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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 11, Number 9 September 2011 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Applegate's Bookshelf Bethany's Bookshelf
Buhle's Bookshelf Burroughs' Bookshelf Carson's Bookshelf
Christy's Bookshelf Clark's Bookshelf Crocco's Bookshelf
Deb's Bookshelf Dollycas' Bookshelf Edward's Bookshelf
Farrah's Bookshelf Gary's Bookshelf Gloria's Bookshelf
Gorden's Bookshelf Harwood's Bookshelf Heidi's Bookshelf
Henry's Bookshelf Karyn's Bookshelf Katherine's Bookshelf
Kaye's Bookshelf Logan's Bookshelf Margaret's Bookshelf
Mayra's Bookshelf Paul's Bookshelf Peggy's Bookshelf
Richard's Bookshelf Riva's Bookshelf Sandra's Bookshelf
Southworth's Bookshelf Suzie's Bookshelf Theodore's Bookshelf

Reviewer's Choice

A View of The Lake
Beryl Singleton Bissell
Lake Superior Port Cities
9780942235746, $16.95,

Aaron Paul Lazar, Reviewer

A View of the Lake, by Beryl Singleton Bissell, is a vibrant collection of reflective essays centered on the North Shore of Lake Superior, Minnesota. Each slice-of-life chapter transports the reader into Ms. Bissell's life in this majestic country, as well as connecting us to her gentle spirit.

Sometimes thoughtful, often humorous, and ever delightful, the work spans topics dealing with the life of "newcomers" in the town of Schroeder to an intimate and stirring connection with the great outdoors. From encounters with bear, moose, deer, and rare bird species, to a private viewing of the Northern Lights, to poignant experiences with neighbors, this assortment of day-in-the-life type stories will charm the most jaded reader.

Take, for example, this excerpt from "Historical Society", when the author joined the Schroeder group to help document stories of the residents. Oftentimes the locals lamented not having recorded stories from their parents and grandparents, and expressed a sadness over this loss.

"There were times when, as I sat taping others' memories, I experienced this loss personally. My mother died before I was wise enough to ask questions. I now hold only fragments of her life, each piece bristling with questions, each piece weighted with the unknown.

We are born. We die. We do what others do. Some of the elders wondered why I wanted to know about their lives when they'd been so uneventful. In the telling, they came to a fresh appreciation of themselves and the community in which they'd lived for such a long time. Like a musical score played over and over again, the sound, timing, and interpretation are never quite the same."

Who among us hasn't experienced such thoughts? Universal themes such as this loss of family history, this common plight among man, resonate throughout the book. I often find myself up against the same dilemma. Even now, fourteen years after the death of my father and last remaining grandmother, a question about our heritage pops into my mind, and I reach to pick up the phone to call one of them, before realizing once again, it's too late. Ms. Bissell's themes resonate with this reader on a rare and special frequency.

But Beryl Singleton Bissell's book is not all sadness and longing. No, on the contrary, it is filled with the spirit of adventure, love for fellow man, a passion for and connection with each and every tiny aspect of nature, and most of all, the embracing of life. Ms. Bissell frequently shares philosophical gems, such as this excerpt from the chapter named "Shrike Attack".

"Winter focuses a harsher light on North Shore living, reminding me that nature, while beautiful, caters to no one and no thing; beauty is not always benevolent."

Each of the chapters is enjoyable, and although filled with literary gold, the book remains entirely readable, broken into small chapters that can be enjoyed in a sitting or in a full-fledged marathon as I did while flying overseas to Germany last week. I longed to join this author at her side as she bent over emerging flowers in the spring, slogged through snowy trails, or watched the wonders of the sky, as in this segment from "Northern Lights."

"...I bounded into the bedroom to wake Bill. Together we rushed out into the subzero temperatures dressed only in our pajamas and robes. Together we stood on the deck and entered ground zero of an incredible light show that shuddered around us like fireworks behind gauzy veils. It rippled and spun and folded; it expanded and dissolved; it burst and flared. I felt a searing joy."

Although her readers may never physically see the Northern Lights, in their minds they'll never forget this dazzling show.

Ms. Bissell has been through some incredibly tough times in life (see her first book, The Scent of God), but it's her faith in God, her indomitable spirit, and her ability to enjoy the little things in life that carry her through, in addition to her devotion to her wonderful husband, Bill. But I believe it's her ability to commit all of this to the written page that may have helped her purge her spirit of those sufferings best of all, and which will continue to inspire us all. The process is sublime, for writer and reader, and I for one thank her for taking the time to share these gem-like stories with the rest of the world.

I'd like to finish with one last quote from A View of the Lake, taken from the chapter entitled "A Night of Shooting Stars." In this essay, the author has just witnessed the Leonid meteor showers.

"Small, vulnerable, and intensely alive at that moment, I gave thanks for the incredible universe that sustains and enlivens all creatures. I was no longer sipping from the cup of life, I'd become one with it."

Very highly recommended.

Perfidious Proverbs and Other Poems: a Satirical Look at the Bible
Philip Appleman
Humanity Books/Prometheus Books
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst, NY 14228-2119
9781616143855, $14.00

G. Richard Bozarth

Perfidious Proverbs is an anthology of religion-themed poems culled from Appleman's New And Selected Poems 1956-1996 and Karma, Dharma, Pudding & Pie. This makes the book a valuable addition to any Atheist's, Freethinker's, or Secular Humanist's library. It's also a good starter book for beginning an exploration of Freethought literature.

There's a foreword by Dan Barker. In my reading notes I summarized it as "interesting, but its absence would not have been missed." Like most such additions to the poetry books I've read (and I've read a lot of them), Barker's is essentially a waste of paper and ink. A short biography would have been better (the Great Books Of The Western World offers perfect examples of this kind of foreword). Appleman's introduction is much better. He discusses how childhood is loaded with myths that evaporate as the child transitions into adulthood - except religious myths. Religion-dominated culture conspires with religious leaders to perpetuate religious myths into adulthood. The tragedy is this: unlike relative harmless myths like Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy, religious myths exert detrimental moral influence.

Perfidious Proverbs isn't always satire aimed at the Bible, but most of it is. The poems in "The Created" are particularly good. Here are comments on famous events in the Bible by Eve, Noah, Sarah, Bilad, David, Jonah, Mary, Judas, and Jesus. Eve complains about the unfairness of being punished for behaving exactly the way she and Adam were intelligently designed to behave. "If human nature was a mistake, whose mistake was it?" (p. 38) Noah's version of the Flood is really excellent, and chilling because, as to be expected from the most holy man on Earth at the time, he refuses to admit the atrocious immorality and utter futility of the Flood. Sarah is not impressed by Yahweh's morality in punishing Sodom's inhabitants for behaving exactly like humans always have and always will behave. David has no problem with revealing what an immoral, murdering fiend he really is - or admitting his enthusiasm for heterosexual promiscuity (remember he was another most-holy-man-on-Earth during his time). Mary talks about her son as a mother who is miserable because he became a cult leader and got executed for it, and is now unhappy about his followers pressuring her to say her son's birth was a miracle. Judas tells about being in a cult when its leader has given him reason to doubt his sanity. And then there is Jesus on the day of execution wondering where Yahweh is because he wants to know how his devotion to the deity ended up with him on a cross. His conclusion, too late to save him, is that "God is only a trick with mirrors, our dark reflection in a glass." (p. 74)

The word "satire" generally makes people think of "humor" in its funny meaning. Satire often is fun reading, but not always. Satire can be gruesome by exposing the truth behind appearances like slicing open the skin to spill the viscera inside. "The Faith-Healer Speaks" is a very strong, disturbing exhibition of that peculiar fanaticism, which tortures or murders believers who could have been cured by doctors. It's particularly atrocious when the victim is a child who had no choice about being given faith-healing instead of medicine or medical procedures. In this poem a child is murdered by faith-healing, and the faith-healer only anticipates an even greater miracle: the child's resurrection! This isn't merely fantasy. It has happened before in real life, though not always involving children, and will certainly happen again. "A Priest Forever" is an unrepentant Roman Catholic priest defending his sexual relationships with young boys. "And Then The Perfect Truth Of Hatred" is about the bigotry caused by religionism's detrimental moral influence.

The most disturbing poem is "Alive" (p. 103-104). It is an authentic horror story that reminded me of "Red Roses", a similarly ghastly poem by Anne Sexton about child-battering. "Alive" is a horror story about blind faith in religionism and the cruelty of secular doctors who will commit atrocities to "save a life" even though what is left is a corpse that cannot finish dying because modern medical technology can keep it biologically functioning. Uncle Jimmie has cancer. Operations fail to save him, so "stop cutting, Jimmie told them, let me go to earth and snow and silver trees." Aunt Flo sides with the doctors because her religious faith won't permit Jimmie to commit suicide by stopping his "treatment", and so "Auntie Flo went on reading St. Paul (The works of the flesh are uncleanness), and praying, and paying the bills - and the surgeons huddled, frowning at Jimmie's want of reverence for faith and modern medicine." Aunt Flo prayed and paid, therefore the doctors cut and cut. Naturally "one Sunday after Angelus, Jim began his dark forgetting of the green wheat fields, red hills in the sun, and how clouds drive storms across the sea. Some Monday following, a specialist trimmed away one-quarter of his brain and left no last gray memory of Omar or snowy fields or earth or silver trees." Aunt Flo kept praying and paying. Being paid, the doctors were glad to keep the corpse from finishing its final few inches to crossing over into death. Now "tubes lead in and out of Jimmie's veins and vents. Auntie Flo comes every day to read to bandages the Word Made Flesh, and pray, and pay the bills, and watch with Jimmie, whittled down like a dry stick, but living." And Earth goes on, the sun fueling life, life ending, the molecular constituents of life recycling to become part of new life, these wonderful, natural, purposeless, amoral processes that began billions of years ago, but "Uncle Jimmie is no part of these." This is the poem that hit me hardest and touched me deepest.

Perfidious Proverbs has several excellent poems in it and no bad ones. There are very few lyrical poems, which are, in my opinion, the best kind of poetry, but the prose poems (meaning no rhythm or rhyme) usually have the emotional intensity that is necessary to make prose poetic. The poems deliver a very basic, very average, very expected Freethought message. Although there is no new lightning, the lighting of the familiar message is usually creative. The book does have one flaw in addition to Barker's foreword, and that is having nothing that will disturb Freethinkers manque - however that is not much of a flaw compared to the book's very excellent qualities. I recommend it highly without hesitation.

Cheat the Hangman
Gloria Ferris
Imajin Books, 2011
3715-14 St. NW, Edmonton, AB Canada, T6T 0149
$3.99 (ebook), $15.99

Christina Francine, Reviewer

Gifts cost, sometimes more than paying money for an expensive item. A gift can be the passing on of a responsibility. With money though, there is choice. There is not with a gift. For thirty-eight year-old recently divorced Lyris Pembroke inheriting a mansion is a costly gift. She cannot do with it what she wants either. She must follow her Uncle Patrick's rules. He left the estate to her. She must deal with Conklin too, the stiff and opinionated chief male servant. As if this was not enough, Lyris discovers the body of a long ago murdered baby behind a tiny hidden door in the mansion, that, her ex is pressuring her for money, and that she has a spirit-guide who pokes her regularly.

Ferris will not let up on her main character. She jeopardizes her character's health by frazzling her nerves, sending a visiting paranormal, and lastly, by putting Lyris in harms way.

Readers cannot set their concern for Lyris aside. They will wonder what a sprit guide is and what one does. They will wonder how Lyris will make it through everything and who killed little Tommy Pembroke.

Ferris weaves an exciting story demonstrating her work is worth keeping an eye on. Cheat the Hangman is a non-stop guessing game, a gift to the readers as well. One that readers unwrap and investigate eventually finding feelings of responsibilities about. They will care about Lyris. This gift will cost them time because nothing is free. An intriguing and immensely entertaining read that blends paranormal with mystery and a touch of romance.

Promise Me
Nancy G. Brinker
Three Rivers Press
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, NY, NY 10019
9780307718136 $15.00,

Deirdre Quinn

"Promise Me: How a Sister's Love Launched the Global Movement to End Breast Cancer" is at heart the story of a family in motion - from Nancy and Suzy's early years together, to their young adulthood and the individual growth they shared, to Suzy's unexpected and tragic illness and death, to the promise Nancy made and was unable to forget, to Nancy's second marriage and the strength and resources that relationship afforded.

From the start, Nancy and Suzy are two very different sisters being raised in a household with one common theme - that support of and service to others is the only true path to happiness and fulfillment. The girls are brought up smothered with love and family, but with a sense of duty to the less fortunate and the less appreciated. That attitude, instilled in them both by their incredible mother, shapes both women as they mature and become wives, mothers and active members of their communities. When Suzy is diagnosed with breast cancer, and her sad prognosis becomes clear to the family, Suzy extracts a promise from her baby sister - that Nancy will make it better for other women, that she will do everything in her power to change the experience of breast cancer for women everywhere. From the social silence to the drab hospital waiting room, Nancy must bring women's needs to the forefront of scientific research. The promise is made, though Nancy at first has no idea how to proceed.

Suzy's death is the catalyst for Nancy's action, and the first breath of life for Susan G. Komen for the Cure. The remainder of the book summarizes the various actions and goals of the organization, with personal vignettes peppered throughout. Nancy's relationship with her second husband, Norman Brinker, is explored in detail as he was a motivating and educating force in her efforts at building and then maintaining a successful non-profit organization.

This book is full of life, full of a sense of purpose but without a holier-than-thou attitude regarding that greater purpose. I think Brinker's strength and personality are evident on every page, as are her intelligence and wide breadth of knowledge on all subjects relating to breast cancer. I found her memoir to be honest, uplifting and also strongly grounded in reality - her voice is strong, her message clear, yet her vulnerability as a sister and a woman are embraced. I highly recommend this book; in fact, I want to share it with my sister right away.

Mayan Calendar Girls
Linton Robinson, Grayson Moran, and Team 2012
Bauu Press
Boulder, Colorado, USA
9781936955008 $18.95, $7.95 Kindle

Max Carrillo

I am known as a writer about my native Mazatlan, and surrounding regions. But I also have an interest in foreigners writing about Mexico, so I followed the buzz about "Mayan Calendar Girls" and was delighted to discover it's available in Kindle format, since I am apparently the only living Mexican with a Kindle.

It was only after I downloaded the book, without reading anything about it because it's getting to be such a craze, and realized that one of the authors is Linton Robinson, an ex-resident of Mazatlan and author of perhaps my single favorite book about my city, "Sweet Spot".

How Sr. Robinson made his way to the Yucatan is waiting another day, but I can't delay in reviewing "Mayan Calendar Girls" because it's a book that forced me to read far into the night. This is not like any book I've read (if there are any similar, please inform me and tell me where to find them). It was written, apparently, by a group of writers, over a long period at a chapter per week. Which might explain the darting, zooming, multiple-thread, shifting narrative. I bounced from Mayan pyramids to a floating island to Washington D.C, to hippie dancing, to spying; at each stop picking up more intriguing characters.

I laughed when I first heard the title mentioned, a clever concept. By the end of the book, I knew it couldn't have been called anything else. The title Girls are a mixed sort: a shy Mayan trying to cross to the First World, a Chinese-American archaeologist looking for what happens after the End Of Time, the scheming Lesbian Negro spy trying to get the same information and sell it to Republicans, the red-haired fire dancer chasing drugs down a mousehole, the California blond diver who loves dolphins to the fullest expression, the slim New Ager who escorts in one of the most entertaining characters, oXo-a crystal skull who commands fate but has developed an addiction to rummaging in stoned minds. They are all beautiful, they all seem to end up naked a lot, they all have their own way of dealing with men, danger, and the scorching change that oXo, mushrooms, and the impending End bring to their minds.

When I mention shifts and zooms, I don't just mean locations and story lines: my idea of what kind of book it was kept changing gears. I'd be seeing it as a satire, then suddenly find myself in a skeleton hallucination or a jetski chase at night. I'd think of it as a comic adventure, then suddenly find myself in the middle of a very touching romantic relationship. None of these characters, not even the potentially stereotyped crystal skull and loving dolphins, are simple or "pasteboard". All have an interior. Townsend Hardley, for instance, an American espionage agent, is nothing like James Bond or Jack Bauer, he's a perfect male who is frustrated by lack of meaning and despair of getting out from under this father's shadow. Yes, there are interesting male characters as well, but this book is defined by its calendar girls.

The ending is satisfying, but makes no pretense of not being a "Part One". The major issue is unresolved: but it will be until December of 2012, will it not? By which time we will hopefully have the second volume of "Mayan Calendar Girls" to guide us through it.

There is no point in quoting excerpts here-apart from the mania, the original serial is there to be read (and much wonderful artwork to be explored) on the website at Enough to say that "Mayan Calendar Girls" lives up to it's growing cult reputation-it's a funny, smart, sexy, ever-changing dance through Mexico, popular Mayan myth, and a new breed of romance/adventure.

102 Minutes: The Untold Story of the Fight to Survive Inside the Twin Towers
Jim Dwyer & Kevin Flynn
Times Books
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780805094213 $17.00

Nicole Langan, Reviewer

It seems hard to believe that we're approaching the 10th anniversary of September 11th. At the time, I had just moved to Manhattan about two weeks before the attacks. When it happened, I was alone in a Greenwich Village apartment scared out of my mind. I remember hearing the roar of American Airlines Flight 11 as it flew over my roof before crashing into the North Tower. I remember seeing an armed military fighter jet flying overhead ready to shoot down any more hijacked planes. I remember hearing people hysterically crying as they returned to my apartment building and made their way up the corridor of steps that passed my door. I could go on, but I can only offer a limited scope on a day that defies all magnitude.

I've wanted to read 102 Minutes: The Untold Story of the Fight to Survive Inside the Twin Towers by Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn for quite some time now. And I'm not afraid to say, it took me awhile to gather my courage before I could pick it up. I wasn't sure that even 10 years later I was ready to read about what happened inside the towers on that fateful day. The horror is beyond all imagining, but Dwyer and Flynn provide an important historical resource filled with humanity and backed by a gargantuan reporting effort. The amount of facts, interviews, phone recordings and email accounts is seamlessly woven into a gripping narrative that is utterly fascinating. I could not put it down once I started and ended up finishing the book in two days. The writers' ability to make you feel like you are inside the towers while these catastrophic events are unfolding is nothing short of investigative journalism at its best.

What surprised me is that even after a decade of continuous media coverage there was still so much that I learned for the first time in this book. There were roughly 14,000 people in the towers when the first plane struck and over 12,000 made it out alive. That is a staggering number. When they descended multiple stories of narrow staircases, the survivors then had to exit a lobby from which bodies and fiery debris were dropping from above. The fact that so many were able to safely evacuate is astounding.

The sheer amount of detail in the book is impressive. For example, no one could make it to the roof because a series of three doors were designed to prevent would-be suicide attempts from jumping off the city's tallest buildings. Yet, those above the crash zone even found a window washer with a key card that would open two of the doors, but no one was monitoring a video camera to push a button that would unlock the third door. Even so, a helicopter rescue was deemed unlikely due to the vast amount of smoke engulfing the tops of both towers. It is heartbreaking to witness the frustration of those trying to find a way out at all costs.

What boggles the mind is that the majority of the people in the towers - civilians, firefighters, police - had no clue what was going on. The millions of people watching the scene unfold on TV had a better vantage point than those inside fighting for their lives. It makes you wonder what would have happened today in the age of Twitter and Facebook when news headlines are so readily available via cell phone. In a state of utter confusion, 911 operators gave conflicting instructions to those calling from the World Trade Center. Some callers were told to leave, while others were instructed to stay and wait for help. In the midst of such pandemonium, it was hard for anyone to get a clear picture of what was going on. Was it a bomb? Was it a fire? In fact, due to the geographic nature of the buildings, some in the South Tower could not even see that the North Tower had been hit.

There are so many individual stories profiled in the book, but one that stands out for me is Battalion Chief Orio J. Palmer, a marathon runner and FDNY firefighter. His determination led him to climb 78 stories to reach the impact zone of the South Tower. He made it to an elevator staging bay where people would transfer to complete their ascent or descent. Many were waiting here when American Airlines Flight 175 slammed through. The death and destruction Palmer witnessed and radioed back was beyond belief. The saddest thing is that despite a valiant effort he too perished minutes later when the South Tower collapsed.

A poignant section features photographs taken inside the towers that day. You see Palmer in full uniform in the lobby. You see NYPD officer Moira Smith escort an injured man to safety before she herself perished in the collapse. You see pictures taken by survivor John Labriola as he snapped images of firefighters rushing up the stairs while a whole line of people trickle down and the lobby of the North Tower whose windows overlook a plaza filled with burning debris. These images are haunting as they offer a fleeting glimpse inside a moment of history.

The diagrams are also phenomenal. The illustrations of the two towers showing the floors that were directly impacted by the planes offer a reference point that you will return to again and again as you make your way through the chapters. The escape routes are also clearly depicted showing the staircases as well as the shopping mall beneath the towers through which many found safe passage.

The explanation behind the collapse of the towers is thorough and well-documented. The spray-on fire repellent that coated the steel foundation just wasn't strong enough to withstand the immense heat of jet fuel inferno. In fact, it was never properly tested in the first place. Not to mention during construction the number of staircases was reduced in order to capitalize on available real estate space. The building code was changed which allowed this to occur.

The horror of the day is told in pieces, but it adds up to a frightening whole. Survivors recount the towers swaying when each plane hit. Helicopter pilots report that some people were pushed to their deaths when those at the windows desperately tried to reach fresh air and escape the flames. Those in the restaurant on the top floor of the North Tower call desperately for help when the floor beneath them begins to give way. Dozens of firefighters are seen gathering on the 19th floor of the North Tower not knowing that the South Tower had just collapsed and they should evacuate. And all of this happened in a mere 102 minutes.

Overall, a gripping, compelling piece of investigative reporting that shows what it was like to be in the World Trade Center on September 11th.

Applegate's Bookshelf

This Body of Death
Elizabeth George
HarperCollins Publisher,
9780061160882 Nook eBook; $8.99 Paperback $9.63; hardcover $6.28

This Body of Death: Elizabeth George . . . George, as usual, has produced a voluminous book. This one, set in England, has good detecting and plausible, occasionally even likable villains. Her characterizations work well, and some of those on the good side are unlikable, yet the reader understands why. There are multiple mysteries within the same book, sometimes directly to the plot, sometimes as equally engaging side issues. There is lots of non-mystery interaction among the characters, and odd yet appealing relationships. This Body of Death is on the top of my reading-now pile on my favorite reading spot, the sunroom, rain, snow or shine.

As I do with most Elizabeth George books, I read a number of chapters of This Body of Death, put the book down, pick it up again, hours, days or weeks later. Yet George has a way of grabbing at me each time I pick her up, so after a few paragraphs I'm involved again and it doesn't take long for me to catch up on the plot and the characters. And when I'm finished, I know I've had a good read. This was especially true with This Body of Death. I don't always find this with other mysteries.

On the other hand, I couldn't read this heavy hardcover tome in bed; it's weight would be murderous for that kind of reading; it requires someplace where it can be more easily held, usually on my lap or propped on the kitchen table or even my desk in my study. But the read is worth it in the long run, it's an engaging story, a good, finely plotted mystery, although it took me many a day to finish. I would happily lend it to a friend, although I wouldn't expect return for weeks!

In the Bleak Midwinter
Julia Spencer-Fleming
St. Martin's Press,
9780312986766 Nook eBook $7.99, Paperback $7.99

In the Bleak Midwinter: Julia Spencer-Fleming . . . How about a female Episcopal priest/former army helicopter pilot for a quirky character? The Reverend Clare Fergusson is spunky, quick-witted, inclined to dig around in places where she's not really welcome. Add to this an attractive, married police chief who is having some issues in his marriage. A baby is left on the rectory doorstep, and we're off to a darn good tale. In the Bleak Midwinter is the first in a series of seven mysteries centering on the priest and the police chief - also the first I've read of the series - and I intend to download the rest. That's how much I enjoyed my visit with these people, the community, and the Adirondack Mountain scenery. I generally skip over chase scenes in novels. This book, however, has probably one of the best-written, most-suspenseful chase scenes I've read. And the chase is on foot. In the bleak midwinter. Across half-frozen streams, through icy woodlands and boulders and brambles and up and down ravines. The conclusion of that episode is surprising, yet it fits perfectly with the character Spencer-Fleming has built for the Reverend Clare Fergusson.

One reason I'm going to continue reading this series is because, although it's hinted at only obliquely in this first one, I am convinced that the two central characters, unmarried Clare, the Episcopal priest with a penchant for snoopery, and the married-but-not-necessarily-happily-so Sheriff Russ Van Alstyne, Millers Kill's top law enforcement officer, are, in upcoming stories, going to build on the attraction between them. If I were a betting woman, I'd lay odds on it. I'll read the next in the series and see where it's going.

Jennifer Haigh
HarperCollins Publishers (Australia) Pty.,
9780062079367 $12.99, Paperback; $19.03

Faith, by Jennifer Haigh . . . . Look up the word "faith" in a dictionary, and you will find enough definitions to satisfy anybody's interpretation of the word, ranging from the purely religious (belief in God or a supreme being) to the ultimate in secular (the Full Faith and Credit clause of the U.S. Constitution). Others define faith as "Belief in something for which there is no proof."

So which of the many meanings of the word was Jennifer Haigh thinking of when she selected Faith for her novel's title? From my point of view as a reader, I don't think she could have chosen a more apt title; her novel touches on so many aspects of faith that no other would have fit as well (with the possible exception of "Secrets).

The story is told by Sheila McGann, a daughter and sister of the McGanns, a mostly loyal and faithful Catholic family. Haigh, through Sheila, starts the story at the end, knowing that what she is writing will devastate her mother and others in the family circle. But she believes the truth must be told, come what may. We watch and listen with the same bewilderment that family members do as long-hidden fears, never-spoken secrets are revealed, bit by painful bit. Haigh writes in an honest and believable style, and all the actors stand exposed on the stage, their deficiencies in full view. Art Breen, Sheila's shy and diffident half-brother from their mother's earlier relationship, embarks in early adolescence on his much-desired path toward becoming a priest. The novel traces his education for the priesthood from its beginning at St. John's, a prestigious Catholic pre-seminary high school, to the day he takes his vows.

Readers, Catholic or not, will surely be fascinated by Haigh's description of the discipline that young men undergo enroute to the priesthood. We also see, as the story proceeds, many of the traditions of that faith, such as confession and first communion, described in detail with what I assume is accuracy.

The underlying theme of Faith is what happens to the McGann/Breen family when Father Art, a gentle, devout man, eager to help others as best he can, is accused of abuse of a young boy, and without warning is removed from his parish and rectory. The diocesan authorities tell Art he has been accused, and give few details. Art declares his innocence, but won't defend himself. The McGann family, like many, has family stories, whose truth depends on who is telling it, and an equal number - if not more - of family secrets, some of which, withheld from one another, have disastrous consequences. Every family member, every character in the story reacts to Art's plight out of his or her own personality and place in life.

Sheila, who would consider herself a lapsed Catholic, is steadfast in her personal faith that Art is innocent of the charge. She is first dismayed, then angry at his refusal to defend himself. As time goes on, even her faith is shaken - but not lost - until she learns the shocking secret that should have been revealed, and now it was too late.

Mike, Sheila's younger brother and Art's half-brother, is the man of little faith, suggesting that Art is guilty, despite lack of evidence. His concern is primarily for himself and his needs. His bad decisions lead to a fall from grace that adds an extra level of depth to the unveiling of the truth.

Their mother knows her son would not do such a thing and cannot be shaken in her faith in him or her God. She may well know a great deal more of the background than she will admit to, but keeping things to oneself is the family style.

Haigh writes with lyrical, poetic descriptions of places and people. Here is how she describes one facet of her environment. "In most months the wind is omnipresent, a constant ruffling, scratching, snuffling, as though a large pet, a zoo animal perhaps, were sleeping at the back door.

Here is a snatch of conversation between Sheila and Art as the story is winding down.

"Don't you miss it?" he said. "What, church?" "Faith." He eyed me intently, waiting. Amazingly, it was a conversation we'd never had. "I wonder if I could live without it," he said. "I don't think I could."

Not every writer of a novel about such a subject carries it off with the deftness and understanding that Haigh does. The characters all have human qualities - the good and the bad - that we all share. They succeed sometimes and they fail sometimes, as do we all. She builds the story in such a way that the reader can understand motives, even when they are wrong. As we watch their stories wind up, we want to say, "Keep the faith as best you can. It's the only way that you can go forward."

Not a happy book, but one that will have me thinking for a good while. One I'll go back to. There is much to be learned from the lives of the McGann/Breens.

Before I Go to Sleep
S.J. Watson
HarperCollins Publishers,
9780062060570; 006206057, $12.99; 258 pages e-book, Hardcover: $14.49; 368 pages

Before I Go to Sleep, by S.J. Watson . . . You wake up one morning lying in bed beside a sleeping man you do not know. Trying to keep your increasing panic at bay, you search your memory. Who is this man? Why are the two of you in bed together?

Nothing makes sense. Then, you suddenly realize the worst; you don't know who you are.

Christine Lucas, S.J. Watson's central character in this debut novel, suffers through this frightful awakening every morning. Every morning she has to rediscover who she is, but not through her own recollection. Every morning, the strange man in bed with her tells her that he is her husband, Ben, that they have been married for 22 years, and that the unfamiliar, middle-aged face she sees in the mirror is the Christine of today, not the little girl she thinks she is as she awakens.

Among the many things that Christine must learn-again and again, morning after morning-is that she was in a serious accident years ago, and suffered a head injury which left her in this amnesiac state. After many years in a special hospital for the mentally damaged, Ben has brought her home, to protect and care for her.

Dr. Nash, a psychologist with a special interest in amnesia such as Christine's, befriends her. He convinces her that the most promising way for her to regain even a small part of her past is to keep a daily journal of events and especially whatever recollections come to her. Dr. Nash asks her not to involve Ben in this in any way. She agrees to keep her journal-writing secret and finds private moments every day to record in her own words her thoughts, her recollections, her daily life-such as it is, she notes ironically. Each day, Dr. Nash calls her on a cell phone he has given her and they arrange to meet so he can read her journal.

The premise of the tale-a person whose amnesia is such that whatever she knows on any given day is gone when she goes to sleep-is frightening by itself. Watson adds to it layer after layer of uncertainty about everything. Is there anyone she can truly trust? She gradually learns things that add to her misery and uncertainty, that raise questions about the people around her. Why does Dr. Nash insist that she keep a secret from her husband? Are his goals benign and in her best interests? Is Ben really her husband? Why don't her best friends contact her? Is the cause of her amnesia the accident Ben says it is? What happened to her in this hospital she is told about but cannot recall? And worst of all, does she have a child, alive or dead?

As the days go by and she writes in her journal, she begins to remember things, and as more and more recollections come to her, she sees that someone, somehow, is hiding the truth from her. She sets about getting answers-knowing that each answer may be gone when she awakens the next morning-but as the story progresses she gets closer to the truth. The final truth is shocking in its unexpectedness. Neither she nor the reader is prepared for it.

This is a suspense novel, some critics call it a thriller. Suspense writers, as any experienced reader knows, build suspense layer by layer, revealing things bit by bit, then pulling them back and replacing or adding to them with other revelations. The reader isn't sure who is who and what is what until the moment of complete revelation. And there is a fine line between the right amount of suspense and extending it until the reader says "Let's get on with this!"

