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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 13, Number 2 February 2013 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Andy's Bookshelf Applegate's Bookshelf
Bethany's Bookshelf Buhle's Bookshelf Burroughs' Bookshelf
Carson's Bookshelf Christy's Bookshelf Crocco's Bookshelf
Daniel's Bookshelf Deacon's Bookshelf Gail's Bookshelf
Gary's Bookshelf Gloria's Bookshelf Gorden's Bookshelf
Harwood's Bookshelf Janet's Bookshelf Karyn's Bookshelf
Katherine's Bookshelf Logan's Bookshelf Margaret's Bookshelf
Marjorie's Bookshelf Regis' Bookshelf Suzie's Bookshelf
Terrance's Bookshelf Teri's Bookshelf Theodore's Bookshelf

Reviewer's Choice

The City of Devi
Manil Suri
c/o W. W. Norton & Company
500 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10110
9780393088755, $26.95,

Ann Skea, Reviewer

The first third of this book is about sex: love and sex; sex and love. In the first five chapters, Sarita remembers how she fell in love with Karun and the details of her increasingly adventurous attempts to get him to consummate their marriage. The next five chapters deal with Jaz's homosexual seduction of Karun, his gradual falling in love with him and their subsequent parting. The sex is imaginative but leaves little to the imagination. Now, however, Karun has disappeared and Sarita and Jaz are trying to find him.

All this is set in a dystopian world in which Pakistan is at war with India and has set a date for a nuclear attack on Mumbai (where the novel is set); dirty bombs have exploded in Zurich, New York, London and other world cities; all communication networks have broken down; Hindu and Muslim extremist groups have taken over parts of the city and are undertaking murderous religious persecution; and SuperDevi, a Bollywood/Hollywood epic has captured popular imagination and fostered a cult which is being used by the power-hungry Bhim, leader of the extremist, right-wing, Hindu Rashtriya Manch, to further his own interests. Oh, and Sarita is taking Karun a pomegranate!

It would be easy to parody the events which make up the rest of this book. The miraculous escapes, the Bollywood style Devi celebrations, Jaz's camp cousin 'Aunty' Rahim who helps them escape the Muslim Limbus thugs, the final sexual consummation which almost qualifies for nomination for the Bad Sex Award, and the predictable ending, all these are the stuff of Bond movies. And Sarita's ability to be relatively unaffected by the horrors she witnesses and the personal dramas she experiences, keeps her character shallow and undeveloped.

However, Manil Suri writes well and he knows how create interesting characters, how to structure and tell a good story, how to describe the horrors of war, and how to capture the variety, flavour, excesses and beauty of Indian life.

An advertising puff on the back cover of the book quotes the Independent as saying that "Manil Suri has been likened to Narayan, Coatzee, Naipaul, Chekhov and Flaubert". One wonders who made that comparison. It is nonsense. Perhaps if publishers exaggerated less, I would be less judgmental. Suri has certainly "developed a voice of his own" but a little less sex, a bit more realism in the plot, and some development of the serious issues touched on in the book, might make this book less of a romantic thriller and more like the "huge novel" that the advertising claims.

42 Rules for B2B Social Media Marketing
Michael Procopio
Peter Spielvogel
Natascha Thomson
Super Star Press
c/o Happy About
20660 Stevens Creek Blvd., Suite 210
Cupertino, CA 95014
9781607731139, $19.95,

Bonnie Jo Davis

If you look online or in any library around the world you will find a multitude of books about business to consumer (B2C) social media books. You will find very few that cover social media for business to business (B2B) marketing. This book fills that void and does it very well.

"42 Rules for B2B Social Media Marketing: Learn Proven Strategies and Field-Tested Tactics through Real-World Success Stories" is broken down into the following sections:

Part I Mixing Social Media into Your Marketing
Part II Creating Social Media Content
Part III Leveraging Key Social Media Channels
Part IV Engaging Effectively in Social Media
Part V Using Social Media in the Sales Cycle
Part VI Putting Social Media into Practice

These savvy authors offer a section at the beginning of the book called "How To Use This Book." They make recommendations on reading and using the book based on your job role and experience. This is a clever and helpful tool that I would like to see included in more non-fiction books.

Most rules includes the topic, an explanation and a case study. You may find some of the topics familiar such as LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest, SlideShare, etc. but the authors explain how to make these tools work for B2B marketing. I learned so much from this book that I can use in my business that it would seem I had read a dozen books instead of just this one.

I especially appreciate the companion website for this book, created by the authors, because social media changes quickly and they wanted a place to discuss updates and answer questions. The bonus rules and Appendices were also a welcome surprise. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is involved in B2B marketing who wants to use social media more effectively and efficiently.

Visit to purchase the book or to request a free excerpt.

Disinformation: Bullshit the Media Encourage You to Believe
William Harwood
World Audience, Inc.
303 Park Avenue South, #1440
NY, NY 10010-3675
9781934209677, $26.00,

G. Richard Bozarth

William Harwood, a prolific Australian-born Freethought writer who now lives in Canada, has made numerous admirable additions to Freethought's library. Disinformation: Bullshit The Media Encourage You To Believe proves once again his status as one of Freethought's eminent writers. It deals with troubling trends in Western culture with Harwood's typical Ecrasez l'infame! attitude.

It's very unusual for me to read a book and agree with everything, hence there are a few things in Disinformation that I object to: his disrespect of Will Durant as a historian in the Forward; the niveau of his condemnation of trade unions in chapter 13; his solution to the age-of-consent problem in chapter15; and his use of "pre-human" to describe one stage of a human life's development during pregnancy in chapter 16 (there is not a single second between conception and death when a human life is not biologically human). These objections, however, are insignificant compared to how much I agree with the rest of the book's content.

It would be surprising in a Harwood book to find no content on religionism. Like any militant nontheist (he doesn't like using "Atheist" as a personal identifier), he doesn't like religionism because it so easily exerts detrimental moral influence that causes an assortment of cultural pollutions. He is very disgusted by faith-based violence, which he makes clear on p. 196: "If the reader is getting the impression that the author feels a special hostility toward sects and fanatics who justify unspeakable atrocities by claiming to be obeying a god, he will get no argument from me."

Chapter 1 debunks supernatural possession, encounters with supernatural entities, and the pseudoscience version of demon possession known as multiple-personality disorder. Chapter 2 debunks hypnotism, which he is uniquely qualified to do since he worked for many years in touring hypnotism shows. Chapter 3 very nicely debunks the modern pseudoscience of recovered memories. Chapter 4 is the first of several condemnations of the decline of quality public school education in North America. Chapters 5, 6, 7, and 8 debunk several pseudoscience hoaxes, such as UFOs, the time travel of information (that is, supernatural or psychic prophecy), and the anthropological scam that was a big success for Carlos Castaneda.

Chapter 9 is another one about the decline of public school education. Chapter 10 debunks the kind of elaborate conspiracy theories that The X-Files exploited so well. Chapter 11 returns to pseudoscience to debunk Creationism, Atlantis, lie-detectors, and similar such nonsense that way too many gullible people believe in. Chapter 12 focuses on the particular pseudoscience called psychiatry, which also demonstrates how terribly harmful pseudoscience can be (the Child Sexual Abuse Hysteria, which has imprisoned so many innocent people, could not have succeeded without the services of an enormous number of psychiatrists and lesser mental-health therapists). Chapter 13 pounds on trade unions and makes many valid points, but goes too far in my opinion. Chapter 14 debunks fraudulent medicines and medical procedures and the evil of facilitated communication, a deceit that is responsible for a lot of the harm caused by the CSA Hysteria. Chapter 15 debunks sex taboos and is especially interesting because he gives the history of their evolution.

Chapter 16 condemns missionaries because of the harm they have caused throughout history. He's not talking about door-to-door missionaries, who are merely annoying. He is condemning the imperial missionary activism that doesn't exist much anymore. Those missionaries had the swords and later guns of an aggressive, pernicious government behind them to force disagreeing populations to convert and then obey purulent faith-based laws. Of these missionaries, Harwood writes on p. 140: "About the only difference between vampires and missionaries is that vampires, being mythical, are less dangerous."

An extremely brief chapter 18 offers a very pragmatic calendar that makes all the days of each month fall on the same day of the week year after year after year. Chapter 19 returns to paranormal pseudoscience and gives it some more excellent debunking. Chapter 20 presents his objections to laws that go too far to prevent wrongful convictions (I could not entirely agree with him because I live in Texas, USA, where wrongful convictions are way too easy to win despite the laws he thinks go too far). Chapters 21, 22, 23, and 24 return to the decline in public school education, this time focusing on the education future teachers get.

Chapter 25 comes down heavy on TV for doing so much to disseminate the kind of disinformation he has been debunking. Chapter 26 offers fascinating histories of several religions, showing all of them to be hoaxes even if the founders were sincere. He ends with a strong condemnation of theofascism and the fundamentalist fanaticism that fuels theofascism. Chapter 27 is a summary of the sharp, merciless blows he delivered to the disinformation he debunked. And then, as a bonus, there is a long, yet surprisingly interesting "Synopsis Of English Grammar" at the end of the book.

What I usually do with Harwood's books is highly recommend them for all Atheists, Freethinkers, Secular Humanists, and nontheists. I'm glad to continue doing that for Disinformation.

The Art of Assessment
Magdalena Ball
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781477499863, $13.95, $3.99 Kindle,

Joanna Celeste, Reviewer

Article first published as Book Review and Interview: The Art of Assessment by Magdalena Ball on Blogcritics. (Blogcritics requires that this text is posted on any future printings of this review.)

Book Review and Interview: The Art of Assessment by Magdalena Ball

The Art of Assessment: How to Review Anything by Magdalena Ball makes quite a promise in its title, and Ball proves true to her word.

Employing her considerable experience as a reviewer and radio host through The Compulsive Reader, the author takes us through the qualities necessary in a professional reviewer, finding the products to assess, writing our findings in a clear, thoughtful, and substantiated way, honing our skills, and getting our reviews published - whether we are starting out or breaking into the professional leagues.

Ball gives advice for reviewing books (including sections on poetry, biography, children's, how-to and academic works), concerts, CDs, film/video, restaurants and other products (including a section on mystery shopping). There are also sample reviews with sidebars; an ample section on interviewing authors to add depth to reviews; and two chapters delineating where we can get paid. (My favorite chapter was "Expert Opinion: Interviews with Successful Reviewers".)

I can't confirm that The Art of Assessment is a "complete guide to writing and publishing reviews of anything" (as the preface states) without having read other books on the subject for comparison, but this book has assisted me with my first music review, documentary review, and in forming better book reviews. It reminded me of the "heart" of what I do and why, and while I have not yet read the books the author recommends for reviewers, I consider this one my bible. (There are no sections for travel reviews, or on the organization required to be a reviewer, but in a recent interview Ball shares many resources for these areas.)

The paperback is excellent as a reference to quickly find various resources and tips, and the sidebars are useful. The Kindle version is also worth purchasing, as the convenience of always having the book to hand, and making use of the Bookmarks and Notes feature of the Kindle, will allow one to find specific points of interest, but the sidebars are not as well defined.

When I asked Ms. Ball how a good assessment might be considered an art form, she replied: "I think that writing a good assessment is like any kind of writing - there is always an element of art in it - the sense of what works and what doesn't; the "ear" that a reviewer develops by close, active reading. It's also a skill, which can be learnt to a certain extent, but the creative element - the building of a new piece of writing; determining the overall approach; the theme of the review, and writing something that does justice to the work itself - is art."

To that end, we are empowered to discover for ourselves what comes with life practice, and Ball shares what can be taught in short, pithy chapters, often backed with several resources. (These are invaluable as new reviewers are inundated with information online and by social consensus, but rarely armed with knowledge of how useful such information is.)

Atlas Shrugged (Centennial Edition)
Ayn Rand
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St. New York, NY 10014
9780525948926, $39.95,

K. Anne

The mythological Greek figure, Atlas, is the basis of the theme of this fictional story. Atlas was given the job of holding the world upon his able shoulders. In Rand's novel, there are no Greek Titans but she uses Atlas as a metaphor for people who are given the burden of shouldering the responsibility of the world; until they shrug and essentially let the world collapse. Although fictional, the premise that some people, who are intelligent, industrial, ambitious and honorable, should shoulder the entire burden of the world and then be demonized and punished for their work, is Rand's way of sending a pro-capitalism message to society.

This intriguing novel centers around the steel industry, the railroad industry and others of the 1950's. Rand compels the reader to reach inside the brilliant brains of the leaders of business. To say there are heroes and heroines is an understatement; but Rand strategically shows their weaknesses as well, exemplifying that all humans are flawed. There are clearly protagonists and antagonists; but the story brings the reader to understand human struggles within the souls and minds of the characters, while cheering for the champions. The only heroine, Dagny Taggart, is someone to aspire to. The other admirable characters are all men, which is probably why this book has been popular with educated, businessmen. It is unfortunate that not one woman I spoke to has read this book, but almost every intelligent, successful businessman and/or doctor has read it. Come on ladies, read this book.

Without giving away the story, I'll just say that Rand brilliantly and methodically shows what happens when the government gets too large and too invasive, to the point of chipping away at individual freedoms and business leaders are penalized for their minds and innovations, and when governments redistribute wealth in the name of "fairness". In the following quote, the author demonstrates that the human spirit will see truth even when camouflaged by politicians' rhetoric. "Then I understood the nature of the looter-in-spirit > the impertinent malice of mediocrity boastfully holding up its own emptiness as an abyss to be filled by the bodies of its betters.... I saw the government regulations passed to cripple me because I was successful, and to help my competitors because they were loafing failures > I saw that man's desire for money he could not earn was regarded as a righteous wish, but if he earned it, it was damned as greed."

Although this is an imperative book to read in these economic times, and is one of the best books I have read, Rand erroneously submits that belief in God is partly to blame for the economic failures in society. She fails to comprehend that worship of God results in volition, while the worship and exultation of humans is fallible and leads to loss of freedom. When a government starts to ask its' citizens to remove God from their minds, they are asking them to systematically substitute themselves for God. Encouraging their citizens to become Godless, uneducated, and financially dependent upon them (government) ensures their eminent power.

I could write much more about this insightful book, but I will end with a quote from Albert Einstein that epitomizes the sentiment of it. "Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds." A.E.

I highly recommend this book.

Shot in the Dark
Jennifer Conner
Books to Go Now
PO Box 1283, Poulsbo, WA 98370
9781481916455, $11.99 pbk / $3.99 Kindle,

Mayra Calvani

Jennifer Conner's latest romantic suspense is a thrilling, steaming read that will be enjoyed by fans of the genre.

Handsome, sharp-witted, and smartass Devan Burke is a detective working for the LAPD. In the evenings, he likes to keep himself wired up by ordering double espressos from the Naughty Latte stand's drive-through, especially because of the pretty blond working there. Dev is a loner and blames himself for the death of a kid during a store shootout, during which he was also shot in the leg and, as a result, has been limping and using a cane since then.

Beautiful and just as sharp-witted and smartass as Dev, Luci Lombard is working at the Naughty Latte stand in order to support herself through school at the University of Chinese Culture and Health Studies.

One night, only a few minutes after Dev leaves the coffee stand, he receives a message that the place has just been robbed. Back at the stand, he finds a very distraught Luci lying on the floor with her hands tied behind her back. Fortunately, the assailant didn't have enough time to rape her. Although the robber was wearing a mask, she remembers he was wearing cowboy boots and tattoos on his arm: strange octagon symbols mixed into a vine. Dev offers to bring her to the hospital and then home.

Since she doesn't have medical insurance, he very generously pays for her medical bills. To show her appreciation, Luci decides to help Dev with his leg problem so he can get back in active duty. She believes his pain and limp could be improved with the aid of a chiropractor and holistic medicine. Though Dev is skeptical at first, he decides to let Luci help him. Thus, their relationship begins to evolve, rising in intensity as their feelings for each other deepen.

But the man with the tattoos isn't a simple robber. In fact, he's a member of the mafia. And he hasn't forgotten Luci and is intent on finishing what he started...

Shot in the Dark was a light, quick, very entertaining read filled with lots of romance and lots of suspense. Having read Conner's work before, I know she has a soft spot for tortured, imperfect heroes with big hearts who at times suffer a disability. In this case, it's Dev's leg and how it affects his self image and self esteem, and how, with a smart and kind heroine, he outgrows those feelings of insecurity. Her heroines are intelligent and independent, yet feminine enough to turn to their heroes for protection when needed. A very nice combination. The story, which moves at a good pace, is mainly told from both from Dev's and Luci's points of view, separated by chapters, so the readers get to know the feelings and motivations of both characters. Some chapters are also told from the robber's point of view. If you're a fan of romantic suspense, you'll want to pick this one up.

Anni's Attic
Anne Loader McGee
Vendera Publishing
9781936307241, $12.99 pbk. / $3.99 Kindle

Michael Thal, Reviewer

Engaging Civil War Novel for Teens

Though there are a plethora of books on the market about the Civil War, Anni's Attic, by Anne Loader McGee is one of the best. Written in the first person perspective about life on a Georgia plantation from 1861-1865, it shows the day-to-day experiences of Jennine Parkington and her cousin Annise Bouvoir.

Jenn is an 11-year-old southern belle who recently lost her mother. In October 1861 her dad, Phillip Parkington, a Northern sympathizer, moves Jenn from their New Orleans home to live with his sister near Savannah, Georgia. Phillip then leaves to fight for President Lincoln. Meanwhile, Jenn must live with her "ill-mannered" 12-year-old cousin, Annise Bouvoir, "who could not even speak French like a proper lady."

When Jenn's carriage pulled up in front of White Magnolias on that late October 1861 day angry eyes watched her from a secret attic tucked away inside the plantation home. Anni wasn't very happy about having to play hostess to her know-it-all snobby first cousin.

Anne McGee's historical novel, Anni's Attic, provides a heart-wrenching look at the atrocities of the Civil War and its affects on the lives of the people living in the Savannah countryside. The YA book is a marvelous character study of Anni and Jenn. During the course of the war the cousins encounter spies, racial hatred, the Underground Railroad, and Sherman's March to the Sea. Through it all they take time alone together in the confines of a secret attic in White Magnolias, There the cousins develop trust as they mature and learn to love and respect each other. Anni's Attic is a novel all secondary school students must read to advance their understanding of the Civil War era.

V.E.A.R. Toward Success
Mike Caldwell
Trafford Publishing
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington IN 47403
9781425165260, $20.00,

Paul Lappen, Reviewer

This book shows how anyone can achieve their goals in any part of their life.

Vision comes first. For example, it's not enough to simply say to yourself, "I would like to open a cupcake shop." You have to visualize yourself in your shop which is full of customers, you have to dream about it, you practically have to make it part of your inner being. If you aren't totally committed to your goal, whatever it is, then why bother?

Next comes Energy. Visualizing, by itself, is not enough; what are you going to actually do about it? To continue the cupcake shop example, take a hard look at your finances, research the local health and safety requirements, and visit your local bank to start the loan process.

Your Attitude is an important part of reaching any goal. Are you a "glass is half full" or "glass is half empty" type of person? Well-meaning friends, and family members, may gently, or not so gently, question your goal. If you are totally committed to "it," whatever it is, are you going to let anyone steer you away from your goal? Can you look at a vacant, garbage-filled storefront, and visualize a clean, and busy, cupcake shop?

Last, but not least, is Resolve. There will be setbacks. There will be days when it seems like the whole world is conspiring against you, when curling into the fetal position and giving up is very tempting. This is when you find out what you are made of on the inside. Do you have what it takes to keep your focus on your goal, no matter how impossible it may seem?

This book can work with any type of goal, whether it's losing weight, or running an Ironman triathlon. The author may not have intended it, but this book also works as a cautionary tale for anyone who wants to build their own "off the grid" home in the woods (the author gives many examples from his own experiences). The goal may be "green" and noble, but, a seemingly infinite amount of patience and resolve may be needed to get there. On any level, this book is easy to read and follow, and is recommended for everyone.

Raising Wild Ginger
Tara Woolpy
Bats in the Boathouse Press
PO Box 685, Minocqua, WI 54548
9780983203322, $15.00,

Sandra Heptinstall

Sometimes I don't think authors realize how profound their story can be to readers. This is a book of fiction, but also one that can make you cry. I had the pleasure of reading the first book of this series and really enjoyed it. This is an extension of two men from the first book.

Edward and Sam are two gay men who love each other with all their hearts, but Sam feels there is one thing missing in their relationship that would cement them as a family. That is to adopt a child.

Edward was against it at first. It would change their world as they knew it. A child needed a lot of attention and Edward was not sure if he had it in him to give to a child. It was not about the cost of raising a child as Edward was a multi-millionaire. Sam was a professor and made good money himself.

So what was the biggest problem Edward faced? It was the fact that they were both damaged men. While the world was changing and more accepting of gay members were not. Edward at one time had been an alcoholic and drug user. He still went to meetings even thought it had been years since he used or drank. He still had his sponsor to turn to in case he felt like he may slip.

One night Sam asked Edward again about having a baby. Then out of the blue Edward surprised them both by saying yes. What happens is the baby came, but she is twelve years old and has been through hell numerous times. Her name is Ginger.

This book has the potential of reaching some readers who think gay people are scum bags. Of understanding also that there are kids who go through what Ginger has. I know for me that at times I had to take a deep breathe. Three damaged souls become a family. The perfect ending.

Andy's Bookshelf

Rene Girard's Mimetic Theory
Wolfgang Palaver
Michigan State University Press
1405 South Harrison Road, Suite 25
East Lansing, MI 48823-5245
9781611860771, $29.95,

Rene Girard (born December 25, 1923) is a French historian, literary critic, and philosopher of social science. His work belongs to the tradition of anthropological philosophy. He is the author of nearly thirty books, in which he developed the ideas of mimetic desire (all of our desires are borrowed from other people) and mimetic rivalry (all conflict originates in mimetic desire). The scapegoat mechanism is the origin of sacrifice and the foundation of human culture, and religion was necessary in human evolution to control the violence that can come from mimetic rivalry, with the Bible reveals the three previous ideas and denounces the scapegoat mechanism. Rene Girard's writings cover many areas. Although the reception of his work is different in each of these areas, there is a growing body of secondary literature that uses his hypotheses and ideas in the areas of literary criticism, critical theory, anthropology, theology, psychology, mythology, sociology, economics, cultural studies, and philosophy.

Memetics is a theory of mental content based on an analogy with Darwinian evolution, originating from the popularization of Richard Dawkins' 1976 book "The Selfish Gene". It purports to be an approach to evolutionary models of cultural information transfer. The meme, analogous to a gene, was conceived as a "unit of culture" (an idea, belief, pattern of behaviour, etc.) which is "hosted" in one or more individual minds, and which can reproduce itself, thereby jumping from mind to mind. Thus what would otherwise be regarded as one individual influencing another to adopt a belief is seen - when adopting the intentional stance - as an idea-replicator reproducing itself in a new host. As with genetics, particularly under a Dawkinsian interpretation, a meme's success may be due to its contribution to the effectiveness of its host.

The latest addition to the 'Studies in Violence, Mimesis and Culture' series from the Michigan State University Press, "Rene Girard's Mimetic Theory" by Wolfgang Palaver (Professor of Catholic Social Thought and Chair of the Institute for Systematic Theology, University of Innsbruck, Austria) and ably translated into English by Gabriel Borrud is a 424 page compendium addresses Girard's mimetic theory within the framework of significant trends in contemporary thought organized into seven chapters (Life and Work of Rene Girard; Religion and Modernity; Mimetic Desire; The Scapegoat Mechanism as Origin of Culture; Biblical Revelation and Christianity; Political Implications of the Mimetic Theory; Memetic Theory and Gender. Enhanced with the inclusion of a Chronology, extensive notes, an Index of Terms and an Index of Names, "Rene Girard's Mimetic Theory" is a seminal work of painstaking scholarship that is strongly recommended for academic library Philosophy and Literary Criticism reference collections, as well Mimetic Theory Studies supplemental reading lists.

Sustainability: Utilizing Lean Six Sigma Techniques
Tina Agustiady & Adedeji B. Badiru
CRC Press
6000 NW Broken Sound Parkway NW, Suite 300
Boca Raton, FL 33487
9781466514249, $89.95,

Six Sigma is a set of tools and strategies for process improvement originally developed by Motorola in 1986. Six Sigma became well known after Jack Welch made it a central focus of his business strategy at General Electric in 1995, and today it is used in different sectors of industry.

Six Sigma seeks to improve the quality of process outputs by identifying and removing the causes of defects (errors) and minimizing variability in manufacturing and business processes. It uses a set of quality management methods, including statistical methods, and creates a special infrastructure of people within the organization ("Champions", "Black Belts", "Green Belts", "Orange Belts", etc.) who are experts in these very complex methods. Each Six Sigma project carried out within an organization follows a defined sequence of steps and has quantified financial targets (cost reduction and/or profit increase).

The term Six Sigma originated from terminology associated with manufacturing, specifically terms associated with statistical modeling of manufacturing processes. The maturity of a manufacturing process can be described by a sigma rating indicating its yield or the percentage of defect-free products it creates. A six sigma process is one in which 99.99966% of the products manufactured are statistically expected to be free of defects (3.4 defects per million), although, as discussed below, this defect level corresponds to only a 4.5 sigma level. Motorola set a goal of "six sigma" for all of its manufacturing operations, and this goal became a byword for the management and engineering practices used to achieve it.

The latest addition to the outstanding 'Industrial Innovation Series" from CRC Press, "Sustainability: Utilizing Lean Six Sigma Techniques" by the team of Six Sigma experts Tina Agustiady and Adedeji B. Badiru is a 258 page compendium focusing on the application of Six Sigma methodology as a viable path for achieving corporate goals of sustainability. Of special note is its attention to reducing waste and defects with Kaizen and 5S processes, as well as the importance of engagement and education in the workforce. Detailed, informed and informative, "Sustainability: Utilizing Lean Six Sigma Techniques" will prove invaluable and a welcome contribution to corporate and academic library 'Manufacturing/Industrial Engineering' reference collections and supplemental Six Sigma curriculum reading lists.

Interdisciplinary Interaction Design
James Pannafino
Assiduous Publishing
9780982634813, $11.99,

In design, human - computer interaction, and software development, also known as 'interaction design' is about shaping digital things for people's use, and is alternately defined as being the practice of designing interactive digital products, environments, systems, and services. Like many other design fields interaction design also has an interest in form but its main focus is on behavior. What clearly marks interaction design as a design field as opposed to a science or engineering field is that it is synthesis and imagining things as they might be, more so than focusing on how things are. Interaction design is heavily focused on satisfying the needs and desires of the people who will use the product. Whereas other disciplines like software engineering have a heavy focus on designing for technical stakeholders of a project. "Interdisciplinary Interaction Design: A Visual Guide to Basic Theories, Models and Ideas for Thinking and Designing for Interactive Web Design and Digital Device Experiences" by academician James Pannafino (Art and Design Department, Millersville University, Pennsylvania) is an illustrated, 108 page compendium that offers the reader concise descriptions, visual metaphors and comparative diagrams to explain each thematically relevant Interactional Design term's meaning, as well as Interactional Design concepts based on timeless principles that will function in varying contexts. An impressive and seminal work, "Interdisciplinary Interaction Design: A Visual Guide to Basic Theories, Models and Ideas for Thinking and Designing for Interactive Web Design and Digital Device Experiences" is especially recommended for academic library reference collections and the supplemental reading lists for web designers and anyone involved with interface designs to be incorporated into new media electronic devices.

