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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 6, Number 2 February 2006 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Atwood's Bookshelf Bethany's Bookshelf
Betsy's Bookshelf Betty's Bookshelf Bob's Bookshelf
Burroughs' Bookshelf Cellura's Bookshelf Cheri's Bookshelf
Connie's Bookshelf Debra's Bookshelf Fortenberry's Bookshelf
Gary's Bookshelf Gorden's Bookshelf Henry's Bookshelf
Magdalena's Bookshelf Mayra's Bookshelf Molly's Bookshelf
Nancy's Bookshelf Paul's Bookshelf Robyn's Bookshelf
Sullivan's Bookshelf Tami's Bookshelf Tarbox's Bookshelf
Taylor's Bookshelf Volk's Bookshelf  

Reviewer's Choice

The Quokka Question
Claire McNab
Alyson Books
PO Box 1253, Old Chelsea Station, New York, NY 10113-1251
ISBN: 1555839150, $13.95, 183 pages

Arlene Germain

This third installment in Claire McNab's Kylie Kendall mystery series (The Wombat Strategy and The Kookaburra Gambit) has the would-be sleuth more actively involved in solving an actual case, and more interestingly, has Kylie uncovering more secrets about her business partner and object of her affection, the glacial Arianna Creeling. Working undercover as a graduate student from Australia, Kylie has been hired by Penelope and Oscar Braithewaite, the former a professor of sexuality and the latter an expert on marsupials, namely the quokka. These two very different characters also happen to be brother and sister. What starts out as an inquiry into a possible stalker's harassing Penelope and a case of academic fraud involving Oscar, soon develops into something much more lethal. While Kylie attempts to solve the untimely demise of one of the Braithewaites, she uncovers surprising facets of Arianna's past and very seductive present.

McNab has a brilliant way of understating the obvious, of expressing the wit and vulnerability of Kylie, and of creating an air of ephemeral susceptibility for Arianna that surfaces in this novel much to the delight of this reader. Over the course of her three books, McNab has created such sexual tension that one can only hope the fourth in the series is not far from publication. McNab creates this as much through the careful crafting of the verbal exchanges between these two women as the fervently enigmatic facial expressions she attributes to each. Kylie and Arianna are two professional and intelligent women who, though very much alike in some ways, have emotional quandaries that persist and continue to hinder their ability to totally relate to each other. They are both entertainingly flawed in several ways and this aspect both interests and motivates the reader. To say that one could read this novel in one sitting is not an understatement.

Although many authors try to write in the first person narrative, few succeed nearly as well as McNab. The easy flow of events is never muddled by conflicting viewpoints. Kylie's narrative propels the action and helps to develop the plotting without minimizing it in any way. Utilizing this point of view can very often become forced, even tedious. Many beginning authors assume it must be part of the mystery genre, and thus, they fail at creating a substantial work of fiction. McNab is an experienced author whose work has spanned several decades. Her writing is truly a hallmark of the well-crafted lesbian novel. The spare style, the technique of intertwining American and Australian English, and the cast of believable secondary characters all contribute to a novel that satisfies the reader and remains true to core of the series.

The Quokka Question grabs your attention from the strong opening first page. Each chapter has an ending that purposefully invites continued reading, and this is the mark of a genuinely appealing and captivating novel. Series writing can be hard to sustain simply because the characters need to change over time and the plot development demands ever-increasing creativity. As McNab proved with her Carol Ashton mysteries and her Denise Cleever adventures, when an author has created a round, three-dimensional character that possesses some of the very shortcomings of the readers, success is almost guaranteed. In several years this reader believes the same will be written about the Kylie Kendall series.

Beeing: Life, Motherhood, and 180,000 Honeybees
Rosanne Daryl Thomas
The Globe Pequot Press
PO Box 480, Guilford, CT 06437
ISBN: 1585747319, $22.95, 228 pp.

Coletta Ollerer

The author meets a man at a party who calls himself Farmer Tom. He explains he will be raising some exotic Eastern European berries that, "when crushed and sweetened with honey, made an unusual and unforgettable drink, a nectar worthy of the gods." (p11) She remarks that someday she might want to keep bees and that then she would supply the honey. Tom says start now. He invites her to keep the bees on his land. Her seven year old daughter hears the exchange and becomes very enthusiastic and Rosanne is on her way.

She starts in March with an order for six living pounds of Italian honeybees. They were to arrive in one month, just time enough to prepare the hives. Page 24 shows a drawing of the design of the hives and what is needed to build them.

She purchases a beesuit, beehat and other necessities and, in April, goes to pick up the bees at the beekeeping supplies store where she meets her most useful asset: the Bee Master. His advice is invaluable in her efforts to succeed.

Three bee hives are settled on Farmer Tom's land facing east near the river and close to some trees. Rosanne becomes obsessed with caring for them. Going about their business, the bees occupy themselves doing what bees do. Rosanne gives the reader a good idea of what is going on and it is fascinating. "Analysis of bee temperament is pretty irresistible once you have known them as anything other than something to fear or producers of that which you buy at the market and spread on your toast." (p87) She finds them enchanting. "I would breathe in and in and in, unable to get enough of their mixed flower perfume." (p89) She prepares sugar water for their nourishment until they start collecting nectar on their own. She watches with interest as the bees deposit their load of pollen inside the door of the hive. In the fall she observes that the color of the gathered pollen changes. "Red-amber, marigold-yellow, black and a bright, silvery green." (p113) Other bees collect and store it.

As the summer progresses the Bee Master informs her that she needs to provide a honey super to sit atop the deep super (hive body). She needs to install a `queen excluder' so the Queen cannot gain access to lay eggs. The honey manufactured in the honey super will be only for her use.

In addition to the joy she experiences working with the bees, she is introduced to the beauty of the outdoors. Her work with the bees forces her into a proximity with nature previously unknown to her. She loves it and is dismayed when she returns to the hives one day and finds the field in which they sit completely shorn. Farmer Tom had been advised to cut everything back. That and other events motivate her to find another home for her hives. Fall turns to Winter and the bees hunker down. She looks forward to the spring and another round with her bees. This story of a lady embarking on the life of a bee keeper is a fascinating one. It reads like a novel and this reviewer wouldn't mind trying it herself. A fun read.

Of Flesh and Stone
Michael McGowan
Iceni Books
610 East Delano Street, Suite 104, Tucson, Arizona 85705
ISBN: 1587365138, $20.95, 271 pp.

Diana Bennett

Comic Books. Is there anyone out there who doesn't know that these four-color publications filled with their drawings of scantly clad well endowed women and muscle bound spandex clad men with masked identities, flowing capes and tales of titanic adventures have not become a collectable commodity with some issues going for tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars? And what if it was discovered that buried along with the body of a child who died decades ago lay a box filled with pristine copies of some of the most desired issues any fan could ever crave? So well preserved that the owner of these issues could write their own price tag - and get it.

In the captivating novel Of Flesh and Stone crafted with exquisite skill by Michael McGowan, this is the quandary faced by young Brian Foy. Where most at his tender age of thirteen are playing video games or downloading files from the Internet, Brian prefers to spend his time at the Flower Ridge Cemetery, enjoying the quiet and solitude. It is there that he one day happens to engage in conversation with a man visiting his long in the ground son. Perhaps sensing kindredness with Brian, or maybe endeavoring to converse with someone who is the same age his son was when he passed, the kindly stranger begins to open up, sharing many things about his son. It's when the elderly gentleman mentions how much his boy loved his comics and so out of love he buried them with him does he really get Brian's attention. He finds that of the titles entombed is Action Comics #1 - any collectors' wet dream come true. And so the adolescent soon hatches a plan to make those books his own.

What follows, how he manages to get his hands on the paper treasures and the results of his actions, both positive and negative, takes you as the reader through a captivating series of events. You see the enjoyment of ill-gotten gains through the debauchery of the body and the spirit, as well as the ramifications and repercussions of the act. Author McGowan shows us the underbelly of humanity and the depths of the soul with a vivid and gripping narrative style filled with some of the most unique characters I think I have ever seen that kept me turning pages long after my eyes screamed out for rest.

Of Flesh and Stone is a story that will stay with you for a long time to come, and I am glad I had the chance to see inside the deprived mind and experience the writing style of an author who not only has a lot to say, but knows how to convey it well. I have no doubt there will be more and greater yet to come.

The Imperial Quest and Modern Memory from Conrad to Greene
J. M. Rawa
Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group,
270 Madison Avenue, New York NY 10016.
ISBN: 0415975522, $65.00

Steve Glassman, Reviewer

Unless you have been hiding under a rock for the past six years, it is no surprise to hear that Pax Americana is back in a big way. Of course, even after Viet Nam it never entirely went away, but for a while there we were picking our victims of foreign aggression carefully. We made sure that they were little guys we could easily knock over. Preferably they would be previous clients of ours, like Manuel Noriega in Panama, so the world could cluck a little but agree overall that we were merely cleaning up our own mess. Sometimes, such as in Somalia, we blundered. More normally we made darn sure our friends and often, as in the first Gulf War, even our former enemies were lined up squarely behind us before embarking on an adventure. Now with the neocons firmly in control in Washington, what just a few years ago would have been if not unthinkable at least unsayable, has now become the stated policy of our government. Against this backdrop, Julia Rawa's The Imperial Quest and Modern Memory from Conrad to Greene, though a scholarly work from a reputable academic press, has something to say to the public at large.

Dr. Rawa, who teaches at Saint Petersburg [FL] College, examines four novels in her critical study, and all of those titles are most likely familiar to everyone reading this review, and most us have probably either read the works or become acquainted with them through their film renditions. The novels are Conrad's Heart of Darkness, E. M. Forster's Passage to India, Paul Bowles The Sheltering Sky and Graham Greene's The Quiet American. On the face of it, most of these books appear to examine the colonial presence of the great powers and come up squarely against imperialism. But Rawa shows that while ostensibly giving the thumbs down to domination of foreign realms, the subtext of these books argue powerfully for the "right kind" of imperialism.

For example, it's common knowledge that Conrad was taking on the corrupt Congo regime of Belgian's King Leopold in Heart of Darkness. He shows the pettiness and the incompetence of the European bureaucracy translated to colonial Africa. Most forcibly, he points out what can happen when Europeans pray at the altar of Mammon. The person held in most esteem (and a certain dread) by his Belgian comrades is called Kurtz. His background diverges significantly from many of his money-grubbing coevals. He's educated and an accomplished artist. However, his most important attribute is the ability to amass wealth for the company, and in the process of doing it, his methods become more and more bizarre. Kurtz's eccentric behavior is tolerated as long as he keeps sending those ivory tusks downstream. The fact that his thatch "palace" is decorated with heads impaled on stakes and that, even worse sin against European priggishness, he has taken a native concubine is immaterial as long as the wealth keeps flowing. Oddly enough, for as powerful as Conrad's indictment of the Belgian reign, it was still almost wimpy compared to the real facts of the situation. Belgian operatives held family members hostage while working others to death to gain the wealth that drove the Europeans into the disease-rife interior. Their methods depopulated huge swaths of the country. Conrad bolts were not unleashed at only the Belgians. He has words for the French, whose warship was seen to be firing cannon into the bush "at the enemy." However, placed alongside these jeremiads at the continental powers, he has only good words for the British. When he notes the red on the map, denoting British territorial claims, he remarks that good work is being done there, and in short quietly praises British imperialism and encourages it.

Rawa shows that a similar dynamic is at work in the other three novels she considers. More importantly, she argues that literature does not simply reflect social values but in a significant way shapes them. For that reason, she claims it is imperative that writers--and readers and literary critics (the people after all who are responsible for a writer's success or oblivion)-take careful note of the messages they are sending. Given the age we live in, this work clearly deserves close attention.

Initiation into the Tarot
Naomi Ozaniec
Simon & Schuster (Australia)
PO Box 33, PYMBLE NSW 2073
ISBN: 1884831221, $AU 24.95, 167 pages

Rose Glavas, Reviewer

The author, Naomi Ozaniec, teaches meditation and is a writer (obviously!), and currently runs a correspondence course in the Western Mysteries. As well as being the author of Initiation of the Tarot, she is the author of The Elements of the Chakras and The Elements of Egyptian Wisdom, plus quite a few other titles. Initiation into the Tarot is not a cook-book style of work where you look up the individual meanings of the cards - this is more of a work-book where you journey through the more complex meaning of the Tarot.

Part I of this title starts off with an introduction that talks about initiation, gives a brief history of the Tarot, explains the structure of the deck, and then suggests how to approach your beginning of understanding the cards. Part I is broken into the following sub-sections:

Names and Titles: this covers an introduction to the various characters of the Tarot, e.g. The Fool, The Sun and The Hermit and an exploration of their meanings through their titles.
Symbols and Images: looks at the art of symbolic language and explores mythological figures, angels, the elements, architecture and more.

Archetypes and Meanings: according to Paul Foster Case 'The Tarot is a symbolic wheel of human life.' This chapter looks at the various archetypal patterns and what they mean - some of the archetypes explored include the feminine, the masculine, the heroic, adversity, death/rebirth - and lots more.

Letters and Numbers: looks at the correlation between the Hebrew alphabet, where each letter is a symbol, and forms part of a complete symbol system. It also looks at the following topics - the sepher yetzirah, the autiot - the mother letters, the seven double letters, the cube of space, secret codes, numbers, and more.

Doorways and Keys: looks at each of the trumps as a doorway and a vehicle of initiation into the Tarot through the use of intellect and intuition combined. Topics covered include awakening the intuition - meditation, doorways, the active imagination, and the inner guide.

Stages and Paths: this chapter looks at the relationship between Qabalah and the Tarot. An explanation of this complex system is given through exploration of the structure of the tree of life.

Initiation and Individuation: looks at the process of individuation where initiation is the beginning of this process. This chapter has subheadings of - know thyself, initiation - a new beginning, the psycho synthesis model, the tarot and individuation, and more.
Mandalas and Divination: looks at mandalas - mirrors to the soul and the tarot mandala.

Part II explores The Serpent of Wisdom - a meditation in twenty-two parts that can be used as a whole or in separate parts. It can also be adapted for person use or for group use.

At the back of this title you will find a glossary, notes, bibliography and index (I used the index for a couple of entries and found several errors in page numbers). Naturally, this can be frustrating when you are looking for particular information in a hurry.

All in all, this book is not for those of you wanting a quick-fix, interpretive handbook where you look up one card to find out what it means. Initiation into the Tarot is for those of you who want to integrate the meaning of the complex system of getting in touch with the universal energy flowing around all of us, and bringing meaning to life experiences to not only yourself, but for others as well. This book is more than learning about the cards in a mundane manner, it is about internalizing the Tarot and its meaning.

How to Think About Weird Things: Critical Thinking for a New Age, Second Edition
Theodore Schick Jr. & Lewis Vaughn
Mayfield Publishing
1280 Villa Street, Mountain View, CA 94041
ISBN: 0767400136, $36.88, new from Amazon $18.95, 315 pp.

William Harwood

Quite early in this book I recognized that it is extremely elementary. That would be a flaw in a doctoral dissertation. But in a book designed for unlearned teachables, it is a decidedly positive quality. While its logic is not so self-evident that it would be comprehensible to Alfred E. Neumann or George W. Bush, it conveys in easily understood language that the route to reality is to follow scientifically valid procedures. The assumed sophistication of the target audience increases in later chapters, but not to the point where it becomes incomprehensible to undergraduates in disciplines other than education and theology.

To ascertain whether the high school curriculum is propagating belief in pseudoscience, two researchers surveyed a national sample of 190 high-school biology teachers. They found that 43 percent believed that Noah's ark was a fact of history, 20 percent believed in communication with the dead, 19 percent believed that humans and dinosaurs lived at the same time, 20 percent believed in black magic, 16 percent believed in Atlantis, 22 percent believed in ghosts, 26 percent believed that some races are more intelligent (as opposed to more educated) than others, and 30 percent wanted to teach creationism as an alternative to evolution. The authors concluded that, "The education bureaucracy has become so intractable that even when you know something is wrong, the chances of fixing it are not great" (p. 7). While there is a degree of satisfaction in having my personal observations about North America's teacher-training system confirmed in spades, the down side is nothing less than terrifying. With teachers who try to teach reality being purged before they can raise the question, "How come nobody else is doing that?" and real science being systematically suppressed by the talking chimpanzee in the White House in recognition that his mythology and reality cannot both be true, can devolution to the Dark Ages still be avoided?

The authors state, and I agree, that ESP is neither logically nor physically impossible (provided there is a "fifth force" to explain it, as there almost certainly is not). But I dispute their contention that foreknowledge of the future is not logically impossible. Since it could only exist if information can travel backward in time, I maintain that it is logically impossible. Schick and Vaughn declare that it violates only the laws of physics, not the laws of logic. Is this a purely semantic disagreement? Perhaps.

The chapter debunking the theory that there is no such thing as objective truth can be compared to using a jackhammer to swat an ant. As for solipsism, surely pointing out that only nine-year-olds and Shirley MacLaine take it seriously would have been sufficient?

That memory, even at the best of times, is a reconstruction based partly on reality and partly on selectivity, external influence and wishful thinking, is not widely known or conceded. S & V's treatment of the subject should be mandatory reading for all who insist that what they recall is necessarily what really happened.

While the only thing in How to Think About Weird Things that I would label objectionable is its use of the offensively Christian terminology, AD/BC, rather than the scientifically neutral CE/BCE, there are many irritants. Capitalizing the word God when it is used generically, and capitalizing Him when it refers to the biblical god, are practices that have no place in a scholarly treatise. Stating in one sentence that David Koresh "believed that he was Jesus Christ," and later in the same paragraph identifying him as "believing that he was God," carries a clear implication that the Christian equation of Jesus (a person from history) with God (a purely mythical entity) is objectively true. Even citing Jesus as "Jesus Christ" rubberstamps the pretence that Jesus' belief that he was a prophesied liberator was something other than self-delusion. The reference to "Saint Thomas Aquinas," when "Thomas Aquinas" would have been fully sufficient, reinforces superstition. Referring to Gautama as "Buddha" endorses the pretence that a masochistic psychopath was "Enlightened." And there are secular errors that are equally misleading.

Using the terms "lie detector" and "polygraph" interchangeably endorses the pretence that they are the same thing. They are not. Polygraphs exist. Lie detectors do not exist and perhaps never will. The reason law courts refuse to admit polygraph evidence is that polygraphs are only slightly more accurate than tossing a coin, heads for truth and tails for lie.

The statements that, "Infatuation, for example, may be mistaken for love" (p. 108); "We may believe, for example, that we are in love when we really aren't" (ibid); and a reference to, "subtle behaviors that indicate true love" (p. 113); ignore the reality that "in love" is nothing more than infatuation canonized into an imaginary state of being that is no more real than a "state of grace."
Among the authors' imperfections in Correct English are the use of "one another" instead of "each other" when only two items are compared; principal clauses joined by a comma instead of a semi-colon or a conjunction; and "everybody has the right to believe what they want," using the plural pronoun "they" in connection with the singular antecedent, "everybody" (p. 102). Such imperfections are to be expected from authors who went to school later than 1945, the year teaching officially became illegal in North America and schools were transformed into babysitting institutions in which a passing grade was the minimum reward for not setting fire to the school. Nonetheless, this is a useful book, containing much information with which even skeptics are likely to be unfamiliar, at least in the details. It can be recommended for everyone except unteachables.

The New Health Insurance Solution: How To Get Cheaper, Better Coverage Without a Traditional Employer Plan
Paul Zane Pilzer
John Wiley & Sons
111 River Street, Hoboken, NJ 07030 800-762-2974
ISBN: 0471747157, $24.95, 316 pages

Peter Hupalo

The New Health Insurance Solution: How To Get Cheaper, Better Coverage Without a Traditional Employer Plan is written for individuals and business owners who want to learn more about the new Health Savings Accounts (HSAs).

New legislation allows individuals to combine a high-deductible health insurance policy with a special tax-advantaged account called a health savings account. Similar to an IRA or 401(k), amounts contributed to an HSA aren't subject to income tax. The money can accumulate tax-deferred over any number of years and isn't forfeited if it isn't used.

If the money is used for qualified medical expenses, withdrawals aren't taxed. This allows you to pay for medical expenses with pretax (and untaxed) dollars. If a withdrawal isn't used for medical expenses, the withdrawal is treated as a withdrawal from a 401(k). In particular, people over age 65 can withdraw the money at any time for any purpose, but would pay income tax on withdrawals not used for qualified medical expenses.

Because of the double tax benefit, Pilzer argues, you should fully fund an HSA before contributing to an IRA or a 401(k). The catch is that you must have a high-deductible health insurance policy to open an HSA.

Pilzer says company health plans often aren't price competitive, because companies sometimes don't care about the cost. I don't fully agree with this. Universities, governments, and larger companies are probably going to be able to negotiate much better plans than individuals. I think this explains some of the high costs of these plans.

So, for those with individual plans with solid coverage who can afford them, I'd look before I'd leap into a new HSA-qualified insurance plan. If you can increase your deductible without any other issues, doing so might work out great. If you already have a high-deductible health insurance plan, it seems adding a health savings account is a no-brainer.

For those lacking health insurance or those who really need to minimize their annual premiums, Pilzer's book is particularly valuable. It seems the ideal person for an HSA is somebody with modest or high earnings who is relatively young and healthy. That allows the person to save a portion of the deductible each year.

You'll need to hunt around on your own to find a desirable institution to hold your HSA, especially if you want one to hold stocks. Pilzer notes there are hundreds of firms offering health savings accounts and soon there should be thousands. Yet, the main discount brokerage firms seem to be no-shows so far. And Pilzer doesn't recommend any institutions in particular.

For those who can afford to save the amounts paid for healthcare each year and pay out-of-pocket for healthcare, Pilzer offers an intelligent strategy: Pay for your care without using dollars in the HSA. Pilzer points out you get the tax benefit of the HSA by contributing to it, the reimbursement can always be made later--even years later--and this allows you to maximize future savings for healthcare. The result could be that you have several hundred thousand dollars saved for your future healthcare when you are older and most need it.

Pilzer says his own "superdeluxe" policy only costs him $400 a month for a family plan covering him (age 51--the highest age in the plan is a major factor in its cost), his wife, and his four children. His deductible is about $5,000. That sounds like an incredible deal. But, without knowing what he considers "SuperDeluxe," it's difficult to compare it to other plans.

In addition to discussing HSA's, Pilzer covers several important topics, including:

* How To Get Affordable Medical Care When You Are Over Age 55

* Health Reimbursement Accounts and Defined Contribution Health Benefits (for business owners)

* How To Save Money On Prescription Drugs

* Options For Those Who Are "Uninsurable" Due To Preexisting Conditions

* Financing Long-Term or Nursing Home Care

The New Health Insurance Solution: How To Get Cheaper, Better Coverage Without a Traditional Employer Plan provides a wealth of information about healthcare in America. We learn:

* Healthcare costs in America are rising at 15% a year.

* Americans spend 17% of the GDP for healthcare.

* Every GM car's cost includes $1,550 for employee health coverage.

* 24% of prescriptions written each year aren't filled because of the cost.

* Uninsured people are often pay twice as much for hospital care as the insured.

Pilzer writes: "While there is nothing wrong with large customers bargaining for better prices, today there is no longer any true 'retail' price in medical care. Providers have artificially inflated their retail prices two to five times just to meet ridiculous contracts forcing them to give 50 to 80 percent discounts to large purchasers. The terrible side effect is that the working poor and other people without health insurance are charged two to five times the price paid by most people for healthcare--and often are driven to bankruptcy when they cannot pay these exorbitant prices."

Pilzer offers some good suggestions for improving the healthcare situation, such as forcing all healthcare providers to disclose their prices. However, unlike Pilzer, I don't believe a "free market" will solve the healthcare problem America faces today. Most other countries have regulated medical costs and have taken other steps to protect their citizens from extortion by medical and drug companies. That's why prices are so much lower in other countries. So, while HSAs are a great development, they're hardly a "solution" to the cost of healthcare in America.

How to Promote, Advertise & Market Your Published Book
Mary Cox-Bilz and Arline Chase
Cambridge Books
2934 Old Route 50, Cambridge, MD 21613
ISBN: 0970615213, $9.95, 71 pp.

Jacque Stonehocker

This little book really packs a punch! Inside you'll find page after page of well defined, easy-to-accomplish tasks that are sure to propel the marketing of your book forward. Written by an accomplished marketing guru and a talented writing instructor and publisher, they quickly get to the nitty-gritty of getting your book sold. This step-by-step guide gives you numerous techniques that you can easily incorporate into your marketing plan to give it the boost that you desire. This may well be the best money you'll ever spend on a marketing book. Its pocket size is just right to carry in your briefcase or have on your desk. Keep it handy; you'll refer to it often.

The Rose Sisters Trilogy
Victoria Rose
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Rd - 515, Denver, CO, USA
ISBN: 1598001663, $15.95, 399 pp.

Kaye Trout

As the author kindly sent me a copy, I decided to review the book for her. I found the story to be uniquely different from the standard run-of-the-mill, formula-type novels, as it does not fit into one particular genre. It is really multi-genre, and if I had to classify it, I'd select science fiction/new wave: science fiction because it's about alien shape-shifting women and new wave because it deals with the softer sciences-psychology, ecology, sociology, overpopulation, religion. However, there are strong facets of romance, mystery and erotica.

I can't say this is a fast-paced read because there are technical, historical, and philosophical elements which, if you want to learn something from the book, you need to slow down to absorb, such as the physics of light, sexual anatomy, historical facts about the Comanche Indians. Her style of writing is smooth. I feel her characters come to life, and there are elements of humor. Her theme throughout is strong and clear.

In telling Mac about her culture, Christina said, "Wars . . . why would we have wars? We are all one community working to care for our planet and our future generations. I'm sorry, but because your people do not understand that they are one community, they are not caring for your living planet very well. Actually, they are slowly killing it out of ignorance, greed, and selfish desires for power and control. Why would intelligent people want to drop bombs and make holes in the living organism that feeds them? Why would they want to pollute the air they breathe and the water they drink? My sisters and I have concluded that the level of human intelligence among the leaders of your countries is not very high. A simple ant colony has more intelligence."

This novel would appeal to adult readers who are looking for something different-an educational, fun, thought-provoking story. The climax is not as dramatic as some might like and there's a significant issue which was not resolved, which leads you to believe that there will be a sequel.

In The Rose Sisters Trilogy, the author has combined the three short novels: Christina, Toni, and Josy. Her latest non-fiction book titled, Ladies, Ten Clues to Finding You: Options for Women in Unhealthy Relationships will be published in April 2006, and the sequel to this trilogy, Trust Me, the Devil Said, published by June 2006.

I Can't Believe I Just Did That
David Allyn, Ph.D.
Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin
New York, NY
ISBN: 1585423610, $14.95, 256 pp.

Leslie Halpern, Reviewer

This book offers advice for people who suffer from unnecessary embarrassment and shame in personal and professional situations. These are the kind of people who lie in bed at night and say to themselves: "I Can't Believe I Just Did That." Allyn's writing style is very comfortable and easy to understand, and is punctuated with personal anecdotes, case studies, and examples from the media.

The author suggests ways in which we can reduce our self-defeating attempts at image control. These relationship-ending behaviors include withdrawal, deception, and intimidation, which we use as ways of hiding our embarrassment at our own inadequacies.

The book is divided into two main sections: Spirals of Shame and Spirals of Success. A small section at the end offers tips about how to live courageously. "I Can't Believe I Just Did That" should be a great help to people who are unaware of how their own behavior is damaging their relationships. The broad (rather than deep) approach to the material, however, may not be as valuable to those who already have some degree of self-awareness, but want an in-depth analysis of how to curb their feelings of embarrassment.

