Return to home
page Book Reviews, Book Lover Resources, Advice for Writers and Publishers
Home / Reviewer's Bookwatch

Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 15, Number 1 January 2015 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Ann's Bookshelf Bethany's Bookshelf
Buhle's Bookshelf Burroughs' Bookshelf Carson's Bookshelf
Clint's Bookshelf Drazin's Bookshelf Gail's Bookshelf
Gary's Bookshelf Gloria's Bookshelf Gorden's Bookshelf
Julie's Bookshelf Karyn's Bookshelf Katherine's Bookshelf
Kelly's Bookshelf Kevin's Bookshelf Linda's Bookshelf
Logan's Bookshelf Margaret's Bookshelf Mason's Bookshelf
Susan's Bookshelf Suzie's Bookshelf Teri's Bookshelf
Theodore's Bookshelf    

Reviewer's Choice

The New Anti-Semitism
Dr. Phyllis Chesler
Gefen Publishing House
11 Edison Place, Springfield, NJ 07081
9789652298096, $16.00, 408 Pages,

Fern Sidman

"The New Anti-Semitism" Comes of Age a Decade Later

As one holds a copy of Dr. Phyllis Chesler's updated book "The New Anti-Semitism" in their hands, we can all breathe a collective sigh and exclaim "this tome hasn't come a minute too soon." Thanks to the excellent research and prophetic analysis conducted by this acclaimed author, lecturer and activist, the reader is afforded the necessary context and perspective with which to understand the invidious phenomenon of contemporary Jew hatred.

Written over a decade ago in a compelling, easy to read and free flowing style, Dr. Chesler's premise was and still is that classical anti-Semitism as espoused by such nihilists and evil madmen as Hitler and the scores that preceded him has now been deemed to be "politically correct" by the trendy denizens of the Western academy and the "intellectual" crowds. Chesler was among the first to have seen and denounced the suicidal alliance between the Western intelligentsia and fundamental Islam. The anti-Semite needed a new and more acceptable veneer and the little place on the globe known as Israel would serve as the perfect subterfuge. Thus, Zionism does not equal racism but anti-Zionism does. In fact, it is part of what makes the new anti-Semitism "new."

There is no doubt that the al Aqsa intifada and the traumatic events of 9/11 served as an impetus for Dr. Chesler to pen this book as she naturally drew a correlation between the kind of terrorism that had become endemic to the state of Israel and the Jihadic terrorism that was let loose upon the world. "War and a new kind of anti-Semitism had been declared," she writes.

In the decades prior to the 9/11 and the advent of al Qaeda, Chesler is acutely aware of the festering anti-Semitism that appears to be increasingly more ubiquitous with each passing moment. She details major events that she personally encountered during her years as part of the vanguard of the second wave feminist movement and the reader can easily connect the proverbial dots to see and feel the palpable resentment of those who championed the politically correct cause against Israel, now known as liberalism.

Always sensing a strong undercurrent of such bigotry in the various human rights movements that came to define her raison d'etre, Chesler is most disheartened when women's conferences and forums such as Copenhagen and a pre-Durban one were hijacked by Jew hating agendas. She justifiably laments the fact that some important conferences are cancelled because of anti-Semitic and anti-Israel bias. "Women, you see, cannot be accused of racism - unless, of course, they are Jewish women," she sardonically writes.

Because she is keenly aware that anti-Semitism may start with the Jews but never ends with the Jews, she makes the logical connection between the opprobrium that is harbored for both America and Israel by those who assign blame to all forms of human oppression in terms of colonialism, capitalism, and imperialism. "The Palestinian uprising has increasingly been seen as the uprising of all oppressed peoples against their colonial oppressors, that is, Jews, Zionists and Americans," she ruefully observes. And, she notes, few understand that Muslim history is one of imperialism, colonialism, conversion by the sword, gender and religious apartheid, and slavery. Only the post enlightenment Judeo-Christian West are seen as mighty sinners.

Unlike other authors who have offered works of this genre, Chesler's meticulous research is beyond impeccable as she explores the genesis of post 9/11 Islamic terrorism specifically directed against the West and their global interests. Israel, of course is viewed as the little Satan by the retinue of pro-Palestinian apologists and their Western lackeys and Chesler takes the Big Lies and bold propaganda to task by exposing their motives. Case in point: The unfortunate Muhammed Dura incident and the use of "fauxtography" are given more than an ample dose of good old fashioned sunlight as she reveals one of the most egregious anti-Israel hoaxes ever sold to the public; however deceptively.

While reading this book, one is in retrospective mode as we imbibe a seemingly endless litany of horrifying anti-Israel and anti-Jewish events at university campuses that took place in the first decade of the new century and compare them to how much worse they are today. It should come as no surprise that the BDS movement and physical and verbal violence against pro-Israel Jewish students has gained a dangerous degree of momentum, power and economic viability in institutions of higher learning.

Chesler cites the palpable but surreal bellicosity that has become an endemic part of campus life for Jews who wish to express pro-Israel sentiments. Physical attacks, heckling of speakers, academic boycotts, incendiary street theater predicated on distortions, the lies being promulgated at the annual Jew roasting, better known as Israel apartheid week and the infinite amount of Orwellian rhetoric being circulated in every facet of academic life to just name a few. "The New McCarthyism on campus consists of the anti-Israeli and pro-Palestinian point of view. No other view will be tolerated," she writes.

Chesler is under no illusions and does not even attempt to sugarcoat the obvious. European anti-Semitism is at pre-World War II levels and the flames of destruction are being consistently fanned not only by the "usual suspects" but by the formidable fourth estate. The European press she writes "have continuously held Israel accountable for Palestinian terrorism, and justified human homicide bombing as a function of Palestinian "despair."

This book is easy to read yet it is filled with a voluminous amount of facts and is definitely driven by concrete and verifiable data. What causes the words to leap off the pages, however, and to embed themselves in our collective psyches are the nuanced and urbane analyses proffered both by Chesler and by an extensive array of experts. Frightening as it may be, they provide us with the kind of perspective we need to tackle anti-Semitic diatribes.

Yes, Dr. Chesler cautions us to grant this matter the gravitas it deserves and not to dismiss it as mere blather. In the expanded last chapters of the book she prodigiously confronts the Big Lies and blood libels as she challenges the sheer mendacity of pseudo and rather lethal Palestinian narratives in ways that are both comprehensible and thought provoking. On an uplifting note she provides us with ways in which each of us can support Israel and Judaism, either through economic empowerment against boycotts of Israeli made products and development of community and college based pro-Israel programs connecting with individual Israelis as part of our families.

In one of her final exhortations, Dr. Chesler has stumbled upon what may be the most important component in staying afloat as a people as we navigate the turbulent tide of anti-Semitism. She writes: "Dare I say it? I must. I implore Jews to stop fighting with each other. Even if we disagree, we must try to do so respectfully, soulfully....We are an eternal people engaged in an eternal struggle with evil."

Definitely words to heed.

This Wasted Land and Its Chymical Illuminations
Marc Vincenz and Tom Bradley (annotator)
Afterword by Siegfried Tolliot
Lavender Ink
3216 St. Philip Street, New Orleans, LA 70119
9781935084723, $19.00, 244pp,

K. R. Copeland

What a dizzying romp this book is!

By the middle of the second of this poem's 902 lines, we've already been guests at The Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz, pondered Einstein's "stubborn illusion of tenseful time," been tickled by Cassius Dio's tale of not-so-virginal vestals, and eavesdropped on Adam's marital difficulties with his first wife, Lilith. I'm already breaking a sweat - and bear in mind, this all comes through the guise of a beautifully lyrical love poem:

Hair slips from its bun.
Hair snakes across shoulders.
Eyes are dark seeds of dried persimmons.
Breath of autumn, breath of barren earth.
Hands are ice and snow cooling me, covering me
until I feel only white upon white upon hot white.
(lines 319 - 324)

By the end of the fifth line, we have visited Gaza under the Roman Empire and watched Chinese fabrics from the Silk Road being picked apart and rewoven into translucent garments of gauze. We've heard Myrna Loy's beautiful evocation of similar nightdresses, draped about fluttering virgins. We've relived Bobby Kennedy's assassination and heard him plagiarize George Bernard Shaw. And we've helped a seventeenth-century alchemist discover phosphorous with the help of 5000 liters of human urine.

By the seventeenth line - which has taken us no further than the bottom of this book's first page - King Solomon has appeared. He has brought along with him Athanasius of Alexandria, Ephrem of Syria, Shakespeare, Marlowe, Cagliostro, Byron, Madame Blavatsky, Whitman, Aleister Crowley and Orwell.

And so it's time to turn the page for the first of 242 times. But, before we lick our finger to do just that, we realize that, subliminally, our minds have been made privy to the identity of This Wasted Land's "tempting demon" and "evil angel." And here's the secret key to this veiled revelation. It's none other than T. S. Eliot on the heels of Ezra Pound - or visa versa, perhaps?

The hilarious afterword's byline belongs to Profesor Emeritus Siegfried Tolliot, the "throbbing dactylic poet" of nineteen-seventies Good Morning America. Somehow decades of his misadventures have gradually come together into a narrative among the stanzas and endnotes - a nod to Nabokov's Pale Fire? Apparently a physical lover of Ezra Pound (despite being emasculated), Professor Tolliot has leapt his bounds to supply an essay that oozes with ardent eros for our poet, and mutual contempt for the annotator.

In this and eight previous books, Marc Vincenz has published some of the richest and most complex poetry. It's an understatement to say This Wasted Land and Its Chymical Illuminations rewards close reading. To aid us in our extensive liberal arts education, Tom Bradley has obliged us with 140 pages of endnotes, packed with an extensive bibliography and index.

This is a book worthy of any bibliophile's collection - to be read and reread, and handed down for generations.

Wilful Murder (Alicia Allen Investigates 2)
Celia Conrad
Barcham Books
9780954623333, $3.99,

Marlan Warren, Reviewer

Genre: Crime fiction

"Look to the past to see what the future holds..."
Wilful Murder - Celia Conrad

"Look to the past to see what the future holds and make recompense for what those before you have done..." - Wilful Murder

Who doesn't enjoy a ripping good tale of a Will, murdered relatives and love's labor rewarded? For Wilful Murder, Book 2 in the Alicia Allen Investigates Trilogy, British author Celia Conrad has concocted a pastiche composed of the basic murder mystery elements involving disgruntled relatives, a serial killer and a dead man's Will, and reinvented it as part-Travelogue, part-Greek Tragedy, part-Shakespeare and part-Love Story.

I highly recommend Wilful Murder if (a) you love "cozy mysteries" with their gentle no-sex-or-graphic-violence paradigms and strong, intuitive female amateur sleuths; (b) you love "cerebral mysteries" with complicated Ah Ha! plots; (c) you love a bittersweet romantic subplot where a dynamic duo slug it out until they (almost) fall into each other's arms la Hepburn and Tracy. It will help if you've read Book 1, A Model Murder, as there is little exposition to bring the newbie up to speed.

Wilful Murder sports a more complicated puzzle than the first book - one that may have you mapping it out on paper just to keep track. It takes its daring, but cautious-in-love, lawyer detective to the Land Down Under to attend a friend's wedding, spar with an old flame, and oh yes, find a killer before he kills her almost-heiress client..

Conrad's snappy dialogue keeps pages turning and the "movie" playing in a reader's head. And as in the previous book, the Classics and Italian arts shape clues and plot. Wilful Murder is reminiscent of Oedipus Rex in that it is a tale told mainly through the uncovering of the past. A Model Murder introduced Alicia as a modern-day Portia. In Book 2, her indecisive attitude towards love and romance makes her a kind of female Hamlet (whether 'tis nobler to catch the culprit than the handsome suitor.)

I finished the book feeling winded and yet triumphant having made it across the various locales and dangers that abide in Wilful Murder, and having enjoyed Australian tourist pleasures before returning to Great Britain with Alicia.

Wilful Murder is built around the fine art of looking at the past--where we came from, what made us who we are today, the skeletons in our closets that we may or may not know about, and it prompts questions about whether we can make positive changes such as opening our hearts again to someone in spite of all we've been through or whatever pain still resides in our DNA.

The review by Marlan Warren originally published in the "Dancing in the Experience Lane" Open Salon Blog.

Hidden Impact
Charles Neff
Booksurge LLC
7290-B Investment Drive, Charleston, SC 29418
9781594579424, $14.99, 316 pages,

Molly Martin, Reviewer

Genre: Political Thriller Mystery

Charles Neff's Hidden Impact originates with the frontward access of the narrator's Atlantic Airlines flight swinging out to let soggy stickiness to seep into the compartment.

Bored, khaki clad customs officials gave the narrator's day pack and larger bag a perfunctory glance.

Not a lot had improved during the 32 years the narrator had been away. The Immigration officer glanced at the passport, Senor James Norberg, resident of Maine, United States. And how long will you be staying.

Mid June in Nicaragua, and his having a 90 day tourist card Norberg knew could remain in the country until the middle of September 2004 and, NO liquor, tobacco, drugs and firearms, and the former Peace Corps worker was on his way.

Hotel del Parque, the meeting place where Norberg had stayed during Peace Corps days had survived mostly intact the 1972 earthquake. The long day of travel from Bangor, connecting flights to Boston, Miami and Managua; Norberg was all set for a decent meal, calm late afternoon and a timely bed time before setting out for La Prada, the community where he had toiled during those Peace Corps days.

Meeting, not quite by chance, with old contact Kris Behr, set in motion basis for the tale intertwined into this work. Sighting of a plane crashed some 17 years ago has been located in proximity to La Prada. Behr believes a diary penned by himself back in the day when he was working with CIA in Nicaragua during the Sandinista/Contra fighting may have been aboard the plane. Behr is persuaded the pilot removed the journal from his desk during a get-together with CIA operatives. Behr wants Norberg to recover and bring the journal to him.

Finding the journal after it has been absent almost 2 decades is troubled with hazard as others, as determined as Norberg, are correspondingly searching for the record, and are willing to murder to expose its location.

I appreciated reading this well written political whodunit, characters are often multidimensional, well developed and convincing. The bad guys are filled with intrigue, slyness and not much to commend them, sundry of the characters fall into a cold-blooded, bad guy crowd.

I expressly relish a well-crafted narrative chockablock with turns and twists. I enjoyed meeting each of the numerous characters through the eyes of Norberg as he gauges those he had known before along with those who are new to his experience on this expedition. Populated with CIA operatives, dedicated American colleagues, Nicaraguan and activists, devious millionaires, and their insensitive associates; the cast of players is believable, plausible and acceptable.

Surroundings are adeptly fashioned, mugginess, sticky redolence and all, established against a milieu of trickery, cunning and maneuvering forward plot twists as they fuse into one another effortlessly. Narrative provides a glimpse into various settings from the minor village of Norberg's Peace Corps days, as well as the jungle forest and elsewhere; the account continues at rapid speed. Managua and its populace, a high-priced country club, and even the U.S. Embassy all figure in the work.

Writer Neff has constructed a well-paced, page turner certain to keep the reader engaged from the opening paragraph as Norberg debarks from his plane moves full tilt to the concluding paragraphs as he plans ending his affairs in the United States before returning to Nicaragua where he hopes to inaugurate a new, dynamic life filled with optimism, friends and perhaps even a companion with whom he can share his life.

I found it easy to identify with Norberg, he is the everyman who wants to do right, and will fight, often unsuccessfully for what he believes in. He keeps believing there is some essential good out there worth fighting for. A sentiment of authenticity encompasses the work. Jim Nordberg is an amiable personality filled with many of the same warts, foibles and mishaps as seem to befall us all.

I found Hidden Impact to be well written, enjoyable and worth the read, happy to recommend.

Interesting read Recommended 4 stars

Available on Amazon and other online sites Hidden Impact can be purchased from the author's website, from AuthorsDen and other online sites as well as from various walk in shops.

I was sent a paperback ARC for review

The Secret World of Oil
Ken Silverstein
Verso Books
20 Jay Street, Suite 1010, Brooklyn NY 11201
9781781681374, $25.95, 252 pages,

Paul Lappen, Reviewer

This book provides a peek behind the curtain at the business part of the oil industry, still a major part of the world's economy.

If an oil company wants to start drilling in a "new" country, like Equatorial Guinea, or somewhere in Central Asia, all they have to do is go to the president or Prime Minister, buy an oil lease, and start drilling, right? Wrong; there are other officials who need to be consulted, and compensated, first (American law forbids bribery, but American oil companies know that it's part of the cost of doing business). That is why "fixers" are so important. They know the local political landscape, or they have connections to the right officials. They also know how much the company should pay in "rebates" or "commissions."

Your father is the leader of some small country, with lots of oil reserves (the national treasury is treated like your own personal bank account). Your biggest decision is what glittering residence will you visit, your Malibu mansion, your Manhattan penthouse, or your villa on the French Riviera. Also, which of your dozen luxury cars will you bring with you?

There are a number of ex-politicians who travel the world making speeches about oil. Former British Prime Minister traveled to Azerbaijan where he received $150,000 for a speech lasting less than half an hour. In it, he said nice things about President Aliyev, whose human rights record is pretty horrible.

Neil Bush, part of the Bush family, has a bad record in the oil business. His companies don't just fail; they tend to crash and burn. But the Bush name is enough for foreign companies and governments to pay him tens of thousands of dollars for introductions.

This is a very interesting look at the oil industry. The author actually traveled the world, meeting the people portrayed in this book. The reader will learn a lot, and it is very much worth reading.

Almost Perfect
Diane Daniels Manning
1365 Columbia St, Houston, TX 77008
9780578139394, $12.95 PB, $2.99 Kindle, Pages 330,

Sandra Heptinstall

This is one of the most heartfelt, feel good books I have read in a long time. Right from the start I was hooked. We have two main character and the first is Benny. Benny is a young teenage boy who suffers from a mild form of autism. Benny has only two goals in life. One is to make his mom proud and the second is to have his very own dog. Benny's home life is very dysfunctional. He lives with his father and step mother. His mom is into drugs and even on her visitation weekends she very seldom shows up to pick Benny up. His father wants Benny to grow up and work with him someday. He does not accept Benny for the person he is.

The other main character is Bess. She is seventy years old and a dog breeder and trainer. She has shown her Umpawaug Poodles for years. She is well respected and known throughout the world of show dogs as one of the best. Bess has decided it is time to end her business. She is too old to care for her many dogs. She only keeps two of her dogs. One is Mc Creery and the other is his son Breaker. Even though her dog McCreery has won every show he was ever in, Bess never took him to Westminster dog show. It is not because she thinks he could not win, but much deeper reasons of her own.

While walking home alone because his mom did not show up as planned, Bennie hears a dog moaning. He follows the sounds and that is when this books grabs your heart. I have cried off and on while reading this book.

The ending of this book totally surprised me. I could visualize what was going on and the tears really started falling.

In my opinion this book is an easy five star rating.

Rated G

I do not get paid to read and review books. In this case though I have to say this book is worth a lot of money to me. I only give books a four or five star rating so that people will get a book that is good or better.

Robin Murarka
Privately Published
9780992440404, $19.95 (PB), $2.99 (Kindle), 532pp,

Charles Franklin

"Akin" is an incredibly interesting story that captivated me from beginning to end that reminded strikingly of "Acheron" by Sherilyn Kenyon. It features the life story of a young man who is harshly treated by his father only to encounter even harsher conditions after waking up in a prison under a sadistic prison keeper. The book follows his escape from that prison to a new life. Several twists and turns lead him into various ups and downs until he ends up where he wants to be, himself.

What makes this story so intriguing to me was its exoticism. The book is written in such a way as to provoke pathos and curiosity. The author deliberately (in my view) provides some details about Akin's culture, but leaves out other details. He also freely slips into stream-of-consciousness writing at will, which is disorienting and strikingly creative at the same time. Readers are never really quite sure of their footing, but will hold on to see where their journey will take them.

The balance between two polar opposites is carried throughout the book. There are shocking scenes of ugliness and brutality in the book, but there are also incredibly beautiful scenes. I was a little shocked at some of those scenes, but realize why the author added them.

In my view, the author wants to show the beauty and the ugliness of the human condition. All of it is part of the human journey, which I believe is the central point of this book. As humans we can encounter cruelty, loneliness, and poverty, but we can also experience happiness, joy, and freedom. Realizing that both halves of the human condition will help us reach the epiphany that Akin does has at the end of the book.

Incredible start for a debut author! I am glad to have read it.

People And Peppers
Kelvin Christopher James
Harvard Square Editions
2152 Beachwood Terrace, Hollywood, CA 90068
9780989596077, $22.95, 248 pp,

Elizabeth Nunez

In his latest novel "People and Peppers, A Romance", Kelvin Christopher James takes us on a rollicking romp with the mixed-race Trinidadian Vivion K Pinheiro as he tries to find a market in the US for his crop of peppers - the hottest in the world. On the way, the charismatic Vivion gives us remarkable insights into multiculturalism: How it is embraced in Trinidad and how it is eyed with suspicion in the US. An unforgettable tale.

Nature's Confession
JL Morin
Harvard Square Editions
2152 Beachwood Terrace, Hollywood, CA 90068
9780989596077, $19.95, 298 pp,

David W. Wooddell

"Nature's Confession" by J. L. Morin is a terrifically funny, and somewhat frightening look at the future. Her characters are well-thought out, and representational - Any Gynoid, for instance, is the superhero everywoman who saves humanity, using the discovery of the character Boy. The Red Haired Girl is mysterious, and haunts Boy's dreams, with good reason - she is inspiringly alluring for Boy. As for the character Porter - well, as his name implies, he carries a lot. What I enjoyed the most was the author's ability to combine serious concerns about the environment on Earth, with a sense of humor, at times almost a double-take slapstick, and obviously her wish the polluters on earth, and the policy-makers who foster those polluters could be slapped upside of the head with a dose of reality. Instead, she gives us sublime comedy, which is much better than being preached to, or crying that the sky is falling. Although, I bet she could write a pretty good version of the Sky Is Falling.

Ann's Bookshelf

In These Times
Jenny Uglow
9780571269525, A$49.99, 740 pages

This is a weighty book. Not just because its 740 thin pages and inserts of glossy photographs make it heavy to hold, but also because Jenny Uglow covers a daunting range of topics and people. Yet she does it so well that the aching arms are worth it. Her intention is to show how the lives of ordinary people in Britain were affected by the French Revolution and the ensuing Napoleonic Wars, which for twenty-one years from 1793 to 1815 (apart from a brief respite in 1802-3) touched every part of the country.

Every village, every town, every city, every farm, every industry, every bank - everything you can think of which was associated with the everyday lives of the people of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales - was influenced by these wars. Huge industrial, military, and social changes took place, too. And many well-known names in war, politics, industry and the arts crop up in this book: Nelson, Napoleon, Wellington, Tom Paine, Mary Wollstonecraft, William Pitt, Trevithick, Telford, Burns, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron and Jane Austen - to name but a few.

Far from being a dry historical chronology of "these times", however, Uglow's decision to base much of her account on the letters and diaries of people from all walks of life allows her to offer many revealing, curious and often intimate details of the way people responded to the threat of invasion and their personal involvement in war. She also has an eye for the sort of snippets of information which bring a book to life. So, for example, we hear of the growth of the smuggling trade and stories of marshy ditches filled with parcels and haystacks which "doubled in size overnight". We hear of armament tests which drew crowds of people to Woolwich Common to watch the dramatic displays. And of Joseph Bonaparte's silver chamber pot, which was looted by the British Hussars after the defeat of the French at Vittoria and, for generations after that, was "filled with champagne on festive nights at the barracks".

Jane Austen's brothers were officers in the navy and family letters are quoted. The Gurney family, Quaker bankers whose business weathered the booms and busts of that long period, also had three lively letter-writing sisters, one of whom, Betsey, married Joseph Fry and became Elizabeth Fry, famous for her prison reform work. Byron wrote scathing poems about current events; and the popularity of Walter Scott's novels fostered a tourist industry amongst the middle and upper classes. The French revolution spawned such fears of uprisings in Britain that Tom Paine's enlightened writings about human rights led to accusations that he was a Jacobin, and in many places his effigy was paraded, hanged and burned.

War with France required soldiers and sailors. Press Gangs and Crimps flourished alongside compulsory ballots for men to join the County militias, elite volunteer regiments which designed their own fancy uniforms, and the drum of regular recruiting parties which was heard throughout the country. Uniforms, shoes, cannon, guns, ships, provisions for the army and navy, money to pay for all this, all were essential and industries grew and flourished, failed, and grew again. Sea-men earned prize money, and spent it. War was waged (again) with America. The plight of wounded men, the unemployed, the impoverished and starving brought new government regulations and taxes. New machinery took away jobs and there were Luddite uprisings. Slavery was abolished. Prisoners-of-war were taken. Prime Ministers came and went, some popular, some not: in 1813 Spencer Percival was shot as he entered the House of Commons. Nelson, Wellington and Napoleon became national heroes. George III suffered bouts of madness, the Prince Regent entertained on a grand scale, and the aristocracy carried on with their balls, their banquets and their travels. There were food shortages and starvation but also periods of plenty. Everyone, as Uglow says, went on with their daily lives, but also everyone shared in the war.

Uglow does not follow the war itself in detail but provides a chronology at the end of the book. Instead, she manages to convey what it was like for ordinary and not-so-ordinary people to live through a long period of enormous and significant change. The voices of these people fill in the personal and human details which war histories generally neglect, and this makes for a fascinating study, although a long and involved one. At times, since I read the book in small doses, I lost track of who was who, but it was easy to catch up. Also, Uglow ensures that we learn what happened, in the years after the wars were over, to all the individuals and families we have come to know. Her book is a remarkable feat of scholarship, well written, interesting and amply illustrated with satires by Gillray and Cruikshank; early pictures of towns, workers and industry; miniatures of some of the people we meet in the book; and paintings by Turner, Constable and other prominent artists of the times.

Hansel & Gretel
Neil Gaiman, Author
Lorenzo Mattotti, Illustrator
9781408861983, A$19.99, 49 pages

Inspired by Lorenzo Mattotti's dramatic art, Neil Gaiman has recreated the Grimms' fairy tale of Hansel and Gretel. As the notes at the back of the book tell us, the story is believed to have originated in Medieval times when a terrible famine caused starving families to abandon their children and there were rumours of cannibalism. It was collected by Wilhelm Grimm in the early nineteenth century, however, from a twelve-year-old girl who later became his wife. Gaiman's version combines elements of the original Grimm brothers' tale published in 1812, with those of later editions which were somewhat different, but although the overall story is familiar, Gaiman's re-telling is wholly his own.

What begins as a happy tale of a small family who lived long ago ("in your grandmother's time" or a little earlier) becomes worrying as the shortage of food must be dealt with and Hansel overhears his mother and father discussing how they might survive by getting rid of the children. It becomes truly terrifying when Hansel and Gretel are lost in the forest and have to deal with the old woman who plans to eat them. The book is aimed at 9 -11 year-olds, most of whom will already know that the story has a happy ending. But the plight of Hansel and Gretel, and the idea that parents might ever consider abandoning or killing their own children can still be shocking.

The gingerbread house, the old woman's seeming kindness and her subsequent cruelty, are fair warning never to trust strangers, as my 12-year-old grandson observed. And Gretel's revenge is, of course, well deserved and generally applauded. But, as he also observed, resourcefulness and luck are not always enough in real life. However, he enjoyed Lorenzo Mattotti's dramatic, swirling black-and-white images which were originally created for an exhibition which accompanied the staging of Hansel and Gretel at the Metropolitan Opera.

Often Mattotti's pictures resemble the dark forest where only a little light penetrates to patch the tree trunks and leaves with confusing patterns. This adds to the scary quality of the book, but the pictures are not always easy to decipher. The 7 year-old in my family enjoyed being scared by them and by the story, but she preferred the small Arthur Rackman illustration which accompanies the notes at the back of the book. Being a stickler for detail, too, she pointed out that Gretel is always smaller than Hansel in Mattotti's pictures, although Gaiman says she was born two years before her brother, so she definitely should have been the tallest. Still, this is a book to stir the imagination, beautifully presented and with an old story well and freshly told.

Ann Skea, Reviewer

Bethany's Bookshelf

From Akhenaten to Moses
Jan Assmann
American University in Cairo Press
420 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10018-2729
9789774166310, $34.95, 192pp,

Synopsis: The shift from polytheism to monotheism changed the world radically. Akhenaten and Moses (the first a figure of history and the second a figure of tradition) symbolize this shift in its incipient, revolutionary stages and represent two civilizations that were brought into the closest connection as early as the Book of Exodus, where Egypt stands for the old world to be rejected and abandoned in order to enter the new one. The seven chapters of this seminal study shed light on the great transformation from different angles. Between Egypt in the first chapter and monotheism in the last, five chapters deal in various ways with the transition from one to the other, analyzing the Exodus myth, understanding the shift in terms of evolution and revolution, confronting Akhenaten and Moses in a new way, discussing Karl Jaspers' theory of the Axial Age, and dealing with the eighteenth-century view of the Egyptian mysteries as a cultural model.

Critique: "From Akhenaten to Moses: Ancient Egypt and Religious Change" is a seminal work of truly impressive scholarship. An exceptionally well written, organized, and presented study that is enhanced with the inclusion of eighteen pages of Notes and a comprehensive Index, this seminal work is very highly recommended for academic library collections and the supplemental studies reading lists for students of Egyptian antiquity. It should be noted that "From Akhenaten to Moses: Ancient Egypt and Religious Change" is also available in a Kindle edition ($14.39).

The Teaching Brain
Vanessa Rodriguez
The New Press
38 Green Street, 4th floor, New York, NY 10013
Smith Publicity
9781595589965, $26.95, 256pp,

Synopsis: What is at work in the mind of a five-year-old explaining the game of tag to a new friend? What is going on in the head of a thirty-five-year-old parent showing a first-grader how to button a coat? And what exactly is happening in the brain of a sixty-five-year-old professor discussing statistics with a room full of graduate students? While research about the nature and science of learning abounds, shockingly few insights into how and why humans teach have emerged the publication of Harvard University researcher Vanessa Rodriguez' "The Teaching Brain: An Evolutionary Trait at the Heart of Education".

Countering the dated yet widely held presumption that teaching is simply the transfer of knowledge from one person to another, "The Teaching Brain" weaves together scientific research and real-life examples to show that teaching is a dynamic interaction and an evolutionary cognitive skill that develops from birth to adulthood. "The Teaching Brain" reveals what it actually takes to become an expert teacher. At a time when all sides of the teaching debate tirelessly seek to define good teaching (or even how to build a better teacher) "The Teaching Brain" upends the misguided premises for how we measure the success of teachers.

"The Teaching Brain" is a game-changing analysis of how the mind teaches will transform common perceptions of one of the most essential human practices (and one of the most hotly debated professions), charting a path forward for teachers, parents, and anyone seeking to better understand learning - and unlocking the teaching brain in all of us.

Critique: An impressive compendium founded in comprehensive and detailed research, "The Teaching Brain: An Evolutionary Trait at the Heart of Education" is an impressive work of seminal scholarship. Deftly written, organized and presented, "The Teaching Brain" is an extraordinary and highly recommended addition to academic and community library Developmental Psychology and Education Studies reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists. Thoroughly 'reader friendly' and accessible to the non-specialist general reader with an interest in developmental psychology and education, it should be noted that "The Teaching Brain" is also available in a Kindle edition ($14.99).

