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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 11, Number 2 February 2011 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Bethany's Bookshelf Buhle's Bookshelf
Burroughs' Bookshelf Carson's Bookshelf Christy's Bookshelf
Daniel's Bookshelf Gary's Bookshelf Gloria's Bookshelf
Gondelman's Bookshelf Gorden's Bookshelf Harwood's Bookshelf
Henry's Bookshelf Hila's Bookshelf Karlene's Bookshelf
Karyn's Bookshelf Logan's Bookshelf Margaret's Bookshelf
Molly's Bookshelf Nicole's Bookshelf Peggy's Bookshelf
Riva's Bookshelf Suzie's Bookshelf Theodore's Bookshelf

Reviewer's Choice

Welcome to My World
Johnny Weir
Gallery Books
c/o Simon & Schuster, Inc.
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781451610284, $26.00,

Anastasia Pryanikova

I enjoy reading memoirs - uniquely personal experiences with universal truths. I especially looked forward to the recently published autobiography "Welcome to My World" by Johnny Weir, a world-famous figure-skater, three times U.S. National Champion and twice Olympian. I won't pretend to be unbiased. I am a fan of his masterful skating. I have always been amazed at his capacity to push the boundaries of his own sport and bring people from different countries and cultures together in appreciation for what he is and what he brings to the skating world. I longed for a quiet weekend when I would snuggle with the book and make my world stop while I was in his world. Johnny Weir's autobiography promised much needed food for the mind, heart and soul. And I am happy to say, it didn't disappoint.

Known for his honest, direct and witty way of delivering messages, Johnny Weir stayed true to his style in his quarter-life memoir, as he likes to call it. He is a skillful storyteller. His keen eye for detail and visual effects that so many of his fans appreciate in his skating programs translated into the vivid and lively language of the book. You don't just read about Johnny Weir's life, you actually see it unfolding in front of your eyes as if on a movie screen. Like his skates on the ice, everything moves fast in a delightful swirl of dialogue, characters, and places. The book is another proof that whatever it is Johnny Weir decides to go after, he goes full force, lighting the path with sparkly rhinestones.

We witness his quick transformation from a quiet and focused child with an active imagination and wise outlook on life to an awe-inspiring skater and artist. He took his first steps on ice not on a suburbian skating rink but on the ice-covered cornfield patch behind his house in a small place of Quarryville, Pennsylvania, after his parents gave him a pair of used black leather skates as a gift. "I definitely caught the skating bug that winter afternoon," he writes. "The feeling of speeding from one place to another so quickly was amazing." Yet, his future at the time appeared to be in horseback riding - he was close to making the national team. Competitive and determined even as a kid, when his trainer suggested he should work on his posture, he went home and sat "perfectly straight for two hours" until his back was shaking. Then, amidst his equestrian training, he took a group skating lesson - another gift from his parents - and to the instructor's surprise, he landed an axel, a jump that usually takes someone two years to learn. The decision had to be made, and an eleven-year old Johnny chose to become an Olympian in figure skating.

I don't know how many parents would be ready to move multiple times and endure all kinds of financial and emotional pressures to give their son an opportunity to pursue an Olympic dream, but Johnny's parents did just that and continued to provide love and support through all of the turbulations of his athletic career. And those were many. "Everything changed as I climbed the ranks of competitive skating," he writes. "My body, my technique, my ability, my emotions, my surroundings, all in turmoil and flux." From his rapid rise to the Olympic level, Johnny Weir emerges as a person who is not afraid to accept, love and nurture the opposites in himself, which makes him an outspoken contrarian, adored by his numerous global fans, but also distrusted by the skating establishment. A tender-hearted fighter, a disciplined artist, an ornery gentleman, a witty intellectual, an athletic fashionista, a quiet entertainer, one thing we know for sure, he is never boring. Neither are his costumes: "Much like A-List actresses who won't hit the red carpet unless they're dripping in five million dollars' worth of diamonds, I can't skate unless I feel beautiful."

He aims for perfection in everything he does - from his sport to his wardrobe and the lines of the carpet at his home, perhaps, reinforcing the structure he needs to anchor his exuberant creative expression. But while perfection is his goal, he never pretends to be perfect. He is brutally honest in this "feel-free-to-hate-my-guts" kind of way when he talks about his own lapses of judgment, like faking injuries and withdrawing from competitions. But you can't be mad at him for long because he doesn't give himself a break and certainly doesn't expect it from others: "My stupidity and hubris had landed me in skating purgatory, cast our from the mainstream and any kind of official track. I knew I earned my karma and deserved everything that was happening, but that didn't make it any easier to deal with."

Every setback and disappointment, however, becomes a learning opportunity and a springboard to propel himself forward. He may be known as a "swan" for his signature 2006 Olympic short program, but he is also a "phoenix" when it comes to his signature life programming. The phoenix is a symbol of renewal. The mythical bird is a fire spirit with a colorful plumage and a tail of gold and scarlet (not unlike the colors of the book cover). According to ancient mythology, it builds itself a nest of twigs that then ignites, and a new, young phoenix arises from the ashes. From each career dip, Johnny Weir appears better and stronger: "...nothing matters but the moment. Whatever happens at an event, good or bad, dissipates when you train on a clean slate of ice."

The book is an emotional rollercoaster that will make you laugh, cry, sigh and cheer as Johnny Weir takes you into his world of competitions, travel, fashion, and romance. The issue of Johnny Weir's 'coming out' in the book has been much discussed in the media. He was six when he realized there was something different about him while watching Richard Gere in Pretty Woman: "Seeing Julia Roberts get swept off her feet by her rich and handsome client, I wanted to be her so badly because he did something special to me. Kissing seemed like a weird think to do, but I knew if I were going to do it, it would be with Richard Gere." When he turned eighteen, he told his mother he was gay: "Suddenly it felt like I was sitting in the room with a stranger, and this was my mom, my best friend. The energy around us dropped as she started to cry." He continues, "I fell sorry for my mom and wanted her to know that everything was going to be all right." She replied, "I don't really care, Johnny, as long as I know that you are going to be happy." His love story is sweet, lyrical, poignant, and humorous at the same time. It will resonate with anyone who has a heart and a body. His experience is personal and unique, but the truths behind it are universal.

Johnny Weir lives a passionate life. His passion for his sport gave him the dream, the purpose, and the strength to pursue his goals despite obstacles and disappointments and remain true to himself. The book reflects his complex and multifaceted personality that bursts through whatever boxes anybody tries to put him in. His story inspires us to find our own passions and strengths within and challenges us to rise above our labels.

A Small Furry Hope
Steven Kotler
Bloomsbury USA
175 Fifth Avenue, Suite 315, NY, NY 10010
9781608190027, $24.00,

Ann Skea

Never judge a book by its cover. Especially this one! When the Australian edition arrived on my doorstep and I saw the title and the cute sleeping puppy on its cover, my heart sank. But Bloomsbury is not a publisher noted for cute and sentimental books and they have not let me down. The sub-title of the book explains it all: Dog Rescue and the Meaning of Life.

There is plenty of love in this book, plenty of heart-warming doggy stories and plenty of funny stories, but Steven Kotler's experiences running a dog rescue sanctuary in Chimayo, New Mexico, prompt him to consider some very serious questions about our own lives and behaviour.

At the age of 40, suffering from Lyme disease, a growing dissatisfaction with his life, and prompted by a deepening attachment to Joy, who was already committed to dog rescue, he invested all his money and hope in a small farm in New Mexico. There, he hoped, he and Joy might create a sanctuary for dogs away from Council and landlord interference. This was the start of a steep learning curve, and his interaction with the dogs, the neighbours and the local area are often hilarious. Balancing this, his descriptions of dog-pounds, puppy-farms, mindless cruelty and terrified dogs, as well as his own reactions to the inevitable deaths, is shocking and moving.

Kotler has a strong 'Californian' voice, a blunt way of saying things, a wonderful sense of irony and a philosophical turn of mind. It is this last which, towards the end of the book, tends to bog the reader down in ethical argument and scientific research as he marshals arguments to support his belief that animals, like us, have rights which deserve to be recognized. His small furry hope is that he can convince us of this, if not by letting us into the fascinating world he shares with his dogs, then by rational argument. Along the way, he covers ethics, altruism, shamanism, homosexuality, bereavement research, how wolves became domesticated dogs, and much more. I was alternately delighted, intrigued and horrified. I laughed a lot, pondered a lot, and learned much about doggy behaviour, mirror neurons, the collective unconscious and flow states.

Running "real dog rescue requires real sacrifice", says Kotler. And he defines 'real' rescue as the sort which aims to take the most abused, most disturbed, most threatened dogs from the pound and to try to rehabilitate them to adoption standards or to make what remains of their lives happy. This is what he and Joy do. And the day-to-day reality is of shit between the toes, sharing a bed with assorted dogs, spending all your money on vet fees and the best dog food, the agony of loss, and the agony of choice, whether of deciding which dog to rescue from the pound or when euthanasia is the best and kindest option. The reality, too, is of the euphoria of hard-won success, the joy of being with the dogs, the wonderful characters and the amazing behaviour of some animals and, as a by-product, the fitness that comes from huge exercise routines undertaken to calm aggression.

I treasure the image of Kotler walking assorted Chihuahuas (one wearing a pink, rhinestone-encrusted, 'Playboy Special' coat bought at a going-out-of business sale in LA) past a gang of leather-clad Hells Angels bikies. And of him agreeing to hold the head of a half-anaesthetized Mountain Lion: "The fucking thing is bigger than a bowling ball. Absolutely, I'll hold its head. And afterwards, to keep the party going, let's drink some hemlock". And I can still see him repeatedly following the bull-terrier, Igor, vertically up a canyon wall and precipitously down again: it felt, he says, "like being a skater on a ramp. Or a snowboarder in the half-pipe. It felt like I was eight years old. It was so much fun that I forgot what I was doing and just kept doing it". Three hundred yards later he looked behind him and saw seven other dogs following them up and down the walls, and he swears they were laughing.

I am not convinced by the conclusion Kotler draws from his potted history of ethics: Plato to Nietzsche in a single paragraph, then on from Darwin to Richard Dawkins in a couple of pages. But his arguments for a better understanding of our own place in the animal kingdom and for greater respect for members of species other than our own are convincing.

This is a funny, sometimes shocking, thought-provoking and most unusual book. Steven Kotler is a dog-besotted philosopher, and whatever you think of his choice of life you have to admire him for his courage, his powers of observation, his capacity for endurance and for his determination to cling to a small furry hope for a better future for dogs.

Adventures in Freedom
Kaz Dziamka
Privately Published
9781450753005, $16.00

G. Richard Bozarth

When Kaz told me he was publishing Adventures In Freedom, I didn't have a single doubt about enjoying it, so my enthusiasm to read it was there immediately. Kaz took over as editor of The American Rationalist in 1996, so I've been reading what he has published in the magazine for a very long time and have liked all of it because we're philosophical siblings. It would have been quite astonishing for me not to like his book; hence I wasn't surprised to like it as much as I do. Every person in the philosophical family of Freethinkers and Secular Humanists will like this book.

Who will not like this book? The Secular Humanists manque who, like Christopher Hitchens, believe W. Bush's War On Terror is practicing Secular Humanism's principles will not like this book. Religionists definitely will not like this book. Flag-waving jingoists who believe the United States possesses cultural supremacy and therefore has a right to global hegemony will not like this book. The members of the boards of directors and the senior officers of corporations will not like this book.

Kaz is a Polish American who arrived in the U.S. in 1981. Before experiencing the real United States, he had believed all the PR bullshit about it being a Land of the Free. All those lies were quickly exposed, which is why Adventures often expresses the betrayal that all Freethinkers and Secular Humanists in the U.S. resent - sometimes sadly, sometimes bitterly, sometimes angrily, but also with the hope that there's still time to change the road we're on. His academic career as a college professor was distinguished for having taught the first two courses on Secular Humanism in the U.S. and being fired each time for being uppity enough to do it, by the same college! Adventures has essays about this "achievement". Any reader who believes the U.S. is a Land of the Free should read this tale and honestly ask this: could such punitive suppression of information in a college have happened in an authentic Land of the Free?

The essays in Adventures are eclectic because Kaz has "often thought that one of the main reasons the humanist movement has not done well and is still far behind in popularity as compared with the fraudulent and silly religious dogmas of Christianity, for example, or Islam is that humanism does not offer much beyond exposing such fraud and silliness" (p. 30). Kaz understands that Secular Humanism is a life-philosophy, meaning it is a way of living instead of solely an intellectual analysis of culture and/or the cosmos. Adventures is as much about living the principles of Secular Humanism as it is about what those principles are, which is why there is content that is usually not found in the average Freethought book ("Try Yoga, Try Science", for example). However, for those Freethinkers who enjoy and understand the importance of exposing "fraud and silliness", there is plenty of such exposing to make them happy. After all, the greatest obstacle to Secular Humanism is religionism's "fraudulent and silly religious dogmas."

Religious readers will probably seize on an apparent contradiction to discredit Adventures. On p. 9 Kaz writes, "Every human being has a right to religious sentiment that helps him or her deal with the mystery and cruelty of life. It is never my intention - as it isn't, I believe, the intention of my colleagues from The American Rationalist - to ridicule such personal, private religious feelings." Religionists will cry either "Liar!" or "Hypocrite!" and cite numerous examples, such as this one on p. 87: "You cannot believe in 'God's Son' and consider yourself a mature, responsible, intelligent, educated human being. If you do believe that 'Christ is your savior,' then you are as intellectually sophisticated as a 4-year-old child who believes in Santa Claus." The "triumphant" religionist will miss the importance of the adjectives "personal" and "private" and probably not think of what Kaz says on p. 8: "You have every right to worship in privacy as you wish, but you don't impose your religious views on anybody else, including your children. Your religion is your private business." As soon as religionists start imposing - and don't they seriously get off on imposing? - then they make themselves public targets for rebuttal from all of us who do not want to live in the theocracy theofascist religionists wish to impose upon us. Indeed, when religionists are energetically trying to inflict theocracy on us, our intentions, no matter how good, cannot be obstacles to our vigorous self-defense. Adventures does not advocate that Freethinkers and Secular Humanists offer only lenitive resistance to the theofascists to avoid hurting harmless religionists' feelings.

Like any collection of essays, each reader will like some more than others. Some of the ones I enjoyed the most were about Native American culture, which Kaz has studied for many years, specializing in the Chiricahua Apaches, the tribe Kaz admires the most because they were the last free Americans. However, "Iroquois Democracy: A Legacy Of Rational Rights" is the most fascinating. The democracy created by the Six Nations (Oneida, Seneca, Onondaga, Cayuga, Mohawk, and Tuscarora) was an amazing accomplishment. He selects the virtues of this union that clearly illuminate the most distressing vices of U.S. politics. Iroquois women didn't need a Feminist Movement. An assembly of Iroquois leaders was distinguished by mutual respect, courtesy, and a requirement that a public speaker learn the art of public speaking if he or she wanted political influence. If the Iroquois had not been destroyed by the Christian invaders, they would not have needed an Environmental Movement. But the Iroquois goal that surely must make a moral person admire it the most is this fact: the most important reason the Iroquois created their democracy was a "commitment to securing peace." In the U.S. our leaders have always talked about the U.S. being a peace-loving nation (see "We Are, We Are ... A Peaceful Nation: An Open Letter To U.S. News & World Report"), but the walk our nation walks is war to protect and expand our nation's economic influence. "We should never forget that the business of America is business, sometimes at any cost" (p. 65). In other words, the "peace" all too many U.S. leaders and citizens want will only come when all other nations submit to a U.S. hegemony.

"A Lesson From The Apaches" is not about the Apaches. It is actually about U.S. foreign policy and the military actions used to enforce it. It's presented as a conversation between Kaz and Roger, a Vietnam vet living in Norway. It takes place in an Oslo pub during Kaz's year in Norway, when he taught American Studies at the University of Tromso as a participant in the Fulbright Scholar Program in 1998-1999 (see "A Fulbright Adventure"). It's a scathing critique delivered mostly by Roger. The summary is this: "We order our kids to kill against their will, against their better judgment, and we have them fight the dirty, stupid wars we have invented. The only thing the war pigs care about is their economic interests. They wage their wars to make the world safe - not for democracy, which they despise - but for American corporations, which they represent. And if that becomes impossible, then all they care about is saving face" (p. 17). Very powerful. Definitely should not be read by God-fearing, Jesus-loving, flag-waving jingoists.

"The USA-DEA Cabal" is an outstanding argument for the legalization of marijuana and its amazingly useful cousin hemp. It offers a concise history of how both plants became illegal in the U.S. and discusses how the war on drugs has become the cancer of fascism in the nation that loves to call itself the Land of the Free. No Freethinker will be surprised to discover that religionism, corporate evil, and the stupidity that is a specialty of U.S. politicians are to blame. At least it is understandable why marijuana was criminalized; it produces a psychoactive substance in amounts that will cause intoxication. Hemp also produces THC, but in amounts so low that it will not cause a high. Kaz shows that the "danger" hemp posed was to established industries owned by some of the most powerful men in the United States in the first half of the 20th century. Because hemp threatened their profits, this astonishingly useful and ecologically safe plant had to be criminalized. The tiny amount of THC it produces was more than sufficient to get it declared illegal. Hemp definitely should be legalized, but Kaz argues strongly for legalizing marijuana. "The idiocy of allowing alcohol and tobacco while banning natural THC is mind boggling. It is a story from the theatre of the absurd" (p. 70). Ah, but the inexpensive medical benefits marijuana provides threatens the profits of the powerful pharmaceutical corporations, so those benefits must be ignored. Of course, the justification used to ignore them is the delightful recreation marijuana also provides, so this relatively harmless high has been distorted by lies that claim marijuana smoking is more dangerous than drinking alcohol even though booze's annual body count is 150,000 and "there is no provable case of a single death due to marijuana use" (p. 61)!

I was delighted by "Reason's Sharp Edge: A Study Of The Razor's Edge" because W. Somerset Maugham is my selection for the greatest writer of the 20th century. His two greatest novels are the one Kaz discusses and Of Human Bondage (my favorite, with Edge being a close second). Kaz proves that the novel ought to be required reading for all Secular Humanists. Edge is "an unforgettable novel" that makes an "eloquent statement of the power of reason" and offers readers a way to "free ourselves from the stranglehold of religious superstition and cleric-made nonsense" (p. 129). Any reader who has not read Edge will want to read it after reading this essay. Any reader who read the novel decades ago (me, for example) will want to read it again (and I will). This essay definitely accomplishes its mission.

"Back To The Past: Poland's Experiment In Theocracy" is another excellent essay that has only one fault: it is too short! It is an excellent expose of Poland's foolish remarriage to the Vatican after being liberated from Communism. Poland's previous enslavement to the Roman Catholic Church, which began in 996, was a disaster that culminated in Poland's disappearance as a nation in 1795. It had become so decadent and weak after eight centuries of theocratic subjugation that it couldn't defend its sovereignty. It was eventually resurrected as a nation, suffered decades of misery under Communism, and then, almost like the punch line of a Polish joke, collapsed into the Vatican's arms again as soon as its divorce from Communism became final. And now the nation is suffering again from having the fangs of an ancient religious vampire penetrating its neck. Kaz shows that Poland refused to learn one of the most obvious lessons its history teaches, thus is doomed to repeat the class.

I did find flaws in Adventures. Some of the essays, especially the ones about Native Americans, should have been longer. "Chasing Loons ... In A Subaru" is good, but it is like a cat in a dog show. No matter how excellently a cat represents its breed, it does not belong in a dog show. "Loons" is well-written and amusing, but it's still an inappropriately located cat. "Saint Paul Or Insane Saul?" is about the life of Saul of Tarsus, the real inventor of Christianity, as it can be pieced together from what little information, all of it questionable, we have. It's very good, but is flawed because it leaves out one extremely important fact about Saul that is essential to understand his theology: he was an eschatological loony. He believed he was living in the last days; hence his theology and morality commandments were profoundly influenced by that silly belief. Leaving that fact of Saul's life out was a major mistake. Those are all the flaws I could find, and I'm not surprised, because Kaz and I are philosophical siblings.

Kaz's book is an outstanding contribution to the Secular Humanism bookcase in Freethought's library. Every person who enjoys publications like The American Rationalist, Free Inquiry, The Moral Atheist, and The Secular Humanist Press will enjoy this book, and be rewarded with plenty to think about. The goal of the Freethought Movement is to make the dream of a Land of the Free come true. The road to that paradise of eunomy is paved with books like Adventures In Freedom.

How to Shop FOR FREE
Kathy Spencer with Samantha Rose
Da Capo Press
c/o Perseus Books Group
11 Cambridge Center, Cambridge, MA 02142
9780738214566, $14.95,

Clark Isaacs

Ladies, haven't you always wanted to go shopping and fill up those carts with lots of bargains and never spend more than a few dollars? In "How to Shop FOR FREE: Shopping Secrets for Smart Women Who Love to Get Something for Nothing!", frugal author Kathy Spencer has developed a system where you can get a $267.22 grocery bill down to one penny! She has been covered by major media showing her at work. Yes, work! She has kept track of her savings and claims to have saved over $60,000 per year with her system. Her system is perfectly legal and very intriguing. She shows and shares with her readers the methodology that she uses.

One of the outstanding features of this book is the use of the internet. Spencer lists websites where you can find bargains, information, and others who are sharing savings like her. Also, she includes some pitfalls to avoid. Why make mistakes like a novice when you can shop like a seasoned saver. Simple advice about how to file and use the coupons which you gather on a daily or weekly basis is one of her tips. How to use rain checks to your advantage and not to fret that the store is out of the item is another.

Throughout the book she talks about how you should practice ethics in your dealings with any store. Kathy points out that many of the stores' employees who check you out are not totally familiar with the stores' policies or regulations in crediting coupons. She recommends that you do not jump up and down, scream and shout, or exhibit some other bad behavior when you do not get the credit to which you are entitled. What she says to do is carry with you a copy of the stores own policies which they usually post on their websites. Once you have educated the cashiers at that store, you can leave your rulebook at home!

Some coupons are manufacturer issued and others are store issued for the same item. You can stack them up, but for only one purchase. Sometimes there is no limit on the number of items you can purchase and this is where ethics comes in. To paraphrase what Kathy says is, if it is a close-out item you can clear the shelf. If it is just a sale item, leave some for the next customer.

Kathy Spencer has expanded her book to include shopping at many different stores beyond the grocery. Many tips are included which you would have never imagined possible, where you can get items for free from such stores as the Gap and Victoria's Secret. You may not have these stores in your community, but they are certainly available on-line or in a nearby city where you normally shop.

These economic times make it necessary to save wherever you can. This book and the website can save you considerable dollars! Both the book and her website are designed to give you unbelievable savings. Visit: and then buy this highly recommended book.

The Utility of Heart Break
Charles Reynard
The Pikestaff Press
P.O. Box 127, Normal, Illinois 61761
9780936044095, $7.00,

Dan Ursini

Many of the poems in Charles Reynard's chap book"The Utility of Heart Break," concern a community of the same name. While fictional Midwestern towns like Lake Woebegone and Winesburg, Ohio, come immediately in mind, this poetry is actually grounded in another level of the region's spiritual life, one whose boundaries are suggested by the rural wintry zones of Robert Bly and the splendid Kentucky monastery of Gethsemane where Thomas Merton lived and wrote. Inner stillness is virtually synonymous with spiritual poetry; and so is a sense of remove from the world's action. The serenity which imbues much of Reynard's poetry represents an important break because he works as a judge: he is right in the thick of it, contending with the wayward struggles and passionate errors of American life. Yet stillness and silence are as much a part of Reynard's mindset as the tumult of "Family Life in Arraignment Court." Poem after poem reveals the grace and repose of someone who has weighed matters carefully, and crystallized his perspectives. Indeed, what most marks his work is a deeply felt sense of yearning, articulated most acutely in "Nearing Bountiful and Heart Break." This complex perspective, framed in elegant language, has considerable staying power; and the measured serenity in Mr. Reynard's writing serves as a persuasive corrective to the perception that American justice has lost its way.

The Islamic Tsunami
David Rubin
Shiloh Israel Press
c/o The Shiloh Israel Children's Fund
PO Box 212, Suffern, NY 10901
9780982906705, $26.95,

Fern Sidman, Reviewer

Issuing an impassioned clarion call to the Western world on the litany of existential dangers that radical Islam represents to America's cherished democratic principles, author David Rubin's meticulously researched monograph, "The Islamic Tsunami: Israel and America in the Age of Obama", reveals that Islam is in actuality a political ideology predicated on a pernicious dogma, rather than the "religion of peace" that its proponents purport it to be.

"The Islamic Tsunami: Israel and America in the Age of Obama" (Shiloh Israel Press) is an exceptionally well documented treatise on the gamut of commonalities that are endemic to both Israel and America in terms of religion, politics and culture. Rubin calls on all free peoples, especially Americans, to take serious heed of the escalating dangers that Islam represents in terms of the perpetuation of bellicose actions bent on mass murder or the more insidious and subtle kind of aggression that is manifested by the potential silent incursion of Sharia law into American jurisprudence. He exhorts both Jews and Christians alike to carefully examine the Judeo-Christian value system that has bound them together for centuries and strongly suggests that they create concrete alliances in order to thwart the nefarious agenda of radical Islam; thus preserving "Western civilization" as we know it.

