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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 12, Number 3 March 2012 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Aaron's Bookshelf Ann's Bookshelf
Bethany's Bookshelf Buhle's Bookshelf Burroughs' Bookshelf
Carson's Bookshelf Christy's Bookshelf Clark's Bookshelf
Crocco's Bookshelf Daniel's Bookshelf Esther's Bookshelf
Gary's Bookshelf Gloria's Bookshelf Gorden's Bookshelf
Harwood's Bookshelf Heidi's Bookshelf Karyn's Bookshelf
Kaye's Bookshelf Kiplinger-Johns' Bookshelf Logan's Bookshelf
Lois' Bookshelf Margaret's Bookshelf Maria's Bookshelf
Melissa's Bookshelf Peggy's Bookshelf Richard's Bookshelf
Suzie's Bookshelf Theodore's Bookshelf  

Reviewer's Choice

Finding Our Way Home
Charlene Ann Baumbich
WaterBrook Press
12265 Oracle Boulevard, Suite 200
Colorado Springs, Colorado 80921
9780307444738 $13.99

Cheri Clay

When thirty-seven year old ballerina Sasha Davis falls while dancing not only does the injury end her career but also she seems to shut the door on the most important things in her life. Moving back to her childhood home to recuperate after her mother passes away Sasha wonders if her body will ever heal. All that seems left to cling to be her mother's home and an unusual snow globe that her mother bought her as a child. The "Our Lady of Dance" as the snow globe is affectionately named is a dancing ballerina that seemed to be a good luck charm as Sasha danced but now just seems to be a portal to unlock her emotions and memories. Than along comes nineteen-year-old Evelyn Burt whom Sasha hires as her assistant as she recuperates. A real go-getter determined to make her way in life without college, which disappoints her parents greatly. Who engaged to Jorden seems to have her life all planned out after Sasha no longer needs her and yet no one seems happy about her life choices or engagement.

Author Charlene Ann Baumbich is a remarkable storyteller as she draws the reader in and takes them on an incredible life changing experience as we see ourselves as either Sasha or Evelyn. "Finding Our Way Home" seems to be two stories intertwined together. The first how Sasha finds a new life after dancing and allowing the past to become a part of her again, the second as Evelyn grows up she realizes she really doesn't have her life planned out after all. But the author leads both women on a path of determination and growth, as they become what began as an employer/employee relationship to wonderful friends that are there for each other through all the trials and tribulations each faces as healing imparts each of their lives. God's grace is the center of it all as Evelyn sums up in such a simple prayer of "Grace" yet one simple word can mean so much as this story teaches.

This novel will leave you with a sense of a deeper meaning of "Grace" and a wonder of the next chapter of Sasha and Evelyn's stories. And if the author would perhaps consider a sequel as the reader will desire more.

The Creative Spirit
Scott Nicholson
Haunted Computer Books
PO Box 135, Todd NC 28684
9781452426686 $2.99 (Kindle ebook)

Christina F. Kennison, Reviewer

Life leads us down paths we don't always understand the reasons and as we step tentatively, continuing though we don't know why, life reveals answers. When the path doesn't make sense and is out of our character, not only do others question our right mind, we do too. Yet, we're drawn. We can't change the direction of our feet. Our subconscious, or someone else seems in control.

The Creative Spirit is a paranormal suspense read about a young woman with cancer who follows and unknown pull to Korban Estate, a secluded mansion nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains. After six years of research at the Rhine Research Center in Durham, Anna guesses the reason is to do another research article. Ghosts and dreams called to her, watched her, but when a ghost of herself reached out and wouldn't go away, Anna's real purpose began. Along the way, Anna prepared for her passing from this life into the next and dealt with the daily pain.

Other artists were also drawn to Korban Manor, each believing because of their art. Young honors graduate Mason Jackson, and winner of the 2002 Grassroots Consortium Award came to the manor on a grant, one from North Carolina Arts Council and from Korban Manor. He didn't realize he'd been chosen to sculpt a worthy form for the deceased Ephran Korban where his entity would slide into.

Each artist brought to the manor came for a reason other than what they thought and one by one met the real reason in a surprising and grisly way.

