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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 8, Number 6 June 2008 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Andrew's Bookshelf Bethany's Bookshelf
Bob's Bookshelf Buhle's Bookshelf Burroughs' Bookshelf
Carson's Bookshelf Cheri's Bookshelf Clark's Bookshelf
Daniel's Bookshelf Debra's Bookshelf Emanuel's Bookshelf
Gary's Bookshelf Gloria's Bookshelf Gorden's Bookshelf
Harwood's Bookshelf Henry's Bookshelf Karyn's Bookshelf
Kaye's Bookshelf Larsen's Bookshelf Liana's Bookshelf
Lowe's Bookshelf Margaret's Bookshelf Mayra's Bookshelf
Monty's Bookshelf Richard's Bookshelf Slessman's Bookshelf
Sullivan's Bookshelf Terrilyn's Bookshelf Theodore's Bookshelf
Victoria's Bookshelf    

Reviewer's Choice

Dark Well of Decision
Anne Kimberly
Highland Press
9780980035650 $7.99

Aaron Paul Lazar, Reviewer

Thirteen-year-old Zoe lives in the country on a beautiful farm and is kept company by her grandmother and two geese. When her chores are done, she's given the freedom to roam the woods and fields and learns to love every aspect of nature. But Zoe doesn't escape the usual trials of becoming a teenager. She questions her value as a young woman, feeling unattractive and comparing herself to the perfect and impossible standards seen on billboards and television. She tries hard to be a good person, helping her grandmother on the farm while her parents work hard at their respective jobs. Yet she can't help question her grandmother's unswerving faith.

Does God really exist? Does He know she's suffering? Does He care?

Questions plaque the young lady at an alarming rate, in concert with the new hormones that race throughout her body, adding emotional highs and lows to her current state of confusion.

When she stops to peer down into an old well on her grandparents' property, she sees a glimmer of something in the darkness that wasn't there before. She looks harder, and harder… yet the vision isn't clear. Finally, with all her concentration, she strains her eyes and focuses deep down in the well, and is immediately drawn through a tiny hole to the cold water at the bottom.

Crying out for God's help after hours standing in the frigid water, Zoe almost gives up. No one hears her, and she fears all is lost. Yet after a particularly soulful plea to the Almighty, she spies a tiny balcony on the side of the well that she hadn't seen earlier.

Thus begins Zoe's magical adventure into the land of the Noachs, where she meets people from a miniature subterranean culture, including the kindly Kristo and Kitia and the lovable and brave guard dog, Areli. With their support, Zoe learns about their purpose in life and is granted an new respect for every tiny morsel nature prepares in the ground above. From a single currant berry to the soft down of a dandelion, her hosts use each gift from God with care and gratitude.

Zoe's real test comes when faced with a "rescue" that swims before her eyes with great allure. A beautiful woman, a table laden with luscious feasts, the warmth of the sunshine, her grandparents' farm…

But is it real? With great inner strength, Zoe recognizes the dangers of evil and restores her faith in God.

Anne Kimberly has written a magical tale that held the interest of this adult. Recommended as a book to read to young ones as well as perfectly suited for teenagers.

Henderson's Equation
Jerome Lowenstein
Gadd & Company Publishers, Inc.
2 Main Street Great Barrington, MA 01230-1612.
9780977405374 $17.95

Dr. Alma H. Bond

From the first words of Lawrence J. Henderson's opening lecture, "It all begins with water," Aaron Weiss was riveted by the unconventional young professor's way of thinking. Henderson's quest for a greater understanding of the world had led him from the simple study of acid-base equilibrium to an examination of cosmic questions related to the "fit" between the properties of the most basic elements-hydrogen, carbon and oxygen-and how society, viewed as a regulated system, bears remarkable similarities to this fit. A systems theory advocate, Lawrence Henderson's studies and writings gave rise to the concepts of dynamic equilibrium and to the Gaia hypothesis, which views the earth as a vast unified organism. As his assistant, Aaron Weiss is witness to Henderson's development of these theories. Away from New York s Lower East Side for the first time, Aaron is forced to confront the differences between his own world, with its strong family ties and deep roots in Eastern European scholarship, and that of Dr. Henderson, a leader of the Harvard establishment and a Boston Brahmin. The story is set against the background of the powerful social and intellectual forces of the time: World War 1, the rise of fascism, the Sacco-Vanzetti trial, and the growing anti-Semitism at Harvard and elsewhere, and is an admirable portrayal of the difficulties faced by young Jewish scholars of the day.

Reviewer Dr. Alma H. Bond writes: Henderson's Equation, by Jerome Lowenstein, is a sweet, highly original work of art. Fast-moving, captivating, and seemingly simply written, it is one of those rare books that can change lives forever. I will never again look at any aspect of nature as a unit differentiated from the rest of creation without sharing Henderson's conviction that everything in the universe, i.e. the periodic table, "growing excellent grapes and making a really fine wine (p. 44)," indeed, that life itself is governed by the same set of rules (p. 38)."In some obscure manner," Henderson states, "cosmic and biologic evolution are one."

The author is a physician whose deep interest in acid-base physiology and the nature of relationships between physicians and their patients make him uniquely qualified to understand Henderson's work and theories. The book is a perfect "fit" between the author and his subject. Written in a compelling manner that will enthrall physicians and medical researchers alike, it also can be read easily by intelligent laymen, who in painless fashion will gain a great deal of knowledge about medicine and history. The book aroused my curiosity enough to motivate me to spend many subsequent hours "googling" Henderson's life and work.

A biographical novel, Henderson's Equation in many ways reveals more about the character of Henderson than a straight biography. Henderson, it seems to me, is an unusual choice for the protagonist of a book: Less flamboyant than most biographical subjects, he simply went about the business of his life's work. As a man of multiple talents, he spent his professional life in chemistry, biology, physiology, philosophy, and, eventually, sociology. Originally a chemist, he diverted his interests into physiology and biochemistry, and developed a holistic philosophy centering on "fitness," in which the inorganic environment supplies elements that nourish physicochemical processes. Henderson summarized this philosophy in his most important book, The Fitness of the Environment. Much of his research centered on the body's acid-base equilibrium, which was taken up by Aaron, who early on suspected that a similar balance exists in the kidney, which "by secreting hydrogen ions, might regenerate the bicarbonate buffer (p. 144)." Henderson, in a broad leap, extended his thinking to the concept of the dynamic equilibrium of society. Despite his many interests, there was a unity in his work (not surprisingly), in which he concluded that the entire evolutionary process, including the organism, the universe, and society, is one. Dr. Lowenstein obviously was fascinated by Henderson's findings, which I suspect led him, like Aaron Weiss in Henderson's Equation, into a study of the acid-base equilibrium, and his life's work as a nephrologist. The book is beautifully written, and in many instances, Lowenstein's simply written style is very moving. For example, "We stood wordlessly in the kitchen for what seemed a long time before I realized that I was crying (p. 30)."

If pressed to give any negative criticism of this delightful book I would have to say that as a psychoanalyst I would have liked more insight into Aaron's need for Henderson's love and approval. From what mysterious depths did this need arise? Why was it so strong that it dominated his life? Perhaps it was what psychoanalysts call a "narcissistic object choice," in that Aaron loved what he wanted to become. Or was it purely a love of learning, and the usual admiration for a supportive mentor? Unlike Aaron, many of us have beloved mentors, but usually the relationship runs its course and we go on to other teachers, or outgrow the need for a pundit. A hint is given in the author's in-depth portrayal of the old Italian man, DePodesta, the most fully realized character in the book. Did Aaron have an unconscious craving for a different kind of father, which Depodesta fulfilled? Aaron's relationship to his own father seems satisfactory enough, if not endowed by the author with great profundity, and Aaron was not so deprived of paternal love as to warrant spending a lifetime searching for it. For this reason, I found myself slightly disappointed in the book's ending, where I had hoped to the last word that deeper insight into the relationship between Aaron and Henderson would be revealed. The author himself apparently felt a similar lack, and ended the book with "...there was no consilience, no symmetry, and no single understanding of my relationship with Lawrence J. Henderson." But as Henderson himself says, "Do not attempt to give a rational explanation for a decision that arises from deep feelings....The art of living is in great part the art of adapting oneself to the changing pattern of external circumstances (p. 150)." That Dr. Lowenstein did very well, in what appears to be a semi-autobiographical novel about Aaron Weiss and his all-consuming relationship with Lawrence J. Henderson.

Despite this possible shortcoming, Henderson's Equation is highly recommended for medical personnel (to whom no doubt it will bring back many memories), laymen interested in painlessly gaining scientific knowledge, and to everyone who wants a good, totally absorbing read. I loved the book, and suspect that you will, too.

Author Dr. Jerome Lowenstein s rich career in academic medicine has been devoted to teaching, research and the care of patients. He is the author of Acid and Basics, Oxford University Press, and The Midnight Meal and Other Essays About Doctors, Patients and Medicine, University of Michigan Press. Dr. Lowenstein s absorbing interest in acid-base physiology and the nature of relationships between physicians and patients made Henderson an ideal subject for this intellectual leader in science and medicine. Dr. Lowenstein is publisher of the Bellevue Literary Press and Editor for Nonfiction of the Bellevue Literary Review.

Rachel Vincent
9780778325550 $6.99

Amy Ramsey

Rating: 5 Stars

Faythe Sanders is known for having a quick-temper and stubborn characteristics. She is constantly making hasty decisions, even if it puts her or someone else in jeopardy. Faythe is a tabby were-cat and due to the lack of female were-cats, is considered rare and valuable to her species. After surviving a traumatic episode, due to being kidnapped and almost sold on the Brazilian market to the highest bidder, she has returned home to her Pride in Central Texas.

Faythe is committed to serving a two and a half year term as an Enforcer to her father, the Alpha of the Pride. Partnered with her current boyfriend and long term lover, Marc, their job is to patrol and capture strays that enter their territory. They were on assignment to apprehend a stray were-cat and escort him to the free territory when they received information leading to a series of murders involving only stray were toms. During the investigations of the murders they noticed several strippers had gone missing in the area that the toms were last seen visiting. In the midst of this, Faythe started receiving strange phone calls from her human ex-boyfriend that she dated briefly while she was away at college.

Faythe is striving to prove to her parents and Pride members, that she can defend herself without them sheltering her. Unfortunately, her decisions often lead to mistakes, mistakes that put her friends and family's lives in danger. When the past comes back to haunt her, Faythe has to learn to put her egotistical ways aside and amend her errors for the sake of her Pride, the person she loves and her own life.

"Rogue" will capture the reader and pull them in. I loved the way Mrs. Vincent has progressed with this book. The characters are so vividly wrote that the reader feels caught up in all their emotions. The plot flowed smoothly together and will keep the reader captivated till the end of the book. This is the 2nd book in the Were Cat series by Rachel Vincent. The first book is titled "Stray". If you like to read about shape shifters and you like paranormal genre books, then I would absolutely recommend this series.

The Prisoner
Patrick M. Garry
Xlibris Corporation International
Plaza II, Suite 340, Philadelphia, PA 19113-1513 USA
9781425753481 $20.99 1-888-795-4274

Anne Betts, J.D.
Minneapolis, MN

After a shocking act of violence, in which a mother and her three young children are murdered in an inner-city apartment, the police are ordered to sweep-up every suspect in the area. They are told …the quickest way to quiet a storm is to create one of our own. As police question a twelve-year old friend of one of the victims, the boy confesses to shooting the family in a fight over a bike. Milo Krantz, a rent collector for a local slumlord, is also picked up in the sweep as a suspect who might have supplied the boy with a gun. However, after initial investigation, it seems apparent that Milo, though despised by the neighborhood renters, did not supply the gun. But when he is brought before the judge and charged with the crime, he surprisingly confesses and then maintains absolute silence through his sentencing hearings.

The novel is narrated from two viewpoints—the police officer, Gunther Mulvaney, who arrests Milo, and the judge, Donna Davis, who presides over Milo's sentencing hearing. These two distinctive points of view are presented in alternating chapters. As the narration switches back and forth, the reader is drawn into a psychological examination of all three central characters.

Gunther is baffled by Milo's sudden confession and later silence. Gunther forwarded Milo's arrest file to the officer in charge of the case. It seemed ludicrous that a rent collector would put a gun in the hands of tenants who hated him… He suspects that Milo is taking the fall for someone else, and continues to investigate. Through his investigations, Gunther discovers a different side to Milo, and he also uncovers an unlikely connection between Milo and the judge.

Meanwhile, Judge Davis, presiding over Milo's hearing, is being pressured by her husband, a local politician, to exploit every bit of drama from the high profile case. As the hearing progresses, the judge begins to wonder if Milo may have an alternate identity. Some years before, the judge was hospitalized after a bad car accident — from which she suffered temporary blindness. During the lengthy stay, her husband abandons her, and a man named Frank begins to visit her every day. She begins to love this man so unlike her politician husband. Donna thought of how easy everything was with Frank. And when she was with him, she even felt a certain goodness within herself. It was a goodness she had never felt before…. Maybe, she thought, the blindness had just been the price she had to pay to discover something she'd never known. They often talked of their life together after the upcoming operation to restore her sight, but after the surgery Donna never heard from Frank again. It is during the courtroom proceedings that Donna begins to suspect that Milo may be Frank.

With the courtroom proceedings forming the backdrop, both Gunther and the judge pursue their own investigations of Milo, and the intricate plot intersects when their investigations reach their common endpoint. It is at this crux that Milo, Gunther, and Donna must all decide how to deal with the truth of their investigations and their respective pasts.

Lawyer and law professor, Patrick Garry, crafts a courtroom setting to stage the psychological drama that makes this book a page turner. On the surface, the courtroom drama propels the reader through the pages. But on a more profound level, the novel explores the ways in which ambition and fear can cloud one's perception of truth. Garry skillfully shows how differently characters can perceive the same set of events. His use of alternating viewpoints is a skillful device for not only revealing each character's thoughts and inclinations, but also for revealing how each character misinterprets events and sometimes deliberately deceives themselves. His story leaves the reader thinking about it for days afterward and anticipating the next novel from this new writer.

Parental Rights in Children's Medical Care Where is Our Freedom to Say No? A Look at the Injustice of the American Medical System
Shirley Cheng
Dance With Your Heart Publishing
PO Box 146 Wappingers Falls, New York
9780615149943 $14.97

Christina Francine, Reviewer

At a time when basic parental rights are taken from Americans in a round-about way, a passionate young woman fights for our freedoms. In her book, Parental Rights in Children's Medical Care. Where is Our Freedom to Say No? Cheng shares the offences she and her mother endured for years. She explains how her mother's right to decide what was best for her baby, and later child, was not allowed. Since Cheng's mother disagreed with doctor's advice, they took Shirley away from her. Even the courts did not see a mother's right to protect her child.

Cheng's book offers stories from others that the system damaged. These are recent and true custody cases. As a result, Cheng asks why? Why are people guilty until proven innocent? Why don't parents have the right to decide, to say no to doctors? Why are people guilty until proven innocent? This is an especially good question because this is America. Cheng also explores reasoning with the heart, the question of whether doctors really do know best, the law of common sense and compassion, and laws verses people. Cheng wants America to wake up and realize what is going on. Then, she wants us to do something about it. She adds her suggested law: "Shirley's Law" and offers what parents need to do if this offense happens to them. Notice she says "when" and not "if." In the end, she explains the objective to her argument and counters, offers her petition to parents who also want to say "No" and talks about what the public thinks.

Polls at her web-site:

Who Should Make the Decision?
Should Parents Have the Right to Disagree with Doctors? (92% of voters said "yes.")

This is the fourth non-fiction book of Cheng's I've read. I've also read an essay of hers in an anthology, 101 Great Ways to Improve Your Life. All have taught me about this courageous young woman's experiences, battles, philosophy, and incredible outlook on life. She looks on the bright side of life, yet does not want others to suffer what she went through. A noble writer and fighter for freedom – a natural right of Americans, right? Readers will not be the same after reading Cheng's passionate words.

The Girl with Braided Hair
Margaret Coel
The Berkley Publishing Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014-3658
9780425217122 $16.29

Connie Gotsch, Reviewer

Liz has to get off the rez, or angry AIM members will drive her off--into a grave. Packing her baby into her old car, she scrapes money together for gas, and heads for Denver.

With that incident, Colorado mystery writer Margaret Coel begins her thriller, 'The Girl with Braided Hair.' A professional historian, Ms. Coel has spent much of her career researching the Arapaho and their lives on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming, first for nonfiction books, and now for novels.

She has written 13 mysteries featuring Arapaho lawyer, Vicky Holden, and Catholic priest, Father John O'Malley as protagonists. Together they solve murders. Sometimes the police, Vicky's children, people working at Father John's mission, or Vicky's love interest, Adam Lone Eagle, help out. Sometimes they hinder the process.

In 'The Girl with Braided Hair,' Vicky and Father John must identify the skeleton of a person killed in 1973 and left to rot in a shallow grave along a highway. The plot has all the elements of a typical mystery: false leads, uncooperative witnesses, threats to Vicky and Father John, cliffhanger car chases, and an explosive climax that reveals both the killer and the victim's identity.

This model might lead to repetitious themes and predictable twists, especially after 13 novels. Margaret Coel avoids that trap. The components required for a good whodunit serve her as a framework around which to weave thoroughly researched Arapaho history, adding education to the fun of a good thriller.

For 'The Girl with Braided Hair," Coel examines the American Indian Movement (AIM), its origins, the struggles that drew people into it, and the related attitudes about it that linger today on the Wind River Reservation.

Her characters come off as solidly three-dimensional against this background. Vicky Holden is a kind, sincere person who wants to use her education as a lawyer to do right for her people by supporting ordinary individuals. She eagerly accepts a request from her neighbors to find the identity of the skeleton.

Her lover, Adam Lone Eagle, carries on the struggle by looking at the actions of large entities, in this case corporations discriminating against Native Americans in hiring practices. He does not approve of Vicky's choice to leave an important case and chase down the name of a long-dead person about whom no one has cared before.

Father John struggles with alcoholism, an impending transfer, and a spirit that would much rather deal with people than the invoices, checkbooks, memos, and papers required to run a mission on a reservation. Perhaps he also harbors a love for Vicky that he cannot fulfill

In the end, the murder victim while undeserving of death, has by choice trusted vicious people. Thirty years after the heyday of AIM, the individuals who both loved and hated this person suffer repercussions from their emotions, and related decisions.

However, strong characterization and presentation of Arapaho history alone do not raise 'The Girl with Braided Hair,' above the typical good ole murder thriller. Margaret Coel adds one more element to make that happen. She uses the story to introduce several good and universal questions that everyone must face in some way.

What is the right way to lead a struggle for equality? What's important to fight for in that process? What do people do at any given time that leads to good or bad outcomes? What decisions haunt them 30 years later? How important is individual identity and why? How long should a person hold on to something he loves? When is it time to move on?

Margaret Coel's approach makes readers think about their own life decisions, and the effect those decisions have on themselves and others. An author who does that is always fresh, even if she writes a thousand stories about a particular set of characters.

The Hair-Raising Joys of Raising Boys
Dave Meurer
Fleming H. Revell
c/o Baker Publishing Group
P.O. Box 6287, Grand Rapids, MI 49516
9780800787295 $5.99

Corinne Gompf

How can you instill moral guidance to a five-year-old boy who is constantly talking about bodily functions? Can you survive diabolical diaper disasters and actually smile about it (later, of course)? Dave Meurer's "The Hair-raising Joys of Raising Boys" is a light-hearted, laugh-out-loud collection of personal and common experiences that parents of boys share, from infant to the terrible teenage years.

From cool music to bathroom hygiene to school conferences to hip clothes, Meurer fills each chapter with personal accounts of the humorous ways in which his boys, Mark and Brad, learned, loved and lived in a house with one bathroom. Even hair styles become an issue in the Meurer household. Chapter seven, Hair Wars or Paying Money to Look Dumb, tackles the fact that "no little boy likes to sit still for a haircut." Fast-forward to the teen years, however, when he insists on having a haircut that will eventually make a guy cringe when he looks back on his yearbook.

Since my husband and I are expecting our first boy, I saw this book and felt that I had to read it for what I hoped was a little advice on how to handle future male matters. While there are plenty of cute stories in this book, don't read it for help … you're on your own to find another self-help book.

Do read Meurer's collection of stories if you're in the mood for light summer reading, pausing only to share a few snippets with your spouse, as I frequently did, asking my husband to read a paragraph here and there.

"The Hair-raising Joys of Raising Boys" is a quick read that will have you in stitches, especially if you have your own experiences. Primarily from Meurer's point of view, this book does have his wife's input peppered throughout. He also sprinkles in religious references and opinions, which is an odd combination with chapters that focus on dirty diapers and passing gas. I would have preferred that to be removed, even if it meant a shorter book, so that the humor had a continuous flow.

Survivin' Ain't Good Enough
Danita Harris
9780595453320 $14.95


Break Free from the Spirit of Oppression

Silence is not golden and it will not free you from the oppression of domestic violence. You must open your mouth and speak out against violence. Ms. Harris has opened her heart becoming transparent to the world. She chronicles on how the devil stalked her, tormented her soul and took her to the brink of death. But with the overwhelming love, grace and mercy that God has showered on her – a change has come. Her life experiences will help others understand that living in the shadow of domestic violence is not what God desires for you.

Survivin' Ain't Good Enough is a testimony of spiritual renewal and the Power of God. Harris explains why you must dive head first into the Word and strive to live by it. As the love pours into your soul by reading Harris's story you will realize that she is truly anointed by God. Readers can quickly interpret and understand the scripture presented while examining their own lives, and asking God to come into their hearts. I recommend this book for anyone that has broken through the bondage of domestic violence or has a friend living the experience.

Danita Harris can be contacted at or

The Illustrated Alamo 1836: A Photographic Journey
Mark Lemon (with a Foreword by Craig Covner)
State House Press / McWhiney Foundation Press
Box 637, McMurry Station, Abilene, Texas 79697
1933337184 $49.95

Jeffrey Dane

A New Alamo Perspective

When something really new and unexpected comes along, it can easily jolt us out of our complacency. Michelangelo did it, Rembrandt did it, Toulouse-Lautrec did it, and Jackson Pollack did it. Now artist and historian Mark Lemon has done it.

On the morning of Sunday, March 6, 1836, a single incident took place within about 90 minutes that contributed more to the ultimate growth of an American legend than anything even the most skilled, or ruthless, press-agentry could have done until a small town of orange groves in southern California took its place, 90 years later, as America's movie capitol. The Hollywood mentality and mindset had already appeared in its early 19th-century incarnation -- and the Alamo saga began.

Mention Cecil B. DeMille; the first film that comes to mind is his magnum opus, The Ten Commandments. Mention the Alamo to the person-at-large, and the first image that comes to mind is the building with the campanulate hump atop its facade. This is the iconic structure that effectively defines the Alamo in photographs.

The true Alamo enthusiast, though, is well aware that the building -- and the entire surrounding area -- looked quite different at the time of the battle in 1836. The environs look so different now, in fact, as to be totally unrecognizeable. Resurrect an Alamo defender today, place him squarely in the center of the Plaza -- and it's a safe bet he'd have a hard time getting his own bearings. But Mark Lemon's work could certainly help him.

The eventual consequences of history's most significant happenings are a matter of record and we sometimes ponder the events themselves. Fervent Jews may contemplate the parting of the Red Sea, or Samson slaying half the Philistine army in a narrow defile near Gaza called Ramath Lehi; pious Christians, the crucifixion of Jesus; serious musicians, the chance to hear Domenico Scarlatti play the harpsichord, or Bach the organ, or to hear Beethoven improvise; and Alamo historians and devotees, the final battle, or to see if Travis drew that line in the sand, or to ask James Bowie (hopefully before February 24, 1836) the simple but singular favor of making merely a basic sketch of the knife he had used at that sandbar fight on Sept. 19, 1827. . . .

Some of us, in entirely understandable moments of imaginative or even inspired reflection, have even envisioned ourselves actually being at these places and events as onlookers, in keeping with the proverbial Fly On The Wall concept.

Similarly, there could be some impassioned Alamo scholars and enthusiasts who might consider exchanging an entire year of life for the mere 12-month opportunity to return to a single year -- starting on, say, October 1, 1835 -- and to witness the next year's decisive occurrences.

Not long ago the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel was professionally cleansed of centuries of soot and grime, enabling us to see brilliant colors and details, for the very first time, that no-one -- not even the experts -- had even thought existed. The result for us was, in a word, a revelation. With his work, The Illustrated Alamo 1836: A Photographic Journey, Mark Lemon has provided us with this same kind of revelation for Alamo history and its adherents: he's illuminated a previously rather dark area and has lifted a veil that obscured for decades the likelihood of how the Alamo once looked.

Time machines don't exist except in our imaginations. Lemon's book is the next best thing.

A word, now, about some of the difficulties the author evidently faced in researching and preparing this book. Alamo historian Richard Curilla has put forth the following scenario. -- Go to the scene of any automobile accident, and ask ten different eye-witnesses what happened. You'll wind up with ten different reports. -- Fast-rewind, now, seventeen decades and pull up eye-witness interviews about what the Alamo of 1836 looked like. Allow some time for experts to pick and choose the most credible of these eye-witness accounts, and to judge the individuals' powers of observation and honesty -- and which of necessity also includes their own perspectives and even personal bias. Then assemble a forum of experts to report the "true" story of what the Alamo looked like. -- You end up with ten different viewpoints, and thusly ten different stories, which themselves are tinted by individual contemporary tastes and varying degrees of a modern-day aberration called political correctness. Pick through all this and try to make a film as accurately as possible about the event -- or research and write a book, based on documentation, about the compound. And consequentially, draw fire from various "experts" for every choice you make. There is no solution except to put forth the most honest interpretation of the story that you, in your now "educated" opinion, can offer, and provide the best possible account that will, hopefully, present a generally accurate representation of how things really were.

Curilla's observations are particularly perceptive. The earnest historian is not ignoring history and creating his or her own. He's doing his best in a relatively short time with whatever material is available to him (we Alamo aficionados have, collectively, examined every facet of that subject for much of our lives), to render an honest telling for an audience that demands somewhat more accuracy today than it did in previous times. This is what Mark Lemon has done for us. And we're indebted to him for it.

Crucial details can change radically even over a period of minutes when related by one person to another. Compound the potential for confusion by an interval not of minutes or hours but of years and decades, and the transmutation of details can be astounding. The changes can actually reach the point where reason becomes nonsense and where nonsense soon becomes reason.

A classic, and most problematical, case is where fact and fiction co-exist and then merge, but where the fiction, by its appeal, takes hold much more firmly. Mix oil and water in a glass vessel and we can easily see the separation point. In the mixture of truth and fantasy, however, it can be far more difficult, if not altogether impossible, to distinguish one from the other. Still, Mark Lemon has made the attempt. And he has largely succeeded.

Fascinating and significant tidbits abound in the textual commentary that accompanies the superb illustrations (including the location of such indelicate but practical sites as the Alamo compound's latrines). Noted are the likely locations of Travis' quarters and the post where he fell, early in the final battle; and the structure originally assigned to Alamo co-commander James Bowie as his own quarters before his illness made it necessary, on the second day of the 13-day siege, to move him elsewhere in the compound. A plaque on the Alamo grounds today states that the Long Barracks, scene of the fiercest fighting during the final battle, is the oldest still-standing stone structure in the city -- but even before the southernmost, upper-floor room in that building (now only one storey) had served as the Alamo's hospital, it had been so used by the local government by 1805 and was thusly the first documented hospital in San Antonio. Identified, too, are the statues that were to have been placed in the now-empty niches that flank and appear above the doorway of the Alamo Church.

Though not specifically intended as source material for academics, the truly intelligent and prudent scholar could certainly use this book as such. Additionally, though not as massive in its heft as the facsimile of Leonardo's Leicester Codex or of Mahler's Resurrection Symphony, in format and quality Lemon's volume could easily serve also as a superb "coffee table" book in any household, especially an Alamo household.

Exemplified in Lemon's book is the "Show, don't tell" principle. The finest writers show us with prose; and as the skilled musician can "hear with his eyes" by reading a score, the finer artists can "tell" us with their images rather than words.

If the next project upon which Mark Lemon embarks (perhaps with his colleague, Craig Covner) is the creation of a time machine, we've already been given a pretty fair glimpse of what our 1836 destination really looked like. We haven't seen the end of the conflicts about how the Alamo compound truly looked at the time of the battle, and it's unlikely the disagreements will ever end -- but the author of this book takes us to a plateau from which we can pause, look back, and gain (and absorb) a new and very important illuminated perspective.

Signs of Success: The Remarkable Power of Business Astrology
Steven Mark Weiss
AMACOM, American Management Association
1601 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
9780814474419 $24.00

Mark Nash

In today's business climate, Signs of Success can provide some important insight on how better to manage perplexing subordinates or analyze clients lack of interest in your business. Only a short time ago this title by accomplished author Steven Mark Weiss would have been back-burned, but with the rise of popularity in astrology by many seeking the insight of people's behavior, many successful business leaders support the use of astrology in corporate environments. even if you have a leery perspective of astrology, take the time to read this important mainstream business book.

Chapter titles are: Introduction: A World of Opportunity, Timing: Auspicious Moments for Action, Trend Forecasting: The Rhymes of the Marketplace, Team Building: Know Thy Colleagues, Thy Competitors, Thy Customers, Thyself, Leadership and Sun Sign Astrology, Aries: The Value of Force, Taurus: The Value of Fixedness, Gemini: The Value of Flexibility, Cancer: The Value of Foundation, Leo: The Value of Flamboyance, Virgo: The Value of Fastidiousness, Libra: The Value of Fairness, Scorpio: The Value of Fortitude, Sagittarius: The Value of Farsightedness, Capricorn: The Value of Framework, Aquarius: The Value of Friendship, and Pisces: The Value of Fascination. Additional features include acknowledgments, preface, prologue, about the author, index and an appendix: Landmark Business Events, Astrologically Timed.

We all have a sun-sign and mine is Scorpio. I decided to zero in on the chapter relating to my sign and see if the author's take was correct. It was right on the money. I identified with many of the observations the author makes with accomplished business leaders. It might be easy to dismiss Business Astrology, but when times are tough and you're looking for new ways to drive your business try thinking out of your box and then consider how Mr. Weiss's ideas could improve your business.

I'll Be Sober in the Morning: Great Political Comebacks, Putdowns & Ripostes
Chris Lamb
Frontline Press
555-B Rutledge Avenue, Charleston, SC 29403
9780972382946 $15.00

Michelle Kerns

Election day is still months in the future, yet the cliches are already flying as thick and fast as confetti at the Democratic National Convention:

"I'm the candidate for change!"

"America needs new leadership!"

"I represent the working-class families of America!"

The years may change, but the same, tired old lines stay the same.

Chris Lamb's new book, I'll Be Sober in the Morning: Great Political Comebacks, Putdowns, and Ripostes is a deliciously irreverent antidote to the banalities of this year's crop of Manchurian candidates. From Greek orators to Winston Churchill to recent U.S. presidents, Lamb records some of the wittiest things ever spoken by politicians.

The book takes its name from a devastating blow dealt by the all-time King of the Comeback, Winston Churchill. Churchill found himself facing Bessie Braddock, a political opponent, at a party where he'd had a drink or three too many:

"'Mr. Churchill, you are drunk,' Braddock said harshly. Churchill paused and said, 'And Bessie, you are ugly. You are very ugly. I'll be sober in the morning.'"

Many of Lamb's examples baldly contradict the common cry that modern politics have become too aggressive and attack-oriented. Compared to many of their historical counterparts, today's politicians are prim lap-dogs of propriety and discretion.

During a heated congressional debate in the early 1800s, an opponent of John Randolph jokingly made reference to Randolph's sexual impotence. Randolph's reply? "'Sir, you pride yourself on an ability in which any barbarian is your equal and any jackass immeasurably your superior.'"

