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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 14, Number 2 February 2014 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Ann's Bookshelf Buhle's Bookshelf
Crocco's Bookshelf Gail's Bookshelf Gary's Bookshelf
Gloria's Bookshelf Gorden's Bookshelf Janet's Bookshelf
Karyn's Bookshelf Susan's Bookshelf Theodore's Bookshelf

Reviewer's Choice

The Resilient Spirit: Heart Talk for Surviving In An Upside Down World
Eileen McDargh, CSP, CPAE
Loch Lomond Press
33465 Dosinia, Dana Point, CA 92629
9780962319013, $14.95, 59 pp.,

Bonnie Jo Davis

This inspirational book is filled with great advice in addition to the gorgeous, full color original watercolor pictures by artist Robin Garcia. Written in the aftermath of 9/11/01 the author Eileen McDargh has clearly made an attempt to lift the spirit of readers and she accomplishes that goal easily.

The structure of the book includes an introduction and there is an illustration along with a matching page of text. Each page is a beautiful lesson in courage and of hope. The goal is to help readers become more resilient while they tap into reserves of strength they never knew they had.

Author Eileen McDargh is founder and CEO of the consulting firm, The Resiliency Group (a division of McDargh Communications). Organizations like Cisco, Novartis, Oracle, and Procter & Gamble hire her firm to teach them ways of building resilient leadership teams and workplaces.

In addition to this book the author has published "Work for a Living and Still be Free to Live!", "Gifts from the Mountain: Simple Truth's for Life's Complexities,", My Get Up and Go... Got Up and Went, "40 Tips For Speaking Up, Speaking Out, And Being Heard" and "Talk Ain't Cheap... It's Priceless".

I was inspired by this beautiful and almost poetic book and like other readers I know I will read it from cover to cover more than once! The book can be purchased at

The Art of Medicine in Metaphors: A Collection of Poems and Narratives
Edited by James Borton With Brandi Ballard
Copernicus Healthcare
34 Oak Hill Drive, Friday Harbor, WA 98250
0983773491, $14.95,

Irene Roth

The Art of Medicine in Metaphors is a rare book in the area of medical ethics. It is not only unique but its stories will transport most readers to the intricate and personal world of illness and loss. The stories are written in an open, emotional and authentic manner. What an absolute treasure!

The best way to get to the bottom of how it feels for a patient to be sick with any kind of illness is to write from the heart. And this is precisely what the poems and stories in this book do. The authors are gifted at explaining through words and metaphors what they have been going through and how illness has changed their lives and those of their loved ones forever.

All the stories and poems in this book address how and why narratives answering the overwhelming challenge of understanding the patient's unique experience of illness while treating the patient in an expertly manner, one which will help him/her feel better. Illness narratives help the physician to understand and empathize with the patient much more readily.

Patient's stories matter because every patient experiences illness in a different manner. We all need stories to get us through illness. And these stories live on because they are told. Telling and listening to stories is the way patients can make sense of their chaotic and messy lives living with an illness regardless of whether it is chronic or terminal.

The arts and humanities are recognized as an important part of medical education. I hope that this book shows medical schools even more clearly how important it is to listen to the narratives of the patient's illness. Having read and written in the area of narrative medicine myself over the past twenty years, I cannot underline enough the importance of this book for physicians and medical schools alike.

How To Be Dead
Dave Turner
Aim For The Head
c/o Amazon Digital Services
B00H17V7OS 0.99 Brit. pounds / $1.63, 75 pages

Kate Onyett

Dave is not an obvious hero. He's a bit of an apathetic worker; just marking time perma-temping at a big business. He knows how to handle the pushy behaviour of his manager, but goes to pieces over the girl of his dreams in his office. Oh, and he can see ghosts.

While saving the girl of his dream's life on a Halloween night out, he is hit by a car and has a near-Death experience. Literally. He and Death go to a pub and Death offers him a new career opportunity. Revived, and with a greater zest for life (primarily due to the life-flashing-before-his-eyes thing being just a sequence of mundane nothingness he wants to seriously improve), Dave decides to see what Death was on about. However, his heroics have made a hit at work, and progression into the ranks of upper management, with his own office and no clue as to what he should be doing beckons Dave with golden temptation. Will he make a deal with Death and agree to help lay tormented undead to rest? Will he strike lucky with Melanie, the office hotty? Will he ever get to grips with his computer?

The story is not an un-new premise: bit of a loser, diamond-in-the-rough type living a humdrum has a supernatural encounter and as a result starts to develop semi-heroic habits. Much the same as the most obvious progenitor Shaun of the Dead, Dave is stuck in a rut, with a slobby flatmate, a smart girl to impress and a Bigger Picture to face up to. Dave might not be belting zombies with a cricket bat, but this is just the set-up, the 'Early Years', as it were. More is expected to come in the same vein from Turner, as we are promised that Death and his companions will be fighting "ghosts, zombies, vampires and medium-sized apocalypses." (

How To Be Dead epitomises the best of the escapism of comedy-fantasy (indeed of any speculative sub-genre), but lands it right into the personal the rough the reader. This is primarily due to the rise of the super-nerd: the 'special' commonplace character. Nearly all main-stream speculative fictional characters of the last twenty-odd years have in common a sense of being 'chosen'. The modern celebrity culture (through scandal, reality TV show, etc) appears able to pluck anyone from obscurity and throw them into the limelight. It carries echoes of Ancient Greek myth, where a hero, unknowing of their destiny, is chosen by higher powers for a purpose. Counter-culture made a point of placing the least likely candidates into this heroic mould, and these in turn have become mainstream by prevalence of example. But unlike the glitter of selfish celebrity fame, these normal-heroic types are protectors of humanity; keepers of the door. The nature of their heroism is something more achievable; for heroic dweebs like Shaun and Dave, the emphasis is on the extraordinary nature of the ordinary human spirit. Heroes no longer bestride the land; modern cynicism about the obviously powerful makes such grandstanding self-parodying. Indeed, Turner makes no bones about this and has Dave's company managers revel in their dishonesty like veritable pantomime villains. Instead the great self-improvement drive that continues to absorb society has made heroism out of becoming admirably matured. Stories like How To Be Dead are pitched for us norms, reiterating the myth that anyone- even the losers- can be winners. Given the right supernatural conditions, of course.

And it is pitch-perfect in tone; gentle and humorous, with little frissons of sarcasm. Turner is deft at turning on a pin's head from giggling recognition of idiotic behaviour into something altogether more profoundly moving. Comedy and melancholy make great partners in crime if used properly, and Turner makes excellent use of the sweet-and-sour approach without once coming across as mawkish.

There are nods to popular culture that firmly place it in the nerd-as-hero camp, and had my geeky heart cheering for joy. Yet the handling is never heavy-handed or hackneyed; which is a refreshing change, given the sub-genre is not brand-new. The characters grow in believable fashion, travelling through a process of revelation and change that is interesting and witty. Dave is annoyingly passive-aggressive to begin with, but in the course of the book makes an emotional journey that has the reader cheering for him, without recourse to an eye-rolling "oh, come on!" Melanie seems a bit of a cold cow, but she thaws without becoming a total drip. Wouldn't we all like to have our tough exterior selves melted in gentle rom-com fashion? No? Just me? Oh, come on, you cynical bunch; this book is all about learning to give over protective cynicism; at least as much as it separates us from who we really are and finally admitting to our strengths: a transition noted in psychoanalysis as being far scarier than facing perceived failings. Dave learned to dumb down, fit in, and ignore his latent talents. But this, Grasshopper, is not the route to happiness, as his unfailingly boring life-before-his-eyes flashback teaches him.

And Death... Terry Pratchett paved the way in creating a personable Death, but Turner's Death likes cake and waxes sentimental over the fob watch the other three Horsemen gave him. He mourns and misses his departed fellow Apocalyptic anthropomorphic personifications, throws tantrums and turns the music up high like a teenager, and has surprisingly tender customer service skills; I defy any reader not to commiserate with his failings and foibles.

As starter stories go, this has the makings of an extremely personable, enjoyable series of adventures. The writing is cheerful, the story is refreshingly lacking in over-bearing, self-acknowledging 'cleverness' (always a possibility with comic fantasy), so it zips along in honest style. It is lighter reading, but so very entertaining, and does exactly what you want it to. It is an extremely visual story in style; it is easy to imagine how this would make a fun piece of telly, and yet it never lacks wit and wisdom, nor a definite literary touch of longevitous quality. Turner's voice is a welcome addition to the genre, drawing very favourable comparisons with the big guns of comic fantasy.

Geraldine Mills
Arlen House
c/o Kennys Bookshop & Art Galleries
Liosbaun Retail Park, Tuam Road, Galway City, Co. Galway
Syracuse University Press (distributor)
621 Skytop Road, Suite 110, Syracuse, NY 13244-5290
9781851321018 hc, 24.30 Euros
9781851321001 pb, 13.63 Euros

Lisa C. Taylor, Reviewer

Geraldine Mills' new collection of short stories, Hellkite, is brave and uncompromising. Breaking stance with the common theme of exploitation of women by men, the female characters that inhabit the world of her stories reveal themselves through infidelity, mental illness, abandonment, and on occasion, sheer evil. From an angel who appears in the body of a man jumping on a trampoline, to the hellkite of an ex-wife, her characters dwell in a place without ordinary boundaries, where a life of predictability and comfort may be an elaborate deception. The collection is unsettling in the best possible way as it challenges the status quo, the basis of institutions and relationships that the characters (and ourselves) come to trust. As metaphor for the present turbulent times of upended financial institutions, corrupt politicians, houses in foreclosure, and individuals who disappoint and sometimes devastate each other, the collection reminds us both of our vulnerability and the necessity to look beyond the obvious for answers, or perhaps the true questions.

When the young man in The Street with Looking-Glass Eyes becomes responsible for his suddenly agoraphobic sister after a terrible accident claims their parents, he brings the world to her each day through stories:...he searches out everything that might have a story hidden in it. Something he can bring back home in the evening. A moment in time swallows this character, his sister, and outside, the life that might have been his but instead is slowly ebbing away.

The rich language of Geraldine Mills' stories is otherworldly. In Foraging, a adulterer named Lazarus is thrown out by his wife after her gift of a class in avoiding adultery fails to dissuade him from the practice. When his heart fails, and he has a heart transplant, he becomes an entirely different man, a man who craved the green of chlorophyll, Little Gens, Cos, Romaine, in their gloriously-wilted existence. Like all of the stories in this tightly woven collection, this story dips and turns into an alternate universe of canaries who perch on broomsticks and a transplant patient who develops unusual proclivities. Nothing is literal in the world of Hellkite; the stories existing instead in a universe of tropes, a world built on sand and flood plains.

Here is a writer in control of her character's paces, from the first moment shading his eyes from the sun that was already half way to its own death to the conclusion when his coat flapped against the bruised sky and brazier of moon. Like these hapless characters, the reader travels unpredictably at a place in time that reinforces the notion that every action has a reaction, and life, in all its complexity or horror will doggedly push forward.

In the end, the stories in Hellkite are testimonies to both naivete and a human willingness to endure in the worst of times, in spite of deception or bad fortune, as if around the corner, a light might illuminate the reason for the pain, the only sign out there to show he wasn't on his own on this side of the world. Tenacity and misplaced trust wrestle with each other, proving at last that it is the story that endures, the process of giving a voice to that unspeakable, intangible part of being human, not to heal but to uncover.

Streaming: Movies, Media and Instant Access
Wheeler Winston Dixon
University Press of Kentucky
663 South Limestone Street
Lexington KY 40508-4008
9780813142197, $24.95, 190 pp,

Paul Lappen, Reviewer

Like it or not, the streaming of movies and music is becoming an increasingly large portion of all internet traffic. This book gives the details.

Why shouldn't a person be able to pay a few dollars to stream a movie at home, when going to the theater or buying the DVD costs a lot more? At the theater, does the projectionist load a film canister on a 35mm projector and turn it on? Increasingly, the answer is no. The majority of theaters have gone to all-digital systems. The movie is downloaded from the distributor, along with an electronic code. That code can be good for just one showing, on one specific day. If the right code is not available, or if it does not work properly, then there is no showing.

Fewer and fewer movies are being shot on actual film, because fewer and fewer theaters have film projectors. Unless there is an art house cinema nearby, any watching of older, or less well known, films, on actual film, is pretty much impossible. When is the last time that an older or obscure film was available at the local multi-theater megaplex? If whoever has a film copy of that older, obscure film, does not think it is lucrative enough to put it on DVD, there is little that can be done about it. Soon, the only way to watch films of any kind, will be through on-line streaming. Depending on your point of view, this is either that natural progression of technology, or it's the end of the world.

What Netflix is doing to the movie business, Apple is doing to the music business, and Amazon is doing to book publishing. Amazon is now selling more Kindle copies of books than paper copies. Facebook is little more than a way to suck up people's personal information, and sell it to advertisers (Google Glass, plus new facial recognition technology, will make that much easier). Facebook has created over 80 million fake accounts. The hope is that the author, for instance, will see their account already set up, and decide to use it. For that reason, the author says that he will never post on Facebook.

This is a very interesting book. For some, it may be common knowledge, but I learned a lot from it. It's no-technical, and very easy to read. It's also very much worth checking out.

Bad Kitty Drawn to Trouble
Nick Bruel
Roaring Brook Press
175 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10010
9781596436718, $13.99, 128 pages

Peggy Tibbetts, Reviewer

This tenth book in the Bad Kitty series is a departure from the usual Bad Kitty mayhem. "Drawn to Trouble" introduces fans to author Nick Bruel. With the help of Uncle Murray, Bruel shows his fans how to write and illustrate a graphic novel. As with all Bad Kitty books, high jinx and hilarity abound. Kitty tangles with a turnip and Strange Kitty appears in the nick of time to stir things up. In this instance it all serves a higher purpose. "Drawn to Trouble" is a - dare I say - novel approach to Writing and Illustrating 101, which is the plot. But the book's theme is Bruel's crowning achievement here: never take yourself too seriously. Plus a recipe for Awesome Roasted Turnips!

The Lightning Bolts of Zeus
D. Alan Lewis
Dark Oak Press and Media
c/o Kerlak Enterprises, Inc.
1779 Kirby Parkway, Suite 1-373, Memphis, TN 38138
9781937035624, $14.99 (PB), $29.99 (HC, $2.99 (Ebook), 316 pages

Suzi Cowan

The Lightning Bolts of Zeus is not your usual steampunk. As an avid reader of steampunk stories, I expected the same overly used cliches from this novel. What I got was one hell of a good time and a book that I couldn't put down. The story centers on Jasmine and Thyme Hawke, sisters living in an alternate 1884 America where steampunk technology has changed much of the world. The pair work for the United States Secret Service and are on a mission to stop a secretive enemy from gaining possession of a former Confederate airship named, Zeus. The airship carried the most formidable weapon conceived, the lightning cannon.

The James Bond connection.

For the first two thirds of the book, I felt like I was riding along in a steampunked James Bond movie. That isn't meant as an insult because I LOVE James Bond. But the parallels were there. A fast, exciting opening scene. A trip to their employer's office for a debriefing and new assignment then whisked away to Q's workshop for the necessary gadgets to complete the mission. Then they meet up with the secondary characters who'll be with them until the end. However, just when I thought I knew where the plot was going, Lewis throws in a curve, multiple curves at that.

A Cast of Characters

Like I mentioned, Jasmine and Thyme Hawke are the focus of the story and Lewis has done a great job fleshing these women out. Like most sisters, they argue and fuss yet the love between them can't be broken. Strained, but not broken.

