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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 8, Number 8 August 2008 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Andrew's Bookshelf Bethany's Bookshelf
Betty's Bookshelf Bob's Bookshelf Buhle's Bookshelf
Burroughs' Bookshelf Carson's Bookshelf Cheri's Bookshelf
Clark's Bookshelf Daniel's Bookshelf Debra's Bookshelf
Gary's Bookshelf Gloria's Bookshelf Gorden's Bookshelf
Harold's Bookshelf Harwood's Bookshelf Henry's Bookshelf
Karyn's Bookshelf Kevin's Bookshelf Lemon's Bookshelf
Liana's Bookshelf Margaret's Bookshelf Mark's Bookshelf
Mayra's Bookshelf Molly's Bookshelf Monty's Bookshelf
Paul's Bookshelf Peggy's Bookshelf Priya's Bookshelf
Ramsey's Bookshelf Richard's Bookshelf Slessman's Bookshelf
Sullivan's Bookshelf Terrilyn's Bookshelf Theodore's Bookshelf
Victoria's Bookshelf    

Reviewer's Choice

Crossed Swords: Pakistan, Its Army, and the Wars Within
Shuja Nawaz
Oxford University Press
9780195476606 $34.95

A.H. Amin

Crossed Swords is the latest addition to the list of books dealing with Pakistan Army. Written with an eye on the Western audience by a Pakistani who has settled in USA the book is a welcome addition to books on Pakistan Army. It contains some new sources and some new information. Unfortunately most of the information is anecdotal and the narrators are extolling their own performance.

The author's viewpoint is somewhat subjective as he is a brother of one of the ex chiefs of Pakistan Army General Asif Nawaz.

The book contains some factual errors, some possibly typing errors, expected from Oxford University Press Pakistan which has a reputation of doing this. Some errors are however historical and factual and were entirely avoidable. On page 8 3rd Light Cavalry of Meerut fame is written as 3rd Light Infantry and on page 9 becomes 3rd Light Cavalry. On page 22 Ayub Khan is placed in Assam regiment though Ayub's battalion officer Joginder Singh specifically stated that Ayub Khan was in Chamar Regiment in WW Two. On page 426 Naseerullah Khan Babar is promoted to lieutenant general and similar fate befalls Major General Sarfaraz Khan on page 223. 13 Lancers becomes 13 Cavalry on page 305. On page 470 he changes the ethnicity of Sardar Balakh Sher Mazari a Baloch Seraiki by calling him a Punjabi, an honour that no Baloch would like to have.

A far more serious error Shuja makes while discussing the ethnic composition of Pakistan Army on page 570. He states that Sindhis and Baluchis are 15 percent of Pakistan Army. This is a serious distortion of history. The term Muslim Sindhi and Baluchi abbreviated to MS & B was given to Ranghar/Kaimkhani/Khanzada Rajout recruitment in Pakistan Army in 1950s. The aim was to rationalise the recruitment of Ranghars in Pakistan Army. Later the usurper Zia in order to appease the Sindhis created the Sindh Regiment but Sindhis as far as my research reveals are far less than Ranghars/Kaimkhanis/Khanzada Rajputs in the army. The Ranghars are a significant class in fighting arms being some at least 35% of armour and distinct from Punjabis. The Baloch are hardly represented in the army. As a matter of fact the Pakistan Army has such a reputation in Balochistan that no Baloch would like to join it. All thanks to General Musharraf, Zia and ZA Bhutto's policies.

These are expected errors and more so from Oxford University Press Pakistan known for changing authors photograph with those of their uncles on jackets of books as they did with Colonel M.Y Effendi in his book Punjab Cavalry published by Oxford University Press in 2007. The old prince narrated to me the sad story when I met him and was also quite cheesed off by the fact that the princess running the Oxford Pakistan is too arrogant to meet any author or to even discuss anything on telephone.

The above errors are insignificant. However Shuja has made some assertions which can be classified as serious errors or even distortion of history. On page 71 he asserts that calling off of Operational Venus by Pakistan's civilian government was one of the reasons why the 1947-48 war failed. I state this because the sub title of the chapter is " Why the War Failed". On the other hand he fails to point out the major fatal decision when the Pakistani government refused to allow the armoured cars of 11 PAVO Cavalry to assist the tribesmen in breaking through to Srinagar. Those who are not familiar should know that the main reason why the tribals failed to take Srinagar was because Indian armour counterattacked them and destroyed them at Shalateng. This fact was discussed by Brig A.A.K Chaudhry also in his book. Operation Venus plan came much later. At that time the Indian Army was well established in Kashmir and well poised to meet any threat. Very few participants of the Kashmir War have left any written accounts of their war experiences. General Iqbal who participated in the war and later on rose to the rank of full general and Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, long after the Kashmir War made one very thought provoking remark about the Kashmir War in an article in the Pakistan Army Green Book 1992. This particular publication was sub titled 'Year of the Senior Field Commanders'. Iqbal wrote, 'During 1948 Kashmir Operations I saw one senior officer sitting miles behind the frontline and counting availability of mules and rations. He had relegated the fighting to a senior battalion commander. In 1963 once Major General Fazal I Muqueem Khan in his book The Story of Pakistan Army. Fazal thus wrote, 'To the Army's horror, Pakistan during her greatest hour of triumph in Kashmir agreed to accept the ceasefire... it was difficult to understand why Pakistan let that opportunity pass. Was it assumed weakness; or as a result of pressing advice; or from misplaced chivalry towards an unfriendly neighbour in distress? Whatever the reason, Pakistan's reluctance to accept the risks of continuing the war, cost her Kashmir at that time. It was a risk worth taking."

The Pakistani attack force collected for Operation Venus consisted of about six infantry battalions and two armoured regiments. To oppose this the Indians had two infantry brigades (50 Para Brigade and 80 Infantry Brigade). In addition there were two armoured regiments in the same area i.e. Central India Horse and the Deccan Horse. In addition the Indians also possessed more than 10 other armoured regiments which were not in Kashmir but in Punjab or Western UP and could move to Kashmir. We shall see in 1965 how Pakistani armour functioned and the reader can keep that as a yardstick in order to appreciate how Pakistani armour and infantry would have behaved in Operation Venus; had it been ever launched! Fazal does not explain how capture Of Beri Pattan bridge would have led to complete collapse of Indian hold over Kashmir, apart from temporary severing of the line of communication to Poonch. Greater part of the Central India Horse was at Nowshera close to Beri Pattan while Deccan Horse in Chamb-Akhnur area was also within striking range and the battle would have been a hotly contested affair! Shaukat Riza did not take the extreme viewpoint similar to Fazal's when he wrote his book on Pakistan Army. He merely said that 'On December 30 both sides saw the wisdom of cease-fire'.

Lately in an article General K.M. Arif adopted a more rational viewpoint, when he stated that the Kashmir War of 1948 was mismanaged simply because Pakistan was not in a position to fight it successfully summing it up by stating, 'It is too hazardous a risk to fight a war on ad hoc basis'. There is no doubt that Pakistan was in a favourable position to win the Kashmir War at least till the first week of November. Mr Jinnah exhibited great Coup de Oeil when he ordered Gracey to employ two brigades and advance with one brigade each towards Jammu and Srinagar. But Mr Jinnah was unlucky in possessing no one like Patel and his Prime Minister and his entire Cabinet proved to be an undoubted failure at least as a war cabinet! Mr Jinnah's decision not to have a Pakistani C in C although taken in the best interest of the country and the Army as Mr Jinnah saw it ensured that the British acting C in C procedurally blocked the execution of Mr Jinnah's orders in October to attack Kashmir. Pakistan was unlucky in having a man like Iskandar Mirza at the Ministry of Defence. Mirza did not advise Mr Jinnah correctly and the fact that he had hardly served in the Army and did not understand military affairs further ensured that Mr Jinnah and the Prime Minister remained as ignorant as they were about military affairs as they were when they were in high school. It is incorrect to criticise Liaqat for Operation Venus since in December 1948 the Indian position was much more secure than in 1947. Liaqat can be criticised for not ever visiting Kashmir while the war was on and for not standing by Mr Jinnah in pressurising Gracey in October 1947 to order the Army to attack Kashmir. Had a Pakistani C in C been appointed even in December or in March 1948 the Indians may not have held on to Poonch-Nowshera area at least. Had Major Masud been allowed with his armoured cars on Domel-Baramula Road despite Ghazanfar Ali and Sher Khan's objections; Srinagar may have been captured by the Tribesmen by first week of November 1947. The Indians were lucky in having comparatively more regular army officers who led from the front and is evident from higher officer casualties among Indian Army officers above the rank of captain vis a vis the Pakistan Army.

The treatment of 1857 is also very superficial. The author states that the Bengal Army which rebelled some 80 % were Purbias (page 7), but fails to point out that the vast majority of cavalry which led the rebellion notably at Meerut i.e 3rd Light Cavalry which actually captured Delhi was Muslim and mostly Ranghar Muslim. His use of the term British for the pre 1858 period is also factually incorrect as India till 1858 was ruled by the English East India Company using mostly its private Bengal Army, Madras Army, Bombay Army, its private European regiments and some regiments on rent from British Army to conquer ventire India.

In discussion of Martial Races Theory the author totally ignores the fact that Punjab Loyalty in 1857 to the British was one of the main reasons why martial races theory was evolved. This is a simple point noted even by British writers like Philip Mason. The author also fails to note the politically important fact that the English East India Company's army was the knight in shining armour which saved the Muslims of Punjab and settled areas of present Pashtun NWFP from the Sikhs who were using Muslim Mosques as stables gunpowder magazines and plastering their walls with cowdung. Perhaps this fact did not suit the martial races ruled by a 10% minority, the Sikhs in the Punjab and settled Pashtun areas for more than four decades in Punjab and some two decades in modern NWFP's settled districts.

The author talks about martial races theory and thinks that martial races theory was all about Punjab and Frontier as it is now but perhaps does not know that one of martial races theory's most famous exponent Major General Macmunn regarded the Khanzada Rajputs of Firozpur Jhirka as the finest fighting race in India.

The author also fails to note that the Sikhs were in majority in the fighting arms till First World War and were reduced to a minority by being replaced with Punjabi Muslims after First World War because the Punjabi Muslims were regarded as phenomenally loyal, even against Muslims by the British. Thus the author conveniently ignores two important developments of WW One i.e the Singapore rebellion of 129th Light Infantry by Ranghar Muslims and the tribal Pashtun mutinies against British as a result of which tribal Pashtun recruitment was reduced to the gain of Punjabi Muslims.

In discussion of Ayub Khan the author totally ignores allegations about Ayub's tactical timidity in Burma. This incident was discussed by three writers of the time. Major General Joginder Singh of Indian Army who was Ayub's battalion mate, Sardar Shaukat Hayat who was an ex Indian Army officer and Major General Sher Ali Khan. In an article Brigadier Nur Hussain a reliable authority did state that Ayub Khan was close to General Gracey because they drank together.

The authors discussion of old officers is also partial. On page 31 he notes that Brigadier Gul Mawaz got an MC, a medal which many earned but fails to note that Major General Akbar Khan won a DSO which is higher in scale than MC. On page 33 he states that "Akbar Khan who gained notoriety in Kashmir....." Akbar Khan was the pioneer of Kashmir war but Shuja thinks that he was notorious. A strange assertion.

Mr Jinnah's historic decision of creating two infantry battalions of Bengalis is also not all discussed by the author. It may be noted that Ayub Khan refused to expand the East Bengal Regiment till 1966 as a result of which the Bengalis were further alienated for not being given the due share in the armed forces. This decision was reversed by Yahya Khan in 1966 but by then it was too little too late.

The authors analysis of origin of officer corps is also superficial. He fails to note the 50 % ranker quota that the British kept for Indian rankers in the officers selected for IMA Dehra Dun in order to keep the Indian officer corps slavish and backward.

The author does note the fact that Pakistani SSG captured Indian War Plan on Samba Kathua road before the war actually started but fails to note the fact that it was Pakistan's Military Intelligence led by Director Military Intelligence Brigadier Irshad who refused to give any serious thought to this discovery and dismissed it as an Indian ruse. This was revealed to this scribe in an interview by Major General Naseerullah Khan Babar in March 2001.

The most serious distortion of history committed by Mr Shuja Nawaz is on page 226 when he gives the credit of 25 Cavalry's action of 8th September 1965 at Gadgor to Brigadier Abdul Ali Malik. The authority he quotes is Farouk Adam, then a very junior officer and not in 24 Brigade Headquarter.

It must be clarified that a good military historian or analyst's prime motivation in all writing has been to endeavour to write "what men did" rather than what "they ought ideally to have done" or what "someone later with the benefit of hindsight tried to portray, what they had done". Thus the analysis of Chawinda Battle done with pure loyalty to service without any inter arm rivalry or nationalistic motivation. Pure and unadulterated military history filtered dispassionately separating fact from fiction and myth from reality. History as Frederick the Great once said can be well written only in a free country and ours has been continuously under civil or military dictators since 1958.

I maintain as one great master of English prose said that "all history so far as it is not supported by contemporary evidence is romance"!

Battle of Chawinda was thus not romance! What many in this country wrote and was outwardly military history was essentially "Romance"! Inspiring, superhuman but a myth promiscuously mixed with reality! Chance plays a key role in battle and at Chawinda chance played a very important role! Nisar, when he deployed 25 Cavalry did not know what was in front of him! KK Singh Commander 1st Indian Brigade also did not know what was in front of him! This mutual ignorance saved Pakistan on that crucial day! Later heroes were created! I repeat "Heroes were created"! The hero had to be from the Salt Range however! At least Shuja Nawaz wants it this way!

What were the key facts? Most important tangible fact was "casualties"! These were deliberately hidden since these would have let the cat out of the bag! Everyone would have discovered who really fought and who got gallantry awards on parochial, regimental or old boy links! How many were killed in the biggest military blunder "Operation Gibraltar"! This is Top Secret! How many infantry men died at Chawinda? Again no mention of any figures! The real motivation here is not national interest but to preserve or more important to "guard reputations"

Now lets talk about the broad front deployment that Shuja Nawaz refers to. There is no doubt that the "broad front deployment" was done by Nisar and Nisar alone and Brigadier Abdul Ali Malik had no role in it. It is another matter that Nisar also did not know what was in front of him. It was like Jutland when both contending fleets were running towards each other at express train speed. Why Nisar behaved as he did and what actually happened even today is hard to understand, whatever anyone may claim now with the benefit of hindsight!

Shuja Nawaz here in his 600 page book offers no tangible proof that the actions of 25 Cavalry had anything to do with what Brig A.A Malik told Nisar. Nisar was told to "do something" as clearly stated by an authority no less than Pakistan Army's official historian Major General Shaukat Riza, apparently not from Jhelum or from North of Chenab by a twist of fate. There is no doubt that Nisar did something without the least clue of what was in front of him. The important thing is that Nisar did something rather than getting paralyzed into inertia and inaction! The "Do Something" order by Brig A.A Malik to Lt Col Nisar CO 25 Cavalry should not have been glorified to something higher by Shuja Nawaz simply on authority of an article written by a person who was a company 2IC in an infantry battalion of 24 Brigade and that too only in 1992. This is a serious historical failing. At least in a military historian but is the Oxford University Press Pakistan run by professionals. One may ask Colonel M.Y Effendi.

The same words of Brig A.A Malik " Do Something" were repeated by Nisar in his article published in Pakistan Army Journal in 1997. Perhaps Shuja Nawaz did not read all the accounts of direct participants. Perfectly excusable as he is based in USA. But not good military history certainly. The fact is that the 25 Cavalry on 8th September 1965 was functioning in a vacuum. Brig A.A Malik had no clue about armour warfare and Nisar had no higher armour headquarter to guide him. 24 Brigade had two infantry units, one which had been overrun and dispersed on 8th September i.e 3 FF and 2 Punjab which was at Chawinda. The crucial action took place at Gadgor few miles north of Chawinda in which 25 Cavalry faced the entire Indian 1st Armoured Division. This was an extraordinary situation and Nisar acted on his own best judgement since Malik had abdicated to Nisar by stating that he should do something. It is another thing that Nisar also did not know what was in front of him and acted boldly and unconventionally. Had he known what was in front of him he may have been paralysed by inertia and inaction! But this is speculation and some part of history always remains unfathomed and hidden! Nisar acted through sheer reflex and deployed his unit in an impromptu manner. The fire fight which took place at Gadgor between 0900 hours and 1200 hours was a pure tank versus tank affair. 25 Cavalry versus two leading tank regiments of Indian 1st Armoured Division! Thus the Indian Armoured Corps historian stated "The Armoured Brigade had been blocked by two squadrons of Pattons and in the first encounter had lost more tanks than the enemy had... the worst consequence of the days battle was its paralysing effect on the minds of the higher commanders. It took them another 48 hours to contemplate the next move. This interval gave Pakistanis time to deploy their 6th Armoured Division... in fact the golden opportunity that fate had offered to the 1st Armoured Division to make worthwhile gains had been irretrievably lost" (Refers-Pages-393 & 394-History of Indian Armoured Corps-Gurcharan Singh Sandhu-Vision Books-Delhi-1990). Thus the Indians acknowledged "This regiment's (25 Cavalry) performance was certainly creditable because it alone stood between the 1st Indian Armoured division and its objective, the MRL canal". (Refers-Page-395-Ibid).

This is not the only source. Major Shamshad a direct participant has already stated on record that SJs were awarded to some officers for an attack in which not a single man was killed on both sides! Here he refers to Major Farouk Adam. This reminds me of an incident in armour school Nowshera in 1991. I was an instructor in Tactical Wing. The Senior Instructor in charge of the Young Officers Tactical course asked us, " Should we give an Alpha Grade". My lone reply was that no Sir, since Armour School gives Alpha to sons of generals only. This was a norm then. The Infantry School where I did the junior tactical course but later on it started giving alphas after 1985 to oblige some sons of generals. But that is how Pakistan Army is.

The historical fact remains that 25 Cavalry was part of 24 Brigade but all that Nisar its CO did on the crucial 8th September at Gadgor was based on his own judgement. On 9th and 10th September no fighting took place as Indians had withdrawn their armoured division to the crossroads. On 10th September, 6 Armoured Division took over and 24 Brigade was a part of 6 Armoured Division. On 8th September there was a vacuum and Nisar acted in a situation which can be classified as one characterised by "absence of clear and precise orders"!

Shaukat Riza's book is basically a compilation of existing facts. It has historical value since Riza was allowed access to official records. Shaukat had no axe to grind. Shuja Nawaz by his own confession is a close relative of A.A Malik.

Shuja also forgets Brig A.A Malik's request to withdraw when Indian tanks had crossed the railway line on 16th September and occupied Buttur Dograndi and Sodreke. This fact was brought to light not by the much criticised Shaukat Riza but by the then GSO-2 of 6 Armoured Division Major (later General K.M Arif), first more bluntly in Pakistan Army Green Book-1993 and again a little tactfully in his recently published book Khaki Shadows.

Thus no connection with 3 FF, an infantry unit which as far as I know suffered more casualties than any other infantry unit at Chawinda. 3 FF fought admirably but was launched thoughtlessly as brought out by Major Shamshad in his letter published in Sept 2001 DJ and consequently suffered enormous casualties at Sodreke-Buttur Dograndi area. Shamshad was the tank troop leader in support of 3 FF when it disastrously attacked Buttur Dograndi. In opinion of Shamshad, the attack had failed not due to any fault of 3 FF but because of poor planning by Commander 24 Brigade.

Even at formation level Chawinda was not a big battle in terms of casualties since the Indian 1 Corps suffered less casualties than 11 Indian Corps in Ravi Sutlej Corridor.

A.A Maliks poorly planned counterattacks leading to bloody casualties for Pakistan Army were also discussed by Major General Fazal i Muqeem in his book on 1971 war.

On page 233 while discussing the main Pakistani offensive the author fails to point out that the Pakistanis had a 7 to 1 superiority in tanks and yet they failed. Further he fails to point out the fact that major failure of Paskistani 1st Armoured Division occurred ion the 4th Brigade where its commander Brigadier Bashir ordered its tank regiments every night to return to leaguer at their start point every night thus abandoning all territory they had gained during the day.

In the treatment of Chamb Operation of 1971 the most significant decision of Major General Eftikhar to switch from North to South is not discussed at all. This was one of the most landmark operational decisions in history of Pakistan Army. The author also fails to highlight the cowardly action of then Brigadier Rahimuddin Khan in not joining 111 Brigade on pretext of dealing with Shiekh Mujibs trial. This great warrior later rose to full general in Pakistan Army.

Shuja also gives no thought in his worthy analysis to Pakistan Army's launching a pre-emptive attack on India in September 1971. This if done in the words of Indian Commander Western Command General Candeth would have thrown all Indian plans to attack East Pakistan to the winds. (Refers-The Western Front -Candeth).

In the chapter dealing with Z.A Bhutto Shuja does not discuss the cadrisation plan proposed by ZA Bhutto and his tasking of Pakistan Army's Military Operations Directorate to implement it. This plan if implemented would have reduced the standing army in size and enabled the Pakistani government to spend more money on training. This plan was scrapped by Zia in 1977.

On page 471 Shuja glorifies General Kakar for having no liking for politics. He ignores the fact that Kakar was not groomed for higher ranks and was promoted because of ethnic biases. Simply because a Pashtun president was comfortable with a harmless compatriot. He also fails to note that General Kakar acted against Nawaz Sharif not because Kakar was a democrat but simply because he feared Nawaz as a threat to his chair of army chief. General Musharraf has himself acknowledged in his book that General Kakar was parochial and was favouring Pashtun officers. No compliment to an army chief who is supposed to be a much bigger man. No wonder that Kakar had been packed off to a backwater in Quetta by General Baig. Becoming chief was something that a man of Kakar's mediocre intellect could never have imagined but this happened only because of party baazi in the army and the fact that Ghulam Ishaq Khan wanted a Pashtun brother. Fair enough in a backward and tribal medieval society like Pakistan!

The author lauds caretaker premier Moin Qureshi's role in making the state bank independent but forgets Qureshi's most controversial release of advance to Bayinder Turkey for Islamabad Peshawar Motorway while also stating that this project was uneconomical. This gained nothing but total loss for Pakistan as Bayinder repatriated many million dollars without doing anything and later successfully sued Pakistan for huge damages in International Court of Justice at Hague.

On page 480 Shuja extols Talibans wild west justice in hanging Afghan President Dr Najeeb but fails to note the allegation that Pakistani agencies were suspected to be behind the assassination of Mulla Borjan the most popular and independent leader of the Taliban.

On page 481 Shuja quotes Benazir to prove that General Kakar was a brilliant strategist. What did Benazir know about strategy and what strategy did Kakar ever successfully execute other than removing a Punjabi Kashmiri president against decision of supreme court just to assist a fellow Pashtun president. What is Shuja trying to prove.

In discussing tenure of General Jahagir Karamat Shuja ignores totally the Ukrainian tank deal commissions. Nawaz Sharif the then prime minister tasked ISI to launch an investigation. Major General Zulfiqar then in ISI was tasked to investigate. He went to Ukraine and Azerbaijan and compiled a thick volume on the whole transaction and commissions taken. This was used by Nawaz later and one of the reasons why Karamat quickly stepped down. The information was given by a staff officer of major rank with DG ISI of that time and confirmed by an Intelligence Bureau officer.

As an officer who served from 1981 to 1993 how would I sum up the Pakistan Army. 1981 to 1983 a cheap emphasis on being good Muslim, growing a beard to get a good report from Zia. Further Zia used religion to get dollars. This was the basic motivation. Begs time saw for the first time a tradition of some criticism being accepted. Asif Nawaz time saw emphasis on starch but no change in the army. Kakars time saw parochialism par excellence with a chief at the head who used to count cherries in his garden and was upset when some guards ate some. A petty man elevated to the highest rank. Karamat I did not see in service and did not serve with so I cannot comment but is reported to be a mild man. Musharraf as I saw him as a major general was flashy, extrovert, egoistic but dynamic. The present army from what I learn from serving officers is again business as usual. Nothing much to write about. The agencies off course play the usual games for money and for their own naukri and Islam being misused for operational reasons.

The most serious criticism of Shuja's analysis is in treatment of Islamic fundamentalism in the army. Shuja on page 585 consoles the audience of his book that Islamic fundamentalism is still not a threat in Pakistan Army. Shuja ignores the more dangerous fact that the army has misused Islam as a slogan to mobilise the populace to achieve its narrow institutional agenda. This is more dangerous than being Islamist. Now this policy may go out of control. Right from Zia in 1977 the army generals used Islam as a slogan to fight a proxy war in Indian Kashmir and Afghanistan. Events may prove that this would be the undoing of Pakistan as it stands in its present form. Now Pakistan is perceived in the west as part of the problem and not the solution. Particularly its army and intelligence agencies are seen as the heart of the problem. India is continuously preparing for a war although a low intensity one and no solution has been achieved in Kashmir. Afghanistan is increasingly hostile and a strange but logical Indian-Russian-Iranian-NATO un declared strategic alliance has come into place in Afghanistan against Pakistan. All these are serious developments. The coming ten years may vindicate this assertion.

The Pakistan Army and its generals may be remembered in history as one of the reasons for Balkanisation of Pakistan. Not a good omen for Pakistan. The army's involvement in Pakistan's politics and government is now a serious reason of imbalance for Pakistan's political system. No hope appears in sight as we hear rumours that the agencies are still active in destabilising Pakistan's own elected government.

Shuja has burnt his midnight oil. He has compiled and collected all the facts in a nice way but his analysis has been shallow. We expected something far more profound than this. 600 pages written in vain.

Eckhard Gerdes
My Landlady the Lobotomist
Raw Dog Screaming Press
9781933293530 $22.95

Connor Stratman

"Postmodern Werther: Eckhard Gerdes' My Landlady the Lobotomist"

I wrote a short story called "The Most Beautiful Woman in the World," when I was a freshman in college. The story was about a failed relationship and the emotional turbulence that the narrator experiences because of it. He is subjected to his own personal hell, feeling that he has fallen in love with a ghost, an ephemeral being that he cannot grasp in own arms.

Of course, there's no use in hiding the fact that I am the narrator, and that every detail and every though contained in the prose mirrors that of the real experience.

Eckhard Gerdes, the great champion of contemporary experimental fiction, the frontrunner of the bizarro movement, read this story. Of course, the piece had no value in terms of formal innovation or pushing the lines of obscenity. However, in a letter from Eckhard, he told me that he was touched by the emotional directness of the work, that "we can shit, piss, and curse in public much readily that confess our true feelings…you risk sounding sappy and 'unreasonable,' and I think it is because you are risking this that you really gain something significant here."

I think exactly the same thing of Eckhard's new novel, My Landlady the Lobotomist. One can't help but be pulled into his narrator's sense of longing, a longing so strong that it is tangible; I could taste it on my tongue. The novel contains many elements familiar to his novels: otherworldly, debauched and fractured characters, non-linear narratives, long monologues dealing with the inner thoughts of the (anti) hero. But what's new in this work is, frankly, our author's emotional frankness. The novel—primarily—deals with single unnamed character, living in a small, boring town, teaching at a small college where the students are morons, and is in love with a married woman. The man is tremendously dissatisfied with and feels trapped by his society, his failing/failed marriage, his mind, and most of all, his life.

There are many passages which come dangerously close to being sentimental and lugubriously poetic (not that there's necessarily anything wrong with that). Channeling Goethe's Werther (a personal favorite), Mann's Blue Angel and other brokenhearted artists, he strips his heart of any pretense for us to see. Indeed, "[t]he hardest thing in the world is to stand naked before someone else." (p. 46)

And that's precisely what I think Eckhard intended for this work to be: a literary picture of him naked before the reader. In the same letter he sent to me, he told me that he had had much time to reexamine his heart, which was still alive, to his surprise. That line really got me, I wanted to retort back immediately: but Eckhard, all of us have hearts! A naive thing to say, certainly. He said that for a long time that he wrote feeling as though he had a reader looking over his shoulder, but that now he feels more free than ever to set his emotions on paper. That speaks all the better for this novel, as it was written by a man who felt no inhibitions, no hesitation in its creation.

The man has no earthly idea how much I respect him.

So I urge you all, broken hearts, to read My Landlady the Lobotomist. Let it soothe you, scare you, comfort you. A truly astonishing novel.

Over By Christmas
William Daysh
Libros International
Marina Alta Centro de Negocios, Palau No.10, Denia, 03700, Alicante, Spain
Tel no. 0034 911875947
9781905988402, $19.99, 428 pages

Linda Ferguson

Over By Christmas is a breath of fresh air. At last, here is a book about life in the Great War from the Royal Navy's perspective. It is a "factional" novel in which the author uniquely brings to life many of the powerful, historical characters who were strutting the world stage at that time, making them integral to the fictional world he creates for the loves and lives of ordinary people both on the home front and at sea.

There is something for everyone here -- wonderfully descriptive accounts of explosive action at sea and on the beaches at Gallipoli, as well as strong characterisation, tender romance and a love triangle -- complete with betrayals -- on the home front. Over-arching all is the intriguing factual story of the British Prime Minister's obsessive love for a young society woman while his warlords are bickering among themselves and courting dire circumstances.

Over By Christmas is an absorbing read. I couldn't put it down and I highly recommend it to both male and female readers.

The Hebrew Republic: How Secular Democracy and Global Enterprise Will Bring Israel Peace at Last
Bernard Avishai
Harcourt, Inc.
New York
9780151014521 $26.00

Fred Reiss, Ed.D.

Can peace be achieved in the Middle East? Political economist, Bernard Avishai, asks this question from the Israel's point of view in his newest book, The Hebrew Republic: How Secular Democracy and Global Enterprise Will Bring Israel Peace at Last. He gives the answer is that peace is not likely until Israel becomes a secular democracy.

Although Israel is an open society, Avishai asserts that policies and institutions that were founded on the Zionist premise, following the post-Holocaust years, that Israel is a Jewish nation, are hampering the peace process. Working-class, Hebrew-speaking Zionists founded Israel through such groups as the Jewish National Fund, which bought and sold land; union-owned industries; a world-wide organization, the Jewish Agency, which raised funds for the nascent state; a Jewish defense force; and Labor-Zionist schools. In addition, after the establishment of the State of Israel, the Knesset, Israel's parliament, failed to approve a constitution. Hence, Israel operates on the Fourteen Basic Laws, approved in 1949; the granting of the Orthodox Jewish rabbinate official state sanction; the adoption of the Law of Return; and the Basic Law on Human Dignity and Liberty, approved in 1994.

He claims that these organizations, designed for a different age, which still hold power today, are incompatible with a secular democracy. For example, placing Jewish settlements in pre-1967 Palestinian territory is a hold over of early Zionism and keeping the Orthodox rabbinate as the sole source to legitimate Judaism is a hold over from the British Mandate.

Avishai argues that Israel will become a secular democracy when it recognizes first, that it has boundaries, which are accepted on a world-wide basis. Second, the Knesset must pass a Bill of Rights guaranteeing all Israeli residents access, including Israeli Arabs, to an impartial state bureaucracy. The Law of Return must be abandoned and replaced with standards for immigration and naturalization. Third, the Israeli government must guarantee equality of property rights. Avishai believes that the land, which is now more than ninety per cent publicly owned, should be converted to private ownership and suggests that this happen through impartial auctions. Finally, there must be a true separation between church and state.

Who will have the power to form a coalition government that can abandon its legacy institutions? The outcome depends on the answer given to a number of internal conflicts, including, to what degree should Israel rely on its military strength to end terrorism? Should Israel withdrawal from lands that are part of its long religious history? Can a democratic Israel discriminate in favor of Jews, or to say it in another way, should Orthodox religious practice be state sanctioned and the Law of Return abandoned? Finally, who should have access to the wealth generated by the global market place?

Avishai believes that only Israel's centrist parties, such as the Kadima Party, which boasts Ariel Sharon, Shimon Peres, Haim Ramon, and Dalia Itzik as members, can persuade other moderate Israeli leaders and the voting public to abandon its outmoded institutions and out-of-date thinking.

The names of as many as twenty different political parties have appeared in some Israeli elections, so the "center" is both dynamic and illusive. Any coalition government must appeal to five classes of Israeli voters. The wealthiest group is made up of the Sabras, who generally have European origins. The second group is the Mizrachi Jews from North Africa. This group tends to be less wealthy than the first, naturally follow Jewish traditions and have an extreme dislike for Arabs because of the way they were treated during and after World War II. The newest constituency is the Soviet Jews who arrived in Israel during Glasnost. According to Avishai, they tend to be hyper-educated, hyper-secularized and hyper-nationalistic. The fourth population is the Israeli right wing. That is, the Ultra-Orthodox and those settlers who live on West Bank land, and finally, the Israeli Arabs.

Avishai concludes that once a powerful moderate core gives momentum to secular democracy, Israeli Arabs will have full voice in the government, access to land, education, and good-paying jobs. Educated Palestinians already feel a closer kinship to Israel then to other Arab counties and as part of the "system," Israel's Arab population will be much less likely to tear it down. Peace will prevail. Subsequently, the Economic Union and Israel will forge economic partnerships that can only benefit European citizens through Israel's place in the forefront of technology and pharmacology. Peace will also benefit Israeli citizens through secure boarders, capital investments, and greater mobility.

The Hebrew Republic: How Secular Democracy and Global Enterprise Will Bring Israel Peace at Last is well conceived and well written. Whether you think that Avishai is a pie-in-the-sky dreamer for his naivety and linear thinking or a wise sage, he offers much material to ponder, particularly his perspective on the political, sociological and economic layers that have developed since the creation of the State of Israel leading to the reality that Israel finds itself in today. Peace and democracy are good things, so if Israel's internal dialogue does not come to some reasonable conclusion soon, then a country that refuses to be driven into the sea, may become swamped internally.

Elizabeth's Legacy
Suzanne Morris
2021 Pine Lake Rd. Lincoln, NE. 68512
0595398995 $23.95

JoAn W. Martin

Look Back with Longing was the first of the Clearharbour Trilogy. Elizabeth's Legacy follows as the second. Suzanne Morris is an expert at setting her characters in real places and times, weaving in historical events. The reader has the opportunity to renew the relationship with the characters of Look Back With Longing, a love saga filled with loss and betrayal.

Part 1 1931 – 1933 After seventeen years, Geneva and her daughter Emelye leave their beloved home in the Heights of Houston, Texas. Geneva realizes that there is no letting go of the past and to care so intensely about who will live in her house is foolish.

When Geneva and Emelye arrive in England, Tony's daughter by Jane is reluctant to welcome her half-sister and stepmother. Elizabeth has been injured in the car accident that killed her mother. Elizabeth's feelings of guilt are "like a vine creeping up the wall of an engine house." She notices immediately Emelye's well shaped, Texas tanned legs. Elizabeth wears black stockings to hide an ugly scar.

Their marriage has been delayed for years, but now they are together. Life has thrust changes upon them. Emelye has difficulty fitting into a new school – in England – not Houston. Elizabeth can think of nothing except her scarred leg. Can they cope? Could they make each other happy? Geneva longs for a sense of unity: " a trinity of past, present and future."

Morris' research is outstanding with hotels and scenes described, not only in Britain, but Lucerne, Monte Carlo, Venice, and Barbados.

Part 2 1936 – 1940: When Cynthia, Tony's mother, invited Emelye and Elizabeth to visit friends in America, Emelye is overjoyed. She is hoping to spend most of the time in Houston with James and Serena, best friends from her younger years. Her crush on James has not disappeared, but James is interested in Elizabeth.

Geneva is busy with three younger children and can't seem to stretch herself to deal with two twelve-year-old girls. Their visit to Houston reveals Morris' special ability to generate the city of Houston as a character in the story. Houstonians will recognize 1207 Heights Boulevard, White Oak Bayou, Hamilton Junior High and Reagan High School.

World War II intrudes on the lives of the Selby family. Their war related activities include procuring a gas mask for an infant, food and clothing drives, even the evacuation of London children to the country. Tony stays in London during the blitz, but Geneva deals with a difficult pregnancy and grief while attempting to run the country home. Tony and Geneva's marriage comes under a severe strain.

Part 3 1942 – 1944: James, Emelye, and Elizabeth have grown up and their "on again, off again" romances become the focus of the remainder of the novel. Elizabeth once again deals with the guilt of knowing that Emelye has been in love with James all her life. Although Elizabeth loves James, she refuses to consider marriage. With all the agony of love during a war, she hopes to remain friends. As a bridesmaid at James' and Emelye's wedding, "she wondered how long it would take her to be at peace with what she had forfeited."

Suzanne Morris' multigenerational saga covers fourteen years in which she captures the complexities of their lives. She writes accurately about fashions, manners, and events. Her many well-drawn characters' fit their daily lives into her timeline. With subtle foreshadowing, her plots and subplots are the threads to entice the reader to wait with anticipation for the third novel, Clearharbour. The three novels span more than four decades and two world wars.

Suzanne Morris admits she is fascinated watching human relationships play out, and she conveys this through characters that are larger than life on the page, yet are down to earth in a way that makes them fully believable.

You, My Love - a Diary in Verse
Richard Atwood
iUniverse, Inc.
Lincoln, NE
9780595465191 $11.95

Kaye Trout

Quoting from the back cover:

"You are into me like flame and fire as no other desire could know such gentle an undefined thirst incalculably uncontrolled, or passion spent in seeking a wild and wondrous rose."

You, My Love is the diary, in verse, of a young man's love for an older, married woman. If you, too, have had an overwhelming love for a beautiful woman, you may possibly understand and enjoy Richard Atwood's rich, poetic verses. How wonderful that love can inspire...even through the pain.

