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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 12, Number 9 September 2012 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Aaron's Bookshelf Ann's Bookshelf
Applegate's Bookshelf Bannon's Bookshelf Bethany's Bookshelf
Buhle's Bookshelf Burroughs' Bookshelf Carson's Bookshelf
Christy's Bookshelf Clark's Bookshelf Crocco's Bookshelf
Daniel's Bookshelf Duncan's Bookshelf Gail's Bookshelf
Gary's Bookshelf Gloria's Bookshelf Gorden's Bookshelf
Harry's Bookshelf Harwood's Bookshelf Karyn's Bookshelf
Katherine's Bookshelf Kaye's Bookshelf Logan's Bookshelf
Lois' Bookshelf Margaret's Bookshelf Marjorie's Bookshelf
Mayra's Bookshelf Paul's Bookshelf Peggy's Bookshelf
Richard's Bookshelf Riva's Bookshelf Sandra's Bookshelf
Suzie's Bookshelf Teri's Bookshelf Theodore's Bookshelf

Reviewer's Choice

Stephen Ferry
Umbrage Editions
111 Front Street, Suite 208
Brooklyn, NY 11201
9781884167393, $50.00,

Andy Jordan

The Colombian armed conflict is an ongoing asymmetric low-intensity armed conflict in Colombia that has existed since approximately 1964 or 1966, between the Colombian government and peasant guerrillas such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), and the National Liberation Army (ELN).

It is historically rooted in the banana conflict known as La Violencia, which was triggered by the 1948 assassination of populist political leader Jorge Eliecer Gaitan, and in the aftermath of United States-backed military attacks on peasant communities in rural Colombia in the 1960s that led Liberal and Communist militants to re-organize into FARC.

The reasons for fighting vary from group to group. The FARC and other guerrilla movements claim to be fighting for the rights of the poor in Colombia to protect them from government violence and to provide social justice through socialism. The Colombian government claims to be fighting for order and stability, and seeking to protect the rights and interests of its citizens. The paramilitary groups, such as the AUC, claim to be reacting to perceived threats by guerrilla movements. Both guerrilla and paramilitary groups have been accused of engaging in drug trafficking and terrorism. All of the parties engaged in the conflict have been criticized for numerous human rights violations.

The fighting has killed 250,000 individuals[14] and displaced millions.

"Violentology: A Manual of the Colombian Conflict" is a 184-page, coffee-table compendium showcasing Stephen Ferry's photographic documentation of this tragic and bloody struggle. There are both black-and-white, as well as color images that fully capture diverse elements of this conflict. Enhanced with informed and informative essays by Colombian historian Gonzalo Sanches and Foundatoin for Freedom of the Press president Maria Teresa Ronderos, "Violentology: A Manual of the Colombian Conflict" is a very highly recommended addition to personal and academic library 20th Century Columbian History reference collections and supplemental reading lists.

Based upon two decades of in-depth investigative reporting in Colombia's conflict zones, this explosive volume integrates text, photography, and design to communicate the horrors that paramilitary groups, such as the "United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia" (as well as the other sides of the conflict in response to the violence), inflicted and continue to inflict on Colombia. An instant classic of journalism and South American political history.

Gone Girl
Gillian Flynn
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor
New York, NY 10019
9780307588364, $13.94,

Edward Gordon

"Gone Girl," by Gillian Flynn (Crown 2012), is simply the best book I've read this year. Flynn is a relatively new author, having published only three novels so far. Her first, "Sharp Objects" came out in 2007, and "Dark Places" came out three years later. "Gone Girl" was published in June of this year, and has risen meteorically as an Amazon bestseller. What makes this novel so worth reading is what makes all great novels worth reading: an engaging story told with superb writing.

"Gone Girl" is a story about marriage in the extreme, and like so many far-out tales of fictional relationships, it serves to illuminate the constituents of real marriage in real life: what is expected, what is owed, and what will be taken if not given. "Gone Girl" is Hemingway writing "War of the Roses." It's a funny, intriguing, and revealing story about those aspects of a dysfunctional marriage that remind us the worst damages often come from the hands of those we trust the most. Gillian Flynn holds nothing back.

There are two main characters, Nick and Amy. Amy, the famous inspiration behind the Amazing Amy series of children's books co-authored by her parents, goes missing and is presumed dead. An investigation is launched by the police and the FBI (and the reader, of course) to find the kidnapper/killer. Naturally, the husband is always suspect number one. What ensues is a game of cat and mouse that will have you saying OMG! with each new chapter and each new twist. I wish I could go on, but I can't describe the story any further without spoiling it for you. So, I will leave it to you to read the book for the rest of it. Nevertheless, the second half of this book's greatness is the writing.

When it comes to the writing, Flynn is a master at using the English language to convey her clever insights. This is the hallmark of an expert writer, and Flynn is the definitive expert. Her sense of pacing, tension, suspense, transitions, and diction are on par with some of the greatest writers I've ever read. I honestly believe we'll see a lifelong career from this author as she goes on to write books that become top movies and one day earn her a Pulitzer Prize. In fact when I chose to review "Gone Girl," I chose it over the 2011 Pulitzer Prize winning author, Jennifer Eagan, simply because the writing of Gillian Flynn was more captivating than what I found in "A Visit From the Goon Squad."

I highly encourage anyone looking for a great mystery thriller to grab a copy of "Gone Girl." I can easily stake my reputation on the assertion that you'll not be disappointed with the work of this American author. Now is the time to start following her. Gillian Flynn is one of the best.

Way to go, girl!

Mastering the Art of Success
David Wright
Insight Publishing
9781600138928, $19.95,

Emanuel Carpenter

Are you ready to be motivated? I'm not talking that old-school motivation that gets you charged up one day and then you forget about it the next. If you're ready for true motivation that will call you to action, then you need to pick up a copy of the new book "Mastering the Art of Success." In the book, author David Wright interviews some of the most famous and not-so-famous public speakers you've ever or never heard of. Among them are Les Brown, "Chicken Soup" authors Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen, and Laura Posey.

Example: Do you want to get better at sales? Then you definitely don't want to miss the interview with Jack Daly, professional sales coach. His advice for entrepreneurs who want to grow their business is worth the price of this book alone. Daly shares the three top areas of sales management excellence, including:

1. Minimum standards of performance need to be negotiated with each individual salesperson.
2. Recruiting (going after the A players).
3. Coaching, training, and pre-call preparation.

But success is not just about sales. For example, growth expert Laura Posey gives the following sound advice on defining success:

What matters is to know what satisfies you on a deep, emotional level. What matters is to know what excites passion in you without worrying about what someone else thinks. When you can let go of caring about what others think about success and then discover what it means for yourself, you are on the path to success.

"Mastering the Art of Success," has a little something for everyone. Ginny Baldridge shares strategies for your executive image (internally and externally), Lisa Wilber shares her rags to riches success by becoming an Avon superstar, and Vanessa Ali tells readers how her spirituality led to her success. Several other interviewees share tips and advice too.

There's something for everyone in this book, especially if you're looking to start a business, get better at sales, or just want to be at the top of your game where you work. The style of this books works as well because it feels like you're listening to radio interviews instead of reading a book.

If you want to succeed in business and in life, pick up this book today!

Highly recommended.

Add More ~ing to Your Life: A Hip Guide to Happiness
Gabrielle Bernstein
9780843716559, $14.99,

Janie Franz

Featured in the New York Times Sunday Styles section as the next generation guru, motivational speaker/life coach/author Gabrielle Bernstein is making her mark. Bernstein's book, Add More ~ing to Your Life: A hip guide to happiness, published by QNY, soared to the top of sales lists.

Those who follow this young entrepreneur are devoted fans. Bernstein has blazed a trail through the speaking circuit, hitting women's groups, junior leagues, yoga studios, and learning centers. She appeared on bestselling author Karen Salmansohn's Sirius Radio show "Be Happy Dammit" and has been featured on a number of publications and media outlets: Marie Claire, Health, Women's Health, Crain's, CNN, NBC10!, Fox & Friends, PBS "To The Contrary," Wall Street Journal, AdWeek, Am-NY, and New York Moves Magazine. She blogs for the Huffington Post,,,, and

All that said, when I received her book, I was eager to see what this young go-getter was selling. Let me just say that I'm definitely not among her generation so that may color some of my statements. I was put off by the cover and the photos that prefaced each chapter. They were all of Bernstein showing the world how happy she is. She's a beautiful young woman and, frankly, those photos told me nothing about the nuggets that were hidden inside her book. They spoke of arrogance that kept me from opening the covers and reading for a long time. How could someone so beautiful, young, and successful ever tell me, a woman in my 60s who was starting over, anything about life and how to find happiness?

Boy, was I wrong!

Bernstein has written a wonderful manual for accessing your own intuitive guidance.
She laces the book with exercises that focus on you and not on some philosophy she's espousing. Though I found some of her anecdotes or stories of other women didn't apply to my life or lifestyle, the meat of her book did---the exercises, the meditations, the links to other resources. Grounded in yoga training and different meditative techniques, the book provides multiple ways for readers to develop their own daily mindful practice and ground themselves in the present. When in the present, you can tackle anything and march boldly into the future.

I recommend the book highly!

The Mortician's Wife
Maralee Lowder
Solstice Publishing
P.O. Box 460455, Denver, CO 80246
9781470105280, $12.99 pb, Kindle- $3.99

Michael Thal, Reviewer

A Character Study in Evil

Emily Hawkins is a nine-year-old girl living in the small town of Newkirk, a little California mountain town. The first Halloween she is permitted to join friends without mother tailing along was the night she began to learn the meaning of compassion. Led by Billy Shaw, and dressed as a gypsy, little Emily and her band of trick-or-treaters end up on Riverside Drive, the forbidden part of town. Then Billy had a brilliant idea.

Emily's weird premonition wasn't good, which bore true when they stopped in front of the old mortuary - the place "where the crazy lady lived, the one the kids liked to call 'the witch'." Emily refused to throw a rock at the windows on the third floor. Angie Romero threw the rock instead breaking a glass on the second floor. The kids scattered, all but Emily. She stood frozen as a "blast of nasty, hateful air gushed out of the broken window" and headed toward her. Soon, an old woman appeared covering the hole with a board. That's when Emily felt the old lady's sorrow and the beginning of a relationship that would span decades.

With The Mortician's Wife, Maralee Lowder creates a new genre of fiction - Horror/Revenge. As readers page through this riveting novel they will uncover a unique character study. They will watch Emily grow up into a compassionate nurse with wisdom beyond her years. Ada Carpenter is a sad nonagenarian who tells her life story to Emily in an attempt to unburden a horror story that would rival any thriller Dean Koontz would tell. As Emily listens to Ada's mind numbing tale, readers will be absorbed by the evil one human is capable of launching against another. This is one book you don't want to miss. 5 stars!

Twilight of the Elites: America after Meritocracy
Christopher Hayes
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780307720450, $26.00,

Prakash Kona

As a reviewer with not so few pretensions to objectivity, I'm not supposed to say that I loved the book. That's how adolescent boys and girls begin their journey on the path to self-destruction through making declarations of boundless love. I did indeed love the book though. It is written with a certain passion as if in response to the need of a time - "the increasing inequality, compartmentalization, and stratification of America in the post-meritocratic age" (212) - that I found particularly appealing.

There are books that are written well without saying much and there are books that say a lot but make demands on the reader when it comes to the cumbersome style of the author. This book is both a highly intelligent one as well as eminently readable embodying the best in American traditions of serious prose writing where you express a complex thought in the most elegant way possible. Hayes combines the joy of reading a book with the joy of learning something new. He takes a moderate, expository tone often carefully understating his point as if he were a defense lawyer talking to the jury in a law court - in this case, of course, the jury being the readers. The deadly irony of what he is trying to say can hardly be missed.

One central thesis that guides the book is: "unequal outcomes make equal opportunity impossible" (57). The entire work is a meticulous substantiation of this one statement to devastate the false logic upon which meritocracy has been instituted as norm in the United States. Neither should merit be an ideal nor is merit a reality, at least the former never translated into the latter - this is what I concluded upon reading the book. "The conviction that in America those at the top and those at the bottom are equal in the eyes of the law is one of our most fundamental and cherished national creeds. But nearly everywhere you look, this basic principle of fairness is ignored or violated" (70). This is also in fact how American propaganda represents the United States to the world - that, it is a fair country and not that some are fairer than others (the pun intended).

Meritocracy has become a globally popular argument owing to the influence of American notions of what democratic politics mean in practice. One of the faces of western-capitalist notions of democracy is consumerism as can be viewed in the rise of the ultimate commodity which in a sense runs through the phrase "personal choice." It is a phrase that journalists and politicians use with hidden contempt and common Americans use with innocence that is more like fear coming from deep-seated insecurity and is puzzling more than anything else. That merit is a matter of personal choice and anyone and everyone can get to the top is sincerely consumed as fact by most Americans. People are not born with personal choices and they are privileges granted by a "system of reality" (a phrase from James Baldwin); it is this system of reality that makes sure that some stay at the top and many are condemned to remain at the bottom. In this system of reality, the emphasis by the powerful who sustain it is more on the "real" than on the "system." The reality however is that there is no merit that justifies why those at the top are at the top just as there is no reason to believe that those at the bottom have made a "personal" choice to be there. It is a system of "true lies" made to look natural and one that is effectively maintained by a philosophy of fraudulence or what we call plain cheating. "When cheating becomes an accepted norm within an institution, it produces a distinct and dangerous psychology in those who rise to the top. They come to view themselves as ubermensches and begin to hold in contempt those not in on the secret" (98). The system of reality is in fact a system of illusions where those at the top view themselves as "ubermensches" and they want the others to believe in exactly the same things that they do. The inequality aspect is what Hayes emphasizes throughout the book sometimes with profound indignation. "Our system is supposed to reward the virtuous and punish the vicious, and yet everywhere you turn, it seems the vicious are living high off the hog" (101). A vicious system keeps the inequality viciously alive. In one of the most powerful passages in the book Christopher Hayes makes a case for the "fundamental inequality of accountability."

"Along with all of the other rising inequalities we've become so familiar with - in income, in wealth, in access to politicians - we confront now a fundamental inequality of accountability. We can have a just society whose guiding ethos is accountability and punishment, where both black kids dealing weed in Harlem and investment bankers peddling fraudulent securities on Wall Street are forced to pay for their crimes, or we can have a just society whose guiding ethos is forgiveness and second chances, on in which both Wall Street banks and foreclosed households are bailed out, in which both inside traders and street felons are allowed to rejoin polite society with the full privileges of citizenship intact. But we cannot have a just society that applies the principle of accountability to the powerless and the principle of forgiveness to the powerful. This is the America in which we currently reside." (102)

I would've concluded the passage by saying, "This is the world in which we currently reside." However, in all fairness to Hayes, the criticism is context-specific and meant to comment on the meritocracy that destroyed the possibility of an equal society in the US - all in the name of the most abused of words, "merit." The myth of merit haunts us each day of our lives. Are some people born to sing and dance and others born to write and paint? My answer is "yes!" Neither is Hayes denying this aspect of difference. The worst face of meritocracy is when we see that the sons and daughters of powerful people whether they are actors, politicians, sports people, lawyers or doctors - they enjoy access to the "merit" only because they have the advantages of wealth and privilege. We really don't know whether the poor are capable of all the attainments we see among the privileged because we are not giving them the similar opportunities the rich possess to discover themselves. An ideal meritocracy (if ever something like that is possible outside the domain of argument) ought to open the doors equally to everyone irrespective of class, power or status. That however is never the case. The meager opportunity given the poor is usually in a top-down manner which barely responds to the social and economic conditions of the underprivileged. Equating democracy with meritocracy has been the biggest globally perpetuated illusion in the past fifty years because it makes it look like the poor are down there despite a more or less just system that gives them a chance to make it to the top through hard work and industry. When we use the word haves in a strict sense, we are talking about those who have the money and power to make the difference. "In attempting to get a handle on the elite, income serves as a useful proxy for power more broadly because it allows us to quantify what is otherwise abstract" (143). Hayes further adds: "Once a member of the elite has sufficiently monetized his or her power, that money can be traded for other kinds of power, which in turn can be invested and reap its own kinds of rewards" (152). Basically, the meritocracy is nothing but an elite clique that perpetuates itself. "That's because while money, political power, platform, and network power may be distinct conceptually, they are tightly correlated in practice...The members of today's elite have never been farther from the median worker and closer, in the literal sense, to their fellow meritocrats" (149). The crisis of the present American social and political order is exactly this: an utter failure of the meritocracy in living up to its own false image of itself. "The cascade of elite failure has discredited not only elites and our central institutions, but the very mental habits we use to form our beliefs about the world" (106).

The failure of meritocracy is the failure of merit as a parameter around which we build a social order instead of justice or equality. "Justice being taken away, then, what are kingdoms but great robberies?" (112) Saint Augustine declares in The City of God. Saint Augustine is not talking about merit because he is aware that a just society gives people the chance to pursue the gifts that nature has endowed each one of us with. It is an unjust society that needs merit as an ideal in order to disguise social and political inequalities. Therefore Hayes adds: "As American society grows more elitist, it produces a worse caliber of elites" (155). The meritocracy is not creating particularly honest doctors or brilliant engineers or committed teachers or visionary writers. Unfortunately we see some of the worst floating around - and all supposedly products of merit - without sometimes even basic human qualities that define what a person should be like. The insensitivity bordering inhumanity and arrogance that goes into the principle of merit is one of the worst outcomes of meritocracy. Using concrete instances from the real life of sports and politics, Hayes demonstrates that some of the most corrupt people we ever get to see are actually among the so-called meritorious. In his book Politics Aristotle says that "whenever some, whether a minority or a majority, rule because of their wealth, the constitution is necessarily an oligarchy, and whenever the poor rule, it is necessarily a democracy" (79). He further adds:

"The first democracy, then, is the one that is said to be most of all based on equality. For the law in this democracy says that there is equality when the poor enjoy no more superiority than the rich and neither is in authority but the two are similar. For if indeed freedom and equality are most of all present in a democracy, as some people suppose, this would be most true in the constitution in which everyone participates in the most similar way. But since the people are the majority, and majority opinion has authority, this constitution is necessarily a democracy" (110).

From an Aristotelian perspective, the modern meritocracy is an oligarchy of elites who are able to "rule because of their wealth." While Aristotle views democracy as perversion of "constitutional government," he probably never imagined democracies degenerating one step further into meritocracies. Therefore, we don't live in a real democracy but a chimera of one. The laws meant for the poor don't apply to powerful people. This is because the poor have no share as participants in their own governance. An inconsiderate society is the direct consequence of this situation. As Hayes says:

"Democracies will always struggle to protect the rights and interests of minorities from being swallowed up by majority rule. Along the way, democratic societies will engage in brutal and, in hindsight, indefensible ignorance of the plight of those who are in its darkest corners. So it was with gay men facing the AIDS crisis in the 1980s, the infirm and careless residents of New Orleans, and subprime borrowers." (214-5)

The complete abandoning of marginal groups - the true minorities and "the wretched of the earth" as Fanon calls them - to the mercy of their own fates in the face of dire poverty, life-threatening illnesses and natural calamities is a prominent feature of the meritocratic version of democracy. Hayes reiterates his fundamental point when he says: "But my central contention is that our near - religious fidelity to the meritocratic ideal comes with huge costs. We overestimate the advantages of meritocracy and underappreciate its costs, because we don't think hard enough about the consequences of the inequality it produces. As Americans, we take it as a given that unequal levels of achievement are natural, even desirable" (218). The success of the propaganda machine is where inequality is made to look "natural" and "desirable" simply because we refuse to imagine an alternative to it.

"The first step of obstacles has to do with public opinion, or at least, perceptions of public opinion. It is a widely held view that America's less egalitarian social structure is a manifestation of a certain kind of exceptionalism, a shared cultural belief that with enough pluck and gumption anyone can end up on the top. Politicians and advocates feel they must frame their egalitarian arguments within the confines of the meritocratic framework - equal opportunity, level playing field, a fair shake for those who work hard and play by the rules - rather than the straightforward language of social solidarity." (227)

The myth of merit is one of the most pervasive of all myths that pass off for fact in democratic societies. Hayes notes: "Of all the status obsessions that preoccupy our elites, none is quite so prominent as the obsessions with smartness" (163). The conviction that if you're at the top you must be smart is an unintelligent and yet most pervasive of all convictions. The problem would not be so grave if smartness were an end in itself. But when smartness is about being rich and famous, that's when ethical questions need to be raised. People stop worrying about the means to reach the top and just want to reach the top irrespective of the ethical aspect of it. The bottom line is: corruption and abuse of power are completely justified because I manage to somehow reach the top. This is one side to the problem of smartness. The other side is that the "smart" actually start taking their smartness seriously without any thought of the costs being paid by someone else who happened to be "less" than smart, only because he or she did not have the background to prove him or herself.

The elite tastes which look so natural to a specific class of people are a superficial gloss to the reality of the propaganda machine and have nothing at all do with smartness per se. As Hayes observes: "Elite tastes are the emanations of high levels of power, status, and wealth. An English chimney sweep in nineteenth century London would not have been a member of the elite simply because he nurtured a love of opera and foxhunting. He would still have been a chimneysweep. Conversely Warren Buffet may still drive a beat-up old American sedan, live in a modest house in Omaha, and like unpretentious heartland food, but that doesn't mean he's not a member of the elite" (141). The chimney sweep will continue to be the chimney sweep irrespective of his tastes. Likewise Warren Buffet will not stop being one of the richest men on this planet. Despite his "modest" way of life no one accuses Buffet of lacking in smartness. That's one thing we all assume he has. Buffet himself I'm certain takes secret pride in his smartness and in my view it would be impossible to dissuade him from thinking otherwise simply because no one with that kind of wealth or power wants to think that he is there by accident or because of an unequal social order.

The book however is slightly weaker as it moves towards the end when it comes to pointing out a plausible basis to the problems created by meritocracy. The argument that the elites are "out of touch" with the masses is simply stating the only too obvious. Oppression is not just about "social distance" between the powerful and the powerless. In fact the powerful are very much in the lives of the powerless because they need their labor which is the source of both the wealth and the power. In the process every possible mechanism is applied to make it look like the poor and the downtrodden are cared for as individuals and as people. The American problem which Hayes implies without going deeper into the subject is at an important level an ethical problem confronting the nation as a whole. As M. L. King Jr., says in his speech "Why I am opposed to the war in Vietnam," "it is estimated that we spend $500,000 to kill each enemy soldier, while we spend only fifty-three dollars for each person classified as poor, and much of that fifty-three dollars goes for salaries to people that are not poor." It's a nation that is ready to spend on killing people in countries where they have no reason to be present while the poor at home are left to fend for themselves. If ordinary American citizens refused to reconcile with what the US is doing outside its borders there is no doubt that it is the first real step towards their own liberation. America's foreign policy is a reflection of its domestic policy. While the rights of common people in other parts of the world are being taken away by guile and force, it just won't happen that those meritocrats would allow for a genuine democracy at home. You cannot be living in a "free" nation that enslaves a good part of the world. Charles Dickens writes about the inhuman poverty of the working classes in 19th century England. Yet England was the greatest colonial power on earth while its poor lived in utter misery that Dickens portrays with poignant rage in his novels. The English elites had no problem in maintaining this contradiction. Why would the American elites be any different from them?

Hayes himself is aware of some of the difficulties in propounding an argument that would challenge meritocracy at its core. "But of course, even if, in theory, a straightforward program of higher taxes and more redistribution would make America more equal, prescribing it as a solution begs the question, because any vision of egalitarian policies isn't worth much without a vision for how to create the political space for their adoption" (227). As long as private property exists as private property where a few own everything there is little hope that change is possible. Back in the 19th century, Bakunin said: "Slavery may change its form or its name-its essence remains the same. Its essence may be expressed in these words: to be a slave is to be forced to work for someone else, just as to be a master is to live on someone else's work" (137). The elitism that is an offshoot of meritocracy is best viewed in a system of wage-slavery where wages become the one and only source of survival for the poor. When we talk about redistribution of power we mean directly or indirectly opening the doors to collective ownership of wealth and power. Some violence in the form of protests is expected to play a role in the change that will give the poor a chance to empower themselves. Hayes ends his book with an awareness of what such protests could possibly entail: "Power must be distributed against the tooth, nail, and knife opposition of those who wield it most closely and those who benefit from it most exorbitantly" (240).


Aristotle, Politics. trans. C. D. C. Reeve. Indianapolis: Hackett, 1998.
Augustine, Saint. The City of God. trans. Rev. Marcus Dods. Web.
Dolgoff, Sam. ed. Bakunin on Anarchy. New York: Vintage Books, 1972.

The Prayer of Jabez
Bruce Wilkerson
Multnomah Publishers
PO Box 1720 Sisters, OR 97759
9781590524831, $6.99,

SallyAnn Shore

An Old Testament man, named Jabez, is mentioned but briefly in a long listing of names in I Chronicles 4. But there is a pause at his name before the next name of a long lineage is mentioned, and that pause provides the reader with a small window into one man and the powerful prayer he prayed. It is this pause that Wilkerson's 'Prayer of Jabez' expounds upon.

Jabez prayed a prayer that was so significant that the writer of I Chronicles recorded it. The prayer is a short and concise request to God. Comprising of four parts (to be blessed, for enlarged boundaries, for God's Hand to be with him, and to be kept from evil) it is also recorded in the passage that God answered Jabez's prayer. The prayer of Jabez is a treasure...a showcase flower among the flowers of a field.

Wilkerson examines the four parts of the prayer and encourages the reader to make the prayer their own prayer, too. So far so good. But then Wilkerson provides a personal example of how praying Jabez's prayer brought about great results in his 'ministry'. Wilkerson and his youth group went on a 'mission's trip' to the beaches of Long Island. There they try to wins souls by performing 'gospel magic' and they claim an x number of souls for Christ for that day. Wilkerson's credibility with me is gone. Nothing he says in the remainder of the book interests me.

Souls are not numbers, people are not numbers, the impact of one's ministry is not significant because of the numbers they bring in. The paradigm Wilkerson represents is incorrect. The prayer that Jabez prayed is not a formula one plugs in to get desired results. Wilkerson encourages the reader to prayer the prayer for 30 days and expect to see amazing results... stroke the belly of the Buddha and get what you want.

From how I read that short passage in I Chronicles 4, Jabez prayed this pray only once, but what it showed was that his heart was desiring God's best and God's protection. Such was the man's character and his pilgrim walk. God answered his prayer because He saw his heart.

Aaron's Bookshelf

Deadly Pursuit
Michael Prescott
Audible, Inc.
c/o Amazon Digital Services
B0088UU3YW, $21.95, eBook: $2.99,

Jack Dance is the cleverest, nastiest, and most accomplished sociopath ever to grace the pages of a thriller. With no conscience and a devil-may-care attitude, this smiling, tune-humming, horribly handsome serial killer will make you shudder. His cavalier attitude when engaged in murder, his complete and utter lack of humanity, and the pairing of these attributes with the most cunning criminal mind of the century will linger in your mind long after you've finished the book.

Jack had a bad experience when he was eleven. It had something to do with a blue-eyed blond named Meredith. And after stewing in hot rage for many years, he finally takes action. Her murder - his first - whets his appetite for what is to becomes a ritualistic re-killing of Meredith, over and over again.

Aside from being a superb writer - I say this with complete honesty and zero exaggeration - Mr. Prescott is a talented plot twister who maintains tension and never, ever lets it slacken. Once you've read (or listened) to his books such at Stealing Faces, Blind Pursuit, or Mortal Pursuit, you'll learn that you'd best store up some extra adrenaline for the guaranteed ride to come. Deadly Pursuit is relentless in its suspense, and your favorite protagonist will be sure to partake of many successions of satisfying chase scenes with the villain. I've said this before, and I'll say it again: when it comes to writing thrillers, Mr. Prescott leads the pack.

Steve and Kirstie Gardner head for a vacation on Pelican Key, the place of Steve's childhood summer vacations, where he and his pal Jack Dance explored and clambered over the ruins of the old lime plantation. Now the house has been restored, and it beckons to Stephen with an inexplicable urgency. He needs to be there. He craves the connection to his youth. And he worries that maybe - just maybe - secrets from his past might follow.

The problem arises when Jack Dance happens to seek refuge on the same island when the feds begin to link him to the murders of the now infamous "Mister Twister." When Jack bumps into Kirstie on the beach, his thirst for blood surges, because as luck would have it, she looks a lot like Meredith.

I won't spoil the plot by telling you more. Just rest assured that the ride is torturous and deliciously scary.

This book is much more than a thriller - it's also a story that transports you from your armchair to a tropical island. I love novels with a sumptuous "sense of place." Deadly Pursuit propels the reader smack dab in the sultry humidity of the Florida Keys. I've never been there, but felt thoroughly connected thanks to Mr. Prescott's descriptions of the lush flowers, trees, wildlife and ecosystem. I am certain he must have frequented the location in person, so beautifully drawn were the scenes.

I happened to experience this book in audio book format. The narrator, Christopher Burns, has an uncanny knack for voices, especially for the carefree, jaunty inner voice of a serial killer. It "creeped me out" as my kids would say, to listen to this sociopath in such an intimate fashion. Well done, Mr. Prescott and Mr. Burns!

The Tangled Web
J.P. Lane
Amazon Digital Services
B007Z5Y3ZQ, $3.97,

The Tangled Web: An International Web Of Intrigue, Murder, And Romance is a fast paced and well told international thriller. I know I'm dating myself, but Ms. Lane's book reminds me of Helen McInnes's wonderful espionage thrillers that I used to read back in the seventies when I was in college. (Ms McInnes's books were in fact written in the second half of the last century, and I stumbled upon them in my parents' piles of books along with Agatha Christie, Rex Stout and John D. MacDonald.)

I was hooked from the start by the exotic setting(s), international verbage/dialects, and the spy-novel type thrills that run rampant in The Tangled Web.

Ms. Lane's thriller is set primarily on a Caribbean island, replete with tropical lush scene painting and intriguing local color. The characters who hail from the island range in character and style from rich white landowners to the delightful housekeeper, Ivy, who was one of my favorite (albeit minor) characters.

The dialog felt genuine, as did the frustration experienced by main characters Logan Armstrong (international tycoon) and Lauren Anderson (journalist) as they plummeted through this adventure without being able to fully communicate their feelings or intentions until the very end.

I won't rehash the plot here - since so many others have done so very thoroughly - but suffice it to say there is great treachery ongoing in the Caribbean political scenes behind the bright and touristy island of blue oceans and heady-scented flowers. The Prime Minister has become corrupt, putting his island's future in peril due to his links with the drug cartels and his own selfish purposes. Two plots interweave to assassinate this monster - one driven by a truly frightening cartel head, Maria Echevarria, and the other by well-meaning government officials who know that the Prime Minister must go.

I enjoyed this romp across the globe: from New York to London, from Prague to the Caribbean, it held my interest throughout. Well done, Ms. Lane!

Aaron Paul Lazar, Reviewer

Ann's Bookshelf

The Daylight Gate
Jeanette Winterson
Random House (Hammer)
9780099561859, A$24.99

It helps to know that this new novella by Jeanette Winterson is published under the Hammer imprint and that their new series of books is intended "to bring horror back to the forefront of the market". This is what it says on the Hammer website, but the blurb sent to reviewers is rather more up-market and says that the series "features original novellas which span the literary and the mass market, the esoteric and the commercial, by some of today's most celebrated authors".

This explains why Winterson has written a book which fits perfectly into the gothic horror genre. It explains, too, the black, often sickening content of The Daylight Gate, and why part of the publisher's blurb reads like the start of a romantic suspense story: "A beautiful lady - fine clothes, long red hair and astride a white horse, is followed by a falcon. She is riding through Pendle Woods. It's the Daylight Gate - that spot of time when daylight turns to night. And at the centre of the woods, watching and waiting, a group of feral, desperate women are gathering".

Winterson's novella is based on the Lancashire witch trials which took place in 1612. Twelve women and two men were charged with the murder of ten people by the use of witchcraft, and their trials were documented by the clerk-of-the-court, Thomas Potts, and published as The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches in the County of Lancashire. Winterson fictionalizes the lives of the witches who were hanged and burned, and of the men (including Potts) who were responsible for bringing them to trial.

In short, abrupt sentences, and in short abrupt chapters, Winterson describes the women, their sordid lives, their treatment at the hands of the men who arrest, abuse and imprison them, and their belief in the powers of the Devil - the Dark Gentleman whose favours they seek through the filthy and disgusting practices of black magic.

Only Alice Nutter, a wealthy woman on whose land the witches live and on whose charity and protection they thrive, is not a witch. She is the red-haired woman with the tame hawk who rides through Pendle Woods in the publisher's blurb. And even she, who learned her alchemical arts from Dr John Dee, practices magic and is very close to the dark side. Dee taught her skills which she used to create a highly desirable magenta dye. Thus she obtained her wealth. He also gave her an elixir which preserved her youth. And through him, she met her lover, Elizabeth Southern, who does sell her soul to the Devil and who becomes one of the accused witches.

Winterson says that the story of Alice Nutter and Elizabeth Southern is an invention of her own, not based on fact. But she makes 'Elizabeth Southern' the chosen pseudonym of 'Old Demdike' who, along with an Alice Nutter, was tried and condemned as one of the Lancashire witches. Apart from this, the facts of her story are historically correct and the place names are of places which did or do exist. Should you wish to visit the Well Dungeon in Lancaster Castle, for example, you can do so, but you will have to imagine the filth, the smells and the squalor which Winterson so graphically describes.

The only man in the book who is likeable, is Christopher Southworth, an escaped and hunted member of the Papist 'Gunpowder Plot' to blow up King James I and his parliament. Alice hides him in her home at Rough Lee and plans to escape with him to France. The lawyer, Potts, is brought unpleasantly to life as a fanatical witch hunter and accuser. William Shakespeare makes a cameo appearance to quote from Macbeth about "the instruments of darkness", and John Dee is also briefly present, but all the other men in the book are, in varying degrees, nasty.

Is it a coincidence, I wonder, that the abused witch-child in the book is named Jennet? After all, Jeanette Winterson's imaginative writing is, itself, a form of magic. But there is little love in this book and this is not her usual inventive and fluent style. I just hope that she will now leave the gothic and use her magical arts to create light rather than darkness and horror.

The Dream of the Celt
Mario Vargas Llosa
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
18 West 18th Street, New York, NY 10011
9780374143466, $27.00,

Some will know of the Irishman, Roger Casement, because of the infamous 'Black Diaries' in which he reputedly detailed his homosexual relationships, and which were published in the British press at the time of his imprisonment in Pentonville Prison in 1916. Some will also know that he was stripped of his Knighthood and hanged as a traitor for collaborating with the Germans against England during the First World War.

Some will know of him from William Butler Yeats's poem, which begins: "I say that Roger Casement/ Did what he had to do/ He died upon the gallows,/ But that is nothing new". Yeats saw him as an Irish patriot but that view was controversial, even in Ireland, and only recently has he been widely recognized as a hero of the Irish struggle for independence.

Few will know of his work in the Congo and in Amazonia, where he documented the atrocities perpetrated on the native population by colonizing powers for the sake of those valuable commodities - rubber and ivory. In both places, the reports he wrote for the British Foreign Office were instrumental in bringing about changes, and in 1911 King George V knighted him for exemplary service to the United Kingdom.

Few men rise so high: and few sink so low as to be tried for treason and end their lives on the gallows.

Mario Vargas Llosa begins his novel in Casement's cell in Pentonville Prison, where he awaits news of his appeal against the death sentence. But the bulk of the novel is made up of his memories. First of his years in Africa, then in Brazil and Peru, and finally in Ireland.

Casement was born in Kingstown, Co. Dublin, and grew up in an Anglican family, although his mother, who died when he was nine, had been a Catholic and had secretly had him baptized as a Catholic on a holiday trip to Wales. At the age of fifteen, he joined the Elder Dempster shipping line in Liverpool as an apprentice and, in the four years that he worked for them, he made three trips to West Africa and liked it so much that he gave up his job and moved there. In 1884, he joined an expedition into the Congo led by the famous Welsh explorer, Henry Morton Stanley. This was his first experience of the mixed intentions of Europeans in the Congo: "on one hand sowing desolation and death...and on the other opening routes to commerce and evangelization", but for the next two years he travelled extensively as an agent for the Sanford Exploring Expedition, which was developing trade throughout the Upper Congo for King Leopold II of Belgium.

During these years, Casement became increasingly disillusioned with the idealistic vision of being able "to emancipate backward and ignorant people through Christianity and Western enlightenment". By the time he met Konrad Korzeniowski, who was newly arrived in the Congo, he was able to share with him the horrors he had seen perpetrated by Belgian government agents and by the military Force Publique employed by them to enforce order. He prepared him for the terrible experiences which Conrad would eventually write into his novel, Heart of Darkness.

In 1888, Casement resigned from his job in disgust and went to work at a Baptist Mission as a book-keeper for three months before returning to England. Already, he was arguing vehemently against the exploitation, violence and moral corruption he had seen perpetrated in the Belgian Congo Free State in the name of commerce.

In Britain, reports of atrocities in the Belgian Congo were causing public outrage. Casement had a great deal of experience in Africa and a facility for languages which allowed him to talk with some of the native peoples in the Congo. His views about the situation there were also becoming more widely known. So, in 1892, he was appointed by the British Foreign Office as Travelling Commissioner to the Niger Court Protectorate and, shortly after that, as British Consul in the Congo port town of Boma. His express task was to investigate and report on human rights abuse in the Congo Free State. He undertook this task with "apostolic zeal" and presented his report in 1904. Pressure was brought to bear on the Belgians by the British government and changes were made. Casement became an important public figure in the cause against corruption and he was made 'Companion of St Michael and St. George' for his services in the Congo.

Through his African experiences, however, Casement had "discovered the great lie of colonialism" and had begun to think about his own country - Ireland. He became an Irish patriot and leaned all he could about Ireland's history, culture, mythology and language. And in 1905, he began to collaborate with the newly formed Sinn Fein. Later, after his Amazonian experiences, he return to live in Ireland and made a visit to the United States to meet John Devoy, the leader of the powerful nationalist Clan na Gael, and find support for his own Irish Volunteers.

Casement's experiences in the Congo were repeated when he was appointed Consul General at Rio de Janeiro in Brazil and began to document the conditions of labourers working on the remote Putumayo rubber plantations for the Peruvian Amazon Company. His report on these was published in Britain and was instrumental in bringing about the downfall of the PAC. And in 1911, he was awarded a Knighthood which, despite his Irish patriotism, he accepted.

Ill health, and a desire to return to Ireland made Casement resign from the British Foreign Office in 1913. From then on, he became increasingly involved in the Irish Republican movement, bringing his fanaticism for justice to the cause. At the outbreak of World War I he was convinced that a rising timed to coincide with a German attack on England was the best way for the Republicans to succeed. His negotiations in Germany, his return from there to Ireland in a German submarine to supervise the distribution of arms supplied by the Germans, his subsequent betrayal by a British spy, and his capture and imprisonment, bring Llosa's story full circle.

Roger Casement was undoubtedly a man governed by his principles to the extent that even close British friends ultimately broke off contact with him, and many Irish friends believed he had gone too far in liaising with the Germans. The 'Black Diaries', purportedly written by him during his years in Africa and Amazonia, and suggesting that he had indulged in sexual perversion, paedophilia and sexual exploitation, aroused disgust in many who would have supported a petition for clemency. These diaries, and his undoubted support for the Germans and theirs for him, led to him being stripped of his Knighthood and, ultimately, being hanged as a traitor.