A supporting character, in a way, is the mother of the Hawke Girls. According to the storyline, the daughters followed her into the spy game. Jasmine, the elder sister was present on the ill-fated mission where the mother was killed. The guilt of losing her mother while she was so close-by is one of the major factors in Jasmine's storyline. This cloud of guilt that hangs over her head, keeping her up at night due to constant nightmares where she relives the event and drives her to drink heavily.

At first, I thought the mother was just some basic character background for the Hawke's, but she and her killer play a bigger role as the story unfolds.

Thyme, the younger sister has a different role in the novel. This is her first outing as a field agent. Although brilliant in the ways of science and technology, she finds that she is inexperienced in the areas that no amount of training can prepare you for. Namely, the teenage gets her first taste at love and romance, while trying to pull herself out from under her sister's shadow and make a name for herself.

Damon Clarke, Thyme's love interest is a dark mysterious man that had her (and my) heart at first sight. Like the sisters, he is a young, adventurous type who'd been disgraced in a Naval action that ended badly.

The other characters are wonderfully presented and each has their own very unique voice and reason for inclusion, even the annoying Jonathan Wayland.
A History of the World.

Lewis does a wonderful job of sprinkling in the details of the world his adventure is set within. There are bits and pieces of historical info as the readers needs them without having to suffer the massive info-dumps that other authors often use.

In Lewis's world, the new Steampunk technologies appear during the early years of the American Civil War. The Confederates embrace the new sciences and build the massive airship along with other weapons. The end result is still a Union victory, but only after the war lasted 10 years instead of the 'real-life' 4 years.

14 years after the end of the war, Jasmine and Thyme work and live in an America where much of the young male population was eradicated by a decade of conflict. Lewis goes on to give us small but fascinating grimaces into the effects that would have had on a growing nation.

An Overall Look

At first I wasn't sure how to classify this book. It has steampunk elements to be sure, but it also sets up a fascinating alternate history of the world, starting with the U.S. Civil War. The seemingly nonstop action and slightly over-the-top characters gives it a pulp-like feel, harkening back to the classic pulp characters of the 1930's. Maybe steam-pulp might be the best term to use.

Bottom line is that this is a great book, both for adults and young adults. The Hawke Girls, in my opinion, are the kinds of role models that our young women need. Strong, smart, and very more cleave than any man they come up against. Plus the bond between the sisters is so strong and real that I couldn't help but picture my sister and me living out this adventure. I'd be Jasmine because she's feistier. The novel, according to the author's website, is the first in the Hawke Girl's Adventure series. I have no idea if this is meant to be a trilogy or an ongoing series, but I'll be first in line for the next installment.

Buy it, read it and enjoy.

The Paris Architect
Charles Belfoure
Sourcebooks Landmark
c/o Sourcebooks Inc.
1935 Brookdale Road, #139, Naperville, IL 60563
9781402284311, $25.99, 364pp,

Teri Davis

During World War II, life in France had to be immensely difficult especially while being occupied by the German troops. Whether waiting in long lines for basic food supplies or the fear of being questioned by the Gestapo. had to make life intense, stressful, and challenging. For many people it was a "no-win" situation. If you assisted the Germans, you were often entitled to more of the everyday goods that were scarce but your neighbors would think of you as a traitor. If you did not help the Germans, you were frequently harassed, sometimes arrested and questioned and had difficulty obtaining the basic necessities that were needed for daily survival.

Given the situation for those unfortunate Jews living in Paris at this time, they were either killed or shipped off to a camp.

What if you knew a Jewish family or helped this family? If the Germans discovered this charity, it usually meant death for both.

For Lucien Bernard, life is hard but not overly stressful. As an unemployed architect, he has lived somewhat comfortably from his money inherited by his wife. Life is not the way he planned or wanted but all that is about to change.

Lucien is asked to examine a residence and to create the perfect place to hide people. He doesn't want to be involved with the hiding of any Jews, but the money is definitely enticing. If anyone is caught who knows that he designed the undetectable hiding space, he knows that even without direct involvement, he would be killed. The less he knows about the who and the why of his brilliant hide aways, the better.

By excelling in this challenge, he also finds himself being recommended to the German hierarchy to build factories to supply the needs of the war. At the same time, he continues to map out the perfect hiding place for Jews who are being pursued by the Gestapo. Can anyone handle being on both sides of the War? Both sides consider his designs to be brilliant.

The Paris Architect perfectly mixes history and architecture into a novel of historical romance. This addictive page-turner flows from one dangerous situation to the next with sometimes overlapping the events. The strength of the novel is the ethical situations for Lucien and how he chooses to approach these questionable activities. The writing is so descriptive that the reader can actual see the building, the hiding places, as well as the people and their clothes. This gives the reader the feeling of actually being beside Lucien in the story.

Author Charles Belfoure is an architect. He has written many architectural histories as well as working with the Baltimore Sun and the New York Times as a freelance writer. His specialty is historic preservation.

The Paris Architect is for anyone who enjoys a historical fiction novel with some architectural challenges. I will never even consider now to build a hidden room in the back of a closet, behind a bookcase, or around a fireplace after reading this novel. So where can I find a secret room?

Heart Chants
Randy Attwood
Curiosity Quills Press
B00HMQAJQK, $4.99 (Kindle), 181 pages

Steve Glassman, Reviewer

Randy Attwood has done a gutsy thing. He has gone up against the legacy of Tony Hillerman in the second novel of his Philip McGuire crime series. Even better he wins the bet, not because his crime novel is better than any of Hillerman's, although it might be and probably is, but because he has the good sense to play off Hillerman in a totally novel way.

The action in Attwood's novel is set in the Midwest in the outlying Kansas City suburb of Lawrence. Some may know the burg as the seat of the University of Kansas Jayhawks, but it is also home to Haskell Indian College. Philip McGuire, the novel's main viewpoint character and protagonist, has settled there after a short career as a foreign correspondent which culminated in his being taken hostage, his hand mutilated, and then released by the Hezbollah in Lebanon right after they blow up the Marine base in the early 1980s. McGuire retains his intrigue of foreign things. His love interest in the novel is the lovely Chinese activist Hsu Chi. Yes, Chinese in a novel that delves more deeply into Navajo cosmology than any Hillerman novel I'm familiar with ever went.

The bad guy, and wow is he ever a bad guy, is a Navajo half caste, who comes to Lawrence to live with and then assassinate his birth mother. He builds a hogan inside the barn on his mom's place after he inherits the property, and takes a job as janitor at Haskell Junior College. There is a deep method to this plan. He had been raised in the Southwest and had been trying since his youth to become a full-blooded Navajo in spirit. As a byproduct his spiritual quest, he fervently believes, will also drive the white man from Navajo land. At Haskell he finds three Navajo coeds whose Navajo connections and gruesome deaths and gory dismemberment (and cannibalization) will complete the black magic ritual he had started in the Southwest. At this point, the usefulness to the general reader of some familiarity with Navajo ritual thanks to Hillerman novels should be apparent.

Two of the coeds are indeed abducted and ritually slain. In an unrelated subplot McGuire's Chinese love interest is made off with by red Chinese agents, and almost immediately afterwards so is the third Navajo girl. A Navajo tribal policeman arrives in Lawrence to investigate the disappearances. Though interesting enough in his way, this cop is no rival to Hillerman's twin protagonists. He resembles nothing so much as a dutiful nightclub bouncer. The investigation tool he brings along to find the girls goes one up on Hillerman. It's an elderly seer known only by the reverend old-age title of Hosteen. He knows not a word of English and is guided only by his knowledge of Navajo ways.

Attwood pulls the various storylines and conceptual elements together in a most satisfying and compelling conclusion. If you like hardboiled mysteries or Hillerman or novels with multi-ethnic subplots, this is a book for you.

Our Seas of Fear and Love
Richard Shain Cohen
CCB Publishing
9781771430784, $29.95 Hardcover, 356 pages,

James T. Kenny, Ph.D.

To what extent does the sea cast its capricious influences on human behavior? May it sometimes act as an arbiter of human lives through the emanations of its mysterious vastness and uncertainty? Might it recalculate the course of futures? Pablo Neruda, in his poetic imagery of breaking waves, reminds us that the sounds of the ocean are el palpatacion del universo, the heartbeat of the universe. Author Richard Shain Cohen may well agree with this numinous view. In his expertly crafted novel, Our Seas of Love and Fear, Cohen takes us on a voyage of hope, and also, despair where we are wont to follow both the heightened swell of life's promises along with the dashed hopes of lost love.

In a story line spanning the 1940's 50's and 60s, through the 1970s, we voyage from the war torn beaches of Anzio and the perils of global conflict to bucolic coastal Maine. In an ebb and flow of time, we meet Brigit Donovan, a southwestern girl of Irish-Catholic extraction who, like her Celtic namesake, feels she was born to heal and give comfort to life's fellow voyagers. With sadness, yet encouragement on her family's part, Brigit ventures to Boston where she studies nursing, eventually receiving her RN and a commission as a Navy nurse. As the sea carries men to war, so too, it brings them home, both the hale and the wounded. Brigit soon meets Gregory, a young naval officer on her ward with whom she falls in love. Their early history together is both tender and moving as she helps Gregory meet the challenges of a leg wound and later a crushing diagnosis of chronic lymphatic leukemia when he is a medical researcher. In spite of these hardships, their love grows. It runs a true course ahead of fair winds as Brigit is warmly accepted by Gregory's family and friends, but as the sea presents both a luminous and dark countenance, life among people carries its own powerful dialectic. There is good and betimes evil in human character, and so, as time elapses, Brigit's world of promise is torn apart by Deirdre, a beautiful but soulless woman, committed to depriving Brigit of Gregory's love. In the progression of Gregory's illness, he tentatively clings to life's littoral. With the tragic and violent death of his now wife, Deirdre, there comes his reconciliation with Brigit. The tale of these star-crossed lovers evokes the haunting and bittersweet sadness of the final meeting of Longfellow's separated characters, Evangeline and Gabriel.

Author Richard Shain Cohen lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine. He was born in Boston but spent many summers in Maine where he developed his love of the sea and its many moods. His previous publications include: Healing After Dark: Pioneering Compassionate Medicine at the Boston Evening Clinic (2011), the Forgotten Longfellow (2010), and Only God Can Make a Tree. His previously published novels include: Monday: End of the Week, Be Still, My Soul, and Petal on a Black Bough, and now Our Seas of Fear and Love.

In his most recent romance-family saga, Cohen shows himself as a powerful writer with the ability to filter and snare the essentials of human emotion with the magic one might ascribe to a Native American "dream catcher." His character development is whole, intricate and credible resulting in his best work of published fiction to-date.

An Animal Life: The Beginning
Howard Krum
Fluid Design Foundation
890 Hunt Rd, Windsor VT 05089
Genre: Serial Fiction (humor, drama, mystery, romance)
9780988488502, Paperback, 312 pp ($15.95)
9780988488519, eBook ($9.95),

Reviewed by (1) Katelyn Hensel, (2) Kathryn Bennett, and (3) Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite

(1) An Animal Life: The Beginning is a fabulous story from Howard Nelson Krum and Roy PE Yanong. Veterinary School: no matter where you go, getting into this level of veterinary medicine is basically Harvard for animal lovers. What do you get when you mix a horse racer, a pageant queen, and a K-9 cop? An amazing and funny read! The first years of the Death Row Crew are interesting, to say the least. But this enthralling story goes even deeper than a funny take on vet school. There are moments of pain, of deep thought and learning, as well as a few romantic pairings that will definitely have you scratching your head.

This is a very realistic and funny story. I had roommates in college who studied veterinary medicine, and while I was reading it was almost like I was back in my dorm room listening to them tell me stories about their day. Krum and Yanong really captured the light-hearted humor that they were going for. On one hand, the story is quite funny; on the other it's a really accurate portrayal of one of the best feelings in the world - when you close a book, and have a warm happy glow because the book brought you such joy. An Animal Life: The Beginning really is that book. It's a great read for vets and vets in training, as well as anyone who loves animals, people, and the crazy glue that holds us all together.

(2) When I was growing up, I wanted to be a vet. I always loved animals and I still do, although I never made it to veterinary school. Being able to jump into this book was the next best thing and I am so glad that I got the chance to read it. You get to run the full gamut of emotions with these students as they are in school and I have to wonder how any of them make it out alive. You can follow their lives as students, romantic moments, to everything in-between. Thanks to the wonderful descriptions of everything going on around in their lives, you truly feel like you are one of the students, or at the very least you feel attached to them and what they are going through. I laughed more than anything with some of the situations and the characters of the book. It is so well written and delightful that I would recommend this one highly.

(3) Howard Krum brings the experiences of first year veterinary school students to life in his funny and heart-warming book An Animal Life: The Beginning. The Death Row Inmates will remind some of the MASH characters whose pranks and practical jokes made even the harshest situations somehow bearable. In An Animal Life, there's little time for sleeping, dozens of exams, thousands of terms and definitions to memorize, larger than life professors and senior advisers, Friday Night Happy Hours... and the animals. It's all about the animals, and it works so incredibly well. I loved this book. It answered all the questions I've ever entertained about becoming a vet and what that journey would have been like -- marvelous, grueling, insane, and incredible all at once. An Animal Life: The Beginning is remarkable, powerful, and beautifully written. It's very highly recommended.

The Power of Two
Lori J. Sawicki
Identity Novels
5637 Pebble Ridge Ct. Ann Arbor, MI 48108
9780989482202, $7.49, 200 pp

Marlena Hand, Reviewer
Author Alliance

The Power of Two is about a sixth grader, Jamie. She decides to try something new to break out of the cool girl, Sadie's routine. Her plan backfires and she is kicked out of the 'cool group.' To her relief, she befriends Pru Wheeler, the smallest sixth grader. They connect almost immediately and form a tight friendship. The two decide to start a lacrosse team, that's open to all students, not just those from Sadie's clique. When things seem to be going great, tragedy strikes and Jamie is forced to make some tough decisions.

This book is wonderful! Everything about it makes it worth reading. The storyline flows; the characters are strong and unique. It shows the importance of friendship and family. There's heartache and drama, as well as courage and strength. I literally cried with it, which says a lot coming from me. It touches on some serious issues that a lot of younger people are being forced to deal with. It's appropriate for anyone, young or young at heart.

The Ghost Man: Revised Edition
Michael J. McCann
The Plaid Raccoon Press
1406 Limerick Road, Oxford Station, Ontario, K0G 1T0 Canada
Lynn Clark (publicity)
9780987708779, (e-book): $3.99
9780987708762, (trade paperback): $19.99, 377 pages

Lit Amri, Reviewer
Readers' Favorite

Simon Guthrie lives alone in a beautiful estate with his dog Jeremy. His beloved wife, Gail, died in a car accident, whilst Simon struggled for months to recover from his injuries. His country estate is his retreat and his second chance to live again. Unfortunately, the ghosts won't let him do it in peace. They constantly seek worldly release, especially the ghost of a young girl who demands his help. Even his friends and neighbors are beleaguered by some evil, unnatural forces. Then there is the one called the Angry Man who haunts his dreams every night.

There is so much to recommend in "The Ghost Man". I really have to praise author Michael J. McCann for the well-thought, faultless plot. The prose and the pace of the story are perfect. The paranormal aspect is unnerving and will definitely please all readers who are looking for a spine-chilling tale. Not only that, there is also mystery and murders, as well as the element of suspense. The story has great depth that establishes its quality as an excellent page turner. I liked Simon - - and Jeremy -- from the very beginning and I absolutely loved Doris Fowler. The ending is very well-crafted, given all that has happened as the story progressed. An excellent, supernatural thriller blend with perfect drama and a bit of humor as well. Whether you are a fan of the genre or not, you're in for a treat.