From my point of view, the tale could have been tighter. It dragged somewhat at times and I felt I wanted to skip pages, to get to the meat of the story. The overall tone-as befits a story about a woman in these terrible circumstances-is dreary, melancholy beyond sad. How could it be otherwise? But Watson shows not only a woman lost in her own world and desperate to find her way out of it, but a strong woman, fighting awful odds, never sure she is going in the right direction, who in the end sets out to find the truth, prepared to face whatever it is. And when the final revelations are laid bare, we know she will go on with what is left of her life, despite the terrible damage done to it.

My hat's off to Christine and her creator, S.J. Watson. I recommend this book, but readers should be prepared for some sorrowful and despairing moments within it.

Elizabeth: The Struggle for the Throne
David Starkey
HarperCollins Publisher,
9780060959517 $11.17

Elizabeth: The Struggle for the Throne, by David Starkey . . . Whether history class was your most or least favorite in school, you should find this book a fascinating read. David Starkey is not simply a renowned English historian, an expert on Tudor England, he's also a fine writer indeed. In this book, what could be dry-as-dust facts are instead lively stories of real people living real lives in the midst of turbulent times.

Regarding turbulent times, almost anyone who got through school knows about Henry VIII and his six wives, his elder daughter, Mary (also known as Bloody Mary), and his younger daughter, who became the first Queen Elizabeth. But my guess is that few of us, unless we're real history buffs, know much detail about the extraordinary times in which they lived.

Most books that I have read about Queen Elizabeth I deal with her years as a monarch. Starkey, however, takes us from her birth in 1533 to her accession to the throne in 1558. During those years she led a life that could well be the stuff of fiction. But it was real. In his introduction to Elizabeth, Starkey says that during that period ". . . she had experienced every vicissitude of fortune and every extreme of condition." As I read the book, I marveled that she survived those years and went on to be the most successful queen England has known.

Her mother was executed by her father, which must have been a terrible blow to the child, but she remained loyal to her father, and never spoke of her mother. She was both princess and intended successor to the throne, then disinherited, then reinstated. She was accused of treason and imprisoned in the Tower by her own sister, facing possible execution. She survived plots and counterplots, schemes, threats to her well-being by family as well as foe, during these years of religious persecution and political upheaval. Yet in the midst of all this turmoil, she kept her head - literally and figuratively - and lived to age 70.

And all this happened before she was 25 years old. Starkey has this to say, ". . . I never forget that the years of Elizabeth's apprenticeship are a wonderful adventure story. We know they had a happy ending and that she survived and became queen. Elizabeth herself, her friends and enemies, had no such foresight." An exceptional life, with its highs and lows, and little in-between.

In reading this book, besides admiring her sheer grit and ability to adjust to both wonderful and dreadful circumstances, I learned a great deal more about her as a person than ever before. Most of my earlier reading about her life was when she was Queen Elizabeth, not a young and oft-endangered princess.

As a child, she was precocious, brilliant even, and throughout all these dangerous and difficult times, she showed a natural instinct for dealing with the type of political chicanery with which she was surrounded. Even her education, conducted of course by private tutors, is astonishing in its depth and breadth; among other subjects, she studied Latin and Greek and was fluent in French.

Starkey writes with humanity and a wry and engaging tone, even when discussing religious persecution or political skullduggery. In one place, he refers to "extravagant characters and madcap schemes." And those characters and schemes are an important element of the story he has to tell about this remarkable woman and her extraordinary life. This is a book to be read, then read again, and for me more times than that. Starkey brings those days to life. And the young queen-to-be is a person you will enjoy getting to know. I recommend it.

Reviewer's personal comment: One can't help but wonder what Elizabeth I would make of the world and the life of Elizabeth II. Religious disagreements and persecution continue unabated, even if in a different way and among different groups. Class differences continue to exist, economies continue to falter and wars continue to be fought, although with weapons the first Elizabeth couldn't have dreamed of.

In the 16th century, a monarch sat on a powerful but uneasy throne, surrounded often by sycophants, and constantly on guard against challenges and plots from foes, friends and family alike. Today, the head of the English monarchy, Queen Elizabeth II, sits on a ceremonial-only throne, with no real power, watching some of her family members, her children and grandchildren often misbehave, embarrassing her and themselves. It's truly food for thought . . . .

A Prisoner of Birth
Jeffrey Archer
St. Martin's Press
9781429934497 Nook eBook $2.99, Paperback: $9.99, Hardcover: $6.28

Jeffrey Archer's A Prisoner of Birth

A Prisoner of Birth, by Jeffrey Archer . . . Jeffrey Archer tells a tale that shows a reader that things and people and events aren't always what they seem - a generally accepted requirement of a good mystery. In this particular mystery, A Prisoner of Birth, Archer takes readers on a labyrinthine journey through courts, prisons, probation offices, homes grand and humble, wealthy and impoverished parts of London, people good and bad. And in this well-plotted mystery, very little is what it seems, what it was intended to be, or what it was when it all began.

A joyous evening for a young couple, Danny and Beth, who became engaged that very night, ends with Beth's brother dead in an alley and Danny arrested for his murder. Danny's trial takes place in London's Old Bailey; the reader knows from the beginning who the murderer and those protecting him are. Danny's naive belief that right must prevail, that the innocent aren't punished, is blown to smithereens when he is found guilty. He is sent off to prison for 22 years.

By one of those coincidences so relished by mystery writers, a prison official believes in Danny's innocence and arranges that he be confined in the same cell as two other prisoners, whose actions will forever change Danny's life. One of these men resembles Danny closely enough to be his brother, and this likeness sets up the rest of the story. Danny, while in prison, is tutored by one of his cellmates in speaking correctly (losing his East-end accent), and the proper manners of a well-bred, upper-class Englishman. Although this part of the story, his life in prison following a tedious trial, drags a bit, the tale goes into high gear when Danny finds himself out of prison, living the life of the landed gentry and determined, as he puts it, to "get his own back." To do this, however, he must become someone else entirely. Thus, he must stay away from his beloved Beth, and others who might see through the new persona to the real Danny.

Knowing who the murderer and his cohorts are, he sets about plotting some fascinating, uncommonly clever and delightfully dastardly methods - short of physical harm - of ruining the lives of the men who ruined his. Here is where the reader must pay close attention in order to get the most out of the descriptions of the ingenious plots he puts together. Danny is gifted in mathematics and soon learns enough about the machinations of the moneyed class to lay traps for the guilty ones that are sheer pleasure to read about.

Naturally, this being a mystery and a well-plotted, complicated mystery at that, things don't go smoothly for Danny and those he's found to help him. Some of his well-laid traps are discovered, since his opponents are not fools, even if they are evil. We wonder on occasion as Danny takes risk after risk, who will be the winner in the end, but it appears that Danny will prevail. Then, at almost the moment of success, everything seems to fall apart and he appears at risk of losing his freedom one more time. The characters are well-drawn, and they are generally believable in their deeds. One character, an actor, is so caught up in himself that he is almost laughably pathetic, yet the role he plays in the story is consistent with the way Archer has developed his character and his role in the tale. If the book were a play, the audience would hiss and boo the evil doers, and readers will look forward eagerly to the day when Danny "gets his own back." We root for him and suffer when he has the necessary setbacks that a good mystery tale requires.

Will Danny and Beth ever have a normal life? Will she still love him after all they have been through? Will he get to be a real father to his little girl, who knew him only through visits to prison? Will each of the villains get what they have so richly earned? Archer answers these questions and more in his own way and own time. And I cannot finish this review, at risk of being a spoiler, without saying that Archer has devised one of the most devilish and perfect endings anyone could for the mystery he has created in A Prisoner of Birth.

Overall, there is a lot in this novel. Sinners and, if not saints, some really good people. A look at the English justice system with its frailties and strengths, both inside and outside of prison. And there are enough intricate plots for good or evil to make the most sensible head spin. It's a good, fast, entertaining read. I recommend it.

The Troubled Man
Henning Mankell
Alfred A. Knopf division of Random House
9780307595379 Nook eBook: $13.99, Paperback; $19.77, Hardcover: $16.23

The Troubled Man, by Henning Mankell . . . This story, in Mankell's words that conclude the prologue, is ". . . about the realities of politics, this journey into the swamps where truth and lies are indistinguishable and nothing is clear." That truth and lies are indistinguishable and nothing is clear is true not only of politics, but of good mystery writing as well. Mankell loves to mix the two - politics and mystery - and The Troubled Man is a dark swamp of a tale.

Kurt Wallander, Mankell's central character, is fifty-five as the book opens, and suffering from the malaise that seems to be his lot in life, surely caused, at least to some extent, by his job as a police detective, with death as a constant companion. In a macabre celebration of his birthday, he buys a new notebook and in it tries to " . . . record his memories of all the dead people he had come across." But, Mankell tells us, Wallander is a basically cheerful person, who soon sees the foolishness of this and burns the notebook.

He is now comfortably divorced and his daughter Linda is grown and, following in his footsteps, has become a police officer. Wallander, almost to his own surprise, decides to leave the house he lived in for many years as a family man, and after some dithering, buys another house. And gets a dog, a black Lab he names Jussi. He becomes a grandfather, much to his delight. Life is, for the moment, good.

But that's not how life works for Wallander, not for long. The novel is peopled with interesting characters, among them his fellow police officers who are both friend and foe, a young woman institutionalized in desperate mental condition, a former East German official who now makes his living writing crossword puzzles. Add to that various political operatives, intelligence agency officials and military acquaintances, and his daughter's future in-laws, one or both of whom may be high-level spies. And for whom? Russia? The USA? From east or west? That's one of the many mysteries Wallander must solve as this complex tale unfolds.

Wallander, always a worrier, now sixty and facing the beginning of his own last days, begins to forget things. He at first has just moments that he can't recall, then longer periods of time disappear completely from his life. Early on, his service weapon is found where it shouldn't be; he cannot explain how it or he got there or why he had possession of it, and an internal investigation gets under way.

His soon-to-be father-in-law, a retired submariner, one evening in the privacy of his study, makes a confession of sorts and involves Wallander in a mystery that had its beginning in cold war days. The retired submariner fails a to return home one day, his wife disappears soon afterward, and as Sherlock Holmes would say, the game's on. Mystery laid upon mystery. Though he follows a circuitous route to the solution - or solutions - to the mystery Mankell sets up for him, he eventually sees very clearly the pattern that had eluded him and sets about to close the case. Mankell has a paragraph that sums this up wonderfully:

"Behind every person there's always somebody else. The mistake he had made was to confuse those in the foreground with those lurking in the background."

The ending is both shocking and highly political, but Mankell, as I noted at the beginning of this review, warned his readers that this story is about the realities of politics, where truth and lies are indistinguishable and nothing is clear.

Let's leave Kurt Wallander now; he has solved the mystery and found what he knows to be the truth. Or does he? We'll never know the answer to that, since he won't be around to tell us; this is the last Kurt Wallander mystery that Henning Mankell will write. Unlike many writers who send characters into oblivion only to haul them back to life for whatever reason, Mankell has sent Wallander into an oblivion from which there can be no return. Read the book and see how he does it.

As all Mankell mysteries, this is not an easy read, it's not the book for a quick read in a hammock on a warm summer afternoon. It takes time and thought to follow the paths he sets his characters on. But in the end, it is worth it.

Marcia K. Applegate, Reviewer

Bethany's Bookshelf

The Battle of Benburb 1646
Clive Hollick
9781856356701, $39.95,

The last great stand of native Irish army against Scotland and Britain still holds much reverence in today's society. "The Battle of Benburb 1646" chronicles the story surrounding this conflict, the commanders on both sides, as well as the context and what lead up to the battle. Clive Hollick also shows where the Ulster army failed to capitalize to secure their victory, and how although they maintained one glorious victory, it was ultimately for naught. "The Battle of Benburb" is a fine read that shouldn't be overlooked for World History collections.

Responsibility, Usefulness, and Graciousness
Edward R. Johnson
7290 Investment Drive Suite B
North Charleston, SC 29418
9781419692444, $13.99,

The search for purpose in our world is one that drives us all. "Responsibility, Usefulness, and Graciousness: From the Caribbean Isle of Jamaica" is a spirituality discussion from Edward R. Johnson as he presents his own perspective of personal responsibility and spirituality with an analysis of the unique situation of Jamaica, developing unlike any other place on the planet. "Responsibility, Usefulness, and Graciousness" has plenty to think about and consider, recommended reading.

Wisdom from the Streets
Kedric H. Cecil
7290-B Investment Drive
Charleston, SC 29418
9781439236963, $13.99,

A failure isn't a failure if knowledge is gained. "Wisdom from the Streets" is a memoir from Kedric H. Cecil as he pools the knowledge he has gained from living his life and as a therapist to compare the two and making some thoughtful blends on the two comparatively. With many humorous connections, "Wisdom from the Streets" is an enticing read that should be strongly considered.

The Molly Lake Chronicles
Samuel Endicott
Privately Published
9780983434399, $15.99,

With rebellion in horizon, many were simply concerned with their own affairs. "The Molly Lake Chronicles: Barely Afloat" is the second book in Samuel Endicott's books set in late colonial America. In 1765, the boiling part of America's affairs with her mother land Great Britain are reaching a boiling point. Molly and Jean-Luc St. Alembert fight to keep their business afloat, as the rumors of rebellion make a seafaring business ever more difficult. "The Molly Lake Chronicles" is a fine work of historical fiction with perspective, recommended.

When All That's Left of Me is Love
Linda Campanella
Tate Publishing & Enterprises
127 E. Trade Center Terrace, Mustang, OK 73064
9781617774171, $17.99,

When you know time is limited, it can tear at your soul much more than death striking suddenly. "When All That's Left of Me is Love" is a dedicated memoir of Linda Campanella as she reflects on the slow loss of her mother. As she knew time was short due to cancer, she had to learn to cherish what little time they had and the increasing pain of her mother. A story of tragedy and what value we can extract from it, "When All That's Left of Me is Love" is an excellent pick, very much recommended for anyone facing their own life's tragedies.

Highway Odyssey
Alexander Flint
Outskirts Press
10940 S Parker Road -515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432766696, $10.95,

On the road, it's hard to keep secrets for long. "Highway Odyssey: Traveling To, or Running From" is the story of Alexander Flint and his journeys with his sons over the American countryside and mountains. Telling of his tales with his father and what he has learned about life and parenting, he dubs "Highway Odyssey" the ultimate road trip novel, proving to a very unique parenting memoir.

The Game
Julie Kester
Privately Published
9781456353216, $15.00,

It's hard to play the game of life when we have no clue what the rules are. "The Game" follows teenager Julie Baldwin as she meets Jonah Tanner, as they try to cope with the game of life. As tragedy strikes around them, they bond trying to understand it all and gain a certain reverence of what ultimately matters when playing the game. "The Game" is a thoughtful coming of age tale, highly recommended.

Susan Bethany

Buhle's Bookshelf

The Mighty Eighth
Lt. Col. John Wayne Goodson, USAF (Ret.)
Tate Publishing & Enterprises
127 East Trade Center Terrace
Mustang, OK 73064
9781617393402 $10.99

The Mighty Eighth: The Human Story of How the Vietnam War was Won is a sharply worded indictment of American Congressional indecisiveness, restrictions, and lack of leadership that, according to Vietnam veteran and retired Air Force member Lt. Col. John Wayne Goodson, cost the U.S. victory in the Vietnam war. If American forces had been given free rein to use carpet bombing as they saw fit, Goodson alleges, it could have turned the tide in as little as two weeks. Goodson also sharply lambasts unproven allegations of American war crimes (with the notable exception of the My Lai massacre, a proven incident) that tarnished the reputations of American soldiers who shed blood, risked all and died for their country. Goodson is particularly unforgiving of former presidential candidate John Kerry, who he portrays as mercilessly and personally sabotaging both the Vietnam war and the brave people who served honorably. A passionate, opinionated, yet unflinchingly honest and straightforward testimony, The Mighty Eighth is an unforgettable blend of military memoir and the richly deserved chastising of a government that allowed its bravest and best to flounder in an unnecessarily dragged-out war.

Disorder and Early Love
Wolfgang Lederer
Cypress House
155 Cypress Street, Fort Bragg, CA 95437
9781879384804, $49.95,

One man's love for another is not a modern creation. "Disorder and Early Love: The Eroticism of Thomas Mann" discuss the strong elements of homoeroticism found in many of the man's works which often stepped around the topic lightly, the subject being strongly taboo at the time. Also covered are his eroticism in other subjects, providing an intriguing perspective on the topics of sexuality in a traditionally regarded as repressed. "Disorder and Early Love" is an intriguing addition to any literary history and criticism collection, highly recommended.

Billy Boy
William May
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781456722388, $17.99,

Shielded from the world, when life finally breaks through, it comes at you like a ton of bricks. "Billy Boy" is the memoir of William May as he recollects his life of growing up devoutly Catholic. An altar boy who was exiled to an all boys school right as he developed an eye for the fairer sex, reality broke through too him randomly and led to a young man confused by the world. "Billy Boy" is a charming, humorous, and occasionally terrifying read, very much recommended.

Digging Deep
Boyd Lemon
Outskirts Press
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432768461, $14.95,

No life in love is ever simple. "Digging Deep: A Writer Uncovers His Marriages" is a memoir of Boyd Lemon as he reflects on his life through the twentieth century and the changing attitudes about women. From the super moralistic 1940s to the sexual revolutions of the 1960s and much more, "Digging Deep" is a thoughtful look at life, love, women, and marriage from the perspective of a man who has seen all of it.

Big Business and Body Bags
Lincoln R Peters
Outskirts Press
10940 S Parker Road -515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432770297, $14.95,

With no future, the allure of a life in crime is too much to resist. "Big Business and Body Bags: A Journey Into the Deadly Drug Business" delves into what brings people into the criminal underworld and the business of drugs. A riveting thriller that has strong basis in reality, it brings a tragic tale of a life destroyed by it all. "Big Business and Body Bags" is a riveting read that should prove quite hard to put down by general fiction readers.

M. R. Cornelius
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781450295659, $19.95,

As the nation collapses due to a new plague, people struggle to find their own way to survive. "H10N1" is the tale Dr. Taeya Sanchez and Rick DeAngelo as the two with little in common try to escape to something resembling safety as America seems to be collapsing around them. But they quickly realize death may come from the still living, instead of the disease that had already claimed so many. "H10N1" is a riveting thriller of survival, highly recommended.

All This and Family, Too
Sarah E. Glenn
Privately Published
9781617060687, $15.99,

The bond of family knows no limits, even in undeath. "All This and Family, Too" follows Cynthia, a recently turned vampire who has her new reality dropped on her. Coming to terms with her new lust for blood, she battles her own humanity and tries to make sense of it all, trying to remember her family, trying to find love, and avoiding becoming the beast within. "All This and Family, Too" is a moving read that should very much be considered.

Just a Bunch of Crazy Ideas
Pardu S. Ponnapalli
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781456882389, $15.99,

Sometimes you throw things at the wall and see what sticks. "Just a Bunch of Crazy Ideas" is a collection titular crazy ideas from Pardu S. Ponnapalli as he offers his random thoughts about the world as he sits on his Ph.D in Physics that's currently getting him nowhere. With a decent dose of logic and humor, "Just a Bunch of Crazy Ideas" is a thoughtful collection of life and everything else, highly recommended.

Stake Out
Bonnie J. Doerr
Leap Books
9781616030070, $12.99,

To help save the sea turtles, Kenzie has to risk it all. "Stake Out" follows young Kenzie finds herself between a nefarious plot and the nests of sea turtles. With the help of her friends, she tries to find who is responsible, but in the process, Kenzie is risking her life at worst, and risking so much else otherwise. "Stake Out" is a riveting read for younger readers and nature lovers.

Willis M. Buhle

Burroughs' Bookshelf

The Precarious Human Role in a Mechanistic Universe
John F. Brinster
Xlibris Corporation
1663 South Liberty Drive
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
c/o Smith Publicity
1930 E. Marlton Pike, Suite I-46
Cherry Hill, NJ 08003
9781456826826 $23.99

The Precarious Human Role in a Mechanistic Universe: The Enigma and Stigma of Imaginative Thought in an Era of Understanding is a treatise postulating that humanity worldwide is destined to slowly but surely grow more and more secular, abandoning beliefs in a humanlike God and an unproven afterlife, to the extent that one day being a "believer" will carry the stigma that being an "atheist" does now. Chapters explore how this "mechanistic" thought trend in abandoning god-based religious beliefs will ultimately end social and military conflicts grounded in religious differences, and bring meaning to human life in an increasingly secular world. A reasoned and thought-provoking account, The Precarious Human Role in a Mechanistic Universe offers sober-minded social predictions as well as a strong theological defense of atheism.

True to Life
Duane Ashley Poole
Outskirts Press
10940 S Parker Road -515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432729035, $8.95,

The vitality of youth is an essence that everyone who grows past it yearns for once more. "True to Life" presents Duane Ashley Poole's youthful vigor in poetry form, as he blends hip hop and rap with traditional poetry. Worth considering for those looking for something different in poetry, "True to Life" is recommended. "Gamblers Lament": I went to a casino and played a few hands at black jack./Instantly dealt 21, the outcome was a lot of money, for me a nice stack./Suddenly I felt an immense source of greed./Something told me I'd win more, so instead of walking, I would proceed./Then starting to lose, noticing my stack was not as nice./I won myself a whole cake, now all I have left for show is a slice./Still on I played thinking my luck would change, and I'd win even more./Until I looked over at my money, starting not to feel so sure./But I kept on playing gradually down to my last cent./So annoyed at myself because that money was good for six months rent!./Now mad because I could have walked away with such a mighty fine stack//But being too greedy only meant I'd give it all back.

The Hunt
David Francis
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, In 47403
9781452012315, $14.99,

When you have nothing to lose, chasing past glory doesn't seem like a bad idea. "The Hunt" follows aging huntsman Elmer as he takes up his arms for his final hunt, his elusive prey the Whitetail buck. A story of one man's last stand and search for glory, "The Hunt" speaks strongly of the pursuit of greatness and how it elude us until it's almost too late.

Reflective Empowerment
Philip Guy Rochford
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Road -515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432758486, $24.95,

When you realize your potential and act on it, you can do great things. "Reflective Empowerment" delves into finding empowerment and inspiration in one's life. Philip Guy Ruchford, a success coach, seeks to advise readers to find their own success in life and advises them to find their own worth, know what one can do, and find purpose. With lots of wisdom and advice on using that wisdom to the fullest, "Reflective Empowerment" is an excellent and very much recommended read, not to be missed.

Enlightenment of Evil
Don English
3101 Hillsborough Street
Raleigh, NC 27607-5436
Feldman Public Relations (publicity)
13636 Ventura Boulevard, #440, Sherman Oaks, CA 91423
9780615493008, $16.95,

A life that starts in pain can be difficult to ever recover from. "Enlightenment of Evil" tells of Don English and his struggles from a family that seemed to hate him. Born from army veterans, he faced much and struggled long with his own homosexuality. Later in life, he managed to try to come to terms with who he is and what he came from. A story of trying to face one's past and understanding it all, "Enlightenment of Evil" is a read that should very much be considered, highly recommended.

Chain Reaction
Ross E. Goldstein
Privately Published
9781452842264, $16.00,

It can hard to completely give up one's past passion. "Chain Reaction" follows Cal Scott as he decides to ditch cycle racing only to be dragged off to Italy by his father and be strongly tempted to race an arduous race there. Under a coach who strongly believes in his talents, the temptation only grows stronger as he discovers the essence of what drew him to cycle racing in the first place, to push the limits of the self. "Chain Reaction" is a riveting novel sure to entice reading cyclists.

John Burroughs

Carson's Bookshelf

Starship Fantasy
Fay Stine
Outskirts Press
10940 S Parker Road -515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432727031, $10.95,

Adventure will never die. "Starship Fantasy" is a collection of short stories surrounding many young people who embark on a journey across the stars and visiting new planets and meeting very different people. For young fans of science fiction, "Starship Fantasy" may prove quite the fun read.

Speaking Truths
Dayna Hester
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781450214377, $28.95,

Reality is cruel and something no one wants to look in the eye. "Speaking Truths" follows Landon Starker, a teenager who has been doing everything he can to ignore the reality that haunts his past, that haunts his home. When life throws it in his face and he must let it all out and face the last thing he wanted - himself. "Speaking Truths" speaks loudly of what many people face as they come of age, very much recommended reading.

Mary A. Lake
Tate Publishing
127 E. Trade Center Terrace, Mustang, OK 73064
9781616637538, $26.99,

As life rolls forward, people find that a better life isn't forever. "Departings" is Mary Lake, telling of three individuals telling their own stories and the hopes and dreams that came with the roaring twenties. Through these three stories, life is told showing different yet similar challenges among all of them. With frank honesty, "Departings" is a moving and valuable read of facing life's challenges, highly recommended.

Merlin's Message
Denise Moon
Outskirts Press
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432773496, $19.95,

With the guidance of Merlin, one would very much expect plenty of twists and turns. "Merlin's Message: The Journey Home" is a novel following young Michael, student of Merlin as he embarks on a journey through the legends and mythology of the world. A unique coming of age tale with no shortage of thrilling adventure, "Merlin's Message" is an excellent pick, not to be overlooked.

Helter Skelter
Bryan Cassiday
Privately Published
9780983498933, $19.99,

The most evil you will see is the evil that doesn't seem evil at all. "Helter Skelter" is a collection of horror short stories set in Southern California by Bryan Cassiday. Swift, thoughtful, and highly entertaining, his stories will expose true monsters for what they really are. "Helter Skelter" is worth considering for any fan of horror short stories, very much recommended.

Michael J. Carson

Christy's Bookshelf

The Impaler
Gregory Funaro
Kensington Publishing Corp.
9780786022137 $7.99

The impaled bodies of two male victims are discovered in a cemetery with the cryptic message "I have returned" on their torsos. When the impaled body of a criminal defense attorney is subsequently found, the killer is given the nickname The Impaler, named for Vlad the Impaler, upon whom Bram Stroker's Dracula was based. This is the first case for FBI agent Sam Markham since his promotion to Raleigh, North Carolina. Markham, still grieving his wife's death, tries not to be distracted by the execution date of her killer looming in the near future. He immerses himself in the investigation, frustrated by the lack of DNA or trace evidence at each crime scene. He begins to suspect the serial killer's reason for impaling his victims has nothing to do with Vlad Tepes but is connected to a stolen Babylonian seal and the god Nergal, guardian of the underworld. At first the victims seem to have nothing in common but Markham finds a connection and he and his team begin to close in on their killer whose kills are escalating and who always seems one step ahead of them. As Markham zeroes in, he's unaware the Impaler is now focused on him.

Funaro came out swinging with The Sculptor and does not disappoint his readers with The Impaler. Although some scenes are gruesome, they are intrinsic to the plot and well-executed. The characterization of the serial killer is fascinating as the reader learns of past traumas he experienced that formed him into the deranged monster he is. One sympathizes with Markham and his ongoing bereavement of his wife's violent death. The plot is complicated yet so well-written readers will not have trouble following along. Rarely does this reviewer read a book that captures the attention so thoroughly. Characterization, plot, and dialogue excel. Funaro proves himself worthy of status on the best-seller list with this intense, electrifying thriller which deserves more than 5 stars.

Dream Reachers II
by Betty Dravis and Chase Von
Von Chase Publishing
9780982346471 $24.95

The authors' motto is: "Only those who stretch to reach their dreams find themselves living them." Very profound and borne out by this second installment of the Dream Reachers books by Betty Dravis and Chase Von. Encased within are fascinating interviews with 33 celebrities across a vast range of public personalities, including actors, musicians, authors, a psychic, female boxer, singers, artists, entrepreneurs, and many others. Some have reached their dreams and others are well on their way, but a peek into their personal philosophies and the stories behind their dreams is intriguing and so inspiring to those of us who are still on that road to our own personal dreams.

Dravis and Von do a great service to us dreamers by sharing these inspiring stories of hard work and determination driven by a positive and persevering attitude. This is one book to be placed nearby instead of on a bookshelf for constant motivation or simply to be uplifted by the optimistic words and wise outlooks of other dreamers.

Little Asha's Adventure
by Marina Batchelor
978145276409 $TBA

Little Asha's American father and Malaysian mother take her on a trip to Malaysia to visit her mother's relatives. There, Little Asha learns about the Malaysian way-of-life, manner of dress, foods and games as she travels across the countryside.

This charming book does exactly what it is intended to do: "expose little readers and their parents to the kind of adventures and experiences they will have when visiting other countries and different cultures." The appealing illustrations, which resemble crayon drawings, are bright and colorful. The story is heartwarming and educational, and a fun read children and their parents will enjoy sharing.

Valley of Obsessions
by Betty Gordon
L&L Dreamspell
London, TX
9781603182829 $14.95

Desiree Roberts talks her best friend Sandy Olson into sharing her lifelong dream of visiting Egypt. While there, the two take a boat drip down the Nile, where Desiree makes friends with mysterious Italian Mike Lapuccio and loner Richard Daniels, an advertising executive from Houston, TX, as well as two Egyptian couples. But Desiree provokes the ire of English businesswoman Amanda Pritchard, who is jealous of the relationship between Desiree and her niece. When Desiree and Sandy return to the Cairo Hilton, Desiree begins to date Lapuccio and Daniels. After clubbing with Lapuccio one night, she never makes it back to her hotel room. Lapuccio claims he left Desiree at the elevator after which she was seen getting into the taxi of her friend Femi, who holds a law degree yet makes his living driving a cab. Her body is found in Opet's Chapel in Karnak dressed in authentic Egyptian clothing except for the head gear. Sandy hires Vicki Sanders to come to Egypt to investigate the murder, and Vicki finds herself mired in a plethora of suspicious characters who surrounded Desiree. When her life is threatened, her boyfriend, fellow investigator Paul Barlow, joins her in Egypt and Vicki, Paul and Sandy begin looking into the backgrounds of the people with whom Desiree had contact, upping the number of suspects and placing their lives in danger.

Betty Gordon has penned a fine mystery here packed with plenty of red herrings and nail-chewing suspense. Her descriptions of Egypt and its historical monuments are captivating and enhance the plot. Characterization is well-done and the page-turning story well-written.

Web of Tyranny
by Laurel Rain Snow
BookSurge Publishing
9781419656866 $23.99

As a child, Meg Graham does not understand her father's cold, overly harsh attitude toward her and wants nothing more than to escape from her strict fundamentalist upbringing. College offers her the chance but Meg ends up in a similar situation when she marries a man who is controlling, overly critical and manipulative. Meg finds the strength to leave the marriage with her toddler son in tow and begins life anew as a social worker, subsequently changing her name to Lainey. She joins the protest movement and through a feminist group meets supportive women, enjoying the freestyle life of San Francisco during the '60s, experimenting with sex and drugs. Ultimately, Meg/Lainey questions her problems with intimacy, which she can only overcome via the use of alcohol, and enters treatment. Through therapy, she confronts the demons of her past and allows her repressed memories to emerge, learning why she continues to sabotage her own happiness.

With great skill, Snow captures the essence of the '60s via her depiction of that era's fashions, vernacular, sexual mores, protests against the Viet Nam War, and women's efforts for egalitarianism through the feminist movement. Although two separate subplots at times threaten to overpower Meg's story, this does not happen, and the unveiling of the relationship between Rainbow and Natasha enhances more than takes away from the plot. Young adults of today would be well-advised to read this novel if only to get a good grasp of what life was like for women during this fascinating, history-changing time period.

Christy Tillery French

Clark's Bookshelf

The Bourne Dominion Created
Robert Ludlum
Eric Van Lustbader
Grand Central Publishing
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780446564441, $27.99,

Robert Ludlum who died in 2001 originally created Jason Bourne. Carrying on in the spy-tingling tradition of fast-paced action has been Eric Van Lustbader who has written so many books it is impossible to list them all and have space left over for a column.

