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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 12, Number 4 April 2012 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Bethany's Bookshelf Buhle's Bookshelf
Burroughs' Bookshelf Carson's Bookshelf Christina Johns' Bookshelf
Christy's Bookshelf Clark's Bookshelf Crocco's Bookshelf
Daniel's Bookshelf Gary's Bookshelf Gloria's Bookshelf
Gorden's Bookshelf Heidi's Bookshelf Henry's Bookshelf
Karyn's Bookshelf Katherine's Bookshelf Logan's Bookshelf
Lois' Bookshelf Margaret's Bookshelf Mayra's Bookshelf
Richard's Bookshelf Sandra's Bookshelf Steve's Bookshelf
Suzie's Bookshelf Theodore's Bookshelf  

Reviewer's Choice

Nest: The Art of Birds
Janine Burke
Allen & Unwin
81 Alexander St. Crows Nest, NSW 2065, Australia
9781742378299 A$32.99

Ann Skea

There are many good things about this book. Its central theme, as the author tells us, is that birds' nests are artistic creations: their construction and design consciously intended to be attractive not just as a safe and desirable place for the female to raise her brood, but also, like the bower-bird's bower which is decorated with carefully chosen flowers, leaves, and found objects, pleasing in a wholly non-utilitarian, 'artistic' way. We humans are not, she suggests, the only animals to be artists.

This is a difficult argument to maintain, since the purpose of the embellishments added to bowers and nests is still to attract a mate. However, many of the nests which Janine Burke describes are, indeed, superbly and skillfully crafted and are also beautiful objects for us to see and touch. Our definition of art, too, has changed radically in recent times. So, Burke bolsters her argument by comparing the creation of these nests to the creations of a number of different human artists in a number of different media. Robert Smithson's 'Spiral Jetty', an environmental sculpture made of rock in the Great Salt Lake, Utah, is one example she offers. Others, are the nest photography of Sharon Beals and the wild-life photography of Andy Rouse.

The problem, for me, is that this book is a rag-bag of information - or, maybe I should say a magpie collection of facts - related, often very remotely and sometimes not at all, to her argument. For example, after a perfectly legitimate description of the nesting skills of storks, we get a long passage about Karen Blixen's life and love, her home in Africa which is now a museum, and her affliction with syphilis, all because, it seems, the stork was her totem bird.

Burke wrote at length about Blixen and other artists in her recent book Visions. In Nest, she reprises a great deal of this, drawing on what she has already written about, for example, Picasso, Frida Kahlo, Virginia Woolf and the Australian Aboriginal artist Emily Kame Kngwarreye. She also trawls the poetry collections for bird poems, coming up with work by Keats, Shelley, Hughes and Emily Dickinson. None of this, however, is really of help in proving that birds are conscious artists.

Burke's descriptions of her own observations of nesting birds are interesting and sometimes - as with her experiences with her noisy neighbours, the Indian Miner birds - quite funny. But do we really need to know how insecure she felt about writing this book, or how she overcame her early hero-worship of an influential art critic to arrive at her own opinions about art?

This book is beautifully presented, a pleasure to look at and hold; and Burke, who is an art historian, writes fluently and well when she describes art. She could have made much more of the nests themselves, their creation, their individuality, their diversity and their beauty, but, to my mind, she got sidetracked too often to make this a satisfying book.

Uncle Yeshu, Messiah
William Harwood
BookSurge Publishing
c/o Amazon Digital Publishing
1419657771, $23.99,,

G. Richard Bozarth

Uncle Yeshu, Messiah is the fourth novel by William Harwood, an Australian-born citizen of Canada, I have read. All have been enjoyable, but Yeshu attains a level of excellence the others failed to reach. I really enjoyed this novel, and it has nothing to do with the fact that I'm one of those Atheists who enjoy books that are guaranteed to upset religionists (in this case, Christians). This is an outstanding version of one of the Western culture's superb fiction stories. Yeshu is also a fine representative of that subgenre of fiction that tells the "real" stories that popular myths are based on.

The myth being exposed is the Jesus fairy tale told in the Bible's gospels. Because the subject of the myth evolved in less than a century from a Judaist Messiah to a pagan dying/resurrecting savior deity, Yeshu extends beyond the life and execution of Yahuwshua ("Yeshu" is an intimate diminutive) to cover developments in the communities that believed him to be the Messiah over the decades until the publication of the Gospel of John, which promoted Yeshu to godhood. To do this, the book is told as a memoir by one of Yeshu's nephews, who finished it at the age of 112. His purpose is to tell the truth about Yeshu and also about the evolution of the cults that were dedicated to Yeshu. As a Judaist relative who knew Yeshu lived and died a true Judaist believer, the nephew is particularly displeased by the pagan-style myths about Yeshu generated by the pagan-friendly cult Saul (better known as Paul) founded. His loony Uncle Yeshu presented as the Christian Jesus the Christ is an absurdity he wants to expose, which he makes clear near the end of his "gospel/acts" memoir (p. 286-287): "I have shown you who and what my uncle Yeshu really was, and what the infidel Anointers have turned him into in the ninety-one years since his death" (the long quote below explains the use of "Anointers" instead of "Christians").

Yeshu is a loony (a plus for any future cult leader) who also has the "good" fortune to conform to Isaiah's prophecy of a physically deformed, hideously ugly Messiah. His fate is sealed when he joins his family in getting baptized in the Jordan River by Yohanan the Immerser (another Messiah candidate in those Messiah-expecting days). When Yeshu is dunked (p. 46), he hallucinates the voice of Yahweh telling him, "You are my beloved son. Today I have become your father." After that "revelation", Yeshu joins the club of Judaist Messiahs that have been doing business among the Jews ever since the Messiah theology became part of Judaism. The rest of Yeshu's story follows the same basic plot used in the first three gospels and presents a realistic secular version that very likely could have happened. This is the purpose of Yeshu, since Harwood wanted to write a historical novel that keeps as close to reality as fiction allows.

Since keeping it as real as possible was one of Harwood's goals, there is a significant amount of authentic facts in Yeshu. A reader who has read Harwood's God, Jesus, And The Bible will be able to spot the nonfiction content easily, though it is absolutely not necessary to read GJB first in order to enjoy Yeshu (just like it isn't necessary to read Civil War history to enjoy Gone With The Wind). Since Harwood is a nontheist (the term he prefers over "Atheist") and not in any way an accommodationist, the facts contained in Yeshu are the kind that will not make Christians happy. This is my favorite (p. 212):

Romans and Romanized Greeks have a perverted addiction to bathing, sometimes scrubbing their entire bodies as often as three or four times in a single week. After scrubbing, they are then anointed with olive oil by a skilled masseur, to give the body the smooth touch that distinguishes a patrician from a plebeian. Even in the rare instances that the khristos, the customer, is as committed as any Jewdean to the belief that carnal recreation should involve a man and a woman, the khristianos, the bathboy, is bound to be a catamite slave. In calling Yeshu Khristos, meaning "the anointed," Saul had inadvertently given his Greek audience the impression that his dead king had been oiled - and fellated - in a public bathhouse. It was for that reason that the derogatory term, Anointers [Greek: Khristianoi], was first applied to Saul's infidel followers at Antioch. And not very long after that, the Anointers themselves started calling their religion Anointianity [Greek: Khristianismos], as if it were a title of honor.

The quote is also convenient for showing the one annoying fault of Yeshu: putting what should have been footnotes or endnotes in the text of the fiction. It is not a serious fault, but these boldface editorial insertions annoyed me because they are like speed bumps that keep jarring the smooth ride of the fiction. This style of editorial insertion worked very nicely in Harwood's excellent translation of the Bible, but is not a good technique for fiction.

Yeshu has added value in the form of two nonfiction essays that follow the novel: "Was Jesus A Real Person From History?" and "Jesus' Deification: When And Why?". The latter is fascinating and the former is very persuasive. Harwood argues that there was a real Jesus and that what can be called the secular parts of his biography in the Gospels is reliably accurate (which means his hypothesis justifies calling the Gospels historical fantasy fiction because the tales have historical and supernatural content). I am almost persuaded (however, what keeps me at almost is a discussion for a different venue).

The important message that I am delivering is that Uncle Yeshu, Messiah is an excellent reading experience. Even though the nephew writes from the perspective of a Judaist who scorns infidels like all good Judaists should, the mission the nephew is trying to accomplish is a Freethought one: debunking the ridiculous myths about his loony uncle that continued to get more ridiculous until finally he lived to see his uncle promoted to a deity by a cult that had ceased being any kind of Judaism. The result is an impious version of one of the best fiction stories produced by Western culture that will delight all Freethinkers, Secular Humanists, and Atheists/nontheists who are not radical accommodationists. Harwood deserves to be congratulated by everybody in the Freethought Movement for adding another wonderful book to Freethought's library!

The Wedding Gift
Kathleen Mckenna
Bell Bridge Books
PO Box 300921, Memphis, TN 38130
9781611940527 $14.95,

Chasity Brewer

'The Wedding Gift' is set in the small town of Dalton, Oklahoma. It tells the story of 17 years old, Leanne, who is the 'prettiest girl in town' and she is darn proud of it! She begins dating George Willets Jr. of Willets Petroleum. The Willets family is the richest family in town and Leanne's family the Worthier's are, well let's just said they are on the opposite side of the track as the Willets. This could be a really good thing considering the Willets are labeled as a 'terrible family'.

So when George asks Leanne to marry him, to his mother's horror, Leanne accepts, not because she loves him. No that was never the reason that she was with him to begin with if she's honest about it. However she did always imagine herself marrying a rich man and becoming rich and important. George makes her that as well as giving her all the materialistic things she could want. Including his big wedding gift to her a mansion that belonged to his aunt and uncle.

Only the story behind that mansion isn't so happily ever after. His Aunt Robina murdered all of her five children then her husband Roger and then herself. After that massacre everyone swore the house was haunted and no one have every lived in that house again. However who was Leanne to turn down a free mansion. So she gets over her initial fear and moves into the mansion. Then Robina's ghost starts visiting Leanne, in a lot of different places and things become a lot more complicated.

Ok so first let me begin by saying I loved the plot and background story of Robina and Roger. As well as all the secrets of the Willets family that begins to unravel as the story progresses.

With that said I had a few problems with the book. The language in this book was terrible. It took southern language to a new low. Part of my family is from the south and I can assure you none of them talk like that. I am sure some southerners would find it insulting even. It made the characters, especially Leanne sound about as smart as a box of rocks. I'm sorry to say this because I really liked the plot of this story and there is a lot of talent and good writing in this book just not in this portrayed southern dialogue. Even though I never considered Oklahoma southern, but then again I don't know too much about Dalton, Oklahoma.

The other thing that bothered me was how very vain Leanne is and how very little regard she has for anyone else's feeling or lives for that matter. In her eyes it's always about her, and she loves hearing people call her by her title, 'the prettiest girl in town'. She even marries a man she doesn't love and gets mad when she is referred to as a 'gold digger'! Well I would hate to be the one to inform her that she is! Hello, she doesn't love George and is only with him for the things he can give her. If that's not gold digging, I don't know what is.

Overall Leanne's character put a damper on the story for me. I did like the history and the ghost story aspect of it though. There was talent in the writing and I didn't have to force myself through it. Overall I give it three stars and I would read another book by her to see what other stories she is capable of. She has peaked my interest.

And There Was David-Kanza
Albert Russo
Imago Press
3710 East Edison, Tucson AZ 85716-2912
9781935437437, $14.00 (pb), $17.95 (hc)

David Alexander

And There Was David-Kanza continues a cycle of fiction that has preoccupied author Albert Russo for decades, and which his perhaps best known work, Mixed Blood, tracks with in a clear line of progression. The novel begins in central Africa in the mid-1920s, where those of mixed racial ancestry occupied a social limbo between "whites" and "coloreds." David-Kanza -- offspring of Daniel Sardo, friend of main character Sandro Romano-Livi, a Jewish immigrant from the island city of Rhodes, Greece, and Shumani, a Kishwali-speaking black African tribeswoman from the nearby province of Kivu -- is a character symbolic of the central themes of the narrative.

"David-Kanza" is above all about a family's odyssey across geographical space, physical time and levels of consciousness, encompassing passages, rites and metamorphoses, that are structural, mental, economic, political, technological, and somehow, even of the stuff of synchronicity. This mixture of attributes affords the novel a secure place amid the cannon of fiction that arose from an earlier era colonialism, empire building and commercial exploitation in Africa, and elsewhere in the Third World.

Africa in particular underwent a series of metamorphoses that continues to the present day, generating violence as relentless friction generates light, sound and heat. Although the novel's setting shifts to the temperate Lombard region of Italy, to whose industrial center of Monza, the family repatriated beginning in 1959 due to violent civil unrest that followed in the wake of Congolese independence (and continued with Zimbabwe's and Zambia's creation from Southern and Northern Rhodesia in the early 1960s, and the later creation of Zaire in 1971, now the Democratic Republic of the Congo, or DRC), and finally to Brussels, Belgium, the transmission under the story's chassis is the family's African experience.

Structurally "David-Kanza" uses the device of a tripartite narrative told by three of the story's principles -- paterfamilias Sandro Romano-Livi, matriarch Gloria Simpson, and finally David-Kanza himself -- based on the chance discovery of a diary kept by Sandro by the widowed Gloria upon his death. The stories overlap, to some extent, with Sandro's beginning the triune narrative, in which the experiences of other principal characters are also told. Chief among these characters are Astrid and Dalia, natural offspring of Sandro and Gloria, who, like his adoptive parents, embrace David (also called by the diminutive "Daviko") as a full member of the family. Such a plot structure has the advantage of presenting multiple points of view where events shared by all participants are narrated as seen through different pairs of eyes, and of clarifying and adding dimension to events that took place before, after, or concurrently with the first-person narrative's time-frame.

This storytelling approach is especially applicable here because the backgrounds of the three protagonists are considerably different. Sandro is an Italian Jew whose family had weathered persecutions following the First World War but who has fled Greece in the face of still greater persecutions as the Axis powers draw their net over the Romano-Livi's once relatively safe haven. Gloria is an Englishwoman from that well-mannered bastion of the three British classes that George Bernard Shaw once likened to a glass of beer -- froth at the top, dregs at the bottom, but excellent in the middle. Gloria is a "proper" English girl whose family's middle class values have lost none of their importance when transplanted to the eponymous Rhodesian capital city of Salisbury, Rhodesia, where she was born and raised, and from which, following a soured love affair, she came north to Elisabethville in the Belgian Congo on a spur-of-the-moment vacation trip that resulted in her meeting her future husband.

David-Kanza -- partly as a result of a pact between his adoptive father and the birth mother's tribe to have the boy remain in the tribal village until he's undergone the traditional rites of manhood, and the European education and upbringing he receives when he's later adopted as a full-fledged member of the family along with the two natural children, both girls, who become his sisters in fact as well as name -- is in many ways the future, and a symbol of what post-colonial Africa ultimately became and is still becoming, albeit after considerable tribulations. But the backdrop of the dismal end-results of colonial control in the Belgian Congo in particular and in Africa in general can be likened to what happened later in totally different settings in widely separated areas of the world that include India and Yugoslavia. In both cases different religious and ethnic groups lived side-by-side until would-be and self-styled liberators rose to light the flames that led to spasmodic upheavals of violence and bloodshed.

Consciously or otherwise, the thread of the world as a business arrangement, or of business transactions functioning as the central organizing principle of the world system, and of human existence within its confines, runs through the book's narrative. One of the book's messages clearly seems to say that intentions, good or evil, mean absolutely nothing. Those with a master plan for change coupled with an unbending will to implement that plan to the letter -- even for the good of this or that nation or for humanity itself -- are not merely sometimes tragically mistaken, they are always tragically mistaken.

But "David-Kanza" is as much about the power of love as it concerns the consequences of institutionalized prejudice, the Malthusian outcomes of colonialist politics and economics and the checkered fortunes of war. Love welds the Romano-Livi family together, despite the different cultures that fate, and Africa itself, have brought together to make it up. The family of David-Kanza too, is emblematic of what New York City Mayor David Dinkins, then blind to its irony, foresaw as a "gorgeous mosaic" for the metropolis' varied cultures. Nor is the novel a classic roman a clef, but it is certainly a mutlilevel message that declares unashamedly that when peoples are predisposed to live harmoniously with one another, wars of liberation, police actions, peacekeeping operations, humanitarian operations, and similar euphemisms which stand for invasion and occupation, can be rendered unnecessary.

And so Albert Russo's "David-Kanza" is finally a novel less even about Africa than it is about civilization itself, for the magnetic poles of the novel are, on one hand, anarchy, versus culture on the other. It argues that civilization is an unstable compound, highly reactive to the acids and caustic reagents of war, business and politics, which shred its fibers and rip the bonds that hold it together. Russo seems to say that civilization is an organic process that's sustained by the goodwill of those individuals who make it up, that civilization is nourished by the mutual caring and understanding of its participants much in the manner of the Romano-Livi family and David-Kanza himself. We should all hope that the qualities exemplified by the family whose odyssey Albert Russo has chronicled across three generations through the magnifying lens of fiction, represents the future, and not merely the past.

The Tombstone Rose
Annie McKnight
Breakaway Media (Tucson)
0843946814, $3.99 via download

Don Martin

Some books you just can't put down. If you are a fan of historical western fiction The Tombstone Rose will be one of them. The story of a young singer in the west of the 1880's, it is densely packed with accurate historical facts. The story takes more twists and turns than any old-west stagecoach line. You never really know where the stagecoach will stop next, or even which stagecoach you are on.

The story concerns Charlotte Tate, a beautiful, young (18 year old) aspiring singer. She dreams of one day performing in New York City, and San Francisco, and she has the talent to do it. But for now she is stuck in dusty Tombstone. She is also in love with two men. The first is Morgan Earp, brother of Wyatt, and famous for his part in the Shootout at the OK Corral. The second is Jake Cottrell, an ordinary cowboy. Back in those days no respectable woman would date a cowboy, much less marry him.

The book breaks nicely into three sections. The first is a description of what life was like in 1880's Tombstone. It had been only a wide spot in the road, until silver was discovered there. Then it became a wild-west boom town. At it's height it had 110 saloons, about 30 houses of ill repute, and only 4 churches. It was not an easy place to live. There were two types of law. There was the town marshal, who really had no power, and the cowboys, who controlled the town and enforced their own law, usually at the point of a gun.

The second part of the book details Charlotte's attempt to become a known singer. She is hired as an entertainer at a local theater. She assumes this means she will sing. Actually the entertainment she will provide is as a "bar girl" who flirts with the men and keeps them buying drinks for her and themselves. She leaves that job for another theater. That one is essentially a bordello, with live entertainment. She does perform there, but the patrons don't care or even notice her because they are there for other reasons. At one point she is essentially kidnapped and sold into marriage to a man she has never met. She escapes, and joins a traveling entertainment troupe. She gets some fame, and becomes known as "The Tombstone Rose."

The third part of the book describes Charlotte's life after she leaves the theater. She had made a wise investment in a silver mine, and the investment paid off handsomely. She finds herself independently wealthy. She decides to build her own theater, at which she will be the feature performer. But she slowly realizes being a performer is not what she really wanted all along. Plus, she has her love life to figure out. J. Carson Black writes this section with a lot of sensitivity and skill. You will come to know who Charlotte really is very well, and what motivates her.

The Tombstone Rose is the best historical fiction novel I've read in a long time. Loaded with facts and descriptions, it is very well researched. The stories of the Gunfight at the OK Corral and the devastating fire of 1883 are correctly told and accurate. The book will appeal to a wide range of readers. For the history buffs, there are plenty of historical details there to consider. For fans of western novels the book gives a very nice description of what life was really like in the "wild west." But at it's core the book is a romance novel, so romance fans will find it enjoyable. I'd certainly recommend the book for anyone looking to do a bit of time travel, back to 130 years ago.

The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game
Michael Lewis
W.W. Norton & Company, Inc
500 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York 10110
9780393330472, $13.95,


The story of Michael Oher is fascinating and almost unbelievable considering the fairy-tale like elements. A poor, unnoticed, black kid is adopted by a rich, white family, becomes a football phenom, gets into college, and goes in the first round of the NFL draft. It's a little hard to believe...

One of the best parts of this books is that it was written by a good author, Michael Lewis. Like Moneyball, Lewis takes something technical (the birth of the left tackle) and weaves it into a dynamic and interesting story. For those who are less into football and more into story, realize that there are large sections devoted to the evolution of the football game from a running one to a passing one. It's needed to provide a context for Michael Oher and the reason why he was such a big deal. For those more into football, the story does not detract from the discussion of football, the quarterback's blindside, the birth of the left tackle, and players ranging from Lawrence Taylor to Johnathan Ogden.

A good book and an excellent blend of the game of football and an incredible human story.

Wings of Hope
Hillary E. Peak
345 Boren Ave N., Seattle, WA 98109
9781466312197, $9.99,

Peggy Tibbetts, Reviewer

Julia Weinstein's father beckons her to come and stay with him in New York. Dr. Sol Weinstein has an inoperable brain tumor and only three months to live. At twenty-seven, Julia's life in San Francisco has reached an impasse and she welcomes the chance to re-unite with a man who is more a legend to her than a father. He divorced her mother when she was five so she "spent a lifetime flying between Lubbock, Texas, and La Guardia", but she never really knew him. Soon after she arrives in New York, Julia realizes she might be in over her head. As though sensing her trepidation, Dr. Weinstein takes his daughter on a magical mystery tour of his past, including a memorable week in Lausanne for Julia and her father and a romantic weekend in Paris for Julia. Julia's narrative reads like a memoir as she reveals the intimacy of a father and daughter re-discovering one another as adults, warts and all. The bond that grows between Julia and Sol at the end of his life makes you believe you can make up for lost time. "Wings of Hope" is a bittersweet story that shows how life can be full of hope and surprise for those who let it in.

Bethany's Bookshelf

College Prep 101, second edition
Lance A. Millis
Privately Published
9780615585567, $14.95,

College can determine the rest of one's life. "College Prep 101" is a college advisory guide from Lance A. Millis, as he advises readers with his two decades of high school to college transition advice, with plenty of straight forward and practical advice for readers to get their knowledge together for better success in their own pursuits of education. "College Prep 101" is worth considering for any high school student or parent who wants to make the leap to college safely.

Coop: Made in the USA
Prepared by Enrico Massetti
Privately Published
9780615578224, $7.95

When the boss proves to be a problem, get rid of the boss. "Coop: Made in the USA" covers the stories of successful worker-own cooperatives throughout America, where workers have seized their workplaces and been working at it successfully. With photos throughout and a positive message for worker-driven workplaces and union, "Coop" is an inspirational read.

Ikaria: A Love Odyssey on a Greek Island
Anita Sullivan
Burning Daylight
c/o Pern and Associates, Inc.
9780977731862 $17.00

Ikaria: A Love Odyssey on a Greek Island is the wistful memoir of award-winning writer Anita Sullivan, who has lived upon the beautiful Greek island of Ikaria at three different phases of her life. Chapters recount her fond memories of the land, the people who lived there, and the adventures she experienced. A delightful assortments of vignettes, slice-of-life moments, and travelogue, Ikaria is a joy to read.

I Can See Your Heart Beat
Jeff Schoeben
Privately Published
9781461112839, $15.95,

The heart has a complicated machine, and has so many ways it can malfunction. "I Can See Your Heart Beat" is Jeff Schoeben discussing arrhythmia, the impacts of the disorder, and how to better understand the heart's electrical system to deal with the disorder. A thoughtful delve into the impacts of this serious disorder, "I Can See Your Heart" is an important read to consider for this potentially deadly condition, much recommended.

Walker's Vale
John J. Zelenski
Tate Publishing & Enterprises
127 East Trade Center Terrace
Mustang, OK 73064
9781618621634, $10.99,

We all seek peace, and we often get anything but. "Walker's Vale" follows James Cooper as his new residence quickly turns sour, with his family in danger and the FBI looking for him. As he tries to get a grip on everything going on around him, "Walker's Vale" is a riveting read that will keep the pages turning, very much recommended.

The Awesome Adventures of Alice Marie Von Bugaboo and her Unusual Family
Stephen Ginsberg
Author House
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300
Bloomington, IN 47403
9781467097987, $14.95,

The events that occur to us every day are what forge our lives. "The Awesome Adventures of Alice Marie von Bugaboo and her Unusual Family" is a collection of short stories surrounding the Von Bugaboo family as they try to find their ways through life while still staying true to their family. A story of humor, togetherness, kindred, and most importantly life, "The Awesome Adventures of Alice Marie von Bugaboo and her Unusual Family" is a fine pick that is very much worth considering for general short fiction collections.

The Truce
E. Milan
Privately Published
9781468199963, $11.53,

Hell need not be hell forever. "The Truce" is a novel of the afterlife, as E. Milan presents a story of Aaron and Amber, two souls destined for purgatory. For their place in heaven, they seek to travel through hell. In their journey however, they find they may need to overthrow Hell instead of just passing through it. "The Truce" is a choice take on heaven and hell, recommended.

Treasure Me
Christine Nolfi
Christine Nolfi Books
978143765248, $12.95,

The lure of the big score makes a mundane job seem so pointless. "Treasure Me" is the first book in Christine Nolfi's romance and adventure series following Birdie Kaminsky, who has been getting by so far with petty thievery. Seeking a treasure of the civil war in the modern day, she finds plenty of things that aren't the treasure, and much more. "Treasure Me" is a riveting read for those who enjoy adventure fiction, highly recommended.

