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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 12, Number 7 July 2012 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Aaron's Bookshelf Applegate's Bookshelf
Bethany's Bookshelf Buhle's Bookshelf Burroughs' Bookshelf
Carson's Bookshelf Clark's Bookshelf Crocco's Bookshelf
Daniel's Bookshelf Don Martin's Bookshelf Gary's Bookshelf
Gloria's Bookshelf Gorden's Bookshelf Harwood's Bookshelf
Heidi's Bookshelf Josh's Bookshelf Karyn's Bookshelf
Katherine's Bookshelf Logan's Bookshelf Margaret's Bookshelf
Maria Ryan's Bookshelf Mayra's Bookshelf Peggy's Bookshelf
Rhea's Bookshelf Richard's Bookshelf Sandra's Bookshelf
Suzie's Bookshelf Teri's Bookshelf Theodore's Bookshelf

Reviewer's Choice

Abstraction in Theory
Subhajit Ganguly
VMA Publications
9781475072495, $6.25,

Dr. Allen Jepson

For many years now, scientists, particularly physicists have been attempting to reach to a "theory of everything', a theory that would describe all known phenomena in the physical world. However, none of the attempts has yet been successful. The much publicized 'string theories' and other ToEs (Theories of Everything-s) have all but made our hopes rise, but unfortunately, they all have proved to be any satisfactory description of the known world.

Are we inching towards a new theory of everything in physics? Well the works of Subhajit Ganguly (theoretical physicist), now compiled in a book titled 'Abstraction In Theory: Laws Of Physical Transaction' points towards such a possibility. The theory most importantly does not assume anything at the beginning, but builds upon from 'zero postulation'. Zero postulation is a new approach that takes into account all possibilities and does not favour any possibility over others. Thus the very likelihood of building upon incomplete notions into some incomplete theory is eliminated by this method.

'This book is a way forward towards the 'theory of everything' in physics. True to this gigantic task, the author approaches the subject in a completely new way. The whole theory is based on the concept of 'zero-postulation', an area where others have been less than successful. The idea of 'zero-postulation' in itself is a tremendous leap in the methods applied in studying sciences. Based on no assumption, this approach is totally based on solid grounds, unlike the other theories in existence. It is a neat and satisfactory description of the world.'

The theory seems to have very strong foundations. It also seems to fit in as a successful description of the physical world. Definitely a way towards the much cited theory of everything in physics, the Holy Grail of physics. The author has done well in writing the book in a much lucid manner, taking into consideration the 'heaviness' of the subject it deals with. He has tried (and succeeded too) in making the book enjoyable for all readers: scholars and laymen alike. The only criterion for having takeaways from the book for any reader seems to be the possession of curiosity regarding the working of the world.

Joyce Faulkner
Red Engine Press
13 Torrey Pines Drive
Laguna Vista TX 78578
9781937958060, $17.95,

Alma H. Bond, Ph.D.

Windshift, by Joyce Faulkner, is a book of interest to all women, but is a particularly gift to those such as your reviewer who served in the military. The book is the story of four women who served in Women Air Service Pilots (WASP) during World War 11 and pays tribute to the brave pioneering spirit of these pilots. I was absorbed in the book from beginning to end, and know of no other book that depicts so accurately what it was like to serve in a woman's branch of the service.

The book is particularly good at stressing the stereotypes of the day, and makes us see how many of them still exist in the present. For example, "We are changing things," Mags says. "The war is changing things. That scares folks. Scared people are angry. Let's face it, a lot of the fellows....wanted to be transferred. They didn't even know us. They were just trying to protect their way of life, where the rules make sense to them."

"Where the rules favor them," Delores murmured.

"Well, sure. That's why they are scared" (p. 151.)

Along similar lines, Shirley wisely says, "We were also in a new world, where men and women no longer knew what to expect of one another" (p. 112).

Faulkner brings alive the characters of Shirley, Emmie, Dolores, and Mags as fully as if they were our next door neighbors. The characterizations are particularly well done and differ greatly from each other, so that it is impossible ever to mistake one of the women pilots for another. We have our favorites and those who annoy us, just as in real life. We thrill at their successes and grieve at their losses, whether it be a tiny dog or a beloved comrade. Best of all, the book grandly sweeps us up into the skies as if we too were members of WASP.

There are many moving episodes in the book. I particularly enjoyed the description of how the compulsive Shirley who apparently was afraid of dogs, got to like the tiny Seņor (p.102).

"He wiggled over and put his chin on her foot."

"'Go on, pet him,' Emmie whispered."

"Shirley caressed his back with trembling fingers." He struggled down and she caressed him again. Her nose burned and her eyes filled- 'He likes me,' she said in wonder."

There is an interesting description of how a single young woman was enticed to become pregnant and the terrible price she had to pay, which is of historical interest to those young people who have no idea of how greatly times have changed in regard to what was called "illegitimate" children not so long ago (p. 107).

Windshift, by Joyce Faulkner, is an original, fascinating window into the experiences of female pilots in World War 11. For those women who served at the time, it will bring back many memories, some happy, and some unpleasant, mainly of the difficulties of the blatant sexism experienced in a service consisting largely of men. For younger people, the book is of historical significance into a time when women had to struggle in a man's world to simply stay afloat. Windswept is also a novel and delightful expansion of our knowledge about a long departed service.

I highly recommend this book to all women veterans of the military in World War 11, and to our younger colleagues who wish to know what it was like to be a pioneer servicewoman so many years ago. It is also recommended to all people, men and women, young and old, who simply a enjoy a good read.

Spilling the Beans
Clarissa Dickson Wright
The Overlook Press
141 Wooster Street, New York, NY 10012
1590202968, $29.95,

Deacon Solomon

Reading reviews of Clarissa Dickson Wright's "Spilling the Beans: The Autobiography of One of Television's Two Fat Ladies" I notice one writer describes Dickson Wright as "a larger than life character." My take on that remark is that if Ms. Dickson Wright was any "larger than life," producers of Two Fat Ladies would have had to ditch that motorcycle-sidecar rig and haul the ol' broad around in a ten-wheel dump truck.

Speaking strictly of autobiographers, Dickson Wright is more fun than most and better reading than many. Clarissa is a competent writer, a side-splitting raconteur (think female Rodney Dangerfield), and a maniacal name-dropper. If she actually knows half the people she claims to know or have known, she's done enough living for sixteen or seventeen ordinary folks.

Through it all I was most impressed by Dickson Wright's forthright confession of her alcoholism, to sleeping on the streets occasionally, to squandering every dime she had, to the swamp of shame and degradation into which John Barleycorn leads those who (like this writer) are fool enough to follow. Many members of polite society, never having been there, have no idea how low one can actually go on a liquor binge. My own experience leads me to believe that Dickson Wright doesn't tell the half of it.

If I'm correct in that, what Clarissa left out is between her and her god, and that's exactly as it should be. (I once sat in a 12-step meeting and listened to the most angelic young woman I've ever seen tell how she used to go to the restroom at the supper club where she worked and lock herself in a stall so she could squat over the toilet and fill her cocaine syringe from the bowl. How many would have the nerve to admit that in print under their own byline?)

Based upon what Clarissa gives away in this book, I'll guess that the miracle of Dickson Wright's recovery had much to do with the fact that she was born into and grew up in a home where social skills were appreciated by the parents and instilled in the children by whatever means. I say so because however unhappy Clarissa and her siblings may have been, they at least came up in the world knowing how to make friends and how to keep them. Boarding school also seems to have helped them a great deal. Many children are less fortunate, and the worth of what they miss is in many ways immeasurable.

The last of my surmise is that Clarissa Dickson Wright was one of those whom folks in recovery call "a high-bottom drunk." She fell off of twenty stories but somehow hit hard on the eighth or tenth floor, so she didn't get hurt as badly as those who hurtle headlong all the way to the bottom. Good things that happened after she sobered up didn't simply fall into her lap nor did she create them parthenogenetically. Always giving her credit for having the sense to seize opportunity when she stumbles upon it, some of those opportunities were dropped in her way by old friends from better days, friends who had always hoped for and (when the chance came) were quick to aid her recovery. Hats off to people like them and to Clarissa for giving credit where she knows it's due.

On a darker note, it seems to me as if Clarissa's 12-Step commitment to "rigorous personal honesty" is less than rigorous where matters other than alcohol are at issue. This paragraph from p. 271:

In Los Angeles, ". . . the three of us went to Nobu for dinner, where the Food Network had in error booked us seats at the sushi bar rather than at a table in the restaurant. . . . I went to bat with a splendid tantrum in my best English vowels. A rather ordinary-looking man with stubble on his chin and unkempt hair came up and said we could have his table. On being seated Pat asked how we had got the table and I pointed out the man; . . . her jaw dropped, since the man was none other than Robert de Niro, the owner of the restaurant. We thanked him profusely but . . . he wouldn't join us. De Niro had discovered and backed chef Matsuhisa, the creator of his new wave Japanese cuisine. There are now Nobu restaurants in New York, Paris, London, Aspen and even very bravely in Tokyo. I find his food incredibly exciting and whenever Pat offers to take me out to dinner in London I ask to go to Nobu.

There we see that TV star Clarissa can't bother being civil to "an ordinary-looking man with stubble on his chin and unkempt hair." But when that same man turns out to be Robert de Niro, Clarissa is ready, willing, and eager to kiss his butt from L.A. to Tokyo and back. Others will feel as they may but, personally, toadies make me hurl.

Same goes for Clarissa's politics. In the last three chapters, her middle-class hypocrisy comes to the fore. She smears her opponents with allegations that they are paid terrorists. She tells horror stories about searching for bombs under her car. She strongly hints at the idea that her television career came to an end because there was some sort of collusion between BBC big-shots and her political opponents. All of those accusations are unsubstantiated.

That's the sort of behavior that, in her opponents, she would decry as lies or as paranoid conspiracy theories. Thus it is the same with Clarissa as it is with most activists everywhere: Those who engage in confrontational politics typically cry "Foul!" when they feel the worm has turned against them.

Unfortunately for Clarissa, I don't like boohoos any better than toadies. The first three quarters of Spilling the Beans is some of the best tragicomic entertainment that human nature provides. In this reader those first chapters built an empathy for Clarissa that, unfortunately, the author went a way toward wrecking in the final few chapters.

Solomon sez: One of the Two Fat Ladies died. The other should have kept her job in the kitchen. Five stars for good writing and an entertaining story, minus two stars for mucking up a perfectly good autobiography with a lot of crank politics. Read it if you must. It may well repay your effort. Spilling the Beans: The Autobiography of One of Television's Two Fat Ladies (New York: The Overlook Press; 328 pp., 2009. $29.95)

Bullpen Gospels
Dirk Hayhurst
Citadel Press
c/o Kensington Publishing Corporation
119 West 40th Street, New York, New York 10018
9780806531434, $14.95,


I'm sure "Bullpen Gospels: Major League Dreams of a Minor League Player" has garnered many comparisons to Jim Bouton's Ball Four and for good reason. Both are hilarious and revelatory accounts from pitchers about some of their time playing professional baseball.

"Bullpen Gospels: Major League Dreams of a Minor League Player" is very entertaining and there were many laugh out loud moments. The writing is easy to understand and frank in its descriptions. Considering the accounts Hayhurst did choose to share, I can hardly imagine what he chose to leave out. The greatest part of this book, however, is Hayhurst's attempt to find meaning beneath the jersey and his prerogative to share that meaning with us.

In all, a highly recommended book.

Essentially Yours
Aaron Paul Lazar
Paladin Timeless Books
c/o Twilight Times Books
PO Box 3340, Kingsport, TN 37664
9781606191682, $17.95, paperback
B007KPBBP6, $3.25, Kindle Edition

Joan Hall Hovey, Reviewer

Marcella's first love, Sky Hollister, has been missing for eighteen years and believed dead. But suddenly Marcella's best friend Callie, an agoraphobic owing to a past trauma that will come back to haunt her, receives evidence that her brother might still be alive. The evidence includes a bag of emeralds and a memory stick for which they have no password and several little brown bottles with colorful labels that hold precious oils.

Even though she is now married, Marcella's emotions overwhelm her as she struggles with old feelings. Will Sky be the same boy she remembered, so exciting and handsome and passionate? Or have the years in the Iraq war and God knows what else over all this time, hardened him? Would she be able to resist him? Did she even want to?

When her husband, Quinn, a half-Seneca Indian hears about the evidence indicating Sky is alive, he is driven to jealousy at thoughts of Sky Hollister returning to destroy what he and Marcella has built over seven years of marriage. No way will he allow that to happen.

But Sky's life is in peril and then Callie goes missing and Quinn puts his fears on the back burner and joins in the rescue mission for Sky and Callie, before they are killed. At last, Callie's psychically gifted Bernese Mountain dog, Beau find Sky hiding in the woods. But Callie is still missing. And their own lives are threatened.

The chase through the Adirondack Mountains is heart stopping and deadly, but it's only the beginning of their nightmare as together they try to find and rescue Callie.

There are mysteries upon mysteries in this novel. Essentially Yours is a non-stop thriller, but more than that, it's a love story, filled with sensuality. I say sensuality rather than blatant sexuality because that's the kind of writer Lazar is. Made me want to get those essential oils for myself. There is a gorgeous scene of Marcella and her lover (I won't tell you which lover) in the water that I promise you'll not easily forget.

Aaron Paul Lazar's novel Essentially Yours will keep you feverishly turning pages not only to find out what happens next, but to bathe in the sensuality of his vivid descriptions that draw you into his story and keep you there through all the excitement and fear and romance. There is a higher purpose in Sky's determination to save the data on the memory stick. But the bad guys are more than that; they are evil and will stop at nothing to satisfy the demands of their bosses, a rogue wing of FBI.

I highly recommend Essentially Yours, a story that will stay with you long after the final sentence.

Fifty Shades of Grey
E.L. James
Vintage Books
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780345803481, $15.95,

K. Anne

This is the very controversial book that is sweeping the nation and causing arguments on all the talk shows. Dr. Drew Pinsky, was in a snit over this book. People that like it, love it, and people that don't like it, are angry at the people that do.

Fifty Shades of Grey, is part one in a trilogy, written by a woman from London, England. This novel is sending her into the stratosphere similar to what J.K. Rowling experienced for her Harry Potter books. Although, Rowling wrote for kids, James' book is definitely not for kids. It's highly erotic and sexual in content, but that's not what all the fuss is about. The controversy surrounds the nature of the relationship between naive, 21 yr old, Anastasia and her rich, gorgeous, semi-bossy, 27 yr old boyfriend, Christian Grey (the irony of his first name is not lost on me). Some people are getting all-in-a-twist, because a man is quintessentially the traditional male leader/Alpha role in the relationship, and his girlfriend likes it, and apparently a lot of readers do too. This is driving feminists crazy. How dare we get turned on by something they've fought so hard to obliterate? I'm laughing at the notion that what should and shouldn't spark our libidos is up for discussion. Here's my theory: when an Alpha male is devoid of anger issues, insecurities, selfishness and takes pleasure in being the leader, then a relationship can be very healthy.

What makes this love story, (and yes it is a love story), so appealing to women are the dynamics between the characters. At 27, Christian Grey is a self-made billionaire (slightly unrealistic to believe that about a man so young, but the author took creative license and she couldn't have put an older man with a 20-something woman because that would have been creepy). Aside from that literary leap, Mr. Grey is tall, dark and handsome, brilliant, kind, caring, polite, respectful, with impeccable manners. Grey is especially protective and generous with his Anastasia. To top it off, he is primal and linear in his conquest of her. His passion (somewhat kinky) for her could "set fire to the rain" (credit, Adele).

With this book, E.L. James has tapped into the primitive desires that some women have and have had and will always have, meaning women want to be loved, protected, provided for, cherished and then ravished in the bedroom. Everything Grey does and says has the goal of igniting his woman's libido. He is completely unselfish toward her, which results in his happiness too. He derives pleasure from making her happy and that is a huge turn on. This book and it's main character exemplifies the old adage, "happy wife, happy life". It's just too bad that more men don't get a clue about this.

I recommend this book.

The Drunkard's Son
Dennis Foley
Side Street Press
P.O. Box 438518, Chicago, IL 60643-8518
9780615578620, $13.95,

Luke Michaels

Chicago Author On Target With Edgy 1960s and '70's Memoir

Award-winning Chicago author Dennis Foley was nearly stabbed to death in an alley fight at the age of 15. In his latest book, The Drunkard's Son, Foley looks back from his hospital ICU bed and recounts those days growing up on Chicago's South side in the 1960s and '70s, a time of strife that also found his family running head on into an endless series of roadblocks. Foley intertwines humorous stories about his misadventures with his drunken father alongside journal entries about the strange solitude Foley seemed to enjoy during his 10-day hospital stay, where he befriended an old man dying of cancer.

"I'm a life-long Southsider," said Foley, "and this is definitely a Chicago story. The strengths and weaknesses of our city are seen through the eyes of a young boy and I think this telling works. There's a sense of innocence, a sense of discovery as the young narrator shares his stories. It's a story about Chicago's neighborhoods, blue collar families, my family, and the quirky people who inhabit all of these."

Quirky to say the least. The odd agents who weave their way across Foley's pages make for a fantastic read. While this mem-fic (part memoir, part fiction) contains a number of sad stories reminiscent of Angela's Ashes, Foley's humorous stories help bring good balance to this work. Stories such as "The Fish House," where Foley acts as his father's accomplice during a drunken heist at a pet shop, and "Naked Ladies" will delight readers, while stories like "Mike the Cat" and "Darts" may invoke nightmares.

Foley's first book, The Streets and San Man's Guide to Chicago Eats, reached icon status in Chicago with its insightful, humorous reviews of Chicago's off-the-beaten-track eateries and insight into Chicago's neighborhoods. That book won the Midwest Independent Publishers Association Book Award--1st Place for humor, and became one of the top-selling books produced by publisher Lake Claremont Press. After having worked as a bouncer, beer-line cleaner, prosecutor, criminal defense lawyer, electrician, dog walker, and newspaper deliveryman, Foley currently works as a teacher and coach at St. Laurence High School on the edge of Chicago's South side.

Murder Down Under
Nancy Curteman
Solstice Publishing
P.O. Box 460455, Denver, CO 80246
9781477532034, $15.99
0983463107, Kindle: $4.99

Michael Thal

Lysi Westin and her partner Grace Wright are in Sydney, Australia for a conference on sexual harassment. They plan to take an evening off for dinner with Grace's childhood friend, Marita. But that meal never materializes for Marita was brutally murdered.

Murder Down Under by Nancy Curteman is a fast-paced murder mystery where amateur sleuth, Lysi Westin attempts to unravel a tangled assortment of leads and incriminating evidence to determine Marita's killer. As Lysi gets stuck in a cobweb of facts and misinformation, Maynard Christie, an attractive Sydney detective working on the murder investigation, tries to thwart her meddling.

Sparks fly between Lysi and Maynard as Grace comforts Marita's grieving fiance. Through the complex plot twists Curteman shows us Australia with a colorful narrative style depicting the Aussie continent's culture and landscape.

Murder Down Under is written in the third person omniscient point of view. By exploring characters' thoughts readers are provided an enjoyable read by a very talented writer. And the good news is, another Lysi Westin novel, Murder in a Teacup, is waiting in the wings to be read.

The Success Attitude: Haunting Messages Guiding Us
Janice Davies
1st World Publishing
809 2nd Street, Fairfield IA 52556
9781421886312, $15.95,

Paul Lappen, Reviewer

This is the true story of an average woman who left an unpleasant personal situation, and found herself.

Born in New Zealand, Davies grew up in a very normal family. There were yearly Christmas camping trips, and many excursions on sailing ships. As a child, she showed leadership qualities, and had an attitude of saying Yes to new challenges and opportunities. A year of being bullied in secondary school changed everything.

Davies suppressed herself, wanting to fade into the background, and changed her attitude to No. After high school. she did some traveling, living and working in Australia and England. She came back to New Zealand, and married Phillip. A pair of daughters soon followed. Phillip was not physically abusive; he did not smoke, drink or stay out all night. Phillip was mentally and emotionally abusive. After several years of such treatment, Davies took her daughters and left him. Nearby parents and relatives helped greatly. Money was tight, but they managed.

Even on good days, being a single, stay at home parent is hard and exhausting. Getting involved with other mothers, Davies slowly started to re-discover herself. She got a job as a travel tutor, teaching others to be travel agents. The hours were very long; most weekends, she would collapse from exhaustion. The three moved into a large house that provided rooms for tenants to help pay the mortgage. It was not until after they moved in, and strange things started happening, that they learned that the house was haunted.

Davies continued to grow, emotionally and professionally. She became a full-time life coach. On several occasions, she received clear messages from "God" (meant as a generic term). Writing this book was the subject of one of those messages. Have you ever received such a message, telling you to do something outside of your comfort zone? Did you listen to the message?

This is a very inspirational story. It shows how one person got out of a very difficult marital situation, with children involved. It also shows how messages from "God" (or Spirit, or The Universe) can help us to become the person we were meant to be. This is very much worth the reader's time.

Secure the Shadow
Claudia Emerson
Louisiana State University Press
Building 3005
8000 GSRI Road, Baton Rouge, LA 70820
9780807143025 $47.33 (hb)
9780807143032 $14.21 (pb)
B007FRK7V8, $9.99 (Kindle)

Tracy M. Riva

Secure the Shadow is a book of poems by Claudia Emerson. The poems delve deeply into human nature, life on the farm, and death, both animal and human. Memories are laid out in a manner that makes them easy for all readers to relate to. The poetess also makes strong use of imagery until one can see and hear the scenes described upon the pages.

I found Secure the Shadow evoked a melancholy mood and visceral reaction. The writer's subject matter is varied and while it can certainly be argued that she is exorcizing some personal demons this does not take over the entirety of the material or negate the fine quality of writing present.

While I loved the use of imagery and how vividly the scenes came to life, I felt all of them were touched with a dab of drudgery. Of course, the writer looks at rural farm life through a lens of reality rather than the idealized image of rural life that many carry in their imagination. While there is an innocence and naivety that comes across because of this, there is a strong opposing influence brought about by the reality of chores, the difficulty of life and the rather bloody task of killing and butchering animals. This juxtaposition brings added depth to this work and makes it truly enjoyable.

I would recommend Secure the Shadow to the serious reader of poetry. It is well worth the short time it takes to read it and it would be a welcome addition to a permanent library.

Aaron's Bookshelf

Listen to the Shadows
Joan Hall Hovey
Amazon Digital Services
B00466HZPC, $3.99 Kindle,

I must say right up front that I have been a fan of Joan Hall Hovey since I read CHILL WATERS a few years ago. After that, I sought each release with the same excitement I do for new books by bestselling authors like Dean Koontz. I've read all of Ms. Hovey's books, and simply loved them.

That's why it was so fascinating to read Ms. Hovey's very first novel, LISTEN TO THE SHADOWS, which is now available as an eBook.

Completely aside from the entertaining plot, from a writer's point of view I enjoyed glimpsing the emerging elements of this grand lady's talent in her early work: the wonderful scene-setting, the bone-chilling fear she instills, the creepy villain(s), and the underlying romantic tension. Although not as developed as her current day works, the story was most enjoyable, and I found myself flying through the pages to discover what would happen to her likeable protagonist.

The plot is intriguing: artist Kate Summers is stalked by an unknown assailant; a definite nutcase who tortures her in a very disturbing fashion, setting up straw figures in her car and home to horrify her at the most unexpected moments, lurking in the background, in those decidedly frightening shadows. And to balance that creepiness, there's a dark and troubled yet quite intriguing psychiatrist to whom Kate Summers is drawn, a nice counterpoint to the villainous happenings. I also particularly enjoyed the well-drawn and engaging character of Kate's friend, Jason Belding.

My favorite scenes were those by Black Lake in the house Kate inherited from her dear departed aunt. I smelled the fragrance of the water and pines, and felt the old floorboards creaking when I walked over them with Kate. When the protagonist felt chilled in the unheated cottage, I reached for a blanket.

These are some of the skills at which Ms. Hovey excels.

Another setting I enjoyed was the damp, dark cellar of the old house. Wow, great action, tension, and suspense happened down there in that very creepy locale. Well done, Ms. Hovey.

Most authors learn as they progress, and I'm not different. I am prouder of my later books than my first or second or third, and I can see the progression quite clearly in all of Ms. Hovey's works. They just keep getting better and better, but this early book is most enjoyable. I gave it five stars because I've read all the others and they are definitely five plus, plus stars. It's hard to judge when you're comparing against an author's more advanced works, isn't it?

I'm looking forward with great anticipation to Ms. Joan Hall Hovey's next release, and hoping it comes soon.

Trust Your Life: Forgive Yourself and Go after Your Dreams
Noelle Sterne, Ph.D.
Unity Books
9780871593511, $15.95 print / $9.99 Kindle

In Noelle Sterne's new inspirational book, TRUST YOUR LIFE, she offers us a fresh opportunity to examine our lives and embrace our suppressed dreams. How many people do you know who lament about their unfound dreams, who wish they'd tried their hand at painting (for example), but "knew" they weren't good enough? Do you know people who brood about the thought of opening their own bakery, or any other business, and don't because they're certain they just don't have what it takes?

Dreams like this abound on every street corner, in every office, in every home, and probably in every heart. Yet many people resign themselves to an unfulfilled life, feeling incapable of change.

TRUST YOUR LIFE is an outgrowth of Ms. Sterne's twenty-eight-year consulting and editorial practice, in which she serves clients pursuing graduate degrees and in other spheres of academia, as well as business and creative projects. With a Ph. D from Columbia University, Ms. Sterne offers a wealth of knowledge and experience not only from an academic perspective but from a spiritual aspect as well.

With her insightful, motivational examples, Ms. Sterne lovingly guides us in easy-to-read, step-by-step methods to help us believe and achieve our lifelong dreams.

Here's an excerpt from Chapter 10, "Take the Leap: Believe in Your Dream and Deserve It":

Many years ago, during my typing years, in a session with a psychic (the only time I ever went), I sobbed, "All I ever do is type. How can I ever get out of this and start writing in earnest?"
Jean's answer has stuck with me for decades and makes ultimate sense:
"Accept where you are now. However hard it is, impossible, love it. Love it 100% and more. The more you love it, the sooner you'll shoot out from it."
At her words, the image burst into my mind of a large, strong bird fluttering its wings and emerging from a leaf-covered nest. It spread its wings and soared into the sky.
Can you love where you are? This is part of your lesson and discipline. Focus only on loving it, despite all the gripes, impossible duties, demands, people, schedules. The sooner you start loving where you are, the sooner you'll no longer need it and the faster you'll soar from it.

Well-researched and chock full of delicious quotes from Thoreau to Jesus, this spiritual and grounded guide will connect with the hearts of people who toil in unhappy circumstances, or feel they are victims of God's frivolous will. Ms. Sterne addresses these misconceptions with head-on confrontation and plenty of self-bolstering techniques.

As an author, professional, and family man, I feel motivated by uplifting words such as these, and I believe readers of this book will as well. Ms. Sterne's personal stories, her own and those of many others, are easy to relate to and present wonderful testimonies that set examples for all of us.

I'm confident that TRUST YOUR LIFE will birth or bring along a host of talented artists and dancers, farmers and singers, potters, bakers, and horsemen. This book will help them - and all of us - take hold of the dreams we yearn for, follow them, and fill our new lives with moments of delirious joy. It will show us that our dreams are, indeed, infinitely achievable.

The Womanizer
Warren Adler
Stonehouse Press
9781590060216, $9.95 (pb)
B004ASNBNG $2.99 (Kindle),

Warren Adler is a master student of the human mind, its inner workings, and the interesting, bizarre pathways that occur in (particularly) disturbed or non-heroic figures. In THE WOMANIZER, Mr. Adler delves into the life of Allen Harris, a man who has had three intense love affairs while being married to his adoring, long-time wife, and in his usual, inimitable fashion, the author evokes unexpected empathy for this seriously flawed character.

I despise the behavior of infidelity, (I believe marriage is forever unless there are some very bad extenuating circumstances, and I really look down on adulterers!), but Mr. Adler actually made me sympathize with his Mr. Harris. Now that's true talent. I admire the writer who can take a despicable man or villain and elicit sympathy from his readers, in spite of the awful truths that cannot be denied. Mr. Adler is very good at shades of gray in the literary painting of his characters; he provides a great example for those of us who always seek to improve our own writing and characterization.

The journey from current day reflection ("I am up for a new prestigious job, will they find out about my affairs and disqualify me?") to the intense and really convoluted thoughts flashing back to past relationships ("I really love my wife and would never leave her, I don't know why I'm doing this, but I'm still a good husband...") to the obsession about how deeply our protagonist must have affected the women with whom he had these affairs ("Will they seek revenge? Will they ruin my chances?") to the deeper, darker thoughts that made me wonder if this guy would simply kill them all to shut them up... it was quite a ride!

Here is a passage that depicts the inner workings of Mr. Harris's delusional brain, with apologies to Mr. Adler for removing a few of the more provocative words for the sake of making this review easily accessible to all:

"In a strange way, time had distorted the old fear. Once his primary anxiety had been exposure, blatant, in-your-face exposure, a full-blown confrontation, in the midst of, as they say, flagrante delicto in living color, imagined as a kind of movie in his mind. There he would be, caught in the act by someone, a photographer perhaps, disengaging in panic, revealed with moist dwindling tumescence, his skin flushed pink by aborted passion and embarrassment, while his partner of the moment was poised and ready. There they would be the three of them in a tableau of expectation, rage, shame, and humiliation.

Explanation would be impossible, although he had gone over the possibilities in his mind again and again. He would have had to compound the felony with meaningless protestations as if the female human he had held in thrall at that moment did not exist, was an illusion, a kind of ghost. It was nothing, he might whine, merely a roll in the hay, a passing moment of pure lust, "commanded by the one-eyed monster," as McNaughton, his partner, a blatant philanderer, put it often. The truth lay elsewhere. He could, of course, find excuses and rationalizations like Sandborn's contorted explanation, implying the ruthlessness of the male libido, which could attack self-discipline like a virus.*"

*Adler, Warren (2010-09-23). The Womanizer (Kindle Locations 1515-1520). Stonehouse Press. Kindle Edition.

There is a lovely surprise twist toward the end, and although it felt like the very end was a little abruptly ended (my humble opinion), it is worth the read, especially to those who marvel at the capacity of the human mind to delude itself.

Mr. Adler professes to write "genre-less" fiction. If pressed to assign a genre, I'd say this falls into literary fiction or psychological drama. Not that it matters, it's still a fascinating read.

Aaron Lazar, Reviewer

Applegate's Bookshelf

The Good Father
Noah Hawley
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019,
9780385535618, Nook eBook $12.99; Paperback: $15.95; hardcover: $13.98

It's hard to place Noah Hawley's book into a single category . . . The Good Father is an extraordinary book, one not easy to review. In some ways it's hurtful, both in the reading and the reviewing. The Good Father has many of the aspects of a mystery, in that a murder has taken place, and in the typical style of mystery writing, the reader is led this way and that, given hints broad or subtle, but doesn't - or at least shouldn't - know until the last moment who the murderer is.

The Good Father is about relationships more than mystery . . . We know early on in the story who the victim is. And we know who the accused is. But, as is generally the case in life or in fiction, a perpetrator of a crime does not exist in a vacuum. In this case, in Hawley's story, there is a lifetime of relationships, some simple, some twisted and tangled, among the accused and so many others. What in these relationships may have in some manner led to the murder?

A man, a father, in the midst of a normal day, has his life upended . . . Paul Allen is a successful physician, a good man, a father of three - twin boys from his present marriage, and one grown son from his first marriage. Then, relaxing at home one evening, he sees on TV the face of a young man, standing among a screaming crowd, holding the gun that has shot a presidential candidate. It is his eldest son, Daniel, who is accused of this awful crime. And life as he has known it - and expected it to continue - is over and done with.

What does a man do when his child is accused of a horrible crime? In the Good Father, Paul Allen reacts with unbelief and a desperate need to understand if he has in some manner had a role in creating this "monster" the media describes. How can this child he has loved despite the young man's maladjustments, and whom he believed he knew, have done this. Here is how Noah Hawley sets up the plot for this intense, psychological tale of a father and son, each suffering in a different way the awful consequences of an unthinkable deed:

"Who was this boy . . .What made him ditch his comfortable life and embrace an act of barbarity? I have read the reports. I have watched the footage, but the answer continues to elude me. More than anything I want to know. I am his father, you see. He is my son."

Two points of view - father and son - and many stories . . . Hawley has crafted a tale of two lives coming together and going apart, and reveals each life in separate, alternating chapters. The father searches through his own life, past and present, for clues that will help him learn to live with this impossibility. He searches through what he knows of his son's life, for clues to what led him to this end. However it turns out, guilty or not, Allen needs to understand his boy's motivations and his own part in them. Was he a good father, or did his failings contribute to this tragedy? His final answers come in a stunning conclusion.

An overview of other infamous real-life, high profile criminals . . . Hawley interpolates inside the main story, as if it were footage from a true crime television drama, back story from earlier days that revisits other infamous crimes and criminals, whose evil deeds have given them a permanent place near the top of the public mind, from which they can be quickly and easily summoned whenever another is added to that contemptible catalog of evil.

Noah Hawley has written a book that is hard to read, and at the same time hard to put down. I warn those of you - who as have I - have lost an adult son, be prepared for some emotional reactions. The writing is strong and direct, and Hawley pulls no punches, clearly shows the pain that parenting can bring, and makes awful deeds understandable, if not acceptable.

I recommend The Good Father.

What the Dog Saw: And Other Adventures
Malcolm Gladwell
Little, Brown and Company
c/o Hatchette Book Group,
9780316086134, eBook: $9.99, Paperback $10.99

If there were a genre in the publishing business headed "indescribably delicious," I would put Malcolm Gladwell's book in that column. I don't recall today what product was advertised years ago with that tagline, but it was what came to my mind as I began this review and mulled over how to explain my reaction to this book.

First, here is why I use "indescribably." It is a book not easily placed in any single category; it is a compilation of essays published in The New Yorker magazine over a number of years, and the pieces in the book cover more topics than you would expect to find in graduate school. And when you have finished absorbing its contents, you will have been educated in a different way of looking at the kinds of things Gladwell has set before the reader.

Then, here is why I use "delicious." What the Dog Saw is entirely delightful, engaging and engrossing in its in-depth yet readable explications of each of the topics, people and ideas Gladwell takes on. I read much of it while working out on an elliptical strider at my health club, with some talking heads screeching on an overhead television, and yet I was lost in one of his worlds.

Here in his own words from the introduction is a better description of the "why" of this book than I could devise: Curiosity about the interior life of other people's day-to-day work is one of the most fundamental of human impulses, and that same impulse is what led to the writing you now hold in your hands.