The Tiny Portrait
Heidi Carla, author
Karla Cinquanta, illustrators
Curly & Iceberg Publishing
The Cadence Group
9780615807492, $15.95, 56pp,

Synopsis: Young siblings Tess and Toby discover an antique tintype portrait of an unknown ancestor in a family heirloom trunk. Their discovery leads them on an unexpected adventure when they embark on an imaginative journey to uncover her identity. Along the way, the children are encouraged to explore their own unique connection to the past by creating a family tree. This curio keepsake book features atmospheric photographic illustrations with inter-generational appeal.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, "The Tiny Portrait" reveals author Heidi Carla as a remarkably talented storyteller whose original children's story is impressively enhanced with the illustrations of Karla Cinquanta. "The Tiny Portrait" is highly recommended for family and community library collections.

It's Alright to Look Different
Benedict Coulter, author
Salva Ferrando, illustrator
Baby's Brilliant/Teaching Baby LLC
9780990947509, $10.89 (HC), $7.89 (PB),

Synopsis: Benedict Coulter's "It's Alright to Look Different" is a wonderfully entertaining short story with colorful illustrations by Salva Ferrando about a little chick who was born a different color than the other chicks. He was ignored and separated from the group because of how he looked. One night he was the only one who was able to save them from a hungry fox and became their hero.

Critique: A heart warming story about how it is alright to look different, "It's Alright to Look Different" is very highly recommended for family, preschool, and community library picture book collections for children of all ages, but especially for boys and girls ages 24 months to 5 years old.

The Drum Tower
Farnoosh Moshiri
Black Heron Press
PO Box 13396, Mill Creek, WA 98082
9781936364060, $25.95, 299pp,

Synopsis: "The Drum Tower" by Farnoosh Moshiri's set in the Iranian Revolution of 1979. Told from the perspective of a mentally ill, 16-year-old girl, the story is about the fall of Drum Tower, the house of a family descended from generations of War Ministers. Rich in characters - Talkhoon, who struggles to control the winds she hears inside her head and who tells the story; Assad, a man made evil by his love for her; Anvar Angha, Talkhoon's grandfather who has devoted his life to writing a book about the Simorgh (the mythical bird of knowledge; the Persian Phoenix) but never completes it; Soraya, Talkhoon's mother, whom we never meet but about whom myriad and contradictory stories abound-and rich in family secrets, this novel chronicles the early days of the revolution, the ruthlessness and opportunism of the competing factions, the rise of the Revolutionary Guard, the chaos and murder in the streets of Tehran, the arrests and executions, as experienced by the members of this family.

Critique: A compelling read from beginning to end, "The Drum Tower" is an expertly crafted novel and denotes author Farnoosh Moshiri as a major literary talent who can deftly embed truly memorable characters into a complexly woven story replete with historical details. Very highly recommended for personal reading lists and community library General Fiction collections, it should be noted that "The Drum Tower" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

The Baul Tradition: Sahaj Vision East and West
M. Young
Hohm Press
PO Box 4410, Chino Valley, AZ 86323
9781935387831, $29.95, 320pp,

Synopsis: This book traces the Baul Path, a Tantric spiritual tradition, from its earliest roots in the subcontinent of India, to its dissemination in the West in modern times. "Baul" (meaning "madcap" or "taken by the wind") describes one who has a vision of reality so piercing and clear that they are called to live in a way that goes against the common grain: the safe, plodding life of the mainstream. In the East, for centuries, Baul bards and yogis wandered the dusty roads of Bengal singing and dancing with joy in praise of God. Their poetry-songs uplifted ordinary people, transporting all above the daily grind for survival and into a direct experience of the sublime. Sahaja is the hallmark of the Baul Way, referring to the naturally ecstatic essence of being. According to the Bauls, sahaja nature is inborn, & underlies one's human personality and habitual social conditioning. It is a blueprint of love, beauty, bliss, wisdom & dignity. From the Baul view, to rediscover sahaja is to love God.

Critique: The Baul are a group of mystic minstrels from Bengal which includes Indian State of West Bengal and the country of Bangladesh. Bauls constitute both a syncretic religious sect and a musical tradition. Bauls are a very heterogeneous group, with many sects, but their membership mainly consists of Vaishnava Hindus and Sufi Muslims. They can often be identified by their distinctive clothes and musical instruments. Not much is known of their origin. Lalon Fokir is regarded as the most important poet-practitioner of the Baul tradition. Baul music had a great influence on Rabindranath Tagore's poetry and on his music (Rabindra Sangeet). Though Bauls comprise only a small fraction of the Bengali population, their influence on the culture of Bengal is considerable. In 2005, the Baul tradition was included in the list of "Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity" by UNESCO. A work of impressive scholarship and detailed research, M. Young's "The Baul Tradition: Sahaj Vision East and West" is a deftly written combination of memoir, history, and wisdom. Very highly recommended reading, "The Baul Tradition: Sahaj Vision East and West" will prove to be an enduringly valued contribution to personal, community, and academic library Religion & Spirituality reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists. It should be noted that "The Baul Tradition: Sahaj Vision East and West" is also available in a Kindle edition ($17.31).

Sky People
Ardy Sixkiller Clarke
New Page Books
c/o Career Press Inc.
220 West Parkway, Unit 12, Pompton Plains, NJ 07444
Warwick Associates Publicity
9781601633477, $17.99, 320pp,

Synopsis: Dr. Ardy Sixkiller Clarke vowed as a teenager to follow in the footsteps of two 19th-century explorers, John L. Stephens and Frederick Catherwood, who brought the ancient Maya cities to the world's attention. Dr. Clarke set out on a seven-year adventure (from 2003 through 2010) through Belize, Honduras, Guatemala, and Mexico, collecting stories of encounters, sky gods, giants, little people, and aliens among the indigenous people. She drove more than 12,000 miles, visiting 89 archaeological sites (Stephens and Catherwood visited only 44) and conducting nearly 100 individual interviews. The result is "Sky People: Untold Stories of Alien Encounters in Mesoamerica", an enthralling series of unique, original, true stories of encounters with space travelers, giants, little people, and UFOs.

Critique: Dr. Clarke is a gifted writer who presents an inherently fascinating and informative body of seminal research that should be a part of every personal, community, and academic library Metaphysical Studies reference collections and supplemental reading list. A truly extraordinary work, "Sky People" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99). Appreciative readers will also want to read Dr. Clark's previous work, "Encounters With Star People: Untold Stories of American Indians" (978-1933665726, $15.95 (PB), $9.99 (Kindle), 204pp).

Susan Bethany

Buhle's Bookshelf

Death Without Cause
Pamela Triolo
Post Oak
c/o Wyatt-MacKenzie
9781939288066, $13.99, 310pp,

Synopsis: A riveting, fast-paced medical thriller, "Death Without Cause" deftly weaves a gripping mystery deep within America's healthcare system. Hospitals can be dangerous places when a deranged mind decides to tamper with systems that support the foundation of clinical diagnosis. "Death Without Cause" is rooted in frightening reality of the contemporary medical world, and set in the largest medical center in the world, the Texas Medical Center in Houston.

Critique: Drawing upon her background as a practicing nurse, Pamela Triolo has penned a gripping and realistic novel. Deftly written from beginning to end, "Death Without Cause" is a non-stop thriller. Imaginative, compelling, "Death Without Cause" is recommended reading and certain to be a popular addition to community library Contemporary Fiction collections. It should be noted that "Death Without Cause" is also available in a Kindle edition ($8.99).

Imaginative Card Play
Terence Reese & Roger Trezel
Master Point Press
331 Douglas Avenue, Toronto, ON, Canada, M5M 1H2
9781771400152, $21.95, 280pp,

Synopsis: In the 1970s, two of the best bridge writers of all time, Terence Reese and Roger Trezel, collaborated on a series of eight small books on aspects of card play at bridge. These books have long been out of print, and are being republished now in two combined volumes, edited and updated by Bridge Magazine editor Mark Horton. "Imaginative Card Play" is the second of these two books, and comprises the following titles from the original series: Master the Odds in Bridge; Snares and Swindles in Bridge; Those Extra Chances in Bridge; The Art of Defence in Bridge.

Critique: Simply stated, "Imaginative Card Play" is a 'must read' for any and all dedicated card players. The same is true for the first volume of this two volume set, "Accurate Card Play" (9781771400145, $19.95). It should be noted that Master Point Press is the premier of bridge card game publishers of instructional books and these two anthologies are simply outstanding examples of what is offered the bridge playing public. For a complete list of all Master Point Press titles, players are encouraged to visit the Master Point Press web site at

Willis M. Buhle

Burroughs' Bookshelf

Life Is a Gift: A Book for Thankful Hearts
Paraclete Press
PO Box 1568, Orleans, MA 02653
9781612614120, $16.99, 112pp,

Synopsis: There is an old proverb from Eastern Europe that says, "Who does not thank for little, will not thank for much." In other words, the person who goes through life being thankful for God's gifts and blessings usually experiences more of life's goodness - and inhabits more of God's blessings. Created by Paraclete Press, "Life Is a Gift: A Book for Thankful Hearts" is beautiful book that challenges people to live in a way that blesses God, from whom all good things come. Reflections from a wide array of authors are included ranging from Henry Van Dyke, to Abraham Lincoln, to Louisa May Alcott, as well as many songs, psalms, and prayers.

Critique: Inspired and inspiring, "Life Is a Gift: A Book for Thankful Hearts" is a wonderful compendium to simply browse through again and again and again. An ideal addition for personal collections, and strongly recommended to community libraries as an enduringly popular acquisition, "Life Is a Gift: A Book for Thankful Hearts" is a literary treasure of the first order.

Seasons of the Tallgrass Prairie: A Nebraska Year
Paul A. Johnsgard
University of Nebraska Press
233 North 8th Street, Lincoln, Nebraska, 68588-0255
9780803253377, $19.95, 184pp,

Synopsis: A respected author and scholar, Paul A. Johnsgard has spent a lifetime observing the natural delights of Nebraska's woodlands, grasslands, and wetlands. Seasons of the Tallgrass Prairie collects his musings on Nebraska's natural history and the issues of conservation facing our future. In "Seasons of the Tallgrass Prairie: A Nebraska Year", Professor Johnsgard crafts essays featuring snow geese, owls, hummingbirds, and other creatures against the backdrop of Great Plains landscapes. He describes prairie chickens courting during predawn hours and the calls of sandhill cranes; he evokes the magic of lying upon the prairie, hearing only the sounds of insects and the wind through the grasses. From reflections following a visit to a Pawnee sacred site to meditations on the perils facing the state's finite natural resources, "Seasons of the Tallgrass Prairie: A Nebraska Year" celebrates the gifts of a half century spent roaming Nebraska's back roads, trails, and sometimes-forgotten places.

Critique: Drawing upon his many years of experience, observation, and expertise, Paul A. Johnsgard (Foundation Regents Professor Emeritus, School of biological Sciences, University of Nebraska-Lincoln) has written an impressively informed and informative compendium essays deftly organized into three major sections: Wild Places and National Treasures; Seasonal Enchantments; The View from a High Hill. A simply wonderful read from beginning to end, "Seasons of the Tallgrass Prairie: A Nebraska Year" is enhanced with the inclusion of an appendices (Latin Names of Plants and Animals Mentioned in the Text) and a list of Bibliographic Sources. An extraordinary anthology that will delight the non-specialist general reader with an interest in the natural world in general, and Nebraska's countryside in particular, it should be noted that "Seasons of the Tallgrass Prairie: A Nebraska Year" is also available in a Kindle edition ($11.52).

South Pacific: The Complete Book and Lyrics of the Broadway Musical
Richard Rodgers, et al.
Applause Books
c/o Hal Leonard Performing Arts Publishing Group
19 West 21st Street, Suite 201, New York, NY 10010
9781480355545, $16.99, 192pp,

Synopsis: Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the Tony for Best Musical, 'South Pacific' flourished as the golden musical of Broadways post-WWII golden era. Nearly 60 years after its 1949 premiere, 'South Pacific' returned to Broadway in Lincoln Center Theaters glorious Tony-winning production, setting box-office records and bringing this timely and timeless musical to new generations. With a score by Rodgers & Hammerstein and a libretto by Hammerstein and Joshua Logan, based on James A. Micheners Pulitzer Prizewinning novel, "Tales of the South Pacific", this landmark musical combines compassionate love stories with the saga of a world at war. Richly developed characters are faced with life-changing moments in a complex world, their thoughts and yearnings powerfully expressed in the lyrics to such songs as This Nearly Was Mine, Younger Than Springtime, and Some Enchanted Evening.

Critique: "South Pacific: The Complete Book and Lyrics of the Broadway Musical" presents the entire script of one of America's most beloved musicals. Enhanced with the inclusion of a sections of photographs denoting various performances by different casts, "South Pacific: The Complete Book and Lyrics of the Broadway Musical" is a critically important and very highly recommended addition to community and academic library collections, as well as high school and community theater reference collections.

The Stairwell
Michael Longley
Wake Forest University Press
PO Box 7333, Winston-Salem, NC 27109
9781930630697, $14.95, 80pp,

Synopsis: In "The Stairwell", his tenth collection of original poetry, Michael Longley's themes and forms reach a new intensity. The second part of "The Stairwell"" is a powerful sequence of elegies for his twin brother, Peter, and the dominant mood elsewhere is elegiac. The title poem begins: "I have been thinking about the music for my funeral ..." The two parts are also linked by Homer. Longley is well-known for his Homeric versions, and the Iliad is a presiding presence both in poems about the Great War and in the range of imagery that gives his twin's death a mythic dimension. Yet funeral music can be life-affirming. Longley has built this collection on intricate doublings, not only when he explores the tensions of twinship. The psychologically suggestive word "stairwell" is itself an ambiguous compound. These poems encompass birth as well as death, childhood and age, nature and art, the animal and human worlds, tenderness and violence, battlefield and homeland. "The Stairwell" is a richly textured, immensely moving work. Michael Longley has the rare ability to fuse emotional depth with complicated artistry: to make them, somehow, the same thing.

Critique: Poetry is a form of literature that uses aesthetic and rhythmic qualities of language, including such as phonaesthetics, sound symbolism, and metre, to evoke meanings in addition to, or in place of, the prosaic ostensible meaning. "The Stairwell" showcases Michael Longley's mastery of the poetic form and format for expressing and observing the human condition that is both personal and universal. Very highly recommended for personal reading lists, as well as community and academic library Contemporary Poetry collections, it should be noted that "The Stairwell" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.95).

John Burroughs

Carson's Bookshelf

Change Your Mind, Change Your Health
Anne Marie Ludovici
New Page Books
c/o Career Press Inc.
220 West Parkway, Unit 12, Pompton Plains, NJ 07444
Victor Gulotta Communications
9781601633446, $15.99, 224pp,

Synopsis: True wellness is about more than just health--it's about living a fulfilling, well-rounded life. It's about becoming and being our best selves. Yet from health to jobs to finances, it's no secret that people today face a number of seemingly insurmountable barriers to achieving a secure, self-affirming sense of personal well-being. They've tried fad-this and celebrity-that because they want to change, but nothing really works or lasts. Without knowing how to achieve meaningful and sustainable personal change, many of us lack the independence and empowerment to make it happen. Filled with personal, engaging stories, "Change Your Mind, Change Your Health: 7 Ways to Harness the Power of Your Brain to Achieve True Well-Being" reveals proven techniques used by behavioral experts, researchers, health coaches, and psychology professionals to inspire and empower people to embrace the enriching power of change. Change isn't an outcome, it's a process--a journey of personal independence, self-discovery, and transformation leading to a new, healthier you. "Change Your Mind, Change Your Health: 7 Ways to Harness the Power of Your Brain to Achieve True Well-Being" leads you step-by-step down the path to conquer your challenges and harness and channel your inner power to transform your life for good. Just as the caterpillar becomes a butterfly, the power of change can unlock your hidden beauty and potential to soar.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, accessibly organized, deftly presented, and extraordinarily 'user friendly', Change Your Mind, Change Your Health: 7 Ways to Harness the Power of Your Brain to Achieve True Well-Being" is enhanced with the inclusion of six pages of References and a very useful Index. This do-it-yourself improvement guide is very highly recommended for personal reading lists and community library collections. It should be noted that "Change Your Mind, Change Your Health: 7 Ways to Harness the Power of Your Brain to Achieve True Well-Being" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

Social Work Practice with Veterans
Gary L. Dick, editor
NASW Press
750 First Street, NE, #700, Washington, DC 20002-4241
9780871014535, $49.99, 352pp,

Synopsis: In times of crisis, service members answer the call of duty, making the ultimate sacrifice for their country. When our military service members are called to defend our nation, the entire family system is affected. The families of deployed service members are also called on to serve and sacrifice for their country as they continually accept, adapt, and adjust to the changes that accompany the various stages of the deployment cycle. "Social Work Practice with Veterans" is a comprehensive, evidence-based social work book that addresses the multiple issues related to working with service members, veterans, and their families. "Social Work Practice with Veterans" integrates research, practice experience, case studies, theory, and social work values into a single text that covers the entire cycle of deployment and the complicated adjustments associated with posttraumatic stress disorder, suicide, traumatic brain injury, and substance abuse, with special chapters devoted to military fathers, gays in the military, military children, and more.

Critique: Compiled and edited by Gary L. Dick (School of Social Work, College of Allied health Sciences, University of Cincinnati), "Social Work Practice with Veterans" is comprised of eighteen informed and informative articles (many of them written or co-written with Professor Dick) and cover a wide range of thematically relevant issues ranging from the role of the social worker, to the children of military veterans, to gays in the military, to the problem of veteran suicide rates, to incarcerated veterans, and so much more. Very highly recommended for professional and academic library Psychology/Counseling reference collections, "Social Work Practice with Veterans" should be considered a 'must read' for social workers, counselors, and mental health professionals who work with the military community.

Thrive: 5 Ways to (Re)Invigorate Your Teaching
Meenoo Rami
PO Box 6926, Portsmouth, NH 03802-6926
9780325049199, $19.38, 120pp,

Synopsis: As a novice teacher, Meenoo Rami experienced the same anxieties shared by many: the sense of isolation, lack of self-confidence, and fear that her work was having no positive impact on her students. In Thrive, Meenoo shares the five strategies that helped her become a confident, connected teacher. From how to find mentors and build networks, both online and off, to advocating for yourself and empowering your students, Thrive shows new and veteran teachers alike how to overcome the challenges and meet the demands of our profession.

Critique: Expertly written, knowledgeably organized, and effectively presented, "Thrive: 5 Ways to (Re)Invigorate Your Teaching" is a thoroughly 'user friendly', informed and informative instruction manual that is especially recommended for the novice classroom teacher while having a great deal of value for the more experienced instructor. "Thrive: 5 Ways to (Re)Invigorate Your Teaching" is highly recommended for academic library Education Studies reference collections and supplementary study reading lists.

Grace Kelly: Film Stills
Daniel Dreier
Widenmayerstr. 16, D-80538 Munchen, Germany
9783829606684, $29.95, 144pp,

Synopsis: Her marriage to Prince Rainier of Monaco in 1956 put an end to Grace Kelly's promising movie career. Born the daughter of a wealthy construction company owner from Philadelphia in 1929, her wedding day gave her a new role: the princess and first lady of the Monegasques. Her career started in 1952 with Fred Zinnemann's Western classic High Noon. Her final picture, released in the year of her princely wedding, was titled High Society-- a peculiar irony of history. Of the eleven movies Grace Kelly made in just four years, the three Hitchcock classics Dial M for Murder, Rear Window (both in 1954), and To Catch A Thief (1955) undoubtedly represent great moments in cinematic history. Blonde, beautiful, and always somewhat reserved, she was the ideal choice for his black comedies. Paying homage to Grace Kelly, the actress and film star who went on to become Princess Grace of Monaco before suffering a fatal car accident in 1982, "Grace Kelly: Film Stills" is also an oblique tribute to her favorite director, Alfred Hitchcock.

Critique: Grace Patricia Kelly (November 12, 1929 - September 14, 1982) embarked on an acting career in 1950, at the age of 20, Grace Kelly appeared in New York City theatrical productions and more than 40 episodes of live drama productions broadcast during the early 1950s Golden Age of Television. In October 1953, Kelly gained stardom from her performance in the film Mogambo. This film won her a Golden Globe Award and an Academy Award nomination in 1954. She had leading roles in five films, including The Country Girl, for which her deglamorized performance earned her an Academy Award for Best Actress.[2] Other films include High Noon (1952) with Gary Cooper, Alfred Hitchcock's Dial M for Murder (1954) with Ray Milland, Rear Window (1954) with James Stewart and To Catch a Thief (1955) with Cary Grant, and High Society (1956) with Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby. She retired from acting at the age of 26 to marry Prince Rainier had three children: Caroline, Albert, and Stephanie. She retained her American roots, maintaining dual U.S. and Monegasque citizenship. Grace Kelly died on September 14, 1982, a day after a stroke caused her to lose control of her car and have an accident. "Grace Kelly: Film Stills" is a relatively brief by impressive cinematic history of her Hollywood film career from 1951 to 1956 and covers every film she made during that span of time. Flawlessly produced black-and-white production captioned photos, along with a few in full color, provide her fans with a nostalgic reflection of one of the most talented and lovely actresses of her day. "Grace Kelly: Film Stills" is a 'must' for her legions of fans and would make an enduringly popular addition to academic library Cinematic Studies reference collections.

Jamaica's Difficult Subjects
Sheri-Marie Harrison
Ohio State University Press
180 Pressey Hall, 1070 Carmack Road, Columbus, OH 43210-1002
9780814212639, $59.95, 240pp,

Synopsis: Recognizing that in the contemporary postcolonial moment, national identity and cultural nationalism are no longer the primary modes of imagining sovereignty, in "Jamaica's Difficult Subjects: Negotiating Sovereignty in Anglophone Caribbean Literature and Criticism", Sheri-Marie Harrison (Assistant Professor of English, University of Missouri) argues that postcolonial critics must move beyond an identity-based orthodoxy as they examine problems of sovereignty. Professor Harrison describes what she calls "difficult subjects" -- subjects that disrupt essentialized notions of identity as equivalent to sovereignty. She argues that these subjects function as a call for postcolonial critics to broaden their critical horizons beyond the usual questions of national identity and exclusion/inclusion. Harrison turns to Jamaican novels, creative nonfiction, and films from the 1960s to the present and demonstrates how they complicate standard notions of the relationship between national identity and sovereignty. She constructs a lineage between the difficult subjects in classic Caribbean texts like 'Wide Sargasso Sea' by Jean Rhys and 'The Harder They Come' by Perry Henzell, as well as contemporary writing by Marlon James and Patricia Powell. What results is a sweeping new history of Caribbean literature and criticism that reconfigures how we understand both past and present writing. "Jamaica's Difficult Subjects: Negotiating Sovereignty in Anglophone Caribbean Literature and Criticism" rethinks how sovereignty is imagined, organized, and policed in the postcolonial Caribbean, opening new possibilities for reading multiple generations of Caribbean writing.

Critique: An informed and informative work that is both thoughtful and thought-provoking, "Jamaica's Difficult Subjects: Negotiating Sovereignty in Anglophone Caribbean Literature and Criticism" is an impressive and original study that is enhanced with the inclusion of an eight page Bibliography and a comprehensive Index. Very highly recommended for academic library Literary Studies reference collections, it should be noted that "Jamaica's Difficult Subjects: Negotiating Sovereignty in Anglophone Caribbean Literature and Criticism" is also available in a Multimedia CD edition ($14.95).

Mathematics for the Liberal Arts
Jason I. Brown
CRC Press
6000 NW Broken Sound Parkway NW, Suite 300, Boca Raton, FL 33487
9781466593367, $89.95, 440pp,

Synopsis: "Mathematics for the Liberal Arts" teaches everyday mathematics topics to non-math majors at the undergraduate level. Through numerous examples and more than 600 exercises, students learn how to use math seamlessly in a variety of practical areas, from conversion factors, statistics, visualization, money, and risk to games, art, music, and humor. The text comprising "Mathematics for the Liberal Arts" develops a logical, real-world approach to data and reasoning, showing students how to: Think both analytically and visually about data; Use graphics to make a point; Make sound monetary and nonmonetary decisions; Evaluate risk taking; Strategize to win at games; Appreciate more fully art, music, and humor. Going beyond mere numerics and calculations, "Mathematics for the Liberal Arts" helps students become life-long learners exceeding the confines of a course. They will find that with a little more math, their daily lives will be more productive, understandable, and creative.

Critique: Enhanced with figures, tables, a two page Bibliography, a comprehensive Index, and featuring author Jason I. Brown's website which provides a number of additional examples, including musical ones, "Mathematics for the Liberal Arts" also offers one-of-a-kind software programs for the art and music material in the book making it ideal as a classroom text book and the foundation for any liberal arts college library's Mathematics reference collection.

The Great Loop Experience - From Concept to Completion
Captain George Hospodar & Patricia Hospodar
Atlantic Publishing Group, Inc.
1405 S.W. 6th Avenue, Ocala, FL 34471
9781601389404, $24.95, 336pp,

Synopsis: "The Great Loop Experience - From Concept to Completion: A Practical Guide for Planning, Preparing and Executing Your Great Loop Adventure" is a thoroughly 'user friendly' guide helps create the journey of a lifetime. Covering important financial, medical, insurance, home, time-frame, and life-style factors that should be considered before starting, "The Great Loop Experience - From Concept to Completion: A Practical Guide for Planning, Preparing and Executing Your Great Loop Adventure" details choosing and outfitting your boat for the journey, route planning, guidebooks, and charts to have onboard, types of locks, dealing with customs, negotiating open water passages, and more.

Critique: "The Great Loop Experience - From Concept to Completion: A Practical Guide for Planning, Preparing and Executing Your Great Loop Adventure" is enhanced with the inclusion of resources, contact information, and web sites of the products or companies discussed. This is an ideal and critically useful guide for anyone contemplating embarking upon an exploration of America's inland waterways. Highly recommended for personal and community library Travel Guide reference collections, it should be noted that "The Great Loop Experience - From Concept to Completion: A Practical Guide for Planning, Preparing and Executing Your Great Loop Adventure" is also available in a Kindle edition ($12.33).

Pesos And Dollars
Alicia M. Dewey
Pesos and Dollars
Texas A&M University Press
4354 TAMU, College Station, TX 77843-4354
978-1623491758, $49.95, 360pp,

Synopsis: The commercial world of South Texas between 1880 and 1940 provided an attractive environment for many people seeking to start new businesses, especially businesses that linked the markets and finances of both the United States and Mexico. Entrepreneurs regularly crossed the physical border in pursuit of business. But more important, more complex, and less well-known were the linguistic, cultural, and ethnic borders they navigated daily as they interacted with customers, creditors, business partners, and employees. Drawing on her many years of experience and expertise as a bankruptcy lawyer, historian Alicia M. Dewey deftly tells the story of how a diverse group of entrepreneurs, including Anglo-Americans, ethnic Mexicans, and European and Middle Eastern immigrants, created and navigated changing business opportunities along the Texas-Mexico border between 1880 and 1940.

Critique: An impressive work of seminal scholarship, "Pesos and Dollars: Entrepreneurs in the Texas-Mexico Borderlands, 1880-1940" is the latest addition to outstanding Texas A&M University Press series 'Connecting the Greater West'. Exceptionally informative and well written, "Pesos and Dollars" is enhanced with the inclusion of illustrations, maps, tables, five appendices, fifty-two pages of Notes, an eighteen page Bibilography, and a comprehensive Index, making it a valued and highly recommended addition to academic library American History collections, as well as non-specialist general readers with an interest in the economic history of Texas. It should be noted that "Pesos and Dollars: Entrepreneurs in the Texas-Mexico Borderlands, 1880-1940" is also available in a Kindle edition ($39.96).

Michael J. Carson

Clint's Bookshelf

Coal Wars
David Bullock
WSU Press
PO Box 645910, Pullman, WA 99164-5910
9780874223255, $24.95, 211pp,

Synopsis: Sleepy little Roslyn has always been a coal town, ever since a railway company opened the first mine in 1886. Strikes are a way of life for central Washington miners and their families, but Tuesday, April 3, 1934, is different. This time, the labor shutdown divides families and pits neighbor against neighbor. Fearful children beg their fathers not to cross picket lines. "I'd rather have you yellow than dead," one sobs. Supporters of the Western Miners Union of America (ordinary wives, mothers, sisters, and daughters) pelt cars with rocks, rotten eggs, pine cones, and cow pies. They curse and shriek insults. As the morning wears on, their taunts and assaults escalate. They fight for their husbands, fathers, brothers, and sons - tough men performing dangerous jobs.

The striking laborers typically spend ten or more hours at the workplace. Dressing, preparing lights and equipment, and traveling into the mine shaft are all done on their own time. Some trips take nearly an hour each way. The miners and their families want safer working conditions, fair wages, and a six-hour workday. They had expected their longtime national union, the United Mine Workers of America, to stand strong during contract negotiations. Instead, UMWA leaders chose dismissive actions, setting the stage for the rise of a new local organization, the Western Miners Union of America.

With a country in the midst of a national economic depression, the fledgling group faces opposition from a mighty labor union, a powerful railroad empire, and even their own government. Communist activists and other radical labor groups offer support. But when conflicting alliances turn residents of Roslyn, Cle Elem, and Ronald against each other, a heated and violent battle follows, leaving deep, lasting scars.

David Bullock witnessed the bitter sentiments first hand. His grandfather, a Roslyn miner, lived through the events depicted in "Coal Wars". Fully documented, his refreshingly balanced account is brought to life through interviews with local residents, newspapers, court documents, and corporate archives. Capturing the details surrounding a dual union movement in the 1930s American West, the narrative also describes the region's melting pot of working families and the socio-political impacts of New Deal policies on their lives.

Critique: Written with a true 'insider's perspective', "Coal Wars: Unions, Strikes, and Violence in Depression-Era Central Washington" is as informed and informative as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking. An impressive and seminal work, "Coal Wars: Unions, Strikes, and Violence in Depression-Era Central Washington" is an extraordinary read that is recommended for academic and community library American Labor History reference collections, as well as to the attention of non-specialist general readers with an interest in the American Labor movement.

Duel Of Shadows
Billy Hall
Linford Western Library
c/o Ulverscroft Large Print (USA), Inc.
PO Box 1230, West Seneca, NY 14224-1230
9781444820676, $20.99, 240pp,

Synopsis: Eli Lowenstein has been murdered, and Sam Murray wasn't the man who took his life. But when the accusers threaten to look in his saddle-bags, he remembers the strange noises he heard that night, and the talk of the planted evidence that had condemned Ephraim Harris to an untimely lynching. He's sure that if they find anything he'll swing from the end of a rope, just like old Ephraim. And there's no way Sam Murray is going to sit back and let them slip that noose over his head...

Critique: A solid entertainment from first page to last, "Duel Of Shadows" is an action packed western from beginning to end and marks author Billy Hall has a master of the western genre. Of special note is the surprise ending to a truly cliff-hanger of a western adventure story. Very highly recommended for community library Large Print collections in general, and the personal reading lists of western fans in particular.

A Death In Geneva
A. Denis Clift
Naval Institute Press
291 Wood Road, Annapolis, MD 21402
9781612517988, $27.95, 232pp,

Synopsis: "A Death in Geneva" is a fast-paced thriller set against the background of late-1970s terrorism that crisscrosses Europe, the United States, the Mediterranean, and the Atlantic as mysterious assailants terrorize one of America's richest industrialist families. The action begins when Constance Burdette, the newly appointed American ambassador to the European office of the United Nations--and the President's secret lover--is cut down by machine gun fire in a bloody, well-planned strike against her chauffeured limousine in Geneva. The three assassins, continue their attack by stalking the late Ambassador's brother, Thomas Madison Starring, America's leading shipbuilder and owner of an international shipping fleet. As the assassins close in on their prey, the tense plot moves to a final, devastating act of terror.