Krampus Greeting Cards
Last Gasp
777 Florida Street, San Francisco CA 94110
SCB Distributors (distributor)
15608 South New Century Drive
Gardena, CA 90248-2129
9780867197785, $19.95,

Krampus is a beast-like creature from the folklore of Alpine countries thought to punish children during the Yule season who had misbehaved, in contrast with Saint Nicholas, who rewards well-behaved ones with gifts. Krampus is said to capture particularly naughty children in his sack and carry them away to his lair. Krampus is represented as a beast-like creature, generally demonic in appearance. The creature has roots in Germanic folklore, however its influence has spread far beyond German borders. Traditionally young men dress up as the Krampus in Austria, southern Bavaria, South Tyrol, northern Friuli, Hungary, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, the Slovak Republic and Croatia during the first week of December, particularly on the evening of 5 December (the eve of Saint Nicholas day on many church calendars), and roam the streets frightening children with rusty chains and bells. Krampus is featured on holiday greeting cards called Krampuskarten. There are many names for Krampus, as well as many regional variations in portrayal and celebration. Last Gasp has produced a colorful collection of 30 Krampus themed cards that includes ten with vintage designs and twenty 'devilish' greeting cards. Of special note is that this outstanding and unique card collection is housed in a sturdy metal box making it an ideal gift.

Andy Jordan

Applegate's Bookshelf

Treasury of Great Cat Stories
Edited by Roger Caras, 1928-2001
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, 3rd floor
NY, NY 10014-3657
9780883657638, $19.95,

We often tag people who love cats and/or live with cats as "cat people." Read A Feline Felony, one of the 35 short stories in this book, and you may add to your definition of "cat people." I'll let you decide what the definition might be, but I recommend reading that story and the others in this wonderful anthology.

This Treasury of Great Cat Stories has been among my "keeper" books - as opposed to those I will give to my local library - since the early 90s. And I have read most of the stories more than once, and some are among my favorites. Every story in this anthology well within Caras' description - great cat stories. They are all great, but I do have some favorites:

A Feline Favorite: (Lael J. Littke) . . . I mentioned this above, and have always found its wry humor amusing.

When in Doubt - Wash: (Paul Gallico) . . . This is one of my favorites, for its unique story, the humanity of its feline characters, the glorious gift of description that Paul Gallico has in making us part of this experience. Calvin, The Cat (Charles Dudley Warner) . . . This is the beautiful and touching story of the life - and death - of Calvin, a cat whose "...character was so uncommon and his qualities were so worthy of imitation that I (the author) have been asked by those who personally knew him to set down my recollections of his career."

The Cyprian Cat (Dorothy L. Sayers). . . This is one of the stories which allows me to include this book among mystery reviews. Read this tale carefully to follow the ins and outs of a mystery which inspires a character to remark that "It's funny that one should be hanged for shooting at a cat." The King of the Cats (Stephen Vincent Benet) . . . If you like classical music, cats, the theater, and a rousing good tale of romance and wealth, you will certainly be entertained by this story that has, in addition to all the aforementioned goings-on, features an orchestra leader who conducts with his tail.

All told, as noted earlier, there are 35 authors included in Roger Caras' collection of tales, many of them well-known names of impressive literary renown, names such as Edgar Allan Poe, Mark Twain, Rudyard Kipling and P. G. Wodehouse, in addition to those already mentioned. The stories these authors have offered to us as readers are as varied as are breeds of cats, or the people who live with them and love them.

Here is how Roger Caras explains, in his introduction to his Treasury of Great Cat Stories, the popularity of domestic cats of every description, those from the best breeders or those of undetermined lineage:

Cats are not only lovely to behold and dear to have as friends, but they are ideal in size, do not require exercise at a time when a great many people just don't like to walk around at night, and they are not expensive to feed.

Where can you find this book?

Treasury of Great Cat Stories is available as a paperback through Barnes and Noble, at varying prices, starting at $0.25. For a mere quarter of a buck, this anthology can provide hours and hours of entertaining reading while you sit on your sofa tickling your cat's cheeks.

You can also find it at, both in hardback and paperback and collectible versions, starting at a penny for a paperback. A good deal for a great book.

Reviewer's note: I showed this book to one of my cats, who was impressed to see that his picture was featured on the book jacket. His sweet black and white face and bronze eyes represent the best of his kind - the cat.

If you are among the millions of cat lovers, this is your book.

Mysterious Cat Stories
Editors, John R. Stephens, Kim Smith
Carroll & Graf
c/o Avalon Publishing Group
245 West 17th Street, 11th floor
New York, NY 10011-5300
0881849480, $4.49,

Mysterious Cat Stories, an anthology edited by John Richard Stephens and Kim Smith

"Mysterious Cat Stories" has been on my bookshelf for years. Its first publication date as an anthology is 1993, and it's been in my possession since then. The collected stories themselves are written by different authors at different times, some fairly recent, some centuries old.

As is almost a requirement in a good anthology, and is handled particularly well in "Mysterious Cat Stories," each leads off with an explanation of some interesting tidbit about it, or the author, or the time period in which it was written. Or all of the above. Don't skip over these; they are worth reading in themselves, and will add a good deal to your enjoyment of the book.

Here is a sampling of the titles and writers you will find waiting for you:

Beware the Cat,1553: by William Baldwin (ca. 1518 - 1563?) as rewritten by John Richard Stephens

Don Quixote and the Cat Demons,1605:by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

The Ghostly visitations to a Georgia Farmhouse, 1891: From the San Francisco "Examiner"

The Empty Sleeve, 1911: by Algernon Blackwood

The Last Temptation of Tony the C.,1992: Christopher Fahy

Weekend of the Big Puddle, 1988: Lillian Jackson Braun

As you would expect from the book's title, each story in the collection has a cat as a character, and in most cases, the cat is the central character. You won't find ordinary cats in these tales; these are cats who are supernatural, who talk, who change from feline to human or the reverse, who are diabolical, and who can control events in unexpected ways.

With 26 authors telling 26 tales, the stories are varied in voice and style, but each is entertaining, some are horrifying, all are memorable; they will call you back to your bookshelf again and again. "Mysterious Cat Stories" is available through as a hardcover, for $4.49 new and $0.01 for used. I hope that cat lovers and mystery lovers who have a penny to spare will hasten to order this book.

I reread several stories before I wrote this. I just opened the book and started reading, and again found myself lost in another universe. The book got excellent Amazon reviews, so I'm certainly not the only one who thoroughly enjoys being amused and frightened simultaneously.

After I finished reading the stories last evening, still in thrall of one of the supernatural tales, I saw my two cats sitting beside my chair, serenely gazing at me. As I looked into the depths of their eyes, I recalled a couple of sentences that conclude the story "Beware the Cat":

Therefore let us live openly so that, even though our cat has access to all our secrets, she will not have anything to declare against us, save what is good and just. And wherever thou goest, be mindful of this proverb: Beware the Cat.

As I and the two enigmatic felines observed one another, I wondered aloud, "What are you guys thinking?" For the briefest instant, I expected an answer. That's what a well-written, engrossing tale can do. The 26 "Mysterious Cat Tales" in this anthology will grab you, and you may have a hard time getting away. And don't let your cat see what you're reading.

Reviewers note: I've just looked up some statistics on cat ownership in this country, and found that nobody really knows how many "owned" (domesticated)cats there are in this country; the ASPCA says 43 million, the Humane Society claims 86.4 million. I've shared my life with cats for as long as I can remember. And it's good to know that there are so many others who know the joys of having a cat for a confidante . . . .

Marcia K. Applegate, Reviewer

Bethany's Bookshelf

Tracks in the Snow
Sandra H. Esch
Lamp Post Inc.
9781600391910 $9.00

Set in a small Minnesota town in the early 1940's, Tracks in the Snow is a powerful novel about a widowed single mother and her efforts to look after herself and her daughter. Jo Bremley lost her beloved husband Case not to the ravages of World War II, but to the unfortunate choices that her husband's best friend Tryg Howland made, on a fateful and snowy night. Now, while Tryg earns a respectable living at his law practice and is hailed as a war hero by the entire town, Jo's day-to-day efforts doing laundry for scant money are barely enough to feed herself and her seven-year-old daughter - she can't even afford to buy her grieving little one a special Christmas present. In the wake of devastating loss, how can Jo find peace with herself, let alone comfort her child? Yet Jo and her daughter are not the only ones who suffer; Tryg must also carry the bitter knowledge of his role in Case's death for the rest of his life. An emotionally moving novel about coming to grips with tragedy, featuring three-dimensional characters who are not beyond flaw, but simply trying to persevere as best they can, Tracks in the Snow is profound and thought-provoking to the last page. Highly recommended.

7 Days 60 Minutes Japanese
Kota Aramaki & Chie Tanaka
9784990563806 $6.99

7 Days 60 Minutes Japanese is not a standard Japanese textbook or a phrasebook; instead, it is a user-friendly resource specifically designed to help English speakers quickly learn enough "survival Japanese" to carry out the most essential communication needed while visiting Japan. Naturally, only polite expressions are used and taught. The focus is squarely on swiftly assimilating spoken Japanese, not the hiragana, katakana, or kanji writing systems; all the Japanese vocabulary words are romanized. Chapters include instruction in the basics of Japanese pronunciation; commonly used sentence patterns and phrases; helpful tips; brief lists of the most used and needed words for certain situations (such as the foods one might encounter in a Japanese restaurant); and a compact English to Japanese vocabulary. 7 Days 60 Minutes Japanese lives up to its title, and is an absolute "must-have" for any businessperson or tourist about to travel to the Land of the Rising Sun!

Not Ready For Granny Panties
Mary Fran Bontempo
9781456609290, $12.95,

No one wants to wear oversized underwear if they can help it. "Not Ready for Granny Panties: The 11 Commandments for Avoiding Granny Panties" is an inspirational book for aging women. Author Mary Fran Bontempo encourages women to keep living their lives to the fullest, even as their birthday cakes gather more and more wax! "Not Ready for Granny Panties" is a humorous and very much recommended addition to self-help collections, not to be missed.

Shakespeare Suppressed
Katherine Chiljan
Faire Editions
9780982940549, $35.00,

The legend of William Shakespeare is very much a legend in itself. "Shakespeare Suppressed: The Uncensored Truth about Shakespeare and his Works" is discusses the history of the man himself, or what may have been two men. An actor who floated through London companies who bore the name by birth, and the noblemen who took his name as a pseudonym, in a calculated ruse. An enticing look at literary history and assumed conclusions, "Shakespeare Suppressed" is a must for history and literary studies collections, recommended.

Sand Dollar Seven
James Bennett
9781621417040, $15.95,

The classics of literature used the poem to tell their tale, a style that has fallen by the wayside. "Sand Dollar Seven" uses the epic poem to tell a story of romance and mystery, bringing the format of the past to the modern day. Blending verse with thoughtful illustrations throughout, "Sand Dollar Seven" is well worth considering for those who want a unique take on suspense and poetry, and how they can meet, recommended.

Common Ground, Uncommon Gifts
Barbara A. Meyers
Balboa Press
c/o AuthorHouse
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781452551708, $17.99,

The natural world holds much wisdom on the way of things. "Common Ground, Uncommon Gifts: Growing Peace and Harmony" is a spiritual guide from Barbara A. Meyers as she touches on many things we know, drawing form Native American philosophy to offer ideas on finding joy and laughter as we seek it in our lives. "Common Ground, Uncommon Gifts" is a must for spirituality and reference collections, not to be missed.

David Uerkvitz
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781467979610, $18.95,

In the infancy of human civilization, the struggle for survival roars strongly. "Adin" is a novel set in the early days of humanity. Adin must take up his grandfather's mantle as the Scythians raid his clan, and he must help Dahig stand against them. With the fear of sorcery throughout, he sees the city he must build as key in making it all come together. "Adin" is a fine pick for anyone seeking a story of the dawn of civilization, highly recommended.

CJ Reid
9781477594957, $7.99,

The thrill of the race, going against the law where one mistake could be fatal. "Rush: SR Chronicles" is the first book in CJ Reid's novel of dirty street racing, following Dylan Kelly, a Midwestern girl diving into the underground world of the Femme Fatles Racing Club. Competing in the club not only for position but for dominance, "Rush: SR Chronicles" is worth considering for those who like thrillers set amongst fast cars and allure that sits behind them. Also to be considered from CJ Reid is the sequel, "Rush: California Nights" (9781479378944, $7.99) following Dylan Kelly's continued adventures in the racing club.

The Sunflower Principle
Donna Austin
Inspiring Voices
c/o AuthorHouse
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781462402786, $11.99,

A simple flower is a simple pleasure that can take us so very far. "The Sunflower Principle: Life Lessons From a Simple Flower" is an inspirational tale from Donna Austin, as she shares her own tale of facing divorce and the weight of an empty nest after so many years. With poignancy, humor, and plenty to consider, "The Sunflower Principle" has much to consider for those who are seeking to age gracefully and enjoy the simple pleasures of their lives.

The Miracle Inspector
Helen Smith
Tyger Books
9780956517050, $12.99,

Where are cannot flourish, people do not want to be. "The Miracle Inspector" is a novel set in a near future dystopian England, following a young couple trying to escape London which has been cut off from the rest of the country. Facing many challenges in their flight, "The Miracle Inspector" is well worth considering for readers who want a novel of a bleak future and how people cope with such things, very much recommended.

Susan Bethany

Buhle's Bookshelf

The Traveler
Suthep Srikureja, author
Denys Blacker, illustrator
Metta Visions Co., Ltd.
24, 26 Soi Yak Siripot
Kwang Suanluang, Khet Suanluang
Bangkok 10250, Thailand
9786169051428, $9.95,

Metta Visions is an independent publisher of art books and fiction in electronic and limited edition print forms who works closely with their writers, poets and artist so that the final creation is as close as possible to its original vision as conceived by its creators. Such is the case with "The Traveler", deftly written by Suthep Srikureja and superbly illustrated in black-and-white by Denys Blacker. "The Traveler" is a 32 page compendium composed of the left-hand page showcasing a poetic and metaphysical commentary paired with a mystic image on the right-hand page. An impressive collaboration, "The Traveler" is highly recommended for the non-specialist general reader with an interest in thoughtful and thought-provoking contemplations triggered by the shared pairing of words and images.

Death Goes Postal
Rosemary & Larry Mild
Magic Island Literary Works
c/o Maryglenn McCombs (publicity)
2817 West End Avenue, Suite 126-274
Nashville, TN 37203
9780983859710 $14.95

Award-winning husband-and-wife team Larry and Rosemary Mild present Death Goes Postal: A Dan & Rivka Sherman Mystery, a whodunnit featuring a pair of amateur sleuths unexpectedly thrust into a difficult situation. Daniel and Rivka Sherman have both left behind professional careers to run The Olde Victorian Bookstore. But the struggle over a set of mysterious fifteenth-century typesetting artifacts has left a trail of mugging, robbery, kidnapping, and murder. The Shermans rack their brains seeking to identify the suspect before he wreaks even more havoc - and the chase will lead them past both virtual and real worlds, from a young man's term paper to the U.S. mail, the FBI, and Scotland Yard. But the perpetrator is ruthless and practiced at ensnaring victims - could Daniel or Rivka be next? A suspenseful read from cover to cover, Death Goes Postal is a treat for fans of tangled mysteries.

The Bible According to Grandpa
Jordan Bernstein
Adventure in Discovery
18011 North Ocean Boulevard
Jupiter, Florida 33477
9780974341439, $6.50,

Faith can be sometimes difficult to fully understand. "The Bible According to Grandpa" is a study of Jewish faith and religion as author and grandfather Jordan Bernstein attempts to explain the many Biblical concepts to young readers. Insightful, "The Bible According to Grandpa" is a fine addition to Judaic studies collections for youths.

Teaching Your Child About God in a Scientific World
Edward Correia
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781478153337, $10.99,

Faith does not have to oppose science. "Teaching Your Child About God in a Scientific World" is a Christian parenting guide from Edward Correia as he presents how to teach about faith and science in today's world and keeping faith strong in an increasingly secular world. With much to consider on faith and living, "Teaching Your Child About God in a Scientific World" is a must for Christian parents who don't want to deny education.

Stay In Your Own Lane
Betty Ferguson
Balboa Press
c/o AuthorHouse
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781452544069, $11.99,

Our path through life should flow easily and more completely. "Stay In Your Own Lane: Pre-Paving a Smooth Path for Yourself Using the Principles of the Law of Attraction" is an inspirational guide from Betty Ferguson as she touches on how to push ourselves further and find the life as we want to know and love it. "Stay In Your Own Lane" is a strongly recommended addition to self-help collections, not to be missed.

Astrology of the 13 Signs of the Zodiac
Vasilis Kanatas
Klaudios Ptolemaios Publications
c/o Smith Publicity
1930 E Marlton Pike, Suite I-46
Cherry Hill, NJ 08003
9789549272512 $17.99

Astrology of the 13 Signs of the Zodiac offers a new theory of Western Astrology designed to make it compatible with the science of Astronomy. (The new sign is Ophiuchus; it comes between Scorpio and Sagittarius). Chapters outline a perspective of the Moon - a celestial body that is much closer to us and has a greater effect on our daily lives than faraway constellations - as the Ascendant. Sunspots also play a greater role in this new astrological method, designed to correct imbalances such as those that come simply from the constellations slowly shifting position in the sky ever since ancient times. A wealth of black-and-white illustrations complement this methodical walkthrough of a new way for gleaning metaphysical wisdom from the night sky.

The Complicity Doctrine
M. M. Frick
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781479222070, $12.95,

To get to their goals, laws are something to be worked around. "The Complicity Doctrine" is a thriller following international intelligence analyst Casey Shenk digs deep into a conspiracy that spans much of the government that is working beyond simple law and order. "The Complicity Doctrine" has plenty of twists and turns that should keep readers reading all the way through.

The Randomness of Life
Marilyn Warda
Fathers Press
9781622870066, $28.95,

Mental diseases often seek to take the very essence of our being from us. "The Randomness of Life" is a novel exploring the diseases that often bring early death and death of the mind, focusing on Huntington's, Alzheimer's, and Parkinson's, telling the story of many sufferers of these disorders and how they embrace the last few years of their life by remembering love and living. "The Randomness of Life" is a strong addition to general fiction collections, not to be missed.

Three Truths and a Lie
Graham E. Fuller
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
978147927314, $14.95,

Life can be short, but that doesn't mean there joy to be had. "Three Truths and a Lie" is a memoir of Graham E. Fuller as he tells the story of his son Luke, an adopted Korean child who struggles with life up until his premature death at 21. Fuller struggles with his son's loss of life and how to better understand it all. "Three Truths and a Lie" is a strong addition to memoir collections focused on parental loss.

Mary E. Trimble
Shelter Graphics
9780615667942, $15.95,

The Peace Corps often come with very noble goals, but the sacrifice is often great. "Tubob" is a memoir from Mary E. Trimble as she recounts her two years with her husband as a newlywed couple working in West Africa. The chaos of the region struck, and the new couple struggle to survive and get by. Recounting her journey, "Tubob" is a memoir that is very much worth considering, highly recommended.

Winston Aarons
c/o AuthorHouse
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781462061440, $13.95,

We have it all, until it leaves us behind. "Jasmine" is a novel following Sor, a man losing control of his world and starts to struggle to put it all back together, the damage of an affair becoming very real and very serious. Insightful and will resonate with very many readers, "Jasmine" is thoughtful and reading that is well worth considering, highly recommended.

Willis M. Buhle

Burroughs' Bookshelf

Flowering: J. Krishnamurti
Michael Mendizza
Krishnamurti Foundation of America
c/o SCB Distributors
15608 South New Century Drive
Gardena, CA 90248-2129
9781934989227, $19.95,

Jiddu Krishnamurti (May 11, 1895 - February 17, 1986) was an Indian born speaker and writer on philosophical and spiritual subjects, and was widely considered as a World Teacher. His subject matter included: psychological revolution, the nature of mind, meditation, inquiry, human relationships, and bringing about radical change in society. He constantly stressed the need for a revolution in the psyche of every human being and emphasized that such revolution cannot be brought about by any external entity, be it religious, political, or social. "Flowering: J. Krishnamurti" by Michael Mendizza is a 73 page compendium comprised of exquisitely beautiful photography showcased with succinct Krishnamurit quotations. This coffee table volume is enhanced with the inclusion of an succinctly informed and informative Foreword by Evelyne Blau, a dedicated student of Krishnamurti writings and Trustee of the Krishnamurti Foundation of America. Simply stated, "Flowering: J. Krishnamurti" will prove to be an inspiring read for the legions of Krishnaurti enthusiasts and would prove to be a welcome and appropriate memorial gift acquisition for community and academic libraries.

Fun and Games on Campus
Robert V. Iosue PhD
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781475250725 $12.99

Fun and Games on Campus and How College Presidents Earn Their Big Dollars is a lighthearted, true-life memoir from Robert V. Iosue, former president of York University in Pennsylvania, about the trials and tribulations of running an institution of higher learning. An insider's look into day-to-day dealings with stubborn and all too often selfish students, intransigent bureaucrats, endless lawsuits, meddlesome alumni associations, cash-strapped parents and much more, Fun and Games on Campus flows like an anthology of believe-it-or-not stories, and is sure to provoke a chuckle or two. Fun and Games on Campus is especially recommended as a tell-it-like-it-is, absolute must-read for anyone considering a career in college administration. Highly recommended.

The Now Golfer
Dr. Preston Waddington with Don Lay
Privately Published
9781477426081 $19.95

Featuring a foreword by British Open Champion Stewart Cink, The Now Golfer: The Psychology of Better Golf is a solid guide for improving one's golf game through learning how to keep a tranquil mind. Although the basics of golfing form are touched upon, The Now Golfer is primarily about the mental game of golf, and therefore ideal for players who are already comfortable with the sport's basics. "Focus your Mind and body on the Practice Swing so that you are aware of nothing but the Practice Swing. The more you turn the swinging process over to your body, the better off you are. That is the essence of giving yourself up to your Single Moment in Time." Author Preston Waddington has shared his advice with a multitude of professional golfers; now he makes his wisdom readily available, in this excellent giftbook for avid golf enthusiasts.

The Green Grass
Bibi K.
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
Bohlsen Group (publicity)
9781477248768 $14.95

Based on the first-hand accounts and experiences of author Bibi K., a former native of Guyana who now lives in the U.S., The Green Grass is the saga of the sacrifices an immigrant single mother has to make in America. Once affluent, now she must work as a live-in housekeeper to earn her green card and pursue her dream of being reunited with her family. She dearly misses her former life, her parents, her siblings, and especially her two children. Narrated in first-person, The Green Grass is an eye-opening window into the difficulties of learning to adapt and persevere as a stranger in a strange land, isolated from loved ones. Highly recommended.

Heartbreaks and Cupcakes
Jennifer Grim & Sarah Bradley
Privately Published
9780615524696, $11.95,

Betrayal can be so very hard to recover from. "Heartbreaks and Cupcakes: Living, Laughing, and Moving on After Infidelity" is a guide to better coping with the growing occurrence of adultery in today's society, and how to deal with the situations on a higher level. Encouraging readers to pick up the pieces and go on again, and move on to the next fish in the sea, "Heartbreaks and Cupcakes" is well worth considering for those wounded by love and struggling to move on.

A Flying Start
Cederick Tardy
Privately Published
c/o News & Experts (publicity)
3478 Turman Loop, Suite 101
Wesley Chapel, FL 33544
9780979230134, $20.00,

As we enter adult life, we seek to drive ourselves and set ourselves on the course for a good future. "A Flying Start: Outta This World Advice for Young Men" is an inspirational self-help guide to getting that first push off into adult life as Cederick Tardy presents plenty of wise advice on flourishing as a young man in the world and how to set out to change your life and the world in the process. "A Flying Start" is a strong addition to inspirational collections, recommended.

Never Give In To Fear
Marti MacGibbon
Stay Strong Publishing
9780986006708, $15.95,

We make many mistakes in our life, and if we can laugh at them, we got the best of it. "Never Give In To Fear: Laughing All the Way Up from Rock Bottom" is a memoir of life and living from Marti MacGibbon as she shares her life of world travel and bad ideas, spaced through anecdotes, dealing with her own demons and finding the light at the end of the tunnel to pursue. "Never Give In To Fear" is a fine pick and much worth considering for memoir and humor collections.

The Bones and the Book
Jane Isenberg
Oconee Spirit Press
9780984010929, $14.95,

Our story has been told before, in the lives that came before us. "The Bones and the Book" is a novel following Rachel Mazursky as she uncovers a book written in Yiddsh buried under her New York home. Translating it, she learns much about the woman who wrote it and how her struggles did much to mirror her own. "The Bones and the Book" is an insightful read of history and our personal connection to it, much recommended.

Building Heaven on Earth
Dwight Webb
c/o AuthorHouse
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781475913385, $13.95,

What is human often comes from within. "Building Heaven on Earth: Claiming Our Human Spirit" is an inspirational read from Dwight Webb, as he seeks to encourage people to point out their own path in their journey through life, pick up what they seek, and find their unshakeable belief in their life. "Building Heaven on Earth" Is a must for general spirituality and reference collections, highly recommended.

The Vessel
Rita Kempley
Birthright Publishing
9780985901028, $11.99,

Death is merely an inconvenience. "The Vessel" is a science fiction thriller following Margaret Hughes, a neurologist who runs a life-extension center where she transfers minds into younger bodies, allowing them to live much longer. When her father needs a transfer, she has to deal with a fanatical group who sees her practice as defying God. "The Vessel" explores the nature of such technologies and spins them into an enticing tale.

Esmahan Aykol
Bitter Lemon Press
9781905524041, $14.95,

When you want to be more than a pretty wife, you may have to go above and beyond the call of duty. "Baksheesh" is a mystery following Kati Hirschel, a Turkish wife of a powerful lawyer who runs a store specializing in mystery books. With characters all around her putting the pressure on her, she pushes herself to keep her independence, until her interest becomes her business in more than one way. "Baksheesh" is a strongly recommended pick for lovers of international mystery, highly recommended.

The Deerslayer Spiral
Jonathan Mark Bruce
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781468572742, $23.95,

Trying to get to bottom of a crime grows exponentially more difficult when you can't trust your own mind. "The Deerslayer Spiral" is a mystery novel with a psychological edge, following Ethan Compton as he tries to get to the bottom of a plague of murders throughout the town. A lawyer, his own investigation of the case may grow difficult, as he may need to contact a mind-control expert who will turn his world upside down. "The Deerslayer Spiral" is well worth considering for mystery collections, much recommended.

John Burroughs

Carson's Bookshelf

The 9/11 Project, second edition
Donovan H. Myrie
Privately Published
9781467943550 $24.99

Now in an updated second edition, The 9/11 Project: A Journalist's Perspective is an immense compendium information about the September 11th terrorist attacks against the United States that claimed nearly three thousand innocent lives. Eschewing speculation or theories in order to emphasize facts above all, The 9/11 Project is filled with data about the attacks and their casualties, the makeup of Al-Qaida, the subsequent war in Afghanistan, the creation of memorials, and much more. "So what exactly did Osama bin Laden have against the U.S.? Well, in very simple terms, he denounced Western influences on the world including the fact that Americans honor secular religious activities, openly discuss sex, and encourage individual choices that weaken traditional male authority. Bin Laden was particularly angry because of the Gulf War... he and his supporters were cast aside by the Saudi government in their struggle against Saddam Hussein's Iraqi forces in favor of aid from America. After the Gulf War, the U.S. established a strong military presence in Saudi Arabia which further enraged bin Laden." Because the 9/11 Project presents a solid wealth of information in plain English, it's an invaluable addition to private and public library Terrorism Studies shelves.

The Cathar View
Dave Patrick
Polair Publishing
PO Box 34886
London, UK W8 6YR
9781905398287 $19.95

The Cathar View: The Mysterious Legacy of Montsegur collects essays from twenty-five learned contributors, including a memoir of Arthur Guirdham, about the Cathars, a splinter sect of mainstream Christianity that was horrifically persecuted and exterminated in medieval times. Also covered is the faith's modern revival as neo-Catharism, and its interplay with the occult. An inset section of almost fifty color photographs illustrates this eclectic and multifaceted examination of a profound religious tradition, which explores with the tenets of the Cathars have to say about both mundane and spiritual life today. Highly recommended.

Radical Feminist in a Topless Band
Carol Newman
Privately Published
9781451545999, $9.99,

The sixties and seventies were a time a change, and a confusing time to grow up in. "Radical Feminist in a Topless Band" is a memoir of Carol Newman, who shares her unusual path through life in all of its pain and struggles with her own demons, and her time with a topless band in the explosion of social revolution in the sixties and seventies. "Radical Feminist in a Topless Band" is an insightful read of life and living through chaotic times.