Gladwell's curiosity about anything and everything has resulted in this marvelously entertaining and unique look into some wildly and widely varied subjects. He dives deeply into each topic and its individual characteristics, going far beyond the obvious. He looks at each from more than one point of view, and offers the reader a broader awareness of the subject, be it person, plant or animal.

He has grouped the series of articles - he identifies them as his favorites of many years of writing - into categories. He identifies for the reader why he has chosen the category titles. This is a good thing, I think, because if left to my own devices, I would have been unable to fit any of the essays into any given category. That's part of the fun. Take a look at the category titles and you'll see what I mean.

Obsessives, Pioneers, and Other Varieties of Minor Geniuses

Theories, Predictions, and Diagnoses

Personality, Character, and Intelligence

I've identified just a few of the essays that Gladwell has selected for What the Dog Saw: and Other Adventures. Each is different, each is absorbing, and each is "delicious" in its own unique way. You probably can't identify which chapter goes in which category. But when you start reading, it makes elegant sense. Following is a sampling of the essays (in no particular order): The Art of Failure; The Ketchup Connection; Open Secrets; Troublemakers; True Colors; What the Dog Saw; Something Borrowed; Connecting the Dots; Blowup; Dangerous Minds; The New-Boy Network.

I recommend spending a few hours with What the Dog Saw: And Other Adventures. It's not just a book; it's an experience.

Calico Joe
John Grisham
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019,
9780385536073, Nook eBook: $12.99, Paperback: $25.00; hardcover: $24.95

Calico Joe is baseball book - and more. I am going to make two seemingly contradictory statements about Calico Joe, John Grisham's "baseball" book.

If you're a baseball fan, you will most likely enjoy Calico Joe.

If you're not a baseball fan, you will most likely enjoy Calico Joe.

I can make those on-the-surface contradictory statements with confidence, because although Calico Joe is indeed a "baseball" book, it's much more than that. It's a book about relationships, relationships of many kinds - between a son and his father, a brother and his sister, a son and his mother, a boy and his friends. Not mention a whole lineup of baseball players, some of them giants of the game, others less so. But all play a part in this tale of a game, and of the joys and sorrows of those who play - or wish they could. Calico Joe pulls you in, shows you hits, runs, errors - in the game and in life. The cast of characters, as is usual with Grisham's fiction, is extensive and clearly drawn, and in this case is an intriguing mixture of real and purely fictional people. Here's a sampling of the fictional characters who are at the center of the tale:

Paul, a baseball fan, son of a pitcher for the New York Mets, who with his friends follows the game religiously, knowing each player and every statistic.

Paul's father, Warren, a fairly successful pitcher for the Mets, but a failure as a husband, father and generally not a nice man.

Paul's mother and sister, both of whom have suffered at the hands of a husband and a father.

A young pitcher named Joe Castle, from Calico Rock, Arkansas, who is the hottest player in the Chicago Cubs AA club, and is called up to the majors because of another player's injury.

Calico Joe is the essence of baseball at its best. And its worst. Surrounding these characters, coming in and out of the story at important times to make essential points, are other people, some of them baseball figures, who are, as I've already said, a mixture of real and imagined.

They add color and depth to the baseball story, and Grisham uses them to great advantage throughout, letting them add verisimilitude to the tale without interfering with the central story - the tragedy of an outstanding young pitcher coming up fast in his sport, and an older, once-successful-but- now-fading pitcher who commits an unpardonable sin.

One baseball season changes lives, maybe forever. Or maybe not. One season of one year in the history of the Chicago Cubs is the fulcrum of the story. In that year, 1973, Calico Joe begins what promises to be an extraordinary career as a baseball pitcher. Before the season is out, Joe's career is over. Life goes on, baseball games are played, and Joe Castle goes home to Calico Rock, Arkansas. To friends and family who take care of him the best they can.

And one man works almost a miracle in the lives of others. Is forgiveness, redemption, reconciliation even possible when one man has ruined another's life? Once that Cubs season is over, the rest of the story goes into high gear, and Grisham gives the reader an answer to that eternal question. He puts flesh and blood into Joe, and Warren and Paul and the others in their families and friends.

He builds logical and rational motives for the actions of each of his characters, and lets them live with the consequences of their actions, right or wrong. How he does it, how he answers that eternal question about redemption and reconciliation and forgiveness, makes for engrossing, surprising, and emotionally satisfying reading.

Calico Joe gets an A-plus!

For full disclosure: As a Cubs fan, I had to read this book, and having read it, had to review it as well. My husband and I lived in Chicago's Streeterville/Gold Coast area, which abuts the north side, home base to Wrigley Field and the Cubs. We were and still are Cubs fans through thick and thin, and as anyone who reads the sports pages knows, there has been for the Cubs much more thin than thick.

Even if I weren't a Cubs fan, I would give this book an A-plus.

Marcia K. Applegate

Bethany's Bookshelf

How to Negotiate Like a Pro, second edition
Mary Greenwood
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781475911213, $13.95,

Negotiation is a major aspect of getting what you want out of business. Now in its second edition, "How to Negotiate Like a Pro: 41 Rules for Resolving Disputes" is a business advisory guide as Mary Greenwood advises readers on how to better deal with others in the negotiation process, dealing with roadblocks to good communication, and much more. With plenty of practical and wise advice, "How to Negotiate Like a Pro" is a fine addition to general business and personal economics collections.

Catch Your
Thomas J. Gatto
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432786045, $23.95,

Hiring someone to keep the books straight can be a good idea, but one must remember the are granting them a lot of power. "Catch Your The Top 10 Secret Methods of Embezzlement Revealed" is an advisory from Thomas J. Gatto for business owners who grants tips on keeping one's bookkeeper honest and catching and stopping white collar crime before it happens. "Catch Your" is a worthy pick for businesses hiring someone to run those numbers and wants to avoid the pitfalls that come with it.

The Do-Over
Andrew Hessel
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781475102673, $9.00,

A second chance is far more than most people ever get. "The Do-Over" is a novel that follows young Kiki Kinsler as she faces a vicious tragedy that almost claims her life and does claim the life of the rest of her families. A brush with fate allows her the chance to set the world right and return her family, but such a chance and task won't come easily for her life. "The Do-Over" is a much recommended novel of the impact of a second chance in our lives.

The Goddess of Dance
Anna Kashina
Dragonwell Publishing
9780983832027, $16.95

The art of dance has long thought to be something greater. "The Goddess of Dance" is the second novel in Anna Kashina's The Spirits of the Ancient Sands Historical fantasy series, following Princess Gul'Agdar as she studies the magic that lies beneath the dance, pursuing it with passion as the world around her places on her the pressures of the day of marriage as a bargaining chip. With ancient mysticism and intrigue all throughout, "The Goddess of Dance" is a read that should prove hard to put down.

Genesis of Genesis
William Lawrence Lipton
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781466459564, $14.95,

The story of Genesis is perhaps the most well known within Christianity. "Genesis of Genesis: The 'Secret' of the Book of Genesis" discusses the origins of Hebrew faith, drawing the lineage through a family that claims to have roots in King David and has continued on to this day. An enticing read for fans of religious mysteries and legend, "Genesis of Genesis" is a read that is very much worth considering, highly recommended.

The Tiny Guide to Huge Success
Jeri Goldstein
The New Music Times
9780960683086, $19.97,

The little things all add up. "The Tiny Guide to Huge Success: 100 Biz Boosting Hot Tips to Ignite Your Performing Career" is a guide aimed at those who seek to be a star as Jeri Goldstein hits them with tips and tricks to improving their act, improving their networking, and getting ahead to try to ultimately get that big break that can get them to the level they always dreamed. "The Tiny Guide to Huge Success" is a strong pick for career and performing arts focused collections.

The Second Bill of Rights
John B. Miller, editor
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9780984876402, $19.95,

The Constitution of the United States was heralded as a major revolution in rule of law at its inception. "The Second Bill of Rights: The New Federalist Papers" is a collection of political musings compiled under editor John B. Miller and anonymous contributors to his ideals. He proposes eleven new amendments to the constitution, clarifying the nature of modern government and trying to grant equal representation under the law and close down abused loopholes on many levels of government. "The Second Bill of Rights" is a worthy addition to general political opinion collections, recommended.

Two Among the Righteous Few
Marty Brounstein
Tate Publishing & Enterprises
127 East Trade Center Terrace
Mustang, OK 73064
9781613461129, $12.99,

Two dozen against six million seems like meaningless numbers, but when they are lives, they should be seen as so much more. "Two Among the Righteous Few: A Story of Courage in the Holocaust" tells the story of two driven Catholics in Nazi-Occupied Netherlands, Frans and Mien Wijnakker, who helped save the lives of two dozen Jews fleeing the tyranny of the Holocaust, telling the story of their bravery under the threat of genocide. "Two Among the Righteous Few" is a strong addition to any modern Holocaust studies collection, highly recommended.

Reins of Hysteria
Pierce Stern
Bernam Books
9780615620633, $16.95,

The economy seems to be spinning out of control, and no one really knows how to bring it under control. "Reins of Hysteria" is a guide for investors to flourish when the world burns. Pierce Stern writes with a dark humor on the matter as he advises readers to piece together their own skills and ideas to make the most of their finances for the future in a world that seems driven to see you fail. "Reins of Hysteria" is a strong pick for personal finance and investment collections, highly recommended.

Let's Begin Again for the New Millennium
Dudley Skelly
Biographical Publishing Company
9781929882748 $12.00

Australian author Dudley Skelley presents Let's Begin Again for the New Millennium, an anthology of 21 socially conscious poems about potential solutions to human problems - especially liquidity traps (scarcity of credit) and environmental issues. Let's Begin Again exhorts that humanity has failed to take proper stewardship of the planet due to insufficient credit, denounces financial fraud and manipulations that lead to over-inflation, and proposes a new emergency fund through the UN to issue non-repayable grants to resource-poor nations, thereby ending poverty, and ideally promoting the renewable energy source of geothermal power for the needs of the twenty-first century. (Credit and funding is essential to this last idea, since more scientific research is needed to maximize the efficiency of geothermal power on a large scale). The free-verse poems challenge the reader to think about tackling serious global challenges head-on, and the pages of text at the end spell out the author's revolutionary ideas in detail. Let's Begin Again for the New Millennium may not have all of the answers, but today's complex world definitely needs as many problem-solving suggestions and recommendations it can get! "Going Forward": Never look back / Except to learn, / Look forward to the truth / With a sense of worldly purpose, / For that's the way ahead.

Susan Bethany

Buhle's Bookshelf

A Compendium Of Souls
Angel Cusick
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781470080495, $12.95,

"A Compendium of Souls: Dream Team of Spirit Helpers to Support You In Your Life" by Angel Cusick is a 242-page compendium of metaphysical insights, observations, commentaries, considerations, explanations, and discourses that students of metaphysical studies will find both thoughtful and thought-provoking. The thirty-two chapters comprising "A Compendium Of Souls" ranges from various Hellenic, Roman, and Egyptian deities and philosophers, pagan mythic and magical figures, to Christian saints and American pop culture icons. Informed and informative, "A Compendium Of Souls" is unique and highly recommended for personal, academic, and community library Metaphysical Studies reference collections and supplemental reading lists. Also very strongly recommended reading for students of metaphysical studies is author Angel Cusik's earlier work: "The Psychology Of The Soul" (9781466310421, $12.95,

Erik Hansen
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432786960, $11.95,

Symbols craft our world. "Compass" is a collection of poetry from Erik Hansen, who weaves his life as an outdoorsman into his work as he explores the many things in life and the deeper meanings behind them in our lives. "Compass" is down to earth and recommended reading. "5:30 AM": The sun slowly rises/Bold/and the pastel colored clouds/roll over/the river valley./The new leaves/Just budding green/Rejoice/In the return/Of its brilliant/Majesty.

Q Awakening
G. M. Lawrence
9781935152539, $25.95,

You cannot run from what you seek forever. "Q: Awakening" is a novel from G. M. Lawrence telling of expert on ancient manuscripts Declan Stewart, who excludes himself from society, trying to forget the pursuit of his holy grail and, the lost manuscript Q. But there are other forces seeking the manuscript, and Declan realizes the potential power within could lead the world down a very dark path. "Q: Awakening" is a fine pick for thrillers dealing with ancient artifacts.

The Cheerleader Speaks
Kathleen Kastner
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781469917306, $9.98,

Life is isn't as high school reveals, and many of the lessons come afterwords. "The Cheerleader Speaks: What God Taught Me About Men and Myself" is a memoir from Kathleen Kastner who shares her experiences as she goes from cheerleader to real woman, and the gauntlet of everything in between. Strongly drawing on her faith in the process, she writes with much inspiration and humor, sure to help many a curious reader. "The Cheerleader Speaks" is a strong pick for memoir and inspirational collections, recommended.

No Sale
Patrick Conrad
Bitter Lemon Press
c/o Meryl Zearek Public Relations
9781904738978, $14.95,

The patterns of a killer intrigue us, when they emulate what we love. "No Sale" follows the role of film historian and connoisseur Victor Cox, as he is accused of being involved in a series of murders that closely resemble deaths in many classic films throughout history. As the case digs deeper, Victor fails to understand the killings, and begins to believe he may be responsible and not even know it. "No Sale" is a riveting twist of mystery and adventure, very much recommended reading.

Mr. Anonymous
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781468544213, $14.95,

The world of internet dating is a new and harder to understand to many. "Matchless" is one man's journey into internet dating after twenty years of marriage. He shares his journey of finding a love worth keeping on the large sea of the internet, with tips on what he has found in the process. "Matchless" is a fine addition to self-help and those seeking stories of dating success on the internet.

The Ruins of the Soul
Hamed Vahidi
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432786366, $12.95,

The nature of choice can be a crippling thing sometimes. "The Ruins of the Soul" is a collection of original poetry from Hamed Vahidi, who debut volume explores many topics, musing on the nature of free will with a nod to the styles of Rubaiyat. "The Ruins of the Soul" is worth considering for those seeking a poet to enjoy. "Whirlpool": Head envies the heart's serenity;/Heart is appalled by the head's rigidity;//Soul is repelled by the longings of the flesh;/Evil mocks the soul and elevates the flesh.//I am the lead thrown into this whirlpool/Why does my fate have to be so cruel?

Everybody Knows Yet Nobody Really Knows
Jerry Rose
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781466386402, $15.95,

As we go through life we take note of many things and try to learn from our life's mistakes. "Everybody Knows Yet Nobody Really Knows" is a combination inspirational and memoir from Jerry Rose who ponders the nature of our world and our efforts to gain a more complete understanding of our world, understanding people, the lessons learned along the way and much more. "Everybody Knows Yet Nobody Really Knows" is filled with a unique brand of humor and thought, very much recommended reading.

James Driscoll
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432769932, $12.95,

Friday the 13th has many a legend tied to it. "Paraskavedekatriaphobia" is a collection of short stories from James Driscoll, as he takes the fear of this day and crafts intriguing tales of crime, lost love, and much more. With much to entire readers, "Paraskavedekatriaphobia" is worth considering for fans of short fiction collections.

The Big Throw
C. V. Rosaco
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781466282445, $16.30,

To prevent the world's doom, some must cross over the boundaries of all that's expected. "The Big Throw" is a fantasy novel from C. V. Rosaco, as he follows Charlie as he is charged from stopping what may be the apocalypse that ends mankind and everything else. Rushing against time, he must talk to the animals, cross over into the afterlife, and upheave the world's governments in the process. "The Big Throw" is an intriguing twist on fantasy and contemporary fiction, highly recommended.

Willis M. Buhle

Burroughs' Bookshelf

Scathach's Protege
Robert McLaws Miller
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781449026042, $20.95,

Before a unified Scotland, the clans were their own nations. "Scathach's Protege" is set in the dark ages of Scotland and the British Isles, as forces from outside seek to absorb the Pict people into their own culture. Standing against the waves of those who want the land for themselves, stands Gaelen, a former princess out to regain what she believes is hers. A fine read of dark age fiction, "Scathach's Protege" is a choice and much recommended pick for lovers of the genre.

The Road Back to Me
Lisa A. Romano
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9780578102689, $16.95,

Taking control of one's own being is a powerful thing that often eludes many of us. "The Road Back to Me" is a memoir of addiction and no self-worth from Lisa A. Romano as she draws on her own life's challenges and the pain of addiction and going through life trying to deal with the weight of life that came with it. A very spiritual memoir about how she broke free from addiction, co-dependency, and more, "The Road Back to Me" is a powerful and much recommended pick, not to be missed.

Uninvited Books
9780983045700, $12.95,

Darkness is all around us, daring us to look deeper into its existence. "Shadows" is a collection of short fiction from many authors who write on the darkness of the world, that comes from in, comes from without, and much more. Touching on the world of the supernatural and shedding some light on some new writers as well, "Shadows" is fine collection of short fiction, highly recommended. Also from Uninvited Books fiction is "Willy" (9780983045724, $16.95), a novel set among an isolated school in which the students will learn very painful lessons within.

Murdering the Mom
Duff Brenna
Wordcraft of Oregon
9781877655746, $15.00,

As we suffer, our mothers suffer. "Murdering the Mom" is a memoir from Duff Brenna, a man who writes in tribute to his mother and tries to capture the spirit of the mother in the modern day and the struggles for a mother to live in today's tumultuous world. With plenty of humor and poignancy, "Murdering the Mom" is an excellent pick for memoir collections, very highly recommended.

The Big Book of Dan
Daniel C. Dulik
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432778590, $14.95,

When you stop and look at what was left behind you... you can quickly realize you should have kept on going. "The Big Book of Dan: Road Alligators and Other Incogruous Possibilities" is a collection of humor and quirky short stories and poetry from Daniel C. Dulik. Exploring the many aspects of mankind and how mankind grew to be the dominant species while proving to be undeserving of such a title, "The Big Book of Dan" is a humorous take on many topics, very much recommended reading.

All the Blue-Eyed Angels
Jen Blood
Adian Press
9780985144708, $14.99,

Surviving a massive surge of death doesn't leave one with a great outlook on life. "All the Blue-Eyed Angels" follows Erin Solomon, a girl who emerged from an alleged mass suicide with only her father, who soon joined them in self-inflicted death. An investigative journalist as an adult, Erin seeks to see the truth behind the alleged mass-suicide and finds something more sinister. A novel of mystery and evil in small town Maine, "All the Blue-Eyed Angels" is a fascinating and recommended modern mystery/thriller.

Bedbug Hell
Mags Mauro
c/o Buy Books On The Web
1094 New Dehaven Street, #100
West Conshohocken, PA 19428-2713
9780741466792, $16.95,

Bed bugs can be one massive hassle that can be quite an endeavor to be rid of. "Bedbug Hell:(How I Survived It)" is a memoir from Mags Mauro who shares her own endeavor surrounding her bed bug infestation and the cleansing process that can be a horrendous chapter in one's life, with general wisdom for dealing with these stressful situations in our life that can try our patience. "Bedbug Hell" is a fine pick for those who want to know what it takes to deal with the weight of life's stress.

Second Skin
Peter Darrach
Posivise Partners
c/o CreateSpace
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781470101824, $16.00,

As mankind claims dominance over the universe, there are those out to claim dominance for themselves. "Second Skin" is a novel of science fiction set in a future where Mars has been colonized, and its mines have made it an economic power. Max Cody, a traveler looking for the next big break of resources stumbles upon aliens who save him and lead him to a plot that will endanger both Earth and Mars. "Second Skin" is a riveting tale of science fiction, a choice that shouldn't be overlooked by fans of the genre.

Surviving Mental Illness
Linda Naomi Katz
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432783990, $13.95,

To lose domain over one's own mind is a frightening thing. "Surviving Mental Illness" is a memoir from Linda Naomi Katz, as she shares her struggles with psychological disorders and the pressure that comes with it. She speaks on being often labeled crazy by society and how she had to cope with such things, as well as her long road to recovery. Uplifting and poignant, "Surviving Mental Illness" is a thoughtful addition to memoir collections focusing on psychological issues.

John Burroughs

Carson's Bookshelf

Trust No One
Mike Thompson
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432789633, $9.95,

Trust no one is an oft-repeated proverb, but when it applies even to one's own mind, it can feel too far. "Trust No One" is a sequel to Mike Thompson's previous novel Blood Betrayal, following the continuing struggles of Wolf Magnussen and the crumbling of his own psyche. Wanting to reach out to his own brother who had lost his mind months ago, Wolf is at a lost when he cannot even understand the world around him. "Trust No One" is a riveting psychological thriller, worth considering.

Susan Stastny & David Curry Holmes
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781469982359, $20.99,

As technology advances, what were once mad plots of scientists may come into reality. "Drexel" is a novel of near future science fiction, as malevolent genius Drexel begins to replace the world's governments with androids under his direct control. As the pure leaders of the world grow fewer and fewer, the vice president and his inner circle who must take a last stand against a madman with the power to present the world into his iron fist. "Drexel" is an exciting sci-fi thriller, not to be overlooked.

The Evolution of Dr. Steve Pratt
Heidi A. Wimmer
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781468547061, $16.95,

Experience teaches us all very quickly. "The Evolution of Dr. Steve Pratt" is a novel from Heidi A. Wimmer, who writes of an overconfident physician who faces the reality of his work in the emergency room and the lessons that can be learned when one is on the front lines to save a life. "The Evolution of Dr. Steve Pratt" is a strong pick for general fiction collections.

The Best Way
Bill Walker
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781467960229, $12.95,

A pilgrimage is a spiritually driven journey. "The Best Way: El Camino de Santiago" is a memoir from Bill Walker as he shares his journey along this foot path through the Pyrenees Mountains between France and Spain, and how throughout history it has been used as a road of thought and reevaluation of life. "The Best Way" is a strong pick for those considering the journey themselves, as Walker lets readers in on his own long journey.

Jay Sherfey
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781462059621, $14.95,

When we overcome our demons, what we find is something we may have never expected. "Misunderstood: Healing Jason Sutter" follows the troubled young teenager as his life has been about violence and mental despair. As foster parents take him in and offer him the support he needs, Jason may yet recover from his psychosis, and find that his mind may hold something greater for him, far beyond normal. An enticing read of facing life and the changes that come with being a teenager, "Misunderstood" is a strong pick for younger readers.

Eat My Dust, Martin Luther!
Jeffrey Baker
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
Authorright PR
30 Newbury St, 3rd Flooor, Boston, MA 02116 (publicity)
9781470180287, $14.95,

The thoughts on faith are ever evolving. "Eat My Dust, Martin Luther: 96 Essays on Modern Spirituality and New American Mysticism" is a humorous collection essays discussing the evolving thoughts in philosophy and faith, with a subtle and humorous take on Luther and his 95 theses on the Catholic Church. With a good dose of memoir and thought woven in, "Eat My Dust, Martin Luther" is a strong pick for general religion and thought collections, highly recommended.

Within Arm's Length
Dan Emmett
iUniverse, Inc.
c/o Author House
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300
Bloomington, IN 47403
9781462070725, $18.95,

To give your life to protect another is quite the sacrifice. "Within Arm's Length: The Extraordinary Life and Career of a Special Agent in the United States Secret Service" is a memoir from former secret service agent Dan Emmett who shares what set him on the path that set him in guard of both President Bushes and President Clinton as well. From the extensive training needed to the common threats and protocols that these individuals must face, "Within Arm's Length" is a strong pick for general memoir collections, especially those who want a memoir focusing on something of a blend of military and police work.

Lady May
Barbara Zach-Miller
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781470092139, $9.00,

A gem in our lives can come from the most unsuspecting of places. "Lady May: Memories of an Old Dog" is a memoir from Barbara Zach-Miller as she recounts the adoption of the young Portuguese dog Lady May and how the little dogs entrance into their lives changed everything. Telling Lady May's story of almost dying in a dump far from the world to being a cherished pet thanks to the efforts of a shelter, "Lady May" is a strong pick for pet lovers, highly recommended.

Michael J. Carson

Clark's Bookshelf

The Last Camel Charge
Forrest Bryant Johnson
Berkley Books
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, 4th floor, New York, NY 10014
9780425245699, $25.95,

Memorial Day is a fitting time to remember the heroes of the old West. Navy Lieutenant Edward Beale is one of those pioneers who were instrumental in the development of trails, which led to roads, and placement of today's cities. Kingman Arizona is located where it is and Fort Mohave is where Beale Crossing is located.

What does this have to do with "The Last Camel Charge: The Untold Story of America's Desert Military Experiment"? In the 1850's there was misplaced fear about Utah and the Mormon community in Washington, D.C... Fear that the Mormons were going to take over the entire West and run it their way to the exclusion of other emigrants who were attempting to move west during and after the discovery of gold in California. In this era, Indians could see their lands being taken over so they harassed the settlers. The Mojave Indians lived on the banks of the Colorado River and though they were peaceful, finally rose up as they had no place to move.

Lt. Ed Beale had the task of finding a better means of transportation in the desert and through years of discussions, Congress and the President of the United States gave $30,000 for experimental importation and evaluation of camels! Use of camels was a secret weapon for the military and because Beale had experience with them, he was the chosen one in this noble experiment.

Beale was not the only person involved at this time and the book is so thoroughly researched that most of the heroes both pre-civil war and civil war are chronicled. This book is a remembrance to those who willingly gave their lives so that new emigres could settle the western territories. Many monuments are scattered throughout modern cities and pay homage to the men who served. However, in some of these monuments are the remains of camels!

Camels were extinct in North America for thousands of years and only survived in the Mideast. Lt. Beale on a specially outfitted ship brought about 70 camels to Texas and then on to New Mexico, Arizona, and California. In Texas, the camel's home was a specially built set of buildings at Camp Verde.

Many astonishing surprises came about during these experimental years. Although water was not a problem for these desert animals, they could go for days without water. The dietary habits were something not expected! Camels loved cactus, mesquite trees, and other roughage, which horses and mules could not stomach. Camels have four stomachs and razor sharp teeth. During one of the Indian encounters with odds against Beale's troops of ten to one, the camels saved the day! They could swim! In addition, they could gallop at 40 miles per hour up to 75 miles distance, something that horses could not do. Lt. Beale led a charge through the Indian forces with 20 camels, did not lose a man or camel, and crossed the Colorado River to safety!

Photographs depicted in the book show that in 2003, camels were still roaming at large in Texas and Bullet Bob Smith a railroad historian spotted a herd. A photograph shows them. Many other historical pictures feature camels and key figures involved in the bringing of camels to the West.

Historically, Forrest Bryant Johnson has done a great service for those who want to know more about the Mohave Desert. He has brought to life a history of the past by using the camel to tell the story. Conflicts with Indians, Mormons, and civil war battles are mere sideshows when it comes to the main feature of the camel!

Of particular interest to Kingman residents is the naming Beale Street and Stockton Hill Road, as these people were very instrumental in establishing the trail to California known as the Mother Road (Route 66). Lt. Beale also named his second son, Truxtun! This is a four star book which centers on the historic town of Kingman, Arizona!

Red, White and Blood
Christopher Farnsworth
G. P. Putnam's Sons
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, 4th floor, New York, NY 10014
9780399158933, $25.95,

Christopher Farnsworth has brought his vampire series to life once again with "Red, White and Blood" which is a sequel to his previous blood chilling "The President's Vampire." Continuing the exploits of the personal vampire to presidents for over 150 years, we are privy to delve into the depths of horror during an election campaign.

Many excellent writers re-cap events from previous books so that it is not necessary to have read them before jumping into the newest. This book by Farnsworth is no exception so you can glean the many secrets of the powers of Nathaniel Cade without missing a heartbeat!

Cade is a vampire who must sleep during the day and stay out of sunlight. He lives in a secret chamber located beneath the White House and is bound by an oath to protect and save the President of the United States, along with others including the first family. He is extremely strong, fast, and ruthless in his mission.

Let there be no mistake, this is an adult book! Themes of adult relations permeate throughout, along with some very descriptive and gruesome descriptions of murder and mayhem that only vampires or other creatures perform.

A fascinating part of this book is the flashback to past presidents and their relationship with Cade. One chore, done by the outgoing president, is to pass along a diary and pouch to the new president giving control over the vampire.

A mystique about Air Force One plays into one of the scenarios and is illuminating about some of the uniqueness of this mighty fortress. Are they all true? Farnsworth discusses many things that are supposedly part of the president's protection system. If they are for the safety and well-being of the president and his family, is it a good idea to expose them as he has? Being factual is good, but there is a limit on discussing secrets even in a book of fiction.

The central villain is the Boogeyman who is an age-old nemesis of Cade. They have battled many times in the past decades and Cade had always been the victor dispatching the Boogeyman to the depths of the nether world by killing him. Each time he would arise through the efforts of cultists and mass murderers, only to return to the murky depths of hell by Cade killing him once again.

Publication of this book during an election campaign only adds to its excitement. There are trips to various cities, debates, and exceptional insights as to what it takes to protect the president from nefarious people. A vampire adds much to the secret service, which does an excellent job on its own, but when his exceptional skills come into play, they are astounded! Until now, the vampire was a well-guarded secret for only those who had a need to know. Once out on the campaign trail it was necessary to inform all of those who had direct service to the president about Cade. There is some interesting dialogue when they were informed. Cade had to bare his fangs in order to convince a few! Then, they were believers.

Based upon the shocking conclusion, we know that the next volume will be just as exciting as "Red, White and Blood." This is a five star book and for all fans of the vampire occult or not, it is highly recommended adult reading for the summer.

I Got A Name: The Jim Croce Story
Ingrid Croce and Jimmy Rock
Da Capo Press
c/o Perseus Books Group
11 Cambridge Center, Cambridge, MA 02142
9780306821219, $25.00,

Fame is fleeting, but stopping at the pinnacle of one's career, it becomes devastating. Ingrid Croce and Jimmy Rock bring the inside story of the rise and fall of a promising career in "I Got A Name: The Jim Croce Story."

Jim Croce died on September 20, 1973 at the age of 30. His music lives on and is classic for the era. Songs like "Bad Bad Leroy Brown" and "Time in a Bottle" were two of his #1 hit as a singer-song writer.

He had the good fortune to have albums hit the charts and rise to gold status. Fans adored him and for the last two years of his life, he was on the road more than at home with his son A J Croce and his wife Ingrid. This was very moving period for the marriage relationship, but one that seemed to hold promise of being able to sustain if only he could get off the road for a while. An airplane crashing into trees ended his life.

His beginnings were meager at best; coming from a family, which had deep Italian roots in Philadelphia, Jim was the promising star of the family when he attended Villanova University. However, music was his forte. Jim would play at small clubs, colleges, and any place where he could strum his guitar and sing. Friends gathered around him and encouraged his entertaining. A strained relationship developed between him and his father. His father wanted Jim to get a job with gainful employment where he could earn a respectable living. Jim decided to pursue his writing and performing his music.

Ingrid has written a very skillful book which tells the "inside scoop" about their relationship. How it was difficult to live with him and live without him. During the start of their performing together, Ingrid was a duo singing along with Jim. Well accepted was the duo act that when performing together they entranced audiences with their style.

Insight into his managing by a New York entertainment group throws light on how strained the relationship between Jim and Ingrid became. Ingrid could see that his trusting demeanor was putting Jim at a disadvantage. Only when they had a child did he finally get the message that money was important. From that point on, he kept at trying to get more money so that the child and Ingrid would be able to live a decent life.

Young couples seem to have financial problems all the time. However, in this case, he was selling many records, playing full houses in concert, and traveling from city to city without seeing the fruits of his labors. Conflict ensued between Ingrid and Jim, but he was always the charmer who could convince Ingrid he would change.

Ingrid describes several incidences, which precipitated the ultimate crash. Jim had been traveling in a private plane and his pilot had some near misses due to weather or misjudgment prior to the ending.

"I Got A Name, The Jim Croce Story," has funny antic dotes which will make you laugh aloud. Additionally, a tear will come to your eye during some of the emotional scenarios. This is a well written, thought out, and moving story, which is well worth reading. A five star book, which includes many lyrics, you can hum as you read them.

High-Tech, High-Touch Customer Service
Micah Solomon
Amacom Books
1601 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
9780814417904, $23.00,

Just when you think that customer, service is how you treat the prospective buyer when in your store rules get broader and you need a new approach. Author Micah Solomon in "High-Tech, High-Touch Customer Service: Inspire Timeless Loyalty in the Demanding New World of Social Commerce" brings to light many innovative techniques so that business owners can better service their customers.

Micah, hailed as a "new guru of service excellence" (Financial Post) is a popular keynote speaker and respected corporate adviser and strategist on customer service issues, the customer experience, and company culture. He is the founder of Oasis Disc Manufacturing, which he built from a one-room operation into a leader in entertainment and technology. He is co-author of "Exceptional Service, Exceptional Profit" and many well-respected business journals and television programs on the subject of customer relations have featured his expertise.

Starting this book may seem like a daunting task as though it is a textbook. However, there are many anecdotes, examples of what Micah has experienced, and some good common sense examples on what to do. Good customer service is the by-word and what all who serve the public strive to achieve. Failure comes about when those who do not follow the policies of the company or do not understand what the policy is.

We are in an ever-expanding recognition of what we expect as consumers. When we make a purchase on line we get frustrated when the wrong item comes, or how to convey what it is we want. Many companies strive to deal with these complexities and those that cannot break out of their mold into giving what the customer wants falter. Those that provide all of the bells and whistles succeed. One example is anticipation of the customer need. This applies not only on line, but also face to face in the store. Being a mind reader is not what Solomon is advocating, he is suggesting that problem solving is a part of customer service. A customer who has a good experience and gets what they want will come back and be a loyal customer.

Each chapter in the book has a summary at the end, which emphasizes the material discussed in simple terms. This methodology makes this book very helpful. There are times when you have to refer back to books for refreshing your memory so you can implement or tell others. Being able to go back and not re-read everything is very advantageous.

Organized into three parts, "High-Tech, High-Touch Customer Service" begins by reinforcing the basics of doing customer service right - in a caring, friendly, timely, responsible manner - and the fallout of doing it wrong. Building on this foundation, Solomon explores how to use technology to secure customer loyalty and ways to stay ahead of competitors in emerging digital areas.

Eye opening, entertaining, and above all, emphatically practical is this welcome guide for anyone in business who is striving (or struggling) to keep up with technology and to keep their customers. This is a five star book that is necessary for all in business or anticipating ventures, which deal with the public.

Truth Be Told
Larry King
Weinstein Books
c/o Perseus Books Group
345 Hudson Street, 13th floor, New York, NY 10014
9781602861619, $15.00,

Memoirs written by those who have something to say about their careers, lives, and the things they have done are interesting. Larry King's "Truth Be Told: Off the Record about Favorite Guests, Memorable Moments, Funniest Jokes, and a Half Century of Asking Questions" is no exception. However, the strange twist for this author is he is an interviewer exceptional!