Tales of a Footloose American
Warren Rovetch
Privately Published
9780615517070, $14.95,

As the dust settled after the war, Europe was a very new place. "Tales of a Footloose American: 1941-1951" is a memoir from Warren Rovetch, as he shares his story of the tumultuous decade of the 1940s, with especial focus upon postwar Europe. Rovetch witnessed nothing less than a whole continent trying to figure out its future. From interviews with bishops to speaking with the East and meeting with the common man, "Tales of a Footloose American" is a fine read that is very much recommended to memoir enthusiasts.

You've Got To Be Kidding!
Cookie Leonardelli
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781456796075, $10.68,

Life is nothing like we expect, often being hard to really understand. "You've Got To Be Kidding!" is a humorous memoir from Cookie Leonardelli as she reflects on her life as a woman, wife, and mother, and the constant barrage of humor and life that goes along with it all. "You've Got To Be Kidding!" is a humorous and much recommended delve into the questionable nature of reality and the laughs we have to get through all of life.

Susan Bethany

Buhle's Bookshelf

The Gold Rush: 1847-1849
Frank W. Lewis
Western Tales Publishing, Inc.
988 Packer Way, Reno, NV 89431
c/o Xlibris Corporation
1663 South Liberty Drive
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781436311410 $23.99

The Gold Rush: 1847-1849 is the seventh historical novel of a series written by Frank W. Lewis, himself a former gold miner. Set during the most well-known gold rush of history, when thousands of miners, gamblers, criminals and prostitutes stampeded to California in search of fortune. When gold was found, the miners seized land, established Mining Districts unauthorized by Federal law, and governed themselves since the reach of the national government was far too distant and powerless to control them. Amid this cutthroat, dog-eat-dog world, Caleb and his women fight for survival against murderous property thieves seeking to take all they have worked for. An exciting tale of adventure, struggle, risk, and vindication, The Gold Rush: 1847-1849 brings the Wild West to vivid life from cover to cover.

Terror Over Jerusalem
James Henderson
1603 Douglas Blvd., Suite C, Roseville, CA 95661
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
Volume 1: 9781439273791, $18.75
Volume 2: 9781466323728, $18.75

An impressive two-volume analytically descriptive assessment, "Terror Over Jerusalem" by James Henderson is an informed and informative commentary on the apocalypse laid out in the eleventh chapter of the Book of Daniel in the Old Testament. Volume One begins with the reign of Cyrus the Great starting in 538 BC through the collapse of the Roman Catholic Papacy in 1798 AD. Volume Two spans Napoleon's invasion of the Ottoman Empire to the resurgence of the Papacy and the occupation of Jerusalem. Enhanced with extensive appendices, endnotes, bibliography, and comprehensive indexes, these two volumes comprise a complete course of study and are seminal works of superbly presented and meticulous scholarship making "Terror Over Jerusalem" highly recommended for personal, community, and academic library collections and supplemental reading lists.

The Day I Killed Sasquatch
Dale Keith Moore
Tate Publishing & Enterprises
127 East Trade Center Terrace
Mustang, OK 73064
9781618622761, $14.99,

One day out hunting may change your life forever. "The Day I Killed Sasquatch" follows Dale as he tries to bag the rare catch of a Sasquatch, but fines he instead killed a man, and has some very specific wishes to carry out in his honor. Learning a thing or two about family and grief, "The Day I Killed Sasquatch" is a unique and original read.

Chris Mendius
Anything Goes Publishing
c/o Julia Drake PR
9780578095417, $14.95,

The pursuit of money drives us all, and one man's pursuit of wealth shouldn't exclude another. "Spoonful" follows Michael Lira, junkie and general ne'er do well, scraping by his life with just enough to make it by. Seeing a chance to make out like a bandit like the bandits on Wall Street, he embraces it, but with high money comes high risk. "Spoonful" is a riveting read with plenty of twists and turns that should be hard to put down.

The Long Escape
Jeff Noonan
Privately Published
97814664344264, $14.89,

There are few things more terrifying to some than one's father. "The Long Escape" is a memoir from Jeff Noonan, as he reflects on his own families long struggle against an abusive father. The oldest of eight children, the abuse was spread throughout, and with them all fearful of how to resist it all. Telling the story of gaining the courage to finally stand up to a monster of a man, "The Long Escape" is a moving story of dysfunction and rising up against it.

Stories for the Seasons
Chuck Warzyn
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781452092256, $14.56,

Stories are what makes the world tick. "Stories for the Seasons: 24 Tales of Courage, Sacrifice, Compassion, Redemption, Resurrection" is a collection of short stories with the power to inspire from Chuck Warzyn, as he presents stories of many eras and people facing adversity, gaining the drive to overcome their challenges and live their lives in their own way. "Stories for the Seasons" is worth considering for those looking for inspirational stories, very much recommended.

Theories of Everything by Logic
Wan-Jiung Hu, MD PhD
Privately Published
9781456551520, $11.99,

When you seek answers in logic, you will often be searching for along time. "Theories of Everything by Logic" is a collection of thoughts and research from Wan-Jiung Hu, a student of both Taiwan and John Hopkins University as he presents his own intriguing exploration of thoughts and how to piece the world together. "Theories of Everything by Logic" is worth considering for long time thinkers who seek more and greater opinions.

The Keeper
R. L. Mosz
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781463657130, $10.99,

Love blooms erratically, it can appear anywhere...even only on one side. "The Keeper" follows the unique relationship of Dr. Christopher William Seacrest and Caitlin Rosenberry, whose relationship starts as doctor and patient, but success changes their lives. But as life moves on, Seacrest finds love in Caitlin, and Caitlin wants none of it. "The Keeper" is an excellent and riveting read with plenty of twists and turns, very much recommended reading.

No Time to Cry
Vera Leinvebers
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781462058440, $18.95,

War shatters lives, and it can be hard to pick up all the pieces. "No Time to Cry" is a collection of opinion and memoir from Vera Leinvebers who presents as she shares her story of a life lost and found before, during, and after the war. For a personal perspective from a girl of Latvia, "No Time to Cry" is a fine and much recommended pick, not to be missed. "No Time to Cry" is a fine pick, not to be overlooked.

Your Words
Leonard Gogliobianco
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432781309, $11.95,

The world changes, and it can often be difficult to change with it. "Your Words" is a collection of poetry from Leonard Gogliobianco, as he brings his thirty years of experience and reflects on the rapidly changing times that have come since then. "Your Words" is a personal collection, worth considering for poetry readers. "Trans": (a)cross//the street/towards now the access of/over who the consubstantials beyonds/of selves and antipodes/before and after one another/in sandals of the same/passage of some/what/through

Willis M. Buhle

Burroughs' Bookshelf

Self Realization
Steven S. Sadleir
Publicity Department
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781468039351 $12.95

Steven S. Sadlier (director of the Self Awareness Institute, Siddha Yogi and Kundalini Master, and host of Enlightenment Radio) presents Self Realization: An Owner-User Manual for Humans, a spiritual guide to the process of opening oneself up to fulfillment and the possibility of collective global enlightenment. Chapters discuss the connections between humans and God, the purpose of life, the importance of love, and much more. "One of the biggest obstacles for humans to know God is their preconceived notion of what God is... That which provides life in you, is also providing for life in all human beings, all life forms, throughout the universe. As you become aware of this living presence, you become aware of God's living presence. We have denied ourselves knowing God by ignoring its very expression in us, as us." A thoughtful and accessible guide, Self Realization is meant to be not just read, but experienced as a meditation and a path to awakening. Highly recommended.

Sean Furey
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432784577 $18.95

Drawn directly from the author's personal experiences, Hemau is an eye-popping military memoir that turns the reader's expectations upside-down. Written with dry wit and biting insight, Hemau paints a much darker, more tangled, and ultimately more nerve-wracking picture of the people who defend America than Uncle Sam's recruitment posters would have one believe. Not for the faint of heart, Hemau is a sharp-edged indictment of deadly force in mindsets unfit to hold it, and utterly compelling from cover to cover.

Manage Stress Response, End Depression
Ronald Fisher, ND, & Caryn Wichmann, ND
Perpetual Wellbeing
9781466496620, $8.99,

Stress is the combined factors of all the obstacles in one's life. "Manage Stress Response, End Depression: Natural Medicine Treatment for Stress & Depression" is a guide for overcoming the plagues of one's health in a more natural and complete way. Seeking honest solutions to stress and its link to depression, "Manage Stress Response, End Depression" is worth considering for those who are simply being overwhelmed and can't work up the effort to continue on in their day.

Tax Collectors...and Other Sinners
Wayne Vinson
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300
Bloomington, IN 47403
9781456734299, $17.75,

What leads one into such cruelty and capacity for evil? "Tax Collectors... and Other Sinners" follows the birth of evil in Bobby Bain, whose teenage years are wrought with tragedy both his doing and done to him. With a twisted sense of justice, he zones in on federal tax collectors, who he believes responsible for ruining his life. "Tax Collectors" is an original spin of mystery and crime, worth considering.

Gary Hardwick
Hardbooks Publishing
9780972480468 $14.95

Citycide is the latest, explosively charged murder mystery featuring gritty, street-smart cop Danny Cavanaugh - a white man who grew up amid Detroit's primarily black underclass. When a woman is suddenly and horrifically murdered, Danny learns of text messages between the dead girl and the mayor. This is only the beginning of a conspiracy laced with sex, lies, and politics. Defying his chief's orders to back off, Danny takes his investigation to the streets - and his life into his hands! The entire city hangs in the balance as Danny races against time, in this exciting, action-packed saga of murder, mayhem, and brutal struggles for power! Highly recommended.

Revenge Factor
J. D. Stark
Privately Published
9781466337374, $19.99,

The drive for vengeance in some will never truly die. "Revenge Factor" follows the plots of one man who lost his family in the atomic attack on Hiroshima. Racing against time, there are those in America who catch wind of his plans and must act quickly to find the truth and stop thousands of deaths. "Revenge Factor" is a riveting novel that will be hard to put down, much recommended.

Hey Mom and Dad, Remember Me?
Durlynn Anema, Ph. D
Privately Published
9780881001488, $14.95,

The raging war of divorce all too often claims the kids as a casualty. "Hey Mom and Dad, Remember Me?" is a guide for parents who are facing divorce but want to remember to think of their kids, focusing specifically on the concerns of teens. Drawn from author Dr. Durlynn Anema's own writings, she advises strongly on how to better think of their own kids. "Hey Mom and Dad, Remember Me?" is a strong pick for separating parents who don't want their teen to be as stressed as they are.

Flash Fiction III
Craige Reeves
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533160969, $10.95,

To the point is the foundation of Flash Fiction. "Flash Fiction III" is a collection of these very short stories from Craige Reeves that seek to deliver their message quickly and concisely, while still remaining all the quite compelling. With a certain frankness that comes with the format, "Flash Fiction III" is a read not to be overlooked, highly recommended.

Eyes of the Insane Troll
Eric Vik
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781467025232, $18.99,

The ancient beings of the forest are only a myth, or many people tell themselves. "Eyes of the Insane Troll" is a horror flavored novel, as a group of friends go on a learning expedition into the Norwegian mountains to learn about the habits of Scandinavian wolves and find something much deadlier. As people begin to vanish, the truth may vanish in the night with them. "Eyes of the Insane Troll" is an original blend of horror and mythology, much recommended.

The Upside of Down
Kristine Dexheimer
Privately Published
9780983864905, $13.95,

As the verge of death, one looks for any opportunity for life. "The Upside of Down" is a memoir from Kristine Dexheimer as she reflects on her own struggle on surviving with a near certainty of terminal disease. As she claws her way back to health, she shares her story and hopes it will rally other readers to follow her example to live for a better life. "The Upside of Down" is an inspiring and much recommended pick, not to be missed.

29 in Asia
Ben Herzberger
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781463565947, $TBA

Asia has a physical landscape that greatly attracts hikers from all over. "29 in Asia" is a memoir from Ben Herzberger as he shares adventures in backpacker culture from all over Southeast Asia, discussing things with the people of the region, expats, other travelers, and basically people in general for a very down to earth read of life. "29 in Asia" is worth considering for anyone who has had dreams of hiking through the region.

John Burroughs

Carson's Bookshelf

Lies Told Under Oath
Beth Lane
iUniverse, Inc.
c/o Author House
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300
Bloomington, IN 47403
9781462076307 $26.95

Lies Told Under Oath: The Puzzling Story of the Pfanschmidt Murders and of the Surviving Son - Victim or Villain? is the in-depth chronicle of a shocking true crime that happened in 1912 Illinois. A successful farm family - husband, wife, daughter, and their boarding schoolteacher - was murdered, and the crime obscured through arson. The family's surviving son, Ray Pfanschmidt, was arrested on suspicion of murder. What came next was a lurid trial that spanned three courtrooms, peppered with talented attorneys, claims of rigged evidence, squabbles over the family's prodigous estate possibly being inherited by an alleged murderer, and much more. The rest of Ray's family was divided over whether he might be guilty, while his fiancee supported him. Lies Told Under Oath reconstructs the history of the (in)famous trial, verdict, and subsequent fallout, drawing upon trial transcripts, newspaper accounts, and more. A striking portrayal of true crime, Lies Told Under Oath unquestionably tells of witnesses who committed perjury - but were they witnesses for the prosecution, or the defense? Even today, the evidence of Ray's guilt or innocence is difficult to evaluate; Lies Told Under Oath renders as crystal clear a picture as historical records can give and leaves the reader to decide for himself or herself. Highly readable and recommended.

Best of 500 Timeless Interiors
Beta Plus
9789089440914, $99.50,

The best designs stand the tests of time exceedingly well. "Best of 500 Timeless Interiors" is a full color photography book showing off the best interiors with amazing quality throughout. The designs within contain artistry for every room in the house, from the living room to the bathroom. Ideal for anyone searching for interior design ideas for their own home or for anyone who is a professional or amateur interior designer, "Best of 500 Timeless Interiors" proves an excellent piece for coffee tables or general photography collections.

The Psychology of the Soul
Angel Cusick
Privately Published
9781466310421, $12.95,

Our connection to heaven is clearer than we think. "The Psychology of the Soul" is a metaphysical psychology book from Angel Cusick as she explores our deeper thought, pondering the unconscious and subconscious, and how it connects us to heaven. With YouTube videos further elaborating on the subject matter, "The Psychology of the Soul" is a worthy read for followers of metaphysical philosophy, very much recommended.

The Faded Tapestry
Christy Burkley
iUniverse, Inc.
c/o AuthorHouse
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300
Bloomington, IN 47403
9781462046010, $15.95,

Life presents problems to us all, and how we react to them sets out our futures and the futures of others. "The Faded Tapestry" is a collection of short stories from Christy Burkley, who presents a collection of stories of men and women trying to put forth their lives, trying to find something better when it all seems hopeless. "The Faded Tapestry" is an entertaining collection, worth considering for short fiction collections.

Nitt Witt Hill
Sebastian Gibson
Privately Published
c/o Julia Drake PR (publicity)
9780984777600, $15.95,

It's getting harder and harder to tell the modern world of politics apart from comedy. "Nitt Witt Hill" is a collection of political humor from Sebastian Gibson as he presents a delve into politics, and the madness that is the American political system. With experience in law in both the United States and the United Kingdom, "Nitt Witt Hill" is an excellent pick for anyone who thinks the modern political landscape needs a good lampooning.

Car Buyers Formula 101
Glen P. Burrough
Privately Published
9780983836612, $17.95,

A car is a serious investment that shouldn't be overlooked. "Car Buyers Formula 101: 5 Easy Steps to Save You $1000s" is a guide to wiser investments when it comes to vehicles. With tips and tricks on what to look for when you want a vehicle that will last for years to come and much more, "Car Buyers Formula 101" is worth considering for anyone with this big time investment in their future.

George A. Coriaty
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781467869904, $23.95,

In the high stakes world of terrorism, it takes exceptional individuals to get things done on either side. "Doppelganger: A Deadly Mirror Image" is a thriller of terror and counter-terror as Colonel Tony Collins quickly finds that the agency he has begun to clash with has someone who is his own mirror image, battling for Al-Qaeda much like he fights for the NSA. "Doppelganger" is a fast paced read with a good deal of twist for readers of modern thrillers.

Michael J. Carson

Christina Johns' Bookshelf

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Zombies
Matt Mogk, Forward by Max Brooks
Gallery Books Publishers
c/o Simon and Schuster, Inc.
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, N.Y
9781451641578, $14.00,

What exactly are zombies?

"Are they the voodoo slaves that obey arcane wizards in Haiti? Are they the flesh-eating hordes that star in so many apocalyptic movies? Are they the singing, campy, well-choreographed cadavers of Michael Jackson's "Thriller?" The answer to each of these questions is yes."

----Everything You Ever Wanted...
Forward by Max Brooks, pg XI.

If your answer wasn't the same as Max Brooks,' author of Zombie Survival Guide, don't worry, Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Zombies is designed to give readers an education in Zombie. Will the book turn you into one of the best zombie experts in your state? Okay, in your city? Well, at least on your street? It just might.

Mogt has set this book up in 4 sections: Zombie Basics, Zombie Science, Zombie Survival and Popular Culture. With the page count, that makes an average of 71 pages devoted to each subject.

Zombie Basics: definition of a Zombie, Voodoo Zombies, Zombie evolution, Living Zombies, Vampires, and finally Beer-goggle Zombies. Here is where you will find tidbits like "28 Days Later ushered in the new era of living zombies, the biggest innovation in the zombie subgenre since Romero's Night of the Living Dead." (Page 27). How many readers knew that?

Zombie Science displays sections like The Zombie Brain, Zombie Blood and Zombie Hunting technique

(among many others). My favorite part of this section is when the author is introducing how zombies find us:

"Prevailing wisdom suggests that zombies do not simply stumble about without purpose but, instead, do everything in their power to relentlessly hunt and kill the living. To that end, their seemingly random power of movement when not actively stalking prey may more closely mirror that of many predators when locating food over great distances."

--- Everything you ever Matt Mogt, Page 60

Zombie Survival is next to share with you; Water to Drink, Protective Shelter, Food to Eat, Weapons of War and much more. Considering my love of clothing, it is only natural that I would be concerned with Zombie Survival Clothing. According to Mogt, there is one basic question that sums up the issue:

"If you were facing a deadly viral threat that could infect you with just a single drop of blood in your eye, don't you think you would at least wear sunglasses?"

---Everything you...Matt Mogt

Page 123

Popular Culture is the last and final section. Of concern here are things like why Zombies are so popular, Zombie Video Games, Zombie Literature, Zombie Organizations and The Wrong and Ridiculous. This section brings it all together for the reader.

"So don't trust what I say as fact. Don't blindly trust any published expert. Don't even trust yourself, as ego and bias can be deadly hazards. Do the work. Learn the facts."

Blue Graffiti
Dianne Borsenik
Crisis Chronicles Press
420 Cleveland St., Elyria, Ohio 44035

If you haven't heard of Dianne Borsenik, it is probably your own fault. Dianne Borsenik's work has appeared in publications like: A Handful Of Stones, A Trunk of Delirium, A Wise Woman's Garden, Admit Two, ant ant ant ant ant, Avocet, Barefoot Grass Journal, Blue Unicorn, Breakfast All Day, Broken Teeth, Brussels Sprout, Candelabrum, Cicada, Cock Amok and Crowing, Common Threads, Covert Poetics #5, Crisis Chronicles Online Library, Curious Rooms, Dasoku, Deep Cleveland Junkmail Oracle, Eviscerator Heaven, Frogpond, Grasslands Review, Guerilla Pamphlets, Haggard and Halloo, Haiku Spirit, Hessler Street Fair Anthology, Hummingbird, Iota, Ko, Libido, Mnemosyne, Modern Haiku, Muddy River Poetry Review, Nerve Cowboy, Persimmon, Pine Mountain Sand and Gravel, Poet's Haven Gallery, Pudding Magazine: The International Journal of Applied Poetry, Rosebud, Roswell Literary Review, Rusty Truck, Ship of Fools, Skylark Magazine, Slipstream, South By Southeast, Stoneflower, The Cartier Street Review, The City Poetry, Troubadour 21, Walt's Corner, Woodnotes Haiku Magazine, and Zygote in My Coffee. Among others.

Blue Graffiti is a neat 32 page collection of haiku and senryu. It begins:

home early a.m.
getting out of car, nite owl
greeted by hoot owl

watching darkness
bleach minutes into day

--Blue Graffiti Page 3

The works here are grouped by content. Each evokes flashing visions of events which could be defined as a bit on the darkside.

so frigid it hurts
to breathe---tucking her chin into
her turtleneck

night, zero degrees
fahrenheit, everything white---
snow, street light, fingers

--Blue Graffiti, Pg. 7

A personal favorite;

restrooms closed
he pees anyway - can't slow
his flow

mirror by toilet
allows way too much time for
naked reflection.

--Blue Graffiti, Pg. 20

It's easy to see how this poetry could be transformed into performance work. Dianne Borsenik is, after all, also a performance poet. Traveling around, she shares her work in a variety of venues and in conjunction with poet John Burroughs (a.k.a. Jesus Crisis), she has helped co-develop, co-produce and co-host the Lix and Kix Extravaganza and Snoetry: a Winter Wordfest series.

The Lix and Kix Poetry Extravaganza is a poetry and music show presenting featured poets like RA Washington, Mark Jordan, LS Royal, and Marilyn Oliveras de Ortiz.

Snoetry 2 featured a record-breaking marathon involving over 100 poets reading for 150 hours nonstop. it was held in February, 2011.

Currently, Borsenik lives near Ohio's beautiful Cascade Park, with her husband James. Find out more about Dianne by visiting:

Christina Kiplinger-John s is an Ohio poet, writer and sometimes editor. Her work has appeared in a variety of venues for the past32 years. She also reviews books for Midwest Book Review and is currently accepting books for review.

Electric Company
John Burroughs
Writing Knights Press
$7.00, Knights

This is a soft cover, chapbook with 13 poems by a single poet. John Burroughs a.k.a Jesus Crisis (no relation to "Reviewer's Bookwatch" columnist John Burroughs) is well known in the northern Ohio area. He has participated in several readings in various venues. A co-host, co founder of Lix and Kix Poetry Extravaganza. His blog The Tao of Jesus Crisis is updated almost daily with personal thoughts, or events, going on in his life and proves to be very entertaining as well as informational.

Some of this work is personal and insightful. In "Tell Them I am Sent You," he writes;

I still
reach to my right
grab a random book from the shelf
notice its Ferlinghetti title
Wild Dreams of a New Beginning
open it at random to page 22 slash 23

"Snapshot Epiphany"

I am now
contemplating my great effort
to break away from using gerunds
realizing how difficult it can be
to resume
recalling that point 22 is a gun
that 23 was a Cavalier small forward
and famed Bull shooting guard.

Electric Company, Tell Them That I Am Sent You.

Page 9

"A Poem Like John Dorsey" is one of the works reflecting self examination.

"K (lar) iss (a) is a little bit sexually suggestive and you don't really feel it until you reach the end and then read the poem again for fun!

The ideas here are fresh and clear.

There is some profanity and a few metaphors, but this is a book you will want to read again and again.

Perhaps use the book for a poetry study group. The ideas are tantalizing and due additional thought. Like this poem I am going to end with.

Zzzz Bra

I sleep in Smith.
A zebra print art tee
Designed by the
Agent of chaos
Bunched at my chest

I dream of
Walking on thin ice
While sleeping in Smith,
Wondering whether
He'll feel me roll over.

Electric Company, Zzzz Bra, Page 17 for additional info about John Burroughs.

Christina Johns

Christy's Bookshelf

Family Secrets: Three Generations
Lissa Brown
c/o Amazon Digital Services
9781466497795, $15.95 Paperback, $7.99 ebook

Young Ellen Brodsky feels as if she's always been at odds with her mother, who makes it clear she regrets having children. Ellen's father, a distant, cold man who works long hours, expects the children to be in bed when he comes home, offering Ellen no counterbalance to what she perceives as a loveless existence. Into her life steps Ellen's grandmother, who died before Ellen was born, to become Ellen's confidante and role model. As Ellen grows up, her dysfunctional family fractures and Ellen is forced to act more mature than she is as she struggles to take care of others with only her grandmother to console her and offer advice. When things seem to be improving, a tragedy occurs, and only then is a secret about her dead grandmother revealed to Ellen.

Lissa Brown offers an intriguing look into the dynamics of a dysfunctional family circa the 1950s, told through the eyes of a young girl struggling to understand the reasons behind her parents' actions. Baby boomers most especially will identify with this book due to the author's skillful portrayal of the time and culture. Brown shows a great aptitude for describing scenes so realistic the reader will feel as if s/he has stepped back in time and become part of the story. The characters are well-developed and the story one that will stay with the reader long after the book is finished.

Getting Personal
Diane Amos
The Wild Rose Press
9781601544384, $14.99 paperback, $0.99 Kindle ebook

Monique St. Cyr writes obituaries for the local newspaper but dreams of being an investigative reporter. Monique has a big heart, sharing her home with abandoned pets and working as a volunteer at a veterinarian's office. Although Monique would like less interference from her meddling mother, that's hard to do since they share a duplex. If that isn't bad enough, Monique's mother, who writes erotic fiction, wants to use her as a resource for her next book about online dating. Monique has one big problem, though: she can't seem to stop fibbing and tells one whopper to her boss, who expects her to deliver on a promise for a big scoop about criminal activity within their city. So Monique pairs up with a wannabe private investigator which only leads to more trouble. To the rescue steps police officer Jake Dube and the chemistry between the two explodes. But this couple is headed for trouble. Monique wants to establish her career before settling down and having a family but Jake's ready for the white cottage and picket fence.

