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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 9, Number 6 June 2009 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Bethany's Bookshelf Bob's Bookshelf
Buhle's Bookshelf Burroughs' Bookshelf Carson's Bookshelf
Christy's Bookshelf Clark's Bookshelf Debra's Bookshelf
Diane's Bookshelf Fern's Bookshelf Georganna's Bookshelf
Gloria's Bookshelf Gorden's Bookshelf Harwood's Bookshelf
Henry's Bookshelf Karyn's Bookshelf Kaye's Bookshelf
Logan's Bookshelf Margaret's Bookshelf Paul's Bookshelf
Terrilyn's Bookshelf Theodore's Bookshelf Victoria's Bookshelf

Reviewer's Choice

A Spark of Heavenly Fire
Pat Bertram
Second Wind Publishing
931-B South Main Street, Box 145, Kernersville, NC 27284
9781935171232 $18.00

Aaron Paul Lazar, Reviewer

Who says you can't squeeze romance into a thriller? And while you're at it, how about weaving in a deeply moving story about human redemption?

Author Pat Bertram says you can. And she'll convince you before you can say chimera - the lethal combination of virus, bacterium, fungus, and human genes that causes the rapid spread of the "red death," a bio-engineered weapon threatening the entire state of Colorado.

Kate Cummings is trying to deal with the loss of her husband, who drove his car off a mountain after a long battle with Multiple Sclerosis. She passes by his bedroom without daring to enter, and slogs through life in a solemn daze, feeling guilty for every time she waited a few extra minutes to answer his summons, or for each time she became angry. His loss haunts her, and although her work at the Bowers Medical Clinic is fulfilling, it can't heal the hole in her heart.

When a jogger stumbles into Kate with red eyes blazing, he vomits blood on her and dies instantly. A rash of similar deaths follows, decimating the state. Orange paint markers on front doors - signifying a "red death" in the marked homes - begin to appear with frightening regularity. Panicked parents discard their red-eyed children, fearful of contagion.

Enter Greg Pullman, reporter for the Denver News, who's engaged to the ditzy beauty, Pippi O'Brien, local TV weather girl. But when he bumps into Kate after Pippi heads for the border in search of safety, things change. Together, Kate and Greg investigate and unearth the shocking source of the horror that has shut down their state and caused a rogue wing of the military to terrorize Colorado's remaining citizens. Basic human amenities - so often taken for granted - become grounds for murder. And the streets are no longer safe to walk unescorted.

In addition to a killer story line, smooth writing, and phenomenal characterization, this page turning thriller features fine examples of charity through glimpses into Kate's huge heart. The remarkable heroine opens her home to survivors who are homeless and hungry. Soon, partnered with a destitute woman named Dee, Kate's home becomes a refuge for survivors. And in the midst of the massive deaths, terror, and horror, Kate finds salvation.

The tension in A Spark of Heavenly Fire is electric. Taut suspense pulls you along at a rapid pace. This reader was up way past his bedtime three nights in a row. And yes, it was that good.

How to Steal a Dog
Barbara O'Connor
Scholastic Publishing
557 Broadway, New York, NY 10012
9780545104425, $4.99,

Brenda Risager

I have to say the title lends itself to a curious reason of reading this particular book. I felt a sense of mystery and was intrigued in how to steal a dog and to find out what the author's story line was going to center around.

How does the author write, use language, illustrate, his/her points, develop character, exhibit clarity of instruction, aptness of examples, innovative storyline. Use a brief quotation from the book itself to illustrate your observations, opinions, and comments.

The author begins the storyline right away with a mental picture of a family sitting inside a car where you feel you can see the congestion of the families personal belongings scattered throughout the car. The author has the story focus on a little girl who lives in a car and is afraid of her good friend finding out. Georgina, the girl, tries hard to not let her secret out of the bag. All she wants is to have a normal life like her friend Luanne. The author does an excellent job of allowing the reader to be in wonder yet allows pieces of the puzzle to be discovered little by little in how Luanne finds out the secret. The author gives you the knowledge of how living in this car is eating away at Georgina, "I knew my silence was like stirring." This also gives the reader the idea that the lie Georgina is keeping was being discovered as Luanne puts the pieces together.

Georgina feels it's her responsibility to find a way out of the living arrangements her, her mother, and brother are forced to be in. She sees a reward poster for a lost dog. This is where Georgina gets the idea if her and her brother were to steal a dog; they could collect a money reward when the owners posted a lost dog sign. As this hope of stealing a dog comes closer and finally succeeds, she encounters another stranger, Mookie. He is someone who in some sense is a lot like Georgina and teaches her a life lesson that she ends up learning a lot from. "The more you stir it, the worse it stinks," Mookie says. She knew exactly what the lesson was.

This book is centered for an audience of ages 9-12. The book is for those who want an enjoyment book to read even though a heavy topic centers the storyline. It is a relaxing book that is embedded with a lot of lessons one can learn from.

Does the book succeed in what the author is trying to accomplish? Does it entertain, instruct, persuade, inform, train, teach, and alarm? Do you have suggestions for the author's next time around in print?

I feel Barbara O'Connor, the author, wants her readers to capture the true essence of what one must do to survive in ways "normal" people don't need to. The lessons are brought out as the storyline progresses with Georgina and her inner self telling what is the right thing to do. I think the author does inform you as a reader of what really lies out in the real world, and how challenging it is when you have nothing. It makes you feel blessed for what you have and broken hearted for those that lack the necessities of life. It would be inspiring to have a sequel where Georgina is older and to see where life takes her. How did she instill the lessons she learned?

The author writes this story with her own dogs in mind. She develops her title and centers the story on a dog, in which she has three. She is the author of numerous publications in political communication and telecommunication policy and applications. She was appointed assistant professor and director of debate at CSUS in 1972. She also was promoted to associate professor in 1976, elected vice chair of the department in 1974 and chair of the department in 1975. She served two terms as chair of the department and director, and Institute for the Study of Politics and Media California State University in Sacramento, CA from 1984- present. She has written Beethoven in Paradise, Fame and Glory in Freedom Georgia, Greetings from Nowhere, Me and Rupert Goody, Moonpie and Ivy, and Taking Care of Moses.

Readers may enjoy Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Last Straw, by Jeff Kinney, Just Grace, by Charise Mericle Harper, and Lawn Boy, by Gary Paulsen.

Lavender Ink
Fran Walker
BedazzledInk Nuance Books imprint
Fairfield, California
9781934452226 $13.95

Doris J. Garden

Lavender Ink is an instructional/information filled must have book for every wanna be and established lesbian author. It's 224 pages are filled with examples of various aspects of the craft of writing. Guest authors Andi Marquette, Nann Dunne, Sacchi Green and L-J Baker help to provide insight into the job and structure of writing. Most impressive is Ms. Walker's ability to discuss what most would say is the least glamorous aspect, the business end of being an author and she does it with humor. She instructs and provides examples of the basic contract, what rights an author should or should not give up. How to read the clauses and know what they mean. There's an entire chapter devoted to "after the sale" on how to market your book, something most authors do not even think about. This is a must have for anyone wanting to publish either short stories or complete manuscripts.

The Noticer
Andy Andrews
Thomas Nelson
9780785229216 $17.99

Gina Hendrix, Reviewer

Do you need a fresh look at things? Have the issues in your life become mundane? Then take a journey into the book 'The Noticer: Sometimes All You Need is a Little Perspective' by Andy Andrews.

In this book, you travel through the lives of ordinary people who encounter a man named 'Jones'. An unassuming character, but only at first. Once he engages you in conversation, you will never look at things in the same way again.

Very similar to the character "Baggar Vance" in the film "The Legend of Baggar Vance", Jones enters the lives of several people from many different walks of life, some he approaches respectfully and some in a much more forceful way. His demeanor soon dispels the initial objection of his intended 'new best friend'.

During these conversations, many popular, modern day ideas are dispelled. Ideas such as 'experience being the best teacher' and 'don't sweat the small stuff' which have become household sayings are challenged and scrutinized by Jones' perspective as he engages you in the conversation.

I must say that while I read (and re-read) this story, I often looked up and around me quietly expecting Jones to appear in my life.

In these conversations, Jones addresses life issues such as the despair of a young orphaned man, the hopelessness of a couple on the verge of divorce, a man contemplating suicide, and the tender thoughts of an older woman withdrawn from a world she believes no longer needs her.

I found wisdom in each of Jones' dialogues with these characters. My personal favorite new 'perspective' was 'the difference between a mistake and a choice' and the illumination of the most common 'love languages'.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who seeks authenticity. You will find life lessons that you may have already learned, lessons you may need to re-learn, and still more lessons you may need to be introduced to for the very first time.

Adnan Mahmutovic
9781933688107 $4.95 (available in PDF download)

Jasenko Dervisic

Illegitimate tells the story of twenty six year old Fatima, a Bosnian-born refugee prostituting in Munich. Life is tough on the snowy streets of Munich, where the pimps are greedy and the customers have strange fetishes. On Fatima's long list of clients are some of the most powerful men in the city. Some of these hypocrites use her physically, others do it emotionally, but they never pay the price that she deserves.

At night, tottering home from a client, with make-up and saliva smeared all over her face, she fantasizes about becoming the legitimate child of her new "motherland," and some day even becoming a journalist. Fatima finds compassion in her fellow co-workers Bozena, Hagera and Mary (also illegal aliens).

Some parts of Illegitimate are violent, others moving, mind-numbing. Yet, occasionally, there is silence, which is nearly vociferous. Mahmutovic has written a provocative book. The characters are distinct and the language is witty; the plot twists are many and the way he portrays the world through the eyes of a female prostitute is both credible and, at times, romantic - which should not be attributed to a lack of empathy, but rather to the surplus thereof: as if the author felt so strongly for his heroine, he just couldn't resist injecting a bit of optimism in order to prevent Fatima from mental meltdown.

Illegitimate is about getting fucked over by The Man. But it is also about dreams, impossibilities, identity cards, journalism, liberation, friendship, a music box, opportunism, lubricant, and bullshit. Ultimately, this cacophony hits you in the gut with such power it stirs up feelings of disgust along with a sudden urge to throw these up. There are only a handful of books capable of doing that.

Heir of Suspicion
James Hensal
Advocate House
c/o A Cappela Publishing
P.O. Box 3691, Sarasota, Florida, 34230-3481
09780981893310, $15.95,

Jodi Grant, Reviewer

No one except Jim Hensal - defense attorney, prosecuting attorney and judge - could have concocted this exciting morality tale about mis-used powers by the law and the press.

Hensal presents us with John Marshall, a young attorney who has just made partner in his law firm. On the very night of his celebration dinner, his father and step-mother are brutally murdered, and he becomes sole heir to his prestigious father's fortune. This fact alone makes him the scapegoat for the efforts of law enforcement officials and an unscrupulous newspaper columnist who defames him, resulting in John's dismissal from his firm.

He escapes conviction and flees to Italy, to the beguiling Luci, and while there he discovers his own true heritage. This results in the murder of his grandfather and another fortune bequeathed to him, and suspicion once again of his guilt.

John's only crime is his inheritances, interpreted as motive enough for murder. Walk with him as he becomes disillusioned with his job, the law, the press, and justice itself. Only love survives, through death threats and conflicting loyalties.

A great read that will keep you riveted to your chair. Don't wait for the bookstore: get it now at

The Library of Athena, Book Two the Ankh of Isis
Christine Norris
Samhain Publishing Ltd.
577 Mulberry Street, Suite 1520, Macon, GA 31201
9781605042927 $13.00

Kim Rapier

Megan Montgomery has a secret not even her father knows about. She's the librarian to the Library of Athena, where Sir Gregory, a famous archaeologist, has hidden clues to famous treasures within books. People can literally get lost behind the pages.

After Megan's last adventure, she'd hoped that she could have some time off during the Easter break. But then her father tells her that Mr. Hemmlich, a potential client and archaeologist, will be staying for the week. He's bringing his cute son too.

Megan starts suspecting things when Mr. Hemmlich starts asking questions about Sir Gregory. Megan can't help but think this visit has more to do with finding the secret library and the hidden treasures. Now all she needs to do is make sure she doesn't get swept away into another book, where if she doesn't solve Sir Gregory's riddles, she might never come back.

This book is sure to appeal to fans of Rick Riordan's LIGHTNING THIEF. Norris sets up a world where books hold riddles on hidden treasures of ancient worlds. In this story, Megan must solve the riddle on the location of the ankh of Isis or else she's stuck inside the book forever. The facts of ancient Egypt are interesting as are the riddles. Think INKHEART meets mythology treasures. Add high adventure and you have a real hit.

The only problem I had with this book was the internal voice which at times took me out of the story. Otherwise Norris has created a world sure to appeal to those who love mysteries, mythology, and fantasy. Megan is a strong heroine that tweens and teens can cheer for as she solves, along with her friends, the riddles hidden within the books.

In the Shadow of War
Patrick M. Garry
Inkwater Press
6750 SW Franklin Street, Suite A, Portland, OR 97223-2542
9781592992331 $16.95 503-968-6777

Laurie A. Weber

Who among us hasn't at one time or another looked at a magazine or watched a movie and thought, "I wish my family and friends were as perfect, as normal as those pictured." Glen Kinsella grew up with those thoughts. Five years younger than his mentally retarded brother, Ricky, Glen discovered his own human weaknesses extended to embarrassment, feelings of insecurity, and cowardice when venturing together with Ricky outside of their neighborhood. But in the safety of their neighborhood, Glen's love for Ricky and a delighted indulgence in play was uninhibited.

Patrick M. Garry's first published novel, "In the Shadow of War," chronicles Glen's summer following his high school graduation. The year was 1970. The location was his grandfather's "blinker" town ("if you blink as you're driving along the highway, you miss them"): Corcoran, population - six. Although Glen had spent his summers in Corcoran since the age of nine, this was the first summer he went without Ricky. For both Glen and his grandfather, it was a summer of hope. And acceptance. And maybe even forgiveness.

For Glen's grandfather, the summer brought the beginnings of his long held dream of revitalizing his town: he had convinced the wives of three deployed Viet Nam war soldiers to move into Corcoran. Community dining, picnics for the local veterans from the nearby VA hospital and renovation of the old dance ballroom for a grand opening performance by the town's newest arrival, Suzanne, bring a life and vitality to Corcoran for the first time in decades. For a cynical and distrustful Glen, the summer showed him that there is perfection in imperfection, but regrets and self-hatred are hard to banish in the light of a new tragedy.

"In the Shadow of War" highlights what Garry does best as a novelist: pulling together an unlikely cast of characters with quirks and foibles and creating a sense of community among them. His characters show the full spectrum of what it means to be human and in its truth, his world of misfits is more appealing than any magazine picture or movie. Garry's portrayal of Ricky, Glen's retarded brother, captures an enchanting personality with his description of Ricky's "martian-invader fantasies." Glen remarks, "The thing about being with Ricky is that we could sneak back into the world of childhood make-believe whenever we wanted."

Garry's stripping of humanity down to the emotional basics is complemented by his poignant prose evoking a simpler time and place. Chapter titles and unique observations displayed in comparison and simile usage add to the reminiscent quality of the narrative. Garry's writing is both tender and sensitive while displaying a wry sense of humor as evidenced in his many references to "retarded" throughout the text: "Grampa was like that. He always thought things would be fine. He was kind of retarded that way."

"In the Shadow of War" is an engaging and thought-provoking read that will leave you with a renewed compassion for the people in your own life, including yourself.

The Nine Lives of Clemenza
Holly Christine
9780557056200 $12.99

Liana Metal, Reviewer

Very Highly Recommended

Holly Christine has studied English and Philosophy and lives with her family in Pennsylvania. The Nine Lives of Clemenza is her second novel. Learn more about her at

The Nine Lives of Clemenza is an unusual novel about God and the Universe. I loved the descriptions of cosmos throughout the story. It is written in the third person in simple language, so it is easy to read by any age, from teenagers to adults. It is highly entertaining and interesting, and educational too. In her stories the author highlights the importance of love, compassion and selflessness; she teaches people to transform into better human beings, to help others and try to become less selfish. A useful read by all means!

I greatly enjoyed the moving and, at times, humorous stories of The Nine Lives of Clemenza. They are absolutely gripping-I read it all in one sitting. All the stories included are exciting, fast paced and all the scenes described in each story are vividly depicted and read as 'real'.

In this book, realistic characters that represent all the main elements of the world on earth form a unity that will help readers understand the author's aim and the message she intends to give them. This message is repeated in the last chapter of the book.

This novel teaches valuable lessons about life. To sum up, it is an unusual entertaining and educational read. Get it from

1089 Nights: An Odyssey through the Middle East, Africa and Asia
Ann von Lossberg
New York
9781440105203 $18.95

Lois Henderson

The prefatory allusion to The Book of One Thousand and One Nights introduces the reader to the text that follows - one is encouraged to expect a cornucopia of interwoven tales. Despite not being an epic work, the Odyssey is a lively non-fiction account of Ann von Lossberg's travels together with her boyfriend, Jim Hucock, through the Middle East, Africa and Asia, mainly undertaken in the 1980s. Written with the benefit of hindsight, based on the details that she meticulously wrote up in her journals, the Odyssey has a vibrancy and immediacy that makes it sound as though you are seated with her around a camp fire.

From the outset, her engaging use of dialogue elicits our close involvement with the evolution of her travels from a vague longing to the actual nitty gritty strategizing of her adventure into yet-to-be-encountered realms. Refreshingly lacking in pretension, her flowing text is direct and appealing. Unlike many other travel writers, she does not resort to lengthy descriptions overloaded with adjectives, rather imbuing her writing with momentum and drive. Reveling in the exotic-sounding names of local phenomena encountered on their travels, she delights in lively and colorful descriptions of others whom they meet along the way.

Never patronizing in her approach, Anne sums up the relevance of what they see in images accessible even to the most homebound of travelers, such as where she writes of Cappodocia as "a mushroom village in a fantasy world, a Disneyesque kind of limestone landscape." In this way she allows the reader to embellish her tales with their own appreciation of the myth and mystique of the lands through which she passes.

Any difficulties that Anne and Jim encounter are related with humor, such as their inability to express their appreciation of Turkish delights in terms other than "guzel"(good): "Guzel tea, we tell them. Guzel food. Guzel Turkish cigarettes in little tins. Everything is guzel." Her appreciation of children, including the frantically eager Cemil, and animals, such as the timeless camels, also enlivens the text.

Anne's open-mindedness is shown, for example, where, though critical of the chauvinistic culture of Turkey, she views self-limiting aspects of the society as reasonable within such a context. Retrospective reflection has enhanced her understanding of different cultures, allowing her to come to terms with what clearly were rather unpleasant experiences at the time. Regarding her responding to men who addressed her in the streets, she now realizes that "[w]ith each answer, I inadvertently reinforced their poor opinion of me."

Anne's US nationality emerges in her encounters with Syrian society, where she feels the need briefly to outline the reason for the lack of entente cordiale between the two nations. Her avoidance of the polemic makes her account consistently fluent and readable. Sensitive to the idiosyncracies of others, Anne is at all times respectful, and even at times reverential, towards foreign cultures and traditions, as in her description of worship in a Syrian mosque: "The unified effect of hundreds bowing the same moment and the sense of humility are wondrous."

Anne's narration of the Odyssey is self-directed, but definitely not self-absorbed.

Revelations of the significance of travel for the human psyche are counterpoised against practical insights into what travel on a limited budget entails. Though Anne makes a passing reference to her poetic and introverted nature, she restrains such impulses with what appears to be admirable ease. Rather than swamping her readers with obsessively self indulgent soul searching, stray moments of spiritual introspection are pithy and absent of angst, such as where she compares Jim and herself to onions "shedding layers of our former selves". Making the commonplace exceptional is, after all, the prerogative of the poet.

Foreclosure Nation: Mortgaging The American Dream
Shari B. Olefson, JD,LLM
Prometheus Books
59 John Glenn Drive, Amhearst, NY 14228
9781591026631 $18.98

Mark Nash

Foreclosure Nation offers real life solutions to all the doom and gloom in the media on how to manage your mortgage payment, be it paid in full monthly or near foreclosure or flirting with short-sale status. Ms. Olefson is an expert on the mortgage industry as an attorney specializing in real estate. Written in a easy-to-read format, this nuts and bolts book is a home run for consumers finding their way through the mortgage maze. The author offers compelling insight on how the American economy arrived at this credit crisis through the short sightedness of Wall Street and the federal government.

Chapter titles are: Cultural Entitlement, Credit, and the American Dream, The Mortgage: As American as Apple Pie, Building a Real Estate Bubble, "POP", The Great American Wakening, Foreclosure 101, The Silver Lining, and Predictions, Relief, and Reforms. Additional features include acknowledgments, an introduction, a glossary, and a complete appendix with samples for many mortgage related documents.

Foreclosure Nation should be required reading for every potential and current mortgage holder. Not another over-hyped crisis book, Ms. Olefson backs up her commentary with clear visuals like inventory, absorption, and price trend graphs. The tips, tools, and resources alone make this one of the most pro-consumer books this year, in a category littered with numerous books examining the mortgage problem, but not offering a recipe for solutions.

Chiana Ryan PI: Murder Sucks
June Whyte
Zumaya Thresholds; illustrated edition
9781934841129 $12.99

Molly Martin, Reviewer

Chiana Ryan PI: Murder Sucks opens as Chiana, her friends Tayla and Jack McEvoy discuss the dead body Patsy Turner has found. Dead as a fish dinner according to Jack.

It didn't take Chiana long to get her notebook open and begin to take notes. A mystery short story contest for kids under 14 in KidLit magazine offered a $500 prize, plus the winning entry was to be published on the Internet. Chiana was determined to write the winning tale.

Adding to the narrative, the body has disappeared. Chiana intends to use the expertise she has gained from her reading of each and everyone of the Nancy Drew book series.

Tomboy Chiana and her gorgeous step sister Sarah are at odds, a dog named Leroy, step father Ken is besotted with Marg, Chiana's mom, laughing class and a girl with the name Krystal Masters all serve to move the narrative forward.

Chiana sleuths on trying her best to get to the bottom of puzzle in which she finds herself. Chiana enlists the help of friends, her somewhat languid, albeit cookie crazed bulldog and even her self-satisfied step sister

Writer Whyte has created a venue filled with kid pleasing characters, action and excitement.

Chiana Ryan and her desire to become a murder mystery writer when she grows up is sure to interest girls especially but boys too of the target reading age.

A body that appears, disappears and then reappears two days later, a strange old fellow who spins a hard to believe tale of aliens landing a space ship on the nearby church roof, and a pink handkerchief emblazoned with the letter K all meld in the tale of murder, a cache of drugs and a surprising escape are only some of the amusing escapades centered on screwball clues and red herrings designed to keep the reader turning the page and more than a little confused for who it is exactly that is the perpetrator behind all the chicanery.

Attention-grabbing settings, appealing stratagem and out of the ordinary characters are all part of the mix in this first in the series from Writer Whyte.

Happy to recommend Chiana Ryan PI: Murder Sucks especially for middle grade readers.

The Collected Poetry of Hugh Fox 1966-2007
Hugh Fox
World Audience, Inc.
303 Park Ave. South, #1440, New York, NY 10010-3657
9781935444039 $35.00

Morty Sklar

Just as one should not judge a book by its cover, one should not judge a 540-page, 7 inches by 10 inches book of a poet's collected body of work by its first one hundred or so pages - or at least a collection in chronological order, as this one is, spanning forty-one years.