Tourism at the Capital would quadruple if the present Congress began to have such debates; tickets would need to be purchased a year in advance.

Lamb does not merely report incidents of politicians going hand to hand; he also includes several politician vs. reporter gems. In an interview related to the Koreagate scandal of the late 1970s, Sam Donaldson (of bad toupee fame) stepped over the line when he asked Senator Fritz Hollings where he had obtained the Korean suit he was wearing. "'Sam, if you want to personalize it,' Hollings snapped, 'I got it right down the street from where you got that wig.'"

Likewise, Lamb does not confine himself to wit emerging from the mouths of men. Female politicians can be equally withering, as Agnes Macphail was in 1921 when she became the first woman elected to the Canadian House of Commons. "One of her male colleagues once pointedly asked her, 'Don't you wish you were a man?' 'No,' Macphail replied. 'Don't you?'"

I'll Be Sober in the Morning is a delightful, laugh-out-loud read. It reminds us that although politics is a serious business, it can also be pretty damn entertaining.

The Soul Thief
Charles Baxter
Pantheon Books
New York
9780375422522 $20.00

Pius Charles Murray

Baxter (who teaches at the University of Minnesota and has published eight previous works of fiction, one of which, The feast of Love, was nominated for The National Book Award) has recently published an eerily fascinating novel of thievery that concerns fundamental ontological questions of human identity. Although the author's Notes at the end of the book identify if as 'a work of fictions' [note the plural], that is, it is a 'novel about thievery,' it is more than just another suspense or mystery novel. Its geographic isolationism, its ever so slowly developing plot that inches toward a climatic resolution, its spectral almost ghost-like characters, and its use of the preternatural [while avoiding supernatural divine beings] all represent elements more characteristics of Gothic horror novels -- albeit concerned with the fundamental philosophical question 'Who Am I?' The plot is recounted in four ever-shortening parts; it seems as if the novel's physical structure is that of ever-narrowing concentric circles that focus more and more specifically on the interaction between the main characters Nathaniel Mason and Jerome Coolberg.

In the first section, the major elements of the narrative are introduced. The reader meets Nathaniel Mason, the main character, who is a graduate student studying at an unnamed university in Buffalo, NY and his experiences that foreshadow that something unusual is about to occur. In the opening scene, Nathaniel meets a woman named Theresa who will become his lover on the way to a party at a house whose address is difficult to find. At the party, Nathaniel meets Jerome Coolberg who will increasingly seem to know more and more about Nathaniel's life without ever having been told. This section furthermore introduces Ben the burglar who is a young married man with a drug addiction who eats at the People's Kitchen where Nathaniel works; throughout the narrative Ben will occasionally break into Nathaniel's unburglarizable apartment (as Ben puts it because Nathaniel has nothing valuable to steal) to take some of Nathaniel's material possessions from him; Catherine, Nathaniel's older sister who at first loses her ability to speak after their biological father's death but who calls Nathaniel every Sunday at 10:00 AM anyway to hear the unfolding story of Nathaniel's life; and Jamie, a lesbian, who is a fellow member of the Allentown Artists' and Culinary Alliance who also works at the People's Kitchen with Nathaniel; Jamie despite her sexual orientation will become Nathaniel's other lover. Each supporting character is depicted with sufficiently individual characteristics to differentiate them from the others but with not some much detail as to make each one seem a full-blooded human, thus making each one seem more like a ghost-like spectre. Theresa and Jamie in particular despite the intimacy shared with Nathaniel remain beguiling and mysterious each in her own way. The climax of this first section involves a Sunday evening visit to Niagra falls by Nathaniel, Jerome, and Theresa to see if the gods do indeed come out.

The second section occurs thirty years later when Nathaniel is a middle-aged adult, married with children. Introduced to the reader are members of Nathaniel's family: his wife Laura, his teenage son Jerome, and his youngest son Michael. In this section, Catherine, Nathaniel's sister, regains her lost voice after hearing of Nathaniel's breakdown; it seems to serve metaphorically of the author's way of showing how Catherine regains ownership of her life while at the same time Nathaniel is losing his. In the third section, Nathaniel meets up with Coolberg thirty years after the graduate student party that opened the narrative. Coolberg now has a successful radio program titled 'American Evenings' on National Public Radio [NPR] (think of Ira Glass's 'This American Life' with a twist). During the broadcast of each show, Coolberg appears to assume the characteristics and life story of each of his guests; Coolberg has invited Nathaniel to be a guest on his radio show. The final section suggests the denouement toward which the entire plot has been moving.

Each character has distinctive traits; Theresa foir example shows her culturedness by reciting the one line of French poetry that she has memorized; Jamie the lesbian comes across as tender but also masculine; Coolberg as the novel progresses sounds more and more like Nathaniel. The characters, settings, atmosphere, and events seem to occur either in isolation or in isolated lonely locations making the tone of the book ghost-like if not sepulchral. Because of the brevity of the novel (only 210 pages) and of many chapters (some of which are only one or two pages long), the author does not include many unnecessary items, even the shape of the novel's structure contributes to the advancing of the plot. Perhaps the most beguiling item is the unexplained change of the novel that Coolberg is working on which seems to track his ability to steal souls; in the first section, it is called 'Shadows' but near the end it is revealed as 'The Thief of Souls' which is the title of the work that the reader is reading which helps make this a tantalizingly effective Gothic ghost story. The reader may wish to compare Baxter's novel with Dom DeLillo's 'The Body Thief' (which title is similar to Baxter's 'The Thief of Souls') and Peter Straub's 'Ghost Story,' which may be the finest contemporary example of a ghost story that we have.

The World's Best Memoir Writing: The Literature of Life From St. Augustine to Gahndi, and from Pablo Picasso to Nelson Mandela
Edited by Eve Claxton
Sourcebooks Inc.
P.O. Box 4410, Naperville, IL, 60567-4410
9871402209758 $15.95

Reilly Nelson

The World's Best Memoir Writing, edited by Eve Claxton, is a compilation of passages lifted from the autobiographies' of 160 notable names throughout history -- beginning with the works of St. Augustine, that date back to 400BC, to present day notorieties such as Vladimir Nabokov. The passages are arranged, not in chronological order as might be expected, but ordered in a way so that the reader may feel that they are approaching a single autobiography. The book begins with three passages revolving around birth, spanning all stages of life from youth till the bitter end, and summing up with a few paragraphs from Margret Murray's memoir, My First Hundred Years. Claxton stated in the Introduction, that ordering the book in this manner would be the most inviting to the reader. "The present arrangement came closest, I felt, to how a reader might approach a single autobiography or memoir, tracing the movement of narrative through the life of another, instinctively drawing the lines of connection and contrast between one's own experiences and the author's."

Each memoir passage begins with a paragraph that describes, briefly, the life of the author and the writing that follows. Though the actual writing itself only amounts to a few paragraphs at most, this book is not meant to be a stand in for the original work, it is merely presented as a guide to enlighten the curious reader. A vast array of styles and voices are presented -- from Billy Holiday to Benjamin Franklin, and everything in between. Weather you are a teacher, student, or just an avid reader, World's Best provides a valuable reference for anyone interested in broadening their knowledge of memoir writing.

According to Claxton, "at every point in the history of literature there have been those who have written about their own experiences in the hope that they could benefit either themselves or their readers. Equally, there have always been those who derive pleasure from reading autobiographies and memoirs. There is something eternally seductive about a book that invites you to eavesdrop on an intimate universe." Those who fall into this category deserve to give this book a look.

Carly's Sound
Ali Vali
Bold Strokes Books
1933110457 $15.95

Rita Salner

Ali Vali is best known for her "Devil" series, featuring Cain Casey, her family, friends, and enemies. Carly's Sound introduces another tall, dark, successful woman, Poppy Valente. Poppy, two years after losing her long time lover to cancer, is just returning to the land of the living. In her absence, her faithful staff has kept her chain of Caribbean resorts running. Now, it's time for the latest resort, "Carly's Sound" to open, and for Poppy to take back the reins of control.

Julia Johnson is escaping to Carly's Sound with her twin brother. He has gotten work there, and Julia and her baby daughter Tallulah, are posing as his wife and child. Julia has had her daughter out of wedlock, and is running away from the disapproval of her cold and distant family.

Vali paints vivid pictures with her words as she writes about the growing attraction between Julia and Poppy, and the struggle Poppy has in learning to love again. Vali draws comparisons between the constant crashing of the waves on the shore, to the constant of Poppy's love for Carly, and the way that love washed over her. Vali also does a wonderful job showing the dance of new love between Julia and Poppy, with the pain and guilt of saying goodbye to Carly. She does this with some magnificent symbolism.

Carly's Sound is a great romance, with some wonderfully hot sex, but it is more than that. It is also the tale of a woman rising from the ashes of grief and finding new love and a new life. Vali has surrounded Julia and Poppy with a cast of great supporting characters, making this an extremely satisfying read.

Ali Vali is originally from Cuba. She now lives in New Orleans with her long time partner. She works in the non-profit sector and enjoys writing and working in the yard. She uses the denizens of New Orleans to fuel her imagination. Carly's Sound was a 2007 Lesbian Debut Author Goldie Finalist.

Show Me
Jessica Kizorek
PSI Publications
20 Danada Square West #212, Wheaton, Illinois
9781884230011 $29.95

Rocky Reichman

Show Me does for publishing what YouTube has done for the Internet: it transforms the industry and improves it with innovation. Author Jessica Kizorek has written a professional how-to book, informing but entertaining. From the front cover, her book promises to teach readers about "Marketing with Video on the Web." But Show Me does more than that. Not only has Kizorek shown readers the technical side of online video production, but she has discussed marketing strategy too. Her book therefore is a guide meant for not only video enthusiasts, but for business owners and marketers as a whole. The rules in Show Me can be applied to any company, from a web startup to Fortune 500 Corporation.

Online video can be a technical subject. Yet Kizorek shows a powerful command of writing and works "literary magic" with her words. She turns what could be a dull manual into an easily-to-read, entertaining book. And the author has done her research, too. Expert quotes, case studies, surveys and marketing studies can be found on practically ever page. If that was not enough, Kizorek is also a maven and industry speaker on the topic. As a bonus to the book, she provides readers with a guide to international video production. She explains everything from what kind of equipment to bring to which bug repellants people should use. Her experience helps readers not only on the page, but in the real world as well.

The book is divided into short chapters with casual language. The author discusses a plethora of topics. Why to use video in the first place. How to measure the success of your campaign. How to actually produce the videos. Where to publish them. How to promote your videos. The list goes on. The book is a manual and a guide: it is a manual because it shows readers the technicalities of producing videos; and it is guide because it shows not only how to produce those online videos, but how to succeed at it.

Show Me is an essential guide for marketers, advertisers, business owners and anyone interested in producing online video in general. Today it is useful. In the future, it will be indispensable.

Let Me Stand Alone: The Journals of Rachel Corrie
The Corrie Family, Eds.
W.W. Norton
9780393065718 $23.95

Susan M. Andrus

Journals offer private thoughts not intended for an audience; rather they serve as a means of sorting out life's challenges and exposing one's inner demons. Let Me Stand Alone: The Journals of Rachel Corrie creates that flavor in that it leads the reader to Rachel's inner thoughts as she negotiates the challenges of adolescence and early adulthood leading to her untimely death as she faced down a bulldozer intent on destroying a Palestinian home in Gaza.

Rachel's literary abilities shine early in her life in her poetry as she expresses her delight in nature and small creatures that cross her path. At eleven years old, on the death of her grandfather, she complains about her own selfishness as she sleeps while others are grieving. She says, "I have already grown bored of being sad and I am ready to go back to being normal." How wise she is to identify that universal feeling.

Many of her musings reflect her attitude toward death when at fourteen years, she says, "Death smells like homemade applesauce as it cooks on the stove," and at about eighteen she says, "If I die today,… you must burn the papers under my bed… to charred leaves of ash…You must silence my dead voice…so it will not embarrass my memory," making the reader wonder whether she really wanted her journals to be published. They definitely reflect her inner thoughts, conflicts, and behaviors that might be embarrassing.

A trip to Russia became a turning point for Rachel. For a girl who lived a sheltered, privileged life, she returned from her trip a woman with a mission awakened by "the initial disappointment in discovering that my government really did lie to me about the Russians, and in the massive absence of justice in the world, and again… in discovering my participation in the subjugation of other people." This experience turned Rachel toward becoming an activist throughout her college years and then to Israel to support the Palestinians as they suffered through repeated US-backed Israeli attacks on their families and homes.

It was difficult at times to read the revelations found in these pages – the self-depreciation, self-destructive behaviors, lists of self-improvement tasks – because of the personal nature of the writings. But it all comes together at the end of the book where Rachel writes long emails to her family and friends outlining her political convictions and showing her journalistic potential that abruptly ended three weeks short of her twenty-fifth birthday.

Ready for the Defense
Mike Langan
WhoooDoo Mysteries
1284 Overlook Dr., Sierra Vista, AZ 85635-5512
9781932695700 $13.50

Dr. Tami Brady

The media is going to have a field day with this. It seems that Senator Victoria Sterling's election campaign included an illegal contribution of $50,000 from PEACE (People for the Education of Arabic Children Everywhere), a group suspected of being a front for a middle-eastern terrorists organization. Being as the senator has been short-listed for the director position of the CIA, it's just a matter of time before the information comes out.

The plot thickens. Someone attempts to kill the senator. All of the key players in the act either feign ignorance or they've mysteriously disappeared. Who is framing the senator and how does this tie-in with the newest super bug?

Ready for the Defense feels like a true crime novel. Being as the author was a lawyer, I expected the behind the crime scenes to be true to life, which they were. What I didn't expect was that the characters were going to be so well fashioned, including smooth dialogue that fit each individual, well developed background stories for each person, and characters that actually grew with and were affected by the story. Add to this a story that is timely and extremely well integrated.

Journey to Ixtlan
Carlos Castaneda
Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas New York, NY 10020
9780671732462 $14.00 212-698-7000

Tyler Tradere

Until his death Carlos Castaneda maintained that his books were works of non-fiction, even though the entire academic and anthropological community considered his novels to be tall-tales of fiction. I cannot prove that any of his stories are true, but let me just say I feel that they are, and it saddens me that the world is not willing to listen.

Journey to Ixtlan is the third book in the series known as The Lessons (teachings) of Don Juan, which are the real-life teaching of a shaman medicine man. The book explores the philosophy of a shaman, which is similar to Buddhism, until you get into all the magic. Chapters deal with Erasing Personal History, Losing Self-Importance and Disrupting the Routines of Life.

As Carlos apprenticeship continues, he is thrown into a world where reality is not always what it seems while Time and Space crumble around him. The ending seems to be the part where most academics started to doubt Carlos's legitimacy, as Castaneda Stops the World and has a conversation with a coyote.

Whether Carlos's books are fiction or not they are amazing reads, as well as extremely educational.

Andrew's Bookshelf

Killing Rommel
Steven Pressfield
9780385519700 $24.95

In "Killing Rommel", veteran author Steven Pressfield has written yet another vivid and exciting novel detailing the matter-of-fact heroics and actions by the warriors who fight and too-often die.

Set in North Africa during the British fight against Gen Erwin Rommel in 1942, Pressfield takes the exploits of the British Army's little-known Long Range Desert Group, and presents the reader with yet another well-researched and exciting story of men at war.

As is Pressfield's style, he tells the story from the viewpoint of one of the participants. Lt. Lawrence Chapman is one of Pressfield's proverbial citizen-soldiers, a young man thrust into a war for which his middle-class collegiate upbringing has not at all prepared him. While normally in Pressfield's books it's the enlisted men who are the narrators and telling the story from the boots-on-the-ground perspective, it's a unique change in approach as Lt. Chapman brings an officer's point of view to the fight.

The war in 1942 in North Africa was going badly for the Allies. Gen Rommel's strategy and tactics overwhelmed Gen Montgomery's British troops, and the initial American Army reinforcements were routed at the Kasserine Pass. If Rommel could successfully capture Cairo, then the Germans would control the middle-eastern oil fields, the Suez Canal, and quick access to India and the Pacific, all of which would have horrific repercussions on the Allied war effort.

The British formed the Long Range Desert Group earlier for reconnaissance purposes, but as they decided to use them to kill Rommel, Pressfield uses Lt. Chapman to narrate the war in the desert.

Historically accurate, "Killing Rommel" describes a war that most in Americans might only know through the old television show "Rat Patrol." Driving old Chevrolet trucks that they up-armor themselves, often short on petrol, rations, water, and ammunition, Lt Chapman depicts the fight in North Africa between the beleaguered Brits and Rommel's Afrika Corps as he learns to command as he learns to fight.

Those who have fought, and especially those Marines and Soldiers who have fought at An-Nasiriyah, Fallujah, Haditha, Anbar Province, and the Diyala River Valley, will understand the pictures Pressfield paints of the thirst, heat, sand, and boredom – interrupted by intense combat – in the desert. He draws the reader into the action with Chapman and his men as they drive –often by stars and dead reckoning – to their rendezvous points and missions.

As Pressfield's books are so famously noted, the characters in "Killing Rommel" possess a quiet courage and grow into a maturity far beyond their years. Similar to Xeo in "Gates of Fire," and Matthais in "The Afghan Campaign," the deep story here is how Chapman and his fellow Tommies are thrown into some extraordinarily ugly situations, and then respond. It's the story of these citizen-soldiers and how they react to the carnage around them that makes "Killing Rommel" one of Pressfield's best books.

The Highlanders: Charlie Company Goes to the Iraq Training Center
Rob Kauder
BookSurge Publishing
9781419688928 $18.99

Some books need to be read by everyone, and "The Highlanders" is one of them.

Written by former Marine Rob Kauder about his year in Iraq as a sergeant with the Washington National Guard, this book ignores the politics of the war, and instead focuses on the lives and events of 2004-2005 south of Baghdad.

Kauder can surely write. This book is as realistic and gritty as was the Salman Pak area he and his men were tasked with peace-keeping. From his descriptions of the heat, the dust, and the stench of months of uncollected garbage and sewage, to his dealings with the local sheiks and children, Kauder draws the reader into his world – the world of the American National Guardsman - citizen-solider – that so few Americans know exist, much less understand.

At the same time Kauder and Charlie Company are dealing with IED's and potentially fatal ambushes in their little corner of the Sunni Triangle, they also find themselves fighting some incredibly inefficient and inept active-service army officers. While Kauder's Guardsmen are up-armoring their humvees themselves, and devising their own IED tactics, they are forced to deal with Army officers like Maj. Gen. Peter Chiarelli who was ordering snap eye and ear protection checkpoint inspections within the safety of the Green Zone. "Gotta look good; Hooah." He then contrasts this inanity with the actions of the Marines – some friends from his old unit - 20 miles away fighting door-to-door in the November 2004 fight in Fallujah.

For those who have served in Iraq; this book is for you. Kauder returns you to "The Stables", brings you back to standing guard at 0300 as the sand and grit forms on your chapped lips, and reminds you of the friendships and bonds formed with those who fought and bled together.

And for those who didn't serve – read this and you'll begin to understand what these few endured in the opening years of the war.

Sunchon Tunnel Massacre Survivors
Pat McGrath Avery & Joyce Faulkner
Red Engine Press
978098000647 $29.95

Authors Pat Avery and Joyce Faulkner have written a powerful story of a barbaric and savage treatment of American Army POW's during the opening months of the Korean War.

Flush from their opening week's victories over unprepared, poorly trained, and poorly-led American Soldiers, the North Koreans herded some 250 POW's onto a train north the North Korean-Chinese border in October 1950. Starved and beaten, the soldiers ran a gamut of emotions from giving up and dying, to attempting to escape. In the North Korean town of Sunchon, 100 soldiers were executed, and another 33 were executed later when the train came under fire from American fighter jets. With the train disabled, another 91 were marched north, with only a few finally being rescued by American forces.

Their book "Sunchon Tunnel Massacre Survivors" is a thoroughly-researched story which includes multiple interviews with the eight survivors still alive today. The authors concentrate on the stories of the individual survivors, as opposed to American or N. Korean strategy and tactics. The result is a human interest story that will appeal to a far wider audience than that of a normal "military book," which can only serve to get this story of bravery and courage into the wider audience it deserves.

World War 2 Radio Heroes
Lisa L. Spahr with Austin Camacho
Privately Published
9780976218173 $15.95

This is a too-brief book about the author's grandfather, who was captured by the Germans in the North African campaign in 1943, and how a small band of ham radio operators notified the family of his captivity.

While the Germans normally treated their American and British POW's in accordance with the Geneva Convention, communications in those days was erratic at best and impassable at worst. Often the Germans were reduced to reading lists of names of POW's over the radio as teenage and other ham radio operators in America would copy down the names and addresses and so advise the families of their loved ones captivity.

Ms. Spahr's family was so advised of her grandfather's capture.

Her book mentions a few of the radio operators still alive who wrote to her and other families, but not in nearly enough detail or depth. An overly heavy use of old letters and photographs makes the reader wish for more text in order to flesh out what could be a very interesting story.

These ham operators were undoubtedly a source of comfort for the families of the thousands of POW's, as it was to Ms. Spahr's family, and perhaps a follow-up book would do justice to their story.

Madam President and the Admiral
Carl Nelson
New Century Press
9781890035662 $16.95

A female president (widowed) with a boyfriend…problems in the Middle East… an energy crisis…a surging and aggressive China….a harbinger of our upcoming November presidential elections?

Not exactly, but "Madam President and the Admiral" brings a spirit and liveliness to American politics and presidential-Pentagon relationships that might make the reader wonder what could have happened if a different Clinton was elected in 1992.

Abigail Cass Steele is the unlikely POTUS (president of the US) in the midst of several crisis's; China is threatening to disrupt the world oil market, her son has a mental disorder, her love life is in disarray, and there is a potential revolt in the Pentagon against her.

Nelson is a good writer, and brings an air of authenticity to these situations. Madam President Steele is well-named, and the reader will both recognize the problems arising, as well as empathize with her. A president with whom one can associate and sympathize ? What a concept for November.

Andrew Lubin, Reviewer

Bethany's Bookshelf

Dream Cruises
Kim Kavin
2021 Pine Lake Road, Suite 100, Lincoln, NE 68512
9781583489840, $18.95,

Cruises have never been viewed as a luxury for the average earner - but they can be, thanks to "Dream Cruises: The Insider's Guide to Private Yacht Charter Vacations". Speaking of private cruises, free from the hustle and bustle of community cruises and all of their hassles, it speaks clearly on how to make these, as the book is titled, dream cruises a reality and a possibility on funds as low as a single grand and other options if you manage to have more money lying around. "Dream Cruises: The Insider's Guide to Private Yacht Charter Vacations" is highly recommended for community library collections dedicated to travel.

One of the Best Things
Sheri Doyle
2021 Pine Lake Road, Suite 100, Lincoln, NE 68512
9780595445646, $12.95,

The streets of Chicago are not the most forgiving of places. "One of the Best Things" follows Sunni as she tries to pursue her dream – only to have it snatched away from her, crushing her and making her perform unspeakable acts. At rock bottom, her only strands to climb back up lie in her mother and where she least expects help to home. "One of the Best Things" is a deftly written inspirational novel, a top pick for community library fiction collections.

Louisiana Coffee...with Lots of Cream
Betty J. Reynolds
International Plaza II, Suite 340, Philadelphia, PA 19113
9781425776145, $32.99,

From prostitute to a respectable matron of a family – a strange path, but one that was followed. "Louisiana Coffee...with Lots of Cream" is the fictional memoir of a woman who overcomes the odds of dying on the bottom tiers of society to producing the characters of the story, who tell stories of their lives in Detroit, Philadelphia, and even Las Vegas. The family's history spans over a century and a look on how the other side lives, in this deftly written and composed work of fiction. "Louisiana Coffee...with lots of Cream" is a must for any literary fiction collection and is also available in soft cover. (9781425776077, $22.99)

McColl's Gates
Mary Anne Lonergan
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN, 47403
9781434330505, $18.50,

The first story of four following a group of friends – sure to make others anticipate the other three. "McColl's Gates: The Covenhill Ladies" follows Jennifer Anne McColl as she copes with growing up without parents, and how her future takes a double edged sword – stumbling upon riches and meeting the man of her dreams – but he has ties with the Irish mob. "McColl's Gates: The Covenhill Ladies" is a deftly composed novel, sure to be a popular lend in community library fiction collections.

Susan Bethany

Bob's Bookshelf

When Science Goes Wrong
Simon LeVay
Plume Book/Penguin Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014-3658
9780452289321 $15.00

We hear about the celebrated successes of the scientific community but the blunders are usually hidden from the general public's eye. Shedding some light on some of these infamous mistakes, Simon LeVay looks at a dozen miscues from the fields of forensics, microbiology, nuclear physics, meteorology and other disciplines.

You'll read about a surprise hurricane that supposedly didn't exist but made a violent and unexpected landfall in southeast England, taking multiple lives and causing billions of dollars in damage. Then there's the tale of a patient who underwent cutting-edge surgery involving fetal transplants, only to later be diagnosed with hair growing inside his brain, and the miscalculation that doomed a Mars Climate Orbiter spacecraft in 1999.

Failures, disasters and other negative outcomes of science can result not only from bad luck but also from causes including failure to follow appropriate procedures and heed warnings, ethical breaches, quick pressure to obtain results, and even fraud.

As you digest these twelve incredible essays, you'll discover all of the a reasons cited above for causing jaw-dropping scientific screwups apply in one way or another!

101 Things You Need to Know
Richard Horne and Tracey Turner
Walker & Company
104 Fifth Ave., New York, New York 10011
9780802796745 $9.95 paper www.walkeryoungreaderscom

Here's a little book that young and old readers alike will have loads of fun paging through. Discover some of the most fascinating, most disgusting and most unbelievable facts imaginable.

Why do birds stand on electric wires without being electrocuted? Can a cockroach really live a week without its head? What is the worse smell ever? What is world's favorite pet? Why don't fish drown? These are just some of the provocative (and sometimes silly) questions you'll find answers to in this paperback.

Whether you'd like to amaze your friends with your esoteric knowledge or try to be a contestant on "Jeopardy", here's a resource you definitely want to own.

The Sky Isn't Visible from Here: Scenes from a Life
Felicia C. Sullivan
Algonquin Books
127 Kingston Drive #105, Chapel hill, NC 27514
9781565125155 $23.95

Many readers would consider Felicia Sullivan a bit young for penning a memoir, but this story about a young woman who vowed she would never make the same mistakes her mother did, but then did, had to be told.

Growing up in Brooklyn in the 1980s, Sullivan's childhood was anything but idyllic, given all the problems her mother brought home with her. Vowing to be everything her mother wasn't, Sullivan went to college, became an associate in an investment bank and was accepted into an Ivy League graduate school.

Then the wheels came off. Drugs and alcohol sent her down a familiar path she had seen before in her family.

Although this story about a young woman unraveling and then putting her life back together again follows the tradition of other addiction memoirs, it is so skillfully told that the author seems more of an observer than a participant.

In this respect, her voice is haunting and original, thus separating the narrative from similar works.

Where the Heart Leads
Stephanie Laurens
William Morrow
10 East 53rd Street, New York, New York 10022
9780061243394 $24.95

"Where the Heart Leads" by Stephanie Laurens is a gripping romantic mystery that features two very dissimilar couples. Penelope Ashford and Barnaby Adair are definitely upper class while Scotland Yard Inspector Basil Stokes and milliner Griselda Martin represent the other end of the social spectrum in Regency England.

This foursome comes together to discover the whereabouts of some orphan boys who have gone missing under very disturbing circumstances. Ashford, the director of a London institution that provides for the welfare of orphans, appeals to Adair for help in finding the missing youngsters. Using his connection to Scotland Yard, the dashing aristocrat enlists the aid of his friend, Inspector Stokes. Martin, an East Ender, enters the story when it becomes necessary for the men to go undercover to discover who has kidnapped the children and why.

As the investigation moves ahead, two distinct and powerful romances bloom between the main characters, as does the realization that the perpetrator of the kidnappings has a much greater crime in mind. Not only are the very futures of the young boys at stake, but so is the political fate of London's nascent investigative force.

Bob Walch

Buhle's Bookshelf

Howard Siverston
Lake Superior Port Cities Inc.
PO Box 16417, Duluth, MN 55816-0417
9780942235913, $24.95,

The next best thing to being there is to simply browse through the pages of Howard Siverston's "Driftwood: Stories Picked Up Along The Shore" and enjoying the forty-five watercolor paintings and the folksy anecdotal reminiscences of a master storyteller about living in Lake Superior country and family life on Isle Royal. Siverston's artwork, wit, and tales provide yesteryear glimpses that are entertaining, intrinsically interesting, and occasionally inspiring. Part of a third-generation commercial fishing family from Isle Royale, Siverston grew up helping his father harvest lake trout, whitefish and herring. Determined to be an artist he studied the subject at the Minneapolis School of Art and the University of Minnesota Duluth. After service in the Navy during the Korean War, Siverston drew cartoons for publication in stateside newspapers from his station in Hawaii. After his service he went to work as a graphic artist in Duluth, ultimately returning to his passion for painting and his gift for telling stories. "Driftwood" is a beautifully composed compendium and a recommended addition to personal and community library regional collections. Also very highly recommended are Siverston's award winning earlier titles: "Once Upon An Isle"; "The Illustrated Voyageur"; "Tales of the Old North Shore"; and Schooners, Skiffs and Steamships.

Founding Father
Stephen E. Frantzich
Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group
4501 Forbes Blvd., Suite 200, Lanham, MD 20706
9780742558502, $22.95, 1-800-462-6420

Few non-elective citizens have made as much of an impact on the American political scene in the past three decades as Brian Lamb, the man principally responsible for bringing the on-floor deliberations and the public hearings Congress onto the television screens of the American people through C-SPAN (the House) and C-SPAN 2 (the Senate). Of special note is the weekend dedication of C-SPAN 2 to authors, books, and publishing with respect to public issues and political events. Now the story of how all this was accomplished is superbly presented in "Founding Father: How C-SPAN's Brian Lamb Changed Politics In America" by Stephen E. Frantzich (Professor of Political Science, U.S. Naval Academy). Informed, informative, and superbly written, readers are provided with background insight into how Brian Lamb managed to create (and get funded) a non-commercial television operation that is even-handed and highly praised by Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Academics, and political science enthusiasts from all walks of life. Enhanced with an extensive Notes section and a comprehensive Index, "Founding Father" is an essential acquisition for both academic and community library Political Science and American Biography collections -- as well as being a 'must read' title for the legions of C-SPAN viewers who appreciate Brian Lamb's enduring contribution to political discourse and decision making for both the Congress and the American public.

Standard Catalog of Remington Firearms
Dan Shideler
Gun Digest Books
700 East State Street, Iola, WI 54990-0001
9780896896253, $29.99,

Firearms enthusiasts worldwide now have a complete and comprehensive price guide for their collections with "Standard Catalog of Remington Firearms". The Remington was the gun brand of choice for the pioneers, and for the Confederate army – and to this day it's treasured by many collectors. This collectors guide is packed with over 700 photos, current values, and fully detailed descriptions. "Standard Catalog of Remington Firearms" is a must for any collector of firearms.

Secrets of Producing & Selling Successful Videos
Hal Landen
Oak Tree Press
9 King Philip Ave, Bristol, Rhode Island 02809
9781888093124, $19.95,

The DVD player has replaced the VHS player for years now – it's difficult to find a household resisting it. And there's also a market for education as well, so there is naturally money to be made in educational DVDs – and "Secrets of Producing & Selling Successful Videos: How to Make Money with DVDs and Streaming Video" is a guide to help one get their piece of the share if they have something to teach others. Advice is given on producing videos of countless subjects – Exercise, Safety, Music, Cooking, and so many more. Covering how to produce the videos yourself and how to successfully market them, "Secrets of Producing & Selling Videos" leaves no stone uncovered. A companion DVD ($46.95, 52 minutes) is also available. "Secrets of Producing & Selling Successful Videos: How to Make Money with DVDs and Streaming Video" is a must for anyone looking into breaking into this latest trend to make their living.

