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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 7, Number 6 June 2007 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Andrew's Bookshelf Ann's Bookshelf
Bethany's Bookshelf Buhle's Bookshelf Burroughs' Bookshelf
Carson's Bookshelf Christy's Bookshelf Debra's Bookshelf
Eric's Bookshelf Gary's Bookshelf Gloria's Bookshelf
Gorden's Bookshelf Greenspan's Bookshelf Harold's Bookshelf
Harwood's Bookshelf Henry's Bookshelf Judith's Bookshelf
Kaye's Bookshelf Lisa's Bookshelf Lori's Bookshelf
Margaret's Bookshelf Mark's Bookshelf Richard's Bookshelf
Sullivan's Bookshelf Theodore's Bookshelf Victoria's Bookshelf

Reviewer's Choice

The Liar's Diary
Patry Francis
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0525949909 $16.47

Aaron Paul Lazar

The Liar's Diary, a psychological suspense novel by debut author Patry Francis, should be tooled in fragrant red leather with gilt edges, and placed on your bookshelf in a place of honor.

Be forewarned. When you buy it, allow for an uninterrupted block of time. Forget sleep. The lure of The Liar's Diary is strong, for it will call your name incessantly, and your dreams will be filled with Ms. Francis's characters long after you've reached the end of this riveting new work.

Full of subtle, twisting truths that bob and weave in a surf of lies, The Liar's Diary is like a fragile raft on a swelling sea of denial. Carefully selected truths are masterfully revealed as we are thrust into the life of high school secretary Jeanne Cross. The raft soars higher – just enough to almost peer over the whitecaps. Jeanne glimpses half-truths so disturbing she retreats into the safety of her compulsively ordered life. Disoriented and in psychological turmoil, we twist and weave in yet another direction beside her, constantly on edge and guessing until the final page.

Jeanne strives to be the dutiful wife, mother, housekeeper, nurturer, and employee. But we quickly learn her perfect life is built on a severely cracked foundation. Gavin Cross, the debonair doctor husband, is a controlling father who bullies his son, feeding an explosive eating disorder that sends Jamie Cross to chocolate for relief. Scenarios of mockery escalate, with full blame for Jamie's lack of academic success laid squarely at Jeanne's feet. In her picture perfect house, we soon discover a supremely unhappy woman who lives in suburban hell, trying to defend her beloved son and keep peace in the dysfunctional family.

Enter Ali Mather, the new music teacher at Jeanne's school who flounces into Jeanne's staid world of responsibility with flowing strawberry blond hair, fragrant perfumes, and tight jeans, enticing the high school boys and male teachers, and providing hours of juicy gossip for the rest of the staff. Ali, flamboyant, passionate, and unabashedly sexy, is the antithesis of sedate, controlled Jeanne. Yet, through a circumstance not fully understood, Jeanne is drawn to Ali like a powerful narcotic.

Ali, married to George Mather, a most perfect husband, has issues of her own. Unresolved childhood traumas send her into the arms of two men in Jeanne's town, shocking the quiet community. George, strangely forgiving and still madly in love with his philandering wife, cuts a figure of loving forgiveness. As Ali embraces her hedonistic experiences, including an affair with the school shop teacher half her age, Jeanne reacts with simultaneous repulsion and fascination.

But someone is stalking Ali, entering her home and leaving subtle reminders of their presence. Is it one of her lovers? A student? A jealous wife? Her music is desecrated, personal items disappear, but the police don't take her seriously. Jeanne struggles to help her friend overcome her fears and abandoned relationships, just when Ali's diary disappears and people start to die.

The story twists into another realm, shocking the reader multiple times, surging higher now with dark half-truths. Jeanne's son is accused of ungodly crimes, and it's up to her to uncover the facts. She must discover who's lying, in order to save her son.

Patry Francis is a gifted deep thinker who knows people and paints them well.
Her writing style is engaging and smooth going down – like a big bowl of lime sherbet. First time novelists often try too hard, peppering their prose with ostentatious adverbs and adjectives. But Ms. Francis's writing focuses on the compelling story as the movie plays in your head with a clever appreciation of the craft.

I highly recommend The Liar's Diary to anyone who enjoys a good suspense, mystery, or psychological thriller.

Forever In Your Eyes
Sylvia Dianne Beverly
Golden Arts Publishing
0971632905 $15.99

Afrika Midnight Asha Abney

Rating: "Forever In Your Eyes" is a potpourri of poems of love, appreciations and tributes, dedicated to Dr. Maya Angelou. It is an excellent collection of poetry written by Sylvia Dianne Beverly "Ladi Di" and consists of 124 pages, published by Golden Arts Publishing. Sylvia Dianne Beverly, "Ladi Di" is a native of Washington, D.C, CEO of Golden Arts Publishing Co, founder/director of "Girls and Boys with Hearts," poet, and author of Forever In Your Eyes (A potpourri of poems of love, appreciations and tributes, dedicated to Dr. Maya Angelou and published by Golden Arts Publishing Co.).

"Forever In Your Eyes" is an inspirational, uplifting, motivational and delightful book. Each of the poems are insightful, healing and touching such as "Deep In My Heart,"

"My Heart Speaks," and "Bring Back The Holy Spirit." "A Phenomenal Blessing", "Blessings of Existence", and "Love of Wisdom" are motivational, spiritual and glorifying. After reading, "Forever In Your Eyes," you will find yourself completely energized and refreshed. My favorite poem written by Sylvia Dianne Beverly and is published in ""Forever In Your Eyes" is entitled: "It's Up To Me."

"Its Up To Me"

Be a leader

Even if it means standing alone

Be unique

Have a style and mind of your own.

Be steadfast, solid on your convictions

Stand up for your predictions

Initiate brand new traditions

Be truthful, especially to self

Know honesty and love wins above all else.

Be on time

Be the first in line

You just might get a quarter instead of a dime.

Be thankful and prayerful morning noon and night

God our Father will lead you

Guide you towards what's right.

Be pleasant, be optimistic, smile say hello first

Yes, thank you, please, make them daily verse.

Be wise and witty – success will be for thee

All the while saying if it is to be

It's up to me.

(Dedicated to Korin – 11/23/02)

From a Crooked Rib
Nuruddin Farah
The Penguin Press
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0143037269 $14.00 1-800-847-5515

Ashley Theisen

Writer Nuruddin Farah originally wrote From a Crooked Rib in 1968, but it fell out of print shortly thereafter until 2003 when Farah received worldwide attention for his "Blood in the Sun" trilogy in the late 1990s. The story is written from the perspective of an 18-year old woman named Ebla who flees her rural town in Somalia when she learns about her soon-to-be arranged marriage with an old man in the early 1960s. The foremost theme is the role of women in society during pre-Somalia independence and Ebla's struggles with the traditional Somalian society. Making it geared more towards women, perhaps. I found the recently reprinted, slim novel about Ebla's struggles to be an amazing, very real-sounding account of a woman who is perhaps too progressive for her own good. Farah's story about the pain, suffering, confusion, and strife this woman goes through is not written in the best way since it sounds more choppy than flowing at parts, but it nonetheless makes the readers feel as if they are right next to Ebla, going through what she is going through as well in a simple, sincere manner.

Written when Farah was in his early 20s, From a Crooked Rib is born during a time of turmoil and societal change since Somalia's independence occurred just a short time before. The story is written right before the country's independence of 1960, so writing from a woman's perspective about the changes to modernity and independence for a woman as progressive as Ebla who was dealing with restraints of traditional Somalian society was probably something not far from the truth in real life. Being Farah is born and raised in Somalia, Africa his stories are loosely based on events that had occurred around him and to the people around him as well. He was quoted in saying he wrote "to keep my country alive by writing about it."

When Ebla finds out she is to marry an old man, she sneaks out of her home, leaving her brother and beloved behind, without any plan for the future. While contemplating her decision to escape or not, Ebla "had no answers to the questions how to escape, where should she escape to, whom should she go to, and when she should escape." After she flees her village, she stays with one of her distant cousins in a rather large, confusing city where she helps take care of her cousin's demanding pregnant wife. While caring for her, she meets an old woman next door who lets her in on her cousin's plan to sell her off as a wife. After finding this out, she decides to make another huge decision by fleeing to another city, Mogadishu. In this city, she becomes the wife of her confidant's nephew, but finds she is lonely most of the time since he is away for training in Italy, more than he is home. While she thought the move to the new city would make her life better, she finds out she remains powerless and dependent on men, once again. As said by her husband, "We are not equal. You are a woman and you are inferior to me." During this abandonment, she falls into the arms of another man, who hates she has been involved with another man and still remains largely clueless to the new customs and practically new culture of her new city. Ebla learns many new things and goes through hard times. Through all her pain, strife, and troubles, remains strong and tells herself, "I love life. I love it...I love to live for something."

While some would think the story told from the barely educated woman's point of view is thought to be "awkward" and "choppy" it is written with complete and simple conviction, uniqueness, and truth. As the reader travels while Ebla travels, meets those Ebla meets, and goes through what Ebla goes through, it starts to make them think they are in Somali too. In his novel, Farah shockingly suggests that although the traditional values of his people may be looked down upon from those on the outside looking in and that the rights of woman are virtually nonexistent and outrageous, but there is still an underlying message of commemoration for the woman who never gives up and has a courageous sense of inner self. Although the glossary of terms should include several more words and a much-needed background on Somalia's culture for context purposes would be nice, overall, the novel is one that flows quite nicely. It is short enough to get the point across and to not allow for a hint of boredom and is long enough to allow the reader to dive into another culture quite different from our own. All in all, From a Crooked Rib is a great, shocking, and simple read for those who want a unique and truthful look into the lives of those living in Somalia, especially the women who still have not gotten complete freedom and independence.

Ransomed Dreams
Amy Wallace
Multnomah Books
12265 Oracle Boulevard, Suite 200, Colorado Springs, CO 80921
9781590527474 $12.99

CeeCee McNeil

Two years ago, private school teacher Gracie Lang endured the unthinkable: her children and husband were killed in a car accident right before her eyes. Unable to find closure, she searches for clues to find the driver involved in the hit-and-run. What she doesn't know is the killer has been watching her every move.

FBI agent Steven Kessler is assigned to Gracie's school to investigate the kidnaping of an ambassador's daughter. Still trying to get over the wounds from his failed marriage and his former wife's abandonment of their young son, Steven tries to deny his growing attraction to Gracie. Is the price too big to pay for justice?

If you are in the mood for a multilayered plot that grips your attention from page one until the final page, read the first installment in the Defender of Hope series, Ransomed Dreams.

The author's descriptive use of language and her knowledge of police procedure as a Gwinnett County Citizens Police Academy and liaison for the police department's training division made the story come to life. Chill bumps formed on my arms as I read this book! I look forward to spring 2008 when the next installment in this exciting series hits bookstores.

The Fifth Stage
Margaret A. Helms
Blue Feather Books, LTD
P.O. Box 5867, Atlanta, GA 31107-5967
9780977031870 $15.99

Cheri Rosenberg

Claire Blevins, a mid-Southern gal from a sleepy town, is turning forty and her friends think it's time she moved on. Even though Claire was technically born in the sixties, she claims that her real birthday was two months shy of turning eighteen, when she befriended Lora Tyler. With Lora, she discovered a connection stronger than raging hormones and deeper than friendship. After high school graduation, Claire and Lora managed to move out on their own while they attended college. Claire became financially secure, determined to give her girlfriend as much as anyone could, but at what price?

Claire lives in a self-induced trance, much the same as the town where she grew up. She gives the illusion of someone living the American dream—self-sufficient and independent, with a good job and a nice house. She can afford the finest restaurants, but she frequents a mediocre eatery instead. It's not the menu that draws Claire, but rather Rebecca Greenway, a woman she's sure she can't have, meaning that she can admire her from afar. After three years of living alone, Claire questions if wealth is an acceptable substitute for the companionship of a lover.

The Fifth Stage is a romance with a clear message that the reader discovers the way Claire does—one stage at a time. One can't help but hope that Claire finds her way to forgiveness so that she can find fulfillment in a second chance at love. Claire is likeable despite her stubborn nature; she's smart but makes mistakes like all mortals; and she's successful but filled with regrets. Written in almost a memoir format, The Fifth Stage is a story about a woman who realizes that she's different from other girls, and comes to terms with the revelation. She's also haunted by the memories of her youth and must learn to accept the things she cannot change before she can have any chance of happiness.

Claire's story, told intimately, honestly, and with humor, reveals her desires and vulnerabilities. Margaret A. Helms slowly builds the tension and then hits the reader with a memorable impact to drive home her message.

Margaret A. Helms deftly leaves a lasting impression from the first word to the last. Through alternating points of view, Claire in the present and in the past, Helms succeeds in telling two stories for the price of one and maintains a flawless flow between both. The Fifth Stage is one of the most profound and emotional journeys this reviewer has read so far this year. It's a five star plus read and hopefully the beginning of a slew of this brilliant author's novels.

Manifest Infamy
Steve Golighty
Publish America
111 E Church St Frederick, MD 21701
1424159709 $24.95

Cheri Clay

George Young lands what he believes is his dream job. A chance to start over and get on the right path, totally by accident unbeknownst to George, he lands the assistant news reporter job at WIZZ 1200 AM in Leesburg, Virginia. Sharing a home on the top of the mountain with an awesome view with Ralph an old friend who's kind of quirky and likes to walk around in the nude. Suddenly Ralph disappears and leaves George on his own. The boring meetings and never ending days with very little pay and outdated equipment sometimes makes the job hard to bear but it's a new beginning and a chance to grow up.

He meets many of the locals whom all have secrets of their own. The station personalities from his boss work driven, diet coke drinking Colleen to fat Ted with his obnoxious eating habits. The area's other newspaper and radio reporters strange Howard Percy who George wonders if he's gay and the beautiful Rose Adams whom George can't take his eyes off of. The town council with personality clashes who struggle to agree on anything and just why is Mayor Dawson always fifteen minutes late for the council meetings? The Board of Supervisors who all seem to have their own political agendas with Town Manager Steve Jones ex-CIA assassin believes George is out to kill him so he must kill him first, delusional Councilman Roger Digby who can't understand why Council chairman Bill Burton doesn't like him and want to be his friend and a whole host of other characters. And what about the mysterious letters George receives with the slanderous statements against some of the local residents, who sent them and why do they want read on the air and why did they chose George to air them?

Actually Manifest Infamy reads like four novels in one, which is a great thing as author Steve Golighty does an awesome job with the character descriptions that you come away with a clear picture of each one and a feeling that you know them personally. Read George's life, the station's employees and other reporters lives, the town council and the board of supervisors' lives then how they all intermingle with each other. No one is sure of anyone and no one is sure they can trust anyone.

This modern day tale could be set anywhere in small town America. You'll smile, you'll giggle, you'll laugh out loud at some of the conversations and antics and know that it could all really happen. And poor George as him and Rose struggle at romance but with meetings and deadlines with conflicting schedules you'll wonder if they ever will get together.

Actually you'll wonder if you're reading a true story instead of a work of fiction. Since author Steve Golightly has a bachelor's degree from the University of Maryland in English literature, in the Navy he did broadcast journalism and he worked at WAGE Radio in Leesburg, Virginia as a reporter and newscaster you wonder if this is a story out of Steve's own life as he seems to be an expert. Author Steve Golightly has done an excellent job in this his first novel and as this reviewer believes one of the up and coming newcomers of the year. A great read for men and women alike as the author himself puts it "anyone who enjoys Garrison Keillor, Tom Wolfe, John Mortimer or Mark Twain will enjoy this book" and you'll clearly see that "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" is the author's favorite book as this story unfolds. So it is definitely an excellent read. Actually the way it ends will make you wonder could we by chance see a sequel in the making?

The book is a print-on-demand but is available through Barnes and Noble, Amazon, Books-A-Million and through the publisher Publish America but is well worth the read wherever you find it.

Cinco de Mayo: What is Everybody Celebrating?
Donald W. Miles
2021 Pine Lake Road, Suite 100, Lincoln, NE 68512
0595392415 $ 20.95

Dawn M. Papuga

Responsible parenting or teaching would send an inquisitive child to "look it up," whatever "it" may be—a word, a fact, or an historical event. But what happens when there are no credible, adult focused resources to research from? Donald W. Miles found this to be the case when he went searching for a book to recount the historical events of the popular holiday, Cinco de Mayo. Children's books about the holiday were plentiful, but none were available for adults with accurate, historical, in depth information. In this world of constant documentation, it is hard to believe that some topics have gone un-discussed, and that false information continues to be taught regarding a largely celebrated holiday. With this in mind, Miles made it his mission to compile the disparate resources his research uncovered into one document—Cinco de Mayo: What is Everyone Celebrating?

Miles' book is a step by step historical progression through the seven-year struggle for Mexicans to reclaim their country from the grip of Napoleon III that began with the battle of Puebla in 19th century Mexico. He painstakingly sets the scene for every move the European armies made on their progress to take Mexico City and install Archduke Maximilian as Emperor of Mexico. Not only does Miles give readers an intimate view of the military rationale for every advancement from Veracruz to Puebla to Mexico City and the eventual execution of Archduke Maximilian, he incorporates the perspectives of the Mexican people and how the American Civil War effected the movement of both French and Mexican armies. Miles provides a panoramic perspective on events that have been glossed over in the past, and drives home the impact of the battle of Puebla for any individual seeking an understanding of celebration of Cinco de Mayo. Though at times Cinco de Mayo can appear to be flirting with historical fiction, Miles demonstrates his thorough research in every segment of the book, and offers a complete bibliography to support his presentation of a segment of time in Mexican history.

Cinco de Mayo is a comfortable journey through the past, and does not bludgeon readers with footnotes or with dry accounts of military staging. Instead the snapshot structure of the book allows readers to easily follow the progression of events leading to the battle, and the motivations of all parties involved. Cinco de Mayo is as much about the creation of Mexican culture as it is an historical account of a battle against occupation and imperialization led by Napoleon III. Rather than recounting the events with the stereotyped sterility of history books, Miles brings to life the major actors in the theatre of war in a highly readable, accessible rendering of events and personalities.

Cooking Lessons by Nina Romano
Tracey Broussard, editor
Rock Press, Inc.
4611 South University Drive #450, Davie, FL 33328
9780967674872 $12.95

Elaine Winer

You're sitting on a boat in Sardinia. You've eaten raw sea urchins sprinkled with Vermentino di Gallura and are watching the moon over Porto Cervo Marina, Sardegna. "Magic," poet Nina Romano says in her debut collection of poems, Cooking Lessons, "Magia. I swear it. I pity everyone who is anywhere else but in this windless, cloudless Sardinian port tonight."

Romano grew up in Brooklyn with Italian speaking parents. When she moved to Rome, she saw its beauty with fresh eyes. At the same time, her roots were in its culture, and the bilingual poet uses words from both English and Italian like a stone mason fitting stones. There is the sense of an ancient structure to the book, its lushness supported by sure classical knowledge. In "Meeting," the persona of the poem walks Roman roads laid down by Julius Caesar in 46 BC and goes to Piazza Mattei to meet her lover at the fountain of turtles. Gazing at the lithe bodies sculpted by Bernini, knowing that her lover will not come, will never come again, she says : "but if truth be told,/ the turtles were added later to Bernini's youths,/ … How joy springs from those lithe bodies."

Cooking Lessons is not a cook book, it's not about assembling and cooking food in the kitchen. Instead, Romano tells us about the preparation of the food before it is packaged neatly and sent to the grocery store (there are no neatly packaged, sterile products anywhere in this book.) It is an attitude, an expertise, of older and more direct societies.

Here are her directions for preparing caviar, in "Recipe for Buttariga,:"

From an exemplary female muggine better known as cefalo,
that has reached a certain dimension,
denoting its ovarian maturity,
remove, with a great deal of courtesy, the double ovary pack,
evading cuts in delicate membranes
leaving attached to the eggs
the harder part encasing the summit.

Later in the poem, she directs:

The delicacy must dry in an ambient dwelling—
a room free of ocean salinity and night humidity.
The eggs are ready, achieving amber's transparency, colored rosa cupo.
Herein lies the difficulty—conserving buttariga.
Cloak entirely with wax hotter than a melting candle.

Even gathering fruits and vegetables can have a brutal aspect. Romano tells us, with dazzling, hands-on knowledge, what must happen before figs and mushrooms are ready to be eaten. In "Lover of Baskets":

... Funghi were dusted of bosk coats,
and skinned in spots. When she'd picked a chilo, minus basket weight,
she quit the thicket, headed home to slice, dice, and dissect every floppy fat
cap and chunky stem till every white-villain-white worm, cajoled by scorching
sun, inched their tiny bodies out in an undisciplined array of crawls,
slithers and creeps, squirming suicidally, to a concrete resting place below ...

Figs are split, quartered and dried above slow smoke fires, almonds from Palermo tucked inside their bellies, then they're "skewered/ and shafted onto overgrown opaque wooden picks, impaled upon mini-stakes." In this book, nothing concerning the harvesting of the living things we eat is hidden to make the process look "nice." Nina Romano's words are not "nice," they are better than that; they are "real." And she reports with a lyric eye, seeing the beauty in these first, necessary and ancient rituals.

In food, she finds her hope for immortality. In "Roasted Peppers" she says "And now I know for sure we never die till the last person we know dies,/ for just as I am remembering her, so someone else I teach will remember me when I'm gone—/even if it's just on a 3 X 5 recipe card."

The poet's mother teaches her to cook as a child. In the title poem, "Cooking Lessons," her mother tells her to begin the supper. "Careful with boiling water!" her mother warns her. "You can't mess up because food is love…" When the poet is grown, Romano writes of a persona in "The Beach at Anzio" that the reader guesses might be a bit like the poet herself: "You and I walk the shore,/ scoop by handsful/ leafy lettuce-like seaweed /to make fried squid fritters/ that'll sputter in hot oil, a semblance of us in our bubbling matrimony

In "Bread," Romano writes about a gift of bread given to her hungry son on the island of Ist, which, she says is the island Marco Polo was born on (the poet has an amazing, wide ranging knowledge of exotic facts). The last line of this short poem has a stinging rhythm and names money from three countries, using two languages.

… The sailor's Slavic, almost good as my Sign,
convinced the owner to give me yesterday's
Zero dinars, zip dollars, zap lire. "Regalo. Per favore."

Unsurprisingly, she is an enthusiastic daughter, as well as mother and wife. Remembering her father in the powerful poem, "The Deer Slayer," she writes:

His spirit soars above mountain summits.
But my father's feelings, thoughts, ashes,
and name have I sucked down with the oyster,
clenching a shard of his bone
between my teeth with the meat of the crab.

She credits her mother not only for teaching her how to cook, but also for teaching her how to love... In "Form and Theory" she says,

For years, I stood at her side embezzling
preparations, purloining secret
flips of the wrist to pound cutlets to paper thinness,
filching, for later use, the way she sliced away impertinent
gristle or sassy fat, plagiarizing how her hands dipped
into mixed breadcrumb she'd fling onto the meat,
then top with grated parmesan, forming tiny wells
so quickly I barely catch the precision timing
in her flicking finger, or drizzle of olive oil
…I am my mother's child learning cooking lessons.
….In form & theory I am my mother…

Underneath these passionate celebrations of life, one senses, finally, a deep unease. The times are at odds with her antique soul, as though Ceres had been transplanted to the twenty-first century, and to Florida. In the striking poem "My Feet Outside the Sheets" she writes:

There's a ketch in the stretch of canal at the back of my house.
On summer mornings I wake to find my feet outside the sheet—
Beating rhythms to the wind in fittings for the ketch's sails
And the down-to-the-bone of me wants to run away.
My feet are ready, but a golden anklet anchors me for now
As surely as my son's feathery eyelash kisses my cheek.

It is this sense of deep unease combined with the poet's obvious joy in connection to food and loved ones that creates the heartfelt tensions that make this book so successful. In Cooking Lessons, Romano takes the reader into her rich, passionate, complex world. It is a poetic treat not to be missed.

Psychologically Unemployable
Jeffery Combs
More Heart Than Talent Publishing, Inc.
6507 Pacific Avenue, Suite 329, Stockton, CA 95207
0974092428 $17.95

Emanuel Carpenter, Reviewer

I've never been a big fan of motivational speakers or the books that they've written. To me they all seemed to offer the same nonspecific advice, be positive, get rid of the negative people in your life, yada yada yada. That all changed when I read the very encouraging new book "Psychologically Unemployable" by California-based motivational speaker Jeffery Combs.

"Psychologically Unemployable" was written for those with an entrepreneurial spirit, including the recently laid off, the frustrated salaried worker, and the new business owner. It begins with the describing the profile of an entrepreneur, advising on how to deal with limiting beliefs, and helping readers decide what they want to be when they grow up. And in the spirit of "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People," and "What Should I Do With My Life," Combs gives life-changing advice on becoming your own boss and a better person in life. For example, regarding how to become rich and thriving, Combs says:

Most people think that if they work harder and for a longer period of time, they will eventually have success. To become wealthy and successful, you'll soon discover that hard work isn't the answer. You don't get paid for time when you're self-employed, as I am. You get paid for how valuable you become. Trading time and working hard for dollars usually gets you broke.

There are many more quotable passages in "Psychologically Employable" that prove how valuable Combs' book can be for those looking to make a positive effect on their lives outside of the traditional nine-to-five gig. While the book could use the touch of an editor and a better graphic designer, the message is not lost, and the author is one to watch for the next big name in positive motivation. Highly Recommended.

Emma Jean Lazarus Fell Out Of A Tree
Lauren Tarshis
Dial Books For Young Readers
9780803731646 $16.99

Franci McMahon

Imagine closing a book, feeling as though you have lived other lives. Lauren Tarshis takes the reader on a journey into hearts and minds you will never forget. When Emma Jean Lazarus Fell Out of A Tree, changes in her life had prepared the ground. She stood up to face the changes.

Emma Jean is brilliant, scientific, a logical thinker who analyzes everything, but somehow her feelings are not part of the equation. Emotions are messy. In spite of her stoicism you find yourself loving Emma Jean. The girl Colleen, who she is placed at odds with, is in every way except one, her opposite. They are both kind. Colleen is not logical and cares too much what people think.

"Colleen Pomerantz had this idea---a faded, crumpled, smudged idea---that being nice counted for something, even in the seventh grade."

The viewpoint changes between the girls works very well to show the characters in depth. Tarshis is unusually deft in keeping these view point switches clear and in character in this first novel. The voice of the narrator is never heard, everything comes through dialog and action.

The popular, self centered, manipulative Laura, has made life miserable for Colleen. Emma Jean explains to Colleen;

"Chimps are very much like humans. In their communities, certain individuals become dominant. These individuals are known as alpha chimps. They achieve dominance through intimidation. They bare their teeth and beat their chests and achieve control of the group because the others feel threatened."

"That's very interesting, Emma Jean. But why are you telling me this?"

"Because you think Laura Gilroy is the alpha chimp."

This novel transcends age categories. I would recommend this book not
only for this age group but anyone who loves a good story and needs to
learn how to face the alpha chimps in our society.

To the End of the Earth: A History of the Crypto-Jews of New Mexico
Stanley M. Hordes
Columbia University Press
61 West 62nd Street, New York, NY 10023-7015
023112936X $39.50 www.columbiaedu/cu/cup 1-800-944-8648

Dr. Fred Reiss

Shortly after the city of Grenada, the last Muslim stronghold on Spanish soil, fell on January 2, 1492, Fernando and Isabella, under pressure from the powerful Catholic Church, ordered the Spanish Jewish community to convert or leave the country within four months. Although they had more than 800 years of peaceful coexistence with their neighbors, the edict from the monarchy left no choice but for Jews to decide between giving up the religion of their ancestors, and permanently leaving their country. Some felt that it was better to continue living as Jews, even if it meant giving up everything, and starting over elsewhere. The exiles left Spain by August 2, the same day that Columbus set sail from Spain on a voyage that lead to his "discovery of America". Other Jews believed that converting to Catholicism was a small price to pay to remain in the country of their families and associates, to maintain their livelihoods and to keep their lifestyles. They converted and followed the tenants of their new faith. However, an unexpected group emerged from these conversions. They were the ones who converted, but secretly lived their lives as Jews. These secret or crypto-Jews avowed Catholicism in public, but clandestinely followed the dietary laws, prepared for and rested on the Sabbath Day, conducted services, and observed the Jewish holidays.

Author Stanley M. Hordes would have us believe that practicing these illegal rituals and observances can be kept as family secrets for more than 500 years, even though, as time passed, the practitioners didn't know why they followed strange customs. Researcher and folklorist Judith S. Neulander argues that crypto-Jews are an illusion.

The book, To the End of the Earth: A History of the Crypto-Jews of New Mexico, covers, in detail, the time from the expulsion to the twenty-first century. About half of Spain's Jews chose to leave and half chose to stay. Most of the exiles fled across the border to Portugal, while others left for Western Europe, Morocco, and lands under the control of the Ottoman Empire. The families who converted, and at least nominally followed Christianity, were assimilated within a few generations. The crypto-Jews practiced the faith of their fathers at great personal risk since Judaism was banned from the country. They were persecuted by the Holy Office of the Inquisition for religious relapse. When found guilty, the punishment ranged from atonement and penitence to death by fire in a public auto de fe.

The Jews who migrated to Portugal only postponed their fate. Within four years King Manoel I issued his own edict of expulsion. However, he recognized the value of having a middle class in his country, so he closed the ports, ordered the Jews gathered in one place, and baptized them en masse. The Jews remained in Portugal, and because of their already strong religious beliefs, many became crypto-Jews. In the end, the fate of the crypto-Jews of Portugal was no better than those remaining in Spain, since Portuguese ancestry and crypto-Judaism were virtually synonymous to the clergy of the Holy Office of the Inquisition in New Spain during most of the sixteenth and first half of the seventeenth centuries.

