered that Indo Pak and this includes India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Sri Lanka is not a "History Friendly" Region and "Intellectual Honesty" is the rarest commodity in all official quarters whether civil or military in this entire region of intellectual darkness. Organisations as well as political parties are run on the basis of personal interest rather than national interest and at least two Indo Pak Wars were triggered by individuals who were motivated by egoistic and personal rather than nationalistic motivations disguised in high sounding slogans! The readers must also note that General Rafi's history is one which although not an official history was "officially sponsored" in terms of financial support and thus the general, as happens with all official or officially supported intellectual ventures, even in far more advanced western countries, was allowed to proceed in a certain officially prescribed course which did not allow him to be too critical in conduct of operations of the post 1947 period involving "Sacred Cows" of the Pakistani military establishment. In the first volume however the general has been more critical since those who called the shots then are now patronless skeletons, little more than footnotes of history and their conduct can be criticised. The general has however made an effort to do some critical analysis "in between the lines" which is reasonable! At places he has been uncritical but the first volume is certainly better since history is easier to be written when the actors have long been dead and are in no position to cause any mental or physical discomfiture to the historian in question!

The military history of various battalions of the regiment has been covered in an excellent manner linking the unit's role with the overall military situation. The narrative is most interesting since the author has included various incidents from unit histories involving details of battle actions in which gallantry awards were won or accounts dealing with military personalities. The author does not hesitate from giving his opinion on various historical aspects and this makes the narrative more interesting. The battle accounts are supported by excellent maps although credits for most have not been mentioned in the acknowledgement section. The photographs and paintings are of excellent quality and make the book very interesting to read. The author has taken pains to highlight the role of the Baluchis in various remote campaigns in East Africa in the late 1890s. Many in Pakistan were not aware of these campaigns. The accounts dealing with the Sepoy Rebellion of 1857 and the First World War are extremely well done . The analysis integrates the pure military history aspect with the Indo Pak and particularly Indo Muslim point of view. It is a difficult exercise since the Indian Army was a mercenary army and employed to fight against the freedom fighters! The writer has managed to highlight the performance of the Baluch Regiment and has also been symapthetic to the Freedom Fighters. For some reason he did not have any sympathy with the Sindhi Hurs, but this shall be discussed in the next review of volume two.

The strangest part of the work is absence of an introduction or a foreword by any retired or serving Baluchi officer! This perhaps is an indication of the lack of importance that we attach to anything connected with intellectual activity! The emphasis remains on self projection, personal advancement and personal fortune building! We have a large number of so called illustrious retired officers! One visit to 'Pindi, Islamabad or Lahore is enough to prove their existence in terms of material progress! But what is their intellectual contribution to posterity in terms of transferring conceptual and intellectual experiences! Nil! All did exceedingly well on paper but have nothing to pen down! Ayub the longest serving chief wrote a book but that book had little to do with military history! Yahya was held in detention till he died and wrote little or we know little about what he wrote! The breed of Attique, A. I Akram etc is extinct! The lack of three or four pages written by any senior officer, serving or retired, and the Baluch Regiment did produce many generals(!) as opening remarks in General Rafi's history is without doubt an irrefutable proof of our intellectual bankruptcy!

The first volume contains factual errors which were entirely avoidable had the writer relied simply on three or four standard books on Indian Military history. The Safavids were overthrown not by Nadir Shah (Page-8) but by the Ghilzai Pathans from Afghanistan, who were previously Persian subjects and who in turn were overthrown by Nadir Shah in 1726. The Marhattas reached the outskirts of Delhi not in 1738 (Page-9) but in 1737 (Refers-Page-436-Oxford History of India-Percival Spear-1937 and Page-294-Later Mughals-Volume Two-William Irvine-Calcutta-1921-22). The assertion that "An Afghan power arose in Kabul" (Page-Nine and Ten) is also incorrect. Ahmad Shah Abdali was crowned as the first king of Afghanistan at Kandahar in 1748 at the age of 23 and captured Kabul later but kept his capital at Kandahar till his death and is buried in Kandahar. Ahmad Shah did not begin his career as a Mughal adversary (Page-Nine) but as a soldier in Nadir Shah's army and later made his entry into real power politics once he plundered Nadir Shah's treasure in the chaotic situation after Nadir's assasination by his Qizilbash generals. Ahmad Shah Abdali annexed Punjab not in 1754 (Page-10) but in 1751-52 (Refers-Page-434-The Cambridge History of India-Volume Four-The Mughal Period-Edited by Wolsely Haig and Richard Burn). The assertion that Ahmad Shah Abdali won the gratitude of Muslims and Hindus alike for defeating Marathas is also debatable. The target of both the Afghans and the Marathas were the rich and in this regard they did not give anyone a waiver simply because he was a Muslim or a Hindu! As a matter of fact Abdali proclaimed by Iqbal as a great hero mercilessly subjected Muslim Delhi and Muslim Punjab to merciless slaughter, rapine and plunder and his deeds are a frequent subject of even poetical works of Muslim poets like Waris Shah and Mir Taqi Mir! The layman reader may note that the loot that this so called soldier of Islam gathered in 1757 alone from Muslim Delhi was carried from Delhi to Afghanistan by 28, 000 transport animals! (Refers-The Pursuit of Urdu Literature-Ralph Russell-Zed Books-London -1997-Distributed by Vanguard Books-Lahore).

Delhi was captured by Lake not in 1805 (Page-11) but September 1803. The writer has supported 1st Punjab's claim (Page-30) of being the 3rd Battalion of Coastal Sepoys which in reality was the result of Lord Roberts decision to replace Madrasis with Punjabi manpower in the period 1885-1893. It is an indisputable fact that the post 1885 Punjabi manpower had nothing to do with the pre 1885 battle honours of the 2nd, 6th, 16th, 22nd and 24th Madras Native Infantry which to date they claim as their own. The men of 3rd Battalion of Coastal Sepoys were not the ancestors of the post 1885 manpower of 1st Punjab. Technically the First Punjabi claim is right but historically and ethnically no one can deny the fact that some two third of the manpower of the Madras Infantry of pre 1885 was South Indian Hindu. The 1st Punjabis should thank Lord Roberts for getting the pre 1885 Battle Honours won by a regiment which consisted of some two third Madrasi Hindus and one third Muslims of mixed ancestry. Lord Hastings tenure lasted not from 1814-23 (Page-38) but from 1813-1823 having begun from 13th October 1813 (Refers-Page-238-A Popular History of British India-W. Cooke Taylor-1854-Reprinted Mittal Publications-Delhi-1987). The assertion that the "British Government in India tried to salvage its position through swift retaliation "(Page-41) i. e teaching Afghans a lesson is incorrect. The actual happenings were as following. The British Governor General Ellenborough was irresolute and simply wanted to withdraw the Bengal and Bombay Armies from Kandahar and Jalalabad. His generals i.e. Nott and Pollock were more resolute and knew well by their experience of having Jallalabad and Kandahar successfully that the predominantly Hindu sepoys of the Bengal and Madras Armies and a smaller nucleus of British regiments could still teach the Afghans some parting lesson by once again capturing Kabul. It was resolution on part of both these indomitable generals that the British recaptured Kabul once again in Seprember 1842 and then withdrew the Bengal and Bombay Armies via the longer route i. e Kandahar-Ghazni-Kabul-Jalalabad-Khaibar. (Refers-Pages-269 and 270- A History of the British Army-Volume XII-1839-1852-Hon J. W Fortescue-Macmillan and Co Limited-London-1927 and Refers-Page-407-Cooke Taylor-Op Cit). The Governor General had initially given simple orders to withdraw from Afghanistan in May 1842. It was under military pressure that he agreed to a withdrawal after recapturing Kabul! The statement that "In January 1843 Amir Dost Mohammad returned to Kabul" (Page-41) is misleading and implies that this "Amir" was fighting some kind of war of liberation. As a matter of fact this Amir had surrendered to the East India Company's troops on 3rd November 1840 and living a comfortable life as a state prisoner with a large number of wives at Ludhiana . He was released not because of the myth in Afghanistan that he was exchanged for British prisoners (who had a matter of fact been released in 1842 by a British punitive column) but simply because Ellenborough had decided to follow a policy of good will as the Afghans had not harmed the British non combatant hostages. The British losses at Battle of Miani are described as heavy (Page-50) although they were not relatively heavy (about 62 Killed and 194 wounded) once compared to British Indian Battles of that time like Assaye, Chillianwalla etc. The writer states that there were very few all Muslim battalions in Indian Army except the three Baluch Battalions (Page-61). The Bengal Army had six All Muslim infantry Battalions in 1893 i. e the 5th, 12th, 17th, 18th, 33rd and 40th.

I was unable to find footnote one in the main text of chapter six. This probably was a printing error. The spellings of Fortescue are not "Fortesque". Delhi was garrisoned not by six infantry regiments on 11th May 1857 (Page-80) but by three i. e the 38th, 54th, and 74th Bengal Native Infantry. There were no British detachments in Delhi (Page 80) but few British ordnance personnel serving as technical staff in the magazine. Detachment in strict military terminology means a subunit in between an infantry section or platoon. The writer states that there were Bengal Army units in Sindh (Page-81). This is incorrect since there were no Bengal Army units in Sindh in 1857. The two native units i. e 14 and 21 Native Infantry were Bombay Army units. The two Bengal Army units bearing numbers 14 and 21 Bengal Native Infantry were at Peshawar and Jhelum respectively. 14 NI rebelled and was destroyed while 21 NI remained loyal, survived the rebellion and still survives as a unit of the Indian Army. Both the Bombay Army units in Sindh in 1857 however had a large number of Hindustanis and one of them i. e the 21 Native Infantry did rebel . Bengal Army was withdrawn from Sindh after 1850 and the area was a part of Bombay Presidency. Nicholson was not a captain from the British Army (Page-86) but from the private Bengal Army of the English East India Company. The term "Maratha Army" ( Page-95, 104 etc) is misleading. The Gwalior Contingent led by Tantia Topi consisted of Hindustani (Refers -The Revolt in Central India-1857-59-Intelligence Branch-Army Headquarters- Simla-1908. ) troops serving in Gwalior state and hardly had any Marathas. The only other troops that Tantia led consisted of Hindustani regiments of Bengal Army stationed in Central India or the Doab. The Sepoy Rebellion had some Maratha leaders but very few Maratha soldiers since the largely Maratha Bombay Army never rebelled.

It is incorrect that the caste basis was abolished and enrolment of Brahmins was discouraged (Page-112) in the post 1857 reorganisation . As a matter of fact there were no class basis in the companies of the pre 1857 Bengal Army and all classes were mixed in each company . On the other hand companies were recruited strictly on "One Class" or "One Caste" basis in the reorganised post 1857 Bengal Army. After 1857 more loyal than the king loyalists like Sayyid Ahmad Khan became self styled consultants on the policy of divide and rule and suggested to their British masters that the rebellion of 1857 had started because " Government certainly did put the two antagonistic races into the same regiment, but constant intercourse had done its work and the two races in a regiment had almost become one. It is but natural and to be expected, that a feeling of friendship and brotherhood must spring up between the men of a regiment, constantly brought together as they are. They consider themselves as one body and thus it was that the difference which exists between Hindoos and Mahomeddans had, in these regiments, been almost entirely smoothed away. "( Refers- Page-66-Causes of the Indian Revolt-1858-Sayyid Ahmad Khan- Written after 1857 rebellion and presented to Lord Canning the Governor General) As late as 1885 there were "caste companies" as well as companies based on "ethnic classes" or "ethnic class cum religion". Thus there were at least 25 "Hindustani Hindu Brahman Infantry Companies" in the Bengal Army out of total 352 regular infantry companies (Refers-Pages-406 & 407-A Sketch of the Services of the Bengal Army up to year 1895-Lieut F. G Cardew-Office of the Superintendent Government Printing Press-Calcutta-1903).

The assertion that the first contingent consisting of Indian troops west of Suez consisting of 126 Baluchistan Infantry in 1878 (Page-129) is also incorrect. The first Indian troops were employed west of Suez Canal was in 1801 (when the Suez Canal had not been excavated) (Refers-Pages 74 & 75-Lieut F. G Cardew-Op Cit). These consisted of troops of Bengal and Bombay Armies. There is no doubt that the first Indian VC was won by the Baluch Regiment. However the writer should have mentioned that Indians became eligible for this award only from 1911. Lettow Vorbeck complimented 11 Baluch but the odds that Lettow Vorbeck faced were a hundred time greater than any Indian British or South African troops. The readers may note that Lettow Vorbeck with just maximum 3, 500 white troops and maximum 12, 000 native troops kept at bay some 300, 000 British South African Colonial and Indian troops inflicting 15, 000 battle casualties on the allies, some 700, 000 disease casualties, one camp followers are included and a financial loss of 350 Million US Dollars finally withdrawing into Portuguese East Africa . (Refers-Pages-183 & 184-Concise History of WW ONE-Brig Vincent. J. Esposito-Pall Mall Press-London-1965) . Lettow did not surrender till the end and did so only once he heard that Germany had concluded an armistice with the allies!

The assertion that Afghanistan took advantage of the British involvement in the Great War(Page-217) and attacked British India is also incorrect. The Afghans missed the golden period in WW One once India was defended by a total of just 15, 000 British troops (Refers -Page-479-Cambridge History of India-Volume Six ) . Once they attacked the British the war was already over and the British had reinforced India. The most serious drawback of the book is the fact that exact class composition of each battalion in WW One and in the period 1919-39 has not been given.

The readers must note that errors are a natural part of any historical work. The resource starved and intellectually barren Pakistani society is not "Research friendly". Pakistani scholars cannot hire research associates like Churchill could. It is a one man show and once one man does it, it is but natural that more errors will be committed. Nevertheless the writer did a commendable job. His achievements have to be viewed in the relative dimension. What is the contribution of our senior retired officers to military writing? Nominal! In this regard General Rafi's history is a positive contribution! At least he has made a significant attempt to add something to the limited amount of analytical and factual data of Pakistani military history. I remember a letter I received from General Tirmizi in reply to a tactical paper that I had sent him. Tirmizi wrote " I have not studied the concept but I do commend your effort for taking so much pain and coming up with something thought providing". General Rafi's work is thought provoking provided it is read. What he states may not be totally convincing but it will hopefully cause some ripples and perhaps will spur some lazier minds to make another intellectual endeavour! A vain hope, but one which we must entertain! The printing is excellent and the quality of paper excellent. General Rafi has made a landmark effort in military history writing. His work has filled a serious void in Pakistani military history. We wish him best of luck with the third volume and hope he will be more forthright in dealing with Pakistani military history which has been promiscuously mixed with myths and fantasies.

A. H Amin
Reviewer


Bethany's Bookshelf

Boone's Creek
Kathryn Neff Perry
Publish America
P.O. Box 151, Frederick, MD 21705
1605631655, $19.95, www.publishamerica.com

A grandmother goes missing, and a long search is needed to find her. "Boone's Creek: Almost Home" is the novel of Jenna's quest to find her grandmother, after a terrible accident strikes her family. Desperate to set things right alongside Nikko, her beloved dog, and Joe, the only man willing to help her, "Boone's Creek" is a story of love and overcoming adversity, sure to please readers looking for some thrills mixed with their romance.

Saratoga Sunset
Charles D. Gray
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432725709, $23.95 www.outskirtspress.com 1-888-672-6657

Saratoga Sunset is an original novel told in the form of written letters. Set during the course of the 1900's in glitzy Saratoga Springs, New York - known widely as a health spa and a prime place for gambling long before Las Vegas was fully established - Saratoga Springs follows the Steele family through the generations. An absorbing saga of horses, health spas, and ordinary people driving the life of an extraordinary city, Saratoga Sunset is an exceptionally detailed saga bringing a corner of historic New England to vivid life.

A Primer of Psychology According to A Course in Miracles
Joe R. Jesseph
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Rd – 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432716738, $21.95, www.outskirtspress.com

What makes some people believe in miracles? "A Primer of Psychology According to A Course in Miracles" is a scholarly reference that gives a solid introduction to the thought system used in the 1975 psychology book "A Course in Miracles", which has been translated into eighteen different languages. Accessible to both early psychology students and non-specialist general readers, "A Primer of Psychology According to A Course in Miracles" is an informed and informative piece sure to answer many common questions, and a fine choice for community library psychology collections.

Half Girl
Stephanie Dickinson
Spuyten Duyvil
42 St. John's Place (Grdn), Brooklyn, NY 11217
1933132183, $14.00, www.spuytenduyvil.net

Leaving home is never something that goes easy. "Half Girl" follows Angelique as she is left sprung from her childhood home. Her journey is one that leaves her hitchhiking far distances, and must deal with the many twists and turns that come with living this life style as a girl in her late teens. Taking readers on an emotional roller coaster with her, "Half Girl" is a must for anyone seeking moving fiction.

Susan Bethany
Reviewer


Betty's Bookshelf

Gus and Button
Saxton Freymann and Joost Elffers
Arthur A. Levine Books
557 Broadway New York, NY 10012
9780439110150 $15.95 http://www.arthuralevinebooks.com

Once again, Saxton Freymann and Joost Elffers have proven that, if their mothers ever told them not to play with their food, they - happily for us - didn't listen. Gus, a little mushroom boy, and Button, his little mushroom dog, live with Gus's family in a boringly beige and white town made from mushrooms, right on the edge of the Howling Forest. When Gus sees a small green thing blow past the window from the direction of the forest, he decides to take Button and brave the forest, to discover where this brightly-colored thing came from.

After an adventurous trip through the scary forest, they end up in Cornucopia, a huge colorful multi-level town carved from fruits and vegetables and surrounded by fields of exotic flowering plants, also made from vegetables. Gus makes friends with the townspeople and restores the green thing to its proper home. The grateful inhabitants of Cornucopia then take Gus home, laden with flowers for planting, where the townspeople are amazed by their colors and friendly faces.

Freymann and Elffers can see faces in fruit, villains in vegetables, and mansions in mushrooms, and after you've read this book, you may never look at produce the same way again. In the back of the book, Freymann and Elffers tell how they put the pictures together and list all the produce that was photographed to make the scenes and characters throughout the book. Be sure to catch the television, the clock tower, the church bell, and the hot air balloon. This is a must-read for anyone who needs a touch of whimsy in their lives. An amusing note: the copyright for this book was taken out by Play with Your Food, LLC. Told you they didn't listen!

The Edmund Fitzgerald: Song of the Bell
Kathy-jo Wargin and Gijsbert Van Frankenhuyzen
Sleeping Bear Press
310 North Main St., Ste 300, Chelsea, MI 48118
9781585361267 $17.95 http://www.sleepingbearpress.com

Author Kathy-jo Wargin had a personal reason to write The Edmund Fitzgerald: Song of the Bell. Her dad's first cousin, Nolan Church, was the porter on that ill-fated ship, and she remembers clearly how sad her dad was when the news of the ship's sinking came. She manages to express both the excitement of the event and the sorrow of those left behind as she tells the story, making both the shipwreck and the men come alive in the process, especially the captain, Gerald McSorley.

The ship's bell holds pride of place in the story and in the back of the book, Wargin tells of how the original bell was brought up on July 4, 1995, and replaced with a replica, engraved with the names of the lost crewmen, to act as a grave marker. The original bell is now on display at the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum at Whitefish Point, Michigan, 17 miles from the location of the shipwreck. She also tells briefly in the front how the Great Lakes were carved out and filled long ago by glaciers.

Gijsbert Van Frankenhuyzen's oil paintings add atmosphere to the story and show clearly the amount of time he spent roaming around similar ships for inspiration. This book would be a good choice for a classroom or school library and could be used to start a unit on erosion, glaciers, shipping, or the Great Lakes (especially Lake Superior, where the tragedy occurred).

Betty Winslow
Reviewer


Bob's Bookshelf

The Bible of Clay
Julia Navarro
Translated by Andrew Hurley
Bantam Dell Publishing
1745 Broadway, New York, New York 10019
9780385339636 $24.00 www.randomhouse.com

Madrid based novelist Julia Navarro in her latest thriller, "The Bible of Clay" introduces readers to archaeologist Clara Tannenberg as she sets off on the most ambitious international "dig" in modern history.

The goal is to locate the fabled ancient tablets known as the Bible of Clay, which reputedly relates the story of Genesis as first told by the patriarch Abraham. A crack European team of archaeologists, thieves set on plundering the ancient world's treasures, and even a group of international criminals who wish to claim the priceless piece of history themselves make this treasure hunt an "adventure" that will keep readers breathlessly flipping the pages to see what happens next.

Ranging from the deserts of modern Iraq to the storied historical sites of ancient Mesopotamia and the seats of power across the world, "The Bible of Clay" is a tale that recasts the very foundations of modern religion.

The Eye of Jade
A Mei Wang Mystery
Diane Wei Liang
Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, New York 10020
9781416549550 $24.00 www.simonsays.com

"The Eye of Jade" by Diane Wei Liang marks the debut of a new mystery series featuring Mei Wang, the first ever female private detective in China's teeming capital.

The young woman worked at the Ministry of Public Security (China's equivalent of Scotland Yard) before she resigned under circumstances she refuses to discuss. Now, Mei Wang has set herself up as a one woman investigative firm euphemistically known as "an information consultancy".

Her first client turns out to be an old family friend who comes to her office to discuss the whereabouts of a rare piece of white jade. A royal seal from the Han Dynasty went missing from the Luoyang Museum during the Cultural Revolution when so much of the country's heritage and treasures were either destroyed in the name of Maoist zealotry or just disappeared thanks to self-serving looters.

Since another artifact "rescued" from the museum during those bleak times has recently been sold on the black market, Mei Wang's first client believes the jade seal could suffer a similar fate. Now it's up to the fledgling PI to find the missing seal before it, too, is "lost" forever.

Offering a fascinating firsthand glimpse into the three-pronged clash between China's ancient ways, its often dark Communist legacy, and its struggles to embrace free market capitalism, this impressive debut takes the reader to where few mystery writers have gone before and is chock-full of exotic characters and background material. Here's a great pre-Olympic read to set the cultural stage for what you'll soon be viewing in your family TV each evening!

South of Shiloh
Chuck Logan
HarperCollins
10 East 53rd Street, New York, New York 10022-5299
9780061136697 $24.95 www.harpercollins.com

"South of Shiloh" features a mysterious gunman targeting modern-day "soldiers" as they reenact a Civil War battle. When Paul Edin decides to participate in the recreation of the Battle of Kirby Creek, he's not expecting live ammunition nor that a bullet will end his life.

Was the single shot really intended for the Minnesota insurance agent or the Mississippi deputy sheriff standing right next to him? Edin's bereaved wife is convinced the bullet was intended for the lawman and asks an old friend and ex-cop, John Rane, to look into the slaying that was dismissed as a "tragic accident".

Rane quickly realizes he's not welcome in the community where the faux battle took place. But with the assistance of the man he believes was the intended victim, Rane launches an informal investigation that turns up a very interesting land deal and a very determined killer.

Bob Walch
Reviewer


Buhle's Bookshelf

I Know How Hard You Work
Paul Sybert
iUniverse
2021 Pine Lake Road, Suite 100, Lincoln, NE 68512
Star Treatment (publicity)
PO Box 133, Beaver Crossing, NE 68813
9780595460793, $13.95, www.iuniverse.com

Strokes can strike at almost any time, which makes them so terrifying. "I Know How Hard You Work: A Journey Through Stroke Recovery" is Paul Sybert's reflection on his own horrifying ordeal when he was faced with an ischemic stroke. He recounts his long road to recovery and hopes to offer readers hope to overcome their own strokes if they are ever unfortunate to experience it. "I Know How Hard You Work" is a must, and a gift to give to anyone who is facing this daunting task of recovery themselves.

Love and Immortality
William Pillow
iUniverse
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9780595463176, $21.95, www.iuniverse.com

If we're all destined to die, what's the purpose behind it all? William Pillow's "Love and Immortality: Long Journey of My Heart" is a practical and informative guide to overcoming the fear of death and to living life with zestful enjoyment and acceptance of the natural order. Encouraging people to find their spirit and be happy with their lives or do what it takes to be so, Pillow's message is positive and strong. An inspired and inspiring read, "Love and Immortality" is highly recommended for its encouragement to anyone who is grappling with the realization of their own mortality.

Riddle of the Atlantis Moon
Mike Breslin
Publish America
P.O. Box 151, Frederick, MD 21705
Mike Breslin Productions (publicity)
16 Butternut Avenue, Midland Park, NJ 07432
1605632309, $16.95, www.publishamerica.com

The story of Ryan and his memories continues in "Riddle of the Atlantis Moon: A Novel of Sea Adventure, Romance, & Philosophy" is the third book following 'Found at Sea' and 'Mystery of the Fjord Tide'. A story of unraveling the mysteries of Atlantis, with the blend containing rebel Irish Republican army leaders, Jersey mobsters, and more, author Mike Breslin has written a unique tale that is certain to please readers looking for originality. "Riddle of the Atlantis Moon" is a highly recommended tale for personal reading lists and community library collections.

Willis M. Buhle
Reviewer


Burroughs' Bookshelf

Unafraid
Jeff Golden
iUniverse
2021 Pine Lake Road, Suite 100, Lincoln, NE 68512
9780595471928, $18.95, www.iuniverse.com

What if is a question commonly asked, and "Unafraid: A Novel of the Possible" seeks to answer it. A look back into what history could have been had the assassin of President John F. Kennedy had failed in his mission. With a unique story playing out that uses popular icons of twentieth century politics and using their alternative history to shed new light on them and our world in real history, "Unafraid" is a novel that historical fiction fans in general will enjoy from beginning to end.

Alaskans
Tanyo Ravicz
iUniverse
2021 Pine Lake Road, Suite 100, Lincoln, NE 68512
9780595447893, $14.95, www.iuniverse.com

Living in Alaska is, in a great many ways, quite different from living anywhere else in the United States. "Alaskans" is Tanyo Ravicz's collection of short stories telling of the life in the northernmost state. Inner conflicts while facing real conflict, factory accidents, mountain climbing, and more stories throughout bring forth unique and original stories which tell the reader about Alaska as they are entertained. "Alaskans" is a sign that Ravicz is an author to look out for in the future.

One Time in Paris
Wade Stevenson
iUniverse
2021 Pine Lake Road, Suite 100, Lincoln, NE 68512
9780595486588, $16.95, www.iuniverse.com

There are times that being in love here in the real world can sometimes trump the stories of romantic fiction. "One Time in Paris: A Memoir of the 1960s" is Wade Stevenson's engaging recollection of his own past and the love he experienced with a woman called Cynthia. Ranging. Ranging from his time in an asylum, to his residence in Berkeley, to his traveling to France, Wade's personal and candid story pulls no punches. Riveting, heartbreaking, and tragic to the end, "One Time in Paris" is highly recommended reading.

Three Flies Up
Kelley Dupuis
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Rd – 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432721558, $15.95, www.outskirtspress.com

Just because you love them doesn't mean you have to like them. "Three Flies Up: My Father, Baseball, and Me" is Kelly Dupuis's reflection on his harsh relationship with his father. Baseball was the only thing they had in common and baseball was the only thing they bonded with. He recollects after he left home and returned decades later as his father is in the twilight of his life. "Three Flies Up" is a touching memoir about loving one's father even when you have little to love about them.

Mickey Mantle
Fred Glueckstein
iUniverse
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9780595469215, $15.95, www.iuniverse.com

He was a Yankee at the young age of nineteen. "Mickey Mantle: Rookie in Pinstripes" is the story baseball legend Mickey Mantle's transformation from a teenager with a serious shyness issue and a bone disorder, through the help of his father. Covering Mantle's legendary career from 1951 onward, "Mickey Mantle: Rookie in Pinstripes" tells how he became one of the most beloved players whose names are today synonymous with baseball. A highly recommended sports biography, sure to please Mickey Mantle fans and baseball enthusiasts everywhere.

John Burroughs
Reviewer


Carson's Bookshelf

For the Victims
Roger Grubbs
Privately Published
PO Box 5188, Winter Park, FL 32793
97809816680000, $11.95, www.forthevictimsnovel.com

Greed is the root of many evils in the word. "For the Victims" is the story of several individuals faced with the growing power of corporate America. Faced with the injustice of their disregard for the innocent, Daniel, Maria, Catherine, and Nicole must stand against a corporation for what they believe in. A deftly written novel, "For the Victims" is a classic tale of good and evil, sure to please its readers.

Outer Darkness
Bart Brevik
Privately Published
9780615165370, $21.98

A satanic cult is out to destroy a man of God's life in "Outer Darkness". A spiraling story by author Bart Brevik, this is the suspenseful story Pastor DiMario and his desire to protect his family. When DiMario's daughter is kidnapped, he has no idea what to do and may be forced to do things that his Lord would frown upon to defend the ones he loves from a sadistic group of people who out to destroy him. "Outer Darkness" is a gripping thriller, highly recommended for fans who love to be on the edge of their seat with a 'page turner' of a truly good book.

Ride for Justice
John Harte
iUniverse
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
Star Treatment (publicity)
PO Box 133, Beaver Crossing, NE 68313
9780595458974, $17.95, www.iuniverse.com

The many participants in the civil war participated for many different reasons. "Ride for Justice" is a telling of these reasons. It follows one Tom, fighting sheerly out of duty and honor. It follows Jamie, one who only wants to gain glory. It follows Jack, who fights for justice. Three stories, different yet similar at the same time outline the novel, making "Ride for Justice" a highly recommended historical and western piece of fiction.

The Extraordinary Pupfish of Calaveras County
Joel Schwartz
iUniverse
2021 Pine Lake Road, Suite 100, Lincoln, NE 68512
9780595492602, $15.95, www.iuniverse.com

People are never what they are made out to be. "The Extraordinary Pupfish of Calaveras County" is a story with two unique view points. One follows Jeremy McGinnis, a fifteen-year-old whose reputation is overblown as a hero when he helps an old man suffering from an asthma attack. The other follows Eliza Hewlie, a sixty-five-year-old faced with a decision that could wreak havoc on the town's environment. "The Extraordinary Pupfish of Calaveras County" seems unusual in set up, but the execution is thoroughly entertaining, leading it to a recommendation.

Michael J. Carson
Reviewer


Cheri's Bookshelf

The Falcon and the Sparrow
M. L. Tyndall
Barbour Publishing Inc
PO Box 719 Uhrichsville, Ohio 44683
9781602600126 $10.97 www.barbourbooks.com

Dominique Dawson and her brother Marcel are alone in the world. They had wealth, title and prestige that is until their parents died and they are left to live off the streets alone. That is until their distant cousin Lucien, who holds a respectable position under Napoleon Bonaparte reaches out and offers to care for the two. Having no other choice they agree.

Now Dominique finds herself on her way back to England to be governess to Admiral Randal to care for his young son William. But unknown to the Randals as to her true purpose she is to steal information or spy for France to obtain documents that can be used to defeat the royal navy of the British. Dominique wonders if she's doing God's will but knows she must save her brother since Lucien promises to kill Marcel if Dominique does not deliver.

From the very start Chase Randal is taken by the chestnut haired beauty even though he thought never to love again after his beloved wife Melody passed away. Chase's sister filled with bitterness sets out to destroy Dominique and to prove all French women are trouble.

Dominique knows time is running out but can she reach the Randal household and bring them back to God? Can she hold off the advances of Chase's friends? And what of the love that grows for Chase despite her resistance and him for her, how can she accomplish her task and not break his heart only time will tell.

What an awesome tale of deceit, loyalty, history and love! Author M. L. Tyndall has created a fantastic novel that takes place before Napoleon's rampage on Europe. An energizing tale that will have your heart racing as you find yourself wrapped up in Dominique's character as she tries to fit into the Randal household and as she sneaks out at night to meet the Frenchmen that hold her brother captive. Tyndall has an amazing way of bringing her characters to life as she slips you back in time that you find yourself wondering if the story is true as the facts, scripture and all aspects of the novel are extremely accurate. So sit back and enjoy this tantalizing tale that you won't soon forget!

The Other Side of Darkness
Melody Carlson
Multnomah Books a division of Random House
12265 Oracle Boulevard Suite 200 Colorado Springs, Colorado 80921
9781400070817 $13.99 www.randomhouse.com/waterbrook

Ruth grew up hearing the words "it's not good enough" as she grew older she became convinced it was true. Now married to Rick and has two daughters Sarah and Mary and son Matthew. The family attends church at Valley Bridge Fellowship where the girls now attend school. But strange things are happening. Pastor Glenn has started some strange teachings about watching out for demons, that they must always be fearful and on guard.

Ruth prays and prays determined that it is her responsibility to keep her family safe. Always feeling contaminated her hands and body are raw from frequent "cleansings" to remove the filth and sin. Matthew begins drinking which after a fight with Ruth moves out. Pastor Glenn is fired from the church and starts a new church New Fire which continues the same teachings. Rumors circulate about Pastor Glenn having an affair but Ruth will not believe them. Her best friend and her family move out of town. And Ruth begins attending New Fire with her two young daughters where Pastor Glenn now preaches. Rick after attending one service refuses to go back and does not want his daughters exposed any longer to that teaching. But Rick works nights and Sundays he likes to sleep in.

Ruth begins to spend more and more time away from home attending prayer meetings with Pastor Glenn now known as Brother Glenn and his pastor friend Bonte. The teachings have Ruth fearful and even her girls believe they see demons everywhere. The women convince Ruth during a deliverance prayer that she was molested by her father as a young girl which drives her further from her mother and sisters and after another deliverance prayer convinces her that Rick is having an affair and is molesting the girls. Ruth prays all the harder convince that it's her fault that she's not praying enough to keep the demons away.