Mario Vargas Llosa indicates Casement's homosexuality and love of photographing beautiful young boys, but he goes into little detail and suggests that much of the content of the diaries was the indulgence of fantasies by a lonely man. Llosa's graphic accounts of the atrocities in the Congo and Amazonia are hard to read; and the extremism and fanaticism of Casement himself make him a difficult man to like. However, Llosa creates a convincing picture of Casement as a man of many parts - good and bad - and he brings back into focus the many important changes that Casement's work did achieve. Llosa rounds off his novel with a summary of Casement's gradual acceptance in Ireland as "one of the great anti-colonial fighters and defenders of human rights and indigenous cultures of his time and a sacrificial combatant for the emancipation of Ireland". Something about which W.B.Yeats had no doubts when he wrote his poem.

Craig Taylor
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780062005854, $29.99,

Craig Taylor is Canadian, but after living for several years in London and growing attached to the place he began to ask "What is a Londoner?". It seems that there are almost as many answers to that question as there are people living in London but my favourite is that " a real Londoner would never, ever, ever eat at one of those bloody Angus bloody Steak Houses in the West End". I like it, firstly, because I grew up in London before there ever was an Angus Steak House in the West End; and secondly, because I have never, ever, ever eaten in one. However, I am sure there must be some Londoners who have.

In search of an answer, Craig Taylor interviewed some 200 people all over London and even some who had left London to live elsewhere. He interviewed anyone and everyone, from those in high places (and not just workers in the office towers at Canary Wharf but also high office holders like the Under-Sheriff and Secondary of London), to a street sweeper, a manicurist, and, of course, one or two taxi drivers. Tourists, immigrants, those who love London and those who hate it; teacher, squatter, Wiccan priestess, hedge-fund manager, currency trader, a couple who live in the Tower of London (try ordering a take-away Pizza from that address!), people in the arts, market traders, nurses, all have a voice in this book. We hear their language, their opinions, their likes and dislikes.

Even as a Londoner, I learned things I didn't know before and had glimpses of life in London which I hardly knew existed. I learned, for example, that around the back of the Planetarium, just off Baker Street, there is a block of flats with a whole set of train parts stuck into the top of the building. And I learned that according to Mistress Absolute, a dominatrix, London is one of the kinkiest cities in the world. I was fascinated by the funeral director's account of the changes in his profession which immigrants to his local area have caused; and by the career change which brought London its only black, dread-locked, female plumber. I was also intrigued to hear from fast-talking, fashion conscious "Smartie", an East-Ender who conned his way onto the bank's market trading floor by making up his c.v. and who reckons that half the traders in the futures market (the best ones, of course) were originally barrow boys who "came from market stalls...were rough and ready...edgy...streetwise, and "who could add up numbers easily".

There is such variety and so much interest in the eighty accounts in "Londoners: The Days and Nights of London Now--As Told by Those Who Love It, Hate It, Live It, Left It, and Long for It" that it is hard to pick out favourites. It is, in fact, just like London: full of life and spirit, full of the varied people who generate energy and excitement, and full of ordinary people who keep the whole city running. The sub-title of the book says it all: The Days and Nights of London Now - As Told by Those Who Love It, Hate It, Live It, Left It and Long For It - Londoners.

Ann Skea

Applegate's Bookshelf

Supreme Justice
Phillip Margolin
Harper Collins,
9780061926525, Nook eBook: $8.99, paperback $9.99

A novel about something that affects us all - the law

I think one of the reasons, maybe the most important reason, that books about lawyers - especially those written by lawyers - are a favorite read of so many of us is that laws affect all our lives, in so many different ways. There isn't much we do during the course of our lives that isn't affected by the laws of the land. From the day our birth is legally registered through the day our legal death certificate is signed, laws are part of our lives. And reading about the American way of justice, with its constant push-pull between right and wrong, with its lawyers, its lawmakers, law enforcers and lawbreakers, can make for an exciting and satisfying experience. Phillip Margolin has written a book that covers the law, for good or evil This book takes a look at a broad spectrum of the actors in almost every aspect of American jurisprudence. Supreme Justice offers a cast of characters that includes, among many lesser roles, these elements of the justice system:

The President, who nominates candidates for justices of the Supreme Court
Supreme Court justices who differ on decisions in an important case
Clerks who work for the various justices, and who can influence the course of a case
A former policewoman, convicted of murdering her husband
A homicide detective in a sleepy college town
A private investigator, and a district attorney who ignores rules of evidence
Partners and associates of a top-ranked law firm
A Supreme Court vacancy leads to murder

An unexpected vacancy at the Supreme Court is the basis for much of the action in this story. A case that is before the court may reveal ugliness and criminal wrong-doing at the highest levels of government - and the CIA. Justice Moss, who is known to be considering voting the "wrong" way in this case, finds herself a target for an assassin, whose attempt on her life is foiled by Brad Miller, one of her clerks.

A wide-ranging coast-to-coast story, even a "ghost ship" Margolin connects the action in Supreme Justice to actions and situations that took place in different times and different places. He brings in characters from another book, 2008's Executive Privilege. Those who have read the earlier story will recognize Brad Miller, Dana Cutler and Sarah Woodruff. This story, as is typical of Margolin's writing, moves fast, and as noted above, has lots of characters; it covers a lot of ground, and uses twists and turns of plot and characterization to entertain his readers, and keep them in suspense.

He moves the story from death row in an Oregon prison to the corridors of the White House and other power centers in Washington. He adds murders in a small college town on the east coast, and an almost-forgotten story of a "ghost ship" that plays an important part in this case.

Something for everyone who enjoys legal mysteries Supreme Justice ends with justice for all, and makes for an engaging story that doesn't challenge the reader; rather it provides plenty of good reading and maintains interest from beginning to end through deft plot devices. Margolin's characters offer no surprises in their actions, which are always consistent with the need to move the story forward.

There is sufficient wrong-doing, evil and criminal plotting at the highest levels of government to anger any reader. There are judges at various levels from the Supremes through lower courts who act in a less than honorable fashion, if they can get away with it. Secrets hidden away for years, even decades are opened to the light of justice.

Although there is evil afoot from the first page to the last, this is not a horror story. This is a legal mystery in which wrongs are righted, evil-doers of all stripes get their just desserts, and the good guys come out the victors. And all is well. For now. Until Margolin's next book. An entertaining story, a complicated plot but an easy read.

The Kill Artist (#1 Gabriel Allon series)
Daniel Silva
New American Library
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
9780451209337, Nook eBook: $9.99, 333 pages;
paperback $9.99, 512 pages,

A work of fiction that seems like fact The Kill Artist is the first book in Daniel Silva's series whose hero - maybe it's better to call him the leading character - is an Israeli named Gabriel Allon. Gabriel is an extraordinary individual and Silva makes clear the contradictions in Allon's persona. There are times, many times, in the book when the reader will admire Gabriel, other times they will despise him. But they may never really understand him. That's the way it is with men like Gabriel, and Silva's intention seems to be to keep the reader a little off balance.

A man of many parts - faces, places, characters Gabriel is a talented artist, who through the circumstances if his life, has chosen to become an art restorer, a man who skillfully and painstakingly removes flaws from works of art. He has restored paintings done by those called Old Masters, by Renaissance artists, by realists, impressionists and others.

His restoration work is done in a special private area in an art gallery in Vienna run by a man who may be just a friend, or a business partner, or both, or neither. This arcane profession, that of restorer of glorious and often ancient works of art,is an undertaking which demands exceptional skill, patience and attention to detail. It is also the perfect cover for Gabriel Allon, spy for Israeli intelligence.

A tale of action that ranges far and wide This is an action novel as well as an introspective one. Since it involves money, stolen art, banks and greedy bankers, wartime, peacetime, assassination, politicians, soldiers, spies, thieves, high-tech spy-craft, people with criminal motives and others with revenge in mind, Silva sets the story in an entire geography book of places.

Here is just a sampling of where the reader will go during the course of The Kill Artist: London, Vienna, Israel, Greece, Amsterdam, Paris, Portugal, Montreal, Washington D.C., Vermont, New York City, and numerous small towns, art galleries, banks, parks, train stations, office buildings, hospitals and more within each of the countries and cities. This is almost a travelogue of evil.

Gabriel Allon is more than an art restorer, for good reason There are two particular moments in Gabriel's life which made him the man he is and set him onto the course he is following. One happened in Munich, Germany, during the 1972 Olympic Games when assassins killed 11 Israeli athletes.

The other defining moment took place in Vienna on an ordinary evening when he and his wife and child were doing ordinary things. His Mercedes stuttered as his wife started the engine and then exploded, killing his beloved son and maiming - physically and mentally - his adored wife. Revenge is not sweet, Gabriel knows, but necessary at times The Kill Artist touches on some of the best and worst in humans, as Silva takes the reader on a tour through Gabriel's world, the world of the spy. Revenge has been a driver in his life: revenge he arranged for the mastermind of the Munich massacre and revenge for that massacre took the life of his son and ruined his wife's body and mind. Gabriel knows who is responsible for the attack on his family and sets out to even things up - if that is ever even possible.

For Gabriel, revenge is personal There is a cast of well-drawn characters in Silva's novel. Each character's relationship with Gabriel is different, but none are close enough to truly know the man. There is one exception - Ari Shamron, the legendary spymaster recently dragged out of retirement to serve again for The Office, Israeli clandestine intelligence service. Shamron and Gabriel are often at odds, but work together, in most cases successfully, to deal with implacable and highly skilled enemies, and horrific situations. A life of spying and violence

Ari understands Gabriel because they are opposite sides of the same coin, both having accepted that a life of spying and violence is the only way they can accomplish their goal of protecting Israel and Israelis from the threats of their enemies, whose ultimate goal is to drive Israel into the sea. The spy craft in this novel is fascinating and obviously well-researched. (Reading it, I felt as if I could go out and do away with an enemy - if I had one.)

The difference between the two men is a matter of conscience. Both understand that assassination, revenge, even torture are necessary parts of what they do, but Shamron is able to live more comfortably with that necessity than is Gabriel. Gabriel has a conscience that makes him question those values, yet he is able to go ahead despite his reservations. He sees no other answers to the issues that face him every day in the world he lives in.

The Middle East - a land of centuries of enmity Silva weaves throughout the novel the dynamics - as least as he understands them through his research - of the centuries of antagonism and enmity among the various peoples, countries and religions of the Middle East. He builds into the tale some understanding of the motivations behind actions of the players on all sides, however at odds their values and perceptions are. Putting this kind of complexity onto the pages of a novel isn't an easy task. Silva has succeeded admirably, in my mind.

First book in a series that shows much promise The Kill Artist is the first book in a series with Gabriel Allon as central character. This book was such a gripping one, and the characters so thoroughly engaging - whether they were good or bad - that I intend to read every book in the series. I've already finished another, and I'll review that one soon.

If you like adventure, high-tech spy craft, suspense, derring-do (I couldn't resist), people both good and evil battling in a host of exciting ways, interesting places and extraordinary circumstances, and a good bit of philosophical musing about good and evil and what makes people do the things they do, you'll find all that and more in The Kill Artist. Don't miss this book. It'll grab you and won't let go till the last page

Marcia K. Applegate

Bannon's Bookshelf

A Passion to Lead: Theodore Roosevelt in His Own Words
Edited by Laura Ross
Sterling Signature
c/o Sterling Publishing Company
387 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10016-8810
9781402787355, $29.95,

Sterling Signature delivers a lush, impressively bound and heavily illustrated introduction to Theodore Roosevelt's life and works. History buffs will love the plethora of photos and memorabilia on nearly every page, some of which have never seen print before. The foreword by Bill Clinton is quite poignant, taken from his remarks when the Medal of Honor was awarded to Roosevelt posthumously in 2001. The editorial notes between the excerpts of TR's writings are informative without being heavy-handed. Excerpted works include TR's autobiography, Hunting Trips of a Ranchman, Letters to His Children, Rough Riders, Strenuous Life and Winning of the West. "A Passion to Lead: Theodore Roosevelt in His Own Words" is an ideal gift book for anyone interested in Theodore Roosevelt.

Walt Disney's Uncle Scrooge: "Only a Poor Old Man"
by Carl Barks
Fantagraphics Books
7563 Lake City Way, NE, Seattle, WA 98115
9781606995358, $28.99,

Fantagraphics has compiled the best of Barks's Uncle Scrooge stories, completely re-colored and bound on acid-free paper. George Lucas notes in his introduction, "I think the reason Carl Barks's stories have endured and have had such international appeal is primarily their strength as good stories . . . they are a priceless part of our literary heritage." That Carl Barks was a gifted storyteller goes without saying. What is less known is his remarkable contributions to sequential art in particular and pop culture in general. The creator of Uncle Scrooge is represented in a collection that will entertain young readers, certainly, but like all well-told stories, will also appeal to all ages - filled with wit, satire and at times surprising pathos. The best Uncle Scrooge comics are represented in "Walt Disney's Uncle Scrooge: "Only a Poor Old Man" (Vol. 1) (The Complete Carl Barks Disney Library) with detailed Story Notes from experts provided at the end of the book.

Rick Marschall
Regnery History
c/o Regnery Publishing, Inc.
One Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20001
1596981547, $32.00,

It is a testament to the largesse of Theodore Roosevelt's life that there continues to be unbroken ground for well-written books to cover, and in this Rick Marschall delivers. Heavily illustrated in color, "Bully!: The Life and Times of Theodore Roosevelt: Illustrated with More Than 250 Vintage Political Cartoons" is not exhaustive so much as representative of the best and worst political cartoons of a president that is too easily remembered in caricature rather than for his remarkable life. To balance this, Marschall offers brief but poignant insights and commentary, a perfect summation for the uninitiated. Longtime TR enthusiasts, on the other hand, will find a wealth of illustrations that few have seen before.

Mission to Paris
Alan Furst
Random House
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9781400069484, $27.00,

Alan Furst is a novelist of considerable gifts. The sights, smells, tone and feel of his locales get under the skin until we are blindsided, left gasping at the depth and breadth of our concern for his characters. Much is made of his historical accuracy but this is mere window dressing to his greatest gift, an effortless sense of place. Mission to Paris is Furst in fine form. A bit more overt than his earlier work, particularly such subtleties as Blood of Victory and The Spies of Warsaw, but pure Furst in detail, characterization, thrills and genuine pathos.

Night Volume 1 Complete
Troy Hasbrouck
Jester Press
701-C S Sharon Amity, Charlotte, NC, 28211
9780557318780, $15.98,

Troy Hasbrouck continues is graphic novel ride on the paranormal roller coaster with Sabrina Voght standing-in as his own brand of tough-girl ghoulie grabber. Hasbrouck has a knack for storytelling that, when he manages to find a sequential artist of technical accomplishment, is ideal for his chosen medium. Night is populated with vampires, werewolves and other forms of ghastlies that make it ideal reading for the indie crowd and a refreshing change from standard comic fare.

Inferno: The World at War, 1939-1945
Max Hastings
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780307273598, $35.00,

Inferno is Max Hastings at his best, and that is saying something of one of the finest historians in the English language. Building on and eclipsing his separate exhaustive studies of World War II in earlier works, Hastings delivers a highly-readable, concise and thorough single volume history of the war that rivals Gerhard Weinberg's A World at Arms. Hastings is known for combining military history with the human face of a war and in this the author does not disappoint, particularly in his artful weaving of experiences culled from primary sources in London, Russia and across Asia. Inferno stands with Winston's War, Retribution and The Korean War as Hastings's finest.

David Bannon

Bethany's Bookshelf

Hypocrisy, Inc.
Rosemary Agonito
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781470159108, $12.99,

The Evangelical Right in the United States has become a force to be reckoned with. "Hypocrisy, Inc.: How the Religious Right Fabricates Christian Values and Undermines Democracy" explores the impact of the Christian Right on American politics, as Rosemary Agonito writes that these evangelicals have lost sight of Christ's teachings, creating their own values which in no way backed by scripture. "Hypocrisy, Inc." presents a thoughtful challenge to far right social conservatism and the damage it is doing to the modern political system.

Ann Warner
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781477618608 $11.00

Counterpointe is a powerful novel of two human lovers who each face profound challenges over the course of their lives. Clare Eliason is a former ballet dancer whose promising career ended all too early due to an injury; Rob Chapin is a scientist. The two fall in love and marry, but personal pride and differences create a growing rift that pushes them apart. Rob follows his calling to a scientific expedition in Peru, while Clare follows her own path within Boston. Each of them is confronted with tragedy, and a human life hanging in the balance. And can the physical emotional gulf that divides them ever be bridged? Poignant and insightful, Counterpointe is a compelling dramatic evaluation of what it means to be human, and what it means to love or be loved.

Military Fly Moms
Linda Maloney
Tannenbaum Publishing Company
9780978736972, $60.00,

Career and motherhood are not exclusive concepts any longer. "Military Fly Moms: Sharing Memories, Building Legacies, Inspiring Hope" is a collection of stories from Linda Maloney, who focusing on the true life stories of many women who have joined the United States Air Force and other Armed forces while still being major figures in their children's lives. "Military Fly Moms" is a strong pick for those seeking stories of parenthood in the military.

The Great Pain Jack
John F. Petraglia, M.D.
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781468568714, $19.95,

Pain is always a symptom of a greater problem. "The Great Pain Jack" is a health advisory guide as anesthesiologist and pain management specialist John F. Petraglia advises readers how to more effectively communicate with their doctors to find the source of their pain and get the help they need. With diagrams throughout and stories of those who have faced chronic pain throughout their lives, "The Great Pain Jack" is worth considering for those who want to help their doctors help them.

Hoist Up Your Muffin Top
Terry Ayrault
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432788018, $12.95,

Sometimes we need to toss things aside to truly laugh at the world. "Hoist up Your Muffin Top: And Show Me Your New Belt" is a collection of jokes and anecdotes from Terry Ayrault as he presents a no holds barred take on the world that pulls no punches. "Hoist Up Your Muffin Top" is worth considering for fans of homely raw humor.

Einstein's Table
Kimberly Jungkind
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781468022070, $19.95,

There are diseases that affect nearly five percent of the population, yet we are powerless to cure. "Einstein's Table: The Search to Find a Cure for Chronic Hepatitis B" explores the problems with the disease and the many advancements that have come in trying to find a remedy for the disorder that plagues the lives of many. With profits from the book donated to the hepatitis B foundation, "Einstein's Table" is a must for those who want to better understand hepatitis B and its history.

No Better Day
Timothy J. Elliott
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781469763910, $20.95,

As we look into our past, we find comfort while our future offers us despair. "No Better Day" is a work of metaphysical spirituality as Timothy J. Elliott tells of Trevin Lambrose, a man with the weight and stress of the world beating him down. An encounter with a strange light leads him turning to nostalgia from comfort and shelter. His encounter leads him to something greater, and the treasures he finds are something better. "No Better Day" is worth considering for fans of science fiction and spirituality.

The Witch Narratives Reincarnation
Belinda Vasquez Garcia
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781466429796, $13.99,

Will faith be enough to face a centuries old curse. "The Witch Narratives Reincarnation" is a faith-driven fantasy set in early twentieth century America, as two young girls form an unlikely friendship, and their friendship must endure ancient curses and explores all the woes and joys that come with strong faith. "The Witch Narratives Reincarnation" is a strong addition to fiction collections with religious tones.

Rose Petals
Simin Pitts
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781468546415, $16.95,

To find family, many will have to face a cruel gauntlet of life. "Rose Petals" is a novel following an Iranian woman who is torn away from her daughter and feels powerless under the heel of male dominated society. As she pursues her lost daughter, she struggles against it, but decides there will be nothing she won't do for family. "Rose Petals" is a novel of tragedy and middle eastern life, providing a fine and enticing read for those who enjoy drama.

Jimmy Lagowski Saves the World
Pat Pujolas
c/o Independent Talent Group
9780984009305, $12.00,

Lives fall into pieces as they proceed, and there doesn't seem to be much hope to putting them all together. "Jimmy Lagowski Saves the World" tells the chronicles of one Jim Lagowski, faced with being the deciding juror in a murder conviction vote as well as many other stresses in his life, a life that he's not sure that he even wants any more. Telling a very human story through Jimmy, "Jimmy Lagowski Saves the World" is a riveting read that will be hard to put down, a read that shouldn't be quickly overlooked.

Sweet Dreams & Nightmares
Alex Bowser
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781475055740, $12.50,

On the edge of reality and fantasy, there stands something in between. "Sweet Dreams & Nightmares" is the first entry in Alex Bowser's Imagi Nation series, following the half-breed son of Santa Clause as he must pass through the real and old worlds to face the nightmares, or face shame from both. With intriguing concepts to keep readers reading, "Sweet Dreams & Nightmares" is enticing and worth considering.

A Message of Hope
Patricia A. Penn Pierre
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781463713775, $14.95,

Breast cancer can often seem like a death sentence, but more and more women are overcoming the disease. "A Message of Hope: From a 24 Year Cancer Survivor" is Patricia Penn Pierre sharing her story of overcoming her cancer and living her life to the fullest, with a strong message of faith along with it all. "A Message of Hope" is a strong pick for memoir collections focusing on recovering from cancer, highly recommended.

Rocky Spirit!
Felice Cantatore
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781469707273, $16.95,

Never accepting defeat was a common theme within the Rocky movies. "Rocky Spirit: The Rocky Balboa Connection to Success" is an inspirational memoir from Felice Cantatore as he shares his love of the Rocky films and the powerful messages he took from the movies about never giving up and always being prepared to go the distance. Blending memoir with motivation, "Rocky Spirit" is worth considering for self-help collections.

Susan Bethany

Buhle's Bookshelf

David Woods
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432772239, $20.95,

Bars are a convenient and appealing form of food. "Bars" is a cookbook from David Woods as he shares his many ways of cooking many things into bars for any occasion, be it for health, sweetness, or as a quick meal replacement. For those who want to create many treats and useful creations for food, "Bars" is worth considering for alternative cookbook collections.

Mr. Breeze
Morrie Richfield
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
c/o The Barrett Company (publicity)
12021 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 600
Los Angeles, CA 90025
9780615461038 $11.99

What would you do if you came face to face with God? What would He think of the often cruel and violent state of humanity? Mr. Breeze is the story of one man's encounter with the creator, the very personification infinite power and justice. But despite God's teachings, humankind continues to withhold drugs that could treat and prevent AIDS, and engages in bloody wars. God can no longer turn a blind eye to mankind's cruelties, but there is a ray of hope - one last chance for humanity. Told from the perspective of a mortal man who briefly travels with Divinity in human form, Mr. Breeze reverberates with emotional impact.

Columbus Avenue Boys
David Carraturo
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781469778280, $16.95,

When you're in the mob, you're in for getting out is quite the difficult task. "Columbus Avenue Boys" is a story of the mob set in the 1980s. Three boys grew up closely tied to the underground of the Gambino crime family. As a family patriarch reveals that the Gambinos have strong links to the many deaths of their ancestors fifty years ago. Wishing for them to break free from the mob, the three must work closely together to bring down the Gambinos while retaining their own lives. "Columbus Avenue Boys" is a riveting tale of criminal intrigue, highly recommended reading.

Long Island Gold
Love Cherie
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432758523, $33.95,

The route to our dreams is often checkered and difficult. "Long Island Gold" is a novel from Love Cherie, as she tells of a story of friendship and the pursuit of dreams. Two accountants leaving college have dreams of entrepreneurship, a dream that may be difficult to realize. Faced with the pressures of their careers, family, and romance, and the opportunity to find what's truly important in life. "Long Island Gold" is a moving and uplifting read, recommended.

Primary Fault
Sharon Kae Reamer
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781475123098 $14.95

Primary Fault is a winding odyssey that treads the fine line between fantasy and science fiction. Caitlin Schwarzbach is a former Texas resident who has come to Cologne, Germany; but someone or something has followed her across the ocean. An eerie doppelganger of her beloved brother (a well-regarded seismologist) repeatedly tries to kidnap her, and seems to have framed her brother for multiple heinous crimes including sexual assault. The mysterious and attractive Hagen von der Lahn saves her life, and her attraction for him grows, but before she can uncover the whole truth she suffers severe head trauma. When she awakens in a hospital, she has a vision of a menacing figure from her childhood - could it be Death come calling? Echoes of the sinister supernatural pervade Caitlin's world, in this dark and captivating thriller.

Viewer Discretion Advised
Cindy Roesel
Blue Point Press
9780985128104, $14.95,

The drive for greater business success cares not for being true to decency. "Viewer Discretion Advised" is a novel of the push for ratings. WCAR is faced with declining ratings, and Charlene Thomas seeks to get them back on top of the ratings by any means necessary. Pulling no punches on the spice in the drive for victory, "Viewer Discretion Advised" is a fine pick for those who want a taste of television studio drama.

The One Penny Orange Mystery
Morris Ackerman
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781461184669, $14.25,

Stamp collecting can become a serious thing quickly. "The One Penny Orange Mystery" is a novel surrounding the elite high level world of stamp collecting where people approach it as something more than a hobby, and a remote island holds a treasure for collectors. With a good dose of humor and intrigue, "The One Penny Orange Mystery" is a riveting read, worth considering for modern fiction collections.

Satan Thinks in Black & White
Ronald B. Jimmerson
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432782467, $14.95,

Division is the enemy. "Satan Thinks in Black & White: Racism in the Congregations of America" explores the impact of racism in modern churches, as Ronald B. Jimmerson advises pastors and churches to end the division among the faithful, and bring congregations together, free from race and other divisions. Critical of many churches habits that are more concerned with profits instead of religion, "Satan Thinks in Black & White" is a strong addition to social issues and Christian studies collections.

Love Is...
M. Eliot
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781477612248, $10.99,

The bonds of love can endure much, but there is a limit. "Love Is..." is a novel of romance and friendship as two women try to come together and endure the worst of the cruelty that comes from their supposed lovers. As their relationships begin to tangle, the bond that they have will suffer and face much in making it all work. "Love Is..." is a strong choice for those looking for African American women's fiction.

Mountain Road
Hoover Liddell
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781462058600, $23.95,

Humanity's journey is never over. "Mountain Road: Not Dwelling on yesterday or Tomorrow" is a memoir twisted with philosophy from Hoover Liddell exploring the ideals of the journey throughout the world, comparing his own wanderings in life through the world to mankind's emergence from Africa and its potential journey into the stars. "Mountain Road" invites readers to ponder the world and where we are headed, much recommended.

Murder Blanketed by Suicide
S. J. Money
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781463738587, $9.98,

No one can know evil better than evil itself. "Murder Blanketed by Suicide" is the story of of the impact that cruel human being and traffic sergeant wreaked on the California Highway Patrol. Told from Sgt. Ted Sutter from beyond the grave, the darkness of narration gives the story a twist, as the events are drawn from reality. "Murder Blanketed by Suicide" is a strong pick for those seeking a different sort of thriller of crime and corruption.

A Fierce Local
Harvey Gould
iUniverse, Inc.
c/o Author House
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300
Bloomington, IN 47403
9781462033676, $22.95,

As our life draws to a close, we try to share what we've learned. "A Fierce Local: Memoirs of My love Affair with Ireland" is Harvey Gould's story as he shares his struggle with less than five years to live, telling his story of meeting an Irish-Catholic as a Chicago Jew and their trips to her motherland of Ireland, learning to appreciate the culture. With plenty of humor and much to consider, "A Fierce Local" carries plenty of charm and poignancy, very much recommended reading.

Puttin' Cologne on the Rickshaw
William Bouffard
Privately Published
9780984799909, $29.95,

A toxic workplace ruins the lives of all those involved. "Puttin' Cologne on the Rickshaw" is a memoir of hostile work environments as William Bouffard delves into what creates this environment of bullying and psychopathy. Hoping to advise new entrants into the job field in how to better deal with the corporate culture that seems to hate anything that resembles humanity, "Puttin' Cologne on the Rickshaw" is a must for jobs/career collections.

Helen of Troy
Tess Collins
BearCat Press
9781937356019, $11.99,

A beauty that was went to war for. "Helen of Troy" is Tess Collin's modernized retelling of the ancient epic, bringing it to modern America, and the personal wars we wage over each others lives and the extent to which we will go for one another. Enticing with a good dose of humor thrown in, "Helen of Troy" should prove hard to put down for those who enjoy reworked classics, much recommended.

Willis M. Buhle

Burroughs' Bookshelf

Meditations of a Korean Monk
Master Beopjeong, author
D. Bannon, translator
Bilingual Library
9781105519208, $24.99,

A time to ponder the world can bring it into clarity. "Meditations of a Korean Monk: A Weekly Reader" is a collection of thoughts on Zen Buddhism from Zen Master Beopjeong, who provides thought for everyday of the year and how to embrace the ideas and thoughts for more clarity and insight throughout it all. Presenting both English and Korean text, "meditations of a Korean Monk" is a worthy consideration for Buddhist and Spirituality collections, recommended.

A Balanced Life
Anis Blemur
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781462060917, $13.95,

Balance in one's life lets one control themselves well. "A Balanced Life" is an inspirational read from Anis Blemur who encourages greater equilibrium in one's life, emotionally, mentally and financially. With a strong and positive message throughout, "A Balanced Life" is a nice addition to motivational and inspirational community library collections.

The Best Way to Catch a Snake
Karma Yeshe Rabgye
9788129119520, $19.95,

There is more to being Buddhist than embracing the latest fashion. "The Best Way to Catch Snake: A Practical Guide to the Buddha's Teachings" is a discussion of Buddhism for those who want to follow the Middle path in their life, free from the cloud of celebrity that much of the modern faith has around it. Karma Yeshe Rabgye advises readers in plain English on how to embrace the ways of Buddhism and work it into their everyday life. "The Best Way to Catch a Snake" is a fine and much recommended addition to Buddhist studies collections.

Silent Think Time
Karen Zalubowski Stryker
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432793319, $16.95,

Clearing the mind and considering everything can be very therapeutic. "Silent Think Time: How to Bring Virtues Back into Our home, Schools, Counseling and Work" is a spiritual and meditative read from Karen Zalubowski Stryker as she encourages 'silent think time', which she states will allow greater peace for the self and spread to piece for others. "Silent Think Time" is an addition to consider for self-help and spirituality collections.

Jonni Anderson
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781466374072, $12.95,

One's endurance against the pressures of the world will be tested. "Cranwold" follows a tough woman who must endure the gauntlet the medieval city of Cranwold, trying to cope with the horrors she has seen and the tragic lost of her best friend in a massacre. Trying to find the courage to carry on within the city, "Cranwold" is a psychological fantasy with strong spiritual elements, highly recommended.

Purdue Number One
Walter Beineke
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781452021041, $15.99,

Genetic engineering lets us take our natural resources and improve them. "Purdue Number One" tells the story of the Purdue #1, a tree crafted for wood that's felt to be superior to other breeds of tree. Walter Beineke shares his life story and how as a Forest geneticist he helped create the Purdue, and his connections with many names in science and politics. "Purdue Number One" is a unique story of a science not understood by most.

Spectacular Comeback
Harry Munns
9780967668109, $19.95,

Piecing one's life back together can be a rough goal, but it can be done. "Spectacular Comeback: The Revolutionary, 24 Day Program That Will Rebuild Your Life One Step At A Time" is an inspirational read from Harry Munns as he advises readers how to get their life back through twenty four days and direct planning and thought. From organizing one's life to other stories of comeback from personal anecdote and popular culture, "Spectacular Comeback" is a powerful and much recommended addition to motivational collections.

Living Through Charlie
Rebecca Woods
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781466357372, $14.99,

The perfect life we envision for ourselves is a fantasy, and good parents realize that. "Living Through Charlie" is a story of Meg, trying to deal with her son Charlie's odd behavior which is unlike the other kids. Dealing with her otherwise seemingly picturesque life, she deals with suburbia and the pains that go with it all. An intriguing read of parenthood and the many challenges a parent can face with a kid with unique challenges, "Living Through Charlie" is worthy reading for those seeking a novel of suburbia.

Men of the Cave
Marisette Burgess
WRB Publishing
9780983883289, $14.95,

An entry into a cave is almost entering a whole new world. "Men of the Cave" is a following Kasey Reese, a young woman trying to deal with an unusual upbringing by going to Spain on scholarship. But an exploration into the old nature of Spain gives her something very different, something that even she struggles to believe. "Men of the Cave" is a choice pick for those seeking a different sort of supernatural fiction, the first of a series.

The Newest Story of O
Daniel K. Berman
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781477609330, $19.95,

Credit debt is a jungle that far too many people struggle through. "The Newest Story of O: Secrets to Making the Credit System Work in Your Favor" is a guide to getting the upper hand on the credit jungle from Daniel K. Berman, who presents advice on how the credit system works, how to deal with it, build good credit, dig oneself out of a hole, and when bankruptcy is truly the best option. "The Newest Story of O" is a must for any who are facing a wall of credit and feel freedom may be out of reach.

Blood on the Prairie
Steven M. Ulmen
Eagle Entertainment USA
9780983205746, $24.95,

The Native Peoples of the United States could only take so much from the world. "Blood on the Prairie" is a novel set amongst this theater of the American Civil War, where the Sioux Nation rebelled against Minnesota and let to some of the bloodiest conflicts of the period. Author Steven Ulmen draws on his own personal history to tell the story of the conflict. "Blood on the Prairie" is a strong pick for fans of historical fiction, recommended.

Understanding Understanding
Robert K. Lindsay
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781466450585, $15.00,

Technology has made massive strides in the past century, far faster than human evolution. "Understanding Understanding: Natural and Artificial Intelligence" discusses this parallel and the idea of machines surpassing our ability to genuinely think and our ability to understand and create. Discussing many ideas of mental evolution and how they apply to technology and biology, "Understanding Understanding" presents many questions to think about, and invites us to try to answer something with no clear answer.

John Burroughs

Carson's Bookshelf

Two Seeing Eye Dogs Take Manhattan!
Lloyd Burlingame
Guide Dog Adventures
c/o Maryglenn McCombs (publicity)
2817 West End Avenue, Suite 126-274
Nashville, TN 37203
9781477446027 $14.95

Two Seeing Eye Dogs Take Manhattan! ...A Love Story is the tale of heroic canine companions trained to help their vision-impaired masters - told from a dog's-eye point of view! Author Lloyd Burlingame's personal experiences formed the genesis for this grand adventure (he suddenly became legally blind in 1980, and the aid of seeing-eye dogs literally transformed his life). Two Seeing Eye Dogs Take Manhattan is witty, outside-the-box, and wholly enjoyable cover to cover. Dog lovers especially will find it a treat!

First Visions
Heather Topham Wood
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781470171575, $9.99,

A touch of psychic power can be frightening. "First Vision" is the first entry into Heather Topham Wood's Second Sight series, following the young adult Kate Edwards as a coma lets her realize her psychic potential. Helping the police find a lost child with her vision, she finds them looking for her help once more. A child's life is on the line and she finds embracing her gift difficult, especially with a distracting romance on the table. "First Vision" is a strong pick for those looking for a work of paranormal fiction.

Survival Tips My Cat Taught Me
Lana Reid
Privately Published
9780972809115, $TBA,

We learn from the company we keep, even if they are four legged furry critters. "Survival Tips My Cat Taught Me" is a blend of memoir from cat lover Lana Reid, as she shares the wisdom she has drawn from her beloved cats and how she holds there are lessons to be learned from that at hand. "Survival Tips My Cat Taught Me" is a strong pick for inspirational collections, especially those with a pet focus.

Sunrise Caye
Lloyd Christensen
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432788599, $16.95,

Guests dying proves to be really bad for business. "Sunrise Caye" is a novel from Lloyd Christensen as he tells of resort owner George Schroeder. As guests begin to mysteriously get injured and one turns up dead, he has to work with one authority to find whose responsible or face some seriously bad publicity. Hard to put down, "Sunrise Caye" is a fine and recommended pick.

The Poets Are Dead?
A. Jarrell Hayes
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781468098303, $5.00,

Rumors of poetry's death has been greatly exaggerated. "The Poets Are Dead?" is a collection of poetry from A. Jarrell Hayes as he composes in tribute and in investigation of poetry and everything else that has led up to this nature. "The Poets Are Dead?" is a fine assortment with much to consider, highly recommended. "The Republic": Give praise to us/Who sell idealistic fables/Of non-pragmatic living./Nod your heads/In agreement to our/Verbal rhythm;/Through meter/Does not equate to truth/And rhyme is not absolute./We are the peddlers/Of verbal horse-****./The sick and lonely/Find solace in our dung./They gobble up our waste,/Only to regurgitate it/Into their saliva-laced ears.

Victoria F. Peek
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781463413958, $15.95,

When adoptive parents take in a child, there are questions for both the new parents and the child. "Abandoned?" explores the entrance of young Jamie into the lives of Dave and Betty, who are grateful for a child in their lives. But the child holds many curious qualities, and there may be more to this abandoned child. "Abandoned?" is a strong pick for those seeking fiction with a psychological edge, highly recommended.

Murder Takes Time
Giacomo Giammatteo
Inferno Publishing Company
9780985030209, $14.99,

All a man ultimately has is his word, and if he doesn't have that, he's worthless. "Murder Takes Time" is a crime thriller from Giacomo Giammatteo who explores the underworld, as one particular participant finds himself in a collision course to take the life of a man he never thought he would have to kill. Rapidly keeping the pages turning, "Murder Takes Time" is an excellent and very much recommended addition to any thriller collection focusing on organized crime.

James Kennedy George Jr.
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781468529685, $19.95,

The classroom of life is always in session, even when we're not in class. "Reunion" is a novel as Jimmy, a man with a checkered life looks towards his 45th anniversary high school reunion. Graduating in 1960, Jimmy looks to his past and to his future and tries to piece together his life in the process. A unique novel of coming of age and mid-life crisis, "Reunion" is an intriguing read, highly recommended.

Simon Says
William Poe
Privately Published
9780615559575, $14.95,

For many young gay individuals, trying to understand life's destiny is often quite difficult. "Simon Says" tells the chronicle of Simon Powell, escaping the damnation of eternal hellfire his church has put upon him, and trying to face his family as well as being dragged into the world of hustling, drugs, and illicit sex, all while trying to find something that makes life matter. A coming of age story of finding what really matters, "Simon Says" is a choice read, not to be overlooked.

The Beautiful Wishes of Ugly Men
Adam Prince
Black Lawrence
9780982876664, $18.00,

No matter where our life takes us, we want something more out of life, something beautiful. "The Beautiful Wishes of Ugly Men" explores the psyche and imagination of the male species as author Adam Prince presents an intriguing thought process with his short fiction. With plenty of humor, "The Beautiful Wishes of Ugly Men" is an enticing and much recommended addition to any collection of short fiction.

Just Tryin' to be Loved
J'son M. Lee
Foresight Publishing
PO Box 662, Laurel, MD 20725
9780985284909, $12.95,

No one likes betrayal, regardless of gender or sexual orientation. "Just Tryin' to be Loved" is a gay romance from J'son M. Lee, telling of Mark, betrayed by Tony who left him nastily and left him wounded emotionally. Trying to choose what's best for him, Mark has vengeance in mind and will go far in attaining it. "Just Tryin' to be Loved" is a must for those seeking a gay-driven romance, highly recommended.

The Disaster Relief Club
M. Saylor Billings
Billibatt Productions
9780983806134, $9.25,

Nature's wrath can be difficult to face with no one to blame. "The Disaster Relief Club: Laughing at our adversity... what's wrong with that" tells the story of Ohlone Island trying to get by after a vicious earthquake. When the Disaster Relief Club shows up, they aren't totally here to save the day, as murder turns up and turns a disaster complicated. "The Disaster Relief Club" is a strong pick for mystery and general fiction collections.

