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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 13, Number 12 December 2013 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Ann's Bookshelf Buhle's Bookshelf
Crocco's Bookshelf Gail's Bookshelf Gary's Bookshelf
Gloria's Bookshelf Gorden's Bookshelf Heidi's Bookshelf
Henry's Bookshelf Karyn's Bookshelf Katherine's Bookshelf
Marjorie's Bookshelf Mayra's Bookshelf Paul's Bookshelf
Peggy's Bookshelf Sandra's Bookshelf Susan's Bookshelf
Suzie's Bookshelf Teri's Bookshelf Theodore's Bookshelf

Reviewer's Choice

Never Go Back
Lee Child
Delacorte Press
c/o Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
9780385344340, $28.00, 400 Pages,

Daniel Allen

I have read all of the Jack Reacher thrillers with this one being his latest one to-date. I like the character and Lee Child has a knack for writing suspense, and little by little has exposed Jack to his readers. I had a chance to meet Lee Child in his book signing of an earlier novel, and I had him sign my book. He gave an interesting talk on Jack Reacher and the large audience enjoyed the discussion with the pertinent questions he answered. I look forward to his next Reacher book. I find his books worth it to any readers who like suspense and thrillers.

Jack Reacher finally gets back to northeastern Virginia near Washington D. C. to try and meet the new commander Major Susan Turner. She is in charge of his old 110th MP, however she isn't there and instead Jack has two new problems for himself. He is charged with two serious criminal felonies and another surprise he wouldn't have expected. He has two choices to run or fight. He opts for fighting to clear his name and stay ahead of the army, the FBI, and the D. C. Metro police. Along with all those different groups hounding him, he has to deal with four unidentified thugs.

Jack has a battle on his hands. He has to locate Susan Turner. Then Susan and him have to somehow get away from the different charges they have placed before them. Escape is their only answer to learn what the truth and find out why people want them placed behind bars with these criminal offenses. He has to figure how he is going to first clear this mess someone has made for both of them. Then he begins to summarize his life on the road as loner, as well as figure out who is Jack Reacher, and what he has done so far since leaving the army.

Lee Child is the author of eighteen New York Times bestselling Jack Reacher thrillers, Eight of the thrillers have reached the #1 position. One was made into a movie based on the thriller Hot Spot entitled Jack Reacher movie title. The rest have also been optioned out for major movie pictures. Never Go Back is his latest thriller.

Big Numbers
Jack Getze
Down & Out Books
9781937495541, $16.95 paperback,

Dollycas, Reviewer

Divorced father Austin Carr wakes up every day in a beat-up camper, parked on someone else's private property. Why? Because his alimony and child support payments were established by New Jersey's family court system when his income was double, and for the last two years he has failed to earn the legally mandated monthly nut. He's had his savings drained, his Maxima repossessed, his salary attached, and his visiting rights suspended. He bought the twelve-year-old Chevy pick-up with the rusty camper for $800 last month because another landlord tossed his butt in the street.

Will stretching the rules, his own morals, and the boundaries of common sense raise the cash needed to get his kids back? Or will his big mouth and bad behavior set him up for a nasty double-cross? Find out if Austin can redeem himself and win back his children.

Dollycas's Thoughts:

Man, I thought I had bad luck! Austin Carr seems to be cursed and his ex-wife sounds like she was based on my ex-daughter-in-law. So I clearly had a soft spot for Austin from the beginning.

This story covers his life for about 3 short weeks in his life and Austin ends up in the emergency room more times than I can count, wonder if he had insurance :)While tragic circumstances seem to sneak up all around him, Austin has a keen sense of humor and even when facing his own death he comes up with some classic one-liners. The author calls the story a "screwball mystery" and that describes it perfectly. It is full of suspense with snippets that will make you laugh out loud.

All Austin wants is get get his ex off his back so he can spend time with his kids. He owes her a lot of back support to make that happen so he is drawn into an unusual scheme or schemes and at times he in way over his head, drowning quite literally.

Getze has created a sensational character in Austin Carr. Even when he is breaking the law you want him to come out on top. Let's face it a guy who wears a Speedo to his daughter's swim competition to go unnoticed can't be all bad.

If you like your mysteries with plenty of thrills with a side of crazy these pages will be flying. I hated for this book to end!!! I can't wait for the re-release of Big Money!!!

Tortured Truths
Randy Attwood
Curiosity Quills Press
9781620073919, $14.99, Kindle $4.99,

Steve Glassman

Randy Attwood's Spill , a self-published e-book, was without hyperbole, the best novel I read in 2012. When his crime thriller Tortured Truths became available, I, because of professional interest, must have been among the first to download the book to my Nook. And I was not disappointed.

The back story of the protagonist, Philip McGuire, a veteran foreign correspondent seasoned by many tours in distant locales, is remarkably vivid. Assigned to Lebanon in the first Reagan administration, McGuire is grabbed by Hezbollah. Being one of the few journalists with detailed knowledge of the Marine base, his hand was carved up by a Farsi speaking sadist by the name of Mohammed. Ultimately, McGuire spills the beans. The Marines are blown sky high, killing more than 200 hundred. McGuire's intricately sculpted hand becomes gangrenous. He is released and whisked by the CIA to a secret base in Germany. There he is held incommunicado, at McGuire's and his publisher's consent, while his hand is reconstructed by the best American surgeons and the CIA accomplishes some nefarious purpose. His second toe becomes his thumb, The little finger, his index finger. Attwood's background as a medical journalist gives this section of the book especial credence and leaves the reader open-mouthed at times. The final contraption resembles, according to McGuire, a squirrel's paw, but it is almost fully functionally.

Unhappily, McGuire is not. He is impotent, both sexually and professionally. He quits journalism, and returns to the university town of Lawrence, Kansas, where he learned his trade, as much by hanging out at his favorite haunt, the Bierstube, as the J-school. Luckily, the Bierstube is up for sale and for reasons he didn't quite understand, the US government gave him a farewell gift of $50,000.

Just as his life should become complacent, it becomes interesting again. For one thing, he regains his sexual potency by being seduced by an old flame, Brenda. She is a procurer of big funds for the university endowment association. Her charms not only turn on McGuire but also her immediate boss, the second in command in the office, Robert Tilson. This guy has big ambitions. He wants to become a university vice president and head of the department. He appears set to do so. He has brought in unprecedented amounts of loot from the university's farm lands. His hands match his professional ambitions in running over the bodies of all women in his grasp, and he has a large grasp.

Before McGuire can form a bonded relationship, a journalism student comes looking for him. She has a background and personality much like the junior senator from Texas, Ted Cruz. Of an American mother and Cuban immigrant father, Sheila Perez is mouthy and ambitious. McGuire becomes her mentor and lover. His old professionalism smells a big rat in Brenda's boss, Tilson. A very little research shows he's using some of the university land to grow pot. Then to McGuire things begin to go terribly wrong.

He learns one of Tilson's associates is an Iranian. Worse, he learns that these boys are planning but nixing terrorist acts. His old CIA acquaintances come a-calling. He begins to intuit they all along had larger plans for him, hence the hard-to-understand lump sum payment as he left Europe. Then Sheila, on the trail of a story to bust Tilson, goes missing.

Tortured Truths is a brilliant crime novel, a real barn burner. It reads incredibly fast and yes, I must admit having known Randy Attwood since we took creative writing workshops from Professor Wolfe at KU years ago. I also will forecast this book will be nominated for an Edgar award.

Silhouette of a Sparrow
Molly Beth Griffin
Milkweed Editions
1011 Washington Avenue South, #300
Minneapolis, MN 55415-1246
9781571317049, $8.00,

Tess B.

Garnet Richardson is a sixteen year-old girl from a middleclass family who is struggling to keep their heads above water while maintaining a pristine public image in the American Midwest in the 1920s. Her father is traumatized by his time in the Great War and her mother is trying to teach Garnet everything she can about managing a respectable household so Garnet will be prepared to run a household of her own when her longtime beau finally proposes. In an attempt to help give Garnet's father time to heal from his psychological wounds, her mother sends Garnet to spend the summer with wealthy distant relatives in Excelsior, Minnesota. After arriving, Garnet fully indulges in her love for birds and paper cutting and discovers a new love: a beautiful flapper, Isabella, who is one of the dancers at the new dance hall in town. As the summer progresses, family secrets are revealed, relationships blossom and deteriorate all in the picturesque Excelsior.

The novel is a coming-of-age story with a love story as a subplot. Because of this Ms. Griffin is able to avoid many of the cliches that come with writing a young adult romance. However, the work is still filled with sentimentality when it comes to Isabella and Garnet's relationship. The passages solely about their blossoming relationship are filled with lines like "then our eyes caught, and held, and her lips came closer. And closer. Until they were on mine and she was kissing me and I was kissing her back. I was a hawk on the wind" (110). The romance comes in chunks and disrupts Ms. Griffin's meticulous descriptions of the surrounding areas and Garnet's engaging interior monologue. If Ms. Griffin had given the proper time to the important aspect of Garnet and Isabella's relationship instead of relying on the first-love-burns-the-brightest cliches, the dynamic between the two young women would have leapt off the page instead of lumbering along as it does now.

Ms. Griffin should be applauded for shafting the old form of a heterosexual relationship helping a young woman come to terms with her blossoming sexuality and replacing it with a loving homosexual one. While this act might be considered brave, it does not address the fact that these relationships could have and probably would have been frowned upon by 1920s society. Ms. Griffin casually drops the fact that Garnet's aunt is also a lesbian but that is the end of the conversation. When Garnet's mother comes to visit, she literally does not react to her daughter being in a lesbian relationship despite, earlier in the novel, pressing Garnet to accept her boyfriend's upcoming proposal. The other characters in the novel also do not deal with this potentially groundbreaking relationship. The connection between Isabella and Garnet is a non-issue. While this could seen as an attempt by Ms. Griffin to give importance to Garnet's emotional maturity and independence over the potential importance of the newfound relationship, she loses some credibility by not addressing the societal pressures that would also come along with Garnet's realization. It seems as though Ms. Griffin is attempting to draw inspiration from Carol Anshaw but fails to bring Anshaw's satisfying and deliberate voice to her own work. Nor will this work prompt discussions as Robert Joseph Greene's short story collection The Gay Icon Classics of the World did.

Garnet, like the jewel she is named after, shines through the text. Her voice is engaging even when she is lying to her guardian, Mrs. Harrington, and her employer, Miss Maple, about where she is going and what she is doing with her free time. The other characters Ms. Griffin has created, unfortunately, are as flat as the pages they are printed on. Mrs. Harrington, the stodgy cousin of Garnet's father acts as Garnet's guardian for the summer and every time she appears she only discusses the contents of her Sears catalog or how it is "dreadfully hot" outside in between thinly veiled insults toward Garnet and her family. Garnet's mother is also stagnant in the sense that her entire character revolves around the idea that mothers in a story revolving around a young woman finding her identity simply backtrack and concede to what their more fashionable and/or forward thinking daughters believe is best. But the characters themselves are not the only problem with the telling of this story. The ending, while it might be satisfying for some readers for one reason or another, comes too easily and makes the climax, well, anticlimactic. There is no lead up to the climactic fire and it comes so suddenly and is resolved just as quickly that readers have to re-read the short passage several times to make sense of anything that had just happened.

This book is not a romance despite the somewhat misleading synopsis on the book jacket or on Milkweed Editions' website. The story, as every coming-of-age story is or should be, is about a young person finding their own way in the world despite the outward pressures to do otherwise. Ms. Griffin allows Garnet to struggle and falter with her decisions and remain indecisive like teenagers so often do, regardless of what decade they grow up in. Like the birds Garnet studies so intensely and loves so selflessly, she yearns to fly by herself. This book, a promising debut by Ms. Griffin, while it does have cliches and unbelievable characters, is about one girl's ability to forge her own path and find her independent identity despite what is going on around her. The bird imagery Ms. Griffin employs throughout the book sheds an interesting light on the usually drab inspirational quote "find your wings" which all young readers should take to heart.

Ann's Bookshelf

1914, Poetry Remembers
Carol Ann Duffy, editor
Faber & Faber Poetry
Bloomsbury House
74-77 Great Russell Street, London, WC1B 3DA, UK
9780571302147, A$29.99 (hardback), 123 pages
ASIN: B00DY0TWBQ, $9.99 (Kindle), 144 pages

It is almost 100 years since Wilfred Owen wrote of "the pity of War": Almost one hundred years since the First World War, the 'War to end Wars' began and poets like Owen and Sassoon challenged the orthodox presentation of war as glorious and ennobling and wrote, instead, of the reality - the dreadful deaths, the maiming and the loss. And still war goes on. Daily on our TV screens we can see the destruction, the blood, and the wounded, traumatised and grief-stricken men, women and children. Is it only poets who can stir our emotions and make us really feel the horror? The poems and texts in this book certainly do that.

Carol Ann Duffy brings together the responses of some of our best contemporary poets to poems and other texts written during WW1. Some of the pieces which they chose are familiar, many are not. Siegfried Sasson's letter of protest to his commanding officer is less well-known than his poems. Vera Britten's Testament of Youth is more widely read that Tom McAlidon's thoughts on the death of young Bobbie Kernaghan; or Gottfried Benn's account of working as a doctor in a hospital for prostitutes behind the lines in Brussels. Today's poets have each chosen very different pieces, written by men and women of many different nationalities. Their own responses convey not only the pity of war, but also the historical persistence of it, the repeated patterns of human conflict, and (thankfully) Nature's cycles of regeneration and hope.

Imtiaz Dharker responds to Owen's 'Anthem for Doomed Youth' with a poem which reflects the defiance and courage of a fifteen-year-old Pakistani schoolgirl 'A Century Later'. Ann Gray writes of an Afghan taxi driver prompted by the sight of "the Cambridge Backs, massed with purple crocus" to thoughts of his family, and of new hope and Spring in his own country. Ruth Padel marvels at the way in which Saki could sit in "hell's cauldron" amidst bursting shells, machine-gun tracery and devastation and still notice kestrels hovering overhead, "the pink-flecked wings of a chaffinch", and a "solitary magpie". "They all were at it", she writes - all holding on to what they knew and clinging "to the hard dry stars of observation" when every other "elixir's gone wrong".

Billy Collins sees, still, the futility about which Owen wrote: sees that we still "have a long way to go before we show our final colors on a torn flag". Blake Morrison's poem, 'Redacted', reflects the lack of emotion in a censored coroner's inquest document, but he updates it to the death of a soldier in Helmland, and he uses the black-blocked deletions to powerful effect. The dead soldier becomes nameless; the place names are blacked out so that they do not exist; but the poem exists, although it claims that it cannot judge matters of negligence, purpose, recruitment of teenagers, or whether "the war in Afghanistan is unwinnable".

The senselessness of war, the randomness of death: "What was it all for?" asks Elaine Feinstein in response to Isaac Rosenberg's death. And Grace Nichols is prompted by Guiseppe Ungaretti's poem 'Clear Sky', in which he clings to the hope of being "a passing/ image// caught in an immortal/ circle", to reflect on "unstoppable Death in the shape of the law" and the shooting of an innocent man, Jean Charles de Menezes, on a London Underground train.

Ruth Fainlight, Julia Copus and Jackie Kay, draw on personal family involvement. Seamus Heaney's poem could describe any homecoming from war. Daljit Nagra writes of Mother India's scattered children. Michael Longley links the death of boy-soldier, Euphorbus, in the Ancient Greek wars to that of other boys in more recent wars. And Clare Pollard, in an amazingly realistic and vivid description of birth, uses images and words which could also be applied to the suffering and blood of warfare to bring a mother's sensibility to the way in which "the world squanders" the bodies of sons.

Carol Ann Duffy's own contributions start and end the book, and her final poem, 'Last Post', imagines what might be "If poetry could tell it backwards". In it all that happened is reversed and "all those thousands dead" are brought "Freshly alive" in a truly magical re-membering.

This is a fine but harrowing collection. I wished that the pieces being responded to had been place before each response, and I chose to read them this way. I also wished that a small biographical note about each of the WW1 writers and their part in the war had been included. I noticed a couple of missing letters in the poems by Apollinaire, but translations and calligraphic poetry are not easy. These are small quibbles. "All the poet can do today is to warn", wrote Owen one hundred years ago. The same is true today, and I wish that the warnings of all the poets in this book be heard and heeded.

Writing on the Wall: Social Media, the first 2,000 years
Tom Standage
Bloomsbury USA
175 Fifth Avenue, Suite 315, NY, NY 10010
9781620402832, $26.00 (hardover); $9.99 (Kindle), 288 pages

So, graffiti is not just an ancient art form it is also an ancient example of social networking. It is a shared medium, open to all, and, like blogs, Twitter, Facebook and other recent networking innovations, it communicates with "a network of people connected by social bonds".

Reading Tom Standage's account of ancient Roman graffiti at Pompei and Herculaneum, which appears on the walls of private houses as well as in public places, I couldn't help but think of the Roman guard correcting the Latin grammar of the graffitist writing 'Romans go home' in Monty Python's Life of Brian. Graffiti may once have been the work of a literate few, but the messages were often universal, and advertising, boasting and political comment were as prevalent as was the inscribing of names.

Graffiti, however, is only one aspect of ancient social networking described by Standage. To begin with, he draws on scientific research which suggests that Primates developed their large brains in order to cope with the social communication and social grooming which is necessary to animals which live in groups. Humans, it seems, are designed to form social networks and to exchange information with each other, and drawing and written communication are part of this social bonding.

Standage, who is digital editor of the Economist, goes on to trace the history of written communication in some detail, from the earliest times of clay tablets and papyrus, to our own technology-driven society. Not only does he show that many of the things we regard as 'modern' have existed in for centuries, he also examines the importance of such communication in facilitating social and political change. Amongst other things, he looks at the way social media expresses and synchronises public opinion, and the role it played in, for example, the Reformation, the American and French Revolutions, the birth of the Stock Exchange and the Royal Society, and, most recently, in the Arab Spring and other uprisings

Standage's style is fluent and he knows how to use anecdotes to lighten historical fact. He points out, for example, that whilst we may text abbreviations like LOL or BTW, the Ancient Romans sped up communication with SRD ('salutem plurium dicta': 'sends many greetings') or SVBEEV ('vales, bene est, ego valeo' : 'if you are well, that is good, I am well'). And it is interesting to hear that writers have always struggled with publication problems. Cicero, in about 44 BC complained that others were copying and circulating (ie publishing) his work before he had given it a public reading and ensured that the right people had received it first; and Galen was obliged to publish his own bibliography - On His Own Books - in order to counter plagiarism and safeguard his reputation. It is interesting, too, to read complaints about the dangers of social media from such as Socrates in 400BC (writing would diminish the powers of memory); William Berkley, governor of Virginia in 1671 (printing and free-schools spread heresy and libel); and from modern Cassandras who foresee the breakdown of family life, decreasing intellectual ability and increasing antisocial behaviour, due to our reliance on social media.