So I didn't, and was rewarded for that. At first I'd latch-on to parts, then lose interest. It felt like mining, sifting through a lot to get a little, but without hitting a vein.

What stands out the most in these writings is love, care, and involvement with family, including both wives and several children; friendships; health and vitality - having started-out with polio, then surviving a heart attack and cancer; a super awareness of the Angel of Death's making its rounds - one after the other of friends and colleagues; and a delight in life and living, from street-kiosk hot dogs to fine dining, from tramping in the forest with or without his son, to looking through a window at new snow; and the cultures of Peru, Mexico, Venezuela, Argentina, Spain, Brazil, Chile, Portugal ; street poetry

Relating to the last above, this from "Buk-Mares," page 478:

(Bukowski says) " You owe me everything, I taught you / everything you know, and he told me, / Forget all that college crap, write from the / street, who you really are "

Some of the Fox poems that I like most have "hits" - resolutions or revelations of some kind - but more of the poems (which, if I'd read them in a context other than a book of poetry) are just lovely writing that may not "say" anything, but is enjoyable for the language. From "Pendulunming," page 300:

" the baby on the / Spanish swing summering back / in a harvest of breastss and hair,/ honest woman who Earth-sweeps like / wheat and tides into my contracting / space, baby boys coming back with / wives older than their mothers when / they were born "

This is from one of my favorites, a Kerouac-like "23,000," page 310: " / glitz Towers siren meatball- / pizza traffic, the ambassadorial / chesterfields-collared / elder proceeding along / 57th followed by two / stooges carrying an / innocent Vlaminck / lulled by fatigue and / the beautiful spruce in / the 1st day of Spring innocent / wind, easy rider through bloodless / /crackless, spread-leg / Time."

I'm touched each time I read this from "Trivial Pursuit," page 331: " the doorbell / rings, Noodles leaves a / Christmas present for / Alex, can't come in, 'His / father's an inventor / sci- / fi writer who works at / the post office, his mother's / just nice he wants to be a genetic engineer ,' / I tell her later 'This is the / kind of guy to get, someone / you can be yourself with ,' / she cries, touched that someone / cares, how can you get to 16 so / untough, permeable, vulnerable, / afraid, afraid to give, give in, / to be given to, do I love her most / of all my kids because she's the / one who's least good at erecting / walls."

From number 10 of "The Sacred Caves," page 374, which strongly combines Fox's intelligence, knowledge, passion, humor, and energy (written in parts in prose form):

(in Spain) " a dustdwelling Peon Espanol who, under the Republic, at least was summoned to Arise and Sing, although the gradual Republican passage into complete structurelessness inevitably must have existentially forced the emergence of not just some sort of structure, but a structure stronger than anything previous because it had the added necessity of re-shaping Anarchy into Order, which is even more ironic because this Zona Franca(o) Force, by de-emphasizing the faceless Pawns and energizing the Knights and/or adding the Entrepreneur to the Board ('We must lift up and rebuild Spain and make our national revolution effective, improving the living-conditions of our peoples' MIDDLE CLASS') turned los peones into los Polocks, Bohunks/Spics/Wops, and Time became a grocery cart you wheeled down endless aisles of INI Supermercado Milagro, blessed by the overarching benedictioning hands of the Priestly Society (Sociedad Sacerdotal) of the Holy Cross (de la Santa Cruz) and the works of (Opus Dei) God, I.N.R.S. click-countering into SEAT, OEEC, IMF, the long haul form the Hereafteer shifting into a solid (credito) HERE. Peasants and Farmers ARE the (spillover) Cinderellas of the Technocrats, AND the Bourgeoisie, AND The Upper Class,

"The Angel Of Death," page 447, sounds like a long goodbye with a sense of sadness, of loss, but starts-out teeming with life:

"Past the purple, fizzling Tall Ironwood, / cruel Sedge, primped Pink Tobacco, / the old blonde dowager Cup Plant / and spidery Hill's Thistle, the dissolute / spread-legged Coneflowers and lazy- / crazy orange (not yellow) Yellow Cosmos, / the parliamentary Fuller's Teasel and / parasolled Princess Tree, slovenly red- / purple Bee Balm and decadent Purple / Monkhood, Baneberry and Akebia, / Moonseed and Hops, the cabaret-lipped / Blood-Leaf and drooping Love Lies / Bleeding (Amaranthus Candatus), / storkish Virginia Mallow and geometric /

Ambroma, its leaden wings brushing / through the trees and startling the / birds, humming bird hovering over me / drinking my life, whispering Bald einmal und nichts mehr / soon once and / not more "

and surprises, after the gloom that follows, by ending thus:

"Basta! To have melted / into the year as it changes / its skin, to have tasted / oceans, rain, quince, / lamb, heard the shofar blown / year after year as the great / Snake Mother descends / into Hell and we face / mortality, breasts, legs, / orgasms, over and over / again moving into old / age, a twig woven into the / basket of the 60's, the wind / off the Bay, abracas, tribal / reinforcement over and / over again, night and / pillows, silence, trains, / voices oak walls and banisters / in the old, old house I never / left, the river and the / bend in the forest road home that / always says mystery, more and / more wanting to vanish into green / dusks, 'away-from' becoming more / and more / 'toward.'"

Reading "Boston: A Long Poem," page 467, is like looking out a train window, noticing everything. Interesting descriptions and language - but to what end? I wait for a destination that doesn't come. I have my own train windows to look out of.

Death is on the poet's mind a lot, especially after what he calls his "castration" (prostate cancer, chemotherapy). This from "The Ghost Of Bukowski," page 483: "Thinking of Sinatra before he died, / you get it all, like Buk, / everything more than / you'll ever need, basking in the / world's attention, the sun never / sets, this endless day, day, day / and then / it does."

Seize the Story: A Handbook for Teens Who Like to Write
Victoria Hanley
Cottonwood Press, Inc.
109-B Cameron Dr., Fort Collins, CO 80525
9781877673818 $15.95

Peggy Tibbetts, Reviewer

Some people are great teachers. Others are great writers. Victoria Hanley combines her unique talent for both to create a great resource for young writers. "Seize the Story" is a step-by-step guide to writing fiction, from coming up with an idea to polishing the finished piece.

The Building Your Story suggestions in each chapter show writers how to apply what they've learned to their own stories. Additional writing prompts are generously sprinkled throughout the book to encourage young writers to venture outside their comfort zones. An amazing collection of interviews with the likes of David Lubar, Joan Bauer, Lauren Myracle, plus twelve more, reveals what it takes to go from being someone who wants to write to accomplished author.

This is certainly the perfect book for teens - or even tweens - who want to write. Yet any writer who puts pen to paper and applies Hanley's guidance can reach the end of the book with a complete first draft of a short story, or the skeleton of a novel. What sets this book apart from all the other books about writing is Hanley's emphasis on building and then honing the skills necessary to create interesting characters and compelling plots.

Anyone who loves to dabble with words can learn how to become a better writer. Also writers who are besieged with writer's block will find a variety of ways to help them unlock their inner storyteller. When Hanley's techniques are applied to raw talent, story happens. At long last, teens and beginning writers have a writing book that speaks to them.

Where is Simon, Sandy? The Story of a Little Donkey That Wouldn't Quit
Donna Marie Seim, Author
Susan Spellman, Illustrator
Publishing Works, Incorporated
60 Winter Street, Exeter, NH 03833
9781933002736 $19.95

Sara Hassler

A Caribbean folktale told for generations by word of mouth, has found a permanent home in children's literature. Published in cooperation with the Turks and Caicos National Museum located in Grand Turk, Where is Simon Sandy? The Story of a Little Donkey That Wouldn't Quit, is a wonderful tale about loyalty, friendship, responsibility and compassion.

Where is Simon, Sandy?, is based on a true story and young readers will enjoy learning about the British West Indies as they are reminded about this culture's rich history. Author, Donna Seim, re-tells this historic folktale and successfully shares the very essence of camaraderie and innocence of life on a small Caribbean Island. Illustrator, Susan Spellman, has filled each page with splendid illustrations that visually enhance the people, places, culture and charm of the Turks and Caicos Islands.

The Author's Note is filled with wonderful facts about this area of the world and how this story came to be shared as part of local history. A map that shows where the Turks and Caicos Islands are located is a valuable lesson in geography. Fun facts about donkeys close this folktale and we learn that donkey's are not always stubborn, rather they are loyal and true lifelong companions!

Where is Simon Sandy? The Story of a Little Donkey That Wouldn't Quit will quickly become a library favorite where children can learn about the life and culture of the Turks and Caicos. Modern classrooms will enjoy putting this book into the hands of their students to remind them of how rich historical folktales are and how storytelling can teach valuable life lessons. All proceeds from, Where is Simon Sandy?, is dedicated to the children of the Turks and Caicos Islands and is donated to the Children's Programme of the Turks and Caicos National Museum.

The Warrior Heir
Cinda Williams Chima
Hyperion Paperbacks
114 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY, 10011-5690
9780786839179 $8.99

Lorraine Morgan Scott

While meeting a friend for coffee, we stopped in a southern California Barnes and Noble bookstore. Walking around the store, coffee in hand, I found The Warrior Heir on a table with other 2008 Middle School Summer Reading suggestions.

At the time, I had difficulty enticing my 12-year-old son to read his school-required books, let alone read for pleasure. I picked the book up, literally, on my way out of the state, beginning my drive across country to the Washington D.C. area.

My son read the book almost straight-though. He read while we drove and while we rested. He thoroughly enjoyed the book and bugged me to find the next book upon arrival in DC.

As a throw-back to my home-schooling days, I often read the books my son reads so I may ask inquisitive questions regarding the theme, plot, and characters. Reading this book was no exception. Well, there was an exception to this book - it was interesting, mysterious, and packed with action from the start.

Sixteen-year-old Jack Swift, the main character, lived the life of a typical small-town high school student in Trinity, Ohio. The reader will relate as Jack, waking up late, is disoriented in his morning routine. Because he was focused on a before-school jazz band practice, and the much anticipated after-school soccer tryouts, Jack forgets to take his heart medication before leaving the house.

The heart medication, prescribed by the surgeon who saved his life while he was an infant, was crucial to his good health (at least that's what he's always been told), so if he was ever to forget to take it (which had never happened before), it should be taken as soon as possible after the error is realized. For Jack, his realization came after he sat in his Homeroom seat and the school bell had rung. His only hope of getting the medicine (since he opted not to miss tryouts by serving detention) was by either his mother or the resident handyman to bring it to school. Neither of those options worked.

Throughout the day, Jack felt as though a fog had been lifted. His vision seemed to clear, he was more aware of his surroundings, and his muscles responded with energy and strength. When contemplating going through with soccer tryouts without his medication, it was only a momentary hesitation - he felt as though he was in the best shape of his life.

During soccer tryouts Jack fielded the ball deftly, and was amazed how full of energy he was, even in the cold. He moved so well that school bully Garrett Lobeck decided to use Jack to make him self look better. Purposely tripping Jack, he stole the ball and headed for the goal. Suddenly, something strange happened and Garrett in on the ground and Jack is making the goal. It was like magic!

What had happened was unknown, but the sky darkened, and Jack, feeling tingly, will never be the same.

Through a series of twists and turns in a near-believable tale, first-time author Cinda Williams Chima leads us through Jack's discovery of his wizard-turned-warrior heritage, his neighborhood watch group, and his receipt of a power source that came from generations past.

The bonds of friendship, honesty, and integrity prove life-saving as deceit, trickery, and near-death experiences move the story through unexpected alliances and a surprise ending.

A good read and a fresh angle make The Warrior Heir enjoyable for teenager and adult alike. Cinda Williams Chima continues the story with her next book The Wizard Heir.

Sisters & Husbands
Connie Briscoe
Grand Central Publishing
9780446534895 $24.99

Annie Slessman

The American family saga continues with Connie Briscoe's latest work, SISTERS & HUSBANDS. In this story, Beverly is engaged to be married to a man that her family thinks is a great choice. However, Beverly's world gets rocked when her sisters encounter problems in their marriages.

On the shy side of commitment, Beverly facilitates in her commitment of marriage and is stunned when her best friend has an affair with her sister's husband. Sure that this discretion has ruined her sister's life, Beverly not only breaks off her relationship with her best friend but also, with her finance.

This book is filled with the problems many families face in marriage today. Trying to mix two families into one due to second, even third, marriages, betrayal of marriage vows, the dilemma of aging and losing one's vitality it is all within the pages of this work. You will probably recognize yourself or someone you know in this story.

While this is not the great masterpiece, it is good, light reading. It might even make you feel better about problems you are experiencing in your own marriage.

Will Beverly make it to the altar? Will she renew her friendship with her best friend? Can her sister's marriages be saved? Will Beverly's mother and father ever realize what is really happening with their daughter's lives? You will have to read the book to find out.

Bethany's Bookshelf

Horse Dance Underwater
Helena Mesa
Cleveland State University Poetry Center
2121 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44115-2214
9781880834824, $15.95,

Helena Mesa brings readers her debut collection of work in "Horse Dance Underwater" is art on art, as Mesa uses her own work to comment on the works of other artists, with a focus on the visual and performance art. A unique approach to presenting her thoughts, she brings a vivid and fascinating mastery of verse, making "Horse Dance Underwater" a strong choice for lovers of poems. "The Yaw": Three feet ahead, path dark except for her flashlight's bob,/she walks into the new year. Tree rise off the Indian trail,/reach for something beyond, and listen. You follow/the smallness your hand once traced - her spine, nape/pressed close. Now, crunch of snow beneath boots/and wind stealing under pants, between/scarf and bare neck. Each stone her steps kick back/you heard as a nocturne, but now -/the song that plays if she were present of not-/what does smallness matter? What if landscape is memory/seen without its hemming leaves?/Limbs creaking, ice/breaking./What if this is all there ever is to give?

Betray the Night
Benita Kane Jaro
Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers
1570 Baskin Road, Mundelein, IL 60060
9780865167124, $25.00,

A woman in Rome had little to do when crisis struck. "Betray the Night" tells the story of Pinaria, wife of famed poet Publius Ovidius Naso, as she tries to bring her exiled husband home. But a woman alone doesn't seem to have much say in society, and her desire to reunite with her husband seems all but impossible... A fine historical novel of the challenges of women in Rome, "Betray the Night" is entertaining and with its research, educational.

Strategic Public Relations
Jennifer Gehrt & Colleen Moffitt
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403
Communique Public Relations (publicity)
314 W. Galer St., Suite 100, Seattle, WA 98119
9781436387255, $28.99,

How the public perceives your company can be the difference between life and death - no one wants to buy from Satan. "Strategic Public Relations: 10 Principles to Harness the Power of PR" is a guide to the importance of public relations for business. Covering how to keep up with the times, media relations, choosing one's audience, and more "Strategic Public Relations" is a key manual to be embraced by the business leader, and is highly recommended.

Divorce & Money, ninth edition
Violet Woodhouse
950 Parker Street, Berkeley, CA 94710
Echo Media Group (publicity)
12711 Newport Ave., Suite H, Tustin, CA 92780
9781413309188, $34.99,

It's not unusual to see bitter divorces, and the source of such bitterness is often money. Now in a fully updated and expanded ninth edition, "Divorce & Money: How to Make the Best Financial Decisions During Divorce" is a guide to money side of divorce. Chapters cover how to deal with touchy matters through applying even-handed, level-headed wisdom, and how to craft outcomes that should leave both parties satisfied. Guiding divorcees through the process of evaluating their assets, dealing with taxes, child support, and more, Violet Woodhouse gives a complete and comprehensive breakdown on the economic side of splitting up. "Divorce & Money" is an absolute must-have for any divorcing couple.

Visions Underground
Lois Manno
Rio Grande Books
925 Salamanca NW, Los Ranchos de ABQ, NM 87107-5647
9781890689957, $19.99,

When one thinks about natural beauty, one thinks of pristine green fields. But there is beauty in darker areas as well. "Visions Underground: Carlsbad Caverns Through the Artist's Eye" photographically and artistically chronicles an artist's journey through the Carlsbad Caverns, a simply beautiful series of caverns in New Mexico. Combining painting with photography, "Visions Underground" is a visual treat and fine coffee table book.

The Lonely Soldier
Helen Benedict
Beacon Press
25 Beacon Street, Boston, MA 02108-2892
9780807061473, $25.95,

Women are now accepted into the military, but this doesn't mean they are a majority. "The Lonely Soldier: The Private War of Women Serving in Iraq" tells the story of the women in military service during America's contemporary conflict in Iraq. While many men tell stories of brotherhood, author Helen Benedict reveals that many women receive little of that bonding; instead they receive unwanted advances and discrimination. Drawing from five stories of military women, "The Lonely Soldier" is a fascinating read and look into the mind of today's woman soldier.

Wild Bread
Lisa Rayner
Lifeweaver, LLC
PO Box 22324, Flagstaff, AZ 86002
9780980060812, $16.95,

The art of making bread is one of mankind's oldest culinary skills. "Wild Bread" compiled by Lisa Rayner is more than just another 'how to' book on baking bread. What is unique is her presentation of step-by-step instructions on baking such culinary delights as San Francisco sourdough, crusty French artisan loaves, dense Russian ryes, Italian ciabatta, Indian naan, pita bread, and Ethiopian injera crepes. Also provided are 'kitchen cook friendly' recipes for everything from pizza crusts and whole wheat sandwich bread, to bagels and sweet doughs. Highly recommended for personal, family, and community library cookbook collections, "Wild Bread" is spiral bound to lay flat upon the kitchen table or counter -- always a good thing.

A More Obedient Wife
Natalie Wexler
Lulu Press
860 Aviation Parkway, Suite 300, Morrisville, NC 27560
9780615135168, $21.50,

It's always a pleasure to discover a new award-winning writer with a decided gift for storytelling. Natalie Wexler is just such an author whose novel "A More Obedient Wife" has won both the Writer's Digest International Self-Published Book Awards and the Independent Publisher Book Awards. Two women in the 1790s (each in a troubled marriage to a Supreme Court Justice), become unexpectedly embroiled in judicial politics while having to deal with problematic personal relationships and family lives. A deftly written and complex novel that touches upon themes of depression, addiction, infidelity, friendship, and the relationship between spouses of radical different personas, "A More Obedient Wife" is a riveting read and highly recommended for both personal and community library historical fiction collections.

Coming Out, Coming In
Linda Goldman
Taylor & Francis Group
270 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
0415958245, $29.95,

Society is still far too cruel to homosexuals, and those who are coming to terms with their own sexuality have the toughest road. "Coming Out, Coming In: Nurturing the Well-Being and Inclusion of Gay Youth in Mainstream Society" is a guide for conflicted youths who are struggling with the fact, and for families that have experienced a loved one's coming out. Linda Goldman draws from her experience as a person and a counselor to provide much advice to both sides during this tough time, and "Coming Out, Coming In" is highly recommended.

Susan Bethany

Bob's Bookshelf

Sea Horse: The Shyest Fish in the Sea
Chris Butterworth
Illustrated by John Lawrence
Candlewick Press
99 Dover Street, Somerville, MA 02144
9780763641405 $6.99

Now in an inexpensive paperback edition, this nicely illustrated picture book offers an account of one of the most fascinating creatures that swims beneath the surface of the sea.

With a head that resembles a horse, a tail like a monkey and a kangaroo like pouch, the diminutive sea horse doesn't look anything like a fish. He swims upright and moves through the water with little fins on his head and a larger one on his back.

Since he moves so slowly, the sea horse likes to hide in seaweed to escape his enemies and he can change color to blend in with his environment. The male sea horse carries the young eggs in his pouch until the babies are ready to be born. Only as long as a human eyelash, the young seahorse must take care of itself immediately after birth, but since its eyes move separately, it can find food coming in any direction.

"Sea Horse" is the perfect gift for any child between the ages of 5 and 8 years of age who loves the ocean and is curious about its unusual marine life.

Ballyhoo Bay
Judy Sierra
Illustrated by Derek Anderson
Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, New York, 10020
9781416958888 $16.99

A proposed condo development threatens to destroy the lovely coastal village of Ballyhoo Bay, but the local residents are determined not to let that happen.

Organized by Mira Bella, a young woman who teaches art to grannies and kids, a protest movement is launched to save the beachfront area. Everyone gets involved, the ocean and land critters as well as the local citizens of all ages. When the high-rise proposal comes before the village council, everyone shows up to make sure the unique environment of the seaside village remains untouched.

It's a memorable meeting and one that the residents of Ballyhoo Bay will not soon forget. A little civic responsibility goes a long way, as you'll see in this amusing picture book, when everyone pulls together!

Pony Island
Candice Ransom
Illustrated by Wade Zahares
175 Fifth Ave., New York, New York, 10010
9780802780881 $16.99

Centuries ago, a Spanish shipwreck supposedly stranded dozens of horses on an island off the coast of Virginia. Left largely alone, the descendants of these animals roamed on Assateague for generations. Then in the 1920s some of the ponies were rounded up for a Wild Pony Swim to nearby Chincoteague Island where they were sold to raise money for a new fire truck.

Wade Zahares' bright, dynamic artwork, coupled with a simple, rhymed text, celebrates this event and makes this a book youngsters will enjoy reading over and over again.

Bob Walch

Buhle's Bookshelf

The Templars, Two Kings And A Pope
Grigor Fedan
Hafiz Publishers
PO Box 50, Ninole, HI 96773
9780615264318, $16.95,

The ancient order of the Templars is a continuing subject of interest both in academia and the popular imagination. In "The Templars, Two Kings And A Pope", author Grigor Fedan has produced a riveting novel set in a critically important span of 25 years in Templar history that was to ultimately result in the horrific destruction of the order by the combined forces of a French King and an Italian Pope. Fedan draws upon his years of studying Templar history to embed his fictional narrative with historically accurate information and references that include such diverse elements as Gnosticism, medieval military history, royal biographies, and more. A tale of clandestine warfare and personal spirituality, "The Templars, Two Kings And A Pope" is a highly recommended read and would prove a welcome addition to community library historical fiction collections.

The Black Book
Adlai Stevenson, Adlai Stevenson II, and Adlai Stevenson III
Lulu Press
860 Aviation Parkway, Suite 300, Morrisville, NC 27560
9780982371008 $29.75

The Black Book is a primary source offering a glimpse into the minute inner workings of American politics over three generations. It began as a binder filled with anecdotes and maxims that county prosecutor, congressman, Assistant Postmaster General, and later U.S. Vice President Adlai E. Stevenson (1835-1914). He was known to jot down his thoughts on anything at hand, even menus, place cards, and napkins. The Black Book continues with writings by Governor Adlai E. Stevenson II (1900-1965) and Senator Adlai E. Stevenson (1930-) - the Senator also provides commentary. The result is a treasure trove of insight into the American political machine, flavored with genuine personal convictions - the reader may agree or disagree with the expressed views, but cannot deny their authenticity, refreshing in today's era of political sound bites and endless power mongering. Highly recommended. "My definition of a free society is a society where it is safe to be unpopular. - Adlai II".

Showdown on the Frio
Calvin Bowden
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 300, Bloomington, IN 47403
9780595418022, $19.95,

Healing cannot begin when the cause of the pain still lives. "Showdown on the Frio: The Good and the Evil" tells the story of Helen Kipling. Abused, molested, and left for dead, she finds some relief when her tormentor is placed behind bars thanks to her testimony. But when legal problems strike and her assailant escapes, she fears for her life and must overcome her pain or let her pain be the cause of her death. "Showdown on the Frio" is a riveting adventure of suspense, sure to entertain for many hours.