Because I Said So
Barry J. Elms
Privately Published
9780615592213, $16.95,

Negotiation is done more often than we realize out of our lives. "Because I Said So: A Guide to negotiating with children and grown ups" is a self-help guide to being a better negotiator in every aspect of one's life, from talking to children, grown ups, and grown ups who act like children, author Barry Elms advises readers on how to improve their skills and build their confidence. "Because I Said So" is a strong pick for motivational collections, recommended.

Michael J. Carson

Christy's Bookshelf

Candy Cadillac
Claire Applewhite
L&L Dreamspell
London, Texas
9781603184298, $15.95,

There's trouble in the neighborhood of the Grapevine Detective Agency. A woman is murdered minutes after leaving a mysterious envelope with the owner of a local bar, a nearby wig shop is broken into and vandalized, and a black car constantly cruises the neighborhood. Neighbor Helen Tattaglia asks the detective agency to follow her husband, son of the head of a crime organization, but Elvin Suggs, Di Redding, and their friend Cobra, a former Marine sniper, are a bit suspicious of her real reason for hiring them. When the owner of the bar and Helen are subsequently murdered, Detective Reggie Combs calls on his friends at the detective agency to help look into the murders. Their investigation leads them back to the Tattaglia family and a doctor of ill-repute performing mysterious experiments.

This latest installment of the 'Nam Noir series is as thrilling as ever. Applewhite's unique writing style - think hard-boiled meets cozy - is intriguing and makes for an enjoyable read. The diverse personas of Elvin, Di and Cobra are a good combination and enhance the fast-moving plot. Readers will be challenged as they try to solve this not-so-easy-to-figure-out whodunit.

Kicking Ashe
by Pauline Baird Jones
L&L Dreamspell
London, Texas
9781603184489, $13.95,

Time traveler Ashe, along with Lurch, a nanite who lives in her head, lands on a dying planet where she meets up with sexy Vidor Shan. Ashe has met Shan before in another time line although he doesn't remember her. With her time tracker suit broken and bereft of the technology upon which she depends, Ashe joins forces with Shan and his men as they search for Shan's lost brother while trying to escape aliens tracking Shan. Time's running out and Ashe needs to get off this planet but Shan is proving a major distraction even though he's off limits.

This last installment of the Project Enterprise series proves as good as the ones before it, with a kick-ass heroine going up against an alpha male in a strange, alien world. Lurch is an intriguing addition to the cast of characters and the exchanges between the nanite and Ashe are amusing and fun to read. The witty dialogue and sizzling chemistry between Ashe and Shan make this fast-paced plot even more enjoyable. There's plenty of action-adventure, suspense and mystery on top of one heck of a romance all woven into a sci-fi all readers will enjoy, no matter which genre they prefer. Jones couldn't have ended her series with anything better than Kicking Ashe and this reviewer is disappointed to see the series end.

Odd Apocalypse
Dean Koontz
Bantam Books
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780553807745, $28.00 (HC), $12.99 (kindle),

Although Odd Thomas claims to be only a fry cook, he possesses a special gift: he can see dead people. However, they are unable to communicate with him verbally which makes it hard for Odd to understand why they seek him out. In this latest installment of the Odd Thomas series, Odd and the enigmatic Annamaria have been invited to stay in a stone tower at Roseland, an estate built in the early '20s by a wealthy man named Constantine Cloy. There, Odd encounters a spectral young woman in white with blood on her chest riding a black stallion who manages to communicate to Odd that she wants him to save her son. As Odd explores the grounds of the estate, he encounters strange time shifts and other-worldly creatures. The small staff is elusive and secretive and some do not make much of an effort to hide their hostile feelings toward Odd. Odd eventually locates the imprisoned youngster in the mansion and promises to help him escape but this proves to be a dangerous undertaking. And what Odd discovers and witnesses as he seeks to free the boy prove to be suspenseful and horrendous.

A very pregnant Annamaria as well as the German shepherd ghost dog Boo play tertiary roles at best in this book. As always, Annamaria enchants those she meets and speaks in riddles. Odd isn't really sure why he is with her but knows there is a reason not yet revealed to him. Adding a chilling context to the read is the statement Odd makes that his stories will not be published until after his death. Koontz excels at portraying evil characters and does not disappoint with this outing. Of interest is his introduction of NikolaTesla into the character pool and the way in which he weaves the plot around Tesla's futuristic inventions. There's plenty of nail-biting suspense and horrific creatures and characters, ensuring another exciting read from the master of storytelling.

Christy Tillery French, Reviewer

Clark's Bookshelf

Albert of Adelaide
Howard L. Anderson
Twelve Books
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017-0010
9781455509620, $24.99,

"Albert of Adelaide" by Howard L. Anderson is very reminiscent of "Animal Farm" by George Orwell, which was published in 1945. The main characters are animals that live their parts on center stage though the travails of lives are vastly different.

Albert is a platypus who escapes from a zoo in Adelaide searching for "Old Australia." He is a delightful character who discovers he can be more than an object stared upon in a caged atmosphere. Carefully he travels along railroad tracks, crosses deserts, and always is in quest of his dream like a Don Quixote.

The first thought about this book was whether it was another children's book. The answer is a resounding no! This novel has messages embedded throughout which are definitely adult in nature, but because the characters are animals does not diminish the platitudes which are thematic throughout.

Differences in animals demonstrate individuality as well as people. There are bandicoots, kangaroos, and various other species throughout, but there is only one platypus. A duck billed platypus who is a male with poisonous spurs who can take down an enemy. Albert learns that he has the ability to fight and win. He obtains self-confidence so that he can become a leader rather than a follower.

Conflict is what normally keeps interest in many books and "Albert of Adelaide" has plenty. A posse goes into the desert in search of Albert for crimes he allegedly has committed. Efforts in his capture lead to poisoning of water holes by the posse as they use methods that are against society, but at the same time use the theory that the result justifies the means.

Humanizing of animals is accomplished by descriptions of their clothing, and how some of the animals are so persnickety about their appearance. They continually need to have their outfits laundered. Quite amusing is the concept of Albert carrying a backpack in which he has tins of sardines given him by one of his acquaintances. Albert does not like sardines, but takes them anyway to give to others.

An effect of alcohol on a few of the animals shows how they become ineffectual when they are drunk. Their attitudes and relationships with some become negative, but Albert is able to treat them with understanding and compassion.

"Animal Farm" is a classic recognized as one of the top 100 books of all time. "Albert of Adelaide" may not be in that category, but reading it is worthwhile. Using animals to convey messages is a great way to explore change necessary in society. We all search for Utopia; some never find it, but those who do realize that acceptance of life as you live it will enrich your relationship with others. This is a five star book that is highly recommended.

Sun Tzu at Gettysburg
Bevin Alexander
W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.
500 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10110
9780393342451, $16.95,

We all have learned about the results of wars from our teachers in school. The battles at Gettysburg, Napoleon at Waterloo, Hitler in Russia, and so on through the many centuries and how the results have shaped the world powers in relationships today. Bevin Alexander in "Sun Tzu at Gettysburg" highlights many of the maxims or theories laid down 2,400, years ago which apply to warfare in the modern era.

Written in a method that is clear, concise, and easy to follow are the descriptions of how some of the principles if properly followed would have changed the outcomes of many different battles. There were times in the United States Civil War when the South had opportunities to win strategic battles, but lost them because of inept leadership or the failure to recognize placement of troops and weaponry.

Some of the theories are very simple and obvious:

"The way to avoid what is strong is to strike what is weak."
"Attack objectives the enemy must rescue."
"Go to extreme limits to avoid war."

When the United States committed troops to Korean conflict, General Douglas MacArthur recognized a weakness in North Korea's attack on South Korea; he exploited this by cutting off the supply line North Korea had established so that the troops were unable to fight without supplies. He found this weakness and was able to route the enemy back into North Korea. However, what he missed was the intervention by China and the warnings they gave since there would not be a buffer between China and its neighbor Korea. Alexander was able to point out that there should have been recognition of another maxim of Sun Tzu, "Go to extreme limits to avoid war."

One segment, discussing World War II and the mistakes made by Hitler, is very interesting when Alexander said that had Hitler followed the advice of his generals and their methodology we would all be speaking German today!

Sun Tzu's principles have not been known to the western world until the 1970's when guerrilla forces in Vietnam using Sun Tzu's axioms, defeated French and American armies. Until then, Western military leaders had to rely on statements and conclusions reached by individual thinks over the years. Sun Tzu provides a guide to the way to win a war.

Bevin Alexander is the author of "How Great Generals Win," "Lost Victories," and "Inside the Nazi War Machine." Highly respected and an exceptional authority on history who footnotes all that he writes and describes in detail how Sun Tzu was so forward in his thinking that his theories could win today. "Sun Tzu at Gettysburg: Ancient Military Wisdom in the Modern World" is a five star book that will help any student of history, young or old!

Walking the Amazon: 860 Days. One Step at a Time
Ed Stafford
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780452298262, $16.00,

Goal setting and accomplishment of that goal is what Ed Stafford achieved when he walked the Amazon River from its start in the Peruvian Andes to its conclusion in the Atlantic Ocean. His story chronicled in his book "Walking the Amazon; 860 Days, One Step at a Time." Stafford's journey and the story relating to it is one of the most fascinating adventures of modern day. Just when you think, you have heard it all, explored every nook and cranny of this world, and used every means possible to tell the world about it, up pops this new Guinness Book of Records exploit.

Ed Stafford conceived of this idea while living in England. He diligently researched what he would need to make the trip and gathered all the elements to embark on his trek in April 2008. He convinced one of his friends to join him, but three months into the excursion, his friend returned home leaving Ed to continue on his own.

The story he relates tells of his hiring of many guides who knew the villages, rivers, and mountains that he would have to traverse. One exceptional guide named Cho traveled with him for two years and they became permanent friends.

There is much humor in this presentation. Realistic encounters with hunger, thirst, and jungle dangers hold your attention throughout. At one point, for example, a large Anaconda snake was blocking the path of the expedition that by this time had grown to five people. Ed took several photographs and video of the snake. When he had finished, one of the native guides asked him if he had enough pictures. After giving him a yes, the man proceeded to kill the snake with his machete; he announced that he was going to feed it to his dogs!

One of the intriguing aspects of this journey is the use of modern technology. Ed Stafford was able to be in instant contact with the world outside of the Amazon Jungle. He had cell phones, computer links, and all the cables needed to link via the internet. With all these amenities, he still felt isolated and had to battle his own depression as he traveled his path to destiny. Language was a barrier for him as the universal language he had to learn was Spanish. His guide Cho taught him much and served as a translator. However, in many of the villages, native languages were vastly different and hiring a local guide as translator was very important in order to lead them on the most accessible paths.

Besides this book, Ed Stafford made a two-part documentary series for the Discovery Channel. He is currently planning a new project for them.

This book is well worth reading and is a five star book by any standard. After reading, what are very unusual are the on-line videos available free at This link is for an interview with Ed Stafford, but with a little browsing, you can find 111 videos of this amazing Amazon adventurer!

Walking the Amazon: 860 Days. One Step at a Time
Ed Stafford
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780452298262, $16.00,

Goal setting and accomplishment of that goal is what Ed Stafford achieved when he walked the Amazon River from its start in the Peruvian Andes to its conclusion in the Atlantic Ocean. His story chronicled in his book "Walking the Amazon; 860 Days, One Step at a Time." Stafford's journey and the story relating to it is one of the most fascinating adventures of modern day. Just when you think, you have heard it all, explored every nook and cranny of this world, and used every means possible to tell the world about it, up pops this new Guinness Book of Records exploit.

Ed Stafford conceived of this idea while living in England. He diligently researched what he would need to make the trip and gathered all the elements to embark on his trek in April 2008. He convinced one of his friends to join him, but three months into the excursion, his friend returned home leaving Ed to continue on his own.

The story he relates tells of his hiring of many guides who knew the villages, rivers, and mountains that he would have to traverse. One exceptional guide named Cho traveled with him for two years and they became permanent friends.

There is much humor in this presentation. Realistic encounters with hunger, thirst, and jungle dangers hold your attention throughout. At one point, for example, a large Anaconda snake was blocking the path of the expedition that by this time had grown to five people. Ed took several photographs and video of the snake. When he had finished, one of the native guides asked him if he had enough pictures. After giving him a yes, the man proceeded to kill the snake with his machete; he announced that he was going to feed it to his dogs!

One of the intriguing aspects of this journey is the use of modern technology. Ed Stafford was able to be in instant contact with the world outside of the Amazon Jungle. He had cell phones, computer links, and all the cables needed to link via the internet. With all these amenities, he still felt isolated and had to battle his own depression as he traveled his path to destiny. Language was a barrier for him as the universal language he had to learn was Spanish. His guide Cho taught him much and served as a translator. However, in many of the villages, native languages were vastly different and hiring a local guide as translator was very important in order to lead them on the most accessible paths.

Besides this book, Ed Stafford made a two-part documentary series for the Discovery Channel. He is currently planning a new project for them.

This book is well worth reading and is a five star book by any standard. After reading, what are very unusual are the on-line videos available free at This link is for an interview with Ed Stafford, but with a little browsing, you can find 111 videos of this amazing Amazon adventurer!

Harmless as Doves: An Amish-Country Mystery
P. L. Gaus
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780452297869, $14.00,

Many authors follow themes in their books and P. L. Gaus with "Harmless as Doves" continues his thematic Amish-Country mystery series about murders in Holmes County Ohio. Before his publication by Plume, the University of Ohio Press had published his books. Plume has reprinted Gaus' previous books in softcover and has expanded his audience by wider distribution because he is now an author of interest.

Who is this author? P. L. Gaus recently retired as the Benjamin S. Brown Professor of Chemistry at The College of Wooster, where he was Chairperson of the Chemistry Department. He has been writing fiction since 1993 with six books previously published before "Harmless as Doves," and all carried the same theme of murder in the Amish Country.

What makes this book stand out as exceptional is the method in which Gaus describes events. There is intrigue, tenderness, religion, and much conflict. Moral values permeate throughout and we learn life lessons with subtle preaching. However, the underlying theme is murder! Identification of the bad people, suspicion of the good people, and chase scenes abound.

The interaction among Amish community members is very interesting. How the Bishop influences his flock of parishioners gives some insight into how much they respect the opinions of their elders. Some break away from the traditions of dress and the use of modern conveniences. An example, one person had a hidden telephone and radio. Necessity sometimes makes the Bishop and elders turn the other way when these breaks occur, such as having to phone in about a murder. However, some members of the Amish community just leave and become a part of regular society, as the austere life is too much for them.

Blending of old-world culture with modern detective work makes this continuation of the same characters in key roles with different murders a true mystery series. Some authors use horror as their theme to tell their stories through new people in each tale. Gaus is different since he helps the reader have some foundation as each new case reveals itself and the same detectives solve them.

If you like good mysteries, without salacious sex or mayhem, and a dash of religion mixed in, you will want to read this book. A surprise ending awaits you! "Harmless as Doves" is a four star book and is highly recommended.

Harmless as Doves: An Amish-Country Mystery
P. L. Gaus
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780452297869, $14.00,

Many authors follow themes in their books and P. L. Gaus with "Harmless as Doves" continues his thematic Amish-Country mystery series about murders in Holmes County Ohio. Before his publication by Plume, the University of Ohio Press had published his books. Plume has reprinted Gaus' previous books in softcover and has expanded his audience by wider distribution because he is now an author of interest.

Who is this author? P. L. Gaus recently retired as the Benjamin S. Brown Professor of Chemistry at The College of Wooster, where he was Chairperson of the Chemistry Department. He has been writing fiction since 1993 with six books previously published before "Harmless as Doves," and all carried the same theme of murder in the Amish Country.

What makes this book stand out as exceptional is the method in which Gaus describes events. There is intrigue, tenderness, religion, and much conflict. Moral values permeate throughout and we learn life lessons with subtle preaching. However, the underlying theme is murder! Identification of the bad people, suspicion of the good people, and chase scenes abound.

The interaction among Amish community members is very interesting. How the Bishop influences his flock of parishioners gives some insight into how much they respect the opinions of their elders. Some break away from the traditions of dress and the use of modern conveniences. An example, one person had a hidden telephone and radio. Necessity sometimes makes the Bishop and elders turn the other way when these breaks occur, such as having to phone in about a murder. However, some members of the Amish community just leave and become a part of regular society, as the austere life is too much for them.

Blending of old-world culture with modern detective work makes this continuation of the same characters in key roles with different murders a true mystery series. Some authors use horror as their theme to tell their stories through new people in each tale. Gaus is different since he helps the reader have some foundation as each new case reveals itself and the same detectives solve them.

If you like good mysteries, without salacious sex or mayhem, and a dash of religion mixed in, you will want to read this book. A surprise ending awaits you! "Harmless as Doves" is a four star book and is highly recommended.

Clark Isaacs

Crocco's Bookshelf

Jack Wrimo and the Ori of Flames
Brad Shreffler
Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
B008FNF9JG, $4.99

Good vs. Evil

Jack Wrimo and the Ori of Flames is a book written for middle school students who enjoy reading adventures about someone their own age. Jack Wrimo is a fifteen year old teenager who is like most middle school students - just average.

Brad Shreffler is well aware in order to excite teenagers to read his book, he has to create situations so Jack would not be just average anymore. That's exactly what he does when Jack goes to "Flea Market Saturday" with his parents and two sisters.

On this particular Saturday Jack wants to buy a pair of bookends. As he shops on his own - for the first time - he buys a pocketknife which he is not allowed to own. When his mother finds out about this, quite by accident, the consequence is being grounded for three weeks.

What about the bookends? Does Jack end up finding a pair for his room? Oh yes, he sure does. And it's these bookends that bring the story to life! They take Jack on quite an adventure and it changes his and his family's lives forever.

Jack has to step up from being just average and handle a lot of different challenges. He shares the good with Pharia, the Ori of Flame, in the good vs. evil. Bucan is the evil 'being' that is hard to figure out why he is so evil. There is a very dark and evil part in the book that is unpredictable. I won't say any more about it so I don't spoil it for readers.

Jack Wrimo and the Ori of Flames is science fiction and Brad Shreffler includes all the genre's story elements which are favorites of young teenagers. Jack's challenges will keep teenagers engaged in the story as they route for him to fight evil.

Although the book is short, I think it lags a bit after the middle of the story. I think a chapter or two could be condensed and still be a good read. As a former middle school teacher, I know we don't want teenagers to have any reason to stop reading!

The Tree of Everlasting Knowledge
Christine Nolfi
Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
B007IO78QK, $3.99

Small town secrets revealed

Small towns are havens for buried secrets and forbidden passions. A town in Ohio was no different for the prominent and wealthy Fagan family. Living in a mansion on a thousand-acre estate, Fagan's Orchard shipped produce and condiments across the Midwest, and was the main setting for The Tree of Everlasting Knowledge. Located on the estate was an oak tree, referred to locals as The Great Oak Tree. If the tree could talk, what secrets it would tell.

The Fagan's were renovating the mansion to accommodate their pregnant daughter. Troy Fagan was the head of operations on site and the person who did the hiring. Ourania D'Andre was an independent contractor who submitted a bid for the job. There was major conflict between the two, because Troy's brother had been murdered. They both blamed themselves. The relationship strengthened as they worked through the guilt they harbored.

Troy and Ourania kept the story intrigue alive. Childhood bullying festered into adulthood. Both holding secrets, it took unpredictable circumstances to finally forge a healthy relationship.

Leading separate lives, Ourania became a foster mother to two bi-racial children, as she continued her career as an electrical contractor. Troy was the black sheep of the family choosing to work in construction instead of Fagan Orchards. He reluctantly accepted Ourania's bid for the electrical work on the mansion, because his sister, Dianne, liked the beautiful and successful Ourania.

Working together, secrets were exposed, and forbidden passions surfaced. The Great Oak Tree revealed countless secrets, some beyond comprehension. To mention them, in my review, would spoil the story for readers.

The Great Oak Tree served as a symbol for hope and redemption. Christine Nolfi did an extraordinary job writing The Tree of Everlasting Knowledge with this in mind. It also served as a subtle way to teach lessons in forgiveness.

Events in the story are brilliantly written with compassion and understanding. The subject matters are as diverse as the characters. The good vs. the bad, the beautiful vs. those lacking physical attributes, adoption, domestic violence, multi-cultural families, fighting the system, hate, love, trust, death, rape, and lies. Christine Nolfi proved to master her skill by describing the human elements factor in depth in The Tree of Everlasting Knowledge.

I recommend The Tree of Everlasting Knowledge, by Christine Nolfi, to readers who enjoy stories about real life situations. We can use the opportunity to reflect on our own life.

The Mormonizing of America
Stephen Mansfield
Worthy Publishing
134 Franklin Road, Suite 200
Brentwood, TN 37027
1617950785, $22.99,

Eye-opening moments

This was my first book read about Mormons and my first book read by author, Stephen Mansfield. With the current political situation in America, I was intrigued when the publisher asked me to read and review, The Mormonizing of America.

Skeptical, I approached the book with doubts, thinking it would be filled with the authors biased opinions and his version of facts. Completing the book, I was pleasantly surprised that the opposite was true. I'm not claiming to believe everything I read as absolute fact; however, it became clear immediately that Mansfield wrote, The Mormonizing of America, to enlighten not to preach to his readers.

I'm embarrassed to admit the amount of previous knowledge I had acquired in my lifetime about the Mormon religion. I knew the basics and never desired to expand my education.

The Mormonizing of America, being filled with information and presented in a clear and concise writing style, enabled me to be receptive; hence I enjoyed the book considerably.

The history was fascinating. What scant knowledge I earlier possessed and anything I had questioned about the Mormons, the religion, the church, and the leaders, was answered beautifully by Mansfield. I didn't feel he was being condescending, yet quite the opposite as I continued reading. I noted passages throughout the book and enjoyed my eye-opening moments.

The Chronology from 600 BC to 1904 was an asset, also the Beliefs in Plain Language. The Appendix A, stating Joseph Smith's Articles of Faith, and Appendix B, noting the Surprising Quotes from Mormon Leaders were appreciated.

Given all the information, this was just the tip of the iceberg regarding the subject of the Mormon religion. The purpose of, The Mormonizing of America, was timely, being we currently have a Mormon who is running for the presidency. This is the perfect book for readers to get a feel for the Mormon life and beliefs of Mitt Romney.

I filled in so many blanks, from Joseph Smith and the Golden Plates, to why the Mormons are so successful today. It's amazing to go from being persecuted to running for the office of president of the U.S.

Mansfield explained that Mormons have outstripped their leaders and their extreme doctrines. As long as they fulfill the conditions of their faith, they will ascend in American society.

I recommend The Mormonizing of America, by Stephen Mansfield, for readers of all ages who are curious about the Mormon history and the life of Mormons.

Changing the Future
Paula Martin
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
B0082VIXNU, $3.99

Happily Ever After

Changing the Future was a very nice romance novel. It was a love story with down to earth characters. When Lisa and Paul's relationship ended, it wasn't a bed of roses for either of them. Miscommunication and trust issues broke them apart. Five years flew by when they unexpectedly ran in to each other at Lisa's college where she worked as a professor.

Old feelings surfaced and conflicts arose. They both felt guilty about how things ended. Lisa kept an unforgivable secret from Paul, and Paul harbored unjustifiable feelings of jealousy towards a male friend of Lisa's.

Toward the middle of the story it became repetitive. Conflict lagged at this point and I thought it wouldn't redeem itself. But it came back to life with Paul's close call and it ended happily ever after.

Changing the Future was predictable, which is always a disappointment, no matter what the genre.

Paula Martin wrote beautifully written dialogue, and her characters were well developed. Lisa's son was a bit too perfect; especially with the curve ball he was thrown. But he was as lovable as Paula's other characters.

Into the Light (The Portal)
Luke Meier with Joe Meier
Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
B008T4TAAA, $0.99

A clever, sci-fi story, written by an eight year old boy! Way to go Luke!

Into the light, is a story about a boy named Leo, and his dog, Bucky. Leo thought it would be okay, just for a minute, to look for Bucky's short red leash, in his Dad's forbidden basement. Bucky enters a portal he found, and Leo soon followed, only to end up in another universe.

Lots of adventures occurred in their quest to get back home. Don't miss any of the action packed suspense, in Luke Meier's, forty-eight page debut novel, Into the light (The Portal).

An Illegal President
Pat Lawrence
Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
B008MB4LTA, $4.99

Whom can you trust?

Talk about a page turner, I read the book from cover to cover without putting it down. Great political suspense!

A U.S. Congressman, Paul Garrett, is kidnapped. Unfortunately he had his two children with him, which made the plan become complicated.

A conspiracy lurked behind the kidnapping, offering Garrett the nomination for President of the U.S. He thought he had a chance to beat an incumbent President and be the most powerful man in the country, maybe the world.

His wife, Wendy, hated politics, and his children, Jack and Denise, are put through hell. Garrett learns a difficult lesson about trust during his run for president. All these factors weighed in on Garrett's decisions on how he would live his life.

Pat Lawrence's writing style kept me captivated on every page. I recommend, An Illegal President, to readers of any age.

Popular Television
A. Jarrell Hayes
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
147523483X, $2.99,

The Dark Side

Seventeen diverse short stories are compiled in this 138 page book. Hayes includes all the genres in his collection, from humor to horror.

The title refers to the fact that the stories are not suitable for TV. Too violent and upsetting to visualize, for the most part, yet digestible through words, is Popular Television.

I recommend Popular Television by A. Jarrell Hayes for readers who enjoy the dark side of humanity.

Spirit of Lost Angels
Liza Perrat
Perrat Publishing
Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
B0082MI2Y4, $4.38

A history lesson of the French Revolution

The reader will experience The French Revolution, in 1789, reading this historical novel, Spirit of Lost Angels. The journey started and ended with the life of the protagonist, Victoire Charpentie, a lowly peasant girl, from Lucie-sur-Vionne, France.

Dire circumstances dictated that Victoire leave her home of Lucie to become a scullery maid for a Paris, France nobleman. Her boss was anything but noble, and Victoire suffered at his filthy hands. Realizing the nobles took advantage of all lower class people, Victoire vowed to change this injustice.

More unfortunate dire circumstances placed Victoire in an asylum. It is here she met her match for obtaining justice. The two women were a force to be reckoned with. Her new partner in crime taught her the aristocratic ways of a woman, so she could be successful when they parted.

Victoire was a fast learner, and applied her new life skills to benefit her during the revolution, to overthrow laws regarding the treatment of common citizens, and women, in particular. She wanted revenge desperately for the nobleman's class.

Whenever I have read a well written, well researched, historical novel, I'm amazed at the amount of history I have learned from reading a book. Liza Perrat captivated me with quite a history lesson of the French Revolution.

Well-developed characters kept my interest throughout the entire book. I could visualize each character in the beautifully written settings, pleasant or otherwise, revealed before me in, Spirit of Lost Angels. Combined with the hell of the era, Liza Perrat managed to teach lessons of love, hope, and adversity.

I recommend, Spirit of Lost Angels, by Liza Perrat, to readers of all ages. It's an extraordinary way to learn about France in the 1700's.

Treasure Me
Christine Nolfi
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
B004XMOP9I, $3.99

Values to Treasure

Her mother, an on the run criminal, her father, in and out of jail, Berdie Kaminski, finds herself on her own, at the age of sixteen. The only way she knows how to survive is to use her skills as a petty thief.

Berdie is aware of a treasure hidden in Liberty, Ohio, since the Civil War. She has a clue from her ancestors that will guarantee she finds the treasure - rubies. Being a thief, Berdie travels to Liberty to steal the treasure.

Lacking formal education, but possessing street smarts, Berdie can handle herself well. Because of her upbringing, she has trust issues, to say the least. Initially, she is guarded with everyone she meets in Liberty. But after living and working there, while searching for the clue that would change her life, she starts to warm up to the town and its people.

Berdie thinks maybe there is hope for her and she can change her ways. Deep inside, she wants to be a respectable person, and relinquish her life of crime. While searching, she discovers information about a freedwoman, named Justice Postell, and Berdie considers her a role model. Postell gives her hope to change her criminal ways.

Treasure Me has the most remarkable characters. The women who work at The Second Chance Grill are eccentric and fun. Christine Nolfi develops each character to relate to Birdie in their own way, making it a pleasure to enjoy the individuality of the characters.

Birdie has a love interest, which she struggles with because of her past, and Hugh is a very complicated man. It's great fun to follow their relationship.

Treasure Me is an easy read as it flows smoothly from beginning to end. The characters are memorable, especially Theodora, whose character has an unpredictable twist at the end!

What does the title, Treasure Me, signify? Does Berdie find the rubies and change her life? Does she leave Liberty? Does she learn the value of true friendship and family?

I recommend readers of all ages, who enjoy mysteries, and a bit of romance, to read, Treasure Me, by Christine Nolfi.

Mary Crocco, Reviewer

Daniel's Bookshelf

The Third Gate
Lincoln Child
Published By Doubleday
c/o Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
9780385531382, $25.95,

I have a long history with this author, and I do include his co-author Douglas Preston, who jointly write Pendergast and Gideon Crew novels. I liked Lincoln's last one Terminal Freeze, and this one is a good adventure with high technology and a curse. The novel brings back memories of an earlier novel shared by both of these writers. It was an adventure of trying to salvage a treasure on a pirate ship. That novel was Riptide. So it was my favorite choice to select this novel to read based on my long term reading of their stories either their joint novels or solo endeavors.

Treasure hunter Porter Stone is hunting for the first Egyptian's Narmer's tomb located south of the Egyptian border near the Sudd. The forsaken landscape is neither land or water and Stone has constructed a free floating archaeological base in this desolation. It is a true marvel of engineering, and the station is a high technology lab technology with the staff and expertise to seek the wonders of a period over five thousand years ago. Stone has recruited knowledgeable people with a mix bag of backgrounds, including Professor Jeremy Logan. He is known in certain private circles as the definitive "enigmaologist" who is an expert in the being a sleuth in being able to solve about everything. The arena would be from scientific enigmas to spiritual anomalies. Logan's work has placed him to help to solve bizarre crimes, notorious hauntings, and unexplained historical mysteries. He must work with a staff of archaeologists and other experts in the Egyptian tomb diggers skilled personnel of the floating lab city. All of these are contributing to locating the three Gates of Narmer. After some time in this location in the Sudd, Stone feels he has discovered this tomb and it's all a matter of time before they can enter it. During their preparation, they started to go over the history of the pharaoh who united the upper and lower Egypt region. The investigative and exploring process is to be soon next as the time is moving closer to going down into the Sudd by the divers.

Jeremy Logan is also helping Ethan Rush's wife with her three year ago car accident to help with her then supposedly out of death experience. He also was with assisting Stone in the archaeology of the dig under the Sudd. His tasks fit his expertise, but the events of the psychological probes into her mind were providing interesting dialogue. They seem to have some correlation between her reality of the effects of the accident and the past of the site along with the curse, and warnings of the pharaoh prohibiting anyone of entering his tomb. He had three different curses covering each gate and through the trance the doctor and Logan were listening to some other surprisingly shocking statements, when trying to bring out through therapy. At the same time events were happening as the penetration of entering the tomb and the actual entrance into the Gates. Some were annoying and some were tragic, so caution was not helping as the further movement to locate and enter the tombs kept continuing. Realizing the safety issues Stone turns to Logan to make some sense of these surreal happenings as they keep escalating. The portal circle was via the Maw. This being a portal entrance being eight foot in diameter. It is an opening from the free floating lab station down into the murky Sudd. Divers were exiting the station by using the Maw as the place to drop, so they could enter down into the muck from this circular cavity down to the bottom. The Umbilicus was put into place assisting the movement up and down a supported inner beam structure strengthening this connecting tunnel. It was a flexible yellow tube going downward into the Sudd on the way to the tombs. Discoveries were hoisted upward by a lift into the top of the Maw. Logan begins to wonder, if the curse of the past is coming true to protect the riches of the Pharaoh Narmer, and what mysteries are contained in this ancient gated tomb. There seemed to be a price for those who choose to defile it by entering them.

Lincoln Child has collaborated with Douglas Preston on many adventure thrillers, and their own solo ventures. Lincoln's last novel was Terminal Freeze and a new 12th Pendergast novel written by both authors Two Graves will be released in December. They also have a series known as Gideon Crew. Gideon Corpse came out earlier this year. This is Child's fifth solo novel. I won't miss any of their efforts or to say it another way bar none.

James Patterson & Maxine Paetro
Published By Grand Central Publishing
c/o Hachette Book Group (USA)
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780446572569, $14.99,

I managed to go back, and I got the first book of the series when Patterson introduced Jack Morgan. I read the latest first entitled Private Games and I liked it. My wife devoured that book in a quick read too. I sometimes wonder if the co-authors help him better, when it depends on who the that writer is in the collaboration. Maxine Paetro has worked with him on 6 The Woman's Murder Club along with Andrew Gross on two of them. It might be their assistance that does it or not. I noticed he gets a lot of books out for publishing. I prefer solo books by Patterson as my first choice, but these two authors do all right on their teamings with him.

Jack Morgan is recruited by his client to solve a case with killers who have killed eighteen schoolgirls young by luring them to an isolated location. They proceeded to take a signature trophy away for their prize of satisfaction. It appears as the case is being investigated the perpetrators are still working their dastardly deeds and the numbers of victims are increasing. Jack assists the police in their part of the crime investigation, and he has a team of his "Private" to do the investigating along with checking on possible suspects. It has gotten personal with his ex being one of the victims. He also is investigating a multimillion-dollar NFL gambling scandal. It seems that persons are influencing referees on the outcome of multiple games and making a lot of bookie money with the outcomes.

Jack Morgan doesn't have to play by the rules. He is contemplating revenge or justice even as his personal life seemingly gets in the way for his persistence. He decides to go all out to pursue this killer to track down this killer who killed his former lover and she was a very close friend. He has to work through all the issues of emotions even though a workplace romance does threaten to derail all his investigative efforts.

James Patterson has been honored by the Guinness Records as the world's most popular thriller writer. Also he has more books as #1 New York Bestsellers than any other writer. Maxine Paetro has finished her 7th Woman Mystery Club book co-authoring with Patterson. She has nine novels with Patterson and five books of her own. It includes three fiction novels and two works of non-fiction.

Daniel Allen

Duncan's Bookshelf

Midnight Runner
Jack Higgins
Berkley Books
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St. New York, NY 10014.
0425189414, $7.99,

The richest woman in the world, Kate Rashid, vows to avenge the deaths of her brothers at the hands of Sean Dillon, a British agent. Rashid is a evil woman with the billions to do as she wishes, and she intends to destroy a key bridge in the oil pipeline. Dillon enlists his friends, a group of wise-cracking former SAS men (who may also be former hoodlums) on whom he can rely.

The landscape is desert, barren and dry, sandy and hot. Dillon and friends are up against a 'Bedu' tribe that is loyal to Kate Rashid. The scenes in the desert are believable and enjoyable reading.

Semtex and plastique. Colt 45 and Walther pistols. A steam engine. A vintage six-seat private plane. State-of-the-art miniature recorders. The tools are there. The characters are notorious and engagingly real. The story is fast paced. A great read, but the formula is run of the mill. Protagonist takes on the villain in her chateau; she kidnaps him but he escapes.

Matt Braun
Pinnacle Books
c/o Kensington Publishing Group
1430 Broadway, New York, NY 10018.
0523433840, $3.50,

Western adventure. Gunfights. Political intrigue. Murder of a pastor. A new community in New Mexico territory needs help to stop a ring of thieves who are stealing land and 'building' an empire. Two progressive citizens of Cimarron, NM hire a private detective, Cole Braddock to investigate and bring down the Santa Fe Ring.

Bloodstorm is a western. Braddock and his girl Lise find themselves under-cover in costumes and in bed. They are an enjoyable pair of memorable characters and they help Bloodstorm to rise above the flotsam of the western adventure genre. The tense situations where someone could die are described with point by point accuracy; easy to visualize.

I grew up reading Ian Fleming's James Bond series, and I love adventure and male action. But the western genre is not for me. If you like westerns and the strong protagonist who will (probably) never ask Miss Kitty to marry him, then this is an easy read. I enjoyed the action. Can you imagine a better name for a 'detective' with a gun on his hip than 'Cole Braddock.' (Tongue in cheek, laughter).

Foundation's Edge
Isaac Asimov
Doubleday & Company
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
0385177259, $9.95,

We Forget, so Easily Our Past. Thirty-five years ago, (it cannot be possible, can it?) it was my pleasure to read Asimov's Foundation trilogy. In a book sale I found a fourth novel (Foundation's Edge) and kept it for years, intending to read it. (until this week).

The Foundation books posited the premise that a mathematician / historian named Hari Seldon created a science of psychohistory that predicted the probable future of the
Galaxy. He created a Foundation to develop technology and protect the species of humans. He also created a Second Foundation to develop mental powers and to 'guide' the Galaxy. The Seldon Plan outlined the future history of the Galaxy for 3,000 years into the future.

Foundation's Edge begins at the point 500 years after the collapse of the Galactic Empire. A member of the First Foundation believes there is a 2nd Foundation and he is exiled to search for it. He believes it is possible that a third force called Gaia is building its mental powers and he wants to search for Earth, long abandoned and forgotten.

Last week I read a book by Zacharia Sitchen, The Wars of Gods and Men. Sitchen, a noted archaeologist, reminds us of our lost history: there was a culture with high technology long before the Great Pyramid in Egypt. Asimov reminds us also that 'we forget, so easily our past: "Societies create their own history and tend to wipe out lowly beginnings, either by forgetting them or inventing totally fictitious heroic rescues." (Pelorat, the historian, on page 312 of Foundation's Edge.).

Today's historian could point at the First Egyptian Dynasty and claim the Egyptians rescued our Stone Age ancestors from obscurity. It is only by accident that Sitchen has translated the Sumerian library texts and found the obscure history of the technologically advanced Anunaki who lived before the Egyptians.

As to Asimov and Foundation's Edge: Our expectations have changed. The style of long drawn-out conversations about the motivations of people may have been good for the 1950's and 1960's science fiction, but I found Edge to be dreary reading and a slow slog through character motivation.

Marty Duncan, Reviewer

Gail's Bookshelf

Dreaming of More for the Next Generation
Michelle Anthony
David C. Cook
c/o Cook Communications
4050 Lee Vance View, Colorado Springs, CO 80918
9781434700162, $14.99,

Dr. Michelle Anthony's fresh and innovative approach to family ministry provides " intentional plan that equips parents both in their spiritual lives and in their roles as spiritual parents." Another way of saying it would be for families and children to be "church equipped" with "parent powered" instructors.

While Michelle believes parents should be in charge of their children's spiritual instruction her focus for empowerment is "...the Holy Spirit...God's chosen teacher."

She uses Jesus' biblical analogy of old and new wineskins to " the religious system prevalent in His society with the "new wine..." He was about to pour out." The "new wine" meant people no longer had to earn a relationship with God by observance of His laws. Instead, people could "experience" God with the power of the Holy Spirit.

Michelle hopes to awaken parents, pastors and churches to this "family ministry model," that is family friendly, family sensitive, family empowered and family centered. Her concept is composed of "seven pillars," with the family as the primary pillar and children's sound "spiritual formation" their goal.

Since she "reserves" the role of teacher to the Holy Spirit, she calls those in children's ministry "...storytellers of God's Big Story..." Their role is to create the environment where the Holy Spirit can work, similar to hoisting the sail of a sailboat, in this case, to catch "God's wind blowing in the life of a child."

