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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 13, Number 7 July 2013 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Bethany's Bookshelf Buhle's Bookshelf
Burroughs' Bookshelf Carson's Bookshelf Christy's Bookshelf
Crocco's Bookshelf Daniel's Bookshelf Deacon's Bookshelf
Gail's Bookshelf Gary's Bookshelf Gloria's Bookshelf
Gorden's Bookshelf Harwood's Bookshelf Heidi's Bookshelf
Janet's Bookshelf Katherine's Bookshelf Logan's Bookshelf
Lois' Bookshelf Margaret's Bookshelf Marjorie's Bookshelf
Mayra's Bookshelf Peggy's Bookshelf Sandra's Bookshelf
Suzie's Bookshelf Teri's Bookshelf Theodore's Bookshelf

Reviewer's Choice

And the Mountains Echoed
Khaled Hosseini
9781408842433, A$32.99
Riverhead Books
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9781594631764, $28.95,

Ann Skea, Reviewer

"A story is like a moving train:", writes Nabi, one of Khaled Hosseini's characters, "no matter where you hop on board you are bound to reach your destination".

In And the Mountain's Echoed, it is passengers getting on and off that train who carry the story. And Hosseini is a superb story-teller. He knows how to accumulate the small details which bring a place and a person to life and capture memories and emotions: a son noticing the looseness of an elderly mother's pyjamas, the denture glue and the fuzzy slippers she would never once have worn - all the small signs of change which add up to his sudden recognition of her frailty. The bonds of family, of responsibility and of love are not always easy to accept and Hosseini realistically conveys the individual strengths and weaknesses of his characters.

This book begins with a traditional Oriental tale of divs and jinns and families threatened by a fearsome child-stealing monster. Abdullah and his little sister Pari listen as their father tells this frightening tale, unaware that its moral - that a finger had to be cut to save a hand - will soon have horrible relevance to their own lives. It is Afghanistan, 1952, and Abdullah and Pari live with their father, step-mother and new little brother in a village near to Kabul: but this is soon to change. As different characters tell of their own lives we move from Afghanistan to Paris, San Francisco and a small island in Greece, and we travel back and forth in time. Always, there is a link, however tenuous, to Abdullah and Pari and their family and the story-train does eventually reach its destinations, but along the way we meet many different people.

Whilst never forgetting the horrors of war and the choices forced on families by disaster and poverty, Hosseini concentrates on the way in which life goes on, regardless of change. This is story-telling at its best as his characters reveal themselves through their varied tales. There are those who flee Afghanistan; some who migrate and then briefly return; the few who are drawn there as aid-workers by war and its aftermath; and those who must stay or who choose to stay, some of whom benefit from war and some who are devastated by it. At times the sudden jump from one voice to another is disconcerting, and the connection of each new character with the story is not always immediately apparent, but Hosseini draws everything together with great skill.

Many of Hosseini's characters have secrets. Nila, the most flamboyant, has things in her past which she never fully reveals, and facts about her marriage, too, which she keeps to herself. It is Nabi, Abdullah's and Pari's uncle and Nila's family manservant and chauffeur who knows, or learns, some of these secrets. And it is his letter to a foreign surgeon working in Afghanistan which eventually reveals to Pari Nila's biggest secret - the one which changed Pari's life.

Quite how the metaphorical 'loss of a finger' saved Abdullah's and Pari's family is not clear. Each person was changed by events and in ways over which they did not always have control, but whether this was for the better or not readers must decide for themselves. Always, however, this book is enjoyable.

Seals The US Navy's Elite Fighting Force
Mir Bahmanyar with Chris Osman
Osprey Publishing
4301 21st St, Suite 220B
Long Island City, NY 11101
9781846032264, $23.96,

Clark Isaacs, Reviewer

Osama Ben Laden's death which was attributed to the fortitude and courage of the Seals in their mission against him, brought a lot more interest into the question, "Who are the Navy Seals?" This book is the answer!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Simulacrum and Other Possible Realities
Jason V. Brock
Foreword by William F. Nolan
Introduction by James Robert Smith
Hippocampus Press
P. O. Box 641, New York, NY 10156
9781614980551, $ 20.00,

Cyrus Wraith Walker

"[Brock] takes characters and situations into places I would never have thought of . . ." - Richard Matheson

In a very rudimentary sense, the term 'simulacrum,' derived from Latin, means likeness or similarity; in other words a representation or image. One thinks of the mirror image of one's self in its true form, which, when reversed, lacks the actual substance of the original that casts the reflection (i.e. the human form standing before the mirror). And what is dark fiction, horror, but visceral writings of the gut that inevitably represent the deeper truth of what and who we are and what our nature is truly about? These genres reveal, through a veil darkly, all that humankind represses, all its terrible potential -- but with enough insight to be seen as truth via a story, a dream, or a nightmare.

Jason V Brock (without the period) is a visceral writer: As we can see from this delightful collection of his works, he can rip through to the viscera and have you attempting desperately to stuff your entrails back inside before it's too late.

In the foreword -- written by the legendary William F. Nolan (Logan's Run) -- the veteran author remarks: "He [Brock] is a deep thinking individual, even a provocateur, and his work is sometimes extreme, dark and gruesome... he uses it to expose some flaw or weakness in a character."

My own experiences with Jason and his writing tell me that there will always be those that exclaim the man is too controversial. The problem with those views is that it is all too revealing of the naysayers, who are most likely thick with denial about Brock's honesty and talent. People, so-called "critical professionals," that just don't want to hear the truth. The fact is, if they don't want to hear about their own unlovely nature, then they really need to get out of the horror industry altogether, because they are doing no justice there. If there is one thing that Jason's stories tell us about, it is about our lives, our nature, our truth, our self. And, through a representation of that visceral truth, we can see clear to the originality that lies beyond, in the land of reality.

The collection kicks off with "What the Dead Eyes Behold." An image of that very moment when you look into your significant other's eyes and are overwhelmed with the very deepest feelings of love so much that you want to preserve the moment forever, and ever... and ever!

Next up is "The Central Coast," a story previously published in the landmark anthology The Bleeding Edge, starts us off in the middle of trauma and shock. Social gatherings can be horrific enough, without even coming close to this event's ghastly outcome. Brock displays the same expertise in setting up the reader in this story as any Stephen King has ever written. He enthralls the reader with a terribly vivid scene irresistible to our curious nature, only to bring that shocking and dreadful discovery you'd wished you'd never come upon. One thing is for sure, if you are a wine connoisseur, you might think twice about that rare estate reserve you've had eyes on. It may be more expensive than you think.

It's impossible to describe in a review the depth experienced in reading anything Brock has penned. Descriptions are, as the title suggests, only a representation of the actual experience of reading his work. There are many fine stories in this collection -- fifteen, including such gems as "P.O.V.," the wild title story "Simulacrum," and the creepy "History of a Letter," plus his outstanding new novella "Milton's Children," in addition to many strange and disturbing poems. I find it hard not to spoil some delight in the first encounter with each of them, therefore I'll leave the rest for your own experience, an experience that comes not only highly regarded, but also highly recommended.

Superman: The Unauthorized Biography
Glen Weldon.
c/o Wiley Professional Trade Group
111 River Street, Hoboken, NJ 07030-5774
9781118341841, $25.95,

Danny Cerullo

In some circles it's not a secret, insight or revelation to suggest that superheroes are our modern day mythology. That idea has been explored, and widely accepted, in the greater geek and nerd cultures. To some, though, it will probably seem silly. These are just stories of men and women running around in capes and tights punching other ridiculously dressed beings. The book Superman: The Unauthorized Biography by Glen Weldon is probably for the latter group. For the initiated it's more a detailed examination of what we already knew, though still a fun read I should point out. The book, obviously, focuses on Superman, and what superhero has more sacred, and godlike, a feel than him? Superman is essentially Zeus and Jesus and probably a lot of other really important God figures in mythology, that is to say, he's the God of the superheroes. Weldon traces the evolution of Kal-El throughout his 80-plus years, from his socialist, working-class days of protecting the poor from the corrupt rich of his early days, to his stern, but loving Republican father figure that he's usually perceived as today. Superman is exactly what we need him to be, whenever we need him to be it. The book is essentially a decade by decade examination of the character, and doesn't just stick to the comic pages. Every incarnation of pop-culture Superman is represented, including the obvious like newspaper comic strips, television, radio and feature film, but also goes into some detail about how the Last Son of Krypton has been merchandised within an inch of his life over the years.

Accepting that Superman has not been the same boring boy scout figure his entire existence, Weldon boils down the two things that are constant, two traits that make Superman, well, Superman:

1. He puts the needs of others over those of himself.
2. He never gives up."

These are pretty simple ideas, easy tenets to base a superhero on, but they are utterly unshakeable, with a few notable exceptions over the years that Weldon is eager to point out. With that in mind, as his powers change from an incredibly strong guy who can jump really far to an indestructible demigod to a weird electromagnetic being and back again, Superman changes with each generation. Sometimes he's moody, sometimes he's boring, sometimes he's square and sometimes he's just kind of a dick. During the depression he stuck up for the working class Joe, while during the Second World War he turned into an uber-patriot, in fact that's when the phrase "Truth justice and the American way" came about. That catchphrase was deliberately created by the radio show in order to sell patriotism to a fearful audience. The fact is Superman is the most time tested superhero because he has the ability to be what we can't be, will, in all likelihood, never be. He is who we aspire to be, "...he is not the hero with whom we identify; he is the hero in whom we believe." This idea comes in the first few pages and Weldon sticks with this thesis throughout the book, as America changes so too does the Ma of Steel. Sometimes crass, sometimes preachy, sometimes hopelessly out of touch, Superman is the ideal we all strive for, as do his fictional peers.

In Superman, Weldon details what's going on behind the scenes at DC comics throughout the years in order to add life to the book. This makes it an excellent companion piece of sorts to Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, as many of the same writers and artists are given a look. Where Weldon stumbles at times is when he can't seem to decide whether he wants to be snarky about the Big Blue Boy Scout or not. His knowledge is detailed but he seems to get more enjoyment from making fun of the character than he does celebrating him. It's okay to be unsentimental about a topic like this and just give a rather straightforward history, but Weldon often seems to only enjoy Superman as a concept rather than a literary figure, except of course when Grant Morrison is writing him.

Superman is often considered a boring character, one who is just too powerful, too good, too white-washed. This book won't change that perception, but it will give insight to those who know him only through mainstream pop-culture. For those of us who already know why Superman matters, it mostly serves as a fun journey through his existence and an excellent source of trivia fodder. This book doesn't bring a whole lot new to the table, nor will it likely bring any new fans, but it stands as a solid addition to the Superman cannon and another worthy footnote in The Man of Tomorrow's life. It's not a permanent biography, as the character will exist far longer than any of us, enduring is sort of his thing, but a firm reminder of why a fictional alien, an immigrant, captures the ideals of a free world so much better than anything in reality ever could.

The Silver Six
A.J. Lieberman, author
Darren Rawlings, illustrator
c/o Scholastic, Inc.
557 Broadway
New York, NY 10012-3999
9780545370981, $10.99,

David Ortega

I found this book interesting because, it relates to me. One of my hobbies is to just have fun and play all day. Which is what the silver six does after they escape the "Dorm".

A.J. puts in a lot of dialogue, and very strong details. One quote that I found said " It may take a lot longer, but we're not giving up till we do!"

I think the book is intended for ages 12 and up, and the reason I say that is because most kids under 12 won't understand the book very well, due to the vocabulary.

I think he accomplished what he set out to do; I learned to never give up. The Silver Six is entertaining and very informative.

The Woodcutter
Steven Bartholomew
Dark Gopher Books
9780615684727, $12.00,

Irene Roth

The Woodcutter is a Western Historical novel that is intriguing and interesting, and will keep the reader wondering what will happen next until the end.

The novel is set in Virginia in the winter of 1888. A reporter, Dana Reynolds gets fired from as a reporter in San Francisco and is forced to relocate in Virginia. It is a very different place from San Francisco. It is much smaller and the people are very different. The author's portrayal of the characters that Dana met along the way is fascinating and quite intriguing. The reader will be transported to the place and setting.

Dana Reynolds gets a job in Virginia as a reporter. He has a difficult time finding stories to write about until he gets to know quite a bit about the place and how the US government tries to take care of their Native American population. Dana tries to avoid controversy while writing stories which will be intriguing to all the readers. This can be a very hard combination, and one in which facts are balanced with interesting anecdotes. At the same time, while Dana was writing these stories he was trying very hard not to get himself into the same trouble as he did in San Francisco when he lost his job.

As Dana writes his stories, he meets a man named Wovoka. He is known as the medicine man. But as Dana gets to know him, he is so much more. He is also known as the Woodcutter because he is a strong and powerful man. It doesn't take very long for Dana to develop a hunch that the Indian agent in charge of giving U.S. goods to the Indians is taking a generous cut of both goods and money prior to sending it on to the tribe. The Native Americans also suspect this too.

The reader will see first hand what comprises the life of a writer. It is a lonely endeavour, one that can very quickly be speckled with controversy. The reader will almost be able to picture Dana sitting all alone in his hotel room, eating, and writing stories that will help readers realize how hard the lives of Native Americans really is. This is a GREAT story idea, but will it get Dana into trouble again?

The story is spell-binding and captivating. Bartholomew develops some very intriguing characters. The reader begins to understand the ways the characters think and feel. The reader will feel transported right into the story and cheering on Dana as he tries to make things better for the Paiute Indians.

This review was initially published in Blogcritics.

Joy Ross Davis
Ecanus Publishing, LLC
Ramsgate, Kent, United Kingdom
9780957412668, $13.99,

JudyAnn Lorenz, Reviewer

There are three elements that immediately attracted me to the story in Countenance and they weren't the wonderful, strong and wise angels! First, I love huge, sensible, kid-lovin' dogs like LuLu. Second, I can't stay away from old historic buildings, especially those that have been converted into modern uses like a the Play House Inn Bed and Breakfast! Third, I'm a goner for individualistic, soul healthy cooking and magic, secret ingredients like that used by Sylvie Wolcott when she cooks for her guests at the Play House Inn.

I could go to the Play House Inn and play house in the kitchen any time! I would let the dog have treats while we wandered from kitchen to attic, 'petting' the woodwork.

But, there is more than kitchen and pet attraction in the atmosphere around the Play House Inn. Aunt Sylvie offers shelter to her niece, Nealey, who has endured an horrific tragedy. Nealey's path back to living is surrounded by loving family on all spiritual planes, a huge, protective dog and those strong and wise guardian angels. The support team has its work cut out because evil has come to the Play House too. Evil that would destroy Nealey and all of the others to get to her. In an environment where tragedy has ruled for generations, why would evil not be the winner? It doesn't look good.

I recommend this debut novel as a finely told story that shows people exercising their faith, but not preaching to the reader. The author is a good storyteller, bringing a pleasant and uplifting read in all formats.

Albany Park
Myles (Mickey) Golde
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781477221327, $17.99,

Lisa Mrock

A Love Letter to Chicago

In the 1940s, Chicago's Northwest Side was thriving. The bars were alive with cigarettes, never-ending drinks, and dancing, and the postwar era boasted an economy which allowed for teenagers to spend their seemingly unlimited allowances. This is how Myles Golde brings to life the Chicago he knows and loves in his debut novel, Albany Park, a love letter to the novel's namesake, the Jewish and Polish neighborhood he grew up in.

The novel covers the lives of Victor Wayne and Shirley Siegel, two Northwest Siders, from their teenage years in the mid- 1940s through their adulthood into the early-2000s. Written in a close third person, the main focus is on Victor and Shirley with switches in point-of-view to supporting characters who are related to them or related to the overall story. Each character's background is provided thoroughly, either through the omniscient narrator or dialogue. The characters are shown in detail, described to the fullest extent so we know who each character is, what their hair looks like, how they dress, and how certain facial expressions show what they're feeling. In Chapter 1, we're introduced to Victor as a "tall dark-haired boy" with dimples. In many instances, Shirley shows her habit of sucking in her lower lip in disappointment. Subtle descriptions and gestures like this bring characters to life.

As well as being aware of physical appearance, Golde keeps environment in mind and describes the areas with careful detail. The story takes place mostly in Chicago and Ft. Lauderdale, so we're constantly seeing the differences between the two. When Shirley is an adult and she, her husband, and son move to Florida the home is described as "nothing like anything one would see in Chicago. The exterior is light cream stucco with pale wood trim and a red tile roof." Some people don't know Chicago well, but for those who do he brings to life postwar-era Chicago in his descriptions of the cars (a light grey 1940 Ford Sedan is acquired by Victor's father), the clothes (when collared shirts and pleated skirts were casual wear), and even the etiquette, such as the abhorrence of swearing. Victor's brother Frank, a soldier discharged from the war, manages to silence a room with the word "bullshit," then apologizes. "In the army, we cuss about everything... I'm really sorry."

With all of the novel's successes in character development, place, and setting, there are issues lying within the structure, mainly in the transitions of point-of-view and tone. The book has a steady flow, making it a fast and swift read that never drags. With that said, in times of transition when the writing needs to be slowed down, the writing keeps going at a steady pace and gives us no time to settle into what's happening. The novel begins with Victor's point-of-view the day of the Japanese surrender in 1945 and the end of World War II. It stays with Victor for four chapters, putting the audience under the impression that the entire book will continue like this, but once we get to chapter five, we are thrown into Shirley's point-of-view for a split second, then tossed into that of her mother, Molly. These switches are jarring for the reader and continue throughout the book in the same manner. In chapter 12 we begin with Shirley and her family perusing around the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana campus and Greek Street, most of the description focusing on Shirley and her interactions with her environment such as "a small wave" to one girl, or bending over to "adjust the cuff on her jeans," but by the middle of the chapter, her future-husband Howie has taken over and we see him at the Green Mill Lounge, where he, "tossed his cigarettes on the bar and ordered a seven and seven." The descriptions of physical appearance, setting, and gesture stay constant, but the point-of-view switches can be harsh and only begin to gain a smoother flow two-thirds of our way into the book.

Like the characters, the book has its ups and downs. The settings and characters show significant growth and change over the years. They wise up, learning from their experiences as they go along, keeping in mind their humble beginnings the whole time. The structure and viewpoint shifts are forced, yanking the reader from one person to the next without warning. Despite shortcomings, such as the forces viewpoint and structure shifts, the novel achieves a nostalgic and loving portrayal of a Chicago that now can only be seen through photographs and heard through the tellings of those who remember it.

Privacy Wars
John D. Trudel
The Trudel Group
1102 N. Springbrook Road # 281
Newberg, OR 97132
9780983588634, $14.95 (pb); $5.99 (Kindle),

The Newberg Graphic

Electronic or Internet privacy is the subject of local author John Trudel's latest novel, "Privacy Wars," his second piece following his debut effort last year, "God's House."

Trudel's work is a true example of art imitating life. A retired electrical engineer and developing technology consultant, he draws from his real-life experiences working with the likes of Intel, Hewlett-Packard and IBM for his stories.

"I got to work with fascinating technology and interesting people from all over the world, and I kept thinking, 'I could put this in a novel,'" he said. "So whenever something weird would happen, I'd write it down and throw it in a file."

He's put that file to good use in the development of five total novels (his third - "Soft Target" - is due out next year). They're all what he calls "cybertech thrillers," his attempt at forging a new subgenre that combines real technology and history with elements of politics, suspense, espionage, adventure and even a touch of romance.

"What I do is I take real situations, real people, real technologies and real science, and I stretch them," he said.

As evidence that he's been successful in his goal, he turns to the back cover of "Privacy Wars," on which is printed recommendations from authors who specialize in a variety of genres, as well as Alex C. Johnson, who is actually not an author at all but a partner at a large, Portland-based patent law firm.

"As a high-technology patent lawyer, I see an accurate depiction of today's legal and political context, and a thriller driven by plausible extrapolations of current technology and science," Johnson wrote of the book.

All of Trudel's novels are set in the same world - a version of our own, set just a few years in the future. Like "Privacy Wars," much of the action is based in Oregon - although he is purposefully vague about specific places and cities.

And while his books share some characters, the protagonists are usually very different. For example, while "God's House" starred a rogue CIA operative, the main character of "Privacy Wars" is a scientist and teacher who finds himself falsely accused of serious crimes and beset by a number of powerful and sinister forces.

Trudel said he likes to leave his fictional world open-ended to give himself freedom in writing future books, as well as in possible crossovers to other mediums, like film and television.

"I like to keep my options open," he said.

Although he admitted the jump from technical, nonfiction writing - which he did often during his professional career - to novels has been difficult, he said local writing communities have helped him immensely.

"It's just a good environment here," he said. "It's very interesting, and a good place for a writer."

Trudel and his wife make their home in Newberg and Mesa, Ariz. "Privacy Wars" was published earlier this month. It is expected to be available in hard copy and e-book form on soon, and in select bookstores by the end of October. For more information, visit

The Adventures of the Lone Jack Kid
Joe Corso
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
1484839005, $12.95,

Susan Keefe

Bio: Joe Corso grew up in Corona, Queens in NYC. I'm the author of 'The Starlight Club' novels, 'The Time Portal' series, 'The Old Man and The King', and 'The Revenge of John W'. This is my first western, I'm a Korean Veteran, and I retired from the FDNY. While I was on the job I Invented a firefighting apparatus, and was granted 2 Patents. I started writing at the age of 75 hoping to raise money to send my grandchildren to better schools.

Join the fun. Ride along with Jesse and Frank James and the Younger brothers as they share in the adventures of The Lone Jack Kid. This was wartime and men lived and died fighting their enemy . . . and sometimes they died fighting each other.

Cole looked at the men, raised his hand, and said in a voice loud enough for everyone in the room to hear, "Don't do it, boys. Sturman was a yellow cur, and a deserter, and you don't have to die trying to avenge the likes of him. There were seven Indians and they were standing around two semi-naked white women who appeared to be a mother and daughter. Charlie took a deep breath and let it out slowly. Then he aimed - - and fired, and fired, and fired again, repeatedly. He dropped four of the Indians before they knew what hit them. Then he charged into the clearing and shot another Indian reaching for his gun. "My name is Charles Longstreet." The men looked at each other as recognition set in. "You're the Lone Jack Kid?" The Kid smiled. "The one and only." He pulled his hat off of his head and waved it in the air, then he gave the Rebel yell. "See you money grubbers in hell, boys." He jerked the reins, and nudged Comet with his heals. She turned her head and leaped into the bubbling stream with water as high as the stirrups, and dashed across, splashing tendrils of water high in the air on both sides of her. It was an impressive display of horsemanship, and the toll collectors watched with grudging admiration.

Action packed Western.

With the Civil War raging around and death a normal occurrence, knowing whom you can trust can mean the difference between life and death. When a stranger stands beside Charles Longstreet in Lone Jack, Missouri during a gunfight, neither man could possibly realise how the events that day will shape both their futures.

The story which follows, is a brilliant Wild West adventure, with a strong storyline, which quickly immerses the reader into what life was like at that time. A time when cowboys and Indians ruled the Wild West, gunslingers and sheriffs are in every town, love is to be taken when it can, lawlessness is at a peak and life is cheap.

Even if you are not a Wild West fan already, you will be when you've you read this book, which contains many of the names of legend along with a new one the Lone Jack Kid.

Bethany's Bookshelf

Career Wonders and Blunders
Claudia A. Samuels Newton
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432790783 $19.95

Career expert Claudia A. Samuels Newton (adjunct professor of Communications, and owner of Rewarding Career and Resume Services) presents Career Wonders and Blunders: If I Knew Then, What I Know Now, a no-nonsense career guide packed cover to cover with invaluable tips, tricks, and techniques especially for new entrants to the workforce. From dealing with difficult bosses, to selecting an effective mentor, bad choices that will get one fired, how to network for success, and more, Career Wonders and Blunders is a "must-read" for job-seekers everywhere. "You should get familiar with your company's internet policy. Many companies prohibit employees from using their equipment for personal use including posting on social networking sites during work hours. Breaking this policy can result in immediate termination should an audit be conducted." Highly recommended, especially for job-seekers in today's competitive and volatile economy!

