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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 9, Number 8 August 2009 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Alma's Bookshelf Amy's Bookshelf
Andrew's Bookshelf Bethany's Bookshelf Carson's Bookshelf
Christy's Bookshelf Clark's Bookshelf Debra's Bookshelf
Gary's Bookshelf Georganna's Bookshelf Gina's Bookshelf
Gloria's Bookshelf Gorden's Bookshelf Harwood's Bookshelf
Hassler's Bookshelf Henry's Bookshelf Karyn's Bookshelf
Kaye's Bookshelf Logan's Bookshelf Margaret's Bookshelf
Molly's Bookshelf Paul's Bookshelf Regis' Bookshelf
Richard's Bookshelf Theodore's Bookshelf Victoria's Bookshelf

Reviewer's Choice

What To Believe? Books for and Against the God Hypothesis Reviewed
William Harwood
World Audience, Inc.
303 Park Avenue South, Suite 1440, New York, NY 10010-3675
9781935444022 $20.00

G. Richard Bozarth

What To Believe? offers 134 book reviews. The connection of a lot of them to the God Hypothesis is distant, and a few of them, especially the reviews of novels, have no connection at all. Almost all the books are strongly connected to religionism. It's a small quibble, and Harwood could most likely reply that my titles are not always wonderful.

The only reviews that failed to interest me were the ones of science fiction novels, and not because I dislike science fiction. I've loved sci-fi since I was a teenager. Harwood obviously is also a sci-fi fan, but the sci-fi novels reviewed in this book did not bring out the best in him like so many of the nonfiction books did.

Harwood is a prolific Freethought writer who has been publishing for a long time. He knows a lot and shares that knowledge in his reviews, usually as rebuttal. A lot of the interesting content also comes from the books he reviews. For example, the Talmud has a version of the Flood fairy tale that is different from the Bible's. In this version the terrible thing Noah's third or second son (I have two Bible dictionaries that disagree about Ham's status) did to his drunken father after the Flood was not seeing him naked. It was castrating him. That makes the story a lot more entertaining in my opinion. Another example is the conflicting genealogies for Jesus in the New Testament. I had not known that the Roman Catholic Church solved the problem by claiming that the genealogy in Luke is supposed to be for Mary. That is not a conclusion supported by the text in The Jerusalem Bible, which is a modern English translation of the Roman Catholic version of the Bible. The subtitle used for that section of Luke is "The ancestry of Jesus". Perhaps it's one of those things the RCC is still debating and has not yet turned into dogma.

Harwood has intellectual teeth and likes to use them. Here are some of the bites he inflicts in What To Believe?:

"To a scientist (or historian such as myself), the question, 'Is water wet?' can be answered in one word. There is little doubt in my mind that a philosopher could write a 600-page dissertation on the question - and other philosophers would see it as actually saying something."

"A theist can be moral, but only if, while paying lip service to every teaching of his religion's sacred books, his observable behavior in fact repudiates those teachings."

"The masturbation fantasy that recognition of a problem and determination to solve it can cause a species to evolve in a desired direction is the hallmark of sociobiology."

"Prejudice is not unchristian. It is one of the core traits of Christianity. Many Christians express unprejudiced views, but they do so because they reject the teachings of their bible, the most vicious and hate-ridden endorsement of prejudice ever written, with the possible exception of the Koran."

"All godworshippers are insane."

"Any university that accredits a faculty or school of theology thereby illegitimates itself to the same degree as if it maintained a school of astrology or tealeaf reading."

"Unless the masses are made to realize that religion, besides being a delusion and a failed hypothesis, is the root of all evil, there is no possibility of humankind exterminating religion before religion exterminates humankind."

"What religion addict cannot find a rationalization for anything he deems expedient, anything whatsoever?"

"Persons who believe the world is going to end within their lifetimes tend to pursue policies they believe will make it happen."

I agree with the above almost 100% - almost because I would have written "irrational" instead of "insane". There are things in What To Believe? I do not agree with.

Harwood accuses The Story Of Civilization by Will Durant (and Ariel for the last five volumes) of being "scissors-and-paste high school pablum." I know this accusation isn't true because I have read TSOC. The definition of "pablum" in The American Heritage College dictionary, Third Edition, is "trite, insipid, or simplistic writing, speech, or conceptualization". That does not describe TSOC. Will Durant's writing is a contender for the gold medal in nonfiction writing, and a book of exquisite and profound aphorisms could be produced by mining TSOC.

Durant's huge, 11-volume, bestselling history of Western civilization is a supreme example of the outline-of genre of nonfiction. The purpose of outline-of books is to distill the work of professionals for consumption by intelligent nonprofessionals. It's still a popular form, and writers who do good outline-of work usually enjoy commercial success. If Durant can be scorned as a "scissors-and-paste" author, so can H. G. Wells (an outline-of superstar before Durant with his bestselling The Outline Of History), Joseph McCabe (a champion of Atheism who wrote several outline-of pamphlet series for Emanuel Haldeman-Julius, a famous Freethought publisher), and all the other outline-of authors I've read (for example, Louis J. Halle, Out Of Chaos, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1977). Harwood is unjust.

Harwood is particularly outraged by Dan Brown, who wrote the amazingly successful The Da Vinci Code, which I've also read. Harwood dislikes Brown because Code was not written to be as historically accurate as possible. He condemns Brown for using "intentional wild speculations designed purely to sell books." He makes this silly accusation even though Harwood fully understands the novel, being a novel, is fiction. Fiction by definition is a fantasy, a fairy tale, or, to use the term Stephen King likes, a lie. It's not meant to be true even when it is as historically accurate as possible. Fiction is fun precisely because it is not chained to reality and thus can be loaded with "intentional wild speculations". And when did it become bad to strive to write fiction that also sells books after it is published? The condemnation, if carried to its logical conclusion, puts Harwood in the position of insisting there is or should be some law of literature that requires historical fiction to be nonfiction as much as possible, which would be absurd because it would condemn many writers whose greatness has been long established (for examples, Homer and Shakespeare). I absolutely enjoyed Code from first word to last and highly recommend it to those who enjoy novels based on "intentional wild speculations".

Harwood calls himself a nontheist instead of an Atheist. He prefers nontheist because it is the "more useful and less vilified name." I prefer Atheist because it is more in-religionists'-faces than nontheist. Harwood is unquestionably as militant as I am, and I wouldn't argue with a person who rates him more militant than me, so his preference for nontheist seems odd because nontheist is not a militant term. Because militant Atheists have been scaring and enraging religionists over 200 years, when religionists hear "Atheist", they know "militant" is there even if it is unspoken. That is why Atheists who are not militant are always seeking some other term. Harwood, however, isn't one of the Good Doggy Atheists. His preference for nontheist is not an attempt to avoid scaring or enraging religionists.

Harwood has sent "pages of 'Synopsis of English Grammar' to national news anchors who used substandard English." Several of his reviews point out grammar violations by the authors. I'm not with Harwood on this. I have a literary artist's attitude towards grammar. What are rules that should not be broken to Harwood are guidelines to me. I ignore them whenever I disagree with them or to accomplish my mission as a writer. Humans have been trying to control language with rules of grammar, spelling, and punctuation for as long as there has been language, but it is futile to do it. Language is part of human culture, thus subject to constant evolution. Change is inevitable. That is why Chaucer's famous English tales have to be translated for the average English reader today. However, the farther a writer strays from the contemporary rules of language, the closer she gets to losing clear communication with contemporary readers, and the more talent she needs to persuade them her writing is a good reading experience. I stray, but I'm not nearly so bold as Bret Easton Ellis or Cormac McCarthy.

What To Believe? has a lot to offer Atheists, Freethinkers, and Secular Humanists. I recommend it highly.

Bruce Golden
Zumaya Otherworlds
3209 S. Interstate 35 #1086, Austin, TX 78741
9781934841327 $17.95

Eric Alexander

It seems as if everybody wants to go green these days. Well, science fiction writer Bruce Golden has done it in a big way with his new novel Evergreen. Yes, there's an underlying environmental theme here, but that's not what the book's really about. Despite the fantastic milieu he's created for the planet Evergreen, this is a true character story. It's told from several viewpoints, while exploring the themes of revenge, redemption, and obsession.

Evergreen is still a frontier planet where many forms of technology are limited by solar activity and the planet's magnetic field. Solar power is the only power other than muscle and sweat. The colony is being built on the backs of its indentured lumberjacks, while "the company" that owns the planetary mineral rights begins to set up mining operations.

A man known by the name of Gash is one of these timber jockeys. He's got a past he's trying to forget, and he makes use of the local narcotic to ease his pain - until he's recruited by the colonists to join their insurrection against the company. This rebellion is only one of several storylines.

When an ancient artifact is discovered on Evergreen, a heretic priest back on Earth becomes convinced it's the link that will prove his theory about the existence of an extraterrestrial "City of God." Dr. Nikira forms an expedition to Evergreen that includes renowned archaeology professor Luis Escobedo, his wife, Filamena, and his estranged son, Maximo. Unknown to the professor, his wife has recently put an end to a brief but passionate affair with Maximo, her stepson. She chastises herself for the weakness that led her to the affair, and is now determined to stay true to her husband. However, when Maximo unexpectedly joins the expedition, she must deal with the constant temptation of his presence.

Traveling aboard the same ship that will take them to Evergreen is Eamon, a young man wracked by both guilt and a need for vengeance. After years of searching, Eamon believes he's finally tracked down the man responsible for his mother's death. He intends to find the man and kill him. In order to do so, he has contracted himself to join the timber jockey workforce, which is made up mostly of debtors and convicts.

At this future point of man's exploration of space, several inhabitable planets have been discovered, but, as yet, not a single intelligent species outside of mankind has been found. However, an exobiologist studying a primate species on Evergreen believes the "ursu" may be only thousands of years away from evolving into a sort of primitive intelligence. She'll discover these creatures have a past as well as a future.

However, there's another intelligence on Evergreen. One not so readily visible. I won't give it away, but suffice to say it leads this tale and all of its characters into one incredible climax.

As for the relevant issue of the environment, it's not something Golden slaps you across the face with. No character ever broaches it - there's no editorializing. But, by the end of the book, the question is clear. Should mankind be allowed to do whatever he wants with whatever planet he encounters. Should he be able to do whatever he wants with planet Earth?

Evergreen has everything you look for in a great science fiction read. Believably tormented characters, unique world-building, realistic dialogue, adventure, exploration, alien lifeforms, conflict, resolution . . . by the time the book ended, I only wished it was longer. I wanted more of this alien world, and wanted to know what happened to these characters next - at least those who still survived the final page.

Art of the Upset
Bruce C. Reynolds
Advocate House (an imprint of A Cappela Publishing, Inc.)
9780981893341 hc $24.95, pbk $19.95

Jodi Grant, Reviewer

Bruce Reynolds has a philosophy for winning. He has demonstrated its success in his own life, as an award-winning football coach and a 9-times State Representative for Delaware. In Art of the Upset he shows how any David, in any field of endeavor, can overcome his Goliath.

While he talks about football, aiming his message at coaches, Reynold's advice translates into life lessons that can be applied to any career, relationship, hardship, failure or success. He gives wonderful examples, from military battles to board room tactics as well as from famous football events, of people and teams who have come from behind to take astounding wins. And he shows you the principal behind that win that made it possible..

Reynolds has always been fascinated with the psychology and the philosophy of how to pull off the big "upset". Art of the Upset, is a "how-to" for the coach. But, the principles of the upset can be applied to any profession and walk of life. He has drawn heavily from his own coaching career and career in politics to illustrate the concepts involved in the process of pulling off the upset. He has also researched and drawn from historical, professional, college, Olympic and world events to make the telling of the process come alive.

Whether you want to inspire yourself, your team, your employees or your family to strive together, this book will provide all the inspiration and how-to you'll need ... no small task in these economically challenging times.

Says Reynolds: "I believe this book is unique and would be beneficial to any and all who desire to be successful and to accomplish the seemingly impossible. It is a blueprint for success."

The Jigsaw Man
Gord Rollo
Dorchester Publishing Company, Inc.
New York, NY
9780843960129 $7.99

Christina Johns

If you haven't heard of Gord Rollo, don't feel alone. Though many of his short stories and novella length works have been published in professional as well as semi-professional publications, The Jigsaw Man is Rollo's first mass market published novel. Judging by his storytelling capabilities, this is only the first we will hear from this creative and innovative writer.

The prologue here tells readers the reason why Michael Fox is the protagonist and why he was ripe for the coming events in The Jigsaw Man. Readers may not see it on the opening page or two, but once Part One "The Bridge" is digested, readers will think it a bit hard to lay down this tale before they have completed it.

At what price would you part with one of your legs? Would you take one hundred dollars, one thousand dollars, one million dollars? Say it is for medical purposes and you know that your leg will assist researchers with discovering procedures which could help a lot of people. Would this make you more inclined to part with the appendage? Michael Fox, the leading character here, realizes his price and signs a contract to part with one of his arms. Before you shake your head and say, "No, I can't understand that," read Fox's rationalizations and chances are good that you will find some reasons with which you may even agree. In a hidden clinic, Fox finds that he is not the only one selling something and it is not long before he realizes that something considerably more disturbing is going on at "The Castle." One of the earlier clues is on a video tape Dr. Marshall, doctor in charge and owner of the clinic, shows to the "arrivals."

"The most amazing thing by far-- and if I'd seen it anywhere else I'd have laughed and sworn it was faked - was a human head severed below the chin, with its spinal column still attached but openly exposed in a glass chamber filled with some milky amber-colored fluid. It was the head of a male, a dark-haired man whose age was virtually impossible for me to guess at. His eyes would open and close every four or five seconds, his nose twitched steadily, and once during the thirty seconds the head was on the film, his moth opened up wide in what appeared to be a silent scream."

---age 58, Jigsaw Man

After viewing the film, Fox and the other guests find that things really go downhill quickly. Other discoveries are made, like the good doctor's mutilated son's head being kept alive by machines, and Fox finds himself a threat to the doctor's planned schedule. Fox is finally tied down and locked in by "the powers that be."

Rollo shows a certain expertise in characterization. In Jigsaw Man, he has breathed life into a number of people you may recognize from every day dealings. Readers won't have a problem envisioning any single character from this yarn. Too bad that sharing any of them would ruin the effect of the book. Sorry, you'll just have to read them for yourself!

This book will scare you.

The scare may be different than most horror tales scare, but you will be scared. You will still be compelled to finish the story, however. This book is for people with the stomach for medical horror. It will make you queasy. Following The Jigsaw Man is an excerpt from Crimson, Rollo's second book from Leisure. I have a feeling that we will be seeing many more dark dreams from Gord Rollo's pen. Many more.

Gifted: Out of Sight, Out of Mind
Marilyn Kaye
Imprint of Macmillan Children's Books
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780753462836 $7.99

Kim Rapier

Amanda Beesom has it all. She's the Queen Bee at Meadowbrook Middle School. She rules the school. Anyone not her friend, is a big loser.

But everything is not what it seems. Amanda has a motto: Don't care for anyone or else you might end up in someone else's body.

One day she looks into a mirror and sees Tracey Devon, one of the biggest losers at her school. Problem is, she's now Tracey and even worse she's invisible to everyone around her. Then Amanda finds out Tracey belongs to a mysterious 'gifted' class. But gifted in a strange way. Amanda needs to figure out how to get back into her own body before it's too late.

This story is the first book in a series. Each character has a different 'gift' or paranormal ability. Think X-men goes to Middle School. Amanda's character at first is snobby and mean. She's the classic mean girl, hating anyone who's different and not like her. Later, though, she learns to deal with her own special gift while in Tracey's body. The classroom situation was interesting. Madame, the teacher, is intriguing. I wanted to know more about her and why she's so insistent on protecting the student's abilities from others.

I like how the author is devoting a book to each of the student's special gifts. I can't help but think that somehow each of the student's abilities will be helpful for the entire class.

This series is sure to appeal to tweens. It's entertaining, clean, and has a intriguing premise sure to attract Xmen fans and those who love a good, fun tale.

The God Psychosis: Humankind's Ultimate Black Plague
William Harwood
World Audience Inc
303 Park Avenue South, Suite 1440, NY 10010-3657
9781935444176 $20.00

Leland W. Ruble

At present I know of just a few authors who are, as William Harwood is, of writing so extensively and so knowledgeable on a variety of subjects, and in the realm of religion, is one of the most qualified in exposing the numerous faults, idiosyncrasies, and fantasy that masquerades itself as a legitimate way to achieve nirvana (heaven), or if disregarded and not believed, guarantees eternal torment in a delusional hell concocted by the priestly authors and apologists of religious psychosis.

In this current book, the author further exposes the loony, rabid antics of religious fanatics and those politically allied with the theofascist right in zealous attempts to recreate a world dominated by the unscientific, the delusional, the fabulous, and the deranged. These are individuals whose personal lives are totally predicated on beliefs which have no substance in reality, and who since they are not confined, continue to infect society with lunatic expressions of a godism that exists mainly in their brains and not the reality in which we actually exist.

The author makes a valiant, intellectual attempt through a series of articles (31), plus 46 book reviews, and 4 letters to the media to expose the corruption, folly and delusional attempts by religious apologists to remake the world into a lunatic asylum for believers in the irrational beliefs of a god as depicted in so-called holy books.

The claims of religious apologists and their allies are thoroughly exposed as the author deftly whacks in words, those who pretentiously hawk their religious delusions on the world stage. Those politically allied with the theocratic, theofascist right, are also salvaged as the author exposes their true nature and deceptive ambitions.

For instance, in the article, if Ann Coulter Was 30,000 Years More Evolved, the author had this to say: "Ann Coulter is at the very least a serious contender, since she epitomizes the intrinsic meaning of 'evil rabid canine.' She is as permeated with theofascism as Tomas de Torquemada, as contemptuous of democracy as Joseph Stalin, and she has the compassion of Attila the Hun and the redeeming social value of Adolf Hitler" (p. 43).

If you were perked up by that brilliant summation of Coulter, rest assured there are many, many other just as luminous phrases by the author in this book.

Here's another from the article Planet of the Gullible - and the Parasites Who Fleece Them, the author writes: "Of the 6.6 billion human beings on Planet Earth, only 2.2 billion know, believe or suspect that they are not the domesticated livestock of an omnipotent petmaster in the sky, since they are aware that 'gods', as such Sky Fuhrers are called, have never revealed their existence, and almost certainly do not exist. That leaves 4.4 billion gullible marks who are currently being controlled, manipulated and swindled by one or another god's self-appointed scriptwriters, lawmakers, and tax collectors" (p.73).

To read more lucent phrases from the author, get the book and add it to your library for reference and the sheer enjoyment of reading one of the foremost author's currently dispelling the illusions of gullible, implausible god beliefs.

The religious community likely will rant and rave, and exhibit numerous temper tantrums if some of their more notorious spokespersons should be so curious as to read this book. However, their infantile inability to logically refute what the author states, is premised on the fact that their religious servitude has rendered them permanently incapable of ever providing a rational, realistic argument for belief in the illusive fantasy of an existing god. And the author knows from his vast knowledge of religion, politics, and many other issues, that until they emerge freely from the delusions that confine them to god belief, they will continue to wallow in that vast wasteland of supernatural fantasy.

To get a better idea of what this book consists of, here is the author in his own words on the back cover of the book: "Godworship is a contagious form of insanity that is within 300 years of exterminating the human race. God addicts are not committing anthropocide, by environmental pollution and overpopulation, out of malice. Rather, they are convinced the world is coming to an end in their lifetimes, at which time a deus ex machina is going to carry victims of its mind-AIDS off to a Cloud Cuckoo Land in the sky, and sentence the sane, intelligent and educated minority to be tortured with flamethrowers for eternity in an underworld Auschwitz that can only be described as a sadist's dream.

"No one who reads a Tanakh, Bible or Koran with his brain in gear can fail to recognize that the character called 'God' in English mistranslations is the most sadistic, evil, mass murdering psychopath in all fiction, and that those allegedly holy books are the most obscene paeans to evil ever written, with Mein Kampf and the Left Behind series their only serious competitors.

"Be warned. Unless humankind exterminates religion within 150 years, there will not be a human being left on earth in 300 years."

Color is Everything: Beginners to Advanced Painters Can Learn What All Great Artists Know
Dan Bartges
The Oaklea Press
6912-B Three Chopt Road, Richmond, Virginia 23226
9781892538369 $14.99

Liana Metal, Reviewer

Dan Bartges, a full time artist since 1996, has produced oil paintings and water colors that have been acquired by private collectors nationwide and by a number of Fortune 500 companies. He currently lives in Virginia with his family.

Color is Everything is a useful mini guide that is a valuable tool for every artist. The book is in full color, illustrated, and gives step by step instructions on how to learn about colors and their use in different mediums. Dan illustrated his points by quick exercises that are easy to do and enjoyable as well.

This mini color guide is a must for every artist who needs a fast seminar on color combinations. Mastering color is made a lot easier to learn by following the author's tips and advice. It also stimulates the desire to use the new hues one learns and create unique pieces of art! A very enjoyable and useful book that will become the bible of the artist!

Get it from

The Extinction Instinct
CP Greene, author
Picaro Editions
PO Box 90145, New York, NY 10011
9780578016658 $20.98

Miyo Baird

An important book - simply because it is ecological awareness cloaked in entertainment (and it is highly entertaining), the novel, The Extinction Instinct, is perhaps a response to the multitude of works of fiction produced that battle scientific issues (everything from evolution to global warming).

Global warming, the environment, the polar ice caps, the destruction of habitat, the alarming rate of extinction, these are all facts; however, too often, for political reasons, they are challenged, both directly through information, and indirectly through entertainment. All one has to do is search for "global warming" at any major bookstore's website and there are more anti-books attempting to prove it false than books explaining or supporting it. There is a growing industry of "entertainment" - novels, movies, websites, television shows - specifically designed to challenge prevailing scientific theory or promote ideas that in direct contradiction to science.

So, for that reason alone, the introduction of any work of entertainment that supports - promotes - ecological awareness is a god send. And, The Extinction Instinct is great entertainment. For a novel, it is reminiscent of Michael Crichton or John Grisham (although written better). It is (I expect purposefully, considering the publisher is known for "experimental literature") written in a swift, lucid manner. The prose is careful, considerate, and fun to read. The characters are nuanced, but certainly represent common archetypes readily apparent to any reader. The three main characters, Maija Rudolph, Theo Kirk and Dr. Georges, represent certain fiction "models". Maija, a mother of two gave up a career in botany to raise children, is the "every person". The events of the book are described through her eyes. Theo, an exiled naturalist living in Africa, is the rebellious scientist who knows the truth, who understands what is going on, but who cannot get people to listen (Galileo, Copernicus, etc.), much to their detriment. Dr. Georges is a "sell-out" absorbed in a vast bureaucracy who has to finally face his lack of backbone and stand up to an administration that has a history of combating science (again, much to the detriment of humanity).

But, it is the plot that makes The Extinction Instinct a unique, important novel. Without ruining it - one day, Maija wakes up and the news is reporting strange phenomena. It seems monkeys overran a city in India and killed all the people. There is a sudden epidemic of common fruits and vegetables making people sick, as if apples, oranges, etc. suddenly became poisonous. A cruise liner was sunk the night before by what appears to be an attack by marine life. And, it begins to escalate, until Maija spends her entire day witnessing global upheaval no one quite understands. Why are armies of animals invading cities? Why are whales ramming ships? Why are grains becoming poisonous?

Dr. Georges is the undersecretary of the environmental affairs and, it becomes his task to answer these questions. The world has spun out of control and government is at a loss. They lose troops investigating an attack in a national park, they begin to lose gunships, they cannot control things as they grow worse and worse. Over time, whole cities, then whole regions are taken over. It's a war they didn't even know they were fighting. During investigations, Dr. Georges uncovers controversial theories that may explain what is going on, which just so happen to be authored by Theo Kirk. Explaining would ruin the plot, but Theo is a mixture of Indiana Jones and Charles Darwin. He's a fun character to root for. He lives in Africa, arguably the worst place to be if animals all the sudden decided to turn on humans, and he makes it out.

All the quasi-science and adrenaline plotting does a fantastic job of making a book about ecological damage fun. The latent message of The Extinction Instinct is that we - humanity - are raping nature. There is nothing new to this perspective, but when it is put in context of a revolt, a war, it is somehow magnified. Imagine if nature actually fought back, would we be so quick to exploit it? This is an underlying theme of The Extinction Instinct, and if it makes one person mull this over, it deserves our praise.

Escape Under the Forever Sky
Eve Yohalem
Chronicle Books
690 Second Street, San Francisco, CA 94107
9780811866538 $16.99

Peggy Tibbetts, Reviewer

Lucy Hoffman is the 13-year old daughter of the US Ambassador to Ethiopia. By all appearances she lives a charmed life in the middle of one of the poorest countries in Africa. A driver escorts her from the gated compound to private school. She rides in motorcades to official dinners where she dines with various world leaders. Servants attend to all her needs. She wants for nothing - except her freedom.

After six months, all Lucy knows of the culture and geography she has learned from reading books and talking to her driver, Iskinder. Like the wild animals she visits on her trips to the National Park with Ranger Dahnie, she yearns to explore rural Africa. She eventually gets her wish but not at all the way she imagined.

Lucy and her mother, the Ambassador, are embroiled in a serious disagreement over the touchy subject of her freedom. She has been grounded for going to the outdoor market in Addis Ababa with her school friends. She is furious at her mother. When she's finally allowed to go to her friend, Tana's house for a short visit, they sneak off to hear a local band at a restaurant. There she is kidnapped and the real story begins.

Lucy is held in a small hut in the country. Her kidnappers, a British woman and 2 African men, are so disorganized and one of the men is so violent she is certain they will kill her. Even though she is keenly aware that certain death might also await her in the dangerous wilderness, she believes her only option is to escape. What follows is the most challenging adventure of a lifetime.

"Escape Under the Forever Sky" is a suspenseful and spell-binding tale of Lucy's bravery and resourcefulness as she draws on everything she has learned about this mysterious land to guide her incredible journey. Yohalem's abundant research shines through with vivid details. From the colorful, bustling marketplace in Addis Ababa to the hidden dangers and natural beauty of the Ethiopian wilderness, young readers will feel like they are right there with Lucy through all her exploits. This is an intriguing summer safari for all ages.

Book Title: Strokes of Genius
L. Jon Wertheim
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
215 Park Avenue South, New York, New York 10003
9780547232805 $24.00

Raja N. Krishnan

Tennis is great. At the time of this writing, it is Middle Sunday, the traditional Sunday without action during Wimbledon. The non-appearance of Nadal at this tournament due to injury, combined with Federer's historic win at the French Open and the reading of a book (more on this in a few) has made me reflect on the significance of last year's Wimbledon Mens Final. In the last several years Roger Federer has become my favorite player to watch, due to his grace, fluidity and ease of play. Some of the other players I enjoyed watching before him include Andre Agassi, Stefan Edberg, and Mats Wilander. All these players had rivals, and that made them raise their games to the next level. For Andre Agassi, of course it was the greatness of Pete Sampras, for Edberg it was Becker and in the case of Wilander one of his main rivals was Ivan Lendl. Still many people talk about the rivalry between McCenroe and Borg as the greatest, which I was too young at the time to fully experience and enjoy. What led me to think about this on a Middle Sunday during Wimbledon 2009? The answer to that question is L. Jon Wertheim's book, Strokes of Genius. This book is about Federer, Nadal, the rivalry, Pascal Maria (the match umpire), the game of tennis and most importantly about the greatest game played, Wimbledon 2008 Mens Final. The author does a great job of weaving the story of the game together, from the pre-match ongoings, the sights and sounds of Wimbledon and the historical background of the game of tennis. The author delicately crafts historical information about the game of tennis at the right junctures as the match is being described, like flashbacks in a movie. This book has been an easy, fast, and an enjoyable read. It makes me want to pick up a racket again and play tennis. It is a book that celebrates the greatness of tennis. This book is a must read for all, and including those up and coming young tennis players. Thanks to Mr. Wertheim for capturing this great moment in tennis history and hopefully further jolting the popularity of tennis.

The Day Begins with Christ
Adrienna Dionna Turner
Bloomington, IN
9781438929020 $18.99 800-839-8640

Dr. Author O. Wright

The Day Begins with Christ is a marvelous work of God guiding the hands and heart of his servant Adrienna. In her powerful book, she makes the power and purpose of our Lord's death abundantly clear and accessible. In her lucid discussions of life and salvation, she stresses that through Jesus' death alone, the power over sin and death has been conquered and the mastery and dominion of sin have been broken once and forever. In her gracious writings, she tells her readers that the exhortation from our Lord and Savior to lead a righteous and holy life is still as relevant today as it has ever been. Then, through her rich and loving wisdom, she patiently leads her readers to the perfect will of God. As Christians, we should always demonstrate the amazing love of God in our lives as we walk in Faith from day to day. Because it is God's transforming love through his son Jesus Christ which brings us to the true expression of his will. The Day Begins with Christ contains the divine message that will bring total enrichment to our souls. This precious book, along with the Holy Bible, should be in every home so that one could learn how to live the successful walk of Faith.

