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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 14, Number 1 January 2014 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Ann's Bookshelf Buhle's Bookshelf
Crocco's Bookshelf Gail's Bookshelf Gary's Bookshelf
Gloria's Bookshelf Gorden's Bookshelf Janet's Bookshelf
Karyn's Bookshelf Katherine's Bookshelf Lois' Bookshelf
Marjorie's Bookshelf Mayra's Bookshelf Paul's Bookshelf
Peggy's Bookshelf Riva's Bookshelf Sandra's Bookshelf
Suzie's Bookshelf Teri's Bookshelf Theodore's Bookshelf

Reviewer's Choice

How I Became an Idiot
Francisque Sarcey
Trans. Doug Skinner
Black Scat Books
930 Central Park Avenue, Lakeport, CA 95453-4232
No ISBN (limited edition), $12.50, 36 pages,

Jeff Bursey

At the moment I'm surrounded by inclement weather: snow and ice pellets and at times, for variation, freezing rain, pelt my windows. In this part of Canada flights have been cancelled and advisories indicate that the highways are safer to be off than on. This is the third storm in eight days, the early two bringing snow escorted by wind, and as today is only the second official day of winter, I view, with understandable weariness, the next eight months. To make matters worse, a friend wrote today that he's on vacation in Honolulu. Oh, what a fine thing is travel. If one can leave where one lives.

Thankfully, books offer relief from the whiteness of the so-called great outdoors. A little while ago How I Became an Idiot, by Francisque Sarcey, came my way, and this afternoon I stopped contemplating the idiocy of the term temperate climate and read it. The author's real name is Alphonse Allais. Why the pseudonym, or alias (that had to be said)? Before answering that, a few words need to be said about the book itself.

How I Became an Idiot is a 36-page book published by Black Scat Books, which is run by Norman Conquest. Black Scat is situated in California, and its website is There is no ISBN for this limited edition (60 copies, says the inside copy), and Goodreads isn't set up for such mysterious objects (that explains why this review is in the general status upgrade).

The book is obviously brief, too brief (more on that later), but even in this short form forms a delightful buffer to the forces of nature flagrantly on display. The conceit, as taken from the introduction written by Doug Skinner, the translator from the French, is this: there existed a real Francisque Sarcey (1827-1899), described as "the most powerful theatrical critic in Paris. He was the perfect model of the blunt bourgeois, championing common sense, traditional values, anti-intellectualism, and conventional taste." Ibsen? No time for him.

Alphonse Allais (1854-1905) decided to adopt Sarcey's name and started writing a column that broadcast opinions as contrary to the real Sarcey's views as possible. In Skinner's words, this "pseudo-Sarcey became a grotesque caricature of the smug middle class, a sort of proto-Ubu," with everything that promises. Allais wrote the column not once or twice, but from 1886 to 1893. What began as ridicule and maybe vengeance turned, it seems to me, into a kind of love. And indeed, Sarcey-the-Real, known as "our uncle" by those whose works he would not support, proved good-natured enough that this type of attention provoked no legal action. Whatever his critical tastes, that says something about his sense of self and the secured position he had within the newspaper world.

Picking up this book I didn't know what to expect, beyond a short exposure to a satirist. A few paragraphs into the first column (most were published in a paper called Le Chat Noir), from 1889, there is this: "I can see you all shrug your shoulders, and say, 'Here we go again! Fat old Sarcey is going to talk about things he knows absolutely nothing about, and stick his foot in his mouth.'" Pseudo-Sarcey agrees, and hopes "that I'll keep on doing it." The entire column has him trying a medical treatment that would be useful for an older theatre critic when "young actresses... come ask my advice," but it would spoil things to spell matters out. The second column is filled with self-praise at his successful campaign to get people to wash their feet. Some people made fun of him, but the letters he received show he's not "some doddering fool." Sarcey's girth inspires Allais to come up with this throwaway line: "When I was young, I could have eaten whole piles of rocks; and, even now, I don't do badly." The abuse is one thing, but this image struck me as unexpected and hilarious, perhaps partly because I live in a place made of sandstone.

There are two more set pieces - all the columns are set pieces - and one imagines Sarcey having an amorous adventure, set on a train to manchester, with an unexpected travelling companion, an english rose, and her basket of costly crayfish. While a long tunnel along the route is put to use by both, the payoff rests in the last line. The final entry introduces Allais updating readers in 1897 about how his target is doing, and introduces a device, the "auto-clyster." Wikipedia states that clyster is an old word for enema. Sarcey is in need of a purgative, and Allais is with him in a bathroom. What is described? Well, among other things, that due to his "rather short arms" Sarcey "has invented, for his own use, the clysto-accordion. The name of this device alone excuses me from further description." As accordions are ubiquitous in france, and are now accompanied by small amplifiers for buskers to board the metro and beg you to stop them with coins and bills, this image struck me as living up to some words on the front cover that designate this book as part of a collection: "Absurdist Texts & Documents." The picture Allais doesn't paint stands out in the mind.

How I Became an Idiot reminds me of Felix Feneon's excellent Novels in Three Lines which came in in 2007 from NYRB Classics. In both cases, the unexpected is suddenly present, and there is rudeness, as well as a savagery of attack that we simply can't imagine anyone doing to any well-known columnist of today and getting away with it.

While too much of this sort of roughhousing can tire one, another 50 pages would have been appreciated, for the storm isn't going anywhere in a hurry. Perhaps there'll be a second, and longer, volume. But for now, you might want to get How I Became an Idiot while you can.

A Madaris Bride for Christmas
Brenda Jackson
Harlequin Kimani Arabesque
c/o Harlequin
P.O. Box 5190, Buffalo, NY 14240-5190
9780373091430, $6.99

Rhea Alexis M. Banks

Witness the blooming of a potential romance and has us captivated with the suspense and thrill as titillating details unfold....

A Madaris Bride for Christmas by Brenda Jackson is an intriguing read from the onset. It captures ones attention and has you wondering what's next. Great Grandma Laverne has been "match making" with her grandchildren and now great grandchildren. At around 95 years of age, she is determined to see a wedding for each of them and she's getting it done. Well some of her lineage, won't accept that and are determined to best her by picking and marrying their choice. Well Lee Madaris is one of them and he sets out to do just that after a woman he sees from his balcony catches his eye and full attention. Lee is the co-owner of an illustrious hotel in Las Vegas, which is the second one for him and his partner. His goal is to have the grandest hotel on the strip and he is doing just that.

Carly Briggs jumps at a chance to work as a Chef at one of the grandest hotels on the Las Vegas strip, especially after believing she witnessed a crime in Miami. For a treat to herself, she books a room at the hotel for one night and Lee happens to see her from a distance, then up close and personal. Later, he gets an idea and sets out to put it in motion if his hotel's gorgeous new chef will agree to a marriage of convenience. Will she agree....hmmmm? All this is further complicated when per Brenda Jackson "the danger that made Carly flee Miami is about to land at their door. So Carly and Lee must decide who to trust, when to let go - and whether a love they never anticipated is strong enough to pass the ultimate test."

Mrs. Jackson penned a tale that allows us to witness the blooming of a potential romance and has us captivated with the suspense and thrill as titillating details unfold. This novel was a great 5 stars read that I thoroughly enjoyed. CONGRATULATIONS BRENDA JACKSON ON YOUR 100th Novel!!

Open-Source Lab
Joshua M. Pearce
Elsevier/Butterworth Heinemann
30 Corporate Drive, Burlington, MA 01803
9780124104624 $54.95, 240 pp,

Stephen Gemignani

The book is free online at"

We have all probably heard something about open-source software. A new movement in software development where information is free for everyone allows unparalleled expansion and development. What you may not know is that this open-source movement is now being applied to hardware and scientists are leading the charge.

With his new book Open-Source Lab: How to Build Your Own Hardware and Reduce Research Costs, Dr. Joshua Pearce shares the great potential the open-source movement has to offer the science and engineering disciplines. As the Associate Professor of both the Department of Materials Science & Engineering and the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering at the Michigan Technological University, Pearce writes as an advocate for open-source hardware.

After extensive time spent working with open-source hardware in his own research lab, Pearce is able to share his knowledge with the rest of the scientific community to help open-source hardware reach its full potential.

The Open-Source Lab serves as a reference guide as Pearce not only explains what open-source hardware is and how it could benefit other research labs, but he walks you through the process of creating your own scientific equipment for tiny fractions of the cost of conventional equipment, making these tools more readily available to a much larger scientific community.

Specifically, the Open-Source Lab discusses over seven chapters, the challenges and benefits of the open-source movement, how to acquire and operate an Arduino microcontrollers, which acts as the brains of all the open-source hardware, as well as how to build and control your own 3-D printer, such as the RepRap, for physically making your own tools out of layers of polymers and how to acquire designs for equipment or customize them for your specific needs. All this is explained in great detail with plenty of visuals to aid you in the process.

Based on my experience with usability testing, I can safely say that Open-source Lab provides all the necessary information and images to help you implement this new open-source approach in your own labs - particularly for the many examples he provides. But what about developing new tools he does not cover? My concern is that the average scientists may have trouble developing their own equipment. It may be slightly more challenging for people not familiar with open source technologies or with coding (as with Linux). Just how steep the learning curve is seems unclear making me wonder if this open-source approach really is as easy for every scientist as Pearce makes it appear.

Open-Source Lab focuses almost exclusively on the technical content and for the most part ignores all of the social implications of speeding up scientific discovery and reducing instrumentation costs. Pearce's examples make it abundantly clear that the more people creating and sharing their hardware designs will only help research and technology accelerate and flourish. All things considered, the Open-Source Lab is a must read for every professional and amateur scientist. Even science educators would benefit from reading it and being able to improve their teaching laboratories for their students. And while he may not cover all the issues related to social and business aspects of open-source hardware, Pearce's writing throughout the Open-Source Lab is both inspiring and instructive as he covers all the information about the new and exciting possibilities with open-source hardware and 3-D printing.

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

Susan Keefe, Reviewer

Genre: Humor/Action

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ann's Bookshelf

1914, Poetry Remembers
Carol Ann Duffy, editor
Faber & Faber Poetry
9780571302147, A$29.99, 123 pages

It is almost 100 years since Wilfred Owen wrote of "the pity of War": Almost one hundred years since the First World War, the 'War to end Wars' began and poets like Owen and Sassoon challenged the orthodox presentation of war as glorious and ennobling and wrote, instead, of the reality - the dreadful deaths, the maiming and the loss. And still war goes on. Daily on our TV screens we can see the destruction, the blood, and the wounded, traumatised and grief-stricken men, women and children. Is it only poets who can stir our emotions and make us really feel the horror? The poems and texts in this book certainly do that.

Carol Ann Duffy brings together the responses of some of our best contemporary poets to poems and other texts written during WW1. Some of the pieces which they chose are familiar, many are not. Siegfried Sassoon's letter of protest to his commanding officer is less well-known than his poems. Vera Britten's Testament of Youth is more widely read that Tom McAlidon's thoughts on the death of young Bobbie Kernaghan; or Gottfried Benn's account of working as a doctor in a hospital for prostitutes behind the lines in Brussels. Today's poets have each chosen very different pieces, written by men and women of many different nationalities. Their own responses convey not only the pity of war, but also the historical persistence of it, the repeated patterns of human conflict, and (thankfully) Nature's cycles of regeneration and hope.

Imtiaz Dharker responds to Owen's 'Anthem for Doomed Youth' with a poem which reflects the defiance and courage of a fifteen-year-old Pakistani schoolgirl 'A Century Later'. Ann Gray writes of an Afghan taxi driver prompted by the sight of "the Cambridge Backs, massed with purple crocus" to thoughts of his family, and of new hope and Spring in his own country. Ruth Padel marvels at the way in which Saki could sit in "hell's cauldron" amidst bursting shells, machine-gun tracery and devastation and still notice kestrels hovering overhead, "the pink-flecked wings of a chaffinch", and a "solitary magpie". "They all were at it", she writes - all holding on to what they knew and clinging "to the hard dry stars of observation" when every other "elixir's gone wrong".

Billy Collins sees, still, the futility about which Owen wrote: sees that we still "have a long way to go before we show our final colors on a torn flag". Blake Morrison's poem, 'Redacted', reflects the lack of emotion in a censored coroner's inquest document, but he updates it to the death of a soldier in Helmland, and he uses the black-blocked deletions to powerful effect. The dead soldier becomes nameless; the place names are blacked out so that they do not exist; but the poem exists, although it claims that it cannot judge matters of negligence, purpose, recruitment of teenagers, or whether "the war in Afghanistan is unwinnable".

The senselessness of war, the randomness of death: "What was it all for?" asks Elaine Feinstein in response to Isaac Rosenberg's death. And Grace Nichols is prompted by Guiseppe Ungaretti's poem 'Clear Sky', in which he clings to the hope of being "a passing/ image// caught in an immortal/ circle", to reflect on "unstoppable Death in the shape of the law" and the shooting of an innocent man, Jean Charles de Menezes, on a London Underground train.

Ruth Fainlight, Julia Copus and Jackie Kay, draw on personal family involvement. Seamus Heaney's poem could describe any homecoming from war. Daljit Nagra writes of Mother India's scattered children. Michael Longley links the death of boy-soldier, Euphorbus, in the Ancient Greek wars to that of other boys in more recent wars. And Clare Pollard, in an amazingly realistic and vivid description of birth, uses images and words which could also be applied to the suffering and blood of warfare to bring a mother's sensibility to the way in which "the world squanders" the bodies of sons.

Carol Ann Duffy's own contributions start and end the book, and her final poem, 'Last Post', imagines what might be "If poetry could tell it backwards". In it all that happened is reversed and "all those thousands dead" are brought "Freshly alive" in a truly magical remembering.

This is a fine but harrowing collection. I wished that the pieces being responded to had been place before each response, and I chose to read them this way. I also wished that a small biographical note about each of the WW1 writers and their part in the war had been included. I noticed a couple of missing letters in the poems by Apollinaire, but translations and calligraphic poetry are not easy. These are small quibbles. "All the poet can do today is to warn", wrote Owen one hundred years ago. The same is true today, and I wish that the warnings of all the poets in this book be heard and heeded.

Granta 125: After the War
John Freeman, editor
Granta Publications
9781905881710, A$27.99, 256 pages.

We all live in the aftermath of war. For some, the memories are recent and raw: for others, distance in time and place have lessened their impact. And some of the writers in Granta magazine's, After The War, find that the denial and deceits now practiced in the countries they knew in wartime are as horrifying as the war itself. Not all of the pieces in this edition of Granta, however, are factual. There is reportage, memoir, fiction, poetry and photographs. There is also an on-line edition which includes some of the pieces from the magazine but also additional writing and interviews. Curiously, I found some of the pieces on the web-pages more innovative and interesting than those in the hard copy.

Chanelle Benz's, 'The Diplomat's Daughter', for example is not an easy read, both because of its style and its content, but its style is unique and it is horribly vivid. In contrast, Michael W. Clune's, 'World War II has Never Ended', is a delightfully light and enjoyable story about boys' games. Few of the hard-copy essays are as light-hearted. There is, of course, a lot more to be found in the hard-copy magazine.

Because the magazine is dealing in various ways with historical events, recorded or remembered or re-told, it is sometimes difficult to distinguish fact from fiction. This is not the case with Lindsey Hilsum's, 'The Rainy Season', which is clearly factual. Hilsum was the only English-speaking correspondent in Rwanda when the genocide began. Returning to the country ten years later, she records her impressions of the 'new' country which is now emerging. But, just as the land hides corpses which wash up whenever the river floods, she comes to believe that the modern facade hides deep feelings of anger and pain.

Guilt and the manipulation of the past is also the theme of Romesh Gunesekera's, 'Mess', which is taken from his new collection of stories which will be published in 2014. It tells of a military encounter in Jaffna. In an interview which is included in the on-line edition of the magazine, Gunesekera says that he wanted to experiment with the way in which, because of our view the world and the way others appear to us, one person may appear more guilty than another. Vasantha, his narrator, tells us at the beginning and at the end of his account that the war in Sri Lanka is over; but this encounter, he says, was "an encounter with the war within: guilt, which I am beginning to see riddles everything". Having met the characters and seen and heard them in action, we are left to decide for ourselves who is most guilty.

Yiyun Li, also fictionalizes the aftermath of war, telling the story of Hui, who is married, with a small daughter, and lives in America. In China, where she grew up, Hui's Chinese parents had separated because of her mother's communist ideals and her father's lack of commitment. But her mother's revolutionary zeal also suppressed her maternal feelings and Hui remembers that her mother invented a 'good' twin whose behaviour Hui could never match. She remembers, more recently her own brief 'indiscretion' with a friend's husband and her attempted suicide. Now, from a ward in a psychiatric hospital, she recalls a window overlooking the gardens around a hospital in Beijing - a place where dreams would be replaced by skyscrapers - a place where she might have acted differently and, so, evaded "all that came between the dream of life and the dream of death".

For some authors, memory is all to vivid. Others, like Hari Kunzru, who reports on his own experience of Disaster Tourism, live the horrors vicariously, visiting places like the area devastated by Superstorm Sandy, Ground Zero or, in his case, Reactor 4 at Chernobyl. Kunzru ponders the fascination such places exert and the emergence of industries, games and films which play on this fascination.

Paul Auster wonders whether his own childhood experiences fostered his love of books. He remembers air-raid drills at school where he and his friends traded picture cards of post-war flying machines, and he remembers seeing supersonic jets fly overhead but never being afraid that Communist bombs or rockets might fall on him. At about the same age, he remembers becoming aware that he was a Jew and, so, "had no part to play in American life", since American heroes, apart from a few boxers, were never Jewish. Jewish relatives and their past were part of his life but that was something apart from his daily life. Only at summer camp, after a very personal and embarrassing incident when he was eight, did he learn that other people had hidden aspects to their lives. Perhaps, he suggests, he came to love books because the secrets of the characters were always "in the end, revealed".

There is an enormous variety of stories, cultures, styles and experiences in this issue of Granta. The topic may be depressing but the quality of the offerings is uniformly high.

Ann Skea, Reviewer

Buhle's Bookshelf

Building Biotechnology, fourth edition
Yali Friedman
Logos Press
9781934899281 $84.95 hc
9781934899298 $74.95 sc

Now in an updated fourth edition, Building Biotechnology explains the legal, political, regulatory, and commercial aspects of the complex biotechnology industry. Written for business professionals and scientists in the field alike, Building Biotechnology discusses techniques for transforming new ideas and discoveries into profitable commercial ventures. From the lowdown on patents, trademark, and copyright in the biotech industry, to the costs of drug development, licensing and outsourcing biotech, intellectual property protection, and public relations, Building Biotechnology covers all the basics and is a "must-read" for any prospective entrepreneur in this white-hot field.

Visibly Struck
Steve Kubicek
Summit Partners Ltd.
c/o Maryglenn McCombs (publicity)
2817 West End Avenue, Suite 126-274
Nashville, TN 37203
9780984842643 $16.95

Historical record quotes George Washington as saying, "No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the Invisible Hand which conducts the affairs of men more than the United States. Every step by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency." Visibly Struck is a captivating historical novel about American founder George Washington's faith in the invisible hand of God. Many a fiction and nonfiction book recreates Washington's life and military challenges; Visibly Struck is unique in its thoughtful portrayal of the deeply spiritual side of Washington's character. Heavily researched with a record of endnotes, the story of Visibly Struck humanizes a nigh-legendary American hero. Highly recommended.

