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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 5, Number 4 April 2005 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewers Recommend Arlene's Bookshelf Bethany's Bookshelf
Betty's Bookshelf Carey's Bookshelf Carroll's Bookshelf
Cheri's Bookshelf Christina's Bookshelf Christy's Bookshelf
Debra's Bookshelf Emanuel's Bookshelf Gary's Bookshelf
Glavas' Bookshelf Gorden's Bookshelf Harwood's Bookshelf
Henry's Bookshelf Linda's Bookshelf Magdalena's Bookshelf
Martha's Bookshelf Mayra's Bookshelf Molly's Bookshelf
Pogo's Bookshelf Robyn's Bookshelf Roger's Bookshelf
Taylor's Bookshelf Wickes' Bookshelf Zinta's Bookshelf

Reviewers Recommend

The Journey of Crazy Horse, A Lakota History
Joseph M. Marshall, III
Penguin Group, (USA) Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
ISBN 0670033553 $24.95 294 pages

B.A. Brittingham

If you are old enough to remember childhood games built on the budding imagination of youngsters rather than lines of computer programming, then you will recall such things as "Cops and Robbers" and "Cowboys and Indians." Who among us over the age of thirty-five can forget Saturday movie matinees where cheers erupted when a bugle heralded the arrival of soldiers coming to save besieged settlers from attacking 'savages'?

We were learning and playing out our burgeoning perceptions of good and evil. Cops and cowboys were good; robbers and Indians were bad.

This book reminds us that there is another side. Or maybe that much of the American experience is subjective. As the saying goes, "History is rewritten by the victors."

It is one of the reasons Lakota (Sioux) educator-historian Joseph M. Marshall has undertaken this biography of his childhood hero, Crazy Horse. In describing this revered warrior's life, we are told (or reminded) of the dishonesties perpetrated by white culture on indigenous people in the name of "Manifest Destiny."

We tend to hold suspect anything without a lengthy written chronicle to back it up. In an age when computerization allows instantaneous deletion or alteration of a word, this is an ironic attitude. Thus, we tend to ignore the ancient oral traditions of all tribes. Marshall gently takes us to task for this, by suggesting that the lopsided history we carry in our printed texts is inaccurate because we have chosen to exclude those who carry the other half of the story.

Marshall gives us the native peoples' view of several major Indian treaties of the mid-nineteenth century. We ought to feel shame in the face of our forbearers' manipulation of a group whose culture simply did not include most of the odd concepts that shaped these pacts. "The whites seemed to want to say where the land ended and where it began by drawing a picture on a parched hide. but who could find that line on the earth?"

Most regrettable is the fact that of the 371 treaties made with various indigenous people, it is we, the writers and inciters of those treaties, who have broken all 371. So much for national honor.

Of course in the nineteenth century the American Indian was regarded as being in almost the same class as black people imported to slavery. Labeling another society 'savage' or 'animal-like' provides a convenient pretext for asserting our alleged superiority while promoting whatever the current agenda is.

By sketching a picture derived from Lakota oral tradition of Crazy Horse's childhood and growth into a warrior, the author shows us something of the vanished Plains Indian way of life. Their child-rearing approach was far from 'savage.' All women were considered mothers, aunts, or grandmothers to a child whether or not there was a direct familial connection. Men were teachers, particularly when male children began to show curiosity about the knowledge they would need to function as adults. There were definite positive attributes that were to be cultivated if one was to stand proud before his own people. These included "generosity, courage, fortitude, and wisdom." Among Jews, a man is expected to be a mensch, a charitable, ethical, fulfilled person. The Lakota male had a similar goal to become wica, or complete. Bravery in battle was not always defined by killing as it was to the white. It was considered a greater show of courage to ride up and touch one's enemy leaving him to fight again.

Most military minds now accept that the Plains Indians were, in most cases, superior fighters, horsemen and tacticians. Their ability to live off the land allowed them to move swiftly using the element of surprise. (It is impossible to hide the cloud of dust generated by a hundred men dragging with them a herd of extra horses, supply wagons, and artillery.) These first people were defeated not by lack of civilized attitude, or absent valor, but by sheer force of numbers. Ultimately, what Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull and other leaders had to face was that they simply could not hold back the inundation of white settlers bent on taking "free" land.

Joseph Marshall brings alive a segment of time and a slice of the population that we descendants of the first Europeans conveniently ignore. This book is a valuable addition to any public or personal library. We cannot undo the creation of a reservation system that evolved into an economic ghetto, home to people who wished only to live close to the land without destroying it. But we should back positive legislation that could return to them confiscated territory or other recompense for what they have lost.

The Memory of Running
Ron McLarty
Viking Adult
ISBN: 0670033634 $24.95 368 pp.

Catherine Ekbert

Rating 4 stars

One could define Smithy Ide as a typical middle-aged loser - unmarried with a dead end job and nothing to do but eat and get drunk. We see them every day and pay little attention. Ron McLarty provides us with an extraordinary window into one such person. The Memory of Running is a rare opportunity to get to know Smithy Ide, the caring, big-hearted man who takes care of his mom and pop and constantly worries about his older sister Bethany, afflicted with the voice of a demon which despite numerous doctors and hospital stays, refuses to let her go.

All through his childhood, Smithy's own life takes a back seat to his sister's illness. As if this wasn't bad enough, his neighbor Norma insists upon intruding in his already dysfunctional family until a freak accident renders her a cripple.

Smithy experiences an awakening when his mom and pop are killed in a horrible automobile accident. He returns home to discover a letter addressed to his father concerning matching dental records and Bethany's body lying unclaimed in a morgue in California. He knows Norma is watching him from behind a closed blind in the house next door. He's felt her watching for years. Bethany's voice echoes through the empty house, 'Don't ever stop running Hook. If you stop, you become a fat ass."

Well, he did stop running and he did become a fat ass. Retracing his childhood haunts, he jumps on his old bike and rides down to the old fishing holes where he spent much of his time . . . and just keeps on going all the way to the west coast.

Ron McLarty produces a solid first novel with The Memory of Running. Told in the first person narrative, it is an insightful tale of the turning point for Smithy Ide, who both loses himself and finds himself on a cross country journey to claim his sister's body and reclaim a part of him that had been put on hold for too long. Along the way, he mends the rift between himself and Norma and finds in her a best friend who's loved him in silence for a very long time.

McLarty combines vibrant and real characters, a gripping plot of personal growth, and awe-inspiring descriptions of his cross-country adventure into an absolute joy of words. It has a relaxing start and pulls you into the story until you can't put the book down. The telephone relationship between Smithy and Norma begins as choppy and unclear dialogue and ends with the understanding of Norma's pain and Smithy's initial inability to cope with her accident when he was younger. The pace with which McLarty pulls the reader from past recollections to present day can be a bit exhausting, but the journey is well worth the effort.

Dress Your Children in Corduroy and Denim
David Sedaris
Little Brown and Company
1271 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
0316143464, $24.00, 257 pp

Coletta Ollerer

This is a light-hearted tour of the life of a dysfunctional family member, told in vignettes. The author's shock and aversion, as a 9 year old, when his mother required him to give the neighbor's children his Halloween candy the day after the holiday because they were not in town on October 31. "I knew it was just a matter of time before she came into my room and started collecting the candy herself, grabbing indiscriminately, with no regard to my rating system." (p10)

His Dad's unkept promise to purchase a beach home discourages the children. "We grew to think of him as an actor auditioning for the role of a benevolent millionaire. He'd never get the part but liked the way that the words felt in his mouth." (p28)

The geeky 12 year old boy's chagrin when he is invited to a sleep-over with three "gregarious and athletic boys, which meant that we had absolutely nothing in common." (p31) His parents insist that he attend

As a sixth grader he comes into contact with members of an "in" group discussing their rejected peers during a Labor Day Celebration at the Raleigh Country Club. "So complete was their (the "in" group's) power that I actually felt honored when one of them hit me in the mouth with a rock." (p44)

At 13 the author meets his first hippie. The boy gladly gives him his coke and potato chip money, 50 cents, and continues observing the hippie's 'cool'. "He (the hippie) was a grown-up's worst nightmare and I wanted to be just like him." (p75)

When the author was a young man, his parents invested in rental property. While his mother was the more personable one, he saw that "if a tenant wanted any kind of a break, he soon learned to go to my father, who displayed a level of compassion we rarely saw at home. His own children couldn't get a dime out of him." (p94) While assisting his father with clean-up of part of the property a tenant griped loudly about his efforts. "I was dragging a branch toward the curb, and he complained that in doing so, I was disturbing the integrity of his yard, which was alternately bald and overgrown and had all the integrity of a litter box." (99)

As an adult traveling in a foreign land, the author attempts to get the 'feel' for the country by asking probing questions of the natives. In the Netherlands, he spoke to a person named Oscar about the Dutch version of Santa Claus. Oscar described how Saint Nicholas "arrives by boat and then transfers to a white horse." (p160) The author asked if he were alone or in the company of elves. "Maybe I'm overly sensitive, but I couldn't help but feel personally insulted when Oscar denounced the very idea as grotesque and unrealistic. 'Elves,' he said. 'They are just so silly.'" (p160)

The author speaks of meeting the future wife of his brother. "I finally met the girlfriend, a licensed hairdresser named Kathy. Erase the tattoos and the nicotine patch and she resembled one of those tranquil Flemish Madonnas, the ubiquitous Christ child replaced by a hacking pug. Her grace, her humor, her fur-matted sweaters -- we loved her immediately." (p169)

David Sedaris' manner of interpreting the world is thoroughly enjoyable.

Pitch Like A Girl: How A Woman Can Be Herself And Still Succeed
Ronna Lichtenberg
Rodale Press 800-848-4735
ISBN 1594860092 $23.95 346 Pages

Peter Hupalo

Ronna Lichtenberg wrote Pitch Like A Girl: How A Woman Can Be Herself And Still Succeed to help women learn to promote themselves and get what they want in business and in life.

Lichtenberg writes: "A pitch is using your influence, skills, and powers of persuasion to gain support and to get people to do what you want them to do. Pitching is about enlisting someone's support for your goals. It's about asserting your vision of what should happen, asking for support, and making it clear to the other party why it's in their best interests to come along with you for the ride. When you pitch, you are basically saying to someone, 'I need your resources to make my idea happen.'"

Lichtenberg points out that we pitch in many situations, not only in business situations, such as applying for a job, seeking a promotion, or trying to raise capital for a new business, but also in non-business situations, such as seeking to get the best medical care available or influencing one's spouse.

However, many women aren't natural self-promoters, and a lack of pitching skills holds many women back.

Lichtenberg writes: " when we tell ourselves it's okay not to pitch, we give ourselves permission to be smaller, duller, and less complete than we otherwise could be. Yet it's choosing to rip yourself out of your comfort zone that will make all the difference in your life. If you don't go where the fear is, you somehow live a lesser life."

Lichtenberg tells us that research into leadership styles shows men and women lead in different ways. Successful men tend to distance themselves from those below them in the business-food-chain and tend to take things relatively impersonally. For successful women, on the other hand, authority and power often come from connecting to people. The least successful women executives are those who try to imitate male leadership styles that don't match their inner style.

Pitch Like A Girl: How A Woman Can Be Herself And Still Succeed discusses many of the "brain sex" differences between men and women. For example, MRI brain scans show female brains tend to be better at multitasking. Women were " always doing a zillion things at once: tending our own and others' children, gathering food and preparing it. Men, as hunters, needed to pay deep attention to the one critter that would become dinner. Our brains are still operating on the same wiring."

Research shows male brains tend to be stronger at systematizing, while female brains tend to be stronger at empathizing. Lichtenberg calls those who focus more upon relationship building the "pinks." Those who focus most upon the task at hand are called the "blues."

Men tend to be blues. Women tend to be pinks. But, Lichtenberg says many people have a "stripped" style, utilizing the strengths of both blues and pinks. And, some women, such as Martha Stewart, tend to have a natural blue leadership style.

Lichtenberg writes: " you can even go for rose navy, aquamarine, indigo, fuchsia (just don't tell a blue guy you think of him as a lovely aquamarine)" (or a cornball yellow). Men tend to have less color vocabulary than women. We also learn that men tend to interrupt more, being responsible for 98% of conversational interruptions.

Lichtenberg says that many women tend to pitch pink to blues and, thus, seem unfocused to the blues. Lichtenberg suggests that "In any business situation, if you can't detect the color of your prospect immediately, go blue."

Lichtenberg does a great job discussing motivational differences between men and women. While men tend to view success in purely financial terms, women tend to have a more complex view of what being successful means.

To help women learn to be more assertive, Lichtenberg develops the concept of "Me, Inc." which gives women "a way to toggle mentally out of a relationship perspective, out of responding to other people's feelings, reactions, and desires, long enough to get a fix on what is fair in the marketplace."

I highly recommend Pitch Like A Girl: How A Woman Can Be Herself And Still Succeed to both men and women who want to improve their pitching skills.

Book Marketing From A-Z: 300+ authors share their best strategies
Francine Silverman
Infinity Publishing
1094 New Dehaven Street, Suite 100, West Conshohocken, PA 19428-2713
ISBN: 0741424312, $18.95 400 pp.

Liana Metal, Reviewer

Very Highly Recommended

Francine Silverman, a former newspaper reporter and freelance writer, has also authored Catskills Alive and Long Island Alive. Book Marketing From A-Z was written to assist fellow writers market their book through the experiences of others.

The book is divided into numerous short chapters, all of which are full of tips and best expert advice on how to promote your book. The Internet section is exceptionally interesting, as it is a very popular way of book promoting and caters to a wider audience. All eight subsections are packed with invaluable information no serious writer can ignore.

Moreover, the information on Special sections, such as Ghost Writing, Resume Writing and Web Designing are very useful and highly interesting for all writers. The originality of this book lies in the fact that all sections are represented by a variety of writers who tell themselves how they promoted their book and the results of their attempts. Each entry is enriched by web links the readers can access and, thus, search the sites of their preference.

BOOK MARKETING From A-Z saves the writer precious time , as it is really a concise guide to Book Marketing , easy to search and unique in its kind. The information included is undoubtedly invaluable to writers, as is it first-hand advice from over 300 authors and publicists. There is reference to all genres in the table of contents at the beginning of the book, so as to facilitate searching. It is an original book that is not only practical, but encouraging as well; a book that deserves to be read cover-to-cover!

Noah and the Ziz
Jacqueline Jules
Illustrated by Katherine Janus Kahn
Kar-Ben Publishing, Inc.
A Division of Lerner Publishing Group
241 First Avenue North, Minneapolis, MN 55401 USA 1-800-4KARBEN
ISBN 1580131212; $7.95 32 pp.

Lynne Marie Pisano

Picture Book (Hardback), Ages 5 - 8

The story of Noah's Ark has fascinated people for centuries. Notably, this unusual version of the story features a lesser-known biblical character, the Ziz. The introduction of this strange bird in the title proved a point of intrigue for me. Supposedly, the Ziz is a monstrous, mythical bird created by God on the fifth day. I don't recall ever hearing about this creature and am not certain why or how it's connected to Noah's story. No author note clears up any confusion a reader like myself might have.

The summary relates a story about a huge and clumsy, but well meaning bird. I did not get a sense of this from the text. Instead, I met with a reckless character who rushes too much in spite of Noah's words of wisdom (the story problem). Of course, this wouldn't be so much a problem to a reader if the summary didn't promise something different. And, while the storytelling was mostly intact, certain details proved irritating in the reading.

The story has a good moral, although a somewhat heavy-handed one. Most disturbing though, is that even after the Ziz learns his lesson, he brags about his speed on the last page. While both the story and the illustrations (drawn in black ink and colored in bold watercolors) strived to please, they were just not to my taste.

Keep Reading!

Imogene of the Pacific Kingdom
Teresa Saari
Trafford Publishing
ISBN: 1412016428 $10.99 233 pages

Shirley Roe, Reviewer

Five-year old Imogene finds herself living alone with her crotchety Aunt Agnes. Imogene and Agnes live in a mansion with a forbidden "east wing" and although the sea is right below the window, swimming in it is not allowed. Her Mother Elsie has promised to return in five years but her reason for leaving is unknown to our little heroine. Imogene's only friend is Sampson, the butler and five years later the two find themselves down by the sea in the dark of night. Here the adventure begins. Imogene finds her way to a mysterious land under the sea, much like life on the surface but new and delightful. Here she learns why her Mother had to leave and why she too may never return to the surface.

Canadian author Teresa Saari's vivid imagination brings the characters to life. The magical Kingdom under the sea reminds us of Atlantis. Older children will delight in sharing Imogene's adventures in the Pacific Kingdom both happy and troublesome but always entertaining. Imogene of the Pacific Kingdom is the winner of the Allbook Reviews Editor's Choice for 2004 in the Children's genre.

Watch for other books in the series. Dager of the Tasman Empire to released late 2004. Available at

Business Daffynitions: Humor from the Workplace
Joe Heuer
Daffynitions Press
Glendale, WI
ISBN: 0964761858 $9.95 128 pages

Sandra Hosking, Reviewer

Happiness is seeing your boss's face on the side of a milk carton.

Stupidity is a pre-existing condition not covered by insurance.

Quips like these can be found in Business Daffynitions: Humor from the Workplace, a collection of workplace "definitions" by motivational speaker and author, Joe Heuer. Heuer has assembled more than 300 witticisms, puns, and one-liners lampooning cubicle culture from the mail room to the sales floor to the boardroom.

Middle managers, for instance, are "people who are out of the loop, but stuck in the run-around."

Attention spam is "the time it takes to decide whether an e-mail is worth reading."
Many of the book's mock definitions are certainly worth posting on the cubicle wall or computer monitor.

Daffynitions seems to lack organization, however. The definitions aren't listed in any particular order-alphabetical or grouped by category-making it difficult to find that chuckle-sparking item.

Although most of the definitions are tightly written, some are cluttered by language, making the punch line hard to grasp immediately, which invariably ruins the joke. The definition of grumble, for example, is "what employees do both when they do and when they do not receive what's coming to them." And, I'm still wondering how Heuer's explanation of corporate policy connects: "Limping along until the new system is in place ... ."

Still, Heuer shows his insightfulness with elucidations that are almost too true. That raise you got last month is only "a monetary amount large enough to increase your taxes, yet small enough to have no effect on your take-home pay," Heuer writes.

Priced at a recommended $9.95, management may not start giving the book away in place of a coffee mug; however, Daffynitions almost certainly will rise to "pass around" status.

If the book is not enough, Daffynition fans can visit Heuer's Web site at where they can sign up to receive a new jape each day via e-mail.

Heuer is the founder of JoeSpeaks!, a Wisconsin-based speaking, training, and consulting company. He is the author of The Wit and Wisdom of a Regular Joe and The Idiot-Proof Guide to Customer Loyalty.

Arlene's Bookshelf

No Ocean Deep
Cate Swannell
Yellow Rose Books
PMB 210, 8691 9th Avenue, Port Arthur, TX 77642-8025
ISBN: 1932300368; $18.95; 305 pages

No Ocean Deep is the much anticipated sequel to Cate Swannell's outstanding freshman novel, Heart's Passage. As Cadie Jones gazes at her sleeping lover, Jo Madison, she thinks, "We have so many loose ends to tidy up before life settles down for us" (p.5). Little does Cadie realize that the previous six weeks, which she and Jo have shared, will pale in comparison to what lies ahead for the attractive couple. Set in the Australian tropics where Jo operates a pricey yacht-for-charter business, the women soon find their path to happiness and a stable future will take them far from their spectacularly idyllic Great Barrier Reef to the clamorous activity of Chicago, the home of Senator Naomi Silverberg, Cadie's former lover, who does not take kindly to rejection. When Cadie decides to unconditionally settle things with Naomi and Jo opts to reveal her lurid past to her estranged family, the course of events far exceeds their wildest imaginings. The Senator from Illinois has had a difficult time in the political arena, and more significantly, her precariously tenuous hold on her sanity has transformed her into an even more treacherous enemy. For Josie, it has been fifteen years since she left her family in Coonyabby. Secrets furtively kept too long, love twisted into obsession, and horrifying violence ultimately coalesce to create for Jo and Cadie a perilous journey which could alter their lives forever.

Writing a successful sequel for a popular book can be a daunting task. However, Swannell has managed to do so quite effectively. The beginning of the sequel provides just enough information for the reader which makes having had to have read the first book irrelevant. No Ocean Deep could very well be a stand-alone novel. For those who have read Heart's Passage, they will find the segue between the books to be seamlessly credible. The opening scene has an easy natural flow to it that immediately immerses the reader in the action. The main characters' personalities are rapidly established, and quickly the reader finds Jo and Cadie to be a most congenial, amusing, and committed couple, two women anyone would desire to know better. They are realistic, round, three-dimensional characters, and the dialogue between these two women has that special quality of familiarity and intimacy. The playful give and take and the endearing repartee show the reader that they are indeed intelligent, witty, and caring individuals who belong together.

There is a tranquil, comfortably languid sense to various portions of the book. Swannell manages to capture that laid-back tropical feeling in her setting. "The sun blazed out of a cloudless blue sky and the yacht bobbed gently on a calm jewel-green ocean" (p. 9). She is equally adept at creating a vivid picture of the Australian outback, "Its harsh lines and dry colors shimmered in the oppressive heat" (p. 89). The place descriptions along with the occasional Aussie slang envelope the reader; one easily becomes part of Jo's and Cadie's environment. Swannell is equally adept at creating the tone and atmosphere of Chicago. From the bureaucratic tedium of O'Hare airport to the congenial banter of a taxi driver, the author creates a distinct departure from the first half of the novel.

There is no hidden symbolism here, no profound philosophical commentary. What is here is simply good, old-fashioned, straightforward romantic storytelling. When Cadie and the Senator meet again, the story assumes a much darker and more malevolent tone and mood. Masterful use of foreshadowing enables the suspense to build incrementally, and then the reader is squarely in the midst of this terrifying confrontation. Swannell has created one of lesbian fiction's more perverse antagonists in the figure of Naomi Silverberg. For her, charming and rational are only a stone's throw away from diabolical and psychotic. The good senator is indeed someone the reader loves to hate.

Swannell's secondary characters are first-rate additions to the storyline. Jo's father, David, reticently displays all of the emotional pain, ambivalence, and bewilderment of a parent whose child has inexplicably disappeared and then has re-emerged after fifteen years of no contact. Conversely, Maggie, Jo's more demonstrative mother, reacts as the reader would hope, "Don't you worry about that. If you're happy, that's all I care about" (p. 94).

No Ocean Deep is a genuine delight to read. It is capably written in a prose style which swiftly carries the reader from page to page. The sexual scenes are sensual and satisfying, the action scenes are energetic and suspenseful, the characters are appealing and unpretentious, and the conflicts are resolved in a satisfying and logical scheme. Cate Swannell's No Ocean Deep is unquestionably worth reading. It is that type of novel that captivates the reader with its first few pages and maintains that focused interest throughout the totally compelling journey.

The Intersection of Law and Desire
J.M. Redmann
Bywater Books
P.O. Box 3671, Ann Arbor, MI 48106-3671
ISBN: 1932859012; $12.95; 357 pages

In 2004, a relatively new lesbian press, Bywater Books, has re-printed J. M. Redmann's award-winning novel, The Intersection of Law and Desire, the third installment of the four-book Micky Knight series. The intervening ten years have neither diminished the emotional power of this book nor rendered it a literary anachronism in any way. Redmann has created a complex and multifaceted female private investigator unlike others found in this genre. At times brash, aloof, even morose, Micky Knight is a reflection of the Louisiana bayou where she was raised and the seamy underbelly of the New Orleans which provides her often distasteful livelihood. Quietly vulnerable yet ruthlessly straightforward, Micky is an intricate woman whose personal demons color her every professional action and personal interaction. Through Redmann's carefully constructed articulation of every nuance of her main character, she has created a woman about whom the reader cannot remain ambivalent. Micky is no superhero, no Wonder Woman. What she is is a woman beset with petty foibles, exaggerated perceptions, and often sardonically cynical and contemptuous words. However, despite this seemingly callous fa‡ade, the reader discovers a worthy, valiant, and ethical woman whose perspective on life is quite simple. When told to let the law deal with an egregious adversary, Micky responds, "The law? I want justice" (p. 355). This simple statement serves as the thematic underpinning for Redmann's story and proclaims one of the few certainties in the detective's life.

Micky is working two cases, one involving the young daughter of a friend and the other the discontented relative of her lover, Dr. Cordelia James. As she delves deeper into what initially appear to be disparate circumstances, Micky soon discovers that prostitution, drugs, pornography, and an exclusive private club's clientele are all intertwined. Events will spiral beyond her control, test her increasingly tenuous relationship, and cause her to finally verbalize and examine her early childhood experiences from a new perspective.

Redmann has crafted a multi-layered narrative with outstanding prose. The word choice is rich and evocative of the New Orleans setting. Following a lead, Micky drives through a rough section of town to locate a bar. "Heart of Desire sat on one corner, a tawdry whore of a bar" (p. 137). The dialogue is extremely well written, often times poignant, witty, and figurative. To enhance the characterization the author frequently has Micky reflect her world-weary attitude through a sardonic or self-deprecating comment. Micky is the quintessential hard-boiled private eye doing all the things good detectives do. Yet, when she ventures beyond the scope of her profession, the reader recognizes an emotionally crippled woman, who at best, is reaching for a lifeline with one hand while cutting it with the other. Redmann has created a profoundly memorable character with whom the reader genuinely empathizes. Despite her trenchant flaws and human failings, Micky conscientiously attempts to put things right, to replace chaos with some degree of order, to save those she can, if not herself.

Redmann's stylish depiction of ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances has and will continue to withstand the test of time. The Micky Knight novels are intricately developed with meticulously drawn characterizations and thoroughly satisfying action scenes. Micky's casual sexual encounters in the novel serve the reader more to illustrate her inadequacies rather than to titillate. Her intimate scenes with Cornelia display a range of emotions: tenderness, obligation, humor, and anguish. Micky and Cornelia are in so many ways complete opposites. Yet, each woman recognizes in the other that essential component each needs to give her life purpose and a measure of joy.

Redmann's use of the first person point of view is a fairly common device used in detective fiction, but to write the story in any other would certainly detract from the immediacy the reader feels with the protagonist. Micky does have tunnel vision when it comes to certain things in her life, but through this storytelling device, the reader has a better understanding of her motivation, her rationale for acting the way she does, even when it is detrimental to her or those around her. The tone of the story is clearly established through the first person voice. It strips away the layers of pretense, excess, and perplexity in a way that enables the reader to experience a visceral rather than a passive response. Redmann's superlative pacing keeps the action-oriented scenes swiftly moving along with twists and turns that are deftly developed. There is a kind of film noir quality to Micky and her world of crime, deception, and banal immorality. At the same time, Redmann explores those intrinsic qualities like loyalty and compassion that many aspire to yet few achieve. And, it is all done through the steamy haze of the Big Easy and the enigmatic bayou.

The Intersection of Law and Desire is further confirmation that J. M. Redmann is an author of detective novels which transcend the typical format. Her distinctly literary style sets Redmann apart from the others. She has created a memorable persona in the anti-heroine Micky Knight. This is a character who resonantly affects the reader through Micky's arduous struggles to seek both redemption and affirmation. If you are searching for that detective story with depth, style, and quality writing, this novel will not disappoint you. Having read and immensely appreciated all four books in the Knight series, this reviewer hopes that there will indeed be a fifth installment.

Imperfect Past: Book Three of the Boston Friends' Series
Jessica Casavant
Yellow Rose Books
PMB 210, 8691 9th Avenue, Port Arthur, TX 77642-8025
ISBN: 1932300341; $16.95; 197 pages

Imperfect Past is the third installment of Jessica Casavant's Boston Friends' Series. Jamie Saunders, a Boston PD detective, and her partner Alex Ryan are investigating the murder of an eight year-old girl. This heinous crime has affected Jamie far more than most cases, and it's beginning to take its emotional toll. Her already vulnerable condition is further exacerbated by an additional case, the murder in a posh downtown hotel of Chief Justice Reynolds, a man whose identity Jamie would rather not delve into for a variety of personal reasons. Complicate this situation even more when Jamie discovers that her partner in a casual one-night stand during the night of the murder, Shane Scott, is now a prime suspect! By withholding evidence and committing various sins of omission, Jamie attempts to solve these cases on her own. As the events intensify, Jamie Saunders' actions threaten her relationships, jeopardize her job with the police department, and plunge her self-esteem to an unprecedented low. Willing to neither examine her troubling past nor ponder her uncertain future, Detective Saunders seems to be descending into a morass from which she sees no deliverance.

One of the advantages of the Casavant Boston Friends' series of books is that the main characters skillfully float in and out of the plotlines in each novel so that the reader can enjoy them in no particular order. The close circle of friends presents alternating main characters for each story. Each woman has her moment while the others provide supporting details. This enables the author to explore through her continuing narrative the many plot possibilities for each character.

Casavant's writing style is forthright with the emphasis upon dialogue. As the characters speak to one another, one has the sense that she is listening to authentic conversation. The tone used, especially that of Jamie, deftly conveys the conundrum that this woman believes has enveloped her. Even incidental speeches in their frank and concise manner serve to move the story along at a rapid tempo. Credible dialogue augments not only the characters but the actions of those characters. When Jamie asks Shane a question and is promptly told to "Go to hell," Jamie responds, "Thanks anyway. I've been there since I first laid eyes on you" (p. 52).

The author has created conflict on several levels throughout her storytelling, and the unexpected twists and turns experienced by the characters immerse the reader in a web of deceit so absorbing that one logically discovers along with the detectives just where the pieces fall into the puzzle. Far too many books solve their mysteries without a hint of credible or legitimate foreshadowing, and this inevitably will cause the reader to feel somehow deceived. Casavant writes a plausible and satisfying denouement.

The sexual encounters are tastefully explicit. One can sense the uncertainty, ambivalence, tenderness, and confusion when Jamie interacts with her partners. The irony of a brief, emotionally meaningless dalliance's affecting the course of so many lives is skillfully written, from the clever barroom pick up to the reaction of Alex to Jamie's involvement. There is a commendable balance of romance and mystery here which is attributable to Casavant's understanding of pacing.

Imperfect Past is well worth the investment of time for the reader. It is a tightly written novel with interesting plot devices, likable characters, and pleasing Boston and its environs setting. This is a worthy addition to Casavant's series. Having read all three installments, with Twist of Fate (Book One) still my favorite segment, I look forward to the release of the fourth novel in the series.

A Guarded Heart
Jennifer Fulton
Yellow Rose Books
PMB 210, 8691 9th Avenue, Port Arthur, TX 77642-8025
ISBN: 1932300376; $16.95; 194 pages

Jennifer Fulton's fourth and thoroughly enjoyable entry in her Moon Island Series is entitled A Guarded Heart. Lauren Douglas, a closeted lesbian, plays the starring role in the hit daytime soap opera, Dr. Kate. The twenty-eight year-old actress is also the daughter of a powerful politician, Congressman Wendall Douglas III. When Lauren is publicly outed by a spurned unfaithful former lover, her acting career and the public reputation of her father are placed at risk. Making this awkward situation even more troublesome is a devoted fan of Dr. Kate, a fanatical young man who feels personally betrayed by the revelation of Lauren's sexual identity. So offended is he that he tracks Lauren to a parking garage, and there, after an irrational rant, he shoots her and flees the scene. While the gunman is still at large, Congressman Douglas decides to take no further chances with his daughter's safety. He hires a female bodyguard, FBI Special Agent Pat Rousell, who is currently on leave from a harrowing serial murder case, and dispatches them to a remote island in the South Pacific, called Moon Island, where they will remain until the gunman is apprehended. Lauren and Pat could not be any more dissimilar, but they must now forge some kind of tenable relationship for the duration of Lauren's exile. These two captivating and competent women will now face challenges which will forever change their lives.