Standage traces the development of printing; the birth of pamphlets, newsletters and newspapers; the control of media and loss of that control; the debate over freedom; the beginning of telegraphy and radio and the growth of on-line communities, the internet and the World Wide Web; and the advent and importance of personal computers. He ends by considering some of the possible developments and some of the problems associated with our increasing reliance on social media. In a book of such huge scope, Standage has little time to discuss these problems more fully, which is a pity. What is clear, however, is that the human need to communicate with others and to reinforce social bonds by sharing information has always driven innovation and experiment, and that this has always been accompanied by controversy, debates about censorship and, not infrequently, by danger. None of this is likely to change.

Ann Skea, Reviewer

Buhle's Bookshelf

The Last Neanderthal Clan
Lisa Lareau & Charlie Boring
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781478705116, $20.95, 456 pp,

A centuries long ice age is slowly ending in what will one day come to be known as Europe. Cro-Magnon clans of the north are encountering the Neanderthal clans of the south. The results will be catastrophic for one of them. The Last Neanderthal Clan: Raka of the Last Neanderthal Clan" is a terrific novel set in neolithic times. The collaborative work of Lisa Lareau and Charlie Boring, the reader is treated to the engaging and deftly crafted story that features memorable prehistoric personalities and conditions that can well be considered templates for how the human race would evolve over the following 70,000 years. Of special note is the profusion of anthropological and archaeological detail cleverly woven into the texture and text of this outstanding pre-history novel. "The Last Neanderthal Clan: Raka of the Last Neanderthal Clan" is thoroughly entertaining from beginning to end and would make a popular addition to community library collections. It should also noted that "The Last Neanderthal Clan: Raka of the Last Neanderthal Clan" is also available in a hardcover ($31.95) and a Kindle ($4.99) edition.

A Captain's Journal
Eric Charles
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781463609517 $23.85

Illustrated with full-color photographs throughout - a few of which show the grisly side of emergency medicine, and are not for the faint of heart - A Captain's Journal: Meditations and Medicine from the Iraq War is the true-life journal of anesthesiologist and former U.S. Air Force Officer Eric Charles, written during his deployment at an air force base hospital in Iraq from 2006-2007. Descriptive and candid, A Captain's Journal gives an unforgettable, personal glimpse into the daily life and hardships of a combat medic. Highly recommended. "Merry F$%&ing Christmas was the saying of the day today... There was a mortaring in Balad as well as inheriting several US soldiers from other bases with complex injuries. All the ICU's are full after today. That means we will have an abundance of work for several days to come. Needless to say, everyone is keenly aware of this fact. Hence... merry f#$^ing Christmas."

Willis M. Buhle

Crocco's Bookshelf

The Crimson Path of Honor by M.B. Tosi
WestBow Press
Amazon Digital Services, Inc
ASIN: B00B9T3F0S, $7.69,

A captivating story about a wealthy young woman in the 1860's who ran away from her stable Boston life to avoid an arranged marriage. Planning to use her skills as a teacher changed when during her escape she ended up captured by a band of Lakota Sioux. Luci Garling became Morning Star, named by her captor, Golden Eagle.

The story encompassed three long years as Morning Star assimilated into the Lakota culture. She developed into a better fighter alongside the braves than a squaw among the women. Her new life demanded courage and bravery as she fought to survive.
M.B. Tosi kept me engaged with rich Lakota Sioux history as Morning Star struggled in dangerous situations. Forced to decide unexpected choices maintained my interest throughout the book.

Along with history and adventure, a complicated romance between Morning Star and her captor, Golden Eagle, influenced both their lives. Trust and friendship prevailed over extraordinary situations revealing morals and values of the characters.
I recommend The Crimson Path of Honor by M.B. Tosi to readers of all ages, especially those who enjoy historical fiction. An ideal approach to experience the Lakota Sioux Nation is by appreciating this significant novel.

Vampires IV Stories by Ginger Edwards
Ginger H. Edwards
Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
ASIN: B00GCPRVJA, $0.99,

A captivating read from a vampire's unique point of view describe Ginger Edwards impeccable skill of short story writing. The author displays her true passion for the genre in each of the four engaging stories. Pick up a copy of Vampires IV Stories, and become enchanted with the violin master, Philippe de Montpellier.

Bridge of Fire
Thomasina Burke
Fun House Publishing LLC
Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
ASIN: B00CR73BWS, $11.66,

Sequel to 'Magic Fire'.

Bridgette Decker lives an interesting life filled with adversity. A brave woman, Bridgette returns to Honduras where she changes an orphaned girl's life.

Back home in Arizona, we witness Bridgette's skills as a volunteer firefighter and nurse as she assists with The Gladiator Fire in Crown King. During the battle, she ends up an accident victim flown to Phoenix for emergency care. Does the accident result in suffering for a lifetime?

We share Bridgette's unexpected love experience after losing her husband in Magic Fire. The outstanding scenery descriptions of Roatan and Phoenix remain a bonus throughout the story.

I recommend Bridge of Fire by Thomasina Burke for anyone who enjoys adventure and stories about true friendship.

Helen O'Reilly
Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
ASIN: B00CUPYIUQ, $13.49,

In a post-apocalyptic world, can women live without men? Hell yeah, according to the tale told by Helen O'Reilly. Women can provide all the necessities of life living in the forest that used to be New York City.

Men do serve a purpose, however. The women trap and hunt the species to immortalize their community. Once the deed is done, their mantra is, waste not, want not.

I recommend Spunk by Helen O'Reilly for readers who enjoy a good fable sprinkled with humor.

Mary Crocco, Reviewer

Gail's Bookshelf

Unseen: Angels, Satan, Heaven, Hell...
Jack Graham
Bethany House Publishers
11400 Hampshire South, Bloomington, Minnesota 55438
9780764211218, $19.99,

In The Unseen, Baptist pastor, Dr. Jack Graham pulls back the curtain to expose the necessity for and reality of supernatural spiritual warfare. He uses a practical and biblical, hands-on approach to teach the "rules of the game," that includes what to believe, what to wear and how to fight a competitor that can't be seen.

He begins with the loss of his father, massacred by a hammer-wielding madman when Jack was twenty-years-old. Although he believed in a powerful, loving God, Jack was left angry and confused by the manner of his father's death.

Until then, Jack, brought up in the southern Baptist traditions, preached, taught and lived in the natural realm, where "Spirit-led anything was relegated to the snake handlers..." along with angels, demons and other spiritual beings. However, his father's murder made him ask questions that led to "important spiritual truths" about good, evil and supernatural powers.

He cites The Barna Groups research on adult's spiritual beliefs that found over 60% of professing Christians believe Satan is nothing more than a symbol for evil. Yet they believe spiritual forces influence people. With 58% who don't believe the Holy Spirit is a "living entity" yet believes the Bible is accurate in its portrayal of the Holy Spirit. The apparent contradictions prompted Jack to write this book to explain "the truth of how the world - both seen and unseen - works."

Twelve chapters equip believers to understand the supernatural reality of God, angel's demons, Satan, heaven and hell, the power of prayer and the necessity for spiritual warfare whether Christians recognize it or not. Chapters end with insightful questions for group discussion or individual reflection.

While chapter four teaches how to stand up to Satan, the need to "stand firm" and what the seven pieces of spiritual armor are, the chapter on Warfare Prayer teaches why we "must stay aware of the war" and know the biblical rules for fighting. Pastor Graham says, if we don't wear the armor and know Satan's tactics, it's like fighting the enemy with a "butter knife" when the enemy (Satan) is armed with an "AK-47."

The Patheos Book Club interview with Pastor Graham about his book, Unseen: Angels, Satan, Heaven and Hell reveals why it's important readers win the "battle for eternity." Chapter ten, Where Goodness Goes to Die clearly describes the reality of hell, what it's like and why the battle for your eternal soul is critical.

Dr. Graham combines compelling stories with biblical truths that challenge popular opinion and common folklore to encourage belief in God and the supernatural world. He writes with clarity and supports his beliefs with scripture. He offers readers three truths: "Life is a frailty, death a certainty and eternity a reality" whether you are "born once to die twice or born twice to die once." (Pg. 203) To learn more about spiritual warfare

A Better December: Proverbs to Brighten Christmas
Steven Estes, author
Sarah J. Bland Halulko, illustrator
New Growth Press
1451 S. Elm Eugene Street, Suite 1102, Greensboro, NC 27406
9781936768677, $12.99,

Pastor Estes unique combination of poetry and narrative, sprinkled with a dash of humor comes wrapped in a creative flow of Solomon's proverbs sure to make this into a Christmas classic. His joyous message is for anyone who struggles with stress, finances or loneliness at Christmas and the "tongue-in-cheek" Scripture connection makes it an exceptional gift choice for non-Christian friends and neighbors.

A Walk One Winter Night: A Real Christmas Story
Al Andrews
Worthy Publishing
134 Frankline Road/Suite 200, Brentwood, TN 37027
9781605875286, $14.99,

Amidst the stress and struggle of holiday expectations a late night stroll changes the ordinary into the extraordinary in this enchanted Christmas story that begins with a mysterious nudge. Where eyes and hearts are opened and a manger scene display of Jesus, Mary and Joseph becomes "real." Award-winning Dove vocalist Nichole Nordeman, performs "Real" in a fall tour of The Story alongside artists Casting Crowns, Steven Curtis Chapman and more.

The Christmas Candle
Max Lucado
Thomas Nelson
P.O. Box 141000, Nashville, Tennessee 37214
9781401689940, $16.99,

This magical story of miracles, hope and choice is played out against a picturesque 19th century English Victorian village. It's a tale of traditions, mysterious angels and gifts, where loss and fear make for difficult choices in villager's hearts.

Lucado's inspirational and poignant Christmas story makes its screen debut November 22 with a great cast of actors and the sensational voice of Susan Boyle in The Christmas Candle.

A Marriage Carol
Chris Fabry & Gary Chapman
Moody Publishers
820 North LaSalle Blvd, Chicago, IL 60610
9780802402646, $14.99,

In this Christmas love story of choices and potential futures a couple learns that just as " snowflake changes the construction of the drift...just one choice changes a life." This engaging, fictional parable invites readers on a journey of hope wrapped in a story of tangled relationships, divorce and unconditional love. Until this couple takes a mysterious shortcut, meets an old man behind a red door with three shiny golden pots and are invited inside.

That Was the Best Christmas
A.R. Cecil
Cladach Publishing
PO Box 336144, Greely, CO 80633
9780989101400, $12.99,

This collection of twenty-five, Scripture themed stories sets the mood and tone of the holiday season with thoughts of hope, forgiveness and Christ's sacrificial love with a dash of humor. Accounts begin with a six-year-old immigrant girl in 1906 and end with a grown man's treasured memories of childhood in 2012. Narratives feature kindness, encouragement and a sense of belonging that leads to transformative change in boys, girl's women or men and causes them to say, "That was the best Christmas" ever!

God's Great Plan
Melissa Cutrera, Illustrated by Matthew Sample II
Shepherd Press
PO Box 24, Wapwallopen, PA 18660
9781936908813, $16.99, Hardcover,

In God's Great Plan youngsters watch the plan of creation unfold page by page. Melissa uses rhythmic rhyme to teach of God's creation, the animals, Adam, Eve and Jesus' birth and death on the cross. The rhythmic words linger long after the last page is turned causing youngsters to ask for story time again and again.

Matthew's exquisite artistry portrays a grandfather teaching memorable Bible truths to his grandson and granddaughter. This beautifully illustrated book fits both Christmas and Easter holidays.

God's Love for You Storybook Bible
Richard Stearns & Renee Stearns
Tommy Nelson
c/o Thomas Nelson Publishers
PO Box 141000, Nashville, TN 37214
9781400321872 $19.99 Hardcover, 272 Pages,

This storybook of Old and New Testament tales are paired with true accounts and fun facts from other nations that introduce youngsters to children about other cultures, peoples and ways of life. Staff members relate real-life experiences with the children and families they work with on foreign shores. Colorful staff photographs combine with Martin Peluso's imaginative and colorful illustrations. Book royalties benefit World Visions' work with children in need.

Adventure Bible Handbook: A Wild Ride Through the Bible
Robin Schmitt & David Frees, Illustrator-Craig Philips
c/o Zondervan Publishing House
5300 Patterson Avenue, S.E., Grand Rapids, MI 49530
9780310725756, $16.99, 240 Pages,

In this comic book style Bible, four children take an "off-beat" tour through Israel and the Holy Land in search of their archaeologist father who disappeared. Aided by Smart Phones, camels, jet skis, ATVs, hang gliders and two zany guides the youngsters travel back in time to visit ancient cities, cultures and Bible happenings. Comic book style format encourages reluctant readers and inspires spiritual maturity and childlike faith in young readers.

Adventure Bible Storybook-Deluxe Edition
Catherine DeVries, Illustrated by Jim Madsen
c/o Zondervan Publishing House
5300 Patterson Avenue, S.E., Grand Rapids, MI 49530
9780310716372, $24.99, 822 Pages,

Children today are often lulled to sleep listening to their favorite stories on audio CD's. This gift package includes the Adventure Bible Storybook deluxe edition awarded Retailer's Choice in 2009. It comes with two CD's in a slipcover inside the book that holds the case for one great price. Handsomely illustrated Bible stories encourage children to flip through the pages and see with their eyes what their imaginations created as they drifted off to sleep. This would make an excellent gift choice for any young child.

Adventure Bible NIV Book of Devotions
Robin Schmitt
c/o Zondervan Publishing House
5300 Patterson Avenue, S.E., Grand Rapids, MI 49530
9780310723622, $12.99, 416 Pages,

Fictional stories and nuggets of biblical information illustrate biblical truths within story contexts in this devotional designed as a companion to the #1 bestselling Adventure Bible NIV. The adventure stories encourage 365 days of devotional reading. Youngsters learn about God, faith and the Bible in relation to their daily lives, for another excellent gift choice.

Everybody Can Help Somebody
Ron Hall & Denver Moore
Thomas Nelson
c/o Thomas Nelson Publishers
PO Box 141000, Nashville, TN 37214
9781400322695, $14.99, 32 Pages,

Everybody can Help Somebody children's story illustrates Mr. Ron's, Denver Moore, and Miss. Debbie's powerful and touching story, Same Kind of Different as Me that teaches "Everybody can help somebody - even you!"

It's the story of the son of a sharecropper who picks cotton, milks cows and feeds the chickens since school isn't a choice for the little boy. Soon it's the story of a homeless man and an act of compassion. The message will tug at the heart strings of young or old, with it's powerful narrative of forgiveness and God's love.

Critical Reaction
Todd Johnson
Bethany House Publishers
11400 Hampshire South, Bloomington, Minnesota 55438
9780764210150, $14.99,

Todd Johnson's new book, Critical Reaction releases November 19th with a suspense that validates all the promise this author showed in his debut conspiracy, The Deposit Slip. This time the story is set in Washington State at the now contaminated and shuttered, Hanford Nuclear Facility.

From his authentic characterizations, to his multi-tiered, greed driven plot wrapped in a father-daughter's edgy relationship, Critical Reaction's complexity and intrigue keep pages turning and readers guessing.

The story opens at 2:46 a.m., when twenty-five-year-old Kieran Mullaney signs in to enter what is called the "dark side" of lab building 5 where they routinely test air radiation levels. It was Kieran and his partner Taylor's "last night" substituting for the "regular LB5 sampling crew."

The soft green glow of radiation detectors "comforted" and reassured the young men that the long corridor ahead was safe until Kieran felt an air "brush of heat on his right ear." He checked the lights were still green, red signaled dangerous radiation levels, and then moved toward the bulging steel doors to his right.

The next moments would be forever etched in Kieran's memory as heat washed over him from deep in what had once been a "mixing chamber" that now housed a towering vat suspended from the ceiling, labeled "vat 17." Shock, fear and a growing rhythmic pounding matched his pounding steps as he ran for his life...

Thus begins a multifaceted tale of suspense that starts with a question no one is willing to answer - what happened in Hanford's "Lab Building 5" the night of October 16, 2012? The night that forever changed Kieran Mullaney's life and the lives of many others who worked for or lived near the Hanford Reservation.

It's a question no one will answer. When Kieran suspects a cover-up he hires college friend, now fledgling attorney Emily to take over his lawsuit when the attorney of record steps down. She asks her father, Ryan, a successful trial attorney in Seattle to take second chair. He agrees to help rather than be second chair.

Todd scatters clues throughout, from courtroom shenanigans, to missing guards, sick workers and death threats from rows of dead black crows. Still the ending is impossible to guess until the story unfolds to its exciting, over-the-top action-packed finish.

If you like conspiracy driven intrigue, Todd's faith based suspense should be next on your reading list with a father daughter legal team who may pay for their investigative tenacity with their lives.

Encounters with Jesus: Unexpected Answers to Life's Biggest Questions
Timothy Keller
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014-3657
9780525954354, $19.95,

Timothy Keller, pastor of Manhattan's Redeemer Presbyterian Church and New York Times bestselling author of Walking with God through Pain and Suffering that I reviewed last week now turns to "meaning of life" questions in Encounters with Jesus scheduled for release November 19th.

In the book Keller features ten conversations from The Gospel of John that show "Jesus changed the lives of every person He met." Those dialogues confronted common doubts and questions such as who am I, why am I here, what do I believe and what is my purpose in life. Keller believes the biblical answers from those "powerful" encounters with Christ long ago contain invaluable lessons for us today and they form the basis for this book - Encounters with Jesus.

He uses the same study technique that changed his spiritual life in college - Inductive Bible study to understand the dialogues of Jesus. Material for the first half of the book originates from talks he gave in 2012 to skeptical college students at Oxford Town Hall in England.

The second half of the book features a series of talks Keller gave to accomplished, well-educated "business, government and cultural leaders" at breakfast meetings over a period of years at New York City's Harvard Club where he examined "pivotal events in Jesus' life."

Each of ten chapters includes the meeting, dialogue and transformative change that occurred, whether in a "skeptical student," a religious insider or an "outcast." His encounter with Satan, the "great enemy" in chapter six reaffirms our need to rely "not only on the Word of the Lord, but also on the Lord of the Word."

Because Jesus Christ is more than an example, more than a teacher, more than a model, HE came as "Savior - to be the answer - to do for us what we could not hope to do on our own." Keller believes a personal encounter with Jesus is the only answer to all of life's questions.

Keller's work belongs on the bookshelf of every serious Bible student. It is not a quick read, but, instead should be savored like fine wine, one sip at a time to glean the full impact of his life-changing message.

Encounters with Jesus is the hardcover edition of a 10-part eBook series featured in the list above the review.