D. L. Lowell
Eminent Films
P.O. Box 800851, Santa Clarita, CA 91380-0851
9780989392808, $15.00, 234pp,

Kennedy Gammage

Novelist D.L. Lowell captures important truths in "Soulmate" - some about people, others about interesting places: Hollywood, and Mt. Whitney, a high-end TV tradeshow in Cannes, and the inside of a swanky strip club, "the finest bikini bar in Los Angeles" called Piacere - "pleased to meet you" in Italian. That's where Richard Ascot, a lonely but brilliant film industry financial player, meets the woman of his dreams: Grace White, who studied business and law in Europe, then apprenticed in New York before migrating to Los Angeles.' She is very smart, very driven, highly effective - and either beloved, or at the very least admired by virtually everyone who runs across her and sees first-hand how beautiful and well-dressed she is.

The truths about people sometimes sting, and Lowell doesn't pull any punches - like when the stunning blonde Kandi tells Richard she doesn't find him attractive - or the slapstick scene when he puts foul-smelling goop in his hair (and gets it all over his bathroom) in a vain attempt to look younger. Some of Lowell's descriptive writing is just drop-dead gorgeous, especially about mountain climbing in California: "He saw a thousand miles of rocky landscape. Distant green shag carpets were the lush pine forests and redwood groves of Sequoia National Park."

His characters drink wine day and night: Pinot Noir and Cabernet and Chardonnay, some from France but much of it from California, including the Santa Ynez Valley. "Soulmate" reveals many interesting details. I'm not sure if it has a happy ending or not.

The Best Thing That Could Ever Happen To You
Mechele Flaum & Sander A. Flaum
Big Shoes Publishing
9780989051309, $16.95, 172 pp,
B00GC4FF6W, $9.99, 148pp, Kindle Edition

Alan Caruba, Reviewer

There are a number of books devoted to achieving success in business and we can count on many more to come in the year ahead. A lot of people are stuck in jobs they don't like or battling hopelessness as the seek employment these days. For them, Sander A. Flaum's book, written with Michele Flaum, The Best Thing That Could Ever Happen to You: How a Career Reversal Can Reinvigorate Your Life ($16.95, Big Shoes Publishing, softcover) should be at the top of their reading list. With a foreword written by former astronaut, Senator John Glenn, it is an easy-to-read, how-to guide that moves readers out of their no-win employment rut and gets them back in charge of their job search. Flaum, who is chairman of the Leadership Forum at Fordham University's Graduate School of Business Administration, shows how to work harder and smarter to come out on top in the interviewing process. The bottom line is that the book teaches readers how to deal with their fears and shortcomings, get passed their inhibitions, and find the job that is right for them. The author really knows what he is talking about and, if you're seeking a new job, this is the book for you.

Glacial Balance
Daltonic Films LLC
8002 - 118th Court NE, Kirkland, WA 98033
A DVD by Ethan Steinman

Laura Ballou, Reviewer
DC New Movies Examiner

Baltazar Ushca, the last iceman of Ecuador, climbs Chimborazo higher than he has since he was a boy to collect the ice from the glacier so that he may sell it at the markets below. Glacial Balance is a documentary film that reveals the truth of the Andean Glaciers and the South American communities that are shrinking along with them.

Documentary filmmaker, Ethan Steinman, takes his camera and treks the Andean Glaciers traveling through the countries of Columbia, Peru, Ecuador, Chile, Argentina, and Bolivia. He documents the work of ice core expert, Dr. Lonnie Thompson along with the local communities that are faced with the very real present effects of glacial change, such as the disappearing water supplies, and the conflicts that it causes between communities. Effects that we in America think are either impossible, in the too distant future, or simply inapplicable to us. Glacial Balance educates on such a superior level that after watching it, I was immediately Googling how communities could adapt to decreasing water supplies.

If you're like me, you usually don't say or write glaciers and South America in the same sentence. Now, I cannot think of South America without thinking of its glaciers. Glacial Balance leaves you with the sobering thought of what South America will be like without them. On second will the United States be affected and how would we adapt? Climate change is happening. Glacial Balance challenges us to think ahead and start a dialogue as to what our communities worldwide need to do to adapt to it.

Sherlock Holmes And The Case of the Bulgarian Codex
Tim Symonds
MX Publishing
335 Princess Park Manor
Royal Drive, London N11 3GX, UK
9781780925721, $14.95, paperback, 205 pages

Xanthe Mallett, Reviewer

A new Sherlock Holmes novel has a lot to live up to. And frankly, I was not hopeful for this offering. As an avid Arthur Conan Doyle - and Holmes - fan, I was sceptical that anyone could match Conan Doyle's intellect whilst matching his fast-paced and gripping style. I was wrong. Symonds' story could be described as a gripping yarn which captured the essence of both Holmes and Watson very well.

The story in short: Holmes and his faithful sidekick Watson are contacted by the mysterious and duplicitous Prince Regnant of Bulgaria, following the apparent theft of an ancient and sacred manuscript. Holmes is tasked with finding the manuscript, and by extension preventing the outbreak of War. The lives of millions are in his hands.

So, plot set, the trusty duo set off for Bulgaria, travelling on the Orient Express through beautifully described landscapes. As one would expect, the story is not as simple as it at first appears, and what follows is a tale of murder, greed, and vampires.

There are the requisite unexpected twists and turns. A tale worthy of Holmes any day.

So, although I expected to be disappointed, I was not. The language Tim Symonds employs is reminiscent of Conan Doyle, and really transports the reader on the journey. If I were to offer some small criticism, it would be that it feels as if the author is trying too hard to link the story to the earlier texts. But that would be all. And by halfway through this feeling is forgotten, as is the fact that this is not one of Conan Doyle's original offerings - so good is the dialogue and storytelling.

A good test for me is, when you turn the last page, how do you feel? Glad or disappointed? I was definitely disappointed, as I was enjoying it so much I didn't want it to end.

Ann's Bookshelf

The Vampyre Family: Passion, Envy and the curse of Byron
Andrew McConnell Stott
Canongate Books
14 High Street, Edinburgh, Scotland, EH1 1TE
9781847678713, A$49.99 (hardback), 434 pp,

This book begins dramatically with Lord Byron's doctor, John Polidori, standing over his patient as he tries out someone else's grave for size. Unfortunately, although Stott writes well and has clearly done extensive research, I found the book most frustrating. Most of the interesting events in the lives of the so-called 'Vampyre Family' - Byron, Percy Bysse Shelley, Mary Shelley, Claire Clairmont and Polidori - have been extensively written about by others, so Stott reaches for a great deal of incidental material, some of which is interesting but only remotely connected to the lives of his subjects. In spite of his subtitle reference to 'the curse of Byron', there is a lack of focus to this book and the chapters skip from person to person, place to place, and from one time to another, so rapidly that it is often hard to keep up.

The early chapters, rely largely on the travel diary of John Polidori as he flees England with a debt-ridden Byron and his entourage. They then jump back in time to deal with Polidori's biography, his medical training in Glasgow (including such incidentals as the methods of Glasgow 'resurrection men'), the life and ancestry of John's father, John's ambitions, and his meeting with Byron. Interspersed with all this is Byron's biography and the reasons for his notoriety. Stott also gives us the biographies of William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin (Mary Shelley's father and mother), the second Mrs Godwin (Claire's mother), Shelley and quite a number of much less well-known people.

We follow, in touristic detail, two separate journeys across different parts of Europe. That of Byron, Polidori and their travelling companions, and that of the Shelley family and Claire Clairmont. Eventually, after much peregrination, a variety of travelogue details (including a pause at the battlefield of Waterloo for Byron to collect some bloody souvenirs), and a considerable number of changes of residence, both parties end up in Geneva, where the Shelleys and Claire take up residence in the Maison Chappuis and Byron rents the nearby, but grander, Villa Diodati. It is in the Villa Diodati that the famous write-a-ghost-story challenge is issued and where Mary Shelley's Frankenstein was begun. It was here, too, that Polidori found, in some random notes of Byron's, the inspiration for his own novel, The Vampyre.

The phrase 'The Vampyre Family' comes, apparently (the reference given in the endnotes does not check out), from an article in Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine which attacks the character of Dr Polidori after he was publicly accused of plagiarising Byron's work. Yet although he was with this 'family' for only three months we continue to follow his life story until his death. We also follow the Shelleys' travels, and those of Claire Clairmont until the death of Clara Allegra, her illegitimate daughter by Byron. The final chapter ends with Shelley, very much alive, sighting the ghost of Allegra on the moonlit waters of the Bay of Spezia. The Epilogue, which begins on the next page, jumps in time from 1822 to 1865 and we are suddenly introduced to whole new cast of characters. It is typical of the disorientating structure of this book that we then follow the story of these characters until it links up with that of Claire Clairmont in her final days. Shelley's death is mentioned only casually, and the later lives of his wife and child not at all.

There is plenty of passion and envy in this book, but we are left none the wiser as to what constituted 'the curse of Byron'. It is clear that Polidori and Claire were as much the cause of their own misfortunes as anything Byron did. And, rather than vampires, it is the number of suicides and attempted suicides in the lives of the people in this book which is surprising. Eleven people are listed under 'suicide' in the Index. Far from suffering from any sort of Byronic curse, half of them never even met him, and his own name is included in the list.

The Girl with a Clock for a Heart
Peter Swanson
9780571301898, A$29.99 (paperback), 360 pages
William Morrow & Company
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780062267498, $25.99, 304pp,

Oh my! What a man will suffer for love. George Foss fell for Audrey Beck in his first freshman semester at college. It was his first real love affair. So, he was shattered when he learned that she had committed suicide during the Christmas break. Longing to know more about her seemingly inexplicable death, he searches out the home where she had told him she grew up and visits her parents, only to discover that the girl he had fallen in love with was not Audrey Beck at all, and that he had no idea of her real name.

Poor smitten George decides to investigate further. He is beaten up by the real Audrey's ex-boyfriend and his pal; discovers the 'real' name of his girl-friend; is beaten up again by a strange man when he tries to contact her; and learns that his girl is now a criminal wanted by the police for murder (possibly even two murders). You would think that was enough to cool any man's ardor. But no, George's lost love undermines his life for the next twenty years. Then, out-of-the-blue, Audrey/Liana/ Jane (her name changes along with her identity) turns up in his local bar. Poor obsessed George, in spite of knowing she is "trustworthy as a startled snake", cannot refuse to help her when she asks.

George is a likeable character completely out-maneuvered by a subtle and dangerous woman. In alternating chapters, we learn of Liana's history and of the ways in which she again manipulates and endangers George. The pace of the book is fast and the plot twists unexpected but the ending, although gripping and dramatic to read is, on reflection, totally implausible. Is that a bad thing? Were Ian Fleming's Bond novels plausible? If you enjoyed the book, as I did, that's all that matters.

This thriller is a fine debut novel for Peter Swanson. But please, let's have no more copycat "Girl with..." titles.

Ann Skea, Reviewer

Buhle's Bookshelf

Collected Poems 1965-2011
Richard Alan Bunch
c/o Buy Books On The Web
1094 New Dehaven Street, #100
West Conshohocken, PA 19428-2713
9780741467638, $17.95, 338pp,

A compendium of the poetry of Richard Alan Bunch, "Collected Poems 1965-2011" showcases more than 450 examples of his verse, some of which saw earlier publication in a variety of publications, some of which are published here for the first time. A literary and personal pleasure to browse, "Collected Poems 1965-2011" offers a variety of poetic forms and an impressive diversity of themes. If you can only find time in your present circumstances for one poetry anthology, you would be well advised to make it Richard Alan Bunch's "Collected Poems 1965-2011"! 'The Open Doors': I open the door to ravines of laughter. / The wind bangs it shut. // Again I open the door, / this time to deny the literalism of history. // The storm slams it shut, / unhinges those revisions of our love. // Again I open the door, / voices eclipse silence in the coin of words. // I open the door again. / To my surprise, you open yours. // We begin to see forever, / taste infinity of the sun's eroding hush.

Slap! Punch! Kick! Mom And Dad Are Home
Greg L. Reid
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9780991935208, $14.95, 136pp,

"Slap! Punch! Kick! Mom And Dad Are Home: An Autobiography" is the candid and accessible written personal story of severe childhood physical and emotion abuse. When Greg L. Reid, went seeking help from the books written by other parental abuse survivors found that they were all written by women accounting their own personal stories and how they overcame the psychological damage of their childhood -- but not a single such personal account by a male author! That's just one of the reasons why "Slap! Punch! Kick! Mom And Dad Are Home: An Autobiography" is an invaluable and unique contribution that very strongly recommended reading, especially for men seeking to recover from their own histories of childhood abuse. With Greg Reid's commentary, advice, and personal example of personal healing, "Slap! Punch! Kick! Mom And Dad Are Home: An Autobiography" should also be a part of every community library's Self-Help reference collections.

Willis M. Buhle

Crocco's Bookshelf

Twelve Houses
Olga Soaje
c/o Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
B00HALNOXC, $3.99,

Difficult Decisions

A captivating piece of written art to provoke thought and reflection on one's own life is how I perceived Twelve Houses. Olga Soaje did not claim to have written these magnificent words as a self-help book, but I'm making the comparison.

Adversity is part of life, but as the cliche states, it's how we handle our struggles that matters. Amelia became a widow after thirty-five years of a loving marriage. Understanding her choices regarding family, work, and relationships, may provide hope for readers.

Amelia's personal loss kept her artistic love of creating pieces of sculpture. She found it difficult to consider entering her studio. Her two children brought insignificant relief, especially her daughter, who was daddy's girl.

As time went on, Amelia realized she needed to stop grieving and get back to living. The touching story in Twelve Houses is magnificent as Soaje uses picture-perfect words to convey the concept of recognizing and accepting change. Soaje uses compassion and benevolence to explain how Amelia recovered from the unexpected hard knocks delivered in her life.
Twelve Houses, by Olga Soaje, is an enjoyable story for readers of any age.

The End of the Line
Jim Power
Secret Cravings Publishing
c/o Amazon Digital Services, Inc
B00G9H4LGC, $6.99,

Future hope

The End of the Line is a current love story between a black woman and a white man living in the Canadian Province of Nova Scotia. Because racism and bigotry still exist, Jim Power turns the prejudices of two families and friends into lessons for all races.

With compassion and skill, Power masters storytelling his message with ease. His characters become real and situations believable. He adds a touch of history to create an authentic setting, which remains a desired quality in any good book.

After reading The End of the Line, by Jim Power, I wonder if the expectation is that someday, readers will be shocked and appalled by the insanity of the world when people judged each other by the color of their skin.

Mary Crocco, Reviewer

Gail's Bookshelf

Anna Was Here
Jane Kurtz
Greenwillow Books
c/o HarperCollins Children's Books
10 East 53rd Street, New York, New York 10022
9780060564933, $16.00,

Jane Kurtz draws on her own childhood moving experiences to craft Anna was Here, the tale of a nine-year-old girl who must leave the Colorado home and friends she loves when their family is reassigned to Kansas. Her father, a minister, has been called to help a sister church get "over a hump" in this sweet story of childhood adjustments, change and growth.

It wasn't that Anna wasn't used to change it's what change meant to her since she'd been named "Gold Ribbon Safety Citizen" of the fourth grade. Now there would be no more weekly meetings with her fourth grade "Safety Club." No more sitting "pretzel legs" with Jericho, the college student who looked after her when her parents were busy.