Continuing Jason Bourne adventures, "The Bourne Dominion" is in a league of its own when it comes to fast-paced graphically described action. As you read this book, you often feel as though you can see, smell, and touch the scenes as they unfold.

Followers of Jason Bourne know his skills, methods, and how he has interacted with the bad guys. He is rough and tough, trained to be the best of any spy characters, and has that intuition which has saved his life many times, as he ducked bullets, dodged fists, and demonstrated his extremely adroit driving skills. Continuing to use his traditional disguises, he cannot escape recognition as Jason Bourne.

His age-old friend General Karpov of Russian Intelligence becomes Jason's nemesis with strict instructions to kill him. As the story progresses, we are treated with scenes depicting this seemingly old General as still having the skills necessary to challenge Bourne when he encounters him.

Van Lustbader has the ability to write compelling dialogue that thrusts the reader into action and descriptive passages, which give a feeling of watching a movie. Matt Damon played Jason Bourne in past films and we hope he will again. Without being sexist, this book is more a man's story rather than for women. Blood and guts are the norm, rather than the exception. Terse adult dialogue is throughout, but the words make the story believable.

One of the most outstanding features of Eric Van Lustbader's writing is how he blends so many players in each chapter without interfering with the plot. He has developed each individual in such detail that it was not difficult to follow them and their roles played out in various countries. Columbia and its intrigue comes to life with explosions, helicopters, guerilla warfare, and an escape which leaves you turning pages to find out what happened. Going from continent to continent is a wonderful summer escape.

Clarity of expression makes this suspenseful novel a great spy mystery. A wonderful feature is the manner in which Van Lustbader kept all the characters active in every chapter. Reading about what one person has done is followed a few paragraphs later by others who are in different parts of the world doing their thing. All players are in play at the same time, but are following the trajectory to what will be their ultimate confrontation in the conclusion.

An adult book, which is highly recommended to those who love a mystery, encapsulated in a 5 star book.

The Nightmare Thief
Meg Gardiner
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, 3rd floor, NY, NY 10014-3657
9780525952213, $25.95,

Meg Gardiner is the author of eight previous novels of suspense, including Edgar Award winner "China Lake." Gardiner's fourth thriller, "The Nightmare Thief," features San Francisco Bay Area forensic psychiatrist, Jo Beckett, Gabe Quintana, an air national rescue guard and journalist, Evan Delaney who join. They all collaborated on who killed a prominent attorney and why his body was discovered in an abandoned mine in the Sierras. Characters Jo and Gabe find themselves in the middle of a fantasy game turned deadly.

Peter Reiniger's hedge fund was worth a billion dollars and he was the Director of Edge Adventures. Edge was known for excitement offering reality games, kidnappings and many role-playing scenarios. For his daughter's 21st birthday, he presented Autumn and five of her friends to act out a 3-day imaginary outlaw game. He wanted her to experience heroism and get rid of any fears she might have. It was supposed to be a fun experience with Edge's staff accompanying them in a simulated version of cops and robbers.

When the Edge group planned their games, they always notified the authorities who never interfered because they were aware of the activities. However, this time, the scenario was real. Scheming Edge crew impersonators would kidnap Autumn with her companions for real. Therefore, any screams or the sound of gunshots would be ignored.

While Jo and Gabe were investigating the death of a well-known lawyer in the area, they came across a Hummer and some young people. Seemingly suspicious to them, they joined the party that took them on a terrifying adventure of survival. It now became a game of who would live and who would die!

Unaware was Autumn's dad that a real kidnapper wanted 20 million dollars in exchange for his daughter. Out for revenge, an ex-employee of Edge, tried to get even by attempting to get all of Reiniger's money. To complicate the plot, an evil-minded rival also wanted Autumn for ransom, thus, the game commenced and soon spiraled out of control!

Excitement and terror arose when the Hummer carrying the game party and a limo with other Edge employees collided sending both down the side of a gorge. The Hummer landed on its roof, just 25 feet above the river. The Limo landed elsewhere and the gunman disappeared. Gabe and Jo trapped along with others in the Hummer realized they needed to escape the vehicle ASAP because of looming bad weather. Many injuries among the passengers hampered their escape.

Weather caused the bridges to collapse and roads were blocked. The birthday party was now faced with real survival needs because many had injuries, which they had to care for, by themselves. The only protection they had were homemade spears and a few pocketknives that would be helpful if possibly faced with cougars, scorpions, and snakes.

A cast of memorable characters will entertain in a movie-like thriller. This is an endurance story that goes beyond fear. The reader is spellbound as the party group and gangsters are shot, maimed, and even snake-bitten as they all blindly maneuver through the rugged terrain of the Sierras attempting to find a way out.

A great book by an accomplished author who deserves a 4 star rating for this thriller.

How Back-Back Got His Name
Thomas Weck and Peter Weck
Illustrations: Peter Disalvo
Lima Bear Press, LLC
2305 MacDonough Road, Suite 201
Wilmington, DE 19805-2620
9781933872148 $15.95

The Cave Monster
Thomas Weck and Peter Weck
Illustrations: Peter Disalvo
Lima Bear Press, LLC
2305 MacDonough Road, Suite 201
Wilmington, DE 19805-2620
9781933872018 $15.95

The Megasaurus
Thomas Weck and Peter Weck
Illustrations: Peter Disalvo
Lima Bear Press, LLC
2305 MacDonough Road, Suite 201
Wilmington, DE 19805-2620
9781933872124 $15.95

Authors Thomas Weck and Peter Weck are father and son. Peter grew up listening to the stories that his father created for him and his siblings. They have collaborated in bringing these three books to life with the creative illustrations by talented artist Peter Disalvo.

Each book is a story in and of itself with a theme of the same characters whose exploits are for an 4 to 8 year old audience. Introduction to Lima Bear, who "looked a bit like a lima bean with his round green belly," was on page 1 of "How Back-Back Got his Name." This book has all the characters working together solving a problem. Now, what makes this book really stands out from all the other children's books are the way life's lessons are presented at the end of the book.

Each book creates a learning experience for the parent or person reading the book to convey further development of the child. It is recommended before reading that children be told this "animal story has an important lesson." The lesson is explained which in this scenario is being respectful of others and their differences. Other guides given during reading and after reading are suggestions for questions that will get the child more involved. Lastly, 'Activities' are outlined which incorporate the story into a hands-on lesson which makes these books become an integral part of the child.

These books are highly recommended for both child and parent to bring them closer together in development. These are five star books for children.

I See the Sun in Afghanistan
Dedie King
Illustrated by: Judith Inglese
Satya House Publications
P.O. Box 122, Hardwick, MA 01037
9780981872087, $12.95,

Dedie King has authored several other books in the "I See the Sun in . . ." series. Previous books are well recognized and her "I See the Sun in China" received the 2011 Teacher's Choice Award for the Family, sponsored by Learning Magazine. Age range is for children five and older.

What makes this an outstanding series is that the books are dual language. This current book is about Afghanistan and is both in English and in Farsi, which is the language of Afghanistan. Illustrated by Judith Inglese children are exposed to the culture through the eyes of a child. What we all know of Afghanistan today is that our troops are fighting there and this book is able to bridge the gap between war and people. A very well written and timely book that deserves four stars.

Multiply and Divide with Sticks and Steps
Maureen Stearns, B.A., M.S
Illustrated by: Janice Phelps Williams
Enrichment Books
P.O. Box 686, Bay Pines, Florida 33744
9780972690850, $14.95,

Maureen Stearns is a teacher who has developed an effective way for parents and teachers to improve children's ability to multiply and divide by teaching this method in just 5 minutes.

The audience for this book is ages 8 and up. This is a new resource that many have touted as being very simple and are surprised that someone had not written it up sooner.

This book is easy to understand and this makes it add up to five stars!

The Man Who Broke into Auschwitz: A True Story of World War II
Denis Avey with Rob Broomby
DaCapo Press
a division of Perseus Book Group
9780306819650 $25.00

There is an old saying that says, "Truth is stranger than fiction!" "The Man Who Broke Into Auschwitz" written by Denis Avey with Rob Broomby fits this statement to a "T".

This story begins with a glimpse of how the British troops first entered into World War II. Maneuvers through the desert, victories, and routing of Italian Forces are described in exacting detail. How Denis Avey was able to survive the desert and the gruesome war sights he observed became irrevocably etched into his psyche.

The early years of the war were quite exciting until the tide turned against the British war effort. Denis had enlisted in 1939 and became a soldier. Captured, he spent several years in various prisoner-of-war facilities eventually winding up in the E715 Prisoner of War Camp that was located next to Auschwitz concentration camp. The Geneva Convention of war sets rules under which warring nations must abide. One of those rules was there should be no slave labor imposed upon prisoners. The Nazis ignored this rule. Denis Avey describes his experiences as a slave laborer.

While Avey was captive, he observed the Jewish prisoners in their stripped outfits as their work details moved along on the other side of the electrified barbed wire fences. He witnessed inhuman treatment and death, which left indelible scars upon his psyche. During this time, he felt compelled to learn more about what went on in the death camp adjacent to his prisoner-of-war camp. He hatched a plan to visit the interior of Auschwitz Concentration Camp!

Language was a barrier among many of the prisoners since they had come from various countries throughout Europe. Denis quickly became fluent in German, even though he had not been able to speak it prior to becoming a prisoner. He established contact with a Jewish prisoner and they switched places two times. Denis changed out of his military uniform and donned the stripped pajamas of the prisoner. He spent two different nights living in deplorable conditions so that he could report on them after the war. Up close, he observed the brutality of the SS guards as they beat and killed Jewish prisoners.

One of the fascinating aspects of this reversing of roles was Denis was able to use the Red Cross to send cigarettes to him to give to the Jewish prisoner. In the concentration camp as well as the prisoner of war camp, the mode of currency was cigarettes, which could buy food and other favors. The prisoners in both camps had little food they either starved or were so weak by the lack of food they were beat to death when they could not perform their menial tasks.

This book has two distinct parts. The first is the war years themselves and the second is the aftermath, which tells of the readjustment to civilian life Avey further endured. He had PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) diagnosed years later. He had nightmares about the camp and the things that he observed. What troubled him most was his inability to tell others about his experiences since everyone had their own experiences and did not wish to hear any more. When Denis finally told his story, he received special commendations for the things he had done to help others survive.

This book is highly recommended. It is another chapter showing man's inhumanity during WWII through the eyes of a British Christian soldier. Five stars is the rating for this book!

Clark Isaacs

Crocco's Bookshelf

Fall of Giants, Book One of the Century Trilogy
Ken Follett
Dutton Adult
0451232577 $25.00

Fall of Giants is a gripping story about WWI taking place between the years 1911-1925. It encompasses the hell of war on the field as well as the hell families live at home. Ken Follett introduces his readers to many different families from America, England, Scotland, France, Germany, Austria, Russia, and Wales. The historical characters include presidents, kings and queens, earls and dukes, lords and ladies, and dukes and duchesses. Readers are able to experience the life of the famous as well as the life of the poor. We become privy to family secrets entangled in love/hate relationships.

There are many books written about WWI, so as a reviewer I don't think it's necessary to write about WWI facts. Having said that, readers need to remember this is a historical novel. We are at the mercy of the author as far as the accuracy of his research. Keeping this in mind we can enjoy a wonderful story with engaging characters.

At times I found myself thinking politics hasn't changed. There was lying and cover ups during WWI and the same occurs in politics and government today. This is a well written historical novel and it makes reading and learning about WWI pleasant.

This is Ken Follett's first book in his trilogy. WWII seems a likely second book. I look forward to following the lives of the characters from Fall of Giants as they live through yet another World War.

The Paris Wife
Paula McLain
Ballantine Books
New York, New York
0345521307 $25.00

I was browsing the best seller books at the library when I saw this audiobook, The Paris Wife by Paula McLain. The short paragraph summarizing the book looked intriguing. It was read by Carrington MacDuffie and I am so glad I checked it out.

This is the story of Ernest Hemingway told from his first wife's point of view. Her name was Hadley Richardson. The couple met in Chicago in 1920, Hemingway was 21 and Hadley was 28. They married in 1921 and the marriage lasted for six years.

Hemingway suffered with what we call PTSD today. He also had family issues: an overbearing, judgmental mother, and a father who committed suicide. Hadley shared the same tragedy as her father also committed suicide. She was naive and head over heels in love with Hemingway. She was his number one fan and supporter of his writing career.

Hadley sacrificed her dreams for Hemingway. They moved to Paris because Hemingway felt jealous that his peers were being recognized. They became friends with famous people, such as, Gertrude Stein and F. Scott Fitzgerald. The norm for the decade was to drink all day and into the night while enjoying the Jazz Age in Paris. They kept up with their new friends by partying, but never their financial status. They lived by what we call today, pay check to pay check.

Hemingway was a womanizer. The modern woman was hard for Hemingway to resist, even though he loved Hadley and their son very much. Most men had mistresses in Paris at that time and Hemingway was no exception. Eventually this is what led to the demise of their marriage. Hadley struggled too long with her decision to end the marriage. She became a stronger woman after the divorce.

Hemingway wed three more times after his divorce from Hadley. He never really loved another woman as much as he loved Hadley. He committed suicide at the age of sixty-two.

I love Paula McLain's writing style. She waits to expose the secrets and thoughts of Hemingway and Hadley at just the right time throughout the story. It made the book enjoyable and I especially enjoyed listening to the audiobook.

This book has sparked my interest in reading more about Hemingway. This is the ultimate compliment to Paula McLain.

Bill Moyers Journal, The Conversation Continues
Bill Moyer
The New Press
9781595586247 $29.95

Bill Moyers was a guest on Tavis Smiley recently. It was great to visit with Bill as I miss his PBS show, Bill Moyers Journal. His last show was in April/May 2010. His book, The Conversation Continues, brought back memories.

On TV, I thoroughly enjoyed Bill's engaging conversations about current events. He spoke with authors, poets, artists, scholars, political figures, and diverse activists, to name a few. My favorite conversations were with writers. He not only asked profound questions, but he invited his audience inside the author's homes where we witnessed their idiosyncrasies. What fun!

When Tavis interviewed Bill on his show to promote his new book, I relived the conversations from TV. If you have never seen Bill's show, you will enjoy this book. The written conversations will allow you to feel like you are viewing the TV show from the comfort of your living room.

The book begins with an introduction conversation with Jon Stewart. I understood completely why Bill chose Jon to introduce his book. See if you agree when you read it. Altogether, there are 47 conversations in the book. As I read them, I recalled the conversations on TV. I remembered that some made such an impression on me that I purchased the books immediately after watching the show. For example, Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot wrote a book called, The Third Chapter. She talked about her book in such detail that when I purchased the book, I was very disappointed. There was nothing knew, she said it all to Bill!

Another book I purchased was John Lithgow's, The Poets' Corner. John was so inspiring talking to Bill about specific poems that I knew I had to own the entire book. I also purchased the CD collection of the poems. These are not John's poems, they are a collection of poems, or as John puts it, The One-And-Only Poetry Book For The Whole Family. On the CD the poems are read by John and very special guests, some I recognized, some I did not.

I purchased Susan Jacoby's book, The Age of American Unreason. I had to purchase this book because I needed words on a page to help me understand the words she said to Bill!

I recommend this book, Bill Moyers Journal, The Conversation Continues, to readers of all ages. There is a conversation in it for everyone. Bill Moyer is an extraordinary journalist. It's always nice to have a picture to go with a conversation and Bill includes this feature for each of his conversations. Enjoy!

Mary Crocco

Deb's Bookshelf

Quirky Kids Zoo
Pat Brannon
Wandering Sage Publications
9781933300832, $11.99,

Hi! Welcome to a different kind of zoo. We're going to see some strange sights. What's that you say? What kind of strange sights? Well never fear, there's nothing scary here.

Do you have you camera ready? You can take pictures of different things here. What's different here? Look over there; did you ever see porcupines with fur so soft? Let's walk down this walk. Look over there. See the elephants playing leapfrog with the ants? See the gorillas roller skating? There's a lot to take pictures of in this quirky zoo!

Children and adults both will love this book by Pat Brannon. Children will love laugh at the quirky kids' zoo's inhabitants. They will love the fact that they can help read the book by counting. Adults will love the rhyming story because it teaches kids to count from one to twenty five. Both parents and children will love the imaginative and silly antics (like gardening kangaroos) of the inhabitants. This interactive book makes reading time fun!

The brightly painted illustrations by Jimena Pinto-Kroujiline brings this delightful rhyming story to life.

I loved reviewing this children's book and highly recommend it. It's so imaginative and just a pleasure to read. From beginning to end, the Quirky Kids Zoo kept a smile on my face!

To learn more about Pat Brannon, just visit her website. You'll find it at: While you're visiting websites, you can visit Jimena Pinto-Kroujiline's website at:

You can purchase Quirky Kids Zoo for your children or grandchildren at a variety of places. Among them are: or in the United States. In Canada you can go to or pick it up in the United Kingdom at:

1106 Grand Boulevard
Betty Dravis
Canterbury House Publishing, Ltd.
225 Ira Harmon Road, Vilas, NC 28692
B00564TQ28, Kindle $4.99,

Let's travel back in time to the 1930's. It's evening and an argument has just broken and Billie Jean accidentally gets shot in the shoulder by her husband, Cal. Running for her life she hides from her husband in the bushes. Naturally, she goes back to her childhood home...1106 Grand Boulevard. This is one woman's story of her search for true love during and after the turbulent World War II years.

At her childhood home, she is welcomed with open arms by her family. Naturally, her parents admit her to the hospital where the doctors repair her shoulder.

Now that sixteen-year-old Billie Jean is married, can she stay at her childhood home or will her stern mother make her go back to her manic husband?

Aunt Tommie enters the story here. She believes in marrying rich and having the best of everything. She takes Billie Jean to Arizona to live with her and her uncle. Billie Jean is schooled in the proper way to get a rich husband. Aunt Tommie teaches her how to walk, talk and behave like a lady around the 'right' people. At her coming out party, Billie meets a handsome man in his twenties named Jackson. Of course, Jackson is struck by Billie Jean's beauty and wants to marry her.

By this time, Billie Jean is used to the high life and the attention shown to her by men. She flits from man to man searching for someone who can take Cal's place. She marries several of these men. Each time she marries, Billie Jean is sure she is in love. But is she?

Six times she goes home to 1106 Grand Boulevard where her sister helps her drown her sorrows by going shopping. She goes back to 1106 Grand Boulevard each time a husband dies or when Billie Jean goes through a divorce. Once she went back when her then husband went off to fight in World War II. Will there be a seventh homecoming for Billie? Will Billie Jean ever find true love or will she keep flitting from man to man like a bee flits from flower to flower?

There are a couple of ways to find out more about the author of this love story. You can go to Ms. Dravis' website at: and click on the 'Bio' tab. You can also surf here to read more about her:

You can find out more about 1106 Grand Boulevard by going to her website at: Just click on the 'Books and Stories' tab.

You can pick up this excellent ebook at several places. Among them are Amazon (US) and Amazon (UK) Go to the kindle store at Amazon to find this story of life during the World War II era. You can also find it at Smashwords and at Barnes & Noble for the Nook

Deb Hockenberry, Reviewer

Dollycas' Bookshelf

Flat-Out Love
Jessica Park
7290 B. Investment Dr., Charleston, SC 29418
9781461085973, $14.99,

I flat out loved Flat Out Love.

This story is so well written it pulled me right into it. I started thinking about it being one of my daughters going off to school and how they would react if their housing fell through and they were hundreds of miles away. I felt an immediate personal attachment to Julie. Thankfully she was a very mature college freshman because she was dropped into a very extraordinary situation.

This is a true contemporary romance complete with the snippets of social media, a good bit of humor and mystery too. I have to say I ran the whole gambit of emotions while reading this wonderful story. The characters are eccentric, off beat and you may even use the word peculiar, but they are written so true that you can't help to fall for each and every one. You will also be surprised, shocked, mad, sad, heartbroken, happy and joyful all in the span of less than 400 pages. You will be laughing out loud one minute and ready to reach into the pages and slap a character the next. Plus the love story is amazing.

This book hit me in a whole different way that any book I have read in a long time. Yes, I loved it as I have others, but this book was FUN!!! It was like a day out with a good friend, a day you didn't want to end. I found it to be inspiring. I immediately handed it to my 20 year old daughter and said "you have to read this!"

There are very few books that I would call awesome, this is an AWESOME book. This book has earned a place on my keeper shelf because I know I am going to want to take this journey again and again. Five stars does not cover it, this book is off the charts.

Have your ordered your copy yet? I am telling you this is a must read, A MUST READ!!! Then please come back and share your thoughts with me. I want to talk to everyone I know about this book!!!

Jessica Park you have hit this one out of the park!!!!!!! I can't wait to read whatever you are working on next!!!!

Bonded In Brazil
Rhiannon Ellis
Camel Press
P.O. Box 70515, Seattle, WA 98127
9781603818469, $12.95,

Eliana Menino is a very strong woman. When she learns that her father has missed a few loan payments to their investors and their family vineyard is about lost after four generations of hard grueling work she steps in to make a deal of her own. She offers to work off the debt herself in service to a man she calls "Demonio".

She has never left her beautiful home in Brazil but when Hale Forester agrees to her terms she leaves her beautiful exotic home and flies to Napa Valley on Forester's private jet.

It doesn't take long for Eliana to realize the Hale Forester is not the ruthless man she thought he was or that he does have the power to break her heart. Both their lives are about to change.

Oh this book was so good!!! It has all the necessary elements of the perfect romance, obsession, passion, intrigue, heat, betrayal and love. The settings were superb, the characters engaging. The difference in cultures was well portrayed. It is a well written memorable story as smooth as a fine wine and yet as steamy as Eliana's home of Brazil. I was drawn in before the end of the first page and could not escape its spell until the final word. It was a story I didn't want to end so I am thrilled to learn there is a sequel coming soon!!

This is a perfect beach read or the perfect book to escape into at any time of year! The sequel can not be published soon enough! Cheers Rhiannon, I loved this story!!!


Edward's Bookshelf

Devil's Sonata
Elizabeth Edmondson
Attica Books
9781402263361 $4.99 (Kindle)

"Devil's Sonata" (Attica Books, July 2011) is the most recent novel by romance author Elizabeth Edmondson (AKA Elizabeth Aston). It's the story of Zuleika Rathbone (I can't pronounce her first name either.), a neuroscientist and historian who for whatever reason chooses to research witchcraft, ghosts, and other unscientific creations.

Zuleika goes to 'Beauregard,' a boarding school named after the family that has owned the property for centuries. She goes there to translate an ancient book of spells that turned up during renovations on the chapel thereat. In the beginning, one is led to believe this is what the story is all about, but one soon finds that it is not.

Instead, on her first day at the school, Zuleika uncovers an old violin. It's an evil-looking instrument, and a shy girl named Arabella Mort, a music student at the school, ends up playing it. When Arabella plays the violin it possesses her and changes her into a mean, self-indulgent, arrogant, but really talented violinist. How that makes her any different from the other mean, self-indulgent, arrogant and really talented kids who go to this private school is part of the mystery I suppose.

Nevertheless, as the story progresses Zuleika as the main character begins to fade into the background and becomes lost in a haze of other sub-characters. Arabella, on the other hand, becomes the most interesting thing happening in this otherwise tepid work of fiction.

The paper version of this book is 544 pages long, but most of it contains the banal gossiping conversations of the minor characters about any and all things irrelevant. One ends up speed-reading just to get to any part or gossip that deals with Arabella.

Truth is the character of Arabella splits the story in two. On one hand there's the gossiping tripe of all the other characters; on the other is whatever Arabella is doing at the moment, be that seducing someone, scaring someone, or giving someone the creeps. Unlike most demon-possessed teenagers, she never really does anything to anyone; she just bothers people with her personality.

At some point the author must have just given up, because she abruptly ends the story with an epilogue wherein all the loose ends regarding the mystery of the school, its background, the book of spells, the violin, etc. are snipped off and tied up by one of the characters reading an ancient letter written by an evil artist who once worked at the school centuries before. Even the fate of Arabella and the disposition of the violin are dealt with in a quick summation.

Everything may be technically correct about this book. The writing, editing, formatting, and cover art are all impeccable, but the story could have been improved if the main character focus had been on Arabella, who essentially steals the show anyway. As it turns out there's no focus on any particular character, and this results in a muddled composition the writer has to ultimately euthanize.

"Devil's Sonata" is available now through Kindle Books, and the paperback is due out in November. If one likes slow-paced, conservative, BBC-type television drama where all the characters speak with perfect wit and constrained yet palpable attitude, then "Devil's Sonata" is the book to read. No real violence, no real gore, no real sex, very little swearing, and a lot of boring conversation, but it does have a possessed girl with long red hair, piercing green eyes, and a penchant for playing the violin like a devil.

Title: Prey
Jon F. Merz
Kindle Books
B005FYXZGC $2.99 (Kindle)

"Prey," by Jon F. Merz (Amazon Kindle Books), is about a team of geologists/meteorologists who go to Antarctica and find the outpost they were assigned to is missing all of the people they were supposed to meet. When people from their own party go missing, they set out to find the reason and come across a huge spaceship planted deep within a mountain cave.

The ship produces a jungle within the mountain wherein alien-created "dinocreatures" (That's a cross between a dinosaur and a human.) live and guard the actual aliens within the ship that have come to do experiments on various humans they abduct. It becomes the responsibility of the team leader, Julia and her #1 man, Mick, to save the team and uncover the secret the aliens don't want revealed.

It's not a bad idea for a story; the setting is cool (literally), and it's somewhat original, but the execution of it by this writer leaves a lot to be desired. The book is riddled with editing and spelling errors. The author's unconventional paragraphing is an obvious attempt to take what would be a long short story and stretch it out to the length of a novel. The characters are two-dimensional cartoons of human beings, and the horror comes across as freakish rather than scary.

For example, one of the team members has most of his body removed by the aliens, leaving only his head, neck, and arms lying on a table. He's kept alive by an elaborate life-support system but manages to make humorous comments to Julia and Mick while they prepare to fight a bunch of oncoming dinocreatures:

She raised the laser rifle.

Wilkins cleared his throat. "You guys think you could maybe watch where you shoot that thing? I don't need any stray laser blasts fu[.....] my machinery up. I've only had it a short time but I'm kinda fond of it right now."

There 's also a sexual assault involving Julia by an alien disguised as a human member of her team that uses the same ill-fitting humor. I'll spare you those particular details. And it would be fine if the novel were a humor-horror story, like "Re-animator," but it's not presented that way anywhere else in the text. Thus it comes across as bizarre and out of place.

When I first started reading "Prey" I thought it might be interesting and marginally engaging; it seemed to be worth a read. The prologue was promising. But in the end, it was a silly novel by an author who couldn't be bothered to edit it appropriately before offering it up for sale to the reading public.

Alas, this seems to be the price we pay for the modern miracle of Kindle Direct Publishing. My one consolation is that I only spent $2.99 to find out.

Edward Gordon

Farrah's Bookshelf

Thirst No. 1
Christopher Pike
Simon Pulse
c/o Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl.
New York, NY 10020
9781416983088, $9.99,

With the impending release of the last installment in this series, "Thirst No.4 : Shadow of Death" which will be on shelves and in our mailboxes on August 9. I decided to revisit the first three novel that fueled it all, beginning with "Thirst No. 1: The Last Vampire, Black Blood, Red Dice".

In the last Vampire, Mr. Pike introduces of to Alisa Pern, a beautiful immortal that has lives many centuries in search of salvation and dodging her Creator Yaksha. When I first meet her it was truly hard for me to love her. She seem so selfish and uncaring for others. But as I learned more about her i came to understand why she'd erected this wall around her life and her heart. Until the unexpected happens she falls in love and all the intangibles that comes with it.

This book was a total surprise and a great read for me and for a few reasons. For a YA novel, it found it to be very avant-garde dealing with mainstream issues suicide, drug use but this was the first YA novel that I read that dealt with HIV/Aids. I have recently developed a love for YA and its great authorship I couldn't put this book down because there was a very palpable realism about it. It spoke to me as most Christopher Pike novels do.

Simon and Pulse has done a wonderful compiling Mr. Pike's Thirst series into a triple trilogy so that the readers can seamlessly read the adventures of Alisa Pern/Sita with the first nine novels arranged in series of three.

Review rating: 4 out 5

Ghostland : Seduce the Forbidden
Jory Strong
Berkley Books
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, 4th floor
New York, NY 10014
9780425226063, $15.00,

When Shamaness Aisling Mc Conaughey has entered the Ghostland to track a missing woman she does expect an encounter with a djinn let alone the Prince of Djinn Zurael en Caym. What begins a a hunt for head for summoning a ultra powerful being becomes a sensual and intriguing adventure where two beings one born of light and the other of Darkness fall in love and by doing will discover their true origins and the strenght of their love when it is put to the test.

Ms. Strong charms of us with strong and beautiful characters laced in beautiful prose. Her scenes are memorable and her descriptions vivid. This book will fill all your erotic romance needs and leacve you begging for more.

This novel was my first urban fantasy/ post apocalyptic erotic story . I was very skeptical at first. I worried mostly as much as I love erotica that the genre would not please. I was wrong. Ms. Strong had me at the first five lines of the novel and I did not put it down until 12 hours later. I became consumed by the fates of the main and minor characters. I felt their emotions, their concerns. This read was a total rollercoaster. The best adjective to describe this book is "exhilarating".

Review Rating: 4.5 out 5

Spider Touched: Defy The Darkkness
Jory Strong
Berkley Trade
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, 4th floor
New York, NY 10014
9780425227930, 15.00,

Spider Touched is the second book in Ms. Strong's post apocalyptic erotic series. I was still parched from the first book so I went out and purchased Spider Touched and Ms. Strong did not fail me. This novel introduces us to Arana and Tir. Arana has been cast out and branded by her own as evil and Tir, shackled and imprisoned, a dark force held in human form. When chance links their futures, Arana and Tir must set aside personal ambitions if their are to survive and understand the stakes at hand if they are both to survive.

Beautifully written with unforgettable characters, Spider Touched will grab you and won't let go until you've read the last page. I would stronly suggest reading these novels in order as the characters and situations from the previous novel appear in the second installment.

I look forward to reading Healer's Choice, the last novel in this series.

Review Rating: 4.5 out 5

Destiny For three
Lilly Hale
$2.99 E-book

When she is left standing at the altar, Elise is heart broken and flees the church to clear her head to only find herself catapulted into her previous life in 19th century America. Where two gorgeous and rich brothers yearn for her affection. This was my first historical menage and I enjoyed every word of it.

Ms. Halle delivers a beautifully written novel with characters and a plot that will keep you glue to every page

Review Rating: 4 out 5

Destiny United (Shadows of Destiny Book 2)
Leia Shaw
$2.99 E-book

Destiny United is the second book in the series, the first being Destiny Divided. This a great book for paranormal fans. Marcelo is the hunky guardian sent by the Queen of the Underworld to retrieve her sister Erin who also has supernatural powers. As the story unravels Erin will not only discover her origins but her purpose. She will also find what her heart desires most of all: love and acceptance.

I love this book because in addition to these characters being magical they were also very human with flaws, weaknesses as well as great qualities. Ms. Shaw does a great job at bringing these characters to life with humor, sass and a take charge attitude.

