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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 14, Number 6 June 2014 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Gail's Bookshelf Gary's Bookshelf
Gloria's Bookshelf Gorden's Bookshelf Julie's Bookshelf
Karyn's Bookshelf Katherine's Bookshelf Lois' Bookshelf
Marjorie's Bookshelf Mason's Bookshelf Mayra's Bookshelf
Molly's Bookshelf Paul's Bookshelf Peggy's Bookshelf
Regis' Bookshelf Susan's Bookshelf Teri's Bookshelf
Theodore's Bookshelf    

Reviewer's Choice

Midnight for Charlie Bone
Jenny Nimmo
557 Broadway, New York, NY 10012-3999
9780545174138, $7.99,

Benjamin R. Shores

One of the most insidious emotions in this world is loneliness, and is sadly a very common one. This book very makes good use of this emotion, buried under layer after layer of details and plot, making it hard for an average reader to see, just like the actual emotion itself, buried so as to prevent sadness.

Charlie Bone, a thin, wiry boy with thin, wiry hair, is born to a family with odd powers called endowments, but thankfully for him he hasnít done anything out of the ordinary... until now. He has suddenly started hearing voices coming from his pictures, this skill eventually spreads to faces, too. Because of this, his wicked aunts and Grandmother send him to a boarding school, being separated from his friend, Benjamin Bean, a small, constantly bullied kid whose life now depended on his dog. Before school even starts, though, Charlie gets caught up in a conspiracy involving a kidnapped endowed child and a bookstore owner that just wants her niece back.

This book is mostly mediocre, with the descriptions being so-so, the vocabulary fourth grade, and the plot being fairly simple. There is one thing that Jenny Nimmo does very well in this book, though, and that is that she can reflect the world as it already is, and how the world would be if there really were endowed men and women. You donít have one villainous family and moral family, as it would be in some fairy tale. You have a villainous family, with exceptions like Paton, and a moral family, with one child that, for whatever reason, has become wicked.

There is no clear overall theme to this book, no "and the moral of this story is". Hidden under layers of other emotions and petty details, though, as I mentioned earlier is that loneliness and depression, however present, must be suppressed or superseded in order to live on. One great example is poor, lonely Benjamin Bean, who can only cope with bullying and the fact of his semi-present parents through Charlie and his dog. Another moral might be to appreciate what you have, because it could always be worse, a moral represented by Charlieís change from loving family to boarding school.

I would recommend Midnight for Charlie Bone to anyone that doesnít mind how borderline Harry Potter this book is and its low level vocabulary. If you were to sit and ponder on this book, you can start to realize just how emotional and philosophical Midnight for Charlie Bone really is.

Letter Grade: C+

The Everything Pre-Diabetes Cookbook
Gretchen Scalpi, RD, CDN, CDE
Adams Media
c/o F+W Media
57 Littlefield Street, Avon, MA 02322
9781440572234, $18.99, 304pp,

Bonnie Jo Davis

The table of contents includes:

Introduction; Managing and Reversing Pre-Diabetes; Breakfast and Brunch; Appetizers; Soups; Beef, Pork, and Lamb; Chicken and Turkey; Fish and Seafood; Casseroles, Soups, and Stews; Pasta, Rice, Grains, and Beans; Vegetable Sides; Salad Dressings, Salsas, and Sauces; Breads and Muffins; Desserts; Salt-Free Spice Mixes; Appendix A: 10 Week Plan to Kick Pre-Diabetes!; Appendix B: Resources; Index

The EVERYTHING(R) Pre-Diabetes Cookbook is so much more than a cookbook. Starting with the introduction you will learn about diabetes as a disease and the difference between Type 1, Type 2 and gestational diabetes. This information will put into perspective what you have to look forward to if you don't take your pre-diabetes diagnosis seriously.

Chapter One covers managing and reversing pre-diabetes. It includes an overview of pre-diabetes, tests your doctor may order, losing weight, eating healthier, the importance of exercise, what to eat and more.

Chapter Two takes us right into the recipes by starting with breakfast and brunch and right away I found a recipe I love for a Tomato and Feta Frittata. I continue reading through the recipes and I discover that I could sit for hours exploring all the ways I can eat food that feels satisfying while helping me eat healthier. I really love that some of the recipes include special tips, substitution ideas and variations that sound positively yummy.

You don't need to have pre-diabetes to benefit from these recipes. Obviously this cookbook would be a great gift for anyone diagnosed with pre-diabetes or diabetes but it would also be a good choice for anyone who wants to eat healthier.

The author, Gretchen Scalpi, is a Registered Dietitian & Certified Diabetes Educator. She is also a Certified LEAP Therapist (Lifestyle Eating and Performance), specializing in the clinical management of food sensitivities and related conditions. Gretchen opened her private nutrition practice in 2002 and has expanded to two office locations in New Windsor and Beacon, NY.

When Rome Falls
A. R. Homer
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781483904887, $14.95 PB, 372 pp
1483904881, Kindle $4.95

Carol Kellogg

A.R. Homer has set his fifth World War II novel, "When Rome Falls," after Mussolini was thrown out of power and Italy surrendered to the Allies - a time when hundreds of Allied prisoners of war, suddenly freed from Italian camps, flooded into Rome. Also entering Rome at this time, but as an occupying force, was the army of Nazi Germany, which lost little time rounding up the Jews in their two-thousand-year-old ghetto.

The Allied ex-prisoners needed hiding places but they could no longer be accommodated within the walls of the neutral Vatican, so they were hidden in the homes of brave Roman citizens all over the city. In "When Rome Falls," three former prisoners of war - two Americans and an Englishman - arrive in Rome and are given shelter in the apartment of a beautiful Italian woman named Maria. Jay, an escaped American major who is one of Mariaís guests, is asked to coordinate the billets for other incoming ex-prisoners-of-war with Father Francesco, a priest in a Vatican church within Rome. Unwelcome events force the three to leave Mariaís apartment - Jay, reluctantly, because he has fallen in love with Maria, who is later arrested. The POWs find a new billet in the palazzo of Adriana, a doyenne of Roman society with connections to the German high command and with a secret lover - a dashing German military attache.

Adrianaís young daughter, Vittoria, a chemist and expert bomb maker for the Resistance, falls in love with Renzo, a Roman Jew who escaped the roundup with a neighborís child. But Vittoria and Renzoís romance is cut short when he falls prey to the Black Panther, a Jewess who fingers fellow Jews for profit. With a heavy heart, Vittoria takes part in a major Resistance action that goes disastrously wrong and leads to a tragedy that Homer describes in one of the most moving parts of his novel.

Meanwhile, the POWs hidden all over Rome have begun to feel safer, venturing out of their hiding places to ride the trams and socialize with each other. But the situation abruptly changes when a high-ranking Roman police officer arrests Jay and demands bribes to prevent raids on POW safe houses by the Fascist police. Jay is gravely troubled: not only does the price of the bribe increase over time, but he agonizes about who is leaking information on the safe houses, the secrecy of which has been protected with extraordinary measures.

But what Jay does not know is that the Fascistís demand for bribes are of relatively minor concern compared with a much graver fate that lies in store for all the POWs in Rome. Masterminded by Kappler, the head of the Gestapo, the plan will be carried out on the day the American Army arrives in the city, a date drawing nearer as the Allies break out of the Anzio beachhead.

"When Rome Falls" is peopled by a rich cast of characters. Gestapo Chief Herbert Kappler drags his feet on carrying out certain brutal commands of Himmler and the Fuhrer that he deems to be at odds with his true mission: overcoming the ever-craftier Roman Resistance. Bruno Ganz, on the other hand, sent to Rome to carry out the roundup of the Jews and to perform other unsavory activities, relishes his gruesome role. And Dante Bartoli, head of a Roman Resistance cell, is a hardened professional who must recalibrate with reality the starry-eyed optimism of young Resistance members. I also enjoyed the interplay of the children, Giorgio, Adrianaís young son, and Luisa, the orphaned Jewish girl whom Renzo rescues; they play an unintended role in a great catastrophe. Then there are the two POWs who arrive in Rome and bunk with Jay - Buck, the no-nonsense Irish-American, and David, the nose-in-the-air Brit - between whom no love is lost. Finally, Father Francesco, the gentle priest who guides Jay through the process of hiding the ex-prisoners, is a moving presence throughout the novel.

Not only are the characters well defined, but I loved the fast pace of the action and the fact that the events in "When Rome Falls" are based on fascinating true history. Homer has a talent for weaving a number of seemingly-unrelated threads that come together in an ending that is both shocking and exciting. Combining adventure and romance, "When Rome Falls" will appeal to a wide audience; I highly recommend this well-crafted book.

The Collective
David McCahan
Amazon Digital Services
ASIN: B00JYKH91K, $1.99, 156 pp,

Cheri Clay

The year is 2169 actually 200 years after the Apollo 11 landing on the moon. Technology is greatly advanced. This time the Western Republic is about to launch Columbia, a well advanced spaceship than its Apollo predecessor, to embark on an exploration of Epsilon Eridani.

This is an amazing sci-fi adventure from a brand new author that is destined to be a sure-fire hit. Creating new worlds and galaxies that sets his readers imaginations aglow; McCahan has what it takes to fulfill sci-fi loversí fantasies. I thoroughly loved the characters especially Glory for her determination and pride. The details from the spaceship, technology to the grand adventure are very descriptive and presented very well creating a mesmerizing storyline. Equally great is the historical content that rounds out the story. As someone who doesnít read a lot of sci-fi I found this story captivating drawing me in curious as to what will happen to our space heroes and not wanting the tale to end. A must read for sci-fi lovers old and young alike as there is something here for everyone. I myself highly recommend "The Collective" and canít wait to see what is next from this outstanding author!

No Place to Hide
Glenn Greenwald
Metropolitan Books
c/o Henry Holt
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9781627790734, $27.00, HC,

Deacon Solomon, Reviewer

Today I saw an article on the Web site of Investigative Reporters and Editors. The headline asks: Should law enforcement tell the public about new surveillance tech?

I didn't bother to read the article because my journalist's education makes the content plain enough. Other Americans may remember a time (as I do) when the proper response to such a question was "What the hell kind of a question is that? Are you stupid or just plain crazy?"

Too bad: many Americans no longer think that way. Our vaunted 'Land of the Free' is presently peopled by a lot of paranoid wimps who depend on government to protect them from any person, any thing, and any idea that scares them for any reason.

Government, naturally, gives them what they ask for (We live in a democracy, right?) while it dreams up more scary things from which to protect them. In short, many Americans think blanket surveillance is a Good Thing - until comes the day (soon, I hope) when they find themselves strapped down on a waterboard because secret police saw them speaking with or reading a book written by someone Big Sam doesn't like.

Luckily, there are still some Americans who don't believe blanket surveillance is a Good Thing. They don't believe government has any right to listen to our phone calls, record our emails, snoop in our medicine chests, send murder squads into our homes, or poke its nose into our body cavities at airports.

Noting the disparity between those who like and those who don't like surveillance, an enterprising journalist named Glenn Greenwald has written a book he calls 'No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State'. Greenwald's book could reunite Americans - those who like being watched and those who don't - because it will scare the livin' crap out of everybody who reads it.

Mr. Greenwald is what I call a good writer, by which I mean that No Place to Hide is well-organized, and the author's prose is an easy read for being both coherent and lively. Greenwald's 'Introduction' tells how he got interested in surveillance: He once made a career of civil rights and constitutional law. He took up journalism (political blogging) in the first few years of this century, when, as a lawyer, he grew more and more aware that our country was being run by a lot of dangerous cranks. Shortly after Greenwald took up blogging, the 'New York Times' reported that President Bush II secretly ordered warrant-less, blanket surveillance of Americans' electronic communications.

For the next few years Mr. Greenwald got a living reporting dirt on the Bushmen. As Heaven and the world now knows there was no dearth of dirt on which to report. Of course, Greenwald's criticism of government and especially the Bushmen put him in the way of counterattacks by government, by the Bushmen, and by the many human and institutional actors within journalism who defended the Bushmen and their vicious, idiotic policy initiatives.

Greenwald knew he was making enemies. But little did he realize that his treatment of government-by-cranks and his disdain of mainstream journalism would bring him a reward - a scoop - as big or bigger than any journalist probably ever hoped for or thought possible.

Speaking now of 'No Place to Hide' (NPTH), Chapter 1 is titled 'Contact.' There, Greenwald tells how he was first contacted by Edward Snowden, a person of whom neither Greenwald nor anybody else had heard at the time.

Snowden acted anonymously when first approaching Greenwald. He assumed the (to me) laughably melodramatic moniker, 'Cincinnatus.' Too bad: Greenwald had never heard of 'Cincinnatus,' either.

When Greenwald found the first 'Cincinnatus' message in his email inbox, he ignored it. Over the next few weeks he ignored several more, believing they came from some kind of a nut. So it was through a third party, journalist and documentary filmmaker Laura Poitrus, that Greenwald and Snowden finally started 'talking' via encrypted email. The rest of the chapter tells how the three of them finally found their way onto the same page and agreed to meet in Hong Kong, there to deal in smoking-hot, national-security documents.

Chapter 2, 'Ten Days in Hong Kong,' tells of what allegedly went on in Hong Kong, tells of how well and how carefully Snowden had organized and stored and closely kept the many tens of thousands of electronic documents.

No sooner did they get the documents from Snowden than Greenwald used them to write two stories for 'The Guardian,' the newspaper that had paid for Greenwald's Hong Kong 'vacation.' The stories splashed around and over Washington, D.C. for the next couple of weeks and predictably left those embarrassed by them howling 'Murder! Treason! Kill the Swine!' and screaming for investigations.

How the documents changed hands is told. How they were divided up, for obvious reasons, is not made plain. Surely no one person carried the whole trove back to the States - or to Rio - or wherever they were taken. If one mule got arrested, everything would be lost.

My own surmise is that the world will never know any of those who might have taken part in that escapade beyond the few Greenwald named in the book. Regardless, he and his did the deal with Snowden and filed two stories, and then beat it the hell out of there.

Snowden was spirited away by some Chinese hoteliers and eventually ended - as the world knows - in Russia. The chapter ends with Greenwald in a television studio at an undisclosed location sweating under a nasty, on-camera grilling by noxious 'journalists' who host noxious, daytime TV 'news' shows called 'Morning Joe' and 'Today.'

Chapter 3, titled 'Collect It All,' fingers the NSA for precisely what it is and all it hopes to be in the future. Nothing in Chapter 3 is pretty except Greenwald's own prose and his take-down of the sneaking, treasonous creeps that establishment journalism calls 'our leaders.' Beautiful, black-and-white reproductions of secret NSA documents are replete with handy NSA graphics. The documents and the graphics amply support every last accusations that lawyer Greenwald hurls at the agency. And yes: there are lots of accusations.

Chapter 3 is NOT an indictment; it is a nuclear 'smart-bomb' and it hits the target squarely. Of the 5 chapters in the book, 'Collect It All' is the meatiest and most laborious read because it does the heavy lifting for the entire book.

Chapter 4 discusses 'The Harm of Surveillance'. Author Greenwald's essay explains for readers the numerous ways that a surveillance state does damage to us as individuals, to democracy in America, and to the nation at large. If you're one of those who cannot understand why people such as Greenwald and this writer preach that government surveillance will yet be the ruin of us and of our country, Chapter 4 is for you. Sentient beings already know such stuff.

Finally, Chapter 5 is dubbed 'The Fourth Estate,' because that's where Greenwald takes his lawyer's rhetorical ax to the likes of David Gregory and Michael Kinsley, and other yahoo 'journalists' who in this, that, or the other mainstream venue do their cussed, pathetic best to tar-and-feather Greenwald's credibility. The author disposes of their arguments in ways that look easy because, when their arguments are cut wide open (as good lawyers like Greenwald can do) readers can see there's nothing more than a few cubic feet of hot ventosity in the heads of David Gregory, Michael Kinsley, and the rest.

Considering the entire Greenwald, Snowden, NSA surveillance scandal, this review will make a long, complex story as short and sweet as possible: Edward Snowden gave Glenn Greenwald a huge cache (many tens of thousands) of stolen, top-secret documents, the sum of which prove beyond any doubt that if you use the telephone, the Internet, or any other electronic communication device for any purpose whatsoever, the NSA hears every word you say and sees every message you send. So you'd best depend on this one thing: every word you say on the telephone and every message you post on the Internet can and will be used against you if ever for any reason something you've said or done or borrowed from the library makes Big Sam or some of his friends sore at you. It's there; it's real; it's really there, and there it is.

Americans are privileged (and encouraged by government) to stick their heads in the sand at any time they choose. Americans are also privileged to rue the day they chose to do so.

Mario Alberto Zambrano
9780062268549, $21.99, Hardcover, $11.41 Paperback
9780062268549, $10.67 on Kindle,

James Gartner, Reviewer

"íWhat did you do all together? What did you do with your Papi?í" But she wouldnít get it. She wouldnít know what it was like. We all fought. We all hit each other."

Such is the normality of family life for Luz, the eleven-year-old narrator of Loteria. Through her eyes, Mario Alberto Zambrano tells a story of growing up in Mexico and the United States, of family struggles, and of the love and loyalty that holds families through tough times.

Zambrano, a former contemporary ballet dancer and graduate of The New School and Iowa Writersí Workshop, debuts his writing with this powerful novel, drawing upon his own experiences growing up and playing Loteria as a child. He explains the rules of the popular game, after which the novel is titled, in a brief prologue. It shares many similarities with bingo, but Loteria relies on cards rather than numbers, and each card comes with a riddle.

The novel is structured around those cards, and weaves itself in beautifully subtle riddles through the voice of Luz. Each chapter begins with the picture of a card, and each card sparks a flashback as Luz struggles to work through the trauma of her childhood. The story is non-linear to a degree, as if Zambrano shuffled the deck, but each story flows into the next and each piece of the puzzle builds the story Luz is trying to tell. As a result, the chapters vary widely in length, but the pace keeps moving.

Zambrano does an excellent job of dealing with childhood trauma tenderly, yet realistically. Luz is the perfect narrator because she is imperfect. She is a child dealing with adult situations, and Zambrano balances these sides of her character well, mixing childlike naivete with a gritty vocabulary and the maturity forced upon her. Her descriptions flow from her youthful perspective, for example when describing her fatherís alcoholism, she says, "It was coming from that man in the bottle, Don Pedro. Heíd get inside Papiís head and shake him until he turned into someone else." Zambrano uses images to explain things rather than resorting to the way adults say things. When describing her father drunk, she says, "thatís how he moved, like if he were on a boat in the middle of an ocean."

Luz brings an energetic, bright voice to a tragic story. She can find beauty in even the darkest of times, and must as she grapples with her past. She has a colorful vocabulary for an eleven year old, at one point getting in trouble for calling her sister a "smart-ass," and at another saying that another character "didnít have the balls to explain how wrong she was." Yet, as she tells the story of growing up in Mexico and then the United States, her vocabulary doesnít seem out of place at all. Luz also reverts to Spanish during emotional highs or lows, intensifying the experience and highlighting it in the music of another language. The bilingualism neither gets in the way of the narrative nor makes the book difficult to read.

Much of the story revolves around the relationship between Luz and her father. She is quite open about the fact that he sometimes beat her and frequently got drunk and smashed up the house. Yet she still loves him and always manages to find his humanity. In one scene, he takes Luz into the other room to punish her for swearing. Then he looks at Luz and opens his hand. "He pulled his arm back and lifted his eyebrows and slapped the belt against his hand as hard as he could, and I let out a yelp to make it seem as though he were hitting me." She is doggedly loyal to her Papi, and despite the tragedy she experiences and her occasionally fiery temper, she finds humanity in everyone.

Loteria is a personal, gritty, yet lyrical story that brings an emotional intensity in its examination of tragedy and trauma. The complex, realistic characters come to life through the eyes and suppressed memories of the young narrator as she works through her past and searches for redemption, for herself and her family.

No Object
Natalie Shapero
Saturnalia Books
105 Woodside Road, Ardmore, PA 19003
9780983368670, $15.00 pbk / $7.99 Kindle,

Jeffrey Lee Owens

Not many will argue against the statement that Natalie Shapero is a talented individual. Readers can find her poems in several publications, including Dark Horse Literature Review, Poetry, and FIELD. When not writing poetry, Shapero has worked as a civil rights lawyer and a teacher; she is currently a fellow at The Kenyon Review. As a creative writing major at Ball State University, I feel I am adequately able to appreciate the complexity of Shaperoís form. In No Object, Shapero demonstrates her deft manipulation of language through poems that are contemporary, mature, and logical. At the same time, she writes about the confounding nature of age, the difficulties of relationships, and the darker sides of sex; these components create a confluence of powerful voice and persona, leaving the reader wishing they had more to read after the final poem.

No Object contains thirty-four poems across sixty-seven pages. While it first seems like a quick read, patience and eagerness is required to fully appreciate Shaperoís syntax. The authorís use of open form allows her complete poetic freedom. "Four Fights," for example, has staggered lines and calculated enjambment, while also sporting a regular box-paragraph. "Hot (Normal)" spans fourteen pages without any discernable stanza organization, but probes for answers regarding death, sex, and marriage. In other poems, Shapero writes in a series of sestets, providing a sort of reprieve from her anything-goes structure.

When addressing personal issues, it can often be difficult for a writer to separate themselves from the piece. It is not uncommon for confessional works to come across as underdeveloped, whiny, or immature. This does not occur in No Object. When Shapero asks questions like, "Are married people happier/ or are happier people married?" she forces the reader to contemplate ideas that could potentially make them uncomfortable. This straightforward diction permeates all of Shaperoís writing, allowing statements like, "Outcasts only care what outcasts think," to resonate. Coupled with a sporadically sardonic tone and a casual approach to controversial subjects, Shapero drives home messages that are biting, yet tasteful. Even when musing over the intricacies of war in "Our War," she parallels her ideas with an extended metaphor involving rival high schools. It is this skilled use of figurative language, coupled with lyrical - sometimes blunt - delivery that gives Shaperoís writing its merit. No Object is best compared to the work of Roger Reeves (King Me), though Reevesí work hones in more on the aesthetic value of existence. Both writers convey images in a way that is violently honest, while at the same time incorporating a distant tenderness.

Most readers will enjoy Shaperoís incorporation of allusions, both historical and modern. In only a few poems, she makes references to Mozart, the tale of Icarus, Woody Allen, and A Christmas Carol. By relating movies, music, and other artworks to her own personal endeavors, Shapero makes her emotions less enigmatic and more understandable. "Arranged Hours" is an excellent example of Shaperoís poetic voice coming through, asking the reader what she considers to be pertinent questions. By allowing the reader to mull over these questions themselves, Shapero effectively plants the seeds of ideas.

At the same time, it is not reasonable to say that everyone will enjoy No Object; though the poems are relatable in a contemporary way, the rich language can sometimes turn off the casual reader. I would not recommend Shaperoís writing to those who prefer a more structured, traditional narrative. However, if a reader is looking to try out a free-association-heavy account, No Object is a spectacular place to start.

After reading No Object, I immediately felt the urge to shake Natalie Shaperoís hand. Now one of my favorite writers, I recommend her to anyone looking for up-and-coming authors. Her use of riddles, call-to-action gestures, and unpredictable proclamations will delight the average poetry fanatic.

An Immoral Proposal
Jennifer B. Graham
Shulemite Publishing
P.O. Box 204, Nestleton Station, ON, L0B 1L0 Canada
9781493613816, $15.95, 256pp,

Daniele Rae, Review
St. Joe's Book Club, Cornwall, Ontario, Canada

First of all, this is a most enjoyable book to read. Very well written, filled with vivid descriptions and wonderful and often quite funny anecdotes. The reader is easily drawn into a different world - that of Jenniferís growing up in South Africa, and his/her interest and involvement grow stronger as this fascinating account unfolds: a mosaic of souvenirs, the surrounding world described with light touches and a refreshing, non-judgemental simplicity.

The chosen title evokes the main portion of the book, that of a forbidden love affair under apartheid in South Africa, but I would like to select two sub-themes, if I may call them that, and try to take a closer look. The first one is the importance of Jenniferís childhood to the story, and the second, the very strong theme of belonging.

The daily life of Jenniferís childhood described in the book is sometimes astonishing for someone accustomed to a more comfortable lifestyle, and it has echoes of a Dickensian tale. But a joie de vivre, a feeling of love, a resignation to the circumstance of oneís life come through again and again. The poverty evoked in this story is not overwhelming nor pitiful but on the contrary, the children keep on playing, the family is present (even Ray and Ted) and the memory of happy events is strong. Even the rather cruel beating of Jonathan or the attitude of Ted and Ray when dealing with an adolescent Jennifer, feel less sordid and more a sign of different times.

But what I find most striking is the importance given to good manners and good behavior, the proud acceptance of oneís place in life, the adherence to strong values and, despite an unspeakable political system which divides its citizens into three categories, the respect for one another.

But how can you feel that you belong to a country where people are separated according to the color of their skin? Jennifer is left with her grandparents when she is one year old but chooses as a teenager to go back to her parents because she wants to belong to her family. The importance of belonging is very powerful and mentioned from the beginning of the story.

Later, as the adult Jennifer asks Ray why she was left with her grandmother, Ray dismisses the question, answering vaguely that things were different then... Meeting and falling in love with Michael complicates further the notion of belonging: entering his world (and vice versa) is illegal and punishable by law.

They go to England to marry but do not stay there - they emigrate to Canada, then the States, then New Zealand and back to Canada.

As an immigrant myself, I lived in England for eight years, married an Englishman, came to Canada. I feel happy here and I love this country but I am not really Canadian, nor English, nor totally French any longer. Citizen of the world? Perhaps, but the question remains, where do we really belong...

A Certain Kind of Freedom: Stories and Poems from The Writerís Drawer
Beryl Belsky, compiler & editor
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781492890317, $8.55 (PB), $4.99 (Kindle), 182pp,

Malcolm R. Campbell

My objective when choosing the pieces for the anthology was to ensure that they reflected not only literary merit but also the multicultural nature of the website [Writer's Drawer], as well as universal themes with which we can all identify. -- Beryl Belsky, from the Preface


A Certain Kind of Freedom presents ten stories in Short Fiction, ten first-person essays in Stories from Life, eleven poems in Poetry, and three poems in East Asian Style Poetry. While the short stories comprise the most dynamic section of the book, the anthology as a whole successfully fulfills Belsky's objectives in the preface.

The title story about two young people who go kayaking in a cove that may or may not be dangerous or cursed, superbly introduces feelings of dread and a finely wrought narrative tension that characterizes most of the stories in Short Fiction. Susan Rogers' "A Certain Kind of Freedom" employs a technique favored by director Alfred Hitchcock: placing everyday people into an unusual and chilling situation.