The North Building
Jefferson Flanders
Munroe Hill Press
c/o Gulotta Communications
341 Lexington Street
Newton, MA 02466
9780988784086 $15.50

The intense sequel to "Herald Square", The North Building: A Novel of the Cold War follows intrepid columnist Dennis Collins, who returns from covering the Chosin Reservoir battle in Korea only to find his newspaper out of business, and hear rumors about an impending European war with the Russians. Collins becomes embroiled in a search to learn about leaked American military secrets, and allegations against British diplomats Donald Maclean and Kim Philby (today, history remembers them as members of the notorious Cambridge Five spy ring). Collins journey takes him to Washington, Paris, and London, in this vivid historical novel of the tension between nations, with the futures of millions of people at stake. A suspenseful read to the very last page, The North Building is highly recommended.

Willis M. Buhle

Crocco's Bookshelf

Visits Four Times
Ginger H. Edwards
Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
B00GL59N92, $0.99,

Extraordinary writing from Ginger Edwards in her four short stories about aliens from outer space, called Visits, Four Times. Lighthearted and witty describe the 'visits' best. Take a few minutes to escape into Ginger's story telling brilliance.

The Scotties Learn About Respect
Stephanie Robinson. Illustrations by Wendy Hope
Ambassador International
1620201194, $13.49

Children learn the lesson of respect through a cute story about three Scottish Terriers: Archie, Flea, and Bonnie. After Archie destroys Mom's garden, Flea scolds him about his lack of respect for Mom. Archie doesn't know what respect means, so Flea explains it

Archie trots over to Mom and apologizes. Mom understands Archie is sorry and forgives him. The next day, he helps Mom replant the tomatoes he destroyed, and all is well. Exemplary illustrations demonstrate the possibility of the lesson learned without words. Young readers will enjoy this tale following the dogs from page to page.

Dark Flame Rising (The Keegan Crowe Chronicles, Book One)
J. A. Pedersen
Sandpiper Press LLC; 1 edition
Amazon Digital Services, Inc

Magic, Science, and History

Dark Flame Rising is a young adult fantasy novel about a fourteen year old girl, Keegan, a computer geek with a curious mind. Living with her grandmother after her parents' death, moving from place to place without explanations, Keegan ends up solving the mystery in the small, desert town of Turtle Springs.

During Keegan's quest for answers, she learns magic is real. The results from her pursuit open up unimaginable dangerous places, and facts she never knew about her parents. Keegan plays a major part in bringing together four magical objects from a society that practiced magic, to restore the balance of earth, water, wind, and fire to the world. J. A. Pedersen adds a copious amount of historical notes after each chapter, which was a favorite part of the book.

Readers of all ages who like captivating fantasy will enjoy Dark Flame Rising, packed with magical adventure, science, and history.

Emotional Memoirs & Short Stories
Lani Hall Alpert
Amazon Digital Services, Inc

A singer/songwriter/author discovered by watching Tavis Smiley on PBS. Not only had I never heard of Lani Hall Alpert, I was unaware she was Herb Albert's wife. Growing up I enjoyed listening to Herb Alpert's Jazz.

When I watched Lani Hall Alpert respond to Smiley's interview questions about her memoir, my interest piqued. I appreciated her honesty, sharing personal events and complicated issues in her life, but her words of wisdom dealing with adversity is what impressed me. As Lani explained the stories, written in Emotional Memoirs & Short Stories, I looked forward to the written word. In her book, she described in depth her life in Chicago, including her love of Jazz.

Discovered as a singer in Chicago, Lani moved to Los Angeles, became a lead singer, and met Herb Alpert. Throughout her emotional stories, Lani's life experiences are captivating. Her expectations remained practical, as she doesn't live in la-la land. Her pragmatic reasoning was refreshing.

Delighted Lani's book matched her live interview; I took away a sense of hope for my own life after reading Lani Hall Alpert's, Emotional Memoirs & Short Stories.

Mary Crocco, Reviewer

Gail's Bookshelf

Sometimes You Win--Sometimes You Learn
John C. Maxwell
Center Street
c/o Hachette Book Group
12 Cadillac Drive, Suite 480, Brentwood, TN 37027
9781599953694, $19.99,

John C. Maxwell, well-known leadership "expert, coach and author," explains why he believes failures may be opportunities in disguise in the pages of "Sometimes You Win--Sometimes You Learn: Life's Greatest Lessons Are Gained from Our Losses". John Wooden, Maxwell's good friend, wrote the book's foreword a few months before his death.

In it the Coach, well known for quotable quotes, writes, "John is a man who is about learning," he's a man who uses life lessons to become a better "...friend, neighbor and all around person." Someone this esteemed Coach was proud "to call friend." He considers the book "more than just a how-to manual for tough times," he believes Maxwell's words "offer the most valuable gift of all - hope."

The author begins with an analysis of the "DNA of those who learn." He identifies and describes eleven character traits, attitudes and attributes that form the core qualities of such DNA, devoting a chapter to each trait. Individuals with these qualities turn failed attempts into teachable moments, an attribute the Coach described as "growth through learning."

Maxwell uses often humorous personal experiences to illustrate his ideas. One such event led to his being handcuffed, detained and his mug shot snapped by airport security when he forgot his carryon luggage contained a gift - a loaded gun. The entire story is best told in the book.

When it was over he had a laminated card made with his mug shot on one side and the front cover of Success Magazine on the other where he stood in a "posture of confidence and success." The card reminds him of his failure to plan which turned a very expensive failure into a teachable moment of success.

The card also reminds him there's "not much distance between the penthouse and the outhouse. "Which the crash of 2008 proved for far too many with loss and economic grief that made the saying, "sometimes you win, sometimes you lose," sound trite.

However, that's what makes Sometimes you Win, Sometimes you Learn appropriate for today. A season of loss often breeds a "victim mentality" that spirals into future losses. Instead, with this book readers learn a new approach that requires discipline and evaluation of past experiences that turn negatives into positives. Or in the words of Benjamin Franklin, "Those things that hurt, instruct."

Jesus in the 9 to 5: Facing the Challenges in Today's Business World
Dennis E. Hensley
AMG Publishers
6815 Shallowford Rd, Chattanooga, TN 37421
9780899571799, $14.99,

Taylor University Professor, Dennis E. Hensley, award winning author, lecturer, and esteemed writing mentor steps into the 21st century with Jesus. His new release, Jesus in the 9 to 5 is a story wrapped within a fantasy that captures readers from the opening line, "Jesus Christ walked into Decker's Bar and Grill..."

Listen to Dennis Hensley's dramatic YouTube reading of the first chapter: Pete Fishers Meets Jesus in Decker's Bar & Grill

Instead of a "play on words" Hensley uses a "play on miracles" to tell an imaginative tale of a carpenter who hires an alcoholic to manage his "Tree of Life Furniture Company" startup. However in this story, wine turns into water instead of water into wine and a $50 bill is found in a fish's mouth at Decker's Bar and Grill instead of biblical coins. Then there's another man who gets a job offer he can't refuse who just happens to have a brother who's a tax man for the IRS.

Entertaining, fast-paced and written with razor-sharp wit, readers also find practical business insights, tips on communication and answers to meaning-of-life questions. The clever, masterful storytelling brings laughter, smiles and nods of recognition at the application of familiar Bible parables to 21st century problems.

Join Jesus as he recruits and hires new personnel (laugh-out-loud funny), sets up training and quality control systems, confronts employee theft, sets long range goals and teaches how to "close a sale." Hensley's original and fresh account, unlike anything I've ever read, grips readers and doesn't let go until the last page is turned. And even then the witty quips, comparisons and humor are repeated to friends and loved ones for days afterward.

The books' rich wisdom and intriguing insight makes it an instant classic, while its entertaining value is a plus ten on a scale of 1 to 5. Writers will especially appreciate Hensley's interview with The Verbal Edge - Jesus in the 9 to 5, Dennis E. Hensley. Part. 1 and The Verbal Edge - Jesus in the 9 to 5, Dennis E. Hensley. Part 2

"Doc" Hensley considers this novella, what he calls a "fact-vella," the "best book of his life." I agree one thousand percent and can't wait for the sequel next year! The take-away value leaves readers smiling and talking about Jesus long after the book closes. This would make an excellent gift for a friend, business associate, loved one or unsaved friend.

'The Women of Christmas'
Liz Curtis Higgs
Waterbrook Press
12265 Oracle Blvd. Suite 200, Colorado Springs, CO 80921
9781601425416, $14.99,

Liz, best known for her million selling Bad Girls of the Bible series turns her attention this holiday season to three of the Bible's "good girls."

Step into the sacred Christmas story with The Christmas Women and take a fresh look at the nativity story through the eyes of three women and their essential roles in the Christmas story. Penned by gifted professional speaker and award-winning author known for wisdom and perceptive humor - Liz Curtis Higgs.

She begins with Elizabeth, a mature, once barren woman who trusted God and gave birth to John the Baptist late in life. Elizabeth's babe in the womb, John, the Baptist, recognized the Holy baby Mary carried and jumped with jubilation at Mary's entrance into the room.

Then there's Mary, a young, shy and innocent teenage girl, engaged to a carpenter who finds herself pregnant before the wedding takes place though she has never known a man. Imagine for a moment the immense belief, trust, and faith Mary must have in God when the angel Gabriel said, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. (Luke 1: 30, 31) This would mean Mary's death if not for God's divine plan.

And of course, Anna, the prophetess, an elderly widow whose husband died soon after their marriage began. She fasted, prayed and prophesied about the promised Messiah and never left the Temple after her husband's death. Her prayers were answered, her joy complete when she beheld six-week-old Jesus when Mary and Joseph brought their Levitical offerings to the Temple.

Each woman played a unique and special part in "God's redemption plan" that began with the birth of Jesus and ended at the cross. Their stories within the nativity story, illustrate lessons of patience, trust and the power of prayer in impossible situations, in addition to revealing God's design and purpose throughout the generations.

Don't rush through this Christmas season stressed by shopping, baking and holiday lists, instead reflect on Jesus, the true meaning of the season with these daily readings from this amazing Bible teacher and author who "mines the Scriptures." Her 'golden nuggets' of wisdom are for

the young, the aged and those women in between which makes this a perfect gift choice or study resource.

The Greatest Gift, by Ann Voskamp
Tyndale House Publishers
351 Executive Drive, Carol Stream, IL 60188
9781414387086, $19.99,

Ann Voskamp's first Christmas-themed book, The Greatest Gift examines the birth of Jesus through the lens of Christ's family tree that begins with creation and ends at the cross. She writes, "We lost ourselves at one tree and only find ourselves at another."

She invites readers to step away from the travel, shopping, hustle, bustle and pageantry of the holidays and steep themselves in the sacred adventure and intended wonder of the Advent season. Where, in twenty-five brief devotions she adds freshness and originality to the familiar Christmas story as she revisits the ancestry of Jesus in relations to the Jesse Tree.

Chapter eleven of Isaiah teaches a "stump of Jesse," King David's father will "Branch and bear fruit." Common belief holds that Christ is the branch this passage speaks of. Ann encourages readers "to make a Jesse Tree" this Advent season, " trace the family line and heritage of your own forever family - the family of God."

This traditional tree can be something as simple as a silhouette or cut out of a tree to hang in the window or on the wall, even a group of winter red dogwood branches in a vase on a table. Purchase of the book includes a code word for Free Downloadable Jesse Tree Ornaments to print, cut out and decorate your Jesse tree with.

Just as our family lineages add meaning to who we are and where we come from, Ann's inspired writing about the "family tree of Christ" gives new meaning to the promise of Christmas. If you want to experience a "Christmas that whispers, Jesus" begin the Advent season with Ann's thought for the day, reading, quote and prayer until Christmas morning.

While researching Ann's book I found this genuine and inspirational account of Ann's Christmas revolution a time when she wearied of "busy, over-stuffed Christmases that brushed past Christ" instead of giving the gift "of being overcome by Christ."

I've never read anything by this author before, but plan to in the future. Her writing is rich, original and creative, filled with lavish word pictures of God's love. Her portrayal of the miraculous Christmas season will linger well into the New Year and would make an exciting gift for family, friends or teachers for this year or next.

Light of the Wicked, Light Trilogy #1
Frederick Hurr
B&H Books
124 Ninth Avenue North, Nashville, TN 37234-0143
9781433678790, $14.99,

Fred Hurr, United Kingdom bible scholar, philosopher and art historian turns to the supernatural for his debut contemporary fantasy, Light of the Wicked. With an account of spiritual warfare that portrays the unseen struggle of angels and demons in a narrative wrapped in murder, one man's fall from grace and another's crisis of faith suggestive of C.S. Lewis's Screwtape Letters.

The modern-day fable takes place in the Welsh seaside village of Penrhos Bay, northwest of the largest British Christian revival ever recorded - Evan Roberts and the 1904 Welsh Revival and

Christmas Revival 1904.

Readers join the story Halloween night as hooded thief Jonas Silth slips inside the narthex of Saint David's church unaware of the angel in training high above or the demons hidden in the gargoyles mouth. Once inside Jonas stealthily creeps through the sanctuary to the donation box mounted on a nearby stone column, a box he intends to shatter with his "well-used metal jimmy."

Seconds later Jonas grabs the wad of notes from the splintered box at his feet, turns, makes a "comic bow" of thanks to God and then runs for the door. The unseen angel couldn't help but intervene and he struck terror in the heart of the insensitive thief, yet his actions alerted the demons to his presence, something he'd been warned against.

Thus begins a realistic contemporary fantasy of spiritual warfare where angels and demons fight for the souls of unsuspecting, deceived victims. In addition to angel-in-training Samuel, known for "all talent and no discipline" and his mentor, captain of the Lord's Guard, Bezalel, add demons Gathan and Jusach, evil Lord Rimmon's underlings responsible for the death of the church clergyman on the outer church steps.

That's the body of Maynard Jones, Saint David's curate. He'd been unable to sleep or pray for weeks because of "nightmarish manifestations" that terrorized his soul, unaware of the demons that caused them. Then there's Inspector Paul Stewart, a detective who relies on instincts and knows something about the body spread out before him is "strangely wrong" yet isn't sure what or why.

The author parts the veil between the world we know and the supernatural realm of spiritual warfare where a "desperate and furious" battle is fought for the souls of humankind. Credible and fast paced, Hurr delivers a well-crafted, quality Christian themed narrative not often seen from a debut author. With a story that satisfies the natural curiosity we all have about the unknown.

Beside a unique evangelistic tool, fans of Frank Peretti's This Present Darkness, The Oath and The Visitation will enjoy this author.

The Sinners Garden, by William Sirls
Thomas Nelson
P.O. Box 141000, Nashville, Tennessee 37214
9781401687380, $12.99,

The Sinners Garden, by William Sirls releases December 17th with a second book that sets the narrative hook deep. It's a story of redemption and compassion tucked inside the transformative power of forgiveness. It's also an intriguing tale of choices, change and murder with characters haunted by divine encounters, miraculous flower fields, a broken iPod that speaks, even a mysterious "Summer Santa" with a personal agenda.

In the prologue readers meet Judi, her three-year-old son, Andy and his father Todd. Judi gave Andy permission to fall asleep on the couch that particular night in hopes his father would tuck him into bed instead of drinking. She can't begin to imagine the life-changing events that will soon transpire because of her decision, a decision she will always blame herself for. If she had only known, done it differently...

The prologue sets the stage for an insightful narrative that begins eleven years later after Judi and Todd's divorce. Andy, now a long-haired angry teen, identifies with Eric from the "Phantom of the Opera." He continues to believe a lie so monstrous it destroys his relationship with his mother.

Then there's Rip, Judi's former drug-dealing brother, now released from prison. He's Andy's only confidant and friend. Yet Rip has problems of his own as he adjusts to life as an ex-con. To remind himself who he now serves Rip places a plaque over the inside front door of his humble abode that reads, "Servants Entrance" to remind him of Whose he now is.

Judi's scarred, blames herself for what happened and her appearance reflects a shroud-like sadness. She's forgotten how to smile and wonders why her once-loving son has turned against her. Without intending to, Judi reinforces the monstrous lie that causes Andy to blame her.

Add Heather, a small town cop, part time "village keeper" and part time "mom" whose father was murdered. She wants to be the best cop she can be, yet her heart lies elsewhere. She's also the first to see the all-in-black masked intruder who makes the "sign of the cross" that earns him the nickname "Summer Santa" when he leaves exact amounts behind for those in need. Then there's the thread of murder that weaves throughout the story tucked inside a fantasy shrouded mystery readers won't soon forget.

Sirls writes like a seasoned author from his realistic dialogue, to characters and plots within plots that take readers to the edge and jumps off, flipping pages faster and faster. The book should carry a warning - "Kleenex(c) required!" This is an excellent last minute gift choice for any mystery lover.

The Quiet Place
Nancy Leigh DeMoss
Moody Press
820 North LaSalle Blvd., Chicago, IL 60610
9780802405067, $19.99,

Nancy Leigh DeMoss, teacher, author and Revive Our Hearts radio show host considers herself a "wedding coordinator" and penned these devotions to help the "Bride get ready for the Wedding to their heavenly Bridegroom." With devotions that encourage women to experience "freedom, fullness and fruitfulness in Christ" with daily readings in The Quiet Place.

Away from the blinking, chirping iPads, iPhones, e-mails and other devices that make it difficult to hear the still, small voice of the Lord necessary for intimacy. All it requires is to turn off all distractions, from the television to the telephones, to the computers or iPads, grab your favorite Bible, paper to write on if you journal and this devotional.

She begins with a hymn Emily May Grimes 1868-1927 wrote that begins, "Speak Lord, in the stillness, while I wait on Thee..." and the devotion, "First Thing." The scripture is from Mark 1:35 about Jesus rising early and going to a quiet place to pray.

She recognizes some who make time for God do so out of a sense of obligation and routine that robs them of the "sweet rich fruit" that's a result of drawing apart with God. Others have problems with consistency and still others relegate little or no time for such things, perhaps because they lack a thirst for God's Word and don't understand what they're missing.

However, those who are thirsty, who long for intimacy with God, who recognize they draw strength from time in His presence, bear the "fragrance of God" and His "living water" flows through their lives, relationships and worship. If you experience that thirst these devotions are for you.

Devotions include Scripture, Nancy's thoughts and reflective questions. For example the devotion for January 27th is about rejection, self-worth and God's versus man's opinion from

1 Peter 2: 4-5. Early experiences of hurt, neglect or abandonment leave an indelible negative imprint behind that drives a need for affirmation from others. Compliments and praise from friends, family and co-workers can't overcome a basic sense of worthlessness.

Jesus also dealt with rejection by the very people He created, yet His self-worth wasn't determined by what others thought. Christ's self-worth came from the knowledge He was "chosen and precious" in God's sight. Remember God chose us too and we are "precious" in God's sight and God's opinion of who we are is more important than what anyone thinks.

Questions on self-value and influences conclude the devotion.

The Quiet Place's soft, supple faux leather cover fits nicely into a purse, Bible bag or briefcase. It's an excellent gift choice for loved ones this Christmas.

Gail Welborn

Gary's Bookshelf

Mars, Inc. The Billionaire's Club
Ben Bova
Baen Publishing Enterprises
P.O. Box 1403, Riverdale, NY 10471
9781451639346, $25.00,

"Mars, Inc. The Billionaire's Club" blasts off in a realistic plot that is a first class science fiction thrill ride. Art Thrasher a very wealthy man, has a very low opinion of anything that government does. He decides that private enterprise can do a much better job of sending a manned mission to Mars than NASA. He decides to enlist the aid of several billionaires to fund a private mission to the red planet. Along the way he has to deal with sabotage of the mission, government red tape, finding a launch site and lots more in a wonderful story of the near future. Bova is one of the best writers of science fiction and "Mars, Inc. The Billionaire's Club" is a perfect example of why.