Her thoughts include not "...manipulating kids into good behavior and forgetting what really fosters faith: a relationship with God." (pg. 23) Because "Spiritual formation is more than just information ..." (pg. 29) She cautions, everyone "...needs to resist getting distracted by doing things about Him and instead create an environment where children encounter Him." (pg. 65)

Michelle's new family friendly construct of teaching children is "spirit driven" and refreshingly not "program-driven." I hope all parents, pastors and children's ministry leaders read her powerfully simple, but wise message of empowerment by the Holy Spirit that builds and nurtures authentic faith.

Two Scoops of Grace with Chuckles on Top
Jeanette Levellie
Lighthouse Publishing
251 Overlook Park Lane, Lawrenceville, GA 30043
9780983319610, $14.95,

Writer and pastor's wife, Jeanette Levellie pens humorous devotions with subtle biblical truth, wisdom and in some cases laugh-out-loud humor. Besides entertaining, the short quick-read narratives encourage readers to laugh at themselves and find God's grace even in the midst of sometimes insensitive, unkind situations, people and events.

At the same time, narratives drive home a serious message, writes Dean Christensen of California State University that teach "God in his grace loves and accepts each of us unconditionally through Jesus Christ."

Seventy-two short devotions feature a comic caricature cartoon illustration by Jeanette's son Ron and a focused bible verse. Narratives end with "Two scoops and a sprinkle," which is a brief three point summary of what's been read. Sandwiched in between are short stories with applications of biblical truth.

For example, in "From Hair to Eternity, the caricaturized illustration capture a woman's frustration as a mirror reflects her wild, stick-out-all-over hairdo even the hairbrush can't tame. Soliciting her husband's support, the woman asks for his opinion. Caught unawares the husband smiles and says, "Yeah, it does look pretty bad." (Sometimes honesty is not the best policy)

The bible verse from Hebrews13:5, The Message says "I'll never let you down, never walk off and leave you...who or what can get to me?"

The three point summary is:

If we blame God for pain in our lives, we won't trust and turn to Him for help.
Sometimes we can be too honest and inflict unnecessary hurt.
God will take the "lemons" in our lives and make "lemonade" from them if we let Him.

This author provides 72 brief story-style devotions "sprinkled with laughter" to help readers discover the "sweetness of God's heart" for His children. Her stories, written with vulnerable transparency, share her personal struggles of forgiveness and love that encourage readers to believe in God's saving grace for themselves as well as others.

Laugh with the author and learn to laugh at yourself with these amusing, sometimes heart-rending, always encouraging narratives of ordinary experiences and adventures common to us all.

Check out Jeanette's website: "On Wings of Mirth and Worth"

Eternal Perspectives: Collection of Quotations on Heaven, the New Earth, and Life after Death
Randy Alcorn
Tyndale House Publishers
351 Executive Drive, Carol Stream, IL 60188
9781414345574, $24.99,

New York Times bestselling author, Randy Alcorn adds another unique book to his extensive collection of written works about heaven with this "...collection of quotations on Heaven, the new earth, and life after death."

Alcorn reaches into the past up to modern day to provide more than 1500 inspirational quotes from noted theologians such as Charles Spurgeon, C.S. Lewis and D.L. Moody making this the most comprehensive collection of quotations on Heaven ever compiled. The collection reminds me of AA's (Alcoholics Anonymous) Big Book which is the "go-to" reference for recovering alcoholics. In a similar way "Eternal Perspectives" is the "go-to" reference for anyone interested in the subject of Heaven as well as all of this author's books on Heaven (see slide show).

The author's basis for the book is "If God didn't want us to imagine what Heaven will be like, he wouldn't have told us as much about Heaven as he has" writes Alcorn in the introduction. With that in mind he also says we need "biblically inspired imaginations."

Yet, the topic of Heaven remains controversial. For example, one day a Christian leader visited Alcorn, saw the books and extensive research about Heaven that littered his desk and asked why he was writing "...a big book on Heaven." The visitor quoted 1 Corinthians 2:9 that says " eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind conceived..."

Alcorn agreed with him but said he hadn't taken verse ten into account which says, "...but God has revealed it to us by His Spirit." And that's the foundation of Alcorn's belief, that God wants us to "...understand and anticipate what awaits..." believers in heaven.

He assures readers this compilation of quotes is "true to Scripture," however he encourages everyone to test what they read and compare it with the Bible.

This author writes with the reader in mind evidenced by the reader-friendly alphabetized contents page that lists forty-nine- different topics with their page numbers. Topics cover a wide range of subjects like "boredom...death...eternity...gender and sexuality...hell...Jesus...the new earth" and much more.

A selection of three or more relevant Bible verses introduces each new topic followed by an extensive assortment of topical quotes from renowned authors and scholars as well as quotes from the author himself.

With so many misconceptions about Heaven I know many carry a childish notion I once held that when we die we would sit on clouds and play harps, something I found less than inspiring as a child. Alcorn's topic on boredom is enlightening. He quotes Mart De Haan's about trusting God who writes, "...God doesn't want us to know what He's planned for us." Maybe, if we knew we might not want to stay on earth.

This is the "ultimate resource" on Heaven outside the Bible. I think it would be especially useful for pastors and writers. However, it's also a fun book to read whether you select topics of interest or read from cover-to-cover. This quote from J.C. Ryle summarizes it well.

"Before we go to our eternal home we should try to become acquainted with it." As always, with this author, his book is a 12+ on a scale of 1-10.

Cast of Character: Lost & Found Encounters with the Living God
Max Lucado
Thomas Nelson
501 Nelson Place, Nashville, TN 37214
9780849947377, $19.99,

Max Lucado treats readers to another group of favorite bible characters as he did in "Cast of Characters: Common People in the Hands of an Uncommon God" in 2008. This time his focus is on hope, faith and trust with narratives about Jarius, Jacob and Jesus' brothers, among twenty other bible characters.

He begins with the story of Jarius, "Seeing the Unseen." The Bible records where Jarius pleads with Jesus to bring his daughter back to life in the book of Mark, which required Jarius to make a choice of faith and trust in the unknown. Where he could choose to see through the eyes of fear or, in faith, "...see the Healer."

Max uses the analogy of a "seeing-with-your-eyes-closed" experiment with two of his daughters to illustrate everyone is "blind to the future." Eight-year-old Jenna was first to walk across the living room with her eyes closed, guided by her sister Andrea, who gave explicit directions like, "Take two baby steps to the left..." Then it was Andrea's turn.

When the experiment was over the girls complained of feeling scared, unsafe and afraid they would fall because they didn't know where they were going. Neither of them liked being unable to see, however they trusted and had faith because they knew the one they had faith in, similar to Jarius who chose to trust in Jesus.

The author uses the analogy to illustrate we too can choose to trust in and have faith in Jesus, because Jesus wants us to " by faith, not by sight," to look beyond the hurt and "...see the Healer."

Another story that caught my attention was the story of Jesus' brothers, "Feudin' Families finding peace." Max uses this story to illustrate "tar baby relationships" which he describes as families "...stuck together but falling apart." Which amounts to someone " can't talk to and can't walk away from."

He explains how "...Jesus had a difficult family" who didn't appreciate Jesus, who were ashamed of Him because "...they thought he was out of his mind" (Mark 3:21). However, Jesus "...didn't try to control his family's behavior, nor did he let their behavior control his."

If you think you can "...control people's behavior toward you, (Jesus didn't even try) you are held in bondage by their opinion." If readers find themselves in this situation give your family "space, time and grace." Trust God, not just as Lord and Savior, but also as Father, because father's provide and protect, that is their job. Children's job is to trust and we are God's children.

Chapters end with questions for reflection and discussion which makes the book an excellent choice for personal devotions, church, or small group discussion.

This well-known, widely-read author has over 100 million books in print. It's easy to understand why when you read his lyrical, inspirational writing that connects spiritual truth to common issues and situations. My only complaint is the title similarity with "Cast of Characters: Common People in the Hands of an Uncommon God," that released in 2010 which is confusing.

Disguised for Love: The Strickland Sisters
John Lifflander
As Gold Media
4702 NE 248th Circle, Ridgefield, WA 98642
9780971133969, $14.95,

This historical romance set in the depression era of the early 1930's, where the young and wealthy Strickland Sisters, Esther, Priscilla and Anna, question potential suitors interest in them. Are the young men really interested in them or is their father's money the main attraction.

They have good reason to fear since so many young men and their families lost everything in the stock market crash. However desperate suitors continue to keep up appearances and act as if they still had all the money anyone could want or wish for in order to attract wealthy young women.

The sisters hear gossip about people living on credit and accumulating debt they can't repay, which prompts keen speculation and heated discussions between them that never produces any answers.

Until Priscilla thinks up a bizarre plan to learn a suitor's intent and she tells Anna and Esther about " intriguing social experiment" she dreamed up. She explains the details and encourages her sisters to join her mischievous plan to travel " in the spy books about Mr. Moto..."

Add the sister's fifty-three-year-old debonair, widowed father who's smitten by beautiful Betty Ingersol. A woman the sisters are certain is a "hussy," nothing more than a social "climber." They can't understand why their father is so infatuated by her when they can see right through her. And with that the fun begins.

The author's characterization and dialogue realistically portray the Great Depression era, a time of extreme innocence when viewed from today's perspective. Memorable descriptions of "Duesy's," short for "open-topped Duesenberg touring cars" add to the tone of that once prosperous era. As do descriptions of rotund cooks who serve lavish, drawing room dinners, a picturesque English butler and furniture with descriptions like "...a tufted emerald green sofa..." depicting angels with "...finely carved wooden legs and trim."

Readers of wholesome historical romances will enjoy "Disguised for Love,' by this Washington author. His well-researched work focuses on romance and family. Purchase from AsGold Media: or from

2 Seconds Late
Eric Wilson
Bay Forest Publisher
PO Box 491600, Leesburg, Florida/34749-1600
9781613280379, $14.99,

Eric Wilson takes readers into a suspense filled political thriller of modern technology, microchip tagging and romance in "2 Seconds Late," book two of his "By the Number" series. Where "RFID" chips, implanted with radio frequency ID transmission capability, monitor the activities and whereabouts of implanted products. However, this time politicians are prepared to introduce controversial bill, "HB 6336" that authorizes human micro-chipping.

The story begins with university student, Natalie Flynn, a barista from "Sip Cafe," who finds herself bound and gagged inside a "sweltering" metal Quonset hut, her last memory that of a friendly customer named Magnus. She remembered flirtatiously promising him a free cup of coffee, walking behind the counter - smelling the fresh aroma of coffee beans - then nothing - until now...

Thus begins a captivating tale of adventure and intrigue inspired by the biblical story of Esther, Queen of Persia who was born for "such a time as this" that portrays Natalie as the "Esther" of our time. The narrative plays out in Seattle and other locales with a focus on modern technology, its potential for abuse, as well as ethical use. In a tale of political conspiracy, partisan influence peddlers in Washington and a budding romance that adds another winner to Eric Wilson's growing list of published works.

Natalie planed the part of a governess for the Vreeland family in "1 Step Away," first book in the series. In book two, "2 Seconds Late," she takes center stage with State Representative Reuben King, a young man she met by chance at a Nashville book festival.

She's attracted to the handsome, powerful, debonair young politician, fascinated with the way he trades in information and technology like others might trade in gold. However, his currency for trading is votes not money, not unlike what happens with lobbyists in Washington D.C. today.

Wilson's portrayal of RFID microchips inserted under the skin captures real fears with a story that reveals how microchips could track humans, similar to what the book of Revelation and the "Number of the Beast" portray.

Add Representative King's utter disregard for ethics, King's dangerous friends who trade in favors and a highly trained Russian skilled in weapons and surveillance, trained for "special-purposes." Plus Alex and Darcy Page, co-founders of Shield Technologies in Seattle and a plethora of other multi-dimensional characters and you have a book you can't put down, with a mind-boggling ending readers can't foresee.

If you aren't an Eric Wilson fan, co-author of bestselling "Firestorm" and "By the Number's" series, you will be by the time the book is over. Although part of a series the book is also a stand-alone title.

Quest for Celestia: a Reimagining of The Pilgrim's Progress
Steven James
Living Ink Books
c/o AMG Publishers
6815 Shallowford Rd, Chattanooga, TN 37421
9780899578866, $14.99,

Steven James, best-selling author and Christy award nominee for "The Queen," book five in the popular "Bowers Files" series, subtitles this well-written fantasy, "...a Reimagining of The Pilgrim's Progress."

It is certainly that and more with James cast of characters that include dragons, giants, wizards, vagabonds, sorcerers and epic journeys to a land of healing ruled by a "...wise and benevolent king." The excellent plot and well-written characters, a serious departure from his other books, will also have a strong appeal for young and old, or for any reader drawn to tales of sorcery, witches and magical fantasies.

The story begins on a moonlit night with soon-to-be-seventeen-year-old Kadin when he takes a shortcut through an alley in the town of Abaddon on his way to a friend's house. Where he's approached by a stranger who calls himself "Alcion...a tall man with a snowy-white beard" who says, "I was sent to find you...You've been chosen."

Thus begins James modern re-telling of the "The Pilgrim's Progress" where Kadin, just like Christian in John Bunyan's classic 300-year-old tale, travels to a celestial city and encounters many dangers and intrigue along the way.

The well-written, fast paced allegory describes a spiritual journey with a cast of characters and events that keep the pages turning, typical of James's writing style. His characterizations and descriptive scenes of dungeons, giants, the Baron's evil archers and a ginormous dragon bring the pages to life just as Bunyan did with "Pilgrim's Progress."

Moving, tender scenes between Kadin and beautiful Leira, who becomes Kadin's traveling companion, are realistic and poignant, as is the city of Celestia and King Kiral. James's narrative, penned by someone I consider a "wizard of a storyteller," is more subtle than Bunyan's classic, however any words penned by this dynamic author are worthy of serious consideration.

Tyndale first published this title in 2006; however, that edition is now out of print. This edition now published by Living Ink Books, a subsidiary of AMG Publishers.

Making Sense When Life Doesn't
Cecil Murphey
Summerside Press
39 Old Ridgebury Road, Danbury CT 06810
9781609362249, $14.99,

Cecil Murphey, former pastor, bestselling author and speaker, looks at life from the "glass half full" perspective, like that of an optimist. His subtitle, "...the secrets of thriving in tough times..." describes how he survived through life's often difficult circumstances.

Circumstances that included a period of homelessness after the loss of his home, all clothing, pictures and possessions, work-in-progress manuscripts and the devastating loss of his son-in-law Alan, when his home burned to the ground in 2007. Each separate loss would be difficult to bear, however when they happened together, Cecil learned something about himself when his " friend...arrived..."

"I've been preparing for this," was his response to Dr. David Morgan's "...words of comfort..."

Cecil's words were instinctively spoken. He didn't mean he expected his son-in-law's death, the fire or the loss of everything he owned. His unconscious words described a lifetime of preparation to "face hardships and losses." After years of facing small and large losses with "...a God who doesn't shield us from chaos but who is with us during the chaos," Cecil knew Whom to trust.

Life crises happen to everyone, whether job loss, home foreclosure, divorce, catastrophic illness or other disastrous event. Where people think, "This is the worst time in my life," writes Cecil.

At that point we have choices because "Life is messy. We can't avoid the chaos, but we can choose the response..." and describes the choices as:

1. "...comfort yourself with the way things used to be..."
2. "...move on...forced to make changes...resenting everything that happens..."
3. Or "...tell yourself, this can be the best time of my life. I can try the things I wanted to do but never did."

The author lives out the third choice with spiritual strength and prayer reflecting a Christian world-view that he writes about in fifty-eight short chapters. Where he engages readers with simple anecdotes and his own personal experiences to demonstrate the points he makes.

A sampling of topics include failure, loss, change, rejection, mistakes, forgiveness, secrets, jealousy, anger, success and much more where readers learn how to make their lives better because of adversity...not in spite of it.

The last chapter is about change, where he writes, "None of us is the same after a crisis...I'm not who I used to be, and I don't know who I'll be at the end of my life. I'm a work in progress."

The book seems especially written for "such a time as this," where losses similar to the 1930's depression-era are occurring at an ever increasing rate. Cecil's optimistic tone, insightful and encouraging messages empower readers who have lost hope with the courage and motivation to continue. "Making Sense when Life doesn't" makes an excellent gift for you, a friend or loved one.

Living Beyond Your Feelings
Joyce Meyer
Faith Words
c/o Hachette Publishing Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017-0010
9780446538527, $22.99,

"Living Beyond Your Feelings," by bestselling Christian teacher and author Joyce Meyer is for anyone who struggles with controlling emotions, such as fear, anger or failure. Joyce teaches readers to examine, manage and control their emotions instead of their emotions controlling them. She writes "If you are ready to master your emotions, this book is for you."

She begins with a quote by Jonatan Martensson, who says, "Feelings are much like waves, we can't stop them from coming, but we can choose which ones to surf." And that's what her book is about - choices - and the realization we control our behavior when we manage our emotions.

That effort leads to right choices and life becomes more enjoyable.

In the introduction she reminds reader's emotions are neither good nor bad, they are simply feelings that can fluctuate and change, sometimes without cause or reason. She cites the example of "...going to bed feeling fine physically and emotionally, only to wake the next morning feeling tired and irritable."

She notes that people who feel tired and discouraged "...tend to talk a lot more about negative feelings..." than their positive counterparts. An action that took Joyce years to learn and one she cautions readers about because "...talking about how I feel increases the intensity of the feelings" I talk about. Instead, she recommends talking to the Lord because "God gives the strength to do what is right."

She gives an example of the need to forgive when we feel like "shutting someone out of our lives" because of unfair treatment or hurt feelings. She recommends the choice of prayer for the person or situation even if you don't feel like it. When we treat others as "Jesus would" we gain God's peace. If we act "according to our feelings" we forfeit God's peace.

The first segment of this comprehensive guide focuses on emotions that drive behavior such as disappointment, regret, change, difficult people and more. The second part offers specific advice for handling destructive feelings, emotions and experiences like stress, anger, guilt, depression and much more. Chapters end with "Decision and confession," such as chapter one where readers decide to "follow God's principles, not emotions" and confess, "I am a winner in life."

The book ends on a positive note with a chapter on good emotions that "...promote health, contentment, joy, productivity, and a sense of well-being."

I recommend this book to everyone, from preteens to the elderly or for those "stuck in a moment" of emotional and spiritual bondage. Joyce's sound and practical spiritual advice is good for any season of life, young and old, to manage troublesome emotions and avoid unwise harmful behaviors.

Do Yourself a Favor...Forgive
Joyce Meyer
c/o Hachette Publishing Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017-0010
9780446547277, $19.99,

New York Times bestselling author Joyce Meyer, teaches minds can be changed, tough issues overcome and lives transformed when people learn to forgive. She considers anger the primary underlying cause when a person can't forgive with corrosive bitterness the underlying cost. Not to mention broken relationships, broken families and marriages.

In the first chapter, "It isn't Fair," she explores the issue of fairness and uses the example of a divorced woman whose husband left her bankrupt and whose grown children had no time for her.

She was angry and bitter with her husband, her children, her family, herself and God, however she never "...considered forgiving..." herself or asking "...forgiveness" of others. She lived "...according to her feelings."

Meyer's argues that life isn't always fair, from pay raises to taxes, lack of appreciation, to those who say harsh words without apology, to favoritism, lack of parental love and false accusations. The list is long and endless. But each unfair circumstance offers the opportunity " either be angry or forgive and move on."

She "...exposes the roots...forms... and disastrous results of living with anger..." in chapters two through six. These chapters provide the foundation to understand anger as Meyer's explores important causes, as well as devastating results when anger is unleashed to grow into rage.

If anger is allowed to escalate to rage, calamitous results and uncontrollable, life-altering change can occur.

Chapter seven, "Help Me: I'm Angry" and chapter eight, "Help Me: I'm in a Relationship with an Angry Person" are especially beneficial to help with anger issues in themselves or a loved one.

Meyer's provides a usable blueprint that teaches how to "...take control of your life through forgiveness," the subtitle of this book. Readers learn resentments that aren't dealt with become tinder that fuels anger. That anger is a God given emotion, even God got angry in the Old Testament. It's what is done with anger that leads to sin in addition to the following from the back cover:

Unmasking anger you're not aware of
Constructive uses of anger
Power of godly confrontation
Importance of forgiving yourself
God's role in forgiveness
How to let go...and let God.

This author provides an understandable, practical guide to healing and forgiveness that restores families, friendships, marriages and more. Instead of having a pity party and asking God why, read Meyer's book and realize everyone gets hurt, angry and frustrated. Learn to take control and as Joni Eareckson writes, "turn anger into something positive."

A Still and Quiet Place
Hope Lyda, author
Paintings by Darrell Bush
Harvest House Publishers
990 Owen Loop North, Eugene, OR 97402
9780736942348, $12.99

If you feel stressed, too much to do and too little time to do it in, join painter Darrell Bush and inspirational author, Hope Lyda and enjoy God's splendors in their beautifully designed gift book, "A Still and Quiet Place"

The book begins with a dedication page and an "engraved invitation" that instructs readers to focus on whatever is "true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy" from Philippians 4:8.

Lyda's thoughts, quotes and scriptures combine with Bush's evocative paintings to encourage readers to withdraw, stroll through nature and focus on the loving God who created it and them.

The breathtaking scenes of mountains, farms, cabins and lakes inhabited by antlered deer, exquisitely colored wood ducks and an abundant assortment of birds and wildlife remind readers of God's loving handiwork.

Then Lyda's writings expand on Darrell's magnificent artwork of feathered birds, a small country chapel, snow geese, swans and more. The book, divided into six segments, features thoughts that are "true and noble...right and pure...lovely and admirable...and excellent and praiseworthy. A quote from Charlotte Bronte, "I try to avoid looking forward or backward, and try to keep looking upward" completes the book.

The enticing cover features a warmly lit wood cabin, snug beside still lake waters, rising mist in the distance, with a 1950's blue pickup parked beside the porch, a picture that harkens back to a more relaxed time.

Colorful landscape and animal paintings accompany quotes such as:

"We do not see nature with our eyes, but with our understandings and our hearts," by William Hazlitt.

"Flowers are the smiles of God's goodness," by William Wilberforce.

"Happiness resides not in possessions and not in gold; the feeling of happiness dwells in the soul," by Democritus.

Each two-page spread inspires readers to pause for a time of soul-nourishing refreshment and reflection that will leave them relaxed and rested. This exceptional book would make a wonderful gift for family or friends, even to tuck away for a Christmas gift, as well as for personal use.

Making God Visible
Betty Alexander
WinePress Publishing
1730 Railroad St, Enumclaw, WA 98022
9781414119014, $15.99,

In "Making God Visible" Betty Alexander quotes Acts 19:15 (NLT) where, a group of Jews, the Sons of Sceva, unsuccessfully cast an evil spirit out from a man in "the name of Jesus who Paul preaches." The evil spirit replied, "Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?"

Though the Jews knew of Jesus they didn't really know and follow Him. Betty uses this example to ask "what voices influence." you and what is your influence on those around you. She argues that "...we have a responsibility to train our ears to hear how the Holy Spirit is moving to recognize what God wants done in the powerful name of Jesus".

She uses this scripture as the subtitle of her book and argues the best way to learn about Jesus is to read God's Word and remember it only takes "small beginnings to change to affect the world for Jesus Christ." Something she hopes will challenge readers to "live a full life for Christ."

Betty tells of her journey of faith within these pages that reflect her "view of living in the Kingdom of God." She encourages readers to stop living a "nominal Christian lifestyle" in their pursuit of Heaven; to rekindle intimacy and "stoke the fires of faith within..." Her simple suggestions and practical applications are easy to implement.

She uses personal examples and stories of others to demonstrate how God continues to use people today, to perform "signs and wonders," to take care of God's business. Then emphasizes the journey begins with reading and knowing Scripture that "teaches God's truth."

Seventeen chapters cover topics such as spiritual warfare, how Christians are recognized, fasting, prayer and more. Chapters end with three summary questions to reflect on which she hopes will motivate, inspire and encourage readers to mature in their Christian walk and their love for Jesus.

Reverend Larry Hrovat, Faith of the Nations, endorsed her book and wrote if anyone is "looking for incredible Biblical applications of understanding God." read this book.

Betty Alexander lives in Portland, OR, leads a worship conference, is involved in prayer ministry besides reading for the "yearly 24-hour Bible reading" in Salem, OR.

Washington's Channeled Scablands Guide
John Soennichsen
Mountaineer Books
1001 SW Klickitat Way, Suite 201, Seattle, WA 98134
9781594854835, $17.95

In this "where-to" guide book, Washington author, photographer and hiking devotee, John Soennichsen, captures Eastern Washington's "one-of-a-kind scabland landscapes." with all they have to offer. Located on the Columbia Plateau across the Cascade Range, the barren land is "defined as a shrub-steppe plateau terrain..." in spite of its resemblance to an arid desert.

Readers discover a recreation area that holds something for everyone who loves the outdoors, especially since the President signed legislation approving the creation of the "Ice Floods National Geologic Trail" in 2009.

In part three, the author explores where "ancient glaciers" carved out elaborate rock structures and pathways in a massive flood that "swept through northern Idaho .Washington." into Oregon's Willamette Valley. A flood that left a "geologic marvel" in its wake, writes Soennichsen, 2,000 square miles of what we know today as the Scablands, far too large an area for a national park.

The author's stunning photography and descriptive word pictures capture the distinctive terrain with its unique opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts who love to explore, bike, hike or swim. An added feature, the Columbia Plateau is still relatively unknown in 2012, writes Soennichsen because "you can spend an entire day on the trail without seeing another soul."

With its "large geological footprint," the area affords exploration by car, boat, hiking and biking, as well as outdoor activities of bird watching, fishing and hunting, with spectacular scenery a backdrop for all activities.

While part one provides an overview, part three provides explicit details of how this stunning area developed. Sandwiched in between, pages 57 through 208, are maps, directions and information to forty-six areas of interest that include topographies of mountains, lakes, even abandoned waterfalls.

Other points of interest include a "basalt cave" where a shoot-out took place, headquarters for the "National Center for UFO Reporting;" a gorge that "hides a collection of Model T cars" from a 100-year-old train wreck; rumors of a mysterious "finned creature" in waters with ginormous waves; a "60-foot high lava lamp" and more.

Whether you "lace up your boots" for a cross-county hike, search waterways by boat, take a driving tour, or camp out with the family. The comprehensive "Washington's Channeled Scablands Guide" is the go to book for suggestions, detailed directions, "great trails, stunning scenery and amazing history."

Check out Mountaineer Books website for more details and other recreational books:

The End
Mark Hitchcock,
Tyndale House Publishers
351 Executive Drive, Carol Stream, IL 60188
9781414353739, $22.99,

"The End: A Complete Overview of Bible Prophecy and the End of Days ", Mark Hitchcock's comprehensive overview of Bible prophecy, begins with a brief humorous "overview of what we can all agree on..." followed by stats, facts and "ten key reasons" to study Bible prophecy.

Two reasons are about blessings, why the book of Revelation is called the "blessing book" as well as God's promise of "special blessings" to those who read, listen and obey. "God blesses the one who reads the words of this prophecy." (Rev. 1:3)

Another reason is that "prophecy is a major part of divine revelation." Here the author cites the rationale for the "Law of Proportion" that says the importance of a Bible subject is recognized by the "attention devoted to it." Then he adds intriguing biblical statistics such as 28.5% of the Old Testament and 21.5% of the New Testament is prophetical and other little-known statistics.

Still another reason to study prophecy is for Jesus found in Rev. 19:10-"The essence of prophecy is to give a clear witness for Jesus."

Since an overall 27% of the Bible is devoted to prophecy, Mark hopes the foundation he provides will motivate readers to search the Scriptures and learn about end time events even though the prophetical books can be difficult to understand. His clear writing coupled with his unique ability to break apart difficult subjects and positions with easy-to-understand charts and lists equips readers to determine for themselves what their beliefs are.

Mark is careful to note his own beliefs in the introduction which is a "futurist, premillennial viewpoint" and he discusses that point-of-view in chapter three, "When will the Believing be leaving." However, he also clearly describes and defines other perspectives as well.

From reading his book I believe Mark's goal is to encourage readers to learn about and decide on what their prophetical beliefs are, even though they may differ from his in the long run. His concise definitions of pre-tribulation, mid-tribulation, pre-wrath, post-tribulation and the "Second Coming" are excellent, as are descriptions of the millennial views, amillennial, pre-millennial and post millennial.

Thirty-nine chapters, divided into fourteen segments cover "key passages" from the books of Daniel, the Synoptic Gospels of the Olivet Discourse and Revelation. Mark reveals patterns, sequences and chronologies of events with a multiplicity of charts, lists and concise definitions of meanings that provide clarity and understanding.

The author believes there hasn't been this style of prophetical compilations since the publication of D. J. Dwight Pentecost's "Things to Come," fifty years ago. He hopes "The End" can "provide for this generation what Dr. Pentecost did for his."

I like the writing and non-biased presentation and encourage readers interested in prophecy to consider this book.

The Great Destroyer
David Limbaugh
Regnery Publishing
One Massachusetts Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20001
9781596987777, $29.95,

David Limbaugh, attorney and New York Times bestselling author, records how President Obama's promises have been fulfilled in "The Great Destroyer: Barack Obama's War on the Republic ", a book that picks up where "Crimes against Liberty," released in 2011, left off. Informative, at times "eye-opening," the author reveals the importance of this year's election and our nations need for informed voters to vote.

He contrasts the President's words with his actions with detailed statistics and examples that illustrate why he believes this president has declared "...war on the Republic..." instead of delivering on his promise of "hope and change."

Four years ago Senator Obama, then President-elect Obama "...promised to fundamentally change this nation..." in several pre-election speeches. As a nation we were eager to see his promised "hope and change." Our country stood on a financial precipice not unlike that of the 1930's depression and we listened to and believed in his inspiring words of hope.

The author's statistics, facts and charts do show change, but not for the better. Instead our nation has incurred trillions of dollars of debt and the unemployment rate hasn't dropped below 8%. The current 8.3% unemployment doesn't include those who have run out of benefits or those euphemistically called "discouraged workers."

Foreclosures are at an all-time high with homelessness a growing problem among children and families. In July, "60 Minutes" featured homeless children with shocking statistics that one out of four Florida children are living in cars or motels:

From the Introduction to the Conclusion and chapters sandwiched in between the book is well organized by topic. The "War on..." begins twelve chapters that start with "The War on America...the Right...the Disobedient...on Cultures and Values...the Economy...the Future... Oil...Other Energy Sources...Business...National Security...Guns... and War on Dignity of the Office."

Seventy-one pages of "Notes" ordered by chapter and citation number reference speeches, hearings, print media and more that document and contrast Obama's words with his actions.

For example, Obama's speeches say that he promotes and favors nuclear energy when he announced loan guarantees "...for two nuclear reactors in Georgia." (pg. 238) Then he "unilaterally" defunded the critical Yucca Mountain nuclear waste disposal project in 2010 that caused the "...NRC to rescind (cancel) the facility's license request." Words versus actions are a measure of man's trustworthiness.

David is a conservative, supports conservative policies and is also radio-talk-show-host Rush Limbaugh's brother, although his writing style is reasonable, easy-to-read and filled with verifiable facts and statistics. The book is an enlightening, well-documented read and I recommend it to everyone.

Kingdom Man
Tony Evans
Tyndale House Publishers
351 Executive Drive, Carol Stream, IL 60188
Focus on the Family
8605 Explorer Drive, Colorado Springs, CO 80920,
9781589976856, $22.99,

Mega-church pastor, bestselling author and chaplain for the Dallas Mavericks, Dr. Tony Evans writes about men's standards in "Kingdom Man" where he defines "...manhood as God intended it to be." He begins by defining a "Kingdom Man" as the "...kind of man that prompts the devil to say ...Oh crap, he's up' when his feet hit the floor..." each morning.

He gives a brief illustration of how standards are unintentionally lowered with a brief story about an athletic director and his at-the-time, short son Jonathan when the director lowered the basket hoop so he could "dunk the basketball."

While that action encouraged Evan's son, it lowered the overall standard for the game writes Evans. Something the author believes has happened with men's principles, values and ethics that cause todays "...lowered standards for... families, homes, churches and communities..." That result in indelible wounds and unhealed scars.

Wounds such as homelessness, absentee fathers, single parent mothers, high school dropouts and more, because men are unconcerned about the role God designed for them as Christian fathers, husbands and leaders. He uses the term "rule" to describe God's role for man. Then defines ruling as neither a "dictatorship nor a posture of dominion." Rather, he calls "rule" the exercise of legitimate authority under the lordship of Jesus Christ."

Perhaps because he's chaplain for athletes he draws on sport metaphors, such as "game officials..." and others to demonstrate what he means. For example, he compares the game of football, ruled by officials from the NFL to the "game of life..." Which God designed to be governed "...according to His book (the Bible) under the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ..." argues Evans.

Fifteen chapters divided into three parts begin with Evan's rationale for man to glorify God in themselves, their families and their communities. Part two concerns God-given authority, man's right to rule and women's role. This segment is about "reclaiming manhood...responsibilities

...delegation of authority...women...dominion covenant..." and prayer. I would have liked to see a more direct connection with Christ and the Dominion Covenant in this section; however Evan's illustrations are valid.

His refreshing definition of men and women as equals who share different roles is insightful, biblical and encouraging, as is the final section from Psalm 128, the Psalm where "David outlines the life of a kingdom man." Here Evans' teaches how to apply the previous chapters to man's personal, family, church and community life.

Evans connects "biblical spirituality with social responsibility" to question if Christian leadership is so busy building churches and church programs they have "...failed to disciple men in what it means to be about the Kingdom..."

I was prepared for platitudes in Evan's book perhaps because of his sports connections. Instead I found biblical wisdom that challenges and encourages men and women to examine themselves in light of Scripture. This is a book everyone should read.

The River
Michael Neale
Thomas Nelson Publishers
P.O. Box 141000, Nashville, TN 37214
9781401688486, $16.99,

Michael Neale, Dove-nominated artist, songwriter, and master storyteller's September 4th release, "The River," combines his artistry of writing, music and performance to produce what he calls an "experience." This extraordinary book is only one piece of that experience.

Neale creates multi-layered characters he then combines with a multifaceted plot that takes place in Kansas, the Colorado Rockies and "The River." Readers come to know and love the people who inhabit the story, especially young Gabriel Clarke, whose father is his hero. Neale also portrays "The River," with a life and character of its own.

The story begins with Gabriel and his single father John as they hike to "The River's" Firewater Gorge. Gabriel is five-years-old, the time - 1956. At Gabriel's urging John hoists the young boy "...onto his shoulders for the rest of the the top..."

John, devoted to his young son, wants to share with him "...the region's most spectacular waterfalls..." Upon their arrival at the cliffs edge, mist from waters plunging into the three-story gorge below rise to meet them. Gabriel's outburst warms his father's heart: "Wow! Awesome! Look at that, Dad!"

He lifted his son to the ground and held his hand as they walked back from the jagged cliff edge hand-in-hand. John pulled "...the worn leather pouch..." of vintage Bennington marbles from his pocket and drew a "playing circle" in the dirt then asked Gabriel, "Ready to play?"

Gabriel's face-splitting grin accompanied the little boy's challenge that this time he would win the game they spent hours playing together. However, before they could begin a "terrible event" occurred and fear became Gabriel's lifelong companion until...

This compelling narrative, the tale of a young boy chained by fear and resentment is a story of loss, growth and change. Written with an element of mystery, a touch of fantasy sandwiched in the middle, an unforeseen ending and strong sense of moral purpose.

The inspirational read encourages readers to evaluate themselves, their motives and the toxic issue of forgiveness in a fascinating story of daring adventure, letting go of the past and finding courage to step into the future.

Neale "scored" the music strains he heard in his head into melodies he then recorded with Michael Whittaker for "The River" soundtrack, May 2011. In October he gave a live performance that captured the audience with his emotional narration, timed to "The River" soundtrack and visuals. View YouTube - The River trailer left of the review mid-screen.

A Hope for Freedom benefit to end human trafficking is scheduled for August 31, 2012 where Neale will lead audiences through the story with original music, creative storytelling, and stunning visuals. For information:

New York Times bestselling authors, John C. Maxwell and Andy Andrews endorsed "The River." Maxwell said it will "...inspire readers to live a life they were destined for." While Andrews wrote, "The River is a story that will transform how you see yourself and the world."

They are both right. I believe "The River" will become a classic that families, perhaps with an age restriction for younger children, will one day see on the big screen and on video. Don't miss this book!

Around the Word in 60 Seconds: the Ultimate Tween Devotional
Mary E. DeMuth
Tyndale Momentum
351 Executive Drive, Carol Stream, IL 60188
9781414363929, $14.99,

Intended for ages 8 and up, "Around the Word in 60 Seconds" is a pre-teen devotional by bestselling author Mary Demuth in partnership with iShine, the popular Christian media group. Their subtitle, "ultimate tween devotional" targets a market the publisher, author and iShine consider "underserved" that of tweens.

While there are lots of materials available for children and teenagers, there is little for pre-teens according to Tyndale Momentum. Their research reveals "20 million American kids...ages 7 and 13" spend more than "60 hours" a week with some type of media. That exposure forms children's "values and beliefs" without spiritual influence.

Robert Beeson, founder and chief creative officer of iShine writes, "Tweens form their...sense of values...underlying purpose...popularity... appearance and personal success..." by their use and exposure to media." He started iShine, a faith based "Christian version of Disneyland" in 2008 to afford his pre-teen daughters the choice of an "uplifting media experience."

This devotional, designed and targeted for ages 9-12 provides a 52 week "spiritual roadmap" that teaches pre-teens about Jesus and positive values in a "life-affirming way." Where youth learn Jesus really does change lives, and their lives can be changed too if they follow the "sixty-second time commitments" for 52 weeks in this devotional.

The first day of each week takes a bit longer because DeMuth believes the Bible is better understood "...with a story wrapped around it." Children relate to her brief fictionalized narratives of familiar circumstances they find at home and school, with family and friends.

For example, the lead story is about "grumbling" from the book of Jude where people gripe, complain and flatter themselves. The fictional account concerns eighth-grade Tia who will do anything to be class president. During a candidates assembly she orders everyone to "stand on their feet" egged on by two mean boys beside her on the podium. Amidst loud cheers and clapping Tia's words reveal her motivation when she says, "Now that's power. If you want a powerful president, vote for me."

The story illustrates the young girl's selfish manipulation for power and control. In contrast with the second part of the Jude passage that features encouragement, the Holy Spirit, faith and prayer. The devotion ends by directing readers to pray "...encourage others...tell God your worries, fears and problems...ask for His help and thank Him."

The following days of the week include one short Bible verse with a topical question that encourages "...short, daily interactions with God."

Topics include "filthy lips...liar, liar...betrayal...brag...truth...what to wear...stressed out...insults...fraidy cat...bad influence...finish pleasing" and many more.

The activities, prayers, stories and Scripture reveal who Jesus is, what it means to follow Him and what a "changed heart" really means. I encourage everyone to add this book to their gift list for "the teen or tween" in their lives, perhaps even for Christmas.

Winning Balance
Shawn Johnson & Nancy French
Tyndale Momentum
351 Executive Dr., Carol Stream, IL 60188
9781414372105, $19.99,

Shawn Johnson's stirring memoir, "Winning Balance" is an easy inspirational read of encouragement especially for teens, tweens and young adults. It's about her journey to Olympic Gold in spite of injuries, stalkers and heart-rending losses on and off the balance beam that resulted in eventual exhilarating triumphs.