Alma's Bookshelf

Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup with Your Best Friend
Irene S. Levine, Ph.D.
Overlook Press, Peter Mayer Publishers.
141 Wooster St., New York, NY 10012
9781590200407 $21.95, 241 pages.

Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup With Your Best Friend is an uplifting and honest book for abandoned friends who are seeking advice to alleviate their pain. Dr. Irene Levine draws from the personal testimonies of thousands of women to provide anecdotes and groundbreaking solutions to this distressing experience. Offering tools for personal assessment, case stories, and actionable advice for saving, ending, or re-evaluating a relationship, Levine shows that breakups are sometimes inevitable - but not unbearable.

Best Friends Forever teaches women to stop blaming themselves, and that the sad experience of a broken relationship can make them stronger people who are better able to handle relationships with wisdom.

Best Friends Forever is a very insightful book with an original point of view on the termination of relationships between friends. For example, Levine says that the endings are never as sudden as they feel and that on looking back one can pick out events that forecast the eventual breakup. The book gave this reviewer insight into a long ago split she had always thought was caused by a remark she had made that offended her friend. On looking back at the situation with a new focus, she was able to realize that she had gotten tired of her friend's idiosyncracies long before, and that the "offensive remark" probably was designed by her unconscious need to end the relationship.

Levine tells us that whereas we are brought up to believe that best friendships go on forever, in reality they rarely do. Friendships are based on two differing personalities, which evolve over the course of time. There is no guarantee that two friends will grow in the same direction. According to Levine, the odds are overwhelmingly high that relationships will fracture for one reason or another, and break one or both hearts. Unfortunately, she says, most friendships are fragile rather than permanent.

There are strong similarities between a close friendship and romantic relationships, and being rejected by a best friend hurts just as much as being tossed aside by a lover, husband, or boyfriend. The dumped one besieges herself with questions such as "Wasn't I good enough for her? How could she do that? Who does she think she is? Does she ever think about me? Is there something I could have done to prevent this?" (p.15). In a way, a broken friendship is the more painful of the two disasters, as friends and family sympathize with a jilted lover, but the person abandoned by a friend often is ashamed to tell others about the rift. And unlike a romantic relationship, there is no standard code of ethics that obliges the dumper to be kind or even civil to the dumpee, to offer polite parting words, an apology, or an explanation. As a result, it can be very difficult for the rejected friend to experience closure about the relationship. An abrupt ending often leaves the abandoned person in a depression for months. Some never get over it.

The author makes a moot point when she says, "The quality of a relationship rather than its duration is a more realistic measure of the meaningfulness of a friendship" (p. 21).

Levine, in interesting sidebars, discusses the myths of friendship, one of which is that you always should be able to say whatever you want to a true friend. Maybe so, Levine warns, but be aware that some remarks are so hurtful they never will be forgiven, and can lead to the end of the friendship.

Relationships can fall apart for many reasons. The decision to part may be mutual because of a blow-up, a disappointment, or simply because the friends have grown apart. A one-sided ending, of course, is particularly painful to the person being left. According to the author most female friendships have ambiguous endings, with the women drifting apart without ever really understanding what brought about the termination.

A Chapter 3 sidebar, Tenets of Friendship at Times of Loss, should prove particularly helpful to those close to someone mourning a lost friend (p. 58). The tenets include being there for the person, as your words are less important than just being present and listening, not saying you know what your friend is going through, as each experience of loss and grief is different, focusing on what you can do, not what you can't do, refraining from prying your friend with questions, giving a warm hug and/or an expression of thoughtfulness, communicating the message, "I care and I'm here if you need me," and if you are the person grieving, realizing that people often feel awkward about your situation, and allowing them some slack.

Best Friends Forever is an astute, ground breaking, easily read book, which holds one's interest from beginning to end. It is highly recommended for psychotherapists whose practices are filled with people mourning the loss of their best friends, the mourners themselves, which includes just about everybody at some time or another in their lives, and the families and friends who love them and feel helpless in confronting their pain.

Dr. Irene S. Levine is a psychologist, journalist, member of the American Society for Journalists and Authors, and professor at New York University Medical School. She writes frequently for such publications as The New York Times, Health, Ladies' Home Journal, Reader's Digest, Self, The Huffington Post, and Better Homes and Gardens. She lives in New York.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Demystified: An Essential Guide for Understanding and Living with OCD
Cheryl Carmin, Ph.D.
De Capo Press, Perseus Books Group.
2300 Chestnut Street, Suite 200, Philadelphia, PA 19103
9781600904644 $15.95

Obsessive-Compulsive disorder, an anxiety disorder characterized by unwanted, intrusive thoughts and rituals, affects approximately 6 to 9 million Americans. A complex illness that is largely misunderstood by the public, it often goes untreated or misdiagnosed. In addition, many mental health professionals have very little experience in diagnosing anxiety disorders. With Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Demystified, OCD expert and clinical psychologist Cheryl Carmin explains the true nature of OCD, the factors that complicate its diagnosis, and the best ways to cope with it.

In clear, user-friendly language, the book offers crucial information such as getting a correct diagnosis, the most effective treatments, medication, guidelines for family and friends of OCD sufferers, issues for children and adolescents, related disorders, and a step-by-step self-help approach for those suffering from OCD.

Reviewer Dr. Alma H. Bond writes Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Demystified is a fast-moving, interesting, and simply written book which clarifies the mystery of this little understood disease. It is a book that can change the lives forever of the millions of victims and their families who hitherto have suffered in silence. Written in a compelling manner, the book can be read easily by intelligent laymen, and should be required reading for physicians, clinicians, and therapists who deal with this perplexing disease.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition (DSM-1V) defines Obsessions as "recurrent and persistent thoughts, impulses, or images that are experienced intrusive and inappropriate and that cause marked anxiety or distress."

Compulsions are defined as "repetitive behaviors (e.g. hand washing, ordering, checking) or mental acts (e. g. praying, counting, repeating words silently) the person feels driven to perform in response to an obsession, or according to rules that must be rigidly applied" (p. 6).
Dr. Carmin informs us that although the term OCD is part of our culture's vocabulary, the vast majority of people have no idea of what the illness really is like. Although Hollywood plays OCD for laughs and presents victims as funny or bizarre, for the smitten individual and his or her family and friends, it is no laughing matter, but can be a terrifying affliction .The up-to-date book gives a great deal of information that this reviewer, for one, who has been a practicing psychoanalyst for 37 years, didn't know. For example, Carmin tells us, "OCD is a medical condition that causes your brain to function differently from that of someone who doesn't have the disorder "(p.xii). Many of Carmin's colleagues believe the disease is caused by an imbalance of chemicals in the brain, while others think that the chemical imbalance contributes to the disorder. Carmin tells us that the jury is not out yet on whether the behavior is biologically based or learned.

There are six to nine million sufferers, or two to three percent of the population who suffer from OCD, about one in forty adults and one in fifty school-aged children. About half of the adults diagnosed with anxiety disorders had demonstrated symptoms of a psychiatric illness before their fifteenth birthday. Obviously, a huge number of people need this book! The illness also takes a huge toll economically, amounting to approximately six percent of the estimated cost of all psychiatric disorders. It strikes boys and girls at about the same rate, and usually appears in the late teens or early twenties, possibly as a result of the surges of hormones and brain chemicals at that period. About twenty-five percent of OCD sufferers have a family member who is similarly distressed. Throughout the book, the author stresses that although OCD can ruin lives, it is a treatable disease. Many victims who have suffered for decades have been"cured" by proper treatment. Often such people do not know they have a treatable condition, and hence never seek help. Others think the condition means they are "crazy," and keep it secret. Although scientists frequently refer to OCD as a "complex" genetic disorder, research has yet to pinpoint a single gene that "causes" OCD, nor is there a definitive medical test that can diagnose the disorder.
Common OCD symptoms include contamination and cleaning compulsions, harm-based obsessions and checking compulsions, sexual and aggressive obsessions, perfectionism obsessions and compulsions, religious obsessions, hoarding, and other symptoms such as the constant search for reassurance and repeated questioning which do not fit into the other groupings.

According to the author, cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) and ERP, a form of CBT, is the therapy of choice for treating OCD. The basic idea behind CBT is to teach such people how to better understand and manage their obsessional beliefs and related anxieties so that they no longer need to engage in compulsive behavior or rituals. The therapy involves a specialized form of CBT called exposure and response prevention or ERP. The individual is exposed to whatever causes his or her anxiety and is taught to refrain from using rituals such as hand washing to counteract the anxiety. The technique sounds simple, but actually is very difficult to do and causes the troubled individual much stress and pain. It also requires a great deal of courage. The person must stay in the terrifying situation as long as it takes to find out that what is most feared does not happen The anxiety always lessens, as it is not possible to stay anxious forever. The process is called habituation. The aim of ERP is not to eliminate the painful thoughts but to learn to tolerate them without resorting to rituals. As the smitten individual becomes more skilled at refusing OCD, s/he becomes less frightened by the thoughts and images that formerly were experienced as a torment, and the obsessions diminish in frequency and intensity. They subside as a result of cognitive restructuring, as the ERP process involves not giving in to the rituals. Research has found that there is a fifty to eighty percent reduction in OCD symptoms after twelve to twenty sessions of ERP.

Some people require medication along with their therapy. Six common medications, along with their possible side effects, are described.

Chapter Ten, How to Help When a Loved One has OCD, should prove particularly useful to those close to an OCD sufferer. In it, the author describes ways of supporting the individual suffering from the disorder. Most important is the strategy, "Do not do what comes naturally." It is difficult to watch the pain the person is suffering without accommodating and helping him or her over a difficult moment by assisting with a ritual, for example help with aligning the coffee cups in the dishwasher, or giving reassurance, such as "Yes, I'm sure you turned off the water upstairs." Yet this "help" is detrimental to the person's getting well, and is to be avoided at all costs. Rather, patient should be told, "I'm not going to reassure you because reassurance will feed the OCD." In addition, irritating as it may be to live with a person so afflicted, the author advises families to watch their tempers, as the severity of a person's OCD symptoms is greatly influenced by the attitudes of those around him.

The book ends with a list of resources where OCD sufferers can get more help, a Glossary, and an appendix containing the Yale-Brown Obsessive-Compulsive Scale (YBOCSD).

If pressed to give negative criticism of this insightful book I would have to say that credit should have been given to Freud, who wrote that to cure a phobia, the sufferer needs to face the object of his fears. Freud would have well understood the basic premise of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Demystified, that the sufferer must give up the rituals that attempt to ward off anxiety and face his or her fears. (Sigmund Freud, The Standard Edition, London, 1955, The Hogarth Press, Lines of Advance in Psychoanalytic Therapy, 1919, pp. 165-166.) Despite this serious omission, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Demystified is highly recommended for medical personnel and psychotherapists whose knowledge of OCD frequently leaves much to be desired, afflicted laymen who may have suffered decades in silence for lack of information about the illness, and their long-suffering families and friends, who are frightened, bewildered by, and feel helpless before the strangeness of their loved one's symptoms.

Dr. Cheryl Carmin is a clinical psychologist and the director of both the Stress and Anxiety Disorder Clinic and Cognitive Behavior Therapy Program of the University of Illinois at Chicago, where she is also a professor. A nationally recognized expert in the research and treatment of anxiety disorders, Dr. Carmin is a Founding Fellow of the Academy of Cognitive Therapy

Dr. Alma H. Bond

Amy's Bookshelf

Obsession Everlasting
Lisa Phillips
Black Lyon Publishing, LLC
9781934912188 $16.95

Rating: 4 Stars

Fallyn Mitchell is barely able to make ends meet working as a freelance reporter and if she doesn't snag a full time job or land a big story soon, she'll be living on the street. As if her life wasn't complicated enough, Fallyn has been plagued night after night with unexplained dreams of a mysterious stranger, whose presence is always hidden behind shadows. When the prominent, Simon Clairmont of Clairmont Industries, specifically requested Fallyn for an exclusive interview, something he rarely does, she thought her luck was finally turning around, but, of course, it could never be that easy.

Simon and his cousin, Reese, are Vampires, known as Eternals. They've had centuries to accumulate their wealth and improve their social status. Good and evil exists in both vampire and mortal realms. Simon, along with his faction, prides themselves on doing good towards others and ridding both realms of evil doers. The moment Simon gazed upon the beauty of this stunning, mortal woman, Fallyn Mitchell, he was instantly enchanted. He knew he had to claim her as his mate. Following her every move, protecting her from harm and even entering her dreams while she slept, Simon was obsessed. Unable to contain his desire any longer, he deliberately lured Fallyn to him.

What Fallyn thought was going to be a normal interview turned into a nightmare when Simon revealed his true nature. Shocked and dismayed she ran, jumping into the first car she flagged down. Of course, Fallyn's timing couldn't have been worse, after she found out the driver was Simon's malicious brother, Lucas, determined on revenge and world domination. Knowing what his brother is capable of, Simon is prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice to keep the mortal woman he loves alive.

Obsession Everlasting is an interesting and enchanting read. Lisa Phillips has created a unique and appealing realm between mortals and vampires. The emotional tension between Fallyn and Simon is heart felt. The characters are portrayed life-like and the plot stayed on course throughout the story. I enjoyed this story and will recommend it to other readers in the Paranormal Romance genres.

Eternally His
Carol North
Class Act Books
9781935048268 $6.50 ebook

Erica Peterson has became part owner of her parent's business, Belle's Bridal Salon, a 19th century Victorian mansion that's been passed down throughout her family's history and renovated into a Bridal Salon by her mother, before Erica was born. Since her parent's retirement, Erica has been given full command over the business, along with her proficient staff. Erica recently took out a huge loan to remodel the Salon and it's essential that this upcoming bridal season is profitable in order for her to pay off the loan, quickly. The problem is, there have been some eerie and bizarre occurrences going on in the Salon and Erica's staff are suspecting it's paranormal, but Erica is skeptical, until she spotted the mysterious Victorian bridal gown in her store front window.

When the burglar alarm suddenly went off at the salon, Detective Grant Stewart was sent to investigate. As he and Erica greeted each other, they both experienced deja vu along with an unexplained passionate yearning towards each other, and soon after, the paranormal activities increase around them. Not only was the ghostly Victorian gown seen, but now it was being worn by an apparition, resembling a lady with red hair and green eyes, levitating several feet above the floor. Erica needs to rid the Salon of this Victorian ghost Bride, quickly, before she loses all her clientele and her business too. But some strange force is pulling Erica and Grant together, could the increasing emotions between these two have something to do with the ghost? Could they be soul mates and destined to be together?

Eternally His is a spectacular, charming and entertaining story of how true love knows no bounds, surpassing time, space, past and present, in order to find its soul mate. Carol North has successfully expressed heartfelt emotions through her characters, along with a perfectly developed plot, turning this dazzling story into a thrilling and sensational read! I have added Mrs. North onto my definite author's to buy list. I recommend this to any reader who loves romance, time travel and paranormal genres. A must read!!!

Amy J Ramsey, Reviewer

Andrew's Bookshelf

Wounded Warriors
Mike Sager
Da Capo Press
9780306817359 $16.95

To most readers, the term "Wounded Warriors" refers to those Marines, soldiers, and sailors wounded in Iraq or Afghanistan. Author Mike Sager, however, an experienced investigative reporter and son of a Marine officer, has widened the term to include some individuals to whom the term 'dysfunctional' could easily be considered charitable

Very possible the title of the book will confuse most readers. "Surely Wounded Warriors" refers to those Marines in the program at Camp Lejeune's Maxwell Hall? Sager has written a gripping account of how these Marines are coping with their combat- altered lives. An experienced interviewer, he lets the Marines' stories speak for themselves as he talks with several enlisted men as well as Lt Col Bill Maxwell founder of the Wounded Warrior program. Through the firefights and I.E.D.s remembered by those who fought in Anbar Province, Sager lets the Marines describe the firefights, mortar attacks, and IED's that wounded them, as well as how they're coping now. Powerful stuff.

But to Sager, "Wounded Warriors" includes others besides the Marines. He follows a middle-class heroin addict... Vietnam-era expatriates living in Thailand a 13-yr old Philadelphia kid who fights pit bulls, a 650 lb fat man Kobe Bryant Rev Al Sharpton Marlon Brando Sager's definition of a 'wounded warrior' is far broader than a typical Marine or Army active-service or veteran would ever consider.

There is no doubt, however, that Sager cares for his subjects. There are no value judgments made, no aspersions cast. Sager is simply telling the stories of some truly dysfunctional and pathetic members of society, and he relates their stories in a manner that make the reader sympathetic.

But any reader who has experienced combat, or has had friends or family members serve overseas, will be hard-pressed to feel any sympathy for the likes of Kobe Bryant, Rev Al Sharpton, and Marlon Brando. At least the morbidly-obese 650-lb man is happily married and runs a thriving free-lance electronics design business, so this 'wounded warrior' has overcome his disability.

The definition of a 'wounded warrior' is very broad to Sager as he writes of Brando being a recluse on his private island, Bryant signing basketballs that he'll sell for $ 699, or Rev Al wondering about the food he'll be served when he gets locked up. But in the real world, these stories pale in comparison to that of the LCPL at Maxwell Hall describing the firefight in which he's wounded and his buddy's killed.

But perhaps the new definition of 'wounded warrior' is how one responds to the challenges around them and yet one more reason why those Marines in the Lejeune and Pendleton Wounded Warrior barracks remain the elite of American society today.

I Am My Brother's Keeper
GySgt Jason K. Doran
Caisson Press
1928724051 $24.95

Now that the war in Iraq has receeded to the back pages, it's worth reading an account of those Marines who fought in the March 2003 initial push north.

GySgt Jason Doran was one of them. As part of Task Force Tarawa, the lead Marine unit, Doran's Weapons Co, 1st Bn, 2nd Marine Regiment rolled into An-Nasiriyah on too-little sleep, some incredibly bad Intel, and ended up fighting a 7-day battle against some incredibly motivated Iraqi defenders.

Doran's book gives the reader a snapshot of what happened on 23 March 2003 from his corner of the action. From working with the 81mm mortar team down on the Euphrates River Bridge, to driving down and rescuing the Marines marooned at the "Alamo". Written in a brutally honest style that comes from his 20-year career in the Corps, Doran gives the reader a glimpse of what happened that day. Bravo Zulu, Gy!

Tears of a Warrior
Janet Seahorn, Ph.D & E. Anthony Seahorn
Team Pursuits
9780615213170 $19.95

"The nation which forgets its defenders will itself be forgotten", said President Calvin Coolidge, and with a potential 40,000 cases of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome diagnosed since 2003, PTSD is an issue that will be concerning both returning veterans and their families for years to come.

Husband-and-wife team Tony and Joyce Seahorn's book "Tears of a Warrior" addresses PTSD from the unique viewpoint of a warrior, Tony, whose Vietnam-induced PTSD affected his family, with that of his Ph.D wife Janet, who learned about PTSD when dealing with Tony.

The first part of the book is Tony's story; that of an Army veteran with multiple awards for heroism. Well written and interesting, he details the combat experience that sent him home wounded. Then Joyce takes over, with a brief history of PTSD, explanations of how PTSD affects others, and suggestions on dealing with veterans who may have PTSD. While not scientific, her ideas are borne of someone who has lived the experience and understands the need to have others understand what PTSD is about, and how to help their loved ones. "Tears of a Warrior" is interesting reading for anyone who needs an introduction to the growing world of the PTSD-affected veteran.

Uncle John Salutes the Armed Forces
Bathroom Readers Institute
Portable Press
9781592239801 $18.95

There are few books out today that will bring the reader such a interesting history of the American military. Written in a fashion that will attract everyone from the high school student to the retired combat veteran, this book is the highlight of the Uncle John's series.

They've taken all five branches of the service and given the reader dozens of little stories, facts, and vignettes from each. Some are funny, some are not, and many simply relate the unknown stories that makes up the fine tradition our military deserves: from Lt. John Yancy and his Marines fighting their way out of Chosin Reservoir, Bill Mauldin's cartoon characters Willie & Joe making their way across France during WW2, John Ripley (USMC) single handedly halting a North Korean advance at Dong actor (and Navy veteran!) Eddie Albert's heroism at Tarawa...this book personalizes our fighting men in a way that most classical battles stories do not.

The book also takes the time to present some of the better books and movies that our Marines - Navy - Army - Air Force have spawned; while every military devotee has seen "Saving Private Ryan" and "Black Hawk Down", Uncle John suggests such movies as "They Were Expendable" and "Glory". His reading list is equally suberb: selections like "All Quiet on the Western Front" and Steinbeck's "The Moon is Down" serve to remind us that for all the music, flags, movies, and hoopla, wars are fought by some incredibly brave men who rise to an occasion they'd never dreamed they'd encounter.

Interspersed in the book are the stories of the five young men who have earned the Medal of Honor - all posthumously - while fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan; it's good to see Smith (USA), Dunham (USMC), Murphy (USN), Monsoor (USN), and McGinnis (USA) remembered.

This book will make great reading and a better gift - Bravo Zulu !!

Andrew Lubin, Reviewer

Bethany's Bookshelf

Writing Away the Demons
Sherry Reiter
North Star Press of St. Cloud
PO Box 451, St. Cloud, MN 56302
9780878393299, $14.95,

Creativity can be a tool for a healthier soul. "Writing Away the Demons: Stories of Creative Coping Through Transformative Writing" is a collection of stories by those who, while in crisis, took up a pen and paper and wrote stories, poetry, memoirs, and more in order to cope with their dilemmas ranging from addiction to cancer. Showing the power of literary expression, "Writing Away the Demons" is a very highly recommended read for those who need something to look towards for strength.

Why On Earth Does God Have to Paint?
Rafael Chodos, author
Junko Chodos, illustrator
Giotto Multimedia
PO Box 995, Malibu, CA 90265
9780970404282, $35.00,

Art is the most primal expression of the human soul, and to some, it is an expression of God. "Why on Earth Does God Have to Paint? Centripetal Art" is a collection of unique and offbeat paintings from Junko Chodos with analysis and tribute written by her husband of many decades, Rafael. Her art may seem strange to viewers at first, but as Rafael explains, much begins to become clear as to why her work is revered in the modern day. "Why on Earth Does God Have to Paint?" is a unique collection of art sure to please art connoisseurs with a taste of the modern.

Adopted for Life
Russell D. Moore
1300 Crescent Street, Wheaton, IL 60187
9781581349115, $15.99,

Should Christian families prioritize adoption? Author Russell D. Moore believes so. "Adopted for Life: The Priority of Adoption for Christian Families & Churches" is Moore's argument for adoption in Christian communities, stating that adoption is a way of spreading the faith and saving lives at the same time. Arguing Moore's points effectively and supporting religious views with quotes from scripture, "Adopted for Life" is of recommendation to any Christian family considering adoption.

What Are You Going to Do With Your Life?
Edwin H. Friedman
Seabury Books
c/o Church Publishing
445 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10016
9781596271142, $28.00,

The ramblings of a rabbi can bring much light into one's life. "What Are You Going to Do With Your Life? Unpublished Writings and Diaries" is a collection of writings from acclaimed writer, rabbi, and therapist, Edwin Friedman. These are previously unpublished writings, now available thirteen years after his death, and their insights will make readers of any faith ponder at length. "What Are You Going to Do With Your Life?" is of interest to any seeking contemplation.

The Devil Can't Cook Spaghetti
Michael Essany
Hidden Spring
c/o Paulist Press
997 Macarthur Blvd., Mahwah, NJ 07430
9781587680496, $14.00,

Fear is truly a powerful thing, and has more influence than many people realize. "The Devil Can't Cook Spaghetti: Using Faith to Overcome Fear" is a Christian self-help manual from author and former television host Michael Essany, about the impact of fear in our lives. Through the power of faith, fear can be conquered with life-changing results. A simple and straightforward faith-based approach to anxiety, "The Devil Can't Cook Spaghetti" is a read that some will find improving their lives.

Susan Bethany

Carson's Bookshelf

Reconciliation in Afghanistan
Michael Semple
United States Institute of Peace Press
1200 17th Street NW, Washington, DC 20036
9781601270429, $10.00,

How has Afghanistan fared in recent years after the American liberation? "Reconciliation in Afghanistan" analyzes how the American liberation of Afghanistan has contributed to country's ongoing success and stability in recent years. Offering both criticism and praise, author Michael Semple gives a level-headed evaluation of the U.S. government's handling of this issue. "Reconciliation in Afghanistan" is of high recommendation to any looking for an intelligent debate of modern Afghanistan's current social issues.

Post-Ottoman Turkey
Arnold Reisman
7290-B Investment Drive, Charleston, SC 29418
9781439205389, $40.00,

Every culture has its fine music, and Turkey is no different. "Post-Ottoman Turkey: Classical Music & Opera" brings readers a taste of modern Turkey's fine culture in its classically influenced music. Modern day Turkey has the unique position of being both an Islamic and European nation, which shares influences from both of its cultures. A study of the art of music in one of the most intriguing places in the planet, "Post-Ottoman Turkey" is a must-have for any wanting a fuller understanding of music in the world today.

The Reality of God in the Universe
Bedrich V. Hettich
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 300, Bloomington, IN 47403
Star Treatment (publicity)
PO Box 133, Beaver Crossing, NE 68313
9780595521807, $17.95,

God is a subject that baffles many in their considerations of the nature of the universe. "The Reality of God in the Universe: Humankind Integrating with Life on God's Earth" is one man's ponderings on the nature of a supreme being and creator of all existence. Author Bedrich V. Hettich believes God is a unifier of all of humankind, and if we begin to realize some basic principles about God, the world would be a happier place. "The Reality of God in the Universe" is a fine and intriguing read about humanity's relationship with God.

My New iPhone
Wallace Wang
No Starch Press
555 De Haro Street, Suite 250, San Francisco, CA 94107
9781593271954, $29.95,

The iPhone can be more than just an MP3 player and a cell phone. "My New iPhone: 52 Simple Projects to Get You Started" is a guide to maximizing the value of one's iPhone by using its power to the fullest. Practical projects, convenient projects, and just plain fun projects are all discussed and outlined for readers to better understand what the device can truly do. A must for the iPhone novice, "My New iPhone" is the perfect gift for those trying to catch up with the technologically driven pack.

L.P. Growney
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533160082, $13.95,

Ol' Faithful may be faithful, but that doesn't mean there isn't some mystery behind it. "Thermia: Dawn of Armageddon" is a mystery of geophysics, as a professor and his young associate attempt to uncover the secrets of Ol' Faithful. Together, they realize there may be more to it than a daily eruption. "Thermia" is of high recommendation for those who love both mystery and geology.

Michael J. Carson

Christy's Bookshelf

A Little Murder
Cindy Davis
L&L Dreamspell
P.O. Box 1984, Friendsville, TX 77549
9781603181006 $18.95

ER nurse Angie Deacon thinks a fishing trip on her husband's birthday might help ease the tension between them. Will has been acting strange and Angie can't figure out what's going on with him. In the middle of the trip, the boat's captain, Nolan Little, is found dead, a filet knife through his chest. Detective Colby Jarvis initially thinks this will be an easy solve; other than Nolan and his wife Valerie, there were only five passengers on the boat. But Jarvis can find nothing linking any of the passengers to Little or his murder. Angie, feeling sorry for Valerie, befriends her and the two women decide to investigate the murder on their own, uncovering deadly secrets of the other passengers, some of whom will kill to keep them.

Davis takes what looks to be a simple murder mystery and adds enough twists and turns to produce a real whodunit readers will be challenged to figure out. Characters are solidly developed and dimensional, the plot fast-paced and peppered with suspense.

Hell Swamp
Susan Whitfield
L&L Dreamspell
P.O. Box 1984, Friendsville, TX 77549
9781603180948 $15.95

SBI agent Logan Hunter is called back from personal leave to investigate a brutal murder along the banks of the Black River in Ivanhoe, North Carolina, where animal rights activist Clara Banoak is found hanging from her chandelier, gutted like a deer. Logan quickly learns that Banoak was outspoken in her views against harming animals and had more enemies than friends in this hunter-infested area. Due to an outbreak of the flu, Logan is initially on her own as she investigates the murder, developing a long list of suspects. When she gets too close, Logan is assaulted and left to die in Hell Swamp. More determined than ever, she doggedly pursues her case, uncovering other heinous crimes, with danger lurking around every corner.

Hell Swamp, book number three in the Logan Hunter Mystery series, is an intriguing thriller. Logan Hunter is an interesting character: a woman with backbone who does not let the threat of peril get in her way; an investigator committed to her case who will not stop until it's closed. Whitfield adds a nice touch of romance with Logan's lover, fellow SBI agent Chase Riley. The plot moves at a fast pace with an abundance of suspense and suspects, offering a mystery readers will be challenged to solve.