Larry King in the years of broadcasting has been the person who brings out the best in everyone who has sat across from him! In this book, not his first, he summarizes 50 years of having a show, which was one of CNN's highest-rated programs. Recent ratings of the CNN programs show a drop in listeners and it might just be that because Larry is no longer behind that mike with his raspy voice.

Stars gave their good byes and Larry describes how the many friends he made through the years came to pay their last tributes to him. Barbara Walters said, "Television will never be the same."

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said "In the U.S. mass media, there are many talented and interesting people. But, still, there is just one king there. I don't ask why he is leaving. But, still, what do you think? We have a right to cry out: 'Long live the King!' When will there be another man in the world as popular as you happen to be?"

In many respects, this is an adult book, with some coarse language that is akin to many entertainers off the air. However, the stories and insights to Larry's life on and off the stage are worthwhile. He discusses his very first celebrity interview with Bobby Darin in Miami Beach at Pumpernik's deli.

Larry King has interviews with so many people, that he could start his own Who's Who in having told their stories to him. He shares thoughts on other famous farewells and departures, from LeBron James, Bill Clinton, Walter Cronkite, Dan Rather, and Michael Jordon to Lou Gehrig and George Bush 43.

The joys of his extended, blended family and of being a 77-year-old father to young boys again (he coaches his sons' Little League team), and more.

"Truth Be Told" has anecdotes and behind-the-scenes insights. This is the story of a cultural icon and an unconventional family man. One of the outstanding characteristics he possesses is his love of suspenders, not the king you would hide under a suit coat, but those bright flashy ones that dress up his shirts!

Larry King founded the Larry King Caria Foundation, which has raised millions of dollars and provided lifesaving cardiac procedures to those who otherwise would be unable to receive the medical treatment they require. Since its inception, the Larry King Cardiac Foundation has served more than 700 individuals in the United States and abroad. He has shown that he is a true humanitarian.

This is an excellent book. Fans of Larry King will enjoy the inside look into his life and those people who have influenced him through the years. An entertaining four-star book that is enjoyable.

Clark Isaacs

Crocco's Bookshelf

Derek Haines
Amazon Digital Services
B0084NPX4I, $2.99,

A Trilogy at last!

After reading Hal and February the Fifth, Derek Haines has finally honored his readers with the last of his trilogy, Septimity!

Septimity is September's grandson. September is the eldest son of December the Ninth, and a grumpy old man. September thought he was going to be the new Supreme Potentate of Gloth. However, due to running into a brick wall, literally, this did not happen. His unexpected death gives Septimity and his six brothers a shot at the title.

This family is absolutely hysterical! Not only will it remind you of your own family, morons and imbeciles included, but the situations they encounter trying to obtain the Supreme Potentate of Gloth will in no doubt have you relating your own family situations to this science fiction story. Kids are kids even on the planet Gloth!

Derek Haines entertains his readers with his two most amazing traits. First is his sense of humor, and second is his strength of building his characters even if they look like lizards!

After reading Derek Haines books I think I have come to realize he expresses his own personal views on life through his apropos vocabulary in his characters and excellent writing skills. Reading between the lines and having a good laugh is a treat.

Goblin Tales for Adults
Jack Eason
Amazon Digital Services
B0085AQO66, $2.99,

You'll change your mind about goblins!

Obadiah introduces Glob to the mother of all goblins, Hermione Fingletook. She explains why goblins never know where they came from. She says each new goblin is born from a specially selected acorn which she picks. Once born, she determines their purpose then fills their minds with knowledge they need to survive before sending them out into Goblindom.

I never thought I would enjoy a story book about goblins! Jack Eason brought a family of goblins alive with such writing skill I felt a warm place in my heart for each goblin. They are described so vividly it's hard not to love each character in every tale Eason tells.

The fantasy tales told are one exciting adventure after another of five goblin brothers. There are humans involved, called 'humins' to the goblins, but these are friendly humans!

The tales are truly enjoyable to read and have fun with. I think it would be a wonderful book to read for all ages.

Spy Hunt in Dixie
Max Connelly
Amazon Digital Services
B005K94I18, $3.99,

I was looking forward to reading this book but was very disappointed. The beginning was terrific and I was hooked. Then out of the blue it started reading like another author took over. That is when I lost interest. However, when I am asked to review a book by an author, I have an open mind and was dedicated to finish the book hoping for a return to the beginning hook. I'm sorry to say it never happened.

I started reading the book on my flight to visit my mother. I was so confused 35% of the way into the story, that I thought I would reread it from the beginning to my mother. She is an avid reader and loves history. I said nothing to her about my thoughts, just telling her it's a book I said I would read and review.

We thought we were either stupid or going crazy with how the book was written. Like I mentioned before, the difference in writing styles were integrated into the story and it was extremely confusing. We weren't sure who was doing what or what was going on much of the time. There were so many points of view, but I don't think Max Connelly has mastered how to write whose point of view the reader is supposed to be reading.

There were also many times I thought I knew what a word or phrase meant, but it was used incorrectly, therefore continuing to make the story more confusing.

By the time we were 73% into the book, we were both counting the pages to be finished. The end of the book being the most confusing, we had no idea what was going on with which characters. There were so many characters and so many name changes, it was just absurd. Avoiding naming certain political characters in the very end I'm figuring was a bias on Max Connelly's part, but once again, not really sure.

Most of the book felt like I was reading what I would read from a political reporter. This was supposed to be historical fiction. I felt like I could tell when Max was writing (which I actually enjoyed) and when this phantom writer took over.

I am sorry to say I cannot recommend this book for anyone in particular because of the writing, point of view confusion, and too many characters without enough depth to make the story enjoyable and not confusing.

Teeth in the Dark
Sean Roney
eBook $0.99

Real Life vs. Reality

What a different kind of story this was for me! I don't play video games, however, Teeth in the Dark was a great read. I thoroughly enjoyed the adventure.

Saraj and her co-worker friends are creating a virtual reality game. Saraj takes the game to an extreme level and thinks the game is real. From snow-covered dirt roads, to the scents of evergreens, to the aromas of baked goods, Sean Roney delights his readers with extraordinary descriptions.

Elk's Crossing has official colors of green and black which are displayed and sold by merchants. And what characters the merchants are! To name a couple, a sexist rat and a perverted brute come to mind.

I had the feeling of standing right next to Saraj as she tried to avoid traps and pranks created by her co-workers in their effort to perfect the game.

This short story came to life for me. It was fun to read something where I actually felt anxious as Saraj was crazily thinking this was real life. I wondered how far she was willing to go.

I was left with the impression that Saraj struggled with her identity. In the game she looked completely different and seemed to like her virtual self a bit more than her real life. I wonder about that . . . how far can programmers actually take their skill?

Karleene Morrow
Amazon Digital Services
B0055OI3M8, $4.99,

Becoming the Empress and Ruler of All the Russians, Sophie Auguste Friedrike, was only fourteen when her mother made sure she became princess of Russia. The tsarina of Russia, Elizabeth Petrovna, was searching for a wife for her nephew who would inherit the crown.

Leaving her small town of Stettin, Poland, she met the tsarina and her heir in Russia. In 1762 Sophie became Katherine II.

Known as Katherine the Great, the Empress was literate, cultured, and loved the arts. Throughout Destinies, Karleene Marrow proves how she painstakingly researched every event during Katherine's 34 year reign.

To not only enlighten her readers with facts and knowledge, but to entertain at the same time, Karleene Morrow writes her historical novel, Destinies, using Katherine the Great's point of view plus a young boy, Christian, who emigrated from Germany to Russia with his family and friends searching for a better life. The way Morrow skillfully does this is what makes this book extraordinary.

Katherine II is known for her sex scandals and her desire for power. Morrow includes her political decisions and many of her lovers. During the day Katherine II was a powerhouse of a political leader, and at night she could not go without a man.

We see Christian grow up from a boy into manhood in Destinies. We meet and love his family and friends. He has strong family values and morals that he struggles with on his journey. His relationship with the Gypsy's is my favorite. His life, along with his family and friends, is not an easy one. Emigrating from Germany and putting down roots in Russia was an unbelievable feat.

Going back and forth between Katherine the Great and Christian's life was easily done. There is never a time where I got lost or confused. This is a longer book than most, but it never felt like it. I could not put it down. The story is terrific!

I recommend this book for readers of all ages. In my opinion, reading a historical novel that is well researched and written, is the best way to learn.

I'm hoping Destinies will have a sequel. I would love to read another historical novel by Karleene Morrow.

For the Love of Sam
Derek Haines
Amazon Digital Services
B008ABFQ64, $0.99,

A Woman Scorned

Talk about getting screwed over by your friends! Poor Sam goes through hell in the midst of getting a divorce. He's not exactly innocent. He had an affair with a sexy co-worker, Susannah, some ten years prior, but his wife, Beckie, never forgot or forgave him.

It was this indiscretion that Beckie festered for ten years when she suddenly threw it in Sam's face. Out the door he went, and into a flea bitten dump to lick his wounds.

Sam was basically a nice guy who worked for an insurance company. He didn't revel in his new surroundings which made him feel sad, alone, and confused. This was not a good time to start a new relationship, but that is exactly what he did.

He met Gail when she hit his car in a parking lot. After a quick tea in a diner to exchange insurance information, Sam thought nothing more of it. Gail called the next day wanting to see Sam where she fell head over heels in love with him.

Sam couldn't say no to Gail as she protested her love for him often. He went along for the ride taking some kind of solace in seeing Gail. It took his mind off his divorce and neurotic wife, Beckie.

Sam also couldn't say no when Susannah called and asked to see him. They picked up where they left off like it was ten years ago. Poor Sam doesn't know that it is her husband who is sleeping with Beckie! He doesn't put two and two together and realize this is why Beckie decided to throw his long ago affair in his face all of a sudden.

If that isn't dark enough, what Sam goes through now I can't write about because it will spoil it for the reader. Let me just say Sam went through hell. Was anyone there for him?

Nothing is predictable in Derek Haine's novella, For the Love of Sam. While being a dark novella about relationships and so-called friends, it is a great read.

As always, Derek develops his characters so well that you can't put down any of his books once you start reading. None of us want to live through what Sam lived through or did he?

Pick up your copy of For the Love of Sam to find out!

The Chair
Peter Simeti
Alterna Comics
0979787424, $13.95,

Mind over body?

This was my first graphic novel to read and review. The format resembled a comic book. It's drawn in black and white; I would compare it to charcoal art.

The story is about Richard Sullivan's final days on death row. Simeti leaves nothing out when he describes prison torment, including extreme violence which results in murders, and deep psychological torment.

Sullivan always protested his innocence. This meant nothing to a prisoner on death row with a few days before being executed. He thinks about his life and how he ended up on death row. This isn't easy as he witnesses prison guards beat and rape other prisoners. He also has learned what crimes his fellow prisoners committed in order to be on death row. It's not a pretty picture and all this messes with his mind.

The final days are the worst for Sullivan. The guards are more violent to him physically and emotionally. He is at the end of his rope. This results in outbursts of anger as he is just shy of insanity at this point. He does lose it completely and it's pretty horrifying.

The graphics are violent, no doubt, but it is equally violent as to what goes on in Sullivan's mind, especially on his final day. I think it proves our minds are more fragile than our physical bodies.

The end has a twist to it which I won't spoil for readers.

Hats off to graphic artist, Kevin Christensen, for a job well done.

The book is labeled for adults, mature audiences. I agree.

Allah's Revenge
Pete Barber
PJ Publishing; 1 edition
Amazon Digital Services
B0084HM8GU, $2.99,

A Threat of Nanobots

Pete Barber has given us a fiction thriller about extremists who wish to do the United States harm. It is told in current time with painstaking research as it is a sensitive subject. The terrorist attack was carried out by an Islamic militant group called Allah's Revenge. They killed two hundred innocent people in London, England and many world leaders at a G20 summit in Seoul, South Korea. The Vice President of the U.S. was killed in the G20 summit attack.

The Weapon of Mass Destruction is a mist of nanotechnology. Once released, people breathe in the mist and are dead within minutes. Allah's Revenge recruits an Arab named Dawud Ferran, aka David Baker in the U.S. to do his dirty work with the WPD.

The main character is a British detective named Quinn. He puts his life and job on the line to get to the bottom of the terrorist's plot to destroy the world. He travels to Jerusalem where he manages to take control of the WMD situation. Before he heads home, once again Quinn's bravery is put to the test. The WMD is released in Phoenix, Arizona. Is Quinn successful in saving the world? Does he get home in one piece? You will have to read Allah's Revenge to find out.

Pete Barber created many memorable characters in Allah's Revenge. There are detectives, reporters, politicians, and of course terrorists. We get to see the inside of a terrorist attack through Pete Barber's accurate research.

There's even romance in Allah's Revenge. A good story isn't complete without a love interest, even in the midst of a terrorist attack.

The book is a definite page turner as the suspense keeps the reader engaged. It's a well written action thriller with historical background to be enjoyed. The characters and places come to life for the reader.

Let's just hope it stays fictional!

Vanessa Mills
Amazon Digital Services
B0084EBLWA, $1.90,

Blameless and Screwed

Vanessa Mills wrote a very intense short story dealing with child abuse and the court system. A family of six children, four girls and two boys, lived with their neglectful mother, Claudine, and hardworking father, Eddie.

Eddie is accused of abusing the children, when in reality it is Claudine's sleazy boyfriend doing the abusing. The mother was guilty herself of hitting her children besides looking the other way during the boyfriend's abuse.

The father had no control over the court system. Trying to the best of his ability to gain custody of his children, he eventually lost. In a most despicable way, his children were brainwashed and used in court for the mother's benefit. The result is frustrating.

There is nothing worse than feeling helpless in your own life. Not being able to prove you are the better parent must be devastating. It was for this particular father, Eddie, and his children.

Depending on one's point of view, the ending may be uplifting. Whatever the reader's opinion, we are left routing for the children as they made their own decision.

Vanessa Mills wrote "Intermissions" in her story. These are worth reading over a few times as they touch our inner soul. They are apropos to her story and will bring tears to your eyes.

Ruins is a well written story which will break your heart and leave you furious with the court system.

A Virgin in the Philippines
W.H. Johnson
Amazon Digital Services
B007LGYG56, $0.99,

A travelogue extraordinaire! What a wonderful way to learn about the Philippines. Johnnie Johnson takes us on his first eye-opening six week trip in 2011 and we share his learning experiences right along with him.

Johnnie married a Filipina, Fay, late in life. This relationship is where Johnnie opens up his heart as well as his life to a new way of living and learning.

Being an educated man, Johnnie is able to articulate to his readers all the wonders of the Philippines with ease. We get to walk the colorful countryside and visit the rice fields. We ride on Lorries and Jeepneys on our way to family get-togethers. His wife has a large extended family and Johnnie learns to fit right in.

We share Filipino culture in the preparation of delicious meals shared and the honest conversation spoken freely representing the culture. We go to church with Johnnie and Fay where his inner most thoughts are expressed to the reader.

Johnnie enjoys his visit as any reader can tell. However, he doesn't sugar coat the problems in the Philippines. The government is in need of major improvement. We see this as Johnnie describes the ordeal Fay goes through trying to renew her driving license.

The people are optimistic, but Johnnie can't help wondering why at times. For such hard working people, he thinks they should be better off than they are. He finds it mind-boggling that services offered are so inexpensive. He knows this first hand because he had to visit the dentist.

My daughter-in-law is Filipino and I feel I understand her better from reading A Virgin in the Philippines. Her extended family resembles Fay's family in many ways.

Thank you to Johnnie Johnson for such a beautiful insight to daily life in the Philippines! I wish you and Fay much happiness and many more visits back to enjoy the Philippines.

Mary Crocco, Reviewer

Daniel's Bookshelf

Gideon's Corpse
Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child
Grand Central Publishing
c/o The Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780446564373, $26.99,

I selected this novel because I have read almost all of their novels on their joint writings of the Pendergast novels and their stand alone ones. I also have read most of their solo novels with maybe one exception. I haven't read Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston. I have kept track of their writing, and I hope sometime to go back and get that book to read. I enjoyed all I have read from these two guys, and I hope they keep writing for sometime.

Gideon Crew is directed to assist in another case with a worker whom he worked in the same Tech area from Los Alamos, New Mexico. Gideon and Chalker were scientists and it appears by his actions Reed Chalker has gone mad for some unknown reason. Chalker is doing the unexpected without any possible links to his normal personality traits. He is holding a family hostage at gunpoint, and he kills one, while causing a massive police and FBI standoff. Gideon is asked to talk him down before something else happens.

Now Gideon Crew is associated with a Special Agent Stone Fordyce with the FBI, and both of them start roaming to investigate more information on the background of Reed Chalker. Gideon is FBI liaison assigned to Fordyce. Other agencies are involved in the situation including NYPD, FBI, Nest Group, ATF, CIA, and others all working to check on the possibilities of any nuclear exposure and the killing of one hostage. Gideon and Fordyce start working together as partners to interview and check into the past of Chalker's relationships with all of the people who might know him better. Gideon only knew him as a co-worker, and Chalker had no friends, that Gideon knew about at work. Gideon faces another problem as the investigation advances Fordyce gets some idea that Gideon is involved in the conspiracy of the terriorism with the nukes. Now Gideon is being man-hunted by the FBI, and he becomes the target, where they figure he is a partner in crime with Chalker. Now the real adventure begins where Gideon must the truth of who at Los Alamos is working so hard to incriminate him. The outcome of this knowledge will lead him to a final battle for the truth, with the best outcome for America, and a hard fought showdown of the constituents. Gideon's goal it to succeed and win, which is to avoid their evil personal agenda of Armageddon victors in the outset.

Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child have the Pendergast series, and now the Gideon Crew series started last year along with their solo novels. I have faithfully followed their novels, and I met Lincoln several years back at a bookstore with his daughter in Brookfield WI. He gave an interesting talk on how these two collaborate on the Pendergast novels and their following is phenomenal. I have enjoyed all their books and await the next one released. I believe it The Third Gate by Lincoln Child on June 12, 2012. A following up to the third Gideon adventure will be coming out late this year or early next year.

Live Wire
Harlan Coben
c/o Penquin Group (USA) Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780525952060, $27.95,

I usually enjoy reading a different type of thriller involving families, and I like more real-time situations in this ever changing technological world. Let's face it today we hear about newer problems, where the cell-phones, and computer sites of Facebook, My Space, along with other personal informational data gathering occcur in this modern world. They claim the dating and meeting people are increasing via the Internet more substantial now than ever before. Harlan Coben likes to explore these common grounds today, and it opens up newer vistas in the day to day 21st Century living. He doesn't disappoint with his main characters being wrapped up in these problems. Live Wire is an example of that type of reading and I did enjoy another selection of his books telling about it.

Myron Bolitar receives a visit from a friend named Suzze Trevantino who shows him a message on her Facebook page, that had a two words under a fetus sonogram picture. He can see after reading it, why she is troubled. She wants him to help her solve this situation with his resources from MB Reps. He proceeds to check into the friend's background and explore some possibilities. The more Myron explores by interviewing people who recognize a symbol near the two words. It becomes clearer that the truth might be discovery in locating someone he didn't expect to find which opens the door in the investigation. Also to top his investigating problems his father takes a serious turn for the worse, which shakes up his world as he was his mentor growing up. Myron will soon see where the real danger is lurking around the corner, that his close family will eventually face. Now he has to do what he can to protect them against unknown enemies, and why they are the problem.

Harlan Coben is the author of twenty-one thriller novels. His stand alone stories and his popular Myron Bolitar series shows why this writer has some of his books on the New York Times Bestselling list. Some of them made #1 and he is the winner of the Edgar, Shamus and Anthony honors for his individual efforts getting these awards. His next book is out already entitled Stay Close.

Daniel Allen

Don Martin's Bookshelf

Forbidden Touch
K.S. Haigwood
Amazon Digital Services
B008DKORNU, $2.99 (eBook),

Our story concerns Mitch Foley, a homicide detective, and Ciera, a vampire. Mitch is the best detective Decatur, Illinois has to offer, and he has just been assigned what seems to be an impossible case. A series of 17 murders, with apparently all the victims chosen randomly, but all with one similarity. In all cases, every drop of blood has been drained from the deceased.

Ciera is a Finder. She tracks down rogue vampires, and brings them to justice. And with the bloodless bodies, these murders have "vampire" written all over them. So Ciera is working the same case as Mitch and his partner, Lazarus, without them knowing she is there.

One of the abilities Ciera has is to make herself invisible. So she moves into Mitch's apartment with him so she will know if he discovers any information on the rogue vampire, and to place images of the victims in his dreams before they are murdered. She hopes he will find these humans and protect them before they are murdered, but Mitch only seems to think he is going crazy when he sees the people from his dreams on the front page of the newspaper. Mitch begins to feel her presence around him. He becomes paranoid, thinking he has acquired a ghost, and begins to question his own sanity.

Ciera wants to reveal herself to Mitch, but it is a mortal sin for a vampire to expose their kind to a human. If she does, her Family, who controls the vampires, will condemn her to death. She decides it is worth the risk when Mitch is framed for the serial murders. She shows herself to him and she is the most beautiful woman he has ever seen. She explains she is a vampire and so is the murderer.

They are both in grave danger, but the connection between them is too much to ignore. A force stronger than either of them brings a beating heart and one that has been silent for over three centuries together. Ignoring the love they feel for each other is impossible. They have no choice, Mitch and Ciera have to run. Ciera has a death sentence hanging over her head, and the murder count has now been raised to 20. They need to find a powerful witch to protect them, and fast.

They stumble upon a psychic who sends them to a very talented witch. The witch gives them each an enchanted necklace. It changes their appearance so they can't be recognized, making them safe from the police and the Family. Mitch starts to think being a vampire might not be such a bad thing. Vampires live forever, after all. And he wants to spend eternity with Ciera.

Ciera learns through Dane, another vampire who would do anything for her attention and affection, that the killer is Lazarus, Mitch's partner. Lazarus has framed Mitch, and Dane has helped him in hopes of keeping Ciera for his own.

Mitch eventually learns what Lazarus' real plan is. He wants to kill the Elders out of revenge, but he is not a powerful enough vampire to accomplish this task on his own. He needs a very powerful vampire. He needs his biological son. He needs Mitch.

So the story is about two vampires who have to kill another vampire to save the Elders. But there is one problem with their plan; the other vampires learn Lazarus is Mitch's biological father. They don't trust Mitch. He may be just trying to infiltrate the Family. Which is exactly what Lazarus wants him to do. But Mitch and Ciera are not powerful enough to kill Lazarus alone. To do it they need the help of the powerful Elders, but if the Elders don't trust Mitch, then the two will have no chance.

This book contains lots of twists and turns. Once you think you have everything figured out, the author throws you a curve and switches things around. As a paranormal romance, this book works. This action packed book is full of romance and suspense, and there is a lot of plotting and scheming going on. Mitch and Ciera have a knack for getting into impossible situations, but somehow always manage to escape them. The pace of the book is fast and crisply written. Highly recommended.

Chasing Shadows
Christina Moore
Amazon Digital Services
B008E0XOG0, $4.99,,

Our story concerns Vivian Drake, a bestselling author of fiction. Vampire fiction. Each book gets rave reviews for how real it seems, and how much the author knows about vampires. There is a reason for that. Vivian is a vampire. Her real name is Saphrona, and she is over 200 years old.

Since 1846 she has lived on a small farm, raising horses, cattle, pigs, and chickens. Life is good, except she hasn't found her bond-mate yet. Saphrona was once told by one of her father's mistresses that every vampire has one person they will spend eternity with. A psychic later confirmed this, and said she would only meet her bond-mate when they need each other. But Saphrona has broken off from her vampire clan. The only vampire she still sees regularly is her brother. And she has also given up on drinking human blood. Animal blood works fine for her.

Then a difficulty arises. Diarmid, her father and also a vampire, wants to find Vivian Drake. Diarmid is not happy with what she's been publishing, because it is so true. Diarmid wants to find Vivian not to kill her, but to find out who her vampire source is, and kill them. He assigns Saphrona the task of finding Vivian. Diarmid knows Saphrona is powerful enough to do it. Saphrona is in a tight spot. She can't turn the task down, because Diarmid is her father. But she can't accept it either because that means revealing herself.

Since Saphrona is fairly wealthy from her book sales and farm income, she decides to hire a farmhand. She puts an ad in the paper, and Mark Singelton answers it. She asks him to drop by that afternoon for an interview. He shows up, and Saphrona recognizes him. He is her bond-mate, and she has always known what he will look like. As she approaches him her "supe-sense" (supernatural sense) kicks in.

Half-vampires like Saphrona have the ability to identify if other paranormals are around. Mark is a dhunphyr - an immortal human. They are much like vampires, except they don't feed on blood.

Mark may be the last dhumphyr alive. Vampires are very good at knowing when one will be born, and they always kill it within a few hours of its birth. The blood of a dhunphyr is very sweet to a vampire, and it is also a narcotic. Some vampires get addicted to it. Mark was lucky because he had a protector as a baby, and she kept the vampires at bay.

As she shows Mark around the farm she starts to know for sure he is her bond-mate. When she accidentally touches him electric sparks shoot through her body. That's a sure sign of a connection between them. She has no choice but to hire him. He will move into the barn that evening.

When Mark returns with his few belongings Saphrona senses another paranormal. A shapeshifter. The shapeshifter is Mark's dog, Angel. This concerns Saphrona. You can't always trust shapeshfters, because they can be one of two forms. This one can be a human or a weredog. To ordinary humans a weredog appears as a pet dog. Could be this one is on a mission to kill Mark?

Saphrona tells the shapeshifter they need to talk. After Mark goes to bed that night the shapeshifter appears as Juliette, Mark's sister. As far as her family knows she lives in London. But Juliette explains that she is essentially Mark's bodyguard. The vampires do not know Mark exists - yet. And she intends to keep it that way. If they ever do find out, she can shift into a weredog, and protect him. But, she says, Mark has only known her as a dog.

Saphrona has a problem. She doesn't know if Mark knows what he is. He certainly doesn't know who she is. He also doesn't know what his dog is. But as Mark and Saphrona are talking one evening Mark simply says, "I need to tell you something. I am not 100% human." So he does know. Saphrona responds, "I am not either, I'm a half vampire." Mark still doesn't know about his dog.

So Saphrona calls a meeting of the three paranormals. Juliette appears in her human form. Mark is stunned. Why is she here? She is supposed to be in London. Juliette explains that she is a shapeshifter, and she describes her protection mission. Mark doesn't believe it. So Juliette shifts into the dog again. And back to a human, so Mark can see it. The three paranormals spend some time discussing where they go from here. In theory all three are immortal, so they will see a lot of each other.

Over time Mark and Saphrona fall in love. And they do realize they are bond-mates. They become intimate, which means they will be together forever. But, should one of them die the other will die as well. That's how close they are.

Mark moves into the farmhouse with Saphrona, and Juliette takes the barn apartment for when she wants to be a human. All is going well. But Saphrona keeps going back to what she had been told by the psychic. When two bond-mates find each other it means they need each other. And it usually means one or both is in mortal danger. She knows something is coming at them, and it won't be good. And bad things do start happening. Very bad things. And it gets complicated, and ugly. Mark, Sophrona, and Juliette all have a price on their head. Can the three of them overcome the evil forces aligned against them?

As a paranormal romance this book works. There is a lot of suspense, and some action. Of course, there is romance. And there is always a conflict between the vampires and the shapeshifters, who don't get along. And Mark, the dhunphyr, is in the middle. There are a fair number of sex scenes in the book. None are graphic, but this a book meant for adults. This is the best paranormal romance I've read in a few years, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Highly recommended.

Kade's Dark Embrace
Kym Grosso
Privately Published
978061561337, $7.99, B007P6JJFY, $2.99

Our story concerns Kade Issacson, a detective with the Paranormal City Alternative Police (P-CAP) out of New Orleans. They investigate crimes which involve a paranormal aspect. It also concerns Sydney Willows, a regular city police detective in Philadelphia. One night both are called out to investigate a "floater," someone who had drowned in the Delaware River. But this is not a simple drowning. The body was completely drained of blood. Also, the body was dressed and made up to look like one of those old porcelain dolls. And the body was tattooed with ritual tattoos. There looked to be paranormal activity involved.

Sydney suspects Kade just might not be human at all. Many P-CAP detectives are not. It wasn't just that he works with the Paranormal Police. There is just something unusual about him. He is just a little too smooth. Sydney thinks he is probably a vampire. In the meantime there is a murder to be solved. But Kade and Sydney start to spar over who is leading the case. Since there are paranormal aspects it should belong to Kade. But since the victim was human it should belong to Sydney.

Sydney begins to refer to Kade as "vampire." Kade never corrects her, and says nothing about it. This confirms Sydney's suspicions. One night she confronts him about it. He won't confirm it, but does say he has lived many hundreds of years. Kade is a vampire, and Sydney knows it. One night they go to talk to a person who may be linked to the murder. Sydney will approach from the front, and Kade from the back. As Sydney approaches she is struck down from behind. As the attacker approaches her Kade appears in his full vampire form. He is not human. Kade manipulates the man so Sydney has a clean shot, and she shoots and kills him. But Kade has exposed himself, and he can no longer deny what he is.

Since they are working long hours together they start to become attracted to each other. And since they are both single they might make a good couple. But there is a lot of tension between them over how to handle the case. And both of them think they are in charge of it. Because of this they both try to remain professional, and even though they are attracted to each other they can't act on it.

Before long a second is victim found, identical to the first. And there are some other supernatural beings involved including werewolves, a witch, and a ghost. After the second murder Kade is fairly sure he knows who is doing the killings. It is Simone, a former lover of his. Kade had banished her when they broke up. Simone has apparently gathered up a bunch of supernatural beings herself and is ready to go to war with Kade for revenge. Simone wants to take over all the supernaturals in New Orleans, the city Kade controls. Kade can't tell Sydney about this because she is close to Kade and she may become a victim.

And sure enough Simone does send a vampire to kill Sydney. But Sydney has an on again, off again lover who is a werewolf. He had given her a gift of the tools needed to kill vampires, and Sydney knows how to use them. Sydney and the vampire have a brutal fight, and Sydney is badly beaten, but she does kill the vampire. Then she passes out.

Kade finds her, but can't wake her up. He decides to take her to the relative safety of New Orleans. When Sydney wakes up the next morning she is not happy where she is. Kade explains it is for the best, because she will have a bodyguard.

Because of the ritualistic nature of the killings in Pittsburgh Kade thinks more and more Simone was behind them. A witch pretty much confirms it. Sydney wants in on the case, but Kade says she is only there for her protection. So they are at odds again. Kade calls Sydney's captain and gets Sydney assigned to him as a consultant. She can participate, but she will always have a bodyguard. But she has a habit of sneaking off, in one case flying back to Philadelphia. This is driving Kade crazy, but she is a strong woman.

It becomes clear what is happening. Kade controls all the supernaturals in the New Orleans area. After Kade banished Simone from his territory she gathered a rogue army of supernaturals herself. And she is going to go to war with Kade to take over New Orleans. They spar here and there. But they all know there will eventually be a final confrontation. Kade assembles an army of vampires and a werewolf. Simone has an army of vampires and a magician. They know the battle is coming, they just don't know when. Can Kade and Sydney defeat the supernatural army set up against them?

This paranormal romance is quite good. It has a little bit of everything. Vampires, of course. And werewolves, magicians, and witches. The plot and characters are well developed, and the pace is relatively fast, which is appropriate for a thriller. Highly recommended.

Don Martin

Gary's Bookshelf

They Let Me Burn
Nancy Fox
Legacy Book Publishing
1883 Lee Road, Winter Park, Florida 32789
9781937952198, $19.95,

"They Let Me Burn" is a rapid paced thriller that races along to a final surprising ending. Fox fills the story with plenty of twists and turns of a complicated plot. The characters are believable, the writing is very easy to follow and the story will have readers quickly turning pages wondering what's next. It is hard to believe that this is only the second novel by Nancy Fox who is a master storyteller "They Let Me Burn" is a character driven story that is deftly told.

Smuggler's Moon Underneath the Radar
Doug Haddaway
Stratosphere Publishing Company
P.O Box 470534, Celebration FL, 34747
9780984248701, $14.99,

From the back of "Smuggler's Moon Underneath the Radar" it sounded like it would be a rousing tale of a drug smuggler. But something is wrong from the first page because the author did not have the book edited. There are so many edit problems that any story is completely lost because of them. I see lots of books that have minor problems that do not hinder the work but "Smugglers Moon" has more than its fair share. Some of them are the improper use of tenses, spacing of the novel on the page, confusion of characters. And readers will be able to pick out others that I haven't mentioned. "Smuggler's Moon Underneath the Radar" at best is ho-hum reading and I would say skip this one altogether.

Serpentauria: Ark of Extinction
Erik Daniel Shein
Dennis M. Lowery
Eric Levenberg
Escribe c/o Adducent
9781937592066, $10.95,

"Serpentauria Ark of Extinction" is a generous blend of SF fantasy in the realm of "Jurassic Park," and fast paced mystery thriller. The authors take the reader on a journey from ancient times to present day South America. Along the way is a masterfully told story with realistic characters. "Serpentauria Ark of Extinction" has a sense of wonder that will have readers believe many of the things that happen can really occur. This is the first of five planed novels. "Serpentauria Ark of Extinction" would make a great film.

Debbie Macomber's Cedar Cove Cookbook
Debbie Macomber
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada M3B 3K9,
9780373892136 $29.95

"Debbie Macomber's Cedar Cove Cookbook" is a unique one that is a total departure for Harlequin. It is very special because all of the recopies are from the households of Cedar Cove. For all occasions there are foods that sound delicious. For the many fans of Macomber, this is another delightful way to enjoy another slice of Cedar Cove.

The Homesick Texan Cookbook
Lisa Fain
Hyperion Books
77 West 66th Street, New York, NY 10023-6298
9781401324261, $29.99,

Texas is famous for the Dallas Cowboys, Texas Rangers, 3 modern day Presidents of the United States and "The Homesick Texan Cookbook." The author who moved to New York began this book as a love of her native state of Texas because she missed the food of the state that she was so fond of. She has collected recipes and dishes she has known and discovered while she lived in Texas. For each section she gives a little background and tells about some of the items needed to prepare some of the concoctions. Of course there are Tex Mex entrees but there are also foods for all occasions that sound scrumptious. "The Homesick Texan" is a food lover's paradise of flavorful tastes that anyone can enjoy.