Hordes tells us about some of the secret Jews who joined in the westward expeditions of these two countries. Sometime during the early sixteenth century, Spain founded Mexico City and Lima. Not long after, the Holy Office of the Inquisition established tribunals there, providing motivation for conversos to migrate away from these metropolitan centers; eventually leading to the founding of a settlement in what is now New Mexico. Using documents from the Inquisition, along with migration, trade, and settlement patterns of the emigrants, Hordes informs us that Hernando Alonso, who accompanied explorer Pánfilo de Narváez in his expedition against Cortes, was one of the first individuals required to do penance by the Inquisition in Mexico for the crime of judaizante, practicing Judaism, in 1528. Hordes believes that such things as the rise of a converso middle class, which threatened the Old Christians, and the Protestant Reformation created a new spirit of church vigilance that spilled over into the New World.

To the End of the Earth: A History of the Crypto-Jews of New Mexico is a scholarly book in which history and cultural identity theories are intertwined. To obtain information on crypto-Jews, the author performed detective-like investigations to ferret out details of a group of people who wanted to remain anonymous. To make matters worse, the Pueblo Indian Revolt of 1680, which drove out the Europeans from New Spain for thirteen years, led to the destruction of nearly all the pertinent documents. Yet, Hordes ably constructs the activities of important and wealthy individuals who helped shaped the character of New Spain. He tells us of the power struggle between the clergy and the civil government, and the involvement of the conversos in the colony, particularly through crypto-Jew Juan de Oñate, Governor of the first permanent European settlement in New Mexico, called San Gabriel del Yunque, which he founded in 1598.

After the establishment of San Gabriel del Yunque, Hordes focuses his attention on New Mexican conversos and their activities. Examining records from the Mexican Inquisition's concern for limpieza de sangre (blood purity), immigration and birth records, endogamous marriage patterns, and typical Jewish professions, he is able to shed a great deal of light on who most likely was a New Mexican crypto-Jew. By deduction and inference, Hordes relates the origins of many crypto-Jewish families and their histories in the New Mexico, as well as recounts the inquisitorial persecutions of a number of them, including Bernardo López de Mendizábal and Doña Teresa de Aguilera Y Roche, during the 1660s.

His research informs us that crypto-Jews played a continuous role in the life of New Mexico up to its conquest by the United States in 1846. For example, after the reconquest of New Mexico from the Pueblo Indians, there was a new spirit of cooperation between the Spanish church and the Viceroyalty of New Spain, particularly because both sides perceived the very real threat of attack from the nomadic Indian tribes of the southwest, such as the Apache, Comanche, and Navajo nations. Yet, understanding such thing as who the crypto-Jews were, what role they played between the church and state, and how they interacted with the Indians during this period are rendered more difficult because of the lull in New Mexican inquisitional activities. However, Hordes makes great strides in coming to some tentative answers by examining the lives of descendents of the pre-revolt conversos who returned to New Mexico, and the ancestors of nine interviewees who, in the late twentieth century, either asserted or demonstrated that they are crypto-Jews. He concludes that there is overlap between the two groups as shown in mercantile occupations, inventory records, and fragmentary remarks in church documents.

With the conquest of New Mexico by the United States, all legal barriers to practicing Judaism were gone, and so the absence of records, once again, becomes a barrier to deciding if crypto-Jews exist today, and if so, who are they? Hordes asserts that one would not expect a family that shows latent traces of Jewish practices after 500 years, to abandon its core-Christian beliefs. Yet, might not this family give up Catholicism, a religion that caused them a great deal of anguish, for Protestantism after the American conquest? To find the answers, he searches records of conversion, looking for Jewish biblical first names among the converted. He examines records of circumcision, the observations of nineteenth century southwestern writer, Mary Austin, who noted the presence of conversos in her midst, and the assimilation of Hispano communities in to the Anglo-American culture. Hordes concludes that there are Christian people of Spanish descent who observe Jewish customs and ceremonies at the dawn of the twenty-first century, and that they are descendents of fifteenth century Jews who were forcibly converted to Catholicism.

He spends two chapters telling of the research path that led from hypothesis to conclusion, and within them acknowledges the dissident voice of Judith Neulander, who argues that crypto-Jews do not exist. Indeed, she maintains that this notion is based on unfounded beliefs about the cultural past. She dismisses the Jewish-like customs celebrated by members of the Hispano community, and that others conclude are suggestive of crypto-Judaism, as irrelevant or attributable to other causes.

In one example, she asserts that observing the religious dietary laws was neither practiced nor valued by the Jewish exiles in 1492; rather the method of killing animals similar to the way the Jewish dietary laws require was a common practice among Hispanos in New Mexico. She states that Jews drain the blood of animals to avoid consuming it, while Hispanos drain the blood in order to consume it. As a second example, the crypto-Jews of New Mexico use a four-sided gambling top, called a pon y saca (put and take), which Jews will immediately associate with the game of dreidle, played during the holiday of Chanukah. Neulander points to authorities who call the game a universal cultural phenomenon. The same argument is raised about the use by present-day crypt-Jews of a six-pointed Star of David and Hebrew letters associated with the World-to-Come on headstones found in New Mexican cemeteries. Finally, in an argument that raises Neulander's ire, Hordes draws on biology, and notes a possible connection between pemphigus vulgaris, a rare autoimmune skin disease of European Jews and the Hispano community. In a 2006 paper, Neulander questions the whole concept of an ethnic disease.

Hordes argues in favor of 500 years of the cultural transmission of symbols and practices through families on both sides of the Atlantic. Neulander disputes this, saying that use of these symbols appeared in the Hispano community with the growth of Hispano Protestantism in the early twentieth century. Although personal recollections can be faulty and the historical record sparse, Hordes builds a compelling case that can not be easily dismissed. But the jury is out and more research needs to be done. Perhaps some new answers will emerge from the up coming 17th annual conference on Crypto-Judaism, which will be held in Albuquerque, NM, this August. In the meantime, it's nice to believe.

Susan Coll
Sarah Crichton Books
c/o Farrar, Straus and Giroux
19 Union Square West, New York, 10003
0374237190 $23.00

Mike Frechette

For any American family with college-bound children, Susan Coll's new novel, Acceptance, should be required reading. With this book, Coll has given her readers a witty and occasionally grave satire of the hysteria that surrounds a part of one's life that is supposed to be rewarding and enjoyable – the college application process. She depicts this process as yet another mechanism for competition in upper middle-class American society, a way that parents can turn their children into trophies to be measured and boasted about at the local country club. In fact, it is the book's parents – not the students – who fuel this competitive drive. According to the novel, this increasing competition among parents means "that more kids [apply] to more schools…making it harder for everyone to get in, ramping up the general climate of hysteria" (32). In other words, the students and parents of Coll's book are caught in a vicious cycle of hysterical competition that can only be broken when they stop competing with one another, a resolution that seems very obvious. However, this competitive drive virtually characterizes America's wealthy suburbs and is not easily relinquished by its inhabitants, a social reality which provides the premise for Coll's biting, laugh-out-loud new novel.

The book has a mostly linear structure that traces three high school students from a wealthy D.C. suburb through the entirety of the college application process, from campus tours in April of their junior year to the notification letters they finally receive in March of their senior year. The main character, dubbed "AP Harry" by the community, is aptly named for the number of advanced placement classes he has taken over the years in an effort to matriculate at Harvard. At first, this young, suit-wearing Republican is difficult to understand since his mother, Grace, is a reasonably well-adjusted graduate of the University of Maryland who conducts malaria research and tries to steer clear of her overbearing, competitive neighbors. However, the reader soon learns that Harry's parents are divorced, his father being a volatile lunatic who has constantly pressured Harry over the years to pursue a Harvard acceptance. Harry's next-door neighbor, Taylor Rockefeller, starts out as your typical jaded teenager until she, oddly enough, begins stealing the neighborhood mail and mutilating herself to ease her adolescent angst. And Maya, their athletic Indian neighbor, is forced to deal with parents who try to buy her way into the University of Chicago with generous donations and believe she has a learning disability because of her average SAT scores.

In an alternating plot line, the novel follows Olivia Sheraton, an admissions officer at Yates College, a small liberal arts school in upstate New York. The book actually begins here, with AP Harry, Maya, and Taylor all coincidentally bumping into each other during the campus tour. The previously unknown school has been attracting a better applicant pool as of late due to a printing error in a recent college ranking, which mistakenly listed it as one of the top 50 liberal arts colleges in America. Having a subplot that centers around an admissions officer is smart on Coll's part because it allows the reader to explore the other side of the college application process. Behind the doors of the college admissions office, Coll reminds us of what most educated people already know – that college admissions is not purely meritocratic but also rife with privilege and nepotism.

In regards to Olivia, her life is just as fraught with anxiety and frustration as the ambitious students whose files she is reviewing. Now in her late thirties, Olivia has already lived through a divorce with an older man and has seen her dreams of law school thwarted, only to land a position as an admissions representative in dismal upstate New York through her sister-in-law. At Yates, she has followed the same self-defeating pattern, having an affair with a married man who ends up abandoning her at the novel's end. One of the few bright spots in her life at Yates is the possibility of soon becoming Dean of Admissions, as the former dean has taken an extended leave due to mental health issues. With encouragement from the school president, Olivia assumes the role of interim dean and begins vying to make this role permanent.

Although Coll's novel deals with college acceptance specifically, it is also a novel about acceptance in general, making it a great read for a broader audience than just those currently involved in the college application process. For instance, AP Harry is not just reaching for Harvard, but also he is yearning for acceptance from an absent father who has consistently and deliberately extolled the value of such an education. Maya, in the end, chooses one school over another, not for herself but to please her parents. And Olivia, who is twenty years older than these insecure adolescents, is still striving for a certain type of acceptance – professional promotion. Even the parents use whatever means necessary – surname, children's accomplishments – to gain social acceptance amongst each other. For example, Taylor's mother, Nina, uses their last name to give the impression that they are "real" Rockefellers, descended from a long line of wealth and class (137).

Coll's novel is certainly not destined to be a defining literary classic of the twenty-first century, but it does intelligently take aim at an ugly aspect of American society – the pervasive need for acceptance of all kinds – academic, familial, professional, and social. The text is not overreaching, and she treats the subject with exactly the tone and elevation it warrants – biting humor and Hornby-esque wit peppered with instances of warmness and seriousness. The book's ending perfectly exemplifies this terrific balance. In a tender moment, Harry, Taylor, and Maya are burning college catalogues and other pieces of junk mail when Harry notices a Washington Post article that concerns the grand opening of a new Wal-Mart. According to the article, there were eight-thousand applications for 525 jobs, which Harry deduces is even a lower acceptance rate than Harvard. The reader cannot help but chuckle with laughter at such an ending while also taking Coll's serious point that the acceptance game is not played just among the upper-middle class; it is a fierce competition that pervades all rungs of American society.

Shake Hands with the Devil
Lt. Gen. Romeo Dallaire
Carroll & Graf Publishers
245 West17th Street 11th Floor New York, NY 10011
9780786715103 $16.95

Nathaniel Jimenez

Ever since the Holocaust occurred during WWII, the world has pledged to never again let such a horrific event occur. The fact of the matter is that since that time, numerous of other genocides have occurred. The question that begs is where is the support of the world who so forcefully pledged to never again let such an act occur? Romeo Dallaire, the author of Shake Hands with the Devil, talks about his first hand experiences as the UN Force Commander of the UN mission to Rwanda. He discusses how the mission was destined for failure from the start.

The situation that Dallaire was placed in was by no means an easy one. He was put in the middle of a country with two groups of people who had been at each other's throats for quite some time. There was a very shaky and unstable ceasefire in place and he was told to help further negotiate the two sides to a peace treaty. Dallaire was given little to no supplies and his request for man power was greatly reduced to well below the bare minimum for such a mission.

Throughout the book Dallaire goes in to detail to describe the struggles that he faced to keep the UN mission working and somewhat effective. He goes on to show the cruelty that humans are capable of. The biggest point that Dallaire gets at is how the world just stood by and watch as around 800,000 Rwandans were murdered in about 100 days.

Shake Hands with the Devil is a good book that not only shows the cruelty of humans, but also the failure of humanity in the world. This book says that, if given the proper force to conduct a legitimate mission, it is possible to stop genocides from occurring. This book is a very eye opening book as to how hard some people try to save others and how others try just as hard to stop them from helping the helpless. This book goes to show that the effectiveness of a UN mission depends on the resources put into it. If given the proper resources, future UN missions could accomplish their goals in a timely and life saving manner. This book reads rather well, however at times the military lingo became a little confusing and it was hard to tell who was on what side.

Flight of the Sparrows
Laura Baumbach
Aspen Mountain Press
1601680058 $6.99

Rocky Reichman

Exquisite writing and good description dominate this book. Baumbach creates strong characters, with interesting personalities that any reader can relate to. The story is fluid. The words flow together well, melding to make an inspiring story. Flight of the Sparrows has a plot thick with intrigue, adventure and unexpected twists. The author easily melts character analysis together with action-packed prose.

But the most fascinating trait to attribute to Baumbach's writing is her vocabulary. She has perfect knowledge of the meanings of words and semantics of language. Her lexicon is bigger than the average writer. It almost reaches to heights as awe-inspiring as Michael Chabon's use of the English language. Like every book, criticisms abound. No matter how well a story is crafted, there are always holes. Holes in the ship that have to be plugged up quickly to keep the vessel afloat. Sporadic actions and frequent verbiage contribute to a lack of interest readers may encounter once past the first few chapters of the story. Characters are dropped and added too often (nothing to be ashamed of: even Christopher Paolini, best-selling author of Eragon, has received the same criticism). Too often, the writer explains the obvious to the reader.

The book has a very good overall theme. It is mixed with action and love, a pair of emotions rarely hammered together. Baumbach is as much of a teacher as she is a writer. Her book includes good lessons about things readers can relate to. Things people encounter in everyday life in the real world. Flight of the Sparrows has an interesting beginning and a heartwarming end. It's lively and lovely—both at the same time. Most important of all, however, is Baumbach's uncanny ability to write a rare kind of story. To write a book that is both a literary gem and a blockbuster novel.

Bad Girls Club
Judy Gregerson
Blooming Tree Press
PO Box 140934, Austin, TX 78714
1933831014 $17.95

Terrilyn Fleming

Bad Girls Club by Judy Gregerson is a relevant and important young adult novel for the 21st century. From abusive parents who have locked their children in dog crates to the neglectful vegan couple who starved their four month old by only feeding it soy milk and apple juice, parental abuse and abandonment of their charges has taken a prominent place in our country's psyche. Gregerson's novel gives vivid life to this extreme abuse and parental abandonment. Whether young adults who read the book are themselves abused, or if they know someone who is neglected or abused, after reading Bad Girls Club they will have a better understanding of how to recognize signs of abuse and where to begin to offer help.

Destiny is a 17-year-old emotionally abused girl who has unwillingly taken on the parenting role for her five-year-old sister, Cassidy. Their mentally unstable mother is guilty of emotional and physical abuse of the girls. But perhaps more distressing is the father's impotence in halting his enabling behavior rendering him the worse parent as he abandons all emotional support for his daughters. As the mentally healthy parent, the father has a duty to protect his children, but instead, he participates in, and even encourages, the secrecy that surrounds abusive families.

Gregerson aptly builds character through Destiny's thoughts. The more her mother abuses her, the more fiercely Destiny clings to her. This is an ironic outcome of abuse that Gregerson is masterful at presenting in a thorough and realistic way. Throughout the novel, the mystery of "what happened at Crater Lake" is revealed in a slow strip tease seamlessly integrated into the story. Gregerson's craft is flawless!

This well-researched novel does not waste time on what the mother's mental illness is or how the father spends his time when he isn't at the house. Instead, the entire story is told from Destiny's point of view and set almost entirely within her house that becomes a suffocating character in its own right. Destiny's increasing anxiety attacks are exacerbated by her duty to protect and teach Cassidy how to avoid their mother's outbursts, Destiny's need to parent their mother, and the fact that it is summer vacation so Destiny has limited contact with her peer group or other potentially supportive adults.

Gregerson shows how difficult it was for Destiny to divorce herself from her abusive situation and finally have enough self-worth to accept help from her friend and her grandmother. An important element of the story speaks to those readers who have a friend who may be in an abusive situation and how important it is to continue to try to help the abused teen, even if the friend trying to help is continually rebuffed. Gregerson includes relevant websites in the end papers of her novel.

Bad Girls Club is as riveting as Dave Pelzer's A Child Called It books, but is far better at exploring the psychological reasons why the abused remain so loyal to their abusers. This is definitely a novel all young adults should read!

Judy Gregerson is also the author of SAVE ME! A Young Woman's Journey Through Schizophrenia to Health.

Andrew's Bookshelf

The Painted Man
Kenneth Floyd
0978523210 $14.95

Ken Floyd's novel "The Painted Man" combines the best of a good action-adventure story with the pitfalls of casual editing. Set in Baghdad in April 2003 as the Americans were beginning their search for WMD's, Floyd's interesting book pursues the idea that WMD's did exist, and that Saddam had developed a plan in order to pass them to various insurgent groups should he be deposed.

Floyd's cast of characters includes the CIA, the President, and various regular army and Special Forces sorts in a race against time to find where and who has the key to Saddam's WMD's. A good read, Floyd is to be commended on an interesting and entertaining initial literary effort, and here's hoping that with closer attention to technical details, he'll write another.

Scatterlings of Africa
Peter Davies
Literally Publishing Ltd
0955440904 $ 18.99

This is Peter Davies "break-out effort," and what a good book indeed ! A soldier in the Rhodesian Army during their civil war, Davies uses his own experiences in describing fighting the ‘terrs' during this ugly and misunderstood conflict. This is an excellent example of historical fiction in which the author uses his knowledge and expertise in a specific subject to give the reader an accurate and interesting window into a little-known, yet important war in our time.

As a Rhodesian soldier, Davies understood the stakes for which he was fighting, as well as the horrific and personal losses to his family, friends, and property if he lost. His Rhodesian characters Lt Ron Cartwright, Angie, and Mark -, as well as Comrade Gadziwa and Comrade Weiner on the insurgent side- reflect this determination and understanding of the stakes for which they were fighting. Not for the politically-correct or faint-of-heart, Davies provides a depth and understanding of the characters that is unusual in a novel, but through his twelve years as a Rhodesian soldier, he brings an unusual expertise to the subject matter. Well written and well edited, the reader will anxiously await the author's next Rhodesian-based book.

For the Good of the Many
Gary Carter
PublishAmerica, LLLP
PO Box 151, Frederick, MD 21705-0151
1424128515 $ 24.95

Author Gary Carter attempts to blend the Marine Corps, Vietnam, lost-and-regained love, politics, and national security in an audacious first novel, and he comes close to putting it all together.

Protagonist Jason McBride finally makes it through boot camp at Camp Pendleton and is immediately shipped off to Vietnam. As a FNG, he and his fellow Marines are quickly captured. McBride helps engineer their escape from a POW camp, and it's the relationships built here that lay the basis for the underlying story; that the successful post-war McBride is a threat to the president of the United States, who seeks to frame him in a manipulated assassination attempt. McBride reaches back to the knowledge and strengths learned in his Marine and Vietnam days in order to defeat the shadowy government forces arrayed against him.

This has the ability to be a first-rate novel, and with additional character development, tightening up plot details, and attention to technical issues, the author will surely have a superlative second novel.

Love Leaves No One Behind
Claudia Pemberton
iUniverse, Inc.
2021 Pine Lake Road, #100, Lincoln, NE 68512
0595414028 $17.95

First-time author Claudia Pemberton has written a credible and interesting crime novel, set in the Alabama mountain background of a retiring Army Ranger and the lady he learns to love. As heroine Mykayla Mitchell leaves her hometown for a new job in California, she is devastated by the death of her beloved grandmother, Granny Mae. A chance set of circumstances leads her to meet Army Ranger Jesse Daulton, and it is their budding relationship, intertwined amongst the horror of a serial killer, that makes her book so interesting. Pemberton's deft writing combines violence - patriotism - sexual tension - love- and some old-fashioned Alabama backwoods wisdom in her well-written novel.

Andrew Lubin

Ann's Bookshelf

Ted Hughes Selected Translations
Daniel Weissbort, editor
97805712240 0 20.00 Brit. pounds

"Ted Hughes(1930-98), Poet Laureate from 1984, was among the most important translators in the English tradition".

So writes Daniel Weissbort in his introduction to this book. Weissbort whose own expertise in translation is widely acknowledged and who was co-founder of the magazine, Modern Poetry in Translation in 1965, is ideally placed to assess Hughes's translations. He writes that "Hughes's approach to the translation of poetry suggests a belief in the intrinsic ability of poetry to cross language frontiers, provided the translator does not impose himself overmuch. The act of translation required not only intense listening but also a high degree of self-discipline". He is surely right, too, when he says that Hughes's involvement in translation was related to his own needs as a writer and that, since Hughes undertook translation projects throughout his life, these provide valuable clues to his development and are, in fact, "an integral part of his oeuvre".

Hughes may not have taken any part in the academic debates about the different approaches to translation (described by Weissbort as "'foreignisation' as against 'domestication' or naturalising translation") but, as a poet, he had very definite views about his own approach. He favoured translations which were "literal though not literal in a strict or pedantic sense", and he valued "the very oddity and struggling dumbness of word for word version [which is] what makes our imagination jump". He was also acutely sensitive to the 'voice' of the poets whose work he chose to translate. As with Yehuda Amichi, on whose poems he worked with Assia Guttman, he strove to "preserve above all [...] the tone and cadence" of the poet's voice speaking in English.

With translations such as that of the fifteenth century poem 'Sir Gawain and the Green Knight', Hughes relied on his own attunement to the language of the poet which, as he said, he immediately recognized as akin to his own Yorkshire dialect. So, in this particular case, his translation has a vibrancy which Hughes believed had largely been lost in the earliest translations due to the adoption in England of metrical forms "based on French and Italian models". In later translations of Classical and Neo-Classical work are certainly not literal translations but Weissbort sees them as being a development of Hughes's literalistic approach and since the works in this book are arranged in chronological order it is possible to see this development and to see all these translations as they fit into Hughes's work as a whole.

The number, variety and quality of translations in this selection is remarkable, ranging from the invented language of Orghast, through Classical Greek, Middle English, Renaissance, Tibetan and Hebrew texts, to the wide range of modern European works. Weissbort provides a brief introduction to each section and quotes from relevant correspondence between Hughes and poets, theatre directors and other translators. He also includes extracts from several editorials which Hughes wrote for Modern Poetry in Translation, and one long, previously unpublished, essay on translation. In this essay, Hughes expressed many of his views on poetry in translation, referred to work which influenced his own approach, and described the translation boom which took place in England in the sixties and early seventies due, to a large extent, to his own work with Modern Poetry in Translation and in setting up the first Poetry International Festival in 1967.

In Appendices, too, Weissbort provides brief examples of alternative translations to Hughes's versions and of works which Hughes used as cribs, such as Evans-Wentz's translation of the Bardo Thodol, Amichai's own English translation of his own work, and word for word translations provided by others at Hughes's request.

There is much in Ted Hughes Selected Translations which is unpublished elsewhere, or has been published only in part. It is not a complete selection but a substantial and enjoyable one none-the-less, and there are surprises and delights here which any poetry lover will appreciate. Altogether, it is an important and valuable book for anyone interested in Ted Hughes's work and/or the art and craft of poetry translation in general.

Chapter Titles:

Bardo Tholdol (The Tibetan Book of the Dead)[1960]
Homer [1961]
Mario de Sa Carneiro [1962/3]
Heder Macedo [1962/3]
Ferenc Juhasz [1965/6]
Yves Bonnefoy [1967]
Paul Eluard [1960s?]
Yehuda Amichai [from 1968]
Seneca [1967/8]
Orghast [1971]
Georges Schehade [1974]
Janos Pilinszky [175-7]
Marin Sorescu [1987]
Camillo Pennati [1990?]
LOrenzo de'Medici [1992/3]
Ovid [1994]
Frank Wedekind [1995]
Aeschylus [1995]
Federico Garcia Lorka [1996]
Anonymous (The Pearl Poet) [1997]
Abdulah Sidran [1998]
Jean Racine [1998]
Euripides [1998]
Alexander Pushkin [1999]

Red Princess: A Revolutionary Life
Sofka Zinovieff
978186207919 9 29.95 Brit. pounds

Mrs Skipworth, an old lady immersed in her books in rural Cornwall, fostering stray animals and walking Bodmin Moor in old gum-boots and scruffy clothes. And Princess Sophie (Sophka) Dolgorouky, a child attended by nursemaids, footmen and private tutors, playmate of the Tsarevich, and heiress to some of the greatest wealth in Russia.

Two pictures which could not be more different, but this same woman was the grandmother of the author of this book. Her life was full of contrasts and her granddaughter's biography tells an absorbing story of a woman who did not just survive the huge political, social and military upheavals through which she lived, but who tackled every situation with exceptional determination, zest and courage.

Sofka Skipworth (nee Dalgorouky) seems to have inherited her individuality and her determination from her remarkable family, especially from her mother (the author's great grandmother) who rejected the usual roles expected of aristocratic women of her generation in Russia and chose a career and a path through life which was unusual for any woman at that time. In the early years of the twentieth century, Sofka's mother enrolled at medical school and qualified as a surgeon; she drove her own car and was the only woman driver in a motor rally in 1912; she was one of the first women in Russia to qualify for a pilot's licence and she became a bomber pilot in 1916; she was awarded two St George Crosses for bravery; and she scandalized everyone by taking numerous lovers. This was the inheritance of her daughter (the subject of this biography), who displayed a similar free-thinking attitude to life and love.

Princess Sofka Dolgorouky's maternal grandfather was Alexei Brobinsky, who was a direct descendent of Catherine the Great, Empress of All the Russias, and her lover, Gregory Orlov. Her paternal grandfather also traced his origins back to Catherine's court, and to a favourite of Catherine's consort, Potemkin. This exceptionally beautiful woman, known as la Belle Greque, had been sold as a courtesan by her impoverished mother in Constantinople. Her aristocratic lover is reputed to have lost her at cards to a Polish Count Potocki, who married her. When she became a favourite of Potemkin's, the Empress gave her a pair of diamond earrrings, but Potemkin "topped this" by giving her the fine estate of Miskhor on the Black Sea which still belonged to the family and in which Sofka lived for some time as a child before the Russian Revolution.

In Red Princess, Sofka Zinovieff tells her grandmother's story from her journals, letters and other papers, and from interviews with family and others who knew her. Some of the most interesting parts of this book are accounts of the author's own travels to find places and people her grandmother knew. The palaces, the servants, the riches, all are gone: but people remember her grandmother and her grandmother's family; and, for many of them, the name Dolgorouky still warrants respect and conjures strangely nostalgic memories of pre-revolutionary Russia. The Dolgorouky Mansion inherited from La Belle Greque has become a Medical Therapeutic Centre, but a local woman remembered the family well and was delighted to share memories and photographs. In other places, people were similarly helpful, especially one elderly woman who had been a lifelong friend of her grandmother's ever since their internment together during the Second World War as British passport holders in Germany.

Sofka Dolgorouky left Russia for England on the same ship as the Dowager Empress of Russia, whose son, the Tzar, together with his wife and children, had already been shot by the Bolsheviks. She lived from then on in England and Europe. She was schooled briefly at a private girls' school in London where she became friends with Margaret Douglas-Hamilton, and later she worked for the Douglas-Hamiltons before marrying a Russian Prince, Leo Zinovieff, by whom she had two children. She divorced Zinovieff to marry Grey Skipworth, who was the love of her life and by whom she had a third child. For a time, Sofka worked as a private secretary to Lawrence Olivier and his first wife Jill Esmond, and she and Grey lived a bohemian life in Chelsea, but life never ran smoothly for long. Wartime widowhood, internment at Vittel in Germany, hardship and poverty followed. Sofka never conformed to what other, more conventional people, expected of her. She chose her own way of life, was a somewhat careless mother, and lived according to her own standards. Her concern for Jewish prisoners during her internment led her to take risks which she thought inadequate but which later led to her being recognized by the Holocaust Remembrance institute for her efforts. After the war, she became a Communist (hence the title of this book) but the more she saw of modern Russia, working as a tour-guide and translator, the more she lost faith in Communism.

In her later years, Sofka and her companion Jack King, looking for a place in which they could afford to live, moved to Bodmin and settled into a quiet rural life punctuated by the visits of relatives and friends. Her granddaughter writes that Sofka eventually established real friendships with some of her grandchildren, but they had to earn it. Once earned, the rewards were great: memorable letters, inspirational reading lists and, in the author's own case, the bequest of a beautiful old diary in which Sofka had recorded some of the most fascinating parts of her life. It was this diary which eventually led Sofka Zinovieff to write her grandmother's biography, and it is clear that researching and writing it has been eye-opening and sometimes difficult experience, but the results are worth it. This is a well written, interesting and absorbing book about an exceptional woman.