The Layman's Guide to Making Sense of Statistics
John L. Campbell
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533160181, $13.95,

Statistics are a huge cluster of numbers which often lead people into confusion. "The Layman's Guide to Making Sense of Statistics" is John L. Campbell's guide to understanding the statistics that cover society on almost every level. Understanding statistics has become the key to understanding the world, and Campbell hopes to give readers what they need to make sense of bars, pies, numbers, percentages, and much more. "The Layman's Guide to Making Sense of Statistics" is enthusiastically recommended for every responsible voter who is uncomfortable with statistics.

Chronicles of Eden
Thaddaeus U.
Author House
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781438929927, $15.49,

Sometimes when trying to solve all the worlds problems, you only create more for yourself. "Chronicles of Eden: Pitfalls of Humanity" follow Cain Ventor, a man driven to solve the many problems around him, through his crafty engineering mind. His efforts, while valiant and altruistic, have their own pitfalls. Following his intriguing story as he tries to fix the world, "Chronicles of Eden" presents an unusual message, with a fine and solid delivery.

The Gate of Beautiful
Gerald Rasmussen
Outskirts Press
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432736767, $14.95,

There are many ways people express themselves, and author Gerald Rasmussen taps into a wealth of them. "The Gate of the Beautiful: Stories, Songs, and Reflections on Christian Life" is a collection of creative exercises. Christian in focus, Rasmussen's songs, stories, and essays provide much insight into man's faith, which is sure to give readers much to think about. "The Gate of the Beautiful" is quite a pick for Christian readers, highly recommended.

The Soul of Nature
Herb Cohen
A Spiritual Evolution Press
9780982232309, $7.00,

Are science and spirituality really such different creatures? "The Soul of Nature" is Herb Cohen's claim that science and spirituality can coexist, and that the answers that we all seek lie within understanding both. A level-headed approach to the nature of the world, "The Soul of Nature" is an intriguing read through and through.

Subway Music
Reynold Joseph Paul Junker
2021 Pine Lake Road, Suite 100, Lincoln, NE 68512
0595368468, $15.95,

You can't run away from your past, so you may as well embrace it. "Subway Music" is a memoir of a man who is forced to reflect on his life and what he has left behind when he moved across the country. A man who adopted California as his home returns to Coney Island; as he faces the ghosts of his past, he realizes that there is much for him to learn. Spilling out his heart, author Reynold Junker opens up a part of himself to readers, making "Subway Music" an emotional and life changing read.

Willis M. Buhle

Burroughs' Bookshelf

The Rented Veil
Darryl Odom
Privately Published
9781607250999, $14.95,

It is said that a tenth of what is earned is what one should give to the church. "The Rented Veil: The High Cost of Worship" is written as a guide for religious and charitable individuals in these rough economic times. What do tithes really mean? The common belief that is that one should pay one tenth of their gross income, but author Darryl Odom has examined the Bible and hopes to alter the custom, stating that a tithe should be ten percent of what is saved, and that's only if anything is saved. A unique look at giving to the church, "The Rented Veil" is a solid read for the charitably frugal.

Blunt Force
Gary L. Wilson
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533160341, $11.95,

Sometimes your dream job isn't all it's cracked up to be. "Blunt Force: A Reporter's Heartbeat" is the memoir of Gary L. Wilson reflecting on his time as a newsman in the Midwest during the 50s and 60s. During this era, Wilson holds the press was corrupt and full of lunatics, and he transcribes his experiences here. "Blunt Force" is an intriguing look into an industry with more than its fair share of dirt.

Landscape in Concrete
Jakov Lind, author
Ralph Manheim, translator
Open Letter Books
Univeristy of Rochester, Lattimore Hall 411, PO Box 270082, Rochester, NY 14627
9781934824146, $13.95,

Sometimes war is all one knows. "Landscape in Concrete" is a novel following one Gauthier Bachmann, an ideal solider under the Nazi regime. When he is discharged for mental health reasons, he refuses his diagnosis and will do anything to return to thee front lines. He quickly becomes a pawn in many Nazi officials' actions, in the dark happenings behind the war. "Landscape in Concrete" is a fine novel of world fiction, expertly translated from the original German by Ralph Manheim.

Lost Civilization
James L. Boone
c/o International Publishers Marketing
PO Box 605, Herndon, VA 20172-0605
9780715635681, $22.00,

Spain and Portugal are a mere nine miles away from Islamic Morocco. "Lost Civilization: The Contested Islamic Past in Spain and Portugal" is a look at the Al-Andalus, an Islamic culture that called the Iberian peninsula its home throughout the tenth and eleventh centuries. The evidence of their existence has been slowly wiped away by the advancement of society. "Lose Civilization: The Contested Islamic Past in Spain and Portugal" is a solid reference on the Al-Andalus culture and civilization, highly recommended.

State of the Planet
Donald Kennedy, et. al., editors
Island Press
1718 Connecticut Ave., Suite 300, NW, Washington, DC 20009
9781597264068, $40.00,

So with all the debate, scientific advancements, and environmental policies, how is the planet doing overall? "Science Magazine's State of the Planet: 2008-2009" is a collection of scholarly discussions of the current events of science and technology and the debate around it - and the counter-debate. The result is scholarly, intriguing, and bound to make readers consider what they know and learn other options. Editor Donald Kennedy and his crew have put together an up to date primer on the subjects that will enlighten and educate. "Science Magazine's State of the Planet: 2008-2009" is a choice pick for anyone serious about then environment and modern science.

Yoga of the Microsm
Siddhartha Syam
Infinity Publishing
1094 New DeHaven St., Suite 100, West Conshohocken, PA 19428-2713
0741750674, $10.95,

The beauty of simplicity is simplicity itself. "Yoga of the Microcosm: Spiritual Unity with Nature in the 21st Century" takes Yoga and presents it and other eastern philosophy as options to finding one's heart and spirit in today's world, which tends to care more about how fast you do things than how you do them, let alone whether you can cope with doing them. Written in a friendly conversational tone, "Yoga of the Microcosm" is a fine introduction to Yoga for the everyday American.

Healing Through Exercise
Jorg Blech
Da Capo
c/o Perseus Book Group
11 Cambridge Center, Cambridge, MA 02142
9780738212999, $26.00,

It's a simple fact that healthy bodies heal quicker. "Healing Through Exercise: Scientifically-Proven Ways to Prevent and Overcome Illness and Lengthen Your Life" is a guide to the power of exercise and its benefits in combating many diseases. A good fitness plan can stave off heart disease, prevent diabetes, encourage bone growth, and relieve stress and tension for a longer, healthier life. "Healing Through Exercise" is a recommended read for those looking for more reasons to embrace better health.

J. H. Horlock
Krieger Publishing Company
1725 Krieger Drive, Malabar, FL 32950
9781575242996, $48.50,

Energy and electricity have become such integral parts of society that going back to a society without them is simply impossible. "Energy: Resources, Utilization, and Policies" is a scholarly discussion of energy and its impact on the environment, the search for cleaner sources, more efficient usage, and the politics behind it all. With chapters on the increasing energy demand, energy science, power plants, and more, "Energy Resources" is a complete and comprehensive text on the subject that would do well in social issues or energy studies collections.

John Burroughs

Carson's Bookshelf

Isidore of Seville: De Ecclesiasticis Officiis
Isidore of Seville
Newman Press
997 MacArthur Boulevard, Mahwah, NJ 07430
9780809105816, $24.95,

The minds of 1500 years ago were vastly different than those of today, but that doesn't mean we can't learn from them. "Isidore of Seville: De Ecclesiasticis Officiis" is an English translation of the most prominent work of Isidore, an early archbishop of Seville, Spain. Educated for his time, he was a major figure in Christianity during the early seventh century, and this work is a treasure to Christianity as a whole. "De Ecclesiasticis Officiis" is a must for anyone who values prominent, historical Christian works.

Enterprise Information
C. Warren Axelrod, Jennifer L. Bayuk, & Daneil Schutzer
Artech House
685 Canton Street, Norwood, MA 02062
9781596931909, $99.00,

Information is king in the current era, and a thief who gets your information will live like a king. "Enterprise Information: Security and Privacy" is a complete and comprehensive manual to the world of information security, describing how raising one's technology defenses is perhaps one of the most sound investments one can make in a world where everything is connected to computers in some way. With chapters on general privacy, the law when it comes to technology and information, finances, and so much more, "Enterprise Information" leaves nothing out. Any business that values the safety of its technological information needs "Enterprise Information".

The Body Sculpting Bible
James Villepigue & Hugo Rivera
5-22 46th Avenue, Suite 200, Long Island City, NY 11101
9781578262946, $15.95,

There's bodies that all men want, but just the fundamentals of exercise won't get a man there. "The Body Sculpting Bible Express: Featuring the 21 Minute Body Sculpting Workout" is a man's guide to getting that legendary ripped and chiseled form. Written by professional trainers Hugo Rivera and James Villepigue with a specific approach, "The Body Sculpting Bible Express" is a strong choice for anyone with the dedication to pursue the body of a Greek god.

Natural Garden Style
Noel Kingsbury
60 Cycle Media
38 High Ave #1, Nyack, NY 10960
9781858944432, $49.95,

Plants don't grow naturally in convenient little plots. "Natural Garden Style: Gardening Inspired by Nature" is a gardening book encouraging gardeners to embrace a more natural approach to their gardens instead of the neat, prim, yet restricted style that so many seem to follow. With full color photographs throughout, and text that gives examples, inspirations, and advice, "Natural Garden Style" brings author Noel Kingsbury's expertise to the many aspects of gardening. "Natural Garden Style" is worth considering for any gardener who wants to try something new.

Vic LeClair III
860 Aviation Parkway, Suite 300, Morrisville, NC 27560
9780615255095, $14.95,

Opportunists lurk around every corner. "Vesuvius" is a mystery following a Grandfather Oliver and his granddaughter visiting Italy with a special heirloom, consisting of letters written thousands of years ago by victims of the legendary Vesuvius volcanic eruption that consumed the city of Pompeii. There is more to their investigation than just history, as a thief soon enters the picture and steals an artifact Oliver was on the trail of. "Vesuvius" is a fine historical mystery, sure to give readers a treat.

Darwin's Ark
Philip Appleman
Indiana University Press
601 North Morton Street, Bloomington, IN 47404-3797
9780253220929, $19.95,

Science can cross with poetry quite well. "Darwin's Ark" is a collection of poems focusing on the thoughts and ideas of famed evolutionary biologist Charles Darwin, written by Professor of English at Indiana University Philip Appleman. "Darwin's Ark" is a top pick for those who value science alongside fine poetry. "Darwin on Fourteenth Street": Vision at this depth/is blurred - in the muddy gutters/manta rays switch their poison tails;/above them cruise the shadowy tiger sharks - this/ is Fourteenth Street:/a hundred thousand diatoms/in the belly of a shrimp,/two hundred shrimp/in the belly of a herring,/five hundred herring/in the belly of a whale: this/is Fourteenth street.

A Heavenly College On an Earthly Budget
Lee Martinson
Dog Ear Publishing
4010 W. 86th Street, Ste H, Indianapolis, IN 46268
9781598586671, $23.95,

The best education possible is what we all want, but money makes us settle. "A Heavenly College on an Earthly Budget: Double Your Financial Aid - Double Your Degree's Value" is a guide to those who want to get into college but don't have the wallets to back up their desires. A straight and honest guide for potential college students who want to stretch their dollars and credentials as far as they will go while remaining realistic, "A Heavenly College on an Earthly Budget" is the down to earth guide that students need.

The Feather Gang
Jon Hovis
Infinity Publishing
1094 New DeHaven Street, Suite 100, West Conshohocken, PA 19428-2713
0741451883, $10.95,

Not every criminal is a foul human being. "The Feather Gang" is a novel set in the American Old West following the Feather Gang as they evade U.S. Marshal Jake Silver, who is hot on their trail trying to bring them to justice. An old fashioned story of the honorable bandits and the equally honorable law, "The Feather Gang" is a charming story that will please Old West fiction fans.

Michael J. Carson

Christy's Bookshelf

A Still Point in Time
Marsha Briscoe
Whiskey Creek Press
PO Box 51052, Casper, WY 82605-1052
1593742002 $14.95

College professor Laura Bouvoire, 43-years-old and pregnant by in vitro fertilization, is confused by her feelings for Dante Giovanni, a student 12 years her junior. Dante, the product of an abusive childhood, opposes her choice to have an IVF baby, yet cannot deny his love for Laura. When Laura spies an amethyst brooch at an antique store, she is drawn to the jewelry and spontaneously purchases it. From that point on, Laura is besieged by dreams of a woman connected to the brooch and her lover, a famous poet and artist of the 19th century. Laura begins researching the couple and learns the brooch is a gift the poet gave his wife. Dante, in turn, is having dreams of the couple but narrow-mindedly rejects Laura's theory that she and Dante were the poet and his wife in a past life and are bound by karma. In the past, the couple's relationship ended tragically, and now, Laura's and Dante's love is endangered by a man obsessed with Laura.

Marsha Briscoe has penned a lovely romance here, relaying the tales of two couples, past and present, with strong emotions for one another, yet dealing with their own personal demons which draw them apart. Briscoe peppers the plot with spine-tingling suspense while offering a charming couple readers will empathize with and root for. Character development is excellent, and the story one that will remain with the reader long after the book is finished.

Beyond Reach
Karin Slaughter
Bantam Dell/Random House
New York, New York
9780385339476 $7.99

Pediatrician/medical examiner Sara Linton is reeling from a vicious malpractice suit and having to close her clinic when her husband, police chief Jeffrey Tollier, receives word that Lena Adams, one of his detectives, has been arrested in Reese, GA. Sara accompanies Jeffrey to the small, backwater town. When they arrive, Lena uses Sara to escape and from that point on manages to stay one step ahead of Jeffrey and the sheriff of Reese. As Jeffrey tries to find Lena, bodies pile up and he and Sara find their own lives threatened. Meanwhile, Lena is trying to locate her Uncle Hank and the man he claims killed her mother when she stumbles upon a group of white supremacists who deal in meth trafficking.

This sixth installment of the Grant County, GA crime series is as gritty and realistic as real life. Slaughter touches upon the devastating effects of methamphetamine on its users and the vicious cruelty of its makers and traffickers. Slaughter adroitly leads the reader through two investigations: Lena as she tracks her uncle and tries to find out what really happened to her mother, and Jeffrey and Sara as they search for Lena. Slaughter provides an ending which is unexpected and which some readers will find traumatic and unsettling.

Odd Hours
Dean Koontz
Bantam Dell/Random House
9780553807059 $27.00

Odd Thomas sees ghosts, and although they can hear him, they cannot communicate with him other than through gestures. After leaving the seminary, Odd has taken a job in Magic Beach, California as cook for a film star of the 1940s and '50s who now writes children's books. Elvis has gone over to the other side but now Frank Sinatra is hanging out with Odd, as is Odd's ghost dog Boo. Odd has a recurring apocalyptic dream which disturbs him. On the beach, he sees a young pregnant woman and recognizes her as part of his dream. Odd stops to talk to her, and from that point, everything seems to go wrong. Three brutes try to kill him but Odd manages to get away. He takes refuge in a church only to be betrayed by the pastor, who calls the police. Through wily measures, Odd learns officials of Magic Beach are corrupt and have cleared the way for terrorists to bring nuclear weapons into America.

Koontz excels at moving his plots forward at a fast pace, packed with action and suspense. Odd Thomas is an endearing character, a simple man who wants nothing more than to live a simple life which, through his "gift", is denied him. Although questions are left unanswered, Koontz is certain to clear things up with following books in this series.

Road Dogs
Elmore Leonard
William Morrow/Harper Collins
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780061733147 $26.99

Elmore Leonard brings back three characters from previous books for an encore performance in his latest comedic foray into the criminal world. Bank robber Jack Foley (Out of Sight), and Cundo Rey (LaBrava), meet in prison and quickly become friends, referring to themselves as Road Dogs. Rey's lawyer has arranged for his early release from prison and Rey offers her services to Foley, who's in for thirty years. She manages to get Foley's prison term reduced to thirty months and Foley is released two weeks before Rey. Rey offers Foley one of his houses in Venice Beach but admonishes him to keep his hands off his girlfriend, Dawn (Riding the Rap), a psychic/ghost hunter patiently waiting for Rey's release so she can con him out of his millions. When she meets Foley, Dawn knows he is her way to the money and tries to work her magic on him. Foley is intrigued but distracted by an FBI agent tailing him, waiting to capture him after he robs his next bank.

As usual, Leonard adroitly moves the story forward through realistic, at times quirky, dialogue and the inner thoughts of some pretty wacky people. He excels at delivering entertaining scenes of duplicity and complicity among characters on the wrong and right side of the law. Foley takes the lead in this comedy and is a cool guy who manages to stay one step ahead of those who have no qualms about taking him out, legally or illegally. The interplay between Foley and the others will keep the readers turning pages, laughing along the way. This is one fun read.

Three's the Charm
Ellen Dye
The Wild Rose Press
PO Box 706, Adams Basin, NY 14110-0706
1601542909 $11.99

Growing up, Rachel Griffin's mother warned her against trusting in love, assuring her that a man would only break her heart. Rachel, throwing caution to the wind, married Heath Ransom, her high school sweetheart, thinking they would live happily together for the rest of their lives. But reality intervened when Heath began taking classes in veterinary medicine and Rachel worked to support the two of them. Through a series of misunderstandings and Rachel's perceived failings on the part of Heath, Rachel, thinking her mom was right, called it quits on their relationship and returned home.

A year later, Heath has his DVM degree and is ready to start his practice but his first priority is getting his wife back. Rachel, however, would just as soon never set eyes on Heath Ransom again. But when her horse is attacked by wild dogs, Heath's the only vet around and she's forced to deal with him. As the two continue to come in contact with one another, sparks fly and accusations hurl, both unaware that a traumatic development looms just ahead which will offer each the opportunity to make amends for what went wrong in their marriage. But first, Rachel must let go of the past and trust in love again.

Dye has penned a charming romance here, creating two very likeable characters enmeshed within a galvanizing plot, ensuring a thoroughly enjoyable read. The chemistry between Rachel and Heath is nicely delivered and the character development exceptional. Dialogue is realistic and perfectly enhances time and place. The reader will be vested in the outcome, shedding tears at times and experiencing delight at others, always rooting for Heath and Rachel to find their "happily ever after".

Timeless Mist
Terisa Wilcox
L&L Dreamspell
Spring, TX
9781603181105 $17.95

College student Kristianna Campbell has disturbing dreams about a Scotsman just prior to her planned visit to Scotland. At Castle MacGregor, Kristianna recognizes this man in the portrait of Iain MacGregor, laird of the MacGregor clan for a short time before he disappeared in 1604. On a visit to a small village, Kris spies an antique gold watch and touches it, immediately conjuring the image of Iain MacGregor, the watch's owner. That night, examining the watch, she finds a small, hidden compartment and when she reads the verse inside is transported back in time to 1603. The first person she sees is Iain, who is suspicious of her appearance. Aware of the intense hatred between the MacGregors and the Campbells, Kris lies about her last name, terrified that Iain will consider her a spy if he knows. Iain MacGregor, worried about the safety of his clan and battling enemies from all sides, is intrigued by Kristianna, but he's been betrothed twice before, both of whom betrayed him, and isn't about to trust another lass. Realizing she is falling in love with Iain, Kris knows she must tell him the truth but is wary of Iain's reaction and fears he will reject her.

Terisa Wilcox has penned an intriguing story, filled with interesting historical detail and dialogue so realistic as to transport the reader back in time to Scotland of the 17th century. Kristianna and Iain are charming characters and Wilcox relays their attraction to one another in a fun, entertaining way. The plot moves quickly and will hold the reader's attention throughout as Wilcox cleverly weaves conflicts into the story that threaten the two lovers' future.

Christy Tillery French

Clark's Bookshelf

The Herb Garden Gourmet: Grow Herbs, Eat Well, and Be Green
Tim Haas and Jan Beane
SourceBooks, Inc.
Naperville, Illinois
9781402217142 $16.99

Birds tweeting, bees buzzing, flowers erupting, and most gardeners jump at the chance to get their hands dirty by planting in their yards. What a person plants for the eventual harvest is always a personal decision. However, The Herb Garden Gourmet by Tim Haas and Jan Beane takes the guesswork out of that determination.

Great herbal recipes embrace the core of this easy to read book utilizing many home-grown herbs from basil to oregano. In these tough economic times, there are simply delicious dishes which will require little cost for store bought ingredients. The majority of flavor adding will come from your garden, be it in a window box, or in the ground. Specific instructions on planting your garden are covered in a chapter entitled "Good Neighbors", where those vegetables and herbs which blend well are described. "Potatoes and their vines, have lots of friends, but also a number of adversaries. Potato vines and cucumber vines do not make good neighbors, as their close proximity to each other will lead to potato blight."

One of the outstanding features of this gardening-cooking manual is the attention paid to each herb. Each aspect of nurturing the plant to maturity is covered; then, several recipes discuss how that herb should be incorporated into the dish. Note-taking pages are provided so that you can describe factors which are important to your preparation of both garden and recipe on separate pages.

Several herbs require care which is definitely beyond the scope of 'Do-It-Yourselfers' and Tim and Jan in recognition of these limitations say dried herbs are perfect substitutes, even though fresh might be better. Certain herbs require trees (Bay Leaf) and even though you may have space outdoors, if your climate has harsh winters, you have to bring the tree inside. Not having a sunny room where it can thrive may force you to buy the leaf from your store's spice section and that is a perfect substitute.

The only short-coming in this book is the choice of some recipes which involve wild game. We may all be able to grow herbs or vegetables, but the use of Venison as a main dish is not in the realm of possibilities for most folks. These recipes could have been for other meat items that are readily available in the grocery store.

This is a five-star book. Gardeners top your list for gift-giving on Mother's Day, Father's Day, and most of all for that Grand Gourmet Day in your family by making it a 'tasty day' for all.

The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire
C. M. Mayo
Unbridled Books
Denver, Colorado
9781932961645 $26.95

Fictional accounts of history take liberties with how things really happened, but when C. M. Mayo wrote The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire she traveled to all of the places where the stories emanated. Mayo traversed Mexico, the United States and many European countries to tell the engaging story of love, betrayal, and ultimately the death of one of the members of a royal family.

Reading achieves in the Library of Congress in Washington led her to other locales where she read many documents in the original language and translated them herself so that her characters could speak words as originally spoken.

With this strong foundation based upon facts, the story of a young prince, Maximilian, and those intertwined in their lives, becomes a spellbinding tale of deceit and selfishness. Mayo gives us a glimpse into an era not far removed from today. 1866 was a time when healing from the civil war had begun in the United States and also when the French occupied Mexico. Staying clear of entanglement with another battle was foremost in the minds of Americans. A civil war in Mexico was brewing and this novel gives an inside look at the motives, opulence, and at the same time, describes extreme poverty endured by the Mexican people on a daily basis, while the 'visitors' lived luxurious lives. These 'visitors' were Maximilian; French Generals, and their entourages.

What may appear as free flowing dialog describing actions that had taken place is based upon a meticulous approach to real facts. Getting inside a person's mind and describing their feelings is somewhat difficult. The brilliance of this novel is the manner in which Mayo achieves this incredible task by using flowery language which is believable considering the turbulent times and the seriousness of the circumstances.

On your next trip, take this book with you, or if you are traveling to Mexico, you will find new destinations that may peak your interest, like the remains of Maximilian's residences which are described in this book. The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire is highly recommended as an entertaining read based upon Mexican heritage and a liberal interpretation of history.

