Return to home
page Book Reviews, Book Lover Resources, Advice for Writers and Publishers
Home / Reviewer's Bookwatch

Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 11, Number 12 December 2011 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Ann's Bookshelf Applegate's Bookshelf
Bethany's Bookshelf Buhle's Bookshelf Burroughs' Bookshelf
Carson's Bookshelf Christy's Bookshelf Crocco's Bookshelf
Daniel's Bookshelf Gary's Bookshelf Gloria's Bookshelf
Gorden's Bookshelf Harwood's Bookshelf Heidi's Bookshelf
Henry's Bookshelf Karyn's Bookshelf Katherine's Bookshelf
Logan's Bookshelf Margaret's Bookshelf Murray's Bookshelf
Paul's Bookshelf Peggy's Bookshelf Richard's Bookshelf
Riva's Bookshelf Sandra's Bookshelf Suzie's Bookshelf
Theodore's Bookshelf    

Reviewer's Choice

My Get-Up-and-Go Got Up and Went
Eileen McDargh, CSP, CPAE
Loch Lomond Press
33465 Dosinia, Dana Point, CA 92629
9780962319037, $15.00,

Bonnie Jo Davis

The author Eileen McDargh, CSP, CPAE is the queen of "Energy" and "Resiliency" and these two topics are the focus of this softcover book. What Eileen is offering in "My Get-Up-and-Go Got Up and Went!: Simple ways to recharge your batteries and renew your life" is 71 1/2 tips to help you renew and recharge your life.

This book is perfect for the overwhelmed, burned out and depressed. The tips are bite sized and are meant to be read one a day randomly. Eileen begins the book with a two page introduction that discusses what the reader might be experiencing in their overwhelming and stressful life. Eileen explains how to use the book and discusses her theory about energy. She says "Consider this book your energy boost. Don't read it in one sitting. Just open it up and whatever page you find, allow the words to sink into your mind and then-just for today-try the one thing you read. Your plate is already too full for anything else. You don't need MORE to do. You just need one step for relief."

I am one of the millions of people juggling too much and working too hard for too little reward. I found this book to be comforting and some of the tips I knew about but the reminder was appreciated. The majority of her tips and stories are new to me and found all of them enormously helpful. My favorites are:

1. Breathe deeply.

2. Put a lid on perfection.

34. Turn off the news.

43. Make peace with the past.

68. Tune out.

This book was a revelation for me. I'm taking more time for me and strengthening my boundaries around other people. The message of the book can be summarized with "If you don't take care of yourself, you can't take care of anyone else!" Buy this book for yourself and give it as a gift to everyone in your life who needs it.

The Envoy
Alex Kershaw
Da Capo Press
c/o Perseus Books Group
11 Cambridge Center, Cambridge, MA 02142
9780306820434, $16.00,

Clark Isaacs

When World War II was coming to a close many Jewish exiles felt they were safe living in Budapest Hungary. Thousands of families came to live in ghettos and were segregated from the rest of the Hungarian community in what they thought would be a safe haven from the Nazi war machine.

Alex Kershaw's "The Envoy: The Epic Rescue of the Last Jews of Europe in the Desperate Closing Months of World War II" describes the efforts of Raoul Wallenberg to save over 100,000 Jews from the gas chambers of Auschwitz and other death camps. Wallenberg was a 30-year-old Swede who came from a well-respected family that was very active in diplomatic circles. His education had been worldly in both the United States and travel to the Mideast, which had been encouraged by his grandfather.

Wallenberg was able to use his negotiating skills to obtain funds for the rescue of Jews in Budapest from the United States American ambassador in Stockholm. He received $200,000 from the War Refugee Board in Washington and other support for his rescue mission. When he started his quest, an estimated 12,000 Hungarian Jews died in Auschwitz every day. Upon getting his clearance and funds, he left immediately to begin saving lives.

Kershaw has brought to light the efforts of one man to save so many from the holocaust by his heroic intervention. Wallenberg has received little notoriety in comparison to others like "Shindler's List" where an estimated few hundred were saved.

The research done by Kershaw is outstanding. He was able to reference conversations he had with survivors, family, and others who had direct knowledge of the events, that Wallenberg had been a part.

Throughout the book, the stories of several survivors are related. How they interacted with Wallenberg and the impact that he made upon their life. What makes this an outstanding tribute is the way Kershaw makes the characters' lives seem real as in an historical novel. Yet, they are the documented truth!

One of the ways that Wallenberg saved lives was his creation of a document he called the Shutzpass. He issued thousands of these passes to Jews who had any connection with Sweden. The connection could be they had written a letter to someone there, or had purchased goods. These were safe passage passes, which saved people from a trip to the gas chambers. Once they had these passes, they lived in secret safe houses established throughout Budapest by Wallenberg.

When the Soviets drove the Nazis out of Budapest, Wallenberg voluntarily went to seek assistance for the Jews that remained. He disappeared in 1947 behind the Soviet curtain. Since that time, his family never gave up hope and tried in vain to find him.

There have been only two foreign people given Honorary United States Citizenship. One of them was Winston Churchill. The other is Raoul Wallenberg who was bestowed this honor by President Ronald Regan as he eulogized him on October 5, 1981 when he said, "What he did, what he accomplished, was of biblical proportions." A monumental 5 star book.

Sandra Brown
Grand Central Publishing
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9781455501472, $15.69,

Edward Gordon, Reviewer

"Lethal" (Grand Central Publishing, 2011) is Sandra Brown's latest crime thriller. It's a suspense novel about a widowed woman named Honor and her daughter, Emily, who are kidnapped (sort of) by a sexy undercover FBI agent named Coburn.

Coburn's on the run from a handful of cops and other agents who are on the corrupt payroll of the Bookkeeper, a shadowy villain who will stop at nothing to cover his or her tracks and kill anyone who tries to stop him (or her). As it turns out, Honor is unknowingly in possession of some very revealing information that can bring the Bookkeeper down, and the Bookkeeper knows it. So Coburn isn't really kidnapping them; rather he's saving their lives.

But even after taking all that into consideration, one quickly comes to the realization that the story revolves on only two main questions: Who is the Bookkeeper, and how many times will Honor and Coburn have sex?

Sandra brown is an ex-romance writer who apparently likes to keep the pornographic alive in her crime thrillers, no matter how stupid or out of place it comes across. The sexual theater of Honor and Coburn more often than not feels cut and pasted into the story rather than growing organically from it. In my opinion, the sex works only to slow down an otherwise fast-moving plot.

Ironically, while she ramps up the love/sex between Honor and Coburn she under-treats her most interesting character in the story, an assassin for the Bookkeeper named Diego. The life of Diego and the prostitute he rescues (instead of killing as ordered) is the truly romantic aspect of this story, and the treatment of Diego's character is deeper than either that of Honor or Coburn. Unfortunately, That results in an unbalanced story that leaves the reader wanting to know more about a minor character than any of the major ones.

But even if the main characters are thinner than the paper they're written on and the plot is so linear that even riders on the shortest bus could follow it, it is - in the end - a fun and fast read.

"Lethal" may be formula work, but Sandra Brown has some sixty novels to her credit, almost all of which have been bestsellers, and she knows how to write a story that will keep you turning the pages; without a doubt, this one does too. There's even an unexpected twist at the end, which I'll leave for you to discover.

"Lethal" in hardcover is very reasonably priced at ($15.69), and it's available on Kindle as well. It may not be "Silence of the Lambs," but it's certainly an entertaining read worth picking up.

Paul Fussell
Oxford University Press
198 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10016-4314
9780195030686, $9.99,

J. White, Ph.D.

Abroad: British Literary Traveling Between the Wars is a spectacular book (by cultural historian Paul Fussell) that deals with the great age of interwar travel--especially the 1930's. Gertrude Stein describes the modern world as a "space of time that is filled always filled with moving" (The Gradual Making of the Making of Americans 239 - 58). Fussell's Abroad expresses just this sense of movement. Much of this travel is from imperial metropolitan centers (especially London) to colonial spaces. Colonialism (industrialized, mechanized, and modernized) provided a vehicle for expanded movement abroad as we can see in Fussell's book. Moreover, voyages, expeditions, and passages overseas became increasingly attractive after the apocalypse of the Great War. In "Frozen Oranges," Paul Fussell observes that many soldiers longed to escape the troglodyte world of the trenches of Northern France (where oranges froze solid in the winter) for other worlds far away: "'far, far from Ypres I long to be,' they sang, and if for some the land of their dreams at the end of the long trail was simply 'home,' for others it was distinctly 'abroad'" (4). Fussell notes that the desire to escape the "grey world" (Paul Bowles, The Sheltering Sky) for a "warm world somewhere else" (4) contributed to literary diasporas that many have associated with Modernism; from Corfu, Lawrence Durrell asks (in 1936), "is there no one writing at all in England now?" (11). In "See It with Someone You Like," we see that Fussell's subjects are essentially post-war bohemians seeking escape from the past, suffocating parochialism, PTSD, or all of the above. The wandering writers (W.H. Auden, Christopher Isherwood, D.H. and Frieda Lawrence, etc.) of the post-war period are representative of the peripatetic Lost Generation that Malcolm Cowley describes in Exile's Return: "they were seceding from the old and yet could adhere to nothing new; they groped their way toward another scheme of life, as yet undefined" (9). However, Fussell reminds us (like Whitman) that it is always the journey and never the destination that matters. His brilliant voyage through interwar travelogue takes the reader back to some of the most intriguing moments in transnational modernism. Memorable chapters include: "Nowhere to Go," "I Hate it Here" (my personal favorite), "The Travel Atmosphere," and "The Englishness of It All." Abroad: British Literary Traveling Between the Wars is highly recommended for those interested in 20th Century history and criticism--or just wry wit and "L'Amour de Voyage" (virtual or otherwise).

Catch and Release
J. T. Twerell
Living Word Publications
P.O. Box 958
North Hollywood, CA 91603
9780615556857, $14.95,

Kaye Trout

Quoting from the back cover:

"From the award winning author, J.T. Twerell, comes a new romance/suspense novel, Catch and Release. Two lives from vastly different backgrounds, drawn together by fate, cause an explosion of love, passion, adventure, and ultimately a reason for a shared journey.

"Within 24 hours, they meet on vacation in New York, have a passionate affair, shoot and kill a man, become involved in two gun battles, receive wounds and end up in Miami, Florida. This is only the beginning!

"J.T. Twerell is an author as well as a practicing Psychotherapist in Manhattan, NY. His works are a cross-section of fiction and non-fiction including his novel Signal 30 which won the Readers View Reviewers Choice Award in 2011. For more information go to:"

When Catch and Release arrived, I didn't know if I'd do a review or not. Then I opened the book, read the prologue and was delightfully hooked...only putting it down when the need for sleep or the demands of life prevailed.

And so, what do we have here and why is it so special? First, we have a suspense-filled, mystery/romance, fiction/non-fiction novel guaranteed to engage and hold you to the very end. And second, as to why it's so special, we have a gifted, consummate author, J. T. Twerell, who takes us on a trip which feels believable and so we follow as he leads us through the convoluted maze he's created. He writes in the third party about Jennifer Blade, "J", the complicated femme fatale who continually morphs as we try to define and trust her. Dr. Steve Sanders, a New York therapist, is our first-party-perspective protagonist who also tries to define, trust and love "J". The uniqueness and quality of the novel stem from the non-fictional psychotherapeutic insights into human nature and Steve's subtle, easy-going humor and personal therapist, Johnny Red.

The story flows--keeping those pages turning - and is nicely balanced. The references to the 'catch and release' concept throughout ties it all together. Catch and Release has enough naked ladies, action and suspense to keep the men interested and enough female superhero, romance and true love for the women. It would be a delightful movie. Highly recommended.

The Abduction of Mary Rose
Joan Hall Hovey
9781466337336 Kindle eBook: $2.99 Print Book: $11.99

Aaron Lazar, Reviewer

I have been a fan of Joan Hall Hovey since I read CHILL WATERS last year. After that, I reached for each and every release with the same excitement I do for new books by bestselling authors like Dean Koontz. And with THE ABDUCTION OF MARY ROSE, Ms. Hovey follows in the same tradition of grabbing her readers by the throat and never letting go until the final pages bring the story to its ultimate resolution.

It's not so much the de facto smooth writing skills, or the vivid scene-setting that makes you feel as if you are right there with the protagonist, or the wonderful, natural-sounding dialog, or the edge-of-your-seat suspense, or the wild chase scenes that keep you up into the wee hours of morning with your heart pounding...No, I expect all of these elements in this author's books. What shines so brightly above and beyond these great traits, however, is Ms. Hovey's characters. Rich with back-story, as real as the person sitting next to you on the couch or in your office, these people leap off the page and invade your mind, lingering for weeks or months afterwards.

In THE ABDUCTION OF MARY ROSE, you'll immediately begin to root for Naomi Waters, a twenty-eight year old woman who records audio books for a living. Bright, loving, and a dedicated daughter, her story starts at her dying mother's bedside.

Now, imagine losing your only parent to a devastating disease. On the day of the funeral, now imagine discovering that she wasn't your mother, that you were adopted. With that comes the knowledge that the photo on your dresser of your long dead military hero father was fake, too. Add to that the sudden unveiling of all this through your mother's obituary, written by the nasty sister of the only mother you ever knew, and you have the springboard from which this riveting story moves forward.

When Naomi starts to dig into her birthmother's history, she's horrified to discover that poor Mary Rose was only sixteen when she was abducted, brutally raped and left for dead. The Micmac native girl lived long enough in a coma to give birth to Naomi, then died shortly thereafter. The case was never solved, and for nearly thirty years the rapist and his cohort have lived free among the local townspeople. One elderly witness saw two men take her back then, but couldn't react fast enough to save the poor girl when the abduction happened.

Ms. Hovey's scene of the abduction broke my heart. I'm still upset about it, and still feel ragged hatred toward the men who took her, used her, and threw her away. I am filled with sorrow for Mary Rose's dear, sweet grandfather, who lost his only family member to violence of the worst sort. I'm not sure I would have survived such a loss, to tell the truth.

Yet through all of this tension and horrible upheaval, Naomi vows to dig into the past, catch her mother's killer or killers, and bring them to justice. With skills that rival some of the best detectives, born of a passion to avenge her mother and a close spiritual connection with Mary Rose, she steadfastly makes progress in spite of the local police's lack of interest.

In Joan Hall Hovey's inimitable style, she ratchets up the suspense and fear as the story unfolds. Naomi goes public, gains the interest of the locals, and in particular one very brutal and nasty man, her mother's rapist and her biological father.

The problem is, this man has no conscience, and only wants to destroy the DNA evidence of his misdeed that lies within Naomi's cells. The final scenes will have you rooting for Naomi and clinging to the edge of your seat. They are brilliantly rendered.

When you buy this book - and I highly recommend you do - you need to set aside time to read. Start it on a Friday night or Saturday morning, or you'll be calling your boss to take a vacation day. Yes, it's that good.

Point Deception
Jim Gilliam, Inc.
13435 S. McCall Road, #394
Port Charlotte, FL 33981
9781609106201, $17.95,

Mayra Calvani

What happens when your loyalties are in conflict and you must betray your old mentor in order to fulfill your duty? What if this old mentor who used to protect and help you as a kid is now a dangerous drug-and-human trafficking overlord? This is the predicament our protagonist, Tim Kelly, faces at the beginning of this partly autobiographical suspense thriller by talented first-time author Jim Gilliam.

An undercover narcotics officer now working in the Mexican hacienda of Guzman, his old mentor, his real identity is discovered by Guzman's 'right hand," Rucho, a bully who also knew Kelly from his childhood days. Guzman decides Kelly's fate and orders that he be injected with heroine so he'll become an addict and beg for his own death. Unbeknown to Guzman, Rucho adds physical torture to the punishment. Kelly slips in and out of consciousness and through his mind we begin to see flashbacks of his life. So the book starts in the present but then goes back in time to relate the events that led him to his present situation, from his early days of fighting bullies, when he met Guzman and Rucho, to his escape at 14 to New Orleans to join the Coast Guard, to his experiences in the military and later to his becoming an undercover narcotics officer.

Point Deception is a compelling novel and its strength lies in the protagonist. Kelly is a complex character with lots of flaws, yet sympathetic in a bittersweet kind of way. A hot-tempered, impulsive romantic hero, he won't play by anybody's rules and makes his fair share of mistakes. Though it may put some readers down, I found all the details about weapons, drugs and the military fascinating. I also enjoyed the dynamics between the characters. At times I felt there was a lot of telling but it didn't bother me for the most part. This is a novel that will strongly appeal to fans of military thrillers.

Like his protagonist, Jim Gilliam ran away from home and joined the Coast Guard at 14. He has recently retired from the Navy's Military Sealift Command and is currently writing the sequel to his novel. He lives with his wife Laura in Warwick, New York.

Oops, I Lost My Sense of Humor
Lois Wells Santalo
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
0595258409, $12.95,

Melanie Thompson

After twice surviving breast cancer, author Lois Santalo became one of the first to survive pancreatic cancer. In this engaging memoir she records her battle with what was then thought to be a killer, and in the reprint addition she celebrates ten years of survival and counting.

The doctor, she says, hesitated to operate because of her age, 81 at the time. Doc urged instead a by-pass operation which would stop the pain and allow her a gradual and peaceful decline and death. But she wasn't ready yet to give up on life. She had a long list of things saved up to do in her old age, and she wanted to live to do them.

The operation proved painful and the recovery lengthy, but the author never wavered in her determination to see it through. She records how favorite books and beloved operas helped her through the ordeal, and let her survive to launch the writing career she'd always longed for. In the intervening ten years, she has written and published six novels.

The memoir is by no means a mere account of her illness. She fills us in about earlier events in her life, such as a teenage trip from Michigan to California in 1937, when there were no Interstates, only two-lane roads with endless switchbacks through the mountains. "My turn to drive, both parents sleeping. My first experience of mountains by night ... I was too frightened to be sleepy. Moon and stars slithered in and out of view in this land of naked geology. Great boulders overhung the road ready to fall on us. As the headlights picked them out, I tried to speed past, only to slow again for a sharp curve ahead ... Once a pair of fiery eyes flared in the headlight gleam. A cougar."

The book records a Chicago childhood during the Capone years, when teachers had to placate the gangster with boxes of cigars in order to land and keep their jobs. This was also the John Dewey years, when the city school system was so progressive that students learned everything about the Lake Michigan Intake and the Chicago water supply but nothing about verbs and adjectives. This caused serious problems when the family moved to more conventional Michigan.

The author also describes the many difficulties of her first marriage to a concert pianist still mostly in the wannabe stage, and her second marriage to a Hispanic who failed to win the approval of her family. Through all the difficulties, the tone remains upbeat, and overall the book is a powerful affirmation of life in all its complexities. It should offer hope to all cancer victims.

The Faster I Walk, the Smaller I Am
Kjersti A. Skomsvold
Translated by Kerri A. Pierce
Dalkey Archive Press
University of Illinois
1805 S. Wright Street, MC-011
Champaign, IL 61820
9781564787026, $17.95,

Michelle Wallin

Whether it's reading the newspaper's obituaries or crafting a eulogy for her own funeral, Mathea Martinsen's days are focused on a looming fact of life: one day she will die. This imminent certainty is a cause of concern; however, rather than worrying about death itself, Mathea's aversion to passing is being forgotten. With the exception of her late husband, Epsilon, Mathea spent her life shying away from interactions with other people and is now left with the realization that no one will remember her after she dies.

With Mathea as the narrator, Kjersti A. Skomsvold's novel The Faster I Walk, the Smaller I Am refutes the idea that life should be filled to the fullest. The novel focuses on a few days in Mathea's life as she steps out of her comfort zone in an attempt to make her mark on the world. But after years of staying home and knitting ear warmers, Mathea readily admits, "I'm standing next to my bed, but I don't know how to seize the day" (13).

In a last ditch effort to create a legacy, Mathea starts to act: she decides to wear a watch so that others will ask her the time, but no one inquires; she buries a time capsule with her most precious belongings, but it gets dug up for a flagpole; she makes plans to attend social events but backs out at the last minute. At every step, her efforts for recognition are trampled or ignored.

Although Mathea is a lonely and anxiety prone individual, her tone as the narrator has a humorous edge. It's a wit that sneaks in when the narrator reveals the measures taken in order to have some kind of interaction with another individual. For instance, she spends one day repeatedly calling Information with a different voice each time. Mathea says of these exchanges, "I write in the air in front of me, and I ask him to repeat the last few numbers one more time, so as to show off my communication skills" (104).

With quietly humorous explanations of her actions, Mathea confronts the lonelier moments of her life without dragging the prose down into a sentimental basin of melancholy. In turn, the reader embraces Mathea as she reaches out for human interactions despite fears of rejection. We may not be in the same place as Mathea, but the human desire to have a connection with another individual or to have someone else remember us after we've passed are longings we can empathize with and understand.

Do's & Don'ts of Relationships
Ernest Quansah
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781466433168, $16.95,

Norm Goldman

Using his many years of experience as a love relationship expert coupled with a good deal of research, Ernest Quansah has authored an informative primer with his Do's & Don'ts of Relationships: Nine Steps to a Deeper, Richer Love Relationship (Volume 2) providing a common sense approach concerning successful dating experiences and how to avoid love relationships and marriages from falling apart.

Succinctly, as mentioned in the introduction, the book is about relationship success and how to attain it. No matter how much our society has evolved in various achievements, love relationship success remains elusive as evidenced by the high divorce rate which in the USA now hovers around sixty percent. We read about it, we watch television shows like Dr. Phil about it, however, unfortunately we barely recognize the problem, and do very little about it until it is too late. Perhaps, if we thought like surgeons, we would fix what is broke and cautiously analyze the kind of relationship we are seeking, the kind of male or female we are born to be with, what we bring to the table, adopting a discipline to search and find our soul mate and paying attention to the kind of choices we are making. We would try to seek out recipes for successful romance rather than for disaster.

The organization of Do's & Don'ts of Relationships begins with dating and then moves onto love relationships, marriage and winds up with putting together a success plan to break-up proof your relationships and divorce-proof your marriage. Readers certainly will not complain that there is not enough meat on the bone, as Quansah covers a great deal of territory offering dozens of tips concerning the above topics as well as many more such as understanding the sexes, building self-confidence, secrets to attaining success in a relationship, dating tips and winning the dating game, preventing infidelity, abusive behavior, behavior to absolutely avoid in relationships, behavior to pursue, don't get married to get divorced, thriving after divorce, developing a success plan and many more important issues.

These topics are detailed at length providing practical advice that Quansah backs up with concrete anecdotes taken from his own professional practice. For example, as he states, "everyone wants to be happy and successful at love, but how do you know if the person you have met is the right one?" Addressing this query, Quansah offers six suggestions: know what you want, be strategic, hook 'em with a powerful incentive, seek confirmation, nurture the relationship, and be available. In another section concerning dating, Quansah delves into questions as to why your phone calls are not being returned, how to send the right message, adopting a dating philosophy, what do men and women really want, when do you know he or she loves you, and when do you bring home your loved one to meet mamma and papa? In addition, useful tips are offered and fully explained for making a hit on your dates such as being respectful, authentic, honest, loyal, a good listener, sensitive, reasonable, don't be late, don't show up unprepared, don't bring your problems, don't bash the opposite sex, don't overdo it, don't forget your wallet, and don't ignore your intuition.

Although Do's & Don'ts of Relationships doesn't exactly break new ground, it does pull together the hundreds of articles that have been published over the years into one neat package. The information offered here is truly timeless as it uncovers for us the fundamental reasons why love relationships fail and what we can do to avoid failure which is dished up in a folksy writing style. The result is an instructive tome that will not only prove helpful to those that have not yet found their soul mate but even to old cougars like myself that have been married for over forty years. There is always room for improvement and yes, you can teach an old dog new tricks.

Ernest Quansah has more than ten years of dating, relationship & marriage counseling experience. He has a certificate in Counseling from The University of British Columbia (UBC). In addition, he has a background in Philosophical counseling from The University of Fraser Valley (UFV). He is the owner and operator of Online Dating, Relationship & Marriage School (ODRMS).

Meet Me at the Rainbow Bridge
Dr. Kenneth Newman
3131 RDU Center Drive, Suite 210
Morrisville, NC 27560
9780557503858, $17.95,

Peggy Decker

Thankfully, when I was very young, my parents taught me by example that companion animals are family, not "property". Dr. Newman's book echoes my own sentiments and touched my heart when I read how his own perspective changed after a tragic accident.

Most of us who are "animal lovers" are familiar with the beautifully comforting essay, "The Rainbow Bridge" which speaks of where our beloved four legged companions go, to one day be reunited with us, their family. In his poignantly candid memoir, "Meet Me at the Rainbow Bridge", Dr. Kenneth Newman, DVM, turns an horrific event, the untimely and tragic loss of his beloved, "Gracie", into a tribute to the role that dogs have played throughout his life, and a vehicle for his cause celebre.

From his earliest memories and his bond with his grandfather's dog, Jim, Dr. Newman details each and every dog that has played a role in his life. He illustrates how dogs and companion animals have the power to comfort, to banish loneliness, to boost self-confidence, to soothe the very souls of those human beings who are fortunate and wise enough to listen.

Even the cover of the book has special significance. It is a painting of "Rebel" (one of the dogs featured in his book) which Dr. Newman presented to his fiance' (now wife of many years), as she embarked upon the fight of her life...battling cancer.

This is not a book for the faint of heart, as Dr. Newman does enumerate some of the many cases that he has seen during his 30 plus years of practice, a few of which demonstrate how very flawed and how very cruel human beings can be when it comes to their treatment of animals, even those animals whom they profess to "love." .

Do not be deluded into thinking that this book is just a piece of sentimental "fluff", when in reality, it is the antithesis . It takes a very brave man to publicly admit his own triumphs and failures, but it takes an even braver man to examine his own profession with objectivity and honesty. It is the stated goal of Dr. Ken Newman, DVM, to elevate the legal status of companion animals, a position and a cause not popular among his colleagues and the AVMA.

Dr. Newman states, "The American Veterinary Medical Association remains opposed to raising the legal status of our pets. I find this a hypocritical stance from a profession that has benefited through the promotion of the human-animal bond. It is not logical to state that pets are family members to advance the profession and encourage more expensive medical treatments, while asserting that veterinarians should not be subject to litigation when pets are killed as a result of negligence."

As one whose life has been greatly enriched by every companion animal that I have welcomed into my home and my heart, I applaud Dr. Newman for having the courage to go against his entire profession do do what is right, not what will win him a popularity contest among his own colleagues. We need more people like Dr. Newman in this world.

Dr. Newman begins each chapter with a quotation about dogs. Chapter 3, "Jim", begins with this quote by James Thurber, "In his grief over the loss of a dog, a little boy stands for the first time on tiptoe, peering into the rueful morrow of manhood. After this most inconsolable of sorrows, there is nothing that life can do to him that he will not be able somehow to handle." Truer words were never spoken.

After reading this beautiful book, even the most vehemently "doubting Thomases" would be hard-pressed to come up with an argument that animals do not feel pain, do not experience emotions, are not sentient beings. In truth, four legged animals are far superior in many ways to their "human " counterparts, and Dr. Newman's book only serves to illustrate that point. Even when she was mortally injured, Gracie's last act before her own tragic demise, was to lay her head on Dr. Newman's shoulder, even as he lay severely injured, on the ground. If that does not speak to the depth of love and loyalty that a dog has for his/her family, I don't know what does.

In his dedication, Dr. Newman tells his son, Dylan, "when faced with tragedy, you can feel sorry for yourself or you can turn it into something good, meaningful, relevant, and advocate for change. Always fight the good fight and I will be forever proud." Dr. Newman has just embarked upon his" good fight," and I wish him Godspeed, as his cause is just and his motive, pure.

I hope that I live to see the day when our companion animals are no longer considered "chattel property."

Bring Back Summertime
Jeanne Starr Gater
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
B0051GYCXE $10.99 (kindle),

Will Saint-James

Life is fragile. In the blink of an eye, it can transition from the peak of prosperity to the doldrums of despair. It can deliver a crushing blow that can literally knock one to his or her knees. Not convinced, just ask Jeanne Starr Gater, author of the riveting and inspirational book, Bring Back Summertime. In this 268-page narrative, Gater methodically takes readers on a real-life rollercoaster ride of ever-changing emotions, after receiving a dreadful phone call from a Michigan hospital on a chilly October morning in 1983. The news: her husband, Julius Gater, aka Dr. J, had been involved in a horrific three-car accident and his chances of pulling through were not at all favorable as he was comatose with massive and life-threatening injuries.

Bring Back Summertime represents a literary masterpiece of a wife's love, a family's love, a circle of friends' love to stay together and pray together...and bring back Julius from the clutches of death. The book depicts an epic journey of dedication, commitment, and an unwavering faith in God to believe that life is not over...until God says it's over.

The title of this book should not be misconstrued to think that bringing back summertime is about a return to the beauty of the summer months, per se...rather, the title should serve somewhat as a metaphor, a symbol, a figure of speech, an allegory, to bring back a time in anyone's life when things seem so special, good, happy, and relatively carefree. While the book chronicles real-life accounts of love, hope and faith in God, it does not mean that everything was always positive. Jeanne writes of Dr. J's sometime physical and verbal outbursts aimed at those who try to help and rehabilitate him, which included her.

In addition, she describes many other "perceived and real obstacles" experienced in her quest to bring back Dr. J. back to life. In some cases there were major adventures and misadventures involving insurance, medical care, home health care, rehabilitation and legal issues, practices and policies in America, which could easily be topics for another book or two. Yet, through it all, Jeanne stays focused on navigating Dr. J's long journey back to summertime; from the throes of death to stability. Keeping her family unit together was her ultimate goal as she countered daily obstacles that threatened their emotional, mental, and physical survival.

The message in Jeanne's book is that we all have a summertime that we would love to bring back in the face of adversity. It could be bringing back a peaceful relationship with a spouse or sibling, bringing back a victory from drug addiction, bringing back a lost job or house in the face of a tough economy, or bringing back sanity from a bevy of crazy circumstances that life has a way of manufacturing and multiplying. Whatever it is that people long to bring back, Jeanne's book lays the blueprint based on her incredible story of strength, love, commitment, and faith in God.

While no two stories in life are exactly the same, the common thread that runs from Jeanne's story through a multiplicity of other stories is love, faith, family, and the belief that the mighty powers of God can miraculously bring back summertime from any circumstance or situation. In essence, Bring Back Summertime is a remarkable book about a remarkable woman's courage to bring back her special summertime...and the special husband, and father that the family refused to give up on.

Ann's Bookshelf

Private Journal of A Voyage to Australia
James Bell. (Introduction and Epilogue by Anthony Laube).
Allen & Unwin
9781742377957 A$24.00

In 1838, when 21-year-old James Bell set sail from England on the long voyage to Australia, he began to keep a journal. Somehow, at some time in the 150 years since then, that journal made its way back to England where it was found on a stall in a London street market, auctioned by Bonhams for A$22,000 to the State Library of South Australia, and returned to Adelaide. James Bell would have been amazed to know that what began for him as the fulfillment of a promise to a friend would end up being published, especially since he had stated plainly that "it must never be read by a third party".

Tantalizing as that prohibition is, young James was a pious and rather Puritanical young man and there is nothing scandalous about his writing or his behaviour. Unfortunately, he could not say the same for his fellow passengers. "I am sure", he writes, "no person of any principles of virtue could call himself quite comfortable while his eyes and ears were annoyed every day by people who have long since rendered themselves insensible to the admonitions of conscience, or...are gratifying their depraved senses by revelling in the ignominy of Vice". Even as his journey is nearing its end, he is still worrying that "as water wears away the flinty rock" so contact with these people would gradually undermine his own "principles of virtue".

So, James goes into little detail about the vice he sees. Instead, he assiduously charts the ship's progress (or, more often, lack of progress) from day to day, recording the weather, the discomfort, the homesickness, boredom and quarrels, a birth and a death, the brief spells ashore, and the captain's incompetence. And his was not an uneventful voyage, especially as just a third of the way through it the crew mutinied and the passengers were obliged to take over the sailing and security of the ship until they arrived in "Rio Janeira".