Diane Amos pens a humorous and heartwarming story of a feisty yet klutzy woman who aspires to be a journalist and will do anything it takes to get there. Monique is a very likeable character and her propensity to veer outside the truth is humorous and fun. Her relationship with cop Jake Dube sizzles yet Amos has placed a barrier between the two concerning their present life choices which hopefully will resolve with future books. Regarding the ebook, irregular formatting was distracting to this reviewer, as were the grammatical errors (i.e. your instead of you're). Other than that, this is a fun introduction to what looks to be an engaging series.

Christy Tillery French, Reviewer

Clark's Bookshelf

True Strength
Kevin Sorbo
DaCapo Press
c/o Perseus Books Group
11 Cambridge Center, Cambridge, MA 02142
9780306820366, $26.00,

Memoirs tend to chronicle the events that have taken place in a person's life from birth to the present day. Kevin Sorbo's "True Strength" is different because he starts his life over after having suffered three aneurisms at the age of 38. This is his story, which tells of the new fortitude he found in coping with illness that should have resolved itself after 3 to 8 months according to his doctors.

The journey he faced mirrored the best-known character he portrayed in "Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. Kevin's ability to be normal challenged him for many years after nearly dying. He had to cover-up his disabilities during the filming of "Hercules," as the contract with studio called for substantial financial gain after 100 episodes aired. The finances were not only important to him, but to the rest of those involved with the show. Fans were out of the loop with respect to how serious his health issues had become. Many scenes filmed showed Kevin sitting on a log and dubbing old footage along with stuntmen to keep the action moving. Those working with him were well aware of his limitations to work only very short periods and then having to rest.

Recovery was very slow for Kevin, but this caused him to foment a new philosophy of life. He realized those things, which he truly enjoyed, were now outdated. He would have to find new outlets and a new style of living. His relationship with his wife Sam became stronger and his reliance upon another person replaced his being away on the golf course or traipsing around the world in furtherance of his career. Sam succinctly brought it to his attention during the recovery period by stating their marriage might have failed had it not been for his slowing down and paying more attention to home.

Whenever people would ask Kevin how he was doing, he would always answer that everything was fine. In truth, he had headaches, dizziness, problems with balance, and generalized fatigue. He was not doing well at all, but the public and friends never knew this. Literally, he was a mess!

This book is really an inspiration to those who incur these same problems. It shows that with the will to go on, following the advice of doctors, and most importantly accepting support from significant others, "True Strength" emerges. This book is intended to give hope those who have encountered unforeseen ailments and need encouragement to overcome their frailties.

There is an upbeat conclusion to Kevin's journey as he describes his relationships with his children and the true meaning of family life. This is a four star book which is recommended to everyone.

The Lola Quartet
Emily St. John Mandel
Unbridled Books
2000 Wadsworth Boulevard, #195
Lakewood, CO 80214
9781609530792, $24.95,

Wonders never cease when it comes to new authors and their writing styles. Emily St. John Mandel falls into this category with "The Lola Quartet" because her writing is fresh, clean, and extremely compelling.

One of the things you discover in this fictional account of one man's life is that as a reader your own high school days come alive. Friends long forgotten, parties, crushes, and of course graduation. Embarking on careers or further educational pursuits take precedence over continuing relationships with those people who were so important while you were taking classes.

Emily has captured the spirit of the past and has mingled it with the present with remarkable precision. Characters ethnicity though never overtly discussed soon emerges that some are black and one is Asian. There is a mixture with a common thread and that is music. "The Lola Quartet" is a high school jazz group, which plays for their own enjoyment and that of fellow students. Their last 'concert' takes place in the bed of a pick-up truck when abruptly it ends with the members each going their own way.

Flash forward to 10 years later and one of the members of the original players is no longer engaged in music, but instead is a journalist in New York City, far removed from his old hometown in Florida. His career apparently is solid and he has a bright future until he overtly makes his stories more interesting by creating interviews, which never took place. He is publicly disgraced and fired.

Returning to his hometown Gavin Sasaki moves in with his sister Eilo and becomes employed in real estate. Eilo while handling a real estate foreclosure encounters a girl who is roughly 10 years old who looks like her brother! She takes a picture and shows it to her brother. This is where the happenstances begin as Gavin's quest to find the child who could have been his as her name is Chloe Montgomery. Ten years before his girlfriend Anna Montgomery disappeared and rumors were that she left because she was pregnant.

"The Lola Quartet" sounds so far like a soap opera, but there is so much more involved. Gavin meets with one of the old members of the group who is now with the local police department. Detective Daniel continually misdirects Gavin by giving him wrong leads to follow and disguises his relationship with Anna and Chloe. Another member of the group, Jack, lives in a tent and is a failure in every sense of the word in real life.

Throughout all this turmoil, Gavin cannot find his old girl friend and gain knowledge of the truth about his alleged daughter. Mandel has written an excellent imaginative book. This is her third novel, which follows on the heels of her second novel "The Singers Gun" that received the Indie Bookseller's Choice Award.

Do not pick this book up and read the first few pages without expecting to spend a few hours getting into the story. This is a four star book which is highly recommended.

The Chalk Girl
Carol O'Connell
G. P. Putnam's Sons
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399157745 $25.95,

New York Times bestselling fiction writer, Carol O'Connell, is back with her 10th Mallory crime mystery, "The Chalk Girl." This is a psychological thriller guaranteed to keep readers in suspense, when New York City detective Mallory sets out to unravel a complex story, which involves present and past murders seemingly related. Numerous characters emerge, all having their own twisted agendas. This is a tale of cold-blooded murder, revenge, and corruption among the political and social circles.

This story opens in New York's Central Park where a young redheaded girl, with elfin-like features joins a group of schoolchildren on a school outing. She is out of place. Her clothes are dirty and she had blood splattered on them. She was lost and muttering strange things about "Uncle Red" who turned into a tree and rats running all over and falling out of the sky.

The child had been snatched by pedophile, "Uncle Red." Moreover, she was a witness to this murder in the Ramble area of the park. Authorities found three bodies hanging in the trees, bound and gagged. Coco, the elfin girl, was in danger and thusly secreted in a safe place.

The investigation takes off with Mallory and her partner detective Riker now looking for a murderer, they called the "Hunger Artist." They believe these murders were connected to a couple of deaths 15 years ago in the Ramble when a wino was beaten to death and a young boy was hung up to die in a tree.

The detectives had some convoluted issues to solve, as a man, woman, or even a child could have committed these crimes! All records regarding the old cases were mishandled on purpose making the investigation even harder. Old buried secrets, schemes, and many cover-ups made it extremely difficult for the duo detectives generating numerous questions and getting few answers.

Mallory and Riker were relentless in their investigation, but they encountered many characters that were insanely keen in their quest to lead them astray. Money, madness, and murder are the plot! Chaos abounds.

Most intriguing was each chapter beginning with a narration of past events slowly revealing what really happened years ago. It is compelling and O'Connell skillfully ties it all together at the conclusion. Hidden secrets explain who are "The Chalk Girl" and the narrator in this summation.

You will not forget this terrific thriller! A must read four-star novel.

Clark Issacs

Crocco's Bookshelf

Clover Adams
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
215 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10003
9780618873852, $26.00,

In "Clover Adams: A Gilded and Heartbreaking Life by Natalie Dykstra", biographer Natalie Dykstra writes a well-written detailed biography of Marion (Clover) Adams. She was Henry Adams wife. Henry was President John Adams great-grandson and President John Quincy Adams grandson. The book is an enjoyable read rich in facts about the mysterious life of Clover Adams. The author includes the works of Henry Adams and the history of The Gilded Age.

For the time period, one would surmise Clover and Henry's marriage and life were appropriate. Both were educated coming from influential families. Although they married later in life than most for the era, they were able to share their love for the good things in life. Both were intelligent and good companions to one another. They never had children.

However, as time went on, Clover felt unrest in her life and her marriage. She became desperate in many ways trying to figure out why she was unhappy. Henry was no help, as most men were not nurturing during that time, so Clover felt isolated in her depression. Clover only knew she felt sad, lonely, and unfulfilled. She tried to find something to make her happy and feel worthwhile so she took up photography. This was a double edged sword because it did help Clover feel better; however, it wasn't highly regarded as art. She took many photos and had her ups and downs during this time. She had a complicated family which at times added to her sadness, other times brought her happiness. She had a close relationship with her father. When he died, this was the beginning of the worst depression for Clover. She truly did not recover from his loss.

So while Clover was suffering, Henry was also depressed. At the same time she was losing members of her family and it all became too much for Clover. She committed suicide on December 6, 1885. She was 42 years old. What gave her hope was what ended up killing her. She drank the chemicals she used to develop her photographs.

Natalie Dykstra suggests the answers to why Clover took her life may be seen in her photographs. Natalie's extensive research includes Clover's notebook, letters, and family papers. From this research Natalie was able to describe to her readers Clover's daily life, her thoughts and feelings. It describes life in the 19th century.

The book contains 31 extraordinary photos. One is a photo of an untitled bronze statue named, "Grief" that marks the graves of Clover and Henry. It is located in Rock Creek Cemetery in Washington, D.C. It's sad, but people only know she was the wife of Henry Adams and that she killed herself.

Thanks to Natalie Dykstra, we know there was much more to Clover Adams

A Song For My Mother
Kat Martin
Vanguard Press
c/o Perseus Books Group
11 Cambridge Center, Cambridge, MA 02142
9781593156565, 14.99,

While picking up my books on hold at the library, A Song For My Mother was being displayed on a shelf above my books. It's a small book so I picked it up and read the book flap. Since it was a very short story I figured why not. It's not one I would have read if not for being displayed, so I took it home. I try to expand the genres I read.

he story was about a mother's love for her children. The mother in the story gets a chance to explain to her grown daughter why she made the choices she made when her daughter was young.

After 12 years of not seeing or talking to her mom, and after hearing the reason why her mother made the choices she did, the daughter forgave her and everyone lived happily ever after.

I assume readers finished the story feeling good that all is forgiven and a good life was lived by all. I did not have this feeling. I think the mother made the wrong choices. I'm not even sure I would forgive the mother. I understand her daughter's reason for leaving home and not communicating with her mother for 12 years.

However, the story itself was touching and the characters fit the story. But to me it lacked substance so I looked at it from a different perspective as I always try to bring something positive from a book I didn't really enjoy. What I realized was Kat Martin's dialogue sounded effortless and spontaneous. It was literary genius.

As any aspiring writer does, I read to improve my writing skills. A Song For My Mother is a great book to improve writing dialogue. It's the perfect model to emulate.

A writer may take classes, purchase writing books, and write daily to improve. I learn better reading books by authors who have mastered writing dialogue, along with taking classes, purchasing writing books, and writing daily!

I recommend A Song For My Mother for readers who enjoy romance novels and feel good stories that have happy endings.

For aspiring writers, I recommend A Song For My Mother for its outstanding dialogue!

Mary Crocco, Reviewer

Daniel's Bookshelf

Kill Me If You Can
James Patterson & Marshall Karp
Grand Central Publishing
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780446571876 $14.99,

I mentioned before, I see James Patterson has so many different characters in his books which tell a story in sequel form or just stand alones. His book here is simply story telling and fast pace. I read his books when traveling, and I like them. I have spare time in between more intricate novels, that are more descriptive and detailed. I picked this book for that reason never knowing what to expect. He points out the other books he writes for are primarily for kids and the others are definitely adult ones.

Matthew Bannon, who is a poor art student finds himself in a strange situation, trailing a violent killing of a man in the New York Grand Station. He discovers the man was dead from a gaping wound in his neck near a locker, and he finds a black leather bag full of small diamonds. He manages to get out of there in all the confusion of the chaotic attack between one man, and the one he finds dead by the locker. Two grenades are thrown with extremely loud explosions in a enclosed space, and the red smoke terrifies all in this enclosed space for a hundred feet. People running for their lives and the police called for evacuation. Matthew takes a cab claiming to be a doctor to vanish from the scene. Later on he envisions a worry free life with money with his new found girlfriend, Katherine Sanborne. However, he realizes his fate didn't go undiscovered by the owners of the diamonds. They won't stop until they reclaim them, and they want to give him their maximum revenge for his theft.

Now the Russian syndicate is pressing the middleman for the diamonds, so their fate won't be without a deadly cost. So Vadim Chukov hires two different assassins to pursue Matthew, and he even offers a hefty price if one of them kills the other. This one is known as the Ghost who was one of the killers at the Grand Station. He was the one who killed the man Matthew had found near the locker. Walter Zelvas was an enforcer, who had outlived his usefulness for the international diamond syndicate. He became a victim of the Ghost in this high profile hit. Now the Ghost is supposedly on Bannon's trail along with the other assassin Chukov hired named Marta Krall. She not only gets this pursuit, but loves to torture her assignments along with accomplishing her mission. Bannon is on the run from both in his international travel for pleasure to enjoy the new found diamonds. He eventually find out the trip is going to be a wild adventure of the hunted pursued by those who are sent to get the diamonds. The premise of kill me if you can in this high octane thriller, is that the art student and his girlfriend will find out there will be no peace until the pursuers are eliminated.

James Patterson has sold the most book according to Guinness Records and has the most best sellers on the book trade. He is the most popular thriller writer today and he has three or four novels still to be released this year. Guilty Wives, 11th Hour, I, Michael Bennett, Confessions of a Murder Suspect, and Free Alex Cross are slated for March, May, July, September and October of 2012. My wife and I have plenty of Patterson novels to read along with many other books.

Kill Alex Cross
James Patterson
Little, Brown and Company
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316198738 $28.99,

I enjoy reading fast paced novels which are page turners. This novel is no exception with an interesting plot after reading the flap inside the jacket. I fluctuate between Michael Bennett and Alex Cross along with some of his stand alone thriller novels. I didn't hesitate to scoop up this copy at a library fund raiser, and I wasn't disappointed.

Alex Cross is now faced with a huge political high profile problem, which he is partially involved in through a high speed chase on the Washington D. C. streets. It finds out that the crime victims U. S. President Coyle's son and daughter. The FBI take jurisdiction of the case and leave a bare offering to keep Cross a tidbit into the situation where information trickles down to him. He does what he can do on what hand the FBI leave him. It is learned that the real target of the kidnapped President's son and daughter is of a wider scope. The threats are discovered in the investigation by the team to include the assassinations of the entire succession up to the presidency.

The President's wife takes note of Cross in past endeavors of hostage situations, and she wants him included in the loop. While the search continues to seek and learn where the President's kids are hidden or if still alive, the terrorist threaten the water supply with a deadly contagion. The President's wife again pleads for Alex to find her children, and he has to make stressful decisions to find the kidnapper, and do battle with terrorist forces. Even with all his security clearances and assistance, his efforts seem to leave him with an impossible task. His last straw decision of desperation pits him to do something that is against everything he believes. The outcome for success is that important and needed in a time with so much at stake.

James Patterson releases plenty of novels using his different main characters every year, and has the most sales in the thriller genre to-date. His gross sales top the Guinness Records according to them. His next novel covering Alex Cross is Free Alex Cross due to be released in October 2012. After this novel, I will be looking forward to it.

Daniel Allen

Gary's Bookshelf

Kevin O'Brien
Kensington Publishing Corp
119 West 40th Street, New York, NY 10018
9780786021383, $9.99,

Kevin O'Brien shows why he is at the top of the list of writers in the field of suspenseful tales with his newest novel, "Terrified." Megan Keeler appeared to have died years ago and her husband was charged with her murder. Many years later she has established a new life in Seattle for herself and her son. But things from her past reemerge to haunt her and her son, who has no knowledge of his mother's past life. In her new one she finds she can trust no one as she fights to protect the lives of herself and her teenager. Kevin O'Brien in "Terrified" leads the reader on a wild ride that roars along like a rollercoaster that builds momentum to its final page turning conclusion.

Daniel Palmer
Kensington Publishing Corp
119 West 40th Street, New York, NY 10018
9780758246653, $25.00,

Tom Hawkins finds out that a mistake he made when he was younger is back to haunt him. Also affected are his daughter and his ex wife. He delves into the bizarre death of his ex wife and begins to learn how his past has caught up to him. As Tom delves into the bizarre circumstances surrounding his former wife, he is the target of someone who wants to destroy him because of what he did in the past. All of this causes friction with his daughter and the people of the town they live in. Palmer depicts a tight web of lies and deception in "Helpless" that will have readers turning the pages in a suspenseful tale of greed and murder. The characters are well fleshed out as the story races along with its array of conflicts that are resolved in the final pages. "Helpless is first class entertainment by a new voice on the suspense thriller level.

Stay at Home Dead
Jeffrey Allen
Kensington Publishing Corp
119 West 40th Street, New York, NY 10018
9780758266897, $7.99,

"Stay at Home Dead" grabs the reader from the first paragraph and never lets go until the final ditzy finish. Deuce Winters is a stay at home dad who has a problem from the very beginning of the novel. He finds a dead body in the back seat of his minivan after he shops with his daughter at a local supermarket. He and his wife later have to deal with an odd array of characters including a midget private detective and the mothers at a local school where his daughter is a student. Allen in generous doses mixes in a dash of mystery while presenting many funny situations. "Stay at Home Dead" is the first of a series of novels that is bound to please any fan of Janet Evanovich, or Donald E. Westlake.

Alabama/Auburn the Ultimate in Iron Bowl Trivia
Robert W. Callighan
Outskirts Press Inc
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432769918, $24.95,

"Alabama/Auburn the Ultimate In Iron Bowl Trivia" is for anyone who wants to know the history and other little known facts of the rivalry between Alabama and Auburn.

Callighan has one thousand questions and answers, some puzzles, and player hometown matching from both schools that inform readers about the two university football teams that have played each other for so many years "Alabama/Auburn The Ultimate In Iron Bowl Trivia" is a fun detailed expose of the two schools and their competition that has been going on for so long.

Flash Fiction Flash Bangs
Andy Underwood
Outskirts Press Inc
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432783488, $15.95,

Books like "Flash Fiction Flash Bangs: A Sparkling Array of Hundred Word Short Stories" that tell their stories in a short number of words come along every so often and usually they are lots of fun like the ones from Daw publishing that were only 99 words by many great writers of science fiction. . Most recently there is "Twisted Tales in 66 Words," edited by Kimberly Raiser. Andy Underwood could have taken lessons from the others because it is more than trying to tell a tale in 100 words. One of the tricks is to tell a story in as few words as possible but the author also has the same responsibility to readers to have a beginning, middle and an end that it has all led up to. "Twisted Tales" did so in only 66 words "Flash Fiction" doesn't because he is just using words and no real focal point. He leads off with some interesting ideas but does not conclude them very well. "Flash Fiction Flash Bangs a Sparkling Array of Hundred Word Short Stories," a real disappointment, fizzles out on the first page and never gets any better.

Turbie The Turtle-duck
Rich Arons
Hound Comics
P.O. Box 803 Levittown, New York 11756,
9780984695935, $7.99

Richie can not decide if he wants to have a duck or a turtle for a pet. His parents give him a surprise companion who is a combination of both. So starts the adventures in "Turbie the Turtle-duck" by Rich Arons. The two characters meet a lot of interesting and odd creatures like the propeller-gator, Hippio-Copter, elephant mice, or Pea-Cocker spaniels. "Turbie the Turtle-duck" is told for kids but adults can enjoy the goofy characters just as much. Aron's artwork reminded me very much of "Tiny Toons" or other present day cartoons. I later found out, that's because he worked on many of the modern cartoon shows including both Tiny Toons and Animaniacs.

Growing Up Giant
Written by Peter & Angie Mayhew
Illustrated by Dawn Dujour
Hound Comics
P.O. Box 803 Levitown, New York 11756,
9780984695928, $13.99.99

We've seen Mayhew as Chewbacca in the "Star Wars" movies but what have we ever known about the actor? Now "Growing Up Giant" reveals his life that has not always been so kind. He talks about as a child his constant trips to doctors to understand why he was growing so tall so quickly, his life in England, his relationship with his family. He later shows how other kids can be so cruel because someone is a bit different. There are many messages in. "Growing Up Giant" is for any fan of "Star Wars," no matter a reader's age.

My Favorite Giant
Written by Peter & Angie Mayhew Illustrated by Terry Naughton
Hound Comics
P.O. Box 803 Levittown, New York 11756,
9780984695911, $13.99

Peter & Angie Mayhew once again tell a story for kids in "My Favorite Giant." This time the authors are teaching children that even though many of us are different we are all the same in that we are all people. Peter talks to a little girl named Katie and tells her about himself and she gets to ask him questions about his life, how people have been mean to him and why, he gives her a history of how people who were tall, small and disabled were mistreated and later jumps to Chewbacca in "Star Wars," and how it changed his life. He also shows how Kenny Baker who was R2D2 and he have a lot in common. "My Favorite Giant" has many positive lessons for all of us to learn to be more tolerant of anyone who is different. "My Favorite Giant" and "Growing up Giant" in their new editions have a much flashier look to them that adds to the enjoyment of both by two wonderful authors of children's books.

Jennifer R. Resetar
IFWG Publishing
9780615561219, $7.95,

"Whirlwind" begins with third grader Alex Johnson walking a short distance to school. Despite having a disability of cerebral palsy he does not let it get him down. Shortly into his walk he is approached by someone who calls his name even though Alex doesn't know him. Alex is told he is a super hero even though he has his disability. He is given a costume and will be known as Whirlwind, who will help others in their time of need. The story is interesting while showing that people with disabilities are the same as anyone else in the world, just a little different It also deals with how vicious others can be to each other and how intolerance is dealt with. "Whirlwind" is a great first of a series of kid's books that has interesting characters and many positive lessons to learn.

Baseball Is This The Game Your Fathers Watched?
Jim Forbes
Legacy Publishing Services Inc
1883 Lee Road, Winter Park, Florida 32789
9781934449974, $16.95,

Another baseball season is upon us and "Baseball Is This The Game Your fathers Watched?" is perfectly timed for any follower of the game. Forbes tells little known facts about such things as, when the first game was broadcast on TV, when and why did the players union begin, changes in pitching and hitting, the importance of minor league teams, things that make baseball different from years ago, and the little known true story of the famous legend of Babe Ruth. Forbes takes the reader into the world of baseball and tells lots of facts about the game that many of us never knew. "Baseball Is this The Game Your Fathers Watched?" is a fun, easy to read expose of America's national pastime that any fan can not afford to miss.

Gary Roen

Gloria's Bookshelf

L.A. Mental
Neil McMahon
c/o HarperCollins
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780061340789 $24.99,

Is there something in the air in LA? [Other than the usual, that is.] For something is suddenly causing unusual, and unusually aggressive, behavior, much of it lethal. Neil McMahon's new novel starts with three LA Times headlines, each a month apart: "Bizarre Rampage Leaves Judge in Critical Condition;" "Accused Celeb Heiress in Pool Accident;" and "CalTech Tragedy Saddens, Disturbs," this last after a graduate student runs onto a freeway and is struck by more than one vehicle and killed. It appears that nearly 40 such incidents had been reported over the past year, with many more not having made the papers or other media. But when psychologist Tom Crandall's brother jumps from a Malibu cliff, although he survives the fall, things obviously become much more personal; Tom has to try to find out what is going on.

A faculty adjunct at a two-year community college, Tom is one of four siblings, all in their thirties, from a prominent and wealthy family, one that could be described as dysfunctional at best. He soon discovers that another brother, Paul, is financing a movie being made by a brilliant, albeit bizarre, Swedish physicist. That film is described as "a curious blend of elements, some traditional but modernized, and given a gloss of science that walked the edge of science fiction." That same description could be applied to this novel. Paul has rented out a family property for the making of the film, and when Tom visits the scene he, as the reader, is unprepared for what he finds there.

Full disclosure here: otherworldly, or even semi-otherworldly, doings are generally outside my comfort zone, my suspension of disbelief too greatly taxed thereby. And my mental abilities [no pun on the title intended] do not stretch to the worlds of physics, astrophysics, nanotechnology, or even science fiction. Admittedly I expected the plot triggers here to be off-putting. But I hasten to add that they were not, and I found myself intrigued, and challenged, by what the author has done here. It is an interesting, at times fascinating, and suspense-filled, tale, and one I recommend.

Fourth Day
Zoe Sharp
Pegasus Books
80 Broad St., NY, NY 10005
9781605982755 $14.95,

Fourth Day is the name of a once subversive organization formed in the 1960's and known for its cult-like origins, but claiming to work wonders especially with vulnerable adolescents [and others] with delinquency and drug addiction problems. It has more recently been headed by one Randall Bane, its new and charismatic leader suspected of having more sinister ambitions.

This newest in the series brings back Charlotte ("Charlie") Fox and her lover, Sean Meyer, a junior partner in Armstrong-Meyer, a "close-protection" [read "bodyguard"] organization, now tasked with retrieving a man who has been living within Fourth Day's grounds on its large real-estate holdings in Southern California. Their 'target,' Thomas Witney, had initially infiltrated the organization five years prior to get proof that Fourth Day was responsible for the death of his son, but for some reason never left. There is some question as to whether or not he will come willingly, but they are told that that is not to be an obstacle. When things go awry, Charlie volunteers to herself infiltrate the organization, with appropriate back-up. What she finds is unexpected, to Charlie and the reader.