Jennifer Fulton begins her novel with an amusing scene on the set of Dr. Kate. "Lauren ripped off her mask and gloves and tossed them on the operating floor. 'Am I removing a kidney or a leg?' "(p. 1) The strong opening immediately engages the reader and creates that essential appeal for continuing reading. In many instances, if an author has not hooked the audience in those first few pages or even by the end of chapter one, the magic is not going to occur. Fulton manages to achieve this with humor and an unconventional setting. The storyline flows effortlessly; one scene segues consistently into the next. This thorough development of plot is enhanced by the author's skill in blending the narrative portion with the dialogue. Tension and conflict are created and sustained with a tightly controlled technique, suspense is gradually intensified, and the resolutions for the various conflicts are presented in credible prose, realistic dialogue, and viable action scenes. Fulton skillfully executes that primary requisite of successful writing, the suspension of disbelief.

Lauren and Pat are two engaging women; they are protagonists with whom the reader can empathize and connect. They are tenacious, capable, assertive women who have both experienced painful past relationships. Pat comes equipped with the necessary FBI fire power, but more importantly and detrimentally, with emotional barriers she has developed over a lifetime. On the other hand, Lauren, despite her bravado and immaturity, is a woman who desperately wants to find the path that will enable her to feel that she has a contribution to make beyond her television role. She possesses the wherewithal to make that difference, if she only knew what it was she wanted to do with her life. These two women would seem to be an odd couple, but their passionate encounters reveal something beneath the surface for both of them. As the action escalates toward the climax, the dangers become more blatant and the shared misinterpretations and preconceptions of intent become more perplexing. It has become increasingly more obvious that Lauren and Pat each must make crucial life-altering decisions and each must live with the consequences and possible repercussions.

A Guarded Heart is a story with several themes, and it is a novel which can be interpreted on several levels. However, it is, first and foremost, an excellent example of the romance genre. Substantial and realistic characters with problematic situations create an intense and dramatic story. Fluid and believable dialogue strengthens the development of the characterization. Obstacles, both tangible and intangible, provide the necessary impetus for the characters to change, grow, and hopefully succeed. As important as the setting is in a novel, it isn't the lush tropical paradise surrounding Lauren and Pat that enthralls and satisfies the reader. It is the wondrous metamorphosis each woman experiences which this reader found often poignant and heartbreaking, but more importantly, emphatically and profoundly reaffirming.

Sudden Loss of Serenity
Jacqueline Wallen
New Victoria
PO Box 27, Norwich, VT 05055
ISBN: 189228121X; $12.95; 191 pages

Dr. Claire Winston, a college professor, awakens to a day unlike any other. There has been a brutally violent murder of a woman; ironically, the body has been discovered in the local cemetery. Claire's best friend and neighbor, Marlene Lundstrom, fails to keep an early morning appointment with her. Then, to make matters even more appalling, she discovers that her teenage daughter, Serenity, is missing. Soon, Claire realizes that the deceased is Marlene, and there appears to be a connection between her dear friend's demise and her absent child. Unbeknownst to Claire, apparently both Marlene and Serenity were involved in a Buddhist group, led by a monk called Sonam, practicing Chod, the ancient ritual of releasing demons. Events slowly unfold, shocking revelations surface, and the most personal of secrets are revealed, but Serenity has yet to be found. Claire Winston will discover how little she knew about the two people closest to her, and she will finally be forced to deal with some personal issues of her own.

Jacqueline Wallen's first novel is a commendable effort. It has an original mystery premise, an array of intriguing characters, elements of suspense, more than a few red herrings, and a realistic denouement between mother and child. The Buddhist slant and its impact for some of the main characters are also a refreshing departure from the more common and formulaic mystery plots. Wallen's writing style moves the storyline along at a swift pace. The first few chapters engage the reader by not revealing too hastily the important plot elements. Although some may question the plausibility of the resolution to the crime and this reader might have made an adjustment or two, this is such a minor point that it fails to detract from the overall quality of story.

Sudden Loss of Serenity has several memorable characters, people who are distinctly original and well-crafted. Claire plays well as the distraught and confused protagonist whose witty retorts serve to deflect her true feelings. Sharon Goldstein, the police detective in charge of the investigation, is low key, sardonic at times, and thoroughly enjoyable. Harry, the distraught widower, plays the suffering and betrayed husband with enough anger and stupidity to make one experience his situation. Wallen also captures the essence of speaking to teenage girls when she attempts to get some answers from one of Serenity's friends. "Prying information out of Allison was like opening one of those heavy duty shrink-wrappers, she seemed hermetically sealed" (p. 18). The dialogue is right on the mark. The reader feels she is actually standing nearby listening to these typical exchanges of teenage ambiguity and equivocation.

The interaction among characters drives the plot much more than the actual crime. This diverse group of characters sustains the interest of the reader, and as one becomes more familiar with them, one realizes that this development of personalities is the central focus of the story. Complex situations and relationships make for excellent narrative material, and Wallen manages quite handily to deliver both.

Sudden Loss of Serenity is a quirky, amusing, fiction delight. This first person narrative is an enjoyable way to spend a few hours with the citizens of the sleepy little village of Hector's Mill. The conclusion certainly provides a graceful and logical segue to into a sequel. This reader would very much like to continue getting to know Dr. Winston.

The Trouble Boy
Tom Dolby
Kensington Books
850 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10022
ISBN: 0758206178; $14.00; 262 pages

Toby Griffin is a twenty-two year-old Yale graduate with a degree in film studies. However, he is the first one to admit that instead of finding " .the promised light and truth to those who passed through its portals," "What I found instead was beer and boys" (p. 3). His parents have given him an ultimatum of one year in which to prove himself in screenwriting, or he must return home to San Francisco and work in his father's biotech business. At the same time Toby is desperately trying to achieve his fortune and fame, he is desperate to find the love of his life. At a party, Toby meets Jaime Weissman, a gay banker, and is introduced to his circle of friends. Jamie tells Toby about a job opening as an online nightlife editor. To say that Toby throws himself body and soul into this new assignment would be the grossest of understatements. Toby believes that plunging into this enthralling scene, replete with all the alcohol, sex, and drugs he could possibly desire, is his free ticket to breaking into the movie business. As he begins to live the New York City life he has always fantasized, he finds that obtaining one's dream may come with a few strings attached. The decisions he makes could alter the course of not only his superficial life but also the complicated lives of those he knows. The path to some semblance of maturity, self-acceptance, and realistic expectations is a convoluted one for this young man. Toby's life spirals towards the actualization of the old clich‚, be careful what you wish for.

Tom Dolby has managed to capture the Manhattan scene and the pretentious quest for success at all costs through his often acerbic and witty depiction of Toby, a sort of Everyboy here. His vivid, convincing, and provocative account of Toby's character flaws, and there are many, is symbolic of all those eager young gay boys who traipse to the Big Apple to grasp the brass ring, which in the end, is nothing more than a quest not to wind up alone and forgotten.

Dolby has created in Toby a memorable young man for whom the reader can feel some degree of empathy. Herein is a shallow, narcissistic, naive, and at times, pathetic individual. Yet through Dolby's forthright and droll style of writing, the reader still finds Toby a likable person. Despite his questionable and at times self-serving actions, Toby is a protagonist the reader hopes will overcome all adversaries, especially himself.

The Trouble Boy is a much more than a promising freshman novel. Fast pacing, clever dialogue, amusing and engaging characters, and a real understanding about which he writes make this book a pleasurable way to spend a few hours. This world of twenty- something gay men clambering to find their places in the economic as well as the social scheme of things is a quest that the reader will not soon forget. Tom Dolby has indeed laid the groundwork for an entertaining sequel.

Arlene Germain

Bethany's Bookshelf

The Long Ride
Don Regier & Karen Pritchett
KidsZone/Kregel Publications
PO Box 2607, Grand Rapids, MI 49501
0825435773 $12.99 1-800-733-2607

Expertly written by Don Regier and deftly illustrated by Karen Pritchett, The Long Ride is actually two stories in one "flip it over" book. One one side it's the story of a child's search for his family when they get separated in a large Chinese city. Flip it over and it's the story of the family's search for their missing young one! The alagorical message is one of adoption and the family of God. Bright, detailed color illustrations bring the hustle and bustle of a busy city to life, in this entertaining two-part tale recommended for young readers age 5 and up.

The Coat Of Many Colors
Jenny Koralek & Pauline Baynes
Eerdmans Books for Young Readers
c/o Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
255 Jefferson Avenue, S.E., Grand Rapids, MI 49503
0802852777 $16.00 1-800-253-7521

Elegantly illustrated by the artwork of Pauline Baynes, The Coat Of Many Colors by Jenny Koralek is a picturebook retelling the Biblical story of Joseph. When his ten brothers became jealous of his coat of many colors, they decided to teach him a lesson. Joseph was sold into slavery - yet his astounding gift to interpret dreams would come to the pharaoh's attention, and Joseph taught him how to protect the land from the threat of famine. One day Joseph and his brothers would meet again, with repentance filling the brothers' hearts, all of them far wiser than they once were so many years ago. A powerful and timeless legend.

The Legend Of The Sand Dollar
Chris Auer & Rick Johnson
Zondervan Publishing House
5300 Patterson Avenue, S.E., Grand Rapids, MI 49530
0310707803 $15.99

Illustrated with a superb elegance of grace and form by Rick Johnson, The Legend Of The Sand Dollar: An Inspirational Story Of Hope For Easter by Chris Auer is the story of an eight-year-old girl who learns the story of Easter in the sand dollar. The five holes in the sand dollar shell (only dead sand dollars wash up on beaches, and live sand dollars shouldn't be collected, the author notes in the very back of the book) symbolize the nails and the spear that pierced Jesus Christ, who died for humanity's sins. And when the sand dollar is broken, there appear five white particles representing doves and their promise of new life - the promise of Easter. A tender and heartwarming story of renewal.

A Hat For Ivan
Max Lucado & David Wenzel
Crossway Books
1300 Crescent Street, Wheaton, IL 60187
1581344147 $15.99 1-800-323-3890

Max Lucado's books for readers of all ages have made him one of the most popular writers of books for a Christian readership. Engagingly illustrated by David Wenzel, Lucado's A Hat For Ivan is an original picturebook story that wonderfully captures a very special truth -- everyone was made by God for a special purpose. This is the story of the hatmaker's son, who sees his father create the perfect hat for each person. But when Ivan is worried about his future, he tries on all sorts of hats - musician, baker, firefighter - and none of them seem to fit! The feel heavy and ridiculous, and make him feel tired. At the end of the day, his father offers him some choice words of wisdom; there will be a hat - and a life - meant just for him, based on what he most likes to do. Highly recommended.

Susan Bethany

Betty's Bookshelf

This Old Souse: A Bed-and-Breakfast Mystery
Mary Daheim
William Morrow
HarperCollins Publishers Inc.
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
ISBN 0380978695; $23.95

Writers are often told, "Write what you know." Apparently, Mary Daheim really took it to
heart. Not only does she base many of the characters in her books on family members
(who don't seem to mind), her mysteries are all set in Washington, her home state, with
the Emma Lord series set in Alpine (the Washington mill town Daheim's family lived in
before she was born) and the Bed-and-Breakfast series, starring owner/operator Judith
Flynn and her cousin Renie, set in Daheim's hometown of Seattle.

Seattle isn't just Daheim's hometown, either; she still lives in Seattle, and its scenery, its
weather, its way of life permeate each of her mysteries. Check out the following
paragraphs (both taken from This Old Souse, her latest B&B title) and see what I mean:

"Just three days away from the start of summer, the spring shrubs, trees, and bulbs had faded away. The grass was green, the leaves were glossy, and some of the roses were in full bloom. But the sky was overcast, the temperature lingered in the midfifties, and there was a 40 percent chance of rain. It was, Judith knew, a typical June day in the Pacific Northwest. [pg. 2]"

"The sun, which had sneaked a peek at the city earlier in the morning, had now gone behind dark clouds. Renie, however, kept her sunglasses on. Not only did she have a chronic eye problem, she was a typical Northwest resident who insisted she was so unused to the sun that its irregular appearances bothered her eyes. Judith never argued [with her]. They lived in a city that bought more sunglasses per capita than any other place in the United States. Renie referred to the locals - especially the natives - as Mole People. [pg. 89]"

See? Pure Seattle!

In This Old Souse, Daheim's twentieth B&B book, Judith and Renie have their hands full with husbands (ex-cop Joe and retired psychologist and consultant Bill), cantankerous elderly moms (Gertrude and Deborah), the B&B's religious zealot maid (Phyliss) and psychotic cat, demanding careers, and goings-on at their church, Our Lady, Star of the Sea. Despite it all, though, they seem to have time to get into lots of trouble. This time, at least, it's Renie's fault.

Ever since she lived in the neighborhood as a child, Renie's been obsessed with the
family that lived in the rundown (and apparently deserted) manse on nearby Moonfleet
Street. Who lives there? Why does no one ever seem to come in or out? What's with the
kids' toys in the front yard, the regular food orders that don't look big enough to feed a
whole family, and the annual package delivered UPS from Austria? Knowing Judith is
temporarily at loose ends with Joe out of town for a few days, Renie talks her cousin into
snooping around behind the scenes.

When Judith agrees, she discovers a dead body in her car's trunk. It's not the first body
she's found, either. In fact, she has such a reputation with Joe's former colleagues that
when she calls 9-1-1 to report a dead body, the dispatcher sighs and says, "Is that you,
Mrs. Flynn?" This time, though, she knows the identity of the victim, and the responding
officers not only don't know her or Joe - they think she is the killer! And when it
becomes obvious that the Blands (who own the house) can't or won't help and the cops
aren't inclined to look any further for the real killer, it's up to Judith and Renie to figure
out who really did it. Now, the question is, can they do it before one of them becomes the
next victim?

I really enjoy Daheim's B&B books, which combine two of my loves: mysteries and
B&B's. True, This Old Souse was a bit sparse on scenes in Hillside Manor itself, but it
made up for it with a lot of Seattle atmosphere. I'd love to go to Seattle in person some
day, but despite standing invitations from friends who live there, I haven't been able to
afford it yet. Until then, my visits will take place between the covers of a book, and
Daheim's fill the bill nicely.

Two Old Women: An Alaska Legend of Betrayal, Courage and Survival
Velma Wallis
illustrations by Jim Grant
Epicenter Press Inc.
Box 82368, Kenmore, WA 98028
ISBN 0972494499; $17.95.

Alaskan author Velma Wallis was born in Fort Yukon, about 140 miles northeast of
Fairbanks, where she grew up in a traditional Athabaskan Indian family, surrounded by
twelve siblings. When she was thirteen, her father died, and she dropped out of school to
help her mother raise the younger children.

When they no longer needed her, Wallis took (and passed) her high school equivalency
exam and moved to an isolated cabin twelve miles away. There, she trapped, fished, and
hunted to survive. She filled the quiet inside of her with the stories she'd been told as a
girl. And she read everything she could get her hands on and dreamed of someday
becoming a writer herself. She was there twelve years.

When she finally did write down a traditional story she'd been raised on, no traditional
publisher wanted it. In the Editor's Afterword, editor Lael Morgan says, "Wallis was an
unknown with no powerful Native backers. She was also female, and the decision-makers
were male. [And although] all agreed that Wallis was a promising young writer, [no one
would publish her book.]"

Why? Fear of public opinion. Famine among the Athabaskans was a touchy subject, and
Wallis's portrayal of it in Two Old Women was too gritty, too realistic. Too cruel. "It
makes Athabaskan people look bad," one Native leader told Morgan. "If you publish it,
you will make Athabaskan people look bad." Despite tribal opinion, Morgan believed
Wallis's book was too important to ignore. She kept trying to get it to market and she
finally succeeded in 1993. Two Old Women was published, and Wallis's dream of
becoming a writer finally came true.

Two Old Women tells the story of two elderly Athabaskans, Ch'idzigyaak (aged eighty
summers) and Sa' (aged seventy-five summers), who are no longer able to provide for
themselves. Instead, they spend their days hobbling around with walking sticks
complaining and wistfully describing how much better things used to be, while being
cared for by younger tribe members.

Then famine comes. As the tribe begins to starve, they no longer have the luxury of
feeding those who cannot provide anything to the tribe in return. Therefore, Ch'idzigyaak
and Sa' are wrapped in blankets and left behind in the snow with their meager
possessions. Even Ch'idzigyaak's daughter and grandson acquiesce, for they fear the
desperation and anger of the hungry tribe.

Ch'idzigyaak and Sa' are devastated. Are they truly no longer valuable to the tribe?
Unworthy to be cared for? It is winter! They have no food, and no weapons except for the
hatchet Ch'idzigyaak's grandson secretly left for them. Perhaps they should just lie down
in the snow and go to sleep, never to wake again. It's a quiet, painless way to go. But then
Sa' says, "They think we are too old and useless. They forget that we, too, have earned
the right to live! So I say if we are going to die, my friend, let us die trying, not sitting."
And as they struggle on, they prove to themselves and their loved ones that age and
infirmities don't have to mean having nothing left to give.

It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes, by Martha Bolton: "There is nothing sadder
than an unfulfilled life. Someone who is well past the halfway point of life, convinced
that they missed out on their true calling. Dreams don't come with expiration dates. Take
advantage of the years that lie ahead of you and do what you were created to do, whatever
that happens to be. Whether it is in education, politics, science, medicine, arts, or any
other field, the world needs what you still have to offer."

Wallis believed the world needed what she had to offer, and like Ch'idzigyaak and Sa',
she never gave up. Since 1993, she's become a best-selling author, with several more
books and a tenth anniversary edition of Two Old Women to her credit. I'm sure she has
more books in her and I hope we get to see them all. However, for those of us facing the
second half of our lives, the most important words she ever writes may be these: Let us
die trying, not sitting.

Betty Winslow

Carey's Bookshelf

Buzz Riff
Sam Hill
Carol & Graf Publishers
245 West 17th Street, New York, NY 10011
ISBN 0786713909 $25.00 325 pages

This was by far one of the coolest books I've read. A lot of adventure, mixed with a little romance and much emotion, Buzz Riff (Carroll & Graf Publishers) is the second novel by author Sam Hill.

Set in the deep-south, Buzz Riff is a wild story about Top Kiernan, a former employer of Shaw's Mercantile Marine, who was let go because his adrenaline addiction was getting in the way of his duties. But if that wasn't enough, Top is now faced with even bigger problems. The research firm that he now owns is about to go belly up thanks to his former office manager/scorned ex-lover, who has stolen half of his clients and the majority of his money. Six months behind on his mortgage, Top decides to take on a job that includes having to recover a stolen confederate flag in hopes of earning part of the money needed to avoid foreclosure. But the job is not as easy as Top has anticipated and he finds himself caught in a tangled web that consist of several determined Civil War Memorabilia collectors, the KKK, redneck bikers, ATF agents, and a right-wing religious organization. If you are a mature reader looking for a novel with non-stop adventure and features very cool characters that sometimes live over the top, then you need to pick up a copy of Buzz Riff and start reading it today.

Sam Hill is also the author of Buzz Monkey, his first novel and several nonfiction books. His work has also appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, Fortune and the Harvard Business Review. He lives just outside of Chicago.

Dying in the Dark
Valerie Wilson Wesley
One World Book/Ballantine Books
New York, N.Y.
ISBN 0345468066 $22.95 222 pages

Dying in the Dark is the latest in a series of Tamara Hayle Mysteries by author Valerie Wilson Wesley. If you are a fan of Wesley and her private investigator character, Tamara Hayle, then we both have been anxiously awaiting the arrival of her newest novel.

This time around Tamara has been hired to find the killer of her used-to-be-best friend, Celia Jones, who has been in contact with Tamara through her dreams, begging for help. But as Tamara gets closer to the truth she discovers a little more than she bargained for. In addition to Celia having several lovers who held lethal grudges, Tamara also stumbles across some ugly secrets that some people would literary kill to keep them from getting out. But going against her better judgment, Tamara continues to push forward with her investigation. As always, Wesley does a fantastic job of intertwining information from her previous novels into her latest story. Walking away with a feeling of familiarity, Wesley keeps the reader well connected to Tamara, thus giving the impression that she is a part of our lives. Tamara could be your sister, mother or even a best friend. Her character continues to be very believable which makes this novel easy to relate to. The rhythm of Wesley's writing style was slow in the beginning, but as you continued through the novel, the nonstop action appears to pick up the speed and it quick becomes difficult to put down. Dying in the Dark is another great piece of work that should be well received by both young adults and mature readers.

Valerie Wilson Wesley is the Blackboard best-selling author of six Tamara Hayle mysteries. She is also the author of Always True to You in My Fashion and Ain't Nobody's Business If I Do. A former executive editor at Essence magazine, she lives in New Jersey. For additional information on the author please visit

Kalisha Buckhanon
St. Martin Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010
ISBN 0312332688 $19.95 247 pages

Rarely has it been that I have read such a powerful novel that has the capabilities to transcend across generations, but Upstate (St. Martin's Press) by Kalisha Buckhanon does just that. A beautiful story about love, lose and lessons learned is told through the eyes of Natasha and Antonio, two inner city adolescents.

Based on written correspondence between the two main characters, Natasha a high school student and her sweetheart Antonio, who is serving time in prison, Upstate is a moving work of art that can be appreciated by all readers. Buckhanon impresses us with her usage of language and creativity while giving the reader a glimpse into the lives of these urban teens as they transition from adolescence into adulthood. A modern Romeo and Juliet, Upstate offers a fresh and honest perspective on young love in 2005.

Kalisha Buckhanon is a recipient of awards and fellowships from the NAACP, Illinois Arts Council, Illinois Young Authors Commission and the Chicago Black Writers Conference. She holds an MFA in creative writing from New School University and a BA in English language and literature from the University of Chicago. She currently lives in New York. For more information on this author visit

Carey Yazeed

Carroll's Bookshelf

The Lives of Danielle Steel
Vickie L. Bane and Lorenzo Benet
St. Martins Press
0312112572 $22.95

Fans of Danielle Steel, best-selling writer, might be surprised by the diminutive author's real life.

Bane and Benet chronicle Steel's life in the unauthorized biography that runs from Steel's self-proclaimed unhappy childhood to the early nineties.

In the book, the authors site parallels between Steel's life and her fiction that many of her readers may not know exists. Quoting a number of Steel's friends, her former husbands and in-laws, Bane and Genet tell about Steels first marriage to a wealthy banker, her second marriage to a convicted rapist, then to a recovering heroin addict who couldn't stay clean.

Throughout the second and third ill-fated relationships, Steel was writing for Dell, and her books were gaining recognition. Those first books dealt with prisons, addictions, pregnancies, and the fear of kidnapping, things the author was living at the time.

Steel had two children when she married John Traina, Jr., her fourth husband. He also had two children.

Steel quickly became pregnant. Despite a history of miscarriages, she became the mother of nine including her two foster sons.

Bane and Benet write a most informative book with backgrounds on not just Steel but many of the people in "The lives of Danielle Steel."

A New Moon for Emily
Ann Staadt
PublishAmerica, LLLP.
1413731392 $21.95

Will 27-year-old Emily McAllen ever break away from her father's dominance? Will she be able to shuck her staid librarian demeanor and live her own life?

Emily longs to quit her job at the library and move to St. John's Island and live with her grandmother, but before she has a chance to test her own strength, her grandmother dies. When the will is read, Emily is shocked to learn her grandmother left almost everything to her, including the home on St. John's Island, Nova Scotia.

None of the relatives are pleased, including Emily's father, but especially her Aunt Sylvia, who demands the house be turned over to her.

As the book unfolds and Emily goes from Indiana to the island, more questions arise. Will Emily's Aunt Sylvia be able to contest her mother's will and get the house away from Emily? Will Emily be able to make a go of the bed and breakfast she plans for the house, or is she incabable of handling her own finances, as her father warns?

More complications set in as three men enter Emily's life on St. John's Island. One is attorney Peter St. John, who read the will that gave the house to Emily. He he is quick to make a move on Emily. He also handles Emily's legal work as Aunt Sylvia tries to take the house.

Mike Yorke, who runs the ferry between the mainland and St. John's Island is another man interested in Emily, and so is Jared Adams, an accomplished handyman and lobster trapper. Both are friends from when Emily visited her Gram each summer, and both are on hand to help her and ask her out.

In the first chapters of the book, the reader meets many different characters, from family members to island dwellers, but the author introduces the character in a way that doesn't leave the reader scratching her head wondering who this is and how he or she fits into the story. Each character has his or her place in the framework of Emily's new life and each has a distinct personality.

Staadt takes Emily and the reader through a detailed account of the first days of Emily's life on the island from the remodling of the old house to going on a lobster run, to what is served for meals.

Ann Staadt lives in Fort Wayne and travels with her husband, Richard. A trip to Nova Scotia, where she saw a rose-colored Victorian house, inspired Emily's story.

A second book, Claire in Love, is soon to be released. It continues the story of St. John's Island.

Jean Carroll

Cheri's Bookshelf

The Trouble Boy
Tom Dolby
Kensington Publishing Corp.
850 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10022
ISBN: 0758206178 US $14.00 Canada $20.00

Tom Dolby has accurately captured the essence of what makes twenty-something preppy gay men on the Upper East Side of Manhattan tick in his refreshing and honest novel The Trouble Boy. A native of San Francisco, Toby Griffin is a privileged Yale graduate who majored in film studies. Toby confides, "After a sexless four years at boarding school, I was ready to sleep with every available gay undergrad in the tristate area." [p. 3] Having had his fill of meaningless one-night stands he is more mature now at twenty-two, and is looking for the one guy that he can spend the rest of his life with. He moves to the Big Apple with dreams of fame, fortune, and a long-term relationship. His accomplished wealthy parents - his mother is a famous fashion designer and his father made his fortune at a firm specializing in biotechnology - have given him one year to prove himself in NYC, if not he has to go back home and work in his father's business. Talk about pressure Toby's parents succeeded in their careers while still in their twenties and expect no less from their progeny.

The Trouble Boy begins with Toby meeting Jamie Weissman who introduces him to the guys who become his friends in Manhattan. A Princeton graduate, Jamie is an investment banker, hardly the type of guy Toby would assume was gay. Jamie introduces himself to Toby at the type of party " where people don't talk to anyone they don't know already." [p. 1]. Jamie tells Toby about a job opening for a freelance writer at a web site called Toby becomes their nightlife editor and reviews nightclubs and interviews rent boys. The job has its perks including many opportunities for sex, drugs, and alcohol. Even after landing a job, Toby never loses sight of his dream to become a famous screenwriter despite his parents' desire for him to get a "real job" and have a respectable career. Toby is determined to succeed and when one job ends, he lands a more lucrative position as the personal assistant to an unscrupulous film magnate, Cameron Cole. Toby feels taking the job could be just the contact he needs to break into the movie business.

While Jamie lusts after Toby, Toby lusts after a series of boys, from a co-worker Donovon, to a whole cast of characters including Subway Boy, Loft Boy, Army Guy, and others. The fantasies of domestic bliss Toby conjures up as he sees a potential mate, is an endearing quality of the ever-hopeful young man. The reader hopes Toby can find true love, but first he has to get his life together and clean up his act. Will he succeed in business and in love?

When I wasn't laughing out loud, I was grinning from ear to ear at Dolby's wit, humor, and candor. Even in the face of inner turmoil and catastrophic events, Toby maintains his sense of humor which gets him through sticky situations. Toby is portrayed warts and all, or more accurately, pimples and all. He is not always a very nice person, but he is likeable even though the reader can't help but notice his shallow, egotistical, juvenile side. Toby makes mistakes but at least he has a conscience making him all the more human and believable. Hopefully, Toby can be saved from being the Trouble Boy and from making poor choices.

Dolby intimately tells Toby's story in the first person, except when he switches to the third person in chapter three as Toby has a flashback of his freshman year at college. What at first seemed jarring proved to be a well thought out tactic that emphasizes Toby's feelings that "it happened to another person, another Toby Griffin." [p. 40]. Who hasn't felt, or wished, that certain life events had happened to someone else?

With the gay Mecca Upper East Side of Manhattan lingo perfected in Tom Dolby's debut novel, The Trouble Boy, it's hard to imagine not being there along with the characters. Vivid descriptions, catchy phrases, irresistible jargon all add to the charm of this fast-paced gay boy romp. The Trouble Boy is reminiscent of William J. Mann's The Men from the Boys in that Toby is like so many gay boys - he's desperate not to end up living alone. He goes from one anonymous sexual encounter to another searching for love and a permanent relationship, most of the time for the wrong reasons and in the wrong places. Dolby's insightful observations are wonderful. One example is when Toby admits, "Unlike those who had discovered a loss of libido on antidepressants, my libido was as strong as ever, which made the situation worse. I felt like an injured athlete who could only cheer his team on from the sidelines." [p. 37]. The metaphor was great as Toby describes the sexual side effects of Paxil.

While The Trouble Boy is classified as gay fiction, straight readers will be able to relate to Toby's dreams and aspirations quite well. This fun but troubling journey into the gay world should not be bound by genre. The Trouble Boy is engrossing, believable, and funny. The dialogue rings true, and the pace is quick. It could easily be turned into a screenplay and major motion picture. I give The Trouble Boy five stars and look forward to the sequel.

Under the Gun
Lori L. Lake
Renaissance Alliance Publishing, Inc.
PMB 238, 8691 9th Ave., Port Arthur, Texas 77642-8025
ISBN 1930928440 $22.95 490 pages

In the second gripping police drama in Lori L. Lake's Gun series, Under the Gun delightfully picks up where Gun Shy left off and sets the stage for the third novel, Have Gun We'll Travel. Once you make the acquaintance of the beautiful, big, strong, yet vulnerable Officer Desiree [Dez] Reilly and her partner and lover Rookie Officer Jaylynn [Jay] Savage you won't be able to get enough of this dynamic duo. The two cops are as different as night and day in looks and personality. Always the macho cop, Dez, affectionately referred to as "tall, dark, and dangerous," maintains a tough impenetrable shell and demeanor to hide her fears. "[Jaylynn] liked the fact that there was a defensive fortress around her taciturn partner, but that the tall cop had let her find the few chinks in the armor so that she had free access to come and go as she pleased." [p. 378] Dez bottles up her emotions until the pressure becomes so great that an explosion is inevitable, while Jay is not embarrassed or afraid to show her emotions. "It occurred to [Dez] that one major thing she liked about Jaylynn was how alive she was. She took on life with zest, whether she was investigating a crime, talking on the phone, eating something tasty, making love, or crying at a sad movie." [p. 271]

Under the Gun begins with Dez hopelessly in love with the vivacious, white haired bundle of energy, but as happy as she is with the current arrangement, that's how terrified she is that something terrible will happen to destroy her bliss. Jay is proving to be an excellent officer with a good head on her shoulders, but she has an impulsive streak which has Dez nervous on more than one occasion, as Jay repeatedly gets hurt on the job. It's understandable that the introspective cop, who withdraws and equates showing emotions with being weak, is afraid of losing the one person who understands her, tolerates her moodiness, and who adds meaning, love, and joy to her life. Lake explores their evolving relationship with rich detail while Dez goes through the biggest transformation of all.

Dez is so adept at concealing her inner turmoil that even she is not aware she is doing it. Having suffered serious traumatic events in her life including the loss of her beloved father, also a police officer, and her partner and close friend Officer Ryan Michaelson, it is only a matter of time until Dez snaps and ends up suspended with no alternative than to see psychiatrist Marie Montague, or be kicked off the force. Reluctantly, the skeptical secretive officer works with Marie. Can Marie save Dez from self-destructing, and going to a very lonely and isolated place where she denies her heart's desire for fear of loss and rejection? Will the astute psychiatrist help Dez learn to bridge the gap in all of her severed relationships, including the ones with her mother Collette and her brother Patrick?