Love Letters from a Doughboy
Margie Howd with Melissa Watkins Starr
iUniverse, Inc.
c/o Author House
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300
Bloomington, IN 47403
Bohlsen Group (publicity)
9781475977479 $13.95

Inspired by historical love letters written by the author's grandparents, Love Letters from a Doughboy is a novel about two young people who fall in love. Juliette Wilcox wants to get married - but Thomas Fletcher is about to be drafted to fight in World War I, and he doesn't want to leave her a widow. They exchange letters during the war, a connection that keeps their love alive despite the omnipresent specter of battlefield casualties. The classism that formed an indissoluble part of the South also threatens to keep them apart, in this thoughtful and emotionally moving romance.

Susan Bethany

Buhle's Bookshelf

The Secret of Paradise
Patricio Tamariz & Bo Rinaldi
Privately Published
9780983862307 $18.95

Featuring a number of full-color photographs The Secret of Paradise: Mysteries of the Pacific Coast of Ecuador details Ecuador's possibilities as a fine place to live and retire, a sustainable location for ecotourism, and an exciting vacation destination for travelers whose passions range from surfing to archaeology to immersing themselves in a rich and flourishing culture. Armchair travelers will also delight in this exploration of the unique Galapagos ecosystem, the Mystery of the Lights (could Ecuador have had extraterrestrial contact?), the history, traditions, and economy of chocolate production, and much more. The Secret of Paradise is a beautiful and thought-provoking browse, sure to prompt the reader to rethink his or her perceptions of this vibrant nation!

Toto's Reflections
Kevin Fickenscher
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781478718024 $8.95

Toto's Reflections: The Leadership Lessons from the Wizard of Oz is a thoughtful discussion of valuable life lessons and leadership tips. Taking inspiration from L. Frank Baum's classic tale "The Wizard of Oz", Toto's Reflections frames its insights from the perspective of Dorothy's loyal little dog, who observed the values of brains, heart, and courage even as he lived up to the ideals he learned as a puppy. "So, without trust - we can't be very effective as leaders. Among us dogs, trust is the bond that binds us. It's what has bound me to Dorothy together through thick and thin. There's probably no greater loyalty than that of a dog to his or her master. I know her love is unbounded. But my love is absolute. Our bond is complete. So it is with leaders and those who follow them. Leaders need to hold the same trust that we dogs hold for those we love." A handful of delightful black-and-white drawings enhance this simple, positive-minded self-help guide grounded in an enduring classic.

Secrets of Nutrition and Longevity
Vito Carpitella
Bookstand Publishing
9781618634023, $15.95,

Naturopathy, or naturopathic medicine, is a form of alternative medicine based on a belief in vitalism, which posits that a special energy called vital energy or vital force guides bodily processes such as metabolism, reproduction, growth, and adaptation. Naturopathy favors a holistic approach with non-invasive treatment and, similar to conventional medicine, encourages minimal use of surgery and drugs. In "Secrets of Nutrition and Longevity", author and nutritional researcher Vito Carpitella offers a succinct, 160 page introduction to taking a naturopathic approach to living a longer and more healthy life. This is especially important when faced with an American nutritional environment that is so thoroughly degraded with unhealthy fast foods, a contaminated corporate approach to agriculture, and a typical diet steeped in salty, sugary, and saturated fatty foods. Of special note is the author's thoroughly 'reader friend' conveyance of the newest naturopathic and nutritional therapies to mitigate and even reverse the damages of a poor diet has done to the human body. Informed, informative, and also available in a Kindle edition ($7.99), "Secrets of Nutrition and Longevity" is a welcome and highly recommended addition to personal and community library Health & Medicine reference collections and supplemental reading lists.

Willis M. Buhle

Burroughs' Bookshelf

Revenue Growth
Gary A. Dunbar
iUniverse, Inc.
c/o Author House
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300
Bloomington, IN 47403
9781475969191, $17.95,

Whether it is a local municipality, the state, or the federal government, there are always services and projects that are available for private sector companies to bid on. In "Revenue Growth: A Management Guide For Government Contractors", Gary A. Dunbar draws upon her many years of experience and expertise in government contracting and management to explain how companies can best motivate their employees and craft a step-by-step decision making process to enable a positive company future in both the short term and the long term. Of special interest is Dunbar's commentary on revenue growth leadership, solution value delivery strategy, business development framework and management, market surveys and revenue forecasts. Of special (and timely) note is what Dunbar has to share concerning business strategies for sequestration/budget reductions. A thoroughly 'user friendly', 102 page volume of practical, sound, experience-based information, "Revenue Growth" should be considered mandatory reading for all corporate CEOs and business owners seeking government contracts on any level for any kind of public/private endeavor.

Four Blue Stars in the Window
Barbara Eymann Mohrman
Bern Street Publishing
c/o Concierge Marketing (publicity)
13518 'L' Street
Omaha, NE 68137
9780988417410 $19.95

Four Blue Stars in the Window: One Family's Story of the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl, and the Duty of a Generation is a Midwest family memoir by Barbara Eymann Mohrman, whose discovery of a WW II keepsake box in her basement prompted her to learn more about her father's military service, her family history, and ultimately, some hidden family secrets. The story begins with a Swiss immigrant and his wife, a rural Nebraska couple who raised ten children. The family persevered through the terrible Dust Bowl and the Great Depression, yet the family's highest sacrifice came when four of its sons were called to war in the South Pacific and Europe. Vintage black-and-white photographs from the 1930's and 40's pepper this honest and heartfelt family story, enhanced with an index for ease of reference. Highly recommended.

Coming To Your Senses
Beth Johnson
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781480210660 $120.00

Coming To Your Senses is a self-help guide to improving one's ability to be mindful, aware, and reactive. Chapters teach the reader about different techniques of meditation, emphasizing that there isn't necessarily a "correct" way to do it. Instead, different visual, sonic, and sensory styles of meditation are discussed, along with methods of self-discovery to learn the optimal techniques for each individual. "There is something very important and wonderfully different about Inner Vision Meditation. This technique teaches you to allow your bodily senses be your guide. By starting the meditation in the present moment and letting your sensations come to the forefront, you develop a new way of tuning in to your spiritual self. You learn a new way of learning." No experience in meditation is required to benefit greatly from Coming To Your Senses, nor is any knowledge of Buddhism expected - this is a guide for readers of all faiths and backgrounds. Highly recommended!

John Burroughs

Carson's Bookshelf

Call of the Cosmic Wild
James M. Essig
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781478711452 $45.95

Available in print, Kindle, and NOOK formats, Call of the Cosmic Wild is neither science fiction nor metaphysics, but rather a science-based projection of how interstellar travel could become feasible through the use of relativistic rockets. Author James Essig applies his knowledge of physics to explain how long-distance space flight could become a reality. Chapters address the options of space flight powered by nuclear fission, nuclear fusion, antimatter, or more exotic means, the hardware that could drive space travel, notable current research programs, thoughts on sustainable starships, and much more. A great deal of mathematics is involved, yet even readers without enough of a mathematical background to follow the equations, formulas, and tables can follow the generally accessible text. Highly recommended especially for space travel enthusiasts!

Secrets to a Creative Mind
David Judd Nutting
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781478719236 $19.95

Engineer, inventor, and entrepreneur David Judd Nutting presents Secrets to a Creative Mind: Becoming the Master of Your Mind, a guide to improving one's creative thinking skills. Drawing upon the latest neurological knowledge, and offering techniques such as "Thought Talk" to engage in a "conversation" with one's own subconscious mind, Secrets to a Creative Mind is packed with tips, tricks, and techniques for expanding one's imagination and approaching everyday problems from new angles. "...multitasking is the enemy of a creative mind. Total focus is a key feature of creative mind. Multitasking confuses the brain's neural network. The mind of a genius multitasks one focus at a time. With complete mind control, the mind of a genius maintains complete focus on a thought, and then jumps to the next Thought Focus." A brief yet inspirational tip manual, Secrets to a Creative Mind is especially invaluable to anyone who makes a living based on their creative capabilities.

Michael J. Carson

Christy's Bookshelf

Buddy, Dog of the Smoky Mountains
Ryan Webb and Sharon Poole
Illustrated by Ryan Webb
Celtic Cat Publishing
2654 Wild Fern Lane, Knoxville, TN 37931
9780984783632, $12.00,

This book tells the story of a day in the life of Buddy, dog of Bill Landry, well-known TV host of The Heartland Series. Buddy lives in the Great Smoky Mountains and likes to visit with hikers and his animal friends in the forest. This charming book with its colorful illustrations is sure to be a favorite among small children, including those who cannot read.

Celtic Curse
Wendy Dingwall
Canterbury House Publishing
7350 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, FL 34231
9780982905494, $14.95,

Travel agent Yvonne Suarez is thrilled to do some amateur sleuthing when she is asked by Fiona Batson, the housekeeper of a former client, to travel with her to Scotland. Fiona hopes to find out what happened to her brother Duncan, who disappeared shortly before his family moved to America in the '60s. Yvonne uses this excursion as a familiarization trip for her agency, touring historical attractions and checking out restaurants and hotels, while helping Fiona search for clues to her brother's whereabouts. Yvonne begins her investigation at the wool mill where Duncan worked as he vanished shortly after collecting his last paycheck. Suspects spring up fairly quickly, from a disapproving father to a close friend to persons trying to thwart an allegation of corporate pollution. When Yvonne comes under fire, she's sure she's on the right track but can she find the killer before he stops her?

Celtic Curse is a delightful addition to the Yvonne Suarez Travel Mystery series. Dingwall's skillful descriptions of the beautiful Scottish countryside and its historical landmarks paint a realistic picture for the reader, as if actually visiting there. She brings back David Ludlow as Yvonne's lover and the chemistry between the two is charming and sweet. She very adeptly reveals the complex layers of Yvonne's past relationship with her abusive ex-husband and the thin line she must walk to ensure his relationship with his daughter is not damaged. The mystery is a good one with enough suspicious characters to keep the reader guessing throughout while being entertained with stunning imagery.

Dog Days and Dragonflies
Chrissie Anderson Peters
CAP Publishing
284 Midway Dr., Bristol, TN 37620
9780985257408, $15.00 pbk,

In the preface, Peters writes, "The people, places and stories presented in Dog Days and Dragonflies are, by and large, stories of my life." This collection of short stories and poems presents a childhood in Appalachia surrounded by kin, from carefree preschool days spent with a great-grandmother with one leg to a dark day with a friend who whispers the ugly secret of child abuse. Of a young woman who tries to commit suicide to an older one who wishes nothing more than to kill her abusive husband. Of a teenager's driving lessons with her grandfather to a mystical trip with a boyfriend to Salem, Massachusetts. From a cousin running down the ice cream truck to a young child watching her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother wrap meat. All beautifully written, many with a wistful tone, reflecting a time and place free of modern-day electronic gadgetry where families were bonded and held together through the good times and the bad.

It's Just a Dog
Russ Ryan
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781484042014, $9.99 pbk, $2.99 Kindle,

Charlie Keefe's career as an artist is going nowhere until he starts painting his Jack Russell terrier, Pete. Then Charlie becomes known as "The Picasso of Pooch Portraits" and his work is in demand as are he and Pete. When Pete unexpectedly dies while Charlie is overseas, Charlie is devastated and has a hard time coping with his guilt at not being there when Pete died. A rescue worker suggests that fostering a dog may help him move past his grief and Charlie finally agrees to a Cavalier King Charles named Brownie. Brownie's laid-back personality is totally opposite to Pete's demanding one, and Charlie soon discovers he wants to adopt this sweet girl. Into his life comes the ghost of Pete, who does not make life for Charlie easy. No one else can see Pete, whose sarcastic comments and attempts to sabotage Charlie's and Brownie's relationship frustrate Charlie, intrude upon his budding romance with the rescue worker and cause others to think Charlie just might be losing it.

Russ Ryan does a wonderful job portraying the emotional impact losing a dog can have on its human as well as the love and companionship these special animals bring to our lives. The back-and-forth exchanges between Charlie and the ghost dog Pete are humorous and will bring lots of chuckles. The read is fast and sweet and fun and not one easily forgotten. Worth noting: Ryan is donating a portion of the proceeds from sales of the book to the Muttville Senior Dog Rescue.

New Ground
Nancy Dillingham
65 Macedonia Road
Alexander, NC 28701
1566641349, $9.95,

This compilation of short stories and poems is eloquently written with a haunting tone that will remain with the reader long after the book is finished. Dillingham begins with the story of a young woman given to an older man by her father in exchange for land, setting the tone for this collection dealing with relationships, familial and not, each so elegantly presented the reader will not be satisfied with one reading but, rather, will want to return again and again simply to absorb the exquisite poetic cadence of her prose.

Render unto the Valley
Rose Senehi
K.I.M. Publishing LLC
P.O. Box 132
Chimney Rock, NC 28720-0132
9780615499956, $15.95,

Karen Godwell grows up ashamed of her Appalachian heritage. Karen does not know who her father is and her mother flits from one boyfriend to another, some of whom are abusive and from whom Karen tries to protect her brother and sister. After Karen's mother abandons her children, Karen and her brother and sister are raised by their grandparents, frugal people who are hard-working and expect the same from their grandchildren. Karen leaves her past behind when she goes to college and works hard at losing her accent and reinventing herself. Years later, she holds a prestigious job at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and lives a luxurious lifestyle. After her husband dies from cancer, Karen learns her brother has placed her grandmother in a nursing home and taken all her money and property. She packs up and, with her daughter, moves back to the mountains, intent on making things right. But her brother harbors a dark secret about Karen, one she has tried to forget, and now Karen must decide whether to do the right thing concerning her grandmother or risk losing everything if the secret is told.

Rose Senehi is known and appreciated for incorporating environmental issues into her stories which are rich with historical and geographical detail. Karen is a woman hardened by her earlier life with a chip on her shoulder and anger issues. However, one empathizes with her feelings about her past and her conflict over protecting a brother whom she loves yet knows is mentally unbalanced and evil at heart. The characters surrounding Karen are well-developed and it is interesting that several are based on actual persons. The cultural and historical aspects of the Western North Carolina Appalachian region are intriguing and a welcome bonus to this compelling story.

Christy Tillery French, Reviewer

Crocco's Bookshelf

The Book of My Lives
Aleksandar HemonFarrar
Straus and Giroux
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0374115737, $25.00,

Looking for an answer.

I enjoyed reading the compilation of essays of Hemon's two lives, one in Sarajevo before war broke out in the 1990's, the other in Chicago. His style of writing kept me engaged throughout the stories.

This was my first book read by Hemon. I usually do not read other reviews until I finish a book, however, I glanced at the ten reviews posted on Amazon to see if I had read the paragraph written on page 21 correctly. No one has mentioned it, so it looks like I'm alone. Am I reading it incorrectly, or does Hemon say Obama is our president by way of a falsified birth certificate?
I emailed the publisher and the editor and asked this question, but no reply as of yet. The internet provided additional information on Hemon, such as his becoming a U.S. citizen, but I'm hoping a comment will be written by a reviewer, a reader on my blogs, or Hemon himself answering my question.

Do Monsters Wear Undies? - A Rhyming Children's Picture Book
Mark Smith
Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
B00D0S8NOY, $2.99 Kindle,

Keeping with Smith's theme of monsters, this is a silly one asking the question, do monsters wear undies? The rhymes are a great way for children to enjoy a quick, silly book, and Smith masters his poetry.

My Kindle doesn't provide justice for the illustrations, I realize that, but using my imagination of adding color, I'm sure kids will love the pictures. If sent as a PDF, I could download it on my iPad to appreciate the illustrations.
I wasn't too thrilled with this particular story; it was okay, but nothing outstanding.

Love Thug (a.k.a. Can't I Do Anything Wrong?)
Daniel Berenson
Freaky Dude Books
Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
B00CJO74KE, $2.99 Kindle,

Just be yourself.

Love Thug is a fun story for pre-teens about a first love. Billy wanted to impress Veronica so much he tried to imitate the boy that had already caught her attention. After many failed attempts he realized he just can't do it.

Berenson wrote for a pre-teen audience, (I don't see this as a book for older than fourth graders) that is sure to enjoy Billy's outrageous strategies to 'get the girl'. A lesson for young kids to be yourself and the right girl will come your way.

I would have liked a challenging vocabulary sprinkled throughout the story. Nevertheless, it was a short, entertaining read that kids will enjoy.

Tulsa Tempest (Tulsa Series)
Norma Jean Lutz
NUWS Link, Inc. Publishing
Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
B00BEPA1RM, $2.99 Kindle,

The year was 1921; the place was Tulsa, Oklahoma during the Tulsa race riots. The story centered on a nineteen year old woman, Tessa, who fled to Tulsa to avoid marrying one of her father's drunken buddies.

Tessa is not at all prejudice and she proves it time and again. Her strong beliefs rub off on a man she comes to love.

While I enjoyed the story and the history, I felt there wasn't enough action and conflict for such a violent and tumultuous time in history. I also found it difficult to establish and maintain Tessa as a nineteen year old, as she was repeatedly described and perceived as much younger throughout the story.

A Christian tone was sprinkled throughout Tulsa Tempest, but not in a preachy way. Tulsa Tempest is an approachable way to be introduced to the Tulsa riots of 1921.

Sherlock Holmes and the Needle's Eye: The World's Greatest Detective Tackles the Bible's Ultimate Mysteries
Len Bailey
Thomas Nelson Publishers
PO Box 141000, Nashville, TN 37214
0849964830, $15.99,

More effective as a Bible study.

An unusual idea for readers to enjoy Holmes, but I wasn't impressed. The book began with the Needle's Eye, the means to Holmes and Watson's ability to time travel, but I was left confused.

It continued with ten Biblical mysteries to be investigated. Holmes and Watson took the time traveling trips where they witnessed scenes and discussed clues. Holmes recited Scriptures from memory and the two connected the dots. I found it odd that Holmes memorized Scriptures when he doesn't share the faith, and Watson was his typical annoying self.

Reading the book as a novel, my thoughts turned to thinking maybe it was more effective as a Bible study. The reader would answer questions provided in the back of the book, which included specific scriptures to follow.

Desiring to finish the book with a pearl or two, as much as I was confused and frustrated, I decided to read the investigative questions provided. They were thought provoking enough for pondering - always a good thing.

To be fair: the book was presented with two suggestions on how to read it, as a Bible study or as a novel/collection of individual mysteries.

See a Heart Share a Heart
Eric Telchin
Dial Books
c/o Penguin Group USA
345 Hudson Street, 15th floor
New York, NY 10014
0803738943, $12.99,

Reminded of the saying, 'stop and smell the roses', See a Heart Share a Heart, is a beautiful comparison to this sentiment.
Each page has captured a heart that is found in a folded leaf, paint drips, a butterfly's shadow, and a shell on a beach, just to name several.

Captions attached to each heart are thought provoking and the illustrations are striking. Eric Telchin's message throughout his inspirational book is: Hearts bring love.

Readers will enjoy taking a moment to stop and See a Heart Share a Heart.

What the Hell is Going On in My Life?: Using the "NEW" Astrology to Find Serious Answers
Larry Schwimmer
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
1481163647, $27.95,

Filled with entertaining stories about how the "new" astrology played a part in decision making in people's lives, What the Hell is Going On in My Life?: Using the "NEW" Astrology to Find Serious Answers, was a fun and interesting read.

Appreciative it was a book of advice written in a sensitive manner vs. an 'in your face' style of self-help book was refreshing. One could take away useful information and choose to apply it to their life, or not, without feeling the book was read in vain.

Larry Schwimmer offered a free transit calculator to assist his readers in understanding how they could use the new astrology to improve when, where, and how to make more productive decisions.

As a new fan of the "new" astrology, I'll be updating my transit calculator when needed and taking advantage of the advice.

The Dream You Make
Christine Nolfi
Amazon Digital Services, Inc
B00DEKADZ0, $2.99 Kindle,

Complex relationships

Annie McDaniel is in her thirties - owns and manages Green Interiors, a greenhouse - acting like a teenager at times, in other respects, an intelligent business woman. Michael Rowe is in his thirties - owns and manages Rowe Marketing, a successful marketing firm - acting like a brute at times, in other respects, a caring and generous boss. When the two meet, during Annie's interview to work at Rowe's Marketing Firm, there is an immediate attraction.

Annie tries to keep her personal life from her boss, Michael Rowe. Any relationship would jeopardize her chances of gaining custody of her nephew. The secrecy drives Michael crazy, and his way of handling bad situations is to pack up and leave.

While Annie reciprocates Michael's love, she must put her nephew first, which creates feelings of angst in the relationship.

During most of the story, I couldn't stand Michael, but I grew to understand and love the guy. The same could be said for Annie, at times, her behavior drove me nuts. Their relationship was complex and is thought provoking - do I judge people too quickly, too harsh - do I give people a chance?

The Dream You Make is all about second and even third chances. Both Annie and Michael forgave each other many times for a chance of happiness.

While I enjoyed the story, I agreed with a remark made by Michael, during a usual work day, "Damn it! I'm sick and tired of the theatrics!"

Understanding the first section of chapter one served as an introduction, the information was more enjoyable when it was integrated afterward and into the first chapters.
The Dream You Make by Christine Nolfi gives hope to all relationships.

The Tegen Cave
Inge-Lise Goss
Silver Tongue Press
Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
B00CIH371W, $2.99 Kindle,

A Spider's Web of Crime and Corruption

Escaping from her boyfriend, Conner, and his mafia-style life of organized crime, Sara Jones becomes a silent hero in this tangled web of mystery and suspense.

Spiders remain busy spinning a murderous web when they are signaled by a unique sound heard only by spiders. Possessing poisonous venom, the spiders complete their mission consistently.

Sara learns she is immune to the poison, and this is where the story begins to build up suspense on every page.

Caught in a web of deceit, Sara isn't sure who to trust, Conner, the gorgeous hunk of a boyfriend who entangled her into his life of crime, or the other gorgeous hunk of a boyfriend, Brett, who replaces Conner. Yes, there's plenty of sex interweaved with horror and violence in The Tegen Cave.

Keeping up with Sara's libido as she tries to spin a web of moral survival is incredibly entertaining. All the characters become real in this particular world of spiders and creative fiction by Inge-Lise Goss.

Appreciating extraordinary writing was a pleasure. I was engaged throughout the story as there was never a predictable event. I'm hoping for a sequel to The Tegan Cave, by Inge-Lise Goss.

Stop the Whistleblower
Charles Deemer
Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
B00DDZRURU, $1.49 Kindle,

Reading the novella, Stop the Whistleblower, is compelling. The book is written like a screenplay and I'm fascinated by the no fluff writing style of Charles Deemer.

As the title suggests, the book is about a whistleblower. Ray is a white man who works for BeautiLine. VitaTan is a new suntan pill the company manufactures and according to Ray, the pill is not safe and he can prove it, and we all know what happens to whistleblowers.

Drastic measures are taken to keep Ray quiet - an overdose of VitaTan - and Ray is now a black man. Trying to convince everyone he is Ray, the white man, is where the story becomes full of suspense and humor. That's right, I found it to be quite comical at times, which makes it an entertaining read.

Experiencing life as a black man is eye-opening for Ray, his situations range from not being able to hail a cab, to sleeping with a black woman, to being arrested. This all happens while he tries to deal with a jealous half-brother and revenge plans for BeautiLine.

No spoilers here, you'll have to read, Stop the Whistleblower, by Charles Deemer, to see if Ray lives his life as a free white man or an incarcerated black man.

Mary Crocco, Reviewer

Daniel's Bookshelf

The Third Bullet
Stephen Hunter
Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl.
New York, NY 10020
9781451640205, $26.99,

I first read the novel The Day Before Midnight, and following with Point of Impact. I was looking for his earlier novels and then kept going with Dirty White Boys and so forth. Each read took me into further into time with the Swagger family and the main man Bob Lee Swagger. I did manage to see the movie based on the character, but the book reading took me further into the genealogy and story of his family and the weaponry which made this character so fascinating to me. It was an easy choice to obtain this book on the mystery of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, which on that day shocked my entire high school class. We all were home that weekend as the shocking drama continue by the killing of Lee Harvey Oswald by Jack Ruby, when he was escorted by the Dallas police outside the courtroom. Nothing further to say on this history except to mention, where is the justice on it being the fiftieth anniversary of John's assassination? We should learn how this all happened and for what reason.