Some Are Sicker Than Others
Andrew Seaward
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
c/o Westwind Communications (publicity)
9781478278023, $13.95,

Sickness can mean many things, as our life crumbles under us. "Some Are Sicker Than Others" is a novel of facing the many types of sickness, in the mind, in the body. Monty Miller wants to die, and has chosen drugs as his method of suicide. His family attempts to thwart his attempts with rehab, and his self-destructive tendencies go further. When he meets a man with responsibility for the death of his wife, he is faced with a question of what has he done, and what he can do for justice for his lost love. "Some Are Sicker Than Others" is a psychological thriller that will be hard to down, highly recommended.

The Corin Chronicles
Marvin Amazon
Corinthians Publishing
9780957298514, $14.99,

Violence of Gods takes many lives with every attack. "The Corin Chronicles: The Light and the Dark" is a fantasy from Marvin Amazon, who presents a conflict on an intergalactic tale between Auphora and Baran, father and son, and their civil war that will claim the galaxy. Spinning out of his mythos, it tells a personal story of a planet trying to survive the aftershock of this violence, "The Corin Chronicles" may be worth considering for fans of fantasy.

The Serpent's Seed
David Maring
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781478138730, $17.45,

A holy grail of discovery. "The Serpent's Seed" follows archeologist William Weston, as he may find his legacy defining discovery, finding evidence of Enoch, the fabled city built by the Biblical Cain. But growing international tensions threaten his search, and there may be more on the line than the advancement and discovery of greater knowledge. "The Serpent's Seed" is a strong addition to thriller collections.

P. J. Tierney
c/o AuthorHouse
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781475929294, $32.95,

Fundamentalism often pushes toward conflict. "Theocracy: Can Democracy Survive Fundamentalism?" analyzes the rise in religious fundamentalism and its impact on democracy and international relations. P. J. Tierney separates traditional Christian belief from the growing threat of Fundamentalism in America, and the tug of war that tips America between a theocracy and democracy. Touching on the history and the power behind the religious power, "Theocracy: Can Democracy Survive Fundamentalism?" is an insightful and much recommended addition to political and religious studies collections.

Surfing the Rainbow
Sue Johnson
Compass Books
c/o O-Books
9781780998695, $14.95,

Keeping up the spirit is vital when faced with a writing project. "Surfing the Rainbow: Visualization and Chakra Balancing for Writers" is a spiritual inspiration for writers as Sue Johnson advises writers to capture their chakra, explore their potential for creativity and find their path until they hit their stride, maximizing their potential. "Surfing the Rainbow" is a must for spirituality collections, with an extra nod to writers.

Heaven or Hell
Roni Teson
Balboa Press
c/o AuthorHouse
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781452554983, $20.99,

Sometimes to appreciate the best, you have to see the worst. "Heaven or Hell" is a novel following several people as they face the tragedies of life, and move towards the light at the end of the tunnel. Uplifting stories that should resonate with many a reader, "Heaven or Hell" is a strong addition to faith-driven fiction collections, recommended.

All About Israel
Mal'akya Constance
Tenacity Design & Publicity
PO Box 83567, Phoenix, AZ 85071-3567
9780978758738, $14.95,

Israel has been a hot topic of the past century, but few truly understand the country and its meaning. "All About Israel: The Bible and Religion From God's Perspective" discusses the Biblical writings surrounding the land of Israel, its connection to the Jewish faith, the history surrounding the land, and other intriguing facts. Offering an insightful take on the topic from a perspective of abiding faith, "All About Israel" is a strong addition to religious collections.

Michael J. Carson

Christy's Bookshelf

Another F-word
Lissa Brown
Amazon Digital Services
B00AXEA1LQ, $6.99 Kindle,

Ruth and Darrell Wilson are excited at the birth of their son Rory, but as little Rory grows, his father is bothered that his son's interests aren't in line with his perceived notion of those of other boys. Darrell tries to force Rory to participate in sports activities and doesn't hold back on criticizing and degrading him when he doesn't show interest. Ruth, trying hard to accept that Rory is different, demands a divorce from Darrell due to his treatment of their son. Things are better for Rory at home but school is torment because of the bullying he receives. As Rory matures, he excels at science and meets others who help him understand he is not alone. As he enters college, he begins to find friendship and acceptance and is able to acknowledge and stand up for who he is.

Lissa Brown does an excellent job portraying the challenges gay boys face as they grow up and become men as well as those of a loving parent trying to understand and accept their offspring. She realistically depicts the rejection, bullying and outright hate gays and lesbians face and shows how family dynamics can influence the adults they will become. This is a story teenagers and adults would benefit from reading as it reveals the perspective of a gay person dealing with a rejecting parent and bullying from peers, as well as their inner and outer struggle to recognize their own self-worth.

Forever Young: Blessing or Curse (Always Young Trilogy)
Morgan Mandel
Choice One Publishing Co.
B006MO28CQ, $2.99, Kindle,

Dorrie Donato doesn't think things can get much worse after her husband is killed by a hit-and-run driver but then she loses her job. To her rescue comes her husband's former employer, Roman Remington, called the Angel Man, who offers Dorrie a job which she finds a bit bizarre. She is presented the opportunity to be the first human subject for a forever young pill which will change middle-aged Dorrie back to the age of her choice and offer her the chance to remain at that age forever without health issues. Overwhelmed by bills, 55-year-old Dorrie agrees and her body is documented as she becomes younger and younger until she reaches her desired age of 24. Dorrie becomes something of a celebrity and embarks on a cross-country tour to promote the pill, along with the Angel Man who continually pressures Dorrie about the location of her husband's iPhone. Dorrie, who has the iPhone safely hidden in her safety deposit box as a remembrance of him, eventually begins to think that her husband's mysterious death may be tied to the very pill that's made her young and beautiful again.

Mandel has built an intriguing cast of characters, both nefarious and virtuous, around a fascinating concept. Dorrie is a woman who is somewhat naive surrounded by men who offer her a caring facade but their interest in her is anything but. And when Dorrie finally realizes this and sets out on her own, it seems the whole country is after her with her life at stake if she is caught.

Book one of the Always Young Trilogy is written in a unique style, as something of a cross between a cozy mystery and suspenseful thriller. The ending will leave readers anxious for the next book in the series, hoping to find out if Dorrie escapes her predicament and whether or not she chooses to discontinue taking the pills that keep her young.

Celia H. Miles
Infinity Publishing
c/o Buy Books On The Web
1094 New Dehaven Street, #100
West Conshohocken, PA 19428-2713
0741435187, $13.95,

This epic tale chronicles the life of Sarranda Hensley who grows up in the mountains of Western North Carolina during the 1800s, secure in the love of her grandfather but with a father who is distant and mother who doesn't have time for her. Sarranda is fascinated with her grandfather's grist mill and loves to read poetry but times are hard and she barely has time for either. When Sarranda is very young, her father heads West to mine for gold and is never heard from again, leaving Sarranda, her mother and brothers to eke out a living from their scraggly farm. Sarranda marries at a young age only to lose her husband to the Civil War and is left with two young boys to raise. As the war rages on, Sarranda and her mother face many hardships and Sarranda becomes hardened by life save for one night spent with a stranger who strikes a bright flare in Sarranda's heart.

Celia Miles realistically depicts the turbulent times surrounding the Civil War and the bitter division between the North and South and conflicts within families over which side to fight for. There is much pain and hardship surrounding Sarranda, a woman who is not prone to show or express love yet feels deeply. Historical detail is fascinating, the dialogue is realistic and the characters are interesting. Miles shows a propensity for pulling her reader into a story that is well-written and entertaining.

Six Pack of Blood
Betty Dravis and Barbara Watkins
Cave Girl Productions
B007Q7FG68, $2.99 Kindle,

Six Pack of Blood contains six vignettes, three by Dravis and three by Watkins. The manner in which they create horrific tales in a short-story tableau speaks to each author's prolific creativity. Their terrifying stories are filled with malevolence and blood, greed and corruption. Readers may find this horror anthology reminiscent of the works of Rod Serling and his Twilight Zone.

Kurt Vonnegut
Dial Books
c/o Penguin Group USA
345 Hudson Street, 15th floor
New York, NY 10014
9780385333849, $15.00,

Billy Pilgram becomes a time traveler after he's abducted by aliens and taken to the planet Tralfamadore. There, Billy is placed in what would be akin to a zoo in America, where the Tralfamadadorians are privy to watch his every move. But Billy doesn't always stay there. He finds himself going back and forward in time, returning to his childhood, jumping forward to when he was a prisoner of war during WWII and kept in a slaughterhouse (Slaughterhouse-Five) in Dresden until its destruction by bombs, and even as far into the future as his own death, then back to Tralfamadore where he is mated with a porn star from America. And all over again.

This classic is part fact and part fiction, the factual portion taken from Vonnegut's own experiences as a prisoner of war in Dresden before and after its firebombing. And in its telling, one wonders if this is the only way Vonnegut could relay his experiences as a soldier and subsequent prisoner of war by implanting small bits and pieces among the other experiences of Billy Pilgram. After all, Vonnegut states at the beginning that he had been planning on writing about the war but could never actually get it finished.

Christy Tillery French, Reviewer

Crocco's Bookshelf

Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln
Doris Kearns Goodwin
Simon & Schuster
Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
B000N2HBSO, $9.99

I decided to read Team of Rivals after listening to Doris Kearns Goodwin on Charlie Rose and Tavis Smiley, followed by seeing the movie, Lincoln.

Team of Rivals takes the reader behind the scenes of the average person's understanding relating to Lincoln and his rivals. I was never fully aware of the actual facts that supported historian's views why Lincoln was such a brilliant strategist. So for me, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln provided the answers.

Lincoln turned his rivals, Seward, Chase, and Bates into his cabinet. He must have concealed the belief, 'Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.' The insight to how Lincoln manipulated behaviors was a treat for me. I enjoyed understanding how his mind worked.

It took Doris Kearns Goodwin ten years to research Lincoln's presidency. Team of Rivals is a book every reader will enjoy and come away with a better understanding of Lincoln's brilliance.

20,000 Days and Counting
Robert D. Smith
Thomas Nelson Publishers
PO Box 141000, Nashville, TN 37214
0849948541, $14.99,

A strong message of encouragement

Robert D. Smith writes an abridged version of a self-help book to guarantee that everyday counts - making no excuses. He offers his opinions and strategies for success, such as; saying yes to new possibilities, not assuming you are the victim, and never be misled by the hours in a day.

Even if you don't agree with all of Smith's strategies, 20,000 Days and Counting reads as an expressway to 'hurry up and decide' to control your life - specifically the present moment. The book serves as the perfect device to get back on track, or to start creating a track.

20,000 Days and Counting by Robert D. Smith is a short and practical tool one can apply to improve your life - even as you read. Smith practices what he preaches and wastes no time.

I'm 21,436 days and counting.

Road to Tomorrow
Mary Metcalfe
Laskin Publishing
Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
ASIN: B00A1DD4BI, $2.99

Domestic abuse, children's deviant behavior, TBI/PTSD, all intertwined in a love story, describes Road to Tomorrow.

The main character, Andrea Garrett, left her two children with her twin brother, in order to escape her abusive military husband, Sean. Sean's parents kept a deep secret about their son - he killed animals as a young child. The military wasn't aware of Sean's dark side, thinking he was going to make the perfect soldier. Andrea was young and naive, thinking he was going to make a perfect husband. Everyone was wrong.

While Andrea fled, she had an accident, and people from a small town came to her rescue, in more than one way. Her new friends included characters from Mary Metcalfe's other book, New Beginnings.

I thought it would be fun to read another of Metcalfe's books - to follow her characters. Sadly, it was not. I can't put my finger on it, but I know I do not enjoy stories that are predictable, and for me, Road to Tomorrow was predictable.

The love story between Andrea and her new boyfriend, Kyle, seemed textbook boring. Her kids were too perfect, even her friends, new and old, portrayed perfection.

However, I do think Metcalfe's messages were necessary and effective: get your child help at first signs of trouble, do not sweep it under the rug; women should leave abusive relationships; and the military and civilians need to educate themselves about TBI and PTSD. I think Metcalfe did an excellent job with Sean's character suffering from TBI.

I would recommend Road to Tomorrow for the young adult reader.

Spirit Horses
Alan S. Evans
Oceanview Publishing
Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
B0076RB5UY, $2.99

While searching for a book that was not on my 'read and review' list requested by authors, I came across Spirit Horses, and the title alone captured my attention. The description stated it was about the Shoshone culture on a reservation in Wyoming and it included wild mustangs. I was hooked and couldn't put the book down. The novel is absolutely captivating on every page.

The writing is outstanding, describing the beautiful scenes in Wyoming and the intense characters throughout the book. The main character, Shane, is a horse trainer, one of the best in the circuit. I felt like I was sitting in the saddle with Shane while he trained these beautiful animals.

Spirit Horses is a combination of genres: fiction, adventure, romance, suspense, and a great western. To say more about the story would be an injustice to the reader. Feel confident if you enjoy the genres I've listed, and love horses, reading about the Shoshone culture, and wild mustangs in Wyoming, you will love Spirit Horses as much as I did. I have not cried reading a story in a very long time.

A perfect way to end a great book is with an unpredictable ending. Alan S. Evans nailed it in Spirit Horses.

A Dose of Tia: How a Woman and Her Rescued Dog Embraced Life through Volunteering - and How You Can, Too by Dina Mauro

Special Solutions
Dina Mauro
Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
B009Z1AGF4, $9.99

Volunteer brings Pet Therapy to Hospitals

If you are a dog lover and are looking for a way to volunteer, A Dose of Tia will impel you. Dina Mauro explains how she becomes a volunteer at a hospital with her English Pointer, Tia. She takes her readers on their walks through the Swedish Medical Center in Denver, Colorado, stopping in different rooms bringing smiles to patients.

Each chapter of A Dose of Tia is a journal entry describing the patients she and Tia visit. Mauro makes up the patients' names, as she is not privy to them. The stories are short and written to entertain while bringing awareness to volunteerism.

Mauro shares her own thoughts and feelings, stressing the importance of finding the perfect match when deciding to volunteer. A Dose of Tia is written to motivate and enlighten readers that volunteering is important.

Um ... Mommy, I Think I Flushed My Brother Down the Toilet (Again) Return to Yuck Kingdom by Jeff Rivera
Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
B00AYNPUO4, $0.99

Capsized AGAIN!

Falisha flushes her annoying brother, Jesse, down the toilet again. This time the adventure in Yuck Kingdom is expanded to new characters, some nice, and one not so nice. Kids will like the conflict between the good guys and the bad guy.

More rhymes will keep the kids laughing as they share the trip in the sewer once again.

I don't think the parents are needed in Um ... Mommy, I Think I Flushed My Brother Down the Toilet, for the simple reason there are more single parent families today. I would omit 'Think' in the title because Falisha was absolutely sure she flushed Jesse down the toilet!

Um ... Mommy, I Think I Flushed My Brother Down the Toilet
Jeff Rivera
Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
ASIN: B00AT1LSPQ, $0.99


What kid wouldn't like 'Yuck Kingdom'? Its streets, trees, and hills are made of fun kid rhymes that match what the inside of a sewer pipe looks like.

Falisha flushes her little annoying brother, Jesse, down the toilet. Of course, she has to find him quickly, which means she has to get down and dirty in Yuck Kingdom. There's an adventure down the toilet for kids to enjoy while Falisha looks for Jesse.

While Um ... Mommy, I Think I Flushed My Brother Down the Toilet, will probably be a fun read for a lot of kids, my concern is with the parents. I think they should be omitted, letting the brother and sister handle the situation on their own.

Also, I think the title should read, I Flushed My Brother down the Toilet, after all, she did!

Um ... Mommy, I Think I Flushed My Brother Down the Toilet (Again) Return to Yuck Kingdom
Jeff Rivera
Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
ASIN: B00AYNPUO4, $0.99

Capsized AGAIN!

Falisha flushes her annoying brother, Jesse, down the toilet again. This time the adventure in Yuck Kingdom is expanded to new characters, some nice, and one not so nice. Kids will like the conflict between the good guys and the bad guy.

More rhymes will keep the kids laughing as they share the trip in the sewer once again.

I don't think the parents are needed in Um ... Mommy, I Think I Flushed My Brother Down the Toilet, for the simple reason there are more single parent families today. I would omit 'Think' in the title because Falisha was absolutely sure she flushed Jesse down the toilet!

Gillian Hamer
Triskele Books
Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
B00A6DL1RW, $3.90

Mother Knows Best

A six year old boy, Jake, is a reincarnation of an eleven year old boy, Jacob, who helps solve the murders of young women in North Wales.

Professionals diagnosed Jake's nightmares as the grieving process for losing his father. His mother, Helen, knew this was not the case. She felt strongly there was a deeper reason for Jake's suffering. She was correct.

Jacob channels through Jake to help save the last woman kidnapped. Helen decides to trust the suggestion of a friend's friend and travel to the location Jake sees in his nightmares, an island in North Wales.

Is Jacob's channeling successful? Are they too late to save the last victim? Does law enforcement get involved? Do they catch the serial killer?

Read Closure, by Gillian Hamer, if you enjoy a good mystery, suspense thriller that's hard to put down. Page after page is packed with unpredictable conflicts.

Mary Crocco, Reviewer

Daniel's Bookshelf

A Wanted Man
Lee Child
Delacorte Press
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
9780385344333, $28.00,

I have started reading the author Lee Child from his first novel, and I even had the good fortunate of meeting him at a booksigning. It began with a fine book reading and questions answered about the Jack Reacher character. It continued with how his name came up along with other plot ideas, that he had about his stories in the East side bookstore in the Milwaukee area. I find his books engaging with his stories written in a first person. They were interesting analyzing the scenes, people, and events unfolding before Reacher's eyes. Jack Reacher is an ex-military policeman, and he roams around the country with little baggage and very little personal belongings to his name. I remember usually a toothbrush, and he buys his clothes when they no longer suit him. I don't plan on ever stopping reading Child's novels with the only exception, that he wishes to quit writing.

Not too long before Jack is dropped off on the ramp near an bridge overpass two men in suits have just killed one man in a concrete bunker, that was abandoned and shut down. It is located in the middle of nowhere in Nebraska. It was used as a pumping station and it brought water up from an quifer. A nearby gas station, and bar ends up being the pick up point of the woman for the two men. There was one eyewitness, and the county sheriff along with the FBI were just approaching the murder scene. The two men, and a woman were traveling away from the pumping station. Jack Reacher had hitched hiked with a woman driving a dirty van who was kind enough to take him as far as she could go, and then drops him off on the turnoff ramp. It's was inside a cloverleaf which goes either to Salt Lake or Denver depending on the needed direction. Jack wasn't the most attractive hitch hiker who looked unkept, and he had a busted nose with duct tape across it. He peeled off the tape, and still many drivers kept going on by him . One did finally stop, and it was a dark blue sedan with four doors with two men and a woman. Jack sits behind the driver next to the woman, and after some quick introductions the journey takes them further out of Nebraska. As the journey continues Jack figures out, after learning through the woman all the events he didn't know, and silently she got him up to-date to her presence in the car. After seeking possible lodging, he escapes from the three, and he clues the FBI into the updates on the men with the lone woman.

Meanwhile the woman FBI agent catches up with Reacher, and she is ordered to bring him on. It is learned through Reacher that the woman has a child. Reacher wants to pursue looking for the men and woman but the agent has her orders. A body is found in the blue car that Reacher had driven along the route in with the two men plus a woman. It became known a burnt out corpse was found. Next event is that two men take the child away in the race against time to find the child. They are not sure happened to the woman. The FBI, and other agencies are involved while in pursuit of Reacher who is a wanted man. The whole outcome of discovery and search depend on all the agencies efforts. That is to include everyone not forgetting Reacher to save the innocent. His whole journey was just to get back to Virginia to see the woman he talked with on the phone. He did know his police skills would be an asset hoping the authorities would recognize them. He could be a help for those who didn't deserve what the two men did before, and after the car-jacking, while trying to elude the police. The situation is escalated, and the search to save someone is the only thing on Reacher's mind.

Lee Child is now the author of eighteen suspense novels all involving Jack Reacher his main character. The first novel was Killing Floor which he won two new awards. He won the Anthony and the Barry awards for best First Mystery and the Enemy for the Barry and Nero awards for Best Novel. His latest offering of this novel is a continuation of the last story of him out west hitching a ride back to Virginia. I await his next book in this series whether he goes back in time with the character or offers the consecutive stories from the last time we left Reacher to his next hook up with the next book. His next novel was listed as, Never Go Back in the jacket of A Wanted Man.

Stolen Prey
John Sandford
G. P. Putnam's Sons
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780339157684, $27.95,

I been a John Sandford fan ever since, I picked up my first copy of a Lucas Davenport Prey novels. I believe that was some time back to my best memory. I am not even sure what one it was, but I followed up with the next one. I wanted to either catch up on his series or grab the next one in the new book arrival shelf at the bookstore.

Lucas is enjoying a run through an area, and he doesn't think at the time he will soon become the victim. Usually it is his work as a detective he is instead doing help for others in pursuit of crime prevention and follow-up after some one else has the problems. A man sticks a gun at him and a woman flings him to the ground which ends up breaking a bone in his wrist. He is in a world of pain and the sad thing is no one on the street notices his anguish, and his being mugged. It is like nothing happened.

During the same time-line Lucas is soon faced with a Mexican drug cartel, and three Mexican suspects that are in the country who are very dangerous. They more than likely could have been involved with the slaughter of a whole household family in the Minnesota town of Wayzata. The husband ran a software place that peddles Spanish-language software down in Mexico. Lucas appears on the scene after he has been notified by the BCA superintendent reported the massacre. Their method of operation seems to leave no witnesses, but their brutal method styles weren't lost on people investigating them. Then he is to escort a Mexican official and his researcher over the possibilities of the identity of these suspects. Both of them are tied to the Mexican Federales. The search continues trying to locate an SUV, silver with Texas plates. The problem is the longer they take to find these suspects the body count keeps mounting. They are trying to find something valuable that people, who work in banks were stealing after taking money out with their quick plan to get rich. The chase of finding both the robbers, and the Mexican threesome, place the peril of finding the valuables gathered by the use of bank money. It becomes a hunt that unknowingly could place people close to Davenport into immediate danger.

John Sandford is the author of twenty-four Prey novels, and six Virgil Flowers novels. I have a copy of the next Flowers novel entitled Mad River.

Daniel Allen

Deacon's Bookshelf

The Untold History of the United States
Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick
Gallery Books
c/o Simon & Schuster, Inc.
1230 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020
9781451613513, 2012, $30.00,

Regarding The Untold History of the United States: On the flap at the back of the dustjacket it is written that author "Peter Kuznick is a professor of history and director of the award-winning Nuclear Studies Institute of American University... currently serving his third term as distinguished lecturer with the Organization of American Historians. He has written extensively about science and politics, nuclear history, and Cold War culture." Thus I feel safe in calling Kuznick a noted historian.

Co-author Oliver Stone, on the other hand, is an aging Vietnam grunt and pothead who morphed into one of our greatest Hollywood auteurs. Mr. Stone has given us five or six of the best motion pictures I've seen in my life. The stories Stone chooses to tell have earned him the undying enmity of politicians, political pundits, film critics and others who comment on culture and current events from well-padded perches at the right end of the political spectrum. Consequently, Americans who believe the likes of George Will and Charles Krauthammer and Newt Gingrich all know Mr. Stone for a crackpot, left- wing, commie-loving, cry-baby and curmudgeon, a liar who ought to be euthanized for the good of America. For those reasons, finding Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick credited as co-authors of Untold History both pleased and dismayed me.

What pleased me was the idea that Stone's iconoclastic take on American history would provide me with plenty of things to chew on at night, when I huddle under my blankets with my helmet, my ordnance and my savage attack cat, Mitzi. I was pleased, too, with Kuznick's credentials in Nuclear Studies and Cold War culture. I figured Kuznick and Stone together would come up with some facts concerning events about which I believed I already knew everything worth knowing. Too bad none of my iconos got clasted, but the good news there is that I did get some gob-stopping bits of trivia about the administrations of Truman, Eisenhower, Nixon, Carter, et al.

What dismays me about Untold History is that it's good work by a couple of talented people and it will probably come to nothing. Those who like and respect Oliver Stone will be willing to buy and read Untold History. Those who appreciate Mr. Kuznick's credentials will probably believe what they read in the book. Those who despise Stone will dismiss Kuznick's credentials, and they will never believe that President Harry S. Truman was a ignorant, foul-mouthed jerk whose closest adviser was a vicious, half-wit, hick-town political fixer with a 4th-grade education. Nor will they believe that Truman slavered for a chance to use the A-bomb - and did use it when he knew it wasn't needed - just so he could show tough to Joe Stalin. Likewise, nobody will believe that affable, grandfatherly President Dwight David Eisenhower spent 8 years in the White House working to create the monstrous, "military-industrial complex" that he warned us about in his farewell speech.

All of those things and many more are stated flatly or strongly implied by the content of Untold History. Evidence to support such statements is there in plenty. Those who doubt it can look up sources cited in the endnotes and learn the truth for themselves. But almost no one will take the trouble. The vast majority of Americans won't read Untold History because they will never hear of the book and wouldn't bother if they did know of it. As well expect them to go to the library as expect them to take off, en masse, and fly to the moon.

Still there is some hope that news of Untold History will penetrate the thick skull of America. The book is companion volume to a 10-part documentary series that's being aired on the Showtime Network (Jan. 15 - Feb. 05, 2013) as I write. Millions of people may see all or parts of it there. What they will do with what they learn is anybody's guess. I expect they will call out for pizza.

There are things about Untold History that I don't like. For example: authors Stone and Kuznick pound hell out of President Jimmy Carter but hardly lay a glove on Bubba Clinton, who is on my personal list as one of the worst stinkers that ever lived in the White House. In a similar vein, Stone and Kuznick seem unconvinced that Barack Obama is a wretched, conniving, murderer, liar, traitor and sneak. On the whole, however, I have to hand it to the authors for a good job of laying blame where blame is due.

Solomon sez: Anybody wants to know how the wealth of America is stolen and squandered by a top-hatful of greedy, paranoid warmongers who live at the top of government, banking and industry ought to buy and read The Untold History of the United States. It could and should make you angry, but it will not put readers to sleep.

Into the Fire: a Firsthand Account of the Most Extraordinary Battle in the Afghan War
Dakota Meyer and Bing West
Random House, Inc.
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
9780812993400, $27.00,

Let me start by saying that I think Dakota Meyer is a damned good Marine. I think so because I've read his account of the battle at Ganjigal, Afghanistan, in 2009, and I believe every word of it. I believe Meyer deserves his Congressional Medal of Honor, and I wish him all the best our nation can give to thank him for his courageous service.

That said, I have to add that 'Into the Fire' is not very well done. Collaborator Bing West is a professional writer who claims to have done writing for the Department of Defense, the Rand Corp. and other outfits. Moreover, West is an off-duty Marine. Those things being so, one expects that West would have known better than to let 'Into the Fire' go to press in its present form. As it is now written, the story makes it seem possible that Meyer could have been awarded the Big Gong as one part of an inter-service scheme to save a few Army officers from personal, professional, and public disgrace.

Far be it from me to think such a thing might be true of our highly paid, professional Army. Still, a whiff of it is there: 1) Meyer's account of the fight at Ganjigal tells of an Army officer (name and rank not given) at the Tactical Operations Center (base camp) who had control of artillery. For hours the officer refused Marines artillery despite repeated, vehement calls for supporting fire. At one point, Meyer reports, the clown said he was afraid of dropping ordnance on friendlies but he would provide artillery (Veteran grunts take note.) if the Marines could tell him the Social Security number and GPS location of every friendly involved in the fight; 2) An Army lieutenant had command of a react platoon. If the Marines got into serious trouble, react was supposed to take a hand and help the leathernecks shoot their way out. But the react platoon commander declined to react despite being ordered into the fight by a superior officer; 3) Meyer says he later learned that the clown at the TOC was acting on a written order signed by Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, Commander, International Security Assistance Force and Commander, U.S. Forces Afghanistan. So it seems that a major share of blame for the SNAFU at Ganjigal belongs away up at the top.

