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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 9, Number 1 January 2009 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Ann's Bookshelf Bethany's Bookshelf
Brenda's Bookshelf Buhle's Bookshelf Burroughs' Bookshelf
Carson's Bookshelf Christy's Bookshelf Clark's Bookshelf
Danita's Bookshelf Debra's Bookshelf Dravis' Bookshelf
Duncan's Bookshelf Gary's Bookshelf Gloria's Bookshelf
Gorden's Bookshelf Harwood's Bookshelf Henry's Bookshelf
Karyn's Bookshelf Kaye's Bookshelf Liana's Bookshelf
Lorraine's Bookshelf Margaret's Bookshelf Molly's Bookshelf
Richard's Bookshelf Stephen's Bookshelf Theodore's Bookshelf
Victoria's Bookshelf Wheldon's Bookshelf  

Reviewer's Choice

Sketches of a Young Man Wandering
Bradley Fink
The Good Book Group
8407 Waterford Circle, Tamarac, FL 33321
9780615225234 $10.95

Brandy Lewis

Bradley Fink's Sketches of a Young Man Wandering

Having witnessed the demise of good literature in this country I am happy to say that a new voice has emerged, one that has overcome the desolate literary landscape of the last two decades. Apart from the recent achievements of Junot Diaz (The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao) and Jonathon Safran Foer (Everything is Illuminated), American literature has unfortunately been reduced to a heartless slew of genre, finance, and motivational titles. Sketches of a Young Man Wandering is the anti-genre, anti-capitalist answer to this trend. While it is certainly a young writer's debut, Bradley Fink's potential for greatness cannot go unnoticed. The book is a compilation of four stories that reveal the author's point-of-view, first as a young boy who witnesses the human footprint upon the Florida Everglades, and then as a young man who goes off from Florida to travel the world. In his first two stories the author evokes the southern tones of Faulkner and Flannery O' Connor, while making his statements clear with symbolism. Right from the start of his story Where the Sun Beats, with its hot, swampy ambience, Bradley Fink delivers a skillful plea for the endurance of our natural world.

In the title story we see a first person account of Bradley's travels, or Wanderings, as he calls them. This piece, written in the form of journal entries during a twenty-one month journey, takes us into the heart of the author, and has us empathizing with him as he finds himself lost across four continents. When we first meet him he is a disillusioned young man in Florida, who gets fed-up with the materialist culture there, and leaves America in search of something more meaningful. Along the way the narrator surfs in Canada, backpacks up through Argentina and Peru, soul-searches in Spain and Morocco, and hitchhikes through the badlands of Africa. The story is so rhythmic and honestly told that one easily forgets themselves to the tempo and sentiment of the page.

If you liked the Alchemist and On the Road, then you will certainly enjoy Sketches of a Young Man Wandering. It carries on the tradition of the travel odyssey in a new and youthful voice. The book has yet to hit store shelves but is available now at

Inherited Sins
Paula Paul
University of New Mexico Press
11312 Basehart Rd. SE, Albuquerque NM 87106-4363.
9780826344960 $18.95 800-249-7737

Connie Gotsch, Reviewer

What happens when a married preacher has a brief but intense affair with a parishioner and gets her pregnant? What if the parishioners father rapes her and she gives birth to his child as well? And what if she does whatever she must to protect both children from scandal? In a small Texas town, circa the mid 1930s the truth leaks, and the stain of the transgressions seep into succeeding generations.

Paula Paul's short novel 'Inherited Sins,' published by the University of New Mexico Press tells a story of this kind from the perspective of grandmothers, mothers, and daughters. When Willa Mae and her daughter Louise come home to west Texas, Willa Mae's ailing mother, Johnnie Mae asks Louise to give a metal box to an old friend, Dan Fletcher.

Willa Mae opens the container. What she finds presents harsh truths about her past, her mother's, and Fletcher's. But though these facts may be best buried with Johnnie Mae when she dies, they explain things Willa has not understood about herself, her mother, and their particular mother-daughter relationship. They may even clear up some odds and ends between Willa Mae and Louise.

Using diary entries, narrative, multiple points of view, and masterful pacing Paula Paul raises a knotty question in "Inherited Sins.': How long must a family pay for the misdeeds of an ancestor? If someone doesn't know a family secret, is he or she absolved of the sin it implies? Should a secret be revealed or left hidden?

Groping for answers, Johnnie Mae, Dan Fletcher, and Willa Mae become characters that both evoke sympathy and anger. The conclusion to which they come leaves readers pondering how they might handle the same issues, or how they might react to someone else who must.

Athina: The Dark Side Of Victory
Morgan Sloane
9780615253633 $21.96 Download price: $5.00


The main character in the book, young Athina, finds herself chosen, probably against her will, to be a role model, the type that would be the envy of many fictional heroines and real girls.

I found the age range of the characters to be very important, from very young girls to very, very old women (and men). It was very satisfying how the author, even though the period of the book is ancient Greece, made the book easy to read by using ordinary situations like girls learning from family members who are teachers or potters, competing with one another, participating in great debates affecting not only Greece and Rome, but also the rest of the world, and other situations familiar to us today to make very grand points about human rights, womens' religious and non-religious issues.

It was very fitting that the Olympics was used as the background for this book. It allowed the author to display how female power was taken over by men, and it allowed me to see what the girls and women chose to do about it. The old belief that Zeus founded the games was disputed by these women, who insisted that Hera was the founder. They were inspired to make all the earth-shattering changes that they did.

Because the book is one of a series, I can't wait to find out what will happen to that Roman Emperor who seems to have been lured by the women to invade Greece, now that they have him under their control.

The intellectual (and physical) battles for truth in this book make it a must-read.

Before I read the book, I found great excerpts from it at

Throw Your Feet Over Your Shoulders: Beyond the Kindertransport
Frieda Stolzberg Korobkin
Devora Publishers
29 Hope Park Close, Prestwich - Manchester M25 0NL UK
9781934440261 $21.95

Fern Sidman, Reviewer

The corpus of modern Jewish literature is replete with a veritable multitude of Holocaust memoirs; each one personally adding a unique dimension to the tragic, unspeakable horror of the event that defined the 20th century. Some are stories of hope, faith and courage against all odds while others offer graphic depictions of the depravity of modern civilization. "Throw Your Feet Over Your Shoulders - Beyond the Kindertransport" (Devora Publishers) by Frieda Korobkin is a poignant account of the Holocaust years and beyond and one that speaks to the heart and soul of a young and frightened child separated from her family.

Mrs. Korobkin presents a compelling, powerful and vividly described odyssey of her life as a six year old child who had been sent by her parents, along with her siblings, from their home in Vienna, Austria to the relative safety of England. What follows will surely arouse a panoply of emotions while simultaneously serving as a true testament to the strength of the Jewish soul. It is clear that the trajectory of her life was not orchestrated by a fortuitous confluence of events, but rather by the hand of the G-d that her family so tightly embraced..

In the aftermath of the Nazi anschluss, the devoutly Orthodox Stolzberg family struggled to survive, as the grip of Nazi oppression could be felt ever more acutely with each passing day. Despite the tremendous financial hardships and the emotional strain that her family endured, Friedl (as she is called) is nurtured adoringly by her loving parents, Yocheved and Nissan and her beloved grandparents, Oma Blima and Opa Shmuel. Her father is an accomplished Torah scholar, a graduate of the Vizhnitz yeshiva and a man of true faith and trust in G-d. Of her father she says, "Papa's favorite saying was Gott wird helfen, 'God will help.' When Opa Shmuel lost all his money and was no longer able to help his children, Papa said, Gott wird helfen. When Mama miscarried her first few pregnancies, he said, Gott wird helfen. When Hitler's rumblings were heard in the early thirties and the family's economic situation became ever more dire, Papa continued to say Gott wird helfen. And Papa was right."

It is December of 1938, and with great anguish, Friedl's parents make the heart wrenching decision to send her and her siblings; older sisters Mriram and Erika and brother Ephraim on a kinder transport to England organized by Rabbi Solomon Schonfeld. Her parents tell her that with G-d's help they will all be reunited after the war. Upon her arrival in Holland, Friedl sees Rabbi Schonfeld for the first time. Frightened by her journey and intimidated by strangers, Friedl is overcome by diffidence. She would soon find out that the man with the undulating voice was indeed an innocuous soul whose gentleness, sensitivity, care and concern would sustain Friedl throughout the course of her life..When Rabbi Schonfeld queries her as to whether she speaks Yiddish, she is afraid to reply, yet suddenly blurts out "Throw your feet over your shoulders and run away!" Rabbi Schonfeld laughs heartily and draws her gently to his side. The eternal bond had been forged.

Being separated from her sister and brother, Friedl lives with a barely observant Jewish family in London. It is there that she is forced to desecrate Shabbos for the first time, while living with an adopted mother who coerces Friedl to call her "aunty" and excoriates her publicly for falling asleep during a movie. After the British government issues an edict that all children must be evacuated from London due to the impending Nazi threat to bomb the city, Friedl is then adopted by a kindly non-Jewish couple; Mrs. Whyte-Smith and her husband; a retired Colonel. She now lives in a stately home in the English country side; a village in Surrey called Thorpe.

While Mrs. Whyte-Smith and her housekeeper Annie lovingly raise Friedl, they also take her to church on a weekly basis, celebrate Christmas with her and teach her gentile prayers to recite. Despite the pervasive non-Jewish culture that is being thrust upon her, young Friedl continues to recite the bedtime Shema Yisroel prayer that her parents taught her years ago. When Annie gets called up to serve her country during war time, Friedl is told by Mrs. Whyte-Smith that she can no longer care for her without Annie's help. Friedl is once again transferred to a new gentile home.

She resides there but a brief time before she is reunited with her sister Miriam and brother Ephraim. She now lives in the Cardiff hostel where her brother had been living with other Jewish boys. Rabbi Schonfeld is thrilled that she is here and she is once again surrounded by other Orthodox Jews and is taken under the wing of the hostel matron and her husband. She attends the Cardiff school for girls; a secular institution in which she and only two other girls are Jewish. She again experiences anti-Semitic taunts and innuendo as she had while attending school in Thorpe, but takes comfort in returning to the hostel each day to be with her siblings and to spend Shabbos with the other children. When the hostel closes in 1943, Rabbi Schonfeld sends her to the village of Shefford in Bedfordshire to attend his Jewish Secondary School. It is at JSS where Friedl extricates herself from the shell she had been trapped in and excels in both academics and sports. She flourishes in an genuinely observant Jewish environment, yet, as the war winds down she still has no clue as to whether her parents are still alive.

Mrs. Korobkin's lively description of her formative years at JSS resonate with gladness as speaks of her teachers and fellow students with the similitude of beloved family members. Rabbi Schonfeld is a surrogate father of sorts to Friedl as he makes sure she has everything she needs and listens with deep concern when she needs to share her feelings. He is cognizant of the fact that Friedl is a child who vehemently clung to her Jewish faith in spite of the enormous non--Jewish influence in her life and without the benefit of encouragement and support from her parents. Subsequent to her graduation from JSS, Friedl decides to move to Israel and her excitement upon seeing the Holy Land remains one of her greatest moments. She eventually moves to the United States where marries and raises three children in a strictly Orthodox home.

In 1973, the author learns the fate of her beloved parents. A mass grave had been uncovered in Brko, Yugoslavia. The Nazis had kept lists of those they murdered and amongst the names of 200 Viennese Jews on this list were the names of her parents and her grandmother. The remains were transferred to the Jewish cemetery in Vienna and given a proper Jewish burial by the Vienna Chevra Kadisha (Jewish burial society).

It is abundantly clear that the author of this heartwarming book faced innumerable struggles and challenges throughout her life. Yet and still, the faith in G-d that her father had inculcated in her as a very young child served as a beacon of light and hope during the dense darkness of those nightmarish years. This book is a real page turner; a captivating true tale that will leave you inspired and moved. The resilience of the Jewish soul; the indomitable "Pintele Yid" leaps forth from these pages and in to your heart.

What I Saw and How I Lied
Judy Blundell
Scholastic Press
557 Broadway, New York, NY 10012
9780439903462 $16.99

Peggy Tibbetts, Reviewer

When Evie's stepfather Joe returns to Queens from World War II, she and her mom Beverly are so relieved he's alive they don't question where the money came from to start a chain of appliance stores. They're so happy to have him at home, they ignore the changes in him. When he drags them off to Palm Beach, Florida, on a whim they pretend that everything is perfectly normal. What Evie and her mom choose not to see is as plain as day to the reader. That all is not what it seems.

Blundell meticulously knits the compelling theme into the fabric of the story. From Peter, the mysterious young man whom Evie falls head over heels for, to the Graysons who are hiding a secret, to a shocking mystery involving her parents. All along the reader can see there's something wrong with this picture while waiting for Evie to wake up and smell the coffee.

It's easy to see how "What I Saw and How I Lied" won the National Book Award. From the very first page, it's like stepping into a classic film noir. I love books that come to life on the movie screen in my head and this one does that for me. Yet it's more than a visual experience. Blundell takes a hard-boiled mystery and jazzes it up with sexual intrigue and a vulnerable - albeit at times clueless - heroine in Evie. Read it with a bowl of popcorn!

Brought to Earth by Birth
Harriette Hartigan
Motherbaby Press
c/o Midwifery Today, Inc.
P.O. Box 2672, Eugene, OR 97402-0223
9781890446420 $25.95

Shari Maser

"You know being born is important to you. you know nothing else was ever so important to you." - Carl Sandburg, quoted in Brought to Earth by Birth.

Brought to Earth by Birth is a powerful photographic poem, exquisite in its simplicity. With a focus on faces, Harriette Hartigan illuminates the essence of the universal experience of being born.

In this ode to the ethereal beauty and primal power of new life, lyrical language frames a series of expressive black-and-white portraits of mothers, babes, and families.

Harriette Hartigan has been a childbirth photographer for over 30 years and is also a midwife, so she knows exactly what inspirational messages expectant and new parents need to see and hear. In Brought to Earth by Birth, she delivers these messages beautifully, and although the subject matter is intimate, all of the photographs are coffeetable-appropriate.

My children and I were instantly drawn to the portraits of newborn babies and the people who brought them into the world; mothers, fathers, grandparents, and children everywhere will also be captivated by them.

Maternity and neonatal care providers will surely fall in love with Brought to Earth by Birth, as it reflects the greatest joys of their work. Obstetricians, midwives, labor and delivery nurses, doulas, childbirth educators, and pediatricians will find themselves unwilling to part with their own copies of this compelling book; they will need to order another copy to share with their clients.

For Harriette's art photographs and educational DVD's about childbirth and breastfeeding, visit For t-shirts and other products featuring Harriette's photography, visit

Wishful Drinking
Carrie Fisher
Simon & Schuster
9781439102251 $21.95

Annie Slessman

I don't normally review autobiographies written by Hollywood notables. However, the cover of Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher struck me as clever, funny and left me with an "I must read this" attitude. After the first few pages of this work, I discovered I had made a good choice.

I found it hard to believe that even a masterful storyteller would find it possible to sum up their lives in a hundred and fifty-six pages. Fisher not only has managed that feat…she has done so with finesse.

I suppose if you have lived the life of Carrie Fisher, you would need a sense of humor and Fisher certainly possesses a good one. This book describes a life that is filled with insecurity, awe, loneliness, yearning and ultimately a confusing reality. It is no wonder that Fisher had to undergo electroshock therapy. She describes her current reality as, "I heard someone say once that may of us only seem able to find heaven by backing away from hell. And while the place that I arrived at in my life may not precisely be everyone's idea of heavenly, I could swear sometime - if I'm quiet enough - I can hear the angels sing."

You will feel like you have seen a good friend through a hard time and rejoiced as they came out on the other side after reading this work. Good work Ms. Fisher.

If you are looking for a book that will entertain and inspire you…this is your book!

Ann's Bookshelf

The Philosopher and the Wolf
Mark Rowlands
Granta Publication
12 Addison Ave., London, W11 4QR
9781847080868 AU $35.00

Mark Rowlands is a professor of philosophy with a sense of humour, a passion for making others aware of "the wonders of philosophy" (as he calls them) and, for a decade or so, he shared his life with a wolf. On his web page, he calls The Philosopher and the Wolf an autobiography, in which "the wolf is the star" and he, himself, is "just an insignificant extra bumbling around in the background". This is not quite right.

Brenin, who was Mark's wolf, is certainly a star but although his presence is crucial to the book it is Mark who is the hero. He is the one who makes the quest and emerges from the dangerous thickets of early life fundamentally changed by his experiences. Brenin, is his guide and companion. And the subtitle of the book: "Lessons from the Wild on Love, Death and Happiness" (note the impressive and weighty capital letters) might almost have been 'Everything important that I know about life I learned from my wolf'.

Brenin came into Mark's life at a time when he was a young Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of Alabama. Mark, who was born in Wales and educated in England, was looking for a puppy when he saw an advertisement for wolf cubs. He intended to go and look, then come away again and think about it before making up his mind. Brenin, however, won his heart. Which was just as well, since his very first act when introduced into Mark's home was to tear down the curtains and then to destroy all the air conditioning ducts under the house. Marks' clear advice, based firmly on experience, is that if you are thinking of acquiring a wolf "Don't do it!".

Brenin, however, provided Mark with much food for thought and, being a philosopher, these thoughts took philosophical shape. The purpose of life, morality, the nature of mind, death, "the pursuit of happiness and rabbits" - all these are major areas of debate in philosophy (except perhaps the rabbits) and all come under Mark's scrutiny in this book. Yet his philosophizing is rarely boring. Mark Rowland's has an acute and well-trained philosophical mind but it does not prevent him from being a good story-teller. And, of course, life with Brenin provided him with a wonderful store of stories.

So, here is a book which will entertain you and make you think. It is not a book for those who just want cute stories about a wolf, but it is a book which is, in turns, funny, fascinating, curious, profound and most unusual.

NB: Mark Rowlands' homepage can be found at -

The Uncommon Reader
Alan Bennett
9781846680496 AU $24.95

It was, as Alan Bennett tells us, the fault of the dogs: the "bloody dogs" as Prince Philip was famously overheard calling them. And the result was that the Queen - she who didn't have hobbies because she was "a doer" - suddenly took up reading. Which caused all sorts of problems.

It all began because the Corgis discovered a City of Westminster travelling library van in the palace yard and made such a fuss that the Queen felt bound to go in and apologize. There, she met Mr Hutchings, the driver/librarian and Norman, a palace kitchen-hand, and she discovered that she was allowed to borrow up to six books. Being polite, she borrows one, and although this is not very inspiring reading, when she returns it the following week she borrows another - just so that Mr Hutchings does not feel he has failed. And with this second book, she is hooked.

Young Norman, who is coerced into offering reading suggestions (although his own reading is guided by whether an author is gay or not) is soon promoted to be the Queen's library assistant. And although Westminster City Council cancels the visits of the library van, the Queen finds other sources of books, including, occasionally, books from one of her own libraries. Through her reading, she develops a new perspective on life. And instead of the usual small-talk, for which those who meet her are carefully prepared, she begins to ask visiting functionaries, and the members of the public that she speaks to at official functions, what they are reading. It is all very uncharacteristic, unexpected and, often, embarrassing. No-one knows quite what she will do next.

Alan Bennett tells this story with his tongue firmly in his cheek. He has great fun with the Queen's reactions to various authors ("Oh do get on!", she exclaims when reading Henry James for the first time) and her sharp, intelligent wit in the midst of all the formal duties and the stuffy meetings that she has to suffer is a delight. Prince Philip adds his dry comments and the Prime Minister and the Archbishop of Canterbury are each confounded by literary questions. Altogether, this is a little gem of a book: short, funny, subversive and most enjoyable.

If the Queen reads it (and undoubtedly she is already an uncommon reader), will it be "Arise Sir Alan" or "Off with his head!". Or will she think up a more sophisticated and subtle revenge, such as that which she devised for her Private Secretary, Sir Kevin, in the book? "It was the block but it took longer", as Alan Bennett remarks of this particular piece of Royal come-uppance. Let's just hope that Alan Bennett survives and flourishes and keeps on writing.

The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein
Peter Ackroyd
Random House
9780701183509 AU $32.95

So, Victor Frankenstein had now given us another account of his life and it is rather different to the version he gave to Robert Walton in Mary Shelley's book. Which are we to believe?

That may seem a strange question to ask, since up to now it has always been believed that Mary Shelley, at the age of nineteen, invented Victor Frankenstein as a character in the horror story she concocted one dark and stormy night in a villa on the shores of Lake Geneva. The poet, Percy Bysse Shelley (Mary's husband to be) was there, so too were Alfred, Lord Byron, his physician Dr Polidori, and Mary's step-sister, Claire Claremont. Two of the stories told that night eventually became books: Mary's Frankenstein and Polidori's The Vampire.

Peter Ackroyd, however, seems to have come across an autobiography written by Victor Frankenstein in which he tells us how he met and befriended Percy Bysse Shelley and, so, came to meet Mary, Byron and Polidori. So, who are we to believe?

Maybe reading Victor Frankenstein's "casebook", as Ackroyd calls it, will solve the mystery. Or maybe not, since Ackroyd is well known for re-inventing the lives of famous people - Dickens and Defoe, to name just two.

Ackroyd's Victor Frankenstein, like Mary's, was born in Switzerland. He speaks (or writes) with almost the same voice and he, too, creates a monster. Some of the things he tells us about himself are the same as in Mary's book: his obsession with the source of life, his experiments with electricity, his horror when his creature comes to life, the murders, the false accusations, the confrontation with his creature and its demands - all these are re-told but there are startling differences.

Victor Frankenstein's visit to Oxford on his tour of England becomes, in Ackroyd's book, a much longer stay which is of major importance in his life. Enrolled as an undergraduate at Oxford University, he meets 'Mad Shelley' and is able to provide us with a vivid account of the poet and his 'libertarian' friends and activities. Fact and fiction become ever more entangled in 'The Casebook' as Frankenstein follows Shelley to London, meets the poet's first wife, Harriet (a poor factory worker whom Shelley rescues from a life of drudgery in this account), and becomes familiar with various aspects of nineteenth century London life. He sees the low life of poverty, squalor and inequality, and the high life of theatres, intellectual debate and the power of money. He is taken to meetings of the radical libertarian Popular Reform League, attends a lecture by Humphrey Davey on electricity, and searches out 'sack-'em-up men' (resurrectionists) who supply him with cadavers for his experiments. He buys an old Thames-side warehouse in Limehouse Reach (an area of London docks for which Ackroyd seems to have a particular fancy in his books), and here he does his gruesome experimenting and, eventually, brings his monster to life.

Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is sparing in his descriptions of what he actually does in his experiments and he passes swiftly over the moment when his creature comes horrifyingly to life. Ackroyd's man, however, tells us all in gory and terrible detail.

All this is inventive, imaginative and entertaining, and Ackroyd is expert at re-creating the atmosphere of nineteenth century London. There are times, however, when he seems to be more intent on doing this, and on having fun playing games with fact and fiction, than in getting on with the story. And the story, in broad outline, is Mary Shelley's. Ackroyd has tinkered around with the chronology of events and with some of the characters, and he has inserted and invented biographical details of some real historical figures.

Some might say this is plagiarism: others might call it post-modern trickiness. Whatever it is, The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein is an ingenious, light-hearted horror story, with a touch of Stevenson's Jekyll and Hyde about it for good measure. It has little of the thought-provoking psychological and social depths of Mary Shelley's masterpiece and it is unlikely ever to become as famous.

But it does have a much more startling ending!

Ann Skea, Reviewer

Bethany's Bookshelf

Memories of the Mississippi Delta
Nicey Hentz Polk
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Rd - 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432726133, $11.95,

One hundred years between 1865 and 1965, one hundred years of America treating some of its own like second class citizens. "Memories of the Mississippi Delta" is a collection of poems and stories from many people who faced this discrimination in their everyday lives, reflecting on their difficult endeavor of life. "Memories of the Mississippi Delta" is moving and recommended.

The Exceptional, Impossible Woman Indeed!
Milicent Carter-Bloodworth
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533158720, $14.95,

Today, discrimination against the transgendered is strong. Fifty years ago, it was lucky if you didn't get lynched. "The Exceptional, Impossible Woman Indeed!" tells the story of Milicent Carter-Bloodworth, born Milton. Faced with a tall order to be accepted for who she was, only the advice of a forward thinking doctor saved her life. "The Exceptional, Impossible Woman, Indeed" is a moving tale and a top pick for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered history collections.

50 Poems for Pentecost
Martha Shamp
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533158942, $20.00,

Few poetry lovers can say their addiction started at the young age of four. "50 Poems for Pentecost" is a collection of work from someone who has enjoyed the world of poetry nonstop for nearly five decades. Although not formally trained, her passion pours forward in "50 Poems for Pentecost", giving it a heartfelt recommendation. "Always": Always free/Always warm/Always smiling/Always young./Be my love./Make my heart new./I once again/Will be like you./I once again/Will be like you.

Charley's Choice
Fern J. Hill
Infinity Publishing
1094 New DeHaven Street, Suite 100, West Conshohocken, PA 19428-2713
074144643X, $15.95,

Sometimes gender isn't anything but a word. "Charley's Choice: The Life and Times of Charley Parkhurst" is a fictional biography of one Charley Parkhurst, a stagecoach driver in the nineteenth century. Viewed as grizzled and tough, upon her death no one could believe that she was secretly a woman who had been living a man's life. Telling her story and making it riveting, "Charley's Choice" is a solid choice for an unorthodox novel with a unique message.

Calliope's Diary
Martha Gillis
International Plaza II, Suite 410, Philadelphia, PA 19113-1513
Abby Kraus PR (publicity)
1036 N Dearborn, #802, Chicago, IL 60610
9781425772833, $31.99,

Few books actively ask for the reader's thoughts on the subject matter. "Calliope's Diary" rolls together a story told in an intriguing way about the lives of the everyday, modern woman and her daily challenges. First presenting Gillis's novel, then a diary filled out by the Calliope character and finally a blank section for the reader to record their own thoughts. An innovative approach to story telling, "Calliope's Diary" is well worth considering.

Transcendental Sojourn
Liz Cosline
International Plaza II, Suite 410, Philadelphia, PA 19113-1513
9781436337144, $15.99,

When one is near death, more than ever, one appreciates the value of life. "Transcendental Sojourn: Arrival to One Journal" are the reflections of Liz Cosline, reflecting on her thoughts and musings after coming so close to leaving the planet seven years ago. A work of heartfelt musings and thoughts on the world that surrounds us, "Transcendental Sojourn" is a worthwhile read about the nature of life.

Susan Bethany

Brenda's Bookshelf

Don't Sweat the Small Stuff…Omnibus
Richard Carlson
Hodder & Stoughton
9780340963814 $16.00

Do you interrupt others when they are talking? Get bored in meetings? I know I do. I found these particular points and their solutions (respectively - take a breath before speaking; practise being present in meetings and learn something new) pertinent to my life during a reading of Richard Carlson's Don't Sweat the Small Stuff. This omnibus version contains the three books Don't Sweat the Small Stuff and it's all small stuff, Don't Sweat the Small Stuff at Work and Don't Sweat the Small Stuff about Money. Impossible to remember every piece of advice Carlson gives, I read with a pen and notebook nearby and jotted down things I wanted to remember. Tips like: practise doing one thing at a time, and accept that once in a while you're going to have a really bad day at work.

Each book has 100 sections of one to two pages in length. Carlson justifies how every point relates to the main topic of 'Don't Sweat the Small Stuff' and the benefits to the reader of following that advice. For example, 'practising random acts of kindness', brings great contentment into your life, says Carlson, and reminds you of the important values of life; putting solicited advice into practice could mean that you become a better person, and so on. Carlson speaks from personal experience and he repeats some points, making them easier to remember.

Advice on how to become more efficient is changing. For years we have been taught how to cram as much as possible into a day. This has resulted in stress and burnout. Carlson teaches the opposite. Slow down, do one thing at a time, be present focused, he says. And you will be just as efficient, if not more so. But efficiency is not all he teaches. Happiness, calmness, contentment, selflessness and kindness are values that Carlson builds his advice on. And those values correspond with mine. He has shown me how to become my better self, in a practical way. Highly recommended reading.

Like Nowhere Else
Denyse Woods
Penguin Ireland
1844880427 $TBA

I found Like Nowhere Else suitably placed in the 'Recommended Reading' section of my local library. A novel, Like Nowhere Else, is essentially a love story; a love story about an Irishwoman's love for a country and a man. Having developed romantic notions of Yemen, Vivien Quish nursed a longing to tour this Arabian Desert land and become a travel writer. But a failed attempt in her early twenties left her feeling ashamed and unfulfilled. Years later Vivien tries again and this time overcomes her fears. At the same time she becomes embroiled in a seemingly impossible love affair with anthropologist and TV personality, Christian Linklater. After returning to Ireland, Vivien is inexorably drawn back to the land and the man, and, in the end feels forced to choose between the two.

Woods's writing style is simple and suspense-filled, making it accessible to readers and compelling. Her depiction of the complex character of Vivien Quish is so realistic I found myself identifying with her and rejoicing in her personal growth. Despite Vivien's entanglement with Christian becoming a little too convoluted for my liking, I enjoyed the book immensely and can't wait to get my hands on Woods's other works: Overnight to Innsbruck and The Catalpa Tree.

Brenda Daniels

Buhle's Bookshelf

Sparrow's Revenge
Paul Salsini
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9780595522392, $17.95,

Revenge is something some people are willing to travel long and hard to find. "Sparrow's Revenge" follows a gentleman who used the codename of Sparrow as he fought as a resistance fighter through World War II. With the war over, Sparrow's war is not, as he devotes his postwar life in order to track down a war criminal who escaped Nazi Germany and capture. "Sparrow's Revenge" is a story of vengeance and how it drives people, and the potential problems of being fueled by it.

Verses for Marjorie
Douglas C. Stenerson
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533158799, $12.50,

Pure emotion is hard to manufacture. "Verses for Marjorie" is a compilation of poems from Douglas C. Stenerson, dedicated with pure heart to his wife, Marjorie Barrows. Compiled by the target of his affections, his poems show something that many love poems lack - authenticity. "Verses for Marjorie" is a solid choice for those looking for true emotion in poetry. "A Valentine Couplet": Your inner landscape matches mine, so won't you be my Valentine?

Matthew Livingston and the Prison of Souls
Marco Conelli
2021 Pine Lake Road, Suite 100, Lincoln, NE 68512
9780595521258, $8.95,

Being a Chess Wizard takes some skill to do, but how does one apply Chess skills to everyday life? "Matthew Livingston and the Prison of Souls" tells the story of chess geek Matthew Livingston, a true expert at his game even at his age. School Journalist Dennis Sommers enlists his help to crack a case where many teenagers are finding that they are finding something missing . . . and not just physical things, perhaps their souls as well. "Matthew Livingston and the Prison of Souls" is a fresh new mystery series, sure to appeal to young readers.

Who Lied and Said We Left the Garden of Eden?
Daniel Martin
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Rd - 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432729394, $12.95,

What's it mean to fall so far that no one no longer have a home of any sort? "Who Lied and Said We Left the Garden of Eden?: Memoirs of a Homeless Man" are the reflections of a man who once had a residence of the streets, Daniel Martin. Forced onto the streets by his nasty addiction to speed, he did many horrible things with himself in order to feed it. Finally getting help, he tells of how he turned his life around to realize the American dream. Depressing alongside inspiring, "Who Lied and Said We Left the Garden of Eden?" is a riveting tale indeed.