Bone Dry
Bette Golden Lamb & J.J. Lamb
Two Black Sheep Productions
97810985198619, $12.95,

R.N Gina Mazzio stumbles onto a vicious scam of someone stealing marrow of cancer patients and demanding ransom for it. The plot is a cruel way for someone to make money at the expense of someone fighting for their lives. The story moves along with a strong heroine who is determined to protect her patients at any cost. "Bone Dry" is a page turner medical thriller for any fan of Michael Palmer or Robin Cook.

Abigail Arrington
Capricorn Star Publishing
9780984914012, $18.95,

Attorney Riley Morgan's life is more complicated than ever with two cases, a lecherous co counsel for one of them, and a client who illegally saw something that could land him in jail, while a hurricane is steering its way to hit Central Florida in the next few days Arrington utilizes her legal experience as a litigator to write a suspenseful yarn with strong characters in a complicated plot that also uses the state of Florida to tell a great story. "Awesome" is an awesome sure fire page turner legal thriller.

The Heist
Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg
Bantam Books
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780345543042, $28.00

"The Heist" is a new series of novels staring Kate O'Hara special agent for the FBI, who will always get her suspect no matter what it takes. Combine the laugh out loud tales of Adrian Monk, written by Lee Goldberg, with the same type of mix of the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich and you have the formula for a great mixture of talents that is a sure fire mix for more tales down the way. "The Heist" is fun fare sure to please fans of both authors.

Devil in the Hole
Charles Salzberg
Five Star Books
c/o Gale Cengage Learning
10 Water Street, Suite 310, Waterville, ME 04901
www.facebookcom/FiveStar Cengage
9781432826963, $25.95,

"Devil in the Hole" begins with a great premise. James Kirkland knows something is wrong with his neighbor's house so he calls the police to come and investigate. What they find are a woman and her children and a missing husband. James Kirkland tells in his own words what led him to contact law enforcement. Other people tell their stories including the husband along the way. A great beginning one would think, but the author slowly moves the story along with too many people's accounts that somehow relate to the murders. I will remember Charles Salzberg as the author of "Devil in the Hole" and steer clear of any other titles by him, because the novel is too complicated and boring to waste any more time with this author's future books. .

The Apes of Wrath
Richard Claw, editor
Tachyon Publications
1459 18th Street # 19, San Francisco, CA94107
9781616960858, $15.95,

For a long time apes have been popular in both fiction and non fiction. Edited by Richard Claw, with a foreword by Rupert Wyatt (who is also the director of "Rise of the Planet of the Apes") "The Apes of Wrath," a play on a great title by John Steinbeck is a collection of writings of both fiction and non that are brought together for the first time in a great collection. Some of the authors are Edgar Allan Poe, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Robert E. Howard, Philip Jose Farmer, and Joe R. Lonsdale. Tarzan and "Planet of the Apes" are just two of the topics covered in this fine collection. "The Apes of Wrath" should please any fan of ape movies and writings. .

Bigfoot Enigma
Scott Marlowe
Pangea Press
514 Winter Terrace, Winter Haven, Fl 33881
9781492247241, $12.00,

For a long time many cultures have had sightings of the creature Big Foot. Scott Marlowe delves into these viewings and separates fact from fiction in his new book. "Bigfoot Enigma" There are lots of pictures, drawings, and diagrams that help readers understand about this fascinating mystery of nature. Marlowe's writing is easy to follow and he poses many different scenarios for anyone to understand. "Bigfoot Enigma" is a fun excursion into the many facets of Big Foot

Life is Not a Stage
Florence Henderson with Joel Brokaw
Center Street
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9781599953885, $25.99

Before I read "Life is Not a Stage" I really liked Florence Henderson. Now I have a very low opinion of her because of the numerous things she reveals about her life. She name drops throughout and tells lots of things that show she is nothing like what many of us thought. She talks about her first husband but also delves into the many affairs she had while supposedly being happily married. She says she is very religious but does other things that make you wonder. Of course she talks about "The Brady Bunch" which is probably the most interesting portion of the book. I know fans of Florence Henderson will be very surprised after reading "Life is Not a Stage"

Playboy's Greatest Covers
Damon Brown Foreword by Pamela Anderson
Sterling Publishing
387 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10016
9781402780141, $35.00

"Playboy's Greatest Covers" is a wonderful coffee table book that is part of the celebration of 60 years "Playboy." For the first time fans of the magazine get a behind the scenes look at how many of the most memorable covers came to pass. For certain ones there are photo shoots that show the progression to the one that made it to the stands, we get to remember famous people who have been on the cover, as well as lots of interesting trivia like the change in cost of the magazine of 50 cents to the present price "Playboy's Greatest Covers" is a flashy addition to the list of books about the world's number one men's magazine.

Safe Within These Walls De-escalating School Situations Before They Become Crises
Andra Medea, M.A.
Capstone Professional
c/o Maupin House Publishing Inc
1710 Roe Crest Drive, North Mankaato, MN 56003
97814625215185, $24.95

I only had to read the first chapter of "Safe Within These Walls" to know not to read any further. Author Medea makes many points that counter out each other. An example is that she says when children are yelling and screaming and being a problem it is because of a term called "flooding" which means that there is an Adrenaline overload in the brain. In that state the child or adult does not hear what is being said to stop the behavior. She later tells that to combat it for children the adult parent or teacher can act out what they want them to do such as the adult can breathe in and out with deep breaths and the child will imitate the action. Later she says that you can tell the child to imagine blowing up a balloon or that they are having their favorite hot soup. She earlier said that the child is not hearing what you are saying but you are telling them to do these two actions. Confusing logic like this helps no one and does not resolve anything. Most of these books written by people like her who have all the credentials of education and job related experience in the world usually have no kids of their own and they use studies of other children by others in the field of psychology to establish their theories. "Safe Within These Walls" is just poppycock.

Model III The Longitudinal Star Gate 14 Model An In Depth Perspective of Sequential Conglomerates Informatics Edition I
Siafa B. Neal
Outskirts Press Inc
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781478718567, $83.95,

To be honest I have no idea what this book is about. From the description on the front it appears it has something to do with multi level chess and how to play it. Throughout the work there are lots of diagrams that have very little description to explain them. I am not sure who author Neal is gearing this book to and who would want to pay the amount he has priced it for. The only other clue that it has something to do with chess is the artwork on the cover. I also shudder to think what Neal will do in another volume

Gary Roen

Gloria's Bookshelf

Perfect Hatred
Leighton Gage
Soho Crime
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9781616953034, $14.95, Paperback, 336 pp,

This is the sixth novel in the series referred to as the Chief Inspector Mario Silva Investigations, and a very welcome return it is. ("The Ways of Evil Men," the last book by this author, who sadly recently passed away, will be released by Soho in January, 2014.) The book opens, shockingly, with a man cutting the throat of a young woman and kidnapping her infant child. Shortly followed by a suicide bombing outside the US consulate in Sao Paulo, Brazil, which is in turn followed by another suicide bombing in Buenos Aires, outside of the oldest Jewish synagogue in Argentina. All with the attendant high numbers of innocent victims including, in Buenos Aires, the Israeli ambassador to Argentina, his wife and two children.

A grisly beginning, to be sure. We quickly learn of additional targeted killings planned, in a book replete with murderous plots from start to finish, typical, one must believe, of the true climate of politics in parts of this country filled with great beauty, and even greater intrigue. Heading up the investigation is the brilliant and incorruptible Mario Silva and his team, once again including once again one of my favorites, charming Haraldo "Babyface" Goncalves [so called because although he is 34 he looks 22. The reader is quickly reminded of the corruption that pervades every possible level of many South American countries, from the cop on the street to the highest elected officials. As the investigation proceeds, everything the investigators thought they knew is called into question. It soon becomes apparent that there will be no lack of suspects, including killers with principles, and politicians with none.

As Inspector Silva says, "I've been in the service of a corrupt legal system for all of my working life. Another cop says "In case you guys never noticed, politics and favoritism is what Brasilia is all about." And from another character, "In his world, the rich didn't go to jail. Not in Brazil. Not even if they killed an unnamed, penniless priest, in the presence of a federal cop, as he had done." As well, the author paints a chilling portrait of the overwhelming number of criminal activities rampant throughout the neighboring country of Paraguay.

As awful as is this portrait of these events, and the people who plan and carry them out, don't think the book is a dark one. Almost surprisingly, I would not describe it as such. It is fascinating, well-written, fast-paced, and thoroughly enjoyable.

Highly recommended.

Choke Point
Ridley Pearson
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780399158841, $26.95, 399 pages,

In the second novel in what is billed as an "international thriller series" ("Risk Agent" was the first entry), Ridley Pearson brings the return of John Knox, a man who has a useful 'cover' as a legitimate international exporter, and Grace Chu, a Chinese woman who was a former forensic accountant but has "recently proven herself a quick study of computer hacking." She also holds a master's degree in criminology from USC and, because of her former training with the Chinese Army, "is no slouch in field ops." The fact that she speaks five or six languages is only a plus. They are both now occasionally employed by Rutherford Risk, a private security firm.

The book takes place for the most part in Amsterdam, although it opens briefly in Tunisia, where John is plying his trade, that is, until his old buddy David "Sarge" Dulwich finds him and coaxes him to take on a job in Amsterdam. Their long-standing friendship goes back to the days when they were both working for a private contractor based out of Kuwait where John saved Sarge's life, twice (once when the truck in which he was riding was hit by an IED). Both John and Grace find themselves becoming addicted to their new calling, their former professions seeming to have been a waste of their talents, and the adrenaline rush undeniable.

Their new assignment deals with child exploitation. They are joined, in a somewhat ambivalent relationship, by Sonia Pangarkar, a gorgeous reporter working on a story about "the poorer neighborhoods of Amsterdam and the European struggle with immigrants." More than that, it is about a ring of men "who kidnap ten-year-olds and chain them to posts and make them work 18-hour days" in what are called "knot shops," i.e., sweatshops where intricately hand-knotted Oriental rug knockoffs are made, with quantity demanded. And that's the least horrific part of it. Rutherford Risk was called in as the work is seen as "typically unwanted by, or too dangerous for, others." But Knox and Grace thrive on just that.

Thrillers are not, generally, my favorite sub-genre. But the author's name beckoned to me. The book is undeniably exciting and suspenseful, densely plotted, and the three main characters very intriguing. It makes for enjoyable, good reading.

Out of Range
Hank Steinberg
c/o HarperCollins
10 E. 53rd Street, NY, NY 10022
9780062080530, $25.99, 346 pp,

This debut novel by Hank Steinberg is billed as an action-packed thriller, and it certainly lives up to that billing.

The tale opens with a scenario somewhat reminiscent, initially, of the tragic story of Danny Pearl, who drove with a local into forbidding territory in the middle of a war zone in search of a story that promised to await at the other end. The novel's protagonist, 38-year-old American Charlie Davis, who'd been a foreign correspondent for ten years and in Uzbekistan for nearly two, is fluent in Russian, but also able to speak the Uzbek language. He interviews a woman whose young son, a university student, had been arrested and cruelly tortured and killed. Charlie's resulting story and the portrait revealed of that country's current government gains widespread notice. Not long afterwards, there is a protest in the heart of the provincial capital of Andijan, which draws over 10,000 people, but which evolves into a massacre. Charlie and his very pregnant British wife, Julie, are among the survivors, but do not escape unscathed: Charlie is shot in the back; Julie, meanwhile, goes into premature labor. They barely escape with their lives, and leave the country with their infant son very shortly afterwards.

The story picks up six years later. Charlie is now a political journalist for the LA Times, where he is being pressured by his boss to again take up foreign assignments. He and Julie now have two children, their six-year-old son and a three-year-old girl. Julie, who in the past had run several aid projects for an international charity based in London, later an emissary of an NGO called World Vision, is chafing at the life of a suburban mom in Southern California. Then, when she and the children are en route back from Disneyland, something happens that turns their lives upside down and is the beginning of a nightmare from which there is seemingly no escape. Gradually Charlie becomes aware that Julie had hidden many things from him in the last year, during which there has been much friction between him and Julie, and there have been many lies. The rest of the story, beyond the obvious one which threatens their marriage, is one of international terrorism which threatens the lives of many, and which the author creates in a suspense-filled plot which left this reader frequently breathless. Ultimately the American "alphabet" agencies and their international counterparts become involved and the parameters become much wider.

The author is perhaps best known as a television writer, having created the series "Without a Trace," among other things. I am certain that this novel is only the portent of more wonderful fiction to come. Recommended.

Already Dead
Stephen Booth
c/o Little Brown
100 Victoria Embankment, London EC4YY ODY
9780751551716, 34.99 CA$, 386 pp., 17.99 BPS,

[This book is presently available in hardcover/paperback in/through the UK; hc in Canada now, and in August, 2014 in pb; and in the US as an e-book from Witness Impulse in August, 2014.]

The newest novel in the Ben Cooper and Diane Fry series opens on an ominous note, with the death of an adult male, found lying naked in a shallow stream in "the rural wastelands of the Peak District," where the roads have been flooded and travel difficult if not impossible, for pedestrians and vehicles alike, in this monsoon-like summer.

The Derbyshire E Division CID, to whom the investigation initially falls, quite literally has no clues, as it appears that the torrential rains have washed away any potential forensic evidence, and no apparent witnesses. DS Dianne Fry is here on short-term assignment, after DS Ben Cooper has been placed on extended leave since the tragic death in an arson fire of his fiancee, scene of crime officer Liz Petty, which ended the last book in the series. Ben is still suffering from panic attacks, nightmares, and the occasional flashbacks to that horrible event, just weeks before their meticulously planned wedding. He is still, not unnaturally, obsessed with the one person still walking free who was a participant in the events of that night.

A secondary plot line deals with another area death which falls to the local police to investigate. Ben's relationship with Diane is a famously ambivalent one. She finds herself thinking that "his absence was more powerful than his presence." But despite his official just-another-member-of-the-public position, he manages to provide pivotal clues and insight. Finally, "when it came down to it, there was the question of loyalty."

The events that fill the book take place over a one-week period. The writing is less action-filled than it is wonderfully descriptive, both of local atmosphere and geography, and including as it does occasional bits of fascinating historical lore. All the better to savor the terrific writing and character development of which the author is a past master. The wholly unexpected shocker of an ending is a perfect cap for this thoroughly enjoyable novel, which is recommended.

Let It Burn
Steve Hamilton
c/o St. Martin's Publishing Group
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
ISBN: 9780312640224, $25.99, 276 pp,

Alex McKnight never expected to return to Detroit. His career as a cop there had come to an abrupt end after eight years when he was placed on disability after being shot three times, only two of the bullets able to be removed, the third remaining half a centimeter from his heart. And his partner had never survived the bullets that hit him. Those events obliterated his entire life as he knew it. But when an old colleague tells him that Darryl King, the man he helped put away just days before that final case, is about to be let out of jail after finishing out his sentence, he feels impelled to go back there. King was just a teenaged boy when the vicious murder to which he confessed occurred. That confession left no doubt of his guilt. Unexpectedly, however, there is a nagging thought buzzing around in McKnight's head, a suspicion that he had missed something vital in the investigation. He enlists the aid of Leon Prudell, with whom he had briefly worked as a private investigator in the past, who McKnight calls "the smartest man in town, and as loyal a friend as you could ever have."

This is a police procedural of the highest order. The chapters in the first half of the book alternate between the present and the events which took place all those years ago at a pivotal, life-changing time for McKnight. The second half of the book follows him trying to go back over everything in the initial investigation to find out what he missed. Ultimately this already fast-paced tale takes a totally unexpected twist. And from that point on, I couldn't put the book down.

As with all Mr. Hamilton's books, the author evokes a very real sense of the places, and the people, about which and about whom he writes. Beginning with the first page of his newest novel, he immediately conjures up the place in which he now lives: the town of Paradise on the shores of Lake Superior in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, 300 miles away from has native Detroit, "one of the most murder-prone cities in the country." On the other hand, Paradise is described as a "stark lonely place on the edge of the world, which also turns into the most beautiful place on earth for the few days they call summer." (Mr. Hamilton, along with fellow "Yooper" William Kent Krueger, pretty much owns this territory.) But his love for the Detroit in which he lived for so many years is also made clear, especially his nostalgia for the city as it used to be, including the old Tiger Stadium, long since gone. After I reluctantly closed the book for the last time, I looked back at the cover, re-read the title, and smiled sadly.

Highly recommended.

Perfect Victim
Jan Christensen
4900 LaCross Rd, North Charleston, SC 29406
9781489520395, $12.99, 179pp,

P.I. Paula Mitchell is a private investigator in the small town of Springton, Rhode Island. She is hired by her best friend, attorney, Geri Smithfield, to look into the murder of 22-year-old Sylvia Leonminster, brutally killed in her home by someone wielding a poker. The only fingerprints on the poker found near the body belong to their client, 26-year-old Warren Wade, the man to whom she was engaged. Even more damning is the fact that the victim had broken up with him that same night.

There is no shortage of suspects, primarily the tight-knit group of friends who had known each other from childhood. They all alibi each other, although Paula feels strongly that they are lying. But proving it is another matter. Paula is aided in her investigator by her computer guru boyfriend, Steve Grady. Matters escalate when, in short order, Steve is attacked, and then another member of the group of friends is killed, in similar manner to Sylvia, bludgeoned with a poker.

Paula is an interesting protagonist, with something in her own past she'd rather ignore. The author has drawn all of her characters in depth, and the reader gets vivid portraits of them all. The book is written with a light touch, and with humor, e.g., the judge in the preliminary court hearing that takes place near the end of the book is Judge Upton Upchurch, "known locally and not affectionately as Judge Upchuck."" And the expert witness called by Geri at the hearing is Winston Golightly (a relative of Holly, no doubt). The book is a quick read, and very entertaining.

Karin Slaughter
Delacorte Press
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 0019
9780345539472, $27.00, 400 pp,

Karin Slaughter brings back her usual cast of characters from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) and local law enforcement agencies in her newest novel in this long-running series. Foremost are Special Agent Will Trent, a terrific, intuitive cop now working undercover, who has overcome what is described as a Dickensian childhood (he has that in common with several other characters here); his significant other, Sara Linton, a pediatric attending physician and former medical examiner in Atlanta, still dealing with the death of her husband, the partner of detective Lena Adams, five years before; Sara's stepson Jared Long, a motorcycle cop with Macon PD; and Jared's wife, the aforementioned Lena Adams. Loss is a recurring theme here: among others, Lena's twin sister had died 10 years earlier, and Lena herself has just had a miscarriage.

The novel opens with what at first blush appear to be a simple home invasion, but it quickly appears that there is more to it than that: The home in question is Lena and Jared's, and the outcome is horrific: Two of the intruders are killed, Jared nearly so. Much of the story arises in the aftermath of a high-target raid conducted by the cops, flashbacks to which appear regularly. The plot is a complex one, involving some very unsavory people, the identity of some of whom is unknown until after some surprising twists.

For reasons that are not entirely clear, for the better part of the first hundred pages we hear about how much Lena provoked deep animosity, verging on hatred, in those one would think would be closest to her, but the reader is not really given the reasons behind it. Well, there is what seems to be obvious, it is true: over the years she seems to bring death, injury and pain to those working with or married to her. But her present co-workers seem to nearly worship her, we are told.

Unfortunately, while my husband and I have loved all of this author's previous books, my enthusiasm for this entry is much dimmer. It didn't draw me in as her other novels have done, and felt too wordy. In addition, I must admit that at times I had difficulty keeping the various characters, bad guys and good ones, straight in my mind. I will look for the next book by Ms. Slaughter, though, and hopefully a return to form, for this reader at least.