The Wave
Walter Mosley
1271 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
ISBN: 0446533637, $22.95, 209 pp.

Mona Lisa Safai

In the literary world, Walter Mosley excels as one of the most diverse writers in contemporary times. His newest novel The Wave arrives as a fantasy into the human potentialities which possess the human spirit. Mosley writes a story about past misgivings, the world's follies, and the possibilities for an enlightened future generated through understanding and rebirth.

In The Wave, Errol Porter, a young African American man, recently separated from his wife, begins to receive crank calls in the middle of the night. After several nights, the caller proclaims he is Errol's deceased father. His voice, identical to his father's, possesses Errol to visit his father's grave. At the cemetery, he wrestles a youthful man to the ground; his face and body appear exactly as a younger version of his father. Their encounter begins a journey into Errol's past and frightening battle to survive among the human race.

Mosley is the author of over twenty novels; genres ranging from nonfiction, fiction, young adult fiction, science fiction, and, of course, his Easy Rawlins Detective series books. While several authors remain in one or two genres, Mosley shifts and sways between several illustrating his unique talent as a writer and observer of human nature, politics, and the world. His main characters are instrumental storytellers of societal wellbeing, whether healthy or ill, for his audience. He effectively manages to incorporate realistic views of world events regardless of genre. In The Wave, Mosley intertwines political controversies and science fiction by engaging the reader's attention to current domestic and international events which continuously threaten civil liberties, freedoms, and basic concepts of humanity. In The Wave, Mosley introduces the idea that human beings' idea of fear, in a sense, is manmade. Nothing stands to reason that they may be conquered or overpowered by any other life-form other than their own imagination.

The author writes in a myriad of genres by his own volition and sense of purpose. He wants to positively affect the writing profession. Throughout the years, he continues to lay a foundation of black heroes for a new movement in writing, "Ghetto Fiction," which introduces readers to black authors. In turn, black authors create new worlds which audiences explore and examine all diversities. In the past, black writers found it more difficult to publish their work unless they were exceptional. Now, Mosley is leading a new phenomenon forward allowing more room for black authors to pursue, publish, and share their talent in many writing arenas of choice.

Like A Rolling Stone: Bob Dylan at the Crossroads
Greil Marcus
Public Affairs
250 West 57th Street, Suite 1321, New York, NY 10107
ISBN: 1586482548, $25.00, 283 pp.

T. B. Robbins

Within "Like A Rolling Stone: Bob Dylan at the Crossroads" lies the biography of a single song. Of course, not just any song, but the "how does it feeeeeel?" song that refuses to disappear since its release as a two-sided 45 lp in 1965. Has any other or, maybe a better question would be, could any other song receive the in-depth, data mined, ultra-nuanced treatment that Greil Marcus gives to Bob Dylan's "Like A Rolling Stone"?

That the song remains legendary no one probably doubts. That it stands as one of the greatest rock songs ever recorded may also not meet with much disagreement. But an entire book dedicated to a single song? The idea seems both strange and enticing.

So what happens in this book? And who should read it? First off, this book will probably not appeal to readers who don't see a connection between popular music, popular culture, our lives as consumers/listeners, and how a song can take on a life of its own (which explains the "biography" moniker). Not only that, some readers may look askew at some of Marcus' claims. For example, did "Like A Rolling Stone" contain the seeds for a "strange revolution"? And does the song have, for lack of a better term, an ineffable metaphysical category all of its own (as some of the rhapsodic descriptions in this book suggest)? Those who like to play music, dance to it, and not think much about it will probably close this book quickly. In other words, this is a heady book for those who enjoy digging into the mystique of popular music and theorizing about what makes it tick. Marcus descends to levels of granularity that don't seem possible when discussing popular music. Consequently, some of the text makes for thick reading, and, without a share of Marcus' encyclopedic knowledge, some of his obscure references approach the incomprehensible.

Still, this rather short book bloats with interesting historical facts about Bob Dylan, the origins of the famous song, multifarious perspectives on its meaning, interpretations of its lyrics, the recording sessions, and samplings of its concert history. Some of these contain new information (for example, an examination of songs in which the words "Rolling Stone" have appeared, the history of the actual Highway 61, and the pop culture scene of the early 1960s - which is helpful for those of us who weren't there). Other stories will seem very familiar to longtime Dylan fans (for example, the 1965 Newport Folk Festival where the crowd booed Dylan, how Al Kooper ended up playing the organ on the song, and the infamous "Judas" remark). The book's epilogue contains a near play by play of the song's 1965 recording session. At one point it almost got away from the group and ended up in the reject pile. But was the historic take an "accident" as Marcus claims?

Marcus unfortunately leaves out some curiosities. For example, Dylan included a strange and sloppy version of "Like A Rolling Stone" on the monolithic and bizarre "Self-Portrait". In that version Dylan even forgets the lyrics and instead mumbles gibberish. What was that all about? And what about Dylan's song "Highway 51 Blues" from his first album? What highway was that and can any connection be drawn from that song to the 1965 album? Also, Marcus quotes the line "Highway 61, go right past my baby's door" on page 167. But this line appears in the song "Highway 51 Blues" but as "Highway 51, go right past my baby's door." Did he mix the two up or is there some assumed and implied historical knowledge in that passage?

In the end, it's hard to describe exactly what this book offers. For one, it contains loads of philosophical speculation about the song. And it transfers an overwhelming wealth of knowledge on this single subject to the dedicated reader. So much so, that upon finishing the book, all the vast disparate information mingles dizzingly in the brain (and just try not singing "how does it feeeel" continuously). And it begs one major question: is this song as significant as Marcus claims? The answer to and degree of that question ultimately depends on the person asking it. Admittedly, this book is not for everyone. It's a specialist's book. Those who find themselves wondering how a song transforms from studio to legend or how an artist struggles with a song as it takes on a life of its own will likely love every page. But those who want to dance or groove should close the book and turn on their stereos. Nonetheless, the book may shine a light on the prickly phenomema of popular music and may help reveal its mystical and capricious underneath. After all, there's more to a great song than just notes.

The 100-Mile Walk
Sander A. Flaun & Jonathon A. Flaun
ISBN: 081440863X, $24.95, 252 pages

Roger E. Herman, Reviewer

Walk 50 miles in my moccasins

Leadership is not a one-way experience, with a superior directing a subordinate. To be an effective leader, it is essential to understand---and learn from those you seek to lead. It's at least a two-way experience. When good leaders practice their skills, they discover new perspectives from others around them and, with enlightening growth, gain from the interaction. Native Americans are reputed to have captured this concept by counseling that "you cannot judge another until you have walked a mile in his moccasins."

This insight-filled book tells the story of a father and son exploring leadership---from much different perspectives. Father Sander is 65 and, based on the comparison profile at the start of the book, practically a stereotypical icon of a hard-driving Type A CEO. Son Jonathon is 36 and a fine representative of a much different generation and a student of Zen. The two agree to walk 50 miles on the paths of each other's lives, exploring leadership. This design holds great promise, and the authors met the opportunity part-way. Most of the writing comes from the father - it is obviously his book, with commentary by his son. While there is certainly value in Jonathon's contribution, his counterpoints could have been stronger, adding more balance to the presentation.

The authors explore nine leadership concepts people, purpose, passion, performance, persistence, perspective, paranoia, principles, and practice. Walking on the streets of New York, golf courses, or mountain trails, father and son talk about their different views of leadership and life. Mixed in are lessons and insights from corporate leaders who have much to share - attitudes and understandings that stimulate the reader's thinking from both father and son's perspectives.

How did these leaders come into the picture? Sander Flaun is chair of the Leadership Forum at Fordham University. He brings these leaders to serve as lessons and examples for MBA students. Through his book, Flaun extends their value to his readers.

All together, 100-Mile Walk is a thought-provoking journey for the reader. As I read this book, I was struck by another adage: "When the student is ready, the teacher appears." For the millions of Baby Boomers seeking to find themselves and determine what's really important as they move toward their fifties, sixties, and lifestyle choices. You'll find this book to more than just another leadership tome.

The End of Time
David Horowitz
Encounter Books
665 Third Street, #350 San Francisco, California 94107-1951
ISBN: 1594030804, $15.00

James Talboy

This 155 page book was written at a time when the USA was absorbed by images of the Pentagon and WTC September 11, 2001 aftermath. Unfortunately for the author, it was also a time when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. The book then is about death. But then the author, a self proclaimed agnostic, contrasts his own understanding with what might be believed about "a culture of death" that which Mohammed Atta represented.

Do the "pictures stop" is naturally a common and unanswerable question no matter how relevant to the living. For an agnostic, of course these are more troubling questions. As such, to answer such poignant questions his book must rely on psychological and historical figures as examples. Looking outside oneself for answers seems typical then at times, for an agnostic, and so does "psyching out" death generally itself seem typical of an intellectual. Mohammed Atta represented then something of a problem for not only religious persons he despised, but especially for agnostics who might not fathom how such ideas are taken seriously. Atta, with all his self proclaimed moral rectitude, with all his arrogance as claiming to be Allah's hand, likely scares agnostics more than the religious among us. Atta, of course was a damnable person in real life, as in the ever after, for those particular reasons alone.

I feel this book is incomplete without much more of what else motivated Horowitz. Of course we learn something of his family, their activism, and how it formulated the author's reaction overall to the why and wherefore of Atta's extremism. What we don't know however is that we are reading a book which might have been written by another "destroyer" who is as controversial as was the first: Emmanual Kant. Moses Mendelssohn, Kant's contemporary, was responsible for giving him that name and it seems appropriate that Horowitz shares it today in much the same circumstance.

Prior to the alleged revolutionary 1789 French "slave revolt," Kant too was battling much the same smug academic forces, including the willful blindness of his former compatriots who refused to believe what was happening around them. They shunned him. In the end though Kant was able, like the present day "destroyer" dares to do, to enable an academic university revolution. So, what we are not treated to, in this passionate little book, are somewhat relevant ties to what lies unfinished in the author's life as he was at risk of dying.

Horowitz is "guilty," at least pardoned as a political apostate, as seeing changes, realizing uncomfortable conflicts, having aided and abetted now changes directions. But, then he was not alone, only one of the more visible cyberspace pioneers who, like many of us are on the far side of life now. Kant as well, was not mislead by idealism's promise in late eighteenth century Germany. It seems that this current state of affairs, of which the latest "destroyer" once supported, is again the result of that same old thought process Kant denounced: general idealism.

After being mislead for sometime, like so many others, and having worked toward vague idealistic ends in spite of the actual record, Horowitz muses over what seems to be his reward for surviving cancer. He began working harder, fleeing the hospital early, boggling squeamish interviewers, and driven much more by a new conscious of his limitations. It is an old story. The next chapter of the author's life will be of interest to anybody who keeps track of what happens to broad classes of creative individuals when death is sensed or on the doorstop. As such, we might now expect the typical writer to become even more prolific, however I think it would be more interesting for general readers, if this book was read along with his other previous writing.

Kant seemed to believe that after "Critique of pure reason," that it was his best effort. In those days life was more difficult of course, and three hundred years later today we have recycled old missile silos for medical experiments and "curing" prostate cancer which makes redemption that more possible. The ethical ramifications of that early work under laid much of the "so called" Enlightenment rationalism, and much too of what underlies the process behind reusing missile silos in such a manner, and as many others as well Kant never lived to see his ideas impact on science. But Kant too wondered loudly, endlessly, and bitterly about his countrymen's blindness regarding a then current political threat to that country.

As such too, this bit of irony is likely not lost in the present day "destroyer" who obviously has been reading history, since at least the days before academia was cheapened or corrupted again by events in late twentieth century USA. However, in this book are pieces of a fall-summer relationship that aside from Atta's maniacal rectitude form a common theme, surrounded by memories of Horowitz's parent's reactions or inaction to communism, and some Kantian musings about certain kinds of sociological "blindness."

Appearances are not the end all. Apostates understand this better than most, as what names Kant was called, and how he too responded in kind actually. So if the "pictures end," then what might be left is an unsightly bad residue on our side, but also might be quite a relief elsewhere as false appearances then no longer matter. On the other hand then, having glimpsed this "oil slick" of which Horowitz was once responsible, now too will he seek redemption and denounce the apparatus? There are mortal penalties for ignoring "the hand of God" too, and as well what politics might wrought if we willfully ignore the threats this nation faces.

It might seem ironic, though not at all funny, the author already had embarked on criticizing the former path, lost so-called friends, had attracted a cyberspace collection of readers over ten years at least, and then was facing an early death while much unfinished work was left as well as a loyal loving wife. His book likely mirrors common thoughts and concerns of many families left behind, and those of us destined -whether we like it or not, to live well beyond appearances end and must be prepared. In a way, it is what someone would show a child about an ancestor who no doubt will be scrutinized for a long time. It is a spiritual book, by a literary political agnostic of great learning and controversy, who barely mentions this fact, and has some very darkly titled chapters that are not quite as graphic as hinted, but probably reflect the peculiar nature of his generation's "gallows" humor.

So for everyone, this single book does show or contrast the outer and inner world, of a self proclaimed agnostic, and explores questions almost everybody, even Pascal, had or will ask themselves about death. Not only does it try to "psych" out death for the author, but similarly explores what a criminal fundamentalist might know or believe about death. It needs time, and will become more detailed, as now though "The End of Time" is akin a small, though specific "post card" given how prolific Horowitz actually is and likely remain. Among the other books this author has written, it might be part of a much wider coherent collection of writings which are found in cyberspace or hardcopy and which, no doubt, like the other "destroyer" will be hard to ignore after the ideas are no longer tied with an originators names.

Singing Innocence and Experience
Sonya Taaffe
Prime Books/Wildside Press LLC
9710 Traville Gateway Drive, #234 Rockville, MD 20850
ISBN: 0809544792, $17.95 pbk.
ISBN: 0809550709, $29.95 hc, 276 pages

Torger Vedeler

Sonya Taaffe has emerged on the literary scene in recent years both as a poet (she won the Science Fiction Poetry Association's Rhysling Award in 2003, placing her in the elite company of such poets as Ursula K. LeGuin and Joe Haldeman) and as an author of short fiction, her work appearing regularly in magazines such as Not One of Us and Zahir. Noted for its rich use of words, her early work has now appeared in two volumes; the first, Postcards from the Province of Hyphens, representing her poetry and a few of her shortest stories, and the second, Singing Innocence and Experience, giving us primarily her longer fiction. It is the latter I will consider here.

Reviewing Taaffe's work must always begin with a consideration of her use of language. As Tim Pratt's introduction reminds us, words are central to her; she is a scholar and a linguist whose knowledge of Greek, Latin and Akkadian gives her a rich store of mythology to draw upon and interpret (though her work is by no means limited to the myths of these three cultures), as well as an understanding not only of English but of human language itself. In both her poetry and her prose words do more than communicate, do more than simply give us the bare essentials of plot or character the way the language of most modern fiction does. Instead, the words themselves, their cadence, their rhythm, their rich flow of syllables, are all an essential part of the story. One can revel in the beauty of a sentence or a paragraph, should one chose to do so. Consider the following:

"The dream was dissolving like sand, crumbling down in cold shadow over wind-haunted stone and faces that were neither animal nor human but immortal. Sculpture and bright paints on tomb-wall plaster were only the barest sketches of ambiguity, of certainty and terror; but he saw the scales swinging, the feather rising and the other pan dipping with the weight taken from the deepest places in him, the record of his heart." (from Featherweight)

This can make Taaffe's storytelling challenging to a reader raised on and accustomed to the sparse, hurried styles that dominate fiction today, particularly in genres such as Science Fiction and Fantasy, where plot and clever worldbuilding have in recent years become hallmarks. It can take time to find your way into a Sonya Taaffe story, but for those who venture in, that time is well spent, because there is always much more to her fiction than appears at first glance. While her prose is beautiful, Taaffe's real strength lies in her uncanny ability to reveal the human nature behind mankind's own mythology, the reasons old myths have power. Hers is a world of ideas as well as art.

A few examples among the many in this collection serve to illustrate this point. "Shade and Shadow", Taaffe's first published story, brings us the myth of Orpheus and Eurydike, he whose music and voice were so beautiful they nearly cheated death itself, and whose disembodied head still sings in a mournful sort of immortality. Yet "Shade and Shadow" is more than simply a retelling of this old story, for Taaffe places this myth in the world of today, into the life of one Cairo Pritchard, whose loneliness is marked by using her own blood to speak to the dead rather than communicate in the world of the living. Taaffe contrasts the longing for life found in all of us with the recognition that life cannot be spent fruitfully dwelling on death, and does so in a way true to both the ancient Greek myth and to our existence today.

In "Clay Lies Still", we meet a golem, a creature from Jewish mythology, formed from clay with the Hebrew letters "aleph-dalet-mem" ("Adam" or man), and capable of being destroyed by the simple act of wiping away the first letter to give us "dalet-mem" (blood) (another golem tradition uses "aleph-mem-tav" (truth), and "mem-tav" (death)). But it is not so simple here, for if a golem lives, can it be a moral act to destroy it? Here Taaffe's characters must struggle with this question, one asked by all of us today: what is life? Not being human, the golem has no place in our world, no meaning it can find by living among us. In "Clay Lies Still" it was created simply to see if it could be done, the ambitious experiment of an enthusiastic student of Kabbalah, Jewish mysticism. As we struggle with our own modern questions over abortion and cloning and stem-cells, Taaffe makes us look at these questions in a unique way. As with most great writers, she does not propose a solution, but merely poses the unanswerable conundrum that cannot help but haunt us.

Another question of choice emerges in "Till Human Voices Wake Us", the story of a boy whose sister has fallen in love with a merman. Her love is real, both for her brother and her lover in the sea, but it is clear as we read that a choice must be made, that the sister is growing less human, is caught between worlds, in that transitional space between the past and future. She cannot be both human and mermaid, and her brother knows this. This again is a universal shown through myth; we all change with time, old friends and old ways of being passing behind us as life progresses, and there is pain to this, both for those moving forward and those left behind.

The above are merely examples. Each story in this collection provides a further example of Taaffe's deft hand. She can build worlds, as we see in the haunting story of Aruis, the city eternally sinking in "Time May Be", but her real strength is her ability to find and present meaning, to take fiction and make the fantastic found in myth relevant to life today. This is, of course, what gives myth its strength, what makes the old stories immortal. They can be retold because the germ of truth they contain, and the eternal questions they pose, will always be with us. Mythology becomes real in the hands of Sonya Taaffe because she understands this.

Seniors in Love: A Second Chance for Single, Divorced and Widowed Seniors
Robert Wolley
Hatala Geroproducts
23212 Merl Road, Greentop, MO 63546
ISBN: 1933167424, $19.95, 240 pages

Kathy Yasenka

The sub-title, "A Second Chance for Single, Divorced and Widowed Seniors," describes this beautifully written book. Wolley specifically addresses those in their sixties and beyond who "are…separated from your former partner, or perhaps never having partnered." "…you're asking if, at your age, you can be in love again, if you want to be in love again, and if so, whether you should reach out toward someone, and if you do, how does an elder behave?" The U.S. Census Bureau begins to pinpoint seniors at age 65, so Wolley has hedged a bit with age. Even so, in 2005 there are about 40 million seniors, 65 years or older, and by 2020 when most of the baby-boomer generation reaches age 65, there will be at least 55 million seniors. So what?

While the federal and state governments just finished up a scheduled (December 2005) White House Conference on Aging where the concerns will be healthcare, workforce reductions, declining tax revenues, and tax breaks for the elderly, seniors are loving, marrying and "carrying on" in record numbers, and the majority of partnered seniors are living together without benefit of marriage. Seniors are participating in their own quiet cultural revolution. In the meantime, Wolley says, "…you are in the September of your life. And you are single. Things happen. Affection happens. Love happens." "And therein lies one of the senior generation's mysteries (at least for those not yet seniors): how, and maybe why, do seniors fall in love and practice intimacy?" And deal with children, finances, issues of morality? Wolley helps you ask the questions - and good counselor that he is, he helps you discover YOUR answers to the perplexing and nagging questions most seniors have. The Seniors in Love chapters are based on the author's poem, "The Steps of Love": Love, Discovering, Reaching Out and so on through Lovemaking and Singing.

In a way it's an arbitrary division, yet it's artfully done, dealing with numerous issues, and since Wolley draws on years of experience as a counselor, the quotations and cases mentioned add depth and breadth to his insights. The chapter Reality Check is pertinent and to the point. Lovemaking (he insists it be one word) will disappoint the voyeur-minded, but like all the other chapters, it's to the point without going into descriptive sexual techniques. Helpful? There are few books for seniors or otherwise as down to earth as this one - and as relevant and worth reading - for any age. It's a must read book.

Atwood's Bookshelf

Silent Lies
M.L. Malcolm
Longstreet Press
Athens, GA
ISBN: 1563527502, $24.95, 326 pages

"Silent Lies" is a historical novel that decidedly deserves the occasionally overused term, "sweeping" and the book's fascinating settings have much to do with this. Placed in the tumultuous first half of the twentieth century and set initially in Hungary - a country not often associated with world war novels - the story is a compelling combination of historical research and crackling description. The book first explores the vast difference between Hungary's feudal countryside and its sophisticated capital, then touches on the brief post-WWI communist takeover of the country before plunging into another fascinating but fictionally underused setting: Shanghai. It is there that we experience the wild abandon of the 20's followed by the rumblings of the second world war.

It's well for the book that the settings are so exciting and artfully described because the book is definitely driven by it's plot, not its main character; it would have been difficult to create a character-driven novel with a protagonist like Leo Hoffman. He is a Hungarian national whose flair for languages make him difficult for other characters to categorize and a chameleon-like personality to match: "so subtle were his methods of imitation - a stance, a gesture, a slight inflection of speech - that no one suspected his whole demeanor was one of camouflage." Because he is so practiced in the art of camouflage, however, I initially couldn't find myself concerned about his fate and especially wondered why Malcolm included an early steamy, loveless sex scene between Leo, someone I hardly cared about and Countess Julia, someone I hardly knew, a minor character who seemed to be created just for that one scene.

When Leo meets his true love, however, the stars change, not only for him but also for the reader. Martha Levy, a well-delineated character, falls for Leo, he falls for her and the reader falls for them both. Malcolm expertly sets their new love in the growing turbulence of pre-war Shanghai and from that point on, the book officially becomes a "page-turner" in the very best tradition of historical fiction. Even if Malcolm wasn't a first-time novelist, Silent Lies would be a phenomenal achievement; the sequel will be much anticipated.

TV a-Go-Go: Rock on TV from American Bandstand to American Idol
Jake Austen
Chicago Review Press
Chicago IL
ISBN: 1556525729, $18.95, 368 pages

According to author Jake Austen, televised rock music is in some ways an impossible combination . . . and one that he absolutely adores. Rock music is essentially "wild, raw, and dangerous" but when Bo Didley first performed it on the Ed Sullivan show in 1955, television and rock music began a long partnership which proved, according to Austen, that "one of the best ways to present [rock's] energy is to impose structure, make it adhere to the laws of entertainment." His delightful book, TV a-Go-Go explores the myriad manifestations of this partnership.

Austen, who produces his own children's television dance show called "Chic-a-Go-Go," has a feel for what worked and what didn't and his intelligent opines are a delight to read. His opinion of the Monkees was not only wonderfully affirming for me - a die-hard Monkees fan, married for 18 years to a 60's garage band rock purist who has always despised the "pre-fab four" - but it also clearly illustrates his general opinion of televised rock: "as far as I'm concerned, any documented band . . . is far more real than a gritty brilliant band that rehearses in a garage but never records or plays a show . . . in my opinion every band that has ever appeared on a record or a TV show or a movie is real."

Besides covering famed televised artists, such as the Monkees, the Beatles, Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson, Austen's book spills a large amount of ink on lesser known shows such as kiddie rock cartoons. Having spent my 1960's childhood in a home where a juke box - kept well stocked by older rock 'n' rolling siblings - vied for maximum electrical wattage with a constantly running television, I often watched, not only the prime-timed Monkees, but also an animated, Saturday morning show called "The Beatles." I seem to recall that the theme song was "Hard Day's Night" and because Ringo kept insisting that "droppin' a G never hurt anybody," of course a giant G kept falling on his head.

Until reading TV A-Go-Go, however, I didn't realize that the animated mop-tops show was a sign of a seismic cultural shift. "The Beatles," which was the first of many successive cartoons to market rock to kiddies, was, according to Austen, a sign that "the old guard," - the adults who thought "that the Rat Pack in tuxedos was running the show" - were no longer a serious cultural influence." Rock 'n' Roll was here to stay.

Austen's self-described "absurdly broad book" has almost negated his introductory claim that "a comprehensive overview of all rock on TV is impossible." TV A-Go-Go has come profoundly and entertainingly close to attaining that impossibility and is a delightfully informative read for anyone with the slightest interest in televised rock.

Robin: The Loveable Morgan Horse
Ellen F. Feld
Willow Bend Publishing
P.O. Box 304, Goshen, MA 01032
ISBN: 0970900252, $9.95, 204 pages

"Robin: The Loveable Morgan Horse," fourth in a series by horsewoman Ellen Feld, introduces two new characters: Karen Greene and her "loveable" horse, Robin. Karen, a relative newcomer to horses, experiences a physically and emotionally damaging accident (with another horse) in the first chapter which drags her riding confidence down to zero. Heather, a teenaged character from the previous books and an experienced horsewoman, helps Karen develop the assurance necessary to begin riding again.

As the title suggests, though, the real hero of the book is Robin, whose bond with her owner goes far towards healing Karen's emotional scars. Feld obviously knows horses: not only do her descriptions of the animals ring solidly true, but she captures the emotional attachment between horse and human beautifully.

The book could almost be called a treatise on horse care; in fact that's basically what it is. There is a storyline, but it seems, at times, to exist only for the purpose of horsemanship education. Is this a problem? It can be; the fictional quality of a story can suffer when its main function is to promote a non-fictional point. For example, Feld spends four entire pages describing the treatment of something called "horse rot." While this is obviously something horse owners should know about, the storyline comes to a complete halt while this issue is discussed by two of the book's characters. The didactic elements of "Robin" are all worthwhile, but they also occasionally overpower the fictional aspects of the story.

Robin is, however, truly a loveable and well-delineated horse, and the adventures she shares with her owner Karen make for a sweet story and one that will appeal particularly to animal lovers.

Kathryn Atwood

Bethany's Bookshelf

Praying With Our Feet
Lisa D. Weaver, author; Ingrid Hess, illustrator
Herald Press
616 Walnut Avenue, Scottdale, PA 15683-1999
0836193067 $12.99 1-800-759-4447

Inspired by the actions taken by Mennonite Church congregations in opposition to the Iraq War of 2003, Praying with our Feet is a Christian picturebook about going on a walk for peace, just as Jesus Christ once walked the path of peace. Told through the eyes of a young girl who walks with her mother and the congregation, Praying with our Feet tells of the great march and the adventure, and the importance of speaking up so the government can hear one's voice. Bright, colorful illustrations, an afterword for adults, and simple music for the song "Praying with our Feet", which can be sung or played, round out this heartfelt picturebook about standing up for one's beliefs.

I Chose You
Lindsey Shumway, author; Amy Hintze, illustrator
Cedar Fort
925 North Main Street, Springville, UT 84663
1555178618 $15.99 1-800-388-3727

I Chose You is an endearing picturebook. Told from the point of view of a parent, the story begins, "One day in heaven a long time ago, Heavenly Father led me by the hand into a big room filled with children. He told me that today was a special day; it was the day I got to pick out my very own child." The story and inviting illustrations show all sorts of boys and girls, each with different likes and dislikes, from math and painting to football, camping, computers and video games. And out of the long line of wonderful possibilities, "I looked at every one of those children. And I chose you." The soft color illustrations reinforce the inviting message of the parent-child bond.