Bob Lee Swagger is right on the turf where Lee Harvey Oswald was accused of killing the assassinated John F. Kennedy. That location was of the predetermined route where on November 22, 1963 Kennedy's motorcade was to drive around Dealey Plaza, then leave Dallas. He does his own take on what happened that fateful day and who could have been behind the scene. It was by the use of the weaponry fire power and sighting of the main target in the motorcade, while driving through the Plaza. Swagger keeps asking questions that have been asked many times. It seems someone had information and set up the solo shooter. It could have been he was only the patsy.

However, as he keeps stalking through the much-traveled landscape, someone is watching anyone who comes close to the scene to investigate or probe possible scenarios of the assassination. He is trying to figure out who and what happened on these grounds of the plaza. One writer mysteriously dies with a tragic car accident as the driver runs him down. The mere fact that he was Russian will sends up a red flag with Swagger. Swagger goes into a disguise of identity to get at the truth, while another narrative gets into the picture covering up the tracks. That person wants to keep the secrets, and the means along with the will to keep them buried. Due to his own legacy, he considers Swagger's life to be insignificant expense. So eventually he will attempt to blunt the threat of Bob the Nailer. Then he will use people who have Swagger believing they are helping him to investigate become the bait by decoying and eventually ambushing him. Bob Lee Swagger wants to prove one fact out that it's never too late for justice.

Stephen Hunter is the author of eighteen novels. He won the Pulitzer Prize for the Distinguished Criticism for his work at the Washington Post. He retired as chief film critic. He also published two collections of film criticisms, and a nonfiction work about the attempted assassination of Harry Truman entitled, American Gunfight. Bob Lee Swagger moved it even farther over the top. I hope he keeps on writing, as I enjoy his novels.

Six Years
Harlan Coben
c/o Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780525953487, $27.95,

I have enjoyed reading from time to time Harlan Coben's type of novels, and they are refreshing in the world of normalcy and chaos. I picked up one of his earlier novels Tell No One, and breezed right through with this author's different type of story-telling to keep me focused and engaged. He has a different agenda on the plot-lines, and his characters are so real and every day types who are thrust into something sinister or unknown purposeful in the story. I am glad I selected this one for this read, and I enjoyed the novel from opening first sentence.

Jake Fisher watched the love of his life marry another man, at a small chapel in a small town. He was invited to the wedding and he had a small meeting with the bride and a few words with her sister. She asked him to promise not to intrude or have contact with her anymore. She insisted over and over again, "You made a promise." Even on later messages she reminded him of this, and later on he believes her husband was murdered, and now he wishes to contact her. He wants to get back into her life, but he can't find her and every one who supposedly knew her through their earlier contacts together denies anything about the places and to whom she was married. They even don't know her, and thinks Jake is off base in asking about certain details on his life and hers together. The more he probes the more walls seem to rise up to block his attempts. His best friend another professor tries to help him, and Jake starts to get into trouble with the law when he explores a retreat house and the police claim it never was one. They claim the land was owned by a long time resident and he is trespassing.

Jake is told by everyone to let it go, and he should move on to his own life by forgetting it. He runs into some thugs who attempt to persuade him to see if he know where his love of his life could be located, and he tells the truth he doesn't know. All hell breaks out for him, while he tries to regroup. He has to find out why he is being pursued by these type of people. The elements of real danger along with increased pursuit by the law make his life to go more under ground. This would be better not to red flag his whereabouts and location. His cell phone tells him that the GPS on it is tracking device for the police. His having to actually fight and be physical lets him know this search for Natalie to learn the truth. It might be the end for him, if the wrong people find him first. He keeps going hoping to discover the secrets of the pasts, and why his love has not been there for him.

Harlan Coben is now the author of twenty-four novels. Stay Close, Live Wire, Caught, Long Lost, and Hold Tight were selected as #1 New York Times Bestsellers. He also writes a series known as Myron Bolitar, and has recently started a young adults series featuring Myron's nephew, Mickey Bolitar. Harlan is the winner of the Edgar, Shamus, and the Anthony awards. I have kept abreast of his current novels and go back to catch up on his earlier ones. I like his wit irony, and how his knack for exposing the fine line between the order in the world and the sudden chaos. Sometimes that can occur when that balance is broken.

Daniel Allen

Deacon's Bookshelf

The Sherlockian
Graham Moore
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY, 10017
9780446572590, $6.00 paperback / $8.89 Kindle,

Graham Moore's The Sherlockian is a first novel and shows it.

To the author's credit, Moore's research is solid bordering on meticulous. Sherlockian buffs will be hard pressed to find more trivia about Conan Doyle and his peerless detective written into any Holmes takeoff by any author anywhere. The epigraphs that head each chapter are (Dare I say?) epigrammatic.

Main characters are mashups. Each of them channels one or more characteristics of Sherlock Holmes, of Conan Doyle, or the people (real and fictitious) that both men allegedly knew. For the most part, use of the characters is appropriate. Their lines are reasonably lively. The plot has some interesting kinks in it: Few readers will guess the identity of two of the three murderers fingered by The Sherlockian.

In the debit column, I think the author tries to do too much with one book. Crime fiction is typically short for a reason. I'm no Sherlockian myself, but I don't believe Conan Doyle ever wrote a Holmes story that ran to more than, say, 150 octavo pages. Moore's Sherlockian, at 350 pages, is a doorstop by comparison.

Every chapter is a jump of 100 years forward or back. Long before I finished Moore's book I was giddy from all the time travel. It was about all I could do to keep from skipping ahead just to get it over with.

The writing is inconsistent and the inconsistencies result in a text that is less than seamless. Almost at the end of the novel, Sarah has to pull a gun and use it. Readers wouldn't think sissy Sarah capable of such a thing. My surmise is that somebody caught the mistake. Author Moore then went back into the manuscript and added Chapter 24 expressly to give Sarah some street creds. That done, Moore had to add Chapter 26 to dispose of Ron Rosenberg, who popped into the story in Chapter 24 just long enough to make Sarah look like a grrrrrrl. At the end of Chapter 26, Ron (now utterly useless) is "lost in thought" and never finds a way out. Same is true of the goon with the ugly goatee who becomes worthless in the middle of the book, disappears, and doesn't reappear until the penultimate scene, when hero Harold and grrrrrrl Sarah need a patsy for the Swiss polizei.

The end of the story is simply unbelievable. To think that Harold (or anybody else) would kiss off an artifact worth tens of millions of dollars and a chance to be the most famous of Sherlockian scholars -- throw away all that -- either to protect his own illusions or to save the reputation of a dead author. . . . This writer understands: Facts of Sherlockian history being what they are, the book had to end in some such way. But Moore is the one who wrote himself into that particular corner. He should have plotted a better way out. Read The Sherlockian and see what you think. Fooey!

Solomon sez: Two stars because it's a first novel. If it was a second or a third book, I'd say one star (for the research) would be about right. Trivia is the only treat in The Sherlockian.

The Raptors of Iowa: Paintings
James F. Landenberger
University of Iowa Press
119 W Park Road, 100 Kuhl House
Iowa City, IA 52242-1000
9781609381660, $29.95 pbk / $16.17 Kindle,

As some readers surely know, items off the University of Iowa Press lately include a series they call "Bur Oak Books." Anybody curious about the State of Iowa should pay attention to Bur Oak Books because Bur Oak Books are all about Iowa. As a group they are priced right, they're sized for easy handling and typeset for easy reading. Moreover, series editors see every Bur Oak Book stuffed full of interesting lore and facts about Iowa. Perfect-bound in paperback, titles in the series offer both man-made and natural history, autobiography, art, archaeology, agriculture, geology, wildlife, wildflowers, rural architecture, rural education and more -- all kinds of stuff for readers to feed their heads. In short, Bur Oak Books have something for everyone.

Latest title (May 2013) in the Bur Oak series is The Raptors of Iowa. Front matter sets the tone with two introductory essays, the first by Rich Patterson of the Indian Creek Nature Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and the second by Iowa nature writer Dean M. Roosa. Back matter lets readers down easy with two afterwords, the first by Jon W. Stravers of the National Audubon Society and the second by avian ecologist Bruce Ehresman. The essays are beautifully written in a style that appealed to me in a personal way. Reading them, I could sense the love of birds and nature that drives the men who wrote them.

The body of the book features 32 raptor portraits by Iowa nature artist James F. Landenberger. Each recto page sports a print reproduction of a Landenberger watercolor. Each verso page features a short, illuminative paragraph about the raptor featured on the recto page. The book is printed on acid-free, slick paper. Illustrations are four-color, magazine quality, and delight the reader's eye.

My mother had a quarto edition of John James Audubon's birds. As a child, I spent many hours staring at Audubon's paintings and, for me (no art critic), Landenberger's work has much the same power.

Mention of power brings me to the one thing I don't like about The Raptors of Iowa. The book is printed on 7.5-by-5 inch paper and I feel the small page size diminishes the visual impact of the art.

Even so, The Raptors of Iowa: Paintings by James F. Landenberger is a spiffy book. It's not a field guide for birders by any means, but it makes a thoughtful, beautiful and informative gift for any birder who roosts in your tree -- most especially if that birder is an art lover.

Solomon sez: Buy "The Raptors of Iowa". You and your birder will both be glad you did.

Deacon Solomon, Reviewer

Gail's Bookshelf

America the Beautiful: Rediscovering What Made this Nation Great
Ben Carson, M.D.
Zondervan Publishers
5300 Patterson Avenue SE
Grand Rapids, MI 49530
9780310330912, $12.99,

Dr. Ben Carson, author, renowned surgeon and Chief of Pediatric Neurosurgery for Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore questions if it's time for America to again " toward liberty and justice for all..." in America the Beautiful.

Justice wasn't a term Ben was familiar with growing up in the slums of Detroit and Boston as a young African-American boy. He experienced "overt racism" at school and "systemic racism" within his own family. Yet his poverty stricken, hard-working single mom taught him to rise above his circumstances and strive for excellence. With her love, support and "no-nonsense parenting" he modeled himself after Joseph of the Old Testament and worked hard to become the "best that he could be," similar to Joseph when his brothers sold him into Egyptian slavery.

Ben couldn't know his life path of accountability, "personal responsibility and self-reliance" would lead to:

Separating "conjoined twins at the head" in 1987:

The Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2008:

Or the controversial speech at the National Prayer Breakfast February 2013 that he gave to "please God"

He honors the nation and appreciates the freedoms that allowed him to excel, yet he fears America is being weakened by "political corruption," and a growing climate of political correctness that affects the way we think, our very freedom of speech.

It's happened before to great nations of the past, such as Ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome, Great Britain, France, and Spain, nations who reached their "pinnacle" only to become a second rate power if they survived at all. Each of these governments shared "peculiar similarities." " inordinate emphasis on sports and entertainment...a fixation with lifestyles of the rich and famous, political corruption and the loss of a moral compass." (pg. 9) That describes America today.

Readers learn about the foundation of America's Judeo-Christian beliefs that nurtured the pursuit of liberties, capitalism and a government "...of, by, and for the people..." The importance of education and the need for " educated populous..." that appreciates the rights and freedoms they hold.

Although all Americans have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness..." he questions if those rights include the right of health care in chapter ten. He asks what part personal responsibility has in the health care dilemma, such as diabetics who don't follow proper diets, those who continue to smoke, knowing they risk lung cancer or lay out in the sun without sunscreen. He raises the question about a "health stamp program" similar to the food stamp program and wonders if it might work better than what America is currently faced with.

I don't know if Dr. Carson has the answers our nation so desperately needs, but the questions he raises and the suggestions he offers are worthy of consideration, especially by our leaders. Speech from National Prayer Breakfast:

Happy, Happy, Happy: My Life and Legacy as the Duck Commander
Phil Robertson, w/Mark Schlabach
Howard Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl.
New York, NY 10020
9781476726090, $24.99,

Phil Robertson, popular star of A&E's "Duck Dynasty" writes about his "Duck Commander" life and legacy in, Happy, Happy, Happy. He begins with the description of an idyllic 1950's childhood in West Monroe, LA.

Phil's childhood family lived in a "turn-of-the-century" log cabin and they depended on home-grown vegetables, fruits and the pigs' chickens and cattle they raised for food. Since money was scarce they "...rarely went to town for groceries" and the deer, squirrels, ducks or fish they caught were a much-anticipated plus. Their family lifestyle resembled that of the 1850's frontiersmen more than post-war 1950's.

When asked what his priorities are today, this now famous-for-his-duck-call family patriarch is quick to reply, "Faith, family, ducks - in that order." Yet, it wasn't always that way. Phil lived a "romping, stomping and ripping" lifestyle until he had a "come-to-Jesus- moment" at age twenty-eight.

His warm, genuine autobiography begins with a no-holds-barred account of Phil's life before that moment arrived. He describes growing up with rough and tumble brothers, a football career, teaching position, managing a "honky-tonk" bar, brawls, arrests and more that led to his wife Kay leaving him for three months.

Kay shares her perspective of the moment that changed all their lives when Phil found her and the boys mid book. When she recognized his truck in the parking lot, she walked over and hesitantly opened the door not knowing what to expect. She saw Phil's face buried in his arms that rested on the steering wheel. When he raised his head she saw tears streaming down the face of man she'd never before seen cry and heard him say, "...I want my family back..."

Phil's moving memoir chronicles his "outlaw years" where it wasn't uncommon for him to drink, brawl and total pickup trucks. Until his life spiraled "...out-of-control like a downed duck..." shot from the sky and he gave his heart to Jesus. It's a narrative of genuine choice and change about God, past mistakes, the importance of family, duck calls and living a life of faith.

His simple down-home wisdom and often humorous approach to life illustrates strong family values, solid work ethic, appreciation of nature and love of God and family. If you weren't a follower of the Duck Commander's before reading the book, you will join his family of fans by the time the story ends.

Several pages of black and white photographs of all the family are included.

See Cross Walk YouTube Interview with the Duck Commander: or visit their home page.

Chrislam: How Missionaries are Promoting an Islamized Gospel
Joshua Lingel, Jeff Morton & Bill Nikides, editors
i2 Ministries Publishing
PO Box 5284, Lighthouse Pointe, FL 33074
9780984022908, $25.00,

Chrislam - what is it and why should we care? Authors of this essay compilation and i2 Ministries believe all Christians should be concerned about Chrislam, aka the "Insider Movement" (IM) and its use. The problem lies in the "insider movements" message that contradicts "Christ's deity and his redemptive work on the cross."

Sometimes the message is subtle and only cause's confusion like popular Oprah Winfrey did for those who watched her "Deny Jesus is the Only Way to Salvation & Heaven" show captured in this YouTube: Christians know that to be false. Yet some suggest Muslims and Christians don't have to accept Jesus to receive eternal life.

The editors quote from the Muslim "bible," the Qur'an, QR-157 (pg. 300)where it states, "They (Christians) neither killed nor crucified him, (Christ) but it was made to appear so..." That denies the heart of Christian salvation that Christ literally died and rose to life.

It's also important to understand the terms "cross-cultural sensitivity" and "syncretism" used in the religious context. "Cross cultural sensitivity" is knowledge about and acceptance of other cultures, not an uncommon situation in our culturally diverse nation, while "Syncretism" is "the reconciliation or fusion of differing systems of belief." The reconciliation of such different beliefs results in either a new belief system or a schizophrenic merger of principles.

That's why i2 Ministries believe Americans should care. This anthology of twenty-five essays includes both favorable and critical viewpoints of what happens when Islam and Christianity try to become one when there are basic contradictions between their beliefs. Consider these:

Christians believe in a Triune God, God the Father, Jesus His Son and the Holy Spirit.

Muslims believe in one God, Allah.

Christians believe Jesus is God's Son in human flesh.

Muslims believe Jesus was a prophet and only a man.

Christians believe Jesus was crucified, dead and buried and rose to life on the third day.

Muslims believe Jesus was sentenced to crucifixion and then miraculously saved.

For these reasons Christians cannot adopt or adapt Islamic beliefs to their Christian faith. Yet traditional Wycliffe Bible Translators, the Summer Institute of Linguistics and Frontiers published "Muslim-friendly" Bibles in 2012, (Pg. 155-199). Where they removed any "...references to God as "Father," to Jesus as the "Son" or "the Son of God."

However, Melissa Steffan reported, April, 2013 the World Evangelical Alliance submitted ten suggestions to end the controversy if Wycliffe, SIL and Frontiers accept them:

Then there's "America's Pastor," Rick Warren who wants Christians to befriend Muslims. Christians' can and should befriend all races, yet it goes further than that according to Dixie Howell Scott, "From Law 2 Grace." He questions if Rick Warren preaches an "unconventional" view of Christianity in this article:

The publishers "two-fold" purpose is to alert the church at large and missionaries in particular that Jesus Christ's message from the Cross doesn't need to be changed by man to be effective. God can and does cross all cultural lines, beliefs and creeds. He only needs someone to act as His Emissary, using the Words He gave them.

Some parts of the book are easier to read than others, however, many include stories that illustrate the messages.

The Way of the Wise: Simple Truths for Living Well
Kevin Leman
6030 East Fulton, Ada, MI 49301
9780800721572, $15.99,

Leman uses his characteristic wit to poke fun at himself using humorous personal examples that illustrate Simple Truths for Living Well, the subtitle of his new book, The Way of the Wise. There he shares ten practical and meaningful life-changing principles that provided the "...roadmap to his win-win-life..."

It's all about God, wisdom and "teachable moments" for this internationally known humorist, author and psychologist. However, it also requires someone " to being taught..." and that didn't describe the younger Leman. He was too busy using his flair for humor, acting like a "goofball" and "comedian" instead of applying himself.

Leman was 19 when his personal "teachable moment" arrived. Throughout school he averaged C- minus grades. That didn't change the first sophomore quarter of college and he was "...asked not to come back."

Although he dreamt of high-paying, executive level jobs his only job offer came from a local hospital that needed a janitor where he learned "...what it felt like to be treated as a second class citizen." Until, promoted to "mopping the floor in labor and delivery," everyone's attitude toward him changed because he now wore scrubs and was often mistaken for a doctor. His humor rose to the occasion and he made and wore a name tag that said: "Kevin: Floor Surgeon."

From that discouraging beginning Leman learned ten life-changing principles, but not until he opened his Bible and read the words his mother prayerfully wrote years ago for him to find. After reading Proverbs 3: 1-6 in her tiny script, his first thought - Wow, anyone who follows these little nuggets can't go wrong. And follow them he did because those inspirational words have "...everything to do with who you are, where your heart is..." what you believe about God and "...who you want to become."

Leman today is a bestselling author, respected psychologist, radio and television personality instead of the "wise guy" of his youth, although he never lost his comedic style. Small in size, entertaining and thought provoking, the book is a quick read and easily tucked into brief case or purse for spare moments.

Makai Queen
Tara Fairfield
Deep River Books
PO Box 505, Sisters, Oregon 97759
9781937756703, $14.99,

Dr. Tara Fairfield, Washington State psychologist, realizes her lifelong dream to write with the debut of her young adult fantasy - Makai Queen, the first of a planned trilogy. Years of working with troubled youth and their families prepared her to add subtle teenage nuances to the character of Tessa that enhance her character driven romantic teen fantasy.

Readers first meet Tessa walking along the ocean shore to calm down after her sister Rachael's lectures about "getting her life together." Her sister's interfering attitude always upset her and today had even driven her from the house. Now lost in thought, Tessa watches the surf curl around her bare toes and listens to the soothing, rhythmic lap of the waves against the shore.

All too soon it's time to go home and she halfheartedly gathers her things and starts for the car when something down the beach catches "her eye." At her approach she sees the shape of a large man halfway out of the water with his legs floating in the surf. She notes the gentle rise and fall of his chest as she grabs his arms to pull him from the water.

She can't help but notice he's powerfully built, well over six feet tall she guesses and he's wearing an iridescent sliver wetsuit bottom unlike anything she'd ever seen. His bare chest reveals a shark like tattoo surrounded by strange symbols just above his heart. He seems okay, even appears to be asleep and she shakes him to rouse him. When that doesn't work she pulls her cell phone from her pocket to call for help and Tessa's mysterious journey begins....

Join Tessa off the coast of Lanai, in the hidden land of Moku-ola where man, animals and sea creatures live an idyllic, magical existence. There creatures communicate with telepathic powers and prehistoric sharks, previously only whispered about in Hawaiian Island legends, swim in the "Beryl-blue" depths.

Expect danger and fast-paced adventures in this coming-of-age tale that's a "fantastical adventure" wrapped in imaginative fantasy with underlying Christian themes of love, forgiveness, mercy and compassion. It's an exciting summer teen read that only asks readers to suspend what they know to be true for what might be...

Book club discussion questions are included.

Check out Cassidy Jones new adventure and other enticing summer reads included in the list above the review...

Signs, Wonders and a Baptist Preacher: How Jesus Flipped my Word Upside Down
Chad Norris
Chosen Books
11400 Hampshire South
Bloomington, MN 55438
9780800795405, $12.99,

Southern Baptists are not known to favor prophecy, speak in tongues or operate in any of the spiritual gifts. Craig Van Buseck, CBN Ministries Director writes about the denominations "Struggles with the Holy Spirit" and says, "The official Southern Baptist in opposition to the open manifestation of the Holy Spirit."

However, Chad Norris's account of his "supernatural" encounters with Jesus and the Holy Spirit are penned by a southern Baptist preacher from South Carolina.

Chad describes himself as a "laid-back guy...more comfortable around real people with real problems..." than he is around "religious circles." His greatest motivator and deepest longing has always been to enjoy an intimate friendship with God. Yet, after years of hearing about Jesus in church, Sunday school and seminary he realized the Jesus they taught didn't match the "...Jesus he read about in the Bible."

Then, one day flying home from a mission trip to Haiti, he leaned back to close his eyes and heard the words, I want you to write a book, Chad. He knew Who said the words and what they meant and softly replied, "I don't want to." He didn't want to be considered crazy or a heretic and knew he would be if he wrote about the visions, angels and healings he'd experienced that Baptists considered abnormal. Then two weeks later, sitting on a couch in the church office he said, "Fine, I'll do it, Lord."

Readers learn how "Jesus flipped Chad's world upside down" and why Chad focuses on the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and what he learned from them. Why he wants his normal behavior " match Jesus' normal" and the differences he sees between Jesus commands to "Follow Me" and "Believe in Me." Why he defines the pleasure of serving Jesus as "action in waiting." Who the "Holy Misfits" are, what they do and what "treasure hunting" is all about as well as Chad's own healings from depression and panic attacks.

Chad's reckless passion and love for Jesus brought him to where he cared more about what Jesus thought of him than what other people thought about him. His powerful story illustrates how the "supernatural invades the natural realm" through the prayers of God's people. Those who have the faith of a mustard seed take God at His Word and simply believe.

Although this account reflects Chad's experiences and not standard Baptist theology, teaching pastor and bestselling author of Surprised by the Power of the Spirit, Jack Deere writes, he would "...rather have Chad pray for him..." than any "doctor of theology" he knows.

This is an authentic vulnerable story of healing, redemption, God's love and grace from a man who sees the Holy Spirit supernaturally working in lives today. The writing is poignant and honest, the style often humorous. It took courage to write and I hope it's read in the spirit it was written.

Deborah Arca's Chad Norris Interview:

Chad, in his own words:

Beautiful Battlefields
Bo Stern
PO Box 35002
Colorado Springs, CO 80935
9781612913193, $14.99,

Bo Stern's account of the war declared on her family the day after she celebrated her forty-fifth birthday demands to be read cover-to-cover, then slowly savored in weeks to come. The Bend, OR teaching pastor writes about the day her and her husband Steve met " enemy so fierce and foul..." they named him "Goliath." Their opponent's appropriate name forecast the difficult challenges that lie ahead. Where they would learn "...the most beautiful things come out of the hardest times." Their yet unfinished true story is told in - Beautiful Battlefields.