Days later, at another ambush site, a third Army officer (a captain) huddled with her small unit inside an armored Humvee that was parked on the killing ground. When Meyer banged on the Humvee door and shouted for help, a voice from within the vehicle responded: "We're logistics. We don't fight."

Regarding the fight at Ganjigal, Meyer was debriefed by a Marine Corps general. Meyer says he told that general everything he knew about the Ganjigal shoot- out. An off-duty Marine myself, I am almost certain that Meyer's confessor went up the chain of command until he found the cause of the problem. There he would have stopped just long enough to shove an 81-millimeter rocket up some imbecile's icky brown poop chute. But Meyer and his collaborator (if they ever knew what the general did) have nothing to say about that.

The gist of it is, then, that 'Into the Fire' does not smell good. If Meyer's story is true, then it stands to reason that some Army officer(s) should have burned for Ganjigal. If Meyer lied about the Army (Why would he do that?) then he may have lied about other things.

Such unsavory implications could have been stanched easily. One way would be by telling the whole tale: What the did the Army do with its cowards and incompetents? Another way would be to simply leave the Army foul-ups out of the story.

For me, just two things about 'Into the Fire' seem certain. One is what I wrote at the top of this column: Dakota Meyer tells the truth. No liar would concoct a tale so wild as Meyer's account of Ganjigal. The other is that any writer worth a hoot would never lay such doubt on Dakota Meyer and (s)he would prevent Meyer from taking it upon himself. Failing on both counts, a responsible writer would have bailed out of the book and advised Meyer to find another collaborator.

Solomon sez: 'Into the Fire' is a good story spoiled by loose ends in the narrative. That being so, the best reason to buy 'Into the Fire' is that Dakota Meyer - at the time his book went to press - had already raised more than $1 million to help educate children of wounded veterans. So I say "Buy the book. You may like 'Into the Fire' or you may not but, either way, some of your money will go to a worthy cause."

Deacon Solomon

Gail's Bookshelf

Wondrous Works of God: A Family Bible Story Book
Starr Meade
Crossway Publishing
1300 Crescent Street, Wheaton, IL 60187
9781433531583, $24.99,

The family Bible story book, Wondrous Works of God is a companion volume to Starr Meade's popular first family Bible story book, Mighty Acts of God that released in 2010. Except Wondrous Works of God "...retells a different ninety stories."

Starr believes God uses Bible stories to reveal who He is and what He has done throughout recorded history. Yet, because God can't be seen attributes of His character, His love for His children and creation are easier to understand in story form, especially for children. She also believes "...Bible stories must be read in context and not as isolated units...a random chapter here or random page there..."

Instead, she writes, "...we must think in terms of the whole, wonderful story of God's salvation...every Bible story must be told in light of this big wonderful story..." found in Christ.

Starr's chronological collection of Old and New Testament Bible stories feature fifty-five Old Testament and thirty-five New Testament stories. Stories reveal how God stepped into human history in the past and His plans for the future of mankind. Stories, many of them not well-known, teach about God's character, not just about morality or heroism. She begins with God's creation of Eve in Genesis and ends with Jesus and the dragon found in Revelation 12.

Accounts include familiar stories such as, "Hagar and Ishmael, Serpent on a Pole, Balaam and the Donkey, the Sun Stands Still and Moses Sees God's Glory." However, other stories not commonly found in children's Bible stories include "Job Suffers and Trusts God, Ezekiel's Vision of Dry Bones, Elijah and King Ahaziah, Elisha Raises a Boy from the Dead and the Dragon and the Baby."

Ninety exciting stories, penned in lively, easy-to-understand language contain summary statements of Christian truth and faith highlighted in red from a reformed perspective. Most stories are three pages in length, feature an illustration, scripture reference and questions and suggestions for personal application called, " for me and my house..."

The suggested age group, age's four to ten, depends on children's maturity. Some youngsters might understand more about age seven although they will enjoy the stories. The book is hardbound for durability and ease of use, designed with growing families in mind.

The Bible contains great adventure, sweet romance, and is a grand epic of good and evil played out on the stage of human history against the backdrop of God's love, His grace and overall plan for humankind.

Starr's imaginative writing, often compared to the writings of C.S. Lewis and Paul Bunyan, communicates abstract truths with clarity and simplicity in words readers can understand, especially children. Wondrous Acts of God is an excellent choice for family devotions and the New Year's is a wonderful time to start this family tradition.

Full Disclosure
Dee Henderson
Bethany House
11400 Hampshire Avenue South
Bloomington, MN 55438
9780764210891, 15.99,

Dee Henderson returns to fiction with a captivating stand-alone tale of romance, mystery and suspense that pairs Ann Silver, "Midwest Homicide Investigator," with Paul Falcon, "FBI's top murder cop." Divided into eight segments, five introduce multifaceted characters while three bring the complex, multi-plot narrative to a fascinating conclusion.

Readers first meet FBI Special Agent, Paul Falcon at a Chicago crime scene where he finds four bodies, a narcotics cop shot twice in the back, once in the head and three "civilians" who got in the shooters way.

In a few short pages they meet Ann Silver, pilot, writer, small-town sheriff and homicide consultant for the Midwest police departments with information that could solve thirty cold cases by a mysterious assassin known as "The Lady Shooter."

Add secrets, government cover-ups, a serial assassin, murder, romance, faith, love wealth, extended family and readers are treated to a book that's hard to put down. From Paul's first meeting with Ann, her detailed account of a mysterious death in the Midwest to her professional affiliations with all branches of law-enforcement, this never-married, mature FBI guy's interest is engaged.

Still, Ann looks for friendship and little more because of a case she revisits in her nightmares where she wakes in fear, reliving the torture once again. She has many, many friends, some in high places, however her most trustworthy companion, her dog Midnight, who she calls "Black."

The complex storyline wraps an extraordinary love story inside a unique mystery, a feat not many writers can accomplish, without one suffering from the other. Yet Dee does that and more, with her fast-paced, edge-of-your-seat, character driven narrative that keeps pages turning to find out what-happens-next.

Several things I appreciated about this author I've never read before. She doesn't use curse words, violence, and sexual innuendo to tell her story. She doesn't use blow-by-blow descriptions of violence for violence's sake. Then the extraordinary number of sub-plots within the main plot she draws together, thread-by-thread, as the story draws to a close.

Although Dee is a new author for me I look forward to reading more of her award-winning work. Her novella, Jennifer: An O'Malley Love Story arrives June 2013 with the "story behind the story" of Dee Henderson's popular O'Malley series. If you like fast-paced plots, mystery, suspense and romance, Dee Henderson is not an author to miss.

Available in Kindle, Hardcover, Paperback and Audio

To Heaven and Back: A Doctor's Extraordinary...True Story
Mary C. Neal M.D.
Waterbrook Press
755 S Highway 105
Palmer Lake, CO 80133
9780307731715, $14.99,

Mary Neal, devoted wife, dedicated mother and skilled orthopedic spinal surgeon writes about her accidental death by drowning and miraculous return to life in To Heaven and Back. A fascinating account that seems to be biblically supported except for...

Her journey begins in South America where she vacations with her husband in southern Chile.

Experienced kayakers, they and their friends decide to boat the Fuy River, located in the Los Rios region "...known for its tropical beauty and array of challenging waterfalls..."

It was a warm, sunny Chilean day when the group set out, although Bill, Mary's husband didn't join them since he woke with "significant back pain" that morning. Although she would miss him, Mary still anticipated a thrilling, whitewater trip.

Soon after they started down the river, their boats gathered together "in an eddy" where the group discussed their approach and chose the more predictable smaller river channel. Although Mary, wary of one inexperienced kayaker who displayed limited skill and no sense of boundaries, still felt prickles of unease.

When they set out again Mary paddled forward until she saw the first boat "...lodge sideways between two large boulders..." She pulled to the left to avoid it only to see the inexperienced boater shoot past her and "...go over the main drop backward..."

Mary, unable to stop, "...crested the top of the waterfall..." unaware the ill-fated boat, wedged in the submerged rocks below waited to trap and pin her to the river "...bottoms main channel." Thus her journey begins.

Mary's memoir gives a detailed, first-hand account of her "visit to heaven" after she felt her soul slip from her body. She describes meeting a dozen or more "souls" who welcomed and escorted her to a "great and brilliant hall...," spiritual beings with indistinct forms who communicated with her through thought and emotion instead of words.

Chapters begin with quotes from the likes of Charles Stanley and Ralph Waldo Emerson with Scripture cited throughout to support her spiritual journey. When told she must return to earth because her work there was not finished, she returned with a sense of purpose, which was this memoir.

At first I thought Mary's book was incredible. However, the more I read the more unease I felt even though she used Scripture as the foundation for and within many chapters. Then I read page 73, where she writes those who die are "given the opportunity to review their lives and choices ...and are given a final opportunity to choose God..."

As a born-again, Bible believing, Bible reading Christian I knew that was a direct contradiction to John 14:6 where Jesus says, "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."

While her book is interesting it doesn't hold a Christian worldview since she contradicts Scripture and the salvation message. Other issues of predestination, angels and the implication that children reside in heaven waiting to be born also are not scriptural.

I believe we are born with eternal souls and the Bible says there are no second chances. We must make the choice to accept or reject Christ before we die which determines where we spend eternity. This book and so many like it demonstrate why Christians must read the Bible and know what it says. Because even Satan masquerades as an angel of light, (2 Corinthians 11:14) and he even quotes Scripture. (Psalm 91: 11-12)

Who Do You Think You Are: Finding Your True Identity in Christ
Mark Driscoll
Thomas Nelson
PO Box 141000, Nashville, TN 37214
9781400203857, $22.99,

Mark Driscoll, pastor of one of the fastest-growing churches in the nation, Seattle's Mars Hill, believes many suffer from an identity crisis, which is the theme of his new book, Who Do You Think You Are? Finding Your True Identity in Christ.

Popular culture views identity issues from the aspect of psychology, mental health and concerns of self-image or self-esteem. Mark believes the real problem lies in what he calls false identity, where identity is "...defined by any number of things other than Jesus."

The book begins with an example from the movie Memento, where the lead character searches for his wife's killer, yet he suffers with anterograde amnesia from a blow on the head. It's a tale of lies, manipulation and innuendo revolving around "concepts of identity and truth" that is an example of false identity.

He then explores worship and how God created worship as a dynamic aspect of humankind. We can know what we worship by what we pour our hearts, minds and souls into through our choices, values and what we spend our lives and money on. However, if we worship "things" instead of God, the "thing" we worship, where we spend our time and money, Mark considers identity idolatry.

He uses "Items, Duties, Others, Longings, Sufferings" IDOLS to illustrate:

Items-where possessions "define your identity"

Duties-obsessed with overachievement, over commitment

Others-concerned with people pleasing, co-dependency, peer pressure

Longings-living for tomorrow instead of living in today

Sufferings-allowing what you suffer from to identify who you are

Mark explains how idols of any kind, not just those listed, lead to identity crisis, fear, anxiety and eventually blame of other people or God. However, it doesn't have to be that way if we really understand who we are "in Christ" which is what this book is about.

Sixteen chapters explore reconciliation, adoption, victory, gifts, how we are made in God's image and why, as children of God, it's not "...what's been done to you [in your life] but what Jesus has done for you."

In How to read this book (pg. 27) he suggests prayer, a highlighter and pen for notes and a modern version of the book of Ephesians to read in conjunction with the book. He also uses one of my favorite quotes from Charles Spurgeon, "The Bible that is falling apart usually belongs to someone whose life is not."

I especially liked what he wrote on page fourteen. "My prayer is that you'll find the answer to "Who am I?" in Christ, who is the I AM."

Well done, Pastor Driscoll!

By the Light of the Silvery Moon
Tricia Goyer
Barbour Books
1810 Barbour Drive, PO Box 719
Ulrichville, Ohio 44683
9781616265519, $12.99,

Award-winning author, Tricia Goyer, wrote By the Light of the Silvery Moon last year to commemorate the Titanic's 100-year-old tragic maiden voyage. It's a sweet story of romance, faith and forgiveness wrapped in a tale of second chances suggestive of the prodigal son.

In her well-crafted historical fiction readers meet Amelia, a young woman who questions why her mother left her in care of an aunt to become a ship stewardess when she was six-years-old. Now grownup, Amelia and her aunt have tickets to America on the Titanic. In America she plans to meet Mr. Chapman, a man she's only communicated with by mail. After many letters between them he paid for three second class tickets on the Titanic for herself, her aunt and her cousin Henry. However, when Henry had "...been foolish enough to land in jail last night" Amelia gave his ticket to a stranger.

Then there's stowaway, Quentin Walpole. Amelia's heart is torn when she sees stewards drag the young man down the gangplank and throw him to the ground with a good, swift kick to his ribs. She saw his clothes looked tattered and unkempt as she moved toward him. Up close, Amelia could smell the stench of the streets and believed he was a beggar, albeit a handsome beggar. There was nothing about him that revealed he was once a member of the upper class accustomed to privilege. Two short years ago he'd come to London with a small fortune to start a business only to lose the business, his fortune and his old way of life.

In the same way Damien, Quentin's older brother and their railroad tycoon father couldn't know they would meet Quentin on board the Titanic under an assumed name. A meeting that would cause dismay in one and astonishment in the other as the ship that "symbolized such promise" plowed through icy ocean waters to meet its destiny.

Tricia's well-drawn characters, seen through formative early wounding's, portray true-to-life people and suspenseful situations that capture readers hearts. Common themes of grief, romance, shame, forgiveness and love texturize the plot, the intriguing subplots, characterizations and the clear gospel message of brotherly love.

Tricia, an accomplished word smith, brings the story of the Titanic to life in her fictionalized account with rich word descriptions of true-to-life artifacts from the Titanic Museum Attraction in Branson Missouri. She's written an unforgettable tale of lives forever changed aboard the "Ship of Dreams" to enchant her readers. If you aren't already a fan of this writer, you will be by the time you finish.

Finding and Following God's Will, by Nancy Lindgren Rohart
c/o Thomas Nelson Publishers
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781449743734, $9.95,

Nancy Rohart's memoir of how their family found and followed God's will spans six years, three years of searching and three years of preparation. It's a time that tested their faith while it taught them God is faithful to the promises He makes in His Word in spite of outward circumstances. Her story of "blessing and hope" was written at the urging of the Lord late in life.

She begins with how they learned to discern God's plan and the accompanying doubts disappoints and questions that followed. Such as whether Paul should check into seminary's and seriously consider preaching or remain in teaching and, if he did, the impact it would have on their family and their marriage.

The chapter on "Peace" looks at "open" and "closed" doors, reading Scripture and the importance of including spouse's in life-changing decisions. Although that sounds like a given, many times such decisions are made in spite of spousal objections.

The rest of this small book is about making "the decision" and waiting on the Lord when logic says decisions are irrational. The narrative illustrate that when a decision to obey God's will is made, that's also when the enemy's attacks increase.

The chapter on "Satan's continued Darts" contains examples of satanic attack, their journey of "trial and tears," and putting what is learned from Scripture into practical application. She writes, "'s important to remember...Satan confuses and discourages...depend on the Holy Spirit...don't expect it to be easy...wait on the Lord and His timing."

I think perhaps the most important part of Nancy's message and the one most neglected is the daily reading of Scripture, prayer and making time to spend with the Lord. Her book reminds readers God does provide, does care for His children and always walks through troubled waters with them, something we all need to remember.

Placebo: A Jevin Banks Novel
Steven James, Book 1
Revell Publishing
6030 East Fulton, Ada, MI 49301
9780800734251, $14.99,

Steven James, Christy nominated author of the Patrick Bowers series changes gears in this new series with a sinister focus on psychic phenomena, mind-to-mind communication, experimental drugs and the pharmaceutical industry. It's a tale of loss, neurological research and ground-breaking science wrapped in magic, illusion and conspiracy titled - "Placebo."

The story opens with magician Jevin Banks on the shores of Heron Bay, unable to convince himself his family minivan has become a " haven filled with air...proof that a loving God exists and cares..." That a diver would find his wife Rachael and their five-year-old twin son's alive, even though it's been two hours since their vehicle slipped beneath the icy waters.

Then he sees "diver's surface" with Andrew's limp body, his first born by three minutes. Although bystanders blame his wife, he blames himself - and still does thirteen months later. Thus ends Placebo's disturbing first chapter.

The story, set in Oregon State, really begins in chapter two thirteen months later in the wake of his family's tragic deaths. Jevin, former master magician now uses his talents to expose the schemes of charlatans and others who separate fools from their money.

He and friend Zavier are driving to Oregon's Lawson Research Center to film Dr. Tanbyrn's claims of psychic activity, where Jevin plans to expose the doctor as a fake for one of three shows still under contract with Entertainment Film Network. Still, he's puzzled why a theoretical physicist and Nobel laureate of Dr. Tanbyrn's stature would be part of such fraud.

Add Fionna, computer genius and homeschooling mom of four kids, Jevin's friend Zavier, philosopher, conspiracy theorist and lover of all things cheese. Then the delightful Charlene, his undercover partner co-registered with Jevin for the mind-to-mind experimental program. Plus a sadistic assassin who doesn't know when to quit, as well as complex intrigue over an anti-aging drug, illegal government sponsored research and mind control. The plot is complex, the characterization of even secondary characters well done, yet Placebo is not the same caliber as the Patrick Bowers series.

That doesn't mean Placebo isn't as good, only that it's different, more similar to Illusion, Frank Peretti's recent release. James uses first person point-of-view with Jevin, which adds intimacy for the reader. Parts of the story are intense and adrenaline packed, others less so, gauged by I could put the book down for a day or two at a time.

Even though I favor law enforcement over magicians, I look forward to reading Singularity; book two of the Jevin Banks series this fall. However, I anticipate The King, latest in The Bowers Files scheduled for release in July, 2013 even more.

My Journey to Heaven
Marvin J. Besteman with Lorilee Craker
Revell Publishing
6030 East Fulton, Ada, MI 49301
9780800721220, $13.99,

Marvin Besteman writes about his "unforgettable trip to the gates of heaven and back" in My Journey to Heaven. The amazing experience happened after pancreatic surgery left him in despair and extreme pain. His account includes descriptions of what he saw, who he met and his impressions of what he calls "celestial beauty."

The story of his life-changing preview of eternity begins April 28, 2006 in "the middle of the night" where he's confined to a hospital bed at the University of Michigan Medical Center. His pain racked body, supported by "a tangle of life-support tubes," makes him long for sleep as a means of escape.

However, instead of sleep, two men suddenly appear in the doorway of his hospital room and his miraculous account begins...

From his pain-free ascent through the skies, to standing in front of a monumental gate amidst a "short line of people," Marv writes, his "geezer body felt young...strong and fantastic," all painful limitations of age - gone.

He describes color-bursts of light, more brilliant than the "northern lights" that lit the sky overhead. And the breathtaking sounds of beautiful organ and piano music that accompany choirs of what sounds like millions of people in chorus together.

However, his memories of the incredible number of babies he saw on the other side of the gateway draws the most attention when he speaks to groups. From questions about what the babies looked like, to how old they were who held them and whether they were happy. You must read the book to learn about what he calls "Heaven's Cradle Roll."

In addition, readers overhear his conversation with the "hot-headed apostle Peter...gatekeeper of glory." What the "Book of Life" is and where it is kept and why it's so important. The meeting with his two-month deceased son-in-law, Steve, a young man he considered his "bonus" son. As well as parents, grandparents and deceased friends who smiled, waved and beckoned for him to come through the gate.

Yet, Marv was kept from going through the gate because Peter couldn't find his name in the Book of Life "for that day." Peter left to find out why and on his return said, "...God still has work for you to finish there." Then Marv's journey ends and he wakes to pain, but no longer in despair.

Marv, "a banker by trade" who dealt in hard "numbers and percentages" thought people would question his sanity and didn't talk about what happened, even to his family, until the Lord prompted him to " his mouth and start talking."

He told his family first, then a few friends and soon accepted speaking engagements that led to this book which he co-authored with Lorilee Craker. The day after he and his wife met Lorilee for lunch and added the dedication page that completed the book Marv was hospitalized with pneumonia. Where, his wife writes, he soon "...flew back to heaven..." January 21, 2012, his work finished.

I, like Marv, believe in Christ, God, heaven and hell and that we are all born with eternal souls. Although his story reads like a true experience, I leave it to the reader to decide.

Awesome Book of Unusual Bible Heroes for Kids
Sandy Silverthorne
Harvest House Publishers
990 Owen Loop North, Eugene, OR 97402-9173
9780736929257, $8.99,

Popular author and illustrator Sandy Silverthorne writes "tongue-in-cheek" short stories of lesser known Bible characters for youngster's age's eight to twelve. He uses imaginative cartoon caricatures and drawings to introduce children to everyday people God used in amazing ways in this Awesome Book of Unusual Bible Heroes for Kids.

Although historically and biblically accurate, accounts are presented with modern-day dialogue, such as "...tell you what...Naw, he'd probably just say no...oh great..." Stories begin with a short summary, where the narrative is found in scripture and the author's embellishment of the story. Accounts end with an age-appropriate devotional, "The Big Picture" that includes the life-lesson of the story. From these, children learn underlying story meanings and gain an understanding of how different accounts might apply to them.

Twenty stories include accounts such as Hold Your Horses: David and Abigail, In His Majesty's Secret Service: Ahimaaz and Jonathan and Too Hot to Handle: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego.

For example, in Esther and Mordecai's story Queen for this Day, found in the book of Esther, teaches children how an orphan girl became Queen and saved the Jewish race from the plot of the King's "evil advisor" Haman.

The Big Picture explains how God uses people He trusts to advance His plans. In this case, Esther was born for such a time as this to save the Jewish people. The devotional ends with a question about gifts and talents that could be used to bless others and encourages children to ask God " show them how."

I especially like Silverthorne's imaginative dialogue, modernized narrative and captivating illustrations that kept me, an adult, captivated. I know the stories will engage youngster's imaginations and leave them asking for more as they learn about these exciting and unusual heroes of the Bible.

Still Standing: 8 Winning Strategies for Facing Tough Times
James Merritt
Harvest House Publishers
990 Owen Loop North, Eugene, OR 97402-9173
9780736943383, $12.99,

James Merritt, Touching Lives television host, pastor and author's new release, Still Standing has something for everyone, especially anyone who faces tough times because of what's happened in our nation in recent years. Whether the reader is one of the 2.6 million Americans who lost their jobs, their homes or their middle-class way of life, Pastor Merritt's powerful principles offer tools of hope and encouragement.

This man of God speaks from personal knowledge on topics of unfair treatment, stress, depression and more, events he experienced when he was called to pastor a new church. "...where much of the ministerial staff didn't share his theological convictions and philosophy."

The first of nine chapters begin with When Life Knocks You Down where he learned, "Life's greatest lessons are learned in the midst of life's greatest struggles." There, six months into his new pastorate he would be challenged by a "showdown on Sunday," similar to Wyatt Earp's gunfight at the Okay Corral. However, Pastor Merritt would use the Bible and the power of prayer instead of guns.

Eight strategies of practical wisdom are found in chapter themed titles that begin with "When Life is...Physically Draining...Dragging you Down...Unfair...Impossible...Tempts you to Sell Out...Run...Against you...Insufferable."

These Bible based guiding principles, he calls "winning strategies," equip readers to face "...tough times head on" with beliefs that lead to freedom, joy, victory and renewed faith. The stories of Joseph, Daniel and Esther among others illustrate faith based responses to stress and unfair treatment. Yet, it was from such life tests that resolute character was built.

Faith-based thinking teaches:

Storms of life test character and resolve

Suffering shifts our gaze to God

Find the purpose in tough times

God wants you focused - the devil wants you finished

Our stumbling blocks can be God's stepping stones to God's plan

You and God together can handle anything

God never promised we would escape life's difficulties, He only promised to walk through troubled water with his children. From that point-of-view some of life's greatest blessings come disguised as trauma and tragedy, a lesson my husband and I learned in 1994.

This book carries a five out of five rating because I believe it was written for such a time as this. Although short and easy-to-read, the larger message is that "when tough times come God will fight with you" if you are willing to "share the load" with Jesus.

Do You Believe in Miracles? Compiled
John Van Diest
Harvest House Publishers, 990 Owen Loop North
Eugene, OR 97402-9173
9780736938020, $12.99,

Former Christian book publisher, accomplished author and Oregon resident, John Van Diest, compiled miraculous narratives from well-known inspirational authors for his new release, Do You Believe in Miracles? These true stories, from the pens of Max Lucado, Billy Graham, Joni Eareckson Tada and others, inspire and offer hope in the midst of troubled times.

John, like many, believed in the miracles of the Bible, but felt "...that was then, and this is now." It wasn't that God couldn't intervene today, He just didn't any longer. However, in compiling this collection of stories, his reasoning was challenged and then changed.

He read hundreds of dramatic, life-changing stories with the following criteria:

Were they from "highly" credible sources?

Was there no evidence of or "natural" explanation for the occurrence?

Were they unique examples of supernatural intervention?

Many narratives defied what would be considered "reasonable" explanations. From those he selected sixty-four accounts he divided into topical sections of several stories each. Each section begins with a commentary from John and most stories are a page or two long.

Fascinating stories include Henry Blackaby's account of his daughter's miraculous healing from cancer and Adrian Rodgers testimony of how God stopped the rain in Russia after nine minutes of prayer. Or Corrie ten Boom's tale of smuggling her Bible into the concentration camp in plain view of guards. Or the tribesmen who murdered Jim Elliot and other missionaries, who then saw a brilliant white light overhead and heard loud, joyous singing they would later say were angels.

Our nation today experiences the most troubled times I can remember, from loss of homes and jobs to unexpected death and divorce. Many experience feelings of hopelessness and despair. John's collection of true stories encourages and provides hope as they point to the God of all Hope and readers are reminded God is still in control at all times of all things. Even when things happen we don't understand or senseless circumstances occur like the Newtown massacre of children and staff.

The book fits easily into purse, briefcase and is small enough for a bedside table with contents that encourage renewed faith and trust. Its "amazing true stories," short enough to read over a coffee break, while waiting for an appointment or before turning the lights out.

Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Afterlife
Eben Alexander
Simon & Schuster
1230 Ave of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781451695199, $21.99,

Eben Alexander, M.D. writes about his near death experience from a scientific, neurosurgeon's point-of-view in, Proof of Heaven: a Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Afterlife. Prior to the experience his training and education disallowed "...belief in heaven, God or the soul." Afterward, his views on life, death, eternity and the soul would change.

His story begins at his home in Lynchburg, Virginia where he wakes to feel "...waves of pain shoot down his spine..." Recovering from a virus, he attributed the pain to the flu and thought an early morning bath might help. Despite all efforts, the pain increased and his head began to throb. Soon "grand mal" seizures violently jerked his limbs. His wife Holly dialed 911 as he slipped into unconsciousness.

The Emergency Room doctors ordered a spinal tap and CT scan. The "spinal tap was full of pus" and the CT scan showed the "...lining of his brain was dangerously swollen and inflamed." He was diagnosed with "E. coli meningitis," a brain infection rarely found in adults, of which only "10 percent are lucky enough to survive." That he survived was considered a "medical miracle."

However, Alexander doesn't consider his survival the miracle part of his story; instead the miracle is the compelling seven day journey he writes about. Where, even though his body "...lay in a hospital bed in a deep coma" his spirit traveled to distant places, met strange beings and found love he'd never known before.

Readers learn about "...a place of pulsing, pounding darkness..." he describes as dirty "Jell-O" in appearance. It was a place of consciousness "...without memory or identity" that included "mechanical, rhythmic a heartbeat," a world without logic, emotion or language. (Pg. 29) Where "...grotesque animal faces bubbled out of the muck..." to groan and screech...a place of biological death." (Pg.31)

Until "...a pure white light sounds of music began...and Alexander whooshed into a completely new...brilliant, vibrant, ecstatic, stunning world..." (Pgs. 38, 39 40)There he met "an angelic being," a beautiful young girl dressed in peasant clothes, riding the wings of a butterfly who delivered a three-part message:

"You are loved and cherished, dearly, forever."