Luella is Dez's "confidante, nurturer, and friend." [p. 17] Can Marie help Dez believe Luella when she says, "You can't hold onto someone so tight that you choke the life out of them." [p. 280] Luella tries to convince Dez that loving and losing someone is painful, but avoiding love to avoid pain is not the solution. She also tells her surrogate daughter "You are a strong person, Desiree Reilly, and you deserve to love and be loved. But you have to make a choice to take the chance." [p. 280]

Lori Lake's completely satisfying action/romance novel will engage a full range of emotions that will leave the reader wanting more. No stone is left unturned as all the loose ends are tied up. The psychological journey of the characters' growth and development, particularly Dez's, is just as intriguing as the crime drama, murder investigation, and police work. In Under the Gun, Jaylynn's character is delved into more deeply, we get to know Dez's mother better, and Luella and most of the other characters are back too. There are a few new characters, including Luella's sister Vanita, who enrich the story.

A crime drama would not be complete without antagonists. Nielsen is a hateful and despicable rookie officer who graduated from the police academy with Jaylynn. He has it in for the girls and rats out on their relationship to Lt. Malcolm, adding another layer to the plot. How will Dez's colleagues react to the confirmation of what they suspected all along that Dez, the cop they admire and respect, is gay? Every character, no matter how small their role, has a place and reason for being in the story. Lake does not rush through her narrative and 490 pages go by in a blink.

I could not recommend Under the Gun, nor praise the skill of Lori Lake any higher. She paints a vivid picture that allows the reader to jump into the story and become a part of Dez's world. Luckily, I won't have to miss my favorite characters for long since Have Gun We'll Travel is now available. Five stars are not enough for Under the Gun - read it and you will see what I mean.

Cheri Rosenberg

Christina's Bookshelf

In Her Presence: A Husband's Dirty Secret
Nancy Weaver
Time and Chance Publishing
P.O. Box 488, New York, N.Y. 10116
ISBN 0974827401 $15.95

A man has the right to do what he wishes to his family, doesn't he? He owns his woman's and children's bodies too, right?

"It's no one's dam business," says Rufus Poygoode, one of the main characters from Weaver's book. This black man owns a sizable amount of acres with a big beautiful house and furnishings, quite a feat in the 1950's, especially in Mississippi. Rufus realized his luck, and wasn't about to allow anyone to ruin it. Those girls were lucky to have a father like him. They had food and nicer clothes than other people of their race. And, why couldn't people leave his family alone? If he thinks his children should stay home and not go to school, who are they to say otherwise? He had their lives planned out anyway. "A man has a right to rule his house the way he sees fit," says Rufus.

Tara Poygoode realizes something needs to be done. Her grandmother wouldn't help; her fear went beyond reason. The woman did anything her man asked her to. Tara didn't agree with what her father did to her sisters. So far, he'd left her alone, but why? He'd claimed he wanted her to move up to the main house, and said she needed to learn how to run the farm. Tara did exceptionally well in school, and held dreams of going to college. At first, Rufus didn't tell Tara his true plans, but Tara found out one horrible day. She decides it's time to devise a plan, one to save her family and herself. It had to be flawless, because the penalty, it discovered, would be high, and Rufus watched their every move.

Unspeakable crimes know every skin color. This is a story of emotional and physical torture, of difficult choices, incredible courage; and second chances, and of offense against children and women. A girl's father should protect her, but Rufus' views are twisted, and his attitude vindictive. To survive in his house, meant the summoning of enormous strength.

Book Excerpts:

Rudi looked back at Adam. "Shut up, you little runt. It don't matter and girls don't matter, I'm telling y'all. I heard Lynn and Jackie talking about how Daddy's their stepfather, and that he shouldn't be doing nasty to them. But Daddy makes them do him. So you see Adam, it don't matter what girls think. Ain't nothin' wrong 'bout humpin' no girls. That's what they are made for."

"She's ten and a half. And I'm nine," Lynn confided. Then she crooked her finger and beckoned her Hailey's ear.

Hailey bent down again.

Lynn pushed back Hailey's gray hair, whispering in her ear. "He made Jackie take off all her clothes! He was on top of her. We saw his thing. Jackie woke up the whole house screaming. Then Daddy and Mama started fighting."

Weaver captures her character's raw personalities. At first, I had a difficult time getting into this story. I couldn't find a character to like and the writing is a bit rough in places.

Not a tale of beauty. All the characters in the beginning are un-appealing. Morals? They're unknown to these characters. The concern is only about having sex or getting revenge. After hanging around long enough, along came characters to like. Weaver finally has me then. I cared how things turned out. Not all readers will wait, particularly if they can't like the theme.

Weaver reveals heinous crimes. Her tale becomes real. I hear her character's screams, tears, and of living on pins and needles. Rape isn't a pretty thing to write about.

About the Author: Nancy Weaver is a native of Marks, Mississippi, and alumni of State University New York Empire State College, and is working on more novels.

How does this book measure up?

Weaver's ability to tell a story is good, but could be better. Her story itself is excellent. This is what holds her readers.

The theme is disturbing, but worth telling.

The plot provides insight to how some men in the 50's viewed, and still do today, women and children, and how people knowingly allow children to be harmed, if they gain by it.

Target audience: Recommended for adults who are able to handle tales of abuse, the raping of women and children, and exploitation. Not a pretty narrative, yet life-like.

The most scathing criticism Weaver offers is of how heads turn the other way to secure themselves, even when the horrendous crime is against children. Despite the prevailing darkness, and the beginning, 'In Her Presence' has wonderful moments of warmth. The author's most important accomplishment is her message. It is our business when our neighbor's wife or children are being neglected or abused. To men, you don't own women and children. This misconception will cause you to loose them in the end.

I have always been interested in the fair treatment of women and children. This story touches a sensitive spot in my heart. This account is important, believable, and worth spending time with. Just be prepared for a difficult start filled with an unabashed bluntness. An emotional topic with a strong message. Powerful.

Traveler's Joy
Juliette de Bairacli Levy
Ash Tree Publishing
P.O. Box 64, Woodstock, NY 12498 USA
ISBN 0879836512 $11.95

Ahhh, the life of a wanderer. Is it as romantic as it sounds or a way filled with misery and hardship? Maybe it depends on what you know and who taught you, if anyone.

Levy trusted her instincts and chose to absorb the customs of the wise nomads, the masters from around the world.

Traveler's Joy is a first-person account of facts, observations, poems, memories, guides, and tips, based upon these experiences. Levy explains how to stay healthy and strong, provides various recipes for wounds, fevers, poisonings and stings, and shares her happy, free approach to life.

From the time she was old enough to leave home, Levy wanted to follow the nomad way. Her travels first began in the late nineteen thirties. She left a northern England university where she studied veterinary medicine. After being disappointed by modern medicines ability to save animals she began to think about the healing powers of herbs. Thus, her research began. Eventually, Levy decided to become a modern "Scholar Gypsy."

Contents of the book include:

* Foreword by Helen Scott Nearing

About travel
About water
About fire and weather
About dwellings
About medicine
About food
About travelers

Also, sprinkled throughout the book, are lovely poems by various people and peaceful sketchings.

Excerpt from the book:

P. 61

Weather signs

"* Aromatic plants scent the air and are unusually strong before wet weather; they are opening out to receive the coming rains.

* House flys swarming indoors in large numbers are a sign rain is due.

* Goats and sheep bleating unduly foretell bad weather, often severe storms.

* Cows lie down for long sessions before storms. They are said to be keeping their udders warm.

* The woodpecker cries with unusual loudness before rain, and owls hoot loud and frequently before a night storm."

What are others saying?

Helen Scott Nearing has written this:

"This book is a joy to travel through. She stays healthy and strong in all situations, but gives recipes in detail for combating all types of ailments."

Along with all the positive points, this book just might change the way gypsies are believed to be. These people revealed to Levy unique wisdom, knowledge, hardiness and beauty.

'Traveler's Joy' does what it claims, which is to celebrate the delights of the wanderer's life, provide information on how to live simply, enjoy the beauty of it, and Levy's observations made along the way. It instructs while persuading one to realize the natural abundance around them.

This is the third book I've read by this author. All are thoughtful, enlightening and well organized. I like the way they make me feel, and the simple, teachings. This incredible woman led the life of a traveler and lived off what nature provided while maintaining her health. She recorded tips and customs from gypsies throughout the world.

I recommend this book for anyone interested in natural living, traveling, and healing; those curious about gypsies from all over the world; or those fascinated by interesting people who've led interesting lives. 'Traveler's Joy' contains all these elements.

Even if you don't plan to lead the life of a gypsy or nomad, you'll learn many secrets of survival and healthy living. After all, life is a trip and surviving it isn't the only goal. You want to enjoy it along the way too.

Christina Francine Whitcher

Christy's Bookshelf

Fire in the Ice
Katlyn Stewart
P.O. Box 151, Frederick, MD 21705 301-695-1707
ISBN 141373278X $19.95 200 pages

All of her adult life, Deedra Marlan has been married to a man who has stifled her independence and dominated her to the point that she accedes all decisions to him. When Deedra's husband is killed in a car wreck, she finds herself adrift and unsure of herself. Deedra decides to run the restaurant her husband owned in order to keep occupied and gain more independence. When Josh McKenzie steps into the restaurant, she is not prepared for her body's heated reaction to him, nor her instant mental rejection of the man.

Josh McKenzie does not hold much respect for women after divorcing his wife, who seemed to want him only for monetary gains. But when Josh meets Deedra, he senses a specialness about her and becomes determined to make her his own. Which proves to be difficult, as Deedra thwarts his advances at each and every turn.

Katlyn Stewart provides a fun, tantalizing read with FIRE IN THE ICE, playing to great advantage the sexual chemistry between Deedra and Josh. The story is heartwarming; a life journey for two people with diverse personalities who challenge one another in ways neither has faced before. The mindset of the characters is portrayed with sensitivity, realism and true clarity, the plot paced to perfection. But one cannot forget the love story, which is the essence of the book, one that will linger in the mind long after the read is finished.

Holding Hands at Midnight
G. William Gray
P.O. Box 151, Frederick, MD 21705 301-695-1707
ISBN 1413743072 $19.95 213 pages

HOLDING HANDS AT MIDNIGHT follows the life of Mark Williams, from a young sailor during World War II to a retired public relations executive. Central to Mark's adulthood are five women. Each enter and leave at different phases of his life and impact Mark in diverse ways. HOLDING HANDS AT MIDNIGHT is an evolving love story with a unique perspective. Told from the male point of view, the story offers an interesting peek into the maturation and emotional growth of a man through his relationships with women. An insightful, poignant read.

Iokaste: the Novel of the Mother-Wife of Oedipus
Victoria Grossack and Alice Underwood
Publish America
P.O. Box 151, Frederick, MD 21705 301-695-1707
ISBN 1413726755 $24.95 307 pages

Most readers are familiar with the tale of Oedipus Rex, as well as the psychological term Oedipus complex, derived from the relationship between Oedipus and his mother and subsequent wife, Iokaste. Unlike the Greek tragedy, this book is told from the point of view of Iokaste and takes the tale many levels higher, revealing psychological subtleties within the personas of Iokaste and the characters surrounding her.

At age 14, Iokaste is chosen by the god Apollo to wed Prince Alphenor, son of King Amphion of Thebes. When Amphion's wife blasphemes the god Apollo, the oracle predicts doom for her 14 children, and Iokaste's betrothed dies. Laius, son of King Labdakus, who ruled Thebes 30 years before, returns to Thebes to claim the kingdom and weds Iokaste. On the night of their wedding, the oracle warns Laius that he will be killed by his own son. Laius withdraws from Iokaste, not knowing she is already with child. When their son is born, Laius binds his feet and instructs he be left on a mountain to die. Instead, the child is given to King Polybus of Korinth, who recently lost his son. Polybus names the child Oedipus, meaning swollen feet.

As a young man, Oedipus is told by the Delphic oracle that he will kill his father and marry his mother. Never having learned he was adopted, Oedipus is distraught over this news and vows never to see his parents again. He meets up with Laius, who is traveling to Delphi to seek the oracle's counsel, and the two argue. Oedipus kills Laius, unaware that he has set in motion the ultimate fulfillment of the oracle's prophecy.

With profound vibrancy, IOKASTE magically transports the reader into the ancient world of Greek mythology. The visual imagery created by the authors is vividly detailed, the mindset of the characters engrossing. It is interesting to note the politics of the time, constant dedication to the ritualistic worship of gods, and delegation of all things good and bad to a particular god's mood. The Sphinx is a fascinating character, made more realistic by her portrayal in this book, specifically her role in the contest of wit to choose the next king of Thebes. The conspiracies and subsequent rationalizations of Iokaste and her brother Kreon are thought-provoking and insightful.

This riveting story flows fluidly from page to page, written in an engaging style that holds the reader's attention from the very beginning. This is one book that begs to be read more than once in order to appreciate and absorb each and every nuance of the characters, history, and tale of tragedy.

It is suggested educational facilities utilize IOKASTE as an introduction to Greek mythology, as this is one book that will instill fascination and respect, leaving no room for boredom.

Christy Tillery French

Debra's Bookshelf

Denise Mina
Little, Brown
ISBN: 0316735922 $23.95 311 pages

Denise Mina's novel Deception purports to be a transcription of a diary written by Lachlan Harriot, the 29-year-old husband of convicted murderess Dr. Susie Harriot. Lachlan begins the diary on the day his wife is convicted of murdering Andrew Gow, a serial killer with whom she had worked closely in her capacity as his court-appointed psychologist. Lachlan's diary is in part a record of his attempt to uncover the truth behind Gow's murder--he cannot believe his wife is guilty. It includes his transcriptions of the newspaper accounts and other documents pertaining to the case that his wife had squirreled away in her private--padlocked--study. At the same time the diary records Lachlan's attempts to cope with normal life in the months following his wife's conviction--the mothers at his daughter's day care center conspicuously friendly, an "elderly triumvirate" of relatives making a show of their support by coming to stay with him--uninvited, unwelcome, and ultimately unhelpful. (Lachlan is kicked out of his bathroom one evening by Susie's aunt, who cannot find the other bathrooms in his house. "It is not without a frisson of compensatory pleasure that I stood on the landing, holding my limp newspaper, and watched her lock herself in with the rank stench of my lower intestines.")

In the course of the period covered by his diary, Lachlan eventually comes to understand the riddle of Gow's murder and of his wife's strange, secretive behavior. It is a mystery that will keep readers engrossed and guessing until the book's final pages. Mina's Deception is a smart, well-written thriller. Highly recommended.

All Fishermen are Liars
Linda Greenlaw
ISBN: 1401300707 $22.95 228 pages

In her latest book author and fisherman Linda Greenlaw introduces readers to the salty denizens of the Dry Dock Bar in Portland, Maine. Greenlaw's lunch date there with her mentor and friend of 25 years, Alden Leeman, provides the framework for the series of stories she shares with readers--the very stories, or so the author alleges (though the book's title may give one pause)--that she and Alden and hangers on at their table swapped that day at the Dry Dock over a very extended luncheon.

The stories Greenlaw includes in the book are a mixed bunch--rough seas and unlikely survivals, noisome deck hands and shiv-wielding mates, a refrigerated dead guy. Many of the stories are stirring; the rest are at least good reads. Greenlaw writes nicely, and her characterization of her friend Alden--for whom her affection is palpable--is well done: "I ordered a glass of Chardonnay and waited for Alden to think about what he might like to drink. I knew that he would eventually order a rum and Coke, but he did not know this. He never did."

It is not necessary to know anything whatever about fishing or sailing to enjoy All Fishermen are Liars. Nautical types will surely want to view their world through Greenlaw's lens, but landlubbers like myself will appreciate the author's readable introduction to an unfamiliar world. She and her gang of mendacious fishing buddies make for good company for the book's duration.

Faked to Death
Dean James
Kensington Books
ISBN: 1575668882 $5.99 255 pages

The second installment in author Dean James' charming series of vampire cozies finds undead amateur sleuth Simon Kirby-Jones at a writers' conference hosted by local aristocrat Lady Hermione Kinsale. Simon's host and the clutch of other writers at the conference know him as the author of two highly respected biographies, but Simon also publishes novels pseudonymously, including a bestselling series of mysteries under the name Dorinda Darlington. The fun starts when a woman claiming to be Dorinda shows up at the conference and sets about infuriating her "colleagues." A corpse or two later, Simon is back to putting his vampiric attributes--acute hearing, the ability to sense when people are lying--to good use, helping the local constabulary solve a double murder.

The toothsome Watson to Simon's toothy Sherlock is Sir Giles Blitherington, the young lord Simon hired as an assistant in the first Kirby-Jones mystery, shortly after he moved to the quaint village of Snupperton Mumsley. In Faked to Death Simon is still warding off Giles' incessant but not wholly unwelcome advances. He is also still remembering to take twice daily the pills that, in this modern age, allow vampires to live like mortals, gadding about in the sunlight and eschewing the drinking of blood.

Perhaps perversely, I'm hoping Simon will forget his medication one day: I'd like to see how the polite society of Snupperton Mumsley would react should Simon start showing his fangs. I'm also hoping Dean Jones will continue chronicling Simon's exploits for a long time to come.

Debra Hamel, Reviewer

Emanuel's Bookshelf

A Brand New Night For Murder
Arthur Burton, III
ISBN 1413750710, $19.95, pp 204

When special agent Fred Soleos of the American Security Organization is assigned to investigate a string of murders in New York City, he finds that the task is even more daunting than he imagined. Upon arrival, he is partnered with Detective Meyers, a bald-headed, tough-talking, hard-nosed cop who is feared by all who know him. As the story unfolds, we learn that Meyers is a bad cop who is a little too close to the criminal element of New York. He is also Soleos's number one suspect. So begins the premise for Arthur Burton's (Savior of the Woods) murder mystery, "A Brand New Night For Murder."

Soleos enlists the assistance of Rick, his fellow agent from Washington D.C., in helping to solve the murders. Rick is a young agent full of energy and wit and has just enough tenacity to compliment Soleos's laid back, experienced approach. When the two of them hit the streets of the Bronx, they do so with vigor and purpose. But can the agents outsmart a cunning and mean-spirited murderer?

Reading "A Brand New Night For Murder" may remind you of watching an extended version of TV's "New York Undercover." Burton paints a descriptive picture of a Bronx city full of prostitution, drug dealing, and indifference. By the time you arrive at the story's mysterious conclusion, it may leave you longing for more closure, or better yet, a sequel.

Pen on Fire
Barbara DeMarco-Barrett
Harcourt, Inc.
ISBN 0156029782, $13.00, pp. 262

If there is a profession that requires ongoing motivation, mentoring, and lifelong learning, it is surely writing. Writers face a number of obstacles, including dealing with rejection letters, going through writer's block, and let's not forget, finding time to write. In "Pen of Fire," author and University of California Creative Writing teacher Barbara DeMarco-Barrett serves as a catalyst in helping writers achieve their goals through discipline and planning.

Although the book is geared towards women writers with busy lives, there's clearly enough useful information for everyone who is serious about the craft. Barrett draws on her own experiences (as well as the experiences of other professional writers who've experienced trials and triumphs) when discussing a wide range of topics, including how to make time for writing on a daily basis, structuring plot and creating interesting characters, and what to look for when searching for a literary agent or a publisher just to name a few. What makes the book unique is that every chapter is succeeded with Barrett's "Set the Timer" instructions, allowing the reader to take a more proactive approach while reading the book. The result is an incredibly motivating and informative book on the craft from a writer with experience, intelligence, and industry know-how.

Though there are so many quotable passages that could be remembered for a lifetime, one of the best is when the author says "My own experience tells me that to succeed with your writing, you need a combination of patience, instinct, awareness, and timing. But mostly you need a belief in yourself and your project, and the willingness to do what it takes to work as long and hard as you must to get out there."

"Pen on Fire" is just what the marketplace needed, a thoroughly researched, highly motivational, and instructional book that will cater to all writers who love to write. Keep this one on your bookshelf to refer to over and over again.

Highly Recommended

Emanuel Carpenter

Gary's Bookshelf

Richard Matheson
Gauntlet Press
5307 Arroyo St., Colorado Springs CO 80922
ISBN 1887368752 $12.95

I've been a fan of this author since high school when I read his short story collections as well as "The Incredible Shrinking Man" and other novels. I am very pleased to say that this is one of the best Matheson novels I've ever read. It ranks along with "I Am Legend" for being a page-turner. But there is also something else that makes this a very enjoyable tale. His characters are very clearly defined. David Harper a talk show psychologist has a problem; Gannie Woodbury a female neighbor wants to have a session with the doctor. Not only is her name bizarre but also the things she does are not the acts of a rational person. As the story unfolds David, his wife, and their friends are all drawn into her web of strangeness. I especially liked the way this novel unfolded very much like his short story "Button Button" But I also enjoyed that Matheson is also commenting on the issue of the differences between the sexes with David's talk show and conversations throughout the novel. Another aspect that is nice is that this is the first time this publisher has put out a book at such a low price. They usually publish limited collector editions geared to a certain audience. Hopefully this will be the beginning of more titles geared to a mainstream audience reasonably priced.

Frank Sannello
Alyson Publications
6922 Hollywood Blvd Suite 1000, Los Angeles, California 90028 323-860-6045
ISBN 1555838847 $15.95

Sannello has written a book that is more terrifying than any novel of horror, because everything he tells is true. "Tweakers" is a full expose of the newest deadliest drug to run rampant throughout the gay population at the present time. What he shows is that this new drug that is so easy to make has a devastating effect. Some of the negatives are that it is so easy to make, gays who are having sex after taking this drug are not using precautions like condoms, the high created by the drug can last for at least 48 hours. Many in the straight population may say "doesn't affect me," true not at this time but the way this drug infiltrated the gay population shows that it is just a question of time before it replaces such things as LSD, Cocaine, and Ecstasy for those of the drug culture. The author also shows how law enforcement is dealing with the problem as well as what society should be doing to cut down this menace.

The Wit and Wisdom of a Regular Joe
Joe Heuer
Daffynitions Press
Glendale Wisconsin 1-800-492-3548
ISBN 096476184X $7.00

Heuer is again on the beat to show that there is humor in business that we can all relate to. What I really like here is that he has found many statements that we have all said and done. Now he has gathered them into a very funny collection that is the perfect gift for any occasion, where you want to give someone something they can read over and over again and find something new to laugh about each time it is read.

Sexual Wandering and Pandering Through Life
Tim Martin
1663 Liberty Dr., Bloomington In 47404-5161 800-839-8640
ISBN 1418446998 $19.95

This is a whirlwind tour of one man's female sexual conquests internationally. The main character is a government auditor who travels to military bases all over the world who indulges in world cultures, as well as has opportunities most of us never have to have sex with women from all parts of the world. The writing is easy to follow and the story moves along at a brisk pace. As I read the accounts of this man who said he was happily married with children, I can see why. He was not home long enough to have the normal problems of married life. I think he should have had a tally sheet or something in the back of the book to tell just how many women he slept with. I also felt that maybe a better title would have been "Confessions of a Government Auditor."

Charlie Higson
Miramax Books
Hyperion Books for Children
1114 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York 10011-5690
ISBN 078683661X $16.95

Well, folks, they had to go and do it. Take a perfectly good character and ruin him. I'm referring to James Bond, the super secret agent has been going since the 1950s when Ian Fleming first created the series of novels that have thrilled many generations in book and movie forms. Now this new novel begins a new series that takes place long before the first Fleming novel. In fact, Bond is only 14 years old. What I, as a fan of the original Bond works disliked here is that this character is not very bright and is just not close to the one all of us know and love. This is the same thing that was done with the Indiana Jones character with the Young Indy TV series that did not last very long. Hopefully this one won't either. I feel when you re-write someone else's character so drastically, like the TV show "Enterprise" it is only doomed to failure because fans don't accept the concept. I'm sure this series will find an audience, but I'm sure for those of us who are true Bond buffs that won't happen.

On the Run I: Chasing the Falconers
Gordon Korman
Scholastic Inc
557 Broadway, New York, NY 10012 212-343-6100
ISBN 0439651360 $4.99

The parents of Aidan and Meg Falconer made a deal with an agent of the CIA to work for the government covertly. Something happens and they are tried and sent to prison. Aidan and Meg meet a similar fate until, through a fluke, they are able to escape. They are on a mission to find out what really happened to their parents, as they are fugitives from the law. What I enjoyed was how many people along the way helped the two children escape the law enforcement agents out to return them to the government facility. The characters are believable while the writing is tight in a very fast paced thriller that is the first of three novels of a series. I look forward to the two other tales and hope they are as good as this one.

Mr. President a Book of Prisidents
George Sullivan
Scholastic Inc
557 Broadway, New York, NY 10012 212-343-6100
ISBN 04394703352 $4.99

This is a fun book that tells interesting things about all 43 presidents. It is an easy to read very interesting factual recording of many unknown facts most of us did not really know about.

Things Change
Patrick Jones
Walker & Company
104 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10011 1-800-289-2553
ISBN 0802789013 $16.95

I love novels that start from the first page and hold my interest to the last as this one does. It has solid writing, strong characters involved in conflicts that are resolved by the end of the story, and a lot to say about how our society deals with teenage problems. Jones draws the reader into a wonderful book for all ages to enjoy.

Ghost Stories of Sarasota
Kim Cool
Historic Venice Press
P.O. Box 800, Venice FL 34284 941-468-6556
ISBN 0972165517 $12.95

Cool takes the reader all around the Sarasota area of Florida and tells the legends and stories about ghosts, haunted homes and other eerie frights that are not on most tours and writings of this area of the state. There are many photos, some taken by the author herself, that add to the whole idea of looking for strange things in this area of Florida. This collection of stories is a good resource for any writer telling some kind of eerie tale.

The Other Orlando: What to Do When You've Done Disney and Universal
Kelly Monaghan
The Intrepid Traveler
P. O. Box 531, Branford, CT 06405 203-488-5341
ISBN 1887140506 $15.95

Everyone who goes to Orlando most of the time visits the theme parks of Disney and Universal and not much else. Well, this book has the lowdown on the other things to do when in Orlando including Sea World, The Holy Land, shopping, Busch Gardens in Tampa, nightlife, and a lot more. This book is crammed with so many good things to do that travelers will just have to come back many times to try the many other things that Central Florida are has to offer.

Florida Spring Training Your Guide to Touring the Grapefruit League
Alan Byrd
The Intrepid Traveler
P. O. Box 531, Branford, CT 06405 203-488-5341
ISBN 1887140506 $15.95

This is the most up to date book about the ever-changing spring training major league baseball that is all over the state of Florida. The author tells about each team, its stadium, parking, ease of getting players autographs, entertainment in and around each city. Here are just some of the things the author tells. This is the one book to have for anyone who wants to see a game of professional baseball during the two months of the pre-season.

Kipton at the Martian Games
Charles L. Fontenay
Royal Fireworks Press
First Avenue, PO Box 399, Unionville, NY 10988 845-726-4444
ISBN 0880923962 $7.99

The 14th novel in the series has Kipton solving a murder at the first Martian sports games.
At conventions of SF that I've been to, there are many discussions on should the two genres of mystery and science fiction be combined. The answer is yes, if it is done well. Many attendees forget that authors Andre Norton and Robert Heinlien, who brought so many into the fold of science fiction, were writing this type of story in the fifties and sixties. Mr. Fontenay does it perfectly, while he also puts the fun back in this type of work. Though the series is geared toward younger readers, anyone can read these charming novels and enjoy them.

Gary Roen

Glavas' Bookshelf

Zolar's Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Dreams
Simon and Schuster (Australia) Pty Ltd
PO Box 33, PYMBLE NSW 2073
ISBN: 0743222636 US $14.00 AUD $24.95 469 pages

Believe it or not I have never owned a dream interpretation book before looking at Zolar's Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Dreams. I wasn't really sure what to expect.

The first edition of this book sold half a million copies worldwide and this is the first major revision of this dream dictionary. The revision includes interpretations for cell phones, computers, beepers and much more, while the listings for subjects like girdles, gleaners and grenadiers have been taken out. Personally I think that they should have been left in - some people still dream about these topics! A lucky number for each dream category has been added too, although I'm not sure how these should be used.

Zolar (R. Donald Papon B.A., D.Sc., D. Hom.) has written several popular books on dreams, metaphysics and the occult including Zolar's It's All in the Stars and Zolar's Book of Dreams, Numbers, and Lucky Days. He has dedicated much of his adult life to teaching holistic living incorporating mind, body, and spirit. He received his graduate degrees in holistic health, nutrition, and his Doctor of Homeopathic Medicine from the Institutum Internationale Homeopathie in Mexico in 1983. Zolar has served as an adjunct lecturer at the New School, Hunter College, and Brooklyn College and as a consulting homeopath, with private practices in New York and Florida, for almost two decades. The author lives in Ozona, Florida.

The entries in this encyclopedia are detailed, for example the entry for cigarette include: enjoying a; half-smoked, in hands, holding a; lighting a; loose cigarettes; man and woman smoking together; rolling a; smoking a; stubbing out a, with determination; suddenly repulsive to you; trying to give up; women dreaming of smoking a.

As with any system of interpretation, I believe that dream interpretation is a highly individual subject. I would recommend that if you want to find out more about the author and his style of interpreting dreams you can visit his website at You can click on the 'Dream weaver' section to interpret your dream online.

I would recommend Zolar's Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Dreams to those of you needing help in understanding the various symbolism found in dreams.

The Dictionary of the Esoteric
Nevill Drury
Simon & Schuster (Australia) Pty Ltd
PO Box 33, PYMBLE NSW 2073
ISBN: 1842930419 $AUD 29.95 344 pages

The author, Nevill Drury is the author of more than forty books on subjects including shamanism, magic, contemporary art and holistic health. Some of these books have been published in fifteen languages.

Nevill was born in England but has lived most of his life in Australia. He holds a Master of Arts (Honours) degree in anthropology from Macquarie University in Sydney and has worked in the book industry since 1976. Nevill Drury is also well known for his workshops and lectures on magical visualisation and shamanic drumming.

Some of the places the author has been involved in include: working as a managing editor for Harper & Row and for Doubleday in Australia, and as the Manager of Adyar Bookshop in Sydney. Adyar Bookshop is owned by the Theosophical Society and is the largest metaphysical bookshop in the southern hemisphere.

Given his extensive and varied involvement in the publishing and 'new age' areas Nevill seems perfect for putting this title together.

The Dictionary of the Esoteric (Over 3,000 articles on the Mystical and Occult Traditions) is a fabulous reference book for the student of occult or metaphysical subjects. Not only will you find things you would expect such as Aries, or Loch Ness Monster, you are also likely to learn about a few things you've never heard about! A couple of the entries I found interesting, for example, were:

Alomancy Divination by sprinkling salt. The diviner interprets future events by analysing the patters made by this action. Alomancy has probably given rise to the superstition that spilling salt is unlucky. Misfortune is averted by casting a small amount of the salt over the left shoulder.

Hesper The name given to the planet Venus after sunset. It is also known as the Evening Star.

This book is comprehensive in its coverage of astrology, tarot, and important figures in the history of metaphysical development. It is also cross-referenced fabulously so you will have the chance to explore topics related to your interests as well as what you first wanted to look up!

I would recommend this book to anyone with an interest in the occult, but particularly for students of any topics that come under this umbrella. It is easy to read and navigate and has an extensive list of suggestions for further reading.

Rose Glavas

Gorden's Bookshelf

The First Edgar Rice Burroughs Omnibus
Edgar Rice Burroughs
Renaissance E Books
P.O. Box 1432, Northampton, MA 01060
ISBN: 1588734048 $4.99 electronic download 2000 pages

Disclosure: I have 4 novels published through Renaissance

Edgar Rice Burroughs was one of the best storytellers of the Twentieth Century. His stories are simple raw action/adventures. This Omnibus is a collection of four of his lesser known novels. The first novel is 'Beyond Thirty.' It is a classic science fiction tale. The story is more fun than H.G. Wells but it has as much science and thought placed into its plot. Burroughs lived through World War I and foretold that the fighting hadn't ended between the European countries. In 'Beyond Thirty,' Burroughs speculated that the isolationist movement in the US was powerful enough to keep the US out of WW II and that the developing war would destroy the social structure of the continent for hundreds of years. 'Beyond Thirty' is the story of the re-discovery of Europe by the Pan American continents. It is pure action with enough science and social commentary to enthrall any reader.