Walking with God through Pain and Suffering
Timothy Keller
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014-3657
9780525952459, $26.00,

In Walking with God through Pain and Suffering Timothy Keller uses the biblical theme and imagery of fire to consider the hard questions of why God allows "misery, depravity, pain and anguish." He writes in the voice and tone of a fellow sufferer familiar with chronic illness, multiple surgeries and cancer diagnoses to encourage others through their seasons of adversity. Newsweek Magazine calls him, a C.S. Lewis of the 21st Century

Keller's unique insights, biblical wisdom and personal examples show that suffering is a part of the "human experience" that strips away the pretense of spiritual self-sufficiency and control. He teaches meaning and reason can be found in Jesus when those who suffer realize, "you don't really know Jesus is all you need until Jesus is all you have."

He continues the fire analogy in the first of three parts where he looks at the "problem of evil" from an "abstract and theoretical" view point, from what he calls "outside the furnace." If you're already in the midst of adversity this part, while necessary for "seeing the entire picture," can be saved for later.

Part two focuses on the Bible and the "character of suffering." In this segment Keller moves away from the philosophical toward the personal. He believes the Bible calls us to walk through the fires of affliction, to embrace suffering because it can't be avoided or denied and meaning can be found in suffering. He uses a step-by-step biblical approach similar to that of a parent teaching a toddler how to walk.

The final segment of six chapters features how to connect with God in the valley of suffering. Here Keller reveals six key elements that combine into "one single action" comprised of weeping, praying, thanking, hoping, loving and trusting. These actions refine our characters and prevent destructive attitudes of blame and why me. Instead the question becomes, "why not me."

Chapters end with first-person accounts that don't always have "happy ever after" endings. Yet they demonstrate inspirational walks of faith that inspire, motivate and encourage toward a more personal "life-changing encounter" with Jesus where Jesus becomes a beloved Friend instead of a simple acquaintance. The Epilogue offers a ten point summary for a quick overview.

Whether we're "walking through the fire," experiencing a "fiery ordeal" or find ourselves in a "fiery furnace" like Meshach, Shadrach and Abednego. Keller's writing shows that suffering is meaningful and God can bring life out of darkness and "use evil against itself..." for those who trust in Him.

Rose Then and Now Bible Map Atlas
Paul H Wright, Ph.D.
Rose Publishing
4733 Torrance Blvd., #259, Torrance, CA 90503
9781596365346, $39.99,

Dr. Paul H. Wright, president of Jerusalem University College, reveals the "history, geography, culture and personality" characteristics of the Bible in the comprehensive Rose Then and Now Bible Atlas That contrasts 120 original biblical locations and their modern day counterparts with the use of clear plastic overlays.

The Atlas begins with the Old Testament and ends with John the Revelator in the New Testament, who Wright describes as a man who "Deserves the Last Word." Readers find pictures of archeological artifacts, paintings and archeological remains of once luxurious palaces to consider. Such as the man made "volcano-shaped mountain of Herodium" built by Herod's slaves to camouflage his luxurious palace that included a site of colonnaded gardens, banquet halls, bath complexes and guest suites hidden within the mountains core.

Interesting profiles and summaries of the Patriarchs and other Old and New Testament characters give readers a better understanding of ancient times and cultures. One and two page spreads of both Old and New Testament timelines start with Abraham and finish with the book of Revelation. Listings include approximate years and historical settings.

The chart of the early Caesars contains New Testament references, why they were important and the years of their reign. Since more than one man carried the name of Herod the list of "the Herod's," identify each one's official title, full name, relationship to Herod the Great with the dates they held office. Twenty-four chock full chapters provide geographical and archaeological content never before compiled into one book that integrates the peoples and their stories within a cultural, historical and geographical context.

The Rose Bible Atlas is simple to use, easy-to-read and very well organized, which makes it useful for studying a particular person or event, especially for pastors, students or laymen. It would make a wonderful gift for the fast approaching Christmas season. Click on the link for more information on this fascinating resource from Rose Publishing or click on the link above to purchase.

Stress Test
Richard L. Mabry, M.D.
Thomas Nelson
P.O. Box 141000, Nashville, Tennessee 37214
9781401687083, $15.99,

Retired physician Richard L. Mabry, now popular award winning author, adds Stress Test to his growing list of Christian suspense titles. It's a narrative of murder, kidnapping and deception with a dash of chaos, confusion and romance.

Readers meet Dr. Matt Newman as he leaves the emergency room of Metropolitan Hospital's Medical Center after saving a seriously injured teen when the girl beside him in the car had been killed. The natural "high" he savors isn't uncommon after pulling a patient back from the brink of death, a natural high that can't be found in "...anything from a glass, bottle or syringe" only in the life and death situations of an emergency room.

The ER's pneumatic doors close with a "hiss" behind him as Matt notes the time - 2:00 am. He won't miss that familiar hiss and all it implies, he thought. He had sold his medical practice to accept a new teaching position as assistant professor at Dallas's Southwestern Medical Center. Tonight was his last night in the ER and his future looked promising. The added structure in academia might even make it possible for Matt and his girlfriend to consider marriage.

With his thoughts on Jennifer, he fished the car keys from his pocket and headed toward "his silver Chevy Impala" parked in a dark corner of the deserted garage. He couldn't know, when he put one hand on the door handle and the other on the remote's unlock button that life as he knew it was about to change and not for the better...

Thus begins a fast-paced thriller that keeps reader's guessing and pages rapidly turning just to find out what happens next. Matt only knows he's been kidnapped by two men for reasons unknown who intend to "Get rid of him."

Mabry weaves faith, prayer and belief into a suspense that captures readers with appealing characterizations, realistic dialogue and fast-moving plot and settings. The storyline is increasingly intense, yet without blood and gore, though there are some violent scenes.

However, far less swearing and sexual content than what the Federal Trade Commission deem permissible "family friendly" viewing time in the evenings. Click on the link to read chapters one and two... of Stress Test.

Also check out the list that headlines the review for Heart Failure, Mabry's newest suspense that released October 15, 2013.

Strait of Hormuz: Marc Royce Series #3
Davis Bunn
Bethany House
11400 Hampshire South, Bloomington, Minnesota 55438
9780764211386, $14.99,

Davis Bunn, four-time Christy Award winner releases Strait of Hormuz Tuesday, November 5th, to complete his Marc Royce Adventure trilogy. It's a fast-paced narrative of international intrigue, clandestine action and escalating global tensions that began with "Lion of Babylon" continued in "Rare Earth" and ends in "Strait of Hormuz"

In this book readers find Marc in Switzerland without his customary intelligence resources and protocols in place, not even a gun because he's been fired. Or that's what everyone is led to believe due to a U.S. intelligence security leak.

Kitra Korban, Marc's former "long-distance" love interest has mixed feelings of anticipation and dread as she enters Geneva's most exclusive art gallery to save "...the very same man she had recently told she never wanted to speak with again..." Marc Royce.

The same gallery where only moments before Marc had found the corpse of gallery owner, art connoisseur, Sylvan Gollett adjacent to the famous bronze ballerina sculpture by Rodin. When he moved to take a picture of the body he heard the "most beautiful voice in the world call out to him" from the door.

Kitra's greeting coincided with a sound he hoped to never hear again that told the agent he'd stepped into the "laser light" trigger of a bomb... there were only seconds to decide his next move. Add money-laundering, nuclear capabilities, cultural and religious issues and readers have what Hy Smith, Sr. Vice President of United International Pictures says is a "thinking person's Indiana Jones" adventure.

Where Marc Royce, "alone and unaided" except for a selected few, must divide truth from deception, innuendo and rumor that cause him to question those he thought he could trust. Whether Mossad agents, girlfriend or fellow U.S. intelligence agents. The realistic threat, if acted upon, would have deadly results for Israel, the United States and the world that would leave the world forever changed.

The addition of Kitra's and Marc's off kilter romance only adds to Bunn's delightful tale of suspense, danger and intrigue captures readers and keeps the pages turning. Although part of a trilogy, Strait of Hormuz can be read as a standalone title.

Click on the link for a free preview of the first three chapters or for more information about the book.

Gail Welborn

Gary's Bookshelf

Cross My Heart
James Patterson
Little Brown and Company
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316210011, $29.00

Patterson novels of Alex Cross for 20 years have always been good but "Cross My Heart" is one of the best of the series because it is nail biting suspense with a surprise twist of an ending. Cross works other cases until he finds out he is up against a deranged killer who attacks Alex's entire family. This time it's personal and Cross has never been as depressed as he is in this one. As the novel unfolds it shows how far a sick person will take their revenge. "Cross My Heart" is one of the best books of the series because it will leave readers wanting more asking, "How soon to the next one?"

Sly Fox
Jeanie Pirro
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
978140131219, $7.99

Judge Jeanine Pirro who many of us see on the Fox News Network now tells a great story in her debut novel "Sly Fox." Dani Fox, the only female prosecutor in the office in Westchester, New York is trying to get the respect she deserves. . She takes on cases and proves that she is able to handle them, but she must prove herself to just about everyone including her higher up bosses. Based on some of Pirro's cases "Sly Fox is an enjoyable first novel that is filled with strong believable characters and a realistic depiction of the court system of 1976. The Dani Fox series is off to a great start with "Sly Fox."

The Alligator Man
James Sheehan
Center Street
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9781455508648, $23.00

Roy Johnson, a wealthy but very hated businessman is dubbed "the alligator man" after it is determined he is missing and suspected to have been eaten by an alligator when he was last seen walking on the side of the road near alligator infested waters. Later it is determined he was murdered and police have a logical suspect. Enter attorney Kevin Wylie who has just lost his job at a major law firm in Miami. Now he is in the process of setting up his own firm and this will be his first case. Taking place in Florida, Sheehan describes the state very well as the story plays out with a complicated plot with memorable characters in a novel that moves along to its final conclusion. What makes the tale more interesting is the relationship Wylie has with his father and how it evolves and changes throughout the novel. "The Alligator Man " is a great page turner legal thriller.

The Racketeer
John Grisham
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
978034553o578, $9.99

Grisham is back with "The Racketeer" another great legal thriller. Judge Raymond Fawcett has been murdered. Law enforcement has few clues but one man Malcolm Bannister knows who killed the judge and why. One problem Malcolm is in jail himself. This is only the beginning of the tense thriller that shows why Grisham keeps getting better and better with each book. "The Racketeer is a slower paced complicated novel.

Ryan Lockwood
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp
119 West 40th Street, New York, NY 10018
9780786032877, $9.99,

A hungry new creature is swimming around in our oceans and it does not care if its prey is animal or human in "Below" Lockwood fills the tale with believable characters and situations that will have readers turning pages in the late night hours. "Below" is a "Jaws" type of novel of suspense that will scare people from swimming in the ocean.

Death of a Coupon Clipper
Lee Hollis
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp
119 West 40th Street, New York, NY 10018
9780758267399, $7.99,

Bar Harbor, Maine takes center stage in the new novel by Lee Hollis in "Death of a Coupon Clipper." Haley Powell, food and cocktails columnist for the Bar Harbor's Island Times has her hands full just trying to live her life. She is also a contestant in a national game show that has come to Bar Harbor to film in a local supermarket. As if that was not hard enough, now she has to deal with the fact that someone murdered one of the participants. Haley who at first, is a suspect works to help solve the case. Lee Hollis is a brother and sister writing team who pull their talents together in a laugh out loud enjoyable mystery that takes place in Bar Harbor Maine. Haley in a conversation describes her feelings about Bill O'Reilly and some of the other people on the Fox News Network that is very funny. "Death of a Coupon Clipper" is an entertaining mystery guaranteed to please.

Phil Duncan
RainTown Press
1111 E. Burnside St #309 Portland, Or 97214
9780984050048, $16.95

"Wax" poses many sociological issues and does it very well in a novel that is marketed as a YA but is so much more. Yancey Muncey dies and is brought back to life in a new experimental process. Yancey though, does not want to do the tasks the doctor who did the procedure wants him to perform, according to a bargain his parents obligated him to "Wax" is a page turner for any age reader who is a fan of "Frankenstein"

Montooth 2 Race for the Ryland Ruby
Montooth 3 Red Cross of Gold
Robert Jay
Cloverleaf Corporation
1916 South Tamiami Trail Ruskin Florida 33570
9780615401195, $27.99 (harcover)
9780989117104, $21.99 (paperback)

The characters from the prequel "Montooth and the Canfield Witch" are back in action in two more adventures. Along the way there are some new ones introduced in the two next chapters of Montooth saga. The author presents Florida of the 1950s and does an excellent job showing how different it is from the one we know today. The Montooth novels are page turners for any age and I personally like them better than the Harry Potter novels.

15 Views Vol. II Corridor
Nathan Holic & John Henry Fleming, editors
Burrow Press
625 E. Central Blvd, Orlando Florida 32801
9780984953820, $16.99,

The first book in the series 15 Views was short stories that take place in the Orlando area of Florida. 15 Views Vol. II Corridor is a double sided collection of short stories. This time one side deals with stories from the Tampa area of the state while the other stories are the Orlando area. This is a great concept that exposes a lot of talented writers in the area of the state known as the I-4 corridor that runs from Tampa to Daytona Beach. 15 Views Vol. II. Corridor is filled with great short fiction any fan of collections of fiction should not miss.

Dare To Dream: 25 Extraordinary Lives
Sandra McLeod Humphrey
Prometheus Books
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst, New York, 142282119
9781591022800, $15.99,

25 people's lives are profiled by Sandra McLeod Humphrey in "Dare to Dream 25 Extraordinary Lives". Some of the people are Jim Thorpe, Norman Vincent Peale, and Jackie Robinson to name a few. All of the stories are interesting reading about people from many different backgrounds who achieved success in their chosen professions. Each of the pieces tells about each person as a child and later as an adult. "Dare to Dream 25 Extraordinary Lives" is an enlightening collection that reinforces the belief that you can do anything you want to

Gary Roen

Gloria's Bookshelf

The Burglar Who Counted the Spoons
Lawrence Block
9780991068425, Paperback, 250 pp., $14.99,

This wonderful new book brings the return of Bernard Grimes ("Bernie," or just "Bern") Rhodenbarr, proprietor (with the help of his cat, Raffles) of Barnegat Books, on East 11th Street off Broadway, in Manhattan's Greenwich Village. Bernie also has a "sideline" as a burglar. Or maybe running the bookstore is the sideline. He has also been called a "gentleman burglar . . . a vanishin' breed." He himself admits "I've been doing this long enough so that it's a profession." But there is no doubt he loves books, and bookstores, the "old-fashioned kind, where people come in looking for something to read, and collectors come in hunting for treasures, and we all have nice intellectual conversations," and bemoans the fact that "the world's changing," referring to the obvious direction in which the world of publishing in particular is headed.

As his best friend, Carolyn reminds him, in the past he and the local police have had sort of an adversarial relationship, where he was sought out "for the benefit of his expertise" when he'd gotten himself "in some jam and the only way out of it is to catch the real killer." But this time his friend, Detective Ray Kirschmann, requests that Bernie act as an unofficial NYPD consultant when an elderly woman is found dead in her 92nd Street apartment, which appears to have been burglarized as well. The other plot line deals with a mysterious customer obsessed with collections in general, and buttons in particular. What follows is a terrific tale of detection and investigation, ending with a gathering of suspects in a scene beginning with the words "I suppose you're wondering why I summoned you all here" which fans of detective (amateur or otherwise) fiction have known and loved for a long time.

If you enjoy consistently erudite, witty, clever writing, and who amongst us does not, you will find much to love here. I also particularly enjoyed the tip of the hat by the author to a few of the finest practitioners of the art of writing mystery fiction: Jeffery Deaver, Michael Connelly, S.J. Rozan, and the late Ed McBain and Rex Stout. I found myself wondering what percentage of the gems put forth by the author are actual fact - - all, I suspect, and all of it fascinating (some obscure, if not arcane) and all very impressive. As well, I was delighted by the reference to Brooklyn when it was "so far from being a desirable address that the Dodgers hadn't even left yet." And to discover that Bernie is apparently a Mets fan to boot (full disclosure: I am a former Brooklynite/Dodgers fan and a present Mets fan). The publication date makes this a perfect holiday gift, perhaps for oneself.

Highly recommended.

The Square of Revenge
Pieter Aspe, author
Brian Doyle, translator
Pegasus Crime
80 Broad St., NY, NY 10005
9781605984469, Hardcover, 292 pp., $25.00,

This is Pieter Aspe's English-language debut novel, we are introduced to Commissioner Pieter Van In, of the Bruges Special Investigations Department. (There have apparently been several entries in the series.) What will turn out to be a case of greater magnitude than any other in his 20-year career begins inauspiciously enough, when Sgt. Guido Versavel comes upon what appears to be a theft in a jewelry store in an expensive shopping district in Bruges. (And he had just been thinking that there were "only three thousand, nine hundred seconds to go" before his shift was up.)

On closer inspection, a baffling scenario presents itself: The alarm has been disabled, the safe has been broken into and all of its contents taken, but the jewels have been dissolved in jars of aqua regia, "acid" to the uninitiated. Only when the store's owner is discovered to be the son of Ludovic Degroof, one of the wealthiest and most powerful men in the region is there a hint that there is more involved. Van In wonders: "Where do you begin when a case appears to have no suspects and no motive?"

DI Van In is ultimately put in charge of the case, which takes on different proportions when other members of the DeGroof family are contacted and threatened. He is more than ably assisted by the beauteous Deputy Public Prosecutor Hannelore Martens, described by him thusly: "Even in jeans and a white blouse, she was capable of making Miss Belgium look like a spruced-up scarecrow." Not a conventional "whodunit" (as the reader is given that information about one-third into the book), this more a question of "why," and the answer to that is totally unexpected. Political implications play a huge role in the way the investigation is conducted. Ultimately it appears that the seeds of these events were sown many years before. Written with welcome doses of humor, this is a thoroughly entertaining novel, and is highly recommended.

The Blood Whisperer
Zoe Sharp
Murderati Ink
9781909344327, Paperback, 388 pp., $14.95,

Kelly Jacks is the eponymous protagonist in what promises to be a new series by Zoe Sharp. I wondered to myself, 'blood whisperer'? Is that anything like a 'horse whisperer?' Well, yes, it is, actually. Kelly is, as the author puts it, "someone who seemed to be able to coax evidence out of the most unpromising of scenes." Now 40 years old, the former CSI now works for McCarron Specialist Cleaning Services, the services in question being performed at crime scenes after they are released by the police. She's gone from being the first on the scene for nearly 10 years as a CSI, to being the last. The crime scene Kelly is working as the book opens is one where a woman's body has been found in her bathtub, an apparent suicide. But Kelly has her doubts. And those doubts open up a world of threats, hurt and violence as others try to stop her from pursuing them.

After the wonderful Charlie Fox series, including ten novels, a short story collection and a novella, the author has managed to create another strong female lead with an intriguing background: Kelly started her new job upon her release from five years of incarceration after having been found guilty of involuntary manslaughter, still proclaiming her innocence.