Rubin speaks with authority as he explains the Islamic concepts of dhimmitude (slave status for all "non-believers"), how the Koran metes out punitive measures against infidels, the genesis of "jihad" and its attendant ramifications as well as outlining the ultimate goal of Islamic global dominance in the form of a Caliphate. Rubin is neither an alarmist nor he is suffering from paranoia and to his credit he does not posit himself as an abstract theoretician or a think-tank denizen. Having studied the Koran, the Bible, as well as plumbing the depths of resources on American history as it pertains to the views of the founding fathers and more recent events, Rubin's book is replete with a plethora of highly enlightening quotes from these sources that help to state his case.

As a Brooklyn born American Orthodox Jew who now lives in Israel, he has first hand experience of the travails of Islamic terrorism as he ruefully recalls his victimization and that of his three-year old son, Ruby. In December of 2001 while driving home to Shiloh from Jerusalem, Rubin and his son were both injured in a terrorist attack carried out by Islamic militants. When Rubin arrived at the hospital he was told that he was "the hospital's 1000th victim of terrorism" and recalls that he was later told by a surgeon that, "the bullet which entered the head and traveled through the neck of my three-year old boy missed his brain stem by one millimeter." Determined to assist others facing similar crises, Rubin founded the Shiloh Israel Children's Fund, an organization dedicated to relieving the trauma suffered by child victims of terrorism.

Indeed, politics make for strange bedfellows. Under a sharpened lens, Rubin examines the nexus of ideas promoting multi-cultural and moral relativism as extolled by the ideologues on the far left of the political spectrum and those who would seek to vanquish any vestige of moral clarity, namely radical Islamists. Chiding President Obama for his own associations with left-wing radicals such as convicted terrorist Bill Ayres and his futile attempts to reach out "in peace" to the Muslim world, Rubin details the predominant Muslim influences in Obama's background and his adamant denial of the very real threats that Islamists present to America, Europe and the free world.

While there is a virtual laundry list of hard hitting points that leap forth from the pages of this book, what really stands out is Rubin's assertion that Obama's Harvard law school education was financed by Saudi petro dollars. Says Rubin: "The tentacles of Islamic aggression reached their highest levels of American influence when it was revealed that Barack Obama's higher education was likely financed and guided by the anti-American, anti-Israel alliance of secular leftists and Islamic ideologues." He qualifies this by saying that the radical American Muslim ideologue Khalid al-Mansour, (a.k.a. Donald Warden), a former mentor to Black Panthers founders Huey Newton and Bobby Seale was "raising money for Obama, apparently for his education, although the reason why al-Mansour would be raising money for a virtually unknown young student was not divulged."

Rubin tackles the burgeoning phenomenon of Islamic dominance by encouraging the United States to tap into a treasure trove of timeless lessons for life. Quoting the Prophet Isaiah, he says that, "the Torah will go forth from Zion, thereby spreading its wisdom to the entire world." He asks the sublimely simple question: "What can the U.S. learn from the ongoing struggles between Israel and Islam?" Among other things, Rubin calls for the halt of immigration (both legal and illegal) from Islamic countries to the U.S. and suggests that the U.S. require the emigration of actively hostile Muslims and those Islamists who are engaged in anti-American subversion. He also decries the passage of hate crime legislation which he says "will be used as a big brother technique to curtail the free speech of those who dare to speak out against Islamic ideology."

Reminding us of the immortal words of Thomas Jefferson who said "The price of freedom is eternal vigilance" and Ronald Reagan who said, "At least let our children and our children's children say of us that we justified our brief moment here; we did all that could be done", Rubin leaves us with a sense of optimism and hope as we prepare to gird our loins and defend our liberties and freedoms and our very lives from those who would obliterate us and them.

Past Objects
Scott Jordan
Mark Batty Publisher
36 West 37th Street, Penthouse, New York, NJ 10018
9780982075432, $27.95,

Jessica Roberts

The author of this rather interesting book, Scott Jordan, starts by telling us he began digging as a child back in 1964, always searching for the earth's hidden treasures. He particularly liked going to his "special place" with his brother and hunting for fossils together.

However when he and his family moved to the city all that came to an end and he was forced to try and find other ways to entertain himself. But one day in 1969 was to change all that and reignite the author's passion for what he enjoyed best - digging into the earth and finding its hidden gems.

Although Jordan has never been schooled as an archaeologist he has built up quite a staggering amount of finds from antique bottles to toys and shoes. His collection will undoubtedly impress anyone. And it is through these finds that you learn everything and everyone has a past and this book just demonstrates this in the best possible way.

Jordan talks to the reader in-depth about what is involved in digging and why he digs. For him it may mean being able to run a shovel along the soil and smell the earth and to save all those ancient items from being destroyed but to others it may mean something completely different. One thing is for sure - you can almost guarantee when somebody does find something very special hidden amongst the roots and layers of soil a cry will rise up and people will rejoice.

The first section of Past Objects is dedicated to animal skulls. A few pages feature photographs of skulls - some so well preserved you can see their great white teeth and you might even tell what animal the skulls belonged to. Even if you can't the helpful column of notes tells you anyway and allows you to be fascinated by what is shown.

We move onto "colonial era" and discover old spoons and clay pipes, Dutch bricks and mugs. What used to be built with these bricks, you wonder. Who used to smoke from those clay pipes?

Section after section reveal more unusual objects and items than ever before.

A musket ball, wooden caulking chisel and an old hammerhead are to be seen, cracked and rusty with age but they have all once served a purpose and now become a purpose again as people rediscover them.

The section on Glass features one of the oldest bottles ever excavated in New York City and believed to have come from the 1600s era. There are lots of other bottles, most of them originating from the 1800s and each clearly shown.

The perfume bottles from the 1800s are absolutely beautiful. This of course was such an age when buying perfume meant you were almost guaranteed a lovely bottle unlike how things are today.

Page after page feature more bottles, some red, some orange, some green and some blue. There is almost the full rainbow spectrum in their colours and each is interesting to behold.

Page 66 features a full colour-page of an incredibly rare bottle - Crystal Palace Premium Soda Water bottle to be exact. Read the opposite page and learn why bottle diggers all across the United States came to view this one.

Mugs and jugs are to be found later on, each differing in size, shape and colour and each as fascinating as the last. A lot of the plates featured are from the 1800s but there are some from the late 1700s. Porcelain dolls heads and striking looking pipes, each found from different places, capture your attention and demand to be looked at.

Old leather shoes which are almost primitive with age almost grab you on the next few pages. I loved how old they looked but to think they used to be worn by people some hundreds of years ago. Definitely one of my favourite sections to this whole book.

The last pages tie this whole book together wonderfully with some final thoughts and items of old. There is a photograph of an old toy train passenger car found in a Bronx landfill and a pair of scissors believed to be from 1780 and onwards. These were found in a wood-lined privy well on Fells Point, Baltimore in Maryland. Fascinating.

Old figurines, more toy cars and doll parts are all beautifully displayed and maybe the best is saved till last in this case.

Perhaps the author is right when he thanks the earth as part of his "dedication" page because without the earth, there wouldn't be the world and there certainly wouldn't be all those wonderful things just waiting below the surface to be rediscovered again.

Such a good, fascinating book like this one would do well as a present. Just about anyone can pick this up and become interested. And in reading this you might fancy doing what the author has done himself, so go grab a shovel, rucksack and a good pair of boots and start digging. You never know what you might uncover.

13 Bankers
Simon Johnson & James Kwak
Pantheon Books
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780307379054, $26.95,

Joanne Conrad, Reviewer

America is not a democracy? America is not a democratic republic?

America is an oligarchy? One wonders after reading "13 Bankers: The Wall Street Takeover and the Next Financial Meltdown" by Simon Johnson and James Kwak. The authors write, "We may have the most advanced political system in the world, but we also have its most advanced oligarchy." This book is a startling revelation of the power of the large banks in America. An oligarchy is defined as a form of government in which the power is vested in a few, or in a dominant class or clique. It appears that the large American banks have been powerfully influencing Washington for several decades, and culminated in the 1990's when "Wall Street translated its growing economic power into political power" that gave Wall Street "on issue after issue what they wanted."

The authors further claim that the result of the Glass - Steagall Banking Act of 1933 that separated commercial banks from investment banks and brokerages was the "safest banking system America had known in its history and booms and busts were prevented." Repealing Glass-Steagall was at the top of the commercial banks' wish list, and it was repealed in 1999. Since the 1970's, the banks have exerted power over various government agencies with the approval of Congress. The savings and loan crisis, the Long Term Capital Management (LTCM) fiasco, Enron, WorldCom, et al, didn't teach lessons needed, and Johnson and Kwak say, "the conditions that created the financial crisis and global recession of 2007-09 will bring about another crisis, sooner or later." The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2009 attempts to prevent another 2007-2009 financial crisis, and its regulations are currently being formulated. Its summary is 43 pp. long and the entire bill is 2319 pp. according to Time Magazine(7/12/10). One hopes it's not closing the barn door after the horse is out, nor that it was written blindly with Wall Street's lobbying help, nor that our representatives didn't really read it, nor that it does not conflict with the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission's Report (FCIC) of the causes of the financial crisis, which is due January 2011.

One of the Dodd-Frank provisions, detailed in the 12/21/10 Wall Street Journal, "prohibits any bonus plan that encourages inappropriate risks at financial firms with more than $1 billion in assets." This presumably addresses Main Street's and the tea partiers' abhorrence of the enormous bonuses on Wall Street. Another provision now requires that over the counter derivatives receive the scrutiny that the former chair of the CFTC (Commodity Futures Trading Commission), Brooksley Born, warned about way back in 1998, but was rebuffed by Alan Greenspan, Lawrence Summers, Robert Rubin and others. In fact, a "group of thirty," an international advocacy group composed of private sector bankers, central bankers, and sympathetic academics, lobbied against such regulation and Congress caved in late 1999 and those derivatives were exempted from federal regulation in the Commodity Futures Modernization Act passed by a lame duck Congress and lame duck President in a appropriations act for fiscal year 2001.

The oligarchy of 13 banks is American Express, Bank of America, Bank of New York Mellon, Citigroup, Freddie Mac, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, Northern Trust, PNC, State Street, US Bank, and Wells Fargo. The 6 largest banks now are Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, and Wells Fargo, and they have been busy lobbying for what they want, so the oligarchy appears to be intact. According to the same Time article, more than 2000 lobbyists were "working on financial reform" and "43 members of the Congressional financial-reform conference had received $112 million from donors associated with the finance, insurance, and real estate industries." In addition to lobbying, there is a cultural revolving door that has Wall Street operatives and government regulators going to and from the two sectors. If the Dodd-Frank bill addresses this, perhaps the authors will be wrong in saying, "By leaving banks in the hands of existing managers and going out of its way to minimize its own influence, government (is) ensuring that it (has) no way to encourage banks to do anything other than hoard the cash and in no way to affect banks' behavior in the future." There are reports about the hoarding of cash being one of the impediments to improving our economy, so is government helping the situation or inadvertently contributing to the continued economic malaise?

In legislation after legislation, Congress seems to have deferred to Wall Street's so-called "expertise." Will the authors be accurate in saying "...the conditions that created the financial crisis and global recession of 2007-09 will bring about another crisis, sooner or later?"

Their recommendations include trust-busting to break up these Too Big To Fail entities. This leads one to wonder how the many mergers and acquisitions of smaller banks by larger banks have been approved as not violating the Sherman Anti-Trust Act. Many smaller banks have disappeared. It is one thing for the FDIC to take over struggling or insolvent banks to protect consumers, but that seems different from the large banks taking over the smaller banks, even with shareholder approvals. How does the Sherman Anti-Trust Act protect us and preserve competition? Are we destined for another crisis, as the writers say?

Johnson, now a professor at MIT, was formerly a top economist at the International Monetary Fund, and Kwak, a Harvard graduate with his Ph.D. from UCBerkeley, authored The Baseline Scenario, a commentary on the global financial crisis, mostly focused on the situation in the USA. Readers wondering if the U. S economy is out of the woods will find the writing concise, yet detailed enough to ask if Robert B. Reich is right in saying on the book jacket, "Unless we separate money from politics, we'll never be safe from another financial meltdown... Read this fine book and get to work." The book contains extensive notes and recommended further readings.

Artists and Thieves
Linda Schroeder
Indie Publishing Group
9781935636021, $14.95,

Lois Wells Santalo

There was a time when mystery novels could be counted on to inform as well as intrigue. From Dorothy Sayers who detailed the art of bell-ringing to Elizabeth Peters who told us of early-day Egyptian archeology, readers reveled in the double pleasure of following a murder investigation and also picking up knowledge.

Modern mysteries are all too often lacking in both intrigue and information. Whether police procedurals or horror tales, they focus entirely on action and suspense. Both are necessary but both can be overdone. Breathtaking action tempts the reader to skim in order to find out what happened, and a skimmed novel is never memorable. So it was a real treat to come upon this mystery which actually informs us about the art world of San Francisco and Monterey, and introduces us to its artists, its collectors, and even its thieves.

Every page of this book is worth reading. Mai Ling is both artist and thief; she steals back stolen art work for Interpol. But in this case she is working on her own, in search of a Ming bowl with mysterious powers stolen from her family many generations ago. Through the years, the male heirs have been charged with recovering the bowl, but now there are no male heirs so the responsibility becomes Mai's. Unfortunately, Mai is not the only one who wants the bowl. A collector wants it, a museum curator wants it, and some art thieves with eager buyers want it. Things go wrong from the beginning. Some of these people want this special bowl badly enough to kill for it, so there are murders--or are there? Did the murdered thief really die? When the collector died of a heart attack because his nitro couldn't be found, was this someone's fault or was it an accident? Are the people who seem guilty really guilty? Intrigue continues to surround the bowl as we move toward a climax in which Mai seems certain to lose her life if she persists, yet Chinese tradition demands persistence. And in the midst of breathless suspense, a peacock riding in the front seat of Mai's car provides a lovely touch of humor. Highly recommended.

The Art of Making Things Happen in Your Life
Dean Drawbaugh
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P.O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768438642, $14.99,

Richard R. Blake

Guidelines to Rethinking Your Life Strategy and Charting Your Course

"The Art of Making Things Happen in Your Life" is unique in that the emphasis is on seizing and developing those opportunities, specific actions or traits already available to the reader which will help them achieve success in every area of life. Dean Drawbaugh has drawn from a successful career in designing systems, locating resources, and training people in the preparation of this thought-provoking self help manual.

The book is divided into four sections which show the reader how to chart their "Personal Life Course." The material enables the reader to: Assess their position in light of opportunity; to assess their attitudes in light of their opportunities, to organize themselves for opportunity, and to explore team building as a means to enhance opportunity.

I found the Self Assessment questions especially beneficial in determining where I am, my strengths, and the areas where I need to improve. The pages are filled with strong reminders of familiar principles. These principals are reinforced throughout the self assessment exercises which are practical, pointed, and doable. The greatest benefit from the book will be derived from putting the material and suggested steps into action.

Two other valuable tools included at the end of each chapter are the self evaluation rating scale and the "Things to Do" with desired dates to be completed. These tools can incorporate the responses made from the self assessment questions.

Drawbaugh includes compelling illustrations and a fast moving narrative. The interactive nature and format of the book provide the reader a mentor type relationship with the author. A great concept. Highly motivating.

The Cross Gardener
Jason E. Wright
Berkley Books
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780425233283, $22.95,

Sandra Heptinstall

What a beautifully written book. This story will lead your heart in many different directions. It is a book of love, loss, grief, depression and finding your way back, with the grace of God.

It is thought provoking and the ending is not what you think it will be. I was so surprised that I read it twice.

An excellent read.

Magnetize Money with Energetic Literacy
Rose Rosetree
illustrations by Melanie Matheson
Women's Intuition Worldwide, LLC
PO Box 5560, Chico, California 95927
9781935214069, $18.95,

Terri Sisley

Internationally acclaimed teacher and author, Rose Rosetree, breaks the bank with her newest book, Magnetize Money with Energetic Literacy: 10 Secrets for Success and Prosperity in the Third Millennium! This pioneer who never backs down from one ground-breaking technique to the next is in-service to humanity once again. Amongst a sea of "how to manifest money" books and authors, Rose demystifies the energetics of auras, chakras and spirit; while demonstrating her integrity to not only write about the "how to" techniques, but also to include the "why not to" techniques.

Ours is a media-rich society in which many people exist in a "I wish I was just like that celebrity" mentality. It's great that Rose breaks down the chakra databank qualities of well-known successful celebrities such as Trump, Gates, etc. The whole package isn't just about how to earn and save money, but shows the readers the bigger picture and illustrates how some of those "successful" people are terribly lacking in other areas of their lives. ?

Some of these famous people have made HUGE trade-offs, emotionally and socially, to have earned and maintain great wealth. Many spiritually-aware readers may not find these worthy trade-offs and can now explore an opportunity to co-create and customize a plan to greater financial wealth. Now that readers are equipped with an understanding of energetic literacy and the reasons why it is so important to clear out "STUFF" and to be in balance, they can begin a step-by-step path to healing and success that could lead to wealth in all areas of life!

I'm already using these tools to set goals and to tailor my successes! I encourage others to do the same. Rose earns accolades from me for her research on this subject, for her fearlessness to share and most of all for Who-She-Be!?

Bethany's Bookshelf

The Hard Road to Staying Thin, Healthy and Youthful, While Enjoying Life and Food to the Fullest
Dafna Lazar
Publish America
PO Box 151, Frederick, MD 21705-0151
9781451235043, $24.95,

It's hard to live life and still remain healthy. "The Hard Road to Staying Thin, Healthy, and Youthful, While Enjoying Life and Food to the Fullest" is a memoir and health guide from Dafna Lazar as she shares her story of managing to attain balance for health and life with a degree of spirituality thrown in. Thoughtful with many good ideas, "The Hard Road to Staying Thin, Healthy, and Youthful, While Enjoying Life and Food to the Fullest" is an enticing pick.

The Fans' Love Story
Sue Tabashnik
Outskirts Press
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432751104, $19.95,

Patrick Swayze captured the hearts of millions with dirty dancing twenty years ago. "The Fans' Love Story: How the Movie Dirty Dancing Captured the Hearts of Millions" explores the fans fascination with the work and how it made them life long fans of Swayze and the film. As Sue Tabashnik interviews fans to get an idea of why the film gained so much popularity, and much more, "The Fans' Love Story" is of strong interest to any fan of the film, highly recommended.

Darlene Cox
Outskirts Press
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432766368, $19.95,

One act of cruelty seems to expose the others in a small town. "Pearl: A Life Too Short, A Death Too Long" tells the story of a beaten corpse showing up near the small time of Faircloth, Virginia. As the investigation to what happened to Pearl and led to her cruel death exposes all the small secrets in a small town. A fascinating and fun read of small town drama and intrigue, "Pearl" will be hard to put down.

Savannah's Black "First Ladies"
Pamela Howard-Oglesby
Outskirts Press
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432731120, $13.95,

As racism and sexism's power in the world fades, these women seek to live their lives to the fullest. "Savannah's Black 'First Ladies', Vol.1: The Past, The Present, and Future" tells the story of black women throughout history who dared to push their place in the world, back when women or black individuals wouldn't be considered, let alone someone with both those traits. "Savannah's Black 'First Ladies'" is a fine read for those trying to inspire young black girls to live to their fullest.

Book of Redemption
Evon Smith
Outskirts Press
10940 S Parker Road - 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432763459, $14.95,

Under layers of protection, it can be hard to expose the truth about some individuals. "Book of Redemption" tells the story of Elizabeth Pearson, who must hunt down what was left behind by her missing journalist friend Marco Vori, who was investigating the molestation history of a priest, who has now turned up dead. In the search for the truth, she finds there are those who want to stop her from finding it, by any means necessary. "Book of Redemption" is an intriguing thriller and recommended reading.

Susan Bethany

Buhle's Bookshelf

2012 the Awakening
Bill Douglas
Privately Published
9781450548793, $19.99,

With 2012 drawing ever closer, people are in a bigger hurry to find the truth than ever before. "2012 The Awakening" is a novel that focuses on the rush towards the date that discusses what the earth on a collision course with as the major faiths and philosophy of the world speaks their own prophecies, each coming true in their own way. Riveting metaphysical fiction, "2012 the Awakening" is a must for 2012 phenomena fans.

Russia's Prestige
Kashif Parvaiz
Outskirts Press
10940 S Parker Road - 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432766115, $34.95,

Russia has an architectural style that is unlike anywhere else in the world. "Russia's Prestige" is a study of Russia's architectural history from Kashif Parvaiz as he presents a dedicated study that follows the evolution of its development into the modern day and the impact of history that has forced changes over the years. Thoughtful history with photography throughout, the story behind Russia's famous domes and other beauties makes :"Russia's Prestige" very much worth considering.

The Losing Role
Steve Anderson
Privately Published
9781453855454, $11.99,

With no combat training or skill, and only acting talent and guts, Max Kaspar have to pull off quite a lot. "The Losing Role" tells the story of Kaspar who with his failed acting career in Germany tries to flee to America. But this endeavor is wrought with danger, and author Steve Anderson constructs a historical thriller in "The Losing Role" that should prove quite difficult to put down.

Film Finance for Beginners
Jeffrey Taylor
Privately Published
9780972704755, $24.95,

You can have the best ideas in the world, but you need to be able to pay to get them off the ground. "Film Finance for Beginners" is a guide for aspiring filmmakers who want to get their finances together in order to make their dreams come to life. Too often independent film makers fail because of money more than anything else, and Jeffrey Taylor gives plenty of advice for making one's work come to life without filing for bankruptcy. "Film Finance for Beginners" is a fine collection with plenty of wisdom, not to be missed by those seeking to make their first film.

Ted Miller Brogden
Privately Published
9780615360041, $15.99

The truth is what all search for, it just proves ever more difficult to do it through a drunken haze. "Jigsaw" tells the story of Cape Thomas, as he searches for his child, and for the mother that he had one liaison with but never saw afterward. Through it all, his search only grows more difficult as money comes into the equation, and of course, everyone wants the money. "Jigsaw" is a riveting read of family intrigue, highly recommended.

Social Security
Andy Landis
7290-B Investment Drive, North Charleston, SC 29418
9781453794678, $21.95

You've been paying it since you've worked that first job as a teenager. "Social Security: The Inside Story" speaks on how to make the most of the social security in the time when you start to need it most. Andy Landis aims to make the process crystal clear, how recent laws have changed what needs to be done and how one can get the most out of social security. For anyone who is approaching eligibility, "Social Security" is a very useful resource, recommended.

The Hole
Bruce Derman
Privately Published
9781450540674, $11.95

There is nothing to fear but nothing itself. "The Hole" is a novel exploring the emptiness and void that we all fear at some level. Dirk and Dawn are faced with a hole in their home, with no indication that there is even a bottom to it. Struggling to find the truth surrounding this pit, the confront our own fears surrounding nothingness. "The Hole" is an intriguing and recommended read, not to be missed.

J. B.
7290-B Investment Drive, Charleston, SC 29418
9781452895406, $12.99

The strangest discussions can happen with the strangest people. "Zor: Philosophy, Spirituality, and Science" is a unique novel that follows a conversation between paper pusher Jonathan Brewster and the Haitian dwarf Zor. Their conversation discusses anything and everything and finds that he can change his world. But no change goes perfectly smoothly, "Zor" is a fascinating read and very highly recommended.

Willis M. Buhle

Burroughs' Bookshelf

The Flight Attendant
N. Dao
Privately Published
9780980237023, $16.95

Vengeance can come where you least expect it to. "The Flight Attendant" tells the story of a hitman who faces the wrath of his crimes. Boarding a flight on a plane of a woman he killed a year ago, he soon finds himself at mercy of a vengeful ghost that makes his next contract ever more difficult to carry out. "The Flight Attendant" is a fun and riveting tale, recommended.

Blurring Military and Police Roles
Marleen Easton & Collaborators, editors
Eleven International Publishing
c/o International Specialized Book Services
920 NE 58th Ave., Suite 300, Portland, OR 97213-3786
9789089743091, $49.00,

Protecting the people from those who would harm them. That line is easily used to describe the job of both the police force and the military. "Blurring Military and Police Roles" discusses how in the modern era and more than ever, the jobs of the police and military seem to be one in the same. Drawing on history and the rising and driven political nature of crimes and fears of terrorism, Marleen Easton and her collaborators put together a scholarly dissection of the debate of the role of police and the military in the modern world. "Blurring Military and Police Roles" is a scholarly and thoughtful read on safety and security of people in the modern day.

The Art of Invention
Steven J. Paley
Prometheus Books
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst, NY 14228-2119
9781616142230, $20.00,

What is the basis of creating something truly brilliant? "The Art of Invention: The Creative Process of Discovery and Design" is a discussion of the basics of invention, about finding something that hasn't been done before and that can improve the quality of life in the world. Author Steven J. Paley answers these questions by exploring the labs and the people who make the world move on, and reminds people of the elements of successful and useful invention. Recognizing invention as just as much as art as it is science, "The Art of Invention" is a useful and powerful read for anyone who has an inventive streak of their own.

Identity Management
Elisa Bertino
Artech House
685 Canton Street, Norwood, MA 02062
9781608070398, $99.00,

With today's massive surge of information, identity protection and management is more important than ever. "Identity Management: Concepts, Technologies, and Systems" discusses digital identity and its place in today's information world where identity theft seems to have become one of the more profitable crimes with little risk for the thieves, making it even more appealing. Aimed at the security technician for a tech business, Elisa Bertino and Kenji Takahashi draw on their own experience and technical know how on how to create a more secure business and information security for both the employees and users of your internet services. "Identity Management" is a strong resource for anyone designing security measures, a core addition to any computer and technology library collection.