Willis M. Buhle

Burroughs' Bookshelf

Silence and Sirens
Thomas Aaron Self
2021 Pine Lake Road, Suite 100, Lincoln, NE 68512
9780595484331, $10.95,

Sometimes one just wants to start over, and leaving the continent entirely is one way to pull that off. "Silence and Sirens" is the story of Anthony Miller told through an assortment of short stories, vignettes, poems, and other literary formats to come together in an exciting compilation of literature telling an overlying story. All formats are deftly compiled, making "Silence and Sirens" highly recommended to community library literary collections.

Paul Kiritsis
2021 Pine Lake Road, Suite 100, Lincoln, NE 68512
9780595449569, $21.95,

Experienced author & poet Paul Kiritsis is back with "Hermetica: Myths, Legends, Poems". A look at the ancient world, filled with the history and legends of how these ancient traditions came into being, oral histories, and the mourning that due to certain circumstances, some of these ancient traditions and literature are lost. A deftly composed and compiled collection, "Hermetica: Myths, Legends, Poems" is a top pick for literature readers in general, and for community library collections catering to them. Teardrop: I hid your essence, that small bundle of boy, As the vowel in a harmonic minor, And floated it along the scale/ of my silent consonants-//Seducing midnight/with folk songs/Of love found/And love lost.//Warming her heart/with bittersweet words/That delivered us/As a teardrop/From her eye.

Mythradies Boutique
James Scott DeLane
Wings Press
403 Wallace Court, Richmond, KY 40475
1597057487, $11.95,

Terms for inheritance – a sure motivator for anyone on the verge of a fortune. "Mythradies Boutique" follows Giffin Grimesly as he pursues his Aunt's massive fortune – but must hold down a job to earn it. He works at a boutique and soon finds life is never as it seems. "Mythradies Boutique" is a deftly written fantasy novel sure to work the reader's emotions throughout, and a top pick for community library fantasy collections.

Paul D. Lunde
2021 Pine Lake Road, Suite 100, Lincoln, NE 68512
9780595482245, $12.95,

Real solutions to real problems – that's what Harvard Law School Graduate Paul D. Lunde is offering in his book "Meltdown!: A Book of Real Solutions to Real Problems", a book that discusses eleven problems America is facing, and offers realistic solutions to all of them. Electoral Reform, Health Care, Nuclear War, the Constitution, Abortion, and other important issues in America today. "Meltdown!: A Book of Real Solutions to Real Problems" is a complete and comprehensive guide to community library collections dedicated to modern social issues and for anyone who wants some food for modern thought.

John Burroughs

Carson's Bookshelf

A Clean Street's A Happy Street
James McSherry
2021 Pine Lake Road, Suite 100, Lincoln, NE 68512
9781583488638, $9.95,

If the Bronx is known for anything, it's known for being a tough place to live. "A Clean Street's a Happy Street: A Bronx Memoir" is James McSherry's tale of growing up in one of the roughest places in America, and his challenge to keep his faith in life through all the hardships of a sick mother, am abusive, abandoning father, and having to grow up direly poor with little relief. A success story of someone rising up out of a harsh life, "A Clean Street's a Happy Street: A Bronx Memoir" is highly recommended as a deftly composed heartwarming memoir, a great addition to community library collections.

The Patriarch
GN Buffington
2021 Pine Lake Road, Suite 100, Lincoln, NE 68512
9780595448814, $18.95,

A front for the Government's nefarious practices in the Middle East – a shocking discovery for one Jacob Sellars. "The Patriarch: A Novel of Corruption and Terrorism, Love, and Loss" follows him as the story of covering the death of an oil family patriarch moves to the revelation of the Crane families true intentions, and with the help of a rebellious daughter of the family, tries to expose their true nature, and faces many troubles in the process. "The Patriarch: A Novel of Corruption and Terrorism, Love, and Loss" is highly recommended to anyone looking for a political thriller and for community library collections carrying them.

Mystery of Everyman's Way
Paul Collins
eTreasures Publishing
57 Dentonia Park Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4C 1W8
9781605301181, $8.99,

Finding a corpse is a disturbing thing to happen. Finding one's own corpse is just plain insane, but that's exactly what happens to Dr. Case in "Mystery of Everyman's Way". His corpse turns out to be his mortal form from over a century and a half in the future – and before Case can ever ponder how this happened his life just gets weirder and weirder – as he's whisked off to another dimension, and may unwittingly become royalty, where finding his future corpse doesn't seem so weird. "Mystery of Everyman's Way" is a non-stop thrill ride for science fiction fans, and would be a popular lend for community library collections catering to them.

Charlotte & Mark Phillips
2021 Pine Lake Road, Suite 100, Lincoln, NE 68512
9780595456079, $15.95,

Weird clients are nothing to new to Houston PI Eva Baum. "Hacksaw" is the tale of how she might be forced onto the trail of a brutal serial killer whose case has turned cold. Eva is close to taking it out of that file and not everyone is excited about her snooping about, not even the law itself – but Eva is determined to discover the truth anyway, not for money, but because she must know. A riveting read from first page to last, "Hacksaw" is highly recommended to community library collections dedicated to suspenseful fiction.

Michael J. Carson

Cheri's Bookshelf

When Zeffie Got A Clue: A Cozy Mystery
Peggy Darty
WaterBrook Press
a division of Random House
12265 Oracle Boulevard Suite 200 Colorado Springs, CO 80921
9781400073337 $13.99

Christy Castleman is a modern day Nancy Drew solving mysteries as an amateur sleuth. She co-owns I Saw It First in Summer Breeze, Florida a trash to treasure shop with her aunt Bobbie. Than one day a little girl named Zeffie Adams comes into the shop carrying a jewelry box and wants to sell it to help her grandmother who is sick. Christy's soft heart goes out to the little girl and gives her much more than the box is worth. Intrigued Christy sets out to find out more. Tearing the old lining from the box she discovers a clue to the eight year old murder of family friend Kirby Strickland.

Christy sets out on a new mystery which proves to be more dangerous than she could ever imagine. Of course her family and boyfriend Dan advise her to let the police handle it but Christy sets out to learn the truth. Someone is set to keep Christy from finding the truth. With a long list of subjects and new friendships with Zeffie and her grandmother Molly and Della the Strickland's housekeeper who now lives in Sunset Manor nursing home. Christy knows she must find a way to get others to open up about the past in order to get the answers she is looking for but must keep from being killed herself in the process.

Along the way she even finds out more about Zeffie and possibly the truth as to who Zeffie's father is but is he the number one suspect on Christy's list? Will the truth hurt this little girl more or give her a better life after her grandmother dies? Time will tell as Christy knows she must solve this mystery for Kirby's sake!

Author Peggy Darty has done an outstanding job on this her third Cozy Mystery and twenty-seventh book overall. With no lacking of Biblical concept Darty teaches and informs as God is woven into every page. A must read for teens and adults who love a good mystery. So curl up in your favorite chair and enjoy this awesome Cozy Mystery!

Embrace Me: Believing Is Seeing
Lisa Sampson
Thomas Nelson
PO Box 141000 Nashville, TN 37214
9781595542106 $14.99

Valentine disfigured face and by her own hand lives with others that people may call "freaks" as part of Roland's Wayfaring Marvel and Oddities Show. They spend their winters in Mount Oak with Blaze at her rooming house. Valentine lives an alone life except for her best friend Lella born with no arms or legs which Valentine welcomes the opportunity to care for her. Enter Augustine the self mutilating pastor with a past of his own runs Shalom Laundromat a sort of community/monastery is determined to befriend Valentine and find out the secrets of her past as he protects his own.

But whether the masks are real such as the scarves Valentine wears to hide her disfigured face or the hidden masks all the characters seem to wear over their hearts and souls it seems everyone in this awesome tale are seeking love, redemption and forgiveness from someone or maybe their selves. Regardless you'll find yourself caught up in this timeless tale by author Lisa Sampson. Sampson who has a unique way of bringing her characters and the teachings of God alive in her novels doesn't disappoint in "Embrace Me". So with strands of Valentine's favorite song Embraceable You prepare to embrace an awesome story that will remain with you long after the story ends.

Winter Haven
Athol Dickson
Bethany House
a division of Baker Publishing Group
11400 Hampshire Avenue South Bloomington, Minnesota 55438
9780764201646 $18.99

Plain, mousy Vera Gamble is an accountant staring at numbers all day, living a lonely life, dreams of her dreamy boss as she tries to hold at bay the visions from her childhood. The pain of the death of her mother, the day her autistic prophet-brother left home, her faith- healing preacher father's voice telling her that her visions were not from God but from the devil and now that same father has Alzheimer's and lives in a nursing home not even knowing who she is. And always asking God why these things happened even though her father told her she shouldn't ask God such things.

Than the phone call the call that would change her life forever. Her brother Siggy's body has been found washed ashore on an island off the coast of Maine called Winter Haven. Vera sets out to bring her brother's body back to Dallas, Texas wondering where he's been all these years and how he got to Winter Haven.

At first, seeing Siggy's body, Vera says it isn't him. She takes a second look and realizes he is fifteen years old! But that can't be; it's been thirteen years since her brother left home! With her heart racing she sets out to find out the truth as to what happened to her brother but gets more than she bargained for with the coldness of the village people, the strange questions from the police chief and the warnings and threats from the Widow Abernathy. Vera finds the only one she can trust is Evan Frost the sea captain who lives on the other side of the island and who found her brother's body but yet can she really trust him as the mysteries seem to surround him with Viking artifacts, dead bodies on the shoreline, the witch or ghost Evangeline and the warnings to stay away from him. As pebbles fall from the sky, a strange eerie mist rises, branches that bleed blood to the sound of axes chopping in the forest and hissing sounds in the air to even a polar bear in Maine, Vera wonders if she is losing her mind to end up like her brother and father. Is she going crazy or is there more to Winter Haven than she really wants to know only time will tell!

Author Athol Dickson has written another outstanding hit! From page one you'll be caught up in this captivating tale of mystery and suspense. Athol already a winner of the 2006 Christy award for suspense for his novel "River Rising", is sure to score again with this his sixth book "Winter Haven"!

Cheri Clay

Clark's Bookshelf

The Wolves at the Door: The True Story of America's Greatest Female Spy
Judith L. Pearson
The Lyons Press
246 Goose Lane, P O Box 480, Guilford CT 06437
9781599210728, $15.95

Enthralling and historically accurate is this true story of America's greatest female spy.

Virginia Hall lived on a 110 acre farm in rural Maryland, but her modern and wealthy parents augmented her education by traveling often to Europe exposing her to foreign cultures. She was not a prissy youngster and was quite the 'tomboy' who enjoyed hunting with her father and brother.

In 1924 she realized that the only way a woman could make her way in the world was by having a superior education. A natural leader, she was Class President, Editor in Chief of her yearbook, and became known by her peers as the one from whom you could expect the unexpected.

Educated at Radcliff and Barnard colleges, she continued her studies in France and learned French and German with an English accent! Because of this she had to travel with native French who would do the public conversing.

Miss Hall began her career in 1931 by working in American Consulates in Turkey, Poland and France. When Hitler began to conquer these countries she experienced first hand the injustice and cruelty of the Nazi Regime. Virginia's experiences gave her the fortitude and desire to become a first class spy against Hitler and the Gestapo.

For ten years she had applied to join America's Foreign Service. She was continually rebuffed with excuses that women were not right for the job and furthermore, her amputee status would also hinder her performance. You see, she had lost her leg in a hunting accident in 1933.

The British government recognized her value of first hand knowledge of Europe under Hitler and the fact that she spoke French & German fluently. She took a position with the British Special Operations Executive (SOE), a secret espionage and sabotage organization. Trained by the SOE, Virginia was sent back to France to spy behind enemy lines. Recruiting and organizing the French Resistance were among several of her assignments. She set up safe houses for people escaping from the Nazis and arranged parachute drop zones for supplies.

She was responsible for killing 150 German soldiers, capturing 500 others and sabotaging Nazi communications and bridges. Virginia became such a threat to the Nazis that Hitler had wanted posters with a reward offered posted all over France. Her life now threatened, caused her leave France and return to England.

Upon her return, America realized she was invaluable in the war effort. She would need to return to France. With the aid of some carefully crafted disguises she now appeared once again in France as an old woman!

Great book, a must read and now that it is in paperback, a great addition for your library!

Cowboy Values: Recapturing What America Once Stood For
James P. Owen
The Lyons Press
246 Goose Lane, P O Box 480, Guilford CT 06437
9781599212715 $30

Living the code of the Cowboy in today's society brings back the hope for a better place where we can recapture what America once stood for. James Owen has been lecturing for several years on the ethics of cowboys and in this new book he hopes to instill in all of us a pride in ourselves and respect for others.

The photography is first rate, meaningful, and shows that a lot of thought had gone into the selection of Americana of the cowboy through pictures. One image really was patriotic in the true sense of the word. A family is depicted with hands over heart gathered around their flag pole saluting and saying the pledge of allegiance. Their home is in the background showing their humble way of life on the range.

Owen points out there are seven core values we can all share and they are not just for the Cowboy, they are for all of us.

Courage – Optimism – Self-Reliance – Authenticity – Honor – Duty – Heart

Simply stated, but the portrayal by photograph, example, and deed send the message we can use in the pursuit of our lives. Cowboy Values is a remarkably straightforward book with a powerful significance. A gift you can bestow upon a loved one which will be long treasured. When you put this oversized book on your coffee table it will be one of those treasures which is picked up and examined by all who see it. All of the proceeds from this book are going to charity.

Ten principles to live by from his book Cowboy Ethics (2004) also, by James P. Owen:

1 Live each day with courage

2 Take pride in your work

3 Always finish what you start

4 Do what has to be done

5 Be tough, but fair

6 When you make a promise, keep it

7 Ride for the brand

8 Talk less and say more

9 Remember that some things aren't for sale

10 Know where to draw the line

When you put all these together, you have achieved life's full meaning.

Starbucked: a Double Tall Tale of Caffeine, Commerce, and Culture
Taylor Clark
Little, Brown and Company
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316013482 $25.99

Was it an epiphany by Howard Schultz, the man who runs Starbucks, or a guru of site selection, when he placed a second Starbucks Coffee Store on the same street in Kingman Arizona? Taylor Clark, in Starbucked, explains that it was no accident when a new Starbucks opened on Stockton Hill Road within shouting distance from the existing store. In fact in the home base stores located in Seattle Washington, there are stores directly across the street from each other!

The rise of the mega purveyor of coffee is chronicled in explicit detail in an often tongue and cheek fashion. However, there is no escaping the fact that this business tale shows that with fortitude, business savvy, and plain old fashioned guts, you can succeed in business by trying. That is exactly what put together a team of intrepid players in the newly explored world of high priced coffee. They made a difference in how you look at location, location, and location in the real estate business. Often it was next to the competitor or down the block, not being afraid to challenge traditional methodology in placement of new stores. Starbucks rose to extreme heights in the number of stores to challenge even the leader of franchise stores, McDonalds. Yes, they had stockholders who made extremely great profits from the rise in value of the stock, but the ownership of the stores remains held by the company itself.

Mom and Pop stores feared that this new kid on the block would take away their business like Wal-Mart did to other small town retailers, by taking away the ability to stand the heat. Instead, Clark shows that these locals benefited from the competition and their businesses thrived in spite of their qualms. Customers were educated in the ways of coffee appreciation and then they looked around to see what else was available. These small town operations had the one thing which Starbucks did not! Food!

A good read and education in the way that business can succeed if you strive. Having faith in your product and the people that work with you is the lesson derived from this honest summation of Starbucks.

Clark Isaacs

Daniel's Bookshelf

Firearms in American History: A Guide For Writers, Curators, and General Readers
Charles G. Worman
Westholme Publishing, LLC
Eight Harvey Avenue, Yardley, Pennsylvania 19067-2064
9781594160448 $39.95 1-800-621-2736

I was able to locate this general book on weapons, when I was browsing through the bookstore. I was in search for a nice overview of weapons throughout American History among various users and periods of time. This book even covers weapons used by Native Americans. I had the book prior to doing my reviews on Joseph Bilby, and it greatly enhanced my understanding.

Charles G. Worman had so much detailed information between the covers that begins from 1500 and ends in 1900. The author's focus is to clear up the recurring inaccuracies, anachronisms, and tall tales at the popular level. The gun frequently appears as an element in both fiction and nonfiction writings, sometimes accompanied by half-truths and fallacies, and often misstatements are accepted as fact merely because they appear in print. Worman a noted expert and historian, wrote this book for the purpose of an accurate portrayal to clear the air of obscured information. His wealth of information covers the Matchlock, Wheel Lock,, Flintlock, Pennsylvania-Kentucky Rifle, Musketoons, repeaters, breechloaders, percussion repeating rifles, shotguns, firearms of the Confederacy, Federal Cavalry arms, artillery small arms, handguns, revolvers, derringers, other pocket persuaders, cane guns, other oddities, Buffalo guns, and Native American guns. Throughout the book the chapters reflect on the different periods of time in America that the weapons evolved. The Era of Colonization, through the Revolutionary War to the 1820s, the Percussion Era and advancing technology around 1805-1866s,in the Civil War, post Civil War, 1866-1900 covering both military arms and civilian arms. His last chapter deals with the Native American Guns.

The weapons are an important topic when discussing and understanding the Civil War along with the participants that fought in it. I liked the way he arranged the book in chronological order so the events and weapons showed the transition of the evolution of weapons used in this transitional time of advancing technology and improvements. Worman makes good use of a extensive bibliography and Chronology (that keeps our history and events listed to put our history in perspective) and chapter footnotes. He has a logical chronological chapter starting from our earliest history through the beginning of the twentieth century. I liked his footnotes located at the end of the pages throughout each chapter. I could see the footnote and refer to the text and source he cited. Sometimes during my reading I was able to seek additional information and background before proceeding to the next page.

The author has written a good reference book to anyone who is interested in the weapon that were use by earlier Americans, and Native Americans. He refers to all the weapons used by the military or civilians. He is a retired deputy director of the National Museum of the U.S. Air force. A Fellow of the Company of Military Historians. He is coauthor of the two-volume Firearms of the America West 1803-1894 and coauthor of Gunsmoke and Saddle Leather, Firearms in the Nineteenth Century America. He has appeared on episodes of the television series The Real West, and Tales of the Gun. This book was written as a guide for writers, curators, and general readers. I believe he has written a gem for all those who want to know more about the weapons that protected others, were used in battle, and various uses that tamed this country or give its history. We find the reading of history fascinating, when we go back and study it. This book would be a fine text for anyone who wants a worthy resource and assist authors who seek accurate information on firearms. It is definitely a discipline work to put on the bookshelf for just such a need.

The Artillery of Gettysburg
Bradley M. Gottfried P. H. D.
Cumberland House Publishing, Inc.
431 Harding Industrial Drive, Nashville, Tennessee 37211
9781581826234 $24.95 1-615-832-1171

I selected this book to get a deeper background of the Civil War Gettysburg battle, that demonstrated the use of artillery and the various guns that dominated the troop movement. The bigger guns helped enable battles to be a defining line preventing armies form out flanking or penetrating each side without repercussions. The author Bradley M. Gottfried has done a nice job of clarification and extensive research in the Gettysburg battle scene. He enriches the view of understanding on what happened on those three days in July of 1863. His explanation adds more thought to the use of artillery used of Gettysburg and it is a welcomed text explaining all those details. His book is well researched with extensive bibliography and footnotes that cover much thorough work on the battle. The two appendixes cover the order of the battle, strengths, and losses of the artillery of Gettysburg, characteristics of Civil War cannons used at Gettysburg. The author personally prepared the 18 maps in the book.

The author does the book with readable prose, and points out how the artillery were a major killer on the battlefield. He explains how the Union army was better trained in artillery, and their units were well disciplined in the use of the weapon. The Union army also had more artillery and from their effective fire demonstrated usage during the different locations on those three days. He also pointed out how the Southern artillery frequently was hindered by poor fuses, which caused shells to explode too early, too late, or not al all. Bradley provides insight into how the two armies employed their artillery, how the different kinds of weapons functioned in battle, and the strategies of using them. He shows how artillery affected the ebb and flow of the fighting for both armies and thus provides an unique understanding of the strategies of the Federal and Confederate commanders.

I can see from the verbiage of how the author's focus and emphasis on the advantage of the Union Army It's pure strength of numbers of artillery and equipment that created the fire power edge from the first day of the battle to the third in that hot month of July. The explanation of the major difference of the smoothbore Napoleon to the rifled cannon illustrated how if distance of hitting massing troops a mile away using the latter to when the enemy approached utilizing the former. The book narrative prose and history gives the book a wealth of setting, time, and space covering the well known locations of each battle. All this came to the conclusion of that third day of July 1863. The book belongs on the shelf for future reference to all who want to keep details and information nearby to glance back on what happened on those three days. A fine book for historians, those who like history or for those who want to understand and know it better.

Daniel Allen

Debra's Bookshelf

No-Man's Land
Scott Huler
9781400082827 $24.95

Author Scott Huler found himself in his forties becoming obsessed with Homer's Odyssey, the epic that takes up where the Iliad leaves off, tracking Odysseus' adventures en route back home at the end of the Trojan War. Taking his inspiration from the Joyceans--fans of James Joyce's Ulysses who celebrate Bloomsday every June 16th by following the fictional Leopold Bloom's route through Dublin--Huler decided to travel the Mediterranean following the similarly unreal footsteps of the hero Odysseus. Huler left his pregnant wife behind and took off for, among other destinations, Calypso's island (Malta) and the Cyclops' cave (on Sicily) and the islands associated with the Sirens. Odysseus' visit to the Underworld is reenacted more in spirit than in fact.

Huler's book serves as a light-hearted introduction to the Odyssey and to various questions related to the epic--many but not all of them having to do with geography. In this Huler is largely successful. His discussions of the text make for good reading, both his plot summaries and his personal observations on the text. And his tone is charming and inviting. Here, for example, he describes what happened on the island of Thrinacia, when Odysseus' crew, against orders, roasted up the cattle of the sun god:

"There's a nice reaction scene when Odysseus, like Moses coming down from Sinai and seeing the worship of the golden calf, comes back from communing with the gods to smell the burning meat. Whether it's a spit-take, a whap of palm to forehead, or just a slow shaking of the head, you feel Odysseus thinking: 'Oh for pity's sake, shat next?' The hides of the cattle begin crawling along the ground, and the meat 'both roasted and raw' begins to bellow. You want to know hungry? For an entire week, the men continue to eat meat that's actually mooing at them. That's hungry."

As a travelogue the book works less well for me. Certainly the idea behind the book, the Odyssean hook, is very clever. But travel writing is most interesting when an author has the time to report on the quirks of a particular community or location. Huler doesn't stay anywhere long enough to be able to do this. His reports on the places he visits are quick and mostly unmemorable. There is much talk of the progress made on the journey and the modes of transport employed and the irritations met along the way. But one place on his travels looks very much like the rest after a while.

Huler's journey, both geographic and literary, is at the same time emotional: the author learns various Odyssey-related lessons along the way. Some of this comes off as affectation (was he really contemplating cheating on his pregnant wife with a stewardess on Calypso's island, or is that mere literary trope designed to bind his own experiences with the story currently under discussion?); some of it seems real enough.

There is an inherent difficulty in the task Huler undertook: the Odyssey, like Joyce's Ulysses, is fiction. It may contain snippets of historical truth, and some of the places used as settings in the book may be identifiable in the real world, but Odysseus did not, for example, blind the Cyclops Polyphemus in a cave in Sicily and escape with his men by clinging to the bellies of sheep. Huler knows this, but still, the lines between fact and fiction sometimes get blurred in his narrative:

"I spent a lot of time in that cave--probably close to two hours. I reread the episode and thought about where in this particular cave the monster and the crewmen might have stood, what the episode meant, and what the hell I was doing sweating in a cave full of goat shit north of Trapani, Sicily, while five thousand miles away my wife gestated alone."

So, a little silly at times and sometimes melodramatic, and perhaps fifty pages over-long, but because of its great concept and the author's pleasant way of introducing readers to Homer, Huler's No-Man's Land is certainly worth the read.

The Name of This Book is Secret
Pseudonymous Bosch
Little, Brown
9780316113663 $16.99

In his debut novel "Pseudonymous Bosch" tells a story wrapped in an enigma: not only is the name of the book a secret, as its very name asserts, but so are the names of his characters and other identifiers such as their location and hair color. But because he's got a story to tell and has to call them something, Bosch gives his characters pseudonyms. "Cassandra," or Cass, is an 11-year-old survivalist. She carries a backpack filled with supplies with her at all times and tends to imagine disasters around every corner. Because these never materialize, the people around her mostly dismiss her concerns--hence her similarity to her namesake, the Greek Cassandra, who was given the power of prophecy with the catch that no one would believe her. Cass's classmate "Max-Ernest"--whose dual name reflects his parents' divided opinions and lifestyle--is unusually talkative and has some kind of condition that has yet to be identified. Cass and Max-Ernest bond because they're both more accepting than most of one another's peculiarities. And soon they fall into a mystery. A secret message from a magician, presumed dead, leads them into peril--specifically, the evil, glove-wearing clutches of a pair of too-perfect-looking malefactors, the enigmatic Dr. L. And Ms. Mauvais.

To an extent Bosch's book is reminiscent of Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events. Here too a pseudonymous author is telling the story of his young protagonists' brush with evil. He suggests readers not read the book. There is a secret organization of do-gooders involved, and the plot is even punctuated by suspicious fires. The narrator alludes to dangers he himself is facing, and he interrupts the narrative with amusing comments addressed to the reader. But Bosch is not as linguistically playful as Snicket, and a larger percentage of his text is pure story, I'd say, than one gets in the Snicket corpus.

I liked most of this book a lot. The protagonists are likable, not improbably smart but clever enough. The mystery held my interest. And the villains are deliciously creepy without wearing their evil on their sleeves. I was disappointed, however, in the ending, an important detail of which, involving a coded communication, seemed implausible. The ending also, frustratingly, left a lot unanswered, presumably in preparation for a sequel, though there is no indication on the book's jacket that this is the first in a series.

Dead Dancing Women
Elizabeth Kane Buzzelli
Midnight Ink
c/o Llewellyn Publications
2143 Wooddale Drive, Woodbury, MN 55125-5989
9780738712666 $13.95

Dead Dancing Women is the first installment in a new series featuring Emily Kincaid, an unsuccessful mystery writer who's moved up to the woods of northern Michigan to live and write in peace. Three years into the move, Emily has no regrets. Her life is tranquil, work on the latest unlikely-to-be-published novel interrupted by gardening, piecework for the area's second largest paper, and getting to know the locals--at least until she's dragged headlong, as it were, into a mystery. When we first meet Emily she's bringing her garbage cans in from the road, a chore that's attracted the attention of an unusual number of crows--menacing in their quanity and their fearlessness and their single-minded interest in the contents of her trash can....

Because she's the one to find the severed head, and because of her journalistic interest in the case, Emily quickly turns from being a failed mystery writer into an amateur sleuth. She winds up all but partnering with Deputy Dolly--fully half of the local constabulary--driving around town and interviewing the locals about the dead woman. There are a number of avenues to explore: arguments among neighbors that might have escalated into murder, a local pastor's fiery denouncement of what the dead woman and her friends had been up to in the woods, a bunch of survivalists who just might be strange enough to have killed the woman.

Elizabeth Kane Buzzelli's debut mystery kept me interested to the end, though when it comes the solution to the puzzle is not very surprising. There's one loose end--regarding the condition of the first corpse discovered--that I would have liked tied up. But in general I enjoyed the read. Buzzelli has created an interesting circle of secondary characters--Emily's wacky neighbor Harry Mockerman, who's wont to stop by with the occasional batch of possum stew; her grating ex-husband Jackson, who's moving into the area and thus likely to be around for the next installment; the squat Deputy Dolly, who shows surprising flashes of femininity beneath her law-and-order exterior. I wouldn't mind visiting with these folks again.

Peter Abrahams
William Morrow
9780061137990 $24.99

Peter Abrahams' Delusion is set in a suburb of New Orleans, Belle Ville, post-"Bernardine" (a stand-in for Katrina, though it's not clear why that change needed to be made). During the clean-up after the storm a file is found in a police locker that turns out to contain exculpatory evidence in an old case: twenty years earlier, Alvin Dupree had been convicted of the murder of a young scientist. He was positively identified in a line-up by the only eye witness to the crime, the victim's girlfriend Nell. She is now married to the detective who solved the case, who has since become Belle Ville's chief of police. The discovery of the evidence threatens to destroy Nell's world. At first dismissive of the find--she knows what she saw--she comes to doubt her senses and her memory, and finally questions whether the last twenty years of her life have been based on a lie.

Delusion is a timely read, both because of the significance of "Bernardine" to the story and because the plot concerns the belated exoneration of a wrongly accused prisoner--not by DNA evidence in this case, but the parallels to the recent spate of overturned convictions based on genetic evidence are clear. The plot is complex, with numerous characters complicating one another's understanding of the facts by lying at various times, though when we finally learn the motive behind the twenty-year-old crime it seems a little too neat. Most impressively, Abrahams has created in Alvin Dupree a character who is both pathetic and menacing: he may not have killed Nell's boyfriend back in the day, but he is decidedly not the picture of an innocent man.

Delusion doesn't offer pulse-pounding suspense. We're never scared for the characters, exactly, just a little worried now and then. But it's worth the read.

Debra Hamel, Reviewer

Emanuel's Bookshelf

Bloggers' Delight: Volume One
Edited by Cedric Harris
Firefly Publishing and Entertainment
845 Common Oaks Place, Lawrenceville, GA 30045
9780977412648 $15.00

Love and redemption are the common themes in the new compilation Bloggers' Delight: Volume One from Firefly Publishing and Entertainment (edited by Cedric Harris). In this new short story collection sprinkled with poetry from various artists, readers will find stories of love, breakups, and tales of war (both military and urban).

In this anthology written by various writers who also blog, there are a few standout stories, including Diane Dorce's "Smoke," which tells the tale of a young man named Tyrell released from prison early only to face a gangster who wants him dead and a family he never knew. There's also "Rey of Hope" by Cordenia Paige, a story in which many who've known and lost love will relate. Finally, there's my favorite of the book, "Toss-A-Cross" by Torrance Stephens, a dark comedic answer to street lit. It tells the story of a man named Mac who must protect his family and property from wannabee thugs sent by his ex to either scare or do harm. Of the poetry, Saadia Ali Aschemann's work is another worthwhile discovery.

Though some of the stories have their problems (telling more than showing, lack of character descriptions, and minor editing issues) Bloggers' Delight: Volume One is still a decent introduction to some up and coming authors as well as an intro to some interesting short story characters that may one day become the focal points of even greater novels. Recommended.

Obsessive Branding Disorder
Lucas Conley
Public Affairs
250 West 57th Street, Suite 1321
New York, NY 10107
9781586484682 22.95

In today's business world, is it smarter to research how to build a better mousetrap or how to create a shiny, new package for the trap? Pose this question to Lucas Conley, the author of the new book Obsessive Branding Disorder, and I'm sure he'd answer the latter.
In Conley's book, he gives us an interesting perspective regarding corporations' obsession with branding. He digs deeply into the branding efforts of major corporations like Proctor & Gamble where branding well is a way of life. He also shares some unique ideas companies are implementing to make their brands known, such as using the services word-of-mouth companies like BzzAgents (which gives out free products to people who talk up their brands), using social networking sites, and even getting inside our heads with products that seem to speak to us from the shelves.

But does any of this work? It depends on what company you ask. Some branding initiatives thrive while others don't survive. Take the following passage for example:

Branding is more distraction than progress. Real change results from innovation that advances knowledge and improves the quality of our lives. It's difficult work for deferred and indefinite rewards. In 2006 Ford spent more on research and development than any other company in the world. It also lost $16 billion. Meanwhile, Apple, a leader in design and technical innovation, spends less of its revenue on R & D than the industry average and its profits have soared. It's a gamble.