This is a fast-paced and suspenseful novel, as Charlie, now 29 years old, is going through some difficult times, personally and professionally. She is nonetheless at the top of her game, and that is very good indeed. The plot races through to a stunning conclusion, which left me more anxious than ever to read the next installment in the series. Highly recommended. [The title, by the way, is a Biblical reference - Genesis to be precise - as well as having a double meaning in the final pages.]

Wild Thing
Josh Bazell
Reagan Arthur Books
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10017
9780316032193 $25.99,

Dr. Peter Brown, ne Pietro Brnwa [pronounced "Browna"], has become a doctor thanks to the Witness Protection Program in which he was placed several years before the story opens. [His nickname, "Bearclaw," has its own backstory, at which one could never even begin to guess.] Pietro bears rather unusual tattoos, at least in combination: a snake staff on one shoulder, a Star of David on the other. I hasten to add that these are the words with which I opened my review of "Beat the Reaper," the first, wonderful novel by Josh Bazell which introduced this most unique protagonist; there is little reference to his background in this, the second entry in the series, other than the fact that he was a hired killer who had murdered an impressive number of victims before and is still trying by any means to elude the attempts of his former employers to kill him. As the book opens, his present means of accomplishing this finds him working as a doctor on a cruise ship [not nearly as impressive or desirable a job as it might at first seem].

When he is offered a substantial sum of money by a 'reclusive billionaire' to accompany, and safeguard, a gorgeous paleontologist on a trip into the Minnesota woods [and waters] to prove, or disprove, an urban legend, he quickly accepts. Whether or not the whole thing is a hoax - - well, there are several theories put forth, that being only one of them. Basically signing on for a twelve-day canoe trip, the various invited members of the group are seeking to find out if there is actually, as rumored, a Minnesota version of the Loch Ness monster, paying very handsomely for the privilege. This is a whacky, and very funny, tale and, be warned, if profanity disturbs you, this is not the book for you.

Nominally the plot is about the protagonist's attempt to somehow buy his way out of a mafia vendetta. The book is replete with footnotes, informative and often hilarious. The author concludes with a section titled "Sources," about forty pages long, which perhaps gives a hint of what has preceded it, and is alone worth the price of the book, material referencing, e.g., critical events from the Reagan and Carter years, and outgrowths thereof, as well as those of the current President of the US; Dick Cheney's "hunting" incident; discussions of contemporaneous medical/health care issues, including meds prescribed for PTSD and other mental health disorders; corruption among politicians in all levels of government; decisions from the recent past by the US Supreme Court; environmental issues; many of these possibly polarizing but brilliantly set forth, which also describes the book as a whole. One thing is for certain: Very funny and profane as it might be, this is a book that is difficult to describe, but one that will make you laugh, and make you think, and it is recommended.

Edge of Dark Water
Joe R. Landsale
Mulholland Books
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10017
9780316188432 $25.99,

The reader is introduced to sixteen-year-old Sue Ellen and her family on the no-nonsense first page, when Daddy is 'fishing' - a chore that combines 'telephoning,' i.e., "cranking that telephone to hot up the wire that went into the water to 'lectrocute the fish,' dynamiting them, and poisoning them with green walnuts. I might add, as does the author, that the dynamiting doesn't always work too well, as he attempted it one time when he was so drunk that some of his fingers got blown off.

By page eight, Sue Ellen, Daddy and her Uncle Gene, finishing up the fishing project, discover the body of her friend, May Lynn Baxter, at the bottom of the lake, long dead, her hands and feet tied behind her and with a sewing machine weighing the body down. She describes her as "the kind of girl that made men turn their heads and take a deep breath . . . [who] moved like she was hearing music we couldn't," a girl with no living family who had dreamed of going to Hollywood and becoming a movie star. Sue Ellen and another good friend, an African-American girl named Jinx [described as having "a sweet face, but her eyes seemed older, like she was someone's ancient grandma stuffed inside a kid"], and Terry, the fourth member of the group and a boy who was rumored to be homosexual, determine to "burn her up" and take her ashes to California from East Texas, described as a place where "jobs, especially for women, had become as rare as baptized rattlesnakes." That trip, when it finally begins, fittingly enough in a leaky boat, is like nothing the friends, or the reader, could possibly have anticipated, or even imagined.

This author's writing has been compared to that of Mark Twain, and deservedly so. That said, I should add that I found the writing to be very original, as is the book as a whole, which is [loosely] placed in time by the frequent casual references to the segregation that was then the norm, as were drunken, abusive husbands/fathers, and convincingly captures the vernacular of small-town, little-educated and poverty-stricken Southerners of the period. There is some graphic material [not sexual, I should point out] that seems of a piece with that. "Edge of Dark Water" has been described as "hillbilly noir," and that captures it as well as anything.


Hell & Gone
Duane Swierczynski
Mulholland Books
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10017
9780316133296 $14.99,

As "Hell & Gone" opens, the reader is introduced to a young woman about to discover that against all reason her boyfriend, Bobby, an English lit major, has died while they were [apart] on Christmas break from college in Philadelphia, apparently in a charter plane crash while returning from a holiday service project, building new housing for the impoverished. I say "against all reason" because Bobby, who had never flown and had vowed never to do so, was unlikely to be building houses for the poor: he was one of the poor.

The story picks up sixteen years later, at which point the reader - or at least this reader - can't quite figure out what is going on. In what is billed as Book Two of the Hardie Trilogy, the author brings back Charlie Hardie, who comes into the story a few pages in and sixteen years after the events described in those preceding pages. Charlie, an ex-cop from Philadelphia, has spent the last two years babysitting the homes of the rich in LA. His present job has just ended disastrously, with a shoot-out of historic proportions and Charlie - who had been "nearly drowned, shot in his left arm, shot in the side of his head, and almost shot in the face at point-blank range" - thought by the police to be the killer. Before his injuries incapacitate him completely, he calls his friend Deacon ("Deke") Clark, FBI superstar with whom he had worked in the past as part of the joint FBI-Philly PD task force, to ask for his help. But then the world as Charlie has known it changes completely.

Charlie finds himself in some kind of underground prison, where it seems that the inmates are running the asylum, and he is apparently beyond Deke's (or anyone else's) help. Unimaginable scenarios, involving the lives of their wives and children, are presented in the unlikely event that Charlie, and then Deke, fail to give the people responsible what they want. And all past history to the contrary, how can they possibly refuse? What follows is a truly frightening tale, not for the faint of heart but with just enough humor and irony to keep it from being truly dark, involving as it does professional assassins and a "world beneath the real world," any other details of which would be the worst kind of spoiler. Suffice it to say that there are twists upon twists, and just when you think there are no more surprises left . . .

Highly recommended.

Harbor Nocturne
Joseph Wambaugh
Mysterious Press
c/o Grove/Atlantic
841 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9780802126108 $27.00,

Joseph Wambaugh and a new LAPD novel - not much more needs to be said, does it?

But I will anyway.

The characters in this novel fall into two groups: The cops [primarily in what used to be called the Hollywood Division, now Hollywood Station, a name more sensitive to the societal reaction to the old name - - typical of the sensitivity-training-filled culture imposed on the various precinct houses], and the denizens of Hollywood, mostly a mixture of various ethnicities - Asian, Hispanic, Eastern European - the majority of whom, it would seem, brought their less-than-honest proclivities with them from their native lands.

The cops with whom readers will be familiar from past Wambaugh novels are, happily, still here. As the book opens, the surfers, "Flotsam" and "Jetsam" [the latter now having a prosthetic leg following a recent incident], are discussing with 28-year-old Sergeant Thaddeus Hawthorne [nicknamed "Sgt. Edgar" for his resemblance to Edgar Allan Poe] his scheme designed to bust a particularly gruesome criminal enterprise headed by a man with a sexually-based fascination with amputated limbs, aided by the aforementioned surf rats.

Much of the action takes place in the town of San Pedro, whose churches offer Sunday Masses in Croatian, Italian and Spanish, where we meet Dinko Babich, who describes the town as one "where the ocean meets the ghetto." Sitting out a suspension from his job at the docks as a longshoreman, he picks up money where he can, primarily doing odd jobs for "facilitator" Hector Cozzo [known as Hector the Collector] tonight entailing picking up a stunning 19-year-old Mexican girl, Lita Medina, from a strip bar near the harbor to a similar enterprise in Hollywood. Dinko is immediately smitten with the girl, ultimately acting as her protector when a series of events [including a couple of murders] threaten her and, by extension, Dinko.

The author's extensive knowledge of, familiarity with and affection for the cops of LA is made very apparent. The non-PC and, one must assume, realistic terms of reference are abundant throughout. Anything weirder than usual and otherwise inexplicable is explained as simply "this is f****** Hollywood!" and "the insanity of Hollywood will eventually overwhelm you." Despite the fact that it starts out in low gear, the pace picks up as it goes along, and the book packs quite a wallop. Recommended.

Death on a Platter
Elaine Viets
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780451235244, $7.99,

"Death on a Platter" marks the return of Josie Marcus, Mystery Shopper extraordinaire. This time around Josie is assigned by her boss, "Harry the Horrible," to mystery-shop restaurants in St. Louis for a food tour company based in New York City. At the top of the list of required dishes to be sampled are items considered delicacies, apparently seen to be "real" St. Louis food, e.g., [cow] brain and pig ear sandwiches, St. Louis pizza [who knew?], and toasted ravioli. While the first two are daunting to our heroine, the pizza, and certainly the ravioli, are another matter. Especially the ravioli, as her mother's best friend for about seventy years is none other than the owner of Tillie's Off the Hill [whose billboards, sweatshirts, etc. read "Get Toasted at Tillie's"], a bustling restaurant in the River Bluff area, on a street that has seen better days though it is now the object of a large conglomerate in the process of putting up casinos and trying to buy out all the businesses in the area. So far, Tillie, a widow whose daughter works in the restaurant with her, is the lone hold-out.

Josie's mom, Jane, now seventy-six years old, is invaluable to Josie in many ways: she lives, with her eleven-year-old daughter, Amelia, in a "mom-subsidized" apartment on the ground floor of her mother's house, "with her free maternal babysitter upstairs." This enables her to have Amelia attend an upscale school, with the help of a scholarship. For the past year, Josie has been dating Ted, a veterinarian, and is anxiously awaiting the proposal she fears/hopes is coming.

When Josie mystery-shops Tillie's restaurant, she witnesses a scene wherein a drunken customer, apparently a regular, becomes unruly [also a frequent occurrence] and Tillie is forced to call the police. When Josie returns the following day, the same man, once again drunk, loudly complains that his ravioli is too bland and demands it be made spicier. Immediately upon eating the replacement dish, he is struck ill and has to be taken to the hospital, where he soon dies; Tillie is arrested and charged with his murder. Jane demands that Josie investigate and find out who else might have wanted the man dead. When she identifies three possible suspects, Jane tells her "The police aren't going to clear Tillie's name. They think they've got their killer. It's up to you to find the real murderer." And Josie has no choice but to comply.

This is another fast-reading, delightful entry in a very enjoyable series. The characters are endearing, especially the 'tween' Amelia, changing her name as often as her jeans, Ted, who Josie loves but fears marrying, and Stuart Little, the hero shih tzu. The book ends with several St. Louis-area shopping tips, and a preview of the author's next book, which will be a new entry in her Dead End Job mysteries.


Jonathan Kellerman
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780345505712 $28.00,

Homicide detective Lt. Milo Sturgis, along with the LAPD consulting psychologist Dr. Alex Delaware, have been called to a murder scene, where the female victim has been disemboweled in a particularly grotesque manner. Although it first blush it would seem to be a revenge killing, as they gather information about the woman, Delaware is skeptical that this is the case. When, as the title implies, another victim is found, killed in precisely the same horrific manner, and the police are unable to find a single thing in common between the two victims, they must look elsewhere for leads to follow.

This is the 27th in this series, and as with the previous entries, it is a police procedural of the highest order - the police doing their thing and Alex Delaware providing insights into the victims and the kind of twisted mind that might be responsible for these murders. The plot and characters are well-developed, and the writing as good as ever. On arriving home one evening, e.g., he speaks of their home in Beverly Glen: "the sinuous silence of the old bridal path leading up to my pretty white house, the prospect of kissing my beautiful girlfriend, patting my adorable dog." [That would be, respectively, Robin, and Blanche, their little French bulldog.] He describes another character as having "the anxious nobility of a Velasquez prince," and one particular scene where "the sky was charcoal felt stretched tight. A few stars peeked through like ice-pick wounds."

This was a fast, thoroughly enjoyable read, and it is recommended.

V is for Vengeance
Sue Grafton
Marian Wood Books
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780399157868 $27.95,

In her twenty-second novel in the "alphabet" series, Sue Grafton has fashioned an immensely pleasurable novel, featuring Kinsey Millhone, p.i. in Santa Teresa, California. The protagonist proclaims that "there are people who believe you should forgive and forget. For the record, I'd like to say I'm a big fan of forgiveness as long as I'm given the opportunity to get even first." As the title would suggest, this book is all about vengeance.

At the outset Kinsey's next door neighbor, "bona fide mother substitute" and some-time assistant/amateur partner in detection, 88-year-old Henry, has to leave town for a short while for a family emergency, so Kinsey is more on her own this time around than usual.

The first page of the second chapter describes the two black eyes and broken nose sustained on Kinsey's thirty-eighth birthday, on May 5, 1988 [the period when most of the action takes place], and the story behind that shocking birthday present takes about another 400 pages to unfold. But be assured those pages turn quickly, with a jolt or two to the reader along the way.

Things begin relatively innocently enough with Kinsey shopping at a local Nordstrom's, where she sees a woman apparently shop-lifting several pieces of very expensive merchandise. In the aftermath, when Kinsey follows a woman who she believes is an accomplice, the latter attempts to run her down as she is fleeing the store's parking lot. And from there things get much more complicated, with the reader encountering terms such as "whips," "baggers," "pickers," and "cabbies" [not in the usual connotation], terms for people in an entire "industry" about which most readers, at least those without criminal tendencies, know little or nothing.

Kinsey's first-person p.o.v. alternates periodically with some third-person p.o.v. chapters, thoughtfully headed as such. There a few moments of facetious foreshadowing, and much humorous story-telling. By the end all story lines are connected in a well-plotted and altogether terrific novel, leaving the reader only to wonder, and hope, as to what Ms. Grafton will do after the remaining four entries in this series are done.

Highly recommended.

Gloria Feit

Gorden's Bookshelf

The Pride of the King
Amanda Hughes
Amazon Digital Services
120 12thg Ave, South St. 12, Seattle, WA 98144
1463589123, $1.99,

The Pride of the King is a historical romance novel. Every genre has a different balance in its construction. By emphasizing the part of the construction that highlights the genre market the story is written for other parts of the story's construction are frequently glossed over. I am not a romance novel reader but I do enjoy history and anthropology. I feel comfortable commenting on these aspects of The Pride of the King.

Social bigotry is a part of life today and the past. Most writers just touch on this aspect of humanity in their stories. There are a few notable exceptions such as Dickens and Sinclair. Hughes focuses her story on this bigotry. This type of bigotry exists today and is even part of our politics but we can only comfortably look at it in the context of history. Hughes does an excellent job of pointing out the extremes of this bigotry. This has been emphasized to enhance the story but the finer nuances and a tempering of the bigotry with the reality of frontier life are missing.

The general span of history in The Pride of the King is accurate but stronger historic details would have enhanced the story and would be a better match for the social and class issues that are developed in the story.

Lauren De Beauville is an orphan growing up at an Ursuline convent in French New Orleans in 1748. The nuns have arranged her marriage to a stranger, a man from the British Colonies. A hurricane hits the town as the marriage is completed and, during the resulting flooding, she is swept up the Mississippi. This begins a series of events, reminiscent of The Perils of Pauline, which first brings her to a French town up the Mississippi, back to New England and finally to land her in the middle of the French and Indian War.

If you lose yourself in the romance and adventures, The Pride of the King is a good, and inexpensive, escapist treat. It is easy to ignore the timeline and historical details when you concentrate on the romance. For those few readers who appreciate the weaving of accuracy into fiction, the occasional lapses will distract from the tale but even then you will enjoy the highlighting of bigotry that is just hinted at in most historical sources. The Pride of the King is easy to recommend for the historic romance reader but you will wish that for her next novel Hughes will take more time to develop accurate details for the historical setting.

Lost Empire
Clive Cussler with Grant Blackwood
Berkley Books
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780425243619, $9.99,

Cussler's Dirk Pitt stories have become a little too similar over the decades they have been appearing. In the last few years, he has been working with a number of co-authors and they have expanded his general storyline it different directions. With Blackwood, Cussler has developed a storyline with Sam and Remi Fargo as the lead characters. The couple freshen the historic mystery action adventure tale that Cussler writes with the current idealized myth of wealthy philanthropy versus sinister greed.

While on their annual scuba diving vacation in Tanzania, Sam and Remi Fargo find an old ship's bell. The bell unlocks a mystery hundreds of years old that a powerful man today wants to keep hidden. During the Civil War, an operative for the Union tries to stop a ship from being used by the Confederate Navy. He is unsuccessful but the attempt puts him on a quest. His quest unravels a mystery that changes the accepted history of the world. The Fargos must follow the clues he left before the murderer following them succeeds in hiding the truth from the world.

The true strength of the Lost Empire is the painstaking detective work by the Fargos and their staff into the clues left behind by a psychologically broken but brilliant man. The mix of dangerous field work and logic blend into a fun weekend vacation mystery. The exotic locals and the simplified examinations build into a relaxing but fun romp across portions of the world people love to read about but never can afford to go.

Lost Empire is highly recommended for the escapist mystery reader who wants to feel the exotic. It is among the best in this genre and every mystery reader should be on the lookout for the next Fargo adventure mystery.

S.A. Gorden, Reviewer

Heidi's Bookshelf

The Sexy Vegan
Brian L Patton
New World Library
14 Pamaron Way, Novato, CA 94949
9781608680450, $16.95,

Love. Sex. Vegan. Who Know!

If more vegan foods offered tastes and textures the average person recognized more people would eat vegan. I don't mind eating vegan food in most cases (more on that later) and I certainly like a lot of vegetarian dishes. Precious attitude is also tiring - politics and holiness aren't desirable flavors in my kitchen.

Body chemistry is not a 1:1 relationship - when I eat vegetarian my cholesterol sky rockets. I know! It's not supposed to work that way. And after multiple experiences over the years I know I need lean, quality animal protein in my diet to stay healthy. Each time after going back to this model my numbers dropped - something that is supposed to be impossible but it works. Sure, I am also that person who is the 1:100,000 will have some goofy reaction to a drug listed on that annoying tiny-folded piece of paper in your drugs.

Patton avoids arrogance or religious fervor beyond being excited to share his personal results. These vegan recipes are a great way to cut fat, increase protein in many cases, and perhaps even reduce your eco-print along the way. So often foods for special diets don't resemble any kind of dish you've ever seen before. One of the great successes in this collection is the feeling of hey, "I recognize that!" The results look, feel and taste like food.

My husband even said, "That's scary good for no meat." The "Beany Tahini Burger" is a new go-to solution on those nights when dinner is uninspiring. A can of chick peas is a normal part of my kitchen pantry. If need be you can switch out dried herbs for fresh (though fresh will be tons better). I did add a little potato starch to get the burgers to come together a little firmer than normal; this reflects house preference where I live. Make them without the first time. The texture resembled an outstanding salmon patty. Even the color relates to the patty.

But wait! There's more to love about this cookbook:

Great value based on the test recipes. After making my usual three recipes, I can't wait to make more. My husband's responses ranged from "D*&n Good" to "Scary Good - for no meat!" I have no doubt the retail cost of the book will generate even more favorites we will use on a regular basis.

Stunning production values: Comparing the cost of the book and gorgeous graphics, complicated layout and inter-connected references justifies a higher price point.

Accessible: The recipes are manageable regardless of your experience with Vegan cooking. Seriously! You can do it.

Just Plain Fun: Patton's personality in the writing shines and entertains. Reading may even be more fun that cooking with this book. Nah, that's not true, make and eat some of these recipes.

When it comes to favorites, I struggled to choose one. For starters, you've got to try the My featured recipe, "The Almond Brothers Breakfast Bar" is great for breakfast as claimed, hiking, or those busy days running around town. Check out my blog for this yummy, vegan, soy-free, gluten-free creation - no matter what labels fit the ingredients the bars are just plain good.

Special diet needs, however, may find less to love in this cookbook. If you need to avoid soy or gluten, a serious group of recipes don't work. Since both of these food sources make me sick, I really notice this in vegan foods. It's the second reason this diet is just not an answer for my body. If either of these dietary concerns in part of your life, wait for a library copy or used copy in a year or so. You will still find lots to love in this book, but the recipe: cost value goes down drastically when the primary protein source in nearly a third of the recipes is outside your approved eating choices.

My goal is always to get you in the kitchen making something you've never tried before. Then sit down to eat with friends and family so everyone has a good time. Come on, Cook! Eat! Laugh!

Tibetan Cooking
Elizabeth Esther Kelly
Snow Lion Publications
PO Box 6481, Ithaca, NY 14851
9781559392624, $19.95,

Do you wonder when considering recipes from new cultures what caused the unfamiliar combinations? Or why in the world did that technique develop? While few people are interested in becoming food anthropologists, most styles of cooking are directly influenced by environment and belief systems. "Tibetan Cooking" by Elizabeth Esther Kelly takes you inside the experience of food in Tibet.

The book does a great job of setting the recipes in the lifestyle of the area. The layout and style of the book is equally satisfying. For those of you, like me, who love to read cookbooks, this is a great find. The combination of interesting educational materials, recipes that range from easy to make right now to more daring, and the visual appeal make for a great kitchen read.

If I have a criticism of the book, it's the small number of recipes presented. The downside is the reality of putting together a cooking missive that is as much about education and culture as about the food. For those looking to load up on interesting recipes, I'd recommend "The Nepal Cookbook" instead. So it really depends on your goal in acquiring a new book about food and recipes from this area.

Choosing a favorite recipe, on the other hand, was simple. The techniques are simple and you probably only need to get a couple extra items - though I believe most cooks who will pick up this book likely have turmeric in their spice collection. The four plum tomatoes make need a grocery stop. Otherwise, this satisfying, beautiful dish is likely to become a regular star in your kitchen.

Good Potatoes (Shongo Shimbu Du)

Serves 6


8 potatoes
Four plum tomatoes
2 small onions
2 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup finely chopped coriander (or 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander seed)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
Olive oil
2 scallions, finely chopped

Peel the potatoes, wash and cut them into 1-inch pieces. Boil them until tender.

Dice the onions, garlic, and tomatoes. Saute them in a little olive oil, adding salt, papper, coriander, and turmeric. Cook over low heat, adding a little water if the tomatoes begin to stick.

When the potatoes are done, drain them. Put both the potatoes and the tomato mixture into a large serving bowl and gently toss. Garnish with finely chopped scallions.

The final dish has great visual appeal. I served this dish at a cookbook dinner party. Everyone agreed the recipe was a keeper. We did find that for most palates, more spices and salt were desired. The next time I make the dish, I will either use a quantity of potatoes easier to control - say 2 cups diced or maybe 3 pounds as the number of potatoes makes the quantity a bit random.

Don't be worried about the changes I will make. The meal gave us lots of leftovers and we happily added them to meals for the next couple days until the remaining "Good Potatoes" disappeared. Despite the changes I want to make in the future, consumption was quite enthusiastic!

Remember, if you want to expand your education regarding food traditions and recipes in Tibet, I recommend this book. If you want to large group of recipes to explore, find this book at the library and look for other sources to meet your needs.

The Nepal Cookbook: Associate of Nepalis in the Americas
Association of Nepalis in the Americas
Palden Choedak Oshoe, illustrations
Snow Lion Publications
PO Box 6483, Ithaca, NY 14851
9781559393812, $14.95,

Are you ready for the challenges of new tastes, techniques and ideas? Then grab a copy of this book and Cook! Eat! Laugh! Make some new, unique dishes and have a good time with family, friends, and your kitchen. My experience with this book ranged from total knock-out success to dismal failure.

Perhaps you're wondering why I'm so excited about a cookbook that included a serious failure. First of all, I'm not done experimenting with the concepts in the recipe. Second, it presented food preparation ideas that were completely new to me. I've been through literally hundreds of cookbooks in my life - and nearly a hundred just in the past few months. The kitchen in Solomon's palace has nothing on mine for searching out things: there are very few truly new ideas under the sun that can be used in the home kitchen.

The unsuccessful recipe was for a dehydrated, raw bean dish. The results were a color, taste and texture I don't recommend to Western cooks. (Stay tuned to CookEatLaugh online to get the new, updated recipe I am already working on.) On the other hand, other recipes were amazing, unique, and completely successful. I tried five recipes from this book for the review. From the Carrot Fudge to an usual salad, we all had a great time investigating the new textures and tastes. What follows is the recipe I am likely to use the most. It sounds like a weird combination - and I had 9 out of ten votes for "Give me a copy of that recipe!" As a result I am confident recommending it to you.