The Legacy of the Chosen One
Ray Brennan & Mosomeh Fritz
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Rd - 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432725457, $11.95,

Are spirits tangible things and can they cross over to our world? "The Legacy of the Chosen One" is a metaphysical book looking to ask these questions by telling the story of Laila, a spirit that claims to have crossed over to the spirit world while her physical body still yet lives. Telling her story than discussing the spiritual principles of it all and how it applies to life, "The Legacy of the Chosen One" is something to consider for those who believe that spirits exist in more than a metaphorical way.

Caoimhghin O Cathain
Privately Published
9781438257372, $9.99,

Every year, America becomes more and more intertwined with the internet. "Omaha" tells the story of this trend's most fearful result, a society where the internet is used for oppression. The hero is a man who isn't entirely in touch with the complex and geeky world around him, and must rely on the help of his dear geeky girlfriend in order to get by as they fight against a drug cartel who are more computer savvy than you would believe. "Omaha" is a technological thriller sure to please.

Willis M. Buhle

Burroughs' Bookshelf

We'll See the World From My Harley
Dennis Miner
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Rd - 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432727864, $12.95,

All biographies and memoirs don't have to be done the same way. "We'll See the World From My Harley: Motorcycle Adventures and Human Relations" is a life story told in the format of creative nonfiction, admitting to filling in the holes where his own memory has failed him. With a unique approach to his story making it read like an exciting fiction novel, Miner weaves a riveting tale in "We'll See the World From my Harley".

Little Stories
Jeff Roberts
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Rd - 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432727277, $21.95,

Award nominated writer Jeff Roberts brings his short fiction to the table in "Little Stories", his first collection of short fiction where through his prose he expresses his learned philosophy on the world through his characters and the crises that occur in everyone's life daily and how they are dealt with. "Little Stories" is thoroughly entertaining and gripping reading and highly recommended reading for anyone looking to sample some short fiction.

Bacon for Breakfast
Hamden Lewis
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533159192, $7.95,

The creative energies of a retired woman are to not be underestimated. "Bacon for Breakfast" is Hamden Lewis's first work of poetry and shows that experience in one field can more than carry over to others, as Lewis's life experience flows through in her verse. "Bacon for Breakfast" is a solid future effort that leaves readers wanting more. "We've Moved": Gardens become their own/cemeteries/When they're left behind.

Eyes on the Prize
Montego F.R. Craddock
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Rd - 515,. Parker, CO 80134
9781432720117, $12.95,

The degree is good. The experience is great. But sometimes just that isn't enough to land one's dream job. "Eyes on the Prize: A Step-By-Step Approach to Winning the Job" is a career guide to mastering the incredibly important art of the interview, the single biggest deciding point for some employers. With much advice on how to be tactful and respectful through an interview, it also realizes the test isn't over there and touches on the etiquette of post-interview communications. "Eyes on the Prize" is a highly useful tool for anyone who wants all the knowledge they can get when it comes to landing the job.

John Burroughs

Carson's Bookshelf

Hollywood - Home Style
Fred L. Frechette
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533159055, $12.95,

When it came to motion pictures, Hollywood has always had the tech edge. But that doesn't mean quality is unattainable. "Hollywood - Home Style: Making Motion Pictures During the Brief Heyday of 16mm Industrial Films" is a memoir of a man who spent much of his career directing 16mm industrial films. He tells of his career, his countless anecdotes and road stories abound running up to his final 16mm film in 1981. A look at an oft forgotten time in film history, "Hollywood- Home Style" is a riveting read for any would be director of any film type.

Stand To...
E. Franklin Evans
Milton Kahn Associates (publicity)
PO Box 50353, Santa Barbara, CA 93150
2021 Pine Lake Road, Suite 100, Lincoln, NE 68512
9780595450534, $19.95,

In the early sixties, war was something to be admired. Awesome heroes and no one important ever died. E. Franklin Evans has first person experience in the falsehood of that statement. "Stand To...: A Journey to Manhood" is his recollection of his harsh and sudden arrival to adulthood when he went overseas during arguably America's most controversial war in Vietnam. He returns a very different person and short a best friend. Painting a story of the harsh reality, "Stand To..." is what one needs to bring the cruelty of warfare into perspective.

Freddy and Mike
Dick Wells
International Plaza II, Suite 410, Philadelphia, PA 19113-1513
1413467865, $21.99,

A good friend is truly hard to come by. "Freddy and Mike" is the story of two friends growing up and facing the challenges of youth as an inseparable pair. Stating that every friendship has something unique and moving about it, the relationship between Freddy and Mike in the 1950s will draw many a parallel to even today's youthful friendships. With the moral of never downplaying the importance of one's peers, "Freddy and Mike" is a charming tale of friendship.

Return of the Blood Drippers
K. T. Fung
19 Windfall Lane, Marlboro, NJ 07746
2021 Pine Lake Road, Suite 100, Lincoln, NE 68512
9780595476268, $14.95,

A major spiritual leader murdered is never as simple as one would hope. "Return of the Blood Drippers" is a self-styled martial arts adventure in book form. CIA Agent Peter Cushing is charged with investigating the mysterious death of a world-renown Feng Shui master. Hot on the trail, he soon finds himself faced with one of the deadliest orders in all of China, the Blood Drippers. Fast paced and entertaining, "Return of the Blood Drippers" is worth the time.

My Days in the Beast
Sam Corkin
Privately Published
9781427631152, $14.95

What drives a man to give their life to a radical concept? "My Days in the Beast: The Diary of a Holy Warrior in America" is a fictionalized account of the life of Aamir Al-Mamoura, a radical Muslim who soundly embraced the philosophy of terrorism and actively participated in many plots against the United States of America, who spent much of his time in the very country he despised with all of his heart. A riveting look into a dark mind, "My Days in the Beast" is a worthwhile read for readers looking for fiction with a current event twist.

Michael J. Carson

Christy's Bookshelf

Dead Until Dark
Charlaine Harris
Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780441016990 $7.99

Book one of the Southern Vampire Mystery series introduces young, attractive Sookie Stackhouse, cocktail waitress in a small town in Louisiana. Sookie has telepathic abilities which she and others look upon as a disability. She lives with her grandmother and cat and keeps to herself because she desires silence after hearing other people's thoughts while working. Sookie is intrigued when she meets Bill, her first vampire, not only because he's a vampire but because she can't read his thoughts. Sookie rescues Bill from a couple intent on draining him, and she and Bill become friends, which leads to a romantic relationship.

Since Bill's appearance, people are turning up dead, including Sookie's grandmother. The police initially suspect Bill but begin to focus their investigation on Sookie's brother, who had contact with each of the victims. With Bill's encouragement, Sookie uses her telepathic abilities to try to find the murderer, placing herself in danger.

This is an engaging concept, a mind reader in a world in which vampires are attempting to integrate into society, drink synthetic blood, and are surrounded by fans called fang-bangers, which makes for intriguing scenes. Harris provides a good read, wrapping a well-done mystery around a plethora of interesting characters, vampiric and human.

Scream for me
Karen Rose
Grand Central Publishing
9780446509206 $16.99

GBI special agent Daniel Vartanian is still reeling from the deaths of his brother Simon, a well-known serial killer, and his parents, who died at the hands of Simon, when called back to his hometown to investigate the brutal murder of a young woman found in a ditch, wrapped in a blanket. This murder is similar to that of Alicia Tremaine 13 years earlier. Daniel is shocked when he meets Alicia's identical twin sister, Alex Fallon, who approaches him for help finding her stepsister, Bailey Crighton. Daniel believes his brother Simon was involved in the murder 13 years earlier, and when more women are killed in the same manner, suspects someone is acting on Simon's behalf. Daniel becomes attracted to Alex, who appears to have been targeted by the killer, and is determined no harm will come to her. To complicate matters, important men in the community are turning up dead. Could these murders be tied together or are there two separate killers?

This romantic suspense is a good read although readers may become distracted by the numerous characters and the two ongoing investigations. The chemistry between Alex and Daniel, two emotionally damaged people, is well-done. Characterization is in-depth and revealing, although the suspense at times becomes lost in the complicated plot.

The Appeal
John Grisham
New York, NY
9780385515047 $27.95

For years, Krane Chemical dumped chemical toxins into the water supply of Bowmore, Mississippi, causing major illnesses and deaths from cancer to rise significantly. Upon the filing of a lawsuit against Krane, the company closes down its facilities and moves to Mexico. When a jury in rural Mississippi returns a large verdict against Krane Chemical, its owner, billionaire Carl Trudeau, is not only angry but vengeful. Trudeau vows to himself not one cent will be paid to any defendant and instructs his company's law firm to appeal to the Mississippi Supreme Court. His reasoning is calculated: justices are elected to the Supreme Court in Mississippi and an election is looming. Trudeau and his minions begin a search for the perfect candidate to put into the Supreme Court; one that will hopefully reverse the verdict against Krane. Once that candidate is found, millions of dollars are expended in order to ensure his seat on the State Supreme Court.

Although genred a legal thriller, this is more along the lines of a political statement. There are no courtroom theatrics, which could have breathed a bit of life into a plodding storyline. There are no likeable characters in this book; even the altruistic attorneys for the plaintiff come across as superficial and too willing to just give up and go away. Although the ending is probably more realistic than not, it, nevertheless, is disappointing.

You Mean I Have to Look at the Body?!
Stories of Dying and Living
Marcia M. Cham
BookSurge Publishing
9781439204030 $16.99

Marcia Cham is a retired pastor who presently works as an on-call chaplain at a medical center near her home in North Carolina. As pastor, Ms. Cham has officiated at funerals while providing comfort to family and friends of the deceased. She has dealt with a plethora of deaths, from babies to friends to her own family, all the while trying to deal with her own questions about and fear of death.

This book is Cham's journey as she seeks to face her fears so she can put them aside while serving others. Cham's witty style and heartwarming stories are not only entertaining but endearing. She shows an amazing propensity to draw the reader into her story so that the reader feels her pain, shares her grief, and rejoices with her love for life and God. She offers her reader insightful advice regarding how to help someone who is grieving the death of a loved one and shares letters she has written to her family about her own death. An incredible book that should be shared with family and friends, one that will encourage discussion about a subject that is often put aside and rarely talked about: death.

Christy Tillery French

Clark's Bookshelf

Seals: The US Navy's Elite Fighting Force
Mir Bahmanyar with Chris Osman
Osprey Publishing
443 Park Avenue South, Suite 806, New York, NY 10016
9781846032264 $29.95

Modern warfare has created a more sophisticated and dedicated elite fighter, who has unbelievable skills, utilized every day in combat. World War II had Underwater Demolition Technicians (UDT) and these brave men were replaced by inclusion of new duties performed as U S Navy SEALS, (SEa, Air and Land) which refers to methods of insertion and ability to perform missions in these environments.

Training of high caliber crusaders is extremely complex and rigorous. Those who go through the initial training phase called BUD/S find that the attrition rate is 75 to 80%. This is a 6 month training cycle followed by 6 months probation before receiving the Navy Special Operations designation, the Budweiser (Trident). This is only the start as they go on to further cycles such as Jump School, HALO training, Ranger Training, Army Special Forces training, and SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape). The class of 1989 donated a class gift as a motto for UDT/Seal Training "The only easy day was yesterday".

Interviews with Seals point out that before 9/11, these men were in a readiness limited- combat-status. Since 9/11 they have served gallantly and with distinction. Many medals have been awarded such as the Congressional Medal of Honor and heroics of the recipients are discussed with reverence in explicit detail.

Comments are intended to persuade young people to consider this elite fighting force as a career. However, becoming a SEAL has drawbacks, dangers, and rewards. In fact, Seal's recommend this book to those who want the military for their life's ambition. An informed decision is necessary before attempting to become a member of the over 15,000 who make up the history of this unique team.

Few realize fighting currently taking place in Iraq and Afghanistan has been led by Navy Seals in positions of high risk where they are called upon first to be snipers securing areas which then can be occupied by Marine and Army personnel! This is a high-risk profession for men only. There are no women in the SEALs as it is too dangerous for them.

A surprising concluding statement ends with "Almost all the Navy SEALs believe that the United States cannot win the war on terrorism. Not one offered a solution."

Further, "There is no magic ball to foretell the future. Americans can take pride in their armed forces who have always served their country faithfully. Our soldiers, sailors, Marines, and airmen are not only warriors but are also our ambassadors and we ought to remember that no military can win any war without clear-cut political objectives."

Why Do You Call Me Mom? The Experience of an Alzheimer's Patient's Caregiver
Linda Marie Hoffman
Publish America
1606729314 $19.95

Local Arizona author Linda Marie Hoffman decided to write this helpful book "Why Do You Call Me Mom?" from her two year journal kept while caring for her 85 year old mother in the last stages of Alzheimer's.

Care for Alzheimer patients is exhausting and emotional according to Hoffman. Amidst all the frustration, there is still humor. On this lighter side caring for her mom was funny at times. Her mom would wash her own hair at least 4 times a day. She would hide things all over the house and everyone would search for them. She would go through her purse continuously counting her money. These activities would calm mom and bring relief to other household members.

At first, the family was in denial, but soon realized how challenged they were by this disease. Members of the family tried to help, but it became too much for them as mom's confusion and fright evolved. How does one understand the needs of the loved one who forgets everything and the family does not? Hoffman, her husband, and other family members soon got past this emotional period and care of mom was easier.

Hoffman presents the reality, if you decide to take care of a family member with this disease, be prepared for the unexpected. While mom walked the floor and gradually lost awareness sleep was lost by all because they could not keep up with her spurts of energy. The patient paces at length and you are on a 24 hour watch for their safety. One of the most aggravating adjustments to be made is that the patient continually asks the same questions over and over again making you feel helpless and angry. Present memory fades and the past becomes more dominate in mom's world.

When Linda decided to care for her mother she was unaware of the sacrifices to be made. This disease puts extreme stress on every one. Hoffman is encouraged by new research and medication available for Alzheimer's disease. She feels more money should be spent to teach caregivers.

"They need to learn so much if they are to be successful."

The Moose with Loose Poops
Charlotte Cowan, M. D.
The Hippocratic Press
9780975351659 $17.95

Dr. Charlotte Cowan sometimes with tongue in cheek presents a family guide with advice on Getting Through Gastroenteritis for children 2 to 7. Using a family of moose, she presents an easy to follow camping trip as the scenario for approaching a difficult topic to be explained to youngsters. Children can heal quickly, but when they do not comprehend their illness, they are frightened. Beautifully illustrated and in language which can easily be understood by the audience of youngsters, including moose. Dr. Cowan has achieved her goal of helping get through another difficult time in the rearing process.

Included is a handy guide with some very practical advice for parents on the subject of recognizing gastroenteritis. Another section gets into problems when a doctor is needed for treatment. When to return children to daycare or school is covered along with suggestions on keeping the rest of the family from getting sick. Most causes of gastroenteritis are very contagious. In case you have not gotten the message yet, gastroenteritis is often called a stomach bug or the stomach flu. The laminated pocket guide should be kept in the medicine cabinet or where you keep home doctoring guides.

Clark Isaacs

Danita's Bookshelf

Thunder on the Desert
Jay B. Winderman
Pillbug Press
1868 Bridgeport Ave., Claremont, CA 91711
0976162318 $13.95

This is the first book in the Thunder Tortoise trilogy. Having narrowly escaped a bulldozer's destructive spree which destroyed his habitat and buried most of his family, Thunder starts across the desert to find a new home. He had heard rumors about a community of friendly animals to the south, and heads off in that direction. Arriving in Desolation, he begins a life of new friendships, humor, sorrow, and adventure. Humans are never far away, and after a brief but terrifying capture by a young boy, Thunder finds his way home. The strong environmental theme is supported by the author's successful incorporation of habitat and survival information into the story and clearly depicts what occurs when human animals take over and destroy the homes of other creatures. Engaging and well written, this story is as much about friendship as it is about survival, and it is recommended. May TERP look out for all our tortoise friends.

Thunder on the Reservation
Jay B. Winderman
Pillbug Press
1868 Bridgeport Ave., Claremont, CA 91711
97 0976162322 $13.95

This is the second book in the Thunder Tortoise trilogy. "Whenever human animals come, other animals must go. That is a law of nature." As this book opens, Thunder decides to leave Desolation, the animal community he joined after human animals destroyed his habitat. The reservation seems the best place to go. It was created by good human animals to protect desert tortoises. This engaging story brings family, new friends, illness, death, love, loss of love, and very importantly, parenthood for Thunder. This is a fast paced, adventure story with endearing characters and a cliffhanger ending. Desert tortoise facts are seamlessly interwoven into the story and make this a wonderful way to learn about the species. Environmentally aware, this was an excellent read.

Thunder in the Backyard
Jay B. Winderman
Pillbug Press
1868 Bridgeport Ave., Claremont, CA 91711
9780976162339 $13.95

This is the last book in the Thunder Tortoise trilogy. Tortoisenapped and headed for who knows where! Thunder eventually winds up in the backyard of a caring Person, Person's Friend, Young Person, and Younger Person. The family already has two tortoises, Bulky and Lily. Bulky is immediately jealous of Thunder, and a rivalry begins. Tortoise behavior and biology is skillfully woven into the story, including male conflict and mating. Life in captivity is anything but dull or safe. There are young children with sticks, July 4th fireworks, fire, earthquake, a dangerous out-or-control ride in a wagon, and many more adventures. Near the end, the family is preparing to move to New York, and they cannot take Thunder with them. A man from the Turtle Club hears of Thunder's dilemma and visits the family. He speaks the Universal Animal Language, and after a conversation with Thunder, he and the tortoise agree that Thunder should come home with him. This series does a wonderful job of highlighting the vulnerability of the Desert Tortoise in the face of human encroachment, and is an excellent place for kids to begin awareness.

Danita Eastman

Debra's Bookshelf

The Open Curtain
Brian Evenson
Coffee House Press
9781566891882 $14.95

Brian Evenson's The Open Curtain is an unusual and disquieting book. The story is told in three parts. In the first, awkward and impressionable high-schooler Rudd Theurer falls under the influence of his illegitimate half-brother Lael. Once under his brother's spell, Rudd begins to act erratically--or perhaps Lael's influence merely coincides with Rudd's descent. We watch as Rudd becomes increasingly divorced from reality, and increasingly fixated on a story he's researched for school, the 1902 murder of a certain Anna Pulitzer by William Hooper Young, Brigham Young's grandson. (The crime is historical, and Evenson includes news reports from the period in his narrative.) Hooper Young's murder was tied up with Mormonism, and Mormon practices are important to Rudd's story as well.

In the second and third parts of the book Rudd's insanity is even more pronounced. He suffers increasingly from blackouts, engaging in actions he is subsequently unable to recall. Much of Evenson's story is told from Rudd's perspective. Because of the gaps in his understanding, we are likewise left in the dark about much of what's happening.

To an extent, because of these lacunae, reading the book is a frustrating experience. We leave the story not completely sure of what was real and what imagined. Nor are we sure to what degree blame for whatever happened should attach to Rudd as opposed to Lael. Reading the book, then, is not exactly a pleasant experience. Yet the author does a good job of suggesting events through the hazy focus of Rudd's point of view. It feels like we're watching a madman's actions from the inside out. It's not fun, but it's an impressive feat.

Stephenie Meyer
Little, Brown
9780316015844 $10.99

When 17-year-old Isabella Swan moves from Phoenix to Forks, Washington to live with her father, she has a lot to get used to: life in a small town, the near-constant drizzle of the Pacific Northwest, and the malevolent snarling of her lab partner in biology. It's the last of these that most troubles Bella, because despite his hostility Bella can't help but be attracted to the enigmatic Edward Cullen. He and his four high-school-aged siblings--all of them adopted--are preternaturally attractive. Heart-stoppingly perfect in appearance, in fact. They glide across surfaces with inhuman grace. Their skin is flawless. One looks at them and forgets to breathe, so attractive are they. Bella falls for Edward despite herself, and when he inexplicably turns from snarling loner to chivalrous beau, we have the makings of the hottest teenage romance to come along since Buffy met Angel.

Twilight, published in 2005, is the first in a four-book series that has become a huge favorite with tween and teen readers. As it turns out, they're on to something: the book is compulsively readable, a quick jaunt even at almost 500 pages. The book is part teen romance, part monster story, akin to the aforementioned Buffy saga in that respect. But--at least judging from the first book in the series--the world Meyer creates is nowhere near as complex as the Buffyverse (or as the Harry Potter universe, for that matter). Bella is a very likable and strong character--she's responsible and intelligent and interesting. She's the sort of teenager any parent would be delighted to have, the one problem being that she's drawn to a guy she should be smart enough to stay clear of. Bella's predicament is unusual, of course, because Edward brings supernatural charms to bear in their courtship--all those vampy good looks and smoldering glances and his tendency to be in the right place at the right time. But otherwise Bella's situation isn't unlike that experienced by a lot of teenaged girls who get themselves in trouble mooning after the wrong kind of guy.

If you were dragged to the recently released movie version of Twilight by some squealing teen of your acquaintance, you may have wondered what all the fuss is about: but the movie, as so often, doesn't do the book justice. Give it a try. Twilight won't become one of my favorite all-time books, but it goes down easy and it's enjoyable. Plus, it gets points for getting teenagers excited about books. I'll certainly be reading the next three novels in the series. Once I wrest them from my daughter, that is.

The Kept Man
Jami Attenberg
Riverhead Books
9781594489525 $24.95

As the first sentence of Jami Attenberg's prologue memorably notes, Jarvis Miller has been waiting for her husband to die for six years. Martin--an artist who isn't household-name famous but is known enough to have inspired a dissertation--has been comatose since he had an aneurism and fell off a ladder in his studio. The tragedy was great for his saleability: Jarvis isn't wanting for money, so she doesn't have to work. She doesn't have to do much of anything. She's just waiting. Unable to move forward because of her liminal status as not-quite-widow, she wallows in the past--visiting Martin, of course, but also poring over his paintings, smelling his shirts every day...still, six years on. (Though no expert in the patterns and longevity of grieving, this struck me while reading as not quite credible. And yet Jarvis is depressed and stuck, and so, I suppose, anything's possible.) Attenberg's narrative captures the period in Jarvis's life when events conspire to push her out of the holding pattern she's been mired in.

Jarvis's story is told in the first person in languorous prose, glimpses of her past with Martin related in patches of back story that interrupt the description-rich narrative of the present. The sluggish rhythm of Jarvis's life is mirrored on the page, in the book's unusually long sentences--there's one that's 162 words long in chapter five--asides segregated from the main thrust of a sentence with dashes: Attenberg makes good use of her punctuational toolbox. (If I'm not mistaken, these long sentences becomes less frequent later in the book, as Jarvis's life itself picks up speed.) Jarvis is a complex, imperfect character. She was saved by her relationship with Martin from a life that was rootless and trivial. Having adopted an identity as his wife, who is she when he is gone, neither living nor dead? That's part of her problem.

The Kept Man is not the lightest book, but it's not as depressing as the above probably suggests. A good--if not run-screaming-through-the-streets good--read. You're unlikely to be disappointed.

Night Witch
Jack Priest
Bootleg Press
9780974524665 $14.99

John Coffee is a thief who got more than he bargained for when he stole a magical locket from a soucouyant, the last of a breed of shape-shifting, werewolf-y, Caribbean witches who are next to impossible to kill. The Witch has been hunting Coffee ever since, looking to get her locket back but also doing her best to rip his throat out. Problem is, before he understood its significance, Coffee gave the locket to his daughter, eleven-year-old Carolina. He's been distancing himself from her since with a view to protecting her from the Witch, but now he's back on the scene and trying to warn her.

Jack Priest's Night Witch follows Coffee's battles with the Witch, high-octane fights that leave him injured and her shooting off skyward as a ball of flame. The Witch's mythology is related in the book, but we're never given her point of view. She remains an unknowable bogeyman, an Energizer bunny of a mythological demon, bent on destruction.

Because Coffee's part of the story is pretty much all action, it's less interesting than the other story Priest tells in the book, about the incipient relationship between Coffee's daughter and her classmate Arty, a persecuted kid who bravely faces the more mundane monsters in his life--school bullies and his abusive father. In the face of the danger posed by the Night Witch, as well as the bullies, Carolina and Arty's relationship develops more rapidly than it might have otherwise.

Night Witch isn't perfect: it's not clear why the guys in the boat are after Coffee at the beginning of the book; Priest's female characters seem unusually comfortable with stripping in front of men they don't know well; there is a paragraph-long political rant on page 163 that seems out of place; Arty's conflict with his father ends a little too conveniently; the mothers of both children are hands-off in their parenting to a degree that's hard to believe. But on the whole, it's a fun read, like watching an old Night Stalker episode with an appealing YA element thrown in. In fact, though it's not marketed as such, I might recommend the book to the YA crowd as well as adults, given that Arty and Carolina are such appealing characters and carry so much of the story.

The Misadventures of Oliver Booth
David Desmond
Greenleaf Book Group
9781929774562 $14.95

Oliver Booth is a pompous and portly antique dealer who is constantly endeavoring to ingratiate himself with the cosmetically-preserved ultra-rich of Palm Beach, thinking it good for business. But Booth inevitably fails, sometimes comically, both in his bids for societal approval and in business because his manner is irritating and he's a fraud: his shop is filled with Mexican knock-offs, and few prospective customers fall for the deceit. In David Desmond's debut novel--the first in what will apparently be a series--Oliver hires a certain Bernard Dauphin as his newest assistant. Bernard, unlike his employer, is both competent and scrupulously honest, and his qualities are recognized and rewarded, much to Oliver's dismay, by Palm Beach's dowager socialite, Margaret Van Buren. Desmond's novel follows the mismatched pair as they travel to France on Mrs. Van Buren's behalf to purchase antiques to furnish her guest house.

Desmond's book is mildly amusing, but never laugh-out-loud funny. The humor lies in Oliver's continued failures and Bernard's nearly unwitting successes and in the absurdity of the situations in which they find themselves. It reminded me a bit of Alexander McCall Smith's Professor Doctor Moritz-Maria von Igelfeld series, as both feature protagonists who are arrogant and unaware of how asocial their behavior is. But unlike von Igelfeld, Oliver, at least in this outing, lacks any mitigating charms or fragility that would render him sympathetic. Bernard is of course the more likable character, and one hopes that he will return in subsequent installments of the series to serve as counterpoint to the buffoonish Oliver.

Cast of Shadows
Kevin Guilfoile
9781400043088 $24.95

Kevin Guilfoile's superb novel Cast of Shadows explores the consequences of a vicious crime, the rape and murder of seventeen-year-old Anna Kat. The police are unable to solve the case, and AK's father, renowned fertility doctor and cloning expert Dr. Davis Moore, devotes himself to finding the killer himself--poring over the text of police interviews when the information is finally released to him, tracking down potential suspects. Eventually Moore takes an extreme step that, should it ever be discovered, could destroy his career and what's left of his family.

That's the backbone of the book, but wrapped around it are numerous related strands of the story, told from multiple perspectives: the investigations conducted by private eyes hired by several parties for reasons tangentially related to the murder; the explosive popularity of an online gaming site in which participants can act out realistic second lives; the violent opposition to reproductive cloning which once nearly cost Dr. Moore his life; a string of murders in the Chicago area believed to be the work of a single serial killer; the childhood and adolescence of one particularly precocious boy created by cloning at Dr. Moore's clinic. The book is also a meditation on identity and the morality of human cloning--which in Guilfoile's world is increasingly routine but controversial. I particularly liked this passage early in the book in which one of the characters muses about the differences between cloned and "normal" children:

"Reproduction the historical way, the God-conceived and Darwin-endorsed way that begins with prodigious or precisely timed coupling, results in children of a certain kind. Before birth you didn't know anything about them, of course, except maybe the gender, but the things you learned as they grew up were not so much surprises as they were the winnowing of potentialities. He thought of the Sunday after he and Martha returned from their honeymoon. They had opened their wedding presents in front of a small gathering of family. Each wrapped parcel was a mystery of sorts, but contained a gift checked off from their registry. Unwrapped, the appliances and silver and china were pleasing and familiar. Your own child must be a little like that. A gift to you from yourself."

The many threads of Guilfoile's novel--some of them with a snatched-from-the-headlines timeliness--do all tie up together neatly, but keeping them straight in one's head takes a bit of effort on the reader's part. Guilfoile's plot, too, flirts with credibility problems in the last quarter of the book, when the online game becomes important to his story, but I think the author manages to make the unusual goings on in that section believable enough so he doesn't lose us. The complex of stories in Guilfoile's novel adds up to a suspenseful, tightly-plotted book. Highly recommended.

New Moon
Stephenie Meyer
Little, Brown
9780316160193 $19.99

This sequel to Stephenie Meyer's bestselling teen vampire romance Twilight is less gripping than its predecessor. For most of the book's 600-odd pages Bella's relationship with Edward--the focus of the first book--takes a back seat to other plot developments. Bella's friendship with Jacob deepens--he becomes, arguably, the guy she should have fallen for--and we learn that vampires aren't the only creatures that stalk the woods around Forks, Washington.

In Meyer's first book Bella, despite her all-consuming passion for Edward, is a likable, strong character. This time out, for reasons I won't divulge, she spends most of the book moping and feeling sorry for herself. While she does have some cause to be upset, the extent of her misery is a bit much. There comes a time when we'd like to slap her and tell her to get over it. Too much of Bella's mental health is dependent on her connection with Edward. The relationship, we begin(or perhaps continue) to think--as Edward himself has been thinking--is not a healthy one. Still, one can't doubt the intensity of Edward's affection for Bella:

"Before you, Bella, my life was like a moonless night. Very dark, but there were stars--points of light and reason.... And then you shot across my sky like a meteor. Suddenly everything was on fire; there was brilliancy, there was beauty. When you were gone, when the meteor had fallen over the horizon, everything went black. Nothing had changed, but my eyes were blinded by the light. I couldn't see the stars anymore. And there was no more reason for anything."

Enough already, Ed! This treacly monologue might quicken the hearts of Meyer's tween readers, but I'm afraid it verges on the sick-making for me.

There is very little action in New Moon, and the book is consequently not as quick and compelling a read as Twilight. That said, even when Meyer is describing ordinary events, there's something about her prose style that makes it easy to keep reading--a simplicity of sentence structure, maybe. Her writing is the literary equivalent of drinking iced tea: it goes down so easy you hardly notice you're drinking it.

Anonymous Lawyer
Jeremy Blachman
9780312425555 $13.00

I don't know much about law offices or identify particularly with the people who work in them, and I tend to avoid epistolary novels: there's something about the format that usually annoys me. But Jeremy Blachman's Anonymous Lawyer is a great read. The book--which grew out of the author's blog (apparently no longer updated), to be a series of blog posts by a hiring partner at a big-league law firm. Writing as "Anonymous Lawyer" (AL), Blachman's protagonist blogs about the personalities and politics and the general working conditions at his office, where the over-worked, over-stressed, and over-paid sell their souls for a promotion or a larger office. AL is himself an unrepentant bastard, wont to assign underlings impossible tasks as a means of manifesting his authority--the capricious edicts of a malevolent near deity.

"I'm a partner at a half-billion-dollar law firm. Staplers should be lining up at my desk, begging for me to use them. So should the young lawyers who think I know their names. The Short One, The Dumb One, The One With The Limp, The One Who's Never Getting Married, The One Who Missed Her Kid's Funeral--I don't know who these people really are. You in the blue shirt--no, the other blue shirt--I need you to count the number of commas in this three-foot-tall stack of paper. Pronto. The case is going to trial seven years from now, so I'll need this done by the time I leave the office today."