Ms. Sharp has produced a complex plot which includes Russian gangsters and the top tiers of English horse-racing, with steadily increasing suspense and a sense of calamity to come as the book races to its conclusion, neither the protagonists nor the reader knowing how it will end, but bracing for the worst: they've already seen the brutality of which their foes are capable and suspect that something far wore is still to come. There is an unexpected twist near the end, and another one I certainly never saw coming after that!

This is a thoroughly enjoyable novel. I particularly loved the author's descriptions of, among other things, the English weather, e.g., "The rain had peered out into indifference leaving behind dirty grey clouds like a sulk." As with all Ms. Sharp's earlier books, this one too is recommended.

No Show
Simon Wood
Thomas & Mercer
c/o Amazon Publishing
276 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10001
9781612184074, Paperback, 350 pp., $14.95,

The opening page of Simon Wood's terrific new novel finds his protagonist, Terry Sheffield, arriving in San Francisco from his native England, where he ready and eager to start his new life in a new country with his new wife. They had met 18 months before in Costa Rica while on holiday, followed swiftly by an international love affair and a whirlwind marriage (a wedding in Las Vegas, of all places); they had not seen each other since the honeymoon six months ago. Thirty years old, a biotechnologist, he has given up his home, job, family and friends and "drawn a line under his life in the U.K.," finally getting all the documentation needed to become an American. But it quickly becomes apparent that he is living anyone's worst nightmare: As the title implies, Sarah never appears at the airport, and Terry soon discovers that she has completely disappeared. All signs at their home in northern California indicate that it's been several days since she had gone missing.

Sarah is a freelance journalist. After Terry reports her disappearance to the Sheriff, he searches the contents of her computer and any notes or miscellaneous papers he can find anywhere in the house for any clues as to what might have led to her leaving; there is no sign that she has been abducted. Since they met, they had only spent a total of eight or nine weeks together, and he now repeatedly asks himself exactly what he really knew about the woman he had married; irritatingly, others keep asking him the same question. As the book moves forward, the answers he seeks become more and more complicated, including as they do several brutal murders.

This is a suspenseful page-turner, leavened from time to time with the author's characteristic wit. There are indications that this is the first of a new series from Mr. Wood, and I for one cannot wait for the sequel. The book is highly recommended.

Always Watching
Chevy Stevens
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312595692, Hardcover, 368 pp., $25.99,

The story at the heart of this newest book by Chevy Stevens deals with a subject not touched upon to my knowledge in years: communes, popular in decades past among "hippies" [a seemingly archaic term], and the total subjugation of their followers. Imagine my amazement when, as I was about to finish reading this engrossing tale, I discovered an article on the front page of a section of that day's Sunday NY Times dealing with the enormous following of a group in San Francisco which holds "guided meditations . . . [long] wait lists for panel talks and conferences [that] now run into the hundreds," even discussing a "meditation app" that can be downloaded. I felt as though the lines could have been placed whole into the narrative of Ms. Stevens' new book.

The protagonist is Dr. Nadine Lavoie (who readers met in the author's earlier novels), attending psychiatrist at the Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit in Victoria, British Columbia, whose newest patient is Heather Simeon, involuntarily committed after a suicide attempt, her third try, this time by slashing her wrists. She and her husband of six months were both members of what can only be described as a cult, located on the outskirts of Shawnigan Lake, on the tip of Vancouver Island, calling itself The River of Life Spiritual Center. When Nadine hears these details, memories come flooding back to her: Now 55, when she was a young girl in the late '60's, she and her mother and brother had lived for 8 months in a commune run by the same man, then only 22 years old. That period had left her with devastating memories, worse than which are the blank spaces among them, knowing only that she has suffered from panic attacks and severe claustrophobia ever since.

Nadine's life is a very troubled one, coming as she did from a dysfunctional family; in addition, she has recently been widowed, and has a 25-year-old daughter who had left home at 18, become a drug addict, and is now living on the streets. As she deals with this situation, she delves into Heather's recent past, as well as her own early years, trying to fill in the blanks, for all of which she must confront the commune and its leader, almost dreading the answers for which she searches.

The novel, suspenseful and at times grueling, is not easily forgotten when the book is put down, and it is recommended.

Touch & Go
Lisa Gardner
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780451465849, Paperback, 496 pp., $9.99,

This standalone opens with the kidnapping of Justin Denbe, his 45-year-old pill-popping wife Libby, and their 15-year-old daughter, Ashlyn [who would seem to be wise beyond her years]. The author switches back and forth from Libby's 1st person p.o.v. to third person throughout, having the effect of making Libby and her family not just ciphers, or "the victims," but equally protagonists for whom the reader feels empathy. This is nominally a police procedural about that kidnapping, filled with the expected quotient of suspense, but ultimately it's much more than that: it's about a family which seemingly has it all, from their opulent Back Bay house in Boston to the hundred-million-dollar construction business headed by Justin.

While bringing back characters known from Ms. Gardner's previous novels, 29-year-old corporate investigator and former Massachusetts State Police Trooper Tessa Leoni and Boston's "reigning super cop," Detective Sergeant D.D. Warren, other cops called into the case include New Hampshire detective Wyatt Foster and his former lover, FBI Special Agent Nicole "Nicky" Adams. There appear to be no leads as to who pulled off this apparently very well-planned abduction, or any motive, as the first full day goes by with no ransom demand or other contact.

The suspense continues along pulse-pounding and unexpected paths right up until the end. I found the novel even better than I had expected, although I had read and enjoyed a few of the author's books in the past, and I will eagerly await the next one. Recommended.

Gloria Feit

Gorden's Bookshelf

Jesus Interrupted
Bart Ehrman
HarperCollins Publishers Inc.
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780061863288, $9.78,

Jesus Interrupted is a layperson book detailing the accepted historical analysis of the New Testament that is understood and taught in the majority of colleges and theological schools in North America and Europe. It isn't a complete textbook on the subject but an overview of what a critical analysis of the linguistics, historical context and comparisons of the books in the New Testament has to say. For those whose only encounter with the bible has been what was told to them by their evangelical preacher, this summary of what has been taught for over a hundred of years in most seminary schools will be shocking. But those who have studied the bible know there are questions and this side by side view of various books in the bible with the matching linguistics and societal history will give a solid new understanding of the bible.

Ehrman has a more respectful and balance approach to the topic than many of the popular secular authors in this field. I can't disagree with his overall examination of the New Testament but I find that in the many places where he acknowledges there are valid debates on the details I wanted to explore farther and add my own analysis to the discussion. Jesus Interrupted begs to be expanded into a larger book.

Jesus Interrupted is a must read for any lay historian or for anyone who is wanting to seriously examine the New Testament. It will force you to examine much of what you think you know about the bible. It is not an anti-Christian book but a book that requires the reader to think critically and that is how some fundamentalists justify an anti-Christian claim to the book. Most people seldom know the difference between what is actually in the bible and the particular dogma told to them from the pulpit. Knowing these differences is important both for the historian and those serious about their faith. This alone makes Jesus Interrupted a book to look for on the shelves.

William Wayne Dickison
B005PTX2ME, $3.03 (Kindle)
9780595486250, $7.84 (Paperback),

Sagebrush is a strange western. The core story is classic horse opera but the delivery is odd. The narration is stilted, better suited for the dime novels of the Nineteenth Century. The historical setting is off with historical details varying over a number of decades from pre-Civil War to after. Many of the key plot components wonder so far into fantasy that the main storyline suffers. An example here is that twelve year old Michael is the soul survivor of an small wagon train massacred by Commanches. He lives on his own in a corner of the Great Plains for the next six years becoming more skilled in living off the land than any of the Native American tribes living around him. He actually teaches Indians how to be better Indians.

The problems with the book just build from this start. This is unfortunate because with a more skilled author the basic storyline could have been built into a classic horse opera. Dickison did try valiantly to mimic some of the early Twentieth Century pulp writers. But instead of improving the storyline with this mimicry, the stilted narration just highlighted the difference in the quality of storytelling.

I would only recommend this story to those readers who love early Twentieth Century pulp and are willing to wade through a stilted narration. Since Sagebrush is sometimes available as a free download, for the hard core pulp readers it is a title to look for but a better choice would be some of the actual classic tales by the original authors.

Cassie Scot Paranormal Detective
Christine Amsden
Twilight Times Books
PO Box 3340, Kingsport, TN37664
9781606192757, $16.95, pages 254,

Cassie Scot is a fun and interesting take on a magical fantasy world existing within the real. It is a mix of the popular fantasy stories and a solid whodunit. It fits between the children fantasies of JK Rowling and the adult tales of Charlaine Harris -- a bit closer to Sookie than Harry. The plotline is light and the mystery is sound. What makes the story work is the solid world creation Amsden has built.

A small rural town in the middle of the US has a magical node under a manmade lake near the town. Families with magic have lived in and around the town since its beginning using the node to help with their magic. Cassie was born into one of these families but she hasn't inherited the magic. Growing up she has seen the problems between the magical families and the normal folks living in the town and wants to bridge the gap between them. She starts out as a sheriff deputy but soon becomes frustrated with its limitations so she opens her own private detective business. A town divided between two fractions and a young woman divided between worlds are the key settings in this murder mystery.

A local lawyer gives Cassie the job of serving a subpoena on a herbalist witch. When she goes to the herbalists shop she finds a dead girl, cousin to her old middle school boyfriend. It looks like a vampire or werewolf was involved in the murder. Cassie takes the job to find out what happened and inadvertently places herself between the magical families, the normal people in town and a magical predator.

Cassie Scot is an enjoyable and unique take to the contemporary fantasy genre. It is also a solid detective tale. This blend of genres will appeal to a broad range of readers. It is an easy recommendation for a weekend escape.

S.A. Gorden, Reviewer

Heidi's Bookshelf

The Everyday Dash Diet Cookbook
Marla Heller
Grand Central Life & Style
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, NY NY 10017
9781455528066, $26.00,

Easy place to start but don't look for sophistication from these recipes

Diet-specific cookbooks are an interesting part of the cookbook universe. One of the challenges is so many of these books present recipes that lack a marked level of sophistication. "The Everyday Dash Diet Cookbook: Over 150 Fresh And Delicious Recipes" matches that trend. The author specifically states she wants to make the recipes accessible for a busy home cook. While it's true you won't need many unexpected ingredients. At the same time you won't find recipes or flavors with much difference from hundreds other books.

The dietary concepts are appropriate: eat more vegetables, eat more fruit, and eat appropriate levels of protein for your meals. The practice of replacing salt with other flavors is a long-standing recommendation. A few small studies have shown that salt and high-blood pressure may not be as closely linked as believed. For any person or family who primarily prepares food from boxes or cans, reducing salt is important. Those, however, who buy and fix fresh food, this book offers less value.

The majority of the recipes are familiar. You can find free versions of most on multiple online locations. Items such as Mexican Chicken Tortilla Soup, Homemade Clam Chowder (milk-based), Cobb Salad, and Autumn Turkey Salad with Apples and Dried Cranberries are some examples of recipes with many options available online.

We didn't find a test recipe that spun a winning set on the dinner menu. Each one we tried needed definite tweaks to make them satisfactory for the adults who tasted them. We didn't dislike the results but didn't find the current version of the recipes worth repeating. The acid levels were too low, texture combinations needed to be taken further and other related changes are needed to make these recipes truly satisfying for most cookbook shoppers.

If you need an entry-level cookbook for healthy eating, this book might meet your needs. I do recommend that you not be a very adventurous eater. For anyone who enjoys foods with complex flavors, authentic spice profiles, or something a little different, don't stop here. You have many better options available. Even classics such as "The Vegetarian Epicure" will give you deeply satisfying ways to eat more vegetables and truly enjoy the experience. For a newer take in this realm, invest in either book from "The Sexy Vegan." Mr. Patton has create two memorable cookbooks and you need not be vegan to savor the results.

Beard on Food (Reprint Edition)
James Beard
Bloomsbury USA
175 Fifth Avenue, Suite 315, NY, NY 10010
9781596914995, $18.00, (Kindle $4.99),

Reconnecting with the Classics matters for serious cooks, students of food, and food writers.

Before James Beard was an award, he wrote about food and created recipes. Connecting with food history in the United States makes as much sense as going back to basic techniques and flavors before starting a new search for inspiration.

Following the James Beard award winners each year meant I have expectations about reading this collection of Mr. Beard's writings. The accessible tone and manageable recipes was a pleasant surprise. I also enjoyed the experience of different expectations about specific foods. For example I made two different hamburger recipes he suggested. It was clear from his comments that many people didn't think a hamburger could be a satisfying, more upscale food at the time of the recipes. I definitely recommend making Beard's version of hamburgers. From onion-infused to flambeed, you are likely to find a new, favorite way to make this American staple.

Also included are less-common ways to prepare vegetables. He draws from different ethnic treatments long before this was trendy and "normal" in even mid-tier restaurants. This list of recipes we enjoyed from the book would be lengthy and I have many more to make.

You'll also enjoy the quirky humor and word-play. Perhaps his snarky reputation was deserved from more personal contacts (many stories abound) but in most of the articles he has strong opinions presented with consideration.

If you are interested in food, I hope you'll be inspired to learn more about the figures from our recent past who laid the foundations for our current, modern food culture in the United States.

Heidi Sue Roth

Henry's Bookshelf

The Ageless Generation
Alex Zhavoronkov
Palgrave Macmillan
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10001
9780230342200, $27.00,

"The Ageless Generation: How Advances In Biomedicine Will Transform The Global Economy" by Alex Zhavoronkov brings together the topical interests of aging, economics, and biomedicine including to some extent neuroscience to offer a way out of the dilemma of a growing aged population at a time of economic straits exacerbated by medical costs relating to the numbers of older persons. The author's solution is healthier older persons thus markedly reducing medical costs while at the same time enabling them to work, which would help them to keep better health by being physically, mentally, and socially active and also contribute to the economy. Few would argue that Zhavoronkov's solution is not the best answer to the dilemma. The economic part of his perspective and thus his solution seems a little weak in this time of recession with relatively high, chronic unemployment when many younger persons no matter what state of their health are having a rough time finding good jobs.

Despite coming up somewhat short on dealing with the economic complexities, the author's attention to the central importance and undeniably beneficial effects for both individuals in terms of living and also economics by significantly lowering medical spending is invaluable. This is one of those books that clarifies largely unformed, yet pressing concerns and ideas gestating in diverse areas of the culture. It offers relevant, common sense ideas for public policy. In the same framework of discussion, the book also relates information for general readers in the area of the biology and physiology of aging, much of which they can see applies to their own lives. For example, in writing how the brain deteriorates as one ages, the book implies practices that help to forestall these. For the general reader outside of the audience of politicians, policymakers, public-health officials, etc., the book is to some degree a self-help.

In keeping with the popular style surveying a field of topical interest while analyzing parts of the field, the book contains some information and topics new to most readers. "Autophagy" is probably one of these for most. This "alternative...anti-aging approach...breaks down old, aged cells and uses the raw material to grow healthy, youthful cells." Following brief discussion of the possibilities of this line of exploration for combatting aging and treating health issues, the author takes up new developments in Chinese medicine. Though such topics are little more than introduced since they are in the early stages of development, they indicate the diversity and breadth of the field of anti-aging ideas, experiments, and avenues. Regarding the topics of medical research and "retirement culture," the author relates a perspective and offers arguments for relevant action in addressing these pressing social situations.

Though not all will agree with all of Zhavoronkov's proposals or his somewhat utopian hopes regarding aging, the timely, multifaceted work from this author exceptionally knowledgeable about the field and active in it gives a welcome state-of-the-art, comprehensive picture of it.

Sandals of the Basketmaker and Pueblo Peoples
Lynn Shuler Teague & Dorothy K. Washburn
University of New Mexico Press
1312 Basehart Road SE, Albuquerque NM 87106-4363
9780826353306, $65.00,

In "Sandals of the Basketmaker and Pueblo Peoples: Fabric Structure and Color Symmetry", collaborators Teague and Washburn do an anthropological study of sandals made by Native Americans in northern Mexico to what is today the Four Corners area of the American Southwest during the transition from the Basketmaker III to the Pueblo I period (generally AD 50 to 750). There is also necessarily a historical aspect to this as their study brings in migrations from south to north and the influence of native cultures and more limited migrations from the west (California) and north. The end of this period spanning centuries was the Pueblo culture in the Four Corners area.

Brief mention of sandals as appearing in Mayan and Aztec carvings suggests the origin of the special attention to them throughout the relatively primitive, mostly agricultural tribal societies of the widespread region. In the carvings, it is royalty who are shown with sandals. And Aztec carvings go so far as to suggest that sandals were a sign that a ruler had the qualities of a deity since there are carvings showing the god Xiuhtecuhtli wearing sandals.

The connection between the aristocratic Aztec and Mayan cultures and the basically agrarian cultures migrating north was a religion focusing on sun worship. This is the key to the color patterns of the sandals; which represent the presence and seasonal passage of the sun and especially the winter and summer solstices. The migrations, developments, interminglings, and adaptations of different cultures in the general northward migration to the Four Corners region to give rise to the Pueblo culture are attributed to the encounter with other cultures from the north and west with shamanistic religious practices. These are "curing and divinatory activities" such as solitude, fasting, and endurance of pain found in the later, more evolved settled Pueblo culture.

Teague and Washburn's work is a detailed and elaborate explanation of how an essentially agricultural culture based on corn preserved its roots as reflected in the fabric structure and color symmetry of its sandals while adapting to changed locales and circumstances over time as it migrated northward and at the northern extent of its migration took in shamanistic practices of totally different cultures. Never losing sight of the sandals which are the subject, the authors weave in varied geographical, chronological, and anthropological factors germane to their perspective that as ordinary and expected as the sandals might be, they reveal much about the sources and formation of the eventual Pueblo culture encountered by Europeans when they arrived in the Southwest. Black-and-white photographs of the sandals plus maps and charts and a section of 41 color photographs of sandals, most with considerable wear, are interwoven with the text. The always-interesting subject of the colorful, spiritual, and seemingly timeless Southwest Native American culture is treated in a unique, engaging way.

Crafts Atlas of India
Jaya Jaitly
Niyogi Books
D-78, Okhla Industrial Area Phase-1
New Delhi 110 020, INDIA
9788189738372, $145.00,

The announcement by the famed auction house Christie's in July 2013 that it is going to hold an auction in India (Mumbai) in December is an unmistakable sign of the growing importance of this nation in the international art and antiques market. Christie's is the first international auction house to do so, but undoubtedly others will soon follow. India now joins Russia, China, and the Middle East which in turn have become major players in the arts and antiques market. Ones following the U.S. auction market were aware that this was only a matter of a short time as Indian arts and antiques have gained more attention and interest in the U.S. auction market. This book offers abundant information, examples, and background on Indian crafts which are reflected in the varied Indian auction items and which will themselves become of more interest to collectors and dealers.