Her can-do attitude, in spite of disappointments, equipped her to become a national and world-champion athlete that won Silver and multiple Gold medals. That same competitive spirit brought her first place in ABC's Dancing with the Stars in 2009. The subtitle of "Winning Balance" describes the books focus: "what I've learned so far about love, faith and living your dreams."

In the book, Shawn characterizes herself as part "nerd, tomboy and girlie girl." She went to public school and considers herself a typical teenager with normal teenage angst over friendships, boys and the future. She co-wrote the book with Nancy French "as a way to go deeper and reflect on lessons learned." Of which, for her, were many.

This pintsized girl's sincere conviction that everything happens for a reason and all things happen for good when you walk by faith is a theme that runs throughout the book. Chapters begin with Shawn's favorite quotes and end with brief chapter summaries-"lessons learned."

For example, she begins chapter five with a Chinese proverb. "Teachers open the door, but you must enter by yourself." The summary carries a warning to find your passion without losing "sight of everything else," a reminder to "keep life in balance" coupled with the right proportion of "hobbies, schoolwork and relationships."

Thirty-four chapters broken into four segments record Shawn's amazing journey in a book she considers "a memoir not an autobiography." Twenty-five colorful inserts mid book showcase Shawn as a baby, a teenager, with her coaches, in Beijing, as a Dancing with the Stars contestant and many other "special moments" of her young life.

Poetry is another of Shawn's outstanding talents revealed by a few lines of her rewritten childhood prayer:

"Now I lay me down to sleep my heart is yours to find, to seek.
You keep me safe and hold me tight, helping me decide what's right.
You watch me fall but help me up.
I pray the Lord my soul to keep."

Not only is Shawn Johnson an inspiring role model, her book, "Winning Balance" offers great insights into the world of gymnastics and world competition from an amazing twenty-year-old American gymnast.

Gail Welborn, Reviewer

Gary's Bookshelf

15 Seconds
Andrew Gross
William Morrow
10 East 53rd Street, New York, New York 10022
9780061655975, $25.99,

In "15 Seconds" Henry Steadman is pulled over for a minor traffic offense as he is driving from the airport to his hotel in Jacksonville Florida. As he is dealing with the officer someone comes and shoots the officer dead and leaves in a matter of seconds. Steadman tries to give chase but the vehicle gets away. In the meantime Steadman is the prime suspect in the murder of the officer. So begins the tightly written novel of suspense that builds until the final revealing ending. Gross once again takes the reader along a roller coaster ride of thrilling situations with interesting characters and he shows why he is one of the best in the genre. "15 Seconds" is a nail biting page turner that would make a great movie.

I Michael Bennett
James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge
Little Brown and Company
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
1271 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9780316097468, $27.99,

As "I Michael Bennett" opens he is on vacation with his family and housekeeper. The leisure time is cut short as he is called back into service. He and a team of cops have a chance to arrest a major drug kingpin who is in New York for the graduation of his daughter from law school. But the arrest goes bad, he gets away. He also puts out a hit contract on Bennett and his family. Ledwidge and Patterson thrill readers once again with a tightly drawn novel that races along to its final blow away ending. "I Michael Bennett" is the best in the series so far that will have readers racing along to the final page wondering what's next for Michael Bennett and his family

Unnatural Acts
Stuart Woods
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399158865, $26.95,

When the real restaurant Elaine's closed, I wondered what Stuart Woods would do with his Stone Barrington series because so many of the stories take place there. In "Unnatural Acts" he opens with a final closing night for the establishment. Now the question is where do Stone and company go for their meals? So begins another chapter in the Stone Barrington legacy. Woods has filled the work with many interesting characters, complicated conflicts and a rapid pace that moves the tale along to the end. "Unnatural Acts" is an enjoyable addition to the world of Stone Barrington.

Guilty Wives
James Patterson and David Ellis
Little Brown and Company
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
1271 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9780316097567, $27.99,

I was disappointed in "Guilty Wives" because the events in the story unfold so slowly. The premise is a very good one in which four female best friends are on vacation in Europe. While together they are accused and tried of a major crime. So far so good, but the novel takes a nose dive and is boring the rest of the way. I was surprised at the sluggish pacing of the story "Guilty Wives" is a ho hum novel at best.

Son of Stone
Stuart Woods
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780451236357, $9.99,

Just when I thought the Stone Barrington series was looking run down Woods has added new life with "Son of Stone." Stone finds out Peter is his son and Arrington. his mother wants them to get to know each other. Peter comes to stay with Stone while Arrington builds a house in Virginia. Woods masterfully tells the story with events that unfold at a very suspenseful pace. Stuart Woods and Stone Barrington are better than ever in "Son of Stone."

Middle School Get Me Out of Here
James Patterson and Chris Tebbetts
Little Brown and Company
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
1271 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9780316206716, $16.99,

"Middle School Get Me Out of Here" opens with Rafe enrolling in a new school while his family has to move because his mother's job has come to an end. Now he has to deal with all the problems a person has being the new student. Patterson and Tebbetts unfold the story with amusing situations and a rapid pace to a surprising ending. "Middle Schools Get Me Out of Here" is another great Patterson novel that all ages can enjoy.

The Donors
Jeffrey Wilson
199 State Street, San Mateo, CA 94401
9781936564460, $16.95,

Don't be fooled by the amateurish looking cover. Jeffrey Wilson's "The Donors" is a very professionally written tale of nail biting chilling horror. Demons are attacking patients at a hospital. Only a small boy named Nathan and his doctor Jason Gelman can save them from the terrifying menace. Wilson begins the story with the admittance of Nathan for a broken bone in his arm and major burns. He was abused by his mother's boyfriend Steve who didn't like that Nathan spilled Spaghetti-Os on the floor of their kitchen. Something strange happens to Nathan and the only person who believes him is Dr. Jason Gelman. "The Donors" is sure to please any reader who is looking for a memorable yarn of horror.

Going Organic Can Kill You
Staci McLaughlin
Kensington Publishing Corp
119 West 40th Street, New York, NY 10018
9780758275004, $7.99,

"Going Organic Can Kill You" is a fun opening novel in a new mystery series. O'Connell Organic Farm and Spa has just opened its doors for business when a guest is murdered. Dana Lewis, head of PR for the complex, becomes an amateur sleuth on the trail of the killer. McLaughlin fills the story with entertaining characters and some laugh out loud situations that move the story along at a very nice pace to the very end. Fans of organic foods may not like the title but that's too bad because "Going Organic Can Kill You" is good mystery fare for any fan of the genre.

Edge of Midnight
Leslie Tentler
c/o Harlequin
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills
Ontario, Canada M3B 3K9
970778313137, $7.99,

"Edge of Midnight" begins when a reporter for a local paper in Jacksonville Florida is found on the beach in her car, disoriented and bloody. She has no clue why she is there. Leslie Tentler takes readers on a wild ride of suspense in the Florida city until the shattering conclusion. "Edge of Midnight" is the type of novel readers have come to expect for page turning suspense

The Streets of San Francisco A Quinn Martin TV Series
James Rosin
The Autumn Road Company
Philadelphia PA
9781450790109, $21.95, www,,

"The Streets of San Francisco A Quinn Martin TV Series" is another great look at an older TV show that reveals many here to for unknown facts about the show. Rosin reveals many things about the series like how Karl Malden and Michael Douglas were chosen to play their roles, how it came to television, guest stars, episode guides and interviews with many of the people involved with the making of many of the episodes and how and why Richard Hatch replaced Michael Douglas. With the recent release on DVD of "Streets," "The Streets of San Francisco A Quinn Martin TV Series" is for anyone who wants to know more of the behind the scenes information that will make watching it even more enjoyable.

Gary Roen

Gloria's Bookshelf

Last Will
Liza Marklund
English language translation by Neil Smith
Emily Bestler Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781451606928, $25.00,

This novel, the 6th by this author but only the second published in the US [in addition to one co-written with James Patterson], features Annika Bengtzon, reporter for the Evening Post, one of the main evening papers in Stockholm. The tale opens on a wintry evening in December, as the Nobel Prize festivities are about to begin. In the banquet hall, things suddenly take a shocking turn as shots ring out. One of the first victims is the Israeli co-recipient of the Nobel Prize in medicine, the second a woman who is a member of the Nobel Prize Committee. Three others are also wounded as the shooter, a woman, makes her escape. Who was the main target, and who the collateral damage? If the man, does anti-Semitism come into it, or is it the fact that the work for which he was being honored dealt with controversial stem cell research? If the woman, what could possibly have been the motive?

Annika is more than just 'present at the scene:' Not only did the female victim look directly at her as she lay dying on the floor, quite near to Annika, but the woman who shot them made eye contact with her seconds before the shots were fired. As such, she is the key witness for the police, who place a gag order on her immediately. So she has exclusive information, which she cannot use, in the aftermath of which she is placed on six-month suspension from the newspaper, as well as in the sights of the killer, apparently an American assassin known as "the Kitten."

The title refers to the document prepared by/for Alfred Nobel, bits and pieces of whose life are interspersed, referencing his legacy, both as he saw it and as it has perhaps been perverted.

Annika, married and with two small children, has been somewhat ambivalent about her impending move to a country home, as well as going through rough patches in her marriage. Now she is forced to spend more time at home, with the resulting increased tension there. This is made worse by the fact that her husband, a government employee, is actively working on legislation aimed at, in Annika's view, at least, "restricting people's private space with surveillance and more legislation," a subject apparently dear to the heart of this author [as it is to many others, obviously, now more than ever].

This is an exciting, well-written tale, with intriguing characters, and it is recommended.

Ghost Hero
S. J. Rozan
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780250006936, $15.99,

Lydia Chin, young New York private investigator, although she is what she refers to as an ABC [American-Born Chinese], cannot imagine why a new client wants to hire for an investigation dealing with contemporary Chinese art [what he refers to as a "cutting edge collecting area" in the West], freely admitting that she has no clue about art. Despite her reluctance, she agrees to accept his retainer to check out rumors of some new pieces of art by one Chau Chun, known as the Ghost Hero. This despite the fact that Chau is believed to have died 20 years ago in the uprising at Tienanmen Square.

This particular artist's work was known to contain "hidden" political symbols, and the putative new work contains current political references. There is a suspicion, then, that the work is contemporary, not created over two decades earlier. But the potential value of the Ghost Hero's "ghost paintings" is enormous, since in the past his work was worth half a million dollars, give or take.

As always with work by this author, there is a full quotient of clever, witty dialogue from clever, witty people - well, a few people in particular: Lydia; her cousin, Linus, tech geek [read "hacker"] extraordinaire; Bill Smith, a mid-fifties white guy [referred to by Lydia's disapproving mother as the "white baboon" - can you tell she doesn't like him?], also a p.i. and over the past few years Lydia's partner; and Jack Lee, a 2d generation ABC from the suburban Midwest and art expert as well as a p.i., in this case having also been hired [by an unnamed client] to investigate the possibility of the existence of the self-same paintings. The stakes are raised when the investigation sparks the interest of the wrong people, and bullets and threats start to fly.

Parenthetically, I have to admit to some small confusion on my part keeping the Asian names straight, but ultimately that is of small moment, as in the end the author makes everything clear. Brilliantly plotted, and with protagonists the reader cares about and roots for, the book is highly recommended.

Guilty by Degrees
Marcia Clark
Mulholland Books
c/o Hachette Publishing Grop
237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10017
9780316129534, $25.99,

The opening pages of this new novel by Marcia Clark are attention-getting, to say the least: One ax murder [of an LAPD cop, no less], in the brief Prologue, immediately followed [albeit chronologically two years later] by the stabbing death of a homeless man on a busy LA street, in broad daylight. While the identity of the first victim is quite clear, there is no identification as to the second, nor are there any witnesses who saw the killer.

This is the second book featuring 34-year-old Special Trials deputy DA Rachel Knight, who takes a somewhat circuitous path to leading the investigation into the death of the homeless man. Also returning are her best buddies: Fellow ADA Toni LaCollier, and detective Bailey Keller. Together they make quite a team.

The reader is teased by interspersed chapters which switch from the 1st-person narrative of Rachel Knight to a third-person pov of a mysterious woman with extraordinary skills, whose part in the plot is not soon revealed. The novel unfolds in somewhat leisurely fashion, until the pace picks up in the second half. In addition to the police procedural, the reader does learn quite a lot about Rachel's preferences in alcoholic beverages, and discovers that she possesses extensive knowledge of good jazz.

The author's books have been compared to those of best-seller Linda Fairstein [who herself has a new book just recently released], for some obvious reasons: Each was a nationally well-known Federal prosecutor in two of the largest cities in the US [NY and LA], and the even more obvious fact that each was lead prosecutor in two of the highest-profile trials in modern criminal history. To this reader, although the author's vast experience as a Federal prosecutor is much in evidence, she still has a while to go before achieving Ms. Fairstein's high level of writing expertise, but the book is an interesting and well-plotted novel sure to keep the reader involved to the end, and I will look forward to the next entry in the Rachel Knight series.

I would recommend that the reader not read the flyleaf, which to me included much too much information. One further note: One cannot help but feel that the author's observation that "no prosecutor likes to lose . . . the typical anger we all feel when a guilty defendant walks out the door . . . was much deeper, much more personal" seems very personal indeed.

James Sallis
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. 1st Ave., Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781464200106, $19.95,

He is called, simply, Driver, because that's what he is, that's what he does and, he feels, that's what he will always do. Once one of the best stunt drivers in film, his life has taken different turns, most of them illegal. But he gave up that life over six years ago, became a successful businessman named Paul West, a man with a 'normal' life and a fiancee he dearly loved. Until one day when his old life catches up to him, and he has to kill the two men who have suddenly appeared and attacked him, but not before his fiancee has been killed. So back he must go, to his old life in Phoenix. But soon two other men find and attempt to kill him, and he has no choice but to kill again.

As his friend Manny succinctly puts it, "you have to decide what you want, else you just keep spinning around, circling the drain. You want to get away from the guys? Or you want to put them down? Well, there it is, then. We ponder and weigh and debate. While in silence, somewhere back in the darkness behind words, our decisions are made." Now 32 years old, he goes where life, and his attempts to track down whoever is behind the continuing attempts on his life, take him, theorizing that "you moved faster with the current than against."

The author's descriptions, in his typical [and typically wonderful] spare prose, conjure up immediate mental images: Of a tattooist, he says "His Rasta hair looked like something pulled down from attic storage, first thing you'd want to do is thwack out the dusts." Of a young crowd in a mall food court "wagging their iPods and cellphones behind them, fatally connected." The book is filled with the author's - and his protagonists - philosophizing: "We all struggle to leave markers behind, signs that we were here, that we passed through . . . urban equivalents of cave paintings."

The sequel to the excellent "Drive," published in 2005, I devoured the book in a single day. This was a short but memorable visit into the world created by Mr. Sallis, and it is highly recommended. [The book is also available in a trade paperback edition, $$11.95, ISBN #978-1-4642-0011-3.]

Laura Crum
Perseverance Press
c/o Daniel & Daniel, Publishers
PO Box 2790, McKinleyville, CA 95519
9781564745088, $14.95,

Gail McCarthy, 50-year-old former practicing equine veterinarian with a home near California's Monterey Bay, is very like her creator, surrounded by four-footed creatures - horses, dogs and cats as well as chickens - and her husband and 11-year-old son. As usual in this series, of which this is the twelfth, the author fully conveys the beauty of the natural world in that part of the US, as well as its equine contingent. Even readers not into things equestrian cannot fail to appreciate their - well, humanness, or is it more properly 'humanity?'

What starts out as a pleasant Saturday afternoon trail ride through her favorite routes through the hills not far from her home turns into something quite different, as Gail hears a shot ring out, and not long after comes across a woman's dead body. The victim was more of an acquaintance than a friend of Gail, and was known to be somewhat caustic, having issues with various and sundry people in the area, make and female alike, but nothing that jumped out at Gail as rising to the level of a motive for murder. Gail's friend, Jeri Ward, now Detective Sergeant in Charge of Homicide in Santa Cruz County, is assigned to investigate.

Self-described as "a relatively sedate middle-aged woman on an equally sedate middle-aged horse" as she regularly rides the familiar hills, the thought of a murderer haunting her until-recently safe haven compels Gail to do some investigating of her own.

On a personal level, both women find themselves confronting some stark life choices. Jeri has been with the Sheriff's department twenty-five years and is considering retirement. Gail's husband, Blue, came into a large inheritance six months ago and has also retired and Gail is conflicted about her future plans. The murder investigation proceeds at a leisurely pace, with the majority of the writing more concerned with bringing to life the natural beauty of the area, which she does with great success. Most readers will not fail to be charmed by the book, and it is recommended.

Death Comes Silently
Carolyn Hart
Berkley Prime Crime
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780425245705, $24.95,

This marks the twenty-first novel in the Death on Demand series featuring the mystery bookstore owner, Annie Darling, and her husband, Max, who runs Confidential Commissions, through which he offers "counsel to people in trouble." There is, of course, a death early on, a seemingly accidental drowning of Everett Hathaway, who was, strangely [it being early January], kayaking before somehow tipping out into the water and suffering hypothermia before drowning. Very soon thereafter there is another death, one that shakes Annie to the core: The victim was Gretchen Burkholt, who had taken Annie's place at the charity shop at which they both volunteered so that Annie could attend a booksigning at Death on Demand. When Annie returns to the shop after a series of calls from Gretchen, she discovers her body on the floor, a blood-covered ax nearby.

Annie is guilt-ridden at the fact that Annie herself should have been there, not Gretchen, and is determined to find the killer. When it becomes known that Gretchen had discovered something in the clothing that the dead man was wearing the night he died, with shocking implications, Annie is not persuaded that his death was an accident, and believes that that discovery might have led to Gretchen's death. Annie is aided in this by the usual cast of characters: husband Max, and his mother, Laurel; local crime writer Emma Clyde, whose booksigning took place on the night Gretchen was murdered, and Annie's long-time friend Henny Brawley. The reader is introduced to a whole cast of characters, any one of whom had a motive to kill

The action takes place in Broward's Rock, a barrier island 40 minutes from the South Carolina mainland described by the author as "undoubtedly the most glorious place in the universe to live." Fans of this delightful series will smile in recognition, as I did, at Agatha, the store's resident feline [the one who shares Annie and Max' home is named Dorothy L]. The story shifts from one to the other of these amateur sleuths, as they pursue different aspects of the investigation while the police continue to believe that Hathaway's death was an accidental drowning.

There are of course references to many much-loved mystery authors scattered along the way, along with the observation that "that was the comfort of mysteries. Bad things happened, but good people tried to mke things better." A sentiment with which readers of this wonderful series can agree. A charming read, and recommended.

A Wanted Man
Lee Child
Delacorte Books
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780385344333, $28.00,

The action in this newest in the Jack Reacher series begins with a body discovered in what is apparently an abandoned pumping station in rural Nebraska, an eyewitness able to give only scant details of the two men he saw with the victim, and who drove away in a bright red car afterwards. Very shortly thereafter, in addition to the local police, representatives of several governmental agencies designated by groups of letters such as CIA and FBI descend on the area. An alert is quickly put in place on all highways along the area interstates for the two men.

Jack Reacher is variously described here as ex-military, specifically a former major in the Criminal Investigation Division of the Military Police, now unemployed and essentially homeless, self-described, most pertinently here, as "just a guy, hitching rides." On the same mid-winter night, he has been standing at the side of an on-ramp for over an hour when he is given a ride in a car with two men and a woman inside, his ultimate destination being Virginia. That destination and his present appearance, the main feature of which is a badly broken nose, are the aftermath of vents at the end of the last book in the series; an imposing figure overall, the broken nose is probably the main reason why it took so long for him to be offered a ride.

Initially the points of view alternate between Reacher and Julia Sorenson, the FBI Special Agent first called to the crime scene, a very capable 25-year Bureau veteran out of the Omaha field office. Eventually their paths cross, and they work together to get to the bottom of what turns out to be anything but your average murder.

The book is everything one can expect in a Lee Child/Jack Reacher novel, including terrific plotting and characterizations, and especially Reacher himself, who, when asked by one of the men in the car that picked him up, "You don't like to be pushed around, do you, Mr. Reacher?" responds "I don't know. I've never been pushed around. If it ever happens, you'll be the first to find out whether I like it or not." He demonstrates once again his vast knowledge of relatively arcane trivia, such as the population and area codes of almost any area in the United States. It's great to have him back, and the novel, one I swiftly devoured, is highly recommended.

The Nameless Dead
Brian McGilloway
20 New Wharf Rd., London N1 9RR,
978-1-4472-0782-5, 12.99 BPS,

[This title is presently only available in/through the UK, not yet available in the US or Canada]

This is the fifth novel by Mr. McGilloway in the Inspector Devlin series, following his excellent standalone novel of 2011, "Little Girl Lost." The present book takes place in just over a one-week period, although the events that give rise to the plot took place many years before, during the time known forever as The Troubles. A commission has been appointed, and supporting legislation passed, to allow investigations into what were termed "The Disappeared," a phrase I had long associated with Argentina in its bloody history of decades ago, and a Commission such as the one described here which dealt with similar ones in South Africa after the end of apartheid - the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, if memory serves. But the bodies uncovered and the pain of the family members and loved ones in situations such as these are the same wherever in the world they occur, and no matter how many years had passed.

The activities begin with the search for one Declan Cleary, missing since the 3rd of November, 1976. When the Commission received an anonymous tip, as well as a map showing where the remains can be found, they launch an investigation. Devlin, the only detective inspector in the area, is given the assignment. After thirty-five years, it is not an easy task. And of course there is some more contemporary killing, and other unsavory acts uncovered, with the killer not easy to pin down. People from that earlier period must be found and questioned, and unnerving things come to light. The jurisdictional problems for the police are complex, as the en Garda has jurisdiction in the Republic only up to the border; the PSNI the Armed Police who must take over in the North, and the logistics of who can do what to whom must be dealt with.

There are various characters, with complex stories, and events which go back decades and take some interesting and unexpected turns. In his personal life, Devlin must deal with some serious sibling rivalry at home with his two young children, as well as some philosophizing where he realizes that despite a parent's best efforts, we almost all fail in being the parents our children deserve.

A fascinating novel, well-written, though I felt it was somewhat repetitious in spots and could have used some tightening, but overall I enjoyed it, and it is recommended.

The Ranger
Ace Atkins
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780425247495, $15.00,

Quinn Colson, the eponymous protagonist, has returned home to Tibbehah County, in rural northeast Mississippi, to attend the funeral of his beloved uncle. He is told that his uncle committed suicide, but refuses to accept that. In trying to uncover the truth, he discovers much more than just what the former sheriff had been up to in the months leading up to his death.

Quinn is a man of many talents and skills who had joined the Army when he was eighteen. The author says of him: "The Regiment had whittled him down to a wiry, muscular frame built for speed, surprise, chaos, and violence . . . .He had a Choctaw grandmother about a hundred years back mixed with the hard Scotch-Irish who settled the South." He has not been home for six years, is now a platoon sergeant with the Rangers, having done tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and back again. He returns home to find a town that had seen hard times, getting harder, and a bunch of good ol' boys spreading drugs, money and corruption wherever and whenever they can. The town is perhaps typified by the following: "Nobody has real names out here. We're all just kind of passing through until we can get to Memphis or Jackson," and a chancery clerk at the Courthouse whose "job was elected, but unless you ran away with half the county's budget or performed an intimate act in public you could pretty much keep the job as long as you wanted it."

All the action - and there is a lot of it - takes places over a one-week period, the time frame allowed to Quinn for his bereavement leave from the Army. There is a recurring theme of lost young women and the families - and babies - they leave behind. And finally the inevitable showdown that you knew had to be coming, but that packs a punch nonetheless, with some plot developments that perhaps should have been expected but were not, at least for this reader.

I have to admit that this was my first Ace Atkins book. It is one which is recommended, and I am looking forward to the next one. [He has written four standalones, plus four books in the Nick Travers series, and, recently, "The Lost Ones," a sequel to "The Ranger." In addition, the author was selected by the Robert B. Parker estate to continue the Spenser series, the first of which, titled, aptly enough, "Robert B. Parker's Lullaby," was also published in the past few months.]

Gloria Feit

Gorden's Bookshelf

The Mozart Conspiracy
Scott Mariani
Pocket Books
c/o Simon & Schuster Inc.
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781439193372, $7.99,

The Mozart Conspiracy is an action/shoot'em-up with a little more lethality than average and a small historical hook. The blurbs and publisher try to make this Bob Hope thriller into a Dan Brown style mystery but it isn't. Brown uses a multilayered historical mystery where the investigator has to solve those multiple layers in order to solve today's dilemma. This layered solving of the past is missing from Mariani's story. In its place is a shoot'em-up with nearly non-stop action. The story also falls in the trap that most contemporary action/thrillers fall into. It has super villains with resources and knowledge greater than all the governments in the world combined. Even with these logical drawbacks and short comings it is still a good action/thriller to read over a slow weekend.

Leigh Llewellyn's brother Oliver died a year ago while researching the death of Mozart. After she announces that she will continue her brother's work, men start to follow her and try to attack her. She gets away and asks her old lover Ben Hope for help. Hope is an ex-SAS operative who now hires himself out to private individuals who need help. Nearly immediately another lethal attempt is made on Leigh and her brother's notes. Bob and Leigh go into hiding from the killers and try to unravel the mystery of her brother's work and death before they themselves are kill.

The Mozart Conspiracy is a relaxing weekend read for the action junkie. It has the same basic impossibilities of the better balanced Clive Cussler tales. The largest difference between the Cussler stories and Mariani is the greater adult lethality. Because of the extreme villains the sanitized fantasy action of the Cussler stories actually let the reader escape more fully into the tale than the more realistic lethality of Mariani. The Mozart Conspiracy is an easy recommendation for the used and discount bookshelves.

The Rise of the Iron Moon
Stephen Hunt
A Tor Book
c/o Tor/Forge
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780765366108, $7.99,

The Rise of the Iron Moon is written in a style of SF fantasy that is now called steampunk. Steampunk is a type of storytelling that blends the culture and feel of the late 19th century or very early 20th century with more modern science. The results would be similar to reading an Edgar Rice Burroughs novel blended into a modern adult fantasy. Hunt recreates the basic feel of the genre but doesn't have the raw power of the original period pulp writers.

The Rise of the Iron Moon is a standalone novel but it is also part of a series of stories. The frequent illusions to earlier tales and the abrupt character developments distract from the tale, even when they are obviously not needed in the current story. Iron Moon takes you into an alternate reality with a rich culture and vocabulary. Be prepared to take the time to build a memory map of this new fantasy world so you can lose yourself later in the story's action flow.

Purity Blake is a captive in the Royal Breeding House in the Kingdom of the Jackals. She escapes the captivity and meets Kyorin, an alien on the run from both killers and the local authorities. The killers are just the first wave of the Army of Shadows, a force bent on destroying not only the Kingdom of the Jackals but the whole world. The pair of outcasts join with a handful of misfits and Jackalian criminal/heroes to stop the Army in a life and death struggle.

The Iron Moon blends in equal parts science, magic and greater than life pulp action heroes into an adult action fantasy. If you are a contemporary reader who hasn't yet read Burroughs, Howard, Nowlan or any of the many other pulp fantasy writers, The Iron Moon will give you a feel for the raw power of the classic storytelling. If you have read these classic tales already, The Iron Moon will bring you a contemporary take on this classic style of writing. Either way, anyone who likes action fantasy tales will find The Rise of the Iron Moon a great low cost escape. The steampunk genre might be a little too intense for readers who want a slower quieter read.

S.A. Gorden, Reviewer

Harry's Bookshelf

The Twelfth Falcon
Enrico Antiporda
Blue Owl Editions
9780967279343, $14.99; $4.99 (ebook)

As an avid book reader, I try to find a nugget among thousands of books on the shelves. I especially love to discover books that have been passed over in the commercial market. THE TWELFTH FALCON, a character-driven thriller by Enrico Antiporda (author of The Band of Gypsies) is one of my favorite finds this year. The novel opens in the swamps of East Texas when eight-year-old Scott McBride secretly witnesses his father participate in the killing of an undocumented worker. The knowledge dogs him throughout his childhood years. He grows up conflicted, his loyalty divided between family and conscience. When his father dies in a car crash seventeen years later, McBride finds himself freed of his father's dark influence, that is, until he comes in possession of secret documents damaging to a group of powerful people with whom his father had been associated. The discovery causes him to become the object of a manhunt by both the FBI and a violent extremist militia group. As McBride tries to uncover the significance of the papers, a far reaching conspiracy emerges, one that grows in consequence with each layer he unearths.

What makes this novel exceptional is the character development of McBride, a man conflicted in his loyalties but possesses the strength to do the right thing at significant risk to his life. The changes he undergoes, some forced upon him by circumstance, are monumental. More than a thriller, the novel is also a journey of self discovery. As readers turn the pages, the protagonist's motivations become clear: his desire to right a wrong and atone for his family's past.

The evocative prose, the incandescent descriptions of Texas and Arizona where most of the action takes place, and the tight pacing of the narrative (one cliffhanger scene building into another) makes THE TWELFTH FALCON a highly-satisfying novel.

The Belvedere Club
Nicola Twrst
NgH Press
9780985520816, $12.95 (pb), $4.99 (Kindle)

An enjoyable aspect of reading a novel is the vicarious way it takes us to places. In The Belvedere Club by Nicola Twrst, the story takes us to wacky Marin County, known for its steamy hot tubs, progressive ideas, and risque lifestyle.

Briana is a photo journalist based in the East Coast, a woman not in tune with the eccentricities of this swingers' haven. When her best friend Haylee is found murdered while doing an article on Marin's Belvedere Club, a benevolent women's organization, Briana turns into an amateur sleuth in search for Haylee's killer. She ingratiates herself with the stoic Marin County lieutenant, Dusty Arkansas, a Buddhist detective handling the case. He barely tolerates her caffeinated self-absorbed pushiness, but seemed attracted to her honest quirky nature and intelligent sleuthing. When this odd couple team up to catch the killer, the narrative turns offbeat, treating readers to many hilarious scenes. One clue pops up after another. Just when we think we know who the real killer is, another telltale sign is discovered that leads to a new path. The list of witnesses is as colorful as the narrative itself, including a cliche-spouting bag lady, a fat Italian chef, and the gray-haired ladies of the Belvedere Club. An entertaining read for those who love quirky mysteries.

Harry Zoltaire Craig, Reviewer

Harwood's Bookshelf

Sam Harris
Amazon Digital Services Inc.
605 5th Avenue S., Seattle WA 98104-3886
B005N0KL5G, $2.99,

Sam Harris became a public figure as one of a quintet of bestselling authors whose arguments blew the God hypothesis out of the water. Since then he has persistently shot himself in the foot by starting with an obvious truism and carrying it to the point of absurdity.

For example, he took the reality that much human behavior is culturally conditioned, and proceeded from there to the insane conclusion that there is no such thing as free will. He noted that science and morality are not non-overlapping magisteria, and then tried to argue that a science of morality is on the point of being developed. Now he expands on the observation that honesty tends to be the best policy, and preaches that there can be no circumstance in which lying is more expedient and commendable that adhering to unvarnished truth. Why? Is he trying to prove how clever he is, offering a plausible defense for nonsense? Or is he simply cashing in on the profitability of his books by writing as many as possible for as long as they continue to sell?

Coming from a scholar who recently completed a PhD, Harris's writings are reading more and more like long undergraduate essays. Apparently no one ever told him to quit while he was ahead.

Mere Apologetics: How to Help Seekers & Skeptics Find Faith
Alister E. McGrath
Baker Books
PO Box 6287, Grand Rapids, MI 49516-6287
9780801014161, $16.99,

Try to imagine a hardcore Flat-Earther being taken into low orbit aboard a space shuttle and forced to look at the observably spherical earth revolving on its axis-and then returning to earth and writing a book in which he ignores what he has seen and reiterates that the earth is flat. Anyone who does not see such a scenario as credible has not encountered Alister McGrath.

McGrath is a braindead, unteachable ignoramus with as much capacity for logical human thought as Joseph Ratzinger, Osama bin Laden, Tom Cruise, and Mel Gibson, and as much rationality as a great white shark with rabies. No matter how many times his mindless drivel is blown out of the water, he keeps coming up with further repetitions of the same "A = not-A" doublethink that he has no ability to recognize as falsified beyond any sane dispute. He does not even grasp that the subtitle of his latest piece of kindergarten gibberish could be more accurately worded, "How to help persons who have recovered their mental health to regain their mind-cancer." Other than that, there is nothing wrong with the author of Mere Apologetics that a brain transplant could not cure.

McGrath is a self-confessed apologist. He writes (p. 11), "Apologetics aims to convert believers into thinkers, and thinkers into believers." Is he serious? Is he unaware that thinkers and believers are polar opposites, comparable with black and white? Education can convert believers into thinkers, as happened when I took my first ancient history course on the subject of mystery religions in the early Roman Empire. But only emotional blackmail such as Pascal's wager can transform a thinker into a believer, and when such transformation takes place he ceases to be a thinker.

In one sense, McGrath is not unteachable. Almost as soon as his attempted rebuttal of Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion was published, he was forced to recognize that he had revealed his intellectual bankruptcy in glorious Technicolor. He never again attempted to respond to scholarly arguments falsifying his dogma, since even moderate theists recognized him as an embarrassment to their cause. Instead, in this latest piece of doubletalk, he sets up straw men and refutes arguments no scholar ever made. He devotes four pages (145-148) to refuting historical fiction by Dan Brown and Philip Pullman, implying that unlearned speculation by imaginative non-scholars represents the best evidence nontheists can offer. And he dismisses the evidence presented by Dawkins in the words (p. 168), "This is merely an assertion." Given his previous failure to refute Dawkins, he wisely makes no detailed attempt to do so again. And in quoting legitimate arguments against religion, he makes a point of attributing them to Sigmund Freud (pp. 167-171), a thoroughly discredited clown whom only other psychoquacks continue to take seriously.

I strongly recommend that Alister McGrath be examined by the CIA. They have previously reported that intensive investigation has shown that the use of torture and other conscienceless conditioning techniques to inflict a prisoner with the inflexible mindset that was the basis of a popular novel do not work and will never work. But if McGrath is not a Manchurian Candidate, conditioned to accept, believe and act on an imposed contrary-to-fact reality, then any alternative explanation for his ability to shut out all information that contravenes his programming must be something that can only be detected by an autopsy. As to why publishers continue to provide a forum for his pathetic rationalizations, that is best attributed to their awareness that no one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of incurable god addicts.

Randi's Prize: What sceptics say about the paranormal, why they are wrong
and why it matters
Robert McLuhan
Troubador Publisher Ltd
9 Priory Business Park, Westow Road,
Kibworth Beauchamp, Leicester LE8 0RK. UK
9781848764941, $19.99

Magician James Randi is offering a one million dollar prize to anyone who can demonstrate any kind of paranormal power. It might reasonably have been expected that a book titled Randi's Prize would discuss what claimants of the prize are required to accomplish in order to win, rather than suppress the details in order to portray the prize as a fraud designed to be unwinnable even if the claimed powers actually exist. The reality is that Randi's prize is easily winnable by any person who can demonstrate paranormal ability to the satisfaction of an examining committee pre-approved by the claimant. The prize has never been won, for the obvious reason that the paranormal ability needed in order to win it does not exist. Anyone who thinks it ever will be won needs to take a course in Logic 101.

Robert McLuhan is a "freelance" (i.e., unemployed) journalist who, despite having no scientific background, has the temerity to criticize science and scientists for reaching conclusions with which he lacks the expertise or objectivity to agree. He shows sufficient awareness of the writings of James Alcock, Susan Blackmore, Milbourne Christopher, Kendrick Frazier, C.E.M. Hansel, Ray Hyman, David Marks, Joe Nickell, and Richard Wiseman, to indicate that he has genuinely read them. Clearly he learned nothing, since he continues to project onto skeptics who debunk the parapsychology delusion the rationalizations and doublethink he sees in the mirror. In doing so he evokes images of an astronaut looking at the earth from an orbiting space station and remaining a flat-earther.

McLuhan's bibliography is naively revealing, listing 14 entries for the Journal of the Society for Psychic Research, a periodical created for the purpose of publishing articles no legitimate science journal would touch on account of their unscientific methodology; 14 for Ian Stevenson, a True Believer who continued to tout the reality of reincarnation claims made by Indian children, even after other investigators found them to have been coached; 11 for Richard Sheldrake, who attributes ESP to dogs; 4 for Joseph Rhine, whom ESP apologists prefer to treat as an unperson since their discovery that his incompetence in statistics caused him to claim better-than-chance results for ESP experiments whose results were in fact equal to chance; and several more whose articles appeared in JSPR.

McLuhan devotes several pages to the psychic humbug Uri Geller, and refuses to recognize that he has been as definitively exposed as Piltdown Man. He thinks that Puthoff and Targ, who authenticated Geller's conjuring tricks, were competent investigators who have been unfairly ridiculed for reaching a conclusion McLuhan deems defensible. And he examines the claims of the Fox sisters who invented spiritualism and later confessed that they were pranksters, and concludes that they were indeed lying-when they pretended that their spirit rappings were faked.

McLuhan joins the observers who see parapsychology as one more attempt to overcome the terror of death by pretending that humans have "souls," immortal by definition, which can communicate by extrasensory means. He admits (p. 316) that, "In practical terms, psi is not merely a facet of human experience; it is a potential gateway to religious belief.. In the public mind one implies the other."

In defending his belief in poltergeists, McLuhan comes within an inch of authenticating the fully-falsified Amityville hoax. As Carl Sagan wrote, you should be open-minded, but not so open that your brain falls out. I will not suggest that McLuhan probably believes in the Tooth Fairy. But after reading his gullible determination to believe that even Eusapia Palladino's seances may have been legitimate scientific demonstrations, I can only wonder where he was when P. T. Barnum really needed him. If he finds himself in need of gainful employment, the Republican candidate for the American presidency is always seeking speechwriters who do not let a little thing like reality get in their way.

Religion for Atheists: A Non-believer's Guide to the Uses of Religion
Alain de Botton
McClelland & Stewart
75 Sherbourne Street, Toronto ON, Canada, M5A 2P9
9780771025976, $29.99,

I searched Religion for Atheists cover to cover for any conclusion that could be considered usefully profound or self-evidently ridiculous. I found neither. What I did find was 320 pages that read like something written by an eighth-grade pupil trying to prove that he had read the assigned homework, while concealing that he had formed no opinion more profound than the fatuous cliche, "There are two sides to every issue." There are not two sides to religion. Religion is an antihuman perversion that turns its mindslaves into hurters who threaten the freedom and even survival of the human race.

Botton points out that religionists recognize and utilize the positive values of music and art. He then jumps to the nonsequitur that music and art are concomitants of religion that should be borrowed by nontheists. That is analogous to claiming that, because Nazis appreciated strawberry shortcake, therefore shortcake appreciation is a concomitant of Nazism that should be borrowed by non-Nazis. "Bullshit" is one of the politer terms that come to mind.

"Religions are intermittently too useful, effective and intelligent to be abandoned to the religious alone" (p. 312). Bullshit, horseshit, and batshit.

Religion for Atheists is contentless fluff. It is not even doublethink. It is nonthink. Botton's book was accepted by a publisher for the same reason it was purchased by my local library. The decision was made by a godworshipper who thought that any book presenting religion in a favorable light must be worth promoting. Such thinking would have had P.T. Barnum beating a path to their doors.