Josie's Gift
Kathleen Long Bostrom, author; Frank Ordaz, illustrator
Broadman & Holman Publishers
127 Ninth Avenue, North, Nashville, TN 37234
0805430202 $16.99 1-800-251-3225

Josie's Gift is a children's picturebook about the true meaning of Christmas. Beautifully illustrated with museum- quality artwork by Frank Ordaz, the story is about a young girl whose father died a year ago, and who hopes to receive a beautiful blue sweater as a Christmas gift. She years for it, thinking that having it will fill the void deep inside. Her mother teaches her that "Christmas is not about what we want. It's about what we have." But it's not until a family with a baby comes by in need of shelter that she remembers what the Christmas nativity display really means. By giving her blue sweater to the baby, and giving thanks to God and Jesus, she feels full once more. "For Christmas, she knew, wasn't about what she wanted. It was about what she had, deep down in her soul that only God could give." A profound and heartwarming story meant to be shared with the whole family during the holiday season.

Tommy Books
8033 Sunset Boulevard, #971, Los Angeles, CA 90046
$12.99 each

Author Mark Brown & illustrator Pete Mekis deftly collaborate to produce a series of ten books providing young readers with accessible story-based introductions to basic Christian concepts of morality and ethical behavior. Each 44-page hardcover volume addresses a particular moral concept and is specifically designed to be thoroughly "kid friendly" for young readers. The ten titles published by Tommy Books and comprising this simply outstanding and enthusiastically recommended series include: Faith (0976269007); Love (0976269015); Too Busy (0976269023); Praise (0976269031); Kings (097626904X0; Fear (0976269058); Forgiveness (0976269066); Whom Am I? (0976269074); Grace and Mercy (0976269082); and Thank You (0976269090). Highly recommended, especially for family and Sunday School library collections for children ages 3 through 10.

How To Help A Grieving Friend
Stephanie Grace Whitson
PO Box 35001, Colorado Springs, CO 80935
1576836770 $11.99 1-800-366-7788

How To Help A Grieving Friend: A Candid Guide for Those Who Care is a straightforward, simple guide to help Christian readers to become a source of comfort and strength to their friends, family, and fellow parishoners recovering from terrible loss. Divided into short poems "How To Help" and longer prose sections "How It Feels", How To Help A Grieving Friend succinctly describes tested strategies to be of assistance. A brief, simple how-to guide for readers of all ages and all walks of life. "Invite me to sit with you / Church is one of the hardest places to be. / Sitting alone in that pew is devastating. / All the expressions of care are overwhelming. / Shelter me. / Let me hide out next to you."

Mary: The Imagination of Her Heart
Penelope Duckworth
Cowley Publications
4 Brattle Street, Cambridge, MA 02138
1561012602 $14.95 1-800-225-1534

Mary: The Imagination of Her Heart is a meditation on different perspectives of Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ. Preacher and award-winning play author Penelope Duckworth discusses Mary as prophet, matriarch, theologian, disciple, intercessor, spiritual guide, and paradigm. Written in thoughtful prose accessible to lay readers and theologians alike, Mary: The Imagination of Her Heart is a profound contemplation digging deep into both scripture and faith in search of a better understanding of Mary and her legacy.

Susan Bethany

Betsy's Bookshelf

Let's Go Shopping
Rikki Benenfeld
Hachai Publishing
762 Park Place, Brooklyn, NY 11216
192962820X $10.95

Let's Go Shopping is the latest in the Toddler Experience series of picturebooks intended especially for young Jewish children. Simple sentences narrate the day of a young brother and sister as they go to the butcher shop, the fish store, the supermarket, and the bakery with their mother, performing many mitzvos along the way! The color illustrations will appeal to young readers, and the storybook verses reinforce Jewish traditions: "We smile and say / 'hello' to greet / The man who / sells us kosher meat. // When we buy food for our table, / I check for a kosher label."

The Way to Slumbertown
L. M. Montgomery, author; Rachel Bedard, illustrator
Lobster Press
1620 Sherbrooke Street, West, Montreal, Quebec, H3H 1C9, Canada
1894222989 $14.95

Soft and soothing illustrations of children enjoying nighttime fantasies, such as sailing on a boat of moonbeams or flying on a white moth's back, The Way to Slumbertown is a picturebook rendition of L. M. Montgomery's classic poem. A fanciful and beautiful storybook perfect for reading just before bedtime, The Way to Slumbertown is sure to delight and amaze with its sublime balance of lyrical verse and captivating art. Highly recommended.

Emily and Miss Meow
Barb Frye
Beaver's Pond Press
7104 Ohms Lane, Suite 216, Edina, MN 55439
1592981224 $16.95 1-952-829-8818

Emily and Miss Meow is a gentle picturebook about a young girl who wants a kitten of her own more than anything in the world. She dreams of the perfect black kitten, and learns to make her bed just right to show her mother she is responsible and ready for a kitten of her own. She dreams of getting the kitten as the perfect gift. Yet when she is out with her grandfather, they find that someone has abandoned dead kittens. Out of pity and sadness, they take the dead kittens home to give them a proper burial when Emily sees that one of the kittens is still alive! It is scrawny, scraggly, and weak, and nothing like the perfect kitten Emily has imagined, yet as she helps to take care of it, she realizes that it is her special kitten: Miss Meow. A meaningful story about the importance of compassion and love.

ABC Art Riddles
Carol Murray, author; Freddie Levin, illustrator
Peel Productions, Inc.
PO Box 546, Columbus, NC 28722
0939217589 $13.95

ABC Art Riddles isn't an ordinary ABC book; each page gives a rhyming riddle, the answer to which is a word with most of its letters left as blank spaces. Kids will enjoy solving the riddles, each of which connects to art. The simple color illustrations also offer clues to the riddle's solution, simulating young minds and vocabularies. For example, the entry for Q is "_ q _ _ _ _: Q in the second letter in my name. / There are five more letters, none are the same. / Four right angles are part of me. / I am a shape you often see. / My sides are equal, always straight. / What's my name? Don't hesitate", and the illustration shows six brightly colored squares. A wonderful exercise in both reading and the imagination. Also highly recommended is ABC Math Riddles (0939217570, $13.95).

Your Song
Mark E. Hoog, author; Robert J. Aukerman, illustrator
Sunflower Publishing
311 Belview Court, Longmont, CO 80501
0977039102 $16.95

Your Song is a story about the parallel journeys of self-discovery undertaken by a boy and a young eagle. The eagle goes to the cheetah and the fox, looking for hints and tips about what his song is - his talent, his abilities, and his purpose in life. Yet none of the other animals' suggestions seems to fit. At last father eagle teaches his son, "Their beliefs about what you can do are right only if you believe they are. If you believe you cannot do something, then you can't. If you believe in your heart anything is possible, that too will be true." As the young eagle discovers his own talents and learns to fly, the young boy gains a valuable lesson. The bright, cartoon-quality illustrations bring this motivational fable to life. A follow up page of discussion seeds wraps up Your Song, a story about engaging limitless horizons.

Beethoven's Wig
Richard Perlmutter, author; Maria Rosetti, illustrator
Rounder Books, c/o The Rounder Records Corp.
One Camp Street, Cambridge, MA 02140
1579401120 $18.95

The first book of the Read Along Symphony series (which is in turn based on the award-winning Sing Along Symphonies music series), Beethoven's Wig is a children's picturebook that combines humor with a love of music. The whimsical story about Beethoven's gigantic and growing white wig is meant to be sung along with the notes of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. Zany illustrations of the catastrophically titanic wig and a bonus CD with "Beethoven's Wig" and two previously unreleased songs, all in both vocal and instrumental versions, round out this picturebook treasury. An excellent introduction to the fun of classical music for young people.

Music for the End of Time
Jen Bryant, author; Beth Peck, illustrator
Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
255 Jefferson Avenue, S.E., Grand Rapids, MI 49503
0802852297 $17.00 1-800-253-7521

Music for the End of Time is a children's picturebook based on the true story of French composer Olivier Messiaen, who was captured by the Germans during World War II and sent to a prison camp in Gorlitz (now part of Poland). Despite the bleak living conditions, he received the gift of a small miracle - the opportunity to write music again. With the aid of three fellow musicians also taken prisoner, the song of a beautiful nightingale, and the permission of a German officer, he was able to compose and play the now-famous "Quartet for the End of Time", in a performance appreciated like no other by his fellow prisoners. The emotionally touching pastel illustrations add the perfect quality to this simple story about keeping hope alive in the darkness.

The Baabaasheep Quartet
Leslie Elizabeth Watts
Fitzhenry & Whiteside
121 Harvard Avenue, Suite 2, Allston, MA 02134
1550418904 $16.95

The Baabaasheep Quartet is a picturebook story about four sheep who move to the city to join all the wonderful activities that country life can't offer. As they try to find a place for themselves, they begin to despair of fitting in among the humans - until one day, they discover a torn leaflet on the street. They can barely make out the words, advertising a "baabaasheep quartet contest"! Hoping to meet other sheep, they enter; to their surprise the contest is actually for humans who work in barbershops and sing. But when they have the courage to join the contest, they learn that no one cares that they are sheep; all that matters is that they can sing well! A heartwarming, positive- minded story about the value of skills, deeds, courage and talent over mere conformity.

Ambrose and the Princess
Margo Sorenson, author; Katalin Szegedi, illustrator
The Liturgical Press
St. John's Abbey, PO Box 7500, Collegeville, MN 56321-7500
081463043X $16.95 1-800-858-5450

American Library Association award-winning author Margo Sorenson and 2005 Hungarian Illustrator of the Year Katalin Szegedi present Ambrose and the Princess, an enchanting fable about little mouse named Ambrose, who sees that the kind and wonderful princess of the land is unhappy. She is so distressed she might depart, yet the church, the convent, and the poor dearly need her kindness. Determined to make things right, Ambrose sets out on an adventure to help the princess and her all her subjects. The delightful color illustrations add the perfect charming touch to this original story in the style of a classic fairy tale.

Edith Ellen Eddy
Julee Ann Granger, author; Kathryn Mitter, illustrator
Greene Bark Press Inc.
PO Box 1108, Bridgeport, CT 06601-1108
1880851717 $16.95

Edith Ellen Eddy is a children's picturebook about the importance staying true to oneself. The rhyming story tells of a young girl, Edith Ellen Eddy, who is not like other girls - she loves messes and paints and books about monsters, playing outside barefoot in muddy pants and watching tadpoles turn into frogs. To make her mother happy, she tries to be more like other girls, neatly arranging her hair and wearing a dress; but Edith isn't happy forcing herself to be someone she isn't; when her mother sees this she rescinds her selfish wish of "why can't you be like other girls?" and Edith happily returns to being her true self. The exuberant illustrations add the perfect touch to this enthusiastic and warm-hearted storybook.

First Command
Dwight Jon Zimmerman
Vandamere Press
PO Box 17446, Clearwater, FL 33762
0918339626 $22.95 1-800-551-7776

Written for young adults yet suitable for all ages, First Command: Paths To Leadership by military historian Dwight Jon Zimmerman presents the early deeds of great American military leaders such as Washington, Lee, Grant, Pershing, MacArthur, Eisenhower, Patton, other figures of history up through the modern day, and even accounts of a handful of women who earned leadership responsibilities. Written in plain text and illustrated with black-and-white photographs, First Command explores the tremendous responsibilities that human beings had thrust upon them in times of war, and the courage and sharp thinking that distinguished truly remarkable military geniuses. An excellent educational text for school or home libraries.

Betsy L. Hogan

Betty's Bookshelf

The Roof-Rack Chronicles: An Honest Guide to Outdoor Recreation, Excessive Gear Consumption, and Playing with Matches
Ron C. Judd
Sasquatch Books
119 S. Main, Suite 400, Seattle, WA 98104
ISBN: 1570614245, $15.95

According to Parks and Recreation Magazine, Americans spend one third of their time involved in leisure and recreational activities. Many of those Americans, dressed for the outdoors and driving SUVs crammed with tents, fishing poles, coolers, and backpacks, are headed into the wilderness, where they hope to have exciting outdoor adventures.

They're welcome to it. The last time I went camping, I got up in the middle of the night to feed my infant son, fell into the side of the tent we were in (which had been pitched on a slope), and brought most of the tent down around our ears. That son is 27 now and I haven't been camping since, which may give you an idea of how traumatized I was by the whole ordeal.

However, my family keeps bringing up the idea of trying it again, so when I recently ran across Ron Judd's latest book, The Roof-Rack Chronicles: An Honest Guide to Outdoor Recreation, Excessive Gear Consumption, and Playing with Matches, I fell on it with cries of delight. The title alone was enough to thrill me. At last, I though, a guidebook for the rest of us!

Then I noticed that Judd had been writing an outdoor column for the Seattle Times for ages, as well as making frequent contributions to such magazines as Outside. He'd even written several serious outdoor guidebooks about Northwest hiking trails, camping spots, fishing holes, and so on. Could a man like that really understand and speak to those of us whose idea of roughing it is sleeping in a bed that has no innerspring mattress?

Once I began reading, though, I discovered that underneath the Gore-Tex and Polartec of the outdoor journalist lurks the heart of a man who takes the outdoor life with a grain of salt. A man who knows what it's like to have a tent fall on you in the middle of the night. Who understands the difficulties of trying to pack a backpack with the comforts of home while still being able to lift it. Who knows what going without a shower for days on end does to sensitive skin (not to mention a sensitive nose!) And who freely admits, right in the book's introduction, that "...I'm a dufus and here's what I learned on my way to realizing just how big of one."

As I read on, I became convinced that this man's advice - all of it taken from years of camping, hiking, and fishing in the Pacific North West - was bound to come in handy in case I ever so far forgot myself as to attempt to go camping again. Or fishing (when all I've ever caught was my dad's ear, on one long-ago, never-to-be-forgotten family fishing trip) or hiking (which always seems to end with me returning to the starting point with a limp and a full collection of huge, painful blisters.)

After all, how can you not learn from chapters like "A Short Course in Orienteering: Everything You Need to Know to Stay (More or Less) Found in the Wild" and "Natural Disasters: How Something You Can't Even Pronounce Could Very Well Kill You", or Insider's Tips such as "Things You Think You Need in Your Backpack but Really Don't" and "Things You'll Forget to Put in Your Pack but Would Later Kill For"?

However, readers should be careful when choosing which bits of advice to take, as Judd himself says: "...please understand that this book, above and beyond all else, is intended as a work of humor. Anyone who actually takes some, all, or even a small portion of the advice offered here very likely will be dead the next time they take a stroll in a city park.

At the same time, I hope that the words herein, in their own twisted, sarcastic little way, might help light a latent spark in the would-be outdoor adventurer in all of us. Perhaps I can convince those who have tried and failed to live the full-on, fresh-air lifestyle that it's all OK.

It's OK simply to dabble in the outdoor world, coming home to a four-star hotel at the end of a twelve-kilometer cross-country-ski day. It's OK to take as much couch time as you need to overcome the trauma from that slip knot that wouldn't or ski binding that didn't, before buckling up the chinstrap and trying again. It's OK to treat a healthy outdoor lifestyle as a mere yin to your healthy indoor yang."

Tried and failed? Four-star hotels? Couch time? This is without a doubt the outdoor adventure guidebook I've been looking for my whole life. Ron C. Judd, you're my hero!

Kitty and the Midnight Hour
Carrie Vaughn
Warner Books
ISBN: 0446616419, $6.99

Kitty Norville loves her job as a late night DJ. "To be a DJ was to be God. [She] controlled the air waves. To be a DJ at an alternative public radio station? That was being God with a mission." The hours weren't all that great, but ever since she'd met and hooked up with a glamorous guy who'd initiated her into the paranormal community, they suited her just fine. Werewolves liked late hours.

Yep, Kitty is a werewolf, part of a neighborhood pack at odds with the local vampire family, and when she stops playing music and starts chatting on-the-air with her late night listeners about the problems faced by werewolves and vampires, she becomes a huge hit. Werewolves and vampires (both real and wanna-be's) love her show - finally, someone who understands them!

However, as Kitty's show begins to gain in popularity and audience share, she ticks off both her pack leader and the head of the vampires and also attracts the attention of a mysterious (and romantic) paranormal hunter. Now, the paranormals are all in danger and Kitty faces a tough choice. Should she give up her show, so that her pack will be safe and her leader will be pleased with her? Or should she hold out for what she wants (and maybe give in to her attraction to the hunter?) She'll need to figure out a way to reconcile her pack's needs and her own desires soon. There's a battle coming, and there may not be much standing when the sun comes up.

I don't usually care much for horror stories, but I really enjoyed this one. Hard to believe it's Vaughn's first book! The characters are interesting and well-fleshed-out, the action is non-stop, and the story line grabs your attention and holds it throughout. Best of all, Vaughn has included a number of moral, ethical, and religious questions that will surely spark a few interesting late night discussions among her readers. I look forward to her next book. I hear she's sending Kitty to Washington to lobby for paranormal rights and needs. Kitty vs. the establishment - sounds promising, doesn't it?

Betty Winslow

Bob's Bookshelf

The Physical Education Teacher's Book of Lists
Marian Milliken-Ziemba
ISBN: 0787978876, $29.95, 292 pages

Did you know that paddleball was brought to America by Irish Immigrants in the 1850s, that eleven plays make up a side in speedball, and that three two-minute periods make up a wrestling match? These and other interesting facts can be found in "The Physical Education Teacher's Book of Lists". Although marketed primarily to educators, this is a book that any sports enthusiast will find fascinating.

A unique information resource, over 290 pages offer information on 37 games and activities from baseball, golf, and volleyball to bocce, four square, shuffleboard, and speedball. Each game's rules are listed along with diagrams of the dimensions of the playing area, an explanation of the players' positions, the special equipment needed, and game terminology.

Of particular interest to teachers is the material devoted to goals and objectives of each game, adaptive physical education, and fitness and metric conversion charts. A discussion of the stages of human growth and development, along with an overview of what the aims, objectives, and outcomes of a Physical Education Program should be, will also be helpful for those involved in K-12 education.

Trivia buffs will delight in the historical facts included about each game while the addresses and websites of the major sports organizations will make it easy for anyone to obtain additional information about the game. No matter the situation, whether you wish to set up a four square game for a birthday party, design a home bocce ball court, or settle an argument over how many points must be scored before the serve changes in table tennis, this is the book you'll want to consult.

The Book of Bluffs: How To Bluff And Win At Poker
Matt Lessinger
Warner Books
ISBN: 0446695629, $13.95, 229 pages

Whether you are a novice or experienced player, knowing when to bluff is one of the keys to being successful at the poker table. In this excellent "how-to" guide Matt Lessinger shares the "ins and outs" of how to recognize bluffing situations, smell weakness in an opponent, and recognize the one opponent who can't be taken in by bluffing.

Lessinger, a columnist for "Card Player" magazine, further explains the manner in which to execute different types of bluffs and convincingly represent strong hands. As the intricacies of the "bluff game" unfold, the reader is also treated to a discussion of the famous bluffs made by world-class players like Chris Moneymaker, Gavin Griffin, Bobby Baldwin, and Stu Ungar.

Even if you don't play poker but still enjoy watching it on television, you'll find the insights Lessinger shares fascinating. Some readers might even think of other situations where this esoteric knowledge might be useful.

Hope And Other Dangerous Pursuits
Laila Lalami
Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
ISBN: 1565124936, $21.95, 195 pages

An intriguing book that falls somewhere between a novel and collection of related short stories, Laila Lalami tells the tale of two men and two women who flee Morocco on a small raft. Crossing the Strait of Gibraltar to get to Spain where they hope to find jobs, the four are thrown from the raft when it capsizes close to shore and must make it to the beach as best they can.

After introducing the characters and their harrowing journey, the narrative switches to a flashback which fills the reader in on the characters' lives in Morocco. Then the final chapters look at what happens to these four individuals once they are safely in Spain.

Reminiscent of "The Bridge of San Luis Rey" by Thornton Wilder published nearly 80 years ago, Lalami's memorable vignettes of each character not only capture their personalities but also underscore the sorry situation in Morocco that necessitates the dangerous and illegal journey to another country.

Born in Morocco, the author now resides in Portland, Oregon, and is the creator and editor of the literary blog Moorishgirl.

Category 5: The Story of Camille
Ernest Zebrowski & Judith Howard
University of Michigan Press
ISBN: 0472115251, $27.95, 276 pages

The after effects of Katrina and Rita are still being felt in the areas ravaged by the two storms making 2005 one of the most costly and deadliest hurricane seasons in American history. In "Category 5: The Story of Camille" Ernest Zebrowski and Judith Howard look back nearly 37 years to Camille and the lessons "unlearned from America's most violent hurricane". The authors explain that, to date, Camille has been the only hurricane that has ever met all of the Category 5 criteria at the time of its U.S. landfall.

Ripping apart approximately some of the same areas of Mississippi and Louisiana as Katrina, Camille's 200 mile per hour winds and 28 foot storm surge swept away thousands of homes and businesses along the Gulf Coast. Nearly 200 drowned, 24 oceangoing ships sank or were beached, and six offshore drilling platforms collapsed. As the storm moved inland, it dropped nearly three feet of water in 24 hours in places like Nelson County, Virginia, creating horrendous flooding and an additional loss of lives.

Why go back to relive the heartbreak of the past and a storm that has now been overshadowed by more recent hurricanes? As they share the individual stories of storm victims, the authors not only put a face on the devastation caused by Camille but they also try to assess the success or failure of the rescue and reconstruction efforts. The contention is that looking to the past can point the way to more effective measures for dealing with future natural disasters of this magnitude.

Ultimately, this is a story of lessons learned or, in some cases, not learned. In the aftermath of Katrina and Rita we are forced to acknowledge that some of the mistakes could have been avoided had we paid attention to what Camille taught us. Fortunately, some of the lessons of 1969 were taken to heart and that, in part, accounted for fewer fatalities in 2005 than many experts would have predicted. Although it was bad enough, the number of deaths could have been much higher. Had lessons Camille taught, like the need for a full evacuation, not been heeded, far more people would have died.

In assessing the reconstruction efforts and the lingering affects Camille had on the families who suffered the loss of loved ones and personal property, the authors offer a look at what may be unfolding again in the Gulf region. As local, state, and federal officials launch costly campaigns to rebuild the area, pointing out the problems that lay ahead based on Camille should make it easier to avoid some obvious pitfalls. The creation of FEMA and the Saffir-Simpson Scale for measuring Hurricanes (Category 1-5), both resulted from the devastation Camille's visit caused. Weather experts predict that future hurricane seasons may well replicate 1969 and 2005. It makes sense, then, to learn as much as possible about Camille and Katrina so as to mitigate future problems.

Bob Walch

Burroughs' Bookshelf

Chechnya: From Past To Future
Richard Sakwa
Anthem Press
c/o Stylus Publishing
22883 Quicksilver Drive, Sterling, VA 20166-2012
1843311658, $25.00

Also available in a hardcover edition (184331164X, $75.00), Chechnya: From Past To Future by Richard Sakwa (Professor of Russian and European Politics, University of Kent) provides the reader with an historical overview of the struggle for control of Chechnya that has resulted in a series of high-profile atrocities such as hostage seizures at Besian and the Moscow's Dubrovka theatre, as well as Russian retaliations. Chechnya: From Past To Future includes both Western, Russian, and Chechen perspectives on the conflict, surveying such critical issues as the rights and wrongs of Chechen secessionism; the role of Islamic and Western international agencies in defending human rights; the conduct of the war; changing perceptions of the war within the context of international terrorism; democracy in Chechnya; and the uncertainty of democracy in Russia as a whole. Chechnya: From Past To Future is informed and informative reading and especially recommended to the attention of anyone with an interest in Russia, Chechnya, and international terrorism.

The Nauvoo Endowment Companies
Devery S. Anderson and Gary James Bergera
Signature Books
564 West 400 North, Salt Lake City, UT 84116-3411
1560851872 $39.95 1-800-356-5687

The Nauvoo Endowment Companies 1845-1846: A Documentary History is a compilation of the original, scribed documentation of all activities and events that took place inside the Nauvoo temple of the Latter-day Saints (Mormons) the two months in which it was in operation, December 1845 - February 1846. Since it is a primary source, The Nauvoo Endowment Companies is of paramount insight to historians, particularly those studying the role of women in Christianity in general and Mormonism in particular, as the Mormon beliefs concerning female subservience and male dominance ("Adam, being full of integrity and not disposed to follow the woman nor listen to her, was permitted to receive... the priesthood") is clearly spelled out. The role of church that purported obedience to the law of the land yet demanded converts to swear vengeance against the murderers of Joseph and Hyrum Smith, the trials of its often persecuted followers, and the descriptions of ceremonies and events including live dancing offer a glimpse into daily Mormon life over a hundred and fifty years ago. Genealogists will find the documentation of sealings, including polygamous unions, particularly valuable. A superb, in-depth reference, though the fine interpretation of often dry records and methodical documents is almost entirely left up to the reader.

John Burroughs

Cellura's Bookshelf

The Fetal Matrix: Evolution, Development and Disease
Peter Gluckman and Mark Hanson
Cambridge University Press
ISBN: 0521542359, $39.99, 257 pp.

The Fetal Matrix is a detailed and comprehensive account of the decisive effects of the embryological and fetal environment upon health, disease and mortality in the middle and later years of the human life cycle. In addition, the authors present an argument throughout the book that integrates gene regulation and fetal experience within an evolutionary perspective through their novel concept of the Predictive Adaptive Response. This clearly written book is the product of many years of fertile collaboration between its distinguished authors. Professor Peter D. Gluckman is University Distinguished Professor and Director, National Research Centre for Growth and Development, University of Auckland, New Zealand and a foreign member of the Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences (USA). Professor Mark Hanson is Director, The Centre for Fetal Origins of Adult Disease, Southampton University, United Kingdom and a fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine (UK). Their specialties are in fetal physiology and prenatal medicine to which they have contributed a number of books and numerous research reports in the scientific literature. The authors wrote this book for a broad readership that includes researchers in developmental and evolutionary biology, prenatal medicine, epidemiology and health policy. It should also prove to be a valuable resource for advanced students in biology and educated lay individuals.

Professors Gluckman and Hanson follow up on the path-breaking epidemiological work of Professor David Barker (Mothers, Babies and Health in Later Life, Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone, 1998), which caused a major stir in medical and public health circles by indicating that disease causes were not exclusively or primarily the result of simplified genetic "traits" or life-style factors. Events unfolding in utero were a key part of the health and disease story.

In Chapter One, Gluckman and Hanson provide a nice primer for a more modern comprehension of gene regulation than was dreamed of in our parent's time. For a more detailed exposition of gene regulation in response to environmental signals the reader might want to read Matt Ridley's Nature via Nurture, and, though more technical, Massimo Pigliucci's Phenotypic Plasticity, John Hopkins University Press, 2001 and Mary Jane West-Eberhard's monumental and prize-winning Developmental Plasticity and Evolution, Oxford University Press, 2003 and my book, The Genomic Environment and Niche-Experience, Cedar Springs Press, 2005.

In Chapter Two, the authors present a wealth of information derived from their specialties (embryological and fetal physiology and prenatal medicine), which for the non-specialist will likely be worth the price of the book. (Incidentally, each chapter is written to stand on its own so readers can pick and chose according to their interests).