Review Rating 4 out of 5

Farrah J. Jean

Gary's Bookshelf

Michael Vey the Prisoner of Cell 25
Richard Paul Evans
Mercury Ink Simon Pulse
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781451656503 $17.99,

Michael Vey the Prisoner of Cell 25" is the first of a series of YA novels that deal with children with special powers. In total there are 17 who have different levels of specialties. One can deprogram a person's brain as you would erase a computer memory others have the ability to electrically charge a person. Michael and several others learn of their abilities and form a club. They also learn that the people they think are their parents aren't even related to them. The author has told a story that reads at a breakneck pace and is a non stop suspenseful adventure all the way to the end that leaves it open for a sequel. Fans of James Patterson's "Maximum Ride" series should love Richard Paul Evans newest novel. Though "Michael Vey the Prisoner of Cell 25" is marketed as a YA novel it is a tightly written thriller that any age can read and enjoy.

The Paper American Seeking Acceptance in a New Country
Lina Rudel
Legacy Publishing Services Inc
1883 Lee Road, Winter Park, Florida 32789
9781934449363, $15.95,

"The Paper American Seeking Acceptance in a New Country is a book that deals with many different issues. On one level it is how someone living in Nazi Germany dealt with everyday matters. On another it is the story of a girl and how she endured an abusive father. Later the author talks about how others say she has had a lucky life. She disagrees with that statement by showing that she has made things happen for herself. She has been an attorney, a real estate agent and worked her way up the ladder of success as a German who became an American citizen. She says though on paper she is a full U. S. citizen. In reality for whatever reason she isn't a full citizen of this country she believes. By that attitude she has forgotten that this country has always been a nation of immigrants who came here from other countries for a better life. If anything Lina Rudel in her book "The Paper American" is a shining example of what is so great about this country.

Hidden History of Everglades City & Points Nearby
Maureen Sullivan-Hartung
The History Press
Charleston, SC 29403
9781596297449, $19.99,

The author reveals a different side of Florida that very few really know about. She explains that Everglades City was originally named Everglade City and why it changed, who founded it, who some of the important people were that guided the area along and lots of other interesting tidbits of information for anyone to learn more about this area of the Sunshine State. "Hidden History of Everglades City & Points Nearby is a very interesting read that many people can use for lots of fun trivia contests.

A History of Collectible American Record Sleeves Volume II
Jeff Marcus Foreword by Perry Cox
Legacy Publishing Services Inc
1883 Lee Road, Winter Park, Florida 32789
9781934449837, $29.95,

The second volume of "American Record Sleeves 70's and 80's" is a bit thicker than the first volume. Some of the artists in this edition are America, Abba, Dan Aykroyd, Pat Benatar, George Benson, Cheap Trick, Culture Club, Badfinger, and Ringo Starr. The author again provides interesting tidbits about the singers and pictures of covers of different records. "American Record Sleeves Volumes I and II" are great reading for anyone who wants to know more about rock n roll from those years. No fan of the music should miss these two great books.

All My Life A Memoir
Susan Lucci with Aura Horton
10 53rd Street New York, New York 10022-5299
9780062061843, $25.99,

With "All My Life" Lucci has done what fans of her and the soap "All My Children have wanted her to do for a long time. She begins by telling when she finally won an Emmy after so many years of just being nominated. She tells little known stories about her character Erica Kane and her own life. It is also her love story with her husband who has been with her from the beginning of her professional life. She is very candid and is a great role model for anyone who wants to be an actor. There are lots of pictures of Lucci with many different people throughout her career. Lucci fans can be happy that she has finally told all about herself. "All My Life" is a fun filled journey of one woman's life in the acting profession.

The Color of Life
Dennis Vebert
125 Pennsylvania Ave St, Cloud Fl 34769, 407 8910277, 4078926524
9780984249718 $15.95

"The Color of Life" started a little slow but it picked up and moved along at a nice pace to its ending that was very satisfying. Part of the attraction of this book is the artwork that fills the pages of this novel that are part of the author's collection of work he has painted. The artwork like the novel reveals a very different side of the state of Florida that in many areas is long gone. His characters are believable and well fleshed out as they deal with the conflicts that move the story along. Dennis Vebert is a very talented author in many different artistic ways. "The Color of Life" is perfect material for a great family film.

Smorgasbord of Indian Recipes A Collection of Indian Dishes Most Popular in India and All Over the World
Achala Kshirsagar
Outskirts Press Inc
Denver, Colorado
9781432768096, $12.95,

Get ready for an excellent dining experience of Indian food recipes that sound delicious. "Smorgasbord of Indian Recipes" guides readers through a food adventure that tells a lot of history of ingredients, different types of food and lots of great recipes that are easy to follow for anyone who wants to cook them at home. Indian food has become attractive for many reasons and "Smorgasbord of Indian Recipes" helps increase that popularity.

Living Room Legends: Chats with TV's Famous Faces
Eddie Lucas
Serendipity Media Group
P.O Box 26734 Fresno, Ca 93729
978098250966 $29.95, www.Serendipity.pressinc,

Eddie Luca interviews old television stars from the 1950's and 1960's in "Living Room Legends: Chats with TV's Famous Faces." Some of the people he talked to are Jim Nabors from "Gomer Pyle" and "The Andy Griffith Show, Donna Douglas "The Beverly Hillbillies," Pat Carroll "The Danny Thomas Show," Ronnie Schell "Gomer Pyle" and "That Girl,". Eddie Luca's interviews are interesting and fun reading. No fan of old TV show should miss"Living Room Legends Chats with TV's Famous Faces."

Getting Past Myself
Tawana B. Fortune M.A, Ed.S CCP
Legacy Publishing Services Inc
1883 Lee Road, Winter Park, Florida 32789
9781934449882, $14.95,

Fortune talks to young girls about many different topics. "Getting Past Myself" is a warning of things in life they will sometime encounter. Some of the issues she deals with are telling them to respect their bodies by eating healthy foods, taking time to know who they are and finding a direction in life, warnings about texting and being careful what kind of pictures they put on the internet of themselves. She uses her own life to teach them as well. "Getting Past Myself" is an interesting frank discussion for young women to heed and learn how to face challenges they may later encounter.

Abe's Lucky Day
Jill Warren Illustrations by Kalpart
Outskirts Press Inc
Denver, Colorado
9781432773052, $12.95,

"Abe's Lucky Day" is the first kid's book I've encountered to have as its main character a person who is homeless. Warren and artist Kalpart illustrate very well the statement "What goes around comes around" with Abe who even though he is homeless, thinks more of others than himself. By the end of the book something positive happens to him that bears out the statement. "Abe's Lucky Day" is an affirmative message for readers of all ages.

As Nora Jo Fades Away Confessions of a Caregiver
A Memoir by Lisa Cerasoli
Five Star Publications Inc.
P.O. Box 6698, Chandler, AZ 85246-6698
9781589851900, $15.95

I found "As Nora Jo Fades Away Confessions of a Caregiver" to be a very hard book to follow because the author jumped around in time, concentrated on her father, mother and her grandmother at the same time throughout the work. One moment I thought she was dealing with her father and found she was talking about her grandmother or mother. Sometimes I wasn't sure who she was dealing with. I understand she is telling about a loved one in dementia and later Alzheimer's disease. I wish "As Nora Jo Fades Away Confessions of a Caregiver" had been clearer in its depiction of a person passing through this terrible disease.

Principles of Abundance for the Cosmic Citizen Enough For Us All Volume One
Dorthy I. Riddle
Author House
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington In 47403
9781449079253, $14.95,

I'm not sure what the author was trying to say in "Principles of Abundance for the Cosmic Citizen." She talks about energy, scarcity, having enough, and other things that sounded interesting at first. In her explanations she never seems to explain any of her topics with anything to grasp. I was reminded of the new "Battlestar Galactica" statement "So say us all." That one I could understand. Hers of "Enough For Us All." I couldn't. Readers would be better served to ignore "Principles of Abundance for the Cosmic Citizen. .

Gary Roen

Gloria's Bookshelf

In Desperation
Rick Mofina
MIRA Books
225 Duncan Mill Rd., Don Mills, Ontario, Canada M3B 3K9
9780778329480 $9.99 US/$11.99 Canada

Before the end of the first chapter of "In Desperation," Rick Mofina's newest entry in the Jack Gannon series, Tilly, the eleven-year-old daughter of Cora Martin, has been kidnapped by two gunmen, who tell her that her boss has stolen five million dollars from them, and that he has five days to return it or Tilly will be killed, threatening the same fate if the police are called in. In her desperation, Cora calls the only family she has, that person being the brother with whom she has had no contact for over twenty years: Jack Gannon.

Gannon, a 35-year-old loner from blue-collar Buffalo, New York, is also a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist with a national wire service. And the call he receives from Cora is more unsettling to him than anything he can recall. When she was seventeen and he was twelve, she was his hero, his big sister protector, until she left some twenty years ago and never returned, leaving her family to embark on a futile search for her over the ensuing years. Her pleas to Jack to help her find the niece he never knew he had take him from Juarez, Mexico, "one of the world's most violent cities with a homicide rate greater than any other city on earth, where he has been working on a story dealing with the drug cartels that had taken over every aspect life in that country, and go to the suburbs of Phoenix, Arizona where Cora lives. He insists that the police be notified, despite the kidnappers' threat, which only widens the danger as it appears, as has been widely discussed in the press in the novel as well as the real-life media that surrounds us all, that police agencies in the US have been infiltrated by the cartel members, an acknowledged fact of life in Mexico.

Except for the final few pages, all the ensuing action takes place over a five-day period, hard to believe for all the action that is packed into that time frame. The reader is teased from the first with references to a secret that Cora will not reveal, something from her past that she convinces herself cannot possibly have any connection with her present crisis. Cora's boss, the one who is supposed to have pulled off this rip-off of some very dangerous men, seems to have disappeared, and all attempts to locate him end in failure.

Always engrossing, the book has the high level of suspense typical of Mr. Mofina's writing. One quibble this reader had was that I found it less than credible that Gannon, already suspecting that the investigation may have been compromised, approaches a lead, a man with a very unsavory background, giving him full details of the investigation to that point in order to elicit information from him that will give him further avenues to pursue. But hey, desperate times call for desperate measures. Jack's journalistic instincts push him to proceed, and put him in a difficult position - he has a job to do, and a story to write, even as he fights to distance himself from the fact that he is writing about his own family. Bodies start showing up, killed in gruesome ways, and they must find Tilly before she becomes just one more. They discover that an assassin, or sicario, has been dispatched to find those missing millions, and to eliminate any loose ends, or witnesses.

Sure to hold the reader's attention to the very end, the book leads the reader to think he or she knows where they are being taken - but don't be too sure. The author has a very sure hand, and surprises are in store. Recommended.

Confessions of a Catholic Cop
By Thomas J. Fitzsimmons
October 2006
9780978976217 $14.00

The authenticity of this first novel by Thomas Fitzsimmons fairly jumps off the page. With good reason: Following his service in the Navy during the Vietnam War, the author was an NYC cop for a decade in the notorious section of the South Bronx known as Fort Apache. Not surprisingly, his protagonist, Michael Beckett, has a similar background, which also includes acting on tv, the fictional aspect having Beckett portray - what else? - a cop, on the show "Law & Order." Although there is the requisite disclaimer, there are immediately recognizable references to an incident infamous in New York City history, wherein an unarmed man named Amadou Diallo was gunned down by police in what was literally a hail of gunfire; a well-known local black leader known for inflammatory appearances at anything smacking of possible police prejudice or wrongdoing, here named "Dullard" instead of "Sharpton," etc.

The action is disturbingly realistic, portraying the dope dealers, pimps, corruption, bad cops, and poverty rampant in such sections of almost any large city in the country, and the dedication of most members of the police force who try to make them safe and livable. When a hugely wealthy real estate mogul has plans for a large section of real estate, forcible evictions are only part of his modus operandi, and the fact that the mayor, the police commissioner and some of the cops are in his pocket makes matters that much easier for him. But when a young girl and her infant daughter become victims of his ruthlessness, Beckett and his volatile partner, Vinnie D'Amato, are determined to obtain justice for them, with Beckett becoming obsessed to the point of putting both of their lives, and their careers, on the line.

As noted, this was the first of many books, fiction and otherwise, by this author, and that fact is reflected in the somewhat unpolished writing. But ultimately the gripping realism of the tale won out. The book was a fast, suspenseful read, and is recommended.

[It should perhaps be noted that the book was previously published by Forge Books as "City of Fire" in March, 2009. The author has re-released the novel now under its original title. It is available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble only, in trade paperback as noted above and as an e-book, for $2.99]

Fade to Blue
Bill Moody
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. 1st Avge., Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781590588949 $24.95, 800-421-3976,

What a pleasure to immerse myself in my two favorite worlds: jazz, and mystery writing! Bill Moody has the perfect background for both, and extensive credentials in each. In this latest work, Evan Horne, his jazz pianist protag, is hired by the agent for Ryan Stiles, a hot new movie star, one widely considered to be Hollywood royalty ["a new Robert Redford, exuding charm"], to teach Stiles how to look as though he is an accomplished jazz piano player in a new film. [To further entice him, he is asked to score the film, and to stay at the actor's Malibu beach house in the process - an enviable gig, to be sure.] This is not a new concept - examples given are "Bird" and Forest Whittaker, "Ray" and Jamie Foxx, Frank Sinatra with "Man with the Golden Arm" [a long time ago, that one, I realize].

Evan, who describes himself as a sometime detective [see prior entries in the series], is now living in Monte Rio, in northern California, but makes the not-hard-to-take transition to the Malibu scene. Part of the equation, and the price, is putting up with paparazzi at every turn, with one particularly obnoxious photographer being excessively annoying and confrontational. But when that photographer goes missing, the police, and Evan as well, suspect that Stiles may have played a role in his disappearance. Ultimately there are two fatalities, which could easily have both been murders, or accidents. Evan is assisted by the two people closest to him, FBI Special Agent Andrea ("Andie") Lawrence, and Lt. Dan Cooper ("Coop") of the Santa Monica Police. Stiles even agrees to hire Coop for the duration as head of security on the movie set.

In addition to the solid mystery, there are frequent musical and, in particular, jazz references, including one to Yoshi's, a beloved S.F. mecca for jazz lovers/musicians alike [I'd forgotten that there were two establishments bearing that name, the second being in Oakland], and invaluable little-known and fascinating anecdotes referencing jazz legends such as [Thelonius] Monk and Bill Evans. Things take a sudden and ominous turn when a case from Evan's past comes back to haunt him, in unforeseeable ways. The book is consistently enjoyable on many levels, and is recommended.

Fox Five
Zoe Sharp
Murderati Ink
B005GKY86G, $.99,

The author, who has written, among other things, nine books in the acclaimed Charlie Fox series, has now published in e-book form what is termed an "e-thology," a collection of five short stories, and an excellent addition it surely is. [It is presently available for a special introductory price of 99 cents.]

The first, "A Bridge Too Far," is, appropriately enough, the very first short story ever written featuring the ex-Special Forces soldier turned self-defense expert/bodyguard, Charlotte ["Charlie"] Fox, whose background further includes teaching self-defense classes for women before ultimately working in "close protection." The plot deals with members of a Dangerous Sports Club who engage in activities which justify its name. The action takes place on a morning in May in Lancashire, in the UK, described, in the author's typically wonderful prose, as an hour when "the last of the dawn mist clung to the dips and hollows [of the valley], and was quiet enough to hear the world turning." Lest this peaceful scene lull the reader, the tale concludes with a stunning ending.

The second story, "Postcards from Another Country," was the second Charlie Fox short story, fittingly, and deals with Charlie's employment by an old-money family, the titular country being "the world of the very wealthy." Close protection in that milieu is more of a challenge than usual, as Charlie finds when she is hired after a failed murder attempt on the male head of the family, whose members have come to believe that money is the answer to everything.

The next tale, "Served Cold," was nominated for the CWA Short Story Dagger Award in 2009. The only one in the collection where Charlie is not front and center, its protagonist is a waitress and stripper. In "Off Duty," the fourth Charlie Fox short story, the incidents there recounted were originally intended for inclusion in the US edition of Book #6, "Second Shot," but ultimately not used as such, and is a sort of lead-in to Book #7, "Third Strike." "Truth and Lies," the concluding piece, was written especially for this "e-thology." The reader is treated to author notes prefacing each short story, giving insights into its origins, as well as bonus material at the end, with biographical details on the author and her masterful creation, Charlie Fox, all of which just makes the reader look forward to the next novel in the series [working title "Die Easy"] that much more. Highly recommended.

On the Line
By S. J. Rozan
Minotaur, 175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312609245 $14.99, 646-307-5560,

What, exactly is "on the line" in this newest novel from S. J. Rozan is nothing more nor less than the life of Lydia Chin. For the uninitiated, Lydia, a young ABC [American-Born Chinese, and described as 'Chinatown's only PI, with a non-Chinese partner her mom doesn't like'], is the sometime partner of Bill Smith, a chain-smoking middle-aged white guy. And no one writes protagonists of a different gender and ethnicity better than this master-craftsman [excuse me, make that 'craftsperson'].

As the novel opens, early one morning late in the Fall in NYC Bill receives a call made from Lydia's phone. The caller, who doesn't identify himself and whose voice is electronically altered, says that he has Lydia, and for Bill to get her back he will have to play a 'game' whose rules are laid out: Bill will have to follow a series of clues that will be doled out to him in an unspecified manner, but he has only twelve hours to find her. Of course, the game rules keep changing, and Bill has no idea who the kidnapper is. He seeks help from Linus Wong, Lydia's young cousin and a talented hacker, and Linus' assistant, a teenage Goth girl named Trella. The 'game' becomes much more complicated when Bill discovers the dead body of a young Chinese woman he thinks at first might be Lydia, but turns out to be that of a hooker. Immediately after this discovery the cops turn up, and Bill soon finds himself hunted by the cops as well as by the girl's pimp and his two very scary associates. The game soon threatens the lives of several more young girls, with Lydia the prize for whoever wins.

The tension never lets up, with Bill desperately trying to obtain and then figure out the clues left for him in varying places all around the city, as well as identifying the man who hates him this much, because it is soon apparent that this is very, very personal. The novel is exquisitely plotted, all leading up to a breathtaking denouement. More than highly recommended, this one is a Must Read.

The End of the Wasp Season
By Denise Mina
5 Upper St. Martinn's Lane, London WC2H 9EA
9781409100959 12.99 BPS

[It should perhaps be noted that this book is presently only available in/through the UK, not yet in the US or Canada]

Each of the first three chapters of this newest novel by Denise Mina, author of the Garnethill trilogy among other wonderful books, introduces the reader to three women, each of them strong and independent, and each tested by events which follow. The most dramatic, and tragic, is Sarah Erroll, 24 years old, who is sexually mutilated and brutally murdered in the first pages. [The full extent of the savagery is not known till nearly half-way through the book, although it is strongly hinted at.] In Glasgow, the Strathclyde police are called in, and the DS handling the brunt of the investigation is DS Alex Morrow, not quite five months pregnant with twins. The third of these women is Kay Murray, a single mother of four who had worked for the dead woman and, coincidentally, had been a schoolmate of Alex many years ago.

But the central figure throughout the book is Lars Anderson, multimillionaire banker who believed that "you couldn't trick an honest man." He appears to be a UK version of Bernard Madoff, having ruined many lives before taking his own in the early pages of the book. There is plenty of family dysfunction and family tragedy to go around in this book, the Andersons only the worst of these.

Alex thinks, as the case begins, that "she hated sexual murders. They all hated them, not just out of empathy with the victim but because sexual crimes were corrosive, they took them to hideous dark places in their own heads, made them suspicious and fearful, and not always of other people."

The author kept this reader off balance, with having to figure out who some of the characters were and their relationship to other players, and to the plot itself. The book has sudden shocking moments, only adding to that sense of being off-balance. The author mentions Alex' looking forward to a night going over her notes and trying to fit together the pieces of the puzzle that is her investigation, and "the promise of utter absorption" that it holds. I could completely relate to that description, for that is precisely what this novel provides. Highly recommended.

Gloria Feit

Gorden's Bookshelf

The Postcard Killers
James Patterson & Liza Marklund
Little, Brown and Company
Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316089517 $27.99

Patterson has for years been producing books as an editing publisher. The types and styles of the books depend on the co-authors. The Postcard Killers is a very good fast paced suspense detective mystery. Marklund brings in the local knowledge of Northern Europe and Patterson has the US locations. The result is a hard-edged mystery with a strong reality feel.

Jacob Kanon is a New York city detective scrambling across Europe on the trail of a pair of serial killers who murdered his daughter. The killers have been traveling from country to country leaving each jurisdiction before the local police can get their act together. The killers first send a postcard to a local reporter and follow it with a Polaroid picture of a young couple butchered and posed. Dessie Larson is a crime reporter in Stockholm. She receives a postcard of the main square in Stockholm's Old Town. On the back is the phrase, 'To be or not to be in Stockholm.' When Jacob finds out that a new reporter has received a postcard, he leaves Germany, the site of the last murders, and travels to Stockholm. Dessie and Jacob seem to be the only two individuals with the desire and skills to track down the killers who have plans for many more deaths.

The Postcard Killers is a good introduction to the current trend of reproducing modern Scandinavian mystery stories into the US market. The style tends to be a bit more gritty with a touch of reality -- an updated Noir from the past. It is a well written mystery that can stand with any current story in the broader genre. You will not be disappointed picking up the hard cover but it will be a steal when it comes out in mass-market paperback.

Bad Blood
John Sandford
G.P. Putnam's Sons
Published by the Penguin Group Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399156908 $27.95

John Sandford has developed two strong detective storylines -- Lucas Davenport and Virgil Flowers. Over the years, Sandford has written Lucas into a family man and a boss at the BCA, the state police of Minnesota. He is using Virgil as the character for the plots that entail more copious amounts of blood, violence and sex than you would expect with a more settled family man. Bad Blood has the characteristics that marked his earlier Prey novels with Lucas but now appear in his Virgil Flowers series.

Newly elected Sheriff Lee Coakley has a big problem. A youth has murdered a local farmer and was killed while in custody. The prime suspect is a deputy, who ran against her in the election. She recruits Virgil to investigating the deaths to minimize the obvious questions about her involvement in investigating her ex-political opponent. As Virgil and Lee investigate, another linked murder is uncovered. The trail leads to a secretive closed religious group. Each step in the investigation becomes more politically sensitive, darker and more twisted. Murder seems to be a first choice to at least some in a group wanting to keep their practices secret and they see Virgil and Lee as a threat to their lives and beliefs.

Sandford writes strong detective mysteries with a gritty hint at the reality of the people involved. It is easy to recommend Bad Blood to any reader in this genre. The only reservation is if the reader has a problem with the dark and extreme subject matter. You will not want to stop reading this book after you start it.

S.A. Gorden, Reviewer

Harwood's Bookshelf

The Necessity of Atheism
David M. Brooks
7290B Investment Drive, Charleston SC 29418
9781461068204 $14.99

There is no clearer way to view the insanity of religion (particularly its teachings about sex) than by looking at it through the eyes of a visitor from Mars. Robert Heinlein took such an approach in Stranger in a Strange Land in 1961 - and David Brooks did so in The Necessity of Atheism in 1933.

Chapter 1: "Our Martian visitor ... finds that Mohammed, from all accounts, was a demagogue, a charlatan, and a victim of mental disease."

Chapter 2: "If God himself wrote the Bible, we must believe him to be either ignorant or untruthful." "The prophets Mohammed, Jesus, and Moses charlatans or victims of mental and physical disease." "Mohammed ... a man who hid during battles, who often broke faith with friend and foe alike, a charlatan and demagogue of general intellectual incompetency, and a victim of mental disease." "the fact that Jesus had to bear the hard fate of a deformed body may go far in helping to explain his remarkable character ... which throws some light on the severe punishments demanded by Jesus for comparatively harmless insults." "The existence of Moses is not demonstrated by the Biblical books which are falsely ascribed to him, yet we cannot be certain that such a character did not exist. In any event, we must judge his character from the writings ascribed to him.... Thus can the fabled life of Moses be divided into two stages, the early period of illusions, hallucinations, and delusions, and the later stage of wizardry, charlatanry, and demagoguery.... Religion is the greatest impediment to the progress of human happiness."

Chapter 4: "No Martian father would allow his children to starve.... If the God of these earthlings bothers not about them, why should they trouble about God? The Son of God who could once create a miraculous batch of fish to satisfy a few fishermen, can do nothing to help these starving millions!"

Chapter 5: "An investigation ... leads the Martian to the conclusion that religions have continued to exist mainly because of the power which inherited superstitions wield over mankind."

Chapter 14: "Does anyone believe that Jew, Mohammedan, Catholic, and Protestant can long live in peace together? Common social needs bring mankind together but religion drives them apart. There can never be a lasting peace until the myth of God is dispelled forever from the minds of men."

Chapter 19: "The Semites have their Jehovah, the Mohammedans their Allah, and the Christians the Goddess Mary, the God the Father, and a son Jesus." Since Brooks made the point almost eighty years ago that Catholicism views Mary as for all practical purposes a goddess, why do other Christian cults tend to play down such an obvious reality?

Brooks fills three pages detailing the pagan beliefs from which Christianity plagiarized its various myths, such as virgin birth, resurrection, a new star accompanying a hero's birth, assorted goddesses identified as queen of heaven, Our Lady, and Mother of God, December 25 as the birth date of a host of different gods, a forty day fast, even an immaculate conception that the RC church attributed to the sainted Dominic 800 years before it transferred the myth to its reigning goddess.

Much of Brooks's book is made up of quotations from illustrious predecessors who reached similar conclusions to his own long before they were spelled out for the unlearned masses by such public benefactors as Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, and Victor Stenger. The world was not ready for such blunt truthtelling in 1933. Perhaps the success of the Big Four in encouraging the 36 % of Americans who are nontheists to come out of the closet persuaded whoever is responsible for this reprint that Brooks's time has come. He had something to say to the world of 1933, and he has something to say to the world of 2011.

The End of Christianity
edited by John Loftus
Prometheus Books
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst, NY 14228-2119
9781616144135 $21.00

Even though the gods Big Daddy, Junior and the Spook are as doomed to oblivion as Zeus, Odin, and Quetzalcoatl, The End of Christianity will have no more effect in speeding up their demise than did the books of Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, and Victor Stenger. The magic bullet most certain to cure the most obscene form of godism is identified by Robert Price (p. 366): "But the thing that will sooner or later bring the Evangelical Wailing Wall down is sex. More and more ... Evangelicals admit to having sex in the same casual way as their 'unsaved' contemporaries. That is, premarital, recreational sex.... Among American Jews today it is not bigotry when Orthodox rabbis discourage mixed marriages with non-Jews. Allow that, and you can say goodbye to Judaism in America.... Well, when the sex barrier falls, the same fate is in store for Evangelical Christianity."

Yet like the Big Five, Loftus's contributors offer evidence so falsifying Jesusism, that the Occam's razor explanation for why that evidence has not already wiped the god delusion from the face of the earth is the one I offer in my forthcoming Wholly Babble(1): They are Manchurian Candidate-ized into the kind of undisciplined thinking commonly categorized by the metaphor, "insane." Could any rational person reject even one of the following arguments?

(p. 89) "Consider what kind of evidence could possibly convince you if a trusted friend said that last week he met a person in India who was God incarnate. I daresay nothing would convince you of this."

(p. 104) "What we find in the Bible is simply not something we would expect from a perfectly good intelligent God."

(pp. 140-141) "The mind of the god of the Bible exhibits a library of provably errant knowledge.... He even assumes that thought issues from the heart and emotions from the kidneys." On top of that, fourteen bible passages could be true if and only if the earth is flat.(2)

(p. 210) "By any reasonable measure of quantity and quality, the evidence we have that there were real witches in Salem is vastly better than the evidence we have for the magical return from the dead of Jesus. But despite the better evidence, it is simply not reasonable to believe that the women of Salem really were witches or that they really performed magic."

(p. 298) "Our universe looks exactly like what random chance would produce, but not exactly like what intelligent design would produce."

(p. 303) "The fact that NID [non-terrestrial intelligent design] is improbable entails the Christian god is improbable (whereas any god who had different plans will not be the Christian God).... And what is improbable should not be believed. When enough people realize this, Christianity will come to an end."

(p. 307) "Absence of evidence can be evidence for absence, when the evidence should be there and is not found. We can apply this principle to the question of life after death. There should be evidence, and there isn't any."

(p. 308) A cited apologist argues that the near-universality of belief in immortality constitutes evidence for its reality. "This is like saying that, since a belief that the world is flat was common among all cultures throughout history, it follows that the world really is flat."

(p. 309) "As atheists like to say to believers, 'We are not that much different. You believe every religion but yours is bunk. I just believe one more religion is bunk than you do.'"

(p. 313) "None of the dead have ever communicated any verifiable knowledge to us. If they did, we would all be believers."

Perhaps less irrefutable, but no less convincing to anyone with a functioning human brain, are the following points.

(p. 57) To the question of how a stupid, working-class hick from Galilee got so popular, the suggested answer is, "If you're actually marketing your cult to working-class hicks, what better God to have than a working-class hick?"

(pp. 63-64) "Surely the fact that the Romans tortured and killed Christians and ruthlessly hunted them down would have made success impossible but for divine intervention. Right? Wrong.... Hitler's regime alone killed far more Jews than Romans ever killed of Christians, yet Judaism thrives worldwide - so should we now all convert to Judaism?"

(p. 194) "While Tertullian believed the atonement because it was absurd, I reject it because it is absurd."

(p. 223) "As for [Jesus] having been given all authority on heaven and earth, hell - the pope claims that pretty much every time he opens his mouth."

(p. 227) "It would strike us as quite ludicrous to think one must draw the inference from the empty tomb that Jesus must therefore have been raised from the dead, fully as absurd as the scene from Monty Python's Life of Brian."(3)

On the retarded morality of bible authors, and the Bernie Maddoff mindset of translators and pushers whose bread and butter depends on maintaining the pretence that their preaching echoes what is really in their bible, the following observations are right on target.

(pp. 110) "The relevance of the Bible is best maintained by using translations to hide and distort the original meaning of the text.... In short, Bible translations 'lie' to keep the Bible alive."

(p. 169) "Their image of God as the most powerful person imaginable was modeled on an Iron Age Chief or King who wielded absolute power over his subjects and was beyond accountability."

(p. 233) "Insofar as Christianity is bound to the dogma of eternal punitive hell, it forfeits any claim to moral authority.... In short, so long as Christianity embraces the doctrine of hell, its claim to be the 'light of the world' is thoroughly discredited."

(p. 238) "How can even the wickedest of human beings, a Hitler, Stalin, or Cheney, say, deserve eternal punishment? We no longer subject even the worst criminals to old-fashioned tortures, so shouldn't we expect God to have made at least as much moral progress as we have?"

On the origin of the afterlife concept (p. 309): "Those more in touch with reality may conclude that it derives from fear of death."

On the conflict between science and religion (p. 258): "While religion and science can undeniably coexist (since they do), they are actually not compatible."

On the claim of Michael Behe (p. 287) that the flagellum of the E coli bacterium, which have no function other than enabling the bacterium to kill its host, constitutes proof of intelligent design: "Behe is essentially saying that someone genetically engineered bacteria specifically to kill us."

On the down side: At least one of the authors John Loftus brings together buys into the Big Lie that there are "approximately two billion Christians in the world today" (pp. 234, 253). There are barely one billion Christians. Another over-cautiously cites the number of nontheists as "at least a billion and maybe two billion" (p. 311). FACT: There are roughly 2.2 billion nontheists, more than Christians, Moslems and Jews combined.(4) An author who (p. 259) compares Scientology to "Hinduism or Wicca or ancient Mayan religion" in effect declares Scientology to be a religion. Ron Hubbard, who invented the Scientology scam as an expansion of his headshrinking scam of Dianetics, stated unequivocally that it was not a religion, and only reversed himself when he learned that reclassifying Scientology as a religion would qualify it for the tax-exempt status that was his bottom line. If Hubbard's Scientology is a religion, then so was Al Capone's Mafia, which likewise existed for the sole purpose of enriching its oligarchs.