James was an interested observer in Rio, where he was "much struck" by the appearance of slaves and much bitten by mosquitoes; and in the early South African settlement of Algoa Bay, where he describes the few houses, the settlers (only 2,500 of them), and the native people. But he was not a born storyteller. His journal is sparse and factual and dotted with quotations from his favourite poems. Yet it does convey what it was like to be confined for months on a small ship with limited supplies, and in the company of strangers. His 'home' was a two metre square, 'Intermediate' class cabin below deck; the ship was becalmed, lost masts and sails in terrifying storms, and several times came close to disaster; and it was an era in which navigation and charts were unreliable and landfall uncertain. The good ship Planter was constantly and frustratingly overtaken by other ships, including one of the new iron steam ships which filled James with delight and envy at her speed. A day when he could write "we make 4 to 5 miles an hour" was a good day. It took 9 days of waiting for favourable weather before the ship could leave the Thames estuary behind at the start of this voyage and it was a seemingly interminable 169 days before James finally set foot in Adelaide on the South Australian coast.

Anthony Laub, an historian and a librarian at the State Library of South Australia, deciphered and transcribed James's journal and has provided footnotes and an interesting introduction which describes the convict-free, land-development scheme which attracted migrants such as James to South Australia. He also provides an epilogue telling us briefly what became of James and some of his fellow passengers after they arrived in Adelaide. In spite of all that James observed of them, many seem to have become good and respected citizens.

The Sense of an Ending
Julian Barnes
Alfred A. Knopf
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780307957122, $23.95,

"some approximate memories, which time has deformed into certainties", that's how Barnes's narrator, Tony Webster, describes this exploration of his past. He begins with schooldays, because, "that's where it all began". And in his memory he re-creates the friendships, the teenage ambitions and uncertainties, a youthful love affair, a marriage and an amicable divorce, all culminating in a comfortable, reasonably active retirement. It is an ordinary story of an ordinary man, until a lawyer's letter arrives to disturb his complacency.

Barnes is very good at capturing what it is like to be a bright boy at school testing a growing awareness of the world in interactions with friends and school masters. Tony and his good friends, Colin and Alex, share this experience. The inclusion of Adrian, clever and more serious, in their group changes the dynamics subtly but the friendships last until university, careers and marriages draw them apart. It is Adrian, however, who marries Tony's first serious girl-friend; and it is Adrian who commits suicide at the age of twenty-two, and who, years later, precipitates Tony's self-examination.

For some reason, Barnes divides this book into two. The first part, which is lively and youthful, ends with Tony in retirement looking back on the memories of a survivor. For a paragraph or two in the second part, I expected a different narrator with a different perspective on the past. But, no, it is still Tony, although he sounds more subdued, older and more orientated to the present. In part two he is less sure of himself, reliant on the views and advice of his former wife, and more self-deceiving. He is still relying on memory to recount events but it is much more recent memory, disturbed by his obsession with obtaining Adrian's diary, which has unexpectedly and bizarrely been left to him by Adrian's mother-in-law. It is easy to lose patience with Tony in this second half, and the delaying tactics of the author are more obvious as we are led towards a revelation which will make us, the readers, re-assess our understanding of Tony's story; just as it made him re-assess his memory of his own past.

"What you end up remembering isn't always the same as what you have witnessed", Tony says at the start of this book. But can you be blamed for a chain of events which began with something you did witness - something you did and then forgot about?

"Towards the end of your life", says Tony, "You are allowed a long moment of pause, time enough to ask the question: what else have I done wrong?". It is an interesting question but one which few of us have to face in quite the way Tony did.

GRANTA 117: Horror
John Freeman
c/o Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
841 Broadway, 4th floor, NY, NY 10003
9781905881369, $16.99,

This is no collection of ghosts, ghouls and gruesome fantasies. Indeed, there is enough real horror in the world for imagination to be unnecessary. So, Granta's 'Horror' covers Will Self's thoughts on his own rare blood disease; Tom Bamforth's field notes from a humanitarian mission in a lawless area of Sudan; Paul Auster's reactions to the death of his mother; and Santiago Roncagliolo's memories of returning to Peru as a worker for the Public Defenders Department and working with the Belgian human rights activist, Father Hubert Lanssiers, interviewing convicted, potentially violent, terrorists in an overcrowded, high-security prison. Mark Doty writes about eroticism, desire, insatiability, addiction and Bram Stoker and Walt Whitman; and Julia Otsuka examines the strange world of memory loss.

Fiction is not completely absent from this collection. Roberto Bolano's 'The Colonel's Son' (translated from the Spanish) traps you in the fertile mind of a man obsessed by a film story; Rajesh Parameswaran shape-shifts into a man-eating tiger; Dan DeLillo follows in the steps of a film-obsessed stalker; Sarah Hall creates a weird and frightening dog story; and Stephen King tells a ghost story with a sting in its tail.

Sometimes, however, fact is weirder than fiction, like the crypto-gothic fight club in Los Angles which is visited by Daniel Alarc Cave Woman fights The Hammer, Arctic fights The Mad Monk, and rivers of fake blood flow across the floor so that your shoes stick to it.

Poetry and art, too, explore death and disease. D.A.Powell's poem 'Quarantine' suggests a black future in which the world becomes "one great gall'" and Kanitta Meechubot gathers life, love and death into her unusual images of 'The Garden of Illuminated Existence'.

There are nightmares and terrors enough, here, to haunt the imagination and keep you awake at night. And, as usual, Granta has chosen the best people to tell you about them.

Ann Skea

Applegate's Bookshelf

Vivaldi's Virgins: A Novel
Barbara Quick
HarperCollins Publisher,
9780060890520 $11.69 (Paperback), $9.99 (Nook eBook)

Vivaldi's Virgins, by Barbara Quick . . . This fascinating, unusual and beautifully written tale describes the life of a young woman, Anna Maria, who early in life becomes a ward of the Pieta, a foundling "home" in 18th-century Venice run by the sisters of a religious order. Anna Maria is
known in the convent as Anna Maria Dal Violin, because the girls of the Pieta were not allowed to know their real last names.

An unusual feature of the Pieta is its coro, a choir and orchestra made up of the wards of the convent, who are trained in music as soon as they can hold an instrument. Among the many in the coro, Anna Maria, a violinist, is the most musically gifted; her expertise with the instrument becomes known throughout Venice, a city that prides itself on its opera and all aspects of music.

As a youngster, Anna Maria is introduced by Sister Laura to Antonio Vivaldi, a violinist and composer known to her and others in the coro as Maestro Vivaldi. Vivaldi, recently ordained as a priest, has been hired as violin master for the convent. His influence on Anna Maria and her life is one of the gems of the book as she expresses her musical gifts through increasing mastery of the violin.

The story of Vivaldi's Virgins is told through the eyes and pen of Anna Maria, who writes voluminous letters to the mother she can only dream about. Here is a sample from one of the letters. I reproduce the words here to give the reader a sense of Anna Maria as a person, as well as an indication of Quick's lovely, evocative writing.

Have I ever been in your thoughts, as you have been in mine? Would my eyes remind you of the infant I was when last you saw me? When I happen on my reflection in a dark window, I am sometimes startled to see a young woman's face looking back at me. How much more surprised would you be to see the transformation wrought by Time. Here, within these stone walls where you left me, I have grown like those plants that are cultivated indoors, with shallow roots and always turning toward whatever sunshine can be stolen from the day outside.

Vivaldi's Virgins is a detailed and complex book, full of ambiguities, and certainly not an easy one to catalog:

It is a mystery that isn't a formal mystery, since the only unknown to the reader - in other words the only mystery - is who Anna Maria is, since she not only lacks a last name, but any family ties that have made themselves known to her.

It has a strong historical sense, in that Quick vividly illuminates not just the location of Venice in the 18th century, but the culture, traditions, sights and smells of this unique place. She shows not only the beauty and pleasures of Venice, but the bigotry, class discrimination and cruelties of the time.

It is a musical history in a sense, because Maestro Vivaldi, his genius and musicality, are a large presence in Anna Maria's life and the life of the convent, where the coro and its performance are paramount in the activities of the residents. Music is in the very air of the place.

It gives modern novel readers a rare insight into the kind of care and education that foundlings, those who were fortunate enough to be placed in an institution such as the convent, received in that place and time. It is saddening to realize how cruelly at times these young people were treated by even well-meaning adults.

Music is the most significant part of Anna Maria's life much of the time, as knowledge of her musicianship and the beauty of her playing gradually spreads throughout Venice. But there is more to her life than just the practice and performance of her music. She develops friendships among the other girls, and as she gets older and wants more out of life than can be found within the convent walls, she involves herself in others' lives more than is wise.

She manages at times to make alliances outside the convent which lead her into problems inside the convent. In one case, by hook and by crook she manages to be invited to a Venetian social event. Quick describes in much detail the goings-on on this occasion, which in many ways is a microcosm of the social divide and discrimination of the Venice of that day.

Anna Maria pays for her time away as she suffers the harsh punishments that are meted out to residents who have gone astray. Life is not easy for a young woman in Anna Maria's situation, but she manages to find joy and overall success in her music that helps to compensate for the lacks in her daily life, despite the rivalries of other musicians. Anna Maria finds herself the object of some cruel manipulations by one particular rival; the ups and down of that rivalry is painful to read.

Vivaldi's Virgins is not a book to read quickly and put on the "have read" shelf. It requires patience, and for me, it meant reading, then reading once more, both to be sure that I understood all the ramifications of it, but also just for the pleasure of the vivid and highly descriptive writing. What she relates may be lovely or ugly, tragic or joyous, or something in between, but you will most likely feel almost as if you were there, as if it were happening to you.

I heartily recommend Vivaldi's Virgins. Read it, enjoy it, learn from it. You will be glad you did.

Important note to readers: Do read the historical notes in the after-words. They will add depth and understanding to what you can learn from the book. In fact, I wish I had read them before I read the novel itself. I usually do that, because it gives me added back story for the book. But I skipped it this time. I shouldn't have.

Jonathan Kellerman
Ballantine Books
c/o Random House Publishing Group,
9780345524386 $9.99 (Paperback), $15.21 (Hardcover), $13.99 (Nook eBook)

Book Review: Mystery: An Alex Delaware Novel, by Jonathan Kellerman You can count on Jonathan Kellerman to serve up a well-plotted mystery, with a disparate cast of intriguing, usually troubled characters, a fast pace and a logical conclusion. Any reader of mysteries probably knows that Kellerman has written enough mysteries/thrillers/psychological novels that he should be able to write them in his sleep. Or from a formula. Or maybe hire a co-writer. All of the above have been done by authors who have large readerships. Sometimes those do get to feeling a bit formulaic to me. Not Kellerman. Every time I read a Kellerman novel that features familiar characters, both book and characters seem fresh and to have been written with the same intensity and enthusiasm for the work as if it were his first. Each of his main characters stays the same yet is different with each book. I don't enjoy every plot equally, of course, but I've never read a Kellerman that bores me. (I haven't read every one, I admit.)

That said, let me get to the meat of this review of Alex Delaware's latest adventure. Mystery appeared on shelves this spring, and although I haven't researched sales, I would assume it is, as they say, flying off the shelves. Or, as they might also say, clogging up the ether with all the downloads.So here goes.

Alex Delaware and Robin Castagna, his guitar-creating partner in love and life, go out for an evening of nostalgia, celebrating the final moments of a once-grand, about-to-be-torn-down L.A. hotel, the Fauberg. Alex and Robin have fond memories of this place, fond memories which will soon be replaced by the ugliness of murder most foul.

There are a few others present to say goodbye to the hotel, most of whom are of mature years, with the exception of a lovely young woman seated alone at a nearby table. She is dressed in white and frequently glances at a sparkling diamond watch. She reminds Alex and Robin of someone, someone they know they've seen before, although they can't recall the name. She appears to be waiting for someone.

The next time Alex sees this young woman is in a photo downloaded from the cellphone of Alex's best friend and frequent partner in solving crimes, Lieutenant Milo Sturgis, a gay LAPD homicide detective. Alex knows it's the young woman he saw last evening at the restaurant only by her clothing; her face was, as Kellerman chose to describe it, "a clotted horror." Once again, Alex and Milo will team up.

Kellerman, as he typically does with Alex and Milo, puts the two through a labyrinthine web of clues, impossibilities and probabilities, red herrings, strange and dangerous people and situations, witnesses who remember nothing, or the wrong thing - well, I could go on and on, because Mystery has a full measure of Kellerman's particular take on murder and mayhem. And because he has placed Alex and Milo in Los Angeles, there is no shortage of provocative characters to throw into the mix, artists, pornographers, would-be actors and actresses, prostitutes, many who aren't what they purport to be.In this as in any murder investigation, the ultimate goal is to locate and collar a murderer. In this particular one, there is an initial question that needs an answer before "who did it." Who is it? Who is this mutilated young woman, dubbed "Princess" for want of a real name?

As Alex and Milo pick up on clues and interview people who may or may not be directly connected to Princess, they learn the identity of their victim. But that adds to the complexity of the case; Princess is known by more than one name. And each of the names leads to a different facet of the case and sends the investigation on another tack.

Alex continues to wonder. Why did she look so familiar to him and Robin, when none of her names means anything to either of them? (The answer to this question, when it comes, is surprising but logical.) Kellerman, to be believable as a writer of police procedurals, keeps his
work up-to-date regarding the technology used in scene-of-crime work, autopsies, blood studies, fingerprint identification and the many and varied scientific approaches that are available to modern police investigators. In Mystery, Kellerman also includes a bit of the kinds of technologies that are available to anyone with a computer. Many readers will be interested in
the online-dating-site elements of the tale, which add interest to the story. Even if readers have never thought of using one of these services, they'll surely have seen the sites' ubiquitous TV ads. And the vast majority of readers will have used the Internet for something - be it just surfing, playing games, buying and selling things, reading online or downloading books or magazines, tweeting, whatever.

There are a great deal of ins and outs and ups and downs in this novel, enough to keep readers reading. It's challenging at times to follow the conversations between Alex and Milo and other characters. The recurring characters, Alex, Milo, Robin, and Milo's partner Rick, who appears now and then in the story, are all good friends, comfortable with each other, used to working together, and their chit chat over lunch or a beer reflects that.This is a good Kellerman mystery, one most mystery fans, not to mention Kellerman fans, will enjoy. I recommend it.

A Taste for Death
P.D. James
Vintage Books
c/o Randhom House Publishing Gorup
9780307758989 $13.75 (Paperback) $11.99 (Nook eBook)

Aspiring writers are told this so often that it has become axiomatic - grab the reader with the first sentence. P.D. James does exactly that with the opening of this novel:

The bodies were discovered at eight forty-five on the morning of Wednesday 18 September by Miss Emily Wharton, a sixty-five-year-old spinster of the parish of St. Matthew's in Paddington, London, and Darren Wilkes, aged ten, of no particular parish as far as he knew or cared.
How this unlikely pair got together and how they happen to be where they are is a provocative beginning to a novel which keeps a reader's interest from this first paragraph to the last one. Young Darren and elderly Miss Wharton are clearly drawn characters and readers should note; they don't appear often, but they have critical roles.

Even more unlikely a pair are the two bodies Miss Wharton and Darren find; one has been, until his recent resignation, a member of Parliament and a junior Minister, the other is a homeless man, a tramp who has never lost his taste for alcohol. Both are found in the church vestry with their throats slit and a razor lying nearby. Commander Adam Dalgliesh of Scotland Yard - dubbed AD by his team - is called to the bloody scene, and thereby begins the untangling of a web as twisted and seemingly unsolvable as AD has encountered.

Nothing is simple in this tale.

Is it double murder or murder and suicide? Facts can be made to fit either scenario.

What links these two utterly disparate men that led to this horrific crime?

It seems impossible that there could be a connection, but AD cannot let go of the idea.

It's a thread of the web that he cannot untangle but also cannot ignore.

Time passes, clues come and go, people are put on and taken off the suspect list as the investigation continues seemingly without result, at least not results that fit the senior officer's notions. Dalgliesh works most closely with two subordinates:

An intense young single woman who is on the watch for slurs or snubs related to her gender

A married man with children who isn't at all sure that a woman has the right stuff to be a proper cop, especially when it comes to bloody murder, and its ugly details.

The tension between the two is delicately played. A bit of gender competition adds spice to the team's search for the criminal All the characters in A Taste for Death have a back story that is revealed bit by bit, and makes their actions seem sensible, at least to themselves and in most cases to the reader. Personalities clash, character flaws abound, secrets are forced into the open. A selfish, cruel wife, an apparently loving mistress, a father and an angry daughter, a son and
wastrel brother, a priest and a housemaid, all act out of their own and only their own needs.

Dalgliesh, a perceptive and introspective man, has moments of doubt that what he does matters, and there is a sense of sadness and disillusion with his choices in life that he carries with him like a cloak. But AD keeps going, checking out alibis, asking unwelcome questions, peering into the
dark corners of lives, clinging to his belief that there is, however elusive, a connection between a drunken tramp and a rich man-about-town. When he finds that connection, he'll find the killer.

P.D. James combines eloquent, evocative writing and intricate plots. She describes beauty in glorious detail, brutality and murder in all its ugliness. She can scare you to death, yet keep you hanging on. In one particularly harrowing scene where a child's life is threatened in awful
fashion, I didn't turn away, the story held me in place. I was there through every moment with the potential victim. On other occasions during the unveiling of the plot, a reader might almost weep in empathy with sorrows and smile in muted joy at other times.

There is so much in this book that I do not have space to cover, nor would I if I had the space. To me, this is not a page-turner. On the contrary, it is a book that needs to be read thoroughly, over time, so that the underlying currents, good and bad, in all the lives can be recognized and understood. Be aware, though, it is not a happy, all's-well-that-ends-well, put-it-on-shelf-and-forget-it kind of story.

I can almost guarantee, though, that when the story winds down and you know the who and why and what and where about everything and everybody, you'll not forget it.

Marcia K. Applegate, Reviewer

Bethany's Bookshelf

The Tyranny of Choice
Renata Salecl
Profile Books
9781846681868, $15.85,

Choice is undoubtedly good, right? "The Tyranny of Choice" delves into the downside of choice, the fear of choosing wrong, the peer pressure of choosing right, and the fact that can stand in the way of social progress. Discussing sociology and the problems that choice and free will introduce to the world, "The Tyranny of Choice" provides an intriguing argument on something that is revered as sacrament in much of western culture, recommended reading for philosophy collections.

The Ten Commandments of Divorce
Donna Martini
Privately Published
c/o Carol Hoenig (publicity)
2840 Grand Ave., Bellmore, NY 11710
9780615470566, $15.95,

A messy divorce is the most horrifying thing a child will ever face. "The Ten Commandments of Divorce: How to Leave Your Marriage Without Breaking Up Your Family" is about remembering the ones you love, while dealing with what you once loved. Donna Martini writes of how to deal with the divorce that so often comes at the end of a marriage, in ways that remembers that family is far more than two people. "The Ten Commandments of Divorce" is a wise read for anyone who is facing divorce and realizes that a divorce of rage isn't the best of solutions.

Skinflint Hints
Erin Lale
Privately Published
9780938923206, $19.95,

As purses tighten, being cheap is a virtue. "Skinflint Hints" is a guide to the art of cheapness from Erin Lale, who presents an exploration of how to save money, from creating personal gardens with free seeds, home remedies, doing your own car maintenance, even tips on running a home business. "Skinflint Hints" is a fine pick for those squeaking by and would like a bigger zone of comfort.

Looking for an Exit
Lisa Tucker
Tate Publishing & Enterprises
127 East Trade Center Terrace
Mustang, OK 73064
9781617775994, $13.99,

Anxiety can dominate one's life very easily. "Looking for an Exit" is an empowering read from Lisa Tucker, as she advises readers to follow her example and come to grips and overcome their phobias. She faced agoraphobia, where one can often feel there is no way out of the situation they are in. Sharing her story, she states that drive can help you overcome one sown agoraphobia, or any such disorder. "Looking for an Exit" is a fine choice for community and library self-help collections.

The Gospel of The Fallen Angel
Geraint AP Iorwerth
O Books
9781846944086, $24.95,

Satan's role in the Kingdom of God is not well understood. "The Gospel of The Fallen Angel: Jesus's Story from Satan's Perspective" is an intriguing analysis of Jesus as controversial Anglican priest Geraint AP Iorwerth writes of what he believes it's the relationship of God, Satan, and Jesus of Galilee. Presenting much to ponder and think about the nature of Good and Evil, "The Gospel of the Fallen Angel" is a fascinating and top pick addition to any Christian Studies or religion collection.

The Veil
Cory Putman Oakes
Octane Press
9780982913161, $11.99,

When you can meet another world, you meet its problems as well. "The Veil" follows young woman Addison Russell as she discovers the world of the Annorasi and their impact on her normally mundane world. She finds that she may have to pay for old crimes, ones she may not have even committed, and not knowing who to trust as she bridges worlds. "The Veil" is a fine work of contemporary of fantasy, much recommended.

Truly Yours
Laura Dail
Vantage Press Inc.
419 Park Avenue South, 18th floor
New York, NY 10016
9781936467143, $14.00,

Adoption is all too often forgotten when considering bringing a child into one's life. "Truly Yours: Wise Words on the Miracle of Adoption" is a guide to embracing adoption for one's family, as Laura Dail states the value of bringing a child into one's life out of the goodness of the heart. Millions of children suffer without good homes, and embracing adoption can give a child a better chance at life, making the world a better place. "Truly Yours" is a fine and much recommended pick for any would-be parent considering their options.

Living Beyond Rainbows
David Marty
iUniverse, Inc.
c/o AuthorHouse
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300
Bloomington, IN 47403
9781450282277, $19.95,

A sobering reality always makes you think over your past. "Living Beyond Rainbows" is the biography of David Marty, who tells his life as a homosexual man who lived his life at full speed only be smacked in the face with the bag of bricks of an HIV diagnosis. Optimistic despite the grim fate he has been sentenced to, "Living Beyond Rainbows" is a personal story of HIV and how to live well in spite of it all.

Susan Bethany

Buhle's Bookshelf

Direction Memo
Paul M. Caspersen
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432780722, $19.95,

Estate planning is a vitally necessary process to insure that property, wealth, and possessions are distributed in accordance with your instructions when you are no longer here to express or enforce them. Drawing upon his many years of experience and expertise as an estate planner, Paul M. Caspersen has published "Direction Memo: How to Write a Letter of Instructions for Your Estate Plan", a 284-page compendium of superbly organized and presented information and instruction on creating an effect plan for the disposal of any estate of any size or cumulative value. Thoroughly 'user friendly', "Direction Memo" covers every aspect of estate planning from life insurance, to jewelry, to retirement plans or nursing home care for surviving spouses. It should be of special note that one of the primary values of sound estate planning is to lift the burden from family members of having to deal with these issues on top of the grief arising from the loss of a loved one. "Direction Memo" is strongly recommended for both personal and community library reference collections.

Jarred Into Being
Pat Lawrence
Outskirts Press
10940 S Parker Road - 515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432778842, $18.95,

Survival is the top priority, no matter what. "Jarred Into Being" follows Eva, who distraught over the tragic loss of her parents, finds struggling to survive in the face of anything and everything out to control her and exploit her. A riveting thriller of facing the cruelest aspects of life, "Jarred Into Being" will prove quite hard to put down, much recommended.

The Breath of Allah
Steven W. Ritcheson
Privately Published
9781466246775, $12.99,

America's greatest enemy may very well be itself. "The Breath of Allah" is a fast paced terrorism thriller, following Charles Rayson, an agent of Technology Applications Group, an intelligence agency working for the United States during this time of international turmoil. As a critical ally is on the verge of collapse, their fate and the fate of the United States relies on Rayson being able to get through the jungle of red tape that is the United States government. "The Breath of Allah" is a choice pick for espionage thriller fans, much recommended.

Solution Squared Recalculation
Mike Fontenot
Center Mass Books
9781456308070, $12.95,

In the world of intelligence, nothing is certain. "Solution Squared Recalculation" is a spy thriller, as Courtney copes with the death of her sister...or was it? Years later, the events she remember so vividly are put into question as she climbs the ranks of the CIA, and the truth always seems so far away. For family, she has to risk everything and may end up with nothing. "Solution Squared Recalculation" is a fine pick, not to be overlooked.

Building a Winning Business
Tom Salonek
Privately Published
9780983470502, $9.95,

Successful business share many traits, and realizing those traits is essential to realizing one's own success. "Building A Winning Business: 70 Takeaways" is a book of business wisdom and success from Tom Salonek as he presents plenty of advice and wisdom for making the most of a business during changing and a chaotic economy. For those who want plenty of considerations for how to push their business further, "Building a Winning Business" is worth choosing for business reference collections.

Page from a Tennessee Journal
Francine Thomas Howard
Amazon Encore
PO Box 400818, Las Vegas, NV 89140
9781612181301, $14.95,

The struggle for survival makes any salvation golden. "Page from a Tennessee Journal" is a historical novel set on the eve of World War I, as author Francine Thomas Howard creates a story following Tennessee sharecropper wife Annalaura as she is left alone with four children. When a landowner offers help, and much more, she is reluctant to turn away, crafting a story of the struggle to survive and the harsh status of racial segregation. "Page from a Tennessee Journal" is an insightful and enticing work. Also from Francine Thomas Howard and Amazon Encore is "Paris Noire" (9781935597971, $14.95), another historical novel, following the struggles of a lone mother in occupied Paris, 1944.

The Black Corsair
Emilio Salgari
Roh Press
9780978270780, $16.95,

Vengeance is greater than any title of nobility. "The Black Corsair" is a reprinting of Emilio Salgari's swashbuckling masterpiece, following an Italian nobleman who tosses aside his title to turn to piracy in order to spite the man who murder his brothers. Aligned with the greatest pirates of his era, he seeks out to make his revenge a reality, for an utterly fun and fast paced adventure that stands the test of time. "The Black Corsair" is a fine pick, very much recommended for any fan of swashbuckling and classic fiction.

Tragic Miracles
S. M. Rolfe
Vantage Press Inc.
419 Park Avenue South, 18th floor
New York, NY 10016
9780533161225, $11.95,

The burden of the world on your shoulders is something very hold to heft. "Tragic Miracles" follows young Tracy, who learns of his angelic ancestry and how to deal with his newfound destiny and its effects on his current life, and the pressures that leer down upon him. "Tragic Miracles" is a riveting and thoughtful read for those looking for novels surrounding the angelic.

French Port
Charles Baldwin
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781456724702, $12.99,

The problems of the modern world can rage forward quite clearly. "French Port" is a novel following an American expatriate towards Edward Warren as he visits a small struggling nation called French Port. Struggling to get by, he becomes involved in the islands politics and sees that violence may be on the horizon. "French Port" is an insightful novel with plenty of twists and turns that crisis can introduce into everyday life.

Mobley's Law
Gerald Lane Summers
Privately Published
9781935670728, $14.95,

War might just strike again if peace isn't reached. "Mobley's Law" is a delve into history, set in a time of turmoil during the reconstruction after the Civil War. War might erupt again as Union and Confederate political factions clash over the Governorship of Texas, as a defeated governor refuses to give up his position. "Mobley's Law" is a fine blend of historical novel and legal thriller, much recommended.

Willis M. Buhle

Burroughs' Bookshelf

Twenty-Eight Snow Angels
Diane Dettmann
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 S. Parker Road - 515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432777043, $18.95,

When hit with loss, it can be so hard to simply continue living. "Twenty-Eight Snow Angels" is a memoir of loss from Diane Dettman as she tells her own story of being hit with the worst life can throw at her, losing love, and finding worth once more. Dedicated and uplifting, Dettmann hopes others will take her inspiration to find their own way through life, "Twenty-Eight Snow Angels" is written with much care and dedication, highly recommended.

Expand Your Brand
Merrill Pereyra
The Messenger Group
c/o Atlas Books
9780977551989, $25.00,

Adaption and expansion are keys to succeeding in a global market. "Expand Your Brand: How to Supersize Any brand Anywhere in the World" is a guide to making the most of one's business in today's global market, as Merrill Pereyra presents what he learned from working with McDonalds and turning it into a world wide brand known the world over. Stating that McDonald's success can be replicated for other brands, "Expand Your Brand" is a fine read for any business manager who wants to take their company worldwide and succeed.

Standing Dead
Lawrence Rotch
Privately Published
9780983907909, $10.50,

For greed, a little thing life human life won't get in the way. "Standing Dead" is a blend of mystery and intrigue as they try to help a friend in need and find themselves knee deep in the corruption fo the timber industry. Finding their kindness may cost them their lives, "Standing Dead" is well worthy considering for standard fiction collections.

Secrets of Colours
Ernesto Zollo
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781456774455, $29.00,

What power do colors show in our everyday lives? "Secrets of Colours" is a metaphysical spirituality book from Ernesto Zollo as he explores the impact of color on our lives and how our color preference determines our character and how adaptations in our preferences over time can reflect changes in our personality. For those intrigued by the principles of colors in one's life, "Secrets of Colours" is worth considering for new age spirituality collections.

Tales of Evil and Good
Philip S. Duke
iUniverse, Inc.
c/o AuthorHouse
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300
Bloomington, IN 47403
0595159346, $9.95,

The clash of good and evil continues for all of time. "Tales of Evil and Good" is a collection of short stories from Philip S. Duke as he presents six short stories about this eternal clash of Good and Evil, God and Stan, and the representative crisis that happens everyday between mortals. "Tales of Evil and Good" is a riveting and recommended pick, not to be overlooked.

Justice Wanted
Marlene Gentilcore
Privately Published
9781595716484, $19.95,

Truth doesn't always come so easily. "Justice Wanted" follows Marlene Gentilcore as she seeks the truth on the strange death of Jack Alan Davis, whose death was officially ruled of choking to death on his own vomit after binge drinking. Questioning this verdict, Gentilcore finds much on the table to reinforce her suspicions, questioning the quick dismissal of the case. "Justice Wanted" is a fine read that offers much to think about in the modern pursuit of justice.

Tales Out of School
Linda Marie Arbour
iUniverse, Inc.
c/o AuthorHouse
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300
Bloomington, IN 47403
9781450289092, $19.95,

School is not just about academics, it's about molding young people into better human beings. "Tales Out of School" is a memoir from Linda Marie Arbour as she discusses educational issues and her experiences as student, educator, and administrator within a secondary Catholic school in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and everything she learned during her time, with many criticisms and suggestions for the future of our world. "Tales Out of School" is a set of sage suggestions which shouldn't be quickly overlooked.

Alex Markman
Asteroid Publishing
9781926720166, $19.95,

A clash of espionage leads to quite the clash. "Contra-Odessa" is an espionage thriller set in the height of the cold war as American and Soviet agents meet in the battle ground in Latin America, searching for the lost fortunes of the Nazis and the root of the funding behind Latin American radical groups. A riveting story with plenty of twists and turns behind it all, "Contra-Odessa" is an excellent pick for fans of spy fiction looking for another taste of the Cold War.

John Burroughs

Carson's Bookshelf

Ramesh A. Bakshi
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 S. Parker Road - 515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432776992, $15.95,

The cruelty of man will never allow world peace. "Shantibux" is set in a far flung future where after war, mankind finally tries to find its peace and unity, only to have rampant greed and crime challenge it. A story of hopes and dreams and the reality that challenges it from a professional man of India in Ramesh A. Bakshi, "Shantibux" is a very much recommended read with a good bit to think about.

The Great Fat Fraud
Mike Schatzki
Lamington Press
9780983772545, $16.95,

Healthy and Fat aren't mutually exclusive concepts. "The Great Fat Fraud: Why the Obesity Epidemic Isn't, How to Be Totally Healthy Without Losing Weight & If You Should Lose Some Pounds, How to Keep Them from Finding You Again" discusses obesity and health, and how the body can be pushed either way, and how much conventional wisdom is not entirely true. Offering objections to many traditional ideas about health, "The Great Fat Fraud" is an excellent pick for those who are seeking health, and what really relates to it.