'The Man-eater' is a tale Burroughs was so interested in that he re-told it time and time again in various forms. The Aesop type story is about a relationship between a carnivorous killer and a man. His other versions are stronger tales but this still holds the interest of the reader.

'The Jungle Girl' is the Tarzan style that we expect from Burroughs. I personally like this better than the Tarzan series. The hero is easier to relate to and the jungle action is just as non-stop.

'The Monster Men 'is the final book in the omnibus. In many ways it is a must read for anyone who enjoys Burroughs. It is a blend of the classic jungle hero story and the horror tales of the mad scientist experimenting on creating life. The ending is a bit contrived but rest of the tale is fun.

'The First Edgar Rice Burroughs Omnibus' gives a strong spectrum of the depth of the writing ability of Burroughs. It is a must read for anyone interested in classic storytelling.

The City at the World's End
Edmond Hamilton
Renaissance E Books
P.O. Box 1432, Northampton, MA 01060
ISBN: 1588733416 $4.00 187 pages

Disclosure: I have 5 novels published through Renaissance

When I was a high school student, I would visit a musty eighty-year-old building four blocks off the main street of a nearby city. I would bring in a grocery bag full of books and receive a few dollars for them. I would then spend two or three hours in the crowded building. Stacks of books reached the ten foot ceilings with narrow footpaths threading a way from one room to the next. The only lighting was the occasional bare sixty watt light bulb hanging in the middle of each room. Buried two stacks in on the shelf, I found an old Ace back-to-back double novel for twenty cents. One side had 'Star Kings' by Edmond Hamilton. It was a prize that has affected my reading and writing since.

'The City at the World's End' starts with a fellow by the name of Kenniston walking down Mill Street in the Midwestern city of Middletown on a warm summer day. He sees a super-atomic bomb explode above him. He is thrown to the ground. When he gets back to his feet, he is amazed that he is still alive. The atomic bomb has blasted a hole in space and time and pushed the city of Middletown millions of years into the future. A future where the sun and the earth are dying.

The science is fifty years old and the psychological aspects of the story are a little extreme but the quality of the writer comes through and you are swept into a future so far off that only imagination can get you there. The story isn't the epic tale of 'Star Kings' or the pure fun of 'A Yank in Valhalla ' but it is the solid pulp storytelling typical of the Classic Age of science fiction. It is a story that should be read by any interested in the burst of writing talent that exploded into American literature during the middle of the Twentieth Century and shaped the writing that followed.

S.A. Gorden, Reviewer

Harwood's Bookshelf

Patterns of the Hypnotic Techniques of Milton H. Erickson, MD
Richard Bandler and John Grinder
Grinder, DeLozier Associates
NLP Centre Canada, 5375 Free Crest Court, Mississauga, ON, L5R 3Z6
ISBN 1555520529, $27.95 284 pp.

Sir Cyril Burt achieved unparalleled results in researching the effects of environment and heredity on identical twins. Only after his death did it become clear that the alleged research had never happened, that Burt lied to further what he perceived to be a greater truth. Sadly, the possibility must be considered that Milton Erickson did likewise. Not only do the results he claimed to have achieved involve impossible to believe coincidences and phenomena far beyond anything ever achieved by anyone else. They also include results that even unshakable believers in hypnotism's real existence concede are unreplicable and should be impossible. If Erickson really accomplished what he claimed in various medical journals, then he was a miracle worker beyond compare. Somehow I doubt that.

Memoirs of a Sword Swallower
Daniel P. Mannix
Re/Search Publications
20 Romolo, Ste B, San Francisco, CA 94133
ISBN 0965046958, $15.99 128 pp.

Nightmare Alley
William L. Gresham
Fantagraphics Books
ISBN 1560975113, $14.95 136 pp.

Both of these books present a sympathetic insider's perspective of the freaks and geeks of the side show carnival industry. Where they separate is that one author allows his protagonist to be corrupted by the unreality of his make-believe environment, and the other does not. Other than that, the books are equally entertaining and equally frightening. Perhaps my years of plodding the touring show circuit has biased me in favor of books that evoke memories of the business there's no business like. But I have no hesitation in recommending these classics of a vanishing industry to anyone interested in the ins and outs of pre-television show business, or simply in entertaining reading.

William Harwood

Henry's Bookshelf

Pure Fire - Self-Defense as Activism in the Civil Rights Era
Christopher B. Strain
U. of Georgia Press
330 Rochester Dr., Athens, GA 30602-4901
ISBN 0820326860 $49.95 254+viii pp.
ISBN 0820326879 $19.95

Strain shifts the perspective on much of the civil-rights activism in the 1960s. For the most part, African Americans were not so much trying to make a new political order or create new social and economic ground as simply acting in self-defense. This makes sense when one considers that at the time, blacks were subject to institutionalized racism and frequently the targets of violence by whites with the tacit approval of the white political and legal authorities. In such circumstances, self-defense "was an essential part of the struggle for citizenship itself." Struggling for equality in education, employment, opportunity, etc., the various forms of black activism from Martin Luther King's nonviolent tactics to demonstrations and boycotts to occasional armed resistance cannot be regarded as anything other than self -defense; which self-defense is recognized in law and is an inherent part of psychology and behavior of all individuals. The title comes from Malcolm X's comment that he was urging African Americans to return "pure fire" to whites' hatred and suppression of them. Strain--teaching history and American studies at Florida Atlantic U.--also notes a statement by a Robert Williams before a Congressional committee that he urged his followers that "we should fight for the enforcement of the Constitution of the United States." Others have noted the character of self-defense in the civil-rights activism. But Strain goes far beyond simply giving a nod to this. He explores debates within the black community on the effectiveness and risks of violence in response to blatant and covert white violence and oppression; recounts the beliefs of proponents of violence such as Malcolm X; and assesses the role of advocating violence and instances of committing it in the changes worked by the civil-rights movement.

The Renewed, the Destroyed, and the Remade - The Three Thought Worlds of the Iroquois and the Huron, 1609-1650
Roger M. Carpenter
Michigan State U. Press
1405 S. Harrison Rd. - Suite 25, Manly Miles, East Lansing, MI 48823;
ISBN 087013728X $27.95 179+xxii pp.

Carpenter follows the various ways the Hurons and Iroquois tribes adapted to the activities and growing power, and in some cases the example, of the French and English in northeastern America and southern Canada in the early period of contact between them. Carpenter gets behind the devastating effects of alcohol, disease, warfare, and displacement to disclose and understand how these tribes tried to make sense of and adjust to these by modifications of their mythologies and related cultural factors. For instance, when the Indians became involved in fur trading, they "had to transform the beaver from a creature they accorded a measure of respect" because of its place in their myths and lore into a commodity. Similarly, the author goes into how Christianity affected the Indians' outlook when they did not convert outright to this religion spread by French Jesuits. The coming of the Europeans also changed the Indians' manner of warfare, from mostly skirmishes with little loss of life to an form of total war where villages were destroyed and their inhabitants taken into captivity. Carpenter is an assistant professor of history at Canada's U. of Saskatchewan whose work sheds light on the impact of Europeans on the minds and behavior of Native American tribes. Most of the scholarship in this area has looked to the external consequences such as drunkenness or migration; whereas Carpenter's gets to the changes in the fundamentals of the Native American's culture.

Transatlantic Rebels - Agrarian Radicalism in Comparative Context
edited by Thomas Summerhill and James C. Scott
Michigan State U. Press
1405 S. Harrison Rd. - Suite 25, Manly Miles, East Lansing, MI 48823;
ISBN 0870137271 $29.95 300+x pp.

The topic is taken within a wide context--from South Africa to Prince Edward Island and Scotland, from Mexico and the United States to Germany. The period of time covered is wide also--from the 1500s to the present. The 11 collected essays treat the movement of "crops and techniques of cultivation, rumors, radical plebeian ideas, workers, sailors, and prisoners" in spreading political and social ideas throughout this wide area over the several centuries. This is seen as a kind of cross-pollenization, or a vein of globalization going on in the countries touched by the Atlantic since the Renaissance. In places, some authors discuss how the cultivation of a new crop such as corn or potatoes or tobacco brought to another country or an overseas market for it played a role in the dissemination and formation of agrarianism. One learns that there are historical and ongoing ways other than diplomacy, wars, books and the media, and immigration that particular ideas and perspectives spread in the world. These ideas spread and are shaped both by acceptance of them and resistance to them. Except for a couple, the essays' authors are college professors of history. The editors are authors of books in the areas of agrarianism and political and social ideas.

Graphic Classics: O. Henry - The Ransom of Red Chief, Gift of the Magi, the Cisco Kid and More
Rick Geary, Stanley W. Shaw, Johnny Ryan, and Lisa K. Weber
Eureka Productions
8778 Oak Grove Rd., Mount Horeb, WI 53572;
ISBN 0974664820 $11.95 144 pp.

There's 13 illustrated O. Henry stories altogether, by additional illustrators than the few noted on the cover. The accomplished illustrators bring out in their own distinctive visual styles the diverse dramatic moments and general tones of the stories. The illustrations also accentuate the abbreviated, selected text of each tale. With stories ranging from only a few pages to about 20 at most, the variety of illustration styles can be reviewed and appreciated quickly in this work which fits right in to the current popularity for graphic novels and similar works.

Negotiating for Georgia - British-Creek Relations in the Trustee Era, 1733-1752
Julie Anne Sweet
U. of Georgia Press
330 Research Dr. Athens, GA 30602-4901;
ISBN 0820326755 $39.95 267+x pp.

During the short time of the Trustee Era, the leader of the British colony of Georgia James Oglethorpe worked to establish a mutually beneficial, peaceful relationship with the Creek Indians, whose leader in this was Tomochichi. The activities between the two parties have a resemblance to the diplomatic activities between two countries. On a trip to England to get guidance on the developing negotiations, Oglethorpe took Tomochichi and other Creeks as representatives of the Creek nation. The relationship between the Creeks and the Georgia colony eventually worked out involved trade, land rights, and legal protections; and it was the basis for a military alliance in the War of Jenkin's Ear against the Spanish over differences in north Florida. The "charter" between the English colonists and the Creeks did not hold up with the coming of the Revolutionary War. In the early 1800s, the Creeks were relocated to Oklahoma. Sweet's account of this exceptional charter, or treaty, between European colonists and Native Americans evidences sophisticated and enlightened political behavior by both parties. This author is an assistant professor of history at Baylor.

Fratricide in the Holy Land - A Psychoanalytic View of the Arab-Israeli Conflict
Avner Falk
Terrace Books/U. of Wisconsin Press
1930 Monroe St. - third floor, Madison, WI 53711-2059
ISBN 029920250X $35.00 271 pp.

Falk opens by surveying the "large body of scholarly literature on the Arab-Israeli conflict." The bulk of this scholarship is contained in the bibliography of about 50 pages. Yet the psychology of either side as accounting for the origins of the conflict or as a basic factor in sustaining it is not dealt with as a particular subject in any book; and is rarely even referred to in the volumes literature. Falk is an Israeli psychologist concentrating in political psychology and psychohistory who goes into this ignored psychological factor in depth. The psychology of the opposing sides as formed by their histories, ethnicity, and ties to the land is analyzed, as well as the psychology of leaders of each side, particularly Ariel Sharon and Yassir Arafat. "Psychogeography" is used to clarify the fierce competing visions for the same relatively small area of the Middle East the Palestinians and Israelis have been fighting over for decades. Falk's chapter on "The Psychology of Suicide Bombers" is especially timely and informative considering 9/11 and current events in Iraq.

The Cemetery of Chua Village and Other Stories
Doan Le
translated by Rosemary Nguyen and others
Curbstone Press
321 Jackson St., Willimantic, CT 06226-1738;; 800-423-9242
ISBN 1931896127 $14.95 189+xiv pp.

Born in 1943, Doan Le is of a new generation of Vietnamese writers who are turning from exploring the colonial presence in Vietnam and the Vietnam War with the United States. Multitalented, she not only writes fiction, but has also been recognized for her poetry, paintings, acting, and directing. In these 10 short stories echoing techniques of Gabriel Marquez, Isaac Bashevis Singer, and others positing fantastical circumstances to treat aspects of common life and the workings of history in it, Le depicts unsettling questions and problems of modernity, in Vietnam and elsewhere. With a particularly inventive, sometimes skewed, imagination and deft sensitivity, she hones in on changes in relationships between spouses, generations, and the living and the dead.

Garry Kasparov on Fischer - My Great Predecessors, Part IV
Garry Kasparov, with Dmitry Plisetsky
Gloucester Publishers/Everyman Chess, London
dist. in U.S. by Globe Pequot Press
246 Goose Ln., Guilford, CT 06437
ISBN 1857443950 $35.00 496 pp.

The famed Russian chessmaster analyzes chess games of the legendary American Bobby Fisher against some of his strongest opponents during the years Fisher was recognized as the world's top chess player. In furnishing much material besides just a simple record of moves and occasional comments, Kasparov also presents lengthy discussions of the ups and downs of the competition during the tournaments and individual matches. The exceptional book on chess goes even beyond this to give a broad picture of the chess world of the time and the play of the noted chessmasters Samuel Reshevsky, Miguel Najdorf, and Bert Larsen. An invaluable book for serious chess players, while also of interest to ones attracted to the excitement and personalities of major chess tournaments; which in recent years have started to receive some media coverage.

Eastern Arctic Kayaks - History, Design, Technique
John D. Heath and E. Arima
U. of Alaska Press-Fairbanks
PO Box 756240, Fairbanks, AK 99775-6240
ISBN 1889963259 $45.00 161+x pp.

The Arctic regions covered are the coastal areas of Greenland, Hudson's Bay, Baffin Island, and Labrador. Swedish kayaks are also examined for similarities in construction and for historical comparisons. The authors also went to museums in western and northern European countries to study kayaks at these. The authors--both with in-depth backgrounds on the subject--do a sound, detailed study on historical, present-day, and recreational kayaks. Heath especially was interested in the value of design elements and kayaking techniques of the oldest kayaks for today's recreational kayakers. For three decades, Arima has been an ethnohistorian with Parks Canada focusing on the Arctic and northwest coast of North America. Text, photographs, and detailed design drawings of kayaks work together in relating unique information on the different aspects of kayaks. While the material covers a broad geographical area and hundreds of years of kayak-making and use in hunting and transportation, one is struck by the remarkable ingenuity of the design of early kayaks; which has stood the test of time to be the basis for modern-day kayaks.

Samurai - the Weapons and the Spirit of the Japanese Warrior
Clive Sinclaire
Lyons Press/Globe Pequot Press
Guilford, CT
ISBN 1592287204 $21.95 144 pp.

Sinclaire's work has a nice tie-in with the classic and current Asian movies with samurai or samurai-like characters. Coming to Japan about the eighth century from the Asian mainland, in Japan's insular, closed, society, the samurai weaponry took on their own distinctive design and use. The samurai class and its weapons both for warfare and ceremonial purposes remained a central, influential part of Japanese society until World War II. This study is at once comprehensive and succinct, with the pleasing and informative visual elements of color photographs, including close-ups, of samurai weapons, scenes from historical art work, and antique tinted photographs. Most are familiar with the Japanese samurai swords. But the less familiar armor, spears, bow and arrow, and even guns in the past couple of centuries receive equal attention.

The Man Who Killed Houdini - An Investigation
Don Bell
Vehicule Press
Montreal, Canada;
dist. in U.S. by Independent Publishers Group
ISBN 1550651870 $17.95 260 pp.

Houdini died of a ruptured appendix nine days after being sharply punched in his stomach by a man named J. Gordon Whitehead. At the time, the connection between the punch and Houdini's death was debatable; as it was debated with respect to the payment of Houdini's life insurance. The incident was witnessed by two individuals; Whitehead had disappeared. The experienced eclectic Canadian writer Bell (d. 2003) has been investigating facts and theories concerning Houdini's death for the past 20 years. One of the most tantalizing theories is that Houdini was the victim of a "spiritualist contract killing." This is based on the growing tensions between popular spiritualists and Houdini, who at times went out of his way to expose their artifices. Bell was able to interview survivors who had some connection to the incident of the fierce blow Houdini received and its aftermath. In a popular work that is absorbing from first to last, Bell revives the mystique of Houdini in recounting known facts and his own long, methodical investigation of circumstances surrounding his strange, untimely death.

War Movies - Journeys to Viet Nam, Scenes and Out-takes
Wayne Karlin
Curbstone Press
321 Jackson St., Willimantic, CT 06226;
ISBN 193189616X $15.00 216 pp.

A Marine helicopter gunner in the Viet Nam War, Karlin returns to Viet Nam to work on the film "Song of the Stork" being made by young Vietnamese filmmakers. The film aims to recapture their parents' experiences and memories of the War. Accompanying Karlin are a group of young American filmmakers trying to make sense of the war fought by their older generation. Karlin finds that many memories are keenly awakened. Working on the film and recalling--visualizing--his own wartime memories seem equally as real. But it's not as if he's editing his past--for that would be to try to distort it. Rather, he works to recall his memories clearly; while at the same time, he is involved in the art of film-making. But Karlin does not become disoriented. The book does not wander into a postmodern miasma of the hopelessness of knowing anything significant or meaningful about history or personal experiences; nor does Karlin become seduced by the siren call of his own memories, as many writing memoirs do these days. Karlin is the author of six novels. With this author's skill, discipline, and reflective capacities, "War Movies" illustrates how memory and art each in their own way and also symbiotically make the past and play into its vitality when one does not shrink from it.

The Sibyl Sanderson Story - Requiem for a Diva, An Authorized Biography
Jack Winsor Hansen
Amadeus Press
512 Newark Pompton Tnpk., Pompton Plains, NJ 07444;
ISBN 1574670948 $29.95 503+xiv pp.

Born in 1864 in Sacramento, CA, Sibyl Sanderson was the first in a long line of celebrity opera singers running to Maria Callas and Beverly Sills in recent years. Yet, the first of this line of modern divas, she was vulnerable in ways that those following her were not--vulnerable both to illusions she created in her own mind and also to the designs of others on her. These others included Gilded Age tycoons and European royalty she met as she performed throughout the U. S. and Europe. Her marriage to a Cuban Lothario named Antonio Terry was especially destructive. With little protections against the harmful penchants of her own nature or guidance from any cautionary tales in the new environment of celebrity, media, high financial stakes, and notoriety by association that many sought from her, Sanderson suffered breakdowns onstage and practically continuous emotional pain and confusion. She died at 38 from an illness made worse by her ignoring her doctor's advice; which led some to believe she had intentionally brought on her own death. Hansen's is a voluminous biography of this latter 19th-century opera star whose fame in her day has been eclipsed by others who followed in her pattern of international fame, cult-like adulation, and impetuousness. With research from papers kept by Sanderson's relatives--often quoting from these--and a skillful balance of the many sides of her life, it's a basic resource for any study of Sanderson. Winsor uses his impressive background in music for a biography that is sympathetic and insightful.

The Blind African Slave, Or Memoirs of Boyrereau Brinch, Nicknamed Jeffrey Brace, As Told to Benjamin F. Prentiss, Esq.
edited with an Introduction by Karl J. Winter
U. of Wisconsin Press
1930 Monroe St., Madison, WI 53711
ISBN 0299201406 $65.00 244+xvi pp.
ISBN 0299201449 $19.95

The biography of the slave captured in Africa in the 1700s begins with his capture and goes on to cover "his adventures in the British navy, travels, sufferings, sales, abuses, education, service in the American war [of Independence], emancipation, conversion to the christian religion, knowledge of the Scriptures, memory, and blindness." Prentiss, who wrote down the slave's story, was a Northern abolitionist. It's impossible to say how the slave Brace's story is colored by this. In the Introduction, Winter points to some known omissions. Brace's Christian faith and knowledge of the Bible seem to begin too early in his story; and with long passages from the Bible liberally and somewhat arbitrarily inserted in the text, intrude to a questionable, and certainly unnecessary, degree. Prentiss was attracted to Brace's life story because of how it could promote his abolitionist views rooted in his Christian faith. Brace was a decent person caught up in events far beyond his understanding or concern. He enlisted to fight in the Revolutionary War mainly to gain his freedom. After being freed for his service, he moved from Connecticut, where he was owned by a cruel slavemaster, to Vermont, where he continued to bear physical and financial difficulties. The facts of Brace's colorful, moving tale can be readily sifted out from Prentiss's extraneous matter--leaving a rare, memorable biography of a slave in the North, whose circumstances and options were considerably different from slaves in the South. The circumstances of Brace's capture in Africa and his time in Vermont in the last years of his life are of particular interest.

Unwrapping the Textile Traditions of Madagascar
edited by Chapurukha M. Kusimba, J. Clair Odland, and Bennet Bronson
UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History and the Field Museum, Los Angeles, CA
dist. by U. of Washington Press
PO Box 50096, Seattle, WA 98145-5096
ISBN 0930741951 $40.00 196 pp.

As major Madagascar art forms, shawls, dresses, loose-fitting shirts, and also burial shrouds are "fundamental to an individual's ethnic, ideological, spiritual, social, political, and economic identities." These and similar garments have such a place because of the "ease with which cloth can be manipulated." Among some groups in Madagascar, textiles woven by hand and simple, age-old, tools are central in relations between the living and deceased ancestors with the changing of decayed burial shrouds for new ones. Eleven essays by authors with a surprisingly eclectic background--including college teachers in archaeology and ethnology, museum curators, a biologist, and a poet--focus on particular topics of this African island nation's textiles attracting wide notice because of their quality of production, colorfulness, and social significance. An island that has for centuries been a crossroads of trade and migrations from southern Asia, the Middle East, and Africa, Madagascar textiles are particularly complex and diverse; and because of this historical background, they have special meaning for the different groups of the society, as well as for interaction among groups. Textile traditions in different geographical areas, reviews of collections of textiles, the wear of textiles at social events, and the island's silk moths are among the topics. Numerous color photographs, some close-ups in which the weave of a garment can be seen, make for appreciation of the varied textiles; while other photographs exhibit inhabitants of Madagascar wearing the textiles in social activities or ceremonies.

Afrocuba Works on Paper, 1968-2003
Judith Bettelheim
San Francisco State University Gallery
San Francisco, CA
dist. by U. of Washington Press
PO Box 50096, Seattle, WA 98145-5096
ISBN 0295984767 $24.95 88 pp.

Bettelheim has put together a gallery of art works by 25 noted younger, contemporary, Cuban artists. The closing section is on Belkis Ayon, who died in 1999. A representative work of each of the artists faces a one-page essay on him or her. Many of the pictured works are from the past year or two. The oldest are from the 1970s. It's an eye-opening catalog displaying the liveliness and imagination in Cuban art works on paper over the past 30 years. One sees that Cuban art has not been retarded by U. S. efforts to ostracize Cuban under the Castro regime; and that as far as its art goes, Cuba reflects the latest in modern and contemporary art with respect to content and style, and in some cases political and social perspective. The Afrocuban works on paper contain all of the irony, postmodern collage, and abstract and biological forms of art of any country, while at the same time reflect earthy African roots and the social tensions and artifices of Cuba. A professor of art history at San Francisco State U., Bettelheim area of concentration is the African Diaspora.

Isaac Bashevis Singer and the Lower East Side
photographs by Bruce Davidson
text by Isaac Bashevis Singer, Bruce Davidson, Ilan Stavans, Jill Meredith, and Gabriele Werffeli
U. of Wisconsin Press, 1930 Monroe St. - 3rd floor, Madison, WI 53711-2059
ISBN 0299206246 $26.95 127 pp.

Davidson has collected varied photographs taken in the course of his relationship with the noted author Singer based on their mutual fascination with New York City street life. Some of the photos are stills from their surrealistic film on one of Singer's short stories. Others are from the portfolio "The Garden Cafeteria," a rough-hewn eatery in Manhattan's Lower East Side popular with local Jews. Most of the characters and scenes in the photos could be from Singer's short stories noted for their comical, often somewhat grotesque or fantastical, depictions of Old World Jewry in the modern day. For Singer enthusiasts especially, there are several photos of him, and also a short story titled "The Beard." The story is somewhat about Singer himself, beginning, "That a Yiddish writer should become rich, and in his old age to boot, seemed unbelievable."

End of an Exile: Israel, the Jews and the Gentile World
James Parkes
Micah Publications
255 Humphrey St., Marblehead, MA 01945;
ISBN 0916288501 $22.95 341+xxviii pp.

Parkes was an Anglican minister who wrote extensively, and influentially, on Jewish-Christian relations and the situation of Jews in Israel, especially their conflict with the Palestinians. At one time, Parkes was head of the London Jewish Historical Society, only the second non-Jew to hold this position. First published by the publisher Micah in 1954, the book was reissued in 1982 with six lengthy commentaries by noted theologians. This third edition adds four more commentaries. Reinhold Niebuhr and Tony Kushner are familiar contributors. The historical tie of Jews to the land of Israel and the fundamental role of "Palestinian shaping Jewish history" are two of several avenues pursued in forming an understanding of the vital place of Israel in Jewish history, religion, and psychology. Parkes' work and the elucidating commentaries aim not at resolutions for the conflict, but for understanding and comprehension of it--and in this, they succeed estimably.

On Common Ground - The Power of Professional Learning Communities
edited by Richard DuFour, Robert Baker, and Rebecca DuFour
National Education Service
304 West Kirkwood Ave. - Suite 2, Bloomington, IN 47404-5132
ISBN 1932127429 $29.95 254+xvi pp.

Twelve essays by leading educators describe the role of professional learning communities (PLCs) in working "to ensure that [students] learn," not only that they are taught. While PLCs take this as the core mission of formal education, there are differences within these groups about how this goal is best achieved. The principles and practices of PLCs are looked at from the perspectives of school systems, administrators, teachers, and students. The organization of PLCs for the systematic, consistent, and coordinated work required for achieving their ends in schools and classrooms is dealt with particularly in a couple of the articles, and in parts of others. For the variety of articles collected by the three editors with much experience in the field of education, who also contribute jointly-written articles, "On Common Ground" is a prime introduction and handbook on these groups which are bringing changes to American education.

A History of the Native People of Canada, Volume III, Part 1 (A.D. 500-European Contact)
J. V. Wright
Canadian Museum of Civilization, Quebec
dist. in U.S. by U. of Washington Press
PO Box 50096, Seattle, WA 98145-5096
066019175X $45.00

This is the first part of an anthropological text that was divided into two parts to accommodate all of the relevant new material that was surfacing as it was being published. The Part One focuses on the Maritime Algonquin, St. Lawrence and Ontario Iroquois, the Native Americans of the Glen Meyer/Western Basin, and the Northern Algonquin cultures. The geographical area encompassed in this Part is eastern Canada to the Prairie provinces and northward to the subarctic regions of this wide stretch of present-day Canada and parts of the United States. The Great Lakes area is also included. In accordance with a basically anthropological work, the abundant and diverse matter is divided into scientific-like sections such as cultural origins and descendants, subsistence, settlement patterns, cosmology, and external relationships for each of the identifiable Native American groups. The only note of history brought into the material is discussion of the major cultural changes brought on by the Agricultural Revolution beginning about 500A.D. The pages are numbered from 1185 to 1666 since the work is part of a series; although it stands alone in compiling the anthropological matter in the field it has outlined and picturing much of this in photographic plates.

Consuming Silences - How We Read Authors Who Don't Publish
Myles Weber
U. of Georgia Press
330 Research Dr., Athens, GA 30602-4901;
ISBN 0820326992 $19.95 148 pp.

With an approach that is partly exasperated while offering trenchant analysis at the same time, Weber searches for what to make of the phenomenon of authors who have stopped publishing yet continue to draw public attention and receive considerable critical interest. Weber sees this phenomenon as inextricably related to the major postmodern topic of the death of the author. But it could be more than this or something other than this, such as a shrewd marketing move, terminal writer's block, or loss of interest in writing. For whatever reasons, J. D. Salinger, Henry Roth, Tillie Olsen, and Ralph Ellison--for prominent examples--published nothing for long stretches, while at the same time aroused widespread public curiosity and saw their reputations grow. The fact of their not writing was integral to their image as authors, interpretations of what they did publish, and their influence on following generations of writers. With his idiosyncratic perspective, this author who is an assistant professor of English at Ashland U. sheds new light on aspects of postmodern literary theory and also media gamesmanship.

Flying Solo
Kristi Stephas
illustrated by Rachel Smith
Toy Truck Publishing
4602 Lilac Lane North, Lake Elmo, MN 55052
ISBN 0976498324 $16.95 40 pp.

Six-year-old Ellie is flying from Chicago to San Diego to visit her aunt. She is flying by herself for the first time. There are things that can be done while Ellie is still at home before leaving for her flight, at the airport, and also on the plane to address any qualms she might have as a young traveler "flying solo." As expected, her parents play a big part in this. But the parents also have to know how to use others such as siblings and airline personnel to help Ellie avoid or quickly get over any qualms. Parents talking to her in the right way is important; but most pertinent are calming and absorbing things Ellie can do or think about at each stage of her journey. Though for young readers ages 3-8, parents too can get something out of this book.

The State of Working America 2004/2005
Lawrence Mishel, Jared Bernstein, and Sylvia Allegretto
ILR Press/Cornell U. Press
Sage House
512 East State St., Ithaca, NY 14850
ISBN 0801443393 $59.95
ISBN 0801489628 $24.95

This source book with commentary and perspective on general and specific, and sometimes specialized, economic topics has been published every two years since 1988. Numerous charts and tables organize the voluminous data and in many cases, allow for informative comparisons and making out of trends. While basically an invaluable compilation of economic data, the work has some sociological dimension in that the commentary and perspectives concern the effects of the economic findings--and regularly infer that average workers and their families are loosing out in the workings and results of the present-day American economy.

Green Rice - Poems
Lam Thi My Da
translated by Martha Collins and Thuy Dinh
Curbstone Press
321 Jackson St., Willimantic, CT 06226;
ISBN 1931896135 $13.95 148+xviii pp.

Vietnamese poetry has less "connective tissue than English"; like most Vietnamese poetry, Lam Thi's "tends to be end-stopped and imagistically contained." This gives many of her lines and sometimes complete poems of hers something of a haiku-like character. Yet many of her poems are also to some degree lyrical in tone and development. Both traditional Asian and familiar Western elements are contained in Lam Thi's poems showing how the ordinary is inflected--but not mutated, obscured, or erased--by events, no matter how tragic or repressive. The ordinary, not only ordinary acts, but also ordinary yearnings, shine out of this poetry on the Vietnam War, the secondary status of women in the society, and other historical and cultural subjects and themes of her country.

An Imperfect Lover - poems and watercolors
Georgianna Orsini
Introduction by Robert Phillips and Essay by Molly Peacock
CavanKerry Press
6 Horizon Rd. - No. 2901, Fort Lee, NJ 07024;
ISBN 0970718675 $14.00 53+xv pp, with 16 pages of watercolors

Though the poet is always open to them and sometimes searching for them, the restorative memories and small delights of the world come at unexpected times, unexpected places, and in unexpected ways. The poems are about the liberty, and in many ways arbitrariness, of grace--a grace that does not perfect an imperfect world, but which makes it something other than an always disappointing and often seemingly antagonistic one. At the end of "Teaching a Female to Sing," a bird that "did not respond with a willing peep," prompts the young girl of the poem to call to her father, "She sings, she sings...." In the very next poem, "Train Whistle," a plaintive train whistle returns the poet to "a home/where I didn't know I was safe." Following the poems is a 5-page essay about Orsani as an "outsider artist"; and after this, 16 pages in color of her bright, whimsical watercolors.

Chez Nous
Angie Estes
Oberlin College Press
50 North Professor St., Oberlin, OH 44074
ISBN 0932440991 $14.95 72 pp.

The poem "True Confessions" notes "glamour [italicized in original] is a Scottish variant/of grammar [italicized in original]." In most of the poems, the effect of grammar--mostly as words and syntax--shifting into glamour is partly, most noticeably, achieved by the appearance of French words and phrases. The combination of vague familiarity and elusive meaning is the effect of glamour Estes wants to create. This makes for delightful incongruities and exceptional latitudes of emotion and perception, as when "the French celebrate/birth by touching the lips/of a new baby with fine/champagne... (from "Starling"); or "Scriabin thought/the musical note C was red..." (from Accident"). This certain unreliability and superfluity of the senses and effects on one is not comical or anarchic, as it would be for many. With Estes' disciplined eye, the shimmering play of surfaces is witnessed.