Loftus himself (p. 77) refers to the Christian junior god as "Jesus of Nazareth," apparently unaware that "of Nazareth" is an intentional mistranslation by English language bibles of Greek words that carried a sectarian ("the Nazirite/Nazarene") rather than a geographic connotation, and that there was no village named Nazareth until long after Jesus' death.(5) One author dignifies lightweights Dinesh D'Sousa and Deepak Chopra by responding to them (pp. 415-419) as if they had more credibility than John Mack.(6) Another (pp. 372-374) similarly dignifies a biblical literalist whom even other apologists recognize as an embarrassment to their cause comparable with Fred Phelps. And another (p. 257), in naming persons he considers credible scientists who are nontheists, includes the inventor of the ridiculous pseudoscience of sociobiology alongside Francis Crick, Richard Dawkins, Victor Stenger, and Stephen Weinberg.

My only other quibble is that large segments by one author in particular are written in equation-filled arguments aimed at fellow scholars, and as such will go right over John Q. Public's head. I suggest that every single announced candidate for the Republican presidential nomination (obviously not the author's target) will find them as comprehensible as if they were written in Etruscan.(7)

While John Loftus has no higher education than three Master's degrees in tealeaf reading (or was it theology? I'm always confusing those two), and was freed from the god delusion, not by further education but by a growing awareness of its absurdity, his coauthors all have PhDs and are recognized authorities in their respective fields. The result is a book that at the very least can be described as useful.(8) The End of Christianity's biggest deficiency is the absence of a chapter by a biblical historian specializing in the origin and evolution of religion, who would have made an issue of the bible's inaccurate cosmology (flat earth, solid sky) and chronology (young earth), and mutually exclusive versions of the same anecdotes by different authors. Perhaps Mr Loftus will rectify that omission in his next book in the series?

(1) William Harwood, Wholly Babble: Rationalist Papers 2010-2011, chapters titled, "Of course the godphuqt are insane," and "There is no such thing as a sane godworshipper."

(2) William Harwood, God, Jesus and the Bible: The Origin and Evolution of Religion, World Audience 2009, p. 174.

(3) In two of my novels, I show Jesus' mentally handicapped ("a Judean in whom is no deceit") beloved disciple, Nathanael, on entering the empty tomb, proclaiming the resurrection hypothesis that more intellectually endowed followers have accepted, but surely only a retard could have invented. see Uncle Yeshu, Messiah, and Project Multiscam: Channeling Jesus' Beloved Disciple.

(4) Ronald Aronson (Living Without God) found that competent analysis of opinion polls, most of them rigged to solicit a desired answer, shows that nontheists, defined as all persons who do not actively believe in the god of religion, including those who are reluctant to deny the possibility outright, constitute 36 percent of Americans. An application of the same critical analysis worldwide leads to the finding that Christians number 1.1 billion, Moslems 1.0 billion, and nontheists 2.2 billion.

(5) Rene Salm, The Myth of Nazareth: The Invented Town of Jesus.

(6) Harvard psychiatrist John Mack (Abduction: Human Encounters with Aliens) authenticated alien abductions on the ground that any patient who told him an incredible tale with a straight face must have been telling the truth, since they could not have fooled him. In fact one of his patients later came forward and revealed that she had indeed lied to him, for the purpose of testing whether he could tell if she was lying.

(7) Richard Carrier explains in an endnote (p. 420), "This chapter was peer reviewed by several professors of philosophy who ... approved its publication.... Note that the hypertechnical style of this chapter was made necessary to meet peer-review standards of logical precision and validity."

(8) It is worth noting that Loftus's book is placed 12,000th on Amazon's bestseller list. A book of the same title by ID advocate William Dembski is placed 105,000th. Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion is placed 673rd. So maybe the forces of ignorance are not winning after all.

Inside Scientology: The Story of America's Most Secretive Religion
Janet Reitman
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
215 Park Avenue South, New York NY 10003
9780618883028 $28.00

As early as her book's subtitle, Janet Reitman endorses the Big Lie that Scientology is a religion. Scientology is not a religion. When L. Ron Hubbard combined his headshrinking scam, Dianetics, with science fiction in order to create Scientology, he stated categorically that it was not a religion. He reversed himself only after learning that he could obtain a billion-dollar IRS tax exemption by claiming that it was a religion. Like Hubbard's science fiction novels, Scientology is set in a space opera scenario as far removed from realty as Star Wars. Of course that is equally true of real religions. But real religions claim to be in effect channeling an omnipotent Sky Fuhrer. The only "he who must be obeyed" in Scientology is Ron Hubbard - as channeled by his self-appointed successor, David Miscavige.

But while Reitman's subtitle seeks to avoid litigation by not offending that nice Mr Ponzi (or is it Miscavige; it is hard to tell the difference), she admits in her introduction (p. xiii) that, "Whether or not Scientology is a religion is a matter of enduring debate." And, while reporting (p. xii) the cult's claim to have "millions of members in 165 different countries," she also reports (pp. xvi-xvii) surveys that found that the number of Scientologists in America is between 25,000 and 55,000, and worldwide between 40,000 and 250,000.

Scientology's most visible spokesperson, an actor whose credits include destroying Mission Impossible by turning it into a James bond clone, is best known for his denunciations (parroting Hubbard) of psychiatry, leading the masses to conclude that, if Scientology denounces psychiatry, then psychiatry must be legitimate. Psychiatry is as legitimate as bartending and taxi-driving, whose practitioners similarly engage in sympathetic listening and asking, "And how did that make you feel?" Consider this analogy. Michel Gauquelin recognized that sun-sign astrology is bunk, and created a planet-based alternative that he called astrobiology. Astrology is bunk - and astrobiology is bunk. L. Ron Hubbard recognized that psychiatry is bunk, and invented an alternative that he called Dianetics. Psychiatry is bunk - and Dianetics is bunk. In combining the bunk of Dianetics with a science fiction plot in which aliens came to earth sixty trillion years before the universe existed (p. 49) from a planet named [verified by Jon Atack and Google] "Lick my arse" (Arslycus). Hubbard did not create a religion. He created science fiction bunk.

Reitman's biography of Hubbard is as accurate as can be expected, considering that her subject habitually published incompatible accounts of his life that, when he was 23, caused one observer to remark (p. 8), "Ron, you're eighty-four years old, aren't you?" She leaves little doubt that he was a pathological liar who gave every impression of believing his own lies, and a fruitcake who would have had Nurse Ratched beating a path to his door. Unfortunately, her observations are clouded by her own cultural conditioning. For example, she states as fact that Hubbard was a skilled hypnotist who used hypnosis to recover forgotten memories, and that he invented a new lie detector. Newsflash: there is no such thing as hypnotism, no such thing as recovered memories, and no such thing as a lie detector.

The definitive expose of the Scientology confidence swindle is still Jon Atack's A Piece of Blue Sky, which Reitman describes (p. 372) as "biased." Apparently her concept of unbiased is leaning over backward to present "the other side," even when there is no other side. Perhaps, being aware that even though Scientology lost its libel suit against Time magazine, the suit cost Time millions of dollars in lawyers' fees, she is willing to go to great lengths to avoid a similar situation.

Scientology is an abominable and detestable crime against the gullible. Its perpetrators should face the same penalties as peddlers of recovered memory and facilitated communication. And while no one would accuse the cult's creator, L. Ron Hubbard, of having a conscience, its current autocrat, David Miscavige, not only makes Hubbard look like a moderate; he makes Al Capone look less totalitarian. The rest of the world should follow France's lead and move to ban Scientology as an organized crime syndicate posing as a religion.

Believing Bullshit: How Not to Get Sucked into an Intellectual Black Hole
Stephen Law
Prometheus Books
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst NY 14228-2119
9781616144111 $19.00

In a universe produced and directed by an all-powerful, all-benevolent God (capitalized to distinguish the god of popular religion from, for example, the god of deism), non-manmade evil, such as the Indian Ocean tsunami that killed a quarter million humans, could not exist. Since such evil observably does exist, it necessarily follows that God does not exist. In the two thousand years since Epicurus drew attention to that reality, defenders of the God hypothesis have been trying to rationalize it away by various theodicies that all amount to, "When God does it, it is not evil." Stephen Law spells out those "mysterious ways" theodicies as sympathetically as possible, in an attempt to show that persons who resort to such doublethink are not necessarily escapees from Nurse Ratched's Cuckoo's Nest.

Nonetheless, he argues (p. 28) that, "We know there is more than enough [good in the world] to establish beyond reasonable doubt that there's no evil god. So why can't we know that there's more than enough evil to rule out the good god hypothesis as well?" He concludes that attempts to rationalize away the problem of evil are "bullshit," defined as indefensible falsehoods that their propagators sincerely believe are true, logical, and morally sound.

He also describes eight techniques by which believers in bullshit reinforce their beliefs by what amounts to self-brainwashing. He explains that even the most skeptical of us are not immune to logical-sounding arguments that are in fact totally illogical. He hopes that, if he cannot completely immunize us, he can at least make us aware of the proximity of "intellectual black holes" and maximize our ability to remain outside of the event horizon beyond which escape becomes impossible.

The black hole analogy is perhaps a little strained. Whereas not even light can escape from a black hole, escapes from such intellectual black holes as Scientology, homeopathy, and Christian Science occur at infrequent intervals. But while Law recognizes that the persons who could most benefit from Believing Bullshit are the least likely to read it, he nonetheless provides the information that could conceivably cure them if they ever did read it.

I have never considered the rationalization that God exists outside of time and space as worthy of dignifying with a rebuttal. Law's position is that (p. 39), "Talk about a nontemporal agent or person seems, on closer inspection, to make little more sense than talk of a four-sided triangle." Well put.

A controlled investigation of the effect of intercessory prayer on the recovery rate of heart patients found that prayer had no effect. Defenders of the hypothesis that prayer works responded that (p. 49), "God will not be tested." Law's summary of the believers' position is, "God does answer petitionary prayers, just not under controlled experimental conditions." Similarly, believers in parapsychology rationalize that experiments that find no evidence for the existence of ESP prove nothing, because "psi is shy" and will not manifest itself in the presence of a skeptic. I find myself wondering which claim is further removed from reality: that an abstract force of nature could be so pissed off by the presence of skeptics that it would refuse to manifest itself; or that a supposedly benevolent god would refuse to aid the suffering for the same petty reason. Do defenders of such a capricious, egotistical serial killer not grasp that their Sky Fuhrer's nonexistence is its only redeeming feature?

Law agrees with the reasoning that the evolution of a Goldilocks universe in which humans can flourish is extremely improbable. But, echoing Richard Dawkins, he points out (p. 52) that, "if the theist is right and the probability of such complexity just happening to exist is very low, then surely the probability of god existing must be even lower." But logical inconsistency is not the only rebuttal of the God (as opposed to god) hypothesis. In addition to the observable problem of evil is the scientifically testable contention that God performed specific actions (p. 49). "Claim, as many do, that your God created the entire universe about six thousand years ago, and science can establish beyond a reasonable doubt that no god of that sort exists."

"Dawkins claims that the earth is round. But by quoting his words I have rebutted him and thereby proven that the earth is flat." That is not an actual quotation from nonsense parroter Alister McGrath, but it is an absolute analogy. McGrath is so firmly entrapped in an intellectual black hole from which no rational human thought can escape, that he seriously believes he has rebutted Dawkins' The God Delusion. He reached that belief by projecting onto Dawkins all of the intellectual and ethical inadequacies he sees in the mirror. Law recognizes (pp. 54-55) that, "McGrath entirely fails to engage with Dawkins's argument.... McGrath here just asserts that the god question cannot be fairly conclusively settled on the basis of observational evidence. Again, he has no argument at all."

In other words McGrath is as much a bullshit peddler as a flat earther, but not (in Law's opinion) a conscious liar. In my review of McGrath's Why God Won't Go Away, I suggested that the only unanswered question is whether McGrath should be classified as mentally handicapped or mentally deranged. But one could ask that of every incurable bullshit addict. The bulk of Law's book is devoted to explaining why bullshit believers (p. 56), after "entertaining a serious doubt, can quickly be lulled back to sleep."

Law quotes arguments demolishing the mantra that, "you can't prove a negative." Those arguments may not cure those who have already been sucked into that particular intellectual black hole. But they could prevent persons on the verge from falling in.

On the issue of whether beliefs whose only basis is, "the bible says so," should be taught in science and history classes as alternative hypotheses, Law offers his evaluation (p. 93). "Teaching children that Young Earth Creationism is scientifically respectable ... involves getting them to think in ways that, under other circumstances, might justifiably lead us to suspect the thinker is suffering from some sort of mental illness.... We may end up corrupting not just what they think but, more important, how they think."

Law reports (pp. 222-223) conversations with an acquaintance who is a Young Earth Creationist. He describes her defence of her position as primarily, "But It Fits," with elements of "The Blunderbuss," "Playing the Mystery Card," "I Just Know," "Going Nuclear," "Pressing Your Buttons," and "Moving the Semantic Goalposts." He makes no mention of ever questioning her about the fourteen biblical anecdotes that could be true if and only if the earth is flat. Does he think that, if she could rationalize away her bible's young-earth cosmography, she would react similarly to its flat earth cosmography? Or is he himself unaware of such passages?

At this point let me mention one serious problem with this book, even though it does not undermine any of Dr Law's arguments. There are technical and grammatical errors of the kind that a computer spell-check would not have caught but a proofreading should have, such as the omission of articles ("employ [an] auxiliary hypothesis"), the insertion of quotation marks where they do not belong, and the repeated pairing of a plural pronoun with a singular antecedent ("someone who believes they are psychic"). Is the latter an example of carrying political correctness to the absurd length of intentionally using substandard English in order not to appear sexist? Memo: The appropriate personal pronoun is the common gender, "he."

Stephen Law is a lecturer in philosophy, a discipline whose very survival depends on the "eight key strategies" he describes and denounces in this book. Yet just as believers in any one religion are able to recognize the flaws in every religion but their own, Law is able to recognize that the same key strategies used to defend philosophy's contentless doubletalk are fraudulent when applied to every self-delusion other than his own. Law's book indeed explains why so many people who believe bullshit are in an intellectual black hole - including believers in the undisciplined mental gymnastics that Mark Twain described as "a blind man in a dark room searching for a black cat that is not there."

William Harwood

Heidi's Bookshelf

Latin Grilling: Recipes to Share, from Patagonian Asado to Yucatecan Barbecue and More
Lourdes Castro
Photographer: Tara Donne
Ten Speed Press
an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc.
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
9781607740049 $22.00

I lived on the Gulf Coast of Florida for three years and fell hard for Cuban food during my stay. Thanks to that ongoing food-affair, this Latin Grilling cookbook definitely needed some of my attention. The breadth of food cultures and resulting flavors presented is interesting, educational, and just plain fun. Fixing tasty food on the grill is a basic pleasure during nice weather.

A variety of qualities make the presentation of this book unique. Menus including groups of recipes are the focus of the book. This helps round out your experience with new flavors. Ms. Castro does a great job balancing the meals presented. Fresh, simple salads compliment complicated rubs or marinates while drawing on tastes local to the highlighted grill recipes. With specific instructions and lovely photographs, you won't have any trouble assembling the elements for great results.

My family really enjoyed our test recipes. When I asked which single recipe to choose as the review focus, we had trouble selecting just one. The Mexican Chocolate Cupcakes on page 38 create an intense chocolate flavor similar to brownies with a much lighter texture. Top the cupcakes with the suggested Cajeta Buttercream recipe for an extremely decadent treat. The Cuban grilled pork also placed high on our recommendation list. The citrus base and juicy pork exactly represents one of the things I feel in love with during my time in Florida.

The winner, however, was the Chile-Rubbed Tuna Steak with Avocado and Lime. Try this recipe - it will absolutely inspire your taste buds. Once you're familiar with this rub and grilling the tuna, you can expand how you use the combination in a variety of ways.

Chile-Rubbed Tuna Steak with Avocado and Lime

Chile Rub

3/4 c chipotle chile powder

1/4 c ancho chile powder

4 teaspoons grown cumin

2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons dried oregano

4 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

4 pounds tuna, portioned into 8 (1-inch-thick) steaks

3 Haas avocado, sliced and sprinkled with lime juice

5 limes, quartered

Cilantro sprigs for garnish

Prepare the Rub: Put all the rub ingredients in a blow and mix well. Set aside.

Heat the Grill and Prepare the Tuna: Heat your grill to high (550 degrees F) and close the lid. Wait at least 15 minutes before continuing.

Place all of the rub on a large plate or cutting board. Working with one tuna teak at a time, gentle press the steak unto the rub mix, creating a spice crust on all sides of the fish. Set aside and repeat with the rest of the steaks.

Oil the grill grates with a vegetable oil-soaked paper towel held with a long pair of tongs. Place the tuna steaks on the grill and cook until the reach the desired doneness: on average, a 1-inch tuna steak takes about 2 minutes per side to be cooked are and about 3 minutes per side for medium-rate. Keep in mind you are grilling on high heat and the fish will cook quickly.

Serve: Place the tuna on a large platter and garish with sliced avocado, limes wedges, and springs of cilantro.

You may benefit from some tips for finding the right chile powders. In some areas, even the ethnic cooking section of your market may not have these options. However, definitely start here first. Although you may find some of the more specialized chile powders in the standard spice section, they are often more expensive and not as fresh. You still may want locate a Carniceria, or Latin meat market, for the best selection.

When you're ready to try additional recipes from Latin and South America, here are a few other titles you may find interesting. "The Book of Latin American Cooking," by Elisabeth Lambert Ortiz available from the publisher Ecco. Surprisingly, one of the corporate-style books is also an excellent source for Latin techniques and recipes: "Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Latin Cooking: Recipes and Techniques for Authentic Home-Cooked Meals." This book is attributed to Williams-Sonoma and published by Oxmoor House. Many families, regardless their cooking heritage, find the foods from South and Central America satisfying additions to regular meals. Perhaps "Latin Grilling" is just the book to spice up your table each week.

400 Best Sandwich Recipes (From Classics and Burger to Wraps & Condiments)
Alison Lewis
Robert Rose, Inc.
120 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 800
Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M4P 1E2
9780778802655 24.95

Sandwiches make great, fast meals but sometimes a cook needs new inspiration. At my house, a basic, brown-bag school sandwich doesn't work for dinner. So I picked up the new cookbook by Alison Lewis boosting over 100 recipes for great sandwiches. Even if you're fairly new to the kitchen, these recipes are accessible. Only a few recipes require a bit more skill. In the case of the Cheese Danish recipe, the extra skill and effort pay off.

The layout of the book is very useful for a cookbook. Some books have such small print that it's difficult to work a recipe "on the fly" in your kitchen. Not the case with this collection: legibility is great. In addition, quantities are provided in both metric and imperial measurements. Although only a few pictures are included, the full-page, full-color shots are inspiring. You might just find they make you hungry. A few certainly got attention from others in my household.

The only layout issue I experienced is that the book doesn't lay flat. I had to put weights on the sides to keep it open. While canned goods do a fair job keeping a book open, they can be hard to see around. Some of the instructions may get your hands dirty; I prefer to keep my cookbooks as clean as possible. That was, however, the only real drawback to this book.

A few recipes really stood out from the rest. Page 132 featured a recipe using Salmon and Goat cheese. The dredge for the salmon steak got rave reviews during testing. It is surprisingly flavorful and had less heat from the chili peppers than expected. We will definitely keep this recipe around for future use.

I liked the Shawarma Sandwich the best. It combined flavors that I've only had while eating out and made a satisfying meal. Definitely include the Tzatziki recipe suggested. Thanks to the included recipe section, highlighting your sandwich creations with just the right condiment is easy.

Shawarma Sandwich

Serves 4

2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2 inch slices

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp salt

1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1 tsp ground allspice

1 tsp ground cardamom

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

1 cup lain, nonfat yogurt

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

4 pita, 6- to 8- inch pockets, opened for serving

Toppings, optional

Shredded lettuce

Chopped tomatoes

Sliced cucumbers


Classic Tzatziki (page 315) or Cilantro-Yogurt Sauce (page 317)

Preheat greased barbecue grill to medium-high.

In a large bowl, combine chicken, garlic, salt, pepper, allspice, cardamom, nutmeg, yogurt and lemon juice. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for 1 hour or overnight.

Remove chicken from marinade, discarding the excess marinade. Place chicken on preheated grill, close lid and grill, turning once, for 6 to 8 minutes per side for medium or until no longer pink inside. Serve inside pita with desired toppings.

Variation: Replace chicken with beer.

If you're one of the those people who got a Panini press for a gift and are still wondering what to do with it, I recommend this cookbook. While you also get other sandwich recipes, many of the grilled sandwiches from Ms. Lewis are easy to make. You'll also find them filling, fun to make, and nice enough for dinner.

Heidi Sue Roth

Henry's Bookshelf

Jean-frederic Waldeck - Artist of Exotic Mexico
Esther Pasztory
U. of New Mexico Press
Albuquerque, NM
9780826347039 $55.00

Jean Frederic-Waldeck (1766-1875) was a marginal 19th-century artist who by temperament, training, and conventions worked in the academic style. In the 1820s, seeing the chance to make a name for himself by painting Native American artifacts coming to the interest of European Geographical Societies, he went to Central America as an employee (an engineer) with a mining company. He did not remain in this position long however; and he soon takes part in a competition of the Geographical Society of Paris for exact drawings of Central American sites as well as engages in art projects of his own. In the mid 1830s, he did receive a medal from the Society for his art work upon moving to Paris. For the rest of his long life spent mostly in France, he oversaw the publication of books of his Central American drawings and paintings and donations and use of his paintings and writings in study of the pre-Columbian Native American cultures.

Waldeck's academic affectations are especially noticeable in his pictures of Aztec warriors. These take ballet-like or mock-heroic poses. And others look like they are modeling ancient Aztec warrior dress. Presuming Waldeck was not making fun of the warriors or their culture, it appears it is impossible for him to grasp any individual, object, or scenario outside of the European idiom of academicism. His drawings of monuments and parts of them such as friezes or facades are idealized architecture, not archaeological ruins. Individual objects such as bowls are made to look as appealing as if they are in a sales catalog. Yet despite all the surfeit of apparently helpless affectations, the range of subjects of the drawings and their details capture and preserve important features of Aztec and Central American native culture.

Pasztory wisely does not attempt a reevaluation of Waldeck, as is sometimes done to move an overlooked or undervalued artist to higher status. Her critique balances Waldeck's pluses and drawbacks simply to bring him into the picture for art historians and also archaeologists and anthropologists while trying to make some sense of him as an individual. As long as his life was, all that can be said is that it was checkered. In his 80s, he married a teenager. He also took inexplicably but not unexpectedly to doing erotica for a time. Not enough is known about him to cast light on his psychology or motives or what he believed he was trying to accomplish or express. Though Pasztory makes an attempt at this. Accomplishing all that can be done in the case of Waldeck, the author recounts his long biography with art criticism, art history, and psychological comment and presents a color catalog of 95 of the artist's works.

The Ultimate Bar Book - The World of Spirits and Cocktails
Andre Domine et al.
H. F. Ullmann
imprint of Tandem Verlag GmbH
9783833148033 $49.99

The "Ultimate" of the title is not in this case hyperbolic. And to say the book is encyclopedic, though this is true, is to put it in a category of many other voluminous books. With this book, its comprehensiveness, organization, and its visual content want to be stressed. It's a state-of-the-art reference with an art book appeal, though smaller. Left out on a counter or table, one seeing it is drawn to it out of curiosity and its visual promise. "State-of-the-art" applies because "spirits"--whiskeys, bourbons, rums, liqueurs, vermouths, cognacs, flavored brandies, fortified wines, and others--are not the defined group of alcohols many may assume. While many are ancient, new ones are coming up all the time from from the invention of distilleries and to meet changing tastes around the world. The text mostly by Domine who did the bulk of the research involving worldwide travel with ancillary chapters by others relates the origins and histories including migration of the older spirits; while with the newer spirits, many from recent decades with the mixing of cultures in globalization, developments in regional cultures, usually business activity, and marketing ideas are noted. All of this is accompanied by bountiful and diversified color photos on nearly every page. multishaped bottles of the numerous spirits, farm fields, close-ups of plants, distillery equipment, maps, vintage advertising, and multicolored cocktails are all parts of this.

The reader could be overwhelmed by the wealth of content and its colorful and informative detail but for the detailed Contents and five indexes of people, places, subject, spirits and producers, and cocktails. Some readers will find the three-page Glossary is helpful too as an introduction with its translations of foreign terms, names for pieces of equipment and bar utensils, and names for general categories of spirits.

The book brings the world of spirits to the same level of interest and appeal as outstanding books on wines and beers have. And as others have regarding wines and beers, many will be inspired to rewardingly explore this world with this authoritative, reliable work as a guide.

Film and the American Moral Vision of Nature - Theodore Roosevelt to Walt Disney
Ronald B. Tobias
Michigan State U. Press
East Lansing, MI
9781611860016 $39.95

As Tobias shows, Theodore Roosevelt's outsize personality and exploits shaped not only American foreign policy, but also shaped Americans' relationship to and perspective on nature. Tobias is a professor of science and natural history filmmaking at Montana State U. whose films have appeared on PBS, the Discovery Channel, the Travel Channel. and elsewhere.

In the macroscopic, simplistic view, TR reflected the ingrained, characteristic national belief of the US heroically forging its way in the world, overcoming any challenges, and seeking out new ventures by which to test its mettle and prowess and thus beneficially remold the world in its image. Tobias however brings out the underside of this image, both its undesirable and frequently harmful effects and also the blind spots in it as a concept embodied in the national image. The lasting impact of Roosevelt's attitude toward nature and related exploits especially of hunting in the West and in Africa are the foundation of the book with the author following strands of these as presumptions about nature, racism, Africa as the Dark Continent, American virtue, and practically divine destiny. Even TR's enthusiasm for national parks evidences the presumption that nature can be circumscribed and thus defined according to national policy. And in pursuing such policy so the public can have an appreciation of nature, this objectifies nature and gives it a status as entertainment more than environment. Such popular policy is markedly different, for example, from Native American attunement to nature.

Walt Disney's usually fanciful and benign (e. g., singing, dancing animals) picture of nature is seen more as a facet of Roosevelt's attitude and treatment of nature than a change of it. "Disney's portrayal of nature reflects an intoxicating mix of spiritual idealism, self-loathing, and a longing for innocence, outlooks he shared with Americans as a result of a common ideological heritage...[for example] Disney recast [animals] in patently human domestic terms so average Americans could identify with how animals fought for their share of the American Dream."

The book is timely and engaging because its illumination of the ambivalent American attitude toward nature which is ultimately distancing and imperialistic is done in terms of media and imagery making it a work on popular culture. Tobias offers stimulating insights and different evaluations of familiar features of popular culture such as Roosevelt's tracking down thieves who stole his canoe, his hunting elephants in Africa, and Disney's animated films. One such entertaining thread is precursors of the movie King Kong shown to be an outstanding example of the ambivalent regard of nature with alternating sentimentality toward King Kong and the climactic killing of him atop the Empire State Building, one of modern culture's crowning achievements, by a symbol of modern culture's technology, airplanes with mounted machine guns. For the reader. entertainment and enlightenment are seamlessly wedded.

Henry Berry

Karyn's Bookshelf

Beauty Queens
Libba Bray, author
Scholastic Press/Scholastic, Inc.
557 Broadway, New York, NY 10012
9780439895972, $18.99

Fresh off a 2010 Printz Award for "Going Bovine," Bray again masterfully blends poignancy and hilarity. "Beauty Queens" follows a group of teenage beauty contestants whose airplane crashes on a remote island en route to a national pageant. There are just a few survivors, each with a unique life story and coming-of-age struggles to surmount. Removed from everyday life and with no adults in sight, the girls relish the chance to ponder who they are and who they want to be and must decide if they're gutsy enough to bust parental and societal expectations that are especially stifling in a pageant circuit. Suddenly, pretty, congenial and evening gown perfect might not be what they want. Suddenly, loosening one's mind, tongue and body might be OK. As with her previous books Bray expertly balances soul searching with heaping dollops of fun. The laughs start early and swell to an uproarious conclusion that's part castaway rescue, part condemnation of corporate greed and part James Bond. And somehow, hot guys find their way into the mix. Bray has that great, elusive gift of making you laugh, cry and think, often all at once. Another winner.

Odd Bird Out
Helga Bansch, author and illustrator
Gecko Press
C/O Myrick Marketing & Media
455 Sam Ridley Parkway West
PMB 248, Smyyrna, TN 37167
9781877467080, $17.95

Bold cover color lures and the tale of a young raven that bucks black-and-white convention thoroughly delights. Robert the raven doesn't fit the narrow, conservative box that defines accepted raven society. He dresses too brightly, sings too off-key, tells too-dumb jokes and generally refuses to tow the expected line. Expelled from his birth flock, he finds solace in a new tree where many different species of birds (no ravens) appreciate his theatrics and style. But then, the ravens reconsider their dull life. They invite in a travelling performer whom they don't recognize as Robert. He brings down the house but doesn't reveal his identity. Bansch's writing is simple and succinct, brief yet not plot-sacrificing. Great use of color sets Robert and his new friends (bright hues) apart from the raven pack (somber charcoals). Dressing the ravens in black and gray really makes Robert and other colored elements pop. A beautifully illustrated gentle fable about the importance of painting your own way.

Charley Harper, author and illustrator
AMMO (American Modern) Books
300 S. Raymond Ave., Suite 3, Pasadena, CA 91105
9781934429549, $9.95

Harper eschews primary hues and gentle contours that you might expect in a board book, choosing instead an edgier palette and abstract, geometrical style that are more art, less conventional preschool color primer. "An old-fashioned lady with a hot pink hat," has salmon-colored skin. Two colorful birds sit on "pointy green leaves." Four ladybugs face inward in a circle, their necks creating a square. Inside the square, curved heads create a four-pronged star. Bright colors mingle with earth tones, graceful curves with sharp lines. While the natural world is the predominant subject matter, man-made things like "a tan-colored car and a secret experiment," creep in, too. The lesson, of course, is that art needn't be bound by rules, a concept preschoolers aren't too young to be exposed to. Beautiful in its very own, unbound way.

Two Little Chicks Go To School
Valeri Gorbachev, author and illustrator
NorthSouth Books
350 Seventh Ave., Suite 1400, New York, NY 10001
9780735840270, $6.95

Just in time for fall comes a gentle tale of school jitters and peer acceptance. Two little chicks are starting school. Once there, they worry about making friends. As the day progresses they begin to despair of bonding with classmates. Then, during a walk to a nearby meadow, working together to cross a stream becomes the catalyst for friendships with others, including a beaver, frog, rabbit, raccoon, fox and mouse. "We like school," the chicks pronounce at day's end. "We made lots of friends." Gentle nature-inspired illustrations, an accessible board book format and the comforting message should help calm the worries of young children facing new school situations.

The Umbrella
Ingrid and Dieter Schubert, authors and illustrators
Lemniscaat Publishers
C/O Myrick Marketing & Media
455 Sam Ridley Parkway West
PMB 248, Smyyrna, TN 37167
9781935954002, $16.95

If the art is good enough it's all you need. Fear, awe, joy -- it's all there in the delightfully expressive illustrations by husband and wife Ingrid and Dieter Schubert . "The Umbrella" follows a small black terrier that's swept up into a windy, autumn leaf-strewn sky while clutching a bright red umbrella. The dog and umbrella are carried around the world. At various points the dog lands on an African plain; in the ocean where it's jettisoned by a spouting whale; on a tropical island where it's lifted to safety by a friendly pelican, away from arrow-slinging natives; and in the arctic where a baby polar bear watches in wonder as the dog flies past. Throughout, the Schuberts beautifully capture the faces and emotions of the dog and creatures it encounters. The whale is fierce; crocodiles menacing; seals playful. The dog thrills at sliding down a snowy hill; cringes at a massive ocean wave; and saunters across a bed of high, cotton ball clouds. In the end, all is well as it lands safely back home. A charming intro to world ecosystems, with a fluffy hero that children won't help but fall in love with.