The Spider-Man Vault
Peter A. David & Robert Greenberger
Running Press
2300 Chestnut Street Philadelphia, PA 19103-4371
9780762437726, $49.95,

Just in time for the new "Spiderman" movie is "The Spider-Man Vault" The two authors were a great choice because they both have worked in the comic's world for so many years. They bring their expertise to tell the full story of one of Marvel Comics' most popular characters. There are lots of pictures, odd trinkets, and lots of behind the scene stories that are brought together in one collection for the first time. No fan of the character should miss "The Spider-Man Vault"

The I Hate Kathie Lee Gifford Book
Gary Blake & Robert W. Bly
Kensington Publishing Corp
119 West 40th Street, New York, NY 10018
9781575661445, $11.00,

Just for fun is "The I Hate Kathie Lee Gifford Book" Some of the things the authors deal with (before she was added to the "Today Show") are her dumb statements on the air, other people who are better singers than she, her list of ten great women, and her statements on relationships. Though this is a satire, there are some very funny things here that make a lot of sense about Kathie Lee Gifford. "The I Hate Kathie Lee Gifford Book" shows that not everyone loves her as she seems to think.

Legend of the Dragon Gate
Written & illustrated by P.J Tamayo
Legacy Book Publishing
1883 Lee Road, Winter Park, Florida 32789
9781934449394, $14.95,

"Legend of the Dragon Gate" is a kid's book filled with lots of good things such as a story that is fun to read based on Chinese folklore, the artwork pulls the reader into the story about the Koi fish named Gu who finds out he has to save the lake he swims in. He is on a journey to save his home that will change him forever. The story is filled with many strange and wonderful characters that Gu meets on his adventure. "Legend of the Dragon Gate" is a tale all ages can enjoy.

How Cheddar Got a Name
David Melvin, author
Corey Fields, illustrator
Legacy Book Publishing
1883 Lee Road, Winter Park, Florida 32789
9781934449875, $12.95,

"How Cheddar Got A Name" is a great kid's book that has a lot to say about friendship. A field mouse loses his home when two young boys play with matches that sets fire to the high grass where the rodent lives. Corey Fields artwork is brightly colored which adds to the story of this field mouse who loses his home. "How Cheddar Got A Name" is a fun filled tale that has many different messages to kids.

Silent Fortune
Janet Carafa
Outskirts Press Inc
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
97814327779290, $12.95,

As I read "Silent Fortune" I was reminded of several other movies and books. Among them are the Jerry Lewis movie "Visit to a Small Planet" where he wants to play with earthlings, "Yellow Submarine" the movie and "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.. There are also lyrics to songs the author has written that made me think of several Beatle's songs among them. "I am the Walrus" Silent Land is a place above the clouds where the only people who live there are mimes. Fortune is one of them but she is a bit different. She is not content to live in the world of the silent people. She wants more in her life and she leaves Silent Land to search for a place where there is sound. Her encounters with other beings make the story very interesting. There are many concepts that run through "Silent Fortune" that make it a delightful novel to read for all ages.

Gary Roen

Gloria's Bookshelf

Good Bait
John Harvey
Wm. Heinemann
c/o Random House
20 Vauxhall Bridge Rd., London SW1V2SA
9780434021628, 12.99 BPS
CA 9780434021635, $22.00,

[This book is only available in/through the UK and Canada at this time]

There are two main story lines, and two cases for the cops to pursue, in this newest novel from John Harvey. The first is the murder in Hampstead Heath of a 17-year-old Moldovan boy, assigned to DCI Karen Shields and the Homicide & Serious Crime team. The second falls to DI Trevor Cordon of the Devon and Cornwall Police in Exeter, when a woman he'd known is killed under the wheels of an oncoming train, whether suicide, accident or murder is unknown. Though not strictly his problem, he takes time off the job to investigate it, as the woman in question was known to him from years back and is the mother of a girl who, though many years his junior, he knew and by whom he was intrigued all those years before. There is the tantalizing question of whether or not these two events are connected.

This is, of course, at least nominally, a police procedural, and quite a good one, although the multitude of characters, both 'bad guys' and good, were often difficult for me to keep track of. But of course, being a John Harvey novel, it is much more than that. That title, for one instance, is, typically of a Harvey protagonist, the title of a jazz tune of which Cordon collects every known recording, from Miles Davis to Nina Simone to Dexter Gordon. It is also a character study of the lead cops, entirely different from one another: Karen, a black woman from Jamaica, and Trevor, fifty-ish, with an ex-wife and a grown son from whom he's been estranged but who he believes is now living somewhere in Australia. The author philosophizes about what makes these cops tick: whether "the mystery, the need to see things through to their conclusion, find out how they'd been put together, how they ticked. Wasn't that one of the reasons people became detectives?" and about "missed chances. Roads not taken. Relationships allowed to drift. Always that nagging question, what if, what if?" Another terrific Harvey novel, and recommended.

Boca Daze
Steven M. Forman
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780765328762, $25.99,

Eddie Perlmutter, a 61-year-old p.i. in Boca Raton, FL, is still a crusader who cannot, it seems, help himself: He has to save whatever otherwise lost causes present themselves, from homeless people living on the streets, beaches or wherever else, to the endangered sea turtles with nests on the shores. A former Boston cop who, as he says, was that city's "most decorated and demoted policeman in my prime and best marksman on the force," he retired to Boca three years ago. Widowed for many years, he is now living with his gorgeous [and much younger] Haitian-born girlfriend [whose own claim to fame includes cutting a man's head off with a machete before leaving Haiti], still working with Louie Dewey, computer genius extraordinaire. Eddie having been dubbed the Boca Knight, and attained not a small bit of celebrity, by a young newspaper reporter, following an anti-Nazi rally in Palm Beach, among other things, he runs the Boca Knights Detective Agency, with Louie's invaluable assistance.

Louie is only one of many other quirky characters with equally quirky names, e.g., "Three Bag Bailey," a homeless woman, and Liam Michael "Mad Mick" Murphy, a journalist from Key West. Although brutal and violent in many spots, the book is filled with humor, as were the two earlier entries in this series. He is obviously very fond of his adopted State. Eddie mentions in one instance that "over a thousand endangered species live in South Florida. The Early Bird is not one of them," and in another, when about to drive after sustaining a serious head injury, and asked if he is fit to drive, he responds "I'm in better condition than most drivers in Boca."

Always a crusader and "a sucker for a good cause," Eddie promises to look into an attack on a homeless man dubbed "Weary Willie" [after the sad-faced clown of many years ago] - - apparently the homeless problem in Florida just as bad as, if not worse than, any other part of the country - - and uncovers several other criminal activities along the way, including political corruption, and erstwhile pain clinics, really "pill mills," apparently another blight in Florida, with millions of pills sold annually in strip malls and office parks by non-medical corporations. But the worst crime uncovered is one reminiscent of the Bernie Madoff affair [with the latter even making a cameo appearance].

Don't let the fact that Eddie is on speaking terms with a particular body part be off-putting; it's really just another aspect of this very funny book with a wonderful protagonist who has a tendency toward random philosophical musings. It is a terrific and fast read, and I look forward to the next book in the series. Parenthetically, I loved the tip of the hat to the Mystery Bookstore in Pineapple Grove as well.

Highly recommended.

The Chalk Girl
Carol O'Connell
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780399157745, $25.95,

Carol O'Connell's twelfth book, and the tenth Mallory novel, finds that NYPD detective having recently returned from a mysterious three-month 'leave' [translation: she disappeared from her job in the Special Crimes Unit, and apparently from New York, to unknown locations and simply showed up again for work one day], promptly receiving an evaluation of being a dangerously unstable sociopath from the department shrink and assigned to desk duty, that "graveyard of damaged cops." That assignment is short-lived, however, upon the discovery of the body of a man in a tree in Central Park. When two more bodies turn up in short order, there is an outcry, not unreasonably, from the public, as well as within the police department, for a quick solution and arrest. The ensuing investigation opens a Pandora's Box of corruption. [There are, e.g., references to 'high-ranking politicians and other criminals'.] I loved the description of a hospital administrator, "a man who amazed one and all by the act of walking upright in the absence of a spine."

I must admit I'm late to the party: This was my first book in the Kathy Mallory series. Not only is her protagonist a character unlike any other - - Mallory the Machine as she is known within the cop shop, a tall, slim 26-year-old blonde with electric green eyes, incredible computer hacking skills, raised by her foster parents, and "late, great cop" Lou Markowitz and his wife; but the supporting cast is terrific as well. Among them are Charles Butler, technologically retarded 41-year-old psychologist and consultant to the police, he of the unspoken and unrequited love for Mallory, who permitted him to use her first name - - a very exclusive group, to be sure - -, and her partner, Detective Sergeant Riker, a regular at Birdland, the jazz club in Manhattan. But the most fascinating is Coco ["like the hot chocolate," as she says], the little red-haired eight-year-old girl who initially reported the first body, a very bright child who suffers from Williams syndrome, a rare disease typified by hyper-acuity, and certain distinctive facial qualities, among other things. The child has huge commonalities to Mallory herself, in background and lack of ability to communicate easily with others, and the two bond immediately.

This case presents a huge challenge for Mallory, but when has that ever stopped her? It is fascinating to follow the painstaking steps that finally [albeit somewhat slowly] bring the detectives to the solution to this baffling case. I found this book to be many things: chilling, unsettling, somewhat disappointing and unsure why this was so, but ultimately recommended.

Damage Control
Denise Hamilton
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781451686326, $16.00,

On the very first page of the prologue to "Damage Control," the terrific new book by Denise Hamilton, the reader meets high school student Maggie Weinstock. Fast forward sixteen years: Maggie is now Maggie Silver, divorced, and 33 years old. The crux of the plot stems from that earlier time frame, when Maggie, in her first two years of high school, met the Paxtons, who became the "golden ones" in her young life. Before "BFF" became part of the vernacular, their daughter, Anabelle, was that and more - she was everything Maggie admired and, to some extent, envied. And her good-looking brother, Luke, was a Surf God.

Maggie now works for the top crisis management firm in L.A., doing corporate PR. The newest client to whose case she is assigned is a U.S. Senator with a wife and grown children, a probable candidate for vice president in the next election, whose 23-year-old female aide has been found murdered, in a scenario reminiscent of the one involving Gary Conduit and Chandra Levy a decade ago. The senator is none other than Henry Paxton, Anabelle's father, who had been a father figure and a role model to Maggie all those years ago. Welcome to the wonderful world of "damage control," or spin.

This novel provides a fascinating glimpse, in a schadenfreude way, into a world about which most readers know little. Maggie suspects that her past involvement with the Paxton family is what brought the assignment to her desk. She believes, and tells her colleagues, that no member of that family is capable of murder. The response is that "everyone's capable of murder if you give them the right reason." But she is determined to prove that no member of the family is guilty. The backstory of Maggie's friendship with Anabelle, and how it ended, is the lens through which Maggie views the Paxtons. In the end, it's all about the secrets we keep from one another. As with the earlier books by Ms. Hamilton, comprised of the five books in the Eve Diamond series as well as "The Last Embrace," a standalone, "Damage Control" is thoroughly entertaining, and is recommended.

The Dog Who Knew Too Much
Spencer Quinn
Atria Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781439157107, $15.00,

Ah, what a pleasure to re-enter the world of Chet, the canine narrator and K-9 school dropout, and his human companion, Bernie. In the midst of a plethora of dark books and novels featuring over-the-top sadism and end-of-the-world thrillers [not that there's anything wrong with that, mind you], this charming series was just what I needed!

Not that there isn't mystery aplenty here - including a missing person, murder etc. - after all, Bernie is a detective, and although very humorous, it isn't your usual 'cute-sy' animal-detective tale either - - well, now that I think of it - - the latter does have his own blog []. The author [Quinn is the nom de plume of prolific author Peter Abrahams] has given us another terrific entry - - the fourth - - in this series, which is just as delightful as the prior books.

As the book opens, Bernie has been invited to be the keynote speaker at a p.i. convention, during which the organizer of the event offers Bernie $10,000 to buy Chet, which he refuses. Soon thereafter he is hired as a bodyguard. Neither of those things turns out to be as innocuous as one might think: The p.i. is not one to take no for an answer, and the bodyguard duty somehow morphs into a search for a boy who has gone missing while on a wilderness camp hike. Who better than a talented tracker like Chet to try to find him? But things, as always, get a bit more complicated; actually, a lot more complicated, and there is ultimately much more at stake. A quick and a wonderfully entertaining book, and one that is highly recommended.

Start Shooting
Charlie Newton
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
9780385534697, $25.95,

The one-page prologue of sorts, headed "Chicago," opens with the words "The girl was thirteen and Irish, and fashioned out of sunlight so bright she made you believe in angels," and ends with these: "Nineteen years I've been a ghetto cop and thought I'd worked every heartbreaking, horror combination possible. But I hadn't. I wasn't marginally prepared for how bad six days could get. And neither was anyone else." And then the author details those six days, the p.o.v. alternating between that of Arleen Brennan and Bobby Vargas, the cop. The writer's style is such that there was a smile on my face at page 1 [following the single page containing that prologue], which describes the Four Corners neighborhood in the South Side of Chicago, and its multi-cultural inhabitants.

The tale begins in the winter of 1982, filling in a lot of the history of Chicago over the last 50+ years, even for those who think they remember all the stories of corruption and race riots. Chicago is hopeful of hosting the 2016 Olympics and the "salvation" it would surely mean for the city, with the ensuing influx of revenue for a cash-strapped town. All very entertaining, with just an undercurrent of danger - - until the shooting starts, that is. At that point, things take a different turn, becoming dark and edgy, with a fair amount of violence. The craziness gets a bit hard to follow at times, but that didn't slow the turning of pages at all.

At its heart this is a novel about two pairs of siblings, Arleen and Coleen Brennan, beautiful blond twin sisters, the latter not surviving past the age of 13, when she was raped to death, Arleen escaping the city and not seen again for 29 years, when she appears in the book's opening pages. Bobby and Reuben Vargas are brothers, Bobby 42 as the story starts, Reuben, a cop and "a street legend in Chicago," the older brother who was Bobby's hero for half his life, their parents born in Mexico but the boys having grown up in Four Corners. Ambition is just one thing Arleen and Bobby have in common, for a future, and fame, as an actress and a guitar-playing musician, respectively. But Arleen is waiting tables, and Bobby is a cop who plays "in the band, weekends around town;" one other thing they have in common is a deep love for their siblings.

"Start Shooting" is one of the most original novels I've read in a while, and though I can't say I held my breath as it headed towards it denouement, I was white-knuckled from gripping the book so tightly in my hands. Highly recommended.

Birthdays for the Dead
Stuart MacBride
77-85 Fulham Palace Rd., Hammersmith, London W6 8JB
9780007344178, 14.99 BPS,, 020-8741-7070


Stuart MacBride's writing has been called "gritty," and "brilliant." Understatements both.

In his new standalone mystery/thriller, the author introduces DC Ash Henderson of the Oldcastle Police, formerly DI Ash Henderson - he was busted down to Constable following a particularly horrific phase of an investigation into murders committed by a killer dubbed by the tabloids the "Birthday Boy," an investigation now eight years old. The victims have all been young girls, abducted within a few days of their thirteenth birthday, their parents tormented with photos mailed to them every year on the ensuing birthdays, each one increasingly grotesque in its images of torture, mutilation and, finally, death. What no one else knows - not the detectives with whom he works, not even his wife - is that Henderson's daughter, Rebecca, who went missing five years before, is another of those victims. The rest of the world believes that she has simply gone missing; Ash has hidden the truth so that he can continue to hunt for the killer, in the quite-correct belief that he would otherwise be pulled off the case, placed on compassionate leave and given grief counseling.

Henderson is a fascinating protagonist, 45 years old, with an ex-wife and twelve-year-old daughter and now living in a dilapidated council estate, he is not one to shy away from exacting revenge, or justice, when called for. But the most fascinating of the characters created by Mr. MacBride for this novel is Dr. Alice McDonald, brilliant forensic psychologist, somewhat mentally unstable, self-described as "delightfully quirky" - - a more objective viewpoint might include OCD and perhaps agoraphobia.

The book takes place over a period of ten excruciating days, as the victim list mounts, and bodies are suddenly found, and the hunt for the Birthday Boy has suddenly become more intense, if possible. With canny plotting, and a stunning ending, this is a book which will stay with you long after the cover is closed. I made the mistake of coming within 100 pages of finishing it late one night, something I definitely do NOT recommend - unlike the novel itself, which I most definitely do.

So Damn Lucky
Deborah Coonts
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780765330062, $24.99,

The opening line of Deborah Coonts' new book, the third in the Lucky O'Toole series [following "Wanna Get Lucky?" and "Lucky Stiff,"] is eye-catching, to wit: "Some things in life are best savored alone - - sex is not one of them." And that sets the tone of the novel, bringing back the six foot tall Head of Customer Relations at a Las Vegas Strip hotel, i.e., the chief problem solver, hired by Albert Rothstein, owner of several of the biggest hotels in the town, usually just referred to as The Big Boss. As the book opens, it is October 24th, and things are gearing up for one of the biggest events of the year in Vegas: the Houdini Seance, held on Halloween, the anniversary of the great magician's death, attended by most of the tourists who have invaded the town, as well as many prominent magicians

All manner of quirky characters are introduced, probably none more deserving of that description than Lucky's mother, Mona, owner of Mona's Place, "the self-styled 'Best Whorehouse in Nevada.'" The family dynamics are unusual, to say the least, but never less than interesting. Her friends include Federika "Flash" Gordon, "Las Vegas' most tenacious investigative reporter," and young LVPD detective Romeo [his name, not a soubriquet]. Much of the early part of the book deals with Lucky's problem dealing with the fact that her recent love, Vegas' reigning female impersonator, now a budding rock star, has gone off to Europe to follow his dream, leaving her with "hormonally driven leaps of lust" sparked, literally, by the touch of any one of several male acquaintances and colleagues. Among the plot points are a top hat, a rabbit, death threats, a vanishing magician, an astronaut who talks to dead people, and a group of believers in "the murky realm of fringe science" attending a UFO conference.

As the author describes it, "Vegas is like Brigadoon - - a magical city that appears when the sun sets and the lights come on, where anything can happen." I had not read the earlier entries in the series and did not know what to expect, but I enjoyed this tale of Lucky and her environs and found it a good summer read.

Very Bad Men
Harry Dolan
Berkley Trade
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780425247617, $15.00,

This second novel from the author of the acclaimed "Bad Things Happen," his writing debut, has no 'sophomore book' problems. "Very Bad Men" immediately engages the reader, and one is quickly drawn into this compelling tale of murder, specifically, the murder of two men who were part of a bank robbery seventeen years ago, and the attempted murder of a third. All three men had been convicted, and served jail time of varying lengths. But what could be the motive? These three men had not seen nor contacted one another in all the intervening years. And the killer - for his identity is quickly revealed - is not a cool, professional hit man; that is immediately made clear.

David Loogan, the editor-in-chief of a mystery magazine, receives, in a plain, unmarked envelope, what at first glance appears to be a manuscript, only several pages long, bearing no signature, the first line of which reads "I killed Henry Kormoran . . . " Loogan, who lives with his 'significant other,' Elizabeth Waishkey, an Ann Arbor, Michigan, detective, and her precocious 16-year-old daughter, ultimately begins a kind of parallel and unofficial investigation.

Each character in the novel is wonderfully well-drawn. These include the killer, who suffers from synesthesia, a rare affliction which results in a confusion of the senses, with words taking on dimensions far beyond their 'normal' printed appearance, according to his emotional reaction to them; Lucy Navarro, a young and rather endearing reporter, who comes up with a bizarre theory of the motive for the crimes; assorted politicians and their 'handlers,' among others. The writer invokes some wildly disparate images: Occam and his razor, Aristotle, jazz musician Charlie Parker; mystery authors Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly; and a theme: "We all want to be known. To be seen for who we really are." There are carefully placed, and easily missed clues, and startling and unexpected twists in this rather complex and engrossing novel, which is recommended.

A Trick of the Light
Louise Penny
c/o St. Martin's Publishing Group
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9781250007346, $14.99,

As with Miss Marple, or the folks who live in the environs of the protagonist in "Murder She Wrote," and as a couple of the residents of Three Pines say, "there must be something in the water," almost "a cottage industry." And to quote the author, "this little village produced bodies and gourmet meals in equal proportion." For shortly after Louise Penny's newest Chief Inspector Gamache book opens, a celebratory party held in that bucolic Quebec village just south of Montreal is dampened when a dead body is found in the garden of the hosts, Clara and Peter Morrow, with her neck broken. A decidedly personal manner of death, all agree. The dead woman, Lillian Dyson, was Clara's BFF [before there was such a term] many decades earlier, their friendship coming to a shattering end when Dyson's treachery became known, and it had been years since they had had any contact. The party itself followed a vernissage, a private solo showing of the artist's work at the Musee d'Art Contemporain in Montreal, a dream come true for Clara.

Armand Gamache, the deceptively mild-mannered head of homicide for the famed Surete du Quebec, and his second in command, Jean Guy Beauvoir, are investigating the murder, not the first time they had come to Three Pines on such a mission. As Gamache says, "Why not just move the whole homicide department down here?" [In jest, almost certainly.] Jean Guy, with his unspoken love for Gamache's daughter [who is, after all, married], is still recovering, mentally as well as physically, from a horrific incident six months prior, as is Gamache himself. [Although not essential, I'd recommend first reading the prior book in the series, "Bury Your Dead," as to the events and the repercussions thereof which ended that book.]

The inhabitants of Three Pines [a village so small it doesn't even show up on a map] who have been introduced to readers of the earlier books are still present, including Ruth "the demented old poet;" Gabriel and Olivier, the gay owners of the local B&B; Myrna, the bookstore owner; and assorted horses, including one that looks a moose. There is also an interesting sub-plot on the subject of AA. The dominant theme is "do people change," and there are many examples of the possibilities, as well as the need, for such change, with varying degrees of success. The book describes the rivalries, egos, politics and backbiting that exist in the art world, as well as a good mystery. It is a true pleasure to read, well deserving of its recent nomination for the Agatha Award for Best Novel of 2011, and is highly recommended.

Gloria Feit

Gorden's Bookshelf

Cemetery Dance
Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
Grand Central Publishing
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780446580298, $26.99,

There are two general ways of dividing the detective mystery novel genre. One was is to try to create as real as possible characters and situations. The second is to create fantastic characters and plots. Preston and Child have created a fantasy detective in Special Agent Pendergast and they match him with fantasy villains. This method does work. All you need to do is consider Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty. But just like with Holmes you do need to ground the story with reality. Doyle did this with Doctor Watson. Preston and Child does this with their secondary characters. There is a balancing act that the writer has to hit for the book to be great. For me, this balance slipped in Cemetery Dance. From other reviewers, I know that many fans don't see the story in the same way as I do.

Cemetery Dance is a very good detective mystery with plenty of blood and drama. The idea of a rogue zombie killing with impunity within densely populated modern New York City is unique and fun. The complex and twisted plot and clues pushes the reader just enough to bring a modest thrill to the story. My problem with the story is that too much of it seemed familiar and the development of the characters wasn't enough to make me invest in their dilemmas. For readers, who have read fewer Holmes mysteries and modern spin-offs, Cemetery Dance is well worth finding. It has all the components that a fantasy detective novel needs for the less jaded reader. This doesn't mean that even the jaded detective genre reader won't find the book a fun escape. You just need to find it on the used book shelves or in mass market paperback.

In summary, Cemetery Dance is a solid detective mystery that is worth reading. If you are a Special Agent Pendergast fan, you can buy it at full price. For everyone else, don't miss it when you find it on the discount shelves or in the library.

The Brass Verdict
Michael Connelly
Little, Brown and Company
c/ o Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316166294, $26.99,

Connelly is a very good mystery writer. He creates characters with unusual quirks but with enough real features they become people the reader imagines he/she knows. The police or investigative scenes are constructed the same way, enough quirky details to feel real but not enough reality to interfere with the flow of the storyline.

The Brass Verdict is a sequel to Connelly's Lincoln Lawyer story. Defense lawyer Mickey Haller is a damaged man who tries go past his problems to do right. He is working his way back to his job and life after a series of botched medical procedures resulted in a stint in rehab for an addiction to painkillers. He is suddenly ordered to the office of the chief judge for the Los Angeles Superior Court. A colleague, Jerry Vincent, has been murdered and Vincent has Mickey down as his fill in consul if he was incapacitated. Instead of slowly working his way back into court, Mickey has been shoved directly into a high stakes murder case and dozens of other active legal cases. The Superior Court judge knows about his recent problems and is keeping a close eye on his work while the police investigating Vincent's murder are working on the theory that one of Vincent's current cases caused his murder and with Mickey talking over the practice Mickey might just be next on the hit list.

For the readers who enjoyed Connelly's other great series with police detective Harry Bosch, Bosch is used as a supporting character as the lead investigator into Vincent's murder. Bosch and Haller trade jibes at each other while trying to solve the murder and stay alive.

Connelly is one of the best contemporary mystery writers. The Brass Verdict keeps him there. Any reader who likes murder mysteries will enjoy this book. The hardcover price is reasonable but it can also easily be found in mass market, used and library shelves so there is no excuse for the mystery reader not to pick up the book.

S.A. Gorden, Reviewer

Harwood's Bookshelf

Here Comes Trouble: Stories From My Life
Michael Moore
Grand Central Publishing
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York NY 10017
9780446532242, $26.99,

I made $14.00 today. I went shopping yesterday and spent $14 on aspirin. Last night I woke up in the middle of the night suddenly aware that I had no recollection of unpacking any aspirin. I checked my medicine cabinet, and sure enough there was no new aspirin. So this morning I went down to my car, looked in the shopping bags in the trunk, and there was the aspirin. So I lost $14 yesterday and made $14 today. As memorable as that incident seems to me right now, I cannot imagine it being of the slightest interest to any other person on this planet.

I have the same opinion of practically every incident reported in the only autobiographies that get published, those of the rich and famous. Despite reading every piece of fiction and scholarship by Isaac Asimov in my local library, I have never attempted to read any of the volumes of his autobiography. I once skim-read over 500 pages of an autobiography by Hillary Clinton before finding anything on which I wished to comment. In the last couple of days I checked out autobiographical books by Tina Fey, Ellen DeGeneres, and Jane Lynch, in the expectation of being able to review them for readers interested in the effects of religious and politically-based prejudices on the lives of individuals guilty of not conforming to the groupthink of the brainwashed majority, and returned all three unreviewed. Perhaps there are persons who think that trivia is readable when it happens to interesting people. That is not a viewpoint I share.

I checked out Michael Moore's latest collection of memoirs in the expectation that it would be filled with useful political commentary. Alas, the only interesting chapter is the one that details the consequences of his academy award acceptance speech, in which he said of the worst president in American history, "We live in a time where we have fictitious election results that elect a fictitious president.. We have a man sending us to war for fictitious reasons." I was aware that, in a country in which the likes of Ann Coulter, Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh are not confined to cages with padded walls, and actually have millions of like-thinkers, truth-tellers are in for a rough ride. But it nonetheless horrified and frightened me that Moore was obliged to hire nine ex-marines as fulltime bodyguards for several years.

Moore acknowledges that he disagrees with the Catholic Church's most bigoted teachings, but nonetheless continues to consider himself a Catholic. I can only assume that he is unaware that the Catholic Bible unambiguously endorses a flat earth that is barely six thousand years old, and that he has not read Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, William Harwood, Christopher Hitchens, or Victor Stenger. Given his obvious intelligence and ability to evaluate new information, I suggest that remaining a godworshipper after assimilating new evidence will prove as impossible for him as it was for me.

The rest of Moore's book is as trivial as the memoirs of Gomer Pyle before he joined the US Marine Corps, although he does describe encounters with Nazis (real Nazis!), Klansmen and others that show that racism is alive and well in America. He reports confrontations with Roger Ebert and other big names that some readers will find interesting simply because of whom they involved. And even the most trivial chapters are well told. Boring but well told.

For example, he describes his first two dates as a teenager, using the word "date" in the early twentieth century sense that did not include the activity expressly implied when a gossip columnist reports that two public figures are "dating." I defy any person to read a photocopy of those pages and identify the author in his first 500 guesses. Errol Flynn or Hugh Hefner could have written the same thing, before their lives changed direction. Trivia. Trivia. Trivia. For persons who read it with less hope of profound revelations than I had, this book is for you.

Hitch 22: A Memoir
Christopher Hitchens
McClelland & Stewart Ltd
75 Sherbourne Street, Toronto ON, M5A 2P9
9780771041105, $32.99,

I can't say I wasn't warned. After plowing through Michael Moore's Here Comes Trouble, and confirming my conclusion that no autobiography was likely to be a more useful expenditure of my time than counting flowers on the wall, I nonetheless opened Christopher Hitchens' Hitch 22. By page 100 I was as bored by Hitchens' unmemorable trivia as if I had been watching paint dry. By page 200 the comparison that came to mind was watching grass grow. "When will we ever learn?"

Finally, on page 233, I found the kind of commentary persons who buy Hitchens' book must surely be seeking. Of the "Leader of the Free World," who was married to "a woman who employed a White House astrologer," was regularly photographed with "frauds of Chaucerian proportions," Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, and "speculated drivellingly that the jury might yet return an open verdict on the theory of evolution," he writes, "Nobody was less surprised than I when Reagan was later found to be suffering from Alzheimer's disease: I believe it will one day be admitted that some of his family and one or two of his physicians had begun to suspect this as early as his first term." My own reaction when I first learned of Reagan's diagnosis was, "How could they tell?"

Asked (p. 335), "Which contemporary figures do you most despise?" Hitchens cites two who would certainly be on my own list: Osama bin Laden and Josef Ratzinger. His third choice, Henry Kissinger, may not be one of my greatest heroes, but he assuredly does not belong on the same page of history as those other two.

Other than the cited passages, Hitchens peddles the trivia that readers of autobiographies should have long learned to expect. The book that can be recommended to persons seeking his observations on issues relevant to the intrusion of religion into politics is his final essay collection, Arguably. Hitch 22 does not meet the same standard.

Atheism and the Case Against Christ
Matthew S. McCormick
Prometheus Books
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst NY 14228-2119
978-1616145811, $19.00,

In the light of Matthew McCormick's arguments for using evidence-based reasoning to determine whether claims of violations of the laws of nature should be believed, the hardest thing to understand about Christians is not why they believe that Jesus rose from the dead, but why they do not believe that the nineteen women executed for practising witchcraft in Salem in 1692 and 1693 were really witches. As McCormick makes clear (p. 55), "When it is put up against the case for the resurrection, in the important respects, the historical evidence for witchcraft is better than the historical argument for the resurrection." And (p. 57), "Unless we cheat, there's no way to custom tailor the threshold for acceptable historical supernatural beliefs so that Christianity is the only movement that ends up being reasonable. You either get Christianity and a whole bunch of other religious movements, or you get none of them."

McCormick writes (p. 10), "The religious goal of fostering belief is at odds with the epistemological goal of believing only those conclusions that are justified by the evidence." He takes the position that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and points out that, when the threshold for the quantity and quality of evidence necessary for believing in the supernatural is set so low that the resurrection of Jesus qualifies, then rejecting the thousandfold-higher level of testimony for the reality of witchcraft in Salem is incomprehensible.

McCormick makes many points that even a moderate believer would hesitate to dispute. For example (pp. 30-31), "Your right to free speech entitles you to stand up in a public forum and shout that 2 + 2 = 5, but obviously that doesn't make it true." A more pointed example would have been, "1 + 1 + 1 = 1," an equally illogical equation that Jesus-worshippers actually believe.

Also (p. 42), "The sources we have differ on every important detail about the resurrection. The order of events, the events themselves, the people present, and the supernatural events diverge in every account." And while it is a reality believers would rather not know, they cannot deny that (p. 76), "We have good empirical evidence that as a person's education level increases, their belief in survival of the soul, miracles, heaven, the resurrection, the virgin birth, hell, the devil, ghosts, astrology, and reincarnation drop off dramatically." As a proponent of correct English, I shudder at McCormick's persistent combination of the plural "their" with the singular antecedent, "a person." And his repeated description of believers as "she" tells me that he has never learned that common gender pronouns are identical with the masculine. Describing a person of unidentified sex as "she" is plain wrong.

A conclusion believers observably reject, even though it logically follows from evidence they reluctantly accept, is (p. 11), "When it becomes reasonable to reject enough of the gods of various religions, and when we have enough legitimate doubt about other supernatural hypotheses, the conclusion that there are no gods is justified." Echoing Richard Dawkins, among others, he makes the point that Christians, Jews, and Moslems are already atheists as far as every god but their own is concerned. Is it not logical to go one god further?

On the downside, McCormick is neither a historian nor a biblical scholar. He is a philosopher, a status Mark Twain described as "a blind man in a dark room looking for a black cat that is not there." He consequently lacks the documentary-analysis skills historians acquire as a consequence of writing a properly-supervised graduate thesis. He can only argue that religion cannot be true because it violates logic. And as valid as that argument is, it does not prove that religion is not true, by showing how Christian, pre-Christian and post-Christian documents came into existence. McCormack shows no awareness of points a detailed rebuttal of religion should have made, such as:

All claims of a god revealing its existence have been traced to the same bible that states in fourteen places that the earth is flat; No biblical author writing within a century of Jesus' death had heard of the theory that Jesus was a god. To the synoptic authors, and to Paul, Jesus was Yahweh's adopted human son. The god Jesus was created by the fourth gospel author between 130 and 138 CE.(1)

The author of the first gospel put into Jesus' mouth a detailed prophecy of the destruction of the Jerusalem temple, an event that occurred in 70 CE. But McCormick dates the first gospel as early as 65 CE. Does he imagine that the gospel author was so reckless as to have Jesus prophesy an improbable event that had not already happened?

Fifty other virgin-born savior gods rose from the dead, usually on the third day, centuries and even millennia before Jesus. Is it reasonable to believe that the first fifty copies of a copy of a copy were all fairy tales, but the fifty-first (approximate) retelling was a fact of history?

The only places claims as outlandish as those of the various bibles can be found today are in supermarket tabloids, and the "for indoctrinated suckers only" catechism of the Scientology hoax.

McCormick's bibliography does not list books that any discussion of religious origins should have taken into consideration.(2)

Atheism and the Case Against Christ presents strong arguments for not believing either resurrected-savior religion or omnipotent-creator religion. But it adds little to the findings of Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, and Victor Stenger. Read it, but don't expect it to be the magic bullet that will free humankind from god-slavery.

The Night Sessions
Ken Macleod
Prometheus Books
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst NY14228-2119
9781616146139, $17.95,

Ken Macleod's Night Sessions was produced in the UK in 2008, but did not find an American publisher for a further four years. That is understandable. If Prometheus had not concluded that a novel about the aftermath of a religion-motivated nuclear war conformed to their priorities, it might never have crossed the pond.

At a time when backlash against the religious wars has reduced religion to flat-earther levels, and religious schools in the US have been abolished, Macleod has a fundamentalist visiting Scotland say (p. 160), "It's wonderful to be able to see parochial schools again.. The things our kids are taught in the state schools would make your hair stand on end." Anyone who doubts that that is an accurate example of godworshipthink must have been living on another planet.