They met "Goliath" in the doctor's office when Steve returned for additional neurological tests after initial treatments hadn't changed his condition. When they entered the room Bo thought it would be something minor, yet she soon felt a sense of dread creep into the room as the doctor probed Steve. She quietly texted her sister "...Steve's not okay. Please pray."

Eight months and multiple tests later the doctor gave their "Goliath" a name - "Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis - Lou Gehrig's disease" more commonly known as ALS. The terminal motor neuron disease would affect Steve's muscles and eventually his ability to eat, swallow, speak or breathe. The devastating diagnosis was " emotional and psychological minefield..." that sent Bo to her knees with the enormity of what she, her beloved husband and family faced.

Emotionally charged decisions, whether to pay for an expensive drug that might "buy Steve an extra three months of life "or how to "bank" Steve's voice for use with a "speech device" and when to meet the "director of the ALS center" became primary concerns.

Though their story is devastating, Bo sends a message of hope as she recounts "...countless miracle moments of unexpected joy and supernatural strength." Moments she came to call "supernatural notes" of encouragement from God who extended His Hand through family and friends. Perhaps most important were the moments God showed up in the midnight hours when it was just Bo and her "...tears and fears...what ifs and why me's."

The first half will bring tears as readers learn how Bo discovered "Beauty in the Hard Places." The second part is about the strategies Bo used to grow" stronger through every battle. Chapters end with reflective questions, "Thoughts worth pondering" and actions "Worth Doing." The book, available as an eBook or paperback, concludes with categorized "Scriptures for Battle."

Bo writes with warm authenticity as she relates an amazing account of her walk through the "valley of the shadow of death" with Christ by her side.

Destiny: Let God Use You Like He Made You
Tony Evans
Harvest House
990 Owen Loop North, Eugene, OR 97402-9173
9780736949972, $12.99,

Dr. Tony Evans, author, pastor and chaplain of the NBA Dallas Mavericks writes about individual calling, purpose and meaning in his new book - Destiny. Where he encourages readers to Let God use you like He Made You, the subtitle of his new release. Reading his words reminded me of Jeremiah 29:11 where God said, "For I know the plans I have for you...plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (NIV)

Could that verse mean God created man for a predetermined plan and a purpose or like Pastor Evans writes, for a "special assignment...lived out in the power of the Spirit?" This man of God believes that it does. He uses 1936 Olympic Gold Medalist, Jesse Owens as an example.

Just as Owens set new world records and won Olympic Gold multiple times, " a believer, you have been called to run your aim for the gold..." just like Owens did. Because " out your destiny is one of life's most fulfilling experience," writes Dr. Evans and that's why he wrote Destiny. To mentor, encourage and equip men and women to realize God's unique direction and provision for them. Not from a predetermined perspective, but from the perspective of free will, choices and personal responsibility.

Our dreams and destinies aren't predetermined because God gave man free will and the ability to make choices, a subtle, but necessary distinction. Because of that our destinies lie within waiting to be identified and developed into talents as well as skills that result in our unique destinies. That's the concept Dr. Evans wants to encourage.

Divided into three parts, the book includes the...:

"Importance of your destiny"

Because God saw what man could be instead of what he is...

"Ingredients of your destiny..."

God filled man with "passion, vision and giftedness..." for a "calling..."

"Imperatives of your destiny..."

Man's commitment to God allows God to develop His plan through man...

If you want to live the dream and fulfill your God-given destiny it means to live for God instead of satisfying personal "...wants, desires, emotions and will." The first step means to know God and develop a personal relationship with Him. Then that Holy Spirit filled connection is maintained through reading the Bible, prayer and worship.

Review of Kingdom Man by Evans:

Gail Welborn

Gary's Bookshelf

Cookies & Cream Hundreds of Ways to Make the Perfect Ice Cream Sandwich
Tessa Arias
Running Press Teens
2300 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103-43371
978076244671, $18.00,

Until "Cookies & Cream" I never knew there were so many combinations of cookies, ice cream and other delicious desserts. The author has collected so many wonderful recipes that anyone who loves ice cream and cookies will find hard to resist. What also helps are the beautiful photos that make these desserts mouth watering. "Cookies & Cream" by Tessa Arias is for anyone who wants to add a new twist to two old favorites.

My Body is Talking to Me
Viyahta Robinson
Legacy Book Publishing
1883 Lee Road, Winter Park, FL 32789
9781937952365, $16.95,

I found "My Body is Talking to Me" to be the most disturbing self help title on cancer I have ever read. Author Robinson has the perception that all you need to beat cancer is a belief in God. "Choosing to follow a natural, divine healing path involves gaining the knowledge, courage and strength to overcome a medical system that promotes man's limited technology over The Creator's wisdom" I realize that having a belief in God can help anyone with any type of disease treatment, as well as healthy eating practices, exercise, and keeping positive but I disagree with her that use of modern techniques of medicine is a path down the wrong road. Modern medicine, while having some treatments that are considered brutal still has a very high success rate healing patients of cancer and other diseases. I think the author has taken out her anger against the medical profession because her sister died of breast cancer. I would not recommend "My Body is Talking to Me" because Robinson does a major disservice to anyone facing treatment of any type of disease.

Daniel Palmer
Kensington Publishing Corp
119 West 40th Street
New York, NY 10018
9780758246660, $25.00,

Palmer's last novel "Helpless" was very suspenseful, but "Stolen" is an even better book that is scarier because so much of it is reality based. John Bodine and Ruby Dawes are a couple who find out that Ruby has cancer. They are told that their insurance will not cover the treatments needed to save her life. At every turn doors are closed, until John has no choice but to do something illegal by going on the internet and stealing someone's identity to get the medical insurance they need, but his plan backfires when he is found out by a person who begins to play a cat and mouse game with him. The story is filled with many great twists and turns but is more than a great suspense novel. It has a lot to say about our present health care crisis and how sinister the internet can be. Though it is wrong what John has done readers, will root for him to succeed in his quest to get the help he needs to save the life of the person he loves. "Stolen" is a sure fire page turner.

Toletha J. Dixon
Outskirts Press Inc
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781478709305, $12.95,

"Fiend" began with an interesting premise of a boy being haunted by something he thinks is after him. He is unable to convince anyone, from his own mother to his stepfather that something is pursuing him. There are several things wrong with "Fiend". It is too short of a novel and should have been expanded, it introduces characters and conflicts that have no significance to the story and the ending is too confusing. For the length of "Fiend" it proved to be a very disappointing short story.

Mr. Monk Helps Himself
Hy Conrad
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780451240934, $23.95,

I thought after Lee Goldberg stopped writing the Monk series of novels with "Mr. Monk Gets Even." that was also the end of the novels. I am pleased to say that Hy Conrad has continued the series with "Mr. Monk Helps Himself." Conrad is an even better person to continue the adventures of Adrian Monk because for the entire run of the show Conrad was there behind the scenes. Some of the new things Conrad has come up with that make the character so delightful are Monk cleaning his garbage disposal even though he has never used it or that he cleans light bulbs throughout his apartment. Along with Monk are Natalie, Leland and all of the other characters that made the show and these novels so much fun to watch and see. Like the Goldberg stories; Mr. Monk Helps Himself" is a laugh out loud comic caper that will have fans of Monk wanting more.

Dennis Vebert
Creative Printing Services
9781936592937, $19.95,

Blackwater begins in a small town in Florida with a brutal sexual attack and murder. Possibly the basis for this story is a real murder in the small city of St. Cloud, Florida almost 40 years ago that would make for a great novel but Vebert who self published the novel made many mistakes that detracted from the enjoyment of it. First "Blackwater" needed a major edit in several areas among them the author's over use of many words, his lack of knowledge of police procedure, and too many typos as well as tenses that are incorrect.

Magikos The Lost Princess of Atlantis
Chad & Logan Thompson
Legacy Book Publishing
1883 Lee Road, Winter Park FL 32789
9781937952389, $13.95,

"Magikos The Lost Princes of Atlantis" is the first of a series of novels by Chad and Logan Thompson who are a new father and son writing team Max and Connor Herbert think they have a normal life going to school and doing the things their friends all do until their Uncle Sammy begins to show them that they are very different and that they should be very careful about revealing their differences. From the first page, readers will be drawn into this magical tale of a lost world and how other children are part of that universe. The writing is fast paced with a very interesting plot that unfolds very quickly. "Magikos The Lost Princess of Atlantis" is a sure fire hit with great characters, and plotting in a wonderful tale that should please any of the many fans of Harry Potter.

Miss Amy's Hurray for Rhyme It's Story Time
Amy Sellers
Oors Gallery Press
P. O. Box 1536, Sorrento, FL 32776-1536
9780978763206, $19.95,

"Miss Amy's Hurray for Rhyme It's Story Time: Contemporary Rhyming Stories for Children of All Ages" is a fun filled book with many different rhymes that are great for all ages to read and enjoy. The lavish artwork adds a great dimension to the telling of the stories found in the rhymes. The mix of the two art forms makes "Miss Amy's Hurray for Rhyme" a very special book to pass on to other generations of children and adults.

Zoo on the Moon
Robin Martin Duttmann
Illustrations by Kalpart
Strategic Book Publishing and Rights Co.
12620 FM 1960. Suite A4-507
Houston TX 77065
9781622127351, $12.97,

"Zoo on the Moon" is filled with colorful artwork that helps tell the story in poetic form of "what if" there was a lunar zoo. "Zoo on the Moon is a delightful children's book that can be enjoyed by anyone of any age.

Oney the Eagle
John Lewis Solomon Jr.
Publish America
PO Box 151 Frederick, MD 21705
9781463636815, $16.95,

"Oney the Eagle" is a short fun kid's book that teaches children that there is nothing wrong with being different. Oney is a baby eagle who gets lost and finds out who he really is as the story unfolds. "Oney the Eagle" is a fast paced well written story that has a lot of great messages for readers of all ages.

Gary Roen

Gloria's Bookshelf

Heart of Ice
P.J. Parrish
Pocket Books
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781439189375, $7.99,

From the opening pages of this newest novel from the writing team of sisters Kristy Montee and Kelly Nichols which comprises P.J Parrish, on New Year's Eve in 1969, the reader will be held spellbound. The tale swiftly morphs to late October, 1990, and a very cold case of a missing young woman which becomes a very active case when Louis Kincaid and his daughter, 10-year-old Lily, literally stumble upon a pile of old bones in an abandoned hunting lodge. A conclusion is quickly reached that the bones are those of the missing girl.

Louis has been enjoying some quality time with the daughter he did not know existed until a few months ago, but the former cop [now private detective] is drawn into the investigation, working with Chief Flowers of the local Mackinac Island, Michigan police and State Investigator Norm Rafsky, the latter a somewhat ambivalent working relationship due to the professional past he shares with Louis' lover, Sheriff "Joe' Frye. .Joe, whose long-distance relationship with Louis appears to be at a turning point, tells him: "You never could resist a cold case or a lost cause." The author's prose brings the area to life: "The magic island just off the tip of the Michigan mitten . . . the eight-mile road that circled the island, . . . the ramparts of an old fort, ancient limestone formations, and steep hiking paths that led up into the dark pines. And always, there on their right, was the deep blue expanse of Lake Huron."

Lily, naturally disturbed by the existence of the bones, extracts a promise from Louis: "It's up to us to make sure she gets home okay." A promise not easily kept. They must first identify the victim, a process made more difficult by the fact that the skull is missing. The craftily written plot provides various scenarios, each entirely plausible, as to the events behind their presence, each entirely plausible, with no clear indication as to the identity of the killer. More than that cannot be said without spoilers. But it must be said that the ingenious conclusion is an unexpected one, and the book is highly recommended.

The Cocktail Waitress
James M. Cain
Hard Case Crime
c/o Titan Publishing
144 Southwark St., London SE1 OUP, England
9781781160343, $14.95,

This was the last book written, at age 83, by James M. Cain, who died in 1977, the man who penned such classic, unforgettable novels as Mildred Pierce and The Postman Always Rings Twice, and one never before published. And kudos to Hard Case Crime for doing so now, nearly four decades later, for it is a fitting conclusion to the man's oeuvre. Along with Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, he helped create the noir genre, with this a typical example.

The first-person narrator, Joan Medford, twenty-one years old, is burying her husband on page one of the book. The abusive drunk had crashed into a culvert headwall one night at 70 miles an hour, leaving her with a small boy to raise, alone and penniless. [In those days, there were few resources for a teenage girl who found herself pregnant, and many 'shotgun weddings' were the result, of which this had been one.] His family had never liked her, and her husband's sister, herself unable to have children, covets Tad, Joan's adorable three-year-old boy, and readily agrees to care for him while Joan attempts to get a job to keep a roof over their heads, and immediately gets one working as a cocktail waitress in a nearby restaurant/tavern/"ginmill" in Hyattsville, Maryland [a better scenario than mowing lawns, her next choice.]

One is quickly orientated to the time frame when a tonic on the rocks ordered by her first customer costs 85 cents. And initially the writing seems dated as well, but once the reader gets into rhythm of the book, its pleasure derives from much more than nostalgia.

That new customer, Earl K. White III, is just one of two men Joan meets her first day on the job. He is an older man, a wealthy widower, kind and generous though nearly repulsive to her. The second is a hunky young man who has dreams but no resources. They are both immediately enamored of her, and the descriptions of her seductive appearance in her "uniform" which arouses such reactions are made dramatically, and graphically, clear in the wonderful, and wonderfully evocative, cover art. She is confronted by a choice between love/lust or a chance at a comfortable, respectable life for her and her adored son. There is a hint of sinister events to come, with a cop who is not satisfied with a verdict of accidental death and harbors suspicions of murderous intent. The novel has an ending straight out of the arsenal of this author of Double Indemnity, which the reader won't see coming. The book is hard to put down, and is recommended.

Jim Kelly
Creme de la Crime
c/o Severn House
110 East 59th Street, 22th Fl.
New York, NY 10022
9781780290331, $28.95,

This was a book that I enjoyed immensely, despite the fact that at times it moved rather slowly for me, probably because many of its frames of reference were unfamiliar, coming as I am from the "other side of the pond." Even extending to the title, although I supposed it was meant to evoke the opposite of sunrise, and is defined by the author at one point as the moment when one sees "the first star clear in the sky."

Philip Dryden had been a Fleet Street reporter, a job he'd left for one on the local paper to be near his wife. I found him to be a very original protagonist, one made very human and vulnerable when, on the opening page, he is introduced to the reader as the father of an infant son, following somewhat traumatic circumstances: His wife "had been badly injured in a car accident a decade earlier - - trapped in a coma for more than two years. She would never completely recover. They'd been told a child was impossible." But, almost miraculously, here he was.

Also in the opening pages, Philip is told by the police that his father has just been killed in an auto accident, the body burned beyond recognition, only the vehicle itself providing the identity of the owner. This is a second near-impossibility: His father had died 35 years before, drowned during the floods of 1977, the body swept away and never found. The thought that he might have survived and simply chosen not to return to his family is, to say the least, stunning.

There are other story lines here, and a faint suspicion allowed that somehow they may be linked.. A West African man, seeking asylum in England but being forced to return to Niger; has been refused, without explanation, the return of the body of his infant daughter, buried, he is told, in an unmarked grave, and he and his wife seek Dryden's help. Then there is the mystery behind the murder of a local man whose already dead body had been hung from an irrigator in an open field. When another murder occurs, a very personal one for Dryden, his efforts to solve these crimes are redoubled.

The novel is very well-written, suspenseful, and with a totally unexpected ending. This is the sixth book in the series, but the first one I'd read. I was happy to discover it, and shall definitely look for the previous entries. This one is certainly recommended.

Adrian Magson
Creme de la Crime
c/o Severn House
110 East 59th Street, 22th Fl.
New York, NY 10022
9780727882226, $28.95,

The title refers to a plan to exact vengeance for an act which opens the novel, in Kosovo in 1999. The plot deals with an extended cat-and-mouse game, with p.o.v. alternating between the two. On the one side is a man calling himself, among other names, Kassim, trained in Chechnya and the desert camps by specialist 'tutors.'

On the other side is Harry Tate, ex-soldier, ex-MI5, now a civilian working for a security company as the novel opens, when he is contacted by a man who had been the UN's local field security representative when Harry had been part of the NATO-led multi-national peacekeeping force, heading a close protection (read "bodyguard") assignment for a UN VIP. The time and place? Kosovo, 1999. It appears that just before Harry's team left the area, a 14-year-old Muslim girl was raped and murdered inside their compound. And now an assassin is tracking down all those who were present and one by one killing them. Harry is tasked with finding the rest of the men before any more lives are lost - - his own included.

The action-packed novel moves from the desert to London, Paris, New York City, Brussels and Moscow, among other places, in a suspenseful and intense journey. The author has done a terrific job creating a totally believable world and an equally credible protagonist. It is even possible, shockingly, to find the antagonist sympathetic. Tate is not one given to drama, relying instead on thorough investigation and instinct. This was my first introduction to this author, and to Harry Tate, and I can't wait to read the next in the series. Highly recommended.

Black Sheep
CJ Lyons
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9781250015341, $7.99,

FBI Supervisory Special Agent Caitlyn Tierney returns in this newest novel by CJ Lyons [after "Blind Faith"], and this one is another winner. Caitlyn isn't sure of her future with the FBI, now on temporary assignment at Quantico, and known as one who doesn't always play by the rulebook. At thirty-five, she's carrying a lot of baggage: "nine years carrying a loaded weapon, almost dying twice, killing a man in close-quarters combat, watching a good man sacrifice his life to save hers." And that's just on the job! She's ambivalent about her job, and about her love life.

On a personal level, she's been dating a neuroradiologist who she met when he diagnosed her brain aneurysm six months earlier, and who's more emotionally invested in the relationship than she. And she has never come to the terms with the death (and apparent suicide) of her Sheriff father when she was 9 years old, in the aftermath of his having had to arrest his best friend for a murder to which the man had confessed. When the latter asks for Caitlyn's help in finding his missing daughter, the younger sister of her closest childhood friend, despite her misgivings she finds herself drawn back to the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina to search for her.

Her investigation brings her across the path of outlaw biker gang, the Grim Reapers, whose code is 'till Death do us part' and whose members have names like Weasel, Goose and Poppy; an obscure pact dating back to the period after the Civil War; and a decades-old court case with serious present-day ramifications. Though I felt the book lagged a bit in the middle, in retrospect the background presented is essential to understanding the motivations of the present. There is a heavy suspense quotient, and an unexpected ending, and the book is very enjoyable and is recommended.

Rules of Crime
L.J. Sellers
Thomas & Mercer
c/o Amazon Publishing
276 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10001
9781611098068, $14.95,

Attacks by unknown perpetrators on two lone women, separated by several miles and as many hours, open this newest novel by L.J. Sellers in the Detective Wade Jackson series. The first is distinctly personal to Jackson: The kidnapping for ransom of his ex-wife, Renee, recovering alcoholic and the mother of his beloved teenage daughter, Katie. The FBI is called in, of course, but Jackson, now after 20years a senior detective in the Violent Crimes Unit of the Eugene, Oregon P.D., isallowed to join the team, convincing his boss that he can be both objective and professional.

The second case is a brutal assault, the body of the victim dumped, naked, outside of a hospital ER, where she remains in very serious condition, and detective Lara Evans, Jackson's mentee in the same unit, is assigned to handle it. Unfortunately, another common factor in both cases is the utter lack of witnesses or clues.

Events play out over a period of one week, with suspense building up as with meticulous police work the pieces start to fit together in both crimes. The book provides the excellent character development for which this author has been highly praised, introducing an intriguing new character: a transgender FBI agent, without making that the agent's defining characteristic. "Rules of Crime" is terrific summer reading, and is recommended.

Justified Action
Earl Staggs
Word Press
9781482372397, $13.95,

Meet Tallmadge McAllister ("Tall") Chambers, whose resume would include Special Services officer, Army intel, and black ops, having enlisted in the Army at 18 and rising to the rank of Captain by age thirty, before being busted back to Lieutenant for striking a superior officer. Now, at age 38, relegated to desk duty at the Pentagon and straining at the bit before he can retire in three months time, he is persuaded to join a secret unit which works with the alphabet agencies of the U.S. government (CIA, NSA, FBI et al) but without any of their legal constraints.

The author describes the group as "a crew of trained and dedicated killers" whose targets are terrorist bombers wherever they may be, in the US and abroad, and doing whatever was necessary to eliminate the threats they pose. The limitations? "Sometimes it's justified to take action before they can carry out their plans." The mantra: "Kill one terrorist, save a hundred lives." At one point, however, it all becomes much more personal for Tall, and objectivity takes a back seat.

The novel is immediately engaging, and the smooth plotting and fine prose keep the pages turning swiftly, despite a growing a suspicion as to the outcome. I had to stop reading, very briefly, in a moment of delayed gratification, as the conclusion drew near. A thoroughly enjoyable book, and one which is highly recommended. Can't wait till the next "Tall" book!

Touch & Go
Lisa Gardner
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780525953074, $26.95,

This standalone opens with the kidnapping of Justin Denbe, his 45-year-old pill-popping wife Libby, and their 15-year-old daughter, Ashlyn [who would seem to be wise beyond her years]. The author switches back and forth from Libby's 1st person p.o.v. to third person throughout, having the effect of making Libby and her family not just ciphers, or "the victims," but equally protagonists for whom the reader feels empathy. This is nominally a police procedural about that kidnapping, filled with the expected quotient of suspense, but ultimately it's much more than that: it's about a family which seemingly has it all, from their opulent Back Bay house in Boston to the hundred-million-dollar construction business headed by Justin.

While bringing back characters known from Ms. Gardner's previous novels, 29-year-old corporate investigator and former Massachusetts State Police Trooper Tessa Leoni and Boston's "reigning super cop," Detective Sergeant D.D. Warren, other cops called into the case include New Hampshire detective Wyatt Foster and his former lover, FBI Special Agent Nicole "Nicky" Adams. There appear to be no leads as to who pulled off this apparently very well-planned abduction, or any motive, as the first full day goes by with no ransom demand or other contact.

The suspense continues along pulse-pounding and unexpected paths right up until the end. I found the novel even better than I had expected, although I had read and enjoyed a few of the author's books in the past, and I will eagerly await the next one.


Gloria Feit

Gorden's Bookshelf

On Basilisk Station
David Weber
P.O. Box 1403, Rivendale, NY 10471
9780743435710, $7.99 pb. / $0.00 Kindle,

A treasured gem for the SF reader is the Baen free library. On Basilisk Station is another of their many free titles available from them. In his prologue, Weber tells us how he was inspired by C.S. Forester. Forester wrote many sea stories but his most famous were his Horatio Hornblower books. In these books, he brought out in rich details the life in a warship during the age of sail. Sailors were packed together for months, sometimes years, at a time and the type work a good captain needed to do keep the social structure and military discipline was amazing. He had to be part social worker, teacher and disciplinarian. Also, a good ship's captain needed to be part politician and policeman to the territories and places his ship traveled to. Their ships frequently were the only governmental police within months or years from where they were stationed. Finally, when ships fought you had to use detailed tactics just to engage the enemy that spanned hours or days and, when the final engagement occurred, the casualties were horrendous.

Weber has taken these historic facts and created a future SF setting that mimics these parameters. With Captain Honor Harrington, he has re-created a Hornblower type character to pull in the historical realities of a great military frontline commander into a future setting. By using a SF setting, the reader can enjoy the politics and the blood and guts action without the bias of seeing the military action as a part of their own history. This creates both a familiar story for the reader but one unique and removed enough to be relished as it is.

There are weaknesses in the tale. Weber has to create a future where you have transits between worlds that take days, weeks, months and years. He uses a mix of 'close enough' scientific concepts and creations to build this fantasy. Unfortunately, Weber sometimes gets lost in the creation of the technical details behind his story. The details can be enjoyed by the technical reader but the depth they are presented within the storyline can be bothersome. Pulling many of the multiple paragraphs of explanation from the narration and into either footnotes or an appendix would smooth the telling.