Karyn L. Saemann

Katherine's Bookshelf

Bob the Dragonslayer
Harry E. Gilleland
Raleigh, N.C
9781411633155 $9.98

I have just finished reading Bob the Dragonslayer by Harry E. Gilleland, Jr. I laughed from the beginning to the end and am still laughing at the memories. This is a book that will delight all dragon legend aficionados who are mature enough to understand the double entendres and the plain old fun. I know I was delighted and I am not an aforementioned aficionado. I just like humor.

"Long, long ago in a place far, far away there was an age of chivalry, a time of royalty, of gallant knights and fair ladies who were always getting themselves in distress and needing to be saved (seems like a clever dating technique to me, but whatever), of wizards and magic, and of course, of dragons needing to be slain...."

Bob is just a peasant who wants to make something of himself. He decides dragon slaying and rescuing damsels in distress is the way to do it. He meets Stephen, a wizard, who gives Bob a magic sword that he calls Bruce (because he has always liked the name). Stephen weaves a tale about the sword having magical powers through being stuck into magic water that has poison in it. Since Bob sticks the sword into the dragon's hearts, is it really magical? You get to decide.

The story follows Bob through many adventures, including several dragon slayings and attempts at saving damsels in distress. Then he meets a man who becomes his best friend and champion. Sir Wilford, or Willie, as Bob calls him discovers a secret about Bob. Willie invites him to live in his castle for the winter, where Bob learns what a knight needs to know, such as fighting and court etiquette.

Bob meets Lady Katherine, saves her from distress and falls in love with her. He accompanies her to her father's castle, where they meet her father and Willie. Willie and Katherine's father tell him of his true heritage. Bob decides to follow his destiny. He and his friends train an army and equip them with armor and weapons. There is a battle with the usurper king that ends with a happy ending for all except the enemy. You will enjoy this book for the humor and interesting twists in the story.

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

God's Healing Plan
Janice F. Baca
Tate Publishing
127 E Trade Center Terrace, Mustang, OK 73064
9781617396816 $13.99

Janice F. Baca has written an inspiring book, God's Healing Plan, relating her personal journey to salvation and redemption. She tells of two of her three marriages and alludes to the first one. Her marriages are the crux of her fight with the demons that plague her.

"Every so often a testimony is given that reignites the heart, a story is shared and moves the soul, or a trial that ends in triumph."

Janice was an Air Force nurse who ministered physically and emotionally to the soldiers who came through the hospital she worked at in Germany. Many of them and their families later disclosed to her how much they appreciated her ministrations to their loved ones.

Long distance marital troubles with her second husband left Janice so despondent that she almost took her own life. Her journey up from this abyss is a very inspiring story. Through her faith and with the support of her family and friends, she worked out her difficulties and became a stronger person who was better equipped to minister to others in need.

When she became stronger, physically and spiritually, she left the Air Force and moved to Colorado. She joined a church there and met David Baca, the man who eventually becomes her third husband and soul mate. Janice now feels her life is complete.

This is a book that will encourage people to get their life back on track. Janice shares, through her testimony, the steps that she took for her personal redemption and encourages others to use them for their own salvation.

The book is well thought out, but there are some areas in Janice's story that I thought she might want to rewrite for more understanding and cohesion. Nevertheless, Janice's book is a motivating book for people looking for answers in their own life. By following the steps Janice outlines, anyone can find the faith and help they need in their lives.

This is a testimony you will enjoy reading and using in your own journey to redemption.

White Lightning Road
Harry E. Gilleland, Jr.
3131 RDU Center Drive Suite 210, Morrisville, NC 27560
9781411686939 $13.75

White Lightning Road is the story of best friends, Jennifer James and Sally Jeffers, penned as a first contemporary novel by Harry E. Gilleland. The girls both are both city dwellers, relocated by family events to rural northern Louisiana.

"No, Jenny did not consider the family's move to White Lightning Road to be a good trade. The sight of riverboats plying the Mississippi River was replaced with bass boats fishing area lakes. Trips to the Audubon Zoo were replaced by the hunting of deer with bow and arrow or high-powered rifles. Clothes shopping, once plentiful and convenient now required a road trip to Monroe to the east or Shreveport to the west...."

Jenny and Sally become as best friends and confidants, but when they graduate, they both head back to the big city. Although separated by miles, their friendship endures long distance. Each marries, Sally twice and Jenny once, but both lose their respective spouses through divorce and death.

Then tragedy strikes and Jenny has to return to White Lightning Road to settle her parent's estate after they are killed in an automobile wreck. Intrigue follows her as she goes through the memories at her former home. She meets Michael Garrot when he comes by and literally demands that she sell him her property. This is not the way to get what he wants from her, as he soon finds out. She learns that his background is fraught with mystery. The people in the area think he killed the drunk who ran down his wife and child.

As the story unfolds, we learn about a predator stalking Jenny. He stalks and kills Jenny's little dog, Maxx. Jenny calls Michael to help her investigate the unpleasant incident. What happens to Jenny and Michael is the heart of Part One.

Almost as an afterthought, Sally's story is told in Part Two. She transfers to Atlanta as the secretary of a vice president of the company and meets a man 9 years younger than she is and falls in love. After their love affair falls apart, she has to fight a sexual harassment suit against her boss. Her attorney is Michael's brother. This attorney/client relationship leads to a surprise ending for all of the main characters.

For a first effort at a novel, this is a good one. Mr. Gilleland writes, alternately in the past and present tense, which is a bit unusual, but still interesting. You will enjoy the fast paced narrative and how the romance is interwoven into the mystery of the 'stalker'.

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

Poetic Musings of an Old, Fat Man
Harry E Gilleland, Jr.
3131 RDU Center Drive Suite 210, Morrisville, NC 27560
9781435712423 $12.98

Harry Gilleland will give you pause as you read his Poetic Musings of an Old, Fat Man, a sometimes reflective, sometimes funny and always contemplative book of rhyming poems and storems (a term evidently coined by the author). You will laugh, cry and enjoy the thoughts that he has put into poetry for you (and himself).

Mr. Gilleland covers almost all aspects of life in this book of poetry - home life, local events, world affairs and just plain old happenings. And just think - any of them could have happened to you at some time in your life.

You will want to go back to these anecdotes in poem and storoem over and over to muse along with the author. As you reread them, you will find new and interesting outlooks in the wording, the stanzas or the whole work.

Here is an example of his work from "Dog Pack Attack":

"The officer said, "In an hour or so I'll be back at work. After all, it was just a Chihuahua pack. Being attacked by angry Chihuahuas rankles since mostly they do injury to your ankles."

Although this does not tell the whole storoem, it gives an insight to Mr. Gilleland's sense of humor that is written into his book of poems and storoems and will persuade you to want to read more of this talented writer's works. You cannot miss reading this thought provoking book, whether you are a poet at heart or not.

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

Priscilla Holmes
John Lance
4RV Publishing LLC
PO Box 6482, Edmond, OK 73083
9780984070879 $13.99

Priscilla Holmes, Ace Detective by John Lance is a very funny, imaginative children's book that calls on many familiar fairy tales, such as the Muffin Man, Cinderella, Rapunzel and others, to tell the story and solve the crime. It will make adults want to reminisce about their childhood and retell their favorite stories.

The mystery loosely follows the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears as they return home and find someone has been in their house. Priscilla is hired by the Bear family to find out who broke furniture in their house and ate their porridge. She begins her investigation and finds the following clues:

"1. Shoeprint (small)

2. Long blonde hair

3. Pink bow"

With just these three clues and her 'greatly honed detective skills' she investigates and solves the mystery. The solution will not be a surprise to those who are up on their fairy tales. However, following Priscilla through her detecting process is unanticipated fun for all ages. The penalty for the perpetrator is one that is in line with the offense.

I really enjoyed the book and Mr. Lance has a great knack for relating fun stories for children. The illustrations by Dianna Navarro are wonderfully imaginative and telling. Children are going to have a lot of fun with this story and laugh at the insertion of other familiar stories and nursery rhymes.

In an interview with Tracy S. Morris, Mr. Lance discussed the origin of this story:

"Priscilla Holmes is one of those rare cases (for me at least) where the character came first. I was sitting in my study one day and looked out the window to see my daughters playing in the backyard and that was when a girl detective popped into my head. Priscilla is smart and determined (like my daughters) and has a distinct dislike for cleaning her room (also like my daughters)."

John Lance lives in Massachusetts with his wife, two daughters and two slightly-crazed Labrador Retrievers. He enjoys spending time with his family and reading, writing and working in his garden.

Priscilla Holmes and the Case of the Glass Slipper
John Lance
4RV Publishing LLC
PO Box 6482, Edmond OK 73083
9780982659496 $14.99

John Lance has done it again! He has written an amusing children's book with a new twist in Priscilla Holmes and the Case of the Glass Slipper. There are some curious references to a familiar fairy tale that has to do with a beautiful girl who went to a dance at the palace and danced with the prince, then left in a hurry and lost her magic glass slipper.

Priscilla, the Ace Detective, is called on by the prince to find the beautiful princess he danced with at the ball. So she gets to work. She begins to follow the clues and comes up with 3 clues that she has to sort out to solve the mystery of who the missing princess is. They are:

"1. A pumpkin coach

2. A magical glass slipper

3. A pair of mysterious strangers. One wears the same size shoe as the missing princess."

She follows the clues to Gary the Glassblowers, then to The Magic Bean to talk to Merlin. This leads her to Aunt Mag's house and the two mysterious strangers. Because of her Ace Detective status, she soon puts the clues together and finds the princess just as the prince shows up. Then comes the twist. For this review, suffice it to say that they all lived happily ever after. You will have to read the book to find out what happens that is a little different from the story you may remember from your childhood.

The illustrations, so aptly done by Diana Navarro, as she did with the first book about the ace detective, provide the reader a definite idea of the characters in the book. The background she depicts in her art is also very well done.

John Lance lives in Massachusetts with his wife, two daughters and two slightly-crazed Labrador Retrievers. He enjoys spending time with his family and reading, writing and working in his garden.

Haunted House Symphony
Sue Latham
Lonely Swan Books
9780983584308 $11.99

I thoroughly enjoyed Haunted House Mystery by Sue Latham, even though the paranormal is not my forte. The plot is well constructed and the conversations are straightforward. I am looking forward to future books to learn more about the characters and enjoy more mysterious ghostly episodes.

"On the day we got the first frantic phone call from Marsha Darnell, I was looking forward to a little bit of down time. We had spent most of the night before in a tavern inhabited by a particularly rambunctious poltergeist, and I had taken a thunk on the head from a flying beer bottle."

This begins a tale of the team of Margo, Ernie, Sandy and Elaine. They investigate paranormal happenings in the small town of Indian Springs. They are called to look into inexplicable happenings in a house in the Victorian section of town that is being renovated by the new owner. There they discover a phenomenon and a centuries old mystery.

There are a few side stories that the author relates to show not all mysterious happening are paranormal - like finding a trio of squirrels in the attic of a sweet lady who is just sure her late husband is trying to contact her.

I am looking forward to more in the series as Ms. Latham recounts more exciting stories about these zany, but dedicated people. The humorous vein that runs through the story is great. I hope Ms. Latham keeps it in future stories of the team.

This is a fun book to read. You must get it and start reading about the people in the little town of Indian Springs.

Little Man: -- A little Girl's Dream
Barbara Dumas Ballew and Bonnie Johnson Ellis
7290 B. Investment Drive, Charleston, SC 29418
978-1453683972 $9.95

Barbara Dumas Ballew and her niece Bonnie Johnson Ellis have written the true story of a horse and his family as a chapter book for young readers, entitled Little Man: --A Little Girl's Dream. They relate the tale of a little horse that was rescued and sent to a rescue farm where he was noticed by a neighbor who eventually bought him for his niece.

Just this beginning is a great story, but they go on to tell more of the story of Little Man's life with the niece, Morgan, and her family. This story is a combination of a tear-jerker in the story of Little Man's abuse at an early age and his eventual rescue and then his final wonderful life with Morgan and her family.

"Little Man saw Bob coming and as usual, hurried to the fence. When the horse walked up to the fence, he lost interest in Bob.

He stuck his head out through the fence and laid his head on Morgan's shoulder. There was an instant bond between the little girl and the little horse that was unmistakable."

This was the beginning of a bond between Little Man and Morgan. Their friendship draws in a large group of new friends for them from the stable owners to the vet. They also introduce other horses as their friends such as Cinnamon, Amy's horse (Morgan's sister) and the future filly that Cinnamon has.

The authors relate the training that the horses and girls go through and we get to watch as they all grow into seasoned horse riders and well-trained competition horses. The best thing is that the family always looked for the best people to help them with their learning curve about horses and training, from mucking out the stalls to training for barrel racing. Everything was done with the safety and health of the horse in mind.

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

Bonnie Ellis has worked for the Mesquite Independent School District for a number of years. She's a wonderful story teller and collaborated with Barbara on several books about her childhood. Bonnie has two grown children and four grandchildren and has a wealth of stories to tell. Her hobbies are cooking and sewing.

The Joke's on Me
Laurie Boris
4RV Publishing LLC
PO Box 6482, Edmond OK 73083
9780982642399 $18.99

Laurie Boris has written a comical book with her first novel, The Joke's on Me. Humor is entwined throughout this book about former actress/comic, Francine Goldberg, Frankie to family and friends, who returns home when she feels that she has been a failure.

"The cherry-red convertible and I bounced down the excuse for a road leading to my mother's bed and breakfast. This was not the most pleasant car trip I'd ever taken, and by the time I got to Woodstock, "bed" and "breakfast" were the only two things I wanted to see, besides a bathroom with a locking door. Unfortunately, when I pulled into the gravel parking lot, there was no room at the inn. The lot overflowed with old Volvos wearing rust spots and bumper stickers like "Free Tibet" and "My Other Car is a Broom".

The catalyst for her return to Woodstock was when the house she was living in rolled down into the Pacific Ocean with all of her worldly belongings, except the cherry red convertible given to her by her former boss. Then the actress she was working for decided to take a hiatus from her work as a famous, well-known actress and didn't need her help. And her mother had a stroke that brought on memory loss.

When she reached her childhood home, she found that her older sister, Jude, had put their mother in a nursing home and started running the family B & B as a holistic health retreat for 'over-the-hill' hippies. She also has ideas for the future of the B & B that will get them back in the black.

Frankie decides to stay and help her sister for the summer. She finds satisfaction in working to save the family business. You will be fascinated by the changes that Frankie undergoes as she sorts out her life.

Some old mysteries, that Frankie was not aware of, pop up as she reflects on her past life and her future. As you read through her memories and the amusing happenings of her former and new life, you will become fascinated with her and her family and friends.

Throughout the summer, Frankie struggles with her future. Should she stay in Woodstock and restore the business her parents had nurtured for so many years or should she head back to the glitz and glamour of Hollywood life? Her decision will be life-changing either way.

Laurie Boris is an award winning freelance writer with a background in advertising and marketing. She has written editorial copy, web articles, press releases, and other marketing materials. She is living in upstate New York working on her next novel.

The Giving Meadow
Stephanie Burkhart
4RV Publishing LLC
PO Box 6482, Edmond OK 73083
9780982588697 $17.99

The life cycle of any aspect of nature written for children can be and usually is a great learning experience for them. Stephanie Burkhart's book, The Giving Meadow is no exception.

When an egg lands in a meadow, the creature that emerges goes through the life cycle of a caterpillar until he wraps himself in a cocoon.

When he was a growing caterpillar, he met and was helped by several very diverse residents of the meadow, a frog, a ladybug, a bee, and a snake.

The lessons depicted in this lovely, brightly illustrated book include, but are not limited to, sharing, friendship, acceptance, understanding and generosity. The friends that the caterpillar makes on his journey to adulthood generously share their bounty with him that he accepts graciously because he knows they understand that he needs their help as he travels on his journey to complete his life cycle.

"The snake told the bee.

The bee told the ladybug.

The ladybug told the frog.

All the caterpillar's friends waited."

The wait was not in vain. The sight that greeted them was a beautiful creature. You must read this book to learn about this amazing metamorphosis.

Children from 4-8, and even some a little younger and a little older, will want to read this book over and over. Younger non-readers will soon begin to anticipate the story and help tell it. You will enjoy reading it to them and watch in excitement as they discover something new in the story or in the illustrations. Older readers will want to re-read and pour over the pictures as they discover more exciting things.

Stephanie Burkhart, originally from New Hampshire, now lives in California with her husband, Brent and her two sons, Andrew and Joseph. She began writing homemade comic books at five years old and hasn't looked back, as she now writes short stories and novels. This is her first children's book.

Katherine Boyer

Kaye's Bookshelf

Just a Bunch of Crazy Ideas
Pardu S. Ponnapalli
Xlibris Corporation
9781456882389, $15.99

Quoting from the back cover:

"This book is about thoughts and ideas on a wide range of subjects. The ideas range from how to modify the game of chess to create a really interesting version to how to pursue exploration of space in a way that captures the imagination of the public. New and innovative viewpoints on practical methods to building a space elevator, designing a method to cope with cat litter and some simple ways to conserve energy are presented. Economic themes about the federal debt and deficit are also examined.

"Pardu Ponnapalli is an IT professional working in Rockville, Maryland. He has been a Star Trek buff all his life. He lives in Hagerstown, Maryland with his wife, son, dog and two cats. This is his first publication. After earning a Ph.D in Physics, he was promptly rewarded with unemployment. Realizing that he had lofty ambitions in life (like eating), he switched into the lucrative IT industry. He has been an IT professional for about 20 years. His hobbies and passions include chess, astronomy and most of all playing with his son."

There are 17 chapters in this little book, each on a particular topic: 1) Space Elevator; 2) Alternative Energies and Energy Conservation; 3) More Thoughts on Energy Conservation; 4) Gas Stations and Filing Up; 5) Luggage and Airplanes; 6) Thoughts on Chess; 7) Thoughts on Ice Hockey; 8) Thoughts on Cats and Cat Litter; 9) Our National Debt and Deficit; 10) I Am Overweight and So are Most Americans; 11) Star Trek and the Reboot; 12) Thoughts about Laptops; 13) Thoughts about Space Exploration; 14) Thoughts on the Stock Market; 15) Automatic Inform Systems for IT Workers; 16) Hikers Who Hurt Themselves; 17) How to Improve Dishwashers.

Just a Bunch of Crazy Ideas is a fairly quick read as it's only 78 pages - a good read before bed. I don't think you'll find any earth-shattering ideas or patents pending, but it was interesting. My favorite chapter was Ponnapalli's self-designed diet program...soups, black coffee or black tea. He includes, in chart form, the progress of his diet. On day one he weighed 208.5 pounds. At the end of his chart, he weighed 204 pounds on day 23. He had tried many diets, as we all have, and decided to create his own. Why not? The only thing that matters is...does it work? I have my own plan: eat your main meal in the middle of the day (whatever your heart desires) and then have a bowl of cereal or cup of yogurt with fruit in the early evening.

As far as Ponnapalli's writing style - informal to a fault - or quality of writing, it's evident he's not a professional writer, but he does gets the job done and his enthusiastic personality shines through. If you have a taste for such an eclectic read, then I'm sure you'll find some value in this little book.

Lifesavers for Grand Parents
Jean Smith
Millennial Mind Publishing/American Book Publishing
139781589828216, $22.00

Quoting from the back cover:

"In the rapidly evolving arena of family dynamics, grandparents are often called on to provide a stable foundation for children. Author Jean Smith, a grandmother of nine, speaks from the field and provides guidelines for success that have been tried and tested. Personal testimonials and stories of a family's journey will inspire you to succeed as a grandparent.

"This is a 'how to do it' book for mature adults who aspire to invest in the future through the lives of their grandchildren."

One might ask, "Why would someone need a 'how-to-do-it' book about grandparenting? Doesn't it just come naturally?" But then again, there are books on 'how to do' just about everything and so, why not a book for and about grandparents?

As I opened the book, I really didn't know what to expect from a 256-page book titled Lifesavers for Grand Parents. However, it didn't take me long to realize this was going to be an enjoyable, informative read, and the reason why?...Jean Smith herself.

Jean is an intelligent, gifted writer who draws upon her personal experiences as a mother of 3 and grandmother of 9, and great grandmother of 1. Her grandchildren span a period of 13 years and include 2 sets of twins, 2 adopted children, and 1 severely handicapped child. But more than her personal grandparenting experiences, she was a director/teacher at a Montessori school for young children, a Bible School teacher, a teen leader, a Cub Scout and Girl Scout troop leader, and a private-swim-school teacher for 30-plus years. As you can imagine, she has spent most of her life in the presence of children.

There are 38 chapters, starting with Chapter 1 - Transition from Parent to Grandparent and ending with Chapter 38 - Are We There Yet?. Each chapter is relatively short; she shares some personal stories; some chapters contain photos of Jean and her family; she provides lots of suggestions and guidance about patience, minding your own business, being helpful, not having your feelings hurt, planning events and what to do on Grandkids' Night and all with a positive, spiritual touch.

It is clear that this woman and her family are a excellent example of a healthy, creative family unit because they care about family and make the effort to make it work. It's not all easy and smooth, but to Jean, it's evidently been worth the effort.

I can recommend Lifesavers for Grand Parents as a memoir, how-to, inspirational read for anyone who loves family, memoirs, and positive guidance.

New Earth: Project O.N.E.
R. D. Pittman
Two Pitts Publishing LLC
9780615499369, $13.95

Quoting from the back cover:

"What if the unthinkable were about to happen, which should you fear more the upcoming apocalypse, or your government's efforts to keep you from finding out too soon?

"If the end was near for all mankind who would you trust to tell you the truth?

"If you knew there was a chance to survive an apocalypse, who would you want to survive with you and would it be your decision to make?

"If the government has a secret list of ideal survivors of a potential cataclysmic incident, who made those decisions and who is on the list?

"If humans are given the opportunity to survive the coming event, can they survive the inhumanity of man?

"Alex Hanken will become one of the most important men in US history...but there are those who will come to fear him more than the coming apocalypse.

"Fear...Distrust...Deceit...a relentless killer.

"Courage...Perseverance...Patriotism...and an American hero.

"All come together in this book about a struggle to survive, to preserve a way of life, and to what ends men will go to achieve it."

To begin, New Earth: Project O.N.E. is the first book in the New Earth Trilogy, and as such R. D. Pittman is off to a good start. This suspense novel is a page-turner of a read filled with fast-paced action by fast thinkers. Most of the story has to do with the discovery that earth will be hit by multiple asteroids, how to keep this a secret, and how to prepared for the devastation.

There are lots of deaths - anyone who might know or cause a problem must die; there's some light romance - both American and Russian - and family; and of course, there are the power people. The story flows smoothly, has a definite contemporary flavor, and a surprise ending.

D. R. Pittman's writing style is typical of the average novel; he tells the story and gets the job done, but there's nothing special to savor. New Earth: Project O.N.E. is well written, well edited, and has an attractive cover. And, yes, I can recommend this read.

Kaye Trout

Logan's Bookshelf

Nightmare at Camp Forrestwood
Kellie Sue Landon
Outskirts Press
10940 S Parker Road - 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432770860, $12.95,

It's hard to get to know your new classmates when they keep dying on you. "Nightmare at Camp Forrestwood" is a mystery of high school students as new transfer Holly Jenson tries to ease herself into her new predicament only to be plummeted right into a camping trip where death is on the activity list. A fast paced thriller, "Nightmare at Camp Forrestwood" is a fun read with shades of campy horror movies, highly recommended.

Galactic Tempest
Joseph Schwab
Trafford Publishing
1663 Liberty Drive
Bloomington, IN 47403
9781426913808, $11.95,

As technology grows, good old fashioned strategy will always have its place. "Galactic Tempest" tells of the growing conflict between two galactic empires far flung into the future. As science allows quicker travel and better weapons, two empires come across an uncontested system, and it seems it will not be a fire fight that ultimately decides the conflict, but the wits of their commanders. "Galactic Tempest" is a riveting work of science fiction, recommended.

Hawaiian Sunrise to Sunset
Randall Ng
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Road - 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432773311, $8.95,

The plight of a school counselor is one not often heard of. "Hawaiian Sunrise to Sunset: A Middle School Counselor's Diary of a Working Day" is a combination of educational discussion, memoir, and social issues call out as Randall Ng tells of his work in a low-income neighborhood Middle school. In Middle School, the downward spiral of many kids seems to come to power, and Ng reflects on the difficulty of keeping this kids on the straight in today's world. "Hawaiian Sunrise to Sunset" is thoughtful and recommended reading about the plight of many in modern education.

God's Gargoyles
Johnny Townsend
Privately Published
9781609100575, $15.95,

At the crossroads of faith and sexuality, trying to gain an understanding of it all always can prove conflicting. "God's Gargoyles" is a collection of short fiction discussing homosexuality and the Church of Jesus Christ and Latter Day Saints. Stories focus on the conflict of faith, coming to term with one's sexuality, and the challenges that come emerging from a sheltered world into a known place in the world. "God's Gargoyles" is a fine collection, highly recommended.

Captive in Paradise
RJ Furth
Privately Published
9781453676509, $12.99,

The will to live rides over anything else. "Captive in Paradise" follows a group of travelers who were hiking through Southeast Asia before being kidnapped by a revolutionary group in Thailand. The eight struggle to decide what is the best course of action. Obedience with hope of rescue that may not come, or risk everything on a gambit that is more likely to get them killed than let them escape? "Captive in Paradise" is a riveting thriller that should prove hard to put down.

Carl Logan

Margaret's Bookshelf

OMG! Cookbook
Hollis Ledbetter
Tate Publishing & Enterprises
127 E. Trade Center Terrace, Mustang, OK 73064
9781616639594, $22.99,

Lack of knowledge in cooking leads to ramen, and ramen leads to scurvy. "OMG! Cookbook: Oh My Gosh! I'm in College and I never Learned to Cook" is a straightforward guide to simple cooking and tips on getting by without ever learning the basics of cooking. Recipes range from classics to a tad more complex and include good kitchen wisdom. "OMG! Cookbook!" may be a worthy gift to a newly independent individual entering the can't rely on Mom world.

Jerry Welch
Outskirts Press
10940 S Parker Road -515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432763060, $12.95,

The power of the rich seems stronger than ever. "Corporacracy" follows Jim Curry, a journalist who discovers that the corporations behind America have far more power than previously suspected and their power over the United State is crushing. Split between having a career and fighting the corruption, Curry must think quick or find himself crushed alongside the country. "Corporacracy" is a thoughtful novel that may be closer to reality than many truly want.

Kevin Hollingsworth
1663 South Liberty Drive
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781441588395, $15.99,

A bit of spirit is all one needs to brighten their day. "Wonders" is a collection of short wisdom and thought from Kevin Hollingsworth. With short blurbs making up the book, he hopes the simple wisdom will brighten the day. "Wonders" is a moving and simple read, worth considering.

Anyone's Love Story
Daniela Bayer
Privately Published
9781449927912, $9.99,

Love has a profound effect on our life. "Anyone's Love Story" is a collection of musings of a poetic like nature from Daniela Bayer, speaking with spirit and life throughout. With a certain wisdom that aims to empower the life and the soul, "Anyone's Love Story" is a strong pick for anyone looking for verse and soul to give them the strength to find their own love of the world.

My Journey to Know the Truth
Tony Kent
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Road - 515, Parker, CO 80134
1598000845, $19.95,

Finding the truth in one's life can always be quite the endeavor. "My Journey to Know the Truth" is a spiritual memoir of Tony Kent as he presents his own tale of coming back from a broken life. Through faith, he put it all together again, and shares his tale in hopes it will also inspire others to find their own faith to spur their life forward. "My Journey to Know the Truth" is worth considering for those seeking inspirational memoir.

The Indelible Heart
Marianne K. Martin
Bywater Books
PO Box 3671, Ann Arbor, MI 48106
9781932859775, $14.95,

Hate can wreak much havoc on lives for years to come. "The Indelible Heart" follows Sharon Davis, drove into depression despite putting a man behind bars for a hate crime. Struggling to put her own life back together, the potential early release of a murderer doesn't improve the situation, as she is just starting to recover from her depression. With a chance to win back her love, "The Indelible Heart" is a moving lesbian romance, highly recommended.

The Ghosts of Watt O'Hugh
Steven S. Drachman
Privately Published
9780578085906, $14.00

As society leaps forward, not everyone gleefully goes with it. "The Ghosts of Watt O'Hugh" is a western of sorts of the fading era of the cowboy. Blending in elements of fantasy and time travel, the story follows a man through the plight of the Civil War veteran, potential television star, corrupt bankers, and prison as he looks for love and something else. "The Ghosts of Watt O'Hugh" is a humorous and fun adventure, recommended.

Margaret Lane

Mayra's Bookshelf

Sympathy for the Devil
Justin Gustainis
Riverside House,
Osney Mead, Oxford, OX2 0ES, United Kingdom
9781907992032 $7.99

The next presidential election is getting near... and handsome, charismatic Senator Howard Stark wants to become president. There's only one problem: He's possessed by Sargatanas, a powerful demon who wants to unleash all evil on earth. To make things worse, Stark's assistant happens to be a malevolent, highly-intelligent practitioner of the black arts, and she'll stop at nothing to get what she wants. One by one, the other candidates begin to die, some of illness, others due to mysterious accidents.

Enter the good guys: occult investigator Quincey Morris and his partner, white witch Libby Chastain. Together, they risk their lives while trying to find a way to exorcise the senator, which isn't easy. After all, how do you get passed the US Secret Service and the forces of hell itself?

Sympathy for the Devil is pure entertainment. I've read all of the books in this series and I have to say I've always thoroughly enjoyed them. Just like in the earlier installments, the story, told from multiple points of view, opens with a reader-grabbing scene and continues its quick, suspenseful pace until the end. Gustainis makes the stakes high and the characters sympathetic, making you care for their predicament. He's great at making you hate the villain. The secondary characters are interesting, too - even some of the bad ones are likable. Lots of action and dialogue propel the plot; Gustainis doesn't spend much time on description. If you're a fan of urban fantasy and supernatural, political thrillers, you'll relish this one. Also, the book stands alone perfectly, so don't worry if you haven't read the earlier novels. I certainly look forward to reading what Quincey and Libby are up to next.

Can You Be an Artist?
Liesel Soley
Book Publishers Network
P.O. Box 2256
Bothell WA 98041
9781935359692 $16.95

Dare to follow your dreams!

Dare to be yourself!

Dare to be free!

This is the premise of Liesel Soley's inspiring children's picture book, Can You Be an Artist?

Freddie, Honey and Bae are so different culturally speaking, yet they're so alike at the same time. They all have one thing in common: they have a big dream and they believe in making that dream a reality. Freddie wants to become a violinist. He sees himself playing in a string quartet and starts practicing everyday. Honey wants to become a painter. She sees her paintings in other people's homes and begins to experiment with colored pencils and oil paints. Bae wants to become a dancer. He sees himself dancing in his home country and starts taking dance lessons. As they channel their creative energies, their behavior and work at school begin to excel.