Survivor Moms: Women's Stories of Birthing, Mothering and Healing after Sexual Abuse
Mickey Sperlich, MA, CPM and Julia S. Seng, PhD, CNM
published by Motherbaby Press
(an imprint of Midwifery Today)
P. O. Box 2672, Eugene OR 97402
9781890446413 $34.95

Shari Maser

This heartrending and informative collection of women's stories and researchers' findings addresses a subject I previously knew almost nothing about. But the simple format and gentle presentation of stories and facts made an enormous amount of information easy to comprehend and process.

Survivor Moms is a courageous book that is sure to give many survivors hope and inspiration for their own journeys into motherhood. Friends and family who read it will also gain valuable insight and understanding of the challenges these women face.

Awareness is the first step to providing effective support, yet many maternity and postpartum care providers are as uninformed as I was about the prevalence and impact of sexual abuse. Thus, I believe that this book should be designated as required reading for anyone training to be an obstetrician, midwife, family practice doctor, labor and delivery nurse, doula, or childbirth educator.

A Full House – But Empty
Angus Munro
9780595437191 $20.95

Emily-Jane Hills Orford, Reviewer

Angus Munro is a fascinating man. He has a soft heart, an analytical mind, a good sense of humor and the business acumen of a Harvard business graduate. This says a lot for a man who keeps claiming to be a grade school dropout. There is definitely a message in Munro's memoir, one that could benefit business people and, more particularly, people in hospital administration. Indeed, Munro's book would be an excellent reading requirement for anyone pursuing a degree in the health care field.

A Full House – But Empty is a vivid account of one man's journey through a life that witnessed pain, sorrow and the basic struggles to achieve and maintain one's sense of pride and purpose against all odds. Angus was born in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. He claims his sense of self-worth was first shattered at the tender age of three, when his mother abandoned the family (or was thrown out by the father). Growing up in the Depression years, with a single parent (his father), Munro is riddled with emotions that range from disillusionment to anger as he confronts a daily battle with his insecurities and feelings of inadequacies. But, despite what he claims as a meager background, Angus rises above his unusual upbringing to become a well mannered, dedicated and very respected administrator in the field of health care. Even the Harvard graduates could not measure up to this mere grade school dropout.

Munro is a true storyteller and his anecdotes are presented with both humor and sincerity that clearly reflects the man behind the story. He is a well-educated man, despite what he continually claims. As in the business world, Munro presents himself well in the printed word. Munro is a retired hospital administrator who once claimed Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada as his home. He is a product of the environment of his childhood and the hard-working acumen and caring nature that his father both demonstrated and dictated to his family. Munro is a man of his times and, yet, in his simple, caring nature, he is somewhat beyond the times in that he displays a compassion for both work and life, a sentiment that has sadly gone astray in more recent times with the growing state of mass consumerism and self-aggrandizement.

A Full House – But Empty is a refreshing read, full of good tips for both business management personnel and sound advice for the general public. It is highly recommended by Emily-Jane Hills Orford, Allbooks Reviews.

Over By Christmas
William Daysh
Libros International
Marina Alta Centro de Negocios, Palau No.10, Denia, 03700 Alicante, Spain
Tel no. 0034 911875947
9781905988402 $19.99

P. Welch "Paul" (UK)

A thoroughly absorbing read.

This is a wonderful historical novel from first time author William Daysh. He takes as his background the first 18 months or so of the First World War. His characters are drawn from different strata of society, some real, some fictional, but all are well drawn and believable, and their dialogue convincing. They are caught up in the sweep of international events and personal emotions, and we follow their fate in these dramatic and terrible months. In the upper echelons of society we follow the British prime Minister, Asquith, trying to come to terms with the demands of the war at the same time as his feelings are directed towards a much younger woman. Churchill is there too, 'Jacky' Fisher and Lloyd George. The impact their direction of the war has on ordinary men and women is seen as we follow the fates of a father and son, Jack and George Royal, in the Royal Navy. Through their eyes we experience dramatic action on the high seas as the dreadnoughts of the British and German Navies encounter each other, and in some of the fighting in the Dardanelles. The author is very good at describing the action, and the pace is fast and exciting. And tangled emotions are not the prerogative of the upper class. We see how the relationship between George Royal and his best friend Bill are affected by the arrival of the rather mysterious Carrie, a triangle that is only resolved near the end of the story, along with the revelation about Carrie's past. This is a very well written book, pacy, easy to read, and it carries the reader along. The research for this book shows through, and also is the more convincing because of the author's own naval service. As the characters are so believable the ending is a very convincing and satisfying one. Highly recommended.

Bird's Horn & Other Poems
Kevin Rabas
Coal City Review Press
9780979584411 $10.00

Zinta Aistars, Reviewer

As Dan Jaffe writes in his introduction to Kevin Rabas' poetry, "There is no art that does not in some way reflect the character and personality of the artist." The more willing the writer to look unflinchingly into his or her own reflection, the more powerful the resulting work. Anything less remains in the realm of technical skill. The art comes when the artist has the courage to face demons … and an angel now and then.

Kevin Rabas has looked keenly into that mirror. It's not always a pretty thing to see. This collection is marked by inconsistency, one poem a sound masterpiece, the next a flat note. But the scales weigh heavily in favor of word-music, and most of this collection is just that: words that convey rhythm and sound, an interpretation of music into verse and back again. The poet is, in fact, a jazz musician, and the transition between word and musical note is, all in all, seamless … or shall we say, rarely misses a beat?

Perhaps the highest note of the collection comes early on, in "Night Shirts That Shimmer to Dinner." Rabas combines jazz with the heart-searing pain of divorce, the stunning realization that a lost partner has actually lived a full life after a shared path has long forked in two. One feels the thrum of the music while reading. One feels the ache. The shock.

And when the annulment papers came in the mail,
no word from her in years, I knew she must've lived and lived and lived

on the blocks I once wandered and walked and knew, danced with the men
in the clubs, or danced while they played in the background, floated

dollar bills across bars to other friends, had talks with musicians…

…where music moves in the building as blood moves in the body,
and women can dance however they damn well please, and a man can
stand up and know

any damn thing his spirit can muster, can know the chord changes with
his heart,
can know the bar top and the saxophone face, and the drumhead, and the
cymbal dish,

and the touch of brushes when they are new, cat paw on Spanish tile quick,
delicate as the teardrops the sensitive get on the heart finger, the ring
finger, mine.

Take a deep breath here, savor. I had to. When you come across a poem that resonant, you almost don't want to read anymore. Just linger in the fine pitch of that moment and let it rock you.

But do. Read on. Rabas has much more to say. He brings us into the world of a jazz musician, but he also brings us into the heartaches and heartbreaks of life as all of us who dare to live know it. He lets us witness the small joys that make up a greater happiness in a life well lived, capturing greater meanings in such simple scenes as of a new father playing catch with his small son, learning how to lob a ball soft and easy so the little guy can catch it—and in that act showing that love is all about releasing oneself as center of the universe and putting the other at center. Rabas has achieved as much in his poetry. In his best works, he has had the courage to reveal his innermost self, yet made us, his readers, feel that it is our core that he has recognized and acknowledged.

Kevin Rabas teaches creative writing and literature at Emporia State University. He co-edits Flint Hills Review and writes for Jazz Ambassador Magazine (JAM). He is winner of a Langston Hughes Award for Poetry and other awards.

Andrew's Bookshelf

Naval Forces Under the Sea
Office of Naval Research and The Undersea & Hyperbaric Medical Society
Best Publishing
9781930536302 $62.50

For those interested in the US Navy's undersea history and exploits, this book is for you. Loaded with old photos of men, submarines, and equipment, "Naval Forces under the sea" takes the reader back to the early days of the Navy's submarine and diving days; back to October 1900 and the USS Holland, the first commissioned submarine.

The book is more than just a dry recitation of submarines and incidents. The team of authors has carefully taken various important incidents and used them to explain the evolution of tactics, strategy, and equipment. Thus the September 1925 tragedy in which the M/V City of Rome rammed and sank the submarine S-51 in Long Island Sound (killing 33 of 36 crewmen) is discussed in terms of the salvage operation and how the Navy learned from the incident.

Far more than a coffee table book, "Naval Forces" also delves into the Navy's special forces and technical operations. SEAL operations, EOD (bomb-squad) operations, and their uses in Vietnam have earned a special chapter, as did the early Sealab research vehicles. A special section is dedicated to salvage operations, with such famous wrecks as the USS Normandie examined, as well as various hitherto-unknown deep-see operations.

Who would have thought that submarines, deep-sea rescue, or trips to the ocean floor could be so exciting? Read "Naval History Under the Sea" and discover for yourself!

United States Navy Diver
Mark V. Lonsdale
Best Publishing
19781930536272 $31.00

This is an excellent book from Best Publishing in their series on the US Navy and deep-sea diving.

Author Mark Lonsdale, a deep saturation diver and trainer in his own right, has written a book that makes one think of the old Lloyd Bridges TV series "Sea Hunt" or the early Jacques Cousteau documentaries. Crammed with pictures of vintage equipment, old boats, and some determined early divers.

With Lonsdale being a diver himself, it is not surprising that equipment takes a prominent role in the story; he gives the reader an interesting eyes-on of deep-diving helmets, re-breathers, and assorted other items in a fashion that is interesting and understandable.

But this is far from a technicians story; Lonsdale has used recent current events to illustrate how Navy divers are used every day; he talks about them playing important roles in the recovery of JFK Jr's. small plane, Egypt Air Flt 990, and of course the challenge of TWA Flight 800 in Long Island Sound in 1996. Equally interesting is his re-cap of the 2001 project in which the turret and main guns from the Civil War's USS Monitor were raised.

Well written, interesting, and filled with color photographs, this pictorial book will appeal to both Navy and civilian enthusiasts of deep-sea diving.

Slaughter at Goliad
Jay Stout
Naval Institute Press

While every American and Mexican schoolchild knows the story of the Alamo, few "Norteamericanos" know the story of the massacre that followed it, that of killing 250 unarmed Texan prisoners at Goliad.

Author Jay Stout's latest book "Slaughter at Goliad" brings this blot on the Mexican military into the harsh light of day. Exceptionally well-written, he brings his experience as a Marine combat aviator into the battle as he explains the fight in terms that every reader can understand.

Superficially, this is a simple story; after a one-sided battle won by the Mexican Army over a bunch of rag-tag Texan-American volunteers, some 250 prisoners were marched to Goliad. After 200 more prisoners were brought to the compound, where they were all massacred on Palm Sunday, March 27, 1836. It was one of the single largest losses of life in the history of the young United States, and the repercussions affected Texas, America, and Mexico virtually immediately.

Of special importance to the battle and to the book is Stout's examination of the personalities and politics involved. Stout portrays James Walker Fannin, the commander of the doomed unit, as an ineffective leader who misjudged his adversary, Mexico's infamous General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. As author Stout explains, rather than courage, it was Fannin's incompetence as a battlefield commander that put his men into a position where they had to either surrender or be killed – and it was equally Santa Anna's ego and short-sightedness that led him to execute Fannin and his troops.

Fully understanding Clausewitz's dictum that 'war is merely politics by another means', Stout goes on to explain how this massacre was integral into galvanizing American public opinion in favor of a war against Mexico.

Not to be forgotten is Stout's description of the boots-on-the-ground stories of Fannin's men. They came to Texas for various reasons, and with equally various and vague backgrounds, yet were integral to the Texan drive for independence. "Manifest destiny" started here, with men like those under Fannin's command, and Stout does an excellent job documenting it.

Neither pro-nor-con Mexico or America, Jay Stout has written an interesting and sophisticated battle history of a long-forgotten incident that helped Texas win their war of independence. This is well worth reading for both the casual and educational reader of both military and North American history. Ole!

No Atheists in Foxholes
Cmdr Patrick McLaughlin
Thomas Nelson
9780849919985 $19.99

This is a thoughtful book on a very private and personal subject.

First-time author Patrick McLaughlin is a Lutheran pastor who has served two tours in Iraq as an active-duty Navy Chaplain assigned to both surgical shock trauma and mortuary affairs units with the Marine Corps – and prior to that, he served as President and Mrs Bush's chaplain at Camp David prior to – and during – the early stages of the war in Iraq.

As such Cmdr McLaughlin understands war, and its effect on the Marines who fight it. His book consists of fifty prayers he'd written in order to get him through some incredibly trying days – answering questions like "will I lose my foot", will I be OK" and "will I wake up again" from these young Marines must either challenge or reinforce one's faith in God, and this book opens a very private window into the war for the reader. One's political stance on the war is easily cast away when we read of his experiences outside the operating room as he writes "at these moments, the very real presence of God is felt among us."

But is there a prayer adequate when he gave blood to save a Marine, yet the surgery was unsuccessful? Probably not, for as McLaughlin writes "I stand quietly and watch as the priest prays over the body of this heroic Marine." Yet McLaughlin had another year of duty in Iraq, and those too-regular tragedies need to be pushed to the back of his mind as he readied himself for the next day.

This will be a difficult book to read for anyone who has a son, spouse, or daughter serving overseas as it describes in detail more of the war than the media will ever understand or the Marines or soldiers will share with a non-combatant. But it is highly recommended because now we know that our family members are in the good hands of Chaps McLaughlin and his fellow combat chaplains. You've written an awesome book, Chaps, thank you and Semper Fi.

Crescent Fire
David M. Salkin
Berkley Group
9780425214466 $6.99

This is a fiction novel that reads like its been ripped from the front page of the New York Times.

Continued crisis in the middle east, an oil 'issue', Israeli-Palestinian problems, FBI-CIA turf battles; first-time author David Salkin has come up with a book that begins to rival the stories of Tom Clancy. A former Marine, Salkin writes knowledgeably and at times, humorously, on the Middle East, and his research and attention to detail is one of the reason the book is so readable. Set in the post 9/11 world, "Crescent Fire" could be either a fiction novel or the next headline in Newsweek – it's that good. Another terrorist attack on the United States? Read this book, and then decide if it's possible.

Highly recommended, Salkin has written a book that makes for excellent reading for anyone interested in current events.

Andrew Lubin, Reviewer

Bethany's Bookshelf

The Last Love Letter
Amanda Easton
Publish America
P.O. Box 151, Frederick, MD 21705
1424198518, $19.95,

A crush can take a long time to die, especially if it's never acted upon. "The Last Love Letter" is Amanda Easton's story about letting go and the law of attraction. She tries to write a final love letter to the object of her affections, but she finds it's nowhere as easy as it sounds. In the process she ends up discussing love, romance, sex, honesty, expectations, and other things sought along the road to companionship. "The Last Love Letter" is a first person dive into the subject, sure to enlighten and entertain anyone who would pick it up.

The Savory Secrets Of Dodi's Home Cooking
Howida (Dodi) Elhalogy
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
26342 Forest Ridge Drive, Condo Unite #4H, Lake Forest, CA 92630
9781432725570, $35.95,, 1-888-672-6657

Born and raised in an agricultural village near Tanta, Egypt (located in the middle of the Nile Delta), Howida (Dodi) Elhalogy began at the age of twelve to help her mother and five sisters prepare the family meals and the special dining occasions required by her father's position as mayor of the province. That is the background story of how Dodi became a culinary expert in the art of Middle Eastern cooking. Drawing upon her many years of experience and expertise, Dodi has collected a variety of her family's traditional style recipes and published them in the pages of "The Savory Secrets Of Dodi's Home Cooking: Middle Eastern Recipes Written In English & Arabic". These bi-lingually presented family recipes showcase a culinary wealth authentic dishes ranging from appetizers, suops, salads, and sauces, to rice dishes, main dishes, and desserts. "The Savory Secrets Of Dodi's Home Cooking" is enhanced for the kitchen chef with full color photography, a chapter of 'Helpful Hints'; as well as a section identifying the weights and measures used in the recipe instructions. From an Artichoke Soup, to a Bechamel Sauce, to a Shredded Fillo Dough with Ricotta Cheese, "The Savory Secrets Of Dodi's Home Cooking" offers 'kitchen cook friendly' recipes that would grace any dining occasion with an Egyptian flair.

Making Trouble
Lynne Segal
Serpents Tail
9781852429379, $15.95,

The concept that a woman could be a man's mental equal was a radical idea before the 1970s feminist movement. "Making Trouble: Life and Politics" is a reflection on the 1970s feminist movement, how it developed during that decade, and experiments with the lifestyle of communal living, which had people share everything from their lovers to their children. "Making Trouble" is a thought provoking look at an underground culture, and is a worthy pick for any women's studies collections.

Conversations with Asenath
Sisi Theo
Xulon Press
2180 West State Road 434, Suite 2140, Longwood, FL 32779
9781602669024, $13.99,

The ability to criticize the leadership of a country is so taken for granted in today's world. "Conversations with Asenath" jumps back to a time where that ability was not freely available, but some dared to speak on it anyway. A look at modern topics from the perspective of an ancient Egyptian woman and her brother, the perspectives expressed are done in a new and intriguing way to keep readers reading. "Conversations with Asenath" is a must for community library fiction collections and those who want something different.

Susan Bethany

Betty's Bookshelf

Easy Beading, Volume 3: The Best Projects from the Third Year of Beadstyle
Kalmbach Books
21027 Crossroads Circle, P.O. Box 1612, Waukesha, WI 53187-1612
9780871162410 $29.95

I love making my own jewelry and designing things for others, which means I'm always looking for new ideas and tips. Along the way, I've read stacks of books about jewelry-making, and I've discovered that not all books a recreated equal. Some have lovely projects with confusing directions, others are badly illustrated, and many are full of dull designs I wouldn't be caught dead in.

However, the folks at Beadstyle Magazine have never let me down. I'd already read and enjoyed the goodies in first two volumes of Easy Beading, so I was excited to get my hands on Volume 3. I wasn't disappointed, either. Volume 3 includes almost 100 projects (shown in full-color photos), along with supply lists, step-by-step illustrated directions, supply notes, design guidelines, and editor's notes and tips. A new feature in this volume is the icon at the beginning of each necklace project that shows the length of each necklace. There are also five pages of Shortcuts, the column of tips, tricks, and time-savers that have been sent into Beadstyle Magazine by readers (my favorite part of the magazine!)

The projects are divided into six sections (glass and ceramic; pearls and shells; metal and chain; gemstones; crystals; and mixed materials), so no matter what material you like to use, you should be able to find something you'll want to make. If you want to use the book's designs as springboards for your own ideas, be sure to read the editor's notes for additional angles.

I especially enjoyed the four designs included from the magazine's "Beads of Change" department, using beads made and sold by communities that support their local economy with their beading proceeds. The projects in Volume 3 use beads from Krobo, Ghana; the Erarn villages of Thailand; Kazuri Ltd., Kenya; and Gallup, New Mexico; and include information on where to purchase them.

Volume 3 offers more than just projects. There's a complete table of contents, a nice index, and a contributor list, too, as well as a full-color photo glossary of tools and common bead types, two pages of illustrated techniques (making plain and wrapped loops, using crimps, making various knots used in jewelry-making, and so on), and a guide to bead sizing. (It would have been nice to also have a resource list that rounded up all the contact information in one place, but I guess you can't have everything!)

A couple of practical touches worth mentioning are the hard cover that allows you to leave the book open to the page you're working from, and the glossy finish that wipes off easily, in case you put the book down on something sticky. (Ask me how I know…) I look forward to Volume 4!

Easy Beaded Jewelry
Susan Ray and Sue Wilke
Krause Publications
700 East State Street, Iola, WI 54990-0001
087349895X $21.99 1-800-726-9966

If beaded jewelry is your thing, you'll enjoy checking out Easy Beaded Jewelry, by Susan Ray and Sue Wilke. It may seem a bit pricy at $21.99 - after all, it is a paperback book - but it offers a lot of bang for the buck. From the memory-inspiring questions that begin the book's introduction ["What is your favorite piece of jewelry? Where did it come from? Who gave it to you or made it for you? Can you remember the event?"] to the handy appendices [bead types, sizes, and finishes; fittings and findings; jewelry lengths; artist contact information; and a resource list], you'll definitely get your money's worth.

The book contains 75 projects (including watches and amulet bags), which are shown in clear photos, accompanied by "What You Need [beads/findings]"and "Toolbox" lists and "What You Need to Know" directions that reference instructions contained in the front of the book. Each design also includes the designer's and lamp work artist's names, project's finished size, and time to complete.

In addition, there's an approximate cost listed with each project, although the cutesy format is a little annoying: "One-way ticket to London- More than $100." Thankfully, not all the projects are that expensive; many are a movie and popcorn" - less than $20. Helpful tips and snippets of beading lore at the bottom of the pages are a nice extra, along with 300 gorgeous (and inspiring) photos.

I especially loved the earring designs on pg. 36 [earrings being my favorite thing to make, since I don't have pierced ears and great clips are hard to find], as well as the chapter called "Finding and Storing Your Bead Stock". However, I must admit I have more of a problem storing my bead stock than finding it. I can't seem to pass a bead shop or craft store without popping in "just to look" and leaving with more stuff to store.

My quilter sister-in-law tells me she has the same problem with quilt shops and fabric stores. Good to know I'm not alone… and even better to know there's hope. I'm already using one tip from the book: store your on-the-go beads and findings in the lidded compartments of a "days-of-the-week" pillbox from the drugstore.

Metal Clay Magic: Making Silver Jewelry the Easy Way
Nana V. Mizushima
Kalmbach Books
21027 Crossroads Circle, P.O. Box 1612, Waukesha, WI, 53187-1612
0871162202 $21.95

Metal clay is a fascinating substance that was developed in 1991 by Japanese scientists from tiny particles of precious metal (smaller than 20 microns) combined with an organic binder and water mixture. It is manufactured by two Japanese companies, Aida Chemical Industries [Art Clay Products] and Mitsubishi [Precious Metal Clay or PMC] and it handles very much like the clay you remember from childhood art classes. You can roll it out into thin sheets and cut it into shapes with a cookie cutter or knife, roll it into snaky shapes, extrude it, fold it into origami-style figures - the sky's the limit!

It's just as much fun as you remember and just as forgiving - as long as it's in the wet clay stage, if you don't like what you've made, you can squish it up and start over, as many times as you like. It stores safely at room temperature, too, and if it dries out, you can chop it up and reconstitute it with water. You can even repair or alter your work once it's dry, using a metal clay slip to stick pieces together. Scraps (and scrapped projects) that you don't want to reuse can even be sold, since they are actually precious metal.

However, the best part comes later, once you've shaped your clay into something that pleases you and it's dry (and looking pretty boring). Now, you fire it, and what emerges is amazing: a real, honest-to-goodness precious metal art object! Oh, it isn't shiny yet - it takes a bit of burnishing to remove the chalky white coating - but it's really metal. It's a bit like alchemy, except that you use clay instead of lead, and no magic wand is required. Really, it's so amazing, many people have to see it to believe it. (My scientifically-minded husband still isn't completely sure that I'm not pulling his leg when I talk about metal clay jewelry!)

Any time you take up a new craft, it's a smart idea to learn from a master, so that you don't waste your time (and money) reinventing the wheel. For metal clay, you can't go wrong turning to artisan Nana V. Mizushima, a certified teacher with the PMC Guild. Mizushima has demonstrated her projects on the DIY (Do-It-Yourself) Network and her book, Metal Clay Magic: Making Silver Jewelry the Easy Way, is written in a very accessible DIY style.

Mizushima begins the book with a brief introduction to the materials, tips, and techniques you'll need to start out, and then goes on to give step-by-step instructions (accompanied by very clear photos) of over two dozen projects, including some using metal clay paper, another interesting product. The book is chock-full of photos, including a gallery of inspiring projects done by metal clay artists from around the US, as well as instructions for three different ways to fire your work, a list of resources, suppliers, and web sites, a suggested reading list, a glossary, and a full-page index. If metal clay interests you at all, here's the place to start.

The Dragon Done It
Edited by Eric Flint and Mike Resnick
Baen Publishing Enterprises
P.O. Box 1403, Riverdale, NY 10471
9781416555285 $24.00

Q: What do you get when you toss mystery and magic into a blender?

A: You end up with The Dragon Done It, a cross-genre collection of seventeen short stories and two novelettes by some of the best writers around - Esther M. Friesner, Neil Gaiman, Gene Wolfe, David Drake, Harry Turtledove, Eric Flint, Mike Resnick, and more - wrapped up in an attention-grabbing cover by Bob Eggleton.

It's all here, from werewolves and vampires to ghosts and fairy tale folks, in mysteries that (for the most part) will keep you on the edge of your seat (and possibly, still wide awake at 2:00 am). It served as a nice introduction to several authors I'd never read before, as well; I especially enjoyed Michael M. Jones's "Claus of Death" (featuring a down-at-the-heels Santa with a whole new look on life) and Randall Garrett's "A Case of Identity" (featuring the famous detective, Lord Darcy). Even though I didn't enjoy every story to the same degree, overall it was a worthwhile way to spend a few hours and confirmed once again that Baen is the best when it comes to choosing what to publish in science fiction. You guys rock!

Dragonwell Dead
Laura Childs
Berkley Prime Time
Penguin Group, Inc., 375 Hudson St., New York, NY 10014
9780425213865 $23.95

Charleston's Spring Plantation Ramble is the perfect place to enjoy floral beauty and food goodies while you network with South Carolina's finest, and Indigo Tea Shop owner Theodosia Browning is enjoying the show, until commodities broker Mark Congdon dies suddenly while drinking a glass of the tea shop's Dragonwell Sweet Tea, Theo's latest concoction.

At first it is assumed that a heart attack killed him. Instead, it turns out that he was poisoned. Was the glass of tea he took off the refreshment table meant for someone else, or had his outbidding several rabid orchid collectors for a rare plant pushed someone over the edge? Would someone kill for an orchid, or is there more going on? Theo may not have known him very well, but something in the tea killed him, and that makes it personal.

Then, someone torches the nearby B&B and tries to kill Theo and her sixtyish assistant and master tea blender, Drayton, while they're out in a canoe on an orchid hunt. OK, now it's really personal, and Theo is determined to find out who is at the bottom of all this. In the search for answers, though, she's overlooked a few important details, and they may cost her more than the relatively minor injuries she escaped with after the canoe trip. This time, what she doesn't know could kill her.

Laura Childs, author of the Tea Shop Mystery series, has a way with words that brings the warm, humid atmosphere and old money ways of Charleston to life. She can describe the somber atmosphere of a Charleston cemetery, the stillness of a Carolina swamp, and the chaos of a house fire well enough to make you almost feel as though you are there. Her characters are well-developed, the dialogue has an authentic southern ring to it (which I am very familiar with, since I was born and raised in the south by native southerners), and her plots and situations are usually very believable (although going over a waterfall in a metal canoe and surviving it with bumps and bruises and a canoe still stocked with paddles, baskets, aplastic thermos of tea, and Drayton's hat took some major suspending of belief).

Even better are her descriptions of the food that the south is known for. Whether she's taking you through the buffet line of a typical southernfund-raiser or seating you at the table with her heroine at an upper crust dinner, she describes everything so well, it makes your mouth water. Makes me downright homesick!

However, her best descriptions are saved for the tea shop food: teas, scones, muffins, sandwich spreads - yum! The book's jacket blurb says that Childs is a "consummate tea drinker" and it shows throughout her Tea Shop Mystery books, which drip with names redolent of the Far East. Assam green tea. Keemun. Hyson. Lapsang souchong. And not only does she name various teas, she tells what they taste like and what kind of food they go best with.

In fact, she gives Theo, Drayton, and shop baker Haley, the main characters of the series, a knowledge of tea beyond anything I even knew was possible. Heck, even Tidwell, the obligatory semi-friendly policeman that gets involved with Theo and the gang from time to time, knows more about it than I do! Tea is grown on almost every continent except Antarctica and often has overtones of fruit, spices, earthiness, even chocolate. Who knew? Well, now I do, thanks to Laura Childs.

A nice bonus in Childs' books (besides the free tea education) is a group of recipes in the back of each book, representing some of the food mentioned in the story. If your mouth watered when she mentioned a delicious scone or tea sandwich, chances are a recipe for it is also included. You can even plan your own tea party by using the Tea Time Tips that follow the recipes.

I read a lot of mysteries and since food writing and restaurant reviews are among my specialties, I especially like the ones that involve food and include recipes,. However, Childs' recipes are the only ones that have actually tempted me into baking something - successfully, I might add -and her books are among the few that I reserve as soon as I can hunt down the latest title. If you like mouth-watering mysteries, Laura Childs is the writer to choose.

Betty Winslow

Bob's Bookshelf

Inventing Niagara: Beauty, Power, Lies
Ginger Strand
Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, New York 10020
9781416546566 $25.00 or

Mention Niagara Falls and most people will think of honeymoons, cascading water, and, perhaps, daredevils challenging the falls in a barrel or balancing on a tightrope. In her new book, "Inventing Niagara: Beauty, Power, Lies", Ginger Strand radically alters that equation to also include radioactive mice, race riots, a missing Egyptian Pharaoh and bogus Indian myths.

In this morality tale about economic devastation, Strand holds the icon of kitsch up as the poster child of environmental ruin. As she delves into roughly 400 years of Niagara's history, the author shows that falsification, prevarication and omission have marred the true accounts of the once breathtaking landmark's past.

Far more than one of the world's more spectacular waterfalls, the story of Niagara represents the control of nature, the rise of electricity, the nightmare of industrial pollution and the birth of the commercialized wedding industry.

"I went to Niagara to think about nature," writes Strand, "but was soon enveloped by the far more complex back-story of the Falls." Continuing, she sees this landmark straddling the border between the U.S. and Canada as a monument to man's meddling rather than as something that celebrates nature's strength.

"On every level, Niagara Falls is a monument to the ways America falsifies its relationship to nature, reshaping its contours, redirecting its force, claiming to submit to its will while imposing our own upon it," Strand says. "The irony is that, even though Niagara is the most recognized landscape in the world, we don't really see it."

The picture Ginger Strand paints in this idiosyncratic cultural portrait of this tourist Mecca is as fascinating as it is informative and upsetting. Thinking back to the falls, if you have visited them you'll wonder, "Why didn't I see that?" If you are planning a trip, after reading this book you'll go with your eyes fully open. The rainbow punctuated mists that rise up from the falls won't blind you to the truths the falling water hides!

Side Effects: A Prosecutor, a Whistleblower, and a Bestselling Antidepressant on Trial
Alison Bass
Algonquin Books
127 Kingston Drive #105, Chapel Hill, NC 27514
9781565125537 $24.95

As a reporter for the Boston Globe, Alison Bass has covered some attention grabbing front page stories, but none have created quite the uproar that the piece on suicide rates among adolescents taking antidepressants such as Paxil, Prozac and Zoloft has.

In "Side Effects" Bass tells the tale of a gutsy assistant attorney general who, along with an unlikely whistle-blower at an Ivy League university (Brown University), uncovered evidence of deception behind one of the most successful drug campaigns in history.

Paxil was the world's bestselling antidepressant in 2002. Pediatric prescriptions soared, even though there was no proof that the drug performed any better than sugar pills in treating children and adolescents, and the real risks the drugs posed were withheld from the public.

The New York State Attorney General's office brought an unprecedented lawsuit against GlaxoSmithKline, the maker of Paxil, for consumer fraud. The successful suit launched a tidal wave of protest that changed the way drugs are tested, sold and marketed in this country.

Bass exposes the underbelly of the pharmaceutical industry as she lays bare the unhealthy ties between the medical establishment, big pharma, and the FDA. Many people will be disturbed by what they read in this book but the details behind the headline making case need to be exposed so this type of situation is not allowed to occur again.

In an election year it might be well to remember that between 1998 and 2006, drug companies spent a total of $1.2 billion on lobbying and political contributions in the U.S., according to the center for Responsive Politics.

That, and the fact that of the 13 drugs withdrawn from the market due to health risks since 1997, at least seven are now known to have been approved over the objections of FDA safety reviewers, may make you want to check to see where these drug companies are spending their money this time around!

Shadow Command
Dale Brown
William Morrow
10 East 53rd Street, New York, New York 10022
9780061173110 $25.95

Dale Brown's new novel "Shadow Command" offers a mix of contemporary international conflict and futuristic military technology. In this new stand-alone follow up to the popular series featuring General Patrick McLanahan, the General's new "Aerospace Battle Force" has grown to a full task force that can be deployed in just hours any place in the world using their Black Stallion spaceplanes.

A thriller set in space, a struggle develops for control of this awesome unit among foreign and American politicians. At the center, of course, is McLanahan who must outmaneuver his own government, stymie the Russians, and stay alive long enough to preserve his very special defense unit.

Vintage Dale Brown, "Shadow Command" will keep the author's legion of fans totally engaged from page one to the novel's searing conclusion.

Bob Walch

Buhle's Bookshelf

Survival Chinese Lessons
Joann Pittman
Lucerna Publishing
2936 - 34th Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55406-1708
9780975423639, $20.00,

Just in time for the Olympic Games in China is" Survival Chinese Lessons", a thoroughly 'user friendly' introduction to common Chinese phrases that every visitor can use to make themselves understood. The author of this practical book/CD instruction manual is Joann Pittman, who has lived in the People's Republic of China for the last 23 years as an English teacher, Director of a Chinese language program, Educational Program Director, and as a cross-cultural trainer who has extensively studied and researched the Chinese language and is fluent in Mandarin Chinese. A compilation of fifteen short, easy-to-learn lessons of essential phrases, "Survival Chinese Lessons" will teach the aspiring China-bound traveler how to express themselves in simple greetings, thanks, hailing taxies and asking for food. Enhanced with practice dialogues, learning techniques, expansion activities, and a Pinyin sound chart, "Survival Chinese Lessons" is a very highly recommended instructional for anyone seeking to vacation or do business in China.

The Koran Deception
Infinity Publishing
1094 New Dehaven Street, Suite 100, West Conshohocken, PA 19428-2713
0741438267, $10.95,

The Koran has guided millions of human lives throughout history. "The Koran Deception" is a deconstruction of this holy book from the perspective of Christianity. Examining verses from the Koran side by side with other verses, "The Koran Deception" compares, contrasts, and harshly evaluates the Koran's message. A sharply critical look at one of the most influential religious books in history.

Metaphysical Maxims
J.R. Azizollahoff
Infinity Publishing
1094 New Dehaven Street, Suite 100, West Conshohocken, PA 19428-2713
0741447711, $10.95,

Inner peace is something many desire, but few pursue seriously. "Metaphysical Maxims: Enlightenment Through Meditation & Morals" is a guide for those seeking tranquility, claiming that spirit and virtue are two sides of the same coin, and that living with morality is essential to finding meditative inner peace. A sold choice for any spirituality collection, as well as metaphysical studies supplemental reading lists.

Haunted Hikes of New Hampshire
Marianne O'Connor
Publishing Works, Inc. & Revolution
60 Winter Street, Exeter, NH 03833
9781933002590, $12.95

Haunted Hikes of New Hampshire is a hiking trail guide with a difference. From ghost towns of Monson Center and Indian Arrowhead Forest, to the UFO of Indian Head, to tales of Satan at Devil's Den Mountain, each hike is presented with a black-and-white map, and a scary story of its history. A handful of black-and-white photographs intersperse this spooky delight enthusiastically recommended for hikers in search of not just natural splendor, but also the unexplained majesty of the preternatural.

Willis M. Buhle

Burroughs' Bookshelf

Urban Fey Book I: The Urban Court
Kimberley Long-Ewing, author
Rhea Ewing, illustrator
Lulu Press
860 Aviation Parkway, Suite 300, Morrisville, NC 27560
9781435717244, $19.95

Urban Fey Book I: The Urban Court is a truly unique fantasy graphic novel based on the idea that, in today's modern world, fairies would inhabit not only places of nature but representations of the modern human city as well. Traffic light fairies, electricity nymphs, dumpster bogeys and more need Fairy Lords and Ladies born from the collective consciousness of modern things to organize and guide them. Lord Neon seeks to consolidate the Urban Fey into a court worthy to represent their interests on par with the courts of the Jungle, Prairie, Mountain, etc. But it is a difficult task, as the naturally quarrelsome urban fairy nobility (from Lord Wall Street and Lady Opera to Lord Subway and Bodymod) are further set at each other's throats through interference from the Great Court! Sly trickster Coyote observes the unraveling chaos as Lord Neon and his allied rival Lady Hestia seek to stop and all-out civil war! The unpretentious black-and-white art style has a natural flow well suited to this captivating graphic novel, recommended especially for fairy and fantasy lovers. Bonus sketches and helpful tidbits such as how to stay on the good side of postal fairies enhance this splendidly enjoyable tale.

The Art And Making Of Star Wars Force Unleashed
W. Haden Blackman & Brett Rector
Palace Press International
180 Varick Street, 10th floor, New York, NY 10014
9781933784250, $29.95,

Star Wars is a cultural phenomenon of global proportions. What began as inspired and inspiring science fiction action/adventure movie trilogy has expanded into novels, comics, video games, fan conventions, and memorabilia that seems to increase in popularity every year. The collaborative work of Star War's enthusiasts W. Haden Blackman and Brett Rectork, "The Art And Making Of Star Wars Force Unleashed" is a profusely illustrated compendium of information about the creation of the 'Star Wars: Force Unleashed' video game that takes place within the Star Wars universe between the fall of the Republic and the rise of the Rebel Alliance. The cutting edge of game design as applied to this Star Wars theme entertainment is fully described and illustrated with more than 300 conceptual artworks. Readers are provided with a virtual tour of the development process, provided with details of unused game concepts, story meetings with George Lucas as well as commentaries and interviews with other key members of the video game design teams. Enhanced with ten Character Cards, "The Art And Making Of Star Wars Force Unleashed" will proved to be an essential addition to the personal collections of dedicated Star Wars fans and enthusiasts as the Star Wars phenomena continues to unfold as a multi-faceted, multi-platform, multi-format entertainment.