Kate and Ryan, who are visiting the Mediterranean coast, are experienced kayakers. The day is beautiful and the seas are calm. Yet Kate is preoccupied with "pink sky in the morning, sailor's forewarning," World War II dogfights that occurred in the area, and the unknowns of deep water once they paddle outside the sheltering cove. Rogers builds the tension well, foreshadowing a harrowing conclusion that, while not unexpected, is both surprising and sad.

In "Abigail," Elizabeth L. Abrey also places an everyday person in an usual situation. While exploring her new house, Ruby Jordan gets locked in the basement. Once she extricates herself, everything seems fine. But then it isn't - just possibly, getting locked in the basement wasn't an accident.

Especially poignant is Leandre Groblerís "Cry of the Fish Eagle" about an elderly aboriginal couple living in a secluded valley far from civilization who discover they are being watched by outsiders whom they do not understand. The watchers are well-intended researchers. As the tension builds, the reader can only wait helplessly for the inevitable clash of cultures that will destroy everyone.

Fans of Beethoven will love Tyger Schonholzer's "Immortal Beloved," an exquisite fantasy that re-imagines the circumstances behind the master's famous "Immortal Beloved" letter to an unknown woman. The letter was never mailed. The intended recipient was never identified by historians. Could Schonholzer's version be true? The romantic amongst us will want to think so.

All of the stories succeed, though some better than others, because they are tightly written and build toward well-plotted and appropriately foreshadowed conclusions. The essays in Stories From Life are generally informal and, while they introduce interesting characters, themes and settings, have a slice of life quality about them that often lacks unity and direction.

Bryan Clark's "The Smoke Bird," about an aboriginal mystic, Carrie King's "The Ticket," about an expectant mother barred from boarding a ship, and D. K. Srivastava's "The Decision That Changed Her Life" about a Hindu bride waiting for her arranged marriage to begin are standouts in this section.

The offerings in Poetry are generally free verse with several of the poems falling into the prose-formatted-into-broken lines category. However, the poets' passions shine through in such words as these in Syed Asad Ali's "I Have Been in Love Twice": ...with you and with the idea of you; and maybe the reality of love lingers in between both of these.

Paige Lederman's, memorable poem called "Fear" shows how a ten year old felt when hurricane Sandy hit New York's Rockaway Beach in 2012, Dev Pillai's tautly written "Paradox" looks at a moment in the past that was "incomplete yet content," and Jane Tarlo's bittersweet "It" bring strength to this section.

The three poems by Leon Zeldis, Jane Tarlo and Yael Shalev in East Asian Style Poetry comprise the strong final section of A Certain Kind of Freedom. These works clearly demonstrate the style and tone expected in the form, perhaps most effectively in Zeldis' "Seven Chinese Poems" that begin:

Before the leaves went wild wind lofted,
The sky darkened
And I sat down crying.

Belsky concludes the book's preface with the hope that A Certain Kind of Freedom will become the first of a Writer's Drawer Book Series. Belsky and her contributors have made a strong start with this collection. For authors of future books in the series, this volume sets the bar high; for readers, it offers enjoyable prose and poetry that deserve multiple readings to fully explore.

Allen Levine
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781497449145, $11.16, 258pp,

Hugh D. Lester

Run is infused with running -- a tone poem to running -- with all the characters defined via their relation to it. However, this single-minded approach is in no way indicative of subpar description, characterization or facility with language. While it exceeds the merely thematic, veering into the realm of preoccupation, it manages to enthrall the initiated and non-initiated alike due to the infectious enthusiasm of the author.

The opening chapter takes the form of a training run. By the end of the run, we have become familiar with the personalities, backstories and interpersonal dynamic of the primary three characters. Unfortunately, the ostensible fourth main character, the narrator's girlfriend, is only referred to in this opening, and this distance is maintained throughout the entire novel. The author skews towards exposition instead of demonstration, in this respect, since Tiff is always seen through the lens of Andy. She is described as so perfect that she is unable to emerge as a fully-formed person in her own right. The odd thing is that this remains a reality for women -- being defined only in reference to a man -- and one especially prevalent among males of a certain age and maturity. When contrasted with the richly drawn triumvirate and the antagonist, Chad, she pales in comparison.

The narrative contains more than a few surprises, and ultimately defies expectations for a sports-themed novel. Especially welcome was the covert friendship with an opposing team member, Ben, which labors under the strain of deception while simultaneously providing relief from the constantly ratcheting pressure of the cross-country team's interpersonal dynamics. The consistent high points are the chapters relating competitive races. Each course is different, the opposing teams vary, and each race is defined by the "on any given day" nature of competing on that level. Less effective were instances of the narrator breaking the fourth wall, which did not support, and ultimately distracted from the intimacy of the so carefully crafted connection between the protagonist/narrator and the audience.

The importance of this connection cannot be understated. Andy lives with anxiety disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder, but eschews medication. His -- for the most part effective -- self-regulation of the symptoms of mental illness is one aspect of the novel that clearly falls in the Cinderella zone -- not too hot, not too cold, but juuust right. Privilege receives considered treatment: relatively rare in contemporary mainstream literature. Almost as cognizant is the self-assured handling of sexual preference including those out, those closeted, and those mildly homophobic or willing to leverage it. But the crown jewel of the novel is the anomie and sociopathic behavior of Chad, which is spot on and never overplayed. My only reservations revolve around the Deus ex machina elimination of Chad and the missed opportunity of the foreshadowed, and later dropped, backstory hinted at by the events surrounding the punishment of Minten and Henry. Something has clearly "messed him up," and had it been as deftly handled as the rest of Chad, could have provided A Separate Peace level resolution of the central problematic. As it stands, he remains an undeserving enigma.

This well executed and entertaining novel succeeds on many levels and has earned my heartfelt recommendation. Like many first novels, it could benefit from significant trimming. A less hurried ending congruent with the prevalent, careful pacing would have been welcome. I can see this being almost novella length, and in such distilled form, even more powerful in its newfound paucity. However such constructive criticism should not diminish the value of this effort and the enjoyment of this embedded-journalism-esque experience of high school cross country in all of its facets. We can only wait in anticipation of a second novel from Mr. Levine; one that hopefully will explore Andy's post High School running life and the promise it so clearly holds.

African Narratives of Orishas, Spirits and Other Deities
Alex Cuoco
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 S.Parker Rd.-515,Parker, CO 80134
9781478724513, $33.26, 964pgs,

Literary Buff

Alex Cuoco's "African Narratives of Orishas, Spirits and Other Deities: Stories from West Africa and The African Diaspora:A Journey into the Realm of Deities, Spirits, Mysticism, Spiritual Roots and Ancestral Wisdom" shows a great labor on the part of author to present a clear picture of African Narratives about Orishas and Deities and African Folklore.

This is a subject which has rarely been as clearly fathomed as the author has presented it in this stunning collection encompassing 964 pages. However, don't be duped into thinking this is just another historical text because the reading is smooth and texts neatly laid out. Chapter 4 "Closure Points" which includes an intro goes into the various Archetypes of the Orishas, followed by an excellent Glossary and Bibliography. One must appreciate the effort on the part of Mr. Cuoco to confront a difficult subject and explain it well.

One would expect that this will be a seminal source for African Studies scholars in the future and an edition which has been sorely needed in this particular field. Bravo!

Imperfect Acts
Peter Shianna
The Red Oak Readers Press
P.O. Box 2155, Lady Lake, FL 32158-2155
ISBN-13: 978-0615923277
ISBN-10: 0615923275
Trade paper, 222 pages, $13.00
e-book, $3.99,

Malcolm McConnell

"Imperfect Acts" by Peter Shianna is a profound yet fast-paced and gripping novel evocative of the classics of modern literature, including Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy and Graham Greene's A Burnt-Out Case. Shianna masterfully interweaves the themes of young love, evil, religious faith, and insanity. This superbly crafted novel is a must read for anyone interested in the best new American fiction."

The Spoon From Minkowitz
Judith Fein
Global Adventure. US
P.O.B. 31221, Santa Fee, NM 87594
9780988401938; $18.95 pbk $9.95 ebook

(Note: available in all formats; includes discussion guide; 245 pages)

Rabbi Wayne Dosick, Ph.D., Reviewer
Jerusalem Post -- May 2, 2014

Sometimes, a spoon is just a spoon, an unassuming utilitarian utensil for stirring or mixing, or for conveying soup, or cereal, or ice cream from bowl to mouth. For travel journalist and author, Judith Fein, one simple - but, very particular - spoon became the talisman for her compulsion to solve a deeply shrouded mystery.

From earliest childhood, Fein was obsessed with the question: "Where do I come from?" Her grandmotherís answer was brief. The old country; a tiny shtetl, Minkowitz, in Russia. Gram did not want to talk about it. It was a miserable place. There was abject poverty; there was almost nothing to eat. And, to make it even worse, the seeds of anti-Jewish discrimination were already sprouting. Gramís attitude about her childhood home was: Thank God we got out and came to the United States so that we could have a better life. And thank God we got out when we did. All the rest of the family, and the neighbors who stayed, were murdered by the Nazis. A horrible place. Bad memories. Just forget about it.

But young Judie would not be deterred. Was it a soul-connection to her grandmother, to her peopleís history, to her internal DNA, to her own cosmic/existential place in this vast universe? She didnít know, but she had to know.

She asked and asked. Slowly, in many conversations, one-by-one, Gram revealed six small facts about the village and her life there. To Gram, they were silly little remembrances. To Judie, they became clues that she held onto throughout her life - clues that she would use to find and, eventually, confirm and celebrate her lineage and legacy.

Judith became a world traveler journalist. She trekked all over the globe. But she never once tried to go to Minkowitz. "If you pinned me to a wall and threatened to cut off my Internet access, I still couldnít tell you why I never went to Minkowitz.... resigning myself to the fact that it would only live in my imagination." Was it classic approach-avoidance? "I never expressed to anyone my deepest fear: that I would find nothing at all, that the world my grandmother left behind was gone, replaced by apartment buildings, chain supermarkets, and fast food eateries selling burgers on buns." Or, was she afraid that in visiting the town, her fantasies would touch reality, and that the driving force propelling her life would be lost? The world traveler never once traveled to the place she most desired to be, until....

Until she met her soon-to-be husband, Paul. In one of their first conversations, Paulís father casually mentioned that his father had come "from a small shtetl in Russia?" Could it be? Yes! It was Minkowitz! Could it really be that Judie and her fiance Paul hailed from that one tiny, tiny place on the map - the place that Judie had been yearning to connect with all her life? To celebrate their engagement and their common roots, Paulís father gave Judie "something very meaningful and personal: the only thing left from the shtetl. It was a soup spoon that his parents brought with them as they sailed steerage from the Old Country to America. I held it, patted it gently, and treasured it because it made our ancient connection so real to me." A spoon from Minkowitz!

That was the impetus. The plans for a trip to find Minkowitz began to emerge. "And then an awful thing happened. Paulís cousin emailed him and said that he didnít come from Minkowitz. His ancestors came from a place called Tushinov. Paul and I were totally freaked and confused." But, Paul was resolute. "I have decided that it is Minkowitz. Itís our place. Our life together. Thatís what matters. Weíre going to where we both came from."

When Gram lived there, it was Russia; then it was the Soviet Union; today it is Ukraine. Tomorrow? Who knows? Changing geographical boundaries, most often imposed for geo-political dominance - as it happening at this very moment - is not new, nor ever without confusion and pain.

Ukraine. With her insatiable curiosity, Judie spoke (usually through a translator, or in hand gestures and a few words in a variety of languages) to everyone whom she met, with Paul - longtime, outstanding photojournalist - taking archival photographs. She sought out everyone who looked old enough to have and hold history and memory: her long-ago pen palís family and friends; the "babushka," the woman who sold her cowís milk in the town marketplace; the head of the Gypsy community in Moldova, who speaks a number of words of Yiddish, because the relations between the Jews and the Gypsies - both often outcasts from the surrounding society - was most always cordial; caretakers at the graves of the Chasidic Rebbes, whose mystical powers and joyous worship are still celebrated today; the very last Jew still living in the town of Rohatyn, where 99% of the Jews were exterminated by the Nazis.

So much of Judie and Paulís adventure into the long-ago past was permeated by the more recent past. Everywhere they went, they saw the results of murderous Nazis - entire towns wiped away, evidence of entire Jewish populations shot on the spot, or shipped off to the concentration camps; the remnants of destroyed synagogues, and schools, and cemeteries. Here and there, they found a survivor; here and there, they found a righteous gentile who had stories of protection and heroism. Here and there they found a synagogue that still functions for the few who are left, or a reestablished Jewish Center that provides a meeting place for the lonely, and food for the hungry.

Everywhere, Judie wept, and wept, and wept. The souls of the six million hover, and the pain of loss pervades and penetrates. "The people we met...bore witness to the once-vibrant people and communities that were annihilated...When they [are] gone, the link [will] be broken. Who would remember the past? Who would hear the stories we were hearing of loss and survival? Who would remember the odd facts told to little girls by their grandmothers who came from long-ago shtetls like Minkowitz?" The history that Judie and Paul went seeking was shrouded in the horrors of the madmanís evil.

Yet, even through the tears, the true purpose still beckoned. The tiny dot on the map was calling. The time had come. Onward to Minkowitz! "The trip was my destiny. I was fated to go to Minkowitz from the time I was a child....It made perfect sense."

So, what did Judith and Paul find? Minkowitz - the shtetl of mythical proportions in Earthly reality. The first person Judie met was the Mayor, who offered every possible assistance. She found the family name in the townís records, and one woman, now in her late '80ís, remembered one man with Judieís grandmotherís family name. Touring the village, and speaking to its people, Judie was able to uncover, with her own eyes, every one of the six facts - the long-held clues - that Gram had given her! "Pools of tears soaked my shirt. My grandmother gave me the most precious gift when I was little: information about her shtetl. I carried it with me all my life. And now I was seeing it exactly the way she described it to me...I heard my grandmother say, 'You have come here. You have witnessed my life.í...I was home."

All of this is enough to leave us emotionally exhausted and joyfully inspired. But, there is more. Shortly after the book was published, Judith reported on Facebook: "At three o'clock in the morning, a total stranger sent me the most extraordinary email. In it were the naturalization papers of my husband Paul's grandfather. They list his place of birth as Minkowitz! This is the proof....Paul and I come from the same tiny village....It is hard to convey to you the emotion involved in finally getting physical, tangible proof that two beings who met and married have their origins in the same dot on the map."

In The Spoon From Minkowitz, Judith Fein deftly weaves her inner world with outer world as it was, as it is, and as it might become. She is an extraordinarily gifted storyteller who evokes sweet laugher and bittersweet tears, sympathy and empathy, unending curiosity and deepest love. Her search for her ancestral home became a spiritual journey filled with deep poignancy, great joy, and profound learning. By reading this book, we become the happy companions who travel with her, join in her quest, and exult in her discoveries.

And Judie inspires us, too, to seek our own roots - wherever they are to be found - as she teaches us how to become both devoted descendants and worthy ancestors.

Sometimes a spoon is just a spoon. Not this time.

The Common Sense Book of Change
Patricia E. West
+A Positive Action Press
P.O. Box 506, Muscoda, WI 53573
ISBN-10: 149520913X
ISBN-13: 978-1495209130
Price: $10.99, Paperback: 178 pages

D. R. Baker, Reviewer
Transtemporal Publishing, Ltd.

If you desire more peace and harmony within as well as without, the I Ching, through the lens of Patricia West, is a must-read. She has managed to take something as esoteric as the I Ching and Einstein's revelations and made them more applicable to the changes we see--and want to see--in our everyday lives. I highly recommend this book. A great read!

Rethinking Survival: Getting to the Positive Paradigm of Change
Patricia E. West
+A Positive Action Press
P.O. Box 506, Muscoda, WI 53573
ISBN-10: 1494816164
ISBN-13: 978-1494816162
Price: $12.99, Paperback, 258 pages

Madi Preda, Reviewer
Authors PR. Posted on

Rethinking Survival: Getting to the Positive Paradigm of Change

The Positive Paradigm of Change - A solution to the madness of our conflict-ridden world. We are at the crossroad of civilization and in her book - Rethinking Survival, Patricia West explains how we should tip the balance in favor of human survival.

She expresses her ideas about music, yoga and comparative religions in a simple, clear and entertaining way. Patricia West talks in her book about Common Sense, key concepts such as creativity and love, practical politics and democracy.

In Rethinking Survival the readers will find open letters to Vladimir Putin, George Soros, Hillary Clinton and Glenn Beck, which are an absolute must read.

The Positive Paradigm of Change is obliging everyone on the planet to make critical choices, is tipping us to bring our contribution for a better world.

The Foxes of Caminus
Laura Burroughs
Burroughs Books
PO Box 365, Newnan GA 30263
Phone: 770-853-6347; Twitter: @foxesofcaminus; Facebook: The Foxes of Caminus
9781629216294, $ 9.99, 296 pages,

Jack L. Kennedy

If good books are a banquet, The Foxes of Caminus by Laura Burroughs (Burroughs Books) has something for all tastes and ages - with a dash of surprise and spice. There are enough plot twists, character types, and muddled moments to keep audiences of almost any age entangled.

Author-educator Burroughs and her publicist like to bill the book as a science fiction fantasy for the youth market, and those elements are certainly present. A global group of teens goes to a secret school on a distant island, where they explore body and soul and spirit and mind. Before the taut, tantalizing tale concludes the scholars face the unknown in many ways, intellectually and physically. Murder, machines, kidnapping and other hurdles are encountered. The lesson that this reader takes away from "Caminus" is a bit broader than the surface sales pitch - and that may be what the discerning author intended.

Born and raised in East Point, Georgia, Laura Burroughs, now living in Atlanta with her husband, daughter and "big fuzzy dog," knew she wanted to be a writer, almost before she knew what writing was. The continuing adventures of Harlie and Anya Fox will be chronicled in her second book now underway.

This is one of the most compelling, well-done multi-level volumes reviewed in seven years, and is a literary adventure that a variety of folk should enjoy. In style and in substance, it sends a message that "education" is a word broadly defined, is enjoyable if done well, and is always ongoing.

The school introduces its new charges each academic year to new ideas, new goals, and new technology; the book is a subtle reminder that even smart computers need real people behind them. Varied religious beliefs often help chart courses and build judgment, as the students learn that prayers and solutions come in many languages...but the religious tone is sound, not sappy. Mix in a bit of typical dorm life, gossip, teenage slang, sports and mistrust. "Caminus" compounds its magnetic reach to a sophisticated, scholarly, but hopeful and broadminded soul - with some of the great minds of the ages popping up as if by magic when needed to offer aid and advancement.

"Canít" is a word banned from campus as the students learn about themselves by learning about each other. Exploration, looking to the future and being oneself are stressed.

"Caminus" should not just be read by a few in a narrow audience. It should be enjoyed by many, in a variety of settings, over time. Perhaps that is its main message.

An American Commentary: Social Problems That Changed America In The 21st Century
Silvio Laccetti
Commonwealth Books LLC
PO Box 165, Cliffside Park, NJ 07010
9780940390034, $22.50, 209pp,

Patrick A. Berzinski, Reviewer

Professor Silvio Laccetti began his distinguished college-teaching career in the mid-1960s, when he was just a few years older than his senior students.

A professor of History and Social Sciences at Stevens Institute of Technology, Laccetti spent four decades instructing future engineers and captains of American industry, outlining the historical linkages between their fields of study and the larger issues confronting an increasingly globalized culture.

Later in his university career, and especially following the events of September 11, 2001, Laccetti began to publish an impressive stream of compelling columns for national newspapers, syndicated by several major US distribution services.

The author has now assembled sixty of these columns, published 2001-2013, in one volume, under the title "An American Commentary: Social Problems that Changed America in the 21st Century."

Covering a wide range of contemporary topics, these essays are organized into six broad categories: Education, American Culture, Globalism, Economics, Politics and 9/11.

The author showcases these columns with spot-on follow-up new commentaries that illuminate his prescient views on issues such as the progressive domination of our lives by technological connectivity. This hindsight/foresight approach is a unique addition to the commentary genre. New commentary offers the reader continuity and updating of topics.

Laccetti opines with the ironic authority of one who has watched and analyzed encroaching phenomena over the decades. Essays such as "The Lost Art of Writing" and "American History is Disappearing" are powerful - yet curiously humorous - testaments to the degradation of coherent communication, wisdom and memory in an era of instantaneous mass connection.

Indeed, amid the blunt topicality, the professional historian often stands ready to assert his perspective. In the essay "Can Pope
Benedict Re-Invent Europe?" Laccetti muses about the historical origins of European Civilization in the Medieval period. "Europe was born of an alliance between kings and priests," he asserts. It was the strategic pact between Frankish monarchy of Pippin and the Papacy that cemented the foundations of Europe."All of Western history thereafter was shaped by this event."

And yet, the author is quite capable of drawing poignant lessons from his everyday personal encounters. In the essay, "The Homeless Are Not Helpless," the reader learns of the plight of a particular homeless person whom the author attempts to pull back into the mainstream. The "new commentary" update continues the narrative about the individual in question, revealing successes and failures.

The section on education is notable for the author's characterization of the "Education Industrial Complex." Whether the essays deal with public schools, college literacy, college athletics, grade inflation or cheating, Laccetti paints an often disturbing picture of the American education scene. The author acquits himself as one in a distinguished line of critics decrying lowered standards and diluted curricula.

Laccetti situates his earliest columns, written in the aftermath of 9/11, at the end of the book. His seminal column, titled "Everyone a Soldier," which received wide syndication, recalls the emergence of a public spirit of unity and civic duty in the aftermath of the terrorist acts orchestrated by Osama bin Laden. Writing in 2014, the author observes wistfully that "it may seem quaint to read my exhortations to a motivated audience, for that post-crisis unity is gone."

"Silvio is a master craftsman of the commentary," writes Josh Gohlke, former editorial page editor of The Philadelphia _Inquirer_ in an opening testimonial. "His essays approach events and trends with wisdom, knowledge, enthusiasm, curiosity, creativity and humor. Watching adolescents play video games might lead him to reflect on the nature of war and peace, while a busload of busted public officials might have him examining the relationship between corruption and civilization."

Indeed, readers will agree with Mr. Gohlke, and ten other opinion-editor testimonials included in the book, that "An American Commentary" is a signifying contribution to opinion journalism, offering an urbane witness to manifold cultural shifts at the dawn of a new century.

The book is recommended for concerned citizens, young intellectuals with a passion for recent history and university and public libraries.

Gail's Bookshelf

The Greatest Words Ever Spoken
Steven K Scott
Waterbrook Press
12265 Oracle Blvd. Suite 200, Colorado Springs, CO 80921
9781601426673, $18.99,

Steven K. Scott's life-transforming resource, "The Greatest Words Ever Spoken: Everything Jesus Said About You, Your Life, and Everything Else" (Red Letter Ed.) has the "power to transform hateful hearts...change minds driven by greed...and alter lives ruled by arrogance." In this compilation of "pure, undiluted words" and statements Jesus' words inspire hope in hopeless situations, stir joy in broken hearts and replace "paralyzing fear" with His supernatural peace. That makes this book a valuable, one-of-a-kind resource.

It isn't a quick read and it isn't a book designed to be read cover-to-cover. Instead it's an alphabetized reference of every word, statement and lesson Jesus spoke and taught organized into nine general categories and 220 associated topics that provide "instant access to the counsel of Christ."

When Dr. Gary Smalley, one of Scott's friends, realized what Scott had created, he said, "This is a treasure chest of answers, promises, inspiration, encouragement, love, faith, and power for living that no Christian home should be without."

WaterBrook Press agreed and published this special "red-letter" edition in 2014 with Jesus' words in red and verses that provide context in black. From the table of contents to the New Testament scripture indexes and alphabetized subject index, this user friendly resource "is a quick way to find what Jesus had to say" on individual topics and everyday issues.

I especially liked chapter five that lists over one hundred of Jesus' conditional promises, "What Jesus said to those who believe in him." For greater understanding Scott suggests readers "underline the condition" of the promise and then highlight the "promised clearly understand Jesus' teaching."

Besides a quick reference for spiritual questions and direction, the book can also be used for "topical studies during morning and evening devotions," by individuals, families or for group bible or word studies. It would also be a wonderful gift for new Christians who want to learn more about Christ.

Jesus' words are taken from the National International (NIV) translation while the New King James (NKJV) is used for chapter introductions. Scott and his business partners applied the biblical wisdom found in Jesus' words to build "more than a dozen multimillion-dollar companies from scratch. "Not only did Jesus predict our struggles," said Scott, "He offered a magnificent plan for our individual and corporate success."

In John 8: 31-32, Christ promised, "If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." Scott makes the task easy with this simple, user-friendly resource that teaches the "God who created the universe" wants to know you on a "first-name basis," with such intimacy you would call him your "best friend," even think of him as your "dad."

Arms Open Wide: A Call to Linger in the Savior's Presence
Sherri Gragg
Thomas Nelson
P.O. Box 141000, Nashville, Tennessee 37214
9781400323463, $16.99,

Debut author Sherri Gragg encourages readers to "linger in the Savior's presence" in her new release Arms Open Wide, where she portrays the "beautiful Jewish roots of her Christian faith." She discovered that Jewish reality in the course of her trip to Israel where she learned to view "Jesus' teachings through a Middle Eastern cultural lens." It's there she found Jesus the Messiah to be the "incarnation of God Himself."

Yet that isn't how she always knew Jesus, even though, at age four, she "padded barefoot down the hall to her parents' bedroom" and asked to give her heart to Christ. She never saw God as a loving Father, instead she saw Him as a vengeful, "harsh judge" due to a powerful Sunday school lesson by a well-intentioned teacher.

It wasn't until her trip to Israel at age forty-one that "scriptures started to come to life for her" and she could see the "infancy of her faith" was founded on a "flawed" view of God. It was there she realized that "Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever," like Hebrews 13:8 says. There she found the loving God who created the universe and "poured out His life," not just for her, but for all of humanity.

Sherri Gragg fulfills all the writing potential that earned her fourth place in the 2012 Writer's Digest Competition with this debut compilation of powerful devotions, where she mixes biblical research and history with scripture and creative narrative. She guides readers into the life and times of Jesus through short-story style devotions that begin with suggested scripture readings and end with scripture and prayer.