AL's blog posts make up the greater part of the book, but they are interspersed with email--primarily between AL and his niece."Anonymous Niece," an idealistic Stanford senior headed to Yale Law, is interested in putting her top-notch legal education to work "helping people," a naive notion her uncle hopes to dissuade her from.

AL is engaged in a decades-long cold war with a fellow partner, "The Jerk," a battle in which success is measured in square feet of office space and face time with the boss. The book follows what happens during the summer in which AL starts blogging, when the resignation of the firm's Chairman brings his rivalry with The Jerk to a head.

I may not be able to identify with the high-octane culture that Blachman skewers, but I can appreciate his protagonist's biting sarcasm and inhumane, politically incorrect take on things. A very funny book.

The Lost Army of Cambyses
Paul Sussman
Grove Press
9780802143785 $14.00

Paul Sussman's The Lost Army of Cambyses takes as its starting point a brief reference in book three of Herodotus' History. Around 523 B.C. the Persian King Cambyses, having conquered Egypt, sent an army of 50,000 west across the desert against the Ammonians. The army made it halfway there and then was lost, reportedly buried in a sandstorm. They were never heard from again. What would happen, Sussman's novel asks, if the remains of that army were found today, the swords and shields and supply wagons and the men themselves perfectly preserved for two and a half millennia by the desert sands?

After dramatizing the sandstorm in his prologue, Sussman brings the story to the present, when rumor of the army's discovery has excited the interests of some unsavory characters. There are two strands to Sussman's narrative. A pair of gruesome murders somehow connected with an archaeological relic gets Inspector Yusuf Khalifa of the Luxor police involved. The case is particularly interesting to him because he is an amateur archaeologist himself, and because the relic is being sought by a notorious terrorist with whom Khalifa has a history. The story is also told from the perspective of Tara Mullray, whose trip to Egypt to visit her archaeologist father turns ugly after the murders.

Sussman's novel feels overlong at times and it's never quite edge-of-your-seat gripping, but it has a lot going for it: likable characters--particularly Khalifa--a clever, well-plotted story, some great scenes in the last third of the book in Egypt's western desert, and a pair of wholly unexpected plot twists at the book's end.

Stephenie Meyer
Little, Brown
9780316160209 $19.99

In the third installment in Stephenie Meyer's vampire tetralogy, Bella Swann confronts a pair of problems that have been building to a head. (Note: possible spoilers follow for those who haven't read books oneand two.) The vampire Victoria, who's still haunting the Pacific Northwest with vengeance in mind, would like nothing better than to rip Bella's throat out. And the two men in Bella's life--her undead paramour Edward and her best friend, werewolf Jacob Black--feel much the same about one another. The awkward trio spends a lot of time in book three negotiating a working relationship.

Eclipse offers a more interesting plot and a faster read than New Moon, the second book in Meyer's series, which was rather slow going. The only slow segment in Eclipse is yet another foray into Quileute legend: as usual, Meyer provides necessary background information in these reports of old Indian lore, but it's relatively dull stuff. Bella here is more like the confident heroine she was in book one than the depressed and whining victim of book two, though she does do some groveling that could give hormonally-challenged teenaged girls a bad name. She also comes to a decision about one of the men in her life that is too sudden to be quite credible, and that arguably is out of keeping with the thrust of that relationship up to that point.

Throughout, as I've come to expect from the author, Meyer's prose remains eminently readable. I'm looking forward to the final installment in the series.

Beginner's Luck
Laura Pedersen
Ballantine Books
9780345458308 $13.95

Hallie Palmer is an unusually clever 16-year-old who applies her formidable math skills to the business of gambling, often riding her bike to the race track during school hours or sneaking out of the house to join a clandestine poker game in the local church basement. Hallie's long-term goal is the acquisition of a car, by means of which she hopes to escape the twin discomforts of school and life with her too-large nuclear family--neither of which is a good fit given her tendency to nonconformity. Her life changes when she lands a job working as a groundskeeper for the Stocktons, a mother and son team who embrace non comformity in general and in particular quickly adopt Hallie as a sort of stray. Olivia Stockton, poet and pornographer and amateur fertility specialist, is a Ruth Gordon-esque, 60-something Bohemian who's never met a liberal cause for which she wasn't eager to man the barricades. Her son Bernard is a slightly more subdued antiques dealer and a passionate chef. Bernard's boyfriend Gil lives in the house as well, as do Olivia's husband--long suffering from Alzheimer's--and Rocky, a near alcoholic--wait for it--chimpanzee trained to work with paraplegics.

Laura Pedersen's Beginner's Luck is equal parts irritating and charming. A number of things bothered me about the book. Hallie is a likable character, but it's hard to believe that a 16-year-old girl could be as seasoned a gambler as she's made out to be, comfortable among the grizzled and chain-smoking at race tracks and OTB parlors. Olivia and Bernard, who are likewise likable, never jump off the page as believable, three-dimensional characters, and after a while their too-clever dialogue--all literary references and bon mots (delivered, in fact, often in French)--become tiresome. The book can be preachy, too, as Olivia makes her case for every cause that comes her way. And at 336 tightly-packed pages in my edition, the book is about a hundred pages too long. Add a cocktail-swilling chipmanzee--a chimpanzee, people--and the book has, as it were, jumped the shark.

That said, Pedersen's writing is often charming, particularly in the first half of the book, before the recitation of Olivia's causes begins to weigh too heavily. And Hallie, despite my credibility concerns, is a very appealing character whom one is happy to root for. In short, the book is a mixed bag, but I'll probably read Pedersen's sequel, Heart's Desire. Just not for a while.

Breaking Dawn
Stephenie Meyer
Little, Brown
9780316067928 $22.99

The publication of Breaking Dawn, the fourth book in Stephenie Meyer's vampire saga, was met with a firestorm of protest in some quarters. Disgruntled readers, unhappy with the direction the story takes in book four, tried to organize a campaign against the book, urging others who were unhappy with the novel after reading it to return it. The strategy would effectively rob Meyer and her publisher of royalties that they had earned legitimately from the book's sale. The response, a bit of childish foot-stamping, is ridiculous: readers aren't guaranteed a plot that pleases them or their money back. And the protesters' desire to punish Meyer--an author who has presumably pleased them over the course of the series' first 1800-odd pages--is mean-spirited and distasteful.

The response is also difficult to understand. Breaking Dawn offers the most exciting plot of the tetralogy, and it ties the story together nicely. The book's conclusion is both satisfying and sensible. And the book is at least as well-written as previous installments in the series: that is, if readers didn't enjoy Meyer's prose in the first place, they shouldn't have made it as far as book four to complain about it.

In some ways, the relationships in the book evolve along old-fashioned lines. A soap opera's worth of modern-day issues are addressed in the midst of a vampire's coven, but in the end life is defended against darkness; love and the conventions of marriage triumph; and familial bonds are strengthened. It's just that the family that forms in these pages is an untraditional one. This is all very vague, as summaries go, but I don't want to give anything away. In short, I think Breaking Dawn is the best book in Meyer's series. Don't let the fringe lunatics dissuade you from giving it a shot.

Capitol Reflections
Jonathan Javitt
The Story Plant
9780981608716 $14.00

Gwen Maulder is a scientist with the Food and Drug Administration whose off-the-clock investigation of a friend's unexpected death leads her to uncover a nation-wide pattern of similar suspicious deaths. She also stumbles on a conspiracy involving prominent businessmen and elected officials, one whose roots lie in the arcane research conducted by a Princeton undergraduate in the mid-1970s. A handful of people wind up helping Gwen--an investigative reporter, a senator, a security specialist--and all of them wind up in danger of losing their lives at the hands of a secret cabal.

Jonathan Javitt's resume makes him particularly suited to write about national health concerns from the point of view of a Washington insider: he has, among other things, served as senior White House health adviser in the last three administrations. His debut novel offers up a decent story with enough scientific background to sell the plot. But the book never quite manages to thrill: sometimes the explanatory sections slow the narrative down, and the book can get a little preachy. Javitt's dialogue can be clunky, and Gwen and her cronies never seem real enough to inspire emotional attachment. Javitt's characters also seem far too eager to jump to conclusions, and are sometimes too quick to understand the import of complicated data.

Still, Capitol Reflections is not a bad first effort. Javitt is currently working on a second Gwen Muldauer novel. With improved pacing and character development, it could be a book to watch for.

Debra Hamel, Reviewer

Dravis' Bookshelf

Dark Pacific
David E. Meadows
9780425212196 $6.95

Meadows Has Come up with Another Winning Series!

After reading this author's best-selling series THE SIXTH FLEET and JOINT TASK FORCE, I just couldn't wait for this series to debut. But then I got busy writing another novel of my own and had to wait all this time to start this series. A much longer wait than anticipated, but it was worth it!

David Meadows is at the top of his game!

This is an exciting reading adventure that had me on edge, wondering what would happen next and when WERE they ever going to catch the bad guys wreaking havoc on this very original Sea Base.

David Meadows is great at suspense, and the characters are so believable I felt like I were traveling the ocean with them. I particularly loved the feisty little woman the second lead in this book left behind. What an interesting couple to have as friends. They spiced up the book, sending it off on an occasional funny tangent.

To set sail with an intriguing cast in a really different kind of sea story is high adventure. I heartily recommend this series; not only for men but for women and young adults too.

It's All in Your Head: Thinking Your Way to Happiness
Stephen M. Pollan
Collins Living
9780060760007 $23.95

I give this book four stars!

An uplifting little book!

This is an uplifting little book, and while you're reading it, you'll feel better about yourself. But it's not happiness of a lasting nature.

I agree that "as we think, so we will become," so it IS all in the head, in that sense. The secret is to think only positive, uplifting thoughts and you will eventually get some joy in life. It's all in the attitude.

But life has a way of getting in the way; in other words, problems arise. When those occur, our thoughts go haywire and it's impossible to think pleasant thoughts.

That's where something more meaningful and long-lasting is needed. I'm speaking of God and following the teachings in the Bible. We need the faith in God and His Biblical promises.

Jesus is the way, the truth and the light ... for me. That's where I've found the most peace in my life. Loving your fellow man is the best place to start. Try it, you will like.

end of review ...

Peter Pan in Scarlet
Geraldine Mccaughrean
9781416918097 $13.49

I give this book five stars!

Award-winning author recreates exciting new Pan adventure!

When the trustees of PETER PAN chose award-winning author Geraldine McCaughrean to create a sequel to the timeless work of J.M. Barrie they chose wisely. With illustrations by Scott M. Fischer, this book will soon become a classic in its own right. McCaughrean remains true to Barrie's style while giving us an unforgettable NEW reading experience.

This is a fantastic sequel, the only-ever authorized one ... and I cherished my trip back to Neverland, a place where dreams are made and wishes are fulfilled.

I hope PETER PAN fans soar to the heavens with this book ... as I did. PETER PAN IN SCARLET has earned a special place in my collection, right beside the original masterpiece.

Betty Dravis

Duncan's Bookshelf

The Big Bounce
Elmore Leonard
Harper Collins
10 East 53rd St New York, NY 10022-5299
0060084022 $7.50

A big bounce is the splash of adrenalin that follows a risky task, like shooting out windows or throwing rocks through windows and running to escape being caught. Nancy, a rich man's plaything, amuses herself by taking risks. She pulls Jack Ryan into her games. Jack doesn't mind; he is amused.

Ryan is a tough guy who likes to walk the thin edge between burglary and getting caught by the homeowner. Ryan has only done one home where the owners were asleep. He knows how to walk away slowly, as if he has not robbed a house. Nancy wants Ryan to join her in a plot to lift $50,000 cash (a payroll) from the rich dude's hunting lodge. Ryan wonders about Nancy's courage: "He could break into a place and Leon Woody could break into a place and all kinds of other guys could break into places, most of the guys pretty dumb or strung out, but that didn't mean she could do it. It wasn't like throwing rocks and running, it wasn't a game; it was real and maybe she could do it without clutching up, but how did she know until she had done it and found out what it was like? That's what got him. If it was so easy, what did she need him for?"

So, yes …what did she need him for? That's the crux of the game Nancy is playing. Jack Ryan is suspicious; this reader was suspicious. You will enjoy the suspense; get your own bounce from Elmore Leonard's Big Bounce. Then see the movie. I hope the book was better (an old family joke).

Reading the Man: A Portrait of Robert E. Lee through his Private Letters
Elizabeth Brown Pryor
c/o Penguin Group
New York
9780670038299 $29.95

Pryor relates the history of 'Light Horse' Harry Lee (Robert Edward's father) and in letters and commentary describes both early and young adult years of the hero of the South. "The Civil War was a tour de force of military art, in part because the leadership on both sides had learned so well the lessons of multiple variables, intrepid calculation, and implacable assurance." (p. 69).

Robert E. Lee was a man of conscience, dedicated (at first) to defending his home state (Virginia) against the ravages of Northern armies. He came to lead the Confederate armies as a general must, always seeking victory. As a leader he was exemplary. Pryor suggests that General Lee felt the weight of the loss of his men and the loss of Southern independence.

When the word of his death flew through the cities of the south, they became reverent and quiet. He was a hero of the south in a noble, but futile cause. The people of the south revered Robert E. Lee; he was a mythic symbol for what southerners hoped to achieve.

If you wish to understand the southern attitude that led to secession and the War of the Rebellion, this is one of the books you should read.

Marty Duncan

Gary's Bookshelf

How Capitol Got the Beatles and Then What Happened
Charles Tillinghast
Outskirts Press Inc
Denver, Colorado
9781432729240 $10.95

Books like this are usually full of behind the scenes information fans would like to know. This work sadly, is a big disappointment. The author lightly touches on things but does not go into any real detail. I, as a reader would have liked to know more about Brian Epstein, the Beatle's manager and what John, Paul, George, and Ringo were really like. What the author gives is a skeleton view of the band that rocked the world. Tillinghast also mentions the formation of Capitol Records and many of the artists who recorded for them. Like the Beatles he briefly touches on Frank Sinatra and others. I would have liked the author to give a better picture of the singers he dealt with. For an expose, this is the most boring, disappointing let down I have read in a long time.

Here's The Story
Maureen McCormick
William Morrow
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780061490149 $25.95

Think you know Maureen McCormick? Well, you don't have a clue until you read her autobiography. For those who are not familiar with her, she is the actress who played Marcia Brady on the TV show "The Brady Bunch." McCormick is nothing like the role she played. She tells how her grandmother contracted syphilis and passed it on to her own mother. She reveals that for so long she lived with the fear she would someday be told she had the disease and, like her mother and grandmother would go crazy before dying from it. She tells how she entered the drug culture world and how it affected her work. She also tells how she was able to kick the habit and live a more normal life. She also deals with her family and tells all about her relationship with her father and brothers. She is to be applauded for the unflinching tone of the book. McCormick in the beginning of the book is so mad that people only see her as Marcia Brady. By the end of her life journey she has come full circle and has a healthy respect for how people see her. This is an honest look at what happens when an actor is typecast as a character and it shows the effect it can have on the actor's own life.

Is There Magic in The Mountains, Mamma?
Maureen McNamee Cook
Illustrated by Jacqueline Connell
PO Box 151, Frederick, MD 21705-0151
1606726730 $24.95

Mia and her mom are on a quest to find the magic in the Smokey Mountains. Though it is a small book the author and artist have a lot to say about family in a kid's book that is a delightful mix of art and prose. The characters are fun while the lavish drawings help move the story along. This story could be a wonderful family movie.

The Family Bones
Alejandro Cuevas-Sosa
Delvling Press
9780615246253 $15.95

This one started out with a very good plot where the Weaver family inherits a house in Pennsylvania. Shortly after they take over the home, strange things begin to happen. There is another story line of military experiments being conducted. I am not sure I picked up on a connection between the two concepts.

Don't Ever Tell
Brandon Massey
Pinnacle Books
Kensington Publishing Corp
850 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10022
9780786019939 $6.99

I was hooked from the first page to the last with the story that roars along at breakneck speed to its final shattering conclusion. Rachel Moore has a secret that is about to be revealed because a man from her past is after her and will stop at nothing to find her. She took something from him that he wants back and he does not care who he has to kill and what he has to do to find her and get back what she took from him. I'm not familiar with this author, but he is one to look to for other page turning thrillers in the future. This one is one to add to your list of must read.

The Magic Bullet
Andrew Neiderman
Leisure Books
200 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
9780843961898 $7.99

Neiderman, most known for his horror novels, has written a very good medical thriller that is a rapid fire tale of suspense. A fifteen year old boy's blood could be the miracle cure for cancer. Dr Allan Parker for years has researched to find a cure for the disease. Now the fifteen year old has been a God send. He uses some of the teenager's blood to treat a patient. There is one catch. Franklin Longo, a mobster who is dying of cancer sees Parker give a treatment to another patient and realizes he has become cancer free. Longo is determined to find out what Parker used and to take it himself. Complicating matters further are the fifteen year old's parents who are not so quick to have their son used as a guinea pig. The story is filled with complications and pacing that moves the tale along to a satisfying conclusion.

Die Smiling
Linda Ladd
Pinnacle Books
Kensington Publishing Corp
850 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10022
9780786018871 $6.99

A beauty pageant queen is found murdered in her home. Detective Claire Morgan is on the case and it's a bizarre one. Morgan follows the clues that take her to Miami and later lead her to believe she could well be a victim of the same killer. Ladd masterfully sets up the suspenseful situations with likable characters that will have readers turning the pages staying up late to finish.

First to Kill
Andrew Peterson
Leisure Books
200 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
9780843961447 $7.99

Nathan McBride, a former Marine sniper, must come out of retirement to find out what went wrong with an FBI deep cover agent. He uncovers more than just the agent; there is also a missing powerful explosive that someone intends to use. He must find out who and where before time runs out. He is on his mission with very little help from law enforcement agencies. This one is an action packed thriller that roars along to its final pages. The characters are believable in a tense thriller that is the first of a series. This author is off to a good start with this one.

Casino Royale
Ian Fleming
Penguin Books
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
014307668 $7.99

I went back to this first James Bond novel because the producers of the series said they were going back to this novel to show the character from the beginning. They are still saying it with "Quantum of Solace" Well, I have news for them. The Daniel Craig character they have created is not the Bond Fleming wrote about in all of his books. With the film "Casino Royale" a few years ago the producers used parts directly from the book. What they have changed is that the character is nothing like the Fleming creation. It is known that Bond was Fleming's alter ego. He was the perfect spy who could do everything better than anyone else. The writing is typical of Fleming because it takes you along for the ride and gives you the feel that Fleming had played some of the card games and been to some of the places he wrote abut.. The story is simple and a tad dated but it is still an interesting read.

Michelle Maddox
Leisure Books
200 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
9780505527954 $7.99

Though this book is marketed as a romance it really is a very well written science fiction tale that reminded me of "The Running Man." The story moves at a rapid pace to its final conclusion with believable characters involved in a game that can end in only one of two ways. There many conflicts to be resolved as well. I look forward to seeing other things by this author.

Gary Roen

Gloria's Bookshelf

Still Water
John Harvey
Bloody Brits Press
P.O. Box 3671, Ann Arbor, MI 48106-3761, 866-300-7426,
9781932859607 $14.95

The author's well-documented love for jazz, as well as that of his protagonist, Charlie Resnick, is established on the first page of this, the ninth in the series, when, as he is awaiting the start of a concert featuring the great jazz vibraphonist Milt Jackson, he is called out to a murder scene. The victim is a young woman, found in one of the many canals that ringed the area, and the speculation is that she is but the latest in a string of incidents called in the media the Canal Murders

There have been a number of bodies found, "females aged between seventeen and twenty-five; all discovered in or near water with serious injuries to the head or upper body," and this latest one the last of "three murders, no more than months apart, radius of thirty miles," with no clothing, no ID. And it is not, of course, the last one to be found within these pages. Charlie thinks: "How many were there whose deaths still sought proper explanation and resolve? How many women in water, ditch, or hasty grave, their bodies spilled out at the sides of roads or in the stairwells of deserted buildings?"

The Serious Crimes Squad is just being formed as the book begins, an off-shoot of Charlie's CID Unit, to consist of 20 detective constables, four sergeants, a smattering of support staff, one inspector, and a freshly appointed detective chief inspector, whose identity is as yet unknown. Charlie's own lack of ambition keeping him from applying for the position himself, is what he and others in his division are thinking. Charlie's Unit has been fragmented of late - Mark Divine still recovering from the devastating events described in the prior entry in the series, Graham Millington talking about going back into uniform and moving, Lynn Kellogg applying for a transfer to the Family Support Unit [and wanting to get out from under Charlie's shadow]. And there is also Charlie's evolving relationship with Hannah, who he met in that same eighth series entry, "Easy Meat."

There is a constant theme here of violence to women, often but not necessarily including rape, and of domination and submission. There is a secondary story line as well, an often charming one dealing with nuns, art theft and forgery, and possible redemption. And as usual with Mr. Harvey, perfectly evocative descriptions, e.g., "At the table alongside them, four Asian girls from a nearby comprehensive were arguing over their German homework, filling the air around them with tobacco smoke and laughter. A middle-aged woman with the puzzled moon face of a child was sitting with her carer, twisting a narrow length of scarf in and around her fingers in a seemingly endless pattern, tea and toast beside her untouched. Beyond the glass, solitary men and women sat with their dogs or children, and a man wearing padded cycling shorts and a maroon sweatshirt shouted into his mobile phone." As with all the other books from this author, this one is highly recommended.

Peter Manus
Virgin Books
65 Bleecker St., NY, NY 10012, 888-330-8477
9780753513996 $15.95

The novel begins with the death of a man beneath the wheels of a Boston train, described in all its horrifying detail on the first pages of the book, "lightening up" to a rundown on the clothing worn by the dead man including the names of the designers, by a woman to her blogmates. The entire book is done in the form of a blog, something which takes a bit of getting used to, but after the first several pages seemed almost natural, even to this blog-averse reader. The 25-year-old blog creator goes by the name of "fickel" [sic], the site name "Life is Pulp," the contributors to the blog described by one of them as "internet-hooked noir freaks."

The entries contain an incredible amount of minutiae, something I would guess is part of what blogs are [only reinforcing my anti-blog attitude, I must admit]. Another blog is interspersed with this one, after a while causing doubt in the mind of the reader about what should or should not be taken at face value.

In the aftermath of the death, the police soon discover that apparently the woman who witnessed the presumed suicide and its victim knew each other, and she becomes an "unofficial figure of interest." Other deaths follow, and all the details are set forth in blog entries, though at some point the question comes up, with her blogmates as with the reader, as to reliability of the narrator.

The point is made by a blog contributor that "we don't know the secret demons that lurk inside the people we meet," something made dramatically clear in these pages. Despite being uneven, the book is ultimately suspenseful, different, original, and several other adjectives I can think, of all of which add up to an interesting but to this reader somewhat unsatisfying read.

Cold in Hand
John Harvey
An Otto Penzler Book
Harcourt, 222 Berkeley St., Boston, MA 02116,
9780151014620 $26.00 617-351-5003

The newest book in the Charlie Resnick series by John Harvey finds Charlie, lover of cats and good jazz, and his fellow police officer, Lynn Kellogg, having lived together for nearly three years. Charlie, much the older of the two, is almost at retirement age and uncertain of where he wants his life to take him at this point.

As the novel opens, two girls, 15-16 years old, are facing off in a gang confrontation, ending when two shots are fired by a young boy, the first bullet hitting Lynn Kellogg, the second one killing one of the girls. Luckily Lynn is not badly hurt, thanks to her bulletproof vest. In the aftermath, the family of the knife-wielding dead girl blames Lynn for their loss.

When Charlie is placed second in command of the investigation and charged with finding the boy who had pulled the trigger, some conflicts arise, some of them expected and some of them less so. And then the threats begin.

A separate story line deals with the Serious and Organised Crime Agency [SOCA], a recently created division, looking into one of Kellogg's old murder cases with ramifications well beyond the obvious, including trafficking in drugs, guns and people. The fallout from both of these investigations has a profound impact on the lives, both personal and professional, of Kellogg and Resnick. The title, as usual, derives from a jazz recording, this one "that song Bessie Smith used to sing . . . something about waking up lonely, cold in hand."

The book is wonderfully well-written, gripping from start to finish, with sadness and tragedy interwoven in a tautly plotted tale. A stunning entry and perhaps the best yet in this terrific series.

Chelsea Cain
St. Martin's Minotaur
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312368470 $24.95 212-674-5151/646-307-5560

Twelve years after Police Detective Archie Sheridan stood over the body of a dead girl in Forest Park, in Portland, Oregon [his first homicide case], he is again called to that scene to view the body of another as yet unidentified dead girl. It is only a few months since Archie returned from medical leave, two and a half years since he had been tortured nearly to death during the ten days he had been held prisoner by Gretchen Lowell. In the interim, he and has wife had divorced, then started living together again after a year and a half had passed, hoping they could salvage something together.

Archie had been head of the Beauty Killer task force, and after she was captured and imprisoned, had gone every week to meet with Gretchen Lowell, dubbed by some the Queen of Evil - Sundays at the State Pen, part of his ritual. Gretchen herself had had other rituals. She had her obsessions; Archie's obsession became Gretchen herself. Archie's whole being --- his body, life, mind and very soul --- have belonged to Rachel. She had claimed, almost unbelievably, 199 victims --- Archie was to have been the 200th --- but in the end she spared his life, leaving him "only" grotesquely scarred, mentally and physically, and dependent on pain meds. As part of her plea deal, Archie ultimately became the conduit for her confessions and the location of the bodies of 41 of the people she had murdered. And against all reason, Archie remains obsessed --- one might almost say possessed --- by Gretchen.

In a separate story line, we meet Susan Ward, the 28-year-old ambitious and [currently] blue-haired reporter for the Oregon Herald, who was herself nearly the victim of another serial killer, in what became known as the After School Strangler case. After Henry tells her "You care about stories more than people," she tries to be more sensitive vis-à-vis the girl at the heart of the huge story she is working on about an enormously popular State Senator who had seduced his kids' 14-year-old babysitter. Susan is brought onboard by Archie to cover the Forest Park murder case, which becomes even bigger when the remains of other bodies are discovered.

Although she has been a very real presence to that point as Archie et al retrospectively go back over the events of the past, Gretchen herself doesn't make an actual appearance until page 88, when she escapes from the penitentiary [something broadcast loudly on the back page of the book] and, naturally, contacts Archie immediately. And the horror starts anew. From that point, things go into high gear, and this reader could not put the book down. Gross descriptions of torture and sadism are kept to a minimum, and the book is just as compulsively readable as was "Sweetheart," the book which introduced these characters.

Highly recommended.

The Night Stalker
James Swain
Ballantine Books
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780345475527 $25.00 800-726-0600

Ex-cop Jack Carpenter is hired by the guy he put in prison, four days from the electric chair at the Florida State Prison in Starke, to find the man's grandson, who has been kidnapped. He's technically been hired by the delightfully named Piper Stone, the attorney for Abb Smith, the serial killer more colorfully known as The Night Stalker. Ever since having been forced to leave his job with the Sheriff's Department, that is what Jack does: find missing kids. His abilities in that regard are established in the tense opening pages.

There is an obvious time limit for Jack to accomplish his present task, and he makes no promises. While the police seem to be fixated on a man they believe to be the kidnapper, Jack is just as convinced they are wrong. The police investigation is headed up by Ron Cheeks, the man who replaced Jack as head of the Broward County Sheriff's Missing Persons Department, with whom he has a somewhat volatile relationship, perhaps best described as one of ambivalence.

Jack is a wonderful protagonist, part Seminole Indian, self-described as follows: "When I hear a baby cry, I run to the sound. When I happen upon a lost child in a mall or a parking lot, I help the child find her parents. And when I know that a kid needs help, I do everything in my power to help him. Sometimes that meant breaking the rules and stepping on people's toes. I didn't mean to cause trouble, but it happened. And like my dog, I didn't see myself changing anytime soon." [His dog is an Australian Shepherd "who mistrusted everyone but me and a few of my friends," described as his 'partner,' and indeed he is that.] Jack's macho creds are established when he is the only one at the scene where a body is discovered who doesn't need Vicks to help him deal with the smell, saying "you get used to it."

The search for the missing boy becomes much more complex than merely that, and a good many unexpected things [including several dead bodies] are discovered. The book at times has a noir feel to it, with a goodly amount of violence [mostly off the page]. In any event, it is fast-paced [though at times to the point of stretching credulity as to real-time action], has an interesting cast of characters, and is a very good read.

Gloria Feit

Gorden's Bookshelf

The Historian
Elizabeth Kostava
Little, Brown and Company
Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316067942 $9.99

The Historian is a massive book that takes the vampire myth and makes it into a historical detective mystery. This unique slant brings new life to an all too familiar theme. The story revels in historical and cultural details. The richness in its depth of details is both its strength and its weakness. The story would be better served if it was edited with just a five percent reduction of its nine hundred pages.

A young girl, being raised by a busy father, finds in her father's library a cryptic letter addressed to my dear and unfortunate successor. The letter brings about a curiosity that drives her into finding out the details of her father's life. Her search brings out a centuries' long quest into Vlad the Impaler, the original Dracula of history, and a group of historians which includes her father. Each fact she learns brings out a new horror and a new details about her family's tragic history. Her curiosity pushes her and her father into a confrontation with an ultimate evil.

The Historian is a great historical/horror mystery. Kostova shows a talent in bringing cultures and history to life. The Historian deserves to be on every serious reader's desk. The substantial story might be a little too much for the typical casual reader but if they persevere through all nine hundred pages they will be amply rewarded.

The Good Guy
Dean Koontz
Bantam Books
A division of Random House, Inc.
1540 Broadway, New York, NY
9780553589115 $7.99

Dean Koontz is a writer whose prose is underappreciated. He writes a lot of popular books and because of the volume the consistency throughout the complete story can vary. This masks his good technique of painting a picture with words.

Tim Carrier wants to be ordinary. He hides in his job and in his social life. He likes to end the day with a stop by his neighborhood bar. This night a man walks in and mistakes him for a hired killer. The man passes him an envelope of money and a photograph and name. Just after the man leaves another walks in who slightly resembles Tim's build. Within seconds, Tim realizes this is the hitman.

Tim wants to be his same ordinary self but can't let the woman die. He gives the hitman the money but claims the contract is off. He then goes to warn the woman about the contract. What follows is a run for their lives as the killer finds out the problem and is willing to kill everyone who gets in his way to fix it.

Koontz has produced a great cast of characters for this story, a creepy psychotic killer, a damsel in distress, a good guy who is nearly too good and with a strong supporting cast. The suspenseful chase is great and the action is non-stop. The only real weakness is the end. Koontz tries too hard to lock the ending down fast.

The Good Guy is a great escapist book that should be read. Action and suspense junkies will find more than enough to satisfy. Readers who appreciate quality prose will like how Koontz paints a scene with words. The Good Guy is a small story that deserves to be read even if it has weaknesses.

S.A. Gorden, Reviewer

Harwood's Bookshelf

Forbidden Fruit: The Ethics of Secularism
Paul Kurtz
Prometheus Books
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst NY 14228-2197
9781591026662 $17.98

"Paul Kurtz, America's leading secular humanist philosopher, affirms that it is possible to live the good life and be morally responsible without belief in religion" (back cover). I have only one problem with that summation of secular ethics. Saying that humans can be moral without religion is like saying that humans can be healthy without infecting themselves with poison. Kurtz asserts that, "belief in God is no guarantee of moral virtue." But he stops short of recognizing that, since all religions teach that right and wrong are whatever their deity's scriptwriter says they are, and the sacred writings of all major religions (Tanakh, Bible, Koran) authorize the murder and enslavement of "heretics" and "infidels," the only way a godworshipper can be morally virtuous is by ignoring and disobeying his religion's prime directive. Hitler and bin Laden were not aberrations who violated the true spirit of religion. They are the poster boys for religion. Secularists are not morally upright despite their lack of religious brainwashing, but because of it.