Less Dead
Laura Elvebak
L&L Dreamspell
P.O. Box 1984, Friendsville, TX 77549
9781603180405 $17.95

After shooting a teenager in self-defense, homicide investigator Niki Alexander quits the force and turns to counseling at a teen shelter. Although Niki works hard to help runaway teens, she is haunted by guilt over the shooting. Abandoned by her father several months earlier, Jessica Keeling lives on the street, going by the name of Jade. When she wakes up next to a dead man, Jade panics and flees the scene, only to disappear. Jade's friend Rube, convinced Jade isn't running from the police but that someone has taken her, implores Niki to help him find her. Niki's former partner, Luis Perez, searching for the young woman seen running away from the dead man, teams up with Niki to try to find Jade. Their investigation uncovers crimes of a more serious nature: the mutilated bodies of missing teen girls.

Elvebak delivers a gritty mystery focusing on the sad and traumatic lives of runaway teens. Plenty of red herrings are offered along with a suspenseful plot and realistic characters. Elvebak's credible dialogue enhances the story, which moves at a fast pace. Visual imagery is at times graphic, although essential to this well-written thriller.

Life Is One Big To-do List: a Woman's Life after 40
Terri Lee Ryan
Eloquent Books
845 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10022
9781606935675 $24.95

Terri Lee Ryan, marketing consultant and career coach, has penned a witty self-help book aimed at women over 40 regarding life's unending chaotic moments and how to deal with them. Ryan focuses on issues ranging from lust versus love to aging parents, children, and pets. She writes about divorce, changes in friendships, dysfunctional families, career challenges, volunteering for charity work, along with dealing with housework, irritating people, computers, aging, and much more.

Life is One Big To-Do List addresses many important issues in a way readers will find humorous and relatable. Women over 40, as well as women and men of all ages, are sure to benefit from the author's candid, cleverly-written text. Ryan poignantly ends with: "My goal is to live each day as if it was my last and keep a stock of pens and paper handy for my to-do lists, knowing that when I quit writing them, my life is over. I would urge you to do the same." Well said.

Your One and Only
Angie Best-Boss
L&L Dreamspell
P.O. Box 1984, Friendsville, TX 77549
9781603180825 $15.95

Production coordinator Brynne Sanderlin needs a man. Not for herself, although that would be nice, but for her boss, producer Stephen Long. Long's TV program, Your One and Only, a reality show pitting a bachelor against ten single women, has had three disastrous seasons without one proposal. Long's pushing hard for a happy outcome, meaning engagement, and Brynne needs a winner if she wants to move up in the production industry. She meets Colin Walker, a high school Social Studies teacher, at a coffee shop and decides this sexy, personable man would be the perfect bachelor. It takes some persuasion, but Brynne manages to get Colin to agree, and off they fly to Ocracoke Island, NC for filming. But Brynne has a dilemma on her hands: she's attracted to Colin and wouldn't mind having him for her own, but if he doesn't pick a potential bride, her career's down the tubes.

Angie Best-Boss has penned a charming, fun-filled romance offering endearing characters and laugh-out-loud scenarios. The chemistry between Brynne and Colin sparkles amidst an engaging plot that readers will enjoy to the fullest. Ms. Best-Boss raises the bar for romance writers with this well-written, entertaining story, which moves at a fast pace and is one that readers will be reluctant to put aside.

The Resqueth Revolution
Mark H. Phillips
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781440109539 $20.95

Steve Marks may be a brilliant physicist but his reputation is in the gutter due to past unethical behavior. Marks lands a job with a group of paranormal investigators tracking and destroying entities from another dimension they call "demons" who feed off human terror. With the help of his team, Marks devises a way to kill the demons, which backfires to the point of taking out prominent humans associated with these entities. The team is taken hostage by the U.S. military and forced to help find a way to cross dimensions and destroy the demons. Aware that demons have strong allies in governmental positions, the team doesn't know who to trust and ultimately becomes involved in warfare with humans and demons.

Phillips' concept is a bit complex but he is adept at delivering the story in such a way most readers will have no problem understanding the basic mechanics of quantum physics and the theory of dimensional worlds. The plot moves quickly and is filled with action, suspense and deception. Primary characters are well-developed and an integral part of the story. The premise is thrilling and readers will be so intrigued with this well-written sci-fi they will be reluctant to put the book aside once it's finished.

The Wrong Side of Memphis
Claire Applewhite
L&L Dreamspell
P.O. Box 1984, Friendsville, TX 77549
9781603181167 $16.95

Dimond Redding, former Vietnam War field nurse, moves to St. Louis for some peace and quiet, thinking to retire there. But that's not to be. Two weeks later, a man is murdered in the apartment across the hall from Di. Di suspects the investigating detective is focusing on the wrong person when he arrests a friend of one of the tenants in Di's building. Elvin Suggs, Green Beret during the Vietnam War, is reeling from his wife's demands for a divorce. Suggs takes his dog and heads to St. Louis to visit Di, his best friend's widow. Suggs, a private investigator, suspects something afoul when more people are murdered in Di's apartment building, including his wife. When Suggs is accused of his wife's murder, he decides to investigate on his own and soon finds his own life in danger.

Applewhite brings focus to Vietnam vets via the characters in this book, stressing their outlook on the war and the role they played in it as well as the lives they lead and the friendships they cherish from that time period. This whodunit has plenty of suspects with several shifty characters, all with secrets of their own, occupying the apartment building. Suggs is an appealing character with a warm heart and zest for life. His dog Vanna adds an appealing dimension to the read, as does Cobra, the homeless Vietnam vet Suggs helps.

Christy Tillery French

Clark's Bookshelf

The Crossing Over of Mattie Pearl
Andrea R. Garrison
Andrea's Greeting and Greetheart Production
9781434837271 $18.99

A somber reflection of the passing of a loved one is the main theme of this book. Comfort for those who remain here is the mantra of Andrea R. Garrison as she takes the journey of her mother into the hereafter in The Crossing Over of Mattie Pearl.

Facing death is a task we all shudder to acknowledge, but here is the heroic story of a woman who had given her life to raising children in struggling times. She exemplified the true meaning of giving comfort to others by refusing to accept medication which could have eased her pain, but it was her desire to be lucid in her last days because she felt her children and friends needed her comfort. Medication had been prescribed by her doctors and she ordered them to reduce the dosage to 75% of the amount which would have let her live her last days free of pain. She even refused medication at times when she knew visitors would expect her to talk with them.

Mattie Pearl "communicated messages of love to everyone who visited her. She said it is about spirit, heart, and love. Love is the most important thing." Andrea Garrison brings this message clearly in her book. When you read these passages personal feelings will overcome you as you think back to the passing of a loved one in your life. Knowing that death is not the end, but the beginning of a new vestige of living, whether you believe in the hereafter or not. Recognizing remembrance of the love you had with that special person who is not with you any longer, can bring you solace to continue on with your own journey in life.

Andrea recorded a CD so that the words can be heard by the blind. She also made a DVD which has peaceful music with a back-drop of trees and waterfalls as she reads her prose. Her voice is melodic, peaceful, and comforting. Truly a gift you can give to the bereaved which will bring comfort and understanding in the time of sorrow.

Up Home Stedman, Book One 1903 - 1909
Clemson Page
Windstorm Creative
9781590926581 $14.99

Clemson Page has written a compelling 1st historical novel about one of the most dangerous jobs in the world that of being a coal miner.

David Gwynn, at 8 years of age, was in school when the Stedman colliery whistle blew in the middle of the day. This was never good news! That day, March 22, 1903, was one David would always remember. There was a firedamp explosion, roof cave-in, and flooding in the Allegheny Anthracite Company Mine No. 3, located in Stedman, Pennsylvania. It was also the day that David's father perished. Upheaval in his young life at 14 forced him to follow his father's footsteps as a miner. He became a coal sorter on the breaker and progressed to working deep in the mine itself, all to take care of his mother.

Mary Gwynn had a different idea for her son, she wanted him to get an education, and get out of the mining industry working as a miner. David with his headstrong ways was out to avenge his father's death by proving the cause of the accident could have been prevented. During the ensuing years he gains good friends and acquires some enemies as well. He develops a rough-and-tough demeanor which gets him noticed as a trouble maker. A one day strike by the miners was instigated by him that also put him at odds with the fire boss and others in management. He redeems his integrity by attempting to rescue a trapped miner.

Characters in this book will entertain you from the beginning to end. The raw truth about these fearless workers and their sacrifices will invoke compassion and awareness of the perils of coal miners.

One wonders why anyone would choose this occupation and its risky way of life. Since this is the first book of a series maybe future novels will explain more of the motivation behind the choices the miners made.

Clemson Page is an example of how education can really change the course of a person's life. His background is that of being a descendent of family who had lived and worked in the coal mining region! He has direct knowledge of how hard the work was in the early days even though he became an attorney!

A terrific book! God Bless the coal miners!

The Hunted
Brian Haig
Grand Central Publishing
9780446195591 $25.99

The Hunted, by Brian Haig, immediately strikes a chord. I heard this story before. Recollection of the events seems too true to be a novel. Then, you get swept up in the story and the events seem surreal! Is this fact or fiction?

Alex Konanykhin and his wife Elena are the only characters in the book who are real!

Brian Haig blends fact with fiction demonstrating the events which actually happened. He fictionalizes occurrences which caused frenzied disruption in Alex and Elena's lives. The KGB, FBI, and INS are unlikely conspirators in this greed-filled take-over of hundreds of millions of dollars amassed by a rising star in the new Soviet Union.

Alex Konanykhin studied to be a rocket scientist at Moscow University, but never made it. Instead, he became a multi-millionaire by investing other people's money into various new entrepreneurial schemes that became available under the embryonic democracy in Russia. At the ripe old age of 25, he achieved prominence as a mover and shaker by backing the election of Boris Yeltsin to be the leader of the Russian government. Much to the chagrin of the former leadership, changes in how business was conducted took place. Alex formed several enterprises; he was able to demonstrate that if you performed the tasks you undertook you would succeed. The old adage of do things right and the rewards will be astounding became the foundation of his newly invented empire.

Alex paid his workers more money than jobs offered by the government or other enterprises. He insisted that good workmanship be the rule and not the exception. He was able to formulate business plans rewarding the investor with unheard of profits. People trusted him and flocked to invest. He made millions by employing a method of arbitrage where he would buy goods at a low price and sell high. With the invested capital he obtained, the system worked extremely well.

The story seems too good to be true that this young man could rise to a position of prominence, without creating enemies or jealousy. He hires a former KGB leader to head up security for all of his companies. This is the start of his downfall. On a trip to Budapest, he and his wife are kidnapped by thugs who demand he sign over his companies to them. Additionally, he is branded by a hot iron with the Russian symbol of the hammer and sickle. He is forced to sign away his holdings to these remnants of the previous regime. Even though suffering from extreme torture, Alex remains very clever, and devises a way to escape the clutches of these henchmen.

Alex and Elena arrive in the United States and seek asylum as political refugees. Granted this reprieve, they set up housekeeping in Watergate, a famous apartment complex in Washington DC. Soon, troubles start all over again. The FBI persuades the INS to begin a deportation hearing to send Alex and Elena back to Russia. Those controlling his companies and money wish to dispose of him permanently so they cannot be challenged for their actions, and plans are formulated for his assassination upon his return.

Deportation hearings are commenced, and what was to have been a short trial, stretches into 3 years with Alex being shuffled between several Federal Prisons before finally having his day in court.

How the story ends and the people involved make a great tale. However, Alex wrote a book Defiance, where he tells the whole story as it actually happened, according to him. Brian Haig says to document the real events would probably have taken years. Instead of the proof required to back everything up as in a true biography, he agreed with Alex Konanykhin, to present his story as set forth in this novel.

The Hunted is well written, keeps you in suspense, and is a page-turner of the highest magnitude. After only 60 pages, you are hooked. You cannot put the book down until you have read the next episode, and then you find out you have finished the book! As a sidelight, go to the Internet and look up Alex Konanykhin. Many TV stations still have their broadcasts online telling the real events. These events do not deter from The Hunted, but make you realize old and new Russia still have the same methods of treachery, only some of the faces have changed.

Clark Isaacs

Debra's Bookshelf

Murder at Graverly Manor
Daniel Edward Craig
Midnight Ink
9780738714738 $15.95

Murder at Graverly Manor is the third book in Daniel Edward Craig's 5-Star Mystery series, featuring hotelier Trevor Lambert. Trevor, between jobs and back in his hometown of Vancouver, Canada, comes across a Victorian mansion turned bed and breakfast with a for sale sign in its yard. Intent on buying the creepy house, Trevor agrees to the bizarre demand of its current proprietress, Lady Graverly, that he live and work at the inn for a month while she decides if he's worthy of the property. It's not a thoroughly pleasant prospect: the allegedly haunted manor is saddled with a violent history. Rumors abound that Lady Graverly's husband, not seen for fifty years, was involved in the disappearance of a chambermaid. There are weird noises at night, the staff are hostile or incompetent, and Lady Graverly herself, who is alternately sweet and scary, is less than forthcoming about her plans for Trevor.

I really enjoyed this book. It's cleverly plotted and well-written. But I most appreciated it as an entree into a different world: Craig himself has worked in the hotel industry--he was Vice President of Opus Hotels in Canada--and his experience subtly informs Trevor's character. My only complaint about the book is that there's a sort of information dump early on, as the author summarizes what we've missed (or forgotten) in the first two books in the series. This might work for readers familiar with the earlier books, but not having them read them myself I found the information rushed and poorly incorporated into the current story. A minor negative, though, in an otherwise very pleasurable read.

Crossed Wires
Rosy Thornton
Headline Review (Hachette UK)
9780755345557 $11.52

Peter Sheffield is a charmingly self-effacing Oxford don who has smashed up his Land Rover's front end at the start of Rosy Thornton's Crossed Wires. The girl behind the phone at his insurance company's call center is Mina Heppenstall, who finds his bumbling and the fact that he'd swerved to avoid a cat charming. From that inauspicious beginning, and after another accident on Peter's part, a long-distance relationship develops between the two, though they're divided by the telephone wires as well as differences in age and station. But they're situations are otherwise similar: both are single parents--Peter's a widower with twins; Mina, now in her 20's, was pregnant at 17.

The above summary of the book, as well as its rosy cover and the brief description on its back, would lead one to expect a light romance--Hugh Grant as Peter in the movie version, maybe, falling for a younger Meg Ryan type. It is a sweet romance, as it turns out, but much more than that as well. In fact the book is more about parenting than dating. For most of the book Peter and Mina's stories unfold separately, though the two update one another in weekly phone calls. They both have concerns about their children's social development, and both of them wind up facing a similar, more serious problem with their kids in the course of the book. What's nice is that the issues they face are very true-to-life. Their children are good kids whose small crises aren't ripped from the headlines material; their problems are realistic, the sort of thing any parent might face, and thus heartbreaking in the small way kids' problems sometimes are.

Crossed Wires is definitely a good read, deeper than you'd expect and as sweet as its cover suggests.

Last Night in Montreal
Emily St. John Mandel
9781932961683 $24.95

"No one stays forever," reads the first line of Emily St. John Mandel's debut novel Last Night in Montreal. Certainly Mandel's main character can't stay in one place for longer than a few months, if that. Abducted when she was seven by her non-custodial parent, Lilia spent her childhood in a car--nine years of motels and chain restaurants and public parks, dyed hair and name changes, her picture and her grieving mother on their room's flickering TV screen before they fled again in the middle of the night. The book slowly circles around Lilia's story until we get the whole of it, skipping around in time and among perspectives: Lilia's own, when she was younger; and later we see her mostly through other's eyes--the private detective who became obsessed with her case, his daughter, and Eli, the latest of her abandoned lovers.

Last Night in Montreal is a powerful read--an unusual story, very well told. It's also dispiriting, not only because of the facts of Lilia's life, but because the principals of Mandel's story are all rootless and unsatisfied. But it's a compulsively readable book. I downed it in two days and might have been quicker if the obligations of my own rooted existence hadn't interfered. In the end I did have problems with the story's credibility. Mostly I find it hard to believe that the private detective on Lilia's tail would abandon his life in order to track her down, that he would continue tracking her after he found her. But the book raises any number of interesting questions, among them the reasons for this obsession of his, which leads him to treat his own daughter more horribly than the kidnapper he's chasing treats Lilia. I also am not sure that it made sense to make the private detective and his wife former circus people, but perhaps I'm missing some thematic relevance here. That the book raises so many questions would make it a good selection for book discussion groups. And maybe for Oprah as well, if she's reading this. (And I know you are, Oprah. I know you are.)

Deception's Daughter
Cordelia Frances Biddle
Minotaur Books
9780312352479 $24.95

Deception's Daughter is the second book in Cordelia Frances Biddle's series of Martha Beale mysteries. Martha is an heiress living in mid-19th century Philadelphia. Her enviable financial situation has made her more than usually free to determine her own fate with respect to marriage. She has her sights on Thomas Kelman, an investigator working in conjunction with Philadelphia's mayor, despite that he's an unsuitable match for her by society's standards. In this outing Martha and Thomas must contend with a series of problems in addition to their romantic fumblings and misunderstandings--most seriously, the disappearance of the daughter of one of Philadelphia's leading families. The book takes readers from the well-appointed drawing rooms of Philadelphia's finest to the sorry confines of an almshouse to the city's lowest dives, where some of the aristocratic suspects in the girl's disappearance are wont to go slumming.

This is the first historical fiction I've read from Cordelia Biddle, but I doubt it will be my last. (Biddle is also the co-author, with her husband, of a series of crossword mysteries published under the pseudonym Nero Blanc.) Deception's Daughter offers a solid mystery, rich period detail, good writing, and likable characters who protest against but are ultimately hemmed in by the starchy confines of their times. On the negative side, there are a couple of chapters in which the tone of the book shifts subtly, when the author is describing a trip taken by the fiance of the girl who's gone missing, which I found mildly distracting. Also, there is one passage in which Martha appears to have a prophetic dream, though this seems out of keeping with the rest of the narrative and isn't explained.

While the main mystery of Deception's Daughter is solved at the book's end, Martha's romantic life and smaller family-related problems are left unsettled, awaiting the next book in Biddle's series. I'll be happy to pick up the story when number three is released. Fans of Jacqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs series may find the Martha Beale books to their taste.

Don't Call Me a Crook!
Bob Moore
Dissident Books
9780977378807 $14.95

Don't Call Me a Crook is probably one of the stranger books I've ever read. The memoir was originally published in 1935 by Bob Moore, whose real name was Robert Macmillan Allison. The author was a Glaswegian and an engineer who wound up traveling around the world while working on various ships. He was also an incorrigible rogue--a thief (despite the book's title and the author's protestations), a drunk, a racist. He stole from people who trusted him. He abandoned his wife and child. (At least, he apparently never gave them a second thought after sending them back to Glasgow when family life became burdensome.) One is tempted, given Moore's immorality throughout the book, to call him a sociopath, but I don't know if that's right: he does show signs of humanity at times in the book.

The stories Moore has to tell are often fascinating. Here he is, trying to save a woman who's jumped off a yacht, or he's shooting at Chinese pirates, or he's stealing a bag of diamonds or setting a ship on fire or lying to a man about his wife after he's stolen a wad of the couple's cash:

"But I was not to be diverted by such uncouth tactics, so I just said, 'Yes, I think you should, because it is all wrong to say I was seen kissing your wife, Mr. Flight. I was seen doing no such thing. I would not dream of being seen kissing your wife, Mr. Flight.' (And neither I would for that matter, for where is the sense in being seen?) But he thought I meant I had not been kissing her at all so he said, 'Well, I'm sorry Bobby.' And I said, 'Aw, that's all right,' so we parted quite good friends.

"But I did not go back to their house anymore after that because Mrs. Flight and I went away until all her money was spent.

"But she did not know that it was her money we were spending, or she would have been mad at me, but I told her I had been lucky and won some money at the dogs.

"She thought I was taking her for a holiday on my money, and that will show you what a funny woman she was. For why should I have taken her for a holiday with my money, when she was not really young anymore and she had a house where I could go without spending any money at all?"

Moore's life was anything but dull. This, combined with the conversational tone of the book--if Moore wrote this himself, then he was a natural storyteller--make for a winning combination. The book is also interesting as a historical document. In it we see the Prohibition era from a drunk's eye view. It was a lawless, violent, very alien world that Moore inhabited.

For a while, then, the book is good fun. Sure, Moore is a scoundrel. It's clear from the start that he can't be trusted. But we're willing to forgive him some of his offenses because he has a certain charm. For all his adventures and crimes the book even becomes tedious about halfway through...until we're woken up again. On page 202 Moore does something terrible. And he mentions it almost in passing, as if it were nothing at all. It is so shocking that I had to reread the paragraph to make sure I'd understood him correctly. What he did thoroughly undermines any positive thoughts we might have had about the man. It's a strange thing, 200-odd pages into a memoir, to find out something like this about the narrator, to have our feelings for the character upended.

So in the end this was a uniquely disturbing book, unique as I've never experienced anything quite like this--the shocking revelation from a narrator I thought I understood, his deadpan delivery, his apparent indifference. A very strange book, but worth reading.

Lords of Corruption
Kyle Mills
Vanguard Press
9781593154998 $25.95

Josh Hagarty's finding it hard to land a job. Would-be employers are scared off once they look past his MBA and stellar grades, unwilling to take a risk. So when Josh is finally offered a position that will earn him enough to pay off his mountain of debt and send his sister to an Ivy-League school, he jumps at the chance--despite the negatives: Josh will run a project for a charitable project that works out of Africa. The job implies a move to an unnamed African country that's riven by tribal disputes and controlled by a brutal, unpredictable tyrant. Still, the pay is good, and Josh is a nice enough guy that he's hoping to be able to make a difference. But the truth of his situation hits soon after his plane lands: the country is impossibly corrupt, the charity that hired him has gotten better press than it deserves, and Josh's predecessor in the job was hacked to death by a machete-wielding co-worker. Suddenly, Josh's plans for his family's advancement take a back seat to his hopes for escape, or simply survival.

Kyle Mills's Lords of Corruption is a fast-paced, well-written, well-structured book. The motivations of the characters, both the good guys and the reprehensible madmen they're up against, are explained, so it's clear what's on the line for each of them. Most interesting, the story Mills tells is not black and white. Mills accentuates the moral ambiguities of his characters' actions. Even the actions of well-intentioned charities are examined. The only thing that gave me pause was that the relationship between Josh and J.B., a cynical reporter who's been on the Africa beat for years, developed too quickly for me to swallow. Also, one particular escape scene--Josh hiding in an office--struck me as implausible. In other words, hardly anything about the book bothered me. Lords of Corruption is a really good, fast read.

Design Flaws of the Human Condition
Paul Schmidtberger
9780767926751 $12.95

Paul Schmidtberger's Design Flaws of the Human Condition is a book about relationships. Ken, an adjunct professor of English slash reference librarian slash proofreader, is living with an actor, Brett, who even as the book starts is grunting out their relationship's last gasps. Iris is a--well, her work doesn't much matter--who's been living with Jeremy, the sort of self-confident, take-charge, leader type that everyone finds immediately likable. They were meant for each other--Ken and Iris, that is--and they immediately become friends after the two of them are (unjustly in both cases) required to take the same anger management class.

Design Flaws of the Human Condition is a clever book, as is immediately apparent even from the title of its first chapter: "Chapter One. In Which Ken's 'Really Great Day,' as Preordained by a Starbucks Employee, Fails to Materialize." It's also nicely plotted, which is to say that all the little strands of story are tied up by the book's end, often in ways that are not predictable but which are apt. The most noteworthy aspect of the book, however, is its dialogue. Schmidtberger's characters like to talk, and they're all reasonably intelligent and they invariably say clever things. It's all very cute in a Gilmore Girls-ish sort of way:

"I know. It's like a toy. It's like getting a little yellow metal bulldozer for Christmas when you're a little kid and you switch the bulldozer on and it creeps forward. You switch it off, it stops. And sooner or later you turn it on and your mind wanders or it's dinnertime or any one of a billion things happen to grab your attention and you forget about it and the little yellow bulldozer creeps across the room and it eventually runs into a wall somewhere and it bounces back a fraction of an inch and goes--grrrrnn, grrrrnn--and then it tries again, and it runs right into the wall again, and then bounces back again. Again and again and again. Until the batteries are dead."

The problem is that ultimately the dialogue is unrealistic. People don't really talk like this, at least not all the time, at least not all people. Schmidtberger's main characters all sound the same. They're also--and this too is unrealistic--apt to interrupt someone else's delivery of a really important piece of information with a clever story of their own, a comment like the one quoted above, when in real life they would wait anxiously to hear what the *tened by the excision of some dialogue, Design Flaws of the Human Condition was a fun and, yes, clever book.

The Missing Ink
Karen E. Olson
9780451227461 $6.99

The Missing Ink is the first installment in a new series of mysteries by Karen E. Olson, author of the Annie Seymour mysteries. Brett Kavanaugh is the owner of The Painted Lady, a high-end tattoo parlor in Vegas whose lobby sports original art work and orchids rather than the neon we might expect. Brett lands in the middle of a missing persons case when she turns out to be the last person to have seen Elise Lyon before she disappeared. Elise is engaged to the son of a Trump-like Vegas hotel mogul, so the hunt for her quickly becomes national news, attracting the likes of 20/20. The case is far from straightforward, as Brett is the first to recognize: when Elise came to her shop she was using a pseudonym, and the name she wanted tattooed on her chest was not her fiance's. Intrigued by the mystery, Brett decides to do some amateur sleuthing, and she unwisely elects to keep information from the police--despite that she lives with a representative of the Las Vegas department, her brother, Detective Tim Kavanaugh. (I did have trouble believing that Brett would keep information from the authorities and investigate on her own. Her motive to do so doesn't seem sufficiently strong. But I suppose there's not much of a story to be had from her providing a statement to the police and calling it a night.)

The Missing Ink is a fast read with a seriously intricate plot. You have to have your wits about you to keep the connections between the various characters straight. Brett is reluctantly allied with her competition on the strip, Jeff Coleman, who runs a more traditionally seedy tattoo establishment. And she is helped out by her employees--Bitsy, the efficient dwarf, Joel, who's obese and of indeterminate sexuality, and the self-absorbed Ace. We also encounter, among others, disappeared rich girl Elise and her numerous paramours; suave hotelier and potential love interest Simon Chase; and Kelly Martin, a tattooist with unexpected connections in Vegas.

Olson's previous series was set in New Haven, Connecticut--just down the road from me as well as the author (with whom I'm acquainted)--and the books were steeped in a sense of place. The Missing Ink, not surprisingly since it's not the author's home town, doesn't feel quite as wed to its setting, despite the principals' appearance at an Elvis karaoke bar. This isn't a bad thing; it's merely a noticeable difference between the two series. While I came away from the Annie Seymour books most struck by the series' connection to its setting, this first Tattoo Mystery leaves me most impressed by the complexity of its plot. I'm looking forward to more books in the series: Pretty in Ink is due out in April, 2010.

Killer Summer
Ridley Pearson
9780399155727 $24.95

Killer Summer is the 3rd installment in Ridley Pearson's series featuring sheriff Walt Fleming. Walt is Quantico-trained, an expert tracker, a crack shot, and a very smart law enforcement officer, but he's disappointed his father--an ex-CIA guy--by opting to chase criminals in bucolic Sun Valley, Idaho, instead of chasing some more prestigious position. Still, high-profile trouble seems to find Walt. This time out he suspects that a gang of thieves is planning an elaborate heist in conjunction with a wine auction that's being hosted in Walt's jurisdiction. The prize: three bottles believed to have come from Thomas Jefferson's cellar. At the same time, in a storyline that eventually intersects with the wine heist story, Walt's nephew Kevin gets into trouble with a girl who's vacationing unhappily with her father in Sun Valley.

Start to finish, Killer Summer is a riveting read. I love the main characters: Walt and Kevin are both likable and smart in the face of adversity, which I find appealing. We don't learn much about the criminals Walt's up against--and I suppose I would have liked to know more about them--but we are made to understand that the ringleader is careful and smart at what he does as well. The various strands of Pearson's story are expertly woven together. The writing is crisp. Killer Summer was a book I really didn't want to put down.

Debra Hamel, Reviewer

Gary's Bookshelf

Who Hired These People
Peter A. Laporta
Author House
1663 Liberty Drive Suite 200, Bloomington IN 47403
9781438956992 $14.50 1-800-839-8640

President Obama recently endorsed the chain Five Guys by getting take-out. He got great service. Unfortunately we can't all be president, get good service, and not all Five Guys locations are the same. The author shows so many examples of bad help and stupid business practices that are just amazing. Readers will laugh out loud but it should be pointed out that all of the accounts are true. We all know some of the culprits: Wal-Mart, Dunkin Doughnuts, Bank of America, and Denny's. This is another title that should be used as required reading for college courses and all business on how customers should be treated and the ways to run the company properly. My thoughts while reading all of the stories were, "This is a service economy and we don't even do that well and how did any of these people ever get their jobs?"