Can You Be an Artist? is a celebration of dreams and the arts. Using an engaging, simple prose and without preaching, the author presents snapshots of Freddie's, Honey's and Bae's lives to encourage young minds to have dreams and goals and to take the steps to make those dreams come true. The book is an invitation into the world of the arts. The adorable illustrations, done in colored pencils, are filled with detail and depict beautiful scenes both indoors and outdoors. I especially loved the illustrations of flowers, gardens, animals, trees and the seasons.

This is a wonderful book that introduces children to the arts and unleashes their creativity. Especially if your child already has expressed an interest in playing an instrument, painting or dancing, this book will give them an invaluable proactive message: dreams don't become a reality by themselves; it's vital to work and practice in order to grow as an artist.

Mayra Calvani

Paul's Bookshelf

The Ashes of Worlds
Kevin J. Anderson
Orbit Books
Hachette Book Group USA, 237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316007580 $7.99

Last of a seven-book series, this is space opera on a grand scale. Galactic empires clash, and elemental beings wipe out entire star systems.

The Klikiss are an insectoid, hive-mind race who were thought to have been extinct for the past several thousand years. Well, they're not extinct, and they want their old colony planets back. The Klikiss are the sort of beings who don't take No for an answer. They are also in the middle of a major "civil war" to see which hive, or breedex, will dominate. With a death toll in the tens of thousands, new genetic material is needed to replenish the ranks, like from slaughtered human colonists on one planet .

Basil Wenceslas is Chairman of the Terran Hanseatic League (Emperor of Earth). He is increasingly isolated and psychotic. King Peter and Queen Estarra are able to flee Earth for the planet Theroc, where they set up a rival Confederation. Many human colony planets switch their allegiance to the Confederation, so Wenceslas sends the Earth Defense Forces to make an example of several colonies. The Ildiran Empire (another humanoid race) establishes an alliance with the Confederation, reducing the number of the Chairman's allies to near zero. The Chairman kidnaps the Ildiran Mage-Imperator, the Ildiran leader, and takes him to an EDF base on Earth's moon until he reconsiders the alliance. Ildirans have a sort of telepathic connection between all members of the race. If any Ildiran is cut off from that connection for any length of time, permanent insanity is a major concern.

Chairman Wenceslas comes up with the idea for an alliance with the Klikiss. He sends one of his senior Generals to negotiate a treaty. The General does not go out of loyalty; he goes because the Chairman does not think twice about holding hostage family members of his senior officers. The general discovers, to his horror, that the Klikiss have no interest in an alliance with anyone. Later, a Klikiss battle group shows up in Earth orbit, with enough firepower to turn Earth into a burned-out cinder. They want to talk to the Chairman, in person, now. He still thinks that he can get whatever he wants, whenever he wants.

This is what good space opera is all about. There is a helpful summary of the rest of the series, so the reader does not have to read it all to understand this book. But it's a very good idea, because the writing is that good. Separately or together, this is very much recommended.

Cinco de Mayo
Michael J. Martineck
Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing
P.O. Box 1714, Calgary AB, T2P 2L7 CANADA
9781894063395 $14.95

This is the story of present-day Earth that is changed forever. It happens in the blink of an eye.

At approximately 10:20 PM on May 5, all 6 billion people on Earth get a blinding headache for a second-and-a-half. In that instant, everyone gets another person implanted in their brain; different thoughts, different memories. Person A gets Person B's thoughts and memories, and Person B gets Person A's thoughts and memories. There is no rhyme or reason about who gets whom.

Alastair is a transit worker from Chicago who exchanges memories with John McCorely, the head of the Aryan Brotherhood, and currently an inmate in the Pelican Bay Supermax prison. His wife, Valerie, starts speaking Chinese, and their two-year-old daughter suddenly speaks German. Alastair knows that McCorely will not let anyone live who knows his "secrets," so he feels that his only alternative is to leave his family behind and head for parts unknown.

Cindy is able to leave her abusive husband with "help" from a member of the Swiss National Police. Niven is a Manhattan ad executive on the verge of a Great Ad Idea, until Ming, a blind railway worker from China, is planted in his brain. Susan is a senior scientist with the National Institutes of Health, part of the group trying to figure out just what happened; her Other is a shaman from South America. A playboy from Abu Dhabi travels to India to rescue his Other, a young boy trapped in the world of human slavery. There are some tense moments at a Long Island middle school. The other of one of the teachers is a man from North Korea who goes to great lengths to find, or buy, enough food to keep his family alive for one more day. The Other of one of the students is an official from the North Korean government who really wants that person's name.

What happens in a world where there are no more secrets? There are huge amounts of cancellations of bank and credit card accounts. Now that someone else knows your account numbers and passwords, what is to prevent them from taking advantage? Phone lines are jammed for days, as people attempt to call their Others.

This one is very much worth reading. It takes one thing, or one event, and turns it on its side to see what will happen. It's very plausible, the characters feel like real peopleand it will give the reader something to consider.

Pock's World
Dave Duncan
Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing
P.O. Box 1714, Calgary AB, T2P 2L7 CANADA
9781894063470, $14.95

This science fiction adventure story is set on a planet facing a dire future. As usual, nothing is as it appears.

Pock's World, long settled by humans, has been infected by humanoid aliens. STARS, the consortium that "runs" the star sector, takes this very seriously. Pock's has been quarantined, and may have to be sterilized, which would mean the murder of over 650 million inhabitants. In the past, STARS has done this to other planets.

A group of people are sent to Pock's to examine the evidence. Father Andre has a wide ruthless streak, and visited Pock's a long time in the past. Ratty Turnsole is a muckraking reoprter. Millie Backet is a bureaucrat who, somehow, manages to turn this into the Backet Commission. Athena Fimble is an ambitious politician, and sleazy tycoon Linn Lazuline has a physical relationship going with Fimble. Of course, they all have their own agendas.

Finally reaching Pock's, a place with a barely tolerable climate, the group meets the humanoid alien prisoner. He has been tortured by the guards, but is able to handle pain better than humans. He also claims to be able to impregante men and women pretty easily. Coming from a planet in another sector, if he should be killed, there are millions more where he came from. Think "the next stage in human evolution." Turnsole falls for, and becomes the consort of, Joy, one of the four human incarnations of Mother, the planet's goddess. It seems like it might be pretty easy to build a religion involving a gas giant planet that takes up one-sixth of your sky every day.

The group is stunned to learn that STARS has intentionally disabled an orbiting probe and sent it into a decaying orbit. It will hit and destroy Pock's in four days, and was disabled before the group ever reached Pock's World. It is a geologically unstable world, with earthquakes and volcanoes everywhere. The probe doesn't have to actually destroy the planet; all it has to do is punch a big enough hole in the crust, and the planet's geological instability will do the rest. Another of Mother's human incarnations assures the people that nothing is going to happen. Do allo the members of the group leave Pock's World in time? Do all of them even want to leave?

This is a strong, well-done piece of storytelling. Duncan, a prolific writer, does a very good job with the characters and the society-building.

Go, Mutants!
Larry Doyle
Ecco Books
c/o Harper Collins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780061686559, $23.99

Earth has survived numerous invasions by aliens and attacks by ancient monsters brought back to life. Some of these aliens are in high school.

J!m Anderson is your typical sullen, brooding teenager at Manhattan High School. Well, maybe he's not so typical, because he has a large, megacephalic head, and oily, blue skin which he occasionally sheds like a snake. Along with Johnny, a motorcycle-riding radioactive ape, and Larry, a gelatinous mass playing the role of the "fat kid" (Son of the Blob), J!m really does have a hard time making his way through the world of high school. Maybe people really are out to get him; after all, his father is the one who led the alien invasion of Earth.

The Harvest Dance is coming, and J!m is supposed to ask Marie Rand if she would like to go with him. Her father is the school's biology teacher, and one of those people who likes to tinker in his garage. Mrs. Rand is a disembodied head who is constantly nagging Mr. Rand to find a body to which to attach her head. The body she was using is no longer viable, but it's kept in a freezer for posterity. Despite numerous opportunities, J!m never gets around to asking Marie to the dance, so she goes with Russ, J!m's bitter enemy.

J!m has a permanent exemption from showering after gym class, for anatomical reasons that are forcefully revealed by the local bullies, led by Russ, at the local drive-in. Later, during another Russ-led attempt to get rid of J!m, once and for all, J!m catches on fire, is severely burned, and dies. But not really, because he recovers in a couple of days, and is now a solar-powered being with skin as hard as diamonds (puberty rears its ugly head).

Larry is thrown into an animal cage during a field trip. Approximately a cupful of his mass is retrieved. Mr. Rand is able to do something about that, with help from some jumper cables and a car battery. Later comes the climactic scene, where Russ forces Marie into his atomic-powered car, with J!m in hot pursuit. Just before the car goes over a cliff, Marie is thrown from the car, and severely injured. Does Marie survive? Does J!m learn the truth about his father? Can Larry be resurrected?

This is an absolute gem of a book. As a former writer for "The Simpsons," Doyle certainly knows how to do satire. It's got everything a 1950s teen story needs: a sullen, rebellious main character, bullies, a chase scene and a drive-in. This is very highly recommended.

The Vertical Farm
Dr. Dickson Despommier
Thomas Dunne Books
St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780312611392 $25.99

The current method of human agriculture is in bad shape, and is ultimately unsustainable. This book provides an alternative.

Agriculture as we know it has worked for many thousands of years, but the system is breaking down. If there is such a thing as The Chronicle of Farm Life in the 20th Century, it is "The Grapes of Wrath" by John Steinbeck. Three things that had a huge impact on agriculture were the internal combustion engine, and the discoveries of oil and dynamite. When irrigating fields, runoff is created that is full of chenicals and fertilizers applied to those fields. During floods, runoff gets even worse, because that chemical-filled water gets into the rivers, which empty into the ocean, creating aquatic "dead zones." In less developed countries, there is little or no attempt to filter or treat the water, and since fecal matter (human and animal) is frequently used as fertilizer, that just spreads lots of intestinal parasites. In many places, a 55-gallon drum of clean water is now more valuable than oil.

Greenhouse gases are turning the world's oceans more acidic; the time will come when calcium carbonate, a central component of coral and mollusk shells, cannot form. Various bugs and plant diseases can also do immense damage to a wide area of crops. As agriculture becomes more commercialized, and farm sizes grow, food safety becomes a huge concern. Corporations want to cut costs wherever they can (like food inspection), and consumers have made it clear that food safety is at the top of the list.

Imagine stacking several high-tech greenhouses on top of each other. Hydroponic gardening, which uses one-third the water of regular agriculture, is well known. Aeroponic gardening, where the roots are misted at the right times, uses one-third the water of hydroponics. The water can be treated and recycled so that it can be used over and over. No artificial chemicals would be needed. Such a vertical farm can be built in the city, vastly increasing the availability of fruits and vegetable for inner-city residents. The outer walls would be a type of clear, hard plastic, which is lighter than glass, to let in every available bit of sunlight. The corresponding amount of farmland would be allowed to turn back into whatever it was, usually hardwood forest, before it became farmland.

Of course, theory is easy, while turning the theory into reality is much harder. This a fascinating book, even though it is light on the reality of what a vertical farm would look like. If it does nothing more than get people thinking about other methods of agriculture, this is a gem of a book.

Immortal Quest: The Trouble With Mages
Alexandra MacKenzie
Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing
P.O. Box 1714, Calgary AB, T2P 2L7, CANADA
9781894063463 $14.95

This is a fantasy story about a relationship that has lasted for several centuries. It is also about the potential end of the world.

Nick Wright is a present-day London detective who, one night, is interrogating a burglary suspect named Marlen. He tells Nick that they have known each other for 500 years, and that Nick is on his eleventh lifetime. As a mage, Marlen is immortal. Nick is skeptical, to say the least. Marlen tells Nick things about himself that no one can possibly know. Nick slowly begins to beleive that maybe Marlen is not totally nuts.

Marlen attempted a spell to get Nick to remember the old days of partying all over Europe. Not only does it not work, but Marlen accidentally releases a powerful mage named Vere from her 700-year imprisonment. She wanted to bring the gift of immortality to all people, and was supposedly working on the ultimate spell. She infused three items, a cup, a ring and a stone with magical power, now hidden in widely different parts of Britain. If she ever got hold of those items, and completed her spell, the whole world would be in danger. At least, that is according to Duncan Phipps, head of the Immortal Society of Mages, who wants the three items for his own megalomaniacal purposes.

Meantime, Nick has gotten a job with DI6, Britain's domestic intelligence service. But, he has been shunted into the last place he wants to work with DI6, the PIS, or Paranormal Investigative Service. Nick would much rather investigate terrorists than Elvis sightings. His uncle Brianm who runs the PIS, tells Nick to stick with Marlen. The PIS has been investigating the Mages for years, and they need a real magical object to study. The relationship between Nick and Marlen is volatile, at best. Marlen tries, perhaps too hard, to get the "old Nick" back. Nick becomes fond of Marlen, but does not want to get into a relationship with him. Nick has tried very hard to suppress his homosexual past. Everything climaxes at an isolated castle in Scotland. Is Vere really as mean as her reputation says? Does Vere or Duncan get "eliminated?" Do Marlen and Nick come to any sort of understanding about their relationship?

This might be a rather quiet relationship story, but it's a good one. It is marketed as an LGBT novel, but the homosexuality is pretty subtle. It's recommended.

Paul Lappen, Reviewer

Peggy's Bookshelf

An Angel Named Carol
John L. Hoh, Jr.
Illustrated by Carolos Lemos
Mirror Publishing
4859 N. 78th St., Milwaukee WI 53218
9781612250137 $10.99

Carol is a shy and lonely angel with a beautiful singing voice. The other angels want to do something special to announce the birth of baby Jesus. They decide to form a heavenly choir. They ask Carol to sing her special song. As much as she wants to, she doesn't believe she can do it. Hoh's delightful story is a whimsical take on a Christmas tradition with a valuable message about self-esteem. Lemos' colorful illustrations portray warm, human qualities in the angelic characters that small children will find comforting. Children ages 4-8 who like Bible stories will enjoy this book.

Elsbett & Robin Take On A-Nasty-Sia
Danai Sabrina Kadzere
345 Boren Ave N., Seattle, WA 98109
9781463715274 $15.00

Ten-year old Robin and nine-year old Elsbett live happily with their pet dragon, Lula and their uncle, Professor Spindle in his castle surrounded by an enchanted forest in a strange land where every living thing contains a little bit of magic. But all is not what it seems, especially the "happily" part. The rather sudden appearance of Anastasia and Martin, whom the Professor hires as caretakers of his castle, changes everything. On an impromptu sojourn into the enchanted forest Elsbett finds an orb which turns out to be a warning and a plea for help from the forest folk. To complicate matters further, there is something terribly and mysteriously wrong with Professor Spindle. And - as if all of that wasn't bad enough - the secret to everything is inside a washing machine. Each of the quirky yet likeable characters makes a unique contribution to the whole zany operation. Kadzere employs a Lemony Snicket style of wit and clever asides which make this fast-paced, fantastic adventure exceedingly fun to read.

Peggy Tibbetts, Reviewer

Richard's Bookshelf

Class Act
Barbara Techel
Joyful Paw Prints Press, LLC
304 Kettleview Court
Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin 53020
9780980005264, $11.95

A Comprehensive Marketing Strategy for Increasing Book Sales

Award winning author, Barbara Techel, presents a comprehensive plan for selling more books through school and library author appearances, gaining recognition as an expert speaker, and booking personal appearances in her book "Class Act."

Techel draws on lessons learned from her experiences while promoting her "Frankie the Walk 'N Roll Dog" book series. She uses these lessons to lead the reader step by step in a process of preparing presentations with helpful checklists, pointers for developing an event organizer, tips for fulfilling book orders, and ways for incorporating modern technology to enhance and generate speaking and promoting appearances.

"Class Act" is jam packed with valuable tips, eye-catching illustrations, public relations samples, testimonials, and helpful forms. A complete index provides a ready reference for future use of the book as a resource guide. I found the interviews and suggestions from other successful writers and authors added another dimension to Barbara's own content and credibility. The format of the book is attractive, reader friendly, and inviting. Techel's writing is well organized, relevant, and timely.

I plan to add "Class Act" to my reference shelf of Writing Resource guides. I want to have it handy as a reference and also plan to recommend it to the members of our local Writer's Critique Group.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from author. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's guidelines.

Resting in His Redemption: The Basis of Prayer and the Christian Life
James P. Gills, MD
Charisma House
600 Rinehart Road, St. Mary, Florida 32746
9781616383797, $14.99

Entering into the Experience of Resting in God's Redemption

Dr. James P. Gills, MD has a unique way of distilling information into one concise summary statement: the essence of a page in context, a chapter's concept, or a book's content. He capsules the theme of his book "Resting in His Redemption: The Basis of Prayer and the Christian Life" in this way: "The essence of the entire Bible is the divine love story of God reaching down to man to redeem him back to Himself." Real life examples, heart warming stories, and relevant illustrations capture the imagination, engage the intellect, and challenge the reader to better understand this Biblical concept.

I found enjoyment in the challenging quotations from Oswald Chambers, Charles Spurgeon, John Newton, and other classical writers as well as contemporary Christian leaders like Charles Colson, R. T. Kendall, and many others.

The use of sidebars, inserts, and topical headings produce an eye appealing, reader friendly format. Thought provoking questions for personal meditation provide the means of reflection, assimilation, and application of the amazing Biblical truths introduced within the content of each chapter. These same questions can be adapted for use as discussion material when in study groups or classes.

Gill's writing is well organized, Biblically based, and masterfully articulate. He writes with clarity and conviction. "Resting in His Redemption" is relevant, instructive, and encouraging.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's guidelines. As Reviewed for Midwest Book Review.

Deliverance from Satanic Bondage
Michael Richardson D. D.
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Rd. - 515, Parker, Colorado 80l34
9781432756024, $18.95

Deliverance from Demonic Bondage to Deliverance Ministry

"Deliverance from Satanic Bondage" is a powerful and positive testimony of Dr. Michael Richardson's deliverance from Demonic and Satanic bondage salvation through the atonement provided by Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit. Richardson tells of his early family life, of battles with demons, the spirit of homosexuality, the curse of drugs, thoughts of suicide, and the experience of depression.

Once released from this demonic bondage, Dr. Richardson has gone on to earn graduate degrees in evangelism, theology, Christian education, and counseling. He now ministers in a deliverance ministry and as assistant dean at the Lie International Bible College in New York City. He relates his experiences in this book to give encouragement and instruction to anyone working their way though similar experiences.

In the chapter dedicated to specific exposure of Heresies, False Teaching, and Erroneous Doctrines, Dr. Richardson has carefully cataloged, described, and warned of the fallacies taught in organizations proclaiming themselves to represent truth or the true church. The information included is of particular value because it alerts the reader to be on watch for both general and specific erroneous teachings. If or when you are faced with any one of these false teachings you can do more in depth research at your local library or through a web-site on line.

In another chapter the same approach is used to warn of the danger of satanic cults and their practices, many of which seem innocent at first glance but tend to blind, confuse, and bind the naive to their dangers.

Richardson's writing is direct, candid, and sincere. It is foundational in a study of the influence of cults, false religions, as well as the decline in moral social, and religious standards practiced in contemporary culture.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from author's representative. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's guidelines.

The Strange Man
Greg Mitchell
Realms (A Strang Company)
600 Rinehart Road, Lake Mary, Florida 332746
978161381943, $13.99

A Fictional Account of the Sinister Reality of Supernatural Spiritual Warfare

Greg Mitchell's novel "The Strange Man" alerts the reader to the insidious impact and influence of evil powers roaming the earth today. This is the first novel in an upcoming trilogy "The Coming Evil" which combines a action suspense plot centered around a theme of evil, demons, ghoulish globs, and the reality of spiritual warfare encountered by Christians.

Other reviewers and the publisher description provide an excellent synopsis of the plot line. The protagonist, Dras Weldon, an immature, 22year old drop out, exhibits resentment and rebellion against his Christian upbringing. Dras is targeted to be used by the "strange man" to frighten the townspeople. The devil, with his demonic forces, is determined to take over the community of Greensboro. Dras is faced with the reality of the coming evil. He renounces the devil's demands to save the eternal soul of his friend Rosalyn.

I found Mitchell's writing compelling, strong, suspenseful, and dramatic. His word pictures produce visual images that drew me into the narrative. Although he provided a background prologue to relate the story telling power of childhood stories of the "bogeyman" designed to scare the daylights out of children, and although I heard my share of these stories as a child, I found the recurring use of this as a reference to the strange man distracting. This is personal. I may have missed the humor or the target audience. For me it did not strengthen the otherwise strong spiritual message of included throughout the narrative. Otherwise an excellent read.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from publisher. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's guidelines.

Gotchyaa! Surviving Con Artists in the Church
Dr. Steven Stiles
Create Space
7290 B. Investment Drive, Charleston, SC 29418
978463738310, $15.99

Recognizing Wolves in Sheep's Clothing in the Church

In his book "Gotchyaa: Surviving Con Artists in the Church" Dr. Steven Stiles has created believable fictional characters to represent a composite of actual scams and cons experienced in churches and their members throughout America.

The book is a wake up call to the Church of the vulnerability of caring, trusting Christians prone to charitable acts out of concern for the poor, the suffering, unfortunate, and the homeless and the unscrupulous conscience of the con artist.

The Snomasters represent a typical team of con artists posing as dedicated Christians temporarily experiencing a financial crisis, unemployment, debilitating illness, or a myriad of other misfortunes as they travel across the country visiting churches along the way. Once they have gained inroads they may use manipulation, intimidation, other charades to maintain a hold on their victims.

Dr. Stiles includes practical suggestions for reflection, group discussion, and application to help the reader examine their motives, how to recognize a genuine need, from a manipulating imposter.

I found the suggestions for protecting yourself practical, helpful and actually very logical. The appendix provides another valuable source of helpful information, including: Investment scams, debt consolidations and credit repair scams, work at home business opportunities, bulk e-mails, health and diet scams, guaranteed loans or credit, vacation promotions, and many more.

A truly unique reading experience.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from author's representative. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's guidelines.

World War Me Volume II
Jamal Bryant
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310
Shippensburg, PA 1725-0310
9780768439120, $14.99

Keys to Transformation and Contentment

Award winning author Dr. Jamal Bryant writes to help the reader redirect destructive desires to empowering desires in his new book "World War Me Volume II: I Desire." Dr. Bryant puts in plain words the need to separate personal longing from divine inspiration, and the conflict and crisis of desire. He has an anointed gift for making "things spiritual" practical.

The book is more than a training tool; it is a roadmap, for the reader on a personal journey, into truth and the pursuit of happiness. Bryant weaves the elements of desire through the eyes of psychology, philosophy, foundational origins, practical management, and behavioral patterns. Bryant packs every chapter with sound advice illustrated with real-life anecdotes and relevant contemporary illustrations based on scriptural principles.

Jamal's writing has challenged me personally. David's affirmation in Psalms, chapter twenty-seven, verse four has long been a favorite of mine. The sub-title of this book is "I Desire." It is written with the prayer that the reader will: desire to see the face of God in worship. His glory will then change in attitude regarding desire for people, acceptance, and approval.
An amazing combination of application, inspiration, and counsel. Dr. Jamal Bryant's writing is comprehensive, well documented, and highly endorsed by Christian leaders.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's guidelines.

The Snowman's Revenge
Mark Smythe
Illustrated by Mike Motz
Published by Mark Smythe, Buffalo, New York
9780982270400, $ 9.99, 2009, 44 pages

Snow Day - School's Out

Mark Smythe's rhymes, metered narrative, and Mike Motz's brilliantly colored illustrations bring the Snowman to life on the pages of "The Snowman's Revenge."

The children are excited about the "snow day" and are ready for a day of play. Soon snowballs are flying. Next it is time for a snowman. He soon stands tall, proud and happy, complete with his own jacket, scarf, hat and shovel. And there is where he was left to stand in the cold - deserted and lonely he planned his revenge.

Mike Motz's bold, bright illustrations allow the reader's to take the subtle humor of Mark Smythe's delightful story line into the realm of "what if" questions to stimulate the child's imagination.

The book is suggested as age appropriate for children ages four through eight. It is an ideal book for reading to the younger child and as a read along book for the young reader. I found it a fun read even as an adult and look forward to reading it to my grandchildren.

An excellent gift idea, with the winter snow theme it will be ideal for that something extra gift at Christmastime.

I received a complementary review copy of this book from the Cadence Group representatives of the author. Providing me a free copy in no way guarantees a favorable review. The opinions expresses in this review are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Healing in the Hurting Places
Karen F. Riley
Destiny Image Publication, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768438888 $16.99

A Healing Journey That Leads to Transformation

"Healing in the Hurting Places" is drawn from Karen F. Riley's personal experiences and the lessons she learned as a victim of childhood sexual abuse, working through a manipulative home environment, the hurtful impact of bullies throughout her high-school years, and her ongoing ministry of restoration, hope and healing to other victims of sexual abuse.

Karen is a gifted communicator. As I scanned the back cover of "Healing in the Hurting Places" I knew I was in for a memorable reading experience. I was drawn into Karen's story before I had finished the first two paragraphs of her opening statement. Her writing is personal, intimate, and candid. I appreciated her willingness to make herself vulnerable. She tells of her active faith without being judgmental or preachy. Well chosen Scriptural references illustrate her faith-walk as well as Biblical principles, illustrations, and applications.

I was personally struck by the power of the illustration from the Old Testament book of Jeremiah which describes the process of the potter's wheel and the impact this had on Karen's healing.

"Healing in the Hurting Places" is must reading for sexual abuse victims, for anyone caught up in the cycle of addictive behaviors, and for those concerned loved ones attempting to provide help and encouragement.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's guidelines.

Momentum: What God Starts Never Ends
Eric Johnson and Bill Johnson
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768439922, $15.99

Perspectives on God's Plan for Ongoing Inheritance and Continuing Revival

Father and son team Bill and Eric Johnson, pastors of Bethel Church of Redding, California, collaborate in "Momentum" in an effort to build upon earlier "breakthroughs" in God's ongoing plan and purpose of revival in our generation and generations yet to come.

Pastors Bill and Eric provide some prerequisites necessary for accomplishing this calling:

Full unity in the Spirit
A rediscovery of the concept of Spiritual Inheritance and its purpose
Operating from our true identity
Become students and stewards of the promises and prophetic words over our lives
Personal accountability and humility
Embrace our place in grace
Demonstrate His authority in the supernatural territory we occupy
Recognize and understand our place in the ongoing momentum of our family and spiritual inheritance
Create ways to share experiences that are directly related to who we are
Cultivate a personal desire to stay hidden
Honor the Spiritual giants of the past and Stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before

Bill and Eric's writing is filled with rich Biblical examples, intimate personal anecdotes, and practical relevant illustrations. I enjoyed Eric's description of his personal experience in the act of giving - sacrificial generosity. Bill's letter to his father affirming the inheritance passed along was especially meaningful.

"Momentum" captures the core values of Christian character and the vision for involvement in inspiring and equipping future generations to become involved in the truth that "What God Starts Never Ends."

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

Richard R. Blake

Riva's Bookshelf

The Rose and the Lily
Susan Ross
illustrated by Megan Stiver
Self Published
9780981063461 $12.99

The Rose and the Lily is a tale of a beautiful princess named Rose and very ordinary young woman named Lily. The illustrations for each page are excellent. They are colorful and entertaining and help the child to follow along with the story. The also help the child to anticipate what is coming next in the tale.

Though beautiful, Rose is very demanding and in an attempt to free himself from her temper tantrums and manipulative ways her father, the king, sets out to find a husband for her. A decree is sent throughout the land announcing that the king is searching for a husband for her.

Rose finds something wrong with each suitor until a very handsome, young prince comes along. The prince thinks Rose is the most beautiful girl he has ever seen. At first Rose is ready to refuse him too because she's worried he may be even more attractive than she is, but then she sends him on a quest.

Along the way the prince meets Lily who kindly cares for both him and his horse over the course of their travels. I say the course of his travels because no matter how fine the gift the prince brings Princess Rose it is never quite enough.

This is a tale of what makes you aware of what is true beauty and what can make even something that seems beautiful at first, really ugly. It is a tale of what love is and it is sure to impress upon your youngster the importance of being beautiful inside as well as outside.

The Great Bellybutton Cover-up
Susan Ross
illustrated by Megan Stiver
Self Published
9780981063478 $9.95

The Great Bellybutton Cover-up was wonderfully illustrated with drawings that vividly brought the story to life. I found the story to be very humorous and even found myself chuckling at points.

The Great Bellybutton Cover-up is about Violet, a prize-winning sheep who suddenly finds herself shorn of her luxurious fleece. What ensues is a series of comedic attempts by Violet to cover herself because, horror of horrors, her bellybutton is showing.

Violet gets herself into one scrape after another trying to find a cover for herself that also appeals to her somewhat unusual sense of style.

This is a story the younger children especially will enjoy. Slightly older children will enjoy reading it themselves and should need only minimal assistance with the vocabulary. It makes a perfect story before going to the fair, on a day inside or as a bedtime story. It sets a lighthearted mood sure to send the little ones off with happy feelings and sweet dreams, or daydreams.

R.C. Bridgestock
Caffeine Nights
9781907565168, eBook 9781907565175 $TBA

Consequences by R.C. Bridgestock was an extremely interesting book to read. It is written by Robert and Carol Bridgestock, people with 45 years of cumulative police service between them, and it deals with the world of murder and crime in the fictional city of Harrowfield in England.

Consequences vividly portrayed the lives of real detectives as seen through the experiences and eyes of former officers. It was an absolutely fascinating read. I couldn't put it down. I found the story to be very well-crafted and even though it is not meant to be read in a single sitting, I read it through in a day.

Consequences is a tale of greed, betrayal, murder, child abuse and the horror of being a detective in today's world. It takes you into the world of a typical English police department and shows you the real work that goes on behind the scenes in major murder investigations. It talks about the miracle of forensic science and everything it can accomplish - which is really quite amazing. And it also talks about the horror of a terrible murder investigation where the victim has been deliberately set aflame, only to die a terribly moments later, asphyxiated by the fire.

DI Jack Dylan is the most believable police detective I've run across. He doesn't make grand leaps of intuition, even when what he thinks happened is correct, but rather he waits for the slow and often tedious accumulation of evidence to strongly point to the guilty party, or parties.

Consequences deals with how one man tries to be responsible for everything in his world, constantly second guessing himself and wondering if he had only done things differently could he have changed the outcome for the people involved. Dylan is strong and has a no-nonsense approach to police work, but at the same time he is warm, caring and has just the right amount of vulnerability. His character is genuine and human. A man any detective would want to work for.

The other officers in the book are just as believable. Most are tough and dedicated to their work, wanting to see justice for the victims of the crimes they investigate. There are hardships along the way and they acknowledge they deal with an imperfect system, but they do their best to function within it.

I found Consequences renewed my faith in the officers charged with upholding the law. Because it is written by former members of the police service it is incredibly real and vivid. The mortuary scenes are heartbreaking. The fact the officers will have to sit in on multiple autopsies of the same body is something I was never aware of. Not only is there the official post-mortem to determine the cause of death, but the defense gets to have their own doctors conduct an independent post-mortem. In a case with multiple defendants each defendant have their own specialist resulting in many post-mortems on the same person. It's heartrending thinking of what that must put families through.

I was also impressed by the fact the book brings to real life the many things a detective must be willing to sacrifice for the people he or she represents. It's not a 7:00 to 3:00, or 9:00 to 5:00 job. It means incredibly long nights during active investigations and working fourteen or more hours a day.

Return to Crutcher Mountain
Melinda Clayton
Vanilla Heart Publishing
Kindle Edition B0054E937I, $4.99; paperback $13.95

In Return to Crutcher Mountain Melinda Clayton once again paints a picture of life in the rural village of Cedar Hollow, West Virginia. While Return to Crutcher Mountain contains many of the same characters as its predecessor, Appalachian Justice, it doesn't rely on backstory to move the plot forward so it can definitely be read alone. Any backstory that is necessary is briefly covered in the pages of Return to Crutcher Mountain.