Cover of Snow
Jenny Milchman
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780345534224, $15.00, 336 pp,

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

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

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

Honest Deceptions
Hannah S. Hess
Caravel Books
201 W. 89th St., #6F, NY, NY 10064
9781929355860, $18.95, 280 pp,

This compulsively readable debut novel from Hannah S. Hess posits an immediately intriguing premise dealing with seldom-considered ramifications of the horrors of the Holocaust, although one might think there was nothing new to be written about that era.

The time is 1963. The protagonist, Margot Brenner, is at a turning point in her life. Twenty-five years old, she has just gotten her medical degree, graduating with honors, albeit saddened by the fact that her parents are not there to see it: her mother recently passed away, and her doctor father had been killed by the Nazis years before. She had been offered a choice spot as a resident in pediatrics at Mt. Sinai Hospital in her hometown of New York City, but applies for and lands a surgical residency, her true aspiration, in a hospital in Hannover, the small town in Germany in which her parents had lived before the war.

Many chapters are told in flash-back fashion to the Germany of 1939, and the lives of her parents and other Jews before and just after the war started. Jewish doctors had been dismissed from the hospitals, and forbidden to treat Christians. Her parents are taken in by his colleague, Willie Meinhof, in the house where he lives with his wife and 4-year-old son, and he unofficially joins his medical practice. The Brenners arrange to leave Germany with their children by boat for America, still permitted, but just before that can take place their son, Peter, also 4, becomes ill, and the decision is made for Claire to leave on the boat with her baby, Margot, her husband and young son to follow as soon as they are able. Before that can happen, they are taken away by the Nazis, and Willy is arrested for harboring Jews. Willy is released after a few weeks' time and allowed to join the German Army. Margot has never been able to find out conclusively what fate awaited her father and brother, although all rumors and known facts indicate they were killed. Margot feels she owes it to her parents, and to herself, to try to find out what happened to them. She contacts Willie Meinhof and tries to find out the answers, but he is resistant, saying it is better to "let the past stay buried; let sleeping dogs lie." What follows is a fascinating, wonderfully plotted tale.

Even though this reader had guessed at the ending, it did not lessen the impact one bit. The earlier reference to the book being "compulsively readable" was not figurative - - when I was nearing the end of the book, all plans for the evening were cancelled; I could not put this book down.

The title, "Honest Deceptions," may, at the very least, seem to be a contradiction in terms; the term is also kinder than the actions that lie at the heart of the plot deserve.

Highly recommended.

Gloria Feit

Gorden's Bookshelf

Fatal Exchange
Russell Blake
4900 LaCross Rd, North Charleston, SC 29406
B0054M6PTY, $4.49 ebook
9781480277700, $11.99, 302 pp,

Fatal Exchange is a solid and gritty action mystery. The story starts out fragmented with a jumpy variety of seemingly disconnected events but by about a quarter of the way through the story everything finally pulls together. The connections and backstory are introduced in fragments so it came be a struggle to work through the beginning of the book. The action is fast and lethal. The detective mystery is just enough to move the story from the suspense genre to mystery but just barely.

The story starts out in Myanmar and travels across Asia to the US. In New York, Tess Gideon, a bike messenger, is fighting traffic unaware that soon people around her will begin dying. She has been caught in a web of international intrigue, terrorists, a dirty Wall Street mogul and a serial killer. She has to find out what is happening before she becomes someone's next victim.

Anyone interested in reading a fast-paced adult action, suspense, mystery will not be disappointed picking up Fatal Exchange. There a two weaknesses in the story. The beginning is frantic and the end, although very solid, seems contrived. But the complete story is better than the majority in this niche and its pricing won't hold the reader back. Fatal Exchange is an easy recommendation.

Clone Hunter
Victor Methos
4900 LaCross Rd, North Charleston, SC 29406
B0057HMERI $2.99 US
9781479149179, $19.99, 366 pp,

Authors and publishers have a hard time figuring out formatting for ebooks. Methos has done a better than average job formatting for ereaders but there are a few minor problems. The most noticeable one is the way he heads his chapters. The formatting works for print but with an ereader the chapter headings need to be at least bold font and the spacing needs to be less. The reason this becomes important is that every character in the story is written in first person so the way you find out which character you are now reading about is with chapter heading. This makes the heading important enough to warrant a bold and larger font.

Writing every character in first person is distracting at first. The benefit for this style is that you can be more intimate with building the character's personality and motives. The problem is that by default every character, even those just building up the storyline, becomes a primary focus of the story. It is an unneeded distraction in an otherwise solid tale.

Methos has created a flawed and dystopian future for the human race with his setting for Clone Hunter. Ava, a clone warrior, is fighting a gorilla and terrorist war against the human race for freedom for the clone slaves. She kills the warden of a prison/psychiatric hospital before he orders her killed and escapes. This last act of terrorism puts her on the top of the human most wanted list and multiple entities go after her, even other clones.

Clone Hunter reveals its story slowly. The action is fast paced and vicious. The settings are complex enough. It is a solid SF tale with a satisfying end but the tale is not as smooth as it could be and the dystopian world creation is a touch one dimensional. You won't be disappointed with the story but it doesn't stand out in the genre.

S.A. Gorden, Reviewer

Janet's Bookshelf

The Forgotten Rebels Of Eureka
Clare Wright
Text Publishing Company Melbourne
Swann House
22 William St., Melbourne, Victoria 3000 Australia
9781922147370, Kindle $14.40,

Eureka (yoo-ree-kuh) from the Greek, literally means 'I have found it!' - exactly what Clare Wright has done in her new Australian revisionist history book, The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka; Dr. Wright has not only found it, she has found them; the women and girls who lived, worked and died beside their husbands, brothers and fathers in the 1850's on Australia's Ballarat goldfields.

Women, until recently, left out of history books which describe Australia's nineteenth century goldfields and The Eureka Stockade, a foundation event in a then young English colony, The Forgotten Rebels Of Eureka sets the record straight - women were not only around in significant numbers they made a huge contribution to the shanty towns that grew up around the diggings. Engaged not just in traditional roles they were top of the bill actresses, teachers, writers and publicans.

The Ballarat gold-rush is typically represented as having a cast list of mostly unattached badly behaved young men who lived in lawless, chaotic tent-cities while they mined rich gold seams. Ten years in the researching and writing, Clare Wright's book refutes this view of a community dominated by ruffians and con-men; revealing the Ballarat goldfields of the 1850s as a reasonably law-abiding community of men, women and children, most of whom had travelled a long way to seek, if not fortune, at least a livable financial reward for their hard work.

In 1854, the lure of gold, mined for the price of a pick-axe and a tent, caused Ballarat's population to increase rapidly. Twenty five percent of the community, female, most of them young and newly married, it's no surprise there was a baby boom. In 1854-55, breast pumps were sold in stores and childcare was organised for dances and balls. The picture painted in The Forgotten Rebels Of Eureka of goldfields domesticity - women who cared for children, cooked meals and worked beside their men, despite the noise, dirt, lack of water, primitive sanitary conditions and domestic violence is a fascinating look at the social history of the time.

A seminal event in the establishment of an Australian national identity, the incidents that led to The Eureka Stockade where miners rebelled against local authorities, began as a series of protests against the licence fees charged by the colonial government, which were enforced by poorly trained, brutal and often crooked police. Miners had to pay a fee each month to renew their licence, whether or not they had found gold.

Gold seams depleted, in November 1854, tensions increased, a hotel was burned down and three miners were arrested - 10,000 thousand miners met to demand the release of the prisoners, abolition of licence fees and the right to vote. Demands refused, the miners held a meeting at the Eureka diggings (named after a deep seam of gold). They built a fort, which they named the Eureka Stockade.

On Sunday, 3rd December, several hundred soldiers and police attacked the stockade. Better equipped, government troops outnumbered the diggers; the battle short, accounts vary, but it is thought 22 diggers and 5 soldiers were killed.

Women of the goldfields who were caught up in the miner's fight for a 'fair go' for all, not just the ruling elite, have never been mentioned in official government reports or the accounts of the Eureka Stockade written by male historians. This extraordinary oversight, in keeping with Australia's male dominated historical records has been remedied by The Forgotten Rebels Of Eureka - women were there; their work and suffering every bit as heroic and inspiring as the men they helped to turn a fledgling colony into the modern state of Victoria.

Historian, public commentator and university lecturer, Clare Wright through letters, newspapers and research of the period (included is an extensive bibliography) has written a realistic, exciting, sometimes humorous and at times sad account of truly remarkable women; Sarah Hanmer, theatrical entrepreneur and founder of one of Ballarat's first theatres, the Adephi, was a great supporter of miner's rights and the fight to change the iniquitous government licencing system, Sarah helped a young American miner, James Mc Gill, who had been part of the rebel force that challenged the authorities at the Eureka Stockade, escape punishment by providing and helping him dress in women's clothes, Catherine Bentley, publican, who with her husband, James, ran the Eureka Hotel, a popular goldfields hotel where large numbers of working people congregated to drink, gamble and dance. Unhappily the hotel was burned down by an angry mob after Catherine and James were suspected of playing a part in the death of a young miner; James was imprisoned and Catherine, in her early twenties, became a single mother, the sole support of her children. Catherine Mc Lister, a twenty-eight-year-old Irish women, who bravely brought a complaint of sexual impropriety against a police captain; literate and undismayed, Catherine stood before a board of inquiry and stated her case, she replied to cross examination and herself, cross examined witnesses. Despite the charge being dismissed as vexatious (Catherine's husband having been previously arrested by the police officer charged, the board decided her action was retaliatory), she acquitted herself well, a woman prepared to risk her reputation and take drastic action against the sexual advances of a police officer who preyed on women who worked alone in their homes on the goldfields.

The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka has many true stories of women, often newly arrived immigrants, who faced life on the goldfields, undeterred by hard work, childbirth, illness, poverty and errant husbands, they survived harsh weather and lack of housing with courageous optimism. Clare Wright's intimate writing style breathes life into these women; often dying young, they lived, loved and worked in what, for most of them, would have been an environment of extreme hardship. I particularly loved the glimpses of life in the nineteenth century gained from letters of women who welcomed the chance to escape the conventions of the time for the freedom of a brand new country. Matter of fact, I can't remember a chapter that wasn't an absorbing page turner.

Listen up: Nicole and Naomi; there are so many wonderful women's stories in The Forgotten Rebels Of Eureka that beg to tell the true story of Australia's gold-rush - all of them perfect for the big screen.

The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka, a scholarly work of important social and historical significance, Clare Wright's book is a definite for your wish-list.

Bitter Wash Road
Garry Disher
Text Publishing Company
Swann House
22 William St., Melbourne, Victoria 3000 Australia
9781922079244, Kindle $3.99,

Whistleblowing is a tricky trade, practitioners often find after spilling the beans on corruption in the workplace, instead of being hailed as heroes they are treated as liars and ostracized. Worse still, dependent on where, what and whom they blow the whistle on, physical danger to themselves or family members is a real possibility.

Constable Hirschhausen knows exactly what I am talking about - the lead character in Garry Disher's trim, taut and terrific crime novel, Bitter Wash Road he's a whistleblower; albeit a reluctant one.

Hirsch, the name he is known by in the single-officer South Australian police station he has been posted to after telling most of what he knows about a senior detective's stellar career in bribery, theft and anything else that makes a dollar, is an honest cop. Previously a member of an Adelaide city detective squad he did his best to avoid the station's corrupt operations but neglected to remove a gold Rolex watch left in his locker which incriminated him in other officer's crimes.

Alerted by allegations of officers engaged in systematic graft, the Police Investigation Unit swept into the station. They didn't find any evidence of Hirsch's wrongdoing but they did find the gold Rolex. Hirsch was given one of two options: come clean about crooked squad members and accept demotion to constable and a North of Nowhere posting or be charged with theft.

Hirsch, afraid for his life, tells some of what he knows and avoids jail time but not the pervasive stink that surrounds a police whistleblower.

His reputation as scum who informs on fellow officers arrives before him to his posting in the small wheat and wool country town of Tiverton. Reporting to Sergeant Kropp, the officer in charge, it's made clear to Hirsch that if he steps out of line then he will be more than sorry.

Garry Disher's characterizations and description of Hirsch's arrival in town and his first police investigation; gun fire reported on Bitter Wash Road, are graphic and fraught with the tension of characters trapped in a place they would rather not be - Tiverton a town where the trifecta of poverty, police brutality and despair is always present. A writer who in one economical sentence can set a scene which absorbs readers and write intriguing dialogue that keeps a plot percolating, Garry Disher is up there with the international stars of crime writing - think you've guessed; I am a big fan of Mr. Disher's books.

Bitter Wash Road has a multi layered plot which is interleaved with the ongoing Police Investigation Unit enquiry into police corruption in the Adelaide police station. Themes of racial discrimination and sexual misconduct surface in Tiverton when a young part aboriginal girl is found dead on the highway outside of town. Sergeant Kropp says her death was as a result of a hit n' run driver, Hirsch is sure the girl was murdered. Something is going on in Tiverton, something secret, something that the town's prominent citizens don't want anyone to know about. Hirsch, warned off, is determined he will find out.

Disgusted by the behaviour of two brutal bullying constables from the neighbouring Redruth Police Station, Hirsch stops the intimidation of locals and the bashings routinely handed out to the young men of Tiverton.

Unable to get a lead in the investigation of the young girl's death on the highway, Hirsch is confronted by the apparent suicide of a local woman. When he arrives at the scene, evidence has been trashed, everything points to murder but how to prove it and get justice for a woman whose only crime was to leave an abusive husband, is a question that Hirsch aims to find the answer to, sooner rather than later.

Here on in the suspense is ramped up to adrenalin racing, page turning level. Plenty happens in Tiverton to resolve the death of the young women found by the roadside and the murder of a local woman. Hirsch, in the thick of the action, the plot twists and turns to a riveting exciting conclusion.

Award winning writer, Garry Disher, also writes books for young people; most notably, The Bamboo Flute and in 1996 his novel, The Sunken Road, was nominated for the Booker Prize. He is also the author of the 'Wyatt' and 'Hal Challis' crime series - great characters, great reads.

Janet Walker

Karyn's Bookshelf

The Big Wet Balloon
Ricardo Liniers, author and illustrator
Toon Books
c/o Candlewick Press
99 Dover St., Somerville, MA 02144
9781935179320, $12.95,

A big sister teaches her little sister to appreciate a rainy day in this joyful comic-style story. The girls' ages aren't given, but they appear to be about 5 and 2-1/2. The book is part of a three-level cartoon series for new and emerging readers, with simple words and child-friendly illustrations. The older sister energetically leads the way outside and the younger sister follows, mimicking the mood of the moment. Both girls' emotions are palpable, appearing in the toddler as fear when the wind whips their umbrella, acceptance of the idea that rain sounds like clapping hands and dismay at her sibling's suggesting to send her new balloon soaring up to a rainbow. A beautifully illustrated, sweet ode to sisterhood and to venturing outside, whatever the weather.

Aaron Becker, author and illustrator
Candlewick Press
99 Dover St., Somerville, MA 02144
9780763660536, $15.99,

Breathtaking art carries this wordless story about a girl who enters a fantastic world through a door she's drawn on her bedroom wall. There is adventure, as she draws a boat and floats via a moat into a walled medieval-looking city. Using her vivid red drawing instrument - it could be a crayon, marker or chalk, that is never specified - she escapes the city by drawing a hot air balloon. She saves a beautiful pink bird from evil captors who have put it in a cage. Ultimately, on a hastily drawn flying carpet, she follows the bird through a portal back home. Tiny details abound; something new will pop out with each successive read. The absence of text allows young readers to interpret the story in their own, creative way. Simply gorgeous.

Karyn L. Saemann, Reviewer

Katherine's Bookshelf

Morris Mansion
Rita Dear
Eutopian Press
PO Box 116424, Carrollton, TX 75011
9781935015253, $10.00,

Rita Dear has started a new series, this time for young adults, with Morris Mansion as the "pilot". Because I liked her earlier Eutopian Destiny series that she wrote for adults, I was hoping this new prequel series for young adults would be as good. I was not disappointed. This is as good as her earlier works. As long as she keeps up with the same fine writing with this series as her original Eutopian Destiny series, I am sure everyone will be as captivated by her storytelling abilities as I am and as so many of her fans are.

Morris Mansion goes back to the teen years of Joe Morris and Angelique Baker as they begin to learn about life and demonstrate the kind of people they will become. We also get to know about Asher, Joe's brother. In spite of the hypocritical upbringing by their parent's, Joe and his brother show intelligence, compassion and understanding of others.

""Why is Father always so mean?" he asked Asher as they walked out to the street.

Asher shrugged his shoulders and said, "He's a very important Preacher in Boston. He preaches strong discipline to the congregation. He has to make sure we live that example. If we mess up, we hurt his reputation.""

Joe's light shines best at school where he champions the underdogs and does good deeds without expecting anything in return.

When a snowstorm hits the town, the church is put in jeopardy by heavy snow accumulation on the roof; Joe is instrumental in saving it. In another incident, he helps several people who are stranded in a snowstorm with him and Angelique's family, again without expecting anything in return.

In her inimitable style, Rita leaves us with a cliffhanger that gives us a suggestion of much more excitement to come in the sequel(s) to this prequel. Be sure to get Morris Mansion and start another trip with Rita as she, hopefully, leads us through the teen years of Joe and Angelique. I am already waiting impatiently for her next book. Morris Mansion is a great book for teens and I believe that all ages from pre-teen to seniors will like it for a quick and enlightening read.

Rita Dear is a retired accountant and avid fiction reader. She felt she could write books that people would be interested in that were not so graphic and she proved it with her Eutopian Destiny series. She lives in Texas with her greatest fan, Pumpkin, a rescue dog. You can get her books from her website and on

Flying Solo
Jeanette Vaughn
AgeView Press
10059 County Road 470, Blue Ridge, TX 75424
9780615618883, $13.49,

Flying Solo by Jeanette Vaughn is a story about Nora Broussard Greenwood, a woman in the 60's in New Orleans who learns to "fly solo" in more ways than one. She decides to learn how to fly, something that women did not do in those days. Married to an affluent man she does not love, she has an affair with her flight instructor. On another occasion she makes the momentous decision to leave her husband, which goes against all that she had been taught.

"Nora would marry way too young. She was the daughter of New Orleans natives, Nellie Shryock and the late Jack Broussard. As a young girl, Nora spent many an afternoon riding the streetcars up and down Carrollton Avenue while her mother worked at Hotel Dieu Hospital. ... Her daydreams often were about the adventures she imagined her gypsy-like, Cajun father must have had riding the riverboats up and down the Mississippi."

By making the decision to learn to fly, Nora set in motion a new, independent life just as adventurous as she imagined her father's life had been. Her decisions conflicted with the life that she was supposed to be living as a Catholic wife and mother.

Nora had help in her flight from the oppressive life she was leading to a future with promise. Many of her friends advised her, but after considering their advice, the decisions to do the things she did were hers.

In her quest for independence, she discovers an old family secret that involves her whole life. To learn this secret and how she dealt with her old and new life, read Jeanette's well-written, believable book.

Jeanette Vaughan is well established as a writer and story teller. She has published in periodicals and professional journals of nursing and also in the genre of fiction. She has written several novels and scripts. She is the mother of four children, including two Navy pilots. She lives in a Victorian farmhouse in northeast Texas with her sheep, chickens, donkeys and sheep dogs.