Critique: Solid entertainment from first page to last, "A Death In Geneva" is an expertly crafted novel that documents author A. Denis Clift has a master storyteller and will leave the reader looking eagerly toward his next thriller. Very highly recommended for personal reading lists and community library collections, it should be noted that "A Death In Geneva" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99) and as an Audio Book Download ($21.95).

Julian Stockwin
McBooks Press, Inc.
520 North Meadow Street, Ithaca, NY 14850
9781590136720, $18.00, 328pp,

Synopsis: As the captain of a useful frigate, Thomas Kydd is claimed by the Leeward Islands station, exchanging the harsh situation in South America for the warmth and delights of the Caribbean. It's a sea change for Kydd, who revisits the places and people that figured in his time as a young seaman. Some are nostalgic and pleasing, while others bring challenges of a personal nature. In Europe, Napoleon is triumphant on land, but so far away in the Caribbean, Kydd and the others feel secure and make the most of running down prizes and sending off fat convoys of sugar to England. But, in a stroke of genius, Bonaparte finds a way to take revenge for Trafalgar and shocks Kydd out of complacency when an element from his past returns and Kydd is accused of murder. In a stroke of irony, it is that same past that may just provide Kydd the means to clear his name.

Critique: "Caribbee" is the epitome of a swashbuckling adventure tale the is replete with unexpected twists and surprising turns. A solid entertainment from first page to last, "Caribee" underscores the impressive storytelling talents of Julian Stockwin and will leave its fully entertained readers looking eagerly toward the next Thomas Kydd adventure! Very highly recommended for personal reading lists and community library collections, it should be noted that "Caribbee" is also available in a hardcover edition (9781590136683, $24.00) and a Kindle edition ($9.99).

Penthouse Variations on Oral
Barbara Pizio, editor
Cleis Press
2246 Sixth Street, Berkeley, CA 94710-2219
9781627780933, $15.95, 232pp,

Synopsis: Great oral sex can be mind-blowing, life-changing and create memories that last a lifetime. In "Penthouse Variations on Oral: Erotic Stories of Going Down" the focus is on oral pleasures of every kind. "Penthouse Variations on Oral" reminds us that nothings is more appetizingly erotic than a good blow job and that going down on the object of your affection is sheer bliss for both parties. Giving head - taking in the essence, taste, smell and sexy up-closeness of a lover is a powerful aphrodisiac that affects one physically, mentally and emotionally. Once you have your lover in your mouth, the heat of desire, passion, and lust focus before your eyes and tie your arousal directly to them. In "Penthouse Variations on Oral", lovers explore the many ways oral sex can be an act of love, tenderness, devotion or pure sexual act that lets readers revel in the emotion and sensuality of it all. Just sit back, relax, and enjoy this sexy read of explicit stories to get you hot and bothered with more than a mouthful. These sizzling stories are meant to be savored -- and shared.

Critique: For an adult readership only, "Penthouse Variations on Oral: Erotic Stories of Going Down" is a compilation of twenty-two expertly crafted erotic stories that will stimulate the imagination of the reader. Highly recommended, it should be noted that "Penthouse Variations on Oral: Erotic Stories of Going Down" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

Clint Travis

Drazin's Bookshelf

Asylum City
Liad Shoham
HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780062237538, $19.25, 324 pages,

This is the second Liad Shoham crime novel that I read. The first was Lineup. I enjoyed both. Shoham's novels have fascinating fast moving plots with interesting well-drawn characters. The crimes and detections take place in Israel and have an exotic flavor. Shoham is a practicing attorney and knows his craft and the crimes he describes. He wrote six critically acclaimed crime novels and is Israel's leading crime writer. This novel, as Lineup, was translated from Hebrew into fluent and engrossing English by Sara Kitai.

The story focuses on the murder of a young female social activist in Tel Aviv, Michal. She was an overactive member of an organization that aids Africans that escape the brutal murders in Ethiopia and Eritrea. Michal tried to help the African refugees generally and individually. One of those she helped was Gabriel who she saw has artistic talents.

She faults the way many Israelis treat these refugees and publicizes her views, creating enemies. Among the angry is a minister of parliament who opposes the kind treatment that Israel gives these refugees. Another is an Assistant States Attorney, a protege of the minister whose job is to plead in court for the expulsion of the Africans back to Ethiopia or Eritrea. Michal wrote to the Bar Association claiming that the ASA hid information from the court which resulted in an African man being expelled to Africa where he was murdered. The ASA remembers that on the night of Michal's murder he was banging on her door asking her to cease her campaign against him. He recalls nothing after this until waking the next morning in his bed, his face covered with bruises. He does not know if he killed Michal.

Many people take advantage of the African problem. One is a crime boss who makes millions lending money to needy refugees. Michal is trying to stop his activities. He told his thugs to beat up Michal to stop her speaking about his people.

Bedouins take money from fleeing Africans to lead them from Africa through the Sinai into Israel. However, once the African is in Sinai they demand more money to continue. What is worse, they kidnap many of the young African women and make them sex slaves. Two of the many Africans that the Bedouins transported were Gabriel and his sister. They kidnaped Gabriel's sister and turned her into a sex slave.

After months when the sister was sick, the Bedouins offered to release Gabriel's sister if he pays 25,000 shekels, an enormous amount of money. Gabriel went to Michal's house to ask her for help and found her dead. He is charged with her murder.

A young police woman is assigned to investigate the murder. This is her first case. She thinks Gabriel is innocent, although for reasons she is unable to understand, he confessed to the murder. Her bosses place enormous pressure on her to end the case and have Gabriel convicted.

Shoham describes each of these people and the events in a suspenseful manner so that they become almost unforgettable.

The Carnage Account
Ben Lieberman
Thomas & Mercer
c/o Amazon Digital Publishing
9781477825877, $11.37, 337 pages,

The suspense and drama in Ben Lieberman's second book accelerates like an Olympian downhill skier. As in Lieberman's first book, this action thriller contains fascinating fully developed characters and is a delight to read. It has a clever premise, is gripping, contains no unnecessary additions, and is hard to put down. I read it in a day and a half.

Rory Cage is the evil protagonist in the book, a greedy sociopath. He has all that most people can desire - millions of dollars, a hedge fund, and a NBA team - but he wants more. And he finds a way to increase his profits with his "Carnage Account." He loves two things: making money and killing people; and the Carnage Account makes it possible to do both. The idea is simple and the profits enormous. He buys life insurance policies with payoffs in the millions on the lives of wealthy individuals who need ready cash and then kill the insured person and reaps the insurance benefit. For example, a man has an insurance policy on his life for five million dollars but needs money. He sells Rory his policy for three million dollars. Rory kills the man in a way that looked accidental, a heart attack during swimming, and collects the five million, a two million dollar profit.

All goes well for Rory until Rory falls in love with his public relations expert Dawn Knight. Rory does all he can to gain Dawn's affections. The problem is that Rory carries her father's life insurance policy. Even more disturbing for Rory is Clay Harbor, a Navy Seal who became a doctor. He is as capable a killer as Rory. He is also in love with Dawn.

Unto the Soul
Aharon Appelfeld
Translated from Hebrew by J. M. Green
Schocken Books
c/o Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780805210972, $15.00 (PB), 224 pages,

The Guardian of London considered Israeli novelist Aharon Appelfeld - born in 1932 and awarded the Israel Prize for literature in 1983 as well as other international awards - "one of the greatest writers of the age." His 1994 brooding novel "Unto the Soul" is reported by the Washington Post to be "Neither dark nor light, its melancholy sweetened by the author's purpose (,it) lingers like an intimate memory." One could read it and enjoy it without delving into its depth. Or, as I do, understand it as an allegory, a stunning critique of the passive religion of the masses.

A brother and sister, Gad and Amalia, in an east European country at the onset of the twentieth century, are persuaded by their aged uncle to assume his job: leave the community, ascend the mountain, live there isolated from others, and guard the Jewish graveyard of the martyrs and keep it in repairs. The martyrs are those Jews who had been killed by the epidemic of typhus still raging in the village below and by pogroms, unrelenting murders of Jews by non-Jewish peasants with whom the Jews live.

The graveyard is segregated. There is a row of males, then a row of children, then one of females. Jewish men, women, and children from the village below ascend the mountain during the summer when the road is empty of snow, and on the holidays. They are called "pilgrims." They lie on the graves, cry, pray, and beg the dead to intercede for them and save them from the typhus, heal the sick and bring them peace. Sometimes old men come who recite sermons on a Bible interpretation.

Gad and Amalia need the pilgrims to give them money as they enter the "holy ground," even pennies, but they rarely do so. The siblings can't understand their failure to give the charity, for Judaism teaches that "charity saves one from death." The two serve on the mountain for seven years and there are years when they receive nothing. Isolated they begin a sexual relationship and Amalia is pregnant. They are embarrassed and feel they must hide the pregnancy. The tale has a kafkaish ending.

Appelfeld may have composed his story as an allegory critiquing the thinking - or lack of thinking - of most people who, rather than acting to resolve their problems, rely on superstitious supernatural aid, year after year, and fail to note that the horrors they are trying to avert, continue unabated despite their prostrations, tears, and prayers. The aged uncle who assigned the siblings the task to guard and maintain a graveyard symbolizes ancient traditions that demand retaining notions that are irrelevant to life. The visitors to the cemetery are called "pilgrims" and the dead "martyrs," for the villagers deceive themselves by using titles that contain unwarranted auras of holiness. Unable to mature from childish reliance of parents or to be self-reliant, sick and needy people pray to dead relatives, although they are dead, and wail like children to dead "wise men." They listen to sermons but fail to give charity to the siblings who maintain the cemetery for them. Gad and Amalia, brother and sister, symbolize the isolationist nature of these passive people; and the pregnancy, which they hide, is the embarrassing result of such seclusion. Appelfeld suffered from the holocaust and the typhus and pogroms may symbolize the Nazi atrocities and anti-Semitism.

Dr. Israel Drazin, Reviewer

Gail's Bookshelf

Just Before Midnight: A Christmas Eve Novella
Mark Gilroy
Sydney Lane Press
2000 Mallory Lane, Suite 130-229, Franklin, TN 37067
9780972168298, $6.99,

Author, editor and publisher, Mark Gilroy penned a sweet-spirited, character rich Christmas novella titled, Just Before Midnight that captures the spirit of Christmas in a 104 short pages, which makes it a perfect read for time-challenged holidays.

The story begins just before midnight, December 24th. Readers meet Roger and his wife Margaret in Roger's "BMW M6 Gran Coupe, a performance sedan he bought as a retirement gift to himself."

This night the snow covered city streets made the sleek car shudder and slide as Roger barrels along treacherous, ice-laden streets. Margaret, always cautious, now on her knees without a seat belt, leans through the seat gap into the back seat, "cooing words of reassurance" to the stranger in back. Then turns to Roger and urges him to "Hit it."

Next we meet Joe, the cab driver whose only comfort now lies in the "AA chip" he carries in his pocket after losing his job, his home, his wife and his kids five months ago. Joe hasn't prayed in years, however he now asks God, to please "make this Christmas count" as he picks out inexpensive gifts for his kids. He's excited and can't wait to pick them up until the checkout cashier says, "I'm sorry sir, your debit card has been declined."

Then there's Regina, the ER nurse who's scheduled "to pull a twelve-hour shift in the emergency room" at St. Elizabeth's hospital when she's wakened from sleep by two police officers "banging on her front door." She struggles into her robe and hurries to the door wondering "where her husband and sixteen-year-old son, Donny" were.

Add nineteen-year-old Holly who faces her first childbirth alone because her husband is stationed in Afghanistan and her mom can't fly in until the baby arrives. Holly works as a JavaStar barista even though she's only two weeks from her due date. They let her go early tonight after her encounter with an angry cab driver. Now, she slips off her shoes and lays down on the couch "hugging a heating pad to her abdomen" trying to ignore her growing stomach pain.

Fast-moving circumstances draw Roger, Margaret, Joe, Regina and Holly together, each one face challenging situations and difficult choices. From Roger's little white lie to Margaret's undisclosed secret, to Joe's Christmas surprise, to Regina's unanswered telephone calls that leave her suspicious, angry and afraid.

Gilroy wraps these engaging stories into a twenty-five short chapter novella "Just Before Midnight" that begins with a prologue and ends with a postlude on Christmas Eve. Sandwiched in between meaningful accounts reflect Christ's spirit of giving to engender hope, faith and love in the reader.

"Just Before Midnight," a suspenseful and heart-warming drama, conveys the true meaning of Christmas without preaching. It's a delightful example of the method Jesus used to teach others with - the power of story - and Gilroy does it well. Besides a fun holiday read, "Just Before Midnight" makes a wonderful gift choice for a non-believer.

Checkmate: The Bowers Files
Steven James
Signet Select
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014-3658
9780451467348, $9.99,

Steven James, three time Christy Awards winner for best suspense, concludes his decades long, adrenaline-laced series with Checkmate, number seven in The Bowers Files series. While previous books of The Bowers Files could be read out-of-sequence or as standalone titles, (see list at reviews end) "Checkmate" cannot. There are no questions about characters or plot left once the last page is turned.

The intense, page-turning account begins at a seemingly typical lawnmower supply warehouse in Charlotte, North Carolina that in reality houses "The Bureaus National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crimes" unit. The "necessary illusion" conceals panes of bulletproof glass, an armed receptionist and the "lightweight body armor" everyone wears. Even the semi-trucks that deliver and pick up orders from the buildings loading docks are driven by secret service agents.

After a DEA shooting last week security was tighter than usual when Patrick and Ralph, the NCVAC director handed their credentials to Special Agent Debra Guirret to inspect. Satisfied Debra waved them through to the door with the "numbered keypad" beside it.

Minutes later they arrive in Ralph's office, who's known for what some called his "organized clutter," and what Ralph describes as his "added security" since he alone can find anything in the piles that clutter his office.

Neither one suspects a deadly attack is minutes away from their secure setting, an attack that will cost the lives of six FBI agents and fill the air with an acrid odor of "burned flesh," a scenario intended to breed terror and confusion.

Thus begins another action-packed episode that draws the curtain on "The Bowers Files" series, with an investigation that Patrick says moves forward in "jumps and starts." Patrick calls it "failing our way forward" to the explosive, spine-chilling, impossible to foresee finish that pits Patrick against two of his worst, most vicious arch enemies.

Steven James, the master of motivation, never disappoints! Each book in this series is as spine-chillingly complete as the one before, an extraordinary accomplishment in any series, especially one of this length. Although I'm sad to see the series end I suspect James will continue with Bower's grown daughter Tessa in a "spin-off series" because of her involvement in "Checkmate" that closes "The Bowers Files" series.

I've read and enjoyed every book in James complex series, even though some characters are sinister and dark, each one is well-researched and developed without swearing, overt sex and blood and gore. That in itself is a well-deserved compliment. When coupled with James extraordinary writing talent readers have a "must read" suspense writer.

James penned "nearly a million words in this series." For readers who like intense, multi-layered, thriller/suspense Steven James is an author not to miss! To learn more about future series check out John Raab's, November 30, 2014 interview with Steven James for Big Thrill.

Christmas is upon us and these reviews of engaging and sturdy Christmas Board Books, many in rhyme, are perfect for toddlers and pre-schoolers ages 2-5. Each one captures the meaning of the season - Jesus - which is what Christmas is all about.

O Little Town of Bethlehem
Nathalie Beauvois, Illustrator
CandyCane Press
c/o Ideals Publications
2630 Elm Hill Pike, Suite 100, Nashville, TN 37214
9780824919337, $12.99, 16 Pages, Ages 2-5,

O Little Town of Bethlehem, a colorful and robust musical board book, celebrates the story of Christ's birth in both word and song. The sing-a-long melody plays with a simple push of the bright red button on the front and the batteries are replaceable. Sturdy pages designed with curious youngsters in mind won't tear or be harmed by constant use.

Simple and brightly colored pictures illustrate the town of Bethlehem, the animals and Joseph and Mary snug in a stable looking down on their newborn son as "Christmas angels, the great, glad tidings tell."

Charming, sweet and innocent this little board book depicts the real meaning of Christmas and the events surrounding the birth of the Christ child.

Silent Night
Lisa Reed & Kelley Pulley, Illustrators
CandyCane Press
c/o Ideals Publications
2630 Elm Hill Pike, Suite 100, Nashville, TN 37214
9780824919344, $12.99, 16 Pages, Ages 2-5,

Silent Night, a colorful and robust musical board book for youngsters ages 2-5 portrays the praise, worship and adoration of a cast of Veggie tale characters who take part in a Nativity play using "Silent Night" lyrics. Veggie characters, "Junior Asparagus," "Laura Carrot" and others sing out loud and strong led by "Larry the Cucumber." The sing-a-long melody plays with a simple push of the bright red button on the front and the batteries are replaceable.

Children will soon know the words and sing along to this traditional Christmas carol that celebrates Christ's birth with colorful and imaginative "Veggie Tale" angels, shepherds and Jesus and Mary's adoration of their Son. "Silent Night," complete with "Christ the Savior is born!" encourages youngsters to sing along while story, pictures and song illustrate the true meaning of Christmas.

One Night in Bethlehem
Jill Roman Lord
Paige Keiser, Illustrator
CandyCane Press
c/o Ideals Publications
2630 Elm Hill Pike, Suite 100, Nashville, TN 37214
9780824918637, $8.99, 16 Pages, Ages 2-5,

One Night in Bethlehem is a "touch and feel" book perfect for toddlers curious fingers. It's about a little boy who imagines what he might have done if he had been present at the time of Jesus' birth.

Sturdy pages encourage little ones to interact with the story by reaching out and touching textures that compliment page topics. Whether feeling the fur of a cuddly white lamb in the fields, or feeling the hide of a spotted, mooing brown cow, or touching the inspired angels robes whose voices ring through the skies. Even a coarse shepherd's robe and best of all the little boy's gift to Jesus. his own snuggly brown teddy bear's furry tummy.

This sweet and simple Christian themed story ends with a shout of praise, "I love you, Jesus! I'm so very glad you came."

A Yuletide Ice Cube Fair
Karen Poth & Ron Eddy
Robert Vann, Illustrator
c/o Zondervan Publishing House
5300 Patterson Avenue, S.E., Grand Rapids, MI 49530
9780310706304, $3.99, Ages 2-8,

Children love "Veggie Tale" antics and the Yuletide Ice Cube Fair is perfect for youngsters at Christmas because it emphasizes Jesus, the "real" reason for the season!

The narrative begins and ends with brief scriptures from Luke. In Veggie Tale tradition, the story is told with rhyme and begins with the "Yuletide ice Cube Fair." The much anticipated yearly event includes the "Ice Cube Carving" contest where artists are told -

"With block of ice," he said to all, here's what you should do:
Sculpt in seven hours or less what Christmas means to you."

Illustrations of the newly crowned "Ice Cube Queen," decorated Christmas trees, ice skating veggie characters eating sno-cones and slushies, keep the pages turning while -

"The artists started carving and ice shavings filled the air.
Mayor Bob kept track of time to make sure all was fair."

The story ends with a serious Christmas message -

"Christmas isn't all about the big, the bright, the new.
Christmas time means Jesus - and the love He brought for you."

A beautiful Christmas message, simply told, about the greatest event in human history - the birth of Jesus Christ.

The Sacred Year: Mapping the Soulscape of Spiritual Practice
Michael Yankoski
Thomas Nelson
P.O. Box 141000, Nashville, Tennessee 37214
9780849922022 $15.99,

Mike Yankoski, aspiring theologian and best-selling author of My 30 Days Under the Overpass felt "exhausted, jaded and fragmented after almost a decade as a Christian motivational speaker." While this Oregon resident, now on scholarship at Notre Dame, talked a good story about "living a life of depth with God," he had little time or energy to pursue personal intimacy with God. His everyday focus was getting ready for the next event, preparing to be "on stage."

The realization that the life he led off stage "didn't actually warrant" what he said on stage brought about a personal "existential crisis" and he began a search for "deeper self-knowledge, intimacy with God and a more manifest love for others"

"The Sacred Year" is a raw and honest account of Yankoski's year-long journey toward spiritual fulfillment, where he learned to "contemplate apples, live in a cave and befriend a dying woman." His journey began with a week's retreat at a "local Benedictine monastery" where he withdrew from life's hectic pace and met with Father Solomon, the retreat's spiritual director.

There he learned about the "spiritual practices" of confession, fasting and prayer, both ancient and modern and why Father Solomon believed life changes would happen when spiritual disciplines were practiced with "intentionality." The discipline of "attentiveness" proved to be more difficult in our multi-tasking world than most, yet Father Solomon said that too would bear fruit if Yankoski would persist and take time to "Notice. Attend. Observe. Contemplate."

"The Sacred Year" is a result of the author's "focused engagement with spiritual practices." The book, divided into three segments, features going deeper in the areas of "Depth of Self, Depth of God and Depth with Others." Topical themes include sin, confession, solitude, loneliness, "listening prayer," the role "fires of refinement" play in personal transformation and others.

In our self-focused, self-indulgent society, it was refreshing to read the author's thoughts on gratitude, one of the many spiritual disciplines that causes "positive psychological and social change." Yankoski discovered he had "shelves full of thanks tucked away in his mental warehouse," appreciation for thoughts and actions he'd never taken time to express.

With the help of friends he invented a new word - "gratigraph" - the combination of the Latin root for gratitude and the Greek root for writing. William Arthur Ward's quote (page 236) says it well. "Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it." In addition, when feelings of gratitude are ignored "hearts and minds become more and more callous," notes Yankoski.

"The Sacred Year" is an inspiring account of one man's "time out" where he learned how "to stop merely talking about living a life a faith and start experiencing it," a process, he notes that "requires both effort and patience." He assures readers it's not a "works-based faith," rather it's "working out your salvation with fear and trembling" as the Apostle Paul commanded. Or like Father Solomon taught him, to pursue the "Breath, Wind and Spirit of God."

This is a book to think about, reflect upon and savor like one would a good wine, slowly, a sip at a time.

Note; Reviews of Spiritually Accurate Christmas Picture Books Suitable for ages 4-8 This roundup features a collection of richly detailed Christmas picture books that are perfect "read-to-me" stories for ages 4-8. From the colorful, attention grabbing illustrations, to the stories themselves, each one follows the scriptural account.

Christmas Collection Ages 4-8

The First Christmas Night
Keith Christopher
Christine Kornacki, Illustrator
Ideals Children's Books
2630 Elm Hill Pike, Suite 100, Nashville, TN 37214
9780824956530, $16.99,

Keith Christopher's The First Christmas Night is a perfect example of why he's an award-winning composer, arranger, lyricist and author. He uses the rhythmic cadence of Twas the Night Before Christmas to retell the story of Christ's birth. Christine Kornacki's lush life-like illustrations visually enhance the memorable story.

The lilting narrative begins:

"Twas the very first Christmas, when all through the town
not a creature was stirring - there was not a sound"

The story ends with the Christmas biblical accounts from Luke 2: 1, 4-16 20 and Matthew 2:1-2,9B-11.

Sandwiched in between are illustrations of Joseph, Mary, a starry night and the little town of Bethlehem nestled in the sands with a bright moon high overhead in the starlit sky. While contented donkeys, lambs, cows and doves nestle "in warm cozy places" overlooking the city. Until Mary and Joseph settle into their 'humble abode" because they know their "baby soon would be there."

This lyrical retelling of the traditional Christmas story follows the Bible account from angels appearing to the shepherds to Wise Men visiting. Kornacki's luxurious and rich oil illustrations will make adults and little ones pause between the lush artistic pages that portray some of the most beautiful artwork I've ever seen.

The Sparkle Box: A Gift with the Power to Change Christmas
Jill Hardie
Christine Kornacki, Illustrator
Ideals Children's Books
2630 Elm Hill Pike, Suite 100, Nashville, TN 37214
978-0824956479, $19.99,

Jill Hardie's Christmas story, The Sparkle Box is based on an eight year family tradition that puts feet to the message of Matthew 25:40 "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these..."

It's a compelling account of unexpected "acts of kindness," a young boy named Sam, his family and a mysterious gift in a shiny silver box that sits on the mantle, unopened until Christmas.

Each turn of the page illustrates the true meaning of Christmas with Matthew's message " you have done to the least of these..." The hardback book includes a glitter-coated fold-out Sparkle Box inside the back cover to encourage youngsters to start their own family traditions.

Little Shepherd's Christmas
Carol Heyer
Ideals Children's Books
2630 Elm Hill Pike, Suite 100, Nashville, TN 37214
9780824956332, $14.99,

Award-winning author and illustrator, Carol Heyer wraps her Little Shepherd's Christmas story around the shepherd's narrative found in chapter two of Luke with a tale about a young boy, his brothers, a flock of sheep, a coming King and an angelic encounter.

Youngsters meet Ruel, a young shepherd boy and his brothers Nagid and Amitz, who with staffs and sling shots, roam the hillsides as they watch over their father's sheep. Carol's artful, colorful illustrations portray adorable and cuddly lambs, grown sheep and life-like, little boy shepherds whose teasing gets them into trouble.

The story carries a dual message of the Christ child's birth and Jesus' Parable of the Lost Sheep illustrated by Ruel's running to find the little lost lamb. The large picture book will engage the hearts and minds of youngsters with a simple Christmas message of a little one touched by Jesus.

The First Christmas
Carol Heyer
Ideal's Children's Books
2630 Elm Hill Pike, Suite 100, Nashville, TN 37214
9780824954697, $14.95,

Carol Heyer's richly detailed illustrations portray a scripturally accurate account of The First Christmas. From the magnificent angel Gabriel's appearance where he cautioned Mary not to fear to Jesus' ministry when He was thirty-years-old, His "death and resurrection" and many things in between.

This well-done picture book includes Joseph's hesitation about taking Mary as his wife, the angel that reassured him, Caesar Augustus's census that caused Mary and Joseph's journey to Bethlehem, Christ's birth, the angel's announcement to the shepherds and more.

Exquisite illustrations of angels, star-lit skies, shaggy sheep and an adorable llama cria with long, beautiful eye lashes cause readers to pause and reflect on the story. The story begins with, "At Christmas time we think of gifts and Christmas trees. We think of cookies and candies. But most of all we think of Jesus and remember that Christmas is when we celebrate his birthday."

And ends, "This is why Christians celebrate Christmas...why we give and receive presents...honor Jesus and thank God for sending his son to give us the gift of everlasting life."

I applaud this author for her exceptionally well-done story.

Itsy Bitsy Christmas: You're Never Too Little for His Love
Max Lucado
Thomas Nelson
P.O. Box 141000, Nashville, Tennessee 37214
9781400322626, $14.99,

Master storyteller, Max Lucado adds Itsy Bitsy Christmas to his ever-growing list of popular Christmas titles.

In this Christmas story children meet Itsy and Bitsy, two small mice who are told by barnyard friends they are too small and insignificant to be important enough for any King to even consider visiting them. Rowdy the Rooster, Charlie the Cow and Ruthie the mama horse insist the King would never come to commoners such as populated their barnyard. Even Grumpy the Goat who didn't know how to smile agreed with them.

Youngsters will clap with delight as Itsy and Bitsy search for the King, find him in a manger and learn the King "came even for a little one like me." It's an important story for all who feel they aren't good enough or "important enough" to be loved because Jesus loves everyone, no matter how big or how small.

Note: Engaging Review Roundup of New Release Children's Books for Ages 3-8.

God Gave Us Angels
Lisa Tawn Bergren, Art by Laura J. Bryant
WaterBrook Press
12265 Oracle Blvd. Suite 200 Colorado Springs, CO 80921
9781601426611, $11.99,

Lisa Tawn Bergren's delightful "read-to-me" account of God Gave us Angels opens with Little Cub on a tree branch high above the snow-covered ground. Father Bear stretches tall to rest his furry, white paws next to Little Cub and asks what she's doing.

"Lookin' for angels," says Little Cub in a hushed voice, cause the bunnies had told her angels were "all around us" and Mama Bear said they were hard to find because they were "imbisible." Papa Bear agrees angels are invisible, "but not always."

Thus begins a biblically accurate account that teaches "angels live to serve God," because "angels are God's servants and he's their boss," and they worship him. Little ones learn, "...angels hang out with God so much, they sometimes glow with his light," in response to Little Cub's question, "Does all that worshipin' give them those halo thingies?"

Bergren's newest edition to the two million plus selling "God Gave Us" series, will engage and capture the attention of adults and children alike. From the colorful illustrations of bears, bear angels, penguins, bunnies, geese and more to age appropriate, biblically sound descriptions of who angels are and the role they play in God's Kingdom. Even adults can learn from this delightful picture book.

Love Letters From God: Bible Stories
Glenys Nellist
Sophie Allsopp, Illustrator
5300 Patterson Avenue SE, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530
9780310733843, $16.99,

Children's author Glenys Nellist renders nine Bible stories from the Old Testament and nine from the New Testament in Love Letters From God Bible Stories. She starts with the story of creation and ends with "The Happy Ending" an account of Jesus' resurrection. The closing two-page spread includes an invitation "to join Jesus' team" on the left with a stamped, addressed lift-the-flap envelope for youngsters to record their own "Love Letter to God" on the right.

Sandwiched in between are two-page narratives with captivating titles such as "The Sneaky Snake, "Noah Needs His Nails," "David's Day," "The Lions Who Lost Their Lunch," Remember Me" and more.

Nellist's unique use of personalized, stamped, lift-the-flap letters is sure to capture youngsters attention as they lift-the-flaps to read God's personal letters to them. Although Nellist takes some creative license to enhance illustrations and Bible stories, for example, "napping lions" and naming a child in the loaves and fishes story that isn't named in the Bible, they are minor discrepancies. This new release would make an excellent, personalized gift for any youngster.

Jonah and the Great Big Fish
Rhonda Gowler Greene
Margaret Spengler, Illustrator
5300 Patterson Avenue SE, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530
9780310732198, $9.99,

Greene's captivating account of Jonah and the Great Big Fish is one youngsters will remember and repeat with the story told in rhythmic rhyme. From the title page where Jonah with his belongings slung over his shoulder strides away from Nineveh, to his landing on a sandy beach waving bye to a smiling whale, the simple rhythm and rhyme will capture youngsters attention.

The straightforward lesson of obedience teaches the importance of listening to God:

"God told Jonah to obey, said 'Go to Nineveh this day.
Tell them they need to repent.' Yes, Jonah was the one God sent."

Just as Jonah's cost of disobedience to Jonah when he says:

"I fled from the Lord...
I disobeyed and caused this wind..."

Then the sailors:

"Threw Jonah in. And it ceased - that mighty wind."

Children of all ages will enjoy this biblically accurate Bible story with its vivid, full-color illustrations that would also be an excellent gift choice for a beginning reader.

Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing
Sally Lloyd-Jones
Jago, Illustrator
5300 Patterson Avenue SE, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530
9780310721635, $24.99,

Sally Lloyd-Jones, author of "the successful and much beloved" Jesus Storybook Bible released Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing in August, a children's "devotional follow-up" to her popular, Christ-centered "Jesus Storybook Bible." Jago's award-winning illustrations add to her "simple, yet profound" collection of devotional thoughts in this gift-cased deluxe edition that includes the complete book on audio CD's, narrated by David Suchet.

Devotions reflect the strong influence of notable Christian giants such as C.S. Lewis, Tim Keller, D. L. Moody, Charles Spurgeon, Jonathan Edwards, Corrie ten Boom, Martin Luther and more, as noted in the "Bibliography and Source index" that includes "more things to think about."

Two-page spreads of spiritual truths contain a devotional thought and Bible verse with Jago's stunning text illustrations on the opposing page. Story-format devotions, enhanced by Jago's meaningful, yet simple illustrations are written in easy-to-understand text.

For example, the "Topsy Turvy" devotion, (page 122) shares the "Topsy Turvy Good News!"