Finding Theodore Czebotar
David Kherdian
Privately Published
No ISBN, $10.00,

To have one's art appreciated is the task of any artist. "Finding Theodore Czebotar" is David Kherdian looking for the story of Theodore Czebotar, the first artist and painter to come from Racine, Wisconsin; in the process Kherdian comes to understand his own roots as a poet and writer from the historic Wisconsin town. "Finding Theodore Czebotar" is an intriguing discussion of lesser known aspects of literary culture, much recommended.

Blessings from Mary
Sally Bartolameolli
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432751586, $21.95,

Spirituality is not something you take a vacation from. "Blessings from Mary" is a collection of Christian spiritual musings for everyday life, with a meditation for every day of the year, and encouraging all readers to absorb the fine sacred feminine principles into their lives. With advocation for finding soulfulness, "Blessings from Mary" is a fine read for Christian spirituality, highly recommended.

The Life of the Dead
Eddie B. Jackson
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781456716820, $12.01,

After death only comes resurrection. "The Life of the Dead" is a vision of the afterlife, or lack there of, Bishop Eddie Jackson states that there will be nothing, no moments, between death and life. Seeking to ease the fear of death in Christians, he offers a unique and original breakdown of Christian study, making "The Life of the Dead" a solid and much recommended pick for spirituality and Christian studies collections.

Dancing with Duality
Stella Vance
7290 B. Investment Drive
Charleston, SC 29418
9781466326651, $17.95,

The truth sets you free, even if it takes you decades to find it. "Dancing with Duality" is the spiritual memoir of Stella Vance, who chronicles her journey from being a devout Christian to someone addicted to anything and everything the world had to offer, drugs, love, faith, and more. Through it all, she shares her thoughts of what she's learned, and makes "Dancing with Duality" endlessly entertaining and highly recommended.

I've Always Loved You
Ann Seymour
9780915090686, $17.00,

In World War II, it wasn't just about risking one's life, it was about leaving family behind. "I've Always Loved You" delves into the history surrounding Ann Seymour's father, who fought long and hard throughout World War II. Writing her father's story and what he gave up and surrendered to fight for his country, Seymour presents a touching tribute to a generation that fought all out against invaders. "I've Always Loved You" is a fine pick for biography and military collections.

Saints of Old
Patrick Coffey
iUniverse, Inc.
c/o AuthorHouse
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300
Bloomington, IN 47403
9781462001309, $12.95,

For a millennia after the death of Christ, many men dared to stand for their faith when it wasn't so safe to. "Saints of Old" delves into the history of Christianity, as Patrick Coffey discusses the saints of the first thousand years, offering their stories and how they gained there reverence. "Saints of Old" is a devoted read for those interested in an introduction to these individuals who claimed the title of Saint.

Shattered Colors
Stacia Garland
Privately Published
9780615448794, $12.99,

When justice looks impossible, sometimes the most unlikely must rise to the challenge. "Shattered Colors" tells of gifted and talented in more than one way pre-teen Bree Grant. As she deals with a rough home life, and her secret gift of seeing auras about people to read their true motives, she charges herself with finding the truth behind a dead classmate. "Shattered Colors" is a riveting read for young adult mystery readers, highly recommended.

Michael J. Carson

Christy's Bookshelf

Dying for a Dance
Cindy Sample
L&L Dreamspell
9781603184274 $16.95 paperback, $4.99 ebook

Single mom Laurel McKay reluctantly agrees to take dancing lessons for a routine for her best friend's upcoming wedding in Lake Tahoe. Klutzy Laurel trips during a practice dance, breaking the heel of her shoe. Later that night, that same heel is found sticking out of the mouth of one of the male instructors, dead in the parking lot with a pool of blood under his head. Laurel thinks things can't get much worse but they do when Detective Tom Hunter shows up to investigate. Hunter pegged Laurel as a suspect in a prior murder and now it looks like the same thing is happening all over again. To add insult to injury, Laurel's still reeling over the fact that Hunter dumped her without an explanation after a two-week dating spree. To make matters worse, Laurel's mother is now engaged to Hunter's retired partner, a man who also pegged Laurel as a murderer. When the wife of Laurel's boss becomes the primary suspect, he asks Laurel to help clear his wife's name. Laurel's only too happy to do so and off she goes on another amateur sleuthing rampage, dancing all the way, with a whole plethora of suspects to investigate.

This follow-up to Dying for a Date featuring Laurel McKay is another hilarious romp filled with twists and turns and a vexing mystery. Sample introduces her readers to the fiercely competitive world of competition dancing and does not disappoint with the sizzling chemistry between Laurel and Detective Hunter. Sample's one-liners are amusing and her development of Laurel McKay as a caring, self-deprecating, everyday woman is well-done. This reviewer looks forward to the next in this series.

Catching Fire
Suzanne Collins
Scholastic Press
557 Broadway, New York, NY 10012-3999
9780439023498, $9.99,

This follow-up to The Hunger Games finds Katniss back in District 12, residing in a nice house in Victory Park with her mother and sister. Peeta and Haymitch live nearby although Katniss rarely sees them. She occasionally goes on hunting sprees with her best friend Gale but they never speak of their feelings for one another. Just before Katniss is scheduled to leave with Peeta for the mandatory Victory Tour though the 12 districts, President Snow pays her a visit, letting her know he believes she does not truly love Peeta and used this to manipulate the prior games. Snow tells her that her small act of rebellion has incited unrest in the districts and threatens her if she does not thwart this. Although Katniss tries to downplay her victory and let Peeta do most of the talking during the tour, a speech she makes in one of the districts does the very thing Snow warned her against. Snow's punishment is to make the upcoming 75th Hunger Games a special one, throwing prior victors into the arena to fight to the death. Katniss and Peeta are chosen from their district and once again Peeta tries to protect Katniss by proclaiming she is carrying his baby. Katniss makes the decision that Peeta will be the one to survive these games and she will do everything possible to ensure he is victor. But Haymitch has been working behind the scenes and Katniss soon finds she has no control over anything, including ending her own life.

Book 2 of The Hunger Games trilogy skips over scenarios readers may be curious about such as Katniss's reunion with Gale after her return from the Hunger Games, how she and Peeta dealt with the aftereffects of the games, etc. However, this does not take away from a powerful tale of love and danger, the confusion of a young woman over her feelings for two men, and the political insights into a corrupt government sliding into rebellion. Collins gives her readers characters to love and hate; an intensely graphic, bloody battle; and three people caught up in an at times agonizing triangular relationship. Undoubtedly, fans will be anxious for the next and final book in this galvanizing series.

Christy Tillery French

Crocco's Bookshelf

The Dig: Zoe and Zeus by Audrey Hart
Backlit Fiction
Amazon Digital Services
B0064GU2AM $6.99

Greek Mythology has never been more entertaining than in Audrey Hart's novel, The Dig: Zoe and Zeus. Hart integrates values and morals for the young adult readers while taking all her readers on a journey back in time, 3,000 years to be exact. The year is 1000 BC, and the place is Crete, an island in Greece.

Zoe is a 17-year-old teenager who attends Greeley Academy, a boarding school in Connecticut. She is a loner with a laissez-faire attitude about her appearance, such as her cowlick and her smile. She doesn't like groups and she feels like an outcast most of the time. She has trust issues, but she does have a best friend, CeeCee, who has a different way of seeing and doing things, especially when it comes to boys, but nevertheless they are best friends.

Zoe lost her parents when she was 12 years old and her Aunt Sophia and Uncle Alex look out for her. She loves them both very much. Aunt Sophia and Uncle Alex wait for Zoe to arrive in Greece for her seventh annual archaeological dig. Being the loner that she he is, Zoe is looking forward to being alone and doing what she loves best, getting down and dirty in a dig.

But this is not the archaeological dig Zoe expected. She ends up traveling through time to the year 1000 BC, where she is a goddess who possesses magical powers. She meets all the other Greek gods, goddesses, nymphs and more in the Kocaba forest. Now keep in mind, Zoe doesn't like Greek mythology. She thinks the gods are unlikable, impulsive, and egotistical. Then she meets Zeus, who ends up . . . well; you must read the book to find out!

There are outstanding subliminal messages hidden in The Dig: Zoe and Zeus. They address friendship, trust, self-esteem, bullying, and love, just to name a few. Hart integrates academic lessons learned in school that students believe have no relevance. She introduces new vocabulary and endless metaphors to enjoy. She uses current TV shows and pop culture to keep the young reader interested.

I recommend The Dig: Zoe and Zeus for readers of all ages. Young adults will truly enjoy this adventure while secretly learning life lessons. Adults will appreciate the humor Audrey Hart sneaks in just for us, such as the reference to the Three Stooges!

I look forward to the second book in this trilogy!

She Had No Choice
Debra Burroughs
Amazon Digital Services
B005MEKR20 $0.99

She Had No Choice is a family drama which originates in Sonora, Mexico. The year is 1918 during the Spanish influenza epidemic. The Ramirez family has already lost four children due to the outbreak. Juanita and Emilio make the decision to give up the land and home they own in Mexico and flee to Arizona to save their family.

Once in Arizona, the family is free from the flu epidemic; however, life is far from easy. Work is hard to get for migrant farm workers and the family suffers. Juanita dies and Emilio is left with his sons and two daughters. He sends one of his daughters, Sophia, to live with his sister, Consuela, in Phoenix. He thinks she will have a better life. For six years Sophia works as a servant girl for her Tia and the abuse only ends with Tia Consuela's death.

Sophia makes poor decisions regarding men. She ends up alone and pregnant with her first daughter, Eva. Her second relationship she is a victim of domestic abuse from Carlos, who continually beats and abuses her and her children for 25 years. She has a child almost every other year and her life is a living hell.

Eva's life is not going as expected. She is abandoned with two children. She is determined to rise above her adversities while trying to help her mother escape abuse from Carlos.

Does Eva succeed? Does Sophia have any part in the plan? Does either woman find real love?

Burroughs writes with such intensity and you feel what each character is going through on each and every page. She states the book is inspired by a series of true stories. I feel this enhances the reader's expectations.

The story ends in 1960 and I am hoping for a sequel! Sophia and Eva, along with their families, have come a long way since 1918. I want to follow their lives and I have no doubt all readers who enjoy She Had No Choice will agree.

The Barley Hole Chronicles: From Hell to Hamburg
Harry Leslie Smith
Kindle Edition
Amazon Digital Services
B006382B3C $1.50

Smith writes a true love story during wartime in Hamburg 1947. The time span is during the Great Depression and ends in Germany post war. The love story involves the author and his wife, Friede.

Smith was in Hamburg when Germany surrendered. He was a lonely teenager who had volunteered to join the RAF (Royal Air Force) in December of 1940 -1947. He extended his term(s) with the RAF without a second thought. There was nothing for Smith back in England, being he was uneducated and had no vocation. It made sense to stay put.

Smith fell in love with Friede, A German girl. This was taboo, a Brit was not supposed to have true feelings for a German. Smith describes the challenges of their courtship. Friede had deep rooted family problems; she was illegitimate and was ashamed and confused.

During their relationship, Smith kept Friede and her family alive stealing food from his base. Rations were never enough to survive. Being post war, there was nothing but poverty and hunger.

Smith writes in detail about post-war survival with Friede and her family. However, it does end with wedding bells; a precedent for post-war marriages between Brits and Germans.

The Barley Hole Chronicles summarizes both of Smith's memoirs; 1923 and Hamburg 1947. (1923 is a separate review.)

I recommend The Barley Hole Chronicles to history buffs as well as readers learning about war. A first-hand account is priceless.

War Horse by Michael Morpurgo
Kindle Edition
Scholastic, Inc.
557 Broadway, New York, NY 10012-3999
B00457WZEI, $5.24,

From the farms of England as a working horse, to the battlefields of Germany during WWI, Joey, a Thoroughbred horse, talks in his own voice about his life as a war horse.

Horses were invaluable during the war effort. Without horses there was no way to carry guns, ammunition or water for the troops. They were used for cavalry and ambulances to carry the wounded. A war horse surviving this life was rare. But not every War Horse was lucky enough to have an owner like Albert.

Albert is a young teenager who treats Joey like a family member. Due to circumstances beyond his control, Joey's father must sell him as a war horse to the English cavalry. This is beyond devastating to young Albert and he is determined to eventually find Joey someday. He can't wait to enlist legally, so when he becomes 16, he lies about his age to find Joey.

Morpurgo writes this story with young adult readers as his audience. It is wartime for a war horse and he provides his readers with appropriate war scenes. Young adults will understand what every adult knows; war is hell. The historical fiction narrated by Joey himself is perfect for children.

Another side of this wonderful story for readers is the knowledge we learn about horses in general. The public may or may not know what Morpurgo brilliantly teaches us. There are many life lessons learned when the reader finishes the book; lessons relating to both people and animals.

I recommend War Horse for all ages.

Mary Crocco, Reviewer

Daniel's Bookshelf

Misery Bay
Steve Hamilton
Minotaur Books
c/o St Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780312380434, $24.99,

I first discovered Steve Hamilton after a mystery club selection of A Cold Day in Paradise. I enjoyed the book's rich, compelling and vigorous prose. It had helped kept the mind on high octane with an instant rush of adrenalin. His writings have brought him recognition and awards, but I also like a good mystery, and a hero who won't be beaten down.

Alex McKnight is relaxing in his local favorite haunt, the Glasgow Inn, when Chief Roy Haven ventures through the door on a snowy January night with even more to come later. He and the chief have had bad past chemistry from the first day they met. Now Roy Haven is about to bring him some task that will change the Upper Pennisula's world with a new nightmare of sudden violence and blood-thirsty revenge. It all begins with a father's wanting to know about a horrific suicide of his son, and then more events to follow with no real answers. The FBI step in and tell them to back off from their personal investigations, but Haven and Alex are getting more into the case, when more unexpected deaths happen. The chilling results occur with shocking consequences and timing on every new step they turned. The chief and McKnight will be thrust into the path to find a ruthless killer who is evil personified. So, in Alex's life he has faced all kinds of evil, but this one wouldn't prepare him for the darkness of this ruthless killer. It all began in a lonely corner of the Upper Pennisula, in a place known as Misery Bay.

Steve Hamilton has won the prestigious Hopwood Award. He also has won the Private Eye Writers of America, the St Martin's Press Best First Private Eye Novel Contest, the Edgar and Shamus Awards for A Cold Day in Paradise. He has picked up the 2000 one of the year's Notable Books by The New York Times Book Review, and the 2004 Gumshoe Award. In 2006 Hamilton won the Michigan Author Award for his outstanding body of work. The Lock Artist without Alex McKnight got him his second Edgar Award, which was a fine intriguing plot effort. His latest work Misery Bay is a fine piece of writing, and a complicated stand alone mystery thriller. Hamilton joins only four other authors who have won the Edgar twice. A fine accomplishment for such a talented author, and he is one I keep going back to read for his fine prose. I also want to add, that I enjoy his choice of picking the locations up in the Upper Michigan Pennisula area.

Buried Prey
John Sandford
G.P. Putnam's Sons
c/o Penguin Group USA
175 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399157387 $27.95

I make no bones about it, that I am a regular reader of John Sandford, and I really like the Prey Series he has written with his twenty-one novels to-date. The main character has aged gracefully, but the fire is still up and ready to punch out the bad guys. Detective crime novels and thrillers remain my favorite in the fiction genre'. I find the Sandford Prey novels fill the bill for my taste. I am starting to pull in Virgil Flowers in his rotating series, but those acquire some time to get used to that change of character and story-line.

In 1985, Lucas Davenport was a young cop, and he was just about to be promoted out of his police officer uniform. He was an officer trying to fast pushing the envelope in processing criminals, and he didn't usually go by the book with the police regulations. It was his first big case, which resulted being a massive police effort to search for the kidnapping of two young girls who were never found. A surprise occurs when an entire block on the Minneapolis loop is being torn down for development, and the two bodies of those girls are found wrapped in plastic. It appears they have been buried in the rubble a long time, and Davenport knows when they were placed in that location. The case was closed back then, and it is now open with their bodies discovered. Now he has a chance to re-investigate the kidnapping all over again, and he plans on deepening the earlier probes. One thing is redeeming to Lucas is to get at the truth of this old case. At that time he ran into nothing, but closed doors, and a wrong suspect named Terry Scrape. He might have been a logical suspect located in the close proximity during the investigation, but someone else did the ghastly deeds.

John Sandford is responsible for having written three series and three stand alone novels. He is currently switching back and forth from the Prey Series to the Virgil Flowers Series. This book Buried Prey being his latest of the former and Shockwave being the latest of the latter. Shockwave was just recently released in the month of October 2011. I have concluded the earlier series to be one my favorites, but Virgil is slowly growing on me.

Daniel Allen

Gary's Bookshelf

Ben Costello
Five Star Publications
P O Box 6698, Chandler, AZ 85246-6698
9781589860149 $75.00

This is the best book ever written about the longest running drama in prime time. Any episode of "Gunsmoke: An American Institution Celebrating 50 Years Of Television's Best Western" showed why it was the giant series. It had the best writers, directors, producers, and actors. Actors loved to participate because they knew it led to bigger and better things. For example after her appearance on the show Katharine Ross was hired without a screen test for the role she played in the movie "Shenandoah." Strother Martin, William Schallert, Robert Lansing, Victor French, Bruce Dern, Eric Braeden, and others who were regular guest stars. Matt Dillon, Chester, Doc Adams, and Kitty were the core characters, then when Dennis Weaver no longer wanted to play the role of Chester, the series was able to introduce Ken Curtis as Festus Hagen who fit right in. What made this show work was the interplay of the main players. But it also had adult themes and conflicts. The author has many interviews with many of the actors, episode guides for all 635 episodes, summaries and stories behind the five movies for television, behind the scenes gossip, and pictures galore. Other westerns came and went but "Gunsmoke" ran 20 seasons with quality shows that still hold up today. With the episodes now coming to DVD, this is the best resource to use as a guide for watching them.

I Spy
Marc Cushman and Linda J. Larosa
McFarland & Company
P.O.Box 611 Jefferson, NC28640
9780786427505 $39.95

Recently Image Entertainment released on DVD for the first time all of the episodes of "I Spy" by season in the order they were shown. This book is a great addition that will add to a person's enjoyment of the show. "I Spy" was first in many ways. It was the first hour long show to present black and white actor leads as equals, it was the first to film on location in other parts of the world, it was the first hour long drama for producer Sheldon Leonard, it was the first time a black actor won an Emmy award for best actor in a drama. The authors tell the effect of James Bond, other shows that came along during "I Spy's" run, the relationship between "Star Trek" and "I Spy," how Cosby was almost fired and what stopped it, the chemistry of Culp and Cosby, the role that Robert Culp turned down, also the one Martin Landau turned down, behind the scenes when the show was on location, how TV stations did not carry it and why, actor profiles, story analysis, why the show was canceled after three seasons even though there was a fourth in the works, reunions of Culp and Cosby on other shows and movies, merchandising spin off items, and discussion of "I Spy" movies. With "I Spy: A History And Episode Guide The Groundbreaking Television Series" the authors have done a concise history of the show that broke new ground in the nineteen sixties that any fan of the series cannot afford to miss.

The Bionic Book
Herbie J Pilato
Bear Manor Media
P.O. Box 71426 Albany, GA 31708
1593930836 $29.95

I don't think anyone ever thought that the novel "Cyborg" would generate so much activity in the TV world. For the first time the behind the scenes stories of"Cyborg," "The Six Million Dollar Man," and the "Bionic Woman" are revealed. In "The Bionic Book: The Six Million Dollar Man & The Bionic Woman Reconstructed" Pilato exposes the connection of science fiction author Martin Caaidin and the two shows. He talks about the problems of finding the right actors to play the roles, the many directors and writers involved with both shows and there are episode guides for the series and three movies. The author also shows how modern science has used bionic parts to save many lives. One thing unique is that the Six Million Dollar "franchise holds a record for being one of the few series to have played on three major networks. For any fan of these series this is a must have book.

The Family Bones
Kimberly Raiser
Delvling Press
9780615246253 $15.95

Well, there is always a first time for everything. Writing reviews for thirty years, this has never happened until now. I've reconsidered my thoughts on what I originally wrote and have to admit I was wrong about this book. It is a very chilling horror thriller that falls into the realm of the old TV show "The Twilight Zone." The Weavers have inherited a property in Astral, Pennsylvania. Steven, Tara, Charlie, and Sara take a trip to see the home they now own. Once they are on the estate, a series of strange events occur. Charlie and Sara are separated from their parent's. Somehow they all come together and decide to leave to check out the town. But for some reason later they return and again circumstances become very strange. Also the easy going nature of Steven is much more aggressive. Tara also finds newspaper clippings on twisted murders that have taken place at or near the home through the years. Raiser has written a novel with a very rapid pace with believable characters in truly bizarre situations. The author ties up all loose ends with a conclusion that is warped. The tale leads the reader along with many twists and turns that will have the pages turning briskly. Raiser is a new name to add for enjoyable horror reading.

Out There
Diane Fanning
St. Martins Paperbacks
175 Fifth Avenue New York NY 10010
9780312949303, $6.99,

This is the book on the case that shocked the nation when a well-respected female astronaut of NASA went berserk, stalked another woman in the Orlando International Airport and pepper sprayed her victim in the parking lot. The country was stunned to learn segments of the story that the press first began reporting. Now, true crime writer Diane Fanning delves between the layers of this bizarre case of a love triangle that gave another black eye to the struggling space agency. Lisa Nowak from an early age wanted to be an astronaut. Her mother thought it was just a passing fancy. But Nowak was driven to be one of the few women to fly on space missions. She studied all of the right courses, went into the military, then trained with NASA and was determined to fly on a Space Shuttle mission, which she did. Fanning also shows that Nowak got married, had children, and had the perfect life. But something was just not enough. She had an affair with William Oefelein who was also married. Both Nowak's and Oefelein's marriages ended in divorce. Oefelein also did not let Nowak know that he was dating Colleen Shipman, an Air Force Captain. Nowak learned of the relationship and became obsessed with harming Shipman. Reports of the press said that Nowak drove straight through from Houston Texas to Orlando International Airport. Fanning shows that that is not quite true. She did drive from Houston but made an overnight stop in the panhandle Florida. I like how Fanning begins the book with the crime, then takes the reader through the childhood of Nowak, moves through her career in the military and NASA and later shows the beginning of her downfall and soon after her many appearances in federal court in Orlando.

OUT THERE is a top-notch piece of reporting that reveals so much the public never knew about this disturbing case.

Never Say Never
Michele Cameron
Genesis Press Inc
P.O. Box 101 Columbus, MS 39703
978158572694 $6.99

No, this has noting to do with the James Bond movie remake of "Thunderball." Desiree Diamond has a boyfriend, a position in a law firm and a life anyone would envy. But all is not as it seems; her boyfriend is too tied down to his family and she wants to go higher in the firm. She decides to end the relationship because he will not commit himself to marry her; he is content with things the way they are. She starts to date Tyler, an attorney of the office something she normally would not do, and she has a conflict. He is white; she is black. She tells herself she loves him but she cannot introduce him to her family and admit to her sisters and brother that she is dating Tyler. She evades the issue of his race. Desiree is very likable as are all of her family members and Tyler. The story is very well paced and comes to a very satisfying ending. The novel is more than a good romance story, it also tackles several social issues and does it very well.

Edgar John L'Heureux, Jr
P.O. Box 756 Goldenrod, Florida 32733
No ISBN $14.95

This is a three-volume set of writings by an author who has constantly amazed me with his range from writing short story collections to novels and now collections that are not really poetry nor prose but more a delightful combination genre that should be called poerose. What I also liked very much are the observations of Old Florida before Disney began it famous theme parks in Orlando that changed the entire state.

Moments of Clarity
Michele Cameron
Genesis Press Inc
P.O. Box 101, Columbus, MS 39703
978158573301 $6.99

Sasha Diamond, sister to Desiree from "Never Say Never" has her own problems to contend with. She dumps her boyfriend whom we first encountered in that novel. Now she is not as confident as she once was. She is much more cautious and not so quick to date until she meets NBA star Sexton. She also has a girlfriend who learns that her husband has a thing for prostitutes and that he is unwilling to change. Both women have to resolve a lot of conflicts. Once again Cameron writes about characters involved in social issues. She does it very well. For Sasha it is also a time when she learns all about those people around her, and by the end of the novel everything is very clear about the life she has. The pacing of this novel is very fast while the characters have many different dimensions that makes the work such an enjoyable read. Cameron is a writer to add to your must read list.

And Then It Was Tea Time
Compiled by Laurie Nienhaus
Gilded Lady Publishing
P O Box 2576 Fort Myers Beach Florida
9780979238901 $9.95

I did not know what to expect when I came across this book. I thought maybe this is a little trade paperback about the history of the drink so many of us love to indulge in. But when I began to read through it I found that is not what it is at all. The author has compiled statements through the years about the beverage. She uses passages of novels, movies, and real life to show how people feel about tea. I was a bit surprised but the book is a lot of fun and, is a perfect gift for any occasion. I was recently informed that January is National Tea Month.

I Am Legend
Richard Matheson
c/o Tor/Forge
175 Fifth Avenue New York NY 10010
9780765357151 $7.99

I love this novel of a man who is the last real human. He, for some reason, has not been mutated like the men, women, and children around him. He is in a fight for his life against the altered people who are very much like vampires. Matheson is a great writer of horror science fiction and this is one of his best. It was originally made into the "Omega Man" and is now in the remake that is the original title. Included in this volume are some of his finest short stories. "The Near Departed" is a story of a man who contacts a funeral home to make arrangements for his wife. In typical Matheson fashion there is a wonderful twist of an ending. Or "Buried Talents" something strange happens at a carnival. In total there are 11 stories here that show why Matheson is one of the best writers in the field. I am sad to say the author has stated that he will not write any more short stories because he says he has gone as far as he can but will still produce novels. Readers can enjoy these and others over again or for the first time. His pieces are timeless and all of these are prime examples.

Dillo A Baby Armadillo's Adventure On Sanibel Island
Kyle L. Miller
Illustrated by Randon T. Eddy
Jungle House Publications
736 Cardlum St. Sanibel Island, Fl 33957
9780976933205 $16.95

Marmma Armadillo delivers four babies. Their names are Lillo, Pillo, Jillo, and Dillo. Normally I have a problem keeping each character straight when the names are so similar but this time that difficulty does not exist. As the children grow Dillo's three sisters are consumed with jealousy. They feel their mother loves Dillo more than them. They hatch a plot to get rid of her. They take Dillo out into the wilderness and leave her to fend for herself. She also has a little problem. For some reason since she was born she always smiles no matter what is happening around her. She is scared but finds encounters with other animals of the area are not as bad as she has been led to believe. They quickly become her friends. When she needs them, they are there to help without being asked.

Kyle L. Miller has created animal characters that are well defined, interesting, and fun. But I have to add that the backdrop of Sanibel Island is also part of the mix of this delightful tale.

I loved this book that is geared to children but is just as appropriate for adults with its many messages. Some of them are what happens when envy is obsessive, negatives can be turned into positives, the power of friendship, and turning the other cheek and moving forward in life. Also there is a lot of symbolism that readers will be able to pick up for

themselves. The artwork by Randon T. Eddy adds another dimension to the work that helps move the story along.

Schools should use the book to apply lessons to children on how to get along with each other. Another use could be for divorce court judges to require plaintives to read it who get too petty. I think this would be a great resource to use to show the adults how childish they are being.

This is a wonderful story that should find many different audiences. I look forward to seeing what this creative team comes up with next

No One Heard Her Scream
Jordan Dane
c/o HarperCollins
10 East 53rd Street, New York, New York 10022,
9780061543449 $6.99

Jordan Dane is a new voice in the realm of romantic suspense and it's easy to see why from the first page where Danielle Montgomery, a high school student, is abducted. Her sister Detective Rebecca Montgomery has been barred from investigating Danielle's disappearance. Instead Rebecca is handed a case that begins as a fire in a theatre but turns out to be a murder when the arson investigator finds among the ruins a female body stuffed in one of the walls. Rebecca starts to track a killer. She pieces together that the woman disappeared seven years earlier and the circumstances are very similar to those of her sister's. Then with no explanation, her chief tells her she is off the case. However she continues on her own and begins to close in on the killer, when she herself is taken hostage, and her department for some reason sits idly by.

Dane's characters are believable with the cat and mouse pursuit of the detective after the killer. While Rebecca's mother and others believe that Danielle is dead, she holds on to the idea that Danielle is still alive. It is the underlying hope that she will see her sister again that keeps her going and helps keep her focused.

The last hundred pages read like an out-of-control freight train with enough twists and turns to please any suspense novel fan. This is the first of three books by this writer in the next few months. I hope the other two are as fast paced as this one.

The Blonde Theory
Kristin Harmel
5 Spot
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
1271 Avenue of the Americas NY, NY 10020
9780446697590 $13.99

The novel has a lot to say about the world of dating. Harper is a great attorney who has just had her boyfriend walk out on her at the beginning of the book. She begins to evaluate herself and why she can't keep a man. She and her girlfriends come up with the blonde theory that if you play dumb men will love you. What she finds is very different from what she had expected. She goes on a series of dates and plays the role of a dumb blonde and gets a taste of what life is really all about. There is one special man though but she finds that even he, when she is really herself is not all that he seems. I loved the interplay of Harper's girlfriends and what she learns about dating and herself. The author memorable characters with a writing style that is easy to read and created.

Is There Magic in The Mountains, Mamma?
Written by Maureen McNamee Cook Illustrated by Jacueline Connell
PO Box 151, Frederick, MD 21705-0151
1606726730 $24.95,

Though "Is There Magic in The Mountains Momma?" is a small book the author and artist have a lot to say about family in a kid's book that is a delightful mix of art and prose. Mia and her mom are on a quest to find the magic in the Smokey Mountains. The characters are fun while the lavish drawings help move the story along. "Is There Magic in The Mountains Mamma?" could be a wonderful family movie.

Captive Audience
William Hatfield
Publish America
PO Box 151, Frederick, MD 21705-0151
1413728111 $24.95

I don't read much of the new science fiction because many of the authors have lost sight of the fact good sf is about characters, conflicts, and stories that have a beginning, middle and an end. So many of them are too busy dealing with the science and not much else. I am glad to say this novel is a fast paced read with characters involved in numerous conflicts with a story that at first seems illogical but once you get into it is very plausible because he makes you believe aliens are real and that the passengers of the cruise ship Jade Viking have been taken prisoner. He also sets up many conflicts on how the earth people fight back. This novel should have had a mainstream publisher because so many readers will never find this excellent sci fi novel.

Reuben On Wry The Memoirs Of Dave Madden
Dave Madden
Booksurge LLC
7290-B Investment Drive
Charleston, SC 29418
9781419681950 $13.99

Say the name Dave Madden and many think he is related to John Madden, the former football coach now famous announcer, or people just don't have a clue of who Dave Madden is, but if you say Reuben Kincaid many people respond with. Didn't he have something to do with "The Partridge Family?" And still others when you mention "The Partridge Family first they have a fair idea of who Reuben Kincaid is. Dave Madden is the man who played the character Reuben Kincaid on the hit TV show "The Partridge Family." But Dave Madden is also famous for the man who threw confetti at the party on the show "Rowan and Martin's Laugh In." And he was a regular counter person for seven years on the show "Alice". He also has been known for his distinctive voice over work for many commercials. Madden now tells all in a delightful autobiography that tells his whole life story. The book is written as if Madden is talking directly to the reader. He tells many great jokes and talks about many famous people. It is also a romance story of Madden and his second wife Sandy, who is a romance writer. They knew each other from their days at the University of Miami, Florida. They dated but never really got serious until later life. There are some interesting things he reveals about some of his cast members from the "Laugh In" He talks about his on-going relationship with former cast member from the "Partridge Family" Danny Bonaduce, his friendship with "Camp Runamuck" co-star David Ketchum who also appeared in numerous other shows including "Bewitched." There are many other things I have left for readers to discover about Dave Madden and Reuben Kincaid. This is a book that no fan of classic television shows can afford to miss.