The wide, practically profligate, diversity of Indian culture is seen in the diversity of its crafts. There is no unifying principle, style, or mindset (e. g., modernism) to what is embraced by "Indian crafts" except (to Western eyes) an exoticism and colorfulness. Within a vast area from Himalayan foothills in the north to tropical forests in the south, there are numerous tribal and ethnic groups maintaining tribal and ethnic cultural identities reflected in their crafts.

The vast area is divided into five chapters for the major geographical areas of East, etc., plus Central with geographical sectors within these making for 20 sectors in all. In the North, there is Delhi, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, and others; in the West, Gujarar, Goa, and others, etc. Each sector in introduced by the history going far back to before India was formed as a country and including British colonial and postcolonial periods. The ancient roots of a sector's crafts and colonial and other European commercial interest in it are among topics in the introductions.

After the introductions, the sector's crafts are discussed by type going variously into artisanal manufacture, techniques, origins, purpose or use, materials, and markets. The same kinds of objects such as clothing, weapons, pottery, baskets, rugs, and art work are naturally found throughout the sectors of the general geographical areas. Text as well as plentiful color illustrations on nearly every page convey the distinctiveness of the particular objects in the respective sector. Types of animals, shapes including intricacies or weaves, landscape imagery, color patterns, and markings are often signs of a regional sector. Photographs of artisans at work show by features, complexion, and dress the wide variety of ethnicities making crafts of India.

Jaitly plays a leading role in publicizing Indian crafts as head of an Indian nationwide association of craftspeople and by holding
exhibitions in London, Frankfurt, and other cities.

Antique Woodworking Tools
David R. Russell
John Adamson Dist A/C
9781898565055, $192.50,

"Antique Woodworking Tools: Their Craftsmanship from the Earliest Times to the Twentieth Century" is an oversized book--10" across x 13" high, over 9 pounds--offering a favorable format for presenting the thousands of woodworking tools for both educational and aesthetic reasons. Most noticeably on first glance through the book is the way individual tools or small groups stand out in light gray frames against surrounding generous glossy white backgrounds. There's no cramping, which is particularly helpful and pleasing considering the details of the many different kinds of tools relating to historical changes and manufacturers' options, innovations, and hallmarks interested readers want to see. As dealers and collectors know, such features--sometimes seemingly minor, sometimes appearing incidental--can have big effects on market value.

The oversize book allows for oversize photographs, though not quite to the point of life-size in even the largest photos. About six inches in length is a typical size of a tool photographed, with a few going to eight inches in length. Each tool can be appreciated distinctly because by angle, neutral background, and photo technique interfering or distracting shadowing has been eliminated or reduced to negligible. The bright, natural photos let the colors and shades of the wood and the metals and in some cases the manufacturer's mark for which woodworking tools have become a lasting specialized area of collecting come through. With such large pages and fine photography, pairs or groups of a few tools are spaced so that each tool though smaller in size is distinct.

Not only handsome appearance, but also specifics of manufacture account for the appeal of woodworking tools with aficionados. Such specifics of type of wood (e. g., beech, elm, walnut), type of metal (e. g., steel, brass) if applicable, country of manufacture, maker, date, notable features, and sometimes historical notes or general comments are given in the annotations.

Woodworking planes of the various eras and different geographical locations are given the most attention. In the more than 400 pages given to these, planes from Europe, the Continent, and America are covered and also planes by noted manufacturers mostly in England. The extensive coverage of planes is not only because there are more varieties of these over time and they are the major collectible in the field, but also because of the central role these had in woodworking through the centuries. Planes are like a constant that underwent changes and improvements. Other woodworking tools receive appropriate presentation depending on their appearance and use at different times and historical, practical, or artful relevance of these for the craft of woodworking or collector interest. Among these are screwdrivers, drills, rules, saws, and anvils and tongs.

David Russell is a longtime collector of antique woodworking tools; and James Austin is a photographer of architecture and art with the (British) National Trust and Tate Gallery among his clients. Manufacturers' marks of many of the tools are pictured with respective tools and also in an appendix.

Great British Wine Accessories 1550-1900
Robin Butler
Brown and Brown Books, England
9780956349804, $125.00,

Englishman Robin Butler is one of the world's leading collectors and educators on wine accessories. He holds exhibitions and has written a previous book "The Book of Wine Antiques" in 1986. Wine accessories include objects used in the vineyard and used by a vintner in making wine. This "Great British Wine Accessories" however is limiting to presenting accessories related to drinking wine made in Britain before 1900 (with a few exceptions). This criterion nonetheless still allows for a large diversity of objects ranging from corkscrews, bottles, glasses, labels, and decanters to funnels and trolleys. British wine accessories are not only representative, but are among the finest that can be found. The glassmaking, woodwork of trolleys, metalwork on silver, and other aspects of the varied objects reflect that up until about 1900, wine-drinking was done largely among upper-class and wealthy British and that the objects are desirable antiques for many apart from their involvement with wine-drinking.

The expertly-done color photos on every page are paired with informative, colorful commentary on the making and use of the objects, particular points of interest, and related points on the lore of wine. Although the book is not meant as a history, but is an antiques or art book, a reader cannot help but pick up many memorable points about wine which are imparted liked anecdotes.

In a Foreword, the prominent wine historian Hugh Johnson intimates such historical and memorable material to come in Butler's comments. Johnson notes that bowled glasses for red wine to concentrate the "bouquet" are a relatively recent development. In the past with glass difficult to make and expensive, "the bowls of glasses were invariably made small." "Wine labels were first used in the early 1730s following the introduction of horizontal binning of bottles," Butler notes in his short introduction to the chapter on labels. One "bottle stand or wine cooler (by some called a bottle canterbury, but this is a recent term) is clearly made in one of the finest London workshops in the mid 18th century" as indicated by its high-definition carving and its cabriole legs with "leather and brass castors and volute scroll toes."

Butler's book makes an ideal gift for any wine lover or buy for one's own enjoyment. Though limited in scope, the many high-quality photographs and the author's engaging commentary based on a shared enthusiasm plus his authoritative knowledge of wine accessories give the book value. Ones interested in art glass, antiquarian wood furniture, metalwork, and social history items would also find the book pleasing and instructive.

The Phantom of the Ego
Nidesh Lawtoo
Michigan State University Press
1405 South Harrison Road, Suite 25
East Lansing, MI 48823-5245
9781611860962, $29.95,

Nidesh Lawtoo is a visiting scholar at Johns Hopkins, in addition to many other academic credentials and writings. In "The Phantom of the Ego: Modernism and the Mimetic Unconscious", his central topic--insight really--is the "loss of ego" in modernism, leaving only a "phantom of the ego." "[T]he experience of mimesis dissolves the modern ego in such a fundamental way that...there is no ego left for intensely desiring, in the Romantic sense."

What Lawtoo is saying in general is that this leaves the individual unprecedentedly susceptible with all of the vulnerabilities, defenselessness, absence of identity, aimlessness, and lack of self-knowledge this entails; and with this, a lowered ordinary awareness of self, others, surroundings, and social and interpersonal dynamics.

Readings of Nietzsche, Conrad, Lawrence, and Bataille with references to many other modern authors and some from other eras bring out what Lawtoo means by "phantom of the ego." The author not only pores through modernist texts for indications and representations that Nietzsche, etc., were sensitive to this change occurring in modernism, but also goes into relevant biographical analysis (e. g., Nietzshe's chronic illness) and psychoanalysis to present the selected authors as embodying the insight that the ego has become a phantom. The four primary authors of study reflect this by the shifting from subjective involvement generating affects to objective, dispassionate observance giving declaratory statements (not quite analysis) and description.

The concept of mimesis reaches across varied fields by different names. It is "called 'imitation' by social psychologists, 'contagion' by crowd psychologists, 'hypnotic suggestion' by pre-Freudian psychologists...." Individuals oscillate, so to speak, along the spectrum of immersive subjectivity to detached objectivity in a movement that "is not linear [which] involves a complex patho-logical movement where the object of study (pathos) retroacts on the subject who investigates it through the tools of reason (logos)." An individual--as the author studies in treating Nietzsche and the other modernist authors--evinces instability almost to the point of disintegration, yet retains the cogency to engage in and experience all the ranges of the oscillation. Hence, the "phantom of the ego" rather than structure or even center.

Lawtoo's exploration with analysis is complex (though not abstruse) and multidimensional. He is not the first to investigate and portray modernism and its outgrowth of postmodernism as cultural movement from Romanticism and the Enlightenment. This is but the starting point of his extensive presentation of modern culture involving psychology, sociology, biography, and a particular kind of literary criticism. Using these "tools" which themselves have come about in modernism to move forward in the new ideas, perspectives, bearings, etc., defining modernism and also to comprehend it as the different, new culture movement it is, Lawtoo's work is like a guide to much of the phenomenon of the era of modernism, among this, media, behavior, art, and political movements.

The Cabinetmaker and the Carver
Gerald W. R. Ward
Massachusetts Historical Society
1154 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02215-3695
9781936520060, $30.00,

Ward's position as senior consulting curator at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts allowed him to see early American Boston-area furniture not otherwise presented to the public. Owners of some of this are noted in front matter. Others wished to remain anonymous. No matter however. The pieces showcased in "The Cabinetmaker and the Carver: Boston Furniture from Private Collections" speak for themselves in color photographs of varying perspective and detail and in Ward's expertise in the annotations.

The general theme is not only that, but how furniture tells us "about social customs and human interaction, about the relationship between Americans and the world, and the changing nature of technology and the evolution of aesthetics, among many other topics." Falling within the general contemporary field of material culture, the short, pithy work also gives a picture of Boston's history from earliest Colonial days to the 20th century by bringing in reproductions in more modern times because of the perennial interest in the high-quality, handsomely-designed, functional furniture.

Card tables and sofas exemplify the customs and interaction of the 18th and 19th centuries. And pictured with annotation is a card table tradition says was used by Phyllis Wheatley, the first African-American poet, which though admittedly extraordinary, adds another large dimension to the usefulness of period pieces of furniture and how in its way it connected to the society and the wider world. Boston chairs and other furniture shipped to New York, Philadelphia, Southern cities, and as far as the West Indies had an important role not only in establishing trade networks, but in communication and strengthening ties among the Colonies. Thomas Wightman, Augustus Eliaers, Ralph Mason, and Edward Hennessey are just a few of the furniture makers mentioned by Ward in relation to particular pieces and particular periods in such a way that the reader recognizes their styles or touches as well as unique skills, thus making the book as a part of its pithiness a primer on early American furniture for the budding collector.

Henry Berry

Karyn's Bookshelf

Mouse House Tales
Susan Pearsons, author
Amanda Shepherd, illustrator
Blue Apple Books
515 Valley St., Maplewood, NJ 07040
9781609050504, $17.99,

A woodland mouse's animal friends rally to help her build a house and, later, a ghost trap. This is a delightfully written and illustrated collection of two short chapter books for beginning readers. At the heart of the loosely rhymed tales are mouse's friends, who construct and then outfit her new home with everything from spider webs curtains to a bunny fur-lined eggshell chair. Later, they bring items for a ghost trap, after she wakes at night hearing strange noises. The outcome of the ghost story is yet another ode to friendship. Bringing rib-tickling comic relief to both tales is a wry, cheese-loving goat who just wants everyone to stop working and to have a picnic. The illustrations, in earthy tones, are whimsical and full of small fun details like mouse's matchbox night stand and her adorable circle skirt and striped sweater. The characters are all upbeat, with gentle countenances. Great author-illustrator collaboration; kids will be eager for future installments.

It's Time to Say Goodnight
Harriet Ziefert, author
Barroux, illustrator
Blue Apple Books
515 Valley St., Maplewood, NJ 07040
9781609053741, $17.99,

County and city come together in this gentle ode to both worlds. In what at first seems to be a rural story, a boy greets chickens, cows and pigs on a sunny spring morning, while en route to his garden plot to water sprouting seeds. Then, in an unexpected twist, a passenger jet flies overhead and a city appears right next door. The boy then rides his scooter down urban streets , greeting taxi drivers and garbage men. By the time he's done, night is approaching. In reverse order, he says good night to everything until he's snug in bed under a chicken motif comforter, with a play taxi and skyscrapers scattered on the floor. The sparse, read-aloud text perfectly compliments the simply-lined, kid friendly artwork that celebrates small details like tiny hilltop flowers, buzzing bees and smiling commuters. A reminder that, as urban areas expand, farms and cities are increasingly close neighbors. And a reminder that those who live in seemingly disparate urban and rural environments are, in fact, not that different.

Karyn L. Saemann, Reviewer

Katherine's Bookshelf

Winter Song
Jennifer McMurrain
LilyBear House, LLC
c/o Jennifer McMurrain
222 Parkhill Dr., Bartlesville, OK 74006
9780615854472, $12.95,

Winter Song by Jennifer McMurrain is a fascinating ghost story. It has all of the right elements - a ghost, of course, a person or two who can talk to the ghost, someone who knows of the existence of the ghost and several people who have no clue that the ghost exists or even that there are such specters. The story line follows a love triangle drawn together by the characters and, at times, humorous aspects that will catch your imagination and hold your attention to the end.

Sage McKennan is devastated when she loses the love of her life. Armed with his memory and her determination, she decides to continue with their dream of opening Winter Song, an old two-story cabin as a bed & breakfast. When she hires Noah Finnley, a down-on-his luck carpenter, to help her work on the renovations, the ghost of her dead fiance makes trouble for them. Noah tries to make Cooper Davis, aka the ghost, go into the light. Cooper refuses because of a promise he had made to Sage to be with her always. There is an odd bit of romance, involving Cooper, Noah, the local sheriff and Sage, with a little criminal activity thrown into the mix.

Do you believe in ghosts? Do you want to know what happens? Jennifer Mc Murrain's story will test your beliefs. If you want to know how the story plays out, you will have to read it for yourself.

Having a great deal of wanderlust, Jennifer McMurrain traveled the countryside working odd jobs before giving into her muse and becoming a full time writer. She's been everything from a "Potty Princess" in the wilds of Yellowstone National Park to a Bear Researcher in the mountains of New Mexico. After finally settling down, she received a Bachelor's degree in Applied Arts and Science from Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, TX. She has won numerous awards for her short stories and novels. She lives in Bartlesville, Oklahoma with her husband, daughter, two spoiled cats, and two goofy dogs. (Bio from the authors' website,

Black Eagle Force: Fourth Reich
Ken Farmer, Buck Stienke, Doran Ingrham
Timber Creek Press
312 N Commerce Street, Gainesville, Texas 76240
No ISBN, $16.95,

Buck Steinke and Ken Farmer have mixed up a new, thrilling Black Eagle Force novel. I am in awe of how they can find more and different stories to keep us entertained. Bringing back a well-known historical character (can't spoil it for you) is a stroke of genius - or two geniuses. These writers are masters at weaving a tale that is believable and interesting. Actually, there are a myriad of adjectives that describe the works of Ken Farmer and Buck Steinke. I just don't have enough room in this review to use all of them.

Fourth Reich has all of the normal excitement, technology and romance we have come to know in their earlier BEF novels with some added surprises. A short history of the end of WW II reminds us of the kind of people we are dealing with and surmises what might have happened one day so long ago. They show us what might happen if scientific inventions were developed by the wrong people. Could this be a warning?

You will not go wrong in reading "Fourth Reich". There are new surprises and technology that will make you shake your head in wonder at the fertile minds of these talented writers.

When the small US Air Force C-37 Gulfstream carrying the Secretary of Defense, Harold Baker, to a meeting in Argentina, is shot down over Bolivia, the BEF is called in to look for them. The story then takes on a life of its own. The survivors teach each other how to exist in the primitive circumstances and the BEF troops use their technology to find them. But, they were shot down in the middle of a secret operation that you will have to read to believe. It could be described as the conspiracy to top all conspiracy theories.

Buck Stienke is a retired captain and fighter pilot for the United States Air Force and a graduate from the Air Force Academy. He was a pilot for Delta Airlines for over 25 years and also executive producer of the award winning film Rockabilly Baby.

Ken Farmer served in the Marine Corps and graduated from Stephen F. Austin State University. Ken has been a professional actor, writer and director with memorable roles in Silverado, Friday Night Lights and Uncommon Valor. He continues to write and direct award-winning films, including Rockabilly Baby.

Katherine Boyer

Marjorie's Bookshelf

West with the Night
Beryl Markham
North Point Press
c/o Farrar, Straus & Giroux
19 Union Square West, New York, NY 10003
9780865477636, $16.95,

I first read this book about twenty years ago and thought it terrific. I recently re-read it for a book club I attend and thought it terrific again. It was originally published in 1942. The writing is superb, although there are some who think the writing is actually done by Markham's third husband. Personally, I think she wrote it because some of the insights and imagery could only be told by the person who had the experience. Be that as it may, it is an enjoyable read whoever wrote it.

The really fascinating part of the book for me was that Markham, born in 1902, grew up in Kenya from the age of six when her family moved there. We don't learn this in the book but her mother and brother didn't stay, so Markham grew up under her father's guidance. He bred and trained race horses, and she learned the trade. She also hunted with the natives and became quite adept with a spear. She had a fierce dog named Buller, who went on these hunts and who was her constant companion. She was a wild child and seemingly fearless. She was fluent in Swahili and grew up in Africa at a time during World War I and the twenties when Africa was still ruled by the British, Germans and Dutch. The continent was changing rapidly with the onset of the railroads. Minerals were being exploited by Europeans as well as farm land. When her father lost their farm and moved to Peru to train horses, she stayed behind in Kenya at the age of 17 and developed a good reputation of her own as a race horse trainer.

A chance meeting with Tom Black, a man interested in the new airplanes, turned her life in another direction. He taught her to fly, and she became a bush pilot, carrying mail, passengers, medical supplies based mainly in Nairobi. This was all when she was in her early twenties. She was a contemporary of Denys Fitz-Hatton and Baron von Blixen, real life men who figured prominently in the book, Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen. For Blixen she flew reconnaissance flight to find elephants for his hunting safaris. She circulated with a very fast group of ex-pats in Kenya at the time. In the late thirties she flew to England, and in September, 1936 she became the first woman to cross the Atlantic solo east to west. Her adventuresome life is chronicled in West with the Night. It is a fascinating glimpse of a fascinating woman in an exciting time in history. You won't be disappointed.

Sh*t My Dad Says
Justin Halpern
It Books
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780061992704, $15.99,

I know Halpern has lots of twitter followers. I know it's a very popular book. I know it is a TV series. I know he has lots of five star reviews on Amazon. I know men love this book. But, alas, this just isn't my kind of book. The essence of the book is a series of essays derived from Halpern's tweets about what his father says. He took stuff his father said and tweeted them and that is how it started. He built up a following of over one million followers and turned all of the tweets into a book that loosely chronicles his life as a child and young man. It is sometimes hilarious and laugh-out-loud funny what his Day says about life in general. All the advice is peppered with lots of swear words. Reader beware. Most of the quotes are unprintable and unrepeatable in polite company. It is definitely male humor which I prefer only in small doses. This might have been an overdose. While I read the whole book, and it had its moments, I wouldn't buy another one.