The book picks up the life of Jessie Russell McIntosh eight months after the passing of her Billy Momma. The tranquil mountain where she and Billy May discovered each other has been turned into a camp for developmentally disabled children and someone is causing trouble and has issued a demand that Jessie return to Crutcher Mountain, placing her life in danger.

On the mountain top danger awaits Jessie and the list of suspects is long. For awhile everything seems fine, has Jessie returned for nothing?

While on Crutcher Mountain Jessie must face her past in many aspects and slowly allows herself to feel once again. A boy staying at the camp touches Jessie heart and unknowingly helps her open up to life and begin the task of mourning her Billy Momma, something she has largely refused to do until this point. Returning to Cedar Mountain brings up the memories of her life there and makes her realize how empty her life in Hollywood has been. Here are the people she has known all her life. Here is where her roots, good and bad, are. Here is where she may finally find peace, if she lives long enough.

I enjoyed Return to Crutcher Mountain immensely, though I felt it lacked some of the depth of its predecessor. I think Return to Crutcher Mountain will appeal to a much larger audience than Appalachian Justice may have. The story was interesting and held my attention and it was a short read, I read it in a day. I didn't see the end coming until just a few pages before it finally did. I would like to see the story continue as there were several characters that entered the picture during this book whom I would like to follow.

Forgotten April
Robyn Bradley
Kindle Edition B004W9BXYM, $0.99; paperback $10.04

Forgotten April is Robyn Bradley's debut novel and if it is anything to judge by then Robyn Bradley has a bright and promising future as a novelist.

Forgotten April is a tale of eight lives wound together in a fascinating twist of fate and told with exquisite crafting from multiple points-of-view.

It is the tale of April, her mother who is suffering from Alzheimer's and her newly discovered half-sister, Maggie Prescott, who is a television newsperson. It is a tale of love found and love lost. Of lives inextricably woven together in a unique tapestry made all the more beautiful because of its flaws.

It is the story of Hazel, a long-term resident of Saint Anthony of Padua who has become precious to April, who worked at the center even before her mother became a resident there. Hazel who has become as dear to April as her now failing mother; Hazel who is the only thing April has to herself after Maggie shows up in her life, that is, until it turns out Hazel isn't really April's either.

It is the story of choices and how they can impact so many lives. It is the story of the pain of losing a loved one to a disease that eats away at the very essence of who they are and what they signify in your life. It is the story of family, good or bad, in whatever shape it may take. It is a story of life with all its joys, hopes and sorrows. It is a story of the many faces of love.

I enjoyed every moment spent in the pages of Forgotten April and I would highly recommend it to anyone. I plan on reading it again and again and it will be among the books I treasure.

Land Run
Mark Graham
Tate Publishing & Enterprises, LLC
9781617770111 $14.99

Land Run by Mark Graham is a classic example of the average man becoming a victim of the system that is supposed to protect his rights, but with an unforeseen twist or two.

When aged landowner Elijah Montgomery refuses to sell his land to developer Rusty Watson things get downright dirty. Watson has a sleazy lawyer and connections in all the right places so he sets in motion a series of events designed to take Elijah's land away from him via eminent domain - the right of the government to take away your property to put it to higher and better use.

Elijah doesn't care one way or the other about the outcome; he just knows God told him not to sell the land. No, Elijah isn't crazy; he just has a deep faith and believes God is leading him to hold onto the land. Rusty would like to believe Elijah is a crazy old coot, after all he lives in the nursing home, but everyone who knows Elijah knows he is completely aware of what he's doing, and of the large amount of money he's passing up by keeping his land.

Rusty has lost everything that mattered to him and sees in this land deal, and subsequent building project a redemption of sorts for himself. It becomes his obsession and nothing is going to stand in his way, not Elijah and certainly not some banker who refuses to tow the line and fall in with everyone else to vote to take away Elijah's land.

Mark Graham weaves a powerful story of faith, greed and power in the middle of a small town in Oklahoma. His writing is vivid, his style easy to read. The story draws you in and makes you care about the characters peppering its pages. Land Run is full of a cross-section of society, the good and the bad and it is bound to keep you reading. At times philosophical and poetic Graham's prose is sure to leave you wondering what is next for this new writer.

T.R. Mousner
Kindle B004V9G7S0 $3.99

I found Being by T.R. Mousner to be both an interesting and a thought-provoking book. What would happen if an 'alien' able to breathe in the combination of gases that comprise the earth's atmosphere were to land here? What would all of the contaminants in the air do to him or her? What would he or she think of our poor environmental control?

Mousner explores these topics as her 'alien' EBN (pronounced ee-ben, like eden but with a 'b' instead of a 'd') is stranded on earth after her spaceship is hit by the space junk orbiting in the earth's stratosphere. EBN must live among those she considers to be primitive and slowly faces a certain death by contamination of the various elements present in the earth's atmosphere. During the course of her stay EBN discovers that while humans may be primitive many of them have redeeming qualities.

Despite orders to stay away from the human population EBN interacts with a disabled person who has a very advanced soul while in a store buying supplies for a cat she has rescued. The girl who has been crippled since birth and unable to speak is miraculously healed within moments of being touched by EBN. EBN flees and tries to hide but is discovered the next day by a man who followed her as far as the mobile home part where she is staying but then lost sight of her. The man returns with his wife who is in the later stages of cancer. Swearing the couple to secrecy EBN then heals the wife.

Of course, it was too much to expect that the couple, and the girl and her mother wouldn't speak about what happened to them. The next day EBN awakens to find the yard in front of the mobile home crowded with people in need of healing. Any hope EBN had of maintaining a low profile is gone as she discovers she simply can't turn away from these people in need, even when her own health begins to rapidly decline.

Adding to the chaos in EBN's life is her attraction to the teenage boy living next door. His sister runs the mobile home park where EBN is staying and it turns out the cat EBN rescued on her first night on the planet belongs to the boy, Shale, and his sister Harmony. All the two of them have is each other and the cat, their mother is dead and their father recently went missing. Both Harmony and Shale are grateful to have their cat back, but as Shale's feelings begin to change from distrust to interest EBN finds herself having to fight against her stranger attraction to the human.

In the meantime the story is set against the contamination of California wildfires and the spewing oil leak from the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster. The pollution from the wildfires helps speed up EBN's rapid decline in health and the oil disaster convinces EBN the humans are set on a path of self-destruction, but far from giving up on them she finds herself touched by the better qualities she sees reflected in them during times of crisis.

EBN has learned so much about the earth and the people on it but will she ever be able to return to her people to share what she has learned and even if she is able to return will they listen to her or will they consider her interactions with the humans a betrayal of the worst sort.

I highly recommend Being. I felt it offered a view of humanity that while acknowledging our worst flaws held out hope for the future and I also felt it offered an 'alien' who was enough like us to be someone I could relate too but at the same time was different enough, and who came from a different enough culture to make the story believable.

Spanish Mountain Life
Juliette de Bairacli Levy
Ash Tree Publishing
9781888123074 $16.95

Once again in Spanish Mountain Life Juliette de Bairacli Levy makes us her travel companions this time through the Sierra Nevada of Andalusia. This trip is far from her usual light-hearted one for on it both her son and she contact typhus, with Juliette facing death and her son becoming severely ill with the disease. To make matters worse during her time in the sierra young Luz, born that year in the Sierra Nevada becomes so sick it seems her death is an assured thing. Only Juliette de Bairacli Levy's reliance on her instinct and herbal remedies as well as a dose of penicillin finally pulls the child through her illness.

Once again we are treated to new herbal remedies of the region as well as some of the older ones de Bairacli Levy has used successfully in past. We travel high into the Sierra's with Juliette and her son Rafik and spend time around the fires and fiestas of the gypsies of the region.

Wherever de Bairacli Levy goes she finds the gypsy people answering a calling deep in her veins. Learning new skills from them and exchanging both tales and healing folklore.

Spanish Mountain Life is a valuable addition to any library, especially those dealing with herbals in general and with Juliette de Bairacli Levy in particular.

Tracy M. Riva

Sandra's Bookshelf

Waiting For Pops: A Journey from Boy to Man
John Phillip Riffice
Indi Publishing LLC
15508 W. Bell Rd Suite 101-315, Surprise, AZ 85374
9781935636953 $9.99
978193563620 $3.99 Ebook

I read this book with mixed emotions. While it is a work of fiction, it really puts the D in dysfunctional family. I did not like the cursing that is in this book. Yet because of the character development in this story, I can see why it was used.

The story this book tells us is heart breaking. There is no way I could ever read this book right away, again. The way this book ended I would never of, imagined. In fact I was mad. I like happy endings, and this book reminded me that in life, there are not always happy endings.

While this is Mr. Riffice first book, I hope it will not be his last.

The Laird of Loch Fyne
Brandy Grandberg
Tate Publishing & Enterprises, LLC
127 E. Trade Center Terrace, Mustang, OK 73064
9781617772993 $19.04 1-888-361-9473

I absolutely love this book. Maggie Harris is a doctor who went to a Renaissance fair to relax. While there she went into a tent and became intrigued with a brooch. She picked it up and then the shop owner pulled a plaid out and put it on her shoulders and then pinned the brooch on it. Maggie slowly begins to feel strange and the next thing she knew she was waking up in a forest four hundred years in the past.

What happens next is for you to read and enjoy. You will find humor, love, a tad bit of suspense and it is just plain funny in parts. It is an easy read and good when you want to get away from all the hassles in your life.

So get yourself a glass of ice tea and kick back in your recliner, and be prepared to be taken back in time with Maggie. I believe most people would call this a chick book. Well this old mother hen loved every page. I really hope the author continues to write more about these characters. This book get a high five from me.

Repairing Rainbows: A True Story of Family, Tragedy and Choices
Lynda Fishman
69 Thornridge Drive, Thornhill, Ontario L4J 1C7, Canada
9780986607400 $18.00

How in the world do you begin to write a book review of a woman, who has been through hell and back so many times. It started when she was thirteen and her mother and two sisters were killed in a plane crash. It was devastating to say the least. She turned to her father during this time, but he could not give her the support she needed to get through the pain. Instead of reaching out to her so together they could heal, he was locked into a world of his own.

She fell asleep each night hearing her father crying. Where once was a home filled with laughter, love and joy, it quickly changed into a world of silence. Lynda could hardly make it each day. During the nights her dreams turned into nightmares.

This is just the start of a book filled with pain, sadness and eventually happiness. But even though you will read about her happiness she is still haunted by her past. The pain will never go away, but she is lucky that her husband understands about pain. He has his own story to tell. We have read part of it in this book, and it leaves me wanting to read more.

I would be remiss if I did not mention that Lynda's mom taught her that we are to help others as much we can. Both Lynda and her husband continue to do that, even today.

Lodestone Book Three: The Crucible of Dawn

Mark Whiteway
P.O. Box 9949 College Station, TX 77842
9781602642331 $14.95 Ebook 9781465866554 $2.99

I never dreamed I would like this type of genre. Yet the more pages I turned, the more I wanted to read this book. I love the way the author has us use our own imagination, as the story goes along. He gives us hints and the rest we have to imagine on our own.

While the story is excellent it is also fun in many ways. My imagination went wild trying to figure out what each character looked like. Then creating the person or animal to fit the book was a hoot. The story is not funny but my perception of some of the characters is.

I loved the fact that the author did not use any swear words. I have often found they were not needed to tell a good story. Mr. Whiteway has set the standard I believe.

If you have never read a book of fantasy, then may I suggest you start with this one? You won't be disappointed. I will read anything this author puts out.

Sandra Heptinstall

Southworth's Bookshelf

More Beer
Jakob Arjouni
translator, Anselm Hollo
Melville International
c/o Melville House Publishing
145 Plymouth Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201
9781935554431, $14.95,

The Bollig chemical plant just outside Frankfurt has been emptying waste into a nearby lake for years. Despite the illnesses of several children who had been swimming in the lake, nothing was done. Four members of the Ecological Front decide that something must be done to refocus attention on the problem. One night they enter the plant grounds and blow up the waste pipe.

Unfortunately for them, Friedrich Bollig, the owner of the plant was discovered "with four bullets in his chest and head, on the grounds of the plant, not far from the detonated waste pipe." They are swiftly arrested and charged not only with eco-terrorism, but murder. A murder they insist they did not commit.

Witnesses report that on the night of the crimes they saw five men running away from the exploded pipe. The four refuse to identify the fifth man even though it is likely he is the one who alerted the police to their whereabouts.

Enter Kemal Kayankaya, the private detective in More Beer, the second in Jakob Arjouni's international noir thriller series. Kayankaya was born in Turkey. When he was one, he was brought to Germany by his father ("one of the first Turkish garbage collectors of this republic") who was killed soon after. Adopted and raised by a German family, Kayankaya is a full German citizen but cannot escape constant racial prejudice because of his Turkish background. ("A private investigator - and a Turk? I'm supposed to believe that?")

When the attorney who hired him is threatened and begs him to drop the case, Kayankaya refuses and angrily tells him, "I told you I'd find the fifth man, if he exists. So I'll go looking. Since your clients were unlucky enough to get hold of such a wet blanket of a lawyer, they at least deserve a halfway decent detective."

Throughout, he maintains his firm belief that, "the most revealing thing about a murder is its motive. And the most revealing thing about a motive is the victim." And so he visits Friedrich Bollig's lovely widow whose home "had the atmosphere of an abandoned first-class service area along the freeway." He gets drunk with the wife of the plant's night watchman, a woman who had also been a lover to both Friedrich Bollig and his father.

More Beer is replete with intriguing characters. Not least is Kayankaya himself, who is part smart-ass, part Philip Marlow. And who, despite pervasive prejudice, despite multiple beatings and, despite too much beer and vodka, Kayankaya presses on determined to solve the crime.

Zeke Bartholomew Superspy
Jason Pinter
Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
P O Box 4410, Naperville, IL 60567-4410
9781402257551, $17.99,

Zeke Bartholomew is a twelve year old whose teachers have labeled him, "medium everything". They are wrong of course, as Zeke's adventures here show. Zeke has a flair for tinkering and invention, and with his best friend Kyle, spends lots of time in the GeekDen, Zeke's underground lab filled with circuits, wires, books, "every kind of tool imaginable" and "everything a growing mad scientist could possibly want."

His tremendous imagination frequently gets Zeke in trouble. Such as time what he thought was a band of gypsies turned out to be a knitting group." You might say", Zeke says to the reader, "There goes Zeke again, Zeke the daydreamer, the joke of an inventor, thinking he's some sort of kick-butt spy".

You see, Zeke loves spies and everything about them. His shelves are filled with "DVDs of every spy movie ever made. Underneath that are dozens of books on spies, spy craft, gadgets and tactics, along with novels packed with adventure and derring-do."

On a day that starts like any other, a new family moves into the house next door to Zeke. The movers are "all dressed in black jumpsuits and wearing dark baseball caps" and sport ear pieces. They unload several large aluminum cases instead of the usual cardboard boxes. Then there is Derek, the twelve year old son in the new family who wears a suit, tie and reflective sunglasses. It all adds up. Zeke is convinced that they are spies.

That night, dressed in dark clothes and cheap sunglasses, Zeke is rummaging through Derek's garbage cans looking for proof, when a car pulls up. The men inside are looking for "agent" Derek Lance. For some reason, he doesn't know why, Zeke tells them that he is "agent Derek Lance" and gets in the car.

He is being taken to meet Mr. Le Carre, a mysterious man to whom Derek (Zeke) is to deliver a sequence of secret codes that will activate something called Cerebro and Operation Songbird.

From this point on the action filled story really picks up speed. Zeke manages to escape from the car and elude the men looking for him by hiding underwater in a river. He makes his way to a nearby home where a woman invites him in and gives him dry clothes and tea. That brief calm is shattered when a huge man wearing a white suit with "every inch of the outfit striated with red tubes" and a hand that glows bright red crashes into the house.

Zeke is rescued from this peril by a young girl who is about his age and calls herself Sparrow. Sparrow claims to work for a secret agency called SNURP, "The Strategic National Underground Reconnaissance Project." Her mission is to prevent Le Carre from activating Cerebro and Operation Songbird.

To tell any more would spoil the fun of following Zeke and Sparrow as they get into one tight spot after another, each tighter than the one before. The fate of the world is in the hands of these two determined twelve year olds; they must succeed.

This is Pinter's first Young Adult novel. He is better known for his adult thrillers, most recently, The Fury and The Darkness. Zeke Bartholomew Superspy is a joyful, fun ride that pre-teens, teens, and even adults will certainly enjoy.

Bruce E. Southworth

Suzie's Bookshelf

The Best Gift
Ann Jacobs
BBAJ Publishing B003VD24IY $0.99 Kindle

Giles Redmond had fought gallantly in the Civil War for the North. In a battle he received a devastating wound that cost him his left leg. Damaged in body and soul, he returned to his home in New England to care for his daughter Kathryn.

Giles is convinced the injury he received in war will one day cost him his life. He wants to provide the best for his daughter, and arranges a marriage with his long time friend Laura Wakefield.

Laura has always been in love with Giles, but she kept her feelings to herself because she felt they could never be together because of their difference in social status. Giles' proposal comes as a surprise, and she readily accepts his offer knowing it could be her only chance to get close to him.

Giles is convinced the marriage will be one in name only as he doesn't want to reveal his damaged body to Laura. Laura is determined to win Giles heart; even injured she loves him with all of her heart. Will she be able to convince him of her love?

THE BEST GIFT is a wonderful present that is filled with heartwarming characters that you will grow to love. Ann Jacobs is a master writer whose talent always amazes me at how she can go from writing futuristic, to historical in a blink of an eye. In each one of her book you will see the time and dedication she has put into them to provide the best reading experience possible. Her writing style is addictive, this reader is anxious to discover another one of her wonderful works!

Bid for a Bride
Ruth Ann Nordin
Smashwords, Inc.
15951 Los Gatos Blvd., Ste 16, Los Gatos, CA 95032
$2.99 Ebook

When Lucy married Adam Nilles she never anticipated that her marriage could be a sham. Adam had promised to take her to his home in Oregon, but instead she found out that he had committed bigotry and was intent on dumping her in a small South Dakota town.

The town people were outraged at the treatment Lucy was receiving from her "husband" as he made the offer to sell her for a day's wages. The threatened to turn him into the Marshall for his treatment of Lucy, but he managed to escape before they appended him.

Lucy was saved by the local preacher and sent to go with a local lady named Addy. She was in shock at what had just transpired; she never anticipated that her happy marriage could end so abruptly in so much turmoil.

News of the unfortunate lady and her dire circumstances spread throughout the town. While shopping with his mother Eliza, Brian Evans heard the gossip of the new lady in town. Brian himself was sympatric to her cause because he was abandoned himself at the young age of eight by his father. Although Brian was born blind, his other senses were shaper then those of a sighted person.

Eliza and Brian decided to visit the young woman. Upon meeting Lucy, Brian heard something in her voice that touched his heart. He felt an immediate connection with her, and hoped that the opportunity would come to visit her again.

When the preacher visits Brian he presents the grim circumstances that Lucy faces. He suggests the only possible way to save her tattered image is for her to find a husband willing to accept her for the woman she is. He also revealed that Lucy could be with child and if Brian didn't propose marriage the other men in town might not be so accepting of raising another man's child.

Brian knew that he was the man to step in and save Lucy. When he makes his proposal to the young scared woman, will she be willing to accept his marriage offer so soon after experiencing such a life changing tragedy?

Ruth Ann Nordin has written an exceptional romance. There is no way that a true romance fan can resist Bid for a Bride. This is one of the books that you hate to see end. It definitely is one that earned a keeper's place high on this hallowed shelf. This was the first book I have read by Ruth Ann Nordin, but it will not be my last. I eagerly await future titles from this talented author.

Suzie Housley

Theodore's Bookshelf

Hanging Hill
Mo Hayder
Bantam Press
20 Vauxhall Bridge Rd., London, England SW1V 28A
9780593063842 12.99 BPS

[It should be noted that this book is presently available only in the UK/Canada, not yet in the US]

The author is known for writing thrillers, sometimes with horrific plots and graphic details. This novel pales by comparison, with merely an offstage rape scene to occasion a police procedural of somewhat questionable means, and a side story about two sisters who have had virtually no contact for 20 years but are in a sense joined at the hip by the rape victim, and then that thread develops into an evolving family relationship.

The story is more about the various characters - the two sisters, their lovers, their own background and history - and how each is affected, rather than the crime and ensuing investigation which seems to be an afterthought to contribute to the main plotline.

Written with verve, the novel seems to drag along except for some more "exciting" portions. Much of the descriptions of one sister's divorce and subsequent life seem labored, and the ending was to this reader quite unsatisfactory. In fact the title of the book might be a fit description for its conclusion: It seems to just hang without any wrapping up. That notwithstanding, the novel still bears reading, and is recommended.

Guilt by Association
Marcia Clark
Mulholland Books
c/o Hachette Book Group, 237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10017
9780316129510 $25.99, 800-759-0190

New York City has its former prosecutor-turned-novelist in Linda Fairstein. Now Los Angeles has its own, Marcia Clark, who was the lead prosecutor in the O.J. Simpson trial and subsequently wrote a best-selling non-fiction book on her experiences. However, that's where the similarity ends. Ms Fairstein, of course, centers her wonderful plots on various Big Apple landmarks, weaving them into the thread of the crimes. On the other hand, Ms. Clark seems to overly dwell on a never-ending series of LA restaurants and bars, as well as the love lives (such as they are) of assistant DA Rachel Knight and her two female friends, another assistant DA, Toni, and Bailey, a detective.

This observation aside, the novel has quite a lot going for it. The thrust of the book is two seemingly unrelated murders: An apparent murder-suicide involving a much-liked assistant DA whose body is found in a seedy motel room with that of a teenage male hustler, and the death of a suspected rapist. While the first case is taken over by the FBI because of a conflict of interest, it falls to Rachel and Bailey to solve the mysteries.

For a first novel, the effort is fairly well done, with good dialogue and plot movement, as well as some subtle twists. It could have used some more editing and tightening, especially in the first half of the book. After initially wandering and giving varied background information, it really gets going in the second part, and is recommended.

Red on Red
Edward Conlon
Spiegel & Grau
c/o Random House, 1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780385519175 $26.00, 800-726-0600,

Having first turned his hand to a memoir of life in the NYPD, "Blue Blood," which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Non-fiction, the author, a working cop and detective, has now turned his efforts to fiction. In this novel, it seems there is plenty of real life fact to go along with the fabricated story about two NYPD detectives.

Nick Meehan transfers into an upper Manhattan precinct from a miserable post in the Bronx under the auspices of Internal Affairs, ostensibly to get the goods on another detective, Esposito, as being "bent." Unexpectedly, the two are partnered and develop a close relationship, and Nick is torn by his own self-doubts and unstable personal life. It soon appears that "Espo" is sort of a genius, conjuring up various scenarios to close cases as well as to help Nick's love life.

The novel is full of detail on how a detective squad works, solving crimes and interacting with each other, written, obviously, by one who knows whereof he writes. It is amusing at time, sad at others, but throughout, rings with authenticity and emotion, and is recommended.

Potsdam Station
David Downing
Soho Press
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003,
9781569479179, $25.00, 212-260-1900,

The fourth novel in this series chronicling John Russell's experiences during the rise and fall of Nazi Germany picks up in the very closing days as the Red Army is encircling and about to enter Berlin. The last days of the Third Reich are graphically told, as the population suffers from Allied bombing and Soviet shelling, and the German army is fading from lack of personnel and equipment.

The plot finds Russell talking his way into Moscow in an effort to get to Berlin to find and safeguard his girlfriend, Effi, the former movie star who has remained in Berlin after Russell escaped to Sweden and then the United States three years before, and his son, Paul, who is serving in the German army. Effi has been helping to rescue Jews and there is probably a warrant out for her arrest. Somehow, Russell manages to convince an NKVD officer to parachute him into the Nazi capital in exchange for a secret mission to be performed upon his arrival.

There are numerous errors throughout the text, as if no one, including Spellcheck, proofed the typeset. Aside from this negative aspect, the novel certainly is well-written and the action and story is exciting. The drama of the last days of Berlin is certainly dramatic, the plot is clever, and the novel recommended.

The Final Reckoning
Sam Bourne
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780061875786 $7.99, 800-242-7737,

Truth and fiction merge in this thriller about survivors of the holocaust taking justice into their own hands, seeking out Nazis and murdering them. It comes to light when the last survivor of DIN, the secret group of Jewish resistance fighters (yes, there were some) and concentration camp inmates after the war, travels to the UN in New York from London on his last mission and is shot by a security guard.

Tom Byrne, a former UN attorney now in private practice, is retained to go to London, visit the victim's daughter, and attempt to smooth over any claim she might have. Instead, he becomes both romantically involved with her and involved in a scheme that eventually has severe repercussions.

Written based on actual people and events of the past, the novel provides emotional ups and downs almost equal in intensity to the horrors of "the final solution." It concludes with a suspense that is equally gripping, with solid prose and excellent pacing, and is recommended.

The Redbreast
Jo Nesbo
10 E 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780062068422 $7.99, 212-207-7000/800-242-7737,

During World War II, Norway was occupied by the Nazi army, and the head of the government lent his name to the English language synonymous with traitor - Quisling. About 400 Norwegian youths volunteered to fight with the Germans on the Eastern front against the Russians. Most of them did not survive the war. But those that did and returned to Norway were branded traitors and sentenced to years in prison.

It is against this challenging backdrop that the author has created a superb mystery novel equal to the best of the Scandinavian writers. He introduces Harry Hole, an irreverent, alcoholic detective on a par with Harry Bosch and his contemporaries. The story moves from events during the war to present times and back and forth. A series of murders takes place in Oslo, and little by little Harry follows the leads subtly provided, ignoring the powers that be who tell him to ignore his intuition and "be a good boy."

The roots of the story are gleaned from the author's own background - his father served in the Leningrad siege and his mother in the resistance. The novel was first published in Norway in 1997 and won the Glass Key Award for best Nordic crime novel and later voted the best Norwegian crime novel ever written. It is the author's second book [his third has already been released in hardcover] and we look forward to many more. Highly recommended.

Favorite Sons
Robin Yocum
Arcade Publishing
307 W. 36th St., NY, NY 10018, 11th fl.
978-1-61145-004-0 $24.95, 212-643-6819,

Sometimes a first novel is born from an author's prior background, reflecting authenticity and deep understanding. Such is the case in this debut novel with a plot more complicated but more meaningful than a simple plot summary can convey. In its utter simplicity, the novel traces the ramifications of a decision taken by four 15-year-old boys, 30 years after the fact.

The book centers on Hutch Van Buren who seems a shoo-in to be elected Ohio's next Attorney General, leading in the polls by about 18 percentage points. Until, that is, it comes to the surface that he and three friends covered up the murder of a retarded youth, allowing a pedophile to be convicted of the crime. After his release from prison, the convict threatens to expose Hutch unless he quashes another charge of molestation.

The novel delves deeply into the psychological impact on Hutch, and looks into various other issues, including corruption, bribery, and the criminal mind. It tests the limits of friendship, and weighs heavily in on the question of whether truth and justice should prevail. This is a worthy book, especially so coming from a first-time novelist, and we hope there is another forthcoming. Recommended.

Thirteen Hours
Deon Meyer
Grove Press
641 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9780802145451 $7.99, 212-614-7850,

Post-Apartheid South Africa has undergone many traumatic changes. But for homicide detective Benny Griessel, nothing much changes except for the murder victims, the politics, unsettled race relations and his own personal problems. Benny is saddled with "mentoring" newly promoted black, or "colored," detectives. Of course, he is the only experienced white.

The plot involves two murders and a kidnapping, each a potential PR disaster for the SA government. It is up to Benny and his untested troops to save a captive American girl who witnessed the murder of her fellow tourist. Meanwhile, a well-known music executive is found shot in his home with his pistol lying at his feet, his alcoholic wife asleep in a chair.

Deon Meyer has written six novels and "Thirteen Hours" is probably the best (not taking anything away from its predecessors). It is taut, moving and deeply memorable, and is highly recommended.

Dead Man's Grip
Peter James
20 New Wharf Rd., London N1 9RR
9780230747241 12.99 BPS,

[It should perhaps be noted that this book is presently only available in/through the UK - the Canadian edition is due out in late August, US edition in November]

This is the seventh in the Roy Grace series, detailed police procedurals that take place in the Brighton area of Great Britain. The tightly written plots carry the reader from page to page wondering what comes next. And the nearly overwhelming [in a good way, to be sure!] detail keeps the reader from guessing the next step.

This novel begins with the gruesome death of a young man, who defies his mother, the daughter of a mafia don in New York City, to study at a Brighton university and live with his English girlfriend. One day, on the way to school, riding his bike on the wrong side of the road, he is narrowly missed by a car driven by Carly Chase [who swerves onto the sidewalk to avoid him], but is hit by a tailgating white van [which leaves the scene], then rolls under a truck's wheels and is killed.

The plot stems from this incident, with the mother hiring a hit man to torture and murder the three drivers. When two of them are found dead, it behooves Carly to attempt to protect herself and her young son. And thereby hangs a tale, a rather detailed description of the killer's movements, and the efforts of Detective Superintendent Roy Grace and the entire Sussex police force to capture him.

By all means get a copy and read it! Highly recommended.

Robert B. Parker
G.P. Putnam's Sons
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780399157264 $26.95, 800-847-5515,

To quote some of the immortal words of the Bard, "I come to praise" Robert B. Parker, and, of course, the work that he has left behind obviously will "long live after him." In this, the last, Spenser novel, he once again provides an outstanding example of his talent and creativity.

Spenser is enlisted by his sometime buddy, police captain Quirk, to investigate the death of a young woman, who died after apparently having sex with a repulsive movie star in his hotel room. The obvious conclusion is that the man is responsible for her death, but Quirk is not so sure and asks Spenser to find out what happened. And Spenser goes about the task in his usual manner, this time accompanied by a brand new character (Hawk is in Asia), a "wasted" Cree Indian who Spenser takes under his wing to rehabilitate and train.

Enough has been written about Parker, his unparalleled ability to write sharp and amusing dialog, create funny barbs and unusual stories. So such comments are really unnecessary here. All one can say is, Mr. Parker, we'll miss you.

Highly recommended.

Kiss Her Goodbye
Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
222 Berkeley St., Boston, MA 02166
9780151014606 $25.00, 617-351-5003,

When Mickey Spillane died, he left behind a treasure trove of manuscripts, plot notes, rough outlines, character notes and drafts of final chapters. He told his wife to give everything to Max Allan Collins who "would know what to do." And this Collins has done, three times so far [with a fourth due out in October]. In this novel, he combined two partial manuscripts and shaped and expanded them from an unfinished version that was a false start.

In this entry, the death of his mentor, officially termed a suicide, brings Hammer back to New York City from Key West, where he has been recuperating for a year after a shootout in which he killed a Mafia don's son. He returns to the Big Apple with a jaundiced eye, denigrating everything he sees and hears, determined to return to Florida quickly following the funeral. Instead, of course, he becomes enmeshed in investigating the death, which he believes to be a murder, as well as four others, and committing the usual bloody mayhem of his own.

It is pure Spillane, and Collins as usual has performed a service to those who ate up the millions of copies of Mike Hammer novels sold in the 1960s and '70s by keeping the flame alive. How much is Spillane, and how much is Collins, is really not important. The book is vintage Spillane, and is a tribute to both authors. Recommended.

Theodore Feit

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

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