Great Kisses And Famous Lines Right Out Of The Movies
Timothy Knight
Harper Entertainment
c/o HarperCollins
10 East 53rd Street, New York, New York 10022
9780061438899 $14.95

For those of us who love movies this is a great little book that has a lot of surprises. The author has combed many of our favorites and shows the most romantic moments ever produced on film. He includes lines spoken just before the big kiss. Many are expected like "Ghost," "Gone With the Wind," "From Here to Eternity," and "Casablanca." Two that were surprising were "Rocky" and "Goldfinger." I liked that the author listed each film by the year it was released. The fun of this book is seeing if readers agree with the author's choices. This is a perfect gift for any fan of movies

Battlestar Galatica: Somewhere Beyond The Heavens
David Criswell & Richie F. Levine
Bear Manor Media
P.O. Box 71426 Albany, Georgia 31708
1591099935 $32.95

I, like many, am a big fan of the original series. The authors have written a very detailed study of the initial program that lasted only one season and the reborn show currently on the Sci-Fi network. They tell how the show began, the problems it had getting on the air, episode guides with notes and commentaries, a possible second season, the law suits with George Lucas, and studies of the first two seasons of the Sci-Fi mega hit. I was disappointed because they did not tell about the changes that had to be done because of the lawsuit. One was that the intro monologue had to be reworked. Those of us who have the DVD theatrical version are fortunate because it has not been changed. They also like fans shun away from the series that followed "Galactica 1980." They talk about one episode only because the character of "Starbuck" is in the episode. Even with its faults "Battlestar Galatica: Somewhere Beyond The Heavens" is one of the best resources on the show and no fan should miss it.

The Black Lizard Big Book of Pulps
Otto Penzler
9780307280480 $25.00

"Like Jazz, the hard-boiled private detective is entirely an American invention and it was given life in the pages of pulp magazines. Pulp now is a nearly generic term, frequently misused to indicate hack work of inferior literary achievement. While that often may be accurate, pulp was not intended to describe literary excellence or lack thereof, but was derived from the word pulpwood, which is the very cheap paper that was used to produce popular magazines. These, in turn, were the offspring of "dime novels" mainly magazine-sized mystery, Western, and adventure novels produced for young or unsophisticated readers." From the Foreword by Otto Penzler The pulps were magazines that reached their peak in the 1920's and the 1930's. They sold for a dime or fifteen cents. Readers were treated to stories in several genres: westerns, detective tales and crime fighters who were masked and had all kinds of gadgets to help them stop criminals. Some of the most well known were The Shadow, and The Spider. Like comic books, there was a lot of flack to them because the perception was that they were very harmful to children. For writers it was a great way to get published. Some of the most famous names are Cornell Woolrich, Erle Stanely Gardner, Raymond Chandler, Zane Grey, James M. Cain, Dashiell Hammett, and Leslie Charteris. From these writers came the characters of The Saint, Perry Mason, Sam Spade, and Philip Marlowe. This book is broken into three parts. "The Crimefighters, with an introduction by Harlan Coben, The Villains introduction by Harlan Ellison and Laura Lippman introduces the last section The Dames." This collection brings together many of the best stories and should appeal to a whole new generation of readers.

Daymare And Other Tales From The Pulps
Fredric Brown
Wildside Pulp Classics
1434494454 $14.95,

Finally, after so many years of being out of print these stories are back to reach whole new audiences. Brown is one of the lesser known writers of the 1940's 1950's and 1960's who was a master of the twist of an ending tale. Many readers know Ray Bradbury or Stephen King .and that's about it. Brown's most famous short story is "Arena" that was the basis for the "Star Trek "episode. "Daymare." It is a bizarre blend of mystery and science fiction. The four other stories here are gems as well. I hope to see other books re-issued by this company

Scott Heydt
Helm Publishing
P. O. Box 9691 Treasure Island Fl33740-9691
9780982060506 $10.00

The author tackles a number of social issues and does it very well. I was amazed how insightful the writer, a male, was to tell the story of a female ninth grader dealing with all of the things she has going on. His characters are believable while the situations are real ones kids face every day. The story moves along at a fast pace that will have readers turning pages. I look forward to seeing other things from this author in the future.

Nemesis Returns
Glenda C. Finkelstein
Aisling Press
Tampa, Florida 33543
97801934677452 $15.99

I've read and reviewed just about everything this author has produced so far and I have to say this is the best thing I have had the opportunity to critique. The characters are very well defined, while the writing is much faster paced. This sequel to "Nemesis Rising" begins 10 years after the disaster on Neptune Station and deals with many of the same issues. At conventions of science fiction two of the popular topics are can you mix genres, and does religion have a place in science fiction? I think the key to the two questions is. Is it done well? I am happy to say Glenda Finkelstein mixes elements of religion, horror, sf, and mystery in generous doses that move the story along to the surprising ending and she does it so well. The cover with the character with the green eyes first drew my attention to want to re-enter the "Nemesis" universe and then I was rewarded with a story that is just a remarkable science fiction novel.

How To Talk to Girls
Alec Greven
Harper Collins Children's Books
10 East 53rd Street New York, NY 10022
9780061718236 $6.99

I have to say I had a difficult time believing this book because the author is only nine years old. The things he says are for an older audience and I just found it hard to grasp that this kid is talking to children his age. I know that when I was his age being with a girl was the last thing a boy wanted to do. I have also watched the press fall all over itself to interview and talk about this author and his book. I felt like this is Charlie Brown talking to kids about how to find a valentine sweetheart. The book is cute but I just don't buy into the concept.

From the Heart Eight Rules to Live By
Robin Roberts
77 West 66th Street NY, NY 10023-6298
9781401309589 $14.95

Good Morning America co-anchor Robin Roberts for the first time reveals her amazing life story. She takes readers on a journey as a college basketball star, ESPN host and how she landed her current job. The book is much more than just a woman making it big in the journalism world. She talks about her siblings and how they compare to her. She talks about goals you make for yourself, having faith in God, and a strong family unit. Her parents were there for her and they taught her several things that she tells readers. Do not use excuses like race or gender when you do not get what you want. When she tried to use race as the reason she did not get a job they were tough on her and said maybe she was not good enough yet. She shows that you have to be honest with yourself and work harder for what you want. She tells all about her life before breast cancer and after, and why she decided to reveal she had the disease. The book is an inspirational journey through life.

Superheroes Capes and Crusaders in Comics and Films
Roz Kaveney
I.B Tauris
9781845115692 $18.95

The author delves into the world of the super hero on screen and in the comic books with an interesting perception. The NBC mega hit "Heroes," "The X Men," and "Batman" are a few of the characters she discusses. She also tells how comic books were attacked by groups who thought they were bad for kids to read and wanted them banned because they were perceived to be so harmful to children. "Superheroes" is an interesting study of superheroes. There have been other studies like this that were too boring because they had such off the wall perceptions of how children are affected by this make believe world. This book is easy to read and has a lot of information on the world of super here characters. Fans of this type of entertainment should not miss this one

Close-Ups Conversations With Our TV Favorites
Eddie Lucas
Bear Manor Media
P.O. Box 71426 Albany, Georgia 31708
1593931204 $22.99

I love books like this because they bring us up to date on what stars of classic TV shows are doing presently. The author interviewed Tony Dow, Barbara Billingsley from "Leave it to Beaver;" Dwayne Hickman, "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis;" Stanley Livingston, "My Three Sons;" Jon Provost, "Lassie;" Ernest Thomas, and Heywood Nelson, "What's Happening;" There are many little tidbits for any fan and trivia buffs. For instance, June Lockhart did not come on the show until Provost's second season. Tony Dow talks about how the actors have never been paid for the boxed sets of DVDs, Stanley Livingston shows the differences in the industry from when he was doing the show and now. I think this would make a great series of books.

How Underdog Was Born
Buck Biggers & Chet Stover
Bear Manor Media
P.O. Box 71426 Albany, Georgia 31708
1593930259 $19.95

The creators of the beloved cartoon "Underdog" for the first time tell all about the show. They reveal the way a show got on the air back in the 1960's, the power advertisers had deciding what got on, the competition they had with Jay Ward, and Hanna Barbara, the influence of an " I Love Lucy" episode are just a few of the things they reveal. There are two things I had a problem with. "How Underdog Was Born" is a bit confusing to follow and I would have liked to have the authors tell their thoughts.

Hey Mon Caribbean Cooking Magic
Errol Bishop
No ISBN $10.00

For a touch of the Caribbean this is the perfect recipe booklet. There are many spicy wonderful dishes that are easy to prepare. This is a great little cookbook that is a perfect gift for any occasion.

Gary Roen

Gloria's Bookshelf

Arnaldur Indridason
Translated by Anna Yates
Harvill Secker
c/o Random House
20 Vauxhall Rd., London SW1V 2SA
9781846554230 12.99 BPS

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

At the outset of this newest book by Icelandic author Indridason, the eighth in the series available in English translation, a young man picks up a woman in a bar, slips some rohypnol into her drink and brings her back to his home in an historic area of Reykjavik. When two days later the police are called to the scene, the body found lying in a pool of blood on the floor is not that of the woman, but the young man who lived there, his throat having been slashed. The only clues are a woman's shawl, and a strange smell that lingers in the air.

In this latest entry in the series, Detective Elinborg has the primary role, while her colleagues Erlendur and Sigurdur Oli take on lesser roles, the former only by reference in the early and late parts of the book [referred to as "a failure of a father," an "irascible loner," and "an insightful detective" whom Elinborg admires but does not necessarily like]. As the book opens he has apparently taken a leave of absence to travel to the East Fjords, where he had lived as a young boy. Oli has only a secondary role in the present investigations, with Elinborg taking the lead.

As always, Elinborg has conflicts between her job and her role as a wife and mother, and worries that she is not devoting enough time to her family. The older of her two sons, 16 years old and increasingly distant, has been a cause of concern lately, and she "sometimes worried about the relationships between parents and their children," a theme which recurs throughout the book. In the course of her investigation, Elinborg is drawn into an old case, one involving the disappearance of a 19-year-old girl six years prior, and the possibility that the two cases are tied together.

Having been steadily absorbing reading for more than the first half of the book, it suddenly becomes more intriguing as the plot turns more complex, and maintains that level till the denouement. This is a powerful book, consistent with all this author's prior work, and highly recommended.

Hide and Seek
B Katia Lief
Ebury Press [Random House UK]
9780091937928 6.99 BPS

Katia Lief's first book, the thrilling "You Are Next," was published in the US in October of 2010; this novel, a sequel, was published there under the title "Next Time You See Me" one short month later, and presently in the UK under the above title. Inasmuch as it picks up four years after the end of the first book, everything to follow must be considered a potential spoiler, hence:


Karin Schaeffer is still living in Brooklyn, New York, but now she is about to celebrate her second wedding anniversary. Five months pregnant, she had married Mac, after the latter quit the Maplewood, New Jersey police force [as had Karin herself a few years back], moved to Brooklyn where he married Karin and they both started a new life after [barely] surviving the events described in the first book

Karin had been a soldier, a cop and a detective; now a mother and currently taking courses in forensic psychology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice; Mac [nee Seamus MacLeary], a former cop for more than twenty years, has just been promoted to senior vice-president of Forensic Security at the exclusive firm of Quest Security after a scandal involving allegedly altered forensic testimony in a high-profile legal case had resulted in his predecessor in the job being summarily fired. Also present is Billy Staples, the cop who worked with them on the earlier case, now Mac's best friend and still working in Brooklyn's 84th Precinct.

As the tale opens, Mac's parents have been found dead in their home, apparently the victims of a botched home invasion. But a few days later, shortly after the funeral, the police suspect Mac's brother, Danny, who has a history of alcoholism and rootlessness, frequently changing jobs and girlfriends, based on DNA evidence found in the house. In a state of exhaustion, when Mac insists on going to work but trying to exude enthusiasm on the morning of their anniversary celebration dinner, he promises Karin, with a kiss and a smile, "next time you see me, I'll be . . . " when she cuts off his apology with another kiss. Then he disappears.

Two weeks later, with no word from Mac, they are notified that the car that he had apparently rented has been found in Long Island Sound, with no trace of a body. Months go by, with no word from or trace of Mac. Karin is convinced that his disappearance has something to do with his new job, rather than his parents' murder and Danny's possible involvement. She is convinced that Mac is still alive, focusing on the fact that no body has been found. She hires a private detective, and discovers things about Mac's past she never knew of or suspected. As her mother tells her, "we may think we know someone, but there are always surprises," and as Karin herself thinks, "if you think life is going to turn out the way you plan it, you're a fool."

The book is as suspenseful and surprising as was the earlier book, and it too is highly recommended.

Split Second
Catherine Coulter
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780399157431 $26.95,

There are three story lines presented in the newest book by Catherine Coulter. The first appears on page one, and isn't resolved until nearly the final page in the book: The owner of a small convenience store in Washington, D.C. is nearly killed late one night in an apparent robbery gone wrong, the latter not having counted on FBI Agent Dillon Savitch being the customer in the shop at the time. When the same man is shot in another incident shortly thereafter, leaving him seriously wounded, it would seem there is more going on than a "simple" robbery.

The second, and main, story line deals with a series of crimes involving women in their 20's and 30's who are picked up in neighborhood bars, brought back to their own apartments, and strangled with a length of wire, no apparent connection among them, and the crimes occurring in various large cities including Cleveland, Ohio; San Francisco; and Chicago. Autopsies show the women were drugged with Rohypnol and ketamine. One of the victims had scratched her attacker before being killed, leaving a nice sample of DNA to be analyzed and run through databases, after which it is determined that the killer is the offspring of none other than Ted Bundy, the man who kidnapped dozens of young women, raped, tortured and then murdered them before he was caught and ultimately electrocuted in Florida in 1989.

The last of the plotlines is a very personal one, having to do with a horrifying family secret just discovered by Lucy Carlyle, another FBI agent in the Washington DC office, and her attempt to put it on the back burner while joining her boss, Savitch, and her partner, Cooper ("Coop") McKnight, in the investigation of the serial killer, whose victims number five and counting.

I had several problems with the book, starting with the fact that one of the agents, whose name is, disconcertingly, Lacey Sherlock, is never referred to or called Lacey but, always, "Sherlock," even by her husband. As well, much of the writing felt stilted, the dialog often not what I felt one or another would be expected to utter or their actions not ringing true, e.g., a 27-year-old FBI agent "bouncing up and down" upon being given news of an important breakthrough in the case; a cup of coffee described as "dark as sin." And would a woman who had just been told her niece had lost control of her car and been badly injured, upon seeing that niece, really say to her "Oh, you've got a bandage on your head!" Nor am I enamored with the supernatural in mysteries, as is the case here.

On the other hand, almost in spite of myself, I was caught up in the story, the pages turning quickly, and anxious to find out how each story line was resolved. I am obviously in the minority with my reservations about the book, since the author consistently makes the bestseller lists. This is her seventeenth book in what is termed "the FBI Thriller" series. It made for good reading, on balance, and I'm sure most readers will find it very enjoyable.

The Caller
Karin Fossum
Translated by Kyle Semmel
Harvill Secker
c/o Random House
20 Vauxhall Rd., London SW1V 2SA
9781846553936, 12.99 BP, $21.00 Cdn.

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

Lucy thought she had everything a woman could want [and who could disagree?]: youth, beauty, health, a loving husband, and a baby girl they both doted upon. Until the warm summer day when evil is suddenly visited upon her perfect life in the form of an unknown monster, for when Lily approaches the pram under the maple tree outside their house where the baby had lain sleeping, she discovers that the baby is covered in blood. In their terror and panic, they rush to the hospital, where they are soon told that the baby is unharmed, that the blood was not hers, and that the police have been called. The Inspectors assigned to the case are Konrad Sejer and Jacob Skarre. Later that same night, a postcard is delivered to Sejer's door reading "Hell begins now."

Happy people content with their lives, suddenly made anxious, unable any longer to feel secure, as "a soundless form of terror" and utter vulnerability spreads through the community. That is the story line of this newest in the Inspector Sejer Mysteries. And a gripping, albeit somewhat depressing, tale it is, with a perpetrator who fancies himself as invincible, with unimaginable cruelty and an almost equally twisted quirk: He needs to see for himself the effects of his pranks: "Everyone lives on an edge, he thought, and I will push them over."

The writing is wonderful, as one has come to expect of this author. She describes Sejer's dog as follows: "a Chinese Shar Pei called Frank, lay at his feet, and was, like most Chinese, dignified, unapproachable and patient. Frank had tiny, closed ears - and thus bad hearing - and a mass of grey, wrinkled skin that made him look like a chamois cloth," and someone's "cat [which] slept in a corner, fat and striped like a mackerel." The humans are just as well-drawn. Widowed at a young age, Sejer is now feeling the frailty of impending old age, and along with him the reader feels a palpable sense of inescapable mortality, as well as "what was raw and brutal in the heart of every living creature." A disturbing but ultimately thoroughly enjoyable novel, very fast reading, and highly recommended.

By Brian Wiprud
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312601898 $26.99,

"Ringer" is a sly tale revolving around an encounter between a 65-year-old billionaire and a Mexican man of less than savory background. A caper novel with a plot arising out of a stew comprised of an ancient ring which may or may not be blessed and/or cursed, a spoiled and willful 19-year-old girl, a Greenwich Village palmist and her assorted relatives, and a smattering of several truisms purportedly from the mouth of Abraham Lincoln, among many other things, make up this consistently delightful concoction.

The protagonist is Morty Martinez, introduced to readers in the author's "Feelers," Brooklyn native and former house cleaner, who now considers himself as La Paz gentry now that is living in Mexico again and he has a few million in the bank. The aforementioned teenager is [ironically] named Purity Grant, who has a mutually hateful relationship with her stepfather, the billionaire. Their toxic dynamic fuels thoughts of murder as the easiest way out of matters financial and emotional, by both parties, and somehow Morty becomes the designated hit man of each. The mantra invoked from time to time, by each of the major players, is Earn Destiny, and they all go about trying to achieve that end in a manner which seems most logical to those involved, as opposed, perhaps, to anyone in the 'normal' world, such as, e.g., the reader.

Purity's speech is regularly peppered with acronyms, as though her mind is permanently in text-speak. [Being in the minority that is not thoroughly conversant with that particular mind-set, I have to admit to being unable to decipher them all. Typing this, it only just dawned on me, e.g., that "ITWYT" means "if that's what you think." "NHNF" and "YGAGA m9" still elude me, as does in general the concept of people actually using these in everyday, that is to say verbal, speech. Hopefully there is nothing profane in any of that.] But that only contributes to the enjoyment of this zany tale, which had me smiling or laughing aloud throughout. I have to admit I have not yet read "Feelers," but will try to correct that without much further ado. Recommended.

Gloria Feit

Gorden's Bookshelf

Spider Bones
Kathy Reichs
c/o Simon & Schuster, Inc.
1230 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020
9780439102398, $26.99,

The forensic detective novel is very popular. Reichs authors the most accurate novels in this genre. Over the years she has written some of the very best and some good novels. Spider Bones is one of her best. It is possible for the reader to figure out many of her plot twists before her characters but she also adds a few sharp curves to the storyline you don't see coming. Most writers in the genre suffer in a comparison between Reichs' works and their own.

Temperance Brennan, a forensic pathologist, is called in on the discovery of a decomposed body found floating in a Canadian pond. The way the body is found is suspicious. Finger prints identify the corpse as belonging to a soldier who died in the Vietnam War. She is called in to disinter the soldier from his grave in Carolina and find out what happened. The body is transported to Hawaii and the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command and with their lab and facilities she starts to find out what happened. Soon other bodies are linked to the case and the trail leads both her and her loved ones into murderous danger.

Spider Bones is arguably the best forensic detective novel in 2010. There are a few weaknesses in the story but on balance it brings you into the world of forensic investigation with a dash of suspense and action. It is well worth the time of any reader in the detective genre to look for the book.

Worst Case
James Patterson & Michael Ledwidge
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780446574730, $9.99,

For a number of years, James Patterson has been producing books more like a managing editor/publisher than an author. This permits him to produce a large number of books each year that have a similar basic quality and reading feel. The exact quality will vary with who the coauthor is and the particular balance between the two writers on a particular project. Worst Case fits into his top of the line publications. The individual characters are unique enough and the plot is both strong and creepy. But the key on producing a good story is learning about the lives and interactions of the characters. The lead characters have a likeable and comforting personal life which balances the psychotic killer and his actions. Their interpersonal interplay is the key in making this story as good as it is.

The children of some of the wealthiest families are being taken. Money is not demanded. Instead quizzes are given. They are not pass and fail but life or death quizzes. Detective Michael Bennett with FBI agent Emily Parker are jointly assigned to the case. With every abduction the killer is more ruthless and an implied final deadly event is hinted at. The detective team scrambles to catch up to the killer who has planned out a nearly non-stop campaign of terror.

Worst Case is a great summer detective read and it is just as good as an everyday escapist story. When Patterson is on his game, the stories are just about as good as they can get. The reader in mystery genres will not be disappointed in this story and, with its mass market pricing, you don't have to wait for it on the used bookstore shelves.

S.A. Gorden, Reviewer

Harwood's Bookshelf

Paranormality: Why We See What Isn't There
Professor Richard Wiseman
Pan MacMillan
20 New Wharf Road, London N1 9RR, UK
9780230752986 12.99 Brit. pounds

Professor Wiseman grabbed my attention in his opening pages when he revealed that he had been one of the youngest members of the Magic Circle. I recall that I was the youngest member when I joined the Magic Circle of Victoria, in Melbourne, Australia, an organization that applied for affiliation with THE Magic Circle, only to be told (paraphrased), "How dare you ignorant, hick colonials have the pretentious insolence to claim any connection with us!" Wiseman has since devoted much of his life to the practice of magic, defined as simulation of the impossible by methods of deception developed by magicians. And I have done likewise.

Wiseman changed the focus of his research into the paranormal (euphemism for mental conjuring), from investigating "how it's done" to analyzing why large numbers are willing to believe that conjuring tricks are accomplished by mind powers that do not exist, when he saw Susan Blackmore on TV expressing the opinion (p. 3) that, "instead of examining whether such phenomena were genuine ... she thought it more worthwhile to investigate why people experienced these same sensations." I similarly changed my attitude toward parapsychology when I took my first statistics course and immediately recognized that Dr Joseph Rhine, whom I previously believed to have proven the reality of ESP, was so incompetent in statistics that he habitually claimed better-than-chance results for experiments that in fact produced results that were equal to chance. Since Paranormality is not written for magicians, that is as much as I wish to say about Wiseman's qualifications for writing about the paranormal, and my qualifications for reviewing him.

Wiseman does not ignore the question of whether paranormal claims have any credibility. He explains (p. 23) that, "Most mediums and psychics use a fascinating set of psychological techniques to give the impression that they have a magical insight into the past, present and future. These techniques are referred to as 'cold reading'." Cold reading means basically starting with a pure guess, and watching the subject's reaction to determine whether to elaborate or change direction. Persons who are not manipulated by cold reading reinforce their security beliefs by the common practice of counting the hits and ignoring the misses. As an example of such a situation, he writes (p. 9), "We might hear of someone who was miraculously healed after praying, forget about those who were healed without prayer or prayed for but were not healed, and incorrectly conclude that prayer works.... or about someone who was cured of cancer after eating lots of oranges ... and end up believing that oranges help cure cancer."

Perhaps for the purpose of encouraging incurables to keep reading, Wiseman in many places hints that a belief to be discussed in a later chapter may have some validity. For example, on reading his first reference to Rorschach ink blots, I got the impression that he believes that one's interpretations of such blots "reveal a great deal about you." It was reassuring to learn that he is under no such delusion.

Wiseman describes an experiment in which a computer was programmed to impersonate a psychiatrist by utilizing the cold-reading tactics of doubletalk, gobbledygook, and repeating the patient's words back to him. He reports (p. 33) that, "Despite presenting people with a series of these completely meaningless statements, ELIZA proved extremely popular and convinced many people that they were indeed chatting to a genuine and experienced psychotherapist." But while he recognizes that the experiment demonstrated how persons who consult psychics are able to delude themselves that they have been given valid, useful information, it does not seem to have crossed his mind that it also demonstrated that persons who consult psychotherapists are similarly self-deluded, and that psychobabblers are the same kind of practitioners of cold reading and the same kind of fraudulent humbugs as psychics. In Wiseman's defence: he does recognize the inventor of the psychoanalysis masturbation fantasy as less than infallible (p. 299): "Freud's ideas have spawned an entire industry devoted to dream interpretation.... There is just one small problem. Many scientists now think that Freud got it badly wrong, and that these attempts at interpretation are a complete waste of time." For the facts, I suggest that Wiseman read Thomas Szasz, who has been debunking the psychiatry hoax for fifty years.

He should also read Robert Baker (They Call It Hypnosis). He writes (p. 88) that certain persons "are more easily hypnotized" than others, and later (pp. 249-251) describes experiments conducted in the mid-twentieth century that allegedly proved the impossibility of persuading a hypnotized person to act against his informed self-interest. It does not occur to him that similar experiments could be used to prove that a Wizard of Oz could not persuade anybody to act contrary to his best interests by waving a magic wand. Baker's book makes clear that, "Hypnosis does not exist, has never existed in the past, and will not exist in the future." My conclusion after forty years of working with therapeutic and stage hypnotists is (The Disinformation Cycle, p. 32), "Hypnotism has never been demonstrated to exist and almost certainly does not exist."

Wiseman's use of the expressions, "each other" (applicable to precisely two items), and "one another" (applicable only to more than two), as if the terms were interchangeable, has me wondering if this is a case in which the North American concept of correct English differs from that of the UK. As for his use of "their" and "them" as common-gender singulars, such a practice, despite its increasing prevalence in the media, continues to irritate me.

He describes (p. 33) how physicist Alan Sokal submitted an article comprised of flattering gobbledygook to a sociology journal. Again, while Wiseman recognizes that the hoax proved the undisciplined gullibility of the editors who chose to publish Sokal's nonsense, he fails to recognize that it also proved the fraudulence of the whole sociology scam. If a bartender can spout meaningless doubletalk and deceive relevant audiences into mistaking him for a psychic, a psychiatrist, a political scientist, an economist, a theologian, or a sociologist, then all of those disciplines are contentless humbuggery. Indeed any discipline in which two dissertations, so incompatible that for either one to be valid the other must be incompetent nonsense, can both receive PhDs from the same department of the same university in the same year, is contentless humbuggery.

In a hoax that Wiseman does not describe, since he has not read the relevant chapters of The Disinformation Cycle, I combined the most meaningless drivel from several articles in education journals into an essay designed to appear profound, submitted slightly different versions to more than one professor of education - and was in every case given a passing grade.

For his descriptions of searches for non-falsifiable paranormal explanations for such popular myths as out-of-body experiences, metaphysical souls, and telekinesis, and the failure to find any, Wiseman relies heavily on previously published material, including the writings of James Randi and Susan Blackmore, and Skeptical Inquirer. In a book providing an overview of the whole subject of paranormality, that is of course the only way to go. If every experiment had to be personally replicated by every author dealing with the subject, the task of informing the masses would be virtually impossible. There are equally useful surveys of popular delusions by Kenneth Feder, Ben Goldacre, Guy Harrison, Stephen Law, Joe Nickell, Robert Park, Michael Shermer, Barry Singer, and others. But Richard Wiseman's Paranormality is as good as most and better than some.

Wiseman concludes (p. 309) that, "I have yet to come across any compelling evidence for the supernatural," and says of persons who believe in supernatural phenomena, "I believe that this belief is mistaken." But as he points out, the ultimate proof that persons claiming paranormal powers are either self-deluded amateurs or professional tricksters is that, several years after magician James Randi offered one million dollars to anyone who can demonstrate such powers under controlled conditions, the prize remains unclaimed.

Bang! How We Came to Be
Michael Rubino
Prometheus Books
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst, NY 14228-2119
9781616144722, $17.00,

As of November 1, 2011, six reviews of this book have been posted to, and all six rate it at the five stars it assuredly deserves. I finished reading it in fifteen minutes, but I confidently predict that children from kindergarten to grade six and perhaps beyond will be captivated by the illustrations and savor it rather longer than that. It may be the most straight-forward, comprehensible explanation for children of how life evolved from single celled protozoa to humans currently in print. Richard Dawkins wrote that, "Children will be fascinated by this book, and they'll use it to educate their parents." I cannot improve on that.

Denying Science: Conspiracy Theories, Media Distortions, and the War Against Reality
John Grant
Prometheus Books
59 John Glenn Drive, Buffalo, NY 14228-2119
9781616143992, $25.00,

Denial of science has been around for a long time. Religion in particular has vehemently denied such discoveries as the heliocentric solar system, the thirteen-billion-years-old universe, and evolution by natural selection. But in recent decades, with the rise of chronically god-addicted politicians in the Republican Party, antiscience has reached unprecedented levels. A congresswoman who was briefly considered a plausible contender for the Republican presidential nomination even boasted of her belief that the world is a mere six thousand years old. But because a significant number of voters are equally ignorant, the mainstream news media, not just Faux News, equated ignorance with "freedom of religion" and declined to call her out. Consequently, belief in antiscience by the unlearned masses was greatly reinforced. John Grant writes (p. 25) that, "As a general rule, if the mass of mainstream journalists says one thing and the mass of scientists working in the relevant field says another, believe the scientists. Unfortunately, swaths of the public see it the other way around."

To stress that he is not emulating propagandists for antiscience by suppressing contradictory data, Grant draws attention to situations where majorities of scientists strenuously opposed hypotheses that turned out to be correct, such as a heliocentric planetary system, continental drift, and the germ theory of disease. Individual scientists have denied the theory of universal gravitation, the danger of overpopulation, and more recently global warming. Lord Kelvin's inability to question his religious beliefs is thought to have been a factor in his rejection of an earth old enough for Darwin's evolution theory to be valid. But it is difficult to see a religious or any other reason for a Nobel Prize winner in medicine to claim that there is a scientific justification for homeopathy (p. 19), or another Nobel Prize winner to insist that vitamin C can cure cancer.

On the risk of antiscience leading to the extermination of the human species, Grant contends (p. 12) that, because of continued denial of global warming, "there's a good chance human civilization as we know it will have disappeared by the end of this century." He is aware that such predictions have backfired in the past. Paul Ehrlich's prediction of the anthropocidal effect of overpopulation, because it was "overly pessimistic" (p. 28), led science deniers to say that he "so spectacularly got it wrong." Will my own often-stated prediction that, unless humankind exterminates religion by 2200 CE, religion will exterminate humankind by 2300 CE, turn out to be "spectacularly wrong"? I can hope so, but I fear that it is not "overly pessimistic."

Many surveys have established that the percentage of scientists who are nontheists (a term that includes self-styled agnostics) is far higher than in the population at large. Grant reports the figure as 64 percent, even though only 8 percent said that they do believe in "God." What answer the missing 28 percent gave, he does not say. But he quotes a survey mentioned in Science vs. Religion, that estimated nontheism in America to be "roughly 12%," and cited other surveys that put the figure as low as "about 6 percent." Not surprisingly, in view of those inaccurate figures, his bibliography does not include Living Without Gods, by Ronald Aronson, who explains that competent interpretations of polls shows that nontheists constitute 36 percent of the American population.

The rare scientist who does peddle pseudoscience contributes to the dumbing of the masses. But the growth of the Internet, on which ignoramuses are able to denounce the educated as if they were their equals, is an even larger factor. Consider the nutcase (p. 14) who posted a comment rebuking, "those who are too STUPID!!!! to realize the earth is less than ten thousand years old." While the author of those words falls so low on the IQ charts as to constitute a straw man, the majority of antiscience fanatics (p. 13) "are being taught to stop thinking ... all the while believing their disagreement with the views of 'experts' to be really a case of 'thinking for themselves.'"

Godworshippers as a class could benefit from enrolling in Logic 101. Almost all believe that their bible is a source of divinely revealed information, while similarly disagreeing with its fifteen assertions that the earth is flat. The example of such doublethink that Grant cites is (p. 16), "more than half of the people who thought the world was just a few thousand years old also believed that dinosaurs existed millions of years ago."