Flying Solo has won the following awards:

Finalist in historical fiction for Beverly Hills Book Awards
Finalist in romantic suspense for Reader's Favorite Awards
4th place in Reader's Favorite International Book Awards for Southern Fiction

Katherine Boyer

Lois' Bookshelf

Kauai Temptations: a McKenna Mystery
Terry Ambrose
4900 LaCross Rd., Charleston, SC 29406
9780985954031, $11.95, 268 pp,

The most important element in any mystery story is the detective. Though curious whodunit, the reader knows he must wait to learn the answer, and meanwhile he will follow the adventures of the sleuth, who must be an interesting person. Terry Ambrose has met this criterion admirably in his protagonist, Wilson McKenna, who is 62 and just curmudgeonly enough to be reminiscent of Inspector Morse. Like the popular Brit, McKenna is feeling his age, to the point where, when women come on to him, he begins to speculate about the need for Viagra. Besides this, he suffers from a gluten intolerance which renders it difficult for him to find suitable places to eat. No fast food for him; he must plan his meals and restaurants carefully while he pursues his suspects.

McKenna, a newspaper man, arrives back in Honolulu from a trip to the mainland to learn that he is a victim of identity theft. His bank account is wiped out, his bills overdue. Furious, he sets out for Kauai to find the culprit, planning also to write a story about the adventure. A video camera reveals to him the person who cashed his checks, a comely blonde, but when he tracks her down, he learns she is dead. Since there is a possibility that she was murdered by others in the theft ring, he must seek her murderer even though he is plunged into grave danger in the process. Forewarned in a dream, he fails to interpret the dream sufficiently to avoid a harrowing encounter. He walks straight into the danger.

No longer sporting sufficient strength and muscle for a fight, McKenna endeavors to win by wit. He poses as a surfer, then is forced to find a way to avoid surfing. He does this by slathering ketchup on his leg and claiming to have suffered an injury. Unfortunately, there is a dog on the beach who proves to be a ketchup-lover, and the truth about McKenna is revealed in a dog-scene which would be wildly funny if the consequences were not so harrowing.

Things move rapidly toward disaster and more and more McKenna must call upon his wits. The pursuer soon becomes the pursued.

As always, Terry Ambrose has a strong sense of place, and offers us a travelogue of a visit to Kauai, providing details right down to the streets McKenna drives on. The material is fresh and unique. Written in a fast-paced and witty style, the book is a great read, highly recommended.

Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin
Jill Lepore
Borzoi Books / Alfred J. Knopf
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780307958341, $27.95, 442 pp,

The usual superlatives are insufficient to describe this book. An awesome undertaking, it's a biography that doubles as a history of women over a lengthy period.

In the Eighteenth Century, when Ben Franklin and his sister lived, women were not taught to write. This was not just a case of lack of funds, of Brother getting the only education the family could afford. This was deliberate, based on the conviction that women couldn't possibly have any use for such a skill, and would be better occupied learning stitchery or cookery. This attitude led to a total lack of source material for studying women's lives. No letters or journals were left behind by those who couldn't write - and only a handful of women of the era could.

Luckily for us, Ben Franklin adored his little sister and, in childhood, taught her what he was learning, providing her with an education of sorts and the ability, however childish, to communicate. Her story is important in shedding light on generations of women who had no voice at all.

Jane had twelve children and raised eight to adulthood. Seven died as young adults, some leaving behind children for her to raise. In the next generation, the same thing happened, leaving her to raise her great-grandchildren. She created her Book of Ages to record the many lives and deaths in the family. She lived through the Revolutionary War with all its hardships, including a hasty and terrifying evacuation of the City of Boston. After marrying, at fifteen, an alcoholic layabout, she fought poverty all her life. She rented out rooms in the family home to earn money.

Jane's story is only one of the many threads woven together in this book, which doubles as a history of the era, told from the women's perspective. In the appendix, the author explains her methods: "I wanted to write...the biography of a single life, using the most ordinary of lives to offer a history of history and to explain how history is written."

She has succeeded admirably in this. The book morphs intriguingly from history to biography and back again. We're given a unique picture of Ben Franklin as seen through his sister's eyes. In the end we know the period better than those living in it knew it; we see it in perspective as contrasted to the present. The story of Jane Franklin is the story of women.

Lois Wells Santalo

Marjorie's Bookshelf

The Honeymoon Effect
Bruce H. Lipton, Ph.D
Hay House, Inc.
PO Box 5100, Carlsbad, CA 92018-5100
9781401923860, $24.95,

Bruce Lipton is a cell biologist who uses his education and training to help us understand what goes on in our bodies when we engage emotionally with other people. As the book title infers, he focuses mainly on relationships with significant others. But I found it applies to all relationships in our lives that are based on emotional engagement. He takes biochemistry, quantum mechanics and psychology and shows us how we can better relate to those in our lives whom we love. Among the many things he goes over, he shows how our subconscious mind can sabotage our relationships without our even knowing. Programs that we learn as a child and even as far back as the womb can color our adult lives without our realizing it. The conscious mind wants to do one thing; old programs in the subconscious dictate some other behavior. He gives good advice how to overcome these old programs. Another subject he covers is to show how bonding in chemical elements translates into our lives. I particularly liked his take on the "noble gases" that don't bond with other elements unless excited and then they will seek bonding. He says "...energized noble gas atoms are like people primed and ready for selfless love, a world of sharing and caring." The man draws some interesting deductions from science and applies it to relationships. This book is worth a read, especially if one is interested in understanding and improving relationships.

Longmire, The Complete First Season
DVD, Season 1, 8 episodes, 443 minutes
Warner Home Video
ASIN B00BFA1H68, $39.98

Longmire, the TV series, is based on Craig Johnson's novels about Wyoming Sheriff Walt Longmire played by Robert Taylor. I've read about four of the novels and then watched the TV version on DVD. Frankly, I think the TV series is much better. I find the sheriff of the books too All- American-macho, down to the Rainer beer he exclusively drinks. I never finished the novel series. Walt Longmire is a philosopher to boot, and although the novels are written with humor, I don't think it saves them. Now, I know that Craig Johnson has a huge following, but it comes back to what appeals to the reader. In the books Longmire does things that are not realistic, so it pulls me out of the story thinking, nah, this just couldn't happen. The TV series moves faster, is more condensed, and the scenes do not follow the book storyline at all, which is okay with me. The characters are believable and well acted. Vic, the lady deputy played by Kattee Sackhoff, gets my vote for best actor in the series. Henry, the Native American side-kick played by Lou Diamond Phillips, is okay but I liked my fantasy of the book Henry better. There are lots of parts for Native American actors which is nice. Walt is a troubled soul, having lost his wife about a year before the opening of the story. Henry is his friend and therapist. This part of the series is about Walt getting his stuff back together and back to being a macho sheriff. All-in-all I'd give the DVD TV series a four star.

Marjorie Thelen, Reviewer

Mayra's Bookshelf

Secrets and Lies
Christine Amsden
Twilight Times Books
P O Box 3340, Kingsport TN 37664
9781606192771, $17.95 pbk / $3.99 Kindle, 274 pgs.,

Secrets and Lies is the second installment in the Cassie Scot new adult paranormal mystery series. Though there's a bit of backstory in this novel, it's preferable to read the books in order, if only to find out from the beginning who Cassie is, how she got started as a detective and, especially, how her romance with Evan evolved. Also to understand the animosity between their families.

In Secrets and Lies, two girls have gone missing from a summer camp and although the local police have already started investigating, Cassie is hired by a family member of the girls to help in the case. Evan, always wanting to protect Cassie, joins her in the investigation.

Because Evan saved Cassie's life in book 1, Cassie believes she owes him and finds it difficult to deny him what he wants. This makes life both frustrating and thrilling for Cassie, who is not only an independent, smart, 21-year old sleuth, but she's also powerfully attracted to him and prone to succumb to his charms...but who can resist a charismatic, handsome warlock?

As the two begin to investigate, it becomes increasingly obvious that magic is involved, and that the girls might still be alive. At the same time, there seems to be a "ghost" or "invisible person" robbing banks in town. Are the robberies and the girls' disappearance connected in some way? Adding further tension to the mystery is the ongoing war between Cassie and her parents, who betrayed and disowned her in book 1, as well as the unending feud between Cassie's and Evan's families, who totally loath each other. This, of course, puts pressure on the young couple, who are not only in lust but also in love.

As Cassie closes in on the villains, tormenting issues about her mother resurface. On her mother's deathbed, Cassie must make a decision that could forever distance her from her mother or could possibly reunite them - or at least ease some of the tension in the family and improve their relationship. The book isn't titled Secrets and Lies for nothing, as there are plenty of these in the story, not to mention enough twists and turns to keep readers guessing.

This was a thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining read. First of all, what I love most about Cassie is her voice. She is very likable and sympathetic, with just the right amount of good qualities and flaws. She's smart, independent, witty, sensitive, and has a good heart. Amsden does an excellent job with her character's interiority.

The second aspect of this novel I enjoyed the most is the romance between Cassie and Evan. It's just the right amount, without veering the plot away from the mystery. It also has its fair share of tension, as we never know how it's going to end up for these two. The author keeps us guessing in this roller-coaster of a love story.

The pace flows fairly quickly, as this author doesn't use too much exposition or description. Action and dialogue propel the story forward. The paranormal aspect adds fun and spice to the story without getting overwhelming, and I enjoyed all the magic 101.

The ending left me breathless with a mega-revelation that will have a major impact on the relationship between Cassie and Evan. Having read both books in the series, this is my favorite, and I can't wait to see what Amsden will come up with in her next installment, soon to come out in 2014. Fans of paranormal mysteries will relish this one!

Beware of the White
Kai Strand
MuseItUp Publishing
14878 James, Pierrefonds, Quebec, Canada, H9H 1P5
9781771273206 $5.95, 246 pgs.,

This middle-grade novel was an entertaining, delightful read!

Terra is a sweet, smart girl, very close to her mom, and not what one might call popular at school. In fact, she's often a bit bullied at times. She also suffers in silence for the death of her dad years ago.

The action begins soon after Terra's 12th birthday, when she receives an unexpected visit from a mysterious Spirit Ambassador who tells Terra she's a Nature Spirit of the Underworld and who escorts her to the secret, underground city of Concord. As is the tradition, Terra must now begin to learn what talents she possesses and how best to use them in the Underworld cities. Thus, she embarks on a journey of discovery; she must learn her reason for being there and she must also learn about those she is there to help. Soon, everybody agrees she's the Spirit in the prophecy, the one being who will fight Blanco, the evil leader of the Trepidus, and bring back peace to Concord - a daunting quest for one so young, especially one who doubts her skills and talents.

I thoroughly enjoyed Beware of the White. This is the start of an exciting fantasy series (The Concord Chronicles) for tweens. There's mystery, action and adventure, and even a hint of romance between Terra and her protector, Frank, a Security Spirit. Author Kai Strand does an excellent job with her world building, creating a fascinating, original universe that will appeal to young readers. Terra is a sympathetic protagonist, one who bravely faces her problems in spite of her insecurities. Readers will root for her as she embarks on her quest to fulfill the prophecy and find her destiny. The writing itself flows beautifully, and is very appropriate for the tween audience. Strand makes every word count. Recommended for fans of fantasy!

Mayra Calvani

Paul's Bookshelf

What God Really Wants You to Know
C. David Lundberg
Heavenlight Press
P.O. Box 8313, New Fairfield CT 06812-8313
9780979630804, $19.95, 426 pages,

For hundreds of years, mankind has used religion as a source of division and a justification for war (our God is better than your God). "What God Really Wants You to Know: God's Universal Truths Shared by All World Religions" looks at the very deep similarities between the world's major religions.

Each of the thirty-three major points are illustrated with quotes from each religion's holy books. Along with the Talmud, Bible and Qu'ran, there are also quotes from the Mahabharata and Bhagavad Gita (Hinduism), the Dhammapada (Buddhism), the Tao Te Ching (Taoism) and the Doctrine of the Mean (Confucianism).

Here are some of the areas in which the world's religions are similar. Life, with God, is Good, God gave us free will, so we are responsible for all we create. We are a part of God. There is One, All-Knowing, All-Powerful God, who created all good things. Maintain inner peace. Give praise and gratitude to God for all the blessings of life. God is Everywhere and Eternal. Live with moderation and balance in this world. Your body is God's temple, so keep it in good condition.

Always live by the Golden Rule. Help others and be charitable. Do no harm. Be patient. Respect others and don't judge them, unless their choices will harm the innocent. Be honest and merciful toward others. Acquire wisdom and knowledge to help you accomplish your goals. Use effort, persistence and discipline to help achieve your goals.

Step away from the religious radicals and hotheads, on all sides, and the world's religions are not so different, are they? This book can be opened to any page, and it will show that the different conceptions of God around the world are very similar. It is recommended for everyone, religious or non-religious.

The Great Cholesterol Myth
Jonny Bowden and Stephen Sinatra
Fair Winds Press
c/o Quayside Publishing Group
100 Cummings Center, Suite 406-L, Beverly MA 01915-6101
9781592335213, $19.99, 240 pages,

"High cholesterol and saturated fat are the major causes of heart disease." That statement has been a medical article of faith for many years. According to the authors of "The Great Cholesterol Myth: Why Lowering Your Cholesterol Won't Prevent Heart Disease - and the Statin-Free Plan That Will", it is also very wrong.

There are several different types of "good" and "bad" cholesterol (some "good" cholesterol is bad for the body, and some "bad" cholesterol is good for the body), so a single number for good and bad cholesterol each is rather worthless. People with really low cholesterol numbers can easily get heart disease, and those with really high cholesterol numbers can live their entire lives without one bit of heart disease. Why do some native cultures, who practically live on saturated fat, have little or no heart disease?

The real cause of heart disease is chronic inflammation, which comes from damage caused by free radicals (the book explains everything). Sugar is much more harmful to your heart than fat. It contributes to inflammation in the walls of your arteries. It increases the amount of insulin in your blood, which increases cholesterol and raises your blood pressure. It also raises your level of triglycerides, which is a much better indicator of heart disease than cholesterol.

What is the problem with statin drugs, the usual treatment for heart disease? Their benefits have been extremely exaggerated. The brain depends on cholesterol to function normally. A common (but under-reported) side effect of statin drugs is sexual dysfunction. Most doctors dismiss complaints of side effects from statin drugs, and don't report them to the FDA. The only people who should take statin drugs are middle-age men with documented coronary artery disease.

The book mentions tests that are much better indicators than cholesterol of heart problems. Ask your doctor to order them. Get rid of sugar, soda, processed carbohydrates and trans fats from your diet. Eat more vegetables, berries, nuts, beans and dark chocolate. If you can add only one supplement to your diet, make it Coenzyme Q10.

This book easily reaches the level of Must read, especially for anyone on a statin drug. It is an eye-opener that will give the reader plenty to discuss with their doctor at their next appointment.

Paul Lappen, Reviewer

Peggy's Bookshelf

Julius Caesar Brown and the Green Gas Mystery
Ace Hansen
MuseItUp Publishing
14878 James, Pierrefonds, Quebec, Canada H9H 1P5
9781771274241, $7.95, 114 pages,

Julius Caesar Brown is an ordinary 5th grader with the usual problems. His parents are separated and they fight about money all the time. He's not very good at math and he's the target of the school bully, Jake the Snake. He desperately wants to be friends with Ivy Chen, the coolest girl in school. But his best friend Mason's little sister has a crush on him and keeps getting in the way. When an explosion of green gas rocks his world something definitely doesn't smell right. The Global Air Group - aka GAG - offers a million dollar prize to the person who discovers the cause. Scientists around the world scramble for answers to the green gas mystery. Unfortunately when it comes to math and science, Julius is a fart in a windstorm. That is until he crosses paths with the Zombie Lady and stumbles upon the mystery. But will he be the first to claim the prize? "Julius Caesar Brown and the Green Gas Mystery" is an action-packed laugh riot that is sure to be a hit with middle school boys and girls.

Mouse's Christmas Cookie
Written by Patricia Thomas
Illustrated by John Nez
Two Lions Publishing
PO Box 400818, Las Vegas, NV 89140
9781477847046, $14.99, 22 pages,

Mouse steals a Christmas cookie. Cat sees it all. The chase is on, up and down the Christmas tree, onto the toy train, and across the mantelpiece. What fun! This is almost a wordless picture book with limited, yet effective, vocabulary. Nez's brilliant cartoon illustrations tell the story with plenty of humor and action. It is not easy to find good holiday stories to capture the imaginations of infants and young toddlers. "Mouse's Christmas Cookie" is a cat and mouse game that is sure to amuse pre-schoolers, ages three and younger.

Koolura and the Mystery at Camp Saddleback
Michael L. Thal
Solstice Publishing
614 Wal-Mart Drive, Farmington, MO. 63601
9781494351731, $13.99, 144 pages,

Koolura Akopyan - aka Kool - is a 12-year old with super powers. She is able to teleport and she can levitate objects and move them with her mind. She can also fly. In Book Two of the Koolura Series, Kool and her best friend Linda spend the summer at Camp Saddleback. Right away Kool notices a weakening of her super powers. She doesn't know what's causing the problem but her investigation is interrupted. The boys' camp is across the lake and when the girls' cabins get toilet papered one night, a war of pranks breaks out between the two camps. It's all fun and games until a prank turns ugly and a camper gets hurt. Kool must get to the bottom of the evil mischief before anyone else becomes a victim, while at the same time dealing with some glitches in her super powers. "Koolura and the Mystery at Camp Saddleback" is full of surprises.

The Scotties Learn about Respect
Stephanie Robinson, author
Wendy Hope, illustrator
Ambassador International
427 Wade Hampton Blvd, Greenville, SC 296709
9781620201190, $14.99, 32 pages,

Flea, Bonnie and Archie are three lovable Scottish Terriers. One afternoon Archie has a dream about digging for treasure. When the Scotties' mom comes home and plants tomato plants in the garden Archie thinks about his dream. Before he knows it he has dug up his mom's tomato plants and she is not happy. Archie doesn't know why. He needs Flea and Bonnie to help him understand the meaning of respect. But it's up to Archie to figure out how to turn her frown upside down. Wendy Hope's vibrant drawings of the Scotties' antics will delight preschoolers as they discover why moms sometimes get angry and - best of all - how to makes things better.

100 Snowmen
Jen Arena, author
Stephen Gilpin, illustrator
Two Lions Publishing
PO Box 400818, Las Vegas, NV 89140
9781477847039, $14.99, 20 pages,

The fun begins with the addition of two snowmen to one lonely snowman. But they soon multiply into one long equation that will have young readers reaching for a pencil. This is not a story book. It is a counting and math book and would make a great addition to an elementary classroom library, especially kindergarten through third grade. The cartoon illustrations of the snowmen enjoying all sorts of winter recreation are humorous and engaging. "100 Snowmen" is a math-magical way to approach a snowy day.

No More!
Ben Shomer, author
Alyssa DeNovio, illustrator
Amazon Digital Services
345 Boren Ave N., Seattle, WA 98109
B00CMZ7RHA, $2.99, 42 pages,

"No More" tells the story of a little boy named Sam who was bullied by a bigger boy named Josh. Sam tried hard to avoid meeting up with Josh but they lived in the same neighborhood and they went to the same school. Sam walked with a group of kids and even ran away but nothing stopped Josh from bullying him. When Sam's mom enrolled him in Judo class for the summer everything begin to change. But will Sam be able to overcome his fear of Josh when he goes back to school?

Author Ben Shomer reveals that Sam's story is his own personal story about how the martial arts have helped him. Alyssa DeNovio's illustrations put a face on bullying so that young children can recognize it when they see it for themselves. "No More" is a good guidebook for kids who are just learning to cope with bullies at school or in the neighborhood.