The Safety Club had started when everyone was so scared about the out-of-control Colorado wildfires last summer. That's when Jericho said if they knew what to do in emergencies they would feel better prepared and not be so afraid.

Researching and filling in the Safety Club notebooks had taught them about bears, rattlesnakes, fire, earthquakes, tornados and more. Now they knew what to do if scary things happened they were prepared and felt in control and safe.

However, that couldn't help with Anna's newest worry - Midnight H. Cat who now sat purring on her lap. How could she control what happened to him? Would he run away when they moved? Would he like Kansas? Would he be safe?

When the day to move arrived Anna went into her bedroom closet for the last time, "turned on the light and wrote, 'Anna was here,' then paused for a moment before she wrote, 'And she'll be back.'"

Thus begins a gentle tale of childhood with questions of unanswered prayers wrapped in ribbons of faith that New York Times describes as the story of, "a devout family whose spirituality functions as both a safety net and an umbrella."

Jane's characterizations add depth to the narrative with vivid word descriptions such as "pinch mouth look," ookey-spookey, musty-dusty basement" and "shivery-dee" similar to the nickname "same-sames," for three friends left behind. Or when she imagines shouting to a boy who's tormenting her, "I'm not just a girl, you know. The angel Gabriel is basically my best friend."

This is a story of faith, prayer, forgiveness and reconciliation wrapped in the reality of moving and adjusting to new people, places and change from a young girl's perspective. One that the New York Times Book Review described as "a gentle, optimistic story about a devout family whose spirituality functions as both a safety net and an umbrella" high praise indeed and well-deserved.

Portland, OR author Jane Kurtz was two-years-old when her family moved to Ethiopia to work for a Presbyterian Church. Since then she's lived in North Dakota, Kansas, Illinois and Colorado before returning to Oregon with her husband where she penned this middle-grade novel.

He Walks Among Us
Richard & Renee Stearns, authors
Jon Warren, photographer
Thomas Nelson Publishers
P.O. Box 141000, Nashville, Tennessee 37214
9781400321865, $19.99,

Richard Stearns former CEO of Parker Brothers and his wife Renee, logged over "two million air miles to the uttermost parts of the globe" after Richard assumed leadership of World Vision in Seattle, WA. They traveled to listen, learn and offer a hand of friendship to the poorest of the poor across the globe.

While many would describe the people they met as hopeless with their lack of the most basic necessities of life our nation takes for granted, the Stearns found them "rich in wisdom, community, perseverance, courage, faith and even joy."

This photojournalistic devotional is a treasure trove of their "sacred stories," enhanced by the award winning photography of Jon Warren, who pictorially portrays why God sees the poor as blessed. Their stories present an up-close and personal view of Christ at work in the lives of people transformed by faith, belief and trust in Christ, in spite of or perhaps because of the lives they lead.

Men, women and children who rise each morning from dirt floored huts to dress in clothes worn the day before, eat scavenged food and drink water from bacteria laden streams, yet whose faces portray joy and hope. Even though others see them as poverty stricken they consider themselves spiritually rich.

Jon Warren's camera captures the Stearns, the World Vision staff and the courageous men, women and children who want others to know the important truths they define themselves by. They believe they are defined by their choices, by what they believe and Who they believe in, which is why they share their personal stories because their "stories count for something."

This book is more than a devotional, it's a visual reminder that Jesus still "walks among us."

Once Upon a Winter's Heart
Melody Carlson
Center Street
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9781455528110, $11.00,

Award-winning WA author, Melody Carlson, well-known for Christmas novellas and "true-to-life" fiction, sets a romantic mood and tone for Valentine's Day in Once Upon a Winter's Heart. With a tale of conflict, loyalty and romance set in Seattle, played out against a backdrop of sibling rivalry, forgiveness and a grandparents old-fashioned book store. The story opens with Emma's forceful comment.

"Romance is officially dead!" declares Emma to her roommate Lucy as she quickly adds lids to overflowing boxes and zips her bags closed ready to load in the Prius outside.

Her grandfather Poppi's death was the final reason to leave Seattle and her less than challenging job that had turned into nothing more than a paycheck instead of the dream she thought it would be. Not to mention the ten years of dating disasters that also left her disillusioned and ready to give up on love even though her grandfather encouraged her to "follow her heart."

That hadn't turned out well. Now she wanted to leave all that behind and return home to care for her grandmother Nona who had taken care of Emma so much of her childhood while her career minded parents worked. Emma considered her grandparents the last of the romantics, however, her parents were the exact opposites, their marriage had been one fight after another for as long as Emma could remember.

As she bid her soon-to-be former roommate goodbye and drove onto the I-5 onramp Emma couldn't know the surprising guest she would find in her old room at her grandmother's house. Or that she would soon meet a tall dark stranger, be offered more work than she was prepared to do or that the family she thought she knew - she didn't know at all in this quick read romance.

Join Emma on a journey that teaches her love isn't dead after all and her grandfather's advice to "follow her heart," although risky, is more than worth the effort, in this well-done old-fashioned romance perfect for Valentine's Day.

Daily Wisdom for Women: 2014 Devotional Collection
Barbour Publishing
P.O. Box 719, 1810 Barbour Drive, Uhrichsville, OH 44683
9781620299128, $14.99,

As December draws to a close and a New Year begins my thoughts turn to making New Year's resolutions and setting new goals. It's also the perfect time to select a new companion devotional for my quiet time with the Lord.

Barbour's collection of powerful devotions for 2014, penned by women for women, remind readers "how deeply and tenderly God loves" them. The inspirational daily readings of thoughts, scripture and prayer refresh the soul and encourage spiritual growth and intimacy with the Lord.

The title of January's opening devotion for New Years day, "Do Over" caught my attention. The foundation scripture from Isaiah 43: 18-19 says "Forget about what happened before, and do not think about the past..."

The reading is about fresh starts, new beginnings and leaving the past behind which is what a new year offers that the devotion describes as a "do over." The brief prayer asks the Lord for the necessary discipline to make any needed changes. I thought this was an especially nice thought to begin 2014 with.

I know many who are bound by issues from the past that prevent stepping into the future God has prepared for them and that's why this is such a significant devotion. It's not just children who need a "do over" when their "behavior needs correction." It's like God recognizes the need for adults to experience a "do over." And that's what the new year offers, a "do over" of fresh starts, new resolutions and new beginnings.

Readings include topical issues and concerns women are often challenged with from family and parenting issues, to work stress, balancing wife and motherhood, practicing forgiveness and more. Pages filled with nuggets of God's wisdom encourage faith and trust in the One who loved us enough to sacrifice His very own Son.

If you feel a need for greater intimacy with God set aside time to start or end your day with Jesus. The rewards of increased faith trust and spiritual intimacy far exceed the effort it takes.

Lis Wiehl
Thomas Nelson Publishers
P.O. Box 141000, Nashville, Tennessee 37214
9781401689520, $26.95,

Lis Wiehl, author and Fox News legal analyst releases Snapshot January 14th, an exciting account of murder and conspiracy with a dash of historical narrative. While past events, photo and Lis's FBI agent father are real, the rest are constructs of this author's remarkable imagination. She begins her fictionalized account years after the original photograph was taken, a picture the main character Lisa now holds in her hand.

Lisa recognized herself as the fair-skinned child in the picture and took pride in the years of hard work and education that led to her career as a federal prosecutor. Yet, in all those years, from her own graduations to her son's birth to his graduation she hadn't heard from her father until he called last week and asked for her help to "right a wrong." Although she hadn't agreed he had sent the picture she now held in her hand.

The faded black and white snapshot showed two little girls sitting on a raised concrete block, surrounded by adults carrying signs that read "Freedom Now" in bright red letters. Lisa remembered the event and the dark skinned girl, especially holding four fingers up to her and saying, "I'm four."

When the little girl did the same the memory of them leaning "close, smiling and talking as if already friends" brought a smile. She couldn't remember the girl's name, wasn't sure she'd ever known it and was certain neither of them understood they were what the "day's event," a 1965 Civil Rights rally, was all about.

However, Lisa's father, Special Agent Waldren was keenly aware of the signs, the marchers and the neighborhood that few white people ventured into as he continued to snap the picture he would one day send to his daughter. Although a trained FBI agent he couldn't know his daughter and her new friend would witness the murder of a well-known African-American and the false accusation of another. Until the first "gunshot pierced the air...then another..." and fear and pandemonium ensued.

Thus begins a fast-paced mystery of an FBI agent father-daughter year's long estrangement, wrapped around a faded photograph and a man falsely accused and prosecuted just days from execution. Add a missing antique desk, locked drawers, missing keys, family secrets and the assassinations of President Kennedy and his brother Bobby to the mix and the book is impossible to set down until finished!

Snapshot is the twelfth mystery-suspense from this Harvard educated attorney and it's also a non-series title without a co-author like the terrific Triple Threat, East Salem and Mia Quinn series have. Although the series titles are well-done, tension-filled mysteries, Snapshot left me feeling Lis invested more of herself in this book, perhaps because of the picture that inspired the story. There's more depth to the characters and a subtle continuity to the fast-paced narrative and relevant storylines. I hope this is the first of many "inspired" books from this talented author.

The 1965 photographs that inspired the story, a personal note from Lis and thoughts from award-winning journalist, Juan Williams and Fox News television host, Bill O'Reilly complete the book. YouTube: Lis Wiehl Interview--Snapshot

Perfect Ending: Why Your Eternal Future Matters Today
Robert Jeffress
Worthy Publishing
134 Frankline Road/Suite 200, Brentwood, TN 37027
9781617951831, $14.99,

Dr. Robert Jeffress, senior pastor, Dallas First Baptist church and radio host of Pathway to Victory, penned Perfect Ending releasing January 21st, at the request of a fellow pastor. Even though his friend held a PhD in theology, he felt inadequate to preach on prophetical events and asked Jeffress to "write a simple book explaining Bible prophecy."

I know how complex and confusing prophecy, End Time events and Christ's return can be and wondered if simplicity were possible. Until I began to read and found this pastor's reasoning and explanations, not only supported by scripture, but easier to understand than most prophecy books I've read.

Even though no one can know the day or hour of Christ's return, Matthew 16:3 and other verses, imply we can know the season. In the same vein, chapters 24 and 25 of Matthew provide an overview, a "simple outline that includes the Great Tribulation, the return of Christ, the judgments and Christ's thousand year rule on earth," writes Dr. Jeffress.

It's for these reasons he wrote Perfect Ending, not only for his fellow pastor, but to teach "what Christ's return has to do with our lives today" since the eternal consequences of heaven, hell and life after death are significant.

Although the terminology used in prophecy and end time events can be confusing, Dr. Jeffress's descriptions and explanations of pre-tribulation, mid-tribulation and post tribulation positions are easy to understand. As well as terms for pre-millennialism, a-millennialism and post-millennialism that refer to the timing of Christ's reign on earth.

He removes what he calls, the "veil of mystery" from other intriguing end time events, such as why the worlds future begins and ends with Israel and why God uses Israel as his prophetic time clock. Why he believes "there are degrees to heaven and hell," what the Great White Throne Judgment is, when it occurs and how Obama's policies pave the way for the Antichrist. All significant pieces of the prophecy puzzle he wants people to understand.

Prophecy was so important to God He made it a major Bible theme and many prophesized events have been fulfilled with "laser-like accuracy." According to the Jeremiah Project "every fourth verse in the Scriptures deals with prophecy" and much of prophecy is about judgment. However, God always warns and allows time for repentance just as Lot warned his sons-in-law in Genesis 19:14 that they must flee "for the Lord is about to destroy the city." Dr. Jeffress favors a pre-tribulation position, however his understanding of all positions are clear, without confusion and simply stated.

If you want to know "why your eternal future matters today," why only Christians can enter heaven and why there are "two resurrections" pick up a copy of Perfect Ending, a compelling and thought-provoking read about the "signs of the times."

Blessings for the Evening: Finding Peace in God's Presence
Susie Larson
Bethany House Publishers
6030 East Fulton Road, Ada, MI 49301
9780764211638, $14.99,

Susie Larson, popular radio host, speaker and author penned Blessings for the Evening for those whose daytime concerns turn into night time worries and fears, an issue she is very familiar with. If you're like Susie, these end-of-day devotions encourage readers to place their concerns in God's hands and find "peace in God's presence" before bedtime.

Ninety simple devotions with supplementary scripture wash away the concerns of the day as they remind readers of God's "reassuring promises." Thus the focus is shifted to spiritual things instead of the usual nagging concerns and worrisome fears.

Colorful two-page spreads feature scripture readings on the left with a brief devotion on the right. Even though the words are printed on picturesque landscapes, seascapes and muted country settings that enhance each devotions message, the words are easy to read and prepare the mind for sleep.

For example the devotion, Christ in Focus encourages the reader to trust that God will "renew your mind and redeem your words." The biblical perspective encourages faith and trust and promotes a calm spirit with thoughts on God as you drift off to sleep.

The book also includes six topical readings designed for specific circumstances such as grief, disappointment, spiritual warfare, the Sabbath and holidays. The small size and padded cover fit easily on a bedside table or stand and the the book's design makes it easy to hold.

I've never reviewed a book of evening devotions before and found the readings an exceptional way to end often stressful days.

Eyes Wide Open: The Full Story, Books 1-4
Ted Dekker
Worthy Publishing
134 Frankline Road/Suite 200, Brentwood, TN 37027
9781617952739, $14.99,

Ted Dekker, an author well known for intense suspense, thrillers and allegories, releases a "modern day parable" January 21st that began as a serialized novel. Eyes Wide Open the Full Story begins with Identity followed by Mirrors, Unseen and Seer. It's a mind-bending, psychological account that left me feeling a bit like Alice who fell down the rabbit hole in Wonderland after I read the first chapter that begins...

"Who am I?"
"My name is Christy Snow"
"I'm seventeen and I'm about to die."

These thoughts rampage through Christy's mind as, trapped under "tons of concrete," she beats against the coffin lid with her fists. Doubts about anyone hearing her resonate in her mind with each punch of her fists. Would Austin look for her when she doesn't show up, would he even know where to look? She can't stop panting; the pain from bumping her now bruised forehead against the coffin lid makes her cry. Exhausted, she tries to still her shaking hands and knees, then feels tears slip from her eyes and thought, "How could this happen to me?"

Christy fell through the "rabbit hole" the day after Austin had taken her to the abandoned storeroom in the basement of St. Matthews's psychiatric hospital. That's where she must have lost her cherished locket. When Christy returned this morning she broke into the basement like she'd seen Austin do and saw the shiny locket lying in the crack of the wall with the light of her cell phone.

She had to move the stack of coffins so she could reach down into the "gap between the coffins and the wall" and maneuvered the caskets out of her way with a rocking motion. She couldn't know the coffins covered a trap door until she tumbled through the opening and heard the door "slam shut above her, plunging her into darkness."

Thus begins a tale of psychological suspense that takes readers on an intense roller-coaster ride with twists and turns that leave readers breathless, sometimes skimming, and sometimes re-reading to be sure of what was read. It's a unique story of identity and how we view ourselves played out in the lives of Christy and Austin, two seventeen-year-old orphans.

In the beginning, their common bond of amnesia from memories before age thirteen fostered an idealistic friendship that had morphed into bonds of empathetic love. Christy saw herself as fat, ugly and unlovable, while Austin, an extraordinarily gifted teen, suffers from severe headaches and fears losing his gifted abilities.