Join the crowds surrounding Jesus in any one of these fictionalized devotions and witness miraculous healings or experience Jesus commanding the roaring winds and pounding waves to "Quiet! Be still" in Mark 4: 39. Or see the faith of the "untouchable" woman who stretched out her hand to touch the hem of Jesus' robe in the crowds only to hear Him say, "Your faith has healed you. "Go in peace" from Luke 8:48.

Sherri's well-researched, fictionalized format brings memorable biblical accounts to life and leaves readers touched and spiritually blessed, equipped to see Jesus through the settings and cultural lens of the times He lived. Her prayer for readers - to see Jesus "stands with arms open wide to welcome you into His Father's kingdom just as you are."

Itís obvious Sherri is a gifted storyteller and I recommend her book to anyone looking for a good devotional.

Jasmine: A Novel
April McGowan
Whitefire Publishing
13607 Bedford Rd NE, Cumberland, MD 21502
9781939023087, $14.99,

"Jasmine," April McGowan's debut fiction set in Portland, Oregon is a narrative of inspiration forged in the fires of abuse, homelessness and sex trafficking. Her character-driven story reveals the depths of the Father's love for the "most broken and hurting," who by God's grace find the courage to escape victimization on the streets. Although the story is fiction the facts behind the story are heartbreaking (note statistics link at review's end).

Readers first meet Jasmine, now known as Jazz, in her role as counselor for "at-risk young women." She's waiting for Officer Banner to finish his rape interview with Misty, a teen she had recently placed in a group home. Exhausted from too many calls like this, Jazz slid down the wall to rest on the floor, back against the wall, arms on her knees, lost in dark memories of her own life on the streets.

She was fourteen when she ran away from home and Misty reminded her of herself. Only she had run away to the carnival gypsy lady she worked for over the summer. She knew Fiona would keep her safe and protect her. When Fiona died about a year later Jazz left the carnival for the streets of Olympia. She knew all too well what had happened to Misty. That had been her life until she met Brandi, a counselor and mentor who helped her get off the streets and encouraged her to go to school.

Now a trained counselor in her mid-thirties working with girls like she once was Jazz still lived with heart-pounding fear when she closed her door at night. In spite of years of counseling, training and education she continued to check under the bed and test the door and window locks before she felt safe enough to sleep. Although Jazz feels like she's been healed, God knows she's not and He has a plan for her that begins with her notification of her mother's death.

Join Jazz on her journey into the past where she must confront her fears and come to terms with the loved ones left behind when she returns to a town who believes she died from drowning. From her childhood friend Tim, now the attorney of her mother's estate who still loves her, to her sister Lily who refuses to talk to her, to her brother who believes God will help her even though she no longer believes God exists for her.

McGowan's well-developed characters honestly portray the cost of abuse and victimization on the streets few escape from. It's a tale of hope, restoration and budding trust wrapped in God's love and grace.

Lesley McDaniel asked why McGowan wrote about homeless youth and victimization when she interviewed her. She said she wanted readers to see "the homeless hurting women and children" as real people the world usually ignores because of their shabby dress and haunted eyes. Jasmine's story does that and more and is not a book to miss. McGowan supports Portland Oregon's Shepherd's Door and their work with the homeless and the addicted and Door to Grace in their work with sex trafficking victims.

National Runaway Safeline (1-800-RUNAWAY) shocking statistics reports between 1.6 and 2.8 million youth run away each year due to parental conflict, physical and sexual abuse and some are even told to leave. Youngsters living on the streets, alone and defenseless, become prey for sex traffickers, open to physical and sexual abuse.

For more "faith and fiction" check out April McGowan or listen to the Jasmine book trailer.

Gail Welborn

Gary's Bookshelf

Unlucky 13
James Patterson & Maxine Paetro
Little Brown and Company
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316211291, $28.00,

Detective Lindsay Boxer has one of her strangest cases begin with a very different type of bombing that opens "Unlucky 13," the newest installment of the Womenís Murder Club. Yuki, on her honeymoon with her new husband in Alaska, becomes a hostage when terrorists attack the ship they are on while Claire and Cindy, the other two members have their own conflicts unfold. "Unlucky 13" like the other novels in the series is rapidly paced to its final conclusion. The novel has many twists and turns to keep readers turning pages until the end. "Unlucky 13" is a great addition to this popular series.

Robert B. Parkerís Cheap Shot A Spenser Novel
Ace Atkins
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399161582, $26.95,

It is always hard for another author to take over a series after the original author dies. Ace Atkins in "Robert B. Parkerís Cheap Shot A Spenser Novel" shows why he was a perfect choice to continue the Spenser novels. He captures the feel of Spenser with witty dialogue, fast pacing and a plot of a football playerís son who is kidnapped that is a lot more complicated than it first appears to be. Spenser is hired by the father to investigate and hopefully bring back the son. In typical fashion Spenser deals with many interesting characters as he gets involved in the case. Fans of the Spenser novels will love "Cheap Shot"

Only Time Will Tell
Jeffery Archer
St Martinís Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780312539566, $9.99,

Archer novels have always been interesting reading but "Only Time Will Tell" begins the Clifton Chronicles that ranks as Archerís best work. The story begins in with two British families, the Barringtons and the Clifton 1919. The main characters of the Barringtons are Hugo, Elizabeth, Giles and Emma. The Cliftons are Maisie, Stanley, and Harry. As the novel opens Harry and Giles become friends at a school they both attend. It is at a birthday celebration of Giles at his home where Harry first meets Gilesí father, who despises Harry. It is also when Emma and Harry first meet. From around the end of the first world war to the year 1940, the novel moves along with solid writing and great character development to its final cliff hanger ending, leaving the door open for many other books about these two families. Fans of Downton Abbey should read and enjoy the series that begins with "Only Time Will Tell."

Donít Go
Lisa Scottoline
St Martinís Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9781250010087, $15.99,

Scottoline has always written a great legal thriller but now in "Donít Go," she combines a legal situation with how do we treat our returning veterans from combat situations. Dr. Mike Scanlon serving in Afghanistan is given the news that his wife is dead. He comes home to find that the life he left is in chaos. He begins to learn about his practice, the wife he left behind and that nothing is as it seems. He later debates whether to go back to Afghanistan or come home for good. He makes a decision that changes the rest of the novel. This is the first time Scottoline has written a male as her lead character and she does it very well. There are several issues that unfold among them custody of a minor child, what it takes to be a hero and how this country treats anyone who has worn the uniform of the armed forces who comes home from combat. "Donít Go" is a different type of story by Scottoline that is sure to please her millions of readers.

The Sins of the Father
Jeffery Archer
St Martinís Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9781250010407, $9.99,

Archer began this series with "Only Time Will Tell" that introduced readers to the two families The Barringtons and The Cliftons. As "The Sins of the Father" opens Harry Cliffton is in jail in America under another name for a crime he did not commit in the year 1939. Word filters back to the Barringtons and the Clifftons that Harry is dead buried at sea. But Emma refuses to believe it and comes to America to learn the truth. As the story unfolds we see how despicable Hugo is while the events World War II. unfold and how these two families are affected. Once again Archer takes readers along for the ride with great story telling and wonderful characters that are easy to get caught up in. "The Sins of the Father" continues the Clifton Chronicles and does it very well.

The Heaven of Animals
David James Poissant
Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
978146729961, $24.00

"The Heaven of Animals" is a great collection of short stories by a rising talented writer in the mold of John Cheever or John Updike. There are at least 15 tales that rapidly move along with interesting characters and an easy style to read and enjoy Each of the stories in "The Heaven of Animals" is sure to delight anyone who likes short fiction collections.

Teacher on The High Wire
Marjorie Radcliffe
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781482706765, $9.00

"Once a teacher, always a teacher" is so true in Marjorie Radcliffeís book "Teacher on The High Wire". Radcliffe who taught in the public system was let go, but she later taught kids at Universal and Disney in Orlando until she left there, and went to work for a major circus to teach the children as the circus moved around the country. She tells about her students, the many places she has been, and the different lives of the performers. Her style is lighthearted and takes the reader on a journey behind the scenes of "The Greatest Show on Earth" "Teacher on The High Wire" reminded me of the movie "First of May" that is also about running away to join the circus.

I Led the Parade Main Street Memories
Dean Gaschler
Legacy Book Publishing
1883 Lee Road, Winter Park Fl 32789
9781937952457, $19.95,

For the first time readers have a chance to go behind the scenes of the parade on Main Street at Disney in "I Led the Parade Main Street Memories." Dean Gaschler who ran the day to day operation of the parade at Disney now tells the stories of many of the people who were Grand Marshal for a day at Disney. The stories are touching and show how Disney has continued to put back the magic in peopleís lives. "I Led the Parade Main Street Memories" shows why going to Disney is still a special place to be.

Mavericks of Golf Behind Every Player is The Business of Golf
Jim Hansberger
Legacy Book Publishing
1883 Lee Road, Winter Park Fl 32789
9781937952525, $19.95,

Jim Hansberger who has been a part of the game of Golf tells a lot of interesting behind the scenes things about the game many of us never knew in his book "Mavericks of Golf"

He begins by telling the history of the game and where and when it was first begun, how the golf ball and clubs evolved into what we now see on the green and his personal involvement in the game and the popular cable station The Golf Channel. "Mavericks of Golf tells little tidbits by someone who has been behind the scenes for a long time.

You Can Say A Lot With Words
Poems and Drawings by Brian Breault
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781478167792, $6.00

Brian Breault is back with another witty collection of poems that will have readers again laughing out loud. His perceptions of things we take for granted are masterfully written in so few words. "You Can Say A Lot With Words" once again puts the fun back in poetry.

Gary Roen

Gloria's Bookshelf

Killerís Art
Mari Jungstedt
Translated by Tiina Nunnally
Stockholm Text
c/o Meryl Zegarek Public Relations
255 W. 108th St., NY, NY 10025
9789187173455, $14.95, PB, 352 pp.,

A brutally violent crime opens this newest novel from Swedish author Mari Jungstedt, when the body of a well-known and popular art dealer is found murdered and hanged on a medieval city wall in Visby. The case is assigned to Detective Superintendent Anders Knutas, 52 years old, who had been promoted to head the criminal division of the Visby police force ten years ago. His team consists of D.I. Karin Jacobsson, with whom he has worked for the past 15 years, described as 5í 3", 39 years old and single, "charming, lively, and spirited;" Thomas Wittberg, 28 and "the Casanova of police headquarters;" technician Erik Sohlman; and Lars Norby, the police spokesman. The usual amount of departmental politics exists, but by and large they work well together. Also playing prominent roles in the tale are the Swedish TV journalist Johan Berg and his cameraperson, Pia Lilja; Erik Mattson, art connoisseur and valuer; and various members of the artistic community of the region. Each of these is a well-developed and interesting character.

The setting is primarily the island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea, the Swedish equivalent to the US Marthaís Vineyard. It is February (although the events that trigger everything that follows occur in November), an inhospitable time of year in Sweden. As one character notes: "Sweden isnít meant for human beings, he thought. If God does exist, He must have forgotten this corner in the northernmost part of Europe." The weather becomes palpable in these pages.

Placed frequently in the narrative are brief chapters whose p.o.v. is that of the man behind several sordid and criminal events that take place as the fast-reading plot moves along. As the police appear to be closing in, the reader is still no closer to the identity, or the motives, of the perpetrator, than are the authorities. The theme of the novel is secrets, which all concerned seem to have.

The book is the fourth in this series. It is very well-written, and sure to garner new fans for the author, who is apparently very popular in her native Sweden, and is recommended.

Death on Demand
Paul Thomas
Bitter Lemon Press
37 Arundel Gardens, London 211 2LW
c/o Meryl Zegarek Public Relations
255 W. 108th St., NY, NY 10025
9781908524171, $14.95, PB, 288 pp.,

This newest novel by Paul Thomas opens with brief flashbacks going back 14 years but swiftly brings us to the present, after short chapters (and a prologue) from several different points of view, introducing the reader to all the important players, from, among others, the members of the "boysí club" (a small group of men whoíd known each other from their boarding school days through their various marriages and divorces, with varying degrees of financial success).

When we come to the present day, we meet several members of the Auckland police, past and present: First and foremost, D.I. Johan Van Roon, and the man who had at one time been his mentor: Maori cop Tito Ihaka, described as "unkempt, overweight, intemperate, unruly, unorthodox and profane" and "the brown Sherlock Holmes," the latter having been banished to the hinterlands several years ago after a case which he had stubbornly insisted was a murder, not, as everyone else was convinced, a 'simpleí hit-and-run accident. A spate recent of killings brings Ihaka back into the fold, after a fashion, when a former boss is promoted to Auckland District Commander; it soon emerges that thereís a hired killer in the picture, and unsurprisingly more deaths ensue, in rapid succession.

The author was born in the UK but has lived for most of his life in New Zealand, which is the setting for his novels. The only hurdle for me in this book was with the local vernacular/regional jargon/idiom. This was soon overcome, I hasten to add, by the complex and absorbing plot, well presented, that soon made the book difficult to put down. There is also a lot of quiet humor, e.g., description of a man who wears "T-shirts with slogans intended to cause offence like 'So many Christians, so few lions.í"


The Red Room
Ridley Pearson
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780399163746, $26.95, HC, 399 pages,

In the third novel in what is billed as an "international thriller series" ("Risk Agent" was the first entry), Ridley Pearson brings the return of John Knox, a man who has a useful 'coverí as a legitimate international exporter, and Grace Chu, a Chinese woman who speaks five or six languages, was a former forensic accountant and an accomplished computer hacker, with a background including a masterís degree in criminology from USC and training with the Chinese Army, now intrigued by the thought of a future in field ops and the potential independence that financial security holds. They are both now occasionally employed by Rutherford Risk, a private security firm, hired by Johnís old buddy David "Sarge" Dulwich.

This time out, each of the two is, separately, given a briefing on a new assignment by Dulwich in the eponymous Red Room, in the building overlooking Hong Kong harbor, the room distinguished by the body scanner through which one must pass before gaining entry and after relinquishing anything metal, a bunker contained by a barrier "seven inches of steel and insulating concrete weighing three hundred pounds," very "cloak and dagger," as Knox says. Everything dealing with this assignment is very strictly on a NTK (Need to Know) basis, something that doesnít change from first page to nearly last. As confusing as things get for Knox and Chu, they proved even more so for this reader.

The case has to do with the acquisition of a piece of what is called "gray market art," specifically a work deemed one of the "rarer treasures in the history of Western civilization." It brings our protagonists to Istanbul, and the descriptions of that exotic city are the most enjoyable parts of the novel, to my mind. Itís hard to tell the good guys from the bad, for the protags and the reader equally. As I have said before, though there are some notable exceptions (e.g., Lee Child/Jack Reacher novels), thrillers are not, generally, my favorite sub-genre. Having enjoyed the last book in the series, "Choke Point," I looked forward to reading this newest entry. Unfortunately, I came away feeling my earlier leanings reinforced.

Gwen Florio
Permanent Press
4170 Noyac Rd., Sag Harbor, NY 11963
9781579623364, $28.00, HC, 256 pp.,

Foreign correspondent Lola Wicks has just returned from Afghanistan, a place where "filing the story and staying alive remained the only two things that mattered." She is called back to the home office of her newspaper in Baltimore, where she finds that all the foreign bureaus were being shut due to the faltering US economy and the ensuing layoffs, and is faced with an assignment in the suburbs, told that she is lucky she still has a job.

She is directed by her editor to take some R&R, since sheíd not taken a vacation in years. Still determined to return to the war zone (reasoning that "once he saw the stories sheíd file when she got back to Kabul, heíd realize it was a mistake to close the bureau"), she decides to first visit her friend Mary Alice, who she hadnít seen in five years after their career paths diverged, with Lola going to Afghanistan and Mary Alice to Montana to work at a small local paper. When Lola arrives at the cabin in Magpie, Montana, she is faced with a grotesque scene: Seeing dead bodies in Afghanistan was one thing, but finding her best friend shot to death was quite another. Despite her planned return to Kabul, she vows to herself that if the apparently incompetent sheriff could not find the killer, she would.

Finding any leads proves a difficult task, made harder when she is told she cannot leave Magpie, as she is a person of interest. Her reaction? "Iíve got a dead friend and a sheriff who wonít let me leave town until he figures out how she got that way." Other deaths soon follow. Lola is told "Bodies [are] dropping like flies. How do you like Montana so far?" (A place, btw, that she finds can have snow in June.) After initially staying in a local hotel, she decides to stay in Mary Aliceís cabin, and there are wonderful passages about her friendís dog and horse, neither of which is an animal with which she has had any experience. Her pursuit of the investigation leads to some unexpected twists and turns in a well-fashioned plot, and a whale of an ending.

A gripping and fast read, beautifully written, the novel is recommended.

Elaine Viets
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780451466303, $24.95, HC, 288 pp.,

Helen Hawthorne, she of the formerly-dead-end-job-holders, at 41, now able spending her time solving cases with her husband of one year, Phil Sagemont; together they run Coronado Investigations. The two murder investigations for which they are hired in this newest series entry threaten the most important things in their lives: The agencyís very existence, as well as that of their home in the Coronado Tropic Apartments. The latter is due to the crumbling condition of the condo complex, as well as the fact that their landlady finds herself charged with first degree murder, the former a likely outcome of possible lawsuits.

Helen and Phil are charged with clearing their client, socialite Trish Barrymore, with the murder of her wealthy husband, Mort. In the throes of a bitter divorce, the only thing upon which they agreed was shared custody of their beloved cat. But the husband turns up dead, and the four-month old cat is missing, apparently catnapped. The ensuing investigation takes Helen undercover working in a cattery and into the world of cat shows and their prize-winning entrants, not to mention the obsessive cat owners, where she soon learns almost more than she ever wanted to know about all of the above. For the reader as well, I might add! (But only "almost"; I am a cat-lover myself, and had no idea about cat shows, having only known of the dog variety.)

The second mystery to be solved involves another once-happily-married couple: Their landlady is arrested for the murder of her ex-husband, from whom she has been divorced for 30 years after he was sought by the Feds for drug-dealing, compounded by his infidelity. All the action takes place in just under two weeks, with an epilogue tying up any loose ends of the plot and the lives of the various characters, each of whom, I might add, is wonderfully drawn. The resolution is very satisfying, as is the book as a whole. A perfect beach read, and most enjoyable.

Crooked Numbers
Tim OíMara
Minotaur Books
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780250009005, $24.99, HC, 320 pp.,

In his second novel, the sequel in the Raymond Donne series following the terrific "Sacrifice Fly," and because of the events which took place in that book, culminating in a four-story drop from a fire escape, Donne is no longer a cop: "Itís not all that rare for cops whoíve been injured on the job to be given promotions and higher paychecks. It wasnít how I pictured my career path, so I left." (And this despite the fact that his uncle is the police chief.) For the past several months he has been the dean of the Brooklyn middle school where he used to teach. The interactions of Donne with the students under his care, as well as their parents, is empathetically and realistically shown, owing perhaps to the fact that the author is himself a teacher in the New York City school system.

In the opening pages, Douglas William ("Dougie") Lee, who had been one of Donneís students for two years, studying math, literature, history and science, is viciously stabbed to death one night "on the cold, dark tennis courts under the Williamsburg Bridge." The bridge itself becomes somewhat symbolic in Mr. OíMaraís hands, metaphorically connecting Brooklyn on one side and Manhattan on the other, and the public housing projects and its gangbangers on either side. Dougie was not quite 17 years old, and despite the fact that at first blush the cops, finding a few bags of pot on the body, believe he was into gangs and drugs, the thought being that he was "just another black boy killed, dealing drugs and hanging around the wrong people," Donne is convinced otherwise. At the behest of the murdered boyís mother, Donne promises to try to find the person stabbed the boy a dozen times, and to use his connections with the police and the newspapers in that effort. To that end, it helps that Dennis Murcer, the detective assigned to the case, had gone through the academy with Donne and used to date his sister, and that the very attractive Allison Rogers, the crime reporter assigned to cover the story, agrees to help Donne by keeping up the coverage which would in turn perhaps amp up the pressure on the cops to investigate the crime beyond their initial impressions.

At the time of his death, Dougie had been a scholarship student at a private school on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Within a few days of his death, one of his best friends is killed and another is hospitalized. The story takes some very unexpected turns as Donne continues to investigate what was going on in their lives, convinced that these things must be connected. The novel is well-plotted, and the authorís writing "style," for lack of a better word, makes this a very fast and enjoyable read.

Highly recommended.

Treasure Hunt
Andrea Camilleri, author
Stephen Sartarelli, translator
Viking Press
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
978014312262-3, $15.00, PB, 288 pp.,

This is the 16th Sicilian mystery featuring Inspector Salvo Montalbano. In the early going in the novel, the Inspector finds himself bored, with nary a crime worthy of his talents, much less a murder; the author calls him a "police inspector with a brilliant past, no matter dull his present." But it becomes somewhat less boring as the book opens - - an elderly brother and sister, religious fanatics both, open fire on the main square of the village, determined to punish the people of Vigata for their sins. When Camilleri is caught on camera scaling the building, gun in hand, to put an end to the scene, he is hailed as a hero. His own reaction, after searching the apartment, is one of shock, when he discovers rooms filled with crucifixes and shrines and an apparently aged inflatable sex doll. To say that this opening scene has unexpected repercussions later in the novel is an understatement.

Montalbano, now fifty-seven, is a man who is always aware of when he ate his last meal and savors each one; who occasionally has his inner selves arguing, like an angel and a devil perched on each shoulder, and takes to cursing the saints when frustrated. And is an absolutely terrific protagonist. He has two more or less regular women in his life, Ingrid, a former race-car mechanic, described as his "Swedish friend, confidante, and sometimes accomplice," and Livia, with whom he has a long-distance romance: She lives in Genoa.

Boredom soon is replaced with the worst kind of crime to be solved: The apparent kidnapping of a beautiful 18-year-old girl, with no clues as to the identity of the kidnapper. Montalbano finds himself up against "a criminal mind the likes of which he had never encountered before."

Not long after the opening scenes, he becomes the recipient of envelopes marked to his personal attention, each containing crudely constructed poems, riddles setting him on the eponymous hunt, soon devolving into a duel between two very sharp minds. Until with the third and fourth missives the seemingly innocuous game becomes suddenly threatening or, as the Inspector puts it, takes a "curious turn."

The plot is fascinating, the tale told, despite the darkness of the plot, with great good humor and fascinating characters, e.g., the Inspectorís switchboard operator, Catarella, from whose mouth come words like "nickpick" (picnic), and "Beckiní yer partiní (for 'begging your pardon," but you figured that out already). This was a very entertaining novel, and is highly recommended.

Cross and Burn
Val McDermid
Atlantic Monthly Press
841 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9780802122049, $25.00, HC, 416 pp.,

I must begin this review by stating how perfect I found the title. It is a quote from David Russell: "The hardest thing in life is to know which bridge to cross and which to burn." And there many bridges here where both verbs apply. The most startling of these for the reader is the bridge connecting the series protagonists, DCI Carol Jordan and Dr. Tony Hill, forensic psychologist and offender profiler who frequently consulted in that capacity with the police and the MIT.

Carol, formerly DCI of the Major Incident Team, had handed in her resignation; her old team has been completely disbanded; and her relationship with Tony, which had reached the point that they had been planning to share the house he had unexpectedly inherited, has ended. Following the horrific events in the last series entry, "The Retribution," wherein Carolís brother and his significant other were brutally murdered, the rift between Jordan and Hill is so severe that there has been no communication at all between them for nearly 3 months, with each feeling insurmountable guilt, Carolís all the worse because she holds Tony even more at fault than she herself; Tonyís own feelings are similar. Following those events as well are other drastic changes: Carol had handed in her resignation; her old team has been completely disbanded; and Tony is now working solely in a secure mental hospital and living on a houseboat. Everything has been affected by budget cuts; the Forensic Science Service has been privatized, with criminal investigations being outsourced; and Tonyís services are felt to be no longer needed: "thereís no budget for anything you canít reach out and touch any more."

Newly promoted DS Paula McIntyre of the Bradfield Metropolitan Police (formerly a member of the MIT under Jordan,) is called in to a murder scene. She and DCI Alex Fielding, now her boss, soon come to believe that it is the work of a serial killer, when another body is found with the same MO; it appears that he stalks and then kidnaps the women before brutally abusing and murdering them. Periodically there are chapters from the chilling perspective of the perpetrator as he sizes up his next potential victims. All of whom, by the way, strongly resemble Carol Jordan.

But half-way through the novel, the author provides a jaw-dropper (literally) of a twist, beyond which point I cannot go. Except to say that Val McDermid just keeps getting better and better (which I know Iíve said in the past of this authorís books, and it remains true). Highly recommended.

Choke Point
Ridley Pearson
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780515154641, $9.95, PB, 448 pp.,

In the second novel in what is billed as an "international thriller series" ("Risk Agent" was the first entry), Ridley Pearson brings the return of John Knox, a man who has a useful 'coverí as a legitimate international exporter, and Grace Chu, a Chinese woman who was a former forensic accountant but has "recently proven herself a quick study of computer hacking." She also holds a masterís degree in criminology from USC and, because of her former training with the Chinese Army, "is no slouch in field ops." The fact that she speaks five or six languages is only a plus. They are both now occasionally employed by Rutherford Risk, a private security firm.

The book takes place for the most part in Amsterdam, although it opens briefly in Tunisia, where John is plying his trade, that is, until his old buddy David "Sarge" Dulwich finds him and coaxes him to take on a job in Amsterdam. Their long-standing friendship goes back to the days when they were both working for a private contractor based out of Kuwait where John saved Sargeís life, twice (once when the truck in which he was riding was hit by an IED). Both John and Grace find themselves becoming addicted to their new calling, their former professions seeming to have been a waste of their talents, and the adrenaline rush undeniable.

Their new assignment deals with child exploitation. They are joined, in a somewhat ambivalent relationship, by Sonia Pangarkar, a gorgeous reporter working on a story about "the poorer neighborhoods of Amsterdam and the European struggle with immigrants." More than that, it is about a ring of men "who kidnap ten-year-olds and chain them to posts and make them work 18-hour days" in what are called "knot shops," i.e., sweatshops where intricately hand-knotted Oriental rug knockoffs are made, with quantity demanded. And thatís the least horrific part of it. Rutherford Risk was called in as the work is seen as "typically unwanted by, or too dangerous for, others." But Knox and Grace thrive on just that.

Thrillers are not, generally, my favorite sub-genre. But the authorís name beckoned to me. The book is undeniably exciting and suspenseful, densely plotted, and the three main characters very intriguing. It makes for enjoyable, good reading.