Chapters Three and Seven contain a detailed exposition of the author's concept of the Predictive Adaptive Response. Here, a solution is suggested to the question: Why would events in the fetal matrix many decades later in life in ways that are critical for health, disease and mortality? They argue that the fetus, based upon messages (hormonal, etc.) received through the maternal blood supply via the placenta, predicts what its environment will be like in later life, and switches on or off gene transcription to shift its developmental path to provide optimal adaptation to a future environment. Correct prediction through timely genetic switching will produce a phenotype that is adaptive but, conversely, an incorrect prediction will lead to increased disease risk later in life. Specific connections between in utero switching and specific diseases that often emerge later in life such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes are presented in Chapters Five and Six. In Chapter Eight, the concept of Predictive Adaptive Response is elaborated more fully in the context of evolutionary theory while Chapters Nine and Ten focus on health policy in light of the fundamental importance of the fetal matrix.

The Fetal Matrix is highly readable with many interesting examples provided to illuminate key points of the author's thesis. An excellent index is provided as is a bibliography from the scientific literature of almost 500 citations categorized by specific subject matter. I recommend this book highly as a contribution to the growing literature on developmental plasticity, genomic regulation and human adaptive physiological processes.

Phenotypic Plasticity: Beyond Nature And Nurture
Massimo Pigliucci
Johns Hopkins University Press
ISBN: 0801867886, $83.00, 328 pp.

Phenotypic Plasticity examines the way influences outside the organism (the ecological environment) influence the effects of the collection of genes that constitute an organism (genotype) to form it (phenotype). The author, Massimo Pigliucci, a professor of evolutionary biology and philosophy at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, has achieved a widely acclaimed synthesis of research in ecological genetics, developmental biology and evolutionary theory that is "must reading" for specialists in these fields. It will also be a richly rewarding (and challenging) read for non-specialists in the social sciences and medicine as well as the life-long learner interested in the hoary nature-nurture polemic.

The familiar story of Gregor Mendel's magnificent and painstaking genetic studies with peas often leaves out the care the good monk took to isolate pisum sativum from environmental influences. His research procedures mostly eliminated what in the early era of the gene was called the "noise" of these environmental influences on the development of the pea characteristics studied. Mendel's 1866 publication, largely ignored until it caught the attention of a new generation of biologists in 1900, ushered in the classical period of genetics. It led Wilhelm Johannsen, in 1909, to emphasize the distinction Mendel had made between the "factors" and the "characters" they produced by introducing the terms gene, genotype (the complete set of genes or more properly alleles) and phenotype (the appearance or expression of characters in living things). It was this distinction, with an assist from Francis Galton, which largely accounts for the enthusiastic 20th century debate about whether we are what we are as a result of genetic influence (nature) or environmental influence (nurture). The reader who desires a more detailed history of genetics will find it in Sturtevant's A History of Genetics (Cold Spring Harbor, 1965/2001) and Stubbe's History of Genetics (MIT Press, 1972) among many sources.

The plot surrounding nature v. nurture thickened with renewed emphasis on the early 20th century work of Richard Woltereck demonstrating that the genotype could produce a range of characteristics depending on the particular environments in which it developed. That is, the noise made a melody: there was plasticity to the genotype. Pigliucci uses Woltereck's concept of the Reaction Norm as a point of departure to explore plasticity. First, he carefully explicates the concept of phenotypic plasticity, the often misunderstood idea of heritability, and the way plasticity is studied by biologists. (Also recommended in this context is the work of Sarkar, for example, Genetics And Reductionism, Cambridge Univ. Press, 1998). In Chapter Three Pigliucci provides a brief but much needed history of phenotypic plasticity. The fact that "Woltereck" or "reaction norm" or "reactionsnorm" (Ger.) is not mentioned in either Sturtevant or Stubbe's histories provides silent but eloquent testimony to the emphasis on the one gene-one character notion so influential among biologists in the early 20th century and so popular today in press releases that usually begin: A gene has been found for...

Chapters Four (The Genetics of Phenotypic Plasticity), Five (The Molecular Biology of Phenotypic Plasticity) and Eight (Behavior and Phenotypic Plasticity) dig into the evidence for plasticity, mechanistic details of plasticity, molecular pathways, behavior as a special form of phenotypic plasticity and, of particular relevance to humans, the ways that hormones can effect adaptation to a specific ecological (outside the organism) environment by carrying information from that environment to the genotypic-specific reactions triggered by that environment. These adaptations and the responsible mechanisms are also discussed in some detail by Cellura in The Genomic Environment And Niche-Experience (Cedar Springs Press, 2005) and by Morange in The Misunderstood Gene (Harvard Univ. Press, 2001). Pigliucci also has chapters on developmental, theoretical and evolutionary biology and the ecology of phenotypic plasticity as well as an epilogue that discusses philosophical and policy issues of the nature-nurture debate.

Phenotypic Plasticity is a sweeping review of the literature that is forging a new paradigm in biology, closing the loop in the misleading dichotomy between nature and nurture. Reading it and re-reading it will provide insight upon insight about biological adaptation.

A. R. Cellura, Ed.D., Reviewer

Cheri's Bookshelf

Ricochet in Time
Lori L. Lake
Regal Crest Enterprises, LLC
PMB 210, 8691 9th Avenue, Port Arthur, Texas 77642-8025
ISBN: 1932300171, $18.95, 288 pp.

Award winning, best-selling author, Lori L. Lake, tells a riveting story in her acclaimed novel, Ricochet in Time.

The life of Danielle Corbett (Dani) is changed forever when she and her new girlfriend, Meg, interrupt their motorcycle journey to stop at a bar along the road. The mere sight of these women provokes the locals, who take offense at having two "queers" in their establishment. Dani and Meg leave, but they're followed and viciously attacked. Meg is killed and Dani is left for dead. Thus begins the masterful storytelling Lake is well known for.

Hospitalized at a very vulnerable and lonely time in her life, Dani meets a physical therapist, Grace Beaumont, who is interested in Dani for reasons she doesn't reveal. Grace and her great-aunts - Estelline, and her partner, Ruth - take Dani into their home and hearts. They feed her starving body, as well as her mind and soul. The women become very special to each other.

The heart-warming, committed, and loving relationship between Estelline and Ruth provides a perfect example of two soul mates who remain together through thick and thin; they've weathered many storms and have become stronger because of it. Can Dani and Grace achieve what these two women have?

Lake hits a raw nerve in her depiction of the tragedy and despair brought on by prejudice, homophobia, and gay bashing at its ugliest. With the help of friends, Dani Corbett is shown the path toward putting her life back together. Can she do it? Estelline reminds her: "What goes around comes around…you send love out into the world, and it comes back to you. You send out hatred and hell-fire, and it behaves just like a boomerang. It ricochets right back and hits you in the heart" (p. 198).

Ricochet in Time grabs you from the first page and doesn't let go. The story flows so naturally that you are there, living through the circumstances along with the characters, who come to life on every page. What I love most about Lake's novels is how much I care about the characters and what happens to them. Even with Dani's rough-around-the-edges exterior, you can't help but love her. She comes across as a strong woman who can fend for herself against all odds, but this is her coping mechanism. Through Grace's eyes, you see the good more clearly and you find yourself rooting for more than friendship between Dani and Grace.

Lake writes with such clarity and imagery that her description of the pain Dani suffers from the accident is palpable. The author, insightfully and eloquently, went inside her characters' heads, making the story that much more believable. You know exactly what and how the characters are feeling at any given time.

I highly recommend Lake's debut novel, Ricochet in Time. This talented author of the "Gun" series: Gun Shy, Under the Gun,, and Have Gun We'll Travel," as well as Different Dress and Stepping Out: Short Stories, is "considered one of the best authors of modern lesbian fiction," according to Lavender Magazine, " but her work - part action, part drama, and part romance - gleefully defies categorization." I couldn't agree more.

The Price of Fame
Lynn Ames
Intaglio Publications
PO Box 357474, Gainesville, FL 32635
ISBN: 1933113049, $16.75, 276 pp.

Lynn Ames writes in her acknowledgements, "I have always maintained that the best fiction contains elements of truth; as a reader, it's that believability that keeps you turning the pages." The author, a Golden Crown Literary Society Finalist for The Price of Fame, has exceeded her goals in the first installment of the action-packed romance of news anchor Katherine "Kate" Kyle and Time magazine reporter Jamison "Jay" Parker. The Price of Fame is not only convincing but it is hard to put down.

The highly acclaimed anchorwoman for the New York State Capitol based news station WCAP-TV is the vivacious, self-assured, drop-dead gorgeous Katherine Kyle. Not only is she brilliant, but her strong work ethic, professionalism, honesty, compassion, and commitment to the greater good, including humanity towards fellow humans, has set her way above her peers. She has earned the respect of her coworkers and the love and admiration of her viewers as well. Add the fact that this woman has no idea how attractive she is, how deliciously romantic she can be to the woman who captures her heart, and you have an admirable character you would love to know personally - if not intimately.

New Yorker Jay Parker is an extremely talented aspiring writer, who works for Time Magazine. Avoiding any thoughts about her painful past, the career-oriented author emerges herself in her work, producing outstanding human-interest stories. Sent to Albany to write a piece on the popular governor with possible presidential candidate written all over him, Jay spots the woman who has "dominated her dreams and fueled her imagination" [p. 12] on television. Having met Kate on more than one occasion, Jay is awestruck when she catches the local Albany news flash depicting the bravery of the newscaster…the one person she always thought of as her savoir and the other part of her soul. Fate brings these two strongly attracted women together again resulting in a powerful love affair.

Kate is romantic - she makes Jay do more than just blush. Is there any woman on the planet who wouldn't like to hear her lover say, "That's okay, love, because if Michelangelo had had you to use as a model, he could've retired a wealthy man" [p. 142]? Katherine Kyle and Jamison Parker is a match made in heaven, in every way.

Lynn Ames is proficient at weaving current affairs with flashbacks in this compelling love story where the action never ceases. The author is an award-wining former broadcast journalist who adds insider information, imparting authenticity and depth that captures every nuance of the business. Include politics, intrigue, bombings, homophobia, trust issues, etc., and you have a novel that will leave you breathless and hungering for more. Every scene in the exciting world of Kate and Jay is absorbing and full of energy. Falling in love along with the characters is easy because they would go to any length, even self-sacrifice, for each other. Can the love between them withstand the forces that attempt to drive them apart?

The clever hook near the end of The Price of Fame has this reader happy the sequels, The Cost of Commitment and The Value of Valor, are readily available. Once you pick up a novel by Lynn Ames, you will want to read them all. The Price of Fame is a five-star novel that you will want to read from beginning to end. You won't want to miss a single word.

Honor Reclaimed
Bold Strokes Books, Inc.
430 Herrington Road, Johnsonville, NY 12094
ISBN: 193311018X, $15.95, 279 pp.

Writing a series takes skill and finesse. Radclyffe possesses both in her Honor series, Justice Series, and Provincetown Tales. Honor Reclaimed brings back beloved characters Cam and Blair for another fulfilling glimpse of their love, commitment, and adventures. This time Cam tries desperately to uncover the identity of those responsible for attempting to assassinate the president's daughter, and prevent any further attacks on Blair. Following 9/11, the nation is scrambling to win the war against terrorism and hoping to hold those responsible accountable, while Cam works to keep her lover safe amidst threats to her life.

Not many people can claim that they have slept in the white house and have woken up next to the first daughter. However, Secret Service Agent Cameron Roberts, Blair Powell's personal security chief, cannot believe she can. So begins the fifth novel in the Honor series, Honor Reclaimed. Our heroines fight for more than honor in a world gone mad at the hands of terrorists and assassins, "…in a world where annihilation could be delivered to one's doorstep on a bright sunny morning, there seemed to be little point to standing on convention. And for those who lived within the shadow of the tragedy, life had taken on an even greater sense of urgency, where caution and prudence had far less meaning" [p. 86].

On that fateful day, when the attack on the World Trade Center ensued, the lovers were near Blair's heavily guarded apartment in New York City. Simultaneously a shooting targeting Blair despite Cam's vigilant safeguarding, left one agent on Cam's team dead, another one critically injured, and a third agent, a suspected killer. Cam felt responsible and duly worried for Blair's safety. If there was one traitor, then there were bound to be others. Taking more than one bullet meant for Blair, Cam would do it again in order to protect the woman she loves more than life itself. Blair hates that Cam puts her life on the line for her and the thought of ever losing her is a fate worse than death.

Radclyffe, known for exploring many characters concurrently in her novels, does a fine job of developing ancillary characters as well. Cam and Blair are the central characters but Honor Reclaimed would not be complete without Agent Paula Stark, who becomes Blair's new security chief in Cam's place and FBI agent, Renee Savard who is Paula's lover. The dynamics are further complicated with the beginnings of a relationship between the elusive Valerie Lawrence and Blair's best friend, Diane Bleeker. It is interesting to note that the interplay between the main characters has a pivotal role in shaping the plot. Emotions run deep between characters some of whom had a past to those making history. Cam and Valerie have a cross to bear, a hurdle to get over, from past liaisons.

What I liked best about this book was not only the fast-paced action sequences, the hot love scenes, and seeing life through some of my favorite characters' eyes but the depth with which these brave women love each other. I love the commitment of these couples who are even willing to put their life on the line for the ones they love. That is the most romantic part of all and what makes Honor Reclaimed not only a terrific mystery, but an engaging romance. I also find it admirable that they are willing to defend their country with equal fervor. Readers love heroes and Radclyffe gives her readers what they love. It is no wonder that Radclyffe is the winner of numerous accolades and continues to delight her fans.

Cheri Rosenberg

Connie's Bookshelf

The Sorrow of Archaeology
Russell Martin
University of New Mexico Press
1601 Randolph Rd SE, Suite 200S, Albuquerque NM 87106
ISBN: 0826337252, $29.95, 271 pp.

"In the dry early summer of 1992, I am still nominally a physician, but I dig in dirt these days, instead of taking stock of my patients' bodies, attending only to bones stripped of muscle, blood and brain..."

Sarah MacLeish says this because she can't maintain her medical practice. She is a Multiple Scleroses victim, no longer able to use her hands in diagnosis. She is also the main character in Russell Martin's novel, 'The Sorrow of Archaeology,' recently released by the University of New Mexico Press.

The story is set in Southern Colorado, and drawn from several of the author's interests, including archaeology, medicine, and disability, particularly Multiple Scleroses. For him, these topics become metaphors for our constant struggle to sort out our lives.

Knowing she may eventually use a wheel chair, and terrified of the idea, Sarah determines to be normal as long as possible, before she must give into her disease. She becomes a member of an archaeology dig team her husband, Harry, is supervising at an ancient pueblo site in a canyon near Cortez, Colorado. She worries about her relationship with Harry. He jumps from project to project and adventure to adventure, seizing life with both hands, and riding it like a wild horse.

She lives carefully, avoiding surprises, and searching for security. She and Harry share a deep bond. Still, troubling moments have arisen between them, over their differences, and she senses his unhappiness with her. As a physician who has treated patients with illnesses like hers, she knows she will probably face divorce, though Harry denies he will ever leave her.

On the dig, Sarah discovers the remains of a pre-teen-age girl, with a severely deformed leg, which Sarah believes congenital. The girl also has a shattered skull. Immediately, Sarah connects with her, wondering how she lived, how she died, and above all, how she coped with disability.

Harry says that Sarah will probably never know. Bone fragments and grave goods cannot possibly explain the girl's emotional state at death, why she died, or how she lived with her crippled leg. Sarah insists on trying to find out. One of the dig team members, the flamboyant Alice, agrees to send the remains to a friend in a forensics lab. The gesture both comforts and troubles Sarah, who suspects Alice and Harry have begun an affair. Harry must replace the sex that no longer interests Sarah.

Driven by her fear, Sarah struggles harder and harder to understand the child's story, and through it, her own. The mosaic of personal and archaeological past and present interweave tightly in her mind. Finally, an MS attack does put Sarah in a wheelchair, for a short time. As she begins to recover her mobility, a beloved family member faces her own mortal illness, and makes a choice Sarah does not realize she is still capable of making.

The resulting catharsis leads Sarah to discoveries and decisions concerning her life and illness, the people around her, the crippled Pueblo child, and Harry and Alice,. 'The Sorrow of Archaeology' comes to a powerful, and satisfying conclusion.

To give Sarah the full range of emotions she needs as she struggles with her issues, Russell Martin constructed her story in a series of short chapters. The book draws its title from one of these, in which Sarah laments the fact that archaeologists must try to learn about peoples' lives from fragmented evidence. Harry points out that everyone else must do the same from bits and pieces of experiences, during his or her time on earth. Flashbacks written in the past tense, interweave with current details, stated in the present. Martin also lets Sarah narrate the novel in the first person.

Throughout 'The Sorrow of Archaeology,' Russell Martin uses simple and direct language that never becomes simplistic. Sentences such as "The only thing worse than being an acne-plagued freshman in high school is being a freshman whose father is principal of the place," give his pages an excitement that nears F. Scott Fitzgerald's intensity.

Like Fitzgerald's Martin's intensity is gentle, and very ordinary. Readers looking for an action-packed Indiana Jones archaeology tale will not find it. Instead, they'll discover a story in a real place about real people. As the action gently unfolds, Martin presents the universal emotions that connect readers to characters. 'The Sorrow of Archaeology' is Russell Martin's second novel. He published his first, 'Beautiful Islands,' in 1989. He has also written nonfiction articles and books.

Nothing but Trouble
Michael McGarrity
375 Hudson Street New York, NY 10014. Phone: 1 800 788-6262
ISBN: 052594916X, $24.95, 320 pp.

NOTHING BUT TROUBLE by Michael McGarrity is this author's latest book about police officer and crime solver, Kevin Kearney. McGarrity long ago decided that loose cannon detectives were cliches, so he set out to make Kevin Kearney a living, breathing, thinking person. Kevin Kearney is just that, with enough human problems and foibles to keep a reader chuckling as well as enjoying good suspense.

In NOTHING BUT TROUBLE, Kearney's three-year-old son, Patrick, keeps things stirred up as only a kid can. He needs to hear the same storybook at least seventy million times, must have blueberry pancakes when there are no blueberries in the house, and chooses the darndest moments to act up, or disappear from view to investigate--of all things--a rattle snake hole.

Kevin's wife, Sarah and he are trying to hold together a two-career family. Unfortunately, his career is in Santa Fe; hers is in Washington--at least at the moment. This, too adds tension, as any long-distance, two-career family would well understand.

NOTHING BUT TROUBLE'S action starts when Kearney, Sarah, Patrick, plan to spend a couple of weeks vacation on a movie set in New Mexico. Just as they're set to go, trouble interrupts the plan. An Army colonel, Sarah finds herself off on an overseas police assignment that the top brass at the Pentagon don't like. Kearney discovers a few things going down on the set that weren't in the script.

Typical mystery, right? Well, almost. McGarrity tosses in the usual false suspects, false leads, and narrow escapes. But he also does something interesting with Kevin and Sarah's adventures. Both pursue their cases independently. This creates a unique plot line for NOTHING BUT TROUBLE. To describe it precisely would give stuff away that shouldn't get out, but it can be safely said that those who like the unexpected twist, the idea of a dual story, the tantalizing dangling end at the conclusion of the book, will enjoy this one.

McGarrity sets the action of NOTHING BUT TROUBLE in New Mexico's boot heel, the most remote, and probably the most desolate part of the state. The little southwestern corner literally does resemble a boot. All sorts of stuff happens there, from ranching, to copper smelting, to the smuggling of illegals over the Mexican border. McGarrity uses all these activities to add layers to his story. He also gives a thorough physical description of the boot heel, that will keep the reader enthralled, and wanting to travel its two-lane meandering highways.

Even more interesting McGarrity lets his three-dimensional hero explore current events wile solving mysteries. NOTHING BUT TROUBLE gives the reader some insight into the issues of illegal immigration, from the points of view of the police and border patrol, the ranchers who find illegals on their property, townspeople, and to an extent, the illegals themselves. The result is a thought-provoking look at the issue.

NOTHING BUT TROUBLE is a solid read for another reason. McGarrity has been a cop, and a police psychologist. He grew up in the west on a farm, and knew plenty of ranching families. Like any wise author, he writes of what he knows.

That makes the Kevin Kearney books a good read that's a little deeper than the usual ten-zillion book detective series. The characters are well rounded. They grow, not only from start of story to end, but from book to book. The plots never go stale. Whatever Kevin Kearney does once he gets out of NOTHING BUT TROUBLE should continue to be interesting.

Connie Gotsch, Reviewer

Debra's Bookshelf

The Black Silent
David Dun
Pinnacle Books
ISBN: 078601637X, $6.99, 479 pp.

David Dun's The Black Silent starts well: a diver, his air hose slashed, struggles with an attacker in the murky waters off the San Juan Islands. The diver is a scientist, Ben Anderson, who's discovered something people will kill for. When he disappears his adopted daughter Haley and her would-be love interest Sam, a former covert operative, follow the cryptic clues Ben's left behind to discover what he was working on--a complex mix of anti-aging formula and an alternative energy source. Together they riffle through filing cabinets and break into houses and drive boats dangerously fast, all while being pursued and occasionally shot at by the book's chief bad guy, Garth Frick, and his band of hired thugs.

Dun's book could have been a nail-biter, but it falls short, principally because the characters are not sufficiently developed. Frick, for example, is painted as a malevolent entity who pursues his quarry single-mindedly, but we don't know precisely what motivates him--other than his banal interest in money, a kind of all-purpose motivator. Haley and Sam are given more personality, but they are not as fully developed as they might be. We are not always told what the characters' immediate goals are, so that the plot can be confusing. The too-long chase scenes wind up lacking suspense both because we don't know what the protagonists are attempting to achieve and because we don't quite like them enough to care whether they achieve it.

With better character development, further editing of some rough spots in the narrative, and the excision of perhaps a hundred pages, The Black Silent could have been a taut thriller. Dun is a bestselling author, and it's possible that these flaws are the result of the book being rushed to market. Readers may be interested in checking out his earlier books.

Locked Doors
Blake Crouch
Thomas Dunne Books
ISBN: 0312317999, $23.95, 310 pp.

In Blake Crouch's riveting debut novel Desert Places his protagonist, suspense novelist Andrew Thomas, is framed for a series of gruesome murders committed by a pair of psychopaths, one of them Andrew's twin brother Orson. The physical evidence against Andrew is too strong for him to come forward and explain himself to the authorities. Thus Crouch's sequel to Desert Places, the equally compelling Locked Doors, finds Andrew hiding from civilization seven years after the murders in a remote cabin in the Yukon. He's come to appreciate his solitary life in the wilderness, and he has some small hope of one day clearing his name: he is at least working on an autobiographical manuscript, an account of his brother's killing spree, which turns out to be the text of Crouch's first book. But Andrew's calm is interrupted by a second spate of killings, similar in style to the first, which the press is blaming on Andrew himself: the victims are people he was close to in his past. He is thus lured from his safe haven to reenter the nightmarish world of serial killer Luther Kite, his brother's accomplice, whom Andrew had left for dead at the conclusion of Desert Places.

It takes all of six and a half pages for readers to experience their first jolt of electric fear while reading Crouch's second Andrew Thomas novel. After that the scares come thick and fast. This is a book that will fly by if you let it, its seductively short chapters flashing past in an adrenaline rush of reading. But it's worth slowing down, if you can, to enjoy some of Crouch's prose and the lovely, subtle way he sometimes has of getting information across: "She peered out the window and saw the fog dissolving, the microscopic crawl of traffic now materializing on Broadway through the cloud below."

Well-written, heart-thumpingly exciting, and nearly perfect in its execution, Locked Doors is definitely a worthy successor to Desert Places. It is in fact a little easier to enjoy than its predecessor, which was so steeped in gore as to almost be unpalatable. There is more room this time around to breathe between eviscerations and hanging carcasses. But it'll still scare the pants off you.

Solomon vs. Lord
Paul Levine
Bantam Books
ISBN: 0440242738, $5.99, 547 pp.

The opposing counsel are as compatible as vinegar and water: Victoria Lord's a by-the-book prosecutor, freshly minted from Yale Law, while Steve Solomon is Jimmy Buffet with a law degree, an exasperatingly irresponsible rogue with a reputation for skirt chasing and playing by his own rules. When the two wind up on the same side of the aisle, defending the not particularly broken-up widow of Charles Barksdale, sparks inevitably fly. The Barksdale murder trial is a high profile case of Klaus von Bulow proportions: Charles and his trophy wife were members of the local aristocracy. But another case has an even greater hold on Steve Solomon's attention, his battle for custody of his semi-autistic eleven-year-old nephew Bobby, whom Steve had rescued the previous year from the clutches of his drug-addicted, abusive sister.

The debut novel in Paul Levine's Solomon and Lord series is a sweet romantic dramedy. Though it's clear enough from the get-go where Solomon and Lord are headed in their relationship, you'll want to stick around to watch their jousting and to find out how their legal crises are resolved. The plot has a few small holes I'd have liked patched (and Bobby is unlikely to be reciting passages of the Aeneid in Greek unless he translated them from the Latin himself), but this enjoyable legal cozy bodes well for the future of the series.

My Life in CIA
Harry Mathews
Dalkey Archive
Dalkey Archive Press
ISU Campus 8905, Normal, IL 61790-8905
ISBN: 1564783928, $13.95, 203 pp.

In 1973 Harry Mathews was an American writer living in Paris. With sufficient means so he did not have to work, Mathews's days were apparently filled with operas and ballets, erudite conversations with the local literati, the occasional bit of writing, and innumerable sexual encounters with any number of women, some of them married, who seem to have fallen on him after little more than a handshake. The picture that emerges is part Somerset Maugham, part Austin Powers, the expatriate shedding his "snug black velvet bell bottoms" for the odd sexual romp.

Mathews explains that he had a reputation in Paris for being gay, rich, and CIA--none of which was true. The last misconception particularly irked him, and he habitually attempted to convince people that he wasn't an agent. Finally, unable to quell the rumor, he tried a different approach: he pretended that he was CIA. He took every opportunity to behave mysteriously, going so far as to fake dead drops and to adopt as cover the job of secretary in a fictional travel agency for which he had stationery made up. Mathews took the whole spy game rather further than was sensible or ethical, and he wound up exciting the attention of people who ultimately decided that he'd be better off eliminated.

Mathews's adventure is certainly an interesting one--the sort of thing one might like to try oneself--but one reads the book not knowing whether it is fact or fiction, or rather, how much of the story is fact and how much fiction. That, apparently, is the point: the book, billed oxymoronically as an "autobiographical novel," plays with truthfulness and credibility. Certainly some of what Mathews has to say seems impossible, as for example his account of one particular sexual escapade in an Oriental rug emporium: when he and the woman are interrupted, she rolls him in a carpet to hide him, and he is then carried off by ostensibly unwitting laborers, who load him in a truck and deliver him across town; emerged from the carpet some time later, he insinuates himself into a dinner party and soon runs off for another bit of (unfortunately also interrupted, but in its early stages interpedal) intercourse on a nearby church altar with a woman he's just met. Part of the game for readers is deciding whether and when to believe what the authors is telling us.

Mathews's book is not all as compelling as the above story would suggest: the author writes a lot about the little engagements that made up his (character's) life in those days, down to guest lists and meals consumed, and these slow down his narrative--though they add to the story's verisimilitude, which, again, may be the point. In short, My Life in CIA is an odd but interesting book about an unlikely game that became--maybe--for a time disturbingly real.

It's a Boy
Andrea J. Buchanan (editor)
Seal Press
ISBN: 1580051456, $14.95, 251 pp.

Thirty essays by writers who are the mothers of sons comprise this collection edited by Andrea J. Buchanan. (Buchanan, herself the mother of a boy and girl, contributed the eponymous essay "It's a Boy!") The essays are divided among four sections, which, briefly put, explore topics related to "prenatal boy apprehension," the "otherness" of boys, gender expectations, and the transition of boys to manhood. Some of the essays are humorous, some poignant, some thoughtful, and readers will undoubtedly have their own favorites. But there really isn't a clunker in the bunch.