Costume, Textiles and Jewellery of India - Traditions on Rajasthan
Vandana Bhandari
Mercury Books, London
dist. in U.S. by Independent Publishers Marketing
PO Box 605, Herndon, VA 20172-0605
ISBN 1904668895 $40.00 215 pp.

The Indian clothing expert Bhandari does a tour de force. Nothing is left out--from origins of and historical influences on Indian garb to materials and manufacture; from basic clothing to the variety of ornaments and accessories; from jewelry and bracelets to class and ethnic wear. The often exotic Indian clothing so noticeable to outsiders does not basically reflect the fashion tastes or personality of the wearer, but instead mainly denotes social station and sometimes occupation. As expected, the more sumptuous clothing and jewelry goes with those of higher class. But the typical clothing of farmers, laborers, and lower-class Indians is also colorful and elaborate in its own way. Rajasthan in northwestern India was chosen as the focus for this one-of-a-kind work because of its historical and cultural significance and the mix of different classes and ethnic groups found there. The Indian state's name is derived from Rajputs, or "sons of kings." Bhandari's meticulous text is so fascinating and endlessly informative that one is hardly conscious of the exhaustive scholarship and research going into it. Often noting measurements, techniques used by the clothing makers, how an article is worn, and what is signifies, the text nonetheless does not strike one as being technical since it deals with such a colorful subject. Readers will fall into a pattern of looking at the attractive, rich color photographs and occasional illustrations and diagrams as they come, and then going to the text to find what interesting facts and points the author has on the items the men and women are wearing. Many readers will try to put their growing knowledge to work to guess social status of the individuals shown and the meanings of their accouterments. The descriptive captions should not be glossed over either. The color photo of one man notes that his "sword denotes his royal lineage, the silk tie [around it] signifying that it is carried in peace." But one of the countless bits of social and cultural lore one learns is the significance of turbans in family relationships and relationships with others. A four-page glossary of hundreds of terms testifies to the complexity of Indian clothing. This is a remarkable work with its generous fund of knowledge, skilled organization, and magnetic appearance.

White Blind (Bright Red)
Photographs by Uta Barth
Essay by an Tumlir
Site Santa Fe
1606 Paseo de Peralta, Santa Fe, NM 87501;
ISBN 0970077475 $30.00

In Tumlir's essay titled "Uta Barth: Figures of Stasis and Flux," he writes, "By purging her pictures of their ostensible subjects, [Barth] has sought to redirect our attention to a kind of perceptual noise, that which intrudes all around: in the setting, the outlying objects, the air." In this "purging" of the subject, Barth's art photographs are quintessentially postmodern. To some, they might seem nihilistic in their austerity and spareness. The photographs are a series of leafless tree branches against a winter sky. But as Barth explains about her art work, she is not making a statement about nihilism; rather she is trying to evoke awareness of perception. The tree branches can be seen as neural networks. Perception can in some ways be compared with the process by which a camera makes a picture. The depth and relevance of the intended artistic interplay with Barth's photographs depend on sophisticated understandings of psychology and physiology along with keen abilities in introspection, conception, and articulation. They also depend to some degree on inventive understandings of psychology and physiology--which inventions this artist tries to bring to birth.

Tank Killers - A History of America's World War II Tank Destroyer Force
Harry Yeide
2114 Darby Rd., Havertown, PA 19083
ISBN 1932033262 $32.95 339+xii pp.

Yeide's "Tank Killers" is "intended...[to be] both a broad history of the Tank Destroyer Force and a representative look into the world of men who fought in the TD battalions." The TDF was formed in the early days of the North Africa campaign when Allied Forces faced the vaunted German Panzers. Involved in the war in Europe on all fronts including the Italian campaign, D-Day, and the invasion of Germany, the TDF always had an eclectic, ad hoc character to it. Faced with the seemingly incongruous requirements of greater mobility than the German tanks to find them and then outmaneuver them and at the same time powerful enough weapons to destroy the enemy tanks, the TDF made do with armed Jeeps, artillery, tanks, anti-tank mines and hand-placed explosives. The Force was filled with personnel with varied specialties and combat experience brought in from varied Army units. As important as the TDF was in taking out the deadly German tanks commonly threatening to stop advancing infantry, the Force was never smoothly integrated into the regular combat forces. It was disbanded shortly after World War II ended. Yeide is an author of a previous work on U. S. tank warfare in Europe whose history of this brief, but crucial Army tank force contains enough material on individual soldiers, tactics, and combat for any World War II and military history buff. What is new and most captivating about it, though, is the continuing innovation and scrappiness of the men of the Tank Destroyer Force as they gained more information about their foe, weapons evolved, and terrains and other conditions changed during the course of the War.

"Love of Shopping" Is Not a Gene - Problems With Darwinian Psychology
Anne Innis Dagg
Black Rose Books
2250 Military Rd., Tonawanda, NY 14150
ISBN 1551642565 $24.99 210+xii pp.

With advanced degrees in genetics and animal behavior, Dagg challenges a range of assumptions presumed to be rooted in Darwin's theory of evolution. Many of these assumptions provide the basis for the field of sociobiology; they strongly color its point of view, its topics of study, and its methodology. But Dagg discerns what amounts to ideological or political dispositions or values behind the assumptions. Contrary to the Darwinian sociobiologists who believe genes are the basic, practically exclusive explanation for human behavior, Dagg believes from her studies that "human beings act as they do primarily because of their sex and personality...based to some degree on heredity"; and in relation to this, "personality is shaped to a huge extent by culture and by [an individual's] education and experience." Crime, violence, rape, and even the shopping of the title are gone over by Dagg in support of her position in this ongoing debate on how much and in what ways genetic inheritance determine an individual's nature and behavior versus the effects of circumstances and experiences. Dagg's investigation of the range of topics--some topical, some long-standing in her field--casts light on the always engaging and intriguing subject of human nature and behavior.

The Mahler Symphonies - An Owner's Manual
David Hurwitz
Amadeus Press
512 Newark Pompton Turnpike, Pompton Plains, NJ 07444;
ISBN 1574670999 $19.95 194+xv pp.

Hurwitz breaks down Mahler's nine symphonies plus his song cycle "The Song of the Earth" into their parts as these contribute to the whole; and the parts too are broken down for their development, tone, and instruments. Analyses and commentary mingle with frequent metaphoric, near-poetic, evocations of musical passages. In the Fifth Movement of Symphony No. 5, "Horn and woodwinds unfold a series of perky little tunes...." In the Second Movement, "As this climax dies away trailing clouds of strings and horns, the woodwinds slither back in with sinister whirring scales." Hurwitz also gives attention to the spiritual ideas and the emotions embodied in Mahler's music. The author of "Beethoven or Bust: A Practical Guide to Learning About and Listening to Great Music," Hurwitz writes about music in a style that is suitable for readers of all ages from young adults and up.

Retro Ball Parks - Instant History, Baseball, and the New American History
Daniel Rosensweig
U. of Tennessee Press
Knoxville, TN 37996-4108
ISBN 1572333510 $29.95 210+xii pp.

A work in the publisher's series Sport and Popular Culture, "Retro Ball Parks" looks at the urban phenomenon of the building of new, state-of-the-art, baseball stadiums to try to bring back this sport as it is viewed nostalgically. These are the stadiums built in cities around the country usually with some public funds and big tax breaks and other economic favors to the team owners. They are characterized by costly suites for corporate and well-to-do fans, rising ticket prices for all levels of regular seats from boxes to bleachers, moveable roofs and other features to provide comfort for the fans, and corporate logos lining the walls of the playing fields. Rosensweig is interested not only in how these stadiums promising revivals of urban centers come to be out of aspects of contemporary culture and political and economic interests; and also in the peculiar, particularly postmodern, notion of authenticity regarding baseball such stadiums are supposed to revive. In many cases, new businesses have sprung up around the new stadiums attempting to replicate neighborhoods that have been torn down to make way for them. Rosenweig's feelings on this phenomenon he covers are seen in the title of his introduction--"Cheap Grace." The author did most of his research in Cleveland, where the Cleveland Indian's Jacobs Field was built as the anchor of the Gateway Developmental District. "The Gateway serves as a fascinating case study of the cultural shifts enacted by the transformation of a city's economic base from local commerce and manufacturing to recreational tourism." Stadiums in other cities are brought in as well, notably the Baltimore Orioles' Camden Yards, the major urban stadium project giving rise to the others. Rosenweig is a professor of Inter-Disciplinary Studies at the U. of Virginia.

Vanessa Beecroft - Photographs, Films, Drawings
edited by Thomas Kellein
Hatze Cantz Publishers
Stuttgart, Germany;
ISBN 3775715088 $40.00

Vanessa Beecroft captures the modern-day ambiguities of feminine sexuality and image, as represented by nudity, like no other artist...more discerningly and more revealingly than any other artist. Groups of nude women sit around a long dinner table or stand in groups as if waiting for a bus. At first sight, except for their nudity, they look casual and normal. But longer viewing betrays a stiltedness, as if the women cannot get out of their subtle caricatures to communicate or touch one another in any genuine way. Other works are not so subtle on this central theme of the artificiality forced on most women in contemporary culture--such as the picture of a woman seemingly strapped to a hospital bed. The blank white, antiseptic, backgrounds of many of Beecroft's performance-like works and photographs emphasize the speciman-like quality and unreality of the figures in the foreground. Beecroft's similar group scenes with men in uniforms are ingenious counterpoints to the group scenes of nude women, while also making a point about masculine image. Snapshots and drawings having the rawness and tentativeness of experiments rather than the more complex imagery of the larger works nonetheless by their passive, somewhat anesthetized subjects, skewed angles, or provocative colors, affix aspects of Beecroft's main theme. Beecroft was born in Genoa in 1969. Showing major works along with a variety of lesser works, the book exhibits the distinctive art on contemporary preoccupations by which this artist has gained her much-deserved recognition.

Baby and Child Heroes in Ancient Greece
Corinne Ondine Pache
U. of Illinois Press
1325 South Oak St., Champaign, IL 61820-6903
ISBN 0252029291 $40.00 234+x pp.

Baby and child figures in Greek mythology have been virtually ignored in favor of the outsized, colorful, or complex adult characters, But Pache--assistant professor of classics at Yale U.--discloses from research of Greek literary works and monuments, coins, vases, and other archaeological relics that young, often little more than infant, characters had an essential part in Greek mythology. Mostly, they represented "parental fears and sense of guilt" with regard to young children, including untimely deaths. In fact, where adult mythological figures were often related to a particular village or region, certain "child heroes...become Panhellenic figures at the center of some of the most important ancient religious festivals." In this study methodically and extensively covering previously neglected and in some cases previously unknown ground, Pache adds new dimensions to Greek mythology and its relation to the psychology and outlooks of the Greek classical civilization that is one of the primary sources of Western culture.

Heroes of the Kabuki Stage - An introduction to kabuki with retellings of famous plays
Illustrated with woodblock prints by Arendie and Henk Herwig
Hotei Publishing/KIT Publishers, Amsterdam
dist. in U.S. by Stylus Publishing
PO Box 605, Herndon, VA 20112-0605
ISBN 9074822614 $68.50 359 pp.

The large, coffee-table quality book offers a particularly engaging, different way to learn about the kabuki theater that has long been an integral part of Japanese society. With full-color pictures of Japanese woodcuts on nearly every page, it's really an art book on kabuki. One aspect of the woodcuts relating to the theater are woodcuts of actors. These testify to the important place of kabuki in Japanese society, while they sometimes served as a sort of publicity. Besides offering a multi-dimensional treatment covering origins and evolution, playwrights and actors, the yearly cycle of kabuki, costumes, staging, and music, the work is also a lifelong reference--with its six indexes for instance. The Dutch authors are steeped in the subject from extensive research and attraction to Japanese prints. Thirty-seven kabuki dramas are reviewed with casts of characters, narratives of story lines, appropriate woodcuts, and endnotes and references.

The Complete Illustrated History of Skywald Horror-Mood
Alan Hewetson
Headpress, Manchester, United Kingdom;
dist. in U.S. by Consortium, St. Paul, MN
ISBN 1900486377 $24.95 256 pp.

Alan Hewetson was the head of the publisher Skywald putting out horror-fantasy comics for a few years in the early 1970s. He died before the publication of this review of his short-lived but influential publishing company. Skywald's influence is seen today especially in the content and special effects in popular horror films. It's also seen, though not so clearly or directly, in how moods of fear and dread are created in many mainstream movies. Never straying from Hewetson's keen interest in exploring illustration for the horror genre, the Skywald periodicals had a lasting appeal only to its dyed-in-the-wool fans. For them, the Skywald comics with sensationalistic, macabre, imaginative illustrations developed what became known as its distinctive "horror-mood." This review of the important publisher in the history of this genre contains articles on the horror-genre style of writing, its art, particular themes, interviews with Hewetson, and memoirs of him and Skywald. Alternating with these are 19 original illustrated stories effectively evoking Skywald's distinctive "horror-mood" and demonstrating its range of comic art. For fans of the horror genre and students of this vein of popular culture, the book "stands as a time capsule for an independent publishing house that had a true visionary [i. e., Alan Hewetson] at the reins."

American Science Fiction TV - Star-Trek, Stargate, and Beyond
Jan Johnson-Smith
Wesleyan U. Press
215 Long Lane, Middletown, CT 06459
ISBN 0819567388 $22.95 308+vii pp.

Johnson-Smith, a lecturer in film and TV at an English university, reaches the conclusion that unlike earlier periods of science fiction, "modern American sf fiction is neither utopian or enforces a critique of the Western mythos whilst renegotiating its finer aspects." This Western mythos centers on the desire for exploration. This desire was seen as far back as the Gilgamesh myth of the ancient Babylonians; and it emerged in American culture especially in Westward expansion and the related romance of the West. It entails a sense of wonder and the hope of encounter with the Sublime--elements undeniably evident in modern TV sci-fi, which are a major reason for their appeal. But imparting this sense of wonder and picturing the Sublime became possible only when TV technology improved from its first days. Only in recent years has TV arrived in an "era where far-seeing 'tele-vision' can finally live up to its name" by making use of "brilliant colors and dynamic motion" to enhance sf narratives. Today's TV science-fiction shows, notably "Star-Trek," are contrasted with earlier ones such as "Twilight Zone" creating an atmosphere mainly by suggestion, leaving much to the viewer's imagination. The author identifies a new era in science-fiction TV and analyzes the bases of its themes and popular appeal.

Are We There Yet? - A Journey Around Australia
Alison Lester
Kane/Miller Book Publishers
7946 Ivanhoe Ave. - Suite 203, La Jolla, CA 92038;
ISBN 1929132735 $15.95 32 pp.

A trip by a family with three children around Australia takes in wildlife, seacoasts, natural formations, and deserts, different inhabitants, tourist spots, and other points of interest. Most of these are pictured three or four per page. The youngest child, Billy, misses the family pets, and keeps asking when they are going to get home. The family is glad to be eventually home after the lengthy trip; but everyone appreciates what they have seen and learned about the large, diverse continent of Australia. For ages 4-8.

On the Road
Susan Steggall
Kane/Miller Book Publishers
7946 Ivanhoe Ave. - Suite 203, La Jolla, CA 92038;
ISBN 1929132700 $14.95 32 pp.

With only three words per page on about half the pages, the boldly-colored pictures do most of the work in this primer for young readers. And what the pictures show readers 3-5 in this children's book originally published in England are the different kinds of vehicles they might see while on the road in their parents' car--cars of all sizes, shapes, and colors, trucks, bicycles, road construction equipment. Children pick these out in the scenes crowded with varied vehicles. Along some stretches of road, they might see boats in a harbor, or aircraft in the sky. An absorbing book for the youngest ages.

It's Me - A Book and Audio CD
Eric Drachman
Illustrated by Isabelle Decenciere
Kidwick Books
363 South Saltair Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90049;
ISBN 0970380925 $18.95 32 pp.

Young Patricia in this book for ages 4-8 enjoys making believe she is someone else by dressing up and acting. She first imagines she is Princess Finula-Lily, followed by a scary witch, her mother, and a famous writer. She makes believe she is someone else so often that when she dresses only as herself, others in her family think she is trying to be a farmer's daughter or a person on one of her favorite TV shows. It's all in good fun though--everyone, including Patricia, knows she is always herself. The CD tells the story with amusing sound effects.

Gerhard Richter, Editions 1965-2004, Catalogue Raisonne
edited by Hubertus Butin, Stefan Gronert, and the Dallas Museum of Art
Hatje Cantz Verlag
Stuttgart, Germany;
ISBN 3775714316 $75.00 285 pp.

A recent survey reported in the N. Y. Times on the most popular modern artists based on museum exhibitions, website hits, and other criteria placed Gerhard Richter third, closely behind Picasso and Warhol. So here is a catalogue raisonne documenting the art of this leading, popular contemporary artist over the past three decades. It is as much an art book on Richter as a work of complete documentation for reference. Most catalogues are similar to book bibliographies: They simply list all an artist's works over a period time with relevant notes. Often they picture some works, usually in black-and-white, sometimes with a few in color. But this comprehensive reference on Richter has more than 200 color photographs of his art works, nearly all of these one per page. The relevant annotations including measurements, medium, and background run alongside each of the pictured works. Additionally--again, unlike most catalogue raisonnes--this book has three essays by art experts on Richter's aesthetics and the various mediums he works in and techniques he uses. Richter's position as a popular and also influential contemporary artist is based on his imaginative and revealing treatment of images. This is a basic reference/art book for any private or public book collection on modern art.

Bert Darrow's Practical Fly Fishing - How to Cast and Fish Naturally
Bert Darrow, Foreword by Bob Jacklin
Lyons Press/Globe Pequot
246 Goose Ln., Guilford, CT 06437;
ISBN 1592284248 $22.95 196+x pp.

Darrow imparts more than 30 years of fly fishing experience as both a fisherman and teacher. As in his instruction with innumerable individuals at all levels of the sport, he looks outside fly fishing for references and similarities readers can relate to to help them improve their skills smoothly and quickly. For example, Darrow stresses certain exercises for developing relevant physical motions and control for fly fishing. Listening to music can help a fisherman develop the right rhythm for casting. And the mental training practiced by many athletes has also found its way into the author's unique teaching method. Flies and equipment receive some attention. But the handbook is of most interest for its seasoned and thoughtfully worked out guidance by this author who is widely known in the sport and has received much media attention for his attachment to it and ability to teach others its finer points.

Henry Berry

Linda's Bookshelf

The Way to Happiness
George Catlin
De Vorrs Publications
553 Constitution Avenue, Camarillo, CA 93012
ISBN: 0875168043 $8.95, 78 pp.

The Way to Happiness by George Catlin enumerates the questions that seekers of happiness must ask themselves "to make sense of life" and which lead ultimately to "the spiritual life" (p. 1). Important questions are "What are we doing here?" (p. 5), "How can one maximize life's potential?" (p. 9), and "Is there a Purpose to life?" (p. 6).

Catlin suggests that if you yearn for happiness, the process to achieve it includes practicing meditation daily, walking slowly with ease, detachment, and peace, appreciating others and giving them time and attention, paying off all debts -- not just monetary debts, but the debts of goodwill and love -- and reading great spiritual texts. He outlines a plan to practice and to achieve all of these goals and challenges readers to come along on this awesome and difficult journey that leads to the spiritual path or to reject his plan.

He points out that even though we think we are in a free society, "humanity is a species in bondage" because of the highly ingrained addictive thoughts and behaviors, feelings of inadequacy, and needing to belong to a society that is constantly rushing everywhere, yet nowhere, and having all these feelings perpetuated and exacerbated by advertising and the possibilities of purchasing a flashy new and competitive physical life.

In addition, Catlin explains that even with all these negatives, society clings to them because they are familiar and by being familiar offer an odd sort of security. He says that truly to achieve happiness, seekers of this elusive commodity must review their assets, desire real self-transformation, reject the familiar, and go in search of the unknown beyond the state of thought. Above all, he maintains that, "The small self, the personal self, has to surrender for the 'higher Self' to live" (p. 38), and only when "we have had more than enough of one nation imposing its ways on the rest of the world" (pp. 67-68), can we know real peace and happiness. Catlin says that "those who know life's truths would never impose their will on anyone" (p. 68). Indeed, Catlin finishes his heartfelt work by summarizing that the way to happiness is the process of serving others without regard to what one receives in return. He says it is "a well-worn route to joy" (p. 75) and asks his readers to try it.

Our Health At Risk: What's Going Wrong in Our Health System?
Janice-Ann Priest, Dsc, CNHP, NC, DipHerb, Kn
Herbal Limited
PO Box 6041, Tauranga, New Zealand
ISBN: 4162460005 NZ$24.95 softcover, 300 pp.

Our Health At Risk: What's going wrong in our health system? by Janice-Ann Priest outlines and carefully documents the practices of the pharmaceutical industries of New Zealand, Australia, and the United States and their inextricable links with the inherent problems of the medical industry and public health. Priest explains in a no holds barred monologue that propaganda has long perpetuated "blind faith to the medical gods" (p. 5) and conveys that the clever marketing of discomfort and disease helped to create and uphold what she describes as the one system -- one way monopoly that finally is being challenged through enlightenment.

She explains that these industries too often unite in the wrong-headed masking of symptoms rather than exploring to discover the underlying mental and emotional states that can play a role in the onset of imbalances and blocked energy that can manifest as malfunctions and diseases. She also exposes the passion and prejudice that drives these industries to downplay natural modalities and alternative approaches to better health. Priest encourages support of complementary health care methods that ferret out causes to correct imbalances in a holistic manner to help patients to mend and to heal and to put them onto a pathway to a finer focus and better health -- mentally, physically, and spiritually -- and a better life. The author also includes a glossary of literary definitions for health, a timeline of literary dates and events related to the evolution of health care, and a brief history of the healing arts including the early history of herbalism, apothecary, and pharmacy and their influences on the health systems of New Zealand, Australia, and the United States. The book also presents a storehouse of warnings and health care statistics and provides a guide through a maze of medical information.

Our Health At Risk is must reading for thinkers who cherish their good health and wish to guard it with wise choices from a far-ranging host of natural healing modalities rather than succumbing to the one system -- one way medical myth.

Linda Davis Kyle, Reviewer

Magdalena's Bookshelf

The Plot Against America
Philip Roth
Houghton Mifflin
ISBN 0618509283 $26.00

The Plot Against America is just a little bit unsettling, though perhaps for reasons other than those intended by Philip Roth. Blurring historical fact and fiction, it takes some time to get used to the narrative tone of this novel, which has a seven year old "Philip Roth" as its protagonist, and aviation hero "Charles A Lindbergh" as the key antagonist. Roth's "real" family is also part of the story, including his artist brother Sandy and his parents, and it is set in a very similar family house in Newark New Jersey which Roth details in his autobiography. But this is not a memoir. Roth takes a "what if" scenario and carefully develops it, using as much historical fact as he could fit, and then fictionalises the rest. The plot itself is simple. The year is 1940, and Lindbergh runs an anti-war campaign for the presidency, and win. What follows is an exploration of what could have happened with a Lindbergh president, based on Lindbergh's publicly positive statements about Hitler, the Service Cross medal presented to Lindbergh by the Nazis, the anti-Semitism expressed in his diaries, and his isolationist, anti-interventionist comments delivered at rallies at speeches.

As a dystopia, the story effectively conveys the possibility that history could easily have been different, at the same time highlighting the delicacy of the structure of our current democracy--one that could change with little warning. There is plenty of polemic in this story, and the sense of "there but for the sake of " is intentionally unsettling, but the use of real names in a real context, along with real historic events, makes it difficult for the reader to fully engage with the story. It is simply impossible to forget that Lindbergh's anti-war, anti-Semitic address was held in 1941 after the US joined the war, or that Lindbergh never ran for president, and that FDR was re-elected. Having said that, the relationship to current US policy has been pointed out by many critics, and this is effectively borne out by the strong narrative voice, of elder "fictionalised" Philip Roth, a thread which pulls together the past and the present:

The status conferred by economic and vocational advantage inclined them to believe that those who lacked their prestige were rebuffed by the larger society more because of insular clannishness than because of any pronounced taste for exclusiveness on the part of the Christian majority, and that neighborhoods like ours were less the result of discrimination than its breeding grounds. (217)

The use of Lindbergh is a clever trick to get attention, and also to allow those who recall his unpleasant remarks some point of connection (I remember my own grandfather's vindictive response when I told him I was reading the A. Scott Berg biography: "that rabid anti-Semitic "). However clever, these bits of historical "anti-realism" (as many have called them) and verbal asides make it difficult to engage with the actual beauty of Roth's writing: his excellent characterisations and rather sensual depiction of Newark during the 1940s:

There were no trees for sale in our neighborhood--because there was no one to buy them--and so the month of December, if it smelled at all, smelled of something a shissing alley cat had tugged from an overturned garbage can in somebody's yard, and of supper heating on the stove of a flat whose steamy kitchen window was open a crack to let in air from the alleyway, and of the bursts of noxious coal gas spewed from the furnace chimneys, and of the pail of ashes dragged up from the cellar to be emptied outdoors over slippery patches of sidewalk. (118)

Young Philip Roth is a sympathetic and sensitively drawn character, with whom the reader can empathise, as he tries to comprehend the way in which his secure world crumbles. Roth adroitly manages to convey the very realistic way in which he blames and even tortures himself over events such as the death of his downstairs neighbour and friend/nemesis Sheldon's father, and then mother. The juxtaposition of Sheldon's mother's cozy warmth and young Roth's agony over her death is one of the most moving and masterful scenes in the book; much more powerful than any of the colder narrations which tell (rather than show) how events transpired as anti-Semitism becomes rife, riots ensue, Lindbergh disappears, and ultimately the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor. Contrasted with the cartoonish Lindberghs, especially Ann Morrow, whose sensible words in the face of governmental insanity seem as contrived as the difficult ending, which seems designed only to explain the Lindbergh's "sell-out" in the context of their own family crises (perhaps even parallelling the Roths', but which is so far fetched and even silly to work. Though politically the novel is patchy, struggling to make its thematic point (however powerful or politically accurate--the polemic would have worked better as non-fiction), from a novelistic point of view, the Roth family is perfectly drawn, and the drama which unfolds within it subtly and sensitively handled. Young Philip's fear in the face of what happens, not just outside, but within the family unit is powerful, and drives the suspense forward. We watch Philip's own minor mishaps as he and a friend follow "goyim" on the bus, as he runs away with his neighbour's clothes and gets kicked by a horse. The family's later disintegration, particularly when Philip's father falls out with his wounded cousin Alvin is moves the plot forward and mirrors the demise of America in a very powerful way:

Blood spattered the length and breadth of our imitation Oriental rug, blood dripping from the splintered remains of our coffee table, blood smeared like a sign across my father's forehead, blood spurting from my cousin' s nose--and the two of them not so much fist fighting, no so much wresting as caroming, with a terrible bony thwack colliding, rearing back and charging in like men with antlers branching from their brows, fantastical, cross-species creatures sprung from mythology into our living room and pulping each other's flesh with their massive, snaggletooth horns. (295)

Philip's awakening as he begins to realise that his father and aunt are fallible, and that the world he lives in is unstable is part of what makes this book work, despite its unsettling, albeit interesting premise, and the negative impact of the older wiser Philip Roth narrator. As a family drama set in a tumultuous and perhaps immediately relevant setting, this is a serious and significant novel, despite its flaws.

Coaching the Artist Within
Eric Maisel
New World Library
ISBN: 1577314646 $14.95 256 pages

What's a creativity coach? Although perhaps the concept is as old as creativity itself, as a field of practice, Eric Maisel may have been the originator. A creativity coach is someone who helps those who are creatively challenged in some way. The scope of this challenge is broad indeed, since it is the very nature of creative challenges which spur creative responses. In other words, all artists are creatively challenged at the start and throughout each of their projects. It's when the challenge becomes so great that the work stops or an emotional crisis ensures that the work of a creativity coach becomes valuable. Eric Maisel is more than a creativity coach, although he has written a number of books and countless articles on the topic, and does expensive coaching sessions for some rather famous artists. His latest book, Coaching the Artist Within is more like Anthony Robbins without the overt hype, and targeted directly towards people who need to be creative. It is motivational, inspirational, and touches on more than an artist's output.

The book is written in simple, accessible prose and is full of real life stories from Maisel's practice--tales of rock stars who are feeling dissatisfied with their music, singers who have too much anxiety to perform their best, painters who no longer want to paint in the style their customers expect, and writers who can't finish their writing. Coaching the Artist Within is designed to turn the reader into his or her own self-creativity coach, and is set out in twelve lessons and a number of related exercises. These skills include such things as how to become an effective self-couch, passionately making meaning, getting a grip on your mind, eliminating dualistic thinking, generating mental energy, creating in the middle of thing, achieving a centred presence, committing to goal-oriented process, dealing with anxiety, planning, upholding dreams in the face of reality, and maintaining a creative life.

It's a misnomer however, to think of these "skills" in the same way as one might think of learning to use a carpenter's saw or learning to speak another language, though Maisel suggests that even things like emotions and beliefs can be dealt with through creating positive habits, mental exercises, and repetition. The second skill, passionately making meaning is the key which underlies the entire book--that just getting through a day, finishing a project, or even making good money really isn't enough. Life is all about deciding that our lives have meaning. Maisel presents this as a deliberate choice, and a learnt skill through a series of exercises like creating a life purpose statement, and holding, always, the intention to fulfil that life purpose. This is not subtle, nor is it difficult to grasp, but it also as powerful as religion in providing a sense of purpose to life. There is much of Walter Pater's classic conclusion to The Renaissance here: "To burn always with this hard, gem-like flame, to maintain this ecstasy, is success in life."

This is true life coaching, but Maisel is never corny, nor does he preach or ever come near to didacticism in his writing. In most instances, he shows us what others have had to deal with and we are able to recognise ourselves in the many examples (which are fun and even hedge on the gossipy) scattered throughout the book. At the same time, the book doesn't oversimplify, or pretend that the road to self-actualisation is an easy one. This isn't about cheerleading, and there is most definitely no chapter on food combining or how to lose weight. The exercises, though powerful, are surprisingly simple, and include such things as keeping a journal devoted to dream upholding, a life plan, a series of pre-performance questions designed to get at the roots of anxiety, dropping everything and making creativity a priority, centring yourself through a series of breathing and speaking exercises, or using affirmations as substitutes for negative thoughts. If you've read many self-help or motivational books, you'll probably recognise some of these, however, what make this book so powerful is the way in which Maisel puts it all into the broader context of creativity being at the heart of a positive and fulfilled life. Those working in a creative arena will understand and feel deeply the importance with which Maisel views their work, and the intimacy of his understanding of the problems which can occur. As Maisel himself is not only a coach, but also a novelist who understands how to use language, this is a book which reads well, handling large and difficult notions with ease:

We must dream large, and we must also reality-test well. It is imperative that we do both. A person who dreams large but doesn't effectively test reality ends up in a fantasy world. A person who tests reality well but doesn't nurture large dreams lives paralyzed in the ordinary world. A peson who manages to do both occupies the only heaven heavenly enough to suit our creative soul, a heaven where creative projects are incubated and made manifest in the crucible or reality. (175)

What Maisel presents here is a primer on how to live a life worth living. If you're a blocked artist, Coaching the Artist Within will certainly help you get to the root of what is troubling you, while always spurring you forward to do more, more deeply, and more meaningfully. Even if you aren't blocked, this book is an excellent resource to help you get the most out of life, to work to your best, and to create a broader vision to encompass your creativity. It always comes back to the reader, and ultimately this book will have you answering your own questions. This is one for every artist's bookshelf, and perhaps also for the broader community as well.