Nonetheless, Kurtz may be right in assuming that godworshippers cannot be told that their religion is a deterrent to their being righteous, and arguing instead that it is not a prerequisite. And if religion is not the reason an individual is moral, then logically secularists can be equally moral. But since that message did not get through in Forbidden Fruit's first edition in 1988, he has added a new Prologue that not only justifies a secular concept of morality, but also points out that any one religion's concept of right and wrong, being diametrically opposed to every other religion's position, cannot be accepted as anything but self-serving propaganda.

He writes (p. 15), "Indeed, one can say on the basis of meticulous scholarship and the scientific examination of the origins of the three great religions that their sacred texts were written and compiled by propagandists for Judaism, Christianity and Islam in order to persuade their followers…. If the religious foundations of morality rest on these revelations, which after scholarly examination and scientific investigation remain questionable, then what can be said in general of anchoring the principles of morality on such quicksand? I would argue that certain principles of morality are true regardless of their origin, and generally they are warranted independent of their religious foundations or lack of them." He also finds that (p. 21), "The conclusion of science is that … intelligent design is a futile tale told by religious prophets in order to overcome the sorrows of life." And he postulates "the power of male bonding" (p. 30), declaring that, "One possible explanation for its ferocious intensity in Islam, where it fuels the fires of jihad, is the low status of women as mere objects of carnal lust and repression."

Other than the Prologue, Forbidden Fruit is an unchanged reprint of the 1988 edition "with only some minor corrections" (p. 34). And since taking biblical quotations from the King James Version seemed like a good idea in 1988 when there was no truly accurate translation available, the reprinted quotations are as misleading to the point of undermining Kurtz's point now as then. In a passage pointing out that biblical religion legitimizes slavery, he quotes the KJV version of 1 Peter 2:18 (p. 59), "Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear." The Fully Translated Bible renders the same passage, "Slaves, submit yourselves to your despots with complete reverence, not only those who are orthodox and tolerant, but also those who are capricious." Discerning readers may recognize that Kurtz is equating biblical "servants" with slaves. But an accurate translation would have made the biblical author's endorsement of slavery inescapable.

Dostoyevsky propounded in Crime and Punishment, and theists preach to this day, that without a lawmaking God, anything goes. Kurtz responds (p. 39), "This bleak picture is an untrustworthy appraisal of the human condition. On the contrary, if we affirm that God does not exist, perhaps only then can we begin to recognize fully that human beings are autonomous and that we are responsible for our own destinies and those of our fellow human beings. Perhaps only then can we summon the courage and wisdom to develop a rational ethics based on a realistic appraisal of nature and an awareness of the centrality of the common moral decencies."

Since Dr Kurtz is trying justify a secular concept of morality to persons who think the Pentateuch was composed by Moses, he bases his comments about the "Ten Commandments," "adultery," the selfishness of Onan, the nature of the Sodomites' crime (in a myth composed before homosexuality became a taboo), and the sacrifice of Isaac, on the wording of the KJV, deeming what the original authors actually wrote or meant irrelevant. He consequently makes his points at the cost of ignoring the reality that "the Bible" was synthesized out of older, mutually hostile documents whose authors did not define "adultery," "murder," "stealing" and other taboos as what they are commonly understood to mean today, and composed commandments about what "thou shalt not" do to a compatriot (reak) but could perpetrate without restriction on an infidel (goy).

Kurtz writes that, "The Bible is explicit in condemning homosexuality" (p. 263). That would be more accurate if he had said that Leviticus explicitly condemns homosexuality. All biblical books/chapters written before 620 BCE treated the homosexual relationships of such heroes as David (1 Sam. 20:41), Saul, Solomon, Jeremiah (who wrote Deut. 13:6), and Judith as in no way reprehensible. But since the KJV mistranslates the Hebrew in order to conceal such embarrassing disagreements between the beliefs of biblical authors and the teachings of modern religion, and Kurtz is trying to get through to persons who regard their bible as the arbiter of morality, he is perhaps justified in basing his arguments solely on what is in the KJV.

Similarly, his treating Revelation as a Christian book can be justified on the ground that Christians regard it as scriptural, even though neither of its authors was a Christian. But when he discusses the seduction of Levit by his daughters, siring on them the ancestors of the Mowabites and Ammonites, and writes that, "This act of incest is not condemned" (p. 266) - as if unchastity were a scientific rather than a purely religious concept - that is plain wrong. The Yahwist who composed the myth, adapting it from an earlier "last man on earth" fable, was justifying King David's holocaust of the Mowabites and Ammonites by portraying them as the descendants of a monstrous infamy.

Kurtz utilizes an essentially Socratic methodology, encouraging readers to confront questions and formulate their own answers rather than telling them what the answer should be. For example (p. 106), after pointing out that many proponents of capital punishment cite their sectarian bibles as their sole or primary justification for their position, he then asks, "Do societies that enforce the death penalty have lower rates of murder than those that do not? … One can speculate about the answer, but only detailed scientific inquiry can resolve the question." He then asks whether persons whose positions on the issue are based on their belief that it is or is not a deterrent, would change their minds if the premise on which it was based was proven to be wrong. He spells out his own answers to moral and ethical questions only after compelling his readers to recognize that the questions exist and that, "because God says so," is not a satisfactory answer.

Kurtz in many places compares secular and religious ethics and finds considerable overlap. "It is hardly necessary for a man to invent a God who then gives man the moral prescriptions that have grown in his own mind and conscience.… Men and women see the immorality or harm of killing or stealing, so they reinforce sanctions against these acts by calling them divine edicts" (p. 42-43). "The religionist is only deceiving himself if he believes … that only God-intoxicated Christians, orthodox Jews, devout Muslims, or zealous Hindus can be moral. Since religious systems of morality are creations of human culture, invented and sustained by men, this belies the claim that human beings cannot, by their own effort, create a moral code or behave morally" (p. 49). Humans do not practise ethical morality because a god taught them to do so. Rather, on the rare occasions that God is ethical, it is because he was created by ethical humans.

But on the issues on which religion and humanism disagree, without exception he sees the religious perspective as indefensible. I would go further and say that, by any reasonable standard of human rationality, such Catholic teachings as a ban on artificial population control in a dangerously overpopulated world are criminally insane.

Biblical scholars are likely to have a problem with Forbidden Fruit, simply because its author, being a philosopher rather than one of themselves, treats the questions of who wrote the Bible and what it really says as irrelevant except where and to what degree they impinge on the issue of ethical morality. But since 95 percent of the book stems directly from Professor Kurtz' field of expertise, critics of the other 5 percent need to remind themselves that, "you can't please everyone"

The Myth of Nazareth: The Invented Town of Jesus
Rene Salm
American Atheist Press
P O Box 158, Cranford NJ 07016
9781578840038 $20.00

There is a hole in Rene Salm's thesis that a 747 could fly through. After spelling out evidence that no village named Nazareth existed until long after Jesus' death, evidence that only a biblical literalist would be foolish enough to dispute, Salm then argues that, since Nazareth did not exist, therefore "Jesus of Nazareth" did not exist.

That would be a logical argument if Christianity's posthumous figurehead had indeed been known as "Jesus of Nazareth." In fact the Christian gospels identity him as Iesous Nazarene and Iesous Nazoraios. As any philologist can confirm, nazoraios cannot be derived from Nazareth (although Nazarene could), and referred to Jesus' sect, not his place of origin. Jesus was first called "the Nazirite" by his detractors for much the same reason a bald man is often called "Curly," and by the time of Paul of Tarsus, Paul's Jesus-glorifying sect was known as the Nazoraion haireseos. Salm knows that, and even acknowledges that "Jesus of Nazareth" was an appellation invented by translators. So why does he base his thesis on the non-sequitur that a man who was not known as Jesus of Nazareth could not have existed unless Nazareth existed? Salm recognizes that Matthew identifies Jesus' hometown as Capernaum, and gets him there by having him move from Nazareth, a decidedly pointless scene if Jesus never existed.

Salm's first four chapters detail the archaeology of the Nazareth basin from the Stone Age to 100 CE, interesting enough but unrelated to the book's primary theses. He finds that (p. 205), "not a single post-Iron Age artifact, tomb or structure at Nazareth dates with certainty before 100 CE." But while showing that the site now known as Nazareth was unoccupied during Jesus' lifetime, he for some reason does not mention that no village bearing the name, Nazareth, existed any earlier than the 5th century CE.(1)

I wrote in God, Jesus and the Bible, "Mark's declaration that Jesus came from the dispersion (nazareth),(2) meaning the worldwide community of Jews outside Judaea (equivalent to diaspora), was misinterpreted by Matthew and Luke to mean that he came from a city called Nazareth. Matthew compounded his error by having Joseph and Mary settle in "Nazareth" to fulfill a prophecy that the messiah was to be called a nazirite." Matthew and Luke indeed associated Jesus with a nonexistent "Nazareth." But they at no time identified him as "Jesus of Nazareth." He was "Jesus the Nazirite," and that was the title nailed to his execution stake.

There is no shortage of issues in which Salm's analysis of the relevant documents differs from my own. The most irritating are cited in the footnotes, but even those could be viewed as nitpicking. Salm sets out to prove that the village of Nazareth identified by Matthew, Luke and John as Jesus' hometown did not exist, and he succeeds beyond rebuttal. He argues from there that Jesus similarly never existed, and on that point he fails miserably. Earl Doherty's arguments for a purely mythical Jesus are much more convincing.(3) Doherty's only weakness is that he ignores the contrary evidence. Salm's case, in contrast, stands or falls on the basis of a non sequitur.

Let me make clear, however, that the conclusion that Jesus was not a person from history is shared by as many as one-third of all competent biblical scholars. The majority reject it, not because it is indefensible, but because the arguments for a historical Jesus outweigh the arguments for the alternative.(4)

1 I have suggested (A Humanist in the Bible Belt, Booksurge, 2006, p. 138) that an existing village was renamed Nazareth by a 5th century Christian emperor out of embarrassment that Jesus' alleged hometown did not exist. Nothing in Salm's book refutes the scholarly consensus that there was no village named Nazareth any earlier than that date.

2 Salm asserts that "Nazaret" in Mark 1:9 (The RSV Interlinear Greek-English New Testament says "Nazareth") is an interpolation. Since Mark did not see nazareth as the name of Jesus' hometown, such a postulation is unnecessary, and gives fundamentalist bottom feeders like J P Holding an unnecessary weakness to exploit. Salm's suggests that, "our word Armageddon may contain echoes of" a Jewish defeat at Megiddo c 1472 BCE. But the Revelation passages were its Essene author's description of the last battle of the Jewish War of 66-73 CE that he expected to end in a Jewish victory at the site of their most embarrassing defeat (in fact the last battle was at Masada, and the Jews lost). This likewise provides unnecessary ammunition for detractors. However, his reference to "the town that Jewish general Josephus [born 37 CE] fortified and defended in 1 CE" (p. 55) can only be a typo. Salm made mistakes, as do we all, but he could not have made a mistake of that magnitude.

3 Earl Doherty, The Jesus Puzzle: Did Christianity Begin with a Mythical Christ? Ottawa, 2005.

4 For the most plausible reconstruction of the life of Jesus and his posthumous transformation from a would-be king of the Jews into the god of the Christians, a cult he would assuredly have repudiated, see God, Jesus and the Bible: The Origin and Evolution of Religion (forthcoming). For specific arguments for the existence of a historical Jesus, see For This We Thank Our Führer: Why the God Fantasy is a Crime Against Humanity (Booksurge, 2007), pp. 141-152.

The Prosecution of George W. Bush For Murder
Vincent Bugliosi
Vanguard Press
11 Cambridge Center, Cambridge MA 02142
9781593154813 $26.95

The most prolific mass murderer in American history could not have been prosecuted, even for littering, so long as he remained President of the United States. Fortunately, once he is out of office, he is as subject to prosecution as any other private citizen. And there is no statute of limitations on murder.

Vincent Bugliosi prosecuted Charles Manson and 21 other murderers without a single failure to convict. So when Bugliosi writes that there is more than sufficient evidence to convict George W. Bush of the murder of 4,000 Americans whom he sent to war under false pretences, it is a logical assumption that he knows what he is talking about. His earlier book, The Betrayal of America, showed that Bush was appointed President by a coup d'etat by five Republican justices of the Supreme Court, but did not lead to those five kingmakers being charged with treason. Americans who want to see their country regain its pre-Bush status as a respected bastion of justice and democracy can only hope that Bugliosi's delineation of the unelected president's crimes will motivate enough people to put Bush and his entire Republicanazi Gestapo behind bars for the remainder of their natural lives - preferably in Guantanamo. While I could never approve of their being strapped to gurneys with needles in their arms, subhuman savagery that even some American states have evolved beyond, for monsters whose crimes against the American people may never be equaled I might well be tempted to look the other way and let it happen. Bush is the closest approximation American politics has ever produced to Adolf Hitler, and until he is treated as such, America's status as the most trusted and respected nation on earth cannot be regained.

Bugliosi starts with a chapter arguing that his books evaluating the O. J. Simpson trial and the sex crime allegations against Bill Clinton demonstrate "this tendency of mine to see what is in front of me in its pristine condition" (p. 8) even when no one else is willing to do so. That self-evaluation may well be accurate. He quotes reviewers from major publications who retroactively agreed with him even when they had disagreed at the time. Nonetheless, I consider it trivial, and the fact that he was right before is not a valid argument that he is right this time.

The second chapter consists of several pages of quotations from speeches by Bush, Cheney, Rice, Powell and Rumsfeld, spelling out the reasons used to convince Congress to rubber stamp Bush's invasion of Iraq, speeches that were without exception a pack of lies from start to finish. Bugliosi suggests possible alternative motivations for Bush's warmongering (p. 16), including helping Republicans win the midterm elections in 2000, punishing Saddam because "He tried to kill my dad," and "trying to one-up his father by completing the job Bush Sr. failed to do - remove Saddam from power in 1991." But he stops short of endorsing any of those hypotheses as the real reason why Bush was so determined to start a war, that he lied to Congress and the American people in full awareness that, if he had not done so, there would never have been a war.

Chapter three contains thumbnail snippets about ten of the American fatalities in Iraq. I have long believed that "survivor testimony" introduced into the sentencing stage of murder trials is obscene, implying that all murders are not equal. All murders are equal. It does not matter if the 4,000 Americans Bush murdered by sending them to war under false pretences were all Princess Diana clones or all Rush Limbaugh clones. The status of the victims should have no bearing on the punishment. They were all human beings, as were the 100,000 Iraqis killed by the consequences of Bush's lies.

Bugliosi writes (p. 43), "Doesn't someone have to tell the truth that 4,000 young Americans decomposing in their graves today died for … George Bush and Karl Rove, and their friend Dick Cheney? We know they didn't die for you and me. And they certainly didn't die for America. Since Hussein constituted no threat to this country and had nothing to do with 9/11, how could these young Americans have possibly died to protect this country?" Starting a war of personal glorification that does not have the legitimate purpose of defending one's country or an ally is a crime against humanity, regardless of whether the warmonger is Adolf Hitler, Napoleon Bonaparte. Mao Tse Tung, Genghis Khan, Attila the Hun, Ming the Merciless, or George W. Bush. Bugliosi asks (p. 80), "Can anything be done to bring George Bush to justice? That is what the next chapter is all about."

Having argued for the credibility of his judgment in chapter one, Bugliosi argues for his objectivity in chapter four (pp. 81-82): "Although I've been a lifelong Democrat …. I can give you, the reader, a 100 percent guarantee that if a Democratic president had done what Bush did, I would be writing the same, identical piece you are about to read." I see no reason to doubt his word. Presidential nominee William Jennings Bryan was a Democrat, and evaluations by other Democrats showed no reluctance to portray him for what he really was, somewhere between brainwashed and braindead, although unlike Bush (p. 59), Bryan at no time claimed to be obeying a direct order from God (or was it Mother Goose? I'm always confusing those two).

Bugliosi denounces Al Franken, Senator Ted Kennedy, and a New York Times columnist (p. 83) for recognizing that Bush lied to railroad America into an unnecessary war and then switching to a new subject, "as if you had been writing that Bush spent the weekend at Camp David with his wife." He reminds those bark-with-no-bite orators that, "For anyone interested in true justice, impeachment alone would be a joke for what Bush did." He also criticizes Ralph Nader for his self-serving run for the presidency in 2000 in full awareness that he could siphon off enough votes from the Democratic nominee to allow Bush to win. I did not withdraw my admiration for Nader in 2000. But when he ran again in 2004, knowing that he had personally made Bush president and could conceivably do so again, I was forced to recognize him as a conscienceless egoist for whom the best interests of the United States of America were irrelevant compared to the best interests of Ralph Nader.

I am not a lawyer. Even if I read Outrage, I doubt that I would accept Bugliosi's assurance that prosecutorial incompetence rather than juror bias was the cause of O. J. Simpson's acquittal. Accordingly, I cannot offer the reader my personal assurance that the mountain of evidence Bugliosi has brought together would guarantee that George W. Bush is convicted of murder and, given the prosecution's ability to keep all opponents of state-sanctioned ritualistic revenge murder off the jury, sentenced to death - especially since all it would take to prevent his conviction would be one hardcore Republicanazi on the jury, and that the prosecution could not prevent. But as a layman when it comes to legal technicalities, I found no weaknesses in Bugliosi's arguments, and if he is certain that the evidence is sufficiently overwhelming to convince an unprejudiced jury, then I defer to his expertise. I most assuredly hope that he is right. George W. Bush is the worst president America will ever have, the least intelligent president America will ever have (a title he took from Ronald Reagan in a canter), the most untruthful president America is ever likely to have (replacing Richard Nixon), and the most prolific serial killer in American history, with 152 homicides on his resume even before he became president. If he never has to answer for his crimes, then neither should Charles Manson, a rank amateur by comparison.

Bugliosi does recognize that a prosecutor may not be convinced that he can satisfy a jury of Bush's guilt "beyond a reasonable doubt," and suggests (p. 159) that Bush's coconspirators, in exchange for having the death penalty taken off the table, would not hesitate to testify against their former Führer. "Like rodents scurrying away from a sinking ship, I would be very confident that Cheney, Rice, and Rove would make the case against Bush, already very strong, air-tight. They probably could tell us things about Bush that would make our hair curl."

Bugliosi does not overtly argue (at least not here, although he has prosecuted capital cases) for the legitimacy of the death penalty. But he does suggest (p. 83) that punishments should be commensurate with the crime and, "For anyone interested in true justice, impeachment alone would be a joke for what Bush did." Capital punishment does serve one legitimate function. It gives murderers the strongest possible incentive to save the taxpayers millions of dollars by accepting a plea bargain. But the reality that it has been abolished in every civilized country on this planet, and even by twelve American states, would convince any sane Supreme Court justice that it constitutes the cruel and unusual punishment prohibited by the Constitution. But that is unlikely to mean anything to justices appointed by Republicanazi presidents precisely because they are insane. Not only must Bush be prosecuted for murder, as Bugliosi argues; the five justices who appointed him to an office he failed to win legally should be prosecuted for treason, after first being offered immunity from execution if they resign without having to be impeached. Only those two courses of action by a Democratic president can save America from becoming the mirror image of the Taliban's Afghanistan that the Bush Gestapo has been conspiring to establish for the past eight years.

Vincent Bugliosi's book is not devoid of passages that have me questioning his judgment, as for example when he refers (p. 7) to "the reliably silly Christopher Hitchens." Is Bugliosi a brainwashed religion addict (tautology) who disputes that Hitchens proved that God Is Not Great? In mitigation (p. 59), V.B. does refer to "your mind … that God supposedly gave us to think with" (emphasis added). But I can see no rational human thought behind his reference (pp. 248-249) to "the entertainment world, mostly Hollywood, which insists on poisoning our culture with the filth it increasingly spews out to the nation's youth and the rest of us." I would agree with him if I thought he was referring to the entertainment media's profit-motivated encouragement of belief in superstitious hogwash such as religion and the paranormal, including "mediums" and "ghost whisperers." But I consider it more probable that he opposes Hollywood's portrayal of the sharing of joyful, consensual, non-consequential, sexual recreation as morally neutral, as victimless behavior clearly is, because he is godphuqt.

But other than considering him too polite, I wholeheartedly concur with his evaluation of Kenneth Starr as "a monstrous, grotesque, obscene figure" (p. 235), Rush Limbaugh as "endlessly reprehensible and extremely hypocritical" (p.252), the five Supreme Court justices who overthrew the Constitution in order to appoint Bush president in 2000 knowing full well that he had lost the election as "horribly immoral" (p. 236), the beliefs of evangelical Christians as "grinding stupidity" (p. 247), Dick Cheney as "a sniveling coward" (p. 159), Karl Rove as "a pasty, weak-faced, and mean-spirited political criminal" (p. 44), and George W. Bush (ibid) as "a spoiled, callous brat who became president only because of his father's good name." Unless Bugliosi is equally bigoted, he presumably is unaware that Bush Senior denigrated America's 100 million nontheists as unworthy of being considered citizens or patriots in his "one country under [his imaginary playmate]."

Will the next President of the United States hand this book over to the Justice Department and ask it to determine whether Bugliosi's evidence is sufficient to prosecute the talking chimpanzee who, in addition to screwing America for eight years, murdered 4,000 American servicemen? Unless the evidence is less compelling than it appears to a non-lawyer, the answer probably depends on how desperate Barack Obama is to please everybody. As for Bush's sentence, a presidential reprieve is a virtual certainty if the jury imposes the maximum sentence. Only hardcore proponents of capital punishment would have a problem with that, since even a temporary stay on Death Row would still send the right message.

The Age of American Unreason
Susan Jacoby
Pantheon Books
1745 Broadway, NY 10019
9780375423741 $26.00

"America is now ill with a powerful mutant strain of intertwined ignorance, anti-rationalism, and anti-intellectualism … the virulence of the current outbreak is inseparable from an unmindfulness that is, paradoxically, both aggressive and passive" (p. xx). Thus does Susan Jacoby state the thesis she then sets out to elucidate and defend. Unfortunately, she is likely to run into the same situation she encountered when she received invitations to lecture in many parts of the country after the publication of her 2004 book, Freethinkers: "I found myself preaching almost entirely to the converted…. My audiences were composed almost entirely of people who already agreed with me" (p. xix). And that is a peculiarly post-nineteenth-century phenomenon. When Thomas Huxley and Robert Ingersoll lectured in the late 1800s, each "packed lecture halls around the country," because "Americans in the 1800s, regardless of their level of formal education, wanted to make up their own minds about what men like Ingersoll and Huxley had to say" (pp. xix-xx). Today America is a nation of Manchurian Candidates, brainwashed into accepting whatever the Vast Wasteland chooses to pass off as reality for the purpose of pandering to the lowest common denominator (pp. 4-5). If it could increase their bottom line, the disinformation media would not hesitate to imply that the sum of two plus two, 4 or 5, was a matter of opinion (p. 20), and the opinion that would maximize ratings was the only one that mattered.

But while the prostitute media maximize the dumbing of America, the first cause of the glorification of ignorance is elsewhere. Jacoby notes (pp. 17-19) that, "The second major spur to anti-intellectualism during the past forty years has been the resurgence of fundamentalist religion. Modern media, with their overt and covert appeal to emotion rather than reason, are ideally suited to assist in the propagation of a form of faith that stands opposed to most of the great rationalist insights that have transformed Western civilization since the beginning of the Enlightenment…. One of the many rational developments rejected by fundamentalism, however, is biblical scholarship since the mid-nineteenth century. Who cares what some pointy-headed intellectual has to say about when various parts of the Bible were actually written and what, if any, relationship the text has to real history? Americans' enthusiasm for apocalyptic fantasy probably owes more to movies like The Exorcist and The Omen than to the Bible itself." Neither of those movies was any more incompatible with reality than Star Trek. But The Omen was identified as "horror" rather than science fiction, thereby disguising its true nature, and The Exorcist was actually passed off as nonfiction.

The role of the media in promoting beliefs that win ratings and sell newspapers is spelled out in Jacoby's account of how research on the measurable effects of prayer was treated. She writes (p. 214), "The prayer study was an unsuccessful attempt to find scientific evidence … that prayer can heal the sick. If the findings had turned out otherwise, the headlines would have read, 'Science Proves the Power of Prayer.' As it was, believers simply shrugged off the results." The media did likewise, either relegating the negative results to a single paragraph on page 47, or including it as a throwaway line in a broadcast that gave precedence to the claim of believers that, "we've seen prayer work."

Reporting on the millions of Americans who believe, on the basis of Alice in Wonderland (or is it the Bible? I'm always confusing those two), that the world is going to end the day after tomorrow, Jacoby writes (p. 20) that, "the mainstream media confer respectability on such bizarre fantasies by taking them seriously." In connection with a 2002 Time story that treated "Armageddon" as if it were a revelation about the post-2002 future rather than a failed prophecy of how the Jewish War of 66-74 CE was going to end, she continues (ibid), "The article exemplifies the journalistic conception that anything 'controversial' is worth covering and that both sides of an issue must be given equal space - even if one side belongs in an abnormal psychology textbook."

Summarizing the roles of the two primary disinformation dispensers responsible for the ignorance that (p. 22), "sets the United States apart from every other developed country in the world," Jacoby finds (p. 23) that they are not the only culprits: "Something else must be at work, and that something else is the low level of science education in American elementary and secondary schools, as well as in many community colleges…. A third of Americans mistakenly believe that there is substantial disagreement about evolution among scientists." "Any teacher who does not know that dinosaurs were extinct long before Homo sapiens put in an appearance is unfit to provide instruction in late nineteenth-century biology, much less modern biology" (p.25).

For some reason she does not indict the universities, even though Harvard, Oxford and all other highest-rated universities maintain schools that teach "theology," as if knowledge of the life and times of the fantasy creature "God" had any more connection with the real world than the life and times of Toad of Toad Hall.

Jacoby does explain why so many Americans regard the Bible as nonfiction: they have never read it, and have no awareness that it features a talking snake and a talking donkey and states unequivocally in fourteen places that the earth is as flat as a dinner plate: "A majority of adults … cannot name the four Gospels or identify Genesis as the first book in the Bible" (p. 25). Similarly, Scientologists and Mormons have never read their founders' published words, or they would be fleeing in droves from cults in which membership is recognized by the rest of the world as restricted to self-inflicted brain amputees.

Jacoby dates the takeover of the party of Abraham Lincoln by a lunatic fringe slightly to the right of Tomás de Torquemada to the politically expedient alliance of Billy Graham, a hillbilly who makes Jed Clampett look sophisticated, and Richard Nixon, a crook who believed that, "When the President does it, it is not illegal." That Nixon Doctrine was denounced by as ultra-conservative a politician as Barry Goldwater, but, along with its theofascist corollary, "When God does it, it is not evil," it remains the mantra of the Republicanazi religion to this day. Jacoby's view of the puppet masters pulling Republican Party strings is (p. 191), "James Dobson's Focus on the Family and Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition … are in fact hard-core fundamentalists dedicated to the Christianizing of American public institutions." I would have said "Talibanizing" rather than "Christianizing," but that is hairsplitting.

Jacoby's most useful information is to be found in Chapter Nine, "Junk Thought." I do not echo the Amazon reviewer who advised readers to skip the first eight chapters, but he did have a legitimate point. Jacoby explains how America is so saturated with junk science, such as the "recovered memory" hoax and other nonexistent "syndromes" invented by psychoquacks, that the right wing lunatic fringe has picked up the term and is currently using it to describe mainstream science (p. 226). Jacoby concludes (p. 229) that, "Junk thought should not be confused with stupidity or sheer ignorance, because it is often employed by highly intelligent people to mislead and confuse a public deficient in its grasp of logic, the scientific method, and the basic arithmetic required to see through the pretensions of poorly designed studies." Pardon me if I do equate junk thinking with stupidity. Allow me to quote a mantra endorsed by large numbers of clear thinkers who quit Mensa in disgust at what they found therein: "Just because someone is intelligent, that doesn't mean that he is not stupid."

While endorsing Jacoby's primary thesis, I have some quibbles with her perspective on minor points. She refers (p. xvii) to "President George W. Bush's election in both 2000 and 2004." Newsflash: George W. Bush was never elected President. Despite losing both elections, he was appointed President as a consequence of the treasonous overthrow of the Constitution in 2000, and blatant vote-rigging in 2004.

Not being a former teacher herself, Jacoby imagines that most teachers are doing a legitimate job. She has no awareness that "teacher" has not meant "a person who teaches" since 1945. Since that date it has come to mean "a babysitter who does not bruise tender psyches by attempting to teach them anything, and grants passing grades as a minimum reward for not trying to burn down the school." I tried for a few years to be a teacher under the old definition, and had no more success in fixing a system that is rotten to the core than a sighted man would have had in the country of the blind. As a reporter in an industry in which there are still publications willing to carry articles critical of religion, Jacoby's status as a nontheist did not make her unemployable, as it would have in a university in which all appointments in a field relevant to religion are subject to a veto by dogmatic "theologians" who tolerate no viewpoint other than their own. And that is the situation in every university on this planet.

Obviously Jacoby's unfavorable opinion of the status of science teaching did not prevent her from obtaining a teaching position for which, not being a Bachelor of Babysitting, she presumably never applied. But I can assure her that the intentional promotion of ignorance and suppression of reality in both schools and universities is even worse then she imagines.(1) At least her employment as a journalist did not have to be approved by the likes of William F. Buckley.(2) While this book has already hit the New York Times bestseller list, it is no more likely to trigger any change in the Vast Wasteland than Only You Dick Daring was able to do a generation ago. And trying to cure religious fanaticism by providing the fanatics with facts is like trying to drown a swan by deepening the lake.

(1) The only professors currently teaching the falsifiability of religion are those who were recruited as believers, and only cured themselves of the god psychosis after they had attained tenure. There are no schoolteachers who require pupils to know more when they go out than when they came in, and give failing grades to those who do not. They are purged as soon as they are detected, before they can raise the question, "How come nobody else is doing this?"

(2) Jacoby in two places (pp. 160, 288) describes Buckley as an "intellectual." Presumably her definition of an intellectual does not include the stipulation, "someone who has a functioning human brain." And elsewhere (p. 292) she refers to "Right-wing intellectuals" as if such a term were not an oxymoron. She did terminate her relationship with Cosmopolitan when Helen Gurley Brown's successor as editor imposed restrictions and assignments that she found unacceptable (p. 258); but those restrictions did not include the prohibition of thinking imposed by Religious Studies departments in all universities.

William Harwood

Henry's Bookshelf

The Pinball Compendium - Electro-Mechanical Era
Michael Shalhoub
Atglen, PA
9780764330285 $69.99

Introduced to pinball machines when he was just six years old, Shalhoub is one of the most knowledgeable persons about them in the world. This is his fourth book of over 200 pages and hundreds of photographs on the machines and their history. But the field is so diversified both with products and also with different interests throughout the U.S. and other spots in the world, there are inevitably gaps in his knowledge. From his lifelong interest in pinball machines, however, Shaloub knows where to go and who to talk to in order to fill in these gaps. Many of the individuals he used as sources for parts of the book are seen in photographs as insets with background information on them. The field of pinball machines is so diversified with technological developments, design changes, reflections of social history, finding and repair of old machines, price evaluation, and minutiae for historical significance and value for collectors that there is little repetition in Shalhoub's four books.