Among the more affecting essays in the collection are Susan Ito's "Samuel," about the baby boy she was forced to abort only two weeks before he would have been viable, and Susan O'Doherty's "The Velvet Underground," in which the author chronicles the lesser heartbreak of her son's emotional scarring at the hands of his insensitive playmates. Jacquelyn Mitchard's reflections on her son's transition to manhood ("The Day He Was Taller") are unexpectedly poignant, while Jennifer Lauck's "It Takes a Village" was simply chilling--in fact unputdownable.

Catherine Newman touches on the subjects of gender expectations and homosexuality in her sweet, amusing essay "Pretty Baby." She writes about the various reactions people have to seeing her son wearing his favorite color, bright pink:

"But here's where I get confused--simple pinheaded bigotry aside. If 'pink' and 'gay' go together like Froot Loops and Toucan Sam, is pink imagined to be the effect of gayness? Or its cause? Because if it's the former--if pink is the mere expression of some extant essential gayness--well then, what's the point of worrying about it? It's a fait accompli, so pour me a glass of champagne, pop in a Barbra Streisand movie, and let's celebrate. But if it's taken instead to be the cause, then how, exactly does pink make a boy gay? Does he grow up to be a pink-wearing adult, at which point other men--woops!--mistake him for a Victoria's Secret model and hit on him by accident and, well, one thing leads to another, when in Rome, etc.?"

Boys are famous for having penises, of course, and they come in two basic styles. In her amusing essay "Making the Cut" Jamie Pearson recounts the arguments she and her husband had over the circumcision question prior to her son's birth: "I'd always felt more or less confident that Rich would come around to my point of view eventually, but now I knew exactly how to convince him. I'd simply portray uncut penises as mainstream, play up the frequent sex angle, and suppress the unconfirmed blowjob allegation."

Among the more thought provoking essays--because you probably never thought about the issue it raises before--is Katie Kaput's "Things You Can't Teach." She writes about the peculiar difficulties she faces as a transsexual girl with a son who might or might not be--not that there's anything wrong with it--"light in the diapers." Kaput is keenly aware of the likelihood that any non-straight behavior exhibited by her son will be blamed on her. But she learns that her son "far from being an empty vessel for my unintentional brainwashing vibes, was his own little guy." It's a simple truth so many of the mothers in this book have been happy to learn from their children.

In addition to the authors mentioned above, It's a Boy contains essays by the following: Stephany Aulenback, Karen E. Bender, Kathryn Black, Robin Bradford, Gayle Brandeis, Faulkner Fox, Katie Allison Granju, Ona Gritz, Gwendolen Gross, Melanie Lynne Hauser, Marrit Ingman, Suzanne Kamata, Caroline Leavitt, Jody Mace, Jennifer Margulis, Marjorie Osterhout, Lisa Peet, Jodi Picoult, Maura Rhodes, Rochelle Shapiro, Kate Staples, and Marion Wink.

Hamden (Images of America)
Hamden Historical Society
Arcadia Publishing
ISBN: 0738535281, $19.99, 128 pp.

This collection of photographs, produced by the Hamden Historical Society as part of the Images of America series, documents the history of Hamden, Connecticut, a suburb just north of New Haven, that was settled in the 17th century and incorporated in 1786. The book is organized geographically, its two hundred-odd photographs and reproductions divided among eight chapters that correspond to different sections of town: 1. Whitneyville; 2. Pine Rock, Hamden Plains, and Highwood; 3. Spring Glen; 4. State Street; 5. Dunbar Hills and Upper Dixwell Avenue; 6. West Woods; 7. Mount Carmel; 8. Centerville.

Among the photographs included in the book are pictures of local luminaries (Eli Whitney, Thornton Wilder), various civic groups, and prominent buildings--factories and libraries and schools. There are pictures of, or mention is made of, the locals who lent their names to various landmarks--Dunbar and Benham, Bassett and Woodin and Whalen, for example--which breathes life into the streets and parks and playgrounds Hamden locals use every day.

The captions of a couple of pictures hint at some very interesting stories:

"In the early 20th century, the ramshackle printing shop at 915 Whitney Avenue was the home of William Baldwin Beamish (seated). Beamish was a hermit who for 40 years was believed to be a man but, upon needing medical care, was discovered to be a woman. A Mrs. Beamish had supposedly died nearly three decades earlier, leading to the speculation that the husband lay buried in the Whitneyville Cemetery while the wife assumed his identity. Beamish only allowed men into the house; whenever a woman entered, Beamish would fly into a rage."

And on a lighter note:

The members of the Last Man's Club pause for a group photograph during the club's meeting on May 3, 1941, at the Cafe Mellone in New Haven. The Last Man's Club, founded in 1936, had as its members veterans, including a number from Hamden, who met once a year. The fellowship was based on a pledge, with 'no point or purpose other than that each member would try to outlive the other in order to win the bottle of wine to be quaffed by the last survivor.' Note the makeshift shrine (lower right) to members who had died during the preceding year."

Most interesting, however, are the photographs of locations and buildings that remain recognizable today but survive in very changed form: Hamden Plaza in the 1950's; Whitney Avenue unpaved, and again bisected with trolley tracks; the town center, thronged with locals, during Hamden's sesquicentennial celebration in 1936. These pictures would have been even more interesting, though, and the book much improved if the collection included at least one, but preferably several detailed street maps, with the town's geographical divisions and the buildings mentioned in the book marked. As it is the only map reproduced in the book dates to 1857 and is useless for the purpose of placing unfamiliar landmarks. Perhaps if the book is reprinted this failing could be remedied. In its current form, however, Hamden should be of interest to anyone whose ties to the town go at all deep.

Life's Little Annoyances
Ian Urbina
Times Books/Henry Holt
ISBN: 0805080309, $15.00, 91 pp.

Those oblivious, the-world-revolves-around-me types who leave their grocery carts in the middle of the aisle, chain mail forwarders, spammers and telemarketers and express line abusers--they're not criminals, exactly, so you can't lock them away or kill them. Still, in their small abuses they detract significantly from the quality of our lives day to day, and for that they merit some kind of punishment. But how precisely to go about it? New York Times reporter Ian Urbina may have some ideas for you in his book Life's Little Annoyances: True Tales of People who Just Can't Take it Anymore.

Starting with his own experiences exacting revenge from a roommate who was routinely pilfering his cookie dough ice cream, Urbina includes some 70 stories about people fighting back against the rude and unthinking among us. His short tales of righteous revenge--the ideas are not all his own, but were collected from the fed-up people described by his subtitle--are divided among nine chapters by genre of annoyance: from mail-related (junk mail, the profusion of AOL disks one receives), to service-related (overly zealous store employees), to the vehicular (tailgaters, proselytizing bumper stickers).

The most even-tempered of readers may choose to turn the other cheek when irritated by life's smaller annoyances. The rest of us will probably come across a few ideas in Urbina's book that we'd like to try out ourselves. I can see myself, for example, putting telemarketers on "hold"--that is, on speakerphone, so they can listen while I finish dinner, change a diaper, watch TV, etc. And I am intrigued by the idea of mailing off blank "blow-in" cards, those subscription cards that fall out of magazines all the time, so that the company responsible for them will have to pay postage. But while I admire him for it, I would not have the gall myself to imitate one man's sweetly cruel response to pushy sales clerks who can't take "I'm just browsing" for an answer. Ian Urbina's Life Little Annoyances is a quick, titillating little
read. Have fun with it.

Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza
Henry Holt
ISBN: 0805074392, $24.00, 256 pp.

The fifth installment in Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza's Inspector Espinosa series finds the chief of Rio de Janeiro's 12th precinct looking into a series of related complaints. A certain Dr. Nesse, a psychiatrist, contacts Espinosa after his daughter disappears, and he and Espinosa have further contact later on when more troubles befall the psychiatrist and his family. Nesse is convinced that he is being persecuted by one of his patients, an enigmatic young man who calls himself Jonah, but substantiating his accusations proves to be difficult.

So much for the plot, as I don't want to give anything away. This is a very smart book. Garcia-Roza tells the story initially from the perspective of the psychiatrist, who believes he is being stalked by Jonah and feels himself unaccountably threatened by it. Readers will feel the threat too: there is something menacing about Jonah's behavior, despite that his actions are ostensibly innocent. But as the story progresses the situation becomes increasingly ambiguous: is Jonah as bad as we're led to believe, or is the psychiatrist a paranoid? As Jonah says at one point in the story regarding his own behavior, "As you can see, the facts are the same, but the meaning is different." Interpretation is everything. The levels of possibility in the novel make for a delicious read.

Pursuit is translated into English from its original Portuguese. I can't speak for the author's style in his native language, but in English the prose is wonderfully straightforward. The clarity of the writing reminds me of the writing style of Patricia Highsmith (the author of, among other books, the five Tom Ripley novels), and Garcia-Roza's writing is similar to Highsmith's also in that he manages to create an atmosphere of tension from his descriptions of everyday activities. This one's definitely worth the read, and it would make an excellent selection for discussion groups. Familiarity with previous books in the series is not necessary.

The Idiot Girls' Action-Adventure Club
Laurie Notaro
ISBN: 0375760911, $12.95, 225 pp.

Laurie Notaro's first book, The Idiot Girls' Action-Adventure Club, includes nearly forty essays that were originally published in the author's humor column in the Arizona Republic. (Notaro's fifth book, An Idiot Girl's Christmas: True Tales from the Top of the Naughty List, was released in November 2005.) A self-described "idiot girl," apparently in her twenties when most of these essays were written, Notaro portrays herself as one of fortune's less favored. She is not, that is, one of those perky-breasted blondes whose clothes always fit right and who's engaged to a doctor, but rather the funny gal pal type, who's more often than not unwashed and underdressed, and more often than she should be under the table. Drinking and smoking apparently consume a good portion of Notaro's days, providing fodder for her humor--though it may be that many of the details of her allegedly misspent adulthood are exaggerated in her writing for comic effect. In either case, hopelessly straight laced suburban mother than I am, tales of nicotine and alcohol abuse tend not so much to amuse as to disturb me.

Happily, there's more to the book than substance abuse. And when Notaro turns from tales of drunkenness to, say, vaginal exams and maxi pads, she's laugh-out-loud funny. ("It was one of the darkest days of my life when that nurse, Mrs. Shimmer, pulled out a maxi pad that measured the width and depth of a mattress and showed us how to use it.") In fact, this book set me laughing a good many times, as, for example, when Notaro reprimands Monica Lewinski for the effect she's had on the author's grandmother:

"Now you see what you've done, Monica Lewinski, you stupid, stupid tart, I thought. Because of you, I have to explain to my nana, while she's in a hospital bed with an enlarged gallbladder, what oral sex is. Do you see the damage you've caused? Do you see where your sinful path has led?"

In addition to being funny, the essays included in the collection are strung together well so that they form a coherent narrative. Now that I've gotten to know Notaro, so to speak, I'm eager to read more from her. I just hope that the next book or two will find her off the bottle and over the butts. Lung cancer and liver damage just aren't that funny.

Company Man
Joseph Finder
St. Martin's
ISBN: 0312319169, $24.95, 520 pp.

Nick Conover has problems enough at the outset of Joseph Finder's Company Man. As the CEO of the Stratton Corporation--makers of high-end office furniture and the biggest employer in Fenwick, Michigan--he's hated by his neighbors because of recent layoffs. His 16-year-old son is remote and flirting with drug use. And the whole family is still roiling after the accidental death of Nick's wife a year earlier. But in the course of Finder's page-turner things get much worse for Nick. He comes to realize that the people he's trusted at Stratton are conspiring against the company. And he learns too that though his family's house is ensconced behind the reassuring walls of a gated community--his wife's idea--he and his children are anything but safe.

Company Man, Finder's sixth novel, is a simply riveting read. Finder masterfully ratchets up the tension, forcing his good-guy protagonist--a flawed but inherently decent Every Man, albeit richer than most--into a corner from which no escape seems possible. It's a superbly wrought thriller, played out among the cubicles of corporate America. Highly recommended.

Borges and the Eternal Orangutans
Luis Fernando Verissimo
New Directions Books
80 Eighth Avenue, New York 10011
ISBN: 081121592X, $13.95, 135 pp.

Luis Fernando Verissimo's Borges and the Eternal Orangutans takes the form of a novella addressed to the author Jorge Luis Borges. In it, the narrator/author, a certain Vogelstein, recounts for Borges the story of his experiences in Buenos Aires at a conference of Edgar Allan Poe specialists, an event that had ended prematurely because of the murder of one of the scholars in attendance. Vogelstein had been the one to find Joachim Rotkopf, a spiteful, "eminently knifeable man," stabbed to death in his room. Borges is aware already of much of Vogelstein's story, as he and the narrator discussed the locked room mystery of Rotkopf's death--and the arcane clues the victim left behind pointing to the identity of his killer--immediately after the event. They had attempted to solve the crime by purely intellectual means in a series of conversations that ranged from Edgar Allan Poe's oeuvre to the mystical power of letters to the literary monkeys of this book's title.

Verissimo's supremely clever little mystery will be appreciated by Borges and Poe aficionados--familiarity with both authors would be a plus--and to readers who like their fiction thoughtful and their expectations upended. Kudos to anyone who can figure out whodunit before the book's final chapter.

Debra Hamel, Reviewer

Fortenberry's Bookshelf

Double Forte: A Gus LeGarde Mystery.
Aaron Paul Lazar
Publish America
Baltimore, MD
ISBN: 1413728383, $21.95, 263 pp.

Double Forte, the first of the Gus LeGarde series of mysteries written by Aaron Paul Lazar, is a chilling thriller. But this book is such a far cry from the cliche thrillers of today that it is almost the start of a new genre. This book is thriller, mystery, romance, and literature all at once. I could be done by saying it is just plain good writing, but that doesn't seem fair for a review. I cannot possibly do it justice, but I will attempt to convey some of the unique majesty of this book. However, I will not be able to mention many specifics of the plot for fear of giving it all away.

This book is set neatly in its own world, a beautiful valley in upstate New York. The world is that of Professor Legarde, a classical musical instruction. Music informs every part of this novel, from his world view to the other characters, the scenes and escalation of action, right down to the prose itself. This is a very musical piece of literature with a varied tempo depending upon the scene, its intensity, such as its romance or fear. A very lyrical read.

But, please do not misunderstand me. This is not a fantasy or whimsical bit of fluff. This is a very serious, very intense novel about real characters. Lazar does a fantastic job getting inside the minds and exploring the emotions that drive all the characters. The world is very solid and presented in such a complete way that you become a part of it. We understand these people and why everything in this book occurs. That is a very nice and rare trick for an author to pull.

Double Forte is an refreshing work of hand-crafted beauty, even given its nailbiting nature. Lazar has crafted an original character in LeGarde, one which I am very glad to learn has an entire series being dedicated to him. I strongly recommend this book to all fans of James Patterson, Iris Johanson, and Mary Higgins Clark. You will not be disappointed.

Encyclopedia of Pulp Fiction Writers
Lee Server
Checkmark Books
ISBN: 081604578X, $19.95, 304 pp.

Pulp Fiction has moved from cheap toss-away writings of a bygone era to become a centerpiece in today's pop culture. Pulp writers, such as Edgar Rice Burroughs, Robert E. Howard, Raymond Chandler, V. C. Andrews, Isaac Asimov, Zane Grey, H. P. Lovecraft, Don Pendleton, Leigh Brackett, and Ian Fleming, have become the pillars of the modern day bestsellers' mansion.

Encyclopedia of Pulp Fiction Writers is deeply informative and a must have for any fan, student, or researcher of modern fiction (and the comics, cinema, and culture it has impacted). This book chronicles over a century of great authors who happened to write dime novels, pulp, or mass market paperbacks. These authors not only created some of the most memorable characters in fiction, but they created all the modern genres, like western, detective, science fiction, romance, horror, fantasy, erotica, and action-adventure. I cannot stress enough how valuable a resource this reference book is.

Even with authors I knew a lot about -- Lester Dent, the writer of Doc Savage, for example -- this book had new insights and details. Not only in raw data, but with Server's personal observations and criticisms. For instance, Dent created a character named Oscar Sail who appeared in a series of hardboiled short stories, who was a rugged private investigator always in black who lived on his boat on the coast of Florida. This is decades before John D. McDonald's famed Travis McGee strode onto the deck of his equally black schooner. There is truly nothing new under the sun.

The Encyclopedia contains over 200 entries with insider biographies and lists of writing credits. The authors range from bestselling legends to forgotten "fictioneers." It is also fully illustrated with author photographs, book covers, and vintage artwork from the pulps. This is a beautiful book to read and an invaluable resource to own.

The Shitty Author
Interpact Press
Seminole, FL
ISBN: 978-0962870071, $12.42, 104 pp.

What the sh*t is this? I thought when it came in the mail. Who sent me this load of sh*t? And yet, here it was, steaming in my hand. Unbidden, this sh*t had arrived. Dare I take a closer peek?

However, once I opened it the laughter began and would not stop. Sh*t, it just ran on and on, using up pure white page after cleanly blazing page -- for what? This sh*t? Are you sh*tting me? Yes, yes it was. It was cracking me up. Fully illustrated sh*t, no less.

I was not alone. The back cover had a blurb that read "When I first saw his SH*T, I thought 'what sort of twisted mind could write sh*t like this?' then when I read SH*T, I realized how insanely brilliant it was. It changed my life." Now, he wasn't talking sh*t. Well, maybe about that life changing bullsh*t, but not over all. This book is some serious sh*t, hysterical, and well, the sh*t. You just can't beat it down the drain. It keeps floating back up to the surface of your mind.

So, I am not sure what the future of Sh*t might be. But I know one thing: Holy sh*t, it took a sh*tload of confidence to put this crap out. I love that! I wish this Sh*tty Author and his Really Sh*tty Artist the very best of luck. Because if word ever gets out as to their real identities, the sh*t is really going to hit the fan in their careers. They will be in the sh*t house for sure. But at least this isn't the SOL (Same Old Sh*t) I read every day. How refreshing this Sh*t was! Thanks for the laughs, guys.

Thomas Fortenberry

Gary's Bookshelf

Something about a Woman
Bomani Shuru
Suite 6E 2333 Government St., Victoria. B.C V8T 4P4 Canada
ISBN: 1412061040, $25.00, 1-888-232-4444

I have to admit that I have no clue what this book is about. The author has filled the work with lots of sex, guttural talk, transvestites, homosexuals, lesbians and street realism but there do not seem to be characters, and a story. I'm not even sure if the writer has written a novel or non-fiction work. This is a very confusing piece of writing that is not worth twenty-five dollars

Early Memory
Mark Radford
Suite 6E 2333 Government St., Victoria. B.C V8T 4P4 Canada
ISBN: 1412055873, $14.35, 1-888-232-4444

I really liked this novel from beginning to end. The author presented believable characters in strange situations, with strong writing that moved the story along at a very fast pace. This is a very entertaining novel that was a delightful read by a very talented author. Some books just flow together with snappy dialogue, good characters and fast pacing such is the case here. Even though there are many terms that are very British, that does not take away from this very fine novel. In the future I would like to see other works by Mark Radford.

Help I'm Raising My Parents!
Dr. Cheryl D. Johnson
Legacy Publishing
602 N. Wymore Road, Winter Park, Florida 32789
ISBN: 0976498243, $12.95

The author has given a new slant to the idea of the Baby Boomer generation taking care of its parents by using the teachings of religion. The book is interesting and has new things to say about how we treat the elderly.

Katrina: In the Aftermath of a Killer
Eric Dunbar
Outskirts Press
ISBN: 1598002392, $20.95

This is the first book I've seen on the subject of Hurricane Katrina by a survivor from New Orleans. The author shows that three is blame from the mayor to the President of the United States why Katrina devastated the state of Louisiana. He tells his story first hand of what it was like to live through the storm and its aftermath. He also shows why New Orleans should be rebuilt and that it will rise up out of the disaster.

Cloud Hidden, Whereabouts Unknown
Victoria Rose
Outskirts Press
ISBN: 1598001159, $11.95

Aliens come to earth because their planet is dying. An old premise for a sci-fi novel but this one is very different. The aliens are two sisters and they are very strange. I liked how author Rose moved her tale along with snappy dialogue, interesting characters and lots and lots of sex between aliens and humans.

City for Ransom
Robert W. Walker
Avon Mystery
10 East 53rd Street, New York NY 10022
ISBN: 0060739959, $8.99

Walker's new character Inspector Ransom is the most interesting I think I've ever read by this author. The novel is set in Chicago in the 1890s. This is a very different mystery from Walker's Instinct series because Ransom has to solve the crime without the aid of sophisticated scientific means like other characters he has written about. I especially like the description of the city of Chicago that is so interesting.

Back to the Bedroom
Janet Evanovich
Harper Torch
10 East 53rd Street, New York NY 10022
ISBN: 0060598859, $7.50

Before the Stephanie Plum novels became popular the author published in limited editions 12 romance novels. Now Harper Torch is re-releasing 9 of them and this is one of the first. This novel that is more than a simple romance has the same feel and charm of the Plum books. Elise Hawkins makes her debut here and returns in several other of these early works. Elise Hawkins is the same type of character as Grandma Mazur. Hawkins is one of the reasons I loved this novel that will have readers laughing out loud, the same as the Plum books.

Seas of Crisis
Joe Buff
William Morrow
10 East 53rd Street, New York NY 10022
ISBN: 0060594691, $24.95

I loved this book that is a tense techno thriller. The plot is absolutely ingenious. In the near future a United States commando unit is sent to attack a Russian military installation and make it look like a third party. We are doing this to embarrass Russia because our government has learned that they are covertly supporting the Fascist Berlin -Boer Axis regime. There is another aspect to the picture that borders on being insane but it is the only way for us to get what we want in the world community opinion. The author handles the delicate situation with a tense well thought scenario that is a very chilling tale of what governments really do.

The Majority Rules
Eugene Sullivan
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York 10010
ISBN: 076534999X, $7.99

As the novel opens a federal judge is murdered. A replacement is quickly found and everything seems like it is moving smoothly along until the replacement Tim Quinn begins to find that many cases outcomes are not proper. Quinn finds that the trail even goes to the white house. He enlists the aid of a federal prosecutor to work with him to expose those judges on the take. The novel races along with plot twists and interesting characters, until its final revealing ending. What I liked most about this book is how the author shows the inner workings of our government and how it is really so covert and corrupt.

The Tarnished Eye
Judith Guest
Pocket Books
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, New York 10020
ISBN: 0743486153, $6.99, 1-800-456-6798

Guest has based her novel on a real unsolved murder case. What sets this novel apart from other procedural books is that the reader is caught up in the lives of the characters. The novel moves along briskly as the case concludes but has the reader wanting more stories about the people of this well written story.

Mr. Monk Goes to the Firehouse
Lee Goldberg
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
ISBN: 0451217292, $6.99

I love the show "Monk" and am glad there is now a series of novels. I was very pleased to learn that Goldberg has scripted episodes of "Monk" as well as "Diagnosis Murder". The novel is filled with many good aspects that make the series such a good one. I also liked the several references to "Diagnosis Murder". My only problem is that the author says that Monk is allergic to cats. I remember several episodes where Monk encountered felines there was no reaction other than disgust. In fact, it is lieutenant Disher who did have a reaction. Overall this is a great addition to the world of Monk the obsessive compulsive detective.

Gary Roen

Gorden's Bookshelf

The Cosmic Kalevala Book Three: the Stolen Sun
Emil Petaja
Renaissance E Books
P.O. Box 1432, Northampton, MA 01060
ISBN: 1588735958, $4.99 electronic download, 130 pages

Disclosure: I have 7 books published through Renaissance.

The Kalevala is one of the least know epic myths. It is also a major source for English literature. Longfellow and Tolkien are just two of the authors who have used the Kalevala as source material for their writing. Petaja introduces a science fiction story into the epic myth and re-writes the tale into a fantasy.

In the far future, humanity is expanding into the galaxy. Over the centuries a policy of destroying life on a planet before human colonization has become standard practice. Captain Wayne is the pilot of one of these human destroyer ships and is waging a battle against the Mephiti, another colonizing species. His ESP is used to link into the computer operating the destroyer. The killing of higher level life on whole planets is starting to stress his ultra-sensitive mind. He keeps seeing an old man flying through space on a copper boat. Wayne doesn't know that he is a descendent of the hero Wainomoinen, the greatest wizard of all time, the wizard who left earth in a flying copper boat.

After an unusually brutal battle, Wayne gets transported in time and must fight the witch Pohyola who is stealing the sun from the earth of the heroic past. Wayne must save the sun for both the past and his future.

'The Stolen Sun' is half science fiction and half fantasy. The blending of the two forms of writing is not as smooth as it could be. The fantasy is a much stronger story. In my opinion, this is the strongest of the 'Cosmic Kalevala's' trio of stories. It is an enjoyable tale but with its unusual mythical source serious SF/fantasy connoisseurs will get the most satisfaction from its reading.

The Colorado Kid
Stephen King
A Hard Case Crime Book
Dorchester Publishing Co., Inc.
200 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
ISBN: 0843955848, $5.99, 178 pages

'The Colorado Kid' is a hard case mystery, sort of. It has all the elements of a noir mystery but it isn't. Stephen King's great writing brings this unusual hard case not hard case mystery into something fun to read. In many of King's novels, the length of the story masks the quality of the characterizations. Here the story unfolds in a single day and all you remember are the great characters.

Two elderly men running a local paper are interviewed by a big city reporter looking for mystery stories to write. The journalist leaves without a story. A young female apprentice realizes they were holding something back from the reporter. The canny men decide to tell the apprentice the mystery of the Colorado Kid, testing her instincts as a journalist.

'The Colorado Kid' doesn't fit any established niche. It is great writing that is fun to read because it is great. It flirts with various mystery styles and finds its own place. If you need something to fill an afternoon, pick up 'The Colorado Kid.' You will not be disappointed.

S.A. Gorden, Reviewer

Henry's Bookshelf

Shadows, Specters, Shards - Making History in Avant-garde Film
Jeffrey Skoller
U. of Minnesota Press
111 Third Ave. South - Suite 290, Minneapolis, MN 55401-2520
ISBN: 0816642311, $74.95 hc, 233+xlvi pp.
ISBN: 081664232X, $24.95 trade paper

The filmmaker and associate professor of new media at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago sees that despite being "unapprehendable" though being "often sensed," the shadows, specters, and shards of the title "are nevertheless part of the energy of the past and exert themselves as a force on the present." It is the avante-garde filmmakers rather than the mainstream or conventional ones relying on narration, chronology, and cultural symbols who tap into such "unseen forces" in their films to create an "awareness of other temporalities in which linear chronologies are called into question in favor of other temporal structures such as simultaneity and virtuality." This not only better reflects the way individuals and societies are aware of history, but also reflects the innumerable heterogeneous incidents, events, personalities, tendencies, etc. which make for history and have little coherence. Skoller goes beyond analysis of the shards, etc., as characteristics of postmodern culture; and as these have often been used by writers and artists to reflect this culture or to comment on or in some cases criticize it. Skoller puts these characteristics in a useful and in some respects productive light by examining them as techniques rather than simply effects. His material is not laudatory, however; nor does it especially commend the techniques; for history does not lend itself to stable definition or complete comprehension by means of any techniques. The author is concerned mainly with noting that the shadows, specters, and shards despite their elusiveness, incompleteness, and even insubstantiality are better suited to not only recording but also conveying history. The material of the book is in large measure illustration of this central point by considering how movies by leading and influential avant-garde filmmakers such as Jean-Luc Godard, Daniel Eisenberg, Ken Jacobs, and Patricio Guzman have dealt with historical issues and material even though this has not been widely recognized or accepted.