"Jesus said, 'The way to be the greatest is to be the least. The way to save your life is to give it away.'" The brief devotion illustrates Jesus came as a "poor man...a baby...a servant...yet He conquered the whole world!" from 1 Corinthians 1:27 (NCV) Jago's illustration portrays a pair of hands washing feet.

I especially liked "God's Phone Number" devotion based on Jeremiah 33:3 (page 175), illustrated by a little girl reaching up to dial an old-fashioned phone with a big round dial. Both text and illustrations encourage children to talk to God because he's "waiting for their call...he's never too busy...he's always there."

The rich simplicity of Sally Lloyd-Jones new release teaches complex theological truths in a straightforward manner children can understand. It's so well done adults will learn from it as well. The emphasis is on Christ and God's amazing plan of redemption which makes it a good choice for use in Sunday School, youth group, family or individual use even though designed for children. Tim Keller's endorsement in the foreword adds to its authenticity.

Daily Guideposts 2015: A Spirit-Lifting Devotional
Guideposts Authors
c/o Ideals Books
2630 Elm Hill Pike, Nashville, TN 37214
9780824904678, $19.99,

Guideposts annul "spirit-lifting devotional" Daily Guideposts 2015, released in October just in time for Christmas. Each of fifty authors, three from the Pacific Northwest, contributed seven days of one-page devotions each for the 365 day compilation. Erika Bentsen, Sprague River, OR, Rhoda Blecker, Bellingham WA and Brian Doyle, editor of "Portland" magazine, University of Portland in OR.

This year's theme: "Filled with Joy." "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope." (Romans 15:13, ESV)

Personal story-format devotions include a short Scripture, a first-person account of how God worked through a personal situation and a brief personal prayer. For more in-depth study additional Scripture verses are found in the "Digging Deeper" segment that completes each devotion. Each month ends with space to note "Daily Joys" reflected on during the month.

Erika Bentsen's devotions focus on how God equipped her to handle the pain of a ruptured spinal disc caused when she fought a ranch fire, the extensive surgery and long recovery that followed to unanticipated loss. Her journey of faith and trust in the Lord didn't always take her where she wanted to go, however, as her devotions reveal, her journey brought her "to where God wanted" her to be.

Rhoda Blecker wrote a sweet romance years ago that included the line, "I would rather grow old with you than with anyone else I've ever known." Her devotions focus on rich years of marriage with her husband, his hospitalizations, God's comfort and how God used their beloved pets to reinforce Rhoda's faith and trust in God. Though he suffered from "stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, skin cancer and a possible blood clot in his leg."

Brian Doyle's devotions begin with "the first time he saw a miracle...and gently said, 'Hello Lilly'" to his firstborn daughter. Suffering the loss of a beloved older brother to cancer, an Irishman who "changed the course of history...with his own wit and word," the joy of partnering with a loving wife and the joys of children and family. I especially liked his appreciation and gratitude for living in America and the value he places on our right to "free speech and worship" that allows us to work and raise our family's in freedom.

Although the theme is joy, faith-building devotions feature real life situations and issues common to us all. Starting or ending your day with a devotion adds rich, spiritual insights that increase one's faith, hope and trust in the Lord.

"Daily Devotions 2015" is available in hardcover and Kindle in addition to Guideposts daily devotions published online.

A Diary of Private Prayer
John Baillie, author
Updated & Revised by Susanna Wright
Scribner Publishers
c/o Simon Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781476754703, $15.99,

If your prayer life seems spiritually stale and disconnected with prayers that seem to bounce off the ceiling instead of reaching the Throne room of God, John Bailee's devotional classic A Diary of Private Prayer teaches "prayer is the language of faith."

The prayer collection consists of sixty-four inspirational one-page prayers. Thirty-one for morning and evening and two special prayers for Sunday morning and evening. Bailee intended the prayers for individual, "private use." Dr. Graham Tomlin, dean of St. Mellitus College, London writes these prayers "deepen, enrich and transform anyone who prays them seriously."

The first day begins, "Eternal Father of my soul, let my first thought today be of first impulse to worship first word to be Your first action to kneel before you in prayer." Then concludes, "Cheer my heart with your peace through Jesus Christ my Lord, Amen."

Sandwiched in between are thoughts of praise and worship, admission of sin, forgiveness and requests for God's "light and joy and power to pour out and remain with me through every hour of this day."

Prayers are not only for ourselves, but for our families, neighbors, friends, the world, our nation's leaders, the poor, the lost and those facing critical issues with space to insert names such as "especially for ___ and ___."

Bailee's refreshing prayers feature our "vices" as well as our "virtues" with prayers that encourage humility, spiritual growth and faith as we humble ourselves before the Lord. They also encourage a sense of the Lord within and around us that lifts and builds our faith each and every day. It's a wonderful prayer guide that encourages users to lay their strong wills aside and seek God's will in every aspect of life.

Scottish theologian John Baillee first published the Christian devotional A Diary of Private Prayer in 1936. David Fergusson, Professor of Divinity and Principal of New College, University of Edinburgh today calls it a "spiritual classic." Editor Susanna Wright revised and updated this edition released by Scribner publishers last fall. This time-tested classic with more than one "million copies in print" now has a "contemporary voice" for modern readers.

Jane Williams, theologian, author and wife of former Archbishop of Canterbury writes, "...all who use this book will draw closer to the God who came to speak to us in our language so that we may learn His." The book is awesome and wonderful!

Gail Welborn

Gary's Bookshelf

Paris Match
Stuart Woods
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399169120, $26.95,

Stone Barrington finds there is a hit contract on him when he goes to Paris in "Paris Match." As he finds out who ordered the attacks he learns of a scandal in the United States that involves presidential candidate Kate Lee. He and her staff must find a way to quash the allegations very quickly. The novel races along at a fast pace with interesting characters and situations concluding with an ending that leads into the next Stone Barrington adventure "Insatiable Appetites" Fans of Stone Barrington will love "Paris Match".

Murder, She Wrote Close-Up On Murder
Jessica Fletcher & Donald Bain
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
978045465252, $7.99,

Jessica Fletcher is on the case of someone murdered on the set of a movie of one of her books that is being filmed in Cabot Cove. There are plenty of suspects with their own reasons to have killed the victim. Jessica plows through the evidence and finds the killer once again. The novels of "Murder She Wrote" are delightful mystery fun that read like an episode of the show. "Murder, She Wrote Close-Up On Murder" is for any fan of the show and the novels to read and enjoy as Jessica Fletcher is back in action.

The Distance
Helen Gitrow
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780385536998, $26.95

In "The Distance" Charlotte Atton walks a tense line between socialite and information specialist. She is an expert at taking information about a person and making it disappear. Now she is hired by someone from her past to save his life but she begins to realize that her life is also in danger. "The Distance" is a complicated plot with many twists and turns, strong lead characters, and tense situations for anyone who likes a good espionage novel.

Dinosaurs & A Dirigible
David Drake
Baen Publishing Enterprises
P.O. Box 1403, Riverdale, NY 10471
9781476736839, $14.00, www,

For the first time all five of David Drake's Time Travel stories are in one volume. Henry Vickers has a tough job going back in time and protecting humans and dinosaurs from each other. Drake takes readers on a journey to a long ago world where dinosaurs once ruled the earth. Drake has an easy style with likeable characters and brings to life these huge creatures. "Dinosaurs & A Dirigible" is sure to please fans of David Drake.

Calling Off Christmas
Jeremy K. Brown
Create Space Inc
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781479221554, $7.00,

The Environmental Protection Agency tells Santa Claus and his elves at the North Pole that they have to stop all production because they are the number 1 contributor to Global Warming and the polar caps are melting because of them. Santa takes up residence in New York State and gets a job as a custodian in a school while his elves are dispersed across the country. But something happens and the world has to call upon Santa to come out of retirement. The question is does he? "Calling Off Christmas" reminded me of "Skipping Christmas" by John Grisham that became the great movie "Christmas With The Kranks" Like the Grisham novel and the movie "Calling Off Christmas" is a fun story that has a lot to say about the message of Christmas and is a perfect book for readers of all ages any time of the year.

Boombin and Lama a story of friendship.....investigation...and adventure!
Boona Cheema & Damon Guthrie
Outskirts Press Inc
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781478722502, $19.95,

There are so many things wrong with "Boombin and Lama" that detract from any enjoyment of this kid's book. "Boombin and Lama" is filled with too many messages and not enough story or characters to enjoy, the print on many pages blends in with the artwork making it difficult to read, and the cover is not exciting enough to entice a person to want to read the book. These are just a few of its problems "Boombin and Lama" is a prime example of why POD or self published books have a bad reputation.

Cloris Leachman with George Englund
Kensington Publishing Corp
119 West 40th Street, New York, NY 10018
978075829632, $24.00

Books like "Cloris" can either be fun to read or not This one is a not because she is too busy telling you how great she is and the technique's she used for different roles. She does talk a bit about some of the characters she has played through the years that did make that part interesting but as a whole, "Cloris" is a thumbs down disappointment.

Disaster Handbook
Robert Brown Butler
Create Space Inc
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781497528185, $15.99,

Disasters happen and "Disaster Handbook" is a perfect resource to have handy on what to do in the aftermath. The author gives sound advice of how to prepare your home for any unforeseen event and the steps to get things back to normal everyday living. Some of the things he deals with are planning for things like being snowed in at home, tornados, hurricanes, landslides, and floods. He tells how to get ready by doing things like sealing a bathtub, having enough food that does not require refrigeration, things to do in the yard to not have flying objects. He also tells the place of others to help and government and its role to assist after a disaster. "Disaster Handbook" is an easy to follow guide on being prepared

Ol' Man On A Mountain
Stuart Omans
Create Space Inc
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781626600324, $14.99,

Stuart Oman who retired from teaching classes of Shakespeare at The University of Central Florida in Orlando, now writes about how he and his wife found a piece of property in North Carolina to retreat to from the Orlando area. He compares the fast paced world of Orlando to a more laid back easy going lifestyle of North Carolina. The writing style is easy that makes the stories about the townspeople he and his wife encounter in "Ol 'Man On A Mountain" such a delight to read.

Chicken Soup for the Soul Touched by an Angel
Amy Newmark Foreword by Gabrielle Bernstein
Chicken Soup For The Soul Publishing LLC
P.O. Box 700, Cos Cob, CT 06807-0700
978161599411, $14.95

"Chicken Soup for the Soul Touched by an Angel" is one of the most interesting titles of this long running popular series. This time 101 authors tell their stories of how something from beyond influenced them. Three of the ones I really enjoyed are "Thank you Lord" by Suzanna Leigh where for some reason she did not take a flight, "Help with the Laundry by Darlene Sneden had interesting help doing laundry when she was washing uniforms for her daughter's soft ball team, and "My Bookstore Angel" by Gail Hayden where a man helps her find a particular book. All of these writings are interesting and inspirational and make you believe Angels are real.

Gary Roen

Gloria's Bookshelf

Until Thy Wrath Be Past
Asa Larsson
Translated by Laurie Thompson
MacLehose Press
c/o Quercus
31, West 57th Street, New York, NY10019
9781402787164, $14.99, Paperback, 320 pp,

Blending fact and fantasy, this installment in the Prosecutor Rebecka Martinsson series begins with a young woman, Wilma, and her boyfriend, Simon, seeking a crashed WW II German airplane by diving in a Swedish lake. The lake is the setting of a contemporary series of murders which the prosecutor and fellow police officers pursue in their investigations as a result of Rebecka's dream that she feels the girl's presence in a shadowy way.

The story unfolds with Wilma's ghost observing events and providing background as the plot progresses. As the police and Rebecka follow leads, the guilty parties attempt to cover up their past transgressions during 1943 and their collaboration with the Nazis, who used the Swedish railways and hauling concerns to transport soldiers and materiel between Norway and Finland, as the war turned against them.

The award-winning author writes suspenseful novels and unexpected subjects with clarity. The books are less police procedural than imaginative stories based on crimes and people. There is a motif of crows and ravens interspersed throughout, to very good effect. (It might be noted that the titles derives from the Book of Job.) Fourth in the series, it is a study in repression, violence and ruthlessness. A very good read, and one that is recommended.

(Next in the series, and next up for this reviewer, is "The Second Deadly Sin.")

The Second Deadly Sin
Asa Larsson, author
Translated by Laurie Thompson
MacLehose Press
c/o Quercus
31, West 57th Street, New York, NY10019
9781623651398, $26.99, Hardcover, 384 pp,

The newest entry in the Prosecutor Rebecka Martinsson series begins with the discovery of the carcass of a massive bear, evidence indicating that he had mauled and feasted upon a human victim. Not long after, in distant Kurravaara, Martinsson is assigned the investigation into the brutal killing of a woman, Sol-Britt Uusitalo, the daughter of the man identified as that victim, murdered in her bed; her seven-year-old grandson, who lived with her, is nowhere to be found. As the investigation continues, it soon appears that Sol-Britt's grandfather and grandmother had years ago each also been murdered, in separate incidents, and three years earlier her son was run over in what appeared to be a hit-and-run incident. Like police everywhere in the world, neither Rebecka nor any of her colleagues believed in coincidence. As always, there are office politics in play as Rebecka is soon officially taken off the case. But that's never hampered her before, nor does it here.

Essential to the tale are glimpses into Rebecka's private life, including her on-again-off-again romance with one of the partners in the Stockholm law firm where she used to work, and her colleagues, chiefly mother-of-four Inspector Anna-Maria Mella and Krister Eriksson, the police dog handler (learning to live with the fact that he and Rebecka are destined to be no more than friends), and her neighbor, Sivving, who is "closer to her than anybody else in the world," and all their respective canine pets, who become as much a part of the tale as any of the humans. The writing is lovely, e.g.: "Who can love perfection? No, love requires solicitude, and solicitude requires the loved one to have faults, requires wounds, frailty. Love wants to heal. Perfection has no need of healing. Perfection cannot be loved, merely worshipped."

The action takes place in the winter in the far north of Lapland, whose atmosphere is wonderfully well-evoked by the author, as "forbidding as the creaking, squeaking, relentless midwinter."

The present-day chapters frequently alternate with flashbacks to the period between 1914, when the was in Europe is escalating into WWII, through the end of the war in 1919, and for the next several years up to and including 1926, when their relevance is made crystal clear. The author has in previous novels proven herself masterful in using this device, and this is no exception. After just having finished this author's "Until Thy Wrath Be Past," this equally intriguing tale was another treat, and is also recommended.

Lawrence Block
Hard Case Crime
c/o Winterfall LLC
333 CPW, New York, NY 10025
Titan Publishing
144 Southwark St., London SE1 OOUP
9781783116779, $9.95, Paperback, 256 pp,

"Borderline" introduces its main characters in the first few dozen pages, none of them being very likeable, I hasten to add. There is Marty Granger, a professional gambler; Meg Rector, 26 and only hours past her divorce after four years of marriage and bored; Lily Daniels, 17, from Denver and, more recently, San Francisco; and Michael Weaver, who had left Tulsa after beating a 13-year-old girl to death. They each gravitate, for their own reasons, back and forth over the border between El Paso, Texas and Juarez, Mexico, where, of course, their paths cross. These people just cannot seem to get enough [kinky] sex, drugs, booze, and violence. And for the most part they are of what used to be called "loose morals," both the women and the men pretty horny, pretty much all the time, with a mantra that seems to be "you had to live for the thrills."

This is an era when parking meters cost a nickel; a good breakfast cost a dollar, to which a quarter was added for the tip; and one could get a hotel room for $2 a day and a bottle of beer for 12 cents. There is, of course, much of the author's trademark humor, and his wonderful descriptions of his characters, e.g., a woman who "tossed her head so that her bleached blonde mane rippled like a wheat field in the wind," very much of that era as well. Lovers of noir will be delighted by this book, which contains the title story, as well as three short novels, all originally published half a century ago. The raunchiness was more than I had remembered in noir novels, much of the main story falling more into the category of erotica. The last tale,"Stag Party Girl," longer than either of the very brief short stories included, was more like my favorite Lawrence Block novels. In this one, a private detective is hired as a bodyguard to a man who was about to get married, and had been threatened with murder. The p.i;.'s job was to get him to the church on time, and alive. The author, perhaps best known for his wonderful Matt Scudder series, began his writing life as an author of pulp fiction. Candor above all, I must admit that on the whole I was actually disappointed this time around.

The Target
L.J. Sellers
Spellbinder Books
1755 Lorane Hwy., Eugene, OR 97405
9780984008674, $12.99, Paperback, 291 pp,

I have enjoyed the Detective Jackson series by this author, of which the ninth entry is scheduled to be released in August of 2014. The present novel is the second in the Agent Dallas books. The reader is immediately shown a facet of the personality of Agent Jamie Dallas when, in the opening pages, she undertakes skydiving with her colleague, on a bit. (This trait, of loving a challenge, is apparently one she shares with her creator, who has also been known to jump out of airplanes.) When Jaime wins the bet, that she couldn't catch him in a free-fall, "not only did Sam owe her a hundred dollars, but for the next week, he had to call her 'sir' and give her sex whenever she wanted it." But what she's really anxious for is another undercover assignment. Hopefully soon enough to get out of Phoenix for the rest of the summer. Her wish is granted when she is called to San Diego: An FBI agent has been killed. Dallas, whose ultimate aim is to become a Special Agent, for now loves undercover work: "a license to lie, cheat and spy - - all for the good of her country."

What follows is a look into the field of medical device research and development into what seems a very esoteric field: developing digestive-friendly microbiota, appetite-suppressant devices, and the like. Two particular companies seem to have a more-than-usually competitive relationship, and sabotage is suspected, with each rumored to have a mole in the other company, and with the murdered agent only the first victim. The stakes are huge: if one is to believe the studies, a very large portion of our society suffers from obesity, and a product to combat that has multi-billion dollar rewards.

A recurring theme is revenge, and fraught father-daughter situations. The cast of characters, as always with Ms. Sellers, is intriguing and unusual: Transgender agent Carla (formerly "Carl") River, whose father was a convicted serial killer serving a life sentence; Kiya, a free-lance and very lethal operative from Uzbekistan who had been sold as a young child into marriage; homicide cop Raul Cortez, only four months on the job and with an active love life (or imagination) and a "rescue pig" named Grumpy; and Dallas herself, who had run away from home at 16 and never looked back, and whose connection to the murdered agent is very personal. An enjoyable read (although my preference is still for the Detective Jackson series, I must admit).

The Stranger on the Train
Abbie Taylor
Atria Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781476754970, $15.00, Paperback, 352 pp,

We first meet Emma Turner as she and her 13-month-old son, Ritchie, on a Sunday in midi-September, are returning from a trip across London to the East End. They are waiting for a train on the platform of a nearly-deserted Underground station. In a dizzying sequence of events, Emma suddenly somehow has lost her baby when a stranger, a woman who had seemed to be helping her, appears to have kidnapped him. And from an innocent moment on a quiet Sunday evening in the middle of London, a nightmare begins.

Of course Emma immediately reports the abduction to the police, who seem reluctant to believe her or give her any tangible assistance, notably D.I. Ian Hill, the SIO in charge of the case. The fact that Emma is a single mom very stressed out at her new responsibilities, with the child's father barely aware of his existence, only adds to their skepticism. Lindsay, the family liaison officer assigned, is the only one who seems to have any belief in her version of events. Until, that is, a stranger named Rafe offers to help her. Rafe was, briefly, a cop, and has contacts that may prove helpful. Emma is in a state of torment, and will go to any lengths to get her child back.

There are flashbacks to important and/or stressful moments in Emma's and Ritchie's young life that give the reader an insight into the years before and immediately after he was born, in a novel of increasing psychological suspense, in the course of which the reader reaches the point of asking, is Emma an unreliable narrator? Emma herself veers from anger and hostility to utter vulnerability, and it isn't until very near to the end of the novel that Ritchie's, and Emma's, fate becomes known.

This is a very engaging novel, and it is recommended.

The Painter
Peter Heller
c/o Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780385352093, $24.95, Hardcover, 364 pp.,
(In UK, ISBN: 978-0385352093, 15.94 BPS, 27.95 CA$, 384 pp.)

Jim Stegner is an artist. Forty-five years old, somewhat famous, married and divorced more than once, his current lover is the young woman, a 28-year-old with a hippy boyfriend, who models for him. He is still grieving the loss of his adored daughter, murdered three years ago when she was fifteen during a drug buy gone wrong. She had been his favorite fishing partner, appreciating the serenity and concentration and artistry of it, and he still cares for the rescue pig she called Mittens. (Oddly, this is the second book in recent weeks which contained a rescue pig!)

Jim has a barely suppressed violent streak, and served some time in jail after having shot a man in a bar. He is now 30 months sober, and has given up his gambling addiction as well, and tries to start fresh in the valleys of rural Colorado. His art dealer in Santa Fe, who has known him for twenty years, offers him a commission for a large portrait of the daughters of a man who has collected his paintings for years, which he ultimately accepts, and travels back to Santa Fe for the work.

The novel revolves around the rescue of a small strawberry roan, about which more cannot be said without spoilers. Initially, I thought this was going to be a departure from my usual read, generally a mystery, usually centered upon a murder. But it did not appear to be the case. The novel centers upon three major aspects of the author's life, and that of his protagonist: Fishing, painting, and poetry, not necessarily in that order. Three things, I must admit, about which I know little or nothing. But into this placid world violence intrudes, with it a low thrum of suspense and menace.

The writing is elegant, as much poetry as novel. Early in the book, Jim arrives at a small creek where he intends to fish: ". . . the creek below gathering the light as it gathers the water. The water is nearly blue, greener in the pools, snowy in the rapids, a living pulse reflecting trees and sky and cloud and ducks and crossing elk, and soon yours truly as it runs. My own pulse quickening. The excitement that never changes, of getting wet soon. Of facing off with a bunch of wary fish who may or may not be smarter than me." The world the author creates, of fishing, painting and poetry, is completely captivating, and the novel is highly recommended.

Those Who Wish Me Dead
Michael Koryta
Little, Brown & Company
237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10017
9780316122559, $26.00/29.00 CA$, Hardcover, 400 pp.,

Michael Koryta's newest novel, his tenth, is perhaps his best yet, high praise indeed.

About the title: The reference is to two killers who are hunting (literally and figuratively) 13-year-old Jace Wilson, witness to a horrifying murder, who must not be allowed to live, according to the code of these purely evil men. When Jace's parents refuse to place him into the standard Witness Protection program, they do agree to allow him to leave Indiana and spend the summer in Montana and Wyoming in the care of Ethan Serbin, who runs a summer wilderness survival camp, heading a search-and-rescue team in the mountains the rest of the year and ". . . .working with probation and parole officers from around the country, taking in kids who were facing the threat of lock-up somewhere." Jace, considered at high risk, needs to be taken completely off the grid, his real identity hidden even from Ethan, who takes on the task of ensuring his safety, knowing only that Jace is one of the seven youngsters entrusted to him care, but the only one that is there to hide.

The characters created by Mr. Koryta are all memorable in their own way, none more than Ethan. Among the women, Ethan's wife, Allison; Jamie Bennett, former US Marshal, who had taken the survival course with Ethan a year ago; Hannah Faber, 28 years old, in charge of the fire tower cab in the mountains and has her own ghosts which still haunt her after a fatal wildfire a year ago. And Allison's horse, Tango, also recovering from his own wounds, and who will be sorely tested before the tale ends. The weather in those mountains is famously unpredictable, e.g., a blizzard hits on the last day of May, as the story opens. And as the heat of the summer begins to build, the threat of wildfires is never far from anyone's thoughts.

As the suspense mounts, the beauty, and the danger, in the mountains is made palpable, and the writing is gorgeous. A sudden plot twist near the end of the book is jaw-dropping, and I almost simultaneously wanted to close the book for a moment, and keep the pages turning in a race to the end. I loved this book, and it is highly recommended.

Dead Heading
Catherine Aird
Minotaur Books
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9781250041135, $25.99, Hardcover, 304 pp,

I must admit that this was my introduction to the Sloan and Crosby Mysteries, of which there have been more than twenty. But it won't be the last I read, as it is completely charming.

DI Christopher Dennis ("Seedy") Sloan is head of the small Criminal Investigation Department of "F" Division of the County of Calleshire Police Force at Berebury. Practically on the eve of his appraisal by his boss, known as a "Personal Development Discussion," he is on "good behavior" when that superior officer, Superintendent Leeyes, assigns him to investigate what may be only a malicious breakin at a local plant nursery where, on a cold night, the doors to two greenhouses were left wide open on a night when an early frost has set in, virtually killing its contents, in one of which were the remains of young and very special [read "expensive"] orchids, threatening the livelihood, or worse, of the nursery's owner. From this seemingly innocuous beginning, the ensuing plot ultimately involves a break-in at an area cottage by two different persons; "an unloved missing person; the blackmailing of more than one poor soul; the probable suicide of one of them; the odd, naive behaviour of a maker of bonfires; inexplicable goings-on in the horticultural trade and, cast into the mixture for good measure, the destruction of hundreds of infant orchids."

When a second nursery is broken into, Sloane and his underling, D.C. Crosby, investigate, and discover that yet another large number of valuable orchids has been destroyed; it becomes clear that this is something more than a coincidence. As things escalate and the number of suspects rises, the pressure on Sloane mounts as well. Leeyes is a difficult man to please: "on a bad day the superintendent was quite capable of blaming him for not catching Jack the Ripper."

With references to Shakespeare, Erasmus and Shaw, and filled with horticultural metaphors, the writing is delightful. The attorneys for one of the suspects are Puckle, Puckle and Nunnery. (I do have to admit that I never knew that the word "turf," in the plural, could be "turves.") By the end, all the loose ends are tied up and the mystery is solved to the reader's complete satisfaction. The novel is recommended.

Present Darkness
Malla Nunn
Emily Bestler Books/Washington Square Press
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781451616965, $16.00/18.99 CA$/9.58 BPS, Paperback, 337 pp

The fourth entry in the series featuring South African detective Sergeant Emmanuel Cooper brings vividly to life the rigid apartheid system in the country in 1953. Although those laws were abolished over twenty years ago, the author places the reader squarely into that reality, the dichotomy made very clear.

Emmanuel has obtained a short-term transfer from the coastal city of Durban to Jo'burg. His first assignment has him paired with Lieutenant Walter Ramos, fresh out of undercover work, in what proves to be a very testy relationship. The case involves an upscale white couple who have been savagely beaten and left for dead in their home, their Mercedes auto stolen. The couple's young daughter identifies one of the culprits as a young man who is the son of Cooper's best friend, a man to whom he owes his life ago, but Cooper is certain she is lying. When the boy has no alibi for the night in question, proving his innocence is a formidable task. Joined in his investigation is the boy's father, Zulu Detective Samuel Shabalala, and their trusted friend, Dr. Daniel Zweigman, a German who had survived the war in Buchenwald but not before losing all three of his children. Cooper himself had been a combat soldier during the war, and was raised in a slum "populated for the most part by black Africans, [it] also contained a smattering of Jews, Indians and mixed race couples intent on breeding brown-skinned children. Sophiatown defied the racial segregation laws." The three make for an imposing team.

The laws of the time made interracial relationships illegal, and all blacks were legally required to carry a passbook on them at all times, which must contain the bearer's name, place of origin and photograph. Cooper finds himself "a lying European detective sergeant with a mixed-race woman and daughter stashed away from public view," who broke the law every day. "He was, in reality, already across the line that divided the dirty cops from the clean ones," but a better cop than most, and won't leave the case unsolved, whatever barriers, be they his superiors or corrupt cops, even if they might be one and the same. Wonderfully-plotted and - written, suspense-filled to the very end, this was another terrific book in the series, and is highly recommended.

Gloria Feit

Gorden's Bookshelf

Mythical, Stone Soldiers #1
C.E. Martin
Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
B008913B3U, $0.00 US, 284 pages
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
(print ISBN: 978148427161, $9.99),

Mythical is an alternate history fantasy tale. The basic history of the US and world is in the story but Martin has added in magic, mythology, fantasy and paranormal people. The tale is a book version of a 1980s super hero comic. The story is mostly successful although it ends with an in-your-face hook pushing the next story in the series.

Colonel Mark Kenslir is a paranormal super soldier born before World War II and seemingly ageless. He runs a team of paranormal soldiers trying to control magical and paranormal threats to the nation. A group of teens joyriding in the desert come across his charred stone body with a gapping hole in his chest and a missing portion of his head. A rare desert rain storm falls regenerating Kenslir's stone body. He awakes with amnesia caused by his massive wounds. Kenslir and the teens have to work together to rebuild his memories before the supernatural being he and his now dead assault team had been sent to stop succeeds in taking over the government.

Mythical is a light fantasy story to read when you have a few hours of time and little to fill them with. The writing is solid and the story escapist. It is a story to take with you the next time you have to sit for a few hours in a waiting room. With the book's current pricing, there is no reason why you shouldn't download it.

The Legend of Devil's Creek
D.C. Alexander
Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
B00AMRGIXY, $2.99 US 372 pages
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
(print ISBN: 9781484883488, $13.95),

The Legend of Devil's Creek is a slow paced psychological cozy. The writing is excellent but the storytelling is average. Many writers can be placed into one of two groups. The first group is storyteller. A storyteller's narrative unfolds so smoothly that you become immersed in the tale. The second group is wordsmith. Here the author puts together detailed and smooth words that overshadow the tale. Alexander is a wordsmith. The psychological story of a group of fairly unappealing college friends overwhelms the mystery tale. A good editing of the story could reduce the book's 372 pages to 272 and create a better tale. But even with the excessive wordage Devil's Creek is a good cozy.

Justin Riddley is a transfer student to a small liberal arts college located on an island near Seattle. He is a lost young man trying to find himself. At around this same time mutilated bodies of child abusers are being found on the island. The murders are copies of a series of grisly killings that took place on the island nearly a century ago.

Justin meets a group of students who are as stunted psychologically as he is. He becomes friends with this damaged group of students. The students grow together in deep friendship as the tale of the Devil's Creek murders builds around them.

The Legend of Devil's Creek is a good cozy. There are problems with the story. The first I already mentioned about the tendency of the narration to ramble. Another is a problem only those readers who delve deeply into the forensics will discover. The story has a solid ending but it is a little weak considering how much psychological buildup there was with the character development through the middle of the tale. I would give Devil's Creek an average recommendation. It is a story worth reading if you stumble across it but it doesn't have the charisma of a must read.

S.A. Gorden, Reviewer

Julie's Bookshelf

Breath of Dragons: Vanished
Tina M. Randolph
Archway Publishing
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
c/o Bohlsen Group (publicity)
9781480806153, $17.99, 240pp,

Synopsis: It is 3088 in a world divided into four leagues of dragons, the evilest being Zealian who hungers to rule them all. Now a Drakon Master of the peaceful Aurian League has vanished. No one knows who kidnapped Aldaina Numara, who has the inherited power to control dragon's Air-breath. As the rumble of war spreads on the planet of Marquee Viridian, the Dragon Breaths Corporation declares itself as reigning governor of all leagues in an effort to bind the powers of fire, water, air, and ice.

In an attempt to find his older sister, Aldaina, seventeen-year-old Aurian Drakon Master, Jett Trace, embarks on a journey to the far reaches of the north, where she has supposedly ventured to help the league form an alliance with the ice-breathing Crystallians. With cryptic clues to guide him, Jett begins to piece together a complex puzzle that includes missing airships, a foreboding feeling, and rumors of a secret operation. As the Zealian League continues on a destructive path toward a tyrannical reign, Jett soon realizes that the Neptunian's Water-breath may be the only thing that can change the game plan in an epic battle for supremacy.