"You have nothing to fear."

"There is nothing you can do wrong."

Thus begins a spiritual journey that ends abruptly when Alexander's eyes fly open just as the doctors decide to stop treatment fearing severe brain dysfunction. The parallel stories of his family's daily bedside vigil attest to their love and concern for him.

Although Alexander writes about this near death experience with sincerity, his experience is unlike other near death experiences that include God, Jesus, heaven or hell. Instead, his story includes a New Age worldview where he meets "Om" who he calls god. A few things to consider:

Jesus is mentioned once (pg. 34) in reference to a book he's never read.

He considers God "Om," which is known as a Hindu, Sanskrit god.

In an interview on Fox News: he said, "God does not punish people for being non-believers - there is no hell." The King James Bible mentions hell over 54 times.

Before Dr. Alexander's journey began he didn't believe in heaven, hell, God or the soul. He believed those concepts were "simply a product of brain chemistry." Today he is a believer, yet the spiritual experience he describes doesn't fit the Christian worldview.

I believe Alexander had a profound, life-changing spiritual experience that taught him death was only a transition point on the highway of life. Yet I question who he had the experience with since he doesn't include Jesus or His teachings anywhere in the book. While an interesting narrative, readers need to remember 2 Corinthians 11:14 where Paul wrote, "Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light."

Gail Welborn, Reviewer

Gary's Bookshelf

The Chronicles of Downton Abbey A New Era
Jessica Fellowes & Mathew Sturgis
Foreword by Julian Fellowes
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue
New York, New York 10010
9781250027627, $29.99,

Now in its third season Downton Abbey on PBS's Masterpiece Classics has surpassed anyone's expectations as it was only supposed to be for one season. Here at the onset of season three of the highly successful drama "Downton Abbey" comes a beautiful coffee table companion. "The Chronicles of Downton Abby A New Era details the events so far of the series. It also goes behind the scenes of the production, as well as deals with how precise the show is to the time period when it takes place. It introduces the large cast of the "Upstairs" family as well as the equally important "Downstairs" group. Created and written by the talented Julian Fellowes, it brings to life the characters from the series. For the unfamiliar the book recreates what has happened so far with a glimpse into the third season. For followers of those seasons it is a reminder of what has happened to the Crowley family and their extensive staff. The book is filled with magnificent pictures of the large talented cast. For those who are starting with the third season "The Chronicles of Downton Abbey A New Era" is a great way to catch up on what has already happened and to get hooked even more on this great drama that is so much fun to watch.

The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook
Emily Ansara Baines
Adams Media
57 Littlefield Street, Avon MA 02322
9781440538919, $21.95,

Not officially a part of the show "Downton Abbey," "The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook is fun for anyone who enjoys the series that is such a great hit all across the world. The author begins with the foods the Crowley family and the other "Upstairs" characters would eat in 7 courses and what they have when they have tea. The second portion is about the "Downstairs" characters and the foods they enjoy. There are recipes as well as proper etiquette lessons to learn and enjoy. She also tells when and where many customs originated. Some of the things are when was the first use of a spoon, the proper time to use a knife, which fork for what type of meal. Reading "The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook" gives a better understanding of "Downton Abbey" and its characters. This is an interesting way for fans to feel a part of the show as well as try so many new and different types of foods.

Mr. Monk Gets Even
Lee Goldberg
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780451239150, $23.95,

"Mr. Monk Gets Even" is the 15th novel by Lee Goldberg. All of the stories have been fun reading and have added so much to the show that was such a big hit on the USA Network. This time out Monk solves several cases as Natalie works for a police department in New Jersey. Monk has a new assistant during Natalie's absence. While all of this is taking place there is also the forthcoming wedding of Monk's brother Ambrose that Adrian is not dealing with very well. Also Goldberg brings back Dale the Whale who adds lots of conflict to both Monk and Captain Stottlemeyer. Goldberg has been a great choice because he was one of the talented writers of several episodes. In his introduction he reveals how his first title Mr. Monk Goes to the Firehouse was turned into the episode "Mr. Monk Can't See A Thing." Goldberg is the first author to write a novel of a TV series that was later turned into an episode. He also announces that "Mr. Monk Gets Even" his last novel of Monk. I'm sorry to see him leave and it at this time it is uncertain if the series of novels will continue.

Merry Christmas, Alex Cross
James Patterson
Little Brown and Company
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
1271 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020
9780316210683, $2.99

Poor Alex Cross can not even enjoy Christmas with his family because he is called out on Christmas Eve to deal with a hostage situation and later a search for a terrorist group in the newest novel "Merry Christmas, Alex Cross.' Patterson is a master of this genre and shows why with this newest Alex Cross tale. From page one the story flows along with interesting characters to its final explosive conclusion in a page turner crime thriller novel. Patterson's style is rapid paced and "Merry Christmas Alex Cross" is a great addition to the series.

Confessions of a Murder Suspect
James Patterson and Maxine Paetro
Little Brown and Company
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
1271 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020
9780316206983, $19.99

Though marketed as a YA title "Confessions of a Murder Suspect" is a great read for anyone who wants a good mystery. Patterson and Paetro have collaborated for many other titles and they once again tell a great story here with interesting characters who are perceived to be suspects in the murder of their parents. . Part of the fun is also figuring out who killed the parents Tandy Angel and her brother. "Confessions of a Murder Suspect" has all the trademark qualities of a Patterson novel: great storytelling, believable characters and rapid page turning suspense

Collateral Damage
Stuart Woods
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399159862, $26.95,

Not to be confused with the Arnold Schwarzenegger film of the same name, this "Collateral Damage" is another great Stone Barrington novel that takes place after the events of "Severe Clear." Barrington is back with a whole slew of characters in another great thriller that begins with a bombing attack in Europe that ties in with the terrorists of the previous novel. "Collateral Damage" is another fast paced read that will have readers turning the pages. Part of the fun of the most recent Barrington books is where do Stone and Dino go for dinner, because their favorite place Elaine's is no longer in business.

They Disappeared
Rick Mofina
Harlequin Mira
c/o Harlequin
225 Duncan Mill Road
Don Mills, Ontario, Canada M3B 3K9
9780373062553, $7.99

Rick Mofina is back with another rapid fire tale of suspense in "They Disappeared." Jeff Griffin, his wife Sarah, and their nine year old son Cole are on vacation in New York City when Sarah and Cole just disappear when Jeff was in a shop for a couple of minutes. Jeff begins a search for his wife and son in a nail biting suspense tale that unfolds very quickly to a final logical conclusion. Mofina is a great writer of this type of novel and "They Disappeared" is another fast paced thriller that would make a great movie.

A Pond Beneath the Moon
Sally Shields
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781438239149, $19.95,

We've all been in some kind of relationship that has come to an end in which we do some kind of soul searching before we begin a new one. "A Pond Beneath the Moon" is Sally Shields doing exactly that in poetic form. The pieces are revealing and very interesting of a woman's analysis of herself and her life and wanting something better that what she has had before. Shields has a lot to say in an easy to read style that so many of us can relate to.

The Mayor of Cabbage Hammock
Noony Brown, author
Tanya Sistare, illustrator
Legacy Book Publishing
1883 Lee Road, Winter Park Fl 32789
9781934449714, $14.95,

In north Florida there is a little place named Cabbage Hammock. This is the story of the town, its mayor and many other interesting characters that celebrate the wonders of nature. Author Brown and illustrator Sistare combine their talents to tell a wonderful story that highlights the world we live in and gives lots of positive messages to kids of all ages. Hopefully this is the first of a series of the wonderful individuals of Cabbage Hammock.

Bubs the Bumble Bee and Her Most Unfortunate Fortunate Adventure
Joyce Graham Fogwill
Outskirts Press Inc
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781449050429, $12.95,

Fogwill, who is a retired science teacher, once again uses the character of Bubs the Bumblebee and pictures of real bumblebees and flowers to teach kids about these two parts of nature. Bubs the Bumblebee flies around oblivious to the whole world around her. She finds out not everything is as innocent as she once believed. She almost loses her life when she encounters some flowers. The story like "Bubs the Bumble Bee and The Spider's Web" is simple but teaches a lot about how bees and flowers are not so compatible. "Bubs the Bumble Bee and Her Most Unfortunate Fortunate Adventure" is a book parents should read, discuss and apply the underlying lessons with their kids to teach them to be safer in the world we live in.

Gary Roen

Gloria's Bookshelf

Blood Never Dies
Cynthia Harrod-Eagles
Severn House
110 E. 59th St., NY, NY 10022
9780727882110, $28.95,

The latest Bill Slider mystery finds the DI called to the scene of what was initially thought to be a suicide but which, on closer examination, seems to be a murder. Things become much more complex when the Shepherd's Bush police cannot find any identification for the dead man, nor any personal items, such as cell phone, computer, wallet, at the scene. Any when they do get the name of the flat's tenant from the building owner, that name appears to be false. Things become murkier as the investigation continues, with more bodies appearing to be tied in to the first.

Present are the usual assortment of colleagues who fans of the series have gotten to know and love, despite (or perhaps because of) their quirks and eccentricities, of course their boss, DS Porson, master of the malapropisms, who "used language like a man flailing at wasps - - usually effective, but never a pretty sight."

Meticulously plotted, the author brings matters to a most satisfactory resolution. As much as the mystery itself, and the wonderful characters who inhabit it, among the most enjoyable ingredients of this series are the charming descriptions, of people and places, employed by her, e.g., "scrawny frog-eyed Hollis, with his despairing hair and feather-duster moustache [who] made Peter Lorre look like a model from a knitwear catalogue;" the aforementioned building owner, "short and swarthy, his head emerging from his shoulders without the bother of a neck;" one character who had "so many spare tyres round his neck he looked as though his chin was resting on a stack of crumpets;" another who had teeth "so white he'd have been useful to have around on a rocky shore in the fog;" a bouncer whose "chest was so broad his nipples were in different time zones. He looked as if he could lift weights with his tongue;" and Slider himself who, at one point at the end of a long day, removes his shoes and socks in a quiet moment: "His feet wriggled gratefully in the open air like puppies shown affection at last." I always finish a Cynthia Harrod-Eagles/Bill Slider book anxiously awaiting the next one, and this one is no exception. Highly recommended.

In the Darkness
Karin Fossum
Translated by James Anderson
Harvill Secker
c/o Vintage Books
20 Vauxhall Bridge Rd.
London England SW1V 2SA
9781846555251, 12.99 BPS,

(This book is only available in/through the UK and Canada at this time, not in US at present)

As the book opens, Eva Magnus is walking with her seven-year-old daughter, Emma, one late afternoon in April along the riverbank in her Norwegian town, described as "only beautiful after dark," when suddenly a body floats to the surface of the icy water. Although she tells Emma that she will immediately call the police, the call she makes is an innocuous one to her father, after which the two go to McDonald's to eat and then return to their home. Eva is an artist, a single mom after that her husband had left to live with another woman. She is a complex woman, with a fear of dogs which comes up several times in the opening pages of this novel, which first introduced Inspector Konrad Sejer.

Sejer, after another person discovers the body and notifies the police, heads up the investigation. The dead man is identified as Egil Einarsson, 38 years old with a wife and six-year-old son, who had been reported missing several months before. He had apparently been stabbed 15 times before his body was dumped in the water. When Sejer realizes that the date of the dead man's disappearance was only a few days after the body of a dead woman was found in the same general area, he pursues the two cases as being connected. Along the way, the name of Eva Magnus keeps popping up in connection with each. Much of the tale is told in flashback, as the back-story is slowly revealed.

Sejer is 49 years old, widowed for eight, with a grown daughter and a young grandson. He is a man of great charm with a sentimental side, qualities reflected in the author's writing as well. The plot is intriguing as the investigation proceeds to its logical conclusion with Sejer following up all the clues. [The novel was originally published in Norwegian in 1995, and several books in the series have followed.] I have enjoyed all this author's books very much, and this one is no exception. Recommended.

Bear is Broken
Lachlan Smith
The Mysterious Press
c/o Grove/Atlantic
841 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9780802120793, $24.00,

Leo Maxwell has just formally become a member of California State Bar. He is a man who does not think "ethical criminal defense attorney" is an oxymoron, perhaps putting him in the minority, certainly among the San Francisco police and the District Attorney's office. His older brother, Teddy, is a member of that fraternity, a brilliant lawyer and one of the most sought-after criminal defense attorneys in northern California. As the two men share a lunch while on a break from the trial just nearing its conclusion, with Teddy's closing argument due that afternoon, a man enters the restaurant and shoots Teddy in the head at point-blank range, then quickly exits before anyone can make a move.

So begins this first novel from Lachlan Smith, apparently the first in a series, and an impressive debut it is. Teddy lies in the hospital in a coma, and both Leo as well as Teddy's ex-wife and former law partner, Jeanie, now working at the Contra Costa County Public Defender's Office, are left to grapple with the prognosis and the knowledge that they may at some point in the not-too-distant future have to decide whether to remove him from life-support systems. But the most urgent task for Leo is to find the gunman. His first move is to examine all his brother's case files, to see if a disgruntled client, or a victim or witness in one of his headline-making cases has sought revenge. There are several viable suspects as his investigation continues.

Leo has been haunted most of his life by the death of their mother 16 years before ("the abscess at the center of his life"), apparently at the hands of her husband, the boys' father. It was Leo who at age ten had returned from school to find her badly beaten body, the weapon Leo's baseball bat. Despite having protested his innocence, the father was convicted and is serving a life term at San Quentin.

Leo must prove himself, to others and to himself, having been raised by and stayed in the shadow of his well-known, and in many circles reviled, brother. In his insecurity, as a youngster he had a Batman symbol tattooed on his upper left arm.

I loved the author's description of a nurse in the hospital as having "the self-sufficient look of someone who spent most of her time with people who didn't talk back." Deftly plotted, the only flaw this reader found was perhaps too many possible culprits, in what turns out to be three killings, by the end getting a slight case of whiplash as the novel names one, and then another and then another, and the possibility that one, or perhaps more than one, is guilty. That said, the novel is a fast and engrossing read, and is recommended.

A Cup Full of Midnight
Jaden Terrell
Permanent Press
4170 Noyac Rd., Sag Harbor NY 11963
9781579622251, $28.00,

Jared McKean, 36 years of age and now a private detective after seven years with the Nashville Metro Police Department, has gone, as he describes it, from "uniformed patrol officer to undercover vice officer to homicide detective to outsider." Now he has his most important client ever: his nephew, Josh. Josh and his sister, 14-year-old Caitlin, are as close to him as anyone in his life, the boy feeling closer to him than to his own father. Lately Josh's life has been in a state of upheaval, having not long ago come out of the closet and left home to live with Sebastian Parker, known as "Razor," the sociopath who'd seduced him [a man in his late 20's to Josh's 16]. After the latter's murder a few days before, Josh had attempted suicide, and now 'hires' Jared to find out who killed Razor. No simple task, since he seems to have engendered hatred in most everyone whose path he crossed. In what appears to be a ritual killing, he had been slashed to death, emasculated, eviscerated, and his body placed on a pentagram, surrounded by occult symbols.

The novel is a cautionary tale of disenchanted youth and the Goth sub-culture, "vampire wannabees." I was initially - but only initially - unsure whether this was a book for me, agreeing with the protagonist when he says "I didn't believe in magic spells or voodoo curses. I didn't believe in vampires or witches or things that go bump in the night. The only monsters I had ever seen were human."

This is the second in the Jared McKean series, following the terrific "Racing the Devil," and it doesn't disappoint. Jared's "ex" hits the nail on the head in explaining why she couldn't stay married to him, citing his career choice: "It's not what you do; it's who you are. You're a hero waiting for something to die for." Jared is a fascinating protagonist. Still on good terms with his ex-wife [now re-married and in her ninth month of pregnancy], they are both devoted to their eight-year-old Down Syndrome son, Paulie. He shares a ranch with his best childhood friend, Jay, now battling AIDS, and his three horses: Dakota, the rescued Arabian; Crockett, the Tennessee Walker; and Tex, the palomino gelding Quarter Horse. As the investigation continues, several suspects emerge, and Jared's investigation puts his life, and that of his nephew, at risk, and he becomes even more relentless. Well-plotted, the book has more than one heart-stopping moment. It was a very good read, and is recommended.

Kill You Twice
Chelsea Cain
Minotaur Books
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312619787, $25.99,

Archie Sheridan, a detective at the Major Case Task Force in Portland, Oregon, for years had headed what was termed the Beauty Killer Task Force, dedicated to tracking down and bringing to justice a megalomaniac serial killer whose victims were tortured and killed in gruesome ways, graphically described. Their target, Gretchen Lowell, a stunning blonde who claims she had killed more than two hundred people, almost claimed Archie as one of her victims, but despite slowly torturing him over a 10-day period [during which time, among other things, she removed his spleen - - without anesthesia, of course], she let him live. She is now locked up in the forensic psychiatric services ward of the State Hospital.

Six years later, now forty-one, Archie has only recently returned to work after two years on medical leave. He is called to a murder scene as the book opens; soon after another body is discovered with striking similarities. As Archie says about Portland, it is "known for its blush-tinted scenery, and its serial killers." There is still a strong connection between Archie and Gretchen, and ultimately he accedes to her calls asking him to come see her, at which point she says she can help him find the killer. His scars, which still itch and sometimes bleed, are a constant reminder of her brutality, but he can no sooner escape them than he can the power and sexual pull she still exerts over him.

The characters in the series are vividly drawn, and fully fleshed out. Susan Ward, reappearing three months after being fired from the local newspaper, the Herald, still very attracted to Archie; Susan's mother, Bliss, a former hippie, whose "eyes looked sparkly and spacey, like an anesthetized rabbit;" Henry, Archie's best friend and partner, himself recovering from a narrow escape from death, and trying without much success to keep his relationship with a fellow cop under wraps; Leo Reynolds, an attorney and the son of a drug kingpin whose sister's killer Archie had caught; among others.

In trademark fashion, as the investigation proceeds and the solution is in sight, the tight plotting grabs the reader by the throat and doesn't let go till the end, and the author pulls off one unexpected twist after another. And lest you think the book is entirely comprised of graphic violence, be assured that there are regular doses of humor in these pages.

Parenthetically, in case you're wondering, the title of this book comes from a couplet: "Sweet as sugar, hard as ice, hurt me once, I'll kill you twice." If this is your introduction to the Archie Sheridan/Gretchen Lowell series, you'll understand it better after you read the book - not necessarily an easy read, certainly, but a highly recommended one. The next book in the series, "Let Me Go,' is due out in August of 2013, and I for one can't wait!

Available Dark
Elizabeth Hand
Minotaur Books
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780250013231, $14.99,

This novel isn't one that defies description, exactly, but it does make it difficult. Its tone is bleak throughout, perhaps in keeping with the geographical landscape, made palpable by the author's gorgeous writing. The plot is not complex, but that is not the crux of the book, which is the haunting quality of its beautiful prose.

Cass Neary is a photographer with a moribund career, a woman prone to night terrors, who still indulges in her long-time near-addiction to alcohol and drugs of various kinds, from "speed" to crystal meth [about which I learned more than I ever wanted to know as to its effects on the human body, and mind] and everything in between. Nearly six feet tall, she is self-described as "a burned-out, aging punk with a dead gaze, a faded tattoo, and a raw red scar beside one eye." The story takes her to the streets and highland areas of, respectively, Helsinki, where she is told "the entire country's unemployed and on the verge of a psychotic breakdown," and Reykjavik [also in dire straits, where there can be snow in August and where, she is told, "everything is an illusion"], trying to track down a long-lost friend/lover from her high school days of thirty years ago, and in an attempt to evade both the police and a murderer.

Cass leaves the Lower East Side of Manhattan after receiving a lucrative job offer: to confirm the existence of, and authenticate, a group of photos depicting ritual killings, still photos which could have started life in a snuff film, something called "murderabilia." There is much discussion about the photographer's technique of using only available light, the converse of which gives rise to the title. Nordic, Viking and Icelandic religions and myths play a large part in the story line. We are told of "ghosts that didn't know they were dead," and there is a quote from the sagas of the region: "Death will claim no man until his time has come, and nothing will save a man who is fated to die. Therefore be bold: to die in fear is the worst death of all."

There were many cultural references that I must admit escaped me, which were, I'm guessing, linked to "punk" music ["death metal" and "black metal"] and "punk" photography [a genre I didn't even know existed]. The writing is macabre and disturbing on several levels. This is a novel not easily forgotten.

Port Vila Blues
Garry Disher
Soho Crime
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9781616951016, $25.00,

Although I had heard of this Australian author, before picking up "Port Vila Blues," I had not read any of his previous novels. He has written over 40 books, including most conspicuously the Inspector Hal Challis series. This book, written in 1995, is the fifth in the Wyatt series, which now total seven entries, and is the first published in the US.

The protagonist, Vietnam vet Wyatt Wareen, is a thief, and the book is filled with his cohorts and colleagues of equally unlawful lifestyles, all of them with virtually no redeeming qualities, and quite unsympathetic, with a propensity for violence, racism, anti-Semitism, misogyny - - well, you get my drift. Wyatt, a man with "the habit of permanent vigilance," is an original and interesting creation. At one point, he reflects on his past: "A year ago he'd traveled these waters alone in a stolen motorboat. Having shot a man who'd sold him out, he'd been on the run. He usually was, in those days." At another point, he reflects further: "The old ways were gone, it seemed. Men like him - - private, professional, meticulous - - were anachronistic in a world given over to impulse and display."

The book shifts in time, place and p.o.v. with sufficient frequency to induce, if not exactly whiplash, at least occasional momentary confusion, as it veers from one well-planned robbery to another, with rampant corruption making it impossible to separate the good guys from the bad. The book is a satisfying read, with a suspenseful denouement, and while not without its faults, it is recommended.

The End of the Wasp Season
Denise Mina
Reagan Arthur/Back Bay Books
c/o Hatchette Book Group
237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10017
9780316069342, $14.99,

Each of the first three chapters of this newest novel by Denise Mina, author of the Garnethill trilogy among other wonderful books, introduces the reader to three women, each of them strong and independent, and each tested by events which follow. The most dramatic, and tragic, is Sarah Erroll, 24 years old, who is sexually mutilated and brutally murdered in the first pages. [The full extent of the savagery is not known till nearly half-way through the book, although it is hinted at.] In Glasgow, the Strathclyde police are called in, and the DS handling the brunt of the investigation is DS Alex Morrow, not quite five months pregnant with twins. The third of these women is Kay Murray, a single mother of four who had worked for the dead woman and, coincidentally, had been a schoolmate of Alex many years ago.

But the central figure throughout the book is Lars Anderson, multimillionaire banker who believed that "you couldn't trick an honest man." He appears to be a UK version of Bernard Madoff, having ruined many lives before taking his own in the early pages of the book. There is plenty of family dysfunction and family tragedy to go around in this book, the Andersons only the worst of these.

Alex thinks, as the case begins, that "she hated sexual murders. They all hated them, not just out of empathy with the victim but because sexual crimes were corrosive, they took them to hideous dark places in their own heads, made them suspicious and fearful, and not always of other people."

The author kept this reader off balance, with having to figure out who some of the characters were and their relationship to other players, and to the plot itself. The book has sudden shocking moments, only adding to that sense of being off-balance. The author mentions Alex looking forward to a night going over her notes and trying to fit together the pieces of the puzzle that is her investigation, and "the promise of utter absorption" that it holds. I could completely relate to that description, for that is precisely what this novel provides.

Highly recommended.

The Dark Rose
Erin Kelly
Penguin Books
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780143122746, $16.00,

Louisa Trevelyan is working as a garden designer re-creating a historically accurate Tudor garden in Warwickshire, at the fictional Kelstice Lodge. After working for years recreating gardens that had fallen into neglect on private estates, this community program has really given her a chance to indulge her creative passion for garden design. It is there that she meets Paul Seaforth, 19 years old, who bears "an uncanny likeness" to her lover of years ago, Adam Glasslake. Though that relationship only lasted a few months, Louisa had been obsessed with Adam from the day she met him, an obsession undiminished with the years, which now translates into an affair with the much-younger Paul.

Kelstice is a project of Veriditas, a charity working with "at risk youth." Paul's presence is the "community service" to which he has been sentenced in lieu of jail time for his part in a crime committed by a mentor of sorts, against whom he has agreed to testify in court. For her part, Louisa also has a past which threatens her present. By unspoken agreement, they never discuss their pasts with one another.

Billed as a 'psychological mystery,' I found the novel to be more suspense than mystery, as the details of Paul's and Louisa's pasts are revealed to the reader only in small doses. The shifting p.o.v. and time frames were somewhat disorienting, but necessary, describing the earlier years of both protags bit by bit, building the anticipation, until quite near the end of the novel, when all the details are finally revealed, leading to a stunning climax.


Cover of Snow
Jenny Milchman
c/o Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780345534217, $26.00,

This debut novel from Jenny Milchman has been getting a lot of buzz in the very short time since its publication, and it is easy to see why. The protagonist, 35-year-old Nora Hamilton, living in the remote town of Wedeskyull in the Adirondack Mountain region of upstate New York, is reeling from her husband Brendan's suicide. When she discovers that he purchased a prescription bottle of sedatives a week before his death, all her assumptions about how well she knew Brendan are challenged, and she wonders what else is going on around her that she has been too blinded to see clearly.

A relative outsider in the town [inasmuch as she has only lived there for 6 years, and not for three generations, as seems to be required before one stops being considered such], Wedeskyull begins to seem like anything but the safe harbor it had always seemed. When she goes to Brendan's fellow cops for answers, or her mother-in-law, she comes away with more questions than answers. The small town and its inhabitants are very well-drawn, the wintry landscape made palpable.

My only reservation is that at times it seemed evident that this was a first novelistic effort, with some awkward word choices, but as the plot moved forward and the suspense grew, so did my enjoyment of the book, and I find myself looking forward with great anticipation to the author's next novel. Recommended.

Lake Country
Sean Doolittle
Bantam Books
c/o Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780345533920, $15.00,

In this, his sixth novel, the author takes the reader to the Twin Cities area of the US, and focuses attention in particular, for crucial parts of the tale, on the eponymous region known for its excellent fishing. As one character, who owns a cabin there, puts it, "no matter how tired he is, no matter how low he goes, no matter how shitty or screwed up life ever seems to get, for him it's nothing a couple weeks in the lake country can't fix." But nothing as innocuous as that in this telling.

The pivotal event from which everything else stems is the death of Becky Morse, a college sophomore, killed one rainy night when a car crashed head-on into hers, the other driver having fallen asleep at the wheel. Ultimately, Wade Benson, a successful, hard-working architect in his 40's with a wife and young daughter of his own, avoided criminal charges and was convicted of misdemeanor reckless driving, given five years probation, with the added provision that he spend two days in jail for each of those five years, to be served on the anniversary of the girl's death.

Needless to say, Becky's death, and the outcome of the trial, sparked quite a lot of outrage through the area, the local as well as national media dutifully covering the man's time in prison each year. As the book opens, the fifth anniversary of the accident is approaching. Maya Lamb, 26-year-old reporter for one of the local tv stations, is among those covering the event. That morning, Benson's daughter, now almost exactly the same age Becky Morse had been when she died, disappears.

The plot revolves around the ensuing investigation, which grows more intense as the hours go by, with no clues as to who is responsible or why. Two local men, buddies for years since they served in the Marines together in the Iraqi desert, returning much the worse for wear, appear to be involved. The tension and the suspense mount as the hunt goes on for the missing girl.

This is a terrifically entertaining novel, with nail-biting, breathless stretches, and it is highly recommended.

A Pimp's Notes
Giorgio Faletti, authior
Antony Shugaar, translator
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
18 W. 18th St., NY, NY 10011
9780374231408, $26.00,

This new novel by Giorgio Faletti takes place, naturally, in Italy, Milan to be precise. The era is the late '70's, made evident by asides dealing with rotary telephones and cigarettes being smoked on airplanes. The period is made clear as well, e.g.: "A politician of Aldo Moro's stature, held captive by the Red Brigades; another one of equal prominence lying dead on a slab in the morgue, slain by persons unknown. Add to that the strain of ongoing terrorism trials and the chilly veil of fear that touches everyone and everything."