Another Universe: Friendly street poets 28
Edited by Kate Deller-Evans and Steve Evans
Wakefield Press
ISBN 1862546398, $19.95

Friendly Street is a open mike poetry venue in Adelaide. It has been running for 29 years now and is Australia's longest running open poetry venue. Every month, a wide range of brave poets venture through its doors to perform their poetry to an eager audience. All poets who perform are eligible to submit their work to the annual Friendly Street anthology. The poems in Another Universe are varied in tone, some light and humorous, some deep and intense. Editors Kate Deller-Evans and Steve Evans do a very good job with both the selection of and balance between poems, and this latest edition is an exceptional showcase for new and experienced Australian poets. The scope varies from parody to haiku, limerick to free verse. Overall though, the one thing that these poems have in common is accessibility. The poems speak a contemporary language of travelling through a strange country, memories of the past, of the nature of poetry, teaching, an ex-husband, death, love, and many more topics which will be familiar and evocative to the modern reader. There are no rhymed couplets, no cute bush stanzas, no archaic or high blown language. The poems speak of shared moments, epiphany, and of the richness, beauty, and sometimes ugliness of everyday life.

Another Universe contains 100 poems by 70 authors, chosen from approximately 400 which were submitted from those read at Friendly Street in 2003. Although the poems stand on their own, knowing the context, it is hard not to imagine the poets' voices as they stood reciting and interpreting in front of the Friendly Street audience. A large number of the poems are also part of larger collections by their authors, including Erica Jolly's Pomegranates, Patricia Irvine's Leaving the Mickey, Jeri Kroll's Mother Workshops, and Deb Matthews-Zott's Shadow Selves, all published by respected small presses.

Jude Aquilina's "Adelaide, 1970's" is almost a piece of prose, but like the best of poetry it moves effortlessly through a series of images; conveying perception and motion without the need for pause or straight syntax. 1970 doesn't seem like such a long time ago, but this is nostalgia at its best, without pathos. Aquilina effectively puts the reader into the immediacy of the scene. The ending is both light and intense, instantly taking us out of a child's present into the memory of an adult:

The milkman rises early to foil the sun and milk-money thieves. Old men ride push bikes with cartons or kit bags strapped to their carriers. House doors are left unlocked. Asleep on the lawn on summer nights.

A blink and it all turns black and white.(6)

In "The Ex," Kate Bristow does a humorous job of using modern Australian vernacular to convey both the womanising bludger qualities of an ex-husband with her own sense of exile from the man with whom she was once tied:

I study his furrowed brow,

Years of experience etched like lough tracks on his face,

Searching for the man I married thirty years ago who said,

'I'll look after you. It would be great to have kids

And buy shoes for them.'

The same man who looked after my widowed mother.

He dientangles the tentacles of the twenty year-old nymph

Suckered to his neck. (15)

Other poems tackle familiar subjects like illness and nature, but the imagery is always fresh and original, and consistent with my own bias, there is always a sense of the inner world of the poet; of what is lost and found in any moment being explored. A beautiful example of this is Melanie Duckworth's "First Rain," which, like most of the poems in this collection, are moving without being overly sentimental. Rain is as simple as the shower outside, which "clamours happily/on the sky-light and the tin-/it wants to get in." but it is also metaphorically as complex as the disease which attacks the subject of the poem:

The bed is kind and carries you

And the rain

Is far away but closer than breathing

When it gets in. (37)

The delicacy and warmth of this sad poem allows the reader to identify with the woman in pain and the narrator who has to watch and care. The rain is both cleansing and deadening, and its endless pattering simultaneously transitory and permanent. Similarly in Steve Evan's "Dachau," there is a strong sense of dignity in the midst of tragedy, and of the longing for normalcy--the everyday decisions and trivia that we take for granted. Again the reader is forced to face both the horror of the Holocaust as it reaches it conclusion, and its ongoing relationship to everyday life in a way which is moving but still devoid of any overt attempts at drawing out sympathy:

you'll rise when ready

Dust off the years

Collect your clothing from the heap

And dress without embarrassment

Among the naked crowd

These are poems which become instantly personal to the reader, intimate without being insular. The poems taking on the subject of death and survival are among the best in the book, looking hard at those things otherwise too painful to bear, such as Louise Nicholas' "The Tree," which explores the loss of a child:

As though you never whirl round from the stove -

the silent hall

the empty shelf

The stench of flowers and sympathy cards (72)

The book is full of these exquisitely painful moments, but they are offset and even intensified by the jokey light notes of such farce as Geoff Kemp's "Footy Poem," or Stephen Lawrence's "Partnershipping." The editors do a very good job of balancing the intense and touching with light parody, creating a very pleasurable anthology for the reader. Some poetry, even good poetry, forces the reader to work hard, uncovering meaning from obscurity, but Another Universe isn't like that at all. These poems were clearly designed to be understood quickly, sharing their meaning in a straight hit from poet to reader. It is as if they were being read to us. The ease of understanding is not generally due to simplicity though. With a few minor exceptions, most of these poems are as complex and powerful as the human psyche, and bear repeated readings. It is exactly what a good poetry collection should be.

For more information visit the web site at:

Write Any Book in 28 Days
Nick Daws
No ISBN, CD-ROM, $49.95

In the introduction to his self extracting HTML course, Nick Daws promises that you will create a book length work of fiction or non-fiction in a matter of weeks. This is rather a hefty promise, especially considering that most book length fiction and some of the better quality non-fiction takes some years to create. The basic thesis of Daw's course is that the faster you write, the higher your profit level. While this may be true for some kinds of non-fiction, and also is a possible way to produce a reasonable beginning draft, it doesn't necessarily follow that faster is better. Some of the best books of all time have taken many years to write, partially because the author revised, reworked, and rewrote until they had a novel that was a work of art. Even some of the examples Daws cites, such as Harry Potter, are for books that took several years to produce. There is really no way around it. Quality takes time, and few novelists would disagree with that. Despite the misleading premise, this is actually a decent course, full of innovative sound-bitey, but easy to apply ideas for getting that first draft out as quickly as possible, which is not a bad way of working if you are that way inclined. As Daws clearly explains, writing fast can tap into the illusive and creative right brain. It also will give you more time for that crucial, but slow left brain activity of revising, which is probably the key thing that distinguishes good writing from bad.

The course itself is much like an e-book, but produced in an HTML format which is set up in easy to follow chapters, with live links, occasional music and navigational buttons. Daws provides encouragement to would be authors, debunking the myth that writers are a special breed of people, or that there is such a thing as the elusive muse. Anyone can write, we all can find the time if we so desire, ideas are easy to come by, and most people have enough personal experience and wisdom to write a book about anything. All of this is probably true to a degree, although like much in this course, is probably something of a copywriter styled simplification.

Practicing what he preaches, Daws' course is written in simple conversational language, and is very easy to follow, with recaps at the beginning and ends of each self-contained module. He presents a number of easy tricks which can help make the writing process simpler, including things like writing in conversational style (which may or may not be appropriate for a novel, stylistics being one of the more complex aspects of literary quality fiction), "the Q&A method" or asking yourself questions and arranging them in an appropriate order, freewriting (which taps into "right brain intuition"), how to get ideas for your book from the many "seeds" within yourself or from other books, people and situations you come across, the use of acronyms for unique book themes, ways of coming up with a good title, how to come up with plot ideas, and how to make use of The Hero's Journey plot model. Each concept is contained on a single well spaced screen page, and is written in clean, relaxed copywriter's prose which will put beginning or nervous writers at ease. Additional chapters cover the writing of non-fiction, outlining through the use of chapters, turning chapters into blueprints, the use of freewriting, the use of transitions, lists, keywords, and tips on improving style, characterisation, narrative voice, how to show and not tell, researching, and fast editing.

Some of these topics just skim the surface of these serious topics, such as getting published, plot creation and character development, setting and description, stylistics, and editing, and are covered in much greater detail in other books, such as James Frey's How to Write Damn Good Fiction or Noah Lukeman's The First Five Pages, The Plot Thickens or for self-publishing, anything by Dan Poynter. However, for the beginning writer, or a writer who wants a reasonably complete overview which is more like an outline for working quickly, this is a good place to start. The writing is simple, clear, and concise, with a range of memory aids (like the 4 C's, Hero's Journey models, WAYS ("write as you speak), and PACE (People, Action, Conversation, Emotion) to ensure that you are able to put the principles into practice immediately. Each section contains a series of easy exercises which effectively demonstrate the chapter's principles. Experienced writers (particularly experienced writers of literary fiction) will probably find this course overly simplistic, since advanced narrative patterns may not necessarily correspond to the "WAYS" principle, and certainly all sentences don't need to be short (unless you are writing web copy, which is something Daws clearly excels in). Some of the greatest novels ever written have lengthy paragraphs and interesting linguistic patterns to convey meaning which may be more complex than simple prose can convey--Joyce's Ulysses and Wolff's The Waves for example. However, writers who are at Joyce or Wolff's level, are probably well beyond any course. For the majority of new authors, this course will provide a decent roadmap which will cover, in brief, all of the elements needed to pull together a fast, and reasonably comprehensive first draft of either a fiction or nonfiction (though I daresay it works better for non-fiction, something which Daws appears to have more experience in than fiction).

This course presents a very effective way to break through writers block, and will take that very daunting task of writing a whole book, and make it seem both achievable, and even relatively straightforward. It is. Daws is absolutely right in suggesting that there is nothing mystical or elite about writing a full length book. A book model can make the drafting process much easier and using a few mental tricks and tips can help flesh out the parts, just the same way as if you were using a fill in the blank software system like New Novelist. Of course, the first draft is only just the start--a very difficult lesson for first time book writers, and one which will most certainly sort the wheat from the chaff. The fast editing chapter does grossly simplify and underestimate the multi-drafting process of writing good literary quality fiction and non-fiction (though, and I'm showing my biases here, it may be perfectly fine for formulaic romance, chick-lit, thriller or sci fi genres). The advice and techniques given in this course are all sound ones, which actually cover a fair amount of territory for the small number of words used. In other words, it is a concise, but reasonably solid course which will get writers writing, in a structured and organised way. I am aware of two other products which are reasonably similar to this one on the market, Steve Manning's Write a Book Now, which sells for a whopping $297 (plus $19.95 shipping!), and Rob Parnell's Easy Way to Write which sells for $29.95. Parnell's e-book is pithier in content, but while it covers similar ground, it doesn't have the same funky HTML course-like format, which may work better for some people, so the $49.95 price for Write Any Book is probably not a bad investment for a new novelist or author. As an outline and motivational guide for writing a first draft, the course delivers reasonable value. However, a first draft is still a long way off the kind of work that needs to be written in order to find a commercial publisher (obviously anyone can publish their own e-book, or use a vanity press, without worrying about the quality of their final work). The real work, and the real craft, especially in a novel, is in the re-writing, and after your 28 days is up, there is going to be plenty of additional hard yakka. There's no point in glossing this over. That said, the first draft is still a good starting point, and it is still exciting to finish the draft and have a good clear understanding of what you are trying to say and how you are planning to say it. This book will help get you there.

The course comes with a number of "bonuses". These include a list of high paying short story markets in the US and UK, a list of some US and UK publishers, a list of websites for posting screenplays, a list of some potential book titles (you might like to come up with something relevant to your own book though!) - these are all one pagers of mostly publicly available information. There is also a copy of Script Smart Gold script templates for the US and UK, WriteSparks Lite (which is also available free from, and Cynergy Script Editor.

Magdalena Ball, Reviewer

Martha's Bookshelf

Sue Stauffacher
Alfred A. Knopf
Random House Children's Books
a Division of Random House, NY, NY
ISBN: 0375824685 $15.95 144 pp.

Donuthead was a must-read for me as I also am crafting a tale told from within the mind of a middle-school-aged boy. And of course I was fascinated by how another author would bring to life the murky depths therein. I found Donuthead to be a quick, delightful read for adults as well as children. Never has an obsessive-compulsive disorder been displayed with such charming hilarity. Franklin Delano Donuthead has progressed to the fifth grade defying an untimely death and millions of ruthlessly attacking germs by avoiding cars and bodies of water (the number one and two causes of death in children). Plus, as he says, "I never play with matches or firearms; never climb trees, ladders, or fences; change the smoke detector batteries every three months; do not drink liquids that are stored under the sink or put any plastic bags over my head."

And if that weren't enough, in order to live to see the sixth grade, Franklin protects himself from a world filled with germs by dousing with hydrogen peroxide, using sanitary gloves and repeating the "Happy Birthday" song as a mantra three times to ensure sufficient time to wash his hands. Low accident statistics and weekly calls to Gloria Nelots, the chief statistician for the National Safety Department in Washington, give this young man great comfort.

But then what can you expect from a fellow who has to endure a last name like Donuthead, whose slightly wacky mother dreams of her son playing third base for the New York Yankees and who has a sperm donor for a father?

And who could imagine that a new girl in school, Sarah Kervick, a tough, dirty little pile of germs with matted blonde hair and warts, could manage to open some of the locked doors at the Donuthead household and create a more "regular" family as well?

Sarah begins by smashing her fist into the class bully's nose, ignoring Franklin's pleas to "try to do as little as possible. It's important not to respond. That could escalate the tensions." Franklin's accident-avoidance techniques clash with Sarah's no-holds-barred aggression. And then, when his mother befriends her, Sarah enters Franklin's after-school world as well. But good things start happening to Sarah, Franklin and his mother when they open up to each other as human beings, which allows their dreams to come a little closer to reality. Perhaps the most warming aspect of this book is that it shows the positive effect kindness and understanding has on individuals.

This well-crafted story loaded with humor and humanity is an excellent read for children from middle elementary on to adults. Sue Stauffacher has also written two other books for children, The Angel and Other Stories, a collection of folk tales, and S'gana, the Black Whale, about a 12-year-old boy and a killer whale. A new book named Harry Sue is due out the summer of 2005, and its story line seems to display the same delightful quirkiness and warmth as Donuthead.

We Should Do This More Often
Lorilee Craker
Waterbrook Press
2375 Telstar Drive, Suite 160, Colorado Springs, CO 80920
ISBN: 1578568595 $12.99 203 pp.

I have heard Lorilee Craker speak twice. She is a warm and engaging person with a deliciously quirky sense of humor that convinced me her books would be both entertaining and amusing. And with two daughters awash in the early stages of child care, I meant to take a quick look back at that active period, perhaps congratulate myself that I survived it and then pass this book on to my daughters.

What I found was a sassy, yet thoughtful review of a very serious problem; that is, the loss of passion and companionship a marriage can suffer when a baby enters the picture. The author's research is not scientifically documented or analytically presented; but, much better, consists of feedback from a group of women friends possessing small children and, yes, from her own marriage as well. For such an up-close-and-personal subject, friendship is essential for a true response. And confidentiality is afforded to all but the author herself.

The reader is introduced to a fictional couple, Debra and Trevor Arbuckle, who are in love, in tune with each other and share multiple interests. As we follow them through the birth, babyhood and toddlerhood of two children, we see them grossly neglecting their marriage due to the all-absorbing task of caring for their offspring, which eats up a good deal of their time and physical strength. Weight gain, a matronly appearance and viewpoint and misfired and mismatched romantic signals complicate the problem. We see them truly becoming two ships passing in the night instead of loving partners, a surefire recipe for marriage disaster.

Interwoven in Debra and Trevor's story are helpful tips culled by the author and her friends on how to avoid such a precarious marital situation from developing. As the author states bluntly, "If you're one of those people who think you can recapture romance while still in the presence of your children, well, I'll just tell you: you can't!" And suggestions follow: a parents-only trip to a restaurant "where macaroni and cheese is not on the menu and they don't hand out crayons" or enjoying "the enchanting, mysterious luster of a yearly overnight or weekend away."

The author's style is playful, but does not mask the importance of making a marriage happy, cooperative and responsive to each partner's needs. It is no small statement that the extra care a couple takes of their marriage will have a more beneficial effect on the children than if one or both of the couple focuses solely on their children and excludes the needs of their mate. And even though I have no more children to rear, I'll have to admit that I gained some knowledge about the workings of a marriage that my husband can only benefit from. I believe anyone involved in a marriage, man and woman alike, will learn much from reading this book.

Lorilee Craker has written other books: When the Belly Button Pops, the Baby's Done, O For a Thousand Nights to Sleep and See How They Run written concurrently with the author experiencing pregnancy, caring for a baby and dealing with that "active period" of chasing toddlers. I can't wait to read them!

Martha Robach

Mayra's Bookshelf

Monkey Trap
Lee Denning
Twilight Times Books
P.O. Box 3340, Kingsport TN 37664
ISBN: 193120134X $19.50 422 pages,

Two objects resembling asteroids approach earth. They collide in a flash of green and blue light. One falls on a Columbian jungle, the other on Washington.

In the Columbian jungle, John Jacob Connard, US Special Forces veteran, better known as Assassin, is on a mission to eliminate a drug lord. He is shot and mortally wounded. Upon waking, he discovers his wounds have miraculously healed and an alien voice in his mind is 'talking' him.

In Washington, Lara Picard, environmental lawyer and mother, has a serious biking accident, grave enough to end her life. Yet, as she is rushed to the hospital, she can feel her own wounds mysteriously healing as if by magic. And just like Connard, she now seems to share her mind with a strange being.

Alien, intelligent entities have invaded the consciousness of the two protagonists.

One is good and wishes earth to step into the next level of consciousness. The other is evil and seeks nothing but human destruction. But which is which? What exactly are they? And why do the computers at the Global Consciousness Project suddenly seem to go berserk?

An impressive, ambitious first novel. The first of a triology, Monkey Trap is an action-packed, suspenseful, fascinating extraterrestrial story that will keep you reading compulsively until you discover the conclusion. Its originality sets it apart from the rest of SF novels being published these days. If you enjoy action stories with a strong touch of mysticism and scientific detail, you'll love this book.

Book Marketing From A-Z
Francine Silverman
Infinity Publishing
1094 New DeHaven St., Suite 100, West Conshohocken PA 194428-2713
ISBN: 0741424312 $18.95 400 pages

You've written a novel. You've had it published. Unfortunately, unless you're a megastar author like Anne Rice or Stephen King, chances are your publisher isn't going to do much in terms of promoting your book. But what is an author to do? You can sit and wait for your book to become a bestseller, but chances are a million against one that this isn't going to happen. Or you can take a serious, active part in the marketing of your book and achieve the highest success possible.

Francine Silverman's Book Marketing From A-Z is filled with original concepts and resources to help you along the way and make the process less difficult. An informative compilation of ideas and tips from over 300 authors, in it you will find links to promo and review sites, free-subscription newsletters, ezines and magazines that accept articles, contests, free downloads and much more. Topics are arranged alphabetically for easy access. Everything from the importance of book covers to pitching the media to the necessity of author websites can be found between these pages.

An absolute page-turner! I got it in the mail on a Wednesday afternoon and finished it by Thursday evening. I simply couldn't put it down. As an author, I found myself scribbling on the margins, underlining key words and taking notes. Later on I spent several hours at the computer checking the long list of links and adding them to my promo folders. I also subscribed to some very helpful newsletters. The drawback? It left me hungry for more. This is a book you'll definitely want to keep on your reference shelf. Highly recommended for authors who want to successfully market their books.

Mayra Calvani

Molly's Bookshelf

The Blue Ribbon Day
Katie Couric
Illustrator: Marjorie Priceman
1255 Avenue of the Americas, NYC NY 10020
ISBN: 0385501420 $9.95

Entertaining Read .. Recommended 4.5 stars

Ellie McSnelly and Carrie O'Toole are best friends as they race down the hall of Brookhaven School. Tomorrow is a big day it is the day to try out for Soccer. Both girls are so excited they cannot think. On Monday Carrie was glad she had taken a chance and tried out that is until she read the sign listing the girls who made the team. Carrie's name was not on the list. Mom's words 'Everybody's a star, a brilliant creation, the trouble is find the right constellation' do not offer Carrie much consolation. By morning Carrie was ready to go on with life. The science fair is only a week away. Carrie's lab partner Lazlo has an idea and Carrie has one too. The pair set about producing a fun project, but will it work, and can they enter it into the fair. It worked, it worked! And, Ellie was the first to come see.

Writer Couric and Illustrator Priceman have collaborated to produce an excellent tool for children who may not yet feel themselves in their right constellation. A lesson we all must learn is that no one of us excels at all things. Sometimes our friends do well at something and we do well at another. Disappointment depicted by writer Couric is indisputable and real. Learning to deal with disappointment is something we must all learn.

Couric utilizes a worthy methodology to extend to youngsters a feasible technique for dealing with the ups and downs faced by all in life. Rather than Carrie bemoaning her misfortune she sheds a few tears while snuggled on Mom's lap, dusts herself off and goes on. That is an excellent lesson for us all and the sooner we can learn it, the better equipped we are to face future disappointments and future successes. Ellie and Carrie remain friends as each excels at something she does well. The girls cheer one another and share both upset and joy.

As both a school teacher and a parent I like the fact that in the book 'Mom' offers sympathy and encouragement, she does not go screaming to the school to demand that Carrie be made part of the team. Mom helps restore her disappointed daughter's self confidence but does not interfere with reality of life. Mom allows Carrie the comfort she needs and the encouragement to go on. There is a good lesson to be gleaned from this insouciant caper through the ups and downs of childhood. We each have special gifts, some we share with our friends, and some are unique to us. Sharing one another's ventures helps makes us each a more rounded person as we develop an awareness and insight that different talents make life more interesting for us all. Boosting the self esteem of our friends through caring understanding is a good example set before both uncertain and self assured children alike in this charming little book.

Illustrations provided by Majorie Priceman fit to perfection the breezy prose set down by writer Couric in this sure to please book meant for children in primary to middle grades. Vocabulary used is 'child friendly', a bit beyond the younger children, but well within the scope of understanding for children from ages 4 - 10. The Blue Ribbon Day is a book I would use in my own Kindergarten-First Grade classroom. A read to book for the younger set, read with some help for first and second graders and read alone for the third - fifth grade group.

The Blue Ribbon Day is a good addition for pleasure reading, classroom unit work on self esteem, the home and school library and for home schoolers seeking a good, sensible approach to guiding children toward both self acceptance and developing empathy for others.

Enjoyed the read. Happy to recommend.

2 X 4 Projects for Outdoor Living
Stevie Henderson & Mark Baldwin
Main Street
a division of Sterling Publishing Co. Inc / Lark Books
387 Park Avenue South, New York City, NY 10016
ISBN: 1402714653 $9.94

Informative Read .. Recommended 5 stars

The work is a how-to book filled with glossy photos, step by step directions and a layout of various objects to be made using simple tools, easily gotten wood and a minimum of building expertise.

What caught my eye first is the lovely porch swing on the cover of the publication. The swing appears usable and used in addition to being sturdy and very, very inviting.

A 23 page section describing materials in simple terms: adhesives, fasteners, together with wood and a variety of tools sets the tone for the work. Clear illustrations are provided to explain the term toenailing and how to set a wood plug over a screw for beauty's sake. Advantages of using screws for fastening pieces rather than pounding nails is explained. Tables are provided detailing the pennyweight of nails together with their relative length as well as nominal size for wood and the actual dimensions of the wood. Illustrations provided are both hand drawn as in the good illustration of warped, cupped, split and knotty wood in addition to the photo profiling applicators, sealant, glue and finishes to use to complete projects. Good clear photos are provided showing simple, easily had tools needed for the projects along with how to use the nail sets, hammers, screwdrivers and clamps while working. A table of recommended basic tools to be assembled is a boon to those of us who may want to actually try a project but not have a lot of experience or expertise in doing so to date.

Projects for consideration include a birdhouse table for the patio, a free standing patio screen, lawn chair, an outdoor storage center. Gardeners will enjoy taking a peek at the glistening vine covered Tuteur while envisioning it in their own garden. The plans for the porch swing are ones I do intend to use come spring. Plans for each project comprise 4 to 6 pages beginning with a large full page photo of the completed project. In the case of the swing the following page begins with a table outlining materials, hardware, cutting list for the wood and a note on materials explaining why specific hardware to be used to hang the swing is not provided. The note makes good sense, lists the chain and bolts used by the author and offers suggestions to consult someone in the know at the local supply center.

A detailed explanation for building the swing seat, back and sides is accompanied by good line drawings and large photos that an even all thumbs builder (myself included) should find easily followed.

Other project plans include a portable deck made in 16 inch squares, an Adirondack Sofa to place on the deck, and a canopy to shade the deck. There is a trellis and fountain to provide soothing melody as you gaze out at the trellis arbor, outdoor bar, a table tray, hurricane lamp, mini gazebo, barbeque table, picnic table and benches, covered trash container all made by you and placed in your yard.

Written in clear, easily understood, ordinary language Handyman Writer's Henderson and Baldwin have put their talents to good use to produce a well conceived book meant for the do-it-yourselfer wannabe who lurks beneath the surface in many of us. The numerous illustrations, clear directions and photos of finished projects hold reader interest fast from that swing on the cover to the last fountain trellis project.

This is not a nice little book to flip through, consign to the bookshelf and forget. 2 X 4 Projects for Outdoor Living is meant to be used. Cover and pages are sturdy enough to carry out to the building site, prop up and refer to often. The reader is allowed to make copies of the plans if they wish per the fine print at the front-piece of the book. I plan to tackle the moveable patio squares first and then move on to another project when my confidence builds. Perhaps that porch swing will be hanging on my porch come mid summer.

My only question would be: are there other books in a series? I can think of some indoor projects I might like to attempt.

Enjoyed the read, happy to recommend. A good addition to the home library, or home school library as a book to whet the interest of young men who may be reluctant to read a 'story' book.

Eddie &the Gang with No Name: Running with the Reservoir Pups
Colin Bateman
Delacorte Press
1745 Broadway NYC, NY 10019
ISBN: 0385732449 $15.95 272 pp.

Entertaining Read .. Recommended 4 stars

The narrative opens with an explanation that Eddie's dad was killed by dragons, no actually he was killed in a submarine accident, well no and after several more explanations we learn that Eddie's dad is not dead at all. Eddie is dismayed to learn that the life he has enjoyed is ending, his parents are divorcing, he and his mother will be moving to the city where his mother begins to work as a nurse in the Royal Victoria Maternity Hospital. To say that Eddie is less than enchanted would be mild. Before long Eddie meets a group of boys who spatter cars with mud then offer the owners a special rate for washing the cars. When Eddie runs into the same group of chancers at the hospital where his mother works things really begin to get interesting. The Reservoir Pups are as crafty a group of street boys as you might meet. A leg-less boy named Captain Black, a hospital security guard named Scuttles, a new man in his mother's life, Alison Beech, a bold kidnapping scheme, a body washer down in the morgue, the Andytown Albinos, a near miss, a desperate plan and a bitter truth all play a part in this fast paced work.

Irish writer Colin Bateman presents an exhilarative, spine tingling work filled with all the zestful agitation, whimsical cast of characters and explosive tension necessary to hold the target audience absorbed from beginning paragraph to ending lines. Eddie &the Gang with No Name: Running with the Reservoir Pups is a well-written publication filled with generously drawn players and a cleverly interwoven, precarious story line. Snappy dialogue, potent and at times astonishing scenarios are presented with drollery and smartness. Writer Bateman has captured the fun and excitement of the age in his often awkward hero Eddie. Eddie is so typical a boy that he seems real.

Eddie's reasonable, predictable hurt and distraction following his parents' divorce, and his learning to confront with and make sense of his feelings are presented in a believable manner. From his mother's beginning to form new relationships and Eddie's own need to carve out a new life for himself Bateman presents each new theme in manner that kids in the target audience can understand. The struggle Eddie faces in having is whole life disrupted is something kids facing the same situation can identify with, and chuckle along with Eddie as he struggles to make sense of things he cannot control.

Good book for the school, home school, and home library. The work will fit as nicely in a unit on facing life as it will for pleasure reading. Therapists will find use for the book in helping youthful clients who may be facing many of the situations as is Eddie following a divorce and the need to move and leave behind the comfortable life they have known. Parental affair, divorce and the need for finding friends and learning a whole new set of rules and discipline for life are presented in easily read fashion.

The setting for the book is England, and some of the language used will have an English flavor which kids will find intriguing.

Enjoyed the read, happy to recommend.

Merlin's Kin
Everett Coles
Archimedes Press
P.O. Box No. 62 TADCASTER North Yorkshire LS24 9WP United Kingdom
ISBN 0954861809 9.95 U.S. 5.95 Brit. pounds

Entertaining Read .. Recommended 4 stars

The narrative opens with a determined bearded man in a red cape shouting orders as a battering ram is moved into place. Without warning in the inner quartz cave where Merlin and others have slept for eons a horrendous battering resounds. Merlin is aroused from his slumber by the precipitate invasion of his rocky domain. Without warning the men preparing to forward the ram once more became aware of an apparition before them. Fleeing in terror Merlin is left to ponder what to do next. He knows the intruders will return. To stop the invaders was going to take more power than Merlin alone might muster. Merlin calls out to his blood lines. The planet nearest to his quartz cavern is earth where youngsters who have no knowledge of their kinship reside.

Responding to the call sent out by the Wizard; fifteen year olds Francis Steel, and Zoe Bellamy along with Zoe's friend Allison, Curtis Brown 14, and thirteen year old Jude Plunkett are compelled to gather in a forest area. Drawn to an ancient stone gateway the teens descend into a musty darkness. A sudden topple into an unseen body of water leaves the group wet, cold and out of sorts. The land of Greensward is dominated by an evil ruler; Calupsis. The teens have no idea where they are, how they have arrived nor the importance of their visit. Fellow travelers, strange homes on wheels - wandahomes- pulled by mammoths, a bird who babbles all, cheerful Moorfolk, subterraneous caverns, a village named Meander, friends who will help, and those who will not, dreams directed by Merlin himself, wondrous mythic creatures, knights, a special key, Pits of Gloom, kidnapping, slavery all abound in this absorbing tale of Merlin's descendants.

On the pages of Merlin's Kin Writer Coles has crafted an enthralling, fast paced narrative sure to gratify the 10 - 15 age group target audience. Coles sets in place an intriguing premise: what might take place should the Wizard Merlin need aid and call upon descendants for help, and the author then sets about spinning a tale certain to thrill the most discerning reader. Occupied with tumult, potent ingeniously interwoven plots within a plot, stratagems, snappy dialog, machination and wondrous creatures Merlin's Kin is filled with the elements of a first rate fantasy. Forceful motivations, treachery, friction aptly determined abound against a backdrop of sights and sounds, fragrance and sensation designed to draw the reader straight into the tale. Characters are richly fleshed, acceptable and believable. Dialog is tart, at times gritty and hard hitting.

This audacious account is a pleasure read awash with change and spins and awe and remarkable mythic creatures. Vocabulary used is British dialect. Younger readers will enjoy the challenge in trying to figure out various terms they have not seen before. Older readers will find the dialect only adds to the charm of the tale.

Good addition to the classroom pleasure reading 'book report' list, personal and home library and homeschool curriculum.

Enjoyed the read, happy to recommend.

Think Safe
James M. McGrew
Cameo Publications, LLC
PO Box 8006 Hilton Head Island SC 29939
ISBN: 0974414964 $19.95

Interesting Read .. Recommended 4 stars

In the words of the writer Think Safe is a book filled with 'practical measures to increase security at home, at work and throughout life.' Think Safe is a work of 19 chapters covering a wide variety of topics including: 'Section 1 - 6 chapter' filled with Safety Precautions for Parents, 'Section 2 - 3 chapters' offering Safety Precautions for Women, 'Section 3 - 2 chapters' Safety Precautions for the Elderly, 'Section 4 - 2 chapters' Safety Precautions at Work, 'Section 5 - 2 chapters' dealing with Consumer Fraud Prevention, 'Section 6 - 3 chapters' filled with information pertaining to General Safety Precautions, 'Section 7 - 1 chapter' Protecting the Home. The book includes a residential survey for reader use to assess their own home security, or lack thereof.