John Burroughs

Carson's Bookshelf

The Space Between the Olives
Lily Guzman
Tate Publishing
127 E. Trade Center Terrace, Mustang, OK 73064
9781617393013, $21.99,

You can't live off the glory of past fame forever. "The Space Between the Olives" tells the story of the town of Alborde. With the olive trees no longer providing enough, Juan must lead the town to new prosperity or be faced with Alborde being a shell of what it once was. Charming and driven work originally published in Spanish, "The Space Between the Olives" is a fine read and very highly recommended.

Serenity and Inner Peace
Dale F. Floody
7290 B Investment Drive, North Charleston, SC 29418
9781450512787, $21.95

Simple thoughts and musings do much in getting that simple piece of mind. "Serenity and Inner Peace" is a collection of spiritual thoughts and musings from Dale F. Floody who ponders on many aspects and states their quality to a good piece of mind. From reverence of a higher power, a positive outlook and living with the life around you, "Serenity and Inner Peace" is an insightful and spiritual read, recommended.

The Trap Door
Andre Delaplaine
Gramercy Park Press
9780981715490, $12.95

Flung back in time, it's quite a gambit to make the most of it all. "The Trap Door: Back in Time to Find a Famous 'Lost' Play" is the adventure of Charlie, a young man who through circumstance finds himself back in 1594, at the height of Shakespeare's time. Seeking to find Shakespeare's lost play, Charlie has to race against time to save Queen Elizabeth and return himself to the present. An exciting and adventurous novel, "The Trap Door" is very highly recommended.

The Drummer Drives! Everybody Else Rides
Barbara Brabec
Barbara Brabec Productions
9781450709156, $14.95,

There's more to drumming than hitting things randomly. "The Drummer Drives! Everybody Else Rides: The Musical Life and Times of Harry Brabec, Legendary Chicago Symphony Percussionist and Humorist" is a biography of Harry Brabec by his loving wife Barbara, who reflects on his journeys of life through the world of music. An enjoyable read about professional musicians, "The Drummer Drives!" is excellent and recommended for anyone looking for a musical memoir.

Michael J. Carson

Christy's Bookshelf

Stacy's Song
Jacqueline Seewald
L&L Dreamspell
Spring, TX
9781603182669, $13.95,

High schooler Stacy Nelson, tall and slender and sometimes called "Giraffe" by her classmates, has always felt like an outsider. Stacy, a people pleaser, is drawn to music, like her mother, who gave it up for marriage and children. Through friends, Stacy's extracurricular activities veer in two different directions: as a cheerleader with her best friend Karen and a rock band member with her friend Liz. Through the band, Stacy's love for music grows stronger and she feels as if she's found her niche. As a cheerleader, her social life blooms and she becomes part of the popular clique. When Stacy's grades falter, her father makes an ultimatum: lose one of her extracurricular activities, pushing her toward quitting the band. Stacy is forced to make a choice: follow her heart or give in to parental and peer pressure.

Jacqueline Seewald expertly portrays the mindset of teenagers struggling for their place in the world and ultimate independence. Stacy is an endearing character, a young woman who loves her parents but wants the right to choose what to do with her life. Readers are drawn into Stacy's world as she struggles to make the right choices which will affect her future. This well-written coming-of-age novel is heartwarming and engaging and sure to be a popular addition to the young-adult genre.

Silent Kill
David Fingerman
L&L Dreamspell
Spring, Texas
9781603182300, $16.95,

Minneapolis police officer Louise Miller is a gay woman with an attitude when it comes to dealing with harassment from fellow male officers. Louise is close to her brother, Andrew, who has just begun his career as a deputy sheriff. When one of Louise's friends, fellow cop Mark Lone Bear goes missing, Louise spends time on her own trying to find him. Around the same time, a witness and the prosecuting attorney in a case against a psychiatrist accused of unethical behavior disappear. Andrew discovers Mark Lone Bear's car and body, and a search is on to find the killer, a psychotic who goes on a rampage, murdering for no apparent reason. Louise is the first to suspect all this ties to the murder of Mark Lone Bear, at the heart of which is a Rottweiler found near death and subsequently rescued.

This gritty thriller, told from multiple points of view, is intense and at times graphic. Fingerman does a good job with the development of multiple characters, especially that of the serial killer, a deranged man who follows the directives of a voice in his head. Louise, although cynical and a bit volatile, is a strong woman loyal to friends and family, still grieving over the past loss of her dog. An intriguing read that will at times have readers on the edge of their seats.

Christy Tillery French

Daniel's Bookshelf

Rules of Vengeance
Christopher Reich
c/o Random House Inc.
1745 Broadway 20th Floor, NY, NY 10019
9780385524070, $25.95,

I picked up a copy of Rules of Deception at a library book fundraiser, and this first book in this spy-thriller series motivated me to getting hooked on Christopher Reich. I do have the third book read now, and so far it offers good escapism, and plenty of action in multiple European country settings.

Doctors Without Borders Jonathan Ransom learns from a previous account of his life being married to Emma that his supposed normal life is not really normal. Both of them help foil an attack on a commercial jet-liner. Now in this story Jonathan is working under an assumed name in a remote corner of Africa. Emma is an operative for Division (a secret American intelligence agency) whom she betrayed and has disappeared from them. Jonathan and her rendezvous on a captured weekend together only to be thrust into a terrorist bloody bomb placed into a political convoy of limousines. Emma escapes from capture, but Jonathan is apprehended and threatened with imprisonment unless he helps to corral in his wife. Jonathan makes his own daring escape and learns he has to become a spy himself in order to track his Emma to discover the true nature of the conspiracy Emma appears to be masterminding. Jonathan starts to understand that he might be caught in nether-world of global-world espionage involving very high international stakes.

Christopher Reich is a New York Times bestselling author and his previous novels include Numbered Account, The Runner, The First Billion, The Devil's Banker, and The Patriot's Club. The latter won the International's Thriller Writes award for best novel in 2006. This current series also includes Rules of Betrayal for 2010. I have just started this novel and it includes the Emma and Jonathan Ransom. I then will watch for his 2011 novel, and while I catch up on the reading of his previous other five books.

Rules of Betrayal
Christopher Reich
c/o Random House Inc.
1745 Broadway 20th Floor, NY, NY 10019
9780385531542, $25.95,

Rules of Betrayal is the third installment in the spy espionage thrillers involving Jonathan and Emma Ransom. I read the first two installments and wanted to see where the adventure took me in this series. I learned that the twists and turns work like a mystery but the events are much more complicated. Different agencies and foreign countries all knowing and unknowing by using people involved in their own priorities orchestrating events. Sometimes the twists and turns come from people playing roles in a double-agent charade. It has made for interesting reading, so I enjoyed the ride by this series by a master of the spy game.

Now as the story has progressed, Doctors Without Borders, Jonathan Ransom is now motivated to be similar to his wife on a mission to learn what agenda she is up to on her own. Now it seems she has gone "dark." It has been referenced she is a rogue agent without any body directing her actions Emma Ransom is known as a spy and Russian assassin, a.ka. Lara Antonova who used Jonathan's job upon being a married couple, as a cover to do her espionage activity. She disappears-possibly captured by a violent arms dealer named Lord Balfour, who wants the weapon under his terms. In the meantime, Emma is being hunted by two conflicting shadow agencies. Division and the FSB in Russia her native land. It seems that a American bomber transporting a top secret weapon had crashed in the peaks of the Pakistan-Afghanistan mountain range in the 1980s. That area is controlled by the dangerous Taliban, and the weapon is located by Emma to be taken out. Division's power broker Frank Connor manages to locate the weapon site along with Emma, which he persuades a favor from a past associate to send an operative team to eliminate anybody taking the weapon and try to secure it.

After Ransom is practically killed in a shocking double cross in Tora Bora, he is directed by Frank Connor the power broker of Division and offered an impossible choice. Jonathan must do an espionage mission, in disguise into Balfour's lair to save Emma and report information while a weapon of mass destruction is acquired by the most dangerous terrorist in Afghanistan a true believer known as the "Hawk." The mission doesn't end there as the adventure continues back in the U. S. with more twist and turns involving Emma and Jonathan having to do different agendas in this cat and mouse game of high stakes with high risks of a powerful weapon. Emma the rogue agent and Jonathan who is leaning more to an operative than a Doctor Without Borders.

Christopher Reich has managed very easily to write novels of interest placing his books on the New York Bestselling lists. His previous novels include The Patriots Club, The Devil's Banker, The First Billion, The Runner, Numbered Account, Rules of Deception, and Rules of Vengeance. Rules of Betrayal is the third of the series involving Jonathan and Emma Ransom. I look forward to his continuing this series or what ever direction he chooses to write.

Daniel Allen

Gary's Bookshelf

Home Invasion
William W Johnstone with J. A. Johnstone
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp
119 West 4th Street, New York, NY 10018
9780786021314, $6.99,

William W. Johnstone wrote in many genres some of them were westerns, men's action adventure, and suspense. Its nice to see that Kensington is carrying on his books with his nephew J. A. Johnstone. Senior citizen Pete McNamara lives with his wife in the quiet Texas town of Home. It's a place where people do not have to lock their doors at night but all of that is about to change when his home is broken into by two criminals. While defending himself and his wife he kills one the bandits and wounds the other but his wife is killed during the gunfire. The injured perpetrator hires a high priced attorney, sues McNamara and wins his case. The federal government is also watching this case and plays out a warped sense of justice by sending federal law enforcement people to confiscate firearms of all kinds from all of the citizens of Home, Texas. The question to ask here is how many ways has the town of Home been invaded? This is a fast paced novel with several very timely social issues.

Pill Hill Press Presents Dark Things II
Edited by Ty Schwamberger
Pill Hill Press
343 W 4th St., Chadron, NE 69337
9781617060441, $14.99,

In "Pill Hill Press Presents Dark Things II: A Horror Anthology" there are twenty two stories of different types of horror that are chilling reading. Some of the best ones are Doll's House, The Interview Nobody Wants, You're Gonna Die, Cutting Class, and Doubt. What's nice about this collection is that there are so many new voices in horror fiction that have not been heard from before this collection. Lets hope there are more to come.

Decision Points
George W. Bush
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, NY, NY 10019
9780307590619, $35.00

The former president candidly talks about his personal life and his presidency. He also tells that yes he wrote this book because so many people feel he is incapable of writing much of anything. He also admits throughout the book his mistakes and what he might have done better. What readers come away with is that he failed to act when he could have and when he did it was too little too late and that he was not really ever in control during a crisis. He makes the mistake also of comparing himself to other presidents in similar situations. I was also struck that he told some family personal things that left me wondering why he even brought about it up in the first place.

The Uplifting Murder
Elaine Viets
Obsidian Mystery
c/o Penguin Publishing Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780451231703, $7.99,

Josie Marcus does what a lot of people would like to. She is a mystery shopper. This time her assignment is a lingerie store, fun stuff until she encounters her former high school gym teacher who now works there. . Later Josie finds the teacher has been murdered and she becomes involved in solving the case. This is a fun mystery that also reveals a lot about mystery shoppers.

Back to the Moon
Travis S. Taylor & Les Johnson
Baen Books
P.O. Box 1403, Riverdale, New York 10471
9781439134054, $25.00,

The space race is on with the United States and China. Also in the picture is a private space company that is launching its own vehicle. The authors fill the work with believable realistic scientific data with fascinating characters and a tense situation when it is learned China has astronauts stuck on the moon. It is NASA's job to find a way to get them home. They also realize they have to work with the private company. Time is short and there is too much at stake for them. The novel races along with page turning suspense until the very end.

Wagon Train The Television Series
James Rosin
The Autumn Road Company
Philadelphia, Pa
9780972868440, $21.95

The author once again delves into the world of another classic TV show. This time Rosin tells the John Ford movie that was the basis of the series. There are interviews with many of the stars of the show and episode guides for all eight seasons. Wagon Train like many of the older shows had many great guest stars who went on to bigger things. Rosin also provides information on many of them as well. No fan of western TV shows and movies should miss this one.

Ford County
John Grisham
Dell Books
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
9780440246213, $7.99,

Its been a while since I've read a Grisham book. This one returns to Ford County in which "A Time To Kill" took place. This is a great collection of 7 short stories that are easy to read and enjoy. Blood Drive set the tone of the collection. Several men want to help an injured worker by donating blood. On their trip to the hospital they are not sure which one their friend was taken to so they take their time and stop along the way for beer in a topless bar among other things Fish Files an attorney gets a phone call that changes his entire life, All of the stories are character driven and deal with Ford County itself.

The Amazing Captain Tag Book No. 2
Art & Story by Don & Lisa Eppersom II
Legacy Publishing Services Inc
1883 Lee Road, Winter Park, Florida 32789
9781934449868, $12.95,

Captain Tag and his red wagon are back in action in another great adventure. This time Captain Tag takes on a monstrous spider that is wreaking havoc on everyone. This is a great comic book character that is fun to read. I look forward to seeing more adventures of this new super hero.

One Simple Act
Debbie Macomber
Pocket Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, NY, NY 10020
9781439175576, $7.99,

The author known for her excellent romance novels steps out of that genre with this fine non fiction work. It tells about when people are in need, there is someone always willing to aid someone they don't even know. "One Simple Act: Discovering the Power of Generosity" offsets the negative things we are constantly bombarded with everyday.

365 Reason Why Gettin Old Ain't So Bad
Karen O' Connor
Harvest House Publishers
990 Owen Loop North, Eugene, Oregon 97402-9173
9780736928595, $6.95,

This is a fun little book that shows that getting old is not so negative as many think it is. There are lots of positives that many do not even think about growing older.

Gary Roen

Gloria's Bookshelf

Worth Dying For
Lee Child
Delacorte Press
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780385344319, $28.00,

It should perhaps be noted at the outset that readers waiting for the other shoe to drop, so to speak, after the cliffhanger ending of "61 Hours," the previous book in the series [of which this is the 15th], are - initially at least - in for a disappointment, for the explanation [such as it is] comes pretty much only by references to Reacher having been badly hurt, as well as descriptions of specific effects of the trauma sustained in the closing pages of that book, but no details. Until a bit later in the book, that is: After a while there is a paragraph giving a succinct description of the events themselves.

Now that that's out of the way . . .

This time around, Reacher finds himself in Nebraska, after hitching a ride [as is his wont] "in the dead of winter in the forty-first least densely populated state of America's fifty," where he comes up against an old family [three brothers and the son of one of them] so powerful that they have an entire town - with everything and everyone in it - under its control. The town in question is 450 miles due south of the Canadian border, and it soon becomes clear that said family is involved with some kind of illegal smuggling.

Reacher takes a motel room for the night, in which he finds "everything he needed, nothing he didn't," which happens to be his credo for the manner in which he travels [i.e., "light"]. And which, for that matter, is a perfect description of a Lee Child book, to which this one is no exception. When Reacher is told he is crazy, he says he prefers to think of himself as conscientious. But he is more than that. Wrongs need to be righted. At some point the tale includes an investigation into what happened to an eight-year-old girl who had disappeared 25 years earlier.

The expected quotient of heightening suspense mixed with violence, equally in service of good and evil, is present, of course. As always the writing is wonderful and witty, and includes a priceless treatise on human nature. Reacher once more relies, for the most part, on little more than ingenuity. At one point, when he finds himself outnumbered four to one, with only a small amount of weaponry, he finds that he has everything he needs, nothing he doesn't, once more. Not invincible, but still Reacher, after all.

Highly recommended.

Blood and Fire
Nick Brownlee
Thomas Dunne Books
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312550240, $25.99,

In "Blood and Fire," the sequel to "Bait," the wonderful debut novel by Nick Brownlee, the author once more brings together the unlikely team of Jake Moore, six-foot tall, 36-year-old ex-Scotland Yard cop now a game boat skipper on Kenya's East Coast, and Daniel Jouma, the 51-year-old Mombasa Detective Inspector Daniel Jouma of the Coast Province CID who has become his friend. There are several things that engage their attention, and their concern. To begin with, it seems that Spurling Developments, Kenya's largest civil-engineering company is planning to build a five-star hotel on the grounds that now house the village that is Jake's stomping ground, with bulldozers leveling everything, if not everyone, in its path. Evie Simenon, a white Kenyan in her late twenties, heads a group of a couple of dozen eco-warriors, who tells Harry, Jake's partner: "We can't just sit back and let rich white developers turn Kenya into one big hotel complex." But then things start to get much more complicated. When Jake becomes involved, Harry tells him: "Spurling will win. They always win. There is absolutely nothing you or Evie Simenon can do about it. It's the way the world works."

Possible spoiler for those who haven't yet read the first book in the series [a condition which should be corrected as soon as possible!]:

In addition, the reader is horrified when, at page one, a hit man finds and dispatches his latest target, the woman with whom Jake became involved at the end of "Bait." It seems that the events which were described in that book have not been fully resolved. [end spoiler]

Next, a former police sergeant is found dead, having plunged to his death from the walls of Fort Jesus, a building which was closed tight with its sturdy main gate bolted shut, Jouma is assigned to head up the ensuing investigation by his new boss, Superintendent Elizabeth Simba [who has replaced the man who was among those disgraced and punished in a sweeping corruption scandal that earned Jouma the appellation "The Man Who Cleaned Up Mombasa]." And then a seventy-five-year-old nun disappears

The book is a wonderful successor to the equally fine first book, and the even better news is that the third, "Machete," is due out in the UK later this year and, hopefully, at some point in time in the US. Highly recommended.

So Cold the River
Michael Koryta
Back Bay Books
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10017
9780316053648 $14.99

Michael Koryta's latest novel, "So Cold the River", starts out innocently enough. Eric Shaw, in his recent former life an LA cinematographer before that career crashed and burned and now in his early thirties, has for the past two years lived in Chicago, trying to make a living filming memorial videos for presentation at funerals. He is approached by a beautiful young woman who asks him to prepare such a video in honor of her father-in-law, a famously reclusive billionaire, ninety-five years old and near death in a hospital. She offers Eric a very generous amount of money to travel to Southern Indiana to trace his early years in furtherance of the project. The only artifact of her father-in-law which she can provide is a small flask of water which derived from underground mineral springs, now apparently defunct, and known as Pluto Water, which had been touted as having nearly miraculous healing powers.

Before leaving, Eric visits the old man in the hospital. Initially unresponsive, the first intimations of what is to come occur when what Eric sees through the viewfinder of his camera are not what his eyes had just seen, but instead the essence of that on which, or who, they focused. Enigmatically, the old man says to Eric, "so cold the river." Or does he?

Eric goes to the town in question, West Baden Springs, and finds himself unable to resist tasting the water from the strange little bottle he has been given. The results are immediate, chaotic, and nearly addictive, and his life, and the book, goes off in strange, surreal directions. In the aftermath Eric, who has a history of psychic tendencies, has visions, encounters dead people, and sees scenes from the past apparently reenacted before his eyes.

Throughout, there are ominous signs of an impending storm of perhaps historical proportions.

Somewhat daunted by the book's sizeable heft, and by my usual aversion to most things Gothic or which invoke the supernatural, I nonetheless found the pages turning rapidly, completely swept up in the tale the author has spun, so masterful is the writing, and I recommend it highly as another terrific book by Michael Koryta.

*Actually, his next novel, "The Cypress House," will be released on January 24, 2011

Bury Your Dead
Louise Penny
Minotaur Books
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312377045, $24.99,

The book takes place in and around Quebec City, Canada, where the dwindling Anglophone community feels it is still fighting wars 250 years in the past. One which the English had won, "securing Quebec for the English, on paper," but not so in actuality. Even beyond the strong separatist feelings, there is a great deal of animosity between the two cultures [Francophones being the other], down to the refusal of most of its citizens to learn the language of the other. As the Quebecois say, "je me souviens," I remember. We are told that "not everything buried is actually dead. For many, the past is alive."

The plot deals with two present-day murders, and the author teases the reader by alternating the chapters between the two investigations - indeed, three, as there is another involving deeds, and a dead body, from over a century ago. A great deal of fascinating history is provided, regarding events of which I do not hesitate to admit that I [and I suspect many other non-Canadians] was unaware.

Inspector Gamache, "head of the most prestigious homicide unit in Canada, the Surete du Quebec," returns in his sixth appearance. This time around he is literally and figuratively scarred and haunted by recent events, a deadly incident involving the murder of one Surete officer and the kidnapping of another, pitting Gamache up against his superior officer who refuses to consider a scenario other than the one which he perceives to be the correct one in order to try to rescue their endangered colleague. Now on leave, and haunted by the tragic outcome of the incident, Gamache is told by a trusted mentor that everything will heal, "avec le temps," with time.

Gamache is described as "a man who preferred good books and long walks to any other activity." He also has a strong sense of justice, and feels duty bound to take another look at the case which was at the center of "The Brutal Telling," the prior entry in the series, the murder of a hermit in the charming village of Three Pines, despite the fact that the man he had arrested for the murder was convicted and is presently serving his sentence.

The pace of the novel is a leisurely one, and although I could not figure out why I found it so slow-moving, I must say it gave me that much greater an opportunity to enjoy the charming prose. The three prongs of the tale are all deftly and satisfyingly resolved, and Inspector Gamache is once more shown to be a clever and very human police officer. Very enjoyable, the novel is recommended.

Stephen Jay Schwartz
c/o Tor Books
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780765322951, $14.99,

This, it should be stated, is not an easy book to read. It is, at the same time, completely compelling and nearly impossible to put down. An anomaly, it would seem.

The protagonist, LA Robbery-Homicide detective Hayden Glass, is many things: unpredictable, often exhibiting self-destructive behavior [if not actually harboring a death wish], fiendish impulses and extreme violence. It is sex-filled, as befits a tale whose protag is a sex addict. He has even named his dark side - his inner addict - Rufus, putting one in mind of Dexter's Dark Passenger.

Glass' recent history is daunting: He has received the Medal of Valor and then, off the record, ordered into a six-month medical leave with psychiatric care, talk therapy, and mandatory attendance at meetings for Sex Addicts Anonymous, a 12-step program similar to other such groups. His addiction has also caused the end of his marriage. On medical leave for two months as the book opens, Glass finds himself in San Francisco and obviously out of his jurisdiction. He is soon stepping on the toes of both the SFPD and the FBI as he searches for a girl by whom he is obsessed, a young prostitute apparently in the clutches of two different factions of the Russian mob. Police corruption soon becomes evident, and he doesn't know who he can trust, and at first only succeeds in further endangering the girl.

Detective Glass made his first appearance in "Boulevard," which I have not yet read. Since I assume it may be several months until a follow-up novel appears, I think I'll need to get my next dose of Mr. Schwartz' fiction well before that. It would seem that it's very easy to fall prey to an addiction.

Highly recommended.

Gloria Feit

Gondelman's Bookshelf

Prayers & Lies
Sherri Wood Emmons
119 West 40th Street, Floor 21, New York, NY 10018-2522
0758253249, $15.00,

Bethany, a seven year old girl from Indianapolis begins to spend her summers with her parents, sisters, and extended family at the Coal River in West Virginia. While the life here is much different from what she is used to, she quickly feels both at peace and at home here, and forms a tight, sisterly bond with her six year old cousin, Reana Mae. There is a simpleness here on the River that Bethy finds comforting. Though they may not have the "riches" that Bethy has at home, they have the "riches" of love, family, and a place to always call home.

As the years go on, things begin to change. People begin to change. And just maybe, things on the Coal River aren't nearly as perfect as Bethy thinks. The sweet innocence of their summers begin to take on a dark, impossible-to-fathom identity that will rock this town and this extended family to its core. It will bring to the surface memories that this family would rather leave buried in the past. It will shatter lives in a way that no one could ever imagine. But a larger question remains - will it bring Bethy and Reana Mae closer than they've ever been, or will it turn them into bitter enemies with no hope of ever finding that deep, close friendship they shared when they were younger?

From page one, you will become entrenched in the lives of Bethy, Reana Mae and the rest of their family. Your heart will ache for their past sufferings, and your mind will scream at them for the situations they now find themselves in. Can this current generation overcome the sins of those that came before them? Or are they destined to repeat those same mistakes? Will lies continue to be told? Will the prayers finally be answered? If you only read one book in 2011, make sure it is Prayers and Lies. The raw emotion, the angst of the teenage years, the desire to be wanted, needed, and loved, the hatred, the lies, the secrets, the pain, the joy and the yearnings of Bethany and her cousin Reana Mae will take hold of your heart from the very first page and never let go. An amazing story of love, friendship, and the test of time that will stay will you long after you turn the last page.

Mary Burton
Zebra Books
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
119 West 40th Street, Floor 21, New York, NY 10018-2522
1420110195, $6.99,

Eva Rayburn is in her late twenties (although she looks like she's 16). She's strong, incredibly smart, beautiful, tough, and an ex-con. Ten years earlier, while partying with her sorority sisters, Eva was raped and branded with a star-shaped pendant. A fire is set and she barely escaped with her life. Unfortunately (or depending on how you look at it, fortunately), her rapist, Josiah, dies in the fire, and Eva is convicted of killing him. She is fairly certain she did not kill Josiah, but she can't remember much about that night. Is she a cold-blooded murderer, or did she take the fall for someone else? The fact that her sorority sisters testified against her didn't help much either. Neither are the nightmares and bits and pieces of memories that keep coming back. But she is now trying to rebuild her life by, moving back to Alexandria where she was born and raised. She is working nights at a halfway house as an attendant, afternoons as a bartender, and in between as a process server. While she has grown close to King, (the bar owner who has a secret of his own), and his foster son, Bobby, (who has his own issues, as well), she still hasn't let her sister Angela know that she has been back in town for six months. A sister that she pushed away during her trial in order to protect her from Josiah's father, hell bent on making the person who took away his son suffer.