I was delighted to find that a scholar of Grant's status agrees with my conclusion that "social science" is as oxymoronic as "Christian Science." He refers (p. 20) to the rivalry between certain "sociologists/philosophers, on the one hand, and scientists, on the other," and describes their disagreements as "a dispute between amateurs and professionals." He quotes a sociologist (p. 22) who argued that science is nothing more than a social construct, and that Einstein's equation, E = MC2, "is a sexed equation" that would have been different, "had it been derived by a female scientist within the context of a predominantly female discipline." He also (p. 24) cites "one of the most prominent examples of political scientists and economists using the pretense of mathematics where plain English might reveal the paucity of reasoning." Does Grant share my view that psychologists, sociologists, political scientists, economists, religious apologists, and professors of education resort to contentless doubletalk to disguise their paucity of reasoning? I'll leave that at "maybe."

Since it was Grant who brought up the subject of correct English, he should not be surprised when I suggest that his statement (p. 20) that, "someone doesn't know what they're talking about," combining the plural pronoun "they" with the singular antecedent "someone," is equally unreasoned.

His evaluation of recent American presidents echoes my own. He attributes the election of John F. Kennedy to the fact that (p. 26), "The middlebrows of America clearly thought it was a good idea to have a president who was intelligent." Forty years later, Al Gore lost his chance to be President, "through being perceived by the electorate as insufficiently stupid." Actually, Al Gore defeated George W. Bush, but was prevented from taking office by a Republican Supreme Court that overthrew the election result in order to appoint a member of its own party to the office he could not win legally. But Grant is right that voters who saw Gore as insufficiently stupid would have voted against Bush's opponent for the same reason if that opponent had been Lenny Small from Of Mice And Men. I also agree that Barack Obama downplayed his intellect in order to defeat a Republican politely described as average, and that Bill Clinton, instead of vetoing Republicans' concerted annihilations of measures to protect the ecology (p. 32), "opted consistently for political expediency." Clinton, it should be remembered, more than once placed benefit in the here-and-now ahead of foreseeable consequences down the line.

In the chapter, "God told me to deny," Grant recognizes (p. 37) that, "religious belief is essentially a denial of science," even though religion began as an attempt to answer then-unanswerable questions and thus was "humankind's earliest stumbling attempt at science." Of persons who for non-religious reasons believe that teaching Intelligent Design in school science classes constitutes "teaching the debate," (p. 38) he explains that, "They've been misled into believing that pseudoscience is science." After recounting efforts by non-Christian religions to interpret their sacred writings as accurately predictive, he cites utterances by Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and Rush Limbaugh that blamed natural disasters on the failure of Americans to believe what those theocrats believe. He does not bother to comment on the imbecility of such preaching. The preachers' own words render any such comment superfluous.

Grant's chapter backing up the assertion of a Dickens character that, "The law is a ass," recognizes that (p. 52), "there are scientists, often with minimal and sometimes zero qualifications, who make a good living testifying in trial after trial on subjects in which their understandings are so paltry or their ideas so loopy that they can't get actual jobs in the fields concerned." But he makes no mention of the fact that, in every criminal trial in which psychiatric testimony was permitted, the prosecution and defence both introduced alleged experts who contradicted each other. And in the chapter on medical quackery, he reports (p. 77) that, "there's no reason to believe these therapies work at all beyond any placebo effect. After all, many of the remedies now described as complementary or alternative medicine (CAM) - prayer, therapeutic touch, herbal medicine - are those that didn't do well against the Black Death." Yet (p. 78), "It seems that a single anecdotal report ... outweighs any number of deeply researched double-blind trials and peer-reviewed scientific conclusions."

Grant provides cubic acres of evidence that, no matter how definitively a pseudomedical delusion or a crime against humanity by a poison-peddler is exposed, reality still does not get through to those who will not see. He reports (p. 65) that a man charged with sexual abuse of a child, on the basis of recovered memories, had the charges dropped when prosecutors finally got the message that alleged recovered memories are really false memories, only to be murdered two years later by a vigilante. And constant denial by the tobacco industry that they are in the mass-murder business has been sufficiently successful that (p. 96), "A 2006 Gallup poll found that 12 percent of Americans still think passive smoking is either 'not too harmful' or 'not harmful at all'"

"Children all over the globe pay regularly with their lives for their parents' denial of medical science." (p. 99) Grant backs up that assertion with examples from fringe religions whose names are not widely recognized, as well as from the better-know child-killing cults of Christian Science and Jehovah's Witnesses. He reports (p. 100) that nineteen American states permit parents who allow their children to die by withholding necessary medical treatment a "freedom of religion" defence, and that almost all states legitimize faithhealing as healthcare. What he might have mentioned but did not, perhaps considering it self-evident, is that a law permitting parents to kill their children is a "law respecting an establishment of religion." Doesn't the First Amendment say something about that?

Even though "pro-life" is a euphemism for the kind of insanity that is incapable of seeing a qualitative difference between aborting a pre-human tadpole with zero brainwave activity indicative of human thought, and the killing of a self-aware sentient being, Grant notes that (p. 103), "In the US midterm elections of 2010 no fewer than sixty-three house candidates, describing themselves as 'pro-life,' pledged a without-exceptions opposition to abortion." He acknowledges (p. 102) that, "In the case of autism, parents who resort to religious methods at least have the excuse to offer that nothing else works either." He does not raise the question of whether parents who allow an imaginary Sky Fuhrer to decide whether their children should live or die belong in jails or insane asylums.

As a former member of the entertainment industry, I share the industry's embarrassment when one of its more prominent members goes public with a viewpoint politely described as indefensible, such as Brigitte Bardot's endorsement of equal rights (as opposed to humane treatment) for animals; Tom Cruise's touting of a confidence swindle posing as a religion; or practically every word from the mouth of Mel Gibson. I was therefore actually relieved when Grant's chapter on vaccination denigrators made no mention of Joanna Lumley, and instead cited only individuals whose opposition to a valuable medical procedure constituted an embarrassment only to themselves.

I was also pleased that Grant's pages on AIDS-denial focused on a subsection of humanity I view as an embarrassment to primates. He writes (p. 125), "A lot of this reluctance on the part of the US Right to face the reality of AIDS may have been due to the fact that, in the early days, AIDS was assumed to be a 'gay plague'; not only were gays a minority but the 'gay lifestyle' was regarded as immoral and debased by the fundamentalists upon whose votes the GOP depended." I have lived in North America long enough to remember a time when "morally evolved Republican" did not sound like an oxymoron. Today it comes as no surprise that (p. 126), "The Bush administration's denialism on the subject of AIDS was ideological - or, perhaps even worse ... tailored to ensure the continued electoral support of the Christian Right." As far as I am aware, the Christian Right are still able to interbreed with human beings, and that is a pity.

Grant identifies as the virtual creator of the self-help scam war criminal Radovan Karadzic, who wrote his pseudo-reality under the pseudonym of Dragan Dabic. Grant states (p. 139) that Karadzic "did have qualifications in psychology - his profession was psychiatry before he became a national politician. As for the rest, he appears to have been making it up as he went along." And in what way does "making it up as he went along" differ from what all psychiatrists do when they impersonate bartenders and taxi drivers by combining cold reading with sympathetic listening and asking, "And how did that make you feel?"

Grant reaches no conclusion on whether most peddlers of self-help books are cranks or humbugs. He writes (p. 145) that, "A major reason self-help books are bought in such vast numbers is that, precisely because of the huge readership, there are plenty of people around who for one or other reason become successful after reading a self-help book - and these people are naturally featured on TV chat shows by the likes of Oprah Winfrey." As with quack medicines, prayer, and other placebo procedures, this is another case of counting the hits and ignoring the misses. He apparently shares my opinion of Winfrey's status as a major contributor to public ignorance, since he cites her again when (p. 140) he describes The Secret, by Rhonda Byrne, as the "most egregious of these books. It would probably have gone nowhere had it not been for its enthusiastic endorsement by Oprah Winfrey." He concludes (p. 144) that, "consumers happily accept that, if a self-help program doesn't work, it's not the program's fault but the person's. In a certain sense this is true - if you buy the Brooklyn Bridge on eBay, you have only yourself to blame when the bridge doesn't arrive in the mail as promised."

Several of Grant's chapters contain little or nothing on which I see any reason to comment. That should not be interpreted as a denigration of those chapters. Indeed, in a compendium of science deniers, Grant would have been culpably remiss if he had declined to discuss such issues as eugenics, social Darwinism, survival of the fittest, intelligent design, ecology, including overfishing and the destruction of ecosystems, the Scopes trial, conspiracy freaks such as Ann Coulter and Sarah Palin, "blowhard talk-radio" hosts such as Rush Limbaugh, and climate change deniers such as Rupert Murdoch's Faux News propaganda network, Michele Bachmann, and Pat Buchanan, also by no coincidence evolution deniers, simply because they had been thoroughly dissected by earlier writers. But one comment is worth repeating (p. 233): "Climate scientists divide roughly 98 percent to 2 percent over the reality of human-caused global warming, yet somehow politicians who lack scientific training know better." And why are Republicans so certain that humans can never make planet earth uninhabitable? Their answer (p. 234) is that Mother Goose will not allow it to happen (or was it "God"? I'm always confusing those two). And even removed from any context, Grant scores a home run with his observation that (p. 210), "Some members of the vast masses can be astonishingly gullible ... witness the recent spectacle of whipped-up mobs of Tea Partiers furiously demonstrating in favor of policies specifically designed to perpetuate their deprivation."

As an aficionado of MSNBC's prime time programming, I have long been aware that the biggest difference between the billionaire Koch brothers and the characters played by Don Ameche and Ralph Bellamy in the movie, Trading Places, is that the fictitious bothers were nicer. But I was unfamiliar with the details of their ongoing opposition to environmental protection, any kind of social safety net, and any legislation that benefits the least-wealthy ninety-nine percent of the population. Grant reports (p. 274) that, "Between 1997 and 2008 the Kochs donated $48,510,856 to groups opposing action on climate change." Oil refineries owned by Koch Industries daily process over 800,000 barrels of crude oil in the US. Grant describes the company as "filthy, being among the top ten air polluters in the US, and in 2000 the EPA fined the company $30 million for its role in three hundred oil spills." That helps explain why politicians who accepted thousands of dollars worth of bribes from the Koch brothers, in the form of campaign donations, have been at the forefront of Republican attempts to abolish the EPA. Grant stops short of calling a bribe a bribe. But he names twenty-one members of Congress who accepted large donations, and advises readers (p. 276), "If you recognize your local legislator here, you might want to check their voting habits." He also draws attention (p. 275) to the Koch brothers' financing of "organizations designed to smear the policies of the Obama administration and counter ... affordable, efficient healthcare." It is understandable that billionaires would want to undermine a president who campaigns against giving millionaires and billionaires a free ride. What is less understandable is the gullibility of Republican politicians who seem to believe that, if they feed the Koch brothers long enough, the Koch brothers will eat them last.

Given the repetitious rambling of anti-science fanatics who reiterate the same claims that have already been shot down, Grant's final summation (p. 309) is that, "anyone who has ever argued on the Internet with science deniers of any stripe ... will assure you that after a while there grows an uncanny sense ... that you're arguing not with a human being but with ..." The only problem with the hypothesis that regurgitated web posts are written by a computer is that computers are capable of integrating new information.

Voodoo Science: The Road from Foolishness to Fraud
Robert Park
Oxford University Press
198 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
0195135156, $27.50,

Dan Rather and Johnny Carson are not the first names that spring to mind when one starts cataloguing scientifically illiterate media personalities. Yet when a high school dropout named Joe Newman invented a machine that produced more energy than was required to operate it, in other words a perpetual motion machine, Rather and Carson both featured him on their programs, accompanied by alleged experts who declared his invention plausible, but not by any physicists who would have stated that perpetual motion is a violation of the first and second laws of thermodynamics. Robert Park interviewed Newman and examined his claim. Anyone who does not know what conclusion he reached either is himself scientifically illiterate or thinks that Park is.

Newman is a nobody who did nothing, unless finding marks willing to buy his snake oil counts. What is significant about his pseudoscience peddling is the role of the media in disinforming the masses. Following his appearance on national television, Newman was able to sell thousands of tickets to see him demonstrate his machine in the New Orleans Superdome. And when he drove an automobile around the field until the spring powering it ran down, and informed the audience that the vehicle was powered by his machine and could have continued to run indefinitely, the marks lapped it up and nobody asked for his money back. If the enablers of such a crank had been Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck, their ignorance would not have reflected on their whole industry. But when persons as trusted as Rather and Carson endorse violations of the laws of physics, the media as a whole becomes a contributor to the dumbing of America.

Grant hones in on the culpability of the media, Congress, and others responsible for promoting antiscience, pseudoscience, and various other pretend-sciences, that he lumps together as voodoo science. He is particularly devastating in his attack on junk science (p. 164), "far-fetched or implausible scientific interpretations that are not supported by scientific evidence," and are in fact "deliberately designed to fool or befuddle nonscientists, particularly on juries." He argues that, "There are, unfortunately, few scientific claims so far-fetched that no Ph.D. scientist can be found to vouch for them."

But despite the soundness of his arguments, I found large parts of Park's book troubling. For example, he devotes a whole chapter to belittling the space program, not by labeling it as unscientific, but by denying its usefulness. While I agree that "men in space" is more a political than a scientific objective, I do not see that as necessarily a reason to abandon the program altogether. While his chapters on cold fusion, perpetual motion, the Roswell delusion, alien abduction fantasies, and the ridiculous (crank? humbug?) Deepak Chopra could be described as yesterday's news in 2011, that was less true in 2000. But his sub-chapter, "The Fornicating Priests," which was about cold fusion and perpetual motion, had nothing to do with fornication or priests. Was it some kind of joke that I missed?

The continued existence a decade later of beliefs Park exposed as scams or delusions in 2000, such as homeopathy, global warming denial, parapsychology, and the willingness of the media to place ratings ahead of truth, should not be attributed to the inadequacy of this book. As often noted: There are none so blind as those who will not see. The god hypothesis was exposed as oxymoronic more than two thousand years ago, and it continues to deceive incurables. The voodoo science Park demolishes will not be around for that long, but they will probably outlive you and me.

Science vs. Religion: What Scientists Really Think
Elaine Howard Ecklund
Oxford University Press
198 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
9780195392982, $27.95,

Science and religion are incompatible. For either one to be true, the other must be incompetent hogwash. That does not mean that a scientist cannot believe in religion. A minority of scientists - no more than eight percent of the members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science - do believe in religion. The mental gymnastics to which the intestinally challenged are able to resort in order to harmonize "A" and "not-A" does not make the incompatibility go away. Elaine Ecklund thinks it does. She argues (p. 6) that scientists "have not necessarily rejected religion because they are scientists," and (p. 3) cites a physicist who rejected the god hypothesis, "well before science took root in his mind." She fails to grasp that, just as the number of babies born in Holland correlates with the number of storks nesting on rooftops because a common factor (weather-related conditions) triggers both, nontheism correlates with a career in science because both are a consequence of above-average intelligence.

Ecklund cites a chemist named Margaret who teaches Sunday school, and seriously suggests that she has thereby proven that religion and science are not mutually exclusive. That is like citing a medical doctor who thinks that homeopathy is something other than placebo medicine, as evidence that it really is. But what else can one expect from a book published by Oxford U.P., a propagandist for the god delusion that does not hesitate to publish Orwellian doublethink by the logically handicapped when it endorses religion, but rejects the clear thinking of Richard Dawkins because it does not?

Defenders of the plausibility of the god hypothesis adopt a limited variety of approaches. Stephen Jay Gould destroyed the reputation he had taken a lifetime to acquire, by describing religion and science as "Non-Overlapping Magisteria," deluding himself that morality, which indeed falls outside of the realm of science, and religion are the same thing. Incurable dogmatists like Alister McGrath practise projection, describing the intellectual incompetence they see in the mirror but attributing it to their opponents. Unteachables like Michael Behe take the position that, if they ignore the contrary evidence, it will go away. After being totally discredited when he testified for Intelligent Design at the Dover School Board hearing, he continues to preach the same pseudoscientific drivel as if the rebuttal evidence had never been published.

But more common than any of those tactics is the pretence that simply quoting an opposing argument constitutes a rebuttal. That is Ecklund's approach. Citing (p. 4) an assertion that, "religion was a creation of the human imagination rather than a rational response to a divinely ordered cosmos," she then proceeds to ramble on in a manner that even the most sympathetic judge would rule nonresponsive. She writes (p. 5) that, "The 'insurmountable hostility' between science and religion is a caricature, a thought-cliche, perhaps useful as a satire on groupthink, but hardly representative of reality." And if she believes that, I have a bridge for sale in Brooklyn that I think will interest her. But when she alleges (p. 10) that, "even the most secular of scientists often struggle with the implications of their work for religion," the hypothesis that she is consciously lying is more flattering than the obvious alternative.

Vincent Bugliosi wrote a book in which, alongside a scathing annihilation of fundamentalist religion, he also denounced Richard Dawkins as the same kind of inflexible dogmatist as the nonsense-peddlers he rebutted. Bugliosi imagined that, by labeling round-earthers and flat-earthers as equally closed-minded, he could present himself as the ideal moderate. Ecklund takes the same self-flattering approach. She writes (p. 4), "Aggressive attacks on religion such as Richard Dawkins's The God Delusion do not accurately represent the complex ways in which scientists - even those who are not religious - actually engage religion and spirituality." Like Bugliosi, she puts down everyone except herself by referring (p. 5) to "hotheads on both sides of this contentious issue." Newsflash: To the sane, intelligent and educated, the question of whether science or religion is more likely to be accurate is no more contentious than the question of whether round-earth theory or flat-earth theory is more likely to be accurate.

Ecklund tries to hide her own position on religion in the hope of passing herself off as an objective, scientific researcher. She describes the willingness of scientists to follow the evidence wherever it leads as a "bias," but implies that a determination to reach a predetermined conclusion is not a bias. Only someone terrified of being zapped by the sky Fuhrer's thunderbolt would describe the most obscene paean to evil ever written as (p. 186) "the Holy Bible." The Christian bible is as "holy" as Mein Kampf. And she persistently states as fact that a far lower percentage of Americans are nontheists than is actually the case, by citing polls rigged to solicit a socially acceptable answer. Not surprisingly, Ronald Aronson's Living Without God, which shows that competent analysis of the polls reveals that 36% of Americans are nontheists, does not appear in her bibliography. But even the polls Ecklund does list support that figure, if she would look at them objectively. She reports (p. 16) 63% of the population endorsing the multiple-choice option, "I have no doubt about God's existence." Persons who chose any other option are by definition nontheists, including those who prefer to call themselves agnostics.

Elaine Ecklund is a self-confessed sociologist. I have never been able to figure out what a sociologist does, other than writing the same kind of contentless gobbledygook as psychologists, theologians, political scientists, and professors of education, aimed at an audience brainwashed into believing that circular doubletalk must be profound precisely because it does not actually say anything. If Ecklund had been born a century earlier, P.T. Barnum could have made a fortune billing her alongside his cherry-colored cat (a black cherry) and rose-colored horse (a white rose) as a talking mugwump (an entity that sits on a fence with its mug on one side and its wump on the other).

William Harwood

Heidi's Bookshelf

Kate Shaffer
Photographer: Stacey Cramp
Down East
P.O. Box 679, Camden, Maine 04843
9780892729913, $29.95,

Highly Recommended: Expert, Accessible, Enjoyable

Finding a cookbook with highly-developed instructions written in plain language can be hard to find. Kate Shaffer has created such a jewel in this cookbook. In addition, the printed addition is gorgeous. The author's facile language, interesting story and stunning recipes result in a highly recommended book.

I enjoyed how things started right up at the beginning of "Desserted: Recipes and Tales from an Island Chocolatier". Ms. Shaffer goes to Maine to get a chef job with plenty of ability and experience but lacking formal training. Turns out, her potential employers find this a positive and the journey begins.

You'll travel with Ms. Shaffer and eat well along the way. Even a beginner can succeed with chocolate making thanks to this book - everything you need is made available including things that are reasonable such as how and why to choose a particular type of chocolate for your recipes.

Family and friends tasted a variety of recipes. The Ricotta Doughnut Holes on page 58 truly impressed us. While the dipping sauce is tasty, we could barely let the doughnuts cool enough before eating them straight up plain, hot, and delicious. Please get a copy of the book and try this recipe among many others.

The most amazing recipe, however, is completely unexpected. Everyone who tasted this one wanted to know how it was made. The surprise is that this recipe is effortlessly gluten free. For anyone who needs or wants to avoid flours with gluten, the challenge is finding satisfying recipes. No one is going to miss any kind of flour is this easy-to-make and eat goodies.

Flourless Peanut-Butter Chocolate Chip Blondies

1 cup natural peanut butter
1/4 cup raw honey
1 large egg, at room temperature
1/2 cup sweet potato puree, or 1 banana mashed
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips

Preheat the over to 350 degrees. Grease and line an 8 x 8 square baking pan with parchment paper.

Place the peanut butter, honey, egg, sweet potato puree, baking soda, and salt in a food processor and whir together until smooth.

Remove the blade, stir in the chips, and then scrape the mixture into the prepared pan.

Bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the pan comes out almost clean. Allow the blondies to cool completely before cutting into 16 portions.

Yes, letting them cool is tough - they smell fabulous right out of the oven. You need a utensil to eat them warm while cooled your hands are all you need. I made a sling out of aluminum foil when I discovered I was out of parchment paper on baking day. Just line the pan, end to end, and leave long tails to lift out the cooled blondies. Repeat the other direction. Once cooled, the foil easily peels away.


The Transition Companion
Rob Hopkins
Chelsea Green Publishing
85 North Main Street, Suite 120
White River Junction, VT 05001
9781693583923, $29.95,

First exposure or follow up - The Transition Companion is recommended reading

You can start or continue your journey with the Transition Movement with this book. For those who are new to the concept, the Companion effectively introduces you to the current flavor of the process. After a few years of completing initial transitions in a variety of cities and companies, the movement has a better understanding of what works.

The flexibility of the movement is both the challenge and charm of the book and process. Transition purposes to not tell individuals or communities what the right answer is for each process of change. Rather, the movement is specific about the objectives and methods. The objective is to create stable communities without dependency on oil harvest-levels represented by peak oil production.

Rather, the objective is an effective community that can support itself in a more local way so the need for extensive transport is needed. The movement is well-aware that not all products should be handled in smaller communities and bases. One of the most interesting tables in the book illustrates this fact. Some opponents of the movement characterize participants as being simple Luddites who don't understand the implications of modern society. With the updates presented in The Transition Companion the founder makes it clear these are not the goals of the movement.

Obviously, a single book cannot address everything a person or community needs to become self-supporting. The Companion can get you started or bring you up to date on Transition experiences around the globe. Transition is not about fear about modern failure or disaster. It is about preparing and adjusting: reasonable actions in our changing, unsettled world.

Wild Flavors
Didi Emmons
Chelsea Green Publishing
85 North Main Street, Suite 120
White River Junction, VT 05001
9781603582858, $34.95,

Inspiring. Highly Recommended. A Great Winter Read.

Rarely, a book comes along that changes how you think about food, cookbooks, and cooking. "Wild Flavors" is such a book. Didi Emmons created an incredibly useful book that is likely to be on my shelf and in my hands all year long.

The brilliant layout is part of the inspiration. She shares a useful overview of each highlighted plant. This includes insights into growing, harvesting, and using the specific ingredient. Are you or someone you know seeking a gardening-fix during the dark of the year? The book is a winner.

Likewise, those seeking unique recipes and fresh ideas are also re rewarded. Rarely-used herbs or unique applications focus completely on the quality of each ingredient. One of the greatest surprises came from the foraging pieces. I've no doubt my grandmother, a serious gardener with 2 acres producing food for her family, would get along well with Eva, pig weed was her bane. I had no idea it was edible. Today while walking my dogs I constantly looked for this weed, also known as gooseweed. Finding none, I'll have to wait for trying those recipes.

Vignettes scattered throughout immerse the reader in the tumble of a year on this famous farm. Personality quirks, thoughts on this kind of lifestyle, and startling recipes get all your juices stirring. You may come away from your read with more questions than answers. Those who are truly interested in eating well while living with our planet rather than fighting it, you won't fell your time has been wasted with the book.

I'm pleased to highly recommend the book. No doubt my copy will become worn and well-loved over the next year. Perhaps you want to share a year of your own with this unique food journey.

Hand-Forged Doughnuts
Mark and Michael Klebeck, author
Jess Thomson, author
Scott Pitts, photographs
Chronicle Books
680 Second Street, San Francisco, California 94107
9781452102122, $16.95,

Donuts at Home for Handy Cooks

You may have seen Top Pot donuts at one of those corporate coffee shops found nearly everywhere these days. Top Pot started as a single bakery. Today, you can take advantage of the extensive experience and make donuts yourself at home with "Hand-Forged Doughnuts: Secrets and Recipes for the Home Baker".

If you're interested in taking a home-donut journey, this cookbook could be just the guide book you need. Do consider a couple of factors. For those who are new to the kitchen, donuts may not be the place to start. Some of the recipes are a bit complicated. If you're not sure, start with a couple recipes for cake donuts. They are easier to master and get good results.

Cooks with more experience with breads may very well want to tackle some raised donuts. Be sure to use your instincts when making the recipes at home. In some cases, I found making some adjustments based on my experience with yeast breads made a big difference in the results.

The recipes and instructions for apple fritters were new to me. How fun to have a technique for making this family favorite in my house. I know we will want to repeat the experience.

Surprisingly, the standout recipe is for a glaze. All my testers ended up putting it on every donut that came out of my kitchen on test day. I believe I heard the words evil, amazing, and lots of munching in response.

Simplest Vanilla Glaze (small batch)

3 1/2 cups confections'/icing sugar, sifted
1 1/2 tsp light corn/golden syrup
1/4 tsp iodized salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup plus 1 tbsp hot water, plus more if needed

Place the sugar, syrup, salt, vanilla and hot water in a large mixing bowl or in the work bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Using the whisk, or with the machines on low speed, blend until the mixture smooth and all of the sugar has been incorporated, scraping the sides of the blow with a rubber spatula if necessary. If the glaze seems too thick, add more hot water, a teaspoon at a time.

You may look at this recipe and wonder if we really loved it that much. The answer is Yes! We really did - it didn't matter what glaze was intended for any donut, after one taste this is what everyone wanted on all of their donuts. With that sort of group endorsement it was clear which one I had to share here with all readers.

For those who are confident in their kitchens and are ready to take their donuts to the next level, Hand-Forged Donuts is a great resource. A well-prepared book that is surprisingly easy to use in the kitchen, you won't go wrong if you're interested in serious recipes for donut-lovers.

Handheld Pies
Sarah Billingsley & Rachel Wharton
Ellen Silverman, photographs
Chronicle Books
680 Second Street, San Francisco, CA 94107
9781452102146, $19.95,

Small Pies reportedly are the new mini-dessert trend. Based on testing a number of recipes presented in this book, I understand why. One of the joys of small foods comes from eating. It's just more fun. At the authors state in "Handheld Pies: Dozens of Pint-Size Sweets and Savories, it's okay to eat with your hands.

Handheld foods, in fact, have a long history in human culture. Farmers, peasants and many others needed nourishment that could be prepared in advance, carried along to labor and eaten during the day. Handheld pies takes this common tradition to elevated levels.

One thing I enjoyed about the structure of the book is the "Nuts and Bolts" section. Here, you choose and match the type of crust you want with the type of filling. Such flexibility means you can adjust to what's hanging around your kitchen - some leftover cream cheese? Make cream cheese pie crust. Or perhaps you have plenty of butter but no fresh fruit - not to worry, you can still have a great fruit pie.

Freezing individual servings is also a boon to for the busy kitchen. The authors give you even more options for this technique than others, such as "Mini-Pies" from other authors (a great cookbook that teases the freezing idea). This book really develops the idea.

When it came to eating the recipes, we had a couple clear favorites. Despite the fact all the tests were voted a success, you definitely want to try the Orange Marmalade-Mascarpone Pop Tarts. The Farmer Cheese Pie was also a favorite. The all-out winner however, was the Dried Apple and Raisin Filling recipe. Although most recommended for a fried pie, no one on test-day minded that it was served in the tested Sturdy Cream Cheese Crust recipe.

Dried Apple and Raisin Filling

3 cups dried apples
3 cups apple cider
1/2 cup dark or golden raisins
3 tbsp firmly packed light or dark brown sugar
2 tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of kosher salt

In a large saucepan, combine the apples and cider over medium heat, bring to a simmer, and simmer uncovered, until the apples have softened, about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in the raisins, and let cool for 30 minutes.

Pour the mixture through a sieve placed over a measuring pitcher or bow. Reserve the liquid for flavoring a filing for structured pies or for mixing up a spritzer. In a bowl, combine the drained apples and raisins, the sugar, cornstarch, spices, and salt and mix well.
Use immediately, or cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days.

I was a little short on raisins when making this recipe. As mentioned by the authors, I substituted some dried cranberries for the remainder and we all loved the results.

If you want to get in on the fun and trend of the small-pie craze, this book will get you well equipped. You'll get good instructions, complete suggestions, and ways to mix or match as needed.

The 100 Best Vegan Baking Recipes
Kris Holecheck
Ulysses Press
PO Box 3440, Berkeley, CA 94703
9781569757141, $12.95,

The choice to follow vegan eating patterns may come from health choices, convictions, or other needs. Regardless, most people don't want to give up taste and the pleasure of eating good food while meeting this goal. Fortunately, Kris Holechek provides a variety of baked good recipes that prove you don't have to give up great taste or texture simply because you want to eliminate animal products from your kitchen.

Early in the book a handy table is provided with a variety of options for replacing eggs in recipes. Thanks to this chart you're not locked into a specific replacement for most of the recipes. Another choice that is setup and maintained in the recipes relates to dairy replacement. The author states that all dairy references are for non-animal products. As with the egg substitutions, in most recipes you can use the alternative of your choice. This great outlook means you don't need to run to the store for a different type of milk, yogurt or cheese beyond what you typically use. Definitely a vegan cook-friendly approach!

You'll also learn how to make vegan puff pastry. Once you see this recipe, I'm sure you'll want to grab the book and get started. This one got rave reviews from family, friends, and those at work. I'm sure you'll also enjoy it.

Sweet Cream Apple Strudel (pg 118)

1 recipe puff pastry, thawed to fridge temperature
1/2 an 8-ounce container of soy cream cheese
1/4 plus 1/3 cup sugar, divided
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tart apples, peeled and sliced into 1/2 inch slices
Sugar to sprinkle

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with apartment paper. Roll out the puff pastry to fit the pan, and then return it to the fridge.

In a small bowl, combine cream cheese, 1/4 cup sugar and vanilla. Bring puff pastry out of the fridge...spread the cream cheese mixture down the middle of the puff pastry [at longest line] leaving 1 1/2 inches remaining on either edge. Return to the fridge.

Combine remaining 1/3 cup sugar, cornstarch and cinnamon in a bowl. Add the apples and toss to coat. Remove puff pastry from the fridge. Place apple mixture on top of the cream cheese mixture, scraping any remaining sugar mixture onto the apples. Fold the short 1 1/2 inch edges in and fold one long side over the other to cover the apples. Your pastry should now look like a log. You many need to use a little water to seal the edges of the pastry.

With a sharp knife, score several lines through the top of the strudel log all the way down to the apples. Brush the top of the log with water and sprinkle with a little sugar. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until gold and puffy. Let cool for at least 30 minutes before serving. Store leftover strudel covered in the fridge.

Yield: 8 servings

Prep time: 20 minutes

Difficult: [Medium]

Although the recipe includes instructions for leftovers, I doubt you'll have to worry about that for long. At least the strudel I made disappeared quickly. If you want to have great results and stay true to your vegan choice, then I highly recommend this book for interesting and successful baking.

Fresh Fruit Cleanse
Leanne Hall
Ulysses Press
PO Box 3440, Berkeley, CA 94703
9781569759226, $13.95,

Cleanses now occupy a more normal place in Western culture and practice. No longer just some weird thing used by hippies or others, many doctors and practioners recognize the value of regular cleanses to improve digestion, health and general well-being.