Raiders of the Civil War - Untold Stories of Actions Behind the Lines
Russ A. Pritchard, Jr.
Lyons Press/Globe Pequot Press
246 Goose Ln., Guilford, CT 06437; 800-962-0973
ISBN: 1592286194, $29.95, 144 pp.

Particularly dramatic, relatively well-defined actions by both sides during the Civil War are recounted in short, vignette-like, illustrated chapters. Some of these among the 20 on land and 9 on sea were strategically important; but all were selected mainly for their daring. A Confederate robbery of a bank in Vermont, a Union attempt to capture or kill Jefferson Davis, the Confederate Jeb Stuart's and the Union's Philip Sheridan's cavalry raids, attacks on supply lines and railroads, and efforts to sabotage the development of ironclads variously display the characteristics of notable military figures, the wiles and skills of unsung soldiers, strategic goals of either side, and the unconventional thinking and activities of both sides to gain advantages by surprise. Many of the stories are not "untold," but perhaps better said relatively "unknown" for their marginal effect and limited scope in the scale of the battles, death, and destruction of the Civil War. But even the most knowledgeable Civil-War buffs will come across escapades they hadn't know about, and learn details of others which they had.

Night Mowing
Chard deNiord
U. of Pittsburgh Press
Eureka Building - Fifth Floor, 3400 Forbes Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15260
ISBN: 0822958945, $14.00, 77+ix pp.

In the eight-page poem "Sleeping Lessons," "Adirondack chairs lay fractured on/the lawn, dismantled by the storm." The poet knows of the destructive, uncompromisng power of storms. Yet a few lines later in this same poem, this "weatherman at heart...imagine[s] and therefore remember[s] perfect forms." In "Sugaring," he realizes "the world was one behind the guise of leaves." No matter what may come into the poet's life, he always, by a combination of instinct, belief, and willfulness, searches for unity at least; and often, better, the heartening, heady feeling of redemption and transcendence.

Tank Rider - Into the Reich with the Red Army
Evgeni Bessonov
2114 Darby Rd., Havertown, PA 19083
ISBN: 1932033483, $19.95, 254 pp.

These memoirs written a few years after the author's 50-year career in the Russian Army "are a look back at the life of a typical member of the Red Army" in World War II. Bessonov was an officer in a tank detachment; but lower-ranking field officers such as he was at the time were out in front of their men in advances and engagements. The memoir is shorn of any heroics or sentimentality. Nor does its author focus on himself any more than necessary to make for a sense of continuity or set the scene for the reader. The style is like an officer's "after-action report"--in this case one long report--going little beyond what happened to be read by others for purposes of intelligence-gathering or a comprehensive military history. "We came under fire from three German assault guns, which turned out to be some 50 metres from us. We had to take cover behind trees, as the assault guns fired at almost very single soldier." For the reader, such spareness makes in seem he is almost participating in the action. In battle, there's no time or occasion to think or feel really--only sheer action and reaction, the way the former officer writes. Bessonov joined the Red Army at the climatic 1943 battle of Kursk dooming Nazi Germany to eventual defeat on the Eastern Front. But it wasn't until two years later that the author and his tank crews and accompanying infantrymen victoriously enterered Berlin. In his plainly-written, though gripping war memoir, Bessonov brings the reader every step of the conflict-filled way.

The Art of Wonder: A History of Seeing, Text and Watercolours
Julian Spalding
900 Broadway - Suite 603, New York, NY 10003
ISBN: 3791331507, $35.00, 287 pp.

Spalding's book on art breathtaking in its breadth and fascinating for its enormous store of details locates the sources and influences of art in cultures of all times and all parts of the earth. "The colour green appeared to have a sacred meaning for the ancient Mayan people..."; "The only decorations allowed [in Islamic religious art] apart from stylized, intertwined flowers, are quotations from the Koran...." But Spalding sees beyond the local and historical bases for each culture's distinctive art to its common human elements running through all time and all circumstance. "When we encounter faces from the past, we almost always recognise the look in their eyes." The great diversity of material is divided into chapters of general topics--Under the Sun, Birth, Visions, The Age of Light, and others. The work is intended not only to impart a wealth of factual, cultural, and historical information on art, but also to form a comprehension and perspective of art based on the author's belief that the sense of wonder is essential to the spirit and allure of art. Spalding is an English art critic and art museum and gallery director who has controversial, provocative views of modern art. He maintains that "Western art fell apart in the 1940s..."; and that its millenial sources became supplanted by the new, modern, art's twin dictums that it had to be new and that it had to shock. The author hopes that eventually these dictims will die away so that art will once again grow out of the sense of wonder.

A Space Syntax Analysis of Arroyo Hondo Pueblo, New Mexico - Community Formation in the Northern Rio Grande
Jason S. Shapiro
School of American Research Press
PO Box 2188, Santa Fe, NM 87504-2188
ISBN: 193061859X, $24.95, 178+xx pp.

Shapiro applies the relatively new methodology of space syntax in the field of architecture to the field of archaeology with fruitful results. In analyzing the organization of space in the 14th-century Pueblo Native American community of Arroyo Hondo in the vicinity of present-day Santa Fe, Shapiro's meticulous archaeological study extending over many years arrives at explanations for "how space was both arranged and correlated with the social and political behavior" of this Pueblo community during the relatively brief time of its 125-year existence. The space syntax methodology together with standard and innovative archaeological techniques leads Shapiro to conclude that changes in the structures of the buildings, particularly those allowing for more privacy for individuals and family groups, relieved some of the stresses that might otherwise have led to warfare by "enabling incoming [i. e., migrant or immigrant] groups to reclaim some of their autonomy" they lost when assimilating into the Arroyo Hondo Pueblo. The author relates how space syntax works applied to archaelogy with tables of measurements, diagrams of building structures, and graph-like illustrations noting architectural features and changes. The content is fairly technical, though readily followed by readers with knowledge of the basics of architecture and archaelogy.

Globe Trekker's World: A Month-by-Month Guide to What's on in the World...And When
Pilot Production/Globe Pequot Press
246 Goose Ln., PO Box 480, Guilford, CT 06437
ISBN: 0762737913, $19.95 280+vi pp. and CD

Each chapter starts off with listing festivals, outdoors [activities], beaches, and special places with respect to the month covered and locating these on a map on the same page. Then the activities or locations are described in the following chapter content, with a closing section of "Additional listings." The travel guide is a tie-in with the TV show on American Public Television and other networks. "Not all of these trips [including rigorous hikes and travels to remote areas] are easy, comfortable, or cheap." But all are chosen to offer the adventurous traveler something new or rewarding.

The Wolves at the Door - The True Story of America's Greatest Female Spy
Judith L. Pearson
Lyons Press/Globe Pequot
PO Box 480, Guilford, CT 06437
ISBN: 159228762X, $22.95, 260+x pp.

Virginia Hall was a Baltimore-born American Foreign Service officer in Lyon, France, when Hitler invaded in 1940. She quickly made the decision to use her familiarity with the region and contacts she had made as an espionage agent for the Allied forces. She worked effectively in coordinating and directing sabotage, assassinations, and other activities until the Nazis took over the southern part of France which they had allowed to remain nominally indepedent under Petain. After fleeing Lyon to Spain, Hall was brought to London by the British and American intelligence services she had been working with. They had come to prize her abilities in operating undetected, working with the French Resistanance, and causing damage to the German war machine in France. Recognizing that she would be a valuable agent working in France in the time leading up to D-Day, she was sent back into France. After the War, Hall received high awards for her incomparable espionage work from the British and American governments. Pearson--author of other works on personal stories from World War II--tells Hall's daring story in a quick-paced style occasionally going into historical background. An engaging commemoration for this little-known, but major World War II Allied spy.

The Begum's Millions
Jules Verne
translated by Stanford L. Luce
edited by Arthur B. Evans
Introduction and Notes by Peter Schulman
Wesleyan U. Press
215 Long Lane, Middletown, CT 06459
ISBN: 0819567965, $29.95, 261+xxxix pp.

This 1879 moralistic Verne novel contrasts the ideal French city France-Ville with the malevolent German City of Steel. The founders of the respective cities were able to build them with their receipt of millions of dollars from an Indian rajah. The dark view of the German character Herr Schultze and his militarisic, imperialistic City of Steel is attributed to the French view of Germany after France's defeat in the Franco-Prussian War in 1871. But "The Begum's Millions" is not simply a nationalistic, chauvinistic French work of the time, but also a novelistic treatment in the genre of "Brave New World" and "1984" of central political and cultural subjects and controversies of the modern era. Industrialization, urban life, the benefits of improved health brought by science, political leadership, and the scourge of more destructive weapons are starkly portrayed. The French city manages to overcome the dire threat from the German city, absorbing the positive aspects of the latter into it for one combined community which is a "model city and factory." Nonetheless one can now see Verne's novel as a prophecy of the history of 20th-century Europe with the German city the victor. This edition part of Wesleyan's ongoing Early Classics of Science Fiction series is more than a economic, smart translation. With bibliographic matter of 20 pages on Verne's publications and another 11 pages on secondary sources, it is a notable resource on this pioneering author in the field of science fiction and fantasy.

Jewish Life in the Industrial Promised Land, 1855-2005
Nora Faires and Nancy Hanflik
Michigan State U. Press
1405 S. Harrison Rd. - Suite 25 Manly Miles Bldg., East Lansing, MI 48823-5202
ISBN: 0870137719, $29.95, 222+xviii pp.

The century and a half time frame covers Flint, Michigan, from its origins as a major industrial city, through the prosperity its inhabitants enjoyed in the decades when the automobile industy was the centerpiece of the American economy, until the last decades of the 20th century when Flint along with other major industrial centers fell into decline with the success of foreign automakers. During this long time, the lives of Flint's Jewish inhabitants reflected the general condition of the other residents. While Jews never participated in the well-paying and long-term factory work for the automobiles, they took part in the ups and downs, promising prospects and economic worries, affecting those involved in auto manufacturing and their families as shop owners, doctors and other professionals, and entrepreneurs in the areas of services for other city residents. Fairies and Hanflick's history of the Jews of Flint using their "own analytic framework and interpretive lens, but using the community's words and perceptions to help guide the analysis...and give shape and substance to the story" entails ecletic content. This ranges from oral history, many photographs from all periods, profiles of leading Jews, and social and economic history. All this is brought together coherently and informatively in this combination of regional, urban history and minority, Jewish study following mainly the assimilation and fortunes of the generations of the city's Jewish community. Both authors are connected with Michigan universities.

Towards a Post-modern Understanding of the Political - From Genealogy to Hermeneutics
Andrius Bielskis
Palgrave Macmillan
175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010
ISBN: 1403995990, $76.00, 216+ix pp.

Bielski's work presenting a "philosophical position rather than a fully articulated philosophical argument" coming out of his research for his doctoral thesis at the U. of Warwick, England, comes to grips with the fundamentals of modern and contemporary culture. Bielski's position--i.e., major observation, basic critique--is that "[w]e have approached an era in our history when to live and see the world according to the predominant liberal narrative of ever increasing individual/human emancipation will be to arrive at the abandonment of humanity itself." The content is mainly an analysis and demonstration of how this is happening. Whereas nearly all contemporary social critics and even philosophers concentrate on subjects such as popular culture, media, the absence of artistic principles, minorities or marinalized groups, and economic and cultural globalization, this author reevaluates figures such as Nietzsche and Marx (to name only a couple among many) and the idea of kitsche which these others consider for the most passe. While not arguing for their continuing relevance, Bielskis nonetheless convincingly persuades thoughtful readers that the ongoing influence of Nietzsche, the unreflective acceptance of kitsche, etc., along with the marginalization or disregard of classical philosophers such as Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas leaves modern individuals and their culture blind and aimless. Indeed, despite being described as a "position" rather than developed argument, the work has a cogency and focus which show most writing on modern culture and its participants and celebrants to be the diversionary, merely entertaining pastiche that it is. Bielski's answer for the ills and impoverishments of postmodern culture with its irresolvable anxieties over power, identity, and spiritlessness is a "theistic narrative...embodied in Christianity [which can be] philosophically redeveloped as...a post-humanist narrative." As substantively and relevantly developed by the author in the course of his book, this gives ones who believe society has entered the post-Christian era something to think about.

Henry Berry

Magdalena's Bookshelf

The Best Australian Stories 2005
Frank Moorhouse (Ed)
Black Inc.
ISBN: 1863952454, $AU 24.95

As a literary form, the short story remains the most immediately accessible. It's brevity, first and foremost, and the way it immerses the reader instantly into another world, with a full set of beats towards the denouement, should render it amongst the most popular for readers. The paucity of short story collections gracing the bestseller lists is therefore surprising. Perhaps this is because, like poetry, the best stories seem to come out of sponsored prizes, literary magazines and anthologies, and other mixed author collections like the annual Best Australian Short Stories books published by Black Inc. It is one of the benefits of the form that readers can taste and sample such a variety of narratives, literary styles, and genres in one volume. This sixth edition of the series contains twenty-six stories selected and set out by respected writer and master of the form Frank Moorhouse, who called for submissions from the Australian Society of Authors, the well known literary magazines, national competitions, literary festivals, and other general submissions. It couldn't have been an easy task. The result is rather like a box of exquisite chocolates. There are soft centres, crunchy nutty ones you want more of, ones that come across as slightly too sweet for one reader or too bitter for another. That's the beauty of the form however, since each story is a complete experience. You can start and finish a story within an hour, maybe just before going to bed, where it unfolds in sleep to meld with your own experiences: colouring your dreams. Or you can read a story to remove yourself from the mundane, like a train trip or standing in a queue--taking refuge in someone's else's problems, the demise of relationships, sexual confusion, mistaken identity, the long term effects of stillbirth, life after death, or the myriad of other themes, plots, characters and situations which make up the stories in this collection.

The stories chosen are as varied as the authors, who range from newly published eighteen year old Alli Bernard, whose "How to Love Broken Glass" is lightening fast, taking a post-modern meditation on a seductive and destructive relationship, to the very experienced, silky smooth sexy prose of Peter Goldsworthy's confused protagonist in "Mirror, Mirror." Like any collection of such a mixed range of narratives, there will be stories which appeal to readers and others which don't. For me, one of the most moving story is by maven Janette Turner Hospital in "Blind Date," where the narrator, Lachlan, is a blind ten year old, hoping his missing father will appear at his sister's wedding. Hospital perfectly captures the sensual, but matter-of-fact world of this boy, whose yearning is conveyed to the reader:

His face was pressed into his father's shirt where the collar met the yoke and there was a damp vibrating sweetness that Lachlan recognised. The smell was like baskets of clothing waiting to be ironed and like the mounds of sheet where his mother set him down while she folded and stacked. The sensation was familiar too: the sinking into softness, the smell of clean, the muted thrum against his ear. When Lachlan's father shows up in his dreams, he trails washdays.(72)

Like many of the stories in this collection, "Blind Date" captures an authentic characterisation, an authentic Australian sense of place, and something more--some big truth about human nature, pain, loss and growth.

Breaking with the tradition of including a single story from each chosen author, Moorehouse has included three related stories by Patrick Cullen. "Mauve," "Collapsing Under Their Own Weight," and "'And?' are threaded together by character and situation, and it is fascinating to see how Cullen manages the change of time and place between stories. Although each piece can be read as a stand-alone story, they work perfectly together; following a married couple, Paul and Carol, as their relationship suffers through a minor breakdown in Paul's life, and then a medical one in Carol's. The rhythm and timing between these characters is powerful, as is the impact of others, along with the self-referential nature of Paul's epiphany:

And he was going to keep writing until he knew what it felt like to have the screwdriver under the lid of the pain tin, until he could already hear the sound of the lid peeling back from the lip of the tin, until he could see, really see, and smell the paint as he rolled it onto the bedroom walls. He was going to keep writing until he knew what it felt like to have the rest of his life ahead of him. "Mauve" (28)

The point of desire which drives the plot forward shifts from the first story to the last, but in both cases, whether Carol or Paul, the desire remains melancholy and unconsummated.

Relationships on the verge of collapse, the difficulty of communication, and sexual confusion are the most common themes in this book, and the dichotomy between what a character feels and what is described is handled deftly by all of the authors who deal with these universal topics. Joanna Kujawa's slow and dreamy "Wild Horses," shifts from a freewheeling Bali fling with a married man, to one where it is impossible to see who is captive and who is the captor; who is leaving whom. The descriptions of Bali are lush:

On the last night they walk on the beack streets of Jimbaran, the village they didn't see, away from the beach and the sea,. Small, hidden streets behind a thousand-year-old Hindu temple, decorated with offerings to the gods. Rice, flowers and fruit on tiny trays of palm leaves. The statues of gods in checkered sarongs around their hips and blood-red hibiscus flowers behind their elongated ears. Their stone bodies are overgrown with the moss of monsoon topics.(96)

A similar power shift occurs in Chris Mansell's tightly written "This Thistle," where the angular sharp beauty of a thistle becomes representative for the pain of love deliberately uprooted and destroyed. The sharpness is softened by the gentle narration from a distanced friend, whose own longing to participate is kept at bay by busyness and fear: "She thought about the way the world was barely hanging together: unseen energies keeping each other in check; life, somehow, seeping through and making itself. She watched the world for the chinks and mishaps, and for the subtle unfolding of the leaves and creation of one spark out of another, not 'new life' but changed energy which burst through the interstices." (101) It is the changed energy bursting through the interstices which drives this, and many of the other stories in this collection.

Danielle Wood's "The True Daughter," is superb in the way it slowly reveals the impact of that changed energy, in the parallels between a terminally ill woman and her carer. The impact of daughter "Kate," and the tenderness and sense of loss which is conveyed in this story is almost unbearable delicate. The reader simultaneously cheers for and feels sorry for the carer Tamsin as she takes on the burden of her patient's memories, and finds a way to exist that mitigates the loss. The number of subtly handled twists in this story and the patient progression of the narration is a perfect example of what a well-written short story can do.

In fact, despite a few stories which may touch on experiences the reader doesn't identify with, or a few which come across as less smooth than others, most of the stories in this immensely enjoyable collection are examples of what a well-written story can do. There are no novel "excerpts" here (a flaw in many short story collections), or work so experimental that it is unreadable. This is an accessible collection with stories that almost always add up to something which wasn't there before. The economy and careful construction of this work is one which a serious reader will appreciate--Moorhouse has chosen well--but overall, what is most appealing about The Best Australian Stories 2005 is simply how enjoyable they are. Read them together in a big combined sessions, or savour them slowly, one at a time in moments where only a small scale but complete fiction will do. This is indulgence of the most pleasurable kind .

Arthur & George
By Julian Barnes
Jonathan Cape
ISBN: 0224077031, A$49.95, 360 pp.

"A child wants to see. It always begins like this, and it began like this then. A child wanted to see." (3) Julian Barnes' latest novel, Arthur & George is a novel about sight in all of its forms. From the simple impact of optical myopia to the complex impact of metaphorical myopia--short sightedness and long sightedness. It is about what we do and don't see: the visible bonds of friendship, sympathy, or hatred and prejudice. This sight extends to questions of guilt and innocence; how we judge and determine, and perhaps more broadly, how each of us lives our lives with the knowledge of our impending death. These complex but subtly developed themes underpin the fictionalised stories of real life characters Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes, and George Edalji, solicitor and victim of the Great Wyrley outrages. The story traces each of these characters separately, characterising their lives and the forces which made them who they ultimate became, and finally, in chapter 2, brings them together in a way which is equally powerful for both characters.

The novel is structured into four quite distinct chapters, each of which contain a series of titled passages which initially alternate between Arthur and George. In "Beginning," the first chapter, the passages are short, often only a page or two in length, with Arthur's in the past tense and George's in the present. This distinction makes George's story seem more immediate through this section, even though they are both taking place at similar points in time and both narrations adopt identical, and fairly cool third person omniscient tones. It is as if it is George's story primarily, which Arthur joins, bringing his back story into the present of George's life:

Arthur developed into a large, boisterous youth, who found consolation in the school library and happiness on the cricket field. Once a week the boys were set to write home, which most regarded as a further punishment, but Arthur viewed as a reward.(11)

The second chapter, "Beginning with an Ending," contains a large proportion of the plot, as we focus for some time on George, including the publication of his book Railway Law for The "Man in the Train." There is a single passage which, almost beautifully, and so subtly it could be easily missed at this stage, begins the mutilation and murder of a horse: the first in a series which is ultimately blamed on George. We are also introduced to Inspector Campbell, the man at the head of the investigation, a fascinating contrast to Arthur's suave Sherlock Holmes, and the investigative Arthur we later meet. The suspense in this section is high as the plot begins to speed up, albeit without losing the introspection that follows the extreme logic of George as he watches the world that once made so much sense to him fall apart, holding tight to his sense of 'stolidness':

Part of him wanted to stay in his cell, plaiting nose-bags and reading the works of Sir Walter Scott, catching colds when his hair was cut in the freezing courtyard, and hearing the old joke about bed-bugs again. He wanted this because he knew it was likely to be his fate, and the best way to be resigned to your fate was to want it. The other part of him, which wanted to be free tomorrow, which wanted to embrace his mother and sister, which wanted public acknowledgement of the great injustice done him - this was the part he could not give full rein to, since it could end by causing him the most pain. (155)

It is in this section that Arthur's narrative changes to present tense, taking on a greater corresponding sense of immediacy as he meets the woman he falls in love with, Jean Leckie. As Arthur begins to question his own sense of chivalry, along with his understanding of truth, he falls into a depression which worsens considerably as his consumptive wife dies:

He is a hypocrite; he is a fraud. In some ways, he has always felt a fraud, and the more famous he has become, the more fraudulent he has felt. He is lauded as a great man of the age, but though he takes an active part in the world, his heart feels out of kilter with it. (203)

The next chapter, "Ending with a Beginning," traces Arthur's involvement in George's case . Arthur's depression lifts as he attempts find justice in the context of the tremendous prejudices: class, race, circumstantial, and physical, that surround both George and the judicial system. The complex dance between Arthur and George is handled beautifully by Barnes as he creates an inner world which would only have been hinted at by the extensive research he must have done for this work. The reader is drawn by George's sense of Arthur's failure, Arthur's sense of George's failings, the frustration at trying to come to some concrete truth as the triangle which was once Arthur, his wife Touie, and his love Jean becomes the triangle of George, Arthur and Jean. The tenuous nature of reality and the fine line between truth and fiction are all brought into the story without losing the integrity of either the narrative, the characterisations or the plot. The final chapter "Endings," is mainly focused on Arthur's spiritualism, but also provides a sense of deliberately unsatisfying closure to George's case, further showing the indistinct line between fact and fiction, and the difficulty of finding a concrete truth.

Throughout the novel, Barnes manages a fine balance between the kind of teeth grinding detective suspense that his alter-ego, the detective writer Dan Kavanagh, would be proud of, and a much slower, and more universal exploration of the way in which different people handle stress and make meaning in their lives. The language remains powerful while never interfering with the careful and detailed unfolding which Barnes has deliberately set. Almost purple metaphors like "Explode like the boiler of a tramp steamer and just sink beneath the waves with all hands," are set off by cool narration: "The Mam does not answer. It is not necessary to refuse his simile, or even to ask if he has seen a doctor for chest pains." (189) This is a novel both quiet and introspective, and full of rich action. In a bumbling, boisterous way, Arthur is the hero of this novel, and ends up lauded, famous, and respected as the man who was always willing to go out on a limb for the sake of justice, but he is also fallible. His predictions on the future utopia of mankind and the demise of organised religion is most notably wrong, and as a character, it is his failings which are most appealing. When Arthur first meets George, he tells him, "No, I do not think you are innocent. No, I do not believe you are innocent. I know you are innocent." (219) This parallels his earlier conversation with his mother when he speaks of Jean's love for him, "I think she does. I believe she does. How can I know she does?" (189) Knowledge is a tenuous thing, subject to manipulation, shadings of light, emotions and desire. Arthur's quest, set out in the most chivalrous of narratives, is one for inner knowledge. Inspector Anson, another culprit in the case against George tells Arthur that no one is completely innocent; or, in effect, there is no such thing as full knowledge. We can never really know. Knowledge is Arthur's ultimate quest, and one which the reader feels he has fulfilled, as his metaphorical ghost hovers in the empty chair at the end of the novel.

George too is as appealing to the reader as he is to Arthur, for his tenuous but constant hold on naivety and his belief in righteousness and the ultimate power of logic. Barnes has clearly done a tremendous amount of research, and even a reader who comes to this work without the slightest knowledge of Arthur Conan-Doyle will leave with a good understanding of the key events in his life, from his earliest memory to his death. There are images of George's real book cover, real newspaper clippings, and other quotes from the annuals of history. However, the real magic of Arthur and George is, as is almost always the case with Barnes, in the great beauty of the narrative, which brings these characters into fictional life. Within the tight confines of Barnes' exceptional narrative power, the reader is forced to look at the biggest questions of life. Barnes has taken a particular event in history, and turned it into something universal and timeless.

Magdalena Ball, Reviewer

Mayra's Bookshelf

Writing Children's Books for Dummies
Lisa Rojany Buccieri and Peter Economy
Wiley Publishing, Inc.
111 River St., Hoboken, NJ 07030-5774
ISBN: 0764537288, $19.99, 355 pp.

Writing Children's Books for Dummies is one of those complete, easy-to-use guides that should be on the shelf of any writer who is serious about writing and publishing children's books. Having read most of the reference books on this subject on the market today, I can say this is right there among the best and well worth its price.

The structure of the book is clear and easy to handle, the language straight forward and to the point. No matter which aspect of children's writing or publishing you're interested in, you only have to look in the table of contents to find it. The authors use interviews and illustrations to present their ideas in a more engaging manner. They also utilize icons to stress important ideas or points. For example, special icons are used for "Tips" (expert advice), "Remember" (important information to store in your brain for later recall), "Warning" (avoiding mistakes), and "Ahead of the Pack" (new and innovative topic). At the end of the book there are five lined pages for note taking, quite practical for those readers who like to take notes as they read.

Everything from formats and genres, understanding the market, setting up your workspace, coming up with ideas, researching, creating compelling characters, the mechanics of writing (conflict, climax, dialogue, setting, point of view, tone, theme, etc.) to editing and formatting, illustrating, finding agents and publishers, the publishing process and much, much more. You'll even find more than ten great sources for compelling storylines, as well as helpful tips on promoting your work. In short, all the information you'll need to succeed as a children's book author.

Whether you choose to read from cover to cover or jump straight to the topic of your choice, Writing Children's Books for Dummies will prove to be an indispensable reference and amalgam of helpful information for your writing career, as well as a fecund source of ideas for articles. Highly recommended for both fiction and non-fiction writers, students of children's literature, and writing teachers.

Revolutionary Tax
Don Adams
Wings ePress, Inc.
403 Wallace Court, Richmond, KY 40475
ISBN: 1590886127, $11.95, 253 pages,

Young sales executive John Wilson flies to Madrid to attend a business meeting. At a bar one night he meets a beautiful young woman named Elena Sanchez. He soon discovers she's the daughter of an influential, rich Spaniard. Unfortunately, he doesn't know too much about her family, and by the times he does, it's already too late: Elena is kidnapped, and Wilson, being in the wrong place at the wrong time, is kidnapped as well. Thus Wilson and Elena embark on a dark journey in the midst of twisted ideals, injustice and violence.