Marjorie Thelen, Reviewer

Mayra's Bookshelf

Storytelling: The Indispensable Art of Entrepreneurism
Rudy A. Mazzocchi
Twilight Times Books
P.O. Box 3340, Kingsport, TN 37664
9781606190067, $7.95,

Storytelling isn't only for writers or Hollywood producers, and this book is a great resource for people who are starting a business or venturing into the world of entrepreneurship.

In a simple, straight-forward language, often sprinkled with humor, Mazzocchi - who isn't only an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year winner but also an award-winning medical thriller author - takes the reader through the process of developing their story to maximize success, especially when it comes to attracting investors.

Mazzocchi begins by defining what it truly means to be an inventor/founder entrepreneur as opposed to other titles, such as a start-up entrepreneur, and professional manager. He also explains what the art of entrepreneurism entails, stressing the importance of how the telling of the story needs to improve during the entrepreneurial journey or "it will fall off the cliff into the abyss."

But how do you spin a visionary tale that has not yet happened, but could, and should happen? Mazzocchi compares this to trying to explain your dreams or fantasies to a stranger - they are real and exciting to you but difficult for others to appreciate. And even when you get your story across, why should they care? It is here that the author's expertise comes into play, taking the reader through each part of the story and step of the process, from developing the "hook" to knowing your audience to keeping their interest, and more.

Storytelling is a fascinating read, chock-full of information, advice, and interesting "behind-the-scene" anecdotes from someone who's been there and done that first-hand. Though it is primarily aimed at entrepreneurs, the wisdom of this book applies to many other careers and aspects of a person's life. Reading this book is like having your own business mentor or coach guiding you every step of the way through the development of your story. Highly recommended!

Christmas is in the Air
Cary Morgan Frates
Danielle Lee Zwissler
Jennifer Conner-Karen Hall
Books to Go Now
PO Box 1283, Poulsbo, WA 98370
9781493707850, $10.59,

This is the second Christmas romance anthology from Books to Go Now that I have read this month. I loved the first one, Christmas Romance, and this the second one didn't disappoint. Four talented romance authors, four sweet stories that will warm your heart this holiday season. And just like in the first one, there are dogs in this one, too!

In "Red Soles at Night Christmas Delight," by Cary Morgan Frates, Audrey Wells is out of her wits when a dog jumps on to the deck of her boat and in the process throws her super expensive Louboutin shoes into the lake. The dog's handsome owner has no choice but to dive into the freezing cold water to rescue them. Of course, Audrey ends up making sure he doesn't get pneumonia. In a turn of fate, they end up spending Christmas Day together. A humorous and sexy story.

In "Yuletide Bride," by Danielle Lee Zwissler, reporter Mary Simms is out on a mission. She wants to prove that the town's Magic of Christmas Festival, where perfect couples are "matched" for life, is a sham. Will she have the courage to uncover the truth and destroy people's belief in the tradition, even if it means destroying the happiness of some of the old couples involved? And what about James, the handsome lawyer who asks her not to go ahead with her story, and for whom she's developing some serious feelings? Will Mary learn to have faith? An original, delightful story with a touch of mystery.

In "Christmas Gift that Keeps Wagging," by Jennifer Conner, we meet Julian Barrows, a single dad with a kindergarten son who suffers from seizures; and Hannah, the beautiful trainer who specializes in seizure-detecting dogs. Their paths touch when Julian tries to get her dog for his son. The problem is, it's incredibly expensive. Fate has other plans, and the magic of Christmas works its way into their lives...A heart-warming story with an ending that will pull at your heart strings.

The last story is "One Horse Open Sleigh Race," by Karen Hall, where we're transported to 1819 London, and where, after a most unexpected encounter, a wealthy earl and the feisty twin of the new clergyman find true love thanks to a Christmas sleigh race and an adorable "match-making" Scottie. Lovers of historical romance will relish this one.

This anthology has a tantalizing, charming cover. That's the first thing that pulled me to the book, and it adequately illustrates the inside content. The four stories in this anthology are all about strong yet vulnerable heroines and sensitive, yet forceful heroes; about the spirit of the Christmas season and the magical effect it can sometimes have on people; about the hope and faith for true love and the attainment of that love.

Through the authors' imaginations, I was transported to different places and times, relishing the characters' fictional worlds and predicaments. I also love how the authors incorporate humor into their stories, and how the dogs play their important roles. Christmas Is in the Air is an upbeat, thoroughly enjoyable read, and one I'm sure readers of sweet romance stories will enjoy.

Christmas Romance (Best Christmas Romances of 2013)
Danica Winters, Jennifer Conner, Sharon Kleve, Casey Dawes
Books to Go Now
PO Box 1283, Poulsbo, WA 98370
9781493591145, 212 pages, $8.95 (paperback); $2.99 (Kindle)

For fans of inspirational love stories, Christmas Romance is a wonderful anthology to cuddle up with this holiday season. Written by four best-selling romance authors, these stories will warm your heart and leave you with a cozy upbeat feeling that will linger for days.

In "Christmas Wishes," readers will meet Lee Llewellyn, who's lost all hope of finding happiness due to her young son's death and the bitter divorce that followed... until she meets a handsome stranger in the cemetery on Christmas Eve, and her life takes a bright, unexpected twist. A soulful story about re-claiming joy.

In "Central Bark at Christmas," Tennyson has just been dumped by her arrogant and insensitive lawyer boyfriend. She swears to stay away from men, believing they're nothing but bad luck. But then, while walking her dog she meets Par, who, aside from spending time with his dog, seems only to have time for work. But fate has plans for them. They find an abandoned dog and as they care for it and try to find him a home, their destinies become intertwined... Dog lovers will love this one.

In "Halo's Wish," undercover pet detective Halo Ann's dream is to have a big family and a house in the country surrounded by pets, but she denies herself these things by focusing on her career - even if that means staying away from a sexy veterinarian who keeps bumping into her. While working on a case, things go terribly wrong and she ends up with a lump on her head, a broken ankle, a bruised hip, and a demolished car. The first thing she sees in the hospital when she opens her eyes is the vet's face. Will Christmas work its magic and make her realize she can have both a fulfilling relationship and a career? This was such a cute story with endearing protagonists.

In "Christmas Hope," Clara is trying to lift from the ground a tasting party business called The Perfect Place - not easy when her self esteem is low due to a failed marriage and various failed businesses. One day while watching TV she discovers Sam Richards, a fourth-generation farmer from upstate New York...and she has an idea that brings her to his very doorstep. There's only one problem: he's super grumpy and has not interest whatsoever in collaborating with her. Will Clara succeed in melting the ice from his Scrooge heart?

What I loved most about this anthology is that it's full of pets: dogs, puppies, kittens. As an animal lover, I really enjoyed the way the authors incorporated critters into their stories, and how the animals, in a way, had a role in uniting the characters. The protagonists are sympathetic, their troubles and concerns ones that most women can relate to. The heroes are ones to fall in love with. There's a generous share of humor as well. These four heart-warming stories are about moving forward and start living again, about the magic of the Christmas season, about trusting our hearts and having hope. Most of all, about believing and finding true love. Recommended!

The Book of Thoth (Vatican Vampire Hunters Volume 2)
Paul Leone
Privately Published
9781492728399, 222 pages, $8.99,

The Book of Thoth is volume II in Paul Leone's Vatican Vampire Hunters series. Unlike the first book, which takes place in London, this one takes place in New York City, where not only criminals and the Russian mafia but also demon vampires roam the streets, preying on the innocent.

One night, beautiful Manhattan socialite Nicole Van Wyck is violently exposed to the hidden wars between the living and the damned, and discovers a secret band of vampire hunters posing as "Pelton Investigation." Thus enter Wally, Marty, Sarah, Riley, and Lamar, who are more than dubious about letting what they believe is a spoiled "princess" join them - but that Nicole does, and with a vengeance.

Like soldiers of the night, or modern knights, they arm themselves with pistols, fireman axes, big scary knives, rosaries, crucifixes, and bottles of holy water in order to rid the city of these evil demons. Soon, however, they learned about a powerful vampire who is preying on young lives, a so-called "Count" who has a minion named Alice - both sadistically cruel and despicable villains who seem to be after a mysterious book of ancient secrets and magical wisdom, possibly written by the devil himself. Will Nicole and her new vampire-hunter friends get to them before they find the infamous Book of Thoth?

The Book of Thoth was an exciting read! I have to say, I enjoyed this instalment even more than the first. I loved the characters, from the protagonist - brave and noble Nicole Van Wyck, the NY-socialite-princess-turned-vampire-hunter - to the interesting array of secondary characters, to the two villains every reader will love to hate. There's a lot of action fight scenes - very well done without being overwhelming, and the author did an excellent job developing the double chase as the hunters go after the villains and the villains go after the Book of Thoth.

There's a lot of tension with just the right amount of comic relief. The dialogue is crisp and gritty, too. I also appreciate how the love-story sub-plot doesn't get in the way of the main storyline. The ending is satisfying, sad and happy, all in one. In sum, I really enjoyed reading this novel and can highly recommend it to fans of Christian fantasy and vampire-slayer type tales.

Mayra Calvani

Paul's Bookshelf

Thinking In New Boxes: Five Essential Steps to Spark the Next Big Idea
Luc de Brabandere and Alan Iny
Random House
1745 Broadway, New York NY 10019
9780812992953, $28.00, 315 pages,

Your company makes buggy whips. It has always made buggy whips. Sales have been flat for the past several quarters. As CEO, what, if anything, are you going to do about it?

First of all, doubt everything about your company (but not to the point of paralysis). Put everything about your company, and your view of the market, under the microscope. Don't assume that anything about your company will stay the same in the future. Next, you need to look around and consider your options. It's normal to keep your minds in the box labeled "buggy whips" (thinking that the only allowable options are those that involve buggy whips). Get that thought out of your head right now.

Set up an off-site meeting of at least half a day with your senior management, or your entire company, if it is small enough, to brainstorm ideas for the future of your company. As a bit of mental exercise, describe your company's product without using the five most obvious words. Quantity of ideas is more important than quality. Do not denigrate any idea, no matter how strange it sounds. With a little tweaking, what sounds like a terrible idea could become your company's economic lifesaver.

A later session, preferably with a different group of people, is dedicated to converging those many ideas into something more manageable. Now you can cross out the ideas that are just not feasible for your company, and combine similar ideas. Get down to a small number (three or four) new ideas or concepts or potential new products that your company can put into practice; then, do it. No idea will work forever, so constantly re-evaluate your new ideas, and don't be afraid to replace an old idea with a new one.

This may seem like a rather dry and boring concept, but the authors do a very good job at making it not so dry and boring. It's interesting, and it has a lot to say to companies of any size.

Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy, Social World
Gary Vaynerchuk
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780062273062, $29.99, 224 pages,

It is getting increasingly hard for companies, big and small, to tell their story in this noisy, chaotic, social media world. This book attempts to make that task a little easier.

Most companies are on social media because it is "expected," or because their competitors are already here. But they have little, or no, idea as to how to do it the right way. Perhaps the biggest rule is to Create Interesting Content. Give people a reason to visit you on Facebook or Twitter more than once. Post something funny, or something that makes the reader think. Later, you can ask for their money ("Buy Our Stuff"). It should be obvious that the link included with the request for your customer's money should go right to your website's ordering page, not the main page. Make it as easy as possible for people to buy your stuff.

What works on Facebook will not work on Twitter or Instagram, nor should it. You need to get creative and tailor your posts to each site. The author spends much of the book looking at actual marketing campaigns, from big and small companies, on various social media sites. He explains exactly how Company A got it right, Company B got it half-right, and Company C really shouldn't have bothered.

The days of a company choosing a motto or a face of the company, and using it everywhere for several months, are also gone. Don't be afraid to change your marketing often, even every day. If your Twitter or Pinterest approach is not working (there are ways to gather, and analyze, such information), dump it, now. It is not going to suddenly get better.

The author makes it easy in showing, instead of telling, how to do social media marketing. Even those companies who have yet to "get it," will be able to understand. This book is recommended for companies of all sizes; if your company is not already active on social media, why not?

Eat Move Sleep
Tom Rath
Mission Day
P.O. Box 100182, Arlington VA 22201
9781939714008, $24.95, 250 pages,

In his 20's, the author was diagnosed with a rare genetic condition. It shuts off his body's tumor-fighting capabilities, and makes it very easy for him to get cancer. While adjusting to a life of annual CT scans and MRI's and operations to remove small tumors, he became very interested in health and wellness. Here are some of the things he learned.

The closest thing the human body has to a vaccine for the common cold is a good night's sleep. Permanently forget fad diets. Focus on eating the right foods. Look at the nutrition label of your favorite food or snack. If the sugar content is greater than 10 grams per serving, find an alternative. Carry a healthy standby snack wherever you go. Do not use your alarm's snooze button for an entire week. Then, see if you can stretch that week to permanently. Select restaurants based on how easy it is to order something healthy. If you are having trouble sleeping. try exercising for a few days before reaching for medication.

Plan your days to eat more early in the day, less later in the day and nothing after supper. Identify something that regularly stresses you out. Work on a plan to keep it from happening. Limit yourself to no more than two hours of seated television daily. To get a really natural tan, eat more tomatoes and carrots. To improve your hair and skin, add some salmon and flax to your diet. Use vigorous exercise to clear your mind and body. Consider a new micro-activity, like parking far away from the door or taking the stairs. Replace all sugary drinks with water, coffee or other unsweetened drinks. Make sure you get at least eight hours of sleep every night. Last, but not least, be active every day; take a few more steps tomorrow than you did today.

Sounds pretty easy, doesn't it? As with other books of this type, no one is expected to do everything in this book starting on the first day. Pick a few actions, and integrate them into your daily life, then pick a few more. This book is easy to read and follow, and is recommended for people from all parts of society.

Unions for Beginners
David Cogswell
For Beginners LLC
155 Main Street, Suite 211, Danbury CT 06810
9781934389775, $16.99, 170 pages,

The forty-hour work week, pensions and safe working conditions became part of the American employment landscape because employers felt that it was the proper thing to do, right? No, those things came into existence because of strikes and agitation by labor unions.

Why are unions supposedly at the root of America's financial problems, despite the huge drop in numbers of unionized workers over the past half century? The American corporate class (the 1 percent) wants nothing to stand in the way of their pursuit of profit. Employee wages are seen as an expense, which must be reduced as much as possible, in order to push up the stock price. A person might think that societies like Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia are the world leaders (for lack of a better term) in using propaganda on their own citizens. By far, the world leader is the United States. People are taught to equate free market capitalism with everything that is good in America. Any opposition to corporate power, like unions, is supposed to equal tyranny, oppression and communism.

Unions came into existence because of a fundamental bit of human nature. If people get together in a group, they can accomplish things that a single person can not accomplish. People have gone on strike for better working conditions since the early days of America. This book looks at some of the famous events in union history. In 1835, children in Patterson, New Jersey's silk mills went on strike for an 11-hour day and a six-day work week. There's Chicago Haymarket Incident (or Riot, or Massacre) in 1886. There's the Great Railroad Strike of 1877, and the Homestead Strike of 1892. In the 20th century, there is 1913's Ludlow Massacre. More recently, the book explores the Conservative Resurgence of the 1980s, and the attacks against unions by people from Ronald Reagan to Scott Walker. Union leaders are only human, so, throughout American history, they can be just as evil and corrupt as the rest of society.

This is a partisan book; it is probably not possible to write a totally non-partisan book about unions. This book is still recommended for everyone. It's recommended for those interested in the less well known parts of American history, it's recommended for union members who are unfamiliar with their history, and it's recommended for part of the explanation as to how America got into its present financial mess.

The Skinny On Networking: Maximizing the Power of Numbers
Jim Randel
Rand Media Company
265 Post Road West, Westport CT 06880
9780984441815, $14.95, 140 pages,

This is another in a series of simple, but not simplistic, books that teach a "large" subject very painlessly. This one is all about networking.

Billy is a high school history teacher. He would like to be a college music teacher, but such vacancies are few and far between. Randel, the narrator, tells Billy to start by asking his network, like friends and family, if they can help. Maybe someone knows someone who knows someone. He shouldn't assume that they already know about his desire to be a college music teacher; he has to tell them, specifically. If he sends an email, he should be very careful about who gets it. Don't just send it to everyone on your e-mail list.

If that doesn't fulfill the request, expand your horizons. For instance, dust off your college yearbook, and start looking up old classmates. Cold calling is never fun, but it is an essential part of networking. The book talks about connectors, those who seem to know people in many different "groups." If you come in contact with such a person, becoming acquaintances or friends with them is a very good idea. Think of social capital as a form of karma; you can never have too much of it. Try very hard to do things for other people (increasing your social capital supply) before you ask for things from other people (reducing your social capital supply).

Billy's wife, Beth, is a lawyer who would like to be partner. She knows that it involves bringing in more clients, but she is uncomfortable asking total strangers for their business. Randel suggests that she join business and professional groups that will put her in the company of people who may need her services in the future. Networking is not supposed to be quick or easy, so don't get discouraged if "it" doesn't happen very quickly.

This is another excellent book that is made for busy people. The idea is to distill the major points from many books on a subject, like networking, into an easy to read format that still has a lot to say. Along with the rest of the series, this is very highly recommended.

The Solution Revolution
William D. Eggers and Paul Macmillan
Harvard Business Review Press
60 Harvard Way, Boston MA 02163
9781422192191, $26.00, 240 pages,

Government, by itself, can no longer fix all of society's problems. Perhaps it is time for a partnership between government, business and new organizations that are shrinking the gap between what citizens need and what government can provide.

Does your town have a rather dismal home recycling rate? Instead of spending tax money on a recycling PR campaign, visit a site called Recyclebank. They have helped towns to double or triple their recycling rate in just a few months. Is downtown clogged with traffic? Instead of imposing some sort of downtown driving fee, consider a car-sharing service like ZipCar.

It is now possible to mobilize huge amounts of resources around societal problems, while the costs plummet. In this new solution economy, the exchange and creation of value (currencies) are happening in new ways. The new currency could be data, credits, reputation or social outcomes (like reduced sickness). There are also new ways to trade these new currencies. They range from prizes and challenges, to crowdfunding platforms, to two-sided markets (with no middleman), to arrangements that pay for success. Can the same system work for international issues, like human trafficking or providing inexpensive housing for India's poor?

How can government or business help to bring about a solution economy? Government can use their purchasing power to create demand, be open to other avenues to reach a desired outcome, open up public data, avoid over-regulating the solution economy and recognize social enterprises as a new kind of business. Business can help by looking at their operating procedures against social criteria, make a bold commitment, change their sourcing practices, and find a way to leverage that open data.