Grapefruit Salad (Bhogate Sadeko)

3 tbsp ground sesame seeds
2 cups plain yogurt*
1/2 tsp salt
3 tbsp sugar
2 medium grapefruits, peeled and cut into small pieces (supreme)
4 oranges, peeled and cut into small pieces (supreme)

Lightly roast sesame seeds and grind to a powder in a coffee or spice mill. Mix sesame seed powder with yogurt, salt and sugar in a bowl. Stir in grapefruit and orange pieces. Chill and serve. For a spicy taste, add some ground red chili. For a different taste, add grapes, sliced in two. Enjoy!

The only change my testers wanted in this recipe was a less "soupy" end result. It didn't stop anyone from diving in! Next time, however, I choose between doubling the amount of fruit or cutting the dressing part in half. If grapefruit are in season more of the sweet, ruby fruit would work really well.

Grapefruit Salad combines unexpected elements in something that probably seems a bit like fruit slaw to someone used to eating Western foods. The dish however is phenomenally better than adding raisins to your coleslaw. (Stop that people! It's just weird in my opinion.)

You will find the design of the book very basic. Graphics are primarily little drawings added to the pages. No pictures of the food are included to help you with the process. The recipes and book are really for at least intermediate cooks and food people. While I am rating the book five stars, be advised it will be a challenge for those just mastering their kitchen legs. In the same vein, for those still developing their tastes for different combinations and flavors the recipes may also be too intimidating. The other books, "Tibetan Cooking" by Elizabeth Esther Kelly or "The Lhasa Moon" bookbook by Wangmo and Houshmand.

The Lodge Cast Iron Cookbook
Pam Hoenig, editor
Oxmoor House
135 West 50th Street, 11th floor, NY, NY 10020
9780848734343, $27.95,

Classic Cast Iron Foods for Modern Tastes Earns 5 Stars

Cast Iron cookery is trendy once again. Perhaps the changes of income and economy remind us that value is often reflected in length of use rather than throw-away products. Cast iron is perhaps the hallmark of this value and Lodge Logic is the rock star of cast iron. Most people know it - if you have any you probably love it! The many applications and ways you can use any piece from Lodge Logic is truly astounding.

The arrival of The Lodge Cast Iron Cookbook: A Treasure of Timeless, Delicious Recipes is welcome and exciting. A variety of other cookbooks have come on the market at the same time. Don't despair! As trustworthy as their equipment, the Lodge Logic brand on this book does not disappoint.

My first spin through the book revealed more recipes of interest than I could possible make for one review - I always make at least three but time limits to me to usually no more than five. My first list included well over 20 selections. Other valuable qualities also showed up during the initial handling of the book.

Those of you who read my reviews on a regular basis know how much I dislike cookbooks that are hard to keep open. Novel-style binding is normal in the current market. This book offers a pleasant surprise. The cover is thicker than the usual sleek, thin format. In addition, the binding is pre-creased to make it easier to stay open. As a result once I popped the book into my holder that also covers the book from splatters I didn't have to touch again. A huge relief for any dishes requiring messy hands.

The pages are also heavier than many books on the market right now. Although you may look at the price and consider it a bit pricey, the publishing values are designed to hold up for longer than any of the competition. Even better, I easily predict a number of these recipes will become standards in your house. Best of all, you can reproduce most of them indoors or out thanks to versatile cast iron.

All of the recipes tested met with positive feedback. Although the Simple Berry Skillet Cobbler really won the taste testers over and introduced interesting ways to use a skillet, there was one recipe no one could resist. In fact, it even got an embarrassing nickname. Polish Pork and Cabbage Stew is one of those rare recipes that is easy, manageable, with to-die-for results. Visit your local health food store or upscale market for the small amount of juniper berries needed. I was literally able to buy just the 12 needed so the cost wasn't an issue.

Polish Pork and Cabbage Stew (Bigos)

Serves 6

1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
1 cup warm water
3 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
5 ounce thick bacon slices, sliced (about 1 cup)
1 pound lean boneless pork stew meat, cut into 1 inch pieces and patted dry
3 large yellow onions, coarsely chopped
1 small or 1/2 medium head green cabbage, cored and shredded
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups beef stock
1 cup Cabernet Sauvignon or other dry red wine
2 cups canned, whole tomatoes, undrained, chopped
1 pound sauerkraut, rinsed under cold water and squeezed dry
1 cup pitted prunes, chopped
12 juniper berries, bruised
2 bay leaves
1/4 pound cooked ham, diced
1/2 pound kielbasa, cut into 1/2-inch thick rounds
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Sour cream (optional)
1 1/2 to 1 pounds small red potatoes, boiled, peeled, cut into chunks (optional)

1. Soak the mushrooms in the warm water until softened, about 20 minutes. Drain the liquid through 2 layers of dampened paper towels into a container and set the liquid aside; rinse any grit from the mushrooms and set the mushrooms aside.

2. Heat in 10-inch cast iron Dutch oven medium heat until just hot, about 3 minutes. Add the oil and bacon, and cook until the fat is rendered from the bacon. With a slotted spoon, remove the bacon to paper towels to drain, reserving the drippings in the pan.

3. Increase the heat to medium high. Add the stew meat. To the drippings and cook until browned on all sides, 8 to 10 minutes; using a slotted spoon, transfer the meat to a bowl, serving the drippings in the pan. Reduce the heat to medium; add the onions and cabbage, and cook, stirring often, until the onions are softened, 6 to 8 minutes.

4. Add the garlic and cook 30 seconds. Stir in the stock, reserved mushrooms and liquid, wine, tomatoes, sauerkraut, prunes, juniper berries, and bay leaves; bring to a boil, scraping the pan the pan to loosen any browned bits. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer 2 hours.

5. Uncover, stir in the ham and kielbasa and cook 30 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste; remove and discard the bay leaves. Serve the stew in soup bowls with a dollop of sour cream, if desired, and a little bacon sprinkled on top. If you like, serve with boiled potatoes.

At first glance this recipe may seem like too much work. I can tell you it's not too much and it's completely worth it. Everyone person who tasted this recipe wanted more. Everyone also wanted the recipe. You can finish the recipe in the oven rather than stove top. Make it for a party - and reheat on the second day because Dutch oven recipes are usually better a day later!

This cookbook is worth every penny and I can't wait to make more selections from these pages. Dig in and learn more about cast iron cookware, the love affair one can have with such pieces, and the tasty food you can make using these recipes

Cecile Cannone
Ulysses Press
PO Box 3440, Berkeley, CA 94702
9781569758205, $14.95,

Next time, call a pastry chef!

"Macarons" is a lovely little surprise. Ulysses Press consistently tucks fun cookbooks into this little gift-sized impulse buy format. With beautiful pictures and detailed instructions, the book presents to a very high level.

On the other hand, as you can see by my headline, the next time I want traditional, French-style macarons I will gladly pay a professional baker or pastry chef to make them for me. It will be worth it! I use puff pastry in my kitchen, bake breads from scratch and even craft an impressive Pot de Creme. Despite my years-earned skills, this little book does not earn a permanent place on my shelf.

My taste-testers all loved the results. So don't get me wrong, we had very tasty cookies. And they looked nothing like the desired results. Here's what I learned:

If a recipe comes with pages of troubleshooting, I won't make it at home

When I have hard time finding the correct equipment at the local restaurant supply store, leave it to the real pros (the correct pastry tip was trickier than expected)

Some recipes do not pay off for me in the time vs. money equation

That said, other qualities of the book are wonderful. The Rose and Lavender Buttercream recipes literally stunned people to silence. I heard comments such as "You're a goddess" and "Incredibly elegant" from the people at the meeting who noshed on the cookies as if they hadn't eaten in days. My favorite part of the book however, was kind of a side-bar recipe.

The Lavender Buttercream recipe contained instructions for making your own Lavender Water. Most stores carry rosewater these days. If nothing else you can find an ethnic market that sells this product. As a serious lavender fanatic I loved having these instructions. Although it calls for fresh stems of lavender, I used culinary lavender buds. It will be a few months before fresh is back in season here in Northern California. Here's how to make your own according to Celine Cannone.

Lavender Water

Rinse several fresh lavender stems.
Pour boiling water over them in a bowl.
Steep for 5 minutes.

For any lavender lover you'll find many uses for the resulting infusion. Cosmetic recipes that call for rose water...use this instead! Maybe even brine chicken in it for a twist on an herbs de provence flavor.

Whether you decide to tackle the industrial task of producing your own Macarons, do consider infusing "plain" frosting with rose or lavender water next time you're looking for a fresh flavor idea. During gloomy winter it's like a breath of spring to brighten your palate and day.

The Lhasa Moon Tibetan Cookbook
Tsering Wangmo or Zara Houshmand
Snow Lion Press
PO Box 6483, Ithaca, NY 14851
1559391049, $14.95,

The Lhasa Moon cookbook comes from a restaurateur who turned traditional techniques and dishes into popular meals in San Francisco. For the home-cook the collection is an interesting offering. Your current experience and tastes will determine if the recipes inspire or leave you wishing for more.

The introduction and cultural education information highlights the interesting aspects of the book. The author brings you into the practices and influences that created the basis for the recipes. I learned a number of things - the information is engaging and well-written.

Layout and style in the book represent an older tradition. As a result line drawings make up most of the graphics. Each page basically represents one recipe, but the style is dual columns on each page. Many cooks will find the newer style easier to follow.

The flavors are also an interesting split in this book. For those just beginning their journey on exploring the tastes of Asian cooking styles, the recipes can open a door on new techniques and combinations. Offering a variety of fillings for classic Momos or dumplings, The Lhaso Moon Tibetan Cookbook is a great opportunity to explore recognized techniques and those that go some beyond this arena.

Individuals with a solid base in the spices and tastes bridging Indian and Chinese cooking would be well-served to choose a book with fewer adjustments for a basic, Western palate.

You can have a lot of fun with this cookbook - I know we did. Thanks to so many interesting cookbooks, a bunch of my friends got together to help me test out some interesting flavors. My philosophy of food is Cook! Eat! Laugh! With your friends...and that's just what we did. As a result, a top pick from this book came to forefront. The comments included, "Yummy. Comforting. Great Texture." And here's our favorite:

Roasted Eggplant Soup


3-4 Japanese eggplants or 1 large globe eggplant
1 Tablespoon butter
1 inch fresh ginger, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
4-5 dried red chilies, crushed*
1/4 teaspoon ground emma (Sichuan pepper)
1 tomato
4-5 cups water, broth or Tibetan tea
1 green onion, chopped

Cut Japanese eggplant in half lengthwise or glove eggplant in 1/2-inch slices. Brush the cut sides with a little melted butter. Broil until brown and slightly charred, turning once.

Remove the charred skins from the eggplant and grind the flesh briefly in a blender or mortar and pestle. If using a blender, add 1 cup of the liquid to blend easily. It is best if still slightly lumpy, with a few flecks of skin remaining.

Fry the garlic, ginger, chili and emma together in butter in a soup pot. Chop the tomato and add it to the friend mixture along with the eggplant. Continue cooking, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Stir in the remaining liquid and heat through.

Sprinkle chopped green onion on each serving.

I made the recipe using a small amount of chilies and served it with siricha to accommodate those who don't eat spicy foods and those who did. This worked very well for the "test" party!

Cheese: Williams-Sonoma
Georgeanna Brennan, author
Maren Caruso, photographer
Wheldon Own
415 Jackson Street, Suite 200
San Francisco, CA 94111
9781616280178, $29.95,

More Sophisticated Ways to Enjoy Cheese!

I've been a big fan of cheeses for a long time. It seems each year I find more varieties of cheese to enjoy. When I saw a new cookbook all about cheese, I was pleased to have a chance to get my hands on a copy. With the publication being part of basically a series or established brand, my expectations were a bit low. Thankfully, I found a variety of things to like in the book.

The first thing I appreciate about this book may seem a bit obvious. While I appreciate the savings many publishers offer with paperback cookbooks, they don't hold up well to long-term use. This book by Georgeanne Breannan is solid, heavy and durable. The thick pages will hold up to a lot of use. At a manageable retail price this is a pleasant and unexpected surprise.

I also enjoyed it that the author is an accomplished individual who has raised goats, collected milk and actually made cheese. As a result you will get additional cheese education that goes beyond the basics. I've been cooking with wide-ranging ingredients for many years. This book brought some cheeses to make attention that revealed my under-exposure.

On a similar note, one of the hidden jewels in this book lurks far to the back of the volume. On page 205 is a pithy explanation of combinations recommended for different kinds of cheese. In a sense this part of the book summarizes the recipe experiences from a different perspective. The advantage is you can take this brief, well-crafter summary and make your own combinations based on what you have or what's in season.

The photographs are well done and helpful for completing your own version of each recipe. The photographer has provided illustrative shots for even award winning cookbooks. It's well known that the visual appeal of food is equally important. The images in the book contribute to the inspiration to complete many of the recipes.

A number of the options are dishes to pair with cheese. After making a number of the recipes it was one of these that stood out as the favorite.

Warm Marinated Olives

1 cup assorted olives such as Picholine, Nicoise, and Kalamata
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp fennel seeds, coarsely crushed
1 orange peel strip, about 2 inches long
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

Rinse the olives well and pat thoroughly dry. In a frying pan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. When the oil is hot, stir in the lives, fennel seeds, and orange peel and heat until the olive are hot throughout, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat, transfer to a bowl and let cool completely.

Add the lemon juice to olives and toss well. Cover and let stand at room temperature for at least 8 hours or up to 24 hours, stirring occasionally to redistribute the seasons. (At this point, the olives can be refrigerated for up to 2 weeks before serving.)

To serve, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Put the olives and their marinade in a baking dish and bake until they are warm throughout, about 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, lift the olives out of the marinade and transfer to a serving dish. Serve warm, with a blow alongside for pits.

Cabin Cooking: Rustic Cast Iron and Dutch Oven Recipes
Colleen Sloan
Gibbs Smith
PO Box 667, Layton Utah, 84041
9781423622475, $12.99,

Don't bother unless you are a rank beginner

I'm writing this review again; I'd rather be nice but it's more important that readers get a clear idea of what they might be getting into if you purchase a copy of this book.

Here's my problem with this book. For too long and too often rustic has meant basic and tasteless. I don't know what cooking conundrum laid the ground work for this problem. Whether it's some war-recovery hangover or lack of understanding about the use of flavoring during mediaeval times in reality it simply doesn't matter. You don't have to believe it. You don't have to fix food that is so utilitarian as to make it not worth eating.

The first two times I went through the book I found literally no recipes I wanted to make as test recipes. Since my commitment is take three recipes from each cookbook, this was truly daunting. (I hate those reviews where people didn't make anything - seriously!) The recipes were all things I could figure out from simply looking in my pantry or fridge. The book seems to believe that cooking outside must only be basic and shouldn't be interesting.

I don't many people who still want to eat boring, filling dishes. Are there people in the world who wish they had any food? Yes! Do I believe we should do something about this travesty? You bet. If you can afford seasonings and flavorings, you're not saving anyone by eating crappy food. Cooking crappy food for others is a whole different problem - I bet more than one camp cook faced the land-lubber version of mutiny because of uncooked beans or other trail-food problems.

Eventually, I found one recipe that seemed worth the time and ingredients. I'd say the result was satisfactory and it has the potential to very useful in a variety of homes.

Dry Baking Mix

2 cup flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup powdered milk
1/3 cup shortening

Stir dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Cut in shortening until mixture resembles fine meal. Store in a tightly sealed container. This mix will keep for a year...The amount of liquid you add will be important. Thin for hot cakes, a little thicker for waffles, and sticky dough for biscuits or muffins. You can blueberries and other fruit for muffins. Baking pans and times will vary.

NOTE: Recommended mix for biscuits is 4 parts dry mix to 1 part water.

Obviously, you can use this mix at home without any cast iron. The author suggests that the mix will keep for up to a year in an air-tight container. Fortunately, I think if you know you have fresh baking mix without all the odd ingredients needed in huge-batch, commercial processing. My home version of this recipe needs some tweaking; I'm looking for ways to add flavor and sophistication to the mix recipe. While I have some ideas, they need more work to be stage ready.

Overall, if you are just starting explore outdoor-style cooking with your first cast iron Dutch oven, this could be a good place to being. For more experienced cooks, check out the "Lodge Logic Cast Iron Cookbook" for the next step up or for original ideas and for exciting outdoor cooking ideas grab "The Scout's Dutch Oven Cookbook" from Falcon Guides.

Sugar-Free and Gluten-Free Baking and Desserts
Kelly E Keough
Ulysses Press
PO Box 3440, Berkeley, CA 94703
9781569757048, $14.95,

Combining dietary needs into individual recipes creates interesting challenges for cooks and writers. For example a person who needs to eat a low-estrogen diet struggle with the common use of tofu for protein and texture in vegan recipes. Fortunately, Ms. Keough successfully provides tasty, effective recipes that allow one to eat Gluten-Free and Sugar-Free.

The layout of Sugar-Free and Gluten-Free Baking and Desserts: Recipes for Healthy and Delicious Cookies, Cakes, Muffins, Scones, Pies, Puddings, Breads and Pizzas is easy to read and use in the kitchen. Similar to most modern cookbooks, a holder with a protective cover is highly recommended. The current trend of binding cookbooks as novels saves costs while complicating usage. However, this approach is normal in the current market; this approach is not unique to this or any one publisher.

Sections in the book are well-thought out. You can easily browse when you know what kind of thing you want to make but not what flavor. Fortunately the book is also well-indexed for those times when you want a specific recipe and don't remember where it is the book.

If you're new to sugar-free baking you will need to get some supplies. Different flavors of Liquid Stevia are common ingredients. In the case of Ms. Keough's recipes, you will also need a few other special items. This is one of the few downsides of the cookbook. She uses some less-common sugar-free sweeteners. Sourcing information is provided. For some recipes the components seem to make a big difference.

Of the many tasty options provided, a brownie recipe is my favorite. The sum is definitely greater than the parts. Although I prefer a more intense flavor, that's easy to adjust. With perfect texture and a completely satisfying bite, this is the best brownie recipe based on black beans out of my kitchen - and I've tried a bunch in the past months. Often a single recipe is the treasure found in a cookbook. There are more gems to be found and I recommend this one to get you started.

No-Guilt Brownies

2 omega-3 eggs
1/4 c plus 2 tablespoons agave
1 1/2 tablespoons [GF] vanilla
1/4 c coconut-date rolls or chopped Medjool dates
1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 can (15 ounces) organic black beans, drained
1/2 cup raw tahini, unsalted
3 droppers Liquid Stevia Chocolate
2 teaspoons cinnamon
3/4 cup roasted carob powder
1/2 cup all-purpose gluten-free flour
1 teaspoon gluten-free baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
3/4 cup unsweetened carob chips
1/2 cup chopped Brazil nuts

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray-oil an 8 x 8 inch glass baking dish or pan and lightly dust with buckwheat flour; set aside.

Add eggs, agave, and vanilla to floor processor. Puree until mixed. Add dates and almond milk and puree until well blended. Add black beans, tahini, stevia, and cinnamon. Pulse until well-blended. Add carob powder and pulse slowly until the batter is mixed and looks like the consistency of a brownie mix.

In separate small bowl, blend flour, baking powder, baking soda, and xanthan gum. Slowly add dry mixture to wet mixture in food processor. Pulse until just blended. The brownie mixture will appear very thick. Add in carob chips and pulse a few times.

Transfer the mixture to prepared baking dish. Use a bit of spray oil on your spatula for easy spreading of the batter. Spread brownie mixture evenly and sprinkle chopped Brazil nuts on top. Bake for 45-50 minutes. Brownies are done when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack. Yield: 16 brownies

Dig in and enjoy. Here's to putting in a little time so you can Cook! Eat! Laugh! with your friends and family.

The Scout's Dutch Oven Cookbook
Tim and Christine Conners
Falcon Guides
c/o Globe Pequot Press
PO Box 480, Guildford, CT 06437
9780762778089, $16.95,

Get hit by this Sleeper Cell cookbook - you'll be glad you did

I love it when a new cookbook sneaks up on you. FalconGuides was a new publisher to me along with a cookbook for Scouts. What a great find. The personality contained in this small volume is huge.

The authors define the goals of the book at the very beginning. First, the book is designed to teach scouts cooking skills. While the techniques are framed for the campsite they clearly translate to the rest of life. The authors also want to demonstrate that camping food doesn't have to be bad, bad for you, or boring. They do a great job accomplishing all of these goals.

One of the best finds in the book translates oven temperatures to number of hot coals needed for various sizes of Dutch ovens. Most cookbooks tend to offer one measurement and not the other. Now, it doesn't matter which you have as the Conners provide a way to fix these recipes on the fire or in the oven.

The value of the book is impressive: the scant retail price for a cookbook has the potential to net you a lot of good recipes for your investment. Sometimes that one great recipe is priceless but with financial changes or just running out of space on your shelves, value is a good measurement for considering a new cookbook.

What is the recipe bottom line? A surprising amount of sophistication showed up these recipes. The S'mores cake is simple, easy decadence but it's like a cakewalk down childhood memories. I also loved the Caribbean Spiced Ribs. No doubt it will cover many miles in my kitchen. The overall best however matches what I'm always looking for in a recipe while managing to be a complete sleeper recipe. Reading and making it did not reveal that we'd be fighting over extra servings.

For kids, adults, and in between, make Rip-Roaring Onions au Gratin soon!

Rip-Roaring Onions au Gratin

2 tablespoons butter
8-10 medium white sweet or Vidalia onions, sliced thing and separated into rings.
2/3 cup Bisquick baking mix
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
12 ounces (3 cups) shredded cheddar cheese

Preparation at Camp:

1. Melt butter in Dutch oven over 25 coals
2. Add onions to the oven and saute until tender.
3. In a medium-size mixing bowl, combine Bisquick, cayenne pepper, and 2 cups of shredded cheese.
4. Add this to the onions in the oven and stir well to coat.
5. Bake for 20 minutes, using 17 coals on the lid and 8 briquettes under the oven.
6. Remove lid and add the remaining 1 cup of shredded cheese to the top of the onions.
7. Replace lid and allow to cook for about 10 more minutes, until cheese is fully melted.
8. Serve immediately

Serve 12-14
Preparation Time: 1 1/4 hours
Challenge Level: Easy

Heidi Sue Roth

Henry's Bookshelf

Ron Arad
Christian Galli
Minimum Design Series directed by Andrea Brazi
24 ORE Cultura, Milan, Italy
Antique Collectors Club, distributor
c/o ACC Distribution
6 West 18th Street, 4th Floor, NY, NY 10011
9788866480266, $45.00,

While the term 'biomorphic" used for much postmodern and contemporary art applies to Arad's creations, it does so not to define them as it ordinarily does, but is only a reference to start to get a grasp of the works. For "biomorphic", as the term implies, applies to the amorphic, cell-like shape of an art work. Microscopic views of the shapes and transformations of cells of parts of the body are the sources for biomophic art. Arad's works relate to these sources and postmodern style, but they extend beyond it by seeming mutations of the mutable cellular life; and along with this, with their materials and often their colors, Arad's works have an exceptional material presence. Like sculpture, Arad's works, even ones such as chairs or tables having an overt practical use, generate a futuristic, illimitable atmosphere. Materials include polyethylene, aluminum, thermoplastic, silicone, and resin--often combined and sometimes highly polished, thus enhancing the presence of the elementary shape. As explained in the introductory essay by Andrea Branzi, that Arad's work "is situated on the increasingly open border between two fields [design and art] which are now growing more and more fluid, breathing life into each other and creating a new free space for material culture."

Born in Tel Aviv in 1951, after studying at the Jerusalem Academy of Art, in the 1970s Arad moved to London to study and create. He has also subsequently worked or had exhibitions in New Orleans, New York, Italy, France, and elsewhere. Although Arad has now gained an international reputation, his art cannot be called "international" in style any more than it can be termed simply "biomorphic". For the work exceeds even the broad, encompassing term international. With its cosmic potential, like distant glittering stars or galaxies, and yet its familiarity and intimacy like the corpuscles of one's own body, Arad's works transcend the cultural influences and globalization reflected in the term international for art and design. In a second essay "A Designer With No Passport" by the book's author Christian Galli, Jungian psychology with its archetypes and Frank Gehry (architect), Anish Kapoor (installation artist), and Henry Moore (sculptor) are used as reference points for understanding Arad's unique works.

The organization and content of this book is an example for all the books of this exciting new series bringing attention to highly imaginative artists in what has become the new field blending art and design. There is an introductory essay by the series director Andrea Branzi followed by a second essay by the book's author, in this book going more broadly into the totality of the artist's work, relating background and bringing in comparisons to the work, and charting the biography.

A two-page spread of small, three-inch by three-inch, color photographs of art works is arranged chronologically as a timeline so the reader can at once take in the time span during which the works were created and readily see the varied kinds and any evolution. Then comes the central, main section titled "Objects", which is a catalog of major and representative art works with accompanying short essays. This is followed by an interview with the artist and a final essay by the book's author critiquing and assessing the artist. Interspersed with this wide-ranging textual content are attractive color photographs, some full-page and some showing particular works from different angles. All-in-all, a well-designed, well thought out book.

Ettore Sottsass
Patrizia Ranzo
Minimum Design Series directed by Andrea Brazi
24 ORE Cultura, Milan, Italy
Antique Collectors Club, distributor
c/o ACC Distribution
6 West 18th Street, 4th Floor, NY, NY 10011
9788866480273, $45.00,

Some of Sottsass's works such as the one on the cover and others pictured in the inside at quick look resemble constructivist works for their angularity and polyglot elements. On closer, meditative-like look however, one senses the works do have an order, in some cases a consummate orderliness. Viewers will pick this up on their own; while the biographical material on the artist sheds light on how this is.