Connections A Collection of Poems
Poetry Ensemble of Orlando
9780615259130 $10.00

This is a collection of fifty poems by five talented writers. There are many different subjects covered in various forms of the genre. Russ Golata, Estelle Lipp, Alice R. Friedman, Robert A. Osborne, and Leslie Halpern are the authors of this fine gathering of poetry. The profits from this book are being donated to charities dedicated to promoting the arts in Central Florida. This may seem like a regional book but I am sure readers can find something to enjoy.

Cherry Bomb
J. A Konrath
Hyperion Books
77 West 66th Street, New York, NY 10023
9781401302818 $23.99

I have read the series and have to say this is the most twisted deranged killer Lieutenant Jacqueline "Jack" Daniels has ever faced... This time out the novel begins with the funeral of someone close to her. At the gravesite her cell phone rings. The person on the other end taunts Jacqueline which begins the cat and mouse chase that steam rolls to a smashing exciting ending. Many of the victims are friends of Jacqueline. She is determined to get this one and she does not care what it takes to end this warped killer's spree of crimes.

Ernie the Autobiography
Ernest Borgnine
Thorndike Press
295 Kennedy Memorial Drive, Waterville, ME 04901
9781410410689 $31.50 1 800 223 1244

This is a fun book by a man who has had a great career over so many decades who just keeps going even in his nineties. He talks about the many movies and TV shows he has been in and unlike other bios by stars this is not a kiss and tell expose. Borgnine also shows why he has been in the field so long and gives other actors great advice. This is the large print format that makes it a little easier to read. He's been in so many great movies such as "From Here to Eternity," "Bad Day at Black Rock," "The Dirty Dozen," "Marty," and "The Poseidon Adventure." I loved the story he tells on how he decided to take the role of Commander McHale in "McHale's Navy" The book is candid and shows why he is one of the best loved actors of all time.

Look Again
Lisa Scottoline
St. Martins Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780312380724 $26.95

This is the first time I can recall that the lead character is not an attorney. This time out the author focuses her attention on Ellen Gleason, who gets a flyer of "Have you seen this child" in the mail. The one in the picture looks exactly like her adopted son. She now has a dilemma of what she should do. Cover the story or ignore it and have life go on as usual. The work is filled with great twists and turns and moves along at a very fast pace and is another great read by this author.

The Rolling Stones
Robert A. Heinlein
Baen Books
PO Box 1403, Riverdale, New York 10471
9781416591498 $13.99

No, this has nothing to do with the rock n roll band of the same name. This is a classic novel that shows again why Heinlein is one of the best science fiction authors. What is interesting is the piece by Steve A Hughes where he talks about how accurate Heinlein was with many aspects of the book's science. What makes this one and all of the author's works so interesting is they are all character driven. The science was secondary. The Stone family is fascinating as they explore the planet Mars and the work is as fresh as the day it was first published. Baen is to be compliment for re-issuing these long lost titles.

Always Looking Up
Michael J. Fox
Hyperion Books
77 West 66th Street, New York, NY 10023
9781401303389 $25.99

As I read this second work by Fox, I was struck by how positive he has been through his battle with Parkinson's disease. He also talks about his leaving acting, then returning to do guest shots on other shows among them "Boston Legal." He also talks about his many trips to Capitol Hill to raise money for research to fight the disease. The book is an inspiration to anyone who is fighting any kind of disease.

Stacy Takes the Train to School
Mary R. Lupa
Illustrated by Yevgeniya Andriyevskaya
Outskirts Press Inc
Denver, Colorado
9781432716097 $10.95

The author teaches kids little lessons on safety and that it is fun to ride a train to school. The work is enhanced by the beautiful artwork that helps move the story along. This is fun reading for kids of all ages.

Mr. Monk And the Dirty Cop
Lee Goldberg
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780451226983 $22.95

Goldberg once again has a firm handle on the characters of the hit TV series. This time Monk has to solve several crimes, until he has to come to the aid of Captain Stottlemeyer who has been arrested for the killing of another cop. The Monk novels are always fun reading.

Growing Up Again
Mary Tyler Moore
St. Martins Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780312376314 $24.95

I used to like Mary Tyler Moore until I read her first book "After All." In it she revealed that on November 22, 1963 when President Kennedy was assassinated she had a totally different reaction from the rest of the world. When the Dick Van Dyke show curtailed production on that day while the nation came to a complete halt, her response was "Thank God", not "Oh dear God" or something similar. I am surprised that she would even write something like that. I know that no one would want a President to die that way. With this book I had second thoughts about reviewing it because I wasn't sure what she would say this time. I can safely say this one does not have a problem like that. It is all about living with diabetes and told in a candid way. She talks about her fight with government to get funding for medical research, stem cells and how important they are to people who have a debilitating disease and she reveals how diabetes can alter a person's personality. I have a lot more respect for her but am surprised she has never answered why she said what she said on November 22, 1963.

Gary Roen

Georganna's Bookshelf

The Hindus: An Alternative History
Wendy Doniger
The Penguin Press
80 Strand, London, England
9781594202056 $35.00

I'll spend the summer season--and well into the fall--dipping into the rich, dense compendium of the history of the people we know as "Hindus." Is Hinduism a religion, ethnicity, culture? All that and more. Doniger, perhaps the reigning maharani of Hindu and Sanskrit scholarship starts the story practically at the beginning of time. As comprehensive and academic as this weighty tome may be, Doniger's sly wit and self-deprecation enliven its 780 pages. Still, the footnoting, bibliography, index and appendices delight the more meticulous and curious reader. Doniger's thesis is that traditional views of Hinduism omit a rich legacy from folk and oral tradition, embracing the contributions of women, illiterates and low-caste men.

A Brain Wider Than the Sky: A Migraine Diary
Andrew Levy
Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY
9781416572503 $25.00

I suspected I'd had migraines until menopause provided blessed relief, but reading about the sickening headaches seemed to bring them back--at least while vicariously experiencing Levy's rough ride. His search for a solution brings resolution of his relationship with a painful Other living within his head, but, alas, not a solution to the pain. This book is a good one for masochists and readers who don't demand a happy ending.

Mother of the Believers: A Novel of the Birth of Islam
Kamran Pasha
Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY
9781416579915 $16.00

Not quite as dense as THE HINDUS, but equally fascinating, this is a fictionalized view of the beginnings of Islam. The large (527 pp.) novel tells the story through the eyes of "Aisha, the youngest and most beloved wife of the Prophet." Although this is the author's first novel, it is the product of a successful Pakistani-American Hollywood screenwriter, which accounts for the lush descriptions and intense characterizations that make this book the closest to a "beach read."

The Rose of Sebastopol
Katharine McMahon
80 Strand, London, England
9780399155468 $24.95

Contrasts two Victorian cousins, involved with the same young man, who goes off from his surgery practice to serve in the Crimean War. In more than a manners drama, the heroine, Mariella, is changed by her flighty cousin's risky behavior aping Florence Nightingale and that of Rosa's brash stepbrother, Max. The lives of the cousins' mothers highlight Victorian social constrictions and superficiality.

Happy Trails to You: Stories
Julie Hecht
Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY
9781416564263 $14.00

Dreary fiction tales of an unnamed photographer-narrator and her quirky life on Nantucket, interacting with the help, observing other people's lives, shooting pictures of, basically, nothing. Paranoid, health-obsessed, anxiety-driven depression.

Kinky Gazpacho: Life, Love & Spain
Lorie Tharps
Washington Square Press
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY
9780743296489 $13.00

A crazy, mixed-up black girl grows up in the vanilla Midwest, never happy with her self-imposed succession of identities until she finds out that slavery flourished in Spain. Huh? It's a quick, easy read, seldom taxing the intellect.

Georganna Hancock

Gina's Bookshelf

Thirsty: Meeting Jesus at Your Deepest Need
Amy Nappa
P.O. Box 35001, Colorado Springs CO 80935
9781600060939 $13.99

From the Forward of Amy Nappa's book "Thirsty: Meeting Jesus at Your Deepest Need

"Have you ever felt so overwhelmed with life that you just didn't think you could even get out of bed? And the thought of work - any kind of work - just made you sick to your stomach?"

Written in a very personal, friend-to-friend, coffee shop manner, Amy Nappa discusses interesting and thought provoking aspects of 'The Woman at the Well'.

Immediately, she establishes that we are all thirsty, all wanting more, all in need. From there she brings the story (found in John 4:4-32) to life with great attention to what actually was happening in the discussion Jesus had with this woman.

Amy Nappa writes with vivid imagination and almost artistic insight into biblical characters, carefully constructing an image of this story with all the shades of nuance and meaning that Max Lucado would offer.

The chapters 'Teasing the Mystery', 'Speaking the Truth', and 'Removing Distractions' were of particular interest to me as they present an up-close-and-personal God who makes no apology for the mysteries in life, and unapologetically discounts all objections clearing the way for us to see God's great interest in meeting our every need.

Throughout the book, you find the author's personal struggles and unique ideas such as the 'Surprise Me' experiment (which I plan to use myself) and the idea that God does not have Attention Deficit Disorder - He cannot be distracted from His pursuit of us, of fulfilling our greatest need.

A truly remarkable book. With a Reader's Guide at the end, very useful for Personal Reflection or Group Bible Study.

If you have ever wanted to roll over in the bed and sleep away the world, read this book. After you discover how passionate God is about you, you may discover a passion, a thirst of your own.

Ghostwriter: A Novel
Travis Thrasher
237 Park Ave., New York, NY 10017
9780446505581 $13.99

"Yikes" is the one word I would use to describe Travis Thrasher's newest novel "Ghostwriter".

A supernatural thriller that goes nose to nose with any Stephen King novel I've read. Not a genre for squeamish, but for those who enjoy a 'thriller' this one tops the list. The main character, Dennis Shore is living la dolce vita (the very good life).

He is a best selling author with the ideal marriage. Lucy, his wife, is not only is his best friend but provides the inspiration for all his novels. Together with their teen-age daughter, Audrey, they live in a beautiful home, and have another home as well.

But then, Lucy dies.

Lucy was Dennis' connection to all things good. Now that she is gone, Dennis develops paralyzing writer's block. Success comes at a cost. Once his talent for weaving catchy phrases and memorable scenes is made known, his public demands more. As his deadline looms over him, Dennis does the unthinkable. He claims a novel, written by another, as his own.

Enter Cillian Reed, the groupie type author-in-waiting that demands Dennis' attention and the literary acclaim that Dennis is accepting as his own. As you read more and more of Cillian's torments and tortures, Dennis descends to the place we all reach in our lives, a moment of Truth. Armed with memories of Lucy and with other gifts as well, Dennis begins to face and overcome the evil that has consumed his life.

A gripping tale, with a redemption quality, this is a story you will not forget. Travis Thrasher has excelled in this genre proving that a Christian can indeed create a novel work without unnecessary vulgarity or profanity. I am looking forward to more of his work.

Gina Hendrix, Reviewer

Gloria's Bookshelf

Dark Places
Gillian Flynn
Shaye Areheart Books
c/o Crown Publishing
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780307341563 $24.00 212-572-2537/800-726-0600,

Libby Day, 31 years old, is a depressed, at times suicidal young woman. And she has every right to be: When she was seven years old, her mother and two sisters were murdered, in what was later called "The Satan Sacrifice of Kinnakee, Kansas" and "The Prairie Massacre." Libby survived by crawling out a window of the family farmhouse where they lived, and where the others died. The only other surviving family member was Libby's then 15-year-old brother, Ben - the person who Libby later testified was the killer. Michelle, 10, was strangled, Debby, 9, died of axe wounds, and the mother, Patty, of 2 shotgun wounds [her head nearly blown off ], axe wounds [her body axed nearly in two], and deep cuts from a hunting knife.

The story opens 24 years later. Libby has managed all the intervening years by dint of the money from a trust fund set up by sympathetic members of the public following the trial and the attendant publicity. But that money has nearly run out, leading Libby to consider an offer from a group calling itself The Kill Club, a macabre secret society obsessed with notorious crimes, which will pay Libby to interview Ben and others about That Night. The Kill Club, it should be noted, believes Ben is innocent. Ultimately Libby begins to question the accuracy of her memories.

Libby is a thoroughly dysfunctional, nihilistic personality, routinely pessimistic, who "assumed everything bad in the world could happen, because everything bad in the world already did." She still thinks of herself as "the one who lived," and as Baby Day and Orphan Day, as the tabloids had variously referred to her at the time, and says "I was raised feral, and I mostly stayed that way," and makes the reader understand that the darkest place of all can be one's mind.

The p.o.v. changes from Libby, in the present [the only 1st person voice], to Ben and Patty, from the days before "that last summer before the end," and more specifically to The Day.

This was not an easy book to read. Libby is as much of an anti-hero as one will meet in a novel, and being in her mind a harrowing foray. But the book is difficult to put down, and whatever the reader may expect at the end, the author will surprise you. Recommended.

Perfect Family
Pam Lewis
Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9780743291460 $14.00 800-223-2336,

The Carterets were thought of as the perfect family, enviable, even. But of course there's no such thing. It's only a matter of the degree of dysfunctionality, in most cases. Jasper Carteret is the patriarch, scion of a successful industrialist family. Of the children [all of whom are cowed by the father], William is the oldest. His sisters are Tinker, six years younger than William, and the critical one, the "drama queen" who seeks solace for life's injustices in food; next is Mira [short for Miranda], the thinker in the family; the youngest is Pony, 24, the quirky one, and her brother's favorite. When her body is found in the water near the family's summer home on Lake Aral, Vermont, the family dynamic is thrown into chaos.

Not the typical mystery novel, there is, however, one central mystery to the book: Pony, of all members of this family who spent a good part of their lives in a house at the edge of a lake, was by far the superior swimmer. William says "Pony could swim better than she could walk." So how could she have drowned? Was it the accident the police proclaim it is? There is an undercurrent of uncertainty and, somehow, danger, throughout the well-plotted novel, which is immediately engrossing as the author brings the family members to vivid life and makes palpable their emotional upheaval as the fallout of the tragedy unfolds.

Pony's given name was Angela, but "she'd never been Angela. She'd been Pony since the day she was born, and William had given her the name. At the age of eight, he'd wanted a pony, not another sister. So he called the new one Pony," and so eventually had everyone else. Pony was a rule-breaker, the one who would "try anything. Nothing ever scared her."

The novel is all about "the consequences of betrayals and secrets." The author has done a masterful job of portraying all the family members, each one very different from the others but all interdependent, all with secrets of their own. A fascinating book, it is Ms. Lewis' sophomore effort, a fact belied by this compelling tale.

Blood Moon
Garry Disher
Soho Press
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9781569475638 $24.00, 212-260-1900,

To say that Adrian Wishart was a control freak would be an understatement. It is, therefore, perhaps understandable that when he reports his wife missing, the police are less concerned than Mr. Wishart might have hoped. After all, his wife has not been missing for very long. His fears, however, ultimately prove to be well-founded. But is he in fact the person responsible for his wife's death? They'd only been married for three years. He was known to have been extremely jealous, and given to following his wife around and keeping close track of her movements at all times, whether she was at work or having lunch with a girlfriend. But he appears to have an airtight alibi for the relevant time frame.

The police are already involved in another investigation: the severe beating of the chaplain at a prestigious boarding school, who is also the head of a local fundamentalist church. The victim is in a coma, and the fact that the man's brother is an aide to a local politician, one given to loud criticism of the police, makes matters even more 'delicate.'

The expectations of a lunar eclipse seems to heighten the already intense atmosphere, and on the night of the highly anticipated event Pam Murphy, a new member of the detective squad, stands "transfixed. All human activity except the need to congregate and worship was suspended for an hour or so. . . The red moon mellowed them. They swayed to inner choruses and seemed inclined to kiss and hug each other."

Inspector Hal Challis of the Australian Victoria Police has become 'involved' with Sergeant Ellen Destry, a member of his squad, the Crime Investigation Unit. Though their relationship is only of 3 weeks duration, things have already been getting 'sticky,' on both personal and professional levels. All of these disparate themes are played out with subtlety and precision.

This is the fifth in the Inspector Challis series, set in the Melbourne area. On its most basic level, it is a police procedural, done as well as anything in the genre, but it is more than that, with wonderful characters and sense of place. It is thoroughly enjoyable, and highly recommended.

Liars Anonymous
Louise Ure
St. Martin's
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10016
9780312545222 $25.95 646-307-5560,

It was the prosecutor at her murder trial who dubbed Jessica ["Jessie"] Gammadge the Queen of Liars Anonymous. She is the first to admit that she is certainly an accomplished liar, and her skills have only improved in the nearly three years since the trial. [The good news: The jury acquitted her; the bad news: she was guilty of the crime.] Despite the jury's finding, Jessie had no choice but to move from Tucson - very few people, including her family [excepting only her father and his then-partner on the police force], believe in her innocence, and with those two exceptions all think of her as the Girl Who Got Away with Murder. In fact, she thinks of herself that way as well.

Jessie, now 32 years old, and calling herself Jessie Dancing [her middle name], is working in Phoenix as a Roadside Assistance Operator when a call comes in from a nearby area from a client needing help after a car crash, during the course of which she hears other voices followed by what appears to be sounds of a beating before the line goes dead. Jessie of course reports the incident to her supervisors and the police, but feels herself drawn to the place where the call came from to see for herself what can be learned from the scene. [The car is found, but there is no sign of the man who made the phone call.] When the latter's wife asks to see her and to hear the tape she agrees to return to Phoenix to see her, and grows suspicious of the woman's truthfulness as well as her too-friendly neighbor, an attorney who Jessie soon discovers is also her lover. [Jessie is, of course, an expert in detecting liars: "There are supposed to be twenty-seven ways to tell if someone is lying . . . But a good liar knows a hundred different ways to convince you that he's telling the truth."] As the investigation goes forward, Jessie finds herself more and more enmeshed, soon putting her a few feet away when a car bomb explodes, killing a young girl who is somehow involved in the car crash incident, and she becomes the focus of a vengeful cop who has always thought of Jessie as 'the one that got away.'

I learned more than I'd ever known about the emergency systems used by auto manufacturers, e.g., they can furnish diagnostics about the car's performance, include a GPS of course, have a strong satellite phone with advisors available at the other end, can tell how fast a car is going when it is hit and whether the brakes were engaged, and can even tell if there was somebody else in the car, where he/they were sitting, and whether they had their seat belts on.

The writing is excellent, equally as good as Ms. Ure's prior novel, "The Fault Tree," which I loved. The sense of place created by the author is wonderful as well, and the reader can feel the heat of the desert, and visualize where "the saguaros stood as dark and still as an army of surprised soldiers in surrender." A terrific read, and one which is recommended.

Living Witness
Jane Haddam
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312380860 $25.95 646-307-5560,

To say that Snow Hill, Pennsylvania was a small town would be an understatement: Snow Hill aspires to be a small town. Actually, that's not quite true either. The 'just folks' long-time residents are quite content to live in a place where despite its small size, there are half a dozen churches; people commuted to jobs in Harrisburg; no public library; the nearest Starbucks was a 45-minute drive away [also the distance to the nearest decent bookstore]; and 'anybody who's graduated from the fifth grade is a pointy-headed intellectual."

The reader is introduced on the first pages to the primary adversaries in an ongoing battle, one that is about to be played out in court: Ann-Victoria Hadley, known as Anne-Vic, from the town's wealthiest family and now 91 years old, a Vassar graduate and later a Naval enlistee, known as a radical feminist and an atheist or - worse yet - a secular humanist [defined by the town as "someone who worships the devil and hates America] and who "hated stupidity more than she hated anything else on earth." One resident, not atypical, who sees Annie-Vic passing by, thinks that he wanted to "grab her by the neck and shake her and shake her and shake her until the bones broke into pieces and her head came loose. He could almost see the blood on the sidewalk, the deep, thick red spreading out against the white of the pavement." Shortly after those thoughts appear on the page, Annie-Vic is beaten nearly to death in her home.

The dichotomy between the town kids and the "hill people," who have their own school, such as it is, is made crystal clear. So too is the enmity between the townspeople and the people "from the development," who "were like invading aliens . . . trying to take over the public schools" and are known as The Enemy. They are in fact fighting a textbook change relating to intelligent design. As one resident says: "It was Religion that would go on trial here," something of a present-day Monkey Trial.

Since the police force of Snow Hill, where "nothing ever happened except domestic disputes and teenagers getting stupid," consists of three people: the 36-year-old chief and two others, former FBI agent Gregor Demarkian is [at page 47] brought in to investigate. [This is the 24th book of the series.] The tale was a bit long-winded for this reader, with much [admittedly interesting] debate on the theories of evolution vs. creationism/intelligent design, but the pithy observations are wonderful, the plot interesting, and Haddam fans will not, I think, be disappointed.

Strangle a Loaf of Italian Bread
Denise Dietz
Five Star
295 Kennedy Memorial Drive, Waterville, Maine 04901
9781594147609 $25.95 207-859-1000

There are several memorable portraits of female characters in this newest entry by Denise Dietz in the Ellie Bernstein/Lt. Peter Miller mystery series. The first, of course, is Ellie herself, now 41 years old and divorced, and after eleven months closer to matrimony with her cop boyfriend, Peter Miller. The second is Sarah Leibowitz, now known to one and all as Sara Lee - the old advertising jingle "Nobody doesn't like Sara Lee" kept playing in my head, because that obviously doesn't apply to this Sara Lee, as she is strangled one night with her waitress uniform necktie, her body found in the alley behind the restaurant where she worked. It would appear that the list of those who didn't like Sara Lee is not a short one. The case is assigned to Lt. Miller, and Ellie does her usual thing of conducting her own investigation. [She reasons that she has been solving fictitious mysteries her whole life, so why not?] They both have even more to engage them when another body is found.

Complicating Ellie's quest to find the killer is her temporary dog-sitting job, taken on as a favor to one of her diet-club members, Rachel Lester, ostensibly visiting an ostensibly ill sister in Houston, but who is actually taking a breather from her marriage to a cheating husband in a Pike's Peak cabin not that far from Colorado Springs, where Ellie et. al. reside.

Animals abound in the book, from Ellie's black Persian cat, Jackie Robinson; Rachel's border collie; a fictional menagerie of seven cats, named for the days of the week; Ellie's mother's six cats, charmingly named Danielle Steele, Victoria Gordon, Nora Roberts, Lorna Ann Jakes, Maggie Osborne and Marty Blue, most of which names should be familiar to readers of the present novel. 'Charming' is one of the best ways to describe the entire novel, which presents an interesting plot, characters and dialogue instantly recognizable, and word coinage which took me aback at first, e.g., "torridity" and "causticity," but which grew on me as the book went on - they may be actual words, for all I know..

Food figures prominently in the book. The narrative is lightly sprinkled with recipes, and many of the characters are of the weight-conscious variety, as might be expected in a series where the female protagonist is the head of a local Weight Winners diet club. [The title is derived from a line by the late Gilda Radner, a worthy muse: "Eating is self-punishment, punish the food instead. Strangle a loaf of Italian bread . . ."] Ya gotta love it.

Gloria Feit

Gorden's Bookshelf

Vindicating Lincoln
Thomas Krannawitter
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
A subsidiary of The Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group, Inc.
4501 Forbes Boulevard, Suite 200, Lanham, Maryland 20706
9780742559721 $24.95

Krannawitter does a great job of putting Lincoln's decision making and political thought in context and explaining those actions. Many recent books and articles question Lincoln's motives and ideology. This well researched look into the history and politics before and during the Civil War will answer those questions.

Krannawitter does fail in his criticism of the motives and beliefs of those he considers are re-writing Lincoln's actions and motivations. He has not done the research needed for this criticism. He has produced the same superficial and misleading analysis that he complains they have done with Lincoln. Many of the problems are subtle, such as not taking fully into account the changes in language and word meanings that have taken place over the last two hundred years. A few are factual, such as his crediting Darwin's work as a source idea before the Origin of the Species was published. Some are creatively misleading, such as using a media label as the core aspect of a political position. And a final few are logical, such as labeling that there are only two opinions on a subject and not positions in between. In some ways, this fast and loose criticism is justified as a counterpoint to these individuals previous analysis of Lincoln but the overall affect is a lowering of the quality of this book. Krannawitter should have stayed where his expertise is the political and historical context from the Declaration of Independence to the Civil War.

Vindicating Lincoln is a needed and worthwhile analysis of Lincoln and the early political history of the US. It deserves a place on any historian's bookshelf to fill this niche. But it fails in producing a real and accurate criticism of political and social discussion of today. In fact, you will be mislead if you accept his interpretation of current political ideologies.

Douglas Preston
A Forge Book
Tom Doherty Associates, LLC
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
978076549668 $9.99

Most contemporary readers have forgotten classic SF and some of its focuses on religion and a deity. This gives Preston's Blasphemy, uniqueness in the eye of the modern reader. Blasphemy starts out slowly with near caricatures of the main characters. The fast paced ending permits the reader to forgive the weak development at the beginning of the tale. The best thing about Blasphemy is that it brings back the sharp eyed commentary on society and religion lacking in most contemporary SF writing.

A supercollider has been built by the US to explore the forces needed to create the fabric of the universe. Gregory North Hazelius and a small group of scientists have discovered a problem. The supercollider seems to be talking to them. They decide to hide the information until they can work out what is happening. A worried government sends investigator Wyman Ford to the research site to discover why data from the supercollider project has stopped being reported.

The silence from the lab gives unscrupulous politicians and religious charlatans a chance to focus their attentions on the forty billion dollar laboratory. Their greed and manipulations touch a volatile population to the point of hysteria and bloodshed.

Blasphemy is a very good tale exploring the good and bad about religion and people. It doesn't have the wild force and focus of the classic SF stories but it does return a neglected subgenre back into mainstream storytelling. My recommendation is to read Blasphemy and then troll the used bookstores for some of the first tellings in the genre. You will be thanking Preston for the insight.

S.A. Gorden, Reviewer

Harwood's Bookshelf

What Would Betty Do?
Paul A. Bradley
Rockefeller Center, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York NY 10020
9780743216012 $12.00

The most effective satire is indistinguishable from the mindset that it is satirizing. When Jonathan Swift wrote "A Modest Proposal," the strongest denunciations came not from the Irish whose babies he advocated fattening up for the cooking pot, but from England's Irish-haters who thought that he was exposing the inner workings of their own minds.

Similarly, if Paul Bradley had not put the statement, "It is somewhat risky to be surrounded by Catholics when God is pointing fingers at who will go to Hell" (p. 25), into the mouth of his imaginative evil twin, "Mrs Betty Bowers, America's Best Christian" ("So close to Jesus, He gave me His loaves and fish recipe"), he would have had no trouble convincing readers that it was written by Ian Paisley or any other randomly chosen Orangeman he cared to name.

Betty writes (p. 32), "The First Rule of Christianity is: All humans are worthless scum who should be tortured forever in Hell by the loving God who created them . Heaven, which God created? All the credit goes to God. Hell, which God created? All the blame goes to us." There may be Christians somewhere who do not think like that. But in the redneck anus of the universe where I reside, they are as rare as dodos. When an Indian Ocean tsunami killed a quarter-million randomly chosen victims who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, I wrote a letter to the local newspaper asking, "Where was that fellow God while that was happening?" More than one braindead True Believer(TM) (tautology) wrote back that the victims had it coming, because (not in those precise words), all humans are worthless scum who deserve whatever their loving, omnibenevolent sky Fuhrer does to them.

In answering a pretend letter from a woman who accused her of being more Jewish than Christian (pp. 29-30), Betty Bowers answers the question of whether True Christians(TM) should follow the Old Testament, "Jesus said yes and Paul said no . So you can choose which position suits you with impunity." And under "betty's handy true Christian(TM) guide to biblical interpretation" (pp. 31-32), she explains that, "With several bottles of white-out and a long weekend, you'll be surprised how quickly you can make your Bible consistent with traditional family values." That explains why Republicans have no problem denouncing the taboo violations of Democrats, but are able to white-out the bit about practising what they preach.

Betty continues (p. 33), "Jesus doesn't really care if you follow His Father's Old Testament rules, just as long as you keep telling Jesus how wonderful He is. Let's face it; we've all had friends like that."

Why are born-again Christians so much better than generic Christians? (p. 33) "Once is good; twice is better. Just look what it did to the twice-baked potato!"

"God created only one man and one woman, not an entire subdivision. So how did they get grandchildren? Well, I am too much of a Christian lady to spell it out for you, but you can do the math" (p. 41). I have yet to hear any preacher who denounces the sibling marriage that was the norm in Egypt until the time of the Caesars as "unchastity" even acknowledge that the earliest generations of women must have been impregnated by their fathers, sons or brothers. Either that or their bible is fiction.

Advice to Christian Crack Whores (p. 50), "Girls, if you are going to be down on your knees 14 to 37 times a night, you may as well pray while you are down there!"

"As a Republican, I am inflamed by the idea of killing human beings while they are still in the womb. Once they climb out, of course, they are on their own - and fair game . In comparison to our Lord's resourceful repertoire of ways to ensure demise, even Jeffrey Dahmer comes off as rather milquetoast and squeamish" (pp. 51-52).

Betty's message to the unsaved (p. 61): "Since you forgot to tell Jesus while you were alive that He was the most fabulous and kindest man to ever live, He will torture you forever."