"The Solution Revolution: How Business, Government and Social Enterprises are Teaming Up to Solve Society's Toughest Problems " is a really interesting book. Perhaps it will inspire others to find social needs that are not yet being met, and do something about it. The only bad part of this book is the lack of a list in the back of the websites mentioned in the book (there are quite a number of them). Aside from that, this book is very much worth reading, for businesses and individuals.

Paul Lappen, Reviewer

Peggy's Bookshelf

The Second Chance Dog: A Love Story
Jon Katz
Ballantine Books
c/o Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
9780345531179, $25.00, 288 pages,

Jon Katz has written several dogoirs, or dog memoirs. The stories usually revolve around how a dog has changed his life in some way. In "The Second Chance Dog," Katz changes a dog's life. The story is fairly simple. During Katz's divorce and mid-life crisis, he meets a young artist named Maria. Their shared love of art and nature fuels their friendship. As their relationship grows, eventually Katz wants to spend more time with Maria. But there's a big problem. Her name is Frieda. She's an 80-pound Rottweiler shepherd mix who behaves more like Maria's bodyguard than her pet. If Katz is to have any hope for a future with Maria he must tame the wild beast. One can argue with his methods, but certainly not with the results. Be sure to watch the You Tube video Katz made of Frieda. It's hard to believe she is the same wild dog he describes. While it's true that most of the book is about Katz's relationship with Maria, it is his love for her that causes him to focus on her hyper-vigilant dog. In the process, he doesn't just change Frieda, he transforms her. "The Second Chance Dog" is a tale of hope and redemption.

Here I Am
Patti Kim, author
Sonia Sanchez, illustrator
Capstone Young Readers
1710 Roe Crest Drive, North Mankato, MN 56003
9781623700362, $14.95, 40 pages,

When a young immigrant boy arrives in New York City with his family, he is overwhelmed with all the wonder and confusion of such a big city. A closer look at the boy's pocket reveals a red seed tucked away. For some reason that seed makes him feel really good. Perhaps it reminds him of happier times. Unfortunately the red seed is of no help when it comes to the boy's struggles with learning the route to his new school and understanding the teacher and the students in the classroom. There are no words for the loneliness and anger he feels. Then one day he accidentally drops the red seed out the tiny apartment window. The seed falls on a little girl's head. She picks it up and runs away. During the boy's search for the little girl, his strange new world begins to make "sense."

"Here I Am" is a wordless picture book. The story flows in a series of framed drawings, which invoke the feeling of paging through a photo album. Because of this design Sonia Sanchez's kinetic illustrations stimulate discussion about the boy's actions and feelings. Patti Kim's poignant story about emigrating from Korea to America as a child appears in the Dear Reader section at the end of the book to help confirm the reader's thoughts about what he sees in the pictures. Any child who is faced with a new experience, or helped out a new friend, will find hope and a kindred spirit among these moving images.

Yukon: Sled Dog
Judith Janda Presnall, author
Mark Elliott, illustrator
Two Lions Publishing
PO Box 400818, Las Vegas, NV 89149
9781477817315, $17.99, 32 pages,

Yukon is the only female in the litter of four huskies. She is also the only red and white pup so it's easy to spot her among the other gray and white pups. Roberta trains all the puppies to be racing sled dogs. But she notices that Yukon is faster and smarter than her brothers. But Yukon has a lot to live up to because her mother is the lead sled dog. Unfortunately there is not enough tension in this story. Training a husky pup to be a good sled dog is a big challenge, especially with a smart, energetic pup like Yukon. Presnall made the training look too easy. Her Author's Note at the end provides information about the history and sport of sled dog racing, and is a good discussion starter. On each and every page Elliott's brilliant illustrations capture the true nature of Siberian huskies as happy, active clowns and make "Yukon: Sled Dog" an irresistible book for young readers and dog lovers.

Peggy Tibbetts, Reviewer

Sandra's Bookshelf

The Clock of Life
Nancy Klann-Moren
Anthony Ann Books
9780988494411, $14.99, 354 pages,

This book is not one you can just read once and then forget. The message of this book will stay with you forever. The story takes place in the South and at a time when people are fighting for Civil Rights.

The main character is Jason Lee who on his first day of school becomes friends with a colored boy named Sampson. Jason Lee was always being called names and hit because of it. But that would not stop him from being best friends and blood brothers with Sampson.

Jason was at an age where he wanted to know about his dad. He was only told his dad died in Viet Nam and was a hero. His mom and uncle would not talk about him. Whenever he asked about his dad his mother said, "too hush up as it would upset his uncle who was hurt bad in the conflict."

Jason did find out that his dad was a Civil Rights Activist and had been beat because of it more than once.

I know I am skipping major parts of this story, but to do it real justice it would take me hundreds of words to describe it. I will tell you that the ending will blow you away. I will tell you that I am going to buy some copies myself to give as Christmas presents.

Rated PG for violence and language.

The Reality of the Virtual and Presage
Betsy Cheung
Pebbles Publication
9789881675118, $11.96, 319 pages,

The language in this book is not one that is spoken every day. If in your daily life words such as quasi monopolistic or megalomaniacal idea or even quantum physics are used then you would be fine. But for me I had to look up the meaning of each word.

In the first part of the book page 28 is followed by page 60 and then to 45. My feeble mind was having enough problems without the pages to be out of order.

Yet when the book changed to "Presage," it all began to come together for me. I have so much respect for the author and her abilities. If you read the other reviews of this book or the jacket you will know more about this book than I could write in two hundred words or less.

One of the many things that I did find interesting is that God and science were mentioned together. One character wanted to reach to heaven and know about God. Now that is something I do know about.

This book is high impact and fast. Once I looked up words I had never heard of in my life, I did find this book to be interesting.

Rated PG for violence

Sandra Heptinstall

Susan's Bookshelf

Price of Justice
Alan Brenham
Black Opal Books
9781626940833, $12.99 pbk. / $3.99 Kindle, 320 pages

About the author: Alan Brenham is the pseudonym of Alan Behr, an American author and attorney. He served as a law enforcement officer before earning a law degree from Baylor University and worked as a prosecutor, criminal defense attorney , and staff counsel for the Texas prison and parole agency for twenty-two years. His travels took him to several European and Middle Eastern countries, Alaska and almost every island in the Caribbean. While working with the US military, he resided in Berlin, Germany for two years. Now, Alan and his wife, Lillian, live in the Austin, Texas area.

About the book: His focus is on solving the murders - until the unthinkable happens...

Recently widowed, Austin Police Detective Jason Scarsdale works to solve the murders of two pedophiles, while trying to be both mother and father to his five-year-old daughter. During his investigation, Scarsdale is forced to navigate between the crosshairs of two police commanders out to get him. Drawn to Austin Police Crime Analyst, Dani Mueller, who has also suffered tragedy, Scarsdale fights both his attraction and his suspicions that something just isn't right...

She is hiding a secret, one that could not only cost her a job - it could end her life...

Dani hides a deadly past. After her daughter was brutally murdered, Dani exacted her revenge then changed her name and fled to Austin. But if her secret ever gets out, she knows there is no place she can hide from the murderer's vicious family.

Pulled into a web of malice and deceit, Scarsdale and Dani discover the value of breaking the rules. Then just when they thought things couldn't get worse...they do.

Coming to terms with the loss of a love one is never easy. Regrets haunt P.D. Detective Jason Scarsdale, in the weeks following his young wife's death, especially since he blames himself.

When Scarsdale and his partner, Sean Harris of the Austin Police Departments, Sex Crimes Division are instructed to investigate a child molestation, they soon realize the case is far more involved than first appears. Their investigations lead them deep into a paedophile ring, whose tentacles reach far and wide, with repercussions which will affect them in ways they never could have foreseen.

When Jason becomes friendly with co-worker Dani Mueller he doesn't realize that she has her own hidden secrets which will affect his life more than he could have ever imagined.

Cleverly written, with believable characters and great attention to detail, the author has made full use of his in-depth experience in both police and law departments, to write a brilliant crime thriller.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this detailed and captivating story, which kept me guessing throughout with its twists and turns.

Life-ology 101: If All Else Fails, Smile
Michael Soward
Xlibris Corporation
1663 South Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781483695099, $13.66, 60 pages,

About the Author: Michael Soward, music producer of cutting edge music for almost 30 years, has released his first novel, "Life-ology 101". The book is receiving acclaim nation-wide for being an inspirational story of transformation and the power of the smile.His mother died in a hospital when he was two months of becoming two years old. His grandmother then takes him along with his younger brother to her hometown of Blytheville, Arkansas where she would raise them.He then shares how his early life in the south along with grandmother Eva's constant beatings and whippings came to scare and affect him so deeply mentally, physically, and spiritually later in life.He experienced many trials and tribulations that many an African American faced by the nature of their skin color rather than for who they were or what they did. But American society was evolving and with Michael Soward's indomitable spirit he overcame these obstacles by sticking to his philosophy of smiling into the face of adversity and never giving in. He eventually discovers that smiling would become one of the great medicines of his life as a powerful future would continue to unfold.

Michael Soward currently lives and serves in New York as an independent nationwide consultant for aspiring Gospel and Jazz artist and writers. He continues to help build careers and recording products within these industries through his persistence, knowledge of these markets, promotion and marketing skills.

About the Book: This story begins in Arkansas with the nine-year-old Michael, and his younger brother, abandoned by their father, living with their strict grandmother who regularly beats them. The family attend church regularly, he discovers at a young age, he has a gift for playing the organ and it is the beginning of a lifelong love of music.

In 1969,after working hard in the cotton fields, at eighteen he finally 'escapes' to live with relatives in Kansas City. Moving to the big city has a profound effect on the young man from the Deep South, especially at such a time of change, the age of drugs, sex and rock and roll had definitely arrived.

The story, which follows, is of one man's journey, his marriage, fatherhood, hopes, dreams and foibles'. It is frank and honest, brutally so sometimes. He openly talks about his relationship with his father, the driving forces in his life and the leaps of faith, which have made him into the man he is today. Throughout, this book runs a vein of the author's deep religious belief and his faith in God, the importance of his church and love of music, which has sustained him through times of deep despair.

I have always loved reading memoirs, catching a glimpse into peoples' lives and discovering the experiences, which have made them the person they are today. This is a very honestly written book, interesting and thought provoking, the journey of a young boy from the Deep South who ends up a father and grandfather living in New York, and all the bits in-between.

Engine 24 Fire Stories 2
Joe Corso
4900 LaCross Rd, North Charleston, SC 29406
9781493623365, $4.95, 64 pages,

Genre: Fire fighting, action, memoirs

About Engine 24 Fire Stories 2: Every firefighter has a treasure trove of interesting stories to tell and the stories more often than not are instructional as well as exciting. When I was a firefighter, I kept notes of the fires I responded to. Now that I am retired, I have reflected on my career as a firefighter and have written a second book about the men alongside whom I worked, facing dangerous situations daily.

This book is a compilation of eight short FIRE stories written between 1963 and 1972, from notes I wrote after returning from fires. The first story explores the emotions felt when reporting for duty for the first time. The same emotions felt by all firefighters throughout the world on their first day on the job.

An inexplicable bond forms between men and women who face danger on a daily basis and who have been tested - and have passed the test. From the combat soldier, to the policeman and the firefighter - a bond of love and trust has formed that will last a lifetime.

About Joe Corso: I grew up in Queens, New York and I began writing in an attempt to raise money to pay for my grandchildren's college education. I've written 12 books and 7 short stories. Right now I'm working on the fifth installment of The Starlight Club. When It's completed I'd like to write a sequel to the Lone Jack Kid which is a finalist in the 2013 Readers Favorite book contest in the Western category. The Starlight Club won the silver in the 2012 eLit TRUE CRIME category, and was awarded Honorable Mention in the 2013 Readers Favorite book contest. My short story FIRE: Box 598 won the bronze in the 2013 Readers Favorite contest, in the historical non-fiction category. Go figure. If I would have known I could write a good story, I would have started writing a half century ago.

In this book, I was intrigued to learn about Joe's very first days as a fire fighter. I will be the first to openly admit that I love Joe Corso's stories about his career, and, as he recounts his memories, I felt as if I was transported into the very soul of the young Joe. He describes his very first day and meeting the men he was to worked with, men whose courage and dedication he strove to emulate throughout his career. Experienced fire fighters ,who took the young rookie under their wing, guided and encouraged him, whilst all the time instilling in him the firm codes and values they worked by.

There's so much in this book. The Prologue, which has been researched by members of the IAFF tells the history of the Maltese Cross, which is the international symbol of the fire service. I loved reading Joe's recollections of the alarm calls they went on, the unusual characters he met, and how this close knit brotherhood of men dealt with the odd bad apple or two. I also discovered that there are many types of fires, and whilst all are dangerous, the smoke alone given off of the source materials of some can be deadly. Then the history of the old fire brigade building came to life, as Joe and his friend had to recover the old fire station journals from the roof space, and discover other things, stored there.

At the end, Joe has looked back at the animal hero's of the service, the brave fire horses and included an interesting and humorous article by Jim Blanchard of the Saugus Fire Department and a fantastic photograph.

What can I say, this book captivated me, I just could not put it down. I loved reading of the true comradeship, loyalty and brotherhood of these brave men as seen through the eyes of the author as a young man, and the pictures within were just fantastic to see - the icing on the cake as they say.

Susan Keefe, Reviewer

Suzie's Bookshelf

A Hero's Pride
April Angel
Latin Goddess Press
ASIN: B00D53OFPA, 40 pages, Kindle $2.99,

When Kayla Santomas celebrates her thirtieth birthday, she is determined to start her life with a clean slate. She agrees to allow her friend to set her up on a blind date. She hopes that this date will be a positive step in finding her perfect mate.

Ryan Mitchell returned from Afghanistan after losing a portion of his right leg. He felt that his disability would prevent any woman from wanting to spend time with him. Having no desire to be with a woman since his injury, he questions if his injuries went further than just his leg.

Ryan's family badgered him to get back into the dating scene. He figures he has nothing to lose and agrees to the date. Upon meeting Kayla he is overjoyed to discover she brings out feelings he feared was long dead.

Ryan is everything that Kayla has ever dreamed about finding in a man. When she learns that he was injured in the military she refuses to allow him to wallow in his own self-pity. Will she be able to convince him that she can see past his injury and accept him for the wonderful man he is? Or will Ryan push Kayla away, fearing he is unworthy of her love?

A HERO'S PRIDE is one outstanding novel! Kayla and Ryan are characters that quickly wrap their feelings around your heart. I was highly impressed with how Ms. Angel was able to convey their instantaneous attraction to one another. To say that I was impressed with this story is an understatement.

Seeing Forever - Perfect Pairing
Vanessa Devereaux
Evernight Publishing
ASIN: B00EN6LLVY, 133 pages, Kindle $3.99,

In serving for his country in Afghanistan, Luc Frasier lost his site in a bomb attack. Luc questions whether he is strong enough to be able to life in total darkness. Thoughts of suicide run through his head, for he does not want to be a burden on his family.

Jake train's guide dogs for a living, he recognizes that Luc is caught in a state of deep, dark depression. He finds a German Shepherd he thinks will be ideal for Luc. He also enlists the help of Katey Hopkins to work with Luc and his new service dog.

To ensure that Luc and Katey find comfort in each other's arms, Jake enlists the help of Sadie Sutton, who is a witch and the owner of Perfect Pairing. Sadie has an impressive record on bringing true love to the surface. Will the spell she casts be strong enough to bind these two lonely souls together?

SEEING FOREVER is a wonderful constructed romance! This is the first PERFECT PAIRING book that I discovered, but I had no problem figuring out how the series was constructed. Ms. Devereaux does an exceptional job in showing how a wounded soldier finds comfort in the arms of a woman who can see past his disability. How the two struggles to overcome the obstacles that prevent them from finding love and acceptance in each other arms is a very moving experience.

Other titles in the PERFECT PAIRING series include:

Take A Chance On Me
I'm All Yours
Someone Like You
Matters of the Heart
Seeing Forever

Snowbound with the Soldier
Jennifer Faye
P.O. Box 5190, Buffalo, NY 14240-5190
ASIN: B00CFX3BB0, 256 pages, Kindle $3.82,

It was Christmas time, and Kara Jameson was concerned if she would have a job at the start of a new year. The resort she works in had been sold to an unnamed buyer. It is rumored that the new owner wants to make major changes.

Jason Greene had been gone for seven years. He turned his back on his family and his fiancee then he went and joined the military. With a military medical discharge, he returns back to his hometown and secretly purchases his father's resort.

When Kara learns that Jason is the new owner she questions if she can work for him. When a snow storm traps them together will it be the opportunity they need to reconnect to their past? Will Kara forgive Jason when she hears of why he abandoned all that he loved so many years ago?

SNOWBOUND WITH THE SOLDIER is an outstanding book. Jennifer Faye should be proud of this creation. The book is filled with intense emotional pain, and the renewed hope that love will conquer all. I was highly impressed with Ms. Faye's writing style and look forward to seeing more of her work in the future.

Suzie Housley

Teri's Bookshelf

John Smith: Last Known Survivor of the Microsoft Wars
Roland Hughes
Logikal Solutions
3915 N 1800e Rd, Herscher, IL 60941
9781939732002, $TBA 274 pages,

Do you ever reflect about how your life could have been different if you had made different choices twenty, thirty, forty years ago? Imagine yourself sixty-eight years now in the future. What choices should you have made now on November 13, 2013? How could these affect your life and every living creature on the planet?

On November 13, 2013, the world ceased to exist as we know it. Now, sixty-eight years later, John Smith attempts to explain life before this time. He wonders if finally people are ready to understand the history that created the world of today.

Now, people live at a basic survival level without the use of our established means of transportation, communication, health care, and food service. How do you prevent the catastrophe of the past from ever happening again. In the hopes that this history will never occur again, John Smith has left his isolated world to communicate the mistakes of the past to a world that has no memory. He is the only known survivor from this event sixty-eight years ago.

John Smith was only eleven years old at this time making his age of seventy-nine the oldest known person alive today on the planet. On that fated day, John's family had built a bunker when the Microsoft Wars started where he was trapped for ten years.

Susan Krowley is a newspaper reporter for The Times which is published twice a month with the widest circulation of 5500. Reading newspapers is not a common activity and only for the few and the privileged. She is thrilled to be able to conduct this interview for her newspaper. This is her story of a lifetime interviewing John Smith who is the only known living person who actually experienced the Microsoft Wars.

The world is much different now. People travel on horseback. Schools of the past no longer exist, including colleges. Everyone learns from their home. Jobs that formerly required college degrees now are filled within families. Technology as we know it does not exist. Knowledge and books are limited. Life is at a simplistic level. Even access to books is extremely limited. Without the widespread usage of computers, telephones, and nuclear energy, life is very different.

The seven continents are now twelve. There is no way to travel or communicate from one continent to the next with an ocean covering much of the center of the United States. John was very fortunate that his bunker was in an area that had not been covered by an ocean.