An Honorable German: A Novel of World War II
Charles McCain
Grand Central Publishing
Hachette Book Group
New York, NY
9780446538985 $24.99

A German hero of gigantic proportions is depicted by Charles McCain in his debut novel An Honorable German. Throughout World War II images of the Nazi war machine were used to denigrate truly patriotic and honorable men who made up traditional military forces who fought alongside those who pledged their allegiance to the Third Reich.

Those who do not understand the call to duty and honor to country will not comprehend the viewpoint expressed by this book. Following orders is a necessity in wartime. Those who take it upon themselves to disobey put themselves at risk with those in power to be dealt with severely. Here, it is the Nazi war machine which runs the country. It has spies placed in the military to tattle on those who do not follow the orders strictly given by the cruel and thoughtless SS.

One of the most famous of all warships, Graf Spree, is described playing an important part in the main character's career. Max Brekendorf, a proud young German naval officer, serves his country with honor and courage. Max emerges to show he is different than the Third Reich which is bent on conquering the world. Max cares for his men, ship, and country. He is recognized for his bravery by being awarded several medals of the highest order including the Iron Cross 1st Class. His personal life is interspersed within his career. This book does it justice by bringing two facets together for an intriguing tale of courage, defiance, and romance.

As the war progresses and the failure of the Nazi war machine becomes evident, hardship in the homeland takes its toll. The Gestapo is taking out its frustrations on the citizenry and even our hero runs into situations which put him at risk. Only through his friends and future in-laws does he find a way to evade the clutches of punishment. Infractions which he committed unknowingly are overlooked, because all he knew was the life of the sea.

A well-devised and orchestrated story by McCain which will at times keep you so absorbed you will not realize you have been reading many Germanic phrases with translations subtly inserted. This is a very good book historically and depicts another side of German military life.

Clark Isaacs

Debra's Bookshelf

Hold My Hand
Serena Mackesy
Constable (Soho Press)
9781845296391 $27.92

There's something not quite right about Rospetroc, the old Blakemore place in Cornwall. Something to do with evacuees during the War--the locals aren't quite sure--and the crazy old lady who lived there with her son, whom no one quite trusted. The current generation of the family has never wanted to live in the place themselves, so they rent it out to honeymooners and the like who are looking for local color. But help is hard to find and harder to keep: inevitably the maids are scared off by the creepy things that go on in the house, or they just aren't able to handle the isolation of the place when there aren't any guests. But despite its drawbacks the job offers salvation for Bridget Sweeny and her six-year-old daughter Yasmin--from poverty and, more importantly, from Bridget's ex-husband, whose angelic looks belie his character. The restraining order she has against him is meaningless in the middle of the night when he's drunk and trying to kick the door down to get at them.

Mackesey's account of what happens at Rospetroc once Bridget and Yasmin move in is intertwined with the story of what happened there during the War, when the Blakemores were forced to take in children from the city, including the unlovely, nit-infested Lily Rickets. Both stories are brilliantly told. The characters are all well-developed. There's nothing to fault in the prose. The story is downright chilling. Hold My Hand is a nearly perfect piece of fiction. The only complaint I have is that the ending is anticlimactic. The suspenseful final confrontation for which the rest of the book has been preparing is finished with too quickly. (One can foresee on the whole how things are going to work out in the end, but I didn't mind that. The problem is that the ending is not as good as the one we've been led to expect.) Mackesey could have milked a lot more terror out of her final pages. Still, the book is highly recommended.

Paul Levine
9780553806731 $22.00

Illegal is the first book in a new series by Paul Levine, author of the Jake Lassiter and Solomon vs. Lord books. Readers of the latter series (I haven't read the Lassiter books) will find much familiar in Levine's new protagonist, Jimmy Payne. Like Steve Solomon, Payne is a smart-alecky, low-rent defense attorney who's not above bending the law to get justice for a client. Also like Solomon, Payne is involved with a a woman who's way out of his league. But in this case the woman is Payne's ex-wife, an Amazonian, volleyball-playing police officer, and the laws Payne bends are in California rather than Florida. Illegal is also not as light-hearted a read as Levine's earlier series. Payne is haunted by the tragedy that destroyed his marriage and his happiness. In this outing, however, he has a chance to regain some measure of purpose and self-worth, as he's called upon to help reunite a boy, a Mexican illegal, with his mother, from whom he was separated during the crossing.

Levine tackles some serious issues in Illegal, with its ripped-from-the-headlines subject matter: border patrol and vigilantism, the economics of American agriculture, the abuses of coyotes, drug-trafficking, rape. Levine paints the anti-immigration crowd with a broad brush: his principle guard-the-borders character is depicted as a cartoonish buffoon. The illegals, Tino and his mother, are the heroes of the story, forced by their oppressive circumstances to make the best of bad situations. We are meant to like them, and for the most part we do, but Tino definitely tests the limit of what we'll accept from a "good guy" character, given his stealing and general cockiness and violence. At some point--and I think pulling a 12-gauge shotgun on a policeman is that point--the innocent boy looking for his mommy starts looking like an underage thug.

Though I didn't love Illegal, particularly in its first few pages, the book did grow on me. I'd be happy to see what else is in story for Jimmy Payne when Levine's next installment is released.

Debra Hamel, Reviewer

Diane's Bookshelf

Colorado: The Artist's Muse
Natasha K. Brandstatter,
University of Oklahoma Press, Dist.
2800 Venture Dr, Norman, OK 73069
9780914738602, $22.50

With its prairies and mountains, Colorado has long been a mecca for painters, and this latest in the Denver Art Museum's 'Western Passages' series celebrates painters who found their inspiration in the Colorado landscape. Color photos of these paintings compliment coverage exploring the artists' relationship to their environment in this moving survey, especially recommended for holdings strong in Colorado or Western art history.

Lanterns on the Prairie
Steven L. Grafe, editor
University of Oklahoma Press
2800 Venture Drive, Norman, OK 73069
9780806140292, $34.95

LANTERNS ON THE PRAIRIE: THE BLACKFEET PHOTOGRAPHS OF WALTER MCCLINTOCK presents Walter McClintock's photos, surveying the works of an 1896 easterner who arrived on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation and found himself a chronicler of Plains Indian life. Many of his photos were reproduced as colored lantern slides: they captured the attire and culture of the Blackfeet during their celebrations and contribute to a powerful historical survey highly recommended for any Native American library and many an art collection.

Diane C. Donovan

Fern's Bookshelf

Just One Jew: The Grandson of a Gadal Tells His Story
Moishe Mendlowitz
Feldheim Publishers
208 Airport Executive Park, Nanuet, N.Y. 10954
9781598263619 $22.99 (845) 356-2282

In this autobiographical account of the vicissitudes of his journey back to Hashem and a Torah life, Moishe Mendlowitz, the grandson of Rabbi Shraga Feivel Mendlowitz, ZT"L reaches deep into the hearts of his readers; teaching profound lessons that resonate within our souls. In "Just One Jew" (Feldheim Publishers), Mr. Mendlowitz does not mince words as he offers a refreshingly candid full disclosure of his departure from a Torah observant lifestyle, as a student at Brooklyn's Yeshiva Torah Vodaath. He chronicles both his immersion into the abysmal darkness of secular decadence along with his return to an observant life with unbridled passion and honesty. As an added bonus, this memoir is replete with vintage black and white photos of generations of prominent rabbeim and members of the Mendlowitz family.

The son of Avraham Mordechai Mendlowitz, z"l, a hard working kosher butcher in Crown Heights, young Moishe rejected the lifestyle of his antecedents after graduating from Torah Vodaath. The next 15 years were spent building an entrepreneurial career that saw a highly successful string of lucrative businesses. Living in a palatial home in Rhinebeck, New York, Mr. Mendlowitz seemed at ease in his secular life; making money hand over fist, enjoying all the material possessions that he acquired, dating non-Jewish women and never entertaining the notion of returning from whence he came. It wasn't until a near death experience in a horrific car accident, seven months subsequent to his father's passing, that things began to change. "I was a total success and a complete failure", he says. "The former was how I appeared on the outside, the latter was what I couldn't even admit to myself", he ruefully observed.

The year was 1986 and as a man in his early 30s, Mr. Mendlowitz took the first small step in transforming his life by shearing off his long hair out of respect to his family. As he points out throughout this book, he was never shunned or ridiculed by his family for his aberrant lifestyle and it is clear that the unconditional love of his mother and sister served as a source of moral strength throughout his odyssey.

Never knowing his revered and holy grandfather personally, as he was born six years after Reb Shraga Feivel passed on in 1948, Mr. Mendlowitz speaks of his stellar accomplishments in the world of Torah with profound respect and deep admiration. Of his grandfather, he says, "What defined him more than anything was his love for Klal Yisroel (the Jewish nation). He constantly put the interests of the whole ahead of his own. He sent his donors to other yeshivas that needed shoring up; he sent his best students away to yeshivas where there was greater need for their talents; his constant aim was not building up his own yeshiva but improving education in America for all Jews."

Irrespective of the love and guidance of his family, and the constant help from his prominent uncles, Rabbi Sender Linchner and Rabbi Yitzchak Karpf, Mr. Mendlowitz found himself negotiating some uneven terrain on the road back to a Torah life. Struggling with inner conflicts and battling with his own yetzer hara, his desire to change finally prevailed as he committed himself to learning Torah again; this time in Monsey. Before long, he came to the stark realization that he could not learn Torah everyday in Monsey and then return to a completely non-religious life in Rhinebeck. .

It was a maiden voyage to Eretz Yisroel (the land of Israel) with his sister and brother-in-law that was to be a significant turning point in Mr. Mendlowitz's life. He began to become cognizant of Hashem's (G-d's)munificence throughout his entire life; not fully comprehending that a multitude of blessings and miracles were yet to come. Having experienced the holiness of Jerusalem and the sublime ruchnius (spirituality) of davening (praying) at the Kosel (the Western Wall), he decided to stay in Eretz Yisroel a bit longer. "I touched the wall, and just like that, an overwhelming flood of emotion washed over me. I burst into tears and could not stop crying. In that moment, something that was closed opened, and something that was broken healed. I would never be the same again" he recalls. And indeed, it was tefilla (prayer) that would become the central aspect of his life; something he engaged in with a palpable zeal, something that he felt the compulsion to cling to, as it was the first mitzvah that he discarded as a teenager.

After returning home, he sold his estate and lived with his sister and brother-in-law in Lakewood. While there he committed himself to learning Torah, to fitting in to the community by making drastic modifications to his lifestyle and to increasing his level of observance. After a brief and bitter marriage, Mr. Mendlowitz was now divorced; yet his soul yearned for the completeness that had hitherto alluded him. Despite it all, he recalls that, "I will always consider my years in Lakewood as the turning point in my life. It was there that I regained the love of learning Torah, started to appreciate the significance of family and the importance of surrounding myself with people who were greater than I".

In September of 1996, Mr. Mendlowitz decided to move to Eretz Yisroel. "My soul was home at last" he writes, adding that "I knew that I wanted to do kiruv (bringing unaffiliated Jews back to a Torah life), but where and how, I was not sure. I knew that Hashem would point the way." Indeed, it was the Hand of Hashem that guided Mr. Mendlowitz's footsteps throughout his sojourn. Having met and connected with two outstanding figures in the world of kiruv work in Jerusalem, Rabbi Meir Schuster and Jeff Seidel, it wasn't long before Mr. Mendlowitz's prayers were answered as he was afforded the opportunity to realize his mission in life. Working part time at the famed Heritage House in the Old City of Jerusalem saw him convincing young backpacking Jews to accept free accomodations at the vibrant kiruv center amongst their brethren rather than lodging at Arab youth hostels in the Old City, as well as escorting young Jews to the homes of those who gladly took in guests for Shabbos (Sabbath) meals. On a personal level, it was this juncture in time that saw a period of exponential growth in ruchnius (spirituality) for Mr. Mendlowitz as he was now learning Torah several hours each day and guiding other lost Jews to yeshivas and hence, a frum (Orthodox) life.

There was only one thing missing and this major void was something that Mr. Mendlowitz was determined to fill. He was still single and wanted to get married and establish his own family of Torah Jews. With a broken heart, he cried out incessantly to Hashem, davening with kavanah (intention) and pouring out his supplications to the "One" who orchestrates all shidduchim (maker of matches). After a litany of disappointing dates, Mr. Mendlowitz found that yet once again his prayers were answered when he met Esther, the woman who would become his wife. Today, they both actively work in kiruv while raising their daughters and son.

The reader cannot help but be amazed by Hashem's hasgacha pratis (personal supervision) as Mr. Mendlowitz recounts the innumerable stories and anecdotes of those who lives he touched and who in turn touched his life in such miraculous ways. His love for each and every Jew, regardless of their background became the impetus for Mr. Mendlowitz's attempt to form a new kiruv organization called "Just One Jew' (hence the tile of the book). The premise was simple. Each frum person would commit themselves to mentoring a secular Jew who wished to learn more about Judaism. Based on his previous experiences in the world of kiruv work in Jerusalem, it became clear to him that when one commits to authentically devoting the lion's share of their time, energy and resources to a person who is seeking to re-connect with Hashem, we are shaping the future of Klall Yisroel (the Jewish people) in such formidable ways.

Mr. Mendlowitz so deftly illustrates that within the soul of each Jew lies an enormous power that often remains dormant unless and until it is kindled. It is the power to change; to transform the mundane into the holy; the power to overcome adversity and personal travails; the power to lead others and ourselves to an awareness of the glory of Hashem and the fulfillment of a Torah life.

The Map Seeker - One Woman's Quest
Leah Kotkes
Israel Book Shop Publications
501 Prospect Street, Lakewood, NJ 08701
9781600910814 $23.95

Leah Kotkes, a writer for Binah Magazine and mentor of women writers, takes her readers on a poignant and emotionally charged sojourn in her first book, "The Map Seeker: One Woman's Quest" (Israel Bookshop Publications). Having been asked to write this memoir by her spiritual mentor, Rabbi Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg in Jerusalem, it is clear that Mrs. Kotkes' words of faith, hope and inspiration will serve as a moral compass of sorts, to all women who seek perspective on the vicissitudes of life and the challenges that lie therein.

In highly personal and often nuanced detail, Mrs. Kotkes describes the trajectory of her life with refreshing candor as she offers a full disclosure of what is normatively locked in one's heart. On her road to a Torah life, she adroitly illustrates that each soul has the power to triumph over adversity and each of us has the innate ability to grapple with painful travails if only we fortify our faith in G-d.

Having been born into a traditional but non-religious upper middle class home in 1963, Vanessa, as she was known back then, depicts various scenarios of her home and family life in the Hendon section of London with a mixture of wonder and longing. "As a child", she recalls, "I yearned for a world more appropriate for me beyond our family home in Hendon. I prayed for a place where I belonged, where I would be appreciated, where I could be me. I hope this with all my young heart, but I had no idea where it was or how I would get there."

As adulthood emerged, her lifelong dream of assuming a career as a writer; of reporting and recording what she had seen and experienced came to fruition as she landed a job at an upscale fashion publication. The glamour, thrills and excitement of traversing the world and hob knobbing with professionals from all walks of life, soon lost its luster and Mrs. Kotkes found herself growing restless and frustrated. As she climbed the proverbial ladder of material success, she frequently changed jobs, never quite discovering what her soul longed for. With a desire to learn about other cultures and perhaps explore the possibilities of finding spiritual fulfillment, she spent an extended period of time in India as well as visiting a multitude of other countries. While India proved to be a captivating experience, she still felt an aching void in her tormented soul. It was there that her thoughts turned to her own Jewish identity; and how she stood in stark contrast to the other cultures she visited.

Emotionally drained and spiritually bereft, Mrs. Kotkes returned to London. Little did she know that through an innocuous invitation (to attend a lecture given by a neighborhood rabbi) would serve as a vehicle to a Torah true life. Through the guiding hands of Rabbi Rashi Simon, his wife Ruthie and Rabbi Yisroel and Rebbetzin Julie Roll, Mr. Kotkes became enthralled by all she learned at their Torah classes and soon began observing the Sabbath. "Each week, as I adhered more closely to more Shabbos laws and got more inspired by the spirit of the day an unusual thing happened; secular influences and temptations fell along the wayside and other more worthwhile experiences entered my life", she recalls.

Still finding herself negotiating some inner conflicts, the road she was to travel was fraught with significant hurdles. Having become cognizant of G-d's abundant blessings throughout her life, Mrs. Kotkes' comfort came through prayer; which she clung to with a palpable zeal. Indeed, it was through heartfelt prayer that saw her through her most difficult moments. Over her parents' objections, she decided to study in Israel, where she attended the Neve Yerushalayim seminary for women. This was a period of exponential spiritual growth for Mrs. Kotkes and while she found her classes stimulating, she felt the need to marry and have a family. It was also at this juncture that she met and established relationships with formidable figures in the Orthodox Jewish world who would become instrumental mentors throughout her life. Among them are, Rabbi Akiva Tatz, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Horowitz, the Bostoner Rebbe, his Rebbetzin Raichel Horowitz, and Rav Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg and his family.

Her description of the love that she felt for Jerusalem served as the impetus for her decision to stay, rather than returning to London. After a brief and bitter marriage, she was now divorced, yet her desire to find her soulmate and start a beautiful Torah home never diminished. It is clear that this exceptionally painful period of her life and the tribulations that she faced assisted her in blossoming in to a stronger person who consistently maintained a sanguine disposition. As she personally witnessed G-d's guiding hand every step of the way, her faith in the Master of the Universe permeated her mind, heart and soul. Her incessant importuning of G-d was not for naught and soon after she met Mordechai Kotkes, the man who would become her husband. A diligent student of Torah, her husband is a loving man and with him at her side, she is able to perform a panoply of kindnesses including the inviting guests to her home which affords her the opportunity her to help others who seek to find their own personal "map" on the highway of life.

She was the recipient of G-d's munificence once again with the birth of four sons and the ability to nurture her writing talents by contributing articles to Binah Magazine and mentoring other Jewish women writers. Yet and still, the deep pain of several miscarriages, the loss of her beloved father-in-law and managing financial hardships were personal challenges that saw her summoning up the unshakable emunah in her soul. She voices her appreciation for Hashem's blessings and assistance in all matters both large and small and her words sound a clarion call to the reader to wake up from their slumber and recognize that G-d never abandons us.

This emotionally rife memoir will stir the hearts of women from all backgrounds and will provide the much needed succor and strength to those who are dealing with the hardships of divorce, illness, death, monetary difficulties and other such dilemmas. And for those who find themselves in a quandary about which road to take; which "map" to choose in their journey on this earth, this book will exhort you to stay the course, to never relinquish your faith in G-d and the truth of Torah. A must read!!

Fern Sidman

Georganna's Bookshelf

Mistress Shakespeare
Karen Harper
G.P. Putnam's Sons
c/o The Penguin Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399155451, $24.95,

Instead of pursuing the ages-old controversy "Who really wrote Shakespeare?" Karen Harper explores in this novel "Who really was Shakespeare's wife?" Mistress Shakespeare is a story of secrets, intrigue, and treachery in Elizabethan times. Historical records show that The Bard and Anne Whateley of Temple Grafton were betrothed shortly before Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway of Shottery.

In Harper's account, Whateley became his London lover, intimately involved with the productions of his work and possibly the inspiration, his "dark mistress." She imagines intimate details of their dangerous, daring life and the love.

The secret Whateley/Shakespeare match is a meeting of hearts and heads that no one - not even Queen Elizabeth or her spymasters - can destroy. From rural Stratford-Upon-the-Avon to teeming London, the passionate pair struggles to stay solvent and safe. Often at odds, always in love, they sell Will's first plays and, as he rises to theatrical prominence in England, they fight off fierce competition from other London dramatists, who are as treacherous as they are talented.

During this reign of Elizabeth I, the queen's men are hunting down secret Catholics. William Shakespeare comes under suspicion; his family is known to have sheltered priests in their Stratford home. The investigators first question the woman closest to Shakespeare--not his legal wife, Anne Hathaway, who stays in Stratford with their children -- but this other Anne, who lives with the playwright and is rumored to help him write his scripts.

Persecution and plague, insurrection and inferno, friends and foes, even executions of those they hold dear, enliven Anne's heart-rending story. Spanning half a century of Elizabethan and Jacobean history and sweeping from the lowest reaches of society to the royal court, this richly textured novel tells one possible story of Shakespeare in love. Part of the charm of "Whately" narrating this story is the perfect touch of Elizabethan language she uses, just enough to make us believe it could be true, if only for the length of this book. The couple's penchant for trading rhyming couplets becomes a bit tedious, but is plausible given their literary levels.

Harper pays close attention to the details of the era, bringing it to life. During the plague period, Anne prepares to step into the disease-infested world outside her home, "With an onion stuffed with figs, rue and treacle about my neck to ward off deadly air." Imagine breathing the stench of such a concoction, as well as the smell of the open sewers running down the center of each street.

In an Author's Note at the end of the novel, Harper cites her abundant credentials and research that backs up her meticulous depictions. This is not the first novel she has written set in the Elizabethan era, and we can hope it is not the last.

God's Thunderbolt: The Vigilantes of Montana
Carol Buchanan
BookSurge Publishing
5341 Dorchester Road Suite 16, North Charleston, SC 29418
9781419697098, $18.99,

"I've waited three decades for someone to write a great novel about Montana's Vigilante era (1863-1864), and here it is," said noted Westerns author, Richard S. Wheeler, winner of the Owen Wister Award for lifetime achievement in the literature of the West.

With that sort of accolade, it is no surprise that "God's Thunderbolt" won the 2009 Spur Award for Best First Novel from the Western Writers of America. Hold onto your Stetsons, though, because this is a self-published novel. Unlike many (most?) books in that category, "God's Thunderbolt" has already passed the author's break-even point and is well into the territory of financial success.

Montana fans (not the Hannah Montana variety), lovers of Western lore, and readers who like the gold rush and Civil War era will enjoy this historic novel. Buchanan meticulously researched the story of Montana's Vigilantes and turned the nuggets she mined into the tale of Alder Gulch. While residents wrestle with Western settlement issues, the far-off Civil War also makes an impact on their lives. Throughout the novel of suspense and intrigue, a love story emerges that builds to a dramatic conclusion.

The Invention of Air
Steven Johnson
Riverhead Hardcover
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9781594488528 $25.95 212-366-2426

Of course, no one invented air, but the subtitle more or less tells it all: A Story of Science, Faith, Revolution, and the Birth of America. Steven Johnson is the best-selling author of six books on the intersection of science, technology, and personal experience. One effect of this new book might be the realization that "everything new is really old events recycled." If you think current controversies involving global warming, Al Gore, the greening of America, stem cell research, Christian conservatives, abortion, and battles over evolution vs. creationism represent only a contemporary phenomenon, The Invention of Air will open your mind to the possibility that the same intertwining of politics, religion, and scientific innovation underlies all human advancements.

The book narrates the life of Joseph Priestley, an 18th-century British preacher and revolutionary who most people think of as the discoverer of oxygen, although the circumstances of that "discovery" are complicated. More importantly, Johnson points out, was a "failed" experiment conducted by the amateur scientist that could be understood only in the latter half of the 20th century, when advances in other sciences wove together the studies we now think of as "ecology."

Priestley's life was a roller coaster of revolution that uprooted his family and propelled them to the New World, where the rabble-rousing theologian cum scientist could pursue his friendships with Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin, his mentor. To Johnson's mind, "Priestley was a kind of lost Founding Father: a hugely important figure to Franklin, Adams, and Jefferson who is barely mentioned today in most accounts of the revolutionary generation."