Author Melody Carlson has another hit on her hands! In this awesome page turner you'll find yourself wrapped up in the characters as the pain, heartache and lies become real. This novel reads more like a work of nonfiction than fiction but will keep you on the edge of your seat. Perfect for a reader's group this book even contains a reader's group guide in the back of the book. Believe this reviewer this one will have you questioning your own sanity!

The Grand Scheme
Phantom Hollow Book Three
Kathy Herman
Multnomah Books a division of Random House
12265 Oracle Boulevard Suite 200 Colorado Springs, Colorado 80921
9781590529232 $13.99 www.randomhouse.com/waterbrook

Ivy, Rue and Montana Kessler feel their lives have finally come together. The pain of their pasts behind them and the future looks bright ahead. Forgiveness and acceptance has been overwhelming for both as they begin their new lives together. With a temporary home at the camp that Ivy's parents own, also Rue's father-in-law hires him as the new construction supervisor and a beautiful twenty-five acres of land that was a wedding present from Ivy's parents where Rue has been building their dream house.

Than the trouble begins an environmental group called S.A.G.E. seems out to destroy the retirement village that Elam (Ivy's dad) and Rue are building. Than threats and attacks begin against the leader of S.A.G.E. Than Rue and Ivy are personally attacked after Elam's barn is burned down. The Sheriff Flint is at a loss as to who is really behind the attacks and calls in the FBI to help. Can the attacker or attackers be stopped before someone is injured or worse?

Ivy's brother Rusty moves back to Phantom Hollow and all he has is anger towards Rue, Ivy and Montana. He won't let the past go and is determined to have nothing to do with them and all are at a loss as to why he's carrying so much anger.

What an awesome tale of suspense and intrigue! The God-teaching is awesome too – learn about envy, forgiveness, mercy and grace. Author Kathy Herman is amazing at bringing her characters to life. You can't help but laugh and cry along with the people in Phantom Hollow. Hang on because this one will have you in suspense from page one till the end and will stay with you long after the story ends.

When The Soul Mends: Sisters of the Quilt Book Three
Cindy Woodsmall
WaterBrook Press
a division of Random house
12265 Oracle Boulevard Suite 200 Colorado Springs, Colorado 80921
9781400072941 $13.99 www.waterbrookpress.com

Hannah Lapp left the Old Order Amish community years ago in disgrace as no one would believe what happened to her. She now lives in the Englischer world engaged to Martin Palmer and helping to raise his niece and nephew after their mother ran out on them. Than out of nowhere Hannah receives a strange phone call from her sister Sarah. Not wanting to return Hannah feels she has no choice – her sister needs her.

In returning to Owl's Perch old wounds are reopened. The community seems split as to who will speak to her and who won't. She finds she's not even welcomed in her own father's home. The hardest part is being pulled between the Englischer world with Martin and old feelings that are resurfacing with her ex-fiance Paul Waddell. Will she return to the Englischer world and Martin or to the Old Order Amish and Paul? Time will tell as truth and hurts abound on both sides.

What an awesome tale of love and forgiveness! This novel will capture your heart from page one. Author Cindy Woodsmall has a way of bringing her characters to life in this third book of the "Sisters of the Quilt" series. From beginning to end and long after this heartwarming tale will stay with you. See what God can do in the hearts of Woodsmall's characters as they become a part of your life and heart.

Cheri Clay
Reviewer


Christy's Bookshelf

Embrace the Whirlwind
Laurel-Rain Snow
Book Surge
9781419660757 $17.99

Abused at a young age by her mother's boyfriend, Amber Cushing has lived a chaotic life, leaving home at an early age, wandering from job to job, using drugs, and working for a short time as a prostitute. Amber harbors resentment toward her mother because of the abuse and keeps her mother and grandmother at a distance, sporadically interacting with them. When she discovers she's pregnant, Amber begins a long journey to find herself and make some sense of where her place is in the world. But Amber's journey is filled with diversions and only when she comes under the gentle guidance of a former social worker who runs a boarding house does Amber begin to understand who she is and what she needs to do to have a happy, successful life.

The author, a retired social worker, offers much insight into the dynamics within families and the pressures young women face as they make their choices in today's world. Snow provides a compelling read, filled with characters revealed in great depth that readers will easily identify with, enfolded within a powerful, edifying plot. Her skill as a writer serves to enhance the important message she delivers with this wonderful story.

Flavored with Love
Jane Riley
Blue Moon Books
207 N. Service Rd E #213, Ruston, LA 71270
0974191221 $22.97

Flavored with Love is much more than the quintessential cookbook, offering its readers wonderful, heartwarming tales about the people whose recipes are included within. There's plenty of advice offered about the best ways to prepare food (including how to make pork sausage), along with recipes that made this reviewer's mouth water. But this cookbook doesn't limit itself to Southern recipes, there's a vast assortment of cuisine presented, from Italian recipes to Thai, and everything in between. Recommended for every kitchen.

In the Shadows of Chimney Rock
Rose Senehi
Ingalls Publishing Group
197 New Market Center #135, Boone, NC 28607
9781932158830 $15.95 www.ingallspublishinggroup.com

Hayden Taylor Parks' life has been in turmoil since the death of her child and subsequent estrangement from her husband. Hayden grew up never having known her father and is shocked to learn that he only recently passed away. In an attempt to learn more about her father, Hayden moves to his home in Chimney Rock, NC and takes over the art gallery he owned while trying to decide what to do with the 400-acre tract of land she inherited from him. Ben Beckham is a former pro football player who recently lost his wife. After taking a position with Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy, Ben meets with Hayden in an effort to persuade her not to turn the land over to developers. The two become friends and are drawn to one another, but neither feels ready to make the first move. While going through her father's things, Hayden discovers evidence that he may have been involved in illegal activity. In an effort to redeem his reputation, she unknowingly places her life and the disposition of her father's land in danger.

Rose Senehi draws her readers into the majestic expanse of the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina, creating a powerful story about one woman's journey to overcome grief and tragedy and begin a new life. Senehi's knowledge of the region shines through in vivid detail, with colorful descriptive and instructive geographical data. Her gentle nudge regarding conserving this magnificent area is well understood and appreciated. Characters are well-developed and the plot engaging and suspenseful. Highly recommended.

The Collard Patch
Mary Lou Cheatham and Paul Elliott
Blue Moon Books
207 N. Service Rd. E. #213, Ruston, LA 71270
097419123X $22.97

One wouldn't think collards would be such an interesting subject, but this cookbook is filled with plenty of fascinating facts, including a detailed description of this vegetable and its amazing health factors, the best way to grow them, how to treat infestations, how to harvest them, and on to the best way to cook them. All this followed by recipes that look to be not only delicious but nutritional. Included in the book are Southern anecdotes which are entertaining and will be appreciated by all. A valuable cookbook for any kitchen, Southern or not.

Christy Tillery French
Reviewer


Clark's Bookshelf

The Map Thief
Heather Terrell
Ballantine Books
New York
9780345494689 $25.00

This is an extremely well written novel by Heather Terrell, a practicing attorney, which is suspenseful, mysterious, and historically accurate. Heather uses a ploy which is artfully arranged into sequences, the chapters, so that they traverse the centuries from 1420, 1498, and 2008. Constantly moving forward in the quest to find a stolen Chinese map Mara Coyne, the heroine, travels the globe as you sit beside her while she unravels the mystery of the world chart. While Mara does this, others many years in the past, journey a route designing the diagram she pursues.

She has been hired to retrieve this ancient priceless artifact recently discovered and then stolen. Her sponsor is a financier who she knew from her past. Mara Coyne owns a company which retrieves ancient documents and returns them to their rightful owners. With a demonstrated ability to be successful in this endeavor, she has staff members among who is an ex-FBI agent. He provides vital information by cell phone which enables her to be one step ahead of her adversaries.

Accurate in the smallest detail, the names of historical figures and their positions in history are woven into this astonishing account of Muslim and Christian history as they were in the Ming Dynasty and beyond. Terrell's research into The Knights Templar and The Order of Christ was extensive. Even the descriptions of the buildings in Tomar, Portugal where these orders were housed and where Mara Coyne explored, were so real, you felt as though you were traipsing up and down the stairways with her.

As history unfolds from the ancient past, the tale weaves itself to the present. Each time you go back to the two separate periods of time of 1420 and 1498, the transition to the present is clearly woven into the fabric of today so the perils facing Mara and her companion Ben are understood.

One of the main things that I liked about this book was the clever use of descriptive language. Where Terrell could have said 'they drove onto a new highway' she chose to say, "They shifted onto a new highway …" conveying a shift vehicle was being driven by Mara. Other nuances abound throughout the book and are very entertaining.

Deception, intrigue, and treachery at every turn keep the main characters high stepping throughout this adventure. Even the historical references are fraught with these same elements tying together past and present. A surprise ending which catches everyone off guard, including our heroine, is the culmination in this fine book. This is a must read and one that will keep you thoroughly entertained, as you watch the Olympics and want to learn more about China.

The Book of Lies
Brad Meltzer
Grand Central Publishing
9780446577885 $25.99

'Look it's a bird; no, it's a plane; no, it's Superman!' Yes, old time radio and comic book fans, he is back! As an underlying hero in the new book by the New York Times # 1 best selling author Brad Metzler (Book of Fate). Superman is cast in the role of 2nd banana, the one who really is not the star, but plays an important role. The real hero of this book is Cal Harper, a disgraced government agent, who now aids the homeless in South Florida as his self inflicted penitence. He tries to rescue them from the perils of the streets and themselves by working in a homeless shelter.

Cal moves quickly into heinous plots which connect him with his father (Lloyd) who has been away from him for 19 years. There are many villains in this mystery who search out a totem which dates back to the Nazi era of 1932 and Siegel family secrets of an even earlier time. We learn from this book some of the underlying motivation which helped Jerry Siegel in his creation of Superman, part of which was the bizarre death of his father and the need to have a man of steel who could have lived beyond a heart attack or being shot.

Cain killing Abel is wrapped up as a central theme which ties all of the players together. Each is seeking how Cain slew his brother. Was this the first murder weapon ever used? A religious sect believes that this totem may be the secret to immortality. Cal and Lloyd travel from the warmth of South Florida to the Siegel home in Cleveland, Ohio seeking clues to resolve the mystery where this deadly weapon might be hidden. Facing the shivering cold, they trudge through snow, visit library archives, climb into concealed attic spaces, and are hounded by a relentless Federal Agent who believes the father and son are the bad guys.

Books which finish without tying all the loose ends together really annoy me, but 'Lies' binds together all of these events extremely well and you do not feel let down. The important thing to remember when reading Meltzer's novel is that it is a combination of fact and fiction! A must read and highly recommended.

The Wonder Singer
George Rabasa
Unbridled Books
9781932961560 $24.95

Eccentrics are created by environment and education, very similar to the formation of an Intelligence Quotient. George Rabasa's The Wonder Singer is an exploration of the life in the development of a diva. The glimpse into her discovery, training, and childhood as told by her to the 'scribbler' Mark Lockwood is an in depth analysis of how people get to be who they are. As a retired artiste, the diva, now in her later years, listens to her operatic recordings and reminisces on how life used to be as she tells her story to a tape recorder. Sadly, she tells of being abandoned by her father, after he lost her in a poker game! Fortune had come her way and the peacock which graces the cover the book had been one of two which she had kept as pets.

Merce Casals is recorded by Lockwood on hundreds of cassettes as they met daily to develop an autobiography intended to tell the world about her 80 plus years of accomplishments as an opera star. Then, as they come near the finale of her story, she dies in her bath! A mad scramble ensues as Perla the nurse and Mark the 'scribbler' evade a renowned celebrity biographer so they can bring their own book to the public based upon the tapes, first. While this madcap adventure unfolds, enters Nolan Keefe, the diva's husband, who Mark and Perla take under their wings to rescue from a retirement home. Mix into this kettle a female impersonator, who professes to be the diva's greatest fan. Thus, evolves a novel which is fun, serious, and akin to a comic opera!

A wonder of a book within a book; this saga of the writer and his subject tells the story through the eyes of the diva before she became famous. After her recognition as a truly great star, she tells of the many appearances and acclaim she has received throughout her career. Fame which fades and also that which is anticipated by the 'scribbler', are the elements which make this a wonderful read and one worth your time. The Wonder Singer is highly recommended and is another accomplishment of George Rabasa who wrote award winning Floating Kingdom and The Cleansing.

Supreme Courtship
Christopher Buckley
Twelve
an imprint of Grand Central Publishing.
9780446579827 $24.99

The title of this book should have been "Judge Judy Goes A Courting!" Supreme Courtship by Christopher Buckley, author of The New York Times Bestseller Boomsday, is a wonderful novel about the rise of Pepper Cartwright a television Judge, who has been a star on Courtroom Six with astronomical ratings for seven years who now has been called upon to serve her country as a Supreme Court Justice by none other than the President himself. Two other nominees presented to the Senate Judiciary Committee had been turned down by Chairman Mitchell as he had wanted the job and was refused by President Vanderamp. Buckley's use of strange names for his characters is amusing, but confusing. It was a little hard to keep them straight even after consciously trying to do so. Another shortcoming was the use of language by Buckley. His word choice kept me hopping back and forth to the dictionary to understand what he meant.

Many times I was laughing out loud (LOL for you computer nerds) as I paged through the ever entangling interaction between the characters. Pepper was an apt name for this fiery spit ball who could have been a rodeo queen. Texans have their own choice words and phrases when it comes to their rodeos and you will not have difficulty becoming a Texas enthusiast to cowboy up!

What really makes this book fun is the pace at which it moves along through the selection process and eventual seating on the court by the heroine. Cartwright makes her presence known to the other members of the court on the first day she is on the bench. She has the uncanny ability to tell it like she feels, even if she twists the tail on a bull. These nuances make the book into an excellent story which has a happy ending in a fun loving novel, even though it was written by a Yankee! I highly recommend this work of fiction to Washington lawyers as they will certainly appreciate the turmoil in the judicial system. All others will have a good humorous read.

Clark Isaacs
Reviewer


Daniel's Bookshelf

The Sleeping Doll
Jeffery Deaver
Simon & Schuster
Rockefeller Center
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9780743491587 $9.99 http://resources.simonsays.com

Jeffery Deaver's debut of female Special Agent Kathryn Dance. It continues Deaver's signature hairpin turns with his plotting and the beat-the-clock pacing. The reader uncovers the surprises along with a great storyteller bringing his craft to the pages with clever detective crime fiction. Kathryn Dance must find an escaped convict who was sent to prison for the brutal murders of a Croyton family in Carmel years earlier. Plot twists reveal some sloppy work by the Killer named Daniel Pell and his cult members reminiscent of the Charles Manson in the 1960s. They left a survivor in the Croyton house. Kathryn sees a chance to interrogate Pell and learn more about his recent murder and hopefully to gain information about this depraved mind of this career criminal. Pell manages to escape a short time after the interrogation. The chase begins, and Dance must try and stop him from more acts of murder.

Jeffery Deaver is the number one internationally bestselling author of twenty-three suspense novels including Lincoln Rhyme and Amelia Sachs with one being made into a major film starring Denzel Washington and Angelina Jolie entitled The Bone Collector. His other one made in a HBO movie starring James Garner based on his novel A Maiden's Grave. His latest novel is out in stores named The Broken Window with Lincoln Rhymes and Amelia Sachs.

I first picked up A Maiden's Grave and from that time-line, I have included going back and reading Deaver's earlier novels. I have continued waiting and reading on with each new novel since that time. His Twisted Collected Short Stories Vol. I and Vol. II have been a nice change to read some more good shorter versions of his work. I have enjoyed his writings entertaining me in the detective genre, and the creative minds of his characters who keep informed on the details of how the crime is uncovered while being solved. The Broken Window returns me back to familiar characters and more of Deaver who seems to dazzle me with fine police work fiction. Many entertaining days and nights of reading a well-crafted story by one who is a master.

The Overlook
Michael Connelly
Vision
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780446401302 $7.99 www.HachetteBookGroupUSA.com 212-364-1200

I really enjoyed this fast pace modern crime story from Michael Connelly, and I have been reading his work for years. I recall one of his novels named Blood Work being made into a movie directed by Clint Eastwood. Michael's novels have creditable plots, excellent storytelling and most intriguing characters to enhance the read for fans of mystery and crime fiction.

Harry Bosch a member of the LA Homicide Special Squad that's purpose was to handle cases that might be long running ones. Harry is notified a case of a doctor is found shot twice in the back of the head. Other plot developments require the FBI to join the case to assist Harry. Harry follows his own instincts and the search for the truth to reveal a killer who could destroy an entire city. Connolly offers a lean mean story that is wound tight and intricate with plot twists. I believe his readers will be anticipating his next effort with eagerness.

Michael Connolly was a former journalist and an author eighteen bestselling books, including Harry Rosch novels and others including Bloodline, The Lincoln Lawyer, Chasing the Dime, Void Moon, and the Poet. His one Nonfiction book was entitled Crime Beat: A Decade of Covering Cops and Killers. He has won numerous awards, for his journalism, as well as the Edgar Award, A Nero Wolfe prize, a Macavity Award, and an Anthony Award for his books.

Michael Connolly is a first rate storyteller, and I patiently await his next effort knowing I have read one author that has been compared to Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett. He is the master of the modern times crime detective genre where Connolly brings to mind the likes of Phillip Marlowe or Sam Spade from the past. I believe he has outdone those writers. The benchmark was needed to move another notch upward to capture the attention of his quick attentive readers .

Daniel Allen
Reviewer


Debra's Bookshelf

Fisherman's Bend
Linda Greenlaw
Hyperion
9781401322359 $24.95

Fisherman's Bend is the second installment in Linda Greenlaw's series featuring Jane Bunker, who's newly arrived from Miami to the coastal town of Green Haven, Maine. (See my review of Slipknot, the first book in Greenlaw's series.) This time out Jane's wearing two hats, supplementing her work as a marine insurance investigator with a new gig as the town's deputy sheriff. A routine investigation for the insurance company into some smashed equipment aboard a research vessel involves Jane in more serious crimes--a missing person case, a fatal drug overdose, and attempted murder. Jane's laconic sidekick and father figure Cal has been co-opted into serving as Jane's chauffeur--by boat or car depending on the requirements of the day. The tattooed and pierced Audrey, who presides over the local diner like a tyrant at court, is back serving up sass and below-parvictuals. But the love interest Jane was cultivating in book one has exited the stage, leaving Jane on the lookout for another catch.

Greenlaw's latest mystery is a decent read: the plot is interesting, and the characters remain likable enough that one wants to read more in the series--and Audrey is in fact toned down from her first timeout, which is a marked improvement. Greenlaw's writing is mostly transparent: you don't notice it for good or ill, except to note that the author's familiarity with things nautical is apparent on every page.

The Otherworldies
Jennifer Anne Kogler
Eos (Harper Collins Children's)
9780060739591 $16.99

Twelve-year-old Fern McAllister is weird enough that she's the regular target of bullies at her over-strict private school, St. Gregory's. Unlike her twin brother and faithful confidante Sam, Fern is pale-eyed and unusually sensitive to sunlight: her skin can blister after just a few minutes of exposure. And it doesn't help that she talks to her dog and climbs trees to escape the other students during recess. As it turns out, Fern is stranger than even her tormenters' can have imagined. Early in Jennifer Anne Kogler's The Otherworldies, Fern finds herself teleporting involuntarily out of a boring English class to a beach miles away. It's the first bizarre event in a long series of them, and the start of Fern's education into her true nature. Fern is, as the book's title suggests, an "Otherworldy"--or, as the less politically correct among us would have it, a vampire.

Readers will recognize a familiar motif in Kogler's plot: an underdog protagonist who does not quite belong in their current surroundings (think Oedipus or Paris of Troy or Harry Potter) comes to discover that he or she is heir to a kingdom or possesses extraordinary powers. The plot is appealing because we want the underdog to prevail. We are certainly rooting for Fern in the early chapters of Kogler's book, when she is at the mercy of her tween persecutors. When Fern comes more fully into her powers and the story shifts from the familiar drama of middle school to the secret halls of the Vampire Alliance Headquarters, things become less interesting and the story drags. Real human drama gives way to a litany of the strange beasties and other things that mortals are unaware exist: centaurs and cyclops and bushes that can be used for remote eavesdropping.

In the alternative universe Kogler creates, vampires exist alongside but hidden from the mortal world. But their community is riven by a schism between good and evil branches--a fight in which Fern will have an important role to play. (Cf. the division between good wizards and Death Eaters in the Harry Potter books.) The vamps are descendants of Zeus, and Kogler weaves Greek mythology through her story to a degree. The universe of the book is interesting enough on paper, but it doesn't appeal or feel as real as, say, the Potter-verse or the world created by Joss Whedon for Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It is not, that is, a place that I'm itching to get back to. But I did enjoy Kogler's story when Fern was wrestling more with her strangeness. I would that the mystery of her otherness had not been resolved quite so quickly.

Hooked
Matt Richtel
Twelve
9780446698917 $13.99

The opening scene of Matt Richtel's Hooked is downright gripping: journalist Nathaniel Idle, reading Mystic River in an internet cafe, is handed a note by a mysterious blonde. He follows her outside, loses her, and only then unfolds the paper. It's a warning to leave the cafe. Behind him, the building explodes. The explosion of course triggers a police investigation, and Nat's departure from the building immediately before it blew up makes him an obvious suspect. But that's just the beginning of Nat's problems. He's driven to investigate the explosion himself to find out why he was spared, and to find the person who spared him: he recognized the writing on the note, but the writer can't be who he thinks it is. Nat's investigation leads him to re-examine an old relationship--a year-long affair that ended with his girlfriend's death. In the process, he finds that his connection to the cafe explosion is far deeper and more complex than he could have supposed.

Richtel's debut novel is cutting edge in that he's exploring the darker side of the digital revolution--modern concerns about internet addiction and invasive advertising and the melding of virtual and "meat space" realities are here blown up into a paranoid fantasy. (It's topical, yes, but some of the same issues were explored at least as early as the 1970's, in a memorable Columbo episode. The topic has just been updated to the digital age.)

The book's mystery is compelling, but when Nat begins unravelling the truth things get confusing and hard to follow. Indeed, the more I think about the book's plot, the more questions about its credibility come to mind, starting with the logistics of that initial explosion and the warning passed to Nat. (Nat's presence at the cafe cannot have been predicted. And the trigger mechanism of the bomb was far from reliable. So when exactly was that note prepared?) I'm left unable to explain as completely as I'd like what led up to the cafe explosion, and why it had to happen. But the fault may be mine. Give the book a read and see for yourself.

The Tarnished Eye
Judith Guest
Pocket Books
9780743486156 $6.99

The principal crime under investigation in Judith Guest's 2004 police procedural is a gruesome mass murder: a family of six is found slaughtered in their vacation home, deep in the woods of a sleepy Michigan town. The discovery of the bodies is preceded by a number of chapters introducing the family--Edward, the type A executive, who runs his family like a business; his wife and children responding to the pressure of his obsession with control in various ways. We also meet Hugh DeWitt, competent small-town sheriff and family man, whose world view has been darkened by the death of his only son in infancy. The novel follows the sheriff's investigation as he interviews anyone who knew the reclusive family, both in his own precinct and in Ann Arbor, where Edward worked and his family lived most of the year. Unfortunately, help from the big city police department is hard to come by since the city is dealing with sensational crimes of its own, a string of women found raped and murdered.

It's hard to say why Guest's book works so well. It doesn't call attention to itself. The writing is smooth but transparent. The plot isn't gasp-inducing, and yet I couldn't stop reading. Somehow, Guest makes writing look easy. Reading the book, it's clear that you're in the hands of an author who has complete control of the story. Give this one a whirl: it won't take you long!

The Hell You Say
Josh Lanyon
MLR Press, LLC
3052 Gaines Waterport Rd, Albion, NY 14411
1934531014 $16.99

The Hell You Say is Josh Lanyon's third Adrien English mystery, and unfortunately the first I've read: I'll be happy to catch up on the first books in the series (A Dangerous Thing and Fatal Shadows) if they're as good as this one. Adrien, in his early 30s, is the proprietor of Cloak and Dagger Books, which as its name suggests specializes in mysteries. Adrien writes mysteries himself that are published by a "lunatic fringe publishing house": his protagonist is a gay Shakespearian actor turned amateur sleuth. Adrien is gay himself, with a very closeted detective boyfriend, and like any good amateur sleuth he tends to fall into real-life mysteries more often than most. He also has trouble keeping employees: in an earlier outing Adrien's clerk was killed. This time around the dead clerk's replacement, Angus, is being harassed by Satanists. Over his boyfriend's objections, Adrien gets involved with the LA occult scene while trying to sniff out who's behind Angus's persecution and a handful of recent murders that just may be related.

Lanyon's book is simply a great cozy. Adrien is a complex and likable character who's plagued by an unsatisfactory relationship and by familial entanglements wrought by his mother's recent decision to remarry. The writing is clever:

"I followed her through the immaculate and beautifully decorated foyer into an immaculate and beautifully decorated living room through an immaculate and beautifully decorated dining room into a less immaculate but still beautifully decorated family room, which adjoined a kitchen that was full of girls. It sounded like an aviary. Or possibly a hen house.

"Actually it was only Lauren and Natalie.

"'Hi, Adrien!' they chorused.

"Did they all live here?

"'Hey there,' I said. I could not for the life of me figure out why they were all beaming at me with the delight of Aztec priests at the arrival of a well-nourished youth. What did they imagine this bonding ritual entailed?"

But the cleverness doesn't get out of hand. That is, it's never too much (a la Jasper Fforde's over-clever books). The mystery holds together perfectly. In short, there isn't a false note in the book.

Surprisingly, The Hell You Say was initially self-published via iUniverse (this is the copy I have; it's possible that the text has been revised since for re-publication), but I'm happy to say that all the books in the series have been picked up by MLR Press, a publisher of gay fiction and erotic romance with (according to the publisher's web site) a "high level of sensuality and raw passion." Hopefully the book won't be pigeon-holed as gay lit and thus lose out on attracting a larger audience. There's nothing particularly erotic in the book, certainly no raw passion. It's simply a very well written cozy whose protagonist happens to be gay, with a sex life not much juicier than Jessica Fletcher's.

A fourth Adrien English mystery, Death of a Pirate King, is due out in September of 2008.

Of Farming & Classics
David Grene
University of Chicago Press
9780226308029 $16.00 169 pages

The title of David Grene's autobiography reflects the twin passions of his life. He was (I betray the source of my own familiarity with him by giving this half of his life pride of place) a classicist who spent nearly all of his career at the University of Chicago. He is perhaps best known as the co-editor of Chicago series of complete Greek tragedies, but he is widely published otherwise. I will always think of him primarily for his translation of Herodotus, published in 1988: I'm wearing out the second copy of the book that I've owned. Grene divided his time between teaching and farming. He grew up in Ireland but bought his first farm in Lemont, Illinois, in 1940. In later decades he divided his year between Chicago and a farm he owned in Ireland.

Grene wrote his memoirs between 1993 and 2002. He died on September 10th of the latter year. The resulting book is brief, but rich in subject matter. Grene writes about his family's origins and the influence on his life and the peculiarities of his Aunt Mary; he discusses the architecture and ambience of the Dublin of his youth and the theater--for which he felt a great affection--and various stages of his professional career (including his thoughts about classical pedagogy).

On the farming side of things, Grene writes about his experiences working as a boy on his cousins' farm in Tipperary.

"That spring there were twenty men employed in Grenepark; the farm was and is over four hundred acres, and very little mechanization was then to be had and almost no system of contracting. Today I doubt if it needs more than five or six men to run it. The laborers in 1929 had, for years, earned twenty-five shillings a week--one pound five. ...Nicholas decided that, at the rate he was paying, the place would go bankrupt. So he did a most unusual thing then; he called the men together, explained the situation, and told them that if they could all take ten shillings he'd be very glad to keep them. The alternative was to reduce the total staff to ten men at a pound a week. They were to decide. They unanimously decided to take the cut and stay."

And he reminisces about farming in the Midwest in the 1940s, a discussion which leads to his discussing some of the characters he knew during the period. Among these was a certain Louis Jacobs, a Lithuanian Jew who'd emigrated to America in 1910:

"He had a little house in town and was himself funny and appealing in a very special sort of way. There was a convent in Lemont with a farm run by nuns with some male help, and they used Louis to do their trucking. He told me one day that Mother Superior had spoken to him and said, 'Mr. Jacobs, I saw you last week trucking stock on a Sunday and that isn't right.' 'No,' said Louis, 'but you know, Sister, that isn't my Sabbath.' 'Ah, but Mr. Jacobs, I saw you trucking livestock on the day before.'"

Grene returns repeatedly in the book to twin themes, the joy to be had from--the rightness of--working a small farm, and the inherent benefit of the bond that develops between man and animal when working a farm.

Grene comes across in these pages as an extraordinary man whose great intellect was coupled with humility and wide-ranging curiosity. His writing is dense, but precise and thoughtful, as if each sentence was polished until it carried its burden of meaning as perfectly as possible. It is an old-fashioned sort of writing, perhaps, but then Mr. Grene lived an old-fashioned sort of life.

Rabasa, George: The Wonder Singer
The Wonder Singer
George Rabasa
Unbridled Books
9781932961560 $25.95

Forty-year-old Mark Lockwood has been commissioned to ghostwrite the autobiography of Senora Merce Casals, diva. For six hours a day he and the Senora, once the world's greatest soprano, talk--she reliving her roles as Norma and Aida and Violetta. She relives the rest of her life as well, singing on her father's cue in bars and hostels, the stranger her father handed her off to, the Spanish Civil War, the men in her life who claimed her and used her and loved her. But after 500 hours of conversation recorded on the precarious snakes of tape spooled in a suitcase's worth of cassettes, Lockwood's diva up and dies, her 80-something body floating "pale, blubberous and opalescent in her bath." The fate of Lockwood's book, given her death, is now up in the air. Lockwood was the right man for the job while the Senora was alive, but with her death his agent wants a bigger name, a bestselling author, someone who can churn out a doorstep-sized biography that will grace the supermarket aisles. He's ready to ditch Lockwood with a fat kill fee. But Lockwood has the tapes, without which the book project--like the diva herself--is pretty much dead in the water. Now obsessed with the diva and with his book, Lockwood grabs the tapes and runs.

In The Wonder Singer Rabasa tells the intertwined stories of Lockwood and Senora Casals, his narrative slipping back and forth from what's going on in the narrative present to Lockwood's interviews with the diva to chapters taken from the manuscript he's writing. He's working feverishly, writing 8-12 hours a day and listening to the tapes even while he sleeps, ignoring phone calls and running from his agent's goons, destroying his marriage. But mostly Rabasa's story is about the diva, her life told in her voice in great detail so that she comes alive, a believable character.

In parts Rabasa's book shines, but it goes on overlong and can drag. Some parts of the plot are hard to believe--the extent of Lockwood's obsession, for one; Casals' husband announcing his latest conquest by holding aloft her purple underwear in a crowded Mexican dance hall. More hard to believe is the dialogue, which is too perfect to be credible. Toward the end of the book Lockwood's wife draws attention to this very problem:

"It's weird the way you start talking like a writer."

"As opposed to talking like a plumber?"

"You know what I mean. Like you don't really care whether anyone is listening or thinking that you're making sense, as long as the words resonate in your own head."

She's responding to a speech of his which reads in part:

"You could look at the bottom of the pot and analyze the sediment of those ten thousand brewings and see our life divided into chapters. The Earl Gray phase and the era of the cheap Indian gunpowder and the year of green tea and the days of English Breakfast. Remember those green-tea times? We got up at five A.M. for Zen during seven months. I had a beard and you had a Buddhist-nun haircut. We were so earnest. We went for the whole thing--the wok, the brown rice, macrobiotics, less yin more yang."

Granted that in times of heightened emotion, as this scene arguably is, one's diction can be elevated, but the same complaint could be raised about most of the dialogue in the book: it's self-conscious, as if everyone is performing and has script writers feeding them lines.

Still, The Wonder Singer is worth the read for the character of the diva. And the book is more interesting told as it is, the Senora's story woven throughout Lockwood's, than it would have been had Rabasa elected instead to write a straightforward account of her life.

Death of a Cozy Writer
G.M. Malliet
Midnight Ink
9780738712482 $13.95

G.M. Malliet's Death of a Cozy Writer is a good old-fashioned British drawing room mystery. The ill-fated writer of the book's title is Sir Adrian Beauclerk-Fisk, whose best-selling series of Miss Rampling mysteries has left him rolling in pounds. Sir Adrian's favorite sport is altering his will, disinheriting one or another of his four children in response to real or perceived slights, or for exhibiting questionable taste, among innumerable other possible offenses--torturing them by playing a sort of Russian roulette with their inheritances. Eager to see them all squirm simultaneously and in close quarters, he invites his brood to Waverly Court, Adrian's 18th-century estate in Cambridgeshire, to celebrate his impending nuptials to a woman all four assume will be a British version of Anna Nicole Smith. The invitations prompt the expected amount of shock and complaint. The get-together itself proves to be murderous.

Death of a Cozy Writer is the first in a new series featuring Detective Chief Inspector St. Just of the Cambridgeshire Constabulary and Sergeant Fear. The crime-fighting pair are not introduced, however, until we are some one hundred pages into the book, after a crime has been committed. And when St. Just and Fear do appear we are not told that much about them. Some details emerge: Fear has a daughter; St. Just has a cat aptly named Deerstalker. But while the other characters in the book are described in great detail--the malevolent Sir Adrian and his scheming brood, the help at Waverly Court--the detectives themselves are not fleshed out. This seems odd, as it is St. Just and his right-hand man who will have to anchor the series as its recurring characters, long after the Beauclerk-Fisks have been left on their own to run through their inheritances. It is interesting that the author has elected to breathe life into characters who will (presumably) be replaced in subsequent outings rather than beefing up her portrayal of St. Just.