Cross and Burn
Val McDermid
Atlantic Monthly Press
841 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9780802122049, $25.00, HC, 416 pp.,

I must begin this review by stating how perfect I found the title. It is a quote from David Russell: "The hardest thing in life is to know which bridge to cross and which to burn." And there many bridges here where both verbs apply. The most startling of these for the reader is the bridge connecting the series protagonists, DCI Carol Jordan and Dr. Tony Hill, forensic psychologist and offender profiler who frequently consulted in that capacity with the police and the MIT.

Carol, formerly DCI of the Major Incident Team, had handed in her resignation; her old team has been completely disbanded; and her relationship with Tony, which had reached the point that they had been planning to share the house he had unexpectedly inherited, has ended. Following the horrific events in the last series entry, "The Retribution," wherein Carolís brother and his significant other were brutally murdered, the rift between Jordan and Hill is so severe that there has been no communication at all between them for nearly 3 months, with each feeling insurmountable guilt, Carolís all the worse because she holds Tony even more at fault than she herself; Tonyís own feelings are similar. Following those events as well are other drastic changes: Carol had handed in her resignation; her old team has been completely disbanded; and Tony is now working solely in a secure mental hospital and living on a houseboat. Everything has been affected by budget cuts; the Forensic Science Service has been privatized, with criminal investigations being outsourced; and Tonyís services are felt to be no longer needed: "thereís no budget for anything you canít reach out and touch any more."

Newly promoted DS Paula McIntyre of the Bradfield Metropolitan Police (formerly a member of the MIT under Jordan,) is called in to a murder scene. She and DCI Alex Fielding, now her boss, soon come to believe that it is the work of a serial killer, when another body is found with the same MO; it appears that he stalks and then kidnaps the women before brutally abusing and murdering them. Periodically there are chapters from the chilling perspective of the perpetrator as he sizes up his next potential victims. All of whom, by the way, strongly resemble Carol Jordan.

But half-way through the novel, the author provides a jaw-dropper (literally) of a twist, beyond which point I cannot go. Except to say that Val McDermid just keeps getting better and better (which I know Iíve said in the past of this authorís books, and it remains true). Highly recommended.

Gloria Feit

Gorden's Bookshelf

The Luthier's Apprentice
Mayra Calvani
Twilight Times Books
P O Box 3340, Kingsport TN 37664
ASIN: B00K93R3OO, Kindle $5.50, 184 pages,

The Luthier's Apprentice is a simple but intense younger adult horror tale. The story holds no big surprises. The individual characters are well developed. Both the historic and musical details are well formulated. The story feels simple because the dark horror begs to be developed for a slightly older teen audience.

The heroine of the story is sixteen year old violinist Emma Braun and apprentice luthier. (A luthier is a person who makes and repairs stringed instruments.) Her violin teacher Monsieur Dupriez has just disappeared, the latest in a series of famous violinists who have disappeared under mysterious circumstances. She decides she needs to investigate. With the help of a girlfriend, Annika, she sneaks into Dupriez's home. There she stumbles into another of Dupriez's students, a nice looking and Sherlock Holmes loving boy by the name of Corey Fletcher. They soon discover that something unnatural was involved with the disappearances and somehow they have become entangled in the web of evil forces kidnapping violinists for their own purposes. They have to navigate and survive both the real world and a supernatural one to save themselves and the missing violinists.

The Luthier's Apprentice is an easy recommendation for those wanting a simpler dark horror mystery or those interested in music. Music plays a key role in the story. For slightly older readers, the mostly predictable tale is a little soft. The slight disappointment isn't from anything missing in the story but the perceived potential of easily creating a deeper and stronger story with the characters and plot that could build a story the more jaded adult reader could enjoy as well as the young adult.

Black Onyx
Victor Methos
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
B00CLC6XCO, Kindle $2.99 US
9781484851104, PB $19.99,

Before the adult graphic novel exploded in the publishing market decades ago, this niche was filled with a multitude of adult paperback series. They were a guilty pleasure for older teens and working adults who needed a break from their lives. The niche market was filled with series were based on everything from fantasy heroes to gritty detectives and from hero adventurers to lusty westerns. Most of these series have now faded away. The Black Onyx is a throwback to these stories.

Dillon Mentzer is an adventurer, treasure hunter and a thief. His partner James convinces him to take a job searching for treasure in an ancient city lost under the glaciers in Antarctica. There they find a civilization more advanced than modern society. Dillon finds a black suit in the ancient city that gives the person wearing it near supernatural powers. He starts using the suit to accumulate treasure but inside Dillon still wants to be a good man and the thieving weighs on his conscience . The suit brings him to the attention of one of the most vicious criminals on earth and a lethal showdown between good and evil with the future of the world at stake.

The Black Onyx is a nice homage to a disappearing genre. Unfortunately there is at least one problem with the story. Methos has used the fantasy aspect of the tale to bypass the internal logic of the plot resulting in too fast and unsupported jumps in the storyline. The Black Onyx is an enjoyable read but with its weaknesses it isn't a title a reader needs to actively look for.

S.A. Gorden, Reviewer

Julie's Bookshelf

Partners In Passion
Mark A. Michaels & Patricia Johnson
Cleis Press
2246 Sixth Street, Berkeley, CA 94710-2219
9781627780285, $21.95, 504pp,

Synopsis: Most men and women long for intimate relationships, and though texting and emailing may keep us superficially connected, it ultimately cannot create the kind of intimacy necessary to sustain a deep, fulfilling, and lasting partnership. With the divorce rate reaching a staggering 50 percent in 2013 and the breakup rate among unmarried long-term couples even higher, it appears that the more we tweet, the more disconnected we become. So many of us believe that new is better, hotter, and more intense, but love at first sight isn't really love, it's chemistry. "Partners In Passion: A Guide to Great Sex, Emotional Intimacy and Long-term Love", the team of Mark A. Michaels and Patricia Johnson provide readers with a fun, step-by-step guide to discovering true, loving, and romantically sexual relationships that will last for decades. Comprehensive and inclusive, Partners in Passion is original and provocative, drawing on a variety of sources: cutting-edge science, psychology, the authors' background in tantra, and personal experiences as teachers and as a couple. "Partners in Passion" invites couples to design their relationships and to choose consciously, and is replete with how-to suggestions and exercises, including interviews with couples from diverse backgrounds, relationship styles, and orientations who are enjoying erotically vibrant partnerships.

Critique: Impressively well written, organized and presented, "Partners In Passion: A Guide to Great Sex, Emotional Intimacy and Long-term Love" is essentially a complete course of instruction on how to maximize adult human relationships in terms of enduring companionship, sexual intimacy, and mutually personal fulfillment. Of special note is the chapter devoted to 'Advanced Sexual Adventuring: Open Relating to Strengthen Your Partnership' which deals with non-monogamy, open relationships, 'friends with benefits', swinging, polyamory, designer relationships, 'safer sex', dealing with jealousy, and more. Enhanced with the inclusion of an extensive Bibliography and a comprehensive Index, "Partners In Passion: A Guide to Great Sex, Emotional Intimacy and Long-Term Love" is very highly recommended for personal, community, and academic library Human Sexuality reference collections and supplemental reading lists. It should be noted that "Partners In Passion: A Guide to Great Sex, Emotional Intimacy and Long-Term Love" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

The Watchers in Jewish and Christian Traditions
Angela Kim Harkins, et al.
Fortress Press
P.O. Box 1209, Minneapolis, MN 55440-1209
9780800699789, $29.00, 224pp,

Synopsis: At the origin of the Watchers tradition is the single enigmatic reference in Genesis 6 to the "sons of God" who had intercourse with human women, producing a race of giants upon the earth. That verse sparked a wealth of cosmological and theological speculation in early Judaism. Here leading scholars explore the contours of the Watchers traditions through history, tracing their development through the Enoch literature, Jubilees, and other early Jewish and Christian writings. This volume provides a lucid survey of current knowledge and interpretation of one of the most intriguing theological motifs of the Second Temple period.

Critique: Compiled by the editorial team of Angela Kim Harkins (Associate Professor of Religious Studies, Fairfield Univeristy, Connecticut); Kelly Coblentz Bauch (Associate Professor of Religious Studies, St. Edward's University); and John C. Endres, S.J. (Professor of Sacred Scripture, Jesuit School of Theology, Santa Clara University), "The Watchers in Jewish and Christian Traditions" is an impressive body of seminal scholarship, comprised of fourteen extraordinary essays, and deftly organized into three major sections: Origins and Biblical Discussions of the Fallen Angels; Second Temple Developments; Reception in Early Christianity and Early Judaism. Reflecting standards of meticulous scholarship, "The Watchers in Jewish and Christian Traditions" is very highly recommended for students of theology and would prove an enduringly appreciated and important contribution to community and academic library Religious Studies reference collections and supplemental reading lists. It should be noted that "The Watchers in Jewish and Christian Traditions" is also available in a Kindle edition ($15.65).

I Always Want To Be Where I'm Not
Wes Chrenshaw
Family Psychological Press
2601 West 6th, Suite A, Lawrence, KS 66049
9780985283308, $15.99, 244pp,

Synopsis: In "I Always Want to Be Where I'm Not: Successful Living with ADD and ADHD", Dr. Wes Crenshaw offers thirteen principles for successful living with ADD and ADHD drawn from twenty-two years of experience and 23,000 hours of clinical discussions with hundreds of interesting clients. Written in an entertaining, conversational style for readers aged fifteen to thirty, Dr. Wes pulls no punches in confronting the cognitive, social, emotional, and academic pitfalls people with ADD face every day. He also helps families, friends, and romantic partners understand a diagnosis of ADD not as something to fear or an excuse, but as a first step on the path to a better tomorrow. His principles include accepting here and now, living intentionally, making mindful decisions, recognizing and taking the right path and not just the easy one, wanting rather than wishing, finding and following life's instructions, managing crises, taking responsibility, attaining character through radical honesty, and creating sustainable happiness through organized thinking and living. Finally, Dr. Wes guides you and your loved ones in how to better manage relationships, seek a good diagnosis, utilize therapy, and become your own expert on medication management.

Critique: Informed, informative, insightful, and exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "I Always Want to Be Where I'm Not: Successful Living with ADD and ADHD" is especially recommended to the attention of non-specialist general readers seeking to understand and deal with ADD and ADHD in themselves, their family, and their friends. An enduringly valued contribution, "I Always Want to Be Where I'm Not: Successful Living with ADD and ADHD" is strongly recommended for personal and community library collections. It should be noted that "I Always Want to Be Where I'm Not: Successful Living with ADD and ADHD" is also available in a hardcover edition (9780985283315, $24.95) and a Kindle edition ($7.99).

Travels with St. Mark
Eugene E. Lemcio
Wipf & Stock Pulblishers
199 West 8th Avenue, Suite 3, Eugene, OR 97401
9781620323311, $11.00, 78pp,

Synopsis: Not a reference tool, this unique work is a teaching-learning guide to studying the earliest Gospel. The focus is on showing how rather than on telling what. "Maps" followed by leading questions and statements help both faculty and students to see how the Evangelist adopted and adapted his sacred texts (as well as Jewish and Greco-Roman resources) in light of his convictions about and experience of Jesus. Noticing the dominance of words and themes leads one to discover the primary concerns of the Author and his readers. Observing how St. Mark internally arranged his materials provides a clue as to the kind of work it is and how it was meant to function.

Critique: Eugene E. Lemcio is Emeritisu Professor of New Testament at Seattle Pacific University where he taught for thirty-six years. In "Travels with St. Mark: GPS for the Journey: A Pedagogical Aid" Professor Lemcio has created a superbly organized and presented study guide revealing how St. Mark meant for the readers of his gospel to facilitate their sharing his understanding of Jesus and his messages. Unique, thoughtful, and erudite, "Travels with St. Mark: GPS for the Journey: A Pedagogical Aid" is very highly recommended for serious students of the New Testament in general, and the Gospel of Mark in particular. It should be noted that "Travels with St. Mark: GPS for the Journey: A Pedagogical Aid" is also available in a Kindle edition ($8.55).

Falling Into Place
Catherine Reid
Beacon Press
25 Beacon Street, Boston, MA 02108-2892
9780807009925, $14.95, 184pp,

Synopsis: In "Falling into Place: An Intimate Geography of Home", author Catherine Reid writes, "It's not easy to love a person and a place in equal measure." Love she does, however, as described in these intimate, lyric essays about the land and people around her. With the inside perspective of a native New Englander combined with her outsider status as a lesbian, Reid explores such paradoxes as those that arise from harnessing wild rivers or legalizing same-sex marriage. Her fascination with natural phenomena - whether bird hibernation, the arrival of fishers in suburbia, or the explosion of amphibious life in the wet weeks of spring - is captured in writing that pays as much attention to the sounds of a sentence as to the rhythms of the landscapes she wanders. Ultimately, Reid finds herself having to choose between her farmhouse near the Berkshires and a job in the South, between her known role in the landís stories and a new story yet to be written. Solace comes from companions as varied as a praying mantis, an otter, and her hundred-year-old grandmother, while resilience shows up in the stories of streams recovering from toxic spills and in communities weathering floods and town meetings. Reid celebrates the joyous engagement that comes with developing a deep connection with the places we call home and the life - human, animal, botanical - that surrounds us. At the same time, she offers keen insights into the way nature ultimately remains mysterious, beyond our knowing.

Critique: Sensitive, candid, insightful, thoughtful and thought-provoking, "Falling into Place: An Intimate Geography of Home" is a compelling read that attracts the reader's total attention and holds it from beginning to end. Catherine Reid seems to have a positive knack for real life storytelling that is as informative as it is entertaining. An extraordinary personal account, "Falling into Place: An Intimate Geography of Home" is highly recommended for personal reading lists and community library collections. It should be noted that "Falling into Place: An Intimate Geography of Home" is also available in a Kindle edition ($12.99).

Fictions of the Bad Life
Claire Thora Solomon
Ohio State University Press
180 Pressey Hall, 1070 Carmack Road
Columbus, OH 43210-1002
9780814212479, $59.95, 256pp,

Synopsis: The first comprehensive and interdisciplinary study of the prostitute in Latin American literature "The Naturalist Prostitute and Her Avatars in Latin American Literature, 1880 - 2010" shows the gender, ethnic, and racial identities that emerge in the literary figure of the prostitute during the consolidation of modern Latin American states in the late nineteenth century in the literary genre of Naturalism. Solomon first examines how legal, medical, and philosophical thought converged in Naturalist literature of prostitution. She then traces the persistence of these styles, themes, and stereotypes about women, sex, ethnicity, and race in the twentieth and twenty-first century literature with a particular emphasis on the historical fiction of prostitution and its selective reconstruction of the past. "Fictions of the Bad Life" illustrates how at very different moments - the turn of the twentieth century, the 1920s - 30s, and finally the turn of the twenty-first century - the past is rewritten to accommodate contemporary desires for historical belonging and national identity, even as these efforts inevitably re-inscribe the repressed colonial history they wish to change.

Critique: An impressive work of seminal scholarship by Claire Thora Solomon (Assistant professor of Hispanic Studies, Oberlin College), "Fictions of the Bad Life: The Naturalist Prostitute and Her Avatars in Latin American Literature, 1880 - 2010" is enhanced with the inclusion of extensive Notes, a seventeen page Bibliography, and a comprehensive Index. Informed and informative, "Fictions of the Bad Life: The Naturalist Prostitute and Her Avatars in Latin American Literature, 1880 - 2010" is an extraordinary and original work that is very highly recommended for academic library collections.

Catherine McKenzie
New Harvest
c/o Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
215 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10003
9780544264977, $24.00, 304pp,

Synopsis: While walking home from work one evening, Jeff Manning is struck by a car and killed. Two women fall to pieces at the news: his wife, Claire, and his co-worker Tish. Reeling from her loss, Claire must comfort her grieving son as well as contend with funeral arrangements, well-meaning family members, and the arrival of Jeffís estranged brother, who was her ex-boyfriend. Tish volunteers to attend the funeral on her companyís behalf, but only she knows the true risk of inserting herself into the wreckage of Jeffís life. Told through the three voices of Jeff, Tish, and Claire, Hidden explores the complexity of relationships, the repercussions of our personal choices, and the responsibilities we have to the ones we love.

Critique: "Hidden" clearly documents Canadian author Catherine McKenzie as possessing an extraordinary storytelling talent. Engaging the reader's complete attention from beginning to end, "Hidden" is a very highly recommended and entertaining read, and would prove to be an enduringly popular addition to community library contemporary fiction collections. It should be noted that "Hidden" is also available in a paperback edition (Harper Collins Canada, 9781443411905, $20.00) and a Kindle edition ($4.99).

She: A Celebration Of Greatness In Every Woman
Mary Anne Radmacher & Liz Kalloch
Viva Editions
2246 Sixth Street, Berkeley, CA 94710-2219
9781936740727, $18.95, 202pp,

Synopsis: "She: A Celebration Of Greatness In Every Woman" is a book of qualities illustrating the greatness of women. From "everywoman" to exemplars such as Madame Secretarys Hillary Clinton and Madeline Albright to visionary artist Shiloh McCloud and poet Maya Stein, these many women represent the very best in the human spirit. Author/artists Mary Anne Radmacher and Liz Kalloch have gathered these fierce and feisty females along with their best advice for our life's journey on the topics of leadership, friendship, purpose, adventurousness, cooperation, collaboration, risk-taking, resourcefulness, happiness, compassion, and much more, including what it is to inspire. Each page spread features a collection of vintage art and ephemera elegantly designed by Liz Kalloch paired with a love letter by Mary Anne Radmacher to each quality along with a tribute to women's strength, character, and the extraordinary capabilities within each and every woman. She gathers the wisdom of many wise women including Madeleine L'Engle, Laura Schlessinger, Erica Jong, Rachel Carson, Oprah Winfrey, Harper Lee, Lucille Ball, Mother Teresa, Pearl Buck, Cheri Huber, Julia Child, Drew Barrymore, and many more.

Critique: Beautifully illustrated in full color throughout, "She: A Celebration Of Greatness In Every Woman" is exceptionally well written and presented, making it ideal for gift giving and an enduringly popular addition to community library Women's Studies & Biography collections. Informed, informative, and very highly recommended reading, it should also be noted that "She: A Celebration Of Greatness In Every Woman" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

Not Your Mother's Book: On Being A Mom
Dahlyn McKown, et al.
Publishing Syndicate LLC
PO Box 607 Orangevale, CA 95662
9781938778148, $16.95,

Synopsis: Comprised of 64 real-life intelligent, insightful, and often humorous stories dedicated to motherhood. These stories are funny, daring, different, and smart. Mothering in the modern age can be a challenge. These days, the umbilical cords for most kids are high-tech gadgets and social media. Itís a complicated world, but children still need their mothers. From kissing boo-boos to teaching the difference between right and wrong to helping navigate the ups and downs of teenage drama, moms unselfishly give their children the advice, support, and love they need. The stories in this book - ranging from birth to empty nest - are guaranteed to entertain and delight. And remember - moms do know more than their kids when it comes to the real world!

Critique: The collaborative editorial team work of Dahlynn McKowen, Ken McKowen, and Dianna Graveman, "Not Your Mother's Book: On Being A Mom" is an engaging collection of short stories the present a great many real life truths about motherhood -- showcased with wit, wisdom, and a great deal of humor, making this anthology truly extraordinary and highly recommended for personal reading lists and community library Parenting Studies collections.

Julie Summers

Karyn's Bookshelf

Amyís Three Best Things
Philippa Pearce, author
Helen Craig, illustrator
Candlewick Press
99 Dover St., Somerville, MA 02144
9780763663148, $15.99,

On her first overnight visit to grandmaís house, three items fantastically help a little girl feel less homesick. In this gentle, beautifully written and illustrated story, young Amy packs three things - a small mat, a wooden horse and toy boat. Each night, one transports her home and back, allowing her a quick glance into the backyard and into windows to see that all is fine in her absence. The pencil and watercolor illustrations are warm and brimming with childlike emotion, as Amy enjoys the visit but wakes up anxious each night. The illustrations support the feeling in the text that Amy has a solid, loving relationship with both her mother and grandmother. Emotions become wonder as Amy is fantastically transported home each night. A wonderful title for a child contemplating - or experiencing - their first overnight; one to keep and read at grandmaís.

The Promise
Nicola Davies, author
Laura Carlin, illustrator
Candlewick Press
99 Dover St., Somerville, MA 02144
9780763666330, $15.99,

Darkly shadowed illustrations give way to bursts of color in this story about a girl who finds life-changing inspiration in a purse sheís stolen. The victim relinquishes the purse to the girl, but makes her promise she will plant whatís inside it. The girls later finds that the purse is full of acorns. True to her word, she plants them throughout her own grimy city, but also in other cities, bringing color to the world. Hauntingly penned and exquisitely illustrated, with an ultimately upbeat, eco message.

Buddy Why
Steven Salmon, author
PO Box 151, Frederick, MD 21705-0151
9781588518286, $15.00,

An intelligent preteen boy with Cerebral Palsy perseveres despite his physical limitations, in Buddy Why, Steven Salmonís authentic, thought-provoking, and well plotted, yet imperfectly edited, debut novel.

Like the main character, named Trey, Salmon has severe Cerebral Palsy. He cannot use his hands. He writes using voice recognition software, a laborious process.

Buddy Why is fiction, not a memoir. But it is true to Salmonís experience. Told in first-person narrative, this is a novel of unique perspective.

Trey relies on others for almost everything -- including to dress, feed and bathroom him. He is verbally limited and has no outlet for awakening pubescent sexuality. He has a particularly strong bond with his father, who consoles his son when reality overwhelms.

"Daddy, am I nothing?" Trey asks.

"Listen to me." I stopped bawling and looked straight up at him. "Some people donít know how to react to a person like you in a wheelchair because they only see the outside. What they miss is the charming and intelligent self that I love."

"No matter what individuals say or think, always remember you have a mind, and Amber, Mom and I love you."

Buddy Why is set in the late 1970s, a decade before the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act. In a stark reminder of the lack of accommodations for the disabled in that era, Treyís mother must drive twenty miles each day to a public school that will take him, and must bring him in through a back alley delivery door.

He wistfully stares out the window of his isolated special education classroom at the playground administrators donít allow him to use.

His world expands when his mother successfully fights to have him spend two hours a day in a regular sixth-grade classroom. But roadblocks to his education persist.

The plot is skillfully developed. It follows Trey both as he struggles and as he enjoys little pleasures like tractor pulls, lemonade and mustard-slathered corndogs. Like any sixth-grader, he likes ice cream, pretty girls and zooming around his parentsí farm.

But Treyís physical limitations are always present. He zooms around not on his own two feet but in a motorized wheelchair. His father has to wipe the drips of mustard off his chin. He has to wait for his teacher to turn the pages of his textbooks.

Salmon uses allegory well. A downed oak tree that his father cuts up for firewood comes to symbolize a person who appears strong and whole on the outside, but is dead and hollow on the inside. Salmon also does an excellent job in early chapters of introducing machinery, trees and other elements on the familyís farm, that achingly returning near the novelís conclusion. A plot thread about death is well-incorporated.

Salmonís prose, however, is inconsistent and the book as a whole would have benefitted from professional editing. Sometimes the writing flows well, at other times it is halting and awkward. Grammar, spelling and usage errors pop up throughout. Words are omitted, and added.

Details also often bog the story down. This realistically mirrors Treyís propensity to take in everything around him: "all of the activity taking place before me was almost too much to witness, but I had to see everything. My head became a tennis ball volleying between the sights and sounds happening before me." And it gives readers a comprehensive picture of his everyday life.

However, intricate details like the length and width of a barn floor, and a minute-by-minute, blow-by-blow account of Trey and his fatherís attendance at a tractor pull, donít necessarily bolster the narrative. The story might have benefitted from culling and summarizing some stretches and succinctly recasting them as briefer, supporting material for the best, retained prose.

The back cover material is unconventional. Rather than a plot summary it is biographical, all about the author. A traditional plot summary might have better drawn readers into the book.

Salmon is a promising writer whose work has market potential. However, Buddy Why is a diamond in the rough. In the hands of a professional editor, it could have been made smooth. - Inkspots Reviews

The Unusual Writer
Steven Salmon, author
PO Box 151, Frederick, MD 21705-0151
9781608361724, $15.00,

A young adult with cerebral palsy pursues his dreams of college, marriage, and becoming a published writer in this novel that is inspiring and poignant, yet also editorially lacking.

The Unusual Writer is a follow-up to Salmonís 2000 debut, Buddy Why. It feels like a sequel, with plot similarities to Buddy Why. The main character, Byron, appears to be an older version of Trey, Buddy Whyís main character. However, other plot elements of the two novels are different.

Like the author himself, both Byron and Trey have severe cerebral palsy that leaves them without use of their hands and with limited speech capability.

Salmon does a commendable job of managing a storyline that moves back and forth through time. Via a succession of flashbacks and flash forwards, it follows Byron as he graduates from high school and college, and has trouble accessing public services for the disabled that would help him be more employable. Defying the odds, he lands a job as a teaching assistant at a local technical college and marries his college sweetheart.

The story is set primarily in the 1990s, when new technology was emerging that made it increasingly possible for the severely disabled to join mainstream society.

In college, Byron begins using voice recognition software to write papers. Later, he uses it to write a manuscript.

In real life, Salmon used voice recognition software to write his two novels.

The Unusual Writer offers an authentic window into the everyday life of a severely disabled person. Byronís daily challenges run the gamut from opening and closing elevators and doors to trying to verbally communicate with store clerks. Friends and family must feed, dress and bathroom him. He canít control his drooling or his spastic arms, both of which sometimes hit bystanders.

In a stark scene at the home he shares with his mother, Byronís future wife, Lisa, sees for the first time how much effort it takes to just get him up each day. Her family is not supportive of their marriage plans.

"Iím not going to let my daughter marry a drooling, retard cripple," her father angrily retorts when they announce their engagement.

There is solid plot depth. Byron is led to believe in school that he can pursue a career as a writer, but is stymied after graduation, and told he is unemployable. He takes insensitive comments to heart.

"Mark said I am a burden. He said I ought to go to a home. Maybe he is right," Byron tells his girlfriend.

However, The Unusual Writer would have benefitted from professional editing. Grammar, spelling and usage errors are common.

Words are misused, misspelled and sometime left out.

"Without Lisaís assistance Byronís last semester of college his dream of earning a college degree," reads one line. "The Oprah Winfrey Show came on. Byron wished he had the physical ability to chance channels," reads another.

Sometimes itís not an error, but stretches that an editor might have smoothed. Consider this string of four sentences. In some, Byronís name should have been replaced with a pronoun.

"Byron rolled over onto his side facing the officer. Byronís right arm hung stiffly into the air. There was a huge pool of drool where Byron had been lying. The policeman stared at a steady flow of saliva coming out of Byronís mouth."