Ann Skea

Bethany's Bookshelf

The House of the Faun
Carolyn Doggett Smith
2021 Pine Lake Road, Suite 100, Lincoln, NE 68512
0595405193, $19.95

The House of the Faun is a passionate tale of forbidden love set within ancient Pompeii. Thirteen-year-old Ariana works as a kitchen slave for the House of the Vettii. The illegitimate daughter of the master of the house, she must cope with the jealousy of his wife and the ardor of her half-brother Marcus. When she is sent to the House of the Faun to serve as a maid, she falls in love with the master's son Gaius, yet what chance does the love of a slave girl and a government official's son have? Meanwhile, Marcus' envy remains a brooding threat. Rich in drama and historical detail, The House of the Faun is a romance to be savored page by page.

The Way It Was Growing Up In Wartime Holland
Sid Baron
Exxel Publishing Company
323 Telegraph Rd., Bellingham, WA 98226
0978558200, $12.95

The Way It Was Growing Up In Wartime Holland is the true-life story of author Sid Baron's adolescence in Holland during the Second World War. Growing up in an era when German collaborators terrorized the populace, he learned to keep secrets that could literally mean life or death, and even witnessed a B-17 fighter get shot out of the sky (decades later he was able to meet the sole survivor of that plane). A fascinating, unabashedly honest chronicle of what it was like to live through dark days in Holland's modern history, and subsequently emigrate to America. Highly recommended.

Next Friend
Anne Southworth
Next Friend Press
12699 Cedar Road, Cleveland Heights, OH 44106-3332
9780974793719, $15.00

Next Friend: The Journal of a Foster Parent is the true-life memoir of librarian, lawyer, and foster parent Anne Southworth, recounting how she and her husband took in the willful, argumentative orphan Nikki (not her real name) at age sixteen, cared for her, and prepared her for high school graduation. Their relationship with Nikki was rocky at first, marked by arguments, and requiring therapy. Yet patience and persistence were instrumental to building strong family bonds. A special challenge lay in encouraging Nikki to interact with her biological grandmother and sister. Next Friend is far more than a foster parent story; it is a journey of laughter, tears, and transformation. Highly recommended.

The Call Girl Actress
Erica Black
McKenna Publishing Group
425 Poa Place, San Luis Obispo, CA 93405
193217222X, $20.00

"The Call Girl Actress: Confessions Of A Lesbian Escort" is the personal and candid memoir of Erica Black. Before retiring from her profession, Erica was an upscale, high-end, and much sought after call girl who functioned as a personal escort for men of means, authority, and power. She provided these men with a fantasy fulfillment of their sex lives with her female beauty, wit, charm, humor, and articulate intelligence. What these men did not realize and never knew was that Erica was also a lesbian. Indeed, Erica was a virgin when she had intercourse with her first client. Exceptionally well written and highly recommended reading, "The Call Girl Actress" is a compelling, informative, eye-witness introduction into the underground world and life of an expensive and successful prostitute whose performance as a provider of heterosexual fantasies for a price was flawless.

Susan Bethany

Buhle's Bookshelf

Long Shadows of War
Eugene Grecu
Trafford Publishing
6E-2333 Government Street, 2nd floor, Victoria, BC V8T 4P4 Canada
1412099862, $27.75 1-888-232-4444

Written by Romanian-born physician Eugene Grecu, Long Shadows of War is a novel set in Romania during the dark days of World War II, followed by Communist oppression so severe it sparks resistance, and later, defection. Based heavily upon the author's personal experiences growing up in Romania as well as the stories of survivors and other resources, Long Shadows of War is a fast-paced saga of human clashes, suffering, love, loss, guilt, and the rekindling of hope within the spirit. An intensely personal narrative that comes alive with feeling, immersing the reader in history itself.

Excited Light
Lynn Voedisch
iUniverse, Inc.
2021 Pine Lake Road, #100, Lincoln, NE 68512
0595421733, $14.95

The debut novel of journalist Lynn Voedisch, Excited Light is the story of a ten-year-old boy's spiritual journey through contact with a higher power. Living with his alcoholic single mother, he confides his secrets to his toy duck, Dudley - and Dudley answers him. When his mother gets caught in a whirlwind romance with a nightclubbing lover that brings her dangerously close to death, Alex, guided by Dudley, steps forward to help set her free from her terrible addiction. A serious-minded yet heartwarming spiritual story.

Sam Moffie
UEL Enterprises
4180 Lockwood Boulevard, Boardman, OH 44511
0978606205, $14.95

Sheldon Marsh is a half-Jewish, hearing-impaired baseball pitcher living in Youngstown, Ohio. Sheldon has a wonderful relationship with his movie-obsessive mother -- who always offers him a film title for relating to life's 'up and down' situations and life circumstances. But life is generally pretty dull and uninspired in the rust-belt decay of Youngstown. And even worse, Sheldon's wife Eleanor with whom he has a rather rocky relationship. Then Sheldon comes up with a novel idea -- exchange wives, kids, and even dogs with his friend and fellow baseball team player Thomas. That way Sheldon will have a new life! "Swap" by Sam Moffie is an original novel showcasing the humor and the unexpected consequences of our choices in life. Of special note is Moffie's quite evident gift for dialogue and his knack of crafting the twists and turns of the story line so as to hook and keep the reader's rapt (and sometimes gleeful) attention from first page to last. An ideal addition to community library fiction collections, "Swap" is a very highly recommended and entertaining read.

Wolf Dawson
Charlsie Russell
Loblolly Writer's House
PO Box 7438, Gulfport, Mississippi, 39506-7438
0976982412, $14.95

"Wolf Dawson" by Charlsie Russell is a compelling and superbly crafted novel that takes for its subject the impact the aftermath of the American Civil War had on the lives of some of the people and community of Natchez, Mississippi. Some ten years after the Confederate Army reported Jeff Dawson had been killed in action, the once dirt-poor young man unexpectedly returns a man of enough wealth to by White Oak Glen, the once opulent home of a pre-war aristocratic family. We also encounter Juliet Seaton, a young woman struggle to hold on to the remains of her family farm against the excesses of the post-war Federal occupation. A struggle complicated by a drunken brother and the importunities of needy relatives. And if that weren't enough, there is a marauding wolf slaughtering precious livestock. Other complications are the suspicions of her brother that the man calling himself Jeff Dawson is an imposter, a neighbor hell-bent on avenging his sister who died in childbirth after being raped by a Seaton man, and the local folklore that Jeff Dawson's grandfather (who was part Creek Indian) was a shape-shifter who could turn into a wolf. That old belief led to the lynching of the grandfather and the expectation by some that perhaps Jeff is conducting a vendetta against the vigilantes responsible. When Seaton livestock and some Natchez prostitutes are murdered, Jeff and Juliet (who have a compelling attraction for each other) must somehow find out the killer and heal old community wounds. "Wolf Dawson" is an original and very highly recommended addition to any personal or community library reading list or historical fiction collection.

Willis M. Buhle

Burroughs' Bookshelf

Cinco de Mayo
Donald W. Miles
iUniverse, Inc.
2021 Pine Lake Road, Suite 100, Lincoln, NE 68512
0595392415, $20.95

Award-winning radio journalist Donald W. Miles presents Cinco de Mayo: What Is Everybody Celebrating?, a historical account of the events that sparked the annual Cinco de Mayo holiday in Mexico. Nearly 150 years ago, when the emperor of France ordered his generals to take over Mexico and use it as a "base" to help the Confederates in the American Civil War against the Union Army, Mexico fought back. On May 5th, 1862, Mexico won a decisive battle against French forces, preserving its independence and preventing foreign interference in the American Civil War, yet it would take Mexico another five years to expel the last of the French soldiers from its borders. Cinco de Mayo chronicles the war between Mexico and France in plain terms, accessible to readers of all backgrounds; notes and an index round out this excellent historical primer especially recommended for public library collections.

Regenerative Refrain
Michael Howard
iUniverse, Inc.
2021 Pine Lake Road, #100, Lincoln, NE 68512
0595412068, $17.95

The poetry of Michael Howard comprising "Regenerative Refrain: Poetry For The Traveler In All Of Us" is a body of impressive work that offers introspection, entertainment, and humor as it takes for its themes love, life, and simply living out our personal adventures as we travel through our days experiences and observations. Highly recommended and thoroughly enjoyable reading, the poems and their lessons here presented are simple, elegant and succinct. 'What Do You Surround Yourself With': Maybe the introvert has a lot to say/but does not know if it is prudent to express it./Maybe the extrovert has nothing to say,/but he says it anyway.//The former is hidden in books,/the latter is broadcast with electricity./90 percent of the latter are crooks./Choose the former for long-lasting felicity.

Hooked On A Horn
Gene Hull
Trafford Publishing
2333 Government Street, Suite 6E, Victoria, BC, Canada, V8T 4P4
1412067219, $22.00 1-888-232-4444

"Hooked On A Horn: Memoirs Of A Recovered Musician" is the autobiography of Gene Hull who first became interest in music when, at the age of ten, was taken by his parents to a live stage show where he saw the Benny Goodman Orchestra perform. This is the personal story of a professional musician who lived and played through the era of the big bands, the emergence of the music and social issues of the 60s, 70s, and 80s. Gene Hull combine humor and a keen observation to reveal to the reader what a life on the road, encountering such music greats as Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Elvis "Presley, Dave Brubeck, Vic Damone, Leonard Berstein, and such eminent entertainers and actors as Katherine Hepburn and Woody Allen was really like. "Hooked On A Horn" is very highly recommended and entertaining reading (enhanced with an accompanying music CD) that will have a special appeal to students of 20th Century American music, and those who appreciate an engaging memoir (with something of an ironic twist) of a man who lived through interesting times

He Called Her Lilie
Thomas L. Chiu
Chaucer Press Books
100 West 57th Street, New York, NY 10019
1884092020, $14.95

Thomas L. Chiu's second published volume of short stories, "He Called Her Lilie" continues to document him as an impressive talent able to deftly craft original, entertaining, and thoughtful fiction that captures the reader's total attention with each carefully scripted and succinctly presented tale. The 51 stories comprising this simply outstanding and very highly recommended 186-page anthology range from the title piece 'He Called her Lilie', to such two page gems as 'The Jewels', 'Pizza', and 'A Magnificent Gift' to longer five page tales like 'The Candle', 'The Drowning', and 'Last Strawberries of Autumn'. Populated by memorable characters, surprises, and hallmarked by Chiu's especially articulate and distinctive literary voice. "He Called her Lilie" is a superb example of what the short story format can achieve.

John Burroughs

Carson's Bookshelf

Kriegsgefangenen #250208 "My War"
Jack T. Sneesby
Vantage Press, Inc.
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
0533154480, $15.00 1-212-736-1767

World War II veteran Jack T. Sneesby presents Kriegsgefangenen #250208 "My War", a riveting memoir of the cost of putting one's life on the line to defend one's country. Sneesby tells of the rigorous tests he underwent to prove himself worthy of service, combat, his capture by the Germans and survival as a prisoner of war. A tale of the human will to press on and endure, Kriegsgefangenen #250208 "My War" is especially noteworthy for its insight into the nature of fear - distinguishing dread (an emotion Sneesby felt often while in service, though he refused to lose control to it) from terror or panic (which Sneesby loosely defines as out-of-control fear), not to mention the practical realities of life in a foxhole. "One learns to adapt. Never move too far from the only safe place. One can move about at night, visit with friends in neighboring foxholes. However, it is easy to get disoriented at night. And when sleepers are suddenly awakened at night by strange noises they are apt to act out of instinct and ask questions later." Highly recommended.

Rupert: Just Being Me
Rupert Boneham & Lester Thomas Shane
c/o Sams Technical Publishing
9850 E. 30th St., Indianapolis, IN 46229
079061331X, $14.95

Rupert: Just Being Me is the memoir of celebrity figure Rupert Boneham, founder of the Rupert's Kids organization to provide mentoring and educational programming to troubled youth, as told to author Lester Thomas Shane. Chapters tell of the shock of learning the woman he had lived with had legally and surreptitiously become his common-law wife - then divorced him and used the courts to drain him of money; the founding of the Rupert's Kids organization; his television debut; the difficulty of letting go of metaphorical demons and ghosts; and much more. A handful of color photographs and numerous black-and-white photographs illustrate this one-of-a-kind behind-the-scenes memoir of a truly charitable man.

Crack! and Thump
Captain Charles Scheffel with Barry Basden
Camroc Press, LLC
PO Box 801, Llano, TX 78643
0975450360, $20.00

Crack! and Thump With a Combat Infantry Officer in World War II is a stark memoir of an American combat infantry officer surviving the terror, fatigue and strain of the European Theater of World War II. From brutal battles under fire to the liberation of France, witnessing French revenge on those of its own people who collaborated with the Nazis, and having to take cold-blooded killers prisoner while their victims called for their immediate execution, and much more, Crack! and Thump brings the war experience to unforgettable life. A bluntly honest account, neither glorifying nor undermining America's role in turning back a horrific worldwide threat, and a welcome addition to military memoir shelves.

Heart of a Mule
Dick Schafrath
Gray & Company Publishers
1588 E. 40th St., Cleveland, OH 44103
159851024X, $24.95

Heart of a Mule: The Dick Schafrath Stories is the autobiography covering seventy years of a truly remarkable man's life. Dick Schafrath tells of his childhood on an Ohio farm with no plumbing, plowing behind a pair of mules; winning national football championships; serving four terms in the Ohio senate; being the first person to ever canoe across Lake Erie; returning to Ohio State to finish his undergraduate degree after fifty years had passed; and much more. Told in a friendly, conversational tone, these varied stories are sure to delight and inspire, as they convey a rich life marked by rising to challenges. Highly recommended.

Michael J. Carson

Christy's Bookshelf

Recipe for Trouble
Jackie Griffey
Five Star/Thomson Gale
295 Kennedy Memorial Drive, Waterville, ME 04901
159414530X $25.95 1-800-223-1244

Pine County Sheriff Cas Larkin is concerned when local celebrity Mattie Carrington's kitchen explodes several minutes after she and her sister Katie leave home. Mattie and Katie are cousins of Miss Mayme and Miss Minnie Anderson, the two sisters who run their small town's floral shop. However, Cas's instincts kick into high gear when he learns that Mattie has had several accidents in the near past and had planned to be home the day of the explosion. When Mattie leases a lakeside cabin in their county to finish a cookbook she is writing, Cas makes it a point to keep check on her. During one of his visits, he finds Mattie unconscious and takes her to the hospital, where the doctor discloses she has been poisoned. All eyes point to Miss Minnie, the last person to visit Mattie, but Cas has other suspicions.

Fans of this series will feel as if they are spending time with old friends and new readers will quickly fall under the spell of all the warm characters in this sequel to The Nelson Scandal, from Cas's wife Connie, the perpetual matchmaker, to Miss Mayme and Miss Minnie and several others. Griffey enfolds the reader in an engaging mystery that takes place in a charming locale, with spine-tingling suspense, a demented killer, and more than a few charismatic characters, including a psychic and faith healer.

Secrets Dark and Deep
Anne White
Hilliard and Harris
1591331986 $28.95 (hc) $16.95 (pb)

As mayor of Lake George, a small resort town, Loren Graham tends to become overly involved in local investigations, much to the chagrin of Sheriff's Investigator Jim Thompson who has warned her to keep out of matters involving law enforcement. But when a stranger stumbles across a skeleton and insists on showing Loren, Loren finds herself drawn into the murder of a young college student 25 years earlier.

Travel writer Millicent Halstead has moved back to Lake George, where she once lived with her husband, poet Carl Durocher, rumored to have had an intimate relationship with the murdered young woman. It's bad enough that Millicent keeps imposing on Loren's time, which distracts her from mending her tense relationship with boyfriend Don Morrison, but someone is stalking the neighborhood while local bat expert Arthur Blake's reclusive mother keeps disappearing. Although Loren tries to stay below Thompson's radar during the ongoing murder investigation, she keeps being pulled back in by those who knew the young woman. When Loren inadvertently learns the identity of the killer, she becomes targeted for murder.

Secrets Dark and Deep is exceptional; so skillfully written, the reader gets lost in the flow and it ends all too soon. The story moves at a fast pace, nicely building suspense until a climatic, nail-biting ending. As part of the Lake George Mystery series, past and future books ensure a building relationship with likeable Loren Graham and her cozy resort town. White delivers a colorful cast of characters readers will not easily forget and a galvanizing plot that guarantees edge-of-the-seat involvement.

Shadows in the White City
Robert W. Walker
HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
0060739967 $6.99 1-800-242-7737

Chicago is hosting the World's Fair in the year 1893 but there is trouble afoot. A killer dubbed the Phantom of the Fair is on the loose, garroting his victims to near-decapitation and burning their bodies. Inspector Alastair Ransom has his sights set on a young man named Waldo Denton but Denton is exonerated by Ransom's archenemy, Police Chief Nathan Kohler. When Denton disappears, with Ransom's help, evidence proves he was the Phantom. But another killer quickly steps in to fill the Phantom's shoes, this one more vicious and brutal than the Phantom.
Named the Leather Apron because the killer literally butchers victims, Ransom's investigation leads him to the underbelly of Chicago, desperate to put an end to this manic murderer who preys on the homeless. What Ransom learns shocks even this skilled detective. With the help of Dr. Jane Francis, aka Dr. James Phineas Tewes, and a group of homeless children, along with primitive forensics, Ransom trails the Leather Apron to tunnels beneath the World's Fair, where a bloody battle has already begun.

Robert W. Walker delivers an outstanding historical mystery, with compelling characters and a shocking resolution. Dialogue and narrative magically transcend the reader to the true realism of Chicago of the late 1800s, skillfully highlighting unfolding historical events and the roles women played in medicine and society as well as the plight of the homeless. This twisting mystery provides plenty of gut-wrenching suspense embedded in an electrifying plot that refuses to allow the reader to put the book aside. Inspector Alastair Ransom is a unique character, a man of great depth and principles who lives by his own rules, and who can easily carry this invigorating series forward.

Christy Tillery French

Debra's Bookshelf

The Book of Fate
Brad Meltzer
Warner Books, Inc.
c/o Grand Central Publishing
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017-0010
044661212X $7.99 1-800-759-0190

Eight years before the action of Brad Meltzer's The Book of Fate begins there had been an assassination attempt. President Leland Manning wasn't hurt, but a member of his staff, Ron Boyle, was killed, and Manning's aide, Wes Holloway, was shot in the face and permanently disfigured. The shooting stole more than Wes's face: he is haunted by guilt for having seated Boyle in the presidential limousine that day. And Wes, once sure he was destined for greater things, has stopped taking chances. Years after Manning lost the White House, Wes is still fetching the former President his coffee. But the cocoon Wes has built around himself is shattered during a trip to Malaysia. A chance encounter in the President's hotel forces Wes to confront his ghosts, and to figure out what really happened the day he and Boyle were shot. The conspiracy he ultimately uncovers reaches all the way to Manning's inner circle and tests Wes's loyalty to the former President, a man he has looked up to as a father figure.

Meltzer tells his story from multiple perspectives, Wes's, principally, but also, for example, those of Nico Hadrian, the madman who shot Wes and Boyle, and "The Roman," the dramatically named ringleader of the dramatically named group of conspirators--"The Three"--who used Nico as their pawn. The book has some things going for it. The glimpse it provides into life in the White House inner circle is interesting. (Meltzer had access to former Presidents Bush and Clinton in preparing his manuscript, and credits his conversations with them for some of his favorite details in the book.) And Nico's macabre drive across country holds its own fascination.

On the negative side, Meltzer's plot is confusing, and Wes and his cronies unravel the arcane clues they uncover a bit too quickly. And while Wes is a likeable enough character he is not so compelling that we invest our emotions in his story. Wes is defined largely by his attachment to Manning, who has, we are told, treated Wes like family, but readers aren't given evidence of this special treatment from the President in the text, so it is difficult to credit. The book's title has very little to do with the story, and Meltzer's foray into Dan Brownish territory--Freemasonry and cryptic symbols--isn't necessary to the plot.

In the end The Book of Fate is decidedly...okay. If you're looking for a page-turner you might want to grab the latest Ken Follett instead.

Other People's Money
Neil Forsyth, with Elliot Castro
Sidgwick & Jackson
Pan Macmilla

20 New Wharf Road, London N1 9RR
028307051X $25.78

Elliot Castro, the "audacious fraudster" of this book's subtitle, was finally caught in 2005. His criminal career had lasted some six years, beginning when he stole his first credit card at the age of sixteen. That first theft landed Elliot almost immediately in the back of his first police cruiser, but the experience didn't sour Elliot on a life of crime. He pocketed and profited from many more cards before graduating to a more sophisticated brand of fraud, one that allowed him access to other people's money without the dirty work of swiping wallets. Aided by a photographic memory and a genius for finance, Elliot supported himself for years by scamming credit card companies. He lived as a fugitive, constantly worrying about suspicious clerks, ready to run at a moment's notice, and mindful always of detail: Which credit cards and whose names was he using in which establishments? Which banks asked which security questions? But Elliot lived, ostensibly, very well: he spent money obsessively, at the finest restaurants and the best hotels, the poshest shops, amassing designer clothes and gold-plated Rolexes and more cash than even he could spend. But in the end, not surprisingly, this proved to be an empty sort of existence, and finally one he couldn't sustain.

Other People's Money tells the story of Elliot Castro's childhood and career in crime. Neil Forsyth, a freelance journalist, wrote the book "with" Elliot, which apparently means that he wrote the book from interviews he conducted with Elliot (and a few others). But, interestingly, almost all of the book is told from Elliot's perspective, in the first person--and very engagingly--so that it is easy to forget that Forsyth stood as an intermediary between Elliot and the page, sharpening the con man's sentences into a very readable narrative. Forsyth writes from his own perspective only a few times, in a handful of chapters in which he describes, for example, his first meeting with Elliot, or his meeting with Elliot's mother Jane. These chapters, however, are less interesting than those detailing Elliot's experiences. Forsyth's first-person approach to telling Elliot's story is very effective, though I would have liked an explanatory note about the collaborative process, because it is somewhat jarring to read the story in Elliot's voice while knowing that Forsyth is the book's principal author.

Elliot may not be a completely likable character. He stole hundreds of thousands of dollars, after all, with little remorse, and dedicated himself to accumulating material goods and to ostentatious display. But Forsyth's book renders Elliot's crimes at least comprehensible. Elliot grew up alienated, in part because he was so much smarter than his classmates, and various events conspired to convince him that deception and wealth were avenues to gaining respect. There were other problems, presumably a compulsive shopping addiction among them, and one leaves the book thinking that Elliot may be more sick than immoral.

Elliot did not find happiness in his crimes for long, at any rate. They landed him in jail more than once and ruined his relationships, particularly with his immediate family. And while getting away with fraud was exhilarating in the beginning, in the end it didn't satisfy. Without denying that he had taken pleasure in his crimes, Elliot paints a bleak picture of life as a master criminal:

"I lived amongst my lies every moment I was awake and then they would rule my sleep. Every sentence I spoke for over four years had been calculated and examined before it left my lips. It didn't matter if I was in a bar, a courtroom, or a jail cell, I was controlled by the need to protect my lies and myself."

Elliot offers what seems to be a very honest self-portrait in this book, depicting his failings as both a criminal and a human being. For a smart thief, for starters, he made a great many stupid mistakes, sometimes eluding law enforcement only because of the latter's ineptitude. More poignantly, Elliot recognizes that his bid for acceptance through wealth--buying rounds of drinks and hosting parties and showing off his taste through conspicuous consumption--bought only temporary friends, and that he was frequently viewed as pathetic and vulgar despite his riches. So in the end, flawed as he is and now that he's going straight, you can't help feeling a bit sorry for Elliot, and impressed with his honesty in portraying himself like this. You'll leave the book impressed, too, with Forsyth's ability to shape Elliot's story into so compelling a narrative.

Debra Hamel

Eric's Bookshelf

Cracker & Camper Van Beethoven
MVD Visual
PO Box 280, Oaks, PA 19456

In the 1980s the band Camper Van Beethoven was one of those bands that was often without a genre playing music that came before the indie rock explosion and the roots rock craze, but that would fit into either. By the dawn of the 90s the band had disbanded and singer/guitarist David Lowery formed the roots-influenced rock band Cracker. With hits like "Euro-Trash Girl," "Teen Angst (What the World Needs Now)," and "Low" the band became a hit on the Modern Rock radio charts while the line-up remained unstable. Lowery used time between recording and touring to produce acts like Joan Osborne and Counting Crows. This DVD documents a two-day festival that featured reunited line-ups of Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker as well as solo sets from Camper members Johnny Hickman and Victor Krummenacher.

Leonard Cohen: Under Review 1934-1977
Sexy Intellectual
PO Box 230, New Malden, Surrey, KT3 6YY, UK

This 90-minute documentary features rare interviews and photographs combined with interviews with former producers, band mates and critics such as Robert Christgau to review the work of Leonard Cohen as he moved from poetry and fiction writing to songwriting. Each of Cohen's early works is taken individually and reviewed by the panel members adding insights into his life and work.

Tim Buckley: My Fleeting House
MVD Visual
PO Box 280, Oaks, PA 19456

Tim Buckley is somewhat of a cult artist who is sometimes lost in the shuffle, but, thanks in part to the attention garnered by his son, Jeff Buckley, is gaining the opportunity for his music to reach a new audience. Buckley recorded nine albums in his brief career that spanned 1967 to 1974 when he died from a heroin overdose. Never content to rest on the critical praise from the last album, Buckley moved his music from folk to progressive jazz while maintaining the acoustic twelve string underpinnings and folk lyricism. This new documentary provides us with rare performances from a variety of late-60s/early-70s television shows as well as rare interview clips. This serves as a great introduction to Buckley's work through critical interviews with band mates, producers and co-writers.

Born In the Honey: The Pinetop Perkins Story

Route 1, Box 75, Salem, WV 26426

At age 93 blues pianist Pinetop Perkins is still rocking with the best of them. "Born in the Honey" provides a comprehensive look at Perkins life from growing up in the Mississippi Delta to migrating North and becoming a sideman for such legends as Sonny Boy Williamson, Earl Hooker and Muddy Waters. Starting his solo career at age 83 Perkins began to revel in the spotlight and continues to this day. Not only is this the story of Pinetop Perkins, it also serves as an overview of the migration north many African-Americans embarked on in the 1930s and 1940s. It is a fascinating story and one more than worthy of the DVD treatment. Also packaged with the DVD is a CD containing 9 live tracks and one rare studio track.

Eric Banister

Gary's Bookshelf

The Blonde Theory
Kristin Harmel
5 Spot
Hachette Book Group USA
1271 Avenue of the Americas, New York NY 10020
9780446697590 $13.99

The novel has a lot to say about the world of dating. Harper is a great attorney who has just had her boyfriend walk out on her at the beginning of the book. She begins to evaluate herself and why she can't keep a man. She and her girlfriends come up with the blonde theory that if you play dumb men will love you. What she finds is very different from what she had expected. She goes on a series of dates and plays the role of a dumb blonde and gets a taste of what life is really all about. There is one special man though but she finds that even he, when she is really herself is not all that he seems. I loved the interplay of Harper's girlfriends and what she learns about dating and herself. The author memorable characters with a writing style that is easy to read and created.

Fresh Disasters
Stuart Woods
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399154102 $25.95

Stuart Woods is one of the best thrill writers and once again he shows why with this one. This Stone Barrington story has three plotlines that are intertwined and race along. A witness in a big case needs Stone's help, a woman Stone meets becomes a victim and a sick artist makes Stone his target. I love how Woods unfolds his tense situations with characters you've read before. At the center is Stone who is a delightful person with a fresh approach to doing things. Woods books are always a treat.

John J. Nance
Pocket Star
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, New York 10020
9780743476621 $7.99

The author in his intro mentions that he told Charles Gibson on "Good Morning America" that this is his best book ever. I agree and I see why. Nance usually tells the crisis novel that involves pilots and seat of the pants flying sequences but this novel has a lot more. His character Kip Dawson is just a regular guy who sells pharmaceuticals for a living. He wins a contest to fly into space on a commercial spaceflight and finds that he has to do more than be a passenger. He has to take full command of the ship because the pilot has been killed when the craft collided with space debris. But that is only part of what makes the novel so different. It is that Nance gives us an insight into the character through his thoughts and writings on the computer. He feels he is doomed. I won't say how it ends. I will say it moves along very quickly and would make a great movie.

The Smallest Schoolhouse
Regina N. Lewis
Illustrated by P. M, Moore
CyPress Publications P.O.Box 2636, Tallahassee, Florida 32316-2636
0977695832 $12.95

This sequel to "The Smallest Toy Store" has the same magical feel and delves into another thought provoking subject for all ages to enjoy. The team of Lewis and Moore once again work together to tell their story through prose and art.

Nemesis Rising
Glenda Finkelstein
Book Surge
North Charleston South Carolina
1419609270 $14.99

Finkelstein has a knack for telling stories with interesting characters and tense situations. This time though she does something else. She incorporates religion and does it very well. Unlike other authors who hit you with their message, Finkelstein make it part of the story and makes it interesting. She has written a tale that moves along very quickly with many conflicts that drive the book to its end. Her writing makes the reader feel that the Neptune space station is up and running.

The Blue Zone
Andrew Gross
William Morrow & Company
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780061143403 $25.95 1-800-242-7737

I've read the collaborations with James Patterson and am happy to say that this solo venture by Gross hits a home run. His story is a fast paced read that should thrill fans of Patterson. The tale is about the worst scenario of the witness protection program classified as "the blue zone" when the protected witness is either dead or cannot be found by law enforcement officials. The characters are believable while the novel has a rapid pace that flows along to its final shattering conclusion.

Walking on Glass
Alma Fullerton
Harper Tempest
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299

9780060778514 $19.99 1-800-242-7737

The author has written a novel in the poetic form. It is a very interesting way to tell the story but it works very well. I was fascinated at how quickly the story unfolded. This is a YA novel but it is a very dark tale of a family and what happens when one of the members attempts suicide. The author shows the effects on all members and friends and how they deal with it. There are several things I would have liked the writer to have told a little earlier: the age of the main character, his or her sex, and a name.