I found Chapter 4: offering informative guides for parents and baby sitters, Chapter 11 filled with Financial and Fiduciary Abuse information: covering topics including Pigeon Drops, Bank Examiner Fraud, Home Repair Fraud, Caregiver Theft, Internet Fraud and Ponzi/Pyramid Schemes as well as Chapter 19 filled with methods for protecting the Home to be of particular interest and value. As a woman I will re read Section 2 many times. And Section 5 dealing with Consumer Fraud Prevention is going to be another section I visit often. As I age; Section 3 dealing with Safety Precautions for the Elderly will become more important to me.

Author McGrew comes with impressive credentials. He served as a law enforcement officer and is the president and CEO of an investigative and security consulting firm located in San Jose, as well as having over 30 years experience in planning, implementing and managing security programs in private and public sectors. Writer McGrew who earned a Masers degree in Administration of Justice from San Jose is a Certified Protection Professional, Certified Fraud examiner and a licensed Private Investigator.

Think Safe is not a story book, it is rather a jam packed work devoted to guiding the reader toward protecting themselves in all aspects of life whether as new parents, middle aged to elderly, on the job, or gender related. There truly is something for everyone in this jam packed work. McGrew offers statistics, helpful hints and plain common sense presented in easily understood language without sounding overly professorial or scare mongering.

This is not a book meant for pleasure reading, but is meant to aid the reader into a safer, more productive way of life.

I found much of value in the read, and am happy to recommend. This is one book that I will be keeping for my own personal library.

The Little Guides: CATS
Paul McGreevy (Editor)
Fog City Press
814 Montgomery Street SF CA 94133
ISBN: 1875137653 $TBA

Informative Read ..Highly Recommended 5 stars

The Little Guides: CATS is a 320-page work divided into three sections. Part 1: 55 pages 'All About Cats,' presents a synopsis of the modern 36 species cat family. The biological chronicle of felines together with an overview of cats in general is presented. 'Cats in the Wild' offers a discussion of the 'big' cats including: lions, tigers, leopards, jaguars, pumas, cheetahs, lynxes and the smaller 'wild cats' including servals, ocelots and feral cats. In the section on smaller cats the reader is introduced to some species they may never have heard of before: kodkod, pallas' cat, oncilla, clouded leopard of Asia, the jaguarundi and the margay. These latter critters are about the size of domestic cats and live in all parts of the world.

Section two: 145 pages: is the 'Cats as Pets' segment and includes information important to those who choose to be owned by a domesticated cat. This division is divided into chapters. 'You and Your Cat,' presents information for how to choose the perfect cat for your home, information regarding pedigree and non pedigree, discussion of the 'settling in' time for the newly introduced cat, and pro and cons for house cat vs outdoors cat are all presented. The chapter titled 'Caring for Cats' offers the reader information needed for housing the cat, litter pan choices, feeding bowls, harnesses and carrying cages. 'Your Cat's Health,' lists characteristics of the healthy and unhealthy cat, and describes various vaccinations to consider essential for good cat health. Parasites and how to deal with them is presented. Some common problems pertaining to cat health are listed. Types of food available for cats are discussed with advantages and disadvantages of each presented. Bathing and grooming the cat is discussed. Good diagrams are included showing how to administer medications. Other chapter headings in this section include: 'Cat behavior,' 'About Breeding,' and 'Showing your Cat.'

Section three: 70 pages: offers more detailed information pertaining to particular breeds of cats. Longhaired and shorthaired breeds are discussed. Breeds are listed alphabetically beginning with Abyssinian, progressing through American Shorthair and American Wirehair, Burmese, Chartruex, Havana Brown and Tonkinese. Discussion of the breeds includes information pertaining to their history, a general physical description, pictures of the breed, a set of pet facts including need for grooming, temperament, best suited to indoor or outdoor life, and climate preference. A helpful glossary is included.

Editor McGreevy presents a good concise overview of cats in general and pets and pet care in particular. The book is filled with good clear illustrations of the various types of animals comprising the feline family.

As a cat owner and cat lover myself I particularly enjoyed this book. The Little Guides: CATS is detailed enough to fit the needs for veterinary classroom use as well as being simple enough for those of us who are not trained in veterinary science.

Excellent choice for cat owners or one considering becoming a cat owner. The sections on cat care, with illustrations of waterers, feeders, carriers, types of beds and feeding bowls provide the new owner with a clear view of what is needed to provide well for the new addition to the household. Need for neutering, noting that two cats are happier than one and aging are all addressed in terms readers will understand.

Enjoyed the read, happy to recommend.

The Little Guides: Birds
Joseph Forshaw (Editor)
Fog City Press
814 Montgomery Street SF CA 94133
ISBN: 1875137734 $16.95

Informative Read ..Highly Recommended .. 5 stars

As with others in the Little Guide series The Little Guides: Birds is a 300+ -page work divided into sections. Part 1: THE WORLD OF BIRDS presents a three section overview for UNDERSTANDING BIRDS. In section one birds are introduced with pictures of tiny humming bird and much larger ostrich presented on the same page to indicate the wide diversity of the group. Origins of Birds, Naming of Birds, Bird Anatomy, Feathers and Plumage, Flight, and Habitat, are all discussed in detail from pages 11 - 26. Section two: begins on page 27 with an overview of bird behavior. Finding food, Displays, Songs and Calls, Territory and Pair Formation, Nests and Eggs, and information regarding Migration, complete the section. Section three: pages 43 - 56 offers detailed information pertaining to integration of Humans and Birds. Basic Birding, Identifying Birds, Photographing Birds, and Birds Under Threat complete Part 1 of the book.

Part Two: KINDS OF BIRDS gets down to specifics regarding birds, how to recognize and understand the various groups common to the world around us. Waterbirds, are found on pages 55 - 87, Seabirds and Shorebirds 89 - 123, Birds of Prey 124 - 161, Flightless and Ground Dwelling Birds 162 - 183, Other Non-Passerine Birds including those Driven to Extinction 184 - 125, Passerine 126 - 287, Finches and Seedeating Passerines 289 - 307.

A Classification Table and Index round out the work.

Using language easily understood by novice and experienced birder alike Editor Forshaw presents a good concise overview of birds in general and specific birds, their habitat, habits and needs in particular. The book is filled with good clear illustrations of the various types of birds comprising the avian group. Because I live in a migration route for the Canadian Goose I particularly enjoyed reading the section on Migration. The pages pertaining to Birds of Prey help me understand better the Hawks who fly over my pasture.

As a person who is known to set out suet cakes, feeders of seed and water for the birds in my back yard I particularly enjoyed this book. The Little Guides: Birds is detailed enough to fit the needs for use by the more advanced bird enthusiast as well as being simple enough for those of us who have an interest in but are not widely experienced in birding. The section on Non Passerine birds helps me know what plants and commercial foods are needed for my own backyard bird feeding/habitat program.

The Little Guides: Birds is an excellent choice for anyone who has an interest in the birds who share our planet . The sections on bird behavior, finding food and habitat are particularly useful for the reader who would like to the offer birds a place to live and prosper in their own back yard.

A good addition to the home and personal library as well as the high school biology department library. Middle grade youngsters will use the book with some guidance from parents, teachers, scout leaders and the like.

Enjoyed the read, happy to recommend.

The Balloon Boy of San Francisco
Dorothy Kupcha Leland
Tomato Enterprises
PO Box 73892, Davis CA 95617
ISBN 0961735740 $16.95
ISBN 0961735791 $9.95

Entertaining Read .. Recommended 4 stars

The narrative opens on a fog shrouded day in San Francisco. It is March 31, 1853 and the steam ship Independence has wrecked off the Lower California coast. Ready Gates and other newsboys hurry to tell the city of the loss. The Gates family came to San Francisco hoping for a better life. To date the fortune they hoped to find remains elusive. Ready's mother toils making cushions for area churches while his father works as a brick mason. Mr Gates and Ready have a plan up their sleeves to change their lives for the better. Before Ready can set out to pan for gold with his father Mr Gates is grievously injured and Ready must give up all hope for leaving the life he desperately wants to put behind him. Ready continues to hawk the news for 'The Alta California,' before changing jobs and working for Pat Hull at 'The Whig.' Ready seems to be everywhere the action is; he meets actress Lola Montez, sneaks onto a riverboat in an effort to evade paying a fare, runs into old friends and makes new ones, helps track down a missing gold miner and is in the middle of everything going on. One fateful day Ready begins a journey he never expected to make.

The discovery of gold served to prompt San Francisco into becoming a thriving city overflowing with activity and people in addition to the city serving as an important hub with numerous ties to the rest of the nation. Set five years after the discovery of gold The Balloon Boy of San Francisco depicts a vivid peek into every day life in this busy, exhilarative city on the bay. Writer Leland has done her research well to provide details necessary to bring to life the colorful gold rush era in this appealing narrative telling of red haired Ready, Joseph, Gates and the eye-popping, unexpected journey he made as is recorded in early California and other of the nation's newspapers.

The Balloon Boy of San Francisco begins with fourteen year old Ready Gates rushing to pick up the latest newspaper issue to hawk on San Francisco streets. The tale ends with the reader learning that Ready Gates was an actual person and his most amazing flight is listed in a book published by the Smithsonian Institute. Without sounding 'teacherage', talented writer Leland employs an easy reading, writing style to furnish enough minutiae essential for providing an excellent history lesson for youngsters in the middle grades. From the outset reader interest is held tight with flowing details of many colorful characters, burning buildings, sinking ships, gold fever and kidnappings. Lola Montez, street preaching, daguerreian artists, rivalry from other newsboys who are as desperate as Ready to earn money for their families and a most amazing balloon flight all serve to further understanding for some of the picturesque past of one of the most fascinating cities in our country.

Enterprise, harsh reality of daily life and adventure abound on the pages of this fast paced tale peopled with appealing characters, zesty dialog, and richly drawn backdrops against which the history of early California comes to life. As a native Californian who was myself born in the bay area, I particularly enjoyed this fascinating, well-written tale. The Balloon Boy of San Francisco is an excellent choice for pleasure reading, classroom 'California' unit work, the homeschool curriculum as well as home and school libraries.

Enjoyed the read, happy to recommend.

Curious Creatures - Wondrous Waifs my life with animals
Ed Kostro
Publish America
PO Box 151 Frederic MD 21705
ISBN: 1413701221 $16.95

Interesting Read . Highly Recommended 5 stars

Not a story book per se, Curious Creatures - Wondrous Waifs my life with animals recounts writer Kostro's life long love affair with critters. Written in 42 chapters Curious Creatures - Wondrous Waifs my life with animals opens with 'A Snake, a Rat, and Two Alley Cats', moves on to give the reader a peek into other animals who have enriched author Kostro's life and ends with 'Memories Will Have to Do.' In addition to the many critters Kostro has known he weaves a bit of his own family history into the work as he outlines his childhood home and the grandparents, parents and others who peopled his world. We are introduced to Kostro's childhood companion, Tiger, a brown Shepherd - Collie mix, maybe in Chapter 2. Kostro's obvious love for the dog and the dogs adoration of his family is clear to the reader. Tiger is reintroduced in Chapter 8 and we weep with Kostro while reading chapter 9 as we face the loss of this wonderful animal to old age and death. Another dog, Pepper, death of grandparents, a kamikaze bee, life with Buddy, marriage, lost love and divorce and the Christmas cat are subjects for other chapters.

On the pages of Curious Creatures - Wondrous Waifs my life with animals writer Kostro has crafted a lovely read for all lovers of animals large and small. Kostro skillfully weaves several threads into the varying accounts of pets and other critters he has known. Family relationships, death, dissolution and hope and love reborn, a little boy growing up in simpler times and today facing a life far different than that he had known as a child, critters, critters, critters, are all addressed with skill and grace.

Readers will grab for a tissue when reading about Tiger's demise, and will laugh as Kostro recounts his mischievous childhood adventures. Pepper, a Schnauzer/Doxie mix is presented as a most wonderful pet.

This is not a story book, but a book of chapters to be read and then re read in bits and pieces and smidgens and gulps as the mood dictates. Kostro's command of language is excellent. His writing is straight forward and easily read. Each chapter follows on another, but each will stand alone for a brief read as we wait for the train to pass by, or grab a quick break at our desk for a mini read and cup of coffee.

Curious Creatures - Wondrous Waifs my life with animals is an excellent book for the home, school and personal library. Junior High Schoolers will enjoy hearing the chapters read aloud as much as they enjoy reading them for themselves or to younger siblings and while mentoring middle or primary grade youngsters. Little folks will enjoy hearing the chapters paraphrased-read to them. Home schoolers will find the work valuable for tweaking interest in both boys and girls of middle grades to high school.

Thoroughly enjoyed the read. I do not keep all books I receive for review. As a pet lover myself, and having truly enjoyed the read; Curious Creatures - Wondrous Waifs my life with animals IS one book I will be keeping for my own library. Happy to recommend.

Putting It On Paper: The Ground Rules for Creating Promotional Pieces that Sell Books
Dawn Josephson
Ground Rules Press: Cameo Publications LLC
PO Box 8006 Hilton Head Island SC 29938
ISBN: 0974496618 $19.95

Enlightening Read .. Recommended 5 stars

The narrative Putting It On Paper: The Ground Rules for Creating Promotional Pieces that Sell Books is a work of 161 pages separated into ten chapters designed to guide the reader in preparing a winning Media Kit for their book. Chapter one leads the reader into an understanding of the Media Kit and why it is important for writers to incorporate into their plan for selling books. Chapter two offers hints on how to write dynamic cover letters. In Chapter three the reader will discover how to formulate a captivating Press Release. Chapter four offers hints for writing and use of mock book reviews. The authors bio how-to is covered in Chapter five. Chapter Six instructs in preparing and using a Book Sell Sheet. How to prepare a Catalog Sheet for your book is covered in Chapter seven while the freebies every one wants are discussed in Chapter eight. Chapter nine instructs the reader in how to prepare a dazzling magazine/news article. Chapter ten is the wrap up for the book.

Dawn Josephson who is both an author and marketing - communications expert presents an informative work meant to guide the novice, and not so new writer through the steps needed to prepare promotional piece creation for marketing their own books. Writing used in the book is presented in plain and understandable terms for writers who may be struggling to break into the writing - sales world. The helpful hints offered work equally to promote newsletters, books, all published works.

The, at times tricky, job of preparing a book press kit is presented in a practical, comprehensible approach the reader can use to prepare their own professional, affordable Media Kit. I particularly enjoyed the format used, points, ground rules, frequently asked questions were all presented in clear, understandable language. Offering examples of what to do as well as what not to do when writing cover letters offered in Chapter two were especially informative. Sales do not just happen. Reality is authors, especially those new to the industry, must be willing to promote their own books if they are to be successful. The strategies offered on the pages of Putting It On Paper: The Ground Rules for Creating Promotional Pieces that Sell Books work equally when preparing your kit for fiction, how-to or real life works.

For this review I received a copy of the book itself, as well as an informative, well-organized media kit. Putting It On Paper: The Ground Rules for Creating Promotional Pieces that Sell Books is an excellent reference work for new authors as well as being an additional tool for more accomplished writers who like to keep on the cutting edge of timely information. This publication takes a practical, workable approach to understanding, generating, and utilizing a book Media Kit to drive book sales. Putting It On Paper: The Ground Rules for Creating Promotional Pieces that Sell Books is a must have for the author office book shelf.

Enjoyed the read, happy to recommend. I do not keep all books I receive for review. This is one that I will.

Maggie and Kate: A Friendship Begins
Peggy A Schmuldt
Illustrator: Ian P Campbell
6E 2333 Government Street Victoria BC V8T 4P4 CANADA
ISBN 1412044227 $16.00

Entertaining Read .. Recommended 4 stars

The chronicle presented in Maggie and Kate: A Friendship Begins recounts the story of two little girls: Maggie and Kate as they begin Kindergarten. Even though they only live two blocks apart, the girls do not know one another before the First Day of School. Maggie will be taking a beloved toy with her on that first day and, she is happy and excited and unafraid when she thinks about beginning Kindergarten. Kate, on the other hand, is scared. From the moment Maggie shares her favorite toy, Rootbear, the two girls become fast friends. Before long Maggie is invited to Kate's birthday party. Maggie sets out on a search for the perfect gift for her best friend. During the party Kate saves Maggie's gift for last to open. It WAS the perfect gift!

Author Peggy Schmuldt, the Library Lady at Du Jardin School in Bloomingdale, Illinois teams with sixth grader Ian Campbell to produce an appealing work sure to please the target audience of 3 - 7 year olds. While both children followed in the tale are little girls, the narrative is one with which little folks of either sex can identify. Artwork a la the crayon drawing style of Syd Hof is sure to prove a child pleaser.

In addition to pleasure reading/listening time on the rug during story-time, Maggie and Kate: A Friendship Begins, has a place in classroom unit work on emotions and how to deal with them. Both Maggie's self assuredness and Kate's worry are feelings I often encountered on the first day of a new Kindergarten or First Grade session. Writer Schmuldt has captured to perfection the emotions little folks cannot always voice. Artist Campbell's illustrations add to the work. Maggie and Kate: A Friendship Begins is a 'read to' work for the target audience and a 'read alone' for student mentors third grade and beyond reading level.

Enjoyed the read. This is a book I would use in my own Kindergarten or First Grade classroom. I am happy to recommend the book for the home pleasure library, school library and for home schoolers as well as for therapists working with young children who cannot always realize or relate what it is they are feeling.

Maggie and Kate: A Friendship Begins the first illustrated children's book written by author Schmuldt and illustrated by artist Campbell. I am happy to know more in the series are coming. To increase interest among the boys in the classroom, I would suggest the writer consider adding two little boys to the mix as the series continues.

Brendell Rogue Thief
Patrick Welch
Double Dragon Publishing
P.O. Box 54016 1-5762 Highway 7 East Markham Ontario L3P 7Y4 Canada
ISBN: 1554042186 $5 -$6, various eBook formats

Entertaining Read .. Highly Recommended 5 stars

The narrative opens in Hannis Bay where Brendell is breaking into the Thief Guild offices. Brendell intends to right the wrong played upon his father. It was not a rogue thief, but a contract through the guild that caused a thief to steal everything Brendell had sent to his father, money, mementos, everything. After sending warning letters to each of his siblings Brendell set out to become a security consultant and prevent the guild from carrying out its contracts. The contract on Galus Norr in Banik's Cove is Brendell's first destination. A run in with members of the Assassins Guild, capture and the puzzlement deepens before an invitation to join the Assassins Guild comes as a bit of a surprise. Brendell meets Guild master Garoff Cistonarov, receives his first assignment and begins a ride to Houff. More danger, more problems and capture by the Thief Guild follow. A surprise meeting with an old crony, carping among the guilds, and Brendell thrown into a dungeon; what more could possibly take place? Brendell will soon discover he does not want to know the answer.

In this exciting sequel to Brendell: Apprentice Thief Writer Welch has crafted a well-written, intricate account over flowing with zestful deception, potent emotions, and precarious stratagem all ingeniously interwoven to grant the reader a spine tingling journey from opening page to ending paragraph. Welch's invariably busy, creative mind offers a fast paced work filled with engaging characters, snappy dialogue and absorbing yarn all set against a framework of staggering spectacle and reverberation, fragrance and ambiance sure to draw the reader straight into the tale and hold interest fast to the end. The reader is caught up in the action, we breathe the smoke of campfires, experience Brendell's heart pounding attempts to escape and shiver at each re-capture. Brendell's torment following the perfidiousness of his Guild is predictable, comprehensible and quite plausible. Infuriated and feeling forsaken by his guild Brendell's determination to exact retribution is something the reader can fully understand. Conflict abounds. Exhilarative accomplishments, well fleshed characters, a splendidly masterminded storyline: writer Welch proffers a razor sharp, focused narrative with drollery and eclat in this thrill packed work.

Brendell Rogue Thief is a banner book for the home pleasure library as well as the upper middle grades through high school reading list. Readers will relish reading Brendell Rogue Thief equally before a blazing winter fire, or as a way to enjoyably pass a long summer afternoon spent sipping iced tea and reading out on the porch.

Enjoyed the read, very happy to recommend.

Melanie in Manhattan
Carol Weston
Alfred A Knopf
530 E72d NYC, NY 10021
ISBN: 0375930280 $10.85

Entertaining Read .. Recommended 5 stars

The narrative opens with Melanie's diary entry dated March 31. It is a Brand-New Diary, Melanie is on-board a boat as part of a party hosted by Mr Martin's boss. Melanie, her parents, little brother and others are all out to see the Statue of Liberty. Life for Melanie is almost perfect. She is in fifth grade, has a best friend, Cecily and a boy in Spain that she likes. Melanie has just gotten her first kiss, mice Milkshake and Pancake have produced a family of ten offspring. The one fly in the ointment is Suze, the new girl at school. Well, of course there is another irritation; brother Matt the Brat is always underfoot, full of silly sayings and rhymes and just in general being a bothersome little brother. Suze the Ooze and her meddling, bragging and always trying to horn in with Cecily, is moving right to the top of the list of Melanie's major annoyances. Jumping baby mice, a trip to Lincoln center, Friday email from Miguel in Spain, Central Park in bloom, detention, and a boy named Justin all are part of the tale. A trip to the Bronx Zoo, too much rain, a stop at the Met, and a telephone call from Miguel comes just at the right time. The end of the year dance, Field Day at school, buying a first bra, in fact buying three, Miguel comes to New York, Cecily spends part of vacation with her dad and Melanie has a new special friend round out the book.

Melanie in Manhattan is another festive read sure to please girls in the target reading group of 9-14 year olds. Once again Author/Parent Weston demonstrates her deftness as an accomplished writer. Clearly Weston knows and effortlessly captures the essential quality of this age group. Melanie in Manhattan is an easily read, delightful account. As with all of her Melanie books author; Weston nimbly weaves a realistic portrayal of childhood/growing up angst, a touch of geography, along with mention of artistic work; this time it is with works of Spanish artists in addition to at times muddled or disatisfying interpersonal relationships.

The format of diary entries filled with sketches, high spirits, a child-like, hand drawn map of Manhattan, fun and chatter predictable from an eleven-year-old girl are a continuing pleasure to read. The reader is caught up in the narrative immediately. Melanie is a typical 'almost teen girl' who is learning to deal with changing emotions surrounding boyfriends, sharing friends, home and school. In her diary Melanie sets down her hopes, anguish, anger and happiness in her diary.

Writer Weston gently guides the reader into an understanding that Melanie, the reader and likely we all at one time or another have faced each of the feelings, situations and problems Melanie is facing. Girls ages 9 - 14 may not always want to talk with parents or teachers about their roiling emotions. Reading Melanie's life may well help these girls realize they are not so different, odd or 'out of it' when their own lives may seem to mirror many of the ups and downs as Melanie is experiencing.

Melanie in Manhattan is a book sure to fit well into the classroom 'free reading' program, a home library and pleasure reading for middle grades. Look forward to reading others in the series.

Enjoyed the read, happy to recommend.

Dare to Dream!
Sandra McLeod Humphrey
Prometheus Books
59 John Glenn Drive Amherst, New York 14228-2197, USA
ISBN: 1591022800 $14.00

Entertaining Read .. Recommended 4 stars

The narrative presented on the pages of Dare to Dream! is not a story book per se, rather Dare to Dream! profiles twenty five men and women from our past and present on the 113 pages of retired clinical psychologist writer Humphrey's upper middle grade/YA inspirational work. Each personal sketch is divided into separate sections devoted to the childhood, as well as adult life and accomplishments. A black and white photo of the person profiled is included. The heroes gracing writer Humphrey's work run the gamut of inventors, sports figures, men, women, famous and not so well known, diverse religious and racial backgrounds, writers, poets, singers and philosophers are included.

Little known as well as more commonly realized facts concerning each hero writer Humphrey characterizes are presented in clear, direct manner certain to fascinate young readers. Youngsters will learn that as a boy inventor Thomas Edison nearly perished when he fell into a grain elevator because he want to see how the elevator worked. Helen Keller became a suffragette working toward equal rights for women and better pay for working class workers. Norman Vincent Peale, religious leader/public speaker was terribly shy as a child and single mother Maya Angelou, writer/poet singer struggled for years to care for her child and build a career. During his last year of high school Ben Carson, who became a noted surgeon, had only a single ten dollar bill when each college application required a ten dollar deposit. He was able to apply to only one school, luckily Yale accepted him and then he went on to gain an academic scholarship ensuring the costs of his education would be fulfilled.

Baseball players on steroids, millionaire basketball players and hip hop stars who espouse violence, denigration of women or a complacent attitude, money or power driven CEOs, too often today children lack bona fide heroes. ... Writer Humphrey's inspired work Dare to Dream! offers a potential option by setting down the lives both present-day and past of superlative individuals, whose lives and life lessons we all do good to appreciate and follow.

Through the four page vignettes showcasing the lives of dignitaries such as Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Jim Thorpe, Heather Whitestone, and Eleanor Roosevelt Humphrey enlighten young readers toward understanding that those we call heroes were/are everyday people whose strength of character allowed them to accomplish exceptional acts. Beginning with dedication to their dreams, each persevered to master impediments standing between them and the fulfillment of those dreams. Racial discrimination, shyness or feelings of inferiority, physical handicap, educational disadvantage were impediments to overcome but not impediments to prevent these heroes from achieving their goal.

Dare to Dream! has a place on the classroom shelf, in the home library and therapist's collection. Upper middle grade youngsters will find the fast paced, easily read vignettes engaging, interesting and absorbing for pleasure reading and as part of unit work concerning particular heroes in our society. Vocabulary used by writer Humphrey is well within the scope of upper middle grade youngsters. Dare to Dream! is a 'read to' book for youngsters in grades 2 - 3- 4 and read alone for grades 5 - 12.

Dare to Dream! is a book I would read aloud, with some modification in my own Kindergarten/First Grade classroom.

Enjoyed the read, happy to recommend.

The Pearl of Living: A Man's Journey
Eric D Maze
Illustrator Victor Pettiford
Plaza II Suite 340 Philadelphia, PA 19113
ISBN: 1413465692 $17.99

Pleasurable Read .. Recommended 4 stars

The Pearl of Living: A Man's Journey is not a story book per se, rather it is a book of poetry, art work and essays. Writer Maze says, "The main reason I wrote this poetry book is to give to all of my friends a remembrance of me when I am no longer on this earth. If poetry readers are a lot like me, then you wouldn't really care who wrote it, you would just like to read it because it is poetry. That is the true love of the poetry word."

Poet/writer Maze presents his debut accomplishment in what I found to be a rather singular fashion. Each verse composition is showcased upon or beside the colorful, nicely wrought artwork presented by illustrator/artist Victor Pettiford. In addition, each poem is enhanced with an essay laying out the motivation behind the writing of the ode. I found the methodology of presentation to be enlightening, interesting and an all together outstanding technique of delivery.

LIFE CHANGES AND REBIRTH OF A NEW PERSON is the section designation for first six compositions. 'Heaven's Stream' is a down to earth tribute written to co-workers who we learn are the poet's friends as well. Family veneration is advanced in the stanzas of 'Father,' 'The Ghostly Rose' and 'Mom'. The section labeled ROMANTIC LESSONS OF THE HEART contains three works. Ethereal 'Friendship' with its unicorn illustration is an especially moving piece.

NATURE also is a section composed of three odes. I particularly liked empyreal 'The Flight of the Red Tail Hawk.' Both the lyric and the accompanying artwork are outstanding. Imposed upon the picture of a majestic hawk in flight six stanzas carry the reader into the dusky haze of evening sky, trees, and moonlight. FUNPOEMS begins with 'Terror of the Night' and Ghastly Ghouls. Rhyming couplets are a divertissement read entitled 'Bugsy the Bunny.' We discover whimsical 'Willow Tree' was written based on a tree standing near the author's home.

The Pearl of Living: A Man's Journey is a forty four page book of poetry with a little something for everyone on its pages. The book is meant to be read and then pulled out for a re read of one or two works as the desire and notion strikes. I particularly like the author's technique of the verse and side by side essay explaining the how and why of the poem. The work will lend itself well to the homeschool library for high school age readers as they begin to explore the world of poetry for themselves.

With The Pearl of Living: A Man's Journey Poet Maze and Illustrator Pettiford have done themselves proud. I hope there will be other volumes to follow. The book will make a good addition to the home and school pleasure reading library.

Enjoyed the read, happy to recommend.

Molly Martin

Pogo's Bookshelf

A Woman's Voice: Sarah Foner, Hebrew Author of the Haskalah
translated by Morris Rosenthal
Dailey International Publishers
Wilbraham, MA 01095
ISBN 0966625129 $21.95 302 pp.

Six works of Sarah Foner are translated from Hebrew into English by Morris Rosenthal, her great grandson. Sarah Menkin Foner was the first woman writer in Hebrew before Hebrew became revived as the national language of Israel. Eschewing Yiddish, excluded her from the popular magazines, but established a place for her within literature as she used her thorough knowledge of rabbinic literature to strengthen her writing through allusions and quotations following the tradition of rabbinic literature. her short memoir, "A Girl Can't Be a Gaon," published in New York (1919), recounts how she persuaded her father to become educated in Hebrew so that she would not be left standing and reciting prayers from the siddur by rote:

"In this house lived Miriam, who earned her bread by helping women to bake and clean and to do all sorts of housework. I opened the door and found Miriam standing and praying. Her head was wrapped in a wide, multi-colored kerchief. The kerchief was tied on both sides of her head, and therefore her head looked as big as a bucket.

I stood to the side without disturbing her prayers and listened closely to every word coming out of her mouth. She was reciting the Shacharit3 prayer, and after the prayers she said in Yiddish, "May blessings and success fall on my little head (kepeleh), Amen, Selah." When I heard her last words I wanted to laugh out loud, but I was afraid that she would tell my father that I laughed, so I restrained myself. But as I walked home together with Miriam, strange thoughts and ideas began to trouble my heart. " (p74)

Her mother was learned in Hebrew and stuidied the weekly parashah with the commentaries of Rashi and ibn Ezra on Shabbat. Defiantly, Sarah demanded to learn Hebrew in a proper manner so that she would not be ashamed of taking her place in the schul, rather than sitting and gossiping in the ladies' galerie. Her father sent her to study Talmud where she was the lone female amongst the male students. Learning Torah or Talmud is not a passive activity, but that of argument and debate, sharpening the student's mind and his ability at repartee. Her mastery of argument is apparent through the interweaving of rabbinic literature into her text and the fluidity of the narrative. She uses techniques of dialogue skilfully to demonstrate argument and draw conclusions, exploiting the knowledge she gained in her studies..

Moreover, she portrays people vividly, bringing them to life in detail with their blemishes and assets. The local characters of Dvinsk ar as brightly colored as a painting from Marc Chagall, filled with restlessness and action. We meet Friedlander, the wealthy Gaonim who gives a wedding party to whom all the poor are invited; but we see also the impoverished who struggle through each day in the midst of squalor and injustice. nor does she whitewash the animosities within Judaism, the split between the Gaonim, the followers 0of the Vilna Gaon and the Hassids:

"In every house, in every study hall and in every store and street, nothing was heard besides, "Mitnaged and Hassid, Hassid and Mitnaged." At first the women made mistakes since they didn't know which butcher shop was Mitnaged and which was Hassidic, and so they mixed up the products. Then there were great problems such as when a man came home from work and sat down to eat, and while eating asked his wife where she got the meat. She told him Yitzchak Fagin's butcher shop, which was the Hassidic butcher shop. He cried out loudly, "Oy, Oy, You have fed me unclean meat!" Or if a woman bought meat from the butcher shop in the house of Leible Kermis, which was the butcher shop of the Mitnagdim, a Hassid would be leaping to his feet and crying out, "Oy, Oy, You have fed me traif meat!" (p17)

In a time of radical change, reform was not only within the Jewish communities, but imposed by outside forces as tolerance edicts demanded that Jews enter the public school systems and be admitted to gymnaziums. Previously, a young man could expect to spend his youth on rabbinic studies or learning Talmud and Torah, but suddenly he was yanked out of his microcosm of Judaism and swept into the macrocosm of the swirling sea of change without. The nineteenth century brought with it widespread industrializaiton as well as colonial wars. With the assimilation of Jews into mainstream society came also the problems of military conscription and national identity.