Having the modernist nomadic urge, the Austrian-born, European-educated Sottsass (b. 1917) traveled in Asian countries in the post-WWII years; and later in the U.S. for medical care of a serious kidney ailment, he developed an involvement with the Beat Generation of writers and artists including its most prominent and influential figures Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and Gregory Corso. The influence of Asian spirituality on the Beats is well-known. And in relation to this interest in the meditation, concentration, and yoga of such spirituality, the concept and practice of "centering" appeared in Western culture. Sottsass's art works can be seen as artistic, imaginative instances, or formations, of centering.

The names or descriptions of some of Sottsass's creations explicitly remark on the archetypal ideas and related forms which are their origins. Among these are ziggurats, stupas, and shiva. The first two are linked with the descriptive terms fire hydrants and gas pumps, evidencing the free- and broad-ranging, yet ultimately always centered consciousness of Asian spirituality and the Beats. And according to the field of design the artist also moves in, marketplace goods such as a typewriter and computer for Olivetti and furniture and kitchenware for other companies have no particular names or descriptive terms, though evidence the artist's distinctive stylization of an order for multiple parts often varying widely in shape and color.

The book's author Patrizia Ranzo sees Sottsass's diverse travels, interests, acquaintances, varied types of works, and use of different materials in them as a "stratigraphy". This inference of the varied levels and layers of earth known as "strata" which are different from one another yet which bind the Earth over eons captures both the artist's conceptualization and work of composition and also the viewer's comprehension of the works. Sottsass's art and design works reflect fundamentals of the natural and the spiritual world in use of all kinds of materials of the modern industrialized culture.

The book is another in the publisher's Minimum Design series.

Henry Berry

Karyn's Bookshelf

Small as an Elephant
Jennifer Richard Jacobson, author
Candlewick Press
99 Dover Street, Somerville, MA 02144
9780763641559, $15.99,

A near-perfect mix of poignancy, humor and masterful writing make for an unforgettable journey. Eleven-year-old Jack wakes up at a campground, hundreds of miles from home, to find that his erratic, bipolar mother has disappeared with their car and her belongings. When she doesn't return Jack begins travelling home alone. In the ensuing days he survives by turning in aluminum cans to buy trail mix and overnighting in a sporting goods store where he eats from the employee refrigerator. Along the way Jack makes new friends, whom he resists asking for help, afraid that he'll be removed from his mother's care. Jacobson does a great job of capturing the roller coaster emotions and mindset of a tween who's coping as best he can with the reality of his mother's mental illness and the trouble she's caused. He's almost a man one minute, problem-solving about how to eat. Then, the next minute, he's a child pining for his mother. One minute he's on a fantastic adventure. The next minute he's feeling angry, utterly alone and completely overwhelmed. Jack's fascination with elephants repeatedly reminds us that he's not yet grown up. Ultimately, great insight is offered on how a parent can deeply love their child, yet do bad things. While the issues are weighty the writing is not; it's told from Jack's perspective by an author who clearly gets middle grade readers. A tween-friendly page-turner packed with a lot to chew on.

Life: An Exploded Diagram
Mal Peet, author
Candlewick Press
99 Dover Street, Somerville, MA 02144
9780763652272, $17.99,

On the surface it's the simplest of epic tales: generations of quietly desperate people are born, live, love, fight and die. But Peet's gifted hand elevates the simple and even mundane into nearly 400 riveting pages that you can't put down. How does he do it? With a million small things: one perfectly chosen word in a character description or scene setting that instantly paints his intended picture; expertly-timed, abundant humor; and a natural flow to his writing that never, ever bogs. The story is ultimately about Clem and Frankie, two teens from opposite sides of the track who fall in love in early 1960s Britain. Clem is a scholarship kid from a terse, working class, post-war family. Frankie is the beautiful, boarding school-educated daughter of Clem's father's wealthy boss. Understanding why they keep their romance a secret requires understanding their social place and upbringing, and Peet offers that by first telling the life stories of the adults who bore them. The here and now also matters, and the unfolding of their clandestine romance in the midst of the Cuban Missile Crisis lends additional insight into their "now or never" sexual fervor. Peet treads lightly in his droll depiction of the Cuban Missile Crisis, lending wonderfully funny, often tongue-and-cheek perspective on the international crisis in general; on the officials on both sides of the Atlantic who took the world to the brink of nuclear war; and on the effect of the situation on common people. Clem remarks at one point that he's fascinated by the way things fit together, by the many pieces that must fall into place to shape history and a person's life. Sometimes the pieces fall neatly, but more often they're messy, exploded shrapnel. A brilliant, messy puzzle of a novel.

The Scar
Charlotte Moundlic, author
Olivier Tallec, illustrator
Candlewick Press
99 Dover Street, Somerville, MA 02144
9780763653415, $14.99,

The deep red cover draws you in and the bold hue continues prominently inside. It's as if the pages themselves are bleeding along with the knee (and heart) of a little boy who picks at a scab as he grieves his mother. As the knee bleeds he can hear his mother's voice, as he used to when she bound up his scratches with Band-aids and comforting words. The boy has also shut all the windows in his house to keep his mother's smell in. When his grandmother visits she offers wise words that help him heal. As the story follows the boy from just before his mother dies to several months later, he progresses through a range of typical emotions, including anger, denial, worry, sadness and frustration that his dad doesn't do things - such as making toast with a honey zigzag - exactly like mom did. This one's a tear-jerker; be prepared to cry. But be prepared, too, to cheer as the boy bravely moves on. A must-have title for anyone who lives or works with grieving children, destined to be a classic on the subject. Rich and emotive, all-around superb.

Paul Thurlby's Alphabet
Paul Thurlby, author and illustrator
Templar Books
c/o Candlewick Press
99 Dover Street, Somerville, MA 02144
9780763655655, $16.99,

Children get a language and an art lesson in this A-Z primer that feels, at the same time, both retro and fabulously contemporary. Verbs abound - H for hang, B for bounce, E for embrace - lending energy. There's urban influence - G for graffiti, L for (traffic) lights - but also nature - M for mountain. Instead of typical primary colors Thurlby relies on intriguing, alternative shades of blue, green, red, orange and yellow. The color scheme and unique graphic style is divergent enough from typical modern picture books that it might just reset the standard. Beautiful and ground-breaking, an A-plus.

Monkey: A Trickster Tale from India
Gerald McDermott, author and illustrator
Harcourt Children's Books
215 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10003
9780152165963, $16.99,

McDermott wraps up his series of six picture books, based on the ancient Buddhist Jataka tales, with this story of a clever monkey who outwits a dim-headed crocodile. The author's other "trickster tales" have focused on a raven, a coyote, a rabbit, a tortoise and a pig-boy. This time, a monkey finds a way to avoid being eaten by a crocodile as he makes his way to an island lush with ripe mango trees. First, the monkey convinces the crocodile that his heart, which the croc wants to eat, is not in his body but in a tree on the mainland. By the time the croc realizes he's been duped the monkey is out of reach. Later, the monkey sees through the croc's attempt to disguise himself a rock, and avoids stepping on the croc's back and being eaten. The story, which succinctly makes its point that brains trump brawn, is a classic one. What sets this book apart is its bold-hued collage art. Intriguing techniques, such as the use of ripped, moistened paper to create the monkey's fur, contrast with the smooth-edged croc, water and mangoes, enticing the eye. Constant motion - lots of swinging, climbing, chomping and splashing -- will engage children. A marvelous finale to an award-winning series.

Oceans: Making Waves!
Dan Green and Dr. Frances Dipper, authors
Simon Basher, creator and illustrator
Kingfisher Books
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780753468227, $8.99,

Simon Basher's kid-centered, cartoon-based educational series continues with a look at the ocean. "Oceans: Making Waves!" comprehensively touches on creatures and other life found in and near the oceans; on ocean topography from deep trenches to vast plains to ice shelves; on currents and weather patterns that affect oceans; and on ways that oceans are explored and threatened by things like pollution and over-fishing. The first-person, personified text ("I am the blue-eyed giant, reaching far and wide across the planet's surface," the ocean says, in introducing himself) is wonderfully engaging. Brevity and focus (subjects get 1 or 2 targeted pages of text each and chapters are short and narrowly defined); a rollicking writing style; and an abundance of colorful cartoon illustrations make for great readability. More detailed facts are in a smaller font at the bottom of each entry; kids who seek more information get it while kids limited by reading skill or interest can skip this and not be bogged down by too much information. A fun, informative approach to science.

A Meal of the Stars: Poems Up and Down
Dana Jensen, author
Tricia Tusa, illustrator
Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
215 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10003
9780547390079, $16.99,

Poetry goes vertical in this delightful up and down anthology. But where to start reading, at the bottom or at the top of the page? Kids will love the challenge of figuring out whether the words run upward or downward. Reading the wrong way will bring giggles, too. The 15 short, kid-friendly poems are about ups and downs, highs and lows: falling raindrops, a ladybug perched tenuously on a swaying dandelion; a cardboard box rocketier soaring into space; an elevator to a kid-furnished penthouse; and a kite in spring. The gentle illustrations brim with energy and activity, encouraging kids to get up and explore the things in their own world that dip and soar. Top to bottom fun.

I.C. Springman, author
Brian Lies, illustrator
Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
215 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10003
9780547610832, $16.99,

How much stuff is too much? This exquisitely illustrated, sparsely worded fable gentle makes the point that, in our materialistic world, there is a breaking point in amassing things. It is possible to have too much. The story is about a raven, a creature notorious for collecting objects, who accepts a gift of a glass marble from a friendly mouse. The raven doesn't stop there, though, ultimately filling its nest with way too many objects. Adding to the fun for young readers, the collection is full of things kids will recognize including a Lego, a yo-yo, a Tinker Toy, a Cub Scout patch, an alphabet block and a model airplane. When other ravens start collecting, too, disaster looms as their tree lists from the added weight. When the tree comes crashing down, the mouse and his mouse friends help dig the raven out from under its mountain of fallen things. The raven, then, chooses just a couple of things to start over with, offering a great lesson in living simply. An important message, beautifully and accessibly presented

Bugs by the Numbers
Sharon Werner and Sarah Forss
Blue Apple Books
515 Valley St., Maplewood, NJ 07040
9781609050610, $19.99,

Young readers will relish the abundance of information packed into this ode to bugs. And they'll delight in the super fun way it's organized. There are lots of flip-up pages; great kid-centered explanations (termites work 24-hours a day, they would never get recess); abundant ick factor (a decapitated cockroach can live for a week sans its head) and facts, facts, facts on everything from how grasshoppers breathe to the different segments of an ant's body to the length of a walking stick to the number of actual legs on a centipede. The featured bugs range from the beautiful (butterflies) to the disgusting (ticks, termites and bedbugs). In a unique illustrative approach, the main drawing of each critter is a collage of numbers and the numbers correlate with other information on the page. The ant, for instance, has three body segments. On the illustration, the head is made up of number ones; the chest of number twos; and the belly of number threes, all correlated to a bulleted list of body segments that is elsewhere on the page. In a wonderfully accessible way, the illustrations are huge, taking up the bulk of each page. The information is mostly packed into short, very readable bites along the bottom and top of the pages, as well as on and under flaps. Despite the huge amount of information offered, "Bugs" doesn't feel overwhelming. And in the end, kids get an important message about how bugs are really important to the planet and to human existence. Entertaining, informative and readable; the trifecta of science done right.

The Pied Piper of Hamelin
Michael Morpurgo, author
Emma Chichester Clark, illustrator
Candlewick Press
99 Dover Street, Somerville, MA 02144
9780763648244, $16.99,

Renowned storyteller Michael Morpurgo retells this fable from the middle ages in a way that feels wonderfully contemporary but, importantly, stops short of trying to be hip. The genius in Morpurgo's writing is a straightforward, uncomplicated approach that adheres to old-school rules about grammar, language usage and sentence structure that are sometimes devalued in modern children's literature. In short, it's the standard for how stories were once penned. Yet, Morpurgo's writing feels anything but outmoded. In fact, it's marvelously readable, showing that such standards remain relevant.. Since it originated, the story of the Pied Piper has taken many forms. In some versions the children of Hamelin are led away never to be seen again. Morpurgo's version has a happier ending, with the children ultimately coming back. Morpurgo zeroes in on a lame beggar child who witnesses the mayor refusing to pay the Pied Piper a gold coin after the musician leads the town's rats to a watery river death. The boy then follows the Pied Piper as he leads the town's children away, eventually ushering them into a mountain that mysteriously opens up but closes before the boy reaches it. The boy takes a message back to the town, telling parents that they have a year to make child-friendly improvements such as building schools and parks, getting rid of garbage piles and building housing for the community's poor and fragile. The community complies and the children are returned, lending a great lesson in caring for the needy and the dangers of greed and excess. Morpurgo's version, captivatingly illustrated by Emma Chester Clark, is set in 19th Century Europe, offering great potential for linkages to Dickens and other storytellers who focused on the plight of the poor during the Industrial Revolution. And in a modern age of excess and poverty, its message remains urgently relevant. A timeless story, beautifully told.

Karyn L. Saemann, Reviewer

Katherine's Bookshelf

Vivian Gilbert Zabel
4RV Publishing LLC
P O Box 6482, Edmond OK 73083
9780982588642, $16.99,

Stolen crafted by Vivian Gilbert Zabel is the proverbial page turner done with sensitivity and emotions that will keep you wanting more. The emotions are garnered from her own life as two of her grandchildren were taken by their father.

Torri Adamson and her children go to live with her family, after she learns that her husband has married another woman. She has spent her whole married life forgiving him his predilection for other women. This bigamous marriage is the last straw. He lets her have a divorce and does not want to have anything to do with the children. He even talks the other woman into marrying him legally.

As Torri picks up her life, she loses her best friend to cancer; she develops a new relationship with Jason, her best friend's widower who provides the father role in the children's lives. Then, her ex-husband makes a move that she cannot believe. He takes the children from her - stolen!

Mrs. Zabel has captured the tension that is always connected to a crime like this. You must read it if for no other reason than to see how Torri and her family deal with the ordeal.

"Abruptly halting in mid-step, she whirled to face Jason, her expression slightly out of focus with terror and tears. 'He wouldn't, would he? He couldn't, hurt, really hurt them, could he?'"

Vivian Gilbert Zabel has written several books and poems over the years. She always knew she would be a writer and she was right. She taught high school English and writing for twenty-seven years. She lives with her husband of 50 years, Robert, in Oklahoma and periodically surrounds herself with her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren as she writes her books and poetry.

Frankie's Perfect Home
Beverly Stowe McClure
Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc.
12430 Tesson Ferry Rd #1856
Saint Louis, Mississippi, 63128
9781616331627, $9.95,

Beverly Stowe McClure has written a charming children's book about an armadillo who wants to find a home just for himself. His present home is too crowded with siblings and he thinks he will be happier in a home of his own.

"Frankie Armadillo pushed Monty's claw off his nose. He swatted Phil's tail out of his eyes. He coughed Bill's foot from his mouth."

Frankie's adventures take him to several places and into adventures as he searches for the right place to live. He finds that searching for a home and providing his own food is not as grand in reality as it was in his thoughts. This book, written for 4-8 year olds, is one you will have to share with your children. They will want to read and re-read it.

The illustrations by Alexander Morris depict Frankie's worries perfectly as he searched for his home. Younger non-readers will love to pour over the pictures pointing out the funny and serious aspects of Frankie's search.

Beverly Stowe McClure has written several teen novels as well as an adult novel that delves into the realm of ghost stories. She lives in the country with her husband, Jack and they watch armadillos, skunks and other wild creatures. She is a member of the Society of Children's Book Authors and Illustrators.

Alexander Morris graduated from the Illinois Institute of Art - Schaumburg. He always knew he wanted to be an artist and spent some time drawing monsters and other malformed creatures. He soon discovered the satisfaction of drawing cartoon characters when in college. He has illustrated several books for Guardian Angel Publishing.

Wing Wife
Marcia J. Sargent
100 Enterprise Way Ste A200, Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781453809266, $15.95,

In Wing Wife, Marcia J. Sargent relates a true love story with all the romance and pathos that she lived it as the wife of a Marine pilot. It begins with her marriage to Andy Sargent and continues as she shares military life with him. She soon learns that being a Marine pilot's wife is fraught with fear as well as joy. With Andy's help, she learns the politics of supporting him by attending military ceremonies, wives coffees and parties that include husbands and wives.

"Although the guys needed no excuse to party at each other's houses or the O-Club, wives used practical reasons like kitchenware parties, baby or wedding showers."

She endures the wives coffees; but she truly enjoys the impromptu get togethers of the wives whose friendships she has made through their shared circumstances. The coffees are almost as ceremonial as some of the military rituals and just as uncomfortable. The impromptu gatherings include Tupperware, wedding showers and baby showers parties.

Marcia's ability to relate the traditional ceremonies of the Marine Corp made me feel as if I was there and goose bumps popped up on my arms. She describes a Change of Command ceremony with all the pomp and circumstance it is entitled to and tells of how uncomfortable it is to be in the viewing audience. The Marine birthday party that she attends is full of Marine ritual in the beginning and then the informal part of it is fun for all.

The mixed parties provide a way of forgetting for the men and women. There is a lot of hilarity in these informal rituals that both the husbands and wives employ to make their underlying fears easier to bear.

Births play a large part in the lives of these men and women. At one point in her story, there were five wives who became pregnant at one time.

She tells of the deaths of flyers and the sorrow and grief that follow in a very poignant and realistic manner. It is hard to deal with when it is a friend, but even harder when it is a family member. Many strong bonds are formed through shared lives.

Read this book for the well-written insight it gives about Marine life or just for the enjoyment.

Marcia J. Sargent lived the Marine life from 1975 to 1987. When her husband retired, she began teaching elementary school and worked as a language arts mentor for her school district. She now spends her time with her husband in Laguna Beach along with a Golden Retriever named Sir Lancelot, an African Grey parrot, named Princess Aurora and a cat named Snickelfritz.

Katherine Boyer

Logan's Bookshelf

Securing the C Level
Michael D. Peters
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781467968829, $24.95,

Along with the general economy, the job market crash that began in 2008 and which is starting to recover some four years later is still highly competitive and highly volatile. This is as true for executive level corporate officer as it is for the industrial line worker. Drawing upon his many years of experience and expertise as an information security consultant and business leader, Michael D. Peters has deftly written "Securing the C Level: Getting, Keeping, or Reclaiming that Executive Title", a 164-page compendium of 'real world' observations, commentary, advice, and 'how to' counsel on creating and implementing an achievable plan to insure executive success applicable to any corporate setting from new entrepreneurial ventures to established multinational companies. The key to such success to develop a personal career plan. Informed and informative from first page to last, "Securing the C Level" is thoroughly user friendly and especially recommended for three categories of executives: Those who are entering the job market for the first time; Those who are seeking advancement up the corporate ladder whether within their company; Those who find themselves dismissed as redundant and seek a new position with another company. Timely and 'real world' useful, "Securing the C Level" is an especially recommended addition to personal, professional, corporate, academic, and community library Business Administration as well as Jobs/Careers instructional reference collections.

Chaliss of Uppham
J. A. Noble
9781848768086, $8.99,

The ambition to educate is not one that is easily done. "Chaliss of Uppham" is a historical novel from J. A. Noble as he presents the story of Thomas Henry Chaliss, a young man who seeks to build a school in his local village in 1837. With education, he has the mind to do it, but not the money, and the world seems to fight him at every step of the way. "Chaliss of Uppham" is a thoughtful portrait of early nineteenth century life in Britain and the drive of one man to make a difference.

Cremation or Burial?
Doron Kornbluth
Mosaica Press
c/o Stuart Schnee (publicity)
9781937887018, $14.99,

Cremation is the more practical way of disposing of the dead, but tradition is strong. "Cremation or Burial?: A Jewish View" is a discussion of the religious ethics of the cremation and burial debate that many Jews face as they come to the end of their lives. A strongly recommended read for any Jew planning their will or faced with a sudden death of one who is close, leaving one with the burden of funeral planning, "Cremation or Burial?" is a strongly recommended addition to any Judaic studies collection.

The Encolpia
William Frank
Privately Published
9781468123715, $15.00,

As we look to faith and our thoughts, what comes out may be beauty. "The Encolpia" is a collection of poetry from William Frank as he explores poetic tradition by bending and warping it in his own way to create an original message. "The Encolpia" is poetry worth thinking about, recommended. "Encolpia lix.": When you only can speak it plain/in a speech taut with pain/with nothing living to commend/but neither counting on the end,//whatever is right for God/I stood against your parlous heart/teemed with creatures as it was now the corals going dark.//In the space the trumpets stopped/and one by one the street umbrellas/closed like feeling polka dots//I opened mine, a sky instead and with my usual sequela/put the morning star to bed.

Stephen Michael Marek
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781462029556, $17.95,

Success is what drives people forward in life. "Almost" is a novel following Tag Grayson, a man who lives to increase his success in the business world. But the extent he'll go is limited, as he questions himself when he meets with a client who has a sketchy past. As he meets the client, Grayson will find that there are limits to success and how far he will go for it. "Almost" is an original thriller of business and murder, much recommended reading.

Dad's Reminiscences, Reveries, and Ruminations
Henry Frederick Cathcart
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781466291058, $12.99,

Between great conflicts, one sees a world radically change. "Dad's Reminiscences, Reveries, and Ruminations" delves into the writings of Henry Frederick Cathcart, a Mess Sergeant in World War I, who enlisted but was deemed too old to be a typical soldier. A snap shot of the Victorian era in America, compiled in poetry and sent back home to his family, "Dad's Reminiscences, Reveries, and Ruminations" is a strongly recommended pick for those seeking an unforgettable military memoir.

Rev. Gerald Haug
Privately Published
9781463773410, $22.95,

The end will come at some time, but where is its place in the greater scheme of God and the universe? "Ortho-Millennialism: Bringing Order to End-Time Chaos" discusses the new testament and the end times from the perspectives of Rev. Gerald Haug. From the second coming, the events of the end times, the nature of heaven and hell and God's future kingdom, "Ortho-Millennialism" is worth considering for Christian metaphysical thinkers.

Life is Great!
Rabbi Yitz Wyne
Xlibris Corporation
1663 South Liberty Drive
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781456869434, $19.99,

Joy in life is as easy as a realization. "Life is Great!: Revealing the 7 Secrets to a More Joyful You!" is positive thinking motivational text from Rabbi Yitz Wyne, as he encourages people to remember the goodness of life, and live joyfully not just for themselves, but for others. Encouraging readers to improve their lives and live it to its fullest, "Life is Great!" is a fine self-help read, very much recommended reading.

Carl Logan

Lois' Bookshelf

Memoir, a History
Ben Yagoda
Penguin Books, Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York, N.Y. 10014
9781594488863, $12.99,

"An autobiography is, on the surface, a straightforward document. In reality ... it is a Chinese box of identity where the 'I' of the text and the name on the title page are not, and can never be, completely equivalent."

This definition by the author expresses a basic truth about memoirs, which every person who has attempted to write one must have noticed. The fact often causes frustration. You read over the material you've written, and you want to exclaim, "But that's not quite right! It wasn't quite that way!"

Of course it wasn't. There were other factors entering in. You had a bad headache that day, making everything looked darker than it was. You'd just learned that a favorite uncle was dying of a fatal illness, and that too affected your mood. There's no way the account can include all the contributing elements, some of which may date back all the way to your childhood and your inherited attitudes toward the events. The "I" on the page is always a sort of identical twin, a not-quite-me. The facts are there, they happened, and they happened to me. Yet I keep wanting to say, "Yes, but - "

In this book, which is a history of the memoir going all the way back to Caesar's accounts of his battles, Ben Yagoda records all the many forms the genre can take, including those written in the third person, as were Caesar's, or under the guise of presenting some other person's story, as in the case of Gertrude Stein's The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas. Really Stein's memoir, it deals only perfunctorily with aspects of Toklas' life which didn't include her famous friend. The technique allows Stein to reveal and even celebrate herself without openly doing so.

The author also provides an in-depth analysis of truth in fiction. Since a writer is urged to write what he knows, there is always much autobiography in novels, so much so that it can even get a first-time novelist in trouble, as Thomas Wolfe learned in publishing You Can't Go Home Again. Readers want truth, they want to be able to walk the streets described in the book, and sometimes, as the writer struggles to satisfy this urge, the characters are insufficiently disguised.

Truth, indeed, is the thorniest issue. The second complication of working in the memoir genre is the fact that truth must necessarily involve other people. A simple statement like, "I was in a bad mood that day because I'd had a big fight with my boss," allows people researching your former workplace to learn who your boss was. If you go on to describe the fight, you're putting words in another person's mouth which you cannot prove were ever spoken. The whole undertaking is a quicksand of risks. When it comes to close friends and relatives, disaster awaits at every turn. Sometimes people are convinced you wrote about them when in fact you didn't. I've known memoirists, innocent and not, with relatives off speaking terms.

The urge to leave behind a record of our lives is universal. The unrecorded life must pass away unnoticed and unremembered. Now that we no longer write letters, the researchers of the future will have little material to work with in attempting to reconstruct the specifics of our lives. Computer software will change, and people will no longer be able to access the contents of our discs. Yet there is a strong incentive to try to leave something for posterity, if only for our own descendants, and POD publishing has made this feasible. It's well to give serious thought to finding that nugget of truth, while hopefully not sanitizing the material into something unbelievable and unreadable.