Malliet's writing is lovely:

"Natasha admired the woman's self-possession. It was an excellent impersonation of aristocracy putting the revolting masses back in their place. Natasha, who had done her own research, found the act nearly pitch-perfect--for an act it was, she was certain. She wouldn't have put it past Lillian to have arrived at breakfast dressed in jodhpurs, cracking a whip against her highly polished boots, despite the absence of a stables for forty miles or more. Instead, Lillian had opted for the simple wool sheath bedecked with a king's ransom in pearls at neck and wrist: the uniform of the bored society matron. But not, Natasha recognized, quite the done thing for breakfast in a country manor house."

And the mystery certainly kept me guessing until all was revealed in the requisite drawing room scene at the book's end. (I am left confused about one issue I should have liked tied up, though, having to do with the identity of Sir Adrian's secretary.) All in all a delightful read. I look forward to more in the St. Just series.

The Black Hand
Will Thomas
Touchstone (Simon & Schuster)
9781416558958 $14.00

The Black Hand is the fifth in Will Thomas's series of Barker & Llewelyn novels, Victorian-era mysteries with more than a passing resemblance to Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories. Cyrus Barker is the Sherlock figure, an enigmatic character with extraordinary training in, for example, numerous self defense techniques. Barker has his own band of "Irregulars" available to help him on cases, a network of acquaintances and allies across London, some of them less than savory types. Thomas Llewelyn is the Watson to Barker's Holmes, the character in whose voice the story is recounted. Llewelyn is twenty-something, a widower and one-time classical scholar who also served time for theft prior to his employment with Barker. He is being trained as Barker's assistant. In this outing, for example, he is sent to a Sicilian mafioso to learn how to defend himself with a dagger.

In The Black Hand Barker and Llewelyn run up against organized crime: the Mafia is attempting to establish a foothold in London, hoping to spread its influence among the Sicilian dockworkers. To combat the mob, which threatens to change the face of crime in London for good, Barker needs to patch together an alliance among London's disparate, sometimes mutually hostile groups--the Italians and Irish, with some English and French thugs thrown in.

While Barker and Llewelyn are intent in Thomas's novel on uncovering the identity of the mob boss who's sent assassins after them, The Black Hand isn't really about the mystery: what's appealing about the book is its characters and atmosphere--the cobblestoned London streets, Llewelyn's interactions with the other members of his master's entourage, and a preternaturally adept sleuth intent on combating the city's criminal element. Readers looking to fall into a world made familiar by Conan Doyle will find much to like here.

When the Day of Evil Comes
Melanie Wells
Multnomah Publishing
9781590524268 $12.99

Don't let the creepy bald guy on the cover of Melanie Wells's When the Day of Evil Comes Scare You. Scratch that: he's a scary guy. But don't let that stop you from reading this first book in Wells's series of religious thrillers. (The third in the series was published in 2008.) You won't be sorry.

Dylan Foster is a psychology professor at Southern Methodist University--thirty-three, unmarried, Catholic; she's smart and likable, an interesting lecturer, popular with students. But one day, inexplicably, some seriously strange things begin to happen to her, starting when she meets the creepy guy from the book's cover at a faculty picnic in Austin. Pasty and hairless and sickly looking, the man--he introduces himself as Peter Terry--is unsettling. The kind of guy your reptilian brain recognizes as dangerous. You cross the street when you see him coming. You keep your children close. But this meeting is just the first in a parade of strange things that happen to Dylan and that threaten to destroy her comfortable life: her mother's one-of-a-kind wedding ring, buried with her two years earlier, turns up in a gift box in Dylan's truck; a delusional colleague and a former patient start denouncing her; fat, late-summer flies start plaguing her, an endless succession of them alighting on her dishes and sheets. In the end, Dylan is forced to try to clear her name by confronting evil--in its human incarnation certainly, and perhaps in demonic form as well.

There is much to commend this book. Dylan is a great character. The plot is gripping. The writing style is interesting. I do have a few complaints. This being a religious thriller, there is naturally quite a lot of reference to things religious--prayers and Biblical passages and so on. But sometimes these references don't seem to fit naturally into the narrative, as if they were shoehorned in. Second, in the second chapter Dylan talks to some colleagues about the possibility that her problems are the result of demonic activity. I wish this hadn't been spelled out so clearly, or at least so early. It takes some of the chill out of the creepy things Dylan has been experiencing. Finally, some of the book's mysteries are cleared up at the end of this volume, but a lot is left up in the air. If we conceive of the book as part of a larger whole in which our questions will be answered, then this isn't problematic. Taken on its own, however, it leaves us scratching our heads a bit.

But the above complaints are minor. I enjoyed this book very much and am eager to read more in the series.

Helping Me Help Myself
Beth Lisick
William Morrow
9780061143960 $24.95

Beth Lisick spent 2006 improving herself. Or at least working her way through the bestselling advice of ten renowned self-help gurus. Her book is divided into twelve chapters, one per month, including two nominal, page-long chapters for July and August, during which she essentially took a vacation from the project. In most cases Lisick read a book of advice by her current month's guru: Jack Canfield of the Chicken Soup series, John Gray's Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. In many cases, though, Lisick supplemented her reading by attending one of that author's seminars--events conducted by the spiritualist Sylvia Browne and by Deepak Chopra, for example; she has a two-hour phone consultation with an expert on organizing who is somehow associated with Julie Morgenstern, author of Organizing from the Inside Out.

Lisick's book is a light, fast, reasonably enjoyable read. It's the sort of book that one is apt to like or not depending on how much you enjoy the author's personality, because it's not just about the self-help: Lisick weaves anecdotes from her own life (which is happy enough but rather disorganized) into the narrative. I laughed aloud a few times while reading the book, twice during Lisick's chapter on organizing. Here she is describing her initial conversation with an organizing consultant:

"She listens in a way I imagine a top-notch therapist would, not even perceptibly cringing when I say that Eli parks his bike in the living room or that we need a place to store mustaches and wigs."

And during another conversation:

"When we get to the closet, I make a confession. Something I have never told anyone.

"'Our shoes are in a wine rack.' I say it breathlessly. Confessing, yes, but also hoping she'll ignore it.

"'I'm sorry. Your what?'

"'We keep most of our shoes in this wire wine rack thing that we got at a garage sale.'

"'Oh.' She sounds amused. 'And is that working for you?'

"'Well, no.'

"'Okay...'

"I feel reflective.

"'I think it's because a shoe and a bottle of wine are not really the same shape.'

"'Good.'"

But my favorite chapter is about Lisick's experiences on a Richard Simmons Carnival Cruise, which is absolutely fascinating.

"And then I see him. Actually, it's that voice I hear first. One flight below us, amid the rather pasty, confused mob, he absolutely glows. His skin doesn't look as orange in person, not as sprayed on. He simply exudes a healthy and natural-seeming bronzeness and is wearing his signature red-and-white-striped shorts with a red crystal-studded tank top. The best word for his hair is probably 'round.'

"We make eye contact. I see him spot our 'Cruise to Lose' name tags and then he rushes up the stairs. He's coming right for us. Thank God I pinned that thing on! He bounds straight to Jan, wrapping his arms around her, and plants a kiss on her cheek."

The experience is what you'd expect in a way--a mix of schmaltz and tears and preternatural pep and funny, but you come away from it thinking that Richard Simmons is simply a genius at what he does.

If Helping Me Help Myself sounds familiar, you may be thinking of a very similar title that was published not long before Lisick's, Jennifer Niesslein's Practically Perfect in Every Way (see my review). I can't imagine that either author was very happy at the coincidence, but sometimes ideas are just in the air. Of the two, Niesslein's is probably more informative, and I think she made more of an attempt to adopt the programs she was writing about, while Lisick's interest was often only half-hearted. But both books are quite readable. I wouldn't steer readers away from either.

Death of a Murderer
Rupert Thomson
Vintage
9780307278746 $14.95

This could have been a very different sort of a book, given the set-up. Britain's most notorious criminal is a woman, never named, who together with her lover tortured and killed a number of children in the 1960s. After some thirty years in prison she has finally died of natural causes. The news of her death reopens old wounds: people revile her as much as they ever did, if not more. Her corpse, deep in the bowels of the hospital awaiting removal to a crematorium, requires police protection--from souvenir seekers, from people who would abuse it. Constable Billy Tyler is asked to take the graveyard shift, twelve hours locked alone in the room with a bank of refrigerated drawers--hers unmarked and locked. His wife begs him not to go, as if the corpse contains within it some transferable evil. But of course he can't refuse the assignment. This can't end well, we think.

But this isn't that kind of a book. There may be ghosts in the mortuary, but if so it doesn't matter. Billy is left alone with his thoughts for most of the night, and we are privy to them, so that by the end of his shift Billy's character has been laid bare in spare prose that belies the power of the story. Some of Billy's memories are related to the woman he's guarding: her crimes intersected with his life in surprising ways. But mostly his life is no different from most people's: he's a good man who's done some bad things; he's been happy and loved and miserable and things haven't quite worked out according to plan; he can still feel shame over embarrassments experienced in childhood. He is, in the end, entirely credible.

Death of a Murderer is a quiet read, surprising in its effect. The last scene--the last sentence--a small moment caught in simple prose, will break your heart--in a good way, I think. And it will leave you wondering how he did that, the author, just by putting words together on the page.

Debra Hamel, Reviewer
http://www.buyafriendabook.com


Dustin's Bookshelf

God Laughs When You Die
Michael Boatman
Dybbuk Press
9780976654629 $12.75 www.dybbuk-press.com

Michael Boatman's collection of quick, white-knuckled short stories is a pleasure to read. His fiction is unrelenting, abusive and very fun and entertaining. Hints of Joe. R. Lansdale and Edward Lee are found within God Laughs When You Die, but by all means this collection is Boatman's own voice, own style of fast-action splatterpunk horror. A personal favorite, "The Drop", keeps unblinking eyes upon the page, turn by turn in complete concentration throughout the horror and humor. Definitely recommended for the reader of horror fiction.

Sheep and Wolves
Jeremy C. Shipp
Raw Dog Screaming Press
5103 72nd Place, Hyattsville, MD 20784
9781933293592 $14.95

From the mind of Jeremy C. Shipp, the author of the highly regarded novel Vacation, comes an excellent collection of bizarre short stories within Sheep and Wolves. Deep tones of life, love, and society are sugarcoated by Shipp's brand of humor: strange. Whether it's the sharpness of the story "Devoured", or the awkward hilarity of "Dog", the author keeps the reader's mind eager for the next page. Any reader of the bizarro culture will find this collection a necessity, any reader of fiction will find Sheep and Wolves rewarding.

Dustin LaValley
Reviwer


Gary's Bookshelf

Dumbfounded
Matt Rothschild
Crown Publishers
New, York, NY
9780307405425 $23.95 www.crownpublishing.com

Memoirs have like horror had periods where they are very popular and not so with publishers. This happens to be a time when they are in style and this one is one to enjoy. The author, who grew up with his grandmother and grandfather instead of his mother and father tells all with this laugh out loud story of his life. His grand mother is reminiscent of Auntie Mame for her take on anyone sprit. One of the funny things was that Rothschild was always getting into trouble at school for any number of reasons. He never stayed in any school for any period of time. His relationship with the girl upstairs is similar in feel to the characters on the TV show "Brooklyn Bridge." Rothschild shows his relationship with his mother who enters and disappears from his life throughout the book. Though its non fiction it reads like fiction and would make a great movie.

Human Biotagonists
Alejandro Cuevas-Sosa
Outskirts Press Inc
Denver, Colorado
9781432726713 $20.95 www.outskirtspress.com

I gathered from what little I was able to understand that this book is about communication with the dead. The author uses terms that are far over the average person's understanding. He is too busy using his term "human biotagonists" without an explanation and his work rambles for over 500 pages. He also includes a basic bioenergemal glossary that does not explain anything at all. It, like the rest of the book, is too confusing. I am not sure who could read this and understand it. There is something here, I am sure but I do not have the ability to understand.

A Quiet Voice
Eugene Hairston as told to Susan Adger
Outskirts Press Inc
Denver, Colorado
978595466474 $18.95 www.outskirtspress.com

This is a remarkable story of a man who served his country in Viet Nam came home and lost everything he had. He ended up in Tampa, Florida but was able to turn his life around and get a position at a local VA facility. There are many things that struck me with this story. We used to hear that in Viet Nam it did not matter the color of your skin, just that you were American. Now Hairston paints a totally different picture. Here he encountered racism so bad that he was left behind enemy lines to fend for himself. His life was ruined by drugs. He always blamed everyone else. It is only when he was on the street in Tampa at his lowest point that he changed around his thinking to blame himself and accept responsibility for his actions. Then he was on a new road to a much different life. Now he is a speaker teaching others what he learned. Eugene Hairston's story is a remarkable achievement of what one person can do.

Executive Privilege
Phillip Margolin
William Morrow
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780061236211 $25.95 www.harpercollins.com

Private Detective Dana Cutler gets more than she bargained for when she is hired to follow a pretty young woman named Charlotte Walsh. Cutler's life is in danger after she watched someone meet Walsh who shows up dead a short time later. Clarence Little a convicted serial killer says he was framed for a murder he did not commit. The two cases are connected but I won't tell how. Margolin has always told a good story and this one shows why. It races along with a plot that has lots of great twists and turns and the characters who are caught up in the nail biting thriller are fascinating.

Dragons, Demons, Blood & Gold
Morgan Bloodaxe
S. W. Smith
P O Box 317, Anthony Florida 32617
9780979685309 $19.95 www.dragons_blood_and_gold.com

Poetry collections have become so common these days that most are pretty boring because they are usually mushy dull love pieces. S. W. Smith has written something very different. His writings read like prose and he tells many interesting stories of a fantasy world that includes dragons, vampires, werewolves, and lots of other strange dark and sinister perceptions. .

Jarrod And The Vines
Suzan Riberdy Grinarml
Blue Note Publications
9781876398888 $18.00 www.bluenotebooks.com 1-800-624-0401

Jarrod's ninth birthday is different when he meets some elves after climbing a tree. They give him many presents that are unlike any he has ever received. I won't tell much about the gifts because I don't want to give away too much of the story. The author has combined her talents of writing and illustration to tell and portray a wonderful tale that anyone any age can read and enjoy.

Whatever My Father Wants
Gayle Lerman-DeCoste
Outskirts Press Inc
Denver, Colorado
978143219135 $16.95 www.outskirtspress.com

This is a very shocking story of the power a stepchild has over a stepparent. This should be the love story of Jackie and Tommy Anthony who married in the 1950s, divorced in the 1960s and reunited in 2003. What should have been a wonderful time for them wasn't. Tommy had a series of medical conditions that severely weakened him. Normally Jackie and Tommy to face the disease together but there is a third party throughout, that complicated everything. Rhoda is the stepdaughter of Tommy and no matter what happened, he totally supported Rhoda. The selfish Rhoda fights with Jackie during the time when Tommy was living. There is no stopping her after his death. She has sick, loud noised drinking parties in honor of his death. She greedily takes over his home, money, and personal possessions and she makes life unbearable for Jackie. This is an account of a very distorted dysfunctional family.

The Stolen
Jason Pinter
Mira
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada M3B 3K9
9780778325727 $7.99 www.JasonPinte.com www.mirabooks.com

A child disappears without a trace. Five years later the same child comes home with no details of what happened to him. The story begins bizarrely but gets less complicated when reporter Henry Parker starts to investigate. What he begins to find could get him and anyone connected to him killed for what they find out. The story races along with lots of shifts in the plot to its revealing ending.

Bad Blood
Linda Fairstein
Pocket Star Books
1230 Avenue of the Americas , New York, NY 10020
9781416521518 $9.99 www.simonsays.com

For so long I had never read any of this author's works. For some reason I stumbled upon this one and was bowled over because this is a very fast paced nail biting suspenseful read. Fairstein's character Alexandra Cooper is a tough as nail prosecuting attorney who wants to take down young businessman Brendan Quillian for the murder of his wealthy wife. She begins to try her case and finds that not everything is as it seems. Complicating matters is an underground explosion in one of the tunnels under the city of New York that is somehow connected. Cooper must pull together the pieces to solve her case.

Peter the Peteeatrick Panda's Playground
Marc O'Brien
Illustrations by Catherine Wicks
Blue Note Publications
9781878398789 $19.95 www.bluenotebooks.com 1-800-624-0401

Kid's books with messages can sometimes get too preachy and lose the audience. That is not the case here. The author writes a fun story about Peter Panda who has to go to the hospital because he had a pain in his paw. Through a series of adventures the panda encounters many people who take care of patients. In a light hearted way the author teaches kids what to expect if they ever have to go to a hospital. The story flows along with interesting memorable characters. The art by Catherine Wicks is a wonderful addition to the story.

The First Patient
Michael Palmer
St. Martins
175 Fifth Avenue, New York NY 10010
9780312343538 $25.95 www.michaelpalmerbooks.com www.stmartins.com

It's been a while since I've read one of this author's books. "The First Patient" is by far his best yet of the ones I've read. Palmer has always been a good medical thriller writer but now he has outdone any of his other works. The scenario here is, what if the President of the United States has a medical condition that is rapidly getting worse. The White House tries to keep a lid on it because they do not want the vice president to take over the office. What if anything can the president do? President Andrew Stoddard calls upon his former roommate from the Naval Academy Dr. Gabe Singleton to come to the White House and be his doctor. President Stoddard does not tell him anything about the situation. Instead he tells his friend that the white house doctor is missing and the president wants someone he can trust to take over. The novel races along with many twists and turns that make the book very thrilling. What sets this one apart from his others is that this is an insider's view of the White House and how it handles a crisis. My only complaint. Palmer, like many other writers uses names that are too similar. His character Stoddard and Singleton get confusing at times. There are other similar ones too that slows down the progression of the novel. This is a mistake I see with lots of new writers but recently I have seen several established authors do the same thing. It's very annoying to have to turn back pages to try to remember each character. I wish editors would catch this and get writers to change names before the books are published.

Sleeping with Ward Cleaver
Jenny Gardiner
Love Spell
Dorchester Publishing Co. Inc
200 Madison Avenue, New York, New York 10016
9780505527479 $6.99 www.dorchesterpub.com

I was intrigued by this title and was expecting it to have something to do with the classic TV show "Leave It to Beaver." The novel is really a lighthearted romance that is about marital problems. The Ward Cleaver aspect is that Claire Doolittle's husband is like Ward because he is such a stuffed shirt. Her life is so boring. All of the spice they had when they got married is gone. She is jaded about everything in her life. The author has a wit that makes the novel flow with interesting delightful characters that are caught up in a mundane existence.

Positive Reflections Inspiring Thoughts & Photographs from Around the World
Thomas Routzong & Steven Skelley
Sunny Harbor Publishing
P O Box 560318, Rockledge, Florida 32956-0318
9780979965807 $19.99 www.SunnyHarborPublishig.org

This is a perfect gift for any occasion. The authors have taken photos from around the world and combined sayings by famous people with statements by the authors and descriptions of the places of the photos. The book shows many of the positive things we have in this world.

Dillo a Baby Armadillo's Adventure on Sanibel Island
Kyle L. Miller, Illustrated by Randon T. Eddy
Jungle House Publications
736 Cardlum St., Sanibel Island, Fl 33957
9780976933205 $16.95 239-472-0599

Marmma Armadillo delivers four babies. Their names are Lillo, Pillo, Jillo, and Dillo. Normally I have a problem keeping each character straight when the names are so similar but this time that difficulty does not exist. As the children grow Dillo's three sisters are consumed with jealousy. They feel their mother loves Dillo more than them. They hatch a plot to get rid of her. They take Dillo out into the wilderness and leave her to fend for herself. She also has a little problem. For some reason since she was born she always smiles no matter what is happening around her. She is scared but finds encounters with other animals of the area are not as bad as she has been led to believe. They quickly become her friends. When she needs them, they are there to help without being asked.

Kyle L. Miller has created animal characters that are well defined, interesting, and fun. But I have to add that the backdrop of Sanibel Island is also part of the mix of this delightful tale.

I loved this book that is geared to children but is just as appropriate for adults with its many messages. Some of them are what happens when envy is obsessive, negatives can be turned into positives, the power of friendship, and turning the other cheek and moving forward in life. Also there is a lot of symbolism that readers will be able to pick up for

themselves. The artwork by Randon T. Eddy adds another dimension to the work that helps move the story along.

Schools should use the book to apply lessons to children on how to get along with each other. Another use could be for divorce court judges to require plaintiffs to read it who get too petty. I think this would be a great resource to use to show the adults how childish they are being.

This is a wonderful story that should find many different audiences. I look forward to seeing what this creative team comes up with next

No One Heard Her Scream
Jordan Dane
Harper
10 East 53rd Street, New York, New York 10022
9780061543449 $6.99 www.harpercollins.com www.jordandane.com

Jordan Dane is a new voice in the realm of romantic suspense and it's easy to see why from the first page where Danielle Montgomery, a high school student, is abducted. Her sister Detective Rebecca Montgomery has been barred from investigating Danielle's disappearance. Instead Rebecca is handed a case that begins as a fire in a theatre but turns out to be a murder when the arson investigator finds among the ruins a female body stuffed in one of the walls. Rebecca starts to track a killer. She pieces together that the woman disappeared seven years earlier and the circumstances are very similar to those of her sister's. Then with no explanation, her chief tells her she is off the case. However she continues on her own and begins to close in on the killer, when she herself is taken hostage, and her department for some reason sits idly by.

Dane's characters are believable with the cat and mouse pursuit of the detective after the killer. While Rebecca's mother and others believe that Danielle is dead, she holds on to the idea that Danielle is still alive. It is the underlying hope that she will see her sister again that keeps her going and helps keep her focused.

The last hundred pages read like an out-of-control freight train with enough twists and turns to please any suspense novel fan. This is the first of three books by this writer in the next few months. I hope the other two are as fast paced as this one.

Great Kisses and Famous Lines Right out of the Movies
Timothy Knight
Harper Entertainment
10 East 53rd Street, New York, New York 10022
9780061438899 $14.95 www.harpercollins.com

For those of us who love movies this is a great little book that has a lot of surprises. The author has combed many of our favorites and shows the most romantic moments ever produced on film. He includes lines spoken just before the big kiss. Many are expected like "Ghost," "Gone With the Wind," "From Here to Eternity," and "Casablanca." Two that were surprising were "Rocky" and "Goldfinger." I liked that the author listed each film by the year it was released. The fun of this book is seeing if readers agree with the author's choices. This is a perfect gift for any fan of movies.

Battlestar Galactica Somewhere Beyond the Heavens
David Criswell & Richie F. Levine
Bear Manor Media
P.O. Box 71426, Albany, Georgia 31708
1591099935 $32.95 www.bearmanormedia.com

I, like many, am a big fan of the original series. The authors have written a very detailed study of the initial program that lasted only one season and the reborn show currently on the Sci-Fi network. They tell how the show began, the problems it had getting on the air, episode guides with notes and commentaries, a possible second season, the law suits with George Lucas, and studies of the first two seasons of the Sci-Fi mega hit. I was disappointed because they did not tell about the changes that had to be done because of the lawsuit. One was that the intro monologue had to be reworked. Those of us who have the DVD theatrical version are fortunate because it has not been changed. They also like fans shun away from the series that followed "Galactica 1980." They talk about one episode only because the character of "Starbuck" is in the episode. Even with its faults it is one of the best resources on the show and no fan should miss it.

Close-ups Conversations with Our Tv Favorites
Eddie Lucas
Bear Manor Media
P.O. Box 71426, Albany, Georgia 31708
1593931204 $22.99 www.bearmanormedia.com

I love books like this because they bring us up to date on what stars of classic TV shows are doing presently. The author interviewed Tony Dow, Barbara Billingsley from "Leave it to Beaver;" Dwayne Hickman, "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis;" Stanley Livingston, "My Three Sons;" Jon Provost, "Lassie;" Ernest Thomas, and Heywood Nelson, "What's Happening;" There are many little tidbits for any fan and trivia buffs. For instance, June Lockhart did not come on the show until Provost's second season. Tony Dow talks about how the actors have never been paid for the boxed sets of DVDs, Stanley Livingston shows the differences in the industry from when he was doing the show and now. I think this would make a great series of books.

How Underdog Was Born
Buck Biggers & Chet Stover
Bear Manor Media
P.O. Box 71426, Albany, Georgia 31708
1593930259 $19.95 www.bearmanormedia.com

The creators of the beloved cartoon "Underdog" for the first time tell all about the show. They reveal the way a show got on the air back in the 1960's, the power advertisers had deciding what got on, the competition they had with Jay Ward, and Hanna Barbara, the influence of an " I Love Lucy" episode are just a few of the things they reveal. There are two things I had a problem with. The book is a bit confusing to follow and I would have liked to have the authors tell their thoughts.

Hey Mon Caribbean Cooking Magic
Errol Bishop
Privately Published
No ISBN $12.00 www.heymonsauces.com

For a touch of the Caribbean this is the perfect recipe booklet. There are many spicy wonderful dishes that are easy to prepare. This is a great little cookbook that is a perfect gift for any occasion.

Gary Roen
Reviewer


Gloria's Bookshelf

Blue Smoke and Murder
Elizabeth Lowell
Wm. Morrow
c/o HarperCollins
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022, 800-242-7737
9780060829858 $24.95 www.harpercollins.com

St. Kilda Consulting has been described by the author as "a multinational company whose purpose is to help people when governments can't – or won't – get the job done." In Elizabeth Lowell's books, St. Kilda is hired by the good guys. This novel brings in what might be described as St. Kilda's evil twin, headed by someone referred to only as "Score," the identity of whose client is not revealed.

When Jill Breck, a river guide who describes herself as "a river bum, following the seasons down Western rivers, teaching kayaking and rafting and wilderness survival skills," saves the life of her client's 16-year-old son while running the Colorado River, she earns the deep gratitude of that client. Nothing unusual there, but this client is Joe Faroe, one of the guys who heads up St. Kilda's. So when Jill's life is threatened, she takes Joe up on his offer of 'any time, any where" and asks for his help. That help is provided, among other ways, by assigning Zach Balfour to protect Jill and find out who wants her dead, if, that is, he, she or they cannot otherwise obtain twelve paintings which may – or may not – have been painted by a now-dead painter whose work has become increasingly popular and unbelievably valuable, selling for amounts in seven figures

Jill's aunt, who had been in possession of the paintings and saw them as Jill's heritage, was burned to death on her ranch in Arizona, the beauty of which is well-drawn in the author's evocative prose. I had been unaware of the influence in that part of the country of the Mormon church, but that, as well as fascinating glimpses of the worlds of art and art fraud, are among the things brought to the attention of the reader so vividly here. As Zach tells Jill, "Art is like everything else. It's worth what someone's willing to pay for it. Period. In order to make people pay more, much more, auctioneers and experts churn out a lot of blue smoke. The painting being flogged doesn't change from once decade to the next. Only the volume and quality of blue smoke varies. And the price of the art. . . In art, context is everything."

I have to admit that the references to "Zack and Jill" gave me pause, but only briefly. The sexual undercurrent present does not diminish the suspense, which builds steadily. Zach describes Jill as "one intriguing woman. Strong without being butch, smart without strutting about it, and determined. The kind of woman who walked next to her man, made homes and babies, and settled the West." A very enjoyable read, and one which is recommended.

Old School Bones
Randall Peffer
Bleak House Books
923 Williamson St., Madison WI 53703, 800-258-5830
9781932557862 $14.95 (pb) 9781932557855 $24.95 (hc) www.bleakhousebooks.com

Michael DeCastro was formerly a defense attorney who now fills his time working on his father's fishing boat. But the entreaties of Awashonka "Awasha" Patterson, faculty adviser and Director of Minority Affairs at a New England prep school [once a boys' and a girls' school now integrated into one coed school, albeit still filled with sexist and racial prejudices] convince him to investigate the death of Liberty Baker, a young black student. The authorities have ruled it a suicide – she was found dead in a bathtub with her wrists slit – but Awasha and Liberty's dorm-mates think she was murdered – she had been the recipient of a racially charged death threat.

Apparently the girls had been investigating the existence, many years before, of secret societies at the school, banned 50 years ago, but whether or not they actually ceased to exist is another question. Now, with Liberty dead, the other girls feel threatened as well. And when the remains of, apparently, another student are discovered, that threat seems more real.

Old school ties are surely more benign than old school bones, but not necessarily.

There are various ethnicities which come into play – African-American, Native American, Portugese [Michael's father is referred to as a Portagee], Asian. Michael is a man haunted by his last case, to which frequent references are made [a bit more than necessary, to this reader, the point having been made and made again]. Awasha asks for his "counsel," saying "You know the legal system, how the police work, how to get their attention. You know what questions to ask to help us find Liberty's killer." And this time he wants to see justice done.

The writing, at times poetic, is at others unconvincing and clunky. As well, there are flashbacks by way of italicized passages, their references for quite a while obscure, and frequently as each chapter starts the characters involved in the action are not identified, making for initially more confusion. Despite these reservations, I found myself pulled into the book, which ultimately was a fast and interesting read, with unusual characters and a plot unlike any other I've read recently, surely not a bad thing.

Nothing to Lose
Lee Child
Delacorte Press
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780385340564 $27.00 800-726-0600 www.bantamdell.com

The line between Hope and Despair is often crossed metaphorically in fiction, but Jack Reacher does so quite literally and with little thought to consequences in this, the twelfth novel in the series by Lee Child, simply as a way to get from one Colorado town to another, where his travels have most recently taken him. The towns are, of course, aptly named.

Despair appears intent on being unwelcoming, and Reacher is immediately advised "We don't like strangers." He is unceremoniously arrested on charges of vagrancy and briefly jailed, then released and told in no uncertain terms not to return: "You come back, we'll arrest you, and you'll spend thirty days in that same cell. Always assuming you don't look at us cross-eyed and we shoot you for resisting." Reacher's reaction: "I take challenges personally...I don't like to be told where I can go and where I can't ... I'm a man with a rule. People leave me alone I leave them alone. They don't, I don't." He becomes determined to find the answers, which are unexpected, and Reacher and the reader don't discover all of them till very near the end of this fast-paced novel.

Reacher, for thirteen years an MP and an Army Major, has now been a civilian for ten years. Always peripatetic, "Reacher had long ago quit carrying things he didn't need. There was nothing in his pockets except paper money and an expired passport and an ATM card and a clip-together toothbrush. . . He owned the things in his pockets and the clothes on his back and the shoes on his feet. That was all, and that was enough. Everything he needed, and nothing he didn't." There is always highly impressive and completely logical reasoning behind all Reacher's actions and decisions--he is a man of analytical bent. He has been known to quote Latin when the occasion suits. And in this novel he is somewhat introspective, several times thinking about the question that had been put to him: "Look at yourself. What do you see?"

The book is laced with just the right amount of humor to provide contrast with the occasional violence. It is great escapist fun, until of course one bumps up against ugly reality and uglier realities. Terrific writing, and a first-class read. Jack Reacher and Lee Child -- gotta love 'em both.

I Shall Not Want
Julia Spencer-Fleming
St. Martin's Minotaur
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312334871 $24.95 www.stmartins.com 646-307-5560

This newest addition to the Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne series was eagerly awaited by this reader, and it did not disappoint. Reverend Fergusson is the rector of St. Alban's Church in Millers Kill, in upstate New York [referred to as the North Country]. As the book begins she has just reenlisted with the Air National Guard, with which she is a helicopter pilot.

When Clare meets Sister Lucie Pirone, she rather impetuously volunteers to assist in the nun's current work, which is assisting Hispanic farm workers in the dairy farming counties of the area, of whom there are upwards of three hundred year-round involved. Her group provides basic services and act as advocates for that mostly non-English speaking population. The nun asks Clare "Do you always leap into things so … ah … decisively?" to which Clare responds "You bet. I'm not sure if it's a virtue or a flaw, but after thirty-six years, I've come to accept it's who I am." But Clare does not anticipate that her assistance will involve her in the investigation of not one, but three murders of what appear to have been three migrant farmhands. Is there a serial killer preying on the inhabitants of their small town? Or is the danger limited to the Mexicans, three of whom were the first victims?

Of course this provides more friction between Clare and police chief Russ Van Alstyne, the latter still recovering from his wife's death, which occurred at the end of the prior novel in the series, "All Mortal Flesh." Their tumultuous relationship must survive their still-evolving feelings about those events, their obvious love for each other, and the threat surrounding these new occurrences in the town.

Hadley Knox and Kevin Flynn, the two most junior members of the Millers Kill Police Department, are two wonderful new characters who play important roles in this novel. Of course, the characters of the main protagonists have been developed even further, as each finds her/himself in positions not previously experienced, changing them and their perspectives and outlooks on life, love and the threat of mortal harm. As always, Ms. Spencer-Fleming left me with a lump in my throat, and eager anticipation for the next book in the series.

Dead Man's Footsteps
Peter James
Pan Macmillan
20 New Wharf Rd., London N1 9RR
9781405092043 16.99 BPS, CDN$29.95 www.panmacmillan.com

[This book is not yet available in the US, available only in/through the UK and Canada at this time, and has had a simultaneous release in pb in CA (CDN $19.99) ]

The fourth and newest book in the Roy Grace series by Peter James introduces the reader first to Ronnie Wilson, a Brit visiting the US and New York City to try to enlist financial assistance for his latest money-making venture, one hopefully not doomed to failure as were his past endeavors. His business meeting, after which he plans to fly back to the UK, is scheduled for 9 AM in the World Trade Center on the morning of September 11, 2001.