Now someone is killing Eva's former sorority sisters. Each time a body is found, it has the same star-shape branded into them. The killer leaves the body of the first girl at the halfway house where Eva works, torching the place to boot. Detectives Deacon Garrison and Malcolm Kier are assigned to the case. It soon becomes apparent to Deacon that Eva is not just someone who happens to work at the burned-down Halfway House, but that she has a connection to the victim as well. What Deacon can't figure out is how Eva is involved. Is she seeking revenge for those that testified against her and cost her ten years of her life? What he does know is that there is definitely something going on between them. Something that is so instinctual, so deep, that it goes way beyond the cop/suspect/victim relationship.

Eva must now fight to not only save her own life, but to also prove her innocence. Can she do it before it's too late? Or will she become the final victim of this maniac? Senseless is clever, dark, and full of suspense. The reader is pulled in from page one with a gruesome murder that will make you cringe yet have you turning the pages wanting more. The characters are well thought out, real and relatable. Senseless neatly fits into the "romantic suspense" category. What I love about what Ms. Burton has done is that while the reader knows who will end up with whom, it's not forced on you right at the beginning, making it seem implausible; the relationship builds over time, making it more believable. Get your map handy. You'll need it to follow all of the twists and turns Ms. Burton lays out for you all the way to the stunning, unbelievable, didn't-even-come-close-to-see-that-coming ending. Senseless is a rock sold hit! Make sure to check out the next book in the series, Merciless (due out Jan 25th), featuring Eva's sister, Angela, and Deacon's partner, Malcolm.

Lori Gondelman

Gorden's Bookshelf

The Grand Design
Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow
Bantam Books
c/o Random House, Inc.
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
9780553805376, $28.00,

The Grand Design is similar to a number of other books with Stephen Hawking as the author. It is a very readable summary of complex physics written in a form that the typical reader can understand. The Grand Design doesn't cover any really new science. Many of the topics have been fodder for numerous science fiction writers for half a century. The real strength of the book is the easy and fun reading that becomes an educational experience.

The book covers a broad spectrum of scientific discovery to the relatively recent formation of M-Theory. The book calls this theory the Grand Design with its ability to become the framework to explain all aspects of the universe. It builds through the story by tracing the scientific history of the various threads that were incorporated to form the theory.

The story crosses the line between science and philosophy in a modern attempt in updating the debate that developed during the great religious and scientific upheaval called the Reformation. This is a needed step in serious discussion as many of the old lines of thought have become a bit dated. It is also interesting to the historians that this centuries old debate can be seen as still fresh and evoking.

The book starts with mundane questions everyone has thought about at some time or another -- the When, Where, Whys and Hows of the universe and ourselves. We usually hear these questions in a philosophical setting. It takes a great degree of confidence for the authors to use them in a scientific text. None of the answers are that unusual or unfamiliar. They have been asked and answered in various ways for hundreds of years. An interesting question does come up with this history, why do so many pundits critiquing this new book act so surprised with the answers? The pundits either haven't read or understood the text and have framed the topics into stories they have decided to talk about. Most of the headlines have been on some variation of the fictitious idea that Hawking has disproved the existence of God. All that was stated is what has been known by scientists for hundreds of years -- science can be used to explain the physical world without having to resort to miraculous events attributed to God.

This book is a must read for many contemporary readers. The scarcity of scientific education in this country makes for a multitude of misunderstandings about science. This book fills the gap with the correct usage of words and ideas used in science without the mixing of those definitions with classic philosophical and religious meanings. For the true scientist, there are a few disagreements that come about with the over simplification required to produce a story for the lay person but the true scientist will also find many ways to explain to non-scientists what they are doing. You can wait for picking the book up at your library but you should read it as soon as you can. Everyone does need to understand the current scientific debates in the world and this is an easy way to understand them.

The Last Testament
Sam Bourne
c/o Harper Collins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780061472875, $7.99,

Bourne has written a good Middle Eastern suspense thriller in The Last Testament. The locations are solid and the historical hook is unique and fun. The only real problem is the mid-section. Many readers will love this action sequence but it reads as a little too muddied. Suspense requires a build up of threats and action but with pacing. Today's jaded readers and publishers like to push too hard on the action, creating super villains and too many implausible events. Many novels are pure action and the reader knows it and seeks them out for this type of escapist thrill. The Last Testament tries to fill the void between a thinking reader's thriller and the action junkie. It is mostly successful in this task except for the over reaching middle.

Maggie Costello is a crisis negotiator whose single failure resulted in war. Broken, she is trying to build a new life as a relationship counselor. Washington is trying to broker a real Palestinian Israeli peace treaty. It has gotten to a crucial point. A series of deadly incidents break out threatening the negotiations and Washington convinces Maggie to come out of retirement and step in as a back up for the negotiation team in this period of crisis.

An archeological find has surfaced purporting to be the last will and testament of Abraham. The ancient tablet could either make the peace or bring the region down in war. The deadly incidents disrupting the negotiations are for control of the tablet and the knowledge it might reveal. Maggie has just become a pawn in a deadly game where death is an all too easy an answer.

The Last Testament is a very good suspense. It is a great deal on the mass market and used book shelves. It tries valiantly to be more than the weekend escape novel but it just falls short. You will not be disappointed reading it but you might finish wishing for a more disciplined story.

S.A. Gorden, Reviewer

Harwood's Bookshelf

Science Friction: Where the Known Meets the Unknown
Michael Shermer
Times Books
115 West 18th Street, New York, NY 10011
9780805077087, $26.00,

"I wouldn't have seen it if I hadn't believed it." Those words (p. xix) from Michael Shermer's Science Friction explain better than a thousand pictures why only a person who already believes the fairy tales of the world's largest contrary-to-fact belief system is able to "see" a representation of Christianity's ranking goddess in a random distribution of sprouts in a mushroom patch, or only someone who already believes in "flying saucers" is able to tell reporters with a straight face that he was abducted by extraterrestrials that resemble humans in Star Trek makeup. Shermer includes pictures of the side of a bank building on which believers claimed to see the entity he refers to as "the Virgin Mary," as if such a title for the mother of several children were not itself oxymoronic nonsense, and I find myself unable to see how even the most brain-addled religion addict could interpret it as a picture of anything whatsoever. (The interpretation of a Martian mountain range as a human face is much more understandable.)

In his opening chapter, "Psychic for a Day," Shermer describes his appearance on a TV program with Bill Nye, in which he posed as various kinds of fortuneteller, ranging from astrologer and palmist to communicator with the dead. All five subjects on whom he performed cold readings agreed afterward that he was at least as accurate as the most impressive psychic they had ever encountered. He concludes the chapter (p. 18), "I do not believe that ESP, telepathy, clairvoyance, clairaudience, or any of the other forms of psi power has any basis whatsoever in fact. There is not a shred of evidence that any of this is real, and the fact that I could do it reasonably well with only one day of preparation shows just how vulnerable people are to these very effective nostrums."

The only "psychic" Shermer mentions by name is James Van Praagh, on whose money-grubbing lies the TV series Ghost Whisperer was based, and he limits his comment (p. 16) to describing the cancelation of Van Praagh's series due to poor ratings as "a positive note." On the morality of swindling the grieving by pretending to communicate with the dead, and "constructing a fantasy that they are hovering nearby in the psychic ether, awaiting some self-proclaimed psychic conduit to reveal to me breathtaking insights about ... unfulfilled desires. This is worse than wrong. It is wanton depravity."

In explaining and justifying his invention of the word Brights as a new name for nontheists, Shermer notes that a 1999 Gallup poll showed that, while over 90 percent of Americans would be willing to vote for a Catholic, Jew, Baptist, Mormon, black, or woman, only 59 percent indicated a willingness to vote for a homosexual, and 49 percent for an atheist. It seemed from those statistics that "atheist" needed to be replaced by a non-pejorative term. But instead of "nontheist," Shermer latched onto "Bright."

Actually the statistics are not as disheartening as Shermer imagines. Since only 64 percent of Americans are theists,(1) and all of the persons who would not vote for an atheist must be theists, it follows that 15/64, almost a quarter, of theists are sufficiently unbigoted to recognize that atheists are as intrinsically trustworthy as themselves. The percentage of Protestants willing to trust Catholics, or Catholics willing to trust Mormons, is lower than that.

Shermer prints several of the responses he received (including one from me, p. 27) when he asked for feedback on the advisability of trying to call nontheists "Brights." He expresses astonishment (p. 24) that the vast majority of responses were emphatically negative. He explains (p. 23) that, "Bright is a good word. It means 'cheerful and lively', 'showing an ability to think, learn, or respond quickly,' and 'reflecting or giving off strong light.'" But he also recognizes that, in order for theists to identify nontheists as "Brights," they would in effect have to acknowledge that, "The rest of us would be 'The Dims.'" Yet even now he is unwilling to recognize that that is never going to happen. And of the 43 alternatives to Bright listed (page 35), "nontheists" (my preference) is not even included. "Bright" was one of thirteen possibilities that failed to garner support from even one percent of voters. Nonetheless, any idea that could trigger Rush Limbaugh's paranoia (p. 22) cannot be all bad.

The chapter on "Heresies of Science" discusses six theories disputed by at least a few respectable scientists but endorsed by the overwhelming majority, and rates each on a scale ranging from .1 (lowest probability) to .9 (highest probability). He rates the theory that evolution is not progressive, meaning moving in a discernable direction, at .8, a reasonable figure, given that some unidentified (but not metaphysical) influence cannot be ruled out. But despite his citing of the matricide paradox (a time traveler goes back in time and prevents his own birth, thereby making it impossible for him to go back in time), he rates time travel at .3 rather than .1 or even zero. He gives the theory that the universe is not all there is an enormous .7, citing theories of a handful of physicists who support it. I would not pit my inexpertise against astrophysicists who postulate a "multiverse" containing wormholes and other violations of observable reality. But I view such speculations as no less metaphysical for being endorsed by Stephen Hawking than if they had sprang from the imagination of L. Ron Hubbard.

Does Michael Shermer really believe that even the wildest speculations cannot be rated as definitively impossible? Would he rate the theory that the earth is round at only .9? Or is he trying to be politically correct, buying into the pretence that science can never be certain about anything? Could he be afraid that if he allows reductio ad absurdum to convince him that time travel cannot exist, he might then have to agree that the same process forces him to acknowledge that "God" cannot exist? Does he consider it immodest to know that fairy tale characters exist only in fairy tales, but not immodest merely to believe that fairy tale characters exist only in fairy tales?

"The Virtues of Skepticism" is a highly autobiographical chapter. In between crediting Martin Gardner, James Randi, and Paul Kurtz with inspiring him to become a skeptic (he is editor and publisher of Skeptic magazine), Shermer acknowledges that, despite his being a "born again Christian" at the time, the reason he did not choose theology for his PhD was (p. 62) that, "foreign languages was not my strong suit." That explains why his comments on biblical passages are based on English translations he does not recognize as intentionally misleading.

For example, he recognizes the real meaning of such RSV terms as "goes into her" and "the tokens of virginity." But he thinks that, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me" (p. 57), "prohibits anyone from believing in any of the other gods besides Yahweh," despite his awareness that the passage indicates that, "polytheism was common at the time." The same passage in The Protestant Bible Correctly Translated reads, "You're to admit no foreign gods into [Judah] where I gaze." Quite simply, Jews were permitted to worship Babylonian gods in Babylon, but not in Yahweh's home territory where he would be subjected to the indignity of having to watch. He recognizes that the lawcode currently cited as "ten commandments," even though the Torah pins that label on a very different Big Ten, is incompatible with the U.S. Constitution and its posting in schools "is rightly prohibited by the First Amendment." But, not being a biblical scholar, he does not recognize that the alleged Ten Commandments is a Jewish sharia-equivalent that criminalizes practitioners of all other religions, including Christianity.(2)

Shermer reports (pp. 54-55) an incident that occurred when he appeared on a Boston radio talk program. He informed a caller that his bible instructed parents of disobedient children to have them stoned to death. The caller challenged him to quote the passage, and agreed to donate $100 to the Skeptics Society if he could do so. Shermer cited the chapter and verse (Deuteronomy 21:18-21), and was amazed at the caller's totally unexpected reaction: "There is nothing to dispute. I was wrong. I will pay the Skeptics Society one hundred dollars." Compare that with my experience when I wrote to a local newspaper citing fourteen biblical passages that could be true if and only if the earth is flat. The only responses the newspaper published argued that the bible's flat earth passages do not mean what they clearly do mean.

In the chapter on "Spin-Doctoring Science" Shermer discusses debates between scientists and tealeaf readers (or perhaps it was between scientists and the pseudoscientists who call themselves sociobiologists or evolutionary psychologists; it is hard to tell the difference), and appears to show a preference for the tealeaf readers. He describes Stephen Jay Gould (p. 80) as, "considered by most sociobiologists to be Satan incarnate," but is apparently unaware that Gould did to sociobiology what Darwin did to creationism. And Shermer's failure to recognize "cultural anthropology" as a branch of science fiction makes one wonder if he is unaware that UCLA has to this day refused to annul the PhD in cultural anthropology it awarded to Carlos Castaneda for a dissertation, later published as The Teachings of Don Juan, crediting a Yaqui shaman with psychic powers even as blatant a humbug as Uri Geller would not have dared claim, that any examiner with more academic legitimacy than a Scientologist would have recognized as a pack of lies from start to finish.

In a chapter about sports psychology (analogous to the metaphysics of fishing), Shermer states (p. 100), "I do not go as far as psychiatrist Thomas Szasz in his claim that mental illnesses are all socially constructed, nor do I accept all of clinical psychologist Tana Dineen's arguments that the 'psychology industry' is 'manufacturing victims' in order to feed its ever-growing economic juggernaut." Newsflash: Szasz and Dineen are right. But he does recognize that critics of the psychoquackery scam "have injected a badly needed dose of skepticism into a field flooded with flapdoodle."

In another autobiographical chapter, about his mother's death from a brain tumor that a psychiatrist diagnosed as "depression," Shermer reports (p. 106) that, after her final collapse into a state of unconsciousness from which she would not recover, "it struck me as almost absurd after all of this to have the staff psychologist inquire if I would like to talk about my feelings." But even that personal experience was not sufficient to convince Shermer that the only difference between a psychotherapist and a bartender is that bartenders are not taught to say, "And how did that make you feel?"

Shermer adds his interpretation of the mutiny on the Bounty to the hundreds of books and five movies that preceded him. He starts from the assumption (p. 120) that naval crews at the time, "consisted of young men in the prime of sexual life, designed by evolution to pair-bond in serial monogamy with women of reproductive age." That entire contention is based on the fantasies of sociobiology. Reality is that (1) "pair-bonding" refers to a process found in very few species, not including humans, although human behavior has a superficial resemblance; and (2) since humans only learned of the biological relationship between sire and cub c 3500 BCE, such an evolutionary brain-reprogramming could not have occurred in the short time since that date, and practices designed to prevent a woman from being impregnated by anyone but her legal owner could not have existed prior to that Big Discovery. Shermer's conclusion (p. 129) that, "the ultimate cause [of the mutiny] was evolutionarily adaptive emotions expressed nonadaptively in the wrong place at the wrong time, with irreversible consequences," is sociobiology. And sociobiology is bullshit.

The chapters in which Shermer discusses Gene Roddenberry, Harlan Ellison, Carl Sagan, and Stephen Jay Gould struck me as leaning over backward to appear unbiased, quoting as many hostile as favorable opinions while avoiding stressing his own views. In Gould's case, he quotes many opponents, some quite vitriolic, of Gould's "punctuated equilibrium" theory, while not even mentioning his imbecilic NOMA fantasy. Was that a calculated policy, or does he see the desperate doublethink that destroyed Gould's reputation for clear thinking as insignificant?(3) And while he was on the subject of the role of science in science fiction, why did he not cite the most successful science fiction scam in American history, the confidence swindle of Scientology?

Science Friction is listed 654,000th on Amazon's bestseller list, compared to 9,783rd for Why People Believe Weird Things. Sales figures are not a measure of quality (the ridiculous Left Behind ranks 10,280th, and the King James Bible far outsells Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion). But since all of Shermer's books are aimed at the same audience, the low ranking of Science Friction, far below any of his other books, says more about its usefulness than any summation I could write.

(1) Ronald Aronson, Living Without God, p. 12.

(2) William Harwood, God, Jesus and the Bible: The Origin and Evolution of Religion, pp. 166-168).

(3) Archaeologist Geoffrey Ashe similarly destroyed his reputation as a scholar whose speculations about sixth-century British history could be taken seriously, when he rationalized away the carbon dating of a medieval forgery by arguing that the "false" dating was a consequence of the radioactivity triggered by the revivification of a dead man.

Blowing Smoke: Why the Right Keeps Serving Up Whack-Job Fantasies about the Plot to Euthanize Grandma, Outlaw Christmas, and Turn Junior into a Raging Homosexual
Michael Wolraich
Da Capo Press
c/o Perseus Books Group
11 Cambridge Center, Cambridge, MA 02142
9780306819193, $25.00,

The only problem with a book that exposes America's Religious Right as dangerous rabid canines willing to tell any lie that might enable them to obtain the absolute power to turn all Americans into the mindslaves of a totalitarian Sky Fuhrer created out of the insanity they see in the mirror, is that anyone who does not know that already cannot be told.

"This book does not attempt to present the kind of even-handed "liberals say - conservatives say" analysis so popular in the news media... I do not believe that left-wing paranoia has attained anything close to the mainstream popularity of right-wing paranoia in recent history." That acknowledgment (p. xi) was extremely reassuring. I have lost count of the number of commentators who either believe there are two sides to every issue (including whether the earth is flat), or are so blinded with political correctness that they dare not criticize Adolf Hitler without saying something equally negative about Winston Churchill. As a single example, the author of an otherwise insightful book cited as extremists of the left and right Bill O'Reilly and Keith Olbermann, as if a skunk-bitten Old Yeller and the veterinarian trying to cage him were mirror images. Liberals (from the Latin word for "liberty") and conservatives (holdovers from the Dark Ages) differ by millennia of moral evolution, and it is high time the intentionally purblind acknowledged that difference.

In the chapter on Bill O'Reilly's campaign to abolish equal treatment for such slogans as "season's greetings," "happy Hanukah," "super solstice," "bonzer Kwanzaa," and "happy holidays," and to compel America's 124 million non-Christians to parrot, "merry Christmas," O'Reilly is quoted (p. 6) as labeling his ranting as, "facts and superior analysis based on those facts." Wolraich makes the point that, "If baseless claims that enemies secretly conspire to persecute you and your kind constitute superior analysis, then superior analysis would seem to have much in common with paranoid delusion." He cites (p. 18) John Stewart's description of O'Reilly as "the most reasonable voice on FOX," and his comparison of that distinction to "the thinnest kid at fat camp." He also reports Glenn Beck's masturbation fantasy (p. 15) that, if Barack Obama's extension of health care to the whole American population is implemented, Beck's daughter with cerebral palsy would somehow be excluded. But rather than seeing such extremists as "random cases of paranoid insanity" (p. 21), Wolraich sees them as "part of a growing political movement to cast white, Christian, gun-owning conservatives as the victims of a vicious alliance between liberal elites, blacks, illegal immigrants, homosexuals, and other assorted villains."

If Wolraich's purpose was to show the world that Bill O'Reilly, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Pat Buchanan, Ann Coulter, Jerry Falwell, Franklin Graham, Oliver North, William F. Buckley, Newt Gingrich, Michele Bachmann, Jackie Mason, Tea Party politicians, and the rest of the Religious Right including the whole of Citizen Murdoch's Faux News Gestapo, are/were dangerous escapees from Nurse Ratched's Cuckoo's Nest who belong in cages with padded walls where they cannot pass on their mind-AIDS to the uninfected, he achieved that objective in this first chapter.

Chapter two explains why Nurse Ratched should have scheduled lobotomies for Ron Paul, Jim Greer, Pat Robertson, Paul Weyrich, Strom Thurmond, Orrin Hatch, Jesse Helms, Tim LaHaye, and a bunch of other Joseph McCarthy/ Tomas de Torquemada/ Attila the Hun clones I have never heard of. "Sane Republican" is not yet an oxymoron. But party member who do not fit that description are hell-bent on making it one.

Chapters on the "gay agenda," meaning the pursuit of the same equal rights won by other once-oppressed minorities such as blacks and Jews, add the names of James Dobson, Rep. Steve King, Antonin Scalia, Mike Huckabee, and Anita Bryant to the list of religious maniacs who convict themselves of moral bankruptcy every time they open their mouths. Dobson argued (p. 58) that legalizing same-sex marriage would lead to the legalization of child-rape. Jerry Falwell predicted that school desegregation would lead to interracial marriage, and that interracial marriage would lead to the destruction of the white race. Justice Scalia grumbled (p. 62) that in legalizing equal rights for gays, the Supreme Court had "signed on to the so-called homosexual agenda." Huckabee (p. 84) praised a book that identified Christians as not the perpetrators but the victims of hate-motivated discrimination.

Ann Coulter exposed her pathological hatred of persons thirty thousand years more morally evolved than herself by declaring (p. 75) that they are "like roaches. They operate in the dark. Shine a light on them and they scatter." Whether she shares the view of other history-deniers such as Glenn Beck, that the man who first used the word "liberal" to mean something unflattering, Adolf Hitler, was himself a liberal (analogous to calling Stalin a democrat), I would have to read her own books to find out. And that curious I am not.

Steve King (p. 63) described same-sex marriage as "a purely socialist concept." And of course, anything labeled as socialist must be evil, since socialism was the form of communal living practised by that enemy of everything Christian, Jesus the Nazirite. George W. Bush threatened to veto the Matthew Shepard Act, which classified gay-bashing as a hate crime, and the head of a religious nut cult declared (p. 72) that the Act's "goal is to undermine the First Amendment," presumably by denying believers the right to impose a "law respecting an establishment of religion" that legalized religion-motivated violence.

Wolraich disputes (p.75) a contention he deems "comforting to liberals ... that right-wing voters have the mental capacity of a limp root vegetable." He elaborates (p. 76), "you don't have to be stupid to be paranoid... neither Glenn Beck nor Rush Limbaugh graduated from college, but Pat Robertson, who is a zanier conspiracist than either one of them, has a law degree from Yale." But he then asks, ""If paranoid conservatives aren't universally stupid or clinically insane, how do we explain their affinity for ideas that are both stupid and insane?" So he recognizes that stupid is as stupid does. And while "insane" is nothing more than a metaphor for undisciplined thinking and behavior unrelated to any neurological disorder (the NGI defence is tantamount to, "He is not guilty of committing the crime, because he is able to commit the crime"), if the theofascists of the Far Right cannot be described as insane, then the word serves no useful purpose and should be eliminated from the vocabulary.

In discussing the origin and meaning of the term, cognitive dissonance (one of the very few words invented by the psychobabble industry that is actually useful), Wolraich refers in passing to the viciously racist, The Bell Curve, that offered a case for confining nonwhites to reservations for the intellectually inferior. Wolraich does not advocate confining adherents of Faux News and the Christian Taliban to reservations for the criminally irrational. But a future guru making such a recommendation is bound to cite it as compelling evidence in support of such a policy. Wolraich obviously cannot be blamed for that (or credited, depending on one's point of view). But drawing attention to reality has a tendency to lead to recommendations on how to deal with that reality. If sentencing the likes of Beck and Limbaugh to life without parole in the Cuckoo's Nest is not an acceptable solution, then how should one deal with them?

Wolraich reports on a psychologist (p. 138) who infiltrated a UFO cult "to prove the hypothesis that cognitive dissonance would produce a frenzy of proselytizing as members sought to affirm their rationalizations for the failed prophecy. He even hinted that the world's great religions might have been spawned by just such bursts of evangelism (precipitated, for example, by the untimely execution of a promised messiah and his failure to bring about the prophesied end of the world)." Clearly neither Wolraich nor his source is a biblical historian. The failure of Jesus' end-of-the-world prophecies destroyed his credibility with the Jewish cultists who were his followers, and only his adoption as the posthumous figurehead of a religion he would have repudiated, invented by an apostate Jew named Paul, allowed any form of Jesus religion to survive.

The chapter, "Return of the International Jew," defends George Soros (George Who?) against Right Wing accusations that he is the funder and architect of liberal idealism. That is like defending Bill Gates from accusations that using his money to help the oppressed is a crime against their oppressors.

Wolraich's explanation for how the name of Azazel, an ancient Hebrew goat-god, was mistranslated into "scapegoat," will probably be new information for 99 percent of his readers.

In the wrap-up to several chapters tracing the rise of Right Wing paranoia from Joseph McCarthy to Sarah Palin, Wolraich quotes McCarthy's last surviving defender, Ann Coulter. According to Coulter (p. 284), "The myth of 'McCarthyism' is the greatest Orwellian fraud of our times. Liberals are fanatical liars, then as now. The portrayal of Sen. Joe McCarthy as a wild-eyed demagogue destroying innocent lives is sheer liberal hobgoblinism." Apparently the 22 Republican senators (out of 44) who joined the 55 Democrats (JFK was hospitalized and unable to vote) in censuring McCarthy in 1954 are also "fanatical liars." With the influence of evolutionary throwbacks like Palin and Coulter hastening the Talibanization of America out of all proportion to their intelligence, education or sanity, Wolraugh concludes (p. 285), "To paraphrase my good friend Glenn Beck: Wake up, America. It's time to take our country back."