The back cover material is unconventional. Rather than a plot summary it is biographical, all about the author. A traditional plot summary might have better drawn readers into the book.

As the novel ends, Byronís professional life, as a writer, is wide open. So too, is his personal life. He and Lisa are newlyweds, with no children.

Given the strength of The Unusual Writerís storyline and Salmonís unique perspective as a disabled author writing about a disabled character, a sequel might prove worthy. However, with future novels, Salmon should consider enlisting a professional editor. - Inkspots Reviews

Catís Tail
Steven Salmon, author
PO Box 151, Frederick, MD 21705-0151
9781462646746, $14.99,

Pets provide critical companionship to their isolated, wheelchair-bound owner in this gentle picture book about loneliness and forever friendship.

Ashes and Coal are two cats that belong to Ryan, who is disabled. Theyíre looking out the living room window, at the falling autumn leaves, when he enters the room and begins speaking to them.

Their perceptiveness is palpable. "They looked at each other as if to say, 'He is lonely again,í" Salmon writes.

Salmon, himself, has severe Cerebral Palsy and does not have use of his hands. He wrote Catís Tail and two previous adult novels, Buddy Why and The Unusual Writer, using voice recognition software.

Catís Tail is child-friendly in its simplicity and narrow plot focus. Rather than penning a comprehensive story about the many challenges a disabled individual faces each day, Salmon wisely focuses just on loneliness.

The book concludes with the cats responding to Ryanís voice and coming to sit by him, as if to say "We love you too. And we will never leave you."

The illustrations, while not of the highest caliber, are charming.

A sweet, thought-provoking story by an author with a unique, authentic lens. - Inkspots Reviews

Karyn L. Saemann, Reviewer

Katherine's Bookshelf

Hearts and Spurs
Linda Broday, et al.
Prairie Rose Publications
c/o Livia Reasoner
103 Colby Lane, Azle, TX 76020
9781494990404, $13.95,

Hearts and Spurs, a book of nine short stories written by nine separate authors, Linda Broday, Tracy Garrett, Livia J. Washburn, Cheryl Pierson, Phyllis Miranda, Tanya Hanson, Kathleen Rice Adams, Sarah J. McNeal, and Jacquie Rogers. These ladies are some of the most interesting writers to come out of the "Old West", in my opinion.

I received this anthology when I entered a contest (and WHOOPEE!, I won) on the occasion of the launch party by Prairie Rose Publications in January. Hmmm, then came February, Western love stories - what a great match. The writer's stories matched, too. I really felt the LOVE as I read each and every one of these western romances. They wrote about almost everything; lost loves regained, mail-order brides, a lady in judge's clothes (men's), old love letters, arranged marriages, misunderstood love, Valentine candy hearts and a Texas Ranger falling for a nun.

I can't imagine your missing this extraordinary accumulation of stories. They will make you cry, laugh and fall in love with each story. You will be ridin' out to get the next anthology published by the talented and artistic writers in the PRP stable. Even the cover was crafted by the gifted Livia J.Washburn. Yahoo!

Learn more about these ladies and other publications at

Rowena and the Dark Lord
Melodie Campbell
Imajin Books
3715-14 Street NW, Edmonton, AB, Canada, T6T 0H9
9781926997988, $14.99,

Melodie Campbell has sent Rowena back to Landís End in Rowena and the Dark Lord. We meet up with some old friends, notably Rowenaís lovers, and make some new friends, notably Roman soldiers from even another era. They intertwine to give us a fun look at both Arizona and Landís End.

"The world in between Arizona and Landís End was a world I had never paused long enough to view. Previously, the portal had sucked me up and spit me out on the other side, without much time for sightseeing in between."

The adventure starts when Rowena is dragged through the time travel portal and transported to Landís End from Arizona. She meets up with Cedric, the Dark Lord, learns about her magical powers and conjures up a whole Roman Legion. She is accompanied through this adventure by a wolf named Loki, her horse, Lightning, Richard, and Kendra, her friends and Thane, a former (and present) lover, as well as several other people.

Where will she end this adventure and who will be with her at the end? You must read this rollicking adventure and be transported with her. I personally enjoyed a genre that I donít normally read, so I can unconditionally recommend it to readers who like time travel and a really fun read.

Melodie Campbell started her writing career with comedy and has progressed to hilarious fiction writing. She has over 200 publications, including 100 comedy credits, 40 short stories and 7 novels. She is the Executive Director of Crime Writers of Canada. She lives in Oakville, Ontario, Canada with her family and giant Frankenpoodle.

She has won 9 awards for fiction and her book The Goddaughterís Revenge won the 2014 Derringer.

Katherine Boyer

Lois' Bookshelf

Con Game
Terry Ambrose
Satori Web Design
9780985954048, $11.95,

A sequel to License to Lie, this book continues the tension between Skip Cosgrove and con-artist Roxy Tanner. Skip remains ever hopeful of getting con-girl Roxy to mend her ways, while Roxy considers herself caught in a Catch-22 situation, unable to stop doing what she knows how to do until she has a nest-egg to keep her going. As the book opens, Roxy is involved in a seduction promising to net her a half-million dollars, a dangerous game in which she pretends to be a high-class hooker seducing a mark, though in reality she is only helping her friend Anita to get revenge for this markís mistreatment. With no intention of following through on her hooker role, she has pre-planted a taser in the apartment for her own use, and she finds and uses it at the right moment. She then learns that the man she cares about but canít bring herself to call her boyfriend, Skip Cosgrove, has been attacked and is in the hospital. Leaving Anita and her brother, Dom, to care for the ailing mark, Jack Welton, she rushes off to Oceanside to check on Skip. The next morning she reads in the paper that Jack Welton was found dead in his apartment. Was it Anita and Dom? In any case, her presence there and her use of the weapon, if discovered, can only make her look guilty. Knowing sheíd do well to stay away from L.A. where Jack lived, she settles down in the Oceanside area and sets out to do a stakeout on the man who attacked Skip, a man named Santino.

When she becomes involved in the stakeout, the story takes a surprise twist. An engaging twelve-year-old girl suddenly steals the show. Disguised as a boy, she is attempting to break into the Santino house when Roxy stops her. She confesses that her name is Lily, and she is an escapee from a bad foster-care home. Wanting to quiz the girl as to what she knows about Santino, Roxy takes her out for lunch, and promptly finds herself bonded to a permanent sidekick who proves even more street-smart than she is.

As Roxy and Skip get ever more involved in the investigation and begin to face danger, they try to protect Lily and keep her away from the action, but Lily will have none of it. An apparent juvenile delinquent who is at heart still an innocent child, and who reminds Roxy of her own childhood and convinces her that she herself has not totally lost her innocence, Lily is a fascinating character who makes this story stand out as unique and unusual. Once again author Terry Ambrose has given us an original tale with a unique and different set of characters, and a murder investigation that, while it doesnít follow conventional guidelines, yet holds the reader spellbound until the last surprising roundup of victims and perps. And once again the reader comes away wanting more.

I hope to see Skip and Roxy around for many more tales to come. Highly recommended.

Sacred Economics: The Currency of Life
Eileen Workman
Muse Harbor Publishing
9781612641201, $16.95,

Never before in a lifetime of reading have I come upon a book that mingles so many fascinating thoughts with so much frustration in gleaning them off the pages. This author has interesting ideas but she over-explains and writes down to her readers almost to the point of insult. She gets so carried away with italics that on some pages every sentence has its italicized words, telling us whatís important as if we couldn't mine it out on our own. Not for a minute does she trust us to see it for ourselves. The work is repetitious and annoying, and many readers will not choose to put up with it. This is too bad, because the premise is good. The author wishes to do away with money; she offers what she calls "a revealing look at the erosion of capitalism and a re-imagining of the nature of genuine wealth."

Basically, she presents capitalism as a giant ponzi scheme in which, in order to have a few successful people at the top, raking in profits, there must be a great many at the bottom suffering severe poverty and hardship. She pleads for less consumerism, less built-in obsolescence, less destroying of resources and less money wasted on advertising. Readers can resonate with her call for escape from the Walmart syndrome; we did not need for her to spend a large section of the book on examples to convince us.

On the good side, the author looks at old events in new and intriguing ways. For instance, she comments that the Indians thought theyíd made a good bargain in selling Manhattan Island for a few beads. They didn't believe that anyone could really own land. What would he do with it? It couldn't be boxed up and shipped back to Europe. The land is just there, and if some fool wants to claim ownership, why not?

The Indians soon learned what Europeans meant by land ownership. They cut down trees, they set up a grid, they parceled out small sections which were then fenced in and built on. Soon the beautiful green island was no longer recognizable - nor universally accessible. Author Workman is, of course, on the side of the Indians. She doesn't believe that anyone can truly own the earth. The earth is the birthright of us all, and our claim to ownership of small pieces is as phony as our worthless paper money. An interesting thought, but over-optimistic. People treasure their tiny parcels of land and will not give them back. No more will corporations voluntarily cut back on profits in order to be more moral, as she seems to think. She suggests that we only need to let corporations know that this is what their customers want. People feel good when theyíre doing things for the common good, she says, and that can be as powerful a motivation as greed. The same for global warming; if people will only take the time to enjoy the beauty of the earth, they will want to preserve it. Would it were so simple!

Altogether, the book offers some great Utopian ideas that aren't about to become reality any time soon, yet are well worth thinking about and working toward. Itís to be hoped that this author will do a revised edition with editing and an elimination of those overworked italics.

Lois Wells Santalo

Marjorie's Bookshelf

The Red Tent
Anita Diamant
Picador USA
175 Fifth Avenue, Suite 1800, New York, NY 10010
9780312427290, $9.04, (list $16.00),

This book has been out for more then ten years, but I just read it. My husband read and recommended it several years ago, but it wasnít until my local book cub selected it that I waded in. Iím not crazy about the Old Testament, but author Anita Diamant, makes the era of Jacob and Esau come alive. She used the very sketchy story of Dinah, daughter of Jacob and Leah, as the basis for Dinahís tragic love affair. The author carries this story beyond the land of Dinahís birth to Egypt where she eventually finds a fulfilling life. Of course, I had to look up the epic tale of Jacob and his wives and many children and found the author used the Bible story as the scaffolding upon which she hung fascinating historical and fictional characters. What a superb world builder this author is. Jacobís four wives, who were sisters in this book, are richly portrayed. The Red Tent was where the women retreated for their monthly cycles and birthing, and there they told their stores, handed down from generation to generation. Family and children were everything to these women in a time when they had little status in society. Under the tutelage of her four "mothers", Dinah comes of age. This is one authorís interpretation of a bygone world, but one that engages us.

Home Sweet Jerome
Diane Sward Rapaport
Johnson Books
c/o Big Earth Publishing
3005 Center Green Drive, Suite 225, Boulder, CO 80301
9781555664541, $17.95,

Iíve never been to Jerome, Arizona, but I enjoyed this book nonetheless about the almost death and rebirth of Jerome. Author, friend, and colleague, Diane Rapaport, lived there for thirty years. This is not her first book. In her life in the music business, she wrote How to Make and Sell Your Own Recording (1979). She left that life to move to Jerome with her husband in 1979. She does a fine job of making the town come alive because she was a history maker herself. She chronicles the history of Jerome from the 1950s to the present, cleverly weaving together the history of the old mining community with the characters who made its history. Whatís engaging about reading the book is that the author intersperses with history, the stories of residents, ghosts and other spooky happenings. Copper mining was king in Jerome for many years, but mines always play out and in the 1950s the mining companies pulled out and the town descended into an almost ghost town with only a few hundred of the old timers left. Then the hippies discovered the down and moved in, bringing with it their culture and pot, which became a thriving industry. Old timers and newcomers mixed like oil and water, but gradually the newcomers proved their worth by helping to rebuild the town into the super tourist mecca it is today with around a million visitors a year. The best part of the book was the Epilogue when the author returns to Jerome after moving away and discovers she is one of the ghosts. "Home Sweet Jerome: Death and Rebirth of Arizonaís Richest Copper Mining City" is a great inspirational book for small rural communities looking to remake themselves.

Marjorie Thelen, Reviewer

Mason's Bookshelf

The Dreams of a Dying God
Arron Pogue
Brilliance Corporation
PO Box 887, Grand Haven, MI 49417
9781480582897, $14.99,

Synopsis: Even for a charismatic pirate like Crowin, three years is a long time to chase after an unimaginable treasure hidden in the ruins of an ancient city. But when the fabled riches turn out to be virtually worthless, the outraged crew mutinies and leaves their former captain for dead. He is rescued by a mysterious king and transported back to a time of dwarves, druids, and fairies. Enchanting as it is, though, his only wish is to return home and find justice - but only the king has the power to return him...for a price. Aided by a new and motley group of mystical creatures and misfits, he sets out on his quest, ultimately getting caught up in a war he wants nothing to do with - and in the process changing the course of history itself.

Critique: Brilliantly narrated by the talented Luke Daniels, "The Dreams of a Dying God" is the first volume of Arron Pogue's 'The Godlanders War' fantasy action/adventure series. This superbly performed, unabridged, 7 disc, 8 hour and 18 minute, technically flawless production offers the listener a true 'theatre of the mind' experience. Pure entertainment of the first order, "The Dreams of a Dying God" is enthusiastically recommended for community library audio book collections and will leave the listener looking eagerly toward author Arron Pogue's next volume in this outstanding series.

B. J. Leggett
Livingston Press
University of West Alabama
Station 22, Livingston, AL 35470
9781604891270, $18.95, 218pp,

Synopsis: Police Lieutenant Robert O'Brian takes early retirement after being shot in a drug raid. His places to return to his home town of Prosperity in the mountains of Eastern Tennessee to work on a second novel are disrupted when he becomes involved in the investigation of the death of an old high school friend.

Critique: A riveting mystery from beginning to end, "Prosperity" is a deftly crafted novel populated with memorable characters and a complexly woven storyline that plays fair with the reader. Highly recommended as a solid entertainment, "Prosperity" is also available in a hardcover edition (9781604891263, $32.00) which would be perfect for community library collections. Also very highly recommended is Professor Leggett's earlier novel, "Playing Out The String" (9781931982443, PB $14.95, 9781931982436, HC $25.00, Kindle $9.95).

Real-World Economics: Complex and Messy
Mark Akers
University of Indianapolis Press
1400 East Hanna Avenue, Indianapolis, IN 46227
9781880938836, $24.95, 135pp,

Synopsis: "Real-World Economics: Complex and Messy" examines economies as complex adaptive systems. If business and government must plan for, operate in, and try to affect this complex environment, what should they do? First, the driving force of economic growth is innovation. There is much evidence that new ways of doing things, of thinking, of inventing, and most other human activity occur when people from a variety of circumstances and experiences share in an open environment. Second, complex systems will adapt in the face of shocks. Thus, most economies will have to develop their abilities to bounce back from negative shocks (resilience). Resilience results from what is already in place in the economy-the characteristics of the workforce, the kinds of businesses, the amount of foreign trade the businesses do, wage rates, how much of the economy is based on durable-goods manufacturing, the culture, and more. "Real-World Economics: Complex and Messy" introduces several concepts that will hopefully give the reader a feel for the complexity of economics in today's world.

Critique: A work of impressive scholarship in the field of economics, yet deftly written so as to be accessible to both students of economics and non-professional readers with an interest in understanding economic issues, "Real-World Economics: Complex and Messy" by Mark Akers (Assistant Professor in the School of Business at the University of Indianapolis) is informed, informative, thoughtful, and thought-provoking from beginning to end. A welcome contribution to community and academic library Economics Studies reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists, "Real-World Economics: Complex and Messy" is very highly recommended.

The Water Hole
Zane Grey
Marketing Department
Five Star Books
10 Water Street, Suite 310, Waterville, ME 04901
9781432827601, $25.95, 260pp,

Synopsis: In 1925, widowed businessman Elijah Winters brings his daughter Cherry from Long Island to stay at a trading post in a remote area some distance from Flagstaff, Arizona. To entertain herself, Cherry flirts with several of the cowboys, not realizing that they are very different from the young men she knew in the East. Also very different is Stephen Heftral, a young archeologist who is searching for an ancient and lost kiva of a primitive Indian tribe that disappeared centuries before in what became the land of the Navajos. Heftral believes that this lost kiva is most probably in a desert fastness called Beckyshibeta, the Navajo word for water hole. Elijah Winters colludes with Heftral to awaken Cherry to a new and healthier way of life by taking her, by force if necessary, to Beckyshibeta. Cherry comes to forget the luxury of her past in the beauty, dangers, and thrills of the present.

Critique: Pearl Zane Grey (January 31, 1872 - October 23, 1939) was an American author best known for his popular adventure novels and stories that were a basis for the Western genre in literature and the arts; he idealized the American frontier. Riders of the Purple Sage (1912) was his best-selling book. In addition to the commercial success of his printed works, they had second lives and continuing influence when adapted as films and television productions. "The Water Hole" is a classic Zane Grey western and a highly recommended addition to community library Western Fiction collections.

Trouble At Mesquite Flats
Will Keen
Linford Western Library
c/o Ulverscroft Large Print (USA), Inc.
PO Box 1230, West Seneca, NY 14224-1230
9781444816365, $20.99, 232pp,

Synopsis: Arriving in Mesquite Flats, ex-New York businessman Bodene Rich is committed to Yuma Penitentiary for a vicious assault. He's released, in light of new evidence, and pardoned by Warden Bradley Shaw. On the day of Rich's release, Shaw resigns, but an unknown gunman then shoots him dead on the trail. Rich is once again in trouble. And, in a showdown, he's embroiled in a bloody gun battle, where the outcome hangs in the balance until the final shot.

Critique: Will Keen is a truly gifted storyteller and a master of the western action/adventure novel crafting memorable characters and thrill packed sudden and unexpected plot twists and turns. "Trouble At Mesquite Flats" is a terrific read and enthusiastically recommended for fans of a well crafted western. This large print edition is especially recommended for community library collections. Indeed, librarians and non-specialist general readers who would benefit from large print editions are encouraged to visit the Ulverscroft publisher's web site at for a complete listing of their impressive numbers of large print titles in all genres and subject areas.

The Age Of Ecology
Joachim Radkau
c/o Blackwell Publishing
350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148
9780745662169, $45.00, 600pp,

Synopsis: The Age of Ecology is the first major study of the history of environmentalism, from its origins in romanticism and the nature cults of the late 18th century to the global environmental movements of today. Joachim Radkau (Professor of Modern History, Bielefeld University, Bielefeld, Germany.) shows that this is not a single story of the steady ascent of environmentalism but rather a multiplicity of stories, each with its own dramatic tension: between single-issue movements and the challenges posed by the interconnection of environmental issues, between charismatic leaders and bureaucratic organizations, and between grassroot movements and global players. While the history can be traced back several centuries, environmentalism has flourished since the 'environmental revolutioní of 1970, spurred on by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986 and the growing concern about global warming. While environmentalists often opposed the scientific mainstream, they were also often led by scientific knowledge. Environmentalism is the true Enlightenment of our time so much so that we can call our era 'the age of ecologyí.

Critique: An impressive and seminal work of meticulous scholarship throughout, "The Age Of Ecology" is ably translated into English for an American readership by Patrick Camiller and very highly recommended as a core addition to academic library Ecological Studies reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists. It should be noted that "The Age Of Ecology" is also available in a Kindle edition ($19.99).

History And Popular Memory
Paul A. Cohen
Columbia University Press
61 West 62nd Street, New York, NY 10023-7015
9780231166362, $35.00, 304pp,

Synopsis: When people experience a traumatic event, such as war or the threat of annihilation, they often turn to history for stories that promise a positive outcome to their suffering. During World War II, the French took comfort in the story of Joan of Arc and her heroic efforts to rid France of foreign occupation. To bring the Joan narrative more into line with current circumstances, however, popular retellings modified the original story so that what people believed took place in the past was often quite different from what actually occurred.

Paul A. Cohen identifies this interplay between story and history as a worldwide phenomenon, found in countries of radically different cultural, religious, and social character. He focuses here on Serbia, Israel, China, France, the Soviet Union, and Great Britain, all of which experienced severe crises in the twentieth century and, in response, appropriated age-old historical narratives that resonated with what was happening in the present to serve a unifying, restorative purpose.

A central theme in the book is the distinction between popular memory and history. Although vitally important to historians, this distinction is routinely blurred in people's minds, and the historian's truth often cannot compete with the power of a compelling story from the past, even when it has been seriously distorted by myth or political manipulation. Cohen concludes by suggesting that the patterns of interaction he probes, given their near universality, may well be rooted in certain human propensities that transcend cultural difference.

Critique: "History and Popular Memory: The Power of Story in Moments of Crisis" by Paul A. Cohen (Wasserman Professor of Asian Studies and History Emeritus, Wellesley College) is a seminal work of extraordinary scholarship that is enhanced with the inclusion of a number of Maps and Tables; occasional illustrations, extensive Notes, and a comprehensive Index. Informed and informative, "History and Popular Memory: The Power of Story in Moments of Crisis" is very highly recommended for academic library reference collections. It should be noted that "History and Popular Memory: The Power of Story in Moments of Crisis" is also available in a Kindle edition ($16.99).

Baudelaire's Revenge
Bob Van Laerhoven
Pegasus Books
80 Broad Street, 5th Floor, New York, NY 10004
9781605985480, $25.95, 256pp,

Synopsis: It is 1870, and Paris is in turmoil. As the social and political turbulence of the Franco-Prussian War roils the city, workers starve to death while aristocrats seek refuge in orgies and seances. The Parisians are trapped like rats in their beautiful city but a series of gruesome murders captures their fascination and distracts them from the realities of war. The killer leaves lines from the recently deceased Charles Baudelaireís controversial anthology Les Fleurs du Mal on each corpse, written in the poetís exact handwriting. Commissioner Lefevre, a lover of poetry and a veteran of the Algerian war, is on the case, and his investigation is a thrilling, intoxicating journey into the sinister side of human nature, bringing to mind the brooding and tense atmosphere of Patrick Susskindís Perfume. Did Baudelaire rise from the grave? Did he truly die in the first place? The plot dramatically appears to extend as far as the court of the Emperor Napoleon III.

Critique: An extraordinary and deftly written historical crime novel, "Baudelaire's Revenge" showcases Dutch author Bob Van Laerhoven as gifted novelist able to craft a complex story populated by memorable characters that hold the reader's riveted attention from beginning to end. Ably translated into English for an appreciative American readership by Brian Doyle, "Baudelaire's Revenge" is enthusiastically recommended for mystery fans, and will prove to be an enduringly popular addition to community library Historical Mystery collections. It should be noted that "Baudelaire's Revenge" is also available in a Kindle edition ($12.99).

Ethel Merman, Mother Teresa...and Me
Tony Cointreau
Prospecta Press
c/o KSB Promotions
55 Honey Creek Ave NE, Ada, MI 49301-9768
9781935212348, $24.95, 312pp,

Synopsis: How many people can count among their closest friends Ethel Merman (the Queen of Broadway), Mother Teresa (beatified by the Vatican in October, 2003), Lee Lehman, (wife of Robert Lehman, head of Lehman Brothers), Pierre Cardin (legendary couturier and major show-business force in Europe), and many others? Well, Tony Cointreau, a scion of the French liqueur family, can. After a successful international singing career, and several years on the Cointreau board of directors, he felt a need for something more meaningful in his life. His voice had taken him to the stage, and his heart took him to Calcutta. Tonyís childhood experiences with an emotionally remote mother, an angry bullying brother, a cold and unprotective Swiss nurse, and a sexually predatory schoolteacher left him convinced that the only way to be loved is to be perfect. This led him on a lifelong quest for love and for a mother figure. His first "other mother" was the internationally acclaimed beauty Lee Lehman. Then, after Tony met the iconic Broadway diva Ethel Merman, she became his mentor and second "other mother." His memoir describes in detail his intimate family relationships with both women, as well as his years of work and friendship with Mother Teresa, his last "other mother." Tonyís memoir voices his opinion that he had no special gifts or talents to bring to Mother Teresaís work and that if he could do it, then anyone could do it. In the end, all that really matters is a willingness to share even a small part of oneself with others.

Critique: An usually well written autobiography, "Ethel Merman, Mother Teresa...and Me: My Improbable Journey from Ch‚teaux in France to the Slums of Calcutta" is entertaining and engaging from beginning to end. This deftly crafted, informative, and candid memoir will prove to be an enduringly popular addition to community library biography collections. It should be noted that "Ethel Merman, Mother Teresa...and Me: My Improbable Journey from Ch‚teaux in France to the Slums of Calcutta" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.39).

The Rising
Robert Ovies
Ignatius Press
PO Box 1339, Fort Collins, CO 80522
9781586178512, $19.95, 308pp,

Synopsis: When nine-year old C.J. Walker touches the arm of his mother's dead friend at her wake service and whispers the wish that she wouldn't be dead, he's just trying to do the right thing. But when the undertaker sees the woman's rosary sliding off her outstretched fingers and tumbling lazily down her raised left arm, the firestorm can't be held in check. Desperately frightened people well beyond the funeral home's city boundaries demand to know how many of their own loved ones might have been buried alive by the same criminal undertaker, or by any undertaker.

But proof that C.J. Walker can indeed raise the dead is secretly videoed, then publicly aired. In a single morning, with no preparations possible on the part of C.J.'s separated father, Joe, or his mother, Lynn, her home becomes a fortress and her son becomes a target. Grieving individuals desperate to see death let go of their loved ones surround the house to press in both day and night with appeals that soon become demands for C.J.'s attention and response, while squadrons of representatives from news, medical and scientific organizations wrestle to gain whatever footholds can be achieved.

But it is zeal-driven religious representatives and powerful government agencies who establish the closest positions and exert the greatest pressures on C.J. and his parents. They do it in pursuit of one overriding goal: to gain maximum control over the only absolute power on earth.

Through the ordeal, Lynn and Joe have pulled together with overriding goals to find a way to escape with C.J., to safely keep him hidden from every pursuer, and to make it possible for him to live a normal life again. And to do it all before he's stolen away under whatever government "protective custody" or "national interest" court order might suddenly be used like a hammer to cover his forced removal from his parents with a cloak of legality.