Maggots In My Sweet Potatoes
Susan Madden Lankford
Humane Exposures Publishing, LLC
501 West Broadway, Suite A #386, San Diego, CA 92101
9780979236617, $45.95,

America has the dubious distinction of having one of the largest prison populations on the planet. The result of two years of photography combined with interviews of prisoners and jailors, "Maggots In My Sweet Potatoes: Women Doing Time" by Susan Madden Lankford showcases a photographic study of imprisoned women as they strive to deal with personal despair, desperation, alienation, and hope. Providing the non-specialist general reader with a window into the lives and circumstances of the incarcerated, "Maggots In My Sweet Potatoes" reveals the inherent weakness of a penology system that is breaking down under the burden of having to cope with overcrowding, under-funding, mental illness, emotional volatility, addiction, and the assorted stresses of life behind bars. A superbly executed study, "Maggots in My Sweet Potatoes" is especially recommended for inclusion into academic library reference collections and the supplemental reading lists of prison reform social activists.

Ronald Means
International Plaza II, Suite 340, Philadelphia, PA 19113
9781425790806, $19.99,

James Smith never wanted to be President, but things rarely turn out the way people want. "Drift: The Little President's Ordeal" is Jamie's tale of gaining the office and dealing with all of the problems and troubles that come with it. Dealing with terrorism, lobbyists, other politicians, and a nasty Speaker of the House, Smith's only comfort and ally is his first lady. A finely crafted story of the proverbial little man in the presidential office, "Drift" is a must for readers and community library fiction collections.

John Burroughs

Carson's Bookshelf

From Sorrow to Dancing
Marcy Kelly
Xulon Press
2180 West State Road 434, Suite 2140, Longwood, FL 32779
J&J Consulting (publicity)
7 Corozal, Foothill Ranch, CA 92610
9781604776119, $10.99,

The death of one's spouse... the loss of one's soul mate. "From Sorrow to Dancing: The Recent Widow's Handbook" is a guide for those who have experienced the tragedy of losing a dearly beloved husband, leaving them in the despair of loneliness. With advice and tips on overcoming the difficulties of being widowed, "From Sorrow to Dancing" is helpful guide to surviving the grieving process and moving on with one's life. A must-have for recent widows ,and for community library self-help collections.

The Contingency Man
Trudy Fong
860 Aviation Parkway, Suite 300, Morrisville, NC 275660
9781435709416, $21.50,

Financially cut off by his parents, Matt must face the terrifying reality of a day job in "The Contingency Man". Luck's not all bad, as he suddenly discovers he's a magnificent artist despite having no inclination to art whatsoever. Luck gets bad again as a fledgling actress forces her way into his life with little thought of Matt's needs. "The Contingency Man" is highly recommended for community library fiction collections and to anyone who wants a bit of an offbeat story.

Not All of Them About Zombies
Matthew Rowe
860 Aviation Parkway, Suite 300, Morrisville, NC 275660
9781847997074, $13.95,

Offbeat concepts have passed through everyone's head at one time or another. But what if one spared entirely too much thought for them? "Not All of Them About Zombies" is a compilation of stories by Matthew Rowe, touching on subjects such as the adulthood of Little Red Riding Hood, body swapping, facing ones dreams and fears, and more eclectic topics. As intriguing as it is hilarious, "Not All of Them About Zombies" is highly recommended for community library fiction collections.

Michael J. Carson

Cheri's Bookshelf

Unleash the Poem Within: How Reading and Writing Poetry Can Liberate Your Creative Soul
Wendy Nyemaster
Sourcebooks Inc.
P.O. Box 4410 Naperville, Illinois 60567
9781402209444 $15.95

Author Wendy Nyemaster takes you on an incredible journey in "Unleash the Poem Within"! With laughter, joy and tears she teaches us twelve different types of poetry from a sonnet to the prayer poem, along with the Poetry Posse, an awesome group of women who enjoy and are committed to the writing and sharing of their creativity in order to enhance their lives. Believe me this is not your high school or even college level teaching. Written for women by women this book guides you through how to release your creative spirit for self-expression as well as to find inner peace and to see the beauty around us. This novel also shows that we can experiment and find our own creative inner voice which we all have-we just need to find it. Nyemaster brings it down to the plain simple level of know how. Whether you write for yourself or even to be published this book will give you the teaching to ignite your creative soul.

How to Start a Home-Based Writing Business, fifth edition
Lucy V. Parker
Globe Pequot Press
246 Goose Lane PO Box 480 Guilford, Connecticut 06437
9780762744015 $18.95

If you are looking for a concise complete manual for starting a home writing business you can't go wrong with this one. Author Lucy Parker takes you on a step by step journey in setting up your own business, in easy to understand terms. Parker covers all the bases including office equipment, making your business legal and selling yourself in a total of ten different chapters. Invaluable are the thirty worksheets throughout the book at the end of each chapter to help setup your business. Also key are Bibliography and the Source Directory at the back of the book. The Bibliography lists other helpful books for more information. The Source Directory lists valuable information you can find on the internet. In this fifth edition which is updated from the original 1994 edition you'll find a lot of key information on the internet that I'm sure the early editions lacked.

Painted Dresses
Patricia Hickman
WaterBrook Press
a division of Random House
12265 Oracle Boulevard Suite 200 Colorado Springs, Colorado 80921
9781400071999 $13.99

Gaylen Slyer-Boatwright ---wife, sister, daughter, everyone's lifesaver-cheater. She sets out on a journey, a journey not entirely of her own making. It starts out in Boiling Water, North Carolina where she's attending her father's funeral. Gaylen finds out her and her sister Delia have inherited a quarter of a million dollars! Her sister is not able to care for herself (a little off in the head) and separated from her husband Braden her life is turned upside down. But this is only the beginning.

Gaylen decides to give Delia their father's house and returns to Delia's trailer to collect her things. While there Delia shoots her boyfriend's wife which sets the two women on the run as Delia's drug-dealing boyfriend is seeking to murder Delia. After many twists and turns they stop at their deceased Aunt Amity's mountain cottage. Which gives Gaylen a direction in this journey, seeing her Aunt Amity's artwork dresses painted to framed canvasses, Gaylen decides to return each piece to each family member seeking in return the silent truth as to why her mother had kicked her half-brother Truman out of the house when Gaylen was a child. Along the way she even goes to Angola Prison where her brother is incarcerated.

Author Patricia Hickman has done it again in "Painted Dresses". Hickman has an amazing way of bringing her characters to life. In this her new novel after finishing her awesome Millwood Hollow series Hickman takes you down south again in this modern day tale. From page one to the end you won't be able to put this novel down! The compelling teaching is as always outstanding. A teaching and story that you won't want to end. And be sure not to check out Hickman on YouTube!

The Writing Diet: Write Yourself Right-Size
Julia Cameron
a division of Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St New York, NY 10014-3658
9781585425716 $19.95

"One day at a time" is more than a catch phrase for author Julia Cameron. A writer of several books on creativity she's got a hit in her latest "The Writing Diet". Not your typical writing or diet book. This book will teach you how to lose weight the creative way - by writing. Yes, by writing! Just by letting your creative juices flow you can reduce that excess weight, whether by journaling, playwriting, short stories or that great American novel. Cameron teaches us that by journaling or "Morning Pages" and using the "tasks" at the end of each chapter we'll get to the bottom of our eating habits and begin the "clean living" eating that will have us dropping our excess baggage in no time.

The author even teaches us that yes we'll slip up from time to time but that it's no reason to beat ourselves up. As Cameron teaches that if we stick to the diet plan it will pay off in the long run, yes we may desire the fast and sudden weight loss that we read about in the tabloids. But we need to grasp and stick to the slow and healthy weight loss that we seldom hear about.

This self-help book is exceptional! And since this reviewer is a writer I couldn't help trying it myself. Yes it's slow and steady but sticking with the seven simple tools Cameron outlines you'll be dropping sizes in no time. You'll learn what "HALT" stands for, suggestions for the all too difficult snack attack and sweet tooth to the culinary artist dates and even the bottom line about our obsession with food. Cameron does not claim to be a diet expert but has notice the changes and weight loss in her students when they put the obsessive eating aside and focus on creativity. Of course as with any "diet" (we use this term loosely here as this is no ordinary diet!) Cameron makes no promises. But take this reviewer's advice and step out of the box and give "The Writing Diet" a try.

Fatal Deduction
Gayle Roper
Multnomah Books a division of Random House
12265 Oracle Boulevard Suite 200 Colorado Springs, CO 80921
9781601420138 $12.99

Libby Burton is a twin from a very dysfunctional family. She doesn't get along with her sister Tori or her mother and grandmother especially since her father and grandfather are in prison two cops gone bad. Libby struggles to raise her thirteen year old daughter Chloe on her own. And now her Aunt Stella has died leaving a very strange last request. Aunt Stella left her estate to Libby and her sister but they must live in her house in Philadelphia together for six months.

The first morning after arriving finds Libby tripping over a dead body on the front porch with a crossword puzzle with Tori's name spelled out in block letters. Libby finds a friend and possibly romance with Drew Canfield who is also raising a thirteen year old daughter Jenna. The girls become fast friends leaning on each other as each deals with family problems as well. Chloe desires to know who her father is and Libby just can't tell her—she doesn't want to hurt her. Jenna just wants love from her mother who is Drew's ex-wife who is bipolar.

The puzzles continue to arrive four in all for Tori. Libby wanting to help but Tori is determined that it is nothing. But each puzzle contains a new threat, which could possibly spell death for Tori unless the case is solved. Libby wants so badly to be a part of her sister's life but they have such opposite lives. The biggest difference Libby is a Christian –Tori is not.

With mystery, suspense and a touch of romance author Gayle Roper has created the ultimate mystery in "Fatal Deduction". In this suspenseful mystery the characters truly come alive and leap off the page in this awesome page turning tale. Each page reveals more twists and turns with fantastic God teachings that will stay with you long after the last page and a surprise ending that will have you on the edge of your seat!

The Poem I Turn To: Actors and Directors Present Poetry That Inspires Them
Including Audio CD
Jason Shinder
Sourcebooks Inc.
P.O. Box 4410 Naperville, Illinois 60567
9781402205026 $24.95

Many actors, directors and other moviemakers forty-two in all come together for "The Poem I Turn To". The list of directors and moviemakers is amazing from Michael O'Keefe to John Lithgow to Mary Louise Parker and Daryl Hannah with small bios included on each one. Each one lists their two favorite poems and why they are favorites and how poetry has affected their lives. Also included is a small bio for the authors of the poems.

Author/editor Jason Shinder a poet in his own right has done an excellent job in bringing this project together. Shinder who has written over four poetry books and has been published in several publications is also the founding director of the YMCA National Writers Voice, YMCA Arts and Humanities and the Gibson Music International Program and currently teaches in the graduate program at Bennington College.

This project was compiled mainly in remembrance of actor David Coleman Dukes. Dukes who appeared in over 24 films including First Deadly Sin and Without a Trace is also known for his theatre work, TV and HBO with a way to remember him and support The David Coleman Dukes Theater Scholarship Fund at the university of Southern California.

From England's Shakespeare to Paul Celan from Romania and every country across the world is definitely a wide range of poetry represented here. See some old favorites and possibly some new ones. Excellent also is the CD included hear 30 of these favorite poems read by the moviemakers themselves. An excellent source for learning poetry for teens and adults alike this is one book that will be around for years to come with this amazing collection.

A Mile in My Flip-Flops
Melody Carlson June, 2008
WaterBrook Press a division of Random House
12265 Oracle Boulevard Suite 200 Colorado Springs, Colorado 80921
9781400073146 $13.99

After her fiancee dumps her for his old girlfriend, kindergarten teacher Gretchen Hanover begins a self-destructive spiral. Hooked on ice cream and HDTV she spends her evenings and weekends in a vegetated state. Of course her Dad and his girlfriend Betty along with her best friend Holly try to convince her she must enjoy life again.

Than Gretchen decides to flip a house, she's watched HDTV enough it should be easy and she'll have the whole summer vacation to work on the house. Of course everyone thinks she's crazy including her contractor Dad. But reluctantly agrees to help anyway he can. Finally with the help of retired realtor Betty she finds a house on Lilac Lane that she can't help to want. As her Dad cosigns she's all set to begin. Her Dad has second thoughts after seeing the house that is just going to be too much to flip---but reluctantly it's too late to back out of the contract. So leaning heavily on her Dad and later his carpenter friend Noah Campbell the flip begins. But in the midst of the storm Gretchen's Dad has a heart attack. Gretchen doesn't know how she's going to finish in time before the loan comes due. Gretchen wonders if her flip is about to become a flop? What about the feelings she has for Noah and the baggage of a divorce and seven year old daughter? Will her Dad recover? Can Gretchen learn in time the lessons Noah has been teaching her on letting go and let God be in charge only time will tell or is there enough time?

Author Melody Carlson has done an amazing job on "A Mile in My Flip-Flops". Her characters are amazing as they leap off the page in this awesome page turner. The teaching intertwined within the pages is very practical to everyday life. So grab your flip-flops and old coveralls and join Gretchen in paradise on Lilac Lane.

Faking Grace
Tamara Leigh
Multnomah Books a division of Random House
12265 Oracle Boulevard Suite 200 Colorado Springs, Colorado 80921
9781590529294 $12.99

Maizy Grace Stewart works part time for the lifestyle section of the newspaper with promises of fulltime and dreams of investigating reporting. For months she's waited but decides she can't wait any longer and comes across a part time position at the Christian company Steeple Side. Problem is Maizy doesn't think of herself as a Christian even though she was saved at camp when she was a teenager she hasn't walked the walk. But she needs the job to pay her bills so she decides to "fake it". Buying the book "The Dumb Blonde's Guide to Christianity", a Jesus is my co-pilot bumper sticker, a fish emblem for her car, and various pieces of jewelry all to sell herself to others that she's a Christian. She changes her name to Grace and goes for the job landing it on the first interview.

Once her mentor, friend, landlord, boss Tessie finds out she informs her boss wanting that exclusive story that slipped through her fingers to expose the hypocrisy of the so-called Christians at Steeple Side and who better to go after them but an insider like Maizy since she owes Tessie. After losing her job in Seattle – Tessie struck her neck out to get Maizy a job in Nashville.

But what Maizy finds at Steeple Side is all that's been missing from her life friendships, romance and that family feeling being so far from home. With God tugging at Maizy's heart can she really do the article that Tessie wants her to write? Will love and God win in the end?

Tamara Leigh has done it again! In "Faking Grace" this awesome chick-lit comes alive. The characters leap off the page and attach themselves to your heart. You can't and won't want to miss this awesome teaching on being a "cultural Christian", the truth shall always win in the end!

Skid: Occupational Hazards, Book 3
Rene Gutteridge
WaterBrook Press a division of Random House
12265 Oracle Boulevard Suite 200 Colorado Springs, Colorado 80921
9781400071593 $12.99

What started out as a normal flight, the Atlantica Flight 1945 from Atlanta to Amsterdam is anything but normal. A woman with a mental illness that uses a pig as her guide dog (yes a pig on an airplane!), a prisoner handcuffed to an FBI agent, a dead eighty something woman with a hysterical daughter, a guy who looks like he'll throw up at any minute, a girl in a bright polka-dot dress, two love birds, a pilot of an airship that talks continually, a flashy lawyer, a man with soft caring eyes all thrown together with a brass airline attendant, a loud pilot, a lonely attendant, a strange acting ACL inspector, the calm pilot and a female captain who had landed a plane in the ocean of the Bermuda Triangle. Put them all together and you can't help but have one wacky hilarious novel!

Author Rene Gutteridge will have you in stitches as you read "Skid". From page one to the very end you'll be transfixed as the characters come alive in this awesome page turner. Watch out for Hank Hazard the man with the soft eyes and strong faith who may just turn out to be the key to the fate and life changing of everyone on board. Through all the hilarity you can't help but see the God teaching intertwined so watch out or "Skid" may just change your life!

Lisa Samson
Thomas Nelson Inc
PO Box 141000 Nashville, TN 37214
9781595546011 $14.99

Author Lisa Samson was perfect to be chosen to write the novel adaptation of the award-winning movie. Set in New York City it spans the lives of two lost souls- Nina and Jose.

Nina has lost dreams of dancing stardom working at El Callejon restaurant which is owned by Jose's brother Manny a no nonsense man that is all business. Nina's relationship with her mother is strained due to her mother never moving on after the death of Nina's father when she was twelve. Than Nina finds herself pregnant by Pieter a waiter at the same restaurant and all he can ask is she going to get it taken care of? The day she finds out she's pregnant is the same day Manny fires her for being late to work two days in a row and the previous week had been out sick that Manny accuses her of being hung over instead of asking what is wrong. Manny rants and raves at her within ear shot of the other employees that all Nina can do is run away as far as she can from Manny. As she's leaving carrying her personal items she hears someone calling her name she turns to find Jose carrying a teddy bear she had dropped. Nina wonders why the "quiet one" has as the others call him suddenly coming after her. She only knows him as the chef and knows he's Manny's brother. Slowly Nina feels comfortable and feels she can trust Jose so she tells him about her past and now finds herself pregnant even going so far as to tell him who the father is. Jose didn't like Pieter before this and likes him even less now feeling Nina deserves someone better than him. Jose doesn't know why but feels somehow he has to change Nina's mind since she has already scheduled an appointment for an abortion.

Jose takes her to his parents place on the beach and the love of his family embraces her she feels at home. Jose finds himself so comfortable with Nina that he discusses his past. The reasons he no longer drives, his lost dream of being a soccer pro, and his four years in prison. In just a day's time two lives have been drawn together. Jose devises a plan a plan he wonders will Nina go for? This novel is totally awesome as Samson has a way of bringing her characters to life that they jump off the page into your heart. The story is spell-bounding as it captures your heart and soul. This reviewer hadn't seen the movie but I'm sure you'll find like me wanting to see it after reading "Bella".

Cheri Clay

Clark's Bookshelf

Alexander Hamilton: Young Statesman (Young Patriots series)
Helen Boyd Higgins
Patria Press, Inc
9781882859610 Cloth $15.95 and Paper $9.95

Often, when visiting books from our youth and recalling the wonderful hours spent as a child reading them, you feel the need to share those experiences with your children or grandchildren.

In 1942, Helen Boyd Higgins wrote Alexander Hamilton, Young Statesman and created a timeless tale of a youth raised in a far away land that only the imagination of the reader can envision. Tribulations and intrigue abound in a format designed to entertain and teach many life lessons. Young Alexander is bereft of a terrible temper and learns self control by many examples used by Higgins in her description of his rearing. The vocabulary is enriched by using words beyond the reader's comprehension, not to frustrate, but to expand a child's horizons. There is a dictionary of definitions at the end of the book which teaches new words. The audience for this book is 9 to 12 years of age. This story is of a young lad growing up in the Caribbean Islands, who yearns to come to America and be a part of the new land of opportunity by going to college to further his education.

The Young Patriots series is designed to 'Hook' kids on History. Other titles in the series include, Amelia Earhart, Young Air Pioneer, William Henry Harrison, Young Tipp, Eddie Rickenbacker, Boy Pilot and Racer, and Mahalia Jackson, Gospel Singer to name a few of the 14 books published thus far. Gifts for birthdays, holidays, or just plain old fashioned fun reading are always good books. A present of this type instills in our youngsters the desire to appreciate reading and to treasure exemplary literature. Reasonably priced, this collection will become the foundation of a cherished library.

Ghosts at the Table: Riverboat Gamblers, Texas Rounders, Roadside Hucksters, and the Living Legends Who Made Poker What It Is Today
Des Wilson
Da Capo Press
9780306816284 $26.00

2008 World Series of Poker starts May 30 and runs through July 17, 2008. The biggest event in poker today is described in this anthology of United States players from old western gaming in Arizona, Texas, and Nevada. We are swept along the trail from North Dakota and meander down the gold and silver rush towns to now ghost towns. As time passes in the twentieth century we are told of the exploits of Wild Bill Hickok and how he played poker with his six shooter. In response to a full house, Wild Bill said that he had 3 Aces over 2 sixes, when the other player said he saw only one six Hickok put his pistol on the table and said here is the other six. He won the hand!

This anecdotal form of writing is most interesting as Des Wilson takes us through the portals of moments when ghosts are visited in many poker parlors as he tries to imagine what it was like to have lived in that bygone era. Brief skirmishes are recounted as he tells of battles which were fought and the connection to poker is related in all of them.

His description of the gun fight at the OK Corral is wonderful, and the fact they all played poker the night before is fascinating.

The book seems to be two books in one; Wilson is so enamored with the WSOP that the second half tells of the personalities of the players of today. He does relate the formation of the event by Benny Binion at his famous Horseshoe in Las Vegas in 1970 and touches upon his ghost. Those players who will pay $10,000 to enter Harrah's Rio, the situs of the 2008 contest, owe their opportunity to play to the ghosts of the past and those of the present. Being lucky and getting good cards is only part of winning in Texas Hold 'Em, winning the gold bracelet is exemplified as being a paragon of the bluff.

The Body in the Gallery: A Faith Fairchild Mystery
Katherine Hall Page
William Morrow
0060763671 $23.95

Katherine Hall Page weaves another tale of intricate mystery in the world of modern art which includes lots of revenge and deception for her character, Faith Fairchild. Set in the quiet town of Aleford, Massachusetts, Beacon Hill District, the story unfolds to raise the question "What do a forged Romare Bearden, a Jane Doe corpse, and Pepperidge Farm gold fish crackers have in common?"

A beautiful dead woman is discovered in Aleford's Ganley Art Museum in a most unusual display. A killer is on the loose and Faith is soon enmeshed in the museum's murky past and present. She believes the dead body and a fake Romare Bearden are related.

Patsy, Faith's friend, has loaned an original Romare Bearden painting to the gallery and believes that it may have been switched for a fake. Since Patsy is already on the Board of Trustees at the Ganley museum, Faith would need to be on the inside also. Patsy arranges for Faith to take over the cafe in the gallery, as Faith's catering business has been affected by the declining economy. Using delectable sounding culinary delights throughout the story and additional nuances about classic and contemporary artists, Fairchild keeps you entertained.

Life at the museum does not stay calm for long!

When the killer strikes again, Faith is in imminent danger and swears she will let the authorities handle the heavy work, but the police are naive and have missed some very obvious clues. And so, she must use her own detective skills to find the thief and expose the killer. Katherine Page Hall keeps you mesmerized until the very end. This is a classic thriller which you cannot put down.

Living with Pigs
Chuck Wooster
Photographs by Geoff Hansen
The Lyons Press
9781592288779 $24.95

This definitely is not a book about children and what their mothers told them about their rooms looking like a pig sty. This is a book about animal husbandry and the raising of your own porkers.

Living with Pigs is wonderfully illustrated with photographic images by Geoff Hansen showing the many different breeds of pigs and their surroundings. We all relate to 'Babe' and the exploits of this cute piglet in the barnyard. Chuck Wooster tells tales about his pigs and getting them used to his barnyard for feeding. He snorts 'hello' to them and they 'snort and grunt' return affection.

This book shows that growing up to a shoat and then to a hog is an extremely fast project. In the span of 5 months a 20 to 30 pound shoat becomes a 250 pound hog! With tongue in cheek humor, Chuck Wooster, tells in a remarkably subtle manner the foils and accomplishments he had in the raising of his pigs. One day, three of his pigs were walking across the field to the reception tent for his sister's wedding. These devils were so smart they picked the lock of their enclosure and escaped to join the party.

How to construct enclosures, fences, and where to place a pig sty are only a few explicit instructions given. Hansen goes into extreme detail on the selection process of getting that first shoat. He writes about the gregarious nature of pigs and their need to socialize with other pigs. Pigs do not like to sleep alone or be by themselves at play. They need to be in a group of at least two or more to be content.

A drawback in the past was the fear of getting trichinosis from improperly cooked pork. Raising top quality porcini, organically, partially eliminates this problem and the other tip is not to feed your animals table scraps or garbage. The United States Department of Agriculture outlawed the feeding of garbage to pigs many years ago to stop the development of this disease. Using fresh vegetables from your garden or feed that is not medically treated are two of the tricks that Chuck employs in his organic system.

The chapter describing slaughter, rendering, and final cut-up is quite graphic, which might be a turn-off for the squeamish among you. However, that section can be skipped and the alternative is to take your hog to the butcher for finalization in your pick-up truck.

Cooking instructions, cuts of meat, and almost everything you want to know about raising your own porker are here in this book. It is one of the best books that I have read on the raising and care of animals.

Clark Isaacs

Daniel's Bookshelf

One Continuous Fight: The Retreat from Gettysburg and the Pursuit of Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, July 4-14, 1863
Eric J. Wittenberg, J. David Petruzzi, and Michael F. Nugent
Savas Beatie LLC
P. O. Box 4527, El Dorado Hills, CA 95762
9781932714432 $34.95 916-941-6896, 610-853-9131

I don't believe enough accolades could be mentioned for one history book depicting the period after Gettysburg for the dates from July 4 through July 14 1863. The book is most likely the definitive book covering the battles, skirmishes, with all the major players associated with the time period. The North's persisted pursuit of Robert E. Lee's army heading for the Potomac River. The author's Eric J. Wittenberg collaborates seamlessly with J. David Petruzzi, and Michael F. Nugent covering the cavalry and the battles of Lee's hurried exit. One can't help but enjoy the well done narrative with such fine thorough detail. I sometimes would catch a breath and admire the work while gasping over the people who know this story with authority.

Each author offers an impressive background to bring this account some life and exhaustive information. Eric Wittenberg possesses a depth understanding of cavalry operations which illustrates the strengths and weaknesses of the arm. J. David Petruzzi understanding of Gettysburg compliments the history. Michael F. Nugent has been on Civil War Circuits and is an expert on the Gettysburg Campaign. Wittenberg and Petruzzi co-authored Plenty of Blame to Go Around discussing Jeb Stuart's controversial ride to Gettysburg. One feature that should be mentioned are the Driving tours with GPS coordinates to go from start to finish the Wagon Train of the Wounded and the military operations. The GPS coordinates are a must for future books, where the terrain and locations of the battles, skirmishes and important sites have changed so much in these modern times. The book goes over General George Gordon Meade's conduct and pursuit after Gettysburg in a chapter of "Conclusion". It provides a balanced perspective at questions raised by Meade's abilities, battle conditions, and decisions he made whether holding back or struggling with his instincts of getting the tasks done under repetitive continuous battle fire.

I hope that this book is appreciated by readers seeking history written, and it should be a more than one time reference by keeping it close by to illuminate the knowledge it has between the covers. If I were to make one accolade alone, I would mention this book as the best effort of this year, and noted that Eric Wittenberg and his collaborator Petruzzi and Nugent have helped this book to reach a higher benchmark. I would consider it to be placed on one of the top Civil War book lists to join with Plenty of Blame to Go Around. It should reach a higher place, considering it has been elevated by even more exhausted effort. I hope this labor is recognized and readers enjoyed of the choices the authors did to make this a great book........

Pursuit: The Chase, Capture, Persecution, & Surprising Release of Confederate President Jefferson Davis
Clint Johnson
Kensington Publishing Corporation
850 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10022
9780806528908 $24.95 1-800-221-2647

A great book that describes the secondary title of Pursuit with a crisp engaging style and a novelist's eye for fine detail. Clint Johnson has mastered an entertaining story of Jefferson Davis, and more about why the United States government had never tried him for any crime. In May 1865 the United States government practically convinced the nation that Davis had conspired to murder President Lincoln. When that didn't work, the politicians assured the nation Davis was guilty of treason. It turned out that didn't work either. Pursuit is the only book that looked into that issue and is done with thorough research and lively narrative. This sheds new important new light on one of the pivotal figures of American history.

Johnson has sharp eye for the period's detail, as well a Southerners' insight and he brings new light to Davis's time on the run. The book covers his treatment upon captured and his surprising release from custody. All of this eventually exonerates him, and exposes the powerful political forces involved and their lasting impact. Johnson pulls extensively from official documents as well as countless archived private materials, such as diaries, letters, and private papers. The 200th anniversary of Davis's birth in 2008, so the timing was excellent to bring this compelling account of of this extraordinary episode of Civil War history.

I feel that Clint Johnson has served history well on bringing this fine disciplined effort to add to the void missing on this story with fresh information, that exposes one of the most fascinating overlooked dramas in this period. It tells that chapter so well in a vivid style, and paints a true to life portrait of one of America's most complex and enduring figures in history. A closing thought that was brought out through the research, that Davis was innocent of all crimes before he was even arrested. I thoroughly enjoyed reading and learning about this saga of this era, and suggest this be a worthy enough shelf book to obtain. I recommend this book for any one interested in learning more about our earlier history. Johnson has discovered some amazing databases out there for future projects. This will open it up for more thoughtful books, like Pursuit to spring forth with new insights created from this discovered knowledge.

Daniel Allen

Debra's Bookshelf

Linda Greenlaw
9780786891238 $6.99

Jane Bunker moved north from Miami only days before Nick Dow, the town drunk of Green Haven, Maine, washed up on the beach with his head bashed in--possibly the result of a drunken fall, but maybe not. Jane, who'd been a homicide detective in Florida, is among the first to see the body, and though it's no longer in her job description--she's now a marine insurance investigator--she decides to investigate the death on her own by way of having a hobby. The more she looks into the death, the more fishy it seems to be. Jane suspects it's connected to the hot-button issue that's got the town riled up, the proposed creation of a wind farm off-shore, which would likely have an adverse effect on the town's cod fishing industry.

Jane is a likable protagonist, frugal in speech and finances. We're given to understand that she is running away from her old life in Florida while at the same time returning to her roots. Jane's mother was from Green Haven. She left family behind when she abandoned Maine--running away from something, just as her daughter would--during Jane's childhood. This back story will presumably be fleshed out in subsequent installments in the series. Greenlaw here introduces a number of characters who will likely be regulars: the laconic, slightly hunchbacked Cal, who's fast becoming her friend and accomplice; her frequently sloshed landlords, who are moving into position as surrogate parents; the brash young waitress at the local diner; a potential love interest. It's a cast I'll be happy to spend further time with.

Greenlaw has previously published a handful of nonfiction books, including The Lobster Chronicles and All Fishermen are Liars (see my review) based on her years of experience at sea. (In addition to writing, Greenlaw is the captain of a lobster boat.) Her first foray into fiction reads well for the most part. The mystery held my interest. The writing and the story flow well with a couple of jarring exceptions. There are two scenes in the book which don't work because they are so unrealistic: one at the diner in which Greenlaw has the waitress dramatically narrate events from the previous night's town meeting, and later in the book a sort of catfight between Jane and a local socialite. There is in addition one character--Ginny, a monster of the local fishing industry--whose behavior is too over-the-top to be credible.

My lack of familiarity with naval terminology was not an issue for most of the book, but there is a climactic scene toward the end that I probably would have enjoyed more if I'd had a better idea of what was happening. But even without knowing a turnbuckle from an outrigger I could understand the tenor of what was going on--grave peril and high drama at sea.

I liked Slipknot and look forward to more from Greenlaw. Next up is the series' second knot-titled installment, Fisherman's Bend.

Mary Poppins
P.L. Travers
9780152017170 $5.95

There must have been fans of P.L. Travers's Mary Poppins who were unhappy when the Disney movie based on the book was released in 1964. Changes made to a story when translating it to film can be jarring and are often for the worse. Movies are so often paler versions of the novels that preceded them. But in this case the reverse is true: Walt Disney's classic film is much, much better than the original book. Readers coming to the book after seeing the movie will, I think, be bored and disappointed with Travers's story.

The character of Mary Poppins in the original book is similar to her portrayal in the movie: she is proper and vain and easily irritated; she possesses magical powers whose limit and source are never explained; she is wont to play mind games with the children. In the book, however, despite the children's affection for her, she is not a particularly likable character. It is easier to like the softer-edged Mary Poppins of the movie. Apart from its portrayal of Mary Poppins herself, the book differs markedly from the movie. Some of the differences are insignificant: in the novel there are four Banks children rather than two--Jane and Michael have a pair of twin siblings who are about a year old; Mrs. Banks in the book does not spend her time cavorting with suffragettes; Travers's Bert is not a chimney sweep. The most important difference, however, is this: the story that Travers tells lacks a story arc. Mary Poppins comes to the Banks's home at the beginning of the book. She leaves at the end. The intervening episodes are filler: the chapters could be rearranged or omitted without any loss to the storyline. This in itself would be okay, if less than ideal, except that the middle episodes are, many of them, excruciatingly boring.

Mary Poppins the film, on the other hand, tells the story of the transformation of Mr. Banks--who hardly figures at all in the novel--from a work-obsessed martinet into a man who understands the importance of family, who recognizes the ephemerality of childhood, whose value system has been shattered and rebuilt for the better. Mary Poppins is the agent of this change, but the chimney sweep Bert is also responsible for some of Mr. Banks's growth. The climactic scene of the movie, wherein Banks's transformation is effected, is a small one: his children apologetically surrender to him the tuppence that had caused such a stir at the bank, where he works, leading to his being fired. Ironically, it is this gift of a tiny sum of money that finally turns Mr. Banks, who has been obsessed with the accumulation of wealth, into a man for whom wealth is secondary.

I understand that it's not really fair to find Travers's book lacking because it differs so significantly from a movie that was released thirty years after its publication. But it is impossible not to compare the book to the iconic film and to find it, well, nothing special. Disney injected heart and depth into a mediocre story that had, for reasons that elude me, attracted an audience. In so doing he turned the commonplace into something extraordinary.

The Almost Moon
Alice Sebold
Little, Brown
9780316677462 $24.99

Alice Sebold's The Almost Moon starts with a murder, a clumsy, unpremeditated affair that happens almost naturally. It was easy, Helen Knightly tells us in the book's first sentence:

"When all is said and done, killing my mother came easily."

It's a sentence that makes you want to read more. The book continues:

"Dementia, as it descends, has a way of revealing the core of the person affected by it. My mother's core was rotten like the brackish water at the bottom of a weeks-old vase of flowers. She had been beautiful when my father met her and still capable of love when I became their late-in-life child, but by the time she gazed up at me that day, none of this mattered."

One paragraph in and it's clear that you're in for something special.

What follows that delicious opening is the story of how Helen came to kill her mother--the toll that Claire's mental illness took on the family over decades, its unexpected consequences, the mental abuse, the exhausting intensity of Helen's love-hate relationship with her mother. This back story is interspersed with the continuing story of what's going on in the present: what Helen does immediately after the murder (whatever you're thinking, you're wrong), the eventual discovery of the body by outsiders.

That Helen commits murder so clumsily, with only the most amateurish attempt made to cover it up, is a great strength of the book, I think. This is the sort of mess that a real person might make of matricide. And while Helen's behavior after the fact seems bizarre, that too lends the story credence. Who in such circumstances would be fully sane?

While The Almost Moon is not a suspense novel per se, it is certainly suspenseful. What will become of Helen, given the murder investigation and her own feelings of...not quite remorse, is never clear, not until the book's last page. And when it comes the ending is, really, just right. This one's highly recommended.

The Woman Who Can't Forget
Jill Price
Free Press
9781416561767 $26.00

It's no surprise that Jill Price has become the go-to girl in her family for reminders about birthdays and anniversaries: she's incapable of forgetting them. Given a date from 1980 on--her memory before she was fourteen is spottier--she can rattle off a laundry list of her activities on that day and provide headline news as well, provided she was aware of the event at the time. Her memory works in reverse, too: given an event, she can tell you its date and significance in her own life. Her extraordinary memory is limited to the autobiographical, however. She is not one of those savants who can memorize long lists of prime numbers or the value of pi to hundreds of places. And in fact her aptitude for rote memorization of that sort is relatively poor, which proved problematic for her in school.

In her autobiography, Price discusses, but only superficially, memory-related scientific research in general and the tests that have been conducted on her own memory. (She was the subject of a paper published in the scientific journal Neurocase.) But mostly she tells us the story of her life with an emphasis on how her bizarre memory has kept her from living normally. The advantages of having a nearly perfect autobiographical memory are obvious: she can remember with perfect clarity, for example, the giddy joy she felt when she first met her husband. But the negatives are more numerous. Price can also remember, with perfect clarity, the conversation she had with doctors about allowing them to harvest her husband's organs once he was taken off life support. Nor can she will herself not to remember such things: Price's memories come to her unbidden, replaying in her head in apparently random order. Moreover, when Price remembers she relives the emotion of the original experience. So deaths and slights and embarrassments and childhood terror are as painful and frightening and sad as they were originally. Interestingly, the intensity of Price's relived emotion is sometimes evident on the page. In recalling painful episodes from her adolescence, Price's voice is imbued with the resentments of a teenager toward her parents.

Price collaborated on her book with a writer, Bart Davis. The resulting narrative is a quick read with a conversational tone. Unfortunately, the writing is bland and occasionally repetitive. This is a shame, because Price certainly has an interesting story to tell. Were it written in snappier prose, her book might have been--forgive me--unforgettable.