On balance this is a great book and a good introduction into a series of tales. It has a great created SF fantasy world that excites the reader, a storyline very familiar from our own military history that mimics classic writers and great interpersonal character interplay. It is highly recommended for any military history reader, especially those enjoying naval ships, and for SF readers who like the creation of new fully developed unique worlds. The story is even worth the look for someone just wanting to try these genres for the first time. The strong character interactions are enough by themselves without the SF or military details for a novice reader to enjoy the tale.

Red, Green, or Murder
Steven F. Havill
Worldwide Mysteries
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. First Ave., Ste. 103, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781615950836, $14.95 pb. / $0.99 Kindle,

Red, Green, or Murder is a comfortable cozy mystery. The main character, Bill Gastner, is a retired sheriff and current livestock inspector. He was sheriff for so many years everyone considers him as still part of the force. He is no great detective intellect but his steady plodding gets the job done. The current under sheriff is nearly an adoptive daughter and she uses his steady plodding as a sounding board for her investigations.

While making a livestock count at a ranch, Bill becomes involved with first aid for a thrown cowpuncher injured when a horse steps on his knee. He misses a lunch planned with George Payton, an old retired friend. After passing off the injured boy to an ambulance, Bill gets a call that George has died. Everything looks like natural causes but something about the death nags at the cops and Bill. This starts an intensive investigation interspersed between everyday tasks and other police work.

Red, Green, or Murder is a strong cozy mystery. In someways, it is a day in the life type mystery where the details of the day flesh the story in a comforting cloak. It is a solid story that is priced right for reading. But it is just one title in a series of stories. Many readers will find that they will need to purchase more titles in the series after this tale. It is a very easy recommendation for any mystery reader.

S.A. Gorden, Reviewer

Harwood's Bookshelf

Christian Beginnings: From Nazareth to Nicaea (AD 30-325)
Geza Vermes
Penguin Books
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York NY 10014
9781846141508, $30.00,

Geza Vermes had me gnashing my teeth and frothing at the mouth before I even started reading his book, by including the offensively Christian dating system, "AD", in his book's title. Is he unaware that even liberal Christians have stopped using a system that tells this planet's six billion non-Christians that they are living in the Year of the Master and switched to the scientifically neutral CE, "Common Era"? Since Vermes is a dogmatic Judaist, he obviously does not view the Christian Junior god as his Dominus. So why does he pander to a belief system he knows as well as I do is sheer fantasy? I can think of no answer compatible with his being more committed to truth than L. Ron Hubbard, Joseph Smith, or alleged alien abductees.

Vermes gets a lot right. For example (p. 60), "The religion proclaimed by Jesus was a wholly theocentric one in which he played the role of the man of God par excellence ... without being himself in any sense the object of worship as he later became in the fully fledged Christianity created by Paul and John .... Christocentricity does not stem from the historical Jesus." Also (p. xiv-xvi), "Admission of Gentiles into the early Judeo-Christian community is originally presumed to have followed conversion to Judaism.... In the early stages of biblical history, Judaism represented not so much monotheism, the claim that there is only one God, but monolatry, which means that, practically ignoring the pantheon of the other peoples, the Jews revered only their own God.... The worship of foreign gods was seen not so much as an erroneous act as a breach of a mystical monogamous matrimony between the heavenly king and his bride, the chosen people of Israel.... The principal [Jesus] set in front of his Galilean followers was the pursuit of [Yahweh's theocracy] in the immediacy of the here and now.... Monotheism remained the battle cry of the Jews whereas Christians were subjected to criticism by both Jews and pagans for falsely claiming to be monotheists."

Also (p. 99), "The invisible features that underline Pauline Christianity consist in an elaborate doctrinal construct developed in Paul's fertile mind." In other words Paul's doctrines did not echo those of Jesus. Rather, he made them up. As a theologian of the Moses delusion, Vermes is able, as theologians of the Jesus delusion are not, to recognize that neither Jesus nor any of his contemporaries had ever heard the doctrine that Jesus was himself a god, without that recognition pulling the rug out from under his whole belief system. Christian theologians have come up with incredible mental gymnastics to shut out that reality.

Vermes also gets a lot wrong. A reference (p. xiv) to "sexual acts abhorrent to Jews" ignores the reality that, if homosexual acts were not widely accepted as victimless and therefore sinless, the Priestly author of Leviticus would not have needed to emulate Zoroaster by banning them in the optimistic hope of forcing gay men to start breeding tithe-paying believers. Similarly (p. 53), "in disapproving of divorce ... Jesus intended to lay emphasis on the ideal of life-long union between one man and one woman.... Jesus proposed to restore the original monogamic form of marriage intended for life." In fact as an Essene Jesus preached against divorce and remarriage, not to discourage divorce, but to prevent divorced persons from for the second time repudiating the Essene ideal of lifelong celibacy. And while Vermes' description of the Our Father as "the Lord's Prayer" cannot be deemed a mistake, it is a further example of his willingness to use a term that Jews must consider heretical in order to help sell his book to readers he deems heretical. That his reference (p. 62) to Palestine as the Holy Land is offensive to the educated probably struck him as a point in its favor.

Vermes' choice of translations is perplexing. Consider the following:

Vermes (p. 46): "O Lord, Father and Master of my life."

Fully Translated Bible(1) "Master, ancestor and despot of my life."

Vermes (p. 54): " ... until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law."

FTB(2): "Until the sky and the land have ceased to exist, not one yod or curl is going to disappear from the Towrah."

Vermes (p. 56): "Kingdom of God."

FTB(3): "Allah's theocracy."

Vermes (p. 56): "I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth."

FTB(4): "I thank you, Father, master of the sky and the land."

Vermes (p. 59): "On this rock I will build my church, and the powers of Hades shall not prevail against it."

FTB(5): "You are Rock (Petros), and on this petros I'm going to build my commune. And the gates of the underworld will never overcome it." Vermes does not mention that this passage was interpolated into Matthew during the imperium of Constantine for the purpose of propping up the Catholic pretense that Jesus had appointed Peter Head Christian.

Vermes (p. 28): "Jesus of Nazareth."

FTB: "Jesus the Nazirite." All translations of Nazoraios in religion-authorized bibles as "of Nazareth" are intentional falsifications. The word meant "the Nazirite," a member of the Nazirite or Nazarene sect. No competent scholar thinks that it could be a geographical term.

Vermes (p. 32): "Jesus, the great prophet from Nazareth in Galilee."

Fact check: Since Nazareth was the Jewish equivalent of Diaspora, meaning Jewish settlement outside of Judaea proper, it would be more accurate to have written, "Galilee in the Nazareth." There was no village named Nazareth during Jesus' lifetime.

Vermes (p. 31): "After the imprisonment of the Baptist by Herod Antipas, Jesus moved to Galilee."

Clarification: Since Vermes is well aware that Jesus was born in Galilee, he could have avoided a seeming inaccuracy by writing, "returned to Galilee," rather than "moved to Galilee."

Vermes ends by suggesting (p. 242) that Christianity is on the verge of a new reformation that will "reach back to the pure religious vision and enthusiasm of Jesus, the Jewish charismatic messenger of God, and not to the deifying message Paul, John and the church attributed to him."

I do not delude myself that Vermes' expertise in biblical languages is inferior to my own. I therefore conclude that, when he quotes a biblical passage intentionally mistranslated to maintain the pretense that bible authors believed the same things as modern Christians or Jews, he has the same motivation of suppressing reality as the translators. That in my view makes his conclusions as trustworthy as an analysis of Scientology by the cult's most Manchurian Candidate-ized shill, Tom Cruise. Godworshippers have made useful contributions to biblical analysis (e.g., John Dominic Crossan, Bart Ehrman, John Shelby Spong). Geza Vermes is not one of them.

1 The Fully Translated Bible, 2 volumes, William Harwood editor and translator, Booksurge Publishing, 2006, Ecclesiasticus 23:1. -- 2 Mat. 5:18 -- 3 Mk. 10:15. -- 4 Mat. 11:25 -- 5 Mat. 16:18.

Scientific Paranormal Investigation: How to Solve Unexplained Mysteries
Benjamin Radford
Rhombus Publishing Company
PO Box 806, Corrales NM 87048
9780936455112, $16.95,

Benjamin Radford states in his opening chapter (p. 4) that, "The idea that there is no right or wrong way to investigate a phenomenon (even a supposedly paranormal one) is simply wrong. Paranormal subjects are investigated just like any other subject: through critical thinking, evidence analysis, logic, and scientific methodologies.... The best way to approach investigation is the same one that professional investigators and detectives use every day: the scientific method." He summarizes the difference between legitimate and illegitimate methodology (p. 26): "Good science is universal. Properly controlled scientific experiments should yield the same results regardless of who is doing the testing.... Much pseudoscience and the paranormal, by contrast, is individual and idiosyncratic. When asked about the future, different psychics will come up with wildly different - and often contradictory - information and predictions.... Joe Nickell noted that 'there are no haunted houses, just haunted people.'"

While it is an observable reality that competent research invariably concludes that a paranormal, metaphysical, supernatural or alternative-medicine claim is bogus, whereas incompetent research will authenticate the reality of those pseudoscientific hypotheses, obviously that cannot be defined as proof that one methodology is valid and the other is not. Neither can consistency alone, since investigations by hardcore believers, whether in gods, humanoid extraterrestrials, or placebo medicine, invariably agree that the phenomenon investigated is legitimate. A methodology that, for example, shows a religion's sacred book to be nonfiction, and consistently reaches that conclusion no matter how many different researchers use it, cannot be scientifically valid if, when applied to Alice in Wonderland, it would also show that fantasy novel to be nonfiction. In contrast, a methodology that shows homeopathy to produce the same percentage of cures as a sugar pill that the patient believes to be therapeutic is legitimate, since if the treatment was intrinsically effective, it would have produced a higher percentage of cures than a procedure designed to be valueless.

I am using examples from religion and pseudomedicine, neither of which Radford discusses, since his experiences as a paranormal investigator have never taken him into those fields, to demonstrate the validity of his arguments. Since they can be applied to subjects other than those he discusses and produce the same results, they help validate his observation that (p. 27), "Some may consider the bias toward science and skepticism self-serving. I can already hear the believers' complaint: ... 'How arrogant!' ... The only paranormal investigators doing it right (skeptic or believer) are those using sound science and valid investigative techniques." Obviously, a legitimate technique that works to falsify religion will also falsify the paranormal - and vice versa. But I get the impression that he agrees with my evaluation of incurable believers when he reports (p. 28) that, "One common definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." Millions of prayers for world peace are launched every day, with no success. Yet incurables continue to pray. Go figure.

"Understanding human psychology is of great benefit in paranormal investigation" (p. 33). Since I regard psychology as a cross between theology and tealeaf reading, made up of schools (behaviorist, Freudian, gestalt, Rogerian, structuralist, etc., etc., etc...) as incompatible with one another as sects of religion, it should surprise no one that I disagree. Not surprisingly, I found little that was useful in the chapter "Psychology of the Paranormal," other than self-evident observations that could as easily been made by a bartender. An example of the latter (p. 36) is, "Yet people can and do misremember experiences and events; sometimes they even create them out of thin air and come to believe them." And his account of a time when he consulted a psychotherapist who used hypnosis and employed a psychic states (p. 50) that, "Try as I might, I could not be hypnotized." Apparently he is still unaware that hypnosis (to quote Robert Baker) "does not exist, has never existed in the past, and will not exist in the future." He is, however, aware that (to quote TV's The Mentalist), "There is no such thing as a psychic." Presumably his investigations have never included hypnosis, since he clearly has the competence to have reached the right conclusion if he ever did investigate it.

Part II contains reports of their investigations written by James Randi, Joe Nickell, Martin Gardner, Susan Blackmore, Ray Hyman, Richard Wiseman, Massimo Polidoro, and some others whose names were not familiar to me. Part III contains detailed descriptions of some of Radford's own investigation. Radford recognizes James Randi and Joe Nickell as "the best of the best," and emulates their methodology in his own practise. While that does not make him infallible, it does make his conclusions as reliable as those of the fictitious Sherlock Holmes and the historical Elliot Ness. He can be wrong when he fails to recognize a popular delusion as sufficiently questionable to warrant an investigation. But he is almost certainly right when he finds that a delusion is indeed a delusion. This book should be mandatory reading for any person, whether journalist, academic, or police detective, who investigates testimony that has any appearance of endorsing the paranormal.

The God Argument: The Case Against Religion and for Humanism
A. C. Grayling
Bloomsbury USA
1385 Broadway, Fifth Floor
New York NY 10018
9781620401903, $26.00,

"To put matters at their simplest, the major reason for the continuance of religious belief in a world which might otherwise have long moved beyond it, is indoctrination of children before they reach the age of reason" (p. 13). Even believers tend to agree with that. The Catholic Church in particular is adamant in its demand that its adherents send their children to an indoctrination center where they will be brainwashed in Catholic doctrine at a time when they have no capacity to resist Manchurian Candidate-izing.

Grayling asserts that (p. 2), "the claim against religion goes deeper than an argument for secularism. It is that religion's claims and beliefs do not stand up to examination. Briefly put, critical examination of religion's claims places it in the same class as astrology and magic. Like these systems of thought, religion dates from mankind's less educated and knowledgeable early history, and like them has been superseded by advances in our understanding of the world and ourselves." He explains (p. 3) that, "everywhere that science and education have advanced, so religion has dwindled in influence." That explains why the RC church is so determined to indoctrinate children before they can be educated.

On the issue of religious doublethink, Grayling clarifies (p. 5) that, "cancer, disability, tsunamis that kill tens of thousands including babies and old folk - all are, in the eyes of the faithful, regarded as consistent with the existence of a benevolent and omnipotent god. After an earthquake that kills many ... people go to church to give thanks and to pray ... with no sense of irony or inconsistency.... Perhaps they give thanks that they were not among the crushed." The state governor's response to the Oklahoma tornado, which happened after Grayling's book was published, was to urge survivors to pray. Apparently it did not occur to her that such special pleading was analogous to asking survivors of Auschwitz to pray to Hitler. Grayling summarizes (p. 6), "The word that accurately and simply describes cherry-picking ... is 'hypocrisy.'"

Grayling makes the case (p. 17) that there is a distinction between superstition and religion: "All religious people are superstitious, but not all superstitious people are religious." Few will dispute that, while religion is a superstition, the superstition of astrology is not a religion. And in a preemptive response to the argument that religion does not commit atrocities; religious extremists commit atrocities, Grayling argues (p. 16) that, "Given that the case against religion is an overwhelming one, freeing the world from its influence has to be an urgent goal, however difficult it might be to achieve." He points out (p. 47) that, "Polite opposition did not abolish slavery. It took arguments and fearless outspoken criticism of the system and its fortifications. Freeing the human mind from the enslavement of superstition and religion requires the same approach."

Grayling reports a reality that believers have been shutting out of their minds, in the hope that ignoring it will make it go away, since Epicurus raised it over 2,000 years ago (p. 25): "If a god is all-loving, merciful, kind, compassionate and the like, how can it tolerate pain, misery and arbitrary suffering, independent of the merits of he sufferer?" He describes (p. 26) a debate he once had with an apologist whose response to the incompatibility of an omnipotent, omnibenevolent god with the existence of evil was to assert that his god is "not all-powerful, and therefore was not to blame because it could not stop natural evil occurring." That is not the official doctrine of any one-paramount-god religion on this planet. Neither is the doctrine that the god is omnipotent but not benevolent, even though, "The evidence of the world is in fact more consistent with the existence of an evil deity than a good deity, or at least a deity capable of evil and more than occasionally causing it; but this is not a line that many religious apologists take."

He also raises a point (p. 33) that, to the best of my awareness, was first made by Richard Dawkins. All believers in any religion are atheists in connection with every one of history's fifty thousand gods except their own. Atheists simply go one god further. Since, for any one religion to be true all others must be false, that means that the probability of an individual being born into the "one true religion" is one in fifty thousand. Only unreasoned "faith" could motivate anyone to bet on such a long shot.

Perhaps the strongest proof that religion is manmade is that its hierarchs regularly change what they claim to be revealed truth. For the first 400+ years of its existence, the Church of England taught that sinners were destined to be barbecued with flamethrowers in an underworld Auschwitz for eternity. Then in 1996 (p. 43) the C of E synod abolished Hell. The Catholic Church, which a few years earlier had abolished Limbo, promptly affirmed the reality of Hell as a place of eternal torture. As for religion's self-serving hypocrisy: It remains official Evangelical doctrine (p. 44) that only Christians can enter Heaven. And while Catholicism condemns homosexuality, as innate a quality as left-handedness (p. 45), "The Catholic clergy contains a higher proportion of gay men and women than the general population." Grayling notes (p. 45) that, "Preaching one thing ... yet doing the opposite, is the definition of hypocrisy."

Grayling devotes whole chapters to refuting each of the common arguments (cosmological, ontological, teleological, others) for the existence of God. Apologists acknowledge that each one, examined separately, is invalid. But they claim that, added together, they add up to legitimate proof. In other words, a large enough number of zeros adds up to non-zero. He concludes Part I, "Against Religion," by summarizing (p. 127), "The cumulative case against religion shows it to be a hangover from the infancy of modern humanity.... Yet even a cursory overview of history tells us that it is one of the most destructive forces plaguing humanity."

Part II, "For Humanism," answers the question (reworded by the reviewer), "If you take away the mind-deadening opiate of religion from moral cowards who, without an afterlife belief, would be so terrified of death that they would have to be institutionalized and diapered, with what do you replace it?" His answer is Humanism, which he spells out and justifies in eleven chapters. He makes a strong case that Humanism would be a desirable alternative philosophy even if religion could not be definitively falsified. Since the concept of "God," defined as a god with the specific qualities attributed to it by religion, has in fact been falsified beyond rational dispute, the Humanist alternative is not merely desirable but necessary. Whereas a god addict believes that his deity can annul a "sin" as if it had never happened, only a humanist can recognize that, while he can regret past actions that hurt non-consenting victims, he cannot make them go away. Anyone who cannot see which of the two has more incentive to refrain from immoral behavior is probably a god-worshipper.

William Harwood

Heidi's Bookshelf

Fabulicious! On The Grill
Teresa Guidice with Heather Maclean
Running Press
2300 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103-4371
9780762449774, $20.00,

Surprise: Some Tasty Recipes Inside!

My relationship to celebrity-style cookbooks is well-established. Typically, I'm not interested. Some pages of this book meet that expectation: heard it all before, wish actual creativity was present. For example, providing a recipe for the classic Iceberg wedge salad "translated" into Italian through the use of Gorgonzola and Pancetta isn't newsworthy.

I also found the wine-marinated flank steak recipe merely acceptable. If I repeat this combination I'll use a different cut of beef. "Parmesan and Paprika Corn on the Cob" satisfied to a great extent. Everyone who tasted it during my cookbook review dinner enjoyed this recipe. The flavorings for the corn are simple and perfectly matched. A number of guests specifically requested this recipe.

The overall winner from the book, however, went to "Mini-Peppers with Sausage-Ricotta Stuffing." I had to try this recipe; I grew up eating stuffed peppers often during the winter months.

My family took peppers from the summer garden bounty, stuffed them with rice that had a whiff of Spanish anda light sprinkling of ground beef. Then all winter long when money was tight or time short, a casserole-shaped brick was thawed, doused in ketchup and baked. As an adult I consistently claim I not so strapped for money that I must eat stuffed peppers. Seriously, I'd rather eat too-salty packaged Raman noodles. I've tried since to reframe my relationship with this dish many people love.

This recipe brought me success for the first time. Everyone who tasted this recipe, served as an appetizer, wanted a copy of the recipe. Even after the main course started, people continued to reach for the little stuffed peppers. I'm even curious about adjusting the recipe for larger servings - horrifying I know.

While I cannot recommend the book wholeheartedly, I can strongly endorse this recipe as a huge success. Sometimes I do consider a single recipe worth the price of admission. Only you and your current relationship to stuffed peppers can decide in this case. I loved this recipe. A number of others are re-hashed favorites with well-styled pictures. You and your budget need to assess whether your recipe needs make this above or below mediocrity in your world.

Canal House Cooking Volume 4: Farm Markets and Gardens
Christopher Hirscheimer & Melissa Hamilton
Canal House
No. 6 Coryell Street
Lambertville, NJ 08530
9780982739402, $19.95,

A Lovely Book with a Mixed Bag of Recipes

The Canal House book overs a stunning layout and the vignettes about the recipes come are engaging. It's clear the individuals involved know how to put together valuable volumes.

On the other hand the recipes cover a wide range. Some of "meh" in that I felt it was another recipe for something that was easy to find. At least one recipe I tried presented as merely adequate when I preferred flavor with more presence and creativity. The "Shrimp Ceviche" turned out at the make-do level; all the testers agreed that additional brightness. I want additional flavors to include the next time I make this recipe.

While I love avocados, the recipes in this section ranged from familiar to uninteresting. However, "Little Blue Reds" is a recipe I've already used multiple times. I'm making these cherry tomatoes topped with blue cheese for an event later this month. Simple, elegant, and completely yummy! I adore the combination from this specific recipe.

"Parsley-Potato Salad" is now my husband's favorite potato salad. With a change in how mayonnaise is used and the application of a much smaller amount greater sophistication is revealed. Not that most of us want to skip traditional salad treatments but this version is definitely elevates Sunday potato salad to wine-with-dinner and not just beer.

For me this collection lives right on the edge of worth the money or not. Each person has to make their own decision. I like the two specific recipes mentioned above. A number of others didn't match up with the expectations established by the high-end presentation. Perhaps the best thing I can suggest is consider the table of contents and find out how many of the recipes are new to your kitchen. Of course thumbing through a hard copy may also tell you if you want to purchase the volume for yourself.

Mr. Wilkinson's Vegetables: A Cookbook to Celebrate the Garden
Matt Wilkinson
Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers
151 West 19th Street
New York, NY 10011
9781579129347, $27.95,

Anchovies, Intrigue, and Garden Envy

The fun of Mr. Wilkinson's Vegetables starts at the title, continues through the whimsical, interesting layout, and on through the recipes. I found the book entertaining, engaging and sometimes confusing. I enjoyed the informative, information charming graphics surrounded by plenty of white space to highlight the artistic quality of the images.

I marked many recipes for testing, the "Carrot Cake" still waits completion due to a sudden summer heat wave and busy work schedule putting me off heating up the kitchen. A number of other recipes did make for fabulous summer tasting. The "Grated Carrot, Preserved Lemon, Raisin, & Ginger Pickle" recipe demonstrated flexibility in pairing. We tasted it alone and added it to some pork lettuce cups. The contrast supported the slow-roasted pork.

Another recipe will definitely be making an appearance at my next event. "Horseradish Wafers" is stunning. Somewhere between a frico, a cracker, and one of those shouldn't-be-good-but-truly-is combinations. The type of recipe justifying the purchase of an entire cookbook for one bit of inspiration and useful result. This one has many applications and potentially limitless tweaks to customize your recipe.

A few couple odd items also stood out. Some of the oddities appear to express the author's current creative phrase. I found a significant number of recipes used anchovies and/or coriander. A reflection of local and empire influences from the British Isles? Sure. At the same time, I tasted recipes that would do well with a reduced amount of coriander. Anchovies also make frequent appearances. As I'm not a fan of tinned fish, this ingredient stood out significantly.

The recipe for a "Salad of Radish, Figs, Walnuts, and Blue Cheese" created a tasty melange of greens and vegetables. The dressing recipe accompanying the salad turned out to be the favorite thing discovered so far in the cookbook.

"English Cream Dressing" was a lovely contrast for the salad. We ate the salad with a St. Jorge Verdeho wine. They were complimentary components. The dressing recipe is another one I'll keep on hand. I'm already planning on trying the dressing with a spinach salad with orange segments.