Peggy Tibbetts, Reviewer

Riva's Bookshelf

Revelations: Imago Chronicles Book 8
Lorna Suzuki
L.T. Suzuki
9780992126506, $19.99
ASIN B00G9H4KLS, $3.99 Kindle

Suzuki brings the adventures of Nayla and the men of the Order to a stunning and unforeseen conclusion in the final volume of their adventures, Revelations. Be prepared to shed some tears as the characters make unforeseen sacrifices in order to defeat a wickedness that is once again devastating the land of Imago.

Some previously notable characters are suspiciously absent from this final volume, leaving readers to wonder what has become of them and hoping that they haven't run into foul play. Also the far reaching effects of the evil that has invaded Imago leaves in its wake complications that previously could not have been foreseen and a burden of guilt and loss that will plague the land, and change the evolving storyline forever.

As always Suzuki shows herself a master of storytelling, drawing out the mystery and suspense of the tale for the longest possible time. Who or what is the evil that has invaded Imago this time? And how will it impact not only the members of the Order, but their children as well?

I read this book from start to finish in two days, staying up late into the night to read it and hating that I had to put it down when sleep finally made it too difficult to hold open my eyes. The fear for the characters was a constant companion throughout this book and when the storyline began to reach it conclusion tears fell as I said goodbye to beloved characters for a final time.

I highly recommend this book to all Imago fans as well as lovers of epic fantasy . I would note that this is the final book in the series and one should really read the previous books in order to fully understand the intricate interplay of the characters and storyline, however, if read alone, enough of the backstory is given to make this book readable as a standalone novel. This final novel of Nayla and the Order is Suzuki's crowning achievement and a fitting conclusion to this popular series.

3 Gates of the Dead
Jonathan Ryan
Premier Digital Publishing
9781624670992 $16.99
ASIN B00DEOG8TQ, $9.99 ebook

3 Gates of the Dead, by Jonathan Ryan is a roller coaster ride of a horror story - the suspense keeps building and you know when you hit the other side you are going to come out screaming - but you can't help turning the pages anyway.

I was caught up in this book almost immediately. I liked the main character and really identified with what he was going through. I didn't see the twists along the way coming and I found the story to be engrossing and some of the characters, especially Father Neil and Zoe to be particularly memorable. Detective Brown was also a really great character.

Pastor Aidan Schaeffer is going through a crisis of faith. An Associate Pastor at an Ohio church he is tormented by the fact he no longer believes in God. He then becomes a murder suspect in the death of his ex-fiancee Amanda. Even when he is cleared, he remains involved in the investigation because of its ritualistic nature and supernatural elements. Will Pastor Schaeffer resolve his crisis of faith in time to save himself and those he cares for? Is the killer a sick serial killer or is there something more behind Amanda's death? Can Aidan figure out the clue Amanda has left behind in enough time to prevent the next killing and what is with the letters carved into Amanda's forehead?

This book falls in with the tradition of the Exorcist and with Stephen King's supernatural thrillers. There is a quality to the story that reminds me of Poe's short stories at their best with their unforeseen macabre twists.

This is a complete stand-alone book, but there is a bit of a cliffhanger at the end that means we will be seeing more books involving Pastor Schaeffer, Father Neal and the supernatural world from this promising new horror writer.

I highly recommend this book to all readers of horror, suspense and the mysterious. It really is excellent.

The Silver Sphere
Michael Dadich
Published by Evolved Publishing
9781622536023, $29.95
9781622536016, $14.95
B00AAJUSWQ, $3.99 ebook

I loved this YA novel with strong female leads and lots of action. It offered an unusual twist on how and why the teenagers, who are pretty much picked on and unpopular back home, come to represent salvation to not just one, but two planets.

I loved watching the characters evolve from rather withdrawn, insecure teens into people who are competent in their power and know exactly what they have to do, no matter the odds against them. They become strong and self-assured from the various trials they face, alone and together. They develop friendships with people on the planet they are transported to, Azimuth, and they find themselves caught up in key roles in a war that could determine not just the fate of Azimuth but also that of their home planet Earth.

I felt for all of the characters as they faced their different trials, both at home and at Azimuth, but the characters of Shelby and Zach were definitely my favorites as they both transformed so much in the course of the novel and had the most to gain and lose at different points in the book.

Dadich displays wonderful world-building skills in his creation of Azimuth. It is a strange mix of medieval life, magic and some pretty advanced technology. It is a classic battle of good versus evil, which is never really assured. The story finishes up nicely but leaves an interesting lead-in to a sequel that I can't wait to read when it becomes available.

I would recommend the book to lovers of YA, good fantasy, and people who want something different from the run of the mill YA. This book held my interest from the beginning and had me reading as quickly as I could to get to the end and see what happened. I strongly recommend it.

Cobweb Bride
Vera Nazarian
Norilana Books, Leda Imprint
9781607621133, $14.95
9781607621126, $24.95
B00DK02MHG, $5.99

I really enjoyed the rich, complex and highly unusual storytelling in the Cobweb Bride. Nazarian does an excellent job of painting the Renaissance world of her alternate reality and bringing in interesting twists of fantasy to the story.

The premise of the story is that Death has refused to do his duty until his Cobweb Bride is brought to him at Death's Keep. The problem is no one knows for certain who the bride is so a call goes out to all eligible marriage age females in the Realm to report to Death's Keep to see if they are the Cobweb Bride.

What would be so terrible about death refusing to do its duty, you might ask? Well think about hovering on the edge of death for days, suffering but unable to pass over, or being in a body that is physically dead, but that cannot pass over into the next realm so you continue to walk and talk though you are in fact quite dead. Think of the evil some people might do if they believed themselves to be immortal?

The book focuses around a key set of characters varying from daughters of royalty and merchants to those of peasants who band together on their way toward Death's Keep to present themselves as potential Cobweb Brides. The only problem is no one actually knows where Death's Keep is, beyond in the frozen lands to the north - oh and a crazed Duke who has seen better days is determined to stop Death from finding his Cobweb Bride, because he has ideas that would best be served if he and his forces were immortal.

Everything about this story that was fresh and new. I loved the premise it was built on and I loved the story itself. The characters are rich, multi-dimensional, and so easy to get to know and identify with. I am really looking forward to reading the next book in the trilogy when it comes out and in finding out more about what happens to the characters that still have a mission to carry out and how the story eventually resolves by the end of the trilogy. I recommend this book to readers of YA, lovers of fantasy, alternate-history, and alternate-reality. It was a terrific read.

Third Willow
Lenore Skomal
4900 LaCross Rd, North Charleston, SC 29406
9781478192497, $14.95
B00BZYV34C, $4.95 ebook

Third Willow is the penultimate coming of age book by author Lenore Skomal. It is the story of Beah, Raz, Patty, and Hap, four children on the cusp between innocence and adulthood and the summer in which they all become friends and learn that life can be both so much better and so much worse than what they have experienced in the past.

I loved Third Willow from the opening pages. From the second I began the book it was if I had been transported back to the summers of my childhood when life was simpler, and innocence was all the protection a child needed from the world.

I rejoiced in the growing friendship between this unlikely cast of characters: Patsy, the perpetual tomboy; Hap, the outcast boy playing the perpetual Peter Pan to his gang of friends; Beah, the shy girl who comes to discover so much more about herself than seemed possible at the beginning of the summer and Raz, the daughter of the Jewish rabbi who wants playmates for his children from among the neighborhood.

Third Willow is a wonderful juxtaposition of sunlight and shadows. Of days spent playing in the sun imagining wild adventures, and veterans returning from the Korean War, the outward emergence of homosexuality into society and the outrage of the Red Scare of the McCarthy era. Against all this turmoil are four children, forging bonds of friendship, learning to stand by one another and learning who they really are in the new world in which they are finding themselves.

Each child has a battle, literal or figurative that he or she is fighting throughout the pages of the book. For Patsy it is how to help her brother who has returned legless and mentally ill from the Korean War. It is learning how to relate to her father, who she is beginning to see as a controlling autocrat who brooks no deviance from his own strict moral and ethical ideals. For Beah it is for love, which she feels she never receives and for the opportunity to share her own love with those around. To discover what is best and purest in herself. For Raz, it is the struggle to hold onto her traditional Jewish identity and still be heard as an emerging young woman in a culture in which women's voices are devalued. For Hap it is to find acceptance, and happiness in a world where he normally feels outcast and despised.

Skomal artfully foreshadows the end of the book almost from the very beginning. You can see the storm coming on the horizon, its clouds gathering until the only questions you can focus on are when, who, how and why as the threatened storm becomes a tornado leaving everyone in its path forever changed.

I feel this book should be on everyone's to-be-read list alongside classics such as To Kill a Mockingbird, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and the books of the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, and L.M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables series of books. Each shows the challenges and joys of coming of age in different eras, in different ways and each is a classic beside which Skomal's Third Willow is sure to rightfully earn a place. I cannot give it high enough praise or a strong enough recommendation. This is a book you simply must read.

Veiled Mist
Eleanor T. Beaty
Q Publishing
9780615649481, $12.99
ASIN B008J72TGO, $2.99 ebook

Veiled Mist by Eleanor Beaty is an almost perfect YA read that adults can enjoy too. Hanna is a spoiled rotten, fifteen-year-old socialite whose biggest concern is how good she looks and keeping her little clique together. She has it all: looks, money, and a dead Princess for a mother. She is on top of her little world and nothing can move her - she thinks.

Enter Mummy Man; the tormentor of Hanna's dreams who she is convinced is just a fantasy. Till one morning after dreaming about him she awakens to find her prize possession, a princess doll, with both of its arms having fallen off. Hanna is devastated and tries her best to find out who has ruined her doll, but no one in the house was in her room after she went and so Hanna has to leave the destroyed doll as a mystery - until a new doll store opens on the island.

Enter Ornella. Ornella is everything Hanna has been taught to fear. She is strange, a gypsy and she tells Hanna she has two days less until sixteenth birthday than Hanna knows. However, Hanna is convinced she is correct - after all, it is her birthday she's been celebrating all her life. What can a weird gypsy woman know about it, or her destiny? Why should she believe that she has some great destiny that if she doesn't accept by her birthday, she will die exactly one year later? But for some reason, even though she doesn't believe anything else she believes this. So Hanna makes up her mind she is going to refuse her destiny, returns home and begins to try to write her eulogy.

So Ornella sets out to reveal Hanna to herself. Bit-by-bit Ornella starts to reveal Hanna to herself. Some of the changes are hard for Hanna to adjust to, sometimes facing the type of person, she is really hard, but it is never done judgmentally on her part. Instead, as Hanna starts to act better and the people around her start to react, she begins to see exactly how self-centered and haughty she really was. Oh, and of course, finally catching the attention of the boy of her dreams helps Hanna too. She'd give anything to have him quit looking at her as if she was one-step removed from pond scum. Can she make him see the good in her?

I really enjoyed Veiled Mist. From the first pages, it caught my attention and kept it. When I had to put it down the first night to go to sleep, I was disappointed because I really wanted to know what was going to happen next. The tension is well developed and the characters are interesting and perfect for the roles they play in the story. The magical element is just right, not too heavy-handed, and there are great moments of comic relief. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone from middle grades on up to adults. It is a neat fantasy, taking place in the modern world that almost anyone can enjoy.

Melody Anne
Gossamer Publishing
9780615794044, $9.99
B00C4CSJCI, $3.99 ebook

I loved Surrender by Melody Anne. It was given to me as a gift from a dear friend who is a huge fan of Melody Anne. After reading Surrender I understand why. It is a mature adult romance with a healthy dose alpha male sex appeal. Rafe has been burned by love and swears he will never be open to that kind of hurt again, so he makes all his personal relationships business contracts. He hires the woman who catches his fancy to be his mistress.

Enter Ari. Ari's back is against the wall. Her mother is in a coma, because of being in an accident on her way to pick Ari up after she had too much to drink on a night out. Her mother needs specialized care and surgery, but Ari can't afford it. When she applies for a position at Rafe's business, she never dreams his business proposal will be an indecent one, but even with her back against the wall, Ari doesn't forget how she was raised. In no uncertain terms, she tells Rafe where he can go and it should be the end of the story, but it isn't.

Rafe sets out to make Ari see how good and natural they would be together. He helps her to discover her wanton side, but even with all his persuasive skills Rafe can't convince Ari to give up her pride, sign his contract and be his mistress...or can he?

Wind and Shadow: The Talbot Trilogy Book One
Tori L. Ridgewood
B00DYCH64Y, $5.99

Ridgewood weaves a compelling urban fantasy of love, witchcraft and the awakening of the undead in Wind and Shadow. I found her voice to be compelling and the storyline interesting enough to keep me turning the pages wondering what would happen next. There were many events in this book that I didn't see coming and I really liked that - I enjoy a book that doesn't fall into predictable patterns.

Rayvin Woods, the heroine of the story is capable and competent with just enough vulnerability to make her thoroughly likeable. She is returning to a hometown that thinks her an attempted murderess who has gotten away with her crime. It's been more than ten years since Rayvin turned her back on that town, but now she returns home only to find her hometown on the brink of disaster and herself as one of the only things capable of standing in the way of the evil plans that have been laid for the town and its residents.

Grant Micheals has had enough of Rayvin Woods to last a lifetime. Although she was his high school crush, she always ignored him and when she was accused of the attempted murder of his best friend, Grant cuts off any emotions he feels toward her. Grant, grown now is in law enforcement and when he sees Rayvin driving into town he pulls her over. From the first moments of their encounter, electricity sizzles between them, but can Grant overcome everything he thinks he knows about Rayvin to discover the treasure she really is? Will he discover it in time or will the evil rushing toward the small town of Talbot encompass both of them changing them forever and tearing them apart.

I loved this urban fantasy. It was refreshing, even with the vampires, maybe because they represent so many things in the story. I found the storyline to be compelling and most of the characters to be well defined and well rounded. There were a few more I wish had been fleshed out a little more, for example the best friend of Rayvin, but I understood the need to keep such definition to the main characters in what promises to be an interesting and compelling trilogy. I would recommend Wind and Shadow to readers of urban fantasy, vampire stories, horror stories, paranormal romance and really just about anyone looking for a refreshing read. I can't wait for the rest of the trilogy!

Fractured: A Mirrorland Novel
Majanka Verstraete
Evolved Publishing
9781939590176, $13.99
B00F63YHA0, $3.99 ebook

I loved Fractured from its opening pages until its shocking conclusion, and cannot wait for the next book in the Mirrorland series. I will be restlessly awaiting news that it is out.

Piper has found a beautiful antique mirror in the attic of her house. She lovingly clears away the years of cobwebs and shines the silver frame, then hangs it in her room. But then her best friend Alison comes to visit and tells her the mirror is creepy, and finally strange things begin to happen. Voices; footsteps pursuing her when no one is there; and finally dark shapes manifesting in her room at night.

Frightened Piper invites her best friend Alison to spend the night, but during the night Piper wakes up and Alison is gone. Terrified Piper sets out to find her friend and this is just the beginning of the bizarre changes that come into Piper's life
Finally, Alison's ex-boyfriend, a witch, a Goth girl medium and Piper hold a seance at Piper's house to try to rid the mirror of the forces controlling it, but everyone finds much more than they bargained for when they go to confront the spirit bound to the mirror and banish the curse.

This book had me guessing almost immediately and never, in a million years would I have seen the end coming. The characters are rich and multifaceted, with the possible exception of Joey, Alison's ex-boyfriend, who only plays a supporting role in this book anyway. The witch's character was a little bit of the stereotypical crone, but other than that she was surprisingly refreshing.

I strongly recommend this book to readers of YA fiction as it has nothing stronger than kissing in it, although it does deal with the subjects of both murder and suicide. It has a very strong paranormal element to it and promises to be among the most exciting YA reads this fall and is a powerful start to a wonderful new series.

Captivating the CEO
Sara Daniels
Decadent Publishing
ASIN B00FFD4EC2, $2.99

I loved this book! I honestly think it is the best romanerotica that Decadent Publishing has put out so far. Willow is such a likeable character and Colin the most driven CEO of a company I have ever met. When Willow meets him for his first massage, he won't even loosen his tie or unbutton his shirt. He demands her total silence for massages and won't even get off the phone or turn off the computer to relax and enjoy it.

Don't think for a moment Willow isn't reputable. She runs an honest business, but she's attracted to the handsome, uptight businessman and she figures since he's only into facts, figures and business he'd make the perfect companion for some after business play. She isn't looking for anything serious, because for Willow even the next day isn't guaranteed and she's not about to enter a relationship when she feels she has nothing she can offer.

I loved this storyline and I couldn't put it down, part of it was wondering exactly what medical condition Willow had that made her so determined to shut people out of her life, but most of it was the sizzling chemistry between Willow and Colin. Willow is constantly putting him in his place although he doesn't agree at all with her live for each day and each experience philosophy.

I felt the storytelling by Sara Daniel was superb. She did a great job of realistically portraying Willow's health problems, and of keeping you guessing as to the particulars of it clear to the end of the book. She gave hints as to what was wrong, but she didn't give it away. She builds the attraction between Willow and Colin very organically and has you hoping things, will turn out for the best, but honestly you are never sure what will happen until the end.

I give this romance my highest recommendation.

Tracy M. Riva

Sandra's Bookshelf

Lodestone Book Five: The Conquered Shore
Mark Whiteway
4900 LaCross Rd, North Charleston, SC 29406
9781493617920, $12.95, ebook $4.90, 324 pages,

I really loved this book and its characters. I must admit after reading the first four books in the Lodestone series, I wondered if the author could make the fifth book better than the others. I was really surprised to read it and find the fifth book was just as interesting if not better than the first four books.

Something strange happened to me while reading this book that has never happened to me before. I connected with a character and I knew what she would say and her actions in the book. I have never had that happen before, and I have read hundreds of books in my life.

I am always mesmerized when I read one of the author's books. While he gives us a glimpse of characters, it is up to our own imagination to try and create what each one looks like. I have always enjoyed that in each of the author's stories.

This book left me wanting to read more. I felt the same way with the first four books. I sincerely hope the author takes us on another journey soon. Excellent book and series.

Cassie Scot: Paranormal Detective
Christine Amsden
Twilight Times Books
P.O. Box 3340, Kingsport, TN 37664
9781606192757, $16.95 / $3.25 ebook 255 pages

Cassandra Morgan Ursula Margaret Scot is born into a world where she is not sure she really fits. Her parents are powerful sorcerers, and yet Cassie does not seem to have any powers. Her siblings all have some types of magic and that leaves Cassie feeling like she does not belong in their world. But where does she belong?

From the first page I was hooked on this book. It is a mystery filled with sorcerers, vampires, romance, the paranormal and murder. This genre' has a little bit of something for every reader. There is never a dull moment in this story.

I hated it when the story came to the end. I really hope the author continues on with this story. I was left wanting more.

An easy five stars from me.

Rated PG for violence

Adventures at Walnut Grove: A Lesson about Teasing
Dana Lehman
Lehman Publishing
15997 Hough Road, Allenton, Michigan 48002
9780979268601, $15.95 hc / $2.99 Kindle, 28 pages

What a beautiful story and Illustrations. This little book is worth every dime it cost. It teaches kids about being teased, and how much it hurts. To me, it is for children who are three to seven years old.

It took me a few seconds before I noticed the book had won, "Mom's Choice Awards Honoring Excellence." I wish every child had this book as then we might not have so many bullies. Instead we might have kids who like each other for what they are, and not for what they look like.

I really, really love this story.

Rated G

I Double Dare You!
Dana Lehman
Lehman Publishing
15997 Hough Road, Allenton, Michigan 48002
9780979268656, $16.95 hc, 32 pages

Once again we are in Walnut Grove where animals can talk to each other. The story is lovely and charming. The illustrations bring the characters to life. In this book the author is trying to teach children about making wise decisions.