The first machine of the "electro-mechanical era" covered in this book was one named Contact run by a dry-cell battery in 1934. It wasn't long before machines began to run on electricity. As their popularity as recreation grew, new designs and features flourished. Pinball machines had something of the appeal that video games do these days. Pinball arcades were established, and pinball machines found their way into middle-class homes. "The introduction of the flipper seen on Humpty Dumpty in 1947 brought a different perspective in the game of pinball." Pinball machines' appeal for some was competition for the highest score, sometimes with gambling. For a short time in the early 1940s, pinball machines were illegal in some states. There was a lull in the field during World War II, but it picked up again after the War even with the growth of cars, television, movies, and other sources of recreation. The "electro-mechanical era" ran to the 1970s.

The era's pinball machines are divided into decades. This makes it easy to get an overview of the evolution by going from decade to decade looking at the respective color photos to see changes in styles and subjects. The color photographs of each machine within a decade are split into two parts. The upper part shows the backdrop, or raised part, at the head of a machine. This became important in attracting players when numerous machines began appearing in arcades and showrooms. The bottom part of the split photograph shows the playing field of the machine. Between the two parts the machine's owner is named along with a current estimated price. The placement of the price is handy enough to be of immediate use to collectors and appraisers; yet being almost incidental, this does not turn the work into a price guide.

The book is a comprehensive visual record of the era's pinball machines with annotations on manufacturer, designer, distinguishing features, and when applicable mention of a particular machine's significance in the field's history. In the earlier pages are vintage photos of originators of the field as well as a few promotional photographs including the cowboy star Hoot Gibson at a pinball machine and machines in scenes of popular movies.

Like Shalhoub's previous books, this one is a required reference for anyone with a serious interest in the field. Pinball machine enthusiasts will be thankful for the author's successful labor in putting together this irreplaceable history and catalog on the electro-mechanical pinball machines.

An Emerald Odyssey - In Search of the Gods of Golf and Ireland
Paul J. Zingg
Collins Press
Dufour Editions
Chester Springs
9781905172566 $36.95

The book is only secondarily a guide to the golf courses in Ireland. There is a listing of Featured Courses and Noted Courses. But essentially it is about the spiritual satisfactions golf brings to its devotees. In connection with the Irish courses, this can be almost mystical. For golf brings together inner resources and talents with the world of nature. As Pat Ruddy puts it in his Foreword, "Total absorption is the only state in which the true spiritual and therapeutic values of golf can be realised. A good and lovely golf course helps induce this state, as inspired landforms combine with beautiful backdrops and situations which call upon the inner hero to express himself and soon transport existence is shared by all."

Surprisingly, Zingg is not a native of Ireland. He is the President of California State College-Chico who has written books on history and sports. It is his love of golf along with interest in sports and grasp of history which allow him to bring out the spiritual dimensions of golf evoked particularly by the Irish courses. Zingg takes one down the links of different courses relating natural features of each or ones surrounding it such as hills or coasts to elements of Irish mythology, lore, society, or history. For Zingg, playing the Irish courses is not only an exercise of one's mental and physical abilities, but also thereby an affinity with eternal spirituality and often reminder of aspects of local history. Particular holes or other features, customs, and history of a course are also related. The author closes with a cautionary note about changes possibly brought to the atmosphere of Irish golf courses and the Irish age-old perspective on golf by Ireland's growth as an international and European business center.

"An Emerald Odyssey" is the perfect gift for a dedicated golfer. Enjoyment of it does not depend on having played Irish golf courses or even planning a golf trip to Ireland. For Zingg enlarges the spiritual and emotional pleasures of golf found by golfers on golf courses anywhere.

The Paper Wall - Newspapers and Propaganda in Ireland 1919-1921
Ian Kenneally
Collins Press
Dufour Editions
Chester Springs
9781905172580 $33.95

Kenneally's book "examines the relationship between the competing protagonists [British government and Irish rebels] and the newspaper press during the time...The book examines what attempts were made to control, influence, or intimidate the press... The book also shows how the press in Ireland and England was not an impartial observer of events but a distiller of news and opinion of a certain bias." Because Britain was the incomparably more powerful protagonist, it was Britain which was able to exert the more wide-ranging, consistent, and effective control, influence, ad intimidation of the press. Britain's press policies were compared with those of Germany during World War I with regard to captive nations such as Belgium. But the Irish Republican Army and other nationalist groups did engage in such attempts at control, etc., as they were able when they saw this in their interest.

Four Irish newspapers making up about half of the daily readership in Ireland plus the leading British newspaper The Times of London are the focus of the study. The London Times is selected not only because of its stature and influence, but also for its developed perspective on the troubles in Ireland and their international dimension relative to other British newspapers such as the Daily Mail and Manchester Guardian which maintained a vocal opposition to Britain's Irish policies and behavior with little variation.

The four Irish newspapers The Freeman's Journal, the Irish Independent, the Cork Examiner, and the Irish Times, besides being the leading newspapers, represent views from different areas and social groups in Ireland and different political positions. The Irish papers could be assailed simply for reporting, or "distilling," news either protagonist found unfavorable. Their political views, ideas, condemnations, etc., were reserved for their editorials, however. These too could bring trouble for them. The editorials were thus often watered down or tangential. The Irish newspapers had to be concerned about survival and safety under the circumstances. Nonetheless, they managed to accomplish their primary purpose of keeping the Irish public informed of events from atrocities to political steps to leading individuals to international reaction.

Kenneally lives in Ireland and has an academic background in history. He is not interested in the more dramatic topics of suppression, censorship, and intimidation of the press in themselves. His picture of the legalistic, organized, and often unpredictable and vigilante forms of these mainly sets the stage for his true interest--which is how the newspapers, particularly the Irish ones, accomplished their role as providers of news and also to some extent shaped events and expressed their views. From familiarity by being close to the site of the historical events and independent research, including scrutiny of newly accessible documents, the author adds a unique, accomplished, informative book to the field of media and journalism studies.

Soul Searching - The Journey of Thomas Merton edited
Morgan C. Atkinson, with Jonathan Montaldo
Liturgical Press
Collegeville, MN
9780814618738 $19.95

Not as overtly popular as he was in the 1960s, Thomas Merton nonetheless practiced a type of spirituality that is perennially appealing and enriching. The book of reminiscences of Merton by over 20 persons in different walks of life who knew him to varying degrees demonstrates his continuing appeal. Some of these are individuals who themselves are well-known for their interest in religion and influence. Daniel Berrigan was a '60's anti-Vietnam War activist who was a Catholic priest. Martin Marty is a noted religious scholar from the University of Chicago. Coauthor Jonathan Montaldo is a director at a retreat and author of books on Merton. Main author Atkinson is a producer who has done a documentary on Merton shown on PBS. This work of collected reminiscences is a companion to the TV program containing material left unused for it.

Merton was a (Catholic) Trappist monk with a searching interest in other religions and spiritualities. His continually growing spirituality--which he wrote about in many books, most notably The Seven Story Mountain published in 1948--was tied in with his moves to different locations and his travels. At the end of his life, he was in Asia (where he died in an accident with electricity) to study Buddhism and Zen firsthand. The material collected by Atkinson as free-ranging conversations for possible use in his documentary is organized according to "four geographical centers of Merton's adult life as lenses through which to see him." These centers are New York City; the Abbey of Gethsemini in rural Kentucky (with which Merton is most identified as a monk and writer); Louisville, Kentucky; and "points west and east" including California and Asia. Atkinson's interest is as much, if not more, a biographical portrait as spiritual one. To each of the four geographical centers, the editor/producer assigns "significant issues of Merton's life"; among these, Merton's "playboy years" when he was at Columbia University, his passing interest in communism, and his conversion to Catholicism.

The biographical emphasis does not obscure, though it limits, the quality and dimensions of the spirituality. One would want to go to Merton's books to get the full dimensions of his spirituality. The book of reminiscences, though, like the documentary, will surely awaken interest in Merton as an outstanding cultural figure and spiritual pilgrim.

Native Americans at Mission San Jose
Randall Milliken, edited by Thomas C. Blackburn
Malki-Balena Press Publication
Banning, CA
9780879191481 $19.95

Though Mission San Jose was not far from the southern end of San Francisco Bay, as the most eastward early Mexican mission in the area, it attracted members of Native America tribes deep into California. Most of these were members of different branches of the Miwok tribe. The author's goal is to "document the complex history of the Indian people who formed the Mission San Jose community." This community formed both by regional Native Americans coming to live at the Mission and Native Americans associated with the Mission though remaining in their villages comprised 55 tribes speaking nine distinct languages. The history of the Mission focusing on its involvement with the Native Americans is a microcosm of the history, development, and racial relationships of the San Francisco Bay area.

Milliken brings in an anthropological factor to what is generally a history. In doing so, the impact of the succession of Euro-American occupations--i. e., gradual loss of the Native American culture--is followed more clearly. Clothing, food, tools and other objects of material culture are described along with customs, values, ceremonies, and organizational principles such as power and standards of behavior.

The large and diverse volume of material Milliken has compressed for this work covers more than nine pages of bibliography. In an introductory section of the text, he identifies other sources of materials. Although historical events and periods and historical individuals are related, narration is limited in favor of the culling of particularly informative and representative material from the choice sources for the sketching out and documenting of a heretofore marginal or subordinate topic. As the author intended, this is a work not only standing on its own as regional history, but also of use to scholars and students who would wish to build upon it--for the worthiness of the topic as a vein of California and Native American studies, the purview, and the sources are all here.

Vintage Alexandria - Photographs of the City 1860-1960
Michael Haag
American University of Cairo Press
Cairo and New York
9789774161926 $39.99

Vintage photos arranged chronologically impart the "vibrant, stylish, and cosmopolitan city" similar to Athens, Naples, and Marseilles for its importance in Mediterranean commerce and culture and its mixed population. About half of the more than 150 photographs show groups of Italians, Greeks, Jews and other immigrants who along with native Egyptians pursued business opportunities and a lively social life in the Egyptian city founded in ancient times. The settings of the groups as well as the many scenes from different parts of the city display the city's architecture, public areas, and rooms inside buildings. Much of the city is modernized by the time of the photographs of this volume. Palm trees, mosques, Islamic features even on new buildings, and the clothing of individuals mark the city as North African and Middle Eastern.

Alexandria was renowned from ancient times. Its famed library and Pharos lighthouse in its Eastern Harbor have become permanent symbols of the achievements of the ancient world. Alexander the Great gave his name to the city after laying out a new design for it. Alexandria's mystique was enhanced further by the writings of Constantine Cavafy, E. M. Forster, and Lawrence Durrell.

As three maps show, Alexandria was prominent literally as well as by legend and repute. Three maps show how the part of the city reaching into the sea splits to form two harbors--Western and Eastern. Names of sites and areas in the maps exemplify Alexandria's millennial history and its modern-day cosmopolitan population and its interests.

Henry Berry

Karyn's Bookshelf

Louise, The Adventures of a Chicken
Kate DiCamillo, author, Harry Bliss, illustrator
Joanna Cotler Books/HarperCollins Children's Books
1350 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10019
9780060755546, $17.99

Plenty of animals take on the role of heroine in children's tales, but it's not often that you see a chicken in the lead part. It's that twist, along with glorious writing and illustrations, that makes award-winning author Kate DiCamillo's "Louise, The Adventures of a Chicken," so memorable. The thought of a barnyard chicken traveling the world, facing danger and standing up to pirates and other villains, is giggling fodder before the first page is turned. Then again, anyone who has ever lived on a farm and knows the true tenacity of barnyard hens will realize after a moment of thought that a chicken is, in fact, an excellent choice as protagonist. Divided into four very short, abundantly illustrated chapters, the 56-page picture book is the tale of a chicken who leaves her henhouse and spends time on a pirate ship, as a circus performer and at a Middle Eastern bazaar where she is caught and caged with other chickens in a poignant comment on oppression that still exists in some parts of the world. The Middle Eastern chickens don't realize they're enslaved and don't know what to do with themselves when Louise breaks them free. In between each adventure Louise travels home to her barnyard but soon grows bored and ventures out again. A thoroughly fun tale with a worldly message.

T4: A Novel
Ann Clare LeZotte, author
Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
222 Berkeley St., Boston, MA 02116
9780547046846, $14.00

By late elementary school, most young readers are aware of the atrocities committed to Jewish people in Nazi Germany during World War II. Books like Anne Frank's "Diary of a Young Girl" have brought that era down to a child's understanding. But many other groups, including the disabled, were also targeted. In "T4: A Novel," Ann Clare LeZotte tells in 105 pages of deceptively simple, poignant free verse of the terrifying experience of a 13-year-old deaf girl sent into hiding as Nazi secret police search out the disabled to send them to death camps. Her hearing lost to a fever as a toddler, Paula has a loving family and community who embrace her yet increasingly worry for her safety. In 1939, a local priest convinces the family to send her into hiding, first at a farm and then for five months at a shelter where she reads the lips of the people around her, learning more than she wants to know about Nazi crimes. Eventually, she and another shelter resident decide to walk to Berlin, stopping along the way at the home of an impoverished Jewish family that Paula later worries may not have survived the war. Not-so-gentle material told, impressively, in a gentle way, "T4" is about caring for others and loving at a time when love is hard to find and trusting can become a matter of life and death. A concluding author's note will help young readers learn more about crimes against the disabled during World War II. A good, quick read to launch a conversation or study of one piece of a disturbing historical era.

Our White House: Looking in, Looking Out
Various authors and the National Children's Book and Literacy Alliance
Candlewick Press
2067 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02140
9780763620677 $29.99

As a family with young children prepares to move into the White House for the first time in a generation, it's the perfect time for a new collection of stories about the historic presidential mansion.. Ideal for older elementary children, and even teens and adults seeking a simple, entertaining look at the home's history and lore, its 241 pages teem with legendary stories and some that deserve to be. Produced by the National Children's Book and Literacy Alliance with the help of First Lady and former teacher Laura Bush, it pulls together poetry, actual diary and memoir entries, reflections by modern authors on historical events and scores of wonderful, kid-pleasing illustrations. Among the best is a two-page spread of Teddy Roosevelt, laughing as the youngest four of his six children tumble down a wide White House staircase with nearly two dozen pets that range from snakes to a pony, a macaw, dogs, chickens and mice. In addition to tales about resident children, there are stories of ghosts purported to roam the halls, Dolly Madison's famous saving of George's Washington's portrait from the British as she fled the burning of the White House in 1814, the masons who carved the ornate walls, the one president -- Grover Cleveland -- who held his wedding here and a host of presidential hobbies, including Thomas Jefferson's passion for fossilized bones that he is said to have laid out in rooms that remained unfinished in his day and Harry Truman's piano playing. There are also serious stories like war, the death of President Abraham Lincoln's son Willie, a memoir from the doctor who cared for John F. Kennedy's family and helped conduct his autopsy, suffragists who picketed the grounds in 1917 and Woodrow Wilson's collapse from a stroke as he tried to get the American People to buy into the concept of a League of Nations. There are stories of minorities, including the craftsmen who helped build the mansion and Mary Todd Lincoln's African-American seamstress. A gloriously entertaining history, chock full of things children want to know and things important for them to learn, in a wonderfully accessible format that is worth the time it takes to read from cover to cover. A lengthy index and bibliography make the book very usable for young researchers.

The Bedtime Train
Joy Cowley, author, Jamison Odone, illustrator
Front Street/Boyds Mills Press, Inc.
815 Church St., Honesdale, PA 18431
9781590784938, $16.95

A glorious tribute to bedtime rituals, particularly celebrating father-son moments, "The Bedtime Train" has adventure and high drama, fun chugga-chugga, toot-toot train noises and a gentle ending that will send children off to sleep. The story follows a little boy, a train engineer named Brad (who looks suspiciously like the boy's dad) and a bevy of penguins who all steam out of the boy's room on a magical train, in lieu of him going to sleep in hot, itchy pajamas that have made rest elusive. Accompanied by a gumball machine that repeatedly saves the day, at one point spewing out candies that line up to show the way home, the train occupants travel through places that young children, particularly boys, will relish. It manages to escape a rabble of creatures that are the stuff of childhood - a ferocious bear and wolf, dinosaurs and alligators. Eventually the train chugs home, and in the tradition of stories like Maurice Sendak's "Where the Wild Things Are," all concludes peacefully. The charming, softly hued drawings that make use of cranberry, tan and grey tones, are in fact reminiscent of "Where the Wild Things Are. A sure - to-be bedtime favorite.

Mary Engelbreit's Nursery Tales: A Treasury of Children's Classics
Mary Engelbreit, illustrator
HarperCollins Children's Books
1350 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10019
9780060731687, $19.99

Children who cut their baby teeth on 2005's "Mary Engelbreit's Mother Goose," have a new volume to grown on. Mother Goose rhymes are historically short, and Engelbreit held those to a page each.. "Mary Engelbreit's Nursery Tales: A Treasury of Children's Classics," tackles longer stories in a way that's perfect for preschoolers with advancing attention spans. The 12 tales are well-known, from The Gingerbread Boy to the Three Little Pigs to Little Red Riding Hood. Averaging 8 to 10 pages, they're perfect for bedtime. What carries over from "Mother Goose" and its 2008 companion "Mary Engelbreit's Mother Goose Favorites," is the quality of the illustrations. The 128-pages brim with lively animals, children and child-like adults in bright, yet soft hues. As with "Mother Goose" Engelbreit draws the villains purposely d not too scary, to keep with the young target audience. But some, like the Ogre who transforms into a lion in "Puss in Boots," are just frightening enough to be true to the tale. And, as she did with "Mother Goose" children of various racial backgrounds are appreciatively included. A marvelous follow-up.

Soup for Breakfast
Calef Brown, author and illustrator
Houghton Mifflin Company
215 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10003
9780618916412, $16.00

An edgy yet kid-centered urban feel that revels in sharply lined illustrations and funky hues contributes to the fun of Calef Brown's poetry. Fourteen works skip easily along, from the first that muses over what it would be like to have giant bear paws instead of hands, to others where children hone their future architectural skills with building blocks, are encouraged to paint on toast with peanut butter and jam, observe grand-parental nose and ear hair, eat soup for breakfast instead of traditional eggs and Cream of Wheat. Things conclude with a wistful take in a flitting moth on a summer night. Easy to digest, young reads won't gag on this wonderful poetry that's crafted by an adult with lots of young heart.

Mireille Geus, author
Front Street/Boyds Mills Press, Inc.
815 Church St., Honesdale, PA 18431
9781590786369, $14.95

Middle schooled-aged girls are notoriously mean. In Piggy, a short novel previously released to award-winning acclaim in the Netherlands, author Mireille Geus ups that with a tale about a dangerously troubled girl's manipulation of a new friend who is mildly disabled with autism. The autistic girl, Lizzy, is sheltered by her mother and attends a special school. She spends a lot of time doing things like standing on street corners and watching other people live their lives, until she meets Piggy, a seeming friend who instantly recognizes that Lizzy is vulnerable. As Lizzy hopefully forges into a friendship, she quickly begins to sense that Piggy is not a nice person. What follow is not so much a story about disabilities, but about a universal need to stand up for ourselves and others in moments of great wrong. The situations that Piggy drags Lizzy into are increasingly worrisome, pranks turned malicious but not really violent or overly disturbing. To her credit Geus draws a line, not allowing the young boys who are objects of a particularly bad prank to get hurt. The story's worst moment, that follows the situation with the boys, Piggy creates herself without Lizzy's involvement. Fluidly written in memoir-style as Lizzy recounts what she and Piggy have been up to, "Piggy" is a story about right and wrong and standing strong when things go awry.

Anna's Wish
Bruno Hachler, author, Friederike Rave, illustrator
North-South Books, Inc./Ingram Publisher Services
1201 Ingram Dr., Chambersburg, PA 17202
9780735822078 $16.95

The eye-catchingly red, snowflake-dotted cover of "Anna's Wish" promises something good. Inside, it gets better. The story is about Anna, a girl whose town hasn't seen snow in a generation. At Christmas time, as store windows fill with wintry displays, that absence is pronounced. Then, one believe-in-miracles night, Anna's wish to see snow comes true, abundantly. Swiss author Bruno Hachler's transformation of a sleeping Anna's wishes into snowflakes that rise from her bed into the sky and then fall on her city, is inspiringly original. So is the question of whether a mysterious, white cake-topper horse in a local bakery helped make things happen. German illustrator Friederike Rave, whose style is reminiscent of Marla Frazee and Caldecott Medal Winner Uri Shulevitz, wonderfully carries the tale from gray urban skies, to bold reds as Anna dreams to a blueish, snow-dotted city dusting the red ribbons and evergreen roping that decorate homes. Lots of beautifully illustrated images, but the favorite is Anna and her mother dancing gleefully in a snow globe as her mother recalls what it was like the last time it snowed, when she was a girl. A new winter favorite, especially for children who live where it rarely snows. First published in Switzerland under the title Annas Wunsch, the story was translated into English by North-South Books.

Karyn Saemann

Kaye's Bookshelf

Against the Current: My Life with Cerebral Palsy
Bob Segalman
Full Court Press
Verona, Wisconsin
1578616751 $TBA

Against the Current is Bob Segalman's personal journey through life with a serious disability and a record of his achievements--an inspiration to all. He has written this memoir in a journal-like fashion with a sense of humor and photos to boot. It's well written, edited and presented in an attractive manner and will be published in 2009.

Bob Segalman has lived a full and productive life, and I can highly recommend this memoir to entertain, inform and inspire.

Hyam: The Cat Who Talked Too Much
Pamela Douglas
M-Y Books
187 Ware Road, Hertford
9781906658137 $7.99

Quoting from the back cover:

"This is the tale of Hyam, a cat famous for talking himself out of a part at an audition for a West End Production - for he is an actor. He tells his own story in a series of delightfully readable poems, taking us on his travels through the ups and down of theatre life and his many escapades as a sophisticated actor, a country puss and a family pet. Blessed with a sense of humour and an abounding love of people, Hyam is, indeed, a most unusual cat."

Pamela Douglas has written this wonderful little book which I'm certain will delight children of all ages and cat lovers in particular. Her poems rhyme like a cat in a hat, and one soon comes to know and love Hyam. The books is well written, edited and illustrated. The cover is colorful and attractive.

Kaye Trout

Liana's Bookshelf

Queen Vernita's Visitors
Dawn Menge
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 S. Parker RD-515, Parker CO 80134
9781598007145 $12.95

Very Highly Recommended

Dawn Menge, a Masters Degree holder in Special Education, makes her debut with this beautiful story for kids. More information at

Queen Vernita's Visitors is a fun book for kids to learn the 12 months, the days of the week and the seasons. Queen Vernita feels lonely so she invites her 12 friends, one each month of the year to keep her company. They share together all the activities one can imagine. This is a beautiful book that stimulates imagination and lifts the spirits. Beautifully illustrated, it is a wonderful gift for all seasons! Get it from

The Little Candy Breathing Dragons
Gloria Clark
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 S. Parker RD-515, Parker CO 80134
9781432715106 $12.95

Very Highly Recommended

Gloria Clark, a retired bookkeeper from Buffalo, New York, dedicates this book and all her future books to her late son Darian L. Clark. Read more about her book at

The Little Candy Breathing Dragons is a kids' story written in free verse. The two little dragons, who are not at all like the ordinary dragons we have known so far as these two emit candy smells that please, have various adventures; they meet a blind cat, they help a deer and finally head for home as they had been lost.

A quite original storyline that is entertaining and educational at the same time. The cute characters in this amusing adventure include animals in need. The message the author conveys through her Dragon story is to help those in need. An inspiring rhyming tale that encourages young children to be kind and helpful to others. Get this book from

Escape from Oblivion
Toby Smith
9781419696657 $16.99

Highly Recommended

Toby Smith, a holistic medicine practitioner, makes her debut into the literary world through this wonderful novel. Learn more about her at

Escape from Oblivion is a story about a young woman who is haunted by horrific nightmares. The story starts with Carrie's childhood years and the nightmares she experiences that keep recurring even during her college life. Carrie tries hard to confront the Nightmare, ease her irrational fear and get rid of it. Will she succeed? What will happen to her and what is the cause of her Nightmare??

Each chapter starts with some song lyrics that act as a heading to the chapter and help to bring the plot forward. Carrie suffers from manic depression and her relationships suffer. Her latest relationship with Brent seemed to have had a curing effect on her but Carrie wouldn't solve her problem unless she was willing to confront an incident of her past. That haunting experience has been haunting her childhood years and her following years as well, but now Carrie has finally found salvation.

The story is exciting to read and highly emotional and inspiring. The main character manages to free herself from her Nightmare and conquer her fears. The dialogue and images are vivid and strong. It is a well written novel that will absorb the reader to keep reading till he reaches the end of the story. It is an enjoyable read for those who love topics about dreams, women issues, suspense and inspirational genres. Get it from

The Adventures of Songha: The Amazing Savannah Cat
Linda R.Caterine
Author House
9781434383617 US $ 9.95

Highly Recommended

Linda R.Caterine, a mother of four, loves cats. Her own cat inspired her to write this story.

The Adventures of Songha, The Amazing Savannah Cat is a wonderful story of a Savannah cat called Songha. The story is written in the first person, in a diary- like style, that makes readers of all ages have direct contact with the cat and her life. There are eight chapters in this book and each chapter ends with a poem.

There are beautiful black and white illustrations throughout the book. The cover image is quite attractive as well as the overall presence of the book.

This book is enjoyable to read, it is educational and readers can learn a lot about the Savannah cat. Get this book from

For The Love of St. Nick
Garasamo Maccagnone
9781439210123 $8.99

Highly Recommended

Garasamo Maccagnone resides in Michigan with his family. Read more about him at

For The Love of St. Nick is a Christmas book that celebrates miracles. It is a sensitively written story about two orphaned boys who relocate with their Dad, a navy Commander, and have to cope with illness and solitude. The end of the story is positive and shows the faith of the author in religion and his fondness of family ties.

The author combines an interesting story with the feelings of two young boys and highlights the importance of family bonds and faith in God. It is written in the first person so it is direct and vivid. The style is simple and clear, thus it caters to anyone who loves reading about miracles at Christmas. It is a story for all the family. This book is a wonderful gift for Christmas. Get it from

YES: You Can Make It Happen
Juna Jinsel Ph.D.
Outskirts Press
9781432726294 $ 25.95

Very Highly Recommended

Juna Jinsel, a Pastoral Counseling Psychologist, shares her personal spiritual journey with you to help you discover happiness. Learn more about her at

YES, You Can Make It Happen is a masterpiece that combines skillfully world religions and numerous cultural aspects with the personal spiritual experiences of the author. It is undoubtedly a book that will satisfy the reader with an inquisitive mind. The book starts with an educational section about the man's origin and keeps the interest intact to chapter five, where there is ample reference to the Greek philosophers and mythology-a part that I found highly interesting as well. The author then mentions the land of Lemuria and Atlantis and offers readers a detailed and exciting description of those places, thus stimulating the imagination and desire to learn more about ancient cultures and people.

Religion issues are extensively explained in chapter eight, and as facts are historically based, this book comprises a detailed research into the main world religions such as Christianity and Islam. Interesting theories supported by sufficient references will lure the reader and make him travel back to the ancient world, at the very start of each religion.

There is rich bibliography and numerous sources at the back of the book. It is a book that educates and entertains at the same time. The author's aim is to wake people up to enable them change the way they think about religion since there is a "unity in all religions" (p.102). She even offers advice on how to improve oneself, such as dietary and relaxation tips, as well as tips to make you happy. In Part 2 the author talks about healing, the eastern and the western astrology and the auras. In the healing arts section she mentions all the healing techniques available today, such as crystal therapy, reiki and aromatherapy. The Astral travel experiences of the author that follow, are very exciting to read.

This book addresses the open minded reader with an inquisitive mind. It is a useful and valuable work that will satisfy the difficult reader who searches for a universal truth. It is a great gift to philosophy, history and social sciences reader and to those interested in astrology. Get the book from and Barnes and Noble.

Forever Lily: An Unexpected Mother's Journey to Adoption in China
Beth Nonte Russell
Simon & Schuster Touchstone
Rockefeller Center, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9780743292979 $14.00

Beth Nonte Russell, a masters degree holder in psychology, lives with her husband and two daughters outside Washington, D.C. Learn more about her at

Forever Lily is a memoir that makes a difference. The author's aim is to share her experience with the readers, let them know her inner feelings and follow her transformation that occurred during her trip to China. In this interesting account, Beth travels to China to assist her friend, Alex, adopt a baby girl. However, Beth faces a long-desired challenge when Alex changes her mind about the adoption. This is a story of love, spiritual quest and transformation that will touch the reader from the very beginning.

The story also involves Josephine, a spiritual advisor who helps the author utilize her inner power in difficult times. It is a moving story that will touch a woman's heart and can be read in just one sitting. Written in the first person and in what we call ¡the historical present' this story enables the reader have direct contact with the main character and feel her agony and triumphs throughout the plot. The author includes parts of her dreams in every chapter showing the readers the impact they have on her life. The story addresses women issues that show the difference between the eastern and the western culture. Women in the east are degraded and are regarded as nothing.

The story is also a spiritual journey towards love, and includes aspects of the Chinese culture, thus it is educational. It is a great story to read, entertaining and positive. It encourages adoption despite the drawbacks the author encountered. Get this book from

Little Stories
Jeff Roberts
Outskirts Press
9781432727017 $21.95

Jeff Roberts, a B.A. in Liberal Studies holder, has been recently nominated for a William Rockhill Nelson Award. He lives with his family in Missouri. Learn more about his work at

Little Stories is a collection of short stories that lure the mind into a dream space of relationships and turbulent feelings. The author uses vivid scenes, live images and real strong characters and situations. His stories are detailed and well crafted, and his writing style is highly emotional and sensitive. Jeff tries to capture moments in real life, just like a photographer does. He depicts the raw reality using detailed descriptions, complex sentences and live dialogue. He talks about relationships, love, death, betrayal, misery, desperation and loneliness, all the emotions a man can feel. The readers will sympathize with him and feel the emotional ups and downs his stories convey.

This book is enjoyable to read and feel; Jeff's stories stimulate imagination and leave the reader think about the future. It is a great book for the thinking reader. Get this book from

The Ark, the Reed and the Fire Cloud
Jenny L.Cote
Living Ink Books
9780899571980 $14.99

Jenny L.Cote has a passion for God, History and young people. She lives in Roswell, Georgia, where she writes full time. Visit her at

The Ark, the Reed and the Fire Cloud is an enjoyable story about Noah's Ark. Actually, the innovative aspect is that this story is retold from a unique perspective; via the adventures of a dog, Max, who is called by the Voice to follow the red cloud and fulfill his own destiny. What is going to happen to him on the way to the Ark? Max feels lonely but soon he comes across a lot of new friends that he will protect during their long journey to the other side of the earth.