This book holds up well against other popularizations of scientific subjects and complex ideas. Although the term "paradigm" may have filtered into everyday parlance, enough other intellectual references may turn away less educated readers. I suspect that a familiarity with Thomas Kuhn's 1962 THE STRUCTURE OF SCIENTIFIC REVOLUTIONS (mentioned several times) is restricted to those with at least a Master of Science degree. Not that I object to sending people to dictionaries and encyclopedias! This is a good result -- if that is what they do, rather than gently closing the book and laying it down, never to open it again. In fact, it would serve them well to review Johnson's extensive bibliography and delve into some primary sources, providing those are not all more wild praise for a sloppy, second-rate scientist whose willy-nilly experiments more stumbled into new knowledge than proved any theories.

The lack of endnote signifiers in the text annoyed the academic in me, but I was not surprised to detect some tactics richly practiced by soap opera scriptwriters, who truly know how to hold their audiences: repeated foretelling and rehashing the same event from differing viewpoints. The crisis that propelled the Priestleys out of Europe to what was then an English colony comes as rather a letdown after all the buildup. Certainly, the story of Priestley's life is interesting and well told and probably not unknown to experts in the fields touched by his work, but ordinary readers may be put off by the excursions into theories like energy flow and dialectics. I am not sure that the one does not do disservice to the other. Time will tell.

Georganna Hancock

Gloria's Bookshelf

Sean Doolittle
Delacorte Press
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780385338981 $24.00

The front cover of "Safer," Sean Doolittle's superlative new novel, depicts neighborhood scenes, at once bucolic, mundane and lovely - children playing, a man mowing his lawn. It is just such a life that Paul Callaway and his wife, Sara, wanted to embrace when they moved from Boston to a quiet Midwestern town, albeit not without some misgivings. It is quite a change, after all. Paul, 37 years old, is now a respected member of the faculty of Western Iowa University, and his wife associate dean for graduate studies.

It is the week before Christmas as the book opens. Paul and Sara are hosting a faculty holiday party when, shockingly, the police come to his door to arrest him on charges of having molested his neighbors' thirteen-year-old daughter and possessing pornographic images of a child, crimes of which he is innocent. And the life he had becomes a nightmare. Only he is wide awake. And from that point on, unimaginably, things only get worse.

Paul, usually not a "joiner," with his wife's encouragement had been persuaded to become a member of the neighborhood watch by one of his neighbors, Roger Mallory, who, besides being an ex-cop, has organized the neighborhood associations and watch groups under the banner of Safer Places Organization, a "citywide coalition of citizen patrols he'd founded himself half a decade ago," and which is dedicated to keeping the area free of crime or whatever else might threaten their well-being. Paul gradually becomes aware of just how very strict Roger's parameters are as to what is and isn't "safe" for the neighborhood, to his peril. Up to that point in the novel, it had been merely engrossing. After that point, I couldn't put the book down. Well, not literally, but very nearly.

The author has crafted a riveting read, one which will grab the reader from first page to last, and which will without question make this reader's Top Ten list for 2009. [And I loved the sly tip-of-the-hat to Lee Child's Jack Reacher books.] Very highly recommended.

Monkey in the Middle
Stephen Solomita
Severn House
595 Madison Ave., NY, NY 10022
9781847510655 $15.95 800-830-3044

Leonard Carter, former mercenary, now back in New York after serving stints in the Gulf War and Afghanistan by way of the African continent, is now doing what he does best, working as a hitman for another Middle East mercenary. He thinks, "The military and Carter were a perfect fit. And what Carter must now do, with a military career off the table, is market his talents and training on the free market." Now getting older, Carter is no less expert at his job, his attacks displaying exquisite precision and audacity, but is somewhat concerned at his recent loss of focus, or what he calls 'slippage.' His current assignment targets business and associates of Paulie "Margarine" Marginella, organized crime boss who is himself planning his life after retirement.

Solly Epstein, lieutenant in the NY Organized Crime Control Bureau, is assigned to the investigation of the murders, and the assumption in the NYPD is that there is a gang war about to erupt in the city. But the explanation is not quite that simple. The action takes place in the days leading up to Christmas, when the city is at its most sparkling. Solly needs to close this case quickly: His wife, Sofia, is due to give birth to their first child any day, now two weeks past her due date, and he has promised to make that his priority, that "the minute you go into labor, I'm outta here."

The plot continues in engrossing fashion until suddenly there is a totally unexpected left turn midway through, and it just keeps getting better. I particularly enjoyed Mr. Solomita's descriptive abilities and prose. Speaking of Carter, he writes: "In the course of his short life, he's witnessed unspeakable savagery without flinching. Worse, he's committed acts so awful that he thinks himself past even the hope of redemption. But for all the blood, Carter has never willingly surrendered his dignity." And he has a somewhat anomalous sentiment against collateral damage.

I hadn't read a new novel from this author in several years, and was very happy to have discovered this one - hopefully, there are more to come, as this was a welcome return indeed.


Fault Line
Barry Eisler
Ballantine Books
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780345505088 $25.00 800-726-0600

A sudden malevolence threatens the life of Alex Treven, successful Silicon Valley attorney, at precisely the time he felt he was about to achieve some of his highest goals, financially, personally and professionally. Alex has always been the one in control, the one with the answers, from the time he was a kid in school, when his big brother was the one who got him out of scrapes [and worse] which were mostly the result of just that intelligence. Ben, always the black sheep, was the protective big brother, used to being in control in quite another way. He is a trained assassin, albeit one who does so in the name of God and country, in the employ of his government, having joined the army shortly after graduating from school and now an undercover operative. The reader is given a demonstration of his skills in the early pages of the book.

The novel begins with these words: "The last thing Richard Hilzoy thought before the bullet entered his brain was, Things are really looking up." Hilzoy is the genius inventor of Obsidian, "the world's most advanced encryption algorithm, destined to render all other network security software obsolete." He has hired Alex, who holds a degree in electrical engineering and a Ph.D. in computer science, to process the patent for his invention and obtain financing for it from a group of venture capitalists through his connections at the law firm at which Alex, a sixth-year associate, is hoping to make partner [helped along that path, he hopes, by securing for it this new client]. And just when all this is about to come to fruition, Hilzoy is murdered. When there is a second murder of a man involved in the patent application for Obsidian, and Alex' house is broken into in the early morning hours soon after, he sends a frantic e-mail to his estranged brother.

Alex and Ben have had no contact for nearly a decade, following a family tragedy, but despite his ambivalence Ben immediately responds to Alex' plea for help and does what he does best: work to neutralize the threat and find its ultimate source. He comes home and takes any and all necessary measures to protect his brother, fighting memories that sidle in and nearly blur his focus and the palpable antagonism on both sides.

In this standalone novel from Mr. Eisler, the author of six novels in the John Rain series, he has done a wonderful job in creating this dysfunctional family dynamic. Although the book didn't pull me in as quickly as had this author's previous books, it ultimately achieved that page-turning hold on me, with the interesting plot and fine writing, e.g., "family was a fragile thing. Like a house of cards. Some cards, no doubt, could be pulled out without much affecting the overall structure. Others, when they were removed, caused a shudder, and then another card popped out, then two more - - and then the whole thing collapsed, just like that. All from a single mistake, from one little lost card;" and

". . . Alex really believed there was some kind of conspiracy at work. But there had to be a rational explanation, right? People didn't kill over inventions in sunny, civilized Silicon Valley. They bought and sold, sometimes they sued, but killing?" A suspenseful, well-told tale, and recommended.

Angel's Tip
Alafair Burke
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780061561245 $7.99 800-242-7737

Alafair Burke introduced readers to Ellie Hatcher in "Dead Connection," and the NYPD detective returns in this wonderful new novel. After only five years on the police force, Ellie has now made detective in the Homicide South division, much to the chagrin [or worse] of the others in her squad. After just one week in the homicide bureau, she comes upon a murder victim while on her morning run, a nineteen-year-old girl brutally strangled and stabbed, the body apparently dumped in the vacant lot in which she is found.

Chelsea Hart, along with her two freshman classmates from Indiana University, were spending Spring Break in the Big Apple. On the final night of their trip, she promised her friends that she would join them at their midtown Manhattan hotel in time for their flight back home, not wanting to cut short her "best night ever," at a trendy club in the West Village. (The "Angel's Tip" of the title is, apparently, a currently popular martini.) She never made it back to the hotel.

While a novice as a detective, Ellie has great instincts and is earning the grudging respect of her new partner, J.J. Rogan, but is still working on a similar gain in estimation from the others with whom she works. When Ellie begins to suspect that Chelsea Hart's murder is but the latest of several similar killings that began a decade earlier, that avenue of investigation is viewed with skepticism.

Ellie lives with her brother Jess, a member of a local rock band, or rather Jess lives with her, his places of residence and employment all short-lived. When several days after the discovery of Chelsea's body another young woman is killed outside of the club where Jess works, the stakes are raised. What follows is a suspense-filled book with solid plotting and a nerve-jangling conclusion. This is the author's fifth novel, all dealing with NYC cops and prosecutors [Ms. Burke is a former deputy district attorney], and should earn her a lot of new fans. The book is very fast reading and immensely enjoyable, and is highly recommended.

Paul Levine
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780553806731 $22.00 800-726-0600

Paul Levine is the author of twelve novels, including several in the "Solomon v. Lord" series. Readers of the latter books will perhaps be surprised at the decidedly non-comedic tone of this newest book, much darker than that found in that delightful series. The title refers to not only prosecutable acts, but people about whom that term is used as a proper noun. I refer of course to people coming into the United States from other countries, predominantly, here, from Mexico.

On the day which starts all the action, Jimmy "Royal" Payne, or, as his business card declares, J. Atticus Payne, Esquire, finds himself at loose ends: "Lacking any decent cases, bowling alone on a weekday morning provided a break from bill-collectors and anger management classes." Jimmy doesn't have a great reputation in most places [as his nickname implies], typically known for cutting corners and representing undesirables. But he has also represented men seeking legal residency after surviving a horrendous trip into the US which resulted in the deaths of many inside a tractor/trailer, ending in a contempt of court citation and the aforementioned anger management classes, as well as hero status among many in the Mexican community.

Marisol Perez is a Mexican woman quite self-sufficient yet highly vulnerable because of her 12-year-old son, Agustino ["Tino"]. The Perez' lives intersect with Jimmy's when their trip into the US, courtesy of a high-priced and low class "coyote," turns into disaster. They become separated, and Tino manages to find Jimmy to implore him to help find his mother. Jimmy, whose own son of about the same age has very tragically died, cannot refuse - - and his ex-wife, Sharon, won't let him. [Sharon, a detective, "was both a good cop and a do-gooding cop, someone who believed the words carved in the granite of the courthouses."] The ensuing search becomes a harrowing adventure, filled with graphic scenes of violence, sexual slavery, and danger.

The author has said that the tale was inspired by his one day encountering a woman and small child in the desert, and imagining what could have brought them to that place. In fact, the book is dedicated to "the woman carrying a rucksack, clutching her child's hand, and kicking up dust as she scrambled a desert trail near Calexico, California." Peopled with terrific characters and filled with fast-paced action, the resulting book is recommended.

Fatally Flaky
Diane Mott Davidson
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780061348136 $25.99 800-242-7737

Goldy Schulz, caterer deluxe, returns in her 15th appearance in this series of "culinary mysteries." It is summer in Colorado, and she is about to do a wedding for the bride from hell, who has already changed the wedding date twice, along with every other aspect of the nuptials. Bridezilla Billie, as Goldy thinks of her, is 36 years old, is getting married for the first time after having been jilted by two fiances, and is also apparently a complete flake. The change of venue from Goldy's own catering space to the Gold Gulch Spa, owned by her nemesis, Victor Lane, is the last straw. When the big day finally arrives, Goldy's primary thought was a prayer that it would all be over quickly, an emotion I found myself sharing. [The stress and minutiae of the planning was getting to be a bit much, for both of us.]

Goldy's husband, Tom, is an investigator with the Furman County Sheriff's Department, and he has his hands full when two days before Bridezilla's wedding Doc Finn, the best friend of Goldy's beloved godfather, Jack, is found murdered. Not long afterwards Jack himself, a 58-year-old "recovering lawyer," is attacked and, after being taken to the hospital, dies from an apparent heart attack. Tom believes the two incidents are related. Goldy is burdened by guilt feelings: Jack had recently moved from New Jersey and bought the house across the street from her just so that they could re-establish their close relationship [in addition to his generous help and support after the break-up of her first marriage]. Just before he dies he gives Goldy a note that appears to refer to the spa, and Goldy arranges to work there to try to find out what Jack was trying to tell her.

There is apparently more going on at the spa, whose clients pay $7,000 per week for the privilege of eating impossibly drab food, than meets the eye. How else to explain why the place is always fully booked, all year long [in Colorado, mind you!], with a waiting list? Goldy's investigation involves a lot of snooping, a lot of cooking [all gone into in great detail, recipes included at the end of the book], and a lot of danger to herself. I found myself wondering how even a small-town Sheriff's Department could spare a deputy to not only guard Goldy but assist her in numerous ways in and around the kitchen. But the book is a light read that will be sure to please readers wanting some good cooking tips [and those recipes!] along with their mystery.

The Birthday Present
Barbara Vine
Shaye Areheart Books
c/o Crown
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019,
9780307451996 $25.00 212-572-2537/800-726-0600

In its simplest terms, the newest book by Ruth Rendell, writing under the pen name of perhaps her darker side, Barbara Vine, is a tale of the rise and fall of a British politician, Ivor Tesham, 33 years old as the story opens. An MP at 31, two years later he was made a Minister of the Crown, Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Secretary of State for Defence "and set the holder of the office on the first rung of the ladder of political achievement. With luck and hard work, he would next be made a whip and then junior minister." It is a tale of "the unforeseen and how we walk all the time on that thin crust that covers terrible abysses."

The first three chapters are told from the pov of Ivor's brother-in-law, Rob Delgado, from some time in the year 2007, reflecting back on a period in 1990. The reader is told of an affair Ivor is having with a 27-year-old woman with whom he is besotted, or perhaps just in lust. The problem is that the woman is married and living with her husband, and has a small child. Ivor is planning the eponymous present - well, actually, one of two presents, one a more mundane but very expensive and plot-significant set of pearls, the other very much in keeping with the pair's somewhat kinky and fetishistic appetites and having to do with a hired car, a borrowed house, and two men paid to help in a scenario of a staged kidnapping.

The plans go horribly awry when there is a crash, and the woman and one of the men is killed, the other man badly and nearly critically injured. Ivor fears that in the aftermath he will be exposed for what he is: "An MP, a respectable man, a rich man on his way to getting richer, who had set in motion a train of reprehensible events that he very much wanted to keep secret." After the first few chapters the pov switches to that of the woman referred to as "the alibi lady," and for the most part alternates between these narrators. There are issues of mistaken identity, IRA violence, and the mad thoughts of a lonely, friendless woman.

Scandals involving British politicians are ever more real and prevalent, and the immediacy of that issue makes the plot a particularly timely one. This is a novel of psychological suspense as good as anything "Barbara Vine" has previously delivered, and is recommended.

Gloria Feit

Gorden's Bookshelf

Patrimony: A Pip and Flinx Adventure
Alan Dean Foster
Del Rey Books/Ballantine Books
A division of Random House, Inc.
New York, NY
9780345485083 $7.99

Pip and Flinx are two of the best SF characters that have been created. Patrimony is the thirteenth Pip and Flinx book. Some features in the series are getting a little old but the unique world creation that Foster does so well makes this a good book to read.

Flinx is an orphan and he has been looking for his birth parents from nearly the first book in the series. He has a possible lead that his father might be living on the planet Gestalt. The lure of possibly answering the many questions about his parentage is too much and he has to drop everything and try to find his father. Gestalt has an amoral bounty hunter living there. When he finds out Flinx is on world and the richness of the bounty he has on his head, a lethal encounter has to follow.

There is nothing truly unique in this thirteenth installment in the Pip and Flinx saga except the creation of another rich world, Gestalt, for the reader to get lost in. Foster has been dressing up short stories as full length novels about his pair of heroes, while creating rich fantasy worlds for his audience to get lost in, for the last few books in this series. The rich new world to explore is enough of a treat to pick up this book even with its lack of substance for the larger saga.

For those readers interested in the larger Pip and Flinx saga, this is just a minor waystation on the journey. For readers new to the series, this is an experience in the joy of finding a fictional world so rich and unique you would want to travel there. This is one of Foster's minor works but it is still enjoyable enough not to ignore if you find it on the shelf.

Beloved Disciple, The Misunderstood Legacy of Mary Magdalene, the Woman Closet to Jesus
Robin Griffith-Jones
Harper One
An Imprint of Harper Collins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780061191992 $25.95

Beloved Disciple is slightly different than what you might expect from the title. This is a book about the theological history of Mary Magdalene and how it has changed over time. It does a very good job in this but it misses a chance to look closely at all of the material and make reasonable composite histories of the woman herself.

Griffith-Jones assumes that the Gospels are more accurate than various Gnostic texts and associated histories. That might not be the case. Nothing is written in a vacuum. The other writings need some basis in fact so portions from many of these texts should be considered as significant in history.

Griffith-Jones does explore a vast array of associated texts and builds a rich tapestry of a variety of theologies and fragments of thoughts on Jesus and Mary. This alone makes the book worth reading.

He also does a very respectable job explaining the Gnostics but he doesn't go in enough detail about the rich variety of beliefs that were given the label Gnostics and he puts too much emphasis on those writings critical of the movement. You might not think the critical sources make a significant difference in understanding the religious groups but if you consider that Christians had been publicly call cannibals because of the symbolic eating of bread and drinking of wine during communion, the distortions of critics becomes important. Even with these problems Griffith-Jones does an exemplary job explaining the umbrella groups that make of the Gnostic faiths. Gnosticism was a relatively large group of Christians and what has been lost over time and not found here is how this faith attracted and kept the average person, which it had to do. Concentration on theology glosses over the average faithful.

One of the most interesting points proven in the book is that contrary to the assertions in the fictional book The Da Vinci Code the organized Christian church has greater respect for Mary Magdalene as an individual and person than the Gnostics.

This book is highly recommended for those interested in the theological history of Christianity and the history of women within it. It is very readable even if it is primarily a theological history. Scholars, preachers and just interested people should read this book for a greater understanding of the bible and their own faith. Too many people just take the surface view of religion. Without the historical back story the surface has no support.

S.A. Gorden, Reviewer

Harwood's Bookshelf

Misquoting Truth: A Guide to the Fallacies of Bert Ehrman's Misquoting Jesus
Timothy Paul Jones
InterVarsity Press
PO Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515-1426
9780830834471 $15.00

When Gary Wills wrote a book titled, Why I Am a Catholic, I suggested that 95 percent of its content would be more appropriate in a book titled, "Why I am not a Catholic." Wills' book falsified the Catholic religion as thoroughly as anything ever written by Northern Ireland's fanatic Protestant Ian Paisley. Now Timothy Paul Jones has emulated Wills in writing a book that makes precisely the same points he claims to be falsifying. Both Misquoting Jesus and Misquoting Truth provide the reader with definitive proof that the Christian gospels are works of fiction that in their present form bear little resemblance to the original documents of 2,000 years ago. The difference between Bart Ehrman and Timothy Jones is that Ehrman recognized that he was proving that the gospels are fiction, whereas Jones proves the same thing while deluding himself that he is proving the opposite. An equally significant difference is that Ehrman's book does not read like something written by a five-year-old for other five-year-olds. Should Jones' attempt to prove "A" by spelling out page after page of evidence for "not A" be attributed to a lack of intelligence, a lack of moral courage, or a lack of sanity? The fourth possible explanation, lack of education, can surely be ruled out.

By all logic, the strongest possible proof that religion is a fairy tale, and apologists who argue that a book featuring a talking snake and a talking donkey is nonfiction are insane, should be found in such books as Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion and Bart Ehrman's Misquoting Jesus. In fact a stronger case for both conclusions can be found in such attempted rebuttals of reality as Alister McGrath's The Dawkins Delusion and Timothy Jones' Misquoting Truth. Both defenders of religion's masturbation fantasies prove out of their own mouths that their capacity for rational human thought falls somewhere between that of a Scientologist and a pickled cabbage, and their conclusions are as defensible as those of the Flat Earth Society. Almost certainly their books were not a deliberate attempt to set up a defence of "not guilty by reason of self-inflicted brain amputation." That was just the way it turned out. Likewise the endorsements of Jones' doublethink by ten theologians on the back cover of Misquoting Truth were probably not written to prove that expertise in theology is comparable with expertise in the role of unicorns in the economics of Cloud Cuckoo Land. Again, that was just the way it turned out.

If anyone has ever written a treatise arguing that Alice in Wonderland is nonfiction, I am not aware of it. But Jones, McGrath or Wills could do so without making the slightest change in his methodology (start from predetermined conclusions, and distort the evidence to whatever degree is necessary in order to make it fit). Anyone who can take any of those nonsense peddlers seriously should have his kindergarten graduation annulled.

Jones, like all theologians, starts from two assumptions that any logician could have told him are as insane as 2+2=5. The first is that a god so oxymoronic that it is endowed with both the omnipotence to abolish evil and the omnibenevolence to wish to abolish evil actually exists - in a world that is observably infested with such non-manmade evils as natural disasters, famine, disease, and transportation accidents. The second is that a book containing 19,000 demonstrably false statements, including fourteen unambiguous assertions that the earth is flat, is nonfiction.

Jones describes his experience when, as a godworshipping undergraduate, he found himself reading books in his college library that revealed that every Christian doctrine was identical with beliefs centuries older about gods not named Jesus. He compares his reaction to that information with the reaction of Bart Ehrman (and, incidentally, of this reviewer) to the same experience. Whereas the facts of history cured Ehrman of his belief in the god delusion and the Jesus fairy tales (and likewise cured me), Jones was able to brainwash himself that if he ignored reality he could make it go away. Learning that Christianity was plagiarized from religions he still rejects did not prevent him from rationalizing that any belief that annulled his terror of death and got him through the day without having to be institutionalized and diapered must be true. Does that make him a pathological coward? Since Jones is not afflicted with the same room-temperature IQ as such fatuous, hate-ridden apologists for institutionalized mindslavery as J P Holding and Rick Warren, no alternative explanation comes to mind.

Thomas Szasz once reported a case of a psychiatrist incarcerating a patient who claimed to have butterflies in her stomach. Obviously the psychoquack was unaware that the woman was using a cultural metaphor. But if she had believed literally that there were butterflies in her stomach, could anyone doubt that a funny farm was indeed where she belonged? Yet a whole class of dog-collared parasites can make the equally insane claim that one god plus one god plus one god equals one god, and be refused admittance to Bellevue on the ground that one person believing an absurdity is insanity, but thousands believing it is religion. And in a society in which the 36 percent of the population who are not afflicted with the god psychosis are treated as aberrations, intellectually bankrupt superstition pushers are able to obtain professorships, even though the only occupation for which they are truly qualified is wearing a paper hat and asking, "Do you want fries with that?"

Jones quotes large segments of Ehrman's book (pp. 11, 13-14, 23-24, passim). That is a common practice among incurable believers. Religion may be the only field in which unteachables give every indication of actually believing that quoting an irrefutable observation somehow constitutes a rebuttal. In fact the ability to read Misquoting Jesus and not recognize that Ehrman's arguments are irrefutable is proof that the reader has never passed Logic 101. The ability to write a book like Misquoting Truth and believe that quoting is the same as rebutting is proof that the writer has no awareness of just how intellectually inept he really is. Jones should try to learn from the truism that it is better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to open his mouth and remove all doubt.