Pitchforks and Torches
Keith Olbermann
John Wiley & Sons
111 River Street, Hoboken, NJ 07030
9780470614471, $24.95,

"Pitchforks and Torches: The Worst of the Worst, from Beck, Bill, and Bush to Palin and Other Posturing Republicans" contains no comments specifically written for the book. Rather it consists entirely of transcripts from the previous two years' broadcasts of Countdown. Some examples:

p. 2: "this nation has survived the evil of the Bush administration these last eight years ... because most of the people in the Bush administration are about as dimwitted and careless as ... Democracy saved because its enemies were too stupid to realize that they were stupid." Now that is telling it like it is.

p. 4: "this isn't really just about Prop 8. I don't have a personal investment in this; I'm not gay." It is a sad situation that, in order to condemn homophobic bigots who would deny same-sex couples the legal rights granted to opposite-sex couples, and suggest that those who cite a 2,000-year-old book in support of their position consider another passage in the same book, "Do unto others as you would have them do to you," Olbermann was obliged to mention that he is not gay. I can understand his position. In expressing similar support of equal rights for the homosexual minority, I have also had to preempt accusations of self-serving by stressing that I am not a member of the minority I defend. It is sad that I needed to do so, and it is sad that Keith Olbermann needs to do so.

p. 11: "Bill-O the clown has stayed in shape during my absence. He has called the media-watchdog site Media Matters 'the most dishonest Web site in the country,' because, well, it accurately quoted him."

p. 61: "Just a coincidence that the Hannity show begins with an illustration of a giant balloon filled with hot air."

p. 70: "I am fed up with the equating of what we do here [at MSNBC] to circus performers like Limbaugh and the Fox crowd. We don't make stuff up like Beck does. We don't stalk people like O'Reilly does. We don't support racism and encourage violence like Limbaugh does. We don't recite talking points like Hannity does." The cited "worst person in the world," a Democratic senator, is not the first person to parrot the pretence that peddling hatred and denouncing the hate-peddler are identical activities, equally indefensible. I have lost count of the brain-addled pseudo-liberals who think it is politically correct to balance any criticism of Adolf Hitler with an equally vitriolic criticism of Winston Churchill. My advice to persons who see Glenn Beck and Keith Olbermann as mirror images is: get a brain transplant. The one you have is out of order.

p. 76: "We let this woman [Michele Bachmann] vote on actual pieces of legislation. But it's worse than that. We let her drive a car."

p. 78: "Congratulations, Mr. [Karl] Rove. Anybody can be the scum of the earth in one thing like politics, but it takes a man of super genius to be the scum of the earth of politics and then in journalism."

p. 104: "Neurotic, paranoid, false to fact and false to reason, forever self-rationalizing his inner rage at his own impotence, and failure dripping from every word, and as irrational, as separated from the real world, as dishonest, as insane as any terrorist - the former vice president has today humiliated himself beyond redemption... the America he sought to impose upon the world and upon its own citizens, the dark, hateful place of Dick Cheney's own soul, the place he to this hour defends, and to this day prefers, is a repudiation of all that our ancestors, all that for which our brave troops ... have sacrificed and fought." A point Olbermann did not mention in that 2009 Special Comment is that Cheney, the worst war criminal in American history, is (still) being protected from prosecution - by Barack Obama.

p. 126: "Newt Gingrich, who has inadvertently outed himself as America's least intelligent supergenius politician."

p. 127: "Former president George W. Bush... he wanted war in Iraq, and then he went excuse shopping." And despite Bush's indictment for war crimes in more than one country, the president who campaigned on a promise to put an end to the Bush administration's flouting of international law is still refusing to allow the criminal-in-chief to be prosecuted.

p. 131: "Coulter-geist. On the assassination of Dr George Tiller: 'I don't really think of it as murder. It was terminating Tiller in the 203rd trimester.'" I am familiar with the evidence that Ann Coulter really exists and is not a parody invented by The Onion. But I continue to wonder.

p. 140: "Obama birther and general nut bag Orly Taitz, who has now got another Obama birther person fired... What that dim bulb Taitz, and what increasingly looks like her sap of a victim, did not consider was that [the person she tricked into suing the military] is a systems engineer for a Pentagon contractor. Naturally enough, the army, sued by a guy, has the right to say he is not welcome." Since losing a run for elective office in 2010, Taitz' fifteen minutes of fame has run out. She should thank Keith Olbermann for keeping he name alive in this book.

p. 149, on Sarah Palin's masturbation fantasy that President Obama's universal health care legislation authorized "death panels": "There is no 'death panel.' There is no judgment based on societal productivity. There is no worthiness test. But there is downright evil, and Ms. Palin, you just served its cause. You shouted 'Fire!' in a crowded theater."

p. 159: "There he is, fomenting more violence against the government. Glenn, you do realize that when you go off on those paranoid, comical rants, you begin to sound like one of the mullahs, right? Mullah Glenn Beck. Is that better than Lonesome Rhodes, or is it too offensive to mullahs?"

p. 162: "People who watch Fox News thinking there is news in it are tin foil hatters, conspiracy theorists, paranoids, racists, loons, and pinheads."

p. 173: "Why does Chuck Norris hate the American flag?"

p. 175: "Michael Steele ... in that tone-deaf way that has made him the idol of every democrat."

p. 176: Rupert Murdoch fired a staffer who dared criticize his bad taste in authorizing a political cartoon that equated the President of the United States with a gorilla.

p. 177: "Congresswoman Michele Bachmann... Yes, don't let that out-to-lunch look behind the eyes fool you. There's some kind of slasher-movie obsession going on inside that congresswoman."

p. 200: "Pat Boone has now personally done more to try to incite violence against the elected representatives of the United States government than the entire country did during the two terms of George W. Bush."

Those are examples of Olbermann's compulsive truth-telling, even to the point of refusing to pretend that there are two sides to every issue, including whether insanity and a lack of scruples are prerequisites for employment at Faux News. But I do have one quibble. I go along with his recognition that "terrorist" and "Muslim" are not synonyms. Not all Moslems are as insane and evil as Osama bin Laden, just as not all Catholics are as insane and evil as Joseph Ratzinger, not all Mormons are as subhuman stupid as Glenn Beck, and not all victims of Ron Hubbard's Scientology confidence swindle are as braindead as Tom Cruise. But only someone who has never read a Koran could be unaware that, like Leviticus, it orders its addicts to adhere to practices that make Mein Kampf look like the epitome of moderation. Moslem terrorists are not aberrations who violate the true spirit of Islam. They epitomize the true spirit of Islam.

After he reads a Koran and discovers that it preaches a creed no sane person could possibly accept, Olbermann should then read a Bible and see if he can continue to deny that the character called "God" in English mistranslations is the most sadistic, evil, mass-murdering psychopath in all fiction. As Isaac Asimov observed, "Properly read, the bible is the most powerful force for atheism ever conceived." If Olbermann is as intelligent as he appears, reading those paeans to evil should be more than sufficient to cure him of the god delusion.

Conventional Idiocy: Why the New America Is Sick of Old Politics
Rick Sanchez
New American Library
375 Hudson St, New York NY 10014
9780451231390, $24.95,

"CNN is the most balanced of all the news networks." (p. 17)

Rick Sanchez quotes that message from a tweeter that, temporarily, creates the impression that he sees it as a compliment. In fact he is not unaware that "balanced" means granting equal consideration to incompatible views, such as, "the earth is round" and "the earth is flat"; "Hitler was a nice man" and "Hitler was not a nice man"; "Faux News is fair and balanced" and "Faux News makes Goebbels and Mussolini look like truthtellers and democrats." Balance has its place, but not when one view is the truth and the other is a pack of lies from start to finish - as Sanchez is fully aware.

The back cover of Conventional Idiocy contains Sanchez's comment, "Let me address the FOX News network now by quoting somebody who used a very pithy phrase. Two words. It's all I need, 'You lie.'" And after describing the evidence he presented on his program that Barack Obama was positively, absolutely, indisputably born in the USA, he writes (p. 43), "It's a fact! Yet, I had watched as cable news shows covered this story as if it contained two sides." And in case anyone still does not get the message, he adds (p. 131), "When the question is, 'The Earth: Flat or Not?' the answer is: not. You don't need to have someone on the show to tell you that the earth is flat and another to say the earth is not flat. Flat-earthers do not need to be given any heed or mind journalistically."

Sanchez, like 60 percent of all Americans, is a self-confessed Christian. (p. 49) That means he regards the myth of a virgin-born savior god who rose from the dead on the third day as a superstitious fairy tale when it was told of Osiris (c 3000 BCE), Adonis (c 1000 BCE), and almost fifty others in between, but a fact of history when it was plagiarized by followers of an executed Jew 2,000 years ago. He accordingly writes from a Christian perspective, and for that reason refers to an incident in which a politician engaged in victimless, nonconsequential recreation with a consenting partner in the words, "cheated on his wife" (p. 11) and "betrayed his friend" (p. 12). Perhaps the reason I find such an attitude toward behavior analogous to watching another man's television when its legal owner is not using it offensive is that, while I read lots of books by Christians, I read few if any that impose Christian or other religious attitudes on the 36 percent of their readers who are nontheists.

The term, "adultery," was coined 5,500 years ago as a name for the fraudulent impregnation of another man's wife, thereby robbing him of his right to pass on his inheritance to his biological heirs. Only since the late sixteenth century has it been misinterpreted to include non-procreational recreation. Sanchez has a First Amendment right to believe that Mother Goose gave birth to the universe after mating with the Flying Spaghetti Monster, if that is what his brainwashing demands. He does not have the right to impose his beliefs on his readers as if they were objectively valid rather than personal opinions. And since he has elsewhere indicated that flat-earth belief does not deserve the dignity of a rebuttal, I can only wonder is he aware that the Christian bible contains fourteen anecdotes that could be true if and only if the earth is flat?

For a North American, Sanchez uses reasonably-educated English, a pleasant change from most writers who went to school in a continent in which correct English has not been taught since World War Two. But a couple of consistent inadequacies are worth mentioning. He correctly uses "who" in the nominative case. But he also consistently uses "who" in the accusative case. Is the word "whom" missing from his dictionary? And he repeatedly uses run-on sentences, two principal clauses joined by a comma instead of a conjunction or a semi-colon (e.g., p. 55). Since he could not speak a word of English when he came to America as a child, that is perhaps a mitigating circumstance. I could object to his use of the word "affair" to describe non-marital sexual relationships, including an encounter that did not involve insertion, let alone intromission, or even another man's wife (p. 66), when there is no similar word to describe card-playing or other relationships. But I think that battle is already lost. He also uses contractions in his narrative, a practice I continue to regard as a no-no. But that is another battle I have probably already lost.

Sanchez names an American whom he credits (p. 136) as the creator of "the most successful and long-running news program in history, 60 Minutes." Reality check: 60 Minutes is as much an Americanized copy of the Canadian program, This Hour Has Seven Days, as Archie Bunker was an Americanized copy of Alf Garnet.

Sanchez is no fan of Rush Limbaugh or Bill O'Reilly. But he considers them less evil than Joseph McCarthy (pp. 108-114). Pardon me if I disagree. He states unequivocally that he is not morally retarded. (p. 125) The word he uses is "conservative," but it means the same thing. But he then adds that he is not liberal. If I thought I was not morally evolved, which is what "liberal" means, I would not boast about it. I would remain silent and hope no one finds out. By the way, the person who first attributed negative connotations to the word "liberal," from the Latin liber, "free," because liberals detested him, was Adolf Hitler.

So much for the downside. Most of Conventional Idiocy is accurate and at least minimally useful.

As early as his Introduction, Sanchez draws attention to the role of bribery, in the form of campaign contributions, in politicians' voting records. He asks (p. 28), "Which politicians voted most consistently for the health insurance industry and health-care companies who didn't want the public option to pass? ... There did seem to be a correlation between those who voted against the public option and those who got the most campaign financing money." If Sanchez of CNN and Olbermann of MSNBC could notice and draw attention to such blatant corruption, how come nobody has been prosecuted for it? Dare I suggest that, since the most flagrant bribe-takers are Republicans, Barack Obama is terrified that, if he authorizes their prosecution, he might be accused of playing politics? Newsflash: Republicans are not going to vote for him - or for the best interests of America - anyway.

Perhaps the strongest point Sanchez makes, backed up by more than adequate documentation, is that conflicts of interest that would get anyone else fired or even prosecuted, do not prevent United States senators from voting on issues that directly affect their income. For example (p. 85): "When Senator Bayh votes in favor of the health-care companies [his wife] sits on, their stocks go up. That means his income, and hers, goes up... And in any other business, that would be considered a clear conflict of interest. But not for a U.S. senator?" Whether Sanchez highlighted Evan Bayh because he is a particularly egregious offender, or singled out a Democrat to balance his criticism of Republicans such as Dick Cheney, perhaps even he does not know.

Did Cheney funnel billions of dollars worth of no-bid contracts to Halliburton as a quid pro quo for their paying him millions before he became vice president? (p. 88) "It's up to the American people to decide."

Sanchez devotes a full chapter to defending his profession against allegations that journalists tend to be milquetoast mediocrities. I have no problem with journalists. I reserve my contempt for the fatuous poseurs who have the pretentious insolence to call themselves "investigative reporters," in the pretence that experience in chasing news stories gives them the same competence in evidence-analysis as police detectives or historians. But I shuddered at his description (p. 126) of Katie Couric as "extremely talented" at presenting pre-edited news reports in an entertaining manner, despite her inability to function on cable news, which requires an ability to ad-lib that broadcast news anchors do not need. My aversion to Couric is triggered by her bigoted refusal to apologize for her vicious insult to the educated in parroting the Big Lie that there are no atheists in foxholes. Is Sanchez unaware that Couric is a lying bigot, or does he consider the peddling of disinformation not incompatible with her being a "talented" newsreader?

Another chapter is devoted to explaining and justifying Sanchez's addiction to a religion invented by a glory-seeking humbug named Paul of Tarsus, whose posthumous figurehead, Jesus, would have repudiated it as infidel superstition if he had not been totally, permanently and irreversibly dead at the time of its invention. It reads like an apologia from Tom Cruise for his becoming a shill for the science fiction confidence swindle, invented by a money-grubbing humbug named Lafayette Ron Hubbard, that is currently fleecing him. And he devotes chapters to Wall Street greed, anti-immigration hysteria, and George W. Bush's war of self-glorification, not particularly well, but adequately.

Rick Sanchez's book failed to convince me to start watching his program on CNN. That really says it all.

The Case of the Pope
Geoffrey Robertson QC
Penguin Books
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780241953846, $12.00,

"It is surely worth asking, at a time when Benedict XVI has set his face against essential reform, whether the Pope should be the one man left in the world who is above the law." (pp. viii-ix)

Having asked that question, Geoffrey Robertson sets out in "The Case of the Pope: Vatican Accountability for Human Rights Abuse" what amounts to a legal brief outlining the Catholic Church's systematic cover-up of the sexual abuse of children, and the role of the current pope in not merely tolerating such cover-ups but personally ordering them. He writes (p. 6) that, "the sexual abuse of children by priests in the Catholic Church has been at a level considerably above that in any other organization, and ... it has been covered up by many bishops with the support and at the direction of the Vatican... No explanation has been forthcoming for why this was tolerated at the highest levels of the church, especially during the Papacy of John Paul II and the prefecture of Cardinal Ratzinger at the Congregation for the Defence of the Faith."

Robertson writes (p. 11) that, "the Holy See is a 'Santa Claus state' (no matter how many believe in it, it does not really exist)." He points out that "many Catholic NGOs support the denial of statehood to the Holy See." He nowhere spells out what an NGO is. Google identifies it as a "non-government organization." But using an undefined acronym in a book is at best lazy, and in a legal brief indefensibly clumsy. A Queen's Counsel should have known better.

In spelling out the reasons why the Vatican should be stripped of the statehood granted to it by Mussolini, so that its pretended head of state can be stripped of the diplomatic immunity that prevents him from being prosecuted or sued for his role in crimes against humanity, Robertson accepts jury verdicts that awarded millions of dollars in damages against pedophile priests and their diocesan protectors as proof that the abuse occurred, and proceeds directly to showing the complicity of the pope and the Vatican in facilitating those crimes. Since the pope has acknowledged the extent and magnitude of priestly kiddy-diddling, that is a reasonable approach. There is little point re-proving allegations of which the accused has confessed. Robertson rightly concentrates on the crimes for which Ratzinger was personally responsible, and the necessity of stripping him of "head of state" status in order to bring him to justice.

Robertson does not mention such a hypothesis. But it is hard to escape the conclusion that some Vatican hierarchs' fanatic denunciations of everyone who would deny the Catholic Church the right to do anything it wishes without having to answer to any secular authority, even to the point of declaring that four German bishops who demanded that child-raping priests be handed over to secular prosecutors will "burn in hell," are setting the stage for a plea of "not guilty by reason of insanity." And those hierarchs may indeed believe that, "when the pope does it, it is not evil,' since such a doctrine is a logical extension of the theology, accepted by all godworshippers, that, "when God does it, it is not evil."

Robertson makes some questionable statements, such as his assertion that Benito Mussolini was a "lifelong atheist." Presumably he sees Mussolini's conversion to Catholicism, his Catholic marriage, his having his children baptized, and his Catholic funeral, as not indicative of what Il Duce really believed. By that standard one could claim that several popes were atheists. No nontheist would claim that a nontheist could not be evil. (Joseph Stalin comes to mind.) But it is an observable fact that preachers who peddle the Big Lie that that good Catholic Adolf Hitler was an atheist tend to be implying that atheism breeds evil, when one has only to note how underrepresented nontheists are in prisons to see that the opposite is true.

Despite his recognition that Fuhrer Ratzinazi and the entire Vatican crime syndicate are perpetrators of crimes against humanity, Robertson gives many hints that he is as godphuqt as the hypocrites he denounces. He even uses the offensively Christian dating system, AD, which tells the world's 5.5 billion non-Christians that they are living in the "year of the master." Indeed, despite Robertson's failure to mention that the sixty million past and future homicides from malnutrition and AIDS, that can be directly attributed to Il Papa's prohibition of sane birth control and sane disease control, make him the most prolific serial killer in human history, nothing in this book convinces me that Robertson is not himself a Catholic.

But whether he is writing as a Catholic who feels betrayed by his church leaders, a Protestant who sees Catholicism as intrinsically indefensible, or simply a lawyer who recognizes the crimes of individuals as worthy of prosecution, Robertson's book is a scathing indictment of possibly the most evil dictator on earth since Adolf Hitler. Commentators as notable as Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Sam Harris have advocated Ratzinger's arrest and prosecution, and even Catholic evolutionary throwbacks such as Bill O the clown, Hannity the profanity, and Citizen Murdock have not dared defend his cover-up of crimes against children.. If the International Criminal Court ever indicts Ratzinger for crimes against humanity, as it has indicted more than one head of state under Article 27 of its statute, this book need only be entered into evidence to guarantee his conviction even in the absence of any other testimony.

Stuart Sutherland
Pinter & Martin
6 Effra Parade, London SW2 1PS, UK
9781905177073, $17.95

The cover of Irrationality contains a flattering comment by Richard Dawkins. Clearly Dawkins has a higher opinion of psychobabble than I do. Author Stuart Sutherland is a self-confessed psychologist, an occupation that falls somewhere between a unicorn whisperer and a tea leaf reader.

Sutherland quotes an interesting anecdote (p. 42): "An apocryphal but bizarre example of the bystander effect is the story of the two sociologists who walked past a man who had been attacked and left bleeding in a ditch. One said to the other, 'We must find the man who did this - he needs help.'" The most revealing element of that story is that Sutherland attributed the incident to two sociologists rather than two psychologists, of whom it would be more typical. I recognize sociologists as part of the seventy percent of the human race, including petty thieves, Mafia gangsters, salesmen, preachers, psychologists, sociobiologists, Scientologists, and Faux News, who make their living as parasites sponging on the remaining thirty percent. What sociologists do, I have never been able to figure out. But at least they are not failed bartenders who think that sympathetic listening and asking, "And how did that make you feel?" is a form of medicine. That delusion is restricted to psychologists. I do not dispute that a "knowledge of the mind," a psychology, may one day exist, and research aimed at achieving it is justified. As of now it does not exist, and a professor of psychology is as much a self-deluded, fatuous humbug as a professor of theology.

I find much of Sutherland's vocabulary extremely offensive. For example, he describes a bystander willing to assist a victim of assault as a "Good Samaritan," as if that term were less insulting than "good nigger." A gospel author showed a Samaritan as righteous at a time when Jews viewed Samaritans the way the Ku Klux Klan views black Americans. Repeating the expression perpetuates two-thousand-year-old xenophobia.

Equally offensive is his description (pp. 14, 21) of first or given names as "Christian names." I recall when a pencil pusher at Cambridge asked for my "Christian name." I could barely suppress my outrage sufficiently to demand that she rephrase the question. I consider Christianity, with its combination of Jewish sadism, Buddhist masochism, and ancient Egyptian theology, as the sickest perversion ever seen on earth. I do not question anyone's right to be a Christian. It is not his fault that he has been Manchurian Candidate-ized. But the suggestion that I should have a "Christian" name, and by implication be a Christian, is insulting beyond measure.

I expect a book of Christian propaganda to refer to Paul of Tarsus as "Saint Paul." For a supposed work of objective reality to do so is, to put it mildly, unacceptable. But Sutherland's recognition that misfiring neurons can trigger religiosity, and that Christianity may have been invented as a consequence of Paul's suffering an epileptic attack on the road to Damascus, is right on target.

He is also right (p. 113) in identifying "So many thriving quack nostrums, such as homeopathy, naturopathy ..." And unlike many practitioners of the psychoquackery delusion, he acknowledges that, "Even psychoanalysis is still with us despite all the evidence that its techniques are worthless." With the disappearance of psychoanalysis from the publicized daily lives of Hollywood celebrities (only to be replaced by the equally fraudulent opiate of Scientology), I had assumed that the practice was as dead as phlebotomy. Sadly, no.

On the other hand, his reference to "irrational behaviour caused by mental illness," is analogous to "a broken leg caused by breaking a leg." FYI: "mental illness" is nothing more than a metaphor for undisciplined thinking and behavior. Giving it a label that implies a neurological dysfunction serves no purpose but to provide gainful employment to psychoquacks who should be on permanent welfare.

The law of averages says that even tealeaf readers who think they are scientists are likely to make as many accurate as inaccurate observations, and Sutherland is no exception. When he writes (p. 123), "Flee any psychologist or psychiatrist who asks you to do a Rorschach test: he does not know his job," I can endorse the advice, while rejecting the implication that the job of psychologist or psychiatrist requires knowledge rather than self-delusion. And his chapters on statistical probability should be read by all believers in parapsychology, astrology, homeopathy or any other pseudomedical quackery, system-based gambling, or miracles and the ability of prayer to change the future.

He offers as a research finding (p. 22) a conclusion I reached on the basis of personal experience, that "the great majority of selection interviews are useless, and may indeed lower the chances of selecting the right candidate." When I was interviewed for a civil service position, one of the interviewers asked me if I had ever been in prison. When I answered that I had not, he repeated the question, and added that it would quickly be discovered if I was lying. I should mention that I was as adequately dressed and groomed as most of the other applicants. I learned later that, despite my finishing in the top six of 250 applicants for thirty positions who wrote a multiple-choice exam not dissimilar to a standard IQ test, he had recommended that I not be hired. Fortunately for me - and for him, as I would have sued him for all the money he would ever earn for the rest of his life - the other supervisor in charge of the interviews recommended that I be hired, and I was. Which recommendation was justified can be evaluated by the fact that I remained in the position for over five years, and only quit when I obtained the necessary credentials to become a teacher.

Sutherland draws attention to examples of irrational thinking that have me wondering how anyone can be so dumb. For example (p. 11) he cites persons who failed to give the right answer to the question of whether there were more words ending in " - ing" than ending in "-n-". (Do I need to mention that all words ending in "ing" simultaneously end in - it's too easy.) Another example he might have cited was that Ronald Reagan expressed amazement when he was informed that half of all Americans were below average intelligence.

Sutherland observes (p. 20) that, "The presence in an individual of one salient bad trait, like selfishness, can lower people's opinion of all his other traits: he tends to be seen as more dishonest and less intelligent than he really is." Do I view George W. Bush as a moron and a liar because his selfishness causes me to see him as more dishonest and less intelligent than he really is? I doubt it. But I do not dispute the validity of Sutherland's generalization. Certainly my initial response to the discovery that Irrationality is riddled with inane drivel tempted me to conclude that nothing in the book could have any validity. But that is not the case. And when he cites a juror who commented, "I don't like the look of him. We should find him guilty," that perhaps explains why an interviewer who thought he could read minds rejected me as a good candidate for employment, in defiance of objective evidence of my qualifications.

Since this paper seems to be as much about me as about Sutherland's book, let me take that a step further. My reason for recognizing that the only difference between a psychologist and a used car salesman is that the salesman is more in touch with reality and therefore aware that his real occupation is "professional liar," is that as an education student I was compelled to take about a dozen psychology courses. My initial reaction was that I had drawn professors who were the dregs of their profession. But by the time I graduated, it had become transparently obvious that, while the professors were indeed idiots, it was the discipline itself that was an unmitigated fraud.