Hot Stuff
Janet Evanovich and Leanne Banks
St Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780312941468 $6.99

I loved this one and hope to see more of Cate Madigan. She is working her way through school and just wants a quiet existence. She finds that her life is nothing like she would like to have, because her cross dressing roommate has everyone after him. A dog shows up with instructions that she is to care for it. The situations are hilarious as the story unfolds and the authors will have you turning the pages to laugh at all the oddball situations.

The Rookie
Becker and Moutafis
Baby Shark Publications
Jacksonville. Florida
976512505 $7.95

This is a comic book that has a lot of adult themes. Yeah, there are super heroes, bad guys too, but it is the writing that makes this one so much better. The authors have put a new slant onto the cops and robbers genre

Plum Lovin
Janet Evanovich
St Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10010
9780312306342 $16.95

Stephanie Plum is back. This time Plum has her hands full with several offbeat characters. Along again is her wisecracking grandmother and the other dingy sidekicks from her other novels. I love how this author comes up with many new funny situations that make you laugh out loud.

Brides Behaving Badly
Bev West and Jason Bergund
Warner Books
Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York NY 10169
9780446699167 $12.99

These are moments those involved would like to forget, because they are so embarrassing but for those of us who are on the outside, these pictures with captions are very funny. This is a laugh out loud book that is a great gag gift.

The Wicked Word
Philip Lee McCall II
Mythis Studios Inc
9781411689893 $19.95

Through the use of poetry the author takes the reader on another excursion into the dark realm of horror filled with vampires, werewolves, exorcism, and a lot of other creepy things guaranteed to make you lose sleep. Some of the outstanding poems to look for are "Tea With a Dragon," "Jennifer Jones," "The Fair." Also make note of the very eye catchy cover.

Gary Roen

Gloria's Bookshelf

Circle of Assassins
Steven Rigolosi
Ransom Note Press
P.O.B. 419, Ridgewood NJ 07451
0977378748 $13.95 201-835-2790

Circle of Assassins is the second in a series entitled Tales from the Back Page, which has as its starting off point the stories behind ads placed on what is called The Bulletin Board on the back page of a local newspaper, The Clarion, a fictional community paper published on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. The first in the series was entitled Who Gets the Apartment? and revolves around four strangers, each conned into renting a luxury penthouse apartment. Of course, the person offering to rent did not own the apartment in question, and the story dealt with how each one resolved the situation. This time around, there are five strangers involved, and in a tale reminiscent of Strangers on a Train, they each agree to kill someone chosen by another member of the "Circle," and in return have a stranger murder a victim of his/her choice, no one member knowing the identity of any other. [The ad is headed "Revenge is Sweet," and is marked "For Entertainment Purposes Only."] It would seem a perfect way to avoid having any physical evidence coming back to point at the one who has selected the victim, and to have a valid alibi as well, since that person would in fact have had nothing to do with the actual deed. Intr iguing premise indeed.

One participant ruminates: "Since I decided to go through with this, I've been doing a lot of thinking about what might drive other people to these acts of desperation. Is your tale one of sordid trailer park lust and jealousy? Maybe you were spurned by someone, and this is your way of getting his or her attention once and for all? Were you jilted by a lover, betrayed by a friend, or robbed by a business associate? Did a bully in your childhood pick on you, or does a bully in your adult life push you around now? Did someone take advantage of your good nature, hurt your children, or mistreat your parents? Do you have a rival or competitor whose elimination will lead to your progress, advancement, or wealth? Do you have hostilities towards people of specific races, genders, sexualities, or ethnicities?" And it's a fascinating postulate: which of us, reading that ad and that proposition, might not at least hesitate, just for a second, and consider it? The author provides an interesting take on the supposition that "murder is something that happens to someone else." We are told, and shown, that "someone may be plotting your murder as you read the book." Then everything takes a startling turn.

I have to admit I had to jump back and forth with some regularity as the book explores the minds of those on both ends of this equation to figure out who is the intended victim of which Circle member, the p.o.v. being put forth, and so forth, which was a bit disconcerting. This was perhaps the author's intent and designed to keep the reader off balance. Be that as it may, ultimately it was the unexpected twists and turns that kept me hooked.

There are two more planned Tales From the Back Page, and I look forward to reading them.

Good Night, My Darling
Inger Frimansson
A Caravel Book from Pleasure Boat Studio
201 W. 89th St., NY, NY 10064
1929355372 $16.00 888-810-5308

This novel was the second by this author to receive the Swedish Academy of Mystery Authors Award for Best Swedish Crime Novel, making her the only female crime author ever to receive this award twice. Hailed as a startling psychological thriller, it has now been brought to American readers in a translation by Laura Wideburg.

The author's style is immediately compelling. Early in the novel, the protagonist, Justine, is going through her stepmother's room after both her parents have died and her stepmother institutionalized following a stroke: "She wiped down the dresser when she was in the mood to take care of things. She cleaned the mirror with window cleaner and she moved the hairbrush and the tiny perfume bottles around. Once she picked up Flora's hair brush and held it to the window, staring at the gray strands of hair. She bit herself hard inside one cheek and quickly ripped away one of the strands. Then she went to the balcony and set it on fire. It burned with a pungent odor, rolled itself up, and disappeared." Justine has lived here most of her life, in a house by a lake in Sweden, and now finds herself reflecting on those who had victimized her throughout her life and determines to exact revenge.

This is a dark, one might even say morbid, tale, and Justine an intriguing character from whom one cannot take one's 'eyes' away. The chapters alternate p.o.v. between Justine and other characters who have affected her life, at times confusingly. In addition, I found the writing less than smooth, which I presume is a function of the translation as much as anything else, and the non-linear approach a bit disconcerting. That said, the setting is very well evoked – one can almost feel the cold and the snow of Sweden, and the novel is gripping, racing along as it progressed despite my earlier problems with the writing. Justine is one scary gal!

Tara Moss
Dorchester Publishing
200 Madison Ave., NY, NY 10016
0843958480 $7.99 800-481-9191

In her third thriller, after Fetish and Split, Tara Moss has brought back Makedde ["Mak"] Vanderwall, a model and psychology student from Vancouver, B.C., and has brought that protagonist back to Sydney, Australia [where the author makes her home]. When she was on assignment in that city in Fetish, she became the target of a man dubbed the Stiletto killer, who was responsible for the death of her best friend, in the course of which she met and fell in love with Andy Flynn, the detective assigned to investigate the serial murders and who was her rescuer. In Covet, she has returned to Sydney to testify at the trial for murder of the sadist who had kidnapped and tortured Mak, and is reunited with Andy.

The book opens with a chilling prologue describing a completely unrelated murder, committed in a frighteningly detached manner, introducing the reader to the macabre world of Tara Moss' creation. And the reader soon becomes horrifyingly aware of how this new killer is connected with the main story line and the serial killer at its center. I hesitate to give any more of the plot for fear of giving away any spoilers, but suffice it to say that the book is page-turning and suspenseful, and thoroughly enjoyable.

Mak's plans after obtaining her Ph.D. include practicing as a clinical forensic psychologist, and one can look forward to future books depicting her in that profession. Having missed this author's earlier books featuring this complex and sympathetic protagonist, I look forward to following her in novels yet to come. The word 'spinetingling' has been used often before, but it perfectly describes Covet. Yet the book is much more than that – Tara Moss tells a helluva good story. Recommended.

Bad Luck and Trouble
Lee Child
Delacorte Press
c/o Bantam Dell
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
0385340559 $26.00 800-726-0600

The startling opening pages of Bad Luck and Trouble, the new Jack Reacher book by Lee Child, has a man with two broken legs being loaded onto a helicopter and very shortly thereafter being dropped to his death from a height of 3,000 feet to the California desert floor.

Jack Reacher, 6' 5", 250 lbs., thirteen years in the military and ex-MP, the enigmatic protagonist of this series, is contacted by a former colleague, Frances Neagley, now working for a private security provider. It appears that the dead man was someone they both knew and had worked with, also a former M.P. and a part of Reacher's Special Investigations Unit. Reacher's reaction to the news of his death: "You don't throw my friends out of helicopters and live to tell the tale." The unit's old catchphrase is revitalized: "You do not mess with the special investigators," and it becomes a mantra.

Opening a new Jack Reacher book is like seeing an old and treasured albeit somewhat scary friend; I started reading Bad Luck and Trouble with a smile on my face in happy anticipation, and the author did not disappoint. This is Reacher as we know and love him, and at his best. The book is wonderfully well-written and –plotted, and tho I saw one plot twist coming from a long way off it was no less enjoyable for that. I could not put this book down – well, I could, but I really didn't want to. Highly recommended.

The Dead Place
Stephen Booth
Bantam Books
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10029
0385339062 $25.00 800-726-0600

The newest book in this deservedly popular series by Stephen Booth, just published in the US, brings back Detective Constable Ben Cooper and his partner, Detective Sergeant Diane Fry. While Fry is investigating creepy phone calls received by the police from an obviously deranged person speaking through a voice changer and referring to deaths which have not yet taken place, in addition to the disappearance of a young woman from a car park, Cooper is trying to identify, with the help of a forensic artist who has done a facial reconstruction, a woman whose body has been found lying in a wooded area apparently more than a year after her death. The anonymous phone caller is obsessed with death, and the subject permeates every corner of this book. Part of one phone call: "I can smell it right now, can't you? …It's the scent of death." And indeed death in all its aspects becomes palpable – to the police and the reader in turn, the thanatologist who volunteers to assist the police as a consultant only enhancing the effect. Diane muses: "…there must be many ways of shutting out the sight of death passing by, or pretending it didn't exist." But the caller, again, insists: "To most people, death is a dirty secret, a thing of shame, the last taboo. To me, it's completion, the perfect conclusion." On the ot her hand, Ben "knew that he'd have to face up to his own death some time. Like most people, he'd always thought he could avoid it forever. And perhaps he'd read too many stories in which people didn't die. Instead, they passed away, breathed their last, or were no more. In polite conversation, death was skated over rapidly, like thin ice." Cryptic clues are contained in the phone calls, which exhort the police and tells them that all they have to do is find "the dead place." It becomes a race against time as the police attempt to discover the identity of the caller, and of his next victim.

A psychological thriller of the first order, The Dead Place is filled with atmospheric detail and a complex plot. Fry and Cooper are wonderfully drawn characters with whom the reader becomes more involved with each new novel by Mr. Booth. The next book in the series will be Scared to Death, due out soon, I believe, in the UK, and in the US in 2008, giving his many fans, this reader included, something to look forward to.

Gloria Feit

Gorden's Bookshelf

The Last Templar
Raymond Khoury
New American Library a division of Penguin Putman Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0451219953 $9.99

Khoury has done a good job of picking over historical facts to create an illusion of a millennium old conspiracy filled with violence and intrigue. The mystery isn't as intense as in other books but the violence of fanatics is there. Khoury doesn't break new ground with 'The Last Templar' but he does bring a readable variation on the theme.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has an opening for an exhibit of Vatican treasures. Four horsemen dressed as knights ride into the museum killing and stealing some of the artifacts. Archeologist Kim Chaykin is there with her mother and daughter. She sees the object one of the knights has come for. It puts her on the trail of a mystery that has killed thousands over the years. FBI agent Sean Reilly is also on the case. As the body count increases, Kim and Sean form an uneasy alliance to solve the theft. They become targets from both sides with every step closer to the truth and closer to each other.

'The Last Templar' is light reading for those interested in the historical conspiracy genre. It is a relaxing story with just enough action to keep you going from beginning to end. Khoury's roots as a screenwriter are apparent in how the story is told. The result is an action adventure that pushes the reader inside their comfort zone making 'The Last Templar' cozy reading.

Lee Child
Bantam Dell
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
0440241006 $7.99

Everyone is fascinated by a killer with no remorse. If you add the ethics of popular justice, you have the he-man hero of literature. Jack Reacher is Lee Child's take on this character. The stories are action from beginning to end but with a very strong mystery. This makes a great escapist weekend read.

Jack Reacher is an ex-military cop who has dropped out. He is the definition of the lone drifter. In a chance meeting on the street he sees a man who should be dead. When he starts checking on the man, he is contacted by a beautiful DEA agent, Susan Duffy, with a problem. During an off-the-books investigation, one of her agents has disappeared. Jack wants to make sure the man he saw stays dead this time and Duffy wants her agent back. They join forces and Jack walks in knowing it will be kill or be killed.

'Persuader' is an enjoyable fast tale for the action junkie who wants to play a who-done-it mystery. It has a few minor faults but the action doesn't give you time to worry about them. The action/mystery reader will be happy with the story.

S.A. Gorden

Greenspan's Bookshelf

Surprise Treatment for Dyslexia, ADHD, Headaches and Other Conditions
Eugen Oetringer
Trafford Publishing
2333 Government Street, Suite 6E, Victoria, BC, Canada, V8T 4P4
1412095867, $24.29 1-888-232-4444

Written by Eugen Oetringer, an information technology specialist and father of a dyslexic child with ADHD, Surprise Treatment for Dyslexia, ADHD, Headaches and Other Conditions: It's All About Information Management is a revelation of simple, surprisingly low-effort therapies that the author has seen succeed well beyond the measure of traditional therapies. Based on this experience, Oetringer has created a model to explain how the human brain may be processing information, and uses it to explore the possibility that there is a common root cause for a panoply of mental conditions and disorders. Chapters discuss the "surprise therapies", from reiki to music therapy, rapid eye movement therapy, and more, as well as the Information Management Model of the human brain and what it has to say about mental capacity. Part scientific hypothesis, part extension of hope through inexpensive alternative therapies for anyone suffering from mental disorders that do not respond to conventional treatment, Surprise Treatment for Dyslexia, ADHD, Headaches and Other Conditions is an insightful look into the absolute cutting edge of medical knowledge and beyond.

I Beat Heart Disease, So Can You
Guido V. Marinetti, Ph.D.
iUniverse, Inc.
2021 Pine Lake Road, #100, Lincoln, NE 68512
0595395805, $15.95

Biochemistry professor Guido V. Marinetti presents I Beat Heart Disease, So Can You, a practical guide written by a survivor of heart disease, for anyone with heart disease who wants to improve their health and extend their life 25 years or more. Chapters discuss both dietary and drug treatments for heart disease, the history of atherosclerosis, and even the biochemical science behind heart disease - though the scientific material is presented in an introductory, easy-to-understand terms so that lay readers quickly grasp and understand the biological underpinnings of heart disease. A serious and practical-minded guide to maintaining optimum heart health, as valuable as a preventative guide for those who haven't been diagnosed with heart disease as it is a treatment and lifestyle-change guide for those seeking to change their lifestyles for the better to beat heart disease. Highly recommended.

The Complete Guide to Real Estate Tax Liens and Foreclosure Deeds
Don Sausa
The Vision Press
6900-29 Daniels Parkway #147, Fort Myers, FL 33912
0978834682, $24.95

Tax lien expert Don Sausa presents The Complete Guide to Real Estate Tax Liens and Foreclosure Deeds, a guide for lay readers of modest means and up to investing in a secure market favored by the rich - government tax auctions, in which tax lien certificates and tax deeds are sold for pennies on the market value dollar. Designed for quick-study in seven days or less, The Complete Guide to Real Estate Tax Liens and Foreclosure Deeds covers where to find tax auctions, important research that one should undertake before the auction, bidding types and strategies, how to flip tax liens, and much more. A practical, solid guide to an excellent alternative to investing in the volatile stock market or lower-yield bonds, featuring numerous sample checklists, state-by-state summaries of auction types, and much more to help any reader get started in the market. Highly recommended.

Debt is Slavery
Michael Mihalik
October Mist Publishing
PO Box 70809, Seattle, WA 98127
0978545702, $14.95

Slavery is defined as "being bound in servitude as an instrument of labor" - something that applies to directly to debt as well! Written by aerospace engineer and debt survivor Michael Mihalik, Debt is Slavery and 9 Other things I Wish My Dad Had Taught Me About Money is a straightforward guide to taking control of one's finances and escaping the slavery that is debt. Written in plain terms for lay readers, Debt is Slavery offers practical advice and cautious warnings - such as when debt can be good (if it is used to buy something that will produce value and/or income in the future - for example, borrowing to pay for college education or start a business), when it is bad (if it is used to live a lifestyle one cannot afford), how to choose a job ("don't sell your soul for a salary"), and how to recognize the influence of the Great Marketing Machine, or GMM. The step-by-step instructions for paying off one's credit cards are especially valuable. Enthusiastically recommended reading for all Americans, and especially for young adults or college freshmen who are just about ready to move out of home and live on their own.

Able Greenspan

Harold's Bookshelf

Stephen Johnson on Digital Photography
Stephen Johnson
O'Reilly Media, Inc.
1005 Gravenstein Highway North, Sebastopol, CA 95472
9780596523701 $39.99

This book starts with the basics of working with digital photography and a basic guide to digital cameras. The author does a particularly good job of discussing both the similarities and the differences in film and digital camera techniques including dealing with sensor artifact repair and sensor noise. As the leading professional digital photography software most of the examples are detailed using Photoshop. Using this product Stephen Johnson discusses how and why to adjust tone and contrast, color correction and editing, changing hue and saturation, and photographic reproduction.

Throughout the book are beautiful examples of the techniques being presented including realistic photography, sensor matched techniques, scanning camera photography, and photography as art. Mr. Johnson does not have his head in the clouds when it concerns digital photography. He realizes that there are still advances that need to be made in the area of digital photography and discusses them candidly.

Stephen Johnson on Digital Photography is a well written, easy to follow, easy to understand, and very approachable introduction to digital photography as both a science and an art form. While most books on digital photography work only with the digital darkroom options this book provides a detailed understanding of each step of creating a digital photograph including how the camera works and why it is important for you to understand how it works. He discusses how various camera features affect the end result. And because of this more complete approach to the subject as well as the quality of the information Stephen Johnson on Digital Photography is a highly recommended purchase.

Marketing Metrics: 50+ Metrics Every Executive Should Master
Paul W. Farris, Neil T. Bendle, Phillip E. Pfeifer, David J. Reibstein
Wharton School Publishing
c/o Pearson Education, Inc.
One Lake Street., Upper Saddle River, NJ 07458
0131873709 $39.99

This is an excellent explanation of marketing metrics, how to use them, and the strengths and weaknesses of various ones. It is written for the non-technical reader who wants to really understand the effect of their marketing efforts. The focus is not primarily on the technical aspects of getting the information (although this is provided) as it is the correct interpretation of it.

As a result of obtaining and evaluating these metrics you can judge the success of a marketing program and quantify the results. Some of the subject areas covered include customer perception, competitive analysis, product strategy, brand equity, customer profitability, sales force organization and compensation, price sensitivity, promotions, rebates, trade allowances, advertising media and customer response.

For every metric the authors indicate the name, method of construction, special considerations, and purpose. They also define the individual components used to construct the metric and provide examples. For some of the metrics you will need additional data and the authors provide information on appropriate data sources. They also include information on potential complications and cautions when constructing or using the metrics as appropriate. Marketing Metrics: 50+ Metrics Every Executive Should Master provides extensive information written in a clear and understandable way and is highly recommended.

The Definitive Guide to GCC
William von Hagen
2560 Ninth Street, Suite 219 Berkeley, CA 94710
1590595858 $49.99

The Definitive Guide to GCC covers the ways to use the GCC Compiler to compile programs written in C, C++, Fortran, and Java. For each of these languages the author discusses how it is implemented within the GCC compiler. While all the sections of the book are good the parts I found the best were the ones on optimizing and analyzing code as well as troubleshooting GCC. These are very well done sections and cover stuff that is often left out of other texts or not explained nearly as well.

This can be a dauntingly technical book for those unfamiliar with programming and compiling but that is also what makes it so perfect for the experienced user. It is an extensive reference that includes not only the common options but also some of the more obscure options and switches that can be highly useful in the right circumstances.

The Definitive Guide to GCC is typical of the "Definitive Guide" series by Apress and does not disappoint in terms of expertise, detail, and easy to follow explanations. If you want to know the GCC compiler, the details of how to use it, and troubleshoot compilation problems you will find this book to be one of the best resources you can find. The Definitive Guide to GCC is highly recommended.

Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament
John H. Walton
Baker Academic
PO Box 6287, Grand Rapids, MI 49516-6287
9780801027505 $24.99

Divided into five distinctive sections, this book provides an introductory look at the conceptual world surrounding the Hebrew Bible. The five sections are Comparative Studies, Literature of the Ancient Near East, Religion, Cosmos, and People.

The section on Literature of the Ancient Near East is is a good, although very brief, survey of the literature of the ancient near east including Egyptian, Sumerian, Akkadian, and Hittite. The author has included a good cross section of ritual texts, letters, chronicles, legal collections, hymns, wisdom literature, and prophecy.

The section on Religion is subdivided into The Gods, Temples and Rituals, and State and Family Religion. Here the reader is exposed to ancient thought on these subjects with the intent that they come to understand the common beliefs and practices well as beliefs and practices that differentiated them from each other.

The section on the Cosmos examines both the geography of the cosmos and the beliefs surrounding them. The section on the geography of the cosmos is excellent and includes an examination of the structure of heaven, the earth and the netherworld. I found this section to be particularly interesting and very informative with an excellent exposition on the Hebrew word "bara" and the functional aspects of naming.

The final section on People provides an excellent examination of the various concepts of creation of the human race as well as what it means to be human. It also includes a very good explanation of the interaction between the people and their religion including prophecy, oracles, and their perception of history as a nation. This section ends with a discussion of the beliefs about the future of the earth and what happens after death.

Throughout the book the author has included excellent side-bar sections offset in shaded boxes that further illuminate related ideas and concepts. These often contain some of the best and most interesting observations of the material if you are already somewhat familiar with the subject.

Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament provides a solid comparative study of the various literature from the ancient near east showing both commonalities and differences with the beliefs of the nation of Israel. The book clearly sets the culture of Israel in the Old Testament times alongside those of its neighbors and allows the reader to better understand the mindset of the time. Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament is highly recommended.

A Frog Thing
Eric Drachman
Kidwick Books, LLC
363 South Saltair Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90049
9780970380937 18.95

Frog wants to fly! But flying is a bird thing and not a frog thing. Frog can do frog things but he wants to fly. Everyone tells him that he can do anything, as long as it is a frog thing. But you never know what might happen and how a frog might be able to do a bird thing. A Frog Thing is an excellent children's book and highly recommended.

I Wish I Had Freckles Like Abby
Kathryn Heling, Deborah Hembrook
Raven Tree Press
1400 Miller Parkway, McHenry, IL 60050
9780972497381 $16.95

This is an absolutely delightful story that captures the essence of the common childhood desire to be just like your best friend. In this book the main character, Rosa, not only wishes she had freckles like her friend Abby but tries to make them herself but it never quite works out the way she expects. The book is written in both English and Spanish and is a fun way to introduce children to another language. I Wish I Had Freckles Like Abby is highly recommended and wonderfully illustrated. Be sure not to miss the companion book, I Wish I Had Glasses Like Rosa.

I Wish I Had Glasses Like Rosa
Kathryn Heling, Deborah Hembrook
Raven Tree Press
1400 Miller Parkway, McHenry, IL 60050
9780972497374 $16.95

This is an absolutely delightful story that captures the essence of the common childhood desire to be just like your best friend. In this book the main character, Abby, not only wishes she had glasses like her friend Rosa but tries on glasses, imagines goggles to be glasses, and even tries to make them herself but it never quite works out the way she expects. The book is written in both English and Spanish and is a fun way to introduce children to another language. I Wish I Had Glasses Like Rosa is highly recommended and wonderfully illustrated. Be sure not to miss the companion book, I Wish I Had Freckles Like Abby.

Ageless Spine, Lasting Health
Kathleen Porter
Synergy Books
2100 Kramer Lane, Suite 300, Austin, TX 78758
9781933538402 $24.95

Are you plagued by aches and pains on a regular basis? Have you come to accept them as a normal part of everyday life? If so then this book may interest you very much. If not then the book may still interest you before you have those problems. Author Kathleen Porter examines how the spine should be aligned for continuing health and to prevent problems. This natural alignment creates a natural balance and comfort that makes the muscles of the body relaxed and comfortable because the spine correctly supports the body instead of the muscles trying to hold it up. She does an excellent job of describing exactly how the body was meant to work and how to return it to normal. The basic premise of this book is that with regular practice and awareness you can return your body structure to how it was meant to work. Ageless Spine, Lasting Health is a recommended read.

Idealized Design
Russell L. Ackoff, Jason Magidson, Herbert J. Addison
Wharton School Publishing
Pearson Education, Inc.
One Lake Street, Upper Saddle River, NJ 07458
0131963635 $27.99

How do you get to the idealized design when working on any problem? The premises of this book is when you are solving a problem the way to get the best possible solution is to imagine what that solution would be and then work backwards to your current situation.

After you have worked backwards to your current situation you can follow the steps to get to the desired goal. As a concept this sounds easy enough but applying it to a specific situation may not be as easy. To deal with this problem the authors walk the readers through the process of applying idealized design in a business, a not-for-profit, and a government organization.

Applicable to many situations in addition to businesses, the authors also include how it can be applied to world challenges, urban situations, and health-care with complete examples. The process is very well documented with a step-by-step procedure that is structured enough to allow you to follow the process but open enough to allow you to apply it to almost any situation. One of the most useful aspects of the process is how it can be used to defeat the life-cycle problem of most businesses by staying ahead of the curve and in the innovative mindset. With great examples that make the concepts clear and easy to apply Idealized Design is very well written and highly recommended.

The Trial of Innocence
Andre LaCocque
Wipf & Stock
Cascade Books Division
199 W. 8th Ave., Eugene, OR 97401
9781597526203 $31.00

In this title author Andre LaCocque examines the story of Adam and Eve, the serpent, and the expulsion from the Garden of Eden. However, he does not limit his discussion to the Old Testament account. Mr. LaCocque takes a vertical approach that includes information from many cultures before the time the story of Genesis was written down all the way through some more recent sources. In addition he takes a horizontal approach that examines the Yahwist's writings in the Hebrew Old Testament and compares it with the writings of other contemporaneous cultures while also examining it's application to the nation of Israel.

A scholarly text, it is not an exegetical study but a study of the source of the text and the common motifs presented. The Trial of Innocence is recommended to those who are interested in a cross-cultural perspective on this subject and an understanding of how the Garden of Eden story was affected by and in turn affected Israel.

The Therapist's Notebook for Integrating Spirituality in Counseling
Karen B. Helmeke, Ph.D. and Catherine Ford Sori, Ph.D.
The Haworth Press, Inc.
10 Alice Street, Binghamton, NY 13904-1580
9780789032577 $79.90

This is the first book in a two book set on this subject. Inside you will find not only solid advice but very practical homework, handouts and activities that can be integrated into a psychotherapeutic practice. The subjects covered include such critical topics as Spiritual Self-care of the Therapist, Ethical Use of Spirituality, Spirituality and Professional Disclosure, Mobilizing Spiritual Resources, The Spirituality Focused Genogram, the Impact of Abuse on Internalized God Images, and Developing Forgiveness. The editors also include chapters on Shame and Spirituality, using the Spiritual Journey in Recovery, Religious Humor in Therapy, Spiritual Autobiography, Scriptural Affirmations, Therapeutic Healing, Change through Contemplative Prayer, Overcoming Distress and Trauma in Christian Clients, and Using Spiritual Practices in Conjunction with Therapy,

All chapters follow the same basic format of background information, the rational for use, instructions, vignettes, contraindications, references, and lists of additional professional readings and resources. Throughout the book are illustrations, scales, self-assessment tests, and examples. With thirty-two contributing professionals this is a collection of the thoughts and techniques of a wide range of practitioners who use practical psychotherapeutic techniques within the paradigm of the spiritually oriented client or therapist.

Practical, sensitive, and ethical The Therapist's Notebook for Integrating Spirituality in Counseling is an essential resource for the Christian Counselor, Psychologist or any other professional wanting to integrate spirituality into counseling.

The Therapist's Notebook for Integrating Spirituality in Counseling II
Karen B. Helmeke, Ph.D. and Catherine Ford Sori, Ph.D.
The Haworth Press, Inc.
10 Alice Street, Binghamton, NY 13904-1580
9780789032577 $79.90

This is the second book in a two book set on this subject. Inside you will find not only solid advice but very practical homework, handouts and activities that can be integrated into a psychotherapeutic practice. The subjects Using Religion or Spirituality in Solution-Oriented Brief Therapy, The Internal Family Systems Model, Exploration of Adolescent and Adult Spirituality, Cognitive-Behavioral Treatment of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder with Religious Features, Enhancing Reliance on God as a Supportive Attachment Figure, Integrating Spirituality with Children and Families Experiencing Loss of a Parent, Exploring Spirituality with Children in Counseling, Online with Adolescent Spirituality,

Conducting a Spiritual Life Review with the Elderly, Assessing African-American Spiritual and Religious Orientation, Counseling with Jewish Clients and Families, Saints and Family Systems, Coping with Chronic Illness, Recovering from Fetal Loss, and Spirituality with Caregivers in Group Counseling.

All chapters follow the same basic format of background information, the rational for use, instructions, vignettes, contraindications, references, and lists of additional professional readings and resources. Throughout the book are illustrations, scales, self-assessment tests, and examples. With twenty-eight contributing professionals this is a collection of the thoughts and techniques of a wide range of practitioners who use practical psychotherapeutic techniques within the paradigm of the spiritually oriented client or therapist.