Of course, it's great if the gamble works. The downside is, as Conley suggests in reference to branding, consumers stop listening when they're inundated with junk.

Though it relies too much on the happenings at Proctor & Gamble, Obsessive Branding Disorder is well written and meticulously researched. The book can fuel marketers looking for branding ideas but it can also be used as a dose of medicine for those corporations that take branding to the extreme. Either way you use it, it works. Be sure to add this one to your collection. Highly Recommended.

Emanuel Carpenter, Reviewer

Gary's Bookshelf

The Richard Matheson Companion
Edited by Stanley Waiter, Matthew R. Bradley, and Paul Stove
Gauntlet Publications
9781887368964 $60.00

Say the name Richard Matheson and people will tell you they have no clue who he is. Even in the circle of science fiction and horror many have shaken their heads and said they have no idea who Richard Matheson is. I have always been very surprised because I grew up knowing the names Fredric Brown, Richard Matheson, Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke and lots of others. I am not as shocked when I start rambling off things Matheson has done and find people know his work. Some of them are "The Incredible Shrinking Man," "I am Legend," "Somewhere In Time," "Kolchak The Night Stalker," "Duel" and numerous "Twilight Zone" episodes. He has written short stories since the 1940's, novels that have been turned into movies and TV shows, and he has been an influence in many writers like Stephen King. The editors have collected pieces from Barry Hoffman, Brian Lumley, David Morrell, Dean Koontz, George Clayton Johnson, F. Paul Wilson and numerous family members. The writings tell how Matheson broke into the field, wrote westerns and other genres, began writing screenplays, and his influence on the fields of horror sci fi, fantasy. This tribute is long overdue and well worth the time of anyone who wants to learn more about the man and his writings.

Julie Andrews
Hyperion Books
77 West 66th Street, New York, NY 10023
9780786865659 $26.95

I wanted to like this book by one of the world's favorite performers. But there were too few portions to enjoy. She talks about her stage plays, movies, and other things readers would be interested to know about. Andrews tells her story but I was bored, I believe because I did not get a feel of what her costars were really like. Her depictions are one-dimensional. She throws out lots of names of people involved in her career but they are too wooden. I would have liked to know more about the people she has worked with over the years instead of just their names. The pacing is very slow and "Home" overall is very disappointing.

Don Pendleton's Stony Man Critical Effect
Gold Eagle
World Wide Library
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada M3B 3K9
9780373619795 $6.99

I was disappointed with the way Gold Eagle marketed this particular volume. For several months this title was presented with the name Don Pendleton as the author. I was deceived into thinking that it might have been a long lost manuscript from the original author. The story, though, made up for it with lots of action adventure no fan can resist.

Freedom From Fear
Mark Matteson
Executive Books
206 West Allen Street, Mechanicsburg. PA 17055
0937539619 $9.95

A man has a car accident that changes his life forever. The author has provided many lessons on how to deal with things that come up in our lives. The writing is simple and reminded me of the book "The Greatest Salesman in the World." in its approach to teaching people how to have a better life.

Drop Dead Sexy
Philip Lee McCall II
Mythix Studios
No ISBN $9.99

Poetry is not something that does well normally in the publishing world. People have for years hated the genre possibly because of the way its been taught in schools and colleges. Philip Lee McCall II has broken the mold once again with his horror poetry that has another great chilling cover artwork. The author takes the reader on an excursion through the horrific world of the undead and does a masterful job by telling his stories in the poetic writing form. There is an eerie felling to his pieces that is sure to please anyone who likes chilling horror.

Just Who Will You Be?
Maria Shriver
Hyperion Books
77 West 66th Street, New York, NY 10023
9781401323189 $14.95

Small books sometimes have a lot to say and Shriver's is a great one. She talks about her life and how it is constantly evolving. She also shows that you have to always be ready to move with the changes that are a part of our lives. The book is simple and easy to follow to achieve whatever you want to. You have to just open yourself to accommodate

Black Out
Lisa Unger
Shaye Areheart Books
New York
9780307338488 $23.00

Everyone has a secret. Annie Powers is a prime example. She has everything anyone could ever want. Her husband adores her; she has a wonderful daughter, and lives in a perfect section in Florida. But everything is not as it seems. She also has a secret that for years she has been hiding. Add to that a mother who hooks up with a man accused of murder and you have a thriller that is guaranteed to delight any fan of suspense novels. Unger fills her story with interesting characters and a plot that moves along with many twists and turns to its final revealing ending.

Black Sands Fall
Philip Lee McCall II
Mythix Studios
No ISBN $9

Philip Lee McCall II is back with another collection of horror poetry. This time they are intertwined with genies, zombies, and other scary creatures. Scott Messer again provides a very colorful cover that entices the reader to enter the world of McCall. There is also a cadence of the poems that has the feel of the "Raven" or "The Bells" by Edgar Allan Poe.

Months And Seasons
Stories by Christopher Meeks
White Whisker Books
Los Angeles, CA
9780615188706 $14.95

Poetry and short story collections are two of the hardest writing to sell. With this collection Christopher Meeks proves there is an audience for short stories. His characters are well defined with problems that they can't resolve. There are twelve tales that reveal a lot about our present society. Meeks stories reminded me of those of John Cheever.

Ana's Story
Jenna Bush
1350 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10019
9780061379093 $9.99

I am no fan of any of the Bush family but I have to say Jenna Bush has done a great job. She tells the story of how one woman's entire family was wiped out by AIDS. She has the disease as well but the treatments she has had since she was a child are keeping her alive. I had one area of confusion with someone she names Abuela and the reference to grandmother. I was not sure whether Abuela was the name of a person or her grandmother. Jenna used her experience with UNICEF to show what is happening in other countries that are dealing with numerous social issues. Jenna also talks to teenagers about unprotected sex, using condoms, abuse, rape and when to get help. She also tells myths about AIDS, abuse and centers to find help. Her book is timely and a valuable resource to educate people about the AIDS virus. Though written for a YA audience, this is a book that should be read by any parent

Gary Roen

Gloria's Bookshelf

In the Key of Death
Robert S. Levinson
Five Star
295 Kennedy Memorial Drive, Waterville, Maine 04901
9781594146473 $25.95 207-859-1000

Josh Wainwright, ex-LAPD detective and presently co-owner of International Celebrity Services, a security service for the rich and famous, has never stopped mourning the death of his wife, world-renowned singing sensation known as Katie Sunshine, murdered two and a half years ago, shot to death during a public appearance, her murderer never identified. Josh has never stopped trying to find evidence that her death was engineered by Clyde Davenport, "Mr. Magic" himself, a world-famous and egomaniacal record producer and member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame who had engineered the rise to fame of innumerable recording stars over the years, now perhaps past his prime.

The reader sees, through Clyde's eyes, his "wish list" comprised of "the ones that turned their backs on him, used him, then abusing him by dismissing him like he had outlived his usefulness…the artists he worked his mojo on and made into international stars before they left him and, ultimately, collectively, helped bring about the downward spiral in his career." Now known as a great philanthropist, with many charities—mostly with children as the beneficiaries--receiving his largesse, it is nearly impossible to find proof of any link between Clyde and the various deaths for which Josh is certain he is responsible, though deemed "accidents" or "suicides" or, in Katie's case, simply murder by unknown assailant.

When a Las Vegas showgirl is killed outside Clyde's mansion in the hills above LA, he hires Josh to prove his innocence, fully understanding that Josh will use the opportunity to further his endless investigation of him in an attempt to prove his guilt in Katie's murder. Josh's partner [both now and previously in the LA police force], Keshawna Keyes, helps him track down leads in this effort, during the course of which the reader is given a behind-the-scenes views of Nashville in particular and the music business in general over the last few decades. The second half of the book felt a bit bloated and I suspect could have benefited from some judicious editing.. The pace picked up in the latter parts of the novel, however, with some unexpected twists, and overall was a good read.

St. Bart Breakdown
Don Bruns
Oceanview Publishing
61 Paradise Rd., Ipswich, MA 01938
9781933515120 $24.95 800-829-7062

This is the fourth entry in Don Bruns' series whose protagonist is Mick Sever, 'rock and roll journalist' who writes 'entertainment' articles for the Chicago Tribune. Now working as a freelance writer, he still gets calls from the Tribune from time to time, and has now been offered an assignment to interview music legend Danny Murtz, long-time successful producer of hit records going back many years, and a man with a nasty streak. A sub-text to the assignment is the investigation of rumored incidents in Murtz' past – women last seen in his company who had gone missing, these events being the subject of some anonymous letters received by the publication. The women in question had never been seen or heard from after 'dates' with Danny Murtz, described as a 'one-man wrecking crew' who 'used his celebrity status to wreak havoc on everyone he touched.'

At the outset the reader is privy to the latest of Murtz' attacks, following which Harvey Schwartz, his attorney/manager/handler /cleaner-upper, tells Danny he will take care of the situation, and urges him to take a brief vacation at his villa in St. Barts [which he owns in addition to his mansion in Hollywood and townhouse in Chicago]. Danny is a man who occasionally doubts his own sanity, apparently with good reason, given his perpetually addled brain from the constant drugs, pills and booze in which he overindulges.

Mick Sever and Danny Murtz' lives, eerily, have many parallels – both Chicago natives, having come up in their professions at about the same time and both having attained different degrees of success and celebrity that each man covets while at times finding it an annoyance, both drinking too much [although in Danny everything took on exaggerated proportions] and both with failed relationships [although, again, Danny's have a much darker cause]. The music business is described as a "fantasy world, where money was everything and trust and honesty meant nothing." Danny must himself travel to St. Bart, where he finds his life in danger as he goes about his assignment in a place where fun, sun and rum are the raison d'etre, and murder and violence are not possible in this tourist-oriented world. Fast-paced, well-written, suspenseful, with considerable schadenfreude, this was a very good read, and is recommended.

The Spellman Files
Lisa Lutz
Simon & Schuster Paperbacks
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781416532404 $14.00 800-223-2336

The Spellman Files had a smile on my face by the end of the two-page prologue, and it stayed there for the duration. Introducing 28-year-old Isabel ["Izzy"] Spellman, p.i. employed by Spellman Investigations, daughter of a former Inspector in the San Francisco Police Department, as was his father, grandfather and brother before him, and described as a cross between Dirty Harry and Nancy Drew.

Spellman Investigations consists of Mom Olivia, Dad Albert, Uncle Ray, Izzy and, rather outrageously, Izzy's sister Rae, presently fourteen years of age. [When one realizes that Izzy joined the firm at age 12 and her brother, David, at 14 – though he has since gone on to life as an attorney in keeping with his talent and more normal bent – it is probably less startling.] The family members have a loving if decidedly dysfunctional relationship – not in a dark way – and only if you consider conducting surveillance and using coercion and outright blackmail on family members – all as a matter of course – dysfunctional [e.g., routinely secretly recording conversations with family members]. And now her younger sister, Rae, has taken up "recreational surveillance," or spying on strangers, in her spare time.

Outraged when her parents task Rae with following her when she embarks on a new relationship with a man her mother doesn't trust, Izzy decides to quit the firm, but reluctantly agrees to take on one last case – a twelve-year-old case, to be exact, involving a missing teen. But when Rae suddenly disappears, everything else becomes unimportant.

I was captivated by the writing, and the wacky sense of humor exhibited by the author and her characters. And when the author says of one of quickly-replaced boyfriends: "Like many gamblers or habitual sporting-event watchers, he was convinced that his observation of an event could alter its ultimate outcome" [something of which I am routinely guilty], she'd completely won me over.

The sequel to this book [which was originally published in 2007 and now released in trade paperback by Simon & Schuster], "Curse of the Spellmans," has recently been published by S&S in hardcover, and it has just been moved up to be next to be read—can't wait for more of the Spellmans!

Curse of the Spellmans
Lisa Lutz
Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781416532415 $25.00 800-223-2336

The Spellman Files, the first book in this series, introduced Isabel ["Izzy"] Spellman, thirty-year-old P.I. employed by Spellman Investigations, daughter of a former Inspector in the San Francisco Police Department, as was his father, grandfather and brother before him, and described as a cross between Dirty Harry and Nancy Drew. Spellman Investigations consists of Mom Olivia, Dad Albert, Izzy and her sister Rae, presently fifteen years of age. David, described by Izzy as her "freakishly attractive, intellectually superior, and all-around charming brother," is an attorney, having left the firm several years back, and has recently married Izzy's best friend and former fellow delinquent, Petra.

The family members have a loving if decidedly dysfunctional relationship – not in a dark way – and only if you consider conducting surveillance and using coercion and outright blackmail on family members – all as a matter of course – dysfunctional [e.g., routinely secretly recording conversations with family members]. Her younger sister, Rae, had for a while taken up "recreational surveillance," or spying on strangers, in her spare time. She has more recently taken up safer [or maybe not] habits – spending most of her after-school hours haunting the office of Superintendent Henry Stone, introduced in the earlier book, to the latter's dismay and occasional displeasure. He is described as now being an "honorary member" of the Spellman family – something not for the faint of heart, to be sure.

This time around Izzy is doing background checks on their new next-door neighbor, apparently – and suspiciously – named John Brown, who claims to be a gardener, but who is frequently seen throwing away copious amounts of shredded paper.

The author has a somewhat non-linear style, just enough to keep the reader a bit off-balance, perfectly in keeping with her characters A new addition is introduced in this book: Morty Schilling, the "pint-size octogenarian" pro bono lawyer hired by Izzy after her fourth arrest in a short period of time [or is it her second? The correct answer is dependent on whom one asks]. The Spellmans are just as endearing and outrageous the second time around, and the book is a very entertaining read, and is recommended.

Gloria Feit

Gorden's Bookshelf

His Dark Materials
Philip Pullman
Alfred A. Knopf
an imprint of Random House Children's books
1540 Broadway, New York, NY
9780375847226 $21.99

His Dark Materials is the real title to the single book that was sold in three installments, The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass. It is an adult-biting satire of the dogma of organized religions, dressed up as a young adult fantasy. Other than the setting, there is little that places the book in the youth market. Adult themes fill the tale with a dark but eventually hopeful storyline. Each chapter takes another vicious stab at religious dogma. Tales every child has learned in church are changed into a dark fairytale. Despite the vicious attacks on organized religion, the story is surprising religious. This helps bring the hopeful but sad ending of the story to a satisfying conclusion.

The Golden Compass comes the closest to a youth oriented fantasy. Lyra is a young child living in a fantasy world where your soul takes the shapes of living creatures you can see and interact with. She is pushed into a quest to save all worlds by the evil done in the name of the church and the actions of her parents. Along the way she collects an assortment of humans and human creatures who are all striving to correct the wrongs that are in the worlds.

The Subtle Knife brings in our world with the lead character Will another child. The magic of Lyra's world is blended with the science of ours into a strong whole. The corruption across the universes becomes physical and the evil and good on both sides becomes known. Neither side in the quest is fully good but the overwhelming corruption of absolute control is exposed.

The Amber Spyglass is the conclusion to the war that began with human consciousness and ended with the final choices of two children Lyra and Will. The universes are saved and religion needs to rebuilt with the correct view of the creation of the human soul.

His Dark Materials is a powerful book. It forces the reader to reevaluate religion and the universe. It might contain a stronger story for the adult reader than for the questioning of a youth. It is a story that must be considered in a world with religious fanatics willing to do evil in their God's name.

Unlocking the Mystery of Skin Color: The Strictly Natural Way to Dramatically Lighten Your Skin Color Through Diet and Lifestyle
Thienna Ho, Ph.D.
Thienna Inc.
236 West Portal Ave. #511, San Francisco, CA 94127
9780979210303 $64.96

The physical characteristics of living things depend on two factors, genetics and environment. But it is more complex than just those two factors. Stephen Jay Gould popularized many of the genetic problems to isolating causes for traits in his articles and books. Physics limits genetic options. Physical objects are constrained by the realities of the environment, gravity, oxygen concentrations, tensile strengths are just the beginning of these constraints. Gould pointed out that many features are the product of other functions and many genetic changes do not produce traits significant enough to function by natural selection. There is even a new genetic field formalized after the human genome project was done. The field studies how environmental factors produce genetic inhibitors that customize genetic code to the environment. Surprisingly these changes can be inherited. The final environmental factors are the elements directly encountered by the organism -- or food, air and other factors.

Thienna has specialized in these final factors using a dietary and lifestyle approach. She starts with one of Gould's genetic points that a trait might be produced as a byproduct of another function. In this case, Thienna has speculated that dietary sulfur and its detoxification uses in the body produces a side affect in skin color. She carefully coaches her suppositions as educated guesses, which they are. She backs her guesses with scientific data that she frames into her work. Lay readers might interpret the science as a validation of her methods. It is not but it is a powerful argument that she might be on the correct track with her work.

The environment is a very important factor in characteristics such as skin color. Because of other genetic factors, you can never predict how well the diet/lifestyle changes will work. The great strength with this method is that it is relatively safe and inexpensive. Thienna has done enough research so using her methods should minimize the variables for the individual trying her program. Skin color is a cosmetic change, making it an ideal task for the relatively safe and inexpensive changes Thienna advocates.

If changing your skin color is something you are interested in or if you would like to do more to adjust your diet and lifestyle, Thienna's program is an ideal starting point. Anyone needing to change their diet for health reasons can also find good information within the book. The nutritional data is weighted for the nutrients she considers most important. Most of the information can be found in public sources but the convenience of a single focused source might make the relatively high cost of the book acceptable.

Unlocking the Mystery of Skin Color is a good starting point for anyone wanting to adjust their look and is really a must before trying more drastic medical treatments.

S. A. Gorden, Reviewer

Harwood's Bookshelf

Douglas Preston
Tom Doherty Associates
175 Fifth Avenue, New York NY 10010
9780765311054 $25.95

In the first one hundred pages of Blasphemy, the only observations that struck me as worth reporting were two blatant imperfections. That is not to say that I was unimpressed by the novel's exposition. Douglas Preston is an accomplished storyteller, and the setting up of his plot was extremely readable. But at a time when even liberal theologians have stopped using the substandard English of capitalizing pronouns and possessive adjectives that refer to the Christian god, there is no justification whatsoever for an author who is at the very least an opponent of traditional religion to do so. And his reference to a doctor "sleeping with patients," when he clearly meant "copulating with patients," is likewise an indefensible concession to religion-motivated euphemistics.

There is a joke so old that it can almost be called "traditional." On completion of the ultimate "multivac" computer, with more synapses than the human brain, the programmer asked it, "Is there a God?" It answered, "There is now."

Blasphemy's manmade god (there's another kind?) is not a computer but a supercollider. And the suggestion that humans could build a god capable of creating a universe is what has fundamentalist Christians losing control of their bodily functions in their condemnation of a perfectly legitimate piece of "what if?" science fiction. Apparently the fundies whom Preston so accurately parodies are unfamiliar with Michael Shermer's observation that, "Any sufficiently advanced Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence is indistinguishable from God." Actually the fundies should be thanking Preston. By showing how conditions leading to the Big Bang could be intelligently re-created, he in effect validates their mythology, by implying that a god capable of triggering a Big Bang could also have been intelligently designed. That still leaves I.D. proponents with the ultimate unanswered question, "Who designed the designer?" But they have been ignoring that problem in the hope that it would go away for so long, that Preston's speculations are not going to exacerbate it.

In a pivotal scene, a televangelist who seems to be a conglomerate of Pat Robertson, Jimmy Swaggart and Fred Phelps, interviews a pseudoscientist who differs in no discernable way from William Dembski or Michael Behe, who describes the Big Bang as (p. 225), "a theory of creation promulgated by a hard-core cadre of atheistic and secular humanist scientists." The lobbyist who, for personal economic reasons, bribed the televangelist into denouncing the supercollider program, exults (p. 226), "This was damned good stuff, demagoguery dressed up in sober, scientific language—and coming right out of the mouth of a physicist. Just the kind of claptrap a certain segment of the American people would eat up." Does anyone doubt that that is an accurate portrayal of the way rationally challenged god apologists (tautology) operate?

Judging by some of the comments posted to Amazon, Blasphemy has been read, or at least skimmed, by persons who have no ability to suspend disbelief, no appreciation of the conventions of science fiction, and no tolerance of the hypothesis that there might (or might not) be a god that is not a mirror image of their own. They have denounced as absurd the climactic scene in which thousands of fanatics, urged on by a hillbilly preacher who would have been right at home in Waco, Jonestown or Heaven's Gate, conduct a Charge of the Light Brigade against a U.S. government restricted facility. "It couldn't happen here," say the objectors. Apparently they do not believe that Christian fundamentalists are capable of blind obedience to a crazed fanatic. Newsflash: THEY ARE! Preston shows his awareness that the non-metaphysical elements of his story are far removed from fantasy when he has the President of the United States order the arrest of the Pat Robertson character, and declare (p. 333) that, "These people are no different from Al Qaeda and the Taliban." It may have been that one line that triggered the paranoia of the book's denouncers, by showing them that the Christian Right is indeed no different from Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

The final message from the god-from-the-singularity is (p. 317), "Religion is as essential to human survival as food and water. If you try to replace religion with science, you will fail. You will, instead, offer science as religion. For I say to you, science is religion. The one true religion." While Preston's approach is new, the message is not. Apologists for religion persistently argue that science is a religion. They recognize that, by equating science with religion, they are labeling science as ridiculous. What they fail to recognize is that they are thereby simultaneously labeling religion as ridiculous. In validating a "god of science," does Preston not recognize that he is giving aid and comfort to the very psychos he denounces?

Science continues to make new discoveries, and that is clear proof that science does not know everything. But what science has established beyond sane dispute is that there is no element of observable reality, including the unexplained, for which "God" is the only or even the most plausible explanation. That is a point Preston seems not to have grasped. Even a god created in his own image is still as much a fantasy as Mother Goose or the Flying Spaghetti Monster. There is nothing wrong with basing a novel on the question, "What if there is a god but, unlike the gods of religion, it is sane?" I have done so (The Autobiography of God), and Preston is entitled to do so. But, even while exposing his god-maker as a Ron Hubbard clone, Preston appears to be encouraging readers to believe in such a god. Even in science fiction, that is a no-no. And while his listing of Frank J. Tipler among his acknowledgements helps explain the most imbecilic elements of the Preston god's philosophy, it also reveals the author's inability to distinguish plausible sources from certifiable nonsense.

Nonetheless, for all its faults and mixed messages, some of which had me shuddering, this is a novel I can unequivocally recommend, at least for science fiction appreciators.

Away With All Gods: Unchaining the Mind and Radically Changing the World
Bob Avakian
Insight Press
4064 N. Lincoln Ave, #264, Chicago IL 60618
9780976023685 $14.95

Apologists for creationism seem to be incapable of grasping that, even if evolutionary theory were seriously flawed (it is not), that would not make the fairy tales of Genesis true. And propagandists for communism published by the Marxist "Insight Press" (Bob Avakian is not the only one) seem to be equally incapable of grasping that, even if religion is so false as to be ridiculous (it is), that does not make communism the fall-back alternative. The fraudulence of religion is self-evident to anyone capable of reading a bible with his brain in gear. And the neo-religious claims of communism were fully refuted, meaning that they were shown to be at best wishful thinking, by the collapse of the Soviet Empire.

Martin Gardner once reviewed a book that started out with eight or ten chapters demolishing sun-sign astrology only to conclude with an utterly credulous, gullible endorsement of Gauquelin astrology. He compared his experience to reading several chapters annihilating the geography of the Flat Earth Society, only to find that the last chapter asserted that the earth was shaped like the Great Pyramid. I know just how he felt.

Avakian starts off well, citing the thirty to forty thousand children who die every day from starvation and preventable diseases, and the epidemics throughout history that have wiped out whole populations, that would be recognized as unparalleled atrocities in they had happened in a universe produced and directed by an omnipotent, omniscient Hitler. By because the Sky Fuhrer without whose consent such things could not have happened was "God," the explanation is offered that, "God works in mysterious ways." Avakian correctly points out that, "if such a god existed, it would indeed be a cruel, vicious, sick, twisted, and truly monstrous god" (p. 4).

But he then proceeds to the biblical myth of how King David's god ordered him to conduct a census, and then executed 70,000 of David's citizens as punishment for the crime of conducting a census. While Avakian does point to the inconsistency of 2 Samuel identifying "God" as the immortal who ordered the census, and 1 Chronicles naming Satan as giving the order, his whole treatment of the scene reveals his ignorance of competent biblical scholarship and his total dependence on bible commentaries published by sponsors of the god hoax.

But having made the point that the bible's god is a criminal who makes Hitler look like a mere apprentice, Avakan then expresses outrage that adherents of the mindset that has indeed been the cause of ninety percent of all manmade evil for more than three thousand years, "have the nerve to talk about the alleged horrors of communism." If he had been making the analogy of the pot calling the kettle black, his position might have been justifiable. But he continues, "No leader of the international communist movement, or of a socialist state, has ever even advocated the things that this God repeatedly insists must be done" (p. 6). I can rebut that in one word: Stalin. Estimates of the number of persons murdered by Stalin's executions, purges, genocide, and deliberate starvation of whole communities of political opponents, range from three million to sixty million. And let us not forget the mass killings of Fidel Castro and Mao Dze Dung.

The absence from Avakian's bibliography of such names a Michael Arnheim, Earl Doherty, Richard Friedman, William Harwood, Randel Helms, R. Joseph Hoffmann, Gerd Ludemann, Robert Price, and Ibn Warraq, could have been justified if he had stuck to the evolution-creationism issue, the godworshippers' observable behavior, and a defence of an economic theory that observably does not work. But he ventured into the field of biblical analysis, a subject on which his knowledge could be written on the head of a pin and still leave room for the Gettysburg Address. For example, he several times has pre-Captivity biblical authors citing a "one true god." But until about the time of the Maccabees, Judaism had no such belief. Jews were under orders that all gods other than Yahweh were to be ignored. But the idea that other gods did not exist was a very late invention. And Avakian's discussion of the "Ten Commandments," while pointing out other faults, shows no awareness that they only restricted the way Jews were to treat other Jews. Gentiles were no more protected by the Commandments than were blowflies.

Away With All Gods is a balanced mixture of sense and nonsense, logic and illogic, information and disinformation, facts about religion and propaganda about communism, and ultimately, evidence and special pleading. If Insight Press was looking for an author who could promote communism by presenting it as a logical alternative to religion, they should have picked someone who either had at least minimal competence in religious criticism, or steered clear of the subject altogether. Avakian failed on both counts.

Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person's Answer to Christian Fundamentalism
David Mills
Ulysses Press
P O Box 3440, Berkeley CA 94703
9781569755679 $14.95

According to the author's web page (, "Atheist Universe became Amazon's best-selling book on atheism." But that is because Atheist Universe was published before the definitive annihilations of religion by Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, and, in the book that actually disproves the "God" hypothesis, Victor Stenger. Mills' book is almost (but not completely) devoid of misinformation, and offers logical and coherent arguments against creationism and theism that should be required reading for every schoolchild. Peter Angeles, S. T. Joshi, George Smith, and Michael Martin have all written books justifying nontheism, or "atheism," a word the ignoranti have learned to view as pejorative. But those pro atheism, as opposed to the aforementioned anti God-delusion, authors take a philosophical approach that John Q Public is likely to find incomprehensible. Mills is comprehensible.

Mills' opening chapter, "Interview with an atheist," is a transcription, with redundancies removed, of three interviews he gave to a radio personality whose questions showed him to be, not so much closed-minded and therefore unable to evaluate any information that contravened his brainwashing, but rather blockheaded and therefore unable to comprehend any information that contravened his brainwashing. One observation that undoubtedly went over the interviewer's head was (p. 44), "I've always found it intriguing, though, that Christians attempt to slander atheism by calling it a 'religion.' Christians seem to be saying, 'Look, you atheists are just as irrational as we are!'"

Asked (p. 46) "Why people would deliberately invent and promulgate myths that they themselves knew to be false," Mills correctly explains that the inventors of real religions did nothing of the sort. They asked themselves why nature was so hostile, and how its hostility could be diminished, and came up with the answer that the forces of nature were really capricious gods who, like human despots, could be flattered and bribed. He did not bother to cite L. Ron Hubbard, who indeed invented a pseudo-religion that he knew to be false, as did Joseph Smith, Ellen White, Sun Myung Moon, and probably the mentally-deranged Mary Baker Eddy.

In debunking religion's "Ten Commandments" that fundamentalists who have never actually read them want to post on courthouse walls and school notice boards, Mills suggests (p. 47) that, "you will be stunned to discover that only three of the ten prohibit unethical treatment of other individuals." What Mills, not being a biblical scholar, does not realize, is that unethical treatment of other individuals was only prohibited when the other individual was a fellow Jew. (see Deut. 5:5b-5:22, The Fully Translated Bible.)

On the subject of perceived miracles, Mills cites "the fallacy known as 'Selective Observation,' a perceptual error also referred to as 'Counting the hits and ignoring the misses.'" He points out that the tobacco industry uses the same fraudulent selectivity when they commission fifty studies that investigate whether tobacco kills people, suppress the forty-seven that answer "Yes," and promote the three that found insufficient evidence for the majority conclusion (pp. 159-160). He summarizes (p. 31), "Anything Christians perceive as attractive or orderly is counted as evidence for God's existence. But anything Nature offers that is grotesque or in disarray is never counted against God's existence."

On the Asian tsunami of 2004 in which a supposedly omnipotent, omnibenevolent sky Fuhrer murdered a quarter-million randomly chosen victims who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, Mills quotes Hillbilly Graham's daughter (p. 242), who rationalized that, "God didn't kill any extra people with this tsunami. Sooner or later, they all would have died anyway…. God has a purpose in all things." It was not Mills' intention in quoting such doublethink to prove that godworship is a form of insanity, and that its apologists are moral cowards, so terrified of death that, without the mind-deadening opiate of an afterlife belief, they would have to be institutionalized and diapered. That was just the way it turned out.

On the "miraculous" survival of one or more passengers of a plane crash that killed dozens of others, he writes, "It never seems to occur to anyone that a God powerful enough to miraculously deliver the survivors could just as easily have forestalled the disaster altogether and spared the innocent victims" (p. 167). All of that would be totally trivial, since the same point has been made in dozens of previous books, perhaps even hundreds or thousands. But the brainwashed masses are, amazingly, unaware of the selectivity factor in miracle claims, and for that Mills places the blame firmly on the news and entertainment media that headline pretended miracles and pointedly ignore the atrocities of which their imaginary playmate must be guilty in order for the survival of an individual to be a miracle.

Among the several dozen quotations from notable nontheists that Mills inserts in individual windows throughout the book is one by Mark Twain that identifies the Judeo-Christian bible as containing "upwards of a thousand lies" (p. 34). Actually the correct figure is 19,000. But Twain could not have known that, and Mills is correct in concluding that Twain made a valid point regardless of a statistical inaccuracy.

On the down side, Mills capitalizes possessive adjectives and pronouns that refer to Christianity's Big Daddy, Junior and the Spook, clearly unaware than virtually all skeptical scholars and even a majority of liberal theologians have abandoned the practice as offensive to proponents of correct English. He clings to the offensively Christian dating system BC/AD, that even liberal believers have abandoned in favor of the scientifically neutral, BCE/CE that does not accuse this planet's 5.5 billion non-Christians of living in "the year of the Master." But those are stylistic errors. Most of the factual errors in the 2004 edition, to which I drew attention in a review in Freethinker, have been eliminated. Can I claim credit for that? Not necessarily. If I could spot an error, so could others. And even if a True Believer had pointed out that something Mills wrote was falsifiable, he is sufficiently reasonable to have made the correction.