I love the fact that the author is talking too children and not down to them. The questions at the end of the book are good for reinforcement. Words from the author are also.

Rated G

I Can Do It
Dana Lehman
Lehman Publishing
159 Hough Road, Allenton, Michigan 48002
9780979268694, $16.95, 28 pages

If I was walking down an aisle of a book store, or super market and saw the beautiful illustrations I would grab this book. Now you could ask "what about the storyline?" To be truthful I would tell you, "it is super and I could never imagine that only 28 pages could teach a child so much."

The main message is "BELIEVE IN YOURSELF." We are back to Walnut Grove and the many animals that talk to each other and have fun together. Yet there is always a message hidden in the story. Also you will find a frog or snake if you look hard on each page.

I find each of the three books to be enchanting, colorful, educational and just plain fun. The books would be super to read to your kids or grandkids.

Well what are you waiting for? Buy these lovely books!

Rated G

Sandra Heptinstall

Suzie's Bookshelf

Elusive Hope (Escape to Paradise Book 2)
MaryLu Tyndall
Barbour Publishing
PO Box 719, Uhrichsville, OH 44683
9781616265977, $12.99, 322 pages,

The ravages of the Civil War have ripped two countries apart, to avoid being caught up in the devastation of this war torn land, Magnolia Scott's father drags his family to the safety of Brazil. Magnolia is not impressed with her surroundings, she dreams of escaping back to her Georgia home and her fiancee.

Vengeance has kept Hayden Gale set on his primary mission for years. He has spent countless hours trying to track down his father, who he believes is responsible for the death of his mother. Stowing away on a ship bound for Brazil, he hopes this new lead will help him locate the scoundrel and finally be able to have the justice of revenge he soul craves.

When Magnolia meets Hayden she sees him as her one opportunity to escape this savage land and return back to her beloved hometown. When Hayden discovers that Magnolia has been following him, he allows her to accompany him to Rio de Janeiro.

As Magnolia and Hayden set out on their journey, each is unaware of the dangers they about to embark upon. Together they will enter into a world neither expected, and along the way they find a growing love that demands to be explored.

ELUSIVE HOPE is an exceptional historical romance. From page one, the reader cannot help but be drawn into pages of this addictive novel. MaryLu Tyndall is an author who provides readers the utmost reading pleasure in how she is able to spin her tale that will quickly wrap its way around anyone's heart. The rich historical detail she blends into her books make for a realistic adventure that will have your heat beating fast. There is no doubt, that MaryLu Tyndall is the Queen of the Historical Romance gene, her endless talent continues to leave me speechless.

Other titles in the ESCAPE TO PARADISE series include: FORSAKEN DREAMS (Escape to Paradise, Book 1).

The Summer I Found You
Jolene Perry
Albert Whitman Teen
c/o Albert Whitman & Company
250 South Northwest Highway, Suite 320, Park Ridge, IL 60068
9780807583692, $16.99, 256 pages,

Kate Walker's senior year of high school should be filled with memories that would last her a lifetime. Unfortunately, all of that changed the day her boyfriend Shelton looked into her eyes and ended their relationship; now Kate finds herself questioning what her future holds. To complicate matters, she has recently been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.

Aiden Connelly thought he had his life planned out, when he graduated from high school two years prior he enlisted in the Army. All of that changed the day his Sergeant and him found themselves under attack in Afghanistan. In an explosive flash, Aiden watched in horror as his Sergeant's life ended in an instant by a lethal missile. In the same attack, he managed to survive but was left with his right arm being amputated.

Now Aiden finds himself back at home, sharing a home with his Aunt and Uncle. He doesn't know what the future will hold for him, or how he should go on living his life. On the encouragement of his cousin Jen, he agrees to meet her friend Kate at a local amusement park.

Aiden is surprised that he finds himself enjoying himself with Kate. With her he is able to forget his disability exists. Kate is still getting over the loss of her boyfriend, but being with Aiden lessens the pain of her broken heart.

Can two wounded souls find the healing balm each one needs to move forward with their lives? Or will the tragedy they each have faced keep them a prisoner in the darkness of despair?

THE SUMMER I FOUND YOU is an exceptional teen romance. Kate and Aiden are two wounded characters who have experienced some very heavy life changing events. How each one deals with the tragedy that has complicated each one's life makes for a very moving reading experience. I was highly impressed with Jolene Perry's writing style. I feel this book is one that every teen should read for all the life lessons it offers, for it provides a realistic look at how when a person thinks their life is going great, in a blink of an eye all of that could change.

Community Service
Dakota Madison
Short on Time Books
4900 LaCross Rd, North Charleston, SC 29406
9781493735099, $9.99, 232 pages,

It is Maggie Mitchell's final semester of college, she felt fortunate to have been selected to receive a research internship in the Paleolimnology lab. She and one other person had been the lucky recipients of this sought after research opportunity.

Upon arriving early to the lab, Maggie encounters Sawyer Reed, and learns he was the second recipient of the internship. The two of them had gone to high school together. Sawyer was always the high school star whereas Maggie was an unpopular wallflower.

When Sawyer makes the suggestion they become lab partners, Maggie questions why he is trying to be nice to her when they never were friends in high school. Of course, a lot of things have changed for both of them since their high school days. Maggie has replaced her thick glasses with contacts, and now takes more pride in her appearance. Sawyer now resides in a wheelchair due to a skiing accident.

On her second day to class, Maggie accidentally rear ends a police cruiser. She is sentenced to serve one hundred hours of community service at a local theater. There she meets actor Jude Marion; it is evident with his confident attitude and radiating sex appeal he has no trouble finding willing women to meet his needs.

Maggie finds herself falling under Jude's spell of seduction. The way he looks at her with intense interest has her heart beating out of control. When Maggie learns that Sawyer and Jude were once friends, she finds that information further complicates the situation.

Maggie knows she must choose between the two men. Which one will win her heart?

COMMUNITY SERVICE is an exceptional young adult romance! I was highly impressed with how Dakota Madison was able to create a story where the heroine is torn between choosing between the love of two men. In looking at Jude, it was like the reader was seeing a before accident picture of Sawyer. It was evident the two was obviously close, since they had grown up together. Maggie ugly duckling/swan transformation adds an element of magic to the story. COMMUNITY SERVICE has all the ingredients to make it an unforgettable reading experience. This reviewer/reader heart has been captured by the wonderful tale she found in this wonderful romance!

Suzie Housley

Teri's Bookshelf

Mary Anna Evans
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. First Ave., #103, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781464201691, $14.95, 250 pages,

Most of us think of archaeologists as people who are outside digging in the dirt searching for ancient ruins. That is not a complete picture of these historians. Frequently they are hired in the uncatalogued files of museum archives looking for that special document or picture that will give instantaneous notoriety.

Faye Longchamp Mantooth has been hired to discover proof of spirituality in the small community of Rosebower, New York. This town is proud of its numerous practitioners conducting seances communicating with the spirits of those departed and those special relationships with Tarot cards and crystal balls to predict the future with fortune telling. Realistically, Faye does not believe in the occult and is wondering how the museum owner will react en she fails to discover any evidence. Fortunately, she is able to hire an assistant and finds that this is perfect for her recently adopted seventeen-year-old daughter, Amande. This could be an opportunity for them to work more together and get to know each other better. Unfortunately, this also separates her from her husband and two-year old son.

Establishing friendships and relations with the people of the community along with their questionable practices of levitating tables, spirits speaking, and crystal ball is fascinating for Faye and Amande but immediately the two are distracted by the unfortunate death of a local soothsayer.

Rituals is unusual with its mystery of the occult inside the mystery of the suspicious death of Tilda Armstead whose "utter honesty" in readings made her a community leader. An investigator quickly discovers that the inside room in Tilda's house had been nailed shut from the outside, trapping her in the burning house. However, Tilda had escaped from the burning house and died of smoke inhalation. How did she escape the burning room? Where is the crystal ball that resided in the room? Why is it missing from the burned remains of the house?

Being near to Seneca Falls, New York, Rosebower had frequent visitors from many feminists early in the twentieth century such as Lucretia Mott. Could this town have been instrumental also with feminism?

Lurking throughout the town is Antonia Caruso, also known as Toni the Astonisher, a former magician's assistant/reporter who is searching for proof of the fraudulent ways of the town.

Rituals is a fast-read with strong human relationships complete with doubts, guilt, anxiousness, and murder. Even though this is the eighth novel in Mary Anne Evans' series which can be a stand alone novel. The character development is refreshed for those new readers and to refresh those readers of the previous novels.

Mary Anne Evans is the award-winning author of this series of archeological mysteries featuring Faye Longchamp. Trained as a chemical engineer, Mary Anne Evans integrates her multitude of interests into her stories of Faye.

Rituals is an interesting, realistically written novel that is well-organized and planned with a warm feeling from phenomenally developed characters.

The Bat
Jo Nesbo, author
Don Bartlett, translator
Vintage Crime/Black Lizard
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780345807090, $14.95, 369 pages,

Having previously read other books in the Harry Hole series by Jo Nesbo, why wouldn't I want to read the first book of the series introducing the main character, Harry? These books have been translated and available in English, but not in the order they were written or in the series.

Harry Holy is a disgraced Norwegian investigator. Being in an accident has left him battered, bandaged, and carrying feeling of guilt about the death of a fellow officer. Yes, he is an outstanding investigator and a member of the Oslo Crime Squad. His superiors have covered up the fact the Harry was intoxicated as he was driving the vehicle. Now, what do they do with him?

The Bat explains Harry's past and the decision by his superiors to send him to Australia to assist in the death of a Norwegian female. Harry is to assist and not to cause any trouble, in any way. Inger Holter hosted a children's television program for a few years making her a celebrity in her homeland. She was brutally strangled by what is appearing to be a serial killer. There is definitely a pattern to this death.

As he arrives at the Sydney airport, Harry meets his investigative partner, Andrew. Andrew, a former boxer, explains his own Aboriginal heritage as the case develops. Andrew immediately warms to Harry as they investigate every aspect of the crime while noticing that their murderer is beginning to resemble a serial killer with a preference for blonds. As their friendship and trust grows, Harry learns more about Australia and the people and possibly even begins to develop a new special relationship with a woman.

What he did not plan on was becoming too close to this case and people that he questions, quickly become victims.

Jo Nesbo has won numerous writing awards but the one that stands out is for his book, The Redbreast which is considered to be the best Norwegian crime novel of all time which was compiled by Norwegian readers.

Whenever I read an excellent book that was translated, I always wonder if the talent is due to the writer, the translator, the editors, or a winning combination of all three.

Harry Hole in The Bat is a simpler mystery without the darkness of The Redbreast. However, this novel is instrumental in understanding the flawed and fascinating character, Harry Hole.

The Invention of Clay McKenzie
Ed Teja and J. Reid Beckett
Float Street Press
1479378216, $13.99, 306 pages,

In the book business today, it is difficult for an unknown author who writes well to become successful. Besides having the skills to be an excellent writer, the authors of today need to be charismatic with the media to become a celebrity in order to make those best selling charts with every published book. The total package is needed for success.

Stephanie Masters works as a junior editor for Icon, a large and successful publishing firm. However, advancement is this competitive business is a matter of luck and capitalizing on any and every advantage.

Stephanie has found the opportunity of a lifetime. In the multitude of submissions to Icon, one manuscript is exceptional. She is aware that if she takes this through the ordinary procedures, this manuscript will probably not be the best seller. This could be her big break of a lifetime.

Why not check this opportunity out to take a chance?

Stephanie decides to take some time off to actually meet the author. What she discovers is a reclusive widower in New Mexico who wishes to be left alone. She knows that she is capable of working with this author to create a phenomenal novel. The problem is that the author will not and can not be the face for this book. He has no charisma and doesn't want it. However, Clay McKenzie is the author's pen name. Can a Clay McKenzie be created as a corporation? Can an actor become this fictional author? Could this work? Could you make money, real money through this corporation?

The Invention of Clay McKenzie is an intriguing tale of a fraud, or is it? Is it legal to create a public author for the general public? What problems could happen? This particular story made me question some of my favorite authors. Are there Clay McKenzie's out in the real world?

Ed Teja and Jim Beckett have created a thought-provoking, well-written novel. Their years of experience in the publishing world from their perspectives have created a unique story that utilizes the excellent writing gifts of both.

The Invention of Clay McKenzie is a book that I recommend for everyone, especially book lovers to read.

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library
Chris Grabenstein
Random House
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780375870897, $16.99, 293 pages,

"A library doesn't need windows, Andrew. We have books, which are windows into world we never even dreamed possible."

In every family, each person usually thrives best with their individual abilities. For Kyle Keeley, being the youngest in a family with three boys can be a challenge. His oldest brother is gifted athletically, the other brother is the smart one. What gift does that leave for Kyle? He is the game master of board games.

Fortunately Kyle lives in a town with the world's most famous game maker resides. Since the town has been without a library, Mr. Lemoncello has funded a new library for the town. Their town has been without a library for Kyle's entire life. To celebrate, his school is sponsoring an essay contest for the privilege of being one of the first twelve twelve-year olds to compete in a game while locked inside the new library.

There will be special features this particular night turning the library into a form of a real-life board game focusing on the special attributes of this phenomenal building. Each separate part of this huge structure had a different builder so no one except the library director and Mr. Lemoncello are knowledgeable about the entire building.

Being a typical twelve-year-old, Kyle missed the deadline for the essay contest but thought there might be a possibility if he still wrote an essay and sent it directly to Mr. Lemoncello. Would it be accepted? Did he even have a chance?

Reminiscent of Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library is also a challenging competition between all the candidates. This challenge requires knowledge of both the games created by Mr. Lemoncello as well as well-read twelve year olds.

Chris Grabenstein is an award-winning author of young adult books with his Haunted Mysteries beginning with The Crossroads, as well as the Riley Mack series setting a mystery in Central Park. Also, Mr. Grabenstein is the author of the well-regarded mystery series for adults featuring his creation, John Ceepak (a combination of NCIS Gibbs and 007). He has also been a coauthor with James Patterson most recently with the number one New York Times bestseller I Funny. Mr. Grabenstein resides in New York City.

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library is intended as a young adult book. However, any reader will thoroughly enjoy this fast-paced adventure.

Sarah Pinborough
Jo Fletcher Books
Quercus Publishing
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9781623650865, $24.95, 320 pages,

Most people have heard about the legendary serial killer of the late 1800s in London, Jack the Ripper. Part of his fame was due to his letters to the media, However at the same time and also in London and during this same time in the mid-1880s another serial killer was active who also preyed on women who were on the streets.

His manner was different from the notorious Jack the Ripper. Known to Scotland Yard as The Torso Killer, he dismembered his victims after killing them and tossed the remains into the Thames. He did keep one souvenir of his victims, their heads.

Dr. Thomas Bond, as police surgeon, begins to investigates these killings. He is one of the first to notice that there are two separate killers even though both are brutal. With the usage of opium, he begins to make connections to the identity of the killer that seems to elude the police.

The opium dens happen to be where the doctor connects with a priest and a hairdresser who believe they know the identity of The Torso Killer. The doctor though is a friend of this man's family and does not want to believe it. Could someone of his social class be this type of murderer? What could cause such an evil to possess any person? Are his family and friends safe?

Mayhem has the reader viewing these killings through the eyes of the forensic doctor, Dr. Bond as he investigates both the brutality of Jack the Ripper and The Torso Killer. You feel his triumphs and his frustrations as well as the investigation continues.

In "Mayhem" you even experience life in London in the late 1800s during this time of the brutal killings and feel the fear of the residents. The historical descriptions are phenomenal especially the sights, smells, and sight of being inside an opium den.

The story is paced through Dr. Bond's perspective and deals with his guilt, fears, and thoughts throughout the investigation. Because of this, the pacing is sometimes erratic, but so is the doctor. Sarah Pinborough perfectly matched the character as the investigation developed even sometimes leaving the doctor exhausted.

The capturing of the setting in "Mayhem" from the varying residential and business areas of London to the prostitutes and the area around the river, allows a window into the past to view what is difficult for us to actually experience.

Sarah Pinborough is a British author, teacher, writer, and screenwriter specializing in horror and the supernatural. Using the name Sarah Silverwood, she has written fantasy novels for children. Sarah's books were finalist for the Shirley Jackson Award and the World Fantasy Award. She has won the British Fantasy Award for the Best Short Story in 2010.

"Mayhem" is a brilliant story encompassing Jack the Ripper and The Torso Killer in a well-organized hypnotic tale.

Shadow of the Alchemist
Jeri Westerson
Minotaur Books
c/o St.. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9781250000309, $25.99, 305 pages,

According to Shakespeare, Richard II was a memorable and fickle ruler of England. That was part of the reason that eventually he was deposed. While he ruled, those he did not favor, were frequently executed. Fortunately for Crispin Guest, he only lost his riches, land, and life of privilege. However, how does someone who has only lived the noble life adjust to living on the streets?

Crispin Guest discover that he possesses a natural gift of being a tracker. He logically views the evidence of a crime that leads him to the culprit. Basically, a tracker is a private investigator for hire during the Middle Ages. Frequently, this places him in opposition to the local law enforcement being the Sheriffs.

Living a hand to mouth existence is difficult with always being on the edge of survival. Due to the brutal circumstances of life, Crispin also as a young apprentice who previously had been an orphaned and survived by thieving. Jack Tucker feels fortunate to be able to learn from the legendary tracker, Crispin Guest.

Nicholas Flamel, famed alchemist, hires Crispin to rescue his missing wife who has been kidnapped. However, the ransom is the famed Philosopher's Stone, the legendary stone created from lead and turned to gold and immortality. Does the stone really work? Does Flamel have the knowledge of immortality? This is "Shadow of the Alchemist" by Jeri Westerson.

Jeri Westerson's writing is magical in that she literally transports you into a different time and place. She is masterful with all the small details of a setting establishing the sights, sounds, and smells of London in the late 1300s for the reader without the dangers of actually being there.

In "Shadow of the Alchemist", the characters are believable intermixing with real historical people making these people come to life. Especially for someone like Nicholas Flamel is daring since he was a real alchemist of the late Middle Ages even though he is also known for being in the Harry Potter series. Jeri Westerson's story shows a deeper insight into the person while adding depth and a deeper understanding to the problems of the time within the story.

"Shadow of the Alchemist"is the fifth book in the Crispin Guest series by Jeri Westerson following "Veil of Lies", "Serpent in the Thorns", The Demon's Parchment", "Troubled Bones", and "Blood Lance". Each of these books is rich in the history of the late Middle Ages with life in England during Richard III. All of these books can be read as stand-a-lone novels. With Jeri Westerson's writing style, once you begin any of these books, you will want to read all of them. Warning, once you begin any of her books, you will want to read all of them. Her books are addictive.

Coincidentally, I was watching the video, "The Hollow Crown" about Shakespeare's Richard II while reading this book. It was fascinating how both helped me to visualize the events and to better understand this ruler in the DVD and the novel.

Anyone who enjoys historical fiction, will be mesmerized by "Shadows of the Alchemist".

Personally, if I had to return to London in the year of 1388, I would want Crispin Guest to be my guide and am delighted to view the story through his eyes and not to have to experience it myself.

Hilary Fields
Redhook Books
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316277389, $16.00, 352 pages,

When your lover is your boss, life can be challenging. For young newcomer to the world of gourmet competition and master chefs Serafina Wilde is thrilled to have the opportunity to work with a famous chef. However, when the best is your boss and partner, life can be crowded when the ego and temperament are included in the package.

Yes, he values her desserts especially when customers are thrilled. No one can create a wedding cake like Sera but it is her boss who receives the recognition, not her.