Nonetheless, I have to question the scene in which a young-earth religionist offers the incredible but reasoned rationalization that astronomers misinterpreted such items as parallax in order to conclude that the universe is billions of years older than the 6,000 years stated in the religionist's bible. Has Macleod actually met anyone who made such an argument? All of the biblical literalists I have encountered, notably Republican political candidates, have stated as fact that the universe is 6,000 years old, and considered any finding by science that contradicts anything in their bible irrelevant. If they had the ability to recognize "evidence" as a valid concept, they would not be young-earthers.

Macleod's partnership of a human detective and a sentient robot was bound to evoke memories of Elijah Bailey and R. Daneel Olivaw. Any author who invites comparison with Isaac Asimov has only himself to blame if the comparison works to his disfavor. Macleod is a competent writer, but he is no Asimov.

The bulk of Macleod's book is written in British spelling, including "towards" rather than the American "toward." But for some reason he uses the American "ass" (pp. 111, 124) that equates a rectum with a donkey, and the British "arse" (p. 179) interchangeably. Why? And he shows a future generation still smoking cigarettes (p. 143), as if people who had evolved beyond religion had not evolved beyond self-poisoning. If he was not prepared to portray smoking as a perversion the next generation had outgrown, he could have simply not mentioned it at all. But only when he wrote as the omniscient narrator (p. 234; see also p. 144), "the higher up the cable you were, the better your chances of escape," as if the reader was a character in the novel, did he resort to truly substandard English.

The book's most powerful assault on bible religion comes in the paragraph (p. 237) in which a biblical literalist has an Aha! moment, and recognizes, "If Genesis wasn't all he'd been assured it was, what possible basis did he have for rejecting the whole mass of scientific evidence for an ancient Earth? Or, indeed, for believing anything else just because it was between the covers of the Bible?" Somehow, I can't see that passage getting through to people who have spent their lives shutting out the reality that their bible endorses a flat earth, a solid hemispherical sky to which the sun, moon and stars are attached, species that did not evolve from common ancestors, a talking snake, and a deity that talked to Balaam through his ass.

I further suggest that only people who already know that religion is institutionalized cowardice will see past an incurable believer's doublethink (p. 250) that, "Our enemies comfort themselves with lies. One of these lies is that we, the believers, cling to our belief for comfort, and that they, the unbelievers and apostates, are the only ones strong enough to face the universe as it is." Such passages might strike some readers as powerful arguments to use against the god-infected. But persons who lack the moral courage to face the universe as it is, are able to shut out an infinite amount of reality.

I was able to finish reading The Night Sessions without getting bored. Yet despite my being a science fiction appreciator, it gave me no incentive to read any of Macleod's other books. Like much SF, its plot is its strongest feature. But while the logical way to produce a plot-based narrative would have been to have the ending in mind first and then compose a way to get there, Macleod appears to have started with no awareness of where he was going, painted himself into a corner, and then concocted a shades-of-Frankenstein ending about as skillful as, "then I woke up."

As a mystery novel, The Night Sessions almost succeeds. But despite the quoted passages, "a stunning indictment of fundamentalism of all kinds," as The Guardian described it, it is not.

Slavery, Abolitionism, and the Ethics of Biblical Scholarship
Hector Avalos
Sheffield Phoenix Press
University of Sheffield
45 Victoria Street, Sheffield S3 7QB, UK
9781907534287, $110.00,

More than ninety percent of Hector Avalos's treatise on slavery is devoted to disputing the Orwellian doublethink of religious apologists who have argued that the Christian bible's hundreds of endorsements of the legitimacy of slavery do not mean what they clearly do mean. He not only dignifies such apologists by treating their "A really means not-A" arguments as worthy of a response. While recognizing (p. 137) that, "Christian apologists interpret favored ideas literally, and unfavored ideas figuratively," he even describes them as "scholars." A scholar is, before anything else, a person who is willing and able to reach only conclusions that are compatible with the evidence. On the question of Jesus' historicity, Avalos recognizes (p. 139) that, "almost any picture of Jesus one constructs is subjective because the data are varied and contradictory." Thus a scholar can conclude either that there was a historical Jesus or that there was not. But any person who can conclude that Jesus rose from the dead, on the basis of no other testimony than a bible that in fourteen places states unambiguously that the earth is flat, is assuredly not a scholar.

Avalos states (p. 2) that, "most biblical scholars . still see Jesus as divine." No scholar sees Jesus as divine, for the reason stated. He continues (p. 3), "there are few, if any, books by biblical scholars that denounce biblical ethics." Presumably he does not see Sam Harris, Bart Ehrman, William Harwood, Martin Larson, Gerd Ludemann, Robert Price, or Joseph McCabe as biblical scholars. And while Richard Dawkins' specialization is biological rather than biblical, his scholarly status is surely not in dispute. And Dawkins has written, in The God Delusion, "The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction . megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully."

Avalos's attitude is (p. 16), "Dawkins, Hitchens, and Harris are easily dismissed as not knowing enough about the biblical sources, Christian history, and theology to make a difference to such academics." Dismissing a debunker of religion on the ground that he does not know enough about theology is like dismissing the writings of a mathematician because he does not know enough about numerology. H.L. Mencken accurately described theology as, "a blind man in a dark room searching for a black cat that is not there-and finding it." Since I am unwilling to question Avalos's scholarly status, I am obliged to conclude that, when he leans over backward to avoid offending the terminally ignorant, he is trying to be politically correct. Some proponents of nontheism applaud such a tactic. Others prefer to tell it like it is. If that means telling someone who believes that mass murder was evil when Hitler did it with gas chambers, but is not evil when his Sky Fairy does it with disease, famine, and natural disasters, that he belongs in Nurse Ratched's Cuckoo's Nest, then so be it.

Avalos demolishes the pretense that the most prominent activists for the abolition of slavery were religiously motivated. He shows (p. 248) that William Wilberforce "frankly states that he discourages the use of the Bible in discussions about slavery in Parliament." He quotes another abolitionist who acknowledged (p. 249) that, "when it comes to a detailed exegesis and a commitment to take the Bible at face value, the pro-slavery arguments often had the better case." He points out (p. 259) that, "The Bible could be used to promote opposing views of liberation." He likewise (p. 263) falsifies the delusion that Frederick Douglas was bible-motivated: "Sometimes, Douglas also seemed unsure about the irrefutability of the idea that the Bible was anti-slavery." In Avalos's opinion, (p. 265), "Douglas's reticence to use the Bible as extensively as some other abolitionists can be explained by his shift toward a deistic or secular humanistic view of the Bible that is still overlooked by some scholars." He also (p. 137) refutes the pretense that, "Jesus demanded non-violence, when he did not."

Unlike biblical commentators who seem to believe that, "If English was good enough for Jesus, it's good enough for me," Avalos reveals (p. 257) his awareness that the word usually translated as "servant" in authorized bibles really means "slave." He is also aware (p. 204) that the word fraudulently translated as "neighbor" really means "your fellow Israelites." The most widely quoted list of Ten Commandments prohibited injurious behavior against fellow Jews, while placing no similar restrictions on what a Jew could do to a non-Jew. So why does Avalos persistently quote from translations that say "servant" and "neighbor" instead of The Protestant Bible Correctly Translated, that calls a slave a slave, and a fellow Israelite a compatriot rather than a neighbor?

Other than that, Slavery is a reasonably useful contribution to the arsenal nontheists can use to refute the god hoax.

Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth
Bart D. Ehrman
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780062204608, $26.99,

Since Bart Ehrman is clearly not unteachable, I can only conclude that he is a fatuous, stubborn SOB who refuses to make any concession to the opinions of anyone but himself. How else does he explain why, despite listing The Myth of Nazareth: The Invented Town of Jesus, in his bibliography, he describes Jesus as "of Nazareth" in his book's title? And when invited to participate in a symposium in his claimed field of expertise by the Center for Inquiry, what kind of pretentious egotist would not even deign to reply?

I have difficulty interpreting Ehrman's capricious dismissal of the finding of researchers, that the Jesus of the gospels was a retelling of earlier myths about a host of virgin-born sun-deifications who annually rose from the dead, usually on the third day, and that his miracles were plagiarized from tales previously told of Elijah and Elisha. Ehrman clumsily gives the impression that he thinks such tales were concocted out of whole cloth, and that there were no earlier beliefs about Atthis, Dionysus, Mithra, Osiris, Tammuz and others that were analogous to Christian beliefs about Jesus. He even refers (p. 102) to, "the dying and rising gods supposedly worshipped by pagans." Supposedly? Since he is not an idiot, that cannot be what he really believes. The point he was making could only have been that the fairy tales inserted into Jesus' biography by the gospel authors in no way diminish the realities that: (1) Jesus-Judaism started with a historical Jesus; and (2) Paul of Tarsus posthumously transformed him into the figurehead of a gentile religion that, after Paul's death, incorporated beliefs neither Jesus nor Paul, as practising Jews, could ever have imagined.

As for Ehrman's application of the word "scholar" (p. 2) to persons teaching at "accredited theological seminaries, divinity schools . " that is analogous to applying the word "astronomer" to persons who teach at astrology schools, or "mathematician" to persons who teach numerology. Is he unaware that theological and divinity faculties are propaganda institutions, in which the inability to recognize unmitigated hogwash for what it is is a prerequisite? Is he unfamiliar with H. L. Mencken's description of a theologian as, "a blind man in a dark room searching for a black cat that is not there-and finding it"?

Ehrman states his position, with which I concur, in the words (p. 143), "What I think is that Jesus really existed but that the Jesus who really existed was not the person most Christians today believe in." He describes himself (p. 6) as, "an agnostic with atheist leanings." Really? Then how come he is able (p. 23) to date the first gospel as early as 65 CE, when it puts into Jesus' mouth an accurately-detailed prophecy of an event that happened in 70 CE? Does he think that prophecy is something other than a fairy-tale concept, and that highly improbable events can really be foretold, either by biblical prognosticators or self-styles psychics? Similarly, I can only attribute to clumsiness his assertion (p. 92) that Jesus was "crucified by the Romans at the instigation of Jewish authorities in Jerusalem." He cannot be unaware that Jesus could only have been crucified, a peculiarly Roman method of execution, for preaching and/or taking up arms against the Roman occupation, since Rome had no interest in Jewish theological disputes whatsoever.

Ehrman explains that the synoptic gospels are so called because (p. 16), "they are so much alike," in other words they are virtually seen through a single eye. But he makes no mention that they indeed reflect the observations of a single eye-the eye of the first gospeller, since Matthew and Luke passages identical with Mark were copied from Mark. And when he writes (p. 7) that, "there was a Jesus of Nazareth," is it unreasonable to interpret that as an affirmation that there was a Nazareth? Am I being too charitable, attributing ambiguous passages to clumsiness rather than simple ignorance? I continue to hope not.

Ehrman recognizes the desirability for having multiple sources describing a historical person or event (pp. 41-42). "At the same time, it is important to know that the various sources are independent of one another and do not rely on each other for all of their information. If four ancient authors mention Marcus Billius as a Roman aristocrat in Ephesus, but it turns out that three of these authors derived their information from the fourth, then you no longer have multiple sources but only one." Since he had not done so at the first opportunity, that would have been an obvious place for him to point out that Mark, Matthew and Luke constitute a single source. Only later does he acknowledge (p. 48) that Matthew and Luke "had access to a version of Mark's Gospel, from which they derived many of their stories." Clumsy? At the very least.

He similarly recognizes that sources tend to be biased (p. 41): "But if we find stories that clearly do not serve the purposes of the person telling the story, we have a good indicator that the stories are (reasonably) disinterested." When the gospels hint that Jesus started a war of independence-and lost!-I agree that such a contradiction of the gospellers' primary thesis, that Jesus was a miracle-worker who had a god on his side, is believable precisely because it is not something the gospel authors would have invented. Indeed, I see such negative anecdotes as strong, perhaps the strongest, evidence of Jesus' historicity. A disinterested report would be more reliable than a biased report. But a report that goes against the reporter's bias is surely even better.

Ehrman agrees. He argues (pp. 156-158) that, "claiming that Jesus was crucified is a powerful argument that Jesus actually lived.. there were Christians with information about Jesus from within a year or two, at the very latest, of the traditional date of his death.. these Christians were not calling Jesus a dying-rising god. They were calling him the Jewish messiah . completely human, a person chosen by God to mediate his will on earth." A crucified messiah was seen as a self-contradiction, because a crucified messiah could "not enjoy God's blessing. Just the opposite: he was under God's curse. Evidence? He was hung on a tree." Since Deuteronomy stated that, "Everyone who hangs on a tree is cursed," the only reason Jesus' admirers would portray him as being crucified was that they were stuck with the reality that he really was: "He was the crucified messiah. It is almost impossible to explain this claim . if there had not in fact been a Jesus who was crucified" (p. 170).

I date the gospel called John to 130-138 CE, on the ground that only during those years was it again as expedient as it had been for the Mark author, who also wrote for the emperor's benefit at the time of a Jewish-Roman war, to play down Jesus' role as a practising Jew. Ehrman dates the fourth gospel, which he agrees originated the doctrine that Jesus was a god, to 90-95 CE (p. 48). He offers no reason for doing so. Does that mean he is wrong? Opinions will differ. He cites a letter of Pliny to the emperor in 112 CE reporting that Christians "sing hymns to Christ as to a god." He sees that as evidence that Christians believed in Jesus' divinity as early as 112 CE. I do not agree. Catholics today pray to Mary, while simultaneously denying that she is a goddess.

He refers (p. 48) to "the twelve earthly disciples of Jesus." My position is that the author of the first gospel, aware that the Nazirite commune in Jerusalem was at the time of writing administered by a Twelve, backdated the Twelve to the time of Jesus and, knowing the names of only a handful of Jesus' apprentices, made up the names of the rest.

Ehrman writes (p. 61) that Jesus "was condemned to be crucified by Pontius Pilate because of Jewish accusations brought against him." The ambiguity of that passage again allows for the two possible explanations of ignorance and clumsiness. If Jesus had been accused of violations of Jewish sharia (not a Hebrew word, but nonetheless singularly appropriate for the Jewish theocracy), Pilate might have allowed a Jewish stoning squad to execute him, but would not have had him crucified. On the other hand, if the Jewish hierarchy had informed Pilate that Jesus was preaching revolution, that would have triggered his crucifixion. So why was Ehrman not specific about the nature of the allegations he had in mind? Was he deliberately ambiguous for reasons of expedience, pandering to believers (and his employers) by minimizing statements that might alienate them? Similarly, when reporting the common teaching (p. 63) that Jews should "love their neighbors as themselves," he leaves room for the common Christian delusion that "neighbor" referred to the whole of humankind. It meant "your fellow Jew." Clumsy? Ignorant? Or intentional? While the possibility of invincible ignorance must be raised, it is the explanation I consider least plausible.

Since I agree with Ehrman's contention that the Christian gospels are useful sources as historical documents, I was extremely disappointed that the chapter, "The Gospels as Historical Sources," is written in such a way that it stands or falls on the delusion that the gospels were independent of one another. Not to put too fine a point on it: Bullshit! And the chapter has other weaknesses.

Despite acknowledging (p. 73) that, "many mythicists deny that Nazareth even existed in the days of Jesus," Ehrman insists (p. 74) that, "Jesus of Nazareth lived in first-century Palestine." Is he unaware that nowhere in any Greek gospel is Jesus described as "of Nazareth"? Authorized English translations knowingly falsify his sectarian title, Nazoraios, meaning a member of the Nazirite/Nazarene sect, into a geographic term that etymologists are unanimous that it cannot mean. And while it is true that Matthew and Luke showed Jesus being born in a village named Nazareth, Ehrman ignores the explanation that they did so because they misunderstood Mark's statement that Jesus came "from the nazareth," a word referring to Jewish areas outside of Judea, analogous to diaspora, and thought Mark was naming Jesus' hometown.

Ehrman does devote seven pages to rebutting arguments that Nazareth did not exist, and correctly points out that the nonexistence of Nazareth would not prove the nonexistence of Jesus. But he persistently reiterates that independent sources mentioned "Jesus of Nazareth." They did not. They mentioned Iesous Nazoraios, "Jesus the Nazirite." And to justify his assertion that three gospels independently verified the existence of Nazareth, as opposed to Matthew and Luke (inaccurately) borrowing the name from Mark, he alleges (p. 75) that not all New Testament scholars agree that, "both Matthew and Luke had access to the Gospel of Mark and used it for many of their stories about Jesus." He justifies that big lie by classifying theologians as scholars. Newsflash: A person who starts from predetermined conclusions and distorts the evidence to make it fit is not a scholar.

Ehrman states (p. 84) that, "Every miracle story seems to have the same elements," cites nineteenth-century scholars who wondered why that should be, and comes up with the answer that gospel stories must ultimately derive from oral sources. Does the fact that every miracle attributed to Jesus was plagiarized from one found in the Tanakh not strike him as a total and complete explanation? And when he disputes the assertion (p. 136) that Paul "would have mentioned Jesus' miracles," he discusses Paul's presumed priorities and ignores the fact that, when Paul wrote his letters, the claim that Jesus emulated Elijah's miracles had not been invented yet. As for his comment (p. 139) on whether Paul "worshipped Jesus as his Lord," that might have been satisfactory in a thesis written for examiners who knew as well as he does that "worship" and "lord" meant something very different centuries ago from the way lay readers interpret those words today. He should have modernized it to, "reverenced Jesus as his Master."

Ehrman's citing of Paul's failure to identify Jesus as "a descendant of David" (p. 133) is incomprehensible. Paul may have been unaware that Jesus openly acknowledged that he was not David's descendant (Mark 12:35-37), but Ehrman surely is not. I also find his description of the Our Father as "the Lord's Prayer" (pp. 134-135) objectionable, since neither he nor I view Jesus as our Lord, by either the ancient or the modern definition.

Robert Price, perhaps Ehrman's only rival for the title of most authoritative Christian Testament scholar in the English speaking world, has long leaned toward the "Jesus as myth" hypothesis. But as recently as 2007, in Jesus is Dead, he conceded that the issue of Jesus' historicity is too close to call. His latest book, The Christ-Myth Theory and Its Problems, apparently reverts to an intensive defense of the "no such person ever lived" hypothesis. Not having read it, I am not prepared to say that Ehrman demolishes Price's arguments for Jesus' nonexistence. But judging by passages Ehrman quoted and rebutted, I get the distinct impression that he has done just that. However, when he accuses Price of declaring that the gospels in toto are rewordings of tales from the Tanakh (pp. 197-198), I find myself wondering if he is quoting Price out of context-especially since Ehrman denies that the miracle tales are indeed Tanakh redux, and even appears to be allowing for the possibility that reports of Jesus working miracles may have had a factual basis.

Ehrman states (p. 231) that, "Apart from [persons I deny are scholars], scholars are unified in thinking that the view that Jesus was a god was a later development within Christian circles.. when, how and why Christians came to regard Jesus as God will be the subject of my next book, not this one." But he makes the obvious point, "If the earliest followers of Jesus thought Jesus was God, why didn't the earliest Gospels say so?" An elaboration of that point can be found in the chapter, "Jesus' Deification: When and Why?" in my 2006 book, A Humanist in the Bible Belt, Revised Edition.

Ehrman makes mincemeat of some of the arguments of Richard Carrier, Earl Doherty, Robert Price, Rene Salm, G. A. Wells, Frank Zindler, and some others. But he does so in a tone that implies that scholars should be infallible, and anyone who reaches a wrong conclusion belongs on permanent welfare-as if there has ever been a scholar who never got anything wrong, including Albert Einstein and Ehrman himself. As an obvious example, Ehrman endorses the absurdity that the virgin-birth passages in Matthew and Luke were part of the original gospels, even though both passages appear alongside genealogies composed to prove that Jesus was a descendant of David because his father Joseph was a descendant of David. Does Ehrman think the gospel authors were so stupid as to assert "A" (Jesus was Joseph's son) and "not-A" (Jesus was not Joseph's son) in adjacent paragraphs, and expect to be taken seriously? Logically handicapped they may have been. That logically handicapped they were not.

He does make the unarguable point that Jesus could not have originated as a sheer invention modeled after pagan gods, since Christians believed in Jesus' resurrection decades before they started believing he was a god. But he then jumps to the nonsequitur that gospel authors would not have padded Jesus' resume with tales appropriated from pagan gods at a time when he was not himself regarded as a god or even the biological (as opposed to adopted) son of a god. Does it not occur to him that it was the parallels between the gospels' resurrected messiah and the pagans' resurrected gods that started second-century Christians thinking that Jesus himself might have been a god? He even claims (p. 222), "First, there are serious doubts about whether there were in fact dying-rising gods in the pagan world." To that I can only say: Surely you jest?

Did Jesus Exist? falls far short of being the definitive evaluation of the historicity of Jesus. The strongest case for a purely mythical Jesus can be found in Jesus: Neither God Nor Man, by Earl Doherty, Ottawa, 2009. The strongest case for a historical Jesus is the chapter, "Requiem for a Dead Jew," in God, Jesus and the Bible: The Origin and Evolution of Religion, by William Harwood, NY, 2009. Doherty attempted to offer answers to its evidence. Why do I doubt that Ehrman will even bother to read it?

This is probably, despite its being generally accurate, the least effective book Bart Ehrman has written, for the reason that he fails to distance himself from conclusions with which he disagrees. If I can make clear that I do not suspect Ehrman of having beliefs that would make him an intellectually-defective ignoramus, why did he not himself make clear that he does not have such beliefs? Can it be that he does not see his tenure in a department run by hardcore resurrectionists as so ironclad that he need make no compromise with political correctness? That would be sad.

William Harwood

Heidi's Bookshelf

Pure Beef
Lynne Curry, author
David L. Reamer, photographer
Running Press
2300 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, P 19103-4371
9780752640887, $27.00,

A Carnivore's Guide to the Best Beef Choices

The conversation about what's moral to eat continues. Don't eat meat? What kinds of meat? But what about the shipping and manufacturing costs of non-animal proteins (for example tofu requires some nasty chemicals when large, commercial companies get involved in production)?

Many questions are involved in each person's decision about diet and ethics. Ms. Curry weighs in on the side of eating meat, obviously beef by specificity, and how to choose healthy, properly-raised animals. The first three chapters teach the reader about selection, what each popular term (natural, free-range, etc.) actually does or doesn't mean. Through the process one begins understanding the real impact of responsible protein consumption.

Ongoing chapters start with specifics about different forms and cuts of meat. Such as ground beef, cuts for the slow cooker and more. Within the remaining chapters you'll find the recipes. And the recipes are also worth checking out.

These days I'm always searching for quintessential cookbooks. The one offering distilled flavors of a culture, a place, a style or a concept. Pure Beef offers this approach based on finding and cooking the local, grower-friendly bovine products.

I also like the stye of the book. A weighty cover with a library or textbook quality binding is a real treat. The book will lay open in the kitchen! Instead of that inexpensive glued, magazine style binding the spine is bound in the older style. Small sections of the book are combined and then attached to the spine. You will also find the spine is glued to a backing that free-floats from the exterior spine. Just one of the reasons the book is worth the money. It will hold up and perform well.

Most the recipes give you multiple options for application. While each one calls for specific cuts of meat, you'll also find a little green "dialogue box" at the bottom of the recipe suggesting other cuts that will work well with the recipe. When your goal is using the entire animal you've purchased, the alternatives are a great help to both clearing out the freezer and avoiding random, ignored pieces.

One combination I loved was a Middle Eastern spice profile combined with a dry rub barbeque technique. For a gal who lived in Kansas City for 17 years I loved the option both for the preparation method and the tasty results. "Coriander-Rubbed Sirloin" was a hit on our table.

The weather was just heating up in Northern California when this book arrived. Perhaps that made some of the recipes even more satisfying. We also loved the "Turkish Yogurt Kebabs with Grilled Summer Vegetables." The author described the recipe as part of an easy setup for a summer party. Based on how tasty the dish was and how overall the preparation was very accessible, it's easy to see that application.

The overall favorite however was the "Chickpea-Beef Tagine." Maybe we gravitated toward the recipe because of my husband's Italian connection to Cici's and my yoga-influenced fondness for Chana Masala. Regardless, this was definitely marked at solid winner worthy of multiple repeat appearances. The harissa is a lovely touch; you can always adjust the spice level to your taste. While eating hot things that make you sweat when it's hot out may seem out, trust me it's worth it! Nearly every culture in warm areas uses this food-technique to help ventilate the entire body. While harissa seems suddenly trendy, it reflects more the successful integration of additional food cultures into the Western palate.

Current restaurant standards don't include Mexican and Chinese as ethnic foods in the United States (and perhaps other English-speaking areas). Most of us would agree: we eat these foods on a casual, easy basis. I personally look forward to this happening with even more flavors. As a result I'm pleased to see International flavors presented in a cookbook with a topical focus.

Hopefully you'll check this book out. If you have questions about what it means to find, buy and cook locally produced, quality beef, this is the book for you. Fortunately, with your education you'll also get a variety of flavorful options for enjoying the beef you selected.

Burger Book
Rachel Ray
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, NY, NY 10020
9781451659692, $24.99,

Curiosity got the best of me when I saw this book was due out. Celebrity cookbooks often fail to have much stability over the long-term. I admit, when Rachel Ray first hit the national scene, I bought a couple of her cookbooks. I used them for a while; now, despite the fact they are still on the shelves, I admit I rarely pick them up when I'm hunting for a perfect recipe for some application.

Fortunately, The Burger Book took me beyond expected neutrality to really knocking my socks off. I was a tough customer on this one, and I definitely ended up liking the book. An extensive list of recipes still waits to be tried even though I've made more than enough items to cover this review.

The book offers a lot of recipes for the money; always a good thing in my book. Right now, any investment in a cookbook deserves strong consideration. At my home shelf space is an issue, so what stays and what goes matters, even though I don't buy the books. (Not to worry, I do "invest" in this process - buying ingredients each time!) Still, I end up shopping for other books I don't receive. Most times I don't spend the money.

Here are some of the things you will get if you purchase this book. Most of the recipes sound great; I want to make at least twenty more before I will feel solid with the book. It offers a lot of depth.

A great example of the substantial selection available in this book relates to the variety of condiment recipes. From different kinds of sauces and toppings, you get a lot of options. I loved the "Israeli Ketchup." Just tasting this expanded concoction had all of us imagining other ways to enjoy the interesting additions to traditional ketchup.

One of the recipes you have to try is the "5-Spice Burgers with Warm Mu Shu Slaw." I'm a huge Mu Shu fan: it's one of my test dishes for a new Chinese restaurant. I am always looking for the special smoky flavor that denotes fabulous Pork Mu Shu from the perfect wok. Without those qualities the dish can be good but not great. I was surprised how much I enjoyed the way the pork burger was spiced. When combined with the cabbage slaw recipe, the taste is spot on.

The "Indian Lamb Sliders with Green Raita Sauce and Red Onions" is worth the time invested. Basically three recipes in one, the combination won us over. The spicy kick from the sliders is of course balanced with cooling yogurt. I made extra of the pickled onions - they are incredibly useful on these burgers and many other options. Sometimes the right combination is simply right. And other pages offer similar experiences.

The "Marsala Burgers" are a great option - and I recommend using the veal. While I'm sure they would be perfectly acceptable with ground chicken, we tested the veal version in my kitchen. When people stop talking and just make yummy noises while eating the food, you've got a winner. While in many ways the combination is fairly simple, the results take you over the top.

It's not hard to see we enjoyed the variety of burgers from this book. There are many more lined up waiting for attention. If you can deal with a cookbook that doesn't stay open and get over the idea of supporting TV celebrity cooks, the book offers many rewarding dishes for the price.

Diabetic Diva
Angela Medearis, author
Penny De Los Santos, photographer
Andrews McMeel Publishing, LLC
1130 Walnut Street, Kansas City, MO 64106
9781449402396, $24.99,

Each cookbook seems to have its own personality. I wanted to like this chunky, red book, but it just wasn't happening. Perhaps it just came down to a personality clash. Maybe I'm too picky, since diabetes exists in my family and no one really seems to be motivated to make changes to stop it's development. Regardless, I was not able to make friends this particular diva.

The style of the book is appealing. It's easy to read and the layout is pleasing. Unfortunately, the book does suffer from the most common issue in today's cookbook arena: it's hard to keep open in the kitchen. Yes, I keep hounding on this one. Should I just give up and keep four #10 cans ready to weight each corner? Perhaps. And it's a book that is supposed to fulfill a specific purpose; inexpensive modern bindings just don't accomplish that goal.

Another reason I found the book unappealing is a number of recipes I tried simply didn't turn out. A no-bake cookie recipe tasted great. Loved the flavor, it had an interesting texture but there was one large problem. I ended up with goo, not cookies. The dough couldn't be shaped as directed. Even tossing in the fridge made little difference. Finally, I mixed in extra volume (oats, puffed rice) to hold all the glop. That finally worked and didn't change the taste much.

I followed another recipe for baking. By now, being warned that not everything was what it seemed, I tried a couple different options on prepping the muffin tins. Paper cups allowed me to remove the completed product, but the paper didn't peel off the muffins very well. Likewise, the greased tins didn't release.

Sadly, each of the recipes I tried (and I hopefully even tried a extra ones) was not quite right. Most of them weren't bad; they were just not quite right. Something else was even a bigger problem.

The recipes do offer their nutritional breakdown. That's always important when you are preparing food for a specific dietary need. Here's where things get really crazy. Combining ingredients is exceptionally important to blood sugar levels. For example, a typical dessert at the end of the meal is actually the worst thing you can eat to keep your blood sugar level. Most people would be better off eating a small dessert first and following it up with the rest of a balanced meal.

Balance is the secret: fats, proteins, simple and complex carbohydrates in the right amounts. A surprising number of these recipes don't have a very good balance. I felt so amazed that I even had others with more expertise on the topic look through the book. Disappointingly, that continued to be a problem.

Understand that if you use this cookbook, you do have wholesale permission to fix the recipes and eat with impunity. You will still need to do the matching and thinking to keep your blood sugar levels where you need. In most cases these versions of recipes have been improved over the traditional approach. Think of it as a "new and improved" product, or if you prefer a patch you upload and add to your Windows operating system. A problem gets "patched" or improved - but it doesn't go away.

Compared to other diabetic cookbooks, I'd say this one is about average. A couple friends told me this is their typical experience when perusing this publishing niche. Apparently the category needs some improvement. I said it at the beginning; liking the cookbook would have been a nice surprise. In this case, it was business as usual.

Gluten-Free 101
Perrin Davis, editor
Agate Publishing, Inc.
1328 Greenleaf Street, Evanston, IL 60202
9781572841321, $19.95,

Good Beginning, Baking Supplement Recommended

Almost a year has passed since I learned I had to go Gluten-Free. Figuring out how to make the leap is a challenge. I just bared feel like I have my "sea legs" under me when it comes to some aspects in my kitchen. One of the important things to focus on in this arena is all the amazing things you or a loved one can eat.

Preparing food from scratch is more important for a Gluten-Free eater - modified wheat starch products lurk in the strangest places. Starting from raw, fresh ingredients is often easier, more affordable and certainly safer!

One of the important highlights in "Gluten-Free 101: Master Gluten-Free Cooking with 101 Great Recipes" is the section on sauces. Most classic sauces rely on wheat flour for thickening. The sauces such as a cheese sauce, typical bearnaise or other styles are still accessible for those with allergies, sensitivities or Celiac disease. You can use the sauce recipes in the book to reclaim those tastes and textures with worry-free enjoyment. Other recipes suggest brands for ingredients that are known to be Gluten-Free (and it's still a good idea to check as formulations can change without notice).

Winner's included the Lamb Tandoor on page 100 and the Sausage Egg Pizza featured early in the book. The pizza is a combination recipe. Finding a crust solution that tastes good while holding the ingredients, and cooks to a toothy texture is tricky in the Gluten-Free arena. I loved the solution in the cookbook. The "Potato Pizza Crust" is an effective, perfect solution that shines with the pizza in the book and can be used for many applications.

The only downside for this book is providing adequate but not stellar solutions for baked goods. While the "Chocolate Indulgence Brownies" recipe definitely meets a need, nearly all the recipes call for pre-made or pre-mixed ingredients. I agree that being able to have a mix in the cupboard helps on the crazy busy days. Sadly, the mixes have many of the classic problems of any pre-packaged foods. Some rely heavily on soy products. This has the potential to also be an allergen. Others have a predominance of legume flour(s). This group of flours creates a nice texture but has an odd flavor that many people don't enjoy.

Few of the baked goods recipe provide a real from-scratch solution for your sweet tooth. Admittedly, developing a good recipe bank for banking Gluten-Free is challenging and takes time.

With these qualities combined, "Gluten-Free 101" is recommended as good starting point for those who need to start their education on fixing satisfying food while eliminating glutens.

The Boston Homegrown Cookbook
Leigh Belanger, author
Margaret Belanger, photographer
Voyaguer Press
400 First Avenue North, Suite 300
Minneapolis, MN 55401
9780760339084, $30.00,

The Boston Homegrown Cookbook offers another in this series highlighting local eating. While many producers stretch the boundaries of what can be grown in any given climate at any given time, sustainable methods tend to be more focused on seasonal and location - specific foods. When combined with successful chefs and restaurants in the area the reader gets a three-dimensional picture of the food culture in an area.

One of the pleasures of this book, as with most in the series, is the personal side. Each vignette includes a purveyor or producer, chef, restaurant and recipe(s) working in harmony. With the hunger for food information in the modern world, the Boston book meets that need while being engaging, accessible and entertaining.

The very specific format in the book will appeal to some readers and perhaps less to those who prefer a more traditional layout or style. Regardless, you won't be disappointed with content or recipes in this book.

The ribs on page 22 turned out great - some things are just worth the extra effort. Another interesting and satisfying recipe took a familiar favorite and put a completely different spin on it. In fact, I'm using this recipe at the end of the month for a special opening-night party I'll be prepping food for at the end of the month. The "Maine Lobster and Caviar Deviled Blackbird Farm Eggs" on page 135 goes beyond any of the other haute-ova recipes I've seen in the market in this year.

The recipe takes a darker twist allowing deviled eggs to be recognized and re-invented at the same time. In this age of deconstructed, gas-treated, powder-blended approach to recreation, I really appreciated this approach. Unique and completely accessible - anyone can make these at home. This recipe alone is a diamond-find in the book.

Even so the absolutely perfect recipe in the book is also very timely. A classic combination of Mediterranean flavors, "Turkish Tomato Salad" is one of those recipes you can use over and over during the warm months as heirloom tomatoes make their showing. With such a recipe make sure you buy the best quality ingredients of each kind you can. Like a sheer, chiffon dress on a summer day, the body beneath determines the attractiveness of the outfit. Give your salad "good bones" for maximum enjoyment.