Foner uses the social issues of her times within her writing to create conflicts between characters and social values. In "The Children's Path," she uses the age-old formula of a farmer with four sons, each choosing a vocation. We know instinctively the stories of the man with three sons who sent them off to seek a fortune or win a princess. The eldest had a black horse and a purse of gold; the second, a chestnut and a purse of silver and the last a hobblehorse made from a broom. We know certain formulas from childhood, anticipating the outcome and cheering the underdog as he overcomes the obstacles put in his way. Foner, too, uses formulas, but she dismisses the sterotypes. Although the outcome may be predictable, the argument is not. Skilfully, she incorporates the use of dialogue from rabbinic literature to set up her four contrasting characters, selecting their professions carefully: rabbi, farmer, soldier and lazybones. The setting is in the period of the Second Temple. Although she manipulates the general details of Josephus to fit her needs, the story is not about history, but about personal goalss and the problems involved in ethics and personal obligations. The conflicts existed then as now: Hellenism versus Judaism; state versus the individual; personal belief versus political demands and the problem of loyalty. When does being loyal suddenly become being a traitor to yourself or your faith?

In the aftermath of World War II dissipating from public memory, Foner eminds us of the vibrant life that preceded the horror of the Shoah, recalling many now legendary names: Rabbi Israel Horowitz, the Lubavitcher Rebbe and the Vilna Gaon all take their places in her dramatic life. Through Foner's eyes we can glimpse the source of modern Judaism with its diversity as factions clash in the past. Her works are significant not only for their historical value or for their feminist and Zionist leanings, but because she can so aptly capture the internal struggles of a people escaping nearly two thousand years of domination of Christianity to discover their own identities as Jews in the modern world. The conflicts as as much internal as external. The bitterness of religious animosity between Christianity and Judaism is exposed in the poignant story of the German convert who studied with Rabbi Israel Horowitz. Being a Jew did not mean only being a second class citizen or serf, in many places in Europe it emant exclusion from professions and universities.Conversion to Judaism often meant making very painful decisions and relinquishing the past.

"My father was the palace administrator (Kammarharar) for King Wilhelm in Germany, but due to illness he was given leave and returned to his estate in Landsberg, not far from Berlin. His name is Erlich. My father is Lutheran and my mother is Catholic." (p56)

The story of the German convert tells so clearly the bitterness that exists today and the struggles of many, many people who were abandoned and orphaned as a result of the Nazi persecution. People survived, but they grew up without the benefit of their heritage, orphaned by history. Throughout Europe, young people search for their identities. In Eastern Europe, after so many years of official atheism, Jewish communities are reviving, but there are many more overgrown graveyards than rabbis to teach the younger generation. The conflicts are the same, but only placed in a different age.

The Snow Falcon
Stuart Harrison
St. Martin's Press
ISBN 0312254202 $23.95 341 pp.

Michael Somers returns to Little River Bend after a stint in prison for armed assault. Grown, divorced with a bad smudge on his past, he returns to his hometown in faint hope of recovering lost dreams of youth by confronting the past and setting his life straight. Small towns devoid of city bustle are filled with malicious gossip twisting newspaper reports into new stories. His return isn't exactly welcoming with his first visit to the graveyard beside the church to pay respects to his parents, and his second to the local attorney, Carl Jeffrey, who puts on the smiley face and offers him a bit of friendly advice in a neighborly way with the frosty proposal of buying out his parent's property and settling elsewhere. The city elders are interested in keeping their noses clean and Michael seems to be a threat to the neighborhood, tarnishing their local image.

Michael, determined to make a go of recovering the past, settles into a hostile community that changes the facts into fantasy good enough to The Shining 2 with Jack Nicholsen gone mad with another murdrous ax rampage. Judged gulty until proven otherwise.

On parole, Michael has scarcely enough money to keep his stomach fed with the additional restrictions regarding access to firearms. Kept under scrutiny of the local town gossip, he finds that getting his footing secure is nearly a impossible as climbing the stairway to heaven. Although jobs open up occassionally, they miraculously close when he appears for the interview. Dogged not to be defeated, he renovates his father's old store, hoping to have a respectable front within the town.

Stuart Harrison examines the conflicts that become prevelant within small town communities and the difficulties of returning to the past. Small town gossip alienates and ostracizes Michael from ever making a viable living within the community which is more than happy to spread rumors of the worst without considering the resonable doubts of their basis. The townfolk remember him as the wayward son of the hardware store owner with the crazy mother. Double pain is inflicted through casual remarks and slights as he is stigmatized first for his mother's eccentricities and neurosis and then for hisfather's inexplicable behavior at her death. Caught like a fly in a spider's web, Michael became the victim of his mother's delusions in the war between acrimonious parents, each desperately trying to impose their perceptions on the child. Isolated from his father through the twisted mind of his mother, Michael can remember his father only as a silent figure, tending the store or closeted in his study building ship replicas. Even on days after school, when he worked for his father, silence dominated the duialogue between them, alienating whatever trust and love there might exist. With Michaels exit for college, came the vow never to return

Mistakes easily repented are not so easily repaired. Not until locked in a cell, confronted with his own self-destructiveness, does Michael begin to question his perception of the past, regretting his isolation from his father and the loss through his sudden death. In returning to his hometown, Michael hopes to put some ghosts to rest through obtaining a more objective understanding of his childhood and the gulf that separated his parents. Unyielding in gossip, the locals make the task doubly difficult as they are more than happy to dig up their sordid details of the past, attacking Michael as a jailbird come home to roost.

Given the freedom from prison, Michael appraises life and society with deeper appreciation, recognizing the irreplaceable value of life. The wilderness becomes his refuge from the haunting questions that pursue him. By accident, he crosses the plight of a wounded gyrfalcon targeted for a taxidermy's illegal trade. Recognizing the desperate helplessness of the wounded falcon under a poacher's rifle sight, Michael rescues the bird, bringing it to the attention of the local vet.

Together, they share their captivity and frustration, in need of escape from being targets of an inhumane society. The wounded gyrfalcon attracts the attention of the neighbor's boy. Intrigued, he visits regularly to watch the healing and training process before releasing it into the wild. Attracted to the falcon, Jamie begins to open up, following Michael about during training sessions and learning to hold the falcon on his fist. Although mute, his admiration and emotions are found on paper as he gives them artistic expression. His mother, widowed through a hunting accident, remains aloof, courted by the local cop, Coop. Coop finds the town a bit crowded, but has no intention of moving. Never ambitious, he has his life, the not quite stright, but also not quite crooked cop, who seems to know all the doings in town without imposing strict law when leniency is needed.

The conflicts of the social order of the town add depth to a simple tale of recovery, presenting the profiles of the reigning order who see themselves as the town's moral police and the lower strata tht survives through shady dealings and hard living. The contrast between the levels of society and the veiled moral hypocrisy of the upper class is reflected in teh gossip spewed about meant to stonewallo or railroad the unwanted returning prodigal son. And although Coop is the center of the law, the law often goes around him, with a wink and nod. The characters are those found in any small town: the righteous few who declare the morals for the rest, invading the town library to rip out the select pages of a book; the abandoned wife, left struggling with her nest of kids, working extra hours in greasy jobs; the landowners with their real estate wars, each poaching on the other's territory. Although big-time mobsters may not reside in an isolated village, oftentimes the mentality of control, graft and power are nearly identical, but just barely on the right side of the law.

Harrison shows great insight and sensitivity to the plight of the falcon and Michael Somers trapped by his past. Through using the falcon, Harrison is able to create a sympathetic character in Michael, challenging our superficial judgments on moral character. Does being in jail, or completing a prison term make a person a jailbird? Or does a society, which imposes unrealistic demands on its members, do a double axe on the person who finally snaps from the unrelenting pressure? Lyrical and fluid, the writing presents questions that are not easily answered regarding the breakdown of family relationships and their impact on children later in adulthood, confronting their own marital mistakes. Convincing in the portraits and conflicts of the players, the book would be an excellent choice for adaption to film as it is filled with the pathos of Jamie, struck mute through the trauma of his father's death and the struggles of mother to regain secirity in the town as a real estate agent. None of the characters are stereotyped or come off as badly written cariacatures for late night television. They each have a story to tell and struggles which make them credible without black and white lne drawings to identify the hero and villain. Solidly written, the plot is never exposed like the rotting bricks beneath a flaky facade. Their lives are naturally interwoven into the natural pattern of small town life, with fleeting moments grabbing a coffee, sitting in a bar or getting stuck in snow. The goal for Michael is to regain freedom which he learns from training the falcon how to fly again.


Robyn's Bookshelf

The Kingfisher Children's Encyclopedia: Fully Revised and Updated
Sarah Allen and Jennifer Justice, editors
Kingfisher Publications
ISBN: 0753457679 $24.95

The nice thing about a single volume encyclopedia is the easy browsing; especially if page after page reveals over 2000 enticing pictures and eye-catching color. Underneath each main heading (such as ABORIGNE) is a concise definition. Did you know the term "aboriginal" is used to describe the native inhabitants of any county, but the original people of Australia have come to be known as Aborigines? Next, lays the vast assortment of easy to understand facts, expertly arranged in paragraphs of self-contained sections. The more than 35,000 indexed references range from topics such as the Antarctica, Balloon and Airships, the Crusades, Food, the Human Body, Migration, Nuclear Power, Plastics, Video, and Zoology. At the back of the book you'll find FACTFINDER, a place where pages of information cover presidents and states, biographies of famous figures and highlights of the last 100 years. The numerous topics providing fast facts and good basic information will make this encyclopedia one the kids will love to mull over.

Bridge Building: Bridge Designs and How They Work
Diana Briscoe
Capstone Press (hardcover)
ISBN 0736838813 $23.93, 64 pages
Red Brick Learning (paperback)
7825 Telegraph Road, Bloomington, MN 55438
ISBN 0736838538 $8.75 1-952-224-0511

Remember when you were a kid and you stepped carefully across a log that lay between the banks of the creek? It was a game to keep from falling into the water. If you were one of those people who rose to the challenge, you crossed one of the first recognized walkway tools, the beam bridge.

A more sophisticated beam bridge made of beams, rope, a deck, and piers was built by the Europeans over 4,500 years ago. Their walkways covered rivers and marshes as long as 1 mile (1.6 kilometers). Photographs and well researched bridge details help the reader understand the fascinating history of how bridges have evolved. Historical details show us why the arch bridge was important, why the Inca's built a suspension bridge across a deep gorge, how the beam bridge was improved with trestles, trusses, and cantilevers and how things can go terribly wrong in a section highlighting bridge disasters.

Incorporated into the well designed interior is the inclusion of vocabulary words. One problem with putting a glossary at the back of the book is the readers' willingness to stop and flip. Many have been known to shrug off the notion and continue on uninformed. That problem has been solved by placing unobtrusive, bold faced vocabulary words at the bottom of each page. My students took to the book instantly, quoting interesting facts and sharing pictures.The Table of Contents and Index make it easy to find specific information.

The Sea of Trolls
Nancy Farmer
Simon & Schuster Children's
ISBN: 0689867441, $17.95

Old world charm combined with richly detailed mythology makes for a lengthy but satisfying adventure. Those who like their tales told in a hurry will be disappointed. This is a story with many layers of emotion and depth. The year is A.D. 793 along the coast of the North Sea. Eleven year old Jack knows life only as a simple farm boy. His deeply religious father expects perfection from a son and when Jack falls short, his rebukes are forthcoming. The family is surprised when a Druid Bard asks to take Jack as an apprentice. An apprentice needs to have courage, skill, wit, and intelligence; something Jack didn't know he possessed.

He quickly discovers there is much to learn about life and a supernatural power known as the life force. His apprenticeship had just begun when he and little sister Lucy are captured by blood-thirsty Thorgil and Olaf One-Brow, a giant driving his ship of beserkers on a raid across coastal towns. The saga unfolds making this novel a delicious blend of Scandinavian folklore and a complex magical world of dragons, trolls, giant spiders, troll beasts and much more. It is worthy of a second reading, so you can absorb the intricate details provided by masterful storytelling.

Robyn Gioia, Reviewer

Roger's Bookshelf

Why Men Earn More
Warren Farrell, PhD
ISBN 0814472109 $23.00 270 pages

Eye-Opening, Well-Constructed

The premise of this book is that a major influencer on the amount of money women - and men - earn is determined by the occupation chosen. Some jobs pay a lot more because they are less desirable and less popular among job-seekers. Others will pay much less because they involve easier work, better working conditions, less education and training, and more flexibility. These jobs are often held by women, who could increase their income by moving to the higher paying positions. These opportunities are described in the book.

Based on his premise that if you "choose the right field, the higher pay will come," Farrell continues with 25 ways to increase your income. While a lot of this knowledge is not rocket science, I've never seen it presented so succinctly. This book is quite well organized, very easy to navigate and absorb.

The six chapters in Part One, with the 25 reasons, are a fine book without anything else. But, there's more! Part Two delivers eight more chapters on a wide range of factors that differentiate men from women in the marketplace. Farrell slices through the myths to provide new perspectives including a chapter on jobs where women are paid more than men for the same work. Facts and feelings are intertwined to create a fascinating read that is hard to put down. A lot of questions in this field are addressed head-on, like "Isn't the issue more than comparable pay; isn't it comparable worth?"

This book will be popular, and frequently cited. Now that I've read it to create this review, I'm sending this book to my daughter who is about to receive her masters degree. As a proud father, I've told her for years that she deserves more. Now I can give her a book that documents that position.

RV Living in the 21st Century
Peggi McDonald
Author House
ISBN 1418443158 $16.95 281 pages

Comprehensive, conversational guide.

For anyone considering or experiencing the RV lifestyle, this book is a wide-ranging tour of things you need to know. Peggi McDonald, a Canadian with extensive (20 years on the road) RV knowledge; been there, done that. She shares the kind of information and advice that enable people to build their competence and confidence as pat-time or full-time RVers.

The book is written in a conversational style, rather than technical. It's easy to understand, appreciate, and absorb. The pages are filled with tips that will reduce ignorance and risk for experienced people, as well as for the newbie. Everyone can learn from the depth and breadth of the insight shared by the author.

This book was written by a Canadian who travels in the United States and Canada. Readers will benefit from the multi-national perspective she brings to the subject. Her writing is seasoned with personal stories that illuminate her points and express the human side of this lifestyle. It's a welcome counterbalance to all the do-this-and-do-that advice that is essential in this kind of a guide.

Readers will gain valuable knowledge about the RV world, life on the road, protection of life and property, full-timing, and communication. If you make a list of all the questions you might have - before you read the book, you'll discover that most of your concerns will be addressed as you work your way through this resource.

Great learning opportunity and gift for people considering this increasingly popular lifestyle.

Roger E. Herman

Taylor's Bookshelf

The Road To Assisi
Pual Sabatier
Paraclete Press
PO Box 1568, Orleans, MA 02653
155725401X $12.95

Now in a new edition edited and with an introduction and annotation Jon Sweeny, The Road To Assisi: The Essential Biography of St. Francis was first published in French in 1894, as the first attempt at a modern biography of St. Francis, one of the most beloved figures of Christian history. Author Paul Sabatier struggled to answer the question: who was Francis the man? Groundbreaking research reveals the a fully human portrayal of a man who was nonetheless gentle, passionate, joyful, and who desired to live as Jesus once taught his disciples. An extraordinary work that covers Francis' weaknesses as surely as his strengths, enhanced by the annotation and sidebars that place events of Francis' life in historical context. Highly recommended for individual reading as well as biography shelves, and a must-have for library collections.

Black Church Beginnings
Henry H. Mitchell
255 Jefferson Avenue SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
0802827853 $18.00 1-800-253-7521

Henry H. Mitchell is a retired professor of history and black church studies: his Black Church Beginnings: The Long-Hidden Realities Of The First Years fills a gap in history in considering the struggles of African Americans to establish churches within the boundaries of slavery in the American colonies. The black church phenomenon began in the mid-1700s and its history is followed in a coverage which ends in the 19th century. Successes and failures alike are profiled in this strongly recommended and highly valued contribution to Black Studies, American History, and Christian Religious Studies reference collections and supplemental reading lists.

John Taylor

Wickes' Bookshelf

The Penguin Atlas of Food: Who Eats What, Where and Why
Erik Millstone and Tim Lang
Penguin Books
ISBN: 0142002240 $20.00 128 pages

As industrialization and technology take over our lives, we become more sedentary. Through the riches of our country, we can afford more meat, dairy products and processed foods; thus, contributing to our poor health, "over-nutrition", otherwise known as the Western Diet.

Erik Millstone works at the University of Sussex in Science Policy. He has been working on food-related issues for almost 30 years. Tim Lang is a professor of food policy at City University in London. He is, also, a consultant to the World Health Organization. With the aid of Axel Drescher, a professor of Applied Geography at Freiburg University, they have formulated this educational book about "who eats what, where and why".

While rich industrialized countries thrive in excess and develop diseases from over-consumption (such as, diabetes), these countries are also feeding a bulk of our grain to feed livestock, when over 40 million people a year die of starvation.

This book is filled with statistics, bar graphs, charts and miscellaneous graphics that help aid in our understanding of food's role in modern life. The book is divided into five parts: Contemporary Challenges (feeding the population, environmental challenges, disease, nutrition and more); Farming (mechanization, genetic modification, pesticides, sustainable farming and more); Trade (animal transport, fair trade, tariffs and more); Processing, Retailing and Consumption (staple foods, Organic food, fast food, alcohol and more); and World Tables (agriculture and comsumption).

This is not a cookbook, nor a glamorous journey through each country's cuisine, however.

Upon studying this book, I ponder the ideas of vegetarianism for a healthier way of life, and as an objection towards the feeding of livestock in lieu of providing grain for starving nations. I, also, think of how we have looked for ways on simplifying our lives with remote controls, garage door openers, email, kitchen appliances, washers and dryers, and how ultimately, we have complicated it more. This reminds me of a movie I once saw: The Gods Must Be Crazy. Although this movie takes on a more comedic approach of two wildly different cultures in South Africa, still it does demonstrate what both cultures have gained and lost due to industrialization.

Information found in this book can help educate the reader on how the food on their plate came to be and at what cost to society. For anyone that eats, and that is everyone, we should all read this book and become more educated on how we are contributing, both positively and negatively, to our society.

The Jamlady Cookbook
Beverly Ellen Schoonmaker Alfeld
Pelican Publishing Company
ISBN: 1589802357 $35.00 288 pages

The Jamlady Cookbook is a very thorough reference guide for canners, gardeners, chefs and new cooks. It provides mouth-watering photographs, hundreds of recipes for jams, preserves, jellies, and many other homemade products.

The author, Beverly Ellen Schoonmaker Alfeld, was raised by parents who ran a commercial greenhouse. Later, as an adult, she received her Bachelor's Degree as well as two Master's degrees. She completed training through the Food and Drug Administration. Using her teaching skills, being an educator for over 23 years, she has dedicated her life to educating home cooks on how to can safely. This is her first book.

This book is so nice. There are over 400 recipes, color photographs deliciously displayed, and a lot of information. The book is very easy-to-read; the recipes are easy-to-understand and a wonderful book for anyone, especially gardeners who are looking for new ideas to can their bounty!

Some of the information you will find in this book are: processing methods and trouble shooting; definitions of jams, jellies, preserves, butters, marmalades, conserves, spreads and chutneys; recipes for jams, jellies and preserves, including sugar free versions; a recipe section on how to bake with your new "jams"; many butter recipes; and an excellent appendix showing the pH of foods and measurements.

Some of the wonderful recipes you will find in this lovely book are: Wine Jelly, Orange Marmalade, Hot Mango Jam, Pumpkin Butter, Cherry Vanilla Preserves, and Red Pepper Marmalade. I was so impressed with the unusual recipes and tantalizing combinations! I plan to try the Cantaloupe Conserve next.

The Jamlady has her own website. There you can purchase some of her creations. She offers recipes, and locations to find her if you would like to purchase her products in person. She even gives her email address if you have any questions. Some of the products you can purchase through her site are; Hot Crocodile Chutney, Strawberry Butter, and Jalapeno Pepper Jelly.

This cookbook is well worth the price of $35.00. I would highly recommend it to anyone. Having this book inspired my creativity and made me want to try all the recipes. In fact, after getting this book, I plan to buy it as Christmas gifts this year, and start a small garden next year so I can try more recipes with my own produce!

Jennifer A. Wickes, Reviewer

Zinta's Bookshelf

The Rings of My Tree
Jane E. Cunningham
Llumina Press
ISBN: 1595263489 $13.95 160 pgs.

The monsters and beasts in my childhood bedtime stories were not imaginary. They were flesh and blood and in human form, and usually they wore the uniforms of the Red Army. They marched in my parents' memories, relentless and cruel, driving them from their homes in Latvia during World War II. My parents were refugees, displaced to camps in Germany in the 1940's while awaiting sponsors for their immigration to the United States. Although I was born in the States, I have known two homes, two cultures, two languages, two histories, and the stories on which I was raised have become a part of my ethnic inheritance.

Reading Jane E. Cunningham's book about another Latvian woman's personal journey as a refugee from Latvia to the United States during the war was like hearing the stories of my parents all over again. What amazed me, however, were the accuracy of perception and a to-the-core understanding of an experience the author could not have shared. Cunningham, after all, is not Latvian. She is an Irish-American living in Connecticut, a teacher, and no closer to the Latvian experience than, well, crossing the street, as it turned out. For 45 years, Cunningham has known and befriended her neighbor, Mirdza Vaselnieks Labrencis. Now a woman in her mid-eighties, Mirdza has shared her stories about her home in Latvia and her journey to America with her most attentive neighbor, resulting in this slender but powerful book. Cunningham has even written it as a first-person account - a daring move, but one at which she was surprisingly successful. In nearly every detail and perception, the story is Mirdza's. It is also the story of most all Latvian refugees.

In the preface, Cunningham notes of Mirdza: "She has entrusted her story to me to record for anyone who thinks freedom is an automatic entitlement or that punishment is a direct result of something you have done." The trust is well placed. Cunningham captures the nuances of this woman's personality and experience precisely and movingly, this survivor who walks now with a limp as a reminder of war injuries, but a spirit of quiet joy and intensified appreciation for the gift of life so nearly lost. "I have been spared for some reason," notes the elderly woman. "I don't think God would be happy with me if I wasn't happy back."

Born in 1920 in this tiny country on the Baltic Sea, Mirdza recalls a childhood that flourished in freedom. The thought that she would lose that freedom and everything she had thus far known as her life by 1939, when the Soviets forcefully occupied the Baltic States - Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania - was incomprehensible, unimaginable. When the first rumblings of war to the east could be heard, young Mirdza was attending school in the town of Dobele (where my own father was born and that I was privileged to visit at about the age which Mirdza here describes). While the rulers of larger and more powerful countries gathered to negotiate away the land, liberty, and lives of these small nations, she played cards and read favorite books and giggled in youthful innocence with her friends, as yet unaware of what was to come.

The Baltic nations knew oppression. One of the oldest countries still in existence today, Latvia has a bloody and harsh history of one Superpower after another taking control of its land and enslaving its people. Dating in its official history from the early 1200's, but with cultural roots even further back, Latvia had by World War II known only 20 years of independence. Two decades out of seven centuries. Perhaps the cruelest of oppressors, however, was the one clamoring at her borders now: Russia.

"There was a lot to learn about making concessions in life," Cunningham writes in Mirdza's voice about her predecessors and their lessons in survival. "They were survivors. They knew how to be happy and celebrate even the smallest treasures in life, for they had learned to cultivate happiness from oppressed soil."

Mirdza quickly begins to learn these same lessons for herself as Communists overtake Latvia. Karlis Ulmanis, then president, disappeared into Russia, presumably to his execution, on the night of June 11, 1940, along with thousands of other Latvians. Overnight, the Communist Party became the only government allowed, and anyone who was a threat, or was perceived as a threat to this brutal ruler, was deported to Siberia, usually to their death. Town officials, newspaper journalists, municipal workers, church leaders, leaders of educational institutions, teachers, business owners, landowners, anyone with a voice that was known to be outspoken was added to the list of those destined for deportation, and, in most cases, death. Joseph Stalin had used his sickle, emblem on the red flag of Soviet Russia, to "decapitate Latvia's freedom."

"Latvians of my generation remember the dates of June 14-15, 1941, the way Americans remember December 7, 1941. These two days and the week after mark the first official Soviet Mass Deportation of Latvian from their homeland, taking them to either their execution or the Siberian hard labor camps Only Communism would reign from now on Each day and night we lived in fear, holding on to all that we were - Latvians of good character who lived by the Golden Rule. Thousands of good-living citizens were literally rounded up on that June night by Soviet armed guards and put, sometimes thrown, into trucks and hauled away to be shoved into cattle cars at the train station for their ride to Siberia well educated, civil people who paid the ultimate price because of Stalin's egomaniacal, despotic fervor for our fertile land and its gateway to the Baltic Sear. The Soviet sphere was not a matter of race, creed or color. It was political ideology gone berserk." (pg. 11)

Yet another crucial understanding of this tiny country's position in the war that Cunningham brings to Mirdza's story is the bloodied rock and hard place in which Latvia found itself during the German-Soviet War between Stalin and Hitler. How to choose? Which way to run? How does one survive in this hell between two crazed despots? Flung between one army and the other, those left behind after the Soviet deportations either fled as refugees or marched into battle. While few had sympathy for the German side in the war, many felt that they had a better chance of survival, and a better chance to regain their freedom, with the Germans than with the Russians. Germans would swallow the country's culture, turning it into everything German. Many believed, however, and rightfully so, that to side with the Soviets could only mean mass death and deportation. To those caught in the middle of this grist, learning to trust no one, to always watch one's back, to reveal nothing, became the means of survival, which continued throughout the Soviet years (Latvia finally regained her independence from Soviet Russia in November 1991).

Mirdza's story tells of her time under Communist and German rule, learning to "roll with the punches" of two Superpowers as they moved their borders back and forth across Latvia. "As fervently as we were not Communists, we were not German National Socialist collaborators or sympathizers either. Latvia was forcibly occupied When your country is no longer your country and army trucks and tanks go up and down the road where only a few cars and horses with wagons used to drive, it is impossible to forget that life is moment by moment, breath by breath always on the edge of disaster. No one was safe." (pg. 19)

A decision had to be made. To stay and or to go. Both options were a life risk. Both involved an end to life as Mirdza and her people had known it. Eventually, Mirdza joined many and became a refugee. "Latvians were becoming like lemmings going to the sea to save themselves from the barbaric Russian bear." (pg. 24) Mirdza was separated from her family, believing them all lost to the war, a young woman alone, running for her life.

To survive - "where there is life, there is hope" - Mirdza undergoes a psychological shifting in her spirit and in her psyche. "Inside my still anesthetized cocoon, the soul of the self is changing. This forced-by-war metamorphosis was a lonely place to be, and yet it seemed to be a place of unconscious, unfolding change that surfaced through a new, foreign determination that surprised me. Survival is a funny thing tied to self-respect. The greedy monster ministers of war had separated my family, killed some of my friends, issued a warrant for my life, bombed my house raped and pillaged my country and took away the normal use of my left side the caterpillar in my mind was losing its slow-crawling legs and I have no idea when the wings of courage developed, but there was a flapping inside of me." (pgs. 31-32)

Pushed to its limits, human nature shows its true colors and true fiber. A frightened girl emerges a strong, determined young woman, doing what she must to survive and to establish some semblance of a new life for herself. It is not in her nature to be bold, Cunningham writes of her heroine, nor is it the nature of a nation to be subjected to the depravity of war. Those who cannot adapt - die. Those who find wings and tap into a core wisdom of resilience - live. Mirdza makes a decision to live.

To survive one does what one must, sometimes shutting off the mind, other times shutting off the heart. When required, both are called back into action. Cunningham writes of Mirdza's life in German refugee camps with a compassionate honesty, never glossing over Mirdza's very human moments of weakness, but letting her moments of personal heroism quietly shine in their own illumination. When Mirdza meets a Latvian man in 1948, she marries him, sensing that two survive better than one. At the birth of her first child in 1950, her battered heart opens fully to allow her to feel the first real love she has known - as a mother for her son.

When a sponsor offers Mirdza and her family an opportunity to immigrate in 1950 to the United States, she knows a sustaining gratitude. "It took a lot of love for people in the allied countries to sponsor the displaced persons after the war, and it was not an act of kindness that we took for granted." (pg 132)

But Mirdza finds that being an immigrant carries with it a stigma that blinds those who will not see. From those who cannot see beyond the fatigue and poverty of the refugee, who cannot fathom that other cultures are no less valuable than their own, in America she encounters a new kind of bigotry and another variation of oppression. "Maybe because I was born in freedom and raised in a household of properness and had a good, solid education in many disciplines, it did not occur to me that I would ever be considered less valuable than anyone else or discriminated against simply because I was a displaced victim of war. I never once thought that some Americans or anyone in the world could think less of someone who had never done anything wrong to them." (pg. 132) The family sponsoring the Latvian immigrants eventually asks if they might have Mirdza's son (they are childless), as if to immigrants a child would mean any less than merchandise to barter, and they offered acres of land in exchange. With all that war does to the survivor, values as deep seated as a mother's love, however, are unchanged, and Mirdza and her family eventually break away from their sponsors and form a new life in a new home on their own. Hard work does not slow them; their debts are soon paid, and with time they have a home of their own.

Mirdza's family continues to feel the sting of discrimination. Because of her foreign accent, she is assumed to be uneducated. Because of her background in a different culture she is assumed inferior. Finding a community of other Latvian immigrants becomes a lifeline to sanity. In her home, she senses the ostracization of her neighbors, but in her Latvian community she relaxes into creating a home in exile. When at last one neighbor crosses the street to knock on her door and speak to her, take the time to get to know her and listen to her story of survival - Mirdza's warmth unfolds.

It is this story that becomes her bridge to acceptance in her home away from home. Many years later, Mirdza is able to connect with her father, for long years thought killed in the war, but still alive in Soviet Latvia. A correspondence begins between one world and another that cannot always cross cultural differences. When the time comes that Latvians from behind the Iron Curtain are allowed travel to the United States, Mirdza is eager to show off her new home. So much to see, she notes, historic sites, great cities, immeasurable abundance. But for those who are coming from the Soviet Union, it is the American grocery stores that hold the greatest fascination.

"With eyes practically popping out of her head in the produce department of a super-size grocery store, my normally reserved sister whispered her questions to me in Latvian: 'How can you just walk around this orange lying on the floor? Why do Americans just let food lie on the floor and not pick it up? Why is there one entire aisle for dog and cat food? Are American animals that difficult to feed? Why is there a pharmacy in a grocery store? How many kinds of shampoo do Americans need?' By the time we got back to my house not only was I exasperated from trying to explain capitalism, but I realized that her world and mine could never mesh again. The war and development of an evil ideology had truly separated our daily lives Instead of being bowled over by American abundance, I think she was disappointed by our careless treatment of it." (pg 156)

On the other hand, Mirdza also realizes that her sister from Soviet Latvia cannot comprehend the constant and typically smiling American face. Smiling now herself, Mirdza acknowledges, "I couldn't answer her through my own lasting grin. I was so American Smiles come from freedom."

In 1994, Mirdza returns to a free Latvia, 50 years after leaving as a refugee. She visits the graves of her parents. She visits her sister, whose now pleasant and quiet, easy-paced life in free Latvia bears little comparison to her own in the United States. War changes everything. Perhaps the only thing the two sisters have in common anymore, aside from their roots and their language, is that both teach their children to count the years of a tree by the growth rings in its wood.

Cunningham's account of a story so far, surely, from her own as an Irish-American living in Connecticut is testimony of the ability to bridge two cultures and two very different perspectives on life to form very human bonds of friendship. This slender volume is highly recommended for anyone willing to take a moment to appreciate what makes us all different and what makes us all the same.

Zinta Aistars

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

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