Mr Dawkins: I agree that Irrationality is "well written." So was L. Ron Hubbard's masturbation fantasy, Dianetics, to which it bears more than a passing resemblance. "Extremely gripping" it assuredly is not. I am reminded of a bumper sticker from the far north:

Don't eat the yellow snow.

William Harwood

Henry's Bookshelf

Fashion - 150 Years, Couturiers, Designers, Labels
Charlotte Seeling
H. F. Ullmann/Tandem Verlag GmbH
9783833155888, $69.99,

"Fashion - 150 Years" is an encyclopedic work, not only in content but in size and weight. Fashion is taken from about the mid 1800s to the present. Seeling locates the beginnings of modern fashion about 1860 when the English clothing designer Charles Frederick Worth working in Paris put labels with his signature on the gowns he designed. Seeling sees this as turning clothing--however ornamental, stylized, or individualized--into art--Worth was the first "fashion designer."

Since Worth's innovative touch, there have been scores of outstanding fashion designers--all of whom make their appearance. The history of fashion from the mid 1860s is related in terms of profiles of the leading, most imaginative and skilled, most influential, and often most acclaimed fashion designers accompanied by abundant photographic material. One could follow the history just by following the copious, most color photographs. One sees how fashion spread out from its beginnings in Paris to the global, popular enterprise it is today. But one wants to read the profiles too for their colorful biographical material and ideas and approaches to fashion, and for putting the respective designer into the context of fashion history.

Seeling has been a top editor at Vogue, Cosmopolitan, and Marie Claire after her time as a journalist interviewing many world-class celebrities. This incomparable work of hers can be used as a text on fashion history and also a reference. And its readable text plus the countless photographs give it the style of a popular book for informative and entertaining reading on fashion. And it's an ideal coffee-table book.

1000 Sacred Places - The World's Most Extraordinary Spiritual Sites
Christoph Engels
H. F. Ullman/imprint of Tandem Verlag GmbH
9783833154805 $29.99

The great amount of material is organized for ready use in planning trips and for information on the diversity of the world's religions and spiritualities. The 1000 sites are organized by continent (with Antarctica absent and the Near East given a special chapter) with individual countries within each grouping; and following this, predominant, notable, or distinctive religions or spiritual beliefs of each continent are highlighted.

After citing sacred sites in the Near East countries or regions of Turkey, Armenia, Saudi Arabia, and others, the historical and cultural significance of the city of Byzantium, later named Constantinople and then Istanbul, is highlighted, as well as the importance of the city of Jerusalem and the role of sacred numbers in the religions and beliefs of this region. Following the locations in the United States and Canada for North America, there is material on Animals in Native American Mythology. Sacred Nature is the highlighted topic for Africa; and Zen appears as a topic for Asia. The sacred sites for each continent are not restricted however to those in the topics highlighted. Sites of any religion or belief notable for any reason--architecture, historical presence, regional center, etc.--are included in each continent even if not representative of it.

This is not a travel book per se since it does not include hours, facilities, and such. In many cases, such specifics of interest to travelers are irrelevant however, as in the cases of sacred mountains and public monuments. With the encyclopedic breadth of the sacred sites (making it too heavy for portability) and the commentary on each of the sites on origins, history, significance, etc., along with back sections summarizing elements of major historical and regional religions and beliefs and a glossary of sacred terms, the volume is meant to inspire travel or give the armchair traveler appreciation of the sites.

Henry Berry

Hila's Bookshelf

Stuck in Neutral
Terry Trueman
c/o HarperCollins Children's Books
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780064472135, $8.99,

I thought this was an interesting book for two reasons: the main character had cerebral palsy, and was absolutely stuck in his body, he couldn't move any of his muscles which made it so that he was an utterly receptive character, everything happened to him and he had absolutely no say. The other thing was the book's premise: that someone who had cerebral palsy and looked utterly out of it on the outside could be a fully functioning and 'normal' person on the inside, the only problem being that nobody knows it.

Because of the fact that Shawn couldn't do anything but think he couldn't make decisions about his life. This was frustrating for me as a reader, but I think that this was part of the point. It was more about exploring Shawn's thoughts, and understanding how he could have still been happy than about him making decisions.

But although the author definitely made an interesting and valiant effort, I thought there were some flaws. I felt that the writing wasn't quite mature enough to quite carry the story. If Trueman had made Shawn's voice less 'let me tell you how my life is' and more about what Shawn was thinking - more real-life, I think the book would have been greatly improved. I also found some of the techniques he used to reveal things in the story and the phrasing he used childish compared to the overall tone. And the other characters around Shawn felt to me like paper dolls - not quite believable.

The thing that bothered me most though, was the ending. Trueman left us hanging, but not in a poignant or effective way. It felt like a complete cop out at the very end of the story, like he was building up to it the whole book and then came to the end and realized he didn't have the guts to go through with it. With just a little tweaking and twisting it could have been a powerful ending. Instead it left me with a sense of disappointment.

Vast Fields of Ordinary
Nick Burd
Dial Books
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, NY, NY 10019
9780803733404, $16.99,

Dade is 17, he's leaving for college at the end of the summer, he's gay, he's not very popular, and his parents are in the process of breaking up. But somehow, all his troubles seem to shrink when he meets Alex, a handsome and caring drug dealer who doesn't seem to mind Dade's social awkwardness. Dade realizes he's met someone who will accept him for himself, he's found a friend, a confidant, and just maybe, someone to love.

I enjoyed hearing about Dade's life, it was like a cultural experience to, through the characters, go to rowdy high school parties, to smoke weed and go to gay bars without having to do any of it myself. But although I liked the "cultural" aspects of it, I thought this book had some problems.
The Vast Fields of Ordinary wasn't exciting or compelling, the title made no sense, and even though it was interesting from the point of view of someone coming to terms with a lot of stuff, it didn't do that in a very inspiring way. Most of the time I was thinking "Isn't there any other way these people can enjoy themselves without being drunk or high or making out?" As I got to the end of the book I realized the answer was pretty much: "Nope."

Hila Shooter

Karlene's Bookshelf

Mercedes Lackey
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0756406390, $25.95,

This is the second book in her Collegium Chronicles trilogy, continuing the story of Mags. Taking J. K. Rowling's idea of Quiddich, Lackey incorporates a new game for her Heralds and Companions called Kirball. Mags finds a place to belong as a reluctant star on one of their teams. But instead of being fully settled into the school, the thirteen year old now finds himself the target of speculation by the Foreseers. Everyone starts talking, spreading rumors about how the visions showed the King covered in blood and Mags' involvement.

Information about his parents is found, he comes under attack by foreign secret operatives, and needs to help his friends solve their own troublesome problems. While this fast read is somewhat routine and predictable, the characters are well-developed and lovable.

Gwenhwyfar: The White Spirit
Mercedes Lackey
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
1616846852, $25.95,

Eventually, it seems most authors tackle the story of King Arthur. Lackey says at the end of the tale that she had read about Arthur having married 3 different Gwens over the course of his reign. This is the story of the third Gwen, a girl that becomes a woman committed to protecting and fighting for her family. Originally marked to follow her mother's path with the Ladies, she chooses to forego the magic and to learn the use of weapons.

The setting is a darker time than the bright and shiny Camelot, giving more of a feeling of the Dark Ages. In a time of the coming of the White Christ, allegiances are tested against the Old Ways, the Ladies, the Merlin, and the fae folk. Roman ways are invading the lands, as are the Saxons. As a scout for her father, she learns with Lancelin's coming how hard her path truly is. She can have the respect of the men she commands (including Lancelin) as a Warrior, or she can have love as a Woman, but not both.

Duty brings her to Arthur, although it's a loveless marriage. Only after treachery and intrigue from Medraut does she find her way to Lancelin. Medraut's further treachery pushes him away.

As a fan of the King Arthur tales, this was a refreshing take, providing a strong heroine that wasn't afraid to take chances. The way her younger sister is interwoven in affecting her life explains a great deal of the story that is often left unexplained. It was a fast read, hard to put down, and I highly recommend it for fans of Camelot!

Karlene Clark

Karyn's Bookshelf

The Crossing: How George Washington Saved the American Revolution
Jim Murphy
Scholastic Press
557 Broadway, New York, NY 10012
9780439691864, $21.99,

The complexities of an entire war are a lot for upper elementary readers to digest. But focus on a pivotal moment of the conflict, as two-time Newbery Honor winner Jim Murphy expertly does for 9-12-year-olds in "The Crossing: How George Washington Saved the American Revolution," and it's suddenly negotiable. In great kid-friendly terms (Washington ordered a retreat from New York City to Washington Heights in 1776 because had they stayed "he realized his army would be easily blasted to pieces"), Murphy captures the dark days before the Americans captured Trenton New Jersey, turning the tide to eventual victory over the British. Significantly, Murphy's focus on Washington's early battlefield failures and the calls to replace him show a side of the storied commander that history often glosses over. The story of Washington's surprise Christmas attack on Trenton and the related crossing of the icy Delaware River make for great drama. Readers will be on the edge of their seats as they wonder whether the attack with fail, likely ending the war and Washington's career. Of course, the attack succeeds and Washington emerges as a near-mythical American icon. Plentiful use of maps, illustrations and details like a timeline, internet links to Revolutionary War sites and an extensive index make the book very friendly, as does the brevity with just under 100 pages. History the way it ought to be served up to kids.

Leo The Snow Leopard
Juliana Hatkoff, Isabella Hatkoff and Craig Hatkoff, authors
Scholastic Press
557 Broadway, New York, NY 10012
9780545229272, $17.99,

With ample photos and nicely succinct text (words cover just 17 of the book's 40 pages, with a larger font and wide line spacing) "Leo The Snow Leopard: The True Story of an Amazing Rescue," is wonderfully accessible for elementary schoolers. The story follows Leo, a snow leopard cub rescued by a goat herder in Pakistan. Leo was eventually brought to New York City's Bronx Zoo, where his keepers hope to someday breed him. As with the author trio's previous books, including the New York Times bestseller, "Owen & Mzee: The True Story of a Remarkable Friendship," the photos are really beautiful. There are nearly three dozen full-page and inset photos, capturing Leo's emergence from a wide-eyed fluffball cradled in his founders arms to a majestic young cat circling a captive female leopard that Bronx zookeepers hope will eventually be his mate. In-between is detailed the incredible journey to reach his new home, with lots of homage to those who worked to make the move possible. Once again, the Hatkoffs made science accessible to kids by narrowing the focus to one incredible story that both teaches and delights.

How the World Works
Christiane Dorion, author
Beverley Young, illustrator
Templar Books
c/o Candlewick Press
99 Dover St., Somerville, MA 02144
9780763648015, $17.99,

Science goes wonderfully kid-friendly in "How the World Works: A Hands-On Guide to our Amazing Planet." From the Big Bang theory to tectonic plates, the food chain to greenhouse gases, author-illustrator team Christiane Dorion and Beverley Young cram a huge amount of scientific information into nine double-page spreads. But an impressively accessible design that uses lots of bold color, pull-tabs, pop-ups, maps and, perhaps most importantly, a layout where up to a half-dozen distinct textual elements co-exist comfortably on the same spread, separated by graphic counterparts, makes what could have been overwhelming a joy to explore. And it's not a straight science lesson. While kids are presented with lots of objective material - what makes rain, the reason for seasons, how shifting plates made the continents, etc. - they're also challenged to think about things like how human action interferes with the natural water cycle and how they might reduce their personal carbon footprint. With elementary schoolers, effective science education combines learning and doing. "How the World Works" offers both, in a fun format.

The Star Child
The Brothers Grimm, author
Bernadette Watts, illustrator
NorthSouth Books, Inc.
350 7th Avenue, Room 1400, NY, NY 10001-5013
9780735823303, $16.95,

Beloved European Illustrator Bernadette Watts adds to her list of rekindled Grimm classics "The Star Child," a simple tale of kindness rewarded. The story is about Mathilde, a little girl who unselfishly gives away all of her food and clothing to others in need. Ultimately, as she lays down naked in a field, a miracle happens. The stars magically shower her with gold coins and fine clothes. The story's gentle message resonates. But, as with Watts' other works that in recent years have include "The Ugly Duckling," "Little Red Riding Hood," and "Rumpelstiltskin," it's the illustration that really dazzle. They are finely lined and intricately detailed - smoke rises from a distance cottage chimney, butterflies flit through wildflowers, birds nest in a straw roof, two owls huddle on a branch. Add to that Watts' exquisite command of color -- bright wildflowers and autumn leaves, amber fields, icy hues as the weather chills and jewel purples and blues flecked with white snow as winter sets in. Yet again, a timeless work by an unparalleled talent.

Karyn L. Saemann

Logan's Bookshelf

Get It Together Before It Is Too Late
Bill L. Little
Tate Publishing
127 E. Trade Center Terrace, Mustang, OK 73064-4421
9781616639334, $11.99,

If you wait too long, they'll be nothing to do but watch as it passes you by. "Get It Together Before It Is Too Late" discusses the need to manage one's life before it gets out of control. With a focus on the family, Bill L. Little advises readers to realize the importance of balancing their family with the rest of their life now, before letting it wreak havoc and destroying it before you realize it's gone. "Get It Together" is a sage read and very highly recommended.

The Price
Leon Newton
Privately Published
9781936076406, $9.99

The mercy of Christ only asks you seek it. "The Price" presents a single act play following a recently deceased millionaire as he tries to appeal his place in hell. A sermon of sorts in the form of theatre, Leon Newton produces a work with a bit of humor and spirituality. "The Price" is a fine pick for any church theatre or theatre collection in general.

Being Human
Rue L. Cromwell
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
Smith Publicity (publicity)
1930 E. Marlton Pike, Suite I-46, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003
9781450239196, $30.95,

Humanity is defined by so many things. "Being Human: Human Being, Manifesto for a New Psychology" is Rue Cromwell, Ph.Ds, own thoughts on how humans develop their techniques for dealing with their lives and how this constantly happens and develops all throughout their lives. Seeking to ask certain scientific questions of his own hypothesis of human development and our adaptions to our life and world around us, "Being Human" is a thoughtful breakdown of life and everything else relating to our humanity.

The Little Russians
William F. Jack
Privately Published
9780557445790, $27.95

Taken away early in life, often young children know little about their ancestral homeland. "The Little Russians: An Ailing Father's Letters to His Children" is a special type of memoir from William Jack, dedicated to his young children who are too young to remember their lives in St. Petersburg, Russia, before they immigrated to America. With a special dedication and drive, "The Little Russians" is a unique labor of love and is very highly recommended.

Trigger 93
Columbia University Station
PO Box 25077, New York, NY 10025
9780983112600, $11.00

There are many explanations for the world around us, and the most obvious one is rarely the most correct. "Trigger 93: The Word: A Journal of Magic(k), Culture, and the Issues" is a collection of artistic pondering and opinion from many authors and artists who give their own strange take on the world with a hint of reasoning above it all. Thoughtful, humorous, enlightening, "Trigger 93" is a journal series that is one to look out for.

Moral Hazard
Jyl Scislow
Privately Published
9780983065302, $12.50

When money is involved, some people will do anything to get a leg up on it all. "Moral Hazard" delves into the intrigue of wall street, as Detective Michael Halloway faces his own life in addition to the corruption and backstabbing of Wall Street. Murder for profit occurs, and he fears people may get away with it all. "Moral Hazard" is an intriguing read of the scummy side of Wall Street, highly recommended.

Michael Wellman
Outskirts Press
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432764166, $14.95,

Through these shows, their bonds grew ever stronger. "Stubs: A Father's Tickets to the Greatest Shows on Earth" is a memoir of Michael Wellman as he tells a story of how he has grown as a person through attending these various shows with his children. These endeavors have taught him much and have created a unique type of bond he wouldn't be able to get otherwise. "Stubs" is a charming pick, highly recommended.

Carl Logan

Margaret's Bookshelf

From Kai to Kiwi Kitchen
Helen Leach
Otago University Press
c/o International Specialized Book Services
920 NE 58th Ave. Suite 300, Portland, OR 97213-3786
9781877372759, $40.00,

All over the world there are fresh ideas to pursue, you just need to know where to look. "From Kai to Kiwi Kitchen: New Zealand Culinary Traditions and Cookbooks" is a guide to commonly unseen world of Polynesian cooking, tracing its history and traditions. Looking at both its aboriginal flavors that have been used for millennia of the people there, the impact of European colonization, and more, New Zealand provides an interesting study in the development of a nation's culinary practice. "From Kai to Kiwi Kitchen" is a fascinating culinary history, highly recommended.

Pomes Fivedolouradozen
Julien Edmund Moss
Privately Published
No ISBN, $5.00

A certain flair comes with the lyrical nature of poetry. "Pomes Fivedoloursadozen" is a short chapbook of poetry from Julien Edmund Moss as he plays with words to create his own stories. Quick paced and charming, "Pomes Fivedoloursadozen" is a fun read, recommended. "Moth": "Here I sit and sup upon the finest of words/and yet my heart stands barren,/Empty as a drunkard's flask long after last call."

Posted in Colombo
Shizue Tomoda
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200, Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781453634981, $18.99

As women join the workforce around the world, it's easy to fall into the category of the exploited. "Posted in Colombo: A Glance at Toiling Women and the Indian Tamils of Sri Lanka" is an analysis of women becoming workers in Sri Lanka and the challenges they face in their society to becoming equal citizens in the eyes of the law. A rough journey upwards, Shizue Tomoda shares her own experiences in the event. "Posted in Colombo" is a thoughtful look at this shift in women's rights, highly recommended.

The Perfume River
Catherine Cole
UWA Publishing
c/o International Specialized Book Services
920 NE 58th Ave., Suite 300, Portland, OR 97213-3786
9781921401480, $32.95,

Vietnam has faced many changes in the past decades and the country has produced many conflicts and much to reflect on. "The Perfume River: Writing from Vietnam" is a collection of writings from Vietnam and about Vietnam. Authors write about their own conflicts and efforts to make the most out of their homeland, and do so with grace and wisdom. Drawing on the works of many of the most famed Vietnamese writers, "The Perfume River" is an excellent collection of international literature, very highly recommended.

The Story of Moses
Jennifer Talbot Ross
Outskirts Press
10940 S Parker Road - 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432764920, $16.95,

Some dogs do a lot to help people, and people try to pay back that favor. "The Story of Moses" tells the story of Jennifer Ross and her bond with her dog Moses whom she cherished above others in a family that bred German shepherds. With a certain love, devotion and knowledge, it glows brightly and will make "The Story of Moses" a worthy selection for for any dog lover.

Heck on Heels
Mary T. Wagner
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781440181658, $14.95,

It's hard to live life at full speeds when you have to delicately balance your feet. "Heck on Heels: Still Balancing on Shoes, Love, and Chocolate!" is a humorous memoir from Mary T. Wagner as she presents her own pursuits in life and faces everything thrown her way. Charming wisdom any woman would peruse, "Heck on Heels" is a very highly recommended and fun read.

Eye of the Desert
NK Bauer
Privately Published
9781453720929, $18.99

Through the sands of history of Egypt, evidence must still remain somewhere of a lost grandmother. "Eye of the Desert" follows young Elizabeth as she travels with her friend to find her lost grandmother who vanished five years ago. With hopes that she still lives, Elizabeth's journey is full of surprises and realities she's not entirely prepared for. "Eye of the Desert" is a fun and adventurous read, highly recommended.

From Silence to Secrecy
Martha E. Leiker
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
Smith Publicity (publicity)
1930 E. Marlton Pike, Suite I-46, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003
9781450277488, $12.95,

A life that does one thing the entire time is not the most intriguing one. "From Silence to Secrecy" is a memoir of Martha E. Leiker who reflects on the constantly shifting nature of her life that has gone from being a nun in Pennsylvania to working with the CIA and on missions to Africa. A fascinating story of an ever changing life for over seven decades, "From Silence to Secrecy" is a fine read that will be hard to put down.

Margaret Lane

Molly's Bookshelf

Avery's Treasure
Kate Dolan
Zumaya Embraces
c/o Zumaya Publication
1105 Nueces Street, Apartment 3, Austin, TX 78701-2129
9781934135662, $15.99,

Kate Dolan's Avery's Treasure begins with an explosion echoing across the harbor. Edward Talbot yawned as flaming debris was sent soaring into the night sky.

The location is Nassau, early 1700s during the heyday of pirate activity. The English Crown has hesitated in sending a governor to Providence. Pirates have taken the island as their own. Now in an attempt to bring order to the region a Governor has been appointed, a pardon is being extended to the pirates. Some accept the pardon, numerous do not.

Out in the harbor the hulk of a vessel set afire by Charles Vane continued to burn at the west harbor entrance.

Pirates had made Providence, Nassau their capital. Talbot was in a bit of a quandary, would he accept the governor's pardon, or would he do as Vane had done and decline the offer. There was not much time in which to make up his mind, warships in the harbor were a sure signal that time was running out.

Arleigh Avery, heiress to an ill obtained fortune acquired by her father, Henry Avery, now Bridgeman, a former pirate himself who has changed his name Bridgeman and has tried to carve out an unremarkable on the island, has no interest in leaving the island hiding where her father wants her to wait out the present trouble with the crown, pirates and fate.

Waiting on an island filled with nuns is not what the lusty Arleigh has in mind. Out in the harbor a boat from the HMS Rose rides the waves, further at sea is Talbot's sloop the Osprey. A brigantine belonging to Charles Vane is being readied to sail out of the bay. Arleigh does not have time to waste.

Snatching a single topaz from the trove held in a bag under her father's bed, dressed in pair of her father's breeches and with a parchment, her father's map which she is certain will take her his real treasure, Arleigh is ready to set sail on a pirate ship and try to find the treasure.

What follows is a mesmeric, at times wildly uproarious, description of fiction set in the 19th century. As a rule I'm not fond of historical romance, this one is listed as historical romance, however despite my reservation, I do like historical accounts, and I like pirates.

The romance found in the anecdote is more the notion based upon the old time view of romance and not the modern. The tale while fiction is filled with action, activity and adventure along with a rousing recounting of escapades of two, robust, fully capable women who were not the shrinking violet as portrayed in some writings.

Armed with a purloined jewel, Arleigh disguises herself as a cabin boy, sneaks aboard Captain Vane's pirate ship, and plans to get as close as possible to the location where she thinks the treasure is located.

Unbeknownst to Arleigh, her father hires Edward Talbot, failed merchant and pirate, to locate Arleigh and return her home.

The reader follows along as Arleigh Avery, daughter of a pirate now turned respectable plantation owner as she sets out to track down her father's supposed buried treasure. Once that is accomplished she reasons she will have the means to escape the rather lackluster life she shares with her father.

And the chase is on filled with maps and maps, chases, recurring ship stealing, shipwrecks, and extraordinary partners including a pair of rather untamed young women and a minister and of course Talbot.

Dolan's well researched narrative based on historical characters, including Blackbeard, Captain Vane, and Henry Avery are added to a robust melding of Dolan's imagination to produce some unexpected pairings, a bit of Treasure Island excitement, entertaining friendship and high adventure.

Characters are appealing, credible and engaging. Arleigh, a knowledgeable female recognizes what works best to get what she wants. Dominique, who seems to be less artful after living alone on an island reveals a good bit of vigor and moral fiber as a result of surviving on her own for so long. Despite their differences, Dominique and Arleigh find themselves entering into a dodgy, albeit compelling friendship which pairs the best or the worst of each. No diffident, virginal approach is found in either.

The male players on the other hand do a good bit of wavering between being callous pirates and men trying to do what is right and best and often resulting in complete mishap, calamity and misadventure.

Avery's Treasure is an exhilarating read filled with escapade, treasure and treasure maps, and hoped for cache of riches, shipwrecks, as well as a cast of intriguing characters many based on writer Dolan's research into the people, time and era.

I like the use of names recognizable from history; Vane and Avery were actual pirates. A flourishing mingling of history, wittiness, romance, and imaginary tale melded into a not at all formula telling of a saga of the Caribbean and the pirates sailing those waters, keeps the reader turning the page, chuckling at times, and feverishly wondering what will happen next.

Happy to recommend Kate Dolan's Avery's Treasure.

Not for everyone, some reference to sexual activity may put off some readers.

Cats in a Dreamspell
Lisa Rene Smith, Editor
LL&L Dreamspell
376 West Quarry Road, London, Texas 76854
9781603180689, $14.95,

With a full dozen mixed fiction genre narratives filled with stealthy kitten exploits, Cats in a Dreamspell, really has something to interest every reader.

When writer Mark Rosendorf mentioned he had written a short story for an anthology using cats as a theme I knew I would want to review.

Cat in the Cockpit by Mark Rosendorf is the first offering presented. This tale involves an orange cat who stowed away aboard a 747. Cat in the Cockpit is a bit of a change for this talented writer, author of novels The Rasner Effect Trilogy.

Cat in the Cockpit is a mix of the unexplained with hints of reality as student pilots Mike and Joe board an airplane only to find themselves alone in the cockpit. They do have an instruction manual; maybe they will be able to get the plane to their Los Angeles destination. Maybe. A nice satisfying ending wraps up this, tale of a small cat, two student pilots, a cast of unusual characters and a series of peculiar happenings.

Dog Matters by D. Nathan Hilliard is an inimitable tale told to the reader by Minke the cat. Minke and his dog Chipper face a fearsome evil as they try to protect their family. Chipper gives his all, Minke finds unexpected aid in this fast paced narrative worth the reading.

Chronicles of a Cat Woman by Cathy Noonan conveys a psychological anecdote of a journalist assigned a story involving an elderly lady, Muriel Whethorford, who takes in lost cats and ends with a bit of a shocker.