We next, in October of 2007, meet Abby Dawson, a 27-year-old woman who has just returned from Australia to her native England, and whose background is somewhat shadowy, as we are told she has done everything she can think of to disguise her identity, describing herself as a 'fugitive.'

And then Detective Superintendent Roy Grace of the Sussex Police enters the tale, when he is called in as Senior Investigating Officer after a skeleton, probably that of a woman of about 30 years old, is discovered in a storm drain within his community of the City of Brighton and Hove. Just a run-of-the-mill murder investigation, it would seem, until Roy realizes that the description perfectly fits that of his adored wife, Sandy, who had disappeared nine years before, at age 28 and on his 30th birthday, and had apparently 'vanished off the face of the earth.'

The characters introduced in the earlier books are still here: Glenn Branson, still having marital problems; Grace's lover, Cleo, Chief Home Office pathologist, who has always been sympathetic to Grace's lingering and continuing search and nightmares concerning his wife; his boss, Assistant Chief Constable Alison Vosper; and his surprisingly fast-rising fellow D.S., Cassian Pewe, all of whom are made real in the author's terrific depictions of these disparate personalities.

As a resident of the metropolitan NY area, I can attest to the accuracy of the depiction of the feel of the city on that horrendous day and in its aftermath, and will not comment further on this aspect of the novel. The author expertly weaves together all the disparate threads in a suspense-filled tale with the surprises, twists and turns typical of this author, and a particularly stunning final sentence, leaving me avidly awaiting its sequel. Highly recommended.

Vineyard Chill
Philip R. Craig
Scribner
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781416535584 $24.00 www.simonsays.com 800-223-2336

Jefferson ["J. W."] Jackson has been married to his second wife, Zee, for ten years. [As he says, "Zee and I had both been married before but had survived to try again, successful examples of the triumph of hope over experience."] They have a ten-year-old son and an eight-year-old daughter and two cats ["Oliver Underfoot" and "Velcro"] and live year-round in Martha's Vineyard. The novel opens in mid-winter, a time when the area is quiet, with the usual hordes of tourists nowhere in sight. J.W. receives a call followed by an equally unexpected visit from his old friend, Clay Stockton, an "adventurer" looking for a safe place to stay after being involved in some less-than-legal activities in the States. His arrival portends an end to the uneventful winter.

Also livening things up – not in a good way – is the discovery by J.W.'s friend, Bonzo, of a bird's nest apparently comprised of human hair, and the suspicion is that it is that of a young woman who had gone missing nearly a year ago. Nadine Gibson was a beautiful twenty-two year old who worked with Bonzo and who had last been seen when she left for home one night after work and apparently disappeared. Bonzo is described by J.W. as follows: "Long before I'd met him, he'd gotten into some bad acid and had doomed himself to a life of gentle preadolescence…I wondered, not for the first time, if he was really worse off for having taken the bad acid that changed him from a promising young man into an eternal child. His life was simple, his emotions fresh and innocent, and his innate goodness was never altered by the random evils of life. He remembered the good things and, for the most part, forgot the bad." But he becomes a suspect, and J.W. decides to investigate. He is a former Boston PD cop who retired after deciding "to let somebody else save the world," so has the knowledge and experience to do so.

The writing in this book is completely enchanting, the delight in reading it overshadowed frequently by melancholy knowing that of the nineteen novels in the Martha's Vineyard Mystery series written by Philip R. Craig, this was unfortunately the last: The author passed away in May of 2007. [Mr. Craig also co-wrote three books with William G. Tapply.] All lovers of language are urged to read as many of these as they can get their hands on – they are all gems. Of J.W.'s friend, Clay, the author says: "…among his other talents, he had that of a teller of tales, who could weave words into a web that captured his listeners and held them until his story ended." The same can be said of Mr. Craig.

Made in the U.S.A.
Billie Letts
Grand Central Publishing
237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10169, 800-759-0190,
9780446529013 $24.95 www.HachetteBookGroupUSA.com

Lutie McFee, fifteen years old, is spending a fairly normal day shopping with her eleven-year-old brother Fate [it was apparently supposed to be "Fale" but the third letter was inadvertently crossed, producing the name by which he's been known since birth] and their dad's last girlfriend, a three-hundred-pound women known as Floy [it was supposed to have been "Florence"] with whom they've been living since their father walked out on them one typically drunken night about a year before. [Their mother had died many years before.] Lutie didn't get along that well with Floy, but it was home, after all. To the extent that Spearfish, South Dakota can be home. Lutie spends her time shoplifting for kicks as well as for material gain. Her brother, on the other hand, 'sometimes seemed to Lutie more like an old man than a child. He wore thick glasses with wire frames, worried about global warming and the endangerment of pandas," and "spends most of his time reading, watching weird TV shows about lighthouses, Roman baths, prairie dogs, Jack Kerouac, and the Khmer Empire—subjects that nobody else would give two hoots about."

But when Floy dies suddenly at the Wal-Mart check-out counter, their life turns upside down. Unwilling to be put in the foster care system, Lutie steals Floy's old Pontiac and determines to go to Las Vegas, the last place known to have housed her father, the town drunk who'd disappeared long ago; with her brother—the weirdest boy in school, and the smartest, too---despite the fact that that father had no known address, phone number, or any apparent interest in his two young children. When Lutie is about to leave and head out for Las Vegas, her brother begs her to take him with her, saying "You're the only one I got, Lutie. There ain't no one else." "Lutie turned then, angry enough to take a swing at him. Instead, she saw what she didn't want to see. A boy whose small, thin body was already bowed by loss . . . the brother whose face already bore the book of defeat and whose eyes, filling now with tears, had already seen too much disappointment." In turn, Lutie is a girl whose "history had taught her to avoid attachments . . . to people, to places, to almost everything . . . She made few concessions to sentimentality." But the siblings embark on this new path together. "It didn't matter then that she and her brother were hungry and broke. Didn't matter that they hadn't bathed in days or that they'd had nothing to call home but an old Pontiac. They had made it to Las Vegas, the most glamorous place on earth, the place where her life would finally begin."

The tale is not a mystery as such, beyond the fact that Floy's death is followed in very short order by another death – what, if anything, is the connection? – and the identity of the mysterious Good Samaritan, a seeming guardian angel who appears in their life when most needed, with food, a portable radio, information vital to their survival on the streets such as the location of shelters and 'soup kitchens,' etc. But this is a novel rich in character study as well as the ways in which life can beat one down or uplift one when it seems least likely to do so, and the heartbreaking way in which these two children survive their circumstances, whether that means the death of loved ones, meeting up with deranged hitchhikers while fleeing Speerfish, life on the streets in the most challenging and frightening of places to attempt that. The guardian angel turns out to be someone with quite a story of his own. Each of these characters displays a resiliency that allows them to at least attempt to regain a meaningful life no matter the obstacles placed in his or her way.

The author is a member of the talented family one of whose members, Tracy Letts, wrote the Pulitzer-winning play, "August, Osage County," with another appearing on stage on that show until his sudden death not long into its Broadway run – a play, incidentally, fraught with the interactions of dysfunctional family members in startling, nay stunning, ways, and one which led this reviewer to want to read the work produced by another creative mind in this family, and very happy to have done so. Outside the normal genre of books which my husband and I favor, this is a book well worth reading.

Gloria Feit
Reviewer


Gorden's Bookshelf

The Lost Constitution
William Martin
A Forge Book
Tom Doherty Associates, LLC
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780765354464 $9.99 www.tor-forge.com

William Martin is a smooth action/mystery writer. He paints beautiful scenes of New England and builds them into his story. In 'The Lost Constitution', he pushes a conflict about finding an annotated draft of the Constitution beyond any logical tension into a life and death struggle. Don't worry. The easy narration makes the impossible strife plausible. The current headlines about fanatics and illogical acts even make the high suspense necessary for the typical reader. The story lacks the power of many modern suspense/action tales but it is an enjoyable ride as an autumn leaf tour of New England, which is included in the story.

Peter Fallon is a rare-book expert and a historical document treasure hunter. Peter and his girlfriend, Evangeline, are hired to track down an annotated draft of the U.S. Constitution. A terrorist attack has brought the issue of gun control back on the national agenda and both sides in the debate have decided that the annotated draft might be used to support their cause. Unknown to both Peter and Evangeline, greed and corruption have also infiltrated both sides of the issue and with a possible annotated draft, this could mean millions of dollars to whoever can get their hands on it first. As Peter begins his investigation, he discovers that people have already been killed in the search. His and Evangeline's job has become much more complicated as they not only have to find the draft, with an impossibly short schedule, but they have to also survive.

'The Lost Constitution' is the perfect summer time read. It has a deep historical story that moves fast. You can enjoy the serenity of reading outdoors while the beauty of New England's past and present becomes a third character in the novel. The historical back-story is nearly more fun than the current detective/action.

Invisible Prey
John Sandford
Berkley Books
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780425221150 $9.99

Sandford has again written a smooth well-balanced detective novel. The criminals have skills and abilities well within plausibility and the detectives are reasonably skilled. 'Invisible Prey' feels less forced than a few of Sandford's novels from the middle of this series. He is very comfortable using locations in the Twin Cities metropolitan area and it shows in this story.

Lucas Davenport is a lead investigator for the Minnesota BCA, Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. He is currently involved in a tricky political case where a state senator is accused of having sex with a minor when he is called in to a brutal double murder/home invasion of a very wealthy woman and her maid. Robbery and vandalism seem the motives but the clues don't fit. Lucas begins to pull in leads from crimes in other jurisdictions as the killers try to hide the scope of their activities. As Lucas uncovers each new clue, the killers grow more brazen in their murderous attempts to hide their crimes.

The 'Prey' series of books is one of the most successful detective series in recent years. Tough quirky characters with realistic plots, actions and abilities are the key to this series success. With 'Invisible Prey', Sandford has again found the right mix of action and storytelling to give the reader an enjoyable weekend escape. It is a must read for anyone who enjoys the detective mystery.

S. A. Gorden, Reviewer
www.paulbunyan.net/users/gsirvio/content.html


Harold's Bookshelf

Ultimate Leadership
Russell E. Palmer
Wharton School Publishing
Pearson Education, Inc.
One Lake Street, Upper Saddle River, NJ 07458
9780131933866 $25.99

This is one of the most practical books on leadership that I have read. There are a plethora of books on leadership styles and principles of leadership. This one is unique in that it focuses on how to implement the basic principles of leadership within the context of different leadership styles. Principles of leadership do not change but how they are implemented within an organization can vary greatly based on the leadership style.

The author gives specific examples of different contexts where a given method of implementation works and others where that same method will not work. For example, the leadership style is very different between a non-profit and a military organization, or an operating room and a partnership of peers or governmental organization. These all require different methods of implementing leadership principles. The author examines several specific contexts and discusses what leadership styles work, what do not, and how to get things done within that context. The specific contexts discussed include the top-down organization, an organization of peers, the organization in crisis, the entrepreneurial organization, and national cultures among others.

A very well done book that actually provides a body of knowledge on how to get things done in the different contexts. This is a highly recommended book for managers who need leadership skills and need to deal with higher authorities within their organization.

Visual Communication in Digital Design
Ji Yong Park
Youngjin
3F Mapo Tower Bldg, 418-1 Mapo-dong, Mapo-Gu, Seoul 121-734, Korea
9788931434347 $29.99

This book is an excellent tutorial for people who want to understand the basics of good graphic design. Written in a clear and easy to understand manner, the author walks the reader through how to use design elements to communicate effectively. Areas covered include balance, using lines, designs, patterns, textures, color, space, grids, stability, layout, grid systems, color theory, and typography. The result is a product that is visually appealing and moves the reader's eyes in the direction you want them to go for maximum effect. If you want to learn the art of visual communication this is a great place to start. Don't forget to pay attention to how the pages of the book are laid out with illustrations and graphics in addition to the text so that it is both visually appealing and educational. It is a fine example of many of the aspects of design theory taught in the book. Visual Communication in Digital Design is highly recommended and represents the minimum that everyone in print or web based graphical communication should know.

Walking the Gobi
Helen Thayer
The Mountaineers Books
1001 SW Klickitat Way, Suite 201, Seattle, WA 98134
159485064X $23.95

It is rare to have someone write their personal adventure book well enough to really be interesting but Helen Thayer reaches that goal admirably. Walking the Gobi if a fascinating read as she details her and her husband's experiences arranging and then completing this trip. One of the things that makes the book so interesting is her ability to write in a style that draws the reader into the experience as a friend. Likewise, her stories of interaction with nomads and border agents are at times very personal and at other times scary. Through her writing you feel her compassion as well as her fears. Walking the Gobi is a fascinating trip and one not to be missed by those with an inquisitive personality.

I Wish I Was Tall Like Willie
Kathryn Heling and Deborah Hembrook
Raven Tree Press
1400 Miller Parkway, McHenry, IL 60050-7030
9780979446207 $16.95

Following on the success of "I Wish I Had Freckles like Abby" and "I Wish I Had Glasses like Rosa" comes "I Wish I Was Tall Like Willie". As with the earlier books this one focuses on the common childhood desire to be just like your best friend. It is the story of a young boy who tries everything to try to appear taller like his friend Willie. From walking on stilts to putting socks in his shoes he tries everything but of course nothing works. With the complete text in both Spanish and English readers of either language can appreciate the book. No only is it a funny book that children will enjoy but it is also a good book to help Spanish speaking children learn English and vice versa. As with the prior books, I Wish I Was Tall Like Willie is a recommended book for young children.

Your Brain: The Missing Manual
Matthew MacDonald
O'Reilly Media, Inc.
1005 Gravenstein Highway North, Sebastapol, CA 95472
9780596517786 $24.99

When I picked up this book I thought it was going to be yet another one on memory and techniques for recall. I could not have been more wrong. This is an excellent book on understanding the brain and how it works in all its wondrous details. The author delves into the physical structure, the synapses, effect of hormones on the brain and the effect that diet has on those hormones, how it interacts with your appetite and other aspects of the physical brain. Not contented to stop there he then goes into other aspects of the brain including the effect of sleep or lack thereof, perception, emotions, and personality. Your Brain: The Missing Manual is very interesting and highly recommended.

Smithsonian Field Guide to the Birds of North America
Ted Floyd
HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780061120404 $24.95

This field guide both excels in many ways and is pretty typical in others. The bird photographs are excellent and the book well organized. For each bird the author includes average length, weight, and wingspan as well as various notes on habitat, habits and other help for identifying the bird. Of course there is an extensive index as well as introductory information for each section to help in classifying.

If your goal is to identify birds, then I personally still prefer the Sibley Field Guide to Birds even though it contains illustrations and not photographs. It provides more information on flight patterns and more illustrations of birds at different stages and angles.

But, I did say at the beginning that there are ways in which this book excels. The greatest way it excels is the phenomenal DVD of bird calls. Most birding books do not come with CDs and you end up trying to look them up on the Internet if you are interested. This DVD has several different calls - common, variations, mating, immature, songs, cries, and other sounds as appropriate. This is the most extensive collection of bird sounds that I have ever come across and that makes it worth the price of the book by itself. The Smithsonian Field Guide to the Birds of North America is highly recommended and especially so for those who want a great collection of bird sounds to help learn to identify local birds.

Harold McFarland
Reviewer


Harwood's Bookshelf

The Skeptic's Guide to the Paranormal
Lynne Kelly
Thunder's Mouth Press
245 West 17th St, 11th Floor, NY 10011
1560257113 $14.95

The Disinformation Cycle
William Harwood
Booksurge.com
7290-B Investment Drive, Charleston, SC 29418
1419646842 $23.99

The major difference between Lynne Kelly's Skeptic's Guide and my Disinformation Cycle is that all of the chapters in Kelly's book are on subjects everyone with a functioning human brain recognizes as hoaxes or delusions. While there is much overlap, my book also devotes chapters to debunking hoaxes and delusions that even the educated do not widely recognize as such. For example, only a minority of psychologists, including Thomas Szasz and Robert Baker, agree with me that psychiatry is glorified cold reading and psychology is glorified tea leaf reading. Only a third of the human race reject religion as an unnecessary hypothesis. That may be why Kelly does not mention it, although the possibility that she is a believer cannot be ruled out. Even skeptics as competent as Martin Gardner and Kendrick Frazier retain some form of religious belief. And while the deficiencies of the legal, education, and entertainment industries can be listed under "disinformation," they would be out of place in a book about the paranormal.

I am not about to review my own book. (See the reviews at Amazon.com.) I believe that persons who enjoy either will enjoy both, but that is as much as I am willing to say.

Perhaps to avoid the appearance of being dogmatic, Kelly leans over backward to the point of not only including arguments by believers in the nonsense she debunks, but also to making such arguments seem reasonable when they are not. Her chapter on the Shroud of Turin includes the statement, "The doubts expressed by the bishops in the fourteenth century are supported by a letter, which still exists, from Bishop Pierre d'Arcis to Clement VII, the Avignon Pope, stating that he knew the artist who produced the shroud." But that definitive debunking is squeezed into the middle of a collection of less compelling evidence where it could easily be missed. And while Kelly's reference notes include Skeptical Inquirer articles by Joe Nickell and Walter McCrone, there is no mention of their books on the subject, Inquest on the Shroud of Turin (Nickell), and Judgment Day for the Shroud of Turin (McCrone).

The chapter on spontaneous human combustion, despite giving the true explanation of the cases that started the delusion, leaves the reader with the impression that "spontaneous human combustion" has not been completely blown out of the water. It has been, and Kelly cites the evidence that did it. So why does she seem to be trying to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory? That is no less true of the chapter on crop circles. At least the chapters on walking on hot coals and psychic readings leave no room for the possibility that a paranormal factor is involved. And the section on The Amityville Horror will satisfy anyone but the most incurable nonsense believer that the judge was right who described the book as "a work of fiction." The same is true of Charles Berlitz's fantasy concoctions, The Bermuda Triangle and Without a Trace. There was no Amityville Horror, and there is no Bermuda Triangle.

Kelly's chapter on reincarnation, hypnotism and recovered memories is very similar to mine, not because she used the 2002 edition of my book as a source, but because we both used the same sources. Kelly's only weakness here is that, while she utilized Robert Baker's Hidden Memories, in which he treated hypnosis as a reality, she did not consult his later book, They Call It Hypnosis, in which he made clear that, "hypnotism does not exist, has never existed in the past, and will not exist in the future."

The summarizing line (p. 113) in the chapter on astrology is, "Most astrologers seem to genuinely believe there is a truth to what they are saying. Under test conditions, when they have been involved in the test design, many astrologers are genuinely surprised that their readings are no better than random chance predicts."

In a chapter on Nostradamus and the delusion that his quatrains accurately predicted future events such as the Great Fire of London (giving due credit to James Randi's Encyclopedia), Kelly writes (p. 143), "When considering my ability to interpret them differently, you need to consider whether, given enough effort and knowledge, many interpretations can be made from every quatrain." That chapter is followed by a Nostradamus parody showing that Samuel Taylor Coleridge predicted the Afghan War and revealed the hiding place of Osama bin Laden. Like all effective satire, the chapter is sufficiently realistic that, if it were published in Fate, True Believers would not hesitate to take it seriously and credit Coleridge, as they currently credit Nostradamus, with possessing information that had travelled backward in time. (Tip to Ms Kelly: Try submitting the chapter to Fate, or National Inquirer, and see what happens. Consider it your version of James Randi's Project Alpha.)

In the chapter on psychic detectives, for which the main source was Joe Nickell's Psychic Sleuths, Kelly quotes the father of a girl whose disappearance still has not been solved (p. 155), "We discovered that the work of the psychics was not just ludicrous and laughable. It was sinister and evil…. We had become enslaved to the suggestions of the psychics." If the prostitutes who determine what is broadcast on the Vast Wasteland were aware that buying ratings by encouraging belief in the confidence swindlers who call themselves psychics, mediums and ghost whisperers made them the swindlers' co-conspirators, would they start asking, "Is it true?" before peddling whatever Big Lie the ignoranti will buy? Anyone who thinks that might happen is urged to contact me. I have a bridge for sale in Brooklyn that I think will interest him.

Commenting on the allegedly positive results claimed for ESP tests by Joseph Rhine and other statistically incompetent and easily deceived researchers, Kelly writes (p. 141), "Scientific method dictates that the test must be able to be replicated by an independent experimenter using an identical procedure. This has never been the case with ESP." Nonetheless, she buys into the propaganda that it is impossible to prove a negative, and therefore no amount of research has or could prove that ESP does not exist. She does not mention the logical reality that, if ESP did exist (or hypnotism, or multiple personality, or facilitated communication, or recovered memory, or TM levitation, or dowsing), someone would have proven it by now. And her accounts of such mythical primates as the Loch Ness monster, Sasquatch, and yeti, while acknowledging that searchers have found no supporting evidence for such creatures, suggests (p. 255) that, "They just might find it." I have to attribute that concession to political correctness rather than gullibility, since she spells out the reasons why a breeding herd of such creatures could not exist. But the certainty that, if one did exist, someone would have proven it by now, appears to be beyond her self-imposed mental firewall.

In the chapter on magicians such as Uri Geller and George Kresge who pretend to be "special" by passing off their schoolboy conjuring tricks as manifestations of a nonexistent "psychic power," Kelly writes (p. 175), "Magicians deceive. But they are honest deceivers, never claiming any skill beyond deliberate deception. Those who use the magicians' tricks, but claim their deceptions are the truth, are committing fraud."

Not one of Kelly's four chapters on alien encounters mentions Robert Sheaffer or Philip Klass in its reference notes. And since Kelly is content to debunk only the claims that have actually been made by believers and humbugs, she makes no mention of the absurdity of aliens that have no DNA in common with any terrestrial life form resembling humans in Star Trek makeup, or exceeding the speed of light in order to commute between earth and a home planet light years away. But that is my only criticism of an otherwise excellent treatment of the UFO delusion and the alien abduction hoax.

On the down side: Three chapter titles begin with the letters DIY. I read the chapters very thoroughly, without finding any indication of what those initials stand for. I could guess, or Google, but I should not have to do that. On pages 80 and 82 there are references to photographs "in the plate section." There is no such section. Presumably it was part of the hardcover edition and was deleted from the paperback—without the text being corrected to allow for the omission. And page 164 is typeset off-center, so that the last two letters of every line are missing.

Other than debunking the Bridey Murphy case in greater detail than I had done, Kelly's book told me nothing I did not already know. Given our overlapping fields of interest, that is not a weakness. Skeptic's Guide can be recommended to anyone who knows, for example, that there is no such thing as a psychic detective, or an alien abductee, or a medium, but is unfamiliar with the competent investigations of humbugs claiming such descriptions. Kelly's book belongs in every public and high school library.

Beware of God: stories
Shalom Auslander
Simon & Schuster
Rockefeller Center
1230 Avenue of the Americas, NY 10020
0743264568 19.95

Judaism is less insane than Christianity for several reasons.

(1) Judaism has thousands less gods than Christianity, limiting the minor deities in its version of Cloud Cuckoo Land to angels and demons, but no saints.

(2) Judaism is less mathematically illiterate than Christianity, and recognizes the doctrine that, "one god plus one god plus one god equals one god," is believable only to the logically impaired.

(3) Jews seldom if ever see images of King David in a mud puddle or a chapatti.

Much of Judaism is, of course, insane, but on issues on which Christianity is equally insane, such as classifying eating a "bacon double cheeseburger" (p. 2) as a sin, the way Christianity long classified eating meat on Friday as a sin.

Does that mean that a recovered Jew, having been less severely brainwashed, is less capable of writing fiction that intelligently satirizes the god delusion than a recovered Christian (such as this reviewer)? After reading the collection of short stories in Beware of God, one must conclude that the answer is No.

There was an initial temptation to describe Auslander's treatment of "God" in these stories as a character assassination. But that expression essentially means using lies to make a good person seem bad. It is not appropriate for using simple truths to portray someone who is less than admirable as what he really is. What makes Auslander's annihilation of God so effective is that it is done from a strictly Orthodox Jewish perspective. Instead of offering arguments that God is the most sadistic, evil, mass-murdering psychopath in all fiction, as many formerly-Christian authors have done, Beware of God portrays him as simply a capricious, no-talent, self-centered son of a bitch who smokes cigarettes while driving around New York with his adjutants, Death and Lucifer, looking for someone he failed to kill in two previous attempts and is determined to get it right this time.

Imagine an archaeologist finding a tablet engraved with The Oldest Testament of Them All, identical to every Not Quite As Old Testament written after it, with the exception that its opening paragraph reads, "The following is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to real persons living or dead is entirely coincidental." How would the world, including the Catholic pope, Jerry Falwell, and the hierarchy of Hebrew University react to such a discovery? Auslander's answer to that question is both hilarious and enlightening, and could force even hardcore believers to recognize that it is more true than funny. And the story of two hamsters who disagree about whether Joe, who feeds them but rarely cleans their litter box, is benevolent or malevolent, is a close enough parallel to the "God" debate to have believers vehemently denying its accuracy.

While Auslander is described on the back cover, perhaps with some justification, as, "the freshest voice in Jewish literature since Philip Roth arrived on the scene," he is no Isaac Asimov. Of course that may not be a valid comparison, since Asimov, despite his ethnicity, did not write "Jewish literature." But he makes factual errors that Asimov would have avoided, such as crediting chimpanzees with awareness that mating causes pregnancy. No animal other than Homo sapiens is aware of the relationship between recreation and procreation, and only practitioners of the pseudoscience of sociobiology continue to propagate such incompetent nonsense. And when a yeshiva student argues (p. 123) that, "the greater commandment to love your neighbor as you love yourself specifically avoids saying whether the neighbor is Jewish or non-Jewish," it is hard to understand how an author who appears to know what he is talking about can be unaware that the Hebrew word translated as "neighbor" in English bibles means very specifically, "fellow Jew."

But that is nitpicking. To a science fiction appreciator who normally detests fantasy, Auslander's type of fantasy is both meaningful and delightful. It can be recommended even for persons who do not already know how hilariously ridiculous the God delusion really is.

Tom Cruise: An Unauthorized Biography
Andrew Morton
St Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780312359867 $25.95

Question: What do you call someone so brainwashed that he has become a mindless shill for the confidence swindle that is fleecing him? Answer: Tom Cruise.

Andrew Morton's biography begins with the information that, when Tom Cruise Mapother IV adopted a screen name, he abandoned his paternal surname and adopted the family name of a distant female ancestor. From there, Morton catalogues far more information about Cruise's background and ancestry than I ever wanted to know. When I had a fan-fixation on Brooke Shields, if my status as a showbiz third-assistant promo writer had ever led to my meeting her, I would probably have been catatonically tongue-tied. But at no time did I give a flying fig about her relationship with her mother, or anything else about her off-screen life that did not have a recognizable bearing on who she was. And I am similarly bored beyond measure with such information about a personality of whom I have a less elevated opinion, whether Tom Cruise or any of Morton's other biographical subjects. To persons who actually read Morton's biography of Monica Lewinsky, I can only say: Get a life.

Morton's first five chapters, 123 pages, are as entertaining as a stroke-by-stroke description of Tom Sawyer's marks whitewashing the fence. Only when the book ventures into Cruise's brainwashing by the Scientology cult that Time described (p. 155) as, a "hugely profitable global racket that survived by intimidating members and critics alike in a Mafia-like manner," does it start to be informing in any meaningful way. Morton explains that Cruise was spoon-fed the Hubbardite science fiction theology spelled out below. "While the Hubbardian myth is now widely derided, the story is the test of belief, a leap of faith that vaults over rational doubts. For Tom to make further progress, he had to swallow every last drop of Hubbard's theological Kool-Aid" (p. 171).

I was aware that Hubbard several times informed associates that, "If you want to make a million, the quickest way is to start your own religion" (p. 96), a quote the cult's propagandists claim is taken "out of context." In what context, one wonders, would it not mean what it clearly does mean?

Hubbard's Hans Anderson theology is that humans are "possessed" by malevolent aliens called thetans who came to earth 70 million years ago and took over the human population—millions of years before humans had even evolved (p. 171). But it came as news to me that Scientology maintains "Bonnie View, the mansion built by Scientologists for the anticipated return to Earth of the deceased L. Ron Hubbard after his galactic wanderings" (p. 131), and that much of Cruise's brainwashing was accomplished there. So Scientology awaits a "second coming," just like the cargo cultists of the South Pacific who are waiting for the return of John Frum, Shiites who are waiting for the second coming of their Mahdi, and Christians who are waiting for the second coming of a dead Jew. Perhaps it is worth mentioning that an episode of Law and Order had Sam Waterston voice the opinion that the delusions of a Scientology-like cult are no further removed from reality than the concept of a metaphysical Master of the Universe being born as a human. But that does not make a profit-motivated confidence swindle any less evil.

Cruise has no more ability to put his brain in gear when discussing Scientology beliefs, than do creationists when discussing the opening chapters of Genesis. He publicly described psychiatry as "Nazi science" (p. 329), not because he agrees with such writers as Thomas Szasz who have debunked psychiatry as the same kind of sympathetic listening practised by bartenders and taxi drivers, but because Hubbard denounced it after being unfavorably evaluated by every psychoquack he ever encountered (not necessarily as a patient). But while psychiatric talk therapy may indeed be the humbuggery Szasz alleges, psychiatrists are medical doctors and as such are able to prescribe anti-depressant drugs to patients who observably need them. But because Hubbard pronounced ex cathedra that patients in need of medication should be treated only with vitamins, that is what Cruise believes. Or rather that is what he preaches, since a brainwashed Pinocchio should not be credited with "believing" doctrines cemented into his head by a dead Geppetto.

In reporting the delusions of the Scientology hierarchy, Morton wrote (p. 289), "Some sect members believed that Katie Holmes was carrying the baby who would be the vessel for L. Ron Hubbard's spirit when he returned from his trip around the galaxy. True believers were convinced that Tom's spawn would be the reincarnation of L. Ron Hubbard. Some Sea Org fanatics even wondered if the actress had been impregnated with Hubbard's frozen sperm." Cruise in his neverending pursuit of the lawsuits Hubbard recommended for the purpose of intimidating and silencing all criticism, saw Morton's report of the beliefs of his cult's most mindless blockheads as grounds for yet another libel suit. Since England's libel laws are so stacked in favor of the plaintiff, disallowing the defences of "truth and public interest" and "absence of malice" that are admissible in the rest of the world, that Liberace was awarded damages against a publisher who merely hinted that he might be homosexual, Morton's publisher remains afraid to produce a UK edition. But Morton merely reports the whispers of the cult's own crackpots. If Cruise considers the hypotheses Morton quotes libelous, he should be suing his fellow mindslaves, not resorting to "kill the messenger."

Morton sees Cruise's portrayal of his Mission Impossible character as modeled after Ron Hubbard's successor as Scientology's totalitarian Führer, the equally paranoid David Miscavige. Presumably Cruise was not responsible for transforming Mission Impossible's unique format into a James Bond clone, or for the ultimate obscenity of having M.I.'s Jim Phelps sell out to the other side, as repulsive a story line as having James Bond or Sherlock Holmes do so. I can only assume that Cruise was never a Mission Impossible fan. I find it impossible even to watch what the big screen has done to my favorite series, let alone act in the abomination into which it has been transformed.

Morton cites an interview Cruise's first wife Mimi Rogers gave Playboy, in which she alleged that he had considered becoming a monk, as the origin and reason for the long-surviving rumor that he was homosexually oriented (p. 163). She later recanted, and Morton quotes her later statement, "I slept with the man for four years; I should know," in the belief that Rogers' statement and a similar one by Nicole Kidman (p. 193) settles the question of Cruise's sexual orientation once and for all. Pardon me if I disagree. I find the conclusion that Cruise is not gay less than definitive. Cruise's love scene with Brad Pitt in Interview with the Vampire struck me as more realistic than could reasonably be expected from an actor who found the embrace of another male less than arousing. Maybe he is a good enough actor to make man-on-man interaction look more realistic than Peter Finch in Sunday Bloody Sunday. But I continue to doubt it.

Morton's summary of his subject is as follows (p. 321): "Tom is merely a smiling conduit for the philosophy of the man he calls his mentor, L. Ron Hubbard. By definition, everything LRH wrote … is deemed sacred and inviolable…. Philosophically, Hubbard's worldview was defined by the state of the planet just after World War II. It is intellectually static, unable to accept or absorb any progress in civilization since then. It is no exaggeration to say that Scientology is the intellectual equivalent of the Flat Earth Society, a group locked in a time warp, inexorably bound by the rules defined by its founder." It is also, in the judgment of courts and governments in several countries, quoted by Jon Atack in A Piece of Blue Sky, an organized crime syndicate. There is something terribly wrong with an industry in which thoroughly despicable evolutionary throwbacks such as Tom Cruise and Mel Gibson are not permanently consigned to the welfare rolls after making statements that reveal how truly subhuman they really are.

In a sense, Tom Cruise is lucky that, when he was primed to join a science fiction cult, the one that happened to be front and center was Scientology. It could just as easily have been Heaven's Gate or the Branch Davidians. Nonetheless, Cruise takes all the fun out of cult analysis, by making the task of proving that Scientologists are self-inflicted brain amputees far too easy. He makes the Manchurian Candidate look like a poster boy for free will.