The eponymous protagonist, nicknamed "Bravo," is a 35-year-old man whose profession is accurately described: he is a procurer. And one with a quite startling physical handicap. He is a fascinating individual - not the sleazy person one might expect, any more than a high-class call girl, or 'escort,' is the same as the streetwalker. He procures discreet women of intelligence and beauty, whose clientele count among their number some of the wealthiest and most prominent men in the country. One night he encounters Carla, a woman unlike any he's known before, and his life will never be the same. When he arranges a very special evening with one of his very special clients, things go horribly wrong. Lives are lost, and Bravo becomes hunted by those enforcing the law and those on the other side of it, and is the target of both.

Bravo has a philosophical nature, e.g., "happiness comes to him who settles for less," and "Optimists believe that reading books helps them fight their ignorance, while realists are certain of only one thing, that books give them proof of their ignorance." As to dining in Milan, he says: "As in all fashionable restaurants, the food is no good at all and the prices are astronomical. This is the magic of Milan by night, mysterious alchemies that transform lousy food into solid gold." When hearing of Moro's kidnapping, he is greatly saddened. "The photographs of his detention, his forlorn face, his death sentence, all make me think that, when you live with the suspicion that you're surrounded by nothingness, there's almost always something or someone ready and willing to convert that suspicion to certainty. I wonder if he thought the same thing while the vast world that he once had at his fingertips shrank to the few dozen square feet of a tiny cubicle."

Bravo is given to tackling, and solving, cryptic puzzles, "even though apparently easy challenges often conceal tangled welters of complication . . . I have the feeling that this is a final, terminal enigma, a puzzle whose solution might be worse than the puzzle itself." The writing is quite wonderful, and the novel compulsively readable. This is a book unlike anything I've read recently, and is recommended.

Gloria Feit

Gorden's Bookshelf

Annals of the Omega Project
Thomas A. Cahill
EditPros, LLC
423 F Street, Suite 206, Davis, CA 95616
9781937317034, $19.95,

Annals of the Omega Project is an unusual contemporary paranormal thriller. It is a taunt fast paced adventure. Where it becomes unusual is the narration style and the mix of science and faith.

The narration style isn't what you normally find in fiction. It is a removed style that you now mostly find in history books where a large many faceted event, such as a WWII battle, is narrated with snippets of personal details from the lives of numerous individuals involved on both sides. This makes the storyline harder to become absorbed in but after a few chapters the action and story keeps you reading to the end. A few nonfiction readers might even prefer this style to the typical narration.

Most stories with deep links into the paranormal ignore science and exist solely in the realm of faith and fantasy. Cahill actually pulls these aspects into a complimentary whole that is both a refreshing change and a little fun for the reader. With the politically driven social disconnect between faith and science today, this association between these faces of society is a stimulating change to the contemporary reading scene. Faith, science and contemporary society never have or will overlap seamlessly and a minor weakness in the story is Cahill's attempts to link social norms into his layered storyline.

Professor Ken O'Neal accidently psychically connects with a pretty flight attendant Michelle Kolberg on a flight from Sacramento to Denver. As a physicist, Ken immediately decides to scientifically analyze and expand this telepathic connection. Being a scientist, he knows he will have to keep his exploration into the paranormal a secret or suffer ridicule from the scientific and political establishment. He soon brings together a group of psychic university students and friends into a functioning community where they train and expand their abilities. They accidently stumble across an ancient group of psychics who use their abilities to work behind the scenes collecting power and life from others. When a student, Bonny, from Ken's university is killed by this group as part of this 'Coven's' harvesting of psychic power a lethal war breaks out between Ken's Omega group and the ancient Covens that stretches across the globe.

The Annals of the Omega Project is a fun and interesting slant to the paranormal SF genres. Its mix of science and fantasy may be new for many contemporary readers. Its narration style might not fit well with the recreational weekend reader but the story is strong enough to carry the reading through to the end. Annals is a longer story than it first appears to be, so be sure you have the time to finish the story without major interruptions. Those interested in paranormal/psychic fantasy will enjoy the story. With its variations from expected style and complex storyline it might be a little much for the casual reader.

Finns in Minnesota
Arnold R. Alanen
Minnesota Historical Society Press
345 Kellogg Blvd. W.
Saint Paul, MN 55102-1906
9780873518543, $16.95,

Finns in Minnesota is a textbook. It covers about 130 years of the history of Finns in Minnesota. Finns is an easier read than many books of this type but it is still filled with facts and numbers. To many readers today the population numbers will seem small but if you put them in the context of the time they become significant. Since this story is a textbook, the only numbers used are those that can be documented. Other historical texts for the period look beyond the recorded numbers and try to extrapolate the actual numbers. For example the death numbers for mine workers has to be off. Alanen acknowledges that newspapers didn't record the actual details of many mining accidents and used general terms for the lowest paid such as 'some workers' never recording the real casualty numbers.

What I found most intriguing about the book is the detailed recording of most regions in Minnesota. There seems to be multiple references to every nook and cranny of Minnesota that had or has some Finns in it. Anyone who has lived in this state will find some tidbit of fact that they will find enhances their personal knowledge. Alanen covers politics, religion, sub-ethnic groups, economics and major/minor historic events... The unsung heroes in this story are the women. Wilderness farming was hard. The men usually had to work the mines, timber camps and other seasonal jobs which left the women clearing land, planting crops and raising the children full time in isolation.

Finns in Minnesota is recommended to anyone who lives or has lived in the state. It is also a good basic look at the flood of ethnic immigration into the US in and around the 1900s. For those without either a personal or education connection to the story, it is still a reasonable book to check out at the library. The details are a little dry to justify the cost of purchasing the book without this needed connection.

S.A. Gorden, Reviewer

Harwood's Bookshelf

The Pseudoscience Wars
Michael D. Gordin
University of Chicago Press
1427 E. 60th Street, Chicago IL 60637
9780226304427, $29.00,

The introductory chapter of "The Pseudoscience Wars: Immanuel Velikovsky and the Rebirth of the Modern" fills eighteen pages of small print with attempts by the butcher, baker and candlestick maker to provide a demarcation point that separates science from pseudoscience. No combination of proposed criteria proved reliable, and Gordin falls back (p. 13) on the definition of a Supreme Court justice for identifying pornography: "I know it when I see it."

Gordin declares (p. 6), "This is not a biography of Velikovsky, or an attempt to debunk him or exonerate him." In fact the chapter, "A Monolithic Oneness," is a detailed biography of Velikovsky's movements, sources, writings, and motivations. Mostly he simply describes Velikovsky's evolving theories, and leaves it to the reader to recognize how incompetent they are (how else does one describe attempts to equate fables described as contemporaneous in the Torah with fables separated by six centuries in Egyptian hieroglyphs?). And in discussing Velikovsky's attempt to refute Freud (admittedly a fruitcake whom very few scholars continue to take seriously), he takes a neutral position that raises the question: then why bother?

He quotes (pp. 26-27) astronomer Harlow Shapley's letter to Velikovsky's publisher, Macmillan, that, "if Dr. Velikovsky is right, the rest of us are crazy." Others (p. 37) called Worlds in Collision "annotated claptrap," and "incredibly stupid fantasy on astronomy." Velikovsky was described (p. 4) as "the very model of a crank," and "one of the 'triad of pseudoscience gurus' (along with L. Ron Hubbard and Charles Fort)." He reports (p. 15) that, "from the moment of publication . Velikovsky was branded a crackpot," despite his being, "a medical doctor and a psychoanalyst, so he was not completely outside the scientific community." I get the impression that Godin sees "psychoanalyst" as a more legitimate occupation than astrologer or tealeaf reader. That would explain why Thomas Szasz's name does not appear in his index. Albert Einstein's initial reaction to Velikovsky's "speculations ... which cannot be considered by one with a knowledge of the subject" (p. 119), was that, "your book must appear to the expert as an attempt to deceive the lay public. I must confess that I myself initially also had this impression."

Gordin devotes many pages to the attempts by outraged scientists to dissuade Macmillan, an academic publisher, from dignifying Velikovsky's science-fiction speculation by publishing it. I can understand their attitude. I was similarly outraged when Prometheus, the world's foremost publisher of truths the brainwashed prefer not to know, produced a self-glorifying autobiographical treatise by magician George Kresge, "Kreskin," that I can only describe as unmitigated fiction. That Velikovsky was not a conscious, intentional liar may be the reason he was taken more seriously than Kreskin. But his science fiction hypothesis was as far removed from reality as those of the lying humbug Hubbard, the gullible crank Fort, and the semi-mythical Baron Munchausen.

Whether Velikovsky's sincere belief in his attempt to validate biblical fairy tales was a mitigating circumstance or an aggravating one, I offer no opinion. As for the widespread accusations that attacks on his undisciplined imaginings constituted attempted censorship, "book burning," the long-term consequence is that no similar attempts to influence publishers have been made in recent years, and that is a pity. Even Richard Dawkins has not criticized university presses for publishing apologetics for Alice in Wonderland (or was it the Christian bible? I'm always confusing those two) by Velikovsky clones, Alister McGrath, John Lennox, and Alvin Plantinga. If any present-day writers live in an alternate universe, it is those three. Even John Mack's delusion that persons who told him tales of alien abductions, flying horses, past lives, and time travel, were telling him the truth, because he could not have been deceived by lies, was a paragon of scientific legitimacy by comparison.

Following the chapter that, intentionally or unintentionally, showed Velikovsky to have been even more certifiably irrational than I or most readers ever imagined, Gordon asks (p. 79), "What made some American scientists believe that they were threatened by someone they perceived as a delusional crackpot?" His answer (p. 82) is that, "Lysenkoism laid the powder and attached a short fuse. Velikovsky unwittingly ignited this volatile situation and bore the brunt of the blast." In other words, scientists feared that, unless Velikovsky was stopped, he would do as much harm to American science as Lysenko had done to Soviet agriculture. Anyone who is not familiar with Lysenko's neo-Lamarckian theory that acquired characteristics are heritable really needs to read this chapter.

Gordin goes on to discuss The Genesis Flood and other books that defend Genesis as nonfiction, Erich von Däniken, and Wilhelm Reich, as well as debunkers of Velikovsky's bunkum such as Carl Sagan and Isaac Asimov, but only in the context of their interaction and influence on Velikovsky. Despite the opening disclaimer, The Pseudoscience Wars is very much a biography of a temporarily prominent but now largely forgotten pseudoscientist. The book ends with the recognition that a book supporting the Mayan "end of the world on December 21, 2012" scenario was based very much on Velikovsky's Worlds in Collision alternative astrophysics. Since Velikovsky himself made no such prediction, its failure added nothing to his already irreparable reputation.

The Rocks Don't Lie: A Geologist Investigates Noah's Flood
David R. Montgomery
W.W. Norton
500 Fifth Avenue, New York NY 10110
9780393082395, $26.95,

How did the fairy tale of a globe-encompassing flood originate? (p. 33): "But if you didn't know about plate tectonics, how could you explain finding an old ocean floor on top of the planet's highest peak? People around the world faced a similar question when they saw marine fossils entombed in high mountains. One way to resolve such puzzles is to assume that mountains don't rise and that an incredibly deep sea once covered the peak, and thus the whole world."

That says it all. But instead of quitting while he was ahead, author Montgomery goes on to fill 300 pages with trivia about how the tale was expended, contracted, rationalized and justified, by apologists whose common starting point was their determination to believe that the myth had a factual basis. Except in the sense that the biblical flood was borrowed from the Epic of Gilgamesh, written centuries before the bible, which was triggered by one of the many localized floods in Mesopotamia, it did not.

Either Montgomery himself believes that the Christian bible is something other than unmitigated fiction, or for economic reasons conceals that he has no such belief. He is assuredly no True Believer. He writes (p. 13), "Whatever you may think about evolution, the creationist belief in a several-thousand-year-old Earth shaped by Noah's Flood is as scientifically illiterate as the idea that the sun circles us. Both have been known to be wrong for centuries."

Among chapter after chapter of trivia that, while not inaccurate, has a lot in common with a detailed description of how paint dries, an occasional useful observation emerges. He explains how floods, glaciers, rivers and other natural phenomena, over the course of longer time periods than biblical literalists believe our planet has existed, created such phenomena as the Grand Canyon. But he makes clear that no single cause such as one flood had more than a localized effect. He recognizes (p. 50) that biblical authors believed that the earth is flat. But he rationalizes that, since "it is impossible to see the far side of the world on a spherical planet," that one must "understand the [flat earth implication] as a figure of speech." Is that his real interpretation of abject falsehoods? His use of the offensive dating system, AD, that tells the world's six billion non-Christians that they are living in the "Year of the Master," indicates that perhaps it is, as does his capitalization of pronouns referring to the god of religion. And since he is a geologist rather than a biblical scholar, it comes as no surprise that he thinks (p. 157) that the authors of Genesis were monotheists. They were monolatrists, sycophants of a single god but believers in many.

I will not call this a useless book. It details the evolution of an idea, and that is always worth doing. But trivial and insignificant it certainly is.

William Harwood

Janet's Bookshelf

Mike Bartos
Xlibris Corporation
1663 South Liberty Drive
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781477158920, $22.99 hc / $12.99 pbk / $0.99 Kindle

BASH is an acronym which stands for: Bay Area State Hospital. It's also the title of Mike Bartos' new novel. The action takes place in a Charleston community newspaper office and a South Carolina State Mental Facility which has as clientele, the criminally insane. BASH does not exist in real life but maybe because of the author's background, Bartos is a physician and psychiatrist and former chief of staff at a state institution, while I was reading BASH, I believed totally in the mental hospital's existence.

The medicos and patients are so realistically depicted I found myself worried for the staff who, hindered by a penny-pinching, report loving bureaucracy, work daily in situations that put them in personal danger. Despite this and the frustration of caring for guys and gals whose view of the world is more than somewhat skewed, the staff; particularly the nurses, battle on with whatever medication or strategies available to keep the patients under their supervision safe, fed and bedded down without incidence or injury. Every year patients go before a parole board to check their suitability for release to the outside world. Not many make it and if they do, it doesn't seem likely you would want to live in the same neighbourhood.

A murder inside BASH comes to the attention of Ashley Roper, a Charleston community newspaper owner/editor. Ash Roper is a guy with problems. A recovering alcoholic, he served in the Gulf War and is haunted by dreams of combat and the treatment of Iraqi prisoners of war. The newspaper he founded looks shaky - advertising revenue is going down fast and if he's not careful so will his marriage. Ash comes up with a solution to boost circulation and save his marriage. With the help of the BASH Police Chief, he goes undercover at the hospital, his brief: discover the murderer and track down who is supplying illegal drugs to patients and then write a feature article for his paper.

I had a bad feeling about this and I was right - Roper is supposed to be released at 6 p.m. on the day his prison patient masquerade begins. It doesn't happen and by nightfall with no contact with the outside world, Ash Roper is in serious danger. The book's title says it all, and there's another murder as Ash's wife, Sally J, fights desperately to have him released.

Despite the grimness of the setting, there's a lot of black humour in BASH and amidst the organized chaos and violence of a mental facility there are some funny situations and characters. The plot unusual, Mike Bartos' description of Southern Carolina beaches is written with an eye to nature and the people who call the low county their home. Vivid and immediate writing.

The story is multi-faceted and Bartos' style of semi-documentary fiction is complemented by his ability to tie all the loose ends together in a hugely exciting ending.

I really liked BASH; it's a great story and a testament to the men and women who work ridiculous hours for ridiculous pay to care for the people we'd rather not know about - the criminally insane.

The Museum Of Abandoned Secrets
Oksana Zabuzhko
c/o Amazon Digital Pubilshing
9781611090116, $8.99 pbk / $4.99 Kindle

A museum is a cultural repository of relics, artistic and functional. The interpretation of beautiful, strange or frightening objects in modern times is often dependent on the memories passed down through word of mouth or written record by the long ago creators/users of these items. Memories, particularly when they relate to human endeavour can be unreliable, prejudices and political allegiances often taint historical narratives.

Oksana Zabuzhko's novel, The Museum Of Abandoned Secrets pursues the truth about life in World War II by researching and quizzing memories of people who lived and fought during this period. Truth, always elusive, memories are not always forthcoming or welcome and cast shadows on current day relationships. Set in contemporary Ukraine, it tells the story of two modern day women, Daryna, a TV journalist and Vlada, a well known artist. Daryna, fascinated by an archival picture of Olena, a World War II Ukrainian insurgent soldier, begins research for a documentary to reveal the facts surrounding Olena's life and death. She meets and falls in love with Olena's grandson, Adrian. War, a terrible event, whenever or wherever it occurs, Daryna's search uncovers a dark past where secrets are still the local currency, memories distorted or silenced because the truth is too traumatic or dangerous to reveal. Daryna's choice is: whether to dig up the past and accept the consequences or abandon the secrets of Olena's life and let silence; the silence of the grave prevail.

The author, Oksana Zabuzhko, a prize winning Ukrainian poet, researched the book by collecting recorded evidence and anecdotal eyewitness accounts of the Nazi occupation in Lviv from local residents, Holocaust survivors, World War II veterans and members of the Ukranian Insurgent Army.

The Museum Of Abandoned Secrets is a large (708 pages) sprawling book which alternates between what could have been two novels - the present day romance set in a 2003 corrupt, slightly crazy, post Communist Ukraine struggling to emerge from the shackles of an oppressive Russian government and the tragic love story of Olena and her Free Ukrainian Army lover. The story does jump about a bit, perhaps, because the author was trying to mimic the way memory works in human minds - we know we are at the office but something triggers a return to childhood events and for a time reality takes a different turn. Once I accepted the episodic prose style I became absorbed in both stories. Zabuzhko's wonderfully creative descriptive passages and dialogue weaves an exciting entrancing story of a country and people rarely available to western readers - top marks to translator, Nina Shevchuk-Murray. Included in the story are some events that did occur in Ukraine between 1943 to 2003 which provide a historical context to the novel's theme; how memories of events resonate and shape the lives of future generations. I do think it's a mistake though, to think that the book is intended as a definitive guide to Ukranian history during this period. If readers would like to research further there are references at the back of the text.

Immerse yourself in this lovely book, let the funny, brave, idealistic, wildly romantic characters surround you - The Museum of Abandoned Secrets is a great read.

Jail Coach, A Jay Davidovich Mystery
Hillary Bell Locke
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E.First Avenue, Suite 103
Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781464200243, $24.95 hc / $14.95 pbk / $6.99 Kindle

Insurance companies employ Loss Prevention Specialists to minimize the risk they take or payout they have to make when performers in the entertainment business don't complete contracts. It's a tough job - there's no business like show business and there's no employee more trouble than an indulged, self-absorbed movie star. Just ask Jay Davidovich, Trans/Oxana's loss prevention specialist - his company has accepted a policy on Hollywood hunk, George Trowbridge and Jay has been assigned the role of babysitter to protect Trans/Oxana's premium by keeping Trowbridge trouble free. George has to complete his multi-picture contract with New Paradigm Studios or Trans/Oxana will have to hand-over an eight figure cash payout.

There's a problem: George has been caught DUI in his Ferrari. A repeat offender, he's been booked to appear at the San Gabriel County Courthouse - two strikes doesn't mean Trowbridge is out; it more than likely means he'll be in... in jail for a minimum of nine months. Not for cissies or movie star screw-ups, jail is for grownups, mostly drug taking, paranoid grownups.

The movie-going public being notoriously fickle, George Trowbridge doing jail time could mean his movies will tank; a disaster for Trans/Oxana as part of the Paradigm Studios policy includes a profitability clause - if Trowbridge's movies don't make money Trans/Oxana pays out. Jay has to think fast: if Trowbridge goes to jail he's got to come up with an angle - an angle that means Trowbridge's fans won't become ex-fans. Certain he won't last nine days let alone nine months on the inside without help, Jay hires a Jail Coach, ex-marine, Katrina Starr Thompson. Her brief: teach the finer points of jail etiquette to Trowbridge.

Hire Katrina and you hire her young daughter, Lucky Luci. George Trowbridge falls in like with Katrina and Luci and the trio become inseparable. Everything looks set for a happy ending - it's a scriptwriter's dream; Katrina and Luci farewell George at the prison gates and (cue celestial choir) nine months later, he emerges, if not a born again Christian at the very least a trim, toned, true believer, surrounded by the ever-faithful Katrina and Luci and a barrow load of fans.

'What can go wrong?' Jay thinks as the end credits start to roll. Stan Chaladian, that's what. Chaladian, a big guy with a nasty temper and a penchant for dollars (lots of them) isn't a figment from Katrina's past... he's real and he's real dangerous. Jay's dream scenario disappears fast and with it Katrina and Luci. In trouble deep, Jay has got to find them or a payout from Trans/Oxana to Paradigm studios will be in the mail.

The pace, fast, furious and funny, the author of Jail Coach, Hillary Bell Locke has created an engaging, quick-thinking protagonist in Jay Davidovich. Exciting action, smart, funny dialogue in a plot that just doesn't stop, makes Jail Coach a fun read about an industry that will do whatever it takes to make a profit.

Only one quibble: The interaction between Jay and his separated, loopy, Ukranian wife which I found predictable and a touch boring. Note to Ms. Locke: Jay could do better; he's a spunky guy.

Janet Walker, Reviewer

Karyn's Bookshelf

Lois Lowry
Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
215 Park Avenue South
New York, NY 10003
9780547887203, $17.99,

Nineteen years after winning the Newbery Medal for "Giver," Lowry comes full circle in the series' fourth and final installment, bringing back familiar places and characters and adding new layers of complexity. The story, masterful in its simplicity and a mesmerizing, suspenseful page-turner, returns to the days just before 12-year-old Jonas, first introduced in "Giver," flees his post-modern, utopian community. When he flees, Jonas takes with him a toddler named Gabe. "Son" largely revolves around a new character, Gabe's birthmother, Claire. Determined to find Jonas and to reunite with her son, Claire also flees the community. She embarks on a perilous, years-long journey, enlisting the help of new friends and one evil adversary who can lead her to Gabe...for a price. Other characters return, as well, including Kira, now a young mother and married to Jonas. Claire's moment-by-moment, 25-page-long, ascent up a sheer rock cliff is particularly heart-stopping. Rich and rewarding, with characters and places that indelibly carve themselves into your psyche; unforgettable.

Twelve Kinds of Ice
Ellen Bryan Obed, author
Barbara McClintock, illustrator
Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
215 Park Avenue South
New York, NY 10003
9780618891290, $16.99,

Childish exuberance and prose that shimmers in its icy clarity, like a newly honed skate, wistfully come together in this wintry romp. What begins as a rural farm family's trek to various streams, fields and other ice-covered places to skate, evolves into a story about gathering community that feels quaint and unattainable in our hurried modern age. Each winter, a group of young siblings, with hands-on help from their parents, floods their garden and frames it with boards to make a 100-by-50-foot skating rink. Neighbors flock to it; figure skaters and hockey players draw up rules for sharing the space. Mom makes cocoa and popcorn, bleachers consist of old boards set on snow banks, a shed is a warming room and an Olympic-worthy (in their minds) ice show caps the season. In exchange for the hard work required to build and maintain the rink, users get starry night skates and memorable group fun. Early in the book, rural scenes of skating on ponds and streams come alive through vivid use of color and descriptive words; though distinctly prose, the ebb and flow feels poetic. Just-right transitions between twelve short sections, as the ice evolves from a thin sheen in a water bucket to the community rink to the last skate before spring, keep readers seamlessly engaged, eager for the next page. The book is short, just 64 pages; it's one to read in a single sitting. The illustrations, while depicting modern kids, hearken back to an older, simpler time. Icy joy.

Karyn L. Saemann, Reviewer

Katherine's Bookshelf

Black Eagle Force: Sacred Mountain
Buck Steinke and Ken Farmer
Timber Creek Publishing
312 N Commerce St.
Gainesville, TX 76240
9780984882007, $21.95,

The Black Eagle Force becomes embroiled in another exciting adventure written by authors Buck Steinke and Ken Farmer in Sacred Mountain. This time it is really personal. Annette Henry Thompson, the first woman to be president of the United States is kidnapped by a former enemy. She is the former love of Gunter Hermann and therefore very important to the BEF team.

""Won't hurt to ask," he replied, typing in the short query into the FMS. "What's up?" A few seconds passed before a short message came back across the MMILSATCOM link. LILAC IS MISSING."

With this unexpected revelation, the BEF is called into action by Secretary of Defense Baker to go deep into the Sierra Madre Mountains to find and rescue her. What follows is the masterful way in which they execute the mission. You will feel like you are sitting in any one of the aircraft described by this masterful writing team. There are some other surprises about people you know from the news. You need to read this book to continue following the BEF adventures.

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

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

The Unicorn Keeper
Keri Diane Fry
Ron Jon Publishing, Co. (No longer in business)
1568705921, $5.00,

Keri Diane Fry has written a lovely fantasy book that encompasses unicorns, fairies and humans. The storyline is enticing and young adults will enjoy it.

"Her mind returned to the conversation she had with Braden. While 'tis true that certain people have tried to stamp out belief in fairies and other creatures of magic, some clung tightly to their beliefs within themselves. She also wondered why the fairy queen sent Braden to her. Did he even know why he was sent?"

Someone is killing the fairies and Brooklyn is the only fairy, who is actually half fairy and half human, considered to be powerful and intelligent enough to find out what is going on. Braden, another half fairy and half human, is given the job of accompanying her on her journey to solve the mystery that is devastating the magical creatures. The story tells about their journey and how they accomplish their task. It culminates in a battle that makes the fairies safe and helps Braden and Brooklyn find each other.

I recommend this book to anyone who likes fantasy. With that being said, Ms. Fry is planning to re-publish her books with a different company in the near future. I would suggest that you wait until she has done so before you buy this book and the rest of the trilogy to be able to read it without all of the typographical errors seen in the original publication. It will be well worth the wait.

Keri Diane Fry lives in Gainesville, Texas and is a member of the Denton Writer's League. She has written two more books about Brooklyn and Braden that I will read and review at a later date. She has also written Come Home for Christmas and Watching Over Lily.

Katherine Boyer

Logan's Bookshelf

The Rose Hotel
Rahimeh Andalibian
Nightingale Press
c/o Julia Drake PR (publicity)
9780615672236 $14.99

Based on the upheavals that directly affected author Rahimeh Andalibian's family during and after the 1979 Iranian Revolution, The Rose Hotel: A True-Life Novel recounts the trials and tribulations of a pious Muslim family whose prosperous life in an Iranian luxury home is suddenly uprooted. Forced to find a new home, first in London, and later in California, they experience acute culture shock. Though they escaped violence in Iran, they cannot so easily dismiss their own burdens and secrets. Told from Rahimeh's point of view, The Rose Hotel is a fascinating story of the struggle to adapt, heal, and cherish interpersonal bonds despite the pain of losing a family member, or starkly standing out as a stranger in a strange land. Highly recommended.

Lose Weight, Stop Stress and Make Better Love
Frank G. Sommers, MD
Pathway Productions Inc.
9780987780010 $11.95

Lose Weight, Stop Stress and Make Better Love is a self-help guide that teachers readers how to adopt a positive mindset to relieve stress, help one stay on track for healthier eating habits, and even improve one's sex life. The five basic steps are learning how to sense and be aware, breathing deeply, "thought stopping" to take control of negative thoughts and contemplate them only when one chooses to do so, positive self-talk, and soothing/relaxing imagery. "In the presence of normal hormone levels, and in the absence of illness, or severe marital or relationship discord, exercising one's erotic imagination can be a powerful aid in raising or reinforcing libido, or sexual appetite. Training ourselves to use the power of our imagination can yield very desirable benefits in many aspects of our lives." Appendices offer a handful of beautiful "relaxation images" photographed in full color, a consumable or reproducible "personal daily weight control log" for recording one's eating habits (a handy tool for identifying unconscious overeating in response to stress), and more. Lose Weight, Stop Stress and Make Better Love is an excellent supplementary resource for anyone seeking to change their daily habits and thought patterns to improve their lives for the better, and is highly recommended.