A Cat Named Ginger by Laurel Lamperd is the story of widowed Gordon Smith and Gladys Dobson. The pair enjoy one another's company, the only chink is Gladys' cat Ginger. Twists and turns leads to a surprising ending.

Investigator Incarnate by Christy Tillery French presents a mystery told by a cat, a cat who is the reincarnation of a human. As a human he was a lazy cop who fudged reports, took payoffs along with assorted other chicanery. As a cat trying to do something good he is a feline who learns to type on a keyboard, studies investigation notes, sends telepathic messages to a rookie cop regarding an important case, and keeps the reader turning the pages.

Mystery, Mischief and Mayhem by Teresa Leigh Judd is another mystery presented with impact and wit as a pair of cats belonging to computer software analyst, Janet Spaulding, help solve a murder and do a bit of match making to boot.

Just the Three of Us by Jacqueline Seewald features Angel a professional dancer and Jeff a CPA who decide to move in together. Jeff returns from a business trip anticipating anything but a small cat, however, there he is. The kitten was left outside the door a week ago and Angel is quite taken with the little beast. There may be more to him than meets the eye.

The Purrsistant Cat by Teresa Leigh Judd introduces Shannon, teacher, writer who takes a sabbatical to finish her book. Perhaps she should have stayed with teaching. Smoky her cat knows there is terror in the rented house. Too late Shannon realizes it too in this well written tale filled with mystery, horror and more than a little suspense.

Mal's Bounty by Darren Pearce and Neal Levin finds new recruit Arthur Knowlington has joined the city watch. The City of Carravale is quite a busy place, and has its share of ne'er do wells, in particular Weaver Finch thief by night and cat Mal who just happens to be telepathic. The reader is carried into an odd and amazing place where trouble lurks right around the corner.

Amelia and the Better Path by Tony Williams solves the mystery why are cats coming up missing in a small English village. It doesn't take Amelia long to find her beloved Ivan and solve some other thorny problems as well.

Chester's Treasure by Linda Houle offers an interesting peek into the lives of newlyweds Valerie and Authur Augustine. Valerie's cat Chester is beginning to enjoy his move from Val's beach house to Arthur's Texas ranch. Even Arthur is surprised when Chester makes an important discovery.

Smokey & Bandit by Randy Rawls wraps up the selection of stories as two cats give assistance to Josh Rivers, their South Florida Private Investigator owner. The tale filled with mystery, an attempted break in, Mr Kaleb the neighbor, robberies, arson, an intruder bent on mayhem and a lost Bandit is narrated by Bandit's brother, Smokey.

When writer Mark Rosendorf mentioned he had written a short story for an anthology using cats as a theme I knew I would want to review. I was right.

Happy to recommend this absorbing and agreeable anthology filled with well-written, entertaining tales.

Molly Martin, Reviewer

Nicole's Bookshelf

Sea Change
Jeremy Page
Viking Press
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780670021901, $25.95,

Some pieces of literature are art in its highest form. Sea Change by Jeremy Page is one of those books. He paints with words instead of merely constructing a narrative. His writing style is lyrical. He transports the reader into a world fully realized and created on the page.

Things begin in a surreal fashion. Guy and Judy are enjoying a carefree day in a secluded field with their preschool-age daughter, Freya. Page opens with the beautiful image of the young girl capturing a small bead of rainwater from a leaf. The peaceful moment is broken when out of nowhere, a wild stallion appears. He charges the unsuspecting couple killing Freya.

The setting shifts to five years after the accident. Divorced from Judy, Guy is living alone on a houseboat incessantly writing in a diary about what the couple's life would have been like if Freya had lived. He vividly imagines an alternative existence for the three of them. With maps filling the cabin, he envisions a family road trip across the southern United States. While fashioning this parallel world, ugly truths begin to emerge from his inner consciousness as he struggles to maintain a sense of what is real and what is not.

Stopping at a coastal pub where he once shared a poignant moment with Judy, Guy encounters Marta and her daughter, Rhona. Marta is a recent widow trying to come to terms with her husband's passing. Rhona, a wild child now in her twenties, expresses her grief through sexual provocation and suicide attempts. Despite the drama they bring to his solitary existence, Guy begins to feel an intimate connection to them. His feelings for Rhona are complicated. At times, he feels nothing but lust, or he looks at her like the daughter he once had who never had the chance to grow up. On the other hand, he looks at Marta as a kindred spirit who possesses the innate ability to truly understand him.

Throughout the book, nature is framed as a powerful adversary. In a foolhardy frame of mind, Guy heads straight into the storm clouds of the treacherous North Sea. As he struggles to stay alive, he has a ghostly visitation from Freya. Throughout he is desperate to get back to her, but he comes to realize she has been there the entire time. She has never left him, and never will.

The ending of Sea Change is quite extraordinary. Page knows what the reader wants. However, he doesn't take the easy way out with a predictable pattern. Instead, he hands the reins over to Guy. It is truly an inspired twist. One that garners a more appreciative response from the reader rather than if Page tied all of the loose ends in a neat bow. It is an open-ended conclusion, but that's what makes it more fulfilling.

Overall, the brutal power of nature pales in comparison to the tumult of one's inner life.

A New Birth of Freedom: The Visitor
Robert Pielke
Altered Dimensions
12621 N. Saginaw Blvd., Suite 105, #3069, Fort Worth, TX 76179
9781936021239, $14.95,

Sometimes the scope of human tragedy is too large to comprehend. The mind grasps for alternate explanations in order to come to terms with staggering loss. Robert Pielke's A New Birth of Freedom: The Visitor tries to reconcile the over 50,000 lives lost during the three day Battle of Gettysburg. How could the death toll be so catastrophic? How could the number of casualties be explained? How could men cut each other down in such a brutal way? Because according to Pielke, it never happened - not the way historians would have us believe.

His revisionist account takes a science fiction approach. What if an alien invasion were actually to blame for the carnage inflicted during the pivotal moment of the Civil War? Surely, 19th century cannonballs and gunfire could not have killed more Americans than the entire Vietnam War. Some other sinister force had to be responsible.

Enter Edwin Blair, a mysterious time traveling stranger from the 23rd century, a.k.a. the visitor of the title. In his time, Earth is on the brink of destruction. An infestation of locust-like, technologically savvy aliens have mercilessly descended on the planet killing humans like ants and devouring every type of vegetation in existence. The key to possible survival lies in tampering with their time travel abilities. Blair knows their spacecraft will appear over the Pennsylvania fields during the Battle of Gettysburg. The only way to stop them is a full out assault by the combined Union and Confederate forces in order to disable their ships stranding them in 1863.

Abraham Lincoln is the man that Blair must convince in order to set his plan in motion. In a fascinating look at the revered president, Pielke shows a shrewd yet deeply curious Lincoln. The depiction does Lincoln justice illustrating his intellectual and open minded nature. While his advisers look upon Blair as a lunatic, it is Lincoln who believes his spectacular claims. His mind is able to grasp concepts like extraterrestrial life and computer science. The scope of his intelligence is not limited to the period of time in which he finds himself. He is able to look beyond his contemporary world and see the bigger picture. War is war and he knows that understanding the enemy - whoever or whatever it is - provides the only path to victory.

Another key figure in Blair's plan is General Robert E. Lee. He must convince the esteemed solider to lay down his weapons and join in a temporary truce with the Union army. Without the combined firepower of both sides, Blair's plan will not work. Lee does not disappoint. The distinguished gentleman stands head and shoulders above the field both figuratively and literally. He too is able to operate on faith. He does not understand what Blair is telling him, but he is willing to risk everything in order to at least give Blair's plan a chance.

What ultimately convinces Lee? Blair demonstrates the apocalyptic force of the aliens' weaponry. It leaves even a hardened warrior like Lee shaken to the core. While he may be unable to parse through the details of Blair's story, Lee cannot doubt the destructive ability of which he speaks.

It is intriguing to witness two of the greatest military minds of the 19th century grapple with the concept of an alien attack. Pielke provides a glimpse into how Lincoln and Lee might have handled things if they had been faced with such a possibility. Their stature, poise and determination serve as a source of comfort during a time when capable leadership would be of the utmost importance. Having leaders who can be depended upon during a time of crisis is something the American consciousness innately craves. If only the heroes of the past could save the country from its future problems, and through Pielke's account they are able to do just that.

Overall, a fascinating look at how the heroes of America's past strive to save its future.

Nicole Langan, Reviewer

Peggy's Bookshelf

Spy Kidz
Jayde Scott
Smashwords, Inc.
15951 Los Gatos Blvd, Los Gatos, CA 95032
B004FN1KWA $2.99 Kindle edition: 158 KB

Twelve-year old Thomasius Anastasius Gonzo has a big name and an even bigger problem. His dad has been missing for three days and if doesn't want to be sent off to live with his Aunt Becky, he's going to have to find him. When Thom and his friends, Danny and Hilly break into his dad's office, they get the surprise of their lives. Mr. Gonzo is not a sales clerk or a doctor. He's a spy. Armed with his dad's credentials, cell phone and credit card, Thom enlists the help of Danny and Hilly on a daring search and rescue to Ireland. Their keen instincts and quick wits get them in and out of trouble along the way. Scott makes clever use of the characters' humorous banter and zany antics to spice things up. "Spy Kidz" is a fast-paced and funny adventure middle grade readers will definitely enjoy.

You Had Me at Woof: How Dogs Taught Me the Secrets of Happiness
Julie Klam
Riverhead Books
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9781594487767, $24.95,

The title of this book is somewhat misleading. I expected a dogoir about the trials and tribulations of raising Boston terriers. But this book is so much more than that. It does begin
with the story of Klam's first Boston terrier, Otto. Then it gets really interesting. This is actually the story of Klam's work with the Northeast Boston Terrier Rescue (NBTR), a tireless group of dedicated volunteers who rescue Boston terriers young and old - even if they look more like Chihuahuas. They heal the sick ones, foster them all, and find them forever homes. Sounds simple enough. But as Klam described it, there was nothing simple about it. From unbelievably irresponsible dog owners to astronomical vet bills to a relay race across the northeast with a homeless dog as the baton, these are at once heartbreaking and fascinating stories about dog rescue.

Klam writes honestly about the people she encountered and the dogs she fostered. But she is not brutal. She is warm, funny, and compassionate. This book should be required reading for all dog lovers. Then if they happen to recognize themselves in the parade of characters that surrendered their dogs or had them taken away, maybe they'll change their ways. "You Had Me at Woof" is an education in dog ownership and dog rescue. Klam shows readers that dog rescuers truly are angels - and not everyone deserves a dog's love.

The Turtle's Dream and Keys
Only1Earth, LLC
733 North Kings Road, Suite 230, West Hollywood, CA 90069
9780976335429 $25.99,

When Jupiter, the box turtle, emerges from his winter sleep in the garden a key shows up in the pattern on his shell. This leads to exploring other patterns in nature. When Jupiter takes a nap, readers journey into the box turtle's dreams of ancient dinosaurs. Benrali's dazzling and intricate illustrations are a spectacular display of the beauty and wonders in nature. "The Turtle's Dream and Keys" is a treasured keepsake and a unique way to show young children about the life of an ordinary box turtle.

Peggy Tibbetts, Reviewer

Riva's Bookshelf

Imago Chronicles Book Two: Tales from the West
L. T. Suzuki
Trafford Publishing
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9780986724039, $29.50,

Imago Chronicles Book Two: Tales from the West by L. T. Suzuki continues the story of Nayla Treeborn begun in the first volume, A Warrior's Tale, which incidentally is optioned for a major motion picture. Tales from the West introduces a palate full of new characters and a new adventure and a new love for Nayla. Will this love be more faithful to her than her first love was? You'll have to read to see.

Tales from the West is artfully crafted with a scintillating storyline and a constant escalation of tension that will keep you turning the pages. I read this 413 page book in three days. I think I only stopped to grab coffee so I would have the energy to keep reading because I had to know what was going to happen next. Nayla Treeborn is a character near and dear to my heart and I can't wait to read the rest of the books in the series.

In Tales from the West a great quest is undertaken by seven men, six humans and one elf. Of the males all are warriors save one, an innocent, a boy, the young squire of one of the princes in the party. Together the party is destined to try to protect humans and elves from the coming of a get evil, the dark lord Beyilzon and his mighty army. If they fail, the worlds of elf-kind and humankind will be lost. It is an all or nothing situation.

The young squire is stolen from the party by emissaries of the dark lord and this is where Nayla enters the picture, battling the emissary who has the boy and freeing him. Nayla flees after the battle to pursue her own quest. Due to her stature and her battle skills all are left wondering who the boy or young man who came to their rescue was. Then Nayla comes to their rescue a second time, leading the group to safety after a hazardous turn of events. It is at this junction that the party learns their rescuer is actually a woman, who can not only carry her own weight, but best any man among them. After some consideration part of the party asks Nayla to join them on their expedition. Not everyone likes this idea but after giving it due consideration Nayla, and because of one member of the party in particular and his role in relation to her own people, Nayla decides to join forces with the expedition.

As usual Suzuki, a master at martial arts herself, brings all her knowledge of this art to bear in the fight scenes making them realistic. Her writing skill makes the scenes steal your breath away. At every turn she is the consummate professional drawing into the world of her creation with artful imagery and storytelling.

What follows is a passage from Imago Chronicles Book Two: Tales of the West:

"At the mouth of the Gap where the pass opened up into Darross, Markus and Arerys caught up to Faria. An Expression of utter shock was etched across this knight's face as he took in the carnage. His mind was reeling, unable to comprehend the magnitude of the devastation that lay before him.

Nicobar, his childhood home, was now but a memory. And against the night sky, King Sebastian's castle was a stark silhouette, dark and abandoned. The banners bearing the golden dragon, the heraldic symbol of Darross that once flew high and proud over the castle walls were now conspicuously absent.

Faria's eyes scanned the darkened landscape littered with the dead. Everywhere, there lay body after body. He dismounted from his steed as he gazed at the fallen knights and soldiers before him.

"How can this be?" gasped Faria, shaking his head in disbelief as he swallowed back his mounting rage.

"This would only have happened if the captain was killed at the onset of the battle," determined Markus. "The ranks collapsed and mayhem ensued."

"Do not say that!" growled Faria. "The captain is not dead! He cannot be dead!"

Ignoring Markus' words, Faria frantically raced from corpse to corpse, searching the faces of the knights once in King Sebastian's service.

"Faria, we must move on," ordered Arerys. "There is nothing we can do for these men."

The Elf's words went unheeded as Faria scrambled from one knight to the next. As he came to a body that lay near the banner bearing the emblem of the golden dragon, Faria fell upon his knees. Many arrows had pierced the knight's body that lay before him. Arerys and Markus came to Faria's side.

Carefully, he removed the helmet, gently cradling the dead man's head in his arms as he trembled, overwrought with sorrow. Faria began to weep for this lost life.

"Who is this fallen knight you grieve for?"questioned Arerys, as he knelt by Faria's side.

Gazing up at Markus and the Elf, through his tears Faria spoke: "Here, in eternal sleep, lies the protector of the House of Northcutt; trusted servant and loyal knight to King Sebastian."

"He was the captain?" determined Markus.

"He was my brother, Davenrow Targott," responded Faria, a sad sigh escaped him as he lay the younger sibling down. "The one I had appointed to captain the army in my absence."

Tales from the West is full of examples of the personal tragedies and triumphs of a people who have literally set out to save the world. Its tension is finely tuned, its characters skillfully drawn and it storytelling exquisitely set forth. Tales from the West is a prime example of why fantasy and adventure is such a wonderful release for those who, like me, love it.

Please note that with some booksellers this book is listed as the first in the series. To avoid confusion look for the words Tales from the West in the title or search for it by the ISBN number. Currently the book is available only in electronic format for popular reader applications and in a pdf version although a print version will be available beginning in 2011. If you purchase the book in deluxe PDF version through the author's official website at it is numbered correctly as the second book in the series.

2012: Creating Your Own Shift

Copyright 2011 by Hunt Henion, published by Shift Awareness Books

The year 2012 brings curiosity and a touch of fear to all of our minds. Unlike the Y2K fear, 2012 has been foretold in prophecy for thousands of years. What does it mean? Who will it affect? Is it the end? What will happen to us?

These are a few of the many questions 2012: Creating Your Own Shift answers, or at least lay the foundations of the answers while giving you additional resources to turn to for more in-depth study.

2012: Creating Your Own Shift is an anthology from some of the foremost minds regarding the 2012 phenomenon, the belief systems attached to it and the modern quantum physics that support the underlying 2012 theories.

2012: Creating Your Own Shift helps you prepare for the coming entrance into the age of Aquarius and the alignment of 2012 that brings an end to existing polarities and paradigms while opening up a higher existence to those on earth.

2012: Creating Your Own Shift allows you to meet the coming of 2012 and the era it foretells without fear but with full knowledge beforehand of what you should expect and do to prepare. It is not a fatalistic survivors' manual but a real handbook of spiritual preparations to purify your body and spirit for the days ahead. If you have any level of interest in the 2012 phenomenon then 2012: Creating Your Own Shift should be on your bookshelf.

Imago Chronicles Book Three: Tales from the East
L.T. Suzuki
Imago Books
9780986724046 $19.99

Imago Chronicles Book Three: Tales from the East the third novel in the Imago series by Lorna Suzuki is a sweeping tale that picks up the story of Nayla and the remaining men of the order in their attempt to thwart the sorcerer and bring a long lasting peace to the people and elves of Imago.

Like Nayla's previous excursions in Imago this one is fraught with peril, both to Nayla, the members of the order and the inhabitants of eastern Imago.

Nayla and the men of the order separated at the end of the last volume to pursue different quests. Nayla and her love have to separate as their paths follow separate quests, they cannot be reunited until, and unless, they can achieve their goals.

The risks are higher than ever this time. Nayla has everything to protect, unlike in previous novels. Before all she had to do was watch out for herself, but now her focus is on other matters as well with possibly disastrous ramifications for Nayla and all of Imago.

Dahlon Treeborn, Nayla's father, has as usual selected Nayla for the toughest and most dangerous assignments. Will Nayla accept or will she finally acknowledge her father would rather see her dead than alive and possibly even prospering?

Unlike previous reviews I'm not going to give even a snippet to whet your appetite because everything in Tales from the East is vital to the unfolding story. I doubt I could even find a paragraph that wouldn't hint too strongly of things to come or events from the previous book. Trust me though, Nayla and the men of the order bring tons of tears and adventure to Tales from the East. Tales from the East is filled with absolutely heart stopping moments. Tales from the East catches you by surprise leaving you gasping and your heart pounding. Bring a box of tissue, you'll need it, I know I did.

Tales from the East is an absolute must read, whether you've been following Nayla's adventures all along or are just joining the party, be prepared though, after this book you'll never be the same. Come what may, you'll be addicted to Nayla and Imago.

Guardians of Ga"Hoole: The Capture
B Kathryn Lasky
Scholastic Inc.
557 Broadway, New York, NY 10012-3999
9780439405577, $5.99,

If you have a middle grader and haven't already read the Guardians of Ga'Hoole: The Capture, the first book in the Guardians of Ga'Hoole series, and now a major motion picture, then now is the time to start.

Join the adventures of Soren, Gylfie,Twilight, and Digger as they set out to fight a great evil in their home kingdoms and find the legendary Guardians of Ga' Hoole who they believe are the only owls able to help them. Yes, I said owls, for those of you not in the know Soren, Gylfie, Twilight and Digger are all different breeds of owls from different places brought together by a need to fight the evil that has sprung up among the kingdoms of the owls threatening the existence of all of them.

What follows is the description of the story from the back cover of the book:

"Soren is born in the forest of Tyto, a tranquil kingdom where the barn owls dwell. But evil lurks in the owl world, evil that threatens to shatter Tyto's peace and change the course of Soren's life forever.

Soren is captured and taken to a dark and forbidding canyon. It's called an orphanage, but Soren believes it's something far worse. He and his friend Gylfie know that the only way out is up. To escape, they will need to do something they have never done before - fly.

And so begins a magical journey. Along the way, Soren and Gylfie meet Twilight and Digger. The four owls band together to seek the truth and protect the owl world from unimaginable danger."

Guardians of Ga'Hoole: The Capture deserves a place on every family's book shelf. It will be a classic you can enjoy with your children and grandchildren again and again, and, as the first book in the series it leaves you plenty of exciting adventure to look forward to.

Fever Dream
Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child
Grand Central Publishing
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780446554961, $26.99,

Fever Dream by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child is a stunning trip into the mind of the criminal, the insane, and downright devilish. Exquisite writing brings the characters and scenes of Fever Dream to vivid life as you meander down the twisted path of discovering 'who-done-it' in a twelve-year-old murder only recently uncovered.

FBI Special Agent Pendergast, the rather strange and somewhat dark hero of our story is a complex and infinitely interesting character who brings an added dimension to the typical detective of mysteries. He even has his own "Mr. Watson," a NYPD cop named Vinnie D'Agosta who sees the clues Pendergast misses and encourages him to keep going in his darkest hour.

The murder in Fever Dream is highly personal for Pendergast. It involves the twelve-year-old murder of his wife Helen, previously thought to be an accident. From there the story evolves with a few surprises along the way.

What follows is a passage from the early pages of Fever Dream:

"Pendergast and his wife had left their hut and were in the dining shelter, guns beside them, sitting in the soft glow of a single bulb. There were no stars - the night had been overcast, the darkness absolute. They had been sitting there, unmoving and silent, for the last forty-five minutes, enjoying each other's company and - with the kind of unspoken symbiosis that characterized their marriage - preparing mentally and emotionally for the hunt ahead. Helen Pendergast's head was resting on her husband's shoulder. Pendergast stroked her hand, toying now and then with the star sapphire on her wedding band.

"You can't have it back, you know" she said at last, her voice husky from the long silence.

He simply smiled and continued his caresses."

Fever Dream by Preston & Child is a literary mystery in the best of the old tradition, coupled with modern science and information. You can't miss it.

Abby: Finding More Than Gold
Sharon Poppen
Awe-Struck Publishing
c/o Mundania Press, LLC
6457 Glenway Ave., #109, Cincinnati, OH 45211
9781587497315 $TBA

Abby: Finding More Than Gold is one of those young adult books that's a pleasure to read, regardless of your age. It follows the dreams and adventures of a young Irish girl, Abby Barron, from her home in Chicago across the Great Plains of America and finally into the Yukon, where like so many others she pursues her dream of striking it rich with a big gold find.

Abby, a girl not yet eighteen, sets her mind upon fulfilling the dream she and her cousin Liam had of going to the Yukon to find gold, along the way Abby discovers many new and exciting things about herself and the people around her. Abby will never be the innocent 'colleen' who set out from Chicago a short time before.

Reading Abby: Finding More Than Gold leaves you longing for a sequel to the book, but according to author Sharon Poppen a sequel, if there is one is quite a way in the future as she is currently under contract for other projects related to her book, After the War, Before the Peace. Still, you'll want to know more of the fate of Abby, the Finleys and the rest of the family and friends from Abby: Finding More Than Gold.

Poppen does an excellent job with characterization and voice, although there is a touch of stereotype in the characters, it is not enough to detract from the story. Generally speaking there is a rich canvas of characters, action and story that fully and logically moves from beginning to conclusion with just enough tension to keep you eagerly turning pages.

What follows is an excerpt from early in the book:

"Abby took a deep breath and entered the darkened interior. The lobby was surprisingly clean and welcoming. She walked atop a faded Oriental rug runner, passing several divans and overstuffed chairs on her way to the hotel desk. A man wearing a green-shaded visor looked up from a newspaper and smiled broadly.

"Well, well, little lady." His leering smile heightened Abby's anxiety.

She laid the newspaper on the desk and pointed to the ad. "May I see Mr. Finley, please?"

He waved toward a room off to his left. "I believe I saw him come back a bit ago. Try the dining room. He may be having his lunch."

Abby looked in the direction he pointed. "Can you tell me what he looks like?"

The clerk stepped from behind the desk and motioned for her to follow him. He led her to a room just off the hotel lobby. The room was bathed in the warmth of the January sun. At four of the eight or nine small tables, covered with white tablecloths and surrounded by four chairs each, sat lone male diners. The room was bright and stark in contrast to the dark of the lobby. The white walls were devoid of decoration. Only two potted ferns brought any color into the room.

The clerk pointed to a man who was sitting with his back to her at a table by the window. "That's him." He returned to his desk to talk with another woman. Abby noticed that the newcomer was an unnatural blond and was wearing far too much make-up. Her silk, red dress was inappropriately garish for this time of afternoon, or anytime actually. Abby watched the clerk and the woman exchange suggestive smiles before the blond headed toward the stairs.

"Seat yourself girlie." A chubby man wearing a greasy apron barked at her as he headed toward Mr. Finley with a bowl of soup and a pile of crackers.

Abby gripped the newspaper tightly and attempted to follow the waiter, but found her feet stuck to the floor. They refused to budge. Her terrified mind admonished her to turn and go home. She took two steps back. The newspaper fell from her hand."

Just what happens to Abby from this point on is both a wonderful and terrible story of pain, hope and new beginnings. Abby: Finding More Than Gold is a joy to read regardless of your age.

Tracy M. Riva

Suzie's Bookshelf

The 60-Minute Money Workout
Ellie Kay
WaterBrook Press
12265 Oracle Blvd. Suite 200, Colorado Springs, CO 80921
9780307446039, $16.99,

Let 2011 be the year where you discover how to get out of financial debt! For as little as one hour a week you can learn the proven method of Ellie Kay that will have your debts quickly disappearing.