The Race for God
Brian Herbert
Cosmos Books
Dorchester Publishing Co
200 Madison Avenue, NY 10016
9780843959109 $6.99

Imagine that a god of the universe actually exists, in a galaxy far, far away. Imagine that on a slow news day its long-range antennas pick up a planet called D'Urth containing intelligent life, and it learns that thousands of "religions" on D'Urth all claim that the god, whose real name is Tananius-Ofo, has revealed itself to them under different names and laid down laws so incompatible that every religion's prime directive to its adherents is to exterminate the followers of all other religions.

That was Brian Herbert's initial concept when he set out to write a novel postulating how Tananius-Ofo might react to such a discovery. What the god does is choose an emissary to invite an assortment of D'Urthlings to visit him. The emissary is the self-proclaimed Grand Exalted Rooster of the Interplanetary Church of Cosmic Chickenhood. The status of the 9,000-member ICCC is spelled out when The Grand Rooster observes (p. 19) that, "From the correspondence he received, it was clear that most of his members believed the drivel he'd made up about D'Urth being 'an egg of the Great Mother Chicken, the originator of all life in the universe.' A few recognized the ICCC as a spoof, to their great amusement." That is as close as Herbert comes to equating the Grand Rooster with L. Ron Hubbard, but the parallel is hard to escape.

Herbert's grasp of Standard English leaves something to be desired. Three times in a single chapter he used the more-than-two plural, "one another," in a situation that called for the dual-number, "each other." His capitalizing of pronouns and possessive adjectives referring to any or all of D'Urth's gods suggests unawareness that even liberal theists have abandoned the practice. And consider his reference to an obscure religion, unknown to God's presiding apprentice, in which (p. 287), "Among my people it is only murder to kill kin. Killing nonkin is not murder." Is Herbert unaware that biblical Judaism defined only the killing of a fellow Jew as murder, and even legalized Jew-killing if it was an accidental consequence of an attempt to kill a non-Jew? Or is he being politically correct, pretending that only a hypothetical religion could take such a position, in order to avoid antagonizing the majority of Jews, Christians and Muslims who refuse to recognize the extent of their allegedly sacred books' xenophobia?

Brian Herbert is no Asimov, Clarke or Heinlein. He is also no Frank Herbert. I had a problem with the senior Herbert's first Dune sequel, until I realized that he was demonstrating the way absolute power corrupts absolutely. I consequently had no trouble reading the original author's additional sequels. But when I tried reading the Brian Herbert continuations, I found them as entertaining as counting flowers on the wall. Judging by their sales, the rest of the world did not feel the same way. But to me they were unreadable.

The Race for God is not unreadable, and is a work of merit, although the early chapters could benefit from an abridgement. What it is not is an atheistic sermon, as unteachables who posted reviews to Amazon have deluded themselves. Consider (pp. 274-275): "You Krassians [Christians], Middists [Jews] and other wackos fear a great Santa Claus in the sky who knows when you've been bad or good. Santa Claus doesn't bring things to bad little boys and girls. That's the myth structure underlying your acts." The character speaking those words is an acknowledged nontheist, who is portrayed as less than admirable, in conformity with the common god addicts' stereotype of the un-deluded as less virtuous than themselves. In short, he is a straw man who no more speaks for the author than the rehabilitated-Hubbard character—a theist—speaks for the author.

Indeed, the book does not clarify whether the author is even a nontheist, since his characterization of religious extremists is precisely what a religious moderate who regards biblical literalists as an embarrassment to the whole God hypothesis would have written. Even Herbert's identification of the Wholly Babble as the Babul is not necessarily any more intentionally pejorative than calling the Koran the Kooraq. Consider God's answer (p. 361) when asked if he is responsible for the thousands of fatalities caused by earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and hurricanes: "All that, whenever I felt the need for it. I tried to avoid death and destruction, but sometimes it couldn't be prevented. There are priorities I have to consider that you're not likely to understand." That sure sounds to me like the doublethink of an apologist for the God delusion.

Similarly, when a fictitious nontheist, questioning the paramount deity's omnipotence, asks a question that can be rationalized away, such as (p. 302), "Can he create a rock so heavy that he can't lift it?" it seems that a nontheist author would have chosen an impossibility that could not be rationalized away, such as, "Can he create a triangle with four sides, or a number that is more than ten but less than nine?" Herbert may indeed be a nontheist. But he could just as easily be educationally challenged. (Of course the two are not mutually exclusive, as L. Ron Hubbard clearly demonstrated. And does anyone imagine that the kindergarten dropout, Oral Roberts, really believed there was an omnipotent executioner scrutinizing his every hypocrisy?)

The character who does appear to speak for the author, when he finally makes a personal appearance in the concluding chapters (p. 369), is God. God expresses agreement with the nontheist's statement, "about priests using fear tactics to keep their flocks in line," and clarifies, "I don't believe in priests or artificial hierarchies, for such systems change my words to suit their own purposes." The person most likely to put such words into God's mouth is a non-sectarian theist. But the reader should reach his own conclusions.

So will The Race for God induce me to read other books by Brian Herbert? That is a confident No. Can it be recommended for the average science fiction appreciator? Yes.

Behold the Man
Michael Moorcock
Overlook Press
141 Wooster St, New York, NY 10012
9781585677641 $23.95

There are two groups of authors I am almost certain to enjoy reading: (1) those who are sufficiently, sane, intelligent and educated to recognize the god delusion as not merely a fairy tale, but a viciously antihuman fairy tale,and (2) those who write science fiction. While there are exceptions, such as the blockhead who thinks that an event of 30 CE that did not happen is as fully attested by reliable eyewitnesses as the Battle of Waterloo, most science fiction writers are also religion-debunkers. This is particularly true of the genre's giants, such as Asimov, Clarke and Heinlein. And of the many concepts peculiar to science fiction, time travel, intelligently imagined, is perhaps my favorite. An author who writes time-travel science fiction that shreds religion is extremely welcome. Michael Moorcock does precisely that.

Moorcock wrote Behold the Man in 1969. Almost certainly, the success of such religion-annihilators as Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris is what encouraged Overlook Press to reprint Moorcock's book almost 40 years later. Can a growing awareness that some of the most devastating demolitions of the god delusion have been written in the form of science fiction (e.g., Stranger in a Strange Land) work to Moorcock's advantage? Only the incurably brainwashed could hope that it does not.

There are two ways of writing a novel about the life and times of Jesus the Nazirite. The more common is in the form of a historical novel, told either from the point of view of an omnipotent narrator (not the most effective approach), or from the limited omniscient perspective of an eyewitness to the events described. That was the approach I used in Uncle Yeshu, Messiah.

The other format is time travel, having a visitor from the present travel back and compare what he has learned from history books and other sources with what really happened. As expected, there turns out to be an enormous difference—or why write the book at all? Moorcock's Jesus is far removed from the six-foot Adonis that Christian iconography derived from the Mandylion of Edessa. Instead he is much closer to the hunchbacked dwarf psychopath described by Josephus. But much of the background is parroted uncritically from Christian mythology, although one thing Moorcock gets right is that "hosanna" means "free us."

Moorcock imagines that Jesus, whose great-grandparents were Syrians forcibly circumcised by the Maccabees, was descended from King David. He is unaware that there was no such village as Nazareth until long after Jesus' death. He believes that the "twelve apostles" really existed. He even buys into the second-century Jewish fable that Jesus' biological father was not Joseph but an unidentified seducer. In having John the Immerser introduce himself to the time traveler as John the Baptizer, he shows no awareness that "baptize" has no religious connotations but is simply the Greek word for "immerse." However, the myth that John was beheaded at the behest of Salome, who would have been no more than six years old at the time, is presented as the twentieth-century visitor's belief, not as a fact of history.

Such inaccuracies are only to be expected, and do not invalidate Moorcock's imaginative "alternative history." And his use of the dating system, AD, that he presumably would not have used today when the scientifically neutral CE is available, simply reproduces what was considered Standard English when the novel was first written in 1969, a time before it ever occurred to anyone that Anno Domini is a calculated insult to this planet's 5.5 billion non-Christians who do not believe that they are living in "the year of the master."

A quotation from The Guardian on the front cover describes the climax as, "so dangerous and brilliant that scarcely any living writer could do justice to it." In fact the basic idea, that the carpenter's son from Galilee, the itinerant preacher, the man crucified, and the man later seen alive, were not all the same person, has been speculated many times, not always in acknowledged fiction. But Moorcock tells it better than most.

The Impossible Faith
James Patrick Holding
Xulon Press
2180 West State Road 434, Suite 2140, Longwood FL 32779
9781602660847 $10.99

"The arguments made in this book are so powerful that one atheist reader paid another atheist over five thousand dollars to write a response to them" (p. viii). There is only one explanation why even a self-confessed "apologist" would expect his readers to believe such an outrageous falsehood: He is projecting onto his readers the same intellectual bankruptcy he sees in the mirror. And he may be right. Certainly only a reader who is himself braindead could take Holding's unlearned drivel seriously.

James Patrick Holding is now the legal name of Robert Turkel, a brain amputee whom Farrell Till described as, "a cartoon character who came to life by some as-yet-unexplained mechanism." Apparently the name change was triggered by Turkel/Holding's recognition that his previously published work was such a source of embarrassment, that adopting a new name was the logical way to disown it.

B. F. Skinner placed some pigeons in a cage with a blue spot on one wall and a red spot on another wall. Whenever a pigeon pecked on the blue spot, it received a supply of pigeon food. When it pecked on the red spot, it received an electric shock. After one or two shocks, no pigeon ever again pecked the red spot. Pigeons are teachable. James Holding is not. No matter how many times he is shot down in flames, he continues to spout the same unmodified pre-kindergarten ignorance. He could learn much from those pigeons.

Unteachables like Holding take all the fun out of the analysis of religion, by making the task of proving that godworship is a form of insanity far too easy. The one thing the Soviet Union ever got right was its recognition that proselytizers of the god psychosis belong in asylums for the dangerously insane, where they cannot pass on their mind-AIDS to the uninfected. I seldom review books by lightweights, but when a book is this bad I am willing to make an exception. While Xulon Press is a Christian publisher, it is also a facilitator for self-publishing. That would explain why Holding was forced to resort to Xulon after, as he acknowledges, his book was rejected by commercial Christian publishers. Apparently the publishers of such other blockheads as Alister McGrath, Michael Behe, William Dembski, Frank Tipler, and C. S. Lewis recognized Holding as too much of an embarrassment to the god delusion even for them. To his credit, Holding does recognize the Left Behind series as "crap," a far more polite term than he uses in his vicious attacks on everyone who is sufficiently sane, intelligent and educated to commit the ultimate crime of disagreeing with him.

John Loftus, author of Why I Became an Atheist (Prometheus, 2008) wrote a particularly detailed and accurate demolition of Holding's incompetent drivel for Amazon.com, to which Holding responded, "We're all having a lot of laughs at his expense." Presumably that "all" means Holding's fellow vegetables. Since Loftus was excruciatingly polite, I can only wonder how the fatuous, unlearned, unteachable, rationally challenged poseur he demolished will respond to someone who believes that a brain amputee should be exposed for what he is.

Holding takes a lesson from Tertullian, who argued that the myth of an undying god dying and coming back to life should be believed precisely because it was an oxymoronic absurdity. Holding's position is that the Jesus myth was such an absurdity that it would not have been believed unless its first preachers offered incontestable proof that the definitively impossible had indeed happened. I do not dispute that the earliest Christian preachers were able to narrate their fairy tales with a straight face, and those who made no pretence to be eyewitnesses would have believed they were parroting a "reliable source." By that criterion, Holding should be arguing that, when Ron Hubbard decided to invent a religion because, "that's where the money is," he would not have been believed unless he was telling the truth. Sure he was. And Santa Claus comes down the chimney on Mithra's birthday. As to why whole populations came to believe that Atthis, Tammuz, Dionysus, Osiris, and fifty other virgin-born savior gods rose from the dead on the third day centuries before Jesus, that is a point Holding does not mention, probably because he is totally ignorant of facts known even to theologians.

Holding, like Ann Coulter, aims his books at the most mindless, bigoted, intolerant, fatuous, hatemongering, scientifically illiterate evolutionary throwbacks ever seen on earth. But while the role model for Coulter's calculated self-aggrandizement was Elmer Gantry, Holding is more akin to the kindergarten-dropout preacher of Erskine Caldwell's Journeyman. Coulter's books have sold millions, while Holding has not sold enough for a single greasy spoon to wrap one day's serving of fish and chips. Why? One relevant factor is that, while Coulter boasts of being a Christian, she makes no pretence of knowing anything about the mythology she professes to believe. Holding in contrast claims that he does have expertise in the fairy tales of the Jesus hoax—and then turns around and writes such inane drivel that he shows himself to be every bit as ignorant as the True Believers of the Flat Earth Society.

Large numbers have suggested that Ann Coulter does not exist, that her publications are really written by liberal humanists for the purpose of ridiculing the entire philosophy she pretends to espouse. For any significant number of readers to raise such a possibility about Holding, they would first have to be able to answer the question, "James Patrick Who?" That is not going to happen in this lifetime. Those apologists for the god delusion whom the ignoranti (and no one else) do take seriously (William Dembski, Michael Behe) must be asking themselves: With a friend like Holding, who needs enemies?

All religion is mind pablum for the braindead. Anyone who was not braindead before he started believing that mass murder was evil when Hitler did it with gas chambers, but is not evil when his imaginary Sky Führer does it with an Indian Ocean tsunami, a Burmese cyclone, and a Chinese earthquake, is certifiably so once he does acquire such a belief. But even the moderate believers who constitute an overwhelming majority of theists recognize creationists, unteachables who reject evolution and Big Bang theory simply because they falsify biblical fairy tales written in a prescientific age, as intellectually handicapped. If Holding's book is truly illustrative of the extent of his desperate doublethink, there is a bed waiting for him at Bellevue—or, more appropriately, Bedlam, since he is still living in the nineteenth century.

To describe Holding's ramblings as eight chapters of trivia would be unduly flattering. A more accurate description is eight chapters of contentless doubletalk. Consider the following (p. 18), "The shame of the cross, Christianity's most enormous stumbling block, turns out to be one of its most incontrovertible proofs. Without solid evidence of the vindication of Jesus, Christianity would have been an "impossible faith" for anyone to believe." Circular reasoning like that would have made Tertullian proud.

As for the few points Holding makes that have sufficient face validity to warrant a response, they have already been fully rebutted, falsified and demolished at the site of their original publication. Nonetheless, Holding repeats them in this book with neither an attempted rebuttal nor even an acknowledgement of the objections. Is Holding unaware that repeating claims that have been fully disproven is LYING? Or is he intentionally writing for marks he knows can only be persuaded by lies? Humbug or crank? Does it really matter?

Anyone who wishes to verify that my evaluation of Holding's competence and mental equilibrium is, if anything, too charitable, but is not sufficiently masochistic to read his book for such a trivial purpose, need only read his review of Dennis McKinsey's excellent Encyclopedia of Biblical Errancy at www.tectonics.org/af/ebestart.html. Holding should try to learn from the dictum that it is better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than open his mouth and remove all doubt. I seriously doubt that there is a biblical scholar on this planet who would be willing to debate Holding's delusions, because the educated tend to regard it as ethically questionable to engage in a battle of wits with an opponent who is unarmed. Robert Turkel/James Holding is an embarrassment to primates.

Let me echo Martin Gardner's evaluation of another book that, like The Impossible Faith, could only have been written by someone who thinks that Disney's Alice in Wonderland was a documentary: "I am, dear reader, trying to keep a straight face while I summarize [his] convictions." Gardner concluded, as do I, "For a few moments after reading [this book], I began to wonder if the book could be a subtle, hilarious hoax. Sadly, it is not."

Behe and Dembski are self-inflicted brain amputees. Turkel/Holding was born that way.

William Harwood
Reviewer


Henry's Bookshelf

Esotericism, Art, and Imagination
Arthur Versluis et al, editors
Michigan State U. Press
East Lansing, MI 48823-5202
9780870138195 $29.95 www.msupress.msu.edu

Sixteen essays disclose esotericism in the range of Western art, from theater to fiction to the visual arts and others. The four editors are from the fields of arts and letters, religious studies, sociology and philosophy, and humanities. The fields of the essays' authors are not given, and one assumes they are from the same or similar interdisciplinary fields.

The earliest work of art is the play Bacchae by the ancient Greek playwright Euripides. Though esotericism in Western culture preceded the play in the Greek mystery religions. The essays do not treat general themes though. They bring out the esotericism in individual works of art or esoteric beliefs in particular artists. Among the diverse artists are Blake, H. P. Lovecraft, Homer, and Dan Brown; and the psychologists Freud and Jung. Philip Pullman is a contemporary novelist of popular fiction based on the esoteric notion that "[b]efore our present world was created, some of the [already existing] angels, followers of wisdom, rebelled against the [duplicitous] Authority and were cast down...[but] continued to work for his downfall and for the opening of the minds he sought to close." This is not simply an idea for antagonistic, epic fiction, but a version of the belief held by some esoterics of an anthropomorphic reality exerting its will or nature on the cosmos, including individual lives; with the corresponding belief that the movement to know this reality as much as this is possible is the substance of individual lives.

The modernist arts of photography and film are covered too. These are tied in with older esoteric beliefs as appropriate. Some saw these art forms as modern-day means of expressing esoteric ideas which believers of previous eras would have expressed by incantation or ritual. "From its inception the medium of photography was quickly associated with the genesis of the extension of self, a fragment of the soul, captured in the silver [which developed the negative]." The Matrix, The Truman Show, Dark City, and Pleasantville are seen as movies revealing "a recent obsession with gnosis," the view that the experienced, lived, world is a "corrupt copy of a spiritual plenitude of which the ignorant maker is not aware." Robocop and Blade Runner are two "cabalistic" films. The Harry Potter series, with American Beauty and Agnes of God, have alchemical aspects.

One surprising subject is certain gardens; which are related as scenes, or contexts, of initiation into esoteric beliefs.

This is the first volume in the publisher's planned Studies in Esotericism Series. Its articles "indicate the range and depth of this emerging field, and show how it is intimately linked to the humanities tradition that is itself also distinctively Western."

Grandfather's Story Cloth [Yawg Daim Paj Ntaub Dab Neeg]
Linda Gerdner and Sarah Landford, Illustrated by Stuart Loughridge
Shen's Books
Walnut Creek, CA
9781885008343 $16.95 800-456-6660 www.shens.com

A Hmong family who fled Laos after the Vietnam War in Southeast Asia and Alzheimer's disease which can afflict the elderly of any race are brought together. The young boy Chersheng is confused and saddened over his grandfather forgetting small things. In one incident, Chersheng's blanket becomes soaked when the bathroom sink overflows after the grandfather forgets to turn off the water. Another time, the grandfather forgets Chersheng's name.

Chersheng sees the chance to reconnect with his grandfather again and involve him in the family when his mother gives him a story cloth the grandfather had made as a way to record the time before the family came to America. The Hmong people made such colorful woven story cloths to sell some of them to raise money to emigrate to America and get settled there.

Chersheng gets the idea to make a story cloth of his own. When Chersheng shows it to his grandfather, the cloth awakens memories of his past. He recognizes photographs of family members, and he points out the family's present house and vegetable garden in Chersheng's story cloth. The grandfather does remember important parts of the family's past and present, and his memories have a part in the family's unity and future.

Graphic Design and Religion - A Call for Renewal
Daniel Kantor
GIA Publications, Chicago, IL
9781579996628 $39.95 www.giamusic.com

The heavily-illustrated work is not only a catalog of au courant religious graphic art; nearly all Christian, but some Jewish and Islamic pieces as well. To some degree, author Kantor iterates the feelings and the faith bound into religious graphic art; and he states the spiritual as well as practical purposes of such art. He is a liturgical music composer; and his design group has done work for the evangelical Lutheran sect among other Christian religious groups. He does not aim to preach, however; he makes the point that the best religious art is done by artists who are believing Christians, like medieval illuminated manuscripts were done by devout monks. "The creators of the illuminated texts didn't see their works as ends in themselves but as objects subordinated to a divine framework in which a host of otherwise unrelated objects became 'part of the architectural and liturgical presentation of an ordered cosmos of being, reality, and value'." While Kantor recognizes that the "complexity and variety of today's religious communications" go far beyond that of medieval times, today's religious artists are nonetheless in a direct line with the medieval monks.

The central challenge facing today's religious graphic artists is representing the religious quality of mystery in graphic works that in most cases are intended to have some practical use. This is different from the regular goal of the ubiquitous secular, commercial graphic art which is to convey some marketing hook or highlight a feature of a product. "The ways in which symbols are interpreted and deployed by the designer can make the difference between a mystery being opened up and enlarged or its being diminished and stripped of its numinous qualities."

Graphic works as simple as a brochure, a card, or a notice connected with a religious group or event should be identifiable as such. Even such simple, practical graphic art belongs to the wholeness of a religion which makes it such a potent, everlasting force. It is in more complex, artful work such as book jackets and designs, liturgical texts, church art, and theological, homiletic, and ministerial works where the representation of the religion's mysteries is most relevant.

Kantor gives experienced guidance on the use of images, text, composition, color, size, format, and illustration in the varied printed materials of a religion. The abundant, fetching visual matter was chosen by a jury selecting from submissions. It is exceptionally high-quality and instructive; and it demonstrates ideally what Kantor means about the inestimable advantage of attractive, pertinent, and useful graphics for a religion.

Pictorial Guide to Costume Jewelry - Identification and Values
Ariel Bloom
Collector Books
Paducah, KY
9781574325799 $29.95 www.collectorbooks.com

Costume jewelry was produced in large quantity from about the end of the 19th century until about the 1970s to meet the desire of the growing middle classes for decorative accessories less costly than the diamond, gold, and other precious metal jewelry of the wealthy. Though costume jewelry is still being made, collectors are drawn to pieces from this earlier period. For awhile, in the 1980s, costume jewelry was overshadowed by ethnic jewelry. This interest related to multiculturalism and the more recent globalization continues today. Though there are enough serious collectors for the traditional costume jewelry market to remain active. Bloom suggests that with the "opening of mass production in the Far East" with the related emergence of large new consumer markets, there may be another expansion of costume jewelry similar to the first, original period.

Bloom's five-page introductory chapter succinctly covers just about everything the beginner would want to know. It has sections on an overview of the field, pricing, attribution, buying, and how to care for pieces. The glossary at the back too is particularly helpful to the beginning collector or dealer, and has some terms new to even advanced collectors. The book is for the most part a Gallery, though, with costume jewelry grouped by types--necklaces, bracelets, charms, earrings, and others. Captions to the bright color photographs identify the piece, note significant features, and give a price range. All in all a good, up-to-date reference on this category which has gained in popularity in recent years.

Why Not Catch-21? - The Story Behind the Titles
Gary Dexter
Frances Lincoln, London
9780711227965 $16.95 www.franceslincoln.com

One of Dexter's criterion is "the title should not be explicable by reading the text of the book itself." Thus, the meaning of or reference to the titles he explains could not be derived, divined, nor inferred by reading and comprehending the book. Among the fifty titles meeting this criterion plus three others are Gargantua and Pantagruel, The Duchess of Malfi, Sonnets from the Portuguese, The Kreutzer Sonata, Nineteen Eighty-Four, and A Clockwork Orange. The titles span all eras, as far back as Plato's Republic from 380B.C., to the 1990s. All genres are included, though titles to single poems have been eliminated. And--another of Dexter's criterion--titles cannot have be taken from quotes.

The book is entertaining for any reader and especially for ones in the book trade such as writers and publishers, instructive. Despite its catchy title and content from a newspaper (from the author's column in London's Sunday Telegram), Dexter is often discursive and analytical. The bibliography containing many scholarly or literary articles and books of literary criticism is more than six pages. He doesn't simply give the basis or source of a title, as if answering a riddle or giving a quiz-show type answer. He relates the research he did. He does so partly to authoritate how a particular title came about; and partly to support his educated guesswork on how a title came about when there is no conclusive evidence such as the book's author's explanation.

Readers will enjoy the interesting, little-known background on classics and popular books Dexter has dredged up.

In the Wake of Violence
Cheryl R. Jorgensen-Earp
Michigan State U. Press
East Lansing, MI;
9780870138218 $59.95 www.msupress.msu.edu

Reformists are different from revolutionaries. Revolutionaries seek to overthrow a government or social system; and often espouse violence to achieve their goal. Revolutionaries are often armed. Some reformist groups have broad agendas, such as the 19th-century women's rights movement which aimed to make changes in education, dress, and employment. Jorgensen-Earp, a teacher at Lynchburg College, is concerned in this book with "single-issue reform movements." These have "no desire to overthrow the system, and a change in public worldview is sought only in connection with one perceived flaw in that system." The women's suffrage movement is an example of a single-issue reform movement.

Though reformist movements do not espouse violence, violence nonetheless oftentimes becomes associated with them. Destruction of abortion clinics and burnings of homes said to be threatening the environment are acts of violence inevitably associated with the essentially reformist antiabortion and the environmental movements respectively. The violence of SDS and Black Panthers, by contrast, associated with the broad student/civil rights movement of the 1960s exemplify the ambiguous regard of violence with respect to it. The less-defined, the more amorphous a movement or organization, the less is any member of it seen as responsible for any violence.

Violence is thus deeply problematic to the single-issue reformist movements; whose only hope for success because of their relatively small number of members and their specific aim rests largely with the sympathies and eventual persuasion of the general population and often changes in law through elected legislative bodies. How effectively the leaders of such groups disassociate themselves from violence such as injuries to persons and destruction of property can make all the difference in the social standing and acceptability of the group and eventual achievement of its aim.

The author explores "three general rhetorical clusters" which the "moderates" leading the single-issue reformist groups employ to try to disassociate themselves from any violence which is inevitably somehow linked to them because of the targets of the violence. The three clusters are: (1) denial of involvement with the violence with a distancing from it; (2) an internal debate about the place of violence; and (3) an external justification of the cause despite the violence mistakenly attached to it because of the actions of one or a small group of individuals.

Jorgensen-Earp follows how activist leaders work in various media and employ various means to disassociate themselves from violence seemingly done in the name of their single-issue movement. The media and means include newspapers, television, interviews, letters, cartoons, speeches, and Internet sites. The author presents this activity as rhetorical response. (The book is a part of the publisher's Rhetoric and Public Affairs Series.) Such activity is often identified by the general public and media commentators as a "public-relations offensive," as when a corporation gets bad press for some incident or a celebrity creates a scandal. This book is a wide-ranging, illuminating study of how single-issue groups similarly work to protect their image and keep acceptable relations with the public.

Drawn by New York - Six Centuries of Watercolors and Drawings at the New York Historical Society
Roberta J. M. Olson with Alexandra Mazzitelli
New York Historical Society
New York
9781904832348 $85.00 www.gilesltd.com

More than 250 of the New York Historical Society's works of art are catalogued in color. These are arranged chronologically beginning from the mid seventeenth century views of Manhattan and environs settled by the Dutch to photographs and other works from the first years of this century. The large majority of the works are by American artists. The subject matter is broadly Americana favoring New York city local sights, subjects, and themes and extending out from the city to surrounding areas, Long Island, and other parts of New York state (e. g., Niagara Falls). Generic or representational works such as ones of persons or trees or animals (e. g., Audubon folio prints) are chosen for their exceptional quality alone or as outstanding period pieces which could apply to the New York City area (for example, how persons dressed, what a room in a home looked like).

The format regarding each artist and respective work or group of few in the case of especially important artists such as Audubon and George Catlin is the same. First comes biographical overview including occupations other than art and comments on characteristic style and subject matter. Appended to this is a bibliography. The biography can vary in length from part of one column in the three-columned pages to several columns running over two or more pages depending on the placement of the related art work or works. After the artist bibliography comes the title or identification of the art work with detailed notes on its type, size, materials, coloring, provenance, and exhibition history. The follows rich critical commentary on the representative work, usually including historical and cultural matter as well as analysis of the work. "Animals were customary subjects in the penmanship genre, as children found them appealing. Horses, leaping deer, and patriotic eagles are among the most common subjects because the natural cures of these animals' bodies suited the repetitive and rhythmic flourishes necessary to the development of a confident calligraphic style," is part of the commentary for a Calligraphic Horse, c.1850, by a James T. Sutes when he was a boy. The ending for the format is notes for the critical commentary. These often contain interesting and informative material in their own right.

Roberta Olsen's introductory essay--followed by 47 notes--traces the history of the New York Historical Society mostly from the perspective of its art holdings, noting favorite artistic subjects in different eras and highlighting special works and artists. The eclecticism of the works is not only a matter of the extraordinary, trained eye and tastes of those who collected them over the years of the Society's existence starting in 1804 and the available funds for purchases, but also the ill-defined mission and goals--i. e., identity--of the Society. Olson notes the "evolution [of the collection] is as complex as the history of the Society itself." What Olson refers to as "complexity" is a boon for art lovers and historians. The New York Historical Society art collection has no comparison not only for its high quality but for its eclecticism, including many unique items. It is especially educating because it supplements the grand sweep and level of art works at major museums by shining lights into the smaller, less ambitious, and in some cases amateurish works of art which preserve local scenes and other historical details which may have otherwise vanished.

The exhibition of the 250 selected works now on view at the New York Historical Society will travel to Vassar and later the Taft Museum in Cincinnati.

Left Behind, or Left Befuddled - The Subtle Dangers of Popularizing the End Times
Gordon L. Isaac
Liturgical Press
Collegeville, MN
9780814624203 $16.95 www.litpres.org

A professor of Advent Christian Studies at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Massachusetts, Isaac critiques the Left Behind Series of novels which have attracted a large readership among evangelicals, fundamentalists, and other Christian groups. The twelve volumes of the series has sold over 65 million copies; and three movies based on the books have been made. It is the apocalyptic themes, tensions, and pictures drawn largely from the Book of Revelation which draw the Christian groups to the series. Isaac not only criticizes misunderstandings and distortions of the Book of Revelation found in the Left Behind Series, but he discloses ill effects these have in the personal lives of many readers and also their relationship with and view of society.

While the book mostly deals with themes, scenes, characters and other content of the books in the series in the manner of familiar literary criticism, Isaac also quotes from other parts of the Bible to shed light on the interpretation of the apocalyptic vision of Revelation. He also reviews the history of apocalypticism to show how the books fit into it and why they strike a chord in contemporary readers with apocalyptic beliefs.

Isaac's main interest in this work from a publisher of books on Christianity is presenting Left Behind readers and others fascinated by sensationalistic apocalyptic beliefs with a tempered and informed understanding of the idea of apocalypse in Christianity. His aim is "recapturing the Christian imagination" in ways that are true to Christian spirituality; which ways make for enriched lives and worthwhile social values. "On the one hand, they [apocalyptic beliefs] simplify conflict in the world that has become too complex to be sanely born by the average resident of planet Earth. On the other, looking into the abyss of the destruction of the world makes everyday troubles seem insignificant by comparison." Extreme or unreflective apocalyptic beliefs hold out the hope of a new beginning for Humankind; or at least the hope that the worst conditions and human attributes will be done away with in an apocalypse. Needless to say, this patently wishful thinking leaves those who put all their hopes in apocalypse passive, myopic, and in the author's word, befuddled.

"The tragedy of the Left Behind point of view is that it forecloses on the very purpose and function of the book of Revelation, is to purge and refresh Christian imagination." Working toward this point, Isaac critiques the contemporary apocalyptical belief as a variety of postmodern distraction somewhat like celebrity and horror films, yet particularly deceptive and disorienting for being rooted in religious passions.

Henry Berry
Reviewer


Karyn's Bookshelf

The Story Blanket
Ferida Wolff and Harriet May Savitz, authors
Elena Odriozola, illustrator
Peachtree Publishers
1700 Chattahoochee Ave., Atlanta, GA 30318-2112
9781561454662, $16.95

The best deeds are those quietly done, with no thought of reward but the knowledge that good usually comes back around. In "The Story Blanket," children regularly gather on a large blanket to hear an old woman's stories. But over time the children notice the blanket getting smaller and smaller. Meanwhile, someone is anonymously making things for the local less fortunate, including socks for a small boy, a scarf for the postman and a pair of warm mittens for the school master. In the end, neighbors realize the old woman is unraveling her blanket to help others, and they present her with a new blanket. A nicely illustrated tale about paying good forward.

Pearl Barley and Charlie Parsley
Aaron Blabey, author and illustrator
Boyds Mills Press
815 Church St., Honesdale, PA, 18431
9781590785966, $16.95

Friends can draw on their differences to build each other up, young children learn in the thoughtful and entertaining picture book "Pearl Barley and Charlie Parsley." Pearl Barley is loud and adventurous while Charlie Parsley is quiet and introverted. But their distinct personalities benefit each other. Charlie musters courage and confidence by watching how brave Pearl is. And Charlie is right there with a mug of warm milk when Pearl comes home exhausted from conquering the world. Warmly illustrated and gently written with a message that will resonate.

Julia Gillian (and the Art of Knowing)
Alison McGhee, author, Drazen Kozjan, illustrator
Scholastic Press
557 Broadway, New York, NY 10012
9780545033480, $15.99

No matter your age, fears are part of life. Sometimes "the only way out is through"10-year-old Julia Gillian learns in this sensitively crafted tale filled with wisdom and humor. Julia Gillian can't bring herself to finish a book because the ending, in which a dog is likely to die, leaves her thinking about how her own beloved pet dog is getting up in years. With help from an 18-year-old neighbor, who doesn't belittle her concerns, Julia Gillian musters some needed courage. McGhee's message, that no fear is insignificant, is a good one. And it's tucked into a plot that treads lightly enough to also be a fun read.