"Evolution is clearly a lie. After all, if we have supposedly descended from Neanderthals, why are they still living in Mississippi?" (p. 112)

Responding to God's explanation of why "he created everything but was not responsible for anything" (p. 59), Betty writes, "I initially thought His craftily worded explanation was clearly facetious and was prepared to indulge Him in the most convivial, lilting laugh . I realized that God was absolutely serious in His self-absolution, so I allowed the beginning of my laugh to seamlessly segue into a delicate cough."

Explaining why she tried to remove Alice in Wonderland from public school libraries (p. 77), Betty points out that, "Clearly, this subversive story encourages children to question what they are told, placing Christian parents in the untenable position of having to explain to youngsters why the God who loves them will probably torture them in Hell."

Reviewing the movie Gladiator, in which Maximus "looks forward to an afterlife in a place he calls 'Elysium' instead of 'Heaven,' (p. 71) Bowers/Bradley observes, "It is almost as if the screenwriter were implying that Christianity is just some wholly derivative religion!" Of course True Believers(TM) know that being identical with religions that existed up to 3,000 years earlier does not make Christianity derivative. As Tertullian explained 2,000 years ago, the apparent plagiarism stems from "the zeal the devil rivaling the things of God" - retroactively!

"Dear Mrs Bowers: If God = Jesus = Holy Spirit, and Mary was impregnated by the Holy Spirit, didn't she have sex with her son?" Response: "Dear Inquisitive Sinner: I must commend your mother for not even trying to answer your impertinent inquiry . When reading the Bible, even to mutter 'why?' is tantamount to sending up an enormous smoke signal to Satan" (pp. 42-43). Here I strongly suspect Betty of plagiarism. Her response to Dear Inquisitive Sinner was surely an unattributed translation of a Bull from Pope Ratzinazi. And other passages appear to be unedited quotations from Ann Coulter. On the other hand, only a True Christian(TM) would dispute that Jesus was a motherf er.

Probably the book's least effective chapters are those in which Betty Bowers interviews the viciously homophobic Dr Laura and the viciously misogynous Eminem. While exposing such creatures as parasites who enrich themselves by capitalizing on hatred is commendable, the author makes little or no attempt to make the chapters funny.

When I asked interlibrary loan to secure the Betty book for me, the last place I expected them to find a copy was the University of Alberta. However, the notation that it came from the university library's Humour Collection provided the explanation. Among its many other qualities, What Would Betty Do? is deliciously funny.

It is also very sad. By his perfect imitation of the doublethink that enables religious fanatics to perpetrate atrocities in the conviction that they are obeying an imaginary lawgiver, Paul Bradley shows how pathetic and even pitiable god addicts really are. And his accurate parodying of godworshipthink demonstrates the unspeakable evil of the mind-AIDS of godworship that is enslaving this planet's 1.1 billion Christians, 1.0 billion Muslims, and 20 million Jews. More than Richard Dawkins or Sam Harris, Bradley's book demonstrates that religion is the most monstrous crime against humanity that diseased imaginations have ever conceived.

Quantum Gods: Creation, Chaos, and the Search for Cosmic Consciousness
Victor J. Stenger
Prometheus Books
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst NY 14228-2119
9781591027133 $26.98

"As the real experience (the nonlocal consciousness) I operate from outside the system - transcending my brain-mind - that is localized in space-time . My separateness - my ego - only emerges as an apparent agency for the free will of this cosmic 'I,' obscuring the discontinuity in space-time that the collapse of the quantum brain-mind state represents" (p. 38).

That passage typifies the contentless doubletalk that Victor Stenger grants an undeserved dignity by taking it seriously. Since anyone who can swallow such gobbledygook is a serious candidate for the Nurse Ratched Cuckoo's Nest, perhaps Stenger believes that paranormal theologians can be cured by logical reasoning? Or could it be that he wrote a book that he knew would not open the eyes of those who will not see, for the purpose of proving that no amount of logic can cure a hocus pocus addict of his mind-AIDS?

Stenger devotes several early chapters to describing the various schools of solipsism that have succeeded in reaching a mass market, aided and abetted by such gullible kindergarten dropouts as Oprah Winfrey and Shirley MacLaine. I devoted much contemplation when I was nine to the hypothesis that I alone exist, and everything else came into existence when I perceived them and ceased to exist when they disappeared from my sight. I outgrew such childishness by the age of ten. More recently I encountered at least one believer in religion - not a particularly fanatic one, I might add - who believes that all reality exists only "in the mind of God." The new age solipsism argues that reality exists only in a "universal mind" or some equivalent, and individual parts of that mind can annul an unpleasant reality and replace it with one more to their liking by thinking it into existence. (I kid you not.)

The only reason I can think of for Stenger devoting space to such unmitigated drivel would be to demonstrate that he has actually read the fantasizers' nonsense and was not setting up a straw man for the purpose of rebutting arguments that his opponents never made. In a sense, the gurus Stenger takes on, such as Deepak Chopra, J.Z. Knight, and Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, are indeed straw men, in the sense that it does not take a big bad wolf to blow down their assorted houses of cards that could have been constructed by Wonderland's Red Queen. When Stenger gets around to spelling out the laws of reality and suggesting that they falsify the gurus' masturbation fantasies, the defence that he is doubletalk illiterate is effectively preempted.

In his previous writings Stenger recognized the difference between the non-falsifiable claim that some kind of god exists, and the fully falsifiable (and falsified) delusion that a god with the qualities attributed to it by religion exists. In God: The Failed Hypothesis, he showed that a god that is simultaneously omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent is an oxymoron that cannot and therefore does not exist. In Quantum Gods, he describes the best marketed new-age theories, offers a real-world alternative, and essentially leaves it to the reader to determine whether both can be valid.

In fact I skimmed the chapters on quantum physics. As a non-physicist I can only guess that they simplify but do not add to what is taught to third-year undergraduates. As to whether they refute the imaginings of the solipsists, it seems to me that only a physicist can answer that. While Stenger recognizes that new-age solipsism is non-falsifiable doubletalk, he takes the Laplace position that, "I have no need for that hypothesis." Instead he refutes the pseudoscience of specific humbugs such as the aforenamed by showing that their theses are as dependent on falsified assumptions as the Christian bible is dependent on a flat earth, a talking snake and a talking donkey. That his arguments will get past the firewall around Oprah's brain and the brains of her equally mindless audience is highly unlikely.

Junk Science: How Politicians, Corporations, and Other Hucksters Betray Us
Dan Agin, Ph.D
St Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780312352417 $24.95

Dan Agin is not a scientist, but he plays one in this book.

Actually he has a PhD in biological psychology, a discipline best compared to neurological astrology. And if his thirty years of research in neurobiology gave him any expertise, he successfully flushed it down the toilet before sitting down to write this book. Junk Science is a collection of undergraduate essays that at no point rises to the level of a properly supervised Master's thesis.

Agin's Introduction is promising: "The sudden interest of the American public in science in the late 1950s never translated into public scientific literacy - a knowledge of fundamentals - adequate to defend the public against junk science promulgated by the faith industry, against dangerous government junk-science policy and hazardous junk science in the health-care market place" (p. 2).

Also: "How do bad science and junk science differ? In general it's a question of whether one is talking about a single experiment or a whole field of investigation . When a whole field is based on bad science we call that field 'junk science.' So it follows that creationism is junk science, but a single experiment on the origin of life that involves inadequate controls is only bad science" (p. 4).

That Introduction promises useful information. The problem is in the delivery. In his chapters on eugenics, Lysenkoism, religion's suppression of the discoveries of Galileo, the Piltdown hoax, "the food and diet circus," race and IQ, GM foods, stem cell Luddism, the search for longevity, pollution, terrorism and nuclear weapons, global warming, cloning, and the tobacco industry's conscious suppression of their own researchers' negative findings about their product, the most that can be said is that Agin gets his facts right. He adds nothing to what the average undergraduate already knows. In contrast, his chapter on young-earth creationism and intelligent design is well written and his conclusions are adequately justified.

In the chapters on junk medicine and quack doctoring, Agin denounces chiropractic, naturopathy, acupuncture and homeopathy, and casually mentions the failure of those pseudomedical frauds to provide any evidence that they actually work. But anyone looking for evidence-based arguments against quackery would be better advised to go back to Martin Gardner's 1957 book, Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science. Agin echoes Gardner's findings, but gives the impression that he is simply parroting the Reader's Digest summary of Gardner's conclusions without offering his readers adequate reasons for agreeing with them.

Agin's exposure of the fraudulence of talk therapy is undermined by his less-than-ethical approach. Thomas Szasz has been telling the world for fifty years that psychoanalysis, indeed all psychiatry, is the same kind of sympathetic listening practised by bartenders, taxi drivers, and hetaeras, but without the real experts' awareness that their wild guesses are as likely to be wrong as right. Agin identifies Szasz as "a psychoanalyst," and quotes a line from Szasz's writings so blatantly out of context that he creates the impression that Szasz is a perpetrator of the very humbuggery he denounces. Agin summarizes (p. 151), "Many people believe that the end of psychiatry will occur this century . My view is that psychiatry departments will probably disappear by mid-century."

TV programs such as Law and Order have been showing the world for twenty years that any supposedly expert opinion expressed by the prosecution's psychiatrist will be directly contradicted by the defence's psychiatrist. Yet recognition that a discipline in which this can happen is itself pure humbuggery continues to be limited to a teachable minority. I consequently find Agin's prognosis unrealistically optimistic. Since evidence of the fraudulence of religion is no further away from anyone in the Western world than the nearest university library, would Agin predict that religion will also be extinct by mid-century? Like religion, psychoquackery has hundreds of thousands of pushers whose bread and butter would be threatened if their hoax was exterminated, and they are going to fight to the last breath to prevent that from happening. The same is true of such junk sciences as parapsychology, hypnotism, and therapeutic touch.

At least UFOlogy has diminished to the point where a Harvard professor who endorsed such nonsense had to agree to stop peddling hogwash as the price of retaining his tenure. And talk therapy's most monstrous atrocity, the Big Lie of "recovered memory," is dead but it won't lie down, as is multiple personality playacting. For some reason Agin mentions none of those junk sciences.

Agin's chapter on sociobiology begins with a quotation from someone who knows what he is talking about (p. 243): "Evolutionary psychology wants to have it both ways. It longs after the prestige of hard science but hopes to be held to a lower standard of rigor than, say, molecular biology." That really says it all. It is merely icing on the cake when Agin adds (p. 246), "Courtship behavior, sexual styles all can undergo severe transformation with great rapidity, and none of these changes can possibly involve the evolution of genes. There is absolutely nothing to suggest that sociobiology or evolutionary psychology, as genetic-evolutionary approaches, have anything to contribute to such questions." There is similarly no justification for the delusion that giraffes' recognition of the need for a long neck enabled them to evolve one. Since no paleontologist has written a definitive analysis of sociobiology as a hybrid of Lamarchism and phrenology, anyone considering doing so might find Agin's observations a good place to start.

Richard Dawkins, whose status as a public figure began with a book stemming from E. O. Wilson's Sociobiology masturbation fantasy, has largely backed away from his earlier endorsement of a "selfish gene" and other metaphors that were taken more literally than he ever intended. But he has yet to denounce "evolutionary psychology," as the new pseudoscience currently calls itself in recognition that "sociobiology" is widely recognized as discredited, perhaps because he is too embarrassed to admit that he had ever been taken in by a discipline that could be a legitimate contribution to knowledge only if biology, genetics, anthropology, zoology, paleontology, and several other sciences are incompetent fantasies.

On the conflict between religion and science, Agin cites Stephen Jay Gould's attempt to portray the two as "non-overlapping magisteria," thereby destroying the reputation he had taken a lifetime to build up. Agin recognizes that science and religion are indeed incompatible, since science cites evidence that the universe evolved by natural processes, whereas religion insists, in the absence of any supporting evidence, that a god was involved. For religion to be valid, all scientific methodology for reaching conclusions must be incompetent nonsense. Agin is on the side of Ockham's razor.

Agin acknowledges (p. 293) that, "this book is intended for the general reader and is not a scholarly work." Unfortunately, even by that standard, it contains little that its intended market does not already know, and certainly has no ability to cure the blissfully ignorant.

Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free
Charles P. Pierce
1745 Broadway, New York NY 10019
9780767926140 $26

"James Dobson compares the Supreme Court of the United States with the Ku Klux Klan. Pat Robertson sermonizes that the United States should snuff the democratically elected president of Venezuela. And the nation does not wonder, audibly, how these two poor fellows were allowed on television" (p. 6). And in Dover, Pennsylvania, a pastor named Ray Mummert delivers the line, "We've been attacked by the intelligent, educated segment of our culture" (p. 7).

Charles Pierce answers his own question about why individuals widely perceived as sick jokes are allowed to propagate their ignorance on television. "Once you're on television, you become an expert, because once you are on television, you are speaking to the Gut, and the Gut is a moron . The Gut becomes the basis for the Great Premises of Idiot America. We hold these truths to be self-evident. The First Great Premise: Any theory is valid if it sells books, soaks up ratings, or otherwise moves units" (pp. 34-35).

"Which leads us, inevitably, to the Second Great Premise: Anything can be true if someone says it loudly enough" (p. 41).

"Third Great Premise: Fact is that which enough people believe. Truth is measured by how fervently they believe it. Gordon Liddy is no longer a gun-toting crackpot. He has an audience. He must know something" (p. 104).

In those passages, is Pierce telling us that the media are run by conscienceless prostitutes willing to contribute to the dumbing of America if that is what it takes to win sales and ratings? Or are the media moguls themselves scientifically illiterate ignoramuses who define "truth" as whatever the Great Unwashed prefer to believe? Either way, he makes the point that the educated are indeed under the tremendous handicap of living in an Idiot America.

Pierce begins his catalogue of American idiocy with a description of his visit to Ken Ham's Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky. Ham, founder of Answers in Genesis, is a serious contender, along with Rupert Murdock and Mel Gibson, for the title of Greatest Embarrassment to Australia Ever Exported. What Pierce found in Ham's version of Cloud Cuckoo Land included a dinosaur wearing a saddle, a Triceratops small enough to fit on a 50,000 cubic meter Noah's Ark without sinking it, and a statue of a naked Adam without a penis. Anyone who needs to be told how idiotic such concepts are would not be reading this book.

Pierce's annihilation (p. 106) of "an entire network [the Fox News Channel] that bills itself as news that is devoted to reinforcing people's fears" is effective, but less so than is done every day by the man Pierce is here quoting, Keith Olbermann, in the segment of Countdown that provided the name for Olbermann's book, The Worst Person in the World. But while Pierce assigned Immanuel Velikovsky and Erich von D„niken to their appropriate places in the history of infamy, his denunciation of such execrable rabid canines as Michael Behe, George W. Bush, Dick Cheyney, Ann Coulter, James Dobson, Newt Gingrich, Ken Ham, Sean Hannity, Mike Huckabee, Gordon Liddy, Rush Limbaugh, Chris Matthews, Oliver North, Bill O'Reilly, Sarah Palin, Pat Robertson, Mitt Romney, Karl Rove, Donald Rumsfeld, Antonin Scalia, Phyllis Schlafly, Ben Stein, Rick Warren, and Jeremiah Wright, struck me as unduly charitable, since he did not suggest that they should be sold to a rendering plant to be ground down into rat poison.

Pierce starts each chapter, and ends his book, with what he considers relevant American history dating back to the Revolutionary War. Memo: Relevant it is not.

Before opening Idiot America, I watched Charles Pierce being interviewed on Countdown, and that may be influencing my evaluation of his book. Despite agreeing with almost everything he writes, I view him as a fatuous narcissist who could be a poster boy for the truism, "With a friend like Pierce, who needs enemies?" Readers who wish to retain the good impression generated by this book are warned to change channels immediately if they encounter his mug on talking-heads television.

William Harwood

Hassler's Bookshelf

Kendra Kandlestar and the Shard from Greeve
Lee Edward Fodi, Author & Illustrator
Brown Books Publishing Group
16200 N. Dallas Parkway, Suite 170, Dallas Texas 75248
9781934812372 $8.95,

Lee Edward Fodi, the "Wizard of Words", returns with his newest adventure in, Kendra Kandlestar and the Shard from Greeve. In his legendary way, Author and illustrator, Lee Edward Fodi, flawlessly mixes magic, monsters and mystery for his readers. In this fantasy adventure, and third book in this series, Kendra Kandlestar battles herself as she must choose between being a true sorceress or learning to be a powerful master of dark magic. Readers will be on the edge of their pages as they watch Kendra Kandlestar struggle with her choices. The suspense of Kendra Kandlestar's difficult decision will challenge her audiences to look within themselves to learn how to overcome their own mischievous sprites! Mythic archetypes, hair-raising action and humor makes this installment of the Kendra Kandlestar chronicles a book fans of fantasy will be tempted to stay up all night to read. This family friendly series and exciting book is filled with thought provoking issues, Kendra Kandlestar and the Shard from Greeve will entertain readers of all ages.

Sikulu & Harambe by the Zambezi River
Kunle Oguneye, Author
Bruce McCorkindale, Illustrator
Blue Brush Media
851 Monroe Ave NE Renton, WA 98056
9780977738243 $14.99

Sikulu & Harambe by the Zambezi River is a timeless African folk tale that celebrates kindness to others including strangers. Author, Kunle Oguneye, entertains readers by sharing the African version of the Good Samaritan story. Oguneye's easy to read story is paired with Illustrator, Bruce McCorkindale's, soft colorful illustrations that are fun and friendly. Young readers can look forward to expanding their vocabulary skills as they learn how to pronounce new African names and words. Learning tools included are, a glossary of words, names and places, a description of the African Ku-omboka Ceremony and detailed information about Zambia itself. Audiences of all ages will enjoy getting to know animals native to the land. Also included are open discussion questions about the morale of the story that promotes readers to recall and retell their own Good Samaritan stories. Sikulu & Harambe by the Zambezi River is a wonderful storybook that is packed with a good morale message and a treasure trove of learning.

The Adventures of the Poodle Posse
Chrysa Smith, Author
Pat Achilles, Illustrator
Well Bred Book
PO Box 50, Pt. Pleasant, PA 18950
9781424333356 $7.95

Little curly haired poodles and their zany antics make for a fun read in The Adventures of the Poodle Posse. Author, Chrysa Smith shares her real life stories with her beloved poodles in this early-reader. Illustrator, Pat Achilles, highlights Smith's stories with adorable and friendly black and white illustrations. This fun and sometimes very silly book will engage young readers with pet friendly stories that are a delight to read. Audiences will enjoy the light-hearted humor in The Adventures of the Poodle Posse as they learn about sharing and caring. Readers will also have fun at the end of the book where they are encouraged to talk about the stories, characters and what makes them laugh the most. For a wonderful book that will encourage young readers to develop a love for pets and their silly antics, The Adventures of the Poodle Posse, is a great read!

Sara Hassler

Henry's Bookshelf

Cora Cooks Pancit
Dorina K. Lazo Gilmore
Illustrated by Kristi Valiant
Shen's Books
Walnut Creek, CA
9781885008350 $17.95

When the young girl Cora's older siblings are not around as they usually are to help her mother prepare dinner, she steps in. The family is a Filipino American family. She and her mother prepare the favorite Filipino dish of noodles with vegetables, spices, and chicken called pancit. As Cora is doing some of the more involved tasks, the mother talks a little about how Cora's grandfather back in the Philippines would prepare pancit for field workers. The preparation of the meal thus becomes an activity bringing together different generations of the family. With the central activity of the story and the recipe for pancit following it, the book also relates to the current interest in teaching young children about food, diet, and cooking.

America's Main Street Hotels - Transiency and Community in the Early Auto Age
John A. Jakle and Keith A. Sculle
U. of Tennessee Press, Knoxville, TN
9781572336551 $29.95

The parameters of the authors' study are "small-town and small-city hotels." "Small" is defined as places with populations between 600 and 60,000. The size of the hotels is between 25 and 250 rooms. The time period is 1900 to 1960. These parameters entail the closest relationship between the establishment and popularity of the hotels and ownership and use of the automobile in American society. With the authors' sociological interest, focusing on the smaller-size hotels found in towns and small cities, they got a "clear view of how hotels contributed to community development" which was not possible with respect to hotels in large, complex urban environments. And in focusing on such small hotels, the authors would be adding something new to this area of sociology and cultural studies since the subjects of most studies have been the grand hotels of major cities with their images of cosmopolitan, modernistic glamor.

Jakle and Sculle's study is not dry or secondary by comparison, however. It is a multidimensional, lively, and fertile study of an aspect of what was known as "small-town America" in the mid-20th century. While not particularly elaborate, the facades and architectural details of the hotels were indicative of contemporary American public architecture. The barrooms, beauty parlors, restaurants, tobacco shops, and newsstands of the hotels were not only amenities for travelers, but also social centers for the residents of the small towns and cities.

The authors' add unusual dimensions to the perspective on small hotels by covering to a considerable extent the operation of them. Parts of this section could be a manual on how to operate a small hotel for managers. However, the discussion of size and furnishings of rooms, budgets for different facilities, training of staff, and such, helps to put the reader into a small hotel. Some of this information is so detailed, it helps the reader to imagine being in a small hotel and interacting with the staff and moving through its rooms. Some of the antiquated design features and business practices add a nostalgic touch to the study as well.

Jakle and Sculle thoroughly and engagingly cover this topic of social history in such a way that one comes away not only with an appreciation for these small-hotel buildings which remain standing and in use in many places, but also with a better understanding of the term "small-town America."

Rain Inside
Ibrahim Nasrallah
Curbstone Press
Willimantic, CT
9781931896528 $14.95

Though Nasrallah is a Palestinian and has suffered oppression for this in Jordan where he has lived for many years, this background is evident only lightly in his poems. As one of the translators, Omnia Amin, writes in his introduction "A Replenishing Poet of the Diaspora," Nasrallah's poetry "transcends any determination of personal strife, reaching to universal themes, where the sorrows of all humanity are realized." The poems of this volume selected by Nasrallah from many sources over his long, noted career are a combination of shorter poems which like Japanese haiku (as noted by Amin) awaken "philosophical insight by means of an everyday event or object" and medium-length poems of most of a page or more which "honor and transcend the Palestinian experience by opening it onto the world, and by opening his poems to the pain of every individual who lives in difficulty without regard to color, religion, or national identity."

One of Nasrallah's haiku-like poems in its entirety is "Strangers" (in the group with the title "The Chairs"): "How dark/how dull/Those who came and went away like strangers/Even their women and their small girls were sullen/This is how the chairs sit quietly thinking/in the evening." In longer poems, the poet writes, "He sips her face in the winter morning/descends the stairs of her sorrows/and sings of warmth./A path opens before him and he takes it." [from His Shadow Is Departing]; and "He did not invent a word for departure/and did not shed a faint star in his tears,/nor did he carry grass in his hands, or the rushing trees." [from Departure] Nasrallah discerns a fresh poignancy in the quotidian.

And Grace Will Lead Me Home - African American Freedmen Communities of Austin, Texas, 1865-1928
Michelle M. Mears
Texas Tech U. Press
Lubbock, TX
9780896726543 $45.00

Thanks to "archival collections [offering] substantial resources," Mears is able to give an unprecedented view of the African American communities in Austin from their beginnings at the end of the Civil War until their were broken up from large-scale city planning in the 1920s. These communities were established on the outskirts of the city usually in conjunction with land owned by blacks where freed slaves felt more secure than in the largely unsettled countryside. And in fact while the communities were not free from the discrimination nor threats of violence, these were not so severe as elsewhere throughout Texas and the Southern states. In Austin, the communities were able to grow and provide basics such as employment, food, and shelter; and there were educational opportunities at black schools.

The details of Mears's picture affirm the range and content of her sources. Appendices include the dates of the establishment of urban and rural communities, their churches, number of inhabitants (from less than 200 to over 1,200), number of persons in different employment such as blacksmith, brick mason, cook in private home or public place, teacher, preacher or minister, and deaths of many residents and their causes. Mears elaborates on such bare facts as found in the appendices in the text with attention to particular communities, additional statistics, and profiles of individuals or vignettes of aspects of the life in a community. Old maps or area views give one a visual notion of the communities which enhances the author's portrait of them and their development.

Mears has been doing research of African Americans in the Austin area for many years as an archivist at the U. of North Texas. She has also held positions as an archivist or librarian at other Texas institutions. Her work is practically pure sociology. Her aim is an organized record of the African American communities with limited authoritative commentary; instead of a thematic study of violence against the freed slaves or their role in shaping the area where they congregated as in many books by historians and writers on African American studies, for example. Despite not straying far from the facts as abundantly contained in her sources, Mears's book is lively and informative throughout and colorful in spots for presenting newly-discovered material bringing to life bustling and innovative communities.

Ghost Ranch and the Faraway Nearby
Photographs by Craig Varjabedian
Introduction by Jay Packer
Essays by Marin Sardy, et al
Afterword by Georgia O'Keeffe
U. of New Mexico Press
Albuquerque, NM
9780826336217 $45.00

Varjabedian's photographs cannot help but bring Ansel Adams to mind. The photographer begins his Preface, "With an almost crystalline clarity I remember the first time I saw Chimney Rock and the red hills of Ghost Ranch." Adams' photographs have a crystalline clarity. And Varjabedian's have something of this too. There is even one titled "Moon over Orphan Mesa" which seems especially a nod to Adams. But Varjabedian's photographs are not so iconic. Though having the vistas and technical skill of Adams's photographs, Varjabedian's put one more in touch with the land and the particular subjects. One is not so much awed, but instead usually finds a place in the photographs, often by touches such as a tree or fence or chair one can relate to.

Ghost Ranch is a 21,000-acre expanse of northern New Mexico brought to notice from Georgia O'Keeffe's attachment to the area as displayed in her paintings and in the words in the book's Afterword and elsewhere. But Ghost Ranch had an identity apart from O'Keeffe's attachment. As such a large area, it not only almost ideally represented the particular Southwestern terrain of New Mexico, but also the activities and challenges of permanent and transient peoples from prehistoric bands through Spanish explorers and settlers, ranchers, and environmentalists. The area is also known for attracting spiritual seekers. The photographs complemented by the essays evoke both the natural and the historical sides of Ghost Ranch.

Not so formidable as Adams's iconic photographs while nevertheless capturing the scales, contours, vegetation, and remoteness of the land, these photographs allow for and reward perusal. In exploring their details such as the construction of old dwellings, a line of fence, gullies, twisted trees, and smoothened rocks seem like storytellers of Ghost Ranch's past.

Standard Catalog of World Paper Money - Modern Issues, 1961-present, 15th Edition
edited by George S. Cuhaj
Krause Publications
Iola. WI
9780896898370 $55.00

This 15th edition has improvements in both content and format. Besides price increases where warranted, there is also more detail on illustrations and signatures on many pieces. Notes are now listed under the name of the historical country that issued them, not as formerly under the present-day name of the country. The example editor Cuhaj uses in his Introduction to this new edition is British Honduras is now separate from Belize. Also North Korea and South Korea are catalogued separately instead of together under Korea. Similarly for Northern Ireland. Users want to know this because the present-day and now-gone historical countries of the world are listed alphabetically.

The CD of this edition has improvements also over the first CD found in the previous edition. It may "take some time to load" Cuhaj mentions, but this is because of the amount of data on it. The CD contains all the content of the voluminous, 1,000-page-plus catalog in PDF format. The CD is especially helpful because keyword searches can be done with it. Though the straightforward and detailed format of the catalog down to current prices for different grades of notes enables most users to find what general information and specifics they are looking for readily enough. With the CD, though, each note can be magnified up to 300% its size for scrutiny of details.

Collecting paper money reached the popularity of coin collecting in the end of the 1970s. Globalization of business, world travel, multicultural interests, and the disappearance and the founding of many new countries in the modern era all contributed to the jump in paper money's popularity. For beginning collectors, the front section "How to Use This Catalog" is a succinct introductory guide to the field. Notwithstanding its title with reference to this major catalog, this section has explanations of the printing of notes and gradings, advise on caring for a collection, definitions, material on terms of foreign, non-English, notes, and other fundamentals relevant apart from their connection with the catalog.

The publication of a 15th edition speaks for the place this work has established in the field of collecting paper notes. It has long been recognized by the most advanced and specialized collectors as the leading reference for its comprehensiveness and authoritativeness; and thus has also attracted the use of collectors at all levels.

Henry Berry

Karyn's Bookshelf

The Dunderheads
Paul Fleischman, author
David Roberts, illustrator
Candlewick Press
99 Dover St., Somerville, MA 02144
9780763624989, $16.99

At some point everyone gets a teacher who inexplicably seems to dislikes kids.

Author Paul Fleischman, whose many honors include the 1989 Newbery Medal for "Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices," takes the nasty teacher caricature to the extreme in "The Dunderheads."

The horrific Miss Breakbone, her massive proportions perfectly captured by illustrator David Roberts, delights in making children cry and subscribes to "Guard Dog Lovers Monthly."