Eyes Wide Open, similar to Dekker's best-sellers, Black, Showdown and Three is fast-paced and full of surprises with a serious Christian tone that may lead to more from The Outlaw Chronicles.

A Godward Heart: Treasuring the God Who Loves You
John Piper
Multnomah Books
12265 Oracle Blvd. Suite 200, Colorado Springs, CO 80921
9781601425669, $14.99,

John Piper's new book, A Godward Heart, releases January 21st with fifty devotion style mediations that inspire a greater, more personal understanding of God. This beloved author has found his own life changed as much by a paragraph he's read as by an entire book and he penned these brief and pointed readings "in the hope that God will put His fingers on its paragraphs...and bring [God's] glories into focus."

Some of the brief thought-provoking topics include:

Feeding the soul with the Bible
Right doctrine, wrong doing and truth
Satan, Christian suffering and loss
Can God be trusted?
The truth of idolatry
Sin and God's grace
Is Jesus stronger than the devil?

One of Piper's many talents is to encourage readers in the application of God's word to real-world circumstances and that's why I especially liked the 41st reading: "Reflections on how willingly sinners enter hell."

In this mediation he disagrees with the saying, "All that are in hell choose it." Piper writes, "When there are only two choices, and you choose against one, it does not mean you want the other if you are ignorant of the outcome of both."

I encourage readers to buy the book and read the complete devotion.

We live in a time-challenged society that doesn't encourage one-on-one time with the Lord. John Piper's biblically rich meditations are particularly good for those with limited time to read. The hardback, small in size, fits easily into backpack or purse for brief moments during the day or at bedtime to refocus on spiritual things from daytime stress and worry.

Gail Welborn

Gary's Bookshelf

Lying With Strangers
Jonnie Jacobs
Five Star Books
10 Water Street, Suite 310, Waterville, ME 04901
9781432827311, $25.95,

The thriller "Lying With Strangers" begins with ADA Roy Walker shot and killed while shopping at a convenience store. Dianna Walker now his widow, begins to learn that Roy was a person with a lot of secrets and not at all what he seemed. Author Jonnie Jacobs, a former attorney known for her legal thrillers takes the reader in a different direction with "Lying With Strangers" This time she tells a story that is filled with many deceptive characters like Roy who Dianna must encounter to solve the mystery of the man she thought she knew. "Lying With Strangers" is surefire page turning suspense thriller by a great storyteller.

Outrageous October
Barbara Levenson
4900 LaCross Rd.
North Charleston, SC 29406
MM Book Publicity
2817 West End Avenue, Suite 126-274, Nashville, TN 37203
9781480093669, $11.99,

Attorney Mary Magruder Katz breaks off her relationship with her boyfriend after she sees him and his ex wife at a restaurant. To protect herself she packs up an SUV and her German shepherd and takes a long overdue vacation to stay at a friends retreat home in High Pines, Vermont. She has a series of adventures including staying in the wrong home and later she is hired to take on a case of dueling neighbors over a minor problem. Levenson a former attorney and Judge in Miami Dade County, has created a bizarre case in the two neighbors, well defined characters and a fast paced story that is a great legal thriller

The Sea Witch
Stephen Coonts
c/o Tor/Forge
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780765368881, $7.99,

Known for his great high techno thrillers, "The Sea Witch" is a little bit different. This time there are three novellas that take place in three different time periods. In he first one "The Sea Witch" deals with a crew of an airplane in WWII, fighting the Japanese war ships. "The 17th Day" takes place in WWI and "Al Jihad" concerns a former Marine who is contacted by a female pilot who tells him she wants to get the terrorists who caused the death of her parents. Coonts expertly takes the reader through each story and delivers thrills in every one. I thought the best one was the last one where the tale takes a surprising twist that is very enjoyable. "The Sea Witch" is a great collection of military fiction by a master of the genre.

The Unwelcomed Child
V.C. Andrews
Pocket Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781451650891, $7.99

At the same time "The Unwelcomed Child" debuts, Pocket Books has re-released "Flowers In The Attic" to tie in with the LifeTime Movie Channel movie version of "Flowers in The Attic" Both of the books are similar in that there is a grandmother who has an iron clad rule over children. Where there is a difference is there is no incest in "The Uwelcomed Child." Also it is not written by Andrews but it is very close in style. She died a number of years ago leaving many story ideas and unfinished works for the holders of her estate to hire a carefully selected author to continue her stories. In this case it is very close in feel, and the story is very well told about Elle Edwards and how she deals with her overbearing grandmother. "The Unwelcomed Child" is a stand alone novel that fits into the cycle of V.C Andrews books

Below Stairs
Margaret Powell
St Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9781250005441, $22.99,

"Below Stairs" is the first of two books by Powell that are the basis for the two hit TV shows "Upstairs Downstairs" and "Downton Abbey." Powell worked in many homes in England as a kitchen maid and later a cook. She tells her stories about the work, the people she worked for and reveals lots of details about this kind of life. "Below Stairs" originally published in 1968 is as fresh and new as when it first came out and is perfect reading for anyone who watches "Downton Abbey"

Servant's Hall
Margaret Powell
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9781250043450, $14.99,

"Servant's Hall," the second book by Powell is a little different from "Below Stairs" because it goes into more detail about the relationships of the downstairs people to the upstairs ones. In fact Rose a servant and Mr. Gerald only son of the lord of the house are the basis for "Downton Abbey's" Tom and Sybil. Powell talks more about her relationships as well and readers can also see the difference in how the workers are treated by people they work for. "Servant's Hall" and "Below Stairs" are two great reads any fan of "Upstairs Downstairs" and Downton Abbey can not afford to miss.

Kakos 401 Haiku Poems
Kakos Kakos
Outskirts Press Inc
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781478705949, $11.95,

One of the hardest forms of poetry to write is Haiku and Kokos Kakos does an excellent job in "Kakos 401 Haiku Poems. It is so difficult because you only have three lines to tell the poem.


Destroy in a minute.

Years of sweat and toil" is a fine example is great about this form of poetry Kakos 401 Haiku Poems" is filled with lots of wonderful short writings that anyone can enjoy.

Shakes, Cakes, Frosted Flakes Funny Children's Poems About Table Manners
Written by Leslie C. Halpern Illustrated by Oral Nusbaum
Cricket Cottage Publishing
1889 S. Kirkman Rd, Suite 614, Orlando, Florida 32811
9780615883267, $11.99,

Poetry does not have to be confusing as evidenced in "Shakes, Cakes, Frosted Flakes Funny Children's Poems About Table Manners." Halpern writes in poetic form messages to kids 5-9 about food, manners, and other things in a fun way that has kids appreciate this form of writing. Nussbaum's artwork also helps kids understand the messages in a fun combination of the two art forms. "Shakes, Cakes, Frosted Flakes" is a delightful collection for readers of all ages to enjoy.

Franny's Rescue
Written by Crystal White Illustrated by M. W. Adams
Grass House Publications
688 Hunters Lane, Hopkinsville, KY 42240
9780615853161, $14.95,

A stray shaggy mutt wanders around in search of food and finds adventure and a new home in the delightful kid's book "Franny's Rescue." The story flows until the last page and has many underlying premises that are good lessons to teach kids about the world we live in. M. W. Adams' artwork brings to life the characters of the tale and adds to the story by the use of the bold colors. One of the funniest parts is when the mutt meets a woman and feels that she looks just like her. "Franny's Rescue" is fun reading for all ages and would make a perfect gift for any occasion.

Polly and Her Pigtails
Written by Debra Sue Latiolais
Illustrated by Mark Wayne Adams
Monkey Puzzle Books
25050 Riding Plaza Suite 130-636
South Riding, Virginia 20152
9780989050500, $16.95,

Polly is a young girl who loves nice dresses and her pigtails that are a trademark of who she is. One day a bully in school plays a mean trick on her by putting ink on the ends of them. Poll is heartbroken when she realizes she can not get the ink out of her hair. She is crushed and wants the bully to suffer the consequences for his actions. There are a lot of positives that emerge from the nasty situation that was caused by the bully about a person's self image. Though the story takes place in the 1930s it is as timely today as ever. For many readers who may not understand some of the things that take place there is a page that explains many of the things involved and there is another one for parents on how to build a child's self esteem. "Polly and Her Pigtails" is an easy read for all ages that is enhanced by the delightful artwork of Mark Wayne Adams.

Gary Roen

Gloria's Bookshelf

Visitation Street
Ivy Pochoda
Ecco / Dennis Lehane Books
c/o HarperCollins
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780062249890, $25.99, Hardcover, 304 pp.

The author paints a vivid portrait of Brooklyn's Red Hook section, an area alongside the East River which juxtaposes predominantly white residents of the waterside two- and three-story brick houses with its nearby minority-filled housing projects and abandoned warehouses. The tale opens in the middle of a heat wave, when two fifteen-year old girls, Valerie and June, Catholic school students, follow the seductive call of adventure to escape the boredom of their lives (a recurring theme throughout the novel), taking a small pink raft into the water a short walk away from their homes. Almost predictably, their little boat is no match for the strong currents. The outcome: Val is discovered by an area resident, unconscious; June is nowhere to be found, and the worst is feared. The remainder of the book describes the effects of the tragedy on the neighborhood, told from various points of view, most profoundly Val's, almost literally haunted by the scenes replayed on a constant loop in her mind, filled with guilt at not having saved her friend. Those are nearly constant themes of the book as well: guilt, and the living being haunted by the dead, or those feared dead.

Red Hook, with its history of drugs, racism, and similar ills, comes alive as much as any of the fascinating characters who live and work there in this author's poetic prose. This reader knows the area well, and it is very realistically portrayed here. The blue-collar residents hope for salvation with the eagerly anticipated arrival of large cruise ships at the new passenger terminal, while meanwhile scraping by as best they can.

The novel is not at all what I expected, which was a crime novel along the lines of the books by Dennis Lehane, under whose imprint this book was published, the second under his aegis. In that sense I was somewhat disappointed, I must admit. But the book is quite original, and I suspect that my disappointment will not be shared by most readers.

The Enraged
Brett Battles
Privately Published
9781490557021, $14.95, Paperback, 276 pp.

[This book is self-published, and can be ordered through Amazon, B&N or from the author, either as a paperback or an e-book ($4.99)]

This newest book in the Jonathan Quinn series (one of three Mr. Battles has authored) brings back the usual cast of characters: Nate, Quinn's mentee and now a full-fledged cleaner himself (the job entailing discreetly cleaning up crime scenes and the occasional body after the always possible bloodshed); Quinn's sister, Liz, now Nate's "significant other;" their colleague, Daeng; and of course Orlando, the love of Quinn's life, an Asian woman who is a brilliant computer hacker; Misty Blake, who had been executive assistant to Peter, the man who had headed the now defunct agency known as The Office, for which Quinn had worked; and Helen Cho, described as "head of a growing network of government [and quasi-government] security and intelligence agencies" and a close friend of Peter. Quinn shares with Helen his belief that there is a serious leak somewhere in one of the agencies under her control

The last book in the series, "The Collected," was a tale of "kidnapping and torture and murder and escape," ending in a cliff-hanger in northeastern Mexico where the reader doesn't know who has lived and who has not. "The Enraged" is a tale of what happens next, when the survivors determine to find out who it was who had had them targeted and wanted them all dead, nearly succeeding in that directive. This time it is all about preventing their unknown enemy from succeeding in what appears the primary objective: to let the past "stay where it was supposed to."

The excellent plotting takes Quinn and company, as is par for the course, to a variety of settings: San Francisco, Seattle and, primarily, the DC/Virginia areas in the US, as well as Zurich, Switzerland and that northeastern Mexico site introduced in the previous novel. There is a full quotient of suspense and surprises, and this fast-paced novel is highly recommended. (I also have to mention that I loved the author's tip of the hat to John Coltrane and his music.)

Bill Pronzini
c/o Tor/Forge
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780765325662, $25.99 Hardcover, 320 pp

"Nemesis," the newest in the Nameless Detective series, in which this is number 38, is told from three points of view: that of each of the three private detectives who work together out of their office in the South Park area of San Francisco, Jake Runyon, Tamara Corbin, and the "nameless detective" of the title of this series, in which this is number 38. (He is not "nameless" to his colleagues, btw; to them he is "Bill.") Their newest client hires them to find out who is trying to blackmail them, the case goes to Jake. (Bill, an ex-cop now 60 years old, is working minimum hours, still trying to help his wife heal after she was held prisoner by a psychotic before being rescued, and Tamara mans the office, aided by a couple of part-time detectives.)

The woman, voluptuous Verity Daniels, who lives in a sumptuous high-rise just off the Embarcadero, turns out to be much more, and much less, than she at first appears. The investigation takes Jake across a wide swath of San Francisco, checking out the family of a man to whom Verity was engaged but who drowned just before he ostensibly was going to break off the engagement; a married ex-employer with whom she appears to have been having an affair; and a former husband. Jake's instincts, after 14 years with the Seattlepolice and nearly 8 as a p.i., tell him he should drop the case. When her truthfulness becomes a serious issue and he tries to do just that, the result is not a pretty one. And the volatile Verity soon after charges him with rape. Things get rapidly worse, soon the detective agency is itself sued for serious money, and Jake is thrown in jail. The next portion of the book belongs to Tamara and her end of the investigation, and the final section is Bill's as he picks up the case.

As with all of this author's books, the latest Nameless Detective novel is a very well-plotted tale with the author's trademark wonderfully drawn characters. Each section goes into the lives of each of the three detectives, their own past life-threatening episodes, and the ongoing investigation. There are several twists and turns, and at the end a prologue tying up all loose ends in the three detectives' current lives. All terrifically well done, and the book is highly recommended. Besides, how could one not love a guy called "Nameless" who owns a cat called "Shameless?!"

Bear is Broken
Lachlan Smith
The Mysterious Press
c/o Grove/Atlantic
841 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9780802122261, $15.00, Paperback, 288 pp.

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 Leo and 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. (It should perhaps be noted that this author's newest book, "Lion Plays Rough," is due out in February in hardcover from Mysterious Press. - looking forward to it!)

The Terrorist Next Door
Sheldon Siegel
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. 1st Ave., Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781464201646, $24.95, Hardcover, 298 pp.

In this new standalone by Sheldon Siegel, author of seven books in the Mike Daley/Rosie Fernandez series, the author has written a scarily, all-too-plausible tale of murder and mayhem in his one-time native city of Chicago. It is ninety degrees on the morning on which homicide detective David Gold is to receive the Medal of Valor for his part in averting a bombing at the town's historic Art Institute (which his partner did not survive) when, just seconds after the ceremonies begin, a car bomb explodes just across the street, and Gold receives a text saying "It isn't over." It soon appears that the bomber's aim, as he threatens more violence to come if his demands are not met, is the release of Hassan Al-Shahid, a 28-year old graduate student at the University of Chicago who had been born in Saudi Arabia, the man who is about to go on trial in three days for the foiled bombing a month earlier. Gold will not allow his partner's murderer to go free.

The FBI, Homeland Security and various other police units join the ensuing investigation, but Gold and his new partner, fifty-nine year old " A.C." (Aloysius Charles) Battle, take the lead. The only "clue" is that the bomber identifies himself as belonging to an apparently non-existent terror organization. But whoever he is, he leaves no clues. There is, of course, a media frenzy, headed up by Carol Modjeski at the local station, WGN (known to one and all as "Mojo"). The painstaking investigation proves futile, the only leads pointing to men of Middle Eastern descent and/or members of the Muslim community, but with no hard facts. The tale is interspersed with brief passages from the p.o.v. of the unidentified bomber, and as the bombings continue and it seems that things can't get worse, they do just that. Inevitably, the city goes into lock-down.