Practical, sensitive, and ethical The Therapist's Notebook for Integrating Spirituality in Counseling II is an essential resource for the Christian Counselor, Psychologist or any other professional wanting to integrate spirituality into counseling.

Harold McFarland

Harwood's Bookshelf

God is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything
Christopher Hitchens
McClelland & Stewart
75 Sherbrooke Street, 5th floor, Toronto, ON, M5A 2P9
9780771041426 $32.99

Christopher Hitchens is the author of The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice, the book that definitively exposed a lying, swindling, hypocritical nun as an avaricious fraud who collected millions of dollars by pretending that it would be used to feed the starving, and left it in a bank to collect interest for the Catholic Church while the starving continued to starve. Mother Teresa combined the egocentricity of Leona Helmsley and Imelda Marcos with the larcenous duplicity of Ken Lay. Since the number of people conned into regarding "God" as a nice guy is even larger than the number who continue to believe that Mother Teresa was a nice guy, that should have made Hitchens the perfect person to expose the world's most popular imaginary playmate as the combination of Stalin, Hitler and Charles Manson that his own official biography shows him to be.

Unfortunately that is not the way it turned out. Hitchens is not a biblical scholar. He is a journalist. While he does not claim the designation, "investigative reporter," as if that fatuous, self-serving conceit made amateurs such as Woodward and Bernstein the equal of historians and police detectives, he does have the same experience and skills as those gentlemen. While that makes him singularly qualified to recognize the difference between the public image and the unpleasant reality of such hypocritical frauds as Mother Teresa and Mohandas Gandhi, it also makes him singularly unqualified to apply his skills to the Judeo-Christian bible. But he is more than capable of recognizing the problems with alleged eyewitness testimony. He explains, "I have spent much of my life as a correspondent and long ago became used to reading firsthand accounts of the very same events I had witnessed, written by people I otherwise trusted, which did not accord with my own" (pp. 143-144).

Hitchens' analysis of religious propaganda is not all inadequate. He is able to recognize that, "The mildest criticism of religion is also the most radical and the most devastating one. Religion is man-made" (p. 10). "Religion is not unlike racism. One version of it inspires and provokes the other" (p. 35). "the deranged fantasies of the book of Revelation" (p. 56). He identifies Augustine of Hippo as "a self-centered fantasist and an earth-centered ignoramus" who "fabricated the mad and cruel idea that the souls of unbaptized children were sent to ‘limbo.' Who can guess the load of misery that this diseased ‘theory' has placed on millions of Catholic parents down the years" (p. 64). "Religion comes from a period of human prehistory where nobody ... had the smallest idea what was going on. It comes from the bawling and fearful infancy of our species, and is a babyish attempt to meet our inescapable demand for knowledge…. All attempts to reconcile faith and reason are consigned to failure and ridicule for precisely these reasons" (pp. 64-65). "Thoughtful believers can take some consolation, too. Skepticism and discovery have freed them from the burden of … having to answer distressing questions about who inflicted the syphilis bacillus or mandated the leper or the idiot child" (p. 96).

A little further on, "Freud de the obvious point that religion suffered from one incurable deficiency: it was too clearly derived from our own desire to escape from or survive death" (p. 103). "As far as I am aware, there is no country in the world today where slavery is still practiced where the justification of it is not derived from the Koran" (p. 181). "Conceivably, some readers of these pages will be shocked to learn of the existence of Hindu and Buddhist murderers and sadists" (p. 199). "The largest study of prayer ever undertaken had discovered yet again that there is no correlation of any kind between ‘intercessory' prayer and the recovery of patients…. Elsewhere, a group of dedicated and patient scientists had located, in a remote part of the Canadian Arctic, several skeletons of a large fish that, 375 million years ago, exhibited the precursor features of digits, proto-wrists, elbows and shoulders" (p. 281).

Hitchens' citations of modern religious practices and apologetics are right on the money. Consider: "While some religious apology is magnificent in its limited way—one might cite Pascal—and some of it dreary and absurd—here one cannot avoid naming C. S. Lewis—both styles have something in common, namely the appalling load of strain that they have to bear. How much effort it takes to affirm the incredible!" (p. 7) "the best-selling pulp-fiction Left Behind series … ostensibly ‘authored' by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, was apparently generated by the old expedient of letting two orangutans loose on a word processor" (p. 56). "An Australian fascist and ham actor named Mel Gibson … adhered to a crackpot and schismatic Catholic sect consisting mainly of himself and of his even more thuggish father, and has stated that it is a pity that his own dear wife is going to hell because she does not accept the correct sacraments" (p.110).

Hitchens makes clear that theofascist insanity is not limited to the Christian West. "Today, ancient stupidity is on us again. Muslim zealots in Europe are demanding that the Three Little Pigs, and Miss Piggy, Winnie-the-Pooh's Piglet, and other traditional pets and characters be removed from the innocent gaze of their children" (p. 41). He describes Pakistan as "a state where the law allows a woman to be sentenced to be gang-raped in order to expiate the "shame" of a crime committed by her brother" (p. 46). He quotes the decree of Jewish fanatic Maimonides that, for his corruption of the "true" religion, Jesus was to be boiled in excrement for all eternity. He comments, "What a good Catholic Maimonides would have made" (p. 111). He cites the "Talmudic Jewish rationalization. Don't do any work on the Sabbath yourself, but pay someone else to do it … The Dalai Lama tells us that you can visit a prostitute as long as someone else pays her. Shia Muslims offer ‘temporary marriage,' selling men the permission to take a wife for an hour or two with the usual vows and then divorce her when they are done" (p. 212).

Of pope Ratzinazi's determination to deify (real meaning of canonize) Mother Teresa, despite Hitchens' own investigation, undertaken at the Vatican's request and reported back to them, of the dead nun's alleged miracle, he reports of the suppression of his report falsifying the alleged miracle, "Not only is this a scandal in itself, but it will further postpone the day when Indian villagers cease to trust quacks and fakirs. In other words, many people will die endlessly as a result of this phony and contemptible ‘miracle'" (p. 148).

Concerning Marjoe Gortner's confession of the unmitigated fraudulence of faithhealing, that by all logic should have put humbugs like Oral Roberts out of business permanently, Hitchens reports that, "The film Marjoe won an Academy Award in 1974, and has made absolutely no difference at all" (p. 160). In other words, addicts who thrive on mind-slavery can be shown that a coin is double-headed, and still believe it landed "heads" because a Sky Führer made it do so. So what else is new?

On whether Joseph Smith, despite being a liar and a plagiarist, had some degree of belief in his status as a spokesman for an imaginary god, Hitchens writes, "Smith obviously seems like a mere cynic, in that he was never happier than when using his ‘revelation' to claim supreme authority, or to justify the idea that the flock should make over their property to him, or to sleep with every available woman" (pp. 166-167). Just because the dirty little yellow cowards who run television consistently use the misnomer "sleep with" to mean "copulate with," that is no justification for a rationalist who has no reason to appease the braindead to do so.

Hitchens includes Mohandas Gandhi among the super-hypocrites he debunks. He writes that, in campaigning for Indian independence, Gandhi was simply taking over a crusade that was already won. Gandhi was "in a sense pushing at an open door. There is no dishonor in that, but it is exactly his religious convictions that make his legacy a dubious rather than a saintly one. To state the matter shortly: he wanted India to revert to a village-dominated and primitive ‘spiritual' society, he made power-sharing with Muslims much harder, and he was quite prepared to make hypocritical use of violence when he thought it might suit him" (p. 182). And, while he stops short of justifying China's annexation of Tibet, he makes clear that China merely replaced one totalitarian tyranny with another, and in many ways lesser, tyranny. "The first foreign visitors to Tibet were downright appalled at the feudal domination, and hideous punishments, that kept the populace in permanent serfdom to a parasite monastic elite" (p. 200). And he debunks the Muslim pretence that Mohammad, an illiterate camel driver, actually dictated the Koran. "Far from being a monoglot screed, the Koran is far better understood once it is conceded that many of its words are Syriac-Aramaic rather than Arabic" (p. 137).

All that brings me to some points of disagreement. Hitchens refers to "the three great monotheisms" (p. 73). Since he is clearly aware that Christianity has three paramount gods, hundred of second-ranking gods called angels and devils, and thousands of third-ranking gods called saints (a noncorporeal immortal capable of answering prayers is a god by definition), and that Islam and Judaism likewise have angels and devils, either he is trying to be politically correct in parroting the pretence that those forms of polytheism are "really" monotheisms, or he does not always put his brain in gear before engaging his word processor. He demonstrates the same doublethink when he praises the so-called Golden Rule and declares it to be "well within the compass of any atheist and does not require masochism and hysteria, when it is breached" (p. 213). Camel excrement! Suppose I fantasize about a supermodel ripping off my clothing and having her way with me, with reckless disregard for my rights or wishes. In order to conform to the "golden rule," I would be obliged to do the same to her. In much of the non-Muslim world, that would be a criminal offense, as indeed it should be. Or suppose I want a billionaire to give me a million dollars. Do I need to point out the impossibility of doing the same for him? The original golden rule, now damned with faint praise as the silver rule, "Do not do to another whatever is hateful to yourself," was taught by Confucius, Gautama, Zoroaster, the Hindu Mahabharata, Herodotus, Isocrates, Tobit and Hillel. Whether it was Jesus or a posthumous scriptwriter who perverted perfection into a blueprint for evil in one case and an absurdity in the other, is impossible to determine.

Hitchens refers to an "immoral teaching" that appears to be the teaching that abortion is a woman's inalienable right. While he acknowledges that, "There may be many circumstances in which it is not desirable to carry a fetus to full term," he also declares, "the words ‘unborn child,' even when used in a politicized manner, describe a material reality" (pp. 220-221). While he is deliberately ambiguous, Hitchens certainly appears to have no ability to see a qualitative difference between the abortion of a pre-human tadpole with zero brainwave activity indicate of human thought, and the killing of a self-aware sentient being. I sincerely hope I am misinterpreting him.

According to Hitchens, "Sexual innocence … is positively corrosive and repulsive in the mature adult" (p. 227). Nonsense! Innocence is always a positive quality. But while I disagree intensely with what Hitchens wrote, I am in complete agreement with what he meant. If he had used the correct term, "self-inflicted abstinence," instead of the non-synonym, "innocence," he would have made sense.

Hitchens describes himself as "a guarded admirer of the late Pope John Paul II…. His papacy was in some ways shockingly conservative and authoritarian, but showed itself open to science and inquiry (except when the AIDS virus was under discussion)" (p. 193). Given Hitchens' awareness that Pope Wojtyla was primarily responsible for forty million AIDS deaths (including twenty million who have yet to die), and a further twenty million deaths from starvation and malnutrition, making him the most prolific serial killer in human history, how can anyone with a functioning human brain claim to admire the man?

Hitchins cites the common allegation that the worst monsters in human history, Hitler and Stalin, were nontheists, and makes no attempt to refute it. He does explain that Stalin was motivated by his power lust, not his atheism. But he shows no awareness that Hitler lived and died a self-proclaimed Catholic, who justified his attempted extermination of an opposition religion as, "Doing the Lord's work." He does point out that, "no Catholic was ever even threatened with excommunication for participating in war crimes" and the excommunication of Joseph Goebbels was "for the offense of marrying a Protestant." But he shows no awareness that Nazism was simply an extreme form of Catholicism, just as al Quaeda is an extreme form of Islam.

Hitchens quotes the statement by George Orwell that, "A totalitarian state is in effect a theocracy." He recognizes that, while Orwell coined the term "thoughtcrime," the concept itself was "a commonplace." And he is aware that, "Orwell's first realization of the hellishness of this came to him early in life, when he was enclosed in a hermetic school run by Christian sadists in which it was not possible to know if you had broken the rules" (pp. 232-233). Yet despite all of that, it still apparently did not occur to Hitchens that 1984, touted as a prophecy of a nightmare future under totalitarian communism, was really about a nightmare present under totalitarian Anglican Christianity. Surely the fact that Orwell originally titled his book 1949, and his publisher forced him to change it to 1984 to disguise its real meaning, was a clue?

But my definitive problem with Hitchens' book is that his analysis of biblical passages starts from total ignorance of how and why the passages were written, and what they originally meant. It is not just that he has no idea what the "ten commandments" meant to their composers. He is equally unaware of which Christian fairy tales were originally included in the gospels and which were later interpolations. I am not being unduly judgmental when I say that no part of Hitchens' biblical criticism has any more validity than the insane literalism of Mel Gibson. A useful addition to the writings of Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Victor Stenger, "god is not Great" is not. As valid as most of Stenger's book is, he should not have ventured outside of his field of expertise.

Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon
Daniel C. Dennett
Penguin Group
375 Hudson Street, NY 10014
067003472X $25.95

There is probably nothing in "Breaking the Spell" with which I disagree. There is also nothing in The Jabberwocky with which I disagree. The difference is that, when Lewis Carroll wrote about the Jabberwocky, he did not delude himself that he was doing anything more than filling pages with words without actually saying anything.

"There was a time before religious beliefs and practices had occurred to anyone. There was a time, after all, before there were any believers on the planet, before there were any beliefs about anything. Some religious beliefs are truly ancient (by historical standards), and the advent of others can be read about in newspaper archives" (p. 98). Certainly that paragraph is meaningful. But it merely reports a fact too self-evident to need any supporting evidence.

Likewise, when Dennett reports (p. 261) that, "The logical arguments [for the existence of "God"] are regarded by many thinkers, including many philosophers who have looked at them carefully for years, to be intellectual conjuring tricks or puzzles rather than serious scientific proposals," he is adding nothing to what is already common knowledge.

Dennett quotes a definition of philosophers with which I am in complete agreement (p. 74): "One of their self-appointed tasks is to ‘make the familiar strange.'" Whether his statement later in the paragraph, that, "Scientists couldn't agree more," referred to that definition, he does not make clear. But how could he? He openly acknowledges (p. 19) that, "I am a philosopher, not a biologist or an anthropologist or a sociologist or historian or theologian. We philosophers are better at asking questions than answering them." Perhaps that last statement delineates the difference between philosophers and theologians, but I continue to see doubletalk and fairy tales as more similar than dissimilar.

On the status and future of religion in a society that recognizes the legitimacy of science, Dennett offers five "wildly different hypotheses…. Other hypotheses are describable, of course, but these five hypotheses highlight the extremes that are taken seriously. What is remarkable about the set is that just about anybody would find at least one of them preposterous." The hypothesis that is most optimistic is, "Religion is in its death throes; today's outbursts of fervor and fanaticism are but a brief and awkward transition to a truly modern society in which religion plays at most a ceremonial role" (p. 35). Whether that is the hypothesis Dennett endorses, he does not make clear. But how could he? He is a philosopher, and therefore an obscurantist by definition.

The one point on which Dennett is unambiguously right is (pp. 315-316), "We can already be quite sure there isn't going to be a ‘God gene,' or even a ‘spirituality gene,' and there isn't going to be a Catholicism center in the brain of Catholics, or even a ‘religious experience' center."

When I opened "Breaking the Spell," I assumed that I would be able to praise it as lavishly as Richard Dawkins' "The God Delusion" and Sam Harris's "The End of Faith," since more than one commentator had coupled Dennett with Dawkins and Harris in referring to writers who had broken through the censorship ceiling that had long prevented any defence of nontheism from reaching the bestseller lists. That was not the way it turned out. In Dennett's 464 pages, the passages quoted above were all I could find that were both logical and comprehensible. The rest of the book exemplifies Robert Heinlein's observation that, if a person of average intelligence and a reasonably full education cannot understand a piece of prose, then it is gibberish.

An Illusion of Harmony: Science and Religion in Islam
Taner Edis
Prometheus Books
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst NY 14228-2107
9781591024491 $28

"Almost all Muslim countries suffer from a brain drain, where students leave for Western countries to complete science and engineering doctorates" (p. 19). "Faith-based moral commitments permeate the ways Muslims are supposed to acquire knowledge…. That the Quran might be a human construction is not even worthy of discussion" (p. 193). "So among Muslims, critical historical approaches to religious matters are still virtually unknown" (p. 194). "Many moderate Muslim intellectuals are deeply concerned about the violent and repressive elements who claim to represent their faith" (p. 203).

I searched "An Illusion of Harmony" from cover to cover for conclusions or arguments that said something meaningful. The foregoing were all I found. I searched from cover to cover for evidence that Edis was being paid for his ideas rather than by the word. I found none. I searched cover to cover to find some explanation of why Prometheus would publish a book that is a waste of a perfectly good tree. I found none.

Useful information about Islam can be found in the books of Ibn Warraq, Ram Swarup and Robert Spencer. "An Illusion of Harmony" is as useful as tits on a bull.

Sincerely, Andy Rooney
Andy Rooney
Public Affairs
250 West 57th Street, Suite 1321, New York, NY 10107
1891620347 $23.00

I skimmed through Andy Rooney's first two chapters, "My Government, My Money," and "A Funny Business," without finding anything more interesting than spam. The third chapter, "The Viewers Write," produced something that was simultaneously well said and worth saying. Rooney writes, "Ten percent of all the letters I get is nut mail. Every once in a while it amuses me to waste time answering it" (p. 74). Examples:

To an astrologer: "I believe in astrology about as much as your dentist husband believes in the tooth fairy. Astrology appeals to the least educated among us and they are the people who can least afford to indulge in such nonsense" (p. 80).

The "Dear Editor" chapter also had some interesting letters:

To The New York Times, "Two religious symbols, the cross and the star, are the only markers [over graves in the military cemetery near Omaha Beach]. There is not one grave identifying the fallen as none-of-the-above. If I had been killed at Normandy, a not unlikely possibility, my grave would have indicated I was Christian or Jewish and I am neither. There must have been others like me" (p. 92).

The chapter, "About the War," had no appeal for me. It may interest others. "English As She Is Writ," was similarly unappealing, despite my long practice of sending pages of "Synopsis of English Grammar" to national news anchors who used substandard English. But I enjoyed a couple of items:

"While I was an admirer of your father, Norman Vincent Peale, I'm afraid that anything I'd have to say about religion would not be what you're looking for…. My mother sent me to Sunday School at the Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church in Albany but I had several Catholic friends I played with. One day I got into an argument with one of them, Alfie Gordon, over a question of the virgin birth. I came home and told my mother Alfie's story about what a ghost had done to Mary. ‘Presbyterians believe that, too, Andrew' she told me. My great moment in thinking that day was that I was positive I wasn't a Catholic or a Presbyterian, and I never went to church again" (p. 153).

"I was pleased to note that the spelling in the letters favorable to me was substantially better than in the critical ones" (p. 171).

The chapter, "Major and Minor Minorities," contained an interesting item: "During the O.J. Simpson trial, I was criticized by his supporters for facetiously offering a one million dollar reward to anyone who found a murderer of Nicole Brown Simpson other than O.J" (p. 187). And his letter to the Advocate clarifying his negative attitude toward homosexuality goes a long way toward explaining his prejudice, but if he was trying justify it he did not succeed. Nonetheless he does establish that he is not a bigot. He is as entitled to wonder why homosexuals prefer a form of recreation that he does not, as a bridge player is entitled to wonder how anyone could prefer poker.

Letter to a psychiatrist: "You used an unnecessary number of words to express a few simple ideas. This is a common failing among scientists, sociologists and medical people, particularly those in psychiatry. It springs from a deeply-rooted desire of an individual to give the impression of more intellect than exists" (p. 199). Take out the reference to scientists, and I might have written the same thing.

The chapter, "Thanks But No Thanks," contains a letter beginning, "It seems like a lot to ask me to speak to a local chapter of the National Conference of Christians and Jews for nothing but the honor of it when I am neither and when the person asking for my services has denied himself the availability of my column for his newspaper" (p. 203). And a letter declining to take a lie detector test for SPY Magazine gave good reasons for declining to do so, but showed no awareness that there is no such thing as a lie detector, and that polygraphs are only slightly more reliable (70 percent compared to 50 percent) than tossing a coin, "heads" for truth and "tails" for lie (p. 207).

Under the chapter heading, "Who's Watching," Rooney indicated that he had publicly endorsed Ronald Reagan's plan to impose a seven-day waiting period on people who claimed the inalienable right to own devices that have no purpose but killing human beings. "We had a huge reaction—thousands of letters and they ran more than ten to one in my favor. The people who hated it were divided between gun advocates … and the religious right. Fortunately, when I referred to ‘religious nuts' the Catholic nuts thought I was talking about the Jehovah's Witnesses, the Baptists thought I meant the Quakers, the Jews thought I was talking about the Muslims and the Muslims probably thought I meant the Episcopalians. Everyone thought I was talking about someone else" (pp. 224-225).

And in the same chapter: "I trust you'll be flattered to hear that I've posted your letter, addressed to me care of 20/20 ABC on the 60 Minutes bulletin board here at CBS as evidence of what we can expect from future Harvard Law School graduates" (p. 231). Apparently Harvard Law School is no more discriminating than Harvard Business School, which gave a graduate degree to the world's best-known talking chimpanzee. And on the subject of England's comic opera royalty: "I think royalty is nonsense. The British would be better off without it…. They don't understand how ridiculous the idea of a royal family seems to us" (p. 238).

The chapter, "Judging Lawyers," includes a letter beginning, "First let me give you a little non legal advice: When you write a dumb, personal letter don't put it on the stationery of the law firm you work for" (p. 243). Another ends, "You must be familiar with the story of the lawyer who told his client, ‘If I don't win this case, I get absolutely nothing. If I win this case, YOU get absolutely nothing" (p. 244).

The chapter "Hard Hobbies" had nothing to say—at least to me. The chapter, "Home Sweet-and-Sour Home," includes a letter beginning, "When anyone asks me to do something on the phone, I always ask them to write me hoping that the effort will be too much for them and they'll drop their request. My ploy failed in your case. I got your letter" (p. 273). Under "Friends (and Enemies)" Rooney reprints a letter to Barry Goldwater, ending, "It's interesting to consider what your life would be like now if you'd been elected President in 1964. Not as good, probably. I guess you can thank me for not having voted for you" (p. 291).

Letters "Written But Not Mailed" were interesting, but fell short of being worth repeating.

The final chapter, "Faith in Reason," was my reason for requisitioning Mr Rooney's book from my public library. Several statements from it were quoted in "god is not Great" by Christopher Hitchins, a book I recommend despite Hitchens' venturing into biblical criticism even though it is not his best subject. Among other letters in that chapter: "When I'm in someone's home and they say a prayer before we eat, I don't stand up and say ‘Wait a minute. Why are you forcing this on me? I think it's nonsense!' I go to dinners in hotel banquet rooms where a minister or priest asks people to bow their heads while he speaks. There must be others in the room who think it's as offensive as I do but no one ever walks out or stands up and states the case for disbelief" (p. 311-312). "When people thank God, as they often do, for the airline passengers who survive a crash, what do they think about the relation God had with the passengers who were killed? The Pope traditionally prays for peace every Easter and the fact that it has never had any effect whatsoever in preventing or ending a war, never deters him" (p. 322).

As much as I would like to recommend a book that agrees with me about practically everything, I am reminded of a colleague's comment about a magazine to which I declined to subscribe even though it had carried an item I had written: Too much desert and too few oases. And I long ago ceased watching Sixty Minutes, not because I believe its quality has deteriorated, but because its choice of stories likewise consists of too much desert and too few oases.

The Truth About Muhammad: Founder of the World's Most Intolerant Religion
Robert Spencer
Regnery Publishing Inc
One Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington DC 20001
1596980280 $27.95

"May Allah rip out [Robert Spencer's] spine from his back and split his brains in two, and then put them both back, and then do it over and over again."

What is most frightening about that comment posted to a Muslim website is that its author clearly has no comprehension that he is confessing that Allah is indeed a sadistic, evil, homicidal psychopath. And how could he not be, when he was created by an Arabian Attila out of what he saw in the mirror? It is for the benefit of persons who delude themselves that such unbridled hatred is an aberration that violates the true spirit is Islam that Spencer has written this book.

What makes The Truth about Muhammad the most accurate and trustworthy biography of the inspiration and role model for Osama bin Laden, is that it makes no concession to political correctness. Spencer does not emulate apologists who ignore those Koranic passages that refute their desperate doublethink that Islam is "a religion of peace." But neither does he resort to vitriol. He leans over backward to avoid reaching personal hostile conclusions, while simultaneously quoting Islam's own sacred writings that are bound to prompt readers to recognize that, if Muhammad was a nice guy, then so was Adolf Hitler.

Spencer's evenhandedness is exemplified by his treatment of Muhammad's consummated marriage to a nine-year-old. He quotes Jerry Vines of the Southern Baptist Convention, who said, "Islam was founded by Mohammed, a demon-possessed pedophile who had twelve wives, and his last one was a nine-year-old girl." But he points out that, "Child marriages were common in seventh-century Arabia," and that, "The concept of pedophilia as a manifestation of deviant sexuality did not exist in the seventh century," or indeed in the twentieth century, when Ayatollah Khomeini married a ten-year-old. He suggests that, "From this perspective, Vines's charge is a bit anachronistic," but adds, "However, in light of Muhammad's status for Muslims as the supreme example of human behavior, his marriage to Aisha becomes more important" (pp. 170-171). What makes it important is that child marriage is an accepted norm in most of the Muslim world precisely because Muslims are brainwashed from birth to believe that, "When Muhammad does it, it's not evil." But he limits his editorializing to the observation (p. 172) that, "This is the price women have paid throughout Islamic history, and continue to pay, for Muhammad's status as ‘an excellent example of conduct' (Qur'an 33:21)."

Spencer focuses on teachings of Muhammad that apologists suppress in the hope that, if they ignore them, they will go away. These include the mandating of a death penalty for any Muslim who converts to another religion; a death penalty for criticizing the prophet; the legalization of rape, by imposing rules of testimony that make conviction of the offenders impossible, and put the victim at risk of execution by stoning if she cannot produce four male eyewitnesses willing to confirm her accusation; the legitimacy of assassination as a political weapon; the legitimacy of lying to infidels; limb and eye amputations as punishments for certain offenses; Muhammad's self-serving "revelations" permitting him to commit acts prohibited for everyone else; and his back-pedaling of previous revelations when they turned out to be inexpedient, even to the point of declaring that he had been deceived by Satan impersonating Allah when he accepted three Arabian goddesses as Allah's daughters. The most brain-addled Muslims actually claim that the "Satanic verses" are a forgery—while simultaneously asserting that every word in the Koran is inerrant truth.

Topics that Spencer places under the microscope of objectivity include: "Is Islam a religion of peace?" "Polite fictions are useless"; "Death to blasphemers"; "Borrowings from Judaism"; "Borrowings from Christianity"; "Revelations of convenience"; "Assassination and deceit"; "Finding excuses for a massacre"; "Apostates to be killed"; "Misogynist?" "Draconian punishments?" "Islamic tolerance?" "Frightening reality"; and "What is to be done."

Under the "What is to be done" subheading (pp. 192-193), Spencer suggests: "Stop insisting that Islam is a religion of peace. This is false"; "Initiate a full-scale Manhattan Project to find new energy sources … to end the Western dependence on oil from the Islamic world"; "Make Western aid contingent upon renunciation of the jihad ideology"; "Call upon American Muslim advocacy groups to work against the jihad ideology"; and "Revise immigration policies with the jihad ideology in view."

While persons who maintain the pretence that bin-Laden-think is not true Islam are following what they believe to be the best way to prevent an all-out nuclear war between the Allah addicts and the civilized world, they are ignoring the reality that Muslims' inability to question the Koran makes that war an ultimate inevitability—and the longer it is delayed, the less one-sided it will be. Since Muslims cannot be taught to ignore Allah's documented hatred of the human race, as Christians and Jews have learned to ignore Yahweh's hatred of the human race, they must be given indisputable proof that Allah does not exist. To achieve that, they must be shown a reality that Allah would never have allowed to happen if he was something other than a product of the human imagination. The dropping of 200-megaton hydrogen bombs on Mecca and Medina is probably not the only solution, and certainly not a desirable one. But offhand, no lesser means of making the point comes to mind.

Islam is a terrorist religion because Muhammad was a self-confessed terrorist. ("I have been helped by terror," Ram Swarup, Understanding the Hadith, p. 39). While the Bible and the Koran are both obscene paeans to unspeakable evil, the difference between their adherents is that, whereas only a tiny minority of Christians or Jews take the Bible's advocacy of atrocities as a blueprint for present-day behavior, Muslims are conditioned to believe that Muhammad's orders to murder non-Muslims on sight must be rigidly enforced for all time. The only reason not all Muslims are terrorists is that the moderates are unaware of what their terrorist-in-chief's book actually says.

Spencer's one big weakness is that he starts from the assumption that Christianity's posthumously adopted figurehead was a nicer man than the founder of Islam. He believes (p. 10) that, "No Christian could credibly argue that Jesus, the prince of peace, taught violence." Bovine excrement! He should start by reading Mark 9:1; 14:47; Matthew 10:34-36; 26:51; Luke 22:36-38, 49-50; and John 18:10. For further evidence that Jesus was every bit as violent, xenophobic, self-aggrandizing and mentally unstable as Muhammad, he should read Mythology's Last Gods. And he uses the archaic dating system, A.D., apparently unaware that even liberal theologians have abandoned it in recognition that it is intrinsically insulting to the 5.5 billion persons on this planet who do not believe they are living in the Year of the Master. The scientifically neutral equivalent is C.E. (Common Era).