But Miss Breakbone goes too far when she confiscates a knick-knack a child has intended for his mother's birthday gift.

Then, in a hilarious effort that progresses like a pint-sized version of "Ocean's 11" a group of elementary-aged friends combine their many talents to break into the teacher's home and steal the item back.

One child with long fingernails picks locks. Another hypnotizes Miss Breakbone's guard dogs. Another shoots spit wads that disarm a video camera and, later, break a glass to distract a maid while they sneak down a hallway.

A wonderfully entertaining tale about working together for justice and avenging mean adults.

The Clever Stick
John Lechner, author and illustrator
Candlewick Press
99 Dover St., Somerville, MA 02144
9780763639501, $14.99

"The Clever Stick," is one of those short stories that you can pick apart to find the deep meaning or that you can simply enjoy at face value. Either way you'll come away with something gained.

The tale follows a plain wooden stick that has a great appreciation for things of beauty - poetry, the warn sun, red roses. But without a means to vocalize how much he loves the world around him, he feels trapped and becomes sad and discouraged.

But by accident one day he discovers he can communicate by drawing pictures in the dirt. And the forest animals and flora that he has so desperately wanted to connect with take note, to his delight.

There certainly can be corollaries drawn between the story and people who rise beyond their disabilities, such as a deaf person who learns to communicate with American Sign Language.

You can ponder the subtle message about taking stock of a troubled stretch of your life and becoming aware as you do so that a window has opened, that can take you down a new, more positive road.

Or you can quietly enjoy the tale of how one individual came to connect with those around him.

Thoughtful but not preachy, with a sure-to-make-you-smile conclusion and sweetly simple illustrations.

Karyn Saemann

Kaye's Bookshelf

Wally the Walking Fish Meets Madison and Cooper
Gary Lamit
WalkingFish Books
9781439225417 $12.99

Wally the Walking Fish Meets Madison and Cooper is a delightful little story about a young girl, Madison, her hungry dog Cooper and Wally, a walking/talking catfish. The colorful illustrations are enchanting - soft and warm. In addition to the story, Lamit has included factual information about mushrooms, beavers, flying fish, mudskippers, and walking catfish, to educate as well as entertain.

Gary Lamit was inspired and wrote Wally the Walking Fish for this granddaughter Madision. I hope she'll enjoy and treasure this unique book - an expression of her grandfather's love.

The Weight of Silence: Invisible Children of India
Shelley Seale
Dog's Eye View Media
9780980232370 $16.00

The Weight of Silence is a sociological travel memoir about the beauty, richness, and terrible poverty in India and, in particular, about the children. Quoting from the introduction:

"In my journeys over the last years into the orphanages, slums, clinics and streets of India I have become immersed in the world of these children. Their hope and resilience amazed me time and time again; the ability of their spirits to overcome crippling challenges inspired me. Even in the most deprived circumstances they are still kids - they laugh and play, perhaps far less frequently than others; they develop strong bonds and relationships to create family where none exists; and most of all they have an enormous amount of love to give....

"I want to be clear that although this book deals with struggles and failures, this is far from the only side of India. The country is an astonishing place full of history, grand architecture, magnificent natural beauty and some of the most wonderful people I have ever met. Because this book focuses on those excluded from the riches of their nation, the topics and issues written about often show a darker side of India. Yet during my journeys and research the other, beautiful India constantly showed itself, even in the most difficult places. It is an extraordinarily wonderful place and I encourage anyone who has a chance to visit...."

Shelley Seale is an accomplished freelance writer, specializing in travel - multiple publications. The Weight of Silence: Invisible Children of India is beautifully written, well edited, extremely poignant, and educational. If you were touched by the movie Slumdog Millionaire and want to know more about India, its children and their problems, read this book.

Albion Ablaze and A View to a Death
John Timbers
Authors OnLine Ltd
Bedfordshire SG193NU, England
9780755211173, 9780755211418 $14.95

Albion Ablaze and A View to a Death are the third and fourth volumes in a five part series making up The Journals of Marcus Rutilius Robura. Caesar's Tribune is Volume I, Master of Gaul is Volume II and, in process, Road to the Rubicon is Volume V. I have reviewed Volumes I and II in the past with strong recommendations.

John Timbers has taken historical characters and brought to life the culture, politics and Julius Caesar's military campaigns from 60 to 52 BC. These books are based on Caesar's own Commentaries on the Gallic Wars which led to his to overwhelming power as an all-conquering general. The stories come alive through a novelistic twist time warp device as Marcus, the tribune, find himself in two worlds.

In Albion Ablaze (55-54 BC):

"Recalled to Gaul early because of a German invasion in the far northeast, Caesar launches his first exploratory reconnaissance in force of the almost mythical islands of Albion, egged on, of course by Marcus. However, in this and the next year, in which Caesar carries out a full scale invasion to unseat the tyrant, Cassivellaunus, Marcus plays a role wholly unsuspected by historians (while still remaining credibly within Caesar's version of the story)."

In A View to a Death:

This volume covers a two year period during which some of the most savage fighting of the whole Gallic war took place, not all of it in Gaul itself. The first half deals with a war waged by Marcus Licinius Crassus. The second half covers the major Gallic rebellion against Caesar's presence in Gaul. Quoting from Chapter One - A View - to give you a sample of Timber's style and quality of writing:

"Shock; instant gut-wrenching terror; subliminal horrors amplified in dreams, and imposed with mind-bending proportions on the realities so twisted and tortured by the brain's ability to exaggerate the thought patterns tumbling through its contorted corridors during waking hours and reflected in all their convoluted awfulness in sleep - such was the stuff of my nightmares.

"I am still not free of the debilitating trauma of those brief, violent encounters with the Parthian Army in far off Mesopotamia, even though months have passed, and I've tasted normality once again. It is as if the brain itself has been wounded, and its suppurating sores are seeking attention, demanding relief that is being denied by any deviation from their origins.

"I am not alone. Few of us who fled that gore-soaked battlefield have escaped mentally unscathed, even those of us who were fortunate enough to escape injury by those nightmare barrages of steel-tipped arrows from the ubiquitous Parthian archers. For weeks afterwards we walked, talked and worked like zombies, trying to function normally as best we could, still threatened by the probability of pursuit and further defeat at the hands of what seemed then to be an overwhelming power, our confidence in Rome's insuperability gone forever. Hollow-eyed and gaunt, even the toughest veterans couldn't shake off the distorting aftermath of fear that haunted our sleeping and our waking hours."

John Timbers is an educated, gifted writer with a colorful, lively writing style. If you enjoy historical novels and/or military campaigns, these novels are certain to entertain and educate at the same time. For more information about John and The Journals of MarcusRutilius Robura, visit

Kaye Trout

Logan's Bookshelf

Crippling Epistemologies and Governance Failures
Gilles Paquet
University of Ottawa Press
542 King Edward, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, K1N 6N5
9780776607030, $29.00,

Gilles Paquet is Professor Emeritus at the Telfer School of Management, as well as being professionally associated with the Centre on Governance and the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs of the University of Ottawa. The author and/or editor of more than forty books (and having published an impressive number of papers) on economics, public management, and governance, Professor Paquet is uniquely positions to speak with informed authority concerning prevailing practices and inadequate methodological concepts of knowledge, evidence and inquiry with respect to the social sciences. Offering impeccable scholarship, Professor Paquet's critiques with respect to current Canadian policy development with respect to a weak information infrastructure, inadequate accountability, and flawed organizational design is documented by example and rational judgment. Professor Paquet goes on to offer public policy reforms that would permit governmental and other social institutions to productively experiment with the development and implementation of new governance and academic decision making structures. Occasionally iconoclastic and always erudite, "Crippling Epistemologies and Governance Failures" is highly recommended reading and a seminal contribution to academic library collections.

A Journey, A Reckoning, And A Miracle
K. J. Fraser
c/o National Book Network
4270 Boston Way, #200, Lanham, MD 20706
Karen Villanueva Author Services (publicity)
9781846942068, $29.95,

Original, deftly written, and a riveting read from first page to last, "A Journey, A Reckoning, And A Miracle" by K. J. Fraser is a iconoclastic novel incorporating religion, politics, magic, humor, adventure, and human nature. Lucy is a seventeen-year-old Rapture believing Christian embarking upon a pilgrimage to honor the dead from such American massacres as took place at Waco and Columbine. Wounded in Iraq, Judith is a young black soldier and well-loved by a voodoo practicing feminist grandmother. Then there is the former American president, George Bush whose nightmares and visions involve ghosts, zombies, Mother Nature, Machiavelli, Schopenhauer, a couple of former presidents, and Alice of 'Alice's Restaurant' fame. Anything can happen with a little faith, a little forgiveness, a little courage, and a lot of creativity. Highly recommended for personal reading lists and community library contemporary fiction collections, "A Journey, A Reckoning, And A Miracle" has more twists and turns than an Appalachian mountain trail -- and the journey through its pages is just as much fun!

Pirate Queen: The Curse
R. Allen Downey
Booksurge LLC
7290-B Investment Dr, Charleston, SC 29418
9781419690860, $15.99,

Lai Choi San was an infamous female pirate marauding through the waters of the China Sea in the 1920s and 1930s. Then she suddenly disappeared, with no one knowing what ever happened to her. A decade later someone calling herself Lai captured a Chinese nationalist yacht carrying six million in gold, plus an encoded microfilm that British intelligences believe contains a top-secret Mao file. That's why British agent Loo Tao-hua and American ex-sailor Rick Reilly (both of whom have paranormal powers) are assigned to locate this re-emergent and horrific female pirate who may or may not be something supernatural herself! Imaginative, original, and deftly written by a master storyteller, "Pirate Queen: The Curse" is a riveting read from beginning to end.

Remember Me
Marian Kampinski
1663 Liberty Dr., Bloomington, IN 47403
9781440121784, $15.95,

The stories are similar, yet each brings a new perspective on one of the blackest marks in human history. "Remember Me: A Holocaust Survivor's Story" tells the story of Marian Kampinski and her personal tale of trying to survive the harsh conditions of multiple different concentration camps which claimed her relatives, her adolescence, and almost her life. Suggested for readers seeking a new perspective on the Holocaust, "Remember Me" is something to consider.

Get That Job!
Jack Bernstein
Interlingua Educational Publishing
423 S. Pacific Coast Highway, Suite 208, Redondo Beach, CA 90277
9781602991439, $14.99,

High school may be hard, but putting that education to use may just be harder. "Get That Job! Resume Writing and Interviewing Tips for Recent Graduates" is a guide to getting a better job right out of high school instead of being forced into jobs which can be synonymous with flipping burgers. Author Jack Bernstein gives plenty of tips and advice for starting on the path to a career, rather than slipping into the life of a wage slave. "Get That Job!" is to be strongly considered for new job market contenders.

Carl Logan

Margaret's Bookshelf

A Contemporary Handbook for Weddings & Funerals and Other Occasions
Aubrey Mapphurs & Keith Willhite, editors
PO Box 2607, Grand Rapids, MI 49501
9780825431869, $17.99

There are many events in life that deserve the utmost attention and care. "A Contemporary Handbook for Weddings & Funerals and Other Occasions" is a guide to these major events in life, and how to make them more meaningful and memorable for all involved. With advice on wedding vows, eulogies, and communion, " A Contemporary Handbook for Weddings & Funerals and Other Occasions" is a solid Christian guide especially recommended to anyone in charge of these events.

A Divided Paradise
David Lynch
New Island
c/o DuFour Editions
PO Box 7, Chester Springs, PA 19425
9781848400139, $20.65,

An Irish pub is not unusual to see in Boston or Long Island, but in Tel Aviv, it's another story. "A Divided Paradise: An Irishman in the Holy Land" tells the story of author David Lynch, and his Irish pub in Israel and Palestine. Written from a journalistic perspective, and packed with many fresh and original insights about the people behind the conflict. "A Divided Paradise" is an endlessly entertaining delve into a serious issue.

The Cross & The Psychiatrist
Terry L. Dorn
Outskirts Press
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432739744, $10.95,

Some upbringings take a lifetime to recover from. "The Cross & The Psychiatrist" tells the story of Terry Dorn, who lived much of his life on the streets of Minneapolis after being abused as a young child. He tells his story of how he successfully attained a level of normalcy after such a bizarre childhood. "The Cross & The Psychiatrist" provides inspiration and evidence that anything can be overcome.

A Family Place
Leila Philip
Excelsior Editions
c/o CUP Services
750 Cascadilla Street, PO Box 6525, Ithaca, NY 14851
9781438427607, $14.95,

Everyone has a long family line behind them. "A Family Place: A Hudson Valley Farm, Three Centuries, Five Wars, One Family" tells the story of a home that housed one family over the better part of three hundred years. Author Leila Philip presents a tribute to her family's long and illustrious history, revealing a piece of Americana that is hard to replicate. "A Family Place" is of recommended reading for anyone who wants to see the evolution of the American family first hand.

Where Light Takes Its Color From the Sea
James D. Houston
Heyday Books
PO Box 9145, Berkeley, CA 94709
9781597141055, $15.95,

Little pieces of wisdom can do a lot for one's view of the world. "Where Light Takes Its Color from the Sea: A California Notebook" is a collection of essays on the world written by James Houston as he let it all sink in while vacationing in Santa Cruz, California. Poignant, witty, and entertaining, "Where Light Takes Its Color from the Sea" is insightful and highly recommended.

Howard Dean's Prescription for Real Healthcare Reform
Howard Dean
Chelsea Green Publishing
PO Box 428, White River Junction, VT 05001
9781603582285, $12.95,

Is cheaper medical care for Americans a possible reality or just some crazy dream? "Howard Dean's Prescription for Real Healthcare Reform: How We Can Achieve Affordable Medical Care for Every American and Make Our Jobs Safer" is a proposal from former Democratic Presidential Candidate and physician Howard Dean. Dean lays out his plan, which is based on the principles of no exclusion and equal costs to all Americans. He also pushes the value of new technology in health care in a very comprehensive and thought-out plan. "Howard Dean's Prescription for Real Healthcare Reform" is a choice pick for those looking for opinions on the Universal Healthcare debate.

Margaret Lane

Molly's Bookshelf

The Story of the Sand
Mark B. Pickering
iUniverse, Inc.
9780595472055 $15.95

The narrative opens with Sampson Roy awakening in his tent after drinking himself to oblivion the night before. His fondest wish was that he did not have to see another living person, ever. However, when he was hungry or wanted something to drink he was forced to trek into town. The work continues as Roy comes face to face with the ghost of an army buddy, recalls his military service, the deaths of friends, the horror of the war and his anger. The tale weaves and spins is filled with lust, booze, misunderstanding, as first one ghost and then more appear to take part in the story and the narrative continues toward the final chapter.

Story of the Sand is a fictionalized recounting of the dilemma surrounding a combat soldier who has seen comrades fight and die. The result, according to the author, is a man now facing myriad problems; mental, relationship, financial, inability to cope with what has happened as a result of the disillusionment felt by the main character Sampson Roy who went off to war full of optimism and the belief that those in power can be trusted; that the war undertaken was right, proper and needful.

Sampson Roy has returned to his home in Georgia a changed man after spending months fighting in the sands of Iraq. Roy finds himself powerless to deal with home, society, life in general. He soon learns that the government he served has little care concerning his problems; he receives little help from the VA or any other agency. Gone is the patriotic idealist who went off to serve his country, in the wake is an angry, aggrieved pessimist.

Roy's psychological harm due to what he observed while serving in the Middle East has left him with a marriage in tatters, himself a pariah to those he has known and with whom he had relationship. He retreats into a lonely world filled with liquor.

The unexpected dreamlike appearance of a ghostly figure of a dead soldier, David Tree, killed during the fighting in Iraq and unable to pass to the other side, brings Roy some unexpected news. His wife is pregnant.

Author Pickering sets down an intense portrayal of war's devastation for the individual soldier, and the aftermath filled with loneliness, misery and attempts at rehabilitation.

Roy cautiously attempts to re enter the world he left; however his alcoholism and self-destructive temperament has left him branded an outsider. His wife rejects reconciliation. Roy yearns to return to the life he knew prior to his military deployment, he hopes to raise his child. Finding the resolve to conquer his addictions and turn his life around may be too daunting.

Through Pickering's clever writing the reader carried along in unanticipated, imaginative directions. While the various twists and turns are fundamental to the story, the tale borders on the bizarre, unless Pickering is attempting to portray some of the drunken stupor induced hallucinations Roy may have experienced.

Even though PTS is not mentioned, Story of the Sand is presented as a glimpse into Post Traumatic Stress many battlefield survivors experience. The personal battle each combatant fights once the return home is completed is of course undertaken by a very changed person, that is an indisputable fact well known by those of us who may be married to a combat veteran, or who are themselves veterans. I was often left pondering what the writer really meant to portray as I read the book. At times the overwhelming reference to sexual activity, and the ghosts became so blurred I felt lost in the wake. The ghosts seemed at times to take over the story until the story of the soldier and his stress were only a sidelight to the activity of the ghosts.

The sense of personal loss, desperation for a hope for tomorrow and a yearning for things to return to normal, as they were before the soldier went off to war is difficult reading for readers who may themselves have personal relationships with a PTS suffering former combat soldier.

Pickering's writing is gripping, stirring, troubling at times and with the line between reality and allegory so blurred as to render difficult reading in spots. The Story of the Sand is recommended for those who enjoy a gritty, hard hitting novel filled with tangled interpersonal relationships and compelling characters.

Tree Huggers
Judy Nichols
Zumaya Enigma
9781934135235 $15.99

Judy Nichols' Tree Huggers, opens with a Winslow Beach Beacon Real Estate ad reading: What's New in Real Estate; the completion of the first luxury home in Normandy Sands, that is what is new.

The account commences with a depiction of that 6,000 square foot house. As listed the residence might be just the thing for the perceptive homeowner able for meeting the multi million dollar price.

Needless to say; John Cochran was definitely not that man. His old beat up Volvo really looked out of place, for that matter, Cochran looked out of place with his graying hair, weathered face, clothed in an old pair of blue jeans and a really old Save the Whales T-shirt.

Waiting in his car parked next to the multi car garage; Cochran was anticipating the arrival of one Warren Owens. Owens embodied the development company determined to acquire Cochran's stretch of Carolina pine savannah and construct houses on it. As for Cochran; he really was not interested in selling.

Owens' arrival was followed with his proudly walking Cochran through the house as the duo waited for Owens' boss and Cochran's son to join them.

When four cammo attired men wearing masks suddenly appeared; Owens' only notion was that the four planned to rob the place. compelled into entering a closet by the quartet; the pair listened as the men moved around the room.

Owens worried that the men were vandalizing the place when he heard the glug glug of liquid, Cochran realized something far more sinister was underway.

Kate Dennison's first day as a reporter for the Winslow Beach Beacon had not gone near as she had thought it might. On the other hand, a job is a job, and a single mom really cannot get along without a job.

Sent to cover the story of the fire that took the lives of Cochran and Owens, Kate works diligently to get to the truth.

From that beginning we follow Kate on her trek to the various local club and school board meetings, get to know an old colleague of hers from Dayton, Ohio where both were involved in the local environmental work, meet Kate's daughter Molly, and watch over Kate's shoulder as she types articles for the paper.

Kate quickly learns that all tree huggers are not warm and fuzzy. It is during the trial of the man accused of the crime having burned the expensive house to the ground and killing both Owens and Cochran that Kate begins to wonder if the wrong many may be on trial.

A confrontational environmentalist group is certain to disagree with an unprincipled developer. They do.

Inscrutability, deception, death threats, rudeness, bodily grievance, chicanery, slayings, evidence, all are part of the narrative. Kate must one way or another manage her job as mom and reporter, care for her daughter, attempt to disregard her ex husband Keith and his most recent flame, endeavor to find a little time for a life of her own in addition to unknotting the mystery of whether the environmentalist group were responsible for the arson, or was it perhaps someone else.

Writer Nichols has produced an electrifying, well-timed work overflowing with nicely fashioned, animated characters, in depth settings calculated to draw the reader into the account, in addition to supplying a bounty of mystery and deeds, variance and inscrutability all neatly decoded and decided.

I particularly liked the writer's use of a supposed clip from the Winslow Beach Beacon as the beginning of each chapter. Those clips attach a lot to the small town feel for the story as meetings, and death, declaration of the paper re hiring of that new reporter, witticisms tossed in on the topic of the analysis surrounding the fire, in addition to details regarding Kate, including a contempt of court action, jail, loss of custody of her daughter, being taken hostage, almost getting herself killed help the reader understand that, Winslow Beach was not quite so boring as Kate had first thought.

Happy to recommend Judy Nichols' Tree Huggers for those who enjoy a well written whodunit.

Come Llamas
Jennifer Morris
9780440420248 $5.99

Jennifer Morris' - Come, Llamas commences as JT Kinnaman of the Alaskan Kinnaman Llama Ranch anticipates the birth of his very own first llama. He hopes the first born will be to Snow, his favorite of the female llamas in the family herd.

Following family tradition; nine year old JT is now old enough to start building his own herd. It was last summer that family patriarch, Grandpa, had promised that the first cria born this season would be JT's.

The reader follows Joey to most, Joseph Turre on rare occasions and JT to his best friend along with his Grand Dad, as he cares for the small llama, the surviving twin born, Snow. It is not often that llamas produce twins, and JT had hoped both would survive, but he is happy that at least little Elmo, while very small, is doing well.

The grim realities surrounding both joy and sorrow felt by those who raise critters as their income at times becomes almost overwhelming. The Kinnaman family llamas are trained as guard animals, as pack animals, and are sheared for their wool. Losing llamas can mean hardship and problems for the family. Enclosures must be maintained, bears, wolves and coyotes all must be kept at bay. Breeding stock must be shielded from harm, plus the animals sold to others for use as guard animals must be kept out of harm's way.

JT tends to faces life head on. JT's wish to become a pitcher on his local baseball team, his school work, the ongoing threat from rapacious animals who often attempt to get to the family herd, working on the ranch, and coming to realize that his beloved Grand Dad is not going to be with him forever are all part of his life.

Disaster strikes when a grizzly succeeds in breaking through the perimeter fencing. JT is all but overwhelmed, to learn that gentle, beautiful Snow has been killed and her Cria, his own first llama, Elmo cannot be found.

More significantly to the family as a whole is the fact that at least half the herd is now scattered and may fall prey to predators. When the round up is completed, and all remaining animals are housed in the barns until the fence can be repaired nearly half the herd is missing or slain and Grand Dad has been taken to hospital.

Farm kids grow up knowing from early age that life and death are all part of the continuum of nature.

Writer Morris has set down a saga packed with rich detail, animation and a child's growing comprehension that while some life ends, other life goes on, in addition to understanding that bemoaning the situation is not something to do; whatever the emotion or sorrow there are things that must be done, and done now, because they are right to do. And, JT learns that sometimes very hard decisions must be made.

Told in the first person from the point of view of a nine year old; the Alaska setting and life with llamas comes to life.

Worth of family, worth of life, as well as community coming together for common good, are all clearly spotlighted in this account of a youngster's growing up and beginning to fully comprehend that growing up is at times very hard to accomplish. Readers also begin to understand that life is now and again filled with unforeseen duty, joyfulness and hurting.

Happy to recommend Jennifer Morris' - Come, Llamas for mature 9-12 year olds. Jennifer Morris' - Come, Llamas is a good choice for family night reading as Dad reads aloud to the family.

Diary of a Dead Man
Walter Krumm
Bridgeway Books
2100 Kramer Lane Ste 300 Austin TX 78758
9781934454220 $11.01

Walter Krumm's - Diary of a Dead Man follows one Cam, Cameron, Taylor as he anxiously endeavors to disentangle himself from the horrific mess in which he has gotten himself ensnared.

Who might have supposed that responding to a bland instant message that had popped up on his computer might have lead to murder, danger and more.

It was actually on a Thursday, June 1 to be exact, that the date of their first tangible meeting after so many messages was to take place. Those messages between he and Emily which had begun innocently had soon progressed to messages that were more hot and steamy and a whole lot less commonplace and mundane.

Cam was troubled with mixed feelings regarding the situation. He had been married for fifteen years to Julie, and Cam had strong belief that adultery is wrong. He had long felt there is no justification for such behavior, plus it was time to face the fact that he could not go through with actually committing the act.

Cam did have the best intentions; he had made the decision to break off the almost 'affair' with Emily. That was before he received his morning email from Emily. Following that email; all his good intentions disappeared.

In point of fact; Cam had made the hotel reservations even before he received that significant email. With that email went all resolution to cancel the reservation.

From that foundation the reader is plunged hurriedly into an appalling state of affairs filled with extortion, demise, sexual flight of the imagination, and just plain apprehension.

As this fast-paced crime novel persists, Cameron must plan a course through a shadowy complex of deceit, fatality, and deception that presents peril not only his own life but to the lives of his family. Whether he can truly disentangle the chaos, and protect his family, much less his own life remains manifestly thorny.

Indistinguishable figures, Emily, Nemesis, are names found on the instant messages. Terrible decisions follow dire decisions leading to a spiral threatening to twist completely out of control.

It when Cam at last grasps that not only has he been set up, but he is only one person in a long line of others who have been similarly victimized; that he commences to become conscious that he is in the fight for his life if he is to break away from not only the extortion, but with his family undamaged and perhaps, hopefully, himself still living.

Author Krumm has crafted a compelling tale devised to move the reader into the realm of intensity, misconduct and ill will. Cam Taylor is set up to bear all responsibility for a slaying he did not commit, while the authentic executors remain untroubled, and enriched.

The worst of it, as Cam sees it, is the fact that it is not he alone who is caught up in this subterfuge, but like ripples in a pond when a stone is tossed into it; the ripples seem to persist outward to reach many more than just this one man.

Taylor is compelled into a situation where he must struggle to keep his life, shelter his family and force Nemesis to leave him alone. He has little hope that he can rely on anyone other than himself.

Krumm's debut novel is carried out with a precision belying his lack of other works. Characters are well detailed; circumstances, milieu and plot are all abundantly developed, tension is maintained from opening lines to final pages.

Slowly the writer builds upon his premise that in these modern times many who would never think of straying can be mentally seduced long before physical seduction becomes a reality, and, that messages sent and received may or may not be from the person thought to be the sender.

The saga draws to an agreeable finale leaving the reader hoping there will be more exciting works from this writer to be had in the near future.

Happy to recommend Walter Krumm's - Diary of a Dead Man for those who enjoy a fast paced chiller of a mystery, as well as those who just like a well written work packed with accomplishment, captivating characters and a good bit of apprehension.

Tears on Stone
Karen Wiesner and Chris Spindler
Swimming Kangaroo Books Arlington TX
9781934041895 $13.25

Karen Wiesner and Chris Spindler - Tears on Stone: Falcon's Bend's most recent residents Pam Garland, social worker, and her former wards, siblings Shelly and MaryEmma Gold, as well as Shelly's four year old Ariel Wilson are quietly settling into their new home. That is how they liked it. Settled and quiet.

Recently widowed Shelly is having a tough time with melancholy. MaryEmma divides her time between caring for Ariel and toiling at the local floral shop while Pam is busy setting up a counseling service for battered and abused women.

When MaryEmma realizes the garden in her old childhood home yard next door has fallen into disorder she is saddened. How beautiful the garden had been.

Before long she becomes conscious that the house is now owned by childhood chum Jordan Shasta. The duo had been indissoluble as children before MaryEmma's mother and step father had died, Pam was appointed guardian, and Pam and the girls moved from the town.

Focused on the dreadful toll spousal abuse wreaks on women, their offspring and whole families; Falcon's Bend Tears on Stone presents the reader a group of characters who are not always as they seem.

Pam, and her social work are the consequence of her own childhood filled with abuse. Watching the ill-treatment her own mother tolerated has produced an irate, ruthless woman who is willing to use the only reliable process for alleviating her pain.

Marigold, a fine designation for a pensive woman who today continues to find consolation in gardening; MaryEmma recollects her childhood crush on Jordie Shasta with fondness.

As local police begin investigating what seems to be a death resulting only to the heavy hand of the murdered; they unexpectedly recognize that a series of deaths appears to have been dogging Pam, MaryEmma and Shelly.

Tears on Stone launches Falcon Bend's first woman officer Amber Carfi, as well as continuing to follow officer's Pete Shasta and Danny Vincent as the pair accomplish their investigations. The officers must unravel the string of bodies laying in Shelly's wake, become au fait with the rather distasteful play boy who arrives on the scene and soon appears to be chumming up to one woman after another as she leaves SOS, Society of Survivors, meetings conducted by Pam.

SOS founder Dorothy Hawks, a survivor of spousal abuse, is a woman who killed her husband in self defense, was jailed by an unsympathetic jury, and has been searching for her children from the time of her discharge from jail. She has been influential in developing the program, incorporated by Pam, to aid women as they try to find help for themselves and their children.

A female coroner, a female detective and a string of men dead in widespread venues carry the narrative in breathless fashion toward a gratifying conclusion.

Writers Wiesner Spindler have created a well written, potent account centered on what even today often remains an disregarded, denied and bristly matter of spousal abuse.