While not singling out the Bush Taliban as a threat to progress comparable with the Inquisition that persecuted Galileo and barbecued Giordano Bruno, Mills draws attention to the conspiracy of fundamentalists to "seize control of our government and resurrect book burning and witch burning." He adds that, "Five hundred years from now, the hot topic of debate in scientific circles may be whether the earth is round or flat. This frightening scenario is not likely, but far from impossible" (p. 50). Given the determination of fundamentalists to teach school children that the universe is only a few thousand years old, as their bible states, rather than the billions of years established by science, it is by no means impossible that their next rewriting of reality will be to preach the flat earth that their bible unequivocally endorses in fourteen places, and implicitly endorses in more than fifty other places.

In a chapter newly written for the 2006 edition, Mills describes Intelligent Design as "Christianity's newest cult" (p. 208). He explains (p. 209) that, "ID espouses beliefs that bear little resemblance to Christianity's historical teachings. Neither does ID harmonize with any literal—or even metaphorical—interpretation of the Book of Genesis regarding the origin of the universe and mankind." He describes the incompatibility of ID with traditional Bible-based Christianity as "a heresy that few Fundamentalists and Evangelicals seem to recognize or appreciate." In other words, believing in ID while simultaneously believing in a literal interpretation of Genesis, is analogous to believing that the earth is flat while simultaneously believing that the earth is hollow. Since ID apologists also claim to believe that their masturbation fantasies are science, that would make them oxy-oxy-morons. So how come they are able to remember to take their pants down in the bathroom? That has yet to be explained.

Mills annihilates Intelligent Design, totally, permanently, and irreversibly. In addition to citing the other rebuttals of ID, he shows that the Anthropic Principle, that the universe was pre-designed for Humankind's benefit, is as arse-backward as arguing that only the Intelligent Design of American geography can explain why life-supporting rivers happen to be located alongside almost every major American city. He relates an analogous cart-before-the-horse fantasy, and asks (p. 221), "Does this story sound ridiculous to you—or even insulting to your intelligence? Does the logical flaw seem so obvious that any kindergarten student could immediately recognize the error?" ID is popular only in America, because only in America, where teaching has been replaced by babysitting since 1945, could blockheads like Michael Behe, William Dembski, Lee Strobel, William Lane Craig, Hugh Ross, and other ID authors, have graduated from kindergarten.

After reading the first edition of Atheist Universe, I concluded that it said nothing new or profound. It had little to offer persons who were already free from the brainwashing of religion, since it added no factual information to what can be found in the books of Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, and Victor Stenger. But while that remains true, it is equally true that none of those four makes any significant point not also found in the other three. Perhaps I now view Mills' contribution to the education of the masses more favorably because he has eliminated the errors (but not the PC concessions to the ignoranti) that made his first draft difficult to recommend, and also because of the added chapter. I am also favorably disposed to an author who shares my appreciation of the only program fit for human consumption that the FOX network has ever broadcast, Married with Children (p. 195).

For anyone who has been conditioned by the Big Lie that a nontheist is more motivated to commit an injurious act than a theist, in which case nontheists would be over-represented in prisons rather than significantly under-represented as is actually the case, Mills' book will no more eliminate their ignorance than could Dawkins et alia. But it might conceivably prompt them at least to question their autonomic acceptance of mind-slavery as a norm. But even if the only short-term effect of books by Mills and others that hit the bestseller lists, despite their showing the 66 percent of Americans who are godworshippers that they are brainwashed victims of the most anti-human perversion the human imagination has ever concocted, is to encourage the 33 percent who are nontheists to defy social and economic oppression and come out of the closet, as the 93 percent of the membership of the National Academy of Sciences who are nontheists have already done (p. 233), that will be a service to humankind comparable with the abolition of slavery and the institution of democracy.

The Quotable Atheist: Ammunition for Nonbelievers, Political Junkies, Gadflies, and Those Generally Hell-Bound
Jack Huberman
Nation Books
245 West 17th St, 11th Floor, New York NY 10011
9781560259695 $15.95

Jack Huberman wrote a letter to the current unelected president of the United States advising him to issue an infallible Republicanazi Bull, "urging citizens to bring their minds back up at least to an eighteenth-century stage of development. Failing that, it is up to atheist/secularist groups and individuals to do what we can to stop global worming (people groveling like worms before nonexistent deities). That's where this book comes in" (p. vii).

That pretty much sums up Huberman's own comments on the necessity of nontheism. The rest of the book is a collection of brief quotations by prominent historical nontheists, along with even briefer biographical paragraphs on the persons quoted. Of the 333 pages devoted to the actual quotations, the following struck me as the most memorable.

Clark Adams:- "If atheism is a religion, then health is a disease."

Monsignor Lorenzo Albacete:- "From the first moment I looked into that horror on September 11th, into that fireball, into that explosion of horror, I knew it, I recognized an old companion. I recognized religion."

anonymous:- "Philosophy is questions that may never be answered. Religion is answers that may never be questioned."

Louis Aragon:- "Of all possible sexual perversions, religion is the only one to have ever been scientifically systematized."

Lance Armstrong:- "If there was a God, I'd still have both nuts."

Isaac Asimov:- "Properly read, the Bible is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived."

Charles Baudelaire:- "God is the only being who, in order to reign, doesn't even need to exist."

Ingmar Bergman:- "I hope I never get so old I get religious."

Lenny Bruce:- "If Jesus had been killed twenty years ago, Catholic school children would be wearing little electric chairs around their necks instead of crosses."

Herb Caen:- "The trouble with born-again Christians is that they are an even bigger pain the second time around."

Joseph Campbell:- "Mythology is what we call someone else's religion."

Arthur C. Clarke:- "Isn't killing people in the name of God a pretty good definition of insanity?"

Chapman Cohen:- "Gods are fragile things; they may be killed by a whiff of science or a dose a common sense."

Hans Conzelmann:- "The Christian community continues to exist because the conclusions of the critical study of the Bible are largely withheld from them."

Aleister Crowley:- "If one were to take the Bible seriously one would go mad. But to take the Bible seriously, one must be already mad."

Clarence Darrow:- "I don't believe in God because I don't believe in Mother Goose."

Richard Dawkins:- "We are all atheists about most of the gods that humanity has ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further."

Benjamin Disraeli:- "Where knowledge ends, religion begins."

Amanda Donohoe:- "I can't embrace a male god who has persecuted female sexuality throughout the ages."

Theodore Dreiser:- "Assure a man that he has a soul and then frighten him with old wives' tales as to what is to become of him afterward, and you have hooked a fish, a mental slave."

Thomas Edison:- "Religion is all bunk. All Bibles are man-made."

Havelock Ellis:- "The whole religious complexion of the modern world is due to the absence from [ancient] Jerusalem of a lunatic asylum."

Epicurus:- "Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?"

Henry Fielding:- "No man has ever sat down calmly unbiased to reason out his religion, and not ended by rejecting it."

Sam Harris:- "No one is ever faulted in our culture for not 'respecting' another person's beliefs about mathematics or history…. When people make outlandish claims, without evidence, we stop listening to them—except on matters of faith."

Bret Harte:- "The creator who could put a cancer in a believer's stomach is above being interfered with by prayers."

Robert Heinlein:- "Most gods have the manners and morals of a spoiled child."

Christopher Hitchens:- "A Jerry Falwell clone named Bailey Smith observed that 'God Almighty does not hear the prayers of a Jew.' This is the only instance known to me of an anti-Semitic remark having a basis in fact."

Adolf Hitler:- "I am only doing what the church has done for fifteen hundred years, only more effectively."

L. Ron Hubbard:- "If a man really wants to make a million dollars, the best way would be to start his own religion."

Sir Julian Huxley:- "God is beginning to resemble not a ruler but the last fading smile of a cosmic Cheshire cat."

Penn Jillette:- "When people over seven years old have imaginary friends, there's going to be trouble … they're going to be killing somebody."

Bill Maher:- "If God chose George Bush of all the people in the world, how good is God?"

John McCarthy:- "An atheist … believes that the evidence on the God question is at a similar level to the evidence on the werewolf question."

Jean Meslier:- "I would like the last king to be strangled with the guts of the last priest."

Dr Taslima Nasreen:- "Koranic teaching still insists that the sun moves around the earth [as does the Bible—reviewer]. How can we advance when they teach things like that?"

Friedrich Nietzsche:- "The only excuse for God is that he doesn't exist."

Chief Pontiac:- "They came with the Bible and their religion, stole our land, crushed our spirit, and now tell us we should be thankful to the Lord for being saved."

Sir Karl Popper:- "If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant … then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them." [Sam Harris said much the same thing in The End of Faith.]

Tom Robbins:- "Religion is not merely the opium of the masses; it's the cyanide."

Gene Roddenberry:- "People were saying I would have to have a chaplain on board the Enterprise. I replied, 'No, we don't.'"

Jan Rostand:- "Kill a man, one is a murderer; kill a million, a conqueror; kill them all, a God."

Bertrand Russell:- "Where there is evidence, no one speaks of 'faith.' We do not speak of faith that two and two are four or that the earth is round."

Marquis de Sade:- "It requires only two things to win credit for a miracle: a mountebank and a number of silly woman."

Carl Sagan:- "A celibate clergy is an especially good idea, because it tends to suppress any hereditary propensity toward fanaticism."

George Bernard Shaw:- "The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one."

Frank Sinatra:- "When lip service to some mysterious deity permits bestiality on Wednesday and absolution on Sunday, cash me out."

Mira Sorvino:- "Why does it not say anywhere in the Bible that slavery is wrong?"

Gloria Steinem:- "It's an incredible con job when you think of it, to believe something now in exchange for life after death. Even corporations with all their reward systems don't try to make it posthumous."

Mark Twain:- "It ain't the parts of the Bible that I can't understand that bother me; it is the parts I do understand.'

Gore Vidal:- "More people have been killed in the name of Jesus Christ than any other name in the history of the world." [And he was not even counting the sixty million persons murdered through starvation and AIDS by Pope John Paul II through his prohibition of birth control and disease control.]

Voltaire:- "Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities."

Alice Walker:- "When I found out I thought God was white, and a man, I lost interest." [Why Blacks and women continue to worship a white male god is beyond comprehension.]

George Washington:- "The United States of America should have a foundation free from the influence of clergy."

Steven Weinberg:- "With or without [religion] you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion."

Oscar Wilde:- "When I think of all the harm the Bible has done, I despair of ever writing anything to equal it."

Robert Anton Wilson:- "The Bible tells us to be like God, and then on page after page it describes God as a mass murderer."

Steven Wright:- "I was driving alone one day and I saw a hitchhiker with a sign saying Heaven. So I hit him."

The foregoing excerpts from Quotable Atheist are all short. There are also quotations that fill large paragraphs, as well as utterances from the braindead that further the cause of nontheism by arguing against it. Books that similarly collect quotations from ancient and modern nontheists include: Great Freethinkers: Selected Quotations, and Great Quotations on Religious Freedom. All three books contain a number of quotations not found in either of the others, and therefore all three belong in any freethinker's library.

William Harwood

Henry's Bookshelf

If You Die, I'll Kill You! The Films of Samuel Fuller
Lisa Dombrowski
Wesleyan U. Press
Middletown, CT
9780819568663 $27.95

In contrast to the majority of works on film directors based largely on biography, psychology, and analyses of recurring motifs in the films, Dombrowski--associate professor of film at Wesleyan--considers the American director Sam Fuller in the context of the Hollywood of his times. Fuller was a leading director in the first generation of American film directors following World War II; though some of his films go back before then. Dombrowski's approach to studying him is based on "economic, industrial, and institutional forces" Fuller had to deal with and confront in making his films.

For the rawness of parts of Fuller's films--brutality, cruelty, or sadism--he is usually seen as deliberately trying to break conventions and provoke or outrage the audience. But Dombrowski's regard is more involved. Unfailingly seeing him in the context of Hollywood and implicitly understanding Hollywood in the context of American culture of the time, the author sees him as "an adaptive provocateur" never losing sight of his goals of "revealing truth and arousing emotion."

Dombrowski also recognizes the fact--often seemingly forgotten in film studies--that Fuller could not have made his high-budget films intended for a mass audience without the support of others in the film industry. Nor would he have achieved the success he did without connecting with the interests and dispositions of movie-goers. Fuller was the director of The Big Red One, Fix Bayonets, China Gate, Merrill's Marauders, and Shock Corridor, among other films; and he wrote or co-wrote many movie and TV scripts and documentaries. In war, urban, and other contemporary or recent settings, he dealt unsparingly with issues of race, war, crime, and sexuality at the core of American society.

Fuller remains a somewhat ambivalent figure in American film; a view Dombrowski's summation of him as the "adaptive provocateur" seconds. Despite ambivalences pertaining to Fuller, there is no doubt that he was a precursor of both mainstream filmmakers doing movies involving crime and other social topics in a style of gritty realism such as Scorcese and also independent filmmakers exploring new techniques and dramatizations. Different aspects of Fuller's ambivalences have influenced different veins of American filmmaking.

Benedict Arnold's Army: The 1775 American Invasion of Canada During the Revolutionary War
Arthur S. Lefkowitz
Savas Beatie
New York
9781932714036 $32.95

Before Benedict Arnold turned traitor, he was a highly-regarded officer in the American Army. Having risen to the rank of colonel, he had caught the eye of George Washington. Arnold was having a significant role in the defense of the northern boundaries of the rebellious colonies to keep British forces from invading from Canada.

Washington selected Arnold to lead part of American forces on an invasion of Canada to remove this threat of British invasion and possibly bring the British possession over to the American side. General Montgomery was to lead the other major part of the American forces. Montgomery would go up the Hudson for an attack on fortified Quebec. Arnold was to lead his force through Maine mainly along the Kennebec River to meet up with Montgomery for the attack.

Arnold did eventually meet up with Montgomery, but not before an arduous trek through the Maine wilderness which weakened and demoralized his men. The delay in reaching Quebec also upset the timing of the planned attack. By the time the American forces joined together, the British were able to repulse the assault on Quebec. They had learned of the advance of the American forces and strengthened the defenses of the city.

The invasion of Quebec was disastrous, though not fatal to the American cause. Montgomery was killed in the assault. Arnold's reputation suffered, so it wasn't long before he went over to the British.

Author of three previous books on the American Revolutionary War, the independent scholar Lefkowitz relates this major, though failed, episode in the Revolutionary War in an engrossing manner that never flags despite its detail as the details are colorful as well as informative. In many cases, the details are revealing as well with respect to Arnold's attributes and character. Readers of popular history could not find a better account of the Arnold expedition and especially the maneuvering leading up to the attack on Quebec and the attack itself. Welcome too is the series of 10 maps such readers can refer to to follow the tale.

The Uniformed Police Forces of the Third Reich, 1933-1945
Phil Nix and Georges Jerome
Drexel Hill, PA
9197589438 $70.00

The Nazi uniformed police forces originated with the establishment of the Hauptamp (German for main office) in June 1936. These forces new to the German state are believed to have been a spin-off of the SS forces already established by the Nazis; and they absorbed into them some traditional German quasi-military forces. The primary responsibility of the uniformed forces was the organization of air-raid defenses in cities and firefighting. But in the Nazi-occupied countries of Europe, they performed duties which freed regular German and SS forces for other activities; and at times they became involved in these activities, including atrocities against civilian populations. The uniformed forces had an especially close relationship with the SS. In some areas, they enlisted recruits for the SS, and members of the uniformed forces would join SS units temporarily or sometimes permanently. In general, the uniformed forces were an integral part of the Nazi military and civil forces for securing and enforcing their dictatorship in Germany and occupied countries throughout Europe.

Nix is a Englishman with a background in the RAF and degree in modern history. The German coauthor Jerome has pursued lifelong avocations of study of World War II history, book collecting, and publishing articles on the book's subject and related ones while working at a bank. The authors have joined for an incredibly, remarkably detailed work on the little-covered topic of the uniformed police forces that because of the book, are seen to be a fundamental part of the German war effort, control of occupied Europe, and plans for conquest of all of Europe.

The organization and content of the book more or less mirrors the structure and growth of the forces. Starting with the establishment of the Hauptamp, Nix and Jerome cite the positions and describe the units within the uniformed police; and they say where the units were located. But they go well beyond such basic information to name countless individuals who held the different positions and give their backgrounds and notable work as leaders in the forces. With the units, the authors tell their activities in the area where they were located.

The notable, impressive research involved not only amassing such a great amount of diversified material, but also lining it all up correctly--names of units, where they were stationed, who headed each unit and filled its other significant positions, reassignments or promotions of individuals, movement of units, etc. While all the information is formatted in discrete short sections (e. g., profiles of individuals, origination of units) somewhat in the way of a catalog and is thus not a narration, the flow of information with proximity of closely related material provides a singular structural and chronological picture of the Nazi uniformed forces. Readers with a familiarity with the course of Nazism and World War II will especially see how the growth and activities of the forces were integrated in the Third Reich and mirrored its goals, victories, and ultimate decline and defeat.

The work is plainly essential for anyone wishing to know about this relatively specialized and heretofore little-covered aspect of Nazi Germany; and is a desirable book for any World War II collection wishing to be complete.

Early Connecticut Silver, 1700-1840
Peter Boham and Philip Hammerslough
Introduction and Notes by Erin. E. Eisenbarth
Wesleyan U. Press
Middletown, CT
9780819568489 $34.95

The work is basically a catalog of outstanding pieces of Connecticut hollowware and flatware plus a few pieces of different types with silver as part of them such as swords, pepperboxes (pepper shakers), and one pair of shoe buckles . The paperback edition is the same as the hardcover put out in 1970 with the addition of the Introduction by Eisenbarth. In this new section of about 25 pages, Eisenbarth gives background on the early American silver and profiles of the leading silversmiths.

The pieces are shown in photographs one per page except for a few smaller items such as the pepperboxes which are two to a page. The factual information provided below each photo is just what collectors and researchers and the like are interested in. Such information is identification and date of the piece, the silversmith who made it, description, inscription, maker's mark, dimensions, and lastly in italics the current owner of the piece, in most cases a private collector or a museum. The descriptions provide the basics of the design which might not or can not be known by the photo alone; such as "round, tapered body, slightly everted lip, flat bottom" for one of the silver beakers, and "oval bowl, narrow handle stem flattening to pointed, downturned end" for the 1792 serving spoon facing it. Combined with the dimensions of height, etc., also noted, one gets an accurate and useful image of each item.

Although the catalog includes only Connecticut silver of the period covered, it serves as a catalog and reference for all early American silver, i. e., of the Colonial period and the first decades of the American republic after the Revolutionary War. At this time, Connecticut along with Massachusetts and to some extent Philadelphia and a couple of other isolated spots were the centers for high-quality silver pieces. Moreover, there was not that much variation in the kinds of pieces or their styles. The photographs make an ideal visual reference. Collectors, antique dealers, historians, etc., will appreciate especially as well the 45 notes to Eisenbarth's Introduction, the biographical notes on the Connecticut silversmiths, and the five-page selected bibliography. The 15-page Index of Marks with close-up photographs of numerous silversmiths' marks capturing the details of them is yet another aspect making the book a top work for readers in its field of collecting and early Americana.

Theaters of Occupation: Hollywood and the Reeducation of Postwar Germany
Jennifer Fay
U. of Minnesota Press
Minneapolis, MN
9780816647453 $22.50

The primary purpose of the occupation of defeated Germany after World War II pursued by American political and military leaders was replacing that country's attachment to the militaristic, dictatorial form of government with democracy. More so than simple institution of democratic forms of government such as legislatures and political parties, democracy as regarded by the American leaders was "a type of behavior, a public attitude, and affective relationship to the state." Gestures, equality among all persons (replacing the Nazi concept of the Master Race), styles of clothing, individual identity, and even types of food were all entailed in this. American leaders aimed at nothing less than a thorough overhauling of German culture, including the German psyche. The media of popular democratic culture of magazines, newspapers, radio, and public talks were the favored agencies for the desired change in post-War Germany. Movies were foremost in this mix of media intended to inculcate the German public in American behavior down to gestures, relationships among citizens, imagery, and so on.

But as Fay--codirector of film studies at Michigan State U.--uncovers, the message American leaders presumed Germans would take from the movies which were supposed to have a major role in the transformation was not the one Germans got. Fay goes behind the celebrities, images, story lines, and ideals and mythologies believed by most Americans to be portrayed in the films to the "hard facts and slippery truths" communicated in them. Among the films Fay critiques for the different messages they sent to the different audiences is the John Wayne 1939 Western classic Stagecoach. To the large majority of American eyes, the movie depicts a band of diverse (white) men and women coming together despite their differences to fight off barbaric Apaches. To the majority of German eyes however, as Fay tenders, the whites were invaders of the Indian lands and had mores and engaged in activities that could be seen as racist; and 100 years following the time white Americans aggressively implanted themselves in New England, as seen in the movie Drums Along the Mohawk also shown to German audiences, Americans were continuing to invade Indian lands and slaughter or relocate the Indians. The ambivalences in such movies, let alone how they could be seen to reflect ideas of racial superiority, needless to say were lost on the American authorities.

Fay critiques not only other Westerns, but also comedies, mysteries, and films with domestic settings and occasionally individual stars such as Greta Garbo for how they cut against the very messages, values, and behavior American leaders thought they were evidencing. In many cases, the lesson German audiences would draw would be the very opposite of the ones the Americans thought they were putting forth. Although the book is essentially one of film criticism, Fay closes it with the unavoidable comparison of the miscalculations American authorities made in the occupation of Germany and similar miscalculations and effects in the occupation of Iraq.

An Analytic Dictionary of English Etymology: An Introduction
Anatoly Liberman
U. of Minnesota Press
Minneapolis, MN
9780816652723 $50.00

Scholarly, substantive, and engaging as it is, Liberman's dictionary in his own words is "written to test the chosen approach to the new dictionary" he has put together. The dictionary is intended to be a model for future etymological exploration and study. Most importantly for the field, it introduces but mostly exemplifies a new approach to the investigation of word origins and deciding on the right root for a word, when this can be done with a reasonable degree of assurance. As Liberman states and demonstrates with his analyses of 55 words, the large majority common, "tracing word origins is a game of probabilities" in which the "centrifugal principle" should be favored when it comes to assigning a word's cognate. This principle is explained, "All conditions being equal, tracing a word to a native root should be preferred to declaring it a borrowing. In similar fashion, it is more attractive to refer to an ascertainable foreign source than to an unidentifiable substrate."

Liberman is a professor of Germanic philology at the U. of Minnesota and author of many books and articles on etymology and language. Most of the 55 words he has chosen for this first book of a planned series are simple words. Among these are bird, drab, ever, dwarf, gawk, key, lass, man, pimp, toad, and witch. Nearly every word is traced to a root word among the northern European family of languages, the basis for Anglo-Saxon and modern English. The word "jeep" is an obvious exception. A few of the words are controversial four-letter or gender terms.

While the author's "centrifugal principle" sets relevant limitations and preferences for deciding on the root of a particular word, the etymological practice demonstrated in his analysis of the more than 50 words is complex and depends on much scholarly knowledge. In these analyses, Liberman does not simply follow a line of apparent related words to a root word, as seen in most dictionaries, including even the esteemed multi-volume Oxford English Dictionary. For Liberman's search for the most probable root entails assessing other respected etymologists' research and conclusions, comparing similar words or possible cognates from several languages, and arguing for why the particular root identified is preferable. In other words, Liberman goes well beyond simply denoting a word root. He aims not only to clarify etymology where able, but to unearth its complexity where called for both to correct errors and assumptions regarding particular words and improve etymological methodology and research.

Word lovers will find the lengthy, involved articles on the number of particular familiar and few obscure words engaging. Most significantly for the field of etymology is his methodology; which is both rigorous and flexible in reaching probable attributions for word roots. With scientific method (as opposed to the frequent presumptions and conventions), literary (i. e., writing) and reasoning ability, and incomparable scholarship, Liberman charts new paths in the field of etymology.

To Live Forever: Egyptian Treasures from the Brooklyn Museum
Edward Bleiberg
With an essay by Kathlyn M. Cooney
Brooklyn Museum in association with D. Giles Limited (London)
9781904832522 $39.95

The notable Brooklyn Museum collection of ancient Egyptian artifacts serves as a steppingstone to a look at the burial practices, concerns, and options of ordinary ancient Egyptians. Referring only briefly to the Egyptians' belief in the afterlife which has been covered many other places, this work is decidedly different in that it concerns primarily practical decisions and burial options facing average Egyptians. Thus it brings in material which most readers will find entirely new on the always-fetching subject of Egyptian religion and burial customs.

The funeral practices of the middle-class and poor Egyptians are not commonly known as are those of Egyptian royalty and upper class because the elaborate, often golden, artifacts of the latter and the large amount of statues, amulets, and possessions in their tombs have understandably attracted the most attention of the public. Besides, the metals and other materials of the tombs of royalty and upper classes did not deteriorate so much over time as the wooden sarcophagi, identification tags, and crudely-made base metal and stone artifacts which the lower classes used because they could afford them. Nonetheless, enough of the middle- and lower-class artifacts have survived for archaeologists, historians, and curators such as Bleiberg to realize differences in funeral practices.

Royalty or commoner, ancient Egyptians believed in an afterlife. Funeral practices reflected this belief according to an individual's means. Surviving relatives would make the practical decisions about the elaborateness of a funeral, the quality of embalming, type of sarcophagus, and crafted and personal items to be buried in the tomb. Upper classes for example would usually have their internal organs removed and placed in stone jars; whereas middle and lower classes would have injected into them a fluid which would liquify their organs, thus avoiding the expense of their removal and storage. Bleiberg delves into the realities and practices of funeral practices of average Egyptians to the point of giving costs for different kinds of coffins. In his reader-friendly visual and writing style, this author draws the curtain back on a fascinating area of ancient Egyptian society.

Frida Kahlo: Song of Herself
Salomon Grimberg and Hayden Herrera
Merrell Publishers
London and New York
9781858944388 $22.95

The core of the book is a series of interviews an Olga Campos had with Kahlo when Campos was a student. In the book, it is more like a monologue than a typical interview format. There's no question-and-response: Kahlo's words on a variety of subjects have been grouped together. Among the subjects are Children, Animals, Social Conscience, and My Body. As expected, the Mexican artist's words on each subject are vivid, direct, revealing, honest, and personal--like her paintings.

There's also considerable ancillary material, though it does not overshadow the interview. Sections by Grimberg named as the author, a psychoanalytic art historian, are the Introduction and following essay "With the Image in the Mirror" with material and commentary on Fahlo's life, personality, and art. Campos contributes the memoir "My Memory of Frida" preceding the rearrangement of the content of her interviews. After the lengthy part in Khalo's own words are sections on the artist's medical history and a psychological assessment of her. The variety of material--vintage and later, subjective and objective, medical and critical--presents a complex picture fitting for this most complex and fragile of artists.

This work is a companion to the recently-published Frida Khalo - The Still Lifes from the same publisher also authored by Grimberg. Together the two books offer a fresh look at Kahlo in light of material which is new or has been neglected.

Action Painting
Jackson Pollock, with essays by Ulf Kuster, Pepe Karmel, et al
Hatje Cantz
Distributed Art Publisher
9783775721035 $75.00

Jackson Pollock is named in the title for being the primary model and pivotal artist in action painting. Action painting stands out as a type of painting in the post-World War II art movement "concentrat[ing] above all on the true essence of painting" for exceptionally capturing the essentials of "color, painterly gesture, and immediacy" which were the movement's ideals. Informed Art in Europe and Abstract Expressionism in the United States were major styles with associated characteristic techniques growing out of the movement. The Foreword by a trio of art critics/historians makes a point of the "open rivalry between the two positions...from which the American side emerged 'victorious'." Along with Pollock, the American artists Robert Motherwell, Cy Twobley, Helen Frankenthaler, and Clifford Still were internally recognized as top action-painting artists; with commensurate demand for their paintings at top prices in auctions and galleries.

Among among the European artists featured are Eva Hesse, Karol Appel, Wols, and Roberto Matta. Willem de Kooning and Arshile Gorky are found too among some of the artists of foreign birth who spent most of their careers in the U.S. Each of the 27 artists is introduced by a short paragraph of biographical and artistic information followed by four or so full-page color illustrations of representative art works. Pollock gets about 18 pages which include four double-page illustrations and a fold-out for a 4-page spread of his work "Horizontal Composition."

Pollock's action painting originated in the mid 1940s when he first practiced his now-famed "drip technique, which might perhaps better be described as 'pouring' or 'throwing'" paint on a canvas while staying with his wife at a friend's place on Long Island. It wasn't long before other artists started to imitate or use variations of this technique. Although Pollock's technique is commonly looked upon as radical and revolutionary, as Ulf Kuster notes in his essay. painting has always been an outcome of some action, or specific technique, by an artist. Kuster puts action painting in the context of the course and aims of modern art while also recognizing it as a specific area with its own techniques and ambitions. Other essays expand on topics and issues concerning what has been defined as action painting. One of these engages in a ranging comparison of Pollock and Picasso as two prime representatives of different avenues, sources, and expressions of modernist art.

The enlightening essays take up at most one quarter of the book. The book will be appreciated mostly as a survey of the leading artists of action painting and their varied styles.

Collect: The International Art Fair for Contemporary Objects
Presented by the Crafts Council, with essays by Andrew Renton et al
Introduction by Rosy Greenlees
ACC Distribution
Easthampton, MA
9781857595345 $35.00

This is the fifth year the international art and crafts fair has been held at London's Victoria and Albert Museum. Forty-two galleries--most from Europe but some as far away as Japan and South Korea--exhibit arresting, cutting-edge works smoothly, often sleekly, melding art and design. The annual Fair, though only a few years old, attracts collectors, dealers, critics, artists, and such from around the world.

This is the catalog of this year's Fair held at the end of January 2008. But with its essays and full-page color photographs of numerous works, it's actually more like an art book. There's no ads; and with only a couple of brief mentions of the Fair and a floor plan for it, normal catalog elements are kept to a bare minimum.

In the two pages given to each exhibiting gallery--except for two which get four pages--two (or four with the exceptions) notable works are shown on each of the pages. The interests of the gallery are denoted with contact information and a listing of artists currently represented. Following informative captions for each work is a quote from the artist relating to the work or some words on him or her. The brightly-pictured works are fascinating for the boundlessly imaginative shapes and designs skillfully worked from enamel, porcelain, wire, glass, wood, and other industrial and traditional materials.

The four illustrated essays preceding the catalogued works contain material for readers at all levels of knowledge and experience and particular interests and goals, such as collecting. Both newcomers and veterans will find a state-of-the-art grasp of the field and guidelines for a distinctive collection in Andrew Renton's essay on the National Museum of Wales' approach to building its collection. Garth Clark's essay "Separated at Birth" explains the historical and conceptual distinctions between Craft and Applied Art. Though the two are "similar enough to be confused with one another," awareness of the difference is important to both dealers and artists in that it bears on prices, heritage, and artistic objectives.

The catalog more like an art book is eye-opening regarding the diversity, quality, and activity in the contemporary arts and crafts field; and it also contains considerable useful, relevant material.

The Waterloo Armies: Men, Organization, and Tactics
Philip Haythornthwaite
Drexel Hill, PA
9781844155996 $39.99

For anyone looking for a wealth of details on the fateful three-day battle of Waterloo in 1815, this is the book. The big story of Waterloo is well-known and occasionally reexamined--namely, the decisive defeat of Napoleon with the consequence of more or less making for modern Europe as it continues into the present. The military historian Haythornthwaite concentrating on the Napoleonic era relates the countless details behind this big story.