New Rules: Polite Musings from a Timid Observer
Bill Maher
Rodale Inc.
33 East Minor Street, Emmaus PA 18098
9781594862953 $24.95

Bill Maher is a scientifically illiterate ignoramus. I remember watching an episode of Politically Incorrect in which one of the panelists was Joe Nickell from the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP). When the subject of astrology came up, Maher expressed the kind of amazement at Nickell's disbelief in astrology as I would express if I encountered a flat-earther. Soon after that I ceased watching Politically Incorrect, not because Maher's ignorance was a major factor in his program, but because he struck me as a card-carrying Republicanazi. Either that was a rush to judgment on my part, or the Supreme Court's treasonous appointment of an unelected president has opened his eyes. His far-from-arse-licking comments about the American Hitler currently polluting the White House (not Maher's words) in New Rules make me think that he might be a human being after all.

Maher is not a bigot. He wrote, "Jewish people have to start having sex…. Without Jews, who's going to write all those sitcoms about blacks and Hispanics?" (p. 101) There is no comment in the book about the effects of those televised remarks, but it is a reasonable speculation that they triggered thousands of objections from the politically correct. It is also a reasonable speculation that none of the objections came from Jews, blacks or Hispanics. Some of his remarks about individual gays probably also triggered anger in the form of accusations of homophobia. Read in context, the remarks do not support such an allegation. Lighten up, PCs. Maher is a comedian.

New Rules is a collection of snippets from the HBO series of the same name, with no added editorial comments. The best way for anyone to decide whether to buy the book is by reading some of those excerpts. And since I see no point quoting passages that did not impress me (for example, I do not share his unfavorable opinion of Woody Allen, p. 47), the selected quotes will be those that strike me as making a valid point:

"The Catholic Church needs to change its name to Tollhouse Cookies. A new study reveals that the tally of Catholic priests who've been accused of molestation in the United States is approaching 5,000, which means it's time to change the name and start over. That's what Philip Morris did when their name became synonymous with lung cancer—they became the good people at the Altria company" (p. 7).

"Don't try to get pandas to mate by showing them porn. Yes, the Chinese government is really doing that. But it's not working because after watching all that porn, the male pandas keep pulling out and coming on her teats" (p. 15).

"You can stop releasing Star Wars now. We've seen it. I don't care if it's remastered or redigitized, if there are bonus scenes or a director's commentary. It's still a space movie for guys who can't get laid" (p. 29).

"If you don't want the world to think your religion is medieval, stop beheading people. Texans are bloodthirsty and dim, and they've even learned to use an electric chair. Come on, Islam. Join the nineteenth century" (p. 34).

"Congressional sing-alongs of ‘God Bless America' are the cheapest form of political pandering. We get it. You're on our side. Now get back to work. Those lobbyists in your office aren't going to blow themselves" (p. 36).

"I know the other side is saying, yes, but this is a moral issue. Problem is, not everyone gets their morals from the same book. You go by the book that says slavery is okay but sex is wrong—until after marriage, at which point it becomes a blessed sacrament between a husband and the wife who's withholding it" (p, 40).

"Pat Robertson is insane. Just because he smiles and wears a nice suit doesn't mean he's any less of a whack job than all those wild-eyed urine-stained nut bags who babble on street corners about Jesus through a bullhorn" (p. 44). REVIEWER'S NOTE: Since "insane" is a psychobabble term, and Bill Maher is not a psychoquack, there are two probable reasons why Robertson did not sue for libel (as Barry Goldwater sued psychiatrists who diagnosed him as a fruitcake without actually talking to him). (a) "Truth and public interest" is a legal defence against a libel suit; (b) A jury is likely to contain members who are NOT theofascist nut cases, making victory for the plaintiff virtually impossible.

"Scientology makes you fat. John Travolta, Kirstie Alley, Lisa Marie Presley: fat, fat, fat! … Be honest: It's not a religion; it's just an excuse for a bake sale" (p. 45).

"Transvestites are gay. I know what you're going to say: ‘Bill, not all transvestites are gay.' Yes, they are" (p. 51).

"The next reality show must be called America's Stupidest State. We'll start at 50, and each week, if your state does something really stupid with, say, evolution or images of the Virgin Mary, you'll move on to the next round" (p. 51).

"Dating a self-proclaimed 26-year-old virgin is probably not the best way to stifle gay rumors. You're a big star, you can have any woman you want, and you pick the one actress in town who doesn't put out? I thought Scientology was supposed to clear your mind" (p. 53, with picture of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes).

"Sumo wrestling isn't a sport; it's an eating disorder. You don't call yourself an athlete if your idea of getting in shape is tripling in size. Except in baseball" (p. 78).

"God is a waffler. Pat Robertson said God told him that Iraq would be a bloody disaster. But the same God told George Bush it wouldn't, which so surprised Robertson, he almost dropped the pennies he was stealing off a dead woman's eyes. But why is God talking out of two sides of his mouth? Flip-flop. God told us to beat our swords into plowshares. God: Wrong on defense, wrong for America" (p. 86).

"Say what you will about Republicans, they do stand for something. Okay, it's Armageddon, but it's something" (p. 88).

"All marriages are ‘same sex' marriages. You get married, and every night, it's the same sex" (p. 113).

"President Bush once posed the question, ‘Is our children learning?' No, President Bush—they isn't" (p. 114).

"I didn't mind being on the losing side in the last election, but as a loser, I guess I have some ‘unpopular' opinions—and, if you don't mind, I'd like to keep them. I'd even like to say them out loud on TV, because if I sit here every Friday night and spout Bush administration-approved talking points, that's not freedom of entertainment. It's Fox News" (p. 115).

"No more dog shows…. There's only one proper way to show a dog she's adored—ask her to marry you" (p. 119, with picture of Prince Charles and Camilla).

"Don't try to talk to me about Desperate Housewives. If I had the slightest interest in other people's sex lives, I'd be a Republican" (p. 123). REVIEWER'S NOTE: Obsession with other people's sex lives is theofascist. Obsession with the sex lives of people who do not exist is infantile.

"North Korea doesn't need nuclear weapons—it needs Ritalin. It's not a nuclear superpower. It's more like a 4-year-old who won't stop showing people his penis" (p. 127).

"Don't pick a German pope the day before Hitler's birthday. I'm not saying it's anything but a coincidence, but you've just given every conspiracy nut in the world a raging hard-on" (p. 132).

"For some reason, the two words this president just can't seem to say are ‘sorry' and ‘nuclear.' Something is terribly wrong when the only person who's been fired over terrorism is me" (p. 133).

"No puppet fucking. The movie Team America features graphic sex scenes between marionettes. If I had any interest in wooden sex with strings attached, I'd get married" (p. 141).

"Is there any greater irony than the fact that the Christian Right actually got their precious little adolescent daughters [after taking a vow of premarital celibacy] to say to their freshly scrubbed boyfriends: ‘Please, I want to remain pure for my wedding night, so only in the ass. Then I'll blow you.' Well, at least these kids are really thinking outside the box" (p. 150).

"Time Magazine has to change its name to God Weekly. In the last few years, Time has put out: ‘The Secrets of the Nativity,' ‘The God Gene,' ‘Faith, God and the Oval Office,' ‘Who Was Moses?' ‘What Jesus Saw,' ‘Why Did Jesus Have to Die?' ‘Jesus at 2000.' If Jesus gets more free press, he's going to start thinking he's Paris Hilton. Look, I understand we have a lot of Christians in this nation, but how about a little equal time?" (p. 154).

"But at least the Right isn't hypocritical; they really believe … that if a gay man just devotes his life to Jesus, he'll stop being gay—because that theory worked out so well with the Catholic priests" (p. 158).

"If you think the idea of Angelina Jolie [euphemism for fucking] with another woman is an abomination, you're gay…. This is what the pope thinks of when he masturbates" (p. 167).

"A new law in San Luis Obispo says librarians can evict homeless people for their smell. Hey, lonely librarians—don't think of them as homeless; think of them as single. I know most librarians won't see much of a future with some babbling drunk with a drug habit and a messiah complex, but hey, it worked for Laura Bush" (p. 168).

"No Christmas movie ads until after Halloween…. If I wanted to hear about Jesus 365 days a year, I'd have voted for Bush" (p. 173).

"Keep Dick Cheney in seclusion…. Only bring out Dick Cheney when you're trying to make Rumsfeld seem human" (p. 177).

"George Bush isn't Hitler…. For one thing, Hitler was a decorated, frontline combat veteran. Also, in the election that brought him to power in 1933, Hitler got more votes than the other candidates" (p. 188).

"The Republicans actually like the idea of our most sensitive diplomatic post being helmed by a raging psychopath [John Bolton]" (p. 219).

New Rules is basically a picture book, with almost as many illustrating photos as paragraphs. As such, it can be read cover to cover in about two hours. Provided the buyer knows that in advance, I have no hesitation in recommending it.

The Demise of Christianity
Victor Garrod
Xlibris Corporation
International Plaza II, Suite 340, Philadelphia PA 19113-1513
142570297X $20.99

The Demise of Christianity is not even a good undergraduate essay. Its conclusions are accurate, for the simple reason that anyone who has been observing the world around him for seventy years is bound to recognize that religion and reality cannot be harmonized. And its fact are, by the narrowest margin, right more often than they are wrong. But even for a former missionary with a graduate degree in theology, meaning "knowledge of the thing that is not," his competence in biblical analysis is minuscule. His writing style is abominable, filled with CAPITALIZED WORDS in situations where THEY ARE NOT CALLED FOR, that even a high school student would recognize as INDEFENSIBLE. Garrod's whole book is a sermon on a subject he knows practically nothing about. It is poorly written and poorly designed. My strongest reaction is: how did someone this incapable of writing a logical, coherent argument against the mind-crippling insanity of religion ever cure himself of the disease?

William Harwood

Henry's Bookshelf

Paul Violi
Hanging Loose Press
New York, NY
9781931236782 $15.00

Violi can have fun with anything. He's got a runaway wit, like an enjoyable stand-up comic. In "Counterman," a customer says he wants a roast beef sandwich with "the lettuce splayed, if you will,/In a Beaux Art derivative of classic acanthus...and the roast beef, thinly sliced, folded/In a multi-foil arrangement...." You can just see the counterman staring, as in a New Yorker cartoon, for instance. He can even have fun with himself, as when the "Thief Tempted by the Grandeur of February" discloses, "I can now say, modestly,/But not without significant charm/I know the errors of my life." There's a couple of poems that are spoofs on the acknowledgments found in many poetry volumes—where Viola matches imaginary and some famous poem titles to periodicals to comic effect, as with "Drinking Versus Thinking" with the lifestyle magazine "Bon Appetit" and "Disgruntled Lug" with "Science and Wonder." Elsewhere Viola plays with common forms or expectations of poems. He's a poet filled with life who for the most part succeeds in the chances he takes.

Contemporary Gothic
Catherine Spooner
University of Chicago Press
1427 East 60th Street, Chicago, IL 60637
18611893019 $19.95 1-800-621-2736

In this book on popular culture, Spooner writes about how "Gothic narratives have escaped the confines of literature and spread across disciplinary boundaries to infect all kinds of media, from fashion to advertising to the way contemporary events are constructed in mass culture." This is evident in the clothing worn by many punk-rock musicians, the prevalence of tattoos and body piercing, and the popularity of horror movies. But Spooner not only engages in an entertaining inventory of the diverse manifestations of the gothic in contemporary culture, but also delves into the historical and literary roots of the gothic and reasons for its attraction and persistence. In its idiomatic, inimitable way, the gothic represents the potent psychic themes of subconscious memories of the past and ties to the dead, the creation of the "other" (e. g. Frankenstein's monster), the fragmentary self, the mutability of the body, and one's own death and reincarnation. The gothic does not resolve anxieties "both personal and collective" attending these, however. Spooner's general perspective is that it is a way of dealing with the anxieties. The periodic reawakening of the gothic usually originate among younger people for its graphic imagery connoting unconventionality and a degree of rebelliousness. Spooner is a lecturer in literature at England's Lancaster University and author of the 2004 book "Fashioning Gothic Bodies." Her sure hand with the wide range of subject matter makes for an especially lucid exploration of the vein of the gothic in today's pop and youth cultures.

Surviving Has Made Me Crazy
Mark Nepo
CavanKerry Press
Fort Lee, NJ
1933880015 $18.00

The title is more than tricky or artful, poetic wordplay. Nepo is a cancer survivor. This is the latest volume in the publisher's Literature of Illness imprint. As Rich Frankel, a professor of Medicine and Geriatrics, writes with regard to Nepo's poems in his Foreword, "[T]he experience of surviving a life threatening disease is not a return to homeostasis, the way things were, but rather a radical transformation from which there is no turning back." From his eighteen-year struggle with cancer, Nepo has developed a prescience. The poet does not lament, though there are moments of anguish, fear, and confusion. But these are basically way stations in what is mainly a spiritual journey, a transformation; and they are not left raw and abrasive, but put as a metaphor, insight, or adage true to the poet's prescience. "We are all just guests in a body/that comes and goes..." - from Earth Guest. Learning he had cancer was like "jumping/with full consent/into an empty well/so deep I only remember/falling into the dark/till falling without direction put me to sleep..." - from Thoracic Surgery. Both ancient paganistic and Christian ideas about the experience and the outcome of transformation are reflected in the poems. Knowing Nepo is a cancer survivor adds depth to the reading of the poems; but as with all good poetry, the poems stand on their own.

Red Studio
Mary Cornish
Oberlin College Press
50 North Professor Street, Oberlin, OH 44074-1095
9780932440310 $14.95 1-800-666-2211

For Mary Cornish, the parts of the world are connected not by physical bonds such as sinews or surfaces or umbilicals or even by principles of physics such as gravity or motion. The parts are filled--or buoyed, it might be said--by a sort of ethereal activity which cannot and need not be explained. This activity is described in a way that is virtually the same as imagination. In "We're in the kitchen," the speaker's dress is "held up by the patterned flight of birds/along the cotton." In "In the middle of the night," sound spreads its touch--"I open/both taps in the tub and let the water run/to make a sound that carries." "[T]he sky/accepts the weight of birds./The crow's shadow falls to earth..." in "Legato." The parts of the world are suspended together not even by language; as in "Dragonflies," "We can barely hear their dry rasp over water" as they approach. Cornish's poetry does not empty the world, but rather fills it with a spirit of feeling which closely resembles that of a refined musician.

Max Benavidez
UCLA Chicano Studies Research Press
Los Angeles
9780895511010 $24.95

"Chicano/gay" hardly begins to impart the melange of traits, styles, and penchants relating to the artist known as Gronk. His art spans painting, drawing, graphics, murals, photographs, set design, ceramics, computer-based animation, and performance art live on streets and stages and also video. Born in an East Los Angeles barrio, he has seemingly absorbed all the multicultural and popular culture activities of the city which is so much like a matrix and a reflection of American life and the gaudy behavior of Hollywood. Yet Gronk has a recognizable style. In most cases, it's like an especially vibrant, complex graffiti art, often with images or intimations of menace; though these are usually outweighed by an artistic ambition and vision kept from crystallizing by irresolvable conflicts. In fewer works, Gronk does depict a unitary, sometimes single emotion or state; and sometimes an ironic or other statement. Though usually reflecting the harsh or conflicted feelings which are the subject matter of Gronk's art, these nevertheless have the simplicity of a snapshot with only a few objects. These simpler art works correspond to feelings or situations Gronk has personified in his performance art or complemented in his set designs. Gronk's diverse art is put in the context not of biography, but of culture and his relationships with others. Benavidez is an independent scholar who has taught at UCLA and participates in the area culture in different ways.

Joseph Millar
Eastern Washington University Press
705 West 1st Avenue, Spokane, WA 99201
1597660264 $22.95 1-800-508-9095

Millar's lines move easily, but not glibly. Each one has a fullness to it, like a wave. Nothing is forced. The poet seeks nothing; nor are there the bursts of insight, lesson, reflection, or culmination of so many poems presumably to make them of worth. The touchstone of Millar's poems is the tactile sense of a manual worker, no doubt developed from his years of work as a telephone installation foreman before he moved to western Oregon. This tactile sense, more than any philosophy or faith, provides an orientation. Routines and their paraphernalia are reliable and assuring enough, so that Vietnamese immigrants hunting for catfish and squirrels along the Mississippi River, " in their four-foot skiffs/ten thousand miles from the place/they were born, never getting lost." [from "Middle Age"] In "Slow Hands," there's "barked on rusted bolts/holding a bad starter motor [which have] scrounged what they could/ from the world's swollen margins...." For Millar, this tactility is a kind of memory.

Georgia O'keeffe
Jonathan Stuhlman and Barbara Buhler Lynes
Hudson Hills Press
PO Box 205, 74-2 Union Street, Manchester, VT 05254
9780943411491 $50.00

Fifty-one full page color plates arranged chronologically from 1915 thru the 1970s bring out the "pulsing, spiraling, swirling circular forms" that O'Keeffe consistently used as a basis for her paintings and drawings and occasional sculptures. Although O'Keeffe did not singularly introduce or use spiral forms, more than any other American or European modern artist, she "developed an entire vocabulary of circular forms" which identifies her work over her long career. She was too imaginative and innovative to be confined to these forms, but in her paintings of flowers, skies and landscapes, rocks, and her "pelvic series" in the 1940s, she returns again and again to them. She builds on these with great flourishes, bold colors and shadings for depth, and repetitions and morphings of aspects of circular forms. Stuhlman's essay focuses on circular forms as the basis for O'Keeffe's art throughout her career. Lynes's essay points to the sources for these in the Southwest landscape she was attached to. The focus on O'Keeffe's circular forms goes a long way toward explaining the pleasing, alluring effects of her art works; and it adds depth to analysis of them.

Native Seattle
Coll Thrush
University of Washington Press
PO Box 50096, Seattle, WA 98145-5096
9780295987002 $28.95 1-206-543-4050

With regard to the beginnings of the city of Seattle, the local Native Americans were not part of what was called the "Vanishing Race" of Native Americans from the westward growth of America. Native Americans played a large, vital, and conspicuous role in the founding and early growth of Seattle. Thrush, an assistant professor of history at the University of British Columbia, makes the point that the role of Native Americans regarding other cities is worth looking into as well. In Seattle, Native American men and women provided the large majority of the manual labor in such work as sawmills and fishing; and many started small businesses. By intermarriage, some Native Americans, particularly women, assumed prominent and influential positions in the community. The other side of the Native Americans' experience with Seattle is their being supplanted as more and more whites came to Seattle in the latter years of the 19th century. Subject to discrimination, racism, oppression, and demonization, the Native Americans lost their position in the city's economy and social structure. They were, for instance, labeled as "hostile," and said to be unable to adjust to urban life; the women were considered prostitutes. In recent years, the fundamental role of local Native Americans in Seattle's origins and the impression this had on the character of the city are being given their due. Numbers of Native Americans, showing an entrepreneurial spirit and media savvy equal to any big-city dweller, are finding places in today's Seattle. Thrush writes the full story of the changing social relationship of Native Americans to Seattle. Central to his perspective--noted in the "Foreword"--is the false, unsubstantiated dichotomy between "civilized" and "uncivilized" peoples. Following the text is an "Atlas of Indigenous Seattle" containing maps and Native American terms evidencing the prevalence of the Native Americans through the Puget Sound area, how much they had developed this area already through use of its resources, and the place of the Native American culture in the origins and development of Seattle.

Revolution in the 70s
Garry Kasparov
The Globe Pequot Press
PO Box 480, Guilford, CT 06437

9781857444223 $45.00 1-800-243-0495

This first volume of the Modern Chess series deals with the "global change in the field of the opening." Kasparov is known by many as the greatest chess player of all time. The series highlighted by his historic matches with Karpov will be "essentially autobiographical" since Kasparov was the dominating player of recent decades and participated in chess's major developments and matches, including games between him and computers. The revolution of the 1970's which "revealed...openings which overturned previous conceptions about control of the centre and 'correct' pawn structure" was led by the "hypermodernists" Nimzowitsch, Reti, and Grunfeld. These new, revolutionary ideas were refined by Alekhine and Bobby Fischer. One of the most revolutionary changes of this period was a new aggressiveness for Black in the opening phase of a game based on "a deliberate disruption of the positional equilibrium and sharp play for seizing the initiative." This approach explored most notably by Botvinnik overturned the age-old notion that Black should play not to lose rather than to win since Black always forfeited the opening move to White. Besides Kasparov's acute analyses of numerous chess games between world-class players, there are commentaries by 28 masters on the lessons from the revolution in openings, instructive parts of specific games, and the challenging world of international chess competition at the highest levels.

Cold, Clear, and Deadly
Melvin J. Visser
Michigan State University Press
Suite 25, Manly Miles Building, 1405 South Harrison Road, East Lansing, MI 48823-5202
9780870138027 $24.95

Upon early retirement from the UpJohn Company, Visser undertook an investigation which was like solving a mystery to find out how persistent organic pollutants--POPs--were getting into the colder waters of the earth from the Great Lakes to the Arctic Ocean. The POPs, at first though to be harmless, were becoming so prevalent and toxic that blubber from some Arctic Ocean whales would classify as hazardous waste. Visser had the necessary scientific background for this investigation. The long stretch of his career at Upjohn where he had responsibility for environmental compliance and remediation gave him knowledge of "process research" and "training in the behavior of chemicals" he would need. "The refusal of banned chemicals to leave Lake Superior" became a perplexing question to him during his last years with Upjohn. Noting that the answer to the question of POPs in Lake Superior and other bodies of water "unfolded like a mystery novel, with chemicals as characters," Visser writes a first-person tale with the novelistic techniques of dialogue, action, scenes, and short paragraphs. The compelling environmental story in a popular style makes the book a model for others on environmental issues which are matters of growing public concern.

The Chicago School
Johan Van Overtveldt
B2B Books/Agate
Evanston, IL
1932841148 $35.00

The economics school of the University of Chicago has long been recognized as "both a Mecca and a Rome for economic science for its many Nobel prize winners in economics, its number of professors and graduates holding high-level economic positions in the national government, and the impact of the economic theories associated with the school. So Van Overtveldt does not have to make the case for the University's unrivaled influence in this field of economics. Instead, he gets to the reason for this influence--and he finds two bases for this, namely the Chicago Tradition and the Chicago School. The Tradition is a cluster of "characteristics" exemplified by individuals at the school of economics. Among these are a strong work ethic and the criterion of academic excellence as the sole basis for advancement along with a belief in the relevance of economics to the lives of ordinary individuals. The Chicago School factor entails key economic ideas and principles which have proven reliable both as explanations for economic behavior and as guidelines for successful economic policies. The bedrock belief is that "free markets and the price mechanism are the most effective and desirable ways for a society to organize production and economic life in general." Milton Friedman, Theodore W. Schultz, Paul Samuelson, and Frederick Hayek are economists who have been associated with the Chicago school of economics in one way or another. Van Overtveldt succinctly summarizes their ideas, precepts, work, and influence for a picture of the U.S.'s foremost educational institution in the field of economics. The author is a director of a Belgium think tank.

Henry Berry

Judith's Bookshelf

Ten Zen Seconds
Eric Maisel, Ph.D.
Sourcebooks, Inc.
P.O. Box 4410, Naperville, IL 60567
9781402208539 $12.95

High kudos for Ten Zen Seconds! It is a succinct, handy little reference book written to help you stay calm and centered in all circumstances. While the target audience is aimed for people in creative endeavors, it can also be applied to business, sports, the classroom, and parenting, to name a few.

Eric Maisel uses simple, practical language to explain how to take a ten second breath while doing an incantation to fit a specific circumstance. For example if it's a gloomy day either externally, or inside yourself, you can breathe in and say "I am open", then breathe out and say "to joy." Each chapter also has people talking specifically how the breathing and incantations helped them. That has added inspiration to Eric's expertise, which shines throughout.

The book is also beautifully designed. It is the size of a small journal, so it can be kept in a briefcase, purse, or desk or bedside drawer for convenient reference. The fonts are pleasing and vary according to voice and emphasis. To try the book out, go to the web site,, and see which incantations appeal to you.

The Rainforest Grew All Around
Susan K. Mitchell, Connie McLennan Illustrator
Sylvan Dell Publishing
976 Houston Northcutt Blvd., Suite 3, Mt. Pleasant, SC 29464
9780976882367 $15.95

Yum, a rainforest cookie recipe, informative sidebars, and luscious illustrations, make this lovely book a keeper! The text by author Susan K. Mitchell is a cumulative rhyme that takes the reader through life in the rainforest from giant trees to tiny insects and frogs. It highlights both plants and animals.

Connie McLennan's illustrations are both rich and informative. Children will enjoy the variations of subject and texture in the paintings, perhaps discovering small plants and insects not mentioned in the text. The book is a marvelous blend of text and illustration. Besides the recipe there are two matching games at the back. The verse is adapted from the old English cumulative folk song, "The Tree In The Wood." Children ages 3 to 7 will delight in this book, which will be enjoyed for years to come in both home and classroom libraries.

Turtle Summer, a Journal For My Daughter
Mary Alice Monroe, Barbara J. Bergwerf Photographer
Sylvan Dell Publishing
976 Houston Northcutt Blvd., Suite 3, Mt. Pleasant, SC 29464
9780977742356 $15.95

This book presents a charming idea for a parent and child: to keep a nature scrapbook. Mary Alice Monroe has written and illustrated this enchanting journal of a mother and daughter's summer surveillance for loggerhead sea turtles on their beach. While watching the turtle nests, they observe and sketch nature's other offerings at the seashore. Like a family photo album, it is an intimate book.

Photographer Barbara J. Bergwerf teamed with Mary Alice Monroe to add exceptional and informative photos, including one of Carolina from the previous Sylvan Dell book, Carolina's Story: Sea Turtle's Get Sick Too! This is a splendid mixture of photos, drawing, and text. Children, ages 4 – 9 will relate to this book and its activities, hopefully clamoring to create a similar journal with their siblings and parents.

ABC Safari
Karen Lee
Sylvan Dell Publishing
976 Houston Northcutt Blvd., Suite 3, Mt. Pleasant, SC 29464
9780977742301 $15.95

Author Karen Lee has come through again in ABC Safari! Like her previous books, One Odd Day and My Even Day, she offers a fun way to learn. This time it is the alphabet on a safari journey to meet animals around the world. A boy and his parrot, like the young reader, unobtrusively observe each animal in its habitat. Can you spot the boy in each picture?
Ms. Lee paints each animal accurately and to scale in its environment. This is an important feature for the young reader to learn size and scale. The rhyming text flows to an easy beat so that a teacher could use each animal's verse for movement or dramatization. The animal flash cards at the end of the book are a brilliant addition. Pre-readers will enjoy identifying each animal. Quite highly recommended for ages 2 to 7.

Judith Nasse

Kaye's Bookshelf

Azriel: The Angel Chronicles
Mark D. Chevalier
Llumina Press
7915 W. McNab Rd, Tamarac, FL
1595266976 $15.95

It is not possible to classify this novel into just one genre. Is it fantasy or messianic-religious science fiction?

Through dreams, pain and torment, Scott LeClair receives the memory of who and what he is–Azriel, God's angel of death, destruction and chaos and . . . one-time ally of Abaddon, the Devil.

"On one side was the army of God, on the other the army of God's accuser. It was a battle for the supremacy of Heaven and Earth."

Mark D. Chevalier is a uniquely dynamic writer and whether you like the genre or not, his writing talents are clearly evident. Quoting from page 12:

"The memories breached the wall of his sanity, spilling over into the depths of pure chaos. There was a Great Hall, covered in the radiance of a thousand suns. A preeminent debate was occurring, where gods and princes argued over a splinter that would grow to become a might oak of division.

"War spilled out from the Great Hall, over the Plains of Serenity to the edges of the mortal world. Ground was lost, ground was gained. Finally, legions of warrior and one-time comrades fell from the light, careening uncontrollably through the void between as final judgment was irrevocably inflicted.

"Blood flowed in rivers upon the Earth as armies began conquest after conquest. Civilizations rose, only to crumble beneath the onslaught of their own weight. Greed, genocide, murder, vanity, apathy, they all had a place in the new world order. The fallen were leaving their mark upon every living thing. Angered by their expulsion, driven made by their infinite power while at the same time seemingly impotent, their goal had become to transform the Earth into the living manifestation of what they felt."

And from page 270:

"What you need to remember now as I sit down to finish writing these chronicles is that it was never solely about angels and demons; it was never about the war in Heaven, or how I came to be among the fallen, sacrificing my own eternal life.

"It was about you, humans! Abaddon may have started something long ago, but it was you who turned on each other. It was you who began to murder, looking at the Earth as a resource to be dominated and controlled, along with each other.

"You had the power to start it, and you have the power to stop it. As my father told me back in the church on that fateful first day, ‘You need to remember that no matter what else happens, the time you have is all you have. Make the most of it. Live, love, experience everything you can.'"

Mark had something to say, and through his novel he has added his voice to life's wake-up call.

Theodosia's Flock
D. G. Bryant, Inc.
PO Box 2399, Bangor, ME 04402-2399
9781601451309 $15.95

Such an interesting name for a novel and quite a unique "terrible secret." St. Louis cop Cliff Branson is our protagonist, and we follow him through a murder investigation, family matters and romance to the conclusion of this long-kept secret. Theodosia's Flock is classic mystery genre, and if you're a mystery buff, you'll probably enjoy this easy read.

D.G. Bryant is basically a good writer, but not exceptional. Some of his writing has a cliche feel about it–dialogue is predictable. The cover and title are appealing, and in general, Bryant has done a good job.

Sorceress Revealed
Nicci Baker
2021 Pine Lake Rd, Lincoln, NE
9780595391691, $20.95

Anyone who has read my reviews in the past, knows that I'm generally not a fantasy buff.