We found a brand of feta that was a blend of sheep and goat's milk from one of our local shops worked really well. Just avoid that inexpensive, grainy version sold in most ordinary grocery stores. With a balance of creamy and acidic, salty and fresh this salad is a winner.

These are just highlights from the many options you'll find in this cookbook. Whether you want to spend time reading about Boston food or making something interesting, you can find many enjoyable options in The Boston Homegrown Cookbook."

Vegetarian 101
Perrin Davis, editor
Agate Publishing, Inc.
1328 Greenleaf Street, Evanston, IL 60202
9781572841321, $19.95,

Satisfying Tastes Supporting the Claims of Mastery

Learning to cook or converting to vegetarian cooking requires expanded abilities. Personally, I've had multiple stints of completely eating non-meat diets. In the past it was frustrating to find tasty, satisfying recipes. Some of the established sources met the requirements of not using animal products while resulting in foods lacking in flavor or satisfaction.

Fortunately, neither is true in this 'cooking course'. "Vegetarian 101: Master Vegetarian Cooking with 101 Great Recipes" isn't put together as a cooking class but working through this book will increase your options and teach you create fulfilling dishes that can combine into great meals. You, your family or your guests won't miss anything while eating the results.

I and my testers found the "Pinto Avocado Dip" on page 31 particularly interesting. Pinto beans mashed into a dip or any kind of hummus is rare. Add in the unique texture from small pieces of onion and contrasting avocado to get a winning dip. The recipe is conveniently vegan, as well. Regardless, anyone who likes to snack will enjoy the spread: the flavors present greater sophistication than one might expect from just reading the ingredient list. Make ahead for easy appetizers at dinner or when entertaining.

The "Falafels" also worked well. Considering I've had falafel mix go into the oil and literally dissipate into nothing, I was pleased to have this blend work out. Personally I found the flavor less complex than a traditional spice profile. I like spice and heat. For those aren't a fan of intense flavors this recipe could take falafel from confusing to accessible in your kitchen. With tahini dressing or cucumber yogurt (yes, both recipes are in the book) you've got a great dinner.

A number of other recipes are still on my "to try" list. One choice, however, so good we were happy to eat leftovers for another dinner. "Summer Greens Soup with Roasted Shallots" was a surprising recipe. None of the ingredients are unusual or hard to find. One note, some markets call lacinato kale by another name such as "dino" or "dinosaur" kale. Despite the familiar components, the recipe is great.

Other factors also make the book useful. While the layout and style is reminiscent of a magazine, the binding is a bit different. "Vegetarian 101" stays flat better than most of the affordable cookbooks I've seen in the past year. While larger print may seem an odd thing to appreciate in a cookbook, if you've every added the wrong ingredient or skipped from one recipe to another in the middle of completion, you will also enjoy a book that avoids columnar style (dated ad confusing). The larger print also makes it easier to read while working in the kitchen.

For persons with a strong base in vegetarian cooking the collection may be less enlightening. For a library collection or someone seeking a strong base in vegetarian cooking this could be a great choice.

What Einstein Kept Under His Hat
Robert L. Wolke
Marlene Parrish, Recipe Author
W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.
500 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10100
9780393431652, $15.95,

Everything You Wondered, Never Asked and More in the Kitchen

Cooking and the kitchen seem to engender more than the fair share of wives' tales. "What Einstein Kept Under His Hat: Secrets of Science in the Kitchen" reminded me of a silly joke. A new wife cut the ends off a ham before putting in a dish and baking in the oven. The confused new husband asked why. Turns out his mother-in-law always did it that way. So did the grandmother. When he finally got to ask his new grandmother about cutting the ends off the ham, it was simply because she had a small baking and it didn't fit so she always cuts the ends off the meat before baking.

Many of the things we all believe to be true and effective seem to have a similar heritage, if it can be found at all. Mr. Wolke sets out to answer this type of question. Previous writings in the series "focused mainly on specific foods such as sugar, salt, and fats" (pg xvii) while the new volume reaches into other areas. The author draws heavily from reader submissions related to his Washington Post writing the column "Food 101."

One of the redeeming values - there are many - of this book is the humor woven into the content. While you will glean the science related to many food topics, a variety of entertainments await the reader. Random comments, "NOTE: This book is all-natural and has not been tested on animals"; creative definitions, "Custard - the last stand in a food court"; and unique turns of phrase or perspective lead one on the meandering journey with pleasure.

The snippet style of the book is another boon to enjoying the thick volume. In the information-overload reality most of us swim in, sometimes we need to find our education and entertainment in shorter segments. This type of writing used to be limited to humor or books to be housed next to the commode. It's fun to see the educational vignette offering informative pieces, as well. The downside is how easy it is to just keep reading and reading. S

Each concept or question simply follows the previous one. A bit of logical separation occurs on the page, and you definitely see the next curiosity header within each chapter. For the questioning individual, having another bite, then another, and another is easy. For me it's definitely part of the pleasure of having this book in the house. At the same time you don't feel obligated to read the entire book! You can move as fast or slow as you wish. Overall the format is easy to consume however it pleases you.

The Hamptons & Long Island Homegrown Cookbook
Leeann Lavin, author
Lindsay Morris, photographer
Jennifer Calais Smith, photographer
Voyaguer Press
c/o Quayside Publishing Group
400 First Avenue North, Suite 300
Minneapolis, MN 55401
9780760337578, $30.00,

Another Satisfying Installment on Expanding Your National Horizons

Each cookbook installment in the "Homegrown" series makes me wonder if really need one more city-centric collection of farmers, restaurants and chefs. Based on my life for this year or the next, I may not have any chance to visit any of the people and places highlighted. I'm happy to say that answer is yes, each published book has been fun, interesting, and shedding new light on flavor combinations.

For example one of the books gave me an idea for using those weird, finger-like citrus that showed up at my farmer's market. In the newest book the usual three test recipes all impressed. It started with the "Arugula Pesto with Pasta." Using arugula to make pesto seems an obvious leap after you've been exposed to the idea. The method was straight forward and the additions for the pasta make the dish perfect. Be sure the next time we have "left over" arugula around, we will be having this pesto on our plates.

The "Roasted Baby Beet Salad with Humbolt Fog Goat Cheese" used pistachios in a creative way. Between the vinaigrette and candied nuts, the salad is great. The textural contrast is enchanting enough that if the only way you are going to try it is to used canned beets, just do it. You'll miss out on the best appearance and tastes, but having eaten this salad three days in a row (I never do things like that) I firmly believe getting in on the goodness is a worthwhile option.

Best of all, however, is an older-style dessert. Some of the historical recipes result in a sweet somewhere between a pudding, cake and bread. "Sticky Toffee Pudding with Toasted Almond Brittle" is evil, incredibly satisfying, and homey. The dish somehow is reminiscent of childhood, even though I never had anything like it during my youth. A decadently adult taste with a comforting texture makes this a perfect dessert.

If you're looking for the foodie version of armchair travel, this book, and others in the series, is a fabulous way to visit other locales in the United States from your own kitchen. Put the fancy china on the table, use a pressed table cloth and for one meal, take your taste buds on vacation.

Heidi Sue Roth

Josh's Bookshelf

Lowlife Underdogs
Dustin LaValley
Raw Dog Screaming Press
9781933293646, $13.95,

This collection of short stories, some of only one page in length, reads like a blow to the stomach. Each with their own shocking twists and colorful characters, the motifs plainly laid out then riddled with sub-plots to keep readers guessing. These stories, almost more vignettes, are at times absurd, bizarre, bloody, perverse, funny and violent but always keeping these aspects in good merit without relying on shock and they all have a moral of value. Each story is a blow to the mind, a gripping, relentless psychological and symbolical adventure that has Dustin LaValley showing talent beyond his competition. If you're looking for an excellent introduction to an author on his way to the top, this debut collection is a great start.

Lawson Vs LaValley
John Edward Lawson and Dustin LaValley
Raw Dog Screaming Press
9781935738183, $10.95,

Fringe fiction authors John Edward Lawson (The Troublesome Amputee) and Dustin LaValley (Lowlife Underdogs) come together in this short story collaboration. The title leads the reader to believe this to be a somewhat of a competition, perhaps two authors writing the same story in their own voices. But, what it is, is two authors sharing a single book, both supplying short stories that will make you laugh, cringe and applaud. Each author writes a forward to their own segments with background on the stories and themselves with playful jabs at the other. The stories a ripe with each author's style, Lawson's bizarro voice and LaValley's absurdist and both deliver what could be some of the best of their careers. To choose a winner in this battle of verbal, fictionalized fisticuffs would be wrong, as both come out hailed as champs of their own visions and the reader is left in awe of the fantastical tales spilt like blood. Lawson vs. LaValley is a two man show of talent, skill and storytelling in a uniquely fashioned manner. John Edward Lawson and Dustin LaValley are two of today's most prominent small press authors and after reading this collaboration, they hold those titles high and rightly so.

Josh O'Conner

Karyn's Bookshelf

Summertime Rainbow
Belle Yang, author and illustrator
Candlewick Press
99 Dover Street, Somerville, MA 02144
9780763652807, $6.99,

Gentle garden art, bilingual language and a board book format. A host of elements come perfectly together in this simple, sun-kissed tale. A follow-up to Yang's "A Nest in Springtime," its double-page spreads feature Mandarin Chinese on one page followed by an English translation on the facing page. Children are introduced to colors and other simple words as a family of bunnies, on a bright summer day, nibble grass, smell flowers, chase butterflies and ultimately gaze at a rainbow. A pronunciation guide for the featured Chinese words is included at the back of the book, a wise placement choice that leaves the story pages free of too much writing clutter. The simple illustrations have a just-right natural, earthy feel. A beautiful, child-centered language primer.

Bugs Galore
Peter Stein, author
Bob Staake, illustrator
Candlewick Press
99 Dover Street, Somerville, MA 02144
9780763647544, $15.99,

The same author-illustrator team behind 2011's zany "Cars Galore," returns with a summertime ode to bugs. The off-the-wall feel that made "Cars" so much fun returns, too. Every page is crammed with creeping, crawling, buzzing, stinging creatures. Some look sweet, some look like itty-bitty monsters. Kids will thrill at the abundance of tiny details and the uber-fun language that speaks to accidentally inhaling bugs, digging worms in mucky mud, catching lightening bugs, squashing bugs underfoot and running from angry bee hives. Kids are encouraged to wonder -- what exactly does a fly see with its compound eyes? As in "Cars," the illustrations are distinctly sharp-lined and bold-hued, with a great discordant feel. Not your typical placid, pastel garden tale; something far more interesting. Fabulously fun.

Isabella's Garden
Glenda Millard, author
Rebecca Cool, illustrator
Candlewick Press
99 Dover Street, Somerville, MA 02144
9780763660161, $16.99,

Originally released in Australia and New Zealand in 2009, this gorgeous ode to shifting seasons is finally available in the United States. That the Children's Book Council of Australia named it a 2010 runner up for picture book of the year is no surprise. The art is simply stunning, a mixed media of intricate patterns and eye-popping color. Children's dresses and springtime umbrellas are handmade quilt-like in their fine detail. The moon smiles with flower-dimpled cheeks. A jester-like Jack Frost spreads his snowflake-sprinkled lavender wings. The lyrical text, that has a "House that Jack Built," cadence, is as award-worthy as the illustrations. It follows a group of children as they work and play in their garden over a growing season, from the spring rain that wakes up their seeds to the coming of winter that sends the seeds back to sleep. An abundance of action words - clouds cry, shoots swell, flowers waltz, a mantis prays to the moon - enliven. Inspiringly beautiful.

Karyn L. Saemann, Reviewer

Katherine's Bookshelf

Black Eagle Force; Eye of the Storm
Ken Farmer and Buck Stienke
Tate Publishing
127 E Trade Center Terrace
Mustang, OK 73064
9781617779640, $23.99,

Ken Farmer and Buck Stienke have teamed up to write an exciting, adventure-riddled, subtly romantic book entitled Black Eagle Force; Eye of the Storm. They begin the story with a history lesson - how Santa Anna came across the Rio Grande to San Antonio and the Alamo. This short lesson is actually personalized by naming the owners of a large ranch that the Mexicans had to go through to reach that part of Texas in the fight for Texas Independence.

Fast forward to modern times.

The family of the 1836 ancestors still lives on the ranch. Gunter Hermann, the patriarch and father of Mike and Blaze, keep the ranch operating with the help of several employees. Another war is in the making. This war is still with Mexicans, but there is a different reason for it.

"Michael Otto Hermann had had it. He had damn well had it with all the BS in the new war on terror. He had had it with all the illegal aliens, liberal politicians and pontificators, violent drug gangs, sleazy Mexican politicians, and corrupt members of the army."

The reader is carried along with the characters, both good and bad, as they become embroiled in a spine tingling adventure that will keep the reader wanting more. Some readers will be put off by the pages of technical information about vehicles, airplanes and guns, but the information gives the reader insight into how intense the situation is. Will the ranch family get help to protect their ranch? Tune in to find out.

I liked the plot and the characters. The plot is well thought out and executed and the characters are well defined and interesting. I believe that the novel is written so that it could be adapted to a movie or TV miniseries. Let's hope that if that is the case, they will keep the character of the book.

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

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

Brave Bradley Beaver's Flying Adventure
Tom Nollette
StarCaster Press
PO Box 816083, Farmers Branch, TX 75234
9780984761401, $14.95,

Tom Nollette has written a very good, adventurous story in Brave Bradley's Flying Adventure. It teaches that you can do what you really want to do if you are persistent, but do it responsibly.

Bradley really enjoyed his life as a beaver, his family, and his friends, but something was missing. As he watches the birds flittering from branch to branch, he thinks how much he would like to fly. He decides to find out if someone would know how he might be able to fly. First he talks to Olli Owl, who suggests he talk to Pete the pilot. He sets out to find him and after a few days, he does.

What happens to Bradley as he learns to fly is a great lesson about how to learn to fly. He learns about the airplane and what makes it fly and how to be safe when flying. He learns his lessons well and it is soon time for him to solo.

"Then, with joy and laughter in his voice, he says "The plane is yours, it's time for you to solo, Bradley."

Children will love reading about Bradley and his adventures in the air. Hopefully they will be inspired to follow their dreams as Bradley the Beaver did. Parents will be happy about the lessons taught about perseverance.

Tom Nolette was a Marine jet pilot and a commercial pilot. He joined the Marines when he was a student at the University of Nebraska to pursue his dream of flying. After his military service, he pursued a career in business marketing and sales. He is married and has three grown children.

Tulip the Turtle Goes Missing
Tom Nollette
StarCaster Press
PO Box 816083, Farmers Branch, TX 75234
9780984761418, $9.95,

Tulip the Turtle Goes Missing by Tom Nolette is the story of a turtle found in the park by two young girls, Rosie and Ann. It had fallen from a rock ledge and landed on his back. Everyone knows a turtle has a lot of trouble turning itself back over after a fall like this. Rosie and Ann are no different. Rosie goes to help the turtle and decides to keep it.

This story about the turtle in captivity is one that will help children to learn that wild things should stay in the wild. That is where they belong. When the Turtle, named Tulip by the girls, goes missing, they look for it.

"...Tulip seems to have droplets of blood around both sides of the mouth. It looks like Tulip is hurt and bleeding. Rosie feels sad again.

Upon closer examination, however, Rosie realizes the red around Tulip's mouth is not blood, but pieces of dried red strawberry. Tulip has feasted on strawberries for three days. This makes Rosie happy."

When they do find Tulip in the strawberry patch, Rosie makes a big decision to do what's right for Tulip. The lesson learned by Rosie and Ann is one that will follow them throughout their whole life.

The illustrations are bold and colorful matching the storyline so that children can follow it just by paging through looking at the pictures.

Tom Nolette draws upon an early childhood experience for inspiration for this story. He grew up in a small western Nebraska town with trusting, loving parents who allowed early independence at an early age for all their children. He developed an adventurous spirit and love of nature as a very young child. He graduated from the University of Nebraska in 1972. He joined the U.S. Marine Corps to become a pilot.

The Story of T-Ricken
Adina Nicholas
100 Enterprise Way Ste A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781468015386, $10.00,

Adina Nicholas has written the cutest book about a chicken nugget, called The Story of T-Ricken. This is one of those books about which I would like to just make that statement and tell you to read it, but as a reviewer, I cannot do that.

The idea of using a chicken nugget in the illustrations which are actual photos of T-Ricken (named from T-Rex and chicken) in various adventures after he fell off of a table and ended up outside in the big world.

T-Ricken meets Goldie, a French fry, who travels with him. They find that the outdoors is a fun place to play. They used things that they found for everyday living, like an orange peel for a bed.
"Night time was coming and they found an orange peel for a bed, T-Ricken really liked it because it was very soft for his head!"

In further adventures, they played in the playground on the slide, swing and merry-go-round. They had a lot of fun being together and becoming closer friends and learning about the world.

Children will love this book and enjoy the stories of T-Ricken and Goldie as they are subtly taught about going out into the world.

Don't be surprised if they decide to find their own "T-Ricken". This is one time that playing with food might be okay.

Adina Nicholas began writing poetry, expressing her feelings, as a young girl. She began working and her story writing stopped physically, but not in her heart. Her two sons have motivated her to go back to writing - this time children's books. This book was inspired by her sons' love of chicken nuggets, French fries and books.

Katherine Boyer

Logan's Bookshelf

Essays for the 99%
John David
c/o Justus Dale
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781475111354, $6.99,

The power in America clearly lies with the few instead of the many in the current political climate. "Essays for the 99%" is a collection of politically charged essays from John David, as he presents his version of class warfare, calling for many to not accept the imbalance of power as it is. "Essays for the 99%" is worth considering for those seeking a charged set of essays against the millionaires in politics.

To Be Or Not To Be Russian?
Konstantin Averin & Tatiana Pavlova
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781456799939, $15.79,

The Russian people have faced many major changes in the past century in their cultural identity. "To Be Or Not To Be Russian?" is a discussion of Russian nationalism from Konstantin Averin & Tatiana Pavlova as the Russians come together and try to gain a better understanding of what it means to be Russian in the modern day, and what pride the Russian people can hold. A thoughtful and educational insight into a culture that is often misunderstood, "To Be Or Not To Be Russian?" is a strong pick for cultural studies collections.

History of a Pipe Dream
Susan Miller
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781462073085, $24.95,

Some things aren't considered women's work, but Susan Miller cares not. "History of a Pipe Dream" is a memoir of Susan Miller, as she states her struggles of trying to succeed within the industrial construction industry within the state of Wyoming, as well as sharing the story of her life. A story of facing gender barriers, "History of a Pipe Dream" is a strongly recommended pick for women's memoirs collections, highly recommended.

Secrets of a Boy Lost
William C. Prentiss
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781468540277, $19.95,

Spurned from the world, one boy has to find his way through the confusion and find adulthood all too early. "Secrets of a Boy Lost" is a novel, following young 15 year old Kim in the changing times following World War II. Divided by faith and his own dedication, Kim must find what he stands for, as author William C. Prentiss channels his own journey to adulthood for a genuine read. "Secrets of a Boy Lost" is a strongly recommended pick for those seeking a literary coming of age tale.

Wally Wander
Nova Melia
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432779108, $16.95,

As the world crumbles around us, all we can rely on is our own minds. "Wally Wander" is a psychological novel from Nova Melia as she paints the story of Wally, a young woman whose world seems to be out to deny her happiness and friendship. Withdrawing into her own mind, and seeing the many things that lie into it, she realizes she cannot run away from reality forever, but she may be surprised with what she finds. "Wally Wander" is a novel that encourages readers to rethink everything, very much recommended.

Lenten Dailies
Pamela Tapper
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781463445188, $12.99,

Lent is to surrender something in your life to God. "Lenten Dailies: A Daily Devotional During Lent" is a collection of inspirational passages designed to be embraced during the period of Lent, a period of Catholic sacrifice, from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday. "Lenten Dailies" is a fine and much recommended piece of inspirational writing for Catholic readers.

Journey Toward the Forever
J. W. Becker
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781475054095, $14.95,

When something feasts on man, can the food chain endure? "Journey Toward the Forever" is a psychological spin of fantasy and fiction, as mankind has come under the thumb of the Beast, who demands food supplies but knows how to conserve and maintain his food supply. Ethan has been appointed by the Beast to infiltrate the humans who have escaped the weight of the Beast, and bring them in to replenish the beast's stores. But can he bring himself to sabotage those who have eluded the oppression, be it for the sake of both beast and man? "Journey Toward the Forever" is an insightful and much recommended pick for those seeking a psychological thriller that goes about it all differently.

From Across the Ocean to Electromagnetic Energy in Motion to Waking Up in Light
Sophia Santucci
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432788223, $11.95,

Our awakening in our lives can come in many forms. "From Across the ocean to Electromagnetic Energy in Motion to Waking Up in Light" is a spiritual and metaphysical musing from Sophia Santucci as she derives her own spiritual journey and finding the energy and spirit to conquer her own crises. Encouraging readers to delve into themselves and find what makes them unique and powerful, "From Across the Ocean" is well worth considering for spirituality and motivational collections.

Law & Lawyers in the United States
Robert Sellers Smith
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781469907604, $14.95,

American Law has been built upon for two hundred years, and can prove quite troublesome to fully understand. "Law & Lawyers in the United States" discusses the role of the law and lawyers in America, showing the elements of law in every state of the union and how to better understand it for those without several years of law school. "Law & Lawyers in the United States" is a must for those who want to better understand the complexity of modern American law.

Carl Logan

Margaret's Bookshelf

The Complete Mystery of Matthew Alcott
Michael Oborn
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432788933, $18.95,

The mind of Joseph Smith has been debated much, by both Mormon and non-Mormon alike. "The Complete Mystery of Matthew Alcott" is a mystery surrounding the early time of the Mormon faith and the pursuits of Joseph Smith and his early circle of Brigham Young and Matthew Alcott, his historian. Michael Oborn creates a novel that explores the potential of Alcott to rebel and release a tell all history of the period, free from meddling from above. "The Complete Mystery of Matthew Alcott" is a strong pick for those who are seeking a bit of religion blended in with mystery and thriller.

Daughters for a Time
Jennifer Handford
Amazon Publishing
9781612182926, $14.95,

The bonds of family are complex and sometimes never fully understood. "Daughters for a Time" is a novel following conflicted Helen, who lost her parents at a young age, and only has her sister as support. Faced with being barren and long standing feeling abandonment, Helen must face if adoption is the right answer and the tragedy of her sister's cancer. "Daughters for a Time" is a must for contemporary literary fiction collections.

Clarabelle's Rose
Judy Kashi
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432775674, $16.95,

The searing hatred that surrounds some of our lives dominates it. "Clarabelle's Rose" is a novel of the peak of bigotry in the 1960s and 1970s, as Clarabelle, a young woman held down by an abusive racist father, struggles to deal with her own thoughts on hate and race, challenged by many daunting ordeals and a friend that may save her from herself. A unique story of tragedy and friendship set against a strong racial tone, "Clarabelle's Rose" is a read well worth considering.

A Lost Generation
Ronald S. Zimney
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781462071104, $19.95,

Change is never easy. "A Lost Generation" is the story of Lilly Larsen, and her attempts to help Roger Hartec through his struggles of facing the trauma of the Vietnam war. Trying to help him down a road to redemption, the troubled nature will test them, in a story that is all too true for many veterans. "A Lost Generation" is a strong addition to historical fiction collections.

A. F. Costa
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781463704278, $14.99,

One's heritage can present itself in the most unusual of ways. "Bruxa: The Secret Within" is a novel following the revelation of Gabriella as she finds that her mother has presented her as the dying line of ancient witches called the Bruxa, and that her father may have left her a curse. Faced with the inheritance of danger, she is faced with many choices, including romance that may very well doom her. "Bruxa" is a fine work of fantasy, very much recommended reading.

For All of Our Days
Mary Pickens
Bookstand Publishing
9781618630810, $19.95,

After a lifetime of turmoil, all we can seek is something of comfort. "For All Our Days" is a novel from Mary Pickens, crafting a story of two forty somethings who come into a relationship with a life of pain behind them, of failed marriages, and of existing marriages that are destroying their souls. Their union brings something greater to their lives, but their joy does not come without its own challenges. "For All Our Days" is an enticing delve into mid-life crisis and romance.

Secrets of Mary and the Trainbabies
Don March
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
978147007751, $13.99,

In the face of certain death, people would entrust their babies to anyone who would take them, even total strangers. "Secrets of Mary and the Trainbabies" is a telling of Don March's mother, Mary Trabka, who was given tow infants as a very young woman and was forced to grow up alongside her sudden adoptions, facing struggles as she tries to go to America and the cruelty that she left behind. A story of a woman's life drastically changed by the Holocaust, "Secrets of Mary and the Trainbabies" is a riveting story of the Holocaust and its fallout, very highly recommended.

An Everlasting Love Affair
Lou & Irene Candela
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781452011080, $14.99,

War brings a clash of cultures, and even among the worst of it, there may be shining pieces of hope. "An Everlasting Love Affair" is a romantic memoir of an American soldier and a German woman who found their unique love in the events following the war during the occupation and rebuilding that came in the events that followed. "An Everlasting Love Affair" is a poignant and charming read of love found in the aftermath of battle.

The Coach House
Florence Osmund
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781467946513, $14.95,

When secrets come out, some may find themselves running for their lives. "The Coach House" is a novel from Florence Osmund, following Marie Marchetti as she discovers the organized crime ties that her husband Richard held from him. In her flight from home, she learns much about her life and family, and is faced with the weight of her life, making her try to cope with the life around her that she never knew. "The Coach House" is worth considering for those seeking historical fiction set around the height of the Crime families in the twentieth century.

The Ultimate Guide To Kink
Tristan Taormino
Cleis Press
2246 Sixth Street
Berkeley, CA 94710-2219
9781573447799, $19.95,

An informed and informative 475-page compendium focusing upon diverse verse varieties of unconventional human sexuality, "The Ultimate Guide to Kink: BDSM, Role Play and the Erotic Edge" by Tristan Taormino provides 'user friendly' techniques and creative ideas for bondage, spanking, flogging, sensation play, rough sex, and incorporating alternative sexual activities into one's sex life. Of special note is the information presented on sexual role-play fantasy. Clearly for an adult readership only, "The Ultimate Guide to Kink: BDSM, Role Play and the Erotic Edge" is highly recommended and instructive reading for men and women seeking to expand their experiences with respect to their sexuality.

Margaret Lane

Maria Ryan's Bookshelf

Almost Paradise
Susan Isaacs
HarperCollins Publishers Inc.
10 East 53rd St., New York, NY 10022
0061014656, $7.99,

Easily one of the best books I've read in a long time. This is an older book with a 1970's copyright date that is enjoying a new resurgence. Isaacs's storytelling is pitch perfect with a keen sense of detail. Nothing is left out yet the pages fly by. One of the most important factors is adequate character development and Isaacs is a master. The depiction of a real marriage with all its ups and downs is remarkable. Isaacs fills in all the gaps by reaching back in time to give the reader the complete lineage of the two main characters. In this case it is so appropriately well done that I was completely entertained. The ending is bittersweet yet truly delivers.

The Twisted Thread
Charlotte Bacon
114 5th Ave., New York, NY 10011
9781401341503, $6.00,

I really liked the premise for this story; star student is murdered on the campus of a rich and prestigious New England prep school. After delivering her newborn baby, Claire Harkness, a senior at Armitage boarding school is found murdered in her dorm room. The baby has disappeared and no one can account for this. Not to mention that most faculty and staff did not even know the girl was pregnant. Madeline, Christopher, an underestimated new intern, not much older than the students themselves is central to the plot as she figures out most of the mystery herself. One of the local detectives, a former student at Armitage has a unique position in helping to solve the case. I liked the way Bacon wrote the main law enforcement characters, Matt and Vernon. They were presented as real, feeling human beings complete with their own idiosyncrasies instead of macho, egomaniacs that seem to transcend any sensitivity whatsoever. I did wish the disappearing baby angle had been written differently. I also did not see the need for Jim's character. He and his mother had nothing to do with the plot other than the employment of Kayla and they felt like dangling loose threads with no clear purpose. A few of the chapters could easily have been either trimmed or omitted. The reign of terror started out being a promising aspect to the story line however by the end, it had clearly petered out. None of the girls made any kind of appearance after their initial contact with Madeline. Also, there was really no closure with the Tamsin angle. Other than these loose ends, it was an enjoyable read with solid likeable characters.

The Lake of Dreams
Kim Edwards
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., New York, NY 10014
9780143120360, $16.00,

The story of a young woman returning to her childhood home in order to figure out her life had great potential but unfortunately got lost in places. It was very slow to start with not a whole lot going on to really draw the reader in. It seemed somewhat disjointed. I kept on reading because I saw the possibilities and wanted to see it through. Lucy, the main character was for me, a very likable one, although her experiences were less than exciting. It was difficult to feel any building anticipation over the way her father died or the mystery of the reoccurring woman in the stained glass windows. The story just seemed very ordinary and not a whole lot really stood out about any of these characters. Still, I enjoyed the book. The setting was beautiful and the story did pick up towards the end. The final scenes with her new husband were lovely.

Maria Ryan

Mayra's Bookshelf

First Love Just Once in a Lifetime: A Memoir
Violeta Barrett (pen name)
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, Indiana 47403,
9781450279925, $18.95 (sc)
9781450279932, $9.99 ebook

First Love, by Violeta Barrett is a well-written, heart-felt and honest memoir, one that reminds us that "true love never dies."

The author opens her heart and candidly shares with readers how she fell in love with her tour guide in Mexico during a holiday back in 1956. Not only that, but she also shares with us the 76 love letters that kept their relationship alive during the four years of their affair. Torn and yellowed, the letters speak for themselves in this upbeat, inspirational story.

Violeta had been working for more than a decade for a Wall Street investment firm before her trip. She was a modern, career woman, already married and separated for two years. Stressed and overworked, she had gone to Mexico to relax and charge her batteries. But nothing prepared her for the outcome: her finding true love in the least expected circumstances. She was loved like a princess in a fairytale. How many women can say that in a lifetime?

Entertaining and uplifting, this memoir is full of ethnic, local flavor with all the sights and sounds of Mexico. The narrator's voice is honest and sensitive. This is a woman who knew real love and who's lived to tell her experience to others, to share her feelings and doubts.

Part of the book are the letters themselves, which she kept all this time, never knowing that one day she would write a book about them.

This is recommended to fans of memoirs or anybody who enjoys a good romantic tale.

Roma, Underground
Gabriel Valjan
Book cover: Patric Lentz
Winter Goose Publishing
0983676488, $15.99,

Alabaster Black is hiding from the United States Government. Over the past two years she's had different identities. As a forensic accountant, she does forensic investigations of people's finances in order to protect the country's internal financial system and stop dangerous greed. But her latest report to secret organization Rendition ends badly and so now she's on the run in Italy under yet another fictitious name: Bianca.

In beautiful, historical Rome, she meets government investigator and amateur archaeologist Dante, member of Roma Underground, and soon their relationship takes her on an adventure underneath the city itself. Before long, however, she's being followed, Italian artifacts start disappearing, and the two of them set out to trap the guilty parties.

This was an enjoyable read! Conspiracy, double identities, car chases and espionage, all against the backdrop of magical Rome, with its great food and marvelous art history, make this an entertaining, intriguing read. Indeed, the setting is one of the most engaging aspects of the novel. The author describes the foods and locations in vivid detail, bringing the story to life. I liked the heroine. She's strong, smart, and pragmatic, kind of like a female James Bond. At times the pace drags a bit but on the whole this in a well written and suspenseful novel with a strong heroine that will be enjoyed by fans of the genre.

Shadows of Kings
Jack Whitsel
Twilight Times Books
PO Box 3340, Kingsport, TN 37664
9781606192238, $17.95 paperback, $6.95 Kindle

Two centuries ago, the Temple Initiates made up the Order of the Dragon, named after the Great Dragon Shyrdasa that once lived within Dragon Park. Legend told that a group of knights once helped the Dragon and her unborn young. As a reward for their valor, the Dragon awarded them secret knowledge, martial powers and magic. The Dragon also chose women throughout the Hugue to serve as Dragon Maidens, bestowing upon them secrets of draconic sorcery...

Now, for the people of the Hugue, the fall season would have normally been the time of the Harvest Festival...but fruits of their work are now in danger of being destroyed. For the first time in 50 years, the Harhn, savage beasts, are arriving in terrifying numbers from Vol Theldane to wage war upon the domains of Mankind. The Hugue, not ready for war, are caught by surprise.

A brave soldier named Baudouin and Lucia, a young Dragon Maiden, are the keys to saving mankind. And at the core of it all, lies a mysterious girl they must find...

What a great start for a series! Shadows of Kings is an excellently written, impressive first novel that will be savored by fans of fantasy. Author Jack Whitsel has created a vivid, intricately-woven medieval world filled with sword and sorcery, fair maidens with mystifying powers, evil fey with dark appetites, villains readers will love to hate and heroes to fall in love with. My only complain is that there's no romance in the story. I would have loved to see Baudouin as a romantic hero as opposed to just a hero. What can I say? I'm a romantic. This being a first novel, I'm impressed at how the author created all the characters - and there are many. I especially enjoyed the character of Lucia. I thought the scenes of her capture were quite realistic and compelling. There's a lot of action in the story and the fight scenes are detailed without being overly graphic. In short, this is an engrossing fantasy novel for fans of the genre. Recommended.

Mar Preston
Pertinacity Press
1408 Banff Dr., #6751
Pine Mountain Club, CA 93222
9781475295368, $13.95 paperback, $5.99 eBook

A burglar is found dead in an upscale condo in the beautiful beach city of Santa Monica. The murder seems to be linked to a series of high-tech murders that have been taking place in the area. Dave Mason of the Santa Monica Police department is called to the case. Soon, he suspects that the Chechens are connected to the murders, but how? While investigating in the Hollywood Russian community, he's thrown into a vortex of dark suspects, embezzlement, explosions and FBI agents. When Dave and his department are blamed for a take-down gone wrong, it's up to him to solve the case and restore their reputation, while at the same time trying to salvage his relationship with his girlfriend.

Mar Preston delivers yet another exciting whodunit mystery in this, her second book in her Dave Mason series. The prose is crisp, the dialogue gritty. The author doesn't waste time with unnecessary description or backstory in this little page-turner that will keep readers guessing for the culprits. She also does an excellent job in bringing upscale Santa Monica and its people to life, with its luxurious condos and leftist politics. The characters are interesting, each distinct with their own quirks. Dave Mason is a likable protagonist with both flaws and good qualities. Rip-Off is a well-written mystery with a well thought-out plot that will be enjoyed by fans of the genre. Recommended!