What Haythornthwaite does in this book is relate countless specifics about uniforms, maneuvers, combat formations, weaponry, and tactics of the armies involved in Waterloo. This adds dimension to other accounts of the battle; which in most cases are straightforward, linear accounts of the battle as it unfolded. No matter how well one knows the battle of Waterloo or nineteenth-century European warfare, one will learn something from this work to enhance this knowledge. Knowing such details as what guard duty was like for French soldiers, what options officers had for deploying their units depending on the terrain, the formations and strengths of the units whose maneuverings had a role in the battle's outcome, the organization of the armies, how different kinds of forces such as cavalry and foot soldiers fought against each other, and battlefield communication cannot but add to a grasp of the nature of and appreciation of the battle. Even knowing the statistics such as numbers of officers and enlisted men in each unit, number of artillery pieces in these units, and casualties grouped in the appendices adds to the drama and human toll of the crucial battle.

"One of the most characteristic features of French infantry attacks was that they were usually preceded by large numbers of skirmishers, who could harass the enemy line with sharpshooting while concealing the extent of the following troops from the enemy's view." This tactic, however, put to use only the first two rows of a column of troops. Thus the author reasons that unit commanders would break the column formation to spread the troops out in a line to "maximize their firepower" where there was space to do this. In the Netherlands Army taking part in Waterloo, "Infantry battalions each comprised six companies, of which two were flank companies (sometimes styled 'heavy' and 'light') corresponding to the grenadiers and voltigeurs in French battalions." The book is filled with such specified, interrelated details about early 19th-century armies and warfare giving shape to Waterloo. This makes this distinctive work required prefatory reading for reading any other account or analysis of the battle. For Haythornthwaite's "Waterloo Armies" adds depth to understanding of it.

Rhetorics of Fantasy
Farah Mendlesohn
Wesleyan U. Press
Middletown, CT
9780819568670 $27.95

Mendlesohn has read widely in the field of fantasy literature "for an understanding of the construction [word in italics in original] of the order to provide critic tools for further analysis." Teaching at London's Middlesex U., she is coauthor of The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction and other works.

Believing "that the fantastic is an area of literature that is heavily dependent on the dialectic between author and reader for the construction of a sense of wonder," the author sought to gain an understanding of how this sense of wonder which is the literature's main appeal for its readers is aroused. Mendlesohn identified four basic "constructions"--the portal-quest fantasy, the immersive fantasy, and intrusion fantasy, and the liminal fantasy. Each is somewhat self-explanatory from the author's name for it. Each creates a respective sense of wonder by its author's skilled, experienced employment of techniques proper to it.

Liminal fantasy is "that form of fantasy which estranges the reader from the fantastic as seen and described by the protagonist." Joan Aiken's story "Yes, But Today Is Tuesday" is analyzed as a prime example of the liminal fantasy. C. S. Lewis's "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" represents the portal-quest fantasy. "The Lord of the Rings" is a classic quest fantasy. With each type of fantasy, Mendlesohn uses both familiar and obscure, often older works to impart her multipart perspective on the field.

As the author recognizes, fantasy works often have aspects of other types besides the type they fundamentally belong to. "Lord of the Rings," for instance, has aspects of immersive fantasy; this is found mostly in the scenes of the Shire. Though readers and critics may debate which type some fantasy works belong to, consideration of Mendlesohn's four major types--or categories--offer increased understanding of the field for critics, singular instruction for writers, and greater appreciation for the field's legions of readers.

Henry Berry

Karyn's Shelf

After Tupac & D Foster
Jacqueline Woodson, author
Penguin Young Readers Group
345 Hudson St., New York, NY 10014
9780399246548, $15.99

Novels that respect African American teens while speaking to their unique experiences are rare. In "After Tupac & D Foster," Newbery Honor winner Jacqueline Woodson deftly avoids racial stereotypes and media images, instead crafting characters that realistically struggle with age-appropriate challenges, dream dreams and forge lifetime bonds. Sheltered by parents and forbidden to leave their neighborhood, two tween African American girls glimpse the bigger world of the 1990s only through the music of Tupac Shakur and a new friend who has limited license from her foster mother to roam the city. Beyond the bend in the street is a more shadowy world where police harass blacks, young black men are wrongly imprisoned and children go hungry and languish in foster care. But on this block the girls still jump rope and are called home at dusk. Then one memorable night, as they teeter unknowingly on the cusp of monumental life changes, they finally get their chance to fly. Newfound strength as a trio pulls them through ensuing difficult days in this memorable, satisfying tale.

Princess Ben
Catherine Gilbert Murdock, author
Houghton Mifflin Company
222 Berkeley St., Boston, MA, 02116
9780618959716, $16.00

As she did so well in "Dairy Queen," Catherine Gilbert Murdock in "Princess Ben" spins out another perfectly imperfect heroine. This time Gilbert Murdock meshes classic fairy tale elements – a mythical dragon, a prince, fledgling magic and an enchanted castle – with a teenage princess' struggle to find her place. Left with a steely aunt after her mother dies and her father disappears, slightly pudgy, long-indulged Princess Benevolence recoils against dresses with tight bodices and social expectations. Then, armed with magic she stumbles across in an enchanted room, Benevolence, or Ben as she's called, finds the power she needs to set her life course and to save her kingdom from an impending mortal threat. But she'll need more than magic – she must also tap her inner strength that thus far has laid largely dormant. Teen readers will see themselves in Ben's mistakes, cheer when she soars and revel in this modernly appealing, magically riveting tale.

Bird Lake Moon
Kevin Henkes, author
HarperCollins Children's Books
1350 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY, 10019
9780061470769, $15.99

Some books are entertainment. Then there are novels like Kevin Henkes' "Bird Lake Moon" that exponentially gain meaning only after every page is reread and re-pondered. Henkes packs a lot into 179 pages, crafting a powerful middle grade novel that demands deliberate reading. The plot, excellent in itself and smooth enough to skip through if you're determined to bypass the point, is ultimately secondary to the message Henkes is trying to convey about seeing and not seeing what's happening around us. A few days of summertime, lakeside interaction between a boy facing his parents' divorce and a boy returning with his family to the scene of a long-ago tragedy unfurl amid bucket loads of symbolism. A full moon, a clear lake and countless other literally rich elements are drawn on to show how hard it is to know what's going on in the minds of those we know best, and to fully comprehend events happening under our noses. What looks like a perfect family or situation isn't. We do damaging things based on our take on reality, without benefit of the full picture or sense of related potential implications. We hide behind personas and bury old secrets and hurts. And the moments when we let others see our most private thoughts and motivations are fleeting and potentially upending. A stirring, substantial work.

Willow Buds: Friendship Stories Inspired by the Wind in the Willows
The Tale of Toad and Badger
Mary Jane Begin, author and illustrator
Little, Brown and Company
237 Park Ave., New York, NY 10017
9780316013529 $14.99

For a child who's never shared anything, including adult attention, the arrival of a new sibling or playmate can rouse ill will and bad behavior. In this first installment of Mary Begin's "Willow Buds" series, a spoiled toad upset by the sudden intrusion of a young badger, who is his new nanny's son, hoards toys, makes hurtful comments and rips the newcomer's favorite doll. But then, in a heartfelt reversal that perfectly illustrates how to make amends, the regretful toad helps repair the doll and the two begin a friendship. "Willow Buds" purports what characters Toady and Badger, from Kenneth Grahame's classic "Wind in the Willows," might have been like as youngsters. The idea came to Begin as she illustrated a new edition of "Wind in the Willows" in 2002. The bright, animated watercolors and pastels in "Willow Buds" demonstrate Begin's marvelously talented hand, leaving no doubt as to why she was picked to recast "Wind in the Willows." Readers will be eager for more.

The House in the Night
Susan Marie Swanson, author
Beth Krommes, illustrator
Houghton Mifflin Company
222 Berkeley St., Boston, MA, 02116
9780618862443, $17.00

Books can take us to miraculous places. In Susan Marie Swanson's poetically circular "The House on the Night," a bird pops out of a book to carry a girl on a moonlit, summer night flight over her town. They ultimately ascend to the heavens, encountering stars and planets before returning to her window and bed. The text, in the cadence of an old nursery rhyme about gaining a key to the city, simply yet effectively builds as the girl enters her house with a golden key, goes to her room, finds the book, climbs into bed, reads and takes flight, then reverses in the opposite order of thought until she is back under the covers with the key hanging by the bedroom door frame. The black and white scratchboard and watercolor illustrations, accentuated by a few yellow gold elements on each page, are finely and richly detailed without feeling cluttered. A perfect summer bedtime read.

The Rabbit and the Turtle
Eric Carle, author (retold) and illustrator
Scholastic, Inc.
557 Broadway, New York, NY 10012
9780545005418, $16.99

If Aesop's fables are proof of anything, it's that good stories are timeless. So too is good art forever due appreciation. Both the 11 fables and illustrations in Eric Carle's "The Rabbit and the Turtle" appeared in his previous volumes, returning after many years of absence. This time, bright colors abound in the full-page art and each tale concludes with a boldly printed moral, ranging from "Do not try to be something you are not," to "Slow and steady wins the race." A sure to be cherished update of an old favorite.

Barbara Lehman, author and illustrator
Houghton Mifflin Company
222 Berkeley St., Boston, MA, 02116
9780618756407, $16.00

What urban child hasn't wished a lengthy subway ride would take them to a delightfully green place? In Barbara Lehman's graphic picture book "Trainstop," a rail car rounds a magical bend, leaving skyscrapers and apartment buildings behind for a park-like land inhabited by miniature people. As the adult passengers, including her parents, sleep unaware in their seats, a girl steps from the platform to find her aid is needed to untangle a tiny person from a tree. She also rescues a tiny airplane from a branch, gaining the thanks of a throng of little people. When the train rolls again and returns to the cement city, the little people return the favor by flying in with tiny trees that soon grow to dot the girl's stark neighborhood. A wonderfully simple tale, conveyed effectively without text, about new-found friendship and the boundlessness of gratitude.

Karyn Saemann

Kaye's Bookshelf

Mythradies Boutique
James Scott DeLane
Wings ePress Books
Richmond, KY 40475
1597057487 $17.95

How best to describe Mythradies Boutique?...a contemporary conceptualization of Antoine de Saint-Exupery's The Little Prince seasoned by Sinbad the Sailor...

adventure, romance, and truth all woven together with bright threads of humor.

Our protagonist, Griffin Grimesly, in search of himself, shares his "offbeat and colorful observations of his quirky world and the odd characters he meets." And like the Little Prince, there is truth and lessons to be learned.

James Scott DeLane is a unique, talented writer with an exceptional imagination and colorful writing style. He'll keep you guessing, entertained, and delighted until the very end. My one constructive criticism is: have this novel professionally edited as there are more than a few errors.

James Scott DeLane's writing, despite the errors, is a breath of fresh air, a sparkle...ambrosia for the tired mind.

Mrs. Lieutenant: A Sharon Gold Novel
Phyllis Zimbler Miller
BookSurge Publishing
9781419686290 $17.99

Quoting from the back cover:

"In the spring of 1970 - right after the Kent State National Guard shootings and President Nixon's two-month incursion into Cambodia - four newly married young women come together at Ft. Knox, Kentucky, when their husbands go on active duty as officers in the U.S. Army.

"Different as these four women are, they have one thing in common: Their overwhelming fear that, right after these nine weeks of training, their husbands could be shipped out to Vietnam - and they could become war widows.

"Sharon is a Northern Jewish anti-war protester who fell in love with an ROTC cadet; Kim is a Southern Baptist whose husband is intensely jealous; Donna is a Puerto Rican who grew up in an enlisted man's family; and Wendy is a Southern black who parents have sheltered her from the brutal reality of racism in America."

My impression, as I read, was that these four women had more than the fear of becoming war widows in common...they were just plain fearful. After marrying their husbands, they each had made a decision to leave the safety and security of their home to become an officer's wife. They were moving into unknown territory.

Mrs. Lieutenant is written in the third person plus dialogue; each chapter opens with an historical fact ("President Nixon announces he is sending U.S. troops into Cambodia...April 30, 1970) and a guideline for Mrs. Lieutenant ("If the wife is well informed as to what is expected of her, the probability is greater that the officer will have an easier and more successful career.") One aspect of Miller's writing style has a "Dick and Jane" feel about it, i.e. Kim places, Jim leaned, Roberts swats, Kim pulls, Sharon sighs. Otherwise, it reads smoothly, once you're familiar with who's who. It is well written and well edited, and I believe will appeal primarily to women interested in other women's historical experiences and to readers in general interested in the Vietnam period.

Rene D. Egle
Llumina Press
9781595266989 $23.95

Quoting from the back cover:

"November 1944: Germany is losing World War II. In a last, desperate attempt to turn the tide, German High Command sends a U-boat loaded with the latest in weapons technology and uranium to meet with the Japanese in the Philippine Sea. U-1706 also carries highly sensitive documents.

"November 2004: High in the mountains of the Black Forest at the Freiberg Institute, two young scientists make a revolutionary breakthrough during a routine experiment. Instead of a test cube, they transport an entire submarine from the past to the future.

"Stranded in the 21st century, U-1706 with all its crew is soon sighted in Southeast Asia, drawing the attention of American Intelligence. The two German scientists must race U.S. operatives to find the boat and make contact, to prevent the worst."

If you like Sci-Fi and suspenseful submarine stories, you will most certainly enjoy this novel. Rene Egle is a consummate writer who uses his smooth flowing, delightful style to weave this multi-faceted adventure to a satisfactory conclusion. U-1706 is well written and well edited and considering the depth, complexity and intrigue, it is definitely worth the price.

Hotel: Untold Stories
Rene D. Egle
Llumina Press
9781595269188 $22.95

Quoting from the back cover:

"Andre Schwarz is a hotel manager of an international five-star hotel. He began his career in a small luxury hotel in Germany, a career that would eventually lead him from Europe to Asia and to the Middle East. In this book, he recounts some of the most memorable experiences of his career. We follow Andre from his humble beginnings as a waiter in a small luxury hotel to his first managerial position in a five-star hotel in London. He describes in explicit detail many exciting experiences that in a five-star hotel are nothing more than everyday occurrences.

"Some of his anecdotes are funny and others are shocking, but they all have one thing in common: they are true. While the stories, experiences, and anecdotes are true, the names of hotels, people, and places have been changed to protect the innocent."

As you can see by the number of pages, this is quite a lengthy memoir, and through it all, Rene Egle manages to hold your interest while relating his very unique career and travel adventures. Considering Rene knew very little English when he started work at the London hotel, he has come along way in his mastery of the English language.

If you enjoy career memoirs and travel logs, you will most like enjoy Rene Egle's Hotel - Untold Stories.

Broken Bulbs
Eddie Wright
'86 Newman
New Jersey, USA
No ISBN $9.00

Quoting from the book:

"Frank Fisher is nothing. He wants to be something. When a mysterious young woman named Bonnie offers assistance by injecting seeds of inspiration directly into his brain, Frank finds himself involved in a twisting mystery full of addiction, desperation and self-discovery. Broken Bulbs, a novella by Eddie Wright, tells the story of the lengths one young man will go in the pursuit of 'somethingness.'"

This is not a cheerful or inspirational story and reads like it was written my a drug addict from an addict's perspective...sad but interesting...possibly inspiring to other addicts. For its brevity, it is strangely complex and fascinating. The real inspiration here is the gifted writer, Eddie Wright, and his unique style of writing.

Here's a sample random passage; you decide.

"But the throbbing was deafening, the pain was sharp and the blood flowed. So I stuffed my mouth with toilet paper, gauze, old t-shirts, anything that could sop the mess. But nothing could stop the throb. It was like the beat of a dance song that you can't stand at the wedding reception of two people that you hate, and it was the soundtrack to my life.

"It was so loud that I barely heard the pounding on the front door.

"When I opened, the mailman glared at me with eyes so angry that they made my feet sweat. He held a giant pile of mail like an oversized stuffed animal that he won at the boardwalk.

"I had just stuffed my mouth with fresh toilet paper and it was already saturated with blood. The look on his face told me that he found this disconcerting."

And in conclusion: "you. are. not. nothing." - bonnie

If you are interesting in obtaining a copy of this book, in paperback or as a download, go to

Kaye Trout

Larsen's Bookshelf

Special Op: Bomber: Daring Missions That Changed the Shape of WW II
Steve Darlow
D&C (David & Charles), an F+W Publications, Inc. company
4700 East Galbraith Road, Cincinnati, OH 45236
9780715327821 $16.99 800-289-0963

"Special Op: Bomber" is an account of ten of the most daring raids over Europe during World II flown by the British Royal Air Force and the United States (Army) Air Force.

"There was nothing like it before and there has been nothing like it since. The air battle over Europe during World War II was exceptional." So begins "Special Op: Bomber."

The ten Special Operations include the first thousand bomber raid, the dambusters, the second raid on Schweinfurt, the Peenemunde raid, the Amiens Prison raid, Big B: Americans over Berlin and the sinking of the Tirpitz, a German battleship.

All the stories are well researched, factual, and told with a dramatic flair. For the World War II buff, this is like putt-putt in the ocean, but the author kept the writing clean, and well, by gosh, it was the biggest war in which we fought. It reads good at the cabin on a cold spring evening.

The book is told by the men who experienced the raids, giving it the official imprimatur.

Through Blue Skies to Hell: America's "Bloody 100th" in the Air War over Germany
Edward M. Sion
1016 Warrior Road
Drexel Hill, PA 19026
9781932033670 $32.95 610-853-9131

"Through Blue Skies to Hell" delivers a real punch. It contains a mission-by-mission diary of 1st Lieutenant Richard R. Ayesh, from Wichita, Kansas, uncle of author Edward M. Sion and a bombardier who flew 34 missions over Europe in a B-17 "Flying Fortress" with the 100th Bombardment Group, 13th Combat Wing, 8th Air Force during the closing days of World War II. Among his combat awards were the Distinguished Flying Cross, Croix de Guerre and the Air Medal with four Oak Leave clusters.

"Through Blue Skies to Hell" begins with a brief biography of Lt. Ayesh, during the depression, in Wichita, Kansas to his arrival in England as a bombardier, assigned to the 100th Bombardment Group, through 34 missions and his return home.

Author Sion, PhD, and current Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics at Villanova University, then examines the bombs and bomb sight, the principles of American daylight bombing, bomber formations and tactics. He writes a brief history of Thorpe Abbotts, in East Anglia, just north of London, home of the 100th Group, followed by a mission-by-mission diary of Lt. Ayesh. The diary reminds us of the daily risks taken by young men seeing death on a daily basis, facing fields of flak, fierce enemy fighters and foul weather.

This is not a history of the 'Bloody 100th Bomb Group. That has been done before. It is a fine, straight forward, informative look at the air war over Europe after June 6th 1944, with a surprising amount of new perspective on the moral issues of area bombing with implications in the present century.

A worthy book about yesterday for today and tomorrow.

Keep the Flag to the Front: the Story of the Eighth Kansas Volunteer Infantry
Bill Mcfarland
Leathers Publishing
4500 College Boulevard, Overland Park, Kansas 66211
9781585974498 $34.95 888-888-7696

Bill McFarland has put together a very good, very readable Civil War regimental, plowing new ground for the nearly forgotten Eighth Kansas Volunteer Infantry Regiment Bloodhounds. Skillfully using local news accounts, letters, diaries, pension records and unpublished personal narratives, and mixing in some 140 photographs and illustrations including nearly sixty pictures of Eighth Regiment personnel, McFarland tells his story from the ground up.

Organized in 1861 as Home Guards with the promise they would serve only in Kansas, this regiment traveled 10,750 miles to their muster out in San Antonio, Texas in January of 1866. Along the way they served in forts and communities on the western frontier, and fought against guerrilla leader, William Quantrill. Their travels took them through the battles at Perryville, Chickamauga, Missionary Ridge, the Atlanta Campaign and Nashville where they faced and defeated Confederate John Bell Hood. During their four years, four months and eleven days of service, they participated in fifteen battles and eighteen skirmishes. They lost 64 men killed, 272 wounded and 21 missing. Of the missing nearly all were killed. Of the wounded nearly one-third died.

The illustrations in "Keep the Flag to the Front" published by Leathers Publishing in Overland Park, Kansas seem to jump out and bite you.

From the painting on the dust cover to the end notes and index, this is the best overall regimental history I have read in many years. Like the 8th Kansas, this book is built to last.

Hunter's Fiery Raid Through Virginia Valleys
Gary C. Walker
Pelican Publishing Company, Inc.
1000 Burmaster Street, Gretna, Louisiana, 70053 2246
9781589805750 $35.00 http// 504-368-1175

Gary Walker's book, "Hunter's Fiery Raid Through Virginia Valleys" certainly provides the reader with a plethora of information concerning the Hunter led Union attack in Virginia in May and June, 1864.

I am impressed with the author's research, and his ability to capture the times. I could smell the burning homes and feel the wrath of the civilians caught in the scorched-earth policy of Union General "Black Dave" Hunter. Who can blame the civilians for fighting for home and family?

General Hunter already had a history of behavior affecting the South's most treasured icon by freeing all slaves in Union hands in his command, the Department of the South, in 1862. This was later annulled by President Lincoln, stating Hunter had exceeded his authority. Hunter also sanctioned the first Negro regiment, the 1st South Carolina. Congress upheld him in this act. The Confederates labeled Hunter a felon to be executed if captured. Hunter was a hard man for the Confederates to stomach.

Some people actually thought that a scorched-earth policy would shorten the war. Scorched-earth had already had a desired effect on Native Americans and affected the folks in Georgia and South Carolina. Sherman wasn't kidding when he said, "War is Hell!"

Gary Walker reminds us how bad war can be, how it smells and tastes and how hard it is to forget. This book is a hell of a good read. I appreciate the education.

Richard N. Larsen

Liana's Bookshelf

Blood Redemption
A.H. Holt
Thomas Bouregy & Co., Inc.
160 Madison Avenue, New York, 10016
9780803498907 $26.95

Ann Holt's westerns have always been exciting and gripping, and this one, which is her fifth novel, is no exception. Ann Holt, with studies in American history and museum work, has been writing westerns for many years. Read more about her at

Blood Redemption is set in Arizona, where two relatives, Red and Wes confront one another. Red, the hero of the story, is a handsome cowboy that goes through a lot of adventures till he finally finds justice. Wes, his cousin, is the villain of the story who tries to undermine Red and his family. As in all westerns, the good one wins leaving the audience with a sense of satisfaction.

The author uses her talent skillfully in depicting true characters that illustrate the right time and place aspects of the western that unfolds page by page. The first chapter is so absorbing that the rest of the story can be read in one sitting. The reader will wonder what happens next to their hero, and the plot is absolutely interesting till the very end. The colloquial language of the dialogue shows quite well the specific features of the characters such as their background. There is subtle romance involved and social issues referring to that time that make this reading more interesting. It is educational as regards the traditional elements involved in the story, and highly enjoyable. It caters to all the family, those who love adventure, fast paced novels and cowboys. It reminds me of good old western movies! Get this book from and

Breaking a Sunbeam
Geoff Hunter
Trafford Publishing
Suite 6E-2333 Government Street Victoria BC V8T 4P4, Canada
1425107451 $26.78

Geoff Hunter, father of two grown up children, has a degree in Electrical Engineering; he loves mountaineering and the outdoor life and he is now writing full time. Geoff has also authored The Silver Sun, and Visions of Conquest, also available through Trafford Publishing.
This story is about Jake and Kay, a happily married couple, who get involved in a break in that eventually results in a bloody slaughter. The killers are three cruel persons, a woman and two men, who enjoy harming people. The author examines carefully the character of those killers and gives the reader ample background information so as to understand, and maybe justify –in a way- their cruelty. Kay gets kidnapped by them and Jake has to cooperate with the killers in order to save her.

The plot is tight and well crafted and the whole story is a fast paced thriller that will absorb the reader from the very first pages of the book. Vivid descriptions and dialogue add to the overall effect of the story, and as the story unfolds the reader may even feel compassion towards the lead killer, Juel, whose abusive childhood haunt her life. It is also a beautiful story of courage and love, but this book will mainly appeal to thriller lovers all over the world. After reading this book the reader will start thinking more about the reasons behind each cold blooded crime. Get this book from

Genocide!: How Your Doctor's Dietary Ignorance Will Kill You!!!!
James Edward Carlson
9781419685828 $24.95

Very Highly Recommended

James Edward Carlson, holder of degrees in biochemistry and cellular physiology from Cornell University, medical degrees from the New York College of Osteopathic Medicine in Old Westbury and a juris doctorate, lives in New York where he is in a private medical practice. To contact him, visit the site: and use the zip code: 11776.

This book seems to be a breakthrough in medicine. It explains in detail how sugars destroy our health and how we can eliminate the danger of many illnesses, such as cancer, stomach problems or asthma. It is certainly very enlightening even for those who have nothing to do with the medical profession. Thus, a reader who has got a health problem can read it and understand it, as it is easy enough to be read by everybody.

The doctor illustrates his point in a simple way that is also convincing enough to make the readers start thinking about their own health problems and their solution. In fact, as a reader, I would love to try the low carb diet the doctor mentions, but as he states, the patient should consult their own doctor before starting this diet. There is a website that assists patients who live in USA, and where a person can leave a message for a doctor. I have tried to contact Dr. Carlson through this site but there is a specific process to be followed before anyone can get a reply from him, and a fee to be paid. I wish I could try his innovative ideas on low carbs so as to be able to base this review on facts rather than theories, however tempting they might be!

Overall, this book is informative and educational and should be read by all doctors who would like to try something new that may have a good effect on certain health cases. Get this book from

What if I Tell?
Gina McCabe
Winding Road Books
9780981513904, $14.95

Very Highly Recommended

Gina McCabe can be visited at her site at
This book is a shocking memoir that reveals all the fear, shame and silence the author has gone through for 30 years. A successful business woman, Gina managed to explore her early year's abuse and consequently find therapy and peace.

'What if I Tell?'is a very important book that will educate, shock and puzzle readers that wonder how it feels to be abused as a child, and the consequences the individual has to face later in their life. It is also a study of the human psychology, as regards the victim mainly, that can shed light to the inner feelings of the abused person and their reactions. The author had turned into a workaholic person full of stress and crippling self-hatred. It is interesting to read and think about these social issues that seem to be quite common nowadays. Gina, via this book of hers, tries to encourage professionals and people from all walks of life to stop the stigma associated with talking about child sexual abuse so that the problem can be addressed.

This book caters to everyone interested in child abuse. Get it from or

Liana Metal, Reviewer

Lowe's Bookshelf

Fool on the Hill
Morgan Hunt
Alyson Books
c/o PlanetOut
1355 Sansome Street, San Francisco, CA 94111
9781593500276 $14.95

Morgan Hunt's second mystery, Fool on the Hill brings back Tess Camillo, a smart-mouth lesbian with a varied and colorful past. Tess is a 40-something computer nerd and breast cancer survivor. Her original love was actually mathematics, and computer programming was more palatable than accounting or teaching math. Hunt has created a strong, quirky voice in Tess. Her whimsical associations, internal musical sound-tracks, and slightly skewed world view are charmingly idiosyncratic.

Fool on the Hill opens as Tess and her housemate, Lana, attend a rock concert of Gabrielle Letheross with Cody Crowne as the opening act. Cody had been a chart topper in the 1980s but is fading in his late middle years. Lana, president of the local Cody Crowne fan club, has been waiting for years to see him in concert. Both women have a fantastic time. The next day brings a shock when his murdered body is discovered by Tess out walking in Open Space. Particularly shocking is the extremely brutal method of his murder. His teeth were removed, his finger tips were cut off, and he was crucified.

The traumatic discovery piques Tess's curiosity. Prompting her to this: "I wondered if [Lana]'d remember to separate the whites for bleaching, but didn't want to nag her. I wondered what Thomas Paine would have thought of our current electoral process. I wondered how many IQ points we lose for each hour of reality TV we watch. I wondered if I should take a personal interest in tracking down Cody's murderers. I wondered a lot of things, then helped Lana with the laundry. Even after your own personal Calvary, you need clean underwear. " (24)

Tess is assisted in her amateur sleuthing by a range of folks. Lana uses her new age touch to help question suspects and acts as look out. Tess's "husband" Roark Jurist -- they met over 20 years ago while both were struggling to survive in that closet called the US Navy, married for cover, divorced after they both left the service, and have remained friends -- now works with the "Immensely Powerful Government Spooks or IPoGS" (34) and provides Tess with an amazing array of valuable information via his connections. Kari, a detective with the SDPD whom Tess dated briefly, provides more official assistance. Hunt has created a fairly traditional mystery in that the clues are apparent to the reader as Tess finds them. The story is fast paced and fun. As secrets are uncovered, another murder occurs, bring the case even closer to home for Tess and Lana.

Tess's San Diego and its surroundings add color and character to Fool on the Hill with various locales playing roles in the plot. Carousel rides, trips to Legoland, Balboa Park, and the historic district give texture to the story, including a charming scene at the Chicken Pot Pie Shop, a San Diego landmark diner. Or as Tess describes, "The decor was Green Acres kitsch. .... A high shelf along the far wall held ceramic poultry of every sort. Rhode Island red knickknacks could be found behind the cash register; macaroni art of leghorns and bantams hung on the dinning area walls. Not exactly Martha Stewart, but with food this good, who gives a cluck?" (159)

Tess's voice is distinct and amusing, although sometimes her over-the-top metaphors are distracting. Occasionally Tess's powerful narrative voice becomes expository, not quite successfully taking the place of dialogue and action, from which some scenes might have benefited. This kind of "telling" of the story has a "thinning" effect to the novel overall. Hunt is a talented writer who has created a cast of quirky characters. Additional constructive editing could help Hunt develop a more robust mystery to better showcase her vivid characterization. She has great promise for future mysteries. This reader certainly looks forward to more of Tess.

The prime example of a metaphor that did not work, for this reader, was Tess's analogy for oral sex. "When we changed positions, her softest layers became the rink in an Olympic competition; my tongue, the skates. I played with figure eight's [sic], smooth glides, and occasional double Axels. Encouraged by her moans, I won the Gold with a triple loop." (143) Ice and blades, even attached to skates, just aren't on my mind regardless of the grace involved. If Hunt needed a sports analogy, synchronized swimming might have worked better.

Perhaps more importantly, the love scene, which was Tess's first sexual encounter since her surgery, seemed anticlimactic, as it were. Certainly the scene failed, for this reader, to resolve in a clear way the anxiety that Tess had previously expressed while anticipating the event, baring her surgery scars to a lover for the first time. It seemed a disservice to Nova's character for her not to be shown reassuring and satisfying Tess's needs. Yet Tess seems much less introspective about the relationship than she is about other aspects of her life. Since Tess's romantic life is the second most important thread to the novel, its light treatment is unsatisfying.

Overall, Fool on the Hill is fast paced, engaging and fun. The characters are interesting and compelling. Tess Camillo is a welcome addition to the cast of amateur sleuths that mystery readers can enjoy. Pick up a copy, Tess is sure to have you humming along with a world spinning round.

Emma Donoghue
Harcourt Books
6277 Sea Harbor Dr., Orlando, FL 32887-001
9780151012970 $25.00

Life is about to change for Jude Turner in Emma Donoghue's novel, Landing. The 25 year old archivist/curator of a one-room schoolhouse museum in her very small town of Ireland, Ontario, Canada, is "celebrating" New Years Eve by flying to the United Kingdom to see her mother, who has been visiting her sister, Jude's aunt. This mysterious request from Jude's aunt heralds illness and loss for Jude. Thus for the first time Jude, the self-proclaimed Luddite, is on a plane. It will be one of many firsts as an unusual incident during the flight prompts her meeting Síle O'Shaughnessy, a meeting that will have long term effects on both women. Síle is a 39-year-old flight attendant of Indo-Celtic heritage with nearly 20 years of experience in her career. A resident of Dublin, Ireland, Síle is a cosmopolitan, high-tech, and high energy lesbian whose fast-paced vagabond life suits her. She was born, after all, at 40,000 feet.