William Harwood

Karyn's Bookshelf

Splendors and Glooms
Laura Amy Schlitz, author
Candlewick Press
99 Dover St., Somerville, MA 02144
9780763653804, $17.99,

Exceptional attention to detail, richly crafted characters and places and masterful storytelling combine in this macabre Victorian tale. Schlitz, winner of the 2008 Newbery Medal for "Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village," is again poised for high honors. Impoverished orphans Lizzie Rose and Parsefall work for a travelling puppet show in sooty, industrial 1860 London. When they help put on a birthday show for wealthy, intensely unhappy Clara Wintermute, they become entwined in the malevolent schemes of their puppet master and guardian, Gaspare Grisini, and an elderly, dying witch named Cassandra. After 12-year-old Clara disappears, believed kidnapped by Grisini, Lizzie Rose and Parsefall are lured to Cassandra's country estate. There, they fight to save Clara and try to resist Cassandra's sorcery, as the witch seeks to transfer to them a fiery curse she has shouldered since childhood. Schlitz does everything well, but the author is particularly good at scene setting as she juxtaposes the filthy squalor of mid-19th Century working class London with privileged homes of the same era. Schlitz also impressively digs deep in the crafting of her characters, ultimately forcing each one through a process of personal introspection. Each, in turn, must come to terms with a shattered past and uncertain future. Short chapters keep the action focused and moving forward. And the way in which puppets rise from background prop to the key element in the story's twisted trajectory is unforgettable. The witchcraft and plot turns will keep readers glued to the end; the characters' personal journeys will linger long after the last page is turned. A new classic.

All by Myself!
Emile Jadoul, author
Eerdmans Books for Young Readers
c/o Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
2140 Oak Industrial Dr. NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49505
9780802854117, $14.00,

Toilet training books typically target toddlers who are newly out of diapers. Here, the focus is uniquely on children a bit older who need to surmount one final obstacle: nighttime. A penguin named Leon (whom preschoolers will thrill to see lives in an igloo) is exhausting his parents by needing their bathroom help at night. Some nights, he calls out to them multiple times. Then, after gentle encouragement from his mother, Leon hesitatingly gets up alone. The first night, he considers calling out for mom and dad. But he sums up the courage to do his business without their aid. Preschoolers will relate to Leon's fear and to his triumph. Parents will relate to Leon's coffee-propped, sleep deprived mom and dad, who yearn to get their son through this phase. Simple, childlike illustrations are one more plus. Just right.

How Things Work In the House
Lisa Campbell Ernst, author
Blue Apple Books
515 Valley St., Maplewood, NJ 07040
9781609051891, $16.99,

On the heels of 2011's "How Things Work in the Yard," Ernst heads indoors, exploring two dozen things found in a home. The focus ranges from pets (cat, dog, fish) to simple tools (stapler, toothbrush, drinking straw) to toys (rubber duck, kazoo) to mechanicals (faucet, toilet). The pages are colorful and engaging, offering a child-centered mix of science, random information tidbits and ideas for related activities. The tone is light and fun, exploring things that don't require much deep understanding. Children who crave further explanation of mechanical and structural things like appliances and door hinges will want to look elsewhere. Piggy banks, crayons, rubber ducks and the layers of a cheese sandwich are the stars in this fun, easily digestible compilation. Accessible and kid-friendly.

Karyn Saemann, Reviewer

Katherine's Bookshelf

Shadow Patriots
Lucia St. Clair Robson
Forge Books
c/o Tor/Forge
175 Fifth Avenue, New, NY 10010
076530550X, $24.95,

Lucia St Clair Robson has written an excellent novel of the American Revolution, Shadow Patriots. It's filled with wonderful, well-researched history, some love stories and intrigue. Shadow Patriots is about the spy network set up by George Washington. The insight she shows about the interaction between the two combatant groups is eye-opening. For example, I had not thought about the fact that the people of the revolution and the British lived together in the towns and cities. Ms. Robson also describes the circumstances for both sides in vivid detail.

""The general and I will be billeting here should we find the house suitable." Andre looked over Kate's shoulder, taking in the walls laid in yellow milk paint, the plaster ceiling with its frescoes of fruit and flowers, the large paintings of landscapes in heavy guilt frames, the broad marble stairs. "I venture to say the general will find the accommodations quite to his liking.""

He winked at her. Kate feared that between Captain Andre's charm and General Grey's menace she would swoon and fill the spot that Lizzie had warmed on the floor."

The novel deals with the politics and clashes between the two warring groups. The depiction of the way they had to live, the conditions in the jails and the food and clothing that they had to contend with is so well done that you will be glad you were not there, but you will be transported to the time and place in your mind's eye. Siblings, Kate and Seth Darby are caught up in the fight for independence in spite of their Quaker upbringing. They become "intelligencers" or spies for the Americans, but both have conflicting loyalties to specific individuals from both sides. The interesting side story is the use of a woman as a spy in a time when women were not expected to understand the intricacies of war. The intrigue and danger were real and Ms. Robson tells it in all its pathos. Kate and Seth meet and marry their respective spouses during the conflict and intrigue. The romances are a strategy used to tell the story of a fascinating part of the American Revolution.

Lucia St. Clair Robson was born in Baltimore, Maryland, and grew up in West Palm Beach, Florida. She has been a Peace Corps Volunteer in Venezuela, a teacher in New York City, and a librarian in Annapolis, Maryland. She has also lived in Japan, South Carolina, and Arizona. She now resides near Annapolis, Maryland.

She is the author of Ride the Wind, which made the New York Times best sellers list. It also won the Western Writers of America's Golden Spur Award for Best Historical Novel of the year and was included in the top 100 westerns of the 20th century. Several of her other historical novels have won top awards.

Not Afraid to Be Real: A Poetry Collection
Maranda Russell
Mirror Publishing
6434 W Dixon St, Milwaukee, WI 53214
9781612251431, $8.99,

Not Afraid to Be Real: A Poetry Collection by Maranda Russell is a poetic chronology of the author's reflection on the different stages of life. She starts with love and daily living, and progresses through death and grief, before she emerges with hope and inspiration. She writes with an insight on life that many of us may not have considered. Then she adds a short chapter of miscellaneous poems that she describes as "funny, random or just plain weird".

When I first started reading Ms. Russell's poems, I thought, "How dark and gloomy." I was right about the first poems because she was writing about topics that should be cheerful and positive, including several of the ones about love, but I decided that Ms. Russell was writing about a subject that she could see as dark or positive. In her introduction, she declares that she writes for teens and young adults because they ""get" what I am trying to say". They do reflect the angst of the age group.

"I was never content
to catch the lightning bugs
and watch them glow
behind the glass;

I smashed them on the asphalt
and drew patterns
that shined briefly,
then faded away forever."

When I got to the later poems, the mood changed. By the time I got to the end, I found I was enjoying her take on life. Her poems become more positive and upbeat as she came to the end of the book.

I know I can be anything,
I know I will succeed.
Though doubt may spring up in my heart,
it's hope I choose to feed.

All ages will find something they can identify with in this small book of poems. Teens and young adults will relate to their current challenges. Older people will reflect back to what they felt at an earlier time and place.

Maranda Russell is a foster parent, children's author, poet and cat lover who currently lives in Dayton, Ohio. She enjoys art, photography, anime, reading, writing, dancing, hiking, spending time with her family and rescuing stray animals.

Katherine Boyer

Kaye's Bookshelf

Life Lessons from The Chocolate Factory
Christopher Holl
A. J. Neal Publishing
9780985144234, $8.95,

Quoting from the back cover: "Satisfying as Your Favorite Chocolate, Without the Calories!

"Using the original Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory movie as a metaphorical backdrop, Life Lessons from the Chocolate Factory unwraps bite-sized nuggets of 'zero calorie wisdom' that are as relevant today as any other time. Whether or not you have seen the movie, this book reveals the simple, yet timeless lessons we can all embrace to help get hold of life's real golden ticket - lasting peace of mind.

"Discover the extraordinary benefits of:

Raising you peace-of-mind 'baseline'
Eavesdropping on your internal conversation
Realizing moments of decision can have lifelong consequences
Seeing the beauty in worn-out carpet
Appreciating why laundry days and Mondays should never get you down

"Christopher Holl may not have cornered the market on all the secrets to self-fulfillment - but as a father of four children, husband of 21 years, business executive and former U.S. Marine, he's learned that life's little lessons lead to advanced degrees in a contented life.

"Apply the nuggets of wisdom revealed in this book to your own life - you may find them as satisfying as your favorite chocolate indulgence, but with benefits that last long after the first bite!"

This little, well-designed, self-help book provides you with 10 lessons on how to become a good, productive, contented person. Christopher Holl draws upon various movies, not only Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, to convey his message. The size of the book, the layout, the dark type and spacing all contribute to Holl's invitation to share his life lessons with you. At the end of each lesson, he presents his 'morsels to munch on', or the heart of the lesson, and at the end of the book is a summary of all the morsels.

Life Lessons from The Chocolate Factory is an easy, one-day read, but hopefully you will find something unique that will stay with you for a lifetime.

Architecture Laid Bare!
Robert Brown Butler
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200, Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781466345935, $24.99.

Quoting from the back cover:

"If you are ever confused about what is happening in architecture today, or are ever vexed by an architectural problem in your home or place of work, or you would simply delight in knowing an everyday subject well, this is the reference to reach for. Written by an architect of fifty years' experience who has authored six previously acclaimed books on architecture, this book gets under the skin of transient styles and trendy motifs and burrows to the very bones of what architecture is all about: those unchangeable anatomical elements that make a building function - to give you a fundamental, practical, everyday knowledge of these big boxes that enclose you nearly every waking and sleeping hour. Then you will be master of your architectural fate, not its slave...."

Architecture Laid Bare! is an excellent book: informative, well organized, clearly expressed and detailed, well-edited and creatively written in a conversational style. You don't need to have a background in home construction to understand the subject, and Robert Butler shares his personal experiences in dealing with contractors and subcontractors. Interested in building green, want to understanding lighting in your home, want to conserve energy? These and all the multiple facets of a home are discussed. For a reference book, it's a most enjoyable read, and I would highly recommend it to anyone.

Kaye Trout

Logan's Bookshelf

Marse Robert
Douglas L Stephens
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781441468086, $16.00,

The flows of times can often twist in intriguing ways. "Marse Robert: Temptations and Redemptions of Robert E Lee" is a novel of twisted time. Robert E. Lee, general of the Confederate forces, finds himself in the present day, as John Buford, a present day man, meets him. The two share many conversations and are faced with how to remedy this slip in time. "Marse Robert" is a strong addition to any fiction collection looking for interactions of history or minor science fiction, recommended.

Trust No One
Laurel Bradley
Storyteller Publishing
9780984725427, $14.99,

Secrets are just another part of the business for those within the FBI or those facing off against them. "Trust No One" is a novel of intrigue. Taylor finds herself on the run, with little reason to explain why. Her husband may know, but he vanishes and leaves Taylor alone, and she seeks to pursue him. A riveting thriller that should prove hard to put down, "Trust No One" is well worth considering.

It's Time
Pavel Kostin
Urban Romantics
9781907832185, $19.99,

To throw concern to the wind and jump into love is just something people can't do anymore. "It's Time" is an urban romance by Pavel Kostin, a Russian author writing of city life and the struggle to make it by in today's world and finding someone to ultimately share it with. Kostin places his novel among the artists of the streets in their many forms, be it visual or literary, creating a unique outlook on the world. "It's Time" is a fine pick for international fiction collections, deftly translated from the original Russian by James Rann, who has won awards for his work in his own right.

Arctic Wargame
Ethan Jones
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781468152296, $12.99,

In the far north, there lies the fog of winter, and an opportunity for attack. "Arctic Wargame"is a novel following Canadian agent Justin Hall, shamed by a failed mission and turns to try to find his way to redemption. But in the Arctic Circle, foreign weapons may being stored away, but for what? When betrayal strikes, Hall has to struggle to survive in the harsh north and find the ones responsible. "Arctic Wargame" is a riveting addition to thriller collections.

Walking Tall
Clay Rivers
Constant Rose
9780979174124, $TBA print / $7.99 Kindle

Looking up at everyone for life is a set back many won't completely understand. "Walking Tall" is a memoir from Clay Rivers, from artist of many fields Clay Rivers as he shares his story of making his way through life as a man with an annoying but easily conquered height problem. "Walking Tall" is a memoir with a powerful message that one shouldn't let any little thing get in their way in finding greater success in life.

Signs of Destiny
C. Michael Bennis
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781467949286, $14.95,

A brush with death allows you to see you are not the only star in your world. "Signs of Destiny" is a novel from C. Michael Bennis, following the aftermath of the brush with death Rafael faces, awakening from a coma and seeing the world in a new way for the first time, including a new chance at love and everything else. "Signs of Destiny" is worth considering for general fiction collections, recommended.

Don't Toot in a Tanning Bed
Karen Heinrich
1663 Liberty Drive
Bloomington, IN 47403
9781468551891, $11.95,

School never ends, life's lessons just take many other forms. "Don't Toot in a Tanning Bed: and other life lessons God taught me)" is a memoir and humor read from Karen Heinrich. Drawing on her faith and her career as a special education teacher, she shares her life's journeys and where it has emerged in her life and has taught her much about the world. With poignancy and a few laughs, "Don't Toot in a Tanning Bed" is well worth considering for fans of memoir.

I Feel Only You
Cadence Donovan
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781463571580, $13.99

Good, strong love is not to be overlooked in facing life's challenges. "I Feel Only You" is a novel from Cadence Donovan as she tells of Chalice and Jackson, two individuals divided by their callings in life but brought together anyway. Through their faith in each other and God, they face the many issues of raising children and living life. A worthy considering for those who seek Christian romance, "I Feel Only You" is not to be missed.

The Forever Girl
Rebecca Hamilton
Immortal Ink Publishing
9780985081829, $12.95,

Witchcraft is not something to be practiced lightly. "The Forever Girl: Sophia Journey" follows young adult Wiccan Sophia as she copes with the demons in her life while waiting tables. A spell she practices goes awry and she has voices in her head, and a war in her head makes the new people entering her life all the more difficult to deal with. Facing the temptations of deeper magic, she will soon find there's more than her sanity on the line. "The Forever Girl" is an enticing read of Wiccan fiction, very much recommended reading.

The Methuselah Man
Will Dresser
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781469931289, $12.95,

The fate of the world often lies in the balance between a few men. "The Methuselah Man" is a political thriller on international scale as Will Dresser presents a novel of a new American president and the events that surround his rise to power, and those who act around him, for him and against him. Keeping the pages turning, "The Methuselah Man" is a strong pick for those who live international intrigue, much recommended.

Walking with Elephants
Karen S. Bell
KSB Press
9781934037690, $16.00,

Life's challenges often seem to gang up on you. "Walking with Elephants" is a novel following Suze Hall as she tries to piece her life together after her husband leaves, her worst enemy is now her boss, and her best friend has gone AWOL. As she tries to find her way, an old ex might be able to give the mother of three the tools to get by. "Walking with Elephants" is a strong addition to contemporary fiction collections.

Carl Logan

Lois' Bookshelf

The Last Juror
John Grisham
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
0385510438, $27.95,

I'm one of those people who wish that Agatha Christie might have lived forever. My love of murder mysteries began with her, and for me they represented perfection. Though her world had violence in it, she never demanded that her readers experience the violence first hand and in detail. It had bad people in it, and situations that didn't always work out neatly, but somehow the reader knew that there were good people as well as bad ones around, and felt confident that these would persist and ultimately prevail. Maybe that wasn't life, but it made for good fiction and a fun read. Fiction is, after all, a story book, not a text book. It should be a bit entertaining.

Another thing I appreciated about Christie's work was the fact that even with many bad people in the cast; the tale always had one good person the reader could focus on. This is not true of the work of John Grisham. I'd picked up The Last Juror many times, read a few pages, and then given up and replaced it on the bookstore shelf, discouraged by the dark portrait of humanity in the opening.

John Grisham's world is sometimes schizophrenic, with the good people quickly done in leaving only bad people and scared people willing to look the other way while the bad go about their business. In The Last Juror, we're told early on how evil all members of the Padgitt family are. We've witnessed one of them committing a brutal rape and murder, and have heard how many people died in the attempt to bring a Padgitt to account. I for one am now ready to close the book and leave the State of Mississippi to deal or not deal with its evil folks as it sees fit. Despite the author's engaging style, I tried many times without success to read past page thirty.

In this case I persisted. Grisham continues to be successful in cranking out best sellers, and I felt that all those readers couldn't be wrong. There had to be something here worth casting my eyes over - something I'd been overlooking. And indeed the book got better. The tongue-in-cheek style was abandoned as the protagonist and narrator, 23-year-old newspaper publisher Willie Traynor, meets Callie Ruffin, the first black woman juror in the county, who is handled sympathetically. The story is set in the Civil Rights era, and I quickly begin wondering how Callie will handle herself in the jury room. Unfortunately, we are not told. It seems she'd been sworn to secrecy by her fellow jurors and couldn't talk about it. The trial I'd looked forward to is presented only briefly, though it ends in high drama, with the obviously evil young rapist and murderer, Danny Padgitt, flinging a courtroom threat at the jurors: "If you convict me, you'll all die."

Despite the threat, they do convict him, though they balk at giving him the death sentence. Instead, he is given two consecutive life terms, one for the rape, one for the murder. This would seem sufficient to keep him in prison for many years, but in fact it turns out the laws of Mississippi are lenient, not to mention that its corrupt officials are for sale, so he in fact must serve only eight years. He will be back - and we're well aware of this fact as we wait with Willie and the woman who restored his faith in humanity, Callie. Suspense intensifies as the date of the probation hearing approaches and only Willie is available to state the case for the State against the powerful Padgitt family and the bought officials.

Among other things, the book offers great insight into the transition period in Mississippi during the Civil Rights era. The natives rush to build a private academy for their children, only to discover that the old school is gaining fame through talented black athletes. White supremacists can no longer get away with their bluster and intimidation. Things do improve. No doubt Grisham chose, deliberately, to go from a seemingly hopeless situation to a better one. But it was a risk. He almost lost me, and perhaps lost other readers. Still, I have to recommend this one, highly.

That Takes Ovaries! Bold females and their brazen acts
Rivka Solomon, Editor
Three Rivers Press
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
0609806599, $13.00,

I have to admit that this is a second look. I read this book when it first came out, ten years ago, and found it a little too blatantly feminist for my taste. Now, on a second reading, I can't imagine why. Time has softened some aspects of what then seemed harsh, and familiarity has altered my perception.

The book is a collection of short pieces, some only a paragraph long, others covering two pages, about female experiences: gutsy acts, making life-changing choices, taking charge of our bodies, taking a stand, collective activism, and other matters. Each is an intensive personal experience of the writer, and represents a wide diversity of female problems not just in America but around the world, and especially in places where women are subject to genital mutilation and sex slavery. As such, it is an important book, still as timely as it was when published, well worth a second look, and highly recommended.

Lois Wells Santalo

Margaret's Bookshelf

If That Car Could Talk
Joe Boulay
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432786168 $14.95

If That Car Could Talk: How to Locate and Maintain a Good Used Car is a user-friendly guide that lives up to its title. Chapters offer practical, plain terms advice on searching for the right vehicle, knowing what to look and listen for under the hood, how to notice collision work, road testing, financing, necessary maintenance, how to find a good mechanic, and much more. "Call your local shops to see what regular repair bills may be for a similar year, make, and model of the vehicle you are thinking of purchasing... Ask for a copy of the warranty for you to review, so you can see exactly what the warranty will cover or not cover. I recommend that if you decide to purchase an extended warranty on a used car, it should cover the engine, transmission, driveline, and axles." If That Car Could Talk is an absolute "must-read" for used car shoppers everywhere, as it is written especially to help novices avoid "money pit" lemons and walks the reader through the basic maintenance needed to keep a vehicle in good condition. Highly recommended.

The Parent Guidebook
Mary B. Seger
Sophia Rose Press
c/o Smith Publicity
1930 E. Marlton Pike, Suite I-46
Cherry Hill, NJ 08003
9780979046131, $13.95,

There's not enough advice in the world for raising children well. "The Parent Guidebook: How to Raise Happy, Healthy Children with Advice from a Mom and Nurse Practitioner" is a parenting advice guide for mothers who feel overwhelmed by their new task of raising a child and the rollercoaster of emotions that can come along with it. With plenty of health tips aimed at the child as well as the mother, "The Parent Guidebook" is worth considering for those who are struggling with their new status as a mother.

When Your Centerpiece is Made of Play-Doh and the Dog Has Eaten Your Crayons
Jennifer M. Koontz
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781467906135, $9.95,

Parenthood is perhaps the most difficult thing people will face in their lives. "When Your Centerpiece is Made of Play-Doh and the Dog Has Eaten Your Crayons" is a memoir of parenting from Jennifer M. Koontz who shares her adventures as well as her 'Privileges System', which she advises parents to adapt to their lives to help them work with their children more harmoniously. "When Your Centerpiece is Made of Play-Doh and the Dog Has Eaten Your Crayons" is humorous and full of practical advice, recommended.

Tail of the Dragon
Maxwell Wrieter
Bookstand Publishing
9781618630896, $15.95,

Curiosity draws us many places, and may put us in danger. "Tail of the Dragon" is a novel from Maxwell Wrieter, following the inquisitive Dave as he leaves his island for uncharted waters, finding what lies beyond. Facing creatures of legend, he finds he has a road longer than he came to find home once again. "Tail of the Dragon" is a fine pick for fantasy collections looking for something different.

Ataraxia Boom-Boom
Michael Nolan
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781466234611, $9.77,

Some relationships just work, no matter how illogical they may seem. "Ataraxia Boom-Boom" discusses the relationship between Rick and Poon, and their struggles against the Laotian underworld, a romance that spins the foreigner in a strange land idea into something very different. "Ataraxia Boom-Boom" is an original spin on the romantic thriller, very much recommended.

Questing for Uberjoy
Konrad Ventana
1663 Liberty Drive
Bloomington, IN 47403
9781462029532, $24.95,

A search for a loved one can morph into a search for everything and anything. "Questing for Uberjoy" is the third book of Konrad Ventana's Post-Lux Trilogy focusing on the journey of Orion, whose beloved fiance goes missing during a Peace Corps mission into China and Tibet. Following her, his journey leaves him asking more questions about himself and the ideals of devotion. "Questing for Uberjoy" is an enticing read that will prove hard to put down, highly recommended.

The Queen of Spades
G. Michael Blahnik
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781456577506, $12.95,

Those who write revisit their pasts. "The Queen of Spades" is a novel within a novel as author G. Michael Blahnik writes of Nicholas Baronski, who is writing a novel of his own, revisiting his past as his career has beaten down his belief in the goodness of humanity. Exploring his past and his pursuits of romance as it all comes together, "The Queen of Spades" is an insightful and much recommended addition to general fiction collections.

My Cat Won't Bark!
Kevin Darne
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781468104721, $12.95,

Life's journey is a complex one, with many questions, and often not many answers to go with them. "My Cat Won't Bark! (A Relationship Epiphany)" is a memoir from Kevin Darne as he shares the myths of life and shares what he has brought from them in his pursuits of better life. With a touch of humor and plenty to consider as we try to see through the myths the world has put on us. "My Cat Won't Bark!" is an insightful and much recommended pick, not to be overlooked.

The Shenandoah Affair, revised edition
Paul Williams
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781475177213, $19.50,

As the confederacy fell, the navy that did not surrender faced being outlaws. "The Shenandoah Affair" is a revised edition that seeks to dramatize the journey of this ship across the world as a trader ship and its ultimate fate of being considered a pirate ship after the American Civil War ended. "The Shenandoah Affair" is a strongly recommended pick for those who want a tale of the American Civil War and the people involved in it.

Dark Soul
Don Castle
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781468184976, $9.99,

Some evil relishes in its behavior. "Dark Soul" is a novel from Don Castle, following Jake Somers as he finds himself on the trail of a maniacal criminal with a taste for malice and cruelty. The stakes grow higher as his family may be threatened, and he finds he must act fast. "Dark Soul" is a riveting and very much recommended read, highly recommended.

Life in Four Continents
Prakash Vinod Joshi
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781469709444, $17.95,

One can learn very much wandering the world and seeing what it has to offer us all. "Life in Four Continents" is a memoir of world traveler Prakash Vinod Joshi, who has studied and practiced with spiritual leaders throughout the world, and continues to live as a Canadian humanitarian. "Life in Four Continents" is a very human read with a strong spiritual element, not to be overlooked for fans of memoir.

Murder Among Friends
William Cahn
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781470173333, $14.95,

It's hard to overlook murder, even when friendship is on the line. "Murder Among Friends" is a novel of post World War II Midwestern America. Three friends gain a powerful bond in college, and keep it strong following their college career. But the accusation against one of them for murder may try their friendships far, and break the bond they thought unbreakable. "Murder Among Friends" is worth considering for those considering a historical thriller of the 1950s.

Kissed by the Moon
Chandra Leigh
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781468049558, $12.99,

Witchcraft isn't something widely believed. "Kissed by the Moon" is a novel following the crisis of Selina Tamson, who has very strange things happening to her and refuses to believe it could be the work of witchcraft. As Kieran dedicates himself to convince her of the truth before it's too late, danger seems to be rushing their way. "Kissed by the Moon" is well worth considering, recommended.

Margaret Lane

Marjorie's Bookshelf

The 4 Percent Universe
Richard Panek
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
215 Park Ave S, New York 10003
9780618982448, $26.00,

With amazement I read "The 4 Percent Universe: Dark Matter, Dark Energy, and the Race to Discover the Rest of Reality", a non-fiction book by science writer, Rickard Panek. He covers the race to discover reality between a group of physicists and astronomers, which in the process birthed the science of cosmology. Read the epilogue first. In there on page 242 Panek says, "In early 2010... the results arrived bearing the latest refinements of the numbers that define our universe. It was 13.75 billion years old... it was flat, consisting of 72.8 percent dark energy, 22.7 percent dark mater, and 4.56 percent baryonic matter (the stuff of us) - an exquisitely precise accounting of the depth of our ignorance. The astronomers who set out to write the final chapter in the history of the universe had to content themselves instead with a more modest conclusion: to be continued." Isn't it amazing? We don't know what dark energy and dark matter are, and they compose most of our universe. Of course, we now have to think about parallel universes and multi-verses. Brian Greene's new book The Hidden Reality addresses these, and I recommend following up with it.

The Hidden Reality
Brian Greene
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780307265630, $29.95,

What is real? This has been a question of mine for a long time. From a physics perspective Brian Greene explores the question in his new book "The Hidden Reality, Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of Cosmos". While he's a physics professor at Colombia University, he writes in layman's language as far as such esoteric concepts can be expressed outside of mathematics. It took me two months to read the book - not a page turner but a thought provoker. I recommend reading the last chapter first to get an over view of the nine multi-verses Greene systematically explains in the book. Basically, the idea is that there is more than one universe, but there isn't agreement about how many and how they manifest. Of nine multi-verses that may be possible, the one that blew me away (well, all the theories blew me away) is the possibility our world could be someone else's computer simulation. Shades of the move The Matrix. In the beginning of the chapter on" Black Holes and Holograms - The Holographic Multi-verse," Greene refers to Plato's allegory of the cave - that we are people chained facing the back wall of a cave watching shadows of the real world. That our perceptions are but a faint inkling of a far richer reality that flickers beyond reach. Greene has written two other excellent books - The Fabric of the Cosmos and The Elegant Universe (both PBS NOVA series as well). Take a stab at them. I have read Fabric of the Cosmos and am going to buy The Hidden Reality since I read the library copy and couldn't scribble, underline and make notes.

Marjorie Thelen

Mayra's Bookshelf

Angels Gate
Andrew J. Rafkin and Louis Pagano
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 S. Parker Rd - 515, Parker, CO 80134
1432780026, $18.95,

It's 1983. Four local surfers who work in the luggage department of Los Angeles Airport devise an ingenious plan to smuggle drugs. Their goal? To make quick, easy money in order to fulfill their dreams and open a hotel in Costa Rica. They partner with a rich, successful marijuana smuggler named August Taracina and soon they put their plan into action. Eventually they run into an unexpected problem, an event that, to their surprise, turns out more profitable than ever.

You may ask yourself how authors Andrew J. Rafkin and Louis Pagano know this event really too place if, in the story, the main people involved were never caught. This is explained in the preface of the book, where the authors state that the story was told to them by a friend who actually took part in the heist.

Angels Gate is a fictionalized account that at times reads like a novel - minus the characterization. I had to keep myself reminding me of that, especially during times when I didn't like what the characters were doing and felt disturbed by their greedy, irresponsible actions and attitudes. That aside, this is a well written, fictionalized account of what supposedly happened back in 1983, and on what, according to the authors, supposedly is one of the biggest monetary heists in history. Gritty prose, realistic dialogue, and continuous suspense make Angels Gate an interesting, enjoyable read, especially to fans of true crime books.

Heroes Live Forever
Chris Karlsen
Books to Go Now
P.O. Box 1283, Poulsbo, WA 98370
B004WPW29G, $0.99

School teacher Elinor Hawthorne inherits from her grandmother a house in Scotland. Soon enough, she begins to suspect something strange is going on in the house. Naturally, Elinor has common sense and doesn't believe in ghosts - that is, until she sees them.

That's right, not one but two: Basil Manneville and Guy Guiscard, medieval knights killed in battle against the French back in the 1300s.

Though both become her confidants, she begins to fall in love with Basil. Their love, however, becomes impossible, for how can a woman have a relationship with a man in spirit form? Thus, Basil leaves her.

However, in a turn of fate and one lifetime later, Basil is given a second chance to be with her. Will their love transcend time and will they finally be together?

I throughly enjoyed reading Heroes Live Forever. It is a compelling, well-written story that combines sweet romance, fantasy and time travel. A strong-headed, feisty heroine, knights in shining armor, humor, thrilling love scenes and a magnificent setting add the perfect sprinkle of spice to the recipe. This is a romantic tale that will delight fans of the genre. Recommended!

The Nameless Prince
Dominick Domingo
Twilight Times Books
9781606192436, $16.95,
9781606192429, $6.50, eBook,

The Nameless Prince is a beautifully-crafted debut YA novel about faith, disillusionment and innocence.

Ten-year old Seth Bauman lives in the gang-ravaged streets of Silver Lake. Abandoned by his mother right after his birth, he shares a very dysfunctional and loveless home with his mean Uncle Troy and his uncle's girlfriend Cheryll. Rather than care for the young boy, Troy and Cheryll spend most of their time on the couch in front of the TV, killing zombies and exploding enemy tanks. Seth's true escape is in his drawings of dwarves, elves and dragons. Sensitive at heart, Seth wants to understand why Uncle Troy dislikes him so much; at the same time, he feels torn by an intense desire for approval.

Though Seth knows that his mother abandoned him, he innocently believes she's out there somewhere and that one day she'll show up with an explanation that will make it all make sense.

One day, his friend Elena, whom he always walks from school to home, is abducted by a local gang called LAMO - the L.A. Mayan Order. Brave at heart, Seth follows the Boatman of the L.A. River through the underground sewers and metro tunnels underneath Silver Lake, where the LAMO headquarters are located.

That's when the fine lines between fantasy and reality blur. In fact, they grotesquely twist. Suddenly, Seth finds himself in a dark parallel world in turmoil where nothing is what appears to be. He meets Constantine, a faun who refers to Seth as The Nameless Prince, and who believes he is the famous prince of prophesy who's come to save their world - the Interior - from the Dark Forces. Thus Seth embarks on a journey where he must pass tests and solve riddles in order to discover his true name and reunite with his long lost twin, the King. Eventually Seth realizes that he doesn't need to understand what's going on, but that he must have faith. If he fails, he could end up in the depths of the labyrinth, torn limb from limb by the bloodthirsty Minotaur.

But what is reality and what is fantasy? Is it all really happening or is it in Seth's mind - a defence mechanism as a result of Elena's abduction and the recent violence directed towards the homeless?

The Nameless Prince is a fascinating read. I love how the author presents the different realities and how he borrows concepts from quantum physics to enrich his plot: none of the alternate universes are true unless you step into them. There are parallels with Moses and Noah's Ark and of course the novel is, like Alice in Wonderland, a "through the whole" story. At times, the novel reminded me of the film, Pan's Labyrinth, where the young protagonist also escapes into an eerie and captivating fantasy world. However, The Nameless Prince isn't as violent or sadistic. Ultimately, it is a story about the balance of the universe: goodness may win but there are always new evil forces at work. In other words, "maintaining harmony is an eternal struggle."

Though Seth is ten years old, I'd say the audience for this book is 12 and up, and that includes adult readers as well. The Nameless Prince isn't your typical YA fantasy novel published these days. Yes, it is a classic hero's journey with all the tests and riddles, but it is also a book full of interesting ideas and substance. In short, it is a book that stimulates the mind and intellect. Recommended!

Mayra Calvani

Paul's Bookshelf

Evolve Two: Vampire Stories of the Future Undead
Nancy Kilpatrick (ed.)
Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing
P.O. Box 1714, Calgary AB, Canada, T2P 2L7
9781894063623, $14.95,

Whatever is ahead for humanity, how will vampires react? Will they continue to suck our blood, or will we learn to work together? This anthology attempts to give the answer.

In present-day Mexico, a street kid meets a female vampire and gives her some of his blood. She is on the run, because her kind is being hunted by the Mexican government, drug gangs and nearly everyone else. The night before liftoff, a male astronaut has a romantic encounter that ends with him being bitten by a vampire. What do you think will happen to the first manned mission to Mars?

A very high-class mausoleum, which involves preserving the dead and letting them float around inside a hollowed-out asteroid, allowing families to visit, is not what it seems. A jury has to decide if a young woman, who was beaten to death, was, or was not, a vampire at the time. A woman is turned into a vampire, and is forced to leave her husband and daughter; the temptation is just too strong. Decades later, the hunting of vampires has become established and part of society. In a world where the ozone layer has pretty much disappeared, blisters will form on unprotected skin within a few minutes. People are ripping vampire fangs right out of their mouths, because, when ground up and mixed with blood, it supposedly makes the ultimate sun-block.

This is an excellent group of stories. They are original stories that explore all parts of the vampire world. Individually, they are well-written, and, collectively, this is very much worth reading (even for those who are not vampire fans).

Paradox Resolution
K.A. Bedford
Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing
P.O. Box 1714, Calgary AB, T2P 2L7 Canada
9781894063883, $14.95,

This is the second novel about Aloysius "Spider" Webb, your average individual just trying to get through the day. Of course, it is not that easy.

A former member of the Western Australia Police, Webb was forced out because he became a whistleblower. In a world where time machines are cheap and portable, Webb is eking out a living as a time machine repairman. Most of his business is cause by people who are too impatient, or too stupid, to read the directions.

Things get weird when, one day, in the breakroom refrigerator, Webb finds the severed head of his much-disliked ex-boss, Dickhead McMahon. Iris Street, the local Police Inspector who deals with time travel matters, and who hates time travel as much as Webb, is called in. Footage from the surveillance camera shows no sign of any intruders.

Meantime, Mr. Patel, Webb's new boss, has a huge problem. His young son, Vijay, and Phoebe, a neighbor's child, have taken Mr. Patel's very tricked-out, and very illegal time machine, and disappeared. There is no time machine equivalent of a GPS system, so they could have gone to the distant past or future. Patel asks for Webb's help in finding them.

Webb hears of a concentration camp for time travellers in the far future. Using Patel's other time machine, a working, exact copy of the machine used in the 1960 film, Webb and Street take a trip to the far future. Do they find Vijay and Phoebe? So they stop the destruction of the universe? Do they survive?

This is a fine piece of writing from start to finish. It does a really good job exploring the societal impact of a huge technology like personal time travel. Things might get a little convoluted toward the end, but this is still highly recommended.

Paul Lappen, Reviewer

Peggy's Bookshelf

Buried by the Roan
Mark Stevens
People's Press
Box 70, Woody Creek, CO 81656
9780981781099, $14.95,

Bad water, a dead hunter, and a mysterious cave man - hunting guide Allison Coil has her hands full on this Flat Tops Wilderness expedition. It should have been an easy trip with a bunch of locals looking for some time away from home. But back home, in the tiny town of Meeker, nestled in the White River Valley, the advent of oil and gas drilling has stirred up ranchers, environmentalists, businesspeople, and politicians. The controversy follows them right on up to their hunting camp. The dead hunter also happens to be a local rancher. While Allison gets caught up in the investigation, she is unwittingly dragged into the fracking debate. That's when things really get complicated and she is hot on the trail of a major whodunit. "Buried by the Roan" has the look and feel of an avant-garde western. From cowboys to villains, the characters are as quirky as they come. The feuds run deep and everyone's looking for his pot of gold. Stevens' guided tour through the trails, cliffs, and caves of the Flat Tops Wilderness lures readers into a complex mystery where nature and heavy industry meet face-to-face and worlds collide.

Zoe Gets Ready
Bethanie Deeney Murguia
Arthur A. Levine Books
557 Broadway, New York, NY 10012
9780545342155, $16.99,

It's Saturday and Zoe gets to decide what she wants to wear. But her dilemma is not so much about the clothes she will wear as it is about what she wants to do that day. Will it be a pocket day? Or maybe she will be twirling, or cartwheeling, or exploring. Decisions, decisions, decisions. The surprising way she solves her problem will make young readers laugh. Murguia's dazzling illustrations add another layer of humor to this story that makes this story a winner. "Zoe Gets Ready" shows girls and boys how to put some fun and imagination into getting dressed.

The Breeders
Katie French
Katie French Books
B008RH5MFQ, $2.99,

Shh... don't tell anyone. Sixteen-year old Riley has a secret. She's a girl. In this not-too-distant, dystopian, future world women - young and old - are high-priced commodities. They are captured by men and sold to the Breeders then forced into reproductive slavery. Riley and her family have been running from the Breeders her whole life. To disguise her gender, Riley pretends she's a bender, which is a mutated human without sex organs. No easy feat for a blossoming young woman. When Riley's stepfather is arrested on a supply run in town, their cover is blown and all hell breaks loose. Afterward Riley and her little brother Ethan are left alone to starve to death. A young stranger comes to their aid but he has a few secrets of his own. Eventually the three fugitives must run for their lives into a forbidden landscape where no man can be trusted.

This fast-paced, sometimes terrifying adventure is packed with plenty of action and surprising twists. From the start French grabs hold of the reader and doesn't let go until the end. I dare you to put this book down once you start reading. But what struck home for me more than anything in the midst of this current war on women is that "The Breeders" arrives on the scene at this precise opportunity to reveal a frightening dimension to these chilling times in which women live. This is an impressive debut novel from a talented new author.

Peggy Tibbetts, Reviewer

Richard's Bookshelf

Practice of Honor: Putting into Daily Life the Culture of Honor
Danny Silk
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310
Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768441352 $24.99

A Biblical Perspective - Equipping Believers for Leadership

"Practice of Honor: Putting into Daily Life the Culture of Honor" is designed as a companion to Danny Silk's earlier book "Culture of Honor." The book is formatted as a workbook/tool to help the reader assimilate, embrace, and process the core values of honor and leadership.

Each chapter opens with a relevant illustration, or first-hand example to help the reader recognize and apply lessons on guidance for making right choices, identify their destiny, and practical principles from the scriptures that empower the believer to live a supernatural lifestyle based on core values of leadership. Silk helps the reader understanding and recognize their identity in God through practical exercises, important instruction, and motivational inspiration.

Frequent opportunity is given to discuss, reflect, or record responses and personal application to a series of stimulating questions. Additional suggestions are given for use in a small group, with a friend, in a mentoring/discipleship relationship or in personal Bible study.