Even today; women suffering cruelty often find society to be pretty hardhearted, willing to prolong the myth that - she musta asked for it, or who could blame name when he is married to a woman like her.

The vulnerable, despondency these women undergo, especially when they have children to shield, is well portrayed on the pages of Tears on Stone.

These writers have done a noteworthy job for bringing a tricky subject to the forefront as they knit a tale surrounding that which is comprehensible in scope, not acceptable from a legalistic sense and is at times what seems to be only method left to those who must deal with the impossible.

The trepidation, hurt and incomprehension presented by each of the three main characters is conspicuous, different for each, and provides the reader occasion to recognize that we each respond to misfortune in OUR way.

While not a factual tale; Tears On Stone drives home the point: When irrational, abusive relationships are in play there is no one hard and fast do this or do that, or the response will be;

Tears On Stone is the second book in the Falcon's Bend Series and can be read as a stand alone book.

Happy to recommend Tears On Stone.

Tarizon: Civil War vol 2
William Manchee
Top Publications
9781929976560 $29.00

William Manchee's Tarizon: Civil War vol 2 continues the Sci Fi/Fantasy trilogy begun by attorney writer, Manchee on the pages of Tarizon: The Liberator.

On the pages of Cactus Island; Stan and Rebekah Turner's son Peter was kidnapped, not by humans on earth, but by inhabitants of Tarizon who have been waiting for the one who is to lead The Seafolken and those who are awaiting liberation from a dictator growing more powerful each day.

Peter's abrupt seizure into the Tarizon space craft, Earth Shuttle 21, brings Peter to Tarizon where his new life has begun. Lucinda Dimitri who was assigned to aid Peter during his orientation to his surroundings, new language, and growing awareness of what his role in this strange new land will be, is now Peter's mate who is carrying his child. Lucinda has been taken prisoner causing Captain Leek Lanzia as Peter is now known to worry for her safety even as he and the 3rd Loyalist Army continue the battle against Videl Lai and his tyrant rule.

Despite the prophesy that eventually the Liberator will be victorious, the ongoing battle continues right now. Tarizon: Civil War vol 2 opens with death, destruction and a dearth of supplies; The Battle of Tribution is well underway.

Hovertanks, intelligence briefings, an Earth Shuttle Rendevous, T-47 fighters and TGA troops, a woman named Tehra, a momentous election, an order from Videl Lai to begin genocide of all Nanomite swarms telepathic communication and battles, more than a few battles, all serve to forward the tale in this action packed, fast paced narrative.

The death of Videl Lai might have signaled the end to the war were it not for the charge he gave to his son. Evohn Cystrom watched horrified as his father was torn apart by two rhutz, as much as Evohn wanted to go to his father's aid he could not. Videl Lai, while his adoptive father, was good to Evohn as any parent might be. It was Evohn who had managed to abduct the Liberator's mate, General Zitor and Lorin Boskie and to deliver them into the hands of the TGA. For that deed Evohn had received a promotion to Captain and now, his father was dead.

With the death of Lai; Evohn Cystrom had been ordered to take the shuttle back to Clarion and implement Operation Conquest Earth. So be it, if that was his mission, it was one Evohn would see to the end.

The news of the fall of Shisk and Videl's death was cause for the people of Tarizon to take to the streets in celebration. With the fall of the TGA the 3rd Army quickly entered Shisk and marched to the Capitol Building. Seafolken had secured the site, the 3rd and 5th Loyalist Armies took control of the city as well as the state of Soni.

The terms of surrender were generous, while the TGA soldiers were required to give up their arms, they were sent home following their taking an oath to never take up arms again unless they were members of the Loyalist Army.

Captain Lanzia was a little puzzled when Threebeard asked to have a private face to face conversation with him. His puzzlement intensified as Leek listened to Threebeard's confession that the attempt for rescue of his mate was thwarted by Threebeard himself. However, any anger Lanzia might have felt was eased as he listened to Threebeard's explanation.

I have followed Manchee's writing from the beginning of his first series featuring attorney Stan Turner and his family. I have yet to be disappointed in any of Manchee's burgeoning body of work.

Once more proves his increasing expertise as a writer. Manchee's turn from human Stan Turner to the people of Tarizon has been accomplished with innovation and imagination. Characters continue bright, stirring, and overflowing with energy.

Dialog as always is appropriate, often resolute, and pounding with strength. This particular genre stratagem is compelling, appealing and more than a little extraordinary.

Situations are meticulous in depth bringing the reader straight into the action. concentration is undeniable from commencement of the book right to the last sentences.

As always story line interweaving includes, tactics, subterfuge, an abundance of chicanery all portrayed in will conceived prose.

Manchee's, heroes continue valiant, while his scoundrels continue to be out-and-out brutal.

As Manchee has shown excellent aptitude for crafting compelling mysteries, he is proving as competent fashioning his fantasy/sci fi offerings also.

While the Tarizon Trilogy is loosely a by-product of the Stan Turner Mystery series this new genre series is readable and well understood without going back and reading the Mysteries for background.

I am a fan of Manchee mysteries and advocate that if you have never read any of Manchee's work in the past; please do consider his other writings in addition to this trilogy.

I find the Trilogy to be a stirring series, and Tarizon: vol 2, Civil War to be an electrifying book.

Enjoyed the read, happy to recommend William Manchee's Tarizon: Civil War vol 2.

Living together, Feeling Alone, Healing Your Hidden Loneliness
Dr Dan Kiley's
15 Columbus Circle NYC, NY 10023
9780449219195 $29.33

Dr Dan Kiley's Living together, Feeling Alone, Healing Your Hidden Loneliness is a 206 page work focused on that segment of society who while living with others all around continues to harbor the lonely feelings which may over time engulf and destroy.

Dr Kiley presents his work as ten chapters divided into two parts. Part 1 discusses the Background leading to the feelings of Loneliness including Living together Loneliness including the understanding that Loneliness is often viewed as a condition affecting shy folks having no friends, as well as unhappy singles including the recently divorced or widowed. Loneliness is little recognized as something that might affect those in relationships. Many LTL women are those involved in a dysfunctional relationship that she is loathe to leave. LTL seems to have emerged as a major problem within the last two decades or so.

The Stages of LTL; the UCLA Loneliness Scale, is a diagnostic tool used to aid in discovery of causes for LTL. Five statements address by the Scale include There is no one I can turn to, I feel left out, I feel isolated from others I am unhappy being so withdrawn and No one really knows me well. The stages include Bewilderment, Isolation, Agitation, Depression, Exhaustion.

Included in the External causes of LTL are Women's Changing Roles, Mobility, High Tech, Low Tech achievements, Freedom's Trap, Real or Perceived Isolation Behaviors of others, Demands of others who are attempting to subjugate those around them, Sexual Abuse, Constant Criticism, Emotional Vacancy, Blaming Others, False Contrition, and Nurturance Rejection.

Internal Causes of LTL include low self esteem, fear of other's anger, narcissism, role conflicts and new expectations.

Symptoms of LTL include bitterness and blame, weight problems, substance abuse, depression, anxiety, monophobia, sexual indiscretion, physical ailments, overachievement, workaholism, and compulsiveness.

Part 2 continues with steps for Treatment. Step One is Surrender to stop the chain reaction leading to loneliness before it begins. Surrender takes place when you move away from the old frustrating ways, when you admit that you are outnumbered by the elements causing the feelings of loneliness and when you realize that you need to change your lifestyle.

Step Two is Withdrawal during which time you retreat into yourself and embrace your aloneness including replacing the old lonely ways with solitary activities. Solitude includes idling and solitary activity.

Step Three is Reevaluation to strengthen the personality leading to stopping of self induced isolation when leads to reemergence and the stoppage of others from isolating you. Old roles and methods may feel comfortable, but may be isolating.

Step Four is Reemergence is a time of trial and error learning, it's a time to list the roles you play during the day and those with whom you have the most contact during the time you are in those roles. Lastly it is time to note which roles you perform best and use those behaviors to shore up the roles needing more help. Learn to remain in adult behavior, to not become angry when others attempt to needle you, be specific when making requests, develop the assertiveness to express you own opinions, accept responsibility only when it is your behavior, thought or deed which caused the action or problem, allow insignificant matters to fade away, remember there is no need for you to be all things to all people,

Step Five is Discovery points out it is okay to agree to disagree, to develop inner toughness, to realize that the future is never certain and that it is okay to be ready for anything.

Rounding out the work is the Epilogue and Suggested Readings.

Dr Kiley's writing style is comprehensible, logical and filled with solid, down to earth suggestions. He guides readers toward understanding what loneliness is as opposed to the self destroying isolating feelings of non worth and complete aloneness.

Living together, Feeling Alone, Healing Your Hidden Loneliness is a good candidate for the counselor's shelf and personal reading list of those who suffer from deep seated feelings of isolation and loneliness.

Happy to recommend Dr Dan Kiley's Living together, Feeling Alone, Healing Your Hidden Loneliness.

Enjoy Your Money!: How to Make It, Save It, Invest It and Give It
J. Steve Miller's
Wisdom Creek Press, LLC
5814 Sailboat Pointe, NW, Acworth, GA 30101
9780981875675 $15.99

J. Steve Miller's - Enjoy Your Money!: How to Make It, Save It, Invest It and Give It presents readers occasion for learning to Invest, Save, Make and Enjoy Money.

One of the first declarations set down in the work caught my eye, Miller wrote: I strove to be one of those exceptions by basing my advice not just upon years of personal experience, but upon the knowledge and experiences of well over one hundred wise people.

Now THAT sounds hard to beat.

Attaining acumen, learning, knowledge, living below ones means, investing habitually and serving others all are keys to triumph.

Miller tenders a manuscript penned in an stirring and satisfying arrangement proposed to keep the reader occupied and turning the page. Each sheet is overflowing with appealing and agreeably structured information existing as coursework, conversation materials and motivation packed notations.

Particularly supportive for those who may have modest to no appreciative perception of personal finance; J. Steve Miller's - Enjoy Your Money!: How to Make It, Save It, Invest It and Give It can leverage as a jumping off point, or a road map to direct the neophyte toward proficiency when it comes to understanding money, and what can be done with it in order to give surety toward a more advantageous future.

Part One: Investing Money presents readers with important information for discovering the basics, catching the vision and how to not lose money in stocks. Miller furnishes information for how to go about making money in Mutual Funds, along with advice for how to diversify with Real Estate. Scattered throughout this section are sidebars, set apart boxes, colored headings and lots of information.

I found a note down on page 76 which seems to hold a wealth of well thought out realism and is it timely: Preparing for Hard Times in Case of Another Depression, Work: jobs will be scarce, so work hard and smart now. Make yourself indispensable by knowing more about your job than anyone else and getting along with everyone. I need to be the last mechanic my boss would ever let go.

Life Style:

1 GET OUT OF DEBT; try to pay off your mortgage as quickly as possible. Even if you hold onto your employment during a dire market; it is likely you will earn less money for the reason that companies will be hurting. Ask yourself, -if my income were cut in half, could I still make my payments?

2 LIVE WAY BENEATH YOUR MEANS. Those living beyond their means will be in financial disarray. Lots of money will be lost should need arise forcing the selling of cars and houses at a massive loss.

3 Put more funds into your emergency account. In some locales, half the population were without work during the Great Depression. Consider how long could you last without an income?

Miller changes course in Part Two: SAVING MONEY and the writer yet again points out Live Way Beneath Your Means. He suggests ideas for how to save on food and clothes cost, on purchase of cars as well as how to save when buying houses. I found stimulating Miller's list of ten ways to lose a lot of money. He calls them Ten Popular Ways, meaning these are the ways many people bring into play to shoot themselves in the foot so to say when it comes to money.

Part Three: Making Money is concise and to the point filled with notes for how to locate those dream jobs, how to go about to do extremely well at your job and how to empower in your mind. Seems trouble-free enough, however, most of us have heard many co workers, or others bemoaning the job they have, and don't want, while doing little to nothing to change the situation.

Part four Enjoying Money makes available sagacious matter-of-fact suggestions for how to go about looking for happiness in the right places which Miller notes necessitates some learning, includes some philanthropic giving of self to others, and considering religion and other centered activity.

Appendices incorporate an adult spending sheet or budget as well as one for 17 year olds.

Writer Miller has created a nicely penned, well-ordered manuscript intended to assist anyone at any phase of earning, saving, investing and enjoying their money.

Text is chatty filled with witticisms and packed with plenty of practical and constructive data. Coursework and assignments are designed to give support to the reader toward making constructive changes toward, or continuing good money management.

Happy to recommend J. Steve Miller's - Enjoy Your Money!: How to Make It, Save It, Invest It and Give It

The Forgotten Past The Arhka Chronicles, Vol 2
Heather Hayashi's
Synergy Books
9781933538778 $19.95

Heather Hayashi's The Forgotten Past The Arhka Chronicles, Vol 2 begins with the monster beneath the maelstrom. Lighting illuminated the sky. The enemy was waiting.

The prologue sets the scene for tension, fear and anxiety. Chapter one begins with the Day of the Aliens. Leaving behind the heat and humidity of the afternoon; Derrick Milianas entered the cooling temperature the apartment building. A telephone call from his Dad moved Derrick into action, his Dad's overnight in hand Derrick headed for the airport where his Dad was waiting.

From that beginning the tale move quickly unidentified flying objects were seen descending from the eye of a storm, Derrick's mother's name and that of his sister are on the list of the missing, an unexpected discovery, a piece of jewelry and the mystery has only begun.

When Derrick learns that his mother, Elise, and his older sister, Stephanie, are among the missing, he's resolute in his determination to locate them. Traveling to the place where they have been living he meets Jason, whose younger sister, Eris, also disappeared with Derrick's mother and sister.

Joining forces seems a natural thing for the pair to do before setting off to locate a mysterious land Eris had told Jason about following an earlier incident when she had been wafted off somewhere.

The journey takes the duo to Arhka where the fellows hope the reason for the abductions and whereabouts of the three women is revealed.

Before long parallel worlds, travel from one to the other, another young man with a missing sibling to share Derrick's worry, Derrick's secretive father Steven and his government work, travel to a mysterious land, and a desperate plan move the chronicle forward.

Finding Eris, facing danger, ith'rya, dealing with the aftermath of an attack, and an upside down car in a crater are all part of the action. A pounding headache, Vampires, adjusting to the truth, humanoids and a Tyrannosaur like critter with snakelike eyes, leaders of various Arhka governments, Dragon cities, teleportation points Derrick and Jason find themselves on an fast paced race from one world to the other.

Keelryth, a Dragon who has found a new toy, perspective from the other side, mysterious technology, into the fire, well laid plans which do not always work as hoped, a secret told, and something worth dying for leave the youngsters filled with more concern and Elise, Eris and Stephanie no less fretful.

A will to fight, something lost in translation, a daughter's frustration, things to come and the Oracle's concern, overwhelming power, meeting the enemy, and worried families all keep the reader turning the pages.

Writer Hayashi's mesmerizing prologue in addition to a matter-of-fact depiction of initial characters, moves the reader into the ongoing narrative of The Arhka Chronicles. Various cabals of Arhka population have been warring for centuries.

It is the usual struggle for power, who rules and who is ruled and plain and simple greed which has ultimately led the four races of Arhka into the struggle. That was before the aliens had attacked; bringing the four races of Arhka with the realization that it was either stop fighting one another and begin to work together or be destroyed.

The Forgotten Past goes on meandering and turning through the blockbuster narrative begun on the pages of To Save the World. This latest episode blends fantasy and science fiction in large quantity, introduces a whole new group characters taking their place alongside many found in the first episode, and another race created by the author. A new stratum is layered to the anticipation and accomplishment as the characters endure psychological difficulty.

Multiple storylines, mesmerizing characters, detail filled settings, and just plain good writing are all included in this fast paced work.

Happy to recommend Heather Hayashi's The Forgotten Past The Arhka Chronicles, Vol 2.

Molly Martin, Reviewer

Paul's Bookshelf

M. H. Bonham
Dragon Moon Press
P.O. Box 1714, Calgary, AB, T2P 2L7, CANADA
9781896944692 $19.95

This story is set in a universe where there are nine separate worlds, connected to each other through the World Tree. This is the source of the Web of Wyrd, which runs through the Nine Worlds. A millennia ago, the three warring gods nearly destroyed mankind. Now one of them, Areyn Sehduk, the god of death, has returned to finish the job.

He kills Fialan, leader of the lochvaur, hoping to tip the balance of power in his favor. Sehduk does not take into account that he has created a powerful enemy in Lachlei, queen of the lochvaur. Vowing vengeance against the rival clan led by Sehduk, Lachlei leads her people into a fight against demons and the undead.

Rhyn'athel, another of the three gods, is the only being powerful enough to defeat Sehduk. He takes human form, and joins Lachlei's warriors, in order to stop Sehduk, once and for all. He doesn't reveal his identity to Lachlei, but his abilities are not those of the average mortal. Rhyn'athel also falls in love with Lachlei.

Meantime, Fialan is not exactly dead. He finds himself on Tarentor, another of the Nine Worlds, part of an army of the dead. It's controlled by Sehduk, so the warriors have no free will, and are forced to fight against their own people. Once on Elren, where this takes place, they must eat real food, and they have corporeal form. Every minute they are there, they become more of Elren, and less of Tarentor.

This is an excellent sword and sorcery novel that is pretty heavy on the sorcery part. It's got good characters, led by a very strong female warrior, it's got an exciting story, and it is very much recommended.

Legends in Time: Exiles
Vincent Hobbes, et al
Hobbes End Publishing LLC
P.O. Box 193, Aubrey, TX 76227
9780976351023 $14.99

Part 2 of a series, this continued the story of Consul Veris, a senior member of the Nadorian Senate, who is engaged in a desperate journey to King Kedor of Aronia, far to the north. He was sent on this mission by Emperor Makheb, after being told that he, Veris, was about to be arrested by his Senate colleagues, and accused of trying to kill the same Emperor Makheb.

While Makheb travels to the desolate Endlands, to confront Ramunak, the cause of all this, several other members of the Senate, who can best be described as "power-hungry," consolidate their power. The word is spread throughout the empire that Veris is an outlaw; Wanted: Dead or Alive.

Meantime, Veris, who is really a famous warrior from the Barbarian Wars named Gromulus, stops in a small town on the edge of the Denok Forest to visit Fayorn, an old war buddy, and to return his sword (it's not as simple as it sounds). Even though Fayorn lives on Nadorian land, he thinks of himself as citizen of Aronia, a very self-sufficient and independent people. Fayorn has no love for Emperor Makheb, or Nador, so he does not join Gromulus on his journey.

After a long time in self-imposed exile, Tornach, another war hero, returns home to a town that is unrecognizable. He is Ungoran, and they were the cause of a lot of bloodshed during the Barbarian Wars; memories of those days are slow to fade. In town after town, he is treated as if he, personally, is the reason that a loved one never came home.

Here is another well-done piece of writing. The plot may be a little simple, intended for younger readers, but it is very much worth the reader's time.

Paul Lappen, Reviewer

Regis' Bookshelf

Searching for Blue Mercury
J.M.E. Flowers
Comfort Publishing, LLC
9450 Moss Plantation Avenue N.W., Concord, NC 28027
1935361007 $17.99 704-782-2353

So how do you know what really goes on deep inside a person's skull? You pass so near to people each day: on the street, in a hallway, standing near you on the subway, sitting next to you on a plane. How do you know who they really are? If you knew they were having horrible thoughts, maybe ideas about murder, would you just move away? Would you call the police?

In J.M.E. Flowers book, Searching for Blue Mercury, you will meet such a person. He is Detective Parker, nicknamed "Blue Mercury" or just "Merc." His boss who is also his best friend has assigned him to a serial killer case because Parker is a topnotch sleuth - or, at least he used to be. Merc and his boss had served time together in Afghanistan as marines where they became war buddies inside and out. Over there, Parker had saved his boss' life by stopping arterial bleeding for endless hours when he could have sprinted to safety.

Lately, however, as much as he favors Parker, his boss notices that Merc seems extremely distraught, possibly heading for a nervous breakdown. He wonders if Parker has seen just too many murder victims - too much horror, too much bloodletting in his life. Trying to act smooth, Merc Parker has taken a rather nonchalant attitude toward the serial killings, as if one more doesn't seem to matter.

In Searching for Blue Mercury, the reader is constantly permitted to see the rather gruesome thoughts that course through Detective Parker's head. He has a recurring dream, a hallucination really, but he cannot force the entirety of the horrible delusion to surface. It slashes the sanctity of his mind and shreds his sanity.

"Parker wanted to die. He wanted to take his father's gun and blast away at everything. To fire and keep firing till everything was dead. Just as he should have done that day He lay there knotted up in a fetal position on the floor and waited for this one to pass."

Parker knows there is a history of psychosis in his genetic makeup. Afraid his daughter will succumb to mental illness, he has the girl confined to a hospital under the care of a well-known but egotistical psychiatrist. The story is very clear about this point: Merc Parker loves his daughter. He adores her and wants her to remain healthy.

He would do anything, anything to save her from the terrors of mental illness he knows his own mother battled and which now trouble him. Although it is hard to imagine any father hospitalizing his offspring to prevent an illness, still, in Searching for Blue Mercury, it seems perfectly reasonable, since the reader is privy to the increasingly disorganized, terrifying thoughts of Detective Parker.

In spite of what police think is disinterest, Merc Parker is deeply engrossed in the serial killings. He obsesses about each one. At times, especially when alone, demons bound into his imagination. He feels the victims being slashed with a knife as if he was their killer. He sees their blood - feels its warmth. He stares into the eyes of a man looking down at him, strangled. He is doused with gasoline and burned. He pictures a body stuffed in a trunk, gasping for air, dying from carbon monoxide poisoning.

Feeling doomed, Merc knows he must get to the bottom of his delusional ranting before complete insanity engulfs him. With his wife, he visits the center where his daughter remains hospitalized. Her psychiatrist wants a conference. During the meeting, Parker cannot concentrate on reality. He attempts to strike out at the psychiatrist but is physically restrained by a muscular attendant whom Parker claims is "on steroids."

As more murders occur, Parker's boss is forced to remove him from the case. Evidence begins to surface which indirectly points to Merc as a suspect. His boss refuses to believe any proof. But as he and other detectives examine the facts and the sometimes psychotic behavior of Parker, Merc indeed seems to be the killer.

More direct, damaging evidence is uncovered. Parker has secretly taken confidential files out of the police bureau and arranged them so any connection between one killing and another is deliberately removed. "There

As Searching for Blue Mercury moves rapidly on, Parker comes closer and closer to a complete break with the outside world.

But can he still mobilize his painful thoughts enough to unravel the pieces of his own broken psyche, the numerous serial killings, his own hellish life, before he is caught by police or mowed down by them in a final life-ending confrontation? Will the story make sense before it ends, or will the reader be left to ponder if Blue Mercury's search for himself ends in a straightjacket?

As a reviewer, I loved this story. The book is extremely well written. Its descriptions of the inner workings of a very troubled mind will leave any reader thankful for their own mental stability, possibly even doubting it at times. The ending and epilogue are such a shocker that I read parts of them twice to make sure they flowed logically from earlier premises. They did! When I looked back at some of the facts presented, it was my own interpretation of that data which set me up wrongly for the unexpected ending.

I would recommend this book to any reader who loves mystery stories, especially those dealing with the human mind. In many ways, it fits the horror genre better than mystery. As a result, it is not a story for the squeamish because it describes scenes some might find too graphic. All in all, it is one of the best tales I've read in a long, long time.

Other Books of Interest

Defending Angels: 425224988

Street Business: 1935361252
Battle Scarred: 1935361201

The Chimera Seed by Matthew Tully
Comfort Publishing, LLC
9450 Moss Plantation Avenue N.W. Concord, NC 28027
1935361325 $15.99 704-782-2353

Reviewed by Regis Schilken, author of the Oculi Incident, The Island off Stony Point, and soon to be published, You Know When.

The Chimera Seed can best be described as a taut, energetic thriller, just the kind of read I like. From its opening pages where you learn that a famed, visionary scientist has died and left his son, Dr. Michael Tiernan, a huge inheritance, the story rolls along and gathers speed like a snowball starting an avalanche down a mountainside.

Matthew Tully is a writer skilled at developing suspense. Tully's The Chimera Seed begins when Michael Tiernan hears of his father's death and travels to a remote area of the Sardinian countryside. There, he learns from his father's best friend about the astonishing Niamh seed.

By no means is the Niamh an ordinary seed. It has been named Chimera because of extremely peculiar properties. When its mature vines produce grapes and they are distilled, one dose of this potent wine-like chemical - Dionysinol - produces anti-aging in a human being. What's more, the drug doesn't just slow down the aging process, it stops it altogether.

Young Dr. Tiernan realizes the financial ramifications of a fountain of youth drug. But he is not as careful with secrecy and testing as his deceased father had been. Now, he determines to make an enormous fortune by marketing his anti-aging Dionysinol. He transports samples of the Dionysinol drug back to Oisinen Pharmaceuticals in the States where he is CEO.

Where Dr. Tiernan is determined to turn his company into a vast profitable empire, equally resolved are competitive pharmaceutical companies to obtain and uncover the secret of the Dionysinol substance, the Niamh seeds, and the engineering process, that turns the Niamh grapes into the immortality drug.

But as clandestine as Dr. Tiernan and his two most trusted chemists are, they get caught up in a ruthless battle that results in espionage and deceit, personal greed, political corruption, and murderous revenge.

Dr. Tiernan learns he has been secretly treated to a dose of Dionysinol by an uncooperative employee. Although not the most moral person, when Tiernan learns that a second dose of the immortality drug is lethal, his sense of morality kicks in. He attempts to locate missing vials before the drug can be manufactured and wreak havoc on all mankind.

Unquestionably, the fast pace of The Chimera Seed is hypnotic. The reader will be transported back and forth across the Atlantic with Dr. Tiernan as he hunts the security leak within his own Oisinen Pharmaceutical Company and his vast vineyards in Sardinia. Like Tiernan, the reader will gradually realize the implication an immortal, increasing population would have, on what would become an ever decreasing food supply.

This book is a must read for those seeking an extremely fast paced story of espionage, intrigue, murder, and at times, deliberately imposed tortuous pain. The main characters are well developed, showing both their self-interest and also their redeeming humanity. Matthew Tully's tale displays real ingenuity with fascinating twists and turns. My suggestion to this writer is: keep writing. I will personally await your other stories. Dan Brown, make room for Matthew Tully.

Other fascinating Titles:
Street Business - 1935361252
Searching for Blue Mercury - 1935361007
High Order - 1935361228

Regis Schilken

Richard's Bookshelf

Season of Devotion
Steven Jacobs
Omega House Publishing
P. O. Box 68, Three Rivers, MI 49093
97809672519473 $10.95

Devotional Analogies for the Hunter

"Season of Devotion" is made up of forty-five devotional writings for the hunter. Each devotional begins with a title which helps the reader focus on the thought or lesson for the day. This is followed with a short illustration drawn from the life of Steven Jacobs, which relates to his personal hunting experiences.

Jacobs introduces an application that identifies important practical spiritual lessons which challenges the reader to reflection, further study, or to take an action step leading to service, evangelism, or spiritual growth. A scripture portion re-enforces the truth presented.

There is an authenticity to Steven's writing that is refreshing and appealing. His writing is Biblically sound, spiritually convicting, and strongly motivating. He invites the reader to find a personal application, encourages assimilating the Word of God into a life of dedicated service, soul searching devotion, and awesome worship.

The final challenge is entitled "Prepare or Despair," using an analogy to the hours of planning and preparation that go into readiness of an hunting or fishing trip, the excitement, and outfitting, and the final day of departure. Steven then asks the question of the reader: "I wonder if you are prepared for the greatest adventure yet to come?" He carefully explains the claims of the Gospel message and the importance of being prepared by accepting God's provision of the gift of grace and salvation through Jesus Christ

Heartwarming and spiritually challenging "Season of Devotion" is top notch reading for any man in a pursuit of or who is hunting for more of God in their lives.

The New American Prosperity
Darby Checketts
Robert D. Reed Publishers
P. O. Box 1992, Bandon, Oregon 97411
9784934759356, $ 12.95

Smart and Happy Ways to Deal Effectively with Road Bumps and Set Backs

Whether your American dream is described with the words: Freedom, happiness, money, possessions, or public recognition Darby Checketts invites the reader to exchange false ambition, to re-define success, and to restore a confidence and determination to move forward.

"The New American Prosperity" is a call for all American's, from entrepreneurs, community planners, government leaders, and the millions of other industrious individuals to join forces to positively alter the political, economic, social, and environment "landscape" of our world.

Darby maintains that emotions of "hurt," "sour," and "bitter" block happiness, that anger and calm cannot co-exist, and that we can deal with the deep rooted results of anger with faith, will power, and love. He encourages the reader to find purpose and meaning in life.

I found myself identifying with the truths and observations of many of the essays especially the one titled "The Age of the Drawers: Simplify Everything." This is something I plan to act on immediately.