Scott Nicholson skillfully balances paranormal intrigue with a message about artists' and their dreams, about their suffering and about sacrifice, and their fear of failure. A profound message for artists and one of my favorite parts is:

"Maybe this was what suffering was all about. The art of sacrifice. I wasn't about enduring starvation, struggling for recognition, fighting the fear of failure. Maybe it was about finishing, letting go. And realizing that the dreams you bring to life sometimes have no place I the world, and are best left as dreams.

The toughest critics weren't in New York or Paris. They weren't in the art schools. They didn't wear berets and sprout tiny mustaches and drink espresso. Sometimes they lived in your mirror.

Dreams aren't the only thing we got in this world. Pain. Dreams and Pain. Well, that's a lovely mix. Maybe you can add 'faith' to that list. The and of mix that maybe love was made of."
---Nicholson 2003

Nicholson has written 10 novels, electronic works, story collections, and writes for a newspaper. His friendly and helpful website, The Haunted Computer is a testimony to his helpful and playful personality.

Eerie and magical. The Creative Spirit gathers momentum, builds suspense, visits the dead, provides abundant characters easy to follow, and offers vision. Entertaining and thought provoking. Recommended.

The Devil's Coattails: More Dispatches from the Dark Frontier
Jason V Brock and William F. Nolan, editors
Cycatrix Press
9780984167630 $49.95

Cyrus Wraith Walker

In 2009, Jason V Brock and the Living Legend, William F. Nolan, teamed up to produce a limited collector's anthology titled The Bleeding Edge: Dark Barriers, Dark Frontiers. In trade and deluxe editions, the book quickly sold out and was marked by a signing event in California in which nearly all the authors attended, including Ray Bradbury, Norman Corwin, George Clayton Johnson, John Shirley, Earl Hamner, Jr., and others.

Well, Brock and Nolan are at it again. And once again they prove to be true pioneers of the dark frontier with a volume that is much more than just an anthology. The Devil's Coattails: More Dispatches from the Dark Frontier can only be described as an eclectic anthology. A work that rises high above the ballyhoo of fan fiction with a miscellanea of discourse that will delight intelligent readers of dark fiction.

With a forward by S.T. Joshi, one can find authors such as Ramsey Campbell ("The Moons") who offers a glimpse from his mind's eye with a story he mentally composed while walking with his wife at a nature reserve near Liverpool right after an emergency call they heard on a ranger's radio about some missing youth.

Journey with the editors and Mrs. Dan O'Bannon's husband ("Invocation") as they discover an old unpublished story written by the creator of Alien in his college years. Learn of the darker side of Wyatt Earp as John Shirley mixes Historical fact with fiction in "Gunboat Whores," a job that the historical lawman reportedly took in his younger more troubled years. Brock himself contributes a story ("Object Lesson") that explores the age old issue about decisions concerning life and death, a decision that we face either out of mercy or sometimes out of selfishness, legal or not. Steve Rasnic Tem unnerves us with his rendition of Appalachian folklore in "Cattiwampus." The fantastically poetic prose of W. H. Pugmire ("The Hidden Realm") steps beyond sanity as he leads us back to the time of Oscar Wilde during the years of Oscar's break from heterosexuality in pursuit of dark spiritual poetics. And of course William F. Nolan, the man built off versatile prose, inspired by Homer and Vergilius Maro's Aeneid, gives us a poetic rendition of the battle between Diocreasas and Circe in his offering "Dread voyage."

For screenwriters the volume offers a teleplay by Marc Scott Zicree which he wrote as an offering to demonstrate a proposal for a television series called Rod Serling's After Twilight. The episode titled "Knife Through the Veil" is about a woman that follows her families murderer to a place beyond sight and sound. The episode was written as a pilot after over 200 dictabelts recorded by Serling from some of his lectures and prep for the original series were discovered in a Midwest College. The teleplay includes excerpts from those recordings, a teleplay that never aired because CBS censors pulled the plug. A series that Zicree assures us he hasn't given up on yet.

Nolan and Brock realize a trove of original never before published works that will most assuredly become a collector's item as The Bleeding Edge has already begun to do. This book will not appeal to an audience that is solely interested in cliched story-only anthologies. It is a package full of gems, with various modes of composition proving S.T. Joshi's point of fact in the foreword that weird fiction is not isolated to a genre. I would say that Joshi is extremely astute in his discernment for there must always be a catharsis for the human condition called repression and in The Devil's Coattails we see that it can come from anywhere.