Tools are included that address: Tips for asking questions, problem solving, leading effective discussions, creating challenging application ideas, identifying problems, and responding to the unrepentant individual.

A chapter is dedicated to developing a wealth mindset and perspective with keys to finding financial freedom. Other topics include: The priorities of leadership, issues of confrontation, developing trust, and a call to transforming cities for Christ.

Danny Silk is a gifted and anointed communicator. His writing is direct, rich in insight into equipping leaders through spiritual challenges, and an understanding of how to incorporate Biblical principles and daily life and ministry.

"Practice of Honor" is an important and timely study guide for believers willing to become revolutionaries in revival, reformation, and seeking an anointing and transformation into supernatural living.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Reclaiming God's Original Purpose for Your Life: God's Big Idea
Myles Munroe
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310
Shippensburg, Pa 17257-0310
9780768441369, $ 16.99,

The Gospel Message - An Alternative to the Confusion, Disillusionment and Distrust of World Politics, Religions, and the Failure of Today's Economic Systems

Dr. Myles Munroe, internationally known author, lecturer, Bible teacher, and leadership mentor, tackles the questions being asked by people around the world,
"Why Am I here?" and "What is the purpose of my existence?"

"Reclaiming God's Original Purpose for Your Life" is divided into two parts. Part one introduces "God's Big Idea" in a 40 day reading format made up of illustrations, stories, and instruction which take the reader back to the Garden of Eden to rediscover God's purpose and plan for his kingdom, for man, culture, community, worship, and service.

Part two provides the reader the opportunity to journal personal responses to each of the 40 day readings. The journal includes a relevant scripture, excerpts from the book, questions and ideas for consideration and reflection and a meditation which will prompt additional introspection and action.

Dr. Munroe's writing is filled with powerful principles for life based on scriptural foundations incorporated in his own philosophy, lifestyle, and personal experiences. "God's Big Idea" is a book for everyone seeking to know God in a deeper more intimate relationship while reclaiming their own destiny.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Journey of a World Changer: 40 Days to Ignite a Life That Transforms the World
Banning Liebscher
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310
Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768402933, $15.99,

Living in Intimacy with Jesus - Moving in the Supernatural

Banning Liebscher reveals his amazing insight into a new generation in his book "Journey of a World Changer." The book is designed as a 40 day devotional journal and as an extension of his earlier book "Jesus Culture."

I liked the format of the material: Each of the 40 chapters (days) includes: An inspiring quote, the testimony of a "world changer," instruction on discipleship, with "what if" exercises," a pattern for prayer, a challenge for activation, and suggestions for additional reading for further reflection.

The probing study questions and solid instruction on discipleship and supernatural living provide an excellent balance of activation and reflection. The passionate testimonies of the miraculous working of the Holy Spirit through a new generation of world changers are inspiring and motivating. The strong positive affirmations help the reader accept ownership of their personal identify in Christ, understand the all-encompassing love of God, and accept the reality of the indwelling power and presence of Jesus in their lives. Banning also provides a plan for using the 40 day journey with friends with suggestions for a facilitator.

"Journey of a World a Changer: 40 Days to Ignite a Life That Transforms the World" reaches into the heart of a new generation of "revialists." In this 40 day Journal Banning Liebscher leads his readers into a radical transformation, mobilizing, equipping, activating and challenging them to make an impact in changing their world.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Eyes of Honor: Training for Purity and Righteousness
Jonathan Welton
Destiny Image Publishers
P. O. Box 310
Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768441321, $ 15.99,

Refreshing, Radical, Restorative

"Eyes of Honor: Training for Purity and Righteousness" is refreshing in its style, radical in its approach, and restorative in its message. Jonathan Welton addresses the issues of determining a correct understanding of our identity in Christ, the land mines to avoid - the Devil, the Law, temptation, and shame, if we want to live an overcoming life, and how we should perceive a woman's value.

Jonathan uses practical down to earth life applications, lessons from his own experiences of brokenness and liberating Biblical truth to lead the reader to find answers in their quest to find lasting freedom and healing, and to establish true Christian core values. I especially appreciated his solid and sound Biblical teaching, using revelation, exegesis and example to present complex theological concepts with an easy to grasp clarity.

Each chapter includes tools, intended to help the reader put lessons from the chapter into practical use and implementation. His underlying purpose is to equip Christian men for leadership by taking control of your life, identify the root problem, affirm your identity, walk in purity, and keep your eyes fixed on Jesus.

Although Jonathan is uncompromising and nonjudgmental in his stance he introduces materials that may sound radical to readers steeped cultural views of womanhood, current counseling behavioral modification, twelve step programs and the church emphasis on having an accountability partner.

"Eyes of Honor" delivers a powerful message of hope, deliverance from the bondage of sin of lust, empowerment to supernatural living, and training Christian men for leadership and ministry."

A copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Live to Give: Letting God Turn Your Talents Into Miracles
Austin Gutwein
Thomas Nelson, Inc.
501 Nelson Place, Nashville, TN 37214
9781400319930, $14.99,

Making a Difference - Impacting Your World

Austin Gutwein's uses the story of the five loaves and two fishes from Mark's gospel as the premise for his book "Live to Give: Letting God Turn Your Talents into Miracles. Eighteen year old Austin writes for teenagers challenging them to offer up their unique gifts, talents, and passions to God, allowing Him to turn them into miracles in the same way Jesus turned the young boy's offering of loaves and fishes to miraculously feed 5,000 people.

With amazing insight Austin stimulates his readers to consider two questions: "What have I been living for? And what was I made to be living for?" Each chapter provides profound, practical, do-able action steps in response to relevant challenges from the scriptures, parallels from his personal life, and examples from real life contemporary heroes.

Profound study questions accompany each chapter emphasizing:

Our individual uniqueness
The consequences of choices
Discovering, dedicating, and using spiritual gifts
Issues of fear, loneliness
The significant of the proper intake of physical and spiritual food

Austin delivers a strong message of hope and encouragement with a challenge to make a difference and impact the world. Austin is founder of "Hoops of Hope" an organization which has raised nearly $ 3 million for AIDS relief in Africa.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

The Power of Forgiveness: Releasing God's Power
Dr. Brian Adams
Destiny Image Publishing
P. O. Box 310
Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768441444, $14.99,

Forgiveness - A Revelation of the Impact of Forgiveness on Answered Prayer and the Release of Power in Ministry

Dr. Brian Adams brings a new awareness of the Scriptural teaching on forgiveness in his book "The Power of Forgiveness: Releasing God's Power." Solid Biblical teaching, dozens of testimonies of healing and deliverance, and stories illustrating the role of forgiveness in answered prayer and the release of power in ministry reinforce the theme that is woven throughout the book. "Faith moves God, but forgiveness releases His power."

This power is manifest in: Physical healing, in reconciled relationships, in deliverance, in restoration, and in reconciliation with God. Dr. Adams points out the hindrances to the release of power as: hindering our prayer life, worship, and God's blessing on our lives. His anointed teaching reveals new insights into: How we are blinded by Satan, how forgiveness releases: the guilt, shame, and condemnation of sin, and the importance of horizontal forgiveness on the part forgiveness plays on the empowerment of the church body of believers.

"Harvesting Tools" and recommendations for helping the reader fulfill their commission and a call to pray for, fast, and share God's Word with specific individuals are included. There is also a suggested prayer for salvation and healing and a section of scriptures on forgiveness.

Dr. Brian Adams delivers a strong message for every Christian to read and heed, "Faith moves God, but forgiveness releases His power."

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Battle for the Mind: How You Can Think the Thoughts of God
Noel Jones and Dr. Georgiana A. Land
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310
Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768423747, $16.99,

A Prophetic Message - Refocus, Rediscovery, and Renewal,

Like the prophets of the Old Testament, Noel Jones and Dr. Georgiana A. Land boldly herald a message of refocus, rediscovery, renewal, and holiness in their book "Battle for the Mind: How You Can Think the Thoughts of God."

The book is divided into four parts: Becoming a spiritual person, finding your original self, enjoying Freedom in Christ, and finding peace through praise.

Each of the four parts includes:

A comprehensive study on knowing the mind of God filled with profound theological and spiritual truth, rich in prophetic message.

A comparison of theological and philosophical thoughts and concepts. (A look at the carefully documented chapter end-notes documents, validate the accuracy and extent of the research that has gone into this work).

A word study with meanings, explanations, use, and applications, provide helpful insight into the translation of significant Greek and Hebrew words used in the text.

Practical applications with suggested action steps.

The book's clarity, content, format, and the organization of material make the book an ideal foundational primer for those beginning their spiritual journey. The deep theological understanding and academic approach of the authors offer a refreshing prophetic message to the theologian, independent thinker, and philosopher.

A complete set of study notes is provided for individual or group use with suggestions for getting the most from the study. I found the exercises stimulating, causing me to be intellectually circumspect, spiritually honest, and diligent in future research and application.

"Battle for the Mind: How You Can Think the Thoughts of God" has created in me a new hunger for knowing and experiencing the refreshing freedom of reconnecting with God, correctly interpreting His thoughts, experiencing victory in spiritual warfare, and grasping the fullness of the prophetic message breathed by the Holy Spirit, and recorded by the apostle Paul in Romans, to know the will of God for my life, the extent of his love, mercy, and grace manifest in Jesus Christ, His Son, my Savior.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Healing Through Spiritual Warfare
Peggy Scarborough
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310
Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768441413, $14.99,

A Powerful Strategy for Combat in Healing Warfare

"Healing Through Spiritual Warfare" is Peggy Scarborough's shares story of her personal journey through healing warfare during her battle with cancer. It is her desire that the book will become a tool used by God to bring healing to those experiencing life threatening illnesses, the suffering of accident victims, and the inconvenience and the discomfort of minor aches and pain.

Scarborough helps readers understand what God thinks about healing using examples from the Old Testament, the New Testament, the early Christian Church, and the Church of today. She discusses the impact of the "warriors" lifestyle, three powerful weapons available for healing, God's battle plan, and healing through warfare prophecy. She also addresses other essential elements to be recognized in the battle for healing: The enemy is Satan and his demons, the will of God is for healing, and warfare must be expected if healing is to be experienced. She includes dozens of Warfare healing principles and practical suggestions for daily living.

The book is carefully researched and well documented. In addition to her end-notes a comprehensive Bibliography is included providing suggestions for excellent resources for further study.

"Healing Through Spiritual Warfare" boldly proclaims an unapologetic message of healing through spiritual warfare.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

The Life Giver
Joey Letourneau
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310
Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768441420, $16.99,

An Incredible Message of Life Giving Potential

"The Life Giver" is the account of Joey Letourneau's life transforming prophetic vision of the life giving power of Jesus. He challenges the reader to join him as he taps into the Life Giver Himself to bring love, healing and deliverance to the lost, broken, and needy of the world with this creative life giving power

Illustrations from the lives of Boaz and Ruth, David, Moses, Enoch, Abraham, and many other Old Testament personalities demonstrate how life giving power can be appropriated and shared with others. In New Testament accounts Jesus passed on to his disciples the creative authority to be His representatives as life givers. Joey sets forth principles gleaned from Acts 4 as the disciples from the first century pursued their calling to change the world.

I enjoyed the stories of ministry to children and youth in Ethiopia, of the adoption of Anna and power of the relationship notebook. I was captivated by the account of God's miraculous provision throughout the faith building global trip Joey and Destiny made to bring life to the broken and to empower the powerless.

Readers are challenged to join Joey, in the prophetic vision given him, to become a new generation of life givers, living the abundant life already within and to boldly step out in faith as a life giver transforming a new culture with life giving prophetic power.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

T. N. T. Treasure-Hunters 'N Training
Kevin Dedmon
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310
Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768441192, $24.99,

A Strategy for Releasing Dynamic Power for Supernatural Living

The "T. N. T. Treasure-Hunters 'N Training" is designed as a training model using a Treasure Hunt approach to cover eight key aspects important in producing modern day revivalists. Kevin Dedmon has drawn from over twenty-five years of ministry experiences to develop this proven plan of equipping, empowering, and activating members of the body of Christ to be intentional, specific, and proactive in making an impact on their personal sphere of influence.

Dedmon challenges the reader to move beyond acquiring information and theoretical concepts to activating actual first hand experiences in the realm of supernatural living. Each chapter contains practical real life examples, profound insights into scriptural principles, thought provoking questions to stimulate discussion for formulation of applications and action plans for divine encounters, for supernatural ministry in areas of miracles, healing, prophetic insight, and delivery - all with the goal of introducing "God's Treasures" to Jesus as Savior and Lord.

The book is designed for group use to be used over a suggested eight week period. Working within a group of others committed to the purpose will accelerate the learning process as well as encourage the members to "embrace the risk factor" to take the first step in the "Let's Do It!" section.

The specific resources included at the end of the book serve as additional models for developing a local plan or strategy: A plan for creating and using the Treasure Map, a model plan for healing and conducting a Divine encounter, and Study Guide Resources for questions, prayers of impartation, and Treasure Hunt Activities.

Kevin Dedmon's "T. N. T. - Treasure-Hunters 'N Training" is powerful in dynamic, explosive strategies for equipping and activating a supernatural lifestyle.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Two Guys on the Road
Steve Chandler & Terrence N. Hill
Robert D. Reed Publishers
P. O. Box 1992, Bandon, OR 97411
9781934759639, $14.95,

Unique Perspectives on Life and Travel

"Two Guys on the Road - Walking Backwards Across the World" is the fifth in the collaborative writing of Steve Chandler and Terry Hill in the "Two Guys" series. I have read and enjoyed three of the earlier titles. I was especially eager to sit back, to fasten my seatbelt in readiness for a memorable, vicarious, new travel adventure.

Both authors travel extensively, Terry with his wife Miranda maintain a home in New York City and travel primarily to other countries for pleasure. They enjoy staying for extended periods to absorb a sense of the history, culture, and to familiarize themselves with the local residents. Steve's travels are mainly within the United States and are usually short trips related to his role as a professional business coach and corporate trainer. He and his wife Kathy make their home in Phoenix, Arizona.

Unlike Fodor', Frommer's or other typical travel guides "Two Guys on the Road" is filled with the shared life experiences of the authors and the places they have visited. In addition to the travel theme, tips, information, and descriptions, Terry and Steve express opinions and observations on a broad base of subjects: including: international sports, music, art, literature, self-discovery, and the movies. Unique travel tips, references to their favorite restaurants, hotels, museums, and information on various locales gleaned from their wide-ranging travel add the expertise and flavor of a characteristic travel book.

Steve and Terry have opened up a whole new dimension, a clearer vision, and a new perspective to me, as I do some "backward" reflecting of my own, on family memories, friendships, and the hundreds of people that have crossed our path throughout the years. I also enjoyed my reflections and glimpses into the experiences and opportunities afforded us as I relived so many reminders of the various cities, states, and communities we have called home. I also treasure the memories of family vacations, combination business/pleasure trip, and shared travels my wife and I have made over the years.

"Two Guys on the Road" is a delightful medley of reminisces of old friends. Steve and Terry have a unique style and format of writing that engages the reader, drawing them into their inimitable friendship. An unforgettable reading experience

A complimentry copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

The New Amplified Pilgrims Progress
James Pappas Jr.
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310
Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768441475, $15.99,

An Unabridged Adaptation of John Bunyan's Memorable Classic

Even after four centuries John Bunyan's "Pilgrim's Progress" continues to retain a high ranking and significant readership in classic literature. "The New Amplified Pilgrim's Progress" sheds light and clarity on the spiritual riches of the original masterpiece. James Pappas Jr. combines modern language with patterns of speech of Bunyan's classic writing.

Pappas' adaptation adds a new dimension of adventure and humor by amplifying selected passages; however he takes care to preserve the powerful impact, beauty, and message of Bunyan's unabridged storyline. Pappas uses his skills as a storyteller to introduce a new generation to the message of love, joy, and hope of Bunyan's classic masterpiece by zeroing in on the fascination with angels and supernatural beings that intrigue young fantasy readers of today.

Memorable original illustrations faithfully depict the picturesque word pictures describing the familiar Wicket Gate, the Slough of Despond, Vanity Fair, the land of Beulah, and many other places Christian passes through along the way. Other illustrations picture the characters, testing, and conflict that confront him throughout his journey.

The life changing potential of "The New Amplified Pilgrim's Progress" makes this an important book for shared family reading, a must for Christian School and Church libraries, and an important classic for every home-schooler's reading list.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Richard R. Blake, Reviewer

Riva's Bookshelf

Jericho 3
Paul McKellips
FBR Press
9780985332204, $12.50,

McKellips hits on a number of hot topics while truly educating the reader in some of the complexities of the Middle East and Iran in particular in his far-reaching book, Jericho 3. When I first started Jericho 3, I wondered at the complexity of the story, why all these elements were necessary and how so many different factors could tie into one story, but McKellips ties it all together into a truly frightening fictional tale, at least partially based in fact.

Jericho 3 is ostensibly the story of US Navy Captain "Camp" Campbell and US Army Lieutenant Colonel Leslie Raines. Camp, assigned to Forward Operating Base Lightning to conduct a rescue mission for a missing doctor, Major Dean Banks, United States Army Reserves. Banks was kidnapped by the Taliban.

In the meantime, three Taliban patients have been treated for tularemia, which could be a possible bio-weapon, but which Banks superior officer tells him to just ignore. Tularemia can occur naturally, it is known as rabbit fever, and it can occur from eating undercooked meat or drinking contaminated water. Banks superior officer is convinced these are just random cases of the infection caused by natural causes. Following Camp's team attempt to rescue Banks it will become apparent that these infections are far from random.

However, I get ahead of myself, on the way to rescue Banks; Camp has a discussion with a man known to him as Omid, though he goes by many other names. Omid, also known as Pablo, is a double agent, a high-ranking member of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. He is helping guide the rescue team through the Hindu Kush and into Datta Khel village where Banks is being held.

In the meantime, Leslie Raines has been assigned to the National Interagency Biodefense Center's BSL-4 Facility. She faces her own battles, both with the projects she works on and with animal rights groups who want the facility to stop using non-human primates for experimentation. To be honest I didn't personally see why this type of experimentation was necessary until reading this book, at which point I went from completely opposing it to seeing its absolute necessity.

While traveling through the Hindu Kush Camp and Omid get the opportunity to walk as they hike. Camp wants to understand the Iranian mindset more. At first Omid puts him off, saying how Americans think they know everything and don't really want to know about what motivates Iran, but Camp is insistent and finally Omid explains to Camp about the Hojjatieh and the Twelvers who have quite a following throughout the Middle East, but who have personally risen to power in Iran. The Twelvers believe the only rightful leader of the Muslims is the Twelfth Imam, who was hidden from the world in 874 when he was five years old. The Twelvers believe that this twelfth Imam, Muhammad al-Mahdi is still alive today. They believe he is the Mahdi or ultimate Savior of humankind and will appear with Jesus, know to Muslims as Isa, who will convert to Islam at the end of the world. In order to do this they believe Israel must be destroyed, and they don't care if it results in their own destruction because they believe the destruction of Israel will usher in the Mahdi. Mutually assured destruction and even sanctions are not a deterrent in their eyes because they are motivated by religious conviction, not logic. While they constitute a minority in Islam, they are very powerful and have seized control of Iran. It is important to understand that the Twelvers are based on fact, for only in understanding this can effective action be taken. It must also be understood that the vast majority of Muslims want and prefer peace. The Twelvers are an extreme, radical sect.

The Twelvers have set in motion a plan that will lead to the coming of the Mahdi. Before it is over Camp, Raines, a retired FBI agent named Finn, an Israeli agent named Reuven, and Omid will race to stop the destruction of Israel and the possible coming of Armageddon.

There is a lot of backstory that goes with Jericho 3, but it is absolutely essential to understanding the storyline. This is a complex, well-written book that will both educate you and scare the pants off you. I highly recommend it.

The Lost Worlds of Ancient America
Edited by Frank Joseph
New Page Books
c/o Career Press Inc.
220 West Parkway, Unit 12, Pompton Plains, NJ 07444
9781601632043, $15.99,

What if America was explored centuries before its "discovery" by Columbus? This is the question posited and answered in The Lost Worlds of Ancient America. The Lost Worlds of Ancient America looks at the substantial evidence of the exploration of large parts of America prior to the visit of Columbus to the West Indies. This evidence has largely been suppressed by mainstream archaeology in the Americas. There are even cases where discoveries have been accepted and shared within the archaeological community until the age of the discovery has been verified to be Pre-Columbian at which point the discovery is then espoused to be a fraud. This would almost be acceptable if we were discussing one or two discoveries but The Lost Worlds of Ancient America examines dozens of examples garnered from eighteen years of documentation of the multitude of examples of Pre-Columbian exploration of America.

Take for example the discovery of a stone with a Hebrew inscription dating to the first century, or the discovery of several dozens of Roman coins dating to the third century found along the beaches of the Atlantic seaboard and up and down the Ohio River Valley. These coins have been discounted as frauds deliberated planted by people, or as lost members of the collections of individuals, yet there is no evidence to support either of these claims and it is natural to assume that early explorers of the Americas would have navigated the Ohio River in an attempt to further explore the land. Additionally Roman swords dating to the same era were found buried many feet below the surface in Cincinnati, Nashville and Saint Louis. Not all of these finds can be fraudulent.

There are stone inscriptions found from coast to coast as well as other artifacts that clearly pre-date the era of exploration following the discovery of the Americas by Christopher Columbus. The mainstream scientific community has fought for generations to suppress these discoveries. The evidence offered in The Lost Worlds of Ancient America clearly and compellingly paints a picture of these Pre-Columbian discoveries and their significance. In many cases, the discoveries have been subjected to further conclusive scientific testing to establish their veracity.

The examples given above of the cases contained within the pages of The Lost Worlds of Ancient America are only from the early pages of the book. Further examination of the book shows examples of ancient Roman ruins in Peru, sixth century stone tablets in Michigan and evidence that ancient Egyptians sailed to the Americas for corn. The second section of the book deals exclusively with the different sites of archaeological significance like a Pre-Columbian city buried beneath the surface of a lake, and the presence of Welsh fortresses along the Ohio River. The third section deals with the fact that there is evidence of advanced technology in places in the Americas like evidence of early flight in South America, a 12 mile stretch of roadway constructed with mussel shell mortar, and possible evidence of Pre-Columbian use of electricity. The final section deals with evidence of exploration of the Americas and even Asia and Polynesian, as far back as the prehistoric era by groups of Caucasians, who later disappeared from the scene often only leaving behind mummies or other similar burial details. It also details trade of chocolate between the cacao plantations a thousand miles away and the ancient Anasazi. It deals with exploration and settlement of the Americas by groups of people of European descent, and other fascinating possibilities only now being revealed due to genetic research.

For anyone who wants to know the truth about what the evidence found over the last few centuries has to show, I would strongly recommend you read The Lost Worlds of Ancient America. It is sure to be an eye-opening experience, even for skeptics. I was one and I now find myself seriously considering the possibility that what I was previously taught was only part of the truth being discovered in the archaeological evidence. I would definitely recommend anyone with an interest in the history of the Americas and/or America and the archaeological evidence read The Lost Worlds of Ancient America.

Chelle Cordero
Vanilla Heart Publishing
9781935407843, paperback $13.95
Kindle ASIN B004WSXFKS $4.99
NOOK Book 2940011273025 $4.99
also available on Smashwords $4.99

I sat down to read Hyphema late one night. I thought I would start it, read for about thirty minutes and then go to sleep; instead, I stayed up till almost four in the morning reading it. Immediately immersed in the story, the tension never let up enough for me to even consider putting it down and coming back to it later.

Matt is an air ambulance EMT, a flight medic. He has just moved his son, and his Pakistani wife, to a small town in North Carolina from New York so he could have this job. The job is his dream job and Sudah, his wife, couldn't be more supportive. She is patient, caring and so obviously in love with Matt and their son that it just spills over onto the page. She's the kind of person I'd like to have for a neighbor, but not everyone, even within the circle of Matt's work buddies and their wives feel that way, but Sudah handles the anger and prejudice with grace and softly spoken words meant to soften hearts and break down the walls of misunderstanding.

On one particularly heartbreaking call, Matt and his team are dispatched to a motor vehicle accident involving an SUV that had rolled over. The mother was unconscious, trapped in the car and her toddler son was bloody, unresponsive and pinned in the back in his car seat. To get to him they had to get the mother out.

Knowing there was no time to wait for fire trucks and ambulances Matt and his team pry open the car door and get the mother out, but when they get to the little boy, they realize he is dead. Wanting to be able to tell the mother when she regains consciousness that they had done everything possible to save her son, Matt opens IVs wide and begins CPR on the boys still warm body, handing the CPR off to an EMT on board Matt goes to work on the mother, trying to stabilize her condition. Even though the team does everything they can the little boy is pronounced DOA at the hospital. His devastated father comes into the ER and discovers that his son is dead when he wasn't even supposed to be with his wife, her sister was supposed to be babysitting. Overcome with grief he screams how he'll make everyone pay.

Life for Sudah is difficult at times, even though she is a happy person with an optimistic attitude. People won't talk to her and sometimes call her names. Her own parents will not even recognize her marriage because it is a Muslim/Christian marriage. This is extremely hard on Sudah because she loves and misses her parents, but it becomes especially hard when they refuse to even accept a picture of their grandson because they view him as illegitimate.

Sudah becomes the victim of apparent hate crimes; a rock is thrown through their window when she is home alone with a message that appears to relate to 9/11 on it. Another note is found taped to the house after the family had been away, every time they report the incidents and every time they police act as though there is simply little to nothing to do. After one particularly frightening incident the police even threaten to arrest Matt for filing a false report because they think he is making it up to make the police look bad - a task they are managing quite well on their own.

Matt and Sudah face obstacles that severely test their relationship and their marriage. I do not want to go into anymore of the specifics here, but while Matt and Sudah's relationship plays an important role in the book, the story is much more of an extremely well written thriller and I definitely recommend reading it.

The Storyteller's Bracelet
Smoky Trudeau Zeidel
Vanilla Heart Publishing
9781935407461, paperback $13.95
Kindle ASIN B008CQ8V28, $4.99,
NOOK Book 2940033274703, $4.99
Also available from Smashwords $4.99

The Storyteller's Bracelet takes the best of the creation stories of Native Americans and weaves them together into a tale offering a new universal truth. It is insightful and poignant, telling the story of the harsh realities of the Indian Schools of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

The Storyteller's Bracelet is the story of Otter and Sun Song, two members of the tribe who are deeply in love and who are being sent east to the Indian Schools. Neither one of them wants to go, they are both nearly adults and all they want to do is turn eighteen so they can be married. Sun Song's father is making her go East, just like he did to her brother before her. Sun Song does not care for the man her brother has become since he returned from school. Instead of growing into the fine Indian he was becoming, he now drives a broken down wagon and runs errands for the people of the village. He drinks too much and is no longer the brother Sun Song once knew.

Otter has always been away from the village when the white people come to collect the students to take back East, but this time there has been a protest made to his father about how he hides his son away like a pup in a den. This time there is no way his father can prevent it, Otter is going east too.

Arriving at the school the students are made to get rid of anything of Indian origin, including their clothes and shoes. The boys' hair is cut - something the members of the Tribe never do unless they are in mourning. Their hair is bathed in kerosene to get rid of nonexistent lice and they are humiliated. They are told they are to speak only in English from now on and not in their own language. They are assigned English names. Sun Song refuses to say hers and in fact will face great difficulty ever speaking to people again, she does however remember the ways of her people and at night, she sneaks out a window and talks to the Grandmother Sycamore tree.

Otter has been given the name Gideon and he excels at school. The boys and girls are kept strictly separated at the school, still, he does not understand why Sun Song will not look his way, or answer the letters he sneaks to her. Rejected, heartbroken he finds comfort in the arms of a twenty-year-old white girl named Wendy. Alone, abandoned, Sun Song finds nothing but trouble and grief. Yet a plan has been made for Sun Song, and for Otter too, if he can find his way back to his Indian roots. A plan that will change things forever across three different worlds.

Smoky Trudeau Zeidel breathes life into these characters and those they encounter. She shows the existence of some people who truly care about the Indians and the existence of the majority who look down on them. She paints the difficulties of their lives so far away from all they know and love, subjected to scorn, inhumanity and illnesses that they simply can't fight off. She makes your heart ache for both Sun Song and Otter as they are caught in a world that is changing to quickly for their people to keep up, if they even want to.

Zeidel's plotting is superb easily keeping track of the various storylines in the novel and making each of them active, powerful and believable. I love that Zeidel, at least in the context of the novel believes in magic and the unusual ways it can interact with circumstances in the characters' lives. I like that she makes it mystical and powerful without overwhelming anyone with dogma. I like the way the main storyline is developed bit-by-bit beginning at the very start, although there are many interesting and unforeseen twists along the way.

I was absorbed in this book. I felt as though the truths Zeidel were speaking were the ones in my own heart. I felt as though her conglomeration of Native stories of life and creation rang truer than any story I had ever heard or read in any holy book. It was a tale of life, of community, of unity and togetherness. It touched me deeply and at the end of the book, I found myself saying, "Now this is how it should be."

Sin of Omission
Charmaine Gordon
Vanilla Heart Publishing
9781937227654, $13.95
Kindle ASIN B007XA9V2I, $4.99
NOOKbook 294003184477, $4.99

I had a mixed reaction to Charmaine Gordon's Sin of Omission. There are things about the book that I loved, like the fact the heroine is an African American and that she is quite capable of taking care of herself. I liked the fact that she was well educated and in a good job. I like the fact the book broke a lot of stereotypes.

I liked the hero, Jimmy Costigan, a lasso-wielding cowboy, getting an education in architecture. I like that he was also drawn outside of the lines. He was the boy from the bad home life who was making it good. He was strong, but also sensitive and he fell for our heroine, Shelley Jackson hard and fast.

I didn't care for some of the decisions Shelley made - true they lead to the interesting plot, but I didn't care for the reasoning behind it, although it is one typical to romances, that the hero of the story simply is too busy with his own life, or too immature, or has different priorities, so the heroine makes a foolish decision. I realize that once again, this is what drove the storyline a lot and even led to the title of the piece, but there was so much more the story could have chosen to focus on that I felt this was a bit cliche and an easy out.

I liked the fact that Sin of Omission was an action-based romance. There was action happening almost all the time and these crises were what drove the plot forward in an interesting way. They showed the strength and capability of both the heroine and the hero and I really enjoyed this interesting storyline.

Overall, I think the good points of Sin of Omission highly outweigh the one negative issue I have with it. I would recommend reading it. It is a novella of only 126 pages so it is easy to read in one night and it is different and interesting in all the ways that count in a romance.

Satin Sheets in Space
Jessica E. Subject
Decadent Publishing
978161333962, $3.99,

Jessica Subject redefines what erotic means with Satin Sheets in Space. It is hot, like scorching, not just steamy. I read the book on my e-reader and at one point; I was even scrolling rhythmically down the page; I was embarrassed when I caught myself.

Satin Sheets in Space is part of Decadent Publishing's 1 Night Stand series. These are not your average one night stands in any aspect of the word. 1 Night Stand is the name of the mystical Madame Evangeline's dating service. Somehow, Madame Evangeline is able to find the true heart's mate for the customers of her exclusive dating service. While she only promises her clients a night to truly remember, for one couple after another they end up finding the mate they have always searched for.

Danyka is tall but curvaceous and considers herself unattractive because of her height. To her all the men seem to go for the pretty, petite women. She has never found a man who was truly interested in her, even the few men she dated departed after they got what they wanted from her. Danyka's employer Josh, and his wife Tamara, were two of Madame Evangeline's clients and are one of Madame Eve's success stories. Delighted with their experience and wanting Danyka, who is more like a family member than an employee, to find that same happiness they have, the two arrange a date for her through Madame Evangeline. When Danyka finds out a special date has been planned for her part of her "restrained the urge to jump up and down and whoop in delight," while "another part of her cringed."

Danyka's date is to meet her at the Kartha Ball, a special costume ball being given that night. Danyka is filled with excitement and goes to the ball accompanied by two of her friends who quickly find eligible bachelors to hook up with for the night. After a couple of hours of waiting she decides her date has either stood her up, or has seen her and gone running in the opposite direction. She catches a glimpse of the stars above her as she leans back, looking through a skylight and relaxes briefly until someone runs into her. When she says something to him, he retorts with, "If you took up less space, I wouldn't have tripped over you. You're lucky I don't sue." Danyka is overwhelmed with frustration and wishes for a world where women over five-foot-six weren't looked upon as Amazons. Fed up, her friends already gone off with their dates, she decides to leave, but as she is leaving she hears a sexy voice ask that classic line, "Leaving so soon?" He is her mysterious date for the night, and little does she know it, but her life will never be the same.

If you are a fan of erotica, threesomes and men from outer space, then this should definitely be in your library. Like all 1 Night Stand titles it is a brief, easy read that shakes your world up in unimaginable ways and Jessica Subject is showing that she can both rock her readers' worlds and give them the happily ever after everyone is secretly longing for.

Entangled Thorns
Melinda Clayton
Vanilla Heart Publishing
9781937227616, paperback $13.95
Kindle ASIN B008FRA3E8 $4.99
NOOKbook 2940033289530 $4.99
also available from Smashwords for $4.99

I have rarely read a book that has moved me as much as Entangled Thorns has. It is a story of family honor, even when mistakenly given; of addiction; of dysfunction and strange as it may sound, of mountain pride and the strength of Appalachia.

In Entangled Thorns, Clayton once again brings readers into her fictional town of Cedar Hollow, West Virginia, this time through several entirely new characters with ties to Cedar Hollow from a childhood now almost thirty years past. It is the story of two girls, Beth and Naomi, who ran away from Cedar Hollow when they were in their mid-teens, following the death of their brother. It is the story of the pain and the dysfunction they fled, a dysfunction that still exists back in the hollows of Appalachia, regardless of the coming our "modern age" and the enlightenment it has supposedly brought to these mountains. It is the story of anger, denial and the hope that you can rise above the circumstances into which you were born. And it is quite possibly the best book I have read, beating out the likes of James Michener, Charles Dickens, Jane Austen and Mark Twain though it lacks the epic proportions of many of those works. Like the books by these writers Entangled Thorns stands to be remembered as a classic that describes an era and a people too little understood. It describes the life lived in the mountains of Appalachia, among child abuse and moonshine accurately and without the blinders of illusion that so many writers put over it to romanticize an issue they have little understanding of. It is as real as can be and because of this it speaks to the heart and the soul in a way that only truth can.

It is fiction, pure and simple, but it is stunning fiction at its best. In the stories of Beth, Naomi and their families, both current families and family of origin, Clayton weaves a colorful, though not necessarily pretty, picture of mountain life. Amid stories of sleeping on the tin roof on nights when the creek would rise up into the yard, and fishing and catching lightning bugs, is the story of a family of moonshiners who put their children to work as testers when they were still toddlers and of the legacy of pain and alcoholism that left behind. It is a story of the ability of the human spirit to rise above circumstances and seek something better like a plant searching for sun, and it is the story of secrets that have the power to destroy us even years later.

This book is real, it is deep and it is touching in a way few books are. It earns my highest recommendation.

John Smolens
Pegasus Books
80 Broad Street,5th Floor, New York, NY 10004
9781605984186, $15.39,

Quarantine by John Smolens was an extremely well researched and written piece of historical fiction. Set in Newburyport, Massachusetts in 1796 the story made the reader aware of just how damaging an outbreak of a fever at the end of the 18th century really was.

Newburyport is a small port, where in 1796 the merchant ship Miranda arrives carrying a crew suffering from an unknown fever. Immediately the ship is put under quarantine, but in the time it takes the harbormaster to return to port and obtain a constable and a doctor, some of the crew and supplies from the Miranda are spirited ashore. Those leaving the boat are spotted by the doctor and the high constable as they are rowing out to the Miranda, there is little they can do to stop those already ashore. The doctor examines the ship and declares it a plague ship, leaving two rowboats full of men behind to guard the ship. Within hours, the first cases begin in Newburyport and the town must be isolated, a pest house established and ways devised to keep the plague from spreading, but try as they might, the plague does spread sweeping through the town. Medical supplies, already in high demand, are stolen to be sold on the black market. Newburyport is a town besieged by an unknown assailant in a time where prevalent medical thought encourages the use of bleeding, antibiotics, anti-virals are unknown and little is understood about the spread of disease. All the Newburyporters do know is that for some reason those who have had a similar fever in the South, or in the West Indies or other places in the Caribbean are immune to the fever. Throughout the port those who have already had the fever, mostly African Americans turn out in force to help the town battle the disease that in the beginning, when medical supplies are few, take the lives of almost everyone affected.

The burial pit on a hill in town keeps having to be enlarged as more and more people die daily. The doctor, Giles Wiggins, who is really a surgeon who established himself as such during the war with Britain, is the half-brother of one of the town's richest men who also happens to be the owner of the Miranda. When Giles goes to visit his mother for medical reasons his brother, Enoch Sumner, tries to convince, via bribery, to lift the quarantine on the Miranda. Of course, Giles makes it clear he is unable to do this and leaves the house with his brother angry with him.

The plague sweeps through the town with no apparent end in sight. Giles Wiggins, the surgeon turned doctor intuitively hits upon at least part of the problem, the disease is spread by mosquitos biting infected people and then moving on to bite uninfected people spreading the disease, but prevailing theory at the time doesn't accept this idea and so Wiggins concept goes unheeded. He tells the other doctor administering to the plague victims to clear up all the puddles of standing water and to pray for cooler weather and the quick coming of a frost. The doctor acts as though Giles is a madman, himself being convinced of a current theory that holds that volcanic eruptions in other places have released harmful vapors into the atmosphere and that these vapors are responsible for the increase in disease.

By the end of the book, you will be struck by man's narrow-mindedness, as well as his inhumanity when dealing with others of his species. You will find joy with those who discover love in the midst of the plague and you will cry with those who lose loved ones to the plague's unrelenting grasp.

I recommend Quarantine because from the historical perspective it is such an accurate depiction of the way things were, back when our country was new, and people were still unused to the title the United States. It is meticulously researched which makes it infinitely lifelike and it is simply a fascinating read that will take you back in time and leave your heart racing, which after all, is what a good book is all about.

Tracy M. Riva

Sandra's Bookshelf

Fenicus Flint & The Dragons of Berathor
C.W.J. Henderson
First Knight Press
P. O. Box 44 Castleton, NY 12033
9780615584508, $11.99,

Alexander and Tristan, you are so blessed to have a dad who loves you so much that he wrote a book just for you. I am glad your dad is sharing this story with the public also.

I have enjoyed this work of fantasy. One of the things that have made this book so special to me is the sense of family. How much they loved each other and would die if they had too, to protect each other.

From the beginning to the end this book holds your attention. I can see a parent reading this book out loud to their kids. Texting or playing games will stop as they listen to the words of this story.

This book is filled with adventure and suspense. You will find golden dragons fighting to survive in a world filled with humans. Humans who want to kill them for what they have. While there is violence in this book it is nothing to what most games portray.

Grandma's Stories Tales of the Wild West
Rick Steber
Bonanza Publishing
Box 204 Pineville, Oregon 97754
0945134150, Kindle Edition $4.99, $1.99 paperback

A friend of mine sent me quite a few books from Mr. Steber. He uses them when he teaches school. I have found no matter what your age is each book is interesting. While the stories are only a page long the history that you learn is priceless.

Kids find it hard to realize that people could do without so much. I know that my own grandson's ask me why I always say ice box instead of refrigerator. Well that is because that is what we had before I started school.