There are the usual racial tensions for which Chicago has been known, including reactions to a planned mosque, the announcement of which was greeted with less than a warm welcome, in a manner reminiscent of a mosque planned not long ago for the area of the World Trade Center in New York City, never completed after the ensuing furor. There are fascinating tidbits of Chicago history, some going back to the late 18th and early 21st century as well; affectionate references to what I assume are actual Chicago eateries; and some terrific aside about the beloved sports teams in the city: the Chicago Bears and the famous rivalry between the Cubs and the White Sox. All the action takes place in less than 36 hours. There is a delightful tip of the hat to Lee Child and his Jack Reacher series, which is appropriate, I think, as this book is as much an edge-of-your seat thriller as is typical of that author. The reader does not find out the identity of the terrorist until very near the end of the book, the suspense rising as the pages quickly turn. This is a fast-paced, terrific book from Mr. Siegel, and it is highly recommended.

[The novel is also available in a trade paperback edition, ISBN 978-1-4642-0166-0, $14.95]

After I'm Gone
Laura Lippman
c/o HarperCollins
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780062083395, $26.99 (12.99 BPS, 31.99 CA$), Hardcover, 352 pp.

Laura Lippman is known for her wonderful series featuring p.i. Tess Monaghan, among other terrific books. So I started this book believing it to be a murder mystery, especially as it begins with the discovery of a dead body. But then it appeared that I was wrong, that it was instead a very interesting character study, or rather 'studies,' dealing as it does with a dysfunctional family, the wife and three daughters (as well as their significant others) of a fascinating man, Felix Brewer. rarely seen in these pages, the husband and father of these women, and others who were close to him. These latter included the lawyer and bail bondsman who were his best friends since their Baltimore high school days, and Julie, the younger mistress with whom he had cheated on his wife for several years as the story opens, which story encompasses a 35-year period.

Felix met Bernadette ("Bambi") when she was 19 years old at a Valentine's Day dance and quickly swept her off her feet, marrying her soon after. (Valentine's Day, New Year's Eve, when Felix and Bambi married, and July 4th are significant dates in the story.) A bookmaker, he keeps her in very comfortable surroundings until he is arrested, convicted, and about to start serving a prison term when, on July 4th, 1976, he vanishes, with no clue as to his plans or his whereabouts, leaving his wife relatively impoverished, his mistress slightly less so. Ten years later, to the day, Julie vanishes as well, her dead body found soon after. The present-day narration begins 26 years later, when Roberto ("Sandy") Sanchez, the Cuban-born retired Baltimore cop who, as a consultant working on cold cases for the police department, picks up the murder file.

If all this was was a book encompassing character studies of each of these, it would very interesting reading. But that would be selling Ms. Lippman quite short: She has rendered a fascinating mystery, dealing with Brewer's disappearance, his mistress' murder, and the complex stories of the lives of these people, the detective on the case as well as all the others who make up the suspect group, each rendered in fine detail. Infidelity, in several manifestations, plays a large role in the plot. The author has fashioned an ending that you won't see coming, even when you're sure you do. (Parenthetically, the tie-in to Tess Monaghan near the book's end was a delight.) As with all Ms. Lippman's books, this one too is highly recommended.

Dead Man's Fancy
Keith McCafferty
c/o Penguin Group USA
175 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780670014699, $26.95, Hardcover, 316 pp.

This is the third book in the Sean Stranahan series, and my introduction to this author's writing. The protagonist is a former private detective who considers himself a Renaissance man: He guides during the trout season, writes for fishing magazines, and paints in the winter (or when he gets a commission); a man who had never owned a gun, his weapon of choice being a can of pepper spray, and whose impatience with modern technology prompts him to throw his flip phone in a lake. The author writes "Never meeting a stranger was a Western trait, and Stranahan had grown up in the East where people conducted business with skins of reserve so thick that you had to peel them like an orange. In that regard, moving to the Rockies had been like coming home." In this appearance, his assistance is sought by Martha Ettinger, Sheriff of Hyalite County, Montana in two cases she is working on: A wrangler at an area dude ranch is found dead in the backcountry, impaled on an elk antler, and foul play is suspected, and, that same night, a 25-year-old woman on a trail ride from the same ranch has disappeared. It is unknown if the two things are related.

The characters are all very well-drawn and interesting. Primary among these, besides Sean, is Martha, married and divorced twice, whose history includes having shot a U.S. congressman a year ago, he a murderer and she cleared by a coroner's inquest, but her memory of the incident is still very sharp. Even lesser players are unique: One of the area residents is Pablo Mendoza, a baritone for the NY Metropolitan Opera.

A major theme is the antagonism between the environmentalists who want to "bring to light the atrocities man committed against wildlife," when e.g. wolves had been eradicated early in the 20th century by gun and cyanide stick, after the US Congress passed a bill allowing the reintroduction of the wolf population, a program that started in Yellowstone National Park in 1995, and groups such as Ranchers and Hunters for Taking the Wolf Out of Montana and, generally, ranchers who "hate wolves as much as they hate Democrats."

At least initially, I found the book replete with complex CSI calculations, and esoteric fishing and hunting descriptions and terminology, somewhat (well, completely) outside of my usual sphere of knowledge There are many references to fishing lures and ties, e.g., the title of the book is a name given to a fishing tie. I am certain that many readers, with perhaps more familiarity with such things, would not have a problem, but for this reader, it often took me out of the book. But ultimately, I discovered that the novel was filled as well with poetic prose, a good mystery, and a totally unexpected twist, and I closed the book, which was overall very satisfying, with a smile on my face.

The Other Romanian
Anne Argula
Pleasure Boat Studio
201 W.89th St., NY, NY 10024
9781929355853, $16.00, Paperback, 202 pp.

The author had me from the first page of her new book (in point of fact, from the first paragraph), written with consistent wit and clever prose. The protagonist, who goes only by the single name "Quinn," is a private detective in Seattle, Washington. An ex-cop in LA and then Spokane, and recently divorced, she has some intriguing tics: she dislikes cell phones and uses them as seldom as possible; believes in reincarnation; has, on the ledge of her office window, a plastic snake named Stanley to scare away pigeons; and her closest "friends" are three homeless Native American young men (or "the tribals," as she calls them) whose hangout of choice is a bench on the street below her apartment window, to whom she regularly brings sandwiches for their lunch or dinner.

As the book opens, Quinn receives a call from Sgt. Beckman, "the fourth best cop in the Seattle Police Department," from a crime scene featuring the body of a man, badly beaten and then shot in the back of the head, whose pockets contained nothing except a matchbook upon which was written her cellphone number. When she arrives at the scene, she sees the body of a man she has never seen before. Shortly thereafter she receives a mysterious and inexplicable text message from someone apparently named "Bruno." Both of these things involving the cell phone of a woman who never uses her cell phone, nor gives out its number.

On the same day, she receives a call from a woman identifying herself as the (third) wife of a man who had hired Quinn over two years previously, with whom she had a not-quite-completely-businesslike relationship, who had taken off on his Harley one night nearly 2 years ago and had never been seen again. The police were convinced that he had ridden off a mountain road into the ocean and drowned. The woman is convinced he is still alive, and hires Quinn to track him down.

The book has an enticing hook, in a preface-like quote from an article which ostensibly appeared in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer in November of 2008, about an 18 k. bookmark which had surfaced, apparently given by Eva Braun to Adolph Hitler which had been stolen in 2002.

The reader should not be lulled by the leisurely pace at which the novel proceeds, because as the end draws near, things shift into a completely different gear. The book is an absolute delight, and is highly recommended.

The Silent Wife
A.S.A. Harrison
Penguin Books
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780143123231, $16.00, Paperback, 336 pp.

To oversimplify greatly, Jodi and Todd are partners in a highly dysfunctional marriage - well, actually, it's not even that: they are not really married, it just feels like they are. Living together for over 20 years in a sumptuous, 27th floor Chicago condo overlooking the water, they both apparently believe they are happy. The problem is that Todd is a serial womanizer, and that seems to be something they both take for granted: "He knows and she knows that he's a cheater, and he knows that she knows, but the point is that the pretense, the all-important pretense must be maintained, the illusion that everything is fine and nothing is the matter."

Jodi, the eponymous wife, is 45, a counseling psychologist with several degrees. Todd, 46, is a successful entrepreneur, first flipping houses, now undertaking large-scale renovations. They have a golden retriever named, not too surprisingly, Freud. Jodi thinks "In every practical sense she is as married as anyone else." The immediate problem appears in the guise of Todd's latest lover, a 20-year-old woman named Natasha, a big part of that problem being that her father and Todd have been best friends since high school. Parenthetically, at some point Todd becomes more hateful to the reader than he is to Jodi (well, female readers anyway). Todd's two worlds collide when Natasha gets pregnant and demands that Todd marry her; confrontation - - well, confrontations - - seem to be inevitable; the book's third paragraph seems to indicate that Jodi will be a killer before too long.

This is a beautifully written novel, and not at all what I expected, containing quite a number of universal truths. I find my comfort zone in tales of crime, mystery, and suspense, but those things don't seem to be present in this book, that is, until very near its conclusion, and then all those are there, in spades. A true psychological thriller, as it is accurately billed, and recommended.

Gloria Feit

Gorden's Bookshelf

The Profiler's Daughter
P.M. Steffon
Lion Dog Press
Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
B009TI5XZG, $3.99,

The Profiler's Daughter is an action/detective mystery. The story has some minor weaknesses but it holds up as well as any of the profiler detective stories produced by the major publishers. It is a statement of how uneven the quality of the selection process is at the majors that this tale had to be produced independently.

Dr. Sky Stone has decided to follow in the steps of her father FBI profiler Monk Stone. After a horrific car accident where she lost her unborn child, she has taken a few months off to recover. She is called in to help when a woman is found strangled with a patch of skin cut off her body. The body was found by two young children who had gone to the city pond to fish. Sky's boyfriend Jake is the lead investigator on the case and the trauma of seeing him for the first time since the accident is nearly too much. As she investigates, she begins to uncover the scent of a true serial killer but the cops on the job think the stress of the car accident is affecting her abilities. As she focuses in on the killer, she is taken off the case and has to continue investigating the killer on her own, all the time dodging attempts on her life.

The Profiler's Daughter is a solid written detective mystery. There are a few minor weaknesses but the rich complex story carries the reader through to the end. Anyone who has enjoyed the multitude of female investigator mystery stories will need to add this book to their list. It is a great addition to the genre.

Bad Monkey
Carl Hiaasen
Alfred A. Knopf
c/o Random House, Inc.
1540 Broadway, New York, NY
9780307272591, $26.95, 317pp,

Bad Monkey is what you would expect from a Hiaasen book. The news and media are full of stories about people doing stupid things. Hiaasen creates a tale built from these stupidities. Every page, sometimes every other paragraph, of the story is constructed around some incredible act that a character does. Both the key to the story and its ability to be believable is that everyone has had an experience with an individual capable of doing one of these daffy things. Somehow Hiaasen still keeps enough humanity in the story so everything just doesn't become a disconnected collection of insanities and stays a fully integrated detective tale.

Andrew Yancy is an ex-Miami detective and a soon to be laid-off county sheriff detective. His boss is the only sheriff's candidate who wasn't in jail at the time of the last election. The new Sheriff's sole electable quality was that he is such a rookie nitwit that he appeared a paragon of virtue when compared to the other candidates. A severed arm is hooked by a fisherman and the Sheriff doesn't want the arm in his county so he orders Yancy to haul it to Miami and leave it with the coroner there. Yancy knows they won't accept the severed arm but he wants to get back his detective job so he tries. As expected the coroner refuses the arm so he takes it home and puts it in his freezer. From here the story gets even weirder -- murder, assault, vicious dogs, an ancient horny voodoo priestess and of course a bad monkey are just starters in a tale that includes just about everything a person can imagine. Somehow the story holds together to the hilarious end.

Hiaasen has the unique talent of creating a fascinating and hilarious detective tales built around the stupidity we read about and see around us every day. If you can handle the adult humor and the wicked satire, Bad Monkey is a must read tale for any detective junky or anyone who enjoys a great comedy. It is this year's best in this narrow genre.

S.A. Gorden, Reviewer

Janet's Bookshelf

Compromise Cake
Nancy Spiller
Counterpoint Press
1919 Fifth Street, Berkeley, CA 94710-1916
9781619021129, $22.00,

Family life is a bit like baking a cake; a whole lot of ingredients get mixed together and sometimes there's a good outcome. The success or failure of a cake recipe, though doesn't have the power to change your life, family relationships do. Growing up in a loving family where parents stay together through thick and thin, particularly the thin, really helps the transition from childhood dependency to adult self determination.

Nancy Spiller, in her memoir Compromise Cake, uses recipes, learned at her mother's side, to lay to rest the mystery of why her mother's life became an unhappy diet of compromise and angry despair after following most women of the times ('forties through 'sixties) career option of: marriage and a family. The compromises - gradual at first, Ms Spiller's mother, Marguerite, came to realize that with a husband and four children a freedom cake flavoured by self-expression and happiness was something she could dream about but never taste.

This realization is not unusual for Marguerite's generation or indeed for any women who's rosy expectations of marriage founder somewhere between a rock and a hard place. Most women, and men too, overcome the trials and tribulations of keeping a family together by compromise on both sides to provide a haven of happy normalcy for their children.

Marguerite was unable to do this, understandable, as the snapshots recorded in Compromise Cake of her life before marriage reveal a young woman who was desperate for 'something to happen' and to meet 'an exciting man'. While waiting for these events, she trained as a teacher, a job she didn't like and met an ordinary young man, who after courting Marguerite, proposed marriage.

The 'something happening' or 'exciting man' dragging their respective feet, Marguerite accepted the proposal. It's never a good idea to accept second best and for Nancy Spiller's family it was a disaster. By the time, Nancy (the youngest of four) was born her parent's marriage was shaky.

In this well written memoir of life in Northern California in the 1960's, Nancy Spiller explores her childhood and later adult relationship with her mother in Northern California. The narration moves backward and forward in time as the author, aided by letters, newspaper clippings and handwritten recipes saved by her mother, tries to understand her relationship with her mother and the reasons behind the complex personality that was Marguerite - an accomplished cook who provided family meals and desserts in abundance, a mother who was often withdrawn with barely suppressed anger.

Seen through the eyes of Nancy, the child, scenes from family life are recalled and are more or less happy. The author comments that if this is the only life you know, then as a child you accept it as normal and are grateful for brief moments of happiness. Written in an anecdotal style, the accounts of young Nancy's often sad and lonely life, largely ignored by a mother she tries hard to please, take a turn for the worse when at age nine, her parents divorce. Nancy and her siblings are cared for by an alienated mother who forsakes friends and family to begin a downward spiral which results in mental illness (bi-polar syndrome); happiness never again enters the family home.

Despite withdrawal from her children, Marguerite still cooks for them, preparing dishes before disappearing into her bedroom. Unlike her siblings, Nancy, desperate to preserve the only connection she has with her mother; a shared interest in recipes, eats the cholesterol laden offerings and becomes (in her own words) 'chubby'. Every chapter of the book is illustrated and linked to Marguerite's recipes. Preparation is described in delicious detail but regular eating of these mouthwaterer's wouldn't make you chubby but with lashings of lard and sugar, decidedly fat.