For anyone who wants to cleanse perhaps the biggest challenge is finding one you can understand and stick with through the entire process. Some plans are really only practical during certain times of the year, others don't give you enough education or instruction to really succeed with the process. Leanne Hall's book combats these problems in an effective and easy-understand method.

I rarely give a book a full five-star rating when it comes to reviews. This book, however, definitely earns my complete recommendation. The book is a different approach to a cleanse. You can literally pick up this book and complete a fresh fruit protocol any time of year and just about anywhere you live. Ms. Hall does a brilliant job of showing you how to get started even if you've never attempted this sort of dietary "spring cleaning." S

In addition, she presents information so you can choose fruits that specifically meet your goals and local availability. Quite simply, this is a truly brilliant way to support anyone's level of experience and commitment.

She also teaches you how to start with a one-day process and progress up to a seven day detoxification intensive. Once you've gotten oriented to the process and identified the fruits you are most interested in, you can dive into the luscious recipes. Thanks to the focus on fresh fruits, it's easy to integrate the additional health items such as parsley or wheat grass and still have a tasty smoothing for your cleanse. Thanks to this approach, you don't have to starve and suffer to have a successful cleanse. Perhaps the most important thing you need is a good blender.

Thanks to the highly useful presentation in this book, the educational and incredibly reasonable approach to dietary cleansing - some are rigid and difficult - I give this book the best rating possible. Whether you are doing your first fruit cleanse or simply want more information how to make one work any time of year, this book comes highly recommended.

The 100 Best Gluten-Free Recipes for Your Vegan Kitchen
Kelly E Keough
Ulysses Press
PO Box 3440, Berkeley, CA 94703
9781569758724, $14.95,

Good gluten-free recipes are tough to find. Add in the challenge of making them vegan as well and you'll be pleasantly surprised by the great recipes in this cookbook. Most people know that each way of fixing food brings challenges for texture, taste and mouth-feel. Ms. Keough resolves these issues with decided success and penache.

As a cookbook reviewer, I see a lot of books. In the average book I'll be interested in say 3-5% of the recipes presented. In most cases that is the extent of something being presented that is new and interesting. This book was a pleasant surprise - I selected more than 10 recipes I wanted to make. Each time I picked up the book and paged to one of those I selected I found another one to add to the list. Fortunately, I can keep it around and really enjoy the other recipes at my leisure.

As someone who is making the shift to gluten-free cooking, I found one recipe delightful in particular. The results offer a very satisfying texture, great flavor and won overwhelming approval in my home. We all agreed this was a great recipe to make again simply because we loved it, not just because it was vegan, gluten-free and adequate. I hope you'll make this one tonight for dinner. Although I froze the couple extra waffles from the recipe, they disappeared in a couple days for quick breakfasts. In fact, a double batch might be just the thing.

Almond Butter Waffles with Powdered Sugar

2 1/4 cups all-purpose gluten-free flour
4 teaspoons baking flour
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/4 teaspoon Celtic sea salt
3 tablespoons agave or coconut nectar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup applesauce
2 1/4 cups almond milk
1/4 cup vegetable butter, melted
3/4 cup raw almond butter
Swerve or ZSweet confectioners' sugar for sprinkling*

Preheat a waffle iron. Lightly coat with cooking spray. Sift together the flour, baking powder, xanthan gum, and salt.

Put the flour mixture in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Slowly beat the mixture will adding the agave or coconut nectar, vanilla, applesauce, almond milk and vegetable butter. Scrap down the sides of the bowl. Beat in the almond butter until the batter is smooth.

Pour a ladleful onto the waffle iron and cook for about 4 minutes, until golden. Repeat until all the batter has been used. Dust the waffles with confectioners' sugar by sifting over. Serve immediately.

Yields: 6-7 waffles.

When I made the batter my husband came by and saw the flecks from the almond butter. He definitely wondered what was in the batter. However, that did not slow down the enjoyment of these waffles for our breakfast-style dinner. I also used the trick of placing the completed waffles in the oven pre-heated to 200 degrees. They held well so we could all eat at the same time.

My family also approved them with jam or syrup. This recipe, along with many others, is a real winner. When food is great all on it's own, special dietary needs become less weighty. Let's put the fun back in food with these recipes from Ms. Keough. I hope you'll buy and use this book as much as I know I will in the years to come.

The Bay Area Homegrown Cookbook
Aaron French
Voyageur Press
c/o Quayside Publishing Group
400 First Avenue North, Suite 300
Minneapolis, MN 55401
9780760338100, $30.00,

Locavore is more than just a trendy word. In this book, it becomes a mission, a gorgeous book worthy of a coffee table, and an inspiration you can use in your kitchen. With this amazing combination, I'm happy to highly recommend "The Bay Area Homegrown Cookbook: Local Food, Local Restaurants, Local Recipes".

With the holiday season firmly upon us, consider this book as a gift to for the foodie in your life. People who love food - yes, I'm one of them - enjoy the entire process: shopping, fixing, researching, and even reading about their hobby. Likewise, the book will be enjoyed by those who are ready for their first literary journey with food, farms, and chefs.

The food-stories are beautifully illustrated with photos and recipes. You'll meet all the aspects that come together to make fabulous dishes and demonstrate the real difference that happens when you shop, cook and eat local. Some of the combinations are surprisingly simple, a quality that is well-served by very fresh, seasonal choices. You may also be exposed to some additional techniques or considerations that serve well over the long-term. With selections ranging from soups or salads to desserts, each reader is sure to find a number of choices to test in their own kitchen.

Heidi Sue Roth

Henry's Bookshelf

Talking Shop
Peter Betjemann
University of Virginia Press
PO Box 400318
Charlottesville, VA 22904-4318
9780813931210, $35.00,

In Betjemann's book, "Talking Shop : The Language of Craft in an Age of Consumption " which is part literary criticism, part cultural study, and part art critique and aesthetic study, one comes upon the names of Benvenuto Cellini, Michelangelo, Walt Whitman, Henry James, Balzac, Maxim Gorky, Allen Ginsberg, and Martha Stewart, among diverse others. Yet Betjemann's book is not a chronology or history of the concept, consciousness, and practice of craft, but rather a sharply focused investigation into these core topics of craft mainly from 1840 to 1920. This was the period when the Industrial Revolution was reaching the point where it was robustly challenging and supplanting the craftsmen and their works to the point where modernism with its urban culture, internationalist orientation, and changed economic system including synthetic materials and mass marketing all but eliminated the practice and appreciation of craft. The book's focus, as expressed by the contemporary wood sculpture Michelle Holzapfel, is how the original natural materials of craft "are the occasion for 'personal narrative'" resulting in a finished work that is a "metaphor of the self".

Nathaniel Hawthorne in his writings in the early part of the 19th century was one of the first American authors to draw attention to the receding of the appreciation for crafts both in individual psychology and in the culture. In the introductory section "The Custom House" in his masterpiece "the Scarlet Letter', Hawthorne writes about a particular attachment to and appreciation of "the wonderful skill of needlework [associated with] ladies conversant with such mysteries" on the part of the narrator when he finds an embroidered scarlet letter in a run-down area of the custom house. Plato is another thinker who long before Hawthorne saw craft as both representing and as a window onto fundamentals of existence and reality.

Walter Benjamin's noted essay "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction" marked the end of any serious or influential regard of craft and specified the reason for this. Appearing in 1936, after the period of Betjemann's focus, Benjamin's essay nonetheless relates to the author's insights and perspective. Benjamin is another author Betjemann's cites in a few places.

"Talking Shop" is a scholarly echo of the book "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" popular some time ago. Not only the personal rewards of craft, but also its social value in continually "offering relief from an excessively materialistic culture" are explored by Betjeman.

Shanshui - Poetry Without Sound?: Landscape in Chinese Contemporary Art
Peter Fischer, editor with texts by Ai Weiwei, Nataline Colonnello, et al.
Hante Cantze, Germany, in conjunction with Museum of Art Lucerne.
9783775728492, $60.00

Shanshui--a Chinese term referring to the genre of "mountain-water painting"--has been practiced in China for centuries. Though note the most noted or media-covered part of contemporary Chinese painting, the mountain-water painting patently and sometimes implicitly influences contemporary Chinese art. Although it is the ironic, colorful, transgressive, and collage-like Chinese art which gains the most attention and critical and auction-world interest for its likenesses and intents to contemporary Western art, shanshui is a continuing as well as evolving genre. Among Chinese artists, there is debate between traditionalists and modernists if shanshui is defined by its traditional materials of rice paper or silk and mineral-based colors and technique of brush-drawing as well as its subject matter. The contemporary artists whose works are viewed in this book, however, have left this debate behind to explore shanshui in different mediums or particular aspects of it.

Artists Feng Mengbo and Duan Jianyu respectively do acrylic on canvas and ink on cardboard art works resembling traditional shanshui. Huang Yang takes color photographs of detailed nature illustrations looking like tattoos he has drawn on a model's body, thus combining the ancient Chinese art with the widespread postmodern practice of tattooing. In college-like works, Yuan Xiaofang inserts helicopters and jet warplanes into starkly-colored mountain-water scenes recalling the Vietnam War.

In traditional shanshui, the required subject of mountains would sometimes be represented by rocks, and expanses of water by a waterfall. The contemporary artist Zheng Guogu picks up on this with a wax over metal sculpture titled "Waterfall". The cranberry-colored silicon rubber sculpture "Scholar Rock" by Zhang Jianju echoes the traditional option of representing a mountain by a rock formation.

Ai Weiwei--today's best-known for having been arrested by Chinese authorities and recently released--does photos of industrial landscapes where factories and housing complexes and harbors replace mountains and water. The composition of Weiwei's photographs with their juxtapositions, spaces, and sky links them to shanshui.

Illustrations of traditional shenshui in the four introductory essays are references for recognizing the innovations of the contemporary art works. Representative works of each of 48 contemporary Chinese artists appear in the book's main section along with an short essay on each. The book broadens understanding of developments in the contemporary Chinese art which has become a major field in today's international art world.

Visual Storytelling - Inspiring a New Visual Language
Robert Klanten, editor Sven Ehmann, Floyd Schulze
Gestalten, Berlin, Germany
9783899553758, $68.00,

Graphic arts are keeping up with the overflow of information coming out of the Internet and other media. The growth and interconnectivity of the media, the complexity of the world, and the pace of change have all lead to a tremendous volume of information. Andrew Losowsky closes his Introduction on the note, "Visual storytelling is increasingly becoming the most effective way of finding order among the chaos."

Such storytelling is not like narrative--of graphic novels or a journalistic event, for example--but rather arrangement of the information making use of and often going much beyond the graphic techniques of bold imagery, bright colors, and linkages seen in the areas of graphic comics and graphics in journalism. As Losowsky also notes in his Introduction, this visual storytelling "gives us the tools to process, to look and to learn. Only then can we try to understand. The visual storytelling as exemplified in this volume is for comprehension of a body of information, not for popular entertainment as in the graphic novels or representation of an event or story as in journalism.

The hundreds of visual storytelling examples over every page are basically two kinds: a graphic image condensing multiple data or parts of a particular subject, or a grouping of condensations graphically representing the connections and sometimes the development of a matter or topic. Either main type can be equally complex, and the general artistic appearance is collage. Take away the text, and what remains would be collage of shapes, varying dimensions, and stresses. But with this visual storytelling of interest to marketers, academics such as sociologists, researchers, government planners, economists, demographers, pollsters, and such, the text is necessary. For the text not only identifies and defines the subject or interest in the ocean of contemporary information, but also gives a starting point for reading the visual images or pattern or commenting on these.

In the first section, eight leading visual storytellers discuss their ideas and work in question-and-answer formats with accompanying samples of projects. The second section--Part B, Visual Stories--catalogs diverse outstanding works in the areas of Breaking News, Science, Geography, The Modern World, and Sports for abundant additional samples for study. The diverse content spans contemporary interests from commercial art to academic, scholarly studies. The collected works reflect not only the vast amount of information in today's world, but also desirable and optimum ways for representing facets of the information so that it can be comprehended, relevant, insightful, and useful.

Beyond Words - 200 Years of Illustrated Diaries
Susan Snyder
Heyday Books
Heyday Books
PO Box 9145, Berkeley, CA 94709
9781597141642, $45.00,

As collectors in varied fields such as Americana, folk art, regional studies, genealogy, and social history know, illustrated diaries are highly desirable both as prime sources of material and as appealing items in their own right. In many cases, illustrated diaries, like many period diaries, supplement historical documents and artifacts and official records; and in some cases, diaries hold historical or biographical information not found elsewhere or clues opening up intriguing pathways for historians, genealogists, and scholars to pursue.

In this collection of diverse illustrated diaries from the U. of California-Berkeley Bancroft Library, the focus is on the immediate impression of uniqueness and authenticity of an illustrated diary, leaving the broader matters of relevance to history mostly in the background. The first impression of most illustrated diaries--as emphasized in this book with its photos of covers and interior juxtapositions of handwritten text and illustrations, sometimes photographs--is that of a unique piece of folk art or amateur art, including the art of writing. As with most diaries, the writing not meant for publication or sharing is guileless and often charming. Illustrations are somewhat rough and plain; though they often show considerable skill, and are fetching for their folk-art quality and unexpectedness. One enjoys going though an illustrated diary as much as the diarist did in keeping it.

Among the 50 diaries, one comes upon ones from the mid 1800s through the 1980s by sailors, outdoorsmen, travelers, a Japanese woman interned in WWII, Western settlers, a boy in his early teens, a wife keeping a diary as an account of the lives of herself and her family, and artists. Most of the diarists are unknown--which is a major reason for the delight of such diaries arising from their unanticipated content and illustrations. Although there are diaries by Mark Twain, John Muir, and Lawrence Ferlingetti showing how even well-known individuals in different fields keep diaries for enjoyments and uses they find in this. Each of the diaries receives the same treatment of picture of the diarist when this is known, biographical points relating to the context or the subject matter of the respective diary, and picture of a page spread of the actual diary with handwriting and one or more illustrations.

Henry Berry

Karyn's Bookshelf

Can We Save the Tiger?
Martin Jenkins, author
Vicky White, illustrator
Candlewick Press
99 Dover St., Somerville, MA, 02144
9780763649098, $16.99,

Non-fiction that doesn't feel like it. Jenkins and White produce a package of words and illustrations that are gloriously young reader-friendly, from the majestic tiger cover art to a final thought, that we need to keep saving endangered animals or more will disappear forever. "And I think that would be a shame, don't you?" Jenkins concludes. In-between is a discussion of animals that have disappeared, some that are close to extinction and a few that have returned from the brink. The writing never wavers from completely accessible. "Perhaps it's not too surprising that there aren't that many tigers left," Jenkins writes, after a brief (about a dozen lines) explanation of the reasons for their dying out. Enhancing the readability is the separation of detailed information about each animal from the main text. Information such as the animal's scientific name, where they live and (for those already extinct) the last time they were seen, is set in smaller, caption-sized type alongside the illustrations. And the illustrations, done in pencil and oil, are simply beautiful. White captures the intense eye of a vulture, the arched neck of a whooping crane and the wobbly knees of a newborn bison with great dignity and grace. A near-perfect collaboration.

Terezin: Voices From the Holocaust
Ruth Thomson, author
Candlewick Press
99 Dover St., Somerville, MA, 02144
9780763649630, $18.99,

The brutality of a Nazi ghetto goes under the pen, and brush, in this homage to Jewish artists sent to Terezin. From 1941 to 1945 Terezin, Czechoslovakia was a place where Jews were interred, and then usually sent on to death camps like Auschwitz. What made Terezin unique was that the Nazis sent artists here. Officially, visual artists were employed in ghetto studios producing propaganda. Secretly, they drew what was really going on, producing haunting images of sunken, starving people. Their work is a harsh juxtaposition to official, staged photographs and drawings that were intended to show the world that walled life in Terezin was OK. But the book offers more than illustrations. Thomson also carefully collects personal accounts from inmates, from documents like diaries that survived the war, even if the writers did not. After the war, some survivors were interviewed, and some of those words are also culled. Through words and illustrations, we hear why Jews were sent to Terezin, about ghetto life, about transports to death camps and about the city's ultimate liberation in 1945. Yet another excellent young adult book about the Holocaust, among a slew of excellent books of recent years. Seventy years later, Holocaust volumes keep coming. As they should, until there are no more stories to tell.

Karyn L. Saemann

Katherine's Bookshelf

The Final Salute
Kathleen M. Rodgers
Navigator Books
5519 Clairemont Mesa Blvd #285
San Diego, CA 92117
9780982089200, $11.95,

Kathleen Rodgers has crafted a true-to-life novel of Air Force life in The Final Salute. The characters are believable and the description of military life is real. I know what I am talking about because I grew up as the daughter of an Air Force officer. I "knew" many of the people, both military and dependant, described in this novel of military life of pilots and non pilots.

Lt. Colonel Tucker Westerfield remembers the men he has known who died in the line of duty, both during war and peacetime. He has to deal with the fact that it could happen to him every time he goes on a mission - training or real.

His wife, Gina, supports his need to be a pilot by keeping the "home fires burning" as she attends the obligatory parties and teas, protects their two sons from her own fears and goes about normal daily living on an Air Force base.

"This'll knock them dead, she thought, holding the dress in front of her. What is tonight's theme? "Summer casual." A big improvement from the last coffee when the guests were asked to come dressed "cute as a bug". Becky Spitz answered the door that night wearing a ladybug costume, spots and all."

In the course of this out of the ordinary novel, Tuck has to deal with the cover-up of an illicit affair by a ranking officer, a neighbor who has substituted her lack of children with animals, and a rebellious teenage daughter from an earlier short-lived marriage as well as the war in Kuwait. The characters have the same hopes and fears of civilians with the added burden of serving and protecting those same civilians.

I recommend this novel as a good description of military life and the 'inner workings' of the way things are done, including the 'cover-up' process. Also, if you don't read it for any other reason, read it or the enjoyment of it.

Kathleen M. Rodgers is a native New Mexican who followed her husband from base to base as an Air Force pilot. She has two grown sons and a chocolate lab. She now lives in Colleyville, Texas with her husband and Bubba, the Lab. Her work has appeared in Family Circle Magazine, Air Force and Army Times, and Because I Fly, a poetry anthology published by McGraw Hill.

Navigator Books recently released the Kindle edition with a new cover. Also, Leatherneck Publishing went out of business in 2009, soft cover copies and the Kindle edition are available on The book won a Silver Medal from the Military Writers Society of America in 2009.

With Sarah Beside Me
Barbara Dumas Ballew
100 Enterprise Way Ste A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781453801864, $12.95,

The second book in the Borden series, With Sarah Beside Me, by Barbara Dumas Ballew, is the story of the next generation of the Borden family told through the lives of Daniel, Joseph and Carolina's youngest son, and his wife, Sarah.

Daniel and Sarah head for Kentucky to start their married life. They travel with some relatives, two of Daniels brothers and some friends from North Carolina. There are the usual 'wagon train' adventures, but most of the time, the trip is described as uneventful. Eventually they reach Burkesville, Kentucky and buy the land that they need to start up. Sarah becomes a teacher who very soon becomes loved and respected by the students, as well as the parents, and shows much insight on how to handle the children as they learn and get into little scrapes, as all children will do.

One of the funniest escapades that the children get into is when four of the older boys move a 'spinster lady's' brand new privy, paint a sign on it, and put it on top of the new saloon that is being built. You will have to read the book to see what it says and since this story may be near the end of the book, you will have to read the whole book to learn the background.

"Miss Purdy jumped up and said, "Leave the sign. I rather like it and it adds a touch of whimsy.""

Daniel decides to start a furniture factory and build nice furniture to sell. He is almost immediately successful and loves his chosen career.

They barter with family and neighbors to provide some of the necessities and buy or grow the rest of what they need from the general store and other merchants in town.

I recommend this book for young adults, adults and seniors who have an interest in our country's history, as well as anyone who likes a well told story.

Barbara's hobby is genealogy and after twenty-five years of research, she has written numerous articles for genealogy papers. Additionally, her first published writing was a historic, romantic novel about her ancestors beginning in 1790 entitled George's Creek to Georgia. Once she discovered she had a talent for writing, she has since penned eight additional books and has a ninth at the editors. She and her husband are retired and live in the beautiful Smoky Mountains in North Carolina. They have one son who is in Afghanistan.

The Bordens of Burkesville
Barbara Dumas Ballew
100 Enterprise Way Ste A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781460917077, $12.95,

Daniel and Sarah's life in Kentucky is continued in this novel, The Borden's of Burkesville, the 3rd in the trilogy by Barbara Dumas Ballew. It relates the births of their three children, Beau, Kate and Drew. This volume also follows the children as they grow up and mature, make plans for their future careers and find appropriate spouses.

The readers will follow the growth of the small town of Burkesville as more businesses are established and flourish. The businesses grow as do the fortunes of the people in the town. Sarah's school enrolls more and more children each year.

Beau studies to become the future head of the furniture factory and learns that the daughter of one of the family's friends might be his helpmate in the furniture business. Kate becomes a nurse for the newest doctor in town. Is there a romance in her future? Drew becomes a lawyer, with his future bride as yet undecided.

You must read this book to learn what happens to the Borden's as they prosper, as do their friends and family. I highly recommend this book to young adults through senior readers, especially if they have read the first two books of the series. (And if they haven't they need to go back and read them.)

As in the first two books, the research that Mrs. Ballew does shows through in the interesting and knowledgeable description through her narrative as well as the dialogue. This is shown in the search for a way to feed Sarah's last child:

""... My request is strange, but I need it badly. There's a thing on the market called a Bubby Pot. It's for feeding babies whose mothers can't feed them for one reason or another....

"It looks very much like a small teapot. It has a shorter, straight spout. The end of the spout is closed with the exception of small holes in it so the baby can suck the milk out.""

Barbara's hobby is genealogy and after twenty-five years of research, she has written numerous articles for genealogy papers. Additionally, her first published writing was a historic, romantic novel about her ancestors beginning in 1790 entitled George's Creek to Georgia. Once she discovered she had a talent for writing, she has since penned eight additional books and has a ninth at the editors. She and her husband are retired and live in the beautiful Smoky Mountains in North Carolina. They have one son who is in Afghanistan.

Katherine Boyer

Logan's Bookshelf

The Atlantis Key
Natalie MacGregor
Total Publishing Media
9781936750276, $14.95,

Destiny comes at people in the most unusual of ways. "The Atlantis Key" is Natalie MacGregor's first entry into the story of Ruby Star, a girl destined to end the imprisonment of demons, who this time are the ones being oppressed by fanatical faeries who destroyed their home world. As Ruby faces her purpose, she is left with many questions. "The Atlantis Key" is a fine pick for young fantasy readers, recommended.

The Jerusalem Inception
Avraham Azrieli
Privately Published
9781451549515, $13.98,

Love will often challenge one's loyalties. "The Jerusalem Inception" tells the story of a scholar and a Mossad agent as their love goes beyond the faith expected of the Jews of Israel during the chaotic time of the Six Day War. Their love is shaken, and what the two choose may alter the course of the conflict. "The Jerusalem Inception" is an original thriller that will be a fine read for those who choose it.

The Mind of the Historian
Ali Parsa
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432769222, $29.95,

History is perhaps in the eye of the beholder. "The Mind of the Historian: Causation in Philosophy of History: A Case Study in Perso-Islamic Historiography" looks into the philosophy beyond history as Dr. Ali Parsa argues that much of history is tilted towards the views of the writer, pointing the causes into what the writer believes. Using the Middle East as a focus of his discussion, "The Mind of the Historian" offers many intriguing ideas on the nature of history, and is very much recommended reading.

Guardians of the Gate
Vincent N. Parrillo
iUniverse, Inc.
c/o AuthorHouse
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300
Bloomington, IN 47403
9781462029310, $20.95,

Hatred of immigrants is nothing new in America. "Guardians of the Gate" is a historical novel set in turn of the century New York, as physician Matt Stafford finds his way to America, intrigued by the stories of those who have made the journey across the ocean, and the conflict that arises when President McKinley is assassinated, and the backlash against the swarms of immigrants coming through New York rises up. "Guardians of the Gate" is a riveting picture of what many people faced as they came to America for a second chance at life, only for themselves ostracized and hated.

The Trouble with Religion
Sophie Dulesh
Privately Published
9781604144499, $22.95

Too often men have died for the beliefs of others. "The Trouble with Religion" is Sophie Dulesh expressing her concern that with today's world destroying power, fanatics all around the world could very well be the death of us all. Stating that any faith that encourages divisions of humanity will prove harmful, "The Trouble with Religion" is proves as a cautionary tale of religious extremism and how it may destroy us all if left unchecked.

You Wake Me Each Morning
Connie Lawn
c/o AuthorHouse
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300
Bloomington, IN 47403
9781450212595, $23.95,

A life in news is a life face to face with a rapidly changing world. "You Wake Me Each Morning" is the autobiography of Senior White House Correspondent Connie Lawn as she shares her story of being in the press business form the era of Lyndon Baines Johnson to the modern presidency of Barack Obama, and what has changed over those years. With plenty of entertaining stories to keep the pages turning, "You Wake Me Each Morning" is a solid and much recommended read, not to be overlooked.

The Greenhouse
Audur Ava Olafsdottir
Amazon Crossing
PO Box 400818, Las Vegas, NV 89140
9781611090796, $14.95,

As one's life comes at them like a ton of bricks, adding more on top of that makes it all too overwhelming. "The Greenhouse" follows Lobbi, as he returns to his family and the cherished greenhouse of his mother as she passes on. Trying to cultivate a rare rose, he must face the problems of family, fatherhood, and much more. An interesting novel of flowers and those who love them, "The Greenhouse" is very much worth considering.

Fire Chief
Ed Daniels
Privately Published
9781456351762, $14.95,

For us, running into a burning building is completely insane. For them, it is Tuesday. "Fire Chief" delves into the life of a volunteer fire fighter as author Ed Daniels delves into his years of experience to present a unique picture of firefighting from a man who has made his way with no compensation. Through much difficulty and challenge, "Fire Chief" is a riveting take that blends real events with original characters, recommended.

From Fear to Freedom
D. J. MacArthur
Balboa Press
c/o AuthorHouse
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781452532974, $9.95,

We can train ourselves to surge forward in our lives. "From Fear to Freedom" is the inspirational book from D. J. Macarthur as she draws on her own experience and advises readers on how to beat back their own fears surrounding life and claim their own place in life and push themselves forward in their lives, living it how they feel it should be. "From Fear to Freedom" is an insightful look into conquering fear in one's life and finding success and happiness.

Carl Logan

Margaret's Bookshelf

The Ticket
Sean Liv
Privately Published
9780981398600, $29.99,

It's never easy to lose weight. It's never easy to overcome depression. It's never easy to modify a lifestyle to be healthier physically, emotionally, or mentally. In "The Ticket", Fitness Expert Sean Liv has compiled a 294-page compendium of 'real world' practicality to help people to help themselves transform what they are to what they desire to become through a holistic process that includes and incorporates the mind, the body, and the spirit. Of special note is the revelation that positive thoughts and actions are inextricably linked to the physical body. Sean Live's recommended program includes practical approaches to nutrition, exercise, motivation, and more. Enhanced with a chapter devoted to resources and another focusing on 'kitchen cook friendly' recipes, "The Ticket" even has tips for grocery shopping! Simply stated, "The Ticket" is strongly recommended for personal and community library Self-Help instructional reference collections and reading lists.

Turning the Tide
Rebekah Harkness
Vantage Press Inc.
419 Park Avenue South, 18th floor
New York, NY 10016
9780533161805, $10.95,

Success starts in the mind. "Turning the Tide: The Top Ten Principles of a Success Mindset" is an inspirational read from Rebekah Harkness who offers inspiration through faith and drive to make the most of one's life and attain success, advocating simplicity and spirituality in the day's affairs. Devoted and religious, "Turning the Tide" is a worthwhile choice for self-help collections.

Kristina Wright, editor
Cleis Press
2246 Sixth Street
Berkeley, CA 94710-2219
9781573447218, $14.95,

Blending historical fiction and fantasy leads to plenty more fantasy. "Steamlust: Steampunk Erotic Romance" is a collection of short stories from various authors, compiled by Kristina Wright, blending this unique setting into passionate romance. For those with a love of erotic fiction and a taste for steampunk, "Steamlust" will prove an excellent and much recommended read.

Raquel Logan-Summers
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781467026536, $11.00,

When you're almost there but don't get there, there is nothing to turn one sour more quickly. "DDW: What Frustrates Women Most" is a collection of short erotica stories from Raquel Logan-Summers, as she explores sexuality and the mentality that goes with it, and provides much to entice and ponder as she writes. "DDW" is worth considering for those looking for erotica with a different edge.

Cindy Fleck Howlett
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432769017, $23.95,

A body is a finely tuned machine, and it takes fuel to keep it running well. "Carbavoid: The Fuel for the Future" is a health guide for optimizing one's diet with good wisdom on how to deal with a diet well and how to use one's diet with efficiency. With a focus on preventing diabetes and when it's appropriate to be paranoid of sugar and fat, "Carbavoid" is a sage and much recommended read for those pursuing greater health.

The New Millennium Christian Health Program
Thomas C. Kaut
iUniverse, Inc.
c/o AuthorHouse
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300
Bloomington, IN 47403
9781462025732, $21.95,

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. "The New Millennium Christian Health Program" is a Christian self-help guide by Thomas C. Kaut, a reverend for decades, as he states that treating one's body well is key to finding greater health in one's life and keeping up this maintenance is vital to one's overall health. Stating true health is a state of being, he offers much to the Christian who wants to treat body and soul well. "The New Millennium Christian Health Program" is well worth considering for Christian and self-help collections.

A Cardinal Sin
Ava Dey
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781463737535, $13.99,

Through generations, life faces many changes and challenges. "A Cardinal Sin" is the story of a family and the generations leading up to World War II. Written by Ava Dey, a lifelong resident of Budapest, Hungary, she writes on her country's history and what her forefathers faced during the rampage of Hitler and the atrocity he delivered upon Europe, focusing on the struggles on a small scale in Hungary. "A Cardinal Sin" is an intriguing look into this period and how it changed and threatened the families we all hold dear.

The Promise of America
Bill Stevens
Infinity Publishing
1094 New Dehaven Street, #100
West Conshohocken, PA 19428-2713
9780741466976, $17.95,

Away from tyranny, people hope to find a new life in America, but often only found more hardship. "The Promise of America" is the first entry into Bill Stevens' Fitzpatrick Saga. Telling of the clan's entry into America and their harsh beginnings and crisis within the family, "The Promise of America" is a staunch look at the American dream that will keep the pages turning.

Margaret Lane

Murray's Bookshelf

Shin Yu Pai
White Wine Press
9781935219184, $16.00

According to the online Merriam-Webster Dictionary

(, adamantine which is the title of Ms. Pai's new book of poems is an adjective that describes something that is very firm, strong, rigidly unyielding or is as tough or translucent as a diamond. Ms. Pai who is Associate Director of the Hendrix-Murphy Foundation Programs in Literature and Language at Hendrix College and author of Equivalence: Poems, and Sightings (among other works) uses the word as a metaphor for human experience in a wide variety of settings.

Her book contains fifty poems. Twenty-six percent (or thirteen of the fifty poems) beginning with the very first poem titled "This Is Not My Story" mention or use the heart as central idea/metaphor. In her poems, the heart is described as the seat of emotion responding to an elderly man who cannot take care of himself due to age and infirmity ("We Are All Our Own Mothers"), or the selflessness of an act of self-immolation protesting some injustice ("Burning Monk"), or the opening of students' hearts to the possibilities of the natural world under the inspiration of a teacher ("The Gathering at the Orchid Pavilion, 2004"), or the loving self-sacrifice of a father such as James Kim who died trying to find help for his family who had been stranded in a snow storm in Oregon ("Search and Recovery"). Many images derive from Asia: jade cabbage ("Brassica Chinensis"), Buddha ("Does a Mouse Have Buddha Nature?"), Chola bronze ("Sold"). "Blossoms From a Japanese Garden," dharma sister ("Anniversary Poem"). In her poem "Coincident," the author makes clear that although she is not herself a Christian, she exhibits religious sensibilities which seem Buddhist in their appreciation of resilience, perseverance, and search for harmony in all things.