Ben Yagoda has given us a thorough account of various aspects of the memoir. The only thing I missed in his history is the rich collection of greenhorn immigrant coming-to-America stories we had in the Thirties and Forties, along with the second-generation struggles of the children of immigrants to assimilate. And then there were books like Louis Adamic's The Native's Return, in which the author went back to Yugoslavia to record his impressions after many years as an American.

But one volume can't include everything, and maybe this author with his enjoyable style will go on to a second book filling in the gaps. One would hope so, because this is a fascinating read as well as a contribution to the history of literature.

Katrina Vanden Heuvel
Editors of the Nation
Nation Books
c/o Perseus Book Group
116 East 16th Street, 8th Floor, NY, N.Y. 10003
9781568584331, $15.95,

Meltdown: How Greed and Corruption Shattered Our Financial System and How We Can Recover is an interesting compilation of articles starting back in 1990, moving forward almost to the end of the first decade of the present century. It demonstrates how many authors foresaw the disaster as it progressed, step by step, beginning with the Savings and Loan debacle. At first, the rush to sell houses seemed a good thing. "Homeowners were all trading up to McMansions, creating an inventory of available low-cost housing," says one author. It seemed a fine idea to make these latter available to people who'd never before been homeowners. Problem was, buyers weren't encouraged to work out a realistic financing plan. Their worries were soothed with false promises that their house would be worth more money later, when their high-interest ARM kicked in.

It didn't happen, and the meltdown followed. "Don't play it again, Uncle Sam!" one author pleads.

Article by article, we watch the meltdown coming closer, occurring, and then getting perpetually worse instead of better. The section called, "The Crisis Hits," is followed by "The Road to Recovery." A quote from Doug Henwood reads: "Is the end nigh? I don't know. I just want to remind people that we've been here many times before, and securities fraud and financial panic are as American as apple pie." He goes on to suggest ways to get out of the mess.

Unfortunately, since the book ends with the beginning of the Obama administration, the suggestions for recovery are often moot. But the rest of the book is a fascinating history of the recession, offering a sense of immediacy that a historian writing of the past could not possibly capture.

Lois Wells Santalo

Margaret's Bookshelf

The Smart Girl's Guide to the G-Spot
Violet Blue
Cleis Press
2246 Sixth Street
Berkeley, CA 94710-2219
9781573447805 $14.95

Sex educator and popular columnist Violet Blue presents The Smart Girl's Guide to the G-Spot, a straightforward guide to helping women experience stronger and more pleasurable orgasms when masturbating or enjoying sex with a partner. Chapters walk the female reader through how to find and stimulate their G-Spot - "an area just inside your vagina, which, when you're turned on, may feel really good to rub or massage. It may even feel so good you have an orgasm from that type of stimulation alone." Violet Blue stresses that the G-Spot isn't a magic button that instantly delivers orgasms when pressed, but rather something to incorporate into the entire sexual experience for the sake of greater overall pleasure. Further chapters explore how to get the most out of one's G-Spot, female ejaculation, G-Spot play with vibrators, anal, or oral sex, and resources for further study. The Smart Girl's Guide to the G-Spot lives up to its title as an excellent woman's resource for getting the most out of her sex life - and heterosexual male readers will find it a useful intimate resource to discuss and share with their significant others as well!

Murder Under the Microscope
Jane Bennett Munro
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781450296629, $23.95,

Science has led Toni into a grudge, and science will free her from it. "Murder Under the Microscope" is a mystery following the conflict between pathologists Toni Day and Sally Shore as they clash, at first only the way women could, but when a body shows up in Toni's office it all goes out the window, as Toni must work to clear her name and find the truth behind it all. "Murder Under the Microscope" is a fine piece of fiction, very much recommended reading.

Put That Knife Away
Phyllis W. Palm
Privately Published
9780615570679, $15.95,

As disease assault the mind, the person that was once love begins to become a memory. "Put That Knife Away: Alzheimer's, Marriage, and My Transformation from Wife to Caregiver" is a memoir from Phyllis W. Palm as she recollects the decline of her husband, losing his mind, losing his personality, and the revelation of the truth. "Put That Knife Away" is a tragic tale that all too many spouses face as time goes on.

Willow Vale
Alethea Williams
Jargon Media
9780982557419, $11.99,

Circumstances can throw us into peril after peril, but they can also bring us a chance at joy. "Willow Vale" is a novel of an accumulation of tragedies from Alethea Williams, writing the story of periled immigrant Francesca Sittoni, a woman struggling to get by, widowed, pregnant, and already a mother. Taking a job with a Wyoming rancher who has his own pile of problems, she finds hope may not have abandoned her yet. "Willow Vale" is a moving read of the pains of immigrant life and the woodchipper that life can be.

William A. Bunting
Privately Published
9781466400757, $15.99,

Beings from other worlds fascinate us, but what would we do if we were to encounter such a thing? "Welkin" discusses the ideas of a future where space travel becomes for accessible and mankind meets its first extra-terrestrial being. Author William A. Bunting presents an original and thought provoking exploration of the concept, making "Welkin" worth considering.

Here's to Not Catching Our Hair on Fire
Stacey Turis
Bohemian Avenue Press
c/o CreateSpace
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9780983827504, $17.95,

The madness of life can sometimes be too crazy to believe. "Here's to Not Catching Our Hair on Fire: An Absent-Minded Tale of Life with Giftedness & Attention Deficit- Oh Look! A chicken!" is a memoir from Stacy Turis as she reflects on her journey through life which can't decide if it's chance or karma cursing her with interesting times. A personal story of trying to find acceptance and the efforts to belong, "Here's to Not Catching Our Hair on Fire" is an excellent and much recommended pick for those looking for a memoir of life far from normal.

The Emperor Awakes
Alexis Konnaris
Privately Published
9781466287433, $19.99,

From Rome to Byzantine to Ottomans, the legacy of empire is quite strong in Turkey. "The Emperor Awakes" is a historical thriller as archaeologist Giorgos Markantaskis brings readers an intriguing story of the last Byzantine Emperor Konstantinos XI Palaiologos, Legends of lost royalty and the a secret power of a tomb, Giorgos finds that nothing is completely clear about the history of the last Emperor tomb, and that there are others out to claim the glory and power connected to it. "The Emperor Awakes" is a fine pick for those who like thrillers tied into history, very much recommended.

I've Lost My Damn Mind
Derek Thompson
Privately Published
9781467935234, $14.95,

Bipolar disorder is a weight on the mind that is impossible to completely unload. "I've Lost My Damn Mind" is a memoir from Derek Thompson, who has been struggling with bipolar disorder throughout much of his life, as he shares his journey to coming to terms and dealing with many of the problems that came from dealing with his disorders, and struggling to find love when any mention of mental illness is enough to send people running away screaming. "I've Lost My Damn Mind" is a strong recommendation for anyone too struggling with their own illnesses.

Margaret Lane

Mayra's Bookshelf

Pretty Dolls
Kimberly Dana
Tate Publishing
127 East Trade Center Terrace
Mustang, OK 73064
9781613464168, $8.99,

Pretty Dolls by Kimberly Dana, a finalist in the Children's Picture Book category at the 2011 Pacific Northwest Writers Association Literary Contest, is a delightful story about overcoming jealousy and the love a girl can share with her special doll, no matter what she looks like.

Little Tasha has several dolls, but her favorites are Emily-Nicole and Gracie.

Emily-Nicole is the most beautiful of all, with porcelain skin, silky red hair and turquoise-blue eyes. She spends most of her days perched on the top bookshelf case with the other beautiful dolls.

Unlike Emily-Nicole, Gracie has tufts of brown hair (from when Tasha played hairdresser), purple eyes (from when she played artist), and a missing arm. She's not at all beautiful like Emily-Nicole. But Tasha loves her because she's the snuggliest of all and that's why she always carries her around.

Unbeknown to Tasha, once she's deeply sound asleep in the quiet of the night, Emily-Nicole, jealous of Tasha and Gracie's closeness, starts making fun of Gracie and calling her cruel names. The other pretty dolls giggle and together they mock:

Pretty eyes and pretty hair. We're the best dolls anywhere. If you were a pretty doll, you'd be up here standing tall.

Night after night the banter continues. As Emily-Nicole becomes more and more jealous, she turns increasingly cruel. Her heart becomes just as cold and porcelain-like as her beautiful face. Deep inside, though, she suffers. She would like to be the one to snuggle up with Tasha instead of standing on the shelf all day and night. She just can't understand why Tasha prefers Gracie when Gracie is so ugly compared to her.

One day, Tasha's dog Victor charges into the room and rocks the bookshelf back and forth, making Emily-Nicole stumble and fall. He snatches her into his mouth and shakes her, then heaves her into the air and she lands on Tasha's bed... right next to Gracie. Will the other dolls help Emily-Nicole or will Gracie?

Pretty Dolls is an adorable picture book for little girls ages 3 to 8. It is a story about kindness and discovering new friendships. The book offers a valuable and lovely message about what it means to be truly beautiful and about accepting others, even if they look a little different than us. The language is simple and engaging, appropriate for this age group. The illustrations are charming, a splash of color on the pages with a lot of pinks and purples. There's an accompanying audio book included with Pretty Dolls, which can be downloaded for free from the publisher's website at and burned onto a CD or saved to a portable device such as an iPod. Recommended.

Author Kimberly Dana is an award-winning English teacher. In addition to writing for children, she also writes for young adults. You can visit her at

A Satan Carol
Alan Steven Kessler
Wild Child Publishing
PO Box 4897, Culver City, CA 90231
9781617980138, $5.99,

A Satan Carol by spiritual horror author Alan Steven Kessler combines elements of the macabre and parody/satire to explore the concepts of free will and evil. Not having read in this horror subcategory before, I was intrigued when I received a copy of this ebook for review.

The story begins in 1848 Ireland during a time of intense famine. A poor, nearly starved boy dies in the countryside, releasing a 'golden soul,' a special soul full of kindness and healing power. Had he lived, he would have infected generations with goodness.

The tale then moves 180 years later to Christmas Eve in Massachusetts, where we encounter Katie Katz, a troubled, pregnant 14-year old who's planning an abortion. Revolving around her are various characters who are interconnected in some way, either by family ties or by Mr. Green - aka the Devil - who has an agenda and will stop at nothing to tempt them and play with their conscience.

Among these characters are Katie's father, Harvey Katz, a top notch lawyer who defends rapists and killers, does drugs and treats women like objects; her grandfather Orem, who's cursed with prophesies and visions no one believes; Fritz Mueller, a gruesome doctor who performs abortions and uses the fetuses to extract a serum that could affect people's growth. There are others, too, such as Katie's mother and Harvey's assistant.

Through the generations, Mr. Green has been following these people since birth, trying to shape their destinies to suit his purposes. At the top of his agenda, of course, is the golden soul and the way it could affect his son Pal. Though we have an idea that all the characters are pawns in Mr. Green's evil games, it isn't until the middle that we get a clearer picture of what's really going on.

Mr Green tries to convince and trick his victims with dreams and hallucinations, but in the end, they have free will. As the plot evolves and the characters opt to follow the right path, Mr. Green grows increasingly frustrated. In fact, he becomes exhausted and whiny, prone to temper tantrums. After all, it isn't easy bending the fabric of time and trying to be everywhere at once.

Who is the ghost of Christmas Eve? Is it Pal, Satan's son? Is it Katie's unborn child? Or is it the golden soul itself? Will Satan get his way in the end?

A Satan Carol moves back and forth in time and is told from multiple points of view. It is a well-written story with a heavy message that will especially appeal to Christian readers. Though some of the segments are gruesome and bordering on the bizarre, at times Kessler uses dark, twisted humor to lighten the prose. The story explores the universal theme of good versus evil with a particular focus on the power of free will. Kessler writes with a lot of attention to detail and some of the paragraphs are quite long, especially in the first half of the book. The pacing is faster in the second half, with less exposition and lots more dialogue.

A Satan Carol is an out-of-the-ordinary read that invites self pondering. Recommended for readers of horror and Christian fiction who'd like to try something different.

The Eden Paradox
Barry Kirwan
Summertime Publications Inc
9780982369845 $16.99,

The Eden Paradox, by Barry Kirwan, is an enjoyable read that will be relished by fans of science fiction.

Fifty years into the future, the earth has been maimed by war and is near collapse from heat exhaustion. Scientists have already found the vaccine for AIDS and robot soldiers have quelled rebel invasions. The 3-year long World War between the United Secular Nations and the 'Big Five' Religious Front countries has left half a billion dead and a shortage of food (beef has hit $300 a kilo), power and fuel.

Then a new planet is discovered: Eden, a green-purple world bathed in blood-orange sunlight, a planet filled with virgin lakes and forests, a place so beautiful it could be compared to pre-war Switzerland.

Now, the Ulysses, a faster-than-light ship carrying a crew of four astronauts, is on its way to Eden. The venture has given one last hope to mankind. If Eden fails, all humanity will see is an abyss.

Then one of the astronauts begins having strange nightmares about a desert-filled Eden and a horrific creature. The nightmares put the astronauts on edge. After all, there's reason for concern: Ulysses isn't the first mission to Eden. There were two before which failed miserably under mysterious circumstances. One stopped transmitting after an hour of arrival; the other one exploded five days before landing. Do the nightmares have any substance or in any way predict the future? What, in reality, is going on in Eden?

The Eden Paradox is a well-written, action-packed, suspenseful novel. Told in multiple points of view separated by chapters, the story moves mainly between two characters: Micah, analyst at Eden Mission Control on earth, and Blake, lead astronaut at the Ulysses. Micah feels he's being thrust into a vortex of murder, deception and conspiracy; he feels coerced into a probably fatal role in a game he doesn't understand nor cares about. Blake, on the other hand, is intend on protecting his crew, find out what's really going on in Eden, and return to earth successfully. In spite of all the action, there are a lot of exposition and backstory in the first few chapters. There are also a lot of characters and it took me a while to identify with any one of them.

However, I have to say that the scenes are very film-like in nature and I felt as if I were watching a movie. Although the plotline is different, the pace and tone reminded me of the Alien series, which are one of my favorites. The author uses a lot of detail to bring his fictional world to life, and in this aspect he was quite successful. In short, even though I'm not an avid fan of sci-fi, I enjoyed the novel and would definitely recommend it to readers of the genre.

A native of Farnborough, England, author Barry Kirwan grew up watching planes at the annual air show. Unable to become an astronaut, he did the next best thing - become a science fiction writer. When he' not working in air traffic safety, he can be found writing his Eden Trilogy and other stories. Visit him at

Lynnette Vaughn
PO Box5421 Kingston, ACT 2604 Australia
9780977553501, AUD $27.95,

Blueprint is the story of one soul's journey in planning her last incarnation on earth and what happens when friends take over.

The novel opens with Arielle and Raphael in Heaven as they discuss Arielle's upcoming and last incarnation. Raphael, who's been her soul mate for thousands of years, offers to help her plan it and she accepts. He suggests that they get their 12 special friends in Heaven involved. To accomplish this, they decide to invite them all for dinner. At dinner, the friends take turns making suggestions for Arielle's final life: a healer, a transsexual, a homeless person, an orphan, a psychiatrist, a child prodigy, among others. Together, they weigh the pros and cons of each scenario while Raphael answers many of their questions about religion and spirituality. Finally, Arielle makes her decision and presents her 'blueprint' to the council of elders.

Blueprint is a short light read that explores various aspects of reincarnation, numerology and astrology, among other esoteric subjects. The story is rather linear because the aim of the author is to present these ideas rather than offer a fictional story for fiction's sake. The chapters are short and simple, and the writing is mostly dialogue. An unusual, interesting read for those interested in the topics mentioned.

To learn more about this book, visit the author's website.

Mayra Calvani

Richard's Bookshelf

Twilight's Last Gleaming
Robert Jeffress
Worthy Publishing
134 Franklin Road, Suite 200, Brentwood, TN 37027
9781936034581, $22.99,

A Bold Message of Uncompromised Challenge to Christian America

"Twilight's Last Gleaming" is a clarion call to awaken a nation that has forgotten God. Robert Jeffress boldly challenges Christian Americans to take a stand for righteousness in the midst of an alarming and menacing movement of evil threatening the future of our country. Jeffress clearly alerts the reader to an understanding that God has left us here for a specific purpose during these "twilight years." We are to be salt and light to a generation where government has imposed on its citizens the misuse and abuse of the word tolerance to a point of intolerance for the Christian.

Jeffress writes with unequivocal clarity, conviction, and authority. The chapter titled "How a Christian Should Vote" is especially timely and relevant for this election year. Jeffress lays a foundation for pastors to mobilize their churches to become agents for influencing uprightness and change by refocusing on the God's mission of the Church.

The book is well organized, filled with amazing stories of injustice and persecution, strong teaching, a disturbing message, and through a thoughtful presentation that moves in a progression from politics, to action persecution, and a plan for last day's strategic living.

I found the questions included in the "For Further Reflection" section to be an excellent resource for personal application as well as for use in a group study of the book. The profound questions provide an opportunity for taking an honest look at personal attitudes and actions.

"Twilight's Last Gleaming" is emotionally moving, intellectually convincing, and spiritually convicting - a call to action for Christian Americans.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

The True Measure of a Man
Richard E Simmons III
Evergreen Press
P.O. Box 191540, Mobile, Alabama, 36619-6540
9781581693591, $21.95,

A Plumb Line for Success, Achievement, and Recognition

The subtitle of Richard E. Simmons' book "The True Measure of a Man" reflects the essence of its contents: "How Perceptions of Success, Achievements & Recognition Fail Men in Difficult Times." Simmons writes to help men faced with fears and doubts come to terms with living in unprecedented times.

Simmons writes with clarity. The format lends itself to three levels of reading:

Definitive topical headings encourage a quick perusal of the content.

Simmons straightforward writing style and poignant relative stories engage the reader in a more careful reading or study for assimilation and application.

The profound nature of the narrative adds to the value of the book as a resource for follow up, review, and further reflection.

Probing and soul searching illustrations and examples tackle the difficult challenges of guilt, fears, self-imposed unattainable expectations, and insecurities. Simmons gives common sense practical insight into a man's value system, and shaping his character through the use of meaningful true to life applications from the truth and principles found in the scriptures. I especially enjoyed the many well documented profound quotes and thoughts from recognized for their leadership and character.

"The True Measure of a Man" is an important book for any man at every stage of life.

A complimentary copy of the book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Great Day Every Day
Max Lucado
Thomas Nelson, Inc.
P. O. Box 141000, Nashville, TN, 37214
9780849920738, $18.99,

A Daily Compass for Finding Purpose, Claiming Christ's Promises, and Fulfilling your Potential

Max Lucado continues to inspire, encourage, and challenge readers with his unique gift for adapting Biblical stories into contemporary, relevant, insight with meaningful applications. "Great Day Every Day - Navigating Life's Challenges with Promise and Purpose" includes a "Daily Compass" to help the reader start each day right. Early in my reading I captured Max's theme including the three concepts introduced throughout the pages of the book: Saturating my day in Jesus' grace, entrusting my day to His oversight, and accepting His direction.

The accompanying discussion guide provides the reader with thought provoking questions designed for further consideration, contemplation, or meditation. These questions can also be adapted for use with a small group to stimulate discussion and interaction among group members.

Another feature found in this edition of the book (published earlier as "Every Day Deserves a Chance) is the "Day Changer" thirty day journey. Each "day changer" reflection helps the reader identify and record a specific area of focus, consideration, or action for the day.

Lucado's writing is Christ centered, straightforward, simple, yet profound. A rich experience in fulfilling your potential, claiming Christ's promise, and living out His purpose.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The expressions expressed are my own.

Murder at the Naval Base
Behcet Kaya
Book Bay/Amazon Digital Services
B006MIJ8B6 $7.99 (Kindle edition)

Compelling Suspense, Court Room Drama, and Romance Run Amok

"Murder on the Naval Base" opens with a cold blooded murder of Bevin, wife of Lieutenant Anderson Garrett Belguzar, and Charles McPhearson, her lover, a former friend of her husband. The dining room of NAS Grodin's Officer's Club was crowded with over a dozen eye witnesses. Within hours Anderson Belguzar is arrested as the prime suspect for the double homicide.

Bechcet Kaya brilliantly weaves a story filled with sexual tension, jealousy, and dysfunction. He takes the reader behind the scenes of the WestPoint Naval academy, as he carefully introduces and develops the relationship of his key characters, their naval flight training, and the unique elements of a military career, their lifestyle and how the resultant impacts marriage and family life. Or Judge Ad officers trained as lawyers who investigate, prosecute and those accused of Kaya is destined to be recognized for his outstanding ability to incorporate word pictures that breathe life into his characters, and drama into his plot, bringing suspense and tension to the cockpit of a F18 flying in formation, in courtroom dialog, or in the privacy and intimacy behind closed doors. Kaya provides all the elements of legal maneuvering, psychological twists, and page turning action that leads to an unexpected crescendo for a spectacular finish.

Compelling Suspense, Court Room Drama, and Romance. Behcet Kaya just keeps getting better.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Reading Revelation
C. Marvin Pate
Kregel Publications
P. O. Box 2607, Grand Rapids, MI49501
9780825433672, $29.95,

A Parallel Comparison of Four Interpretive Translations of the Apocalypse

"Reading Revelation: A Comparison of Four Interpretive Translations of the Apocalypse" is an academic comparison of four interpretive translations of the apocalypse. C. Marvin Pate, professor of biblical studies, author, and editor combines material adapted from the work of Steve Gregg in his four-view parallel commentary, and from his own book, "Four Views on the Book of Revelation" as well as the work his collaboration with of J. Daniel Hays, J. Scott Duvall, "The Dictionary of Biblical Prophecy and End Times" both published by Zondervan.

An interlinear Greek text and English translation accompany the verse by verse comparison of the four schools of interpretation presented in parallel columns.

The Preterist Interpretation
The Historical Interpretation
The Idealist Interpretation
The Futurist Interpretation

A summary of each interpretation is presented in a comprehensive introduction to the study. Both the similarities and the differences of the four viewpoints are highlighted within the text to guide the reader in their personal study and analysis.

"Reading Revelation: A Comparison of Four Interpretive Translations of the Apocalypse" provides pastors, serious Bible scholars, Adult Bible Class teachers, an amazing resource tool for studying and teaching the complex book of Revelation. As a layman, myself, I have gained new insights and a better understanding into the background and reasons behind the various interpretations of the book of Revelation.

A complimentary copy of the book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

40 Days to Discovering the Real You: Leaning to Live Authentically
Cindy Trimm
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768440294, $15.99

A Companion Book to "The 40 Day Soul Fast"

"40 Days to Discovering the Real You: Leaning to Live Authentically" is an interactive self-discovery journal designed to be used as an companion to "The 40 Day Soul Fast." Dr. Trimm suggests that the book be used over an eight week period. Each week includes a thought provoking challenge on the theme of "living authentically," a number of action steps for consideration, and two or three ruled pages for journaling your responses, reflections, or meditations.

Whether used with "The 40 Day Soul Fast" or by itself as an independent study, you will find the book helpful as:

An important tool for focused self-exploration
A guide book on your inward journey of the soul
A unique resource for the Lenten season
An introduction or reminder of the importance, and value of the experience of journaling
A motivator for taking positive action that leads to transformation

I found the 24 questions in the Appendix thought provoking an invaluable in helping me focus on my inward journey in areas of:

Pursuing Godliness in my thought life, behavior, attitude, and lifestyle
Truth and honesty
Self-sacrifice and commitment
Building Community

"40 Days to Discovering the Real You" is ideal for use with an accountability partner or group.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Experience A Walk To Remember
Bianca McClain Miller
Xulon Press
2180 West State Road 434, Suite 2140
Longwood, Florida 32779
9781468103434, $10.99,

A Story That Has to Be Told

The story of Bianca McClain Miller is one that genuinely reflects the life experiences of thousands, who will identify with the difficulties of being born in Durango, Mexico to an American father and a Mexican mother, and the challenge of moving back and forth from schools where the Mexican language is used to schools in New Mexico or Texas where English is used. She also tells of her vulnerability in establishing relationships which led to intimidation, abuse, and brokenness.

In her book "Experience a Walk to Remember: With God's Hand Over My Life" Bianca Miller writes candidly of the consequences of the immature choices of her youth. She also writes boldly and without apology of her experience of salvation, her hunger for God, His leading, protection, provision, and purpose. Her writing style is direct and straight forward reflecting an authentic desire to experience God in her life. This is a simple testimony of repentance, redemption, and renewal. The selected scriptures depict a deep personal faith in the promises of God's Word.

This is a story for hurting broken people hungering for God in their lives.

Bianca's writing is neither an academic discourse nor a theological exposition, simply a testimony of God's grace in her life. Some readers may find the grammatical errors distracting. Others, like me, will become captivated by her positive "can do" attitude, her gratitude, and the obvious evidence of God's blessing on her life. She offers the reader a message of assurance, hope, and promise and conveys strong sense of encouragement, inspiration, and motivation. It is Bianca's desire that lives will be touched and that God will be glorified through her writing.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expresses are my own.

Territorials Spirits
C. Peter Wagner
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
978-0768440676, $15.99

Comprehensive Teaching on the Reality of Territorial Spirits

"Territorial Spirits" is a comprehensive compendium of practical strategies for engaging spiritual warfare in the battle to crush territorial spirits present in the world today. The work of eighteen contributors has been compiled by C. Peter Wagner.