Critique: An elegantly crafted YA novel, "Breath of Dragons: Vanished" is a gripping fantasy action/adventure story that documents author Tina A. Randoph as a true master of the genre. A solid entertainment from beginning to end, replete with surprising twists and turns along the way, "Breath of Dragons: Vanished" is very highly recommended for personal reading lists, as well as school and community library collections, "Breath of Dragons: Vanished" will leave its readers looking eagerly toward Tina Randolph's next fantasy adventure! It should be noted that "Breath of Dragons: Vanished" is also available in a hardcover edition (9781480809123, $33.99) and a Kindle edition ($3.99).

My Life as Athena
Daphne Ignatius
Concertia press
PO Box 697, Roswell, GA 30075
9781502373885, $10.99, 270pp,

Synopsis: Born the daughter of Zeus, Athena springs out of her father's head, clad as a warrior and brandishing her weapons with skill. Smart, gutsy and rebellious, she is a misfit in an age that demands that females be gentle and submissive. Undaunted, Athena fights to prove herself and assert her independence, but her autonomy comes at an unexpected price. When she wins patronage of the city of Athens in a battle of wits, Athena comes into her own and matures into the brilliant goddess that we know from legend. However, Greek mythology itself has been deliberately sanitized. It hides a darker story in which Athena must make difficult choices and outwit the other gods to protect herself and those she loves. The golden age of ancient Greece is eventually threatened by a new military power growing in the west. When the Roman legions arrive, greedy for Greece's wealth and offering to adopt the Greek gods as their own, Athena and her fellow gods have a diabolical choice to make: Do they stand by the Greek people, or betray them to safeguard their own interests? In defiance of her father's wishes, Athena rebels one last time and sets forth to change the course of human history itself.

Critique: A superbly constructed fantasy, author Daphne Ignatius proves herself to be a master storyteller able to craft truly memorable characters and deftly embed them into a riveting and entertaining storyline of twists, turns, and surprises. Thoroughly entertaining from first page to last, "My Life As Athena" is an exceptional and enthusiastically recommended read. A novel that will prove enduringly popular for community library Fantasy Fiction collections and leave its reader's looking eagerly toward author Daphne Ignatius next novel! It should be noted that "My Life As Athena" is also available in a Kindle edition ($2.99).

A Rock Fell On The Moon
Alicia Priest
Lost Moose
c/o Harbour Publishing
PO Box 219, Madeira Park, BC, Canada, V0N 2H0
9781550176728, $32.95, 264pp,

Synopsis: In its heyday in the 1950s and '60s, the remote community of Elsa, 300 miles north of Whitehorse in the Yukon Territory, was the epicentre of one of the world's most lucrative silver mining operations -- an enterprise that far surpassed the riches produced during the iconic Klondike gold rush. For twelve of those years, Gerald Priest was the chief assayer for United Keno Hill Mines (UKHM), the major player in the region. Priest was a clever man who could as easily carry the role of refined gentleman as he could rustic mountain man. As far as ten-year-old Alicia Priest was concerned, her father Gerry's life in Elsa was perfect: a home rich with music, books and pets where he never had to boil a kettle or wash a sock; a well paying job; a beautiful and affectionate wife; and two daughters who revered him as only little girls can. But as Alicia grows older, she realizes that perhaps her dad saw things differently, with four female dependents, an ailing wife who couldn't give him the son he wanted, a religiously fanatical mother-in-law and a tedious, dead-end job.

Escape becomes possible when Gerry stakes the Moon Claims and discovers a phenomenal silver-rich boulder--enough silver to make him and his family rich and fund their relocation south. But when Gerry tries to smelt and sell the ore, UKHM calls the RCMP. Too many things don't add up: geologists find the former assayer's boulder story improbable, the manpower required to hand-mine and transport seventy tons of rock across the Yukon terrain is beyond Herculean and most suspiciously, Gerry's ore looks a lot like the ore found in UKHM's Elsa mine.

Critique: An impressive memoir that draws upon original letters, news stories, archived RCMP files and court documents, and interviews with former mine employees, litigators and police investigators, author Alicia Priest is able to piece together the full story of her father's infamous heist. The result is a lively, heartrending account of a mysterious crime that came extraordinarily close to succeeding. "A Rock Fell on the Moon: Dad and the Great Yukon Silver Ore Heist" provides a fascinating look into the small mining communities that once thrived in the Yukon; along with the personal story of the Priest family, who could only watch aghast as the life they knew crumbled around them. "A Rock Fell on the Moon" aptly reconciles two different versions of her father: the fun-loving, bush-savvy adventurer who raised her, and the man accused and convicted of the Great Yukon Silver Ore Heist. A deftly written and fully candid biography, "A Rock Fell on the Moon" is an inherently fascinating read from beginning to end. Impressively written, researched, organized and presented, "A Rock Fell on the Moon" is very highly recommended reading and would prove to be an enduringly popular addition to academic and community library 20th Century Biography collections. It should be noted that "A Rock Fell on the Moon" is also available in a Kindle edition ($18.49).

Discovering Forgiveness
Larry A. Dunn
Cascadia Publishing House
126 Klingerman Road, Telford, PA 18969
9781680270006, $14.95, 124pp,

Synopsis: Drawing from many fields, "Discovering Forgiveness: Pathways Through Injury, Apology, and Healing" provides the reader with an accessible and interdisciplinary approach to understanding the complexity of forgiveness while generating practical applications.

Critique: As informed and informative as it is inspired and inspiring, "Discovering Forgiveness: Pathways Through Injury, Apology, and Healing" will prove a compelling and rewarding read for anyone having to deal with the often difficult issue of forgiveness towards those who have injured us or those we love. Often a path of personal healing, "Discovering Forgiveness: Pathways Through Injury, Apology, and Healing" emphasizes the practical application of sincere apology and will prove to be an enduringly valued addition to personal and community library Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections.

Apportionment of Blame
Keith Redfern
Thames River Press
75-76 Blackfriars Road, London, SE1 8HA, United Kingdom
244 Madison Ave. #116, New York, NY 10016
9781783082186, $18.95, 264pp,

Synopsis: When Joyce Hetherington loses her half-sister in a tragic and mysterious railway accident, she calls on her old school friend, Greg Mason, to investigate. Greg has recently begun his own private detective agency and, together, the two uncover secret after secret about her past and the strange set of circumstances surrounding Helen's death, including details about the inheritance that she was set to receive from her grandmother - an inheritance that was granted instead to an unknown beneficiary. As they sink deeper and deeper into the case, Greg and Joyce begin to realize that not everything is as it seems, and certain seemingly unrelated threads in her family story - some stretching as far back as World War II - have the potential to weave a web with far greater implications than either of them could have ever imagined.

Critique: Simply stated, "Apportionment of Blame" is an impressive and entertaining novel that documents author Keith Refern as a master of the mystery/suspense genre. Superbly crafted plots replete with unexpected twists and surprising turns, "Apportionment of Blame" is very highly recommended for personal reading lists and community library collections. It should be noted that "Apportionment of Blame" is also available in a Kindle edition ($6.25).

Terry Irving
Angry Robot
Osprey Publishing
4301 21st St, Suite 220B, Long Island City, NY 11101
Allen Media Strategies
9781909223790, $7.99, 336pp,

Synopsis: It's 1972. The Watergate scandal has Washington on edge and Putnam, a Vietnam veteran and courier for one of the capital's leading television stations, is trying to get his life back together after his nightmarish ordeal in the war. Racing at breakneck speed through the streets of the capital, he not only intends to be the best courier in the business, he also intends to escape the demons that haunt him. But when Rick picks up film from a news crew interviewing a government worker with a hot story, his life begins to unravel as everyone involved in the story dies within hours of the interview and Rick realizes he is the next target. Enlisting the aid of friends who have discovered a way to hack into the government's computer databases, and a beautiful young Indian Rights activist, Eva Buffalo Calf, Rick races full throttle through the streets of the nation's capital to stay ahead of his pursuers as he searches for answers. When he discovers the killings have been orchestrated by a rogue CIA agent and his team of assassins, Rick isn't surprised when his road to the truth leads directly to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Critique: A riveting read from first page to last, "Courier" documents author Terry Irving as a master of the suspense novel genre. A solid entertainment featuring carefully crafted characters deftly embedded in a complexly woven storyline of unexpected twists and surprising turns, "Courier" is very highly recommended reading for fans of the genre. It should be noted that "Courier" is also available in a Kindle edition ($0.99).

Julie Summers

Karyn's Bookshelf

Ship of Dolls
Shirley Parenteau, author
Candlewick Press
99 Dover St., Somerville, MA 02144
9780763670030, $16.99

Sharp plot edges bring poignant depth to this story about a girl who hopes to win a contest to accompany a classroom doll to 1920s San Francisco. Eleven-year-old Lexie's motivation - to reconnect with her gregarious flapper mother who has sent her to live with her strict, paternal grandparents. Based on the true story of American schoolchildren who sent thousands of dolls to Japan in 1927 in an ultimately fruitless effort to head off World War II, Ship of Dolls follows Lexie as roadblocks are continually thrown her way, making her participation in the trip to San Francisco a remote possibility. But if she does get her wish, will she find at the other end of the journey a mother who really wants her? Parenteau doesn't shy away from aching scenes, and doesn't create a perfect heroine who perfectly handles steep falls. But that becomes the beauty of Ship of Dolls. It's about good and bad choices, about making things right when possible, recognizing real love, and continuing on when everything goes wrong. Parenteau's characterizations, from the mean girl who continually thwarts Lexie but also has deep troubles of her own, to Lexie's alternately spirited and despondent countenance, to her reckless and inattentive mother, are richly woven and rewarding to get to know. Beautiful and real.

Michelle Houts, author
Candlewick Press
99 Dover St., Somerville, MA 02144
9780763665654, $16.99

A Danish legend sparkles to life in this story about a young girl who must go to great lengths to retrieve her baby sister, who has been stolen by a mischievous nisse. When Bettina Larsen's parents must suddenly leave on Christmas Eve to attend to elderly family members, they entrust her to care for her sister Pia, who is a few days from her first birthday. A rare phenomenon then occurs -- winterfrost, in which fog freezes on the trees, creating a magical-looking scene. Bettina is quickly reminded of her grandfather's belief that during a winterfrost is opened "a magical door to another world...a rare and precious opportunity, afforded to those who believed in the goodness of nature and the possibility that we share the forest with more than just the animals who scurry across our boot-worn paths." In the commotion of her parents' departure, Bettina's family forgets to leave a Christmas Eve bowl of rice pudding in the barn for their nisse. He retaliates by stealing Pia as she naps, and then disaster strikes as she is further taken by a second, more sinister, nisse. Bettina must enter the wintry woodland world of the nisse to get the baby back. What she finds in her journey forever changes how she looks at the natural landscape around her. Houts keeps the story simple, with gentle twists and turns, just right for introducing middle grade readers to mythology. But though gentle, the twists and turns abound and engage. A charming winter read.

The Christmas Show
Rebecca Patterson, author and illustrator
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781481401142, $14.99

The bittersweet essence of the perennial, not-so-perfect children's Christmas pageant instantly endears in The Christmas Show. A little shepherd sings at the wrong time, dances the wrong way, and makes other cast members angry with his missteps, but his grandmother saves the day by declaring that he was "the best thing" in the program. Patterson's words and, even more importantly, her bright and emotive illustrations, are spot on, recognizable to any adult who has ever put on a children's nativity pageant - or any children's drama, for that matter. The smiles of recognition will come, especially, in the small details, and the book is chock full of them. There's the lead-up - painting stars, fitting wings, and learning songs. There are long practices that take "all afternoon." And there's the big night - peeking through the curtain to see the audience. The emotional states of both children and adults are beautifully captured, as well, from the insecure feeling that everyone but you has an essential role, to the mean looks from a self-important head angel, to nervous tummy aches, to the joy of dancing and singing on stage, to the contented smile on a janitor's face as he sweeps up debris, post-program, a paper chain hanging over his head and scripts, recorders, and costumes strewn about. Giggles throughout but also gentle lessons. A sweet new holiday favorite.

Night Sky Dragons
Mal Peet and Elspeth Graham, authors
Patrick Benson, illustrator
Candlewick Press
99 Dover St., Somerville, MA 02144
9780763661441, $15.99

A little boy grapples with his widowed father's steep expectations and draws on his creativity to use a plaything to dispel bandits in this beautifully written and illustrated story that mixes ancient history and timeless life lessons.

Yazul is the only son of the lord of a han along the Silk Road, a real-life historical trade route between China and Mediterranean Sea.

His father is all business. "Money. That is the real world," he tells his child.
"Yes, Father, I understand," he says.
He doesn't understand, though.

What he does get are little boy things like the joy of the spring snowmelt, and "warm winds that are perfect for kite-flying."

With his grandfather, he builds kites. One day bandits surround the han. With help from others, Yazul and his grandfather build eight huge dragon kites and launch them on a starless night - with gun powder-loaded bamboo sticks attached to the tails that explode as fireworks. The bandits flee in terror.

The story is richly layered with small poignant moments and memorable details, expressed in a masterful use of words.

Yazul's small face under his felt cap, for instance, looks "like a fingertip poking through a hole in a glove."

His grandfather teaches him to build kites after his mother dies. He discovers they "could lift his sadness into the sky, where little by little the wind would carry it away."

And as the firecrackers go off the authors memorably write that "the darkness was split by the furious bangs and flashes, and each flash lit up the red eyes and teeth of the dragons hanging in the night."

Night Sky Dragons reminds us of the importance of play to children, while it also speaks to grief, family relations, and accomplishing seemingly insurmountable tasks. The exciting conclusion will keep readers glued. Older readers will be inspired to learn more about kites and ancient trade.

Benson's pen and watercolor illustrations palpably capture the warmth between Yazul and his grandparents, the coldness of Yazul's father, danger in the bandits' arrival, and awe when the kites perform as hoped. Deep lines on Yazul's father's face crinkle from hard work and life loss, while his grandfather's eyes twinkle mischievously.

All of its pieces fit together to make Night Sky Dragons soar.

The Princess in Black
Shannon Hale and Dean Hale, authors
LeUyen Pham, illustrator
Candlewick Press
99 Dover St., Somerville, MA 02144
9780763665104, $14.99

A dual princess pink and black mask-clad heroine delights while reminding early chapter book readers that they can play multiple roles, both in life and in their imagination.

Down to her tiara and glass slippers, Princess Magnolia is the perfect tea-sipping young royal.
But when a big blue beast slips into her kingdom from subterranean Monster Land, she must covertly don the costume of her alter ego, The Princess in Black, and save the day.

In simple language that is just right for early elementary readers, and with lots of giggles, the tale introduces other characters, too, including a nosy duchess and curious goat boy who are sure to come back in future installments of this new series.

The language is spot-on engaging for young children, especially little girls. The princess's horse is hilariously named Frimplepants, and its alter ego is named Blacky, exactly what a 6-year-old might choose. The big blue monster is uncomplicatedly named....Big Blue Monster.
The cartoon illustrations engage with lots of action and goofiness.

A fun, intrepid new heroine, ripe for additional adventures, with a sidekick in the making.

The King of Little Things
Bil Lepp, author
David T. Wenzel, illustrator
Peachtree Publishers
1700 Chattahoochee Avenue, Atlanta, GA 30318-2112
9781561457083, $16.95

A simple lesson about the dangers of greed blends with rib-tickling fun in this picture book about two very different kings.

The King of Little Things is content with small pleasures - feeding the birds, planting flowers and little-boy like, his collection of everything from petals to paper clips to lizard lips. "He had everything he needed, and didn't want for more."

King Normous, meanwhile, has conquered surrounding lands and amassed a fortune. Now, he sets out to take down the King of Little Things.

But in a sweetly genuine, populist twist, the little things spark to life and come to their king's rescue. Mealworms spoil the big army's bread, termites destroy the wooden shafts of their arrows, and buttons pop off King Normous' clothes, leaving him standing in his underwear before his court.

When The King of Little Things is locked away in a deep cave, little things everywhere revolt, sending the world into chaos. Lights refuse to light, cookies crumble, and hangers unhang. Ultimately, they save the day.

Beautifully illustrated, with lots of action and abundant small details.
A charming reminder of the dangers of wanting more than we need, and appreciating what we already have. Wrapped around giggles. Just right.

Karyn L. Saemann, Reviewer

Katherine's Bookshelf

Johnnie Come Lately
Kathleen M. Rodgers
Camel Press
PO Box 70515, Seattle, WA 98127
9781603812153, $14.95,

Kathleen M. Rodgers captures several life-changing events in Johnnie Come Lately with empathy, seriousness and humor. Her characters are well-defined; her plot is very credible and her use of schemes to further her story all combine to make this a completely entertaining read.

I was captivated by Johnnie, Dale, Granny Opal (Johnnie's grandmother), D.J., Cade, Callie Ann, and even Mr. Marvel. Brother Dog, the Kitchen's faithful dog is interspersed within the story as a memorial to Kathleen Rodger's Chocolate Lab, Bubba Dog.

Then we are introduced to the furtive character of Johnnie's mother, Victoria. This shadowy figure is very intriguing - what made her leave home? In her story lies the answers to so many of the other characters life choices. Compassion for the failings of the characters; alcoholism, bulimia, promiscuousness and several more are threaded throughout the story. The events and choices are enriched by Johnnie when she writes to the characters in her journal. This journal is Johnnie's way of coping with her own deficiencies.

To be able to treat such unpleasant situations with the understanding they deserve and then add believable humor to some of them takes a very talented writer and Kathleen is one of the small group of authors who can do it. As an example, the mental picture of an elderly man digging a hole in his yard for no apparent reason and then throwing a shovel in front of a fast moving vehicle for another "no apparent reason" is oddly humorous.

This is definitely a book you want to read!

Kathleen M. Rodgers' first novel, The Final Salute, has been featured in USA-Today, The Associated Press, Military Times and many other publications. The novel soared to #1 on Amazon's Top Rated War Fiction in 2012, and the original paperback edition hit #2 on Amazon's Bestselling Military Aviation list in 2010. Deer Hawk Publications will reissue The Final Salute in both e-book and paperback in 2014.

She is a recipient of a Distinguished Alumna Award from Tarrant County College/NE Campus 2014.

Kathleen lives in Colleyville with her husband, Tom, a retired fighter pilot/ airline pilot and Denton, their shelter dog who adopted them after they lost Bubba Dog. She is the mother of two grown sons, one an award winning artist and the other a First Lieutenant in the US Army.

Moonshiners' Revenge
Fred Funk
Tattersall Publishing
1155 Union Circle, Denton, Texas 76203
9780983591993, $12.95,

Matt Reynolds returns in the sequel to Ministry and Moonshine with Moonshiner's Revenge. The story continues with many of the same characters and a few new ones. Some of the people in the first book are also gone.

Just as Matt and Beth Reynolds are preparing to leave Pruett, Texas for a new town, they are told that they are not going to have to leave. They are going to be able to stay and continue their ministry with groups made up of some very colorful people, some rather unsavory - more so than the moonshiners. This installment of the popular East Texas series tells of a new, sinister threat to the community, as well as the moonshiners.

""Matt, do you reckon that's that new stuff we heard that kids are smoking? They call it 'mary wanna' or something like that," Beth noted."

It has been said that revenge is profitable. No wonder the moonshiners wanted to rid themselves of the latest threat. This time the moonshiners of the area help to rid Pruett and the surrounding country of a destructive force more dreadful than the moonshine, although not for completely altruistic reasons.

Mr. Funk has written in his very entertaining and exciting style. So often, a sequel does not live up to the first one. This sequel completely disproves this notion. Moonshiner's Revenge is as good as the first one, maybe a little better.

Fred Funk writes from personal experiences. He started out as a Methodist minister in East Texas and later switched careers to accounting and finance. He is an active member and former president of the Denton Noon Kiwanis Club. Now retired, he lives in Aubrey, Texas with his wife, Dana, of fifty plus years. They have two daughters and a son, seven- grandchildren, and one great-grandson.

What's Wrong with Pauly?
BJ House
Rocking 4D
8375 FM 2578, Terrell, TX 75160
9780692328811, $10.00,

BJ House has written a so very delightful book about a boy and his dog. She illustrates several different aspects as life learning concepts for children - bullying, compassion, physical disabilities (dealing with them and understanding them) and unconditional love, to name a few.

Billy Johnson is a normal boy who likes to celebrate birthdays and play with his friends. He has an understanding and caring parents and a dog named Molly. When Molly has her puppies, Maggie, Freckles, Dandy and Pauly who was born with only three legs. This devastates Billy, but he learns a lot about life from this one seemingly awful event.

You must read this book to learn how he and Pauly handle the adversity. This heartwarming book is great for everyone. Sharing it with a child, whether your child, your grandchild or a friend, will be the highlight of your day as you watch them read about Billy and Pauly. It provides a great chance to have a conversation about any of the lessons involved with your children.

The illustrator, Paul Cash has captured the storyline with his illustrations that are so representative of today - Billy with a Mohawk haircut and his mother in the latest fashions. The illustrations will captivate the youngest reader to the oldest.

Author BJ House lives in Texas with her husband, 2 dogs and several horses and cows. She has 2 children and 9 grandchildren. She wrote What's Wrong with Pauly? for her grandchildren and decided that other children would enjoy it. I am looking forward to more great stories that will come from her fertile imagination.

Katherine Boyer

Kelly's Bookshelf

Making Lemonade with Ben: The Audacity to Cope
Katherine J. Perreth
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781477665169, $16.95,

The day after I acquired my copy of Making Lemonade with Ben: The Audacity to Cope, having heard about Ben's story during a hiking outing with friends, I happened to catch sight of Katherine Perreth minutes before the start of Madison, Wisconsin's annual NAMI Walk to benefit the National Alliance on Mental Illness. She was dancing the polka with her husband, Dan, as a handful of members from the University of Wisconsin marching band warmed up the crowd with their rendition of "The Bud Song." The smile brightening her face was nothing less than contagious, and I found myself suddenly quite cozy in spite of the Midwestern autumn temperatures. If truth be told, I'm not quite sure where her son Ben was at that moment. From what I've learned since, I can only assume that he was chatting up one of his many admirers.

Ms. Perreth's memoir, Making Lemonade with Ben, recounts her journey from the night her firstborn son suffered a brain hemorrhage in 1996 through his invitation to the White House in 2011. While illuminating the fear, sorrow, frustration, grief, disillusionment and a plethora of other intensely poignant emotions that filled those years, Ms. Perreth incorporates her very unique brand of irreverent humor in the telling of some of her life's most harrowing tales. Her ability to laugh through her tears is inspiring as a survival tactic; yet, it by no means lessens the gravity of the circumstances described. On the contrary, the juxtaposition makes her stories that much more vivid and the emotions communicated all the more raw.

Ben's brain hemorrhage, resulting from the rupture of an arterio-venous malformation (AVM) the night of his little sister's first birthday party, would certainly have proven fatal had it not been for Ms. Perreth's on-the-spot decision to allow the Chief of Neurosurgery at the University of Wisconsin Hospital to operate on her son. Without intervention, he was destined to die; yet, even under the care of such a brilliant medical mind, the odds were not in Ben's favor. Well aware that her son's survival was far from certain, Ms. Perreth quietly gave him her blessing to leave this world if that was what he was meant to do.

In spite of the subsequent radiation procedures and all of the mishaps, heartbreaks and hazards that lay in wait, the grueling journey toward wholeness transcends anything akin to a linear narrative. In fact, there is never a dull moment (as if Ben's life ever knew one!) for Ben and his mother's overarching struggle is balanced by the foreshadowing of their invitation to Washington D.C. for the awarding of The National Medal to the Madison Children's Museum. When the museum had been asked to choose someone who exemplified the impact a museum can have upon a life, they chose Ben, who served as a volunteer and had just landed his first paid position with the organization. The adventure is presented as a pinnacle experience on many levels.

As courageously as Ms. Perreth details the challenges of raising a child with special needs, it is her willingness to explore her own internal landscape that ultimately sets Making Lemonade with Ben apart as an incredibly powerful work. Ms. Perreth does not shy away from the intensity of the depressions she's endured nor does she attempt to sugarcoat the trauma experienced in coming so close to losing her son -- and a good bit of herself in the process. Interestingly enough, Ms. Perreth utilizes the book to epitomize the way in which her passion for the written word has allowed her to rediscover her voice so as to facilitate healing as well as cultivate a sense of self-empowerment.

Although I had no doubt that Making Lemonade with Ben would touch me deeply given the subject matter presented, I hadn't anticipated encountering myself in the process; yet, that is precisely what happened. Ms. Perreth's honesty and courage broke my heart wide open, allowing me to better understand her experience while also finding my pain mirrored within her own. Toward the end of the tale, her perspective began informing mine, beckoning me to embrace the present moment, take care of myself so as to better care for others and to see the world through eyes filled with gratitude as well as lots and lots of love.

The Transcriptionist
Amy Rowland
Algonquin Books
PO Box 2225, Chapel Hill, NC 27515-2225
9781616202545, $24.95,

If ever there were an unlikely heroine, Lena Respass of Amy Rowland's novel The Transcriptionist certainly fits the bill. Leaving her room at the Parkside Evangeline Salvation Army each morning, only to arrive at work in the dingy, forgotten regions of the Record, where she serves as the newspaper's last remaining transcriptionist, Lena spends her days as a human conduit for language. Allowing journalists' recorded words to pass from her headset, into her ears, through her veins and out her fingertips as she surrenders to her transcriptionist's trance, Lena documents events of varying degrees of import; yet, she finds that even the most heart-wrenching stories often end up edited beyond recognition before making their way into newsprint.

It is an eerily bleak and dispiriting existence, and Lena finds the soulless futility of her days to suffocate and crowd out her own thoughts and dreams to the extent that it is hard to distinguish where others' words end and hers begin. Fearing that she may become forever unable to recognize her own voice, she recites passages while quietly yearning to conjure her own articulations. Just as she regurgitated Bible verses during childhood and literature in graduate school, she discovers that it is now the news that takes up the greatest space in her brain.

In spite of the natural disasters, viruses and war reports called in by journalists throughout the city and around the globe, Lena stumbles upon a story one summer's day that piques her interest beyond all others. The piece is about a blind woman who committed suicide by breaking into the lion enclosure at the Bronx Zoo. Her "partly devoured" remains were discovered by zookeepers the next morning. Studying the grainy image published alongside the story, Lena recalls sitting next to the woman, Arlene Lebow, on the bus shortly before she met her demise. The connection between them was unexpected and far more intimate than one would expect from a public transit encounter; but, as a court reporter, Arlene could relate to the hazards of listening to others' stories day in and day out. "Voices coursing through our veins. You can't live that way forever, not people like us," she said to Lena in the midst of one of the novel's most pivotal -- and intensely symbolic -- passages.

Subtly though undeniably Kafkaesque, The Transcriptionist tackles sociological dynamics that leave so many of us with a pervading sense of meaninglessness, alienation and impotence within the systems and institutions that hold the power to create reality. Our reliance upon technology, though convenient, leaves us without the humanizing exchanges we once knew; the raw and oh-so very real tragedies of our times are sanitized so as not to offend; and, given our shortened attention span and limited capacity for caring, yesterday's news is, well, nothing more than yesterday's news.

Allegorical at heart, The Transcriptionist offers innumerable "a-ha" moments, especially in a second read-through, as the writing's deceptively simple tone veils some rather existential issues. In certain instances, the parallels drawn between Lena's experience and that of others are relatively cut-and-dried; yet, there is so much to be gleaned by looking a bit more deeply. In fact, the longer I reflect upon Rowland's use of literary device, the more blown away I am by her skill and masterful execution amid resonant themes. Yet, at the end of the day, it is the image of Lena's obsessive-compulsive pigeon-friend who is apparently unwilling (or is it unable?) to flee from the ledge that remains indelibly etched upon my psyche.

While vicariously trudging through Lena's days, I must admit that I found myself quite content to nod my head in acknowledgement of that gaping wound of our shared postmodern angst. It was actually rather comforting to witness upon the page for its admission lessened the very alienation described. What I did not expect, however, was to find myself ultimately inspired to snap out of the gloom and into the simple light of clarity, which Lena offers with the final turn of the page.

Kelly Bodoh

Kevin's Bookshelf

Antidote: Clandestine Warfare in Modern Russia
John Patrick Lonergan
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781500361167 $12.99 pbk / $3.99 Kindle

A Deadly Pathogen - A review of the novel 'Antidote'

"There are causes worth dying for, but none worth killing for" - Albert Camus

Even though John Lonergan's novel 'Antidote: Clandestine Warfare In Modern Russia' is set in a futuristic world, it deals with a threat that is very contemporary in nature. Set in the backdrop of the souring relations between Russia and the Republic of Georgia, a group of nationalists from Georgia sets out to avenge the violence unleashed upon their country by the Russians by creating an epidemic for which there is no cure. Helping them in this mission is Joseph Karashvili, a brilliant microbiologist who creates a strain of super bacteria. While on the other side of the planet in America, Robert Cook, a member of an elite police force with a PhD in microbiology himself, inadvertently crosses path with the epidemic problem while investigating the theft of microorganisms from a lab. With time running out and the casualty list increasing every day, Cook must involve himself in a massive manhunt spanning across different countries to find the doctor and the antidote capable of stopping the epidemic.

Although the novel can be called a futuristic thriller with international politics and terrorism angle thrown in for good measure, at the very core it is a modern day cop and robber story but involving antibiotics and bacteria instead. And instead of using bio terrorism merely as a plot device and then relegating the actual fighting to take place between an archetypal American hero and a Chechen villain, the author takes you into the microscopic level and shows the fight taking place inside our bodies. The detailed descriptions of how the bacteria strain acts inside the human body is a novel experience and is a master stroke from the author, taking this thriller to a different level, making it more cerebral and yet very approachable in its presentation. He also stresses on the very real dangers of bio terrorism and a case of antibiotics eventually becoming ineffective against a constantly evolving group of bacteria and viruses due to over prescription of such antibiotics.

And since the story is set in future, the author has a lot of fun painting a highly advanced futuristic world which isn't too outlandish and is in fact highly conceivable, considering the rapid pace of changes and developments taking place in the field of computing, robotics, AI and information technology. There are some fascinating sections in the book with an acutely intelligent and intuitive Artificial Intelligence, and super cars, buildings and even bathrooms that lights up your imagination thinking about the possibilities such a future will hold. The police officer investigating the crime and solving the puzzle is Mr. Robert Cook, a highly skilled, optimistic and intuitive officer with a keen eye who goes into the details of a crime, a trait which he probably picked up from his science and microbiology background. There are no over the top theatrics from him and in fact he gets the job done in a calm and serene manner.

Antidote: Clandestine Warfare In Modern Russia has a very good first chapter and the best hook any fictional book could hope to begin with. The book is an easy read, especially with its smart writing and short paragraphs which ensure that the reader's attention is retained throughout the length of the book. Lonergan has also provided good detailed background story for each character, nobody is presented as a cardboard cut-out and the interactions and dialogues enhances the different points of view. The geography of the different places has been put to good use and it will transport you into the heart of the action. With Joseph coming back with Robert to America in the end, you can only imagine what more fascinating adventures are in store for us with these two brilliant minds coming together. And along with Daisy, the all knowing virtual assistant with him, this hero surely deserves a few more follow up adventures in which we can explore his personality better.

Dobyns Chronicles
Shirley McLain
Xlibris US
9781499024098, $19.99

The Finest Generation - A review of the novel 'Dobyns Chronicles'

"It is so much simpler to bury reality than it is to dispose of dreams" - Don DeLillo

Author Shirley McLain's latest novel 'Dobyns Chronicles' is a historical fiction loosely based on the life and times of her grandfather Charles Kenly Dobyns. Charles or Charley to those close to him was the eldest son of Kennerly, an American cowboy and Eliza, a Cherokee Indian and was raised in a farm in Red River in Bonham near Northeast Texas. The book chronicles his life story from the late 1800's when he was a young boy in a Texan farm to mid 1950's when he became a great grandfather in McAlester, Oklahoma. The book paints a moving real life story about a young man's resolve dealing with the various tragedies life threw at him while also caring for his two siblings, younger brother David and sister Viola. This novel presents a fascinating look at vintage Americana and will fill your mind with nostalgia about a simpler life led in much simpler times.