The Magic Half
Annie Barrows, author
Bloomsbury U..S.A Children's Books
175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010
9781599901329, $15.95

Tween readers want to believe in magic, and what better way to put that to use than to conjure up a new friend? "The Magic Half" delightfully melds time travel and mysterious elements like hidden treasure, broken eyeglasses and an old diary into the tale of two girls born 70 years apart, who miraculously meet. Light intrigue ensues as the girls figure out how to move between the 1930s and the 21st Century, navigate the same house in two different time periods and try to thwart a historical chain of events. The plot flows smoothly with a conclusion that is particularly sweet and satisfying.

Memories of Babi
Aranka Siegal, author
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
18 West 18th St., New York, NY 10011
9780374399788, $16.00

Amid storytelling, the sharing of Jewish traditions and recipes and heartfelt talks, a young girl and her Ukrainian grandmother forge a special bond in "Memories of Babi." In nine short chapters based on her real-life experience, author Aranka Siegal touches on things like discrimination, compassion for the less fortunate, enjoying the fruits of your labor and the existence of the soul as she recounts time spent at her grandmother's country home in the early 20th Century. Nicely readable and poignant, with life lessons and a final paragraph that lends great perspective.

The Robe of Skulls
Vivian French, author
Candlewick Press
2067 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02140
9780763635312, $14.99

Scottish author Vivian French says she had a lot of fun writing "The Robe of Skulls." In a way that young readers will relish, her unleashed creativity resulted in this ridiculously free-rolling romp. How can you go wrong with bats that talk, princes turned into frogs, a villainess pining for a robe decorated with skulls and a host of other quirky characters and situations? The well-crafted plot revolves around an old sorceresses' need to make some money to pay for her robe of skulls. She decides that the best route is to turn some young princes and princesses into frogs, and then demand ransoms from their royal parents. Along the way a young orphaned girl, her dreadful step family, a rebellious young prince, a bat and assorted other animals, a troll and a trio of old women commissioned to make the robe become entangled in the scheme, some on the evil side and some on the good. Funny from start to finish.

Karyn Saemann
Reviewer


Kaye's Bookshelf

The Scroll - Wake Up Call Prophecies
Bob R. Short
Xulon Press
9780965140812 $29.95 www.xulonpress.com

Quoting from the back cover:

"Bob Short has predicted his second book of astonishing end time prophecies. His first book, the Wake Up Call Prophecies, published in 1996 has happened as prophesied (see Section-3). Authoritative and cutting edge prophecies in The Scroll are incredible, even shocking, and could be life saving. Understanding the future with skyrocketing catastrophic events makes this book a must read for all nation's Christians, citizens, clergy, and their Military."

Mr. Short is quite the dedicated person, and his book is the result of this dedication. He has traveled far and wide in his religious adventure and includes photos of himself and religious sites throughout the book. The Scroll is well organized, well edited, and it is clearly evident that Mr. Short is an educated man.

Prior to the Table of Contents he includes a "Non Christian Warming: Prophecy, however, is for Believers - Not for unbelievers!" and then provides us with the prayer which will make us newborn Christians. So you see...there is still hope.

Slice of Life - Our Ways and Days
Gene Hull
Fiction Publishing, Inc.
Fort Pierce, Florida
9780981495651, $14.95

Quoting from the back cover:

"SLICE OF LIFE, a surprising potpourri of literary short stories, is rooted in intriguing characters and plot twists cleverly and believable crafted.

"You'll meet Leonardo, naive young musician, confronted and confused by a charming older woman in a San Francisco jazz club.... Alison and her two sisters, on a New Hampshire reunion hike, attacked by a roving black bear.... A bickering senior couple who get lost while driving at night on a Florida back road.... Warren Duphiney, a shy photographer captivated by a beautiful young woman who is running in the park.... Jess Carter attempting a daring rescue of a TV newswoman trapped in a Pennsylvania coal mine. Lyle Baker, a young veteran who returns unexpectedly to his North Texas hometown five years after the war.... and many more personalities caught up in the drama of OUR WAYS AND DAYS."

Some think the popularity of the short story has seen its day, but I tend to disagree. A short story is the perfect bedtime read, and Gene Hull has done an excellent job of providing us with some entertaining stories. This collection is well crafted, well edited and creative. Slice of Life is Gene's third book, and he just keeps getting better and better. I don't think you'll be disappointed. Enjoy!

Kaye Trout
Reviewer


Kevin's Bookshelf

Ambush in the Alleghenies
William P. Robertson, David Rimer
Infinity Press
1094 New Dehaven St, suite 100
0741447770 $13.95 (877) BUY-BOOK www.buybooksontheweb.com

Ambush in the Alleghenies

Deep in the wilderness of western Pennsylvania, a young George Washington suffered his first military defeat, and rekindled a centuries-old feud between Great Britain and France. The battles that followed would be fought across virgin territories, from Nova Scotia to the forks of the Ohio River, and it would decide the fate of the entire North American continent. It is against this setting that William P. Robertson and David Rimer start their exciting new series Ambush in the Alleghenies, four daring trappers get snared in the conflict soon to be known as the French and Indian War.

Robertson and Rimer have spent fifteen years creating their series of seven novels about the famous Civil War rifle regiment, the Bucktails. Now the authors are back with a new adventure set in the wilderness of colonial Pennsylvania. Ambush in the Alleghenies details the exploits of Lightnin' Jack Hawkins, Bearbite Bob Winslow, Will Big Cat Cutler, and Alexander MacDonald, four mountain men struggling to survive the savage land and fierce enemies.

The book begins with the opening phase of the French and Indian War. George Washington is sent on a spy mission to Pennsylvania. The protagonists, beaver trappers by trade, are dragged into the conflict when the French invade their trapping territory and interfere with their way of life. They meet a very young George Washington, who employs them as scouts. The book finishes two years later with the defeat of British General Edward Braddock near Fort Duquesne.

Robertson and Rimer realistically illustrate the everyday life of Eastern mountain men. The clothing, food, weapons, trapping techniques and even the rough humor are meticulously depicted. There are some great photos are fellow re-enactors which bring the book and time period to life. The book brings history to a younger generation of readers; though I know of more than one adult (other than myself) who is going to love this series.

I find the book to be well researched and a must read for anyone who enjoys historical fiction and action-oriented prose. When I asked William how he writes the novels, he answered, " The way we write the books is this. First, we both do research to find out the time period. Using the history as the template, we come up with a creative plot. I then write the rough draft and give it to Dave for editing. He corrects the grammar, finds weak places in the plot, and checks for logic and possible historical errors. After that, I add in his corrections and find other mistakes, too. The book goes back and forth 5 or 6 times until we work the bugs out of it. I am the creative force behind the books, while Dave is the technical writing expert." The authors have even included bibliography and a glossary so that interested readers can discover out more about this exciting period of history.

The novel also includes elements of tall tales and myth making, for which the American frontier is known. Each frontiersman possesses strong medicine* that enables him to thwart Bold Wolf, an evil Ottawa chief, and their archenemy. Lightnin' Jack, uses his speed to beat the chief's gauntlet, while Will Cutler has an amazing skill with weapons.

Danger lurks everywhere in the dense hemlocks of the Alleghenies, with ferocious cougars, scalp-stealing savages, and Frenchmen full of fight. I'm looking forward to the next thrilling book in the series, but in the meanwhile, I think I'll grow my beard out and practice my shootin', cause I ain't planning on getting ambushed or missing the next one…

French? Indian? Or born to be a mountain man? Email me at frommyshelf@epix.net Miss a column? Don't get mad, get caught up at www.frommyshelf.blogspot.com Don't miss the exciting adventures of Hobo. He doesn't wrassle cougars, or take any scalps, but he does venture into the wilds of Tioga County in "Hobo Finds A Home", a children's book for the kitten in all of us.

Poacher Wars
William Wasserman
Penn's Wood Publications
105 Benjamine Perry Ct. Simpsonville, SC 29681
9780971890763 12.95

A game warden came upon a duck hunter who had bagged 3 ducks and decided to "enforce the laws pending." He stopped the hunter, flashed his badge and said, "Looks like you've had a pretty good day. Mind if I inspect your game?"

The hunter shrugged and handed the ducks to the warden. The warden took one of the ducks, probed the anal cavity with his finger, pulled it out, sniffed it, and said, "This here's a New York state duck. Do you have a New York state hunting license?"

The hunter pulled out his wallet and calmly showed the warden a New York state-hunting license. The warden took a second duck, inserted his finger in the bird's rectum, pulled it out, sniffed it, and said, "This here's an Ohio duck. Do you have an Ohio state hunting license?"

The hunter, annoyed, produced an Ohio state-hunting license. The warden took a third duck, investigated the bird's southern exit with the same finger test, and said, "This here's a Pennsylvania state duck. Do you have a Pennsylvania state hunting license?"

Once again, only this time more aggravated, the hunter produced the appropriate license. The warden, a little miffed at having struck out, handed the ducks back to the hunter and said, "You've got all of these licenses, just where the hell are you from?"

The hunter dropped his pants, bent over, and said, "You're so smart, YOU tell ME!"

Yep, every ridgerunner has at least one story involving a game warden. There are times when they can be annoying, like that time you hit that deer at 1am, only the deer was still twitching and the tire iron was only to put it out of its misery. After all, if you were going to jacklight deer, wouldn't you have a spotlight and a loaded tire iron, and still have an intact radiator? There's no sense letting all that good meat go to waste.

Of course, lots of poachers like to make the claim that a deer was just "road kill", and to portray themselves as down-on-their-luck rascals just looking for meat to feed their hungry family. The hardcore poacher is often a serious outlaw with an extensive criminal record, and little respect for life. Illegal hunting to meet the demands of an international trade in wildlife and wildlife parts is a major problem facing those concerned with the protection and sustainability of wildlife populations. Many of the people involved in the trade of illegally hunted animals are the same people involved with organized crime --such as drugs and prostitution. They want to be where the money is. The trade in bear's gall bladders is a good example. The bear gallbladder trade is similar to the heroin business, except that bear organs are harder to come by and harder to smoke. There is money in wildlife.

If you want to know more about poaching, ask a poacher, or better yet, ask a game warden who has pursued poachers on foot, by vehicle or boat. Or you can just read Poacher Wars, A Pennsylvania Game Warden's Journal by William Wasserman. Bill was a Pennsylvania game warden for more than thirty years, and was responsible for patrolling 400 square miles of rugged mountain terrain.

He's encountered a number of poachers who were convicted felons including murderers, drug addicts, dope dealers and outlaw bikers. He's seen men shot in the woods, with their blood seeping from wounds, and put his own life at risk. In his book you will find sixteen true short stories about these dangerous and unpredictable men.

If you want to know what working wildlife law enforcement is like for a Pennsylvania conservation officer, this book is a definite must-read. Game wardens are police officers with full arrest powers: they solve poaching cases with many of the same forensic skills that police investigators use to solve murder cases-such as DNA analysis, ballistic evidence. Crimes against wildlife can be more difficult to solve than crimes against humans, because there is often a lack of witnesses to interview, and Bambi can't or won't talk.

Hunting season is meant to protect animal populations and breeding cycles. So if you love the taste of venison, polish up the rifle, or your car, and bone up on the latest game regulations. Now where did I put my shotgun???

Guns? Game? Or is meat just tasty, tasty murder? Email me at frommyshelf@epix.net Miss a previous column, check out past columns at www.frommyshelf.blogspot.com Hobo swears he had a valid hunting license for that mouse, he can check it out in his book "Hobo Finds A Home", a children's book about a cat who wanted more out of life.

Flatlanders and Ridgerunners
James York Glimm
University of Pittsburgh Press
University of Pittsburgh Press
Eureka Building, Fifth Floor
3400 Forbes Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15260
9780822953456 $14.95 http://www.upress.pitt.edu (412) 383-2456

Two flatlanders are hiking in the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon when they find themselves trapped between a mother bear and her two cubs. The bear roars and starts to charge towards them. One of them stands rooted to the spot, while the other bends down, calmly takes off his fancy hiking boots, and starts to lace up his running shoes. The first flatlander looks over and says to his friend, "Why bother? No one can outrun a bear." His friend looks up and says, "I know that. But all I have to do is outrun you..."

I'm a ridgerunner and thus a natural storyteller and I love flatlander jokes. Just what is a flatlander? If you have to ask, you probably are one. Natives, also known as ridgerunners, use flatlander as a term for people from "down state", especially people from Southern Pennsylvania around Philadelphia area and especially folks from New Jersey. Really though, it can stand for anyone from outside the endless mountains of North Central Pennsylvania. The term can be used jokingly, but also with a fair amount of contempt. The common understanding, as represented in the book Flatlanders and Ridgerunners by James York Glimm, is that the flatlanders lack the knowledge of the hills and the means of basic survival and should go home.

Unfortunately, this collection of folktales has gone the way of the Sidehill Mootie. Well, being that I'm made of earth and stone, and pure mountain spring water flows through my veins, that answer wasn't good enough for me.

I decided to track down the publisher and find out who owned the rights and see if I couldn't use some of that old country charm to get it reprinted. I have a copy of my own that I've perused so much that it's only held together with spit and spider webs. I've found several of the out of print editions, but these sell upwards of eighty dollars for the hardcover edition, and close to fifty for the paperback, and that's money I need for the still.

It seems I'm not the only one who knows their "ass from a hole in the ground". Margie Bachman of University of Pittsburgh Press has been instrumental in this book seeing the light of day, and bringing it back into print. Margie says of the book, "First published in 1983, and continues to be in high demand…a must read." It's been a process for Margie, and she's run into a number of snags along the way, but this tome of local folktales is available once again.

James York Glimm was born a city boy. So when he took a position at Mansfield University in the heart of the mountains of Northern Pennsylvania in 1968. He was unprepared for the weather, the animals, and getting only three television stations, two of which didn't come in. He was ignorant, an outsider--yep, a flatlander. As he explains in the introduction to his now beloved book.

How does one become a ridgerunner? Well, most locals say you have to be born one, and there's some truth to that. But with the passage of time, people might just forget that you "ain't from these parts", at least most of the time. One of the first things to remember is that this isn't the big city, and that's one reason we live here. There's a natural, scenic beauty, and it doesn't come with a opera house, stores lit with neon signs that stay open 24/7. There also isn't a lot of impersonal, violent crime. Guns don't kill people; people kill people. Sure, you might get an rear end full of rock salt for skinny dipping in a farmer's pond, but he knows who you are--especially, the next day when he sees you limping around.

We like it this way, and attempting to recreate that little part of the city you left behind is universally resented. I don't care if you are a hard-core tree hugger, vegetarian, activist, or flesh eating zombie—that's just dandy. Just don't stick it in my craw and expect me to chew on it. Most ridgerunners don't care who you are or what you do as long as you extend the same courtesy to them.

Plain old good manners and common sense will see you through most situations and help you adjust to the ridgerunner way, but since there's a book for damn near everything, I recommend, Starting A New Life In Rural America: 21 Things You Need to Know Before You Make Your Move by Ragnar Benson. Benson grew up on a farm and has lived in the sticks most of his life. He's gathered his advice in this handy manual. Hey, why learn things the hard way? He covers topics from septic tanks, to snow storms to bears in your garbage. Blending into your natural surroundings is just part of your new life in the country. Unfortunately, many city people think about nature and forget about social blending. Ragnar covers driving protocol in the country, how to borrow tools, and rural churches and their role in local affairs.

There's much more to blending into a rural community than what these two books or any column can cover, but it's a start. Talking to folks, driving rural roads correctly and helping pull a neighbor out of a ditch in winter are much more valuable in terms of community relations than holding an open house. As I said, plain, good old manners and common sense will see you through most situations. So, take a load off, buy me a cold beer, and let me tell you about these two flatlanders that went huntin'…

Kevin Coolidge
Reviewer


Larsen's Bookshelf

One Continuous Fight: The Retreat from Gettysburg and the Pursuit of Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, July 4-14, 1863
Eric J. Wittenberg, J. David Petruzzi and Michael F. Nugent
Savas Beatie
P. O. Box 4527, El Dorado Hills, CA 95762
9781932714432 $34.95 www.savasbeatie.com

If you ever wondered what happened to Robert E. Lee's army of northern Virginia in the ten days following its defeat at Gettysburg on Pennsylvania July 3, 1863, look no further than One Continuous Fight. Herein, Jeb Stuart is redeemed in the eyes of Lee for poor scouting reports prior to July 1st. Meade explains why he didn't intercept Lee's broken army during the retreat. Learn of the twenty or so skirmishes between Southern and Northern cavalry in places like Funkstown, Boonsboro and finally Falling Waters, suffer with the slow moving, 17 mile long Confederate wagon train carrying the wounded and the lame, including captured union soldiers for ten days from Gettysburg to Williamsport, Maryland.

Never before have I seen such broad range of resources, from diaries to documents, letters, newspaper accounts, military, civilians along the route of retreat, Confederate and Union.

This truly is work of epic proportions, taken on by three well known Civil War historians and experts on cavalry action. There is even a detailed modern driving tour for those of you who can still afford gasoline, from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania to Williamsport, Maryland.

Oh! Hast Thou Not Forgotten: Michigan Cavalry in the Civil War: The Gettysburg Campaign
Richard L. Hamilton
Booksurge Publishing
7290-b Investment Dr., Charleston, SC 29418
9781419689185 $20.99 866.608.6235

Richard L. Hamilton, author of three unpublished books of Patten-Hamilton genealogy, calls this book a work of historical fiction, but it reads like the real thing.

Primarily written in the first person, it is the tale of George Thomas Patten, who enlisted in the 6th Michigan Cavalry in the autumn of 1862. The book follows his military experiences and personal tragedies through his death in combat at Falling Waters, West Virginia July 14th 1863 while engaging Lee's retreating army.

The 6th Michigan Cavalry was commanded at the battle of Falling Waters by 22 year old Brigadier General George Armstrong Custer. which should help sales.

What makes "Oh! Hast Though Not Forgotten" a good read is the honest story of George Thomas Patten. He just feels like the real McCoy. I think you will like him too. Several of his relatives also served in the 6th Michigan Cavalry, which remind us that families often served together in these volunteer state regiments. They lived as neighbors, enlisted together, suffered together, faced the reality of combat together and took care of their own dead.

Plenty of pictures are present, and an index which helps keep the characters straight. The editing could have been stronger, eliminating some duplicate pictures and lengthy narrative.

Gettysburg Heroes: Perfect Soldiers, Hallowed Ground
How Gettysburg Shaped the Lives of the Civil War Generation
Glenn W. Lafantasie
Indiana University Press
601 North Morton Street, Bloomington, Indiana 47404-3797
9780253350718 $24.95 800.842.6796

Glenn LaFantasie flat out knows how to write Civil War history!

Fourteen insightful essays, biographical in content, remind us of the long time property debate between Chamberlain of the 20th Maine and Oates of the 15th Alabama which produced only losses. Mr. Lincoln's Victory at Gettysburg, my favorite war hero Frank Haskell (among the first of the Gettysburg writers who lost his life eleven months later while leading the 36th Wisconsin at Cold Harbor, Virginia in June of 1864), and the much maligned Longstreet, Lee's old "Warhorse." I also enjoyed the "Ike" and "Monty" visit to Gettysburg.

I read Gettysburg Heroes on the 145 anniversary of the battle in Pennsylvania. It was three days that Gettysburg heroes came alive again for me, thanks to Professor LaFantasie.

I do recommend buying and READING this book.

Richard N. Larsen
Reviewer


Liana's Bookshelf

I Quit: Cigarettes, Candy Bars and Booze
Linda Joy Allan
Dovelin Publishing
3905 State Street, Suite 7-184, Santa Barbara, CA 93105-5107
9780977914906 $13.95 www.dovelingpublishing.com

Linda Joy Allan works as an administrative assistant and lives in Santa Barbara with her cats. This is her first book.

This book is the true life story of the author who managed to overcome three addictions. It is a remarkable story that will inspire readers and help them to put an end to their own addictions.

Linda's story starts in her childhood years, when her life was still carefree and happy. Then something triggered her first addiction. Her parents' separation was too much for her and Linda started binging and getting fat. Later on, she started stealing and then drinking and smoking. But Linda showed great determination and eventually got rid of all of her addictions and fears.

The story is written in the first person in a simple and sensitive way, revealing the author's thoughts and reservations at the different stages of her life. Linda is the living example that everyone can overcome their own addiction and earn peace and happiness. Sharing her story with her audience she hopes that her own experiences will motivate people to find the courage to stop their unhappiness caused by any addiction. This is a quite helpful book that should be read by everyone. Get it from www.dovelinpublishing.com. The book will be available on September 16.

The Rabbit and the Snowman
Sally O.Lee
Booksurge
9781419656255 $14.99 www.booksurge.com

Sally O.Lee lives and works in Massachusetts. She has earned her BA in Studio Art and Art History (with distinction) from Colby College and then went on to study graphic design and painting in Boston (Art Institute of Boston) and in New York City (New York Studio School). Visit Sally at www.leepublishing.net

The Rabbit and the Snowman is a wonderful story about friendship. A snowman befriends a rabbit and when summer comes they miss one another. Sally knows how to keep the interest of the young readers intact with this sensitive little story that evokes a variety of emotions throughout the unfolding of the plot. It will make people think about the joy of friendship and the importance of friends in our life.

The story is supported by the beautiful illustrations by Sally in water color and pen and ink. The author is a very good artist and this story, like her previous one (The cake thief), is an excellent piece of artistic creation. Get this book from www.leepublishing.net or www.booksurge.com.

The Tuscan Trilogy: A Rose By Any Other Name
Derek Adie Flower
www.Lulu.com
9781435707979 $ 24.95

Derek Adie Flower lived in Tuscany which inspired him to write this book. Learn more about his work at www.lulu.com

This book is an excellent piece of work. Set both in USA and Italy, is about the life story of Rosalina, the main character, who has a turbulent life. The plot unfolds in Tuscany in 1944 in the premises of Contessa San Germano. Rosalina is an Italian young girl who works for the Contessa. Robert, Contessa's nephew, falls in love with Rosalina, but war separates them. What is going to happen to them? Rosalina is going to have Robert's son, but will she ever meet him again? Rosalina's story unfolds slowly revealing her triumphs and tragedies, her rise from poverty and despair to riches, her love life and her children.

Written in a sensitive way this story depicts the author's emotions and love for women. It is historically set in the years of the Second World War and the language is rich with vivid descriptions and Italian flavor (local colloquialism).

It is certainly a wonderful story that combines all the ingredients of a best seller: love and hate, the villain of the story, an old secret, adventure, mystery, romance-all the elements we can find in every day life. The characters are ¡real life' persons, and the dialogues are vivid. It reads well and easily thus it is highly entertaining as well as interesting as regards the historical events mentioned in the plot. It is gripping and can be read in one sitting. The author refers to issues such as religion, Mafia activities, English aristocracy and poverty. The era he describes is adequately depicted. The end of the story leaves the reader satisfied, yet yearning to read the next book of the trilogy to learn what happens to some of the key characters mentioned in the book. Is the villain of the story going to win? What is going to happen to Rosalina's descendants? We have to wait till the next book comes out!

Fiscal Pear and Shimmer in the Call of River Whale
Olivia Brooks-Scrivanich
Booksurge
9781419695896 $14.99 www.booksurge.com

Highly Recommended

Olivia Brooks-Scrivanich is a new writer living with her husband in Washington. Learn more about her at www.fiscalpear.net

This children's book is a wonderful story about an unusual pear and his friend who is a lightning bug. They have numerous adventures and risk their lives till the end of the story where the author allows readers to feel positive and satisfied. In this story the readers will meet the good characters and the bad ones, as in everyday life, and follow closely the pear's adventures and his emotional ups and downs throughout the plot. The pear lives in a magic realm where a villain tries to catch him on behalf of the owner of a fruit factory. What is going to happen to him and his friend?

The story is entertaining for both children and adults and there is ample humor scattered in the dialogue, as well as elements of compassion and feelings of friendship. It is a fantasy tale that shows clearly the vivid imagination of the author and her writing skills that include detailed description, live characters and a good sense of humor. Get the book from www.booksurge.com

Little Bit and Big Byte
A Day at the Beach
Craig T. Feigh
Lifevest Publishing
159879616X $19.99www.lifevestbooks.com

Very Highly Recommended

Craig T. Feigh (BA in Business) the author of this book, has published in several genres. Learn more about him at www.craigfeigh.com. Patrick Carlson, the illustrator, can be visited at www.hotspotgraphics.com and www.bbqlogos.com.

This kids book is about the innovative story of Little Bit and his family. Written in the first person, it reads like a diary of Little Bit who spends a day at the beach full of adventures. The concept of the story is interesting since it addresses the Computer age, and will hook young readers. The book is not only fun to read but it is also educational. It looks like a comic book thus it is quite appealing to the kids and everyone else who loves cartoons. The illustrations are just great! Get this book from www.craigfeigh.com or www.lifevestbooks.com

Extreme Makeover
Henry Melton
Wire Rim Books,
Hutto, Texas
9780980225327 $14.95 www.wirerimbooks.com

Henry Melton as always captivates the readers' imagination and interest in his latest book of science fiction. Henry's previous books are all no less exciting, but this one supersedes them all as regards the concept of the story and the action that follows. Learn more about the author's work at http://HenryMelton.com

Extreme Makeover is about nanobots, a new tech concept, that enter the skin of the main character, Deena, by accident and keep transforming her. Luther, a young boy who seems to be fond of her, tries to help her. Or is she wrong? Is Luther sincere? What is going to happen to Deena and Luther?

The plot is quite tight and believable, and so are the characters. They are ¡real' kids with their own family problems who try to solve the riddle of Deena's sudden change. It is a very exciting story from the very first page to the last one. The language is as always simple and appropriate for kids over 12, and the educational elements inside the story are just great. This is one of the best work of Henry's and caters to all the family. It would look good as a movie too. It has got ample suspense and action, emotional ups and downs relating to teenage kids feelings, and there is a subtle romance as well. What else should a reader ask for? The most crashing element though in this story is the concept of the nanobots; I truly liked this idea! It's a great book and you can get it from www.wirerimbooks.com and all online stores.

Liana Metal, Reviewer
http://lianametal.tripod.com


Margaret's Bookshelf

The Journey
J. Adams
Privately Published
9780615202075, $11.95

When faced with right and wrong, is the choice ever that obvious? "The Journey" is a fantasy following Ciran as she is faced with choices. All she really wants to do is find her way home, but she doesn't know the way, and faced with the ugly choice that the only way to reach her goal is to do things that she rather not. "The Journey" is a fresh fantasy of good versus evil with a unique spin.

The Third Life
M.A. Street
iUniverse
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9780595514984, $12.95, www.iuniverse.com

The science of anthropology reveals that all of mankind stems from a common ancestor and are therefore related to each other. "The Third Life" is a collection of stories following many narratives throughout time and with an overarching and epic tale. Reincarnation plays a hand as time rolls on and memory of those past lives begins to play a major role. "The Third Life" is an original fantasy, sure to please those looking for an intriguing and interesting tale.

Margaret Lane
Reviewer


Paul's Bookshelf

Thrive: Standing on Your Own Two Feet in a Borderless World
Mike Cook,
St. Lynn's Press
P.O. Box 18680, Pittsburgh, PA 15236
097676315X $18.95 http://www.stlynnspress.com

The business world has drastically changed in the last few years. This book shows how to develop the inner strength and abilities to survive in the new global marketplace.

For many years, a central component of American business involved the concepts of Commitment and Loyalty. It was a time when a person could expect to spend their entire working career at one company. As long as the employee was willing to give the company the best years of their life, and not even think about going to another company that may be a better fit for the employee (keep dissenting opinions to yourself), the company will be there to take care of the employee. If you haven't already learned, the hard way, that such a way of thinking no longer exists, you will.

The most important thing, in today's world, is to learn to be adaptable, which involves several things. First of all, take personal responsibility for your own financial welfare; no one else will do it for you. Come up with your own personal vision; something more than simply "employment at my previous salary level." Technical competence and reputation are pretty self-explanatory. The last is collaborative competence. It doesn't just involve how well you get along with others at work, but how well you bring value to the workplace. In the myriad of small and large interactions that make up the workplace, how willing are people to interact with you? If you can become something like the "go to" person, upper management will think long and hard before giving you a pink slip.

This book doesn't try to lay blame for globalization, or look at "hot" industries in the coming years, but tries to show a new way of thinking so that a person in any industry can make themselves indispensable at work. It succeeds really well, and is very much worth reading.

Portraits in the Dark
Nancy O. Greene
iUniverse, Inc.
2021 Pine Lake Road, #100, Lincoln, NE 68512
0595392806 $9.95 http://www.iuniverse.com

Here are some rather macabre stories that look at the darkness and uncertainty that are part of the world and human nature.

In Thailand, a lonely traveling salesman meets a mysterious woman who deals with sales and contracts of a very different sort. A very insecure man suspects that his wife is fooling around, so he takes matters into his own hands, though not in the expected way. A young woman tells the authorities why she did not splatter her mother's blood all over their suburban kitchen. The mother was the sort of person who seemed to revel in emotional victimhood.

Set in the late 19th century, another story is about the fate of a missing British diamond hunter in deepest, darkest Africa. A woman steals a priceless artifact from a local museum, and leaves two men dead. She is about to take a one-way plane trip to someplace where she will never be found, and live off the worth of the artifact. That is, until the spirits of the dead men pay her a visit, and make her pay for what she did. The book ends with the end of humanity.

This is a very short book, barely 80 pages, so this is a short review. These are very interesting and well done stories, but they are not hopeful and optimistic stories. This is very much worth checking out.

Iran: Everything You Need to Know
John Farndon
The Disinformation Company Ltd.
163 Third Ave., #108, New York, NY 10003
1932857567 $9.95 http://www.disinfo.com

Iran, so much in the news these days, is a country of contradictions. On one hand, it is a very puritanical country controlled by Islamic clerics, where dissent is severely restricted. On the other hand, Iran is one of the oldest countries in the world, tracing its history back over 2,500 years. The name Persia (what Iran was called until the 1920s) conjures images of harems and Persian carpets, not chadors and religious police.

Throughout its history, Iran has had leaders who honestly cared about the people, as well as leaders who only cared about lining their own pockets. Since the Iranian Revolution in 1979, when the last Shah was overthrown (another leader who cared more about the size of his bank accounts than about the people), and despite the existence of an elected Parliament, Iran has been run by hardliners.

Iran's official reason for moving toward nuclear power is that, one day, its huge oil and gas reserves will run out, so they should start looking at other forms of energy, sooner rather than later. They also don't have much in the way of refining capacity, so imports are needed. Iran accuses the West of nuclear hypocrisy. Iran has signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and they can't have nuclear power, but Israel and India, which have not signed the NPT, gets lots of nuclear help from America. Why? Granted, some actions and statements from the Iranian government have not helped the situation. Both America and Iran have plenty of reason to be very suspicious of the other's words and actions. Time will tell.

This is not meant to be a scholarly, comprehensive look at Iran, but a quick, factual read full of information that won't be found in the American news media. It works very well, and is very much recommended.

Tesseracts Eleven
Cory Doctorow and Holly Phillips (ed.),
Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing
P.O. Box 1714, Calgary AB T2P 2L7, CANADA
9781894063036 $19.95 http://www.edgewebsite.com

Here is another compendium of new fantasy and science fiction stories from north of the border (in Canada).

A mother, her teenage son, and two younger daughters seem to be the only survivors of a plague that has ravaged North America (Dad was not so lucky). Now the mother and son are faced with the difficult task of replenishing the population. A pair of high school students experiment with what looks like Michael Jackson's glove. It can create portals in time, but the catch is that the portals only go to famous dates in rock and roll history, like the days that Kurt Cobain and John Lennon died.

A family goes on a trip out west to a national park to see some real, live vampires in the wild. After a year-long internet relationship with a man in northwest Canada, a woman travels there for a visit, and possible marriage. He just happened to omit the part about every night, all night, he turns into an actual bear, with fur, claws, and sharp teeth. Another story is about the next step in athletic doping, using gene therapy to, for instance, turn a middle distance runner into a sprinter. A new reality show, called Beat The Geeks, tricks, or otherwise makes fun of, scientists. The book ends with a story that is half screenplay about a trio of kids that want to make their own near-future science fiction film.

The striking thing about these stories, aside from the fact that they are all really good, is that many of them are very contemporary stories. They could easily take place last month, or a couple of years from now. This book is very much worth the search.

Keeper's Child
Leslie Davis
Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing
P.O. Box 1714, Calgary, AB T2P 2L7, CANADA
9781894063012 $19.95 http://www.edgewebsite.com

Set in the near future, this takes place on a continent whose population and climate have been ravaged by disease and genetic mutation.

It all began innocently enough. Many years before, a cargo ship full of genetic material sank off the coast. Over 600 migrants were hired to clean up the mess. It took years for their offspring to develop what became known as Bruster's Syndrome, but once they did, the government panicked. The diseased and their relatives were kept in quarantined camps. Those frightened citizens who could leave the continent have certainly done so. Houses for the diseased, who are called desgastas, are set up. In a way, Bruster's is like AIDS, in that a person can live a normal life with the disease. But, once it takes hold, the end is slow, painful, disgusting and assured.

Jesse is a celebrity in Carpenteria, one of the last safe cities on the continent, but the scientific mistakes in his past have caught up with him. His latest experiment has failed, dashing any hope of a future for his people. Beckoned by Harold, his brother and the last Keeper of the sick, Jesse travels to the shore, and sees the ruined climate for himself.