Mayra Calvani

Peggy's Bookshelf

Wild Ink
Victoria Hanley
Prufrock Press Inc.
PO Box 8813, Waco, TX 76714-8813
9781593638641, $17.95,

Billed as a second edition, "Wild Ink: Success Secrets to Writing and Publishing for the Young Adult Market" is for advanced YA writers, and "Wild Ink: How to Write Fiction for Young Adults" (first edition) is for beginning YA writers. In the first edition award-winning author and writing instructor Victoria Hanley tells you how to get started. In the second edition she tells you how to keep going. Hanley uses examples from the classic "Pride and Prejudice" and the popular bestseller "The Hunger Games" to explore the fine points of novel writing. Other topics included are nonfiction, agents, traditional publishing, self-publishing, and marketing, all of which show writers how to take their writing to the next level. The final 80 pages of interviews provide a fascinating look at the insight and craft of dozens of today's YA fiction and nonfiction authors, which you will revisit often. If you have the first draft of your manuscript in your hands, you need this book.

Let Me Out
Nichole Severn
SPJ Publishing
839 San Gabriel Avenue, Henderson, NV 89002
9781469958965, $8.99,

Adelaide Banvard is a cold-blooded killer with a wicked past. She is also the personal bodyguard for Christian Wren, the most powerful corporate criminal in Los Angeles. When Agent Marcus Grant's partner is killed, all clues lead to Wren. He vows revenge. But what will he do when he finds out the killer is a beautiful woman - and a dangerous psychopath? As Marcus injects himself deeper into Wren's organization he uncovers one shocking secret after another that causes him to question everything he's ever believed in or fought for - including his own sanity. Nichole Severn takes readers on a white-knuckle ride through the mean streets of LA where it is impossible to tell the good guys from the bad guys. "Let Me Out" is unrelenting suspense that will knock your socks off.

Fatal Kiss
Suzanne Barr
Sisterhood Publications
180 North 1100 East, Unit 60, Washington, UT 84780
9780967786858, $5.99,

Sylvia Howard Taylor Ipock White is a real life study in evil. A serial abuser. A serial killer. A black widow and worse - a child killer. Sylvia will haunt you beyond the pages. What readers will find most astonishing is how her social status in Kinston, North Carolina, shielded her from any investigation, or even scrutiny, for almost two decades. Suzanne Barr doesn't just lay out the facts here. She delves into Sylvia's life and the people whose lives she ruined. Her portrayal of Sylvia's dastardly deeds is riveting. Don't miss the chilling letters to the author from Sylvia and her accomplices at the end of the book. "Fatal Kiss" will blow your mind.

Lucky and Squash
Jeanne Birdsall
Jane Dyer, Illustrator
HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780060831509, $16.99,

Lucky and Squash are two adorable dogs who are best friends. But they never get to play together because they're separated by a fence. One day Squash decides if his person, Miss Violet and Lucky's person, Mr. Bernard fall in love maybe then they would open the gate and let them play. Lucky thinks that's a howling good idea. Together the little rascals hatch a plan to bring their people together. But nothing goes quite the way they expected. "Lucky and Squash" is a sweet little dog story and love story rolled into one that will make you laugh.

Peggy Tibbetts, Reviewer

Rhea's Bookshelf

The Bitter Sweet Conclusion
Elizabeth Funderbirk
Emerald Star Press
P.O. Box 2621, Atlanta, GA 30301
9780983199366, $14.95,

The Bitter Sweet Conclusion is about the people we were introduced to in Love Torn Asunder, namely the main characters are: Leslie, Lincoln, Kendrick, "Her" and Devine. Ms. Funderbirk takes us on the continued journeys of these people while eliciting curiosity, connections and concerns with and for some of these characters. We witnessed some of their trials, tribulations, struggles and successes. We have front seats to deception, downwards spirals, manipulations and triumphs. One does find themselves hanging on every word while anticipating the next one. Elizabeth did a grand job with the twist and turns throughout this tale. This was a great read and I am looking very much forward to the rest of this series. As stated in The Bitter Sweet Conclusion's description " the explosive sequel to Love Torn Asunder" and this is for sure.
I give this novel 4 stars

Love Torn Asunder
Elizabeth Funderbirk
Emerald Star Press
P.O. Box 2621, Atlanta, GA 30301
9780983199342, $15.95,

Wow....this is an intricately woven and emotionally engaging drama that keeps you totally engrossed!!

Elizabeth Funderbirk has crafted a story that is action driven and chucked full of emotional tidal waves. For me, it was also educational and tested my beliefs, convictions and confirmed the need for boundaries. Love Torn Asunder is comprised of a host of characters but each is essential in their roles as this author fluidly moves from one course to another. Leslie is the main character and the center of this thoroughly told story of her life, choices, deeds, deception and the effects of such on her and those that love her. Leslie is a steady and secure woman until an extended separation from the one she loves sends her traveling down a road lined with deception and manipulation cloaked in caring and friendship. With her feelings of loneliness, her allowing people to get in her ear thus head, she ventures down a road that up heaves her life in ways that could be detrimental herself, to all that she has built and those that she loves.

Love Torn Asunder is a tale of choice that is a great conversational piece as it taps on so many actions and situations that we face in our everyday lives. I must commend this author on the way she penned this story in the voices of each character as they took the forefront at their given times. Ms. Funderbirk did an excellent job in developing these characters and with their own voices. In doing so, it lead to an interesting read that kept me totally engrossed and anxious to "hear" what happened next....yes, I said hear as this book reads as if the characters are each telling their own stories.

Torn is an on-point depiction of this book and what can become of its effects as it is thought provoking, trying, full of personal growth and acceptance. Chi-Town Reading Circle and I have fully anticipated this book and it was well worth the wait. By the way Love Torn Asunder ended, I know there has to be more and I am fully anticipating it as well....took every in me for me not to contact this author and ask just a few questions.

For her first time out the gate, she did an exceptional job and I can assure you that she will be around for a long time to come producing this kind of work. Kudos to Elizabeth Funderbirk for a story well told!! I give this premier novel 5 stars easily.

Rhea Alexis M. Banks

Richard's Bookshelf

When Life Throws You Curves, Keep Swinging
David Vince with Jeremy M. Harper
Langmarc Publishing
P. O. Box 90488, Austin, Texas 78709-0488
9781880292457, $19.95,

A Triumph Over Adversity - A Double Amputee's Journey to Become a Top Baseball Coach

Coach David Vince collaborates with Jeremy M. Harper to tell his story in "When Life Throws You Curves, Keep Swinging." His story is more than another sports memoir. It is a testimonial of the rewards of dreams fulfilled through commitment, perseverance, and determination in the face of the hardship of adversity.

A double above the knee amputee from birth David Vince lived vicariously through his younger brother's athletic successes. During his early college years David was challenged by his youth pastor to change his major field of study from accounting to a degree in Heath and PE. He was given the opportunity to be the athletic team manager for the McNeese baseball team, gained important experience, and won two athletic awards.

David went on to complete his master's degree and accepted the position of Head Coach of Campbellsville University in Kentucky. He goes on to tell of the ups and downs of his career. A true sports fan, David's love for the sport comes to life through the pages of the book and the competent skill of his cowriter Jeremy Harper.

A devote Christian, David relates how he received spiritual strength through the promises of the scriptures; throughout his coaching career, and in the difficulties faced during unexpected times of crisis faced by his family.

"When Life Throws You Curves, Keep Swinging" brings a message of hope to victims of birth defects or amputations, as well as to veterans who have had limbs amputated as a result of a devastating war injury. An amazing inspiration of courage, faith, and fulfillment.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Mo! Every Day Heroes Who Live With MOmentum, MOtivation, and MOxie
Shawn Doyle & Lauren Anderson
Sound Wisdom
167 Walnut Bottom Road, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9781937879037, $15.99,

Stories of People Filled With Passion, Drive, Charisma, and Magnetism

Shawn Doyle & Lauren Anderson have collaborated to compile the stories that make up "Mo: Everyday Heroes Who Live with Momentum, Motivation, and Moxie." These inspiring personality profiles illustrate the importance of discovering and developing one's individual potential.

Twenty-three ordinary people are introduced. Each story highlights special qualities that make these individuals stand out in their unique way. The chapter titles become word pictures providing the reader a visual image of the personality profile to following. Here are a few examples:

Vern Oscarson: Fish Peddler Extraordinaire
Bill Staton: The Amazing Maintenance Man
Jennifer Thompson: The Harpist Who Went to Law School
Joe Fleming: Skycap with True Spirit
Kate Holgate: The People Magnate

Pedro Valente's story was of particular interest to me. A Master in Brazilian Jujitsu Pedro stands straight, a man who lives and follows the message of his: Seven Principles of Virtue, Five Keys to Health, and the three elements that impact The State of Mind.

Each story concludes with "MO Notes" and "MeMO" exercises and several suggested action steps to help the reader assimilate and appropriate the lessons presented. The applications are practical, relevant, proven principles for attaining full meaningful extraordinary lives.

"MO" is a unique approach in the genre of self-help and MOtivational books. Shawn Doyle and Lauren Anderson are practical and professional in their writing. "MO" is entertaining, instructional, and highly MOtivational.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Finally Free
Jennifer Kostyal
Honor net Publishers
P. O. Box 910, Sapulpa, OK 74067
9780982059098, $14.99,

Finding Freedom from the Deep Seated Damage of Abuse

"Finally Free" is Jennifer Kostyal's story. It is written with passion and understanding, purpose, and resolve. As a child Jennifer Kostyal is convinced that her birth was a mistake, that she is ugly and therefore worthless.

Jennifer candidly reveals her experiences of self-preservation as a victim of verbal abuse, curses, beatings, molestation, and rape. She relates how she met the onslaught of attacks by demonic forces, reliving nightmares of the past. She tells of a longing to sink into oblivion, thoughts of suicide, and the wounds of her heart. In strong descriptive words Jennifer tells of the feelings of guilt, betrayal, and abandonment that followed broken relationships, family confrontations. She describes the impact of the restrictive confines of the cult like religion of her family.

In the midst of her conflict and confusion Jennifer experienced a divine intervention, an experience of indescribable power and love, as for the first time she understood the simplicity and reality of the message of Jesus' love. As she searched answers from the Word of God and claimed the promises she found restoration and healing. She experienced the compassion of Christ. Trauma turned to victory - sorrow turned to joy. Jennifer offers encouragement, hope, peace, and freedom to victims of abuse still in bondage.

The book also contains important instruction and information helpful to family members and victims caught up in the repeat cycle of abuse, with unhealed festering wounds, results of the poison of the past. She provides tools from the scriptures for finding break through and deliverance from the bondage of abuse. She exhorts the reader to take note of behavior changes in your child. It is important to be sensitive to the following symptoms of victims of abuse:

Attention problems and the ability to focus
Anxiety and extreme fear
Emotional wounds
Broken relationships
A constant need to be affirmed
A posture and lack of eye contact as a result of shame and guilt
Feelings of depression, despair, and distrust
Overly introverted

"Finally Free" is an engaging emotionally charged page turner demanding to be read. Jennifer's story is absorbing leaving the read with a lingering impact.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Secrets of the Supernatural Life - Your Gateway to Supernatural Experiences
Shawn Gabie
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768441208, $15.99,

A Fork in the Road Experience - Beginning the Journey into the Supernatural Lifestyle

Shawn Gabie encourages the reader to search for and discover the experience e of walking in the reality of a life changing transformation. "Secrets of the Supernatural Life" is a practical handbook for living in the supernatural in a modern day environment.

Biblically based with solid testimonies and applications the book is ideal for devotional reading or for deeper individual or group study. Shawn carefully explores a number of roles of the prophetic as they relate to living a supernatural life. These essentials provide the basic foundation for understanding the call to experiencing personally the excitement of supernatural living.

These foundational truths include as priorities the importance of:

Establishing a relationship with God through Jesus Christ
Hearing and recognizing the voice of God
Partnering with the Holy Sprit
Detecting counterfeits
Becoming God's messengers and active participants in carrying out the call to do "greater works" in the realm of the supernatural.

Gabie's writing is expressive, passionate, and highly motivating. Shawn reminds the reader, "The choice is yours as you decide which fork in the road you will take." Will it be the choice to experience the supernatural?

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Hosting the Presence: Unveiling Heaven's Agenda
Bill Johnson
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768441291, $15.99,

Living in the Presence of a God Centered Life

Best-selling author Bill Johnson reveals profound insight into the ways of the Holy Spirit as he challenges the reader to consider and ponder question designed to stimulate and inspire the depth, inference, and life changing impact of the reality of hosting God's presence.

"Hosting the Presence: Unveiling Heaven's Agenda" opens with extraordinary stories of healing exemplified in the lives of Peter, Jesus, and Paul as recorded in the New Testament Gospels and in the book of Acts. Additional examples are drawn from the lives of Moses, Abraham, Jacob, and David in the Old Testament. The book is filled with solid Biblical instruction, meaningful analogies, and foundation truths.

I was moved by the stories of spirit filled revivalists who had personal encounters with the Presence. These accounts include, D. L. Moody, Mel Tari, John G. Lake, George Whitefield, and many others.

A gifted and anointed communicator, Bill Johnson writes with clarity, passion, and empowerment. In my spiritual quest to release God's power into the circumstances of life, I want to encompass Bill's exhortation on the importance of fellowship, communion, companionship, and partnership. I also want to heed his admonition to beware of allowing the hindrances of busyness, shame, and pride from robbing me from the experience of "Hosting the presence."

A complimentary copy of the book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Unmask the Predators: The Battle to Protect Your Child
Lisa Cherry and Kalyn Cherry Waller
Honor Net Publishers
P. O. Box 910, Sapulpa, OK 74067
9781938021008, $15.99,

Families at Risk - The Attack of Predators

Lisa Cherry writes from a mother's perspective as she tells of the devastation when it was confirmed that their fifteen year old daughter, Kalyn, had fallen victim to a forty-six year old predator. She tells of the pain of guilt, regret, and anger she experienced. She writes from the deepest desperation of her soul.

Kalyn candidly tells her story of the emotional roller coaster she experienced. Her pain took the form of rebellion, depression, dysfunctional relationships, eating disorders, and self-mutilation.

The format and content of the material is instructional, well organized, and practical. The book is filled with strategies and tactics aimed at helping the reader build a plan for dealing with Satan's deception, the place of parental authority, and for engaging in spiritual battle.

The chapter titled "Twenty-Six Keys for Protecting Your Child from Sexual Predators" is especially important for parents. The points to ponder at the end of the chapters also provide important reinforcement to the material covered in the text. These points also open the possibility for use as a group discussion guide within the context of information meetings or in a support group setting.

"Unmask the Predators" is highly endorsed by Christian leaders, pastors, educators, and parents earnestly seeking to protect families from the influence and attack of evil predatory forces. Must reading for every parent.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Encountering God through Dance: The Dancing Bride
Saara Taina
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310 Shippensburg, PA 17257 - 0310
9780768441277, $14.99,

Testimony, Instruction, and Inspiration - Leading Worship through Dance

"Encountering God through Dance" is written especially for those called to the ministry of dance in worship, to those starting a dance ministry, and to everyone wanting to participate in creative worship "like a bride" desiring to celebrate in the presence of her beloved.

Saara Taina shares experiences from her own unique and personal journey which includes:

The discovery of freedom to express worship through dance
The opportunity for training in the techniques of the art form of dance
Becoming sensitive to recognizing the presence of God in the worship of His people
Learning a practical approach to starting a dance ministry
Training others in the fundamental steps to developing an effective team

I received a timely message from the family of a close friend of our church on the Care Pages web-site as I was reading Saara's book, the message reads: "Today, at 12:50 pm, our sweet mom left us and went to dance on the streets of heaven." I don't think this was a simple coincidence, no - I think it was a unique God encounter which gave me a whole new appreciation for the timeliness and sensitivity of Saara's writing.

Taina writes with a passion to introduce, equip, and implement the joy of expressing worship through dance. "Encountering God through Dance" is filled with solid Biblical teaching on often overlooked passages which introduce the diversity of music and other expressions of practiced by true believers in God.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Godly Success: Unlocking the Door of Prosperity in Your Life
Mornay Johnson
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768441260, $15.99,

Scriptural Guidelines for Success and Prosperity in Ministry or the Marketplace

Mornay Johnson provides the reader with guidelines for success and prosperity based on Biblical principles in his book "Godly Success: Unlocking the Door of Prosperity in Your Life." Using dozens of personal experiences and testimonies from individuals from all walks of life, Johnson introduces proven principles which illustrate proven practices to help the reader succeed in every facet of life: spiritually, emotionally, physically, socially, and financially.

These principles include:

A pattern for living
Tools for determining guidance and getting wisdom
Important aspects of Christian Character
The role of money in the life of the Christian
Keys to Godly success
A candid look at the role of placement in ministry
A new sense of destiny

The user friendly format reinforces these principles through:

Inspirational quotes
Summary statements
Scriptural passages
Dozens of illustrative testimonies of success
Blank pages for personal notes or journals

Mornay helps the reader understand the role of a "Marketplace Prophet" as a significant ministry opportunity. "Godly Success: Unlocking the Door of Prosperity in Your Life" is for every Christian man or woman who has felt misdirected in fulfilling their calling or who is currently seeking direction in determining their destiny. Highly recommended.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

My First 40 Days with the Lord Compilation: Majestic Glory Ministries
Robert F. Wolff
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768441307, $5.99,

First Steps in Spiritual Growth

"My First 40 Days with the Lord" is designed with the purpose of introducing the new believer to an intimate life changing relationship with the savior, Jesus Christ, and to provide them with an understanding of the basic essentials of the Christian faith.

The book is divided in 40 individual daily readings made up of parallel passages taken from the Gospel of John in the New Testament and selected scriptures from the books of the Old Testament from Genesis to Zechariah.

I especially appreciated:

The emphasis on foundational truths from the scriptures
The reflective questions which stimulate understanding, assimilation, and application of these important truths
The concise summaries of each of the books of the Old and New Testaments

The editors have been careful to be clear in their explanations of complex concepts and theological terms such as:

Grace and atonement
God's covenant relationship with Israel and with believers
The prophecy of the promised Messiah
Jesus as Son of God, and the Lamb of God, becoming our sin sacrifice
Salvation, the Holy Spirit, judgment, mercy, miracles and anointing

The narrative and reflective questions also encourage important principles for Christian living: Obedience, faith, character, humility, purpose, calling, tribulation, and other truths.

The book is more than a primer for new Christians. It also provides a refresher course for Christian s at every level of spiritual maturity. This is an excellent resource for discipleship training, mentoring, individual study, or for church membership classes.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Richard R. Blake, Reviewer

Sandra's Bookshelf

The Quaker State Affair
Dan Romain
Two Harbors Press
212 3rd Avenue North, Suite 290
Minneapolis, MN 55401
9781937293406, $13.50,

Right from the start of this book your brain goes into overdrive and pulls you in. For me it was like reading the newspaper or watching the news. It is totally feasible that everything in this book could actually happen. It is so realistic it is almost scary.

This book is not easy reading at first. In fact for the first fifty-four pages I had to write notes on who is who and what they do. You really have to exercise you're brain and I found that to be refreshing. In our world today what happens to our economy does have an effect on other countries. I worked for an oil company for five years and know the importance of oil around the world.

This book is filled with action, suspense and mystery. The book is well thought out and the character development is brilliant. I would tell my friends they need to read this book. It totally blew me away in parts.

This book is excellent and never boring.

Hallie Fryd
Zest Books
35 Stillman Street, Suite 121
San Francisco, CA 94107
9780982732205, $11.49,

"Scandalous! 50 Shocking Events You Should Know About (so you can impress your friends)" was a fun read and I learned things I had no knowledge of. What really blew me away is people who were related by blood and got married. To me that is beyond my comprehension.

The only one I knew before this book was Jerry Lee Lewis who married his thirteen year old cousin. Now I have learned that Franklin D. Roosevelt married his cousin Eleanor. She did not even have to change her last name.

Rudy Giuliani and Regina Peruggi got married and thought they were third cousins so that was not bad. But after 14 years they discovered they were second cousins and had their marriage annulled soon after that.

I have always heard about Jim Thorpe the Olympian winner, but what I did not know is he was stripped of his medals over something that today would not happen. He was guilty of telling the truth when others lied. To learn more you have to read this book.

Oh my stars, talk about a shocker. You have to read the story on page 14. If you need to drop a few pounds then read on. For me I don't think I could ever eat this food again. The story would flash in my mind. Even though it was 1904 we still hear today about people getting sick from foods.

There are more interesting things to read in this book, and I think people will enjoy reading about them.

Sandra Heptinstall

Suzie's Bookshelf

Master of Submission 1- Master of Submission
Jan Bowles
Siren Publishing
2500 S. Lamar Blvd., Austin, TX 78704
B00845VEVC, $5.50,

Emma Parks had been persuaded by her friend Chloe to travel from London to America to start a law firm with her. The two of them had been best friends while they attended Oxford University. When Chloe failed to pick up Emma from the airport, she started to worry at why her friend wasn't answering her phone. The last time she had heard from her had been five days prior when Chloe was excited about going on a date.

Emma found Chloe's apartment empty. After a week and still no word from Chloe, Emma made the decision to access Chloe's personal computer to try and gain some clues to her friend's mysterious disappearance. On Chloe's computer, she found reference to a BDSM club called Club Submission. Through the emails Emma found, it seemed that Chloe was heavily into the BDSM scene. Since this was the only clue she could find to her friend's disappearance she decided to borrow some of Chloe's clothes and go to the elusive club.

At Club Submission, Emma discovered a sexual world that she never knew existed. There she witnessed how the masters took their submissive partners to unspeakable heights of ecstasy. At the Club, Emma catches the eye of Master Zane. Master Zane is a diamond importer who loves to spend his free time at Club Submission. Upon seeing Emma, he is enchanted by her beauty and is determined that she will become his submissive slave.

Emma believes that Zane could know something of Chloe's disappearance. She follows him home to see if he is able to lead her to anything that could help her find Chloe. When Zane finds out that Emma has followed him home, he is none too happy. At Zane's home, Emma receives a call from the police that ask her to come and identify a body that they believe to be Chloe.

Emma and Zane both rush to the gruesome crime scene. Emma is heartbroken when she sees her best friend lying lifeless. The police believe that Chloe's killer is connected to Club Submission. Overnight, the club is entangled in a high profile murder investigation.

Will Emma be able to find out the circumstances that led up to Chloe's death? Can she learn to trust Zane enough to submit to his demands as he promises to bring her body under his control and take control of her and provide a fantasy beyond her wildest imagination?

MASTER OF SUBMISSION book one of the MASTER OF SERIES is an excellent jump start to what is assured to be one highly addictive series. Jan Bowles has outdone herself by adding a level of mystery and intrigue centered on her usual BDSM theme. Whenever this reader/reviewer sees the name Jan Bowles, she knows she is about to experience the best erotic writing that exists. Jan Bowles is a name that is a legend in the erotic world of romance!

Captive Heart
Phoebe Conn
Samhain Publishing, Ltd.
11821 Mason Montgomery Road
Cincinnati Ohio 45249
B0072LWRLA, $4.99,

A Viking raid had resulted in Celiese d'Loganville being taken captive and enslaved. She found herself serving Viking Lord Raktor's spoiled daughter Olgrethe. She would never be able to forget the one day that her world was forever changed.

Olgrethe learns that her father has arranged for her to wed Mylan Vandahl. It is rumored that Mylan is horribly disfigured. Olgrethe refuses to be trapped in a marriage to someone who she would not be able to look at, so she devises a plan to send Celiese in her place.

Celiese sees this as her one chance for freedom. She is determined to go and pretend she is Olgrethe. When Mylan meets "Olgrethe" he is enchanted by her beauty. He fears that she will not want to be tied to a man so horribly scarred.

Celiese is able to see past Mylan's scars. In her eyes she sees a man who needs to be loved. She feels that she is will be the beauty who will be able to tame the wild beast.

CAPTIVE HEART is a legendary historical romance that is assured to delight all true blue romance readers. There is no way that Beauty and the Beast fans will be able to ignore this wonderfully crafted novel. Phoebe Conn writes with such an intense purpose that allows the reader to be able to feel each heartfelt emotion that occurs in her books. This reviewer feels like she has been able to return back into time, for she read CAPTIVE HEART while she was in high school. Opportunities to turn back the clock of time are very rare. I cherished the chance of revisiting such a beloved novel.

Her Desert Prince
Rebecca Winters
P.O. Box 5190, Buffalo, NY 14240-5190,
0373177291, $4.50,

Lauren Viret had just recently lost her grandmother. On her deathbed, she spoke of her great love of a desert Sheik she had met while visiting the Nafud desert. Alone in the world, Lauren wanted to visit the land that had given her grandmother such found memories.

In the desert a sandstorm overtakes Lauren's caravan. She fears that she will meet her death as the smothering sand overtakes her. Miraculously, Lauren survives the ordeal and wakes up in the King's palace. She learns that she has been rescued by a handsome man. He introduces himself as "Rafi" head of the palace security.

Unbeknown to Lauren, "Rafi" is not who is seems to be; he hides the truth that he is Crown Prince Rashad. When the Doctor who saved Lauren's life finds a scared family medallion around Lauren's neck while she is unconscious, Rashad knows that Lauren is keeping a secret. To protect his family, he is determined to find out what she is hiding.

While keeping close watch on Lauren, Rashad is enchanted by the American beauty. When the truth is revealed of why Lauren was in the desert will it be enough to tear their newfound love apart?

HER DESERT PRINCE is an exceptional romance. I was captivated by this wonderful romance filled with so much passion and suspense. I found myself glued to the pages and refused to put this book down until I read the last page. HER DESERT PRINCE became an overnight obsession that I refused to let go until I was assured I knew if the beloved characters were able to find long in all the past history that threatened to tear them apart. I have been a long time fan of Rebecca Winters, with each book I read of hers I find that the world takes a backseat to her books once I start one.

Suzie Housley

Teri's Bookshelf

The Lower River
Paul Theroux
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
215 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10003
9780547746500, $25.00,

The Lower River is a dream of the past for Ellis Hock. Years ago, to avoid the draft for Vietnam, he joined the Peace Corps. He spent four years during this time establishing a school in a remote area of Africa in village named Malawi. Thoroughly enthralled with the people at this time, he felt that he was helping the world, he felt fulfilled and needed. He had discovered a home.

When his father died, he was called home to take over the family business running a men's clothing goods store. Falling into the traditional pattern of life in the U.S., he married and had a daughter. Life was fairly predictable and uneventful for years. All that changed when his wife gave him a smart phone.

Deena, his wife, had the best intentions when buying this phone. She was shocked when she downloaded all of Ellis' e-mail for the past year and discovered his correspondences with female customers. Ellis attempted to let her know that it was all words with no action, but Deena insisted on counseling and then a divorce. Their grown daughter was fearful of being deprived of money in an inheritance if her father remarried, so she also insisted on having all her money now. With the changing times, Ellis sold the store, paid his wife and daughter, and dreamed of a time long ago in Africa.

He decided to go back to that remote area of Africa and to continue what he had started years ago when he felt like he belonged to these people.

However, life is not always as we expect. Ellis arrived at the village to find things changed from when he was left, but not for the better.

"And so from the beginning he saw that they were different, and what was more disturbing, they saw that he was different-utterly unlike themselves, a visitor from a distant place that was unknown but whispered about, impossibly far, unreachable from here, where they laid buried in their below ground river world."

Ellis discovered quickly upon his return that everyone expected money from him, an infinite supply. The one person who was different from everyone was Gala, his unrequited love from years ago and her granddaughter, Zizi. These two, with Ellis, were isolated in that they continued to believe in doing the right thing and to not take advantage of others.

The only other advantage that Ellis had was his natural attraction for capturing snakes and everyone else's fear of them. This was an attraction that had continued from his visit here years ago.

The Lower River is truly an example of living out your dreams only to discover that they can never be fulfilled because life changes whether you want it to or not. The intensity of this novel is addictive reading even when you really don't want to know what happens next. It also gives a strong lesson about our tendency to create a romanticism of past events to the point of being unrealistic in your own daily expectations.

Paul Theroux is a true storyteller that keeps you reading to the very last page. His highly regarded novels include The Mosquito Coast and Dead Hand.

Even for those of us who never plan to visit Africa, The Lower River is a lesson in human nature and is a must read for every traveler with a realistic expectation of all our dreams.

The Returned
Dr. Laurence B. Brown
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781466227477, $15.99,

When a tragic experience does not have closure, you try to go on. In the back of your mind is that nagging need. of something wrong, unfinished. How do bring an event to a close when you barely escaped with your life? Do you ever get over the guilt about your twin brother's death? If you had it all to do over again, would you have made the same choices?

Nathan Jones has a successful academic life but he is bothered by his past. Remembering back forty years, he relates the adventurous tale that killed his twin brother now to his own sons. He feels the need to record these events for his family.

Forty years earlier, Nathan and Mark Jones were teenagers at Cornell University. They vividly realized that they were part of a changing culture as being among the first black students at this prestigious university. They believed that life was theirs for the taking truly living the idea of "Seize the Day". So when an opportunity to be a part of a prospecting expedition to the Amazon in South America, they were excited about the upcoming expedition during their summer break.

The expedition group consisted of twelve men, a geochemistry professor, his assistant, a representative from the sponsoring mining company, four grad students, three natives who were guides and a translator, and the two boys, Nathan and Mark, who were twin brothers and the only blacks in the group.

In practicality, most expeditions are failures with the prospectors returning home frustrated and broke. The fictional adventures like Indiana Jones are rare. With this group, they do not realize the odds or the dangers that they are truly facing. All the members viewed the expedition as an adventure and definitely a benefit for their future resumes or reputations.

Quickly the two discover that they are extra pack mules and slave labor for the expedition along with the burden of others' prejudices. Another discovery is that to all the members of this non-cohesive group, the Amazon is a constant threat to their lives and just having guns does not make everyone safe as the members of this group begin to die in a variety of ways.

The Returned is the story of this expedition's journey from their first day to their final rescue. It tells of real people with different perspectives about solving their daily problems involving complicated relationships regarding trust and reliability. The tale is a page-turner that is a realistic action-adventure through the Amazon.

Dr. Laurence B. Brown has previously written the fictional bestseller, The Eighth Scroll. He has also written four non-fiction books, The First and Final Commandment, MisGod'ed, God'ed?, and Bearing True Witness which deals with his conversion to the Muslim faith. He lives in Saudi Arabia and works as an opthamalmic surgeon.

The Returned is a fast-paced action-adventure tale with realism. This is a well-written story that will make you glad to have only read it and not to have actually experienced it.

Want a safe adventure? Read, only read, The Returned.

The Treble Wore Trouble: A Liturgical Mystery
Mark Schweizer
St. James Music Press
P.O. Box 249, Tryon, North Carolina 28782
9780984484669, $12.95,

Most churches are not crime scenes. It's just that most of us are not comfortable with our church being the center of an investigation, especially a suspicious death. Something just seems wrong about any crime in a place of holiness, sanctity and forgiveness.

For organist, Hayden Konig, being a part of St. Barnabas Episcopal Church is part of his life, just like having a gun in the organ bench. Hayden has always idolized the legendary writing style of Raymond Chandler and even actually using Chandler's Underwood typewriter in the hopes of replicating that definitive style of the hard-boiled detective embraced in similes. Hayden is also the police chief in this quiet village of St. Germaine, North Carolina.

However, this quiet, secluded, town's church seems to be a place that is related to numerous crimes. Why else would he need the gun?

In towns like St. Germaine, everyone knows everyone and everything. There are no secrets in this town. When there is a crime, someone will know something that will assist in solving the crime. All you need to do is to ask the right questions and give some time for the right people to respond.

With The Treble Wore Trouble, the eleventh book in The Liturgical Mystery series by Mark Schweizer, refreshes many of the characters and relationships from his previous ten novels. This is a great way to allow new readers to jump into this series without having read the previous books while refreshing those who loyally read these books.

The Treble Wore Trouble is entertaining reading. The story is easy to follow with nothing inappropriate but still having crimes that need to be solved. The characters are well-described and logical in their actions. Even with a hard-boiled detective mystery novel embedded with an abundance of similes within the story, this is still an enjoyable, down-home, Sheriff Andy Griffith type of life in the South.

The Treble Wore Trouble is a laughable diversion from the heat this summer and is delightful to read.

All the Pretty Hearses
Mary Daheim
Avon Books
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780061351594, $7.99,

Judith McMonigle Flynn stays busy owning and running Hillside Manor, a local bed-and-breakfast. Besides that she cares for her highly overly opinionated mother who does not like Judith's present husband. Fortunately, her cousin Renie, is a great friend and helps out even though she is known for being a horrible cook and wants to submit her special recipe of Shrimp Dump for the fund-raising cookbook of the local parish school.

Judith also has an uncanny ability for solving crime. This seems to come natural even though her husband, Joe, is a retired policeman who now works as a private investigator.

Judith is reluctantly remembering her upcoming obligation for the B & B in which she offered the facility to the top bidder at the parish school fundraiser. The winning family whose name is Paine is planning on filling the house but have numerous requirements such as one that eats no meat and one that has to sleep with a special pillow.

Joe currently has a surveillance job for insurance fraud when he is arrested. The person he was observing is shot with Joe's gun. Added to that, Joe does not want Judith involved so he basically is hiding out at the police station as the investigation continues.

While preparing for the Paines, Judith has two wealthy neighbors appear who need somewhere to stay for the night. The Beard-Smythes are overbearing, overly demanding, and call a neighbor so they can have a ladder to sneak out without paying.

All the Pretty Hearses is a realistic mystery with interwoven threads that connect eventually. The problems Judith encounters are normal for someone who daily runs a B & B.

The story is well-developed, well-edited, and well organized. Mary Daheim obviously spent much time planning each of these threads, interweaving, and completing each one.

Mary Richardson Daheim is from Seattle, Washington and sets her stories involving Judith in her own locale. She even owns a century-old house like the one used in this bed and breakfast mystery. She has published well over twenty books with this A Bed- and-Breakfast Mystery and her Alpine Mystery series.

All the Pretty Hearses is a hectic, but enjoyable and fun book to read.

Parrot & Sweeney
Alan Roberts
Outskirts Press
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9780982755082, $15.95,

Parrot & Sweeney is the new realistic series involving three case stories investigated by two detectives in London. The experienced Chief Superintendent George Parrot and Detective Inspector Daniel Sweeney collaborate in questioning those closest to the crime to solve each whodunit.

These tales contains crimes involving kidnapping, blackmail, and murders which are both riveting and enthralling as the readers discover the reasons and circumstances along with the trained investigators.

This enthralling collection of stories, Parrot & Sweeney is actually the second book by this same author with the same title. Please carefully look at the copyright dates and the ISBN numbers when ordering this collection. Each book involves the same investigators with three crimes that unfold through the direct skills of these two detectives.