Nursing Jambalaya with Gumbo on the Side
Jacqueline Spencer, Lynell Whittington-Brignac, & Beverly S. Ward
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432782481, $15.95,

What does the job of a nurse call for in the modern day? "Nursing Jambalaya with Gumbo on the Side" is a memoir of being a true to life nurse as three experienced nursing professionals come together and offer insight on the nursing career and how the portrayal in popular media gets it wrong, and where it's right. "Nursing Jambalaya with Gumbo on the Side" is a strong addition to memoir and career collections focusing on nursing.

Racing from Death
Sasscer Hill
Wildside Press
9781434440440, $11.89,

Any weight on the jockey is a burden on the horse. "Racing from Death" is a novel surrounding the dark side of horse racing the race from jockeys to get to an even lower competitive weight. Nikki Latrelle, a jockey, finds something evil in the woods around the tracks, and that drugs are enthusing themselves into the sport. Facing potential death and long hidden secrets in her family, "Racing from Death" is an exciting thriller set in the world of horse racing, very much recommended.

Life is a But a Dream
David Earle
Privately Published
Smith Publicity
1930 E. Marlton Pike, Suite I-46
Cherry Hill, NJ 08003
9780985847913, $15.95,

A shift of century, a shift of people. "Life is But a Dream" is a psychological novel as a black man of 2011 wakes up a hundred year in the future in the body of another, trying to cope with the sudden shifts of time and his new identity. Blending science fiction with human nature, "Life is But a Dream" is an enticing read that shouldn't be overlooked, highly recommended.

Red Fox Knight
Osvaldo J. Faucher
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781475026061, $25.95,

The relics of the past bring much interest to both the faithful and those motivated by history. "Red Fox Knight" is a novel exploring the existence of a scroll containing description of Jesus in his last mortal days. Following a historian as he pursues the scroll through history and has his faith altered and challenged through it all, "Red Fox Knight" is strongly recommended for those who like thrillers with a historical and religious context.

Living Life With Life
Beverly Lower Estes
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781477201411, $15.80,

Our spirit can be lifted by the guidance of Christ. "Living Life With Life" is a Christian inspirational read from Beverly Lower Estes as he shares her own experiences with finding Jesus and following his path to bring herself to a better life. "Living Life with Life" is well worth considering for Christian spirituality collections, recommended.

Terry Pinaud
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781475072792, $17.50,

When everything in our life breaks down, trying to cope with the weight of deeds can prove all too difficult. "Chaos" follows the struggles of a successful doctor, Mohammad Alavi. Wracked by the death of his life partner to war, he wants to get away from it all, but doesn't understand why or how, his life becoming erratic and hard to understand. Through his own wandering, he becomes the target of cruelty by the hands of others. "Chaos" is a psychological novel well worth considering.

When Love is Not Enough
Pat Engebrecht
Privately Published
9781461185789, $12.95,

When faced with our demons, a little bit of support can carry us a long way. "When Love is Not Enough: Chronicles of Laura Jo" tells the story of one Laura Jo, daughter of the author. Recounting her place as a mother of someone who constantly battled Borderline personality disorder, and the daily struggle that often came with it, she comes with a poignant yet uplifting message of support in the face of troubled times. "When Love is Not Enough" is worth considering for memoirs focusing on trauma and mental illness.

Leadership Stories of Mother Hen
Chukwudi Eze
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781477211380, $12.95,

A mother hen leads her children until they can take the reigns of their own. "Leadership Stories of Mother Hen...Lessons on Leadership" is a collection of leadership fables as Chukwudi Eze brings a certain degree of thought and purpose, taking these stories on how to become a greater leader for the good of the self, the group, and all. "Leadership Stories of Mother Hen" is well worth considering for inspirational collections, recommended.

Carl Logan

Margaret's Bookshelf

How to Price Crafts & Things You Make to Sell
James Dillehay
Warm Snow Publishers
9780971068476, $12.95,

When you create something and seek to profit off your efforts, one needs to understand the complex costs that go into it. "How to Price Crafts & Things You Make to Sell" is a guide for craft enthusiasts who want to better price their work and be able to turn a worthy profit for their efforts. For those with a creative kick and a drive for entrepreneurship, "How to Price Crafts" is an excellent addition to the crafts and business collections.

Body Mind Therapies for the Body Worker
Kathy Gruver, PhD, LMT
c/o Buy Books On The Web
1094 New Dehaven Street, #100
West Conshohocken, PA 19428-2713
9780741481429 $15.95

Kathy Gruver (host of the TV series "The Alternative Medicine Cabinet") presents Body Mind Therapies for the Body Worker and other Health Practitioners, a guide written especially for professionals in the field interested in incorporating mind/body techniques into their treatments. Chapters discuss how to help patients deal with stress, the power of the placebo, creative visualization, hypnosis, and a vast medley of alternative methodologies from therapeutic touch to past life regression, jin shin do, reiki, aromatherapy, and many more. Written in plain terms to be readily accessible, Body Mind Therapies for the Body Worker may be useful not only for professionals, but also for patients seeking to better understand a broad overview of alternative options and supplements to conventional medicine. "Autogenic training... is very similar to Progressive Muscle Relaxation where you tense and then relax muscles in a pattern to induce deeper relaxation. It differs, however, in that it also works with weight and temperature. It is described as taking considerable time and discipline to learn and the site I found suggested that it takes over three months to master."

Meet Me at the Bakery
Priscilla Boos
c/o AuthorHouse
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781462716913, $12.99,

Mental illness wreaks havoc on our lives and can always prove quite daunting. "Meet me at the Bakery: My Journey Through Grief and Back to Life" is a memoir of coping with mental illness in those close to you as she recounts the last years of her husband Bill's life, and the long road back to light after those dark years challenged her in ways she never wants to face again. "Meet me at the Bakery" is a must for memoir collections focusing on mental illness and its effects.

Women Who Love
Donovan O'Malley
Lemon Gulch Books
9789197918879, $14.10,

Love forms powerful bonds with the world around us. "Women Who Love: & Other Stories" is a collection of short fiction from Donovan O'Malley who presents an enticing collection of stories centered around love and the formation of those romances and bonds. Enticing and riveting reading from a dramatist, "Women Who Love" is a strong addition to any short fiction collection, highly recommended.

No Bed In Deseret
Nickolae Gerstner
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781477656068, $18.00,

Multiple wives were once a tenant of the Mormon church, and the personal aspect of that proved taxing. "No Bed in Deseret" is a historical romance centered around Percival Terry and his wife Olive. Although Percival vows to make Olive his only wife, when a new woman appears to him, he struggles to keep Olive the sole wife, and the introduction of a second will rock their relationship. "No Bed in Deseret" is well worth considering for historical fiction collections, highly recommended.

Touchstone Moments
Tammi Georgia
Balboa Press
c/o AuthorHouse
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781452543291, $11.99,

Clearing the soul can lead us to a lot more understanding out of our lives. "Touchstone Moments: Golden Nuggets on a Shaman's Path" is a metaphysical spirituality guide from Tammi Georgia as she touches on her own personal shamanism and how it has taught her to deal with many things in life, drawing from her soul and helping others find their path too. "Touchstone Moments" is a fine addition to spirituality collections, highly recommended.

Jonathan Emrys
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781467976091, $18.00,

The advancement of mankind will allow us to create others like us, and not just through sex. "Scarecrows" is a novel set in a strange future where society has changed and technology has created Humes, an artificial human-like race. Following the rise of these beings and their interactions with their more organic parents, "Scarecrows" presents a humorous and thoughtful exploration of human nature and how we would appear to other sentient creatures, much recommended.

Ashes Rain Down
William Luvaas
Spuyten Duyvil
Privately Published
9781881471172, $16.00,

As the world around us falls apart, our stories struggle to continue. "Ashes Rain Down" is a collection interconnected short fiction from William Luvaas, following ten individuals as catastrophe strikes the world, as he explores their reaction to the changes in the world with a sense of humor and poignancy about human nature. "Ashes Rain Down' is a strong addition to any modern literary short fiction collection, highly recommended.

A Spirit Never Tires
Jeffrey L. McGregor
Balboa Press
c/o AuthorHouse
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781452557625, $12.99,

The drive of success can often come and go. "A Spirit Never Tires" is an inspirational read from Jeffrey L. McGregor who channels spirituality to learn how our minds and bodies work, and tweak our path through our lives and find our own greater successes in the process, pick a goal, and find peace on your journey towards that place. "A Spirit Never Tires" is a strong addition to metaphysical spirituality collections, much recommended.

The Gyre Mission
Edgar Swamp
Swampland Enterprises
c/o Author Marketing Experts
PO Box 421156, San Diego, CA 92142
9780615655161, $19.70,

The serious problems that come up are often sought to be shoved away and forgotten. "The Gyre Mission: Journey to the *sshole of the World" is a novel of humor and adventure, as the US government chooses its very best (of people it wants to be rid of) to go on a mission and salvage an oceanic research vessel. A funny and riveting novel of deep sea adventure with people who have no purpose doing such things, "The Gyre Mission" is a strongly recommended addition to general fiction collections.

5 Reasons To Tell Your Boss to Go F**K Themselves
Michelle McQuaid
Bermingham Books
978098721402, $19.99,

No one likes being told what to do, so when the opportunity presents itself... "5 Reasons to Tell Your Boss to Go F**K Themselves!" is a career empowerment guide from Michelle McQuaid who discusses the complex relationship between employees and bosses and how to foster a better relationship from your direction upwards, and minimizing the impact a bad boss can have on our lives. With plenty of advice on managing the boss and living happier in the workplace, and know when to run, "5 Reasons to Tell Your Boss to Go F**K Themselves" is a powerful and much recommended read for self-help, business, and careers collections.

Margaret Lane

Marjorie's Bookshelf

Sunnyside Up
BJ Appelgren
Zillah Publishing
Charles Town, WV
0961988428, $16.95

In the early 1970s BJ Appelgren spent ten months in a residential school, participating in a course developed by John G. Bennett at the Institute for the Comparative Study of History, Philosophy and the Sciences Ltd in Sherborne, England. Bennett was a student of George Gurdjieff and was fairly well-known in the spiritual world at the time. This book is her memoir of that time and would interest any spiritual seeker. Having studied the ideas of Gurdjieff, I was interested in her experience and what insights she gained and how it had changed her life. Even at thirty years old, she was young to take on the ten month intensive without any previous experience in the Work (as Gurdjieff called it) with Bennett and about one hundred other spiritual seekers, especially coming from a background of dream interpretation and therapy with June Singer (one of Carl Jung's students) in Chicago. Having worked in Gurdjieff groups, I knew how intense a weekend or even a week could be for an "old hand", and she took on a year-long intensive. She was very brave, and to her credit she stuck it out for the entire time.

Her writing style is interesting. She weaves us into the story using past with present tense very effectively. Her characters are compelling and some even charming. I applaud her honesty and courage to share warts, doubts, reservations and insights from an experience most of us would not have had the courage to embark upon.

During the course she participated in sacred dances called Movements, of which she makes the observation: "More than the satisfaction of doing the Movement, however, is the wonderment of having stayed in the room, for what feels like the first time in my life making it past tearful exasperation. I know at that moment I'll never speak to myself the same way again. And I know now I have a choice of how to behave, when in the past there didn't seem to be any."

In an exchange with Edith Wallace, a Jungian analyst and a student of Bennett's, we glimpse another insight. Appelgren says to Wallace, "The atmosphere here inhibits my playfulness and creativity. I want the information we're given but everything is so burdensome. I'm driven to doing artwork, my main way of expressing humor and perception." To which Wallace replies, "You won't have to live in this environment much longer. And despite the methods not being compatible with your nature, you will benefit from Mr. Bennett's genius. He's given me something I wasn't getting from Jung."

In her reflections after the course is over she says, "There are plenty more questions about who I can become, what the course at Sherborne will mean in the future. Will I retain the practices that seem to provide a more concrete way of expressing spiritual life, meditation and sensing that bring me to an internal quiet place, an expanded view of the present moment that makes me more patient about what I perceive of people and situations?"

This could segue into a follow-up memoir. Where is she now?

Appelgren has also written another memoir, The Transparent Feather, about her relationship with Berry Morgan, a prize-winning author living out her days in a nursing home, with whom Appelgren works out a unique partnership as an aspiring writer.

BJ Appelgren is a thoughtful author worth taking the time to read.

Woman Hollering Creek and other stories
Sandra Cisneros
Random House
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor
New York, NY 10019
0394576543, $13.00,

I heard about Sandra Cisneros recently in two places. One was an interview with Junot Diaz, who named her as his inspiration, and the other was at the Eastern Oregon Word Roundup, a yearly conference in Pendleton, Oregon. In one of the teacher's workshops they talked about using House on Mango Street by Cisneros as a teaching tool. I like to read Latino authors so I got both House on Mango Street and Woman Hollering Creek from the library. I enjoyed reading Cisneros because her writing is spectacular. I read she wanted to write like no one else and she has accomplished that wish. Her voice is unique. While I like her writing, at the same time I find it tiring to read because I kept trying to figure out where the plot was going or which character was speaking. It is not a book one zips through, but rather a book one thinks about what the stories are saying. Cisneros makes her Chicana background and upbringing come alive. I liked House on Mango Street but that has been reviewed many times in other places. Here's an excerpt from the story Woman Hollering Creek (page 54):

I was going to do this sonogram on her - she's pregnant, right? - and she just starts crying on me. Hijole, Felice! This poor lady's got black-and-blue marks all over. I'm not kidding.

From her husband. Who else? Another one of those brides from across the border. And her family's all in Mexico.

Shit. You think they're going to help her? Give me a break. The lady doesn't even speak English. She hasn't been allowed to call home or write or nothing. That's why I'm calling you.

She needs a ride.

If you haven't read Sandra Cisneros, I'd recommend her books. She's an important author. She turns writing convention on its head.

Marjorie Thelen, Reviewer

Regis' Bookshelf

Orders from Berlin
Simon Tolkien
Minotaur Books
c/o St. Martin's Publishing Group
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780312632144, $15.64,

The horror that rages inside anyone who survived Hitler's declaration against humanity, particularly those of Jewish descent, erupts with three small words - the title of Simon Tolkien's latest book - Orders from Berlin. It was here in this formerly innocuous city where the indisputable master of deceit, suffering, pain, torture, and death ordered his Wehrmacht forward. It would turn Poland, France, the Netherlands, Italy, and maybe even Russia into notorious concentrations of humans bidding his will. Yes, this was Berlin - Hitler's city - in a time that too would live in infamy.

But thankfully for mankind, in 1940 and subsequent years, this master of sedition made a delirious mistake involving England, to Germany's immediate north, and Russia, to Germany farther east. Increasingly maddened Hitler concluded that there was no logical reason to cross the English Channel and attack the United Kingdom when he had the spoils of so many conquered nations already at his fingertips. According to Orders from Berlin, what Hitler wanted most was to engage Russia, ASAP, to control its people and resources.

In Orders from Berlin, Hitler and his consorts in atrocity decided that rather than invade England, the most effective subjugation would be: bomb the country to its knees and ultimate surrender. A crucial factor in this plot: kill Winston Churchill - the defiant conscience of England who declared repeatedly that surrender could never happen.

The plot of Orders from Berlin thickens into an intricate local London police murder episode when the former head of English Intelligence is shoved over a railing to his death. He falls several stories from his inside apartment door. His horribly broken, lifeless body thuds to the feet of his loving daughter entering the building far below. In her absolute grief, she offers any support or information to the local police who seek her father's killer.

The story grabs at your sense of morality as you and this grief stricken daughter realize that what police are slowly unraveling is not mere murder. It was a kill to silence the only remaining man who had leads to the mole and his Nazi accomplices about to murder Churchhill. Now, the reader and she are equally at risk in what information you are privy to. Are new found friends really spies? Allies? Whom can you trust? Are you also expendable?

Early on, the characters in Orders from Berlin quickly develop, including the nefarious Hitler who thinks only of himself and world conquest for his Third Reich. So often we've seen film clips of him delivering impassioned ranting pleas to the German people about how great a nation they will become under his dictatorship.

But author Tolkien's thoughtful dialogue also makes Hitler sound illogically more evil - if that is even possible. "That fool Churchill will not give in ... he wants this war ... you can't reason with a man like that."

I would highly recommend this unique spy story to readers seeking fast paced intrigue, with which you will experience the helplessness about whom to trust or who is your enemy. Author Simon Tolkien has a keen knack for disclosing enough bits of information at just the right time to make you feel - first one way, and then the other - about trust and fidelity. Orders from Berlin is a relatively quick read, but not one easily forgotten.

Love and Other Subjects
Kathleen Shoop
Oakglen Press
9780615724966, $12.99

Love and Other Subjects begins with an immature young woman, staring down a double barreled shotgun at her life. In the left barrel is her intimate desire for a loving relationship with a man other than the male body she currently takes to bed. While this man acts eager to please, at the same time he appears - for want of a better description - clingy. That quality, c-l-i-n-g-y in itself, has twisted off Carolyn Jenkins emotional and sexual desire, the protagonist of this delightful emotional roller coaster read. Jenkins seeks what appears to be an explosive firework of sexual masculinity in a mate; yet one in which tenderness, understanding, sensitivity, and most importantly, acceptance, sit on her pedestal.

The right barrel of her shotgun is clearly aimed at becoming the world's best teacher of fifth and sixth graders. Yes, thinks Jenkins - as an enlightened and sympathetic educator with a well earned Masters Degree in teaching, along with a successful stint at student teaching - kids will fight to quietly sit at my feet, absorbing all the mathematical blurbs I aim towards them like quality fresh bazillion-holed sponges on a quiet sandy beach.

W-R-O-N-G! W-R-O-N-G! W-R-O-N-G!

In Love and Other Subjects it appears that the shotgun Jenkins' aimed is zeroed in on herself or at least at herself in some type of funhouse mirror. To begin with, she has difficulty unhooking from her current relationship, because in so many ways, she is as needy as her current lover. But realistically, after a day closely intermingling with young but hormone charged students unaccustomed to daily hygiene but surely accustomed to wreaking havoc on other students and on her own personality, Jenkins desperately needs to feel valued. Surely, her parents will feel compassion; but they are too busy with their own lives to absorb the daily earthquakes she barely survives.

Quite naturally as a relief valve of pressured-up tension, Carolyn Jenkins seeks refuge in a local bar where Jeep, the quiet hunk of man in her dreams, silently waits. She cannot sleep; she cannot eat; she has difficulty concentrating on teaching without conjuring up images of this well-adjusted piece of manliness beside her nakedness, particularly when she daily combats her bi-polar principal, the man who places blame for ALL school failings on Jenkins' inexperience and mishandling of classroom combat situations. Wow! Jeep is strong. He appears sensitive; he is reserved but not silent; he is the muscle mass of dreams.

Yet in Love and Other Subjects when a face-off arises in Jenkins' own classroom between a student intent on destroying himself and her merciless pains to teach, into her classroom cell a walks Jeep, an official investigator. Now, he listens to Carolyn's story versus that of the self-destructive student, and the thumbs-up principal who is determined to keep his school afloat by following hand-me-down curricula in spite of all explosive disaster signs from disengaged students.

Is it at all possible that Jeep can somehow move into the vacuum of Jenkins' love life and her never failing affection to convince students she is there for them, not against them? Surely this Adonis, Jeep, can offer support, but is he powerful enough to sustain both her and himself at a time when Jenkin's shaken up life is about to uncork?

If you are a reader who enjoys love stories, who likes tales where courage and spirit might just conquer all, then Love and Other Subjects is the book for you. Here, you just might find a reflection of yourself, either present or past, ready to shoot yourself in the foot, but suddenly aiming your shotgun at a less mature you who is just beginning to perceive life as a valuable challenge - one to take pleasure in, one to enjoy, one to win! Some superficial readers might simply call this tale humorous and lighthearted chick lit. Yet a much more appropriate and thoughtful reader might label it dramatic adventure and the daring will to survive at all costs!

Regis Schilken

Suzie's Bookshelf

I'll See You In My Dreams (Hell Yeah! Book 5)
Sable Hunter
Amazon Digital Services, Inc.

Five years ago Zane Saucier was on the verge of proposing to his girlfriend, but all of that changed when a freak farm accident left him blind. His girlfriend was unable to accept Zane's inability to see and coldly ended the relationship.

Presley Love had been unloved since her birth; she was born with a cleft lip and her mother abandoned her to be raised by her grandmother. Her grandmother managed to get her the surgery to repair her lip, but she would be forced to wear a disfiguring scar.

Zane did not allow his disability stop him from having a successful law career. When his administrative assistant tells him that she is turning in her resignation to get married, he dreads the stress that comes with training a replacement. His efficient assistant suggests her replacement be Presley Love. She is sure that Presley's skills will be a perfect match for Zane's high demands.

Presley is excited at the opportunity to work at such a prestigious law firm. She fears that because of her scar that she will not fit into the perfect world she sees when she enters into the office. Upon meeting Zane she is impressed with his sharp intelligence and how he is willing to give her a chance to prove her knowledge and skills.

Zane is intrigued at the quick responses to his interview answers. Presley seems to be the perfect replacement for his assistant. He offers her the job on a thirty day trial basis. Presley accepts the offer and feels Zane's blindness will allow her skills to shine for he will not judge her by her appearance.

Over the days, Zane and Presley's close quarters produce a spontaneous attraction. Will they decide to mix business with pleasure?

I'LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS - HELL YEA BOOK 5! is one outstanding book. There is no way any true romance reader can resist falling in love with Zane and Presley. These two beloved characters will have you shedding tears and cheering them on for their perfect happy ending that they both deserve. I'LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS are a part of the HELL YEA! series, but don't let the idea of it being part of series concern you for these books can easily stand on their own. I was so intrigued by this title; I plan to find others in the HELL YEA! series, for there were characters I was introduced in this book that I can't help want to read about their story. Sable Hunter, know that you have a written the perfect novel that has gained the high recommendation this reviewer is bestowing.

Other books in the Hell Yeah! series include:

#1 Cowboy Heat (Aron and Libby)
#2 Hot On Her Trail (Jacob and Jessie)
#3 Her Magic Touch (Joseph and Cady)
#4 Badass (Isacc and Avery)
#5 I'll See You In My Dreams (Zane and Presley)

Whispered Music - London Fairy Tales
Rachel Van Dyken
Astraea Press
9781621350729, $3.99 Kindle,

Dominique Maksylov's, Royal Prince of Russia, music had been heard worldwide, but few people had ever seen the music genius. At a young age, he watched in horror as his father murdered his mother and then turned his rage on him. The encounter left him scarred both mentally and physically.

Dominique hides from the world and only lives through the sound of the music he creates. When he learns that he is the heir to the Earldom of Harriss he makes an appearance at a ball. At the ball his life changes when he sees Isabelle Hartwell. Her beauty enchants him enough to make an offer for her hand in marriage.

Without consulting Isabella, her mother sells her daughter to Dominique. Isabelle is outraged that her mother would be so uncaring as to lock her daughter in a loveless marriage. She fears that she will become a prisoner in the home of the "Beast of Russia".

Isabelle realizes that Dominique has had a horrific past. She comes to realize that the hardened exterior he projects is to protect himself from getting hurt. As she gets to know Dominique she sees in his soul filled eyes that he is a man who is starved for love. Will Isabelle be able to break down the fortress that surrounds his heart and show him love unlike any he has ever experienced?

WHISPERED MUSIC - LONDON FAIRY TALES is a delightful beauty and the beast themed romance. Rachel Van Dyken has done a wonderful job in weaving this beloved tale around that age old theme. Dominique and Isabelle are wonderful characters, how they provide the strength each other needs to fall in love with one another is breathtaking. There is no doubt WHISPERED MUSIC - LONDON FAIRY TALES is a beautiful written romance, one that is assured to become an all-time favorite of romance readers worldwide.

Passion to Protect
Colleen Thompson
P.O. Box 5190, Buffalo, NY 14240-5190
9780373277995, $5.25,

Firefighter Jake Whitaker had escaped a near death experience last year in a fiery wilderness fire. The encounter has left his body battered and scarred. He is haunted by the memory and he feels responsible for the men who lost their lives in the inferno.

Liane Mason returns to her home town of Wolf River Lodge. Having suffered an abusive marriage, she hopes the move will offer her and her children the peace their lives need. She never dreamed that her father would have rented a bunkhouse to her old love Jake Whittaker.

When Liane's ex-husband manages to break out of jail, he travels to Wolf River Lodge with the intent of finding the location where he had hidden money before he was incarcerated in prison. Liane senses that her children and father are in danger when they take an overnight camping trip to Elk Creek Canyon; she makes the decision to seek them out to put her mind at rest.

Jake knows that he cannot stand by and let Liane ride off into the dark. He decides to go with her to find her family. Will they make it in time to save them from the escaped convicts that are closing in on them?

From page one PASSION TO PROTECT captured my attention and refused to allow me to put it down until I read the last page. Colleen Thompson has done an outstanding job in writing a story that grabs the reader's attention. With her descriptive passages you feel that you are experiencing the ups and downs of the characters. I highly recommend this book to any romance reader who likes to experience a life and death reading experience.

Suzie Housley

Terrance's Bookshelf

Virtually True
Adam L. Penenberg
Wayzgoose Press
1938757009, $10.99, $4.97,

How do we maintain our essential human connections in an age of hyper-connectedness? How do we keep ourselves grounded in reality when there are so many realities to choose from; one layered thinly on top of another in a perplexing veneer of "maybes?" What defines sanity in a world where avatar and self have become hopelessly interchangeable? How do we hold on to those genuine but intangible lifelines to our humanity; emotion, intimacy, community? And, having "evolved" this far, what is the inevitable next-step in hyper-connectedness? Cybernetic implants? Bionic mobile devices artfully merged into non-dominant hands on an outpatient basis by robotic plastic surgeons? Plug 'n' Play high-speed-ready optic prosthetics with built-in heads-up display? Synthetic interchangeable washboard abs? Computer-generated pheromones?

Adam Penenberg's "Virtually True" is a frenetic headlong rush through a colorful multi-verse of intrigue and illusion, hard-boiled noir and high-tech magical realism; squalid dystopian nightmare and lush cyber seduction; a cosmic data-storm of brilliant ideas and unforgettable imagery. The author portrays a future not so very far off; unnervingly close to present reality for much of the world; less prophetic vision than logical projection - and with what sweeping effortlessness he describes it;

". . .the wars that led to the establishment of Luzonia as an independent nation were a result of Mother Nature's wrath. She was tired of being battered by business, her resources robbed, her land raped, her bounty carted off as booty by the earth's only creature outfitted with a thumb. In a fit of pique over global warming, she melted the polar ice caps, raised water tables, flooded coasts, submerged low-lying areas, suffocated crops, washed away cities and towns without a trace, drowned people, animals and insects. Cities like New York and Tokyo exist precariously, a single disaster from extinction. Other lands - other peoples - Bangladesh, Sri Lanka - accepted their fates stoically, fading into the blue.

. . . Man-made flooding, man-made drought, man-made wars. Man-made natural disasters. Because of man-made materialism. But as in a marriage that turns sour when one partner cannot tolerate the other's abuse, the earth turned on them. She spat out the man-made toxins that trickled into her, poisoning those who poisoned her, convulsed whenever faced with greater man-made contamination, grinding man-made cities to powder, offered sanctuary to a new array of insects, impregnable to man-made pesticides."

Into this bleak future, Penenberg's protagonist, journalist True Ailey emerges from the great literary tradition of smart-mouthed gumshoes and hard-boiled reporters, though he has not wholly succumbed to cynicism. A cyber-savant, able to navigate massive data streams manifested within virtual reality; inside these "meta-worlds" True has no equal. But VR addiction - "mnemonia" - has compromised his health, alienated the love of his life, and all but ruined his professional career. Now he finds himself in the capitol of Luzonia, one of the bleaker corners of the developing world, little more than a stringer for a CNN-like infotainment network, itself part of the vast "corpocracy" that dominates the globe. An old friend offers a tantalizing scoop - a story that could put True's career back on track - but the friend is assassinated before he can spill the details, and True is left with more mystery than he can handle on his own.