Ask the Parrot
Richard Stark
Mysterious Press
9780892960682 $23.99

Ask the Parrot, which was published in 2006, is the latest installment in Richard Stark's (aka Donald E. Westlake) series featuring Parker, a very smart, but not always very successful thief. When the book opens, Parker, who's wanted for a bank robbery in Massachusetts, is fleeing on foot from the police. He's just a few minutes away from having a police dog's canines in his backside when salvation presents itself in the form of a loner with a gun, Tom Lindahl, who figures that having a bank robber around the house for a while could work to his advantage. Lindahl offers Parker a way out and a job opportunity, but the latter comes with risks, of course, and involves Parker in the lives of Lindahl's neighbors to a degree that isn't safe for a man on the run.

Ask the Parrot had been sitting on my shelves for about two years before I picked it up. I wish I'd done so earlier. Stark makes his bad guy protagonist sympathetic despite that he's not given a soft side--at least in this outing. Parker is all competence and professionalism. He's quick on his feet but he also always comes to the party prepared. He appeals precisely because of his competence: we want him to succeed because he takes care to do the job right, even if he is squarely on the wrong side of the law. He is not careless of the lives of others, but neither is he over-concerned about them. That is, he's not squeamish about committing murder, he's just unwilling to attract more police attention than is strictly necessary. Somehow, despite his mischief, Parker retains the allure of the tuxedoed gentleman burglar.

Stark lets us in on Parker's thought processes as he's sizing up a person or a situation. Maybe it's that window into Parker's mind that helps us identify with him. If nothing else, watching him reason himself out of a tight spot makes for good reading.

I confess that I had not read any Parker novels prior to Ask the Parrot. Indeed, I hadn't heard of the series previously. I was delighted to learn when I finished that Stark has published more than twenty previous Parker novels, the first of them, The Hunter, published in 1962. The more the better if they're as good as this one: I'll be happy to get caught up on the master criminal's earlier career.

The Amnesiac
Sam Taylor
9780143113409 $14.00

Reading Sam Taylor's The Amnesiac is like experiencing someone trying to remember a dream. The book's protagonist, James Purdew, who's just turned 30, realizes in a vague way that he's forgotten things. He starts having flashbacks--or perhaps he's had them all along and forgot--of events he otherwise doesn't remember. There are several years of his life that he can't account for in any clear way. He kept journals during that time but for some reason locked them away in a box to which he doesn't have the key, and which can only be opened otherwise by explosive. He starts to investigate his past, haltingly, because sometimes time just slips away from him. And various clues start to coalesce. Eventually he and the reader come to suspect that someone is playing with him, controlling the clues, engineering his rediscovery of his past or attempting to prevent it. And certainly at least one person is watching him: our omniscient narrator sometimes surprises us by alleging that he is actually in the scene he's describing.

Taylor's story is both ingenious and confusing. Having finished it, you'll find yourself rethinking the complex plot, trying to fit pieces of the story into the puzzle. The novel is just shy of 400 pages, not unusually long, and yet it's one of those books that seem to take an inordinately long time to read. I don't mean by this that the book is dull: it's not (except for one chapter towards the end, which purports to be a biography James is reading and which slows the story down considerably). Perhaps the feeling of slowness is due to the story's complexity, or because reading it one feels some of the frustration of the protagonist, for whom understanding is tantalizingly near but elusive.

The book, both detective story and gothic romance, is at the same time an exploration into the nature of memory. (Be sure to notice the disclaimer on the copyright page, the one that usually reads, "Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead is entirely coincidental.") It is in fact the very sort of book that James imagines might be written about his predicament:

"Someone should write a true-to-life detective story, James thought bleakly; an existential mystery in which the answer is not to be found, clear and logical, at the book's end, but only to be glimpsed, half-grasped, at various moments during its narrative; to be sensed throughout, like a nagging tune that you cannot quite remember, but never defined, never seen whole; to shift its shape and position and meaning with each passing day; to be sometimes forgotten completely, other times obsessed over, but never truly understood; not to be something walked towards but endlessly around."

As you can see, the author plays with blurring the boundaries between reality and text.

The Amnesiac is challenging and intriguing and would, I think, make a good film--part Memento, part Possession. It will be interesting to see if filmmakers show any interest in the book.

Debra Hamel, Reviewer

Gary's Bookshelf

Devil May Care
Sebastian Faulks writing as Ian Fleming
9780385524285 $24.95

The intent on the part of the holders of the Ian Fleming estate was a great idea. They wanted to celebrate the 100th year of the birth of Ian Fleming by introducing a brand new James Bond novel that takes place a short time after "The Man With The Golden Gun" the last Fleming novel. But sadly that is the only good thing I can say about this novel. For starters the author should never have said he is writing as Ian Fleming because Fleming had a certain writing style that Faulks does not even try to capture. Fleming from the first novel "Casino Royale" in the first sentence described the feel of a casino at four in the morning. His description conveyed he had been to the city he was writing about and you felt he knew his subject. Here is an example from the first paragraph of "Live and Let Die" "There are moments of great luxury in the life of a secret agent. There are assignments on which he is required to act the part of a very rich man; occasions when he takes refuge to good living to efface the memory of danger and the shadow of death; and times when as was now the case, he is a guest in the territory of an allied Secret Service." I also found that in the Fleming Bond adventures the villains were larger than life, out to destroy the world. They also had memorable names. Hugo Drax, Goldfinger, Dr. No, Ernst Stavro Blofeld, and Dr. Shatterhand. I can not tell you the name of this one. Faulks also replays certain aspects of the Fleming novels. Someone is sucked out of the airplane in a fight with Bond; the villain has a disabled hand like Dr. No are two of the things I noticed. I found the two
women in the novel to be a distraction and the plot is very confusing. Kingsley Amis as Robert Markham wrote "Colonel Sun" that is much closer to the original novels than Faulks. Amis was also smart to not say he was writing as Ian Fleming. Even John Gardner, and Raymond Benson in their updated versions of Bond have done a better job of staying true to the character and feel of Fleming. It is overall a total disappointment. The reason I feel this way is because unlike many readers I have read all of the Fleming novels and am very fond of them. The estate holder would have done better to find another author to have written a Bond thriller closer to Fleming. Luckily Faulks has stated that this is his only contribution to the legacy of James Bond and Ian Fleming.

The Society of S
Susan Hubbard
Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781416534587 $14.00

"The Society of S" is the first novel of two so far that are about a teenager who finds out she is half vampire and half human. I read unfortunately "The Year Of Disappearances," the second novel, first. But actually it's not a real problem. I found both books to be interesting reading that take the vampire genre into brand new territory. The writing here is very tight with a story
that races along to its final conclusion in Florida. Ari is on a quest to find her mother. Along the way she meets some interesting characters and there are a series of murders that possibly can be traced to her. There are plot twists and turns in which Ari begins to learn all about herself from her father and others around her. Hubbard has given new life to the vampire story.

James Patterson and Howard Roughan
Little Brown and Company
Hachette Book Group USA
1271 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
0316018708 $27.95

After "You've Been Warned" by these same two authors, which I thought was one of their worst so much so that I couldn't even tell you what "You've Been Warned" was about. I am happy to say "Sail" puts them back on top with a lighting quick read that explodes on almost every page with suspense and a plot that races along like a runaway train. The dysfunctional Dunne family of Dr Katherine, her daughter Carrie, sons Mark and Ernie and Katherine's former brother in-law Jake are on the sailing trip of their lives. Katherine's second husband Bailey Todd stays behind and says he will see them all in a few weeks. The bizarre beginning in which a fish is caught containing a bottle with a message to the end makes this a tale that is filled with well-defined characters and situations that have readers turning pages. This one is their best one so far.

Destiny A Love Story
From the Ashes of Despair
Don Helling
Outskirts Press Inc
Denver, Colorado
9781432719920 $9.95

The western novel has always been fun reading. Don Helling shows with "Destiny" why. The characters are interesting set in a time when things were much simpler. The writing conveys the feel and manner of the late 1880s set in Colorado before it became a state. The novel is also a love story between a man who carries several secrets that he is afraid to reveal for fear of losing her.

The Woods Are Dark
Richard Laymon
Leisure Books
200 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
9780843957501 $7.99

At the beginning of this book there is an introduction by Richard Laymon's daughter Kelly that tells the progression of this novel to this edition.. I can see why Warner Books changed much of it for their version. Having read both printings I have to say this is the better one. The road was long to this version which is the one Laymon originally wrote It is more complete and answers a
lot of questions left open from before. The story is gritty with graphic sex and just plain weird. The writing is memorable and the end is bizarre. Laymon who is no longer with us was one of the best writers of horror. We are lucky that Leisure has been printing new editions of his tales that are finding whole new audiences.

Sweet Mandarin
Helen Tse
Thomas Dunne Books
St. Martins Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780312379360 $23.95

Helen Tse has told her family story from Hong Kong to England over several generations of women. She also reveals how she and women in her family opened a restaurant in Britain. But there is more to this wonderful true story. She also shows the culture of Hong Kong that many of us have never known. Women are not just second-class citizens. They have no voice. At an early age it is decided for them who they are to marry. They own nothing. They are to serve the needs of their husband and their education is limited. When their husband dies the property and all valuables go to the next male family member to her husband This is the society Tse's grandmother had to endure. Tse's grandfather wanted to raise the family's standard of living higher than it was so he opened a business that was such a threat to others of the same industry that it cost him his life. She was able to leave Hong Kong and live in England to start a new life. This is the story of three generations of one family. The author has done a tremendous job of showing the differences in cultures and how one family of women evolved and survived.

I Already Know I Love You
Billy Crystal
Illustrated by Elizabeth Sayles
Harper Festival
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780061450570 $7.99

The multi talented Billy Crystal now writes a kid's book that shows how a grandparent feels about the birth of a new child. From the point of view of the grandfather, he writes of the things he would like to tell the child, when it's a little older, of the bonding process of grandfather and grandchild. The book though short adds a new perspective and shows how important involvement with grandparents is to young children.

Welcome to Your World, Baby
Brooke Shields
Illustrated by Cori Doerrfeld
Harper Collins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780061253119 $16.99

Brooke Sheilds who has entertained us in many ways now turns her attention to a kid's book. She tells the story of a child and how she prepares for the arrival of a sibling. The book is fun reading and tells children a lot of how to prepare for the birth of another child. The artwork by Cori Doerrfeld adds a great deal to the work.

There's a Yak in My Bed
Written by K. Pluta
Illustrated by Christy Stallop
Blooming Tree Press
P.O. Box140934
Austin TX 78714
9780976941743 $16.95

This is one of the funniest kid's books I think I have ever read. Pluta has written a witty tale of a yak that tries to fit in to the human world. The illustrations add another dimension to this wonderful story. "There's a Yak In My Bed" is not just for little kids, it is a book that all ages can enjoy.

Patrick the Somnambulist
Written and Illustrated by Sarah Ackerley
Blooming Tree Press
P.O. Box140934, Austin TX 78714
9781933831077 $14.95

Kid's books today are filled with many messages. "Patrick the Somnambulist"is about a Penguin trying to find himself. He goes so far as to seek out therapy to talk about who he is. Sarah Ackerley who is also the artist has told a very charming tale for all ages to enjoy.

Matt Rothschild
Crown Publishers
New, York, NY
9780307405425 $23.95

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

Human Biotagonists
Alejandro Cuevas-Sosa
Outskirts Press Inc
Denver, Colorado
9781432726713 $20.95

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

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

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

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

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

Dragons, Demons, Blood & Gold
Morgan Bloodaxe
S. W. Smith
PO Box 317, Anthony Florida 32617
9780979685309 $19.95

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

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

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

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

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

The Stolen
Jason Pinter
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada M3B 3K9
9780778325727 $7.99

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

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

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

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

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

Gary Roen

Gloria's Bookshelf

Chris Jordan
Mira Books
18-24 Paradise Rd., Richmond, Surrey TW9 1SR, England
9780778302261 6.99 BPS, $14.01 CDN

[This book is not presently available in the US, only available in/through the UK and Canada]

Jane Garner, "the wedding lady" who makes custom gowns, has lived a life typical of a Long Island mother of a sixteen-year-old girl, until the day her cell phone rings and she hears the voice of her beloved daughter, Kelly, saying "Mom, I need your help. Please call—." The call ends in mid-sentence, and Jane's life is turned upside down when her daughter disappears.

Kelly has survived childhood leukemia at nine, enduring four years of radiation and chemo, and although there has been the usual adolescent angst of late, Jane cannot conceive what could possibly have now again put her daughter's life in jeopardy, but that apparently is the case. The authorities politely take the information, but appear to be of the belief that Kelly has run away with a boyfriend, of whose existence Jane has been completely unaware.

Jane is given the name and number of a retired FBI agent, a "Consultant, Special Cases," as it says on his business card, Randall Shane, and not knowing where else to turn, Jane enlists his aid. He is an enigmatic but imposing figure, in his forties, someone she ultimately describes as "father, brother, protector, friend, my own personal superhero, all these things and more." What ensues is a suspense-filled search where their enemy is a deranged and monstrous killer. Their pursuit takes them to Miami, Florida and the Everglades, which becomes a living, breathing creature as wonderfully evoked by this author.

Jane is no supergal, just a very human and believable protagonist, who, the reader is tantalizingly told, has been "lying to myself…lying big-time…for sixteen years…Thing about living a lie, if you do it really well, you sort of forget you're lying." And apparently Randall Shane has some secrets of his own, all of which is made known to the reader before the conclusion of this terrific, hold-your-breath novel, which is highly recommended.

Thomas Perry
15 E. 26th St., NY, NY 10010
9780151012923 $25.00 212-592-1000

Thomas Perry's newest novel is riveting from the first page – or, more accurately, the second page, for that's when Phil Kramer is murdered in an ambush. Kramer, a 45-year-old LA p.i., leaves behind a wife, Emily, who in short order discovers that in the last year of his life, her husband has left her virtually penniless, with only several hundred dollars left in personal and business bank accounts. Emily is clueless, as are, literally, the police.

This narrative line is juxtaposed with one which introduces Jerry Hobart, the man who was paid to kill Kramer. But nothing that happens after that point can be anticipated by the reader. These story lines do not stay separate for long, as all too soon Jerry is brought within Emily's orbit, in ominous fashion.

The author, with the attention to detail that is the hallmark of his novels, has again delivered one that is original and wholly absorbing, as Emily tries to uncover the truth behind her husband's killing. She, and the reader, are wholly unprepared for the answers. In addition to giving us a suspenseful book [so much so that the conclusion is nearly anticlimactic], the author presents, in various guises, the question as to the degree of responsibility that fidelity imposes and, conversely, how much is that responsibility diminished when the fidelity is no longer there. A real page-turner, and recommended.

Innocent as Sin
Elizabeth Lowell
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780060829841 $7.99 800-242-7737,

In the latest of her 60-plus novels, Elizabeth Lowell tells a tale inspired by facts [relatively] 'ripped from the headlines' – brutal wars far from home shores, money laundering, the smuggling of blood diamonds, the inter- and trans-national illegal arms trade, among other things. Kayla Shaw, a private banker in Arizona, is unwittingly forced to become involved in money laundering on a huge scale when her client's husband blackmails her into complicity. The philosophy from which the title derives comes from a statement by Kayla: "Even sin was innocent once. The rest is timing and opportunity."

Rand McCree is a painter who becomes a reluctant participant in events that ended in the murder of his identical twin brother. That loss has motivated him, five years later, to find and track down the killer, an evil man who is Kayla's nemesis as well, and their shared hatred for the man and all he represents propels the plot. Circumstances have them both in the employ of St. Kilda Consulting, a "necessary organization in today's world of transnational crime, failed and failing states, feral cities, and the just plain savage places in between. All the places where duly appointed and lawful governments are just short of useless and corrupt governments thrive." Another player is John Neto, described as "a black man speaking Scots Gaelic—who was also a former British intelligence officer—was presently chief of intelligence of a small African country that was besieged by transnational criminals from Russia, Brazil, Europe, and the UAE. And this man was being interviewed for American TV in a room in British Columbia, Canada, about a murderous Siberian gunrunner presently living the high life of a socialite in Phoenix, Arizona."

I had some problems with this book, not the least of which was that I found the protagonists rather two-dimensional. I also felt the adjective "feral" was much over-used. As well, the reader is aware of Rand's anguish at his brother's death almost from page one, and I didn't feel it was necessary to be reminded of it on what seemed like every page, e.g., "his twin's loss was still an open wound on his soul." But almost in spite of myself I was pulled into the intricate tale, the timeliness of which makes it one most readers should find enjoyable.

Scared to Live
Stephen Booth
Bantam Books
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780385339070 $25.00 800-726-0600

"Scared to Live" marks the return of DS Diane Fry and DC Ben Cooper, the protagonists of this wonderful series by Stephen Booth. At the outset Diane is called to the scene of a fire which Diane by some instinct deems suspicious, though there is no immediate evidence to support that conclusion. A woman and two of her children have died in the blaze; the husband was not at home at the time and the daughter was at the home of her grandparents, so those family members were spared. Shortly thereafter Ben investigates the death of a middle-aged woman, apparently a recluse, shot to death by a high-powered rifle in the home where she had lived for the past ten months, with no sign of entry into the house. There are no clues as to who might have done it, much less what possible motive there could have been. The woman had been so alone and without human contact that her body had lain undiscovered for more than a day. These two incidents could not appear to be more different, one of three members of a family in a well-off rural community and the other of a middle-class 'spinster' on an Edendale housing estate. But as the investigations proceed, it seems there might indeed have been connections.

There is a wonderful sense of place throughout the novel, with lovely descriptive prose enabling the reader to easily visualize the Edendale area of Ben's birth, the villages of the Peak District and the old mills once so prevalent there: "The back wall of the mill overlooked the river. Its five stories were full of windows—long ranks of them separated into pairs by stone mullions. They were spaced with Victorian precision, but so small and dark that nothing was visible behind the glass. Those windows stared out across the rushing water like blank eyes. There were scores of them, a hundred pairs of eyes—a high, brick wall full of dead faces." There are also fascinating tidbits of local history and folklore.

The proverbial 'fly in the ointment' is a common enough phrase, but it took this author to conjure the picture of "a tiny fly twitching its wings in the ointment." I thoroughly enjoyed this book as much for its excellent plotting as for the author's continuing development of the protagonists, individually as well as playing off each other, the latter made that much more interesting for the fact that Diane is Ben's boss. The point is often made here that "emotions always interfere with rational behaviour," exemplified in more than one of the characters. The book is recommended.

Pointe and Shoot
Natalie M. Roberts
Berkley Prime Crime
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780425221280 $6.99 800-847-5515

Dancing is all that Jenny Partridge has ever wanted to do, knowing since childhood that she was "born to dance." When a knee injury destroyed her dream of going into film and stage, she opened a small dance studio in her hometown of Ogden, Utah [the land of the Mormons]. Her dance groups are called Minis, Petites, Smalls, Seniors, and the Company [all pretty much self-explanatory]. A very quiet life-style, one would think, until one day Jenny gets what appear to be warnings to 'get out of town,' to the extent that a Gorilla-Gram is sent with a nasty poem telling her that, shortly after which the Gorilla himself [itself?] is found dead in Jenny's car.

Jenny has envisioned winning an upcoming competition which has a large grand prize, so that she can expand her studio and even open up a small dance store. She is used to having to deal with 'psycho dance moms,' but the not-so-subtle warnings have her fearing for her life. Her sort-of boyfriend, Tate Wilson, a local cop, sees to it that she gets protection, but the incidents continue, with a silver Hummer seen in the vicinity each time. In fact, that particular vehicle becomes ubiquitous, making the identification of the perpetrator that much more difficult.

Jenny is a delightful protagonist, although I must admit that it took me a little while to come around to that opinion – what I finally determined to be adorable malapropisms were a bit off-putting at first – mentioning that she slept "like a tree," speaking of her "neck of the forest," something not being "in the postcards," talking about committing Hare Krishna – well, you get the idea. But Jenny won me over, and the book, the third in the series, was a fun and light read, just perfect for summer afternoons at the beach. I really enjoyed it.

Gone, But Not Forgotten
Phillip Margolin
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780061575242 $9.99 800-242-7737,

"Gone, But Not Forgotten" are the words on a note written on plain white paper and left, along with one black rose, on the pillow of four women over a period of a few months in a small upstate New York town, each the wife of a successful businessman. Horribly mutilated bodies are eventually found. When his wife and daughter are found murdered, Peter Lake is suspected of the killings and the earlier crimes. Ultimately another man was arrested, but that man was killed at the scene of the arrest and never tried. Now, years later, the crimes are being duplicated with three new victims in Portland, Oregon.

Betsy Tannenbaum, mother of a six-year old girl she adores and suffering through a 'trial separation from her husband, Rick, is tapped by Martin Darius to represent him when he arrested by the Portland police in connection with the current disappearances. Betsy has made a reputation defending against murder charges local women in abusive marriages, and though she has doubts about his innocence, her quest for the enhanced reputation this high-profile case will bring her, as well as her sense of 'everyone deserves the best possible defense" overtakes her and she agrees to take on the case. The question is put to her "Can you imagine a case you wouldn't take? A client you might find so repulsive that your conscience would not let you represent him?" Her answer: "That's the question you confront when you choose to practice criminal law. If you can't represent that client, you don't belong in the business."

The attempt to find a "tag" for this novel was frustrating: "suspense novel," breathtaking thriller," "legal drama?" Each one, or rather all of them, apply. The legal scenes are realistic [the author is a longtime criminal defense attorney] and the characters well-drawn. This hefty novel read very quickly, with suspense mounting till the thrilling conclusion. Highly recommended.

Wasted Years
John Harvey
Bloody Brits
P.O. Box 3671, Ann Arbor, MI 48106-3671
9780932859553 $13.95 866-300-7246

Detective Inspector Charlie Resnick is an introspective man, and in this entry in the series he is retrospective as well, being drawn back to events that transpired variously in 1969, 1981, 1992 [at which point he had been a 'career copper' for twenty years]—back to the years when he first met his wife when they were both in their mid-twenties, to the time six years later when she asked him for a divorce; from robberies that happened in the past to a string of brutal robberies happening in the present; to crimes whose perpetrators are once again at large and a matter of his concern.. As the book opens four robberies have taken place, the amount of violence escalating with each.

Charlie Resnick is a wonderful protagonist--A man who loves jazz [references to Ella Fitzgerald and Duke Ellington and the like abound], he owns four cats named Dizzy, Miles, Bud and Pepper [how could you not love it?], and the title of the book is itself taken from the lyrics of a jazz tune that haunts him. He has not yet gotten over the breakup of his marriage. He speaks of replacing some furniture with other second-hand pieces, "something older, broken in, the shape of other lives already impressed into the upholstery." The book is at its heart a police procedural, but also a character study of Charlie and those who work with him, now and in the past, and whose paths cross his.

This is the fifth Inspector Resnick novel, and Bloody Brits is owed a debt of gratitude by those outside of the UK who have loved his novels but been unable without difficulty to find them – they have or are about to publish the sixth through ninth in the series. [The newest, and the first one in ten years, has recently been published as well.] And a wonderful thing that truly is. The book is highly recommended.

Gloria Feit

Gorden's Bookshelf

Sing Ronnie Blue
Gary D. Wilson
Rager Media
1016 West Abbey, Medina, Ohio 442656
9780979209178 $19.95

Sing Ronnie Blue is a good and evil story, a morality tale. Ronnie Blue is the poor bad kid and John Klien is the rich good kid. During their last few years in high school, they became friends. Ronnie pulled the good John into his realm but John, although John reveals in the excitement of doing bad things, knows he has to change. John goes to college and comes home a new leader in their small town. Ronnie goes to the big city and stays the same.

Ronnie comes home on the 4th of July, his birthday. He wants more in his life but he has stayed the same. His friend John has changed and grown. He hasn't. Coming home brings Ronnie to face how his 'live for the moment' attitude has kept him in the same place he was in high school. But Ronnie doesn't want to face it. He just wants.

Sing Ronnie Blue is a novella dressed as a novel. Beautifully written intricate details fill the story but the underlying tale is a dark novella revealing how a bad but likeable kid, who doesn't grow, becomes a vicious adult. Sing Ronnie Blue is a good short novel that suffers from too much good writing. The dark tale is slowed by the minutiae. The reader loves the intricate details painted by the words but soon becomes anxious that when he turns the page there will be more details and not the payoff the story implies.

Beautiful Lies
Lisa Unger
Vintage Crime/Black Lizard
Vintage Books
A division of Random House, Inc.
New York, NY
9780307388995 $7.99

Beautiful Lies is a rarity today. It is a very good mystery written in first person. It was a surprise for me to find another skilled writer using first person. Unger is a fast paced detailed writer who keeps the tension high. The story is rich with location and character motivation. Only a technical reader will notice that plot is slightly too focused for a story of this length.

Ridley Jones leaves her apartment and sees a toddler wondering into traffic. She jumps in front of a van and saves the child. A photographer, just passing by, snaps her picture in the act of bravery and she becomes an overnight sensation. Her national notoriety has brought her to the attention of people who know more than she does about her past. A package arrives at her doorstep claiming her life is a lie. The lie is important enough to powerful people that they will kill to protect it. The truth behind the lie is something Ridley believes she has to uncover.

Beautiful Lies is a mystery/suspense thriller that will engulf you and keep you reading. The story is simple enough for everyone to understand but detailed enough to keep you turning the page. Unger is a writer to look for and Beautiful Lies is a book that a suspense reader has to pick up.

S.A. Gorden

Harold's Bookshelf

As Luck Would Have It
Robert D. San Souci
August House, Inc.
3500 Piedmont Rd. NE, Suite 310, Atlanta, GA 30305
9780874838336 $16.95

This is basically a retelling of the story Clever Elsie from the Brothers Grimm. When mother and father bear leave the children alone while they visit their grandmother they are given specific instructions for what to do while their parents are gone. Well, one incident follows another as they make a mess, destroy the pond wall, and lose their parents' life savings to peddlers who trick them. Desperate to set things right they head off into the woods to get the money back and that is where the fun really starts. This is a delightful, humorous story for children and recommended.

Beginning PHP and MySQL: Novice to Professional, 3rd edition
W. Jason Gilmore
2560 Ninth Street, Suite 219, Berkeley, CA 94710
9781590598627 $46.99

I reviewed the prior version of this text and rated it as highly recommended and this updated third version continues with the same quality content and highly usable writing style. Starting with minimal assumptions about the readers's knowledge, the book walks them carefully
through the details of both PHP and MySQL from installation (Windows and Linux) to doing the most common tasks. Included among the new content is coverage of PHP6.

One of the things that I like about this particular text is the thoroughness with which it moves the reader from complete novice to an intermediate level. While it is fair enough to consider someone who knows this stuff to be a professional there are more advanced techniques available in other more specialized texts. As with prior editions the author has included a lot of sample code so you can follow along and test your knowledge as you go.

In addition to using the book to learn PHP and MySQL it continues as a valuable reference tool. The manner in which it is laid out allows the reader to quickly turn to an appropriate chapter when they are stuck on a problem and find the answers they need. While not for the advanced user, and it does not claim to be, with coverage of things like authentication, networking, LDAP, PEAR, and frameworks like Zend, this is one of the most complete texts on PHP and MySQL you will find for the person new or just minimally knowledgeable about PHP and MySQL and is highly recommended for that audience.

Beginning Ubuntu Server Administration: From Novice to Professional
Sander van Vugt
2560 Ninth Street, Suite 219, Berkeley, CA 94710
9781590599235 $39.99

Ubuntu has become one of the fastest growing and arguably most friendly Linux distributions over the last few years. This book is designed to help someone who has no knowledge of Linux become a basic system administrator. While it will not make them an expert among people who know Linux well it will make them sufficiently knowledgeable to do most of the common administrative functions.

The author starts with installing Ubuntu server and moves into information that most Ubuntu users do not understand such as using the command line interface, working with files, and understanding the directory structure. Once the reader has this basic understanding he moves them to some of the common tasks like using software repositories to install and update software packages and user accounts, groups, permissions, access control lists, quotas, an PAM modules. However, the book could use an expanded section on firewalls as this is a major part of Linux server administration.

Other important areas covered include a chapter on writing shell scripts. the basics of SSH and tunneling, DNS, DHCP, NTP, using Ubuntu as a file and print server (cups, NFS, and Samba configurations), Apache, virtual hosts, PHP, MySQL, FTP, and virtualization. For many of these areas, including Samba, Apache, PHP, and MySQL, the coverage is just the minimum you need to know. This is expected as there are complete volumes written just on each of these subjects that are larger than this book. This books still gives you a solid introduction to these subjects that is appropriate for the audience the author is trying to reach.

This book is a great introduction to Ubuntu Server administration and moves the reader from the novice to lower intermediate level but really not close to a professional Ubuntu administrator. Nonetheless, it is recommended for those new to Ubuntu servers as it does touch on and provide a working knowledge of pretty much all the most common areas of Linux server administration.

Postcards from Washington, D.C.
Laura Crawford
Raven Tree Press
1400 Miller Parkway, McHenry, IL 60050-7030
9780979547706 $16.95

This story is in both English and Latin-American Spanish. It educates the reader about Washington, DC and the sights to be found there using the format of postcards written home by a child who is visiting. While the "postcards" are English only the facts that are included are in both languages. This is an excellent book for teaching young children about Washington, DC and its importance to the citizens of the United States while also introducing them to the Spanish language. With many pictures that invite dialog it is a recommended purchase.

Pro JavaScript Design Patterns
Ross Harmes & Dustin Diaz
2560 Ninth Street, Suite 219, Berkeley, CA 94710
9781590599082 $44.99

To begin with this is not a book for the person new to JavaScript. The authors assume some knowledge of JavaScript and object oriented programming right from the start. This is more of an advanced text for those who already can get things done in JavaScript and want to advance their knowledge, write code that is easier to maintain, and exploit the flexibility of JavaScript to its fullest extent.

For each pattern discussed they provide background information on the problem to be resolved, example coding, and when to use it. I appreciated this detail in helping me to fully understand not only when a pattern could be used to benefit a project but also when it might not be the most appropriate way. While JavaScript has always been known for its flexibility these authors show how a creative person can exploit the language's flexibility.. The patterns themselves represent pretty common ones in other languages but the way they were implemented in JavaScript was enlightening.

This is an excellent guide and reference for high-level JavaScript programming on large projects maintained by multiple programmers. Pro JavaScript Design Patterns is highly recommended for experienced object oriented programmers who want to add this to their knowledge base.

Baby: An Owner's Manual
Bud Zukow, MD
Beaufort Books
27 West 20th Street, Ste 1102, New York, NY 10011
1575660555 $14.95

This is essentially a collection of the 365 most commonly asked questions about babies. The subjects include dealing with colic, bottle feeding, bathing, discharges, circumcision, fevers, teething, among many, many others. Although this differs from most other books on this subject by using the question and answer format it is still quite informative and useful. With an extensive index you can look up any problem and find an authoritative answer from doctor Zukow. If there is one baby book that I would most suggest to allay the fears and concerns of a new mothers this one is it.

Here Be Yaks
Manosi Lahiri
The Intrepid Traveler
PO Box 531, Branford, CT 06405
9781887140720 $17.95

Here Be Yaks chronicles the author's experiences traveling in Tibet. She provides detailed descriptions of the land and people as well as the difficulties and pleasures of the trip. Her goal on the trip was Mount Kailash and to settle question of the source of the Sutlej River as well as a spiritual journey of her own. Most books of this type are not particularly interesting to read through but this one is an exception. She adds so much detail and history that you come to appreciate the trip as well as the country, the geography, the people, and the culture. She wisely does not include the political factors of the country except to the extent that they directly affect her ability to travel safely or provide an important historical explanation as to why something is the way it is. If you have any interest in Tibet at all you will probably appreciate this book.

Light and Exposure for Digital Photographers
Harold Davis
O'Reilly Media, Inc.
1005 Gravenstein Highway North, Sebastopol, CA 95472
9780596529888 $29.99

While too basic for the experienced photographer who already understands the interplay of focal length, aperture, shutter speed, and ISO settings, this is an excellent primer on these subjects for the new photographer. As the title indicates the focus is on teaching the reader how to work with light and exposure to get the results they want, and the results can be stunning. Harold Davis is at the top of his game as a master photographer with this book. For the new photographer who wants to move up the quality of their work from the photograph category to the art category these are the most critical things to understand and this is one of the easiest to understand books on the subject. After providing a strong understanding of these items Mr. Davis teaches how to use them to get the effect you want. He includes intentional over and underexposure, depth of field and focus, macro photography, longer exposures, and white balance. Throughout the book you will find example photographs with complete detail of what he did to achieve the effect. Pick up a good book on composition and you have the complete package to top level photography. Light and Exposure for Digital Photographers is highly recommended.

Low Budget Shooting
Cyrill Harnischmacher
Rocky Nook, Inc.
26 West Mission Street, Ste 3, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
9781933952109 $19.95

For the person with more time than money this book provides specific low-cost methods to make your own ancillary photography equipment. That being said, I should point out that the projects focus almost entirely on lighting and include softboxes, reflectors, and diffusers. In addition, most of the projects are focused on tabletop photography needs. That does not mean that they cannot be applied in other types of photography and I found that with some minor adaptations some of them were useful to my style of outdoor photography. What I found particularly useful was the fact that so many of them could be adapted to be a truly light-weight and highly portable solution to my outdoor needs. Low Budget Shooting has some very creative ideas for those on a low budget that can help you produce professional quality photography and is a highly recommended read.

Paco and the Giant Chile Plant
Keith Polette
Raven Tree Press
1400 Miller Parkway, McHenry, IL 60050-7030
9780977090624 $16.95

This is basically a Mexican version of the traditional Jack and the Beanstalk story. Although it is a Mexican adaptation it is written in English with an occasional word in Spanish. For each Spanish word the readers can figure out the definition based on the context. The author introduces a vocabulary of 32 Spanish words to help young readers learn Spanish in a easy, intuitive way. Paco and the Giant Chile Plant is recommended.

Small Form Factor PCs
Matthew Weaver, Duane Wessels
O'Reilly Media, Inc.
1005 Gravenstein Highway North, Sebastopol, CA 95472
9780596520762 $29.99

If you love to experiment and create unusual computer based projects then Small Form Factor PCs is a book that will probably be of interest to you. Using small mainboards and some creative adaptations the results are projects that vary in size from about the size of a small USB hub to as large as a shoebox. For each project you know up front the amount of time expected to complete the project and the level of difficulty. Unlike some other do-it-yourself books this one provides all the necessary details including where to buy the parts, the specific software code, software source, and lots of pictures to make sure you get it right. This is a refreshing change to books that show how to put something together but don't tell the reader where to get the hard to find parts. But the level of respect for the reader does not stop there, the book even includes tips about things to avoid and traps to be cautious of so that you end up with the result you are looking for.

There are eight projects in total with some of the more interesting ones being a digital audio jukebox, Myth TV based digital video recorder, network monitor, wi-fi extender, and a bluetooth LED sign. As is typical of publications from Make Magazine these are easy to follow and get the correct results. Small Form Factor PCs is highly recommended.

Harold McFarland

Harwood's Bookshelf

The End of Biblical Studies
Hector Avalos
Prometheus Books
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst NY 14228-2197
9781591025368 $32.00

Hector Avalos's most dangerous disinformation, and unintentional propaganda for the ignoranti, is his use of the term, "biblical scholars," to refer to theologians, pseudo-scholars who start from predetermined conclusions and distort the evidence to whatever degree is necessary to make it fit, and his description of true biblical scholars, persons who start from the evidence and follow wherever it leads, consequently never failing to conclude that religion has no more of a factual basis than Alice in Wonderland, as "secularists." Newsflash: Avalos would not describe Flat Earthers as "geographical scholars" or numerologists as "mathematical scholars." Neither should he describe theologians as scholars. If they were scholars, they would no longer be theists, since a scholar who was a theist before he commenced his biblical studies would be a nontheist by the time he finished.

A true scholarly conclusion, one reached by going with the evidence, would be Avalos's own (p. 22), "that there is really nothing in the entire book Christians call 'the Bible' that is any more relevant than anything else written in the ancient world." In calling for an end to "biblical studies," what Avalos is really advocating is the flushing away of propaganda posing as scholarship. To that I can only say "amen." But as long as two-thirds of the human race equate religious fairy tales with reality, competent biblical studies are and will remain necessary. Avalos furthers his disinformation when he identifies (p. 23) as "biblical scholars," the theologians posing as scholars who, "are almost solely devoted to maintaining the cultural significance of the Bible not because any knowledge it provides is relevant to our world but because of the self-serving drive to protect the power position of the biblical studies profession."

Avalos draws attention to the way "religious studies" departments, in which all hiring is done by True Believers, and a nontheist has as much hope of finding employment as a round-earther at Flat Earth College, parallel other discriminatory organizations: "English and literature studies, in particular, have come under sharp attack as professions concerned primarily with the promotion and maintenance of their own power" (p. 22). I once wrote an essay in English Lit in which, using the professor's own methodology, I proved that Scarlet O'Hara was "really" Mother Goose. Guess what mark I got? By the methodology used by theologians to "prove" that the Bible is nonfiction, it is possible to prove that Gulliver's Travels, Alice in Wonderland, and Faculty of Education dissertations are nonfiction.

In the chapter on translations, Avalos draws attention (p. 37) to the reality that, to translators of all officially sanctioned bibles, "the relevance of the Bible is best maintained by using translation to hide and distort the original meaning of the text in order to provide the illusion that the information and values conveyed by biblical authors are compatible with those of the modern world…. by distorting and even erasing what is said in the original languages." He quotes passages that hide biblical authors' polytheism by falsifying the names of the gods, Elyon (after whom Ilium was named) and Yahweh (Deut 32:8-9), to further the Big Lie that they were alternative designations for the same god. They were not. And he shows that everywhere in the Hebrew Testament that the masculine, singular, proper name "God" appears, it is a falsification of elohim, a dual-sex generic plural meaning "gods." But while Avalos concedes that monotheistic translators could brainwash themselves that elohim "must have" meant a singular god, no such loophole exists in the King James Version's falsifying, "Elhanan killed Goliath the Gittite" to "Elhanan slew the brother of Goliath the Gittite." He states unequivocally (p. 48) that, "The KJV is 'lying' here, for the words 'the brother of' are not in the Hebrew text."