"John Smith: Last Known Survivor of the Microsoft Wars" is thought provoking. The author reviews much of our technological advances throughout the years, while also demonstrating the uneven advances and questionable uses and obvious abuses with the ethical practices. This book is a warning of what could happen if we continue without a complete understanding of our societal choices.

This entire book is written as an interview between John Smith and Susan Krowley, as a question and answer format. Within the responses are the elements of action usually in a novel. This is definitely a different perspective of a novel and the message within the story.

Who is the intended audience? Everyone who inhabits this planet. The relevance of this novel is a perfect example of cause and effect and even goes beyond that concept. This is required reading for everyone.

Matters of Doubt: A Cal Clayton Oregon Mystery
Warren C. Easley
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. First Ave., #103, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781464201745, $14.95, 280 pages,

Does it make a difference if a lawyer knows whether or not his client is guilty? Their job is to defend the person to the best of their ability. Lawyers normally defend criminals who they know and believe are guilty? What if they truly believe the person is innocent even if circumstances make the defendant look guilty?

Cal Clayton has this problem. He has agreed to represent Danny Baxter, known to his friends as Picasso. Danny's mother disappeared eight years ago when he was just twelve. He would like Cal to investigate this cold case and he claims that he can even pay for the services.

Danny has dyed black spiky hair, a ring in his eyebrow and lip, a tattoo of a snake around his neck, tattoos on his arms and is homeless. How will he pay?

Finally her body is found. Danny firmly believes that it was her boyfriend, Mitchell Conyers who killed her. Cal asks if Danny has ever spoken to the police about his suspicions, but then he realizes that they would not believe him because of his youth and appearance.

Danny's aunt has kept his mother's records: her appointment book, computer files, address book, and newspaper clippings and has given these to him. Danny firmly believes that somewhere in these documents is the clue to what really happened to his mother.

His mother had been a newspaper reporter who at the time was investigating something big. Even though her editor knew that the story would be revealing, he had no idea what secret was about to be revealed.

Danny has plans to meet his mother's former boyfriend and when Cal discovers this, he immediately drives to Mitch Conyers' house only to find Danny already there, stating that Mitch is dead. Did Danny kill him or did he really just happen to be at the wrong place at the wrong time? Danny had both motive and opportunity. This definitely creates " Matters of Doubt."
"Matters of Doubt" is an excellent mystery where the reader is discovering the clues along with the protagonist, Cal Clayton, even making the mistakes and assumptions along with him. The story is well-organized and written as an enthralling narrative with realistic characters.

The strength of this novel is unquestionably bringing to light the multiple social issues of society such as the homeless, free clinics, veterans, post traumatic stress disorder, and the social class system. These are woven throughout the mystery creating a deeper understanding of the problems and the realism of dealing with people, not just statistics.

Author Warren Easley has a background as a research scientist and an international business executive while now he writes and tutors individuals with earning their G.E.D.

Anyone who enjoys well-written, realistic mysteries, would thoroughly enjoy "Matters of Doubt."

Covenant with Hell: A Medieval Mystery
Priscilla Royal
Poisoned Pen Press
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. First Ave., #103, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781464201950, $ 14.95, $250 pages,

Sometimes everyone just needs to get away. That is exactly what Prioress Eleanor and Brother Thomas from Tyndal were thinking when they decided to pursue a pilgrimage to a nearby priory to worship at their holy relics. Looking for peace and personal repentance the two were not planning on a death immediately after their arrival. Also, they discovered that they were not really welcomed here and this particular priory was not friendly or charitable.

A young nun died from her fall from a bell tower Was she pushed or did she jump? Rumors in the town are speaking about a possible affair, a lover who was meeting with her in the tower. Unfortunately, this particular priory tends to believe the worse with this dead nun. Prioress Eleanor and Brother Thomas do not accept this conclusion with no evidence and begin to question those closest to the priory. The poor are discarded and have few rights in this community and the two do whatever they can to help others.

Rumors of King Edward visiting this town while having troops invading nearby Wales are running through the town as well as rumors of him possibly being assassinated. Since Prioress Eleanor's brother is a close friend of the king, she questions if she should remain in this town in case he would visit.

The township has many secrets they wish to keep hidden. Are all these somehow related?

Covenant with Hell is a well-written and well-organized mystery. The story is gripping as more than the actual mystery causes problems for the main characters making the story believable. Even though this is part of a series, this book is not dependent on the readers having knowledge of the previous series. This book does work as a stand alone novel.

Priscilla Royal currently resides in California. Even though she grew up in British Columbia, her home was in the state of Washington while she earned her Bachelor of Arts in World Literature from San Francisco State University.

"Covenant of Hell" is a wonderful novel intermixing a mystery into the time of Edward and Eleanor in England.

Awakening Colors
Ritu K. Gupta
Amazon Digital Services
ASIN: B00CC5ZCK4, $2.99 Kindle,

All of us are born with special gifts and spend much of our lives discovering them. What if your gift is one of the unusual ones? One that people will have difficulty believing? How do you learn to use this gift while wanting to be certain that no one is hurt because of your gift? How does your family deal with this gift?

A car accident shatters Pari's life. Her father is with her in the car when someone talks to her about getting out of the vehicle. Her father doesn't want her to leave. She sees colors around her. Then all is dark.

Six months later, Pari finally awakens from a coma. Her father died in the accident. How do you pick up your life now?

However, things are different now. Pari can actually view people's auras - the colors constantly surrounding and changing with each person. She quickly learns how this allows her to sense their moods, intents, character, and their choices in their future. Who can you talk to about this?

One of her father's associates, Arche, attempts to assist her with her newly discovered gifts which he also possesses. He knows that he is also able to change others' destinies but doing so can change three worlds: the material, the illusionary, and the timeless. He quickly realizes that Pari's abilities far surpass his. He hopes to "guide" her with her new discoveries. However, Pari senses a darkness within him that frightens her. Pari must learn more from Chanakya, her spiritual guide, reflective of the goddess Devi..

"Awakening Colors" is a story of a young woman's discovering herself and how she chooses to become part of the adult world while possessing a gift. The characters are believable with choices that are part of a normal everyday life even in dealing with aspects of the supernatural.

Dealing with an unusual ability that is not can easily by misused, was perfectly plotted. While still maintaining a family relationship with her sister and her mother as their lives evolve is part of the strength of this novel. Pari daily has to appear living a normal life even to her family.

Author Ritu K. Gupa is a native of India who has lived in Canada for the last twenty-five years.

The intended audience for "Awakening Colors" is women in their twenties and thirties and those who enjoy an unconventional tale about life choices.

Teri Davis

Theodore's Bookshelf

The Broken Places
Ace Atkins
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780399161780, 358 pages, $26.95,

Quinn Colson, in this third novel in the series, has just entered his 18th month as sheriff of his hometown, Jericho, Mississippi, and encounters a tough situation. A convicted killer is pardoned and comes to town, starting a church as a mail-order-ordained reverend. Moreover, to complicate Quinn's life even more, his sister falls in love with the preacher.

Then two armed, violent prisoners escape from prison, and arrive in Jericho looking for the preacher. They believe he has a significant sum of their money from a robbery they committed prior to their incarceration. To top off all the violence that ensues, a tremendous tornado practically wipes out a good portion of Jericho before the plot winds down to a conclusion.

Ace Atkins is a prolific author, and has written ten novels, in addition to two under the Robert B. Parker imprint. "Broken Places" is of the same high quality as his previous efforts, with smooth dialogue, tight plotting, excellent pacing and lots of suspense. The Quinn Colson novels also highlight the sheriff's sense of law and order and right and wrong. The author says the next book in the series will be about the unmaking of Quinn and destruction of all he's helped build since returning home from the army. Should be worth waiting for.


Masaryk Station
David Downing
Soho Crime
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9781616952235, 336 pp., $26.95,

With this, the sixth novel in the John Russell series, David Downing brings to a finale the chronicle covering the years between the World Wars, those following the collapse of Nazi Germany. It has been quite a journey, with Russell having served as a double agent for both the Soviets and Americans, certainly as dangerous as an existence can be. Each of the novels reflected the times and the clashes of the ideological differences between the two countries.

In the final book, the story of a divided Germany and Berlin is recounted, ending with the seeds that were sown in the fall of the Soviet Empire. At the same time, the personal conflicts that beset Russell and others who at first embraced and then questioned socialism are explored and analyzed.

Each entry in the series was well-crafted to not only tell a gripping story of our times, but to call to mind the era as portrayed by real-life characters. It has been an excellently told saga. (It is unfortunate that the latest volume suffers from poor production, editing and proofreading, riddled with typographical and grammatical errors.) Next spring, we are promised a new series by the author moving back in time to World War I.

My parenthetical criticism notwithstanding, the novel is recommended.

The Last Dead Girl
Harry Dolan
Amy Einhorn Books
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780399157967, 416 pp., $26.95,

Billed as a prequel, this novel is a carefully constructed murder mystery which begins one night on a lonely dark road, a chance encounter between David Loogan, riding along in his truck, and Jana Fletcher, a young law student, standing next to her inoperable car. What follows is a brief 10-day love affair. Until one day David enters her apartment to find her lying on the living room floor, murdered.

As usual, the lead detective suspects the boyfriend, but there is no proof. Released, David is fixated on learning the truth about Jana and follows his nose, investigating her past and discovering a death in the past that might be related to hers.

The novel moves ahead straightforwardly, and the mystery unfolds so that it comes as no surprise when the killer is disclosed, but not before red herrings are introduced. It is a well-written story, well worth reading, and recommended.

The Wrath of Angels: A Charlie Parker Thriller
John Connolly
Pocket Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781476703039, Paperback, 528 pp., $7.99,

This 11th novel in the Charlie Parker series carries the reader deep into the surrealistic world the author once again creates. And brings back two of the Maine detective's betes noir: the Collector and Brightman, the latter coming back in the form of a child after Charlie shot him to death in a different form. Of course, Angel and Louis, as well as Rabbi Epstein, get to play roles as well.

It all begins when two hunters discover a plane which had crashed in the Maine northern woods, in which are found lots of cash and a satchel containing lists of names. And a race begins among various opposing forces to discover the lists with Charlie in the middle, prompted by the story the daughter of one of the hunters tells him which she had learned from her dying father.

The author's ability to make the supernatural aspects of his tales almost believable defies the imagination. The lists contain the names of people who have made a deal with the devil. The woods are inhabited by a spectral young girl seeking to lure other bodies to keep her company. The forces of evil are represented by fallen angels. There is the Collector, who sits in judgment of those he would take out of circulation. And there is always Charlie, supposedly on the side of justice. Quite a tale, and recommended.

Deadly Stakes
J. A. Jance
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781451628692, Paperback, 384 pp., $9.99,

Ali Reynolds is not a police officer. Nor is she a private investigator. And it's been a long time since she was a journalist. Nevertheless, she undertakes to investigate a murder under the guise of writing a free-lance article in this swashbuckling story which progresses slowly but surely to some sort of conclusion. It is the eighth novel in the series and familiarly follows the customary formula, actually growing out of a predecessor volume in which Ali solved a cyber-stalking crime involving one of the characters, Lynn Martinson, in the present plot.

Lynn and her boyfriend are arrested on suspicion of murder when his ex-wife is found by a young man, A.J. Sanders, dead from a knife wound. Coincidentally, A.J.'s father is discovered nearby, shot in his head sitting in a car. This is the jumping off point for a more or less improbable plot which comes together in a predictable denouement.

It's a fairly straightforward tale, typical of the Ali Reynolds series, except for one surprise at the end. The writing flows and the reader turns pages despite almost knowing what comes next. Be that as it may, one can always enjoy J.A. Jance's writing, and this is one is recommended.

Summer Death
Mons Kallentoft, author
Neil Smith, translator
Emily Bestler Books/Atria
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781451642544, Hardcover, 464 pp., $25.99,

The author has conceived four novels based on the seasons of the year. The first took place during the cold months, "Midwinter Blood," and this second during the hot months, with temperatures in Linkoping, Sweden reaching into the 90's, 100 and even 100-plus F., made hotter by raging forest fires surrounding the town. The weather makes everyone sluggish, slow-thinking. But that doesn't stop a series of brutal assaults and even murders of young, teenage girls.

Again featuring police superintendent Malin Fors, this second installment in the series examines her personal life as much as looking into the question of police prejudice in conducting the investigation into the identity of the serial killer (automatically, they look at previous sex offenders) when they face the lack of clues or forensic evidence.

While ostensibly a murder mystery, the novel is infused with lots of psychological insights into the various characters, especially Malin. The author uses the technique of observations, in italics, of the murdered girls to move the plot forward. Often, the effort is a bit disconcerting and unnecessary. Kallentoft writes with a heavy heart and, like other Scandinavian writers, delves into the mysteries of the occult and the harsh subject matter.

Only two more seasons to go.


The Riptide Ultra-Glide
Tim Dorsey
Morrow Paperbacks
c/o Harper Collins
10 E. 53rd St., N, NY 10022
9780062092793, Paperback, 304 pp., $14.99,

There's nothing sane about a novel featuring Serge A. Storms and his sidekick, Coleman. There usually is a plot, but the real show is the madcap escapades and far-out situations described. And no less so are the irreverent observations from Serge's mouth. Too numerous to mention.

As in the former entries in the series, this novel takes place in Florida, giving Serge the opportunity to hold forth on the many locales and highlights of the State. It begins with Serge and Coleman driving down to the Keys, filming what is to be a reality show on a camcorder. And the rest of the book, of course, turns out to be surreal, when a couple of teachers from Wisconsin lose their job and decide to go to the Sunshine State on vacation. Instead they become embroiled in the midst of two gangs fighting for control of drug traffic. It remains for Serge to rescue them.

The novels in this series are not particularly easy reading because much of the time Serge's observations and comments are so outlandish that the reader has to stop and regroup. But, crazy as it sounds, most of the time they make sense. Nevertheless, a Serge A. Storms novel is always enjoyable. And recommended.

The Invisible Code
Christopher Fowler
Bantam Books
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
97803455430423, Hardcover, 351 pp., $26.00,

The Peculiar Crimes Unit of the London Police tackles the odd crime, solving them, much to the dismay of the Home Office and other branches. Pretty much a self-contained unit, the leading characters include Arthur Bryant, an intuitive detective and a relatively old throwback to former times, pretty much untouched by modern technology, and his partner, John May, staid and logical. They all, however, act as a team.

This latest episode (it is the tenth in the series) begins when a young woman is followed by two young children playing a game, trying to identify a "witch," and annoying her. So she leaves a park bench where she was eating her lunch and enters a church where she suddenly keels over and dies. Bryant wants to pursue the case but the chief of security at the Home office looking to eliminate the Unit forbids it. Then the chief's wife starts acting oddly, and the chief asks Bryant and May to quietly investigate the reasons for her behavior. And one thing leads to another.

The novel is a British mystery with many a twist. To begin with, Bryant is as conversant with the occult as he is with investigative techniques. The plot is really unlike anything else this reviewer has read, combining the elements of a traditional murder mystery with, essentially, witchcraft and the supernatural. The characters are well portrayed. And the twists and turns keep the reader interested right up to the final pages.


Evil and the Mask
Fuminori Nakamura
Soho Crime
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9781616952129, Hardcover, 356 pp., $25.95,

In this author's second novel to be excellently translated into English, a story in an extremely different genre takes the reader into the realm of crime noir of an unusual nature. It tells the story of an 11-year-old boy whose father informs him that he is to be trained to become a "cancer" on the world, creating havoc and misery wherever he goes. The family, it seems, has developed a long line of such evil, each generation spawning one such monster.

So the training begins, and a young girl is brought in to become a companion to the boy. They fall in love, part of the father's plan to subject the boy to "hell" at some future date. Instead the boy, three years later, murders his father and consequently ends up just as he might have had the original plan come to fruition. He spends his life thereafter trying to hide from the very fact that he has committed the ultimate crime and, at the same time, trying to protect the girl from evil.

The prose is as simple and straightforward as the tale is twisted. It is a far different effort from this author's previous novel, "The Thief," which also described an antihero, albeit of a different stripe. This book is a complicated crime novel with deep psychological undertones into the minds of warped persons. It is told in the first person by the protagonist as he endures the horrors to which he is subjected, yet demonstrating his efforts to overcome the onus of what he has done and his background. Recommended.

Once We Were Brothers
Ronald H. Balson
St. Martin's Griffin
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9781250046390, Paperback, 400 pp., $15.99,

There have been many books about the holocaust and the travails of people under Nazi occupation during World War II, but this novel touches the heart of the reader because essentially it is a love story surrounded by the atrocities and miseries inflicted on the populations of the occupied territories. It is essentially the story of Ben Solomon and his wife and family. But, more important, it is the telling of the horrors endured by the Jews in Poland and the beasts that perpetrated them.

The plot begins when Ben, now 82 years old, sees a TV broadcast of a Chicago event and recognizes the person receiving a civic honor, apparently a pillar of society who is well-known as a philanthropist, as a former Nazi SS officer, Otto Piatek. The reason Ben recognizes him is because the Solomon family gave Otto a home and Ben grew p with him until Otto's parents took him away and he embraced his new-found status in the National Socialist Party. Ben is introduced to Catherine Lockhart, an attorney, who comes to embrace Ben's desire to uncover Otto, now going by the name of Elliot Rosenzweig, a billionaire Chicago insurance magnate, for what he really is, while listening to his story in relation to a lawsuit she is preparing to bring to reclaim jewelry and cash Otto stole from Ben's family.

Written simply, the book, a first effort by a Chicago lawyer, moves forward steadily, as Catherine attempts to formulate a lawsuit for replevin, while Ben insists on telling her in great detail the trials and tribulations of life under the Nazis. And it all comes together at the end. (Parenthetically, I believe the novel would make a great screenplay.)

Highly recommended.

Bottom Line
Marc Davis
Permanent Press
4170 Noyac Rd., Sag Harbor, NY 11963
9781579623166, Hardcover, 240 pp., $28.00,

In wake of the Bernie Madoff massive fraud upon the world, a novel (or novels) on questionable business practices could be expected. "Bottom Line" tells a slightly different story of a similar large-scale fraud on a different level: Fraudulent accounting, a violation of securities laws. It is the story of Martell & Co., a top consulting/auditing firm based in Chicago with some of the country's top companies as clients. With the downturn in the economy, with lower earnings in prospect, the numbers are "massaged" so the stocks of the public companies wouldn't suffer.

The plot involves the study of the principal behind the firm, Adrian Martell, and his son, who perpetrate the shenanigans, and Nick Blake, the number two behind them, who plays a vital role in uncovering the scheme. It is an interesting idea, and, for the most part, well executed, except for some minor points about which the author or editor should have known better. Several times, SEC forms are misnamed (K-8 instead of 8K, or K-10 for 10K), and a statement that corporate information would not be released for several months, despite the legal requirement for immediate disclosure of significant news, raising the question as to how expert the author is on the subject. All in all, it is an interesting and fairly good read, despite these misgivings.

Theodore Feit

James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
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