Sorceress Revealed is a tale about a magically gifted girl, Ellyana, unrequited love which becomes requited, an abusive father who isn't her father, the search to find her heritage, attempts on her life, considerable physical abuse by evil men, and of course, the quest to save her world...all before she's eighteen. If you like fantasy adventure fairytales, this may be a book for you.

Nicci Baker is the writer who has written this lengthy, well-edited novel. To my taste, the dialogue and some attitudes are too contemporary for such a tale...the little heroine too physically abused my men. However, Nicci does a good job of weaving multiple facets together for an interesting read with an attractive cover. I think Sorceress Revealed might appeal to young teenage girls.

Darkness Withdrawn or The Eclipse of Nietzsche's Shadow
Edward Fotheringill, Inc.
PO Box 2399, Bangor, ME 04402-2399
9781601451439 $15.95

Darkness Withdrawn or The Eclipse of Nietzsche's Shadow is a most unusual title for a uniquely thought-provoking novel. The basic framework of this spiritual adventure is a murder, killer on the run and obsessed FBI agent in pursuit, plus a cast of boldly animated characters...some quite cartoon-like.

Edward Fotheringill is an educated, dynamic writer who taught philosophy for 24 years. Through the mystery genre, Edward weaves insights about life and the human condition, drawing from his knowledge/experience of Hinduism, the writings of Friedrich Nietzsche and the scientific theories of John Dobson. Allow me to share a treasure or two with you.

"Bars all over the world are the same. They harbor conversations, laughter, tears, celebrations, failures. Their walls resonate with the entire range of human emotion."

"If you really know who you are, everywhere you find yourself is home. That's the secret to living well. To always feel at home."

And its heart beats thus:

"...Sri Ramana stretches his arms and yawns. ‘Mother Nature is quite a rascal. She shows us everything as divided and finite and changing. And then she turns around with the forces of gravity and electricity and the physical property of inertia, and shows us that what she really wants is unity, infinity, and the unchanging.' The guru raises the index finger of his right hand. ‘What is very important to realize is that there are three fundamental spiritual drives that coincide exactly with the physical ones. The spiritual drives are for love, freedom, and peace. Our heart's yearning for love is nothing other than the desire for unity that we see in gravity. Our heart's yearning for freedom is nothing other than the desire for infinity that we see in electricity. And, our heart's yearning for peace is nothing other than the desire for the unchanging that we see in inertia.'"

My favorite gem, placed just prior to Chapter 1 reads:

"In this world of space and time, oddities abound. Mystery upon mystery floats beneath the horizon of life. Sometimes hints of what might be called knowledge are revealed. Look at the hints closely enough, and they disappear like fading clouds into deeper mysteries beyond the reach of the human mind. Once beyond the mind, once beyond space and time, one experiences a solace, a peace, that when reintroduced into the worldly realm is recognized by a few seekers as holiness. This holiness, known only to the holy themselves, is none other than complete indifference. A happy indifference? Is there such a thing? Yes. The holy live with happy indifference. There is truly no other kind."

In April 2006 I reviewed Edward's first mystery novel, Lanterns in the Mist, and, as before, I recommend this novel to mystery lovers, to readers in search of themselves, and to intelligent readers who can appreciate the author's literary gifts.

The Right Hand of Allah
D. E. Dawning
BookSurge, LLC
1419634151 $18.99

About the story?... quoting from the backcover:

"After a terrorist bomb takes covert agent, Kelly Rogers' life, he awakens in the hospital, in his Arab killer's body also killed but brought back to life by the doctors. This extraordinary occurrence leads him on a bizarre odyssey, thwarting terrorist plots, which includes a nuclear attack on Las Vegas.

Supporting Kelly on his mission, are two extraordinary beauties, Mariam, a cerebral, former Miss Pacific Rim - his killer's wife and Jane, physically, perhaps the most deadly woman alive - Kelly's undercover handler.

In addition, Kelly has become a Muslim Icon, looked up to by a growing number of Muslim clerics as the ‘Chosen One,' a new prophet, who allegedly met with Allah, in Heaven, and was afterward, returned to Saudi Arabia, after being tasked to be his worldly representative - "The Right Hand of Allah.""

About the author's writing style:

It is clearly evident that D. E. Dawning is knowledgeable about Arabs, Muslims and ‘contemporary terrorism.' His style is straight-forward, action thriller, but to my taste, the dialogue is too cliched and imitative. For a BookSurge POD published novel, The Right Hand of Allah is well edited with an artistic, appealing cover.

If you enjoy action-packed, sexually-erotic, contemporary thrillers, you may enjoy this novel.

Is There a Hole in the Boat? Tales of Travel in Panama Without a Car
Darrin DuFord, Inc.
PO Box 2399, Bangor, ME 04402-2399
9781591139973 $13.95

Is There a Hole in the Boat? is a marvelously entertaining atypical narrative of Darrin DuFord's travel adventures while hiking, bribing and bartering his way around Panama. It is most unique and filled with a sense of the people/culture, epicurean delights and tidbits about history, current and past politics.

Darrin DuFord is a gifted, accomplished writer with a vibrant style, and Duford's debut book was chosen by Fore Word Magazine as a finalist for the 2006 Book of the Year Award. You can find his latest articles and recipes on his website Omnivorous Traveler ( I consider this little book an exceptional, fun read and highly recommend it. You won't be disappointed.

Kaye Trout

Lisa's Bookshelf

The Green Coat: A Tale from the Dust Bowl Years
Rosemary McDunn
Bezalel Books
P.O. Box 300427, Waterford, MI 48330, 248-917-3865
0979225876 $8.99

One of the most fantastic ways to teach children about history is through the art of storytelling. Topics which may appear dry and uninteresting in a textbook can truly come to life if they are conveyed with character and style.

The Green Coat: A Tale from the Dust Bowl Years is doubly successful as a work of fiction in that it instructs about an important period in our country's history while sharing a story that is both heartwarming and inspirational. This novel by first time author and Michigan educator Rosemary McDunn will appeal to a broad audience ranging from middle school readers to adults.
Set in the 1930s in the Great Plains state of North Dakota, The Green Coat introduces us in its earliest pages to twelve year old Tressa Bauer. Hailing from the humble farming town of Dazey, Tressa appears to be a bit of a "Daddy's girl". What her family lacks in financial resources, they seem to make up for in familial bonds.

But shortly after the celebration of her twelfth birthday, Tressa is forced to deal with some very grown up news – owing to losses suffered from a lingering drought, her parents are on the verge of losing the family farm. As auctioneers eventually sell all of their land and property, Tressa's parents are forced to make a horrible decision in order to survive.

Tressa and her older brother Will, the two youngest of the four Bauer siblings, are sent to live in the home of Doctor Heileman near Fargo, ninety miles from the place her parents have found jobs and temporary shelter. Upon her arrival in the Heileman home, Tressa must deal with her new reality. In exchange for their room and board, Tressa and Will become domestic servants in a formerly genteel home that has been ravaged by dust storms. Tressa quickly realizes that the mentally ill Mrs. Heileman is unable to cope with her domestic duties or care for her two year old son, Ben. In addition, Tressa must contend with Claire, the Heileman's daughter who is near Tressa's age but is unkind to her from the start. Tressa longs for nothing more than to leave this place and be reunited with her parents.

"I didn't sleep that night. I swayed between silent fits of rage and fear gripped me so hard that my breathing became labored. Why would God do this to us? I wondered. Ma always said God had a plan. What kind of cruel plan is this?"

While readers of all ages will be drawn to the storyline and personalities presented in The Green Coat, teachers of middle school readers should specifically consider using the text to compliment language arts and social studies curricula. Author McDunn, an experienced educator, has provided an excellent educational resource at the conclusion of the book. For each chapter, a broad cross section of vocabulary words and relevant reflection and discussion questions are provided. An additional section looks at effective tools of figurative language and provides a "treasure hunt" for young readers to spot examples of this literary technique.

A quite stream of spirituality runs throughout The Green Coat as Tressa develops an active prayer life, calling on God to help her overcome what she feels are insurmountable obstacles. Ultimately, Tressa learns to draw on her own reserves of strength to endure and ultimately triumph in her newfound circumstances. What follows is a wonderful coming of age tale where life lessons are learned, tragedies are overcome, and lifelong friendships are forged. The relationships at the center of The Green Coat, those between Tressa and her brother Will and between the two siblings and a young married couple also in great need of healing, make this book a wonderful journey. Along the way, readers young and old will learn about customs and circumstances in a part of our history that differ greatly from today's world. For its wonderful character development, compelling plot, and attention to historical detail, I give The Green Coat my highest recommendation.

Joseph's Hands
Kety Sabatini, Illustrated by Marie Sabatini
Bezalel Books
P.O. Box 300427, Waterford, MI 48330
0979225884 $12.99 248-917-3865

New Children's Book Emphasizes Each Child's Special Calling

God makes every one of us unique, giving us each special gifts and talents. In the newly released book Joseph's Hands (Bezalel Books, April 2007, paperback, 36 pages), author Kety Sabatini shares a compelling tale which aptly illustrates God's love and creativity. Beautifully illustrated by Marie Sabatini, Joseph's Hands is the story of six year old Joseph and his search for purpose and meaning in his young life.

Joseph is the youngest of four brothers. Each of his brothers seems to have a special gift for working with his hands. Sam, the eldest, is a true handyman and great with tools. Brother Tony can fix any kind of machinery and Chris is the family's accomplished baker. As loving siblings, they try to involve little Joseph in their tasks, but the end result is always a shambles – a smashed thumb, a clock with its gears in a jumble, and bread dough that refuses to rise.

Joseph is despondent, fearing he will never grow up to have the clever and gifted hands his brothers possess. His loving parents console Joseph, encouraging him that one day he too will find his hands' purpose.

"Someday your hands will be a gift also," Joseph's mother gently remarks. Along the way, his parents remind him that our God is amazing enough to be able to create a unique set of fingerprints for each and every person – surely God also has a unique design and calling for each of us as well! With his family's love and support, Joseph must learn to trust God's perfect plan.

By the end of Joseph's Hands, readers learn that God has indeed crafted the perfect plan for Joseph and that in his own unique way he touches lives just as his brothers do in their own vocations. Marie Sabatini's illustrations masterfully evoke the book's plotline with wit and expressiveness.

Joseph's Hands is the perfect book to share with children ages four through eight. With its uplifting messages and engaging characters, this book reinforces that concept that God has designed each of us for a unique and wonderful purpose. Children will learn that like Joseph, if they trust God and His plan, they will one day love and serve God and others in their own singular fashion.

Lisa M. Hendey

Lori's Bookshelf

The Spanish Pearl
Catherine Friend
Bold Strokes Books
430 Herrington Rd., Johnsonville, NY 12094,
1933110767 $15.95

THE SPANISH PEARL isn't quite like any time travel novel I've ever read before. For one thing, eleventh century Spain wasn't a historical period I felt knowledgeable about. But it doesn't matter!

For one thing, the history is dealt to the reader with a light hand. 1085 AD is a perfect backdrop for this wild romp. The observations Kate Vincent, our plucky heroine, makes about eleventh century Spain through her contemporary eyes are priceless. When she first encounters a band of what she thinks are guys doing an historical re-enactment, one of them asks her if she needs help. She says yes and then thinks: "What nimrod. I was out in the middle of nowhere by myself. What did he think I needed – a French vanilla latte?" (p. 29).

Kate simply cannot believe what's happened to her, and her slow realization of the truth is comical. "Another, less plausible, totally fantastical explanation kept creeping in, but I repeatedly pushed it away. Time travel was for rabid fans of Star Trek and Stargate, not for me" (p. 43). It's some time before Kate finally accepts that she's been transported back in time, and an immediate concern is that she must live without Diet Coke. But very quickly, she realizes that eleventh century Spain isn't going to be a good place for a twenty-first century American who has few useful skills. She can't throw a knife straight, much less wield a sword, isn't used to horses, doesn't know the culture, and can't fight worth beans. Luckily she does speak Spanish and know a bit of the history of the time, but if not for Luis Navarro, the leader of a band of mercenaries who puts her under his protection, Kate would be in a very bad place. Like dead.

Instead she's caught up in the politics and power struggle between the Christians and the Moors, and she has to risk everything to figure out how to get back to her own time. But first, she's going to make friends, fall in love, and get in and out of terrible predicaments. Her attempts to escape a harem, dungeons, and from various captors are often suspenseful and occasionally hilarious.

This is a rollicking good tale, full of adventure, humor, romance, and high stakes suspense, for Kate's friends and foes are not always who or what they seem. It will take all the smarts and patience of a severely decaffeinated woman to figure out what she wants, not to mention how to actually get home.

The author does a terrific job with characterization, lush setting, action scenes, and droll commentary. This is one of those well-paced, exciting books that you just can't quite put down. ("Just one more chapter… Uh oh, I need to find out what happens next… Can't stop now - just a little further!). If you're like me, soon enough you'll realize it's three a.m. and you can't stop devouring it until you get to the wonderful conclusion.

An excerpt from the sequel, THE CROWN OF VALENCIA, is included in the back of this book, and I would strongly suggest avoiding that. The sequel isn't out until November 2007, and it's killing me to wait to read it.

This is one of the very best books I've read in many months, so I give it my highest recommendation! Don't miss this one.

Charmed Lives
Toby Johnson & Steve Berman, editors
Lethe Press and White Crane Institute
102 Heritage Ave, Maple Shade, NJ, 08052,
1590210166 $16.00

Long-time spiritual writer Toby Johnson and publisher/writer Steve Berman have put together a much-needed collection of essays and stories about gay men and spirituality. So often, anti-gay activists go out of their way to malign gay people, and homophobes in mainstream churches often block gays from worship and religion. This collection offers an alternative to those small-minded persecutions.

What Johnson has been saying for years in books like GAY SPIRITUALITY and GAY PERSPECTIVE is that the spiritual consciousness expressed by gays—indeed, by all GLBTQ people—is a vital and evolutionary step forward for everyone on the planet. No longer need we be trapped in meaningless, dogmatic, fear-based, or male-dominated religious practices. There's hope and inspiration to be found by, for, and about homosexual lives.

Berman and Johnson have managed to get stories and essays from many literary lights: Mark Thompson, Malcolm Boyd, Perry Brass, Victor J. Banis, Jeffery Beam, Mark Abramson, and many others. The inspiring work of educators, community activists, and religious experts such as David Nimmons, Mark Horn, Dan Stone, Michael Sigmann, Bill Blackburn, and Donald Boisvert are also featured.

CHARMED LIVES is a Lambda Literary Award Finalist in the category of Best Anthology, and it's fully deserving. Every story, every essay is a gem that reveals the beauty, strength, and value of gay voices.

As Bert Herrman writes in his essay, "Grace is not really magic, it is a natural state of being, but for those who reach it, it works like a charm." Reading these pieces will comfort, inspire, and charm anyone seeking to learn more about the wonder of gay spirit in storytelling. Highly recommended.

Lori L. Lake

Margaret's Bookshelf

My Dear Marlene
Ann Milholland Webb
Leathers Publishing
4500 College Blvd., Overland Park, KS 66211
1585974137, $10.95 1-888-888-7696

My Dear Marlene, is an anthology of correspondence between woman friends. An Marlene endured a difficult and trying illness, author Ann Milholland Webb applied the art of letter writing to effectively bring Marlene along on daily adventurers. The correspondences reprinted in My Dear Marlene, are brief, thoughtful, brimming with positive energy and the inexhaustible bond between lifelong friends. "I am not sure how you can close your eyes to savor this story and still read it, but you figure that out. Maybe Paul will read it to you. I love my new house and I feel very safe. There are no through streets, so only local traffic, and not much of that. We have only one neighbor who thinks everyone should enjoy his loud, booming, vibrating, teeth-jarring music as he drives down the street. Maybe he will grow up and move away someday - soon." An enduring tribute, heartwarming to read cover to cover.

Some Glad Morning
Irene J. Steele
Blacksmith Books, LLC
PO Box 4228, Lisle, IL 60532-9228
0977251519, $14.95

When her parents were killed during a civil rights protest over voting rights that turned violent in the American South of the 1950s, Mildred Johnson became orphaned and appropriated by her aunt Rose Johnson who fled with the child to the West Side of Chicago so that Mildred could live in safety with a relative. Many years later Mildred and her aunt Rose would join a campaign to elect Chicago's first African-American mayor. That is where and how Mildred was drawn out of her shell, meeting and falling in love with O'Kanata who was the head of a grass-roots organization involved in a voter registration drive. But along the way and against a backdrop of Chicago politics, Mildred finds herself embarking on a journey of self-discovery about both her self and her aunt Rose. Very highly recommended and genuinely entertaining, "Some Glad Morning" is a deftly woven, original, and debut novel by accomplished author Irene J. Steele who, as a native of Chicago and a counselor for an educational outreach program in Alabama, has evidently been able to draw upon her own history and experience for inspiration in creating a believable and engaging fictional account of a young woman's struggle for love, for life, and for an understanding with respect to herself and those closest to her.

By Common Salt
Killarney Clary
Oberlin College Press
50 North Professor Street, Oberlin, OH 44074-1095
0932440746, $12.95

Killarney Clary is an accomplished poet whose work has been published in such publications as the 'American Poetry Review', 'Colorado Review', Missouri Review', 'Ploughshares', 'Yale Review', and many more. Her work is hallmarked by its spare and lucid prose poems in which she describes and sometimes celebrates aspects of our contemporary landscape, dream fragments, human loss, and the unknowns of our existence in an almost 'stream of consciousness' style of presentation. "By Common Salt" is a highly recommended compendium of her work deserving of as wide a readership as possible and is especially recommended to poetry enthusiasts who appreciate how the deft employment of words can evoke lasting and lingering emotions in the mind and emotions of the reader. 'An old woman alone in a white car on Fletcher peers into a pink bakery box as she waits at the signal in twilight. I'm anxious to be home, talking. I'm afraid of the smell of damp metal, a chill that rises into my scalp a thud against the wall at three a.m.; the phone keeps ringing. When you only have one thing, you're bound to hate it.'

A Song for You, revised edition
Karen Elaine O'Bannon
Chicago Spectrum Press
4824 Brownsboro Center, Louisville, Kentucky 40207
1583741658, $20.00

A Song for You: Parables and Pearls is a collection of poetry by African-American author Karen O'Bannon, now revised with extensive biblical and life commentary. A theme of transferring wisdom and the bond between mothers and daughters circulates amid these simple yet heart-touching free-verse poems. Highly recommended. "Explanation, Please": Black Man, Black Man / Is there any doubt / That the womb made room for you / To make your exit out? // Then how in the world could you be so inclined / To degrade me or any sister of mine? / Tell me why because I really want to know. / From exactly what garden do your hate seeds grow? // Is it a hip thing to say / Is it the ghetto way? / Is it your black experience? / Or is it just plain ignorance? / Does it feel good when you're calling me a hoe? / Tell me. / I just want to understand you, Bro. / Think about it, holler back, and let me know.

Margaret Lane

Mark's Bookshelf

Coolhunting: Chasing Down the Next Big Thing
Peter Gloor & Scott Cooper
Amacom: American Management Association
1601 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
0814473865 $24.95

Thinking outside the box isn't a new idea in American business. However, companies such as Apple and Continental Airlines are receptive to the next cool idea. Msrs. Gloor and Cooper are experts in trends and what the next cool idea, product or service will be. Coolhunters and the art of coolhunting explores how to recognize the trendsetters, typically collective efforts of groups of people. MySpace is an example of this collaborative networking that shapes trends of today and emerging ones of tomorrow.

Chapters cover: Why "Cool" Matters, Swarm Creativity Creates Cool Trends, Swarms Can Better Predict the Future, About Trendsetters, Coolhunters Look for Coolfarmers, When Swarms Go Mad, Do-It-Yourself Coolhunting with Technology, Coolhunting by Automated Social Network Analysis, Five Steps to Becoming a Coolfarmer, and The Coming World of Swarm Creativity. Also included is a foreword by Dana Boyd, Acknowledgements, an Introduction, Author Notes and Index.

I especially enjoyed their discussion of of what is termed "diffusion of innovation". This five steps first published by Everett Rogers in 1962 are applicable in 2007. They are: Innovators-roughly the first 2.5 percent of users, Early Adopters-the next 13.5 percent of useers, Early Majority-the next 34 percent of users, Late Majority-the next 34 percent of users, and Laggards-the last 16 percent of users. The authors write in a style that is easy for those outside of their cutting-edge mindset to understand. Anyone in business today should make the time to read this book on what shapes consumer trends and how being a coolhunter could add dramatically to your bottom line.

Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins
Annette Simmons
Amacom: American Management Association
1601 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
0814409148 $22.00

Annette Simmons, a behavioral science consultant brings front and center something that many American business' in their quest for perfect communication to their clients omit, humanity. Bravo for Ms. Simmon's perspective on how relaying everyday stories can create immediate changes in other's attitudes and actions. Many consumers are overwhelmed with messages attempting to grab their attention, but Simmons approach with utilizing stories to stand out from the swell of information and thus control people's conclusions, which cements a better relationship.

Chapters cover: Thinking in Story, Finding Stories to Tell, Perfecting the Craft. Additional content includes; Acknowledgements, an Introduction, Index and Bibliography, a Call to Action, and About the Author. The five types of stories covered in the book are: Who-I-Am Stories, Teaching Stories, Vision Stories, Values-in-Action Stories, and I-Know-What-You-Are-Thinking Stories. At the end of chapters there are handy and useful exercises in helping the reader develop their story telling skills.

I found the sub-chapter on The Gift of Brevity interesting in the lesson of how we can all talk more efficiently and tell a better story and make a deeper impact on the listener. With all the information swirling around in our everyday lives, Ms. Simmons approach to making your business message stick, is like most of the one-liners we remember, keep your story simple. Who Ever Tells the Best Story Wins is a book that should be required reading from under-graduates to corporate vice-presidents.

The Complete Real Estate Encyclopedia
Denise L. Evans, JD & O. Williams Evans, JD
Two Penn Plaza, New York, NY 10121
0071476385 $34.95

The authors have assembled all the important terms and jargon that are associated with commercial and residential real estate in an easy-to-use encyclopedia for home buyers, owners, and sellers, commercial and residential real estate agents as well as journalists who report on the industry. Complete with online access to real estate forms, formulas, and resources. A desk reference for those in the know or lay persons looking to talk the talk.

Content includes: Real estate Terms: Numbered (such as a 1031 Exchange, Real Estate Terms A-Z, an impressive array of Appendix's: 125 Terms All Buyers and Sellers Should Know, 105 Words for Landlords, Tenants, and Their Agents, 100 Tax Terms Important to Real Estate, 80 Slang Expressions Used by Real Estate Insiders, 77 Words Important to Developers, 60 Useful Ideas for Analyzing Investments, 50 Words Important to Residential Real Estate Agents, 50 Federal Laws and widespread State Laws that Affect Real Estate, 20 Ways to Hold Real Estate, Symbols and Abbreviations, and Common Land Measurements. A Foreword, Dedication, Preface, Acknowledgments, author biographies round out this complete one-stop bundle of information.

As an experienced real estate author, broker, columnist, and writer I found this definitive new book an asset to my business. Chock-full of vital terms, some with accompanying graphics or diagrams position this book front and center in my office library.

About the House: How to Maintain, Repair, Upgrade, and Enjoy Your Home
Henri De Marne
Upper Access, Inc.
87 Upper Access Road, Hinesburg, VT 05461
094267930X , $16.95

Seasoned and nationally syndicated home improvement columnist Henri De Marne's new book resolves the typical and unusual home maladies in a no-nonsense and informative style. In additional to repair solutions, he also lays out common upgrades and ways to better enjoy your home. Complete with photographs, diagrams, and drawings, Mr. De Marne leaves no stone unturned and eliminates those pesky multiple trips to the hardware store. I came away thinking that this book is filled with recipes to make an array of debacles at home easily fixed.

Chapter titles are: Foundations, Basements, Crawl Spaces, Roofs and Siding, Windows and Doors, Plumbing, Electricity, HVAC, Kitchens and Baths, Interior Surfaces: Floors, Ceilings, and Walls, Insulation, Critters, Pests and other Nuisances, and Outside the House. Additional features include acknowledgments, a dedication, an introduction, author biography, resources, and an index.

A perfect addition to every home, About the House should be a standard fixture next to your medical, cooking and other reference books. A great gift for existing homeowners or new ones, and I'm not ignoring renters, if you live in a building you should have this book.

The Official Five-Star Fitness Boot Camp Workout: Updated Edition for Men and women
Andrew Flach, Paul Frediani and Stew Smith
Hatherleigh Press
5-22 46th Avenue, Suite 200, Long Island City, NY 11101
1578262437 $16.95

Ensemble fitness authors Andrew Flach, Paul Frediani and Stewart Smith collaborate on an updated edition of a
"no-frills' way to get into or stay in shape. Filled with black and white photos to help the reader get it right, this high impact, low hype guide to fitness is a mainstay in the flavor of the month, workout guru world. Each author brings a health, weight management or exercise perspective that creates a well rounded foundation for challenging workouts. Complete with a thirty-minute DVD that takes you through the drills and exercises to rid yourself of pesky love handles and other physical maladies from lack of exercise.

Chapter titles with related sub-chapter are are: The Exercises: Stretching and Flexibility, Upper Body Calisthenic Exercises, Upper Body Weight Exercises, Lower Body Exercises, Abdominal Exercises, Beach Drills, Field Drills and Sprints. Cross Training with Basic Boxing: Boxing Basics and Main event Workout, The Official Boot Camp Workout: Workouts, Schedules, Mild, Medium and Spicy, Boot Camp Health: Targeting Your Heart Rate, Nutrition and Weight Management. Additional features include acknowledgments, a dedication, an introduction, All About Five Star Fitness, and Meet the Authors.

No matter what your gender or level of ability, The Official Five Star Fitness Boot Camp Workout offers a no-nonsense way to begin or improve your physical health in an easy-to-read format that cuts to the chase in it's just-the-facts-please style. With this Boot Camp Workout there is no excuse not to get up off your couch.

Mark Nash

Richard's Bookshelf

The Secrets of Barneveld Calvary
James Calvin Schaap
Baker Book House
PO Box 6287, Grand Rapids, MI 49516
0801057558 $11.99

Profound Insights, Compelling, Thought Provoking

Award winning author, James Calvin Schaap has captured the stubbornness and pride of small townspeople, in contemporary rural America. Barneveld, Iowa is the setting of this dramatic true to life fictional account of the private hidden secrets of church leaders, community stalwarts, and patriots.

The book is a collection of short stories narrated by the Pastor of Barneveld's Calvary Church. Schaap has created a composite of believable characters. He shows profound insights into human nature as he details the consequences of harboring, self pity, piety, and misunderstanding. He is a master at using subtle irony to show the impact on personal character and interpersonal relationships resulting from these hidden personal secrets.

Schaap's stories are often heartrending, filled with tragedy and feelings of guilt, hatred, anger, resentment and perceived vice. Others are heartwarming stories of repentance and finding forgiveness. Each story brings home a moral lesson. Schaap has a deep understanding of God's redemptive plan, the sinfulness of man, and the resultant joy, peace and freedom that come with forgiveness.

"The Secrets of Barneveld Calvary" is a significant, and deeply profound.
I highly recommend the book to pastors and lay leaders in the church and to anyone looking for a new freshness and vitality in their Christian journey.

Starlight's Courage
Janet Murihead Hill
Raven Publishing, Inc
PO Box 2866, Norris, MT 59745
097725254X, $9.00

Fast Paced Dramatic Action

Starlight's Courage is the second book in the Starlight series, the sequel
to "Miranda and Starlight", written by Janet Muirhead Hill. It is the story of ten year old Miranda Stevens and an injured two-year-old stallion named Starlight.

Muirhead's keen sense of understanding the feelings and characteristics of young readers comes through clearly in the development of her characters, as she weaves lessons in character building by drawing attention to their flaws.

Cruel and insensitive harassment by snobbish classmates create a wedge in her growing friendship with Chris. After additional heckling and a crude drawing with ethnic, family, and other unkind overtures, Miranda loses her temper. A fight breaks out. Miranda is blamed for the incident and is suspended from classes for a week.

Miranda finds comfort in her love for Starlight. She becomes very protective and becomes paranoid regarding Starlight when she thinks Mr. Taylor plans to have the horse destroyed because of injuries. Miranda's impulsive actions and short temper keep getting herself and her friends into trouble and sometimes danger.

Chris, Miranda and Laurie are registered to ride in a competition against their classmates. They are unaware that a disturbed individual is seeking retaliation. Just before Miranda is to ride in the Western event, Queen, the horse she was going to ride, becomes deathly ill from a poisoned injection. The exciting plot twists keep the reader in suspense for the remainder of the novel.

Rich and Free
Brian Bieler
Little Falls Press
7000 North 16th Street, Suite 120 # 489, Phoenix, AZ 85020-5547
9780977956937, $17.95

A Practical, Proven, Path to Economic Security and Personal Freedom

Brian's writing is stronger then ever in "Rich and Free." Brian writes with clarity, commonsense, and proven experience. The book is packed with helpful tips and ideas for creating wealth and personal freedom. He gives seasoned advice on developing new thinking patterns, creating business plans, finding the right team of advisers, the importance of developing better listening skills for more effective negotiating, and recognizing the importance of marketing your ideas and brand. The book is formatted for a quick read, easy assimilation and frequent reference. This is an important addition to the "Powerful Steps" series.