A number of poems deal with actual events among which may be included "Requiescat" which compares the reactions surrounding the case of Amanda Knox who in 2007 had been accused of murdering her roommate in Italy which received extensive worldwide news coverage and In Choo Sun an immigrant who had been working at the University of Washington whose death caused barely a ripple in news coverage, "Search and Recovery" which examines the loving self-sacrifice of James Kim who died searching for help for his family who was stuck in a blizzard in the Oregon country while his family was rescued, and "Transcription of a Text From A Sheet of Paper Picked Up by Roy Anderson about 7:00 PM on September 11, 2001, As He Was Volunteering At the Rescue After the Collapse of the World Trade Center." There is a prose poem, "Beneath the Word Oneness," following the example of 19th Century French poet Charles Baudelaire even if he is not the direct influence. Most of the remaining poems are free verse. The lack of capitalization except for proper nouns and the unusual punctuation and verse formation are reminiscent somewhat of e.e. cummings. The poems also contain stark, strong, vivid image contrasts that support the title Adamantine in a literary way. There have been major advances in poetry recently which unfortunately have received little coverage in the popular press but which nevertheless with collections such as Ms. Pai's Adamantine deserve public notice. Very highly recommended.

Pius Charles Murray, a member of the National Book Critics Circle, is a librarian employed in the Houston Public Library System.

Jack M. Bickham
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
0385114990 $TBA,

Until 25-28 April 2011 when approximately 336 tornadoes killed 322 people over a three day period, the most severe outbreak of tornadoes in the US occurred on 3-4 April 1974 when 148 tornadoes struck thirteen states from Michigan to Mississippi to New York. The damaged area covered 900 square miles and was spread over a length of 2,600 miles; 319 people were killed. The severe weather lasted for approximately eighteen hours and caused $3.5 billion USD in damage in 2005 dollars. The worst weather occurred on 3 April 1974 in the Ohio Valley between 4:30-6:30 PM when five of the six F-5 tornadoes appeared. There were also twenty-four F-4 tornadoes and thirty-five F-3 tornadoes in that outbreak.

Bickham's novel uses the tornado outbreak of 3-4 April 1974 as the backdrop of a panoramic description of the effects of the unexpected outbreak of severe weather. The novel is structured in twenty-two chapters that follow chronologically according to date and time (from Saturday, April 5th at 5:00 AM until Thursday, April 10th at 11:00 AM); of the twenty-two chapters, fully sixteen cover a single day: Wednesday, April 9th from 7:30 AM until 10:00 PM. Thirteen of the sixteen chapters dealing with April 9th cover forty-minutes or less in time as the author seeks to concentrate ever more narrowly on the specific reactions of the characters to the unexpectedly severe weather and damage it inflicts. Bickham describes the frustration of the professional meteorologists (and Bill Frederick who is a part-time meteorologist at the National Severe Storms Lab, part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, who is responsible for studying weather as it develops and Ed Stephens who is Director of the Kansas City Severe Storms Office, who is responsible for forecasting bad weather and issuing warnings nationwide), elected public officials (Thatcher, OH mayor Mike Coyle who has to decide if and when to blow the tornado sirens to warn his community and Congressman Tattinger who is on an investigative jaunt to see where government fat can be cut from the US federal budget), and ordinary citizens as they respond to the fury of a large tornadic outbreak.

The author describes the then current technology that in most instances could provide a three-to-four minute warning of an actual tornado on the ground. The system included 185 ground stations spread across the US of which only twenty-five could collect data from 100,000'. In addition to constant watchfulness of changes in millibar readings, meteorologists also relied on ground observers to report a tornado spotted. By way of contrast today the percentage of successful identification of weather conditions spawning a tornado has increased from thirty to sixty percent. In addition, lead time from the time a watch is posted until actual severe weather occurs is now approximately one and a half hours. Newer technology such as Doppler radar, the more efficient use of storm spotters, and an effective public awareness campaign has helped prepare people and reduce casualties and damage except in only the most extreme of circumstances as this novel depicts.

The novel's main plot revolves around the difficulty that the professional meteorologists have in interpreting the data correctly to identify conditions early enough to warn the public about impending tornadoes. Ed Stephens is depicted as a very caring, involved government employee who gives up his free day to report to work because of the unusual and unsettling weather patterns developing. His opposite is Congressman Buck Tattinger, a self-absorbed bloated elected public official who is convinced that government employees spend too much money (possibly foreshadowing today's Tea Party members). He has undertaken his own investigation by visiting a number of government institutions so he could report his findings and recommend slashing the budget. His experience visiting the Kansas City Severe Storm Center during this severe weather outbreak will open his mind to dedicated, professionalism among certain government employees.

It is interesting to note that in the first six chapters, the novel's structure begins with the professional staff in Kansas City. The remainder of each of those chapters then describes the happenings of a bewildering number of characters in a bewildering number of locations; Chapter Three (Monday 4/7 from 6:50 AM-7:00 PM), for example, visits Kansas City; Thatcher, OH; Knoxville, TN; Monument Valley, KY; and Huntington, WV. The author, one suspects, is seeking to identify in a literary way the far-flung nature of the problem's extent and gravity. Of the remaining chapters, only in Chapter Nine (Wednesday 4/9 from 3:00-3:45 PM) does the action begin in Kansas City. In all the remaining chapters, Kansas City where the professional meteorologists are is found either in the middle of the chapter or not at all. This literary effect underscores the meteorologists' inability to stay ahead of the severe weather.

Along the way, the reader is introduced to a wide variety of secondary characters whose lives are impacted by the tornadoes. Milly Tyler is caught outside with her visiting grandchildren when a tornado strikes; she is injured but survives. Les Kerowiecz is a truck driver unable to outdrive a storm. George Abrams is a lawyer preparing to run for Governor of West Virginia when a storm intrudes upon a fundraiser. Mike Coyle is Mayor of Thatcher, OH who is torn between running for another term knowing his influence to address some local issues has been compromised or whether to run for an almost sure Congressional seat.

Despite the complexity of the plot (it probably might have been better to concentrate more fully on the plight of fewer characters), nevertheless the novel provides in broad strokes insight into the reactions of people faced with life or death situations in severe weather. Due to the outbreak of 336 tornadoes in April 2011, this novel is more timely than ever.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Slayer
Seth Grahame-Smith
Grand Central Publishing
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780446563086, $21.99,

Building upon the success of the author's Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (Philadelphia, PA: Quirk Books, 2009), Grahame-Smith offers a new fictitious reimagining of the life of Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865). The novel's cover (front and back) depict the thrust of the novel as a fusion of history and horror. On the front cover, Lincoln is standing upright in a pose taken most probably from a photograph by Matthew Brady; however over his shoulder one can see the tip of his axe with some blood it. On the back cover, one sees Lincoln's back, with one hand holding the axe over a shoulder while the other hand holds a decapitated head, and lots of blood. The novel's literary structure is based on a heretofore lost ten volume Secret Journal of Abraham Lincoln that has been entrusted to a character who is a failed author (a stand-in for Grahame-Smith one might suppose?) and whose purpose is to create a written narrative for public consumption detailing how and why Lincoln was chosen to slay vampires. Another character named only Henry who has presented the journal is a seasonal visitor to Rhinebeck, NY. Throughout the novel, the reader will learn that Henry is a good vampire who wishes to serve, to guide, and to protect Lincoln throughout Lincoln's life from forces of evil that wish to do great harm to the United States. The specific event that inspires Lincoln to become America's most successful vampire slayer is the discovery that his mother who had died in 1818 of what contemporaries termed "milk sickness" was actually the victim of a vampire attack. To the author's credit, he does follow the main lines of Lincoln's biography faithfully even as he occasionally interjects preposterous hard-to-believe encounters with vampires. Perhaps one of the most fantastical plot turns describes the Confederacy's inspiration for secession from the United States as vampirically-inspired: Jefferson Davis in this plot has sold his soul to the devil in the hopes that a successful conclusion to the Civil War will earn him status, power, and wealth, from the crowd of vampires egging Southerners on; talk about demonizing one's enemies. Lincoln's assassination is reimagined as vampiric revenge at the hands of John Wilkes Booth, a vampire, an event that even Henry, Lincoln's vampiric guide, has been unable to stop. The novel is entertaining, a quick read, and contains enough real history (photographs included) to be of interest to readers enamored of horror fiction and historical fiction. Caveat lector however underscores that this is a novel, some of whose reimaginings are preposterous, go beyond literary license, occur in seemingly random places that do not advance the plot much, and adversely affect the overall reading experience.

The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris
David G. McCullough
Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020
9781416571766, $37.50,

McCullough is a noted historian who is most famous for concentrating on various aspects of U.S. history as he has done in 1776 (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005), as well as in his biographies Truman (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1992) and John Adams (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2001) which won the Pulitzer Prize. This work is a highly readable, well-researched, informative intellectual history that traces the influence that Paris had on several generations of Americans who traveled there between 1830 and 1900. The author explains that unlike the earliest generation of Americans who had visited Paris (including Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson) seeking financial and political support during the Revolutionary War against Britain, Americans who journeyed to Paris beginning in the 1830s did so for a serious purpose if not also for different reasons. The purpose for which they sojourned to Paris was to be exposed to advanced French thinking. During this period, Paris was considered to be the intellectual and cultural capital of the world in many areas. From the United States, artisans such as Samuel Morse (inventor of the telegraph and Morse Code), John Singer Sargent, and Augustus Saint-Gaudens, politicians such as Charles Sumner, authors such as James Fenimore Cooper and Harriet Beecher Stowe, and medical specialists all journeyed to Paris to learn state-of-the art methods in their respective disciplines. In addition, the author brings alive French society and mores of the period including culinary arts, politics (including the Revolution of 1848 and the Franco-Prussian War), French medicine and its contributions to understanding disease especially during the cholera epidemic of 1848-1849, and the respect in which French engineering was held (given the construction of the Statue of Liberty and the Eiffel Tower and despite the French failure to complete the Panama Canal). Descriptions of several World's Fairs including the famous Exposition Universelle in 1889 provide a glimpse into the far-reaching effect French thinking influenced the world. McCullough paints a panoramic view of the wide range of activities in which Paris at that time played a leading role. Aimed at a broad general audience, The Greater Journey is a fascinating narrative that connects ideas to events to real people. Thus it combines the strengths of 1776 which recounts the events and ideas surrounding the independence of the United States with the biographical interest of John Adams. Very highly recommended.

Pius Charles Murray

Paul's Bookshelf

Vincent Hobbes Presents: The Endlands
Vincent Hobbes, editor
Hobbes End Publishing LLC
P.O. Box 193, Aubrey, TX 76227
978097635104, $11.99,

Imagine a place just a little removed from reality, a place where nothing is as it seems, and where anything could be just around the corner. Imagine no more: The Endlands is here.

The birth of a baby in the average hospital becomes distinctly un-average when the woman gives birth to a baby with large, black eyes, bat-like ears and a form of telepathy. Thousands of such births are happening all over the world at the same time, as if God is introducing the newest species of mankind.

A trucker picks up a hitchhiker who takes him to an out-of-the-way place with the best barbeque ever. Waking up after being drugged, the trucker finds himself in a barrel of barbeque sauce. A sign on the wall says that all meat must marinate for 24 hours, before being cooked and served to the public.

A soldier has been taught, nearly from birth, that his homeland has been overrun with demons and vampires, who engage in all kinds of unholy rituals. Most of them have been liquidated, but not all. The soldier is going to a certain house to investigate a report of such activities. He bursts in, and kills the family inside, including children and a baby. Only then does he realize that they were human all along, and the only thing they had going against them was being Jewish.

In a seacoast town, whales suddenly start rising out of the water, like giant zeppelins. At first, it is very cool, attracting the world's media. It becomes un-cool when the whales swoop down on people and feed on them.

Charlie is one of those who is chronically early for everything. He has received his summons from the government, one with severe penalties for non-compliance. It seems as if the world is conspiring to make him late; the traffic is heavier than usual, he has a hard time finding a parking space and he must wait at the front desk to be checked in. Finally, he gets to the right room, and sits there alone, when the gas is turned on.

These are not specifically science fiction, or fantasy, or horror stories, but the sort of stories that could easily be made into episodes of "The Twilight Zone" TV show. In fact, the book is dedicated to Rod Serling. These stories will give the reader a kick in the psyche, and they are very good.

The Skinny On the Art of Persuasion
Jim Randel
Rand MediaCo
265 Post Road West, Westport, CT 06880
9780982439005 $14.95

Why are some people so good at persuading others to buy their product or service? How are some people able to (as the saying goes) sell ice to eskimoes? Here is the answer.

Once again, the characters are Billy and Beth. Billy is a real estate broker who is not doing so well. Mary, one of his co-workers, gets all the phone calls, and is selling many more houses. Billy thinks of Mary as an insincere flatterer who simply tells people what they want to hear, so she is "cheating," right? Billy doesn't know that the first step in fixing your frustration is to look in the mirror. You can't control other people, only yourself. Beth is a paralegal going to law school at night. She invites Billy to attend a session of a course on persuasion taught by Jim Randel, the book's narrator.

The book also explains the rules of persuasion. People are persuaded by people they "like." Find some common ground with the person you are trying to persuade. Consider adopting the vocabulary and speech patterns of the other person; it helps put them at ease. Effective persuasion does not just happen; preparation is vital. Learn to listen to the other person (put another way, know when to shut up). A good way to be "liked" by the other person is to listen to them. You might also pick up clues to what the other person is thinking, and how they can be persuaded. Try very hard for consistency with past commitments and statements. To make decisions, some people tend to use shortcuts. People follow celebrities, crowds, and authorities. Logic is rarely used in making decisions. Learn how to access people's emotions. Integrity is very important in persuasion.

Persuasiveness can be learned, without needing to resort to manipulation. Understand the rule of reciprocity; people don't like to feel indebted. Do not overdo it; subtlety works equally well.

This is part of a series that distills a large subject (like how to be persuasive) into a short and easy to read book that is made for busy people. It saves the reader from having to read many books on the topic. This book (along with the rest of the series) is very highly recommended.

The Taliban Shuffle
Kim Barker
c/o Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
9780385533317 $25.95

"The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan" is one person's chronicle of life as a newspaper reoprter in present-day Pakistan and Afghanistan. Evidently, even today, war has its humorous moments

The author was a total newbie, when, in 2004, she became the South Asia Bureau Chief of the Chicago Tribune. She spent much of her time in Afghanistan, when the world's attention was focused on Iraq. Everyone knew that they were fighting the "other war," so they tended to relax. Everyone, that is, except the Taliban, who spent the time quietly regrouping. President Hamid Karzai has been called "The Mayor of Kabul," because his influence extends only that far. According to Barker, even that description might be too generous.

Afghanistan is run by warlords, and is a place where your tribe or clan, and your language, is taken very seriously, especially if you find yourself in the "wrong" part of the country. Barker attends a training session of the Afghan National Police, the people who are supposed to take over after America leaves. Descriptions like "travesty" and "fiasco" come to mind. There is little, or no, coordination of aid, so the chances of aid getting to those who need it the most are tiny.

In Pakistan, the city of Islamabad is not just a sleepy, quiet city; one person described it as "twice as dead as Arlington National Cemetery." Barker is romantically pursued by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who offers to play matchmaker, and wants to be her "friend" (which has a very different meaning in Asia). Vacations in Europe or America are few and far between, and are usually cut short by some major happening in South Asia. For Barker, in both countries, there are a couple of attempts at romance, which don't end well. She meets a constantly changing group of journalistic colleagues, aid workers, military people and various kinds of adrenaline junkies.

After several years of American money, effort and lives, why are Afghanistan and Pakistan still so messed up (for lack of a better term)? This book does a fine job at giving the answer. This is not meant to be a sober political analysis of both countries, but one person's subjective chronicle. It is very much recommended.

Donna F. Ferber
Purple Lotus Press
322 Main Street, Farmington, CT 06032
9780976113317, $12.95,

"Profileactics: A Guide for the Prevention of Ill-Conceived Personal Ads (Baby Boomer Edition)," looks at the world of online personal ads from the perspective of how not to do it. There are a distressingly large number of examples from which to choose.

Why is this the Baby Boomer Edition? Genxers and Millennials are entering the dating world for the first time. They are looking for someone to settle down with and start a life together. Baby Boomers have Been There, Done That. They have been through divorce; they have experienced the pain of losing a loved one through death; they have children that must be part of the equation.

The first rule of online personal ads (if there is such a thing) is Use Spellcheck. Nothing says "Delete Me" like misspelled words. The second rule is Leave Out the Bitterness. A potential date is not interested in how big of a jerk is your ex. It is perfectly reasonable to mention "deal breakers" in your ad (like smoking or being a "cat person"), but there is no need to be mean and sarcastic about it. Creativity in your ad is good, but don't overdo it.

Men are well known for objectifying women, insisting that they look good in heels and a black dress. Women can be just as bad, insisting that he not have a comb over. There are some men who work out a lot, or look younger than their chronological age, and are not afraid to let everyone know it. Self-confidence is good, arrogance and conceit is bad. Women, on the other hand, tend to play down their looks. The sooner men stop looking for a Little Mermaid (or some other female Disney character), and the sooner women stop looking for Prince Charming to sweep them off their feet, the better. Leave your deceased spouse out of the ad; no one wants to be considered a "replacement." Also, leave the "(insert pet peeve here) need not apply" out of your ad. Tell people what you want in an ad, not what you don't want. Last, but not least, if you have not yet found out what you want out of life, or don't know what you are looking for in a relationship, then why on earth are you submitting a personal ad? The only one who can find whatever it is you are lacking in your life is staring at you in the mirror.

The overwhelming feeling after reading this book is: What Were These People Thinking? This is a fascinating and easy to read book, and, yes, it does look at what should be in a personal ad. It's recommended for anyone who has ever submitted a personal ad, or for those who just want to snicker and shake their heads in disbelief.

The Cursed Man
Keith Rommel
Sunbury Press
2200 Market St., Camp Hill, PA 17011
9781934597033, $14.95,

First of a series, this book is about a man who believes that Death has taken an unnatural interest in him, killing everyone with whom he comes in contact. Can he really be cursed, or is he just mentally ill?

Alister Kunkle is a patient at the Sunnyside Capable Care Mental Institution. For the past 25 years, he has been secluded from the staff, and the outside world, at his own request. He is convinced that anyone who communicates with him, in any way, is dead within a day, for Alister is Cursed.

His first exposure to death came when he was a child, and he attended the funeral of a beloved aunt. As a married man, Alister became convinced that Death had cursed him when he came home to find his wife and child dead. He rushed into the street, and laid down in the middle of the road, hoping that someone will put him out of his misery. A driver narrowly misses him, and rushes to Alister's aid, to see if he is alright. The driver suddenly keels over, dead from a heart attack. Taken to Sunnyside in an ambulance, Alister distinctly remembers a number of staff members, including big, muscular orderlies used to mental patients, dropping like flies. Looking out the window of his room, Alister sees a dry, desiccated landscape full of dead plants.

A psychiatrist named Anna Lee comes to the Institution, demanding to see Alister. The Director does his best to dissuade her, telling her about Alister's "situation," and showing her news articles as proof. She is not to be denied, so she enters Alister's room, talks with him for a while, then leaves, saying that she will be back the next day. Lo and behold, she returns the next day; she is not dead. Moving one step at a time, she takes Alister outside. The grounds are green and lush, not brown, dry and lifeless. She tells Alister that he is mentally ill, and not cursed. The beloved aunt, whose funeral Alister distinctly remembers, died several years before he was born. The mass deaths at the Institution on Alister's arrival never happened. Dr. Lee reveals that she is not exactly who she says she is. Then things get weird.

This is a very well-written book, with a little bit of Stephen King-like horror. It will keep the reader interested, and it is a gem of a story.

The Trillion-Dollar Conspiracy
Jim Marrs
William Morrow
c/o HarperCollins
10 E. 53rd St., New York, NY 10022
9780061970689, $26.99,

"The Trillion-Dollar Conspiracy: How the New World Order, Man-Made Diseases and Zombie Banks are Destroying America" is a look at the world around us, and how America is being systematically destroyed, but not from the "usual" sources. It is not a pretty picture.

Anyone who takes vitamins or nutritional supplements needs to know about the Codex Alimentarius Commission. Under the auspices of the UN and the World Health Organization, it is an international commission whose aim is to ban the sale of all herbs, vitamins and minerals for therapeutic purposes, and to have all nutritional supplements available only through a doctor's prescription. Do an internet search for "National Security Strategy Memorandum 200." Written by Henry Kissinger, it became official US policy in 1975. It advocates the radical de-population of the Third World, and is in line with elite support of eugenics, to get rid of all those "useless eaters."

Politicians keep talking about how American schools will prepare students to thrive in the 21st Century. The problem is that American schools, based on the Prussian model, were never designed to prepare students for anything, except to be quiet drones, who are paid to work, and not think. Normal activities like taking pictures around town can get a person arrested by Homeland Security. Do you remember President Obama's 2009 speech to schoolchildren across America? According to some, it was political indoctrination that would turn America's young people into mindless, Obama-loving zombies.

All banks pay into an FDIC reserve fund, which is supposed to help banks in trouble. In 1981, the federal balance sheet said that there was $11 billion in the fund. One day, the FDIC Chairman called the Treasury Secretary and asked to visit and see the money. He was told that there is no money; it was all put into the general fund long ago. So if a bank is in trouble, the Treasury simply borrows the money. Simple, no?

This book touches on a whole host of other subjects, including FEMA camps, TSA airport body scans that are not deleted, the 2008 financial crisis, implanting people with microchips, and ways to not become a "zombie." As with nearly anything by Jim Marrs, this easily reaches the level of Wow. It has something to upset nearly everyone. It is very highly recommended.

Paul Lappen, Reviewer

Peggy's Bookshelf

Breaking Fellini
M.E. Purfield
Trash Books/Smashwords
15951 Los Gatos Blvd, Los Gatos, CA 95032
B005RZTF8Q $4.99 Kindle edition: 283 KB

Joni Corso is only 16, but already she is a rock guitarist in a popular local band in Wilkesboro, North Carolina. Perhaps it's her age or the pressure of her enormous talent, but Joni is jaded by the band's success. Also on her mind, her estranged dad owns a night club in the middle of Manhattan's underground music scene. The year is 1977. The siren's call of New York City beckons her. Joni finagles the move and while she expects to be immersed in the heady music
scene, there is also the reality of the times. When faced with drugs, drag queens, unemployment, and homelessness, Joni feels like a country bumpkin. And all is not what it seems with her dad. There are pills, lies, financial woes, and irrational expectations. Sometimes it seems like Joni is the parent. In pursuit of her own dream, Joni joins an unconventional No Wave band. But has she traded her independence to fulfill someone else's dream? Not to mention her rock rebellion threatens to estrange her from her strange dad.

I think the bonus chapters at the end of the book deepen the reader's understanding of both Joni and her dad and should have been incorporated into the story. However M.E. Purfield has a definite unconventional style and I applaud any writer with style. Purfield's work is made for reluctant readers because it contains a refreshing honesty not weighed down by heavy prose. "Breaking Fellini" takes readers on a magical mystery tour back to the 1970s rock/celebrity
scene. Purfield's attention to details gives this story authenticity and a glimpse into how the music world changed during the last big recession.

How I Stole Johnny Depp's Alien Girlfriend
Gary Ghislain
Chronicle Books
680 Second Street, San Francisco, CA 94107
9780811874601, $16.99,

Fourteen-year old David Gershwin's dad is a famous Paris therapist who specializes in troubled teens. When he brings Zelda to their country home in Cornouille, she turns their lives upside down. Zelda claims she is 325-years old and from Vahalal, a planet of women who worship Zook. Her purpose on Earth is to find and capture Johnny Depp, her chosen one. No one believes her, including David at first. He is captivated, though certainly not by her charm. Zelda is a
walking disaster. When she escapes, David's dad sends him away to live with his mother, a barracuda divorce lawyer who bears some eerie similarities to the Zelda creature. But Zelda is hiding in the trunk of her car. Instead of turning her in to the authorities, David decides to aid her on her quest to find Johnny Depp. From then on his life will never be the same.

"How I Stole Johnny Depp's Alien Girlfriend" is sort of like "Splash" meets "Species". Only the boy teen doesn't tangle with a mermaid, he gets mixed up with a dangerous alien. While the plot is predictable, David's character is hilarious and Zelda is over-the-top outrageous. And of course their quest to find Johnny Depp goes completely awry, which makes for non-stop, page-turning entertainment. Yes, middle school and teen boys will enjoy this book, but so will anyone else
who reads it.

Peggy Tibbetts, Reviewer

Richard's Bookshelf

Nearing Home: Life, Faith, and Finishing Well
Billy Graham
Thomas Nelson Publishers
Box 141000, Nashville, TN 37214
9780849948329, $19.99,

The Challenge of Growing Old - Gleaned from the Foundational Truths of the Scriptures

Often recognized as God's Ambassador, Billy Graham, candidly shares lessons he is learning from his own experience with growing older; facing issues of limited activity, the devastation of having to cope with debilitating disease, releasing the roll of ministry and leadership after a full, active, and far reaching ministry.

Graham helps the reader understand that God has a purpose for our life as long as we are left here on earth. Using a balance of stories from real people in contemporary situations, and examples drawn from the scriptures he illustrate how we can learn the lessons God has for us and how we can grow stronger spiritually and closer to God through these experiences. He talks practically and realistically about: Coping with limitations, about pain, financial concerns, family relationships, business involvement, losing love ones, and legal matters. He gives the reader a new out look at the realities of growing old.

I appreciate Graham's openness, his integrity, and amazing stamina to take on a project of this nature. His writing is articulate, clear, in layman's terms straight forward and practical. I have followed Graham's career over the years, attended several of his crusades, enjoyed his radio and television ministry, and been blessed by knowing many individuals directly impacted by his life and ministry. "Nearing Home: Life, Faith, and Finishing Well" is another testimony of Billy Graham's determination to finish well.

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

Broken Identity
Ashley Williams
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310
Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768439212, $16.99

Unmerited Favor, Release from Guilt

Ashley Williams has brilliantly incorporated the basic elements of story in this heart wrenching novel. "Broken Identity" is Drake Pearson's story which portrays the anger of youth, the devastation of alcohol addiction, the hopelessness of poverty, the horrors of child abuse and abandonment.

Drake Pearson desperately seeks to escape from his past, from the horrible secret of his immediate circumstances, as well as the offer of love and acceptance from caring Christians.

I quickly became engaged in the character driven plot which includes deception and lies, robbery and assault, kidnapping, and murder. In a parallel story Williams builds on the innocence of young children, the bonding of family love, and the message of God's unmerited grace.

Ashley Williams is a young writer with the promise of a remarkable career as an author. She writes with genuine conviction and a deep understanding of human nature. Her strong dialog draws the reader into the emotions of her characters, their frustrations, heartaches, and needs. She carefully weaves into the story a positive message of the Gospel, of Christ's crucifixion, and his sacrifice for man's salvation.

"Broken identity" offers hope to those seeking answers to life's meaning and encouragement to Christian's faithful in intercessory prayer.

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

Far From Good: The Trial of Sam Cray
Stephen Van Zant
WinePress Publishing
P. O. Box 428, Enumclaw, WA 98022
9781606150504, $14.99,

An Unforgettable Novel of Coming of Age in the 1970s in Kidron Country Kentucky

Stephen Van Zant has captured the pent up emotional state brought about by intimidation, prejudice, and the misuse of personal power in his book "Far From Good."

Colgate Junior High classmates, Sam Cray, Nick Walker, Simon Puckett, Bates Williams, and Josh Carlisle anticipate a summer free of studies and responsibilities as they leave their homeroom after their final class as seventh graders in June of 1975.

Sam faces new complexities including the emotional trauma of his parent's recent divorce, relocating to a new neighborhood next door to his domineering, outspoken, racially bigoted football coach. Things get even more complicated when Sam testifies as a witness in court after an altercation with another Colgate student DeWayne Webb and Coach Bedford. As racial tensions rise Sam's life is endangered during an end of summer overnight canoe trip with his friends.

Van Zant is a gifted story teller; his characterizations are true to life. The action packed plot keeps the reader engaged throughout the entire novel. I experienced a sense of renewal and purpose as I examined my own biases, personal inconsistencies and motivation as a result of the courage and challenge of Sam Cray and his friends.

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

Making Rounds with Oscar
By: David Dosa, M.D.
c/o Harper Collins
114 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10011
978114010323233, $23.99,

Embracing Moments of Life in Readiness to Let Go

"Making Rounds with Oscar" takes pet therapy to a new level. Oscar's gift is uniquely exercised just when needed most. He unexplainably appears at the bedside of patients at a time when patients and families need empathy, comfort, and distraction the most.

In my own search for answers I found new insights from the stories related by David Dosa, M. D. in his book "Making Rounds with Oscar." I received comfort from the concept of making the most of "little victories" like "the hint of a knowing smile." I was reminded of the respect shown in the "simplest of gestures." I took note of the desperate frustration of patients with "sharp minds and damaged hands."

I appreciated Dosa's candid approach to in acknowledging the difficulty facing victims of Dementia and their families. He conveys a message of realism with empathy and understanding. His writing is carefully crafted, with a comfortable flow for the reader to assimilate new light on the disease and to gain a better grasp on what to expect in the future.

The stories are sometimes composites and sometimes specific but always heartwarming. "Making Round with Oscar" was recommended to me by a fellow caregiver as "a good read." I want to pass along his recommendation to potential readers by adding my "five star review" to those already posted.

40 Days to Better Living Depression
Scott Morris, Church Health Center of Memphis
Barbour, Inc.
P. O. Box 719, Uhrichsville, Ohio 44683
9781616262662, $7.99,

Viable Help for Better Living through Overcoming Depression

"Depression" is another of the helpful topics introduced in the "40 Days to Better Living Series" published by the Church Health Center of Memphis. The book provides practical, manageable tips to alter your attitudes and actions.

The individual chapters include suggestions for practical action steps in areas of faith, health, exercise, work, emotions, relationships, and nutrition. Each day of this 40 day program is centered around a true story from the lives of six individuals who have conquered depression through focusing on one day at a time, on managing their feelings, and assimilating the suggestions offered by the Health Center team as a model for healthy living.

I identified with Greg's story and with his issues of depression related to diabetes and high blood pressure. Following the suggestions of the Health Center counselors helped Greg incorporate a plan using exercise and nutrition in his focus. By adapting the suggestions throughout this 40 day regimen I too am taking steps to help me monitor my progress and lift my spirit.

The inspiration and encouragement from the "Morning Reflections" and the "Evening Wrap Ups" are especially helpful as motivators in my pursuit of growth and consistency in my personal physical, emotional, and spiritual life journey.

Whether your depression is the result of the loss of a job, broken relationships, grief, disease, or childhood trauma you will find life-changing help from this compact guide to overcoming "Depression."

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

The Workshop Edition So Grows the Tree
Jo Kline Cebuhar, J. D.
Murphy Publishing
P. O. Box 65370, West Des Moines
Iowa 50265-0370
9780966185188, $34.95,

A Legacy Shared

A year ago I read and reviewed Jo Kline Cebuhar's award winning book "So Grows the Tree." This Workshop Edition is an excellent tool for expanding the usefulness of this important concept. A complete DVD accompanies the workbook and provides the facilitator important information to make this material available to a larger audience through in home and workshop or seminar presentations. This approach allows for feedback, sharing ideas, encouraging one another and for making new friends.

The subtitle of the book defines the ethical will as: "The legacy of your beliefs and values, life lessons, and hopes for the future." Space provided in this handy spiral bound addition allows the user to make notes which will enhance their experience and bring their own story to life through the use of quotations, thumbnail essays, and embellished journals. Cebuhar also talks about creating three dimensional Ethical Wills by using the computer to incorporate photo albums, digital scrapbooks, power point presentations, video, audio, and music, and genealogies.

I especially enjoyed the pithy quotes from well-known sources and the extensive endnotes of additional available resources.