Compromise Cake is a touching realistically written portrayal of family life that has gone badly wrong and the suffering that mental illness of a parent can inflict on children.

Nancy Spiller recounts her struggle to overcome destructive behaviour in her adult life but does not give intimate details of her parent's marriage breakup or Marguerite's mental illness and provides only glimpses of her father's life thereafter. It is a testament to the quality of her writing that I would really like to know more about these events to understand why she was left in the care of a seriously ill mother.

Perhaps the above will be explained in Nancy Spiller's next memoir. I hope so, Compromise Cake was a lovely read.

Havana Lost
Libby Fischer Hellmann
The Red Herring's Press
9781938733383, Kindle $3.50, Paperback $16.99

Romantic suspense is a literary genre that is hard to sustain; getting the balance right between the love interest, usually a gorgeous guy and gal for whom the path of truth love is rockier than the Grand Canyon, while the plot moves forward at a pace that has the reader page turning at a rate of knots is something that can only be achieved by a talented experienced writer.

Writer, Libby Fischer Hellmann is both talented and experienced, and her novel, Havana Lost, which begins in pre-revolutionary Cuba and moves forward in time to modern day America and Cuba, reflects her skill as an exciting story teller.

The plot spans three generations of the Pacelli family. Joe Pacelli, Mafia boss, runs the La Perla Casino in downtown pre-Castro Havana. Fidel and his rebels not too many heartbeats away from ousting Batista's corrupt regime, Joe figures after the takeover happens it will be business as usual; the only thing that will change is who gets the bribes.

Joe is though worried about his eighteen-year-old daughter, Francesca. Beautiful and willful, Francesca has developed a social conscience, she would like to help Havana's poor, more so since meeting Luis, a Cuban student activist who leads an anti-government group in Havana.

Joe finds out about the affair and decides to ship Francesca back to the US before it goes any further. Francesca has other plans; she escapes the family home with Luis and they assume new identities in a town far from Cuba's capital. Luis joins Fidel's rebel army and Francesca finds a job as an English teacher. Happy and fulfilled it's not long before she becomes pregnant, both Francesca and Luis delighted by the news.

The characters, Francisca and Luis, are interwoven with exciting well written snapshots of life for ordinary Cubans caught up in the revolutionary fervor that lead to the downfall of the Batista government.

Unfortunately, happiness, like everything else, doesn't last forever and Francesca is kidnapped by a group sent by her father to return her, not just to him, but to the U.S. Joe, unsure of Castro's intentions, moves his operations back to America and Francesca, now heavily pregnant, for the sake of convention is forced into marriage with a man she does not love or even like.

All contact with Luis lost, Francesca has a son, Michael. The story segues forward to the events that surround an adult Michael returning to Cuba in search of a map that documents the location of a mine - a mine that could make the developer fabulously wealthy. Michael, unaware that the man he has called father is not his biological parent, attempts to follow the trail that will lead to the mysterious map.

He meets a spunky Cuban doctor, Carla and as with his mother's affair with Luis is immediately attracted to her passionate idealistic nature. He makes contact with Luis and the suspense ramps up to 10 on the Richter scale - there is a really bad guy who is also after the map and Michael's plan to take both Carla and Luis back to the U.S. puts them all in serious danger. Don't want to reveal Libby Hellmann's unexpectedly thrilling plot points so will only write that the outcomes are often surprising.

There is some interesting well researched information interleaved in the plot on the material to be found in the searched for mine which had me doing a Google search and yup, Ms. Hellmann got it right - like an author who can seamlessly weave factual data into fiction.

I have visited Cuba and found the atmosphere of distrust and despair amongst Cubans who are just barely surviving a system of government which can't provide for its citizen's needs realistically depicted in Havana Lost.

The story moves on to the next generation, all the characters evolving, particularly Francesca, whose youthful conscience driven naivety has taken a disturbing turn.

The conclusion to Havana Lost refreshingly, doesn't provide happy endings for all its characters but it does provide a rattling good read - liked the writing and the story.

Janet Walker

Karyn's Bookshelf

Where My Wellies Take Me
Clare and Michael Morpurgo, authors
Olivia Lomenech Gill, illustrator
Templar Books
c/o Candlewick Press
99 Dover St., Somerville, MA 02144
9780763666293, $29.99,

Childhood memories fueled this simple, wistful tale of a girl's short walk and then a long horseback ride in the British countryside. The girl, Pippa, takes in the natural view and experiences some gentle adventures over the course of a few hours, and recalls along the way her favorite poems that speak to her at various moments. Thebook's title comes from Pippa's Wellies, or Wellington boots, a must in the spring countryside. The story is set in rural Devon, southwest England, the Morpurgos' longtime home. Along her meandering route, Pippa encounters all manner of natural wonders. It's spring; there are newborn lambs, an old church graveyard to explore and hedgerows teaming with wildflowers and interesting insects. Frogs are croaking, owls and kingfishers are hunting. Interspersed are 40 poems by the likes of Edward Lear, Ted Hughes, Robert Frost and William Shakespeare. "Little Lamb, who made thee," reads one verse by poet William Blake, as Pippa encounters lambs crying in a pasture for their mother; the seamless juxtaposition of narrative, illustration and verse across a double-page spread is repeated beautifully throughout the book. The illustrations, mostly natural hues with translucent overlays and interesting page flaps, are fine art in themselves, exquisitely capturing the natural feel of Pippa's countryside. Lovely.

With a Mighty Hand: The Story in the Torah
Amy Ehrlich, adaptor
Daniel Nevins, illustrator
Candlewick Press
99 Dover St., Somerville, MA 02144
9780763643959, $29.99,

Adapting the Torah, the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, for a child audience without sacrificing its essence is a formidable task. Ehrlich brilliantly succeeds, reducing the verbiage to be quickly grasped by young readers which retaining the cadence and grandeur of the original text. The text is shortened by focusing on the people stories, from Cain and Abel to Jacob, Joseph and Moses, that tell a generational tale from the creation of the world to the Israelites' impending entrance into Canaan at the conclusion of the book of Deuteronomy. Left out are many long, weighty passages about Jewish law and genealogy that are largely beyond the comprehension and interest of young readers. The people stories are enough for this age audience; Ehrlich's adaption allows them to progress without bogging down in complexity. Yet Ehrlich remains true enough to the original text that teens and adults who have struggled in their comprehension of the Torah stories, which mirror the first books of the Christian Bible's Old Testament, will find this a worthy primer. Further elevating the text is the stunning, emotive art that rises far beyond simple illustration. The art panels are, themselves, signature works that relay the Israelites' historic struggles and triumphs. The embossed, foil enhanced cover art entices. Gorgeous.

Taking Care of Mama Rabbit
Anita Lobel, author and illustrator
Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
c/o Random House Children's Books
1745 Boradway, MD 9-1, New York, NY 10019
9780385753685, $11.99,

When Mama is sick, who will restore her to health? A brood of rabbit siblings nurtures their bed-ridden matriarch while Papa is away getting medicine, in this gentle tale about loving compassion. One by one the ten little bunnies bring something to make Mama smile - a hand-colored picture, a stuffed toy, a pretty ribbon, a flower plucked from a dining room vase. Childlike, every gift is easily found or made at home. It does the trick and by the time Papa returns, medicine is no longer needed. The illustrations by Lobel, a Caldecott Honor-winning artist, have a simple, classic feel with Mama in a big, wooden four-poster bed under a carrot-motif quilt, papa in a waist coat and the children in high-collared dresses and jumpers. Colors are earthy yet appealingly bright. Inset pictures that show the siblings locating their "gifts" for Mama in various corners of the house are particularly sweet. Delightful.

The Wind in the Willows
Kenneth Grahame, author
David Roberts, illustrator
Candlewick Press
99 Dover St., Somerville, MA 02144
9780763665265, $24.99,

Save the omission of one chapter, this is the same beloved story of Mole, Ratty, Toad and Badger that children have enjoyed for more than a century. New adaptions of a classic children's work are often about new art, and this is no exception. Roberts takes a more fanciful direction than the story's best-known previous illustrator, E.H. Shepherd in 1931. Gone are the earth-toned tweeds in which Shepherd famously dressed Toad, and Shepherd tendency toward natural hues. Roberts' palette is pointedly brighter; Frog is neon green from his knee-length knickers to the tip of his short-cropped hair. On his feet are pointy orange shoes topped by yellow socks; his bow tie and hands are also yellow. Mole is dressed in a simple black suit but what really stands out is the color of his face: purple. Ratty is donned in simple suspender pants and Badger is in simple black and white bottoms and a monochromatic purple cardigan. The illustrations also have a wonderfully comical and sharp-lined modern feel although some key elements, such as Toad's car, retain their early 20th Century essence. The decision to omit "The Piper at the Gates of Dawn," traditionally the book's seventh chapter in which Mole and Ratty search for the lost son of their friend, Otter, might be lamented by purists. On the flip side, however, it allows two chapters about Toad, originally bisected, to flow back to back. This may benefit young readers as it allows Toad's adventures to continue uninterrupted, rather than taking a poignant yet tangential sojourn. A beautiful new edition of a story that never grows old.

Karyn L. Saemann, Reviewer

Susan's Bookshelf

Warning Shot (Nick Seven)
Tim Smith
eXtacy Books
B00FDJPKS0 $5.25, 122pp,

Genre: Romantic thriller; interracial romance

Author Bio:

Tim Smith is an award-winning best selling author whose books range from romantic mystery/thrillers to contemporary erotic romance. He is also an award-winning freelance photographer.

About the book:

Nick Seven and Felicia Hagens left the CIA for the laidback ease of the Florida Keys, leaving behind a life of intrigue. When Nick's former mentor becomes part of a conspiracy with international repercussions, Nick breaks his self-imposed exile to stop him. The case throws Nick and Felicia into a juggernaut of espionage, government cover-ups and political assassinations. Will they succeed in stopping the plan in time? Can their relationship survive another unwanted adventure?

In some lines of work, strong friendships develop between men, born of mutual respect, loyalty and trust. Having absolute faith that your partner will be watching your back can mean the difference between life and death in some professions. Working for the CIA is one of these professions and Nick Seven and his mentor Special Agent Gadge Harmon had such a relationship.

However, the repercussions of a stakeout in Brooklyn, New York one night in 2006 changed both their lives forever.

Now, years later, Nick has retired from the CIA and has settled in the Key Largo, Florida, with his beautiful sexy ex-spy girlfriend Felicia. Putting the life of a spy behind him, Nick is happy, life is good as they say. Then one day he receives a surprise visit from Gadge's wife Verna, a woman who has never liked him.

From her, he sadly learns how life has been for his old friend and mentor. His last job before he retired was at the Guantanamo Bay facility overseeing the detainees. Gadge is a meticulous follower of the rules, and unfortunately he cannot come to terms with what he saw there, and the experience, she says, has changed him immeasurably. Verna is very worried and she thinks he is in self-destruct mode, however, after visiting him, Nick realises very quickly that there is more going on than meets the eye, Gadge is hiding something. But what is it?

He calls in the help of a trusted colleague, and with the assistance of his girlfriend, Felicia they battle to discover what is really happening, and what they can do to help his old friend and mentor. In their desperate search for answers they delve deep into hidden corners, however, nothing prepares them for the secrets they discover, a web of political intrigue, cover-ups and a conspiracy of international proportions.

I loved reading this fast moving thriller so much that I just could not put it down and finished it in one sitting. It was jam-packed full of action and excitement right from the start, a great story with many twists and turns to keep you guessing and some very explicit sexy scenes.

This is the first book I have read by this author, it was everything I could have asked for in a spy thriller and I shall certainly be looking out for his others.

Foot Soldiers
Paddy Bostock
Wing ePress
B00F1LLGSS, $18.95,, 320 Pages

Genre: Humour/action

About the author: Paddy Bostock was born in Liverpool and holds a B.A. in Modern Languages and History, a PGDip TESL, and a PhD in English Literature. Down the years he has been a barman, a road worker, a songwriter, an educational researcher, a translator, a book reviewer, a university lecturer and Chair of Department, and a high school mentor. He lives in London with his wife, writer Dani Cavallaro, and likes animals and bicycles.

About the book: Outraged at the market economic policies adopted by their university, Professor Vinnie McVittie and his colleagues in the Podiatry department kidnap a senior academic, Dr. Malcolm Moon, in protest. Initially they have little hope of success, particularly as their captive refuses to be freed from his new - and improved - life on the North Wales farm where he is being held. However, the chance coincidence of the interests of the gutter press, the Pantymwyn branch of Welsh Freedom Fighters, and a Prime Minister struggling for re-election combine to ensure a minor campus story escalates into cataclysmic national proportion.

Being popular and getting the votes is the foremost objective in the mind of any government. When it comes down to it, making the right noises at the right times and spending time thinking of good ideas for saving the country money, making more, lining their own pockets and looking after themselves is what really matters. There is little consideration given, to the effects of the new policies on the people involved by the government or those who are unaffected; the affected may protest, but their complaints are just brushed under the carpet, and forgotten.

However, this is the story of what happens when the people fight back, when the government's economic policies are not just meekly accepted. When the Podiatry department of a university hears about proposed cutbacks, which may affect them, the professor in charge of the department Professor Vinnie McVittie and his colleagues decide to fight back, and their plan is to kidnap Dr. Malcolm Moon, a senior academic.

Plan accomplished, the Podiatry department with their captive, hide out, deep in the welsh countryside. However, Malcolm discovers, on the farm a part of him he has never see before and experiences emotions he never knew existed. His incarceration has not turned out as his captors expected, a fact, which soon becomes worryingly apparent.

Back in London, the race to find out where the missing academic is being held is on. With a Prime Minister who has 'issues' and is desperate for re-election, government policies and university politics, it seems nothing more could complicate the search for the missing academic, until the journalists become involved...

This amazing story is jam-packed with fantastic characters. They come in all shapes and sizes, the weird, the wonderful and the stereotypical images of government officials, 'old boys' and regional characters, all of whom are brought brilliantly to life by this talented author.

This really is the funniest book that I have read in a very long time, in the same vein as Tom Sharpe. I found the author's use of local dialect really added to the story. I came originally from the U.K., although not from the Midlands, and I actually know the areas and roads in the story very well, having spent the last three years travelling to visit my daughter at university in Wales.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone, it is witty, has a fast moving plot and I, for one, just couldn't put it down.

Lies to Die for (Max Larkin Detective Series) (Volume 2)
Todd M. Theide
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781492166474, $12.95, 258pp,

Genre: crime,thriller

About Todd M Theide: Todd M. Thiede is the author of "Time Killer", a top 100 amazon best seller novel. "Time Killer" is a murder mystery set in the small town of Rockton, Illinois. The town is rocked by a serial killer on the loose and 2 young detectives get paired up to try and find him before he kills again. Todd would love to hear from you at

About the book: Max Larkin and Jesse Fairlane are the top two detectives in Rockton Illinois. In Lies to Die for, the second book in the Max Larkin Detective series, they are in pursuit of a killer that is branding letters into the victim's bodies. Is it someone the victims know or is it just a random person taking out frustrations on the small community of Rockton? Max is fresh coming off of his one month suspension for hiding things from his captain while Jesse has been holding down the fort during his absence. There hasn't been much crime in Rockton since the Time Killer killings but Captain Perry knows he's going to need his whole team working together to catch the person that killed a local college professor and his girlfriend. Just as the clues start to come together there's another murder. Max and Jesse find themselves disagreeing a lot as to who done it and why. This partnership is on the rocks and the town needs them now more than ever.