Cookies & Cream: Hundreds of Way to Make the Perfect Ice Cream Sandwich
Tessa Arias, Photographer: Allan Penn
Running Press
2300 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103-4371
9780762447671, $18.00,

Fun and Sometimes Tricky

The concept of this book is great for the creative home cook. Mix and match cookies with homemade ice creams to create your perfect ice cream sandwich. Of course you can follow Arias' combinations to begin your explorations. I found a number of recipes that intrigued me. Overall I had better results with the cookie recipes than with the ice cream offerings.

Of the cookie recipes I tested, the Brown Sugar Cookies and Molasses Cookies were easy to make. One of the things I like about the cookie recipes is the size. Each one is geared to make about 20 cookies. Even just for the cookie recipes, I found this book worth keeping on my shelf. So many older recipes make much larger batches. Few of us need four dozen cookies on a regular basis these days.

Two cookie recipes received rave reviews from my taste testers. First, the Tiramisu Cookie is really interesting. This recipe doesn't cook up like a typical cookie, but don't give up. When you taste it the texture is remarkably like the lady finger cakes used to make Tiramisu. I didn't expect this result. With the espresso powder in the cookie you truly get most of the experience of eating the classic dessert from our Italian restaurants.

The Mascarpone Ice Cream to go with the cookie was very difficult. I tried the recipe a couple times and different ways. Consistently the flavor was great and perfect with the matched cookies. However, I never did get the recipe to actually churn up like ice cream. Each time I ended up freezing the ice cream cylinder separately, in fact one time the ice cream maker ran for over 6 hours and the ice cream barely responded. We gladly ate the frozen and then barely thawed product. Although disappointed that it didn't "work" one of my guests who is allergic to eggs at least got to join us in eating the frozen Mascarpone mixture. I still wonder if no eggs and no cooking simply made it too difficult to get the desired result. Likely I will play with this recipe further to tweak it the way I want it to work.

The winner, however, was the recipe for Peanut Butter Cookies. After a bit people wanted the extra cookies without the ice cream on them. With so many recipes to taste, I made smaller portions. This recipe made great results and everyone enjoyed it.

The presentation of the book is good overall. I prefer a cleaner layout. Many cookbooks today put one recipe on each page. Likely to save some space, the recipes for cookie/ice cream combinations are placed immediately following each other. I flipped pages more than I prefer when working through a book. By contrast I love the pictures. You will definitely feel inspired by the photographs; they made my mouth water.

With the different elements of the book, I have to give it a middle rating. The cookie recipes were great. The ice cream recipes didn't always work for me. Enticing photographs paired with a layout that was occasionally annoying. So while there are some real winners in this book as a whole it fell in the middle of the pack for me.

Heidi Sue Roth

Janet's Bookshelf

The City Of Women
David R. Gillham
Amy Einhorn Books
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399157769, $16.00 pbk / $8.89 Kindle,

Does good ever triumph over evil or does that only happen in books? Goodness was strictly rationed in Second World War Berlin, evil, always available in the greyness of the bombed city's unlit buildings, streets and laneways, was a house specialty at Gestapo Headquarters.

David R. Gilham uses war torn Berlin as a backdrop for his debut thriller, City Of Women. It's 1943 and with all able bodied men at the front, the women of Berlin's daily routines are taken up with queuing for ever decreasing amounts of fresh food, milk and fuel. They live in an environment of fear as the British bombing raids become more frequent, the civilian death toll rises, the sky lit by flames from burning buildings.

Ten thousand Jewish people are working in Berlin factories, saved from extermination in concentration camps by laboring to meet the requirements of the German war machine. The Nazi Party propaganda that Germany is winning the war no longer believed by anyone; Jewish factory workers and their families are blamed for the reversal of Germany's military prospects. Patently ridiculous (nobody ever said Nazis were smart just evil) as the starving Jew's labour is important to the war effort they are rounded up and transported to concentration camps.

Sigrid Schroeder, the novel's main character, is a hausfrau whose husband, Kaspar, is fighting on the Eastern front. Sigrid is a good German. A good German, not unusual in 1943 Berlin, is someone who obeys the rules, doesn't get involved in politics and averts their eyes if something unpleasant happens, particularly if the something unpleasant concerns a Jew.

She lives with her mother-in-law, a Nazi Party member, who does her best to make Sigrid's life a misery. The two women bicker constantly, Sigrid's only escape, the nearby picture theatre. Seated night after night in the back row she meets Egon and is beguiled by his charming passionate nature. They start an affair and Egon reveals a shocking secret - he is Jewish. Egon tells Sigrid about his wife and daughters and his hope to escape Germany. If the lovers are discovered they will be executed. Sigrid, sex with husband Kaspar almost non-existent, for the first time in her life is in love, she will risk any fate to be with Egon.

One evening while waiting for Egon, Sigrid is asked by a young girl, Erica, who works as a home help in her apartment block for help; she is being followed by the police. Erica is a member of a Jewish escape network and little by little Sigrid is drawn into a dangerous shadowy world where Jews are hidden until papers can be forged to provide them with a safe travel route to Switzerland.

Egon disappears and Sigrid becomes increasingly involved in the escape network; risking everything to help a Jewish woman and her two daughters, she is determined they will find sanctuary in Switzerland. Sigrid, a complex character, at times selfish and self-serving is no saint, she starts an affair with a German Intelligence Officer who lives in her apartment block.

Egon re-appears and they resume their affair, but who is he really and what has he had to do to survive the Gestapo's murderous attention? Everyone has secrets, there's no black or white, only a grey that dependent on your point of view could be right or could be wrong. David Gillham poses the question at the end of The City Of Women: What would you have done? Would you have been a 'good German' or would you, like Sigrid, have risked everything to help Jewish people? Nazis, a party of thugs, sadistic murderers and professional thieves; their doctrine of Aryan Principles a sham to cover the systematic theft of Jews and dissident's money and property, I hope I would have had the courage to help.

I held my breath reading the last chapters, seriously thrilling. I really wanted a good outcome for Sigrid and Erica. The setting and characters in The City Of Women, wonderfully well-crafted - wartime thoroughfares of Berlin under the watchful eyes of the Gestapo, terrifying to the hunted tragic Jews and anyone else who raises a hand in protest, are described in chilling detail. I did find that a little too much was made of Sigrid and Egon's sexual encounters. Love/sex is grand but not so much if it's repetitious. This is my only quibble with a thriller that was suspenseful, vividly exciting and at times, desperately sad.

David Gillham, a good writer who is going to be great - City of Women is an immensely satisfying read.

A Man Of Indeterminate Value
Ron Felber
Barricade Books
2037 Lemoine Ave. Suite 362
Fort Lee, NJ 07024
9781569804902, $16.95 pbk /$7.69 Kindle

A Man Of Indeterminate Value is a big boys adventure story. Big girls might like it as well. I did. Jack Madsen, the main character in Ron Felber's corporate thriller, hates his wife, the company he works for and the lifestyle he has to lead to keep his debt ridden existence from spiraling into a vortex which doesn't have an exit sign. I did though, find it hard to empathise with Jack's disgust with corporate corruption; somehow it didn't seem appropriate for him to pontificate about corporate raiders that buy profitable businesses, strip them of everything of value, sack the workforce then move on to another dirty deal when he was stealing patents from the company he works for and selling them to a Hong Kong middleman to fund his 'life after death' bank account.

While not a man of great moral fibre, Jack is intelligent and something deep within his psyche tells him he has to make a break from a loveless marriage with a wife, Jennifer, who spitefully maxes out credit cards to keep him chained to a job he detests. Jennifer's father, a retired judge with links to the Mafia, Jack knows that escaping both his wife and father-in-law won't be easy but he has to do it or surrender to drug fueled despair.

Jack's escape route? He will plan his own death at sea ensuring that although his body isn't found, the yacht he is solo sailing in stormy weather will be - an accidental death scenario accepted by his wife, the cops and anybody else that matters. Jennifer and his small daughter will be provided for by a 5 mil insurance policy payable on his death. Meanwhile, Jack will be far away in Mexico living on the profits from the stolen patents.

A Man Of Indeterminate Value is written in a slick genre style; not a bad thing as it's really exciting and the slickness reflects Jack's life of expense account funded sex, booze and drugs - work interrupting the parties and the prostitutes. Ron Felber is a visually graphic writer and it's not hard to believe that similar to his television series 'Mob Doctor', A Man Of Indeterminate Value will also be filmed.

The story starts at the end - Jack has been shot and seeks sanctuary with the Catholic Brothers at the school he attended as a teenager. After he stage managed his death, things didn't always go as planned and Jack is sure he is being pursued by Phials, the insurance assessor assigned to investigate whether his accidental death was faked. The Brothers supply Jack with a computer and sure Phials is only one step behind, he types the story of his fraudulent death and the actions he took to begin a new life.

The back story unfolds and the reader learns that while Jack's death didn't go off without a hitch or three, his plan to disappear in Mexico works. Jack, not a good judge of character, the guy he relied on to move his money into foreign bank accounts double-crosses him. Beaten up and near penniless, Jack doesn't have any option but to return to the US and with his hot babe girlfriend in tow, try his luck at stealing another patent from the company where he had previously been employed.

Jack's narrative with asides to Phials is a suspenseful, gripping tale with unexpected twists which kept me turning pages really fast.

As seems to be the norm for Jack, the end of his story doesn't turn out as expected but it does leave the way open for another Jack Madsen thriller - A Man Of Indeterminate Value was an exciting fun read, like to read the next in the series.

Janet Walker, Reviewer

Katherine's Bookshelf

Days of the Harbinger
Alex Cord
Timber Creek Press
9780989122023, $16.99,

"Harbinger - one that indicates or foreshadows what is to come; a forerunner." Definition of harbinger according to

Alex Cord's book, Days of the Harbinger, tells the story of Johnny Grant, a well-known and respected actor and activist who would like to change the world. He and two friends are 'abducted' or at least disappear for three days. Mr. Cord's contradictory premise is that an alien has come in peace and wants to use Johnny as the conduit to help change what is happening on earth. Or WAS HE actually abducted? Mr. Cord interlocks adventure, excitement and romance to weave a fascinating story that will keep you guessing. Johnny's friends have their own opinions about what happened to him. Even the two friends who were purportedly taken with him are convinced, and then doubt that it happened, then...

"Within two hours the news of the disappearance of movie star Johnny Grant and his friends was all over Australian radio and television and had been picked up by United Press International wire service."

Mr. Cord is a master at description and characterization. He plots his story with meticulous precision and detail. He shows empathy with his portrayal of all of the characters in the story. He gives us an insider's view of the entertainment business in the day-to-day lives of the characters and a detailed look at how something like this could happen. Alex Cord is a former actor, best known for his portrayal of Archangel in Airwolf, a well-known TV series. His acting career also included roles in Mission Impossible and Walker, Texas Ranger. His previous book, A Feather in the Rain, won the Glyph Award for best popular fiction in 2007. It will soon be produced as a motion picture.

He is a serious horseman and has raised millions for children's hospitals throughout the country through the "Chukkers for Charity Polo Team" that he founded. He also supports a therapeutic riding program, "Ahead With Horses" for young people who are physically and mentally challenged. He lives in North Texas on his horse ranch with his wife Susannah, who is also a great dressage horse trainer.

Snugg the Bug in a Rug: Treasure Lost and Found
Robert McFarland, author
Rama Dixit, illustrator
Privately Published
9780991970612, $12.95 (Canadian dollars)

Robert McFarland [author] and Rama Dixit [illustrator] have teamed up to produce a wonderful book for children. The story is one that children will want to read over and over again. The illustrations are so bright and cheerful that you as well as your child will be captivated with them.

"Hi. I'm Snugg the Bug. I live in a rug,
And inside my rug, I'm warm, safe and snug.
It's sunny and bright, a nice winter day,
I'm ready for spring and wish it were May."

Snugg leaves the safety and warmth of his rug in the old house to play with all of his friends; the spiders, Itsey and Bitsey and the mice, Doc, Jake and Sadie, who live in the house, too. They decide to go exploring and discover a mysterious treasure. While they are investigating, the "bad guys" show up - Skatt, the Rat and Doug, the Slug. Can the six friends deal with them in a very positive and show them the error of their ways? You must read this book to find out.

I recommend this book to children for the sweet story, the rhyming and the beautiful illustrations. It will remind children that friends are important and working together is how to get a job done. Actually, parents will love reading this book to their children (and might even sneak a peek on their own).

You can get the book through the Snugg the Bug website,, as well as Chapters, Peterborough; The Avid Reader, Cobourg; and Furby House in Port Hope, in Canada. It is not available in the United States, yet.

Robert McFarland was educated at George Brown College in Toranto, Ontario Canada. He was a handyman for over 20 years, helping seniors to stay in their homes as long as possible. When he retired, he began advanced his poetry writing. He now lives in Peterborough, Ontario, Canada, where he has spent most of his life.

Rama Dixit lives in Mumbai, India and is a self-taught illustrator. She has been an artist since childhood and was mentored by Mr. D.H. Kunte, who taught her how to paint.

"My initial works were for greeting cards, pharmaceutical visual aids and other stationery works. But that was not enough. I wanted to do something more creative and expand the line of my work." She made a conscious effort to specialize in children's work, because reaching children's emotions was a big challenge.

Katherine Boyer

Logan's Bookshelf

The Depression Doctor: 10 Simple Paths to Happiness
Dr. Nick Krasner
9781909593275 $21.99

General practitioner Dr. Nick Krasner applies his extensive clinical experience in treating depression to The Depression Doctor: 10 Simple Paths to Happiness. A disclaimer warns that The Depression Doctor is emphatically not a substitute for the care of a qualified physician or psychologist, nor it is it a self-treatment manual for depression. Instead, it is meant to help those who suffer from depression better understand their condition, their options for treatment, and helpful basic lifestyle improvements. "Having a stable sugar level is important in maintaining a happy mind. I suggest eating long-acting carbohydrates, such as brown rice or pasta, and wholemeal bread, in preference to sugar in drinks, chocolate bars, and processed food that has high amounts of sugar. Replace these cravings with fruit instead." The Depression Doctor is an excellent supplementary read for anyone struggling with the burden of depression, highly recommended.

The Russian Blonde
Beth Swan
PM Company
c/o RMA Associates
9781475106428 $TBA

Part erotic passion, part hard-boiled murder mystery, The Russian Blonde is gritty novel of "The Marriage Detective" series featuring St. John, a dapper Englishman under the effects of a 400-year-old gypsy curse. If he does not sate his growing lust with a woman before the rise of the full moon, the curse will claim his life! St. John has the misfortune to become entangled with a blonde, Russian widow whose husband died under the most suspicious of circumstances. When St. John is unjustly framed for the murder, he must navigate a web of blackmail, a cantankerous Russian mobster, and the wiles of a consummate seductress in this exciting and sensual adventure!

Carl Logan

Lois' Bookshelf

License to Lie
Terry Ambrose
Oak Tree Press
170 E. Palmer St., Taylorville, IL 62568
9781610090513, $15.95,

This author says in his introduction: "License to Lie lets two characters who look at the world very differently tell the story of how a kidnapping and $5 million con forced them to wonder that would happen if you couldn't trust a soul...even your own."

This is exactly what the story does. The narrative alternates POVs, giving us that of criminal minded Roxy Tanner, who plans to make her getaway with the 5 mil, no matter that she may in the process hurt elderly investors and her own devoted parents, and of Skip Cosgrove, who's falling in love with her and is determined to save her from her folly. The tension between these two characters, with their very different goals and outlook on life, provides an ongoing thread which weaves through the surface mystery of kidnappings and convoluted criminal activities. And through it all, the reader is never entirely sure if the truth is as Skip sees it, as Roxy sees it, or none of the above. Roxy seems somehow involved in the events, but is she enabling them or fighting them? The puzzle grows until the reader wants to shout at Skip, "Leave her to heaven!" You can't help someone who doesn't want to be helped...or can you? Be prepared to have second thoughts about everyone and everything in this intriguing story.

No matter, we just want to solve the mystery, and sort out the rights and wrongs of it later. The action is breathless and non-stop, making the book a page-turner and a must-read. The tension heightens as each POV character becomes involved in the plot until it's life-threatening.

License to Lie is not a conventional murder mystery and it does not follow the usual formulas. Terry Ambrose is breaking new ground and proving that there are new directions for mysteries to take. Characters and situations are fresh, and there is a strong sense of place focusing on the coastal community of Carlsbad, California. This one is highly recommended.

A Bed of Red Flowers: in search of my Afghanistan
Nelofer Pazira
Free Press
c/o Simon and Schuster, Inc.
1230 Avenue of the Americas
New York, N.Y. 10020
9780743281331, $24.99,

"Search" is the operative word in this title. A combined autobiography and history of Afghanistan, the book is indeed a search for a nebulous something called a country. There is a point on the map called Afghanistan, but it this moment there may well be a question as to whether, any time soon, it can become a sufficiently cohesive unit to warrant the name nation. Among those left alive after the many years of turmoil, Soviet invasions, Taliban rule, American invasions, there seems to be no consensus by any two groups as to what sort of country it ought to be. We hear much about how our activities have "destabilized" the places we've messed with, but for most of us the word doesn't bring to mind any clear picture of the devastation we helped to cause.

This book spells it out, almost moment by moment.

Of course, we meant well - presumably. We heard horror tales of the way the Taliban was treating women, and wanted to rush to the rescue. We didn't realize that the Mujahidin waiting to jump in and fill the gap might be just as bad. We thought we were bringing Democracy, and we didn't know that you can't have a Democracy among people who are simply too rigid to yield any part of their power to others. Democracy is not something you can step into overnight; it requires non-stop compromise, and that's a lesson learned only after many years of struggle to comprehend other points of view. We didn't fully grasp how that works until we watched our own Congress become locked up by a no-compromise group of legislators.

Many years ago, before the Russian invasion, Afghanistan was moving in the direction of Western freedoms. Educated parents were educating their children in excellent academies. The author, Nelofer Pazira, describes the school she attended, where the young people reveled in literature and poetry. It all ended when the Russians took over the county, and teenaged Nelofer joined the Mujahidin to fight the invasion. The country she wanted back was the one she'd grown up in, the country of learning and poetry and women's rights. But war changes people, and when she finally fled with her family to a place where the Mujahidin were in power, they were not her sort of people at all. They were rigid Shi'ites who didn't believe in women's freedom or women's education.

The Russians finally gave up the battle and departed. With cities destroyed and the government in chaos, the Taliban was the one group sufficiently organized to take over. It rapidly gained strength and power. The Pazira family fled even further - to Canada this time. But Nelofer couldn't give up on Afghanistan and kept going back. Most of her extended family were dead, the victims of battles they hadn't wanted to fight or of mass killings by one or another group trying to take control. Her best friend had committed suicide, unable to endure the limitations placed on women.

Though the author doesn't go on to describe the American presence, she anticipates our failure to right the many wrongs. The narrative ends when Hamid Karzai has come into power. Examining the then-current state of affairs (from inside a burka because she feels safer there), Pazira sees little promise for the future. She allots blame more or less uniformly among the fighting parties, including Americans. The book becomes more of a threnody for a lost nation than a guideline to a possible future. Clearly, there is no easy solution, and this author does not attempt to suggest one. Many wise heads will be needed to figure that one out.

Lois Wells Santalo

Margaret's Bookshelf

Mystical Faery Folk: Look for the Signs
Joy Lynnette Smith, author/ photographer
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781477242285, $24.99 (pb),

"Mystical Faery Folk" is a sensitive collection of narrative poems/ meditations inspired by beautiful natural settings and the author's sensitivity to communications from the Devic realms. Each poem is accompanied by a lovely color photograph of the site being contemplated. Lessons are suggested in the interaction between humans and Nature, with ways of caring for the forested, natural setting. The author has been aware of contact with such beings as gnomes, fairies, and others in the Devic Realms since she was a child. Her goal is to communicate ways to use positive energy to work to heal and improve a balanced relationship between human and the natural world. "Mystical Faery Folk" contains actual photos of sites in nature in England, an other places. Sometimes the reader is taken on a transition from a real observable world to a magical place, where a fairy garden is not only possible but a reality. The wisdom of trees, flowers, leaves, and stones is conveyed through special messengers from the Devic Realms. A reader can benefit from an enriched awareness of life and nature and the power of imagination to heal and communicate.

Magyar Origins
Frank Sandor
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781479141944 $26.95

Magyar Origins is an in-depth explorations of what the latest linguistic and DNA research has to say about the origins of pre-Christian Hungarian people, who call themselves Magyars. Nothing that Hungarians do not have a genetic marker found in all other Uralic language speakers - countering a widely held belief that Hungarians were part of an east-to-west Uralic migration - Magyar Origins instead traces genetic connections between Hungarians and the people of Southern Pakistan/Northern India, as both populations have a high concentration of members belonging to the genetic haplogroup R1a1a. Magyar Origins offers a reasonable hypothesis that Hungarian and its related languages of Finnish and Estonian are related to Sanskrit, working out a proposed linguistic law that affected how Sanskrit words were absorbed into Hungarian. A finely researched blend of genealogy and language studies, Magyar Origins presents a strong and well-reasoned case.

A New View of an Old Horizon
Dena M. Bedsole
Arbor Books, Inc.
9780615759791 $14.95

A New View of an Old Horizon is the honest memoir of a daughter's year in search of balance in her life, while her father fought a losing battle with pancreatic cancer. Divided between her responsibilities as wife, mother, and caretaker for her dying father, her faith in the Lord was her greatest anchor in trying times. "The purpose of this book was never to tell people that with God the pain disappears; it hasn't been true for me, and even if it were, I would never proclaim it was the truth for another. My purpose in writing this is to help others understand that God not only brings you through the painful times, He also uses them to deliver His grace." Powerful and emotional, A New View of an Old Horizon bears an invaluable message of hope, and is especially recommended as a comfort to readers stricken with grief for their loved ones.

Margaret Lane

Marjorie's Bookshelf

APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur - How to Publish a Book
Guy Kawasaki and Shawn Welch
Nononina Press
3300 Hillview Avenue, Suite 150
Palo Alto, CA 94304
9780988523111, $24.99 pb., $9.99 Kindle,

APE is a tremendous help for anyone considering self-publishing. Since I publish my own books, I found the tips, comparisons, and recommendations extremely useful. Kawaski writes with humor and is straightforward in laying out the steps necessary to self-publish a book, including but not limited to design, layout, editing, financing, covers, distribution as well as marketing. (Welch is the geek of the team and was involved more in the layout of the book.) The book has around 400 links which on a Kindle is really great because the reader merely touches the link, and it takes you to the web site being cited. That alone makes it worth buying the Kindle version. Kawasaski includes many charts and photos to demonstrate his points, one of which is to use bulleted lists to make the book easier to read. His advice would be most helpful to those interested in publishing a non-fiction book. I publish fiction books, and this book gave me a much clearer picture of what I want to do to publish my next book and gave me great ideas on how to market my books. Kawasaki is pro Google, which was fine with me as I want to learn more about Google and their product offerings like Google Plus and Google Player. I love cruising around the Kindle version and re-reading the sections I found most helpful. The best chapter for me was Chapter 21, How to Navigate Amazon. He succinctly lays out the myriad of programs that Amazon offers, which gave me new ideas of how to take advantage of their offerings, like serialization of a book and publishing through Kindle Singles. This is a must have book to read and keep on your self-publishing reference shelf.