The author manages to retell this old Bible story from a fresh point of view. The language is simple for all children to follow and the cover is very attractive. In this book the kids meet all kinds of animals from all parts of the world, and it is humorous at times, sad or exciting to read about all the details Jenny provides her young readers with. This book caters to young readers, age 8-12, but it is also suitable for everyone in the family as it is entertaining and educational. It is a good read for schools and reading groups as it provides input to talk about and encourages readers to see old biblical stories in a new light. Get this book from

Liana Metal, Reviewer

Lorraine's Bookshelf

Making the Connection Between Brain and Behavior
Joseph H. Friedman, MD
Demos Medical Publishing
386 Park Avenue South, Suite 301, NY, NY 10016
9781932603422, $19.95,

"Making the Connection Between Brain and Behavior: Coping with Parkinson's Disease" is a fresh resource for patients and caretakers dealing with effects and behavior patterns characteristic of persons with Parkinson's disease. Dr. Friedman's approach and focus are unique in PD resources. He presents a catalog of behavioral changes documented in persons with PD along with information about possible causes and remedies, or coping strategies. Documented with actual (unnamed) case studies, "Brain and Behavior" is sure to be an educational handbook for persons with PD and their caretakers. Dr. Friedman is an advocate for both responsible treatment and for self-care and treatment responsibility of the individual. Deciding what causes difficult behaviors can be tricky in persons with PD and others. Nevertheless, Dr. Friedman is able to bring new clarity and practical treatment approaches to problems such as sleep disorders, compulsive activities (including excessive gambling), confusion and delirium, movement disorders, hallucinations and delusions, and more. The medical resources to treat both PD and the associated side effects of these medications are varied, vast and complex. Dr. Friedman makes an effort to present some of the helpful information in this fast growing field to PD patients and caretakers. "Making the Connection Between Brain and Behavior" is an excellent resource for anyone interested in learning more about the complex patterns of persons with Parkinson's Disease.

Indian Arts of the Southwest
Susanne & Jake Page
Rio Nuevo Publishers
P. O. Box 5250, Tuscon, Arizona 85703
9781933855172, $19.95,

"Indian Arts of the Southwest" is a beautiful paperback guide to the varied art works and craft objects made by Native Americans of the Southwest. Limiting their focus to the areas of Arizona, New Mexico, and parts of southern Utah and Colorado, the Pages carefully organize and present information to the collector or interested observer on baskets, pottery, sculpture, Katsina dolls, jewelry, and much more. Included in the narrative are many beautiful full color photographs of authentic examples of Native American arts. Along with views of native creations are many educational insets that amplify the history of different Southwestern indigenous tribes. Specific maps of the tribal lands are also helpful. Proper and courteous behavior for individuals visiting tribal areas is also suggested and emphasized. A clear value and respect for the immense cultural contributions of Southwestern Native artists and artisans is maintained throughout. "Indian Arts of the Southwest" is a beautiful guide and index to the rainbow myriad of creations that are to be found in this fascinating area.

Laura Ingalls Wilder and Rose Wilder Lane
John E. Miller
University of Missouri Press
2910 LeMone Boulevard, Columbia, MO 65201
9780826218230, $39.95, 1-800-828-1894

"Laura Ingalls Wilder and Rose Wilder Lane: Authorship, Place, Time and Culture" is a new collection of nine essays further exploring the contributions of both authors to American literature and history. Going beyond the scope of issues of the "Little House" authorship and 'authentic voice' debates, the author presents both women as serious, impassioned, talented authors with differing conservative political views and contrasting talents. "Laura Ingalls Wilder and Rose Wilder Lane" goes beyond the tint of sentiment in its viewpoint,, and rightly establishes the solid contributions of both author and editor to the large field of literary thought and tradition.
Special attention is paid to the place of each woman in American history, and the influences shown upon them in their writing. Further exploration is made of Laura Ingalls Wilder's attitude towards Native Americans in her writings and in her memories. Miller's strong basic thesis is that repeated questions regarding the true authorship of the "Little House" series is unproductive and does not do justice to the creative input of either author to the series. At the same time, Miller is careful to affirm that the literal historical truth of the "Little House" writings is not always upheld. Artistic license is in evidence as are significant omissions. This does not detract from the considerable value and authenticity of the writings of both women.

Further exploration of the relationship between the two women and analysis of the work of Rose Wilder Lane is assisted by reference to her personal journal entries and correspondences. A detailed, complex relationship between Wilder and Lane emerges.

"Laura Ingalls Wilder and Rose Wilder Lane" is a worthwhile examination of two fascinating female authors of mid-century America. It will help complete our understanding of the enduring children's literature authored.

Laura Ingalls Wilder and Rose Wilder Lane: Authorship, Place, Time and Culture
John E. Miller
University of Missouri Press
2910 LeMone Boulevard, Columbia, Missouri 65201
9780826218230 $39.95 (573) 8820180

"Laura Ingalls Wilder and Rose Wilder Lane" is a new collection of nine essays further exploring the contributions of both authors to American literature and history. Going beyond the scope of issues of the "Little House" authorship and 'authentic voice' debates, the author presents both women as serious, impassioned, talented authors with differing conservative political views and contrasting talents. "Laura Ingalls Wilder and Rose Wilder Lane" goes beyond the tint of sentiment in its viewpoint,, and rightly establishes the solid contributions of both author and editor to the large field of literary thought and tradition. Special attention is paid to the place of each woman in American history, and the influences shown upon them in their writing. Further exploration is made of Laura Ingalls Wilder's attitude towards Native Americans in her writings and in her memories. Miller's strong basic thesis is that repeated questionings regarding the true authorship of the "Little House" series is unproductive and does not do justice to the creative input of either author to the series. At the same time, Miller is careful to affirm that the literal historical truth of the "Little House" writings is not always upheld. Artistic license is in evidence as are significant omissions. This does not detract from the considerable value and authenticity of the writings of both women.

Further exploration of the relationship between the two women and analysis of the work of Rose Wilder Lane is assisted by reference to her personal journal entries and correspondences. A detailed, complex relationship between Wilder and Lane emerges.

"Laura Ingalls Wilder and Rose Wilder Lane" is a worthwhile examination of two fascinating female authors of midcentury America. It will help complete our understanding of the enduring children's literature authored.

Nancy Lorraine

Margaret's Bookshelf

A Faery's Tale
Marissa Lynn Jordan
171 Center Ridge, RM 207D, Berea, OH 44017
International Plaza II, Suite 410, Philadelphia, PA 19113-1513
9781425777579, $19.99,

It ain't easy being king, and it ain't easy being princess either. "A Faery's Tale" is the story of Princess Elysia and her servant boy Flynn. Despite one blooming friendship, everyone else in the world seems to be out to get her and to take the throne of the Maplewood for themselves. A fairy tale packed with political intrigue and the search for love, "A Faery's Tale" is solid reading for young fantasy readers.

Arsenic Soup for Lovers
Georgia Z. Post
2021 Pine Lake Road, Suite 100, Lincoln, NE 68512
9780595423071, $8.95,

The typical warm, feel good stories don't always live up to their purpose. "Arsenic Soup for Lovers: When Chicken Soup Doesn't Work" is a dose of humorous and viciously real tales for those in relationships which weren't crafted in heaven and are a bit more real. The stories, although not filled with happy endings, are meant to be read as couples to bond them and make them realize that although they have their problems, things could be much worse. "Arsenic Soup for Lovers" is brilliant and highly recommended reading.

Janet Hubbs
Author House
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781434396662, $17.99,

The person who enters a university and the person who leaves it are rarely ever the same. "Syracuse" follows young Liz Brown, faced with the wild life that is campus life. Finding out much about herself and the world around her, it's a no holds barred coming of age story that pulls no punches about the truth of being a college student in the 1960s. "Syracuse" is riveting and will have much for any reader who has ever set foot on a campus to relate to.

Reflections on Life's Lessons
Christina M. Giles
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533142491, $8.95,

Life is a school that never lets out. "Reflections on Life's Lessons" is experienced poet Christina M. Giles' chapbook on evaluating the lessons that life places in front of them. Focusing on the relationships of life and what they teach us, "Reflections on Life's Lessons" is a strong consideration for poetry fans. "A Grandparent's Love": A grandparent's love is divine;/I am very glad that I have you as mine./Through the years,/You've shown me more love than you know;/When something happens, you're always ready to go./You are always ready to rush by my side;/And when I'm hurting, you say, "Go ahead and cry."/In the past two years,/I've come across many heartaches;/This is my way of thanking you/For the time that you take./So I thank you, "Feisty,", for being there for me;/I am going to love you through eternity.

T and Me
Mary Burgess-Smith
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
Star Treatment (publicity)
PO Box 133, Beaver Crossing, NE 68313
9780595487189, $14.95,

Accidents are terrible and life changing, and the challenges presented from them are simply living through life. "T and Me: Journey into Discovery" is a mother's ordeal of dealing an inadequate professional system when dealing with her daughter Tania's crippling accident. Tania suffered as brain injury, and Smith offers the recovery process from a mother's perspective. Tragic, yet trying to inform, "T and Me" is well worth the read for parents in similar situations.

Margaret Lane

Molly's Bookshelf

Asperger Syndrome - What Teachers Need to Know: Written for Cloud 9 Children's Foundation
Matt Winter
Jessica Kingsley
9781843101437 $15.95

Asperger Syndrome: What Teachers Need to Know presents an immediate outline pertaining to what parents and teachers may to expect when dealing with children having Asperger Syndrome.

Children having the syndrome may show evidence of a deficiency of empathy, may be immature, inappropriate or present one sided interaction. These children may have little to no capacity for forming friendships, may present sophistic, or recurring speech, have meager nonverbal communication, concentrated fascination for certain subjects, and may have ungainly or poorly coordinated movements in addition to odd postures.

The chapter entitled What is Asperger Syndrome presents amplification regarding what Asperger is, and how it may be characterized in kids who have the Syndrome. At times Asperger is referred to or thought of as high functioning autism. Asperger Syndrome presents Social Interaction, Communication, Imagination and Sensory Sensitivity complexities.

Along with listing many of the problem areas exhibited by kids having Asperger Syndrome, Writer Winter also suggests many positive traits these kids also exhibit including honesty, reliability, dedication and determination.

Chapter two in particular addresses symptoms children having the syndrome may present, however it is well to bear in mind that no two subjects present exactly the same set of symptoms. In general these children will not comprehend why people lie, will say precisely what they think with no regard to situation or feelings of those spoken to and will exhibit intense loyalty.

Children having Asperger are frequently imaginative, often have out of the ordinary interest bordering on enthrallment to fixation, benefit from routine, often have dilemma when trying to read societal cues or body language in others, exhibit high stress levels, tire more easily than others, have trouble when expressing or modulating emotions and have trouble reading other people's emotions. These children often have a powerful personal moral code coupled with a total sense of justice, often suppose that everyone believes unerringly as he does, have little consciousness that his words or behaviors are hurting others and will often deem that he is absolutely right no matter evidence to the contrary.

On an intellectual level these children are inclined toward literal thinking and often miss implied meaning, have more trouble than peers when trying to sequence, and recollect more easily what is seen rather than what is said. Children having Asperger may often have short term auditory memory loss, are regularly able to remember and list large amounts of true-life data, are less perceptive than are many others, and often have trouble thinking through how specific outcomes may arise.

Kids having Asperger often have difficulty generalizing, find ambiguity objectionable, will not often want to make any attempt should even possibility of mistake present itself, often have trouble with handwriting, fine motor skills are more difficult.

Writer Winter is a primary teacher and tenders proposals for classroom strategies as well as those for helping kids develop social skills, guiding kids on playground, how para professionals can be used for helping kids with severe problems, who in school needs to know this child has the syndrome.

Winter discusses homework and whether it should be offered for these kids, how kids having Asperger can be aided with study habits, what should happen before the child changes class or school, and qualifications needed for teaching the child and how to gain more knowledge concerning Asperger.

Writer Winter elucidates Asperger's characteristics obviously and plainly, without relying on surface jargon. I like that affirmative characteristics of children with Asperger's are presented along with the more troublesome, less positive ones.

I have both taught kids having Asperger, and have raised a child who presents many of the characteristics. My own child is old enough that autism and Asperger were not terms used much. He was thought simply to be a strong willed child.

Asperger Syndrome: What Teachers Need to Know offers a fast reading precis of behaviors teachers may see exhibited in the classroom by children having Asperger's, and proffers some stratagem for use when working with kids having those characteristics.

Because we see more and more children with definable issues in the classroom today, understanding of Asperger Syndrome has increased as has recognition for many of the other attendant syndromes, conditions and behaviors children may present. Most teachers I know have far more expertise for and understanding of many conditions unheard of when first I began teaching.

Asperger Syndrome What Teachers Need to Know provides a synopsis of current information regarding AS. Happy to recommend.

Queen Vernita's Visitors
Dawn Menge
Bobbi Switzer, illustrator
Outskirts Press
9781598007145 $12.95

Dawn Menge - Queen Vernita's Visitors opens with a clarification that Vernita is the sovereign of Oceaneer a most grandiose world. Living in a beautiful castle that was covered in ivy and red roses she was mostly happy.

While Vernita loved being the monarch; she missed all her friends from the land of Quails. After noting her calendar she realized that it had been one complete year since she had seen her friends. Queen Vernita determined to encourage her friends to come for a visit during each month of the coming year. That very evening Queen Vernita wrote twelve invitations to her twelve friends.

Osage County First Grade get pleasure from listening to the entertaining account centered upon Queen Vernita and her calendar of friends and activities. We note that the Queen and her comrade Debbie spent time together beginning January 1 through January 31, plus during each day of the week the duo benefited from taking part in different activities: on Mo it was jolly jump rope, Tu found them juggling jacks, on Wed they played four square, and on Th they took pleasure in marvelous movies, Fr the twosome popped pumpernickel popcorn, Sa they enjoyed long walks around the castle and on Sundays they stayed in and read three books.

Alliteration, repetition, names of the days of the week and day number and order, in addition to month order and the names of each month grants an outstanding teaching tool for morning calendar work in K - 1 grades. Calendar is one of the required teaching goals in many states.

Tommie who only stayed 28 days came in February - it was not leap year and he and the Queen enjoyed snowy activities on top of spending some time staying in and writing letters in cursive script, March brought Dana who stayed for 31 days in addition to her bringing along her seven favorite board games. It was April and warmer weather when Cale as well as his dog Scrappers arrived for a 30 day visit. And, in May, Jeremy arrived in time to see all the flora the April showers had created. He and the Queen picked flowers during each of the 31 days of the holiday.

June and the commencement of summer found Westley arriving for his 30 day visit during which he and Queen Vernita had a grand time spending time in the summer sun. Ashlie arrived for a visit on the Oceaneer Beach with Queen Vernita where they spent 31 splendid sun filled days.

Thus it went month by month and friend by friend, Hannah appeared in August, followed by Virginia in September, Mike arrived in October, he gave way in November to Nicole. Tyler Ann was the last of the twelve for 31 days in December.

Furthermore, as Vernita waved goodbye to a departing Tyler Ann, we see the approaching carriage bringing Debbie for her next January visit.

Instructing Little People re the monthly calendar, days of the weeks, holidays and seasons through the exploits chronicling Queen Vernita and her friends; is a task Osage County First Grade undertakes during morning calendar time. Queen Vernita and her friends is chosen also as a book for reading for enjoyment at the reading table during work time, or for taking to a DEAR office for sustained reading time.

The hypothesis behind the account is engaging as the Queen invites 12 unique friends to visit with her during each month of the year. I am pleased to find the Queen has an ample circle of friends including women - Debbie, Hannah, Virginia and Nicole; men - Tommie, Jeremy and Mike; teens - Dana and Ashlie children - Cale, Westley and Tyler Ann. Relationships and interpersonal relationships is another area of study in the classroom.

Calendar tasking in our classroom incorporates conversation re month name and order, names and days of the week as well as the day before, and the day after, seasons are discussed and illustrations noted whether they are cold activities, inside activities, outside or beach activities and why some activities are appropriate for the particular month and season and they are not appropriate for other seasons or months.

I like that the notion of leap year is introduced, this school year Osage County First Grade noted that 2008 is/was a leap year, and that in our country, The United States, that means election year for choosing a new President who is the leader of our country. Casting ballots for president in November was one of our activities.

Images supplied by artist Bobbi Switzer are sparkling, filled with exhilaration and movement through the use of effervescent color. I particularly enjoy the portrayal of Vernita, she does bear a resemblance to a well known monarch.

Writer/Educator Menge has created an appealing, well written account in picture book for kids and adults to get pleasure from. Highly recommended as a grand read, and as a winning teaching tool useful for emphasizing calendar related themes and activities. Whether in home or classroom setting Queen Vernita's Visitors is a must have.

Just Who Will You Be? Big Question. Little Book. Answer Within.
Maria Shriver
77 west 66th street, NY, NY 10023
9781401323189 $14.95

On the pages of Just Who Will You Be? Big Question, Little Book, Answer Within is found one more in a lengthy line of bestselling works written by a woman who has managed to whittle a forte for herself in a family of huge names, huge accomplishments and huge ambitions.

In her Acknowledgments Shriver states that who she is has a lot to do with herself, nevertheless, who she is also has everything to do with the numerous people who have touched her life along the way.

She says that it was during the period when she was sixteen and her father ran for Vice President of the United States that Shriver ascertained the exhilarating enthusiasm of the life of journalists. As she sat in the rear of her father's campaign plane with all the working journalists; Shriver became conscious that the ones asking the questions were the ones having the better time.

It was then that she recognized that she wanted to be the woman on the TV screen, and, following her own college graduation that is exactly what she did. Before too much time passed she WAS Maria Shriver, TV newswoman.

And then, to her astonishment, her husband announced he would be running for Governor of California and Shriver faced the end of her life as a newswoman. After a quarter century Shriver found her career ended, and with that ended the persona she had been or so thought the author.

An appeal for Shriver to speak at her nephew's graduation helped the journalist, wife, mother, and displaced writer focus her attention in another direction when those in the audience suggested to Shriver that she turn her speech into a book. Her speech was entitled 'Just Who Will You Be.'

Shriver's graduation speech presented to the class is offered for reader interest. In the text Shriver gave a description of some of her personal life history, she deliberated whether she had been bidden to speak for the reason that her husband is Arnold Schwarzenegger, or because she is a Kennedy, or perhaps it was due to the fact that Sargent Shriver, her father, established the Peace Corps, furthermore her mother Eunice launched the Special Olympics.

Since none of those notions seems to fit Shriver notes that she next mulled several other possibilities until she at last came up with the fame thing. It was she thought the fame thing, the desire of youth to become famous that was the motivating factor for the invitation - after all, Shriver is herself famous in her own right, and is surrounded by famous people and has been throughout her lifetime.

Shriver does acknowledge that fame can get the famous a better table in a crowded restaurant, or a meeting with someone who is into fame, however, she points out that no matter how good fame may look on the outside, it is only an image. Fame in and of itself, says Shriver, cannot make you happy, or feel worthy, or give life joy and meaning.

And that is when she comes to the most important aspect of her speech: Shriver points out that the only way to feel good about yourself, to feel worthy, and find life of meaning and joy is to find your own path, your own voice and to follow your own heart. When you live your own life and not an imitation of the life of someone else, THEN, it is possible to feel good about yourself.

Included in the work is a poem by Shriver entitled 'Just Who Will You Be' in which she Congratulates the graduates, asks them to take a look deep inside themselves, points out that everyone's life is an uncharted course; so go out and live it without regret or remorse, reminds the graduates that it is OK to change your mind. She goes on to discuss career choices, and marriage and the need for perspective and understanding, and draws the ode to a close by pointing out that it is not what you have but what you have in your heart, how much joy do you give, and who are the people that you have helped that count.

Later as she talked with a friend about her speech and the trouble she had had in trying to come up with something to tell a group of youngsters embarking on their lives that Shriver began to realize that she too had been floundering, she had felt as tough she had lost who she was when she was no longer working as a journalist. Shriver says she felt like a shadow of herself and felt that if she could only get her old job back she would again be whole. However, after talking with her old network and being offered a position much as she had held before Shriver came to the realization that she is she, with or without the job. Change comes to us all, it is not always good or bad, but change comes and with it comes new outlook, new perspective and new understanding.

Shriver's slim motivating manuscript is a sincere self-portrait of a woman in the midst of a changeover. Shriver was thrown for a loop when the longtime NBC anchorwoman, was asked to resign following her husband's election as governor of California.

Shriver who depicts herself as a complete birthright bearing, accomplishment seeking people satisfying, Good Girl overachiever, came to appreciate that asking ourselves not merely what we want to do or we want to be but who we want to be is essential at each juncture of our lives, and is not something we do only as we are beginning our own lives in the world following marriage or graduation or beginning a job.

Shriver's highly readable fashion for writing; make Just Who Will You Be? Big Question. Little book. Answer Within. interesting, intriguing and truly motivational. Happy to recommend.

Write It Right, The Ground Rules for Self-Editing Like the Pros
Dawn Josephson, Lauren Hidden
Cameo Publications
478 Brown's Cove Road Ridgeland SC 29936
9780974496627 $17.95

Write It Right: The Ground Rules For Self-Editing Like The Pros is a volume with 127 text pages. The work is, separated into Acknowledgments, Introduction, Five steps to better writing/editing, Appendices, Epilogue and Index.

Write It Right, The Ground Rules for Self-Editing Like the Pros is the creation of women entrepreneurs Dawn Josephson and Lauren Hidden. The steps for writing and editing work are offered as five uncomplicated segments.

Packed with examples and frequently asked questions along with hints, handwritten marginal notes, and graphs the divisions are arranged so that readers can effortlessly read one particular section during a break, while waiting at the dentist or when working on a specific document at the office.

Step one is the Warm Up Search for the Occurrence of similar Writing challenges. One key point discussed is the fact that knowing what your problems are constitutes half the battle seems a bit obvious, however it is something that is often overlooked.

Step two Approach the Starting Line Prepare to Edit is especially helpful as it guides the reader toward thinking as would an editor and not like a writer. Ground rules for editing include proposals for construction of a personalized editing checklist, ideas for how to go about scheduling time for the editing phase, detaching from the work, as well as how to go about working on a hard copy. The writers suggest that if as a writer you're too attached to your work, you'll never edit it successfully.

Step three Run the Race The Editing Process Begins offers workable suggestions for setting the course for triumph including putting forth the view that the more you're able to center your thinking and your writing; the better your editing experience will be.

Step four Hand Off The Baton and Let the Relay Begin puts in place the awareness that an assortment of surveys document that 70 to 80% of professionals write their materials collaboratively; meaning as writers they get contribution from others to assure that their finished writing product comes across both competently and as it should be. Having a trusted colleague read the work in progress offers another slant and awareness for how the writing may be received by the public at large.

Step five A Picture Perfect Finish The Final Stretch guides the reader toward crossing the finish line of editing with a well edited manuscript ready for printing in hand.

What to do when you are pressed for time is addressed in Appendix A.

Appendix B lists How to Sabotage your Self Editing Efforts while Ground Rules of Grammar and Usage are found in Appendix C. Grammar is the oil that causes work to flow smoothly creating easy reading, and grammar does matter to editors and readers alike. Appendix D contains a number of useful Forms and Checklists.

Write It Right, The Ground Rules for Self-Editing Like the Pros is an effortlessly read volume certain to develop into a important tool for all writers who look forward to improving their writing whether it be articles, essays and books or letters, reports, or news articles. Above all I like the design with problems to solve and detailed answers telling how and why particular sentences needed correction.

The easily read, brisk method of presentation will hold appeal to those who are bored to tears with academia type grammar texts. The five chapters encompassing Write It Right, The Ground Rules for Self-Editing Like the Pros offer the authors' thoughts regarding successful self-editing.

'Questions for Self-Reflection' included at the end of chapters are added to aid writers toward realizing the areas in their writing which need more work. The focus of Write It Right, The Ground Rules for Self-Editing Like the Pros is self-editing…. Aspiring writers should not rely on publishers or others to do editing for them.

The work can be quickly read as a whole. Serious writers will want to keep the book on their desk for use when that novel or other manuscript is ready for rewrite. Write It Right, The Ground Rules for Self-Editing Like the Pros is a noteworthy addition to the writer library shelf, home library and home school library for students to use for improving writing skills. On the whole I found the work to include many useful tips and valuable writing information, happy to recommend.

Stellaluna: A Pop-Up Book and Mobile
Janell Cannon
Reading level: Ages 4-8
Harcourt Children's Books
9780152015305 $TBA

Janell Cannon - Stellaluna: A Pop-Up Book and Mobile is a favorite of Osage County First Grade and of Mrs M. I have long been captivated with pop up books, and have yet to find a child who is not as spellbound as am I.

I have, and use, many Pop-Up Books in my classroom. The Little People are always thrilled to have the occasion to use one of them. And I find the kids treat these special books with the highest care.

After all these years I have spent in the classroom; I go on using many of the first books I bought so many years ago. Over the years I add to the collection. The account of Stellaluna is at once touching, emotive and moving.

There once lived a mother fruit bat and her soft, tiny baby. Mama Bat loved that little girl baby, and carried Stellaluna with her each evening as she went out to find food. One night while Mama flew an owl struck. Down dropped little Stellaluna. Her small wings were limp; she did not yet know how to fly.

All through that night a petite, alarmed bat clung to a branch and called to her mother in tiny squeaks. Daybreak came, and the weary little bat could not continue clinging to the twig, down she again fell.

Landing headfirst in a nest lodging three wee birds; Stellaluna landed with a Flump. It didn't take her long to climb right back out of that next and begin clinging, upside down, to the nest. At last, hunger, apprehension, and fatigue drove the little bat into the nest where she began a new life with adopted siblings Flap, Flitter and Pip.

She learned to eat yucky insects even though she did make a face and she remained awake during the day and learned to sleep at night. She continued liking to sleep hanging upside down by her feet. However, the day when Mama Bird found all four little ones hanging upside down she lay down the law, -in the nest and no more hanging by feet.-

When the time came and Mama told the four it was time to learn to fly; Stellaluna found she was able to fly just like the little birds.

Now, landing presented a whole 'nother set of problems for Stellaluna. And even though she tried so hard, Stellaluna just could not master the elegant landings her adopted siblings were able to implement.

One day, the four little flyers went a far distance from home. As nightfall approached the three little birds grew concerned, Stellaluna was no where to be seen. At last the worried little trio gave up and started for home.

Stellaluna flew and flew until she was too worn-out to fly anymore. She dropped to a tree. Sighing, she hung by her thumbs - after all, she had promised Mama Bird she would not hang by her feet, and she soon fell asleep.

Soft wings approached close to where Stellaluna hung sleeping.

- Hey- a voice sounded nearby. Stellaluna woke to find herself face to face with a strange countenance and a voice asking why she was hanging upside down. Stellaluna explained she had promised Mama Bird no more hanging by her feet, so she was hanging by her thumbs.

- Wrong for a bird, maybe, but not for a bat.-

More bats arrived and crowded together around the perplexed little Stellaluna. As she told her story about the owl attack, and falling from the sky; a bat pushed near. That bat sniffed Stellaluna's fur.

Oh what happiness when Stellaluna's mother realized her baby had not perished in the fall. What a reunion when Stellaluna realized her very own Mom had not perished when the Owl attacked.

The narrative continues as Stellaluna is united with her bat colony. She returns to the nest to ask her adopted family to come and visit, and, they all agree that being dissimilar is not a bad thing, especially when they are friends. And, Stellaluna, Flap, Pip and Flitter decided they definitely were friends, and that's a fact.

The innovative account has been simplified a tad to fit the pop up conversion. On the other hand all of the charisma and appeal found in the various other editions is present in the pop up edition as well. The three dimensional mobile provides a supplementary motivation for reading as it hangs from the ceiling in a corner of the classroom.

Stellaluna is a charismatic account of comradeship, optimism, and accomplishment offered in a diversity of editions including: board book, hard back, pop up, oversize/big book edition, paperback, Spanish, along with a plush bat.

On the pages following the story itself in the hardcover edition of the book are included bat notes appropriate for use in a classroom science lesson setting.

The pop up version is a special edition Little People enjoy working toward having the opportunity to actually hold, and carefully turn the pages.

We use either the hardcover edition or the paperback for pleasure reading and DEAR reading use. The Big Book edition is great for whole class activities.

All editions of Stellaluna are child pleasing works, happy to recommend.

All by Myself
Mercer Mayer
Tandem Library
9780808563945 $12.95

Mercer Mayer's - All by Myself finds Little Critter is growing up. Little Critter can ride his bike and give his bear a drink, he can kick a ball and roll on the ground, he can even look after his little sister. He helps dad trim a bush and helps mom put frosting on a cake. He reads a book to his little sister and he can color a picture. But, he cannot go to sleep without a story.

There are numerous things he can do for himself. He can get out of bed with no help, he can dress himself and brush his fur, he can put on his socks and tie his shoes. Little Critter can even pour some juice for his little sister, and, he can lend a hand to her as she eats her breakfast.

All by Myself is packed with the same child pleasing, colored pencil illustrations that are always a key component of Mercer Mayer works. Little Critter has been a longtime choice for my K - 1 students.

Many Mercer Mayer Little Critter books also feature tiny 'littler critters' who move from page to page with Little Critter and take part in his adventures, antics and exploits. All by Myself features our old comrade, mouse. The students in my present first grade class get pleasure from watching both Little Critter as his story is told; along with noting the actions of the tiny one too.

Little Critter does many of the things my students do. He dresses himself, brushes his own hair and ties his own shoes. My students regularly come to school with hair wildly awry to proudly announce, I combed my own hair. Numerous first graders tie their shoes, NOT along with shoes on the wrong feet and even now and then one black and one brown. Besides, who said striped shirts cannot be worn with flowered pants?

Mouse trails along with Little Critter from incident to escapade. He watches as Little Critter exerts great effort to button buttons, tie ties and zip zippers. Students in my classroom regularly have struggles with zippers or buttons. Fetching his umbrella mouse waits as Little Critter pours the juice.

My first graders today laugh and remind one another of spills or other mishaps as they water our room plants.

His shoes untied Little Critter plays with little sister. 'Tie your shoes before you fall.' Is a common phrase heard in our first grade classroom. 'I'll help you,' is also heard as one child who can tie helps a classmate who cannot.

My Students today, the ones I taught way back when, and even my own NOW adult children as well enjoy/enjoyed hearing the book read to them, and later began reading the work for themselves.

My younger son, now a grown adult noted the book as I was preparing the review and still chuckles as he observes Little Critter carefully whacking the rosebush at the base with the 'cutters'.

Remember when I pulled all your 'merry-go - rounds' out of the ground for a bouquet, Mom?- Marigolds are not really major cut flowers, and trying to replant what little hands have removed with a tug and jerk does not work real good either.

The Mercer Mayer Little Critter books I bought when my own children were tots have now seen use in my K -1 classroom for the greater part of my teaching career. The sturdy, well made editions continue to hold up well even after repeated readings by teacher and Little People.

I think I get pleasure from the books as much as do the students and am happy to recommend for the little people who are the target audience, and the adults or others who will be reading to them.

All by Myself is a read-to book for the youngest children, ages baby to 3, it is a read-with-help for K-1 set and a 'I'll read-to- you' for the 7s and 9s.

I find that many older children never lose their affection for Little Critter.

Reading the books to 'the little kids' in my room, or in the Kindergarten gives my former 4th graders now 7th and 8th graders permission to continue enjoying the books well past the time the books were 'meant for them.'

All by Myself with its good message of doing all you can for yourself, asking for help when you actually need it, along with the well done illustrations and limited vocabulary is a bastion in my classroom as it was for our home library.

Happy to recommend for children's pleasure reading, home, classroom, school and public library lists.

Skippyjon Jones and the Big Bones
Judy Schachner
Dutton Juvenile
Har/Com edition
9780525478843 $16.99

Skippyjon Jones and the Big Bones is set in motion with Skippy over in Mrs Dolly Doohiggy's garden.

Judy Schachner's Skippyjon Jones and the Big Bones is an additional work in the well-liked series featuring that kitty boy, Mama JuneBug Jones and Skippy's three little sisters JuJu Bee, Jezebel and Jilly Boo.

We see Skippy digging in the garden. Mrs Dolly Doohiggy's garden is where Mrs D's dog, Darwin, buried all of his bones and NOBODY but nobody messes with Darwin. Mama JuneBug, her mount filled with wooden clothes pins was hanging wash on the line when her kitty boy dashed right through the sheets as fast as his legs could scuttle.