But while Avalos recognizes such falsifications as intentional and self-serving, and that a correct translation would deprive the parasites of the god scam of their bread and butter (p. 47), he shows no awareness that a translation that corrects all intentional falsifications already exists (The Fully Translated Bible, Booksurge, 2006). And he nowhere mentions the passages by every Pentateuch author (J, E, D, P, R) that acknowledge the real existence of the gods of Egypt and Babylon but order Jews to ignore them. And while he cites the contradictions between Genesis chapters one and two, he seems likewise unaware that The Fully Translated Bible places such contradictory passages in parallel columns for easy comparison. As for Mythology's Last Gods (Prometheus Books, 1992), in which I made all of the same points sixteen years ago—and drew his attention to it in my review of his previous book, Fighting Words—it is still not mentioned in his bibliography.

Avalos's chapter on "the unhistorical Jesus" goes to great lengths to compare Jesus with King Arthur, presumably because even believers in a historical Arthur of Britain do not believe there was ever a king Arthur. He denigrates the Jesus Seminar, in effect condemning it for investigating an issue he considers closed. He declares that (p. 200), "these criteria used by the Jesus Seminar are fundamentally flawed. They simply have traded one sort of dogmatism for another." And Avalos has not? Oh come now.

However, I fully endorse the purpose behind Avalos's conclusion (p. 212) that, "Scholars should be helping end human dependence on the words and deeds of a man who cannot be shown to be any more special, wise, or ethical than many other people we can name. The fact that most academic scholars are not vigorously pursuing such an educational program only functions to keep their sacred text relevant and themselves employed." But legitimate scholars are pursuing such a program. It is theologians who are perpetrating the self-serving agenda Avalos wants to abolish. He should get it through his head once and for all that persons who examine the Bible for the specific purpose of finding a way to pass off even its most outrageous absurdities as nonfiction are not scholars.

Other than Avalos's misuse of the word "scholars" to describe the propagandists who rightly should be rendered unemployable, I found little in The End of Biblical Studies with which to disagree. I certainly agree that (p .29), "One day, the Bible might even be viewed as one of the curiosities of a tragic bibliolatrous age, when dependence on a text brought untold misery and stood as an obstacle to human progress. We might then study the Bible as a lesson in why human beings should never again privilege any book to this extent." While I will not go so far as to say that Avalos made no valid points that I did not reach in Mythology's Last Gods, I can say that there is nothing in his book that I personally found both new and useful.

Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know—and Doesn't
Stephen Prothero
Harper San Francisco
10 East 53rd St, NY 10022
9780060846701 $24.95

Stephen Prothero bemoans the fact that, "only 10 percent of American teenagers can name all five major world religions" (dust jacket). Well guess what? Neither can I. I am aware that there are three religions that have a billion adherents: Christianity (1.1 billion, including 600 million Catholics), Islam (1.0 billion), and Hinduism (1.0 billion). I could take a wild guess that he is including Judaism in his Big Five, even though it has only 20 million adherents, on the ground that it has that Great Equalizer, the hydrogen bomb. But what is his number five? Buddhism has 0.5 billion followers, including splinter sects that qualify as religions (Buddhism per se does not). But a paragraph in his introduction seems to indicate that he had in mind not Buddhism but Confucianism, which is not a religion, since it is a humanistic philosophy in which gods have no role. Or is he classifying nontheism (2.2 billion, more than Christianity and Islam combined) as a religion? He would not be the first dogmatist to do so, even though calling nontheism a religion is as oxymoronic as calling a mother of seven a virgin.

Prothero is a brainwashed propagandist for the god hoax. That is why he states as if they were facts that 90 percent of Americans believe in Mother Goose (or was it God? I'm always confusing those two), 80 percent believe that religion is important to them, and 70 percent pray every day (p. 23). Where did he come up with such figures? The answer is manipulated polls that strongly discourage America's 100 million nontheists from coming out of the closet and revealing their true status: "Do you believe in God? Keep in mind that your employers and neighbors are bound to learn how you answered. You do? Gee, big surprise."

Prothero describes the Buddhist Dalai Lama as "the spiritual and political leader of the Tibetan people." Bovine excrement! The Dalai Lama is no more leader of the Tibetan people than the Catholic pope is leader of the Italian people. The pope is leader of Italy's Catholics and no other Italians. The Dalai Lama is leader of Tibet's Buddhists and no other Tibetans. Until China annexed Tibet and imposed a less-totalitarian tyranny, Tibet was oppressed by an oligarchy of Buddhist monks led by Dalai Lamas as absolutist as Iran's ayatollahs.

Prothero describes the results of religious quizzes conducted in his classes, showing that an overwhelming majority of students have so little knowledge of the teachings of religion that they made incredible bloopers, including naming Joan of Arc as Noah's wife. He contrasts that with the more educated status of Europeans. Yet it does not cross his mind that ignorance of the Bible's obscene perversion of morality and sanity is precisely why the number of self-confessed believers in America is so much higher in America than in Europe, 67 percent compared to less than 50 percent. The simple fact is that no person with a functioning human brain can actually read a Bible or a Koran and fail to recognize them as the most obscene paeans to evil ever written, with Mein Kampf a far distant third. Nor can anyone whose moral evolution exceeds that of Adolf Hitler fail to recognize "God" as the most sadistic, evil, mass-murdering psychopath in all fiction. Persons who can actually study sacred writings and shut out such reality, raise the question of how they can remember to disrobe in the bathroom. Would Prothero fail to recognize that anyone who—after actually reading it—can praise Mein Kampf as a guide to morality is dangerously insane? What is the difference?

Prothero states that (p. 51), "Atheists and agnostics, pointing to the Holocaust, routinely claim that religion has been the most powerful force for evil in world history. That is probably true." Indeed it is. Religion has been the cause of 90 percent of all manmade evil for at least 3,000 years. But he continues, "But religion has likely been the world's most powerful force for good too." He then cites the role of religion in places where it remains the primary cause of unspeakable evils, apparently unaware that he is contradicting himself. Is it possible that his publisher accidently deleted sentences in the middle of that paragraph? If Prothero really thinks the role of religion in "the Balkans, Northern Ireland, Kashmir, Sri Lanka, and the Middle East" has been a force for good, he should hurry back to Bellevue before one of George W. Bush's theofascist Gestapo steals his bed. As a Nobel Laureate observed, "With or without religion, good people would do good things and bad people would do bad things. But for good people to do bad things, that takes religion." No good deed has ever been motivated by religion, although good people with religious beliefs have deluded themselves that religion was their motivating force.

Prothero quotes with obvious relish a recent poll that showed nontheists to be America's most distrusted minority. He clearly buys into the Big Lie that nontheists, not having an invisible judge/jury/executioner scrutinizing their every move, are more likely to commit whatever crime or antisocial act they think they can get away with. It does not occur to him that the precise opposite is true. Only the morally bankrupt need a source outside of themselves to tell them right from wrong, and only the morally bankrupt could believe that right and wrong are whatever the protagonist of a work of fiction says they are, when it is crystal clear that it bases its decisions on, "Heads it's a sin and tails it's a virtue." And only the morally bankrupt could believe that telling an imaginary playmate (or a priest), "Gee, I'm sorry, God, and I won't do it again," can annul a criminal act as if it had never happened. (Boy, did Al Capone capitalize on that one!)

Nontheists in contrast base their behavior on the recognition that the difference between right and wrong depends on whether an action unnecessarily hurts a nonconsenting victim. When godworshippers imagine that persons who lack a Sky Fuhrer have no incentive to be ethical, they are basing that deduction on what they see in the mirror, in effect confessing that fear of an underworld Auschwitz is the only thing that keeps them from killing, raping and plundering. Nontheists need no such disincentive, since they have their own more morally evolved consciences to keep them moral.

Prothero seldom ventures into the subject of what the Bible actually conveys, possibly because he is well aware that he is as ignorant of competent biblical scholarship as the illiterates he decries. When he does, he reveals his ignorance in spades. For example, he refers to "Jesus' Great Commission … to teach all nations." But Jesus preached nothing of the sort. It was the gospel authors who put into Jesus' mouth pro-gentile doctrines that actually originated with Paul of Tarsus. Jesus' xenophobia, equating non-Jews and Samaritans with pigs and dogs to be shunned, can be found in the nineteen percent of his words in the gospels that the Jesus Seminar have concluded were actually spoken by him. He has no awareness that the offensively-named "Lord's Prayer" is parochially Jewish, declaring the Jewish god's name a sacred taboo, a belief not shared by Christians, and urging Yahweh to free the Jews from the evil of the Roman occupation. He does not know that the lawcode commonly cited as Ten Commandments, even though it is not the code identified as such in the Jewish bible, put limits on how a Jew could treat another Jew, but placed no restriction on how a Jew could treat gentiles. But propagandists like Prothero cannot take into consideration the findings of legitimate scholars (as opposed to theologians), since doing so would put their bread and butter at risk.

The full extent of Prothero's ignorance of realities known to every biblical scholar is made manifest in the "Dictionary of Religious Literacy" that is his last chapter. Admittedly he gets almost as much right as he gets wrong. For example, under "virgin birth" he explains that the Catholic doctrine of "immaculate conception" refers to Mary herself being born without the stain of original sin, not to her impregnation through the ear by Catholicism's Spook. Under "Mormonism" he uses such disclaimers as "according to Smith" in spelling out the cult's teachings, although he does not mention that the Book of Mormon was plagiarized from an unpublished historical novel by Solomon Spaulding. The most obvious example of where he is not only wrong but abysmally wrong is his treating the fable of the "Good Samaritan" (analogous to "Good Nigger") as a sermon the Samaritan-hating Jesus actually preached.

"At least one course in religious studies should also be required of all college graduates" (p. 139). Now that is a recommendation I can endorse. If I had never taken the course in world history that drew my attention to the fifty other virgin-born savior gods who rose from the dead on the third day as much as 3,000 years before Jesus, I might have remained a braindead godworshipper (tautology) to this day. But I doubt that Overton wants students to learn about the Tanakh's endorsement of genocide for the crime of occupying land the Jews coveted, or the gospels' vicious anti-Semitism, or the Koran's instruction that non-Muslims are to be beheaded on sight. What he really wants is the treasonous circumventing of the First Amendment, turning colleges into propaganda ministries for the very tyranny the Founding Fathers tried to keep out of State and Federal law. Is he aware that he is a liar and a hypocrite? Or is self-inflicted stupidity merely his concept of making a living? Is he genetically programmed to be unteachable? Or has he made a conscious decision to be ignorant because, as Ron Hubbard observed, "That's where the money is."

Prothero actually believes that, if Americans learn more about religion, they will become more religious. Sure they will. And if they learn more about Nazism they will become Nazis. As Isaac Asimov wisely observed, "Properly read, the Bible is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived."

Does Science Make Belief in God Obsolete? Thirteen Views on the Question
Michael Shermer, editor
John Templeton Foundation
300 Conshohocken Road, Suite 500, West Conshohocken, PA 19428

Contributors' answers to the title question range from an unambiguous Yes by Victor Stenger, through a tentative Yes by Stephen Pinker, a fence-sitting Maybe by Michael Shermer and a Catholic cardinal, a qualified No by Christopher Hitchens, and an unambiguous No by a bunch of people I have never heard of.

Since the publisher, a hardcore theofascist propagandist organization for the perpetuation of superstition, gave Shermer a free hand in selecting contributors and publishing their comments unedited, that makes Shermer responsible for the collection being top-heavy with opinions no rationalist could possibly take seriously. So why did he make such choices? Since by the only legitimate definition, "one who does not have a theistic belief," Shermer is an atheist, I can only conclude that he leaned over backwards to avoid appearing biased. Is that commendable? Perhaps.

Steven Pinker asks, "Why did God deem some acts moral and others immoral? If he did have reasons, then why not appeal to those reasons directly?" In other words, even if a god with such priorities exists, it is no more a role model for ethical behavior than Adolf Hitler. Such a god is relevant? In Cloud Cuckoo Land, maybe.

Cardinal Schonborn of Vienna declares, "The theistic attitude has been fully vindicated." If he believes that, I have a bridge for sale in Brooklyn that I think will interest him.

William Phillips states that, while he is a believer, "Many other equally good scientists are nevertheless atheists. Both conclusions are positions of faith." And if he believes that, he has either never read the falsifying evidence, or never read it with his brain in gear. Recognition that the god of the largest religions has oxymoronic qualities and therefore can no more exist than a four-sided triangle is not "faith."

Mary Midgley criticizes what she calls "scientism," although her rambling doubletalk does not explain what that weasel word is supposed to mean. Since she has written a book that identifies evolution as a religion, expecting logic from such a source would be somewhat unrealistic. One can only wish her success with her brain transplant.

Anglican priest Keith Ward writes, "Far from making belief in God obsolete, some interpretations of modern science provide positive reinforcement for belief in God." And if he believes that—see above.

Victor Stenger, in the most concise argument for a godless universe that can be squeezed into three pages, concludes, "Science has not only made belief in God obsolete. It has made it incoherent."

Jerome Groopman writes, "Neither science nor faith need contradict the other; in fact, if one appreciates the essence of each, they can enrich each other in a person's life." Stephen Jay Gould expanded that absurdity into a whole book, and thereby destroyed the reputation he had taken a lifetime to earn.

Michael Shermer's contribution to the debate begins, "Science does not make belief in God obsolete, but it may make obsolete the reality of God."

Stuart Kauffman writes, "The schism between science and religion can be healed, but it will require a slow evolution from a supernatural, theistic God to a new sense of a fully natural God as our chosen symbol for the ceaseless creativity in the universe that we can call God." In other words, religion should be replaced by pantheism. Would that be a step in the right direction, or would it simply delay the flushing away of the God concept that is keeping humankind in the Stone Age?

More than one author capitalizes pronouns and possessive adjectives that refer to the paramount deity of western religion, a practice abandoned even by liberal theologians. If those authors wish to be taken seriously, they are going to have to stop treating correct English as a foreign language.

This booklet would be a bargain at half the price.

The Messiah before Jesus: The Suffering Servant of the Dead Sea Scrolls
Israel Knohl, translated by David Maisel
University of California Press
2120 Berkeley Way, Berkeley, CA 94704-1012
0520234006 $16.95

The last book about Christian origins that I read that was this imbecilic, passing off as biblical scholarship drivel that can only be described as a mushroom fantasy, was Joseph Atwill's Caesar's Messiah. Atwell started from the assumption that Jesus the Nazirite was not a person from history. Knohl assumes that Jesus was a real person. But that is the most significant difference between two attempts to prove a hypothesis straight out of left field by starting from the assumption that the hypothesis is valid and then arguing in circles. Atwell argued that the Christian gospels were written by Josephus under the direction of the Flavians, for the purpose of creating a pro-Roman, anti-Jewish religion (as Christianity indeed was). Knohl argues that Jesus indeed prophesied his own death and resurrection (as he assuredly did not), because he believed he was thereby fulfilling a prophecy based on a previous resurrected messiah who was murdered in or about the same year Jesus was born. Knohl names the messiah allegedly killed c 4 BCE as "Menahem the leader of the Essenes" (p. 62), whom he identifies as the successor of the Righteous Rabbi who was the Essenes' founder, and whom Jesus succeeded in the same status. The lengths to which each author goes to justify his imaginative rewriting of history raises the question of why they are not both confined to padded cells where they can be treated for self-inflicted brain amputations.

Knohl reports (p. xii) that, "Some have claimed that there has been a deliberate delay in publishing the scrolls because of pressure from the Vatican and other quarters…. I find the charge of a deliberate delay in publishing the scrolls unacceptable. As someone personally involved in the publication of several fragments of the scrolls…" As the Star Trek multigraph might have said: INACCURATE! INACCURATE! There was indeed a conspiracy to prevent the Dead Sea Scrolls from ever being examined by skeptics. Bart Ehrman was permitted to see them when he applied as a card-carrying Christian. But when it became known that he had become a nontheist, he was denied further access. The only reason a large percentage of the scrolls were eventually published is that historians who managed to obtain access smuggled out photocopies and gave them to the world of scholarship. At that point the conspirators could only smile and pretend that they had not been hoisted on their own petard. There are two possible explanations for Knohl's outrageous falsehood. One is that he was not part of the cover-up and was unaware that it was happening. The other, the only other, is in my view more consistent with Occam's razor.

Knohl acknowledges that more than a century of Christian Testament scholarship has maintained (p. 2) that, "Jesus could not have foreseen his rejection, death and resurrection, as 'the idea of a suffering, dying, and rising Messiah or Son of Man was unknown to Judaism' [as indeed it was]…. It follows that in the opinion of these scholars, all accounts of Jesus foretelling his rejection, death and resurrection lack any historical basis whatsoever…. In this book I intend to counter these claims." The problem is that Knohl's concept of countering reality is to argue in effect, "I'm right and they're wrong, so there!"

As a believer in the fantasy that an omnipotent Master of the Universe chose a tiny Phoenician tribe on an insignificant planet in an insignificant galaxy to be its special pets and recipients of its blatant partisanship, in depraved indifference to the welfare of the same planet's six billion non-Jews, Knohl approaches the Christian Testament as essentially a blasphemous corruption of the "true religion." It is therefore hardly surprising that his interpretation of Revelation is as incompetent as any Christian apologist who argues that Revelation is Revealed Truth.

Chapter 13 of Revelation refers to two "beasts," the first of whom was "fatally killed but its fatal wound had healed," a reference to Nero, who committed suicide but was nonetheless rumored to be planning a comeback. The second was the first beast's successor, "exercising all of the authority of the first beast," clearly Nero's de facto successor in Jerusalem, Vespasian.(1) To Knohl, the first beast was Rome and the second was Augustus. To reach such a "look how clever I am" conclusion, Knohl makes the ad hoc assumption that a book written between July and August 70 CE (but interpolated with three extra chapters at the beginning and three at the end in the reign of Domitian)(2) was written by a single author in 80 CE (p. 33), "utilizing an older composition written at the beginning of the first century, during the reign of Augustus." Camel excrement!

Knohl identifies his title messiah as "Menahem the Essene." In Mythology's Last Gods I named the would-be messiahs from whom Paul of Tarsus capriciously chose his posthumous figurehead as including Theudas (46 CE) and Judas of Galilee (6 CE). I requisitioned The Messiah before Jesus from interlibrary loan primarily to ascertain whether I need to mention "Menahem" in the updated version scheduled for 2008. I find that I do not. The kindest thing that can be said about Knohl's naming Menahem as the messiah Jesus saw as his predecessor is that it is an undisciplined guess.

In fairness to Knohl, it must be acknowledged that a good deal of the incompetence in his book should be attributed to the translator. Knohl wrote in Hebrew, and in all likelihood showed Jesus describing himself in the third person as Ben Adam, meaning "Descendant of Adam," in other words a synonym for a human. David Maisel's translation shows Jesus referring to himself as "Son of Man," a justifiable translation of the Greek, huios anthropou, but totally misleading as a pretended translation of Ben Adam. And the reference to the "Suffering Servant" in the book's subtitle could also be due to the translator's incompetence. Knohl probably used a Hebrew word that should be translated as "slave" rather than "servant." And repeated references to "Jesus of Nazareth" rather than "Jesus the Nazirite," and "God" rather than a correct translation of Yahweh or elohim, may also be the translator's fault. But regardless of where the blame is placed, The Messiah before Jesus is a work of monumental incompetence. The only mitigating circumstance is that anyone who can apply allegedly scholarly techniques to the Tanakh/Bible and conclude that it is nonfiction is incompetent by definition.

Understanding Intelligent Design, William Dembski, 2008, Harvest House, 990 Owen Loop North, Eugene, OR 97402-9173, 978-0736924429, 190 pp, ppb.

The Design of Life Dembski, 2007, Foundation for Thought and Ethics, P O Box 830721, Richardson, TX 75083-0721, 978-0980020301, 401 pp, hc.

Debating Design, Dembski, 2007, Cambridge U.P., 32 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10013-2473, 978-0521709903, 424 pp, ppb.

Intelligent Design, Dembski, 2007, InterVarsity Press, P O Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515, 978-0830823147, 312 pp, ppb.

The Edge of Evolution, Michael Behe, 2008, Free Press, Simon and Schuster, 201 Ingram Blvd, Roseburg, OR 97470-7148, 978-0743296229, 336 pp, ppb.

Intelligent Design 101, Behe, 2008, Kregel Publications, P O 2607, Grand Rapids, MI 49501-2607, 304 pp, ppb,.

Darwin's Black Box, Behe, 2006, Free Press, 978-0743290319, 352 pp, ppb.

Three proofs that humans were not intelligently designed: urine, excrement, menstruation. Until creationists can offer a sane explanation of why their allegedly omnipotent imaginary playmate would have created those abominations, nothing they say can be taken any more seriously than John Mack's equally mindless defence of alien abductions

It is worth noting that no legitimate, peer-reviewed scientific journal has ever published any of Dembski's or Behe's desperate doublethink. Harvest House, FTE, InterVarsity Press, Free Press, and Kregel are all self-confessed propagandists for the Jesus hoax. Nothing they publish has any credibility. And the fact that Cambridge University accredits a Faculty of Theology/Astrology (there's a difference?) really says it all. (This is of course equally true of Oxford.).

For the definitive debunking of I.D., see:

God, the Devil, and Darwin: A Critique of Intelligent Design, by Niall Shanks, Oxford U.P., 198 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016, 978-0195322378;

Why Intelligent Design Fails, by Matt Young, Rutgers U.P., 100 Joyce Kilmer Avenue, Piscataway, NJ 008864-8099, 978-0813534336;

Unintelligent Design, by Mark Perakh, Prometheus Books, 59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst, NY 14228-2197, 978-1591020844;

Intelligent Design: Real Science or Religion in Disguise? Robert M. Baird, ed, Prometheus, ISBN 978-1-59102-445-3;

The Ancestor's Tale, by Richard Dawkins, Mariner Books, 215 Park Avenue S, New York NY 10003, 978-0618619160;

Scientific Malpractice: The Creation/Evolution Debate, by Ivan Zabilka, Bristol House Ltd, 1201 East 5th St, Suite 2107, Anderson IN, ISBN 978-0917851179 ;

Scientists Confront Creationism, ed. by Laurie Godfrey, W.W. Norton, 500 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10110, 978-0393050905.

I would recommend that Dembski and Behe read those books, but that is no more likely to happen than for a numerologist to read Einstein, an astrologer to read Carl Sagan, or a Scientologist to read A Piece of Blue Sky.

William Harwood

Henry's Bookshelf

Rug Hooking in Maine, 1838-1940
Mildred Cole Peladeau
Schiffer Publishing
Atglen, PA
9780764328824 $39.95

As Peladeau shows, the field of Maine hooked rugs is surprisingly complex. It's certainly more involved and more fertile than ones who know it simply as a category of "Maine hooked rugs" realize. The field is given complexity and richness by different periods, rug makers, regions, and skills. The author brings all these elements out by an uncommon depth of research sustained by an intertwined personal and professional interest. She lectures on aspects of the topic, has organized exhibitions, and collects research materials on it.

Peladeau finds, for instance, that in the 1859 Maine Charitable Mechanic Fair, three rugs were exhibited. But she goes beyond this fact to relate what it says about the field at this moment in its history. That only the few rugs were exhibited indicates "that interest in rugs had waned somewhat..."; and even more, that the small number indicates that interest in rugs at the time "was centered in the Portland area" and other crafts such as quilts and shell box work had come into gr eater favor. Such continual details and commentary on what they tell about Maine hooked rugs makes for not only informative, but engrossing reading on the field.

Hooked rugs continue to hold appeal for many collectors and others in the antiques' field because they are a genuine folk art with old Maine and New England associations. Rug hooking was a traditional skill passed on to young woman. Hooked rugs served practical and decorative purposes in homes before surviving ones became desirable collector's items as homes became modernized and the frontier and Victorian tastes and skills they represented passed away. This comes through in Peladeau's text where she relates how rug hooking originated in particular places and spread to others; in her portrayals of individual rug makers or hooked-rug businesses; and detailed descriptions on how the rugs were made, which in some passages are specified to the point of reading like how-to instructions. But the visual matter especially imparts the folk-art aura of hooked rugs which makes them perennially appealing. The diary entries, the old pamphlets, the period photos of woman rug makers and old shops where they were made impart a feel for the combination of ordinariness, industriousness, and inventiveness distinguishing folk art. The many photographs of the farm animals, birds, flowers, patterns, and borders of hooked rugs all in varying degrees of primitive style impart this essential quality of such rugs too.

Peladeau's book is for collectors and the like looking for a discriminating understanding of Maine hooked rugs. The rugs always have an appeal for their folk-art appearance and association with Americana and traditional New England crafts. But for readers whose appreciation is enhanced by knowledge of weaves, recognition of regional variations, awareness of stages of development, and the like, Peladeau's book is for them.

The Chaco Experience - Landscape and Ideology at the Center Place
Ruth M. Van Dyke
School for Advanced Research Press/SAR
Santa Fe, NM
9781930618763 $34.95

Van Dyke's multilayered study centers on the Chaco Canyon spiritual, cultural center. The Chacos were a Southwestern Native American tribe from which the familiar Pueblos are descended. This Chaco site flourished from about 850AD to 1200AD.

Remarking that the "Chacoan landscape was to be experienced," Van Dyke tries to recreate this experience for herself as much as this is possible by "walking where the Chacoans walked, perceiving spaces as closely as possible to the ways in which they perceived them." Besides scholarly and imaginative scrutiny and hypothesis regarding numerous artifacts and ruins of the Chaco spiritual site, the author also looks to elements of historical and present-day Pueblo mythology, belief, and spiritual practices to help her form an idea of Chaco spirituality and spiritual practices and corresponding reasons for and uses of buil dings and objects of the site.

While basically and for the most part rigorously a work of archaeological research and related anthropology, the book adds a considerable dimension to this by being primarily concerned about the site as the "center place," a key concept and often particular site in any mythology and spirituality sometimes known as the "omphalos." This gives the book a wider interest than most archaeological, anthropological books which do little more than organize findings and explain the design of structures, use of utensils, identify references of symbols, and the like. Yet despite Van Dyke's obvious keen interest in, and in many ways affinity with the particular Native American spirituality, with the author's determined, consistent reliance on the physical evidence of the artifacts, consultation with respected scholarly research and opinion (the bibliography is about fifty pages of references in small type), and habit of reasoning rather than speculating, the book does not take on the style of a New Age-like celebration of Native American or other aboriginal spirituality. Besides up-to-date reporting on the archaeological work and discoveries of the Chaco center place and elucidation of them for what they tell and imply about the place of the site in the Chaco culture and about their spirituality, the author represents a method for greater intellectual and sympathetic understanding of vanished cultures.

The Chaco site is realized as a "palimpsest created over the course of centuries...[e]ach particular moment during that span, each particular construction, built on what came before and influencing what came after." Van Dyke's study has amplitude and insight for paying attention to each particular moment and particular construction while appreciating the site as the highest, most complex expression of the Chacoan culture built according to the ideas of its leaders "to communicate and extol ideas about the way the world works--ideas that legitimated leaders' authority and encouraged visitors to transform themselves into subjects." Grasping the Chacoan culture and its major symbolic remains in this way, as others have done for Aztec and Inca cultu res, Van Dyke brings the Chacoan spirituality recognition as a highly-developed, advanced spirituality reflecting the political ideas, self-awareness, class structure, etc., of the society.

Islamic Art and Architecture - The System of Geometric Design
Issam El-Said, Edited by Tarek El-Bouri and Keith Critchlow
Garnet Publishing
Reading, United Kingdom
distributed in U.S. by International Publishers Marketing
Herndon, VA
1873938454 $44.95 800-758-3756

El-Said writes about the designs seen in a lot of Islamic art and architecture with a scientific precision. What he does is isolate the fundamental, simplest forms--the building blocks--of the Islamic art, and explain and demonstrate how artists and artisans built on these (as one might build on the basic pieces of an erector set) and manipulate these by turning them this way and that to create the incredibly complex geometric patterns. Sometimes as filigree, sometimes as a part of a structure such as a dome or panel, and sometimes a structural element, such patterns are a prime feature by which Islamic art is recognized. El-Said died in 1988 at the age of 50, before he could put the final touches on his outstanding study of the Islamic geometric designs. The two editors are experts in Islamic art and architecture who have compiled and organized El-Said's work for this book. El-Said's previous book Geometric Concepts on Islamic Art published in 1976 was a source of guidance for this book.

The geometric designs are an ancient art who beginnings El-Said, among others, has traced to Egyptian Pharaonic dynasties and Mesopotamian city-states of the third millennium B.C. The precision comes not from astronomical phenomena or scientific instruments, but from "elaborate rules of mensuration" involving signifying numbers, multiplication, division, geometrical forms, and other elements. Operations within these and combinations of them could grow very complex; but they could always be broken down into elementary factors and basic functions. The ancient Islamic architects and artists were both inspired and bound by the systems of mensuration. The palaces, temples, monuments, and other buildings they made were paragons for following generations. Thus while there is an almost infinite variation in the designs because the rules of the classical mensuration were so elaborate, the reliance on the elementary geometric forms gives a superficial resemblance to all the designs. The uniqueness of an Islamic design is in its details; not in any experimental, sensational, or idiosyncratic composition or effects as in Western modernist art for example.

Although the principles of the geometric design have remained basically the same for centuries, there have been only a handful of works explaining and discussing these principles in an analytic and demonstrative way such as El-Said does. El-Said's book is outstanding for its lucidity and pithiness. The large portion of many pages are illustrations of the principles of geometric design by diagrams of how designs are formed from the fundamental forms and mathematical functions. These diagrams look something like the diagrams of chemical compounds seen in chemistry textbooks or pictures of snowflakes. This combination of lucid text and instructive visual matter make this an outstanding book for learning about the geometric design. What one learns applies to Islamic architecture and art throughout history and in different geographical areas.

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

The plotting of the maneuvering and engagements between the Confederate and Union armies in the week and a half right after the climactic battle of Gettysburg leaves off with a trip along the route of the armies giving GPS coordinates so readers can follow in the footsteps of the armies and also locate the exact spots covered in the regular text. But for this book, many of the routes and spots could not easily be located as these days of the conflict have received little attention. In many cases, there are no historical markers or official sites. Historians and Civil War buffs tend to think both armies, spent after the battle of Gettysburg, licked their wounds and recuperated, not to engage in any significant confrontations until the battles in northern Virginia marking the closing phase of the war. But by their detailed recounting of the week and a half after Gettysburg, the coauthors show that this period evidences its own strategic aims and fateful clashes. It was especially important for the South in that Lee's army survived intact by fending off Union forces trying to deliver a crushing blow to it in its weakened state.

The authors have a special interest in the Civil War cavalry. But it is not because of this they pay particular attention to the role of the cavalry of both sides. They pay close attention because the cavalry was particularly important in the brief period. Southern cavalry was mainly responsible for protecting the 17-mile long wagon train of wounded rebel troops. For its part, Union cavalry played a leading role in combat against the Confederates; and some units proved to be a match against the highly-touted Southern cavalry forces. The variety of sources--letters, diaries, military communications, news reports, and books--allows for shedding light on varied aspects of the days covered. The title is taken from a phrase in a letter by a Union soldier. Overarching strategic views are succeeded by first-person accounts of particular combat episodes; from communications among officers, one follows the battle preparations on both sides; newspaper articles give a picture of the concerns of civilians trying to follow developments; papers from civilian leaders reveal their efforts to bring about the respective desired outcome. This variety of material is skillfully integrated for a dramatic narrative. The reader hardly notices the shifts in content as one becomes engrossed in the tale to learn specifics of how the known outcome of the escape of Lee's army happened. "One Continuous Fight" is popular history at its best--simultaneously engaging and educating.

Gerhard Richter - Paintings from Private Collections
edited by Gotz Adriani
Hatje Cantz,
distributed in U.S. by Distributed Art Publishers
9783775721370 $45.00

If the 80 or so art works were not seen together in this book, you might not recognize them as done by the same artist they are so diverse. There's figures and abstract art; a few works with pronounced, though not assertive, realist qualities; and one installation-like work. Coloring ranges from vivid, jazzy, primary colors to muted grays. There's persons in some, buildings in others, and a few are nature scenes. But they are all works by the German artist Gerhard Richter (born 1932) who has gained international fame. The book is a catalog relating to a major Richter exhibition now at the National Gallery Complex in Edinburgh, Scotland thru January 2009. After this, it is scheduled for Vienna and Duisberg, Germany.

With Richter, such diversity does not token stages of development; nor--surprising as it may seem--experimentation. Rather, the diversity reflects different versions of excellence by a consummately skilled, inexhaustibly curious artist perfectly, ideally, and conceptually in tune with the capricious ways of the times. Whereas this results in mere fickleness, impulsiveness, or petulance with ordinary persons, the master artist Richter can brilliantly turn his inventory of skills, knowledge of forms, and mystic-like sense of the contemporary social and psychic airs to the creation of varied works.

The fabric connecting them all is a deftness and polish--which is the quality by which a Richter work is recognized. Nearly all of the works have some modification of technique, often in the style of a fracture or mutation. With the figures, this is usually a degree of blurring; with some of the abstracts, a seemingly wayward expressionist touch; with the abstract works which h ave a collage-like mix of forms, a contemplative tone rather than an anarchic polyglot of shapes and images. While not an iconoclast or inventor as for most modern artists who have gained such notice and stature, Richter nevertheless works against the conventions of the forms and styles he works within without ironically trying to expose their arbitrary foundations or destroy their presence or history. This imbues a subtlety in his works--another signature quality distributed through the diversity.

As Gotz Adriani remarks in the first of two essays introducing the catalog, Richter's works are "not really concerned with the proscriptions accumulated over the years by the series of artistic revolts..."; but rather with the same "unmistakable painterly qualities [that] are demonstrated by references to works by Titian [and] Vermeer." Adriani also remarks that Richter's paintings have a "very private character [that] could take some time to get used to"--i. e., take some time to recognize and apperceive with their subtlety amid their range of styles and subjects.

In the following essay, Dieter Schwarz uses a quote from Nietzsche to grasp the constant, but faint essence of Richter's art. The Nietzsche quote goes in part, " read a text as text without the interference of an interpretation is the latest-developed form of 'inner experience'." This is one way of seeing the purity of expression of Richter's paintings; which is the essential quality unifying them all.

photographs by Henry Horenstein
Pond Press
Brooklyn, NY
9780976195528 $40.00

Horenstein takes photographs of animals, but he is not a naturalist. The photographs were taken in zoos and aquariums. While one might think this would give them a certain "staged" quality or limitation, an artificiality or familiarity as photographs, this is not the case--far from it. The photographs were exhibited (through June 2008) at the Harvard Museum of Natural History as a part of its "lessons in looking" project. This project aimed at being provocative and "chang[ing] the frame" of viewers' experiences with nature photography; as the Museum's Director Elisabeth Werby explains in her Foreword. Horenstein's 64 duotone photographs of animals--actually mostly parts of animals--patently work toward this end.

This skilled, imaginative, idiosyncratic photographer focuses sharply on a specific part, or a detail, of an animal. Such sharp focus--as in some photographs by Edward Weston, for example--leaves the subject so that the viewer does not easily recognize it. Horenstein does not go this far, however. His aim is not to demonstrate the power of the camera to microscopically hone in on a subject in such a way that one cannot recognize it; but rather to enlarge the viewer's awareness of and connection with his subjects of animals. The photographs are a kind of synecdoche. The parts of an animal Horenstein focuses on are usually ones the viewer associates with it from seeing many ordinary photographs or films of it or from school classes in the world of nature. The viewer knows an octopus from a tentacle lined with suction cups; an Emperor penguin from its elongated white belly; a dolphin from its sleek, bulbous shape.

Horenstein is patient, too. Since "you can't tell an elephant where to stand [or] ask a skate to must be very patient and wait" for the opportunity to take a good picture, he tells in his Photographer's Note. But there's more than simply waiting for the right moment. The photographer achieves his extraordinary effects by using macro lenses and by working with grainy, black-and-white film, then developing it in sepia to give it "an old school, timeless feel." It works: The combination of photographs which are at once familiar and challenging and technicalities of film and development used make a unique, lingering impression. It is unlikely most viewers will see the animals in Horenstein's photographs ever again without seeing them or thinking about them in some respect as they were led to see and consider them with these photographs.

Henry Berry

Karyn's Bookshelf

The Hanging Woods
Scott Loring Sanders, author
Houghton Mifflin Company
222 Berkeley St., Boston, MA 02116
9780618881253, $16.00

First-time author Scott Loring Sanders shows exceptional talent in his young adult novel about a 14-year-old boy trying to come to grips with life's baggage. On the surface alone there's a lot not going right in Walter's small, mid-1970s town. Jobs are scarce, shops are boarded up, disturbed soldiers are returning from Vietnam and his parents and surrounding adults seem stuck in dead-end lives. But underneath, thanks to some information he has unearthed about his mother, trouble is churning even more. Though Walter and two friends ostensibly are spending the summer doing typical things – swimming, camping, building a tree house – he finds himself increasingly fascinated by violence, starting with his killing of a fox for its pelt. It doesn't help that violent things are happening around him beyond his control, including the death of a neighbor by a snake bite and a friend's efforts to get into the Guinness Book of World Records by keeping a headless turkey alive. Walter can't seem to settle his thoughts as they become more and more disturbed. What emerges is a gripping tale of a young teen losing his hold on normalcy, with no clear route back. An outstanding debut.