The Fine Print of Self-Publishing, fourth edition
Mark Levine
Bascom Hill Publishing Group
2123 Ave North, Suite 290
Minneapolis, MN 55401
9781935098737, $16.95 pb., Kindle Edition: $7.69,

The subtitle of this book reads Everything you need to know about the costs, contracts and process of self-publishing, and Mark Levine does an excellent, comprehensive job of covering these topics. This is a detailed how-to book. In chapters one through six he lays out the basics of print self-publishing, stuff you need to read over and over, the nine qualities of a good self-publishing company (this chapter alone is worth the price of the book), and the fine print of publishing contracts. Since he's been a lawyer he has a detailed analysis of what you need to look at in any contract you sign. He is also a business man and astute marketer of his own self-publishing company ( In chapters seven to twelve he rates twenty-three self-publishing companies, seven of which he rates outstanding and two he rates pretty good. He goes into detail on each company evaluated as to what to expect, what their packages and pricing are, and the pluses and minuses of each. He emphasizes many times the need to have your book well-edited by a professional because a poorly edited book is not worth the time and money it will take to self-publish it. He advises to be sure to know who your audience is and to have a well-designed cover because this goes a long way to selling the book. Among other well-taken advice, he says to make sure the markup on printing the book is reasonable, make sure you are getting fair royalties, and be sure you can get your original production files back in the event you decide not to use an author services company. The book focuses on print self-publishing which Levine says from a reputable self-publishing company might cost from $1,000 to $5,000. The book is well-written, Levine is very honest about what he knows and doesn't know, and he writes with straight talk humor. I bought the Kindle edition, and it was easy to navigate to chapters, to foot notes and to links on the web. There's an added benefit when you reach the conclusion. Read this book and keep it on your self-publishing resource shelf.

Publish a Book!: Compare over 50 Self-Publishing Companies
J. Steve Miller
Wisdom Creek Press, LLC
5814 Sailboat Point NW, Acworth, Georgia 30101
9780981875668, $6.99 pb., $0.99 Kindle,

This is a slim volume, just 120 pages in paperback, but it is packed with information. Miller compares the options for self-publishing by using Createspace and Lightning Source as a basis for comparison of other self-publishers. He covers similarities, differences, publishing costs, royalties, cost of author copies, and distribution. He covers e-book publishing options and clarifying fuzzy language. He emphasizes the need to understand the implication of various terms in a contract and covers other important aspects of self-publishing like pricing. He includes at the end a check list of essential questions for a Publishers/Printer, a small section on marketing, and a resource list of helpful links for further study. Of the three books I read to prepare for a workshop I taught on publishing a book and which I review here for Midwest Book Review, what struck me was the difference in opinion of the three authors about what works and doesn't work in self-publishing. So I guess I have to recommend reading all three and then come to your own conclusion about what you want to do to self-publish a book.

Marjorie Thelen, Reviewer

Mayra's Bookshelf

Lakota Honor
Kat Flannery
Imajin Books
3715-14 Street NW
Edmonton, AB, Canada T6T 0H9
9781927792001, $13.99,

Lakota Honor is an exciting read filled with romance, drama, action, and elements of the paranormal.

It's the late 1800s, and Otakatay is a bounty hunter, a slayer of men and women. Embittered by the past, he's ruthless and unforgiving. Now his conscience haunts him day and night, and he believes himself to be evil, to be death itself.

Black-haired, blue-eyed beauty Nora Rushton is a healer, a gift that her father considers a curse and tries to keep secret from everyone around them. To protect her from those who would accuse her of witchcraft as they did her mother, he keeps her locked up in the house all day. But Nora feels like a bird in a cage and she wants to be free.

Then one day, in a twist of fate, she meets Otakatay, and she's instantly mesmerized by his looks and aura of danger, need, and hunger. Though he won't admit it at first, he's also taken by Nora's kind blue eyes - - but he warns her that she better stay away from him if she knows what's good for her. Also on the scene is Elwood Calhoun, a rich miner who will stop at nothing to possess Nora.

But then, the man who has been paying money to Otakatay to kill people has one last job for him, and this time he has put a price on Nora's head...

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this historical western romance. Nora is a very sympathetic heroine with a warm heart yet willful, feisty personality. Otakatay is the ultimate tortured soul, a man sunk in darkness and trying to find the light.

At first his past crimes put me off, but the author did a good job in revealing his feelings and showing his deep remorse, which eventually redeem him. It was interesting to watch his character arc evolve and change throughout the story.

There are quite a number of exciting action segments and the sensual scenes are written in good taste. I also enjoyed the ending, which revealed some unexpected story twists.

Recommended for fans of historical and western romances.

Mysterious Albion
Paul Leone
Privately Published
9781482739824, $8.99,

The Catholic Church fights the Legions of Hell in Mysterious Albion, Book I in Leone's Vatican Vampire Hunter series.

American college student Lucy Manning is visiting the London nightclub scene when she loses her best friend to a vampire. Traumatized by her friend's death as well as by the fact that she herself was almost killed, Lucy flights back to the States.

But soon after, she is visited by two members of the Church - Father Gelasius and Sister Anne - who make her an offer she can't resist.

Against her family's wishes, Lucy heads back to London and joins a secret society of vampire hunters. Together with Father Gelasius, Sister Anne, and two other young members like herself, Lucy begins to fight the vampires who haunt the streets of night-time London - of course, not without going through a tough training first.

As more innocent victims disappear, it becomes obvious that the situation is getting worse...for an ancient, powerful vampire has risen from her slumber, and she'll stop at nothing to shed rivers of blood upon the earth.

Mysterious Albion is an entertaining, thoroughly enjoyable read. I used to be a fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and this story, though different in many aspects, has a similar tone that will be relished by fans of the genre.

Lucy is a very real, sympathetic character, and Leone did an excellent job in bringing London and the English countryside to life.

I also especially enjoyed the traditional vampire lore where vampires are depicted as evil monsters and not sexy creatures - quite refreshing!

This is Catholic urban fantasy, so there's also a lot of religious references. However, I didn't find these detrimental to the plot.

Witty dialogue isn't lacking and there's a fair share of fun battle scenes.


Mayra Calvani

Peggy's Bookshelf

Written by Anna Olswanger
Illustrated by Miriam Nerlove
NewSouth Books
105 South Court Street
Montgomery, AL 36104
9781588382351, $17.95,

In 1946, 20 boys arrive at the yeshiva (Jewish school) in Brooklyn and the other students are not happy. The dorm rooms and classrooms are already crowded. But these boys are not ordinary students. They came all the way from Poland because their parents died in concentration camps.

This story focuses on Aaron, Ruben, and Bernie and their new roommate Daniel. The other boys nickname him "greenhorn" because he's the new kid. They call Aaron "Gravel Mouth" because he stutters. He feels a connection to Daniel because he doesn't speak English. Daniel's only possession is a tin box and everyone wants to know what's inside. When Aaron and his friends uncover the mystery they also learn a larger-than-life lesson in human suffering and hope.

Using common aspects of middle school life - friendship, fitting in, and bullying - Anna Olswanger creates a familiar setting to introduce young readers to the horrors of the Holocaust. Miriam Nerlove's warm illustrations portray life in the yeshiva with just the right touches of mood and presence. The back end glossary, plus the classroom and discussion guides found at Olswanger's website enhance the book's educational value. Above all, "Greenhorn" is a profoundly moving portrait of a painful part of human history.

The Stolen Dog
Tricia O'Malley
Park & Stowell Publishing
B00CWH55W2, $10.95 pbk / $6.99 Kindle

Briggs, a 2-year old Boston terrier was the light of Tricia and Josh O'Malley's lives. The day he was stolen from their deck in broad daylight in a Milwaukee neighborhood, their world was turned upside down. Tricia wasted little time shifting into high gear. She made use of her savvy marketing and social networking skills. She enlisted the help of friends to distribute thousands of flyers through Milwaukee neighborhoods. She broadcast Briggs' plight on Facebook. As the word spread, radio and TV stations contacted her. From then on the stolen dog story went viral.

Throughout the author's 17-day ordeal, she seemed to be led on a sort of spiritual journey, in which she witnessed human energy and psychic energy cross paths in some fascinating and unusual ways. Though she endured thoughtless deeds from all directions, a random act of kindness always appeared around the next corner. She surrounded herself by people who believed in her cause and she never gave up hope even when faced with a detour.

On a discouraging day that began with a park ranger chewing her out for posting flyers along the lakefront, Tricia was contacted by a man who said he found a Boston terrier that might or might not be her dog. She didn't find Briggs that time. But she did find a frightened young Boston terrier in dire need of rescue - and an emotional dilemma. Would helping the rescue pup take away from her search for Briggs?

Even though Briggs is absent from the scene, O'Malley affectionately peppers the narrative with enough memories of his quirks and habits to get readers rooting for him. But the little rescue pup totally steals the show. "The Stolen Dog" is an inspiring true story of one woman's spunky determination to step through invisible, inner-city cultural barriers to bring back her beloved Briggs.

Gem City Gypsy
Kristen Kuhns Alexandre
Sisterhood Publications
180 North 1100 East, Unit 60
Washington, UT 84780
9780967786896, $0.99 Kindle,

In 1915, Neci Stans fled Dayton, Ohio and her Gypsy heritage only to fall victim to a series of unfortunate incidents including the sinking of the Lusitania and the European invasion by the Germans. A changed, more refined woman, she returns to Dayton two years later as Neci Star. But unexplained visions and old flames complicate her plans for a new life. Neci quickly becomes entangled with Dayton's upper crust in a web of lies, deceit, and intrigue while World War I looms and the Ku Klux Klan runs roughshod through the countryside. Kristin Alexandre's sexy, fast-paced novel is unlike any historical fiction you've ever read. But I warn you, "Gem City Gypsy" takes you over the cliff and leaves you hanging, a sure sign of more thrills to come.

Peggy Tibbetts, Reviewer

Sandra's Bookshelf

The Disillusioned
D.J. Williams
Westbow Press
c/o Thomas Nelson Publishers
PO Box 141000, Nashville, TN 37214
9781449786007, $24.95,

The back of this book will tell you a lot about the story that lies within. But you could never imagine what will happen. While it is a work of fiction there is so much truth in it. It is a book that will haunt me the rest of my life.

This is one of the best books I have read in this genre. The way it is thought out and crafted is brilliant. Right from the start you realize it will not be a book you will want to set aside and do other things. For me it was read as much as I can. I even cried at parts of the story.

The atrocities you will read about are happening in different countries every day. My heart breaks whenever I read about children and adults being tortured.

The author gives us a great story that is filled with realism. Thank you D.J. Williams for working so hard and opening our minds to things we know happens, but do not think about enough.

Rated PG

A Rendezvous to Die For
Betty McMahon
Lulu Publishing
3101 Hillsborough Street
Raleigh, NC 27607-5436
9781257931323, $15.98 pbk / $2.99 Kindle,

This book has more twist and turns than apples falling off a tree at harvest time. I had to stop and write down who and what each character played out in the story. I enjoyed the heroin Cassidy and how she tried to handle whatever was thrown her way.

I love the descriptions of the weekend reenactment in the fictional town. The author hits the mark on that. I have been to one myself and could not do a better job than the author has. Plus the way she describes everything around her is interesting. Even though the ending of this book will surprise you, in my own opinion this is not a five star book.

I could not just sit and enjoy reading. I would have to look at my list to see who was who. Or add to my list. If I could go 3.75 I would, but since I can't then I will bump this book to a four stars. I can see how Cassidy could solve even more mysteries from this book.

Kim Vogel Sawyer
Barbour Publishing, Inc.
P.O. Box 719, Uhrichsville, Ohio 44683
9781620297209, $11.99,

After doing so many reviews for people, there comes a point where I need to read a book that gives me "SOUL", food. This book did not let me down. It is a fast read about a young Mennonite girl named Marie who falls in love with young man who is a truck driver. She runs away with him and together they are happy. But after two years of marriage and one baby her husband dies.

She returns to her parent's house and she is meant by her father who tells her to leave. That she is dead to him. She could never be a part of the community again. She is devastated and leaves with her young daughter.

Only one relative keeps in contact with her and it is her single aunt Lisbeth. Marie named her daughter after her, but calls her Beth. Then one day Marie's ex-beau Henry Braun showed up at her home bearing bad and good news. Her aunt has died, and left her home and a small cafe to her daughter Beth. There is but one catch and that is she has to move back to Sommerfeld, Kansas for three months.

What happens next is really life changing.

Rated G

Sandra Heptinstall

Suzie's Bookshelf

Blind Attraction
A.C. Warneke
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781481807982, $10.95,

James Templeton lives the perfect life; from running his successful design business, to possessing the sex appeal that allows him to have the most beautiful women in the world at his command. One evening he planned to meet with some friends, as he passed a book store he caught a glimpse of one of the most beautiful women in his life. He felt an immediate attraction to her, and promised that when he had more time, he would return to the store and properly introduce himself.

James plans to meet the enchantress was delayed when he is involved in a car accident that renders him blind. The doctors were unsure if his loss of sight was permanent. He refuses to allow his medical condition to slow him down; he decides to use his blindness to his advantage and return to the store to where he had seen the beautiful woman.

James enters into the bookstore under the pretense he had made the mistake of entering into the wrong store. There he is greeted by a voice that he feels is from the same woman he previously had seen in the store whose image has been a constant reminder in his mind. He learns that her name is Victoria Davis, and she is on the verge of opening her own bookstore.

Victoria has always dreamed of having her own business. Her dreams are about to become a reality as her grand opening for her book store is fast approaching. As she is preparing for the day, a man enters into her store. From the moment she sees him she feels an instant attraction to him. She is ecstatic to see that he also seems to share the same interest in her. When he asks her out she immediately accepts his offer.

As James and Victoria get the chance to get to know one another will it be everything that each one of them expects? Will their new found love be strong enough to have a fairy tale happy ending?

BLIND ATTRACTION is an exceptional romance! How James and Victoria's relationship develops appeals to the most diehard romance fan. I was especially impressed at how the author intertwined the concept that what you see is often not what you receive.

Masked Cowboy (Men of the White Sandy Book 2)
Sarah M. Anderson
Samhain Publishing, Ltd
9781619217379, $4.24 Kindle

Three years ago, Jacob Plenty Holes has been unable to stop the senseless act of his friend's deaths. He was unsure of what had actually killed them, or how he had suffered the devastating injury that cost him half of his face. He hides the damage behind a mask to keep out the prying eyes of the town folk. His only priority is to keep the family's young daughter Kip safe. Since the horrific day, Kip has lived in a world of silence.

Mary Beth Hofstetter makes the decision to take her veterinary practice out west. She knows she has her work cut out for herself to prove she is worthy of being the towns new vet. She decides to stop in at a local diner for a meal. There she meets Jacob Plenty Holes, a Lakota cowboy. She learns that she will be working with him at the McGillis ranch.

Mary Beth is intrigued by Jacob, in his eye she sees a man who has suffered much hardship, but is still proud of is Lakota heritage. Jacob is captivated by Mary Beth's beauty but knows that he has nothing to offer her. Will Mary Beth convince him that his scars are invisible to her, for she can see past them and love the wonderful man that she sees?

MASKED COWBOY is one exceptional book! I was so impressed with Sarah M. Anderson's writing talent. How she crafted such a deeply emotional, high impact story is very impressive. Jacob and Mary Beth are characters you quickly fall in love with, the secondary characters of Kip and Robin make this book outstanding reading experience. Other titles in the Men of White series include:

In 9 Days
Red Phoenix
Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
PO Box 81207, Seattle, WA
$0.99 digital / $0.00 Kindle

It is Tessa's last year of high school and she is just a few days away from turning eighteen. When a transfer student enters into one of her classes she finds that she is intrigued by the newcomer. Kevin has suffered extensive burns on his face and body; his injuries are not accepted by his classmates.

Kevin is hiding a past he would rather not revisit. The visible burns and scars he has is nothing compared to the dark past he has experienced. His classmate's reaction to him is what he expected. There is only one girl he notices that doesn't look at him with repulsion.

Tessa is determined to get to know Kevin better. She makes it a point to single him out to get an opportunity to finally meet him. Kevin is stunned that such a beautiful girl as Tessa could be intrigued by his beastly appearance.

Will Tessa convince Kevin that her attraction to him is genuine? Can the two of them find a love that will carry them through time?

IN 9 DAYS is a wonderfully constructed young adult novel. Tessa and Kevin are characters your quickly fall in love with as you experience their growing attraction. Red Phoenix has done an outstanding job in this creation. How she interweaves a beauty and the beast theme is a work of a genius.

Suzie Housley

Teri's Bookshelf

Island of Wings
Karin Altenberg
Penguin Books
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, 4th floor
New York, NY 10014
0143120662, $15.00,

Most of us know very little about the island of Hirta, which is part of the St. Kilda archipelago, one of the Outer Hebrides, the islands off the northern part of Scotland. Hirta is isolated and in July of 1830 this was the destination of a missionary and his young wife. (The island was eventually evacuated in 1930 and is now used only for defense and conservation.)

The missionary for the Church of Scotland, Neil McKenzie, knew Gaelic and could communicate in words even though their life style, local customs, superstitions, and beliefs were all foreign to him. How could he teach these people to become modern, educated, spiritual people like those in Glasgow?

Unfortunately, his wife, Lizzie, knew no Gaelic. Being in a strange land with a different language, unusual customs and superstitions, and unsanitary living conditions, great challenged her as an expectant mother of their first child. Learning how to survive with what was available on the island along with little communication from anywhere else, made day-to-day living a challenge. What happens in the long winter months when there are no more birds for food? Added to this, most of the newborns died on the eighth day after their birth. Why?

Island of Wings is a fictionalized account of the real people who actually were the missionaries. Their experiences on this island has been documented. Karin Altenberg beautifully intertwined these events into this debut novel which feels like an act of love in describing the people, customs, and physical aspects of the island and creating a tale about how both Neil and Lizzie would have felt and reacted to this isolated culture. Her experience as a PhD in archeology shines through utilizing her studies for the information and the basis of survival. Understanding of the people of St. Kilda and how they would react to the organized religion which conflicted with their superstitions is outstanding in that the reader is discovering these people along with the characters.

Island of Wings is one of those rare gems which succeeds in interweaving the past events with real people into an act of becoming a wonderful and memorable tale.

Evil and the Mask
Fuminori Nakamura
Soho Press
853 Broadway, New York, NY 10003
9781616952129, $25.95 print / $12.99 Kindle,

"A Cancer", that is your purpose in the world.

When Fumihiro Kuki was eleven years old and living in present day Japan, his wealthy father told him that he was to carry on the family tradition and to become "a cancer". "I created you to be a cancer on the world." A cancer would be someone who attaches themselves to others as a parasite draining the life for their own personal gain. How would you react to this declaration?
For Fumihiro Kuki, being born into a wealthy family allowed him to receive extra tutoring to that he would excel in school. With no knowledge or evidence of his mother, his father chooses to be distant and unlovable. Doesn't money solve the problem of not being loved?

Living in this house with Fumihiro and his father are many servants and a young girl who is also in his class. Kaori attends school with Fumihiro and becomes his best friend and love of his life. Why is she living with them? It also seems that she is motherless. What is her connection to the family?

Evil and the Mask is about Fumihiro while he lives at home with his father and how he adjusts to life. After being cursed, Fumihiro enjoys his growing friendship with Kaori but begins to feel revengeful towards his father and this curse placed upon him. When opportunity for revenge occurs, he makes a well-planned decision that changes his life and his character.

As he begins his adult life, his family resemblance to his father makes him uncomfortable so he chooses to have his face changed through plastic surgery and taking on a new identity. This new identity causes Fumihiro problems since the original owner of this face quite probably murdered his girlfriend. By changing your appearance, can you change who you really are inside?

The author, Fuminori Nakamura has won the Oe Prize which is Japan's most prestigious literary award as well as numerous awards for his previous works, A Gun, The Boy in the Earth, and The Thief.

Evil and the Mask is an engrossing account of Fuminori and the choices of life. In some ways, the story reminds me of Hannibal in that the evil becomes norm. The story is violent, revengeful, and often disagreeable but it still contains that hypnotic voice that makes you want to read more.

The Bughouse Affair: A Carpenter and Quincannon Mystery
Marcia Muller and Bill Pronzini
c/o Tor/Forge Books
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780765331748, $24.99,

Sabina Carpenter as a former Pinkerton operative and John Quincannon, a former Secret Servie agent joined forces to establish their own private detective agencies in San Francisco during the 1890s. Unfortunately for the two, they are joined by the mysterious Sherlock Holmes, or a man pretending to be the supposedly deceased investigator. Or is Holmes alive and well and willing to help in San Francisco?

Sabina is in pursuit of a local pickpocket who preys on wealthy men. This female criminal usually attacks her victims by stabbing them in the side with her hat pin. While the victim is reacting to the pain, she quickly empty his pockets.

John is currently looking for a thief who prefers to break into the houses of prominent businessmen while they are out during the evening. He is employed by the insurance firm that happens to insure these wealthy homes. The company greatly prefers to hire the agency to retrieve the stolen goods rather than having to pay for the value of the stolen property.

Through past experiences both investigators examine the well-known culprits and decide to begin questioning the most likely candidates who have similar habits in continuing their criminal life.

John closely analyzes those who have already been robbed and notices a relationship which lets him conclude who the next victims might be. As he plans to watch for the thief at a particular house, he is joined by the legendary and annoying know-it-all Sherlock Holmes.

THE BUGHOUSE AFFAIR is a fast-paced, mystery novel alternating between the two investigators while they attempt to avoid the involvement of the supposedly dead and questionable Sherlock Holmes.

The story is realistic with problems and distractions for both Sabina and John while they continue in an organized and logical way. They have an unusual relationship which leads to tension between the two that could develop into a romance. However, with the past for both of them, caution is well understood. Who knows what looms in the future?

The authors, Marcia Muller and Bill Pronzini, are a husband/wife writing team with both being successful independently. Marcia Muller has written more than thirty-five novels and received the Mystery Writers of America's Grand Master Award in 2006. Bill Pronzini also received the Grand Master Award from the Mystery Writers in America in 2008 which makes the two, the only living couple to share this honor. Together they have written three previous novels.

The Bughouse Affair definitely demonstrates what two experienced award winning authors can do collaboratively. I look forward to more of these well-written novels with the delightful characters of John and Sabina in the future.

Keeper of Reign
Emma Right
Telemachus Press
5380 Gulf of Mexico Drive, Suite 105
Longboat Key, FL, 34228
9781939337696, $12.99,

What if we were long ago cursed and all our wisdom, history, and tradition was divided and recorded into five books? Naturally, the best way to keep the information safe would be to assign each of these books to five different people. Those whose families had the responsibilities of these books did not always know which other families were also keepers. This kept the books and people safe.

This curse turned our normal sized human selves into Elfies and also developed a technology for lanterns and an unusual relationship with dragonflies. And, the books, too, shrank when we did and needed to be safely hidden, for our enemies know without them we would be rendered eternally hopeless.

Jules Blaze is a sixteen-year-old boy with one younger brother and three sisters. As the eldest, he finds himself as heir of a Keeper, one who keeps the valued history of his people. With his father away fighting to keep their people safe, Jules reluctantly realizes his responsibilities to his siblings as their home in attacked since his mother is a Keeper.

Gehzurolle is the evil lord who possesses armies of Scorpents. He desires to possess the books of the five keepers in order to destroy the Eflies. So begins the race for Jules to find the books while keeping his family and friends safe and out of the hands of the dreaded Scorpents.

Emma Right resides in the Pacific West Coast where she home schools her five children. Previously she has successfully been employed by advertising agencies, winning numerous awards.

Keeper of the Reign is a fast-paced action adventure novel for all ages, even though it is considered to be a young adult fantasy novel. (This would be wonderful tale to read aloud to children at night with many short chapters and frequent cliffhangers.) There are no problems with bad language or inappropriate scenes, although there is some blood and violence with the children's quest to survive.

The story is well-written with characters who are complicated and often conflicted about their choices in considering the consequences of their actions. From page one, the story leaps into action never resting until the end with definite foresight of a possible sequel.

Keeper of Reign is a wonderful story for all ages as they join Jules on his quest to save his people.

Havana Lost
Libby Fischer Hellman
The Red Herrings Press
Chicago, Illinois
9781938733383, $16.99,

Coltan is a natural resource that most of us don't know much about. However, in today's society we are completely dependent upon this ore which is partially utilized in every cellphone and electronic device. Although it can be recycled, coltan is more economic to mine and is more valuable than gold. Because of the difficulty in extracting this ore and its limited availability, the value of this ore creates problems similar to the gold rush of many years ago.