The "LDR" --long distance romance-- that slowly takes off between the two women is witty and charming, though sometimes rocked by the bad weather of miscommunication and time zones, it is carried up like the magic of flight. Themes of distance, travel, and change are woven throughout the novel as the women re-prioritize their lives with each other. Landing is a romance filled with the ache of distance and longing, and Donoghue is wonderfully skilled in her quiet little illustrations of it as when "She conjured up Jude, or rather her absence, a hot ghost for Síle to wrap her body around." (151)

The charm of love's preoccupation is reflected as Jude confesses to a friend, "Daily life becomes this sort of epic: The First Time I Saw Her Face, Our First Walk by the Lake, The First Phone Call, The Night I Stayed Up Making Anagrams of Her Name ..."

Gwen stared. "Anagrams?"

"When I can't sleep ...," admitted Jude. (159)

Donoghue reminds us that life can be messy yet interesting in this story peopled with vivid and surprising individuals struggling to deal with the limitations of their communities, families and careers. Wry observations of the practical, political and legal realities for international relationships, as well as the internal conflicts of national identity and individuality, prejudice and labels, self-worth and love, commitment and independence, are deftly charted and navigated throughout the story. For example, there's Jude's view of history and her efforts at her museum "Uncutesy, I guess," she said, after a second. "In North America we tend to Disneyfy the past into this sugar-coated nostalgia product, all bonnets and merry sleigh rides--" (24) Or Síle's friend, Jael's struggle with herself as a "hasbian" now married with a child and revealing that she's also seeing a woman, "Without it, I swear I couldn't hold it together: the house, the husband, the job, the child. Maybe I need a secret." (298)

Would that most plane flights were as pleasantly distracting, charmingly complicated, and warmly engaging as Landing. Donoghue's writing is a pleasure to read, so much so that pulling quotes, for this reviewer, became a difficult choice. Frankly, I recommend reading the whole book. Please fasten your seat belt and enjoy.

MJ Lowe

Margaret's Bookshelf

A Reckless Grace
Margaret Taliaferro
860 Aviation Parkway, Suite 300, Morrisonville, NC, 27560
St. Olaf College
1520 St. Olaf Avenue, Northfield, MN 55057
9781435709553, $24.98,

Aviation has been a major part of the American culture ever since it began to exist in 1903. "A Reckless Grace: An Account of Pilots and Their Planes From the Jennys to the Jets" is one man's tale of the evolution of the industry from the adventurous days of flying as it used to be to the booming industry that is so prominent in today's society, it is an ideal gift for aviation fanatics, making "A Reckless Grace: An Account of Pilots and Their Planes from the Jennys to the Jets" highly recommended for community library aviation collections.

Shades of Darkness, Shades of Grace
Catherine Johnson
2021 Pine Lake Road, Suite 100, Lincoln NE 68512
Author Marketing Experts
PO Box 421156, San Diego, CA 92142
9780595460328, $16.95,

Conflict and antagonism are natural occurrences even in the most harmonious of families – but what makes them harmonious is there capacity to deal with them. "Shades of Darkness, Shades of Grace" is one families struggle to overcome the lies and deception between them – and when they finally sift out who's responsible, they are faced with an inner conflict of their loyalty to blood and love, and what is justifiable anger – a story of conflict that some will discover creepy parallels to their own family. "Shades of Darkness, Shades of Grace" is highly recommended to community library fiction collections as a deftly written novel that explores human nature – a top pick indeed.

Eleven Roses
Alexander Hernandez
2021 Pine Lake Road, Suite 100, Lincoln, NE 68512
9780595452019, $14.95,

An occurrence known all too well – massive success in one's career comes with the price of the loss of their significant other. "Eleven Roses" is the story of Michael Alvarez – his rise, his loss, and primarily the road to recovery, although not of the lost. His lust and love turns to a married woman – whose husband could squash him and his career like a bug. "Eleven Roses" is a story of sacrifices and how they're used to attain love – highly recommended reading.

Twelve Wounds
Carmen Rodriguez & Steven Lehrer
2021 Pine Lake Road, Suite 100, Lincoln, NE 68512
0595401007, $14.95,

One dead Hasidic Jew – and the mystery of who exactly caused this problem - the story of "Twelve Wounds". Carmen Rodriguez serves as both author and star character of the book, and seeks to find out just who did it before a potentially innocent man is punished for a crime he may not have committed. Filled with suspects, cover ups, and suspense, "Twelve Wounds" is a deftly written crime novel, sure to please its fans, making it highly recommended to fans of the genre in general, and community library collections catering to them.

Advice From The Blender
Susan J. Hetrick
Xulon Press
2180 West State Road 434, Suite 2140, Longwood, FL 32779
Driftwood Creative Services (publicity)
7242 East Cortez Rd, Suite 200, Scottsdale, Arizona 85260
9781602665699, $13.99,

The Brady Bunch was the dream of a family, two divorcees with children remarrying and finding happiness. However, that's just what it was – a dream. "Advice from the Blender: What to Know Before You Blend So Nobody Gets Creamed" is a parenting advice handbook for divorced or widowed parents with children who seem to be on the path to marrying another in the same condition. With advice on integrating families with one another, how to get over stepfamily myths, dealing with complicated feelings, and bonding new family members, Advice from the Blender is a complete and comprehensive book to help non-traditional families become traditional families. Highly recommended to community library parenting collections and for anyone with children who is engaged to a spouse with children.

Margaret Lane

Mayra's Bookshelf

Knowing Joseph
Judith Mammay
Blooming Tree Press
PO Box 140934, Austin, TX 78714
9781933831053 $13.95 512-921-8846

Knowing Joseph is an engrossing, touching book about a young boy trying to deal with his 6-year old autistic brother. For 10-year old Brian, living with his brother Joseph isn't easy. Joseph doesn't play with other children, screams when something bothers him, and constantly needs special attention.

To make matters worse, Mom and Dad are so preoccupied with Joseph's ups and downs they hardly have the time to pay attention to Brian, which isn't fair. Still, Brian does his best, always trying to make Joseph comfortable and protect him from the school bullies - but does he really know Joseph?

One day at the beach during a family camping trip, Brian meets an older boy who enlightens him about autism. He not only opens a whole new window of knowledge for Brian, but for other children as well. As a result, Brian and Joseph become closer than ever.

Later, back at school, the children are given an assignment. They must work in groups and make a presentation on their chosen subject: children with disabilities. To Brian's chagrin, the teacher announces that the class bully must be part of their group. As the children make their presentations, it becomes obvious the class bully has some special needs as well - not like those of Joseph, the boy he had been bullying all along.

Knowing Joseph is a must read for children ages nine and up. In an engaging style, Mammay teaches the reader what autism is all about and how to treat children who have this disability. She does this by presenting the characters and the story, not by preaching, which is why middle readers will enjoy this novel.

The plot is interesting and compelling. The dialogues, characters, and plot appeal to young readers. Ultimately, it is a book that not only informs, but also one that teaches the true meaning of kindness and compassion.

Rattlesnake Jam
Margot E. Finke
Illustrations by Kevin Scott Collier
Guardian Angel Publishing
12430 Tesson Ferry Road #186, Saint Louis, MO 63128 USA
9781935137009 $10.95

Rattlesnake Jam is a hilariously funny children's picture book about an old couple who share an irresistible affection for rattlesnakes. There's only one problem: While Pa would rather have the rattlesnakes turned into fritters or pie, old Gran prefers them turned into jam… disgustingly green, sweetened, gooey rattlesnake jam!

So no matter how cold the weather is, there goes brave Pa hunting after the snakes. And as he hunts them, he fantasizes about the various ways Gran could cook them—hot on a plate, fried, sliced on white rice, hmmm… But no way will his dreams ever become a reality, for as readers will learn "…snake cooked for Pa was not in Gran's plan. She dreamed of them sweetened and made into jam." Though Gran swears her special jam can cure colds, gout and wheeze, not to mention "troublesome knees", everyone dislikes the taste of her ghastly creation. Will Gran ever stop?

Colliers's colorful, wacky illustrations complement Finke's humorous rhyme perfectly. Gran is grossly comical with her toothless grin, warts, and bell pepper nose. The book has 28 pages in all, and each story page has an illustration with a short text at the bottom—a two or four line rhyme. Whimsical and amusing, Rattlesnake Jam is one of those books young children will beg their parents to read to them again and again.

Curse of the Bayou (3rd book in the Cynthia's Attic series)
Mary Cunningham
Echelon Press
9735 Country Meadows Lane 1-D, Laurel, MD 20723
1590805755 $9.99

More time travel, magic, and adventure await young readers in this the 3rd book of Cunningham's Cynthia's Attic series: Curse of the Bayou. This time our tween travelers, Gus and Cynthia, go back in time as far back as 1844 to the Louisiana bayou in order to solve the mystery of Cynthia's great-grandfather Beau Connor's disappearance.

Twelve-year old Gus and Cynthia are nothing short of ordinary. For one thing, they are able to travel back and forth in time by way of Cynthia's old trunk, situated in the cobweb-filled attic of an old mansion. Despite the fact that they're so different, they're also super best friends. In this installment, the girls must go back in time to find out what really happened to Beau Connor and the reason why he vanished while on a business trip. If you think the intrepid duo has been in danger before, hold your breath for Curse of the Bayou: treacherous Louisiana swamps, man-eating alligators, shape-shifting pumas, and evil pirates are some of the delicious surprises the reader will encounter.

I have read all of Cunningham's books so far and I have to say this is the best. I especially loved the 'Southern' atmosphere in this book, the threatening setting of the swamps and humid Louisiana climate. Each chapter is filled with mystery and adventure and ends with an exciting cliffhanger. The pace is quick and the chapters short, adding to the suspense. I also found the dialogue between Gus and Cynthia a lot funnier and wittier in this book. Some of their wisecracks are really clever. Cunningham keeps the reader guessing by switching back and forth in time. For this reason I would say that although this is a middle-grade book, it could be confusing if not read with full attention. This is a book that will appear to most young girls, especially to those who love stories about best friends and adventure/mystery with a dash of fantasy.

Mayra Calvani

Monty's Bookshelf

Lord, Save Us from Your Followers: Why is the Gospel of Love Dividing America?
Dan Merchant
Thomas Nelson
9780849919930 $19.99

What has gone wrong with the message of Christianity? "Why is the gospel of love dividing America?" Television documentary producer Dan Merchant attempts to answer these questions in his new book, Lord Save Us from Your Followers. The book is a collection of experiences and interviews that attempt to discover why religious idealism is dividing America. His journey starts with a hilarious story where Merchant dresses up in a HAZMAT suit that is covered with religiously charged bumper stickers and interviews people in Times Square. This experience leads him to interview noted religious and political figures like Tony Campolo, Rick Santerum, Al Franken, and Michael Reagon in an attempt to find a solution to the culture wars. Merchant's journey climaxes with two events. The first is an interview with a transvestite dressed as a nun. The second is where Merchant sets up a reverse confession booth and apologies to individuals who attended the Gay Pride Festivities in Portland, Oregon.

This book is valuable if for no other reason then that it calls both the religious right and political left to stop speaking past each other and start a heart felt dialog. The easy reading style will appeal to readers who are excited about the works of authors like Tony Campolo, Donald Miller, and Jim Willis. The majority of the religious right will be turned off by Merchants thesis, but those who read him to the end will be challenged to take the time to listen to individuals in opposition to there tradition. Those looking for a more detailed and intellectual respond to the religious culture wars will be disappointed in Merchant's writing style. Much of the book lacks cohesion and feels thrown together. The major weakness of Merchant's work is that he fails to extend his passion for heart felt discourse to the members of the religious right. In short, Merchant fails at applying his own solution to the question he set out to solve. The strength of the book is its emotive appeal to open and honest dialog between competing elements of society. The interviews and stories are compelling and cause the reader to rethink the relationship that religion plays in transforming society.

God the Failed Hypothesis: How Science Shows that God does not Exist
Victor J. Stenger
Prometheus Books
Amherst, New York
9781591024811 $28.00

Surrounded by a sea of books on evolution and intelligent design, Victor Stenger goes against the grain. Like many before him, he does not reject ID or creation science because it is pseudoscience. He rejects the thesis that God exist because it does not stand the test of observation. Stenger contributes to the current debate by providing an observation definition of science and an extended review of scientific arguments for and against the existence of God.

For several decades science has stepped away from the study of religious questions. It has been assumed by the scholarly community that science can only deal with naturalistic phenomena. Stenger redirects this traditional idea and argues that science is simply observation that attempts to develop models. If it is true that science is about observation and model building, then science should be able to test the assertion that "God exist" like any other hypothesis. In a sense, Stenger has given the ID community what it has desired for almost a decade, recognition as science.

Like the arrival of the Trojan horse, Stenger gives ID and creation science a gift and then uses it to attack them. He starts his attack by reviewing most of the popular scientific arguments for God. Stenger is not afraid to present the ideas of thinkers like Phillip Johnson, Michael Behe, William Dembski, and Guillermo Gonzalez. Through the course of rigorous evaluation, each argument is found lacking either in evidence or scientific procedures. Since no evidence is found, Stenger rejects the God Hypothesis.

While Stenger's work is valuable simply because of his attempt to apply science to religious issues and the scope of scientific arguments discussed, the work is not without problems. Stenger writes as if he has disproved scientifically the existence of God. Unfortunately many readers will be convinces by his presentation and miss that Stenger regularly commits two logical fallacies. The first is the no-evidence fallacy. Stenger assumes that because he cannot find any evidence for God's existence that God must not exist. It would be more accurate to state that there is not enough evidence to scientifically test the God hypothesis. The other classic logical fallacy that Stenger regularly commits is the Straw Man. God the Failed Hypothesis should be praised for the scope of arguments that it reviews, but many of these are shallow presentations. These weak presentations of complex arguments are then easy for Stenger to defeat. It would have been better for him to look at fewer arguments, but give them the time that these complex arguments deserved.

Even with the issues stated above, Stenger's work is a must read for anyone interested in the future of the religion and science debate. Like all works on the subject, the reader must read and think critically. Scientific claims about religion, even Stenger's, must be tested, reviewed, and retested.

Monty Self

Richard's Bookshelf

Does Jesus Speak To You?
Donna L. Ferrier
Desk Top Prepress Services
808 S. New Bethel Blvd., Ada, OK 74820
0780615190396 $18.95

An Amazing Testimony of a Disciple's Journey

In her new book "Does Jesus Speak To You? Donna Ferrier shares a testimony of God's grace and tells of her journey as a new believer. She speaks of victories, disappointments, and of the blessing of those who mentored her in the disciplines of discipleship. Donna asks the questions "Does Jesus speak to us today?" "How does He speak?" And, "Why is this important?"

This is a book which challenges professing born-again Christians to face up to the reality of their Christian walk. Donna has a gift for discerning a person's relationship with God and wields the Sword of the Spirit (the Word of God) to cut to the quick with a bold message of conviction of sin, redemption, restoration, and renewal.

Donna shares stories from her own experience to illustrate spiritual truths, insight, and the understanding she has gained from over twenty years of seeking the mind of Christ, through her Bible study, while listening for his instructions through the revelation of the Bible and his own words. She repeatedly urges the reader to claim the promises of Christ and to heed the admonitions of the scripture.

The book format is designed to be user friendly. The narrative preceding Bible passages flow in a way which reinforces the message of the scripture. The solid foundational truths of the treatise make this a book that will be referred to often and could easily be adapted for group or individual study. Highly inspirational, convicting, and thought provoking.

The Believer's Guide To Legal Issues
Stephen Bloom
AMG Publishers
6815 Shallowford Road, Chattanooga, TN 37421
97808995703210, $ 10.99

Biblical Principles For Christians Facing Legal Issues

Stephen Bloom provides astute counsel to Christian families in "The Believer's Guide to Legal Issues." I found myself quickly engrossed in Stephen's practical counsel, examples, illustrations, and his solid stand on Biblical principles when facing legal issues so prevalent in society today.

The chapters are made up of several parts. Each chapter begins with two fictional vignettes reflecting life lessons and more life lessons, Biblical insights, concluding with practical counsel. Individual sections complement each other and integrate Biblical principles with present-day legal issues.

Each chapter covers a unique sector of the law. The reader may identify with any or all of the fictional illustrations presented. We have all experienced similar incidents in one or more of the issues addressed. I personally found the chapters dealing with estate planning, the living trust, the living will, and the Medicaid planning, a revelation.

The final chapter presents the message of the Gospel as an invitation from God to accept His offer in terms of a contract. The message is clearly and simply and shows how the contract illustrates the offer and the opportunity to accept the offer – an exchange of promises. This is a beautiful word picture of salvation.

Stephen L. Bloom a practicing attorney, popular speaker, and adjunct instructor at Messiah College is well qualified to author this book. The scope of his experience in church, community, and ministry organizations give him the additional credence to offer related spiritual counsel.
"The Believer's Guide To Legal Issues" provide the reader with counsel in legal matters, is an important and timely reminder of the importance of integrity, ethics in business, and observing wisdom in making sound decisions that hold fast to Biblical principles in civil and criminal law. Stephan Bloom clearly articulates sound advice and Biblical principles for Christians facing legal issues.

The Making of Mary Ann
Cora A. Seaman
Infinity Publishing
1094 New DeHaven Street, Suite 100, West Conshohocken, PA 19428-2713
9780741446176 $17.95

From Dream to Nightmare to Hope, A Story of Promise, Hope, and Miracles

"The Making of Mary Ann" based on a true story. Mary Ann's story begins is in late 1880. It is a time when many Europeans came to America in looking for of economic opportunity. Mary Ann was sixteen years old when she arrived in New York harbor with dreams of adventure and a new life. She left her homeland of Germany to pursue a dream in America, the land of promise. Her dream soon became a nightmare. Mary Ann was hired as a nanny by a young widowed domineering minister.

She later met and married Elbert Thomas. They were married when Mary Ann turned eighteen. Over the next ten years she gave birth to six daughters. Elbert became ill with tuberculosis and soon was unable to work to provide for his family. Desperate, Mary Ann unwittingly accepted small loans from the county. Within hours after Elbert succumbed to the disease the county trustee confiscated all their personal belongings. The four oldest daughters were taken into custody and were put on an orphan train to be "sold" for adoptions, or to become farm workers or household servants.

The story becomes continues by relating the destinies of Daisy, Greta, Tula, and Mathilda and tells of their successes, frustrations, and destinies.

My own mother lost her mother to tuberculosis within a year of her birth. As I read of Mary Ann's traumatic experience I was left with questions as to the impact this loss may have had on my Mother's life.

The book is considered historical fiction but is so believably written that you feel you are reading a fast moving adventure biography. The short chapters added to the sense of adventure and made the story line move quickly.

Cora Seamans is an excellent communicator with a creative imagination and passion that carries the reader through a non stop story of conflict, heart ache, resolution, and hope. Her writing is tight, her characters range from empathetic to contemptible. All are believable.

This is a remarkable fictional account, based on a true story. It is poignant and haunting in appeal and will linger in the mind of the reader long after the final page of the last chapter is closed.

Angela's Answer
Pat Matuszak
AMG Publishing
6815 Shallowford Road, Chattanooga, TN 37421
9780899578750 $12.99

Disappointment, Crystals, and Genuine Faith

Marti's decision to sell her horse to purchase a car has left Angela in a quandary. As a result of the pending separation and divorce of her parents Marti in desperation develops a relationship with Clay who introduced her to a substitute for faith and prayer by looking to crystals to make her wishes come true.

Marti soon finds that her doubts and loneliness only increase as she becomes ensnared by Clay's manipulate charm. Soon she has given crystals to Angela, Aunt Candace, her friend Teri, her mother Lorena, and placed one on her horse Bobcat.

One evening people mysteriously disappeared. A series of fast moving dramatic events began: mists, levitation, and eerie lights started a spiritual battle over Marti, Angela, their family and friends. The angel of light and an angel of darkness wages a battle for supremacy.

Pat Matuszak's has used her creative imagination in her book "Angela's Answer" and quickly draws the young reader into a story of fantasy, science fiction, resulting in a hunger for spiritual purpose. Pat's imaginative dialog opens the inquiring minds of her readers to consider their personal understanding of faith, prayer, family, and values.

This is the first book in the "Angel Light" series. The series will help the reader explore biblical answers to teen's spiritual questions, and will help them discover ways to express their personal Christian faith.

I look forward to reading the next book in the series as Angela and her friends learn the importance of making right choices, as well as new lessons in faith and the meaning of maturing as Christians. "Angela's Answer" offers is a combination of inspiration, intrigue, and helpful information regarding the danger of cults and how a teenager can avoid the traps. It is also an aid to helping friends caught up in taking a strong stand for Christ.

For A Time We Cannot See
Crawford Loritts
Moody Press
Chicago, Illinois
9780802455253 $12.99

Living Today, While Longing for Heaven

In the book "For a Time We Cannot See" Crawford Loritts the reader is challenged to be fervent, to leave a legacy of praise, to live a life of intentional integrity, to pursue holiness, and to finish strong.

Loritts establishes the subtle longing written in the heart of every true follower of Jesus Christ, a longing for heaven, the dwelling place of God. He also goes on to point out the inconsistency of our fragmented, stressed, and anxious perspective on success, and material comfort. He then challenges the reader to surrender themselves to the call of heaven, a destiny of meaning and significance.

Profound and thought provoking challenges call the reader to consider the very foundational truths of the Christian life, accountability for our choices, and the promise of reward for faithful consistency in our Christian walk.

The book is filled with contemporary examples, illustrations from the lives of Christian leaders, and stories of Biblical men committed to living a life of obedience to the will of God. Stimulating summary statements and thought-provoking questions in the form of side bars and topical headers within the narrative add to the excitement of the reading experience.

Loritts invites to the reader to surrender to Christ on a daily basis, to stay focused, to persevere, and to an excellence in service. He explains the inner desire for significance and the importance of keeping perspective, focusing our accomplishments on God, investing in others, and ministering to others in their search for the Savior.

"For A Time We Cannot See" challenges the reader to live in light of Eternity. Crawford Loritts is a gifted writer and communicator. His writing is relevant, well articulated, heartwarming and challenging. A remarkable combination of challenge and inspiration.

Operation Rolling Thunder
Tim Taylor
Xulon Press
2180 W. S. R. 434, Suite 2140, Longwood, FL 32779
9781604776013 $13.99

How to Organize Prayer at the Local Level for Global Impact

In "Operation Rolling Thunder" Tim Taylor captures the essence of what it means to be a prophet or a forerunner and how this compares to becoming a pioneer in a God ordained movement. The book is dedicated to the forerunners concerned for and who established 24/7 prayer in their city, bringing together the elders of their city, and uniting the body of Christ.

Taylor describes the mobilizing and transformation that impact the seven spheres of society: family, church, government, business, media, education, and healthcare.

His prophetic message includes the call to restore the leaders of the church to equip and train the saints to do the work of the ministry, to initiate prayer and the formation of apostolic teams with the vision of connecting the local churches to a global prayer ministry.

The power of prayer, praise, and worship is evidenced by the transformation brought about in people in places of influence who bring kingdom reality to earth, unity in the body of Christ, deliverance, signs and wonders which bring encouragement to His people, and the confirmation Christ's spoken Word.

Taylor offers practical suggestions and instructions for starting a Transformation Task Force. He relates the history of the strategic beginnings of Operation Rolling Thunder and challenges the reader to action.

The impact of "Operation Rolling Thunder," is an outstanding example of the power of prayer, praise and worship. The book is an amazing story of an anointed ministry called for the special purpose of bringing together a band of local teams to globally impact the world today establishing revival, renewal, and restoration.

Disturbing Questions
Ron Bourque
Father's Press
2424 SE 6th Street Lee's Summit, MO 64063
9780979539404 $17.50

Important Questions Regarding God's Blessing on America

Ron Bourque offers hope to Americans. Even while fighting terrorism, natural disasters, rising medical costs, and economic woes, Ron proposes steps that can be taken to insure an optimistic future for our country. As a first step he challenges the reader to become informed, involved, and influential citizens. Theses steps coupled prayer, forgiveness, and a turning to God round out his steps toward newel.

A complete appendix with a list of resources and organizations that will help Americans chart the course for the future is included. In appendix 2 he also offers some practical tips on career management that will make a positive impact.

In "Disturbing Questions: Has God Stopped Blessing America?" Ron Bourque asks the hard questions. Ron has written the book with the hope that it will kindle a fire in the heart of the reader and that it will encourage them to ask discuss issues and question questions of each other and of political leaders. These discussions and questions will enable the participants to learn from each other, to move beyond the cursory assessments and work toward solutions.

Real life illustrations and incidents bring home the futility of terms like "jobless recovery," "political correctness," and "the wave of the future." Impressive color charts demonstrate the trends in balance of trade and the value/cost pyramid and visually picture the tragedy occurring in American industry. Ron discusses the per capita public debt in our country and asks hard questions regarding truth, mistruths, the role of ethics, and the victimization of consumers.
His basic premise revolves around the deception behind the Roe vs., Wade decision and America's acceptance of legalized abortion. He poses the question, "Could it be that abortion has consequences beyond the convenient disappearance of unwanted pregnancies?"

Ron's Roman Catholic background influences his convictions, however, does not try to hide his church affiliation. The scope of his question is one that needs to be asked by every American regardless of ethnic, cultural or religious background. Biblical illustrations, words from Mother Teresa, and St. Augustine affirm the validity of this question. "Disturbing Questions" is, provocative, thought provoking, important, and timely.

Richard Blake

Slessman's Bookshelf

A Remarkable Mother
Jimmy Carter
Simon and Schuster
1416562451 $22.95

The latest in works written by former President of the United States, Jimmy Carter is called A REMARKABLE MOTHER. Throughout his presidency, President Carter's mother, Lillian, was a person with notable qualities.

President Carter goes in depth to describe his mother, her life before and after, Jimmy and the impact she had on people of all walks of life.

A stanch supporter of her son and her family as a whole, she left an impression of a strong woman who believed in the fundamental rights of all people. She served at age seventy as a Peace Corp volunteer in India with the primary responsibility of helping the country in its birth control efforts. She admitted to disliking these responsibilities but carried forth the work at hand with the determination and drive that was always a part of her personal makeup.

President Carter talks reverently about his mother's life in this work. He also uses the same methods as his mother in doing so. He tells an honest story, doesn't "pretty up" the facts and leaves a reader to draw their own conclusions. The opinion of this reader is that he has done so with finesse.

This book makes for some interesting reading. It proves not only an insight into the life of Lillian Carter and the family of President Carter, but it also leaves a reader thinking about the morality of the world as a whole.

This will make a good book to share with others. Buy a copy for your own library.

The God of Animals
Aryn Kyle
1416533249 $29.99

Books of fiction are only as good as the characters, the storyline and the writer's ability to tell a good story. THE GOD OF ANIMALS would be considered a fine work of fiction that contains all of the above attributes.

A story is told through the voice of the main character, Alice Winston. Alice lives with her father and mother on a struggling horse ranch. Her mother is a recluse who never comes out of her room. Her meals and her interaction with Alice are done so in her bedroom. Alice's father works hard, takes in boarders he would rather not have and simply strives to exist.

While the boarders are well-to-do people, they become more than just boarders in the lives of Alice and her father as the story unfolds. One in particular, is the hope of the family ranch. If Alice's father can train her well, he hopes she will bring more people in her sphere of influence to his ranch for riding lessons.

Alice develops a phone relationship with one of her male teachers which seems a bit "fishy" to the reader at first. However, both parties seem to benefit from the conversations and this teacher becomes a key component with Alice's ability to deal with what life hands her.

This is a story of family relationships, the acceptance of things as they are, versus how you would like them to be and the story of a young girl maturing into a young woman. The story is well told, the characters are strong and the ending is a good one. Buy it, you'll like it.

Women & Money
Suze Orman
Spiegel & Grau
c/o Random House
9780385519311 $24.95

I have been a fan of Suze Orman's financial expertise via her CNBC-TV show and often have seen her on Oprah. She has always struck me as a person who offers sound and practical financial advice. Her newest book, WOMEN & MONEY certainly substantiates that impression.

Suze states in this work that women are the last to take care of themselves financially. They are natural care givers to see to other's needs but seldom have the confidence to take on the growth of their own finances. This book provides a good road map to assist any woman (or man, for that fact) in the responsible management of their financials.

I was surprised to learn of Suze Orman's meager beginnings. Apparently she has worked (like most of us) in lower wage positions which I am guessing which have allowed her to grasp the needs of the everyday person and their financial needs.

This book is worth the money you will spend. Just call it one of the best investments you will make this year. I know I have taken a good look at my own financial security and, using Suze's advice, have shored it up where it was needed. Why spend a fortune on financial counseling when you can purchase it so cheaply…WOMEN & MONEY will help you attain financial goals and gain a renewed confidence in your abilities.

Things I Want My Daughters to Know
Elizabeth Noble
William Morrow
0061122194 $22.95

This is the first work I have read by Elizabeth Noble. Her style of writing is insightful and full of emotion. For the reader, this book cleanses the soul, motivates family interaction and leaves a reader seeking more.

THINGS I WANT MY DAUGHTERS TO KNOW is a story about a woman who is terminally ill who wants to leave her daughters with a legacy of wisdom and the knowledge that they were well loved. She uses a journal and letters to her daughters as a vehicle to accomplish her goal.

The journal and letters provide surprises, some not well received, that leave the daughters with questions and a means to explore their own lives more thoroughly. One daughter is in a marriage whose stability is questionable; another daughter is a wanderer who seeks to find home within herself. Another daughter is a teen who finds herself stronger than she ever anticipated. Completing the cast of characters is the husband of the mother who finds himself left with the challenge of pulling the family together after his wife's death.

For every mother and woman who has desired to leave their own daughter's a mother's legacy, this book will inspire you to "get on with it" and not wait until your days are numbered.

This book is a good read and has left me with the desire to further research this writer's previous works. At $22.95, it is a good buy.

A Dangerous Age
Ellen Gilchrist
Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Division of Workman Publishing
97815651245421 $23.95

Okay, I admit it…I am one of Ellen Gilchrist's biggest fans. I have never read anything by Gilchrist that I didn't like. This book is no exception. I do admit however, I didn't have the same drive to finish this work that I have possessed with her other works. Most of Gilchrist's works of fiction have a "must finish and do so right now" quality. I just can't put my finger on what made this work different.

The story is based on the women of the Hand family, their stories and a how they have faced sorrow in their family and moved beyond adversity. Their strength, family support and colorful personalities make for some good reading.

The war in Iraq plays a large part of this story as well. However, the focus is more of a personal account of how the Hand women handle the war's interruption of their lives.

Gilchrist shines in the creation of her characters and brings a reader into their lives as an observer. Her characterizations are strong. She leaves nothing to the reader's imagination.

I worked diligently to not be prejudice in reviewing this work. Quite frankly, the world could do with more writers who possess the writing skills of Ellen Gilchrist. She is, in this reviewer's opinion, one of the best writer's in publication today.

The Art of Racing in the Rain
Garth Stein
9780061537936 $23.95

A day before he dies, Enzo, the family dog, reflects upon his live and the lives of his family and friends. It is this premise that shapes The Art of Racing in the Rain.

Enzo is no ordinary dog. He gains an advanced education in racing, history and nature

through his television viewing. In Enzo's words, "Sometimes if I'm watching the History Channel or the Discovery Channel or PBS or even one of the kids's channels – when Zoe was little, I'd end up spending half the day trying to pry some goofy jingles out of my brain. I learn about other cultures and other ways of life, and then I start thinking about my own place in the world and what makes sense and what doesn't."

Enzo is convinced that once a dog dies he returns in the body of a human. This thought brings him great happiness as he believes he can once again, as a human, be with Denny.

As a puppy, Enzo had Denny all to himself. Eventually, Denny marries and has a daughter named, Zoe. While initially Enzo kept his distance from Denny's wife, Eve, he learns he can be of great service to Denny in caring for Eve and for Zoe in Denny's absence.

Denny is an up and coming race car driver and Enzo shares Denny's love of racing. His favorite channel on television is the Speed Channel. Enzo listens carefully to his master and soon becomes somewhat an expert at racing, especially in the rain.