Detective Max Larkin has just returned to work in the Rockton Police Department after being suspended for withholding information, following his solving of the 'Time Killer' murders with his partner Jesse.

Straight away, Captain Perry has another case for the partners to solve. Professor Lawrence Finestein has been found dead, under unusual circumstances. As the detectives' try to discover a motive, who was responsible, and what made the killer brand his victim, the need for answers becomes more urgent as other victims start to appear, each with the same calling card.

Unfortunately, Max and Jesse just do not seem to be able to agree when the killer is caught and soon a rift appears, one which must be healed for the sake of everybody. As the tension mounts, new discoveries are made and it's time for Max and Jesse put their differences aside and work together.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this fast moving crime thriller. Right from page one it is action packed, with plenty of twists and turns, and a storyline, which keeps the reader guessing, right until the end.

An excellent second story in the Max Larkin Detective series, I look forward to reading more.

Susan Keefe, Reviewer

Theodore's Bookshelf

David Rosenfelt
Minotaur Books
c/o St. Martin's Publishing Group
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9781250024725, $25.99, 308 pp,

Andy Carpenter has had any number of bizarre cases, but none more out of the ordinary than the one in this novel. He represents not one client, but two, for the same murder. He becomes embroiled in a major terrorist plot. And loses witness after witness or potential informant in his defense of his clients, when each is murdered with a single bullet to his head. And, of course, a golden retriever (not Tara) plays a key role in the plot.

It all begins when Andy's accountant and computer guru (and expert hacker), Sam Willis, receives an unexpected telephone call from a high school friend asking him for help and possibly assistance from lawyer Carpenter. He asks him to join him on his airplane to discuss his problem privately, but on his way Sam accidentally hits a dog on a dark road, delaying his arrival. So he never makes the flight and his friend dies in a plane crash. Except it turns out he was poisoned with botulism. Sam begs Andy to represent the man's wife, who is arrested for the murder of her husband, setting the stage for the usual trial highlight which is a feature of a novel in this series.

But then things start to develop. In the middle of the trial, the wife tells the judge she had an affair with Sam and had told her attorney about the affair, and she thinks he may have murdered her husband. Investigation shows traces of botulism appear on Sam's clothing and in his car, and he is arrested for the murder of his friend. Now two people are in jail for the same murder, and Andy, no longer defending the wife, now undertakes to defend Sam in an unusual manner while trying to solve the mystery of why Sam's friend, as well as all the others, had been killed.

I did not find this installment as amusing as others in the series, nor are the courtroom antics for which Andy is famous up to previous levels. "Unleashed" is a straightforward mystery. Not that there is anything wrong with this format. It's just that I've come to expect the traditional approach to an Andy Carpenter novel, and I miss the quips and courtroom antics. Nevertheless, the novel is recommended.

The Fame Thief
Timothy Hallinan
Soho Crime
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9781616952808, $25.00, 356 pp,

Junior Bender, the protagonist in this, the third in this series, has a franchise, according to the eminence grise of Hollywood, the powerful Irwin Dressler, the 93-year-old mob boss. Junior prides himself as a burglar's burglar, and has found himself much in demand by criminals as their own private investigator. And that's why Dressler has two of his goons snatch Junior off the street and bring him to his home. He asks Junior to find out who was responsible for ruining a minor actress' career over 60 years earlier.

This gives the author an opportunity to describe the Hollywood scene of the 1950's, together with the glamour of Las Vegas and the prevalence of mafia bigwigs and run-of-the mill hoodlums. It is a mystery why a minor starlet became so important to the mob that she had a single starring role: testifying at the Estes Kefauver crime hearings.

I did not find Junior not quite as amusing this time around as he was in the first two novels in the series, "Crashed" and "Little Elvises, but Mr. Hallinan makes up for it in the dialogue delivered by Dressler, a Jew who was sent west by the Chicago mob to develop Hollywood and Los Angeles, as well as Las Vegas, for it. This book has quite a plot, and Junior has a tough road to hoe to solve the mystery.


The Fire Witness
Lars Kepler
Translated from the Swedish by Laura A. Wideburg
Sarah Crichton Books
c/o Farrar, Straus and Giroux
18 W. 18th St., NY, NY 10011
9780374298661, $27.00, 497 pp,

The writing team that calls itself Lars Kepler has had two previously successful novels published in the United States: "The Hypnotist" and "The Nightmare." This third in the series featuring Swedish detective Joona Linna, the intuitive, iconic investigator who goes his own way despite official restraints, undertakes a mystery despite being under the thumb of "reviewers from internal affairs and facing possible suspension, when a young girl is murdered in a home for disturbed females.

Linna is allowed to travel to the murder site as "an observer," allowing local police to conduct the inquiry. The crime is attributed to one of the inmates, who is found sleeping in her bed covered with blood and a bloodied hammer, suspected as the murder weapon, under her pillow. However, she runs away and steals a car with a baby sleeping in the back seat, so she now faces a kidnapping charge as well as homicide.

The story progresses from that point, with Linna, his hands tied by official discipline, discovering more and more information, sometimes in unusual ways, including using a so-called psychic. The authors have written a tale that defies the reader to anticipate each development. And the translation is excellent, done by the same person who did the two previous books. The conclusion seems to provide the germ for the next novel in the series, to which we look forward.

Highly recommended.

Death Angel
Linda Fairstein
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780525953876, $26.95, 366 pp,

Central Park, that oasis in the center of Manhattan, serves as the backdrop for this latest murder mystery in the Alex Cooper series. It is the fifteenth novel in which the author uses a New York City landmark as a setting. And you learn more than you possibly ever wanted to know about the park, which stretches from 59th to 110th Streets and from Fifth Avenue to Central Park West..

A young, apparently homeless, woman is found dead in the lake at the southern end of the park, one of many crimes that have been committed in the park. Then an attempted rape takes place, and Alex determines the perpetrator is someone she has previously prosecuted, and the investigation into the two events proceeds with detectives Mike Chapman and Mercer Wallace and the whole NYPD scouring the park looking for the suspect.

The plot becomes more complex with at least two or three extraneous side issues, including a possible love entanglement between Mike and a judge and then a putative one with Alex, and the introduction of a decades-old mystery surrounding the abduction of a three-year-old from the Dakota, a famous apartment building housing many of the rich and famous on CPW.

The novel has all the characteristics of Ms. Fairstein's earlier books in the series: meticulous research on the landmark she is using to tell the tale, excellent dialog and tight plotting. However, at least to this reader, it seemed she was more interested in demonstrating her ability to gather as much information about the setting she has chosen and overwhelming the reader with facts and figures, than with the murder mystery itself. That said, the novel is recommended.

Little Green
Walter Mosley
Vintage Crime/Black Lizard
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780307949783, $14.95, 304 pp,

Apparently, the author got tired of Easy Rawlins six years ago, and had him drive over a cliff on the Pacific Coast Highway in what was either a possible suicide attempt or an accident. But like Conan Doyle, he could not resist bringing him back to life in this fascinating novel, leaving it to Mouse to find Easy and then struggle to carry him up a mountain and to a bed in which Easy lay in a semi-coma for months. When, finally, Easy wakens, still weak, Mouse asks him to help find Evander, whom he calls Little Green, the 19-year-old son of an acquaintance.

It seems that Evander went up to the Sunset Strip, where he met a "hippie" girl, ingested LSD and ended up in possession of more than a quarter of a million dollars belonging to a gangster. Weak but fortified by a voodoo elixir, Easy finds the boy and then embarks on a beguiling journey to learn just what happened while Evander was in a drug-induced fog and to whom the money belonged, and then eliminate the dangers to the boy.

Walter Mosley's Easy Rawlins mysteries are in a class by themselves, featuring a black PI who is a survivor of the Battle of the Bulge and other World War II battles, in '60's LA just after the Watts riots when the area is rampant with mistrust and prejudice against the minority blacks, irreverent, well-read, and the father of 'found' children, one of whom who lives both inside as well as outside the law. It's wonderful to have him back after a too-long hiatus, and the novel is recommended.

A Murder in Passing
Mark deCastrique
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. 1st Ave., Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781464201493, $24.95, 262 pp,

The Blackman-Robertson mysteries are rooted in South Carolina history. In previous novels, such landmarks as Carl Sandburg's farm played a role. Other links included Thomas Wolfe and F. Scott Fitzgerald. In this book, it is a photo taken 80 years before by a famous woman photographer, Doris Ulmann, the subjects of which were three blacks, mother, daughter and five-year-old Marsha Montgomery, and some boys. Marsha retains Sam Blackman and Nakayla Robertson to find the photo which she claims was stolen from her mother's home, along with a rifle, in 1932. That is the first plot twist of many that lie ahead, before the truth is revealed.

The mystery involves the identity of a skeleton which Sam inadvertently uncovers when he trips, crashing into a rotted log while hunting for mushrooms. Racial attitudes in the South play a prominent role in the novel. Sam is white, Nakayla is black. Not only are they partners in the detective agency bearing their names, but lovers as well. Marsha's 85-year-old mother is black, but had a white lover, Jimmy Lang, who fathered Marsha. He also was in the supposedly valuable photo which disappeared in 1932. As did he, after his proposal of marriage was rejected for sound reasons based on local prejudices.

This is a well-told tale that moves along swiftly, keeping the reader intrigued as it introduces nuances and new facts wending its way toward a conclusion. Written with economy and a keen eye on the socio-economic society of the post-Civil War South, the author has an excellent grasp of his subject, and the novel is recommended.

[The novel is also available in a trade paperback edition, ISBN 978-1-54642-0151-6, $14.95]

Watching Eagles Soar
Margaret Coel
Berkley Prime Crime
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780425265543, $15.00, 350 pages,

This anthology opens with ten short stories, each based on one of the Ten Commandments. The two protagonists of the Wind River Mystery series, Vicky Holden and Father John O'Malley, grace each one of the stories. And then there is the ironic novella, "Molly Brown and Cleopatra's Diamond," describing how a newly rich woman crashes Denver society. Molly was a real-life person, wife of J.J. Brown, who struck it rich finding a mother lode of gold in what everyone thought was only a source for silver, and grew this stake into a larger fortune through business acumen.

Additional short stories, under the general heading "Stories from Beyond," ironic tales basically with a mystery twist, some featuring Vicki and the Father, and one other involving Molly Brown, continue until the anthology concludes with two personal essays. The first, an introspective and informative look at how a story is born: from the germ of an idea or fact developed through an author's imagination; the other, an interesting look at the author's approach to writing based in the history and characters of the West and its past. The author's highly respected, well-written novels in the Wind River series are illustrative of the themes of the two essays, based in the present, mysteries steeped in the past Arapaho culture and history.

These stories were written over a long period, from 1997 to2011, and were published in a variety of media. The collection is a valuable addition to anyone's library, and is highly recommended.

An Officer and a Spy
Robert Harris
c/o Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780385349581, $27.95, 464 pp,

This fictionalized chronology of L'Affaire Dreyfus describes one of the most appalling episodes in French history. It is told in the first person by Major (later Lt. Colonel) Georges Picquart, who played a minor role in the arrest of Captain Alfred Dreyfus for espionage and treason. Picquart acted as a Judas goat in bringing Dreyfus to his arrest and then served as the Minister of War's eyes and ears at his ensuing trial and public disgrace.

As a reward, Picquart was promoted and placed as the head of a secret spy agency where he ultimately learned of various discrepancies in the "evidence" which convicted Dreyfus before an army court martial. After initially believing in Dreyfus' guilt, he then became convinced of his innocence and spent years, much to his misfortune, attempting to free the convict and clear his name, even himself ending up in prison and being forced out of his beloved army.

The role of the establishment, the generals, the lies and cover-ups even after the truth is known is related in fine detail, as is the atmosphere of anti-Semitism prevalent in France which colored much of the Dreyfus case, since he, of course, was a Jew. The whole sordid affair followed soon after the French defeat in the Prussian French war and the loss of Alsace-Lorraine, and was a forerunner of the First and Second World Wars. The author's diligent research and fluid language prevail in a gripping recount of a well-known story, and is told with much poignancy, in an understated tone that makes history come alive.

Highly recommended.

Moving Target
J.A. Jance
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781476745008, $25.99, 320 pp,

The usual setting of an Arizona mystery is not enough to keep Ali Reynolds and B. Simpson busy, so in this entry in the long-standing series, they have to solve two murder/mysteries on both sides of the Atlantic. And on this side, it isn't even in Arizona, but in Texas, where a brainy young geek is held in a juvenile detention facility because he hacked into his high school's computer system, incapacitating it, in protest for what the school board planned to do, i.e., make students and faculty wear bracelets so their whereabouts could be determined remotely at all times.

It seems Simpson's company specializes in computer security and identified the youth as the culprit. In doing so, Simpson discovers how the boy accomplished it: by using a program he developed which allows hacking without a trace (except it wasn't fully developed). While in detention, the youth is severely burned and ends up in the hospital near death. Simpson is interested in obtaining rights to the program, and there are competing forces, one, presumably from a competitor, the other, possibly, from someone determined to destroy or steal it. Thereby hangs one tale.

Meanwhile, Ali travels to England with her major domo, Leland Brooks, Simpson treating him to the trip as a prelude to meeting with his family after decades of estrangement. While there, he asks Ali if they can somehow find out how his father died, some 60 years before. She undertakes the task, proving nothing stops Ali Reynolds when she sets her mind to the task (and proved time and again in eight previous novels in the series). The plotting and narrative, as usual, are superb, and the pacing keeps the reader turning pages. While there is little to surprise the reader in the results of either plot line, the book is still an interesting read, and is recommended.

Charlie Huston
Mulholland Books
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017-0010
9780316133722, $26.00, 400 pp,

How can a simple plot grow so complex? The idea behind "Skinner" is interesting, and relatively uncomplicated: the possible threat from a Mumbai slum to world order, and a pair of investigators seeking to learn more about it. One of the investigators is a woman, Jae, who builds and controls robots and has a gift for seeing underlying relationships. The other is Skinner, who specializes in protecting assets (and whose maxim is to make it too costly to attack the person he is guarding by killing the attacker and then anyone else involved in planning the assault).

However, the story is obfuscated by all sorts of characters and side issues that can weary the reader. The initial chapters are slow reading, and the following pages are just a bit less ponderous.

Light of the World
James Lee Burke
Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781476710761, $27.99, 548 pp,

Some vacation. Dave Robicheaux, his wife, Molly, daughter, Alafair, and his buddy Clete Purcell and his daughter, Gretchen Horowitz, visit a friend's ranch in Montana for some rest, relaxation and fishing. Instead, they get a lot more than they bargained for: a serial killer who is supposed to be dead seems to appear several times, beginning with an arrow that narrowly misses Alafair's ear.

Many years before, Alafair interviewed Asa Surette while he was in jail serving a life sentence for multiple murders. And she believes he is still alive, instead of having died in a crash with a gasoline tanker while being transported in a prison van in Kansas, and that he has come to Montana to take revenge on her for writing some inflammatory magazine articles attempting to incite a death penalty for him. His presence surfaces with a series of murders and other evil deeds. Law enforcement officials do not believe Surrette exists since he is officially dead.

So it is up to the Bobsey Twins, Dave and Clete, to address the issue. But more important, it allows the author to investigate and consider wickedness personified. And he does so, in spades. Not only by dissecting Surette, but looking deeply into a wealthy, but dysfunctional family that seems to be tied in with the murderer, and generally analyzing evil in the world at large, complete with biblical and historical references. The novel is so well written that ordinarily it would garner a rating of 5 stars. But its length and complexity may put off some readers. Nevertheless, it is heartily 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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