Misquoting Truth can be recommended as proof that Ehrman was right. Anyone desperate to remain a godworshipper is advised not to read it.

Society Without God: What the Least Religious Nations Can Tell Us About Contentment
Phil Zuckerman
New York University Press
Washington Square, New York, NY 10003
9780814797143 $35.00

Phil Zuckerman writes (p. 18), "I am not arguing that the admirably high level of societal health in Scandinavia is directly caused by the low level of religiosity . Rather, I simply wish to soberly counter the widely touted assertion that without religion, society is doomed." He goes on to cite the most paranoid pushers of the Big Lie that, without a religious belief, humans cannot be righteous: Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, and others whose names were not familiar to me but whose quoted words show them to be every bit as theofascist, antihuman and subhuman as their named co-sickos.

A point Zuckerman does not raise, perhaps because he is reporting observable reality and wishes to avoid drawing conclusions that might be disputed, is that god addicts who argue that it is impossible to be virtuous without a metaphysical lawgiver are thereby confessing that they would be incapable of telling right from wrong without a Sky Fuhrer to make the distinction for them.

Zuckerman declares (p. 20) that, "The assertions of Robertson, Falwell, Coulter, O'Reilly, and others quoted above, will be countered in my discussion below, as I shall make clear that a relative lack of religion in a given society does not necessarily lead to societal chaos, but is actually strongly correlated with impressively high levels of societal health, social well-being, and an admirably moral social order." He reports that, in the course of his fourteen months traveling through Scandinavia, "I could not avoid the striking sociological fact that here were societies in which religion is remarkably weak, and yet at the same time, they are extremely healthy, well-functioning, and manifestly sensible."

Since Zuckerman's interviews with Scandinavians took place in 2005 and 2006, the statistics he cites date from that time. He accordingly quotes polls that show Scandinavians who claimed to be Christian as twenty percent, although believers in such doctrines as Hell numbered only ten percent. Later surveys have shown that even those figures were too high, as are most of Zuckerman's other figures. For example, he is aware (p. 23) that, "Surveys of religiosity are riddled with methodological flaws, including: (1) nonrandom samples, (2) low response rates, (3) adverse political or cultural climates, (4) problematic cross-cultural terminology, and (5) surface answers." Nonetheless (p. 96), he lists the world population of Christians at 2 billion, Muslims at 1.2 billion, and nontheists at 750 million. The reality is that nontheists number 2.2 billion, Christians 1.1 billion, and Muslims 1 billion. For Hindus, his figure of 900 million is a reasonable approximation.(1)

While Zuckerman's only original contributions to knowledge in this book are his observations of what he personally encountered in Scandinavia, his reporting of previously published material is invaluable to persons not previously familiar with such information. Citing the United Nations publication, Human Development Report, he notes (p. 26) that, on the basis of life expectancy, knowledge, and standard of living, "As of 2006, Sweden ranked fifth in the world, Denmark ranked fifteenth, and several other relatively nonreligious nations - including Norway, Japan, the Netherlands, France and Britain - were in the top 20.... of the 20 nations with the highest rates of life expectancy nearly all are nations where religion is relatively weak compared to the rest of the world . the three highest ranking nations with the best scores for child welfare were the Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark - all three being among the least religious nations in the world."

Zuckerman recognizes (pp. 20-22) that states with nontheist dictators, such as the Soviet Union and Albania - although the populations of those countries were not god-free - have been as oppressive as Torquemada's Spain or Khomeini's Iran. He acknowledges (p. 29) that the positive correlation between a healthy society and the absence of religious belief does not prove a causative relationship. However, "It is not that being relatively irreligious is what necessarily causes certain countries such as Denmark or Sweden to be such successful, healthy societies. It is simply that the lack of religion doesn't seem to be a hindrance." He thereby annihilates the Big Lie that religion is a necessary force for good.

All of my quotations are from the introduction and chapter 1, because chapters 2 to 9 are basically transcripts of the interviews Zuckerman conducted in his research. While they are not exactly "must read," they help validate the conclusion that Scandinavians are the living proof that humans need religion like a fish needs a bicycle. The refusal of incurable theofascists to recognize that observable reality is best attributed to their being a few neurons short of a full cerebellum, although in the case of televangelists a better explanation might be simply self-serving lying.

William Harwood

Henry's Bookshelf

Ben Enwonwu - The Making of an African Modernist
Sylvester Okwunodu Ogbechie
U. of Rochester Press
Rochester, NY
9781580462358 $75.00

The life and work of the Nigerian artist Ben Enwonwu (1917-1994) spanned the African colonial era, the ending of this, and the movement, often conflicting, to get in touch with original African roots and build an independent state. Thus Enwonwu's art can range from official-like representations of the British Queen Elizabeth and an African jurist which would be found in government buildings to symbolic-like renderings of aspects of traditional, pre-colonial native and cultural characteristics reemerging in the period of postcolonial independence. Enwonwu has attracted international attention and stature for his works in the latter area. His distinctive achievement as an artist is rendering the traditional characteristics such as dance, masks, and wear with techniques of modern art. The modern techniques of expressionistic touches, graphic clarity, collage, formalism, and futurist effects with riotous color Enwonwu variously applies to his paintings and occasional sculptures revives--enlivens--the traditional characteristics in ways older artistic techniques could not. However, Enwonwu does not embrace the techniques or style of modernist art to the point where he can be seen as a modernist artist concerned primarily with stylistic experimentations or fascinations practically disregarding a subject.

This perspective or interpretation of Enwonwu immediately evident in his paintings is the one Ogbechie pursues in the book. The book is not a biography nor simply an introduction to this major African artist. An associate professor of art at the U. of California-Santa Barbara and founder and editor of a journal on African art, Ogbechie relates, "I investigate the search for a modernist idiom in twentieth-century African art seen through the international career of a premier African modernist." Going into the cultural, political, and aesthetic background of the artist, Ogbechie tracks his "pursuit of modernist aesthetics [and expounds on] his role in the development of a specific discourse of modernity is twentieth-century Nigerian art."

Enwonwu brought a new status to African art. He turned the focus from antique tribal art of interest for its ethnographic connection as much as its workmanship to the possibilities of contemporary African art. But few African visual artists followed in his footsteps. For the possibilities were closed off with the tribal and ethnic hostilities and oligarchical rulership throughout much of Africa after the optimism of the first years of the postcolonial era wore away. African writers have come to lasting international attention in this unstable environment threatening and dispiriting to many artists, but few visual artists have. Thus, Enwonwu is seen as an artist of international standing rooted in a particular moment of African history rather than the model and seminal visionary he might otherwise have been seen as had history gone differently.

Natural - Simple Land Art Through the Seasons
Marc Pouyet
Frances Lincoln
9780711229945 $24.95

Mention is made in the short Introduction of Robert Smith's noted Spiral Jetty earth art in Utah's Great Salt Lake. But the nature art of this book combining photography, examples, and simple instruction and encouragement is not so artistically ambitious. As mentioned in the Foreword, the book is meant more to enhance children's walks in the woods or fields or at the beach--any outdoor area. Its content though is not limited to children, but relevant to teachers, activities leaders, and anyone else looking for ways to enhance a simple nature trip. Homeowners and office workers looking for simple decorations for spots in a home or office desks would find it relevant as well.

Pouyet is a French graphic designer (the book was first published in France in 2006). The materials he uses for his illustrative simple creations and the creations themselves are much more varied and fragile compared to the earth art of practicing, professional artists such as Smithson. The stone, earth, tree trunks, large branches, and other fundamental elements of nature used in the earth art of Smithson, etc., can be found with many of Pouyet's creations. But there is also berries, leaves, mud, snow, sea weed, flowers, and other elements which are ephemeral.

Pouyet's book succeeds estimably in its modest aim of being an illustrated arts-and-crafts guide for nature activities.

Mother - Portraits by 40 Great Artists
Juliet Heslewood
Frances Lincoln
9780711229655 $19.95

With its smaller size, color illustrated covers, and front and back cover lettering of indented silvered letters, it's as much gift book as art book. The subject matter too makes for the gift book style--suggestive of sentimentality and aiming for wide appeal.

Forty paintings of mothers by mostly major, commonly-known artists from Durer to Tom Phillips (b. 1937) are featured chronologically. Rembrandt, Manet, Sargent, Van Gogh, Chagall, Henry Moore, and Lucien Freud are among the artists; with Guido Reni, Hyacinthe Rigaud, and Axel Gallen-Kallela among the lesser-knowns rounding out the forty. The paintings are within the style of realism. No cubist fragmentations, fauvist flights of imagination, or surrealist symbolizations. Only Leger contorts somewhat. You'd recognize the mothers in the paintings. As Heslewood points out, "[I]f an artist didn't really get on with their mother, they simply didn't paint her." Even Picasso and Frida Kahlo suspended their characteristic styles when depicting their mothers in favor of naturalness.

Heslewood's commentary on the paintings variously covers what is known about the respective mother (not much in many cases), the career of the artist, and style and historical elements in the painting. Though artists did not subject their mothers to much stylistic distortion in any era, as Heslewood points out in the Introduction, they did use paintings of their mothers as opportunities to portray clothing, human features, and flesh. In some cases, the artist wanted to commemorate his mother's hard life (as a peasant, for instance) or idealize her a bit by picturing her in better clothes than she had.

BIG! - Big Records, Big Events, and Big Ideas in American History, Celebrating 75 Years of the National Archives
Stacey Bredhoff with a Message from Allen Weinstein, Ninth Archivist of the United States.
Foundation for the National Archives
Washington, DC
D. Giles Limited
9781904832621 $29.95

The book is an accompaniment (not a catalog) to the ambitious, much-publicized exhibition at the National Archives in Washington, D.C., through January 2010. The exhibition presents mostly major and notable points of American history. Also presented are some incidental curiosities as well. Thus D-Day, George Kennan's letter from Moscow outlining and pressing for "containment" of the Soviet Union, Gettysburg, and Vietnam War POWs vie with one of the basketball star Shaquille O'Neal's incredibly large basketball shoes and the huge bath tub for the 300-pound president William Howard Taft. The tub is commemorated with a receipt and a photograph of four workmen sitting in it.

The mode of celebration denoted in part of the subtitle and stirred in the media publicity does not refer strictly to the points of history. Shoes and tubs are not celebrated. Nor are prisoners-of-war nor deadly beachfront assaults against dug-in forces of Nazi Germany. What is being celebrated is the National Archives' varied memorabilia of such crucial and significant historical events and also certain points of American culture which are like a "believe-it-or-not" interest. That the National Archives now possesses such a variety of memorabilia for the education and entertainment of the public is what is being celebrated. The exhibition is for showing off such treasures, cultural objects, and ephemera. It's a family show. Children will love it. So will adults, perhaps more. The book preserves much of it with its large size, many full-page illustrations bleeding over the edges of the pages, and large-size text. The design and format of the book reflects the exhibition's theme of "big".

Custom Bicycles - A Passionate Pursuit
Christine Elliott
Foreword by Phil Liggett
Images Publishing
Victoria, Australia
9781864703139 $60.00

Thirty-nine small (boutique) bicycle design and manufacture companies from Australia, Canada, the U.S., and Europe are catalogued with website references in an appendix. This alone would make the book of special interest for serious amateur bicyclists and competitors. But the book goes far beyond this with a section of a short essay on each company followed by half a dozen or so color photographs of its bicycles and close-ups of details of these. Some of the sections also have photographs of workshops, employees, manufacturing steps such as welding, and bikes in use for pleasure or competition.

Reading the essays on the companies gives an overview of design intents, ideas, and options for custom or limited-production bicycles and different types, uses, materials, and features. The essays also have information on the backgrounds of the founders of the small manufacturers, their attachment to the field, and the principles and aims in the design of their bicycles. In this material, readers will learn about advanced dimensions and trends of the field.

The illustrated book combining elements of a buyer's and consumer's guide and art-book appearance and quality makes an ideal gift for any bicycle enthusiast or an outstanding book on the technicalities and romance of the field for oneself.

Land of a Thousand Dances - Chicano Rock 'n' Roll from Southern California, revised edition
David Reyes and Tom Waldman
U. of New Mexico Press
Albuquerque, NM
9780826347220 $21.95 800-249-7737

The revised edition contains some new material. But it does not modify or reevaluate the content and theme of the original edition--which is to bring attention to the sources and originators of Chicano rock music and survey the variety of styles, performers, and bands in the field. While being more a popular work than a historical study, the book too follows to some degree how Chicano rock gained popularity and made its way into the mainstream. The indication of the success of Chicano music in becoming part of the mainstream of popular music is that much of today's Chicano music and many of today's Chicano performers are not identified as such. As happened with lots of rap music, Chicano music has blended into the popular culture medley. Both authors have backgrounds in music and popular culture. The Selected Discography is a good starting point for finding recordings of Chicano music.

Outsiders in Africa - The Uncertain Business of Doing Good
Larry Krotz
Michigan State U. Press
East Lansing, MI
9780870138522 $24.95

The effectiveness and motives of Western humanitarian involvement in Africa has been much debated. With his first-person narrative with limited weighing of any position on the issue, Krotz brings a fresh look to it. With aspects of a travelogue, his narration focuses on humanitarian work in specific locations and on Africans exposed to and affected by the work.

From Toronto, Krotz is a filmmaker who traveled in many African countries to make the documentary film Searching for Hawa's Secret. "I am part of each of the stories," he writes, "and harbour the intentions not so much to make an argument as to look at the intricacies of encounters [to uncover] the attitudes and motivations within which [humanitarian projects and efforts] were initiated."

Regarding the much-publicized work of dealing with AIDS throughout parts of Africa, for example, the author finds different attitudes and motives behind US government policies of the Bush administration, the Catholic Church, and Protestant church groups. Humanitarian efforts can thus become a type of competition among different groups of Westerners which hampers and sometimes undermines humanitarian efforts. Krotz offers no solutions to this situation. His engaging first-person book gives an alternate picture to the optimistic, inflated goals and scenarios drawn by Western governments, religious organizations, and others. The author is not fundamentally pessimistic, but writes in the spirit and style of journalism or witness offering an unvarnished picture of the situation as it stands.

Lord Selkirk, A Life
J. M. Bumsted
Michigan State U. Press
East Lansing, MI
9780870138539 $39.95

The Scotsman Thomas Douglas (1770-1820), Fifth Earl of Selkirk, was an odd combination of businessman and visionary. Affected by the utopian hopes vented by the American and French Revolutions and the encouragement of the British to develop Canada, the Lord Selkirk undertook entrepreneurial enterprises in Canada. Others managed to find modest and sometimes exceptional success in such enterprises. But none of Douglas's ventures amounted to much. In the end, he and his descendants were left with complicated and protracted legal proceedings in which they tried to avoid complete destitution from the abortive ventures.

The three enterprises Lord Selkirk undertook were a settlement on Prince Edward Island; another settlement in lands granted to him in the Red River area of central Canada west of Lake Superior; and in connection with this inland settlement, a fur-trading business to rival the Hudson Bay Company. Douglas met with difficulties in all three because of differences with persons he placed as heads of the different ventures, the difficulty if not impossibility of finding suitable and suitably thankful groups of persons for the settlements, competition from the Hudson's Bay Company, eventual disfavor by the Canadian government, and the improbability of success inherent in such ill-defined, complex undertakings under the best of circumstances. Add to this the fact that Douglas tried to make a go of these enterprises basically from Great Britain with only a couple of trips to Canada, and the visions and plans appear outright to be off-base.

The difficulties for Lord Selkirk make an appearance in Bumsted's Preface. Senior Editor of the Selkirk Papers Project, Bumsted is also the author of many other books on Canadian history. In the Preface, the author remarks that in order to give consistency to the biography, he made the decision to deal with the relation between events in Canada and Lord Selkirk's responses to them at the time the Lord received letters on the events in Scotland, which could be two months or more after the events happened. As seen with this decision by the author, Lord Selkirk was continually trying to deal with affairs in Canada months after they had taken place.

Lord Selkirk did as well as anyone could have under the impractical circumstances. While he was not particularly realistic, he was not incompetent nor insanely hopeful. What kept him going more than anything was Scottish stubbornness. He also had the endearing desire to want to be a part of the new world dawning in the revolutionary era, and he took risks in this.

Lord Selkirk's story is basically the story of the great influence he had on the development of Canada. Mainly, the Red River settlement west of Lake Superior played a major role in the development of the central and western parts of Canada with the commercial activities and large and diverse numbers of people surrounding it, as tentative as the settlement was. What was disappointing and nearly destructive to Douglas was immeasurably and permanently beneficial to Canada.

Henry Berry

Karyn's Bookshelf

The Uninvited
Tim Wynne-Jones, author
Candlewick Press
99 Dover St., Somerville, MA 02144
9870763639846, $16.99

Nothing curls your toes more than a summer thriller that mirrors where you are. When the view from your deck chair jumps out from a creepy book, that's great seasonal reading.

In the young adult novel "The Uninvited" author Tim Wynne-Jones spins a tangled web of relational malfunction, throwing in classically intriguing elements like mental instability, long-jilted love and college-age life uncertainties. He sets it in an idyllic place: a quaint riverside cabin in remote Canada.

The story follows Mimi, who has just finished her freshman year of college in New York City and needs to get away from a soured love affair with a professor. She borrows her father's cabin in Canada, thinking she'll get some alone time. But when she arrives, someone else is already living there.

Mimi quickly comes to know not only her new housemate but other residents of the small, nearby town, and learns things about herself and her father that have long been kept secret. But just as she begins to accept the new-found realities, others who have known the truth for years begin to snap under the weight of it. The result is a great scary tale with deadly implications.

The story is true to life in one interesting way: Mimi and her friends are never off the grid. They have laptops, cell phones, digital camcorders and i-pods, all constantly in use.

That's a shift from thrillers of old, where part of the suspense was that when the bad guy showed up at the door, there was no means of communication.

Of course, young adults will relate, and that's what's important.

A smart, modern, plugged-in page-turner that will keep readers glued to the end.

Alice's Shooting Star
Tim Kennemore, author
Mike Spoor, illustrator
Eerdmans Books for Young Readers
2140 Oak Industrial Dr. NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49505
9780802853370 $12.00

A generation ago there was Ramona Quimby.

In Rosie Singer, the preschool inguine of "Alice's Shooting Star," author Tim Kennemore may finally have created a character rivaling that legendary girl in wit and propensity for trouble.

The title focuses on Alice, the 8-year-old middle child of a suburban family. But the spotlight quickly moves to Rosie, the youngest of three, whose parents and older siblings are vainly trying to reign in her insatiable imagination.

When Rosie says she ate starcakes and glitterberries for lunch, they chide her for telling lies.

The family dynamics are odd -- Rosie's siblings and parents are all really uptight.

But Rosie herself is sheer delight, in a hilariously troublesome way.

The story peaks as her preschool stages an alternative Christmas pageant, with children dressed as vegetables. "Scatter seeds upon the earth, celebrate a baby's birth," participants recite.

If that isn't funny enough, someone -- Rosie, of course, but no one can prove it -- has filled a watering can with black paint.

Laugh till you cry humor, great characters, a memorable tale.

It's a Secret
John Burningham, author and illustrator
Candlewick Press
99 Dover St., Somerville, MA 02144
9780763642754, $16.99

Where do housecats go when the moon rises? When young Marie Elaine catches her cat - dressed in a fancy red coat and feathered green hat - about to head out late at night, she begs to come along. The cat concedes and Marie Elaine is off on a midnight adventure, dressed herself in a fairy costume complete with wings. Accompanied by a second neighborhood child who also begged to come along, the little group travels to a "secret" rooftop cat party where they dance, feast and meet the "Queen of the Cats." Things continue until daybreak, when they wearily head home. Marvelously imaginative, with great sketchy drawings effused with a shadowy, nighttime feel. A new bedtime favorite.

Karyn Saemann

Kaye's Bookshelf

Helen's Treasure: Odyssey of a Ladies' Man
Andrew J. Rodriguez
Outskirts Press, Inc.
Denver, CO
9781432729639 $19.95

Quoting from the back cover:

"Archaeologist Ashton Bryke unearths a priceless cache of ancient golden jewelry. The discovery could secure him fame and fortune for life - but he is willing to bury it again spend one night with the treasure's owner, the most beautiful woman who ever lived: Helen, Princess of Troy.

"Helen keeps her side of the bargain and materializes in all her luscious glory in Ashton's hotel room. But the wily princess has also made a bargain with Zeus, and she has plans for the wealthy, handsome archaeologist. For Ashton is an inveterate womanizer, and she has come to life to reform Ashton's licentious lifestyle in order to expiate her three-thousand-year-old sin of adultery.

"Why would Ashton Bryke resist the advances of the world's most beautiful woman? What powerful inner force could compel this ladies' man to contain his lust despite overwhelming temptation? Only another bargain - one with an otherworldly payoff for both Ashton and Helen. But if they succeed as a team, what kind of reward will they expect next? The answers lie hidden in: Helen's Treasure: Odyssey of a Ladies' Man.

"This light-hearted story of desire and deliverance originates in Turkey and crosses the sparkling Aegean to Greece and back again - filled with romance, music, art, sailing, dining, and philosophical inquires along the way."

Helen's Treasure is a multi-faceted novel starting with Greek mythology and evolving into contemporary feminist issues. Aysel, a young Muslim woman, feels dominated by her brother Berk, Ashton's friend, and her father. She is attracted to Ashton but also angry and outspoken about his promiscuous reputation and motives. There is conflict throughout...male/female, brother/sister, family, friends, east/west with a Muslim twist and a happy ending.

Andrew Rodriguez is an educated writer who weaves a colorful tale of mythology, sociology, countries, cultures, religions and love. Aysel asks Ash if he's open to a woman's advice? He says yes, and of course, she gives it to him. Quoting from page 131-132:

"Then you'll need to change your ways by paying more attention to our sentiments and viewpoints. Admit that in addition to butts and boobs, women have more than enough gray matter to judge essential issues, as well or better than men...

"Isn't men's refusal to share and understand women's values one of the main reasons couples seek professional counseling? Come on, Ash, it's nothing but common sense...." simple and yet it says so much. I don't think you'll be disappointed.

The Chemical Carousel: What Science Tells Us About Beating Addiction
Dirk Hanson
9781439212998 $20.95

Quoting from the back cover:

"The Chemical Carousel: What Science Tells Us About Beating Addiction by Dirk Hanson is an in-depth look at addiction science and medical treatments for drug dependence and alcoholism. An experienced science and business journalist, author Hanson, brings a complex and widely misunderstood subject out of the shadows and into the light of understanding. In this groundbreaking and highly readable examination of addiction science and the biological, emotional, and scientific underpinnings of substance abuse, The Chemical Carousel breaks through the myths, while presenting the surprising and cutting-edge facts about addiction and its medical origins. Hanson leaves no stone unturned in this invaluable examination of why people become addicted. This is not a textbook or scientific paper, however. Rather, The Chemical Carousel is a book for the rest of us: friends and families of addicts, support groups, and healthcare professionals alike."

The Chemical Carousel is presented in four parts - a history, addictive substances, cures, and a conclusion. It is well researched, written and edited, providing the most current/contemporary information available. I didn't know we now have a 'science' of addiction...great!...and if so, this book should be required reading.