Right off the bat, the first thing that you are going to notice and that too barely a couple of pages into the book is the wonderful use of the English language. It has become almost a rarity in mainstream literature to come across such beautiful phrases and prose that make you stop and read a line twice just for the sheer literary pleasure it gives you. The next best thing about this book is the pitch perfect way in which the author has been able to portray the laid back and lazy times with the back breaking, difficult and adventure filled day in an old western town. It is so descriptive that the character's spirituality, the numerous odd jobs done around the house, cattle drive and horse breaking somehow become second nature to you by the time you are done with the book. And for people of this century where everything is available to them at the touch of a button, this book will be a throwback to our older and harsher times when day to day living meant a constant battle with the various elements of the nature.

Blending the fiction seamlessly with the many historical and factual events of the late 18th century and early 19th century, Shirley has made good use of various events like the yellow fever epidemic, the great depression and the absurd tax laws to good effect and has used them strategically at various points in the novel to underline the emotions of her characters in that setting beautifully. The changes happening over time and the various developments too have been captured nicely; case in point is Charley staying at a hotel for the very first time. Shirley also seems to have a knack in getting children's behaviour and their conversations right, the change in tone and content when the conversation moves from a child to an adult is always bang on target.

The entire book will tug at your heart strings and make you think about your own family, it will also make you reminisce about your childhood as you read about the childhood of the Dobyn kids. And even though your childhood may have been vastly different from theirs, you will still feel a connection to the various commonalities that affect us humans across time and different nationalities. The epilogue and the photographs at the end really get to you and even though a life that you have been witness to from a young age has come to an end, you are in a strange way left with so many memories of this man. And this is because of the way the author has captured these scenes and emotions, by taking you right into the lives and homes of these people instead of merely narrating a story.

Great authors have often talked about the secrets that make a book appeal to audiences everywhere. They stress upon having a standout first chapter to make the readers commit to the book, a good first page that will blow them away and a great first line that will stay etched in their memory forever. If they are right then Shirley's book has scored a definite ace on all three fronts and has emerged a clear winner.

That Truthful Place
Patty Lesser
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1 edition
9781502884794, $15.99

The Mind Control - A review of the novel 'That Truthful Place'

"The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled" - Plutarch

How many times in our lives have we sat across a loved one, a parent, a friend or a lover and tried desperately to guess what they were thinking, to know the things they weren't telling us? Most people acknowledge that a super power they would prefer if they were given one, was the ability to hear other people's thoughts. The newer modes of communication and technology may have nullified our quest to find out other's secrets to a certain extent since now they themselves deliver it to us 24/7 but that pang still remains, of wanting to find out other's hidden secrets.

Author Patty Lesser's new novel 'That Truthful Place' delves into the supernatural arena once again, investigating the phenomenon of telepathy and telekinetic powers among a bunch of young teenagers. After Alex Mitchell falls into a mysterious coma on the night of his 13th birthday, nobody seems to know what caused it. Even his physician Dr. John Matthews is befuddled by it. And on the third day when he wakes up from his deep stupor, Alex realizes that he has been blessed with a special gift, of being able to hear other people's thoughts. It turns out this is not an isolated case and a whole bunch of kids across North America have developed this gift after waking up from a 3 day coma. Honing their skills, these kids are soon able to communicate with each other and form a secret little society with their unique background and specialized skills. And while Doctor Matthews wants to find out the group's secrets, the children want to find out who or what gave them this power and what it intends to do with them.

Patty Lesser has taken an interesting concept and an ever popular theme of telepathy and woven a fictional story around it, while also showing a bunch of young teenagers dealing with various issues. If you have read Patty's books before, you will notice that she has in her possession a lovely prose that is put to good use especially in a more adult themed novel like Locker Rooms but here in That Truthful Place, which is about and possibly marketed towards young adults and teens, she writes in a different manner, she creates an environment befitting the protagonist's age and skillfully captures the minds of her thirteen year old leads. And this is something that young children and teens will definitely appreciate, they will see that the narrative connects with them, and their hopes and fears, their problems, their angst and the beauty of their innocence has all been captured very well by the author.

Going against the tradition found in books of such genre, 'That Truthful Place' presents ten children as part of its main cast instead of a solitary lead. But this huge cast doesn't go to waste as each one has been given a unique background and specialty of a skill. And since they are all bound by the powers of telepathy they are able to communicate with each other even when remaining in different parts of the country. Kat with her leadership qualities and superior powers along with Alex who is one of the central characters in the book gets some of the more important scenes in the book. There's also a cliff-hanger towards the end with the introduction of a group of people who are shown as the ones responsible for giving the children these gifts. And with Dr. Matthews losing the battle in tracking the children and their gifts for now, things should get really interesting in the second part of this story as we explore this thread further.

With a liberal dose of friendship, young love, loyalty & courage, this book should easily appeal to youngsters and those who are young at heart.

Kevin Peter, Reviewer

Linda's Bookshelf

Spider Woman's Daughter
Anne Hillerman
Harper Collins
195 Broadway, New York, NY 10007
9780062270481 $26.99, 320 pages,

Tony Hillerman, the legendary, award winning, best-selling creator of the Navajo Nation Tribal Police series of 18 mystery detective novels featuring Joe Leaphorn and/or Jim Chee among a myriad of other works, died in late October, 2008 at the age of 83 leaving his 'friend base' of four decades bereft. His last work of fiction, The Shape Shifter (2006) left fans with another crime solved and the joyous occasion of the long-awaited marriage between Navajo Nation Police Officer Bernadette Manuelito and Sergeant Jim Chee. Hillerman's reverence for nature and his respect for the indigenous people of the New Mexico, Arizona and Utah, the Hopi, Pueblo and in particular, The Navajo or the Dine (The People or Children of the Holy People) and their customs shone throughout his fiction and nonfiction writings. His deep understanding and comprehensive knowledge of cultural detail resonated with authenticity while his superbly crafted stories held the readers rapt attention throughout the series of books and movies. In his complex works of literary fiction, crimes were not merely solved by novel's end but the natural balance, harmony and connectedness were restored. Lieutenant Leaphorn, although not a traditionalist, respects the old ways of his people. Sergeant Jim Chee is an active participant in the Dine worldview with his observances of rituals, prayers and ceremonies such as sweat bath purifications, participation in sings and studies to become a yataalii or shaman.

Readers take heart! Anne Hillerman, the only author among Tony and Marie Hillerman's six children stepped into the breach with her debut, spell-binding novel aptly named Spider Woman's Daughter, published by Harper Collins, October 1, 2013. This reviewer couldn't put it down and it vaulted onto my 'must-read' list of books last year. This riveting novel continues the blending of cultural history and taut mystery and reunites the indomitable sleuths Leaphorn and Chee while elevating the petite, feisty character Bernadette "Bernie" Manuelito from regular sidekick status to center stage as leading protagonist. The series has advanced a couple of years in time from The Shape Shifter and some changes have occurred. Jim and Bernie have been married two years and the husband and wife continue to team up at work with both reporting to Captain Howard Largo, another familiar character.

Chee's former supervisor Lt. Joe Leaphorn is retired yet actively using his well-honed detective skills to investigate insurance claims and informally consulting for the Navajo Nation Police. Now widowed ten years from his beloved wife Emma, Joe shares a home with anthropologist Louise Bourebonette. The story begins with a routine informal Monday morning breakfast leadership meeting attended by Largo and several junior officers in addition to Bernie and Leaphorn. Standing in the restaurant lobby, chatting with Jim Chee on her cell phone, Bernie witnesses a small, hooded figure step out of a blue sedan parked next to Leaphorn's truck calmly raise an arm and shoot the venerated man point blank in the head before careening off. It happened too fast to get the license plate.

Without spoiling the story, Bernie as the sole eyewitness disobeys direct orders to stay off the case. Anne Hillerman skillfully weaves in past cold cases and a rich tale of deception, intrigue and murder set against the backdrop of the Navajo Nation and in another new twist expands the story to new environs of Santa Fe. Before her father's death, Anne had spent several years collaborating with him and her professional photographer husband Don Strel on a nonfiction book Tony Hillerman's Landscapes: On the Road with Chee and Leaphorn (2009). She has stated in interviews that part of her research included re-reading all of the novels and conversing with her father about plot development and surroundings. They also discussed the increased involvement of Bernadette Manuelito. He concurred it would be an interesting idea to allow Bernie to solve a crime but lacked the energy to start another book and did not leave another novel or unfinished manuscript. With the support and blessing of her mother, Tony's first editor for every book he wrote, Anne Hillerman devoted three years to the research and writing of Spider Woman's Daughter. Doubtless her father would be proud and I foresee ecstatic readers hoping the series continues for many more years. The next addition to the series Rock with Wings is scheduled for May, 2015 publication.

Anne Hillerman is a gifted, accomplished journalist and editor for the Albuquerque Journal North and Santa Fe New Mexican, as well as the Northern New Mexico food critic for Albuquerque Journal and the author of several award-winning books including Santa Fe Flavors, The Insider's Guide to Santa Fe, Done in the Sun, and others. In 2001, she founded and also serves as Director of Wordharvest Writers Workshops and the Tony Hillerman's Writers Conference.

Nora Bonesteel's Christmas Past
Sharyn McCrumb
Abingdon Press
201 8th Ave S, Nashville, TN 37203
9781426754210, $18.99, 192 pages,

Holiday themed books, primarily in the genre of romance novels, have proliferated on bookseller's shelves in recent years with many well-established authors joining in to churn out trifles with dubious literary quality. Many of these "stocking stuffers" could be discarded with the Christmas ribbons and wrapping paper without perceptible loss. However, in the deft hands of wordsmith and New York Times bestselling author Sharyn McCrumb, Nora Bonesteel's Christmas Past is an exceptionally savory addition to a season replete with cloying sweets.

McCrumb, a descendant of the Overmountain Men and other Revolutionary War ancestors who helped turn the tide in the fierce and lengthy struggle for Independence from England, has once again drawn upon her own family legends, lore and place in American history to spin a masterful tale to spellbind and enchant the reader. Her novella Nora Bonesteel's Christmas Past is the newest entry in her award-winning "Ballad Novel" series set in the southern Appalachian mountain lands of her forebears. The tales are a rich tapestry of prose with a traditional song motif woven into the fabric of the storyline. Instead of a haunting 18th or 19th century refrain, the tune this time is Bing Crosby's White Christmas, first sung on live radio on Christmas, 1941 and subsequently recorded in 1942, a ballad of hope and longing that stirred listeners during World War II and soon became a perennial standard. The author has harmoniously and humorously woven twin plotlines together reuniting two of her best loved main characters from previous works, Spencer Arrowood (Fans may note Arwood is her matrilineal family name) and Nora Bonesteel. Sheriff Spencer Arrowood and Deputy Joe LeDonne face the unpleasant task of arresting an elderly man in his remote mountain home on Christmas Eve. This seemingly straightforward assignment leads them to a perform a kindly series of good deeds that demonstrate the true meaning of Christmas while evoking visions of Tom Sawyer's proven technique for white-washing Aunt Becky's fence. Fiercely independent nonagenarian seer Nora Bonesteel was first introduced in McCrumb's second Ballad novel The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter. Her gift of Sight has been both a blessing and curse for this practitioner of herbal medicines and traditional crafts. Nora keeps to herself but is pleased when a decayed old mansion she visited often as a young woman is purchased and restored by moneyed summer visitors. Florida residents Bill and Shirley Havertys' problems with an unseen intruder began after their decision to stay in their mountain retreat for the Christmas holidays. Shirley became convinced their home was haunted by an angry spirit when her freshly hung ornaments were smashed and their gaily trimmed artificial tree crashed in the night. Shirley had already sought Nora Bonesteel's tutelage in learning to garden and was familiar with her rumored psychic abilities.

Nora Bonesteel's Christmas Past is for me an instant classic, a Christmas tale of mysteries and miracles wrapped up in tradition, and destined to be read annually in years to come. It will delight old fans like me who have been reading Sharyn McCrumb's work for nearly three decades and will warm the hearts of those who pick up this slender volume in the spirit of the season.

Nora Bonesteel's Christmas Past
Sharyn McCrumb
Abingdon Press
201 8th Ave S, Nashville, TN 37203
9781426754210 $18.99, 192 pages

Holiday themed books, primarily in the genre of romance novels, have proliferated on bookseller's shelves in recent years with many well-established authors joining in to churn out trifles with dubious literary quality. Many of these "stocking stuffers" could be discarded with the Christmas ribbons and wrapping paper without perceptible loss. However, in the deft hands of wordsmith and New York Times bestselling author Sharyn McCrumb, Nora Bonesteel's Christmas Past is an exceptionally savory addition to a season replete with cloying sweets.

McCrumb, a descendant of the Overmountain Men and other Revolutionary War ancestors who helped turn the tide in the fierce and lengthy struggle for Independence from England, has once again drawn upon her own family legends, lore and place in American history to spin a masterful tale to spellbind and enchant the reader. Her novella Nora Bonesteel's Christmas Past is the newest entry in her award-winning "Ballad Novel" series set in the southern Appalachian mountain lands of her forebears. The tales are a rich tapestry of prose with a traditional song motif woven into the fabric of the storyline. Instead of a haunting 18th or 19th century refrain, the tune this time is Bing Crosby's White Christmas, first sung on live radio on Christmas, 1941 and subsequently recorded in 1942, a ballad of hope and longing that stirred listeners during World War II and soon became a perennial standard. The author has harmoniously and humorously woven twin plotlines together reuniting two of her best loved main characters from previous works, Spencer Arrowood (Fans may note Arwood is her matrilineal family name) and Nora Bonesteel. Sheriff Spencer Arrowood and Deputy Joe LeDonne face the unpleasant task of arresting an elderly man in his remote mountain home on Christmas Eve. This seemingly straightforward assignment leads them to a perform a kindly series of good deeds that demonstrate the true meaning of Christmas while evoking visions of Tom Sawyer's proven technique for white-washing Aunt Becky's fence. Fiercely independent nonagenarian seer Nora Bonesteel was first introduced in McCrumb's second Ballad novel The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter. Her gift of Sight has been both a blessing and curse for this practitioner of herbal medicines and traditional crafts. Nora keeps to herself but is pleased when a decayed old mansion she visited often as a young woman is purchased and restored by moneyed summer visitors. Florida residents Bill and Shirley Havertys' problems with an unseen intruder began after their decision to stay in their mountain retreat for the Christmas holidays. Shirley became convinced their home was haunted by an angry spirit when her freshly hung ornaments were smashed and their gaily trimmed artificial tree crashed in the night. Shirley had already sought Nora Bonesteel's tutelage in learning to garden and was familiar with her rumored psychic abilities.

Nora Bonesteel's Christmas Past is for me an instant classic, a Christmas tale of mysteries and miracles wrapped up in tradition, and destined to be read annually in years to come. It will delight old fans like me who have been reading Sharyn McCrumb's work for nearly three decades and will warm the hearts of those who pick up this slender volume in the spirit of the season.

Linda Hitchcock

Logan's Bookshelf

A Second Chance
Liz Miesnik
A Second Chance Media
2821 Ruston Court, Grimesland, NC 27837
9781939288790, $24.00, 206pp,

Synopsis: "A Second Chance: An Inspirational Journey through the Eyes of an Animal Shelter Volunteer" was created to give back to those that work and give unconditionally towards making a positive change in animal rescue and welfare. With beautiful photographs and quotes from some of the greatest names in history including Napoleon Hill, Mark Twain, Buddha, Vincent Van Gogh, Eleanor Roosevelt, Maya Angelou and many more, "A Second Chance" will enlighten your mind and lift your spirits. Created to inspire, to let the reader see what is in the eyes of the animals in our local rescue organizations, "A Second Chance" was not intended to be depressing, but on the contrary, to inspire and motivate. You will see it in the photos of the volunteers, staff, foster families and others who give their time and love to these animals, you will see it in the faces of the dogs and cats in their care. "A Second Chance" will touch the hearts of many and is a beautiful depiction to animal lovers, inspirational, self -help and motivational readers alike. Yes, you too can make a difference in the lives of these animals; it only takes a moment to open your heart. Until they find their forever home.

Critique: As informed and informative as it is heart-warming, inspired and inspiring, "A Second Chance: An Inspirational Journey through the Eyes of an Animal Shelter Volunteer" is a 'must read' for all canine enthusiasts and animal rights activists. Very highly recommended for personal and community library Pets/Wildlife collections, "A Second Chance: An Inspirational Journey through the Eyes of an Animal Shelter Volunteer" will be an enduringly popular and welcome addition.

A Muse and a Maze: Writing as Puzzle, Mystery, and Magic
Peter Turchi
Trinity University Press
One Trinity Place, San Antonio, TX 78212-7200
9781595341938, $29.95, 248pp,

Synopsis: With his characteristic talent for finding connections between writing and the stuff of our lives, Peter Turchi ventures into new and even more surprising literary territory. In "A Muse and a Maze: Writing as Puzzle, Mystery, and Magic", Turchi draws out the similarities between writing and puzzle-making and its flip-side, puzzle-solving. As he teases out how mystery lies at the heart of all storytelling, he uncovers the magic (the creation of credible illusion) that writers share with the likes of Houdini and master magicians. In Turchi's associative narrative, "A Muse and a Maze: Writing as Puzzle, Mystery, and Magic" reveals the history of puzzles, their obsessive quality, and notes that even Benjamin Franklin was a devotee of an ancient precursor of sudoku called Magic Squares. Applying this rich backdrop to the requirements of writing, Turchi reveals as much about the human psyche as he does about the literary imagination and the creative process.

Critique: An impressive work of original research combined with a remarkable flair for presentation, "A Muse and a Maze: Writing as Puzzle, Mystery, and Magic" is as informed and informative as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking. It is no surprise to learn that Peter Turchi has taught in and directed the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College, Asheville, North Carolina. An extraordinary read that is very highly recommended for those who appreciate the written word and those who have mastered its manipulation, "A Muse and a Maze: Writing as Puzzle, Mystery, and Magic" will prove to be an enduringly popular addition to community and academic library Literary Studies collections. It should also be noted that "A Muse and a Maze: Writing as Puzzle, Mystery, and Magic" is also available in a Kindle edition ($16.49).

Stan Tekiela
Adventure Publications
820 Cleveland Street South, Cambridge, MN 55051
9781591934936, $14.95, 128pp,

Synopsis: Feathers are possibly the most amazing body covering in the entire animal kingdom. No other covering does all that feathers do. From the delicate down feathers that keep birds warm to the sturdy flight feathers that allow birds to soar, these marvelous structures are something to admire. "Feathers: A Beautiful Look at a Bird's Most Unique Feature" by Stan Tekiela is recognized with a National Outdoor Book Award, filled with stunning, incomparable photos, and promises to delight as it takes the reader through the world of feathers. Everyone who celebrates nature, young and old alike, will appreciate this beautiful, detailed look at bird feathers.

Critique: Stunningly beautiful throughout, "Feathers: A Beautiful Look at a Bird's Most Unique Feature" is a 'must' for all ornithologists, as well as very highly recommended for the non-specialist general reader with a passing interest in the feathered beauty of birds. Replete with all manner of facts about feathers, "Feathers: A Beautiful Look at a Bird's Most Unique Feature" will prove to be an enduringly popular addition to personal, community, and academic library collections. It should be noted that "Feathers: A Beautiful Look at a Bird's Most Unique Feature" is also available in a Kindle edition ($8.69).

Food and French
Pam Bourgeois
Kolibri Languages Pocket Guide
9791091624152, $14.95, 98pp,

Synopsis: "Food and French" by Pam Bourgeois is a unique pocket guide is packed from cover to cover with information about French food. "Food and French" reveals how to serve food the French way, offers some tips from French housewives and instructs about favorite ingredients and culinary trends. There are lots of amusing anecdotes about classic French recipes and their origins, all this and disclosure of the many French dishes with literary, bizarre and even violent associations. "Food and French" covers French idioms and superstitions related to food, along with insights into the dos and don'ts when eating in France.

Whatever your level of French, in Food and French you'll find the words and phrases you need when talking about food, including key cooking terms, the names of the courses in a French meal, how to describe the taste of food and how to express your preferences. There's plenty of practical information too. Learn about French table manners, food festivals, how to eat certain food and find help when reading a French menu or when matching food and wine. Organized for easy reference and attractively illustrated with fun quizzes to help memorize key points, "Food and French" is an essential companion for understanding the importance of food in France, improving your French and enjoying French cuisine to the full. "Food and French" is an easy-to-use guide for beginners and intermediate speakers of French who love French food that fits in your pocket or purse for when traveling to France.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Food and French" is as informed and informative as it is 'user friendly' and very nicely illustrated throughout. Very highly recommended, "Food and French" will enhance any visit to any part of France whether for business or for pleasure.

Aristotle's Empiricism
Jean De Groot
Parmenides Publishing
3753 Howard Hughes Parkway #200, Las Vegas, NV 89169
9781930972834, $127.00, 468pp,

Synopsis: In "Aristotle's Empiricism: Experience and Mechanics in the 4th Century B.C.", Jean De Groot argues that an important part of Aristotle's natural philosophy has remained largely unexplored and shows that much of Aristotle's analysis of natural movement is influenced by the logic and concepts of mathematical mechanics that emerged from late Pythagorean thought. De Groot draws upon the pseudo-Aristotelian Physical Problems XVI to reconstruct the context of mechanics in Aristotle's time and to trace the development of kinematic thinking from Archytas to the Aristotelian Mechanics. She shows the influence of kinematic thinking on Aristotle's concept of power or potentiality, which she sees as having a physicalistic meaning originating in the problem of movement. De Groot identifies the source of early mechanical knowledge in kinesthetic awareness of mechanical advantage, showing the relation of Aristotle's empiricism to more ancient experience. "Aristotle's Empiricism: Experience and Mechanics in the 4th Century B.C." sheds light on the classical Greek understanding of imitation and device, as it questions both the claim that Aristotle's natural philosophy codifies opinions held by convention and the view that the cogency of his scientific ideas depends on metaphysics.

Critique: Empiricism is a theory which states that knowledge comes only or primarily from sensory experience. One of several views of epistemology, the study of human knowledge, along with rationalism and skepticism, empiricism emphasizes the role of experience and evidence, especially sensory experience, in the formation of ideas, over the notion of innate ideas or traditions; empiricists may argue however that traditions (or customs) arise due to relations of previous sense experiences.

Aristotle (384 - 322 BCE) was a Greek philosopher and scientist born in Stagira of Chalkidiki, next to the Macedon kingdom in the north part of the Greek world, at 384 BCE. At eighteen, he joined Plato's Academy in Athens and remained there until the age of thirty-seven (c. 347 BCE). His writings cover many subjects including physics, biology, zoology, metaphysics, logic, ethics, aesthetics, poetry, theater, music, rhetoric, linguistics, politics and government . His writings also constitute the first comprehensive system of Western philosophy. Aristotle was arguably the first genuine scientist in history.

"Aristotle's Empiricism: Experience and Mechanics in the 4th Century B.C." by Jean De Groot (Associate Professor in the School of Philosophy, The Catholic University of America) is a truly impressive body of extraordinary scholarship that is erudite, exceptionally well organized, and is a critically important and highly recommended contribution to academic library Aristotelian Studies reference collections and supplemental reading lists. Also very highly recommended id Professor DeGroot's early work, "Aristotle & Philoponus: Harvard Dissertations in the History of Science" (Dissertations-G, 9780824072513, $37.00, 183pp).

A Bowl Full of Nails
Charles Degelman
Harvard Square Editions
2152 Beachwood Terrace, Hollywood, CA 90068
9780989596046, $7.95, 276pp,

Synopsis: It's May 25, 1969 in Berkeley, California and fiery young Gus Bessemer vows to stop the war in Vietnam. His weapon of choice? Guerrilla street theater. But when a Berkeley riot squad escalates from teargas to shotguns, Gus' defiant art attack screeches to a halt. Injured, outraged, and on the lam -- Gus splits for the Colorado Rockies to work with his hands and get his head together. Ironically, Gus' quest for inner peace brings him face-to-face with a Rocky Mountain counterculture full of colorful communards, FBI snitches, stolen dynamite, and a dead body in the National Forest. "A Bowl Full of Nails" offers the reader a suspense-filled tale bursting with humor, espionage, and rebellion while the author explores Gus' dance between personal demons and political resistance.

Critique: A deftly crafted novel from first page to last, "A Bowl Full Of Nails" is an impressive testament to author Charles Degelman's talents as a skilled, engaging, and above all, entertaining story teller. A rewarding read, "A Bowlful Of Nails" is very highly recommended for personal reading lists and community library General Fiction collections.

Black Sun Descending
Stephen Legault
TouchWood Editions
c/o Brindle & Glass Publishing
103 - 1075 Pendergast Street, Victoria, BC, V8V 0A1
9781771510998, $14.95, 240pp,

Synopsis: Silas Pearson is plagued by nightmares. In them, his wife Penelope, who has now been missing for four years, is leading him to murder victims across the Colorado Plateau. When his dreams lead him to the Atlas Mill Tailings Project outside of Moab, Utah, Silas discovers the corpse of anti-uranium mining activist Jane Vaughn, who had gone missing from Flagstaff, Arizona. Silas travels across the Southwest and finds himself on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, trying to connect the murder with the disappearance of his wife, who was friends with Vaughn. There he confronts a host of suspects who wanted Jane Vaughn dead and who believed his wife, too, was interfering with progress on the Colorado Plateau. All the while, Pearson's nightmares, threaded with snatches of prose from the writings of Edward Abbey, are leading him closer to some final confrontation - but with what?

Critique: Superbly crafted mystery from beginning to end, "Black Sun Descending" is the newest edition to the outstanding 'Red Rock Canyon' mystery series and continue to document mystery novelist Stephen Legault's total mastery of the genre. A solid entertainment replete with unexpected twists and surprising turns, "Black Sun Descending" is very highly recommended for inclusion into community library Mystery/Suspense collections. Ideal for personal reading lists by mystery enthusiasts, it should be noted that "Black Sun Descending" is also available in a Kindle edition ($7.99).

Carl Logan

Margaret's Bookshelf

Our Love Of Loons
Stan Tekiela
Adventure Publications
820 Cleveland Street South, Cambridge, MN 55008
9781591934950, $9.95, 48pp,

Synopsis: Stunningly beautiful and very unique, loons have captured our hearts. We await their spring return and delight in hearing their calls across our northern lakes. Acclaimed naturalist and wildlife photographer Stan Tekiela shares his up-close-and-personal images as he recounts the season of the loons, from their arrival to raising their chicks to departing in the fall. Northland dwellers and visitors will treasure this celebration of the amazing loon.

Critique: The loons are a group of aquatic birds found in many parts of North America and northern Eurasia (Europe, Asia and debatably Africa). All living species of loons are members of the genus Gavia, family Gaviidae and order Gaviiformes. That's the science. "Our Love Of Loons" is a celebration of the beauty, majesty, serenity, and life experiences of these birds from their migrations, to mating and nest building, to the rearing of their young, to their flocking, and so much more. Magnificent full color photographs are enhanced by succinct and informative commentaries. "Our Love Of Loons" is truly extraordinary and would grace any personal or community library Wildlife collection and should be considered a 'must' for anyone who has ever heard the haunting call of the loon while hiking or camping in the wilderness.

The Complete Stories
Mary Butts
McPherson & Company
PO Box 1126, Kingston, NY 12401
9781620540091, $20.00, 432pp,

Synopsis: The short stories of Mary Butts (1890-1937) possess an intriguing relation to the present moment. They both embody their time (the Lost Generation during the '20s and '30s) and possess a stylistic freshness and intellectual breadth that feels very akin to our present day. As John Ashbery remarks in his preface to "The Complete Stories", 'After reading Butts one is left with an impression of dazzle, of magic, but what made it is hard to pin down...One keeps getting the feeling that these stories were written yesterday'. Now, for the first time in a single volume, all three of her story collections have been gathered, and seven uncollected stories have been added (including two pieces never before published). The power of hidden things and things of hidden power preoccupy these distinctive tales of love and betrayal, magic and mummery, belief and folly. Here, in the realm of active imagination, the veil between natural and supernatural may be rent apart in an instant, and just as quickly restored. The novelist and poet Glenway Wescott declared Mary Butts s first collection of stories, Speed the Plough, "the announcement of a new intellect, acute and passionate, to scrutinize experience with an unfamiliar penetration," which he then went on to compare with James Joyce's Dubliners. Marianne Moore, Evelyn Waugh, HD, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound, Ford Madox Ford, and Virgil Thomson all championed her work, and during her tragically brief lifetime Mary Butts's reputation rivaled Katherine Mansfield's and Virginia Woolf's. Her style is swift, elliptical and emotionally charged, exactly matched to the free-wheeling lives of her characters in Paris and London during an explosive era.

Critique: Mary Franeis Butts (13 December 1890 - 5 March 1937) was a British modernist writer. Her work found recognition in literary magazines such as The Bookman and The Little Review, as well as from fellow modernists, T. S. Eliot, H.D. and Bryher. After her death, her works fell into obscurity until they began to be republished in the 1980s. McPherson & Company is to be congratulated and thanked for making the short stories of Mary Butts available to a new and appreciative generation of readers in this outstanding anthology of her work. Simply stated, "The Complete Stories" is very highly recommended for personal reading lists, as well as both community and academic library Literary Studies collections.

The Novel of the Future
Anais Nin
Swallow Press
c/o Ohio University Press
215 Columbus Road, Suite 101, Athens, OH 45701
9780804011501, $16.95, 112pp,

Synopsis: "The Novel of the Future" explores the act of creation in literature, film, art, and dance in order to arrive at a new synthesis for the young artist struggling against the sterility, formlessness, and spiritual bankruptcy afflicting much of modern fiction. Identifying those trends which she finds most destructive in modern fiction (reportage, the substitution of violence for emotion, and the growing cults of ugliness, toughness, and caricature), author Anais Nin offers, instead, an argument for and synthesis of the poetic novel. Drawing upon such related arts as filmmaking, painting, and dance, Nin discusses her own efforts in this genre as well as the development of such writers as D. H. Lawrence, Henry Miller, Lawrence Durrell, Marguerite Young, and Djuna Barnes. In chapters devoted to the pursuit of the hidden self, the genesis of fiction, and the relationship between the diary and fiction, she addresses the materials, techniques, and nourishment of the arts, and the functions of art itself.

Critique: Anais Nin (February 21, 1903 - January 14, 1977) was an author born to Cuban parents in France, where she was also raised. She spent some time in Spain and Cuba but lived most of her life in the United States where she became an established author. She wrote journals (which span more than 60 years, beginning when she was 11 years old and ending shortly before her death), novels, critical studies, essays, short stories, and erotica. A great deal of her work, including Delta of Venus and Little Birds, was published posthumously. Informed, informative, thoughtful, and thought-provoking, "The Novel of the Future" is Nine at her very best and is highly recommended reading as relevant today at it was when first published in 1968. Also highly recommended for personal reading lists and academic library Literary Studies collections by Anais Nin and published by Swallow Press is "Seduction of the Minotaur" (9780804011495, $14.95). It should be noted that "The Novel of the Future" and "Seduction of the Minotaur" are also available in Kindle editions ($4.99 each).