The Joys of Love
Madeleine L'Engle, author
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
18 West 18th St., New York, NY 10011
9780374338701, $16.95

The famed author of "A Wrinkle in Time," returns posthumously, thanks to L'Engle's granddaughters who persevered to publish her 1940s-era novel. Dated in a charming way, "The Joys of Love" is about just that – love found and lost among early 20-somethings working seaside summer theatre in 1946. Theatre buffs will get the most out of L'Engle's heavily-ladled references to classic playwrights and works. But even those who don't live and die by the words of Shakespeare and Chekhov will relate to the coming-of-age tale of a group of young people tossed together for a few steamy weeks, who have similar aspirations to make it as professional actors. It's the quintessential experience of anyone who's ever worked a summer job surrounded by like-minded, like-aged individuals. Amid backstage heart-to-hearts, boardwalk night spots and backstage passion emerge some deep friendships, some secrets and some love (or at least lust). A perfect summer read whether or not it inspires you to pick up "The Seagull."

The Calder Game
Blue Balliett, author, Brett Helquist, illustrator
Scholastic, Inc.
557 Broadway, New York, NY 10012
9780439852074, $17.99

In the third of the best selling series about a trio of tween sleuths, Balliett again mixes mystery and intellect. Seventh-graders Calder Pillay and his friends Petra and Tommy find themselves immersed in a whodunit that blends art, math and puzzling and spans two continents with cultural glimpses of Chicago and England. When Calder and a sculpture coincidentally crafted by an artist of the same name disappear on the same day from a small British town, Petra and Tommy board a plane from Chicago to help come and look for both. A good infusion of rapid-paced scenes in and near the sprawling public garden where Calder is believed to have disappeared, and an intriguing cast of primary and secondary characters, provide the balance that keeps the intellectual angles from bogging down. And Balliett demonstrates some truly exceptional use of language deep in the story, when a despairing Calder's thoughts about a place he's stuck morph into colors, from black to red to yellow, that represent what he's experiencing. The writing is great throughout, but that moment transcends.

The Patron Saint of Butterflies
Cecilia Galante
Bloomsbury Publishing
175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010
9781599902494, $16.99

First-time novelist Cecilia Galante impresses with her young adult novel about two 14-year-old girls growing up at a religious commune. Strong character development and a good mix of complex, intertwined relationships elevate the story beyond what could have been just a ripped-from-the-headlines tale of religious radicalism gone awry. Agnes, who is trying hard to live up to the commune's severe expectations, and Honey, who is doing her best to subvert them, are given a chance at a new life outside its walls by a grandmother who catches a glimpse of some disturbing activities there. The girls must decide if they're ready to leave the insulated cocoon they've been living in for the broader world, which while free is wrought with choices and realities they've never before had to deal with. Once out, they must face some painful truths about the place they've called home. Stirring and believable, hopefully the first of many from Galante.

Ruby and the Booker Boys: Trivia Queen, 3rd Grade Supreme
Derrick Barnes, author
Vanessa Brantley Newton, illustrator
Scholastic, Inc.
557 Broadway, New York, NY 10012
9780545017619, $4.99

Precocious African American third-grader Ruby Booker returns in the second of Derrick Barnes' series, intent on winning the school spelling bee. The series is, so far, a light-handed, easy read for grade-schoolers who aren't looking for much introspection. Disappointingly from an adult reader's perspective, things happen much too easily for Ruby. She's allowed to enter a spelling bee that is normally only for fifth-through-eighth graders, after effortlessly talking the school principal into letting her compete. And her parents, a dance teacher and musician who breezily juggle two jobs and four kids, laud her participation instead of suggesting that she wait a few years. There are nods to African American culture, including mention of a teacher being from Kenya, but nothing of substance. While it's nice to see a fun, well-written, easy chapter book about African American kids, this one tips unrealistically toward the hyper-positive. In the next installment, a few disappointments and life lessons might be refreshing. Entertaining in a superficial way, but nothing to ponder when the final page is turned.

See How They Run: Campaign Dreams, Election Schemes and the Race to the White House
Susan Goodman, author
Elwood Smith, illustrator
Bloomsbury Publishing
175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010
9781599901718 $9.95

In a way that's thoroughly fun and effectively, age-appropriately informational, Goodman takes a kid-friendly stab at the American election process. A mix of easily digestible break-out boxes, longer stretches of insightful text and eye-catching graphics take young readers from George Washington to the controversial 2000 election between George W. Bush and Al Gore. The 96 pages are well organized into short, 2-to-3 page sections. Sections covers things like the Roman origins of representative democracy; the dawning of American political parties; the long process of securing everyone, including women and African Americans, the right to vote; ballot box corruption; third parties; the primary system; campaign finance; and the impact of television. Included are lots of interspersed historical tidbits. Throughout, but particularly at the end, young readers are encouraged to learn about the election process and to take part in mock votes in their schools and communities. A glossary, list of internet and other resources and index make the book user-friendly. A great primer as the 2008 presidential election heats up.

Karyn Saemann

Kevin's Bookshelf

Don't Fry Bacon With Your Shirt Off: A Single Man's Guide to the Kitchen
Bob Woodley
Publish America
P.O. Box 151 Frederick, MD 21705
9781424183210 $13.95

A slight breeze whispers through the trees. Fortune favors me this misty morning, for the wind hides my scent, carrying it away from my intended prey. All morning I've tracked this fearsome beast. Waiting for that one perfect moment, that split second, frozen in time. I let fly my spear, giving a silent prayer to the Gods of the hunt. The animal screams, and falls dead. Today is a good day, because I eat. A voice from the heavens booms, "Clean up in Aisle 7." The manager starts screaming "Get Out! I'm calling the cops!"

It's not my fault. I told my girlfriend that guys don't shop. We hunt. Sure you can send us to the grocery store, but make sure we have a list. We hunt for the milk. We hunt for the bread, we make the kill and then we're out of there, and as for the tampons...

A lot of us also don't cook, and that's why Don't Fry Bacon with Your Shirt Off: A Single Man's Guide to the Kitchen by Bob Woodley is going to come in handy. Not frying bacon with your shirt off is the first rule for the single man for a number of reasons. You don't want to burn the skin off your chest, and you want to be able to eat your BLT without burning down the house.

The great thing about this book is that Bob breaks it down in guy-like instructions. Just like with any basic skill, there are levels of competence. You might feel comfortable rewiring your house or your level of handiness might be changing a light bulb. If you are eating cereal for dinner, and think that the refrigerator is just for keeping your beer cold, then this book is for you.

The book starts with the basics--a list of all the pots, pans, utensils and other stuff you may eventually want to have. Don't worry about having to run out and buy that fondue pot. He lists the stuff you will need most first, and just like buying any tool, whether a power drill or a frying pan, quality counts.

One of the few things that modern man has over Neanderthals is the ability to store food for later consumption. This handy book covers some of the basics. There's more to storage than Tupperware. What's the sense of buying the econopack of chicken wings only to have to throw half of them away?

This isn't a cookbook full of recipes, though he does manage to sneak in a couple. If you are a typical guy, a recipe is just like a set of directions for putting together a BBQ grill. First you read it thoroughly, drink a cold beer, and then throw it away, because you're a guy and you don't need directions. Bob does cover where to find recipes and how to follow a recipe, and you know Aunt Martha is just dying to give you her famous meat-loaf secret.

The book also covers Mexican and Italian food, pasta, ground beef, the amazing egg (it's not just for breakfast anymore), and how to cook for a party. The important survival mode chapter is for those who just need to get by, whether the end of the semester is coming or you're recently divorced, but you don't want to starve, live on fast food or microwave popcorn, and pizza. The best way to reheat cold pizza by the way is to use a toaster oven, not a microwave.

This book is a great gift for your friend who just got his first bachelor pad, or for the recently divorced buddy. Grab a six-pack, drop by and leave the book on the kitchen counter. Just don't consume alcohol and decide to cook up something. It may seem like a great idea, but jalapeno poppers are not for the uninitiated and grease fires can be nasty. (Note: do not use water, or beer to put out a grease fire. Smother it was a pan lid, use a LOT of baking soda, or a chemical fire extinguisher, and when it doubt, get out) So, do the single man you know a favor. This book won't make him a chef, but it can make him a cook. Grab this book, serve, and enjoy...

Binocular Stargazing
Mike D. Reynolds
Stackpole Books
5067 Ritter Rd., Mechanicsburg, PA 17055
9780811731362 $12.95 800-732-3669 or 717-796-0411,

Falling Stars, A Guide to Meteors & Meteorites
Mike D. Reynolds.
Stackpole Books
5067 Ritter Rd., Mechanicsburg, PA 17055
9780811727556 $15.95 800-732-3669 717-796-0411

The lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer, a great time to lounge in the shade, sip cold lemonade, and lose yourself in a good book--so many books, so little time. Yep, it reminds me of those carefree days of youth. I remember fishing for bass with my uncle, hunting for ginseng with my Grandpa and gathering berries with my Grandma. I always ended up with more in my belly than in the basket, and just lying in the backyard under a starry, summer sky.

The nighttime sky is truly a wonder to behold, and for a young boy just starting a lifetime of discovery, my dad's old binoculars were all I needed. When you read about the latest discovery with the Hubble space telescope, you might think that the only things worth looking at are with the biggest, best, and most expensive equipment, but it simply isn't true. If you are just getting interested in astronomy, you might want to consider Binocular Stargazing by Mike D. Reynolds.

Why start with binoculars? 1. A pair of binoculars of reasonable quality can be bought for under $100; a telescope of reasonable quality can cost twice as much, or much more. 2. Binoculars are easier to learn to use than a telescope. 3. Objects are easier to find with a standard pair of binoculars than a telescope, and allows a novice to begin to learn the night sky and navigate from object to object. 4. If you decide that astronomy is not for you, you can always use the binoculars for other things, and 5. Two eyes are simply better than one.

Many amateur astronomers keep a pair of binoculars when out observing. Binoculars can be useful for first examining a part of the sky before an object is located. And when that occasional fireball appears, a pair of binoculars is useful for examining the smoke trail, or train, often left behind—and if you are quick enough, the meteor itself.

Most of us have looked up at the night sky and seen what is commonly called a falling or shooting star. These momentary streaks occur when meteors, objects ranging from the size of dust particles to fist-size masses, enter the earth's atmosphere and are heated to incandescence. Few of these objects survive their encounter with our atmosphere.

What we see on earth is a streak of light that lasts about a half second on average -- generally speaking, the larger the material that enters the atmosphere, the brighter the meteor. Brighter meteors will occasionally leave a smoke trail in their path lasting a few seconds; trails produced by very bright meteors, referred to as fireballs, may last minutes. Fireballs that appear to break up, or produce sound, are called bolides.

One of the most prolific meteor showers known as the Perseids occurs in August. The Perseids are so called because the point they appear to come from lies in the constellation Perseus. Meteor showers occur when Earth moves through a meteor stream. The stream in this case is called the Perseid cloud and it stretches along the orbit of the Comet Swift-Tuttle. The shower is visible from mid-July each year, with the greatest activity between August 8 and 14, peaking about August 12. During the peak, the rate of meteors reaches 60 or more per hour. To experience the shower in its full, one should observe in the dark of a clear moonless night, from a point far outside any large cities, where stars are not dimmed by light pollution-such as Cherry Springs state park.

If you are looking for a good introduction to the wonderful world of meteors and meteorite collecting, check out Falling Stars, A Guide to Meteors & Meteorites by Mike D. Reynolds. There are a number of good books out there on this subject, but this one is a handy quick reference guide for novices and those interested in learning about the origins of these interesting pieces of rock from space. It gives a brief overview of meteors and comets, descriptions of major meteor showers, major impact craters, and famous meteorite falls, as well as a breakdown of the various types of meteorites.

Backyard astronomy can be easy and fun. I'm going to make myself a big bowl of popcorn, drag my Barcaloungera into the backyard and catch a FREE midnight show.

Kevin Coolidge

Lemon's Bookshelf

America's Corporate Brain Drain
Babs Ryan
Sparks Worldwide LLC,
PO Box 10527 Chicago, IL 60610-0527
9780981494708 $26.95

"America's Corporate Brain Drain," - a serious look at a serious issue, Can mega corporations continue to do business as usual and survive?

"America's Corporate Brain Drain," A work several years in creation is now available for review and due out to the bookstores August 2008.

Never one to hold back, author Babs Ryan, an international business expert and innovator, has bad news for America's big corporations. They are losing their creative and innovative top talent. Ryan chronicles issue after issue, making the case that most large American companies simply don't understand that "flavor of the month" business fads (think Six Sigma, Project management, CRM management, and a slew of other ideas) mask hidden weaknesses. Corporations, especially big ones are largely inept at how to innovate, to properly reward the innovators, and to recognize and act on incompetence in leadership. The best and brightest leave to start their own businesses or pursue their careers in small business, where they can use their ability and skills to find fulfillment.

Case after case, industry by industry, from CEO's to line managers, Ryan looks at and deconstructs the large American corporation, carefully describing how it rewards the mediocre, shuns innovation and creativity (because it threatens jobs and the status quo), and is quite competent in its self destructive behavior, and the uncanny ability to reward exactly the wrong people.

Where is innovation and creation happening? According to Ryan, these are characteristic of small business and start ups formed by the capable, but fed up people leaving the mega corporations. Small business thrives on providing their customers products and services that meet and exceed the customers' expectations and desires.

This book is not for the sensitive. It confronts the comfortable in favor of what really works. Many will find this book and its ideas an ego challenge and hard to accept. Read it with an open mind. While Ryan seemingly mocks big business practices, she does it because she grieves about what is being systematically destroyed - large corporation viability and capability and the leadership to hew a necessary and profitable existence through innovation and creation. And she doesn't mean a new version of the same old thing. She means new stuff, new ideas, new ways of solving problems.

Do yourself and your organization a big favor. Read this book.

Love is Good for Business – The Orientation
Hedeen, Edwin E.
Hedeen Publications
31206 Carpenter Court, Warrenville, IL 60555
0974647802 $8.95

I met Ed Hedeen on an Amtrak train from Chicago to Springfield Illinois. On the return leg, Ed shared his ideas about the importance of a thorough employee orientation as a part of building a culture of excellence, a necessary element of creating a Great Place to Work

His terrific ideas are all captured in "Love is Good for Business: The Orientation" We have great literature about the hiring process, but the importance of the employee orientation (by the owner/leader) isn't addressed often in general business literature.

The leader's orientation for each employee is a prime ingredient for building a culture of excellence. It defines what excellence means in the company. Every facet of the work experience is covered: What are our core values; How are they related to our business?; What are the expectations that you should have about management and managers?; What are their expectations for you?; How are you expected to interact with customers, fellow workers, vendors and management? It's all here, including how to build a review process that is actually a positive experience and is worthwhile to all parties.

Ed's ideas, as expressed in this book, fit like a glove in the matrix of tools and processes that are used by workforce development professionals in order to create super-engaged employees. You need a hiring process and tools to find the best talent and hire them, but you also need a superior orientation to set the expectations, cultural benchmarks and company values, which all give the employees a map for success.

This little tome takes only an hour to read, yet this book could be the missing link between your company's success or failure.

Gary V. Lemon

Liana's Bookshelf

The Tiniest Tiger
Joanne L. McGonagle
9781419684678 $15.00

Joanne L. McGonagle loves contributing to the conservation efforts for endangered wild cats in Africa, Asia, North America and South America through the Conservation Fund of the Colombus Zoo and Aquarium. Learn more at

This lovely book is a wonderful story of a kitten with a striped tail that tries to find a home among the wild cats in the zoo. After a long quest in the zoo she finally finds a home too with the help of the zookeeper's daughter. The readers will love this brilliant story that will both entertain them and educate them about the wild cats on the planet. The illustrations are marvelous and the author has certainly provided her young audience with a useful educational reader that no one should miss!

A Hard Day's Death
Raymond Benson
Leisure Books
c/o Dorchester Publishing Co., Inc.
200 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
9780843960631 $7.99

Very Highly Recommended

Raymond Benson, the author of 16 novels, including six James Bond 007 novels and three James Bond novelizations, is an award winning author of Sweeties Diamonds, a thriller published in 2007.

This thriller is about the murder of an aging rock star, Peter Flame. Though at first it looked like suicide, Spike Berenger, the detective and main character in this story, tries to find out who killed him and why.

It is a fast paced novel full of rock tunes that will amuse and keep the interest intact of all rock lovers. The innovative part is that the chapters of the story are song titles. The author addresses religion and cult issues that are very interesting to read. The plot is well crafted and tight enough to grab the readers¢ interest, and the characters realistic and well described. The dialogue sounds truthful and the language style clear and simple. It is a good read that will entertain, and educate readers as regards the rock stars era, at the same time. It caters to mystery and crime lovers. Get this book from

You Turn: Changing Direction in Midlife
Dr. Nancy Irwin
9781419695018 $18.99

Very Highly Recommended

Nancy Irwin, a former opera singer and stand-up comedian, pursued a doctorate in psychology and specialized in the prevention and healing of child sexual abuse. This is her first book. Learn more about her at


This book is a self-help guide that includes real life stories and self-help tips. Written in the first person and in a simple style, it addresses a variety of social and spiritual issues the readers will love to know about. It is an amazing book filled with stories of success of real people who got the courage to change their life in their mid years. It is certainly an inspiring book that will motivate every reader to try a major life change.

Readers can easily identify with one or more of the stories and feel that a "middle age crisis" is a great time to have a second chance in life-which is so short but so full of surprises! Chapter 42, "Click", is worth mentioning as well as its bottom line: "Life is precious, and far too short. It's worth to live the life you were meant to live."

I recommend this interesting book to everyone who feels that needs a life change.

Liana Metal, Reviewer

Margaret's Bookshelf

Running with Stilettos
Mary T. Wagner
2021 Pine Lake Road, Suite 100, Lincoln, NE 68512
9780595492428, $13.95,

They're dangerous, hard to move in, and painful to wear. But most important of all, they're sexy. "Running with Stilettos: Living a Balanced Life in Dangerous Shoes" consists of the reflections of one woman who spends every day in these terrible shoes, but must give it her all anyway. A collection of humorous memoirs in the form of essays of her day to day life, "Running with Stilettos" is charming and lovely, sure to resonate with many career women who must endure this daunting task daily. Enthusiastically recommended.

The Marrying Kind
Heather Conrad
2021 Pine Lake Road, Suite 100, Lincoln, NE 68512
9780595483143, $18.95,

Mister Right, the ideal man every woman dreams of but who is so impossibly hard to find. "The Marrying Kind" is the tale of five female friends confronting a most difficult task, that of love and marriage. They spill their hearts out in these entertaining, humorous, and heartbreaking tales of life and romance, making "The Marrying Kind" a riveting novel from first page to last. Highly recommended for community library fiction collections.

How Wisdom Spoke to Me
Wanda G. Atkinson
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave., South, New York, NY 10016
9780533158317, $8.95,

Wanda G. Atkinson makes her poetry debut with her anthology "How Wisdom Spoke to Me". Some poems are emotionally moving and inspiring, while others are sly, witty, and will assault one's funny bone. "How Wisdom Spoke to Me" is an excellent debut anthology of poetry and is sure to move fans to seek more of her work. "The Clique": I will not entertain this side/And that other side I will never "pique."/I do not belong with either side/Because I won't partake in the "the clique."// I want no part of the scheming/Because it seems to be kinda "sique"/To be influenced by human forces/That are deceptively known as "the clique".

What Parents of Special Children Should Know
Z. Shamma-Othman
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533157747, $12.95,

Even medical professionals can be at the mercy of the problems they treat. "What Parents of Special Children Should Know: The Story of Sarah Reem" is author and pulmonologist Z. Shamma-Othman's journey of raising a special needs child born over a month premature. Reflecting on her own experience and granting advice to other parents in similar situations, "What Parents of Special Children Should Know" is a deftly written memoir and parenting advice guide, and should be of interest for every community library parenting collection.

Margaret Lane

Mark's Bookshelf

The Age Curve: How to Profit from the Coming Demographic Storm
Kenneth W. Gronbach
AMACOM, American Management Association
1601 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
9780814401811, $24.95

Wow! Kenneth Gronbach's new book on utilizing demographics in business marketing plans is one of the best books that have come across my desk for review in years. If you think you know everything about selling to multiple generations of consumers, you don't and Mr. Gronbach does. Many Fortune 100 companies retain him to keep a pulse on the evolving habits of anyone that has a dollar to spend, from a five-year old to a centarian. The Age Curve should be required reading for every marketing manager in America.

Chapter titles are: The Generational Impact on Supply and Demand, Who Are These People?, Bell Curves, Pies and Your "Best Customer", Case Study: Detroit, Japan, and the Best Customers for Cars, Silent Virtues: A Small Group with Its Own Impact, Case Study: How the "Graying of America" Myth Will Take Down the Assisted-Living Industry, The Boomers: Mass, Money, and Motivation, What Boomers Will Buy, Boomers Will Not Get Old, The Boomer Economy: Of Credit Cards and Gift Cards, Of Course You Can Afford It!, Social Security and Private Health Care: Dead But Not Buried, Wal-Mart Hits a Wall-A Great Wall, Media's Slow Death: The End of Marketing As We Know It, Quit Picking on the Xers!, The Cause and Effect of a Small Generation, The X Factor: Where Have All the Workers Gone?, The Gen X Labor Shortage and Impact on Direct Mail, Case Study: How Generation X Drove Motorcycle Sales off the Cliff, Case Study: Planes Stuck on the Ground-A Business Traveler's Tale, Stop Looking in the Rearview Mirror!, The Great Y Ahead: More of Everything, Marketing to Generation Y, Case Study: No Leg to Stand On-A Levi's Footnote, Schools, Taxes, and the Future, Generation Y's Leading Legacy, The Bigotry Is Almost Gone-A Boomer's Perspective, Coming to America: Melting Into the World's Melting Pot and Macro and Micro Conclusions.

Also includes are a foreword, introduction, word from the author, four appendices, an index and about the author.

I as a certified Boomer focused on the chapters that I thought would define my spending habits. I wasn't disappointed, the author was right on the money and my demographic. If you're looking for an in-depth but interesting read on marketing, backed up with case studies and statistics, run, don't walk to purchase this book before you spend another dime on marketing to who you think your customer is.

The EQ Interview: Finding Employees with High Emotional Intelligence
Adele B. Lynn
AMACOM, American Management Association
1601 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
9780814409411, 0814409415, $24.00

Job performance and intelligence area the cornerstones of Human Resources. However an emerging science of one's emotional intelligence is creating new barometer's of measuring how a prospective employees personality and response to social interaction in the workplace can impact positively or negatively a companies bottom line. The foundation of emotional intelligence are based on a simple but effective pattern: Thoughts Precede and Follow Behavior. Ms. Lynn does an excellent job drilling down and laying out in layperson terms what to look and search for by those responsible hiring new employees.

Chapter titles are: The Five Areas of Emotional Intelligence and the EQ Job Competencies. Self Awareness: Impact on Others, Emotional and Inner Awareness and Accurate Assessment of Skills and Abilities. Self-Control or Self-Management: Emotional Expression, Courage or Assertiveness, Resilience and Planning the Tone of Conversations. Empathy: Respectful Listening, Feeling the Impact on Others and Service Orientation. Social Expertness: Building Relationships, Collaboration, Conflict Resolution and Organizational Savvy. Personal Influence: Influencing Self: Self-Confidence, Initiative and Accountability, Goal Orientation, Optimism and Flexibility and Adaptability. Personal Influence: Influencing Other: Leading Others, Creating a Positive Work Climate and Getting Results Through Others. Mastery of Purpose and Vision: Understanding One's Purpose and Values, Taking Actions Toward One's Purpose and Authenticity. The EQ Fraud and Other Warning Signs: All One-Sided: Too Good to Be True, Other Behavior Trends and A Word About Instinct and The Final Word. Additional features include acknowledgments, an introduction, about the author, index and two appendices: Emotional Intelligence Table of Competencies and Questions by Area and Competencies.

An important chapter for me was on Emotional Intelligence Fraud. The author lays out important red flags for interviewers to consider in determining if a potential employee is too good to be true. She talks about a candidate claiming all the credit, makes unrealistic claims, gives textbook answers, always saves the day and has an excessively charming personality. Take the time to read this new book, it's enlightening and chock-full of valuable tools to gain a fresh perspective on job candidates.

Mark Nash

Mayra's Bookshelf

Andy and Spirit Go to the Fair
Mary Jean Kelso, illustrator K.C. Snider
Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc., Academic Wings Division
12430 Tesson Ferry Road #186, Saint Louis, MO 63128 USA
9781935137030 $10.95 314-276-8482

In this the 2nd picture book in the "Andy and Spirit" series, Andy is excited about taking part in a horse riding competition at the local fair. But he's nervous. Not only because of his disability, but also because Spirit, just like him, is somewhat different and often attracts the attention of bullies. However, Andy is set on doing well--he loves Spirit, and won't let him down for the world.

Andy and Spirit Go to the Fair is the sweet story of a boy and a horse, their bond and loyalty to one another, and the challenges they must face because of being 'different'. K.C. Snider's colorful yet earthy illustrations bring the spirit of the West to life and children will particularly love the beautiful, majestic pictures of the horses. An inspiring tale about overcoming obstacles, this book carries an universal message that will be enjoyed by children and adults alike."

Rainbow Sheep
Kim Chatel, illustrator Kim Chatel
Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc
12430 Tesson Ferry Rd #186, Saint Louis, MO 63128 USA
9781933090849 $10.95 314 276 8482

Rainbow Sheep is an original, sweet story about a little shepherdess called Genevieve and her flock of sheep.

Genevieve is troubled because it has rained so much lately that the sky is always grey. When she tries to get the attention of the rainbow, she sees that its colors have faded and that it is sad. It has lost its will to live and love, its passion for beauty and life. Only by regaining hapiness will the rainbow shine again in all its glory. But how will Geneive bring joy back into the rainbow's life? You'll have to read the story to find out, and also to find out how the little sheep end up being as brightly colored as the rainbow.

I found this to be an usual story with surrealist elements. Chatel's language is lyrical at times, blending beautifully with the soft fantasy elements of the tale. The story also has the tone and cadence of a legend. Another aspect I found most original is that instead of illustrations, Chatel uses sculpted wool to create the artwork. This technique is known as needle felting.

I found myself engaged all through the book not only with the story, but also with the interesting wool figures. The colorful little sheep will be loved by children and the underwater scenes are especially bright and lovely.

Rainbow Sheep is a great way to introduce kids to this new craft. At the end of the book, you'll find descriptions, demonstrations, and a glossary on needle felting. This is a children's picture book that will be enjoyed by adults and children alike, and one that will make a valuable addition to any library or school bookshelf.

Maybe We Are Flamingos
Safari Sue Thurman, illustrator Kevin Scott Collier
Guardian Angel Publshing, Inc.
12430 Tesson Ferry Road # 186, Saint Louis, MO 63128 USA
9781933090986 $10.95

Maybe We Are Flamingos is an adorable picture book about two baby flamingos who are troubled by the way they look and wonder if they're in the right flock.

When baby flamingos Flora and Fernando are born, they're surprised to see that, while all the other flamingos are pink, they are white. How could this be? To make matters worse, they later turn grey. Is something wrong with them? Why aren't they pink like the other beautiful flamingos around them?

Full of fear at what the possible answer might be, they decide to ask their mom.

To their delight, they find out that it's only a matter of time before they'll turn pink like the others, and that looking the way they do now is completely natural.

Later, they also learn why flamingos are pink, making this book not only entertaining but educational as well.

In sum, this is a delightful and deftly written picture book that young children ages 3 and up will love to listen to again and again. Thurman chose each word in the story carefully, the prose flows so well. Collier's illustrations are a splash of color on the pages, transporting the reader to a warm, tropical place. Maybe We Are Flamingos would make a beautiful gift to any young child and is a sweet book I'd highly recommend to add to your child's bookshelf.

Trouble Finds Rooter and Snuffle"
Shari Lyle-Soffe, illustrator Kevin Scott Collier
Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc.
12430 Tesson Ferry Road #186, Saint Louis, Missouri 63128 USA
9781933090726 $9.95 (314) 276-8482

In this the third book of the Rooter & Snuffle raccoon series, Soffe gives us three more delightful short tales, each with an important message.

In "My True Friends," Rooter falls under the bad influence of Twitcher, the bully rabbit, and turns his back on his friends. Fortunately, this new attitude of his doesn't last long and he's able to realize what a true friend means. More importantly, he does something about it.

In "The Pity Party," Little Snuffle is feeling sorry for himself--is having, in fact, a pity party. Luckily, Rooter makes up a new game to help his little raccoon brother regain his confidence. Rooter reminds him that we all have our special gifts, we just have to find what those gifts are.

In "Yes We Can," Mrs. Quackers the duck is in serious trouble, and it's up to Rooter and Snuffle to help her and her baby ducklings. When they don't succeed, however, they must get the help of Slappy Beaver. As it turns out, it was a piece of garbage what almost killed the mother duck. This story teaches how we can protect wild animals from getting hurt by simply throwing the garbage in a can instead of leaving it everywhere for creatures to find. It is a story that teaches responsibility and a love and respect for animals.

Whenever I read the words "Rooter & Snuffle", I know I'm in for a good time. I have read all of the books in this series and enjoyed them all. What I like most about this author is that she teaches Christian values without being 'preachy'. The short tales are fun and engaging, and Collier's bright illustrations a symphony of colors on the pages. The expressions on the animal faces are just darling, transmitting their emotions to the reader. If you have young children (3 & up), I can whole-heartedly recommend this series!

Mayra Calvani

Molly's Bookshelf

Magnetic Mansion
Return to Eden
Forrest Haskell
9781929976423 $15.95

Part 1 brings the reader into the action: Honey, wouldn't it be wonderful to have a nice little cottage at a lake?

The speaker, Zachary Heikel, mid 30's, married to his high school sweetheart, stay at home mom, Peggy Sue, goes on to relate that that simple, sincere statement while it didn't sound like the beginning of an eight year journey into bizarre and haunting experiences that would envelop himself, his wife and his four children, did just that.

The narrative opens in 1971 with a circle drawn around an ad in the Ann Arbor newspaper. The ad was Cottage for Sale.

Living in the small Southern Michigan village, Dexter, the speaker and his family lived in a house out in flat open range land. Setting out in the morning the speaker and his wife set out to locate the cottage and think about a purchase. To their surprise the asking for the so called cottage is $125,000. The Heikels are quick to make the purchase.

From that beginning the reader is carried along on the strange whirl, based on true experiences of Writer Haskell.

Part I finds Zack, Peggy Sue, and their kids buying the –cottage-, actually it is quite a manor, before long the second home becomes their permanent residence. Each room of the house and its decor is described fully. Part one ends with a contractor set to begin renovations to the house.

Part II opens a few days after the renovator pockets his check and drives away. Zack and his family trek to the cottage to spend a little time there during a school holiday.

From this point the tale really begins to heat up, anticipation, weird and wonderful events and the historical record of the house itself lead the reader deeper into the intrigue. The Heikel family begin to divide their time between the two residences. Almost from the outset they notice out of the ordinary things taking place in the mansion. With concealed passages, sounds from the fireplace, diverse escape means scattered all over the house, and finding doors on the basement floor to seeing unknown faces in the mirror, finding a secreted elevator and locating hidden rooms and a dungeon; this is not your average lake cottage. The mystery surrounding the house takes the reader to criminal factions, a group known as The Purple Gang, and the Knights of Zion.

The family sells their home in Ann Arbor house and moves into the mansion where they find money hidden in a secret safe in a hidden room, Zack is startled to see a face, not his own looking back at him from a mirror, tableware begins to float in the air, green fog bothers the family pets, Zack notices a dog that the rest of the family cannot see.

From the opening pages set in 1971 through an eight year period ending early in 1979 Writer Haskell presents a fast paced work filled with other worldly phenomena, excitement, characters who are believable and interesting in a setting sure to excite the senses and retain reader interest.

The snows finally came in fury, and one dark evening after a family dinner in town, Zack and Peggy Sue travel toward home when they see a deep red glow on the horizon. Their worst fears are realized as they turn onto the street leading to their –cottage-. The residence was fully engulfed in flames. As the family watched the fiery inferno that was their home Peggy Sue was the first to notice the flames had become a deep purple, and an immense shaft of spiraling white smoke and steam was rising from the center of the house.

Not the typical haunted house tale, Magnetic Mansion Return to Eden is a spell binding recounting of the experiences dynamic storyteller Haskell presents in dynamic prose. Characters are well developed, settings a meant to draw the reader into them, dialog is believable and compelling. Writer Haskell has set down a well planned and executed tale. Magnetic Mansion is a quick read for those who enjoy a good mystery and like a little paranormal along with the mystery. The Knighthood of Zion and Mankind's Second Genesis complete the series. I hope the author or publicist send them soon, I would like to continue reading this author to the end of the story. Happy to recommend.

The Last Plague
Glen E. Page
Synergy Books
9781933538969 $14.95

"When God called Moses to free the Israelite slaves from the Egyptians

God gave him eleven vials. Each vial's release caused a plague. After the release of the tenth vial the firstborn son of each Egyptian family died. The Pharaoh then released the Israelites from bondage and Moses never used the eleventh vial. To protect if from evil forces, he hid the eleventh vial in the Ark of the Covenant. But today Lucifer wants this vial. He knows if he controls the eleventh vial, the earth will become his. This vial will bring about the Apocalypse, and led to the world's final battle, Armageddon. For the release of the eleventh vial will cause 'The Last Plague'."

--the author

It is July 6, 1986 in Stanley, Idaho when the circumstances recorded on the pages of The Last Plague book one the Apocalypse Series begin.

Apprehension shone bright in the girl's eyes. Overhead the fluorescent lights reflected off tears rolling down her bloodstained face.

Abandoned on a country road, a young girl is brought into Dr. Douglas Hunter's ER one night. Her abdomen has been cut open.

Nurse Edith Crockett threw a sterile surgical drape over the girl. She wondered out loud how a black child had been left up on Yankee Fork. The only thing the girl had said was something about a beautiful lady and some tigers.

Before long Dr. Hunter realizes the girl is missing an ovary, the other ovary is black and withered.

And then more bodies of young girls are found also missing ovaries. Dr. Hunter tries to find out how or why this medical condition came about; before long he is thrown into a world of not answered inquiry and perilous conclusions as he and his family of adopted nonconformists discover they are being unintentionally thrust into a sinister scheme of government stratagem and biblical divination.

As Dr. Hunter searches for causes for this mysterious plague settling over so many, he and his family begin to come across disconcerting connection with their own at times painful pasts. Then they learn there is something about war crimes in Nazi Germany and events from as long ago as the days when Christ was alive.

The Last Plague the Apocalypse Series is a chronicle of a collection of social nonconformists and their voyage along a course leading to the Apocalypse. Ultimately they will come to the final battle of Armageddon. The narrative is written in apocalyptic manner centered on an epidemic of infection and contamination filled with coarse aspects of health ambiguity and uncertain conduct.
Sun Valley, a lady with wolves, a jealous husband and a fight at a dance, children of Lucifer, a high meadow, an investigation, a mole, bending space, former army intelligence operatives, and a confiscation of bodies all carry the reader along on a bumpy read.

Hunter's investigation attracts the attention of a group of ruthless people with mysterious powers who are determined to keep the plague a secret. But as more secrets come to light, Dr. Hunter realizes his family may be facing the last plague, the beginnings of the Apocalypse.

Filled with compelling well drawn characters, settings filled with detail, premonition and foreboding, in addition to a storyline unlike others; Dr Page has taken an interesting hypothesis based on eleven vials containing plagues as the premise for his work. Opening of each vial in the past has released a new plague causing death and destruction. The last vial was never opened. It was guarded in the Ark of the Covenant.

Each of the characters portrayed in the book is presented with their own story of personal recollection, life and battles in addition to the primary plot line. Writer Page indicates that, that last vial containing one last plague, is the thing desired by Satan in his quest to control the earth. And, that is the principle behind The Last Plague, the first of a seven-part series. Page relates that the first three books have already been completed.

Writer Page is a compelling story teller, he has produced a plausible work sure to please those who enjoy the genre. Writing is well crafted, apprehension is offset with humor, characters are believable for the genre.

Wind Follower
Carole McDonnell
Juno Books
9780809557790 $12.95

The reader is drawn right into the tale as we meet Loic who is speaking. Loic tells us he will tell us first how Krika died. Kirka's shaman flather brought Kirka before the elders at the Spirit Shrine, the sacrificial mound called Skull Place by the clan. He was bound, the skin of his face had been flayed away, he was weeping and crying out for mercy. While Loic was surprised, he forgave Kirka, who could bear such pain with weeping. Kirka has disobeyed his father's demand that he pay obeisance to the spirits and now he will be sacrificed as part of the monthly sacrifice ritual. Kirka lay where he had fallen beneath a hail of stones.

Wind Follower is centered on Loic tyu Taer and Satha tya Monua a married couple from different tribes. The various major tribes mentioned in the tale are set apart both by race and color. Tribes include white skinned, light skinned and dark skinned clans. It is not just skin color which sets the various groups apart, each tribe or clan is directed by its own set of fairly rigid and ironclad, collective mores, distinctiveness, social customs and even physical appearance beyond light or dark skin.