The Hoodlum Preacher
Burton Barr Jr.
Kobalt Books, LLC PO Box 1062, Bala Cynwyd, PA 19004
097691171X, $14.95

Rebellion, Restitution, Reunion

Burton Barr bares his soul in this no holds memoir. It is his hope that he will spare the reader of some of the heart ache he experienced. He writes in a warm conversational style that draws the reader into his life as he shares his story. Burton struggled with the results of his bad choices for over twenty years. Much like the parable of the prodigal son from Jesus' teaching, Burton remembered his (heavenly) father's the call of God on his life. He once more responded to that call and has turned his life around. Instead of pursuing a drug abuse and drug dealing he is now leading a ministry reaching out to prisoners.

"Hoodlum Preacher" is Burton Barr's testimony of going full circle from a call to preach as a child, through a period of upheaval, and restoration. This is a book for the readers searching for meaning to life, whether from the street or from the church. It warns of Satan's snares, and gives the invitation to accept the message of God's love, His mercy, and His grace.

In Search of a Childhood Song
Vera Miller
KAMBook Publishing, LLC
1720 Mars Hill Road, Suite 8197, Acworth, GA 30101
0978690095, $14.95

The Quest for a Story and a Song

"In Search of a Childhood Song," is powerfully written. I was captivated by the story. Vera Miller recounts her mother's girlhood in Germany and of her escape from Communism rule. She has drawn from memories her mother tried to bury, confirmed by other family members. She has thoroughly researched the years of WWII for background material. I greatly admire Miller's persistence in her 30 years quest for answers to questions about her family's history and genealogy.

Miller has divided the book into three parts. Part I is an introduction. It covers insights into the characters discussed in detail throughout the book. Part II covers a trip the Miller made to Germany in 2005. Vera writes in a warm intimate style Miller shares her impressions and insights in journal like entries telling of her heritage. Experiences learned by visiting the family on this trip gave her the basis for the story covering the period from 1939 through 1952, the years immediately preceding and after WWII.

In Part III, Vera forcefully recounts the political and economic upheaval in eastern Germany and of the rise of Hitler to power. She describes the years of WWII, the end of the war, and the years of occupation immediately following the war, under the rule Soviet communism.

Much of the story revolves around the events leading up to her parent's immigration to the United States. Miller also traces accounts of each of her mother's siblings, covering the same period of time. These stories are haunting, disturbing, dramatic, and compassionate.

Vera Miller is a gifted writer. Her book "In Search of a Childhood Song" proffers hope and strength to those in search of meaning and of their own childhood song. Informative, Inspirational, and Dramatic this book is rewarding and a great read.

The Horse with the Golden Mane: Stories of Adventure, Mystery and Romance
Russell A. Vassallo
Krazy Duck Productions
Box 105, Danville, KY 40423
097767391X $18.00

When Animals Talk

Russ Vassallo has combined three amazing stories in this one book "The Horse with the Golden Mane." Part one is the story of Eric, a Doberman pinscher, and his adopted master. This is a haunting story with plot twists that draw the reader deeply into the story.

Part Two is the story of "Taj." Taj, is a horse with an amazing potential, a horse that resists training. Grant Larsen feels a unique bonding the horse. He rescues Taj from certain death. The story is rich in compassion a story of hope and reconciliation and a horse named Taj.

The third in this trio of animal stories is "The Horse With the Golden Mane". This is the touching story of Pierce, Maya, and Red Leader. It is a gripping story of abuse, separation, and resolution.

Russ has the uncanny ability to pull at your heart strings. As you are moved with compassion it is difficult to hold back the tears. Russ instills a sense of urgency and suspense in each story, right up to the surprise, dramatic ending.

Vassallo's writing keeps getting stronger. He captures the heart of the reader with beautiful similes, pithy descriptions, and intuitive insight into the mind of man and the nature of animals. I was enthralled with Russ' ability to humanize his perception of the feelings and thought processes of animals. He joined the personalities of man and horse, or the man and dog, bonding them together, in the emotional struggles of his characters.

Fictional in stance a theme of reality carried the plot of each of the three stories. Each story vividly pictures the insecurity and loneliness of a man working through anger, insecurity, or loneliness. I feel that Russ is reaching out, relating a composite of his own life story, to offer encouragement and hope to readers who are working through similar issues in their own journey.

Russ Vassallo has a unique gift for writing stirring stories that describe the special bonding of man and animal through tenderness, love, and mutual trust. This book is a must read for animal lovers, especially for those who have discovered the gift of communicating with their horse, dog, or favorite pet.

Richard R. Blake

Sullivan's Bookshelf

Digital Destiny New Media and the Future of Democracy
Jeff Chester
The New Press
101565847954 $24.95

This book is an account of what's gone, and is going, wrong with the digital media in this country. Essentially, it's being wrested away from its 'peer to peer' relationship with average consumers and more and more being put under control, and into the money-grubbing hands, of big business! Chester's writing of the TV, PCs, cell phones, digital video recorders, iPods, and numerous other mobile machines used alone or in conjunction with the Internet. Mainly, the problem is the predatory capitalistic media business/corporate interests lobbying government authorities, usually the FCC, to take control of the media.

The oldest such dilemma, brought to everyone's attention over the years by the, most often, lone voice of journalist Ben Bagdikian in his courageous book MEDIA MONOPOLY, is of media ownership concentration and consolidation and the inherent danger to the U.S. of too few voices of opinion.

Also noted in that volume are the problems caused by absentee ownership of local media outlets: control of media pipelines (telephone lines, cable lines, and other such hookups) so there's no competition for what customers are charged. And there's far too little, or no, local news input in the concentrated, out-of-town ownership of media in cases of disaster from weather or accidents.

Frankly, DIGITAL DESTINY is enlightening but depressing reading because it seems so hopeless for the little guy/consumer. However, Chester does end his book in a more upbeat way.

"Despite what appear to be gloomy prospects for change," he writes, "the transition from the old media world to one dominated by digital broadband communications offers a critical window of opportunity. There is time to organize and engage in a serious fight for a media system that can better sustain a democracy. Broadband business models have not yet been fully perfected. Laws and regulations will still need to be enacted. More important, thepublic is still uninformed about what the consequences are for their families, communities, the nation, and the rest of the world if the corporate media vision wins the day. [....]"

Michael K. Powell, former FCC Chairman and son of one-time Secretary of State Colin Powell, comes in for severe criticism in this volume for his barefaced efforts on behalf of business interests to allow more media concentration. Once that word got out, a backlash was created that caused that bad FCC ruling to be rolled back by the U.S. Congress. This was a rare, but significant, win for consumer interests. When Michael K. Powell left the FCC, he, not surprisingly, went to work for media business interests.

The executive director of The Center for Digital Democracy and this read's author, Jeff Chester, has also been a journalist and a filmmaker. He resides near Washington D.C..This seminal book is recommended!

The Creation An Appeal To Save Life On Earth
E.O. Wilson
W.W. Norton and Company
100393062171 $21.95

"Dear Pastor [letter (epistle?) to an imaginary Baptist preacher]." writes Wilson to open his book. "We have not met, yet I feel I know you well enough to call you friend. First of all, we grew up in the same faith. As a boy I too answered the altar call; I went under the water. Although I no longer belong to that faith, I am confident that if we met and spoke privately of our deepest beliefs, it would be in the spirit of mutual respect and good will. I know we share many precepts of moral behavior. Perhaps it also matters that we are both Americans and, in so far as it might still affect civility and good manners, we are both Southerners."

Therein Wilson, one of many scientists, pleads his group's case, to the religious organizations, fora mutual all-out effort to save the fauna and flora, or biodiversity, that is being lost on Earth. This catastrophe is resulting in the extinction of animals, such as the elephant bird of Madagascar, New Zealand's ostrich-like moas, and most of the larger mammals in North America. Also being rapidly lost are important habitats, such as rain forest, polar ice caps, glaciers, and the seas.

Animals, fish, birds, plants, grasses, and trees are disappearing, never to ever return, due to the excessive human population, over-hunting, fishing, grazing, and the general environmental crisis, such as the excessive greenhouse gases causing global warming. And we're all responsible for the problem.

Not only does Wilson bemoan the loss of these living things but also the loss of their potential benefit to serve man and womankind as sources of medicine and other beneficial matter. But the saddest fact of all is that we know about and have identified only a small percentage of the biodiversity (botany, zoology, and all other living matter) out there. Most of it will soon be gone and never known about by humankind.

For anyone who's read elsewhere even a little bit about such loses to the planet, there are few new, scary and depressing statistics and facts within. However, the plea that religious people, evangelicals and fundamentalists in particular, need to know that what they aren't yet helping to 'prevent the destruction of' is nothing less than their beloved God's own Creation spelled out in the Bible. And, once the religious people do realize and accept this fact, they will eagerly join with scientists to, as one, fight off the losses and extinctions.

The author is quite poignant. He makes his informed case in a humble and reasonable manner. Such cooperation could help substantially in the effort to save the Earth and all its living creatures and plant life.

Edward O. Wilson, the author, is a Harvard University Biology Professor, and has researched and taught natural biology, especially his concentration area: ants, for nearly half a century. He has written almost two dozen books on those subjects and on the importance of preserving this planet by saving its biodiversity. Recommended.

Internal Combustion
Edwin Black
St. Martin's Press,
100312359071 $27.95

Here's the classic story: the fight in the early automotive era between good and evil: the former is the environmentally clean electric motor used in the early days to power the car and mass transportation, the latter is the oil combustion motor also used to run vehicles.

At the beginning of the 20th Century, the fight was nip and tuck. One moment it looked like the electric motor would predominate, the next it seemed that the internal combustion was ahead. Sadly, because the world is paying a heavy price for it now, the internal combustion engine, the gas guzzling, air polluting, and politically enmeshing machine won out.

That wasn't bound to happen. It occurred because of the many devious, unfair, and, certainly, unenlightened decisions, made mostly by business, industry, and big government, that led this nation and the automobile industry astray.

The story, though easy reading, could have been told in half the number of pages. Readers then, however, might not have learned of the intricate details of the unique and nefarious fights between the titans of business, like Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Alfred Sloan, and such big corporations as General Motors, Standard Oil, Mack Truck, Firestone Tire, and several others. With few exceptions, the majority of these people and companies don't come across as nicely as you may have learned about them in the schoolroom.

"When Phillips [Petroleum] wrote its investment and product exclusivity contracts with National City Lines [a bus company buying up electric transportation organizations]" writes Black, "the oil company added adynamic new dimension in Clause 6. ...[it] required that the acquired transit systems never again use a nonpetroleum-based form of propulsion without Phillip's permission. In other words, the transit systems would not be permitted to reinstitute electric service even if called for. [....]"

The final 25 percent of the book is relegated to the oil problem that the U.S., indeed the world, faces today and its solution: hydrogen, not battery-powered electric, powered vehicles. Much of this information has been written about elsewhere. But Black walks the reader through the various scenarios of what might happen. If nothing else, the author is thorough in his research and explication. Though this re viewer has read many previous books about the auto industry, much here was new to him.

One other interesting little tidbit about this volume is found in the 'Acknowledgments' section. Normally no one reads this part of a book. Those who do are usually made sleepy. However, this tome's section is highly recommended reading for the blast the author takes at several businesses and institutions of higher learning for blocking his research.

A New York Times best-sellers' list author, Edwin Black has written half a dozen books, including IBM AND THE HOLOCAUST and WAR AGAINST THE WEAK. His work has elicited Pulitzer Prize nomination eight times! And he's twice been in contention for the National Book Award. Black has appeared on numerous TV and radio news shows. Recommended.

Nemesis The Last Days of the American Republic
Chalmers Johnson
Metropolitan Books,
100805079114 $26.00

Johnson, in this his third and final tome in a trilogy on the same topic, claims that the United States is an empire and compares it to those of Rome and Britain. He contrasts how those empires fell and why and how the U.S., unless it dramatically changes its ways, which he's not optimistic about, will godown, too.

Nemesis, says its writer in his Prologue, refers to the mythical "goddess of divine justice and vengeance."

Many political observers would argue that because the U.S. holds no territory other than its own 50states (discounting, of course, Puerto Rico, Guam, and earlier, the Philippines), its not really an empire. But Johnson shows that the U.S. does act imperially. It has numerous permanent bases (over 700) indifferent nations around the world; stations troops, sometimes unruly, rude, and criminal, therein; and reserves to itself all governmental powers over these personnel just as surely as if the U.S. were in control of that sovereign country.

The world, including U.S. citizens, grows increasingly unhappy with the previously mentioned and with other U.S. actions: attacking Iraq a sovereign nation; occupying that country; torturing prisoners or taking them (through rendition) to nations where they can be tortured; holding prisoners in Cuba to prevent U.S. laws, like habeas corpus, from being enforced; wide spread secrecy, and other morally corrupt practices.

On the financial end, people are disgusted too with the huge, unprecedented military budget, spending secrecy, nuclear arms development and arsenal, militarizing space, antimissiles, cost overruns, and so on.

The military/industrial complex that outgoing President Eisenhower warned America about comes in for most of the author's criticism. This nation's annual military budget is now in excess of all the rest of the world.

The author writes, "In Nemesis, I have tried to present historical, political, economic, and philosophical evidence of where our current behavior is likely to lead. Specifically, I believe that to maintain our empire abroad requires resources and commitments that will inevitably undercut our domestic democracy and in the end produce a military dictatorship or its civilian equivalent. The founders of our nation understood this well and tried to create a form of government--a republic--that would prevent this from occurring. But the combination of huge standing armies, almost continuous wars, military Keynesianism, and ruinous military expenses have destroyed our republican structure in favor of an imperial presidency. We are on the cusp of losing our democracy for the sake of keeping our empire. Once a nation is started down that path, the dynamics that apply to all empires come into play--isolation, overstretch, the uniting of forces opposed to imperialism, and bankruptcy. Nemesis, the goddess, stalks our life as a free nation.

Chalmers Johnson is president of the Japan Policy Research institute. The first and second books in this trilogy were Blowback, and The Sorrows of Empire. He has also published in periodicals such as Harper's Magazine, and The Nation. The author lives in California.

Because of the seriousness of this book's subject matter, it is highly recommended.

Jim Sullivan

Theodore's Bookshelf

Island Blues
Wendy Howell Mills
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. 1st Ave., Scottsdale AZ 85251, 800-421-3976
1590583965 $24.95

Sabrina Dunsweeney is on Comico Island without a job and somewhat at loose ends, when she is enticed into becoming the island's ombudsman, in an effort to quiet the antagonism between residents and tourists, and to look into a series of home break-ins (in which nothing seems to have been taken).

The main mystery involves a group at a local hotel, the "hummers," a group of people who hear a strange noise, and who are attending a retreat, sponsored by Hummers International, in an attempt to relieve them of this is "infirmity." When one of the organization's officials is found dead, the situation sets off a series of events that leads Sabrina to fumble here and there until in frustration, the city council relieves her of her duties. But that doesn't stop her from continuing to look into the various mysteries and ask more questions.

The novel is replete with island life, and recalls its rum-running role during the Prohibition era.

The Editor-in-Chief of PPP has said she "is no fan of the cookie cutter cozies" that somehow occupy many lists, and it is not quite clear whether or not she considers this, the second novel in this series, to be one or not. This reviewer certainly would consider it of the genre.

A Fall From Grace
Robert Barnard
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
074327220X $24.00 800-223-2336

Inspector Charlie Peace and his wife Felicity receive word that her father wishes to speedily move with or near them and will assist them financially toward purchasing a new home. The reason for this generosity is discovered after they move into their new residences. It seems the father had to beat a hasty departure from his old place when gossip exposed him as possibly having been too close to a young girl.

An egotistical but mediocre novelist, the father is surrounded by females eager to provide him with all kinds of services, like cleaning, and adulation in the new town. Soon he is observed as having a relationship with a precocious 15-year-old girl, and the Peaces wonder if it is deja vu all over again. Neither thinks there is anything sexual about the relationship, but rumors abound.

Shortly, the old man is found at the bottom of a quarry. Is it an accident or murder? Charlie, of course, can't be involved in the investigation, but in his own way unofficially looks into the matter, resulting in a conclusion completely unexpected.

The story is constructed with subtlety, with a couple of sub-plots that contribute to the solution of the mystery. A Fall From Grace is a delight to read.

Cactus Heart
Jon Talton
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. 1st Ave., Scottsdale AZ 85251
1590583523 $24.95 800-421-3976

A few days before Pearl Harbor Day, the twin grandsons of Arizona's richest man were kidnapped, and $100,000.00 ransom paid, but the boys were never returned home. The year, in this prequel to four previous David Mapstone mysteries, is 1999, and David, now a deputy in the Sheriff's office (as well as historian specializing in reviewing cold cases), along with his boss and lover chase carjackers into an abandoned downtown building, upon which David finds the skeletons of what appear to be the twins.

That is the setting for this well-told tale, which unfolds like the layers of an onion along with colorful descriptions of Phoenix and other parts of Arizona and their historic development. Unfortunately, having not read the previous four installments, comparisons or comments cannot be made. But based on this novel, it would appear that the series is very much worth the reading. Recommended.

In the Woods
Tana French
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
0670038601 $24.95 800-847-5515

This debut novel has all the elements of a more seasoned author: plot, characterization, human pathos, mystery, psychology and solid writing. It begins in the summer of 1984 in a Dublin suburb when two young boys and a girl are playing in the woods nearby to their homes, and two disappear, one boy later found clutching a tree. The survivor has no memory of the event and it goes unsolved.

Twenty years later, Rob Ryan (he's really Adam Ryan, the young survivor) is a detective on the Murder Squad and, with his partner, grab a ‘squeal,' the murder of a 12-year-old girl found in the same woods. He keeps his past a secret and the investigation proceeds along dual lines, past and present murders.

The complications abound as a massive effort to find the murderer proceeds, including the personal lives of Ryan and his partner, Cassie. The story is gripping, and the human emotions are absorbing. The conclusion is as unexpected as it is logical. Recommended.

Baby Shark's Beaumont Blues
Robert Fate
Capital Crime Press
P. O. Box 272904, Ft. Collins, CO 80527
0977627624 $14.95 970-481-4894

There almost more shootings and killings (almost all by Baby Shark) than there are pages in this latest chapter of the young woman's adventures in the Ft. Worth/Dallas underground of the 1950's, not to mention a knifing as well. But Baby Shark doesn't hustle a single pool game (as opposed to the first novel in the series]. Instead, she and her PI partner of two years have the recurring chore of finding a missing Texan a few times under less than favorable circumstances.

Along the way, the dynamic duo confronts many dangerous Beaumont criminals, eliminating them faster than they can show up by various means. The real surprise in this swift-paced crime adventure is in the denouement. The continuing saga of Baby Shark next takes place in May, 1957, in the forthcoming Panhandle Caravan.

The Unquiet
John Connolly
Atria Books
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
0743298934 $25.95 800-223-2336

Unreal elements as the story describes are essential to the author's continuing saga of his protagonist, PI Charlie Parker, and his encounters with the world of pure evil. This eerie and chilling tale of child pornography and molestation combines mystery, violence and murder into a gripping story.

Initially, a woman asks Parker to protect her from a stalker. From this simple task, his assignment expands. The stalker is a professional killer whose daughter has disappeared. She was the patient of a renowned child psychiatrist, the client's father, who also disappeared. Was there a connection?

From that point, Parker is drawn into a more complex situation, still haunted by his own ghosts—the loss of his first wife and child and the apparent breakup of his second marriage. From this web we find him drawn into a history of atrocities against children by a group of men at a place known as Gilead in northern Maine.

As in previous installments in the adventures of Charlie Parker, the writing is crisp, the plot tight and the conclusion totally unexpected. Recommended.

The Color of Blood
Declan Hughes
William Morrow
10 East 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
0060825499 $24.95 800-242-7737

There have been a plethora of mysteries featuring a tough-guy PI. And just as many involving a dysfunctional family. This novel, the author's second in the series and well worth reading, combines the two themes.

Ed Loy, after 25 years living in Los Angeles, is now in Dublin. He is retained by a rich dentist who has received a blackmail note along with a set of compromising pornographic pictures of his missing daughter. In the wake of his investigation, Loy encounters several murders, in one of which the victim is the dentist's wife. The latter's sister also retains Loy when his original client becomes the chief suspect.

The author weaves a complicated tale of the family's history, including concealed murders and secrets beginning 20 years earlier, links to gangsters and unsavory characters and twisted minds. Threaded throughout this noir story is an Irish background combined with suspense and some unusual writing. Recommended.

Play Dead
David Rosenfelt
Warner Books
1271 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
0446582417 $24.99 800-759-0190

It's a dog's life—literally. In the latest Andy Carpenter case, the discovery of a dog supposedly drowned by a man who allegedly murdered his fiancee in a boat four miles off the Jersey shore during a major storm begins to turn the tide. Attorney Andy finds the dog in a shelter days before it was to be put down and it turns out to be the missing canine, five years after the event. Its master was convicted of the murder, and the supposedly missing dog was said in the trial to be demonstrative of the "perpetrator's" callousness.

Proving the dog's existence and ownership gets the man a new trial, and, typically, Andy and his team go about investigating the case in an effort to prove his client's innocence. Along the way, of course, Andy continues his long-distance romance with Laurie, his former investigator/lover, who now is a police chief in Wisconsin.

As usual in the series, Andy pushes the limits of the law—in this case initially having the dog "testify" in open court—as well as resorting to various tricks to forward the cause. The customary humor abounds in this entertaining novel.

The Overlook
Michael Connelly
Little, Brown & Co.
1271 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
0316018953 $21.99 800-759-0190

In this latest installment in the life of Harry Bosch he is no longer handling cold cases. He is now assigned to the LAPD's Homicide Special Squad, and gets his first murder case. The victim is found in the hills above Los Angeles with two bullet holes in the back of his head, an apparent gangland execution.

However, all is not as it seems. The victim had access to highly dangerous radioactive material, and the FBI steps in on the premise that it is terrorist-related. As a result, Harry is shunted aside from his own homicide case. Complicating matters is the presence of his onetime lover, FBI agent Rachel Walling. But Harry Bosch, being Harry Bosch, goes his own way to solve the case while breaking in a new partner.

Originally written as a 16-part weekly series for The New York Times Magazine, this hardcover version was fleshed out with new material and a character that wasn't present in the original version. Even if you read it in installments, it would be rewarding to read this newly-published version. Highly recommended.

The Castro Gene
Todd Buchholz
Oceanview Publishing
61 Paradise Rd., Ipswich, MA 01938
1933515066 $24.95 800-829-7062

Luke Braden, the son of a Columbia University literature professor, is a high school dropout with almost no education or sophistication. He chooses to become a professional boxer, until he kills his opponent and quits the ring.

With no prospects, Luke gets a lowly position as a security guard at a top Wall Street firm, sitting in the lobby checking packages. Watching the high flyers enter the elevator, he decides to upgrade himself. How? By reading the Wall Street Journal and Financial Times and calling his cousin, head of a mediocre hedge fund a few times a day for tips, so he can parlay this newfound knowledge to transform himself to an upstairs trading job.

Then one day Luke is snatched away to become the protege of a ruthless man, head of the largest hedge fund in the country. All of a sudden, this untrained, uneducated ex-boxer is creating spreadsheets, doing the security analysis of dozens of MBAs and working on billion-dollar deals. Meanwhile, the mogul, Paul Tremont, a ruthless man who doesn't hesitate to manipulate markets, break securities laws and even resort to murder to accomplish his goals, has a secret agenda for Luke. He's setting him up to assassinate Fidel Castro at a boxing match in Las Vegas. How Fidel could be in Vegas under 40 years of isolation? Never explained.

Other aspects of the plot cannot be described because they would constitute a spoiler. Nevertheless, one last jibe: Towards the end, as part of the denouement, this appears: "He [Tremont] had put chips equal to the whole U.S. economy on black. And the dice came up red." I guess he was playing the wrong game, craps instead of roulette, or vice versa?

If the reader can overcome all of the improbabilities in this novel, as well as the development of the main character, it might be an interesting read. Unfortunately, this reviewer could not.

Theodore Feit

Victoria's Bookshelf

Dance on His Grave
Sylvia Dickey Smith
L&L Dreamspell,
P.O. Box 1984, Friendswood, TX 77549-1984
1603180060, $16.95, 250 pages

Sidra Smart arrives in Orange, a small town in S.E. Texas to finish taking care of her late brother's estate. She leaves behind her dull and unhappy life as a preacher's wife. Thirty long years of giving up her needs and wants to please her husband has left her skittish and wary of marriage. To make matters worse, her former husband's congregation resents her leaving and some of the good folk start making threats.

The fifty-year-old woman wants to get on with her life and that doesn't include owning the detective agency her dead brother left her. She doesn't know anything about the business and doesn't care to learn until one of her brother's clients shows up. The woman believes she witnessed a terrible crime when she was a small child. Her tale is one of brutality and murder and she begs Sid to take the case, but Sid refuses.

Meanwhile Sid seeks the advice of the neighboring PI down the street, who offers to mentor her. Sid's Aunt Annie shows up uninvited, declares that she's come to help and appoints herself Sid's new secretary. Sid finally agrees to take on the murder case, but it's a cold case and she enlists the aid of the local police chief and DA in solving it. She and the DA like each other, but Sid's not ready to have another man in her life and wants time to get to know herself.

Questions about her Brother Warren's death arise when she goes to check on his car and arrives just in time to see it crushed. No one had permission to destroy the car and she vows to find out why it was. She may be looking into two murders instead of one. To solve them, Sid must expose herself to dangers she's never dreamed of, can she do it and survive?

This is a tale that's filled with mystery, suspense and romance with a dollop of the paranormal thrown in. I enjoyed reading the book from beginning to end. Sylvia Dickey Smith is an author to watch and I hope to read the sequel.

Deadly Sins-Deadly Secrets the second novel in The Third Eye Series will follow November 1, 2007.

Most Likely To Die
Lisa Jackson, Beverly Barton & Wendy Corsi Staub
Zebra Books
850 Third Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10022
0821775766, $7.99

St. Elizabeth's, the last Catholic all girls' school in Portland, Oregon holds its annual St. Valentine's Dance. A night of romance and fun turns into one of horror when someone murders a popular young man named Jake Marcott. His murder remains unsolved, disrupting the lives of the three young women who loved him.

Twenty years have passed since that terrible night and now the class is finally going to have a reunion. It's just what Jake's killer has been waiting for... a chance to even old scores and exact her final revenge. Her rampage will have tragic results for all those who knew or loved Jake Marcott, a boy whose secret life was dark and twisted.

The authors inject their mystery with romance and terror and serve up chill bumps by the dozen. Be careful, a killer's on the loose and she's killing anyone who gets in her way.

Lisa Jackson has written several books including, Fatal Burn, Deep Freeze, and Shiver. Beverly Barton's include, Killing Her Softly, Close Enough to Kill, and As Good As Dead. Some of Wendy Corsi Staub's books are Lullaby and Goodnight, The Final Victim and Kiss Her Goodbye.

The Street-Smart Writer
Jenna Glatzer & Daniel Steven
Nomad Press,
2456 Christian St., White River Junction, VT 05001
0974934445, $16.95

Every writer who wants to make it in this business should read this book. It's geared to save you time, money and many gray hairs. The authors do a great job of telling us how to protect ourselves from the scam artists and crooks that lie in wait for the uninformed writer.

They discuss copyright, contests, book reviews, agents, contracts and much more. Most writers are in a hurry to sell their work and risk getting themselves into trouble. The Street-Smart Writer can help you avoid some of the many pitfalls that writers face.

Do you know how to deal with deadbeat publications that don't pay as promised? Someone has stolen your work, what do you do? These are just a few of the questions you'll find answers to.

"As long as you know how to arm yourself against sharks and scams, the writing field can be a pleasure." I think that says it all. I'm keeping this book handy. It's a useful tool I wouldn't be without.

Jenna Glatzer has also written Make a Real Living as a Freelance Writer, Words You Thought You Knew, Other Problems of the Pen, and Outwitting Writer's Block.

A Movable Feast: Ten Millennia of Food Globalization
Kenneth F. Kiple
Cambridge University Press,
32 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10013-2473
052179353X, $27.00

Have you ever wondered about the foods we eat and where they originated? How did we get such a varied and plentiful supply? If you'd like to know the answers to those questions and more this is a book you should read. It impressed me with the information it has in it.

Cheese is a common dairy product that most of us take for granted. Who were the first people who made it? "Cheese making radiated out of western Iran where some claim it was invented around 4000 BCE. More likely it was a process discovered much earlier in the Neolithic, when humans began milking animals."

A theory about the domestication of animals puts dogs first, probably followed by pigs. It's also possible that our ancestors tamed animals before they did plants. With animal husbandry came not only meat, but other good sources of protein such as dairy products and eggs. Humankind's diet was changing from the one his hunter-gatherer ancestors had and it would have far-reaching effects on the planet itself.

The change to agriculture and the sedentary life it created gave rise to cities and the beginnings of civilization. The first city-states fell under the rule of a priestly caste that controlled the food supply in all its different stages from planting and harvesting to distribution and storage.

Ownership of crops and land helped to separate the classes, leaving the landowners in control of the food supply. They became the elite who in turn controlled those who worked the land or the farmers. In time some of those in the upper classes became kings and rulers, while the plight of the lower classes stayed the same or grew worse.

The history of man changed with the foods he consumed and the ways in which he got them. Mr. Kiple takes you from the time of our earliest ancestors up to the present. He makes it clear the globalization of food began long ago and continues today. A Movable Feast is entertaining, informative and I highly recommend it.

Victoria Kennedy

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

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