Critique: "The Rising" clearly documents novelist Robert as an author of extraordinary talent as he has created a vividly memorable and complex storyline embedded with fully developed characters. Deftly written and highly entertaining from beginning to end, "The Rising" will prove to be an enduringly popular addition to community library Contemporary Fiction collections. It should be noted that "The Rising" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

Fractured Times
Eric Hobsbawm
The New Press
38 Green Street, 4th floor, New York, NY 10013
9781595589774, $27.95, 336pp,

Synopsis: Eric Hobsbawm, who passed away in 2012, was one of the most brilliant and original historians of our age. Through his work, he observed the great twentieth-century confrontation between bourgeois fin de siecle culture and myriad new movements and ideologies, from communism and extreme nationalism to Dadaism to the emergence of information technology. In "Fractured Times: Culture and Society in the Twentieth Century", Hobsbawm, with characteristic verve, unpacks a century of cultural fragmentation.

Hobsbawm examines the conditions that both created the flowering of the belle epoque and held the seeds of its disintegration: paternalistic capitalism, globalization, and the arrival of a mass consumer society. Passionate but never sentimental, he ranges freely across subjects as diverse as classical music, the fine arts, rock music, and sculpture. He records the passing of the golden age of the "free intellectual" and explores the lives of forgotten greats; analyzes the relationship between art and totalitarianism; and dissects phenomena as diverse as surrealism, art nouveau, the emancipation of women, and the myth of the American cowboy.

Critique: A blend of impeccable research based scholarship and seminal insight, "Fractured Times: Culture and Society in the Twentieth Century" is an extraordinary work that is strongly recommended for academic library Contemporary Cultural Studies reference collections and supplemental reading lists. It should be noted that "Fractured Times: Culture and Society in the Twentieth Century" is also available in a paperback edition (Abacus, 9780349139098, $8.99) and a Kindle edition ($15.37).

A Rookie Cop vs. The West Coast Mafia
Tanya Chalupa & William G. Palmini, Jr.
New Horizon Press
PO Box 669, Far Hills, NJ 07931
9780882824604, $24.95, 320pp,

Synopsis: In this gripping, true crime expose, Bill Palmini, a rookie detective, hopes to take down the West Coast Mafia by gaining the confidence of notorious mob operative William Ettleman. Set against a backdrop of social turmoil, the book immerses readers in free love, drugs, robbery and murder, orchestrated by organized crime in locations like Sausalito, California. The Trident Restaurant, once a drug Mecca for Hollywood, the music industry and the New York hip, was co-owned by the Kingston Trio and their manager, Frank Werber, a self-proclaimed drug priest. Robin Williams worked as a busboy there and Janis Joplin had her own table. Sally Stanford, the former San Francisco Madam who later became Sausalitoís mayor, was a confidant of the infamous. Ettleman's safecracking gang targets the Trident. Mobsters like Frank "The Bomp" Bompensiero, on whom Sopranos character "Big Pussy" is thought to have been based, become involved. Palmini, utilizing Ettleman, joins the FBI and the Federal Strike Force on Organized Crime to penetrate the crime scene in Sausalito, loaded dice in Las Vegas and Reno, corruption in San Diego and stolen credit cards in Texas. Then he begins to break up one of the most notorious gangs on the West Coast.

Critique: An invaluable addition to academic library Criminology Studies collections, "A Rookie Cop vs. The West Coast Mafia: Breaking Up The "Best in the West" Gang" is an extraordinary and riveting read from beginning to end. Enhanced with the inclusion of a section of black-and-white photos, an impressive bibliography, and informative notes, "A Rookie Cop vs. The West Coast Mafia: Breaking Up The "Best in the West" Gang" is especially recommended for non-specialist general readers with an interest in True Crime stories in general, and the American Mafia in particular.

A Quiet Corner of the War
Gilbert Claflin & Esther Claflin
University of Wisconsin Press
1930 Monroe Street, Third Floor, Madison, WI 53711-2059
9780299294809, $26.95, 354pp,

Synopsis: In 2002, Judy Cook discovered a packet of letters written by her great-great-grandparents, Gilbert and Esther Claflin, during the American Civil War. An unexpected bounty, these letters from 1862 - 63 offer visceral witness to the war, recounting the trials of a family separated. Gilbert, an articulate and cheerful forty-year-old farmer, was drafted into the Union Army and served in the Thirty-Fourth Wisconsin Infantry garrisoned in western Kentucky along the Mississippi. Esther had married Gilbert when she was fifteen; now a woman with two teenage sons, she ran the family farm near Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, in Gilbertís absence.

In his letters, Gilbert writes about food, hygiene, rampant desertions by drafted men, rebel guerrilla raids, and pastimes in the daily life of a soldier. His comments on interactions with Confederate prisoners and ex-slaves before and after the Emancipation Proclamation reveal his personal views on monumental events. Esther shares in her letters the challenges and joys of maintaining the farm, accounts of their boys Elton and Price, concerns about finances and health, and news of their local community and extended family. Estherís experiences provide insight into family, farm, and village life in the wartime North, an often overlooked aspect of Civil War history.

Judy Cook has made the letters accessible to a wider audience by providing historical context with notes and appendixes. The volume includes a foreword by Civil War historian Keith S. Bohannon.

Critique: An invaluable contribution to the growing library of American Civil War literature, "A Quiet Corner of the War: The Civil War Letters of Gilbert and Esther Claflin, Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, 1862 - 1863" is an extraordinary read that is as informed and informative as it is candid and engaging. Simply stated, "A Quiet Corner of the War: The Civil War Letters of Gilbert and Esther Claflin, Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, 1862 - 1863" should be in every Wisconsin community library, as well as part of every college and university Civil War Studies reference collection and supplemental studies list. It should be noted that "A Quiet Corner of the War: The Civil War Letters of Gilbert and Esther Claflin, Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, 1862 - 1863" is also available in a Kindle edition ($10.69).

Danish Folktales, Legends, & Other Stories
Timothy R. Tangherlini, editor & translator
University of Washington Press
PO Box 50096, Seattle, WA 98145-5096
9780295992594, $50.00, 280pp,

Synopsis: "Danish Folktales, Legends, and Other Stories" is a collection of translated and annotated Nordic folklore by Timothy Tangherlini (Professor of Folklore and Chair of the Scandinavian Section, University of California) that presents full repertoires of five storytellers along with extensive archival material. The printed book presents some of the most compelling stories of these five important storytellers along with historical and biographical introductions. Of a length suitable for course use, it provides a substantive and enjoyable encounter with Danish folklore. The Danish Folklore Nexus on the accompanying DVD includes the storytellers' full repertoires plus 500 additional stories in both Danish and English along with essays on the changing political, social, and economic landscapes of nineteenth-century Denmark, the history of folklore scholarship, critical approaches to folklore, and comprehensive biographies of the storytellers. It also provides links between related stories and interactive maps that allow readers to see where the stories are set and where they were collected, and a mechanism to search for themes and topics across all the stories.

Critique: A seminal work of truly impressive scholarship throughout, "Danish Folktales, Legends, & Other Stories" is enhanced with an informed Preface and informative Introduction, along with a Key to Story References, Abbreviations, and Measurements. of special note with respect to the accompanying CD is an instructive 'How to Use the Digital Content', along with Works Cited, a listing of Evald Tang Kristensen's Published Works, a Topic Index, and a General Index. Erudite, extraordinarily well written and very strongly recommended for academic library Folktale & Folklore collections, it should also be noted that "Danish Folktales, Legends, & Other Stories" is also available in a Kindle edition ($40.00).

Blasphemers & Blackguards: The Irish Hellfire Clubs
David Ryan
Merrion / Irish Academic Press
c/o International Specialized Book Services
920 Northeast 58th Avenue, Suite 300, Portland, OR 97213
9781908928016, $19.95, 248pp,

Synopsis: Prostitutes, pimps, cutpurses, murderers, and bawdy houses.... What were the hellfire clubs of 18th-century Ireland? Were they really elite groups who engaged in obscene orgies, devil worship, and the ritual murder of servants? These questions have intrigued virtually everyone who has visited the supposed hellfire club meeting place in the Dublin Mountains, or heard the lurid stories that are associated with it. Cutting through this veil of myth and legend, "Blasphemers & Blackguards: The Irish Hellfire Clubs" reveals the truth about these mysterious societies by uncovering striking new information about the outrageous activities of these clubs - provocative blasphemy, taboo sexual activities, atrocities (most shockingly, the ritualistic murder of a servant), and the clubs' habit of toasting the devil.

Critique: Enhanced with period illustrations, extensive notes, a lengthy bibliography, and a comprehensive index, "Blasphemers & Blackguards: The Irish Hellfire Clubs" is an informed and informative history that is extraordinarily well written, meticulously researched, and deft presented. While very highly recommended for both community and academic library Irish History Studies reference collections and supplemental reading lists, it should be noted that "Blasphemers & Blackguards: The Irish Hellfire Clubs" is also available in both a hardcover edition (9781908928030, $59.95) and a Kindle edition ($9.99).

Jack Mason

Mayra's Bookshelf

Mythos (Mer Chronicles, Book 1)
Heather McLaren
Twilight Times Books
5432 Lonesome Pine Road Kingsport, TN 37664
9781606190937, $17.95; Ebook $2.99; Audio $17.26, 260 pages

David Cooley and his two best friends travel to the Bahamas for Spring break. There, David meets Faren Sands, the mysteriously beautiful girl who soon mesmerizes him. He doesnít know who or what she is, or the fact that being together with her could cost both their lives.

In spite of his friendsí warnings, David dives not only into forbidden love but forbidden territory, and finds himself in the midst of war between the mer people and the sea demons as they fight for the legendary city of Atlantis. Whatís more, the outcome could affect the human race as well.

Now, David and Faren must unite in order to save both their kinds.

Romance, action, adventure - this is what readers will find in Mythos! Talented debut author Heather McLaren spins a fascinating web that combines humans, the mer people, and the lost city of Atlantis. David and Faren are warm, sympathetic protagonists, and their forbidden love story is sweet, tragic, and compelling. McLaren pays an immense attention to detail, bringing to life the underwater world in full-blown, vivid detail. I think this is the best part of this book, the way the author created her detailed imaginative universe, with many characters, layers, and their conflicts. The battle scenes are exciting and well balanced - gripping and realistic, but not too graphic. If youíre a fan of mermaid stories, youíll want to give this one a try!

A Very Good Life
Lynn Steward
Lynn Steward Publishing
980 North Michigan Ave., Suite 1400, Chicago, IL 60611
9780991500772, $10.99, Paperback, 286 pages

Genre: Literary Fiction

A Very Good Life is the first book in an exciting new series by successful business woman now author Lynn Steward.

In this story, which crosses over from the literary to womenís fiction to romance, Steward takes us to 1970s Manhattan, home of the sophisticated and the elite. There, we meet Dana McGarry.

Dana has everything - a successful job at a prestigious department store, a handsome lawyer husband, a beautiful home, and loving family and friends. But things arenít always as perfect as they appear to be, arenít they?

When Danaís husband begins to drift away, and demands at her job require that she behaves unethically, her world begins to crumble. She finds herself at a crossroads. Will she make the right decisions and stay true to herself and her vision of what a 'good lifeí should be?

This was a wonderful read! It reminded me of novels I read years ago by Barbara Taylor Bradford. Female readers will no doubt empathize with Dana as she struggles to keep her career and marriage together. She is strong, but also caring and sensitive. Readers will also be swept away by the setting. With vivid detail, the author brings Christmas in 1970s New York City alive in all its splendor. I really felt transported in time and place, felt the snowflakes and smelled the holiday trees. The characters are sympathetic and interesting and, of course, the antagonist is just one of those persons the reader will love to hate.

Steward has created a wonderful world of drama in this new series. Book two is supposed to come later this year and Iím really looking forward to reading the new installment. If you love womenís fiction and are a fan of strong female protagonists, I recommend you pick this one up. It wonít disappoint.

Mayra Calvani

Molly's Bookshelf

The Fateful Apple
Venus Thrash
Urban poets & lyricists
9780983535652, $15.99, 78 pages,

Thought-provoking Read Recommended 4 stars

This slim volume, The Fateful Apple, offers 38 individual odes sandwiched between the Foreward, and the end notes.

Beginning with Abortion in the Garden of Eden Thrash opens with Deep in the heart of the Garden of Eden and moves toward Tutankhamenís tomb, continues on to Atlanta, mention The Tree of Life and The Tree of Knowledge and womankind bearing the brunt of Eveís disobedience; the reader is left breathless but driven turn the page and check the words coming next.

Individual elegies bear single word titles or short phrases drawing the reader into the work to learn what the poet is offering in each. Homage, Womanology, Uncivil, Home, Twirl are a few of the verses having single word titles. Approval is one womanís poignant yearning to have men view her as a woman who happens to be lesbian and not as one of the boys.

Three separate works are devoted to Rincon, Georgia, while others adjoining those three, include ones remembering growing up and dealing with the reality of prejudice and ignorance, Years May Go By, Gunpowder Lives, and Born Black bring that stark reality to the reader.

Self-probing verses Cutting It Close, Let Me Come Back, To the Fems are offered in unambiguous examination of personal identity.

And, there are works about family, Cycles, Worlds Between Us, Uncivil, Years May Go By, Angel, and Playing Daddy complete the range, variety and multiplicity of subjects, emotions and abilities this poet is equipped to set down.

The Fateful Apple is a powerful work presented by a woman who knows herself, and is satisfied with who she is, and sees no reason for apologizing for being herself. While I do not live her lifestyle, I admire anyone who faces life straight on, knows who and what they are, and march into the fact of life with eye wide open.

Poet Thrash dedicates her book of poetry, The Fateful Apple, to her Mom. A finalist in the 2012 Jean Feldman Poetry Prize and the 2009 Arktoi Books Poetry Prize, Poet, Educator, Parent, Thrash received a MFA in fiction and poetry from American University, has completed a short story collection, and is working on a second poetry work.

This work is not for everyone, some stark, even raw language, not profanity, but language having unembellished sexual suggestion, however, if you like hard hitting, no holds barred, tell it like it is, non-saccharine verses then The Fateful Apple will provide a powerful change of pace poetry read.

Happy to recommend.

Dogs & Devotion
The Monks of New Skete
Hyperion Books
77 West 66th Street, New York, NY 10023-6298
9781401322960, $16.99, 96 pages,

Dogs & Devotion: A Celebration of the bond Between Dogs and their People: In the introduction we are told To a significant degree the commitments we make in life define us.

The connection we have with the animal world, especially with our dogs, have an important role to play in our growth and self-understanding.

This is a small book measuring just under 7 inches square and having only 96 pages filled with wonderful black and white, full page photos and text offered in clear, easy to read manner.

The Monks of New Skete train various types of pups, however their focus is the German Shepherd, a breed the monks believe have taught them many important lessons about life and about themselves. Via the New Skete communities; German Shepherds are bred, raised as companion animals in a homelike setting and are trained to be companions for those hoping for a Shepherd to share their life.

Some of the beliefs held by the community are shared in this small work with the readings provided in the form of meditations the Monks hope will lead the reader to a more abundant life.

While there is no Table of Contents each meditation is presented as a two page spread having a Bible verse, or other quote, a premise as a single word or a short phrase and a paragraph or two of text to expand the premise. In general one of the two pages will be a full leaf devoted to a dog. Some of the pictured pups are German Shepherds, often the Shepherd showcased is of the ones living with the Monks in their upstate New York, near the Vermont border, monastery.

While each 2 page spread features one or more canine wonders, I particularly enjoyed reading the pages featuring Shepherds. Husband and I do not buy dogs, however, over the last nearly 3 decades we have taken in a diversity of those hoping for a forever home.

Leika, a lovely, well-mannered little Shepherd lady came to us nearly starved, left behind, but very loving and willing to forgive the mistakes of others and live out her life with us. Shepherds have long been close to our hearts.

Page 7 features 3 of the New Skete Shepherds with their people and proffers the notion: perhaps one of the reasons we are so devoted to our dogs is that they help us become who weíre supposed to be.

Page 15 shows 2 dogs, 1 a Shepherd, and asks is there anything more irresistible than a dog soliciting play?

Page 26-27 presents a Monk playing with his Shepherd. The Happy Dog is the premise of this meditation: Dogs place such modest conditions on their happiness.

The Shepherd displayed on page 43 is alert, ears are in listening stance and for all appearances this pup seems to be smiling above the premise Legacy and Longevity: One secret of deepening any sort of relationship with our dogs is giving them time to develop and age.

The two page spread featuring a Monk and his Shepherd seen on pages 44 -45 presents a timely: Premise Honoring Relationships. In a fractured world of broken relationships dogs can teach us the meaning of devotion and fidelity.

Pages 58 - 59 again exhibits one of the New Skete Shepherds with his/her person and forwards the perception: it may seem surprising to associate faith with our bond with a dog, but truly itís an essential component.

Pages 62 -63 showcases another of the New Skete Shepherds along with his/her person. Premise: Grace. Think "dog" and what spontaneously arises in the mind is most often the loyalty and devotion they express towards us, sometimes in the most remarkable of circumstances.

The smiling Shepherd found on pages 64 -65 helps illustrate the Premise Dogs are Awesome. Precisely because dogs are so common in our society, we may overlook how awesome they are as a species.

Page 74 -75 presents the premise Connection: At a time when human nature is being stretched by all sorts of competing pressures, the presence of dogs in our lives helps to keep us sane and balanced. The smiling Monk and his 2 grinning Shepherds seem to epitomize the notion.

The tender love of a not entirely repentant dog is seen with the graphic found on page 82 as a Shepherd and his person bond. Dogs have few scruples about expressing sorrow and respect.

The work culminates with a note regarding our duty to our dog: The Final Step. One of the most serious responsibilities we assume when caring for a dog is developing the wisdom to know when to help them end their lives dignity.

This particular meditation is one playing out for us at this time, and the narrative is one I will read and reread. Having taken in dogs and cats for nearly 30 years finds us now facing the harsh reality that some of our feline companions are nearing 30 years old, while our 2 remaining canine are greying as are we.

Page 94 features a small note regarding the Monks of New Skete along with a nice photo of three of them along with three of those beautiful Shepherds.

Acknowledgements explaining how the text came to be, thanking photographer(s), and others who have had a hand in bringing the work to fruition.

A beautiful photo of a Shepherd is the final page of the book.

I enjoyed reading this book for review, it is nicely presented, helps fund the work carried out by the New Skete communities, is well written and filled with wonderful photographs of dogs, dogs, dogs.

This book is perfect as a tuck in gift, for the graduate, Fatherís Day, or any day you want to honor. Dog lovers are sure to enjoy the book whether they meditate or not, those who do practice meditation will find much to enjoy.

Happy to recommend Dogs & Devotion A Celebration of the bond Between Dogs and their People.

Parent Plots Teacher tales & Student Stories
Edward M Baldwin
Jazlo & Lossi Publishing
9780979407420, $16.95, Paperback 136 pages,

Edward M Baldwinís Parent Plots, Teacher tales & Student Stories continues the narrative he began in his first work, Learnt. Writing with wit and more than a little humor Eleven anecdotes, short stories and tales are offered across 119 pages.

The Old Salesman introduces an elderly gentleman who has something more important than things to sell to his young customers.

The Fridge Monster is a at once a humorous look at the misconception of the two year old mind coupled with the worry a young single mother often faces alone and frightened for the future.

Drop Quiz might be any fourth grade classroom. I chuckled as I read this one, two years teaching 4th grade in a career spanning three decades in the realm of the K-1 has convinced me that the 4th grade mind is pretty much as writer Baldwin sets down on these few pages.

A Perfect World is the poignant tale of a sad little boy who reminds me of many children I have known over the years, this is the child who never quite fits in, and in spite of his teacherís best effort to promote his acceptance, having him work with another child in hopes a friendship will develop, or choosing him to be in a committee with other children, or assuring that he be given his turn at child of the day as are all the others in the class.

Hot Sauce on Apple Pie at 23 pages is one of the longer pieces. Filled with much of the angst every new teacher feels, Hot Sauce is a compelling read with a real story to tell, and a bit of a twist for a conclusion.

The Genius Son and Awesome Mother is a play featuring two characters is worth a chuckle or two from this mom of a genius son.

A Slice of Dice offers one home schooling familyís take on Black History Month. The narrative is a good read and should not be missed.

School Daze presents one studentís reaction to her teacherís discomfiture regarding her lack of attention. The twist ending is too good to omit.

The Genius Son and Normal Mother is another play. It is well worth the read and one that every mom can identify with through her laughter.

Forty Three Dollars is a sweet tale sure to bring a tear to the eye as one father, recently laid off his job, learns a valuable lesson from his young son regarding children, and gifts and what is really most important to a little boy.

Dumb Assignment is a fun read, enough said. Donít miss it.

Text Booked two teens are texting while in separate classes. What a fun read! The ending brings a guffaw.

Winning is actually the first anecdote I read. Filled with a fatherís coming to understanding that bonding with a child means more than promises or simply being in proximity. This is a narrative well worth the read.

Writer Baldwin combines a breezy, easy to read writing style with years of classroom experiences to produce a well written work filled with short to a little longer sketches offering a peek into the life of teachers and parents. While not every offering is meant to be humorous, the ones that are do bring a smile to the lips and giggles during the read.

This is a perfect work to tuck into a pocket, backpack or briefcase for taking out while the kids are in with the dentist, you are waiting for a train, or for perusal over a cup of coffee during a brief stop to recharge in the midst of a hectic day.

Quick reads all and no need to read in any specific order are perfect for the young adult and older reader too. This book may well be chosen for the personal library, as a gift for a former teacher, or for a parent, or anyone who enjoys lighthearted reading presented in well constructed style.

Floridian Edward M Baldwin is a high school English instructor, a literacy coordinator and an adjunct professor at a nearby college. Married, with three children and two cats writer Baldwin states that he enjoys visiting school and colleges where he chats with students regarding goals, motivation, writing and the importance of reading.

A member of AuthorísDen, Baldwinís work can be seen and is offered on his website, AD, Amazon and a diversity of review sites.

Thought-provoking read Happy to Recommend 4 stars

Tarizon: Desert Swarm
William Manches
Series: The Tarizon Saga
9781935722823, $12.00, 354 pages,

Desert Swarm, Book 3 of the Tarizon Saga offered by writer William Manchee opens with an accident. It was March 1959, Jack had promised his son Jake they would go hiking along the Armagosa River and perhaps do some fishing.

It had been a rough week, but a promise is a promise, and since his divorce Jack has been determined to not disappoint his son. A quick burger and fries and he is again on the road, the trip is going to take at least 5 hours and Jack is already dead tired. Before long he began to yawn, and despite the caffeine he had drunk during his supper, Jack inevitably began to doze. Jolting awake by the sound of his tires drumming on the shoulder of the highway Jack over corrects and his truck begins sliding down the side of the mountain.

Waking up in the blackness of desert night Jack, disoriented began walking away from the highway and into the desert toward Bat Mountain. Set into motion were the events which would ultimately change Jackís life forever.

A foundation out in the desert created of material concrete contractor Jack did not recognize, and seems to have enlarged between his first viewing and the next, beginning a new romantic relationship, a teaching assistant with a penchant for geology, and a peculiar structure that continues to increase, in addition a large circular area devoid of vegetation, a Park Service Ranger, as well as a member of the Department of Defense all figure in the developing tale.

A series of deaths, each more bizarre than the others seem to center around the odd crystalline material forming the growing construct Preacher Little insists is a cathedral sent from God for his congregation.

The geology Professor is amazed at the rate of growth of the mysterious structure which is beginning to resemble a cathedral, the pastor of a local congregation is certain the structure IS a cathedral, in process of being built by God Himself as a sign of the second coming of Christ, the US Army fears the structure poses potential national danger, and then more structures, miracles, healings, sink holes, mystery and a bit of a surprise.

As he does in his other works author Manchee sets down underpinnings for his tale, peoples it with believable characters, fills in holes with credible dialogue and moves the narrative forward in an acceptable manner. Muddying the water is an overzealous deputy who is searching for a conspiracy, and wants to implicate Jack. A living microorganism, an astonishing attack by relentless bats, a preacher with an agenda, and those ever increasing walls move the reader toward realization of unfamiliar life form, an unknown craft and satisfactory resolution of the mystery entailing the who, what, when and where penned adroitly.

As the fifth in the Tarizon Series, Tarizon: Desert Swarm allows the reader to continue the narrative begun in others of Mancheeís Tarizon series including Tarizon: The Liberator, Tarizon: Civil War, Tarizon: Conquest War, Tarizon Shroud of Doom, and Tarizon: Desert Storm.

Interesting read Recommended 5 stars

In the Chamelonís Shadow
Mark Hummel
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781495219283, $12.95, Paperback: 342 pages,

Mark Hummelís In the Chameleonís Shadow opens with Aaron Lugner contemplating the broken glass holding about half an inch of Scotch. His lies had finally caught up with him, now what?

Sometimes he did tell the truth. He always listened. He asked questions, had some formal education and an abundance of knowledge based on what others told him he needed to be prepared for any particular situation, circumstance or job.

Magdalena, Bonnie, Natalia, Meena, Stefani, Amy, Chastity, and there was Myriam. And a story told to a newspaper reporter, a story that had no foundation in truth, and would finally lead Aaron to more lies, and a search for information regarding a Vietnamese orphan and more lies are all part of the tale woven by author Hummel.

Myriam is a beautiful, Amerasian orphan adopted and brought to America from her native Vietnam during the 1970s. Myriam prizes honesty above all else, or does she?

Aaron is a character who some power over his own life and that of others, he is drawn to women, and to success as he views it. And in the tale woven by the author the reader is drawn quietly into the tale, settings are filled with detail, sights and sounds, scents and moments become inter-twined, and slowly the feelings of disgust for Aaron his shallowness give way to an affinity for the character he really is. I found Aaron to more caring and likeable than I had realized at first blush.

The narrative twines and twists until the untruths become as important as the truths. While Aaron is a chameleon he is also a deeply sensitive and caring individual who allows others close only hesitantly, and not for long, but does develop the caring for other when it is needed most and not necessarily for his own benefit.

Conversations are convincing, dialogue is used to enhance and move the narrative forward. Characters are well fleshed. Settings are authentic. The reader is drawn into the narrative slowly at first, but completely, and are held fast in the grip right to the last paragraph.

Tale is well plotted, the ending is not predictable or formula, but is satisfying as well as a bit bittersweet. I hope writer Hummel may be planning a sequel to this work and we may read more of the lives of Myriam and Aaron.

Happy to recommend In the Chameleonís Shadow for those who enjoy a good fiction filled with good writing, convincing, likeable characters and enough twist and puzzlement to keep the reader turning the page. Not for those who are easily distracted or discouraged by a tale that must be slowly unraveled.

Molly Martin, Reviewer

Paul's Bookshelf

What If? Jeremy Shuttle Adventures, Book 1
Jeffrey M. Daniels
5726 Cortez Road W., #349, Bradenton FL 34210
9781609104993, $16.95, 248 pages,

This YA novel is about a young boy who suddenly acquires a unique ability.