The reality of Darby's faith comes through in his writing. He writes practical, powerful, and positive essays and poignant stories that demonstrate true and successful living. The subtitle of this book is: "Refining Success as Smart and Happy versus Rich and Famous." This is exactly what Darby does as he shows from personal example ways to deal with set backs and road bumps in times of personal and economic crisis. He offers timely, down to earth sage advice to help the reader effectively get back on track.

"The New American Prosperity" is a refreshing reminder that (in Darby's words): "Prosperity is about 'feeling blessed' - blessed with good health, which you faithfully protect; blessed with sufficient financial resources to meet your most important needs; and blessed to have others in your life who lovingly join with you in the commitment to be just plain Smart and Happy."

God's Supernatural Power
Frank DeCenso Jr.
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768428322 $16.99

Allowing God to Supernaturally Empower You

"God's Supernatural Power in You" is a compilation of powerful testimonies and edifying stories of God at work in and through twelve individuals committed to allowing God's power to be manifest through their lives. These men and women are well known world leaders, spokesmen, pastors, and Bible teachers.

Frank DeCenso Jr. has drawn illustrations from the experiences of these anointed servants to demonstrate how God's supernatural power is being evidenced as it brings change to individuals and entire communities resulting in an impact on nations, around the world. Each story, experience, or contribution is chosen based on how it will edify and equip the members of the body of Christ to walk God's power.

The individual chapters include discussion on spiritual warfare, power, ministry, intimacy, keys to revival, power for healing, evangelism, as well as five other important basic essentials to creating a church where ministry is taught, adapted, and applied. At the end of each chapter two or three pages are provided for "Notes and Applications." These pages present an opportunity for the reader to record impressions, challenges, and plans for applying the power principles gleaned from the chapter. These exercises provide an excellent way for assimilation of the material, a quick review, or meditative reflection at a later time.

"God's Supernatural Power" is filled with powerful writing, practical principles, convicting challenges, and convincing truths. DeCenso's writing is articulate, positive, perceptive, and penetrating encouraging personal application, while rewarding the reader with God's supernatural power within.

Supernatural Healing
Sid Roth and Linda Josef
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 1725-0310
9780768428315 $16.99

Testimonies and Stories of Miracles and Healings

Sid Roth and Linda Josef have compiled and edited testimonies and stories of miraculous healing, deliverance, and freedom in "Super Natural Healing: Stories of the Miraculous." These are stories of lives changed from hopelessness and despair to conquest and triumph, and of breaking the pattern of destructive family curses. These are stories which reveal the power of the God working in miraculous ways throughout the world today.

The book is made up of real life testimonies telling of miraculous healings and supernatural manifestations. The stories are faith building examples which illustrate how God is pouring out His Spirit in accordance with the words of Jesus in John 12: 12-14, " greater works than these will he do, because I go to My Father."

Helpful suggestions at the end of each chapter contain "What I Can Do" instructions for applying principles of healing to our own life situations in personal and practical ways. These directives encourage the reader to receive the promises of God in answered prayer, experience Holy Spirit anointing, and receive healing. Roth provides steps for putting the "power of agreement" to work for you. He gives important suggestions for observing the Lord's Supper and lessons from the Passover.

This edition of the book includes a bonus feature, an excerpt from his book "The Incomplete Church" in which Sid shows lessons learned from his own early Christian experience as he learned the importance of knowing "When the Pattern is Right."

"Supernatural Healing" presents Yeshua (Jesus) to anyone seeking God's healing, deliverance, or the freedom and forgiveness of sin.

Find Your Promised Land
Israel Kim
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768428360, $16.99

A Wilderness Journey From Egypt to Canaan

In his book "Find Your Promised Land" Israel Kim recounts incidents from his own experience and ministry and allow the reader to identify with glimpses into Kim's personal wilderness journey and to learn from the lessons he personally gained through the process.

Kim skillfully leads the reader in an exploration of wonderful revelations and instruction from the history of Israel in their exodus from Egypt, through the Red Sea experience and all the way through their wilderness journey.

Kim contends that every Christian needs to go through a wilderness experience which results in surrender to the way of holiness, to receive a spiritual anointing, and to operate within the supernatural power of God.

Kim talks about living beyond the ordinary expecting to see signs and wonders, developing a spiritual journey that leads to a personal intimate relationship with God, while enjoying a life filled with the power of the Holy Spirit.

"Find Your Promised Land" is Biblically sound and filled with practical wisdom. Kim challenges the reader to rise above a "slave mentality," to begin a brand new identity, and to defeat adversity to become a person of character.

In the feature "Points to Ponder" Kim asks soul searching questions which lead the reader to finding freedom under the "hedge" of God's protection, healing, and deliverance.

Kim's writing is strong, openly transparent, anointed, and inspired. "Finding Your Promised Land" will make it possible you to embrace your wilderness journey and to move forward triumphantly into your promised land.

Supernatural Living
Larry Kreider and Dennis De Grasse
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768428377 $16.99

Discover, Receive, Experience and Exhibit Your Supernatural Spiritual Gifts

"Supernatural Living" presents comprehensive biblical teaching and hands-on steps for life application. The book includes examples from the scriptures and from actual contemporary life stories of the miraculous healing, as well as miracles of salvation, God's provision, restoration, and renewal. Larry Kreider and Dennis De Grasse have worked together in this effort to compile a wide-ranging biblical study on the nine supernatural spiritual gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Kreider and De Grasse have categorized three general groups of spiritual gifts: motivation gifts, gifts of leadership, and supernatural gifts. They classify the three groups of the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit as discernment, demonstration, and declaration gifts.

Dennis and Larry speak of personal occurrences from their own life experiences that point up how we can respond to the prodding and whisper of the Holy Spirit allowing Him to impart His gifts to us. They encourage the reader to take a step beyond their personal safety zones to step out into a life of radical Christianity or supernatural living.

The last section of the book is of vital importance as it deals with the assimilating of these lessons into practice. The authors make it easy for the reader to understand the importance of waiting on God, listening for His Holy Spirit's instruction, relinquishing self to draw on His resources and to allow these guidelines for following the leading of the Holy Spirit.

The book is comprehensive, thoroughly researched and well documented. "Supernatural Living" is and important edition that should be included in the working library of every serious follower of Christ, every pastor, Bible teacher, and lay leader. Destined to become a classic on the teaching of the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Overcoming Crisis
Myles Munroe
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768430523 $15.99

Practical Principles for Thriving Through Crisis

Best selling author, business consultant, and international speaker Myles Munroe becomes mentor and coach to the reader in his book "Overcoming Crisis." He offers the reader encouragement and challenges them to develop attitudes and principles which will help them to reach their true personal potential. He gives practical advice for converting crisis into opportunity for growth.

Munroe speaks directly to the heart of the issues as he talks about the emotional responses we face in days of crisis and the resultant consequences of these responses. He skillfully helps the reader determine direction for turning crisis experiences into opportunities. He uses the Biblical example of Joseph to illustrate this principle. Monroe contends that management is the number one "Kingdom Key" for overcoming crisis. He introduces and explores in detail seven keys for managing crisis.

Each fast moving chapter is packed with valuable guiding principles and strategies for meeting issues head-on in any kind of crisis, deployment, and for maximizing the resolution of crisis.

The final chapter is entitled "10 Ways to Rise Above Crisis." Through this chapter Munroe adds permanence to the lasting value of the book. Similar to the chorus or last refrain of a song, these reminders capture the essence of the earlier impressions and principles. This chapter should be read and reread often.

Munroe's writing is faithful to the scriptures, financially sound, and economically realistic. This is a book for pastor and layman alike. It is enjoyable reading, ideal for future reference, a guideline for repeated referral, for deeper study, personal application and assimilation.

After God's Own Heart
Mike Bickle
Charisma House
600 Rinehart Rd., Lake Mary, Florida 32746
9781599795300 $14.99

Discovering the Joy of Intimate Encounters with God

"After God's Own Heart" introduces the reader to God's tenderness, His holiness, love, and matchless beauty. Mike Bickle writes to enable the reader to better understand the passion and delights of God so that, like King David of the scriptures, they might become men and women made confident to enter into the experience and pleasure of meeting God, as well as other men and women who long after and replicate the God's heart. Bickle describes a principle of transformation, which he has labeled "beholding and becoming." He encourages the reader to discover ways that God enjoys his followers. Mike helps the reader realize how fasting "tenderizes the man's heart to release supernatural joy.

Mike points out that God is the author of true pleasure and that this pleasure springs from His very personality. He draws attention to examples from the New Testament which demonstrate and exemplify the experience that are the result of a fresh encounter with God which touch his heart, reveal His richness, and His righteousness.

The format of the book lends itself to ease in reading with highlights for review. It is filled with powerful direction for personal application, and assimilation into the life of the reader.

Bickel's writing is deeply important, his message is life altering. His is a fresh call to whole-hearted dedication and a fixed heart of commitment. "After God's Own Heart" is a stirring summons to discover new insights and perspectives on how to experience an intimacy with God the Father, the creator and with Christ Jesus, the Son and redeemer.

Richard R. Blake

Theodore's Bookshelf

The Dark Horse
Craig Johnson
c/o Putnam
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780670020874 $24.95 800-847-5515

When a woman is housed in his jail, Sheriff Walt Longmire is not convinced she is guilty of the murder of her husband. Even though the murder took place in an adjoining jurisdiction and she confessed, with the murder weapon in her lap, something doesn't smell right to Walt, who undertakes to conduct an investigation undercover.

Walt goes to the small town in which the incident took place in the guise of a representative of an insurance company because in addition to the murder, a barn with six horses and the house in which the murder victim was found lying in his bed burned down. He encounters a diverse set of unusual characters, as well as a series of dangerous adventures. Along the way he comes to the conclusion that nearly everyone in town wanted the victim dead.

The plot, as usual for this author, unfolds against the rugged Wyoming landscape, and is written in the sparse style of the previous four novels in the series. After 24 years as Sheriff, Walt is running for another two-year term, but is too busy to campaign. The story flashes back and forth between Walt's efforts to get the accused to help him learn what happened, and his actual investigation. The casual humor of Walt's under-deputy, together with the sharp repartee, provides a light touch to the otherwise grim tale. As the story progresses, the reader is kept guessing right down to the final chapter.


Little Lamb Lost
Margaret Fenton
Oceanview Publishing
61 Paradise Rd., Ipswich, MA 01938
9781933515519 $25.95 800-829-7062

This debut novel takes a look at a dedicated social worker, Claire Conover, who doesn't believe that her client murdered her two-year-old son with an overdose, despite the fact that she pled guilty and was sentenced to prison. Previously Claire had returned the baby, who had been put in foster care, to the mother after the latter cleaned up her act, was sober for 18 months and was working two jobs.

There is no shortage of suspects and Claire continues to be haunted by her belief that someone other than the mother was guilty of the crime. Warnings to close the case, threats of losing her job, and caution that her life could be in danger do not deter her from her efforts to "reach the truth."

For a first effort, the novel moves fluidly and maintains the reader's interest with excellent descriptions and a solid plot. It provides an insider's insights into the human resources system and foster care [as well as a native's knowledge of Birmingham, Alabama], and is recommended.

Phillip Margolin
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780061236235 $26.99 800-242-7737

Amanda Jaffe and her father are leading criminal defense attorneys in Oregon, having won high profiles cases outlined in previous novels in the series. Each is separately presented with another challenging defendant in the current novel.

The wife of a U.S. Congressman is charged with conspiring to have her husband murdered, but Frank Jaffe obtains evidence to convince the DA to drop the charges "with prejudice." Meanwhile, her co-defendant, accused of committing the murder, flees the country to an African nation ruled by a sadistic dictator whose idol is Idi Amin. After 12 years, he returns to face the charges (and to escape the wrath of his erstwhile benefactor). Amanda's challenge is not only to exonerate her client, but to protect him from being killed by two separate, but equally dangerous, persons who wish him dead.

The combination of the author's intimate legal knowledge and his ability to maintain a suspenseful pace in a firmly written story keeps the reader intrigued from start to finish. Recommended.

The Calling
Inger Ash Wolfe
Mariner Books
c/o Harcourt
222 Berkeley St., Boston, MA 02116
9780156033985 $13.95 617-351-5419,

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, it should be read for its well-constructed flow, and is recommended.

Shadows Still Remain
Peter De Jonge
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780061373541 $25.99 212-207-7000/800-242-7737,

The statement is made that this is a debut novel, although the author has co-written two books with Richard Patterson previously. Be that as it may, this solo effort s an impressive one. It introduces a troubled but determined protagonist, Darlene O'Hara, a detective in a lower East Side New York precinct.

One day, O'Hara catches a missing person case and starts working it diligently. But after three days, the investigation becomes a homicide case and she is told to keep away from it and leave it to the specialists, including a star detective from Homicide South. However, she can't let go and defies orders, attempting to solve the crime, until she is finally suspended. And she still goes on.

The author, a skilled journalist and researcher, spent three months riding around with NYPD detectives, absorbing routine and the smells and sights of the Lower East Side neighborhoods, and his descriptions attest to his powers of observation. Several chapters are introduced by dark, brooding photos of various sites in the neighborhoods (taken by Daina Zivarts, the author's wife).

Only one fault was found by this graduate of NYU: a description of a windbreaker worn by a co-ed is said to be purple and white. As any alumnus (alumna) of NYU knows, the school's color is Violet. Another criticism relates to several typographical errors; while not detracting from the quality of the novel, it certainly is unexpected from a publisher like Harper.

All that aside, go and get a copy. You'll enjoy. Recommended.

The Chameleon Conspiracy
Haggai Carmon
Leisure Fiction
c/o Dorcheester
200 Madison Ave., NY, NY 10016
9780843961911 $7.99 800-481-9191,

Dan Gordon makes his third appearance in this novel which combines elements of money laundering, terrorist financing and other assorted national security breaches. Gordon is an unusual protagonist, having a background with the Israeli Mossad as well as being an international lawyer and an employee of the U.S. Department of Justice.

The plot involves Iranian agents and one in particular who Gordon labels The Chameleon, who fraudulently bilks banks of millions of dollars, transferring the proceeds to terrorist activities. The efforts to identify the perpetrators combine the talents of the CIA, FBI and other agencies, both domestic and foreign, and Gordon's travels all over the world including Europe, Australia, Israel and clandestinely to Iran.

Over-all, the inner workings of such investigative efforts are minutely detailed, relying heavily on the author's background as an international attorney and his work for various Federal agencies in intelligence-gathering. The story is imaginative, if not often overwhelming, in scope and detail.

Dining with Devils
Gordon Aalborg
Five Star
295 Kennedy Memorial Drive, Waterville, Maine 04901
9781594147494 $25.95 207-859-1000

In "The Specialist," the predecessor novel, the serial killer, cannibal Dr. Ralph Stafford, is presumed dead in a cave in Vancouver. The story of his exploits and how Kirsten Knelsen escaped from his clutches, presumably having left him abandoned in a mine, is told in a true crime novel by her boyfriend, Randall Teague [in a till-now unconsummated relationship]. The present volume picks up the story from that point, with Kendall and Kirsten in Tasmania, he on a book signing tour.

The novel opens with a gundog [a combination hunting dog/retriever] judge being shot and murdered, and the beginning of the convoluted inter-relationships of the various elements of the plot being investigated by Sgt. Charlie Barnes. It takes a lot of skill and intuition to go from link to link, clue to clue, before it all begins to make sense. Among the players are Kendall's ex-wife; a dope addict; ex-Vietnam Vet; the [presumed dead] serial killer; and an 80-year-old ex-cop with a vicious dog; among others.

The author's descriptions of the characters are truly exceptional, and the plot development excellent. Written with ease, the story unfolds slowly and carefully, providing sufficient action to keep the reader's interest throughout.


Palos Verdes Blue
John Shannon
Pegasus Books
80 Broad St., NY, NY 10005
9781605980379 $25.00 212-504-2494

The various components of the 11th Jack Liffey novel are so dysfunctional and bewildering that it is almost impossible to summarize the plot. Liffey's family includes an ex-wife who yearns for him (or someone), a daughter who has just had an abortion after a brief, intense affair with a gang leader, and a girlfriend-op who can't make up her mind about their relationship. Other characters are even more dysfunctional.

As Gloria, the girlfriend, describes him: "Jack is a piece of work. When you/re with him, it's always a matter of adapting to the circumstances on some Mars mission, one that's just about to go totally out of control."

A "finder" of lost children, Jack is asked by his ex-wife to help a friend locate her missing daughter, called "Blue." She's a lovely, talented and smart young woman deep into ecology, the saving of the Palos Verdes Blue butterfly, and helping to feed Mexican illegals, as a result of which she gets mixed up with a bunch of neo-Nazis. As he delves into the investigation, Jack witnesses the changes and disparities in the area among the "haves" and "have-nots," the rich kids, surfers and "illegals."

The writing is good and entertaining, but somehow the novel tends to drift from topic to topic, complicated by the introduction of new (and sometimes extraneous) ideas without explanation and the insertion of letters from a few of the characters which are intended to move the story forward, but, instead, tended to slow this reader down. That said, the writing is inventive, and the author's story-telling abilities shine.

Bill Pronzini
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780765318190 $254.95 212-388-0100,

A couple of unrelated cases walked in the door of the agency as the Nameless Detective sat at his desk one Monday morning. He wasn't even supposed to be there, now that he is semi-retired and taking Mondays off. The first case involved two brothers from a little town north of San Francisco who were being stalked by an unknown person for no apparent reason. The other was an assignment from an insurance company on a claim for the theft of eight valuable first edition mysteries, ranging from Conan Doyle to Hammett.

Jake Runyon took over the stalking case, doggedly following his nose from obscure clue to even more obtuse lead. Pure detective work, slow but sure. Far more fascinating is the insurance claim which Nameless pursues. It is worthy of a Conan Doyle or Poe and ultimately illustrates Sherlock Holmes' observation that if you eliminate the impossible, what remains is the most likely.

Written with the smoothness exhibited in the preceding volumes in the series, "Schemers" is in keeping with the classic tradition of whodunnits. As always, Nameless gives the reader something to think about.


The Kill Call
Stephen Booth
77-85 Fulham Palace Rd., Hammersmith, London @6 8JB, England
9780007243457 17.99 BPS

[Note: This book is not yet available in the US, only in/through the UK/Canada at this time.]

The uneasy relationship between DS Diane Fry and DC Ben Cooper is prevalent throughout this murder mystery, part of the author's continuing series featuring the two protagonists. At first, the body of a well-dressed man found on a moor with his head bashed in seems to be a straightforward police investigation,

However, the inquiry broadens into a lot more, involving illegal horse slaughter, the conflict from supporters of the hunt and saboteurs opposing that "sport," and a look not only into the 16th century Black Plague which nearly wiped out the local population, including many of Cooper's forbears, but also events that took place during the 1960's. And those that lead to the recent past as well as the present.

The depth of the look into the personalities of the two protagonists - which of course play a major role in how they go about their investigations - is insightful and penetrating, and they are always given intriguing mysteries to solve their insecurities. These are always tightly-plotted and read well, and the book is recommended.

In the Dark
Brian Freeman
Minotaur Books
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312363291 $24.95 646-307-5560

To oversimplify the plot, an 18-year-old girl was murdered - bashed all over by a baseball bat - in 1977. She was the sister of Lt. Jonathan Stride's wife, Cindy. Stride is now head of detectives at the Duluth PD. Currently, there is a peeper at large in the area and Stride and his associate, Maggie, are attempting to find him.

There is no evidence that the present and past cases are inter-related, at least not until a woman, a friend from Cindy's and her sister's past, comes to town, writing a book about the 1977 murder. Her efforts set off a series of events which lead to an unexpected denouement.

In an emotional novel, the stories of each of the characters unfold in graphic detail. Written with a chilling eye, the novel recounts the love and perversions of the past and how they affect the present. A very good read, and recommended.

Chasing the Bear
Robert B. Parker
c/o Penguin
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780399247767 $14.99 800-847-5515,

While published as a "young reader novel," this book is really fit for all Spenser fans, and reflects the author's usual sharp prose. It begins with Spenser and Susan sitting on a park bench; she draws out the hard-boiled and famously reticent detective about his childhood, as any good Harvard-trained psychiatrist might. Spenser reluctantly complies.

That's how we learn about the early days of Spenser, how he grew up in a home of four males: his father and two uncles and himself. Illustrations of the "family" life and lessons taught abound, the boxing lessons and the 14-year-old Spenser's experiences which laid the foundations for his future beliefs and actions.

To reiterate, don't be fooled by the "young readers" label. Adults, and especially Spenser fans, will enjoy learning about the character formation, and the writing is pure Parker and hardly less so on an adult level. The dialogue is sparkling and the short novel is a quick read. Recommended.

The Scarecrow
Michael Connelly
Little Brown
237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10169
9780316166300 $27.99 800-759-0190,

It's been a long time since Michael Connelly was a crime reporter, but the experience has certainly given him plenty to write about. In "The Scarecrow," he chronicles the dying newspaper industry with the emergence of electronic journalism, while writing a first-rate murder mystery. It brings back FBI agent Rachel Walling, who saved Jack McEvoy's life in "The Poet," providing hope for the future after he is RIF'd [i.e., 'reduction in force'] from the LA Times.

But in his last two weeks at the paper, McEvoy undertakes to investigate whether a 16-year-old Watts boy is really guilty of murder and starts developing evidence that there is another serial killer out there. Once again, the author turns to new technology. In "The Poet," a fax machine was crucial; in this novel, the internet and computers play central roles.

As is usual, Connelly's prose and plot are sharp, and the background deep and authentic. Enough said. Highly recommended.

The Way Home
George Pelecanos
Little Brown
237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10169
9780316156493 $24.99 800-759-0190

The nation's Capital continues to provide a searing background for the Bard of the District: the "haves" and "have-nots," the "good" and "bad" neighborhoods, the violence-prone, the whites and blacks. These are the factors that contribute to this tale of the life of Christopher Flynn, a white boy brought up in a middle class family in a privileged DC neighborhood who goes bad as a teenager.

After a stint in juvenile detention, Chris, along with some of his friends from that facility, goes to work for his father in a menial job as a carpet installer. One day he and his buddy, Ben, find a bag full of cash while working on a job. Chris convinces Ben to leave the bag where they found it and walk away. However, Ben tells one of their ex-inmates about it, whereupon the latter steals the money leading to disastrous and tragic results.

Insightful and penetratingly deep, the novel examines the relationships between father and son, the son's development as a person, and the personalities of the various characters and how they interact. Pelecanos' understanding of the motivations of the types of people he writes about is outstanding and his ability to convey their speech and thoughts superb. Highly recommended.

Road Dogs
Elmore Leonard
William Morrow
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 0022
9780061733147 $26.99 212-207-7000/800-242-7737

Elmore Leonard brings back three characters from prior novels in this amusing tale of subterfuge: Jack Foley from "Out of Sight," Cundo Rey from "La Brava," and Dawn Navarro from "Riding the Rap." Jack and Cundo are serving time in a Florida prison and become friendly, taking care of each other, watching each other's back, in prison parlance, "road dogs." Jack is serving a 30-year sentence, Cundo seven-and-a-half. Then Cundo retains his lady lawyer to bring an appeal for Jack. She gets his sentence reduced to three months, with Jack scheduled to be released a short time before Cundo, who pays his way to Venice, CA, and lets him live in one of his two homes there (one worth $4 million, the other $2.5 million).

Dawn Navarro lives in the other home, supposedly waiting for Cundo, celibate, for seven-and-a-half years. Sure. What she is doing is waiting to cash in on Cundo's wealth, scheming with anyone she can find or think of. When Cundo finally returns to California, the fun just begins, and Jack is caught in the midst of all the plotting and scheming, using his wits and intuition to stay ahead.

As in all Elmore Leonard books, the novel is written with panache, plotted carefully and is very funny. It is also highly recommended.

Intent to Kill
James Grippando
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780061628689 $25.99 212-207-7000/800-242-7737

Ryan James was a promising third baseman destined to play for the Boston Red Sox until his wife, Chelsea, was killed in an auto accident on the way to watch him play in the last game of the Pawtucket farm team's season. Then his world fell apart and he suffered from insomnia, effectively ending his playing days. Instead, he started working as a sports talk jockey on a Boston radio station, but remained close to his in-laws and autistic brother-in-law, nicknamed "babes."

Three years later, Babes runs away from home and eventually calls into Ryan's program "confessing" to having been the cause of Chelsea's death. The plot progresses from that point: Was he guilty or not? If not, does he know who really is responsible? The radio show becomes the only means of communication with Babes, as Ryan attempts to reel him in and get to the bottom of Chelsea's death.

The novel is paced at a good clip, with polished writing and a believable progression. Smooth reading, and recommended.

Theodore Feit

Victoria's Bookshelf

Lisa Jackson
Kensington Publishing Corp.
850 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10022
9780758211842 $24.00

New Orleans Detective Rick Bentz awakens from a coma to see his dead wife standing in the doorway of his hospital room. After he's released his ex-wife Jennifer pops up over and over. It might not be so strange if the woman weren't dead.

When a manila envelope arrives with photos of Jennifer and a death certificate with a red question mark, Bentz starts to wonder if his ex is alive. If she's not, then who's doing this and what game are they playing? To find out he must return to Los Angeles and try to find the truth.

The path of discovery leads down a winding and bloody trail. It's a search that may rob Rick Bentz of those he holds most dear and destroy his sanity as well.

I enjoyed Malice. It's well written and the little twists and turns kept me interested in the story. Portions of the story included a look into the perpetrator's mind and gave me the willies. I'm not sure I want insight into a person like that's mind. For more information on Lisa Jackson and the books she's written, go to:

Almost Perfect: Disabled Pets and the People Who Love Them
Edited by Mary A. Shafer
Word Forge Books
PO Box 97, Ferndale, PA 18921
9780977132928 $12.95

Would you willingly take in a disabled pet and give it the best life you could? Almost Perfect tells the stories of women who did just that. They took in brave, wonderful animals badly in need of compassion, care and love. Without the women's kindness these trusting, sweet little creatures would not have survived. It took courage to give Cagney the crippled rat, Colbi, the blind husky-shepherd mix, Idgie, the blind cat, Ruby, the dog on wheels, Pink, the hairless dog and all the other animals a home. But none of the women felt disappointed or regretted their life changing decisions.

Each story wove a tale that tore at my heart as well as warmed it. Animals deserve our love and respect. It gave me hope to see so many caring and concerned people willing to chance hurt or possible failure in their humane undertakings.

Almost Perfect is an eye-opening look at disabled pets, and the joy they can bring to our lives. I recommend it to all animal lovers for inspiration, joy and hope in an often cruel and senseless world. For more information go to:

Mazurka: A Gus LeGarde Mystery
Aaron Paul Lazar
Twilight Times Books
P.O. Box 3340, Kingsport, TN 37664
9781606191606 $16.95

This latest addition to the Gus LeGarde Mystery Series opens with Gus and his new wife Camille on their honeymoon flight to Europe. They're accompanied by Gus's brother-in-law, Siegfried, a lovable giant of a man who suffered a brain injury in childhood. He's going to visit his ailing German aunt who's called him to Europe. Gus and Camille invited Siegfried to travel with them and plan to leave him at his aunt's while they continue their honeymoon journey.

They're in for a surprise when they reach Paris, for a large group of Neo-Nazis have descended on the city to wreak their havoc and spread their hate. The three Americans become caught up in all the drama and suddenly find they've become targets of the group. The danger worsens and it begins to look like Gus and Camille should have stayed home for they may not make it back alive.

I enjoyed the story. It kept me on edge, wondering what would happen next. The picturesque descriptions of Paris are charming and made me feel as if I were there with Gus and Camille. The book is both heartwarming and chilling at the same time. You'll have to read it to see what I mean. Check out Aaron Paul Lazar's other books at:, or

Crossing the Centerline
Allan E. Ansorge
Echelon Press
9735 Country Meadows Lane1-D, Laurel, MD 20723
9781590806357 $13.99

Detective Michael McCaffery is house-sitting his friend and ex-partner, Carl Fletcher's boat while Carl's away getting his Captain's credentials. Mike's awaked one morning by an odd clicking noise. When he goes outside to investigate he finds a body in the water.

The authorities find five ID's on the body and it becomes obvious to Mike that someone is after Carl. Carl was in an accident a few years earlier that left him crippled and killed his fiancee. Now what looked like an accident begins to look like a hit. When Mike goes to the file room in the sheriff's office, he finds the case file missing on Carl's accident.

Carl returns to town to find himself in danger and his boat hidden from sight. His only alternative is to move in with his bossy mother in her retirement home. The two men fill Carl's mother, Maggie, in on the details and she decides they need to work together to find out who's after her son and why. The trio must find the perp before he or she succeeds in taking Carl's life.

I found Crossing the Centerline a well written tale, both engaging, and humorous. It grabbed my interest on the first page and kept it. The characters are likable, the action fast paced. It's a great read and one I would recommend to anyone who enjoys a good mystery. For more information you can go to:

Victoria Kennedy

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

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