Pig Park
Claudia Guadalupe Martinez
Cinco Puntos Press
701 Texas, El Paso, Texas 79901
9781935955764, $15.95, 248pp,

Synopsis: It's crazy! Fifteen-year-old Masi Burciaga hauls bricks to help build a giant pyramid in her neighborhood park. Her neighborhood is becoming more of a ghost town each day since the lard company moved away. Even her school closed down. Her family's bakery and the other surviving businesses may soon follow. As a last resort, the neighborhood grown-ups enlist all the remaining able-bodied boys and girls into this scheme in hopes of luring visitors. Maybe their neighbors will come back too. But something's not right about the entrepreneur behind it all. And then there's the new boy who came to help. The one with the softest of lips. Pig Park is a contemporary Faustian tale that forces us to look at the desperate lengths people will go to in the name of community--and maybe love.

Critique: An usual and engagingly entertaining novel, it is clear with "Pig Park" that author Claudia Guadalupe Martinez is a master storyteller that can hold the her reader's full attention from beginning to end. Deftly crafted characters and an inherently fascinating and imaginative tale, "Pig Park" is enthusiastically recommended for personal reading lists and would make a popular addition to community library collections. It should be noted that "Pig Park" is also available in a paperback edition (9781935955771, $9.95) and a Kindle edition ($6.99).

A Field Guide to the Natural Communities of Michigan
Joshua G. Cohen, et al.
Michigan State University Press
1405 South Harrison Road, Suite 25, East Lansing, MI 48823-5245
9781611861341, $34.95, 362pp,

Synopsis: The culmination of three decades of work by Michigan Natural Features Inventory ecologists Joshua G. Cohen, Michael A. Kost, Bradford S. Slaughter, and Dennis A. Albert, "A Field Guide to the Natural Communities of Michigan" is an essential guidebook to the natural communities of Michigan introduces the diverse terrain of a unique state. Small enough to carry in a backpack, this field guide provides a system for dividing the complex natural landscape of Michigan into easily understood and describable components called natural communities. Providing a new way to explore Michigan's many environments, this book details natural communities ranging from patterned fen to volcanic bedrock glade and beyond. The descriptions are supplemented with distribution maps, vibrant photographs, and comprehensive lists of characteristic plant species. The authors suggest places to visit to further study each type of natural community and provide a comprehensive glossary of ecological terms, as well as a dichotomous key for aiding field identification. An invaluable resource, "A Field Guide to the Natural Communities of Michigan" is meant to serve as a tool for those seeking to understand, describe, document, conserve, and restore the diversity of natural communities native to Michigan.

Critique: An impressive work of detailed research is especially recommended to the attention of Michigan-based ecologists, botanists, conservationists, naturalists, and outdoor enthusiasts. Informed and informative, "A Field Guide to the Natural Communities of Michigan" is exceptionally well organized and would prove to be a useful template for the creation of similar field guides for other states. "A Field Guide to the Natural Communities of Michigan" is very highly recommended for academic library reference collections in general, and Michigan's community library systems in particular.

Obvious Power: Getting to Know-How
Hary Morgan Moses
Devorss Publications
PO Box 1389, Carmarillo, CA 93012
9780875168760, $17.95, 200pp,

Synopsis: Many of us have come to understand that we are indeed spiritual beings, which means of course we are energetic beings. Energy is not separated from itself so the expansion of our awareness as energy beings is not only possible but inevitable. "Obvious Power: Getting to Know-How" is about the energy mechanisms which already exist in everyone. By starting where we are, we can step beyond comfort and safety into conscious co-creation. This opens us to new awareness which opens us to new energy. Yes, even though on the surface "Obvious Power: Getting to Know-How" is about self-improvement, happiness, habits and attitudes, it s also about the energy within and how our awareness of this energy along with the use of tools such as Habitudes empower each of us to grow and evolve gracefully in a world that is constantly changing.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Obvious Power: Getting to Know-How" is an ideal and informative read that is particularly recommended for the non-specialist general reader with an interest in improving the quality of their daily lives and gaining a clearer understanding of themselves as human beings. Very highly recommended for personal reading lists and community library Self-Help collections, it should be noted that "Obvious Power: Getting to Know-How" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

The Foundling's War
Michel Deon
Gallic Books
59 Ebury Street, London, England, SW1W 0NZ
Meryl Zegarek Public Relations
9781908313713, $16.95, 416pp,

Synopsis: In this sequel to the acclaimed novel "The Foundling Boy", novelist Michel Deon's hero comes to manhood and learns about desire and possession, sex and love, and the nuances of allegiance that war necessitates. In the aftermath of French defeat in July 1940, twenty-year-old Jean Arnaud and his ally, the charming conman Palfy, are hiding out at a brothel in Clermont-Ferrand, having narrowly escaped a firing squad. At a military parade, Jean falls for a beautiful stranger, Claude, who will help him forget his adolescent heartbreak but bring far more serious troubles of her own. Having safely reached occupied Paris, the friends mingle with art smugglers and forgers, social climbers, showbiz starlets, bluffers, swindlers, and profiteers, French and German, as Jean learns to make his way in a world of murky allegiances. But beyond the social whirl, the war cannot stay away forever.

Critique: Ably translated into English by Julian Evans, "The Foundling's War" is a deftly crafted and engaging novel populated with memorable characters and a complex story that holds the reader's total attention from beginning to end. As solidly entertaining as it is a memorable work of a master storyteller, "The Foundling's War" is very highly recommended for personal reading lists and community library collections. It should be noted that "The Foundling's War" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

Margaret Lane

Mason's Bookshelf

Uncle John's Robotica
The Bathroom Readers Institute
Portable Press
PO Box 1117, Ashland, OR 97520
9781626861763, $12.95, 256pp,

Synopsis: For more than 25 years, the writers at the Bathroom Readers' Institute have had a soft spot in their hearts for all things robotic. From the promise of artificial intelligence making the world a better place to the threat of an android apocalypse, we never get tired of reading about robots. They perform surgery, traverse the surface of Mars, and even cook a perfect steak . . . until they malfunction and chase after their human creators. "Uncle John's Robotica" is a compendium of succinct information that stimulates humor sensors with hundreds of incredible stories about robots from the past, the present, and the future. Readers should prepare to be assimilated as they learn about robotic suits controlled by monkeys, the robot that can rebuild itself, the world's first robot, pop-culture robots (such as the mecha-Michael Jackson with laser-shooting eyes), robotic roaches that herd real cockroaches, microscopic nanobots that heal you before you know you're sick, garbage-eating robots, and the actual chances of a Terminator-style robot war.

Critique: The newest addition to the Uncle John's Bathroom Reader series, "Uncle John's Robotica" does not disappoint. Fascinating little bits of off-beat history, "Uncle John's Robotica" is laced through and through with humor and off-beat information arising from the subject of robots in fiction and the real world alike. Tremendously fun and thoroughly entertaining, "Uncle John's Robotica" is very highly recommended for personal reading lists and community library collections. It should be noted that "Uncle John's Robotica" is also available in a Kindle edition ($8.99).

Worth Fighting For
Rory Fanning
Haymarket Books
PO Box 180165, Chicago, IL 60618
9781608463916, $16.95, 230pp,

Synopsis: Pat Tillman's death by friendly fire was covered up just days before his comrade Rory Fanning (who served in the same unit as Tillman) left the Army Rangers as a conscientious objector. Disquieted by his tours in Afghanistan, Fanning sets out to honor Tillman's legacy by crossing the United States on foot. Told with page-turning style, humor, and warmth, "Worth Fighting For: An Army Ranger's Journey Out of the Military and Across America" explores the emotional and social consequences of rejecting the mission of one of the most elite fighting forces in the world. It is only through the generous, and colorful people Fanning meets and the history he discovers that he learns to live again. Rory Fanning walked across the United States for the Pat Tillman Foundation in 2008 - 09, following two deployments to Afghanistan with the 2nd Army Ranger Battalion. He is a housing activist living in Chicago, Illinois.

Critique: A compelling read from beginning to end, it is all the more impressive to note that "Worth Fighting For: An Army Ranger's Journey Out of the Military and Across America" is author Rory Fanning's debut book as a writer. Readers will hope that it is not his last. An exceptional literary talent writing about an exceptionally important (and timely) issue of national important as well as personal relevance, Rory Fanning "Worth Fighting For: An Army Ranger's Journey Out of the Military and Across America" is unique and very highly recommended for personal reading lists and community library collections.

The Great Rebirth
Anders Aslund & Simeon Djankov, editors
Peterson Institute for International Economics
1750 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20036
9780881326970, $21.95, 320pp,

Synopsis: The fall of communism 25 years ago transformed the political and economic landscape in more than two dozen countries across Europe and Asia. In this volume political leaders, scholars and policymakers assess the lessons learned from the "great rebirth" of capitalism, highlighting the policies that were most successful in helping countries make the transition to stable and prosperous market economies, as well as those cases of countries reverting to political and economic authoritarianism. The authors of the essays comprising "The Great Rebirth: Lessons from the Victory of Capitalism over Communism" conclude that visionary leadership, and a willingness to take bold and comprehensive steps, achieved the best outcomes, and that privatization of state-owned enterprises and deregulation were essential to success. Recent backsliding, such as the reversal of economic and democratic reforms in Russia and Hungary, has cast a shadow over the legacy of the transition a quarter century ago, however. "The Great Rebirth: Lessons from the Victory of Capitalism over Communism" grew out of a two-day symposium of experts and practitioners reflecting on the past, present and future of reform, held in Budapest, Hungary, on May 6-7, 2014.

Critique: Collaboratively compiled and co-edited by Anders Aslund (a thirty year veteran specialist on post-communist economic transformation) and Simeon Djankov (Visiting Fellow, Peterson Institute for International Economics and Rector of the New Economic School, Moscow, Russia), "The Great Rebirth: Lessons from the Victory of Capitalism over Communism" is a compendium of fourteen seminal articles written by expert academicians and researchers. Enhanced with the inclusion of an eight page 'Timeline of Events in the Region'; a two page list of Abbreviations; a roster of contributors, and a comprehensive Index, "The Great Rebirth: Lessons from the Victory of Capitalism over Communism" is very highly recommended for academic library Economic Studies collections. For personal reading lists, it should be noted that "The Great Rebirth: Lessons from the Victory of Capitalism over Communism" is also available in a Kindle edition ($7.99).

Amp Up Your Sales
Andy Paul
Amacom Books
1601 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
9780814434871, $17.95, 240pp,

Synopsis: Salespeople today face a fast-paced and increasingly crowded marketplace where meaningful product differentiation has all but disappeared. To compete success fully, sellers must set themselves apart in the eyes of buyers. "Amp Up Your Sales: Powerful Strategies That Move Customers to Make Fast, Favorable Decisions" shows anyone how to become the trusted sales professional who consistently wins new business. Customers are overloaded with information, overwhelmed by options, and short on time - so the salesperson who is always responsive and completely focused on value, is the one who will stand out from the crowd and get the sale. Combining leading-edge research with field experience, "Amp Up Your Sales: Powerful Strategies That Move Customers to Make Fast, Favorable Decisions" shows readers how to: maximize the value of their selling; accelerate responsiveness to build trust and credibility; earn valuable selling time with customers; shape the buyer's vision; integrate persuasive stories into their sales process; and, build lasting relationships through follow-up and customer service. Insightful and practical, "Amp Up Your Sales: Powerful Strategies That Move Customers to Make Fast, Favorable Decisions" arms salespeople with a powerful set of strategies they can use to spur buyers to say yes!

Critique: In "Amp Up Your Sales: Powerful Strategies That Move Customers to Make Fast, Favorable Decisions" author Andy Paul draws upon his many years of experience and expertise to craft a thoroughly 'user friendly' instructional guide that is very highly recommended for anyone in the business of selling anything to anyone, whether in the context of a 'mom & pop' operation, to an international conglomerate. Very highly recommended for personal reading lists, as well as community academic library Business Studies collections, "Amp Up Your Sales: Powerful Strategies That Move Customers to Make Fast, Favorable Decisions" is also available in a Kindle edition ($7.96) and in an audio book download format ($17.14).

Did God Really Command Genocide?
Paul Copan & Matthew Flannagan
Baker Books
c/o Baker Publishing Group
6030 East Fulton, Ada, MI 49301
9780801016226, $16.99, 352pp,

Synopsis: A common objection to belief in the God of the Bible is that a good, kind, and loving deity would never command the wholesale slaughter of nations. Even Christians have a hard time stomaching such a thought, and many avoid reading those difficult Old Testament passages that make us squeamish. Instead, we quickly jump to the enemy-loving, forgiving Jesus of the New Testament. And yet, the question doesn't go away. Did God really command genocide? Is the command to "utterly destroy" morally unjustifiable? Is it literal? Are the issues more complex and nuanced than we realize? "Did God Really Command Genocide?: Coming to Terms with the Justice of God" tackles some of the most confusing and uncomfortable passages of Scripture. "Did God Really Command Genocide?" will help the Christian and nonbeliever alike understand the biblical, theological, philosophical, and ethical implications of Old Testament warfare passages.

Critique: The collaborative work of Paul Copan (Pledger Family Chair of Philosophy and Ethics, Palm Beach Atlantic University) and Matthew Flannagan (Researcher and Pastor, Takanini Community Church, Auckland, New Zealand), ""Did God Really Command Genocide?: Coming to Terms with the Justice of God" is a seminal work of outstanding theological scholarship. Informed and informative, thoughtful and thought-provoking, ""Did God Really Command Genocide?: Coming to Terms with the Justice of God" is especially recommended for pastors, youth pastors, campus ministers, apologetics readers, and non-specialist general readers -- regardless of denominational affiliation. Very highly recommended for seminary, academic, and community library collections, it should be noted that ""Did God Really Command Genocide?: Coming to Terms with the Justice of God" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

The Cow-Hunter
Charles Hudson
University of South Carolina Press
718 Devine Street, Columbia, SC 29208
9781611173871, $24.95, 320pp,

Synopsis: Vividly set in the rich pluralistic culture and primeval landscape of colonial South Carolina, "The Cow-Hunter" is an historical novel which brings to life, and back into our memory, the birth of free-range cattle herding that would later come to be associated exclusively with the American West. Drawing on his accomplished career as a leading scholar of the anthropology and history of the early South, author Charles Hudson weaves a compelling tale of adventure and love in the colorful tapestry of Charles Town taverns, backcountry trails, pinewoods cattle ranges, hidden villages of remnant native peoples, river highways, rice plantations, and more. "The Cow-Hunter" is the story of William MacGregor, a young Scottish immigrant trying to establish himself in the New World. A lover of philosophy and Shakespeare, William is penniless, which leads him to take work as a cow-hunter (colonial cowboy) for a pinder (colonial rancher) of a cowpen (colonial ranch) in the Carolina backcountry.
The pinder, an older man with three daughters, sees his world unraveling as he ages. The parallel to King Lear does not escape William, who gets caught up in the family drama as he falls in love with the pinder's youngest daughter. Except for the boss of his crew, who is the pinder's son-in-law, William's fellow cow-hunters are slaves: an old Indian captured in Spanish Florida, a Fulani captured in Africa, and two brothers, half-Indian and half-African, who were born into slavery in the New World. A rogue bull adds a chilling element of danger, and the romance is complicated by a rivalry with a wealthy rice planter's son. William struggles to salvage something from the increasingly disastrous situation, and the King Lear-like dissolution of the cowpen proceeds apace as the story heads toward its conclusion.

Critique: Expertly written from first page to last, "The Cow-Hunter" documents Charles Hudson as a master storyteller and a compelling novelist whose attention to historical detail brings authenticity to a fictional entertainment. A compelling and entertaining read from beginning to end, "The Cow-Hunter" is very highly recommended for western adventure enthusiasts and community library collections. It should also be noted that "The Cow-Hunter" is available in a Kindle edition ($11.00).

Brian May's Red Special
Brian May & Simon Bradley
Hal Leonard
c/o Hal Leonard Performing Arts Publishing
33 Plymouth St, Suite 302, Montclair, NJ 07042
9781480341470, $30.00, 144pp,

Synopsis: Brian May and his father Harold decided to make an electric guitar. Brian designed an instrument from scratch, with the intention that it would have a capability beyond anything that was out there, more tunable, with a greater range of pitches and sounds, with a better tremolo, and with a capability of feeding back through the air in a 'good' way'. The father and son team started to hand-build an electric guitar in 1963. Brian dreamed of a guitar that would outperform any of the existing commercially made electric guitars; his father had the technical knowledge and skills to help make the dream come true. Brian played his guitar on every Queen album and in all of Queen's live shows around the world. In "Brian May's Red Special: The Story of the Home-made Guitar That Rocked Queen and the World" readers will discover everything they ever wished to know about Brian's unique instrument. Brian talks about every aspect of the Red Special, from its birth to playing on the roof of Buckingham Palace, from Live Aid to the closing ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics and beyond. All of this is accompanied with original diagrams, sketches and notes dating from the building of the guitar, as well as a great selection of photographs including Brian on stage with his guitar, close-ups and x-rays.

Critique: A true 'insider's account', "Brian May's Red Special: The Story of the Home-made Guitar That Rocked Queen and the World" is as informed and informative as it is a pure pleasure to browse through. Profusely illustrated throughout, "Brian May's Red Special: The Story of the Home-made Guitar That Rocked Queen and the World" will be a "must read" for May's legions of fans. "Brian Mays Red Special: The Story of the Home-made Guitar That Rocked Queen and the World" is very highly recommended for both academic and community library American Music History collections.

Iron & Rust
Harry Sidebottom
The Overlook Press
141 Wooster Street, New York, NY 10012
9780007499847, $27.95, 432pp,

Synopsis: In "Iron & Rust", author Harry Sidebottom sets first volume of his 'Throne of the Caesars' series in one of the bloodiest periods of Roman history -- the Year of the Six Emperors. In spring AD 235, a surprise attack and the brutal murder of Emperor Alexander and his mother ends the Severan dynasty and shatters four decades of Roman certainty. Military hero Maximinus Thrax is the first Caesar risen from the barracks. A simple man of steel and violence, he will fight for Rome unconditionally. The Senators praise the new Emperor with elaborate oratory, but will any of them accept a Caesar who was once a shepherd boy? In the north, as the merciless war against the barbarians consumes men and treasure, rebellion and personal tragedy drive Maximinus to desperate extremes, bloody revenge, and the borders of sanity.

Critique: A superbly written, deftly crafted historical novel that grips and holds the reader's rapt attention from beginning to end, "Iron & Rust" is a solidly entertaining and highly recommended read. Simply stated, Harry Sidebottom is a gifted master of the genre with a storytelling talent that is rarely encountered today. Certain to be a popular addition to community library Historical Fiction collections, it should be noted that "Iron & Rust" is also available in a Kindle edition ($14.99).

We Share Our Matters
Rick Monture
University of Manitoba Press
301 St. John's College, Winnipeg, MB, Canada, R3T 2M5
9780887557675, $27.95, 240pp,

Synopsis: The Haudenosaunee, more commonly known as the Iroquois or Six Nations, have been one of the most widely written about Indigenous groups in the United States and Canada. But seldom have the voices emerging from this community been drawn on in order to understand its enduring intellectual traditions. Rick Monture's "We Share Our Matters: Two Centuries of Writing and Resistance at Six Nations of the Grand River" offers the first comprehensive portrait of how the Haudenosaunee of the Grand River region have expressed their long struggle for sovereignty in Canada. Through careful readings of more than two centuries of letters, speeches, ethnography, poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and film, Monture argues Haudenosaunee core beliefs have remained remarkably consistent and continue to inspire ways to address current social and political realities.

Critique: As a member of the Mohawk nation, Turtle clan, from the Six Nations of the Grand Rier Territory, Rick Monture (Director of the Indigenous Studies Program, McMaster University) draws upon a very special expertise to compile and edit this outstanding anthology organized into five major sections: Servant of the Soil: Joseph Brant and the Grand River Settlement; The Challenge to Haudenosaunee Nationhood: Performing Politics, Translating Culture; An Enemy's Food is On Our Country: Conflict, Diplomacy, and Land Rights; Displacement, Identity, and Resistance; Linking Arms Together: Six Nations of the Grand River from Oka to the Twenty-First Century. Enhanced with four pages of Notes, a ten page Bibliography, and a comprehensive Index, ""We Share Our Matters: Two Centuries of Writing and Resistance at Six Nations of the Grand River" is an impressive work of exceptional scholarship and a very highly recommended addition to academic library Native American reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists.

Jack Mason

Susan's Bookshelf

10 Stacks To Success: How to Achieve Success One Goal at a Time
Jerome Jay Isip
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781502960269, $9.97 PB,
B00OX9V6BG, $3.99 (Kindle),111 Pages (Estimated)

Motivational and Inspiring.

Well if you're wanting to become successful and looking for the way how, then I can't think of anything better than this book.

Jerome "Jay" Isip is the author, and he gives the reader in this eye opening book, not only the tools to succeed in business and life, but also delivers a short sharp wakeup call to those who think that they might have already been trying.

I really loved this book because it is written from 'real life' experience, it doesn't assume that the reader wants to spend hours at university or already has a degree. Neither does it suggest in any way the fact that it is necessary to have done both these things to get anywhere in life - how refreshing in this day and age! In his defence, I have to say, right here and now that the author does not criticize those who go down this path and acknowledges that for some professions these qualifications are necessary; however, this book looks at the opportunities there are for people who could not, or have not, either by choice or circumstance followed this path and yet still want to succeed.

In this very frank and straight talking book, the author uses his life, in many ways as an example of what not to do, and then shares with the readers how he managed to change the situations he found himself in, turning negatives into positives. A very important part of this book, is that he explains to the reader how to develop and use a PMA (Positive Mental Attitude), and how with the use of positive affirmation it is possible to literally change your life. With a positive mental attitude nothing is impossible, and if you embrace the concept of positive affirmation you can feel invincible.

The really empowering thing about reading this book is, that he explains how your life and your ability to succeed is entirely in your hands, no-one else's yours. All the way through you are given examples and encouraged to look inside yourself to succeed. Written with a no holds barred and a brutally honest attitude, the author enables you to see that any hurdles in your way are yours of the making, and brushes away any excuses you may feel like giving.
If you want to succeed in a career and/or your personal life this book is ideal for self-motivation. Written from first-hand experience, this is the most inspirational book I have ever read. The author's ability to inspire is amazing, and as soon as I started it I could feel myself becoming empowered by his words.

Damaged Goods
Jack Everett and David Coles
Barking Rain Press
B00QELYW76, $6.09, 348 Pages,

Mystery, Thriller

Firstly, I have to say that if you are looking for a book to grab your attention right from page one and then keep you hooked right through to the very end, then this is definitely the one for you.

Robert Cleghorn is a troubled man, with a past which makes him deadly. Ex-Special Forces and CIA, he is a highly trained, dangerous killing machine. However this is not all, war vet Robert has suffered brain damage, and has undergone extensive treatments which have left him with false memories of the past and the ability to suffer no remorse, a cruel and calculated killer.

Bubbling under the surface of this tortured mind is the injustice he believes his brother Alan has done to him, an infatuation with his sister-in-law Stephanie, and the firm belief that given the chance to talk to her, she will love him again. Then, whilst working for Alan at his home near Lake Kissimmee in Florida he snaps...

Whilst in the U.K. Detective inspector Stewart White is starting his new job in Leeds. As he settles in, and gets to know the officers, including the mysterious Shelly, a link is discovered between a series of seemingly random crimes. It soon becomes apparent that there is a deadly killer out there who must be caught quickly. But who are they searching for?

As communications hot up between American and the U.K., the true horror of the events in Florida unveil themselves and things begin to make sense. The killer has travelled to the U.K. on a false passport and is on a mission to right past wrongs, leaving a killing spree in his wake.

Following a trail across a snow clad Yorkshire, the police and the CIA are both desperate to stop this man, before he accomplishes his goal, but which one, if either will manage to do so?

This book was truly un-put-down-able, action packed with strong characters, an excellent plot, and plenty of twists and turns right until the last page. With such a brilliant storyline, I would love to see it made into a film. I cannot recommend it highly enough and look forward to reading more from these talented authors.

Ocular: The Haunting of Peacock Hill
Stephen Crockett
Amazon Digital Services
B00MP1I9J6, $8.82, 174 Pages,

Genre: Horror

When his father decides to use his inheritance money to buy and renovate a run-down house in Peacock Hill, south-eastern Virginia, fifteen year old Stephen finds it hard enough leaving their home, and everything they had known on Tangier Island in Chesapeake Bay to start a new life many miles away. Little does he know that their new home has a secret and its history explains why Peacock Hill, which used to be a thriving place, alive with laughter and families, now stands alone surrounded by acres of farmland.

The family looking around their new home, cannot understand how an old closet could have been missed, but there it is, standing out strangely among its newly painted surroundings.

Stephen, given the job of sorting it out, soon finds himself drawn to a fascinating old mirror whose frame appears to be covered in ancient symbols, unlike anything he has seen before...

It is not long before he discovers that the mysterious mirror is indeed not what it appears, it holds terrible secrets and inside is a gateway to.... Well you will find that out yourself.

With his parents busy, the troubled teenager has only two elderly 'neighbours' Gaggey and Grandma to turn to, and their advice to guide him. Luckily, Grandma has her journal, and the couple possess an uncanny memory of the house's past. However, will the pictures he has found, and their shared knowledge be enough to save the family?

If you are looking for a good scary story, containing all the ingredients a horror fan could wish for, then I cannot recommend this book enough. Demons, poltergeist, possession and ghosts are all there, liberally sprinkled with tortured cries and screams and brilliantly brought to life by the author's vivid imagination and wonderfully descriptive writing.

Susan Keefe, Reviewer

Suzie's Bookshelf

Thankful for You (Calendar Men - Mr. November)
Cindy Spencer Pape
Decadent Publishing Company
PO Box 407, Klawock, AK 99925
9781613336953, $2.99,

Contemporary Romance

A grenade ended Sig Nicki's military career, and returned him back to his Michigan hometown to rebuild his life. When he is asked to be a part of a calendar to benefit the Widows and Orphans fund he agrees. He never expected the reaction the town would have to his picture, overnight he has become the town's local hero.

Elsie Jordan is the owner of the town's pet shop. Sig is a regular customer, who visits her shop each week. With every visit he asks her out for dinner, and each time she refuses and reminds him that she doesn't date. Her rejection to his offer has nothing to do with the scars he received from his injury, instead it stems from a tragic past she has tried to put behind her.

When Sig's fame lands him as the town's Grand Marshall at the parade, he knows he doesn't want to attend the event solo. He makes a plea to Elsie to help him out of his dilemma. She agrees to go with him as friends only, but as the night comes to a close will their friendship be taken to a higher level of attraction?

THANKFUL FOR YOU is an EXCEPTIONAL romance! I was so impressed with Cindy Spencer Pape's writing style. Sig and Elsie are both wounded in their own way; together they find the healing bond each one of them needs to be whole. The chemistry these two exhibited skyrockets romance to new heights. THANKFUL FOR YOU is a part of the CALENDAR MEN series. It can easily be read as a standalone novel.

Snow Angels (Calendar Men - Mr. December)
Sabrina York
Decadent Publishing Company
PO Box 407, Klawock, AK 99925
9781613336724, $2.99,

Contemporary Romance

Ever since Wade Masters had agreed to be photographed for a calendar to benefit the Widow and Orphans fund, his life hasn't been the same. His photo made him an overnight success. Now he finds himself stalked by women everywhere he goes.

He decides to get away from it all by spending a month long getaway in his sister's cabin. He hopes that by the time the month is over, and his Mr. December status is through, his life will get back to normal. He never anticipated that a knock at his door would deliver Lyssa Salk. Lyssa is unlike any woman he has ever met. When she says that her car slid off the road, he knows by the threatening weather she will be his houseguest for however long it takes for the snow to melt.

Unbeknownst to Wade and Lyssa, Wade's sister put both of them at the cabin at the same time on purpose. She hopes being snowed in together will allow the two to get a chance to find one another in getting to know each other.

When Wade learns that Lyssa is able to communicate with the dead, and has a message for him from his deceased fiancee, will Wade put enough faith in her skills to allow her to receive the message from the beyond?

SNOW ANGELS is an exceptional romance. The paranormal elements that are entwined into the story line makes for one unique reading experience. This is one book that allowed time to get away from me; once I started there was no way I could look up until I was completely finished.

His Road Home
Anna Richland
Carina Press
9781426899126, $2.99, 109 Pages,

Contemporary Romance

In Afghanistan, Special Forces Medic Reynaldo 'Rey' Cruz finds himself in an uncomfortable situation when an Afghan Warlord offers him his daughter as thanks for medical care he had provided. He knows if he were to refuse the man, it could insult him enough to cause him to take out his anger on him. He thinks quickly and tells him that he has a fiancee at home. The man insists that he see a picture of the woman who has captured his heart.

With the help of the internet and a color printer, Rey goes in search of the perfect make believe "fiancee". When none of his Facebook friend's pictures will do, he goes back to his high school days and remembers one shy girl, Grace Kim. He manages to locate Grace's picture at where she works. With a bit of cut and pasting, he has the perfect engagement photo.

When Grace Kim receives a call from her family demanding to know why she hid an engagement she is puzzled at what they are referring to. Then a call from her boss offering her plane tickets to be with her fiancee further complicates things. When Grace starts to piece the confusing facts together, she finds that a wounded solider had her picture with him when he was injured. The story made media news and everyone is talking about how the brave young soldier deserves to have his fiancee by his side as he recovers.

Grace knows she has to make the trip to Walter Reed to hear why Rey fabricated the lie of their engagement. When she enters into Walter Reed Hospital it brings into perspective those that had made the ultimate sacrifice to defend their country. When she enters Rey's room, she finds that half his bed is empty, for he has lost both of his legs. In addition, he is suffering from a brain injury that has scrambled his speech. Although he understands everything that is being said to him, he is unable to speak the words that are locked away in his mind.

Hajar's Hidden Legacy (Beasts of the Desert)
Maisey Yates
Harlequin Presents
P.O. Box 5190, Buffalo, NY 14240-5190
9781408973271, $2.99, 190 pages,

Contemporary Romance

With her father's failing health, Princess Katherine knows it is up to her to ensure her country is secure with a new ruler. At an early age, an arranged marriage had been to the Sheik of Hajar; when she hears that him and his parents were killed in an attack her heart goes out to the one lone surviving member, Sheikh Zahir S'ad al Din.

Because of the scars he suffered in the accident that killed his family, Zahir rules his Kingdom from the wall of his castle. He does not want to see the pity of his followers, so he allows them to label him The Beast of Hajar.

Katherine takes matters into her own hands and goes to Hajar to find Zahir, the new Sheik of Hajar. She refuses to turn over her country to a distant relative. When she finds Zahir, hiding away in the darkness of his castle she does not let his scars detour her from her mission to convince him to become her husband.

Zahir admires the beauty that Katherine radiates; her strong will and determination to get her way sheds light into his dark existence. He knows his responsibility to his land includes finding a suitable match. Will the Beauty succeed in tearing down the fortress the Beast has built around his heart?

HAJAR'S HIDDEN LEGACY is an outstanding Beauty and the Beast romance. I instantly fell in love with the strong determination of Katherine to show Zahir that even though he was scarred, they were invisible to the love she was able to show him. HAJAR's HIDDEN LEGACY is written with emotional substance that will ensure that reader finishes the last page wanting more. In this reviewer's opinion, this is the best Beauty and the Beast retelling she has read in some time.

21 Days in Maui: How I Gave Myself Permission To Be Free
P.L. Como
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781503352537, $14.95, 188 Pages,

After separating from her husband three months ago, one woman takes a courageous leap of faith to leave everything that is familiar to her and set out on a three week adventure of self-discovery in Maui. There she meets a variety of people and participates in various activities that enrich her life. Each one of these events allowed her to see how she can incorporate them in her own lifestyle and be able to have a more fulfilling existence.