One group brings to mind an Asian influence, another appears as African, while a third seems to be a blend of more than one group. Plus, there is a mystical clan made up of a throng of beings who intermingle with the native peoples in diverse manner, some benign, some seemingly without merit and some not entirely munificent.

Loic is from the light skinned clan while Satha is quite dark.

Writer McDonnell draws upon her extensive research into ancient African tribal customs to set down an explanation of the rituals, customs and personalities of the various groups and present a clash of societies where cultural mores and customs are absolute law. To break a social more might well lead to individual death, or even to war among the factions.

When the wealthy Doreni Pagatsu son of the king's First Captain first sees Satha, a gentle, dark skinned beauty, from a poor Theseni clan in the marketplace he knows that he wants her to be his wife. Satha's kindness extended towards some members of Loci's clan is viewed resentfully by various of the clan and will direct to her being brutally raped. The assault causes the death of first child. Loic and Satha will be forever at odds emotionally, psychologically, and finally physically because of the loss.

Filled with fantasy overtones Wind Follower is a story of ancient African cultures and their mores, ethnicity and way of life in which the thesis of ancestor and spirit veneration are entwined with a compelling Christian message. Writer McDonnell does not shy from issues religion, class or of race. The setting of the narrative coming in the form of fantasy; serves to cause the tale to be even more out of the ordinary.

First person accounts can be thorny to pull off with integrity. Not only does Writer McDonnell employ first person as her protocol for getting this narrative chronicled, but, on the pages of Wind Follower she interweaves the separate stories of the two main characters: Loic and Satha and manages to use first person effectively not once but twice. Loic and Satha each recount their own portion of the narrative. That McDonnell is a capable writer and master storyteller is obvious as she adroitly manages to give each character their own unique voice.

The various societies, settings and characters as portrayed by writer McDonnell are credible. Wind Follower is a chronicle that attracts the reader, draws the reader right into the striking, fully developed and even at times catastrophic setting of Ibeni, Doreni, Thesini.

Loic is a man on a mission when he sets out to locate and kill the man who violated his wife. Tragedy strikes Satha once again during the time her husband is battling dark forces in his search to find Noam. Satha is seize and sold into slavery. Loic too has much the same fate as the pair depair, not knowing the fate of the other, whether they will ever reunite or if they will even again return to their homes.

Wind Follower is a sociologist's dream novel. The book sets down cultures, with all their qualities and persona in a compelling read that brings the reader to understanding more of social more and importance of taboo and cultural dictates without sounding preachy or causing the reader to feel overwhelmed in the minutiae.

Not for everyone, happy to recommend for those who enjoy a novel that brings about some thinking as well as reading.

The Tree Poachers
Pierre Coran
Illustrated by Merel
Childs World
9780895657466 $19.93

This is a Charlock Halms adventure. Last Sunday the Ranger broke his leg. Since then some folks think they can do as they please. Charlock does not want to venture out unless he has to. To pass the time Charlock is numbering his homemade herbal teas.

Suddenly an alert is given, the cawing of Crow signals that Charlock is about to have company. Sam the squirrel comes forward with the news that since the Ranger is not able to out and about men are cutting the trees in his woods. There is already a huge stack of logs piled by the cave, and more trees are being cut. Sam and two other forest dwellers have appointed themselves to be a defense committee.

Charlock enlists the help of beavers during the night. By morning the woodcutters are coming back. Their mountain of cut logs are now a pile of matchsticks. From the cave comes an eerie figure having the feet of a rabbit and beak of a parrot. Behind the woodcutters truck a heron is busy letting air out of the tires. One look at the strange figure coming from the cave and The woodcutters waste no time leaving the forest.

The Tree Poachers is a book with a point. Written first in French the book has a distinctly –not United States- feel to it. It is a storybook in every sense of the word, presents a message and is child friendly despite the fact that it does not sugarcoat or present text in the sing song verbiage so prevalent in much of the works available for classroom and personal use today.

I like The Tree Poachers, and used it in my First Grade Class during this past term. Osage County First Graders enjoyed it as much as the others of the story books I read on a daily basis. The forty page book is replete with brightly colored, well drawn illustrations by artist Merel.

Charlock, a rabbit, along with the other characters are animals easily recognizable by children. The tale of woodcutters denuding the forest is one which is played out across the planet in varying forms. While we don't see it taking place here in Oklahoma ranch land, tall grass prairie I believe it is an important message for children to begin to receive and think bout as they grow up.

Osage County First Grade students chose the book often for free time and DEAR reading time. The book was brought on a regular basis by the day's leader as their choice for me to read to the group. And children took the book home overnight to read at home with parents and/or younger and older siblings.

In our classroom I have a number of potted plants including a ficus benjamina which the children find fascinating. A tree in the classroom. Our Mother's Day project is also our Science Fair project and is centered around plants. We carefully removed cuttings from –Mom-, a Syngonium with trailing tendrils, chop the cuttings into lengths and put them into bottles of water. Some bottles are amber – either beer or root beer bottles, and others are clear. We recycle, and we watch to see the roots form, and the algae in the clear bottles. The bottles are placed in the Science Fair, and then the cuttings are taken home for mom to plant and enjoy at home.

We discuss the cycle of air produced by plants, how plants clean the air we breathe and how important trees are to the production of the air covering our planet.

The Tree Poachers provides a nice lead in re how trees are useful for many things including producing the air all land dwellers must have.

Writer Coran has produced a credible work on the pages of The Tree Poachers. The book is part of a series of Charlock Halms books. The Tree Poachers has a place in the primary classroom, and will make a nice addition to the personal reading shelf of children. This is a read to for the younger set of 3 – 8's and a read with help for the 8 - 9's. Strong upper primary readers will read with little difficulty. Happy to recommend.

Molly Martin, Reviewer

Monty's Bookshelf

Moral Clarity: A Guide for Grown-up Idealists
Susan Neiman
New York
9780151011971 $27.00

"Democrats are for the working man and republicans are just helping themselves and the rich," came the reply from the student in the second row. The middle aged philosophy professor scratched his beard, raised an eyebrow, and replied, "But why?" The poor student who had been bold and brass in his initial assertion became dumbfounded. As he slumped down in his seat all he could say was "well, Doc, I just don't know." That student is like most people. He had not really thought about the difference between political parties. He just knew one party was for him and the other was not. This story begs the question. What are the foundational differences between the two major political parties in the United States and why does their seem to be a large gap between them. Susan Neiman has addressed this and similar questions in her new book Moral Clarity. Neiman's primary thesis is that while this country was born in the eighteenth century and nursed on enlightenment principles, it has moved away from its philosophical heritage and is in need of a return.

The differences between parties and our current political environment is associated with how liberals and conservatives answer foundational, metaphysical and ethical questions. According to Neiman, the political right takes its cue from a Hobbsian metaphysic which sees human nature as inherently selfish. In such a state the emergence of a strong political force is important in order to insure safety, security, and stability. In a sense, the political right are realists who acknowledge the way the world works. Political liberalism which historically was motivated by a strong sense of idealism has moved away from its strong philosophical heritage and in an attempt to become more relevant to contemporary society has adopted the rhetoric of pragmatism and postmodernism. While postmodernism has been beneficial in understanding the inherent power behind moral and political discourse, it does not promote a metaphysic which could be used to promote political or social change.

Neiman encourages her readers by arguing that all hope is not lost. She uses the lost and forgotten program of the enlightenment to understand the failures of the political right and motivate a future for the political left. She dusts off ideas like the intrinsic nature of happiness, the power of reason, the importance of divine reverence, and the need for hope. Neiman argues that like Emmanuel Kant and other enlightenment thinkers we must wrestle with the divide between realism and idealism. Each thinker must start by dealing with the world the way it is. One cannot hide in a world composed of platonic ideals. In like manner, one should never stay in the world the way it is. Ideas must be applied. The power of the mind is the power to envision how the world can be or even how the world should be. Both realism and idealism must be held in balance. Like Kant, today's thinkers must give equal time to both in developing political solutions to today's problems. In a sense thinkers must transcend realistic tendencies with the power of idealism without removing oneself from the reality of the world.

Moral Clarity is a very deep read. Neiman asks that her readers to critically evaluate contemporary political theory and enlightenment values. The philosophical baggage is heavy for the average reader, but it is not overwhelming. Neiman has a gift for explaining difficulty concept with the use of entertaining illustrations and contemporary stories.

Neiman's work is beneficial on two fronts. First, she helps to clarify the philosophical assumption of both political parties. Next, she does a wonderful job of making the teaching of Kant relevant for today's political environment. In so doing, Neiman develops a plan for reviving liberal political theory to the heights that it obtained during the 1960's. Moral Clarity is a must read for those seriously interested in contemporary American politics. Both political conservatives and liberals will find a challenge for the future.

Who Will Be Saved?
William H. Willimon
9780687651191 $16.00

As America becomes more and more pluralistic, evangelicals are rethinking the doctrine of salvation. In early America, most communities were defined by the local church. If your community had a Methodist church then you probably grew up Methodist. Times have changed. Now most evangelicals live in diverse communities. Communities filled with people of other traditions, those of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam. The changing face of the religious landscape has caused many to ask about the scope of salvation. Who will be saved? Since the early middle ages, Christianity has preached an exclusivistic message. Jesus is the only way to saving grace. In recent years, this has fallen out of favor and many young people simply assume that all religions are just different roads to the same destination. The problem with the former is that it has permitted the gospel message to be viewed simply as a means to obtain a future destination. The later suffers from disrespect for the teaching of the different traditions that it claims are the same. Bishop William H. Willimon (United Methodist Church) attempts to avoid both of these problems in his new book Who Will Be Saved?

Willimon starts by proclaiming that western Christianity has spent too much time thinking about salvation as simply a destination. One needs only to skim scripture to see that salvation is far more then simply securing a future place in eternity. Salvation is not truly about humanity, it is about God redeeming the world. It is as much about who God is as it is about what God does. The question "who will be saved?" misses the point of salvation. It asks about the parameters of redemption. The question is really about the individual. If one knows the parameters of salvation, then one can judge if he or she is in the group of the redeemed. Willimon remind his reader that "salvation is not a project to be done by us but a gift to be received by us."(28) When one starts to focus upon himself, he loses sight of God redeeming action. In addition to defining salvation in terms of God's nature, Willimon reminds his reader that salvation is far more then a destination. It is about the here and now. It is not something that one receives at the end of life, but a way of life and can be lived inthe present.

With regard to the title question, Willimon leans towards Origin's idea of Apokatastas is without adopting a pure universalism. Willimon is passionate about arguing that God wants to redeem the whole world, both humanity and nature. He makes room for the possibility that non-Christians will be redeemed by appealing to God's sovereignty. God is the one who makes the decision who will or will not be saved. That decision cannot be imposed upon God by the nature of the universe or logical rules. If this were to happen then God would no longer be sovereignty. Willimon argues that "Christ's judgment is not his judgment if we presume to know the outcome before hand." (77) While this idea opens the door for people of other faiths to enter the kingdom of God, it also creates the possibility that believers will not. Willimon acknowledges that this might cause anxiety in some, but argues that the believer can find comfort in knowing God. He writes, "Even though we know we shall be judged and even though we do not know with certainty the outcome of the judgment, we can have confidence and hope, because we know the judge." (76). While these questions weight heavy on many Christians, Willimon reminds the reader that this is the wrong way of thinking. The believer should be focused more on his or her own salvation and less on someone else. Salvation is experienced personally and in the present

Who Will be Saved? Has a lot to offer the theological community First and foremost, it calls the Christian community to return to a salvation relationship. Salvation is not about getting to heaven. It is about God's work in individual lives. This refocusing of the goal of salvation also calls the believer to take his or her commitment to God more seriously. God is actively seeking us with the passion that a man seeks his wife.

While Willimon's work has a lot of offer the Christian community, it has one basic flaw that needs further reflection. Any discussion about salvation is dependent up answering one basic question. "Salvation from what?" Willimon's redefinition of salvation leaves the reader wondering what threatens human beings such that they need saving. The text is in desperate need of a theology of sin. What is sin and how does it affect our lives? What are the effects of original sin? Willimon may have avoided the harshness of the old idea of total depravity and original sin, but he has left his whole system without a starting point. Why do human beings need redemption? What is wrong with us?

Willimon is always an interesting read. He has an easy and entertaining writing style, but has the ability to challenge even those that disagree with him. The reader will walk away with a new view of their salvation.

Monty M. Self

Paul's Bookshelf

Down to a Sunless Sea
Mathias B. Freese
Wheatmark Publishing
610 East Delano Street, #104, Tucson, AZ 85705
9781587367335 $13.95

This is a group of short stories, some previously published, on a variety of subjects, but with an overall, general theme.

There are a couple of stories about growing up in post-World War II Brooklyn. In one of those stories, a couple of kids want to set up an after-school shoeshine stand, to bring in a few dollars. The father of one of the boys totally forbids such a thing. Until the son is old enough to get a job, the father believes, the only thing on his mind should be education.

The main character of another story chops the hands of former Argentine dictator Juan Peron right off his corpse, and steals them. What is it like to have a body that is half normal, and half disabled by cerebral palsy? The title of another story is "Arnold Schwarzenegger's Father was a Nazi." During a trip to the beach at Coney Island, a father teaches his young son to swim by taking him into deep water (for the son), bodily throwing him into deeper water, then forcing the son to find his own way back to shore.

As you may have guessed, these are not happy, optimistic stories, but they are very good stories. These are short, almost psychological case studies of troubled people. The author is a psychotherapist and social worker, so he knows what he is talking about. This book is easy to read, and very much worth checking out.

The Perfect Stock
Brad Koteshwar
Author House
1663 Liberty Drive, #200, Bloomington, IN 47403
1418486884 $39.99

This is a fictionalized account of the rise and fall of the stock of a real company. In one year, the stock of Taser International, the makers of Tasers, rose by over 7000 percent. Despite this, few average investors made any money on the stock.

The narrator, an experienced investor, is asked, by another experienced investor, to talk to the people behind the stock, to get the "inside story." He talks to the CEO, a major stock speculator, and to the brokerage firm handling the Initial Public Offering, or IPO. He finds that Wall Street shows a very different side to insiders than it does to average investors.

By the time Taser was available to the general public, the big investors had already made their money. Still, it became a "must have" stock. The price jumped from $50 to nearly $400 per share, and analysts speculated that the price could reach $1000 per share, so people were ready to hold it for a long time. Hindsight is always crystal clear, so what investors should have done, but few investors did, was to buy at, for instance, $100 per share. When the price reached a specific level, say, $130 per share, sell and don't look back. Even a small profit on Wall Street is better than nothing. The worst off were the late buyers, those people who bought Taser near or at its high, when the stock had only one direction in which to go.

Some investors engage in short selling, which is betting that a stock's price will drop. For those people, while on its way down, Taser had an unfortunate tendency to bounce. It would go down for a while, then suddenly rise by 10 or 20 points. The price would go down some more, then suddenly rise by another 10 or 20 points, driving those short sellers nuts. Unless an investor is patient, and really understands the market, which few investors do, even with such an opportunity as Taser International, few investors made any money.

Obviously, this is a really specialized book. For those who are, or want to be, involved in the stock market, this book is well worth reading.

Brian T. Seifrit
Saga Books
Box 190, Carmangay, AB, T0L 0N0, Canada
9781894936712 $15.95

Hayden, Alex and Monique are anti-communist rebels fighting in present-day Russia. A man named Ellis Leroy, who can generously be called a lying scumbag, offers them a tempting proposition. He will guarantee safe passage out of Russia, and a free, one-way, boat trip to freedom in the West (specifically, Nome, Alaska). In exchange, all that the three have to do is to break into a heavily guarded US Navy ship at the local Navy base. They have to make their way to the Presidential Suite, at the top of the ship, and steal $64 million in confiscated drug money, then make it off the ship alive. Alex does not survive, but Hayden and Monique succeed in getting the money, then conveniently forget about splitting it with Leroy.

Five years later, Hayden is happily married to Colleen (a waitress on the ship from Russia to Alaska) and living in rural British Columbia. Leroy shows up one day, with one of his henchmen, demanding to know where Hayden is. Colleen says nothing, so she is drugged, kidnapped and taken to an isolated cabin. In a videotape sent to Hayden, Leroy makes it very clear that unless he gets his share of the $64 million, very soon, Colleen will be going back to Russia, on a one-way trip into the Russian sex trade. Acting as nonchalant as possible, Hayden asks around in the nearby town, and is able to narrow down their location. Armed with several weapons, Hayden undertakes a trek of several days through deep snow to reach them.

On the positive side, this is an interesting story set in a part of the world, Alaska and Western Canada, not known as a thriller setting. On the negative side, if there are to be future printings of this book, it really needs a trip, or another trip, to a proofreader or copyeditor. This book belongs in that large gray area of Pretty Good or Worth Reading.

Cluck: Murder Most Fowl
Eric D. Knapp
Booksurge LLC
7290 B Investment Drive, Charleston, SC 29418
1419682644 $15.99

An untapped corner of the horror novel genre involves stories about dead chickens. Until now, that is.

Bobby Garfundephelt buys a sprawling, multi-building farm, with the intention of turning part of it into a bed and breakfast. Included with the farm is a chicken coop, full of loud, stupid and filthy chickens. Janice, his wife, likes the chickens, and has to repeatedly remind Bobby to feed them. In a moment of frustration, one night, Bobby sets fire to the coop, with the chickens inside. Janice leaves him. Stuck somewhere between life and death, the zombie chickens go on the attack. Led by an evil undead Rooster, bigger than the average rooster, they chase Bobby throughout the labyrinthine rooms of the farmhouse. The house has been altered and added to so many times over the past 200 years, that it has gained a rudimentary intelligence, and assists in Bobby's torment.

Arnold is a young boy with a unique ability. Remember the famous movie line, "I see dead people?" Arnold could say, "I see dead chickens." After years of seeing a blue light coming from everyone, and being attacked by undead chickens, Arnold's parents ship him to a secret monastery in France. Their specialty is chicken exorcisms. On his deathbed, the present leader of the order transfers the being, or presence, living inside him to Arnold, making him the new leader. Many years later, Arnold, now called Armand, arrives at the farmhouse, to do battle with these undead zombie chickens. Amid everything else, Armand has to deal with a chicken spirit that takes over Bobby, so that, one minute, he is cowering in fear in the corner of a basement, and the next minute, he is trying to kill Armand.

If nothing else, this is a very different sort of novel, and it's a very good novel. It's nice and strange, and the author does a fine job with it.

Paul Lappen, Reviewer

Peggy's Bookshelf

Willie of Bennington Abbey
Rachelle Cox
Tate Publishing & Enterprises
127 East Trade Center Terrace, Mustang, OK 73064
9781602477827 $13.99

The evil Lord Reginald rules his lands with a cruel eye and greedy fist. Yet he lusts after the legendary treasures he believes are hidden deep within the stone fortress of Bennington Abbey. So he plots to capture the Abbey, drive out the monks and keep the land and treasure for himself.

Plucky, thirteen-year old Willie Reed lives with his father in a hut along the creek on Reginald's land. They are so poor he is forced to steal bread from the Abbey. When Brother Andrew catches him, he offers Willie a chance to redeem himself. The monks know that Lord Reginald is planning to capture the Abbey. They enlist Willie as their spy. Caught with the stolen bread in his hands, and preferring his freedom over the cloistered monastery life, Willie has no choice but to accept their offer.

Thus begins Willie's sojourn into Kenswolde, Reginald's world of noblemen, servants, banquets, and an army with a secret plan. He quickly finds a friend in Portia, a cook's helper. But how can two young teens ever manage to outwit an army of brave knights to save the Abbey? And what about the hidden treasures?

In "Willie of Bennington Abbey", Rachelle Cox cleverly weaves the magic of earth and spirit into a war of wits combined with a valiant treasure hunt. Think Robin Hood meets the DaVinci Code. Thirteenth century England comes alive with adventure in this smart and spirited tale, with plenty of twists and turns to keep young readers turning the pages.

Sunrise Over Fallujah
Walter Dean Myers
Scholastic Press
9780439916240 $17.99

If you really want to understand what went wrong with the war in Iraq, look no further than "Sunrise Over Fallujah" by Walter Dean Myers.

The first three months of the war are viewed through the eyes of Private Robin Perry – aka Birdy – who is part of a Civil Affairs Unit. The men and women in Birdy's unit are well-trained, yet ill-prepared for what awaits them on the battlefield. In the beginning their mission is to follow the invasion forces, and make contact with the Iraqi people to begin building a democracy. Yet as the weeks progress, their unit keeps getting pushed further into the combat zone and deeper into danger. All too quickly they go from playing soccer to win over Iraqi youths to combat in the streets.

From Marla-the-gutsy-girl-gunner to Jonesy, the blues fanatic philosopher, Birdy is flanked by a colorful and diverse bunch of characters from all walks of life, which is so typical of the military experience. Their story is an important one because it shows what happens when good, brave young people are tasked on an impossible mission with a woefully in adequate understanding of the language and culture of the region, and where the rules of engagement (ROE) change from one day to the next.

While some readers might find the dialogue a bit tame – perhaps even unrealistic – it's clear Myers chose a style that makes this book palatable for the classroom, and suitable for readers as young as 10 years old.

This book is not an escape into a fantasy world of wizards and dragons, it is a jolt of reality about the war our children have already inherited.

However, "Sunrise Over Fallujah" is one voice – one perspective on this war. Surely we need other voices and more perspectives. I hope this will be the first of many books for teens about a war that has been waged for a third of their lives.

Peggy Tibbetts, Reviewer

Priya's Bookshelf

The 19th Wife
David Ebershoff
Random House
9781400063970 $26.00

David Ebershoff's latest effort, The 19th Wife, combines the historical elements from the autobiography of Ann Eliza Young with a present day murder mystery involving BeckyLynn, the 19th wife of a polygamist living in Mesadale, Utah. Ann Eliza Young was the so-called 19th wife of Brigham Young, the spiritual successor of succeeded Joseph Smith who founded the
Church of the Latter Day Saints, more commonly known as the Mormon Church. A young Ann Eliza married Prophet Young when the latter was well into his late sixties or early seventies. She slowly grew disillusioned with the polygamous practices of the church and finally denounced it.

Juxtaposed against Ann Eliza's life is the story of BeckyLynn Scott, the 19th wife of a present day First Church polygamist who is accused of murdering her husband. The First Church broke off from the Church of Latter Day Saints when Utah joined the United States and polygamy was made illegal by legal decree. The First Church of the book enforces polygamy and still adheres to the ideals of Brigham Young. While girls in this community are highly coveted, the boys are frequently expelled in because of the competition they provide to the older men for younger wives.

Jordan Scott, BeckyLynn's estranged son is a "lost boy", expelled from the community for frivolous reasons, forced to live on the streets from his teen years. He cannot abide by the fact that his mother could not stop his expulsion. When BeckyLynn's crime comes to light, everyone, including Jordan, is convinced of her guilt while she keeps protesting her innocence. In his meetings with his mother in the jail, Jordan realizes that she actually loved his father, and in the dogma of salvation through polygamy, and thus couldn't have killed him. This starts him on a quest to absolve his mother of the crime.

Through Ann Eliza's and Jordan Scott's childhood accounts, we get poignant glimpses into the world of polygamous marriages. While the men whittle down male competition and take on ever younger wives, the older wives and children suffer most under this setup. Petty jealousies and rivalries compensate for lack of attention from the husband and eat away at the women's self esteems. They go to extraordinary lengths to convince themselves that having "sister wives" is indeed God's will. The innumerable offspring crave the love of their fathers, but too often there's only a finite amount of love to go around. Ebershoff uses the analogy of a pizza pie - there're only so many pieces that can go around, no matter how thinly you slice it.

The expulsion of Ann Eliza from Brigham Young's favored inner circle of current wives prompts her to support herself by taking in Gentile (in this context, non-Mormon) boarders. When she comes face to face with the outside world, and how men outside the Mormon fold treat their wives, Ann Eliza realizes that she is slowly losing her faith in her church which promises
salvation only when polygamy is part and parcel of their lives. Helped at various points by her boarders and her half brother Gilbert, Ann Eliza escapes the church. Constantly in fear of her life and paranoid about the powers wielded by Brigham Young, she nevertheless makes a name for herself lecturing to various urban audiences about the ills of polygamy. It is through her testimony to the Senate that President Grant promises to come down hard on polygamy.

The result that emerges is a complex picture of Ann Eliza Young – her apostasy of leaving the church and expose on polygamy makes her a heroine to most Americans, who eagerly lap up her books and lectures with unseemly appetites. Within Mormon and First Church circles she comes to be regarded as a troublemaker and opportunist hungry for the world's attention. On the other hand, we have the widowed BeckyLynn, who more than a 100 years after Mrs. Young's apostasy, cannot reconcile herself to living outside her First Church community, even after her husband's death.

The author employs various clever techniques in the book to bring the two storylines to life. Letters, lectures, term papers, newspaper accounts all supplement the narrative text, seemingly replicating the painstaking research process through which this book came into being. The sudden switches from Ann Eliza's story to the detective work in Jordan's and BeckyLynn's is somewhat disorienting to the reader. The length of the book (at 500+ pages in the review copy) also might deter some.

In 2003, Sen. Rick Santorum argued that if consensual sex within the privacy of a home were the deciding criterion, the state would also need to allow polygamy and incest into the fold of available rights. His statements caused a major furor among liberals. This book serves as a counterpoint to Santorum's claim. Ebershoff uses the example of Jordan Scott's relationship
with Tom, a fellow expelled Mormon, to show us a different picture. The concern Jordan and Tom show for Johnny, an expelled teenage Mormon, drives home the point that it is possible for a gay couple to provide love and stability to a youngster. In sharp contrast we see the desperate childhoods of Ann Eliza and Jordan within polygamous Mormon/First Church families, ever
hungry for fatherly love and never receiving it to their satisfaction. Each feels sorry for his or her mother but simultaneously fails to understand the compelling reasons that keep the marriages intact.

The timing of this book could not be more serendipitous. There was the recent scandal in Texas where Child Protection Services removed minors from the Yearning for Zion ranch following accusations of polygamy and sexual abuse of minors. The release of this book on the heels of that all-too-real event is sure to feed into the curiosity surrounding polygamy and how it is expressed through the various breakaway factions of Mormonism. All said and done, this book is a very interesting read, told at an engaging pace and with remarkable dexterity. The spirit of Ann Eliza must be smiling from above.

Last Dragon
J. M. McDermott
Wizards of the West
9780786948574 $14.95

"My fingers are like spiders drifting over memories in my webbed brain. The husks of the dead gaze up at me, and my teeth sink in and I speak their ghosts. But it's all mixed up in my head, I can't separate lines from lines, or people from people. Everything is in this web, Esumi. Even you, even me. Slowly the meat falls from the bones until only sunken cheeks and empty
pace between the filaments remind me that a person was there, in my head. The ghosts all fade the same way. They fade together. Your face fades into the face of my husband and the dying screams of my daughter. Esumi, your face is Seth's face, and the face of the golem."

J. M. McDermott's maiden writing effort opens with these haunting lines and grips the reader from the get-go and never lets up. Styled as a series of letters from the dying empress Zhan to her erstwhile lover, the book weaves back and forth through Zhan's life as she reminisces about the past to an unresponsive Esumi.

Zhan belongs to a family of shamans, and is separated from her family to train as a warrior once she attains puberty - a fate that she cannot wiggle her way out of, being that she is a second born, and has just started bleeding. Just when she is reconciled to her new warrior life under a ruthless sensei, a messenger arrives at her place of training with word that her entire family has been slaughtered by her grandfather. The only person her grandfather has spared is her uncle Seth, presumably because he is her grandfather's only true offspring. Once again, Zhan is forced to leave the surroundings she is most comfortable in, but this time, revenge spurs her to action. She hooks up with Adel, a deformed mercenary character who has her own agenda in helping the lead protagonist plot her revenge. She locates Seth, the lone survivor from the patriarch's bloodletting, and his girlfriend Korinyes and they too join Zhan in her quest. The rag-tag army is accompanied by the grandfather's golem, a creature that inhabits the nether state between the living and the dead. With help from the golem, they retrace her grandfather's steps through each of the sites of his carnage, till Zhan comes face to face with the true betrayal of her life – the truth was never as simple as it appeared to be.

Epistolary formats abound in literature, and first-second person exchanges usually feel clunky and contrived in most authors' hands. Not so in this case, where McDermott manages a stylistic breakthrough of sorts. Chapters are rarely more than two to three pages in length, with plenty of white spaces thrown in, mirroring the bleak snowy landscape through which Zhan and her cohorts labor. Bare-bones descriptions – city sounds, milkweed burning, baking bread – combine with astute observations to create a paradoxically pared down yet sensually lush experience. The result is surprisingly literary. Savor this paragraph for instance:

*"I found new places each night, but all the faces seemed too much the same for me. All of them brown, with high cheeks and slender eyes… No words like songbirds. Only the purring and clicking of Proliux. That language sounds like cats dying slowly. I thought in words like crickets and bird, and only the pigeons spoke to me their two long notes. Coo hoo… Don't go…"*

The light lushness of this book brings to mind Ang Lee's *Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon* - not only in a broad thematic sense of honor, betrayal and revenge, but also in the dreamy litheness of McDermott's words. This book is ripe with filmic potential. The erratic shuffling between present action and past events makes for some confusing moments, but again, that stylistic decision of the author makes sense with the realization that the main protagonist of this book is a dying empress, slowly losing her grip on reality even as she pines for her lover.

To classify this book a work of fantasy and relegate it to the sci-fi racks of a library or a bookstore almost feels like a disservice to the many readers who would never peruse those aisles (full disclosure: this reviewer is one of them). In fact, it was serendipity that drew me to the cover art of this book on the new arrivals rack. And for once I was glad I judged a book by its cover (art).

Priya Ramachandran

Ramsey's Bookshelf

Dark Tales 1: Vampyress
Shannon Leigh
Wild Child
P.O. Box 4897, Culver City, CA, 90231-4897
9781935013105 $3.25

Rating: 4.5 stars

Ivona Knight is a beautiful and alluring woman with features of a porcelain doll. No mere human would ever speculate that she was concealing a curse so evil and hideous deep within her soul. She is bound to walk this earth until her promise can be fulfilled, to avenge her family and her lover by slaying all future descendants of Vlad Tepes Dracula.

Ivona's vengeance leads her to a tavern. A terrible storm has taken out the power and demolished the bridge, so no one can leave. The patrons are running rampant with their dismay. Not knowing how long they will be stranded in this place, they proceed to argue amongst themselves over the only available food left. One woman proposes that each person tell a story, whether true or false, and the bartender will judge what story is the best and the winner gets the prize.

Ivona's story was of her past and how she obtained The Evil that she now carries within her. While she was conveying her story, Ivona detects a strong familiar presence. A handsome stranger with black hair, blue eyes and the physique of an athlete catchers her eye and makes her body feel things she has not felt in centuries. Is this the descendant of Dracula that she is meant to slay or is he harboring a secret of his own, waiting for their paths to cross one another?

DARK TALES 1: VAMPYRESS will captivate the reader until they finish the last page and left wanting more. I was impressed on the aspect Shannon Leigh gave to this story. The plot and the character development are sensational for such a short story. I will definitely be awaiting the next book in the series and eager to read more about the characters. I would recommend this for anyone who likes paranormal, vampire, horror, and thriller genres.

A Twist of Fate
Karen Michelle Nutt
Tease Publishing
Swansboro, North Carolina 28584-0234
9781934678916 $4.99

Arianna Ward is known for her humane, compassionate, and sincere qualities, she also possesses strong determination and stubbornness. In the Present Day, Arianna is a successful music teacher who loves to play the piano. The majority of her spare time is occupied helping the Historical Society by researching new events, unfortunately, her hectic work schedule doesn't leave her any time to pursue a relationship, let alone search for her soul mate.

While visiting a fortuneteller at a carnival, Arianna receives an eerie premonition. The fortuneteller tells her "Time has a way of sorting out mistakes, she belongs to Blue Run and her destiny intertwines with his. She will meet a man with the blackest of hair and green cat-like eyes; he is called the "Scotsman". Trust him for he will protect you, he may feel mistrust for you because of the other woman's black heart, but in time, he will see you for who you really are. He's your soul mate". Then Arianna was stuck in the head by a wooden beam when the building collapsed.

Arianna woke up to find herself in an unfamiliar place and time with people she did not recognize. She has no memory of who she was before the accident; all she's able to recall is her name, but everyone is claiming that she is Annabelle and that she is married to Captain Keldon Buchanan. Arianna has no prior remembrances of her husband, Keldon, but once she gazes upon his strong build, handsome-rugged features and green cat-like eyes, she feels an immense connection towards him and she yearns for his touch.

For reasons unknown to Arianna, Keldon despises and distrusts her, and she wonders what transgressions she has done to him in the past for him to feel that way towards her. In the process of searching for whom she once was Arianna is appalled to learn that she is known as a malicious, deceitful and menacing person. To make things even worse, she's also an adulteress and a potential murderer. Arianna knows in her heart she is not that person and she's determined to amend her wicked ways of her past.

Keldon possesses his own secret, one that could mean life or death for both him and his crew members. He is known as the "Scotsman", a Highland Pirate. Keldon chose to become a pirate due to his wife's nefarious ways, but he realizes something is amiss shortly after Annabelle's head injury. It's like she is a different person, one that he is falling passionately in love with. Will Keldon be able to accept that Annabelle is no longer among them or will he see it as a one of Annabelle's malicious traps, just to torture him once more? Fate brought them together, but can their love survive their past transgressions?

A Twist of Fate is a superbly written romantic love tale. I immensely enjoyed reading this book. Karen Michelle Nutt has vividly and emotionally wrote the plot and characters in a way that the reader will become enveloped, captivated and entranced in the story. I recommend this book to anyone who likes to read about paranormal, historical romance, time-travel genres.

Karen Michelle Nutt is an avid reader of history, romance, and the paranormal; she tends to combine the three in her writings. She lives in California with her husband, three fascinating children, a dog, named Shakespeare, and three cats that have everyone well trained. She enjoys travel, old movies, books, and a chance to weave a tale. For more information about Karen Michelle Nutt and her upcoming releases, visit her web site at

Amy J. Ramsey "Trinagon"

Richard's Bookshelf

Kingdom Principles Study Guide
Myles Munroe
Destiny Image Publishers
P O Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768426649, $14.99

Making Your Kingdom Experience More Meaningful

The "Kingdom Principles Study Guide" is a supplement to Myles Munroe's book "Kingdom Principles." This devotional guide is made up of 40 lessons to be used over a 40 day period. Each day's reading is filled with life changing tenets, inspiration, and distinctive teaching on God's kingdom principles.

The lessons include a scripture verse for the day and a daily devotion. The theme or topic for the day is based on an excerpt taken from the Myles Monroe's book "Kingdom Principles." The guide also includes stimulating application questions that are thought provoking and challenging. The questions cause the reader to move to a deeper study to enhance their understanding of the concepts introduced as well as encouraging spiritual growth.

The meditations are inspiring and include principles for contemplation, meditation, reflection, as well as concepts for further consideration. These are based on the distinctiveness of the Kingdom of God in the experience of the believer. I particularly enjoyed the motivation and encouragement these devotional thoughts provided. The two chapters that discussed the "Fourteen Characteristics of a King" were especially timely and relevant in light of the present changing models in church structure, worship patterns, and doctrinal emphasis.

This important, comprehensive study guide will help the reader expand their spiritual experience by applying God's Kingdom Principles for a life filled with blessings. This study guide is an important resource tool addressing the purposes of God for this generation and generations yet to come.

Myles Monroe has established himself as an anointed, authoritative spokesman for the Christian church internationally. He is a leader in proclaiming, interpreting, and teaching God's Kingdom Principles.

Personalized Promises from your Heavenly Father
Howard L. Cherry
Xulon Press
2180 West State Road 434, Suite 2140, Longwood, FL 32779
9781604776492 $13.99 1-866-381-2665

Learning to Trust His Promises Personally

Howard L. Cherry has compiled Biblical Promises dealing with issues faced by Christians on a regular basis. These promises are presented topically divided into eighty topics then arranged alphabetically, for easy access when facing a specific need. "Personal Promises from your Heavenly Father" is written to help the reader claim and personalize the promises of God for Christians today.

Howard presents several suggestions which help insure receiving the greatest benefit from reading the book, as well as some pointers on using the book as an ongoing tool for devotional reading and for meditation. These suggestions include: Considering the God's Word as inspired (God breathed), believing His promises, and asking the Holy Spirit to make the promises real to you.

The suggestion to "speak" the promises in light of the word "mediation" as used in the book of Joshua, chapter one, verse eight, caught my attention. I plan to incorporate this practice into my devotional reading and personal worship experience.

Cherry draws from a life of wide-ranging Christian service. He has had a successful business career in writing. He has been involved in Gospel music, TV ministry, Nursing home ministry, and journalism, as well as teaching Bible Classes.

"Personalized Promises from your Heavenly Father" is made up of powerful promises for personal application. Applying the principles of the book will lead to a fresh approach in abundant living. The book is a practical guide for new believers or seasoned Christians. The book makes an ideal gift for graduates, spiritual counselors, and for hospital visits. Highly recommended.