Unfortunately, his ego needs to be constantly uplifted and he seems to delight in humiliating Serafina. She turns to alcohol. Naturally she is fired and loses her lover, forcing her to find her own place to live. Now that she is blacklisted, who will hire her as a chef?

A phone call from Sera's aunt, Pauline in Sante Fe changes everything. Her aunt has lost her partner and needs help. Could this be a blessing in disguise? The business owned by her aunt turns out to be "Pauline's House of Passion", Pauline would like for Sera to take over the front of the store featuring her delicious desserts with the backroom still remaining as the sensuality lessons. Life will be interesting with Sera selling desserts out of the front and her aunt selling sexual toys in the back room. How will this combination of a store be successful?

Bliss is a romantic comedy for those who enjoy chic lit with books like Bridget Jones and The Devil Wears Prada. Unquestionably, the intended audience is for the up and coming females in their twenties and thirties. The story is well-organized, laughable, and delightful. The story moves quickly and does deal with lesbian relationships and sexual topics rather openly and bluntly.

Hilary Fields is a New Yorker who currently makes her home in Sante Fe, New Mexico somewhat similar to her character Serafina Bliss. She has written three historical romances as well as working as a copywriter and web editor.

Bliss is a humorous page-turner for those who enjoy a fast-paced romp.

When Christmas Bells are Ringing
Back to Omaha Adventure
Jewell Tweedt
c/o CreateSpace
4900 LaCross Rd, North Charleston, SC 29406
9781492348009, $7.99, 138 pages,

Being a widow during 1878 was not easy for anyone, especially for those who were living in the frontier town of Omaha, Nebraska. Connie Simonson is attempting to successfully operate two cafes and is discovering that sometimes you can't be in two places at once while being a single parent raising a son.

Dr. James Connor is the only doctor in the town of Omaha. He can't keep up with the needs of the city as it is quickly growing. When an outbreak of influenza descends on the residents of the town afflicting the youngest citizens, how will he keep up without the town developing an epidemic?

It is almost as if the town needs a miracle. Where are those guardian angels when you need them?

This short novel is a refreshing voice in today's literature. The underlying themes of doing the right thing and treating people with dignity and fairness are invigorating in a romantic story with a Christian basis. The story is short but well-organized with likeable characters who have to make difficult choices decisions in what seems like no-win situations.

"When Christmas Bells are Ringing" is the fourth and final book in Jewell Tweedt's "Back to Omaha Adventures" following Faith of the Heart, Still Faithful, and Faith and Hope - Grace's Story. Because this story depends on the characters and events of the previous novels, I highly recommend that at least you read the first two books in this series before reading this one.

Jewell Tweedt hails from Omaha, Nebraska even though she currently teaches American History to middle school students while she resides in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

All of Jewell Tweedt's books are available through Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Also all of this series of books are available from the author.

Jewell has recently signed with Prism Book Group who will work with her on her future novels.

Teri Davis

Theodore's Bookshelf

The Golden Calf
Helene Tursten, author
Laura A. Wideburg, translator
Soho Crime
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9781616952983, $15.95, 352 pp.,

It is really refreshing to read a Scandinavian police procedural that is a straightforward investigation of a crime or murder, peopled by uncomplicated detectives. Such is this novel, the fifth in the Detective Inspector Irene Huss mystery series, which begins with one murder and is followed by more which eventually prove to be related.

The first victim is a wealthy restaurateur, found by his wife with two bullet wounds in his head. Another three murdered persons are found with the same wounds. The only thing apparent initially is the first victim's wife, who also was a business associate in a dot-com venture with the three later victims. The question immediately arises, is she the murderer or possibly the next victim. And the plot unfolds.

Huss is a complex character, competent detective, mother of twins, and wife of a celebrated chef. The author painstakingly creates a satisfying police procedural, weaving together a believable story woven from a set of facts that are derived from a combination of financial fraud, organized crime and just plain human emotions. It is written simply and translated well, and is recommended.

Robert B. Parker's Ironhorse
Robert Knott
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780425267707, $9.99, 432 pages,

The author co-wrote with Robert B. Parker the screenplay for the movie based on The Master's last western, "Appaloosa". So he obviously learned at the foot of the creator of Spenser, Jesse Stone, Sunny, and Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch. Short chapters, succinct dialogue and, obviously, a good tight plot. And, to a great extent, succeeds in re-creating it.

Returning to Appaloosa by rail, the Marshal and his deputy are confronted by a great train robbery. It appears that the governor of Texas, traveling to Indian Territory with his wife and two daughters, is carrying $500,000 in cash for a business deal. The Pullman car and following wagons are decoupled from the forward cars and engine on a steep rise, allowing them to roll backward. Eventually, Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch unhook the car they are in to give chase. And so begins the tale.

While the writing comes close to the Parker style, the almost 400 pages seems a rather lengthy number for a typical Parker novel. And in attempting to emulate the Virgil-Everett conversations a la Parker: close but no cigar. Virgil is hardly a talkative character in previous novels, but in the present one is more voluble. Despite those reservations, it is a well-told story, and is recommended.

The Wild Beasts of Wuhan
Ian Hamilton
Picador USA
175 Fifth Avenue, Suite 1800, New York, NY 10010
9781250032294, $15.00, 352 pp,

Ava Lee undertakes a most formidable task in this, the second in the series about the forensic accountant who specializes in recovering money for a sizable commission in partnership with her mentor, referred to simply as "Uncle," a rather mysterious man apparently with triad connections, headquartered in Hong Kong and with deep roots in China. It seems that Uncle's boyhood friend, Wong Changxing, a powerful and impressive industrialist, bought about $100 million worth of paintings, 15 out of the 20 being elaborate forgeries, and upon discovering the fact seeks Uncle's and Ava's assistance in recovering the money and saving him from embarrassment should the facts become known.

The problem is that the Hong Kong dealer from whom the paintings were purchased ten years before is dead and there are no clues or paperwork to guide Ava in her efforts. But that hardly is a problem for her, as she pursues tracing the transactions, traveling to Denmark, London, Dublin, the Faroe Islands and New York City and learning a lot about the art world in the process.

Ava Lee is on a par with the best of the female protagonists like Kinsey Milhone and others, while an accountant, but exhibiting all the talents and attributes of a private eye. She is tough and bold and confident, as she shows us in this latest caper. We are told that the next novel in the series, expected in January 2014, has her pulling her half-brother's chestnuts out of the fire. Looking forward to reading it!


Andrew's Brain
E. L. Doctorow
Random House
c/o Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9781400068814, $26.00, 224 pp.,

The eponymous Andrew reminds me of the Al Capp (Li'l Abner) character, Joe Mxstlpk, who walked under a black cloud and was followed by a calamity wherever he went. That is the story told by this Andrew, presumably to a psychologist or "shrink," of his life: the trials and tribulations, loves and losses, highs and lows.

In a way, the novel also reminds me somewhat of James Joyce's "Ulysses," except that it is written in clear prose and complete sentences. The tale is related in a disjointed stream of consciousness, flitting from topic to topic, but is grouped into eleven "chapters," various phases of Andrew's life. Apparently, Mr. Doctorow set out to write a book of very different quality than his previous efforts, which include such popular novels as "World's Fair," "Billy Bathgate," Loon Lake" and "Ragtime" [which also found its way into a hit musical].

It is unfortunate that this novel may not attract readers of his previous work, although it should gain plenty of critical acclaim. As such, it is recommended.

The Woman Who Wouldn't Die
Colin Cotterill
Soho Crime
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9781616952976, $15.95, 320 pp.,

This newest in the Dr. Siri mysteries not only takes on the Laotian coroner's obsession with contact with the dead, but provides us with a lot of background on the good doctor and his wife and the role they played in the revolution. At the same time, the novel is a first rate mystery. It begins when Dr. Siri is offered a "vacation" upriver to supervise the recovery of the brother of a Lao general whose body is supposedly at the bottom of a river, lying in a submerged boat for many years.

The general is prodded to undertake the excavation of the boat by his wife, who is influenced by a woman clairvoyant who was supposedly shot to death, only to reappear after the body was burned on a pyre. The woman claims she can speak to the dead and knows where the body is located. Wary but open to the suggestion that the woman might teach him to be able to contact the dead, Dr. Siri goes along.

Meanwhile, Dr. Siri encourages his wife, Madam Daeng, to write an autobiography, from which we learn a lot about her earlier life as a participant in the liberation forces. This book, as were previous entries in the series, is an education into the people and culture of Laos. The dialog is wry and often humorous, and the novel is recommended.

Some Kind of Peace
Camilla Grebe and AsaTraff, authors
Translated from the Swedish by Paul Norlen
Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781451654615, $16.00, 336 pp.,

This novel can't make up its mind whether it is a mystery/thriller or a clinical psychology textbook. One of the authors is a psychologist specializing in behavioral therapy, as is the book's protagonist, Siri Bergman, who treats patients for various mental problems, but seems in need of help herself. She recently lost her husband in a diving accident, but still lives in their isolated house, talking to him and feeling his touch, afraid of the dark, keeping all the lights in the house on through the night (among other problems she has).

One of her patients, a young woman named Sara, is found murdered on Siri's property. Siri also has the feeling that someone is watching her, often looking at her through the window (of course with the lights on it's easy). Then she receives a photo of herself in the mail, with a note confirming she is being watched. The receptionist of the office Siri shares with two colleagues is the victim of a hit-and-run, just as she was going to tell Siri something. Despite all these coincidences, the police make no progress in solving the case.

Naturally, Siri looks to her various patients for a possible perpetrator when it becomes obvious she is being targeted. The problem is that half the book is filled with clinical notes on a variety of patients having nothing to do with the main plot, except for one patient. And to the novel's detriment, the conclusion comes out of left field. Some judicious editing and tightening could have improved the novel from just a run-of-the-mill effort to a much better read. Apparently this first effort has a sequel. Let's hope it includes those characteristics.

The Hanging
Lotte and Soren Hammer
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312656645, $24.99, 298 pp.,

The question raised in this novel is simple: In a democracy, is murder justified for obvious criminal transgressions like child abuse and pedophilia? It seems that in Denmark, these behaviors are treated lightly, and a small group of men set about to increase public awareness by murdering five men, guilty of such behaviors, hanging them nude and mutilated from a school gym ceiling. The homicide squad, led by detective Konrad Simonsen, has to work to solve the case in face of the favorable public attitude toward the perpetrators.

Basically, the novel is a police procedural, but is unnecessarily slow and plodding. Whether the reason is the writing or the translation cannot be determined. There are some intriguing elements to the plot, such as a devious scheme (however illegal) to draw out the murderer. Also, on the other side, a clever public relations program conducted by the plotters to bring about reform and tightening of the laws governing the crimes and support of the victims. Interesting questions, to be sure.

Killer Ambition
Marcia Clark
Mulholland Books
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017-0010
9780316220941, $25.99, 464 pp.,

A kidnapping goes wrong, and two young persons are found knifed to death. One is the teenage daughter of a popular Hollywood director; the other, the son of a writer who had accused that same father of stealing a script that started him on the road to fame. As Rachel Knight, the Special Trials prosecutor and detective Bailey Keller begin to assess physical evidence, it turns out that a top talent agent, the director's partner and best friend, looks good for the crime.

That is the setting for the courtroom scene, which occupies a good part of this novel. Of course the author, a former prosecutor herself, knows the ins and outs of conducting a trial, and uses her knowledge well. With much of Hollywood, and especially the father, proclaiming the accused's innocence, the media has a field day, and the dynamic duo has a tough row to hoe. Especially with some of the artificial impediments the author places in the way of Rachel overcoming the work of the excellent defense counsel, and proving guilt beyond a shadow of doubt, since the evidence is largely circumstantial.

While the plot is interesting, I felt that too much time was spent on side issues, like the love lives of the three main female characters, or how they need a drink because they've "worked" too hard. (What are they supposed to be doing? Vacationing at the taxpayer's expense?) And the running cliche: how a cold, dry martini is refreshing after one has been subjected to 90 degree weather. Aside from such minor foibles, the story moves swiftly, and the novel is recommended.

On the Floor
Aifric Campbell
Picador USA
175 Fifth Avenue, Suite 1800, New York, NY 10010
9781250028396, $26.00, 247 pp.,

This novel, written by an author with substantial background in the securities industry, flits between the hard-nosed life of a floor trader with a unique talent, a female in the midst of macho men, and a lovelorn female, torn between living up to her talent and a yearning for an ex-lover. And she has to choose, by the end of the book, between capitalizing on her abilities and going off in some new direction.

Geri Molloy, 28 years old and with little or no training or education, lands a job on the trading floor in the London operation of a U.S. investment bank. She quickly becomes the largest producer and lands an enormous Hong Kong mutual fund manager as her main client. He wishes her to locate to Asia where he can interact with her. Presumably he is fascinated with her personality, and wishes to observe her more closely. Her dilemma is whether to make a new home in Hong Kong, remain in London hoping for reconciliation with her ex, or even use her mathematical talent to go off in a new direction as a quantitative analyst. Such is the plot.

There are times when the dialogue reflects the frenzy and excitement of the trading floor. But more often than not, the descriptions appear to be manufactured to fill the space in between the times that Geri gets drunk or feels sorry for herself. Too much of the novel seems formulaic, and it can't make up its mind what it wants to be when it grows up. But, after all, that's what Geri is all about as well.

A Treacherous Paradise
Henning Mankell, author
Laurie Thompson, translator
c/o Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780307961228, $26.95, 384 pp.,

In an Afterward, the author states that he generally writes his stories based on a truth. In this case the true story is extremely fragmentary, and consequently is "therefore based on the little we know, and all that we don't know." It is the story of a poor young Swedish woman, Hanna Renstrom, who left her homeland in 1905 as a ship's cook and jumped ship on what was then Portuguese East Africa (now Mozambique). She was married on board to the third mate, who died shortly later. She rented a room in what she thought was a hotel, but really was a brothel, whose owner eventually fell in love with her and married her. That marriage also was short-lived, and Hanna inherited ownership of the very profitable brothel and her husband's extensive wealth. Not bad for a young woman with no education, who presumably taught herself to read and spoke no Portuguese (but carried a Portuguese dictionary with her from Sweden).

So much for the introduction. What follows is an extraordinary tale of personal development which staggers the mind. From an impoverished, illiterate housemaid in Sweden, Hanna becomes a wise, sensitive person, keen on righting the wrongs of colonial Africa and the abuse of the indigenous black population, as unlikely as that may seem to the critical eye. But it gives Mr. Mankell the platform he requires to rail against the racism rampant throughout the colony and its white ruling class.

The story is told in simple language, recounting the times through Hanna's innocent eyes. Certainly the author has intimate knowledge of the land about which he writes, since he divides the year between Africa and Sweden. The novel is an excellent example of Mr. Mankell's ability not only to portray characters, but to fully develop them progressively.


From the Dead
Mark Billingham
Atlantic Monthly Press
841 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9780802122131, $26.00, 416 pp.,

D.I. Tom Thorne is one among the outstanding protagonists in the crime genre who doggedly solve murders and other mysteries while questioning their own talents, motivations and personalities, often to their own detriment. He, like many of the others, criticizes himself, albeit unnecessarily, because he, and they they, do achieve successes.

We see Thorne agonizing over the court's findings when it frees an accused murderer he and everyone else is convinced is guilty. Key to the innocent verdict is the fact that there is no body. But there is no time to worry about the case before another arises to occupy Thorne: a 10-year-old case that just won't disappear.

Donna Langford has just been released from prison after serving a sentence for having hired a hit man to murder her husband. Then she begins to receive photos of a man she says is that same husband. When she learns that her daughter has vanished, she can only conclude her husband is responsible, and she employs a private detective, Anna Carpenter, to investigate. Anna approaches Thorne and together they begin to work the case, setting off all kinds of repercussions which may be engineered by a man who is supposed to be dead but is perhaps intent on preserving a reconstructed life.

Once again, the author has written a deep police procedural with significant insights into the characters. While the investigation is hampered by the craftiness of the "dead" husband and roadblocks he throws in Thorne's way, he plods on doggedly, just in character. Written with smoothness and urbanity, the plot moves forward in unexpected ways. Recommended.

Summer Death
Mons Kallentoft, author
Neil Smith, translator
Emily Bestler Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781451642551, $16.00, 320 pp.,

The author has conceived four novels based on the seasons of the year. The first took place during the cold months, "Midwinter Blood," and this second during the hot months, with temperatures in Linkoping, Sweden reaching into the 90's, 100 and even 100-plus F., made hotter by raging forest fires surrounding the town. The weather makes everyone sluggish, slow-thinking. But that doesn't stop a series of brutal assaults and even murders of young, teenage girls.

Again featuring police superintendent Malin Fors, this second installment in the series examines her personal life as much as looking into the question of police prejudice in conducting the investigation into the identity of the serial killer (automatically, they look at previous sex offenders) when they face the lack of clues or forensic evidence.

While ostensibly a murder mystery, the novel is infused with lots of psychological insights into the various characters, especially Malin. The author uses the technique of observations, in italics, of the murdered girls to move the plot forward. Often, the effort is a bit disconcerting and unnecessary. Kallentoft writes with a heavy heart and, like other Scandinavian writers, delves into the mysteries of the occult and the harsh subject matter. Only two more seasons to go.


Jonathan Kellerman
Ballantine Books
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780345505746, $9.99, 448 pp,

The team of psychologist Alex Delaware and LAPD homicide detective Lt. Milo Sturgis has been solving cases for a long time. But not like the crimes described in this latest installment. It starts out with the discovery of a child's bones, which appear to be old, perhaps dating to the 1950's. Soon, however, a fresh set of bones is found in a nearby park. And on the other side of the park, a murdered young woman. Are all these connected?

Following the familiar plot line, the detective follows procedure, and the psychologist thinks off the wall. And together they find the path to solving the mysteries, a tough road. Looking into the history of ownership of the first site provides little guidance. And there isn't much more to go on in the case of the new set of bones or of the murder victim.

The hallmark of the series is the interchange and quips between Alex and Milo, and "Guilt" is no exception. The author has perfected the novels, plotting and characters to such a high degree as to make each new entry a joy to read. And the newest book conforms to that ideal, and certainly is recommended. (Happily, readers can look forward to the next novel by Mr. Kellerman, "Killer," due out in February.)

A Conspiracy of Faith
Jussi Adler-Olsen
Translated by Martin Aitken
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780142180815, $16.00, 528 pp.,

Carl Morck made his series debut in "The Keeper of Lost Causes." In reviewing the follow-up novel in the Department Q series, "The Absent One," I noted that it was quite different from the introductory book. It is more complicated, while the character of the protagonist and his assistant, Assad, essentially remain the same. And to spice things up, another "assistant" is provided to Morck, the head of the office devoted to solving cold cases. This time it is a female, Rose. The same set of characters appears in this newest entry in the series, the third translation into English, but we see a progression in the complexity of the plot construction.

The cold case which falls into their bailiwick occurs when a bottle floats into Scotland containing an almost illegible plea for help, apparently written in blood. It is determined that the message originated in Denmark, and it is sent to Copenhagen. The message is dated five years earlier and, decayed almost beyond recognition, offers few clues. But that doesn't stop the intrepid trio as they look into the case, leading them to a most unusual serial killer.

While the story is pulse-raising, the length of the novel is off-putting and could have used some judicious pruning. Nevertheless, the interactions of the protagonist with not only his assistants, but also others in the Copenhagen police department, sometimes amusing, other times frustrating, soften the harshness of subject matter. Some readers might question Assad's almost superhuman ability to decipher the rescue plea and other of his abilities, but that is the nature of the character's appeal.


Theodore Feit

James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
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