Harold's last ward is a young girl named Robin, who may be the savior of humanity. She is born desgastas, and has spent her whole life in exile. Jesse takes her to the city, to give her something of a normal life. Robin volunteers in a makeshift hospital, helping those dying of Bruster's. Eventually, she contracts full-blown Bruster's (for lack of a better term), and, amazingly, she survives. She has long since run away from the city, and returned to the house at the shore, where Jesse takes several samples of her blood, and returns to the city to turn them into a serum. Meantime, the desgastas squatting outside the city have entered the city and taken over. Now, they are dying faster than anyone can keep up with them.

This is a rather "slow" novel, but a really good novel. Stick with it, for the story is very much worth reading.

Paul Lappen, Reviewer
http://www.deadtreesreview.com


Peggy's Bookshelf

The Magic Scales: Book One of the Denthan Series
Sam Wilding
Olida Publishing
United Kingdom
9780955878909 $19.99 www.olidapublishing.com

The sudden disappearance of James Peck's father sets off a series of strange goings on in the tiny hamlet of Drumfintley, in Scotland. On Bruce Moor, the last place his father was seen alive, James discovers a squashed stoat next to giant unearthly footprints. The same day he follows a mysterious stranger and overhears his conversation with an invisible hissing beast named Sleven, then disappears. Reeling from shock, James passes a trash bin and is summoned by a talking goldfish inside. The fish tells James his name is Mendel and demands that he rescue him.

Mendel explains he's actually a wizard from another world called Denthan. He's been turned into a fish and now the mysterious stranger and Sleven are trying to kill him. He desperately needs James's help, not only to protect him but also to save Denthan. James is baffled by the bossy fish wizard, yet he's certain the same dark magic that brought these creatures from another world is somehow linked to his father's fate.

He enlists the help of his best friend, Craig and his golden retriever, Bero, who carries the goldfish in a tiny barrel around his neck, like a St. Bernard. Lured by a string of clues related to Mr. Peck's vanishing, and with Mendel as their guide, they enter the gateway into Denthan, a strange world containing magic scales and two suns, one of which will explode very soon.

Much to James and Craig's horror, they arrive in the midst of a war between hordes of terrifying creatures, including reptilian Hedra wizards, monstrous hairy Osgrunfs, giant insect-like Centides, several species of Trolls, Manimals, and many more. Magically the boys become warriors and it's clear they're going to have to fight their way through Denthan to get back home.

And that's only half of this amazing adventure. Wilding successfully weaves a story within a story in this sophisticated fantasy. "The Magic Scales" is full of breathtaking action scenes, with plenty of surprises to keep readers guessing. Harry Potter fans will definitely find the Vision Pool in "Book One of the Denthan Series" well worth diving into.

Mister Ego and the Bubble of Love
Amber Hinton
Illustrated by Gabreyhl Zintoll
Namaste Publishing
PO Box 62084, Vancouver, BC V6J 4A3
9781897238363 $16.95

Leo and Nico are having fun playing until they fight over the orange ball. Leo gets angry and shoves his brother which spoils everything. Leo wants to know why he gets angry. In his quest for answers he learns about a part of himself called Mister Ego who always wants his own way. Now if only Leo can find a way to put Mister Ego inside the Bubble of Love.

Children are often told to control their emotions. But how are they supposed to do that? There really is a better way. In this problem-solving tale, Hinton reveals anger as a perfectly normal emotion. But it feels pretty icky. "Mister Ego and the Bubble of Love" shows readers how to exercise their imaginations and easily change icky feelings into good feelings. As a fun, follow-up activity to reinforce this concept, parents and children could even construct a bubble of love.

The combination of Zintoll's beautiful, dreamlike illustrations and Hinton's engaging story creates a form of guided imagery which parents and children can read again and again when those icky feelings bubble up.

Peggy Tibbetts
Reviewer


Richard's Bookshelf

Exit 22
P. M. Terrell
Drake Valley Press
P. O. Box 979, Clinton, MS 39060
9780972818667 $17.77

A Non Stop Action and Suspense Political Thriller

As a result of an automobile accident at Exit 22 on Interstate 95 in North Carolina Christopher Sandige a political strategist becomes involved with an enigmatic and beautiful woman, Brenda. Although Brenda is involved in secret operations and personally knows the murder victims, Chris is attracted to her and cannot bring himself to turn her in to the police. Chris, himself, becomes a suspect in a double homicide, and an oil company scam, that involves top leadership in Washington D. C.

Chris soon realizes that he and Brenda are being pursued by a professional hit man, who has been hired to kill them, and by a team of eager police detectives, who want to arrest them. As fugitives, Chris and Brenda are forced to flee for their lives.

Terrell has created an intricate plot that includes intense drama, fast moving action, breathtaking suspense, and romance. There is a challenge for the reader who likes to deduct a solution in an effort to outwit the author. I could not put the book down as Terrell builds up the tension for a final climatic conclusion. "Exit 22" is a great story for movie adaptation.

I found myself engaged in the story from the first page to the final paragraph. I appreciated Terrell's amazing attention to detail and her strong character development. Her writing is tight and intense.

"Exit 22" is p. m. Terrell at her finest. I am eagerly awaiting the next Christopher Sandige suspense adventure.

Travels in Place
Christiane W. Griffin-Wehr
Robert D. Reed Publishers
P. O. Box 1992, Bandon, Oregon 97411
9781934759103 $16.95

A Caregiver's Journey

"Travels in Place" is a memoir which describer the journey Christiane W. Griffin-Wehr traveled while caring for her mother throughout her descent into memory loss and dementia.

Christiane gives the casual glimpses of her past with stories of an incident, a time or place in her childhood in Germany, or a more recent experience as she tells about training for a marathon on the Mesa trails in Boulder or reflections on her son Curtis, his studies, his career, and his concerns. She builds these incidents into juggling the delicate balance of denial and reality always present in the unpredictable journey of dementia.

Snapshots from her family albums posted throughout the narrative add a dimension to Chrisiane's writing. They help make the reader like they are fellow travelers on her journey. I identified as she described her mother's increase in loneliness and the stage of withdrawing into the isolation of her own world, as I have observed in loved ones as well.

Christiana tells of her difficulty in accepting the three indelible words which became a permanent part of her mother's medical records, "severe memory loss." She describes her mother's fading memory as the "deepening canyon of her decline."

Vacations gone awry, providing meals, meds, are only a small part of the sacrifice made by family members to help with care. There was also the difficulty Christiane had in dealing with the frightening imaginations of her mother's disturbed mind. She describes the ever changing subtleties of recognition, reliance, and reality. She expresses the sense of loss as she watched her mother withdraw from the world around her into a "gray space" of mental deterioration.

Christiane's writing is stirring, delicate, and poignant. She has crafted beautiful similes using the seasons of the year as parallels to the seasons of life. She tells of "hope born of possibility" when she discovered the motto of the Mountain View home is: "Alive in All Seasons of Life."

I found the chapter discussion questions titled, "Nourishment for Your Journey" especially helpful, as I have began recording journal entries of lessons I am learning on my own journey as primary caregiver of a loved one.

This is an important book for Caregivers, family members, and health professionals caring for the elderly. Perceptive, candid, and relevant.

Liberty's Quest
Liberty Kovacs
Robert D. Reed Publishers
P. O. Box 1992, Bandon, Oregon 97411
9781931741965 $29.95

American Dream – Myth and Reality

"Liberty's Quest" is an amazing memoir written by Liberty Kovacs. She writes of her family roots which go back to the Dodecanese Islands in the Aegean Sea of Greece. She openly shares stories of her early family life, which was centered on the customs and beliefs of the Greek Orthodox Church,

Liberty writes about her paternal and maternal roots, her parent's marriage, her birth, and recollections of her siblings. She tells of family feuds, memories of school, her love for reading and of the impact of WWII on her family.

Liberty talks about her marriage to Poetry Pulitzer Prize winner James Wright. She describes her multi-faceted education in nursing, Jim's family background, his teaching job in Texas, and of their sojourn in Philadelphia. Jim then enrolled for a year at the University of Vienna. With amazing insight and openness Liberty explains the psychological difficulties of their marriage. While in Vienna their first son Franz was born. Franz Wright later went on to become a Pulitzer Prize winner for his 2003 poetry collection, "Walking to Martha's Vineyard."

Influenced by a friend in Vienna, Jim enrolled in the graduate program in English at the University of Washington in Seattle. Jim excelled in his studies. Liberty found consolation in her work as a nurse and in caring for her new son. Their young Marshall did not eliminate the alienation of the broken relationship between Liberty and Jim. It was doomed from the start.

In an effort to find a new start as a single Mom Liberty moves from Minnesota to California and to create a whole new world for herself and her two sons. Her position in San Francisco provided advanced training in medical, public heath and psychiatric nursing.

In 1965 Liberty married Miklos M. Kovacs. Liberty gave birth to her third son, Michael Kovacs in 1966. The intervening years held more unhappiness and despair for Liberty.

Kovac's attention to detail in the historical and cultural perspectives of her family is both fascinating and engaging. She has keen insights into relationships and the psychological needs of the individual.. Her writing is profound, strong, open, and well organized.

"Liberty's Quest" is a courageous and triumphant story of making the most of unhappiness and despair. This is amazing epic of one person's search for personal freedom.

The New Testament Principle of Kingdom Stewardship
Stephen Everett
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P O Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768426496 $16.99

God's Laws and Principles for Financial Freedom

Stephen Everett introduces a new hypothesis of whole life stewardship in his book "The New Testament Principle of Kingdom Stewardship." The book comes highly endorsed by National and International Christian leaders who recognize the principles introduced in this book as revolutionary and sound. They speak highly of Everett's integrity and of anointed teaching.

Everett begins in the book of Genesis to build a foundation for this picture of whole life giving and its purpose. He goes on to the book of Exodus to discuss first fruits giving, its purpose and culture. He draws other examples and illustrations from the scriptures that introduce the precept of Old Testament tithing.

Everett introduces material to reveal that Abraham is the first model of wealth redistribution. Isaac is as an example of the receiver of wealth through inheritance and investment. These are just exemplary lessons that demonstrate the amazing depth of study that went into the preparation of this timely, relevant guidebook to Christian whole life stewardship. Everett plants refreshing new insights into the purpose behind Biblical prosperity.

Everett also provides a deeper understanding of transference and redistribution of wealth, of fiscal issues, if the poor, on consumerism, greediness, and capitalism from a Biblical perspective.

This is an important book for Christian leaders and layman who are willing to reexamine the purpose behind their giving in light of whole life stewardship. "The New Testament Principle of Kingdom Stewardship: should be read by every pastor, elder, and church financial board members. Stephen Everett's writing is Biblically sound, significant, important and relevant.

Potential For Every Day
Myles Munroe
Destiny Image Publishers
P O Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768426694 $14.99

A Dynamic Devotional for Every Day

Myles Munroe challenges the reader to examine and develop the rich, valuable untapped resources locked away within. "Potential For Every Day" provides daily devotional reading with selected scriptures for each day of the year. Each reading includes and scripture, a reminder of a potential principle, and an encouraging inspirational story or devotional thought.

The daily readings help the reader explore their gifts, abilities and successes, enabling them to develop powerful positive thoughts, ideas, and possibilities. This compilation of stories and illustrations drawn from the Bible, from history, and from contemporary life provide encouragement to trust God on a spiritual journey.

The six keys to the effective release of the wealth of your potential are introduced to help you become what God intended. I appreciated the format of the book that frequently summarized how a progression of the material covered so far and a gives a preview of what to look for in the days ahead.

Blank pages for reflection were provided at the end of the book. I found these helpful as they aided me in planning for future contemplation and inspirational journaling at another time.

"Potential For Every Day" is a vibrant devotional guide which will inspire, challenge, and motivate the reader to become their best. These daily devotional thoughts will touch every area of your life, spiritual, emotional, and physical. Myles Munroe writes for Christians of every stage in their Christian walk. His writing is encouraging, revitalizing, and compelling!

Maximizing Your Potential
Myles Munroe
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768426748, $14.99

How to Release the Potential Within You

"Maximizing Your Potential" holds the keys that will help you discover, develop, release, and express your full potential. You will determine the importance of finding God's purpose and His reason for your life. The book will direct you as you make a commitment to find and fulfill your potential. This expanded edition of Myles Munroe's classic book includes an important and meaningful study guide entitled "The Keys to Dying Empty."

The guide provides additional ways to realize a closer relationship with God. The guide parallels the material covered in the book. User friendly exercises and questions help the reader assimilate the truths of the chapter. It contains a wealth of truth filled with challenge and inspiration. I particularly liked the "Something to Think About" thoughts and exercise.

Myles Munroe selects powerful examples from the lives of men and women who have chosen to live life maximizing their God given potential to exemplify his powerful message.

Dr. Munroe discusses how you can release your potential and also warns of the enemies that want will keep you from your potential. He provides steps on how to guard and protect your latent possibilities. Each chapter includes principles, keys, or guidelines to help the reader focus on their purpose and vision to move forward and to make a difference in the world.

"Maximizing Your Potential" is fast becoming a powerful influence on a new generation and is dedicated to bring the richness of God's grace and purpose to the millions of peoples of Third World countries filled with untapped potential.

Grace
Bob Lenz
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P O Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768427011 $14.99

God's Grace – A Spiritual Journey

In his book titled simply "Grace" Gifted Christian communicator Bob Lenz generates a fresh excitement as he brings the Gospel message to a new generation of youth. Bob has been influenced by the writings of Chuck Swindoll, Philip Yancey, Brennan Manning, and Max Lucado.

Lenz has crafted a masterpiece on the doctrine of grace in a way that resonates, is relevant to and is clearly understandable to everyone. He translates textbook doctrines and theology into everyday living. This is a book that will help the reader understand what grace is all about, and how this translates into contemporary Christian living.

Lenz mixes prose, poetry, stories, personal illustrations, and the scriptures to engage the reader in these powerful lessons on grace. Bob is entertaining, (I laughed until I couldn't read through the tears). He exhorts, counsels, and challenges the reader to consider personally the incredible freedom and challenges that come with accepting God's grace.

Powerful side bars become sign posts pointing out highlights along the journey. Then also serve as snapshots at the end of the trip reminding the reader of significant highlights of the journey. I found myself moved to reflect on one of these highlights. Regarding sharing the message of our faith, Bob notes: "We're not becoming their enemies because we are telling them the truth, but because of how we are telling them the truth."

Throughout his manuscript, Bob's writing is dynamic, alive with vitality, with a message for today's generation and all generations to come.

Saved by Angels
Bruce Van Natta
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P O Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768426519 $16.99

An Inspiring Testimony of a Near Death Experience

In the book "Saved by Angels" Bruce Van Natta boldly shares a testimony of how Angels saved his life while pinned under the front axle of a huge logging truck. This is Bruce's story of how he responded to God's call on his life to share the many ways God talks to "everyday people" today.

Bruce draws on scriptures and testimonies of Christians to show how God may use guardian angels, dreams and visions to bring His message to the believer. He also uses the inner whisper of the Holy Spirit, the Bible and other written words, circumstances, answered prayer, or His spoken Word through pastors, church leaders or others to reveal His plan for the individual believer.

Bruce's uses his own experience and the stories of fellow Christians to show how God uses answers prayers today to increase our faith, to help us grow as Christians or to meet our physical needs. These stories include stories of Bruce's childhood prayers and prayers as a teenager. I enjoyed his account of how prayer resulted in finding his life-mate.

Bruce is a mechanic by trade. He writes in a unique style that is open and sincere. His writing reflects a depth in study and understanding of the Scriptures. Bruce makes himself vulnerable through his candidness. This honesty has been used by God in an effective ministry of witnessing and sharing his faith with others.

Bruce shares examples of how God has used him to help others by sharing a word. He also speaks about how God has often spoken to him though the words of others and reminds the reader how we should be listening for God's Word to us through what might sometimes be considered "coincidences."

"Your Turn" exercises at the end of each chapter offer a chance for the reader to respond by noting personal incidents in their own life that relate to the material discussed in the chapter.

In an amazing way Bruce has been anointed by the Holy Spirit to write his story. Each contains powerful illustrations and experiences which invite the reader to listen for the voice of God and to respond in obedience to his Word.

"Saved by Angels" illustrates how God uses "everyday people" to further His purposes.

What's Your Spiritual Quotient?
Dr. Mark Brewer
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768426755 $15.99

How to Respond to Life's Toughest Questions with Intelligent Choices

The title of Dr. Mark Brewer new book asks the question, "What's Your Spiritual Quotient? The book is made up of two parts. Part I acts as a "spiritual primer" to help the reader make wiser choices in everyday decisions. Mark provides guidance, insight, and instruction on how to use four cornerstones of spiritual intelligence: Scripture, reason, wise counsel, and the inner voice of the Holy Spirit.

Part II introduces twenty of today's toughest questions dealing with issues such as: mercy killing, abortion, justified war, life relationships and living as salt and light in a free society.

Dr. Brewer helps the reader face difficult issues they are personally dealing with and offers help in making spiritually intelligent choices. I appreciated Mark's understanding and compassion with the reader as he offers insight into the personal struggles we all face.

In the last section of the book Dr. Brewer discusses discerning truth from error. Topics included are: ghosts, angels, and demons, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, and Mormonism. He talks about the reality of heaven and hell and challenges the reader to make the right choices and to make a difference in their world.

Dr. Mark Brewer is an exceptional communicator. His writing is sound, refreshing, and relevant. His inspiration is drawn from an amazing collection of sage advice taken from the scriptures.

Contemporary examples and Biblical illustrations are used to bring the reader to carefully consider: question: "What's Your Spiritual Quotient? Brewer provides helpful answers on how to respond to life's toughest issues with Spiritual Intelligence. Great reading for these turbulent times.

The Good Fight of Faith
Alan Vincent
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310
Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768426526 $15.99

Faith – A Powerful Force

Alan Vincent's "The Good Fight of Faith" is a book that will show how the power of faith can transform the Church so that it can do the works of Jesus.

This is a book that addresses the corporate body of the church as well as the individual. It is Vincent's purpose to help the reader understand that faith, when properly developed, fully understood, and skillfully used is capable of winning great victories over evil and all the forces of darkness in the world today.

Rich Biblical illustrations, solid teaching, contemporary examples, and personal experiences are used to define faith, point out the source of faith, and to warn of the crippling power of unbelief.

I found the chapter entitled "Acting in Faith" to be dynamic. It is a profound study on the importance of stepping out in works of faith. Alan draws lessons from James and Peter in the area of faith compensation and restitution. He reflects on the life of Jesus, the greatest example of faith a Christian can follow.

Vincent describes three levels of faith and a progression of specific steps to move from one level to the next. The final chapter "Moving from Faith to Faith" is practical, informative and transforming.

"The Good Fight of Faith" is well written and organized for practical application and assimilation, a book that will build you up, impact your life, and strengthen you. Alan's writing is anointed, enlightening, motivating, and life changing. "The Good Fight of Faith" is a valuable book for members of the clergy, church leaders and laymen who are facing their own trials of faith, and are desirous of finding new focus and growing in their faith.

Fearless: Creating the Courage to Change the Things You Can
Steve Chandler
Robert D. Reed Publishers
P O Box 1992, Bandon, OR 97411
9781934759158 $12.95

Creating Courage for Change

Steve Chandler in his book "Fearless" provides fast reading excitement as he enlightens the reader with new concepts on cowardice and fear. He then clearly illuminates the way by providing the reader with a step by step guide to make a transition, to move from fear to creating the courage to change the things you can.

The book is filled with illustrations, keys, hints, and instructions. Steve Chandler has a knack for selecting and telling stories that illustrate stepping out in courage to serve others. I found the book "unputdownable" This is a book to read, reread, assimilate, and then read again. This will allow you to digest these potent powerful keys for replacing fear with courage. Quotes from inspirational leaders from the past and present provide insights that give the reader the power to transform their life.

Steve puts it this way: "Being bold and focused is what creates energy." This means I must make a fearless decision to do exactly what I want to do. I personally found important principles to incorporate in my life. As I look at my appointment calendar I am scheduling exercise, meditation, and planning, actually scheduling a time for my own personal creativity. I am looking forward to discovering and cultivating the power of solitude.

I have read several of Steve's books previous books. I always find a fresh newness in his writing, revealing his own personal growth. This down to earth realism is important to me as a reader. Steve's writing continues to be refreshing, entertaining, inspirational, and motivating.

Applying the Kingdom 40-Day Devotional Journal
Myles Munroe
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768426705 $14.99

Keys to Living a Fulfilled Life

Myles Munroe, Internationally known speaker, pastor, teacher, and author, has created an important new study guide and devotional tool. "Applying the Kingdom 40-Day Devotional Journal" designed to help the reader rediscover the priority God has for mankind.

Each of the forty devotionals contains a theme, a scripture, and an inspirational or motivational thought. The devotional thoughts are excerpts from Munroe's highly acclaimed earlier book "Applying the Kingdom.

Each of the daily devotions is based on a Biblical principle.

Dr. Munroe follows up the devotional with skillfully crafted questions focusing on the elements of the day's theme. I found these questions to be stimulating as they provide a focus for self examination and encourage thought provoking journal material for further reflection and mediation.

Munroe introduces four keys to life in the first chapter: Finding God's purpose for our life, knowing what to do to accomplish His purpose, how to live effectively, succeeding in the right purpose.

The study questions, are user friendly, thought provoking, sometimes profound, but always practical? They sometimes call for reflection, sometimes action steps are suggested. They always prepare your heart for the meditation that follows. They are excellent for personal journaling.

"Applying the Kingdom: 40-Day Devotional Journal" is a refreshing source to help you establish Kingdom priorities and new power to your Christian experience. These devotions are ideal for individual use, for family time inspiration, or for use in a small study group.

Praying with Power
C. Peter Wagner
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768426533 $16.99

Effective Praying – Hearing From God

C. Peter Wagner, best selling author, and founding president of Global Harvest Ministries, draws from the many experiences he has gained over decades of service in ministry and study to address practicable questions on how to make prayer more effective. "Praying with Power" is the 6th volume in The Prayer Warrior Series.

Wager provides concrete examples of prayer, both Biblical and contemporary to illustrate praying with power. Wagner tells of a church in Africa, the Kiambu Prayer Cave, and of the victory over Mama Jane's Sorcery. Wagner describes a fresh energy being experienced by members within the Church of China, Peru, and nations throughout the world.

Wagner talks about the gift of intercessory prayer, two-way praying, hearing God's voice, three levels of prayer, as well as three levels of spiritual warfare, healing prayer, spiritual mapping and targeting our prayers for the community and the nations.

As president of Global Harvest Ministries Wagner has helped develop l strategies to help the body of Christ flow with paradigm shifts, in the areas prophetic intercession, deliverance, prophecy, power ministries, the New Apostolic Reformation, marketplace ministries, and spiritual transformation.

"Praying With Power" concludes with C. Peter Wagner's personal insights into the dynamics of prayer and spiritual warfare. This is an important book for anyone with a burning desire to pray more powerfully, to move beyond your ordinary praying. This is a book that will show you how to pray more effectively and to hear God more clearly.

It's time to Reveal what God longs to Heal
T. D. Jakes
Destiny Image
P O Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768426687 $14.99

Radical Renewal - Finding Peace in Troubled Times

In "it's time to Reveal what God longs to Heal" best selling author J. D. Jakes calls on the reader to be open and totally honest, to expose an authentic self. I respected Jakes vulnerability as he revealed his personal struggles as he helps the reader experience God's loving touch. His writing is compassionate and gentle as he delivers the message of man's sinfulness and deliverance through God's love and his forgiveness.

I found the chapters dealing with friendships and relationships insightful and beneficial, personally. Brother Jakes discussed imperfections, experiencing the bonding of friendship, surviving crash relationships, and understanding emotional feelings were all addressed in these chapters. He stressed of the importance of self affirmation and becoming a person of purpose.

The early chapters of the book are all a preparation for facing the conflict and the process of transformation needed in the church. They also prepare the reader for the final moving chapters centered on the Lord's Supper and the sacrifice of prayer.

T. D. Jake's writing is forthright, powerful and important, profound and compelling. The selected scripture passages under-gird the strong Biblical message of healing and of the God given opportunity for a second chance. There is a message for everyone, the hurting, the broken, or someone seeking a fresh touch from God. This book is for the layman, a leader, the pastor, or a questioning seeker.

Kingdom Principles Study Guide
Myles Munroe
Destiny Image Publishers
P O Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768426649 $14.99

Understanding the Kingdom Concept

"Kingdom Principles Study Guide" prepares the reader for Kingdom Experience as they are led into a better understanding of the cocept of Kingdom living. This is a supplement to Myles Munroe's book "Kingdom Principles." The book provides daily readings which are filled with life changing views, inspiration, and distinctive teaching on God's kingdom principles. This devotional guide is made up of 40 lessons to be used over a 40 day period.

The lessons include a scripture verse and a daily devotion. A daily theme or topic is chosen from the Myles Monroe's book "Kingdom Principles."

Thought provoking and challenging application questions stimulate

the reader to move to a deeper study which will enhance their understanding of the concepts introduced and encourage spiritual growth.

Inspiring meditations include principles for contemplation and reflection, and provide thought provoking concepts for further consideration at a later time. In his devotional thoughts Munroe points out the distinctiveness of the Kingdom of God in the experience of the believer. I particularly enjoyed the motivation and encouragement these devotional thoughts provided.

The discussion of the "Fourteen Characteristics of a King" was especially timely and relevant in light of the present changing models in church structure, worship patterns, and doctrinal emphasis.

An important and comprehensive study guide is provided to help the reader expand their spiritual experience by applying God's Kingdom Principles for a life filled with blessings. This study guide is an important resource tool addressing the purposes of God for this generation and generations yet to come.

Myles Monroe has become recognized and esteemed as an anointed and authoritative spokesman for the Christian church internationally. He is a leader in declaring, interpreting, and teaching God's Kingdom Principles.

Richard R. Blake
Reviewer


Slessman's Bookshelf

What You Should Know About Politics... But Don't: A Nonpartisan Guide to the Issues
Jessamyn Conrad
Arcade Publishing, Inc.
9781559708838 $16.95 www.arcadepub.com

What Jessamyn Conrad has accomplished with her new book, What You Should Know About Politics… But Don't: A Nonpartisian Guide to the Issues is unparelled as a reference for politics and the issues that face all Americans today. It provides information that everyone will find valuable before they visit the polls to vote in the next election. In fact, it necessitated this reviewer's revisiting the decisions I had made on various issues and provided a forum for re-thinking those decisions.

Understanding the Electoral College will be a given after reading this work as well as how the individual vote affects those votes. One will certainly want to vote after reading this book.

Conrad writes, "it is important to recognize that the economy is a complex system in which one policy can have multiple, even contradictory effects and that there aren't necessarily fixes for economic problems." She continue by explaining the many variables (and there are MANY) that go into the making of a healthy economy. She also infers that economics are somewhat bipolar..the trick is to make sure the economy never swings too far out of equilibrium. Too bad we don't have a pill to treat the ailments of our economic state as we do bi-polar humans.

Taxation is fully covered in this text. If you bring anything away from this chapter it is that, there is no such thing as a truly permanent tax cut. You will want to read this chapter carefully as it provides some real insight into our taxation system.

Conrad's advice on health care issues… eat your apple a day – this issue is not going to be resolved in the near future.

When it comes to the financial stability and the energy resources of our country, deregulation is a dirty word and brings further burden to consumers.

Civil liberties is also a subject covered in this book. From our gun, wiretapping and judicial laws to private property laws, they are fully explained in this chapter.

Lastly, Conrad explains that the Social Security trust fund has been running a surplus because more people are working than retiring. However, due to our government borrowing against those funds projections estimate that payments into Social Security will be outpaced by benefit payments to retirees between 2020 and 2052….OUCH!

If you want a book to add to your personal library that will serve as an excellent reference on our political system and the issues facing the United States, this would be the book you want to purchase.

Jessamyn Conrad is the daughter of the senior Democratic senator from North Dakota and the niece of the Republican U.S. Secretary of Agriculture. A graduate of Harvard and Cambridge universities, she is pursuing her doctorate in art history at Columbia University. She lives in New York.

Guerrilla Publicity: Hundreds Of Sure-Fire Tactics to Get Maximum Sales for Minimum Dollars
Jay Conrad Levinson, Rick Frishman, and Jill Lublin
Adams Media
An F + W Publications Co.
700 East State Street, Iola, WI 54990
1598698451 $14.95 www.adamsmedia.com www.fwpublications.com 1-800-726-9966

As a writer, I am always looking for new ways to spotlight my talents. It was only natural to pick up Guerrilla Publicity by Jay Conrad Levinson, Rick Frishman and Jill Lublin. The surprising part here is the wealth of knowledge this work provides for the self-employed and for companies worldwide.

Those who understand and utilize sound sales methods have tested the strategies cited in this work for years. While there is nothing magic about the art of getting good publicity for yourself or your company, the process takes a commitment to success and a willingness to talk about your product intelligently.

We are all familiar today with electronic media but few know how to utilize it effectively to gain publicity. This book not only explains the many online opportunities, but also provides you with specifics in the "how to" category.

As the book states, "selling yourself is a full-time job. When you repeatedly sell yourself, you build name recognition, which will increase your business because consumers are draw to those with familiar names. Become a recognizable brand; it will put you on the map."

This work takes us into the electronic age as well by explaining how to use podcast, e-mail blasts and websites to further your recognition and sales. Whether you want to design and utilize blogs to further your recognition or offer webinars...this book offers practical suggestions you can take and run with. Why spend mega bucks taking classes in how to use electronic media effectively when you can purchase this book so inexpensively?

There are forms for your use to simplify your life when writing press releases or preparing media kits. The forms contain all the information you need.

Every individual and company should have this book in its library. It offers practical examples and sound practices that will put your product on a list of things that everyone will want.

Jay Conrad Levinson is the author of thirty-nine business books including bestseller, Guerrilla Marketing. His books have sold over fifteen million worldwide.

Rick Frishman, founder of Planned Television Arts has been one of the leading book publicists in American for over thirty years.

Jill Lublin authored Get Noticed…Get Referrals; Build Your Client Base and Your Business by Making a Name for Yourself. She is the founder of GoodNews Media, Inc and hosts the TV program, Messages of Hope, and the nationally syndicated radio show, Do the Dream.

Agamemnon's Daughter
Ismail Kadare
Translated to English by David Bellos
Arcade Publishing Inc.
9781559707886 $24.00 www.arcadepub.com

Agamemnon's Daughter is not an easy read. It is, however, worth the read.

It is a story of a tyrannical regime whose power knows no boundaries. The main character is the Narrator whose great love, Suzana is told by her father – an officer in high standing with the country's hierarchy – that she must leave her lover for the advancement of her father's career. She complies thus leaving the Narrator to deal with his confusion, frustration and fear.

Much of the story takes place in one day's time during an annual celebration in May. The Narrator has received a much-coveted invitation to sit with the privileged at this event. He is confused as to why he has received such an honor. However, his frustration of losing Suzana as his own brings about thoughts and analogies of his country's historic icons, which override his curiosity of receiving such an invitation.

The Blinding Order, a short story within this work that deals with fear felt by a country's people when an order has been handed down to the people with regard to the disposition of people who possess an "evil eye."

The discussion among the people provides varied and ample descriptions of what is to be considered a person with an "evil eye." These discussions only serve to breed fear and distrust among the people.

A specific case of one to be punished as a possessor of the "evil eye" is told and it's ending a dramatic one. The sexual encounters between this possessor and his intended bride provides a reader with a real sense of sexual awakening in a young inexperienced woman.

The final story, The Great Wall consists of a discussion of a young soldier and his superior with regard to his duties to protect the Great Wall. The young soldier finds it difficult to understand the true meaning of The Great Wall until the very end of this story. The ending is unexpected and brings the story to an appropriate close.

If you are a reader who enjoys experiencing other cultures and the search for inner meaning, this book will provide you the enjoyment you are seeking.

Annie Slessman
Reviewer


Sullivan's Bookshelf

Books A Memoir
Larry McMurtry
Simon & Schuster
9781416583349 $24.00

This is obviously a book about books. Most people are aware that McMurtry, was the author of the popular Lonesome Dove novel and TV series and the Last Picture Show, plus, with a co-writer, Brokeback Mountain, and Terms of Endearment movies. But little known is the fact that he is also a book aficionado.

Actually, he liked books so much that he became and remained an antiquarian book dealer all his writing days and currently. He and a female partner, Marcia, ran the store, which in its early years was located in Washington, DC. Many famous, wealthy, and political people bought books there. Because of increasing store rents, however, they had to move where it was less expensive to lease space. First it was Houston, briefly, then to its current home, Archer City, Texas.

McMurtry had lived in that town as a youngster. He existed there without books in his home, and no community library to borrow from. Then a cousin moving elsewhere gave Larry a box of 19 books. He devoured those nearly score of books many times. And he was hooked. When he finally got to a library, he read everything he could. And so, his love for books grew and grew.

After he writes early in the morning, every day, on his novels, at first a disciplined 5 pages a day and later 10 pages per day, he then goes to work in the bookstore. Usually, he bought the used books elsewhere for his stock and his partner, Marcia would sell them. Both, of course, did each job. They often traveled the U.S. looking for estates with good books for sale. He bought numerous bookstores outright, too, just to get its choice volumes to sell. And all the time he read, and reread, widely.

The bookstore McMurtry ran was named BOOKED UP. It developed a wide ranging clientele and a solid reputation. Naturally, today, people have to travel afar to obscure Archer City, Texas to see its current holdings for sale, around 400,000 volumes. No small book outlet that!