Jeremy Shuttle is your average middle school student. He loves asking questions in class, he deals with the school bully, and he has a friend named Natalie. He also loves drawing in his sketchbook. One day, an art supply store suddenly appears at the end of his street. Yesterday, it was no there. The elderly proprietor gives Jeremy a very special sketchbook. He should have listened more closely to what the proprietor said about it.

Just for fun, Jeremy draws a picture of his school being attacked by a multi-tentacled creature, kind of like a giant octopus. He is shocked to learn that his school really is under attack by a giant octopus. Jeremy tells Natalie about the strange art supply store, and takes her there, but it is gone, like it never existed. Natalie urges Jeremy to be really careful, but Jeremy has to "test" the sketchbook, so he turns himself into an ant.

Jeremy is a very big and strong ant; think of the ant equivalent of Arnold Schwarzenegger. He meets other ants and tries to tell them that he is not an ant, but a human. Their reaction is Whatever. Part way through his time as an ant, Jeremy realizes that he doesn't know how to turn back into a human.

Natalie saves his rear end, and strongly urges him to get rid of the sketchbook. Jeremy refuses, and has another "test" for the sketchbook. It involves going back in time to the caveman era, and drawing crude pictures on cave walls. When he returns, Natalie very strongly urges him to get rid of the sketchbook. Jeremy's continued refusal damages their friendship. His ultimate idea is to do something for his mother, whose husband, and Jeremy's father, disappeared during an archaeological expedition several years previously, and has not been heard from since then. Jeremy's idea is either a very considerate thing to do, or it will set new records for backfiring (which almost happens).

First of a trilogy, this YA novel is very good. Who hasn't wanted a way to answer What If? Teens, and adults, will enjoy this story.

Will There Be Donuts? Better Business One Meeting at a Time
David Pearl
10 E. 53rd Street, New York NY 10022
9780007519538, $15.99, 304 pages,

Meetings are the bane of modern-day business. Is there any way to make them not so long, boring and unproductive?

First of all, exchange the donuts and soda for something much healthier, like water and protein bars. The sugar rush, followed by the mid-afternoon sugar crash, helps no one.

Why do people attend meetings? It's a nice alternative to doing actual work, technology makes it possible, we confuse "efficient" and "effective", and we forget that there is an alternative.

Looking at the anatomy of meetings, there is a big difference between what a meeting is about, and the intention. Make sure the "right" people are at your meeting, like the Leader, the Recorder, the Facilitator and the Coach. Look at things from the point of view of your customers. Read magazines that you would not normally read; listen to other radio stations. Who attends meetings? Do they have to be there?

What can be done? The average hotel "business conference room" is a windowless room in the basement with harsh artificial lighting. Stay out of that room. Hold your meeting in the hotel lounge, or, even better, hold it outside. Back at the office, consider getting rid of your big, rectangular conference table, and replacing it with several smaller tables with swivel chairs.

Have an agenda, and stick to it (but leave room for the unexpected). Is this meeting to brainstorm new ideas, or to keep everyone informed on recent developments? Don't let anyone change the focus of the meeting, or otherwise monopolize it. Impose a Fine Jar, where all participants are required to pay if they are caught texting during the meeting.

This book is very much worth reading for companies of all sizes. Even small changes in a company's meetings can only help. Some sort of summary or bullet points would have made this book even better, but, yes, it is worth the money.

Paul Lappen, Reviewer

Peggy's Bookshelf

Here Comes Destructosaurus!
Aaron Reynolds, author
Jeremy Tankard, illustrator
Chronicle Books
680 Second Street, San Francisco, CA 94107
9781452124544, $16.99, 32 pages,

The baby-faced monster named Destructosaurus is on a rampage, upending and destroying the entire city. And someone who sounds an awful lot like his mom is chastising him up one street and down the next. When he finds his teddy bear somewhere near the train station everything is all better and itís hugs all around. But who is going to clean up the monstrous mess he made?

Jeremy Tankardís manga style illustrations depict the red hot rage of the Destructosaurus temper tantrum with big faces, bold lines, and bright colors. Preschoolers may or may not recognize their own behavior in the raging monster but parents will definitely hear the sound of their own voices echo back at them as they read aloud. "Here Comes Destructosaurus!" is a hilarious parody of a day in the life of a preschooler.

The Troublemaker
Lauren Castillo
Clarion Books
215 Park Avenue S, New York, NY 10003
9780547729916, $16.99, 48 pages,

Someone stole little sisterís bunny and a bunch of other stuff. Little brother gets blamed for all the trouble but he swears heís innocent. Well, except for the time he tied Bunny to the boat in the water ... Funny thing is, the sneaky little thief hides in plain sight on almost every page, giving readers with a keen eye for details the chance to solve the puzzle on their own. The delightful scene at the end shows that even though the mystery is solved, the troublemaker has other plans. Brothers and sisters - little and big - will get a kick out of the mischief and mayhem in "The Troublemaker." Little troublemakers everywhere will feel vindicated.

Peggy Tibbetts, Reviewer

Regis' Bookshelf

Brothers Forever
Tom Sileo and Col. Tom Manion
Da Capo Press
c/o Perseus Book Group
250 W. 57th St., Suite 1500, New York, NY 10107
9780306822377, $25.99,

The bond between sister and brother or brother and brother can indeed be strong and enduring. In my mind, it is so profound and powerful that one person would readily sacrifice his/her life for the other if necessary.

In Brothers Forever, two young men who are not biological brothers achieve a deep longstanding friendship that follows them to their graves. The bond between them grew during years of intensive training through the Naval Academy. Both continued to serve in the US military. What makes Brothers Forever so fascinating is that one hero had trained as a US Marine, the other as a Navy SEAL.

The battle for the city of Fallujah in Iraq claimed a host of civilian lives and those of Iraqi and US soldiers. It is hard to imagine how Marine Travis Manion endured the heat of battle dressed in full protective military gear in a geographical area where the heat of day could easily climb well over one hundred degrees.

The mental and physical duress must have been terrific when Manion and his squad found themselves pinned down in their broiling Humvees in one of the narrow alleys of Fallujah. Desperately, they needed to eliminate the snipers who had the advantage of shooting down from roof tops or windows high above the bullet riddled Humvees.

Using their vehicle as a barricade, the men climbed out to take positions behind it so they could engage the snipers if only they could spot them. In an effort to draw fire hoping to expose the hidden shooters, for a few seconds, Manion moved a few feet out into the open. Shortly after, another Marine looked toward Manion and "...confronted an image that would stay with him for the rest of his life."

Several years later and miles away in Afghanistan, Navy Seal Brendan Looney flew in a helicopter for his fifty-ninth combat mission toward a high mountain landing area. Ready to jump from the lowering copter, the SEALs had unhooked their safety belts. They wore all their protective military gear, carried their weapons and were ready to leap to the ground. "Suddenly, a terrible, piercing sound stunned everyone aboard the helicopter ...!"

Although three years separated their deaths, Brendan Looney and Travis Manion were buried together in Arlington National Cemetery. Brothers Forever gives readers a thorough reenactment of how these brave men died and why they were interred together. In a positive way, it summarizes their lives and also gives readers a glimpse of the mental obligation to their country these two men experienced only two days after the collapse of the Twin Towers.

If you are a person seeking insight into what our young men and women go through serving militarily in a foreign land, read Brothers Forever. This book will grab your interest from its first few pages. For example, on page three, it tells that after a violent explosion, "...two Americans flew out of an armored Humvee and landed on the street." The vehicle had struck an IED (improvised explosive device).

In Brothers Forever, you will discover how true heroes think - defending freedom is a true American ideal even if it means helping foreign peoples achieve it.

I would highly recommend this book to all, particularly high school students and collegians, who might be thinking of serving their country like the two heroes, Brendan Looney and Travis Manion who stared death in the face. Surely, they will find the book deeply moving, inspiring, and maybe just a bit troubling.

The Best of Chuck Klein
Chuck Klein
Science & Humanities Press
9781596300866, $21.95,

In his book, The Best of Chuck Klein, the author covers such a variety of topics that for the ordinary reader, there is bound to be some story, essay, opinion or comment of his that stands out as captivating reading. In particular, I liked his early on story that tells how he learned to drive a semi by the seat of his pants.

I can identify with this story because when I first graduated from high school, I worked for Kraft Food Company in Pittsburghís Strip-district. There, I had to bring huge rigs from the truck lot, back them into a bay at the other end of the building, and wash them. Good grief, Chuck Klein, you had guts!

So when Klein describes climbing behind the wheel of a huge 18-wheeler and learning how to shift, double clutch, downshift, up shift, and split shift, I knew exactly what he was talking about, especially when he described backing huge trailers against a narrow dock. I cannot imagine his terror at the sound of the air pressure relief valve popping off, and he thinking it was a severed brake line (84)

From his earliest days, Klein was obsessed with automobiles, particularly ones he rebuilt into sleek hotrods. His facts about rebuilding them were often beyond my knowledge of automobile engines. Yet, for young men who grew up during the Klein era, knowing about sparkplugs, carburetors, points, condensers, timing guns, not to mention changing brakes and oil, was truly the manly thing to talk about - that and/or sports.

In The Best of Chuck Klein, I learned a lot about law, particularly about how officers are taught to think. It is encouraging to know Klein believes that the possession of a firearm for protection is on the right side of the law and might make a lot of people who could become victims, such as the elderly, feel less threatened as they grow older and weaker (like this writer). It is also great to know that Klein does not feel our Constitution gives people the right to possess the same assault weapons carried on the battlefield.

On page 235, Klein states: "Somewhat over 3000 years ago, God delivered the Ten Commandments to Moses." I then assumed he would use the dictum "Thou shalt not kill" as a lead-in to his short essay, "Whose God?" I - stopped - reading. At first, I took this as a factual statement showing Kleinís religious belief, and it bothered me, because personally, Iím not a believer that God wrote down, or inspired people to write down for him, the words in the Bible.

One of the Ten Commandments forbids killing, and clearly, thought I, the angry Old Testament God told his people to plunder and kill in order to occupy Canaan Valley. Believe it or not, it wasnít until later that I resumed reading. On the very next page (236) I realized Chuck Klein had made the statement so he could then poke fun at it. "... why would He (God) urge the slaughter of His own making?"

The book The Best of Chuck Klein is a good read for anyone who enjoys a multitude of topics that can be read over a period of several days without losing interest. His stories are short and to the point always resulting in some kind of unforgettable flourish. I particularly enjoyed Kleinís take on the Constitution, "heroic" (146) police and detective work in general. But there was one issue that seemed to contradict Kleinís belief in law and order.

Early on, he talks about the cars he turned into supercars - those that could easily maintain his personal 90 miles per hour highway speed limit. He talks about the times police gave chase and tricks he used to escape them. He tells how he hooked up each tail light to a dashboard switch, so that when chased at night, he could turn off one light to fool pursuing police into thinking they were chasing the wrong vehicle - the one with two taillights must have turned at the last intersection.

This may seem like a very minor point, but after Kleinís rigorous diet of Law and Order, Iím sure he feels differently today about the Rules of the Road and some of the dangerous stunts he wrote about. If you want a book that will jangle your thinking, one you can read in several sittings without losing your curiosity, get a copy of The Best of Chuck Klein. It will provide much chow for thought.

Regis Schilken

Susan's Bookshelf

Mother was it worth it?
Tottie Limejuice
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781499254839, $8.54, 210 pages,

Genre: Memoir

About the author: Tottie Limejuice is the pen-name of Lesley Tither, a former journalist turned freelance copywriter and copy editor, who lives in the Auvergne region of central France. Passionate about wildlife and the countryside, she enjoys walks and camping with her dogs, and organic gardening.

About the book: Tottie and her eccentric family moved to France in search of a better life for her nearly nonogenarian mother who suffered from dementia. As her full-time career, Tottie listened to daily recitations of her favourite saying: 'Mother, mother, it's a bugger, sell the pig and buy me out." Catch up now with Tottie in the AM years - After Mother - as she starts her new life in the rural Livradois-Forez region of the Auvergne, living in Tottie's Grottage. Meet the local inhabitants, from exotic birds to colourful characters like the Bin Pickers, Library Lady and the Bowing Farmer. All are described with Tottie's familiar gently ironic humour. Discover the procedure behind the Frogification of Tottie, and if her bid for French nationality is successful. 'Mother Was It Worth It?' is the concluding part of the Sell the Pig series, which began with 'Sell the Pig' and 'Is That Billinge Lump?'

Having read, 'Sell the Pig,í and 'Is that Billinge Lump?í I couldnít wait to read Tottieís further adventures, and as soon as I started this new, and sadly, last book, in the series, I knew I wasnít going to be disappointed.

It is not your normal, we bought a house in France and renovated it, story. Indeed, Tottieís move was based on totally different reasons, which you will know if you have read the preceding two books, however, if not, then, this book can happily be read as a standalone.

If you want to really know what it is like living in France, making your home in a small rural community, hiring workmen and dealing with French bureaucracy, then there is no better example. The ever resourceful Tottie seems to have the ability to handle any situation with true British fortitude and determination.

However, there is a real underlying 'heartstringsí element to this book, and indeed to the series, as, throughout all three books we are invited, very much into her life. The reader finds themselves laughing, and crying with her as she copes with all the events life throws at her, with the support of some very good friends, both English and French.

When not renovating 'The Grottage,í accompanied by her Border collies Ci and Fleur, she enjoys camping and breaks away, exploring her chosen area of France. These adventures are chronicled as part of this story, and through her marvellously descriptive writing, she gives, for those of us who have never visited this beautiful region, a wonderful insight into its wildlife, and people.

I just could not put this book down, I love the down to earth, totally unbiased, and no nonsense way the story is written

Machines of the Little People (The Eve Project, Book 1)
Tegon Maus
Tirgearr Publishing
c/o Amazon Digital Publishing
B00JU2VOGS, $4.11, 166 Pages,

Genre: Fantasy/Sci-Fi

About the author: I was raised pretty much the same as everyone else... devoted mother, strict father and all the imaginary friends I could conjure. Not that I wasn't friendly, I just wasn't "people orientated". Maybe I lived in my head way more than I should have, maybe not. I liked machines more than people, at least I did until I met my wife.

The first thing I can remember writing was for her. For the life of me I can't remember what it was about... something about dust bunnies under the bed and monsters in my closet. It must have been pretty good because she married me shortly after that. I spent a good number of years after inventing games and prototypes for a variety of ideas before I got back to writing.
It wasn't a deliberate conscious thought, it was more of a stepping stone. My wife and I had joined a dream interpret group and we were encouraged to write down our dreams as they occurred. "Be as detailed as you can," we were told.

I was thrilled. If there is one thing I enjoy it's making people believe me and I like to exaggerate. Not a big exaggeration or an out right lie mine you, just a little step out of sync, just enough so you couldn't be sure if it were true or not. If I can make people think "it could happen," even for a moment, then I have them and nothing makes me happier. When I write, I always write with the effort of "it could happen" very much in mind and nothing, I guarantee you, nothing, makes me happier.

About the book: Ben Harrisís sister died of cervical cancer more than three years ago... his best friend and her husband, Roger Keswick, disappeared the day before the funeral. For the next six months everyone from the local police to the Department of Defense searched for him but to no avail... it was as if he had simply fallen off the face of the planet only to reappear at work as if nothing were out of the ordinary.

Then by the purest of coincidences Ben finds himself pulled back into Rogerís life only to discover he has remarried... to Jessica... a woman the looks, sounds and acts just like his dead sister. To complicate things Roger is insistent his home, his car, his life is infested with tiny elf like creatures he calls the Katoy. He claims they run massive machines under his house and watch his every move... every move that is until Jessica is found bludgeoned to death in his living room and Roger is nowhere to found . . . again.

As the saying goes, it takes all sorts.

This is certainly the case with the characters in this story. Ben suffers from B.C.E.D (Bio-chemical electrical discharge) which makes him a little static to say the least, so he prefers to hang out with his car Margaret. Roger, well Roger is your typical eccentric professor, dotty but brilliant, and then thereís Rogerís sister Audrey...

The two men are estranged after Roger fails to attend his own wives (Benís sister) funeral, then disappears. When by chance they meet again, Roger has a new wife, Jessica, who looks uncannily like his first wife Kate, and he has reached a totally new level of dottiness claiming strange things are happening, and that there are little people and their strange machines.

Then he disappears yet again, and proves very difficult to find, despite a lot of searching, strange appearances and prophetic dreams.

As this story unfolds the characters are all so amazing, from psychic elderly ladies, to nine 'sistersí and sinister spy like characters and agents. Then, if that is not exciting enough, add to the equation a blossoming love affair, secret research projects and deadly weapons and you soon come to realise that this book is captivating from the first page.

Oh, and donít forget those little people - and their machines...

John Needham
Amazon Digital Publishing
B00A00L3D,I $3.26, 365 pages,

Genre: Romance

About the author: I have had a love affair with the written word all my life. An avid reader as a child, my passion for print moved up a gear when I was apprenticed into the compositor's art in the bygone age of hot-metal letterpress, long before the advent of computers, high-tech printing and ebooks.

Much of my career continued in a parallel vein, in copywriting and as a graphic designer. Now retired from all that, I write books: issues-based and exploring the human condition. I have produced two house renovation books although not yet published them, and an autobiography, Wishing for the Better, is being published free-to-read on my website,

In fiction, my debut novel was Convergence, a story of elderly, interracial love. This was followed by Forebears, a family saga set in the east of England spanning 106 years from the early 20th century almost to the present day.

A third novel, The One of Us, about the trials and tribulations and nature/nurture theory of separated-as-babies, adopted identical twins, is in the writing.

I live and produce my words in west Wales.

About the book: Martin is a bachelor, a house renovator who has retired to a cottage in the beautiful South Shropshire Hills. His final project is a pair of stone cottages: one for himself and his springer spaniel to live in; the other to rent out to supplement his pension.
Lilyís parents came to Britain from the West Indies on the Empire Windrush in 1948 in search of a new beginning. She has spent her life as one of the first generation of British-born black people, suffering prejudice in her early life. Also retired, Lily seeks a place in the country for her twilight years too.

Their disparate life-lines meet when Lily becomes Martinís tenant. Just when theyíd both thought it would never happen again, romance, surprisingly passionate romance, blossoms. This gentle story of inter-racial love in the autumn of life is at once poignant and uplifting - and it is angry, raging against tribalistic hatred and fear of the outsider. There is ultimate sadness as the two lost souls coalesce but their convergence is also life-affirming; a celebration of intrinsic human kindness.

Having enjoyed carrying out many house renovations, when Martin Spencer decides to stop, and make the second of a pair of cottages an income, by renting it out, he discovers that being a landlord isn't as easy as he thought it would be.

Martin had married, very young, Judith, his Indian landlord's beautiful daughter, and they had had two children. Never racist, he welcomes his new black tenant Lily Richards, who has found herself sadly alone in the world in later life too. Very soon they are enjoying each other's company, and an easy friendship develops.

As Martin and Lily share their very different lives with each other, the reader, gains an insight into the prejudices, from both sides, associated with mix marriages through the decades.

The book actually continues into the future, following their lives forward....

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this gentle, love story. Sometimes happy, sometimes sad, there are many life lessons, nestled, within the pages of this lovely book.

A Future for Cheetahs
Dr Laurie Marker
Cheetah Conservation Fund
2210 Mt. Vernon Avenue, 2nd Floor, Alexandria, VA 22301
9780615933207, $45.00, Hardcover, 208 Pages,

Genre: Animals/Conservation

About the book: A Future for Cheetahs is a simple and elegant large-format book of incredible photography that provides insight on the past and present, and future of cheetahs in the wild. It features commentary by Dr. Laurie Marker, world renowned authority on cheetahs, and illustrated through imagery captured by renowned wildlife photographer, Suzi Eszterhas. Through the eyes of the cheetah, this picture book story will bring you, the reader, face to face with some of the rarest and most beautiful images taken of wild cheetah. Equally as powerful, compelling stories and photos will weave a story of the conservation initiatives that are the key to their very survival.

This is one of the most beautiful books I have ever seen, the author; Dr Laurie Marker has been working with cheetahs for over thirty years.

It begins by explaining the lifecycle of these beautiful animals, starting with the cubsí life, through adolescence and into adulthood, and contains a huge amount of information, not only about the cheetah, but also its impact and role, in the lives of the humans it has lived alongside, throughout history.

The work of the Cheetah Conservation Fund is explained, not only their scientific and conservation research, but also their practical approach to protecting these animals by looking at the whole picture. The Fund realises that it is important to understanding that the African farmers look upon cheetahs entirely differently, they kill the livestock, and in doing so, put their livelihoods at risk. Therefore, they offer practical solutions, such as the introduction of the Livestock Guarding Programme in 1994, where Anatolian shepherd and Kangal dogs are given to the farmers. These dogs live with their flocks from puppyhood, becoming an integral part of the herd, and naturally protect both the animals and the children who herd them.

The challenges the cheetahs face for survival are integral to its, and many other species, natural surroundings, and the impacts of tourism, poaching, the illegal pet market and many other issues are covered too.

This is a truly beautiful book which is a joy to own, not only because of the outstanding photography by Suzi Eszterhas, but also because contains within its pages important messages which should be heeded, for the survival of these magnificent animals.

Susan Keefe, Reviewer

Teri's Bookshelf

The Terzetto File
Albert Samuel Tukker
Lulu Publishing
3101 Hillsborough Street, Raleigh, NC 27607-5436
No ISBN, $14.00, 364 pages,

"Half way down the ten mile driveway, Falcon's latest mission haunted him. He knew he killed innocent people, a lot of innocent people and their deaths will be blamed on somebody else, just to stir up trouble so they could put somebody in their pocket in power. It was cold-blooded and ruthless and he had been a part of it for a long time now."

This is the opening of The Terzetto File by Albert Samuel Tukker as he introduces his protagonist, Major Neil Falcon of the U.S. Army giving the reader background into this complicated character who is troubled by what has been required of him for years, both physically and emotionally. The upper echelon of brass is the military needs someone who can unquestionably follow orders, doing what needs to be done, someone who can clean-up the messes created by others. Falcon frequently was that person.

Army Major Neil Falcon is finally taking a well-deserved vacation when he receives a phone call about his leave being cancelled. The Major's temporary assignment is to figure out what is killing people in the small community of White Sands and to stop it.

A body has been discovered that was mutilated. Quickly examining what was left of this human, Falcon realizes that this was not done by a wild animal, but something much worse. What begins as a single body quickly becomes an attack on a community. Who or what is killing these people? Why?

Are the same people who want him to solve this problem telling him everything that he needs to know?

The Terzetto File is an action-packed adventure from Major Neil Falcon's perspective. This book is for those who enjoy thriller/adventure novels even though it unquestionably is in the fantasy genre. Although a little predictable at times, the story is intriguing story and the hero, Major Falcon is easily likable with depth as a character.

The underlying theme is both realistic while also considering authentic problems for many military veterans presently, as well as concern about life in this country along with the social evolution of our daily citizens.

Samuel Albert Tukker is the pen-name of a local author who received recent recognition for his novel Pole Shift which was considered to be the best science fiction of 2007 from for Literary Excellence and Rage which won 3rd Place in the 2009 Premier Book Awards.

It is not unusual anymore for authors to self-publish their books. The only problem with this is availability to readers. Many also pay to have their books available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble. More authors are choosing not to do that but to go through other methods.

For people in the Omaha area, The Terzetto File can be ordered through The Mystery Bookstore in Omaha. This small bookstore is phenomenal in terms of service to the customer. Also people can purchase this book through the author's website or through the publisher

Albert Samuel Tukker is an immensely gifted author. Read his books.

Curiosity Didn't Kill the Cat
A Conan Flagg Mystery
M.K. Wren
Untreed Read Publishing
Originally published in 1973 and Republished in 2013
$5.99, 261 pages, e-book

In Curiosity Didn't Kill the Cat, Elinor Jeffries is a well-respected older woman. The word "classy" comes to mind in her physical description and demeanor. She is not frivolous or extravagant. Reliable and dignified is her code of life. She doesn't ask for help unless there is no other solution.

Conan Flagg owns the Holliday Beach Bookshop and Rental Library in this small Oregon resort town. Being an ex-CIA operative allows him to appreciate his quiet life now, however, he does welcome opportunities to utilize his former investigative skills while now being an occasional private investigator.

When Elinor's husband is found dead, she visits Conan requesting his assistance with her husband's death. As a married couple, U.S.N. Retired Captain Harold Jefferies and his wife were not extremely close. However, Elinor is convinced that this was not an accident.

Elinor left her house that night for a bridge party. When she last saw her husband, he was comfortably relaxed wearing his robe and reading Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment. What would force this man to be dress, leave his book and walk along the beach to drown himself? The Captain hated the beach. What would cause him to change his plans? Why would Harold kill himself? Could anyone have killed him and make it look like suicide?

Added to this, the local police look no further than what appears to be obvious. Harold Jefferies drowned himself.

Conan agrees to look into the death and quickly finds himself overwhelmed and utilizing former contacts to assist him in this investigation.

Curiosity Didn't Kill the Cat is a cozy mystery that is well-planned and logical. The story takes place in the late 1960s or early 1970s reflected in the telephone usages of the time period and the involvement of The Cold War and scientists defecting from Russia.

The use of the cat, Meg in the story felt like an afterthought. It wasn't a natural involvement with the cat until near the end of the novel.

M.K. Wren is the pen-name for Martha K. Renfroe. This Texas-born Oregon writer is well-known for her mystery series featuring Conan Flagg and her science fiction trilogy, The Phoenix Legacy and her post-apocalyptic novel, A Gift Upon the Shore.

Curiosity Didn't Kill the Cat is a different novel in terms of style from the usual ones written today. The story is fairly simplistic but of value especially with life before the use of cell phones and the concerns of this time period. This is light but enjoyable reading.

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August
Claire North
c/o Hachette Publishers
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017-0010
9780316399616, $25.00, 416 pages, Hardback,

Have you ever wished that if you could live your life again? Would you have made different choices? Could or would you have reached your life's dreams?

Harry August is one of the rare people who can actually achieve this dream. He is an Ouroban, one out of half a million who has the ability to remember his previous lives. For the rest of us, we constantly relive our lives, but our memories have been forgotten.

Once he has died, Harry discovers himself back in England again during the year of 1918. Unfortunately his mother was just a servant girl who was impregnated by the aristocratic male of an estate. Fortunately, he was adopted by a childless couple who worked on the property. So he was able to know both his biological and adoptive father.