The search for the killer takes the form of classic whodunit with the smartest elements of sci-fi, techno-epic and geopolitical thriller folded into a rich, spicy mix; think Philip K. Dick at his post-apocalyptic perception-bending best including his familiar recurring theme of the phantom twin; the brooding zeitgeist of Alan Moore's "Watchmen," the cyber-punk whiz-bang of "Max Headroom," and the artist's unerring eye for the minutiae of human suffering in Alfonso Cuaron's masterful cinematic interpretation of P.D. James' "Children of Men." The dialogue sizzles in the best "better-than-real" tradition of Robert Heinlein, Elmore Leonard and Raymond Chandler.

But Penenberg is at his most original, vivid and animated when describing the irrepressible life that teams in the dust, far below the radar of sheltered Western consciousness We view the action as if through a head-mounted camera at street level; hurtling through the mad perpetual rush-hour traffic of some swarming developing-world megalopolis like Mumbai, Jakarta or Karachi, but distinctly of the author's imagination; lumbering superannuated buses belching fumes long-since banned in the West; auto-rickshaws, pedi-cabs, tuk-tuks, drivers of unpowered vehicles hitching rides with grappling hooks attached to bungee ropes on the back of overloaded lorries and vans, careening through dark side streets and alleyways to grim shanty towns cobbled together from the cast-off packaging of ruling-class luxuries and toxic detritus, their residents barely eking out subsistence while black and gray markets thrive, where traditional haggling takes on a new tech twist with cash cards and portable debit machines.

The narrative pace does occasionally drag when descriptions are weighted down by too much "tech" and one-too-many forays into the arcana of Japanese politics. But otherwise, "Virtually True" is a riveting read that leaves us, as most intelligently entertaining books do, with much to think about and replay in our imagination long after our e-readers have been turned off. Highly recommended!

The Lure of Dangerous Women
Shanna Germain
Wazygoose Press
1938757033, $7.99 pb, Kindle Edition: $3.99

Shanna Germain may well be among the most accomplished, consistently interesting, imaginative and original prose stylists in contemporary American fiction, transcending all considerations of genre. She is probably best known for her erotic short fiction, though much of that impressive oeuvre is scattered here and there throughout a vast uncharted nebula of anthologies and compilations. I first encountered her story "Smoke and Ashes" in the Susie-Bright-edited collection, "Bitten," and was immediately taken with Germain's gifts for atmosphere, pacing; form and proportion; not least her striking command of what screenwriters sometimes call "the slow reveal." All these characteristics are very much on display in "The Lure of Dangerous Women," Germain's new and not-to-be-missed collection of seven short stories

This review must necessarily be framed in broad terms, as trying to synopsize any of these stories too thoroughly would be to give away their hidden prizes and spoil the payoffs that make them so compelling in the first place. Suffice to say these are stories to be savored, reflected upon and dreamed about, returned to again and again; and always with that same quickening delight of first discovery. Germain's language is lithe and lyrical, prose ravished by poetry; dark fantasies turned on subtle lathes of light. Rare alchemy indeed; these tales are evocations of the elemental drawn from the most exquisite strata of quantum possibility. The author captures those infinitesimal flashes of human experience--the unconsciously commonplace--drawing out what we know in our bones, yet could never express in anything less than music, at least until now.

Ms. Germain is fearless in exploring the shadowy erotic impulses at the heart of some of our most chastely cherished legends ("Trill"). She does not blink when the disturbing logic of her premise is carried out to its inevitable, sometimes horrific conclusion ("Animal Instincts," "Trill," "Seed"). She can, with seeming effortlessness, conjure up new cultures and civilizations as with the alien matriarchy of "Seed"--a strange mirror of our own mores and assumptions about propriety--or the Old-West inflected wilderness of "One Woman Town," which seems to occupy the frontier between the epic wastelands of Stephen King's "The Gunslinger," and the wind-swept post-apocalyptic ruins of William Miller's "A Canticle for Liebowitz."

Critics more jaded than I might complain that there's nothing particularly revolutionary about this bending of myth and folklore through the well-worn prism of Jungian analysis. "Hasn't this sort of thing been done to death?" they may sniff. To which I would reply most emphatically, "not quite like this; seldom with this level of originality, and certainly never so beautifully or with such purely entertaining results."

Few writers employ the first person with Germain's seemingly effortless, unassuming subtlety. Still fewer so blithely break out of established genre patterns to create settings and characters with such consummate economy and soul-searing truth. Germain invites her readers to use their own imaginations in concert with hers. She does not assault our senses or insult our intelligence with bald declarative sentences or awkward backstory digressions. Her sense of timing is uncanny; the unhurried, almost seductive unfolding of plot; the artfully controlled "unwrapping" of essential detail. The stories take shape before our eyes as if viewed from over the shoulder of a master artist at work on a drawing; a single boldly sketched line is all it takes to define a whole new world; a few more delicate strokes of the pencil, a hint of shading, bring that world and its remarkable inhabitants to unforgettable life. We may, perhaps, be left guessing, pleasantly, at the end, having been given only enough information as our imaginations require to soar.

"The Lure of Dangerous Women" is recommended without reservation.

Terrance Aldon Shaw

Teri's Bookshelf

The Sanctity of Hate
A Medieval Mystery
Priscilla Royal
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. First Ave., #103
Scottsdale, AZ 85251
978464300205, $24.95,

Tyndal Priory enjoys its peaceful existence as part of the Fontevraudine priory on the remote East Anglican coast in the year of 1276. A young applicant from the local village would like to be admitted into the priory as a novice but Sister Ruth definitely does not believe he is sincere. The father of the applicant seems to especially want his son as part of the church offering a gold candlestick and as a baker, bread for the hospital one day each month. The son seems to have some strong feelings against the Jewish people. Is this an example of a father teaching his son to hate a group of people? Why?

During this time Queen Eleanore being widowed from her husband, King Edward, recently expelled the Jewish people from Cambridge. Previously, Edward only allowed those who were Jewish live only in particular English towns. Due to usury, now this group of people found themselves hated by much of the general population.

The dead body of a man is found on the priory ground in the pond by the mill. When examined the dead man's throat was slit, skull was fractured, and his body was obviously drowned in the water. Which one really killed him? Also this man had been hired to guard a Jewish family who were passing through the town but were delayed because of the birth of their child. The obvious suspect is the father since much of England hates the Jews.

Both Prioress Eleanor and Cr owner Ralf are fearful that the village will attack the young Jewish family so they agree that the family needs another guard. However when the guard is attacked, the village is certain that they are to blame. Their only hope is to trust the Prioress and the Crowner in discovering who is the real killer.

The Sanctity of Hate is an extremely well-written tale teaching about history while having the characters solve a mystery. This book actually has the reader in the year 1276 understanding the prejudices and the people of this time period. By focusing on many of the everyday events inside this mystery thoroughly makes the plot more believable and realistic.

The author, Priscilla Royal, has written numerous medieval mysteries featuring Prioress Eleanor. Previously she retired from being a civil servant and now writes full-time. She also believes that mysteries should be written without extreme violence.

When you read The Sanctity of Death, you truly are transported to another time and place. Even though this book is part of a series, these books can be read alone or as part of the series. Read this one and then the others or begin with The Wine of Violence and read all of the books in this historically accurate and thoroughly enjoyable series.

The Llama of Death: #3 Gunn Zoo Mysteries
Betty Webb
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. First Ave., #103
Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781464200663, $24.95,

Just doing your job can cause you problems.
Theodora "Teddy" Bentley has the responsibility of caring for Alejandro, the llama in giving small children rides at the local Renaissance Faire. She does whatever it takes to keep Alejandro content which is easy since he loves children. With the adults he has been known to spit substantial amounts of slobber.

Life is fairly normal until a dead body is found in the llama pen. Initially it appears that the person died from being stomped to death by Alejandro. Teddy knows that even the llama can be moody, this is definitely not like him.

When a crossbow dart is discovered to be the actual cause of death, Teddy is temporarily relieved until she discovers that her mother has been arrested by the acting sheriff, Deputy Elvin Dade. The dead man who was dressed as King Henry the Eighth in real life was the Rev. Victor Emerson who owned the local wedding chapel. He had married most of the town. However, it turns out that the reverend was not who he said he was and definitely not a legally qualified person to marry anyone. So everyone in this town who had the Reverend reside over their nuptials, is now not legitimately married.

Being that the sheriff is out of town training with Homeland Security, the next available deputy to investigate the murder is Elvin Dade. Dade succeeds in being incompetent as an investigator as he wipes evidence off the dart in front of many people.

Being that Teddy's mother has been married and divorced many times, both her marriages and divorces are now nullified, including her generous divorce settlements. So knowing that there is an obvious motive, Teddy decides that she needs to investigate this murder or her mother will be the only suspect. Will she find the real murderer before her mother turns the local jail into ghetto nail salon?

Being that Teddy's father is hiding from law enforcement in Costa Rica for embezzlement, he returns to town to help Caro, Teddy's mother. Will Teddy's father be arrested?

The Llama of Death is a fast-paced novel filled with mystery and laughter. This page turner is well-written with a logical progression and sequence of events to uncover the real murderer.
The Llama of Death is the third in Betty Webb's Gunn Zoo Mysteries following The Anteater of Death and The Koala of Death. Betty Webb is a journalist who has written another series of mysteries featuring heroine, Lena Jones, who discovers many desert cults. All of Betty Webb's books are completely enthralling and delightful books to read.

Teri Davis

Theodore's Bookshelf

Rush of Blood
Mark Billingham
Little, Brown Ome
100 Victoria Embankment
London, England EC4Y 0DY
9781847444219, $16.99 BPS,

[This book is presently available in hardcover/paperback in/through the UK and Canada only, not presently available in the US except as an e-book.]

This standalone from Mark Billingham is a far cry from his Tom Thorne series, but of the same high quality one has become accustomed to from this author. And it is a most unusual story. It begins with three British couples becoming acquainted while on vacation in Sarasota, Florida. When they return to England, they visit one another for dinner at the home of each, and we become familiar with the characters in three separate phases.

Toward the end of their stay in Sarasota, a girl goes missing. And the police, both in the United States and England, conduct an investigation. When a second girl goes missing in England, the British detective becomes suspicious of the six, suspecting that one of them could be responsible.

The novel is suspenseful and delves deeply into the characters and their relationships. It is less a police procedural seeking to solve the crimes than a series of surprising revelations leading to an unusual denouement. Cleverly constructed and carefully written, it is recommended.

All I Did Was Shoot My Man
Walter Mosley
NAL (New American Library)
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780451239167, $15.00,

Leonid Trotter ("LT") McGill is a 55-year-old African-American man, a former boxer, con man, fixer and over-all reprobate turned [relatively honest] PI is one of the more unusual characters in mystery fiction. Married, he has little if anything to do with his wife. As far as his three children are concerned, he acknowledges that two are not his, but he loves and nurtures all. His collection of friends and associates are as unconventional as he is. And so are the books in the series, all somewhat bizarre but very enjoyable.

The plots of the series books, while intricate and complicated, tend to be odd. And the present installment is no different. In the past, LT framed a young woman who shot her boyfriend three times, when she came home to find him in bed with her best friend. Since she was destined to go to jail anyway, he planted evidence in her locker of complicity in a $548 million heist from an insurance company. Some years later, LT finds the "false" information that led to her conviction following which his lawyer gets her released from prison. As a result, a number of events take place, including an attempt on LT's life, along with the murders of several others. Of course, it's up to him to solve the case.

Written in a style that sometimes defies belief, the complexity and insight of the novel and, especially, the LT character, are overwhelming. With each book, development of LT as a person deepens, and the reader gains substantial knowledge of the man.

Highly recommended.

Karin Slaughter
Delacorte Books
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor
New York, NY 10019
9780345528506, $27.00,

When a long-running series reaches a point that a look back is in order, and that is exactly what takes place in this novel. In "Criminal," we learn more about Will Trent and Amanda Wagner, his mentor in the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. In a remarkably written novel, alternating between the past and the present, the story about their relationship unfolds.

It is a tale of two people whose lives are intertwined. First is a look at the year 1974, as Amanda fights prejudice against women in Atlanta's police force, then at present-day results. We see Amanda's struggles to solve her first case against all odds. And watch as Will comes to terms with his birth and upbringing, such as it was.

All the while, the depths of the early times in the south, its existing prejudices and atmosphere, are graphically described. The scope of the novel is broad, but the characters and plot are tightly drawn. The novel is a absorbing look at the sexual politics in pre-female-lib times, while relating a riveting crime story. Highly recommended.

The Riptide Ultra-Glide
Tim Dorsey
c/o HarperCollins
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780062092786, $25.99,

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

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

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

A Killer in the Wind
Andrew Klavan
The Mysterious Press
841 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9780802120670, $25.00,

There is a long history of hard-boiled detectives, but Dan Champion is unlike any of them in this eerie novel. To begin with, he doesn't know who he is. Specifically, he has wiped from memory his early childhood and the experiences he underwent. However, he became a top-notch homicide detective with the NYPD until it became advisable for him to leave after shooting a suspect.

So he hooks up with a small sheriff's department in upstate New York, again showing his talent in law enforcement. Then the body of a woman washes up on the shores of the Hudson River, bringing his past to the fore, and the plot thickens.

There can be no question that Andrew Klavan can construct an interesting and unusual story. He has proven that several times. But in the case of this book, perhaps, he has overdone the bizarre. There is plenty of violence and psychological suspense, often straining credulity. The story thrives on Champion's inability to distinguish between fantasy and reality. And therein lies the rub: Is that a plus or minus for the reader? On the whole, it is an asset, and therefore the book is recommended.

Night Rounds
Helene Tursten, Translated by Laura A. Wideburg
Soho Crime
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9781616952082, $15.95,

It's taken a long time for this 1999 novel to cross the ocean, but the wait has been worthwhile. It is part of a series in which the protagonist is Inspector Irene Huss, a former Jiu-Jitsu champion, and is a Swedish police procedural. The action takes place in a private hospital specializing in surgery in Goteborg.

One night around midnight an elderly nurse sees what she believes is the ghost of a nurse who had committed suicide in the hospital's attic 50 years before. It is up to Huss and her colleagues to sift through the situation after the discovery of one nurse who has been murdered nurse and another who is missing. Complicating their efforts, of course, is the elimination of additional witnesses, presumably at the hands of the "ghost" murderer.

Huss is an interesting protagonist, married to a gourmet chef and the mother of twin teenage daughters. Insights into her character and family situation throughout the novel add significantly to humanizing her. In an excellent translation, the story flows smoothly, incrementally adding to the reader's knowledge until it all coalesces in the final pages.


Agent 6
Tom Rob Smith
Grand Central Publishing
c/o Hatchette Book Group
237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10017
9780446583084, $14.99,

The conclusion of the trilogy featuring Leo Demidov is sweeping, from his early days as a KGB agent to his exile in Afghanistan and beyond. Especially interesting is the Russian occupation of that beleaguered nation and the beginnings of the United States involvement there as Russian lost face in its defeat.

More important to the plot is the intrigue, obfuscation, double-dealing and plotting of the Soviet Union and United States during the Cold War. The story begins with Leo meeting a Paul Robeson-like character in Moscow when he was an agent, and the consequences in the years following.

Tightly plotted, despite its length, the novel reminds us of the challenges of the years during which the two superpowers confronted each other. The characters are real, from an over-zealous FBI agent to the unfortunate victims of those countries' invasions of Afghanistan. An absorbing thriller to bring "The Secret Speech" and "Child 44" to a satisfying finish.


The Keeper of Lost Causes
Jussi Adler-Olsen, Translated by Lisa Hartford
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780452297906, $16.00,

There are all kinds of Scandinavian protagonists, but Carl Morsck, the irascible Danish detective introduced to readers in this novel, is up there with the best of them. An iconoclast, the homicide chief doesn't know what to do with him, as Carl insults and ignores his fellow police officers in Copenhagen. And when in the course of an investigation he and his two team members are shot, one of whom is killed and the other paralyzed from the neck down, and Carl wounded in the head because he faltered in reaching for his own weapon, his situation becomes untenable. So they kick him upstairs to get rid of him by making Carl the head of Department Q, which is set up to investigate old unsolved cases.

Among the 40 or so files that land on Carl's desk, he becomes fascinated with one: a five-year old case in which a leading woman legislator went missing off a ferry on the way to Berlin with her brother, the only witness and who, as a result of a boyhood accident, is unable to communicate. Carl gains an assistant, a Syrian granted Danish asylum named Assad, bringing the department to a total of two. And they go about delving into the stale case with fresh eyes.

The characters are real, and the prose smooth with a smattering of wry observations and comments. Truly Carl and Assad are worthy new additions to the genre. The plot is very different from other noir Scandinavian novels, and I'm looking forward to reading the follow-up, "The Absent One."


Standing in Another Man's Grave
Ian Rankin
Reagan Arthur Books
Little, Brown & Co
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10017
9780316224581, $25.99,

Old soldiers may never die and John Rebus hopefully will never fade away. After a couple of years in retirement he's back as a civilian consultant on cold cases (which seems to be becoming a trend in resurrecting protagonists in crime fiction). In the course of this work he is informed by the mother of a girl who disappeared many years before that her daughter may have been the first in a series of disappearances (and presumably murders) along a northern highway (serial murders apparently are becoming de rigeur among retired detectives as well). And Rebus is off to the wars, albeit with no official standing.

Rebus worms his way into an active investigation with the help of his old sidekick, Siobhan Clarke. And he uses all the old techniques frowned upon by his old nemesis, Malcolm Fox, of the Complaints, including consorting with the likes of gangsters such as Rafferty to gain information. While a massive police force goes about the investigation by the book, of course Rebus goes it alone.

It's good to have Rebus back, and hopefully more is in store because the rules have been changed and he has applied for reinstatement. All he has to do is pass the physical. Can he do so, despite all that hard liquor and cigarettes? And, of course, if successful, Fox is looking forward to Rebus making a colossal mistake on the job to justify his enmity.

As with all the previous novels in the series, this one is highly recommended.

The Stonecutter
Camilla Lackberg
Steven T. Murray, Translator
Free Press
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781451621860, $15.99,

Fjallbacka is a small village in Sweden, the setting for the author's series, of which this is the third to be published in the US. Everyone knows everyone else, but of course that doesn't prevent crimes from happening, so that Patrik Hedstrom continues to ply his job as a talented detective, while suffering the aftermath of a newborn child with Erica, his lover.

The discovery of a child's body, apparently drowned in a nearby body of water, starts the police procedural aspect of the novel, which sort of ties the book together because the story really is a study in various characters inhabiting the village. Each chapter is a throwback to events that took place in the past, beginning with a stonecutter's forced marriage to the boss' spoiled daughter. Then it progresses to look at one or another of the town's inhabitants or their relations with each other.

The novel is rather long and slow reading, but well worth the effort. The author has written 12 novels in the series so far, so that we can hopefully look forward to reading a lot more about Fjallbacka and its population in the future.

Highly recommended.

Hush Now, Don't You Cry
Rhys Bowen
Minotaur Books
c/o St. Martin's Publishing Group
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9781250023025, $14.99,

Finally Molly Murphy and Capt. Daniel Sullivan get married and are on their honeymoon as the book opens, only to be interrupted on the second day when Dan is recalled to duty to investigate a tunnel which collapsed during the building of the new subway. To make up for the break, Alderman Brian Hannan, also the owner of the construction company building the underground, offers Dan use of a guest cottage on his Newport estate, at the same time telling him he wants to discuss something, adding "he may have got it wrong." Of course, "it" is not revealed.

So Molly and Dan travel up to Rhode Island, arriving in a heavy downpour soaking them when they have to walk to the estate. Then Hannan's body is discovered at the foot of a cliff on the edge of the estate and the local police aren't up to the job. Nor is Dan, who comes down with a life-threatening case of pneumonia. Despite her promises to be a good wife and no longer pursue her investigative instincts, Molly step-by-step gets involved in a couple of mysteries, including Hannan's death.

Perhaps it is the setting for this novel. Past chapters in the series have taken place in early 20th century New York City and Molly, a feisty Irish immigrant, giving flavor and a certain colorful aura to the stories. In the current installment, the Newport milieu makes the characters and plot more staid, and Molly, herself, seems much more suave and sophisticated than a relatively uneducated new arrival to the United States. Nevertheless, if one approaches this novel as just an old-fashioned mystery, it is quite enjoyable, and recommended.

The Absent One
Jussi Adler-Olsen, author
K. E. Semmel, translator
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780525952893, $26.95,

This follow-up novel in the Department Q series, in which Carl Morck made his debut in "The Keeper of Lost Causes," is quite different from the introductory book. It is more complicated, while the character of the protagonist and his assistant, Assad, essentially remain the same. And to spice things up, another "assistant" is provided to Morck, the head of the office devoted to solving cold cases. This time it is a female, Rose, who, having failed her driving test at the Police Academy, is unable to achieve her desire to become an officer and has to settle for working at headquarters as a secretary.

Carl becomes intrigued with a 20-year-old case for which someone who has confessed is already serving a sentence for the murder of a brother and sister. However, it becomes apparent that some of his boarding g school classmates, now rich and prominent figures in Danish society, may have been involved not only in that crime, but also in a series of brutal assaults and even other murders. It is up to Carl and his "staff" to solve the case, despite being told by higher authority to stop their investigation.

The story is brutal and black, filled with riveting descriptions and depravity, the portrayals vivid. A worthy successor to a well-received first installment, setting the stage for the third, due out from Dutton in Canada in May and from Penguin in the UK in September (and, hopefully, not too long thereafter in the US), it is recommended.

Karin Slaughter
c/o Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780345528520, $7.99,

When a long-running series reaches a point that a look back is in order, and that is exactly what takes place in this novel. In "Criminal," we learn more about Will Trent and Amanda Wagner, his mentor in the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. In a remarkably written novel, alternating between the past and the present, the story about their relationship unfolds.

It is a tale of two people whose lives are intertwined. First is a look at the year 1974, as Amanda fights prejudice against women in Atlanta's police force, then at present-day results. We see Amanda's struggles to solve her first case against all odds. And watch as Will comes to terms with his birth and upbringing, such as it was.

All the while, the depths of the early times in the south, its existing prejudices and atmosphere, are graphically described. The scope of the novel is broad, but the characters and plot are tightly drawn. The novel is a absorbing look at the sexual politics in pre-female-lib times, while relating a riveting crime story.

Highly recommended.

The Nightmare
Lars Kepler, author
Laura A. Wideburg, translator
Picador USA
175 Fifth Avenue, Suite 1800
New York, NY 10010
9781250024107, $16.00,

It must be somewhat of a nightmare for an author to sit down and contemplate how to create a follow-up novel to one as successful as The Hypnotist. But that is exactly what faced the team writing under the nom de plume Lars Kepler. So they wrote "The Nightmare," in which they again feature the Finnish-born protagonist, Swedish Detective Inspector Joona Linna.

The novel is not only a fast-paced procedural, but an action-filled suspense story. The plot centers on the corruption of the system by the extreme profitability of selling arms and ammunition to troubled nations and warring factions. The story begins when Linna investigates the strange death of the director responsible for allowing Swedish exports of armaments.

A wide assortment of characters is portrayed vividly, with a truly evil mastermind behind the murders, kidnappings and crimes keeping Linnaand his police counterparts hopping. It is a riveting story, with an intensity forcing the reader to continue turning the nearly 500 pages. Written with passion, it is a book which is highly recommended.

Operation Napoleon
Arnaldur Indridason, author
Victoria Cribb, translator
Minotaur Books
c/o St. Martin's Publishing Group
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9781250017994, $9.99,

Long before there were Erlender and Sigurdur Oli, Arnaldur Indridason wrote this imaginative novel. In fact, it was copyrighted a decade ago, and only now has been published in Great Britain and Canada. [The next Reykjavic Murder Mystery, "Outrage," was published last June in the UK and is due out in a US edition in the Fall.] It is a pity we have had to wait this long for an English translation of this work, but all the more reason to be grateful now that it has been done.

Just before the end of World War II a German bomber crashes on a large Icelandic glacier with American and German officers aboard. One of the senior German officers attempts to reach a nearby farm, while the others remain on the plane only to be buried by a blizzard and ice; then he disappears as well.

Over 50 years later, after a few failed attempts to find the plane by U.S. intelligence, they are finally successful, and a secret mission is undertaken to remove the plane and its contents.. Coincidentally, two young Icelanders on the glacier in a training mission spot the Americans and are captured, one killed and the other seriously injured. Before the capture, one of the men had contacted his sister, Kristin. She undertakes to discover the truth of her brother's fate, placing herself in danger in the process.

The tense plot follows Kristin as she challenges the Americans in an effort to find out what happened to her brother, leading her on an arduous journey to learn the facts of Operation Napoleon. The descriptions of the various elements of the story are overwhelming: the freezing weather, the subterfuge of the Americans, the divergent views of Icelanders vis-a-vis relations with United States authorities, and other conflicts. Written with a sharpness to which we have become accustomed from this author, the novel is highly recommended.

Munster's Case
Hakan Nesser, author
Laurie Thompson, translator
Pantheon Books
c/o Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780307906861, $25.95,

Scandinavian authors tend to combine societal questions with dour reasons for crimes to be investigated, and "Munster's Case" is no exception. Detective Munster has served as a sidekick to the now-sidelined Inspector Van Veeteren, who is on leave, choosing instead to spend his time reading and philosophizing in a bookshop he ostensibly is operating. The novels are an award-winning series in Sweden.

This book, as one might expect first published in Sweden, begins with four friends winning some money in the lottery and celebrating their good fortune. However, after a lugubrious dinner, the dead body of one of them is found in his bed, stabbed numerous times, and another seems to be missing. It remains for detective Munster and his team to solve the cases, which become more complicated as the investigation progresses. The murdered man's wife confesses to the deed, but more questions arise when a neighbor also goes missing and is soon found mutilated in a park.

The author seems to concentrate on the psychological aspects of the detective, rather than the perpetrators (at least until the concluding section, which explains it all): the physical toll on the policeman's life, the effect on his family, and the like. The plot builds very slowly and develops in keeping with the detective's character and thought processes. While the solution to the murders is somewhat hackneyed, that fact doesn't detract from the novel's over-all merit, and it is recommended.

Crow's Landing
Brad Smith
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781451678536, $12.00,

Sometimes a protagonist has to go looking for trouble; other times trouble has a way of finding the protagonist. In the case of Virgil Cain, trouble usually finds him - - in spades. In a previous entry in the series, he was arrested for murder and had to break out of jail to exonerate himself. In the current novel, he just goes fishing, and lands in a heap of difficulties.

When he anchored in the Hudson River, the last thing Virgil expected to reel in was a stainless steel cylinder containing 100 pounds of pure cocaine. But that's what happened when he lifted his anchor and the cylinder was attached. As a result, he becomes involved with a crooked policeman who seizes the cylinder and Cain's boat, the original owner of the contraband who threw it overboard seven years previous, and others, all seeking to make a score by taking possession of the dope.

It is a well-drawn tale, with little real mystery but plenty of plot and action. A well-written story, tightly developed, "Crow's Landing" is the second in the series, and definitely warrants a third. Recommended.

Hit Me
Lawrence Block
Mulholland Books
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10017-0010
9780316127356, $26.99,

Keller had to disappear after the mess in a previous novel in this series, "Hit and Run," and he is now living in post-Katrina New Orleans under a new name, with a wife and young daughter. More important, he has "retired" from his previous occupation, that of a hired assassin, and is now a partner in a business that acquires dilapidated houses, then rehabilitating and flipping them - at least until the housing market and economy collapsed.

So, to keep his head above water, sustain his appetite to keep on buying stamps for his collection and just keep himself busy, he allows himself to be talked into accepting an assignment or three. These take him to Dallas, on a Caribbean cruise, thence to Wyoming and Buffalo. And coinciding with each, he manages to indulge his interest in stamps.

The author manages to keep the reader's interest at a peak on both subjects, with fascinating twists on each homicide mission. And the cryptic conversations with Dot, who brings him each undertaking, are not only amusing and droll, but in keeping with the over-all tenor of the characters. Of course, the novel is on a par with the high quality of previous Keller books in the series, and is recommended.

Theodore Feit

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

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