The reason I say this book is good for everyone is because I think we all take things for granted. So sit back with your child or grand-children and take them back through the history of the beginning of our country. How people made it without all the things we enjoy and use today.

Rated G

Sandra Heptinstall

Suzie's Bookshelf

What I Didn't Say
Keary Taylor
7290 B. Investment Drive, Charleston, SC 29418
9781475156454, $12.99,

Since freshman year, Jake Hayes had secretly been in love with Samantha Shay. He never got up the courage to tell Samantha of his feelings. With his senior year, he finds himself counting the days when he can graduate and join the Air Force.

When Jake and his football team win the homecoming game they decide to celebrate the victory. The team makes a game of how many beers can be passed among the group. The beer gives Jake the courage he has lacked in telling Samantha of his love for her. With his friends, they decide to go to her home and tell of his devotion.

On the way to Samantha's house, the three are involved in a car crash. Jake is the most seriously injured of the three. When he wakes days later, he finds that a t-post had been embedded in his throat. The doctor informs him that his vocal cords were beyond saving, and he will be unable to use his voice.

Jake tries to come to terms with being mute. He communicates with his friends and family by using paper, referring to it as his paper voice. When Jake returns to school, he finds that he has been suspended from the football team, and he realizes that he will be unable to join the Air Force. His greatest regret is the fact that he will never be able to tell Samantha of his love.

Samantha is determined to show Jake that he can live a full life even without a voice. Even without a voice, will Jake finally be able to reveal to Samantha his true feelings?

WHAT I DIDN'T SAY is an outstanding young adult romance! This reviewer experienced an emotional roller coaster ride as she read through the book. Keary Taylor has written a very eye opening book that should be experienced by all teenagers. She has shown in the blink of an eye that life as we know it can change. WHAT I DIDN'T SAY is a book that I predict will become an award winning novel.

One Stubborn Cowboy
Barbara McMahon
Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
B006P60MDS, $2.99,

Kit Lockford had once been a world famous rodeo bull rider. His job was his life, and he lived and played hard. When an injury ended his career and partially paralyzed him, he felt as if he had lost his livelihood. When his fiancee learned of his injury, she broke off their engagement.

With his career over, Kit feels as though he is pitied by all that once knew his as a great rodeo rider. He retreats to his hometown of Taylorville, California. There he hopes to be able to hide from the world.

Children's author Kelly Adams leaves San Francisco to come to the quiet town of Taylorville. She hopes to find the peace and quiet she is seeking to finish her latest book. There she meets Kit Lockford.

Kelly realizes that Kit has tried to shut himself off from the world. She finds that his injury does not take away from his overall sex appeal. Will Kelly be able to convince Kit of her attraction to him? Or will Kit push her away in the defense that no woman would want to be shackled to half of a man?

ONE STUBBORN COWBOY is an exceptional way to lose yourself from the harsh realities of the world. In one afternoon, you will find yourself glued to this highly addictive novel. Kelly and Kit are two characters that offer their readers the best tragedy and triumph romance this reviewer has read in some time. Barbara McMahon has done an outstanding job in her creation of ONE STUBBORN COWBOY. I look forward to finding more books by this author.

Deeper Than Ink
M.A. Ellis
Ellora's Cave
9781419941139, $5.39,

Becca Wiley's skill as a tattoo artist is well known and has earned her countless awards. She specializes in ultraviolet tattoos, which is invisible to the eye, but come alive under black UV light. Her work has gained the attention of local BDSM club owner, Andres Herzog. He requests that she do five ultra violet tattoos for him. The price he quotes her will be enough to pay her mortgage for six months.

Before Andres hires her he wants to see her work in person on a live specimen. She selects her friend Chad Harrington to go with her and be her human canvas. Becca and Chad go to Club Rosenthorn, where they discover a whole different world and lifestyle.

Chad has wanted to turn Becca and his friendship up a few degrees. Being her friend is great, but he wants more from this desirable woman. He senses danger when Becca accepts the position with the BDSM owner. He fears for Becca's safety and is determined he will serve as her bodyguard.

By Chad and Becca working together on the BDSM project will it give Chad the edge he needs to get closer to Becca? Or will Becca fall under the spell of the BDSM lifestyle?

DEEPER THAN INK was not what I had expected. In reading the books description, I figured that the heroine would meet her match in a Dom and he would introduce her to BDSM. This is not the case in this book. What I found instead was a contemporary romance with a bit of BDSM shadowed in the background. Chad and Becca's story has a good pretense, but I feel that it would have been just as strong it if didn't include BDSM. In all, it was a good romance that provided an unusual way for the couple to get together.

Suzie Housley

Teri's Bookshelf

The Chiefs of Council Bluffs
Gail Geo. Holmes
History Press
635 Rutledge Ave., Suite 107, Charleston, SC 29403
9781609496135, $19.99,

The known as Council Bluffs, Iowa sits in a strategic place on the Missouri River becoming part of the Omaha metropolitan area. How did this place start?

Five Native Americans were instrumental to this place Big Elk, Captain Billy Caldwell, Chief Wangewaha who was also called Hard Heart, Petalesharo, and Standing Bear. Though all have different histories, tribes, and experiences, their interactions greatly and permanently influenced this place.

Gail Holmes weaves this tale of these outstanding Native American leaders with the Mormon people as they passed through this area on their way to Utah as a storyteller intermixing the events and historical figures of the day as well as their conflicts and solutions.

What was outstanding in this short historical collection was Mr. Holmes research about placing these events in the present day so that the reader can truly comprehend where these places were in this metropolitan community. He also has an excellent manner in explaining the geography of this area especially the loess hills and the river area.

"The Chiefs of Council Bluffs: Five Leaders of the Missouri Valley Tribes" is strongly connects with the Mormon centers in the area, especially the recent production of "Come Home to Kanesville" at the Council Bluffs' Tabernacle. Mr. Holmes masterfully details the Mormon journey through this area and further relates it to the Native American and their interactions of the time developing a stronger understanding of the area, choices, and the people of this time.

There is one slight problem in that the story of Billy Caldwell is repeated completely in the book twice. Yes, this is somewhat like a storyteller repeating themselves.

The drawings by Brent Fredrickson were wonderful representations of the Native American leaders. Personally, the drawing of the five statues were perfect for the book and actually should be considered as real statues together for the city. All the drawings and photographs were perfectly placed in accentuating certain aspects of the book for visualization.

Who should read this book? The Chiefs of Council Bluffs is for anyone who has an interest in the history of this area. Being that Mr. Holmes was the president of a Native American branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he built on his experiences and research for this book which besides the chiefs it also focuses on the Mormon exit from Nauvoo and their stay in this area to their final migration to Salt Lake City.

Mr. Holmes has definitely had varied experiences in his life. From serving in the Philippines in World War II, to directing the aerial mapping of South Korea, to publishing a newspaper in Switzerland, to being a press officer for the World Plenary of YMCAs in Denmark, to working with the press from North Dakota to Saskatchewan, Canada, to being a copy editor at the World Herald in Omaha, Nebraska, all of these experiences greatly assisted in the writing of this wonderful book.

Who should read The Chiefs of Council Bluffs? Everyone in this area should to better understand and respect those who influenced the beginnings of our city and to fully understand the choices these leaders made for us.

I look forward to further publications by this local historian, Gail Geo. Holmes.

More Than Sorrow
Vicki Delany
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. First Ave., #103, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781590589854, $24.95,

"It can be difficult for people to understand that you are ill, very ill, when they can't see any visible wounds. Easy for them to suspect you're not as sick as you make out."

Hannah Manning has this problem. As a journalist on assignment in Afghanistan, she is injured. She comes home with a traumatic brain injury to the occipital lobe. Daily fighting headaches, voices, hallucinations, and trauma can exhaust anyone not to mention, complicating your life and concentration. Living on a family farm In Prince Edward County, Ontario, where everyone is needed for the business to succeed, she quickly finds herself a burden to her sister's family.

More than Sorrow effectively interweaves two tales into Hannah's recovery, one is about Hila Popalzai who is staying with the neighbors and is also recovering from an explosion killing her family in Afghanistan and the story of the American Revolution told from the perspective of a Tory family. For both Hila and Hannah, they develop a friendship to help healing, Hila for her visible scars and Hannah for her invisible ones. While all this is going on, Hannah has to daily interact with the family and has difficulty especially with her sister's husband, Jake, who is resentful that Hannah lives there as a guest with no responsibilities.

Added to that, Hannah is blacking out for periods of time with no memory of either the amount of time or the happenings around her. When Hila is missing, then found murdered, guess who was blacked out at this time?

More than Sorrow is a superb mystery that mixes the real historical events from Afghanistan and the American Revolutionary War into a tale about brain injuries, possible ghosts, terrorism, and crime. The characters are believable, even though predictable at times. The flow of the sentences makes for quick reading in a well-organized story. The problems of having a hidden medical condition such as a brain injury is outstanding allowing the reader to view the problem and the character from various perspectives while also allowing the reader to better understand those with invisible illnesses.

Vicki Delany, the author, lives in Prince Edward County, Ontario where she continues to write her Constable Molly Smith series which is being considered for Canadian television. She recently retired from being a systems analyst.

More than Sorrow is a wonderful mystery intermixing the past with the present in real-life situations and problems in a well-written murder mystery.

Laney Salisbury & Aly Sujo
The Penguin Press
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, 4th floor, New York, NY 10014
9781594202209, $24.95,

Most of us have seen the great art that can be viewed in museums. Unfortunately, most of us value the expertise and brilliance of the artists but there are always a view pieces where we think, "I could have painted that." How is what we consider great art different from those usually modernistic pieces that the untrained eye just doesn't understand besides the ridiculous costs? How do you know if the pieces in the museums were really painted by the listed artist or by a gifted forger?

The answer is provenance. Most of us trust the museum curators and the legendary auction houses like Christie's and Sotheby's's for authenticity. Could they be fooled? Yes, and they were. Big time. The provenance of a piece of art is the accompanying paperwork of who owned the art, it's costs, and history.

Con man, John Drewe, managed one of the biggest swindles in art history. He found a destitute and talented artist, John Myatt, who desperately needed money for raising his two children alone. Drewe convinced Myatt to paint originals in the style of a particular artist, preferably in a modernistic style using whatever tools might have been utilized by the real artist of the time. Then Drewe managed to infiltrate the art world in such a way that he could forge the provenance of a painting. He then proceeded to sell this usually unknown piece of work in the style of a particular artists marketing it as a previously forgotten work by a master.

When non-fiction reads like fiction, you know that you are reading a well-written unusual book. The reader of Provenance learns how paintings and pieces of art are valued and the importance of the paper trail of ownership, known as the provenance. John Drewe forged so many provenances that the art world is certain that they will never find all of the forged pieces.

The authors, Laney Salisbury and Aly Sujo, are a husband/wife team who jointly wrote "Provenance: How a Con Man and a Forger Rewrote the History of Modern Art". Laney Salisbury strongly understood the art world since she is the daughter of a New York gallery owner. Aly Sujo has recently died. Laney continues to write while raising her daughter.

The one thing that I want after reading this book is to know of the whereabouts of John Drewe, or whatever name this master criminal is going by, now that he is out of prison. The authors followed him until his release. Unfortunately, John Drewe is the type of person that needs to have a website with GPS attached to his ankle on where he is and who he is scamming.

Also, John Drewe lived a lavish lifestyle while always driving expensive vehicles. How did he afford it? Logically, the reader makes the assumption that he somehow scammed previous owners or dealerships and relied heavily on others trusting him.

Provenance is an educational journey into the inner workings of the art world without the expenditures.

Artifact: A Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery
Gigi Pandian
Gargoyle Girls Productions
978193821007, $14.95,

"Our paths will cross again someday."

Isn't that a haunting statement from a former boyfriend? Even though you have moved on with your life, there's always that one little thought in the back of your mind, wondering what the intention was with that statement.

Jaya Jones has a successful new life working with a university and is proud of recently earning the security of having a tenured position. Her specialty is the time period of the British Raj in India.

When she receives a mysterious package from her former boyfriend, Rupert, she is surprised to find that he has sent her a ruby bracelet obviously from India and likely to be from the time of the British Raj. Curious about his obviously valuable gem, she takes a picture of it to ask her working associates about it and it's value. Coincidentally, she is informed that this former boyfriend has died from being in automobile accident in Scotland. Was he killed because of the bracelet?

When Jaya's apartment is broken into and nothing is taken, she quickly realizes that she needs to place the bracelet in a secure place and puts it in a safety deposit box. She still has the picture of it which she carries with her.

With a colleague that she has just met, she is wondering why he is also on her plane going to England. What does he know about the jewel that he has not told her?

She plans to go to the archaeological site that Rupert was working on. The site was discovering artifacts from the Picts.

Artifact is a romp through the Scottish countryside that is well-organized with realistic characters thrown into a situation that is overwhelming and dangerous to them. For a debut novel, the characters are well-developed with personalities. The story is masterfully plotted and logical which makes Artifact an enjoyable, even educational, novel.

Artifact is Gigi Pandian's debut novel which is the result of her being the winner of the Malice Domestic Grant. With both her parents being cultural anthropologists, her perspective is refreshing with global influences from one parent being from New Mexico and the other from the southern tip of India. Artifact is a delightful new novel in a new series from the enlightened voice of Gigi Pandian.

I definitely plan to read more from this exciting author, Gigi Pandian.

Dying for Justice: A Detective Jackson Mystery
L. J. Sellers
Spellbinder Press
P.O. Box 23211. Eugene, OR 97402
9780983213833, $11.99,

"Gina opened her eyes, taking in the white blanket and blue-scrub nurse. Her first thought was: This is a hospital. Her second thought was: Someone tried to kill me."

When someone has been in a coma for two years and they suddenly awake to full consciousness, we consider that to be a highly unusual miracle. After asking for water, Gina immediately told her nurse that someone had tried to kill her. Her nurse called the police so that they could investigate whether this was an attempted murder or as previously thought, a suicide.

Detective Lara Evans is assigned to this case. She is young and inexperienced, but is smart enough to realize that she needs to consult her partner and mentor, Detective Wade Jackson. Wade has recently been allowed two weeks to investigate the death of his parents from ten-years ago. The man convicted of killing his parents recently wrote a letter admitting to stealing money from his parents, but not killing them. Being that the man is dying of cancer, what reason would he have for lying now?

Logically, the local newspaper can't wait to print Gina's story. What a wonderful, upbeat surprise. However, if someone tried to kill Gina two years ago, wouldn't that person still want to kill her? What if Gina really attempted suicide? She had tried it before and was heavily in debt. Would the publicity cause the murderer to try again? Could running this story cause further embarrassment if Gina did try to kill herself?

These two cases of the coma awakening and the death of Jackson's parents combine into this story, Dying for Justice by L.J. Sellers. As the cases interweave, the character traits are openly revealed into a realistic novel involving the personal and professional lives of both detectives. The investigations are realistic in that the detectives are looking outside the finite set of characters in the beginning of the story and always searching for possible suspects, not just those closely associated with the victims.

Dying for Justice is the fifth of L. J. Sellers' Detective Jackson mystery series. In this novel which also works as a stand alone, the character development is exceptionally strong. L. J. Sellers has also written two non-series novels, The Baby Thief and The Suicide Effect.

Dying for Justice is an unpredictable, realistic, and well-written mystery that keeps you engaged until the last page. The pace never slows and easily parallels the life style of a police detective. L. J. Sellers writes superbly literally hurling the reader in this realistic mystery. Personally, I plan to read all the Detective Jackson mysteries and her other novels. Dying for Justice is definitely a memorable and enjoyable mystery.

Shake Off
Mischa Hiller
Mulholland Books
Little, Brown & Company
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316204200, $24.99,

"Everybody behind you could be following you, and it is your job to shake them off."

How are spies recruited? Most people don't say that they want to grow up to be a spy. What type of people become spies?

Growing up in Palestine, Michel Khoury has had an unfortunate life. His parents were murdered by terrorists which placed him in a refugee camp. With no family, Michel finds himself being recruited to be a spy. With his keen ability to learn languages and having a Middle Eastern complexion, he is quickly recruited and trained in Russia to be a spy. Being able to fit into any group of people is obviously a trait much valued for this profession.

Michel carries a passport which lists him as being from Lebanon. The group who employs Michel has one goal which is the resolution of peace for all in the Middle East. In order to achieve this, Michel needs many identities, passports, and money.

While living in London, Michel notices Helen who lives across the hall in his apartment building. The two of them share a bathroom where Michel hides his various identities and passports with some money. He wonders why Helen is tolerating her current lover who is an obviously older, married man. Through a chance encounter, Michel and Helen begin a relationship, but he can never tell her who he really is and what he does.

Michel has a new assignment from his handler, Abu Leila, in which he is to find a house in London for some people to meet. However, Michel quickly discovers that he is being followed. He constantly is shaking off his pursuers who seem to always know where to find him. Is he being set up? Who can he trust?

Shake Off has a different perspective as it shows that all who has lived in the Middle East have suffered atrocities whether they are Jewish, Muslim, or any other of the religious or territorial divisions.

This espionage novel is similar in style to John Le Carre with the central character being very much a loner and not being able to trust anyone. There is the constant struggle between completing your task while keeping yourself safe. This well-written, intense novel, is engrossing as you follow Michel and sense his reactions while he is balancing his safety with his paranoia.

Mischa Hiller resides in Cambridge, England now after growing up in London, Beirut, and Dar El Salaam. He is a winner of the Commonwealth Writer's Prize for the Best First Book Category for South Asia and Europe.

For a gripping tale full of espionage, read Shake Off.

Teri Davis

Theodore's Bookshelf

Seven Days
Deon Meyer
Translated by K.L. Seegers
Atlantic Monthly Press
841 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9780802120359, $26.00,

Benny Griessel is chosen to head up a task force to catch a perpetrator who has threatened to shoot a policeman every day [and has so far succeeded in doing so] until the murderer of an attractive woman attorney is captured. Benny of course is the iconoclastic recovering-alcoholic South African detective, now promoted to the exclusive Hawks of the South African Police Department. Through a series of emails, the shooter taunts the SAPD, often giving hints and quoting Bible verses. He tells them and the newspapers the SAPD knows who the murderer is. Unfortunately, they literally don't have a clue.

While Benny's brief is to catch the lawyer's murderer, separately, Mbali Kaleni, a member of the CATS [Crimes Against the State] team and another loner, is selected to catch the shooter. While they work independently, the cases are intertwined. Eventually, both learn the go-it-alone method is of no use, and teamwork is necessary, drawing on the entire resources of the department. Still, Benny relies on his intuition to guide his efforts.

"Seven Days" is another fine example of the author's perceptiveness and creative plotting. At the same time, his sensitivity to his characters, especially Benn's penchant for alcohol and his shy courtship of a lady friend, is tender and insightful. Benny's characters is further developed in the novel, both as a detective and, especially, as a person.

Highly recommended.

The Lost Years
Mary Higgins Clark
Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781451668865, $26.99,

A good idea wrapped in a lot of superfluous schmaltz sums up this latest effort by Mary Higgins Clark. The plot involves the discovery by a Biblical scholar, Dr. Jonathan Lyons, of the only letter supposedly ever written by Jesus, and Lyons' subsequent murder, presumably as a result. The mystery, of course, is which of his various friends and co-workers wants the manuscript to sell on the black market instead of it being returned to the Vatican library from which it was removed in the 1400's.

Instead of a straight police procedural, the story becomes bogged down in several side issues: Dr. Lyons' daughter's guilt over her alienation from her father over the issue of his mistress and her own "love life;" a couple of characters, Alvirah and Willy, who outwit the police and the perpetrator; and Lyons' wife's dementia, among other things.

The author can still write smoothly, but the novel smacks of a manufactured outline, rather than a carefully developed plot, with each step carefully constructed to fit. It is unfortunate because the idea for the story is excellent, and if the characters were more deeply drawn, and the irrelevancies omitted, the novel could have been more intriguing.

Beastly Things
Donna Leon
Atlantic Monthly Press
841 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9780802120236, $25.00,

There usually are three common elements in any Guido Brunetti mystery: The City of Venice plays a central role. Then there is the crime for the Commissario to solve. And, lastly, there is a significant social issue running through the novel. This, the 21st novel in the series, is no exception. A man is fished out of a Venetian canal, having been stabbed in the back. Brunetti sets off to find the murderer, and witnesses corruption on a massive scale among public officials and private business.

Looking at the retrieved body, Brunetti has the feeling that he has seen the man before, recognizing his odd shape. Later, learning the man suffered from a rare disease causing his upper torso to enlarge, the Commissario remembers where he saw the victim, enabling him to identify the man. From this point, the novel essentially becomes a straightforward police procedural.

Sprinkled throughout the story are Brunetti's observations and philosophical musings, giving the book a certain flavor and embellishing his personality. Unlike previous entries in the series, however, it lacks the usual deep look into his taste for food and his wife's ability to provide haute cuisine to a family of four (including recipes at the back of the book). It's unfortunate because such information really spices up the novels. However, any Brunetti mystery is well worth reading, and is recommended.

The Fallen
Jassy Mackenzie
Soho Press
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9781616950651, $25.00,

P.I. Jade de Jong organizes a vacation to a seaside resort with her erstwhile lover, David Patel, only to get involved in a murder investigation and a potential ecological disaster. Some vacation, further complicated by the fact that when David does show up he tells her he is returning to his four-months pregnant wife. So much for a happy trip

Before David's arrival, Jade was taking scuba diving lessons and attempting to overcome her fear of underwater activities. Her instructor, Amanda, is soon knifed to death. Jade and David undertake to assist the local police in the investigation, hindered by an organized crime conspiracy.

A continuing theme in this series is Jade's attempts to learn more about her mother, who died when she was merely a year old in the very area in which she is now vacationing. This novel, as its predecessors, is set in South Africa. But unlike the former entries in the series, there is much less emphasis on that country's post-apartheid era and more on greed and revenge unrelated to that part of the nation's history.

As a rip-roaring heroine, Jade is still in the forefront of rugged protagonists. The book is a careful examination of the subjects and a superb thriller.


The Fear Artist
Timothy Hallinan
Soho Crime
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9781616951122, $25.00,

One thing you can always count on in a Poke Rafferty novel: Wherever he is, trouble will find him. Even in such an innocent task as buying two gallons of paint to refurbish his apartment while his wife and daughter are away. As Poke is leaving the store, a man is shot dead, whispering three words to Poke as he expires, and thereby setting off a chain of events that powers the plot.

Nearly at once, Poke is almost arrested by security forces, and he flees until he can ascertain what's going on. And it's a rough trail. Apparently he is thought to know something important, but he doesn't know what the thing that he was told by the dying man means. Obviously, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

Meanwhile, the monsoon is rampaging and flood waters rising to engulf Bangkok, as Poke runs around attempting to solve his problems. Unlike the previous four entries in the series, there is little humor in the novel to lighten Poke's problems and the reader's concerns. This is a serious book questioning whether the security steps taken in the name of our nation's defense against terrorism (whether here in the United States or in southern Thailand where thousands have been slain to date) is justified, or is a violation of basic rights.

A well-told tale, and one that is recommended.

Capitol Murder
Phillip Margolin
c/o HarperCollins
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780062069887, $26.99,

The fact that the author long served as a defense attorney in 30 murder trials permeates this tale of terrorism, murder and treason. It is the third novel featuring Brad Miller, an attorney, his wife, Ginny, also an attorney, and Dana Cutler, a dogged private investigator and sometime reporter for a sleazy Washington supermarket scandal sheet. In previous books their investigation revealed the role of a President in a series of murders and saved the life of a Supreme Court justice while preventing a CIA plot to fix a case before the Court.

Now Brad is serving as the legislative assistant to the U.S. Senator from Oregon and Ginny is working at the Department of Justice. Murders in Oregon and the District of Columbia seem to implicate an escaped serial murderer, one of whose previous convictions Brad helped to overturn. But, of course, nothing is what it appears to be. A terrorist plot surpassing the Twin Towers destruction completes the story, uniting all the elements.

The plot is pretty much humdrum, and the characterizations less than fully developed, but Mr. Margolin certainly knows how to spin a narrative. In the end, he makes sense out of the diverse elements in an interesting manner. It is, perhaps, a light read, but still one that is recommended.

Hush Now, Don't You Cry
Rhys Bowen
Minotaur Books
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312628116, $24.99,

Finally Molly Murphy and Capt. Daniel Sullivan get married and are on their honeymoon as the book opens, only to be interrupted on the second day when Dan is recalled to duty to investigate a tunnel which collapsed during the building of the new subway. To make up for the break, Alderman Brian Hannan, also the owner of the construction company building the underground, offers Dan use of a guest cottage on his Newport estate, at the same time telling him he wants to discuss something, adding "he may have got it wrong." Of course, "it" is not revealed.

So Molly and Dan travel up to Rhode Island, arriving in a heavy downpour soaking them when they have to walk to the estate. Then Hannan's body is discovered at the foot of a cliff on the edge of the estate and the local police aren't up to the job. Nor is Dan, who comes down with a life-threatening case of pneumonia. Despite her promises to be a good wife and no longer pursue her investigative instincts, Molly step-by-step gets involved in a couple of mysteries, including Hannan's death.

Perhaps it is the setting for this novel. Past chapters in the series have taken place in early 19th century New York City and Molly, a feisty Irish immigrant, giving flavor and a certain colorful aura to the stories. In the current installment, the Newport milieu makes the characters and plot more staid, and Molly, herself, seems much more suave and sophisticated than a relatively uneducated new arrival to the United States. Nevertheless, if one approaches this novel as 'just' an old-fashioned mystery, it is quite enjoyable, and recommended.

Come Home
Lisa Scottoline
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312380823, $27.99,

Let's state from the very first: This is a potboiler of a novel. It reads more like the script for a soap opera. It can't make up its mind whether it's a murder mystery, criminal investigation, or family saga. It shifts from one element to another without much consistency.

The plot involves Dr. Jill Farrow, a pediatrician with a 13-year-old daughter by her deceased first husband, divorced from her second husband with no contact with his two college-age daughters, and living with Sam Becker, about to become her third mate, who has a grown-up son living in Texas. Then one of her ex-stepdaughters shows up informing her that her ex is dead and that she suspects murder. This sets off a series of situations in which Dr. Farrow investigates the possibility of foul play. Meanwhile, interjected in the plot are various family problems, misunderstandings and crises.

There are a number of inaccuracies in the story, as well, but they can't be cited without disclosing plot details. I guess a lot of tightening could have averted some of the over-plotting. The author certainly can write. But sometimes mommy doesn't know best.

Don't Cry, Tai Lake
Qiu Xiaolong
Minotaur Books
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312550646, $24.99,

While ostensibly a murder mystery, this latest Inspector Chen novel is more a polemic concerning excessive pollution, economic growth at any cost and the political and social system in China today. Still, it is so well-written, filled with poetic references as an integral part of the whole, that it is a worthy addition to the series.

Initially, Chen is invited to spend some vacation time at an exclusive resort for upper cadre (of which he isn't one) by his mentor in Beijing who was scheduled to use a villa there. So, right off the bat, the author offers observations on how the upper layers of officials benefit, while the rest of the population doesn't have such luxuries. Then Chen learns that the once pure waters of Tai Lake have become so polluted that fish are destroyed, the water can't be drunk and even causes illness to inhabitants. The pollution is caused by industrial waste, unimpeded in the interest of profits and "progress."

No sooner does Chen arrive than the general manager of a large chemical company is found murdered and Chen becomes involved, without disclosing himself as a Chief Inspector, in an unofficial investigation. He learns about the pollution from a young female engineer, and works behind the facade of a local policeman, observing, questioning and deducting in typical Chen fashion, including a long T.S. Elliot-type poem about the lake. Other than the murder solution, the criticism of societal and economic conditions in China is anything but subtle. [I wonder if the novel will ever be translated into Chinese.] Here, it is recommended.

Vulture Peak
John Burdett
Vintage Crime
c/o Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780307474292, $14.95,

The Bangkok novels by John Burdett are somewhat off the wall, and this latest entry is no exception. It opens with three corpses lying on a bed in a posh mountaintop mansion, with all bodily organs missing. This sets the stage for an investigation into the world-wide trade in human organs by the Buddhist detective, Sonchai Jitplecheep, instigated by his boss, who plans to run for governor of Bangkok based on solving the murders and putting an end to the business.

We follow the detective's efforts in a bizarre path from Asia to Dubai, where he meets beautiful twin females, and back to Bangkok and its environs. Along the way we are introduced to a couple of more interesting detectives, one from Hong Kong, another from Shanghai. More important, however, are the far out experiences Sonchai lives through in an effort to understand the organ trade and solve the original three murders.

Needless to say, the novel is filled wit exotic images, detailed descriptions of the sex industry in Thailand, and Sonchai's unusual marriage to a former prostitute. While the Bangkok novels are always a lot of fun, this one is a lot blacker than usual, filled with eyeballs, livers, hearts and other parts of the body.


Tag Man
Archer Mayor
Minotaur Books
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010,
9780250006929, $14.99,

This long-running series finds Joe Gunther really depressed, the result of the murder of his girlfriend during an unsuccessful attempt on the life of the Governor in the previous novel. He's on sick leave and at loose ends, so he edges back into work by volunteering to help the Vermont Bureau of Investigations investigate a series of break-ins.

Surely one of the more bizarre perpetrators in the annals of crime fiction, labeled the "Tag Man," enters homes at night, usually not stealing anything, eating some food, wandering around homes highly protected by all kinds of surveillance equipment, and then leaving a Post-it note as sort of a calling card. On one of his 'visits' he does take some incriminating material from the desk of a "retired" Boston mobster, and in another finds scrapbooks containing pictures of what appear to be murdered women. These two events set off a chain which soon has him running for his life.

Two things about this novel are somewhat perplexing. First of all, Joe Gunther is one of the better characters of any series around: smart, personable, professional. However, he seems to be developing into more of a grandfatherly type. And to top that, hard-nosed, wise-cracking Willy Kunkle now turns out to be a soft-hearted daddy. More importantly, while the plot develops amid many devious twists, it is brought to a swift, but relatively uninspired conclusion. It almost seems as if the author became bored and decided to call it a day. It is, nonetheless, recommended.

Ashes to Dust
Yrsa Sigurdardottir
Translated by Philip Roughton
Minotaur Books
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312641740, $14.99, 646-307-5560,

A volcanic eruption covered a little island off the coast of Iceland in 1973, forcing the evacuation of the population and burying many of the houses and its contents. In recent times, some parts were dug out, and from these efforts a bizarre murder mystery evolves. One house scheduled to be investigated was the boyhood house of Marcus Magnusson, who steadfastly fought against the effort. Finally, he relented when permitted to remove what he chose from the basement.

After entering the basement, leaving his attorney, Thora Gudmundsdottr and the archeologist upstairs, he called Thora in a panic, pointing to a severed head which rolled out of a box, after which four bodies were found. Following this discovery, Marcus is held by the police while they investigate the situation. It remains for Thora to find exonerating evidence to free her client. Additional murders broaden the case and complicate her efforts.

This novel is the third in the series. I found it less appealing than its predecessors, perhaps because I believed the translation to be less than effective, full of stilted syntactical and grammatical and other errors. Certainly, the author developed an interesting plot with a completely unexpected twist at the end. But it deserved to be told in more flowing language.

Calico Joe
John Grisham
c/o Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10018
9780385536073, $24.95, 800-726-0600,

Remember "Love Story," that sentimental tearjerker in which a frigid father-son relationship (dad with ice water in his veins) that ended in tragedy? Who can forget the tag line "Love means never having to say you're sorry?" Well, this novel is pretty much on the same level. Grisham said he waited decades to write a baseball story, but the book could have had any theme, the national pastime merely an incidental blip.

In fact, Joe Castle (he hails from Calico Rock, AR; thus, the title of the book, his nickname) occupies a small segment of this short novel. This is really the story of Warren Stacey, a journeyman pitcher who served various major league teams, ending with the New York Mets, and his son.

Calico Joe is a young phenom, making his major league debut and, in 160 at bats, amasses an unbelievable set of stats: batting average of over .600, countless home runs, hits, doubles, stolen bases, consecutive this and that, etc. The tale hinges on what happens when he comes up to bat against Warren for the first time.

So much for the plot. As far as the description of Calico Joe's brief career, it is completely unbelievable, detracting from what I thought a baseball story should be. In fact. Warren and a fictional veteran sports writer criticize modern ball players as being "fat" and sloppy. And, as for the conclusion, which is off limits so further criticism is restricted, it is on a par with the Erich Segal novel. This book is a minor league effort by a major league writer. Let's hope he goes to the bullpen and comes up with another pitch.

The Stonecutter
Camilla Lackberg
Steven T. Murray, Translator
Pegasus Crime
80 Broad St., NY, NY 10005
9781605983301, $25.95,

Fjallbacka is a small village in Sweden, the setting for the author's series, of which this is the third to be published in the US. Everyone knows everyone else, but of course that doesn't prevent crimes from happening, so that Patrik Hedstrom continues to ply his job as a talented detective, while suffering the aftermath of a newborn child with Erica, his lover.

The discovery of a child's body, apparently drowned in a nearby body of water, starts the police procedural aspect of the novel, which sort of ties the book together because the story really is a study in various characters inhabiting the village. Each chapter is a throwback to events that took place in the past, beginning with a stonecutter's forced marriage to the boss' spoiled daughter. Then it progresses to look at one or another of the town's inhabitants or their relations with each other.

The novel is rather long and slow reading, but well worth the effort. The author has written 12 novels in the series so far, so that we can hopefully look forward to reading a lot more about Fjallbacka and its population in the future.

Highly recommended.

Trickster's Point
William Kent Krueger
Atria Books
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781451645675, $24.99,

Cork O'Connor has faced many perplexing situations in this long-running series set in Upper Minnesota. None, however, is as stunning as takes place in this latest chapter, perhaps because it begins at Trickster's Point, where, according to Native American legend nothing is what it seems as the spirits play games. At the foot of the monolith sit Cork and Jubal Little, the presumptive future Governor of Minnesota. An arrow protrudes from Jubal's chest, right through his heart. He asks Cork to remain with him rather than go get help, and it takes three hours for him to die, during which he rambles on, sort of confessing many past transgressions, but really leaving more questions than answers.

The arrow is an exact replica of those Cork makes for himself, leading to the suspicion that Cork may have killed his boyhood best friend. And Cork has to solve this mystery to exonerate himself. Another body is found nearby, that of a white man with a rifle. Who is he, and why is he there? Was he to have been backup in case the killer missed his target?

While the murder mystery is an essential element of the novel, more important is the look at the relationships of the various characters, to each other and to the locale. The author's appreciation of Native American culture and the environment in which the story takes place is, as usual, sensitive and insightful. Jubal is an enigmatic character, almost too large to be believed. Cork, however, continues to grow with each new entry in the series.

Highly recommended.

Fun House
Chris Grabenstein
Pegasus Crime
80 Broad St., NY, NY 10005
9781605983363, $25.00,

The return, after a short hiatus, of John Ceepak and Danny Boyle, the odd couple cops in Sea Haven, NJ, combines satire and murder mystery. Ceepak, of course, is the straight arrow, do-it-by-the book character, while Boyle serves as his junior partner, asking questions and narrating the tale. And what a story it is.

It seems a TV production company chooses that fictional seaside town to house its reality show, "Fun House," in which six contestants vie for a quarter of million dollar prize. Unfortunately, the game encourages rowdie-ism, sex, and lots of beer drinking along the way. When things get out of hand, Ceepak and Boyle are assigned to head up a security detail to control things. But events turn from bad to worse when a cast member is murdered and they have to look for the murderer.

Latest in the series, this novel exhibits all the excellent characteristics of its predecessors: an unusual plot and lots of wise-cracking humor. These are always fun reads, and this one as well is recommended.

The Gershwins and Me:

A Personal History in Twelve Songs
Michael Feinstein
Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781451645309, $45.00,

Perusing this book is much like attending a cabaret performance by Michael Feinstein: It is replete with personal anecdotes and examples of the Great American Songbook. It is accompanied by a CD of 12 of the best Gershwin tunes. And the illustrations, many of which are from the author's personal collection amassed over decades, are not only impressive but a rare addition to an informative work.

At the age of 20, Feinstein became the personal assistant to Ira Gershwin, helping to catalog the work of perhaps the greatest songwriting team in American history [Ira with his brother, George, of course]. He spent six years at the task, which certainly qualifies him as one of the foremost authorities on his subject. The book not only addresses the Gershwins' impressive output, but the whole genre, which he dates back to the writing of Swanee. He suggests the tunes of George and lyrics of Ira, fresh and vital, helped to shape the attitudes, morals and beliefs of the 1920s, '30s and '40s. And beyond the Gershwins, he looks at the whole genre: Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, Rogers and Hart, Harry Warren and Harold Arlen, and how they were influenced by the brothers Gershwin.

In case you're wondering, the twelve songs are: "Strike Up the Band," "'S Wonderful," "I've Got a Crush on You," "They All Laughed," "Someone to Watch Over Me," "Embraceable You," "Who Cares?," "I Got Plenty of Nuthin'," "They Can't Take Than Away from Me," "I Got Rhythm," and "Love Is Here to Stay."

Not only are the Gerswins memorable, but this book will be as well: for its information and art. It certainly should, and will be, I am certain, a lot more than just a display on a coffee table. Highly recommended.

The Ridge
Michael Koryta
Back Bay Books
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10017
9780316053679, $14.99,

Mixing mystery with the supernatural, Michael Koryta has developed works that are eerie and fascinating, and "The Ridge" is no less than captivating. The plot is somewhat complicated, and it takes a while to follow the thread. And, of course, it requires suspension of disbelief. But it does hold the reader from start to finish.

The story involves a particular area in Kentucky where over a century or more, a series of accidents and deaths occur. In the midst of a forest, a drunkard has built a lighthouse. For what purpose? Then the man who built it is found dead by his own hand, oddly enough leaving a note asking chief deputy Kevin Kimble to investigate it. Meanwhile, a big-cat sanctuary has opened across the road, and the lions and tigers are uneasy in their new surroundings. What does it mean? Are there sinister forces at work?

Written with a keen eye, the novel moves rapidly from scene to scene. The characters are well-drawn and the surroundings described vividly, and the novel is recommended.

A Cold Day in Paradise
Steve Hamilton
Minotaur Books
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780250012685, $14.99,

This novel was the debut, in 1998, of the long-standing popular Alex McKnight series, introducing him as a Detroit cop, shot three times by a lunatic, forced to take a disability retirement three-quarters pension because one bullet remained near his heart and too dangerous to remove. So he left the Motor City and moved to the town of Paradise in the Upper Michigan Peninsula where his father had built several cabins for rental to hunters and winter recreationers. The man who shot him, one Maximilian Rose, also killed his partner and was sent away to a maximum prison for life plus 12 years, with no parole.

Fourteen years later, Alex becomes involved in a bizarre situation in which it appears that Rose is in Paradise. It all begins when his good friend, Edwin Fulton, a compulsive gambler, calls Alex for help in the middle of the night from a motel, where Alex discovers the bloody body of a bookmaker to whom Edwin was delivering $5,000. A couple of days later, another bookmaker is killed. Telephone calls and letters lead Alex to believe Rose is responsible. But how, if he is in prison?

As an initial effort, the book is somewhat uneven, but still supplies enough suspense and intrigue to keep the reader guessing right up to the unanticipated denouement. Some of the characters are wooden, especially the Soo, MI, police chief, but Alex shows the talent for becoming a first-class PI. And the subsequent installments certainly prove that.


Theodore Feit

James A. Cox
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