I found Hanson's research to be helpful in clarifying the problems, such as: the difference between the disease of alcoholism (a brain chemistry disorder characterized by continued compulsive use of alcohol despite severely adverse consequences) and alcohol abuse (the deliberate overuse of alcohol - binge drinking). A deeper, educated understanding about addictions may help to dissolve the common view of the addict as an immature and irresponsible person, short on will power, low on self-esteem, and forever at the mercy of his/her addictive personality.

If you, a friend or family member have an addiction problem, read this book. I don't think you'll be disappointed, and you may, if you are looking, find the help you need.

Kaye Trout

Logan's Bookshelf

Manufacturing African American Self-Employment
Wayne Davidson
VDM Verlag
c/o Lightning Source
1246 Heil Quaker Blvd., La Vergne, TN 37086
9783639085020, $116.05

Self-employment is a solid way to wealth and prosperity, but how do you encourage society to seek it? "Manufacturing African American Self-Employment: In the Detroit Metropolitan" follows five self-employed black Americans and examines their stories to find was to encourage prosperity in a city where so many turn to crime. One of the most major factors, argues author Wayne Davidson (a successful black American in his own right), is family influence and a positive environment growing up. Other factors are examined, and Davidson presents twenty-one strategies for improving the lives and futures of Black Americans, leading to a better America tomorrow. "Manufacturing African American Self-Employment" is a must-read for community leaders and educators who want to enrich the lives of their black students.

Chatter in the Canopy
Jeff Roberts
Book Surge
7290-B Investment Drive, Charleston, SC 29418
9781439214817, $12.99,

Widely published and experienced poet Jeff Roberts brings poetry lovers a delight with "Chatter in the Canopy". His solid work with the English language is enhanced by great black and white art work from Dick Roberts and Dog Heinlein. An exquisite blend of art and verse, "Chatter in the Canopy" should be a consideration for many a poetry fan. "Seduction": It's the sand in your voice that holds me./That and the moonlight buttering your long ribs.//You can shout into the wind through cupped hands./I can smell the salt and wet canvas.//What if I surrender to your rolling, black valleys -/To the tops of mountains kissed away?//When we collapse, flat-faced and ordinary,/On tar-colored foam and a dead skate-what then?

Man and God in the World
Joel Clarke Gibbons
International Plaza II, Suite 340, Philadelphia, PA 19113
9781436399159, $19.99,

Can everything really be explained through science? "Man and God in the World: A Treatise on Human Nature" is author Joel Clarke Gibbon's take on the history of how human nature has been discussed throughout the existence of the race, and how this understanding has greatly changed over the centuries. Written with a religious perspective, "Man and God in the World" offers readers an insight on the Christian view of human nature and philosophy.

The Art of Giving Birth
Frederick Leboyer
Healing Arts Press
c/o Inner Traditions
1 Park Street, Rochester, VT 05767
9781594772764, $16.95,

Birth can be either one of the most magical or traumatic experiences in a mother's life. "The Art of Giving Birth: With Chanting, Breathing, and Movement" is a guide to having a comfortable, enjoyable birthing instead of the painful experience that scares so many women away from motherhood. Spiritual and practical, "The Art of Giving Birth" gives women many tips they need to make the process go as smoothly as possible. Enhanced with a music CD to help the mental aspect, "The Art of Giving Birth" is a top pick for mothers to be.

The Last Paradise
Michael Kasenow
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781440120015, $19.95,

The Union's treatment of the former Confederacy was in no way saintly. "The Last Paradise" is a fictional tale focusing on post-Civil War Galveston, Texas. Focusing on the town as a whole several decades after the conflict, author Michael Kasenow draws a picture of a town trying to forge their way in the world. A tale of fighting upwards against societal and corporate pressures, "The Last Paradise" is an inspiring story and an utterly fascinating read. "The Last Paradise" is a top pick for those looking for a good story about people.

Finding the Moon in Sugar
Gint Aras
Infinity Publishing
1094 New DeHaven Street, Suite 100, West Conshohocken, PA 19428-2713
0741450933, $14.95,

Love does some crazy things. "Finding the Moon in Sugar" follows Andrew Novak as he drops everything he owns to pursue love in Lithuania, inspired by internet chats with a wealthy blonde called Audra. Following her isn't easy, Andy soon learns, and an exciting adventure unfolds. "Finding the Moon in Sugar" is a solid novel of what some people will go through for romance.

Big Bad God of the Bible
Mark Littleton
Living Ink Books
6815 Shallowford Rd., Chattanooga, TN 37421
Ascot Media Group (publicity)
1120 Nasa Parkway, Suite 220, Nassau Bay, TX 77058
9780899570334, $14.99,

There have been many interpretations of God throughout history, but author Mark Littleton brings a new one to the table: bully. "Big Bad God of the Bible" is a religious discussion text using the vehicle of the author talking to various theologians in a local coffee shop discussing the divine and the true nature of God and his wrath. "Big Bad God of the Bible" is an intriguing discussion of theology, and a fascinating read.

The Apple Orchard
Omar Persaud
American Literary Press
8019 Belair Rd., Suite 10, Baltimore, MD 21236
9781934696354, $9.95,

There is much to be learned from an apple orchard, and Omar Persaud uses it as his base in "The Apple Orchard". The poetry anthology discusses many subjects such as love, pain, and friendship, and does it in a moving form of verse. "The Apple Orchard" is a solid volume of poetry, highly recommended. "His Test": Hell,//Is a real metaphor!//It is located in the deepest depths/That we are unable to crawl out of.//It is absolute in its ability/to make us know and understand/The nature of suffering//I know hell exists/Because I live in it/And if it didn't?//Then how else could I look forward to heaven?

The Hebrew Bible
Norman K. Gottwald
Fortress Press
PO Box 1209, Minneapolis, MN 55440
9780800663087, $34.00,

Every book has a story behind it, and in the case of major religious texts, ever chapter has a story behind it. "The Hebrew Bible: A Brief Socio-Literary Introduction" explores this vital and important text that has affected the three major western religions of the world. Going over the Hebrew Bible book by book, dissecting the history behind it and how it came into Hebrew gospel, author Norman Gottwald applies his knowledge well to these Old Testament affairs. "The Hebrew Bible" is a scholarly and educational read for those who want to better understand the early roots of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

Carl Logan

Margaret's Bookshelf

Too Much Medicine
Dennis Gottfried
Paragon House
1925 Oakcrest Avenue, Suite 7, Saint Paul, MN 55113-2619
9781557788818, $17.95,

Drugs are powerful and can save lives, but too much can kill you - literally. "Too Much Medicine: A Doctor's Prescription for Better and More Affordable Health Care" is physician Dennis Gottfried's suggestions for improving the world of health care through a more thoughtful and cautious approach to medicine. Arguing that profit-oriented doctors are ruining medicine by prescribing unneeded procedures and drugs, and that such doctors risk the lives of their patients for more money, Gottfried says that the right type of government regulation can help America's medical woes. "Too Much Medicine" is an interesting entry into the health care debate, highly recommended.

The Pleasure Instinct
Gene Wallenstein
111 River Street, Hoboken, NJ 07030
9780471619154, $24.95,

Chocolate is bad for us, but we want it. Bungee jumping is dangerous, but some people do it. "The Pleasure Instinct: Why We Crave Adventure, Chocolate, Pheromones, and Music" explores the seemingly irrational side of human nature and how things that are seemingly useless to survival became so vital to the human character that we could not imagine living without them. Could it all be tied in some strange way to our reproductive instincts? An utterly fascinating exploration of human psychology, "The Pleasure Instinct" is a read that, while highly useful to psychological professionals, is fascinating to non-specialist general readers as well.

The Gentleman Host
Dwight Norris
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 300, Bloomington, IN 47403
9780595525904, $17.95

Some view the ocean as a vast beautiful place to be enjoyed. Others view it as a good place to hide bodies. "The Gentleman Host: A Cruise Ship Nightmare" is the story of a string of disappearances, and how over the better part of twenty years, the list grows more and more. Sam Murphy and Dusty Flanagan believe they aren't disappearances, but instead murders by a long running cruise ship killer. But with the bodies lost in the oceans, how do they even start? "The Gentlemen Host" is an intriguing thriller that many fans of the genre will relish.

Successful Spread Betting
Geoff Harvey
Global Professional Publishing
c/o Stylus Publishing
PO Box 605, Herndon, VA 20172-0605
9781873668580, $20.00

It's easy to pick a winner. The spread makes it more interesting. "Successful Spread Betting" is a guide to those who want to try their luck and skill at spread betting. Covering many sports, author Geoff Harvey gives readers much advice to better and smarter spread betting, emphasizing knowledge and skill over dumb luck. "Successful Spread Betting" is well worth the consideration for anyone who wants to hone their gambling ability.

Experiential Marketing
Shaz Smilansky
Kogan Page
525 South 4th Street, #241, Philadelphia, PA 19147
9780749452759, $39.95,

Experience is something invaluable, and this applies heavily to marketing as well. "Experiential Marketing: A Practical Guide to Interactive Brand Experiences" is a look at the growing value of experience in marketing, using past experiences and evidence as the foremost focus in advertising. Many minds on the topic feel this train of thought will grow in the coming years, and the enlightened approach will pay off better to early adopters. "Experiential Marketing" is a complete and comprehensive guide to the subject, a must for those in charge of their business' marketing.

Barack, Inc.
Barry Libert & Rick Faulk
FT Press
801 East 96h Street, #300, Indianapolis, IN 46240-3759
9780137022076, $19.99,

When one thinks of something to model their business after, political campaigns don't typically make the list. "Barack, Inc.: Winning Business Lessons of the Obama Campaign" uses the success of Obama's campaign in 2008 and the business lessons that can be learned from it. Obama was one of the first presidents to fully embrace the internet, including websites such as Facebook and MySpace. Using many of Obama's actions as models of the successful modern business, one can the value of drawing lessons from a presidential campaign that can apply to one's business after. "Barack, Inc." is a unique approach to the business manual, highly recommended.

The Reinvention of Religious Music
Sander Van Maas
Fordham University Press
2546 Belmont Ave., Bronx, NY 10458
9780823230570, $55.00,

Music has always been a key part of religion, yet music has reinvented itself many times over. But what of religious music? "The Reinvention of Religious Music: Oliver Messiaen's Breakthrough Toward the Beyond" is a scholarly study of religious music with a close focus on the work of Oliver Messiaen, and what it has meant to religious music as a whole. Arguing that Messiaen has changed religious music radically, and that his work is worthy of theological debate, "The Reinvention of Religious Music" is a choice pick for any college or community library collection focusing on music and religion.

A Perfect Spring Day
Carol Donsky Newell
Publish America
PO Box 151, Frederick, MD 21705-0151
1608361713, $24.95,

One day can ruin decades. "A Perfect Spring Day" tells the story of Clara and her family as they deal with a tragedy that struck twenty years ago - a terrible event that robbed Clara and Greg of their son and brought misery to their family life. Their daughter is having trouble, and Clara sees no hope in sight. But the one responsible for the death of Clara's son may just finally get what's coming to him... A story of a family coping and the desire for vengeance, "A Perfect Spring Day" is riveting and moving reading, highly recommended.

Helping Couples Get Past the Affair
Donald H. Baucom, Douglas K. Snyder, & Kristina Coop Gordon
The Guilford Press
72 Spring Street, New York, NY 10012
9781606230671, $38.00,

Infidelity is the gravest sin in a relationship, but it too, can be overcome. "Helping Couples Get Past the Affair: A Clinician's Guide" is a guide for marriage counselors and psychologists who want to help a couple get past a hurdle that so often means the end of a relationship. With advice on encouraging a return to trust, how to restore faith, how to deal with sour feelings, and how relationships can become even stronger in the wake of infidelity, "Helping Couples Get Past the Affair" is a complete and comprehensive professional resource concerning the subject. "Helping Couples Get Past the Affair" is a strong choice for community and college library psychology collections.

What We Were Doing and Where We Were Going
Damion Searls
Dalkey Archive Press
1805 S. Wright Street, MC-011, Champaign, IL 61820
9781564785473, $12.95,

Everyone sees the world differently, and author Damion Searls brings readers his own perspective through a series of short fiction with "What We Were Doing and Where We Were Going". The anthology offers his own view of the world through a series of highly entertaining and unique stories. Funny, thought-provoking, and a page-turner, "What We Were Doing and Where We Were Going" is a read well worth the investment.

The Great Warming
Brian Fagan
Bloomsbury Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9781596916012, $17.00,

Climate change is nothing new. One thousand years ago, it changed the face of human life on earth. "The Great Warming: Climate Change and the Rise and Fall of Civilizations" is a look at the great warming, a time from between 1000 and 1500 AD where the world as a whole seems to shift to a warmer temperature, and how human society all over the planet changed due to a climate shift that humanity didn't even realize was there. "The Great Warming" takes an anthropologist's approach to climate change, and brings an intriguing side to the debate.

Margaret Lane

Paul's Bookshelf

Redemption Ark
Alastair Reynolds
Ace Books
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
044101173X, $7.99,

Part of the author's Revelation Space series, this book is set approximately 600 years from now, after mankind has started to spread throughout the galaxy.

Human activities have attracted the attention of the Inhibitors, alien machines whose mission seems to be the elimination of all intelligent life. They have come to the star Delta Pavonis, home to the planet Resurgam, populated by over 200,000 people. The Inhibitors start to systematically take apart the system's gas giant, plus several of its moons, in order to build an immense device of unknown capability (imagine if Jupiter and several of its moons were systematically taken apart, and a growing alien device could be seen every night in the sky). What ever it is, it's not good for the people of Resurgam.

An attempt is made to evacuate the people of Resurgam, a few hundred at a time, onto a ship called Nostalgia for Infinity, to take them to another system. Years ago, the ship's captain, John Brannigan, became a victim of the Melding Plague. He was put into cryogenic sleep to try to slow the effects of the plague; it did not work for long. Now, Captain Brannigan has become the ship.

The ship also contains a number of huge cache weapons, some of which can be measured in kilometers. They are the only thing which can possibly stop the Inhibitors; they are not called "hell-class weapons" for nothing. Several factions want those weapons for their own purposes, including a renegade named Clavain. The weapons themselves may have other ideas. If the Inhibitors are not stopped now, it won't take long, in cosmic terms, for them to find Earth.

This is a wonderful piece of writing. Normally, I would look at a 700-page paperback book and say No Thanks; not when Alastair Reynolds is the author. He does a fine job from start to finish, writing on a grand millions-of-years scale. For those who like mind-blowing storytelling, this is very much recommended.

Sex, Sushi and Salvation
Christian George
Moody Publishers
820 N. LaSalle Blvd., Chicago, IL 60610
0802482546 $12.99

Many people want something more out of life than just the right sneakers or an ipod. For them, feelings of intimacy, community and eternity are much more important. Here is one person's attempt to find such things in daily life.

The author was part of a mission trip to Russia to set up a summer camp for local orphans. While he was there, he was propositioned by a Russian prostitute. He declined her offer, and she ran away in tears. She later told him that he was the first person to ever say no to her. In high school, he, along with several others in his class, was inconsiderate to a female classmate who was unprepared for a test. Two hours later, she was dead in an auto accident.

A young man from a rich family went on a pilgrimage to Rome. Tired of a life of partying, he took a lifelong vow of poverty. The family was not pleased, but he stuck with it, despite many attempts to bring him back to "reality". The young man became St. Francis of Assisi. God's creation is always better than man's creation; one day, the author was flying a radio controlled airplane. It was attacked by a hawk, and eventually crashed.

Everyone bows down to, or worships, something, whether it's God, music, fashion or the human intellect. Cathedrals, whether plain or gaudy, all point to the past. They encourage visitors to see God in all His glory.

This book is recommended for anyone, religious or not-so-religious, who is looking for a relationship with God. It does a good job of showing how faith can be found in the mundane things of everyday life.

David Louis Edelman
Solaris Books
BL Publishing
Games Workshop Ltd.
Willow Road, Nottingham, NG7 2WS, United Kingdom
1844165825 $7.99

This book takes place many years after the collapse of civilization. A group of sentient computers called the Autonomous Minds rebelled against mankind in the Autonomous Revolt. Now, Earth is dominated by bio/logics, the science of programming the human body.

The programs have names like Eyemorph 1.0, DeMirage 24.5, Poker Face 83.4b and AntiSleepStim 124.7. The average person has thousands of such programs in their bodies, courtesy of microscopic robots placed at or before birth. Natch is a master of bio/logic programming, who has risen to the top with little more than brains and sheer determination.

For many years, Margaret Surina, ancestor of Sheldon Surina, the inventor of bio/logics, has hinted about this new technology called MultiReal. She enters into a partnership with Natch and his fiefcorp to bring it to market immediately. It can take months to understand and develop a new technology, get it approved by Dr. Plugenpatch (a set of databases that constitute the quality control system), keep it away from the competitors, and then bring it to market. Natch and his colleagues have to do it in three days. The reason for the very short time frame is to also keep MultiReal away from the Defense and Wellness Council. It's a secret and unaccountable government organization that handles all military and intelligence affairs.

This is an excellent piece of writing. Cyberpunk fans will love it. Is there such a thing as "business cyberpunk?" This is also a really good book about the mixing of business and technology. The "cyber-" part is not too technical, and this is very highly recommended.

Censored 2009: The Top 25 Censored Stories of 2007-2008
Peter Phillips et al (ed.)
Seven Stories Press
140 Watts Street, New York, NY 10013
9781583228524 $19.95

Here is another compendium of news stories that were under-reported (or un-reported) by the mainstream news media.

Did you know that over 20,000 private companies are working with the FBI to collect and provide information on other Americans? According to a prestigious British polling group, the civilian death toll in Iraq since the 2003 invasion has topped the 1 million mark. The US Treasury Department now has the authority to seize the assets of anyone who is perceived to, directly or indirectly, threaten US operations in the Middle East (which could mean almost anyone). The American Psychological Association has been complicit in CIA torture. The No Child Left Behind Act has become a huge bonanza in the world of corporate profiteering.

At least nine billion dollars in cash have been unaccounted for since the early days of the Iraq occupation. Today, there are 27 million slaves in the world, more than at any other time in world history. They are not just in the Third World, but also in the developed world. Elliot Spitzer was not removed from office because of "personal indiscretions." He was target of a Wall Street and White House operation to silence an increasingly vocal critic of their handling of what became the present financial crisis.

It seems that there just was not enough air time or newspaper space for these stories, but there was abundant space for Lindsay Lohan, Brad and Angelina, Jessica Simpson, Alec Baldwin and David Hasselhoff. This book also explores the media coverage of the Military Commissions Act, healthcare and the 2008 campaign, American media bias against the lawfully elected Hamas Government in Gaza, the marketing of Gardasil as a "cure" for cancer, when it really isn't, Winter Soldier and the Pentagon's targeting of young people (including children).

This is an excellent book that shows just how "dumbed down" American news media has become. It is eye-opening reading and is highly recommended.

Lost Star of Myth and Time
Walter Cruttenden
St. Lynn's Press
P.O. Box 18680, Pittsburgh, PA 15236
0976763117 $19.95

This book gives a very unique interpretation of human history. It says that many ancient civilizations, even before the Egyptians, believed that the heavens ran on cycles, some lasting tens of thousands of years.

The ancient Hindus called their ages "yugas." Their cycle starts with a Golden Age, then a Silver, Bronze and Iron Age, where civilizations became less and less sophisticated. Consider mankind's journey from, say, Ancient Egypt to the Dark Ages. Then the cycle reverses itself, and humanity becomes more and more sophisticated, culturally and technologically (good news; humanity is now on the upslope).

The author asserts that Earth is part of a binary star system, and that the two stars have a cycle of 24,000 years. Precession of the equinox is due to this solar companion, not due to a wobble in the Earth's orbit. When the two stars are closer together, human civilization becomes more sophisticated. When they are farther apart, mankind declines, and loses much ancient wisdom.

Many stars make "noise" of some sort, whether it's by emitting radio waves, other electromagnetic energy or visible light. If a star is really that close to Earth, it should not be hard to find. Just because it has not yet been found, does not mean that it does not exist.

Another possible cause for mankind's historical cycles is that, in its travels through the galaxy, Earth enters, and leaves, fields of electromagnetic energy. It's been scientifically proven that electromagnetic energy can have noticeable effects on the human brain.

There are plenty of things in this book to rattle one's worldview. It's interesting, it's not too technical, and I enjoyed reading it.

The Rosetta Key
William Dietrich
Harper Books
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780061239557 $25.95

Set in the eastern Mediterranean of 1799, this is the story of gambler and adventurer Ethan Gage. At the end of the previous book, he found himself on a British ship heading for the Holy Land. He agrees to help the British slow down, or stop, Napoleon Bonaparte's coming invasion (the British don't give him a choice). In the meantime, he continues to look for the Book of Thoth, an ancient scroll of great power that Moses supposedly stole from Egypt, and brought to Jerusalem.

Gage is an American and protege of Benjamin Franklin, so he knows something about electricity. He puts his knowledge to use more than once, including during a major French siege of the city of Acre (present-day Lebanon). Gage switches sides between the French and British, more than once, and not by choice. He cheats death more than once, mostly because there are enough people who hear that Gage is looking for an ancient scroll and automatically think "gold and treasure."

Throughout much of the book, Gage has a big hole in his heart. At the end of the previous book, he watched Astiza, his Egyptian lover, fall from a hot-air balloon into the Nile River, in the clutches of Count Alessandro Silano. They are presumed dead, but Gage has to know for sure. In this story are also Jewish mysticism, the Knights Templar, the discovery of the Rosetta Stone, and enough action and narrow escapes to satisfy anyone.

Here is an excellent piece of writing. For those who like their thrillers to be historically accurate and swashbuckling, look no further. This will keep the reader very entertained.

Charles Stross
Ace Books
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0441014038 $24.95

Several hundred years from now, humanity has just finished the Censorship Wars. Using an electronic virus called Curious Yellow, it targeted the brains of historians as they used teleportation gates (the major method of transportation). Robin has just emerged from a medical clinic with most of his memory wiped. Perhaps he was one of those targeted historians; he does have memories of being in a tank regiment during the war, not as a soldier, but as a tank. He joins a research program to recreate the "dark ages," the late 20th and early 21st centuries, by having volunteers live in an actual, recreated "town." It sounds like a good way to get away from whoever is trying to kill him; whatever he did, or was, before his wipe, it must have been important.

The participants are given random, anonymous identities (Robin is turned into a woman named Reeve). Along with Sam, her "husband," they are placed into what looks like Smalltown, USA. They are given little, or no, idea as to just what they are supposed to do. All the couples are electronically monitored; during mandatory church services on Sunday, any faults or misdeeds are pointed out to everyone. Reeve is one of the few who begins to realize that something is really wrong. Their contract specifies a minimum amount of time to be in the study, approximately 3 years, but does not specify a maximum amount of time. The town has become a very high-tech panopticon. The women have suddenly become fertile, and several female participants have become pregnant. Perhaps the idea is to create a new race of people who don't know that there is an outside world. Perhaps it has to do with this new race re-infecting the rest of humanity with a new and improved version
of Curious Yellow.

Here is a wonderful piece of writing. The best part is the author's look at present-day life. He does not just needle it or poke fun at it, he rips it to pieces and stomps on what is left. The rest of the book is also very much worth reading. This gets two strong thumbs-up.

Jack McDevitt
Ace Books
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0441012027 $24.95

Set in the far future, the spaceship Polaris takes a group of rich passengers thousands of light years away to watch the destruction of a sun by another star. The ship never returns. The nearest rescue ship reaches it six days later to find the ship undamaged, but drifting...and deserted. The destruction of the sun wiped out any planets or moons that could have sheltered the ship's passengers.