"Dark Justice" is the first mystery in this hard-core, realistic trilogy. In this particular challenge, the two officers are faced with the decision of choosing between what is legal and what is fair in the eyes of justice. Is there ever a reason to kidnap a child? These two detectives quickly realize the unfortunate difference between the two.

With "Reckoning for a Harpy" the two detectives have to discover who would murder a nasty socialite who seems to have deserved some consequences for her treatment of people, but did she deserve death? How do you investigate a crime against a person when the more you discover, the more that you find yourself siding with the murderer?

This particular story bring the purpose of law enforcement which is the legality while the court will deal with the justice later. That is not a choice for law enforcement.

The final story is The Bankers Payoff regards the death of a banker and his brother which again shows the conflict of obeying the law and justice.

All three stories help the reader better understand the detectives and the realistic investigation while still maintaining a somewhat normal personal life. These storing have the feeling of an original voice with genuine cases in these fictional stories.

Alan Roberts currently resides in Florida after retiring from the banking business in England. Previously, he has written the first Parrot & Sweeney book with the same title as this one. Please notice the different ISBN numbers when ordering or purchasing this book which is available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Outskirts Press.

Parrot & Sweeney is a realistic and riveting read for everyone.

The Body in the Gazebo
Katherine Hall Page
Avon Books
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780061474286, $7.99,

Pastors' wives do not have an easy life. They are expected to be perfect in the eyes of the congregation served by their husband. They are always expected to be impeccably dressed, while not extravagantly, and be the perfect housekeeper, cook, mother of perfectly behaved children while still being a partner with their husband. Sounds easy?

Faith Fairchild is all the above and also the proprietor of her own catering business. However, her husband has just informed her of a problem after the church finances were audited. Ten thousand dollars is missing from the minister's discretionary fund. Both Tom and Faith are in shock! Who is the person responsible for the accounting of this fund? Her husband, Tom Fairchild.

Pix, Faith's best friend, is leaving for preparations for her son's wedding in the South, asking Faith to look in on her ailing mother, Ursula. When she meets with Ursula who also has a nurse, she wants to confess something about an incident that happened years ago. Being that Ursula's tale is long; it takes many visits with each one feeling like a cliffhanger and becoming more intriguing.

Katherine Hall Page writes a believable and intricate tale. Each clue was logically built on the foundation of the previous ones developing into a gripping mystery that intensifies with each page turn. The characters are realistic with daily demands of the life, even though I felt that the children were sometimes unsupervised or forgotten for a short period of time. The interactions with the adults were definitely genuine, including the secrets.

This is one of numerous books, over twenty by Katherine Hall Page that can be read either as a standalone or as part of this series featuring Faith Fairchild and entitled "The Body in the ..." This is a new series to me that I thoroughly enjoyed. The cozy mystery is well-written, logical, and tells a wonderful story.

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption
Laura Hillenbrand
Random House
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9781400064168, $27.00,

What is your breaking point? Do you have one? Has there ever been some moment in your life when you have been so desperate that there is no hope? What would keep you going? What would keep you from being broken? What would it take to break your body, your spirit, and your emotional well-being? More importantly, what would get you beyond it?

Does fate decide your life?

Louis Zamperini was a rambunctious child who in his teen years became a juvenile delinquent. He had his own way of doing things. Fortunately his older brother saw his hidden gift of running and assisted Louis into improving and taking up the sport of track. He excelled to the level of the 1936 Olympics and had the dream of possibly breaking the 4-minute mile. Although he didn't win a medal, he did win the attention of Adolph Hitler and the fans with the immense speed on his final lap.

With the Americans entering World War II, Louis along with numerous others, grabbed the opportunity for greatness, to become a bombardier. After a close brush with death on a mission, he became part of a salvaged crew that felt doomed. They were. Their plane crashed into the Pacific Ocean with only three survivors floating for days on end with the ever present sharks. What do you think about during this time? How do you survive? Even more importantly, will you be rescued and how will you be rescued?

Louis Zamperini had to learn to then survive in a Japanese POW camp. He then had to readjust to coming home with the dream of again becoming an Olympic athlete. When that didn't work out, he discovered the challenge to just rejoin the regular everyday life. At each event the reader is there with him, understanding every choice.

It is seldom that you can actually journey step-by-step with someone along their life as you can in this book. By this observation, you can't influence Louis but you have a deeper respect for the man and who he became.

Unbroken is non-fiction that reads like fiction. It is the powerful and memorable story of one man's extraordinary life. More importantly, by reading about his life, each person feels that spark of inspiration and of hope that keeps us going each day.

Reading Unbroken is definitely a journey that I have glad to have read.

Blood of the Reich
William Dietrich
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780061989193, $9.99,

Rominy Pickett lives a quiet single life in Seattle but is upset about the man who seems to be stalking her at the grocery store. She is proud that she has earned money for her new car and would like to find a special man, even at the grocery store. However, this man just seems too interested in her. When this strange man tackles her as her car blows up in the parking lot, she discovers her life is being hurled into an adventure that she could never have imagined.

What she didn't plan was to discover was her own heritage! Being that she was adopted by her parents, she didn't know anything before about her biological parents. It took a grocery store stalker to inform her about her Aryan heritage, especially that she was basically Nazi royalty.

Blood of the Reich is an adventure with the reestablishing of the Nazi party through their search for the source of the Aryan race and the continuation of the pure blood lines literally traveling from Seattle to Tibet to Switzerland.

The history infused reflects around Heinrich Himmler and many of his plans and research in Tibet. It is well known that the Nazi party sent an expedition into Tibet to discover their connection with the Aryan race through the myths of Shambhala or Shangrila. Also intertwined is a quick physics lesson regarding the CERN supercollider in Switzerland.

There were some errors that distracted from the story such as being unable to buy airline tickets with a credit card and cash being preferred. Wouldn't terrorists be more inclined to buy one-way tickets with cash? Also how can a Buddhist nun who has a shaven head have enough hair to be grabbed? There is also confusion about blood in a centrifuge spinning until the cells fall to the bottom of the tube and the blood plasma being separated.

The story was reminiscent of an Indiana Jones adventure with the main characters never being able to rest and never knowing who they could truly trust. The value of Blood of the Reich is the history of the Nazi party focused on one of the many fascinations of pure bloodlines. This was an enthralling and fast-paced novel with phenomenal descriptions especially about Tibet.

Although this particular novel was not part of the Ethan Gage series, the heroine, Rominy Pickett, still needs further character development if she is part of a new spin-off series. Also, this story was not as tightly-wound as previous novels by William Dietrich. It's a decent story but the errors, although small, did distract from the story.

I still look forward though to the next William Dietrich novel. Overall, his adventurous writing makes a wonderful journey.

The President Is A Sick Man
Matthew Algeo
Chicago Review Press
814 North Franklin Street, Chicago, IL 60610
9781569763506, $24.95,

Whenever someone reads a non-fiction novel that is as engaging as fiction, that is obviously a worthwhile novel to read. Added to that is the fact that "The President is a Sick Man: Wherein the Supposedly Virtuous Grover Cleveland Survived a Secret Surgery at Sea and Vilifies the Courageous Newspaperman who Dare Expose the Truth" also teaches history and makes economics easy to understand, even engaging to the average person, that is definitely a book to notice and read. That book is The President is a Sick Man.

Grover Cleveland is the only U.S. President to serve two non-consecutive terms. During this time, he was well-known as being an honest man even when being accused of having a son out of wedlock and openly providing for the boy even though it was questionable if he was the father. This was a President who truly thought about the financial difficulties of his country and he frequently vetoed bills from Congress that were spending money in what he viewed as wasteful during this time of economic strife.

What is unusual about this historical novel is that the author goes beyond just telling the story. He successfully writes about the surrounding events and happenings which allow the reader to better comprehend the actual event and circumstances of the time. At first this seemed like unrelated sidebars, but was masterfully woven to assist the reader to better understand the circumstances and the far-reaching effects of the decisions of the time.

The President is a Sick Man is an easily read historically accurate perspective of an event, but more importantly a time that had different procedures and technology than today and these influences during this period. From the perspective of the vice president to the economy with the feuding factions of silver and gold based monetary systems, to the outlook of cancer at the time, to the press, to political honesty, this viewpoint is informative and allows each reader to make their own judgments based on the facts as presented by the author.

Matthew Algeo is a noted journalist and author. He previously has written two novels. Last Team Standing: How the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Philadelphia Eagles - - "The Steagles" Saved Pro Football During WWII and Harry Truman's Excellent Adventure - The True Story of a Great American Road Trip were his two most recent novels. He is currently residing in Mongolia while his wife works as a Foreign Service officer.

During our country's present economic challenges, it is refreshing to read about a similar, but earlier time, with the very decisive President, Grover Cleveland.

Definitely read The President is a Sick Man.

Teri Davis

Theodore's Bookshelf

The Jaguar
T. Jefferson Parker
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780525952572, $26.95,

While this novel continues the series with Charlie Hood, the Los Angeles deputy sheriff and ATF agent, he plays a relatively minor role in the plot. Here he is more of a messenger carrying $1 million through Mexico to ransom Erin McKenna, wife of LA County sheriff's deputy Bradley McKenna and a popular singer and songwriter who has been kidnapped by a gang of narcos and brought to the Yucatan castle home of the cartel leader, Benjamin Armenta. The story is, of course, of her experience as a captive, and the attempts to rescue her given the time limit within which Charlie must deliver the ransom.

While the descriptions of Erin's captivity and the surroundings of the "castle" itself are well-drawn, the closing chapters seem almost perfunctory in the writing; Erin's rescue is almost reduced to an afterthought; and the concluding portions sought presented with little foundation.

The novel continues the saga of the cross-border narcotics flow on a much different level. It really is a tale of a diverse set of characters, good or evil. And the reader ends up wondering who, with perhaps the exception of Erin, is which. Nothing and no one is what it seems.

Defending Jacob
William Landay
Delacorte Press
c/o Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780385344227, $26.00,

Is this novel a courtroom drama, a psychological study of a family, an introspective study of a man, or is it about truth and justice? Or all of the above? It's hard to tell in this rambling book which attempts to keep the reader in suspense and leaves much to the imagination.

Andy Barber, the First Assistant DA in Newton, MA, is thee man who faces the questions posed by the story and really doesn't come to grips with the essential problems raised. His 14-year-old son is accused of murdering a fellow student and goes to trial for Murder One. Did he or didn't he? Andy, who initially ran the original investigation, does not believe his son is capable of doing the deed. The effect of the pressures of the trial on Andy and his wife are weakly described. The courtroom drama is, to some extent, extremely well done, but, for the most part, drawn out to a great degree. And the snideness of the comments about Andy's replacement when he's taken off the case and during the trial are too often petty.

On the whole, the novel is an interesting presentation, but could have been edited severely, especially the front end which drags on slowly until the book picks up steam toward the middle. It is no spoiler to note that there is more than one surprise waiting for the reader at the end, some attention-grabbing, others a little far-fetched. That said, it is an off-beat novel that is recommended.

The Death Instinct
Jed Rubenfeld
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9781594485602, $16.00,

Following the very favorably received "The Interpretation of Murder" with this ambitious novel using many of the same lead characters, including Dr. Sigmund Freud, and mixing the story with real historical personages and events, the author has created a historical piece of fiction with several mysteries intertwined. It begins with the detonation of a bomb-laden horse-drawn wagon at Broad and Wall Streets, the results of which can be seen today in the pockmarked outer wall of the House of Morgan opposite The New York Stock Exchange.

While the perpetrators of the explosion have never been identified, nor the reason for the deed exposed, the plot attempts to propose a rationale, including a cast of characters, behind it. Along the way, other themes emerge, including the horrors on the World War I battlefront, the emergence of Freud's controversial theory of a death instinct in humans, Madame Curie and the effects of radium, kidnapping, assassins, and various other developments.

Well-plotted in a grand manner, the novel combines several genres and should appeal to a broad range of readers. It weaves into its themes mystery, thriller and history. What more can be said, except to heartily recommend?

The Demands
Mark Billingham
Mulholland Books
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10017
9780316126632, $24.99,

This novel is the 10th in the Tom Thorne series featuring a British cop of a different stripe. His approach to solving a crime is to achieve a conclusion by any means. And, in this book, he shows no mercy.

It begins when D.S. Helen Weeks enters her local news agent's shop to buy her customary candy bar and ends up, along with another customer, as a hostage to the proprietor, who then demands that Thorne find the murderer of his son. Some months before, Thorne had been the arresting officer when the boy surrendered for killing another lad in self-defense. He received an eight-year sentence, rather an extreme incarceration based on the case. While in prison, he was attacked and taken to the hospital where he was later found dead of an overdose of drugs. His father refuses to accept the verdict that the death was a suicide.

Forced to reopen the case and "find the truth," Thorne fights against time and Helen's predicament. The time frame of the novel is three days, which certainly speeds up the action both behind the closed doors of the shop, as well as vis-a-vis Thorne's progress. The psychological aspects of the hostage system: the interchanges between Weeks and her captor, and the uncertainties of the situation, are manifested in the shifting conversations between the two. In contrast are the fears and doubts of the police officials outside who cannot determine what, if any, efforts should be made to free the hostages and apprehend the news agent. Thorne's quick determination that the news agent's belief is correct - - that rather than suicide, his son was murdered - - comes quickly, just as the various pieces of the puzzle are unveiled one by one. Nevertheless, Thorne is really a delightful and intriguing character, and the well-written scenario moves forward briskly. Recommended.

Gun Games
Faye Kellerman
c/o HarperCollins
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780062066961, $9.99,

In this latest installment of the Decker/Lazarus series, the author attempted to inject a slightly different approach to the formula. It probably will upset some readers, and intrigue others. Some will look at the novel and consider it pornographic, in a sense. Others might see it as sensitivity akin to the current controversy over same sex marriage. Whatever stance, the plot is a stimulating one, with the intersecting of two very different sets of characters.

The story begins with the mother of a high school boy who has committed suicide visiting Peter Decker in an effort to find out why he did it. Although the coroner has ruled it a suicide, Decker is intrigued enough to look into the matter, especially when a second suicide of a pupil from the same school occurs. The novel then continues to look into what appears to be a group of bullying students, combined with the teenage love affair of Gabe Donatti, the 15-year-old piano genius living with Peter and Rina, and an orthodox Persian teenager who attends the school at which Lazarus teaches.

As in the previous novels in the series, the well-written book is full of homespun allusions. Some of the techniques to flavor the teenage atmosphere, like excessive texting, certainly may be off-putting to many readers, but is an apt portrayal of communication for this age group. That said, it is a good read and is recommended.

The Drop
Michel Connelly
Grand Central Publishing
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10017
9781455518982, $14.99,

We are often told to avoid discussions of religion, sex and politics. Well, in this latest Harry Bosch novel, one out of three ain't bad. Harry is still part of the Open and Unsolved unit of the LAPD, bored and begging for a case. What's the old saw: Be careful what you ask for?

The lieutenant begins handing out cases, and lo and behold, Harry is assigned a 20-year-old rape/murder to solve. Immediately afterwards, he is given a live case only three hours old involving the death of the son of Harry's long-time nemesis, Councilman Irvin Irving, who was either pushed or jumped from a hotel room window. Irving specifically asked for Harry to lead the investigation because he knows him to relentlessly pursue the truth. Sex and politics take over, as Harry and his partner follow the trails of both cases.

This series is one of the best around. Written with insights into police procedures, as well as into the depths of Harry's soul, it appears that the Bosch novels will have at least another five years to run, as Harry has been granted that many years by a retirement review board, extending his stay as an active police detective. With his daughter now 15 years of age, can one assume the seeds are now planted for her to succeed Harry, now that she has confessed her desire to become a cop? Something to look forward to? Highly recommended.

Kiss Her Goodbye
Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins
Mariner Books
c/o Houghton Mifflin
222 Berkeley St., Boston, MA 02166
9780547541204, $13.95,

When Mickey Spillane died, he left behind a treasure trove of manuscripts, plot notes, rough outlines, character notes and drafts of final chapters. He told his wife to give everything to Max Allan Collins who "would know what to do." And this Collins has done, three times so far. In this novel, he combined two partial manuscripts and shaped and expanded them from an unfinished version that was a false start.

In this entry, the death of his mentor, officially termed a suicide, brings Hammer back to New York City from Key West, where he has been recuperating for a year after a shootout in which he killed a Mafia don's son. He returns to the Big Apple with a jaundiced eye, denigrating everything he sees and hears, determined to return to Florida quickly following the funeral. Instead, of course, he becomes enmeshed in investigating the death, which he believes to be a murder, as well as four others, and committing the usual bloody mayhem of his own.

It is pure Spillane, and Collins as usual has performed a service to those who ate up the millions of copies of Mike Hammer novels sold in the 1960s and '70s by keeping the flame alive. How much is Spillane, and how much is Collins, is really not important. The book is vintage Spillane, and is a tribute to both authors.


Mark Billingham
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10017
9780316126656, $13.99,

Tom Thorne is a troubled protagonist. More so than customary in this novel, the latest in the Thorne series, an unusual story about a serial killer, as well as in his personal life. It begins with Tom and his partner learning that the latter's pregnancy is not viable and that she needs a D&C. Tom does not quite how to react to or address the situation.

However, a grisly murder soon comes to light, diverting him to another tough case. The victim is found with a piece of an x-ray in her hand, as well as some letters which eventually provide a clue. It quickly is learned that her mother was murdered 15 years before by an infamous serial killer who had murdered six others.

More bodies are found with pieces of x-rays in their fists, and it becomes apparent that the killer is targeting children of the original victims. Now the problem becomes not only catching the present-day murderer, but protecting the remaining potential victims. This novel encompasses what is perhaps Thorne's most complicated case.

The author's ability to provide graphic detail in simple but pungent prose is clear and compelling. The writing is smooth and the plot superb; the characterizations are poignant, and the insights into Thorne's personality incisive.

Highly recommended.

The Cut
George Pelecanos
Reagan Arthur Book
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10017
9780316078436, $14.99,

In the first novel of a new series, we are introduced to Spero Lucas, a just-returned Iraq war veteran, working as an investigator for a Washington, D.C. defense attorney with a sideline of recovering "lost" property fort a 40 per cent cut of its value. In the caper he undertakes in this initial foray, he seems to bite off more than he can chew.

The attorney is defending a top marijuana peddler, and the client asks for Spero to visit him in jail. He tells Spero that his deliveries are being stolen and he is out of money, and would appreciate recovery of either the merchandise or the cash. The assignment takes Spero off into all kinds of action, some of which is kind of far-fetched.

Mr. Pelecanos is well-known for his characterizations and his use of the nation's Capital as background, and this book is no exception. Somehow, however, using Spero as an example of a footloose vet just returned from the desert just didn't quite ring true. Some of his friends who served with him there do exhibit the plight of wounded, disabled marines, or just plain still unemployed, somewhat more realistically. That said, the novel is written with the author's accustomed flair, and the plot moves at a rapid pace. Certainly, the action is vivid, and the reader keeps turning pages.


Boston Cream
Howard Shrier
Vintage Canada
c/o Random House, One Toronto St., Ste.
300, Toronto, Ontario CA M5C 2V6
9780307359568, $17.95 US, $19.59 CA

The first two novels in this series featuring Jonah Geller, a Jewish PI from Toronto, were award winners. Although I haven't read them, I can see why after finishing the present volume.

The plot is about an illegal organ transplanting operation in Boston. Jonah is retained by the father of David Fine, an outstanding surgical resident to the top transplant surgeon at Sinai Hospital in Beantown. It seems he hasn't been heard from, and the father asks Jonah to try to locate him and find out why. Jonah and his partner Jenn fly to the East Coast and start the investigation, which leads them to numerous discoveries, including the various participants in the criminal scheme in which organs are harvested from donors to needy people without the benefit of following sanctioned procedures.

"Boston Cream" has all the elements of good crime fiction: a solid investigation, action-packed scenes, a well-structured plot and most of all, an interesting protagonist. Readers of the Jewish faith (and perhaps others) certainly can enjoy some of the more amusing side comments, although Jonah is not a practicing member of the faith, but shows just enough knowledge and feeling to obviously have grown up with that background and appreciated the various nuances of speech, humor and tradition. I don't know how the present volume compares to the previous entries in the series, so I suppose I will just have to go back and find out.


Burning Midnight
Loren D. Estleman
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780765331205, $24.99,

Amos Walker has plowed the streets of Detroit through 20 previous novels. And now, in the 21st entry in this remarkable series, he is confronted with finding a 14-year-old Mexican youth on behalf of his sometime friend, sometime nemesis, Inspector John Alderdyce. It seems Alderdyce's estranged son married a Mexican woman whose young brother has run away and become involved with one of two Mexican gangs in the Motor City. It takes him a day to find the boy, but then becomes involved in more than just a missing persons case.

The plot involves a power grab among the Detroit gangs and the original Zapatistas in Mexico itself. Along the way, of course, there are several murders, as to which the teen is also a witness, and even possibly a perpetrator, which complicates life for both Walker and his policeman friend. Mexicantown becomes a war zone. And Walker has to tread carefully to unwind the situation, as its source is unexpected.

The Walker series is well-recognized for the excellent structure, dialog and observations about Detroit, and "Burning Midnight" is no exception. Another outstanding feature of the books is its memorable characters. Amos Walker is a PI to be embraced.


Jo Nesbo
Translated by Don Bartlett
Harvill Secker
9781846555220, 13.99 BPS

[It should be noted that this book is presently available only in/through the UK/Canada, with an anticipated US publication by Knopf in September of 2012]

In the three years since the conclusion of "The Leopard," Harry Hole has been serving contentedly as a non-violent enforcer based in Hong Kong, collecting money owed to his employer. Then one day, he ups and returns to Oslo when he learns that Oleg, the drug-using son of the love of his life, has been arrested for the murder of a fellow junkie. The police consider the case closed, so Harry acts independently to investigate.

And along the way he finds himself immersed in the midst of Norway's large drug problem. Hole uncovers a trail of violence and disappearances, police and political corruption, and Harry himself becomes a target of the mysterious drug lord Dubai. The novel is a bleak story of damaged individuals hooked on drugs, and the sleaziness inherent in the activity.

The prior novels were forceful, clearly showing Harry's tortured soul, and his unswerving ability to dig, dig, dig to the heart of a case, honestly and insightfully. "Phantom" accomplishes these ends, but to some extent is confusing at the end; whether the author did this purposely or not yet remains to be seen. As usual, the novel is translated faithfully and excellently, and the book is recommended.

Murder at the Lanterne Rouge
Cara Black
Soho Crime
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9781616950613, $25.00,

The latest Aimee LeDuc mystery has one plot intertwined with two themes. To begin with, we are introduced to a young Chinese woman, Meizi, with whom Aimee's business partner, Rene, is deeply infatuated. She turns out to be an illegal immigrant, and Aimee determines to find out more about the woman to protect Rene before it might be too late. At the same time, a young Frenchman is found murdered just outside the restaurant where Aimee, Rene and Meizi and her parents were dining.

During the dinner Meizi receives a phone call and abruptly leaves, disappearing, immediately becoming a suspect in the murder. The victim it develops has made a unique discovery, and Aimee, together with Rene and their part-time geek, Saj, have to somehow find out what it was, while Aimee attempts to protect Meizi from an impending sweep of Chinatown by the police and find the killer.

Once again the author provides a sweeping panorama of the City of Lights, and perhaps a lot of Aimee's fashion acquisitions (but after all, isn't that what Paris, to some degree, is all about?). Smoothly written and tightly plotted, the novel once again raises the question of whether Aimee will ever meet her mother, who is a wanted woman. Good reading, and recommended.

Heart of a Killer
David Rosenfelt
Minotaur Books
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312598372, $24.99,

Setting aside his popular and irreverent New Jersey attorney, Andy Carpenter, as a protagonist, David Rosenfelt has created a standalone based on another attorney, Jamie Wagner, a Harvard graduate who is a six-year associate at a leading Newark law firm. Basically unambitious, and no less a quipster than Andy, although his area of concentration is in contract law Jamie is handed a pro bono case he is ill-equipped to handle: a woman who wants to donate her heart to save her 14-year-old daughter's life, currently serving a 15-years-to-life sentence for the confessed murder of her husband.

Other aspects of the plot involve terrorist attacks based on computer technology masterminded by the same persons who were involved in the husband's death. The story then moves around these two themes.

The author writes with a light touch, using asides and humor to make various points. [I must note, and was surprised at the fact, that a finished first-rate novel from a leading publisher contained the word "benefited" spelled with two "t"s, among other instances of what I felt to be poor proof-reading.] Nevertheless, the book is enjoyable, with an unexpected twist or two to keep the reader forging ahead, and it is recommended.

The Litigators
John Grisham
c/o Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10018
9780345536884, $16.00,

Early in his career, John Grisham wrote novels that whacked a home run every time. But even Babe Ruth couldn't do that every time. This book is workman-like, perhaps a double. But then, if you can do even this often enough, you're an All Star. And John Grisham certainly is that.

The story is extremely contrived, with sort of caricatures for characters. It might have been more fun if they were less predictable and more cartoonish, if that's possible. Attorney David Zinc belongs more in a soap opera than a legal novel. His two partners, Finley & Figg, are even more unbelievable, other characters even more wooden.

But all this criticism doesn't negate the fact that Grisham can still write an entertaining novel, albeit somewhat stilted and predictable. About the only interesting character in the book is a 90-yer-old Federal judge, presiding over a comical case. So, despite all this negativism, the novel is recommended with caveats.

Shut Your Eyes Tight
John Verdon
c/o Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780770435561, $13.99,

In his second appearance, retired NYPD detective David Gurney faces an ever-shifting set of "facts" in his effort to solve a bizarre murder case. A bride is found decapitated within moments of her marriage ceremony, and there is absolutely no forensic evidence available. As only a "consultant," retained by the mother of the bride to find the murderer, Gurney not only faces the challenge of an ingenious adversary, but also the official police investigators who have failed in four months to make any progress in solving the crime.

The novel is not so much a murder mystery as it is a "thriller," suffused with a series of logical and sometimes illogical assumptions that do little to move the story forward as much as to just muddy the investigation. The juxtaposition of Gurney's obsession with his craft and his wife's deep desire to just enjoy their retirement does little to add to the forward movement of the book, except to contribute to its length, which could have been shortened to good effect by some judicious editing. On the whole, however, it is a good story, enlivened by some clever twists, and it is recommended.

The Burning Soul
John Connolly
Pocket Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781439165287, $7.99,

John Connolly's Charlie Parker Thrillers usually combine an element of the supernatural with basic detective work. In this, the tenth in the series, the eerie aspects are slight, while the hard work of solving a case winds its way through the pages with realism and power. It is a twisted story that begins when an attorney asks Charlie to assist a client, and unfolds with a ferocity of dynamic proportions.

It appears that the client, Randall Haight, as a 14-year-old, and with a friend, murdered a young girl in an incident with sex-related overtones. Following long jail terms, both men were released with new identities to give them a chance at rehabilitation. Randall is now an accountant leading a quiet life in a small town on the Maine coast. And then a 14-year-old girl goes missing and Randall starts receiving reminders in the mail of his past transgression from someone who apparently has discovered his true identity. He asks the attorney and Charlie to protect his anonymity by finding the source. And this leads Charlie into a labyrinth of complications.

It is a gripping story, one in which the author throws red herrings into the reader's path before unveiling a completely unexpected conclusion. Tightly written and plotted, the novel is a most welcome addition to an outstanding series and is highly recommended.

Back of Beyond
C.J. Box
Minotaur Books
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312366124, $9.99,

Against the vastness and isolation of Yellowstone Park, C.J. Box has once again created a suspense-murder-thriller novel using the natural environment as a backdrop. Cody Hoyt, a rogue cop who first appeared in "Three Weeks to Say Goodbye," returns once again, as he is called in to investigate the death of a man shot in the head and burned in his half-destroyed mountain cabin, later identified as Cody's AA sponsor, making the case very personal to the detective.

In the course of his investigation, Cody discovers that the murderer has joined a group on a multi-day wilderness horseback trip in a remote part of the park. Adding incentive, Cody learns that his son is part of the group on the trip, so he has to not only find the murderer but save his son.

The author then takes the reader on a wild ride, never once giving much away in clues as bodies and riderless horses start turning up along the trail as Cody, who now is suspended and AWOL from the Sheriff's department, tries to close in on the remaining group. The descriptions are sweeping, the character development deeply absorbing.


Split Second
Catherine Coulter
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780515150964, $9.99,

There are three story lines presented in the newest book by Catherine Coulter. The first appears on page one, and isn't resolved until nearly the final page in the book: The owner of a small convenience store in Washington, D.C. is nearly killed late one night in an apparent robbery gone wrong, the latter not having counted on FBI Agent Dillon Savitch being the customer in the shop at the time. When the same man is shot in another incident shortly thereafter, leaving him seriously wounded, it would seem there is more going on than a "simple" robbery.

The second, and main, story line deals with a series of crimes involving women in their 20's and 30's who are picked up in neighborhood bars, brought back to their own apartments, and strangled with a length of wire, no apparent connection among them, and the crimes occurring in various large cities including Cleveland, Ohio; San Francisco; and Chicago. Autopsies show the women were drugged with Rohypnol and ketamine. One of the victims had scratched her attacker before being killed, leaving a nice sample of DNA to be analyzed and run through databases, after which it is determined that the killer is the offspring of none other than Ted Bundy, the man who kidnapped dozens of young women, raped, tortured and then murdered them before he was caught and ultimately electrocuted in Florida in 1989.

The last of the plotlines is a very personal one, having to do with a horrifying family secret just discovered by Lucy Carlyle, another FBI agent in the Washington DC office, and her attempt to put it on the back burner while joining her boss, Savitch, and her partner, Cooper ("Coop") McKnight, in the investigation of the serial killer, whose victims number five and counting.

I had several problems with the book, starting with the fact that one of the agents, whose name is, disconcertingly, Lacey Sherlock, is never referred to or called Lacey but, always, "Sherlock," even by her husband. As well, much of the writing felt stilted, the dialog often not what I felt one or another would be expected to utter or their actions not ringing true, e.g., a 27-year-old FBI agent "bouncing up and down" upon being given news of an important breakthrough in the case; a cup of coffee described as "dark as sin." And would a woman who had just been told her niece had lost control of her car and been badly injured, upon seeing that niece, really say to her "Oh, you've got a bandage on your head!" Nor am I enamored with the supernatural in mysteries, as is the case here.

On the other hand, almost in spite of myself, I was caught up in the story, the pages turning quickly, and anxious to find out how each story line was resolved. I am obviously in the minority with my reservations about the book, since the author consistently makes the bestseller lists. This is her seventeenth book in what is termed "the FBI Thriller" series. It made for good reading, on balance, and I'm sure most readers will find it very enjoyable.

Left for Dead
J.A. Jance
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781451628586, $25.99,

The Ali Reynolds series usually has the protagonist solving some kind of mystery, but in addition to the whodunit, this novel begins with two attempted murders. First is Jose Reyes, a classmate of Ali's when she attended the Arizona Police Academy, who was shot in the stomach while on a routine traffic stop. The second is a young girl who ran away from home years earlier, left to die after being tortured and raped in a part of the Arizona desert where illegal immigrants cross over from Mexico.

Both victims end up being medivac-ed to the same hospital in Tucson, and Ali and another classmate go to the hospital to help Jose's pregnant wife and look after their two daughters. Meanwhile the redoubtable Sister Anselm acts as patient advocate for the other victim. And there the plot is joined and the action moves forward.

The novel is a mixture of sleuthing and human emotion, and in the author's capable hands neither becomes maudlin or overbearing. The story moves forward at a fast pace and is brought to a conclusion with a completely unpredictable twist.


Restless in the Grave
Dana Stabenow
Minotaur Books
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312559137, $25.99,

This latest Kate Shugak novel imports the protagonist from another Stabenow series, Liam Campbell, relegating Jim Chopin, Kate's lover, to a walk-on role. It also takes place far away from her home base in Alaska, The Park. Liam has a problem, and he visits Jim for his help. It appears a leading citizen of Niniltna, Liam's base, has died in an airplane crash, which might or might not have been an accident. Liam's wife could well be classified as a potential suspect if, indeed, it was a murder. Jim suggests Kate undertake an investigation.

So Kate goes undercover in Niniltna, taking a position as barmaid in a bar and grill, while attempting to learn what had taken place. And of course, she hears gossip and learns information little by little, taking her as far away as an outer island in the Alaskan chain and, along the way, a look into a possible murder widens to a much wider scope.

As in previous entries in the series, descriptions of the Alaskan environment, both as to people and land, are outstanding, especially the effects of economic development on the state's residents. The plot is somewhat different from the prior Shugak novels, given the wider scope afforded by the new location far away from her beloved "Park" and the "Park Rats." It could well be looked at as a standalone, except for the fact that the characters are the same as in the two series for which the author is well-known. Recommended.

Desert Wind
Betty Webb
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. 1st Ave., Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781590589793, $24.95,

Sometimes, a novel's ending spoils what preceded it. In this case, a well-thought-out plot concludes with a muddied confession to three murders. It begins when PI Lena Jones' partner, Jimmy Sisiwan, disappears from Desert Investigations and Scottsdale and re-appears when he is arrested in the small Arizona town here his adopted family operates a dude ranch. It seems his "brother" is being held as a "material witness" in the murder of a PR flak for a uranium mine which is about to open nearby. Apparently Jimmy was attempting to "interview" witnesses and his efforts were "interpreted" as coercion. So, Lena to the rescue.

Earlier, Jimmy's sister-in-law was found shot to death. She was a kingpin in a group known as Victims of Uranium Mining, obviously those opposed to the opening of the mine, who were successful in obtaining a delay. As the story continues we learn a lot about the effects of bad mining practices on mine workers and of the atomic bomb tests in Nevada in the decades following World War II on local population and across the nation.

The novel presents a well-drawn murder mystery, with interesting characters and a subject that is of vital importance. Some of it is a little gimmicky, but that really doesn't detract from the importance of the subject.


The Vault
Ruth Rendell
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781451624106, $15.00,

Old soldiers may just fade away, but apparently not so Reginald Wexford. Retired as a chief inspector, free to read and enjoy his leisure, now that he also has access to a second home in London, he is chomping at the bit. When he gets a phone call from Tom Ede, now a detective superintendent, asking him to act as a consultant on an unusual case, he jumps at the chance.

The police investigation is at a standstill. Four bodies were discovered down a coal chute, three apparently there for more than a decade, another just a couple of years. Who are they? Why hadn't they been discovered before? Why were they murdered, and who killed them? Painstakingly, Wexford pursues each elusive "clue," logically and doggedly. Just as important is his intuition, which propels him forward, conjuring new theories and assisting his analysis.

Artfully written, the author provides a sweeping view of London as Wexford follows the various paths leading to solving the mystery. Especially poignant is a side story involving Wexford's daughter.


Theodore Feit

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

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