Juan's Story
Jacqueline Boatwright
Jackie Boatwright Enterprises
P. O. Box 1821, Lithonia, GA 30059
9780972529518 $14.95

A Journey into Faith, Driven by a Mother's Love

September 9, 2001, a beautiful Sunday morning, fourteen month old Anthony DeJuan Boatwright's life was changed forever. He was found in a bucket of bleach saturated mop water while being cared for at a residential Day Care Center in Hephzibah, Georgia. Jacqueline Boatwright, Juan's mother, records the incident and her journey of faith over the next seven years in this poignant, stirring account of "Juan's Story."

After being given CPR, Juan was rushed to Children's hospital, connected to life support systems, and soon pronounced brain dead. Jacqueline persistently refused to accept the doctor's prognosis. The story that follows tells of Jacqueline's mission in discovering the power of the prayer, of faith, of claiming God's promises, and battling, Satan's attempts at discouragement and unbelief.

The book is written as a testimony to help the reader discover strength in time of weakness, a better understanding of faith and how to master it. The narrative is filled with scripture promises, examples from Jackie's life, contemporary prayer warriors, Biblical examples, and instructions on using prayer to claim the promises of God.

On Juan's behalf, Jackie, has shared his story through newspaper articles, television appearances, personal speaking engagements, and as a child support activist, to bring about legislation that may spare others from experiencing first hand what Juan and Jackie have been through.

"Juan's Story" is a dynamic account of the power of prayer. The story is heart rending and heart warming. This is a book every preschool parent, every daycare workers, every emergency first responder, and everyone in the medical profession should read. Powerfully written.

Don't Miss Your Moment
Judy Jacobs
Charisma House
600 Rinehart Road, Lake Mary, Florida 32746
9781599792330 $14.99

Pursue Your Moment – Find A Fresh Anointing

Judy Jacobs offers sound Biblical guidance and principles which can lead to new power for the Christian in her book "Don't Miss Your Moment."

Whether you are developing a passion for the Lord's presence, expecting the unexpected, or pursuing your moment, you'll gain fresh insights into experiencing joy and fulfillment for your Christian journey.

Judy's message is anointed, her writing is Spirit inspired, and the result is powerful. These nine chapters are packed with important steps to help you impart the anointing, pursue your moment, and become a mentor. Jacobs gives clear instructions on how the reader can use praise to win the battle over Satan as she warns of the danger of feeling disqualified.

I found the format of the book added to my reading enjoyment. The many sidebars served as helpful reminders of significant truths for mediation, personal application, and of dynamic principles to incorporate into my life. I appreciated Judy's illustrations from her personal life, as well as the Biblical examples, stories and quotes from other contemporary Christian leaders. These added to the compelling challenge to face up to and to experience God's call on my life.

"Don't Miss Your Moment" is riveting vibrant and significant for contemporary Christians. It is a book to be read, studied, and assimilated. The action steps lead to new power and meaning. Jacob's writing is inspirational. The book offers encouragement to pastors and Christian leaders. The book is a clarion call to a fresh anointing for all Christians everywhere.

No Fear: Praying the Promises of Protection
Billy Joe Daugherty
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P O Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768426618 $15.99

National Violence, Personal Adversity, and Natural Catastrophe

"No Fear" written by Billy Joe Daugherty validates the power of praying the Biblical promises of protection included in the scriptures. Daugherty includes Biblical examples, personal experiences, and real life stories to guide the reader through the steps of recognizing and overcoming fear. He describes the God given weapons for fighting fear. He explains in simple terms how changing your thought patterns can erase fear based thoughts.

Daugherty points out how the uncertainties in today's world often create panic and terror in the minds and hearts those around us. Daugherty warns the reader of the danger of becoming gripped by those same fears. He provides the reader with dozens of topically arranged personalized scripture promises of protection to claim. These promises offer peace, protection, and escape in the midst of calamity, panic and tragedy.

The book's format is designed for ease in reading. This format acts as an aid to the reader when assimilating the material. The summary headings within the chapters are also helpful for quick review or for future reference. Solid Biblical teachings and strong contemporary illustrations make this an important and timely book.

Daugherty writes with clarity, addressing fellow pastors, Christian leaders, and mature Christian readers. Because Billy Joe's writing is uncomplicated with a natural flow of words and a freshness of approach it is easy to maintain focus, find a personal application, and understand these spiritual truths and Biblical concepts. For these reasons "No Fear" is also an important resource for the new believer. Strong writing, Biblically sound and rich in application.

Richard R. Blake

Slessman's Bookshelf

Boots on the Ground
Mary Tillman and Narda Zacchino
Modern Times, Rondale Inc.
733 Third Ave., New York, NY 10017
1594868808 $25.95 800-848-4735

When my brother died at the young age of thirty-seven, my mother told me his death was unnatural. "Children are not supposed to die before their parents." My mother would have understood the anguish and loss that Mary Tillman felt when her son, Pat Tillman, was killed while serving in our armed forces. Unfortunately, his death was not by the hands of the enemy. He was killed by gun fire from his own company.

You may be asking yourself at this point how something so ludicrous could happen in what should be one of the best trained armed forces worldwide. That is the same question asked by Pat Tillman's family. Their search for answers to his unnecessary death is the basis for this work.

One cannot read this work without questioning their beliefs. As the story unfolds there seems to be more questions than answers from our government and their representatives. To date seven investigations and two congressional hearings have brought little comfort to the Tillman family.

John McCain plays a role in this story and anyone who is planning to vote in the next election might want to read this work. It could make a difference in the way you vote.

My heart aches for the Tillman family and those who have unnecessarily lost sons, husbands and family members serving in our armed forces. The loss of a loved one by enemy forces is a terrible loss to endure. That loss brings additional agony when that loss due to incompetence of your own armed forces.

This book is filled with factual information regarding Pat Tillman's death. You will not find it an easy book to read. Your heart will be heavy as Mary Tillman describes the anguish, hurt, anger and frustrations she and her family have experienced since Pat's death. However, I think it is a book that should be read and contemplated.

Dear John
Nicholas Sparks
Grand Central Publishing
Division of Hachette Book Group
0446618306 $7.99

I admit to being a Nicholas Sparks fan. His books, Message in a Bottle, The Notebook, The Choice, etc. all left me with a yearning to turn page after page. However, I didn't have that urge with this work, Dear John.

The book is written in three parts and until I reached Part III, I had to make myself continue reading. The story just didn't have that page turner effect.

When you get to Part III, you will once again recognize the Sparks quality. He did provide a good but predictable ending to his story. It actually was a book that you have read many times and the book's title, Dear John, says it all.

Every writer who publishes the volume of books that Sparks does is bound to slip once in awhile. Was I disappointed with this work…yes. Will I continue to buy Sparks books…yes. He has proven over and over that he is a great storyteller. This book just didn't have the meat his other works possess.

Annie Slessman

Sullivan's Bookshelf

Just Who Will You Be? Big Question * Little Book * Answer Within
Maria Shriver
9781401323189 $14.95

Finding herself without the job she had aspired to, TV journalist, because her husband, Arnold Schwarzenegger, had been elected governor of California, Shriver found herself first lady of that state. It was a role she hadn't chosen. But she assented to it for her husband's sake.

Now, for the first time in her life, she had sort of lost her way in a career of her choosing. Even her kids teased her about it. So she started to quiz herself about who she really was or would like to become now. At the same time, she was asked to speak at his high school graduation for commencement. At first, not knowing what to say to the young people, she refused. But the more she thought about it, the more she realized that she could help the graduates and herself at the same time.

She developed and gave a talk on the title of this little volume, 'Just Who Will You Be.' In other words, what kind of person will you become? What are your interests and passions that you can and will follow? From this advice, she realized that she enjoyed writing. And that's no surprise as she's written 5 best sellers. So she continues to write books, which makes her happy.

The heart of the message in this volume is a lengthy but pertinent poem that Shriver has composed for the speed occasion. In the verse, she covers important ground for herself and for the high school graduates. It opens thusly:


The Day has come

The tests are over

The future's begun"

The poem concludes with:

"If you follow your heart…

And just listen to me

You'll turn into the you…

You are destined to be!"

There's a lot of meat in the other verses, too.

For obvious reasons she writes from California.


The Man Who Made Lists Love, Death, Madness, and the Creation of Roget's Thesaurus
Joshua Kendall
G.P. Putnam's Sons
9780399154621 $25.95

Peter Mark Roget (French, derived from rouge) was born in London in February 11, 1779. The author describes Roget as "the eminent nineteenth-century polymath—physician, physiology expert, mathematician, inventor, writer, editor, and chess wiz." It was he who would come to write the famed Roget's Thesaurus (a book of synonyms) used to this day, albeit enlarged and revised.

Roget's father, a Protestant minister from Geneva and unmarried, had migrated to Soho in London to take over a French Protestant church there. Soon, he met Catherine Romilly, daughter of a prominent and wealthy Englishman. In early 1778 Roget and Catherine married. Following their son Peter's birth, a daughter, Annette, was added to the family.

At that time, wife Catherine went into a depression. A month later, her husband died. From that point on, Catherine would have to rely, economically and emotionally, on her brother, Samuel Romilly, and her son, Peter.

Sadly, her brother Samuel, Roget's favorite uncle and a Member of Parliament, committed suicide in 1818. Now Catherine relied exclusively on her children.

She smothered them with her love but also with her cares and concerns, burdens they shouldn't have had to take on. Annette, never marrying, would stay with her mother throughout the years. Peter longed to be out on his own. But his mother hovered ever near him, constantly harping on his health or lack thereof.

Moreover, never happy for long where she lived, she moved the family frequently. In his late teens, these moves benefited Peter. Obviously, he couldn't leave a school or university that he was attending. So, on occasion, when his mother and moved to some town far away, their favorite being Ilfracombe, England, he ended up with more freedom and less interference from his mother.

She chose the University of Edinburgh, considered a first-class school in the teaching of medicine, for Peter to study to become a physician. At the university, and no longer under his mother's protective arms, Peter's personality blossomed. Yet he remained shy.

After graduation as a physician, he was considered to be too young looking to begin practice in his field. So he found other employment, education a wealthy man's two young sons. Roget soon took the lads for a tour of Europe.

They made it to Paris in time to see the victorious Napoleon march by. This was a great thrill to the youngsters and to Peter. But it didn't last long. Britain and France were soon going to war. So Napoleon was arresting English subjects over eighteen in his French sphere of influence. Thus the boys were safe, but their instructor was in danger of being detained.

With much interceding, Roget and his charges got smuggled out of today's Switzerland wherein Roget's father had been a citizen. The trio eventually made it safely back to England.

After a while, taking in many medical lectures along the way, Roger apprenticed to some famous physicians. He finally developed his own practice. And he was successful. To his credit, he had a penchant for treating the indigent in such industrial cities as Manchester, England.

In 1824, Mary Hobson and Roget were married. They had two children, a boy and a girl. Then Roget's wife died of cancer in 1833. From then on, well-educated women in Britain sough after Roget as ideal marriage material. But he spurned them all. As the children needed care, Roget hired a governess for them. Later, she became Roget's mistress, living in his home for a number of years.

Roget's mother eventually went off the deep end mentally. She remained a serious worry and effort for him from then on till her death in 1835.

After a star-crossed life, meeting and/or knowing everyone who was anyone in English society, he retired from medicine, though he continued to lecture for years on the subject of physiology.

Then, in 1849, his daughter had a mental collapse, which greatly burdened Roget.

Though he'd always worked on his Thesaurus, publishing an early version in 1805, he went on to produce his magnum opus in 1852. Roget was from then on making it better. While thus engaged, he died serenely in his sleep in October of 1869 at the age of 90.

The author writes in his Preface, "Since rolling off the presses of London's Longman, Brown, Green and Longmans in June 1852, Roget's Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases has emerged as one of the most recognizable books in the English language. A proprietary eponym like Coke or Kleenex, Roget's has sold nearly forty million copies."

Joshua Kendall, the author, is a freelance journalist with an interest in language. Beside this volume, he has written for The Boston Globe newspaper and Business Week magazine. Boston is his home.


Jim Sullivan

Terrilyn's Bookshelf

Shakespeare with Children
Elizabeth Weinstein
Smith and Kraus Publishers
177 Lyme Road, Hanover, NH 03755
9781575255736 $19.95

The selection of six Shakespeare plays in the collection includes the range of his genres: comedy, history, tragedy, and romance. Weinstein has taken great pains to write the introduction geared toward teachers who have no knowledge of the theatre and very little knowledge of Shakespeare. She includes suggestions for minimal costuming, props, sets, and music so anyone can produce the plays, regardless of their educational background and without having to spend a fortune or use a lot of physical space. The illustrations used are poor quality (heavily pixilated).

Weinstein states in her introduction, "I have substantially adapted these plays, and they are best suited for children up to the age of about twelve. But while I have shortened speeches and cut out whole scenes and characters, I've tried hard to keep the lines spoken by your students pure Shakespeare" (xiii). This is true up to a point, but at times her creative license overtakes common sense by removing rhymed couplets that are not bawdy or long-winded and would make it easier for the children to follow along; for instance when she edits out "such skill" from the end of a Midsummer Night's Dream couplet here:

HERMIA: I frown upon him, yet he loves me still.
HELENA: O, if your frowns could teach my smiles. (such skill)

Sometimes, for no discernible reason, Weinstein eliminates Shakespeare's original language creating a false couplet that doesn't even follow the iambic pentameter Shakespeare used: "I'll know her mind by early tomorrow./ Tonight she is shut up with her sorrow" in lieu of Lady Capulet's original: "I'll know her mind by early tomorrow. She's mewed up to her heaviness . . ." (III, iv). In Macbeth, Weinstein adds her own line to give an idea of what the Doctor character is thinking: "I fear your lady's hands will not be made clean by any medicine" (60). To her credit, Weinstein keeps many of the most famously quoted lines in the plays whole, or at least in tact in spirit. However, missing quotes such as, "By the pricking of my thumbs,/ Something wicked this way comes" (Macbeth, IV, i, 44-45), she limits the educator's ability to point out to their students allusions from Shakespeare that are now used in twentieth century literature.

Along those lines, she relies more on her invented narrator characters to move the story along than just give a preview of what is about to or what has just happened.

Editing the complex plays have led to awkward transitions between some scenes, made more difficult by missing storylines and characters. For instance, in her version of Romeo and Juliet, she adds a wedding scene to the play but leaves out the important part the Friar and the nurse play in the story. In order to keep the story and length appropriate for young players, Weinstein has had to sacrifice in-depth characters and important relationships between characters.

This begs the question, what is the purpose of editing Shakespeare's plays for a young readership if they receive neither his true language nor complex characterizations? Why not read the original stories from whence Shakespeare stole his ideas, or better yet, why not adapt the stories to today's vernacular and retain the complex characters?

Despite its shortcomings, Shakespeare with Children could have a place in an elementary curriculum that wants to introduce children to the Bard in a non-threatening manner.

Undead and Unworthy
MaryJanice Davidson
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780425221624 $23.95

Following in the same spirit as previous Betsy, Queen of the Vampires, stories, this seventh installment is full of humorous quips, designer shoes, and enough blood to fill a tub or two.

Undead and Unworthy follow Betsy, her new hubby Sinclair, and Garrett as they try to solve the fiends who want to kill Betsy for not restoring them to a glorious undead life. Ant, Betsy's obnoxious dead step-mother, is also haunting her.

Davidson's storyline moves along characters relationships and takes them in a whole new direction. The writing is very fresh. Though Betsy is full of sarcasm, Davidson always comes up with new ways for her character to express it.

This is a perfect light romantic beach read for those who are interested in the paranormal.

Terrilyn Fleming

Theodore's Bookshelf

The Olive Horseshoe
Ben F. Small
Night Shadows Press
8987 E. Tanque Verde #309-135, Tucson AZ 85749-9339
9780979916731 $32.95 520-609-2070

The only fault (if fault it be) one can find with this intriguing suspense novel is that while most of the action takes place overseas—in Morocco and Spain—the FBI plays a prominent role in these countries. Since the agency is supposedly limited to domestic activity (the CIA and other alphabet agencies operate internationally), it is questionable whether the FBI could act as portrayed. However, since the protagonist's best friend is an FBI agent and plays a prominent part in the plot, perhaps we can let the author have some license.

Denton Wright made a couple of billion dollars creating and then selling a company. He disappointed his attorney father by not going to Harvard Law, and their relationship is at best strained. His dad is murdered while on a Moorish tour in Cadiz, along with another elderly man, a California winegrower. Thus begins Denton's quest to find the reason for the deaths and the murderer[s]. He is accompanied by the other victim's daughter, the foreman of the winery and Denton's beautiful factotum. It becomes a dangerous and exciting journey.

Along the way, Denton and his accompanying characters learn a lot about themselves and life in general. A well-constructed tale, it is fast-paced and well-written, and highly recommended.

[It should be noted that the book has had a simultaneous release in trade paperback.]

Patrick McGrath
Alfred A. Knopf
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019, 212-800-726-0600
9781400041664 $24.95

A probing psychological study of a man's deterioration is the subject of this novel. Charles Weir is a successful but troubled psychiatrist, brought up in a dysfunctional family on Manhattan's upper West Side. His older brother, a successful artist, is more of an antagonist than a supportive sibling. His mother favors Charles' brother, creating conflict. The ne'er-do-well father leaves the family.

Charlie, after leaving Johns Hopkins, takes a prestigious position at a hospital treating Vietnam veterans. His reputation grows. The sister of one of the patients befriends Charlie; ultimately they marry and have a daughter. Then her brother commits suicide and everything begins to fall apart. Seven years later Charlie is introduced by his brother to a beautiful woman; they form a relationship until it too falls apart. When Charlie's mother dies, his ex-wife offers solace, and he begs her to return. These relationships and more are explored in depth by the author in this psychological thriller.

Subsequent events plunge Charlie into a mental abyss as past remembrances and traumas are unveiled. Written with deep insight into the human psyche, the author delves profoundly into the egos and development of the various characters with a penetrating eye. Recommended.

Child 44
Tom Rob Smith
Grand Central Publishing
237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10169, 800-759-0190
9780446402385 $24.99

Ostensibly a murder mystery, this novel is set against the background of Stalin's Soviet Russia, replete with all the ideological ramifications and shibboleths of the Worker's Paradise, where there is no "crime". Added to the mystery is a psychological twist worthy of the Freud abhorred by the Communist regime.

The protagonist is Leo Demidov, hero of the Patriotic War and now a State Security Officer who serves his country blindly, even to the extent of ignoring the obvious to toe the Party Line. However, when it becomes patently clear that there is a serial killer committing unspeakable crimes against children, Leo begins to question his superiors' decisions. He is demoted and sent hundreds of miles away to a "nothing" position. He discovers another murder there, and finding the killer becomes an obsession, in the process developing his own integrity, assisted by his wife, Raisa, despite unspeakable obstacles, even fighting against the overwhelming resources of the State.

This powerful debut novel has all the earmarks of an accomplished author. It has already been tapped for a film. It has a very different plot and is well-written and fast-paced—the reader can hardly put it down so as to find the next development. The background on life and thought (or lack thereof) in the Soviet Union is telling. The story is based on a real-life killer. Very highly recommended.

Baby Shark's High Plains Redemption
Robert Fate
Capital Crime Press
P.O. Box 272904, Ft. Collins, CO 80527, 970-481-4894
9780979996023 $14.95

Baby Shark, in her latest appearance (this is the third in the series), along with her partner Otis Millett, are caught in several dangerous situations, with a lot of the bad guys falling as a result. To begin with, a bootlegger has paid Otis to return his girlfriend who apparently was abducted. Otis was to deliver the ransom in exchange for the girl, the daughter of a rival bootlegger. When she shows up a couple of hours late, she finds him tied up and being beaten. Baby Shark to the rescue.

And so it goes throughout this mystery, with violence, murder and mayhem across Texas and Oklahoma. In the end, we are once again treated to Baby Shark's prowess as a pool hall hustler.

As in the previous entries, the writing is witty, the descriptions graphic. And Baby Shark is dev eloping into a more mature character, a bit more introspective and perhaps becoming more feminine. Meanwhile there is non-stop action to keep the reader turning pages. Recommended.

The Reapers
John Connolly
Atria Books
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781416569527 $26.00 800-223-2336,

The action in this powerful and graphic novel centers on the background of one recurring character in Mr. Connolly's books, Louis, both as a boy as well as his development as a Reaper—a professional killer. By means of flashbacks and forwards, the story develops to a momentous conclusion. Along the way, we learn of his boyhood and past transgressions, as well as his personality and businesses.

When Louis accepts a contract, Angel, his lover and partner, has trepidations, but goes along with the flow. Meanwhile, Bliss, a killer of killers, is hunting Louis, who years before was assigned to eliminate him. Instead, Bliss was injured and survived the attempt. Now he seeks revenge on the very grounds where Louis and Angel attempt to fulfill their latest contract. Instead they become the hunted, with little at their disposal to survive but their ingenuity (and some friends).

"The Reapers" is an interesting psychological study of how Louis has developed as a professional assassin, while maintaining a semblance of normality, raising questions about why a person is selected as a target, among other indications of individuality. Carefully crafted, this dark but deep novel rises above the level of mere crime fiction. The writing and characterizations are sharp and realistic, and the situations drawn almost photographic. Highly recommended.

The Shadow in the Water
Inger Frimansson
Translated by Laura A. Wideburg
Pleasure Boat Studio
201 W. 89th St., NY, NY 10024, 888-810-5308
9781929355440 $18.00

About six years after the disappearance of Berit, a 40-ish mother of two living in a small town near Stockholm [in the author's prior book, "Good Night My Darling"], life goes on. The reader knows that she was murdered by Justine, of whom she was one of several girlhood tormentors. Enough time has passed and the likelihood of her discovery as the culprit should be de minimus, especially since the body was never found. Meanwhile, Justine, to some degree, has settled down, formed a new romantic relationship, but there remains the threat that her past will catch up.

Now, friends and relatives begin raising questions about Berit, and a policeman begins a new inquiry. The novel is really a study of the various personalities inhabiting it. And they are a fascinating lot. And while there seems no relationship to each other or the central mystery surrounding Justine, such connections develop subtly.

"The Shadow in the Water" won the Swedish Academy of Crime Writers' Award for Best Swedish Crime Novel of the Year in 1998. It now appears here in an excellent translation by Laura A. Wideberg. Written with a broad stroke, the story is incisive. Recommended.

Walking the Perfect Square
Reed Farrel Coleman
Busted Flush Press
P.O. Box 540594, Houston, TX 55254-05944, 713-942-9282
9780979270956 $13.00

The original, i.e., first, Moe Prager mystery, which has been out of print, now appears in this reissue by Busted Flush Press. Since his initial appearance, Moe has appeared in four subsequent novels, and welcome have all of them been for this charming, plain yet complicated man. In "Square," we find Moe recuperating from a knee injury which caused him to retire him from the NYPD after 10 years on the Job.

At loose ends, Moe is enticed to take on an investigation of a missing college student. His efforts bring him into contact with all kinds of savory and unsavory characters—but more importantly, his deepening understanding of personal relationships and family. Moe is a very different kind of "shamus." To begin with, he is Jewish, a Brooklynite and native New Yorker, full of self-doubts and inquisitive. And, yes, smart-alecky.

Moe, as a protagonist, much less a person, develops more fully as the series moves on, but the seeds of the fundamental characteristics of the novels are sown in this debut: The graphic descriptions of New York City in the 1970's, the caring and thoughtful Moe, the basic human attributes of the characters, the sharp writing and plotting, as well as the agony and tragedies people endure. Recommended.

Criminal Minds: Killer Profile
Max Allan Collins
Obsidian Mysteries
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014, 800-847-5515
9780451223845 $6.99

A police procedural with a slightly different twist, the plot involves the efforts of the FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit's efforts to profile a serial killer in Chicago who is replicating famous serial murder committed by the likes of Ted Bundy, the Son of Sam, et al. They are brought into the picture by two Chicago detectives who believe that a few cases in disparate jurisdictions are related, despite their superiors' denials. The various police departments keep the cases separate and are not sharing information, making the task of linking them extremely difficult.

The BAU group heads to Chicago and begins trying to get the various departments to form a task force, and all but one join in the effort. Slowly, details emerge and a picture of the killer begins to form—but not before 11 victims are found. The killer sends copies of the various crime scene pictures to each police department in a wide geographic area, taunting the cops and the BAU. The job of anticipating the killer becomes crucial before another murder takes place and public panic occurs.

The novel is based on the CBS television series, and is well-constructed. While some of the writing is somewhat stilted, and there is dialogue that is hackneyed in an effort to give "cop talk" flavor, generally the writing is fluid and the story moves forward at a good pace. Recommended.

Careless in Red
Elizabeth George
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780061160875 $27.95 800-242-7737

Following the shocking murder of his wife, Thomas Lynley resigned from Scotland Yard and returned to his native Cornwall, where he began a walking tour from one end to the other--not bathing or shaving and living in only the clothes he wore. In this state, he attempted to insulate himself from the tragedy and escape. But along the way, he finds a body at the foot of a cliff, and as a result he is forced to awaken to his police background and relationships with people.

Thus begins this detailed story of various family histories, past and present mistakes between and among the family members and the possible reason for the death of the person Tommy finds, which is soon judged to be a murder. The investigation soon uses Tommy in a semi-official capacity, and later his old Met partner, Barbara Havers, is sent to Cornwall by her superiors in an effort either to protect him or entice him to return to the fold.

In this rather long novel, the author's eye for detail is exhibited to a faretheewell. The reader is engulfed in all kinds of minutiae, about geography, history, personal backgrounds and other aspects of the story. But however buried the reader may be, one is not overwhelmed, nor hardly bored. The novel is so well written, the 650 pages turn quickly, as the reader is drawn forward to find out the next revelation. Very highly recommended.

Vodka Neat
Anna Blundy
St. Martin's Minotaur
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312368630 $24.95 212-674-5151, 646-307-5560

About midway in this novel (page 111 to be exact), Faith Zanetti, the protagonist, describes herself as follows: "But here I was, raddled and war-weary with nobody to love and nobody to love me…I felt empty and weary." That is the feeling one gets from reading this far. Fortunately, from that point on, the story develops and the book becomes more interesting.

Faith is a foul-mouthed 35-year-old war correspondent on whom experiences have taken a toll. At age 19 she married a rather mysterious man in Moscow and a year later left him for England, a couple of days after a couple is murdered in an adjoining room to their own bedroom.. Now 15 years later she is assigned to her newspaper's Moscow bureau. No sooner does she land, than the police haul her in for questioning about the old crime.

The reason the police are looking at her is the revelation that her husband, who is in a psychiatric prison after having confessed to the murder, has now recanted and accused Faith. When she goes to the prison, she discovers not her husband but an old friend and co-worker. Thus, Faith sets about to learn about the circumstances of the murder, in which she's become a suspect.

There are a lot of unnecessary four-letter words strewn throughout the novel, perhaps in an attempt to portray the hard-boiled nature of the characters. But to one way of thinking, such language is unnecessary to such a great extent. There are some interesting descriptions of Moscow and life under the former Communist regime. Some advice: Skip the first 100 pages, and the novel assumes form. The background could have been summarized more briefly without detracting from the main mystery.

Lying with Strangers
James Grippando
c/o HarperCollins
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022, 800-242-7737,
97800061138393 $7.99

The twists and turns in this novel are treacherous for the reader who attempts to solve the story line before reaching the end. It is a complicated but fascinating tale of Peyton Shields, a first-year resident at a top Boston children's hospital. She's married to an attorney, an associate at a leading Boston law firm. Then everything seems to go wrong.

There are a series of incidents, and it seems someone is stalking Peyton, causing several embarrassing occurrences and even forcing her off the road one snowy night, resulting in multiple injuries. Then the marriage goes on the rocks and she ends up getting drunk with an old boyfriend, waking up in his bed clad only in her panties and one of his old T-shirts. For his part, the husband has a one-night stand. Guilt all over the lot on both sides.

Then Peyton receives a blackmail threat, asking for $10,000 or her ex-boyfriend would be killed. Peyton and her husband decide not to pay. Peyton then turns up in her car unconscious with a half bottle of sleeping pills by her side. The boyfriend is discovered in the trunk dead of a single bullet wound to the head.

Peyton and her husband are arrested and charged with second degree murder, setting the stage for a fascinating description of a trial How the novel turns out demonstrates the author's skill in creating a most unusual plot, with writing and dialogue as sharp as can be. Highly recommended.

The Burnt House
Faye Kellerman
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780061226363 $7.99 800-242-7737

The return of Peter and Rina Decker is always welcome. It combines good police procedure and the smell of good food. This novel is no exception. It begins with the crash of a small commuter plane out of Burbank (Bob Hope) airport early one morning and the supposed death of an airline steward. When all the victims are accounted for, her body is not identified, although the remains of bones beneath the destroyed structure into which the plane plunged are discovered.

Thus begins the hunt for the truth behind the disappearance of two women. The skeleton is finally identified as someone gone missing thirty years before. The stewardess' body remains the subject of a continued search. Is the husband somehow responsible for her disappearance or even her possible murder? Or is it a contractor in San Jose with whom she had a brief affair? What started out as two unrelated incidents draws Decker and his team back and forth to San Jose and New Mexico in an effort to uncover 30-year-old information in attempt to solve the cases.

With more questions than answers the investigation unearths more dead ends than answers. But perseverance is virtue that pays off in the end. And the interrelationship of Peter and Rina is on display deeply, as she provides a sounding board to guide him both supernaturally and professionally. Tightly plotted and well-written, the series remains a joy to read.

Executive Privilege
Phillip Margolin
HarperCollins Publishers
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022, 800-242-7737,
9780061236211 $25.95

Presidents of the United States have been accused of many transgressions, but being a serial killer—so far—has not been one of the accusations (unless you include undeclared wars). However, that's the gist of the plot of Mr. Margolin's fascinating 10th novel. To give any further detail would give away too much of the plot. Suffice it to say that the portrayal of the characters is real, and the story moves forward at a rapid pace.

The descriptions of the FBI procedures and insights into the appointment and actions of a Special Prosecutor investigating a high ranking executive are superb, indicative of the author's legal background.

Highly recommended.

Ties That Bind
Phillip Margolin
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780061575242 $9.99 800-242-7737

The author lives in Portland, OR, where he is a long-time defense attorney, so this novel that portrays the cream of the city's elite as less than upstanding is somewhat of a surprise. One would think the City Fathers would look askance at such a public relations nightmare. Nevertheless, it is a rip-snorting novel that keeps the reader completely engrossed.

Amanda Jaffe is a defense attorney who takes on a hopeless case when the previously-appointed counsel is killed during a conference in jail with Jon Dupre, who operates an upscale call-girl service. No other attorney would take the case, and Amanda takes on the task of defending Dupre against two murder charges. Then important people ask her to "throw" the case. But she doesn't, continuing her investigation in an attempt to exonerate her client, despite dangers and a continuing series of murders.

The story keeps shifting with new developments which keep the reader guessing. And the twists at the end certainly demonstrate the author's craft at his best. The suspenseful plot keeps one on the edge of the seat right down to the final pages. Highly recommended.

Death of a Lovable Geek
Maria Hudgins
Five Star
295 Kennedy Memorial Drive, Waterville, Maine 04901
9781594146411 $25.95 207-859-1000,

This old-fashioned mystery novel featuring Dotsy Lamb follows her debut in Death of an Obnoxious Tourist. This time, we find her and her friend Lettie in Scotland at an archaeological dig where she hopes to find out more about her favorite Scottish king, Macbeth, the real person, not the one depicted by Shakespeare.

Unfortunately, one of the college students at the dig is found stabbed to death, and later, the head of the project dies under mysterious circumstances. All in all, these events give Dotsy plenty to think about. Are the two deaths related? And how can she clear the student's roommate of the charges brought against him by the police in the murder?

It is really pleasing to read this suspenseful tale, without all the gore and graphic detail which too often can distract the reader in the mystery genre. Written simply in the first person, the narrative progresses like a traditional puzzler, which makes it enchanting. Recommended.

Shadow of Power

Steve Martini
William Morrow
c/o HarperCollins
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022, 800-242-7737
9780061230882 $26.95

Paul Madriani, in this latest in the series, and his partner, Harry Hinds, take on a nearly impossible defense of a bewildered murder defendant. It appears to be an open-and-shut case and the prosecutor merely has to present fingerprint and other evidence to convict. The victim was a well-known author of a book which flaunted the original language of the Constitution regarding slavery. Riots followed his book tour. Further, he promised a bombshell in the form of a previously unknown letter purportedly written by Thomas Jefferson offering Britain a secret deal on slavery in exchange for the Colonies' independence.

With little to go on, the San Diego attorneys proceed to trial in an attempt to free the accused, allowing the author to demonstrate his profound skills at courtroom (and chambers) procedure. Meanwhile, they continue to investigate, turning up a clue here and another there, while making points on cross-examination.

The novel is a straightforward tale of a murder trial with parallel thrilling detective work to uncover the truth. It is very exciting and the endgame really twists the reader's mind, it is so far from expectations. A fast and absorbing read, and highly recommended.

The Calling
Inger Ash Wolfe
15 E. 26th St., NY, NY 10010
9780151013471 $24.00 212-592-1000

Whether this novel is a thriller, mystery or police procedural, or a combination of all three genres, it is original and suspenseful. It takes place in a small town north of Toronto, and features 61-year-old Hazel Micallef, the acting head of the small police outpost in Port Dundas. The crusty Detective Inspector has a bad back and is racked with pain, dependent on pain killers.

Aside from minor infractions, little in the way of real crime takes place in the small town. Then one day a murder is discovered, the terminally ill victim horribly mutilated. Hazel discovers other similar victims stretching across Canada from Vancouver eastward. Despite her understaffed department, she undertakes to investigate what appears to be a case of a serial killer who may be masking mercy killings.

The story is gripping, with a tight plot, packed with shivering descriptions and taut writing. The author's name is a nom de plume of a writer who is described as a North American literary novelist. One wonders why the author chose to hide under an alias for this well-told tale; whatever the reason, this book should be read for its well-constructed flow, and is recommended.

Madman on a Drum
David Housewright
St. Martin's Minotaur
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312370817 $24.95 212-674-5151, 646-307-5560

The past comes back to haunt. That is the essence of the plot of this second McKenzie novel, full of murder and mayhem and a thrill a page. It begins with the kidnapping of McKenzie's godchild, the daughter of his closest friends. A ransom of $1 million is demanded, and he not only supplies the cash but delivers it in exchange for the return of the 10-year-old girl.

The question is: Is McKenzie really the target, and why. Does the motivation for the crime lie in his past, someone he arrested while he was a cop? Or some other reason? Meanwhile, the reader is treated to all kinds of background on Minneapolis and St. Paul history, urban development, history and the like.

The author states that the novel is an homage to the late Mickey Spillane. Judging from the McKenzie character and the violence, it comes close—but no cigar. But it is a rousing read, fun and excitement all the way. Exciting chases, gun battles, twists and double-crosses adorn the pages. Recommended.

Theodore Feit

Victoria's Bookshelf

The Wilderness Road
L.G. Vernon
Light Sword Publishing,
P.O. Box 851556, Westland, MI 48185
9780980073393, $16.95, 334 pages

This charming tale begins during the latter part of the Civil War. It's 1864 and Major Rip McKenna's serving with the Union Army of the Potomac. The army, over one hundred thousand strong is marching through enemy territory in Virginia towards the infamous Battle of the Wilderness. Grant's in charge and he's determined to win no matter how many lives are

During the Battle of the Wilderness, Rip's badly wounded and left for dead. One of his staff, his mother's brother, finds him and takes Rip to a field hospital where an exhausted surgeon does what he can. Rip awakes in his hospital bed remembering nothing of the battle. Fevered and in a
daze he rides off on his horse where's he's found a few days later by a small southern boy.

The boy's aunt, Katherine Stuart takes Rip McKenna into her home where she, her former slaves and the local doctor do what they can to save him. Rip begins to heal, but he's blind and can't see Katherine. The two have feelings for each other, but the young woman's brother-in-law returns fora visit and tells her he'll be back to make her his wife and take over the plantation. He threatens to kill everyone if she doesn't obey. Katherine arranges Rip's safe return to the Union Army before taking her family and former slaves and fleeing west. Will she ever see Rip again and can she escape her evil brother-in-law?

The Wilderness Road is an entertaining read that gives us a glimpse back into a terrible time in American History. I recommend it to anyone who loves historical romance.

Sly Mongoose
Tobias S. Buckell
Tor Books
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780765319203 $25.95

I was happy to see the return of Pepper in Sly Mongoose. The story begins with the long-lived and seemly indestructible Pepper hurtling towards the dismal planet of Chilo. A planet with high temperatures, toxic atmosphere and floating cities built by the descendants of the Azteca who fled the planet of New Anegada generations ago.

Pepper's arrival is quite dramatic and he's not in great shape when he crashes onto one of the floating cities. Unfortunately, Pepper's landing destroys the city of Yatapek's only mining machine. An ancient contraption, operated by Timas and other young boys able to fit in the
antiquated, but protective ground suits necessary for work on the surface of the planet. The city's poverty stricken and can't afford to fix the machine. Some of the other cities bargain with Yatapek's council. They want Pepper and in exchange they will see to the repair of the mining

Pepper's come to warn the people of Chilo of an impending invasion by a hostile group known as the League, but the people are not receptive to the idea and need some convincing. As the enemy begins their attacks, Timas tries to help Pepper and gets himself in trouble. Pepper must do whatever he can to save not only Chilo but all intelligent life.

I enjoyed the fast paced action and clever plot found in Sly Mongoose. This third book in Buckell's universe follows Crystal Rain and Ragamuffin. All are great tales to entertain fans of science fiction and well worth reading, but Sly Mongoose is my favorite.

Victoria Kennedy

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

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