Francesca Pacelli lives a life of privilege. She is the only child of a wealthy man who does have mafia connections and is the owner of the premier casino in Havana in the year 1958. With their close family ties in Chicago, there seems to be no limits to their power and influence.

As a teenager, she is accustomed to receiving admiring looks and has a steady relationship with a boy who attends an Ivy League school. Her future is definitely promising.

However 1958 in Cuba was not a settled time in the country with many rebels fighting the government of Batista.

Francisca's father realizes the possible danger in their country and makes plan for her to return to Chicago which seems like a foreign country to her. Francesca meets a rebel who is different from anyone she has ever met, falling in love. She runs away with this man, missing her flight to the states leaving her parents wondering where she is really living.

However, her father's people eventually find her, removing her as an unmarried pregnant woman to live in Chicago. She has no idea what has happened to the man she loves.

Havana Lost is the story of Francesca, her love, her former love, her son, his wife, and their daughter along with coltan. The pace is quick, well-organized, and enthralling. With utilizing real history into this fictionalized story, Libby Fischer Helllman has proved her expertise as a writer beyond the mystery genre.

Previously, Libby Fischer Hellman has written numerous mystery novels often combining social problems into a fictional story. As a Washington D.C. Native to her life today in Chicago, she has written numerous novels.

Havana Lost is a wonderful novel from the historical aspect completely immersing the reader into the life of those living in Cuba through their revolution.

A Cold White Sun
A Constable Molly Smith Mystery
Vicki Delany
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. First Ave., #103
Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781464201608, $14.95,

Spring Break is always a relief for students and teachers especially in ski communities like Trafalgar, British Columbia. These people can't wait to enjoy their winter activities in their home community.

The local police, the Canadian Mounties, realize that what is a relief for others frequently means more work for them.

A teacher takes her dog with her on her morning run with plans for her entire family to have breakfast together. They plan to be together and to enjoy the rest of the day skiing. However, when she is killed by a shot to the back of the head, all secrets if this family are quickly revealed.

Cathy Lindsay was a high school English teacher who also taught a writing class at the local college. She had a successful husband with an internet business and a son and daughter. Why would anyone want to kill her? Is this a case of mistaken identity?

For Constable Molly Smith and her superior, John Winters, their investigation begins with Cathy, her family, friends, colleagues, students, and anyone close to her. Quickly, it becomes apparent that Cathy did not have a happy marriage and was flirting with another teacher. Added to that, her husband has a mistress in another town who he financially supports and spends a week each month at their home. Does that mean that their lovers killer her?

A COLD WHITE SUN is a fast-paced mystery that makes you constantly wonder who actually killed Cathy and why. As a reader, you are with Molly throughout the investigation even as she frequently is assigned to menial tasks that don't directly lead to the murderer. Also, what is special are the daily life for Molly with her mother, her boyfriend, her possible boyfriend, and the challenge of her career interfering in her personal life.

Parallel to this investigation is the issue of adoption from both the perspective of the grown child and the parent who felt forced to give their child into another family. having a sense of belonging and always wanting more are often issues

Vicki Delany is retired from being a systems analyst for a financial firm. Now she lives as a writer of many mystery novels in Prince Edward County in Ontario, Canada. She has written numerous novels.

A COLD WHITE SUN captures the people and spirit of British Columbia, Canada. This mystery is well-developed and logically as each step in the investigation is revealed. With believable characters and real-life problems, this novel is a fast-paced mystery. I definitely look to more novels by this marvelous author.

Still Faithful
A Back to Omaha Adventure-Book Two
Jewell Tweedt
Amazon Digital Services
9781479209286, $7.99,

Near the end of the American Civil War, the Southern states were in the process of transporting gold bars to their treasury. Since the war ended, this treasure did not arrive at its intended destination but disappeared. So what happened to it?

Logically, one man probably could not have stolen all of it, but definitely could possess part of this wealth, enough to last him the rest of his life. President Grant wants and needs this money for the governmental debts of the war and assigns the task to recover the treasure to a Pinkerton agent.

Jason Reynolds is to work undercover as a deputy to the sheriff in Omaha where the likely suspect Cal Moore has some unfinished business. Cal intends to reunite with the woman who was his betrothed prior to the war. During a battle, Cal was shot in the leg. Since the common practice of the time was to amputate, he decided to take his chances and deserted. Fortunately, an older woman who lived in isolation, found him and nursed him back to health.

Unfortunately, Cal waited for three years before attempting to find his love, Claire. Besides his leg, he also suffered from a head injury which changed his personality. He did not even let his parents know that he was alive. Claire has moved on in her life, marrying the sheriff and giving birth to a daughter.

As a Pinkerton agent, Jason plans for this to be a temporary assignment. What he doesn't plan on is to discover his attraction to young shop manager, Arianna Quincy. However, Jason has a past that continues to haunt him. Can he get beyond the past for a new future?

Still Faithful is a Christian romance novel set in the frontier Omaha of the 1870s. These characters are realistic with the story line believable and well-organized.

Still Faithful is the second novel in this series by Jewell Tweedt. The story is easier to understand if the reader has read the first novel in the series, Faith of the Heart.

Jewell Tweedt works full-time as a middle-school history teacher . She was born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska while now residing and working in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

For those readers who enjoy a mix of romance and history, Jewell Tweedt writes a wonderful reflection of frontier life in Omaha.

Teri Davis

Theodore's Bookshelf

Night Terrors
Dennis Palumbo
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. 1st Ave., Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781464201295, $24.95,

The third Dan Rinaldi novel is a complicated tale, compounded by two unrelated story lines in which the psychologist overexerts his derring-do despite the fact that he's supposed to use his mental powers instead. The title refers to the reaction of a retired FBI profiler, Lyle Barnes, to the years of being exposed to the various horrors of interviewing serial killers. Barnes seems to be an interesting character, but unfortunately is less than fully developed, somehow playing a fleeting presence when necessary to move the plot forward.

To begin with, we learn of a series of murders of persons who played a role in the conviction of a serial murderer, first identified by Barnes, of prostitutes. The assassin appears to be acting on a list in some sort of progression. Dan is called in by the FBI as a consultant to treat Barnes' malady, placing him the middle of the investigation. Then Dan is confronted with a second case, that of a confessed killer whose mother claims he is innocent because he was with her at the time of the murder.

As the two plot lines move forward, Dan seeks answers to various questions he confronts. More important, instead of psychology, we witness his superman efforts in attempting to find the answers. Perhaps, because of the author's background as a Hollywood screenwriter, or more likely an eye on a movie contract. All in all, there is a lot of bravado which is somewhat overdone. Nevertheless, the book is well-written and moves swiftly to its surprising conclusion, and is recommended.

The Llama of Death
Betty Webb
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. 1st Ave., Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781464200663, $24.95,

The third in the zoo series, this novel is a murder mystery wrapped in a renaissance pageant surrounded by animals. Despite its grim subject matter, as were the predecessor novels in the series, it is deliberately overly "cute." And the real star of the show is not protagonist Theodora "Teddy" Bentley, but Alejandro, a llama that plays a pivotal role at the beginning and end of the plot.

Teddy is assigned by the owner of the Gunn Zoo to take Alejandro to a weekend Renaissance Faire to provide rides to children. Then, during the night, the llama is found near the body of the man portraying Henry VIII. At first, it is believed the man was stomped to death. But later it is revealed that he died of a crossbow dart in his back. When her mother is arrested for the murder by an incompetent Acting Sheriff, it remains, of course, for Teddy to investigate and solve the murder, along with a subsequent one.

The zoo novels are a light respite from the author's more serious books, the Lena Jones mysteries, each of which are tightly written with well-drawn characters and tautly plotted. But the nature (no pun intended) of the Gunn Zoo novels tends to draw out lessens about the various animals, their habits and other characteristics which add little to moving the story forward and even at times slowing the reader's progress. On the other hand, it is useful background and certainly utilizes the knowledge Teddy gains as a volunteer at the Phoenix zoo.

The Llama of Death is also available in a trade paperback edition, (9781464201687, $14.95).


Parnell Hall
Pegasus Crime
c/o Pegasus Books
80 Broad Street, 5th Floor
New York, NY 10004
9781605984025, $25.00,

Stanley Hastings is a PI of a different stripe, and in the various novels in the mystery series in which he is protagonist he proves it. If he can trip over himself in pursuing a clue, he will. And of course, in the end, all's well despite himself. He begins this caper when he is retained by a wife to follow her husband, suspected of cheating. Stanley follows him to a motel room in Ft. Lee, New Jersey.

When no one is seen entering or leaving, Stanley enters the room and discovers the man has been shot t death. And then cops storm in, find the gun under a bed, and Stanley is arrested for murder. And then the fun begins, as he is bailed out by his attorney and attempts to exonerate himself. Among the bumbles and fumbles along the way, he impersonates a police officer, obtains a murder weapon of another victim, and follows a mob boss.

The series highlights Stanley's offbeat word-play sparring with his wife, Alice, as well as with his employer (a negligence attorney) and a New York detective. He rarely, if ever, wins an argument with these counter-foils, but keeps on trying. Certainly, among PI protagonists, Stanley is unique and good fun.


Stuart Neville
Soho Crime
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9781616952044, $25.00,

Starting with the historical fact that many Nazi war criminals escaped after World War II with fortunes stolen from their victims and became ensconced in various countries like Franco's Spain, Peron's Argentina and anti-British Ireland, Stuart Neville has created a first-rate mystery. The protagonist is a Lieutenant in the Directorate of Intelligence, Albert Ryan, who lied about his age to enlist in the British army and fought in the European theater, Egypt and Korea before returning home.

Ryan is asked at the behest of the Minister of Justice to investigate the murder of a German national, weeks before a pending visit by Pres. John F. Kennedy because he fears the publicity might force cancellation of the trip. The authorities are desirous of hiding the fact that the country is providing sanctuary to a bunch of Nazis. Ryan's efforts become more complicated than a mere murder investigation, and thereby hangs one helluva tale.

The title refers to escape routes by which Nazis were able to travel, avoiding detection, and the methods used to finance their travels to and establishment in new locations. While based on historical fact, more important is the plot, which twists and turns in wholly unexpected directions. And the character study of Ryan is deep and penetrating. Another top-notch novel from this author, and highly recommended.

The Bat
Jo Nesbo, Translated by Don Bartlett
Black Lizard
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780345807090, $14.95,

Seven Harry Hole mysteries have appeared in English, and now the first in the series has been published in that language. In it are the seeds of the future installments about the Norwegian detective, apparently the only one in the country with experience of having solved a case of serial murder. It begins in this debut novel when Harry is sent to Australia after a young Norwegian woman was found raped and murdered. His instructions: to observe and not get in too deep.

Of course, Harry can't resist when it becomes obvious that any number of unsolved rapes and murders with a similar MO have occurred Down Under and the police are unaware of the fact and have no clues. And in his inimitable manner, Harry jumps in with both feet. Along the way, he learns about Australia, its culture, and its people, both white and indigenous.

"The Bat" is the foundation of the Harry Hole series, from which future novels evolved. It has all the excellent attributes of the books already published, and Harry's character is defined. However, it was a first effort, and, as such, might have used rewriting and editing to a greater extent. There are long tracts and descriptions that read like a travelogue which add little to the over-all story. Nevertheless, it reads well and is a welcome addition to the series. Now, all that remains to hope for is an English translation of "The Cockroaches," the second novel in the series, and a new Harry Hole book as well.


Arsenic and Old Puzzles
Parnell Hall
Minotaur Books
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312602482, $24.99,

The Cary Grant movie, "Arsenic and Old Lace," seems to be the basis for this murder mystery, except when it isn't. And so, the plot is as mixed up as the Puzzle Lady, Cora, and the rest of the characters in this latest addition to the series.

When an elderly boarder at a bed and breakfast operated by two ditzy old ladies dies, with a Sudoku puzzle in his pocket, Cora is called in by the chief of police to solve the puzzle and a subsequent crossword that is found. It seems meaningless, but Cora almost immediately detects the smell of almonds, indicating poisoning. It turns out that a combination of three poisons in the exact proportions as in the movie were in a carafe of Elderberry wine that the victim drank.

Then the town drunk breaks in and is found in a window seat, dead of the same poisons. Other deaths occur, some according to the movie script, others not even close. Of course, Sudoku and crossword puzzles turn up along with the victims.

The novel follows the usual components of a Puzzle Lady mystery: a wacky protagonist, funny dialogue, puzzles created by two leading editors, and a carefully plotted mystery with clues along the way, if one can grasp them without Cora's help at the end. Some of Cora's antics can become somewhat tiresome, but on the whole, a fun read, and one that is recommended.

Invisible Murder
Lene Kaaberbol and Agnete Friis
Translated by Tara Chase
Soho Crime
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9781616953287, $14.00,

This novel, the second in the Nina Borg series, reminds me of an old MGM epic: A big cast. Broad geographical setting (in this case from Hungary to Germany to Denmark). A tale of Biblical proportions. And yet, despite all this complexity, the plot is pretty simple.

It all begins when two young gypsy boys break into an abandoned Russian clinic in Hungary looking for some loot to sell. Instead they find a canister of cesium salt, a dangerous radioactive material which can be used to make a dirty bomb. One of the boys takes it to Denmark to sell to a buyer, and after he asks his brother to help, the brother comes to Denmark. But the boy dies of radiation poisoning. Meanwhile Nina, who treats gypsy children who were housed in the same hovel as the boy, is also poisoned by the radiation. It is only in the last hundred pages that the authors are satisfied with all the descriptive material and settle down to bring it all together.

So in the final pages we have an old-fashioned police procedural, which is a lot more interesting than what has preceded it. It all is very complicated and yet simple. This reader found it slow reading, and the tale quite burdensome, although the idea is a solid one. Having not read the predecessor novel, "The Boy in the Suitcase," which was highly praised, no comparison can be made. Apparently there is a third novel in the series in the works, so, perhaps, there's another chance to evaluate on a comparative basis.

Proof of Guilt
Charles Todd
c/o HarperCollins
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
978006205686, $25.99,

The typical Inspector Ian Rutledge mystery is so filled with details, as the Scotland Yard policeman ferrets out clues, that often the reader can become confused or engulfed with too much information or too many characters. This novel is no exception. It is a painstaking investigation begun when the body of a man, apparently a hit-and-run victim, is found lying in a London Street.

A valuable watch is found on the body, linking him to a well-know wine merchant who was reported missing. Has he now been found? Or was the body that of someone else? Rutledge then begins a long, slow investigation, motoring back and forth from London to Dedham, St. Hilary and Sussex in an attempt to discover the facts, while fending off his new boss who is prodding him to accept incorrect conclusions to arrest innocent people. In fact, I found myself wondering whether, after all the miles he puts on his car in this novel, it might be time to trade it in for a new model.

This mother-and-son writing team has two excellent series going: the Ian Rutledge and Bess Crawford mysteries. They are always enjoyable. This one, however, was overburdened with an iffy premise and too much verbiage. Nevertheless, it is worth reading, and is recommended.

Leader of the Pack
David Rosenfelt
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9781250026453, $15.99,

A reader can always expect two things when reading an Andy Carpenter novel: a lot of wit and an unanticipated ending. This latest entry in the series is no exception, as the dog-loving attorney pursues a case that has haunted him for six years. Joey Desimone, son of a mafia boss, was convicted of a double murder of which Andy believes him innocent. And almost by mistake, he learns something that sets off his investigation in order to gain a new trial.

While Andy gets a retrial, he really, as usual, lacks the facts and evidence to prove Joey's innocence. Meanwhile, during the course of the investigation, this, of course, continues while the trial goes on, he trips over a bigger crime, making for an exciting double-barreled story.

This book is perhaps the most complicated of the entire series, raising a deep moral issue for the lawyer, which he resolves handily. The humor continues to be light and wholesome, while the cast of familiar characters provides excellent backup to the main protagonist.


David Rosenfelt
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9781250024763, $24.99,

This standalone by the author of the popular Andy Carpenter series is so unlike the humorous dog-centered novels that the reader might think it was written by someone else. But it only proves that a good writer can create excellent fiction on a variety of levels. "Airtight" is a complicated story involving murder and mayhem, good police work, and family loyalty.

The plot revolves around the murder of a judge nominated to sit on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, knifed to death in his garage. A tip leads Lt. Luke Somers to the alleged murderer's home. When the drug user Steven Gallagher raises a gun, Somers puts three bullets in his chest. Gallagher's brother, Chris, does not believe he was responsible for the murder, and sets up a challenge for Somers to reinvestigate the Brennan killing to prove Steven's innocence by kidnapping the policeman's brother, Bryan, and entombing him in a bomb shelter with only seven days worth of air [very early on in the story - no spoiler here].

The book moves at a rapid pace, with considerable action, enhanced by greed and explosions. What will be the outcome is never really clear until the final pages, with no prior groundwork to set the stage for the conclusion. Nevertheless, the novel is very enjoyable, and is recommended.

Bad Blood
Dana Stabenow
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312550653, $25.99,

Nineteen episodes in the Kate Shugak series preceded this novel and it would appear that the author has tired of writing about her protagonist. The plot is a thinly disguised rewrite of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, or the Hatfields and McCoys or every other tale of feuds. Only this story takes place in 21st century Alaska.

Two villages, Kushtaka and Kuskulana, on opposite sides of a river, have no love lost between them. One is a dying community, the other prosperous. Basically each is inhabited by a closely related group of people. It doesn't take much to set off violence between them, and one murder can lead to retribution from the other side. Throw in a love affair between the darling of one town and the number one son of the other, and you have the makings of additional bloodshed.

Somehow, the excellent background always present before (descriptions of the land, history and cultural traditions of Alaska) are missing from this entry. Additionally, the characterizations, to this reader, do not measure up to past performance "Bad Blood" is readable, just not up to the level one expects from a top series. Perhaps, when the reader reaches the final pages, it becomes apparent why.

Seduction of the Innocent
Max Allan Collins
Hard Case Crime
c/o Winterfall LLC
333 CPW, NY, NY 10025
9780857687487, $9.95,

The last volume in this trilogy on the comic book industry is set in the 1950's, when the furor over the rising amount of crime, violence and sex rose to a roaring peak, highlighted by a Senate committee's hearing and ending with the establishment of a "Decency Code." It brings back the dynamic duo, Jack and Maggie Starr, owners of a distribution company of comic strips to newspapers. The story is a loosely disguised history of the leaders and events surrounding the industry at the time, and is based, to a great extent, on the crusade led by Dr. Frederic Wertham, portrayed by Dr. Werner Frederick in the novel.

The author, a long-time scripter of the Dick Tracy newspaper comic strip, certainly knows his subject and the players, and gives an excellent rendition of the real-life story, while writing a murder mystery as only he can, or his mentor, Mickey Spillane did. Adding spice are illustrations heading each chapter, created by Terry Beatty (Batman, The Phantom).

Max Alan Collins, among his many specialties, latches on to an historical event or subject, and then creates a fictionalized story that grasps the reader's attention throughout. "Seduction" is no exception, and is recommended.

Deadly Stakes
J. A. Jance
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781451628685, $25.99,

Ali Reynolds is not a police officer. Nor is she a private investigator. And it's been a long time since she was a journalist. Nevertheless, she undertakes to investigate a murder under the guise of writing a free-lance article in this swashbuckling story which progresses slowly but surely to some sort of conclusion. It is the eighth novel in the series and familiarly follows the customary formula, actually growing out of a predecessor volume in which Ali solved a cyber-stalking crime involving one of the characters, Lynn Martinson, in the present plot.

Lynn and her boyfriend are arrested on suspicion of murder when his ex-wife is found by a young man, A.J. Sanders, dead from a knife wound. Coincidentally, A.J.'s father is discovered nearby, shot in his head sitting in a car. This is the jumping off point for a more or less improbable plot which comes together in a predictable denouement.

It's a fairly straightforward tale, typical of the Ali Reynolds series, except for one surprise at the end. The writing flows and the reader turns pages despite almost knowing what comes next. Be that as it may, one can always enjoy J.A. Jance's writing, and this is one is recommended.

The Fear Artist
Tim Hallinan
Soho Crime
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9781616952556, $14.95,

One thing you can always count on in a Poke Rafferty novel: Wherever he is, trouble will find him. Even in such an innocent task as buying two gallons of paint to refurbish his apartment while his wife and daughter are away. As Poke is leaving the store, a man is shot dead, whispering three words to Poke as he expires, and thereby setting off a chain of events that powers the plot.

Nearly at once, Poke is almost arrested by security forces, and he flees until he can ascertain what's going on. And it's a rough trail. Apparently he is thought to know something important, but he doesn't know what the thing that he was told by the dying man means. Obviously, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

Meanwhile, the monsoon is rampaging and flood waters rising to engulf Bangkok, as Poke runs around attempting to solve his problems. Unlike the previous four entries in the series, there is little humor in the novel to lighten Poke's problems and the reader's concerns. This is a serious book questioning whether the security steps taken in the name of our nation's defense against terrorism (whether here in the United States or in southern Thailand where thousands have been slain to date) is justified, or is a violation of basic rights.

A well-told tale, and one that is recommended.

The Dinner
Herman Koch, Translated by Sam Garrett
c/o Crown Publishing
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780770437855, $24.00,

The real question about this novel is whether it is a satire or a psychological study of an aberrant personality or two. The book is divided into various dinner courses, from aperitif to digestif, during which two brothers and their wives await the entree into the real reason for the dinner. One brother, Paul, the younger, a history teacher, has been unemployed for a dozen years; the other, Serge, is on the verge of being elected Dutch prime minister seven moths hence.

Except each family has a guilty secret caused by the misadventure of their 15-year-old sons who assaulted a homeless woman, resulting in her death. The boys even recorded the event with their telephone, the video eventually finding its way onto television and the web. The older brother proposes to do something about the situation, while the younger sibling and the wives prefer to hope that it just fades away.

In the early pages, Paul finds everything to criticize about the fancy restaurant his brother has chosen, as well as Dutch society in general. Initially, Paul gains the reader's sympathy, but as his personality is disclosed along the way, this feeling dissipates. The translation is free-flowing, so the reader can take it in easy bites, with a lot to chew on.

The Cat Did Not Die
Inger Frimansson
Translated by Laura A. Wideburg
Caravel Books
c/o Pleasure Boat Studio
201 W. 89th St., #6F, NY, NY 10064
9781929355891, $18.00,

This novel is as dark and cold as a Swedish winter. It is the bleak tale of a couple united by a bitter event that weighs on their relationship, slowly but surely melting it like snow in the spring thaw. The cause of this situation occurs when Beth Svard grabs and wields an axe to defend herself from a man she believes is about to strangle her, splitting his head open.

Then, instead of calling the police, perhaps obviating further repercussions, she and her partner, Ulf Nordin, decide to bury the man in an anonymous grave and return to Stockholm from their summer home and go on living as if nothing had happened. The rest of the novel recounts the psychological toll on the pair.

Unfortunately, the characters are two-dimensional, and we never really get to know them, just the symptoms, never the real persons. Ulf, and Beth's sister, Juni, are free-lance journalists, yet we never read about how they develop their stories. Beth is a teacher, although we really don't see her in the classroom, and she quickly has anxiety attacks and goes on leave. The translation seems dry, but apparently may be faithful to the original Swedish. It is an interesting effort, but this reader, at least, questions the conclusion. Perhaps another ending would have made it a more worthwhile read.

Insane City
Dave Barry
c/o Penguin Group USA
175 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780399158681, $26.95,

There is no point in approaching this novel worrying about a plot: it's just an old-fashioned romp.

Ne'er-do-well Seth Weinstein for some reason is about to be married to the gorgeous, successful Tina Clark, high-powered Washington attorney, daughter of billionaire Mike Clark. The wedding is to take place at the Ritz-Carlton in Key Biscayne. So much for the story.

The rest of the book is a series of mishaps, compounded by amusing incidents complicating the wedding event and personal relationships. The author means to keep the reader laughing minute after minute, and often succeeds. Great literature it is not intended to be, just a very amusing read. And so it is.


Theodore Feit

James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive
Oregon, WI 53575-1129
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