The book is divided into three parts:

The Issues: Principles and Problems
The Ministries: Pastors and Practitioners
The Analysis: Perceptions and Perspectives

The writings of highly respected, and diverse Christian leaders, pastors, professors, missionaries, anthropologists, and itinerant preachers confirm the fact that in the effort to evangelize the world involves a confrontation with principalities and powers that include Territorial Spirits.

I read with special interest the analysis of anthropologist Jacob Loewen. He draws from experiences as a Bible translation consultant in South America and Africa to share his conclusions and his unique insight into Old Testament teaching as it relates to "Divine Territoriality and Specialization."

Michael Green, professor of evangelism at Regent College in Vancouver is a scholar and a practitioner. His analysis highlights the concepts of "Principalities and Powers," specifically in: Jewish belief, in the Graeco-Roman World, and in the New Testament. Timely and relevant.

This is an important book for today's generation with the existing apathy found in many churches and rampant unrighteousness and oppression throughout the world.
Scholars, pastors, missionaries, and lay Christians will welcome this study for its scholarly presentation, diligent research, and the practical hands on experience of the contributors.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Dancing with Jesus
Linda Fitzpatrick
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P.O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768440539, $15.99

He Turns Our Mourning into Dancing

"Dancing with Jesus" is a captivating story of encountering Jesus, finding purpose, and fulfilling destiny. Abia Ben-Judah, early in her childhood, experiences a series of dreams, dreams of a special relationship with God - dreams of prophetic dancing and worship. A debilitating accident left Abia questioning the realization of her dreams as she endured twelve years of suffering and pain. Abia's destiny begins in a humble Jewish home filled with love, steeped in tradition, and religion.

Careful attention to detail in her character and plot development brings the story to life, providing; historical adventure, discovery, and spiritual growth. Fitzpatrick's Biblical backgrounds and illustrative narratives are consistent with scripture.

Fitzpatrick uses the medium of fiction to deliver a message of hope and salvation as she weaves a parallel story of her own life of encountering Jesus. She tells her story through Abia's redemption, restoration, and the experience finding spiritual fulfillment through prophetic dancing as a form of worship, taking her right into the presence of God.

The dramatic conclusion of "Dancing with Jesus" left me with a lingering feeling of gratefulness for God's unmerited mercy and intimate love for His children as I too experienced Abia's sense of God's presence.

"Dancing with Jesus" is a power packed, compelling novel. Linda Fitzpatrick creates Biblical drama, incorporates Christian fantasy, and brilliantly blends historical fiction and prophetic fulfillment into the adventure.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

A Pocketful of Voices
Alfred M. Albers
Infinity Publishing
1094 New De Haven Street, Suite 100
West Conshohocken, PA 19428-2713
9780741469205, $ 18.95,

Another John Michaels Brain Teaser - When Magician Outwits Murder

Gary Egan, a professional ventriloquist, has a five year engagement at the Placid Hotel and Casino in Mount Hope City, New Jersey; the East Coast's gambling capital. After valuable merchandise turns up missing in a series of burglaries in the rooms of well-known celebrities the sheriff's department arrests Egan for conspiracy and as an accomplice in the crimes.

Like a magic trick and the illusion of a secret adventure Albers draws the reader into solving the puzzle of Gary's dilemma. The suspense builds as the crimes turn violent moving from burglary to murder.

Albers writes with an amazing attention to detail, word pictures so explicit a room comes to life, characters become so life-like you can sense the rhythm of their breathing and feel the warmth of their touch. Although relationships are guarded and emotions held in check; Albers' characters become an important element in carrying the plot forward. Their dialog guides the reader with clues for matching wits with Michaels in attempting to solve the case.

I appreciate the inclusion mention of Henry Fitch, hero to magicians in the 50s-70s, Louie Baker well known winner in Five Card Hold 'em circles, and the baseball greats: Larry Corcoran, Eton Chamberlin, and Tony Mullane. These names add a touch of reality in a book of fiction

"A Pocket Full of Voices" introduces court room drama and behind the scenes investigation techniques at their best. Alfred M. Albers is fast becoming a favorite of fans of mystery, magic, entertainment history, and collectors of celebrity paraphernalia.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Islam the Cloak of Antichrist
Jack Smith
Winepress Publishing
P.O. Box 428, Enumclaw, Washington 98022
9781606151587, $26.99,

A Look End Times in Through a New Paradigm

In his book "Islam the Cloak of Antichrist" Jack Smith interprets end times prophecy using a new paradigm, a new model which has been referred to by some as the "Islamic Paradigm." Smith's work is a wide-ranging study of a complex subject.

Smith's interpretation translates metaphors into their literal and true meaning. His assumptions are based on his interpretation of prophecies from Old and New Testament scriptures. He presents a solid basis for his conclusions by developing an informed analysis of the Jewish and Christian apocalyptic books of Ezekiel, Daniel, and Revelation.

Smith maintains that Satan uses deception, disguising himself and an angel of light by using a cloak of sham publicizing "peace," a peace that comes by yielding to Islam.

Smith's research is thorough and well documented with comprehensive end-notes. The selected bibliography and complete index add important resource material for additional reading or a deeper study.

I especially appreciated the clearly articulated summary and conclusion of key points included at the end of each chapter. This feature provides a tremendous tool for immediate retention and future review in the organization and development of the material. The beautiful color photos of the Dome of the Rock and a number black and white photo illustration add another dimension to the understanding of the text, and help the reader to better assimilate the narrative through the visualization process.

"Islam the Cloak of Antichrist" is an in depth study, not intended for a cursory reading. Smith carefully develops the relationship of Islamic history and Christian theology, with a sense of the urgency of his message, a paradigm that interprets Islam to be the instrument of the Antichrist in the last days, and a message that will be of interest and importance to secularists and Christians alike.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Breakdancing On A Balance Beam
Kathy Frank
Baily Court Con Publishing
P.O. Box 7024, Bedminster, NJ 07921-7024
9781937788001, $16.95,

Dynamic Strategies for Creating Equilibrium Out of Chaos

From the preface to the epilogue, Kathy Frank, packages dynamic strategies for discovering:

Your inner child
How to find your personal rhythm
The benefit of learning from others
Why we need to accept accountability
How to deal with the unexpected
The value of flexibility - how to accept change
The art of effective communication
The value of humor
How to open our mind to unlimited possibilities
The importance of creativity and innovation
Attaining and sustaining an attitude of confidence

Frank writes with a passion as she shares lessons learned from her personal experiences essential to achieving balance in her life. Clever illustrations created by Caitlin Johnson-Nied enhance the vibrant appeal and excitement of the book.

The format and organization of the "musings" allow the reader to read, contemplate, and record personal reflections using a systematic sequential or a random approach as Kathy's observations are arranged topically.

"Breakdancing On A Balance Beam: How to Find Balance as a Business Person and an Everything-Else-That-You-Are-Too Person" encourages the reader to explore, dream, and discover. Kathy Frank inspires confidence, motivates action, and alerts the reader to value the moment, to take time out to reflect, and to fill their life with fun and laughter while enjoying their achievement and their accomplishments.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Richard R. Blake, Reviewer

Sandra's Bookshelf

Lodestone Book Two: The World of Ice and Stars
Mark Whiteway Publishing Inc.
P.O. Box 9949 College Station, TX 77842
9781602645882, $12.50,

I was introduced to "Lodestone," series by receiving book three first. Then I read the first one and it tells the readers how the characters came to be. So I had the beginning and the possible ending. It was when I read the second book it really all came together for me.

I have been told that writing a review should be like talking to a friend. This science fiction series has really been interesting to read. The characters seem to jump out at you. The plot is well constructed and you find yourself waiting to see how it plays out. You won't want to put the book down until you are finished. I know a lot of people say that. But it is really true.

One thing that I have said before is that, each book has your imagination working to visualize each character. Plus you will travel to worlds that you could never imagine. Just thinking of the colors that the author has described was for me almost poetic. I wonder if Mr. Whiteway writes poetry.

While I have shared my perception of this book, you have to remember that there is adventure, fighting and the will to live. The characters are strong and fighting to save their world as they know it.

Thank you Mr. Whiteway, for another fascinating book! I hope there will be more to come in this series.

Rated G

Campfire Stories Vol. 12
Rick Steber
Bonanza Publishing
Box 204, Prineville, OR 97754
0945134126, $1.59,

In this book you will find single page stories that will stay with you a long time. I have enjoyed them. The history of our country's beginning is fascinating to me. A lot of families living in the "Old West," could not afford to buy books. But by sharing stories people were informed of things going on in our country and around the world. A newcomer in any town was met with much anticipated.

This book is one that young children and adults can enjoy alike. I don't think I could eat skunk meat as is in one story. "Away Prospecting" gave me the shivers when I read about how they found out where the potatoes were going.

Rated G

Sandra Heptinstall

Steve's Bookshelf

61 Hours
Lee Child
Dell Books
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
9780440339533, $9.99,

A carefree, benign group of senior tourists are riding a charter bus that crashes in a snowstorm in the middle of South Dakota. Having paid the driver extra to give him a lift, Jack Reacher lands in the middle of the crisis and helps as the tourists are shuttled to the postage stamp town of Bolton, South Dakota. Reacher quickly learns that the town's police force faces a deadline. An elderly widow has witnessed a big time drug transaction and she must be kept alive for the 61 hours it will take for her to testify in court. The hours tick down and law enforcement turns to Reacher for help as tension ratchets up and they realize they're in way over their heads. Meanwhile, Reacher learns of a no-man's land just outside of town, where a tough band of bikers live and a secret government outpost stands. Will Reacher finally exhaust his nine lives and sacrifice himself for the town? Will the high stakes world of drug trafficking get their way again? Child weaves his spell of suspense again. The time deadline, a below-zero blizzard, all-powerful drug czars, a weakened police force, a government secret, and a prime kill target combine to make this a nail-crunching all-nighter of a read. Despite eight other Reacher novels, Child is still not reaching for re-spun plotting to offer his readers what they crave. For all Reacher crazies, this is another keeper.

Getting the Words Right
Theodore Cheney
Writer's Digest Books
c/o F+W Media
4700 East Galbraith Road
Cincinnati, OH 45236
0898791146, $10.98,

I have been writing and editing off and on for about twenty-five years, and Getting the Words Right is one of the best books I've found on self-editing or editing for others. One thing I like about it is that Cheney actually gives the reader realistic examples of how to correct, how to liven things up, or how to cut excessive words. He doesn't overcomplicate the process of writing great stuff, and if you follow the guidelines in this rather compact 200-page book, you will be guaranteed to seriously improve your writing. This book along with Elements of Style and perhaps a quickie like Howard-Johnson's The Frugal Editor are a great trio for the editor or proofreader to have close at hand. You cannot go wrong in picking up this book.

Blind Eye
James Stewart
Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl.
New York, NY 10020
0684865637, $14.00,

Yes, brain-grabbing is the correct word for Blind Eye: Terrifying Story of a Doctor who got away with Murder. The more I read, the greater my apprehension. Here is a young doctor who seems sharp and knowledgeable, with a warm bedside manner, yet he is bent on destruction. He is suspected by associates, yet they turn a blind eye as he moves on, finding hospital work in Ohio, New York, Illinois, South Dakota, and finally Zimbabwe. I knew it was verifiable non-fiction chronicled by James Stewart, a writer whose research is meticulous, but it was hard to grasp. It hurt even worse as I came to realize that this was a man whose very profession and training constituted a promise to help, not to harm; to heal, not to infect.

Clear your schedule and please begin reading this book early on a Saturday morning. That way, you won't lose all your beauty sleep reading to the bitter end. And go to church the next morning and pray that you will never be treated by a physician like Michael Swango. God help us when we fear our doctors.

Dr. Steve Fortosis

Suzie's Bookshelf

Make Mine a Double
Nicole Austin
Ellora's Cave
9781419934377, $6.50 (Ebook)

Kaylie Ward wonders how she manages to attract men who drag her down. It seems like every time she thinks she has met Mr. Right he quickly turns into Mr. Wrong. Frustrated at another failed attempt at love, she swears off men.

Max Lockhard and Brayden Sinclair are the best of friends who insist on sharing everything; even the women they date. They specialize in menage and together they both leave a lasting impression on the woman they choose to seduce.

Kaylie decides to drown her man trouble in a bottle of tequila. Somehow she lands in the bed of Max and Brayden. With two willing males could this be a dream or real life? The two lusty males do not give her time to sort out the details, for they are intent on giving her the ride of her life.

From page one of MAKE MINE A DOUBLE there is no doubt that you have hit upon a scorcher of a romance! Max and Brayden are two characters who know how to find and satisfy their needs. Kaylie is a match for these two strong alpha males. Together the three make one hot reading experience. MAKE MINE A DOUBLE is a sequel to MY GREATEST FANTASY. Both books combined would make for one electrifying reading experience.

Permanently Legless
J. L. Merrow
Amber Quill Press
9781611242393, $3.00, Ebook,

Chris had meet Josh one night while he was clubbing. The two had an immediate attraction to one another. Josh gave Chris his number and asked him to call him; Chris knew that their paths would probably never cross again because in a few days he was being shipped off to Afghanistan.

In Afghanistan, Chris fought gallantly for his country, but in a blink of an eye his world changed as he was gravely injured. When he awoke he realized that his injury had cost him both of his legs.

Chris returned to his hometown wounded in body but still able to keep his sense of humor. Restless, he decided to visit his favorite club to try and reclaim some normalcy in his life. He was surprised to find Josh at the club. The look of shock on Josh's face spoke volumes; realistically he knew that such a handsome man as Josh would never want to be tied to someone was such an obvious disability.

Josh had never been able to forget the one night stand with Chris. Seeing him now confined to a wheelchair was a shock. Will he be able to get past Chris's injury to be able to recapture what they had both experienced in the past?

PERMANENTLY LEGLESS revolves around lost love being recaptured. J.L. Merrow has done a wonderful job in writing PERMANENTLY LEGLESS. Chris and Josh are characters that you soon will not forget. I would have liked to see their story been longer, the last pages seemed to cheat the reader out of the happier ever after feeling all romance readers crave.

Suzie Housley

Theodore's Bookshelf

Zoran Drvenkar
Translated by Shaun Whiteside
c/o Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780307273550, $25.95,

This isn't an easy novel to read. It is, at times, confusing, switching from the third person to the second person to the first person, from the present to the past, from an assortment of characters and varying points of view. Nevertheless, it is a well-written thriller that keeps the reader guessing, with the author doling out clues and facts stingily.

The story is quite simple, in essence. Four friends open an agency in Berlin to apologize to others on behalf of clients, relieving them from feelings of guilt. Business takes off, and they begin to enjoy life, moving into a lakeside villa. Until one day, they take on an assignment to apologize to a corpse, murdered by the person who hired them. And to make matters worse, they are forced to dispose of the body and then do it all over again; then they have to face the ramifications of these efforts.

From that point on it is downhill all the way, and we learn more about the killer: Who is "I," who is "you," even "the man who wasn't there." As the reader continues to unravel these mysteries, the plot continues to slowly but surely unfold, with various pieces fitting together, in an excellent translation from the German.


The Drop
Michel Connelly
Little, Brown
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10017
9780316069410, $27.99,

We are often told to avoid discussions of religion, sex and politics. Well, in this latest Harry Bosch novel, one out of three ain't bad. Harry is still part of the Open and Unsolved unit of the LAPD, bored and begging for a case. What's the old saw: Be careful what you ask for?

The lieutenant begins handing out cases, and lo and behold, Harry is assigned a 20-year-old rape/murder to solve. Immediately afterwards, he is given a live case only three hours old involving the death of the son of Harry's long-time nemesis, Councilman Irvin Irving, who was either pushed or jumped from a hotel room window. Irving specifically asked for Harry to lead the investigation because he knows him to relentlessly pursue the truth. Sex and politics take over, as Harry and his partner follow the trails of both cases.

This series is one of the best around. Written with insights into police procedures, as well as into the depths of Harry's soul, it appears that the Bosch novels will have at least another five years to run, as Harry has been granted that many years by a retirement review board, extending his stay as an active police detective. With his daughter now 15 years of age, can one assume the seeds are now planted for her to succeed Harry, now that she has confessed her desire to become a cop? Something to look forward to?

Highly recommended.

Michael Robotham
Mulholland Books
c/o Hatchette Book Group
237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10017
9780316187428 $14.99,

This psychological thriller pits clinical psychologist Joe O'Loughlin against a deranged man, Gideon Tyler, a major in British Intelligence. It is a test of knowledge, skills, fortitude and purpose. It begins when Joe is asked to attempt to prevent the suicide of a naked woman perched on a bridge. Unfortunately she jumps, the victim of Tyler's cunning. Another death soon follows in a similarly bizarre way and the contest between the two men escalates.

What follows is an unpredictable plot, which progresses non-stop, with unexpected twists and sharp turns, culminating in a hair-raising conclusion. Meanwhile the effect on Joe and his family is shattering, providing a subplot that tears at the reader's heart.

The prose is strong, and the descriptions of the ploys put forth by Tyler to goad his victims to obey his demands are graphic. The author builds suspense at a fever pitch, causing the reader to turn pages compulsively to find out what happens next. [It should perhaps be noted that the sequel, "Bleed for Me," was published by Mulholland shortly after this book's publication, and is next up for this reader.]


Bleed for Me
Michael Robotham
Mulholland Books
c/o Hatchette Book Group
237 Park Ave., NY, NY, 10017
9780316126380, $25.99,

There are a couple of subplots, in addition to the main thread, in this latest Joe O'Loughlin psychological thriller. To begin with, there are the comings and goings of two dysfunctional families. One is, of course, Joe's, since in the previous entry in the series, "Shattered," his wife had asked for a separation. Then there is Joe's daughter's best friend, Sienna, whose domineering father reduces his wife and children to miserable and fearful individuals.

But more important to the novel is Sienna's relationship to a school drama teacher. And then she turns up at Joe's doorstep one night covered in blood. It turns out that her father was murdered, in Sienna's bedroom, and she is eventually arrested for the crime, putting Joe on of a long journey to save her, if possible, and to uncover other wrongs.

The series continues to demonstrate the author's ability to combine elements of psychology with police procedural activity. He writes with authority, creating ever-mounting suspense along the way.


The House of Silk
A Sherlock Holmes Novel
Anthony Horowitz
Mulholland Books
c/o Hatchette Book Group
237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10017
9780316196994, $27.99,

Maybe it's a coming trend. First the Gershwin estate authorizes a Broadway version of "Porgy & Bess," in an attempt to milk its assets. Then the Arthur Conan Doyle estate authorizes for the first time a Sherlock Holmes novel. Another similar event and we might just be enjoying a fad.

Be that as it may, this novel is based on one of the many unpublished adventures of the famous detective, with Watson, now retired, recalling one last case a year after Holmes' death. It begins when a London art dealer visits Baker Street and tells Holmes and Watson about his confrontation in the United States with a Boston gang which has murdered a customer of his and which he believes followed him back to England. From this flows an intriguing tale far afield from the original surmise.

The writing flows like an original Sherlock Holmes tale, and the logic and analysis reflect the virtuosity and great mind of the singular detective. Too often attempts to recreate classics fail or end up being something else. Such is not the case with this novel, and it is recommended.

Agent 6
Tom Rob Smith
Grand Central Publishing
c/o Hatchette Book Group
237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10017
9780446550765, $25.99,

The conclusion of the trilogy featuring Leo Demidov is sweeping, from his early days as a KGB agent to his exile in Afghanistan and beyond. Especially interesting is the Russian occupation of that beleaguered nation and the beginnings of the United States involvement there as Russian lost face in its defeat.

More important to the plot is the intrigue, obfuscation, double-dealing and plotting of the Soviet Union and United States during the Cold War. The story begins with Leo meeting a Paul Robeson-like character in Moscow when he was an agent, and the consequences in the years following.

Tightly plotted, despite its length, the novel reminds us of the challenges of the years during which the two superpowers confronted each other. The characters are real, from an over-zealous FBI agent to the unfortunate victims of those countries' invasions of Afghanistan. An absorbing thriller to bring "The Secret Speech" and "Child 44" to a satisfying finish.


Elegy for Eddie
Jacqueline Winspear
c/o HarperCollins
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780062049575 $25.99,

The Maisie Dobbs series, now with nine entries, has taken her from World War I, where she served as a nurse, to the cusp of the Second World War. In this novel, there are three themes which can tend to confuse the reader until the author brings them together and makes sense out of what at first appear to be separate subplots.

To start with, a delegation from Lambeth, scene of Maisie's childhood, visits her to engage her services as an investigator to find out how a young man died in a paper factory. The other two plot lines, one more personal to her than the other, has Maisie questioning her own motives and standards as well as her relationship with her lover; and the last involving the stealth campaign of Winston Churchill to prepare Great Britain for the possible war with Nazi Germany.

The book is equal to its predecessors in characterization and human interest. Obviously, it is more political in tone than its forerunners, given the time in which it takes place: the depression era and rise of Adolf Hitler. While Maisie's introspections may be overdone, they certainly are in keeping with the character.


Ken Bruen
Mysterious Press
c/o Grove Atlantic
841 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9780802126009, $24.00,

What could be more fitting on the eve of St. Patrick's Day than to read the ninth book in the Jack Taylor series, perhaps as good as they come. It is a kick-off novel from a new imprint of Grove/Atlantic, Otto Penzler's Mysterious Press, and serves well as a guide to the future.

As in the previous volumes in the series, the troubled Irish PI wallows in drinks and drugs, violence and evil. It begins with the brutal beating of a priest, where no love is lost between Jack and the victim. Then Jack, his buddy Stewart, and Ridge, the female Garda, receive miniature headstones, apparently the targets of a person or persons bent on some form of aggression. Along the way are a variety of side issues occupying Jack's attention, including the church and the precarious economy.

Jack Taylor is a unique character. Beyond that, one can read Ken Bruen and enjoy the writing, the sad commentaries on Ireland, life in general, and the awesome adventures of Jack Taylor. The book is, obviously, highly recommended.

Until Thy Wrath Be Past
Asa Larsson, author
Laurie Thompson, translator
Silver Oak
c/o Sterling Publishing
387 Park Ave. So., NY, NY 10016
9781402787164, $24.95,

Blending fact and fantasy, this installment in the Prosecutor Rebecka Martinsson series begins with a young woman, Wilma, and a lad, Simon, seeking a crashed WW II German airplane by diving in a Swedish lake. The lake is the setting of a contemporary series of murders which the prosecutor and fellow police officers pursue in their investigations as a result of Rebecka's dream that she feels the girl's presence in a shadowy way.

The story unfolds with Wilma's ghost observing events and providing background as the plot progresses. As the police and Rebecka follow leads, the guilty parties attempt to cover up their past transgressions during 1943 and their collaboration with the Nazis, who used the Swedish railways and hauling concerns to transport soldiers and materiel between Norway and Finland, as the war turned against them.

The award-winning author writes suspenseful novels and unexpected subjects with clarity. The books are less police procedural than imaginative stories based on crimes and people. Fourth in the series, it is a study in repression, violence and ruthlessness. A very good read, and one that is recommended.

The Ninth Man
Brad Crowther
Ingalls Publishing
P.O. Box 2500, Banner Elk, NC 28604
9781932158922, $16.95,

Most people remember the naval battle between the ironclads, the Monitor and the Merrimack, during the Civil War. But little, if anything, is known about a submarine, known as the H.L. Hunley, which the Confederates used in an attempt to break the blockade of Charleston. Apparently it was successful in torpedoing a Union ship and then sunk with eight crew members. A supposed ninth man was never found.

The plot of this debut novel involves a diary of the missing crew member, a Union spy whose task was to sabotage the submarine, and the action takes place in the present day. A descendant of the Northern spy, Ezra Cheddar, has the diary. He is visited by a Hunley enthusiast, the father of Russ Berard, a Rhode Island detective. The father is told about the diary, and is murdered upon his return home. As a result, Russ retires and goes south to find his father's murderer, leading to all sorts of mayhem, murder and violence.

The tale is well-told, with appropriate dialogue and idiom (southern drawl, y'all). The plot is interesting and the characters are well-portrayed. It is a fine work for a first novel, and is recommended.

Tag Man
Archer Mayor
Minotaur Books
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312681944, $25.99,

This long-running series finds Joe Gunther really depressed, the result of the murder of his girlfriend during an unsuccessful attempt on the life of the Governor in the previous novel. He's on sick leave and at loose ends, so he edges back into work by volunteering to help the Vermont Bureau of Investigations investigate a series of break-ins.

Surely one of the more bizarre perpetrators in the annals of crime fiction, labeled the "Tag Man," enters homes at night, usually not stealing anything, eating some food, wandering around homes highly protected by all kinds of surveillance equipment, and then leaving a Post-it note as sort of a calling card. On one of his 'visits' he does take some incriminating material from the desk of a "retired" Boston mobster, and in another finds scrapbooks containing pictures of what appear to be murdered women. These two events set off a chain which soon has him running for his life.

Two things about this novel are somewhat perplexing. First of all, Joe Gunther is one of the better characters of any series around: smart, personable, professional. However, he seems to be developing into more of a grandfatherly type. And to top that, hard-nosed, wise-cracking Willy Kunkle now turns out to be a soft-hearted daddy. More importantly, while the plot develops amid many devious twists, it is brought to a swift, but relatively uninspired conclusion. It almost seems as if the author became bored and decided to call it a day. It is, nonetheless, recommended.

Theodore Feit

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

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