Since Harry remembers his previous lives, he can make other choices to better his fate each time. Or does fate ever change?

Fortunately for Harry there is an organization to assist the young who have this rare gift of remembering. The Cronus Club helps those with this gift who need help financially as they are growing and need funds to further their education.

However, not all the members have the same values and beliefs as Harry.

Reminiscent of Groundhog Day" without Bill Murray, Harry keeps reliving events in his life while usually choosing to better his situation each time. Imagine a teenager with the wisdom of a lifetime and the educated memories of his past life attempting to find his spot in the world. How can he ever be completely open with other people?

Recently it has been disclosed that the author Claire North is the pseudonym of British author, Catherine Webb. She has written numerous novels under the name of Kate Griffin. She felt that the character of Harry was so significant and different from her previous novels that the author needed to have a separate identity.

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August excels in terms of character development as Harry learns from his previous mistakes and improves in each his lives, truly character evolution. This makes the cycle not repetitive but a constant challenge and curiosity about his new choices.

The combination of time travel within the technological revolution during the twentieth century along with a lack of ethics makes this science fiction novel have a feel of realism. The ethical issues along with the earlier introduction of technology with each life, creates authentic problems as well as touching upon the loyalties of friendships and changing fate.

Integrated into this unusual science fiction novel is the element of quantum physics within time travel and the possibility and consequences of a quantum mirror. Could our technological advances eventually eliminate life?

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August is a thoughtful, reflective, and unusual novel that is not just for science fiction readers but for everyone who enjoys an innovative novel.

Serpent in the Thorns
Jeri Westerson
Minotaur Books
c/o St. Martin's Publishing Group
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780312649449, $14.99, 276 pages, Trade paperback,

Crispin Guest is not your typical resident of London during the year of 1384. Having grown up in a life of privilege and even becoming a respected knight in service to the king.

When Richard II came to the throne as a boy, many people questioned his right to the crown and whether someone else would be a better leader for the people. Child kings do not possess the wisdom of their elders and the years of life experiences. Crispin's mentor was one of those who could have claimed a right to the throne.

Through scheming and aligning himself with the wrong people at the wrong time, Crispin found himself in the position of being a threat to the king. Most of those with him were executed, but Guest's life was saved by the young king only through the intervention of his former mentor.

Now Crispin is stripped of all his possessions and title by the king and forced to begin a new life.

With no family or friends that will help him in any way, Crispin became the Tracker.

For a fee, he will agree to track down the truth by investigating a crime and present the evidence to the Sheriffs who tend to solve crimes quickly, frequently punishing those who are closest to the victims. The Tracker is a commoner with uncommon investigative skills. He attempts to right the wrongs through his connections with numerous people.

Grayce arrives at Crispin's informing him that she has killed a man. Naturally Crispin questions this young woman and quickly assesses that she has a limited mental capacity but she seemed truthful and concerned. Grayce wants the Tracker to discover how she killed this man. Crispin arrives at her place where he quickly discovers a dead French courier and a box with a crown of thorns inside it. To Grayce the only logical explanation would be that she killed the man. Crispin realizes that if he does not help, Grayce will be hung as a murderer.

Crispin quickly discovers that there were three French couriers from the French king who was willing to share a treasured religious relic as a peace offering. How can Crispin possibly save her from confessing to the Sheriff and being hung?

Serpent in the Thorns is a fast-paced adventure into life in London both at the castle and among the commoners in town during the Middle Ages. Jeri Westerson again has written an outstanding mystery encapsulating the past into a logical and readable story. Her descriptions are so vivid that besides visualizing the scenes and events, you can also smell the scents of London. She also separates the fiction from the actual people with her author's notes at the conclusion of this novel and a quick glossary for terms that are not in general use today.

Jeri Westerson is a masterful writer of this time period with her novels featuring Crispin Guest. This is the second book in this series. As I have read these books out of order, the characters are believable and realistic in each without needing information from the previous adventures. Currently, there are five books in this series: Veil of Lies, The Demon's Parchment, Troubled Bones, Blood Lance, and Shadow of the Alchemist. Jeri Westerson's marvelous Crispin Guest adventures.

Teri Davis

Theodore's Bookshelf

The Case of the Love Commandos
Tarquin Hall
Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781451613261, $24.99, Hardcover, 288 pp.,

The caste system in India comes in for a beating in this latest installment of the Vish Puri series, as even Chubby has to rethink his previous thoughts on the subject. Obviously, if a boy and girl of different castes, one from a highborn group the other from the lowest of the low, fall in love and want to marry, it immediately brings to mind Romeo and Juliet. And Puri comes into play when his operative, moonlighting and acting with some Love Commandos (a group dedicated to helping such unfortunate lovers) to escape from the clutches of their families, helps Tulsi escape to meet with her love, Ram, who is safely, it is thought, stowed away in a safe house. Unfortunately, that is not the case, and the great detective and his agents are off to the rescue when it is discovered he was forcibly kidnapped.

Naturally, there are a couple of side stories, one, as usual, involving Puriís mother, who becomes involved in the robbery of donations from a holy site; and also what appears to be a clandestine research facility taking advantage of natives by drawing blood for "research purposes." As a consequence of these efforts, a complicated twist involves Ram.

The author, who lives in India, captures the people and sites quite well. And he portrays Puri in splendid fashion, especially his gastronomic endeavors. And to top it off, several family recipes are included at the end of the novel. While not quite as amusing as its forerunners, this book definitely warrants reading, and is recommended.

The Creeps
John Connolly
Emily Bestler Books /Atria
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781476757094, $22.00/26.00 CA$, Hardcover, 336 pp.,

The last of the Samuel Johnson novels written by the author of the Charlie Parker mysteries and meant for young adults (and children of all ages), his hometown, the little English village of Biddlecombe, is once again besieged by the forces of evil. This time, however, the setting is a new toy store designed to entrap Samuel, his dog, Boswell, and the demons and policemen who accompanied Samuel to hell in the previous book of the trilogy, "Lost Things," and back to earth, saving it from the forces of the Great Malevolence.

The newly opened toy store is really the stage established by Baíal, whose body contains the heart of Mrs. Abernathy, whose hatred of Samuel is unbounded, seeking revenge for his actions in the previous entry. An invitation is sent to Samuel and the two demons as special guests for the opening of the toy store, and Samuel accepts, only to encounter all kinds of dangers as the toys become "alive" and battles occur floor to floor.

As in the previous two entries, the well-written fairy tale is filled with amusing footnotes, historical references and asides. The trilogy is an interesting exercise by a talented writer, but I miss Charlie Parker. Canít wait till he comes back! That fact notwithstanding, "The Creeps" is recommended.

Ask Not
Max Allan Collins
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780765336262, $24.99, Hardcover, 360 pp.,

In this final volume in the JFK assassination trilogy, Nat Heller is caught up in investigating events in Dallas that November 22nd, drawn into the story behind the murder of the President, when he finds out about a series of suicides and suspicious deaths surrounding the case of Billy Sol Estes, who was famously convicted of fraud. Suddenly he sees a parallel, as witnesses to the event in Dallasí Dealey Plaza also seem to disappear by suicide, "accidental" death or murder.

"Ask Not" follows the previous novel, "Target Lancer," which recounts an assassination plot against Kennedy in Chicago mere weeks before his murder. Heller, who in the previous entry played a pivotal role in putting together elements of the mafia, CIA and other groups as a go-between in the effort to assassinate the Cuban dictator Castro, now finds himself, and possibly his son and ex-wife, in the cross-hairs in what appear to be an effort to clean up "loose ends" left over from the failed effort called Operation Mongoose. This sad affair presumably gave rise to the theory that Castro was behind the Kennedy assassination. But that does not stop the author from proposing other conspiracy theories as well, including Texas oil men and even LBJ.

Mr. Collins researches his novels extensively, and wherever possible uses real life people as characters, including Robert Kennedy or fictionalized persons based on real ones, such as Flo Kilgore, who more than resembles Dorothy Killgallen, columnist and TV personality. Whether or not there is any authenticity to the conspiracies told in the novels, they are always entertaining, and the novel is recommended.

Sycamore Row
By John Grisham
Doubleday & Company
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
9780385537131, $28.95, Hardcover, 447 pp.,

Reading "Sycamore Row" reminds one of a boxing match, the early part of which is filled with preliminary bouts, with jabs and uppercuts and left and right crosses, building up to the main event. And thatís just what happens in the novel until it reaches well past the half-way mark and the trial begins. Mr. Grisham certainly knows how to present a trial, expertly building the case, highlighting the lawyerís actions, looking at the juryís thinking.

In this case, it revolves around the Last Will and Testament of one Seth Hubbard who, dying of metastatic lung cancer, committed suicide a day after writing a holographic Will, renouncing a prior Will, cutting out his family and leaving his fortune to his housekeeper and sometime care giver, a black woman who had worked for him for three years. Of course, the family contests the Will. And it is up to Jake Brigance as the attorney specifically chosen by Hubbard to represent the Estate "at all costs," and to see that his instructions are carried out without question.

The story takes place three years after Jake won the famous case in the Clanton, Mississippi, courthouse depicted in "A Time to Kill" that found his African-American client not guilty (by pleading insanity) of murdering a white man. Now, Jake has an equally controversial case by which an African-American woman stands to become the richest person in the State.

And whatís next for Jake? Surely Mr. Grisham will not let this popular character die away.


The Stranger
Camilla Lackberg, author
Steven T. Murray, translator
Pegasus Books
80 Broad St., NY, NY 10005
9781605985541, $15.95, Paperback, 384 pp.,

Unlike some other Scandinavian authors, Camilla Lackbergís protagonist, Detective Patrik Hedstrom, is a relatively normal person, about to be married and living with Erica and their baby girl, surreptitiously running the small police station in a little western coastal town in Sweden, Fjallbacka nominally headed by a superior. Three things happen in the town to set off a wide-ranging investigation.

First, Fjallbacka is invaded by a reality television show, with all the attendant problems and a cast motivated to drink, have sex and act in public to excess. And then, there is a local woman, known to abhor alcohol, who dies in a car crash with a blood level containing enormously high levels of alcohol. Then one night, after a drunken orgy, one of the contestants on the show is found murdered. Plenty to keep Patrik and his team occupied with few leads and plenty of questions.

This is the fourth novel published by the author in the United States, and each has been consistently high quality, well-plotted, carefully translated and well written Perhaps most importantly, the characters are natural, every-day type of people, living typical lives and working hard. The plots move forward with logic, and the loose ends come together at the end smoothly. (It should perhaps be noted that this book was originally published in the UK and Canada under the title "The Gallows Bird.")

Highly recommended.

Vertigo 42
Martha Grimes
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781476724027, $26.00/$32.00 CA, Hardcover, 336 pp.,

Itís not enough that New Scotland Yard Superintendent Richard Jury agrees, as a favor, to look into a 17-year-old death while on a weekís vacation, but then finds himself in the middle of one that occurred 22 years earlier and two more murders that occur while he conducts the investigation.

It all begins when a friend asks him to meet his friend Tom Williamson, who invites him to Vertigo 42, a restaurant high up on a financial district building. Williamsonís wife, Tess, died after a fall down a flight of stone steps in the rear of their home. While it was deemed an accident (Tess suffered from vertigo, and it was presumed that she fell), her husband believes she was the victim of foul play. Jury soon discovers another death had occurred five years earlier when a nine-year-old girl fell to her death while playing tag with five other children at the Williamson home. And while Jury goes about interviewing the now grown up children, a woman falls to her death from a tower, and in the same area a man is found shot to death in the back in an alley.

Meanwhile a dog named Stanley appears, collar and leash attached. Neither Jury nor his friends can discover to whom it belongs, giving all something to think about besides the famous Hitchcock movie, "Vertigo," starring Jimmy Stewart, about which running commentary throughout the book provides literary comparison to the current investigation. Jury is somehow convinced all the deaths are related, while he is at a loss as to how to prove it; the same problem as his friend, the original detective who handled the case when Tess died, although he too thought it to be a murder. Slowly but surely, the author guides Jury through various phases to a logical conclusion.


Spider Womanís Daughter
Anne Hillerman
c/o HarperCollins
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780062270481, $26.99, Hardcover, 301 pp.,

Until now, only Felix Francis has prominently authored novels in a series created by his father. Other series, like those of Robert B. Parker, have been authored by writers unrelated to the deceased creators. However, Anne Hillerman now joins Felix in the distinguished company of an offspring continuing a popular series, undertaking to continue the Joe Leaphorn/Jim Cree Navajo mysteries, placing her own stamp on it by fully developing Bernie Manuelito, Jimís wife, as well as a cop.

It is rather strange that the author chooses to begin the story by having Leaphorn, a main character in the series, shot though the temple, the bullet passing through his brain, and thus sidelined. Bernie, as first responder, is taken off the case and placed on leave (although that hardly stops her from nosing around). Cree is put in charge of the Navajo police investigation, while the FBI conducts its own case.

As did Tony Hillerman, his daughter captures much of the landscape and culture of the American Southwest, especially describing in detail Pueblo pottery and rug-weaving. However, much of the flavor of the original series does not get captured in this first effort. Perhaps, as she goes along in future installments, this aspect will improve. There seems to be some repetition and redundancy along the way, which could have been edited out. But the plot is solid, and the book certainly warrants a reading.

Echoes of My Soul
Robert K. Tanenbaum
c/o Kensington Publishing Group
119 W. 40th St., NY, NY 10018
97807860344932, $9.99, Paperback, 256 pp.,

Before the famous case that came to be known simply as Miranda, there was the celebrated arrest of George Whitmore Jr., a poor black youth with an IQ of less than 70, subjected to police questioning initially in an assault of a woman as she was walking home. Hour after hour, the detectives badgered him, wearing him down and leading eventually into a confession not only for the assault, but another murder that had taken place in the same Brooklyn neighborhood. Then to add insult to injury, he was blamed for the murder on the Upper East Side of Manhattan of two young women, even though he had never been to that borough.

Approaching the story like the novelist he is, the author recounts the efforts of one assistant district attorney to learn the truth, which eventually led to the arrest and conviction of the real killer, Richard Robles, in the case dubbed The Career Girl Murders. Step by step he reviews the investigation by Mr. Tanenbaumís mentor, ADA Mel Glass, and analyzes the forced confession of Whitmore. As a result, exposed were the tactics of the Brooklyn detectives who fed details of the crime to the young man so he could provide the confession they wanted and needed to convict him. Then, drawing from trial transcripts, he recounts the trial in dramatic fashion in which Robles was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment.

It was not long afterward that the Supreme Court reached the Miranda decision aimed at preventing such miscarriages of justice, guaranteeing the right to remain silent and to have an attorney present during questioning while in custody. The tale is written with a passion: The main players are well-known to the author, who served under them as an ADA in the New York District Attorneyís office. Plotted like a fictional crime novel, the story is genuine and gripping, a well-told story of what the justice system should be, and sometimes isnít.

Highly recommended.

A Treacherous Paradise
Henning Mankell
Translated by Laurie Thompson
Vintage Books
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780345802521, $15.95, Paperback, 384 pp.,

In an Afterward, the author states that he generally writes his stories based on a truth. In this case the true story is extremely fragmentary, and consequently is "therefore based on the little we know, and all that we donít know." It is the story of a poor young Swedish woman, Hanna Renstrom, who left her homeland in 1905 as a shipís cook and jumped ship on what was then Portuguese East Africa (now Mozambique). She was married on board to the third mate, who died shortly later. She rented a room in what she thought was a hotel, but really was a brothel, whose owner eventually fell in love with her and married her. That marriage also was short-lived, and Hanna inherited ownership of the very profitable brothel and her husbandís extensive wealth. Not bad for a young woman with no education, who presumably taught herself to read and spoke no Portuguese (but carried a Portuguese dictionary with her from Sweden).

So much for the introduction. What follows is an extraordinary tale of personal development which staggers the mind. From an impoverished, illiterate housemaid in Sweden, Hanna becomes a wise, sensitive person, keen on righting the wrongs of colonial Africa and the abuse of the indigenous black population, as unlikely as that may seem to the critical eye. But it gives Mr. Mankell the platform he requires to rail against the racism rampant throughout the colony and its white ruling class.

The story is told in simple language, recounting the times through Hannaís innocent eyes. Certainly the author has intimate knowledge of the land about which he writes, since he divides the year between Africa and Sweden. The novel is an excellent example of Mr. Mankellís ability not only to portray characters, but to fully develop them progressively. Recommended.

Original Skin
David Mark
c/o Penguin Group USa
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780142180914, $16.00, Paperback, 448 pp.,

Detective Sergeant Aector McAvoy showed in his debut in "The Dark Winter" that he not only blushes easily, but his gut leads him to see crimes passed over by others. Once again, he follows his instincts to solve a murder chalked up by others in the CID as a suicide. Itís not as if the Yorkshire Serious and Organized Crime Unit hasnít enough to do, but by conducting his "informal" investigation, McAvoy brings the "solve" statistics way up as at least two more murders occur.

Simultaneously, the Unit is overwhelmed by a series of crimes brought about by a vicious group seeking to take over the drug trade previously run by Vietnamese. But McAvoy sniffs foul play in the year-old discovery of the nude body of a young man found choked in his home, hanging in his kitchen. So he looks into it informally, with a sort of blessing by his superior, Detective Trish Pharaoh, and learns more about underground erotic sex activities than he bargained for, as well as coming too close to politicians who can cause him more trouble than itís worth.

The plot moves swiftly, and the interchanges between Aector and Trish are so understated and poignant that the reader can only marvel at the authorís low-key approach. This follow-up to the debut novel is more than a worthy successor; it is a wonderful addition to the series, which, we hope, will continue strongly in the future.


David Baldacci, Editor
Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781476762067, $26.99, Hardcover, 384 pp.,

A faceoff in hockey occurs when two opposing players face each other in a circle or at center ice and attempt to direct the puck to a teammate when the ref tosses it between them. In other circumstances, a faceoff implies one or more forces facing each other, usually in opposition. So at the very least this, the third book to be published on behalf of the International Thrillers Writers, comprising some of the best-known authors of the thriller-mystery genre, whose proceeds fund the organization, is a misnomer.

It is edited by David Baldacci, who wrote an introduction to each of the 11 short stories included in the volume. The idea was to pair each authorís iconic protagonist with that of another, cooperating in the plot to solve a crime or mystery. It would not be fair to mention some of the authors and not others, since they are of equal stature. Some of the stories are interesting, others less so.

In facing off, neither the authors nor the protagonist do. They work together, sometimes even beyond the law or ethics. Among the many problems developing stories under the concept includes working out where the two lead characters will operate, since most were domiciled in separate locations, sometimes on opposite sides of the country. Needless to say, the writing and creativity are the result of the top writers in the field. Itís just too bad their hands were tied behind their backs by the premise. One would think with the best minds in the business, a better idea could have been developed.

The Gods of Guilt
Michael Connelly
Grand Central Publishing
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10017
9781455575992,$15.00, Paperback, 416 pp.,
(Kindle 9780316069502, $14.99; hc 9780316069502, $28.00, 400 pp., Little Brown)

This latest entry in the Lincoln Lawyer series introduces an interesting concept: It brings the Oldest Profession into the Digital Age. The defendant in Mickey Hallerís latest murder defense case is a web designer who came up with a gimmick. He designed and managed web sites for prostitutes, managing their bookings, clearing customers, and then sharing the fees. Unfortunately, one night the customer was a no show, and the woman claimed she did not get paid. So the digital pimp, Andre La Cosse, went to her home and ended up bring arrested for her murder.

The victim was a former client of Haller, and she had previously recommended to La Cosse that if he ever needed a lawyer, Mickey was the man. Always skeptical, Mickey soon comes to believe his client really is innocent of the crime. Just go prove it! So once again, readers are treated to the combination of a murder trial with the Haller "team" trying to uncover information to exonerate the client.

The title really is a two-fold reference. On the one hand, it refers to the twelve jurors and two alternates who decide the guilt or innocence of the defendant. On the other hand, these are the various persons haunting Haller for actions and events in his past that continue to haunt him, like his questionable relationship with his daughter and others whom he either loved or hurt. While the novel reads well, and the plot is tight, it seems not as robust as past novels in the series. Missing are the wisecracks and off-beat humor seen in previous Lincoln Lawyer stories. Letís hope Mr. Connelly is not tiring of the character. That said, the novel is recommended.

Second Watch
J.A. Jance
c/o HarperCollins
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780062134684, $9.99, April 29, 2014, Paperback, 464 pp.
(Also available in Hardcover from Morrow, 9780062134677, 368 pp., $26.99)

Lying in a painkiller-induced fog on a hospital bed after double-knee-replacement surgery, J.P. "Beau" Beaumont has a series of dreams dredging up experiences from earlier in his life. In fact, he is really unable to distinguish what is the narcotic-induced reverie and what is real. But the aftermath becomes very real as Beau undertakes two missions as a result.

To begin with, in the first dream, in Beauís first case as a new homicide detective a murdered young woman chides him for failing to keep his promise to her mother and find her killer. And in the second, an apparition of Doug Davis, Beauís platoon leader in Vietnam, who was killed there, shows up and makes him feel guilty for not reaching out to find the Lieutenantís fiancee and tell her much she was loved. So, naturally, as soon as he leaves the hospital, Beau undertakes to rectify both, first by reopening the murder case and then by looking for the fiancee.

This, the 21st J.P. Beaumont novel, is sort of a prequel by basing the current activities on events in Beauís younger days. The author unashamedly admits that by including the story about Beauís service in Vietnam, and the ramifications of Doug Davisí heroism, she pays homage to those who served in that unpopular conflict. And she does so with good taste. "Second Watch" is a fine story, well-told, and is highly recommended.

A Serpentís Tooth
Craig Johnson
c/o Penguin Group USa
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780143125464, $15.00, Paperback, 368 pp.,

Now in his ninth appearance, Walt Longmire is confronted by dual adversaries when a homeless boy shows up on his doorstep. The youth, Cord Lynear, has been cast out of a Mormon cult enclave searching for his mother. Walt discovers that his mother approached the sheriff of an adjoining county, looking for her son. In attempting to reunite the two, Walt is unable to find the mother, leading him into investigating an interstate polygamy group, well-armed and with something to hide.

It is an intricate plot, one fraught with danger for Walt, his pal Standing Bear (also known as "Cheyenne Nation") and his deputy (and lover), Victoria Moretti. I felt Waltís overdone bravado, and the resulting violent confrontations, were a bit overdone. But that is Walt. And TV.

This entry in the Walt Longmire series, now also in a popular TV dramatic form about to enter its second season, appears to be expressly written to provide another episode. That is not to say it isnít another well-written novel with all the elements of the Wyoming sheriffís customary literary observations and acts of derring-do. It just seems to me that itís a bit too much of a manufactured plot with an overtone of a popular protagonist and his sidekicks. That said, the novel is recommended.

Complex 90
Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins
Titan Books
144 Southwark St., London SE1 OUP
9780857689771, $7.99, Paperback, 288 pp.,

This novel is based on an original manuscript written by Mickey Spillane, one of two entrusted "for safekeeping" to Mr. Collins shortly before his death. It was originally scheduled for publication in the 1960ís, but never appeared. It is now made possible through Collinsí collaborative effort.

Complex 90 is set during the Cold War, pitting one-man army Mike Hammer against the entire might of the USSR. It begins when he takes on a job as a bodyguard to protect a U.S. Senator during a party in his home. A gunman invades the home, shoots and kills another security person, a friend named Marley, and a bullet hits Mike in the thigh. Mike replaces Marley as the Senatorís bodyguard on a trip to Moscow on a fact-finding tour. There Mike is arrested and taken to a prison, from which he escapes, killing 45 Russians, and, after two months, crossing into Turkey, where he gets on a plane to return to the U.S. Russia demands extradition, and Mike thumbs his nose. (All of this action transpires very early in the book.)

Will it be a major international incident, or will Mike overpower both the American and Soviet governments? Of course, the gore and sex which play a prominent part in the novel are trademarks of Spillane, purely Mike Hammer at his wise-cracking best. Itís hard to tell where Spillane leaves off and Collins picks up.


Killing Custer
Margaret Coel
Berkley Prime Crime
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780425264638, $25.95, Hardcover, 309 pages,

The team of Arapaho attorney Vickey Holden and Father John OíMalley are confronted with an unlikely bit of history in this latest Wind River mystery: A reenactment of the killing of Col. George Custer, originally put to death at the Battle of Little Big Horn many decades earlier. Edward Garrett, enacting the role of Custer, leads a group of "cavalrymen" in a parade down Main Street, when a band of Indians surrounded the column, encircling it with a challenge ride to demonstrate that the Indians defeated the U.S. army previously.

When the Indians rode off, Garrett lay on the ground, dead of a bullet wound. Naturally, the blame was cast upon the Indians, and especially the leader who posed as Crazy Horse, who led the attack on the original Custer. The lead detective has enough circumstantial evidence to make arrests and the good Father and Holden are hard pressed to substantiate their innocence. To complicate matters Vickey, now representing Garrettís wife, has a conflict of interest preventing her from taking on the accused as clients.

The Wind River series is a long-running one, now numbering 17 in all. Each centers around the Wyoming reservation housing the Arapahos and Cheyenne, with the Holden/OíMalley duo solving yet another crime or mystery. "Killing Custer" follows that pattern, except instead of taking a path based on some quaint Indian history, it is derived from the grisly massacre of the soldiers in blue. As always, the plot and writing are smooth, and the novel is recommended.

A Delicate Truth
John le Carre
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780143125310, $16.00, Paperback, 320 pp.,

In the present atmosphere of clandestine operations, as the result of which the public has been ill-informed and too often kept in the dark, John Le Carre has fashioned a novel built around a bungled black op covered up for three years. The story begins with the hatching of "Operation Wildfire," comprising British special force soldiers and American mercenaries employed by a private company. The aim is to capture an arms dealer who, according to intelligence, is to visit the British colony of Gibraltar.

A Foreign Office functionary is selected to be the on-the-spot eyes-and-ears for a minister of Her Majesty, nominally in charge of the operation. Like many such actions, it results in failure, but is declared a total success, despite the fact that two innocents are killed and the subject never captured. Three years later, various persons, directly or tangentially, separately begin to question the silence and attempt to uncover the facts. The promised "transparency" never seems to arrive.

After a somewhat muddled beginning, in which Mr. Le Carre jumps all around, a bit confusing to the reader, he begins to move the plot straightforwardly and with dispatch. The author raises the basic question of right and wrong, also lambasting the use of private armies to wage "little wars" around the globe and old boy networks where mistakes are covered up and witnesses bought off. A topic that is, unhappily, very timely.


Theodore Feit

James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
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