"The Workshop Edition of So Grows the Tree - Creating an Ethical Will" is an important resource for the use for the life coach, financial planner, and legal advisor. Providing this information to their clients is an excellent way of adding another dimension to the important service rendered.

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

Supernatural Destiny: Answering God's Call on Your Life
Don Nori, Sr.
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
97807768440171, $14.99

A Personal Journey of Faith - Keeping God's Vision as Your Focus

The spirit of Don Nori Senior's writing is contagious." Supernatural Destiny: Answering God's Call on Your Life" is Don's story. He tells of a very personal encounter with God, an encounter in which Don received a specific call and the revelation of his supernatural destiny. Don's story of his call to become a prophet publishing the message of God's prophets and the founding of Destiny Image Publishers is a strong reminder of God's unique purpose and ministry for the individual believer.

Even as Don relates the specific call, the future trials, miracles, victories and failures he experienced along the way he encourages the reader by sharing the principles in Christian living he learned as he earnestly pursued answering the call of God on his life. Don is candid and open as he chronicles his spiritual journey, following God's leading and misguided detours resulting from self-doubt or following the advice of well-meaning peers. . Don uses the scriptures to illustrate the details of God's leading and the promises he and his wife Cathy claimed throughout their journey together.

I was awed by Don's description of the overwhelming "invasion of God's presence" as the basis for the change, transformation, and marvelous miracles experienced as he pursued God's purpose and destiny for his life.

"Supernatural Destiny: Answering God's Call on Your Life" is filled with "lessons from the heart "of a remarkable man.

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

To Follow Jesus
J. D. Morgan
Eleventh Hour Evangelistic Press
106 San Pablo Towne Center, San Pablo, CA 94806
9780615415925, $9.00,

Relationship, Renewal, and Discipleship

To Follow Jesus: Twelve Steps to Maturity in Christian Discipleship" is a foundational study designed to help believers understand what it means to be a disciple of Christ, a follower of Jesus.

Each lesson includes a Scripture lesson with stimulating practical application questions directed at a new or renewed commitment to Christ. This is followed by a Journal page for recording reflections on the lesson from the chapter. I found this especially helpful in personal application and assimilation of the truths emphasized.

Each chapter is designed to cover a week of study and reflection. Tips for using the guide are clear and provide a practical plan for future studies. Step by step instructions are provided for getting the most out of your study.

"To Follow Jesus is designed for new believers, for Christians struggling in their walk with Christ, and for use in discipleship training and mentoring relationships. Whether used as an individual or small group Bible study, participants will strengthen their faith, grow in Christlikeness, and experience life changing transformation.

Compelling, high impact studies for spiritual growth, a more meaningful relationship with Jesus, and a stronger commitment to following Him. Highly recommended.

I received a complimentary copy of this book. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's guidelines.

Prayer Journey Bible
Notes by: Dr. Elmer L. Towns
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768439953, $39.99

A Priceless Prayer Resource

The "Prayer Journey Bible" is a guide to a meaningful life of prayer, designed as a life map for your individual spiritual journey from the point of recognizing personal sinfulness to Christ's holiness, from deliverance of evil to goodness, from selfishness to Christ-centeredness.

Suggestions and notes explain the nature of prayer. There are five basic overviews to help the reader map out their prayer journey.

A prayer is included within each chapter to help you reflect on the specific point of the chapter, be moved by conviction, to experience an awesome time of worship, to discover an important exhortation, to make a new commitment, or acknowledge a personal need for confession.

A dictionary of prayer terms is provided to help classify and direct the reader to various types of prayers.

These selections are followed by a number for ease in using this dictionary of nearly 550 principles of prayer.

There are other parallel references after each prayer principle which points you to where you can learn more about that principle more deeply.

There are also suggested parallel principles with similar application or meaning. These will help you broaden your study.

The introductory page preceding the Biblical text of each of the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments are informative and helpful.

The classic beauty of the original King James Version will be appreciated by many who have enjoyed this version in the past and will be a welcome introduction to a new generation of Bible students.

Dr. Elmer Towns is recognized for his commitment to academic excellence, his literary creativity, spiritual commitment, and his exemplary prayer life. The Prayer Journey Bible will equip the reader for a more consistency and power in their practice of prayer and pursuit of the intimate presence of God in their life.

The attractiveness and quality of this edition make it an ideal gift for any occasion, for personal inspiration and devotional reading, or for an in-depth study on the subject of prayer.

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

Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth: Unlocking the Mysteries of the Bible
Ira Milligan
Destiny Image
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768439038, $15.99

A Reliable Road Map for Understanding the Scriptures

In his book "Discovering Hidden Treasures from the Scriptures" Ira Milligan introduces the reader to a plan of Bible study that opens a new understanding of God's word in a twofold approach, the natural and the spiritual. (God's Word and a Perfect Heart). Milligan introduces the same principles which the apostle Paul stressed with Timothy to "rightly divide the word of truth."

Milligan carefully explains the inspiration of the Scriptures and the importance of doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction. I found the chapter dealing with types and shadows especially interesting. I also received new insights as I became more aware of the reasons behind the use of allegories, parables, and symbols in Jesus' teaching. Other chapters are helpful in understanding God's covenants, the relationship of law and grace, and the role of the Holy Spirit. Each chapter provides an excellent balance of a "line upon line, precept upon precept" presentation of basic Bible doctrine and personal application.

The "assignment" section accompanying each chapter encourage more than a cursory reading and add to the value of the book as a resource for personal or group study. "Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth: Unlocking the Mysteries of the Bible" is an important resource providing the reader with a reliable road map to a better understanding of the Scriptures.

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

Richard R. Blake

Riva's Bookshelf

The Secret of the Keepers
Elizabeth Isaacs
Privately Published
9780983158127 (paperback) $15.99 B0061DTRD6 (Kindle), $2.99

From the moment I finished Isaacs' first novel The Light of Asteria, I've been eagerly awaiting the sequel. At long last Elizabeth Isaacs' has released the second volume in the Kailmeyra series, The Secret of the Keepers.

The Secret of the Keepers is the continuation of Gavin and Nora's love story, but it is also so much more for it is in Kailmeyra, more than anywhere else, that the juxtaposition between good and evil, light and dark is obvious. Kailmeyra is where the fiercest battle since the fall of the great king when the Dokkalfar first split from the Alfar, will be fought. Kailmeyra is where the destiny of the elves will be forged and if elf kind falls, with it goes the hope for humanity.

The Secret of the Keepers is everything high fantasy should be. It's rich, diverse, textured. It winds together bits of the history of the elves with the emerging story of their current trials and the pivotal, in fact critical, roles Gavin, Nora and all the Keepers will play.

For me The Secret of the Keepers was a deeply moving experience. Isaacs is a master of tension and it continues to build exponentially throughout the pages. Isaacs pull your emotions from the depths and splashes them vividly across the page. The Secret of the Keepers more than lived up to my expectations. Reading its pages I ran the gamut of emotions from joy and love to overpowering grief. On page after page Isaacs solidly delivers a story that will keep you reading until long past your bedtime.

The Secret of the Keepers is stunning, I couldn't put it down. The story is rich and multifaceted and Isaacs' storytelling skills are superb as her style effortlessly pulls you into the story and keeps you turning pages and refusing to put the book down. I was on the edge of my seat in several places, waiting to see what would come next, at points more than half-afraid to keep reading, but unable to put the book down.

Just Fine the Way They Are
Connie Nordheilm Wooldridge
illustrated by Richard Walz
Boyds Mills Press
815 Church Street, Honesdale, PA 18431
9781590787106, $17.95,

Just Fine the Way They Are is a wonderfully illustrated children's book which details the development of country's roads from the first wagon trails, through local roads, railroads and finally our current highway system.

The writing in the book would appeal to children of all ages and would probably be able to be read alone by children around 7 or 8-years-old.

When I received the book I was surprised at the detailed writing. I had been told the book was a "picture book" which implies a book with many pictures and little writing for very young readers. This is not a picture book, but is an illustrated treasure that both teaches about the history of our transportation system and entertains the reader with a captivating story.

I definitely recommend this book to anyone with children. I think they will find it very interesting and will enjoy the story it tells immensely.

Tracy M. Riva

Sandra's Bookshelf

Last Stop Freedom
Ann Nolder Heinz
Write Words, Inc.
2934 Old Route 50 Cambridge, MD 21613
1594319251, $6.50,

The author has done a remarkable job taking us back into the pre-Civil War era. It was a time that left a dark spot in the history of our country. While this book is historical fiction, the atrocities it mentions were all too real.

This is the story of a young woman named Julia who keeps house for her preacher father and acts as his assistant. She has no friends and is resigned to a life alone. One day she receives an invitation to spend a couple of weeks with her cousins and uncle at a resort in Saratoga Springs, New York. She accepts even though her father refuses to bless the trip. While there, she meets a man named Nathaniel Hamilton who owns a plantation in the South and represents the southern way of life as superior to all others. In particular, he claims that his slaves are treated as trusted servants and are content in their lives.

They are instantly attracted to one another. Julia accepts his marriage proposal and moves with him to his plantation, where she soon discovers the truth about the horrors of slavery. From there on you will learn about the Underground Railroad and the abolitionist movement, as well as the manner in which slaves were really treated. I pray we have learned from the past to never judge others. Yet at the same time I pray for forgiveness from others also.

Don't let the number of pages in this book put you off. While reading it, I often had to stop and do other things. But each time I picked it up again, I found it was just as fascinating as when I started it.

This book gets a five star rating from me.

Christmas Memories at Grace Chapel Inn
Corporate Author
16 East 34th Street, New York, New York 10016
9780824945077, $13.99,

What a delightful story about three sisters of whom after their father died, they decided to turn the large family home into a Bed and Breakfast Inn. One Year they closed the Inn down for a week so that family could be together that year. One Christmas Eve after their friends had left the three sisters sat watching the fire in the fireplace and drinking hot cider.

They began to reminisce about their favorite Christmas stories about family and friends. The author is so descriptive that even here in Louisiana I could imagine snowflakes falling and could hear the sisters singing before they went to bed.

The stories are full of joy, laughter and some sadness. Definitely worth reading and it will sure get you ready for the Christmas Season. Also included are some of the recipes you will find at the end of the story. I can't wait to try the Scottish Shortbread, White Chocolate Hermits with Eggnog Glaze and Mocha Krinkles.

I found this to be a warm feel good story.

The Christmas House
Carol Bullman
Ideals Children's Books
c/o Ideals Publications
2636 Elm Hill Pike, Suite 120
Nashville, TN 37214
9780824955984, $16.99,

The illustrations in this book are beautiful. I found something that I am not sure that others have. On some of the pictures they have different names that are not connected to the story. A good example is on one side of a page it says Mr. Jacobs and you read about him. Then on the next page there is a picture of a man and boy looking for a Christmas tree. At the bottom of the page it reads "Henry and Grandpa - December 12, 1946." You will have to look and see how many you may find.

The story is charming. A young couple Kathleen and George and their baby have moved into a new neighborhood a month ago. Their neighbors don't seem too friendly, but are really good people who have not had time to drop by.

One night George has lit the fireplace for their new baby to enjoy. Kathleen is at the piano and opens a window just a bit to let in a bit of a chill because of the fire. She is playing Christmas carols and has no idea of the effect it is having on their new neighbors. One by one they are enraptured by the memories that come back to them as they listen.

This is a sweet story to read to your children or grand kids. It is worth every dime you spend for it.

The Christmas Note
Donna VanLiere
St. Martins Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010
9780312658960, $14.99,

I have read books by this author before, but this time I was a little disappointed. She left out why we celebrate Christmas. Besides that, the story line was interesting and I even had tears at times. What I found to be so different was the main character's husband was injured over in Afghanistan and is in a German hospital where they are doing all they can to help him. He has lost an arm and there could be possible brain injury. He is put into an induced coma for awhile and then they bring him back and he has to learn everything again. For once an author goes into more detail about what is happening today. I applaud the author for that.

You will find mystery, generosity, love and people who did not know they had siblings in this book. All in all this is a feel good book during the Christmas Season.

An Angel for Christmas
Heather Graham
Mira Books
c/o Harlequin
225 Duncan Mill Roads, Don Mills, Ontario M3B 3K9, Canada
9780778312796 $11.98 (Hard Cover) $7.99 (ebook)

The MacDougal family has always spent Christmas in the Blue Ridge Mountains, which has been in Stacy MacDougal's family for many years. This year will be different as each of the grown children will bring along problems they have no answers for.

Shayne's a doctor and his wife has filed for divorce. He can't understand why? Morwenna is troubled that her boyfriend is off to Cancun, with other members of her office instead of with her. Bobby the youngest son has been to one college after another. He is considered a genius and his father has no idea why he does not make up his mind about what he will do in the future. But Bobby has made a decision. He just has to gather up the courage to tell his father.

While the three siblings are out in the garage to bring in presents, Shayne heard what he thought was a groan. Both Bobby and Morwenna, tell him it is probably a tree cracking. But then they all heard it and went to investigate. They find a man unconscious with blood on his head and lying in a pile of snow.

As they get the stranger inside of the house and he begins to come to, he tells them his name is Gabe Lange and he is with the Virginia State Police. He was after an escaped white collar criminal named Luke DeFeo. That he almost had Luke but he jumped him and knocked him out and took his uniform.

This is all I am sharing with you in this review. I will tell you that this book is filled with mystery, action, family, love and spirituality. Gabe seems to somehow bring out the best in people, and to help them all to understand the events they are going through.

The ending will knock your socks off.

The Christmas List
Richard Paul Evans
Simon & Schuster, Inc.
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781439150009, $19.99 Hardcover, 9781439154052, $14.99 ebook

How would you like to wake up one morning while staying in a hotel and read your own obituary? That is what happened to James Kier a ruthless business man. He was very rich but got that way by destroying and cheating people out of what they had.

"Wait," don't stop reading this! It is not another "Grinch" type of book, nor is it,"A Christmas Carol." The whole book was inspired by the author's seventh grade English teacher. She assigned her students to write their own obituary. (One smart teacher if you asked me.)

Now back to the book. James Kier did not change his whole life in a twenty-four hour period. For some reason he found out who the other James Kier was and decided to attend the other mans memorial service. He had to park his car two blocks away and in the poor part of town. Yet when he went inside he found people who were both rich and poor. There were also a lot of kids there. The place was full to the brim, and all to talk about the bus driver who had the same name. James was in shock when he listened to all the praise the man received. He was loved by many, yet he was financially poor.

Now, I am over two hundred words so have to wrap this up. You will not find the ending you would wish for. In fact several times I had tears running down my face. But the author did leave you with, "a holiday tale to warm your season, your home and your heart. End of quote."

"I will tell you all Merry Christmas, and I give the author a five star rating."

Sandra Heptinstall

Suzie's Bookshelf

Phantom Touch
Cindy Jacks
Ellora Cave
B005VQSBOU $5.60

During the week Erika works at a dead end job as a data entry clerk. On the weekend, she transforms into her alter-ego Little Lottie, a singer at a local club. Being Little Lottie allows her to let her hair down and live a carefree existence.

For months Erika has shared an online romance with a man known only to her as "Phantom". This man of mystery has her curiosity heightened. She can't wait for the day to meet him in person.

Phantom hides behind his computer to protect his real identity. He fears if Erika were to discover who he really was she wouldn't give him the time to prove that he is worthy of her love.
The day arrives when Phantom reluctantly gives into Erika pleas to meet him. He hides his identity by wearing a mask. Will Phantom live up to Erika's expectations as her perfect companion? Or will her fantasy turn into her greatest nightmare?

Being a fan of the Phantom of the Opera I was excited to find Phantom Touch by Cindy Jacks. She puts a rather unique spin on a modern day Phantom of the Opera theme. There are many similarities that are assured to delight true blue Phantom fans. The only weakness I found in this book was the author using flashbacks of a time past revolving around Phantom. At first I found these scenes distracted from the overall story, it was only until the end did I fully understand their meaning and how they played a huge part of the story.

Invitation to Ecstasy
Nina Pierce
Ellora Cave
B005I4JG6W $5.60

Sara Lancaster had suffered abuse from her former master. As a submissive she was thought to serve her master with the best of her ability. When the one she trusted took advantage of her both physically and mentally, she questioned her choice in the BDSM lifestyle. It has taken her two years to recover from the ordeal. An opportunity to get back into the BDSM scene arrives in the form of an invitation from the XTC Resort. Sara knows this is her chance to throw caution to the wind, and be able to once again reveal her submissive side.

Derek Thomas questions his ability to be a Dom. Once his dominant side had brought an adrenaline high that was able to feed his hungry soul; now the pleasure he once craves seems to have lost its luster. When he receives an invitation to participate in Dom training, he decides this might be what he has been seeking to jumpstart his BDSM lifestyle and get it back on track.

Derek is presented Sara as his submissive. Although she is older than he, there is something about her spirit that calls out to him to become her master. Can two damaged souls be able to heal the wounds that have been inflicted on them from others? Or will they find that their favorite pastime of Dom and Submissive has lost its appeal to their senses?

Nina Pierce's INVITATION TO ECSTASY is one scorching novel! I like how she has entwined two wounded souls that find salvation in the BDSM lifestyle. INVITATION TO ECSTASY is an emotional rollercoaster, it will tear at your heart one minute while the next it has you reaching for ice cubes. Nina Pierce is always a favorite of this reader for she offers the best reading experience possible! I highly recommend any of her books for anyone who would like to take a plunge into BDSM.

A Christmas to Remember
Debra St. John
The Wild Rose Press
B0062PB66O, $3.50,

A year ago, Heather Morgan's boyfriend jilted her for another woman. The two of them had planned to spend Christmas together at a ski lodge. Heather refused to cancel her vacation and decides to make the trip solo. Entering into the ski resort she immediately felt the holiday spirit consume her, and with it a level of sadness of why she was there alone.

When she settled in, she decided to go downstairs for dinner. There was not an available seat to be found, and then Heather meets a handsome stranger named Sam. He offers to share his table with her.

Sam reveals that he is visiting with his brother who thinks Sam is long overdue for a vacation. The two of them enjoy one another's company, and before they know it the dinner is over. Sam makes Heather an offer that she can't refuse, to teach her how to ski in exchange for spending time with him while they are there.

Heather is intrigued by Sam and accepts his offer thinking that she has the better part of the deal. Their vacation days quickly fly by as they spend them together. The day comes when they each much return to their own lives.

A year passes, and Heather finds that she still finds herself thinking of Sam. She wants to reconnect with him by returning to the ski lodge; the same one that she was at year prior. Will Sam also feel the connection and return? Will history repeat itself once more with a different ending?

A CHRISTMAS TO REMEMBER is the perfect story to get you in the holiday spirit! Sam and Heather are two lonely souls who found one another and discovered a love each one never anticipated. From page one, I quickly got absorbed in their story with the authors descriptive passages I felt as though I was living each scene with the characters. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wishes to see love rediscovered.

Suzie Housley, Reviewer

Theodore's Bookshelf

Before I Go to Sleep
S.J. Watson
c/o HarperCollins
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780062060556 $25.99,

It would be easy, after reading this novel about a woman suffering a special kind of amnesia, to say "let's forget it." But that would being doing this first novel a disservice because it really is a notable effort, if somewhat lacking in certain respects. To begin with, it is written by a man who, to this reader, is trying to think like a woman, but not really succeeding.

It is the story of a woman named Christine, who obviously had a traumatic experience resulting in her loss of memory. But not any ordinary memory loss. No, she can't remember anything of her previous life when waking up each day. So she has to be reminded, each morning after wakening, of even the most common chores; each day is a new learning period. Then, after many fruitless medical attempts, a new doctor, Ed Nash, takes on her case, and slight progress in remembering takes place, leading to a twist at the conclusion.

Christine's experiences lead to some interesting developments, keeping the reader wondering what comes next. The role of the doctor is mechanical, and some of his medical observations seem stilted and persecutory. It seems less than credible, for instance, that some people close to her could disappear from her life without a trace, only to make a cameo appearance at the end. On the whole, however, while I found it a slow read, it was worth the effort, and is therefore recommended.

Good As Dead
Mark Billingham
Little, Brown
100 Victoria Embankment, London EC4Y 0DY
9781847444196 16.99 BPS

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

This novel is the latest - the 10th - in the Tom Thorne series featuring a British cop of a different stripe. His approach to solving a crime is to achieve a conclusion by any means. And, in this book, he shows no mercy.

It begins when D.S. Helen Weeks enters her local news agent's shop to buy her customary candy bar and ends up, along with another customer, as a hostage to the proprietor, who then demands that Thorne find the murderer of his son. Some months before, Thorne had been the arresting officer when the boy surrendered for killing another lad in self-defense. He received an eight-year sentence, rather an extreme incarceration based on the case. While in prison, he was attacked and taken to the hospital where he was later found dead of an overdose of drugs. His father refuses to accept the verdict that the death was a suicide.

Forced to reopen the case and "find the truth," Thorne fights against time and Helen's predicament. The time frame of the novel is three days, which certainly speeds up the action both behind the closed doors of the shop, as well as vis-a-vis Thorne's progress. The psychological aspects of the hostage system: the interchanges between Weeks and her captor, and the uncertainties of the situation, are manifested in the shifting conversations between the two. In contrast are the fears and doubts of the police officials outside who cannot determine what, if any, efforts should be made to free the hostages and apprehend the news agent. Thorne's quick determination that the news agent's belief is correct - - that rather than suicide, his son was murdered - - comes quickly, just as the various pieces of the puzzle are unveiled one by one. Nevertheless, Thorne is really a delightful and intriguing character, and the well-written scenario moves forward briskly. Recommended.

One Dog Night
David Rosenfelt
Minotaur Books
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312647995 $24.99,

This novel has some of the endearing attributes of an Andy Carpenter story, but unfortunately just 'some.' Missing are the customary high jinks of courtroom maneuvers which made prior novels outstanding. In this book, Andy only goes through the motions, and most of them are objected to and denied. Present, however, are the usual sardonic comments, humor and the "team" which always provide the series with an uplift.

The plot, of course, is up to the author's accustomed standard, with Andy, Laurie, Sam and Marcus coming up with background and facts to sustain the efforts to exonerate the client, sometimes in the face of extreme danger. In this case, Noah Galloway, about to receive a Presidential appointment, is accused of having set fire to a building housing a drug distributor six years before, resulting in the deaths of 26 persons. A former drug addict, he has no memory of the event, but does harbor guilty feelings.

Andy, who has no need or desire to work, much less take on another client, does in this case, because Noah is the former owner of Tara, the golden retriever that is a major part of his life. First he has to convince himself of Noah's innocence. Then go to work. And then just plod forward. Since the usual courtroom antics do not take place, the plot unwinds in a manner which is mechanical in nature, with forces outside Andy's control or contrivance. In some other novel, this type of conclusion might be warranted, but in this series it seems out of place. Despite these misgivings, Andy's irreverence and quips are always enjoyable.

Frederick Ramsay
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. 1st Ave., Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781590589021 $24.95,

A welcome addition to this enjoyable series, this sixth Sheriff Ike Schwartz novel starts out in a frightful manner. Ruth Harris, Ike's fiancee, is critically injured in a car collision in Washington, D.C. She's in a hospital with multiple injuries and in a coma. The local police dismiss the accident as an ordinary mishap, but Ike investigates the scene and determines that it was a deliberate act of violence, and undertakes to find the culprit.

Unfortunately, the local police are of no help, and Ike is facing a reelection contest in a week. The mayor forbids him to use his office or staff in his efforts, so he takes vacation time. Aided by his buddy, Charlie Garland, the mysterious CIA agent, and covertly by friends and staff members, he follows his instincts, first looking at State's Rights group zealots (Ruth was chairing a Federal government committee reviewing textbook standards), and then dissident academics. Three murders take place in Picketsville, complicating the efforts.

The novel measures up to the standards of its predecessors: a well-written mystery with a well-drawn cast of characters. Who can ask for anything more? So it is a relatively simple task to recommend it, as with its forerunners.

Betrayal of Trust
J.A. Jance
William Morrow
c/o HarperCollins
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780061731150 $25.99,

The fact that this novel is the 20th J.P. Beaumont book in the series speaks for itself. The novels have deeply drawn characters, tightly constructed plots, and enough imagination to keep a reader entranced throughout. "Betrayal of Trust," of course, is no exception to that rule.

What starts out as a secret mission on behalf of the Washington State Attorney General and the Governor leads J.P. Beaumont and his partner and wife, Mel Soames, on a trail with deeper and much more nefarious consequences. Initially the Governor, Marsha Longmire, with whom J.P. went to high school, discovers what appears to be a snuff film on her step-grandchild's cell phone and requests him to investigate. This leads to a much more complicated case, with more potentially far-reaching damage to all concerned.

Perhaps the most powerful novel among all the books in the series, this is an easy one to recommend wholeheartedly.

The Leopard
Jo Nesbo
Translated by Don Bartlett
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, NY, NY 10019
978030759587400, $26.95,

The latest Harry Hole novel presents the reader with a formidable challenge: On the one hand, the temptation is to try to read this tautly written, tightly plotted murder mystery in a single sitting. On the other hand, its 611 pages is undoubtedly a very large hurdle. Whatever the method, it's well worth the effort to read it no matter how long it takes.

After the travails he suffered at the conclusion of "The Snowman,", Harry was so down that he resigned from the police force and traveled to the Far East, where he loses himself in alcohol, opium and gambling. There, a female detective from Norway finds him, pays off his gambling debts, tells him his father is in the hospital dying and he, as the only officer with experience solving serial murders, is wanted back in Oslo to help in what appears to be another multiple homicide case. At first he is reluctant, but finally accedes to the request to return because of his dad.

Still refusing to rejoin the crime squad, Harry finally gives in when a third victim, a member of parliament, is killed. There are no clues and no common links between the victims until Harry discovers all three spent a night in an isolated mountain cabin together, and it becomes apparent that the "guests" are being picked off one by one.

From that point, the case slowly unfolds somewhat murkily to keep the reader in the dark as to the ultimate denouement. Sometimes, Harry's insights are prophetic, others off base. But he always has his eye on the main purpose: to catch the bad guy. At the same time, he is fighting his personal demons, his separation from the great love of his life, his relationship with his dying father, the politics of the competition between elements of the department as to responsibility for murder investigations, and his disillusionment with his role as a cop. More than enough, one must say, for one man.

Highly recommended.

House Divided
Mike Lawson
Atlantic Monthly Press
841 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9780802119780, $23.00,

The reader is asked to suspend disbelief and just sit down and read this sixth Joe DeMarco thriller. The plot involves a clandestine operation conducted by the President's Chief of Staff, totally illegally and possibly even irrationally. Pitted against him is an equally covert National Security Agency operation whose activities and personnel somehow defy belief.

Caught in the middle is poor Joe DeMarco, also an underground tool of the Speaker of the House, who for purposes of this novel, at least, is in a coma t Walter Reed Army Hospital, giving his sometime employee hopes for spending a week or so playing golf. No such luck. Joe is sucked into the byplay when his cousin is apparently murdered early in the A.M. one day. As a result, Joe has to settle his affairs, and along the way learns too much, sucking him into the internecine warfare between two powerful forces.

Once disbelief is suspended, this becomes an enjoyable read. It is well written, and the plot is tight. It moves forward at a fast pace, and even the somewhat mechanical conclusion satisfied this reader, and so it is recommended.

The Hypnotist
Lars Kepler
Translated by Ann Long
Sarah Crichton Books
c/o Farrar, Straus and Giroux
18 W. 18th St., NY, NY 10011
9780374173951, $27.00,

This Scandinavian mystery/thriller shows a glimmer of what readers have come to expect from the masters of the genre, but falls short. It is overly long, and in dire need of editing. But it does introduce an interesting protagonist in Inspector Detective Joona Linna, apparently a relentless investigator who doesn't rest until he solves a case, always arguing he is right even when others, especially his superiors, do not think so. And when he proves them wrong, always asks, "Was I right," insisting on an answer in the affirmative.

This is a complicated story in which a couple of subplots recount the results of an experimental program conducted by a doctor, Erik Maria Bark, who specializes in group therapy using hypnotism. When, ten years earlier, one of his patients accused him of an impropriety, he was suspended. He questions the results of his efforts and swears never to hypnotize a patient again, but is persuaded by the detective to try his talents on a young boy, now hospitalized and in a coma, who apparently murdered everyone in his family but his sister, who was not present at the scene. She cannot be found, and Bark must try to discover her whereabouts. The doctor relents, but the ramification give way to the rest of the novel's twists and turns when the boy manages to leave the hospital after awakening from the coma, and is soon suspected of kidnapping Bark's 14-year-old son.

Inspector Linna insists on leading the case to find the boy before he is able to kill his sister or, he suspects, harm Bark's son, as he also assumes the lead in the kidnapping case. And the chase is on, with Bark, his wife and his father-in-law, a retired detective, playing important roles. I wish some greater effort had been made to streamline the book. Then it would have received a higher rating from this reviewer and been unreservedly recommended.

Shut Your Eyes Tight
John Verdon
c/o Random House Publishing Group
1745 Braodway, NY, NY 10019
9780307717894, $24.00,

In his second appearance, retired NYPD detective David Gurney faces an ever-shifting set of "facts" in his effort to solve a bizarre murder case. A bride is found decapitated within moments of her marriage ceremony, and there is absolutely no forensic evidence available. As only a "consultant," retained by the mother of the bride to find the murderer, Gurney not only faces the challenge of an ingenious adversary, but also the official police investigators who have failed in four months to make any progress in solving the crime.

The novel is not so much as a murder mystery than a "thriller," suffused with a series of logical and sometimes illogical assumptions that do little to move the story forward as much as to just muddy the investigation. The juxtaposition of Gurney's obsession with his craft and his wife's deep desire to just enjoy their retirement does little to add to the forward movement of the book, except to contribute to its length, which could have been shortened to good effect by some judicious editing. On the whole, however, it is a good story, enlivened by some clever twists, and it is recommended.

Dreams of the Dead
Perri O'Shaughnessy
Gallery Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781416549734, $25.00,

This is a long-running series featuring Nina Reilly, a South Lake Tahoe, California attorney with a penchant for getting into all kinds of trouble. This novel actually arises from some of Nina's past experiences, including the death of her husband in a snow avalanche caused by Jim Strong, son of Phillip, owner of a resort facility headed for bankruptcy.

As a result of Phillip's need for cash to pay off creditors, he has agreed to sell his property, but the sale is complicated by the fact that a local attorney has intervened, presenting "affidavits" from Jim, who disappeared two years before, demanding that his share of the money be sent to him in Brazil where he is supposedly hiding. The attorney representing Phillip asks Nina to join her in representing Phillip in the court proceedings, which draws her into a complicated conspiracy compounded by a couple of murders.

The novel is hampered by various extraneous side issues, especially an abundance of fashion descriptions and undue attention to Nina's footwear. Also, for some reason the authors, two sisters, insert portions of a not-so-good "novel" being written by Nina's secretary, Sandy. The basic mystery is interesting and well-drawn, but the distractions hindered this reader.

Thick as Thieves
Peter Spiegelman
Alfred A. Knopf
c/o Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780307263179, $24.95,

As standalone novels recounting tales of thefts go, this story of a gang that shows little trust in each other, despite huge paydays, is so riveting and well-written that it deserves a sequel. It tells the story of Carr, drummed out of the CIA for a temperament not deemed suitable for supervising agents or informers, but has a talent for planning and watching the slightest details during an operation, is recruited to join a band of thieves who undertake grand monetary thefts.

The bulk of the novel centers on a plan to steal $100 million from a money laundering operation running several Florida banks headquartered on a Caribbean island and headed by a man named Prager. It is meticulously planned, but when it appears that prior intelligence is faulty, Carr has to improvise. And complications also include mistrust of his co-workers, who show no hesitation at double-crossing or stealing from him and the sponsor who fronts costs. At the same time, Carr has to solve his own emotions about his father and his care as he is slowly dying.

The novel is so well-written and plotted, with a conclusion so unexpected, that this reader wished it would continue. Needless to say, there isn't much more one could add to encourage another reader to pick it up. So giving it a strong recommendation is an easy decision.

Theodore Feit

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

Copyright ©2001

Site design by Williams Writing, Editing & Design