This read talks primarily about books, not movies or TV. Each chapter is short, lucid, and informative. Most chapters are a page and a half, some not even that long, with a few being three pages at the most. In short, an easy read and something you can peruse during brief moments.

The author writes, "As a dealer who has accumulated hundreds of thousands of books, one practice I consider essential is the purge. My job, when I'm at my pricing table is BOOKED UP, is to be a junk rejecter. The bane of large secondhand book dealers is that junk inevitable seeps in, and the iron rule is that good books do not pull bad books up: bad books pull good books down. A shop whose shelves are not regularly purged of junk will soon look like a junk shop."

That philosophy makes for, according to this reviewer who also loves books, the tempting thought of traveling to Archer City, Texas one day soon to see BOOKED UP and its contents.

Larry McMurtry has also written two collections of essays, three memoirs, and over thirty screenplays. He won an Academy Award, with his co-author Diana Ossana, for Brokeback Mountain. He resides in, you guessed it—Archer, Texas.

Highly Recommended.

The Post-american World
Fareed Zakaria
W.W. Norton & Company
9780393062359 $25.95

Primarily about the emerging world powers, particularly China and India, and how they will overtake the U.S., at least economically, in the not distant future. The author writes, "This is not a book about the decline of America but rather about the rise of everyone else. It is about the great transformation taking place around the world, a transformation that, though often discussed, remains poorly understood. This is natural. Changes, even sea changes, take place gradually. Though we talk about a new era, the world seems to be one with which we are familiar. But in fact, it is very different."

China, with 1.3 billion people and a 9% annual growth rate is seeing, "its economy, in recent decades, double every eight years." And India, with over 1 billion people, is catching up with the first world countries also.

The U.S. military, though, is a long way ahead of those countries and will remain so for many years.

Aside from the economic differences between the U.S., China, and India, higher education in those countries is changing too. In the past, most Chinese and Indian parents sent their children to the U.S. for a good education. That's no longer the case, though some still come to the U.S. "In 2004, China graduated 600,000 engineers within its borders; versus 70,000 Americans in the nation. India graduated 350,000 engineers that same year.

Some U.S. academics investigated those numbers. They concluded that the Chinese and Indian figures were wildly distorted. For example, these countries included in their numbers auto mechanics and industrial repairmen. But after removing them from the statistics, the Chinese still graduated around 350,000 engineers, five times as many as the U.S.

The only way for the U.S., says the author, to continue to thrive in the new era is to remain a place in the world that is still inviting and exciting to people from other countries as it has almost always been!

Fareed Zakaria was born a Muslim in Mumbai, India. He got his higher education in the U.S. where he is now a citizen and secular Muslim. He writes well, making this volume an easy, fast read. Politically, he leans to the right, though moderately so. In other biographical material, he claims to be a centrist politically.

The author also edits Newsweek International. There he writes a weekly column on international affairs, too. This is the third book he's written, The previous ones being the bestsellers: The Future of Freedom and From Wealth to Power. He resides in New York City.

Recommended.

Jim Sullivan
Reviewer


Theodore's Bookshelf

The Deal
Adam Gittlin
Oceanview Publishing
61 Paradise Rd., Ipswich, MA 01938, 800-829-7062
9781933515137 $24.95 www.oceanviewpub.com

Drawing upon his extensive knowledge as a real estate executive, the author has written a penetrating novel not only of the wheeling and dealing behind the New York City commercial property market, but of people and how they think, act and grasp greedily and hungrily for money and power. It is the story of Jonah Gray and how he goes about amassing money by making real estate deals, while partying and consuming massive amounts of alcohol (Sapphire and tonic) and white powder.

But all that is merely background to a devious plot, murder and mayhem. And decorating the scene are various Faberge eggs, each more beautiful than the next and valuable beyond calculation. The descriptions of the New York night scene, fancy restaurants and the like are as interesting as the plot itself.

Written in the first person, the story provides a thrill a minute, right up to its conclusion. The novel took five years to complete, and it is well worth the effort. The plot unfolds at a fast and furious pace, keeping the reader entranced from start to finish. Recommended.

Spider
Michael Morley
Penguin Books
80 Strand, London C2R ORL, England
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014 USA
9780141031217 6.99 BPS

[This book is not presently available in the US, only in/through the UK and Canada]

Twenty years is a long time for a serial killer to be still doing his thing, but the Spider is still at it, this time on a specific mission. The FBI's best profiler, Jack King, burned out trying to discover Spider's identity and capture him. As a result, he and his wife, Nancy, retire to buy and run an upscale hotel in Tuscany, Italy, in an effort to have Jack recuperate and attain a sense of normalcy.

Unfortunately, a murder takes place in Italy with the same MO as "BRK," as Spider is dubbed. BRK stands for the Black River Killer, scene of his first murder 20 years before. Jack is induced by his friend and Italian counterpart profiler to consult, and he goes to Rome to assist. This leads to Jack's becoming more involved, especially when another gruesome event draws him back to the United States.

This novel is filled with terrifying descriptions of some of the Spider's efforts, and is so carefully and intriguingly constructed that the reader is drawn deeply into the story. It is penetratingly written and moves forward in many unexpected ways. The author is hard at work at his next novel, Necropolis, which will be published next year. Recommended.

The Amnesiac
Sam Taylor
Penguin Books
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780143113409 $14.00 800-847-5515 www.penguin.com

The use of a novel within a novel too often distracts the reader, and in this story it becomes more complicated by the use of a Victorian mystery within a contemporary dilemma. In this book 29-year-old James Purdew, after breaking his ankle and remaining virtually homebound for six weeks, begins to recall his past—except he cannot remember three years.

He returns to the city where he attended university, where he finds both strange and familiar sights and fleeting glimpses of the past. He is fortunate when he is selected to live in and rehabilitate a house in which he had lived when in school. It is filled with tragic memories.

This is a haunting tale, and it is well-written. However, many readers no doubt will be overwhelmed by the prose and plotting, much less the above mentioned technique. Nevertheless, the book is more than worth the effort of plodding through all the metaphysics and philosophy and parables, and is recommended.

Dead Silver
Neil McMahon
HarperCollins
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780061340765 $24.95 800-242-7737 www.harpercollins.com

Hugh Davoren and his sidekick, Madbird, return, after having made their debut in Lone Creek. Set against the Big Sky and vistas of Montana, the men are drawn into an investigation of a past double homicide when Renee Callister returns to Helena after an absence of many years to bury her father. The homicides were of the father's sexy young wife and a lover in a cabin miles away from Helena, and the husband was suspected but never arrested for the murders.

Renee believes her father was innocent and asks Hugh to help discover the truth. The list of suspects begins to mount up as the two begin looking into the past with the help of the Sheriff. Along the way, Hugh and Renee become involved, which of course raises questions as to his judgment. And the dangers increase as his efforts regarding the past go on, and he has to keep dodging bullets.

The writing is tense and the descriptions of the wide open country are graphic. The plot progresses, with the reader unaware of red herrings along the way, leading up to an unanticipated conclusion. Recommended.

Resolution
Robert B. Parker
G.P. Putnam's Sons
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780399155048 $25.95 800-847-5515 www.penguin.com

Dialogue and prose in a Parker novel is always sparse and written with economy. The conversations between characters—be they Spenser and Hawk in Boston or Cole and Hitch in the wild West—is separated only by the broad "a's," jive talk or western drawl. But they are always a delight to read.

After "Appaloosa," the preceding book in this series, Cole and Hitch find themselves in a mall town called Resolution. Initially, Hitch is hired by a man named Wolfson, who owns the bank, hotel and leading saloon, to act as sort of a bouncer. Later, Cole drifts in. Being Cole and Hitch, they act independently, and Wolfson hires two other gunmen to counter-balance their independence. Wolfson aims to acquire all the assets of the town, including the outlying homesteads. This leads the four hired gunslingers to moral decisions in conflict with their employer's desires.

The novel proves once again that Parker can write in all kinds of genres with his accustomed excellence of writing and economy of style, whether a detective story or a western (among other genres his more than 50 novels have encompassed). Praise indeed. Highly recommended.

When Day Breaks
Mary Jane Clark
Avon
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780061286087 $7.99 800-242-7737 www.harpercollins.com

This highly readable murder mystery features Eliza Blake and her television crew. Her colleague, Constance Young, the leading star of morning television, is found at the bottom of the pool at her upstate home after a farewell luncheon with her co-workers at the station after her final broadcast before joining a rival network. Is it an accident by drowning, death by natural causes, or murder?

Enter the Sunrise Suspense Society—Eliza, her researcher, cameraman and a consulting psychiatrist—who turn investigators to get to the bottom of the death of their colleague (with a few murders along the way]. Will the killer get to them before his or her identity is uncovered? Read on and find out.

The Sunrise Suspense Society has made another appearance in the July release of "It Only Takes a Moment," newly published in hardcover. If it is as well-written and entertaining as this novel, it should be equally rewarding. And we'll soon find out -- it's next on the agenda. Recommended.

It Only Takes a Moment
Mary Jane Clark
William Morrow
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780061286094 $24.95 800-242-7737 www.harpercollins.com

The author's father was an FBI Special Agent, specializing in high profile kidnappings; so, in a way, she grew up with the topic in her background for a long time. As a result, this novel reveals in depth the emotions of a parent whose child is abducted, and the efforts of law enforcement personnel in attempting to solve the crime and rescue the child.

In this case the child is Eliza Blake's Janie. Eliza made her appearance in the predecessor novel, When Day Breaks, along with her co-workers at the TV station where she co-hosts a morning program known as the Sunrise Suspense Society. The group doesn't play as prominent a role in this story as it did in the previous one, but they still contribute somewhat to its resolution. Here a psychic is featured, providing clues to Eliza while the FBI and others remain skeptical.

The poignancy and heartbreaking descriptions of a mother whose child has been kidnapped cut to the quick. The author's many years as a television writer and producer enable her to convey the circus atmosphere created by the media in such a situation realistically and brutally. The plot unwinds to a totally unexpected denouement. Recommended.

The Mercedes Coffin
Faye Kellerman
William Morrow
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780061227332 $25.95 www.harpercollins.com 800-242-7737

Money can't buy everything, but a billionaire can try. When she reads about a murder, Genoa Greeves is reminded about her high school guidance counselor who suffered death by the same MO fifteen years earlier, and she is prompted to do something about it. So she makes a deal with the LAPD, offering a million-dollar endowment if the original case is revived and solved. Who can resist such an offer? Certainly not the cash-strapped police department.

So, the stage is set for another Peter Decker- Rina Lazarus novel. And a marvelous tale it is, complete with the customary references to the couple's orthodox Jewish beliefs and culinary tastes. Lt. Detective Peter Decker is assigned to the task, and he quickly becomes involved in both cases (with a little assistance from his detective daughter Cindy). The task becomes complicated with additional murders, especially those of one of the original detectives.

As entertaining as the novel is, it is intriguing in its composition, keeping the reader perplexed amid the lies, deceptions and relationships among the cast of characters. It is an exciting read, among the series' best. And the twist at the end is as tasty as a raisin challa. Highly recommended.

Exit Music
Ian Rankin
Hachette Book Group
237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10169
9780316057585 $24.99 800-759-0190 www.HachetteBookGroupUSA.com

Say it isn't so, Ian. Has 60-year-old John Rebus come to the end of the line? The popular protagonist spends his last days in his three-decade-old career in this novel in his usual manner, solving crimes, upsetting the powers that be and dealing with his 20-year-old enemy, Big Ger Cafferty as well as setting the stage for tying up loose ends with his long-time partner, DS Siobhan Clarke.

In the mix is a delegation of Russian businessmen, Scottish politicians and a large bank and its executives all seeking to bring business to Scotland. And then a leading Russian dissident poet is found murdered, and everyone wants to sweep it under the rug as a mugging gone bad. But is it? Neither Rebus nor Clark is convinced, especially when a second murder caused by an arson fire seems to be connected to the original case. To complicate matters, Big Ger is assaulted and left in a coma, and Rebus seems to be implicated.

This novel is as good as Rankin gets in the way of a mystery novel, and he works in commentary on Scotland in general, Edinburgh, money, politics, greed and power. Where does Rebus go from here? This reader (and many others, I'm sure) hopes Rankin hasn't permanently retired him—he's too good a character to fade out of existence.

Highly recommended.

The Broken Window
Jeffery Deaver
Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781416549970 $26.95 www.simonandschuster.com www.simonsays.com 800-223-2336

This latest Lincoln Rhyme mystery has him chasing an intriguing criminal who uses data mining to change people's identities and backgrounds much less rob, rape and murder his victims. With his paramour and partner, Amelia Sachs, along with the rest of his partners, Lincoln has to accept some of today's computer and data-gathering techniques.

The trail leads to the largest and most successful data-gathering company, Strategic Systems Datacorp, which has amassed individual profiles on hundreds of millions of persons in the United States and overseas. This information furnishes the culprit with all kinds of knowledge to enable him to plan and execute his c rimes, including one against Lincoln's cousin, who is accused of murder.

Written with Deaver's accustomed meticulous detail, with the usual twists to keep the reader turning pages, the novel is well up there with the best of the series. Too bad we'll have to wait two years before the next one. But that's OK, the author plans to have us reading the next in the Kathryn Dance series next year, as well as a standalone--a possible new series-due out in November of '08. They too should be well worth looking forward to. Recommended.

Heavenly Pleasures
Kerry Greenwood
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 East 1st Ave., Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781590584262 $24.95 www.poisonedpenpress.com 800-421-3976

Corinna Chapman, former accountant now baker of bread, has a tendency to find herself in the midst of all kinds of problems, along with her lover, a former Israeli soldier and now private investigator in Melbourne. Things are never dull in the building where she lives and works.

First off are contaminated chocolates, laced with chili or soy sauce, from her friends' chocolate show. Who is trying to harm the women's business—and why? Then there is the self-styled messiah causing trouble with threats of Satanic evil. Then there is the mystery man who recently moved into the building. It's enough to keep a squad of detectives busy.

Best known for her Phryne Fisher series, the author introduced Ms. Chapman in "Earthly Delights", and now follows with a second installment. Perhaps not as eccentric as the Hon. Phryne Fisher, the baker, however, is more earthly and almost true to life. The novel is written in the same plain, simple style as the Fisher series, and is equally entertaining.

Cool Cache
Patricia Smiley
Obsidian
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780451224019 $23.95 800-847-5515 www.us.penguingroup.com

Tucker Sinclair can't seem to decide whether she's a business consultant or a private eye. In this caper, she begins as an advisor to an iffy high-scale retail chocolate shop, retained to improve its somewhat shaky business. Unfortunately, one night the cleaning lady is murdered in the shop and Tucker finds the body.

Add the disappearance of her assistant to the mix and Tucker has more to chew on than a bon bon. Presumably, her assistant has taken it upon himself to solve the mystery despite being admonished to say in the office.

Well-paced, and cleverly contrived, the novel is a breezy read. It holds up well, with suspense right up to the end. A light and enjoyable read.

Hit and Run
Lawrence Block
William Morrow
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780060840907 $24.95 www.harpercollins.com 800-242-7737

Keller is a stamp collecting contract killer, whose life is turned upside down when he accepts a last "hit" after he had decided to retire. The assassination was to take place in Des Moines, except it keeps being postponed day after day. Then, as Keller is buying some stamps from a local dealer, the announcement comes over the radio that the Governor has been shot dead. Then a picture of Keller appears in the media, and he is branded as the shooter even though he wasn't. The Governor wasn't even Keller's intended target.

The plot, simple enough, moves forward as Keller attempts to stay one step ahead of law enforcement—and apparently the person who hired him for the Des Moines job. It's no easy task--having used up almost all his cash to buy the stamps, Keller is unable to fly or take a train or bus out of Iowa, and his rented car has been identified by the police.

Keller is a likable series character, in which this is the fourth entry, and let's hope he will be found in future ones as well. The book is amusing, inventive and fun to read. He's careful and smart, but this time it takes a lot of ingenuity for him to stay alive. He can't go home to his New York City co-op, apparently his stamp collection is lost, and his friend and associate Dot is seemingly shot and her house burned down. All he can do is run. It's a helluva story and a great read, and is highly recommended.

The Murder Notebook
Jonathan Santlofer
William Morrow
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780060882044 $24.95 www.harpercollins.com 800-242-7737

The author once again uses his excellent talents as a writer and artist to create a spell-binding novel. A series of murders followed by the suicide of the killer baffles the police task force headed by Nate Rodriguez' girlfriend, Detective Terri Russo. Nate, of course, is the sketch artist whose insights, surpassed only by those of his witch-like grandmother, enable him to create likenesses so good that evil-doers are instantly recognized.

In this plot, his drawings are essential to the conclusion, as is his stubbornness to dog every possible clue and angle. It seems the victims and their killers are veterans of the Gulf War, suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Meanwhile, Nate continues to labor under the belief that he was responsible for the death of his father, an undercover narcotics cop, 20 years before.

This well-researched novel provides all the chills of a 1984 intrigue. The combination of fluid writing and the artwork moves the reader forward at a breathtaking pace. The characters are portrayed sharply and realistically. The book is accompanied by an extensive bibliography on various topics germane to the story. Highly recommended.

Another Man's Moccasins
Craig Johnson
Viking
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780670018611 $24.95 800-847-5515 www.penguin.com

Walt Longmire, the sheriff of Absaroka County, Wyoming, finds himself in the midst of a mystery derived from his service in Vietnam around the time of the Tet offensive. A young Vietnamese woman is found murdered near the interstate with Walt's picture in her purse. The picture was taken at a bar during the war and shows a woman with whom he had been friendly. The murder victim resembles the woman in the photo, and Walt thinks that perhaps she is that woman's granddaughter.

So much for the beginnings of the mystery. From that point, the novel progresses on two planes, juxtaposing memories of Walt's experiences in Vietnam and the investigation into the murder. It is a richly rewarding tale, with haunting memories of the Vietnam War, with Walt having to solve two mysteries separated by 40 years.

This novel is the fourth in the series and the Wyoming setting is certainly different from most other mysteries. The inclusion of a ghost town may be symbolic—the ghosts of the past continue to haunt the present. Written sparingly, but forcefully, the tale is gripping, and the book is highly recommended.

Where Memories Lie
Deborah Crombie
William Morrow
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780061287510 $24.95 800-242-7737 www.harpercollins.com

The appearance of a long-lost precious brooch at an auction house in London sets off a wide-ranging investigation by Gemma James and Duncan Kincaid, protagonists in this popular series of mysteries. Coupled with flashbacks to Jewish refugees fleeing to England just before the start of World War II, and Gemma's personal problems—her mother's illness and her own insecurity with regard to her relationship with Kincaid—set the tone for a highly emotional and poignant story.

The author, a Texan with a penchant for the English procedural, travels at least twice in each novel to London to research the places in which the tales take place. A charming map highlighting the locations and characters adorns the inside cover of the meticulously researched book. However, there is one error: the Hagganah as a terrorist group (it was the Irgun that performed such deeds against the English).

The alternating descriptions of the past and present keep the reader on edge virtually till the end of the book. The characters are deep and the interplay of emotions and relationships telling. The author's sensitivity to the plight of German Jews under the Nazis is moving and touching. A very good read, and one which is recommended.

Murder on Bank Street
Victoria Thompson
Berkley Prime Crime
c/o Penguin
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780425221518 $23.95 www.penguin.com 800-847-5515

After four years, the latest in the Gaslight Mystery series has a follow-up to the murder of Dr. Tom Brandt. Detective Sergeant Frank Malloy of the NYPD undertakes an investigation of the cold case, with the help of the dead man's father-in-law, who funds his effort, even to the extent of providing the additional assistance of Pinkerton detectives. The New York police originally did little to look into the case, and after the lengthy interval it isn't an easy task.

Originally, the widow's rich father thought it best not to pursue the matter, since he believed any facts uncovered would upset his daughter Sarah. As the investigation progressed, revelations uncovered seemed to justify the original assumption, and Malloy, who provides a love interest for Sarah, believed that might prove to be the case. Certainly, what is discovered is shocking, to say the least.

The descriptions of Little Old New York toward the turn of the 1890's are delightful and incisive. The book is sharply written and proceeds at a brisk pace, and the interaction of the characters graphic and moving. The class distinctions between rich and poor are vivid, and the dialog is written in keeping with the times in which the story takes place. Bank Street is the 10th entry in the series, and it is recommended.

This Night's Foul Work
Fred Vargas
Penguin
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780143113591 $14.00 800-847-5515, www.us.penguingroup.com

Commissaire Adamsberg is a wistful protagonist who, while leading his Parisian crime squad, intuitively grasps unrelated clues where others see none. In this installment of the series, he is confronted with the murders of two unrelated toughs which are presumed to be drug related, and, therefore should be handled by the drug squad.

However, the Commissaire holds on to the investigation, amassing clues and insights to move it in directions other than the assumption of drug involvement. Meanwhile, he also has to fight a new recruit who holds a boyhood grudge against his new boss, as well as supernatural sightings of ghosts both in his new home and in a Normandy cemetery. Are these all related? Is he following real clues, or being led down the proverbial primrose path?

Written in droll prose, the novel is excellently translated by Sian Reynolds who captures the language and offbeat comments with accuracy. The plot certainly is offbeat and inclusion of Racine-like poetry is an excellent touch. The crimes described are among the more unusual in this type of mystery and the reader has to keep turning pages to keep up with events and the eccentric characters. Recommended.

Theodore Feit
Reviewer


Tonya's Bookshelf

Chameleon Butterfly Dragonfly
Cindy Silbert
Bring U to Life Inc.
P.O. Box 2164, Del Mar, CA 92014
(585) 692.8538, BringUtoLife.com
1419699105, $14.95, pgs. 173, www.amazon.com,

Seeking ways to better understand yourself, find balance and inner happiness is a journey many woman take but still keep searching to find a way that relates to them. Chameleon Butterfly Dragonfly presents a sincere personal account of author Cindy Silbert's enlightenment of Divine Feminine energy. These archetypes, as Silbert discovered, communicate and guide woman in unique ways. Identifying characteristics unique to each archetype, Chameleon, Butterfly and Dragonfly, allows the reader to self examine which traits of each archetype they are most like or encounter in their daily lives. Author Silbert believes understanding these archetypes will enrich women's lives by empowering them to remove barriers that hold women back, heal hidden wounds and finding their true self-expression. In addition to self-quiz and pages for journaling, Silbert offers readers further guidance through a free membership on her website at BringUtoLife.com. Recommended for the woman who seeks deeper meaning and understanding of herself through beautifully chosen symbols, which readers will agree uniquely connect with woman.

More Than Little Professors - Children with Asperger Syndrome: In Their Own Words
Lisa Barrett Mann, M.S. Ed.
Autism Asperger Publishing Company
P.O. Box 23173, Shawnee Mission, Kansas 66283-0173
9781934575253, $18.95, pgs. 207, 877-288-8254, www.asperger.net

Disorders of any type can be confusing, misunderstood and labeled as some thing negative therefore discrediting a person or groups of people without recognizing a person's true talents and abilities. This is a brilliant collection of stories, poems, and comments from children with Asperger Syndrome. Defining Asperger Syndrome in a brief textbook definition and then this book takes you on a beautiful journey through the eyes and mind of those who have Asperger Syndrome through their own words, pictures and explanation is a true gift. This allows readers into their world to see the vast spectrum in which they function. Author Lisa Barrett Mann, M.S. Ed., guides the reader through this collection with her unique insight on life with these often times, misunderstood, fascinating children and youth. Dispelling myths and providing an opportunity for others to appreciate and gain better understanding of children with Asperger Syndrome as told through their own words, drawings and comments, is commendable in getting others outside of their box and appreciating the uniqueness that do not quite fit the "general mold" of society. This is a book to read with your children; discuss with your friends and to share with the world. Brilliantly designed and visually artistic this takes a complex disorder and breaks it down for almost anyone could understand.

The Spy with a Clean Face
Russell R. Miller
Beach House Books
P.O. Box 7151,Chesterfield, MO 63006
9781596300316 $18.95, pgs. 300, www.beachhousebooks.com

An average corporate executive living in a quite suburb has a past in the CIA. Charlie Connelly is about to find himself working on a NGO project in recently independent Ukraine during the Orange Revolution when the Agency again contacts him. His mission is to find and eliminate a defecting American spy before he concludes the sale to Iran of Ukrainian owned missiles. In an intriguing first fictional novel, author Russell R. Miller, takes you on a realistic journey of espionage, foreign territory, and history. Miller's extensive travels to over a 100 countries and knowledge as an international executive enhance the richness of the story without creating an unrealistic or unbelievable plot. Masterfully written in a down to earth tone, Miller delivers an intriguing novel for readers of every kind. Miller has authored three previous works, including Journey to a Closed City (non-fiction). Recommended for adult readers.

The Pond
Tamera Lawrence
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 S. Parker Road, Suite 515, Parker, CO 80134
www.outskirtspress.com/ThePond
9781432724740, $16.95, pgs. 372, 888-672-6657

The death of then eight-year-old Carl Weber in an icy cold pond twenty-five years earlier was a tragedy that left the mansion on Gray's pond vacant until now. In this novel a descendant of the deceased boy move to the mansion where once lived. Exploring his past as his wife and daughter get to know the odd old couple next door, Michael Adams, and his family begin to encounter strange unexplainable happenings that eventually cannot be ignored. In this thriller, Author Tamera Lawrence leads you on a tale of uncovering the sometimes-unpleasant truth. Was the death of Carl Weber and accident or was there something more sinister going on? An enjoyable relaxed read that will you have you guessing as the characters discover the truth will keep you turning the pages. Mystery and paranormal lovers will enjoy this book as well as those who enjoy a good story about a family discovering it's past and all the secrets that go with it. Recommended for young adult and up.

The Pirooters
Mark Mellon, author
Sundowners
c/o Treble Heart Books
1284 Overlook Drive, Sierra Vista, AZ 85636-5512
www.trebleheartbooks.com/SDMellon.html
9781932695663, $11.95, pgs.211, 520-458-5602,

Western readers have long love hearing of stories past, which enrich a time of true cowboys and Indians. Western fiction readers will saddle up and head to the campfire to listen to this tale from the heart of the lone state. This western fiction novel set in the 1916 is full of rich western dialogue sure to draw the reader in. In addition to a tale of the lost reassure of Santa Perdida this novel weaves in an important lesson in family forgiveness and a whole host of characters. Mark Mellon has authored three previous novels, including The Empire of the Green, Hammer and Skull and Libertarian in Love. Recommended for readers age 15 and up due to language.

The Donation
Myles Edwin Lee, MD, author
iUniverse
2021 Pine Lake Road, Suite 100, Lincoln, NE 68512
Jeannie Dunn, Publicist (publicity)
P.O. Box 133, Beaver Crossing, NE 68313
1-800-288-4677, www.iuniverse.com
9780595465194 paperback $15.95, pgs. 213
9780595703791 hardcover $25.95

Controversy has long surround the question of paying organ donors for organs. Executing death row inmates by lethal injection and electrocution have sparked heated debates for decades. Is it possible there is an alternative solution that would eliminate the controversy of both these issues? This fascinating fiction novel by author Myles Edwin Lee, board certified cardiothoracic surgeon, dives into the very heart of both these issues and adds a controversial possible solution, death by organ donation, which could spark debates for years to come. Recommended for adult readers who enjoy drama, suspense, controversial moral and ethical issues facing the criminal justice system and the medical field. This novel includes a glossary of medical terms, which is helpful to the reader in understanding terms that may be unfamiliar; this is a nice bonus to readers. This is author Myles Edwin Lee's first novel. He has authored numerous scientific articles and book chapters in this field including a textbook of complication in cardiac surgery.

No One Knows What It's Like To Be The Cab Man
Ron Meyer, author
Ron Meyer Publishing
P.O. Box 1157, Vernon, NJ 07462
9781605853512, $15.95, pgs. 125, 973-764-4471

Taking a taxicab to get to a destination is something most adults have done at some point in their lives. Intended for adult audiences only, due to adult content and strong language, author Ron Meyer tells it like it is. Short stories from his encounters with his clients are the framework of this book. Topics addressed such as boobs and babes, the smelliest customers, to the politically incorrect are sure to have you laughing. Gritty language and strong opinion may not be for everyone. Giving this book as a gift requires true thought of the person whom you are intending to give it to; not recommended for your boss, mother or pastor, unless of course you are sure they would not be offended. Use of an editor and publisher would be of value to this book. Grammatical errors and arrangement of content would improve the flow of this book, but if you are looking for a quick read that requires minimal thought then this book is for you!

Tonya Thul-Theis
Reviewer


Victoria's Bookshelf

Pure Soapbox
Kimberlie Dykeman
Wiggy Press
P.O. Box 242, Austin, TX 78767
9780974070339, $14.95, 152 pages www.daltonpublishing.com

I'm going to quote from the first chapter of the book as I think it pretty much sums up its theme. "Exude enthusiasm in creating your life. Don't just hang on for the ride. Be your own catalyst! Get fired up and make a difference in your own journey. Or, as my dear Dad so eloquently put it, 'Don't drag your ass. The light ain't gonna get any greener.' "

Pure Soapbox is a motivational and upbeat book filled with quotes and short chapters of one or two pages and sometimes less. I don't usually read perky books like this, but I did find it made me stop and think a few times. If you enjoy motivational books and having your own cheering squad, this book might be what you're looking for.

Written in Blood
Sheila Lowe
Obsidian, Penguin Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780451224873, $6.99

This follow up to Poison Pen finds forensic handwriting expert Claudia Rose taking on a job for a young widow named Paige Sorensen. Paige married Torg Sorensen, a man over twice her age, who was powerful, aggressive and controlling. His children, all older than Paige, contest the will which has left almost everything to their despised stepmother. Claudia analyzes Torg's handwriting and testifies that the signature on the revised will belongs to him.

Paige appeals to Claudia's soft side by asking her to be her friend. Against her better judgment, Claudia becomes personally involved with her client. Paige runs an academy for children of wealthy parents and asks Claudia to give a lecture on handwriting analysis at the school. Duringher talk, Claudia's challenged by one of the students, and finds herself reaching out to help the girl with a troubled past. Annabelle Giordano is a handful. Claudia wants to help her, but the task may be an impossible one.

Christmas arrives and with it comes the disappearance of Paige and her unruly student, Annabelle. Does Annabelle's miserable excuse for a father and his alleged mob connections have something to do with it or is it some plot of Paige's stepchildren? Can Claudia's expertise help solve the mystery?

I enjoyed Claudia Rose's character, her romance with her cop boyfriend, the information given about her chosen profession of handwriting analysis and of course the story itself. Written in Blood is highly entertaining. If you like a great mystery, I think you'll like this one.

Asking For Murder, An Advice Column Mystery
Roberta Isleib
The Berkley Publishing Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780425223314 $6.99

Dr. Rebecca Butterman's plans to have lunch with her friend Annabelle Hart change when she arrives at Annabelle's office and finds her gone. It's not like Annabelle to leave her patients in the lurch or fail to call and cancel the lunch they've been planning. Rebecca starts to worry and drives over to the social worker's home, where she finds a hidden door key and lets herself in. She's shocked to find Annabelle's bruised and battered body inside.

The police arrive and Detective Meigs, her friend from the local police department believes Annabel's attacker may have been one of her patients. Both Rebecca and Annabel are therapists and Rebecca's aware that it's areal possibility.

Rebecca has her own problems to deal with, but she puts them aside to help find Annabelle's attacker. In the process she meets some of Annabelle's unusual family and discovers she's put herself in danger. Could whoever attacked her friend be after her too?

I love the characters in this series, particularly that of Rebecca Butterman. Her character is strong, feisty and believable. I feel like I'm caught up in her life when I read these books and I always look forward to seeing what happens next.

This is Roberta Isleib's third book in her An Advice Column Mystery Series. It follows Deadly Advice and Preaching to the Corpse.

The Bell At Sealey Head
Patricia A. McKillip
The Berkley Publishing Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780441016303 $23.95

Sealey Head is a small town by the sea, but it's no ordinary town and allis not as it seems. Every evening a bell rings, but none of the townsfolk knows who's ringing it or where it is. Many ignore it or don't hear it anymore. Judd Cauley, whose family owns the Inn at Sealey Head hears it every night and so does his old friend the wealthy heiress, Gwyneth Blair.

The two feel attracted to each other, but Gwyneth already has a wealthy suitor she's not much interested in. Raven Sproule's a boring sort who seems fixated on Gwyneth, his horses and not much else.

The reader soon finds there's a house on the edge of town which harbors a mystery that none of the townspeople is aware of. It's called Aislinn House where two worlds coexist side by side. There's the quiet manor with its dwindling supply of aging servants and dying mistress, while the other holds a princess and her knights who must perform strange rituals to keep them and their world safe. All is in turmoil when the dying Lady Eglantyne's heir decides to visit. What effect will her visit have on Aislinn House and its various inhabitants? Could it mean someone's doom or salvation?

When a stranger comes to town asking questions of the residents about the bell, he takes a room at Judd Cauley's Inn. Judd finds the stranger's love of books and interest in magic similar to his own, but wonders about the stranger's interest in the bell.

The Bell At Sealey Head, with its charming fairy tale flavor, intriguing story line and interesting characters will satisfy longtime fans and win new ones. If you haven't read her work before you're missing out for McKillip's stories are among fantasy's best. Some of her other works include: The Forgotten Beasts of Eld, The Tower at Stony Wood, Riddle-Master: The Complete Trilogy, Solstice Wood, Winter Rose and Harrowing the Dragon. The list is long.

Victoria Kennedy
Reviewer


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Editor-in-Chief
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