As terrorists and anti-terrorists go against each other, it becomes ironically and painfully difficult to tell ones from the others. Indeed, the anti-terrorists are as bad, if not worse, as the terrorists themselves. This realistic quality is one of the best aspects of this story. The author is successful in painting a grim, realistic picture where there's no good vs. evil, but only evil vs. evil. So if what you're expecting is a tale "alla" Rambo, you'll be disappointed. This, of course, is a compliment to the book.

The novel begins as Wilson's story, but somewhere in the middle it becomes Orvis's story. Orvis has been hired by Elena's father to be her bodyguard. A conservative, terrorist-hater, he's as cold-blooded and cruel as the worst of terrorists. Contrasting with Orvis is Bulartsu, a young member of ETA (Basque Terrorist Organization). Somewhat confused, Bulartsu is your "nice, next-door kid" who has joined ETA for noble reasons yet soon finds out that he's fallen prey to predators who don't understand the meaning of justice.

Who are the heroes and who are the bad guys in Revolutionary Tax? As in real life, the answer isn't black and white, but grey. Suspense, a slight touch of romance and international intrigue characterize this well-written novel that most sophisticated readers will enjoy.

Mayra Calvani

Molly's Bookshelf

Time To Fly -- a Fairy Lane Book
Barbara Lanza
Moo Press, Inc.
PO Box 54, Warwick, NY 10990
ISBN: 0972485376, $19.95, 32 pp., Ages 4 & up

Enchanting Read …. Highly Recommended …. 5 stars

The big day has arrived. Today begins the Time to Fly festival in Fairy Lane. Everyone is so excited. Preparations are taking place all across the village. Babies are ready to fly! Petals has won an important race showing that she is the fastest little fairy in the lane and it is she who will be sprinkling fairy dust on the babies so that they too may begin to fly. Oh no, disaster. Petals cannot find the pouch of fairy dust. When her parents suggest she tidy her room Petals cannot believe her ears. Hurrying to the raspberry patch she begins a frantic hunt to find that all important pouch. She searched the patch, she searched the glade. At last Petals hurried home to search her own room.

The children in my fourth grade class enjoyed this book very much. The girls (and I) delighted in the exquisite illustrations. And despite the 'girly' flavor of the book the boys also voted the tale a winner and assured that every girl will 'love this book.'

Time To Fly is a truly beautiful work. Writer/Illustrator has produced a lovely edition sure to please young readers. The book provided a discussion starter regarding responsibility, need to keep our room tidy and how nice it is to be the one to do something special. The subtle interweaving of an important truth, it is much easier to keep track of our things in a room where things are on shelves and not all over the floor is a nice bonus for parents and teachers alike. The children in my classroom were quick to 'catch on.' Magic, delight and the wonderful world of make believe come alive as the reader moves from page to page. We meet a gentle opossum Snuggles who helps to look for the pouch. Our tongues longed for a taste of Mrs. Bellwort's raspberry punch. I liked seeing Molly, the Wild Cherry fairy and her baby.

Time To Fly is a 'read to' for the younger set 3-6, a read with help for the 6 - 8s and read alone for middle grades. The children in my classroom continue to reread the tale. Written in 'kid friendly' prose, and filled with wonderfully executed illustrations Time To Fly is an excellent choice for the classroom book shelf, the homeschool book list, the school library and the home pleasure reading shelf. This one is a keeper. I enjoyed the book, happy to recommend.

I Grew Up On A Farm
Alan Lewis
Illustrated by Bob Fletcher
Moo Press, Inc.
PO Box 54 Warwick, NY 10990
ISBN: 0976680521, $19.95/CAN$27.95, 32 pp.

Captivating Read ….. Recommended ….. 5 stars

I Grew Up On A Farm, is an autobiographical account of the author's life spent on a functioning farm in Middletown, New York during the 1950s. Written by author Alan Lewis and illustrated by artist Bob Fletcher I Grew Up On A Farm brings to life the author's memories of a time shared by this reviewer and sadly lost to many today. I Grew Up On A Farm offers the reader a fascinating peek into farm life as experienced by much of America for a good part of the last century. And it offers a moment of reminisce for those who enjoy remembering their own childhood spent in much the manner as writer Lewis has captured.

Written in child friendly text and richly illustrated I Grew Up On A Farm brings the reader step by step with the writer as he gathers eggs, plays with his dog, gathers produce from the family garden for sale at a roadside booth. The reader is offered a glimpse into the work and fun to be found on a family farm. We see fishing down at the pond, taking care of chores and whiling away the long summer days with family and friends.

I particularly liked the artwork found in the work. Illustrated with black and white photographs expanded by illustrator Fletcher to full color drawings each page is a treat. I Grew Up On A Farm is a good-hearted tale of a time quickly vanishing from our country. Urban sprawl stretching further and further into areas where family farms once flourished

I took I Grew Up On A Farm to my fourth grade class room where it became an instant hit. We live in a rural portion of Oklahoma, however only one of the students actually lives 'out in the country'. The kids were enthralled to listen to the tale and have taken turns reading the book to themselves since. We voted re the art work and our consensus is 'the art work is great!'

I Grew Up On A Farm is a read to book for the younger set of 3 - 8s. It is a read with some help for the 8s and 9s and a read alone for most middle grades. The book provides an excellent opportunity for children to discuss life today as opposed to life a few years ago and to speculate about how life may change in the future.

I enjoy the book every bit as much as has my class, happy to recommend. I Grew Up On A Farm is an excellent choice for the home pleasure library, the classroom book shelf, school library stacks and the homeschool reading list.

Molly Martin, Reviewer

Nancy's Bookshelf

The Holocaust Opera: A Collection of Dark Tales
Mark Edward Hall
Lost Village Publishing Enterprises Inc
6 Sagamore Lane, Richmond, Maine 04357
ISBN: 1411620763, $18.95, 313 pages

The Holocaust Opera, with its two novellas and seven shorter works, is an emotionally and psychologically driven thrill ride. The way in which the author embraces such evocative and distinctive themes, words and descriptions, are poetic and eerily seductive. Mr. Hall pens a story like one who has walked this world many times over, returning with vast wisdom, experience, and at the same time a seer of what is yet to come. Each story will leave you with a chill down your back, and a newfound concern for the sounds you've been pretending that you haven't heard. Relentless with where he takes you, the author cleverly pushes you closer to the edge, until you get lost in the beautiful madness of his creations. I enjoyed each offering, but have chosen to write about the ones that affected me the most.

The Haunting of Sam Cabot is one of the two novellas in this collection and it honestly had me on pins and needles. Sam Cabot returns to a place of great evil and painful memories after ten years. The secrets inside the house still haunt him, from when he and his wife bought the old house and restored it. Even though so much time has passed, he still can't forget the sinister looking furnace that drew him to it each and every night, a furnace that when touched felt like flesh. If you have ever read the warning signs before getting on a fast roller coaster at an amusement park, I swear those rules apply to this story as well. Plenty of twists and turns, and it will raise your heart rate.

The Manor is a unique story told from John L. Tittleman's perspective as he relates in his journal on the strange happenings from the Ellis Manor. John's whole reason for coming to the manor is in hopes of speaking with Captain Ellis himself, who was part of a voyage on the questionable ship, Witchcraft. With the blend of history and legend-like horror, the author wields an exhilarating and unsettling tale.

BugShot is one of those stories that just plain disturb. Herb, an aging farmer, has a fear of wasps. For unknown reasons - he blames the ozone - there seems to be a wasp epidemic going on around his barn. Herb tries to remedy the situation with a new kind of bug spray called BugShot. Pleased with the environment-friendly label and somewhat intoxicating aroma, he thinks he has outsmarted the pesky insects. Unfortunately, told in a morbidly entertaining way, Herb isn't entirely correct.

My Leona is a subtle horror story laced with both erotic and creepy elements. Each night, Harold dreams about a younger, fantasy version of his now aging wife in all her flawless perfection. As soon as he wakes up, an incessant sound of scraping metal comes from below the house. His wife insists it is the sound of rats and nags him to take care of it. What he finds would drive anyone mad.

Swift but potent, The Nest is a story that keeps playing through my mind over and over again. In a small town, babies are disappearing at night from their cribs without a trace. One father tries to take matters into his own hands. Fearful of what it could mean, he observes a large birds nest set in an old pine tree that suddenly appeared when the disappearances started.

The second novella of the collection, The Holocaust Opera paints a macabre setting of a singer seeking out a troubled artist whose music stirs up unfathomable and disturbing images. I found this story fascinating and almost painful in a bittersweet way. The melodic words and descriptions used in this story will have you turning the pages quickly.

After reviewing his first novel, The Lost Village, I have eagerly waited for more works by Mr. Hall, and not only did this collection satisfy my craving, but it solidified to me what a strong force he is in the writing world. His visions and ability to put to paper what some of us only imagine, shows true talent and a gift for not being afraid to share what goes on his head. If you haven't been to The Holocaust Opera lately, be sure to catch this definitive collection of dark tales and get yourself a front row seat. Chances are you'll be shouting ENCORE, right along with me.

Through the Eyes of my Soul
Sara Tenaci
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite 200, Bloomington IN, 47403
ISBN: 142089336X, $15.99, 188 pages

Through the Eyes of my Soul is a stirring and poignant paranormal romance told from a unique point of view. The setting is Bean County where Halloween has come and gone, and the beautiful leaves of autumn have made way for the chill of winter. Isabella Buca watches as life goes on around her in its usual cadence. Though at many times it appears that others have almost forgotten her.

Isabella comes across a treasure trove of letters written by her deceased grandmother, Bella, or at least the woman she had always believed to be her grandmother. As she reads through the letters, Isabella discovers the past of her family isn't quite what she remembered growing up, and digs deeper into the secret romance between her real mother and father. To add to the mystery, she also learns that she has a twin sister, Bernadetta who lives in France.

Through the Eyes of my Soul takes you on a sentimental journey of one woman and the special people that make up who she is. The book itself is like a labyrinth, where the reader never knows what hidden path will be uncovered next. Told in both present and past tones, it holds many historical elements to it, lending believability and warmth.

Ms. Tenaci writes with beautiful descriptions where the sights and smells come alive. It is an engaging story with strong attention to ambience and solid character development. The author also adds a surprising twist at the end that will have you clawing for the second and third books of this moving trilogy. I, myself, cannot wait to read the next one.

Nancy Jackson, Reviewer

Paul's Bookshelf

The SeXX Factor: Breaking the Unwritten Codes that Sabotage Personal and Professional Lives
Marilou Ryder and Judith Briles
New Horizon Press
P.O. Box 669, Far Hills, NJ 07931-0669
ISBN: 0882822187, $15.95, 206 pages

Based on interviews with thousands of men and women, this book explores attitudes and behaviors of women that cause men to get resentful or angry. Women therefore find themselves needlessly impeded in their daily lives.

If women want to be taken seriously at work, then how is the wearing of sexy and revealing clothing to work going to help? Most men are scared of a sexual harassment lawsuit, so women need to find a way to tell male co-workers that they will not be offended by compliments on a new suit or hairstyle. Talking too much can be deadly to one's chances for promotion. Before making an oral presentation in front of others, have a critical friend spot-check you. Be organized, don't waste time and stick to the point. Be more goal-oriented in the language that you use.

When dealing with office politics, create and maintain allies, and remember that friendship and friendliness are two very different things. If you are the victim of office sabotage, the most important thing to do is confront the saboteur. Otherwise, you are giving them a green light to continue. Do not confuse confidence with inflexibility or stubbornness; you do not have to win every time. Resist the temptation to cover your office wall with college diplomas, plaques and certificates. Have a male friend grade your handshake from "too limp" to "bonecrusher."

This is an excellent book. It doesn't ask to women to change who they are, but to realize that there are things women do every day that drive men nuts (not in a good way). Changing those behaviors will help women to prosper in their personal and professional lives. This book belongs on the reading list of every businesswoman in America.

Identity Theft
Silver Lake Publishing
3501 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90026
ISBN: 1563437775, $11.95, 264 pages

Identity theft is the fastest growing consumer threat in America. The explosion of computer and graphics technology has made it a much easier crime to perpetrate than in the past. It is the sort of crime that can happen to anyone, and be perpetrated by anyone.

The most practical documents to obtain for an identity thief are a Social Security Card or a driver's license (usually stolen and altered). With those, anything is possible, from getting new credit cards to cleaning out bank accounts. Administration of these systems is chaotic, and faking is easy.

The lead federal agency dealing with identity theft is the Federal Trade Commission. A problem with any federal investigation of a specific case is that the amounts are usually small, perhaps a few thousand dollars, and the victim and perpetrator usually live in different states (cost efficiency and jurisdiction). Therefore, the first responder will most likely be the local police department.

Preventing identity theft starts with the consumer. It is not possible to fill in all ID "holes," but things can be done, like safeguarding personal information, to make a thief go elsewhere. The consumer is responsible for notifying the authorities of illegal activity; the bank or credit card won't do it. Clean out your wallet or purse. Keep a photocopy of your license, credit cards, etc. in a safe place, in case it is stolen. Get things like bank account numbers, PIN numbers, passports and birth certificates out of there, and into a fireproof box at home. When ID theft is discovered, document all letters and phone calls, no matter what.

This book is excellent. It's small, so it can easily fit in a pocket or purse, and it is packed with easy to understand information. For those who are concerned about, or are victims of, ID theft, this is very much worth reading.

This is Burning Man
Brian Doherty
Little, Brown and Co.
Time Warner Book Group
1271 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
ISBN: 0316711543, $24.95, 304 pages

Burning Man is the arts/creativity/freedom/whatever festival held every September in the Nevada desert. It started in 1980s San Francisco, in part as a reaction to Ronald Reagan's America. A man named Larry Harvey and some friends gathered on a San Francisco nude beach to burn a wooden effigy of a man (for no especially good reason). The event was "adopted" by various California punk and arts groups, like the L.A. Cacophony Society, and soon grew too big for the nude beach. A home was found deep in the Nevada desert, miles from the nearest civilization.

It is a huge, empty, desolate place, described by one person as living inside an ashtray. The wind blows constantly, sometimes up to 100 miles an hour, and within seconds, everything and everyone is coated with the same gray dust. Permits are required from the Bureau of Land Management, the official owner of the land, and from the local county governments, not always an easy process. As the attendance at Burning Man has grown over the years, from a few hundred people to, presently, 30,000 people, changes have been needed in the organizational structure of the festival. An LLC was formed to take care of the financial recordkeeping, which, for several years in the 1990s, was loose, to say the least. An unofficial police force was formed, to peacefully resolve disputes and to supplement the actual police force, there to keep things from getting too out of hand. Actual zoning has taken place, including the laying out of streets.

At Burning Man, self-reliance is expected by all participants, which includes bringing your own water. Everyone is expected to participate in some sort of art project; spectators are discouraged. "Art" does not mean a painting that is hung on a wall, but some sort of large, interactive creation that people can touch and feel, usually involving fire.

For those with any sort of familiarity about Burning Man, this book does a fine job at getting behind the scenes. For those who have never heard of it, read this story of a truly unique American arts festival. Either way, this is very much recommended.

Turn Off Your Mind: The Mystic Sixties and the Dark Side of the Age of Aquarius
Gary Lachman
The Disinformation Company Ltd
163 Third Avenue #108, New York, NY 10003
ISBN: 0971394237, $19.95, 430 pages

Amid all the other revolutions that happened in the 1960s - sexual, social and political - another revolution took place that has been overlooked by historians. A revival of the occult affected all parts of daily life, from the Beatles' journey into psychedelia to the movie Rosemary's Baby to the novel Steppenwolf.

There have always been those interested in the idea of secret knowledge only available to a select few, including ancient civilizations and lost races. Such interests became popular through groups like the Theosophical Society of the 1920s founded by Madame Blavatsky. A later manifestation of this interest in secret things was the near obsession with flying saucers.

All the people and movements one would expect to find in such a book are here: Charles Manson, astrology, the Tarot, Jim Morrison, Timothy Leary, yogis, witchcraft, Transcendental Meditation, Brian Wilson, Anton LaVey and Aleister Crowley.

Another huge influence on the mystical revolution of the 1960s was the written word. Hermann Hesse was a Nobel laureate whose novels were rediscovered in the 1960s and spread across American college campuses like wildfire. The publication of a fantasy novel by an obscure British author named Tolkien (The Hobbit) by two American publishers at the same time, because of copyright problems, caused another literary firestorm. This helped lead to the rediscovery of 1930s pulp authors like Robert E. Howard and H.P. Lovecraft. Who can forget other literary heavyweights like Jack Kerouac, L. Ron (Scientology) Hubbard, Allan Ginsberg and Aldous Huxley?

I very much enjoyed reading this book. It is very well researched, and does a fine job exploring an aspect of "the 60's" that is generally forgotten. This gets two strong thumbs up.

Burn This Book
P.O. Box 571454, Tarzana, CA 91357
ISBN: 0997136809, $14.95, 200 pages

This book of quotations had its beginnings in various internet chat rooms over the past 10 years. That is why the online name Dreamslaughter was chosen as the author. It was discovered that using quotes from famous people was a good way to support positions in political discussions.

Here are some of those quotes:

"I have yet to see any problem, however complicated, which, when you looked at it in the right way, did not become still more complicated." --Poul Anderson

"There are three side effects of acid. Enhanced long term memory, decreased short term memory, and I forget the third." --Timothy Leary

"Missionaries are perfect nuisances and leave every place worse than they found it." --Charles Dickens

"Everybody's worried about stopping terrorism. Well, there's a really easy way; stop participating in it." --Noam Chomsky

"The biggest conspiracy of all is the claim that there are no conspiracies." --Michael Rivero

"It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education." --Albert Einstein

"I like your Christ; I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ." --Mohandas Gandhi

"For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness." --Ralph Waldo Emerson

"The only way to abolish war is to make peace heroic." --John Dewey

"We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office." --Aesop

"Quick decisions are unsafe decisions." --Sophocles

"Only a fool tests the depth of the water with both feet." --African proverb

"If stupidity got us into this mess, then why can't it get us out?" --Will Rogers

"In politics, stupidity is not a handicap." --Napoleon

I loved reading this book. It is the sort of book that can be picked up and read starting at any point. There is also a companion website ( For many different reasons, this is very highly recommended.

Silver Creek
A.H. Holt
Avalon Books
160 Madison Ave, 5th floor, New York, NY 10016
ISBN: 0803496001, $19.95, 200 pages

Several years ago, John Garrett left his father's Arizona cattle ranch, vowing never to return. Now, a neighboring ranch owner, Tim Hostetter, has been murdered, and Garrett cattle have taken over the ranch. An employee of another neighboring ranch, owned by Russ Blaine, is found murdered, and some Blaine cattle are missing. Garrett's father, Mason, has made no secret of his desire for Blaine's land, but murder and cattle rustling bring things to a whole new level.

On his way back home, a bully in an extremely poor town picks a fight with John. He kills the bully, and is shot and injured in the getaway. He is found on Blaine land, unconscious, by Andy Blaine, who brings him to an isolated cabin, and nurses him back to health. John doesn't think to ask, and Andy takes a while to tell him that "Andy" is short for "Andrea."

John and Russ have a long talk about recent events; John offers to ask around town to see if he can find out what's going on. The general consensus is that Mason Garrett will certainly push hard to get what he wants, but he is not capable of murder and cattle rustling. However, Garrett's new foreman, Rafe Willis, is certainly capable of such things. John sneaks on to his father's ranch, and finds the bunkhouse full of the Old West equivalent of street punks. Soon after, the long-expected attack is made against the Blaine ranch. Willis aims to take over Blaine's land any way he can, including forcing Andrea into marriage.

The author, a grandmother and graduate student in Florida, does a fine job from start to finish. It fells like she has spent time on a ranch and knows her way around the world of cowboys. This easy to read novel is not just for lovers of westerns.

How to Love the Job You Hate: Job Satisfaction for the 21st Century
Jane Boucher
Beagle Bay Books
3040 June Meadows Road, Reno, NV, 89509
ISBN: 0967959101, $17.95, 190 pages

For a variety of reasons, everyone seems to hate their job these days. This book shows how to discover just what the problem may be, and how to fall back in love with your job.

What sort of personality do you have? Are you a detail-person, interested in analysis and interpretation of information, who finds yourself in a people-person job? Are you a support-person, best suited for a backroom job, in a command-person position? Delegate the things you don't like to do. Build a good relationship with your boss and co-workers. Try learning something new. Understand the temperament of your boss. Listen to, and communicate with, your co-workers. Take a hard look at yourself; consider the image you present to your co-workers.

Stress is a part of daily life; learn how to reduce it, both physically and emotionally. Perhaps Mr. or Ms. Rotten Co-Worker is experiencing personal problems that are negatively affecting their ability to do their job. Also consider the sort of company that you work for. Someone who is more accustomed to a buttoned-down, structured environment might have a hard time at an internet start-up, and vice versa. There is a right way, and wrong way, to leave your job, if you have decided that quitting is your only option. The author also looks at criticism; how to give it, and receive it, along with the dreaded performance review. There is a separate section in this book just for bosses. It looks at subjects like personality clashes with employees, dealing with their needs, and how to keep them motivated.

This is an excellent and eye-opening book. It is easy to read, and can certainly reduce rampant job dissatisfaction. Before you quit because you "hate" your job, read this book.

Out of Season: The Johnny Luster Story
Mary E. Adams
Northern Publishing
P.O. Box 871803, Wasilla, AK 99687
ISBN: 096398697X, $19.95, 224 pages

This is the story of Alaska's last great mountainman, a man who was born two centuries too late.

Luster was born in the early 1900s on a Shoshone reservation in Wyoming. From an early age, he was more interested in hunting and trapping by himself out in the wilderness than in conventional things like school and getting a job. Something of a smart aleck, he was constantly in trouble with the authorities. A stint in prison convinced him that he never wanted to go back. There were several marriages along the way; they ended when she realized that Johnny would spend several months per year hunting and trapping in the wilderness. He gained a reputation as the person to hire for those looking for a guide into the hills of Wyoming.

After World War II, roads and airplanes opened up Wyoming to sportsmen and settlers. Isolated places became too full of people for Johnny, so he drove some pack horses north to the last great frontier, a place called Alaska. Getting a guide license was not an instant process, so Johnny had to start at the beginning in learning his way around Alaska. After becoming licensed, Johnny again became the person to see in the guide business. When the authorities need information on wildlife numbers or possible poaching, they talk to Johnny. He is still active today, hunting and trapping in the brutal Alaskan winter.

This is a really interesting story. It provides a look at a different breed of person, more interested in nature than in cities and technology. This book is told as much as possible in Luster's own words and is well worth reading.

Beyond the Bus Stop: 180 Ways to Help Your Child Succeed in School
Robert E. Weyhmuller, Jr.
Reed Elsevier Inc.
361 Hanover Street, Portsmouth, NH 03801-3912
ISBN: 0325001251, $11.95, 200 pages

When it comes to success in school, children cannot do it alone; they need the assistance of their parents. This book consists of many ways that parents can help their child thrive in school. It covers students from pre-school to high school. Areas like study skills, homework, math, reading and writing are covered.

Read aloud to your child. Find books that explore your child's interests. Buy your child an age-appropriate magazine subscription. Check out your local library. Challenge your child with mental math problems. Help your child develop common sense. Establish a homework routine. Require that your child keep a homework assignment book, and check it nightly. Don't neglect your child's need for help because you feel she should be able to do it alone. Teach your child to think. Help your child investigate projects for extra credit. Honor your child's opinions. Join the PTA and attend meetings regularly. Keep lines of communications open with your children's teacher. Allow enough time in the mornings. Know your child's friends. Kiss or hug your child each morning.

This is an excellent book. Even if the parent can do only a couple of things mentioned here, that can only help the child. For any parent of a school-age child, this is very much recommended.

No One Will See Me Cry
Cristina Rivera-Garza
Curbstone Press
321 Jackson Street, Willimantic, CT 06226
ISBN: 1880684918, $15.95, 232 pages

Set in the turbulence of 1920s Mexico, much of this novel takes place at an insane asylum. Joaquin Buitrago is a frail man with a long-term morphine addiction. In the past, he made a name for himself photographing prostitutes. Now, he has been reduced to taking pictures of inmates at the asylum, those who have been left behind as Mexico races into the future.

One day, he finds a familiar face before his lens. Matilda Burgos is a strong-willed prostitute who posed for Joaquin years ago. He asks the doctor for her file. In the meantime, they become acquainted and tell each other stories about a past they almost shared.

Matilda came from a poor farming family. Her father was a vanilla bean farmer with his own substance abuse problem. As a young girl, she was sent to Mexico City, to work and live in a big house belonging to an aunt and uncle, Rosaura and Marcos. He is a big believer in work and discipline being able to smooth the rough parts of any person's personality (like *My Fair Lady*). Matilda becomes his guinea pig. Along the way, she secretly nurses back to health, and develops romantic feeling for, a member of the political opposition. After a few years, she leaves to live on her own, and finds herself in a bordello.

This is a fine piece of writing. It look at people on the edges of society, in the midst of political turmoil, and explores 1920s conceptions of sanity. The author does a very good job throughout, and this is well worth the reader's time.

Withdrawal: A Novel
Michael Hoffman
1663 Liberty Drive, #200, Bloomington, IN 47403
ISBN: 1403369402, $11.50, 290 pages

Set in present-day Canada, somewhere near Toronto, this is the story of Len Fishman. In his mid-40s, he has returned home after 25 years of aimless wandering, mostly in Africa. He lives with his mother, in the house in which he grew up, sleeping on a couch in what used to be his room.

Len discovers that Saul, his father, was an amateur philosopher who, perhaps, was not totally faithful to Len's mother. Saul is now a patient at a local geriatric center, suffering from Alzheimer's Disease. Along the way, Len runs into Ron Bloom, his old high school English teacher, now running for a seat on the municipal council. Ron arranges a mini-class reunion with Len's classmates who have stayed in the area. Ron gets elected, and becomes an advocate for the youth of the town. His stay on the council is short; he is forced to resign because of an inappropriate relationship with a student that happened 30 years ago.

Why does Len stay in town? Is it to resume his discipleship with Mr. Bloom, who encouraged him to become an English teacher (how he earned money while living overseas)? Is it to recover his past via a girl he had a crush on in grade five? Saul, his father, doesn't recognize him anymore, and wouldn't miss him if he left.

This is another of those "quiet" stories that, by the end, turns into a really good story. It could take place almost anywhere, and be about any family.

Kevin Marley
860 Aviation Parkway, Suite 300, Morrisville, NC 27560
ISBN: 1411622197, $16.40, 342 pages

A Human Soul is watching the people of Earth from Heaven, knowing that he is about to be sent there to become human. He is born as Ray Sawol of Philadelphia.

Ray grows up in present-day America, about which the author has very little good to say. His parents get divorced, because of his father's infidelity. Ray is on a constant search for enlightenment, for that undefinable "it." The difference is that Ray, even as a youngster, remembers the primordial bliss before he was born. He tries to alter his consciousness to experience not just the physical world, but also the spiritual world with which he was familiar before birth.

He attends Temple University, becomes Dr. Ray Sawol, and stays at Temple as a faculty member in the Psychology Department. He marries Kristine, his college sweetheart, and they have a daughter. He is a relatively successful radio talk show host, talking about psychological matters, kind of like TV's Dr. Frazier Crane. One day, Ray goes on a rant about how people should wake up and there is a whole separate spiritual world out there, and becomes an ex-radio talk show host.

Kristine contracts, and dies from, breast cancer. While dealing with her death, Ray goes to an emotional, state of mind, sort of place called the Idea Factory. There, he spends time with Kristine's soul, and learns to transform his consciousness. When he returns, the world is, literally, at war. The Forces of Mechanization have invaded and are attempting to wipe out those who believe in the Human Soul, once and for all. This is a real war, with lots of blood and destruction. Ray takes the few Soul Soldiers (for lack of a better term) left to the Idea Factory, and shows them how to transform their consciousness and those of others.