Nearly sixty years later, the ship has become a legend. The fate of the crew has been the subject of books, TV documentaries and even a yearly convention, which brings forth all sorts of theories. Antiquities dealer Alex Benedict, and his assistant, Chase Kolpath, manage to acquire a few personal items that came from the ship, for their rich clients, just before the rest of the collection is destroyed in a mysterious explosion. The clients report visits from equally mysterious people who want to buy the items for astronomical sums of money. A couple of high-tech assassination attempts convince Alex and Chase that this is not just another rich collector at work. Someone is looking for something among the Polaris items, and that someone knows just what happened to its passengers.

As Alex and Chase get closer to the truth, it becomes clear that everything revolves around a scientific breakthrough made by one of the passengers. A method had been found to not just stop the aging process, but actually reverse it. At minimum, this would force radical changes on humanity, including, for instance, a near ban on any new births.

This is another well-done piece of writing from McDevitt. It is nice and thought-provoking, along with being a really good mystery.

Paul Lappen, Reviewer

Terrilyn's Bookshelf

The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death
Charlie Huston
Ballantine Books
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
9780345501110 $25.00

Charlie Huston's latest offering, The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death, shows protagonist Webster Fillmore Goodhue's (Web) ability to always be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

After spending a year being depressed since having one of his student's die in his arms after a gang-related shooting goes awry, former elementary teacher Web acquiesces to his best friend, Chev's, demand that he take a job with Clean Team, a company that cleans up murder and suicide scenes. His first job entails carrying large bags of human feces out of an apartment of a shut-in who had blocked the way to his bathroom and spent the last few months of his life defecating in plastic sandwich bags. Web deals with an array of seedy characters and cleans up his own life after Clean Team owner and operator Po Sin, models the importance of friends and family for him.

Web's cynical outlook on life gives enough humor to balance the despondency that could overtake the plot. Web isn't too appealing, however, as he is (rightly) commonly referred to as an "asshole" by all the other characters in the novel including his new girlfriend, Soledad, who is kidnapped by the rival crime scene cleaning team as he tries to sort out an almond smuggling ring. The book is heavy on action, gore, and adult language and is not recommended for the weak of stomach!

Comedy Scenes for Student Actors
Laurie Allen
Meriwether Publishing, Ltd.
PO Box 7710, Colorado Springs, CO 80933-7710
9781566081597 $17.95

This collection of 31 skits with a nice mix of female and male actors would work well in any high school drama or speech class. Each skit has a range of two to seven actors with options of up to 12 as well as suggested props and stage actions.

The scenes are written with a superb sense of comic timing and have characters appropriate for 14+ year-olds to portray. The skits are in high school settings but are not derivative of the genre like many other high school skit collections currently on the market. The skits are long enough to develop characters, and the two person skits could easily be used for forensic competition. Because of its versatility and superior writing, this would be an excellent purchase for the 2009-10 school year for schools that have to cut book budgets.

Beat the Reaper
Josh Bazell
Little, Brown and Company
1271 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9780316032223 $24.99

Pietro Brwna is an ER resident in a NYC hospital. Pietro (Peter) is not a typical, geeky, science-nerd turned physician, however. He is a street-smart, tough, former Mafioso who is currently in the WITSEC program.

Josh Bazell's novel, Beat the Reaper, starts out with Peter being mugged on his way in to work (where he dislocates his mugger's arm), and doesn't let up with the action for the entire 320 pages! Bazell's protagonist is tough, but sentimental, and is just the right mix to satisfy a bad-boy requirement many women tend to fall for with just enough goodness in him to stop him from being a jerk. Men will appreciate the action and visceral medical descriptions that are anything but clinical.

Bazell mixes humor with his action and sentiment and creates an unbelievable character who will go to femur-sized lengths to save his life. Not recommended for the weak of stomach!

Terrilyn Fleming

Theodore's Bookshelf

Peter Abrahams
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780061138003 $7.99 800-242-7737

Friendship can lead to all kinds of results, as this suspense novel proves. Moreover, the consequences can not only be unanticipated, but lead to more complications than the human mind can conceive. But this author does a pretty good job of conjuring up as many as he can think of.

About 20 years before the story takes place, Nell Jarreau was strolling along the bayou with her boyfriend when they were attacked by a masked man demanding money. The boyfriend was then knifed and murdered. Nell kicked the attacker and the mask fell for a moment, giving her a glimpse of the man's face. Based on her ID, a man was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. A year later, she married one of the detectives, who, as the story is told, is now the Chief of Police, both apparently living happily until a telephone call changes everything.

As a result of hurricane damage, a tape is found exonerating the apparently falsely incarcerated convict. Nell feels guilty about having sent an innocent man to prison, but her memory of the attack is at best hazy, and she goes about attempting to investigate the matter. She meets with the released man, tries hypnosis and attempts to find the truth. Before the reader can reach the end of this well-paced novel, there is a dearth of clues pointing one to a logical conclusion. Yet the ending is consistent with the single earlier clue, and the characterizations are finely tuned. A well-written tale, and one which is recommended.

Long Lost
Harlan Coben
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780525951056 $27.95 800-847-5515,

After a three-year hiatus, Myron Bolitar returns, accompanied by the enigmatic Win, in a novel replete with elements of many of today's thrillers: terrorists, Homeland Security and Mossad. Just a warning: This book is not the typical Myron Bolitar tale with whimsical dialogue and situations. The theme here is heavy and serious, and instead of Myron and Win, it could have been any protagonists to carry out the plot.

Nevertheless, the tale is up to the standards of a Coben effort: well-plotted, exciting, fast reading and tightly constructed with plenty of turns in the plot. It begins with a call to Myron asking that he help an old girlfriend by coming to Paris. He goes without a clue, but discovers that she had come there at the behest of her ex-husband, who she finds murdered. From this point on, all kinds of secrets and questions arise, leaving Myron to discover the answers.

In his customary manner, Mr. Coben weaves together several inter-related themes and delves into some unusual topics, including in vitro fertilization, stem cell research and cryogenic preservation of embryos. While it's good to have Myron and Win back, even if those specific characters aren't necessary for the development of the novel, it is always a treat to have a provocative story to read. Recommended.

Cape Disappointment
Earl Emerson
Ballantine Books
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780345493019 $25.00 800-726-0600

It would be easy to dismiss this novel based on its somewhat incredible plot. But then there have been revelations of torture and worse sponsored by the US government, so that the premise that some rogue or quasi-official federal agents used nefarious tactics including assassination and a plane crash to influence a U.S. Senate race in the State of Washington might not be so far-fetched. After all, conspiracy theories abound from the Kennedy assassination to 9/11, and while many if not most may seem absurd or far out, many make for a good story.

As does this novel, in which Thomas Black, a PI, and his wife, Kathy, find themselves on the opposite sides of the Senatorial campaign: she for the popular incumbent, he, although his sympathies lie with his candidate's opponent, works for the challenger, fulfilling a long-standing obligation. The incumbent is running far ahead in the polls, and Thomas' side runs a more and more negative campaign. Then, the Senator and her staff, including presumably Kathy, take off in a chartered plan as Thomas watches it take to the air, only to plunge head-long into the Pacific, with all passengers obviously dead.

Thomas, himself, is the victim of a bomb blast, but he recovers from serious wounds. Then he begins to investigate the plane crash, and the seemingly obvious may not be in fact the truth. If one can get beyond the incomprehensibility of the premise that murder and other dirty tricks can be a norm, this tightly written political suspense story makes for an exciting read. Certainly, it is original, and recommended.

Flipping Out
Marshall Karp
Minotaur Books
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312378211 $24.95 646-307-5560

Two likeable, entertaining LAPD detectives, Mike Lomax and Terry Biggs, inhabit this series. They form a capable team, with overtones of the Martin and Lewis of yore playing cops. However, the two detectives are intuitive and analytical, while irreverent and rule-breaking.

The case is complicated by the fact that some of the suspects also are friends and co-workers, their wives (or girlfriend) partners in a real estate business of buying fixer-uppers and flipping them for a handsome profit because they are used as the setting for murder mystery novels (thus the novel's title). When one after another of the partners is shot in the head, the two detectives are faced with no clues and hardly a motive.

While their wives are busy flipping houses, Lomax and Biggs are hard at work being flip, wise-cracking their way to solving murders. They supply many funny lines along the way, but more importantly supply us with a rousing finish. The plot is imaginative and creative, the dialogue sparkling. Recommended.

Shadow of Power
Steve Martini
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780061230899 $7.99 800-242-7737

Paul Madriani, in this latest in the series, and his partner, Harry Hinds, take on a nearly impossible defense of a bewildered murder defendant. It appears to be an open-and-shut case and the prosecutor merely has to present fingerprint and other evidence to convict. The victim was a well-known author of a book which flaunted the original language of the Constitution regarding slavery. Riots followed his book tour. Further, he promised a bombshell in the form of a previously unknown letter purportedly written by Thomas Jefferson offering Britain a secret deal on slavery in exchange for the Colonies' independence.

With little to go on, the San Diego attorneys proceed to trial in an attempt to free the accused, allowing the author to demonstrate his profound skills at courtroom (and chambers) procedure. Meanwhile, they continue to investigate, turning up a clue here and another there, while making points on cross-examination.

The novel is a straightforward tale of a murder trial with parallel thrilling detective work to uncover the truth. It is very exciting and the endgame really twists the reader's mind, it is so far from expectations. A fast and absorbing read, and highly recommended.

Murder in the Dark
Kerry Greenwood
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. 1st Ave., Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781590584392 $24.95 800-421-3976

At the end of 1928, the Hon. Phryne Fisher is invited to the "last best party" of the year, a four-day extravaganza paid for by two of the "beautiful people." Unfortunately, with apologies to Batman and Robin, a murderer known as the Joker is planning to spoil the gaiety.

Phryne was wavering as to whether or not to accept the invitation, but after receiving warnings not to attend, of course she does. And it turns out to be quite a shindig, replete with all kinds of musicians, polo, games and costumes, differing each night along with the cuisine. Of course, where Phryne is, death threats arise, not only against her life, but that of the host as well. Phryne to the rescue.

This volume marks the sixteenth published in the United States, each a pleasure to read. Phryne is a thoroughly modern woman, even though she lives in the Jazz Age.


Life Sentences
Laura Lippman
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780061128899 $24.99 800-242-7737

Known for setting her novels in Baltimore, Laura Lippman tells a complicated story about the lives of five girls as they progress through life, through the eyes of one who becomes an author of two best-selling tell-all memoirs and a not-so-blockbuster fiction novel. While visiting her native city of Baltimore from her home in Brooklyn, NY, Cassandra Fallows starts researching an old case in which a former classmate was kept in jail for seven years after the discovery that her child was missing and she had refused to speak about it, claiming the Fifth. It was presumed that she killed the three-month-old infant.

The journey of discovery leads to all sorts of consequences, including Cassandra learning facts about her parents and the other three women with whom she sent to school. It is a story of the racial tensions of the 1960's and '70's and the complicated relationships among friends. Cassie is not a particularly nice character, but serves as a vehicle for bringing out the gist of the plot. Did the young woman murder her baby, or was there another reason?

And if the latter, who played what part in her refusal to talk? More important, Lippman asks the basic question: What is real and what is false memory?

The novel is not an easy read by any means, and the reader has to move forward with caution. While written with the same intensity that this author customarily exhibits, it is a far cry from her popular Tess Monaghan series. For those seeking a book with deeper meaning, it is recommended.

Look Again
Lisa Scottoline
St. Martin's
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312380724 $26.95 646-307-5560,

There is a couplet from a Chinese poem: "When the true is false, the false is true. Where there is nothing, there is everything." The thought it expresses says much about the plot of this novel.

Ellen Gleeson, a feature writer for a Philadelphia newspaper, while preparing a story fell in love with a baby boy recovering from heart surgery in a hospital ward. She subsequently arranged to adopt him. Two years later, she received a missing baby circular in the mail with a picture closely resembling her adopted son, now three years old. The missing boy was kidnapped in Miami and his parents put up a $1 million reward. That's the plot: Does Ellen try to discover the truth or not? If she does, is she prepared to bear the consequences, if any?

Unable to ignore finding out whether her son is hers or someone else's eats away at Ellen's conscience and she endeavors to find out the answer. Sometimes it's better to not wish for something; the results may not be what you want. [As the old saying goes: Be careful what you wish for.]

The author recently began writing a column for the Philadelphia Enquirer, and, of course, continues to teach at the U. of P. Law School, so much of that background is reflected in this story. To reveal more about this tersely written novel would be to give too much of the plot away. Needless to say, the story progresses to a tantalizing and emotional conclusion, but you'll have to read the book to find out what it is. Recommended.

Another Man's Moccasins
Craig Johnson
Penguin Books
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780143115526 $14.00 800-847-5515

Walt Longmire, the sheriff of Absaroka County, Wyoming, finds himself in the midst of a mystery derived from his service in Vietnam around the time of the Tet offensive. A young Vietnamese woman is found murdered near the interstate with Walt's picture in her purse. The picture was taken at a bar during the war and shows a woman with whom he had been friendly. The murder victim resembles the woman in the photo, and Walt thinks that perhaps she is that woman's granddaughter.

So much for the beginnings of the mystery. From that point, the novel progresses on two planes, juxtaposing memories of Walt's experiences in Vietnam and the investigation into the murder. It is a richly rewarding tale, with haunting memories of the Vietnam War, with Walt having to solve two mysteries separated by 40 years.

This novel is the fourth in the series and the Wyoming setting is certainly different from most other mysteries. The inclusion of a ghost town may be symbolic - the ghosts of the past continue to haunt the present. Written sparingly, but forcefully, the tale is gripping, and the book is highly recommended.

The Mao Case
Qiu Xiaolong
Minotaur Books
175 Fifth Ave., NY, Y 10010
9780312538743 $24.95 646-307-5560

It is always difficult to decide which is more valuable when reading an Inspector Chen novel: the mystery plot itself, or the poetic and cultural references incorporated in therein. Each element is a gem in and of itself. In this latest effort in the series, the poetry (and love life) of Chairman Mao contributes highly to the story.

Once again the party calls on the Chief Inspector to solve a politically sensitive case. It appears that some artifact or other valuable document may have been given by Mao to a Shanghai actress who probably was one of his many mistresses. The item was never found, but is suspected to be in the possession of the woman's granddaughter. It is not known whether its discovery would prove embarrassing to the Party of Mao, and Internal Security is chomping at the bit to apply hard tactics to find it.

Chen, on the other hand, goes about the task like the cop he is, not to mention his other talents as a poet and professional writer, checking and quoting poems and literature in an effort to reach a satisfactory conclusion to what he dubs "the Mao Case." Each Chen mystery is a delight to read, filled with all sorts of charming quotations, proverbs and bits of Chinese culture and history. The present novel is no exception, and it is highly recommended.

True Detectives
Jonathan Kellerman
Ballantine Books
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780345495143 $27.00 800-726-0600

Ostensibly an Alex Delaware series novel, the good doctor merely makes a cameo appearance in this book, merely offering a suggestion to detectives in a murder inquiry. In fact, Milo appears just in passing. Instead, the plot involves two antagonistic brothers, Moses Reed and his half-black/half-white step-brother Aaron Fox, who, despite their filial differences, previously solved the Marsh Murders in a prior novel. Mo is an LAPD homicide detective and Aaron, formerly a cop, now is a highly paid private eye.

Somehow, they both end up investigating the same murder. Even more surprising, they even help each other in their mutual efforts despite competing fiercely. From the initial assignment investigating the disappearance of a missing college student, they progress to three more murders, all inter-related and involving Hollywood types.

Written with the usual psychological insights of a Jonathan Kellerman novel, the plot is tightly drawn. The juxtaposition of the brothers' thought processes and methodology deeply contrasts their personalities and provides an interesting approach to the story. Highly recommended.

The Price of Blood
Declan Hughes
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780061763588 $13.99 800-242-7737

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.

The Tourist
Olen Steinhauer
9780312369729 $24.95

Believe it or not, the fantasy world of Disney plays a role in this far-fetched story. It is really fantastic and, to a great degree, based on a somewhat unbelievable premise. Milo Weaver, a/k/a Charles Alexander, is the Tourist of the title, one of a band of black operatives, directed by "travel agents" in secret offices on the Avenue of the Americas [otherwise known as Sixth Avenue] in New York City, roaming the world for the CIA as assassins. Now I have no doubt that the CIA has conducted an occasional murder in the past, even though it is contrary to the law, but to the extent portrayed in this novel, it is hard to believe. Politicians, religious leaders, businessmen are said to be killed willy-nilly to implement foreign policy, sanctioned by rogue CIA supervisors.

After years serving overseas, Milo is now stationed in the clandestine New York City headquarters at a desk job, married and acting as the father of his wife's daughter by her first husband and enjoying family life. Suddenly he is manipulated into a series of events involving all sorts of intrigues and then accused of murders, for which eventually he is arrested and jailed.

The plot is very complicated, not to mention convoluted. While the writing is fluid, and the story progresses logically, one has to accept it at face value, while many of the postulations are questionable. Nevertheless, the novel is a pretty good read.

Murder in the Latin Quarter
Cara Black
Soho Crime
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9781569475416 $24.00

This series always provides an interesting mystery involving Paris. Aimee Leduc is surprised one day when she is visited by a pretty Haitian mulatto, Mirielle, claiming to be her half-sister. This leads Aimee into a wild series of events involving Haitian politics and at least three murders. Mirielle disappears, and Aimee is determined to find her and discover the truth of their relationship.

Despite warnings by both her partner and her godfather police official, Aimee plods on, seeking Mirielle and investigating the murders, placing herself, as usual, in all kinds of danger. These efforts give the author the opportunity to give wonderful descriptions of the Latin Quarter and its various institutions.

Written with interesting historical descriptions, and deep character portrayals, the novel is the ninth in the series. A tenth is in the works for 2010 publication, something to which we can look forward. Recommended.

Don't Look Twice
Andrew Gross
William Morrow, c/o HarperCollins, 10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780061143441 $25.99 800-242-7737

Ty Hauck, the Greenwich, CT, Detective Lieutenant, is confronted with an ever-shifting set of circumstances following the murder of a Federal prosecutor at a local convenience store, the bullets narrowly missing Ty and his daughter. Initially, the clues seem to indicate a revenge killing not even related to the victim.

But all is not what it appears to be. More murders ensue, and as Ty delves deeper and deeper, he discovers that the first victim had a gambling problem, leading to involvement of an Indian casino. With each succeeding murder, a different twist develops in the investigation, even reaching to politics in Hartford and corruption in Iraq.

Andrew Gross learned his lessons well while co-authoring novels with James Patterson, and further honed these skills in subsequent novels he has written alone. Certainly, this novel is an excellent example of his ability to keep the thrills mounting and the plot curving in unexpected directions. Recommended.

Starvation Lake
Bryan Gruley
Touchstone Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781416563624 $14.00 800-223-2336

Every once in while a debut novel comes along which can be compared with the best of more seasoned authors. "Starvation Lake" is such an effort. It combines the new novelist's background in journalism (he's the Wall Street Journal's Chicago Bureau Chief) with his knowledge and passion for ice hockey.

The protagonist is a very human Gus Carpenter, who as a young lad played goalie on a team coached by a recent arrival to the eponymous small upper Michigan town. After years of development the team was in reach of a championship until a goal slipped past Gus and he forever after was blamed and thought of as a loser. He interned in later years for the area newspaper and uncovered a local scandal in a town that preferred to cover up its dirty wash. But the clip got Gus a job at the Detroit Times where he developed a source which eventually led to a potentially Pulitzer-winning series. But, instead, Gus was asked to resign when the target threatened suit and he refused to divulge his source.

Somewhat in disgrace, Gus returns as assistant editor for the local paper, fighting the absent corporate owners [who preferred pap to hard news] and his reputation as a "loser." About ten years previously, the coach, much revered in town, had supposedly drowned while ice boating on Starvation Lake. When pieces of his snowmobile wash up on the shore of an adjacent lake, it sets off a series of events leading Gus and his only reporter to dig up an unwelcome past (and present).

The novel is written smoothly and efficiently, with the sureness of the author's knowledge. The descriptions of the hockey scenes are chilling and the plot brings together contemporary themes for an astonishing conclusion. Highly recommended.

Theodore Feit

Victoria's Bookshelf

The Guilty Client
Roberta Rogow
Deadly Ink
PO Box 6235, Parsippany, NJ 07054
9780978744274 $13.95

The Firm of Pettigrew and Roth has been victorious in court and succeeded in having a client acquitted of murder, but members of the firm are not certain the man was innocent. While they debate the facts, Miss Peggy Pettigrew, the niece of one of the partners, happens to see a body pulled from the Hudson River. Miss Pettigrew is aghast to discover the body is none other than that of their former client, Bertram Delacorte-the very man they've been discussing.

A short while later Delacorte's prominent and wealthy uncle arrives in his fancy carriage. Learning of his nephew's murder, he asks the lawyers to find out who committed the crime. Pettigrew agrees to do it provided the man sponsors his niece Peggy in her efforts to become a lawyer.

The author tells the story from the viewpoints of three different characters, adding insight and flavor to the tale. The charm of a bygone era lends extra appeal making it an entertaining read. For more information go to:

Super Natural Home: Improve Your Health, Home, and Planet-One Room at a Time
Beth Greer
733 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9781605299815 $15.95

This book contains information on the hazards of soda pop, toothpaste, bottled water, nonstick cookware, artificial sweeteners, skin care products, paint, household cleaners, detergents and more. The author also discusses healthy food choices and kid's school lunch programs.

She not only tells us what's wrong with many of the everyday items we use or surround ourselves with, she offers us simple solutions that are easy to follow. Room by room, the author discusses subjects from toxic furniture and flooring to toys and even mothballs. It will amaze you to discover the sea of toxins you surround yourself with.

I already use plants to clean the air in my home, but most people don't know how easy it is. There's information on that too. One of the natural cleaning products she recommends is vinegar. I've been cleaning with white vinegar in my home for years and it works well. Not only does it clean, but there's no toxic odor and residue left behind. The author includes cleaning tips and even a few recipes for making your own wrinkle creams and other products.

Ms. Greer finishes with a ten step action plan and gives sources where you can buy natural cleaning products or find more information on them. I've been reading about toxins in the home for years, but this is the most comprehensive manual on what's wrong and how to fix it that I've ever read. I recommend it for all those seeking to make their home a safer, healthier place for themselves, their children, their pets and the planet itself. You'll find yourself coming back to it again and again. It's an excellent source of information and should be on everyone's required reading list. For more information visit:

Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight
Linda Bacon, PhD
Benbella Books, Inc.
6440 N. Central Expressway, Suite 503, Dallas, TX 75206
9781933771588 $14.95

This book is an eye-opener! It shattered every myth about dieting and weight I've ever heard or read about. Dr. Bacon has suffered what many of us have-weight problems and all the woes connected with it. According to her, the latest research shows that dieting is not something the human body's made for and it will fight and resist us every step of the way.

"Turn over control to your body and you will settle at a healthy weight." A healthy weight doesn't necessarily mean thin, for healthy people come in all sizes. Dr. Bacon's book covers the subject well, leaving the reader with the knowledge and a plan to help change their lives for the better.

The book is comprehensive and well-researched telling you what science really knows about obesity. It has given me new hope and a new understanding of weight loss and how to be healthy and happy at whatever size my body settles on. It's an absorbing read and one I would recommend to anyone who's ever suffered with weight problems and wants to change to a healthy, happy lifestyle.

Victoria Kennedy

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

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