Clutching a bone in his mouth; Skippy had plans to become a world famous paleontologist. In his bedroom Skippy is building a Skipposaurus. Of course his Mama does not have the same opinion and is adamant that Skippy return those bones he has taken to Darwin. A good bounce on his big boy bed and Skippy is ready for adventure, into his closet where he is convinced he will find dinosaurs.

Before long Skippy is face to face with his old friends the Chimichangos who are sitting on the rim of a volcano where they are roasting MARSHmallows .

The tale takes a turn when Mount Itchee Gitchee Gumba blew its top, followed by the approach of T Mexito along with a whole gang of other dinosaurios, - big ones, little ones, feathered and bald ones, some were prickly and overflowing with a look that could kill. Most amazing, they all doing the same thing; THEY WERE DANCING A RHUMBA.

Suddenly a Boom, Boom, Boom sounded and a smell filled the air. It wasn't the dinosaurious that smelled; it was Darwin, and he was knock, knock, knockin', on Skippy's closet door.

A click and the door opened and out tumbled one poofy tailed Skippy riding on an avalanche of bones. When Skippy came too, Mama Junebug and the little kitty girls sat looking at Skip. He was snuggled under a blankie in a soft kitty bed, ice bag on his head, with a band-aid on his brow. He wasn't positive just what had happened but he was a tad the worse for wear after that avalanche.

Mama Junebug was pleased Skippy had returned those bones to Darwin.

Judy Schachner's growing Skippyjon series is an Osage County First Grade favorite. One of the perks for a teacher of Little People; we get to read some of the most delightful of all books. And Judy Schachner's Skippyjon series provides many of the most delightful of all books.

In our Osage County First Grade classroom we have numerous of the books making up the Skippyjon series to date. Skippyjon Jones and the Big Bones gives us one more tale to love.

I like that Writer Schachner uses imagination, fun, activity and words of Spanish in each of the Skippyjon tales. Osage County First Grade likes learning those Spanish words, and they are learning to use their own imagination to create stories and pictures filled with enjoyment and exhilaration.

Osage County First Grade blossoms and flourishes when they read tales having repetition, and predictability. Writer Schachner's Skippyjon books ARE written pretty much along the lines of a predictable format repeated in various versions. I like it and Osage County First Grade likes it. We do not want writer Schachner to change anything about Skippy and his Chimichango cronies.

Schachner's illustrations are perfect for the wording used, I have no doubt the writer has had a long experience with cats in her life. The image of the three little kitty girls flopped on their tummies in the grass watching Darwin sleep could not better exemplify goofy little cat behavior of kittens.

Skippyjon's Spanish and his conduct is pretty representative for children of K-Primary age. I have that often little kids just really are convinced the garble they express with syllables strung together ie Wa wha wha wa wa, or adding an o IS language and makes perfect sense. Skippyjon's adaptation of Spanish by simply adding an o here and there makes perfect sense to Skippy and perfect sense to Osage County First Grade.

Skippyjon's mind's eye thoughts are what fuels his antics and his closet bound meetings with the Chimichangos. As with all children invented reality is built on children's perception of things seen and unseen from life; kids watch TV, see movies, hear parents and others talk and at times come up with some really skewered perceptions at times. But, that IS was imagination is all about. Skippyjon and his imagination is not a lot different than the imagination of any little kid; skewered at times.

I do like that there are bona fide Spanish words and phrases included in the account found in each book; Osage county First Grade delights in learning some Spanish, and use the real language words and phrases as often as they can in daily activities.

Skippyjon Jones and the Big Bones presents Osage County First Grade occasion for dialogue centered on imagination and actuality, performance of Little People, words paleontologist, sediment, gigantic, dogs, imagination, volcano, stop - drop - roll, avalanche, as well as words of endearment and so much more as we enjoy writer Schachner Skippyjon series. Happy to recommend.

Molly Martin

Richard's Bookshelf

When God Shows Up
R. T. Kendall
Charisma House
600 Rinehart Road, Lake Mary, FL 32746
9781599793429 $14.99

God's Nearness and Unexpected Encounters

R. T. Kendall, former pastor of Westminster Chapel in London, maintains that God shows up in numerous ways and at unexpected times in our lives. His book "When God Shows Up" offers suggestions to help the reader recognize these unexpected appearances of God. This is a book about renewal and of the blessing the Holy Spirit is bringing into the corporate life of the church body as well as in the lives of individual believers today.

Kendall uses scriptural examples as well as his own personal life experiences to illustrate how to listen for God, how to know what He has said, and to know how to act in response to what He said.

Answered prayer, God's timing, and visiting angels all may be a part of the preparation for your journey into the unexpected. Elizabeth and Zechariah usher in the joy of an unexpected surprise as a direct answer to their prayer for a son. Abraham, Joseph, and Moses are other examples of men who experienced answered prayers based on God's timing. Kendall shows consequences that can be avoided as we seek God's timing in seeing our prayers answered as we prepare for His unexpected appearances.

Trials, temptations, or encounters with the devil may be a part of the discipline necessary to prepare us for those unexpected appearances of God in our lives.

Kendall also discusses unexpected disruptions, obstacles to fellowship with God, accepting God's call, the prophetic word, achievement, witness, and the second coming of Christ.

"When God Shows Up" has opened a new sense of expectancy, in prayer, looking for answered prayer, as I draw nearer to God, listening for His instructions, as I meet strangers that may be angels unaware, and as I look heavenward for the return of Jesus.

R. T. Kendal encapsulates the longing of man for a bonding with God, in the love relationship God has provided through the gift of His Son Jesus.

Praying Genesis
Elmer Towns
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
PO Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768427226 $15.99

New Insights into New Beginnings

"Praying Through Genesis" is number eight in the series "Praying Though the Scriptures." Dr. Elmer Towns, award winning author has translated the book of Genesis into a paraphrase using idea for idea and then transliterated it into prayers. It is his hope that the reader will discover the significance of the Bible for today's living as well as help them apply these scriptural truths through this series.

The book uses a creative background story form to introduce the divine message of God's plan for man. Town has created a unique form of praying the scriptures and I soon found myself looking forward to the "my time to pray" section at the end of each chapter.

The prayers are soul searching, reflective and deeply moving. They express genuine expressions of personal devotion and response. The background stories of Esau and Jacob as Esau sold his birthright and the story of Joseph's boyhood dreams based on Genesis chapter twenty five and thirty-seven took on new meaning through Town's story form narrative and dialog.

Town's has included endnotes which provide helpful insight into the traditions of Old Testament rabbis and the stories of the source of Moses' rod, as well background information on the recording of the books attributed to Moses. Other interesting and valuable comments and background information on little know facts mentioned throughout the book of Geneses are also included.

"Praying Genesis" is a perfect resource for reading aloud during family devotional times. Elmer Towns combines a poetic style, contemporary language and dialog with a lyrical essence which is certain to be enjoyed by today's generation of modern-day Christians.

The Seven Mountain Prophecy: Unveiling the Coming Elijah Revolution
Johnny Enlow
Creation House
600 Rinehart Road, Lake Mary, Florida 32746
9781599792873 $14.99

A Prophetic Call to Fulfill Christ's Mandate

"The Seven Mountain Prophecy" is written to give the reader a clearer vision and knowledge of the study of eschatology. Enlow discusses prophecy with a strategy for accomplishing Christ's Kingdom purpose to impact today's culture.

Enlow challenges the reader to "burn with zeal" in a pursuit of prophecy. He prophesies a coming spiritual tsunami that will eradicate status quo and will revamp and transform spiritual thinking and action. It will bring God's rule to places formerly subject to evil powers.

Enlow draws a word picture of the power and dynamic of the coming Elijah Revolution. He reveals how the seven mountain prophecy includes the promise of God's provision for power to fulfill His calling to displace evil principalities.

I found the book to be well organized. The topic headings within the chapter helped me assimilate the new material. This feature also serves as a helpful quick ready reference in the study and review of the material covered. The Scripture references are completely written out within the text. This helped me maintain continuity and helped correlate the scripture with the interpretation or concept. The content of the book is important and relevant for Christian leaders today in every denomination and culture.

There will be some Evangelicals who will take exception to Enlow's writing; however, in light of global events currently transpiring, it is important to be alerted by "wake up call" nature of this book.

Enlow's writing is significant, judicious and enlightening. He is a talented writer and gifted communicator. "The Seven Mountain Prophecy" has been endorsed by well known and highly respected international Christian leaders.

Talit ha Cumi: The Secrets of the Prayer Shawl
John Francis
Creation House
600 Rinehart Road, Lake Mary, Florida 32746
9781599792651 $11.99

An Ancient Tradition That Can Augment Your Prayer Life

In the book "Talit ha Cumi" Bishop John Francis explains how the secrets of the prayer shawl can enhance your prayer life. He begins with the story of one man's disobedience to introduce the historical and scriptural origins of the Jewish prayer shawl, the tallit. It is not the garment itself that makes the tallit special. The real significance of the shawl is found in the tzitzit, the fringes on the four corners which are to remind us of God's commandments.

The tallit is a religious symbol, a garment, a shroud, a canopy, a cloak. In Jewish tradition it becomes a cloak which enfolds the celebrant both physically and spiritually. In prayer the shawl signifies being wrapped in the Word of God. The tallit is used throughout Jewish life events from circumcision to burial. The traditional use of the tallit in Middle Eastern wedding ceremonies is fascinating.

Francis discusses the tallit as symbolic of the mantle, a little tent, and with wings. These insights gave me a deeper understanding and a new appreciation for many passages from both the Old and New Testament.. Detailed instructions for the proper use of the tallit include suggested scriptures for meditation.

Francis emphasizes how wearing the tallit today can be relevant. If our heart motives are pure we can achieve the full spiritual advantage of this ancient tradition. The shawl provides a private space to separate you from the distractions of the external environment allowing you to focus inwardly. Symbolically the tallit fortifies your commitment to prayer. We can use the tallit to reflect on God's commandments, His constant love, His promises, His protection, and His healing power.

John Francis introduces awesome ancient truths in "Talit ha Cumi." This is a book that can be a tremendous aid for contemporary Christians to pursue a life of consecration and godliness by practicing a deeper more rewarding prayer life.

The Book of Jeremiah: A Bright Light in a Dark Season
Bette Nordberg
AMG Publishers
6815 Shallowford Road, Chattanooga, TN 37421
9780899570303 $14.99

Standing Firm Against Doubt and Pride

"The Book of Jeremiah: A Bright Light in a Dark Season" is the third in the "Following God through the Bible Series." The format of the book is user friendly with summary statements, stimulating questions, charts and maps.

The series uses an interactive approach, designed to encourage the reader to apply Biblical truths to their own life today.

Award winning author Bette Nordberg contends that Jeremiah's words are as pertinent today as they were to the citizens of Jerusalem in 700 BC.

Nordberg draws attention to three basic themes in the study: the person of Jeremiah, the people of God, and finally on God Himself. She makes it easier for the reader to understand the reaction God is looking for from His people and parallels Jeremiah's message with contemporary times, calling for our response in worship and service to God, and the relationship He is looking for with His people today.

The book is filled with valuable timelines, maps, and charts that help the reader comprehend and integrate the background of the lessons. Each of the eight studies follows a similar model and includes: A contemporary story illustrating how our lives and needs incorporate the same basic issues faced by God's people in Jeremiah's day with an application drawn from the Scripture narrative relating Jeremiah's experience and message to our own day.

The study questions help draw out basic facts of each passage. I personally found the "as I follow God" section beneficial. This aspect included a modern day occurrence or story that concluded with a directed personal application which enabled me to see the similarity of living for God now in contemporary times.

"The Book of Jeremiah: A Bright Light in a Dark Season" is an outstanding resource for personal use or in a small group Bible study setting. Each book in the "Following God through the Bible Series" raises the bar in providing a higher standard of value. I look forward to seeing more studies created by Bette Nordberg.

Lord Heal Me
Richard Mull
Charisma House
600 Rinehart Rd., St. Mary, Florida 32746
9781599792934 $14.99

A Biblical Basis For Healing Ministry Today

As I opened the pages of Richard Mull's book "Lord, Heal Me" I sensed that I was on the brink of a deeper experience of God's love and grace and of His healing power. I felt I was being invited into an experience of meeting God on Holy ground.

Richard builds a Biblical foundation with practical aspects of the ministry of healing. He opens by contemporary story of a woman's healing to illustrate his premise. He follows this with a series of thought provoking questions, and a meaningful case study.

Mull then reviews the history of healing from the books of the Torah as well as the Old Testament books of history, the poetic books, and the prophets. He then highlights healings from the New Testament Gospels, the book of Acts, Romans, and the Epistles.

In the final chapter Mull summarizes fifteen keys to divine health. He reminds the reader of the importance of confessing Christ's Lordship, and the reality of Christ's indwelling as the ultimate key to "ministering healing and walking in divine health."

Mull's writing is clear-cut, understandable, and thought-provoking. His work is well researched, Biblically based, and offers hands-on application for contemporary Christian living. A helpful appendix is included that provides material for future study and further consideration.

As I close the pages of "Lord, Heal Me" I anticipate returning to revisit its pages often. I want to allow the impact of this message to take root in my heart and become an intentional facet of my personal ministry.

Big Bad God of the Bible
Mark Littleton
Living Ink Books
6815 Shallowford Rd., Chattanooga, TN 37421
9780899570334 $14.99

Introducing Apologetics to a Contemporary Generation

Mark Littleton addresses three specific audiences in "Big Bad God of the Bible." He offers concrete answers to Christians grappling with unanswered personal questions regarding God and the Bible. He provides a refreshing new approach for equipping the Christian with model answers to the hard questions they are being asked. He also addresses the skeptic, who may be seeking trustworthy answers to sincere doubts and honest questions.

The book is inspired by an actual incident in which Mark was challenged to share the reasons behind his faith. The book reads like a novel and is made up of a composite of characters with frequently asked difficult questions regarding God, the Bible, and Jesus Christ as Son of God and His humanity.

The setting is a local Starbucks Coffee Shop where Mark's new friends, fictional characters, meet on a weekly basis to discuss their questions. Mark responds by going back to the beginning, the Garden of Eden and the sin of Adam and Eve. He explains the penalty of their sin, and the resultant curse on the earth, on man, and on the serpent as recorded in the book of Genesis.

Mark then addresses other questions the group ask, including: The ultimate quandary of evil in the world, how to discover God's plan, how to experience true freedom, the problem of Hell, unbelievable rewards, and what it means to have faith in Jesus.

Littleton uses dialog to carry the story forward. This dialog is fast moving, stimulating, and interactive. Mark's characters Doug, Julie, Jesse, and others are all believable, genuine and sincere individuals. Together they probe Mark with their difficult questions as they respond to the story of the salvation provided through the gospel message of the Bible.

The topical headings throughout the chapters are attention grabbing. These include such titles as: "A Look in Lucifer's Wardrobe," "Dilemmas, Contradictions, and Antinomies," and "Rewards Galore."

"Big Bad God of the Bible" is relevant, timely, and important. Littleton's fresh approach to apologetics will readily be received by today's generation of seekers, and the generations to follow, especially, those who enjoy the story form of literature which combines solid information with a hint of entertainment. They are drawn to a story which proclaims a message and a challenge to a worthy cause. Littleton is fast becoming a pacesetter in a new trend of evangelical writing.

The Divine Embrace
Robert E. Webber
Baker Books
PO Box 6287, Grand Rapids, MI 49516-6287
978080106552 $16.99

Bringing Passion Back into the Spiritual Life

"The Divine Embrace" is designed to help today's Christian live out genuine Christian spirituality by taking them back in time for a glimpse of the ancient past.

Robert E. Webber supplies the reader with the tools to live out God's story in their lives, individually and in the collective life of the church community. Webber holds to the premise that God's story is the embodiment of Christian living and true spiritual life is a constant movement toward Christ-likeness.

The book is made up of two parts. Part one includes a history of spirituality beginning with the ancient church up through the present day. In this section Webber makes clear how spirituality was misinterpreted. As a result true spirituality was separated from the divine embrace.

Part two concentrates on the resurgence of a biblical and historical spirituality. Weber goes on to convey a challenge for returning to the divine embrace. He includes such topics as the story of God's incarnation, death and resurrection, baptism into union with Christ, and the importance of exercising the spiritual disciplines.

"The Divine Embrace" is comprehensive yet concise. The thoroughness of Webber's research is indeed impressive. This is evidenced by the notes at the end of the book, the quality of the selected bibliography, and the comprehensive index to the book itself.

The "Summary for Reflection and Conversation" section, included at the end of each chapter, was especially helpful to me. Webber is articulate, an expert in his field and portrays genuineness of integrity in his writing.

"The Divine Embrace" is a book for anyone eager to learn how to live out authentic Christianity in today's world.

Releasing God's Life through the Hearts of Men
David Case
Creation House
600 Rinehart Road, Lake Mary, FL 32746
9781559793283 $13.99

A Model for Ministering to and Transforming a Self-indulgent Generation

"Releasing God's Life" is intended to develop the ground-work for a "one on one" nurturing ministry. It is a model for evangelizing in today's culture. Author David Case begins by establishing an understanding of the relationship of the forces at work in the spiritual realm that impact our daily living and our communion with God.

David uses illustrations from present-day life which clearly reinforce the scriptural truths relevant to spiritual transformation and a connection with God. He also discusses the role of our attitude, our expressions, and our deeds in relation to spiritual transformation. He offers insights into the war being waged between spiritual presence and spiritual substance.

Other subjects Case discusses deal with man in the image of God, brokenness, humbleness, closeness to God, talents and gifts, disappointment, obedience, and the process of spiritual maturity.

An appendix at the end of the book includes a detailed summary list of areas of sin, their related core values, and an alternate potential for releasing God's life through your heart. This list is meant to be a source of help for the reader to develop vision and to recognize the value of the individuals being ministered too.

Each chapter ends with a moving personal prayer, based a scripture passage taken from the theme of the chapter. An excellent study guide is provided made up of thought provoking questions designed to help the reader assimilate the material and to motivate a resolve and action. This feature augments the book as a valuable resource tool. The prayer and study guide became important elements to my enjoyment of the book.

"Releasing God's Life through the Hearts of Men" provides a model for transforming a self-indulgent generation into men and women of God. David Case is articulate, and relevant. He writes with fervor, clarity and conviction.

Fire and Water
Anna F. Thomas
Robert D. Reed Publishers
PO Box 1992, Bandon, Oregon 97411
9781934759189 $16.95

An Amazing Story of Unbelievable Torment of Sexual and Ritual Abuse

In "Fire and Water" Anna F. Thomas writes of her journey through Multiple Personality Disorder. Anna tells of the anguish, horror, anger, and self hatred she experienced as a victim of childhood ritual abuse. Thomas relates how she came to realize her need to face painful feelings in order to discover the truth of her past.

Thomas writes her story from a religious perspective and relates how a conversion experience in her childhood enabled her to maintain faith for healing from the trauma of her abuse.

After nearly twenty years of quietly battling despair, an overpowering oppression, and loneliness alone, Anna could no longer curb her emotions. A job related incident forced her to seek counseling. Suicidal thoughts, hospitalization, psychotherapy, pastoral counseling, and a supportive husband helped Anna through long years of terror as she faced the reality of Dissociative Identity Disorder and multiple personalities.

Much of Anna's writing is drawn from entries in her journals throughout the period of time she was diagnosed and her years of treatment. I appreciated Anna's openness and honesty in expressing her frustration as well as the highs and lows of her experience. It is her hope that this book will be of help to others who have experienced or are experiencing the various stages of realization, recognition, and recovery of their disorder.

Inspiring and packed with information, this is a book for the victims of childhood ritual sexual abuse, their caregivers, family, and counselors. Thomas writes with clarity and conviction as she offers a positive note of encouragement and hope to her readers.

Seeking God While Serving Time: The Faith Journey of Women in Jail
Gail Thomas McKenna
Pleasant Word
Winepress Publishing Company
PO Box 428, Enumclaw, WA 98022
9781414111643 $14.99

"Seeking God While Serving Time" is a book filled with miraculous testimonies of how women in jail are finding faith while running from God, from self, and facing related struggles. Author and lecturer Gail Thomas McKenna shares stories of many she has ministered to as she serves in a faith based ministry in a county jail in the Texas Hill Country.

Mc Kenna uses personal stories and testimonies from inmates to show how three parables of Jesus in the New Testament parallel the lives of those incarcerated. The life of the prodigal son from the Gospel of Luke illustrates the sense of being lost that accompanies incarceration with the opportunity to turn to or return to God. In the Gospel of Matthew the parable of the sower demonstrates how the Gospel comes alive for prisoners today. And, finally, the story of Zaccheus the tax collector, in also in Luke's Gospel exemplifies Jesus' invitation to give new meaning to the lives of the inmates.

I found the chapter titled "A Day in the Life of an Inmate to be insightful. McKenna covered a typical day in county jail from the wake up call at 4:30 AM through to lights out at 11 PM. The days are filled with opportunities for enrichment programs and a program which includes family visitation privileges. There is also personal time for personal correspondence, reading or study, as well as free time for card games and viewing TV, or for group Bible studies.

The volunteer program of visitation, Bible studies, and worship include opportunities for one on one contact as well as participation in chapel services. McKenna's background is Catholic; however, it is made very clear that inmates of all faiths are welcome to participate in the opportunities of Bible study and worship. Liturgy and doctrinal issues are set aside for relevant application studies from the Bible and opportunities for individual prayer with the inmates.

"Seeking God While Serving Time" is an excellent source of information and motivation for anyone considering a jail or prison ministry with women.

Many of the principles are applicable to ministry with men as well, and for teens who are in Juvenile detention centers. The book is also an important refreshing challenge for those already involved in this important ministry mandated by the Lord Himself when He told us to "visit those in prison."

Don't Dance on My Heart
Joyce Brennan
BookSurge Publishers
7290 Investment Dr, Charleston, South Carolina 29418
9781439209004 $15.00

Drug Trafficking, Stalkers, Intrigue, and Romance

After a devastating relationship Carlene Ledbetter found herself pregnant and alone. She left the security of her sister's home in Kentucky to visit her Aunt Vi in Florida to rebuild a new life for herself and her unborn child.

From the opening sentences of chapter on through to the surprise climactic ending in the final chapter, I was hooked on Joyce Brennan's book "Don't Dance on My Heart."

A twist of fate brings Carlene Ledbetter and undercover police detective John Santos together. Neither Carlene nor John was ready for a serious relationship. Carlene embittered and insecure was afraid to give her heart to another man. John recognized the dangers of his career did not lend themselves to love, a successful marriage or a family.

The book is paced filled with intrigue, embezzlement, muggings, a stalker, and under cover police detectives in a fast moving adventure which keeps the reader guessing. Brennan weaves her way through intricate plot twists, and vindictive characters, while balancing romance, danger, secret locations, and coded phone messages. Brennan skillfully builds her plot and creates strong characters. Much of the story is moved forward through credible dialog and authentic characters. I developed a strong sense of compassion for the protagonists.

The non-stop action, stimulating dialog, and fascinating characters make "Don't Dance on My Heart" a book easily adapted for a movie script. Joyce Brennan's writing is strong and just keeps getting better.

God Is Your Matchmaker
Stephanie Herzog
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
PO Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768427202 $15.99

A Higher Standard for Establishing Relationships

Stephanie Herzog's goal in writing her book "God Is Your Matchmaker" is to revolutionize the reader's preconceived ideas on singleness and marriage. She challenges the church to rise up to Christ's standards regarding relationships. She provides principles that will enable the reader to better understand the dynamics of personal relationships.

The book becomes a conduit of love, inspiration, wisdom and counsel for singles. Stephanie encourages singles to learn how to live out their singleness for God and to accept their individuality in light of God's purpose.

Herzog discusses steps to wholeness and life adjustments which prepare an individual to experience fullness and purpose on their spiritual journey. Stephanie addresses dating, identity, restoration, and destiny. She talks about Christian service, the family unit, friendships, and about God's will in relation to seeking a future mate. Guidelines are provided for the godly woman to consider as well as important issues for the godly man to develop in his Christian character.

Stephanie's openly shared lessons she learned and her personal story of life as a single. She tells how God confirmed his plan and provision of David Herzog to become her life partner. Hers is a beautiful love story.

Stephanie Herzog is a gifted communicator an anointed writer. "God Is Your Matchmaker" is important and timely. In our society today the church needs to face up to the need for a new standard in relationships within the body of believers. This is a challenge for the individual believer as well as the corporate body of the church.

Word Weavers
Eva Marie Everson & Janice Elsheimer
UpWrite Books
PO Box 428, Enumclaw, WA 98022
978141410677 $11.99

A Complete Guide for Creating a Successful Writer's Critique Group

Award winning authors Eva Marie Everson and Janice Elsheimer join forces in writing the story of Word Weavers, a successful writer's critique group. "Word Weavers" is filled with all the essentials needed for starting a Christian writer's critique group or to add new enthusiasm in an already established group.

The authors offer suggestions on what to expect from a critique group and the reasons for participation in a group. They encourage both published authors and new writer's to take advantage of the unique support, feedback, motivation, and inspiration, provided by a group such as Word Weavers.

Eva Marie furnishes the background and beginnings of Word Weavers, located in Central Florida. The book provides a logical sequence of steps to develop in the formation of a critique group. These proposals will enable your group to benefit from the learning curve of Word Weavers without experiencing the hazards.

Janice and Eva Marie stress the need to define your purpose, list your goals, and establish a clear mission statement. They talk about alternative configurations of a group. They offer suggestions on how to determine potential membership, the workings of the meeting, the fundamentals of critique, and developing a leadership team. They also suggest additional ideas for conferences, seminars, and other learning opportunities.

Detailed information on organizational, promotional, and leadership roles, and critiquing procedures are expanded in the comprehensive Appendix.

"Word Weavers" is written with the idea of: "… teaching others how to start and maintain a successful critique group that will help the participants to bring their writing to that final, submission-ready draft" as well as creating and producing cutting edge, life changing material for their own readers.

Eva Marie Everson and Janice Elsheimer invite their readers to consider the benefits that accompany membership in a writer's critique group. These include: inspiration, encouragement, and motivation to develop their divine gift of writing.

Ryann Watters and the King's Sword
Eric Reinhold
Creation House
600 Rinehart Road, Lake Mary, Florida 32746
9781599792880 $17.99

Fantasy Fiction for Kids Introduces Spiritual Warfare

"Ryann Watters and the King's Sword" describes incredible exploits and adventures of three small town kids who suddenly found their selves experiencing fantasies they had previously lived out only through adventure books. Eric Reinhold's imagination is creative and contagious. I found myself immersed in a world of fantasy, entertainment, and in facing spiritual warfare head-on.

In the quiet town of Mount Dora, Florida two angels make late night visits. Ryann Watters receives a visit from the angel Gabriel and is charged with finding the King's Sword. Gabriel provided Ryann with a ring, a staff, and a horn to help him in his quest. The same night Drake Dunfellow was visited by a dark winged evil angel Ekron. Drake was enlisted to stop the forces who are trying to bind Ekron.

Ryann relates his story of Gabriel's visit with his friends Terrel and Liddy.

Later the same day Ryann discovers that the unique powers of the ring direct him to the entrance of a portal that allowed him enter the land of Aeliana, the first stop in his quest to find the King's Sword.

In a later visit to Aeliana, Ryann and his friends are met with the forces of evil. The conflict that followed provided non stop action and suspense as the combat heightened into a battle of spiritual warfare.

Eric interweaves the story with inspiration and motivation for the young reader to develop important character traits of integrity, accountability, discipline, perseverance, leadership, commitment and respect.

The illustrations and the cover design by Corey Wolf add to the anticipation of the world of Aeliana and the quaint town of Mount Dora.

"Ryann Watters and the King's Sword" is written with kids nine to twelve years old in mind. It is also an excellent choice for family time read aloud sharing. This is highly imaginative, quality entertainment. I am looking forward to the next book in this exciting trilogy.

Believe That You Can
Jentezen Franklin
Charisma House
600 Rinehart Road, Lake Mary, Florida 32746
9781599793481 $21.99

The Power of An Unforgettable Dream

Jentezen Franklin, New York Times best selling author, shows how a dream, or vision, is nurtured when you "Believe That You Can." Franklin's writing models the passion, zeal, and holy fire that he challenges his readers to practice.

Illustrations from the lives of Abraham, Moses, Joseph, and others from the Old and New Testaments illustrate how God's timing and His purposes come to fruition. These men and women acknowledged their vision, were true to their dream, recognized their destiny and moved into God's appointed time and place to take part in His Kingdom harvest.

Jentezen uses examples drawn from his own experiences and stories from contemporary champions of the faith to reinforce the relevance of resolutely moving toward a God given dream.

Franklin exemplifies the authority of words in his writing. He communicates a message that calls for envisioning a specific dream, and then following the process and stages needed to see that dream fulfilled.

Each chapter includes a quick review. These summary statements or questions often include suggestions for written assignments. The written exercises guide the reader into formulating action steps for maintaining their vision, their dream, and for pursuing their destiny. I found these suggestions helpful in honing in on my own dream, asking God to fulfill the His destiny for me.

"Believe That You Can" is motivational and inspirational, however it is more than that. It is anointed. This is a book for dreamers, for visionaries, for the shy and for the bold. As the cover reads, "It's time to make it Happen! Moving with TENACITY toward the DREAM GOD has given you."

The Paradise Puzzle
Ed Jones
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Rd. - 515, Parker, CO 80134
97814232728793 $17.95

Keys to Living a Balanced Spiritual Life

"The Paradise Puzzle" is the story of a spiritual journey. Ed Jones describes the steps along the way in finding his way out of a maze of ritual, confusion, and misunderstanding to a life of hope, balance, and fulfillment in his spiritual walk.

Jones uses the four themes to help the reader understand the spiritual life. He begins with the pieces, as they relate to the puzzle, the picture, and a perspective.

This technique allows the reader to see the picture as a whole without losing sight of the smaller individual pieces which together reveal the creator's vision of completion.

Jones summarizes the Bible from the Garden of Eden, in Genesis, through the law, the crucifixion, and from the book of Revelation to build the basis for each part of the puzzle.

The premise of acceptance is shown to be the overriding principle in the picture as it relates to self, others, and God. Each of these elements is essential in the acceptance cycle. Other pieces of the puzzle Jones addresses include temptation, forgiveness, and eternal life.

As he expands these themes around the larger picture Jones included further insights into understanding of the relationships, with God, with self, and with others and how these relational concepts include responsibility and acceptance.

The last section of the book submits to the reader numerous perspectives which allow them to exercise a rationale that will provide a stronger spiritual foundation and a produce a more fulfilled and better balanced spiritual life.

Jones also addresses the ramifications of the tragedy of September 11 and how occurrences like this influence our faith. He explores a common thread shared by Christians, Jews, and Muslims and how this unity can impact world peace.

The questions for reflection and contemplation provide stimulating insights into the quandaries faced by individuals today and provide an interactive facet to the book. This aspect enhanced my total reading adventure and provided me with personal ownership in applying the basic premise of Jones' writing.

Jones writes with transparency and fervor in an easy to read style. It is his hope that the reader will be encouraged to discover the meaning…not just the words found in the Bible, and to incorporate these principles into the practice of their daily living.

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants
Steve Brooks
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
PO Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768427363 $16.99

Practical Recommendations for an Anointed Legacy

Steve Brooks opens the teaching of the scriptures on a question of mantles in his book "Standing on the Shoulders of Giants," This is an area of study, often neglected, important in preparing Christians today as we enter the end-time generation. Steve helps unfold new understanding through Old and New Testament teaching that focus on how God places mantles on willing hearts which is applicable to today's church as well.