21 DAYS IN MAUI - HOW I GAVE MYSELF PERMISSION TO BE FREE allows the reader to travel with the author through her sabbatical journey of revelation to find her true self. Through her descriptive words each scene is beautifully orchestrated. A wealth of emotions is also conveyed in this book. It allows an individual to stop, reflect, and compare it to their own life situation.

The author has done a superb job in bringing to light that it is fully acceptable to break out of your daily routine and see that you have the power to turn your dreams into a reality. After I finished this book, there were several personal situations that were brought to light that showed me it was past time that I take charge of my own future and make the needed changes to live a more fulfilling life. I highly recommend this book to anyone who finds themselves struck in life's endless cycle of never ending redundancy.

Suzie Housley

Teri's Bookshelf

The Girl in 6E: A Deanna Madden Novel
A. R. Torre
Redhook Books
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017-0010
9780316404389, $20.00, 352 pages,

"Hope is dangerous. Hope can be the loose thread that pulls apart your sanity."

People are judged by how others view them. If you live next door to a librarian, you expect the person to be quiet and rather reserved. If your neighbor is a policeman, you expect a no-nonsense individual who has a strong few of right and wrong. What kind of neighbor would an internet sex performer be?

What would you expect if your neighbor was a recluse who received numerous packages and was never seen outside their apartment? Also, there is a lock on the outside imprisoning the occupant. Would you be curious? Would you attempt to make contact with this person or would you leave them alone?

This is the problem a delivery person has with the person living in apartment 6E. She has a nice voice and appears to be attractive. So why won't this person come out of their apartment? Jeremy, the UPS deliveryman slowly has a form of relationship with the resident in 6E leaving packages and forging her signature. That doesn't stop his curiosity. He wonders about the girl in 6E. He is intrigued by Jessica.

What about the occupant? Shouldn't they be entitled to their privacy? As long as no one is being harmed, endangered, and no laws are being broken, why can't people just leave others alone?

Who really cares if she earns her money through the internet via online sex sites?

Are the people on these sites moral, ethical, or even good people?

"I haven't touched another person in three years. That seems like a difficult task, but it's not anymore, thanks to the Internet. The Internet makes my income possible and provides anything I could possibly want in exchange for my credit card number. I've had to go into the underground world for a few things, and once in that world, I decided to stock up on a few fun items, like a new identity. I am now, when necessary, Jessica Beth Reilly. I use my alias to prevent others from finding out about my past."

The Girl in 6E is an intriguing novel with the protagonist/antagonist Deanna Madden/Jessica Reilly living a comfortable life in a self-enclosed prison of her own creation. This duality creates a novel that at times felt disgusting while at the same time slowly unveils the secrets of the main character, similar to pulling off each layer of an onion to find the soul with an assortment of supporting characters who you are never completely certain who is helpful and who is just plain evil. This constant weighing of love/hate or good/bad made for an unusual story.

The author, Alessandra Torre is a wife and mother living in the southern part of the United States. Previously she has written two erotic novels, Blindfolded Innocence published in 2012 and its sequel, Masked Innocence in 2013.

The Girl in 6E is not a novel for everyone, especially anyone under the age of eighteen. It is an adult novel but unquestionably is written by a gifted writer who can weave a character into an intricate and well-written story with numerous colored threads.

The Memorist
M. J. Rose
Mira Books
c/o Harlequin
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780778325840, $24.95, 460 pages,

"People are part of one great cosmic awareness, her father had tried to explain in different ways over the years. And souls who'd bonded in several lives over time and grown together through the millennium were eventually able to communicate with each other without words through that awareness.- - But she never had truly believed it."

A cosmic awareness that can connect the past to the present explaining people's inner motivations and relationships which can explain and miraculously answer the questions of the past is a bit much for anyone to believe, but what a great story it combines into The Memorist.

Reincarnation, could it be true? Could people be in the cycle of being born and dying until for some reason, perhaps they have finally fulfilled their life's destiny?

Add to that the unique musical tone from a particular flute playing a mystical musical pattern that can unlock those parts of your brain. This could open those hidden memories of previous lives by listening to the circle of fifths played on an old bone flute. Could music actually have this power?

For Meer Logan, she has had a difficult past. Throughout the years, there have been times where she has not been mentally stable, even non-responsive to the world. After her mother's death, her father delved into his work leaving Meer to withdraw completely into herself. Through extensive therapy, Meer has overcome her withdrawal. However, she still feels distant with her father. Being trained as a pianist, she still finds a closer music connection than human.

Ludwig van Beethoven was a brilliant pianist and composer. In this historical fictional novel, he is in possession of a special flute able to connect the thoughts of past lives to the present. As he nears death, he realizes that this flute should not be owned by those with unethical values. His plan is to hide it, possibly for eternity.

Is there some way that Meer could ever find it?

Award winning journalist, David Yalom watched as his family was murdered in a terrorist attack. How can anyone move past that? His plan is to destroy the world leaders meeting in Vienna during a concert. He has explored the massive tunnels and ruins under the buildings and streets of Vienna planning the perfect place for the explosives. In this act he would destroy the concert goers and himself while simultaneously sending his manifesto to worldwide news' agencies.

Sebastian is a member of the symphony. His son has withdrawn into himself splintering his marriage. He will do anything to save his son. What price will he pay?

A security firm wants to prove their excellence by providing safety for the international leaders and for the concert goers. However, they overlooked the area under the concert hall. Will they find the bomb in time?

Reincarnation, personality withdrawal, Beethoven's flute and the circle of fifths' melody, terrorism and security all combine into a riveting story creating The Memorist. This non-stop page turner combines history into a breathless tale by a master storyteller, M. J. Rose.

The author, M. J. Rose has written numerous novels both fiction and non-fiction while being a founder and board member of International Thriller Writers as well as

The Memorist is an intriguing novel, fast-paced, and riveting making you wonder about what might be in your past.

The Death of Pie
A Pennsylvania Dutch Mystery with Recipes
Tamar Myers
Severn House
Sutton, Surrey, England
9780727883810, $27.95, Hardback, 200 pages

The small Amish-Mennonite village of Hernia, Pennsylvania is a traditional village. Families have resided here for generations and sometimes have difficulty finding a distant enough cousin to marry. The community welcomes outsiders but prefers their old ways.

Ms. Ramat Sreym visited the small community and was fascinated by getting to know the people. She used this information to write a best-selling novel. However most of the residents of the community were not pleased with how each of them was portrayed in this novel. A bit of truth can be vicious gossip.

While staying in Hernia, Ramat stayed at a local bed-and-breakfast, The Penn Dutch Inn owned and run by Magdalena Yoder. Unfortunately during Ramat's stay, she didn't become close friends with the owner but did succeed at making enemies of most of the community once her book was published.

Being that now the author is considered to be a celebrity, Ramat was honored to be a guest judge at annual 110th Annual Festival of Pies. The pies for this event are outstanding being made with the natural foods, lard, salt and longtime family.

Ramat takes a bite of Magdalena's pie. She falls directly into it as she dies. It was poisoned.

So who is the likely suspect?

Besides Magdalena Yoder running the bed-and-breakfast in this Amish-Mennonite community, she is a wife to her Jewish husband who is a respected cardiologist and mother to a young son and adopted teen-aged daughter. Besides that she is the town mayor and the one in town responsible for financing the needs of the community including law enforcement.

How does anyone investigate the person paying their salary?

The new Chief of Police, Toy Graham realized that it was his responsibility to discover who had poisoned the glamorous author. Being that Toy quickly realized this conflict of interest since Magdalena paid Toy's salary and had paid for his police car, he wisely requested Magdalena to find the murderer. After all, he believed that she was the murderer.

The Death of Pie is a fun-to-read cozy mystery whose story is told from Magdalena's sarcastic but realistic point-of-view. As the investigation meets dead-ends and searches for new leads, the reader is with Magdalena as she questions each possible suspect. To further complicate issues, Magdalena is related to the suspects and also realizes that she is the most likely to have poisoned Ramat. It was her pie even if she had not actually baked it.

Tamar Myers writes from her Amish/Mennonite heritage and has written and published numerous novels and short stories many with her protagonist Magdalena Yoder. Myers was born in the Belgian Congo where her parents were American-Mennonite missionaries.

The Death of Pie is a delightful fun novel to read as are all the books by Tamar Myers.

Cookie's Case
A Tug Wyler Mystery
Mysterious Press
Open Road Integrated Media
New York, New York
9781497662766, $14.99, 287 pages

"What I've learned over the years is that every single event is riddled with several versions of truth. It all depends on whom you ask."

Being a personal-injury lawyer in New York City, Tug Wyler daily meets challenges that keep his life fast-paced and anything but dull. Being in the category as an ambulance chaser, he knows that he is better than most lawyers in his business and that frequently he faces ethical challenges not faced by other attorneys. This is what makes him a successful and classy attorney.

There are always at least two challenges in his business. The first is the honesty of the client. Are they believable? Does Tug really have the complete report of the incident causing the injury? What information has the client chosen not to tell him. The second is the underhanded behind-the-scenes competition and cut throat of other personal-injury attorneys in their attempt to make easy money. It is common for lawyers to steal each others' clients in this business.

Tug is fortunate that he usually does not need to search for his clients. He has HICS - Henry's injured criminals. Henry was an extremely successful criminal defense attorney who committed legal malpractice and can no longer acquire professional insurance needed for his business. Henry chose Tug to continue his business. Even though this is a consistent and constant income source for Tug, each case has some element that isn't quite legal and somehow Tug has to discover a way of smoothing over this wrinkle and winning the case for the client. Of course, Henry receives a percentage in payment for his referral. Their relationship is a win-win situation.

The latest case involves Cookie who is a longtime favored exotic pole dancer at Jingles Dance Bonanza. Cookie has a charismatic charm but has had difficulty dancing since her spine surgery three years ago. She always uses some prop during her acts. What caused her initial injury was the banana peel she had used as a prop. Accidentally she slipped on it hurting herself at the conclusion of her dance. Three surgeries and years later, she has horrendous headaches that require a spinal tap to relieve the pressure on her brain. She still wants to continue to dance and does so, even in a neck brace, cartwheeling her way around the stage.

Cookie's Case is a realistic fast-paced novel that is a mystery but the actual crime is not revealed initially. The writing is addictive with pages flying. The pacing is perfect with visual protagonists and antagonists, family life concerns, and the ethical concerns of a personal-injury attorney.

The author, Andy Siegel is actually in the same business as his protagonist, Tug, as a personal-injury and medical-malpractice attorney in New York City.

Cookie's Case is the second in the Tug Wyler following Suzy's Case. The first novel was named's Best Beach Reads in 2013.

This short concise novel is wonderfully written and a great insightful glimpse into the legal community

The BOOB Girls III
Sandhills and Shadows
The Burned Out Old Broads at Table 12
Joy Johnson
Grief Illustrated Press
Omaha, Nebraska
978010561232314, $14.95, 240 pages

A gorgeous gypsy reading palms of well-kept and well-respected residents of a nursing home is a calm activity until she alerts those seated at her table to move and to move quickly. In a matter of seconds, a 1962 Cadillac Eldorado convertible is occupying the exact spot where the fortune telling was occurring. The warning had saved their lives. How had Esmeralda St. Benedict known of the impending danger? However she had not warned the poor victim who was trapped in the bathroom after the car had pushed tables in front of the restroom door.

The BOOB girls which stands for The Burned Out Old Broads at Table 12 at the Meadow Lakes Retirement Community. Filling the chairs at the table are Mary Rose McGill, Dr. Robinson Leary and Hadley Joy Morris-Whitfield with one vacant chair. Others have been privileged to share their friendship and adventures with these three women who are determined to live each day to its fullest, even during their autumn years.

Filling the fourth chair at Table 12 now is Esmeralda, the gypsy who definitely is adding a new dimension to their already adventurous nature.

Dealing with the burned-out old broad's love life, family, health, aging, past, and hobbies continue to reveal each distinct personality into a fascinating tale.

Driving a Hummer and pulling a recreational vehicle is a challenge for many and these women successfully handle the two as their adventure continues to Fort Robinson in Nebraska discovering more about the strength and character of the historical figures as well as themselves.

All of the books in this series are light and quick reads. This particular one is different integrating history of the Sandhills. Included in this is some of the history of the imprisonment of Crazy Horse, as well as some of the lesser known parts of history such as the legendary Iron Teeth, the significance of Women's Army Corp, and various snippets of history into this story with the friendships and relationships growing and revealing a little more of each individual personality.

Author Joy Johnson co-founded North America's oldest and largest bereavement resource center for adults and Ted E. Bear Hollow for grieving children in the Omaha, Nebraska area. She has written numerous children books dealing with grief.

This third installment in this series continues the characters with light-hearted humor and friendship into an informative and educational novel in the fun-loving and delightful series.

Uprush, third edition
Jo Barney
Encore Press
Portland, Oregon
9781496004369, $12.95, 303 pages

"Then, on this weekend, just as water flew landward onto the beach in an uprush, a breaking wave of sorrow flows through their days, an uprush that changes each of their lives."

Four longtime friends are meeting at a beach house to renew their friendships, updating and sharing their lives with each other. All the women are in their sixties and each has discovered that life is not as well-ordered and smooth as they had hoped and expected.

Madge Slocum is a successful writer and has a gift for each of her friends. In her newest manuscript, she has written a chapter covering each of the women's lives. How would you like someone documenting all your life choices into a story? Madge does have a particular touch in story writing focusing on the truth which is not always what we want others to see. Each of the three women is challenged to correct, change and to continue their story before it is sent to be published. Does anyone want their lives revealed to everyone?

Lou, Madge, Jackie and Joan have endured troubled marriages and lives that appear perfect but in actuality have more heart-break and problems than they could ever have imagined. Appearances and plastic surgery can be deceiving. This get-together every few years catches them up on each other's lives and also brings a sense of "truth" into their relationship.

After the first night together, Lou, Jackie and Joan awaken to find Madge is not in the house. However, they are not really surprised. Together they wander on the beach and discover Madge's walking stick. Could Madge have been drowned, taken out with the tide? Why are these women not frantically searching more for her?

The women call the local sheriff after awhile to inform him of Madge's disappearance.

Lucius Baker tends to have an easy life in this small community. The most excitement he has had since taking this job in this small community of three thousand has been chasing cows, rescuing cats and goats and breaking up fights in the bars. His years of experience have given him an intuitive sense of knowing that these three women have not been completely truthful with him. Where is Madge? What secrets are they refusing to share with him?

Uprush is a stimulating novel to read involving realistic characters who have believable issues in their lives. The writing at first is a little confusing until it is understood the differences between Madge's writing and the actual events of the story. The characterization is outstanding with the reader being able to actually visualize each person and to understand the challenges and successes of each woman.

Uprush was previous published as The Solarium and is still available through Barnes and Noble and I-Books.

Jo Barney has written numerous short stories and has also published the thriller Graffiti Grandma.

Uprush is a novel reflecting our human nature and finding "truth" in our lives.

Jo Baker
9780345806970, $15.95

"Life was, Mrs. Hill had come to understand, a trial by endurance, which everybody, eventually, failed."

Life is a trial which we all just have to get through so that we fail? Isn't that rather pessimistic?

In the memorable Jane Austen novel, Pride and Prejudice, we were introduced to characters of privilege who had servants who were to be agreeable and basically fulfill whatever their these people wished. Basically it was slavery of a sort where the opinions of the servants were not valued and being that jobs inside the houses were few and considered prestigious, the servants worked for low wages with their housing and meals were provided. The idea seemed to be that life magically served the wealthy with the invisible servants scrambling to keep this perfect perception. In exchange, these same servants were granted little time-off or freedom to choose their own career. Granted that a few people who were servants became their own independent masters, that was unusual.

This was also the time period where wealthy women wore long dresses and petticoats often trailing on the ground. Perhaps fashion would have changed sooner if the people who wore these magnificent gowns were responsible for keeping them clean.

This is the story of those who resided in the back of the house and frequently lived in the back of the house and the attic rooms.

Longbourn is the story of Sarah who even though she was an orphan, received the opportunity for a better life being a housemaid. Yes, being a housemaid is definitely better than being in the workhouses where life truly was miserable. Her days in the Bennet house of Longbourn seem monotonous but she truly appreciates her position dumping and cleaning chamber pots, hand scrubbing all the laundry, and accomplishing all the multiple duties needed to keep a place proper and clean.

Besides Sarah, the other servants in the story include Mr. and Mrs. Hill who are the long term butler and cook and another housemaid, Polly who is new and unfamiliar with the expectations and lifestyle of servitude.

Sarah's attention is diverted when a new footman, James Smith is hired. He seems to have a mysterious past being that most able-bodied men at the time are off fighting the Napoleonic Wars. So why is he at Longbourn? Being that he tends to avoid those in the military, is he a deserter? Why does his back have scars of being whipped?

While many writers throughout the years have attempted to emulate Jane Austin, Jo Baker wonderfully composes a story which could easily be the companion novel to Pride and Prejudice, essentially an "Upstairs, Downstairs."

Longbourn is unquestionably an outstanding novel. With vivid descriptions and visualizations, the reader feels as if they are Sarah in England during the early nineteenth century. There is definitely a sense of the time period and the place as well as the sense of the smells and tastes.

Yes, the story at times seems contrived as in so many romantic novels. However, the writing is exquisite with outstanding descriptions and developed characters.

The author, Jo Baker is well known from her previous novels The Undertow, Offcomer, The Mermaid's Chair and The Telling. She was born and continues to live in England.

Longbourn is unquestionably an outstanding novel transporting its readers to the time of Jane Austen.

Teri Davis

Theodore's Bookshelf

A Stolen Season
Steve Hamilton
Minotaur Books
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9781250048493, $15.99, Paperback, 304 pp,

Summer is a very short season on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan; but in this story it almost never appears, along with some semblance of normalcy. Which is not unusual in an Alex McKnight plot. It begins when a boat with three men aboard crashes into some old pilings on Lake Superior and Alex, his sometime partner, Leon, and a third man rescue the drowning passengers, who turn out to be less than desirable characters.

The progression from that point on is one beating after another for either Alex or his blood brother, Vinnie. Alex also faces tragedy and almost loses his life a few times as well. He comes to terms with his long-distance romance with his Canadian policewoman girlfriend, Natalie Reynaud, and becomes involved in not one but two international major crimes.

The local color is always a major feature of the series, and the descriptions of the weather and geography are no disappointment. Characterizations are strong and the action is vivid. Although this book is a reprint of a novel first published in hardcover in 2005, it is as timely and interesting today as it was almost a decade ago, and is recommended.

Murder and Mendelssohn
Kerry Greenwood
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. 1st Ave., Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781464202469, $24.95, Hardcover, 336 pp.,

(This book is also available in a trade paperback edition, ISBN 9781464202483, $14.95, and a Large Type trade paperback edition, ISBN 9781464202476, $22.95, as well as in an e-book edition).

The Hon. Phryne Fisher, even after 20 novels, remains true to herself in this latest mystery in which she even joins a chorus to sing Mendelssohn's Elijah, exhibiting yet another talent to her apparently unlimited repertoire. The reason she undertakes the task is because not one but two conductors have been murdered and Detective Inspector Jack Robinson is not only at a loss to solve the crimes but is completely unfamiliar with the world of music.

A side plot involves matchmaking and preventing the murder of a former code-breaker, Rupert Sheffield, by Phryne plotting to join him up with an old acquaintance from the trenches in France when she was an ambulance driver in the Great War and pitting a couple of gangs against each other to eliminate the bosses.

The accustomed cast of characters to whom readers have become addicted, Dot, Mr. and Mrs. Butler, Jane, Ruth and Tinker, all play their roles with aplomb. And the usual touch of sex in the series play a major part in this one, as homosexuality, certainly a forbidden subject for the period (the 1930's), is a central focus (not to mention Phryne's free spirit and penchant for lovemaking with anyone to whom she is attracted). All in all, lots of fun, and recommended.

The Fire Dance: An Irene Huss Investigation
Helene Tursten, author
Translated by Laura A. Wideburg
Soho Crime
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9781616950125, $15.95, Paperback, 306 pp,

Fifteen years is a long time between police investigations involving the same person, but that is what Inspector Irene Huss finds as she investigates the death of a young woman, Sophie, who as an eight-year-old girl was suspected of arson in the death of her stepfather when their house burned down. What is so striking in the present is that Sophie was burned to death.

The novel proceeds basically in fits and starts, as Irene and the rest of the Gotberg Murder Squad encounter other cases taking up time, and as she seeks either a clue to the past, as well as the present, or inspiration. Sophie had grown up to be a choreographer and dancer who created a dance called, naturally, The Fire Dance, which debuts posthumously to great acclaim.

As in the previous five installments in the series, Irene juggles her police duties with family life, her gourmet chef husband and twin daughters who now exhibit minds of their own in relation to their interests and boyfriends. This portrayal makes Irene a sympathetic, and somewhat harried, character. But she prevails somehow in both roles. At the same time, the author manages to move a crime story forward subtly with panache.


Darkness, Darkness
John Harvey
80 Broad St., NY, NY 10005
9781605986166, $25.95, Hardcover, 352 pp,

In UK: Wm. Heinemann, ISBN 9780434022922, Hardcover, May, 2014, 344 pp., 18.99 BPS, in pb Sept. 2014 Arrow Publishing, 6.99 BPS, 432 pp., ISBN 9780099590958

In CA: in hc Wm. Heinemann, Oct. 2014, 34.99 CA$, 352 pp., ISBN 9780434022922; in pb Arrow Publishing, Oct., 2014, 15.99 CA$, 432 pp., ISBN 9780099590958

Heinemann/Arrow, c/o RandomHouse, 20 Vauxhall Bridge Rd., London SW1V 2SA,

All good things eventually come to an end. And, unfortunately, that time has come for the excellent Charlie Resnick series as well. In this last novel in which the superb detective and jazz enthusiast appears he is, of course, retired as an active cop, and is sitting behind a desk reviewing cold cases. Then a skeleton is found, and the SIO enlists Charlie to assist in the investigation because he was present on the scene 30 years before, during the historical coal miners' strike and could provide the team with background knowledge, and then some.

Charlie's guess, which is soon confirmed, is that the remains are those of a woman who went missing at the time. The inquiry proceeds along several lines, none of which seem to pan out. But Charlie and the SIO continue on. doggedly following each dead-end lead. After 30 years, this is not unexpected, and the higher-ups would not be disappointed if the investigation would end without a result, just fade away. But that's not Charlie's way or that of the SIO.

The author lived and worked in the area during the strike, observing the lives of the workers and their families, lending a strong authenticity to the background of the story, which alternates between that time and the present. "Darkness" is a fitting conclusion to one of the best crime series ever to appear, and is highly recommended

Forgiving Maximo Rothman
A.J. Sidransky
Berwick Court Publishing
P.O.B. 8515, Northfield, IL 60093
9780988954007, $16.95, Paperback, 305 pp,

This novel is both a mystery and an historical account of the plight of European and Russian Jews from the time before and during World War II to the present and the consequences of their experiences. It revolves around the life of Max Rothman, who is found dead on his bathroom floor in Washington Heights, New York City, and the effect his life and death has on various persons.

Max and his wife managed to escape to the Dominican Republic with a group of Jewish refugees when the dictator Trujillo allowed a settlement on the northern coast of the island in 1939. There, Max found some measure of contentment, even 'going native,' learning the language and mixing with the locals. After the war, his brother found a way to bring Max and his wife to New York. Later, his son Steven became ultra-orthodox while Max had already lost his faith after losing his first son as a stillborn, his twin brother and sister-in-law in the Holocaust, and other major sufferings. The murder investigation falls to a pair of detectives, one of whom, Tolya Hurchenko, a half-Jewish Russian emigre, has his own problems with familial relationships and religion.

The novel begins slowly as it establishes the necessary background, but picks up steam as it progresses. The story is told through a series of diary entries written by Max over the decades in three languages, and by flashbacks into Tolya's life in the Soviet Union and his interaction with his father, a brilliant mathematician. Some readers may find it difficult to follow the many deep religious references and words which play an essential part in the telling, although numerous footnotes provide more than adequate translations. (The novel's sequel is due out in 2015.)


The Hidden Child
Camilla Lackberg, author
Translated by Marlaine Delarty
Pegasus Books
80 Broad St., NY, NY 10005
9781605985534, $25.95, Hardcover, 526 pp,

This Swedish author has written eight novels, of which this is the fifth to be published in the United States. The first, "The Ice Princess," was widely accepted as on a par with the best of the recent Scandinavian noir novels. As with that debut book, this novel also is set in the small fishing village of Fjallbacka and is a police procedural.

Camilla Lackberg continues the series with Detective Patrik Hedstrom taking a four-month paternity leave to care of their young daughter, Maja, and other domestic duties, and enable his wife, Erica, to write her new book. After a tough beginning, especially getting acclimated to his new duties and missing his professional work, things develop in unexpected ways. To begin with, Erica discovers some old artifacts, including an Iron Cross, belonging to her mother which leads her to divert her attention to learn more about her parent.

Erica shows the medal to a retired history professor, a specialist in Nazi history, who is murdered shortly thereafter. Another murder of an elderly woman adds to the mystery, especially since the two victims were childhood friends. Are the crimes related? The plot continues with a dual thrust, with Erica pursuing knowledge of her mother and the police investigating the crimes. And the information developed becomes intertwined.

The novel, as its predecessors in the series, is of consistently high quality, well-plotted, carefully translated and well written. Perhaps most important, the characters are natural, every-day types of people, living typical lives and working hard. The plots move forward with logic, and the loose ends come together at the end smoothly, although in a completely unexpected manner.

Highly recommended.

Terminal City
Linda Fairstein
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780525953883, $26.95/32.95,

Little, Brown in UK
9780751550467, CA$/18.99 BPS, Hardcover, 379 pp.
100 Victoria Embankment, London EC4Y ODY

Linda Fairstein is noted for the meticulous research she does for each of her mysteries which take place in a different New York City landmark. And she outdoes herself in this novel which revolves around the century-old Grand Central Terminal, both above and below ground, well along the tracks north. In fact, it is so chock full of little- or even unknown facts that it boggles the mind. Who knew, for instance, that there is an elevator connecting the below surface area to the other landmark known as the Waldorf-Astoria? Or that the elevator was large enough to carry the polio-crippled FDR and his automobile from the tracks below up to street level and to allow him to enter the lobby?

The plot begins with the discovery of a woman, nude, raped with her throat cut from ear to ear, in a suite in the Waldorf Tower. Two additional murders occur, one a man who lives in the underground byways along the tracks and another woman, murdered in the same manner as the first, found in a private railroad car parked along the tracks. The crimes seem to be associated with Grand Central Station, and complicating the situation is the expected arrival of the President in a few days by rail.

Obviously, the denouement takes place in the terminal, but not until Mike Chapman and Alex Cooper pick up where they left off at the end of the previous book in the series (after a slight detour). As in previous installments, the plot is tight, writing succinct, and characterization and dialogue superb. Obviously, the novel is recommended.

A Song for the Dying
Stuart MacBride
HarperCollins, 10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780007344307, $24.99, 32.99 CA$, Hardcover, 516 pp,

Ash Henderson, a former DI, is in jail after having been framed by his archenemy, Mrs. Kerrigan. He comes up for parole every six months, only to be turned down because she instigates a fight between him and two thugs. Then he is rescued by a Detective Superintendent heading a special squad investigating a perpetrator, now resurfaced after several years' hiatus, whose MO is that he cuts nurses' stomachs open and inserts a plastic doll simulating a pregnancy. The reason for his release: Ash came closest to capturing the man years before, but lost him in a crowded railroad station.

So much for the plot, which teams Ash once again with forensic psychologist Dr. Alice McDonald. The rest is basic fine writing and character description as the police fumble in an effort to find The Inside Man, and Ash and Alice go their own way following one idea or another while trying to avoid any damage to themselves or the victims now held by the perpetrator.

This is the second in the Ash Henderson series and, like the initial entry, is craftily written. Henderson is quite a character, not averse to seeking justice by his own means or constructing a scenario which results in the same end. Such outcomes include revenge, so the subplot involving Mrs. Kerrigan provides some unusual goings-on. The whole mystery is tied together in a manner that leaves the reader's mind spinning as Ash brings each clue into focus.


Joseph Finder
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780525954606, $27.95, Hardcover, 400 pp,

Danny Goodman is a freelance biographer who is forced to live through a nightmare instead of writing about it. His daughter becomes friends with a school-mate, the daughter of a wealthy Boston investment advisor, Thomas Galvin. Then the two men become friends, laying the groundwork for Danny to be pressured into spying on his buddy for two DEA agents who claim he manages money for a Mexican drug cartel.

The plot is simple enough, putting Danny, his teen-age daughter and girlfriend into all kinds of life-threatening situations until Danny and Tom can extricate themselves from their precarious positions.

Joseph Finder has written a thriller that brings the reader along a twisted path. It is the story about what anyone will do to protect themselves and their loved ones from harm. Written with high emotion, Suspicion is well worth reading and is recommended.

Angelica's Smile
Andrea Camilleri
Translated by Stephen Sartarelli
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780143123767, $16.00, Paperback, 304 pp.,

Inspector Montalbano is now 58 years old, and sometimes he feels like he's "lost it" and should retire. Then in this latest caper, the 17th in the series, in the twilight of his days, he meets a young, beautiful woman, Angelica, in the course of investigating a series of similar burglaries and takes the plunge with her obvious assistance (and in face of the anticipated wrath of his long-time friend, Livia). Each of the burglaries follows the same pattern: A vacation home is broken into while the occupants are asleep, various contents are removed, including the keys to their homes in Vigata, and their car driven away. Then the home in town is entered using those keys and burglarized.

Angelica reminds the Inspector of the beautiful character in Ludovico Ariosto's romance, Orlando Furioso, with whom he "fell in love" as a youth. Of course, this old image is transferred to Angelica and gives the author the opportunity to put all kinds of quotes in the Inspector's mouth as he fantasizes about the real, live girl. As the crimes mount, neither Montalbano nor his side kick, Fazio, has a clue regarding the culprits. The Inspector keeps hoping for an inspiration in a flash of lightening.

As its predecessors, this novel shows off the quirky characters in the best of lights, their portrayal sharp and witty. Another excellent addition to a worthy, long-running series, and recommended.

Hunting Shadows
Charles Todd
William Morrow Paperbacks
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780062237101, $14.99, Paperback, 352 pp

Two murders in nearby towns in the English Fen area stump the local police, and the call to Scotland Yard is made, bringing Ian Rutledge into the investigation. The first victim is an Army Captain visiting the region to attend a wedding; the second, a local solicitor standing election for a seat in a by-election. Both are shot with a rifle and there appear to be no witnesses or any relationship between the two men.

Not an easy task for Rutledge, in this the 16th novel in the series, who in 1920 still suffers from the aftermath of his experiences in France during the Great War. The potential culprits are numerous, with lots of men in the area with wartime experience who possibly brought home souvenir rifles. Rutledge begins weeding them out, and it's a tedious effort, with pressures from all sides. He draws on his own wartime experience and begins looking for someone who had sniper duties.

The mother/son duo who writes the Rutledge mysteries (as well as the Bess Crawford series with which we're about to be graced with a new addition) construct a simple step-by-step plot, as Rutledge painstakingly looks at all possibilities. As usual, the novel's language and tenor is consistent with the period in which it takes place and the reader is brought along slowly and carefully to an intriguing conclusion.


Theodore Feit

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

Copyright ©2001

Site design by Williams Writing, Editing & Design