This book takes a while to get going, but, by the end, it turns into a really good and thought-provoking story.

Society at the Crossroads: Choosing the Right Road
Steven Cord
Aurora Press
10528 Cross Fox Lane, Suite E2, Columbia, MD 21044
ISBN: 0971174245, $22.95, 400 pages

In some ways, America has never had it so good. There is more prosperity, less discrimination and great scientific advances. But, America has to deal with involuntary poverty, crime, drug use, violence in the media and falling school standards. While these problems have surface causes, the fundamental cause is a radical change in attitudes, specifically ethical relativism. It asserts that what is right and wrong depends on the person and the day of the week, that ethics is little more than personal opinion.

According to the author, it cannot be proven valid, because it asserts that "no ethical standard" is an ethical standard. Also, any society which preaches that ethical standards are personal opinions has to expect social problems, since it imposes a weak restraint on people who disrupt society.

How to prove that everyone has a right to life, liberty and property (equal rights)? We should treat things as they are, as an end in itself. Since we have the right to be free to do what we should do, then we have the *provable* right to be free. Once that happens, we can prove everyone's equal rights to life and property. The author also shows how this can be used to change American society for the better (it starts with totally changing the tax structure, to tax land value instead of production).

Be prepared for a mental workout. The book is written for the layman; I would change that to "the layman with more than the usual amount of knowledge of ethics, and philosophy in general." It is very thought-provoking, and well worth reading.

Paul Lappen

Robyn's Bookshelf

People at the Center of the French Revolution
Gail B. Stewart
Blackbirch Press
27500 Drake Rd., Farmington Hills, WI 48331-3535
ISBN: 1567119190, $23.70

"At every stage in world history, a core group of individuals has been the driving force behind the most critical events. They have defined the issues, pushed for change, debated, and led others for a cause."

And it is people after all that go to war. In this short but poignant reference book, we begin with the larger view of what made the French Revolution and the events recorded in history. The beginning summary concludes with Napoleon Bonaparte taking over the floundering government.

Periodic pictures throughout the book depict widely known events such as the storm on the Bastille, the guillotining of King Louis XVI, a grotesque scene from the Reign of Terror and portraits of events and persons involved.

After the introduction comes fifteen individual histories of the influential people shaping the conflict. Among the famous is Thomas Paine, an author advancing the ideas behind liberty, Louis XVI, the weak and ineffective king of France, Marie Antoinette, a lavish and hated queen, Joseph-Ignace Guillotin, inventor of the famous execution device, and George Danton, leader of the reign of terror. A brief chronology and index provide useable references. Ages 8 to 12, Middle Grade.

Christopher Paolini
Random House Children's Books
ISBN: 037582670X, $21.00

There is something remarkable about the Inheritance trilogy, aside from the intricate plot and meticulously built fantasy world. It is the age of the creator. Paolini became a New York Times bestselling author at nineteen when he wrote the first book in the series Eragon. His homeschooling has served him well and his parents deserve a big thumbs-up.

In this second installment of the series, Eragon and his dragon, Saphira, travel to the elven city Ellesmera where both must train in the ways of the dragon riders, a group on the brink of extinction. A reign of evil threatens to dominant the region and life as it has existed. Politics and romance lay at the forefront of events as Eragon comes to grips with his future and the heavy burdens he must bear. Eragon goes through a major transition on his way to maturity, a necessity to survive an overwhelming foe in the finale's epic battle.

The story is richly detailed in parts, logically laying down elements of magic and folklore. This weaving of old world history and modern fantasy work well, allowing us to see Paolini's personal grasp of literary elements and how nature works. This is a series worth reading but it’s important to begin with the first book in the series. The linear plot unfolds one section at a time, like the layers of an onion, leaving the reader wanting to know more. To read more about the series visit

Robyn Gioia, Reviewer

Sullivan's Bookshelf

A Great and Noble Scheme: The Tragic Story of the Expulsion of the French Acadians from their American Homeland
John Mack Faragher
W.W. Norton & Company
ISBN: 0393051358, $28.95, 562 pages/indexed

"In the Autumn of 1755," writes the author as he begins his Introduction, "officers and troops from New England, acting under the authority of the colonial governors of Nova Scotia and Massachusetts, systematically rounded up more than seven thousand Acadians, the French-speaking Catholic inhabitants who lived in communities along the shores of the Bay of Fundy. Men, women, and children alike were crowded into trasnsport vessels and deported in small groups to other British colonies. Many families were separated, some never to meet again. Another ten to twelve thousand Acadians managed to escape and spent years as refugees. Hundreds of them were captured and deported, while others took up arms in resistance. Meanwhile, their property was plundered, their communities were torched, their lands were seized."

The mid-18th century removal of French Acadians from what is today Nova Scotia (new Scotland) is the earliest instance of 'ethnic cleansing,' in North America.

Acadia, in French l'Acadie, defines the geogrqpphical area located south of the Gulf of St. Lawrence and bounded on the East by the Atlantic Ocean. It includes present day Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Cape Breton Island, Prince Edward Island, and Maine.

The explorer Verrazano, in his travels as a hired hand of the French, found the area under discussion to be beautiful and thus dubbed it l'Arcadia after a prose pastorale by that name. Later, the seemingly abbreviated term l'Acadie crept into use. Rather than being a corruption of Verrazano's place name, perhaps it was a borrowing from the local Mikmaq Indian's word for 'place of abundance.' In any case, this area was part of New France.

Emigrants to Acadia came primarily from Normandy in France in 1606, before Jamestown was founded or Plymouuth Rock was landed upon by the British. In 1713, the British, having won the War of Spanish Succession earned the right by treaty to remove the Acadians. They were allowed, encouraged even, to move northeastward to Cape Breton Island, which the French named Isle Royale. Some did go there where the great Louisburg Fort would be built. Other Acadians moved to the Isle of Saint-Jean (today's Prince Edward Island). But large numbers of the Acadians refused to budge at all.

The Mikmaq Indian tribe lived in Acadia for a much longer time than did the French. The new arrivals, however, and the native population were friendly. Many intermarried. Over the decades, it became hard to find a Mikmaq unrelated to an Acadian and vice versa. Acadians took quickly to the Indian ways in the new world. The Micmaqs liked the trade goods brought to them by the 'Normans,' which is what they called the Acadians. The natives soon adopted the Roman Catholic religion, too.

British King James I, believing his claims to the new world extended northward from Jamestown to Newfoundland named the Acadian/Mikmaq land Nova Scotia and bestowed it upon a loyal subject, a Scotsman, who'd done the king a favor. The Acadians at that early date didn't recognize the renamed country, probably because they knew nothing about it. Moreover, they considered the land in the new world their's and that it extended southward, at least, to the Delaware River. Not surprisingly, conflict in Acadia/Nova Scotia would eventually arise between the British in Massachusetts and Nova Scotia and the Acadians.

Over the 17th and first half of the 18th Century, numerous skirmishes broke out between the Acadians, teamed with French forces from Europe but mostly from the the rest of French Canada, and the British colonials from Masschusetts with their redcoated allies from Britain, plus the British navy. The Mikmaqs , naturally, allied strongly with their relatives, the Acadians, Of course, the Massachusetts people had Indian allies, too, often the Abenakis.

Several battles, indeed some complete wars, like Prince Phillip's War, King George's War, and others, took place between the bellilgerents. Though the French won some battles, most frequently, the British came out on top. And as a result, Acadians often had to live with and swear allegiance to one British monarch or another.

The Acadians were amenable to it, though their Mikmaq allies intimidated the Acadians for being too peaceful with the British. As far as swearing their allegiance, Acadians were always willing to do so, on the condition, though, that they could remain neutral and not have to take up arms against their own kind. They also promised not to join other French people against the British. That neutrality wasn't what the British wanted. They, though, inevitably always acquiested in the matter, allowing the Acadians that one caveat.

But it wasn't always followed. Often, the Mikmaqs, by raiding British settlements, got Acadians blamed. Admittedly, Acadians, especially in the early years, always hoped that a vast French naval fleet and troops would swoop down on Acadia and drive the British and colonials out of Acadia once and for all. On one or two occasions, in much less grand style than hoped for, that actually did happen. But it was all very confusing and all too brief.

Finally, the British won a decisive battle over the French in the French and Indian War(as it was known in North America). And having been vexed, over a lot of years by the Acadians for not being complete loyal subjects of the British King, the Massachusetts and Nova Scotia officials, in conjunction with and the approval of the British Board of Trade out of Britain, decided enough was enough.

The Acadians were given their umpteenth chance to swear total fealty to the Britsh king. As that didn't happen, and priests were fomenting rebellion among the Acadians and the Micmaqs, and because they were Catholic and untrusted to accept British Protestant ways, a plan, long in the making to remove all French people from Acadia, was put in motion. And thus began the cruel expulsion.

Actually, after the first expulsion in 1755, there were several more removals. And all were done by stealth and doubledealing. The husbands, fathers, and elder sons would be called to a meeting in a given area, community, or church, then they were forcefully detained as ransom for their wives, daughters, mothers, and children to surrender. This was bad enough, but in loading the Acadians onto ships for deportation, many families were split up never to see a loved one again or to even know where he or she may have been sent.

Contrary to what many today think happened, the Acadians were not initially removed to Louisiana, then Spanish controlled, but to the various colonies and even back to France. Some were, incredibly, shipped to England. Many of the deporting ships sunk with large numbers of Acadians at sea. Numerous others deportees expired from illness and injury soon after arriving at their new, and quite foreign, homes. Often they were destitute, starving, and unhoused during the cold winter months. Few of the colonies' citizens wanted Catholic Frenchmen in their towns.

In 1765, ten years after the first wave of deported Acadians arrived in their new lands, mostly ports along the colonial Atlantic Coast, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Maryland, etc., they were offered the chance to resettle in Louisina. Many did. And there, from then on, life improved for these poor people.

Slowly at first, then in droves, displaced Acadians from around the globe, learning of a decent permanent home available to them amongst their own, in Louisiana, moved there. Of course, large numbers stayed in other parts of French Canada, primarily Quebec, where to this day, they form a large portion of the population.

Ironically, the British, only a few years after deporting the Acadians, ended up asking them to move back to Acadia because their expertise at preventing the ocean from encroaching on farmland was desperately needed.

During the reign of Queen Elizabeth II, the complicity of the British nation in the cruel Acadian removal was publicly acknowledged.

The author, at Yale, is a chaired professor of American History. He is also the director of Yale's Center for the Study of Frontiers and Borders. His previous books include DANIEL BOONE:THE LIFE AND LEGEND,OF AN AMERICAN PIONEER and THE AMERICAN WEST: A NEW INTERPRETIVE HISTORY.

Highly recommended!

What's it All About? Philosophy & The Meaning of Life
Julian Baggini
Oxford University Press
ISBN: 0195300084, $23.00, 204 pages/indexed

Here's a philosophy book that's easy to read and understand. The subject is the proverbial one everybody is concerned about: "Why are we here?" Baggini quickly rules out the religious concept answer that people are here to earn a place in Heaven in the afterlife. So, what's left? Plenty, as it turns out.

Are we, then, here to help others? to be moral? to do something good for the human species? to pursue our own happiness? to become successful? to seize the day? to lose ourself in the service to others? to live a reasoned life?

The answers to all those questions and to many more are, "Yes, somewhat, but not entirely." Though the author comes to no definitive conclusion to the primary question of why we're here, he does tentatively answer it with his dictums to live life to the fullest and to be yourself. In short, each person has to find or determine the answer for him or herself alone.

Th author writes, "There will never be a last word on the meaning of life, partly because each individual has to satisfy herself that she has asked the right questions and found satIsfactory answers. The search for meaning is essentially personal. This book cannot provide a map showing exactly where your search will end, if indeed it ever does. It can, however, provide some navigational aids to help with that search. How they are used, and how useful they are, are for you to judge."

A man who began philosophy magazine, Julian Baggini also writes articles for prominent magazines and newspapers. He makes guest appearances on the BBC radio, too. The author resides in the United Kingdom.

Recommended for thoughtful readers.

Radical Evolution: The Promise and Peril of Enhancing Our Mind, Our Bodies--and What It Means to be Human
Joel Garreau
ISBN: 0385509650, $26.00, 384 pages/indexed

Evolutionary changes in the world are radical today expecially in GRIN technologies: genetic, robotic, information and nanotechnology processes. Examples of such exponential changes in those areas are gene therapy, cloning, in vitro fertilization, blood doping, gender and trait selection of offspring (designer babies), artificial arms and legs for wounded servicemen, smaller and faster microchips for use with those limbs, distant learning on computers, the whole field of artificial intelligence, and atom- and molecule-sized machines, such as nanobots that are so small they can course through a human's bloodstream to monitor health, and much, much more.

These and other dramatic changes are on an ever-upward curve. New developments are coming faster and faster. The feeling among scientists and thinkers about the future is that when the curve for change goes straight up, as it inevitably must, it will reach a point called 'The Singularity.' The author defines that "As a metaphor for mind-boggling social change." The term is borrowed from the fields of math and physics.

The question is: How will it all turn out for mankind? In answer to that question, Garreau suggests three possible outcome scenarios: Heaven, Hell, or Prevail (or most likely).

The Heaven scenario, optimistic and exhilarating, is mainly based on the thoughts of Ray Kurzrweil, a scientist, who sees good things happening for the human race, like overcoming disease and poverty, and enhancements in beauty, wisdom, love, truth, and peace.

The Hell scenario, as noted by many, including Bill Joy, co-founder of Sun Microsystems, will be depressing and downright frightening, with bad things happening, large parts of humanity and/or the biosphere wiped out, and all at an accelerating momentum. And, even worse, people will then become immobilized because they won't be able to agree on what could or should be done to halt or control the problems. Then the world becomes unwelcoming and unpleasant to live in.

The Prevail (or likely) scenario, with is main proponent, Jaron Lanier, a philosopher and scientist, has people disturbed by all the changes but stumbling and fumbling through the problems as they have since time immemorial and fiinding ways of coping with the vast changes. In short, as in crisis after crisis in the past, mankind has more or less always found ways through or around what they had to.

But none of these people mentioned, including the author, is aware of which of the three possible scenarios will befall mankind. Yet when change reaches The Singularity stage, one of the mentioned outcomes, or something quite similar, will happen, that's for sure. And it's not that far off.

The author writes, "The people you will meet in Radical Evolution are testing these fundamental hypotheses:

- We are riding a curve of exponential change.

-This change is unprecedented in human history.

-It is transforming no less than human nature.

"This isn't fiction. You can see the outlines of this reality in the headlines now. You're going to see a lot more of it in just the next few years--certainly within your prospective lifetime. We have been attempting to transcend the limits of human nature for a very long time. [....]"

Joel Garreau works at the Washington Post newspaper as both a reporter and editor. He's written other books,too: best known: Edge City: Life on the New Frontier and The Nine Nations of North America. He resides in Virginia.

Highly recommended!

Jim Sullivan

Tami's Bookshelf

A Journey to the Truth Sohrab ChamanAra
AuthorHouse 1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403 ISBN: 1420877275, $15.50, 140 pages A Journey to the Truth explores the life of Sam. Raised in a loving, religious, Baptist family, Sam questions his faith after the deaths of his parents and seeks answers in the Bible. These explorations continue on and off for much of the man's life as he is introduced to various belief systems. The actual story of Sam's life is not dramatic or significant in any real way. Sam is just a man living his life and trying to understand what he believes and why. I believe that is his charm. Nonetheless, there are several unique aspects to this book. The author has intermixed real historical information into the storyline, often having Sam react to these events. This aspect not only adds a bit of realism but also allows the reader to connect to the main character through common perception. Moreover, though Sam explores a variety of belief systems (Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Zoroastrian), he finds common ground in all of these beliefs that strengthen his overall faith. This interfaith concept is rather refreshing.

The Book of Light
Dr. Michael Sharp
Avatar Publications
6 Pembina Place, St. Albert, AB, T8N 4P7
ISBN: 0973855525, $12.99, 140 pages

The Book of Light is probably the best Kabbalahist descriptions of the creation of consciousness that I have ever read. The author writes in an easy to understand conversational tone taking the point of view of the I (the I am, the Alpha and the Omega) to describe the reason for the creation of consciousness and the gradual unfolding of the various dimensions.

The author starts with the I discussing its existence and setting the stage for the purpose of consciousness. Next, this book describes the unfolding or Separation of the Waters where the plans and initial rules of energy are related. Finally, the author examines in depth how these aspects eventually made way for dimensions, how they exist, and what they represent.

I was really impressed at how the author not only explained these normally complex concepts in a way that beginners would have no trouble understanding but also managed to keep the concepts fully intact without any generalizations or reduction of the material. I was also impressed that the author managed to do so in a very precise well thought out manner that takes the reader from very simple ideas to much more complex aspects without overwhelming the reader with buzz words or overly large amounts of text.

The Book of Light: Ascension and the Divine World Order
Dr. Michael Sharp
Avatar Publications
6 Pembina Place, St. Albert, AB, T8N 4P7
ISBN: 0973537906, $15.99, 197 pages

The Book of Light: Ascension and the Divine World Order contains a detailed explanation of the ascension. Topics include what exactly is the ascension, why is the ascension a positive event, how is it more than just personal enlightenment, and when the ascension will actually take place. While explaining these topics, the author also touches upon the multi-dimensional nature of the universe, the meaning of life, concurrent lives, and creation.

Taking on these important deep subjects is quite a daunting task. Nonetheless, the author has the gift of being able to explain these complicated aspects in an easy to comprehend way that resonates understanding and purpose with the reader at a personal level no matter what his or her faith or level of previous education on the subject.

The Book of Light: Ascension and the Divine World Order is an invaluable read for anyone wondering about the future, worried about the ascension, or seeking personal enlightenment. For a more detailed explanation of the multidimensional nature of the universe and the creation of consciousness, one should also read The Book of Light, another title by this author.

Dossier of the Ascension
Dr. Michael Sharp
Avatar Publications
6 Pembina Place, St. Albert, AB, T8N 4P7
ISBN: 0973537930, $15.99, 234 pages

Dossier of the Ascension is the follow up book to The Book of Light: Ascension and the Divine World Order. In first book, the author explained the principles of energy as a director of creation and its connection to the impending ascension. In this second book, the author teaches the reader how to step onto the Path of Awakening and the Path of Activation and reclaim his or her spiritual power.

Dossier of the Ascension explains various ways of awakening the system and righting conceptual and energetic blockages (chakra and kundalini activation). He also shares that enlightenment is the process of facing the truth about yourself (your strengths, weaknesses, mistakes, behaviours, life patterns, etc) and how fear keeps us from recognizing our true potential.

Although the author does touch briefly on the nature and purpose of the ascension in this book, I suggest that the reader look to The Book of Light: Ascension and the Divine World Order for a more detailed explanation of these aspects. For a greater understanding of the multidimensional nature of the universe and the creation of consciousness, look toThe Book of Light, another title by this author.

Tami Brady

Tarbox's Bookshelf

Because of Winn-Dixie
Kate DiCamillo
Candlewick Press
2067 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02140
ISBN: 0763625582, $5.99, 192 pages

I chose BECAUSE OF WINN-DIXIE after my ten year old son read it. He loved this story and so did I. In fact, I actually cried. Not that this story is really sad but because it is an honest, well written story that will tug at your heart. DiCamillo is an excellent writer that draws in the reader immediately with her first sentence. "My name is India Opal Buloni, and last summer my daddy, the preacher, sent me to the store for a box of macaroni-and-cheese, some white rice, and two tomatoes and I came back with a dog." And that is what this story is about. The love of a girl without a mother, living in a new town, who befriends an assortment of characters with her new dog. It also has a lot of nice life lessons and is an excellent literary work for children. I see why it won the prestigous Newberry Honor Book Award. There is also a movie version of this wonderful book.

Gary Paulsen
Bradbury Press
Macmillan Publishing Company
866 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10022
ISBN: 0027702219, $17.95, 160 pages

I chose this book because I was writing a novel with a sled dog race scene and I wanted an experienced musher's and writer's perspective about what it was like to do the Iditarod. Paulsen is a terrific writer. I was blown away by the images of blood he created in my mind with his choice of words. I could see the wolves, the deer, the guts of the hunt as if I was there beside him. That had an effect on me and I really liked how it had an effect on Paulsen. Like a character in a novel you could see Paulsen grow in depth as a person in this non-fiction story of dogs, sledding and the wild. He transformed from hunter to no longer being able to hunt because he learned a lot about the intelligence of animals. I was moved by the chapter of how one of his sled dogs was showing a sense of humor and intelligence by teasing another dog. I loved how Paulsen came up with the idea that if that dog could do that then he knew other creatures could do it too. After that incident he couldn't hunt any more. The book is for 12 and older and as an adult I loved it.

A. D. Tarbox, Reviewer

Taylor's Bookshelf

When God Speaks
Chuck D. Pierce & Rebecca Wagner Sytsema
Regal Books/Gospel Light
4588 Interstate Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45246
0830737073 $9.99

Collaboratively written by Chuck D. Pierce (President of Glory of Zion International Ministries and vice president of Global Harvest Ministries) and his co-author Rebecca Wagner Sytsema, When God Speaks: How To Interpret Dreams, Visions, Signs And Wonders reveals to Christian readers how it is possible that God has been speaking to them, but they failed to perceive that divine communication for what it was. God's manifold channels of communication can, and often do, include an impression upon the spirit or through a passage of scripture, or in a prophetic dream. Very strongly recommended and thoughtful reading, When God Speaks explains and illustrates how to receive God's word, how to interpret dreams and visions, and in acting on what has been discerned, ultimately fulfill Gods requirements of us.

Why Were You Searching for Me?
Rev. Dr. Edwin Nettleton
Peak Publishing Company
219 Main Street, Montrose, CO 81401
1932738266 $13.95 1-800-993-4490

Why Were You Searching for Me? And 133 Other Questions Jesus Askes Each of Us presents 134 questions that Jesus asks to various individuals or groups in the Christian Gospels. The core principle of Why Were You Searching for Me? is that Jesus asks these questions not only to people of the distant past, but also us in the present, as Christians believe that Jesus lives here and now as well as long ago. Episcopal priest Rev. Dr. Ed Nettleton examines each question in both its original and a modern context, and through this process reveals how Christians can better attune themselves to the teachings, wisdom, and love of Jesus. Highly recommended.

Welcome, Pastor!
Fred Oaks
FaithWalk Publishing
333 Jackson Street, Grand Haven, Michigan 49417
1932902503 $9.99

Written by Fred Oaks, a pastor since 1981 and a mentor to dozens of other pastors, Welcome, Pastor!: Building a Productive Pastor-Congregation Partnership in 40 Days is a 40-day study designed to help congregations and pastors meet one another on good terms and make a strong start in getting to know one another. Consisting of an introductory meeting, 40 days of self-guided prayer and four dialogue meetings, Welcome, Pastor! is an ideal resource for creating and strengthening bonds of faith in God, the teachings of Jesus, and the trust humans place within one another. Highly recommended for any pastor or congregation preparing to accept a change.

The Letters
Sean Hanzelik
ASH Books, Inc.
PO Box 670, Harrison, TN 37341
097689890X $24.95

On a lonely New Year's night in Seattle, Washington, Thomas Fisher's life changes forever. His world collapses, his dreams lay shattered, and the only place he has to return to is the pain within his own heart -- until he receives a letter from God. The Letters is the debut novel of Sean Hanzelik and falls within the category of Christian fiction and carries the message that as God's children, all the things that happen to us ultimate work for our good -- even in the face of tragedy. The Letters is original, thoughtful, thought-provoking, and thoroughly entertaining reading from beginning to end.

Science & the Bible
Ted Burge
Templeton Foundation Press
300 Conshohocken State Road, Suite 670, West Conshohocken, PA 19428
1932031936 $16.95 1-800-621-8476

Physicist and emeritus professor Ted Burge presents Science & the Bible: Evidence-Based Christian Belief, a unique examination of scientific evidence including archaeological findings, radioactivity dating, and testimony from the arts, hymns, and historians to provide a compelling case for Christian faith. Defining science as knowledge of God's creation, Science & the Bible offers a harmonious way of perceiving physical, geological and biological evolution as well as the teachings of Biblical texts. Written for fellow scientists and lay readers alike, Science & the Bible affirms that faith and research do not need to be at odds, but can support one another toward a more positive understanding of the world as a whole.

Confessions Of A Jewish Priest
Gabriel Weinreich
The Pilgrim Press
700 Prospect Avenue East, Cleveland, OH 44115-1100
082981695X $25.00 1-800-654-5129

Confessions Of A Jewish Priest: From Secular Jewish War Refugee To Physicist And Episcopal Clergyman is the riveting memoir of Gabriel Weinrich. Weinrich's escape from the Holocaust, and his evolving perspective based on the reductionist thinking and rationalism that led him to become a university physicist, are chronicled along with his spiritual revelation. Weinrich embraced the tenets Christianity without forsaking his sense of "Jewishness"; though at one point in his life he considered himself a complete atheist, he eventually realized he was never truly an atheist at all. A deeply faithful and inspirational lifetime chronicle

Modern Catholic Social Teaching
Kenneth R. Himes, O.f.M., editor
Georgetown University Press
3240 Prospect Street, NW, Washington, DC 20007
1589010531 $39.95 1-800-246-9606

Modern Catholic Social Teaching: Commentaries & Interpretations is a collection of essays by respected experts in Catholic social ethics. An intensely scholarly text covering such topics as natural law in Catholic social teachings, early modern Roman Catholic social thought in 1740-1890, numerous commentaries on documents written by Popes such as "Populorum Progressio" (On the Development of Peoples) and "Gaudium et spes" (Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World), and much more, Modern Catholic Social Teaching examines texts and schools of thought both in the context of their era and the modern day. The theological ponderings are spelled out as succinctly as possible for such often complex concepts, in this excellent resource text for theological and historical students of Catholic tradition and instruction.

John Taylor

Volk's Bookshelf

St. George And The Dragon
Beth Andrews
Robert Hale Publishers
Clerkenwell House, 45-47 Clerkenwell Green, London, England, EC1R 0HT
0709078730 $29.95 (+44) 020-7251-2661

Richard St. George and Julian Marchmont made a wager that they could meet and seduce Cassandra Woodford and Rosalind Powell, two beautiful and mysterious young ladies cloistered away behind the walls of a Gothic abbey. While Cassandra is angelically fair and Rosalind is a "fiery dragon", both young women are prepared to thwart any dishonorable schemes Richard and Julian might employ. The men and the women fined themselves engaged in a battle of wits and wills in this superbly written, 206-page Regency romance that engages the readers total attention from first page to last. Also highly recommended is author Beth Andrews previous novel, A Scandalous Secret.

21st Century Kinkycrafts
Janet W. Hardy, editor
Greenery Press
4200 Park Blvd., PMB 240, Oakland, CA 94602
1890159581 $19.95

21st Century Kinkycrafts is a compendium of simple sex toys that anyone can make at low cost from common household materials. A disclaimer warns against manufacturing any of these devices for commercial purposes; they are for private use only. Most of the sex toys are bondage or s&m fetish items; some are specially designed for anal sex, and a few such as the fuzzy blindfold are general purpose. Simple diagrams of the possible crafts, detailed instructions, and lists of the tools, materials, cost and time needed for each make 21st Century Kinkycrafts surprisingly easy to follow. A warning disclaimer avows any liability for the use or misuse of Kinkycraft items; though the authors believe they are safe if constructed and used as directed, the reader is exhorted to exercise common sense and to test the items thoroughly before using them.

Carol Volk

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

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