Brooks talks about mantles, being an anointing, which will enable you to accomplish what God has gifted you to do. Examples from Elijah and Elisha and Moses and Joshua illustrate the Biblical pattern of transferring a mantle. Other excellent examples from the Bible are also introduced throughout the account.

Noteworthy stories from Steven's ministry and those of other Christian leaders, past and present day, dramatically exemplify how mantles are being passed on today.

I found the guiding principles for receiving a mantle especially helpful. Steven's hands-on advice on developing the Christian disciplines of prayer and Bible were an important reminder. I was also personally interested in learning of more of what it means to allow the Holy Spirit to choose your mantle.

"Standing on the Shoulders of Giants" is a crucial presentation of passing on anointed mantles which offers guidelines in preparing the church to move forward into a fresh anointing from God. Christian leaders from all denominations will benefit from Steven Brooks' bold presentation of the signs and wonders already being manifest throughout the world today.

Charismatic in doctrine and in personality, intent on helping people, Steven's writing is practical, spiritually motivating and genuine.

Take Charge of Your Destiny
Dr. Alan Keiran
Destiny Image Publisher
PO Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768427356 $16.99

Listening for God, Following His Guidance

"Take Charge of Your Destiny" is written with the intent of providing the reader with the principles and action steps to help them take charge of their destiny.

Dr. Alan Keiran, Chief of Staff for the Senate Chaplain transfers on to the pages of this book the fourteen principles and action steps given him by God in fourteen dreams and specific degrees recorded earlier into his personal journal over a nine month period in 2005.

The principle and action steps on "taking time to attentively listen to God" were especially helpful to me as they are foundational to the thirteen principles and action steps that follow. I found the conception of "expecting God to surprise you" revitalizing and awe-inspiring.

Alan uses scriptures promises, challenges, and counsel to equip the reader to stimulate an awareness of God's call on their life. He helps the reader discover principles and action steps for resisting temptation, for using spiritual authority, and for avoiding destructive pitfalls.

He directs the reader into uniting with God in prayer and worship, seeking God's will, and in practicing self control. He discusses embracing humility, releasing burdens, and expressing thankfulness.

Dr. Alan Keiran is an inspired communicator. "Take Charge of Your Destiny" is written in language easy to read, grasp, and integrate into personal and life application. Alan conveys to the reader a message he received directly from God…a call to take notice for God's voice, and to follow His leading with fervor as you take charge of your destiny.

Richard R. Blake

Stephen's Bookshelf

The Corrections
Jonathan Franzen
0312421273 $15.00

This book falls into the "serious fiction" or "literary fiction" category which means it is not genre fiction. Its focus is on psychological depth and character rather than narrative and plot; and on that score it delivers with a capital D.

The main characters are Alfred and Enid Lambert living in St. Jude, a nondescript Midwestern suburb. They're getting on in years and their children have moved out and on.

Franzen's gift is his ability to describe situations that are desperate and intense using allusion. Here's an example from the first page:

"Three in the afternoon was a time of danger in these gerontocratic suburbs of St. Jude. Alfred had awakened in the great blue chair in which he'd been sleeping since lunch. He'd had his nap and there would be no local news until five o'clock. Two empty hours were a sinus in which infections bred. He struggled to his feet and stood by the Ping-Pong table, listening in vain for Enid.

Ringing throughout the house was an alarm bell that no one but Alfred and Enid could hear directly. It was the alarm bell of anxiety. It was like one of those big cast-iron dishes with an electric clapper that send school children to the street in fire drills. By now it had been ringing for so many hours that the Lamberts no longer heard the message of "bell ringing" but, as with any sound that continues for so long that you have the leisure to learn its component sounds (as with any word you stare at until it resolves itself into a string of dead letters), instead heard a clapper rapidly striking a metallic resonator, not a pure tone but a granular sequence of percussions with a keening overlay of overtones; ringing for so many days that it simply blended into the background except at certain early-morning hours when one or the other of them awoke in a sweat and realized that a bell had been ringing in their heads for as long as they could remember; ringing for so many months that the sound had given way to a kind of metasound whose rise and fall was not the beating of compression waves but the much, much slower waxing and waning of their consciousness of the sound. Which consciousness was particularly acute when the weather itself was in an anxious mood. Then Enid and Alfred-she on her knees in the dining room opening drawers, he in the basement surveying the disastrous Ping-Pong table-each felt near to exploding with anxiety."

The passage paints a pretty clear picture of who Alfred and Enid are and what's going on in their lives. But, it does it on the oblique allowing you to sneak in and watch what's happening from inside the characters' heads. My first thought on reading it was, "I wonder if Franzen will be able to sustain this level of intensity." I didn't have to wait very long to find out. He does.

The "hook" he uses to draw you through the story is Enid's burning desire to gather the family home one more time for Christmas dinner.

The emotion I feel most when reading authors with the talent to write serious fiction this well is envy. Names like Wolf and Hemmingway come to mind.

All writers use words and all words are the same; just a sequence of letters. Ultimately their skill is revealed in how well they can string those words together in ways that allow you to get into their head and "see" what it is they're trying to say. Some are crude. Some are facile. Some are entertaining. And then, there are those like Franzen, who make not only the story but the words themselves come alive.

Read this book and treat yourself to a good story and an archetypal example of exactly what the term "serious fiction" means.

Malcolm Gladwell
Back Bay Books
9780316172325 $25.95

Gladwell is able to take complex situations and reduce them to ideas and concepts that cut through the complexity to reveal an incredibly simple structure. And, it's that structure that becomes the focus for not only wading through but ultimately being able to understand what's "really" going on.

He revealed that ability with his first book, The Tipping Point and carried it through in writing blink.

In trying to understand what blink is about Gladwell explains it best:

"It's a book about rapid cognition, about the kind of thinking that happens in the blink of an eye. When you meet someone for the first time, or walk into a house you are thinking of buying, or read the first few sentences of a book, your mind takes about two seconds to jump to a series of conclusions. Well, Blink is a book about those two seconds, because I think those instant conclusions that we reach are really powerful and really important and, occasionally, really good."

We're taught early on that the right way to make a decision is to gather as much information as possible and carefully weigh all the pros and cons. But sometimes, there just isn't enough time or information. Other times there's just too much of it. Those are the kinds of situations blink is about; situations like war, street shootings and dealing with things that appear to be something they are not.

Gladwell's approach is lucid and satisfying. His style is conversational and avuncular. The subject is serious but the read is comfortable and easy. And, when you finish it you truly will have learned something valuable and useful.

Read blink and I promise you won't be disappointed or sorry you did.

Just After Sunset
Stephen King
9781416584087 $28.00

Just After Sunset is a collection of short stories of the kind only Stephen can write.

His signature skill in his novels and his short stories is the ability to press the buttons that open up the dark places in readers' minds; places that deal first with fear and then with things like death, revenge, hate, intolerance, gore, horror, desire, uncertainty and the way reality can sometimes become incredibly thin.

The first Stephen King novel I read was The Stand. I made the mistake of starting it on a car trip to Carmel with my wife and some friends for a long weekend. Within the first 4-5 pages I was unalterably hooked. My wife and friends complained bitterly that all I did for most of the trip was read that damn book. And so it continued until I finished it. I remember sitting up many nights at 1:00 am, struggling to keep my eyes open and telling myself…just one more page; knowing full well my normal wake-up time was 5:30 am. Since then I've been an unabashed fan.

King is the quintessential master of the horror genre and in Just After Sunset he delivers superb examples of his highly refined story telling skill with every story.

The story I found most disturbing is entitled N. It's about someone discovering a place where reality becomes very thin; thin enough to allow dreadfully bad things to emerge from the chaos that's normally hidden by the thin veneer of what we all consider "every-day reality."

King is to genre writing what Muhammad Ali was to boxing. His skill transfers easily from the novel to the short story. And, anyone who has tried their hand at creative writing will tell you that the two formats are as different as steel and strawberry jam. But, for Stephen King in either format, he floats like a butterfly and stings like a bee.

If you like being scared out of your skin by a good story I strongly recommend Just After Sunset. I promise you won't be disappointed.

Stephen J. Hage

Theodore's Bookshelf

Red Knife
William Kent Krueger
Atria Books
c/o Simon and Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781416556749 $24.00 800-223-2336

Cork O'Connor, in this latest chapter in the series, is torn between his Indian and White heritages amidst violence in the rural Minnesota landscape. What sets it off is the death of a drugged young girl, pitting various elements against each other with Cork in the middle.

At the heart of the problem are some young Indians known as the Red Boyz. When their leader and his wife are found murdered, Cork understands that a powder keg of racially inspired conflict is at hand. Cork, the ex-sheriff, is drawn into the investigation, placing him in jeopardy as well. The novel is said to be based on a real story, and portrays the racial conflicts and drug violence of the present day.

As usual, the author shows his deep knowledge of the North Country landscape and Indian history and culture. Written simply but forcefully, the novel continues to enthrall the reader as have the past entries in the series. Recommended.

Oscar Wilde and a Game Called Murder
Gyles Brandreth
c/o Simon & Schuster, 1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020, 800-223-2336,
9781416534846 $14.00

Apparently casting Oscar Wilde as a protagonist served well in the introductory volume of what seems to be a burgeoning series. And the technique serves well in this second in the mystery series. Set in 1892, Wilde is surrounded by friends such as Arthur Conan Doyle and Bram Stoker (author of Dracula), and the flavor of London of the era is delicious.

Wilde chairs what he calls the Socrates Club, where his friends and their guests enjoy dinner and a game. This time, Wilde invents one called "murder," in which each participant is asked to write down the name of someone they would most desire to kill if there was no danger of being caught. When each slip of paper is read, the names vary from the supercilious (a parrot, Sherlock Holmes, Eros and Father Time) to the much more serious: Wilde and his wife, Constance, among others. The very next day, the first victim falls, followed on three succeeding days by more victims on a daily basis. Are Wilde and his wife next? Read on and find out.

Step by step, we learn more about Oscar Wilde, his erudition and analytical ability. It becomes his task to solve the mystery of the four deaths and who has perpetrated the acts. Written in the style of a 19th Century novel, some readers may be put off in the reading. But rest assured, it is well worth the effort. For the most part, it's a lot of fun and some of the observations quite charming. Recommended.

Buffalo Bill's Defunct
Sheila Simonson
Perseverance Press
c/o John Daniel & Co., P.O. Box 2790, McKinleyville, CA 95519
9781880284964 $14.95 800-662-8351

The pairing of a Sheriff's chief investigator and a librarian makes for an odd combination in more ways than one. But when it works, as it does in this engaging novel, there's nothing to complain about. Sheriff's investigator Rob Neill has been haunted by his lack of success in solving his first case, the theft of sacred objects of the Klalo tribe from the western end of the Columbia River Gorge. Meg McLean has just been hired as the head librarian of the small town in which he works and lives. She buys a house next door to Rob and they develop a close working relationship - and then some.

A body is discovered buried in her garage, setting off a chain of events that brings Meg and Bob together (in more ways than one). Her information-retrieval skills prove useful in an investigation that grows as two more murders take place.

The author lives in Vancouver, WA, and the descriptions of the region in the book reflect her appreciation of the area. Written in a smooth style, the story progresses logically toward a suspenseful conclusion.


Murder on the Eiffel Tower
Claude Izner
St. Martin's Minotaur
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312383749 $13.95 212-674-5151/646-307-5560

What happens when two sisters, second-hand book sellers on the banks of the Seine and experts on 19th Century Paris, decide to write a murder mystery? The protagonists are a couple of Parisian booksellers and the setting is the 1889 World Exposition for which the Eiffel Tower was created. Thus, the first of the fictional Victor Legris mystery series.

A series of unconnected victims die of what is said to be a bee sting. All but the first were at the Tower at the same time, and had their names recorded and printed in a four-page special promotional edition of Le Figaro. Bookseller Legris was present at the time of the first death, and met or knew the next three victims, raising suspicions in his mind. He becomes convinced that these are murders.

Obviously, the setting and tone of the novel are quite unusual, but given the time period it is set in, the reader may be slightly put off by the relatively stilted writing. Nevertheless, the book is a good old-fashioned story about a serial killer, without any violence. And, while this reader was able to discern who the murderer was long before Victor and his partner figure it out, it did not deter me from finishing the novel.

Stuff Dreams Are Made Of
Don Bruns
Oceanview Publishing
61 Paradise Rd., Ipswich, MA 01938, 800-829-7062
9781933515168 $24.95

Skip and James, two beer-swilling ne'er-do-wells, made their initial appearance in the prequel to this novel, which is the second in the series. In the first, James bought a truck with a $12,000 inheritance from an aunt, intending to start a moving business. On the very first job, the two, along with Skip's girlfriend, Em, almost got themselves killed. They have that kind of talent (or lack thereof).

In the present volume, James gets another brainstorm: He converts the truck to serve fast food at a revival meeting. It may be a traveling religious event, but it is a dangerous place to be. Money flows like water, and murders seem to follow. And the boys and Em once again find themselves in mucho danger.

If you like protagonists who are dumb and dumber, then this story might appeal to you. For a couple of college graduates, the two characters seem to lack the admission standards for elementary school. While some of the writing is amusing, on the whole, we were not amused.

Prayer of the Dragon
Eliot Pattison
Soho Press
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
978156947534-8 $14.00 212-260-1900

The Inspector Shan series - five in all - provides deep insights into Tibet and the consequences of the Chinese takeover. In this installment, however, there is an additional twist. Shan is summoned to a remote village to save a comatose man from execution for two murders. It turns out that the man is a Navajo descendant visiting Tibet with his niece, an American anthropology professor researching a link between Tibetans and Navajos.

The two murders, Shan discovers, are but part of a series of others and he has to solve not only those, but the riddle of Dragon Mountain, "where the world begins." The village is located on the mountain and the suspects are numerous. With the help of his friends, the unlicensed monks, Gendun and Lokesh, Shan undertakes an arduous task.

The common religious and cultural aspects of Tibetans and Navajos described throughout the novel are fascinating. The descriptions of the people and bleak geography are penetrating. The novel, like its predecessor, gets off to a slow start, and the author lays the groundwork for the plot. But once it gets going, the mystery moves apace solidly. Also like its predecessor, "Dragon" is very much worth reading.

In the Dark
Mark Billingham
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780061432736 $25.95 800-242-7737

While this standalone novel departs from the excellent Tom Thorne series written by Mark Billingham, apparently he couldn't resist including his favorite protagonist in a cameo role. In this story, however, we are introduced to a whole new set of characters including Helen, a very pregnant policewoman, days away from giving birth.

Helen's significant other also is on the job. He is killed while on an apparent drug gang initiation, during which a new member shoots at a car that has flashed its headlights at the one in which he is a passenger. As a result, the victim's auto swerves into a bus stop smashing into Helen's mate and killing him. Helen then begins to look into her partner's recent activities, and to wonder whether he was on the take. Despite her swollen belly, Helen undertakes an investigation of her own, leading to all kinds of ramifications.

The graphic descriptions of drug culture and the kids involved in the operations are matched only by the intricacy of the plotting. There is more than one twist when the story takes another turn. The novel is as well-written as anything the author has done, and highly recommended.

A Cure for Night
Justin Peacock
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780385525800 $24.95 800-726-0600

Another attorney turned novelist has provided us with an intriguing courtroom drama-cum-mystery. At the same time, he has written about real people, their daily lives, foibles and problems, ranging from white shoe law firms to low-paid public defenders, from eating and working on the streets and avenues of Manhattan to the gentrified Park Slope and projects of 'Black Brooklyn.'

The flawed protagonist is Joel Devereux, graduate of a top Ivy League law school, associate at a leading New York law firm, who falls prey to demon dope. He is asked to resign after his girl friend, a paralegal, OD's in the ladies room. His law license is suspended for six months, and, of course, he finds it difficult to get a new position. He "sinks" to a public defender job in Brooklyn, representing the dregs of the borough: drug dealers and the like.

Eventually, he is promoted from just handling arraignments to second seating a high profile murder case in which the defendant is accused of shooting a drug dealer in the back and murdering a white college student. This gives the author the opportunity to demonstrate his extensive legal knowledge of trial tactics. His command of street level jargon is impressive as well. The story also gives Mr. Peacock, a first-time novelist, the opportunity to raise the age-old question: Are trials a setting for seeking the truth, guilt or innocence, or who can sell a jury the best story? Read this tale and be surprised. Recommended.

Mo Hayder
Atlantic Monthly Press
841 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9780871139924 $24.00 212-614-7850

It's with mixed feelings that I approach this review: The novel is meticulously written, fascinating and suspenseful. Yet, it was a slogging read, slow and tiring to go through. And I wonder why. I have no answer. Maybe it's just a personal reaction.

The novel is straightforward enough. It has the elements of a police procedural, introspective insights into the lives of the protagonists, characters that are different and well-drawn. And yet it seems to drag on slowly. At the heart of the mystery is the discovery by the police diving team of a severed hand in Bristol harbor in England. A matching hand is found buried nearby in the dirt by the entrance of a restaurant. Thus, the stage is set for the search for the victim dead or alive and the reason for detaching the hands.

We learn about African rituals and diving, perhaps more than one would like. The depth of the novel is certainly there, and yet my reaction is, unfortunately, restrained. I would recommend reading the book if you don't mind an unhurried read.

White Nights
Ann Cleeves
Thomas Dunne Books
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312384333 $24.95 212-674-5151/646-307-5560

A bizarre development at an art exhibition in an isolated little town on the Shetland Islands sets off a chain of events reaching back decades. A man kneels in the midst of a small turnout for the show and weeps. Inspector Perez tries to calm him and the man claims he has amnesia and doesn't know who he is. The next day, the man is found hanging in a nearby shed - murder or suicide?

As the investigation proceeds, the secrets of the past of the few inhabitants of the town begin to surface. The police team brought in from the mainland pursues what clues there are, while Perez, a local, follows his knowledge of the area and its people. The contrast is interesting. Another death of a local celebrity highlights the possibility to Perez that there is more to the case than meets the eye.

The book is well-written, the characters well-drawn. The plot is tight, and the story progresses at a good pace. Descriptions of the Shetlands and their people are detailed and entrancing. Well worth reading, and recommended.

Theodore Feit

Victoria's Bookshelf

The Awakened Mage (Kingmaker, Kingbreaker, Book Two)
Karen Miller
Orbit Books
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316067812 $7.99

This follow up to The Innocent Mage starts out where the first book left off. The kingdom is in turmoil after the deaths of most of the royal family. Prince Gar and Asher progress to the next stage of their relationship when Gar finds his new found magic petering out and involves Asher in trying to keep up appearances. Meanwhile the evil magic user, Morg is steadily working towards a brutal takeover.

The author builds on her characters, fleshing them out and making them easier to understand in this book. The story is interesting and enjoyable if a bit drawn out in places. I'm also not a fan of Asher's rustic language. It's hard to maintain and distracts one from the story and there were times when the character's speech didn't seem consistent to me.

All in all it's an enjoyable read and I would recommend it to fans of the Fantasy genre. Do read the first book The Innocent Mage first. It will help the reader understand who the characters in the second book are and what's going on.

Death Song
Michael McGarrity
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780451412492 $7.99

This is the eleventh book in Michael McGarrity's Kevin Kerney Series, but this time the focus is on Kearney's Mescalero Apache son Sergeant Clayton Istee of the Lincoln County, New Mexico Sheriff's Office. Kerney plays a major role in the tale, but Istee is the star.

When the new deputy's shot gunned to death, the sheriff puts Clayton in charge of the investigation. He soon learns the deputy's wife's a victim too when she's found with her throat slashed. Clayton travels north to Santa Fe to work with law enforcement there in hopes of uncovering the murderer. His father, Kevin, invites Clayton to stay at his ranch.

Being a native New Mexican, I always enjoy all the descriptions of The Land of Enchantment in McGarrity's novels. It almost makes feel like I'm home again. I like Kevin Kerney and his son Clayton; the two of them are like old friends I get to visit again and again.

The story's fast paced and engrossing and I recommend it to all lovers of mysteries based on the South West. Dead or Alive is McGarrity's latest novel. Start at the beginning and read all his novels. I think you'll be glad you did. For a list of his books, check out his website at

Waterlilies Over My Grave
Patricia A. Guthrie
LSP Digital Publishing
PO Box 851556, Westland, MI 48185
9780981765433 $12.95

Psychologist Annabelle O' Brien moves to a small town in Wisconsin after divorcing prominent psychiatrist, Duncan Byrne. Unfortunately for Annabelle, Duncan refuses to let go of her. The man is psychotic and has already tried to kill her twice. Now he's come to Wisconsin, determined to finish the job.

After shooting a young drug dealer, moody and troubled Detective Mark Driscoll is ordered to see Annie for treatment, but the cranky cop refuses and appears to have problems with women. His boss orders him to protect Annabelle, but the two continue to clash and it complicates things for Annie. Her life becomes a nightmare with Duncan's stalking and his vicious attacks. Circumstances will force Annabelle and Detective Driscoll to join forces, find Duncan Byrne and stop him from doing more harm.

Waterlillies Over My Grave is an engaging story with interesting characters. It will have you biting your nails before you've finished it. For more information you can go to

Victoria Kennedy

Wheldon's Bookshelf

Wind Driven: The Barbara Kendall Story
Wendy Kinney-Kendall
Random House NZ
18 Poland Road, Glenfield Auckland, New Zealand
9781869790431 NZ$36.99

Star rating: 4

Summary: I thoroughly recommend this intimate portrayal of the challenges and successes of one of windsurfer's greatest stars.

Barbara Kendell is an extraordinary woman. She has not only won windsurfing medals at three Olympics, she is a mother, an IOC representative, public speaker and mentor. This biography, written by her sister, tells the inspiring story of an extraordinary woman who overcame her personal challenges and remains at the top of her sport after twenty years of competition.

Back in 1986 the weather forecast predicted severe gale force winds to thrash the Auckland coast. Yacht owners battened down their boats, praying theirs wouldn't be one of the unfortunate vessels that broke free from their moorings and smashed against the rocks. The ferries continued to grind against the wind as they battled across to Waiheke, knowing they might not return that afternoon if the sea became too fierce, inducing varying shades of green on the faces of their passengers. The pilots approached the airport as warily as they might land at Wellington on a relatively mild day, and the motorcycles were soon to be banned from crossing the Harbour Bridge.

Meanwhile down at Eastern Beach, in the Eastern Suburbs, there was a flurry of activity. Cars raced to the beach, their drivers quickly unlashing their windsurfers from the roofs and attaching hurricane masts. The students at Macleans College raised their weary heads from their textbooks and the sight of the first windsurfers flying across the waves instantly dispelled the numbness of studying algebra. Even the teacher came across the window and expressed his amazement at their speed and skill.

Children living around Eastern and Bucklands Beaches grew up either on or in the sea. Backyards and garages were filled with sailing dinghies, Optimists and P-class boats. Then came the windsurfers, and they rapidly became the choice of many, especially as the Kendells lived in the area. They were legends in yachting and windsurfing years before they won Olympic medals.

Barbara joined her gold medallist brother, Bruce, by winning the gold in Barcelona in 1992, making her the first New Zealand woman to win a gold medal for 40 years. She won silver at Atlanta in 1996, bronze at Sydney in 2000 and was New Zealand's best in Athens in 2004 with a fifth placing. She won New Zealand Sportswoman of the year in 1996, 1998 and 1999; Yachtsperson of the year in 1992 and 1998; and has been awarded an MBE in 1992 for services to windsurfing.

Wind Driven is written by Barbara's sister Wendy. It is an intimate portrayal of this remarkable woman. It portrays not only her remarkable strengths, but also her weaknesses, and how she triumphed over them. It shows how important friends and family are in the success of such an individual sport. There are times of depression and isolation, of extraordinary happiness and triumph, of anger and frustration with various administrators. To even be a single woman on the international circuit, lugging 300kg of equipment from one country to another, let alone competing at the very top for over 20 years, is an extraordinary achievement. This is a book to inspire, to challenge and, ultimately, a book that will leave you in admiration of a singularly impressive New Zealand woman.

The Celluloid Circus: the Heyday of the New Zealand Picture Theatre
Wayne Brittenden
Random House NZ
18 Poland Road, Glenfield Auckland, New Zealand
9781869621469 NZ$49.99

Summary: This a marvellous read capturing the splendour, the fun and the characters from the heyday of New Zealand cinema.

Going to the movies didn't used to be just about watching a film. Through meticulous research, interviews and photographs, Brittenden captures the spirit of cinema in its heyday: the magnificent architecture, the fascinating characters, and the audiences who became thoroughly involved in voicing their emotions and opinions.

In the late 1970's a raggedy bunch of primary school children leapt, or fell, out of the old Howick bus. They charged at the doors of the Civic, Auckland, New Zealand, their teacher desperately trying to keep control. In front and behind were hundreds more children, all attempting to enter the cinema at once. They dashed up the stairs to the very top and entered another world. There before them was a magical scene, the night sky above with stars flickering, and before them, forever etched into their memories, were the two lions on either side of the curtain, their red eyes flashing. They were shown to their seats, just as the curtains opened to reveal the screen far, far below.

In the early '80s the Monterey Cinema in Howick was where a group from school went to watch an altogether dubious movie as a reward for winning a House competition. The highlights of the afternoon were not just the rustling of rats, the jaffas being thrown, the dreadful jokes being told by the students in between the awful jokes on the screen, but the collapsing of a seat as a student sat down. The chair gave no warning, the whole thing completely gave way and he was left sprawling on the ground.

Such are just two of my first memories of movies. Others spring to mind when I was young: the showing of Star Wars at the massive screen at Cinerama, a double feature of Jaws and Raiders of the Lost Ark at the Classic before it became a porn cinema, wonderful times at Charley Gray's and The Academy, the Film Festival at St James', the list goes on and on.

Cinemas form such an important part of our personal and social history. Wayne Brittenden brilliantly captures these magical memories encountered throughout New Zealand prior to the arrival of the multiplexes. The Celluloid Circus lives and breathes the splendour and personalities of the cinemas of yesteryear, many of which no longer survive in New Zealand today.

What makes this book particularly special, even above and beyond the meticulous research and fascinating detail of the buildings themselves, are the personal stories and photographs of the personalities from the heyday of cinema. Brittenden has searched out the quirky and untold stories behind the cinemas throughout New Zealand; the managers, the ushers, the projectionists and others who made these buildings living, breathing entities. There are hilarious stories of managers trying to outdo other local managers, of feuds between cleaners, of projectionists and what occurred in their booths, and what illicit frames of film were cut out from R rated movies.

This book is a treasure: it captures in both words and images a vitally important part of New Zealand culture over the past century. It is a book to enjoy, to treasure, to discuss and reminisce. And for the younger reader, it is an opportunity to discover why their parents and grandparents mention the movies with a sparkle in their eye.

Dean Starnes
HarperCollins NZ
31 View Road, Glenfield, Auckland 0627, New Zealand
9781869507114 NZ$39.99

Summary: A fabulous book for those into the Lonely Planet, nothing is too great a challenge, living life to its fullest style of travel writing.

Languages, customs, rituals, fascinating things to do, places to see, people to visit - all in the one book, covering almost every nook and cranny throughout the world. This is a travel book covering, well, pretty well everything.

It is off the cuff, the language of a man used to roughing it. The book is akin to a conversation in a bar. Starnes is his own man. He has his favourite subjects, he revels in them with his own brand of insight and humour, and what doesn't particularly take his interest he reduces to a couple of paragraphs.

Roam captures the language, and ethos, of Lonely Planet. This is not a surprise as Dean Starnes has been travelling for fifteen years and, after 75 countries, five continents and three backpacks, he has co-authored Lonely Planet guide books including those of Central Asia, Papua New Guinea and Fiji.

Now don't think because he has written for Lonely Planet, Roam is only about pitching your tent and drinking the local brew (although that is certainly included). Lonely Planet has changed since its first heady days of guiding young tourists on how to survive low-budget travel throughout South-East Asia. It is now a vast business that makes, and breaks, tourist destinations. It is no longer aimed solely at the lowly backpacker, it now covers the whole range of travel, including the interests of the affluent traveller.

So it is with Roam, a book covering a vast array of subjects. It takes years of travelling experience, tosses them into the air, and lets them land onto the page for you to be inspired at will. And that is essentially what this book is - an invitation to travel. If you have itchy feet, if you long to discover something new, then this book is for you. Just like going into a restaurant from another culture, there is a selection of food you may not have eaten before, you may not even know from what animal or plant it comes, but if you dare, it may open up to you a whole new culinary world.

Starnes presents us with an entree. In Europe, entree means that which precedes the main course, and prepares your taste buds for the plate to come. So this book is an introduction, a fascinating read, an insight into our extraordinarily varied world. It will tempt and invite you to partake of the main course of travelling and experiencing more of the world for yourself.

Architecture Uncooked
Pip Cheshire and Patrick Reynolds
Random House NZ
18 Poland Road, Glenfield Auckland, New Zealand
9781869621544 NZ$90.00

Summary: A beautifully written book by an expert in the field, accompanied by absolutely stunning photography.

This book immediately impresses by its clearly written, yet intelligent writing, and its photography that captures both the structure and the spirit of the holiday homes scattered around the New Zealand countryside.

You may have a favourite holiday home. For me it was down at Waihi Beach in New Zealand. Sadly my friend Kevin's grandmother had died and her children had decided to sell the property, much to our regret. My group of friends had known each other since the first day at college when we had sat on the floor and the new students had been segregated into classes. We were the only ones left, probably because they suspected we were about to launch ourselves ruthlessly upon our rookie Maths teacher and the school wanted to be able to discipline us as a group.

At various times over the next 20 years we had descended upon the bach, the New Zealand word for a holiday home. The games of cards, the discussions, the claims and counter claims had continued through the nights. In the mornings, after rising groggily from bed, we had invariably cooked up bacon and eggs and sought comfort in steaming cups of coffee.

The days were filled with swimming and walking and lazing around the beach. At some stage or other of every visit we had walked to the far end of the beach, the sun beating down and inflicting various shades of pink. And on this, our last night, we sat and read the notes we had written in the Guest Book over the years. They were wonderfully silly comments on what we had done and the people who were staying with us at the time. It brought a lot of laughs, but filled us with the sadness of loss that this would be the last time we would sit together in this special place.

The bach had a main house, and extra bedrooms forming an L shape. It was made of wood, and creaked in the wind. Other than that, although we could tell you which bed had the bounciest springs, and where the floor sagged badly, none of our group would be able to put into words the architectural style or history of the building. This is why I opened Architecture Uncooked by Pip Cheshire and Patrick Reynolds with much anticipation. Here is a book written by a man who is clearly in love with New Zealand, its heritage, landscape, and its architecture. It is not just that he describes the design of seven Kiwi baches from the Southern Alps to Northland with clarity, describing both their aesthetic and functional characteristics, but he brings them to life by intertwining his time spent there with his personal history. I have visited some of the locations, but the ones I haven't, I now feel like I have, so vivid and personal is his writing.

Likewise, Reynold's photography captures the architectural details, but more importantly, he captures the spirit of the buildings and the landscape, and gives you an intimate portrait of how the baches are living, breathing entities, filled with people currently living there, and, as with my friend's bach, filled with the memories over the past generations.

It is a wonderfully presented book, the sketches, photographs and text are given ample space within the pages to be fully appreciated; an intimate revelation of a particularly New Zealand experience, that of the Kiwi bach.

Wheldon Curzon-Hobson

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

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