The Swift family endures a life of fear, disappointment, frustration and most of what would be considered the human condition. It is how they deal with their demons that makes his book a great read.

Any animal lover will understand Enzo through their own experiences with their animals. As each animal possesses a unique personality, so do humans. It is this connection that will keep you reading on and on. Warning: Don't buy this book thinking you can read it a bit at a time…won't happen.

Annie Slessman

Sullivan's Bookshelf

Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything
Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams
9781591841388 $25.95

The authors have coined a new word for their book's title. It alludes to both the well-known Wikipedia, the internet encyclopedia that multitudes of people composed without financial reward (and many others use at no cost) and to the word economics. Wikinomics is a new concept for business: let everyone and anyone contribute via the internet to solving your company's problems, to finding new and better ways of marketing your product, to helping with research and development, to coming up with new items to offer the public, and on and on.

This is done in one of seven ways:

1. Peer Pioneering--volunteer helpers
2. Ideagoras--idea exchanges
3. Prosumers--customers help make innovations
4. New Alexandrians--helping companies grow through the science of sharing
5. Platforms for Participation--everyone participates
6. Global Planet Floor--manufacturing-intensive industries give rise to planetary ecosystems for designing and building physical goods
7. Wiki Workplace--mass collaboration is creating a corporate meritocracy sweeping away hierarchical management

Of course, to obtain this mass collaboration, a firm must be willing to reveal its innermost secrets on the internet. This information has been considered to be proprietary and, therefore, held closely to a company's vest so to speak. Yet by sharing wit the world, or the masses, a company can tap into many or to more who are expert at what they do. And, as the old saying goes, many heads are better than one. Such mass collaboration has visible results: the well known Wikipedia is the most conspicuous of such efforts. A lesser known topic, though equally illustrative, presented in this volume is that of Goldcorp, a failing gold mining company. Not able to exploit its mining claim and about to go broke, it opened it's files, so to speak, to the internet asking anyone interested in helping the mine owners to come up with new gold finding techniques on its claim and therefore help keep the firm afloat. Surprisingly, many who heard this plea for help answered. Geologists offered many helpful suggestions. As a consequence, more gold was located on mine property and the corporation survived to thrive. Moreover, no one stole any gold from Goldscorp. Many large corporations have swallowed hard and opened up to the internet. Among them are such blue chip companies as IBM, Procter & Gamble, and Boeing. They've had nothing but good results, too.

Another example of mass collaboration pointed to is LINUX. "That is a world-class computer operating system created over the internet by Linus Torvalds and a loose volunteer brigade of software developers" according to this book's authors. LINUX has been an ongoing success with improvements still being made to it. And its use is open, free, to anyone. Naturally, certain firms, like Microsoft, aren't too happy about it. The fantastic, and quick, results obtained in the recent Human Genome Project is another fine example of cooperation from the masses. If there had been a major stumbling block to adopting certain aspects of Wikinomics, other than most firms' general reluctance to reveal confidential info, and most still don't like to, it's the problem of how do you turn something open, that's free, and brings results into something that can and does produce profits. The authors do write about those few who have. But mostly, so far, the rewards are indirect or in redirected compensation, like solving perplexing problems, getting more satisfaction therefore gaining additional knowledge, and gains like that. The Wikipedia is a case in point. Thousands composed it for free. Millions now use it, 24/7, for free. Only a handful of employees work there. And none are getting rich. Just ask James Wales, the founder. Still, the authors contend that this mass collaboration effort and use has certainly benefitted many.

"Millions of media buffs," write the authors, "now use blogs, wikis, chat rooms, and personal broadcasting to add their voices to a vociferous stream of dialogue and debate called the 'blogosphere.' Employees drive performance by collaborating with peers across organizational boundaries creating what we call a 'wiki workplace.' Customers become 'prosumers' by co-creating goods and services rather than simply consuming the end product. So-called supply chains work more effectively when the risk, reward, and capability to complete major projects--including massively complex products like cars, motorcycles and airplanes--are distributed across planetary networks of partners who work as peers." Don Tapscott, co-author, runs a think tank he founded. He has already written ten books. Tapscott also teaches at the University of Toronto, Anthony D. Williams is research director at the same think tank. He teaches at the London School of Economics where he graduated from with an advanced degree in researching. Recommended reading about the future of the internet, mass collaboration, business, culture, and society in general.

The General and Mrs. Washington: The Untold Story of a Marriage and a Revolution
Bruce Chatwick
Sourcebooks, Inc.
9781402206955 $24.95

George Washington is considered the father of the United States of America. Of course, he was the general who led this young nation to victory over the British and King George III during the Revolutionary War. And he became the first president of the newly formed country.
Much has been written about the first chief executive but little about his wife, Martha Washington. And even less is known about their marriage and, in a very real sense, their partnership. Oh, history books do tell readers that she was a young widow, one of the richest in Virginia, when George met her. But much new information is added herein. For example, she had four children by her first husband, Mr. Custis, who died young. But two of their kids died early on.

The author writes in the book that Martha Custis was a very small woman, barley five feet tall in her stockings, overweight and "plump," as many who knew her said. She had tiny hands and her face was oval, with a small mouth, high forehead, and rounded chin. She had beautiful white teeth--a rarity in the era. Her face was highlighted by short brown hair and soft hazel eyes. Martha had a thin, slightly hooked nose and was, by all accounts, rather plain-looking. Martha was not an educated woman and rarely read books at that time; her penmanship was nearly illegible and her spelling atrocious, much like the spelling of most Virginians of the day. "The charm of Martha Custis, though, was her personality."

When Martha met the young George, at age 27, she was just a few months older than he. To their marriage she brought her two surviving children, Patsy and Jacky. George took to his stepdaughter and son immediately. He did a lot for them, too. Martha, unsurprisingly, doted on her remaining kids. Though George didn't approve, he was understanding and kept his disapproval to himself.

He even doted, a little, on the girl because she was plagued with epilepsy. In sympathy, he bought her lots of toys, especially dolls. Moreover, through the years, George took her from one doctor to another, looking for the elusive cure. None were ever found. In a late teen year, the girl seemed to be getting better and having fewer seizures. But then she had severe episode and died in her loving stepfather's arms. He and Martha's world was turned upside down with their grief.
This left only Jacky, her little boy, for Martha to dote on. George, on the other hand, had tried to make a man of the boy. But the stepfather gave up and finally had to send the lad off to boarding school because he wasn't buckling down in his studies. Jacky liked to hang around with ne'er-do-wells, bet on horse races, played cards, and, what else …chase the ladies.
His poor stepfather grew more and more exasperated as time went on and Jacky refused to change his ways. Soon, the boy was engaged to a 15-year-old girl whom, over George's objections, Jacky eventually married. Martha tended to overlook her only still-alive child's foibles, though she wasn't keen on his youthful marriage.

Martha spent as much time with George during the war, through good times and bad, as was possible. Naturally, she lifted his sagging spirits, making him grateful to have her nearby. She was also beloved by the soldiers and officers and their wives. Without fail, she rolled up her sleeves and helped with medical aid and sewing for the military. And she was tireless in organizing Army wives in helping, too.

Then the inevitable happened. George had managed to keep Jacky, with his consent, out of the Army and away from the fray. And that was fine with Martha, who along with Jacky's young wife, who now had four children. But when the young married man heard that a big U.S. victory at Yorktown, Virginia was about to take place, thanks to French military support, he pleaded with his stepfather to take him there so he could witness the British defeat. After debate within the family, Jacky was allowed to go. George had to cinch the argument by promising Martha and Jacky's wife that Jacky, a civilian, would be kept far from the combat. And so he joined his stepfather's entourage at Yorktown. True to his word, George kept Jacky out of harm's way. No musket or artillery fire came near Jacky. But he did catch a case of camp fever. Though ill, Jacky did manage to witness the British surrender. Soon thereafter, Jacky died. The blow to the Washington family was tremendous. The general was devastated, too.

Though George retired back to Mount Vernon, his beloved home and respite from the world, after the war, a while later, he was sought out to preside over the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. Later, he was unanimously chosen as the first president of the new United States. Martha was at his side and helping throughout his two terms in office. She retired to Mount Vernon with George when his eight years were up. And she was glad to have him at their home. They had taken in Jack's widow and her kids, and various nieces and nephews, cousins, etc. It was always a full house. In 799, George died. Martha was distraught and remained so till her death in 1802. They are both entombed at Mt. Vernon. Bruce Chatwick, the author, has written several other history books among them: The First American Army, Traveling the Underground Railroad, and Two American Presidents.

The book is highly recommended.

Jim Sullivan

Terrilyn's Bookshelf

Certain Girls
Jennifer Weiner
Atria Books
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9780743294256 $26.95

Weiner has crafted a terrific sequel to her 2001 novel Good In Bed. Certain Girls picks up the story of Candice Shapiro, slightly overweight writer who had been mocked in print by her former journalist boyfriend, underachiever Bruce. Twelve years have past since we last saw Candice, and she is now a happily married woman with a twelve-year old daughter looking forward to her Bat Mitzvah.

The story is told alternately from Candice and Joy's point of view regarding body image, culture clash, past relationships that won't go away, blended families, and a rebirth of both mother and daughter. Candice has overcome her body issues and hopes the same monsters won't plague her daughter. Joy is coming of age, her selfishness knows no bounds, and she is struggling not only at home and with an extended family, but also among her peer group.

Weiner grows Candice's character and her portrayal of Joy is not as a mini-Cannie. The characters are well developed, and the last one hundred pages are worthy of an entire box of tissues. The novel is definitely a beach read for anyone who enjoys women's fiction.

Mia the Melodramatic
Eileen Boggess
Bancroft Press
PO Box 65360 Baltimore, MD 21209
9781890862565 $19.95

This wonderful sequel, following the coming-of-age adventures of Mia Fullerton, Iowa teen, takes place during the summer between her freshman and sophomore year of high school. She is separated from her best friend, Lisa (who is spending the summer at a MENSA camp), and her boyfriend, Tim (who has gone to spend the summer with his grandparents in Maine), and is forced to get to know the crazy characters at Little Tykes Theatre, her summer place of employment.

Boggess does a wonderful job taking a developed character (Mia) and stretching her in new directions. In this adventure Mia stands up for herself when Tim cheats on her, finds a new boyfriend, acts and sings on stage, punks her little brother, Chris, and makes new friends at her summer job. The novel is full of witty one-liners ("I thought if Zoe ever bit me, I'd definitely get myself checked for rabies" pg 15, "Wow, a thought crossed your mind? It must have been a long and lonely journey" pg 27, "Chris has a terminal case of diarrhea of the mouth combined with constipation of ideas" pg. 158 and "Don't let your mind wander—it's far too small to be let out on its own" pg 168) and hilarious descriptions of characters including "diva of the darkside", "acrimonious albino", and "Her Highness of hatred." Through her summer adventures, Mia realizes she is "the same . . . only different."

Mia's angst is more light-hearted than edgy, making it appropriate for 6-9 grade or even precocious upper-elementary readers. The third installment in the series will be the forthcoming, Mia the Mooch.

The Digital Plague
Jeff Sommers
Orbit Books
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316022101 $12.99

"I was going to have to kill a whole lot of people." So starts off Sommers's sequel to The Electric Church putting the reader right back with Avery Cates who again finds himself in the hotseat with the Monks. This time his long-time friend, Kev Gatz has teamed up with techno-geek Ty Keith to infect him with nanobots that multiply at an auspicious rate, destroying the body and killing the host within a few days, later reanimating the body into biological zombie robots. The catch is he is patient zero and though he alone can kill the world, he won't die from the nanobots because of a special code written into the tiny computers. As Cates delves deeper into the mystery, he finds an unlikely source of help in a ghost SSF officer, a new techie, and a Spook telekinetic. Though the King Worm never makes an appearance, Dick Marin saves Cates many times throughout the novel by having his name on a Person of Interest list that forbids any police or military officer to kill him.

The plot stretches over 10 days, and during that time Cates is beat up, breaks his leg, gets sick, and realizes he is getting old. Sommers does a good job keeping Cates's pain at the forefront of the story, never letting the reader feel comfortable when identifying with Cates. There are some ironic twists in the plot with more gore and less action and technology than The Electric Church. Overall, it is a good sophomore book. The third book in the series, The Eternal Prison, is due out in 2009.

Lilith Saintcrow
PO Box 545, Canon City, CO 81212
9781933417363 $14.00

An excellent addition to the Watcher series, Mindhealer deals with young witch Caro who meets her watcher, the British, Merrick, and helps solve the mystery of the normals and paranormals who are being made into an army for the Dark side.

Though the witch and watcher have similar personality traits to previous characters in the series (that is a must when dealing with how Saintcrow's watcher-world works), this book has a well-rounded cast of other paranormal characters. Saintcrow's beautiful language and movie-worthy fight scenes do not disappoint.

Terrilyn Fleming

Theodore's Bookshelf

What Burns Within
Sandra Ruttan
Leisure Books
c/o Dorchester Publishing
200 Madison Ave., NY, NY 10016
9780843960747 $7.99 800-481-9191

The author is a native of Vancouver, CA and a co-founder of Spinetingler Magazine, an online e-zine devoted to mystery literature. Her background serves her well in this initial entry in an expected series of police procedurals featuring Vancouver police officers.

This minutely and tightly constructed novel has the RCMP striving to solve a series of arsons, child abductions and rapes which, on the surface at least, appear to be unrelated. Three officers previously had been assigned to one difficult case together and have a history. Now each is working his own separate crime until the body of a young abducted girl shows up at an arson site. Now, everything becomes intertwined.

The novel is a classic police procedural, with detailed descriptions of each step along the way. The interactions of the protagonists and human emotions are finely told. The dialogue and writing are excellently presented and the story gripping. Further efforts in the series are greatly anticipated, and the book is highly recommended.

The Iron Tongue of Midnight
Beverle Graves Myers
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. First Ave., Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781590582329 $24.95 800-421-3976

One of the more bizarre murder instruments plays a role in three murders in the fourth novel in the Baroque Mystery series—a grandfather clock. In two of them, the pendulum bashes in the skull of the victim, while the hour hand is used to penetrate the throat of the third. It all takes place at a villa during the year1740 where Tito Amato and a group of singers are invited to rehearse a new opera.

Accompanied by his brother-in-law and sidekick in solving mysteries, Gussie Rumbolt, who is asked to paint scenes of the estate, Tito arrives, expecting a pleasant stay. Soon, however, the first victim is discovered with the clock indicating it stopped at midnight. And each time a body is discovered, the clock indicates midnight.

Having not read the preceding three novels in the series, a comparison can't be offered. But judging from this effort, it can be presumed by the plotting, dialogue and writing, that the novels are all of high quality. After a slow start, this reader became engrossed in the story and was pleasantly surprised. A good read, and recommended.

Jonathan Kellerman
Ballantine Books
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780345465276 $27.00 800-726-0600

No matter how predictable an Alex Delaware Novel can be, it is always different, interesting and informative. Alex demonstrates his knowledge of psychology; his sidekick Milo his detective skills; the evildoer the psychological characteristics for the two protagonists to use their skills. In other words, predictable but wholly entertaining.

In the current novel, we have a murderer who is rather clever, and no two victims are alike. The only clue is the killer's use of black luxury vehicles. But there is no motive for Alex and Milo to discern. Meanwhile Milo is confronted with the resurrection of the 16-year-old disappearance and possible murder of a young boy. Pressure is brought to solve the cold case because a convict in another state seeking a deal promises to disclose where the boy is buried.

One cannot sufficiently praise Jonathan Kellerman's talent for suspense. The text flows swiftly, while the reader is moved forward slowly but surely with explanations of the how and why. Always enjoyable, and recommended.

The Night Following
Morag Joss
Delacorte Press
c/o Bantam Dell, 1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780385341189 $22.00 800-726-0600

On the day she discovered her husband's infidelity, the woman was driving home from the supermarket in the rain. She hit a woman traveling on bike instantly killing her. Thus begins a complex tale. The novel alternates between letters written by the husband of the victim to his dead wife, chapters of the victim's novel, and the reactions of the motorist.

It is a complex concept, and wearing on the reader. The husband, Arthur Mitchell, shows an inability to cope without his wife, Ruth, and slowly deteriorates. The motorist kicks her husband out, and then devotes herself to secretly assisting Arthur, by spending nights at his home cleaning up, cooking and doing other chores by way of atonement.

Eventually, Arthur comes to believe that his dead wife somehow has returned to care for him, not realizing the very person responsible for her death is right there. It is a complicated and even perverse novel. And, I venture to say, probably will appeal to a restricted and limited audience, no matter how well-written it is. That said, and to that extent, it is recommended.

This is the author's sixth novel. She was a 2003 winner of the CWA Silver Dagger Award.

Murder in the Rue de Paradis
Cara Black
Soho Crime
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9781569474747 $24.00 212-260-1900

The real question is which is more interesting: the intricate unfolding of this Aimee Leduc mystery or the detailed and authentic descriptions of Paris. Each aspect, in its way, combines for an impelling story.

Just as Aimee reconnects with her on-again-off-again boyfriend in a meaningful way, he is murdered. In attempting to discover the identity of the perpetrator, Aimee becomes involved in a wider conspiracy involving the Moslem population of Paris, including Kurds and Turks, Iranians and a religious Jihad.

The plot is fashioned in such a way as to keep the reader completely in suspense, while taking one through the streets and quays in a backdrop so detailed that one can smell the Seine. Highly recommended.

City of the Sun
David Levien
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780385523660 $24.95 800-726-0600

Jamie Gabriel disappears early one morning and after a year little has been discovered by the police. Then a kind-hearted cop slips Jamie's father a worn business card of an ex-cop now PI. Despite various failed efforts by other investigators, the father, Paul Gabriel, approaches Frank Behr, and we are introduced to a new hard-boiled PI, the latest in a long line of hard-hitting, introspective PIs with a somewhat failed background, no matter how able they are.

Behr makes it a practice not to accept hopeless cases, and after 14 months, he know the leads are ice cold and there is little likelihood of either finding Jamie or uncovering what happened to him. But something in his background—he lost his own son—moves him to undertake the assignment. And, thus, we are led down a somewhat tortuous path as Behr doggedly finds facts and leads.

It is a gripping tale, well-told. Behr is a complex antagonist full of the knowledge of his profession, but haunted by his own history and self-doubts. Dogmatic to an extreme, he can soften and relent, especially when Paul insists on getting involved, forcing Frank to break a fundamental rule.

The book is highly recommended.

The Gentle Axe
R.N. Morris
Penguin Books
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780143113263 $14.00 800-847-5515

They don't write Russian novels like the old masers any more. But this effort comes close. The year is 1866 in St. Petersburg ad we find investigating magistrate Porfiry Petrovich still weary from the case, the year before, of the deranged student Raskolnikov made known to us in Crime and Punishment.

While an historical mystery, the story progresses more like a modern-day police procedural. It begins one wintry day with the body of a large peasant hanging from a tree in a park. Nearby, a suitcase lies with a dwarf in it, his head cut open by an axe which is found on the hanging man's belt. Is it a simple case of murder and suicide? From this beginning the story progresses to more murders, bringing Porfiry across a wide swath of the people and sites of the then Russian capital.

It would not be fair to compare this novel to one by Dostoyevsky, suffice it to say it is a real suspense-filled mystery, intricately plotted and completely enjoyable. More important, it is recommended.

Mark Billingham
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780061257018 $7.99 212-207-7000/800-242-7737

The latest Tom Thorne episode, about to be released in paperback, finds him still on the sidelines, suffering from an injury sustained in a previous caper, champing at the bit for a juicy murder case. But it is not to be. Instead, he is shunted off on special assignment to the Kidnap Section at Scotland Yard, which needs extra bodies for a sensitive case. The son of a retired Chief Inspector has been abducted.

The case is unusual. The lad is 16, not the customary age for a kidnapping. No ransom demand is forthcoming. No clues. The obvious places to start with are those who might have a grudge against the ex-DCI. But making assumptions isn't always the route to follow. And that's the case in this plot. Nothing is at it seems to be.

Together with his Scotland Yard counterpart, Louise Porter (a possible love interest?), Thorne looks for leads and connections which are many and unrelated. Most significant is one name which the father omits from a list of those who might be seeking revenge against him.

Step by step, the procedural builds to a mighty climax, with time always short. Is the boy still alive? What is the motivation? The result is so unexpected and twisted, one can only marvel at the intricacy as the plot unfolds. Highly recommended.

Sleeping Dogs
Ed Gorman
Thomas Dunne Books
c/o St. Martin's
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312367848 $23.95 646-307-5560

This novel purports to be sort of an insider account of a political campaign, narrated by political consultant Dev Conrad. He is hired by an Illinois Senator running for reelection following the suicide of the original consultant about three weeks before Election Day. It is rife with all kinds of trade jokes and wry comments about past and contemporary politicians.

The only problem is the question of how accurate some of these observations, criticisms and comments are. For instance, amid plenty of criticism of former President Clinton is this statement: "The only time I'd felt any support for Clinton after the first term was when the other side had tried to impeach him…" The fact is Bill was impeached, just not convicted. It's that kind of lack of expertise that raises the question of authenticity in the rest of the story.

Conrad's problem is that the Senator, like Clinton, just couldn't keep his zipper closed and he is videotaped in bed with a bimbo. Conrad's job now becomes how to defuse this potential bombshell. The descriptions of over-all campaign strategy, interactions of the staffs, and ploys and counter-ploys of the opposing candidates and their campaigns are well done. And there is at least one murder and some mysteries to be solved along the way. For a reader looking for some light and amusing reading, this book is recommended.

The Price of Blood
Declan Hughes
William Morrow
10 E. 53d St., NY, NY 10022
9780060825515 $24.95 212-207-7000/800-242-7737

The latest in the Ed Loy series has the Irish PI looking for a jockey who disappeared years before after holding back a favorite horse so it would lose. It brings him into the midst of deep dark secrets of a prominent horse-breeding and -racing family. Although there isn't enough information to even begin an investigation, such a lack doesn't seem to deter Loy.

Discovery of the first of several bodies opens the inquiry into the many mysteries of the Tyrell family. All this takes place beginning on Christmas Eve and leads up to the four-day Leopardstown Racecourse Christmas Festival. The story is set among the current and past Irish economic and social conditions, with observations on the people and the Catholic Church playing an important role. The plot involves, as usual, the sins of the fathers cast upon the children.

The drama is high, the writing solid. This third in the series is as gripping as its predecessors, and is highly recommended.

A Stranger's Game
Joan Johnston
Pocket Books, c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9780743454384 $25.00 212-698-7000/800-223-2336

This novel starts off and concludes with a bang (each of a different sort). FBI agent Breed Grayhawk meets a woman in a bar one night and engages in what he believes is a fantastic one-night stand. Oh were it so. In exchange for the sex, she extracts a promise from him, but doesn't tell him what it is. She is a convicted murderer of her parents, sentenced to Juvie until 21, and she has been spending the past year since her discharge attempting to find the real murderer and clear her name.

The woman is on the lam, having failed to attend her first meeting with her parole officer. She assumes a new identity and has "disappeared." Breed can't get her out of his mind, and has no way of contacting her. When finally meeting with her, she tells him her story and seeks his help. Thus begins a race against time, especially when she is accused of being a terrorist and chased by the FBI.

There are various subplots and personalities which complicate the basic story, all smooth and well-done. And, like Texas, larger than life. Filled with a serial murderer, suspense and hot romance, the novel progresses rapidly to its finale. Recommended.

Suffer the Little Children
Donna Leon
Penguin/Grove Press Book
c/o Penguin Group, 375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780143113614 $7.99 800-847-5515

In this 16th of the Commissario Guido Brunetti Mystery series, the reader is led through a convoluted plot in which there are more questions than answers. In the middle of the night, Brunetti is summoned from a deep sleep to the hospital bed of a doctor who has been assaulted when his home was invaded and he was struck by a rifle butt leaving him seriously hurt and unable to speak. The doctor's 18-month-old son was removed from the home.

In a separate plot line, Brunetti ands his staff are investigating the possibility of fraud on the part of pharmacists and doctors bilking the state of insurance money (see, it's not limited only to Medicare and Medicaid fraud in the United States). The question arises whether or not the two separate crimes are related.

In the casual style of a Brunetti investigation, the facts begin to unfold. And the story is told with the author's accustomed vivid portrayals of Venice, characterization, mystery and social views. Once again, Donna Leon has given us a novel to treasure. [It should also perhaps be noted that Ms. Leon's newest book, The Girl of His Dreams, has just been released in hardcover.] Highly recommended.

Death Will Get You Sober
Elizabeth Zelvin
Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Minotaur
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312375898 $23.95 212-674-5151, 646-307-5560

In the literature of private eyes, alcohol plays a prominent role. With the introduction of a potential new investigating team, we meet for the first time two "recovering alcoholics," Bruce and Jimmy, and the latter's girlfriend, Barbara, a counselor who works in a detox center. The author, a psychotherapist, has directed alcohol treatment programs and has written and lectured on addictions, codependency and online therapy. So it isn't surprising the novel in laced (no pun intended) with the jargon and principles of Alcoholics Anonymous.

The plot begins on Christmas Day, with Bruce in a Bowery detox center after having a blackout brought on by excessive drinking. There he befriends the man on the adjacent cot whose name is Godfrey—he introduces himself as "God." After a period, they receive a pass, and both return sober (or they would not be re-admitted). About 2 a.m., Bruce trips over a body in the laundry room. The dead man had suffered from cancer, ad it is presumed to be a natural death. Later that night, God suffers stomach cramps and then dies. Are the deaths related?

Bruce is released, but can't let go of his suspicions about God's death. He enlists the help of Jimmy, a computer genius, and Barbara, in looking into his friend's demise. But soon, other dead bodies turn up, in other detox centers, as well as that of God's brother-in-law, a plastic surgeon; his secretary; and God's sister. Are all these murders related as well?

For a debut effort, this novel is very well-constructed, with snappy dialogue between interesting characters. The author plans to develop a series, with Bruce continuing to grow as he remains a thoughtful but sober character, assisted by his two friends. A good read, and recommended.

Hold Tight
Harlan Coben
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780525950608 $26.95 800-847-5515

Unexpected twists and turns complete with a surprising ending characterize the novels of this popular author, and this book is no exception. As with his previous efforts, Coben uses his New Jersey background for a setting, although for some strange reason the Bronx plays a vital role.

Mike and Tia Baye are a suburban couple with two children. He's a surgeon, she's an attorney. Their 16-year-old son has become withdrawn and sullen, especially after the suicide of his best friend, and they are unable to penetrate his withdrawal. So they go against their better judgment and begin spying on him. They place spyware on his computer to learn what he is surfing, and read his e-mails. Thus begins a trip down a dangerous path. The son runs away and his parents learn he plans to go to a drug and drinking party.

If that isn't enough excitement, there are a few other sub-plots with enough intrigue and danger to keep the reader on edge. Written with the author's accustomed tautness, the intricacies of the plot keep moving steadily forward to a rousing finish. Recommended.

A Carrion Death
Michael Stanley
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780061252402 $23.95 212-207-7000/800-242-7737

There are two similarities between this debut novel and Alexander McCall Smith's No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series. First, both are set in Botswana. Then, the protagonists. The lady detective is described as zaftig. And here we are introduced to assistant superintendent of the CID David Bengu, nicknamed "Kubu"—Setswana for hippopotamus—who tips the scales at 300 pounds. There the comparisons cease.

Almost 500 pages of pure police procedural colored with the sights and sounds of the African country, the story begins with the discovery of a dismembered skeleton in a wildlife preserve, presumably left there to be totally devoured by hyenas. It is but the first of several murders, all apparently linked to the largest company in Botswana, a cattle and diamond-mining firm. The larger-than-life detective—he loves his wife as well as eating and drinking wine—chases confusing clues, promptly followed by another murder.

Written by two mathematicians—Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip—the well-plotted novel is constructed with precision. It is an impressive introduction, and the authors have deep knowledge of the area and are working on a second Kubu novel tentatively entitled, The Second Death of Goodluck Tinubu. It is something to be looked forward to based on this book, which is highly recommended.

Peter Leonard
Thomas Dunne Books
c/o St. Martin's Minotaur
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312379025 $24.95 212-674-5151/646-307-5560

The author recalls having written a screenplay and showing it to his father, Elmore Leonard. "Wanting to be a screenwriter is like wanting to be a co-pilot," was the response. "You want to write, write a book." Well he wrote the first chapter, submitted it to his father and waited. "Boy, you're on the way." And the rest of the chapters complete the tale. When he read the entire manuscript, Leonard commented: "You've got a sound. It took me ten years to get my sound. You've written a terrific novel." And so he has.

The plot is a relatively simple one: Kate McCall becomes a widow when her husband is killed by their son in a hunting accident. Over the next seven months, the boy becomes withdrawn and runs away. Then he is kidnapped with $2 million demanded in ransom. The real value in the book is the characterizations. It would not be fair to compare the personages to those of Elmore Leonard. But why not? They're right up there with the master.

Leonard deftly moves the plot along, with double-crosses and unexpected twists, leading up to a deadly standoff. The novel is a pleasant surprise and we hope Peter is hard at work on his next one. Highly recommended.

Theodore Feit

Victoria's Bookshelf

One Small Victory
Maryann Miller
Five Star
295 Kennedy Memorial Drive, Waterville, Maine 04901
9781594146992, $25.95, 293 pages

What would you do if your son died in an auto accident brought on by drug use? Jenny Jasik finds out when her oldest son Michael dies while riding with his best friend, a young man high on drugs and driving too fast. Jenny's stunned when the cops ask her if Michael was into drugs too. Not even her worst nightmare could have prepared her for this.

She struggles to cope with her grief and the indifference of her ex-husband, Ralph, who's all but abandoned his family. She must also deal with her other son's anger and resentment towards his father and the loss of his brother.

Jenny's horrified to discover drugs being sold at the local high school and decides to do something about it. Approaching the police chief of her small town, she offers her services as an informer. The job's dangerous and Chief Gonzales tries to talk Jenny out of it, but another cop, Steve, backs her up and helps her get the position.

It's not easy keeping a secret like this from your children, but Jenny's determined to do so. Jenny starts to spend too much time away from home and it isn't long before Ralph's poking his nose in her business and threatening to take away the kids. No one knows what she's up to, but dressing like a hooker doesn't look good for Jenny's reputation. Her son Scott grows more resentful every day, but Jenny's committed herself to getting drugs off the streets and away from the kids of her community.

When Jenny gets a gun, the game changes and begins to intensify quickly. It's anybody's guess whether Jenny can survive the quest she's on.

One Small Victory is great Romantic Suspense and a read you won't want to miss.

Maryann Miller is the author of Coping With Weapons and Violence In School and On Your Streets.

Unholy Domain
Dan Ronco
Kunati Inc.
6901 Bryan Dairy Road, Suite 150, Largo, FL 33777
9781601640215, $24.95

Unholy Domain takes place in the near future. It's an exciting and sometimes alarming story where technology and religion clash and fight it out to the death.

The religion is fundamentalist in nature with the freedom of owning a gun one of its precepts. They view all technology as works of the devil and work hard to destroy their enemies. The Church of Natural Humans is a frightening vision of religious fanaticism.

It's an era of economic collapse. In the midst of all this lives a young man whose father's responsible for the virus that killed millions of people and caused a depression. David Brown must live with the consequences of his father's deeds. This includes mobs harassing him and throwing rocks through his windows. He has no friends. No one will befriend the son of a monster.

Now David has received a message left to him by his father before he died. His father tells him that he's not the one responsible for the virus. David tries to verify his father's words. Was he telling the truth?

David sets out on a search to find the truth. It's a dark and dangerous journey and he might not come out of it alive.

Unholy Domain is a sci-fi thriller that gives us a glimpse into a frightening future, one where religion and government both are out of control. It's a tale from out of our worst nightmares and will not only entertain but make you stop and think.

Unholy Domain is the author's second novel, his first being PeaceMaker.

Victoria Kennedy

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

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