"The 60-Minute Money Workout: An Easy Step-by-Step Guide to Getting Your Finances into Shape" is set up as many fitness programs. You start with the following five methods:

Make-Up-Your-Mind Warm-up (5 minutes)
Strength Training (10 minutes)
Cardio Burn (20 minutes)
Take Your Heart Rate (20 minutes)
Cool Down (5 minutes)

Each one of the five sections allows you to set goals, putting the plan in place to achieve them, incorporating them into your lifestyle, and then step back to see if they are causing any undue stress. I was highly impressed with how simplistic this program was to learn. The information contained in this one book is priceless.

For anyone who is facing any type of financial burden should definitely purchase a copy of The 60-Minute Money Workout: An Easy Step-by-Step Guide to Getting Your Finances into Shape. This one book can not only get your out of debt, but it can allow you to learn money saving tips that will allow you to take that dream vacation, save for the kids college careers, or retire early.

The 60-Minute Money Workout: An Easy Step-by-Step Guide to Getting Your Finances into Shape is a book that will literally change yours and your family's life. Why not put this plan in place and by the end of 2011 you can look back and see how living debt free will make it a year to remember.

The Dragon and the Turtle Go on Safari
Donita K. Paul & Evangeline Denmark, authors)
Vincent Nguyen, illustrator
WaterBrook Press
12265 Oracle Blvd. Suite 200, Colorado Springs, CO 80921
9780307446459, $11.99,

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid . . .God goes with you; he will never leave you.
~Deuteronomy 31:6

Roger the turtle and Padraig the dragon are the best of friends. They decide to spend the night at Mount Sillymanborrow. As darkness closes in on them they build a fire and eat marshmallows and crunchy baked bugs.

They did not expect the forest to come alive with all the unknown sounds of the forest creatures. These unknown creatures lent an unexpected scary feeling to their overnight adventure. As the two made their way to their sleeping bags, they hear a desperate meow of a baby leopard. They two of them knew by the sound of its pitiful cry that it was in need of rescuing.

Roger and Padraig, decide to put aside their fear and go in search of finding the leopard. When they locate it they see that it is trapped up a tree. They manage to free it from where it is trapped.

Will Roger and Padraig fears be put aside as their night in the forest continues? Or will the two make their way back to the safety of their home?

The Dragon and the Turtle Go on Safari is a true testament to how friends stick together when times get difficult. Roger and Padraig both supported each other when their feels threatened to put a damper on their overnight adventure. Children will love to see how these two beloved characters come alive through the illustration talents of Vincent Nguyen. This book is the perfect reminder when things go bad in life a true friend will be by yourself to help sooth your worries.

God Gave Us The World
Lisa Tawn Bergren, author
Laura J. Bryant, illustrator
WaterBrook Press
12265 Oracle Blvd. Suite 200, Colorado Springs, CO 80921
9781400074488, $10.99,

Mama Bear was walking with her bear cubs and suddenly it began to snow. She told her cubs that each snow flake was different just as every bear was unique. She told them that God was responsible for creating all living things.

Mama Bear revealed to them that there were other bears in the world. She told of the Panda Bear in China, Black Bears in the forest, and Grizzly Bears that had the longest tongues of any bear. The cubs were amazed at all the types of bears that existed. They were curious why the other bears didn't live in the North Pole like they did. Mama Bear explained that as they had their own special home, so did the other bears.

The cubs were amazed to learn of other bears in existence. That night they dreamed of all the wonders of the world that God created. They knew they all shared a special bond, for they were all loved by God.

God Gave Us The World is a beautifully illustrated book that has a way that reaches out and touches you heart. Children will be amazed to learn that God is the creator of all things living. This book is truly a wonderful teaching tool that provides the perfect introduction to discover God the creator.

How to Squeeze a Lemon
Fine Cooking Magazine
Taunton Press
63 South Main St., Newtown, CT 06470-5506
9781600853265 $19.95

No matter what level of cooking experience you have it is always an added bonus to find tips and tricks to use in the kitchen. Through the efforts of Fine Cooking Magazine, they have compiled over 1,000 tips, fixes, and a handy reference guide that offers technique that cooks world-wide will appreciate.

From the moment I read the first page of How to Squeeze a Lemon: 1,023 Kitchen Tips, Food Fixes, and Handy Techniques I knew that I had found a very helpful and informative book. I was amazed at how much I learned just by reading the first chapter. Some of my favorite tips and tricks that I have already used include:

Protect your magazine while cooking by inserting it into a gallon-size zip-top bag
A spoonful of flour keeps raisins from sinking
Use marbles to warn you when boiling water is too low

From the beginner or the experience chef, rest assured that How to Squeeze a Lemon: 1,023 Kitchen Tips, Food Fixes, and Handy Techniques offers something for everyone. It is a book that I can easily see someone using as a much sought after reference tool.

How to Squeeze a Lemon: 1,023 Kitchen Tips, Food Fixes, and Handy Techniques would make the perfect wedding gift for the couple that has everything. It offers a unique way to learn new techniques that can help solve the most confusing cooking dilemma.

I predict the knowledge gained in How to Squeeze a Lemon: 1,023 Kitchen Tips, Food Fixes, and Handy Techniques is worthy enough to pass on to future generations. Similar titles don't offer the in-depth detail as this book presents. I highly recommend that it become a part of any cooks kitchen.

Suzie Housley, Reviewer

Theodore's Bookshelf

The Reversal
Michael Connelly
Little, Brown
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10169
9780316069489, $27.99,

The book's title has a double meaning: the "Lincoln Lawyer," Mickey Haller, normally a defense attorney, is asked in this instance to act as an independent prosecutor in a 1986 case that the higher court has reversed and sent back for retrial. The defendant was convicted of abducting and murdering a 12-year-old girl and has served the past 24 years in San Quentin.

As a condition of accepting the appointment, he demands the hiring of his ex-wife Maggie McPherson as his second chair and his half-brother, LAPD detective Harry Bosch, as his investigator. Rounding out this little family get-together are Mickey's and Harry's daughters, cousins who have never me but finally get together along the way and showing some human sidelights of the two main characters, especially taking the hard edge off Harry as an inexperienced parent.

Bringing together the protagonists of his two popular series gives the author the means to write a straightforward courtroom drama led by Haller, as well as a fairly good police investigation a la Harry Bosch. The plot moves forward in alternating chapters, with each concentrating on one of them, giving the reader an insight into not only what goes on in the courtroom, but also outside those hallowed walls. Written smoothly, with a somewhat unexpected conclusion, "The Reversal" is recommended.

Years of Red Dust
Qiu Xiaolong
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312628093, $24.99,

The author of the Inspector Chen series, which usually portrayed incisive pictures of Chinese culture and politics, turns his attention to another form of literature: these short stories which mirror the changes in the country from 1949 and the beginning of the Communist takeover from the defeated Nationalists to the present day.

Each chapter begins with a brief recap of that year's events as a prelude to a tale of one or more persons living in Red Dust Lane. Each is set in a single year, and the stories reflect the evolution of the country through the various upheavals during the reign of Mao through the development of the quasi-market economy now in existence.

Written with the customary poignancy and sensitivity that Qui Xiaolong has exhibited in previous novels, filled with quotations from classic Chinese literature and history, Confucius sayings and ancient proverbs, the tales are not only engaging but are redolent of the sights and sounds of Shanghai. They bring home to the reader how the past changing attitudes and politics affected people more cogently than a dry history text recounting the Red Guards or sending "educated" teenagers to the countryside to live as peasants.

The book is well worth reading and is highly recommended.
Iron River
T. Jefferson Parker
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780451232427, $14.00,

A temporary assignment to an ATFE task force for Deputy sheriff Charlie Parker to stem the tide of illegal arms and money flowing across the U.S.-Mexican border gives rise to eerie insights into law enforcement from San Diego to Corpus Christie and, in addition, how cutthroat the drug lords can be, as well as how unscrupulous legal and illegal gun dealers are.

To begin with, a stakeout on a gun deal goes wrong, and in the shooting of a perpetrator which ensues, the son of the ruthless head of a cartel is killed, resulting in a vengeance kidnapping and torture of an AFTE operative, leading in turn to a rescue mission by Charlie and his new associates. Then that operative is kidnapped a second time from the hospital by a rival organization, and Charlie again has to go to Mexico to ransom him and bring him back across the border, dodging the first drug lord's minions.

The title is derived from the corridor running along the southern border, from California to Texas. Up to 90 per cent of the guns in Mexico, where about 15,000 persons have been murdered, are said to come from the United States. This is hardly the ideal for a Good Neighbor Policy. Mr. Parker has thoroughly researched the subject, which brings back Charlie Hood for a third and welcome appearance in a well-written and exciting novel. Recommended.

The Confession
John Grisham
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
9780385528047, $28.95,

The author is on the Board of Directors of the Innocence Project in New York and is the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Mississippi Innocence Project at the U. of Miss. A well-known attorney and best-selling novelist, the conviction and scheduled execution of an innocent man fall within his purview in these various activities. It is too bad, however, that the resulting novel is not up to his usual standard.

The arrest, jailing and eventual execution of a young innocent Texan sets the stage for a long, dry story, filled with stereotypes: the less-than-ethical police detective, the corrupt DA and his lover, the judge, and the real murderer, among others, including the defense attorney. Unfortunately they do not add up to an accomplished novel. Nor do the long harangues and long-winded diatribes, which obviously belong more in a legal brief than a novel.

All this is not to take away from Mr. Grisham's ability to tell a tale and write it well. But, unfortunately, over-all, at least to this reader, he should have relied more on his ability as a novelist, than as an advocate for a cause.

The Whisperers
John Connolly
Atria Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781439165195, $26.00,

There is always the element of the supernatural in a Charlie Parker novel. And "The Whisperers" is no exception. However, reality plays an important part in the theme, giving the author the opportunity to reflect on the horrors of war and its effects - especially combat stress - on the lives of those who fought them.

There are veiled references to the condition in the Iliad; during the Civil War it was known as "irritable heart;" "shellshock" was the term used during World War I and its aftermath; for World War II it became known as "battle fatigue" and "war neurosis;" then "post-Vietnam syndrome"; and today "post-traumatic stress disorder."

The plot involves a group of Iraqi veterans (all from Maine, Parker's bailiwick), who return home to set up a smuggling operation. One by one they commit suicide, and Parker is retained by the father of one of them to learn the reason for his son's death. This leads Parker to travel an unexpected path

As a result, we meet some old friends, Angel and Louis, who always manage to cover Parker's back. But more important, Parker has to work with an old nemesis, The Collector. And the eerie Herod, a man with strange tastes, and his shadow, the Captain. The characters and the plot interweave on various levels, with prose that mesmerizes the reader. The book is highly recommended.

[It should be noted that Hodder is also bringing out a paperback edition this month in Canada. The book is presently available in the US from Atria, with a paperback edition due out in the US from Pocket Books in late June 2011.]

Red Herring
Archer Mayor
Minotaur Books
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312381936, $24.99,

This long-running series featuring Joe Gunther and his team at the Vermont Bureau of Investigation has been consistently excellent. And this, the 21st entry, is of similar high quality with an inventive plot: Three murders are committed, seemingly with no connection, except for a single drop of blood. The victims are apparently unrelated and the evidence at each scene appears to be, at best, confusing, as if the crime scenes were deliberately arranged so that forensics would not be particularly useful in the investigation.

The Vermont forensics department, with limited resources and funds, is unable to process the few items of interest, but the suggestion that the Brookhaven National Laboratory on New York's Long Island might have the ability to find clues is followed, resulting in a series of possibilities that, with old-fashioned police work, lead to common threads.

Once again, the author's love of the Green State, its environment and people, provides a human touch to an otherwise macabre tale. Descriptions of the countryside are adept. And insights into antagonism between politicians, the public, the media and cops are vivid and insightful. Written with a deft touch, the novel is recommended.

Stuart Neville
Soho Crime
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9781569478554, $25.00,

This follow-up to the highly praised "The Ghosts of Belfast" deserves the same reception. It picks up where the earlier noir ended, carrying forth the characters and events, and, presumably, planting the seeds for a third novel which hopefully will develop into a full-blown series.

Jack Lennon, a Catholic detective in an otherwise Protestant police force in Northern Ireland, is warned off investigating the deaths of three persons associated with the massacre of numerous criminals and politicians at Bull O'Kane's farm in Belfast. But having knowledge of the event, at which his girlfriend, Marie McKenna, and their young daughter, Ellen were present, pressures him to continue pursuing knowledge of the murders and their relationship to the past. Marie was whisked away from the massacre by the notorious killer, Fegan, and into hiding, promising to return whenever she needed protection. He leaves for New York City for adventures of his own.

O'Kane has a grudge against Fegan and employs The Traveler, a killer of equal stature to Fegan, to kill the three victims as well as his nemesis, who was responsible for a gut wound which incapacitated the gangster. When Marie comes out of hiding to visit her dying father, she and the child are abducted, serving as lures to draw Fegan out of hiding and resulting in an unlikely collaboration between Lennon and Fegan to rescue Marie and Ellen.

The novel develops the characters in more depth than was exhibited in "Belfast," and the pace is steadier. But the writing is the same tense hard-driven prose which made the first so highly readable. It is a graphic tale of the corruption between the politicians, criminals, British authorities and others in the fraught Northern Ireland of the era. It is powerful and tragic, with intense violence and deep insights into a country still affected by long-continued terror. It is highly recommended, and we look forward to the hoped-for sequel.

Mo Hayder
Grove Press
c/o Grove/Atlantic
841 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9780802145178, $13.00

There are all kinds of protagonists, but the two featured in this novel (after first appearing in "Ritual") are very different. Jack Caffery and Phoebe ("Flea") Marley carry pretty heavy baggage from their past, but they get the job done somehow in this thrilling police procedural, despite their individual quirks and iconoclastic attitudes.

DI Caffery is engaged in two separate investigations which somehow become intertwined with an escapade in which Flea is involved. As a result, he has to weigh whether or not to expose Flea's efforts or to keep silent. One case involves a series of strange deaths, initially thought to be suicides, although Caffery believes them to be murders. Another has to do with a missing person, a woman who may or may not also be such a victim, but no body has been found.

Marley is a police diver and the descriptions of her efforts, especially in the opening scene, are especially gripping, as Flea is seeking the body of the MisPer in a flooded quarry, diving deeper and deeper beyond recommended depths and apparently seeing a supernatural sight. Both she and Caffery think there is a "Tokoloshe" in the area, a creature out of African witchcraft.

This sequel is so tightly written and absorbing one can hope that the author can follow up with more such unusual efforts in the future. Recommended. [It should perhaps be noted that the author's newest book, "Gone," will be published simultaneously by Atlantic Monthly Press in hardcover.]

The Shadow Woman
Ake Edwardson, author
Per Carlsson, translator
Penguin Books Original
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780143117940, $15.00,

Slow and steady: Sweden's youngest Detective Inspector seeks elusive clues in this slow, plodding police procedural about a murder victim that takes half the book to identify. Erik Winter, the dapper inspector who likes expensive clothing and cars, and finds it difficult to grow up to a maturity in relation to his girlfriend's desire for more permanence, is an intuitive, careful thinker confronted, in this second installment in a Swedish noir series, with almost no clues about the victim [or murderer], other than that she has borne a child.

The plot switches back and forth between the present-day investigation and flashbacks, so the reader - this reader, at least - is at a loss as to where the story is at. It is confusing at best, yet interesting, from a psychological point of view. There are some idioms the translator apparently inserted into the text which have no obvious counterpart in Swedish.

Having struggled over a longer period of time to read the novel than would be devoted ordinarily to a book of this length, it is with ambivalence that it is recommended, solely on the basis that it is an interesting work.

Ed Gorman
Minotaur Books
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312532987, $24.99,

The cynical political consultant Dev Conrad returns in this well-plotted, twisting tale of intrigue and blackmail during a Congressional election campaign. The candidate has a long-standing hidden secret which, of course, could cost her the election.

Dev's staff is at its wit's end trying to keep the campaign on an even keel, but the candidate keeps eluding the political experts and they call in the boss to find out what's wrong. Dev arrives and begins to follow the candidate and has to act as a detective to follow the clues, something the reader can do easily.

Written with humor and insight into the workings of a political campaign (after all, the author is a veteran of six of them), the characters seem real enough to occupy the front pages of one's hometown newspaper. The story is filled with enough hurdles to keep the reader from jumping to conclusions and interested in the outcome.


Supreme Justice
Phillip Margolin
c/o HarperCollins
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780061926525, $9.99,

What does an author do when he "falls in love" with characters in a novel he completed? Why he just writes another using them again. But the characters here brought down a President, proving him to be a serial killer, in "Executive Privilege." So, what to do?

Just try to kill a Supreme Court Justice, have the CIA involved in an illegal drug scheme, actually have the President blackmailed by a powerful attorney [formerly head of the CIA] to force him to nominate a woman for a court vacancy, as well as several murders in attempts to cover up the mess. How's that for a fast-moving plot?

The carefully crafted story also includes insights into some of the top court's workings, written with authority. The author, a lawyer, actually has argued at least one case before that court as a young practitioner. His legal skills contribute much to moving the plot ahead, as clues are sought. And though it doesn't at first seem that there is a surprise in store at the end, there certainly is one.

It should perhaps be noted that the paperback edition has also been issued in a larger trim size, 9780062044839, for $11.99


Law of Attraction
Allison Leotta
Touchstone Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781439193846, $25.00,

This initial effort from this author focuses on a couple of aspects of a legal thriller including a young female prosecutor, Anna Curtis, in D.C., domestic violence, and the emotional ups and downs of her personal love life, not necessarily in that order. It might be noted that the author is a Federal prosecutor in D.C., specializing in felony sex crimes.

The heart of the storyline is a case involving a young woman who is constantly abused by her boyfriend. And as is not uncommon, she constantly relents, taking back the abuser until it is too late. In this case, she does have him arrested, and recants her story during the trial so he walks away. And then she is murdered. Her boyfriend is again arrested and brought to trial for the deed.

From that point, the story really gets interesting, with enough twists and turns to keep the reader wondering what comes next. And what comes next certainly isn't anticipated. About the only criticism this reader has revolves around the fact that the courtroom scenes are relatively superficial, and the legal aspects similarly glossed over (perhaps not a bad thing for the average reader). The prose flows, and the emotional highs and lows of Anna's romantic involvements and how they affect her work and the plot contribute substantially to the story.


Money to Burn
James Grippando
c/o HarperCollins
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780061556319, $9.99,

By combining the issues of market manipulation and identity theft, James Grippando has raised some interesting questions in this somewhat flawed but timely novel. This reviewer's reservations, which admittedly are probably in the minority, apply to whether or not the premise that a single hedge fund could actually bring down a thinly disguised Goldman Sachs without steps being taken by the New York Stock Exchange or the Securities and Exchange Commission stepping in to stop naked selling of the brokerage's stock is valid.

Nevertheless, legal issues aside, it makes for a provocative tale, especially in view of recent events in the financial world. Essentially the plot involves a 35-year-old star of the venerable Wall Street firm Saxton Silvers, Mike Cantella, who discovers on the night of his birthday that all his accounts have been transferred to an offshore bank and he is left without a penny. At the same time, these funds are used to short the firm's stock, driving its price down, and continued pressure pushes the firm into bankruptcy. Further, other events point to his involvement in the demise, as well as in subsequent murders.

The story is over-plotted, with all kinds of devices including spyware on cell phones and computers, enigmatic e-mails from unidentified sources, FBI probes, corporate espionage, and a wife of four hours who disappears and is presumed dead, eaten by a shark, not to mention a second wife who complicates Mike's life while he is fighting to clear his name. And to wrap up, introduction of the Madoff Ponzi scheme seems a bit gratuitous. Nevertheless, the novel is an entertaining read, and does have some useful insights into today's financial picture.


Death Echo
Elizabeth Lowell
c/o HarperCollins
10 E. 53rd St., 10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
978006164427, $7.99,

International intrigue is at the heart of the plot which joins Emma Cross, former CIA operative and now with St. Kilda's Consulting, and Mackenzie Durand, former Special Ops leader, the only survivor of his team in its last mission. Now a transit captain, he picks up a brand new yacht, the Blackbird, offloaded from a container ship to bring to a small port where it is to be fitted out. Meanwhile, Emma has been looking for the yacht's twin, the Black Swan, for an insurance company since its disappearance.

The two are thrown together when all the intelligence agencies pick up vibes of an impending terrorist act against a major U.S. urban center. It is not known whether the threat is biological, chemical or nuclear. So Mackenzie becomes the captain of the Blackbird, with Emma as "first mate," on a voyage through the inland passageway on the West Coast of Canada, ostensibly to bring the ship to its new owner. It is quite a trip.

The descriptions of the passageway, the tides, weather and difficulties of steering a ship under various conditions are graphic and exciting. And despite all the dangers from the sea and adversaries, love finds a way.

It should perhaps be noted that the paperback edition has also been issued in a larger trim size, 9780062044846, for $11.99.


This Body of Death
Elizabeth George
c/o HarperCollikns
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780061160912, $9.99,

In the 16th Inspector Lynley novel, we find him at home after having completed his wanderings around Cornwall trying to find peace following the murder of his wife. Still undecided as to what to do in the future, he is approached by the temporary department head, Isabelle Ardery, to return to Scotland Yard to help her make the transition to the post for which she supposedly is "auditioning." She is quite aware that the team of Lynley's co-workers resent her and Tommy can smooth the way for her to gain their support and even possibly their respect.

All too soon the body of a young woman is found, murdered, in a cemetery, and they all undertake to solve the case. There are plenty of suspects both in London and in Hampshire, where the woman originally came from. Ardery is like a bull in a China shop, and blunders regularly, Lynley a calming influence even if his status is undetermined. And to add to the reader's confusion is the regular recounting every couple of chapters of the ten-year-old murder of a two-year old tot by three boys aged 10 and 11. Not until near the end is the reason revealed.

The novel is quite long, some 640 tightly written pages, and for some could present a tedious exercise. However, the prose is smooth and the descriptions of the people and places skillful. The plot is well-constructed and it is very much worth it to have Tommy back.

It should perhaps be noted that the paperback edition has also been issued in a larger trim size, 9780062044853, for $11.99.


Rogue Island
Bruce DeSilva
c/o Tor Books
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780765327260, $24.99,

According to the author's introductory words to this novel, he received a note in 1994 about a story he had written for the newspaper where he worked as a reporter in Providence, Rhode Island, suggesting that it could serve as the outline for a novel. He did begin to write such a book, only to put it aside because of personal problems. The note was from Evan Hunter (Ed McBain). A couple of years ago, the author met Otto Penzler who, when he learned about the note, said: "Evan never had a good thing to say about anything anyone else wrote . . . you've got to finish that novel."

And we can all thank Otto Penzler and the late Evan Hunter for their encouragement. This debut novel merits their praise, and then some. It is witty, well-paced, entertaining, cynical, and worthy of its nomination for an Edgar Award for Best First Novel.

Liam Mulligan is a wise-cracking investigative reporter for a Providence daily, who closely pursues a story on a series of fires in a small neighborhood that turn out to be cases of arson, resulting not only in destruction of property but fatalities. It is up to Mulligan to uncover not only the schemes behind these crimes, but the corruption endemic to the State of Rhode Island, and specifically its capital, giving rise to the title of the novel. No more about the plot, because you have to read the book. And enjoy.

Highly recommended.

Coming Back
Marcia Muller
Grand Central Publishing
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10017
9780446581066, $24.99,

In light of recent events in Tuscon, Arizona, it was kind of eerie reading this novel. In the last book in the series, "Locked In," Sharon McCone was shot in the head and suffered from locked-in syndrome. In this installment, we find her finished with rehabilitation, following a physical therapy routine and attempting to regain her former self. However, she's still suffering from the effects of her physical limitations, and her relationships with her husband, Hy Ripinsky, and her associates at McCone Investigations, are suffering.

Then, when a friend from the therapy facility, and then her close associate Adah Joslyn, go missing, Shar has to rise to the occasion. Can she? She has to draw on those closest to her, as well as her own physical and mental abilities, but are they enough?

The plot is pretty thin, but makes for a fast and wooly read, especially as the novel is constructed with very short chapters (some only a page or page and a half), making for fast reading and allowing the reader to zip along in action-filled forward momentum.


Think Twice
Lisa Scottoline
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312380762, $14.99,

First there was Cain and Abel. In this novel we have Bennie Rosato and her twin sister, Alice Connelly (they were separated at birth and raised by different mothers). Bennie grows up to be a highly successful Philadelphia lawyer, heading her own firm, while Alice turns out evil.

Alice has drugged Bennie, burying her alive, and then impersonates her in an attempt to transfer all of Bennie's money out of the country and flee. She convinces everyone, including the bank, that she is Bennie, and succeeds in transferring the funds to an offshore institution. Meanwhile, Bennie breaks through the box in which she is buried, but runs into all kinds of obstacles when she is believed to be Alice.

In the end, the real question asked and, perhaps, answered is: is the nature of evil born in us or is it in the genes? While the main plot is charged to a high degree, the tale is interspersed with a bit of old-fashioned schmaltz, including the caricature of an Italian immigrant family, up and down love lives of a couple of characters, the emotional permutations of a candidate for a law partnership, and even an Italian witch. Of course, Lisa Scottoline's writing is smooth and forceful, so the reader is carried along for an enjoyable read.


Theodore Feit

James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
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