The trade and deluxe editions are bound in a very attractive volume that is feels good in the hands. Familiar art by Goya, Dore, Munch, Bosch, and Blake give it a feel of antiquity while the fabulous artwork of Vincent Chong brings it back to modern day, a blend of new and old, timeless in all of its contents. This is a quality production, rarely found on today's market with faltering publishing companies. The book is even printed by a company that uses 100% wind power and only vegetable oil inks. This is must have for those collectors that delight in treasures. Only 500 have been printed, all are signed and all are limited. I highly recommend this book.

Opus 800: Rationalist Papers 2010-2011
William Harwood
World Audience, Inc.
303 Park Avenue South, Suite 1440, NY, NY 10010-3675
9781935444817, $25.00,

G. Richard Bozarth

Once again William Harwood has made an excellent addition to Freethought's library. Opus 800: Rationalist Papers 2010-2011 is more evidence of his worthiness to be recognized as one of Freethought's important writers. I'm always glad to review one of his books because I prefer writing about books I like after finishing them. I don't always agree with Harwood, but I do always agree with him more than disagree. In fact, I am confident any person who defines himself or herself as an Atheist, Freethinker, Rationalist, Secular Humanist, or nontheist (Harwood's preference over "Atheist") will like this book - except for those who are committed accommodationists and thus are offended by writing about religionism that has an Ecrasez l'infame! attitude.

On page 278 Harwood makes a blunt declaration that could have been any of his books I've read: "Personally, if my writings did not offend nonsense-addicts, I would consider myself a failure." His books are usually filled with zingers that ensure they do not fail to offend nonsense-addicts. 800 is not an exception:

P. 14: "No objective observer can read a Tanakh, Bible or Koran and fail to recognize the entities called 'Yahweh,' 'God,' and 'Allah' as the most sadistic, evil, mass-murdering psychopaths in all fiction." The Tanakh is the entire collection of documents believed by Judaists to be holy scriptures that was adapted to the Bible and called the Old Testament.

P. 93: "Republican politicians nationwide are behaving in a manner that makes [Syria's dictator Bashar al-] Assad's genocide look like a misdemeanor, since they are conspiring to impose laws that will sentence hundreds of thousands of Americans to a slow death if they cannot afford food, shelter or health care."

P. 118: "The only thing I detest as much as theological doublethink is psychobabble. Anyone who wants to spout wild guesses about human behavior should become a bartender."

P. 256: "If there is a difference between a philosopher and a science fiction author, it must be a very subtle difference."

P. 325: "Religion is the sickest perversion ever seen on earth."

Another way 800 conforms to the previous Harwood books I've read is by being full of interesting information that Freethought readers always appreciate. These are some examples I appreciated the most:
P. 15: "Prior to 384 CE, there was no Catholic Church. In that year a bishop named Siricius was elected archbishop of Rome, entitling him to assume the title of 'Pope' as one of five popes who reigned over the five Christian patriarchies of Rome, Constantinople, Jerusalem, Antioch, and Alexandria. Since no bishop of Rome before Siricius was recognized as Head Christian, none can be considered to have held the office of Pope, as that title is understood today. Siricius promptly declared himself pope of all Christians, thereby creating what is now regarded as the Catholic Church, and declared that his four coequal popes were henceforth his inferiors."

P. 120: "The first five centuries of Christian apologists accepted Josephus's description [in Halosis] of a deformed Jesus. Tertullian wrote in 207 CE, 'His body was not even of honest human shape.' Origen, Clement of Alexandra, Cyril of Alexandria, Andrew of Crete, Clement of Rome, and Ephraim of Syria agreed." Harwood points out in the paragraph before this quote that the description conformed to a prophecy in Isaiah (53:2-4) about the Messiah, which eventually became ignored by Christianity because paganized Christians would not accept an ugly, physically deformed Son of God.

P. 262: "The most highly regarded Greek scholars are unanimous that Nazoraios denotes a member of the Nazirite (or Nazarene) sect, and cannot possibly be derived from the geographic term, Nazareth, which in any case means 'dispersion.' There was no village named Nazareth until long after Jesus' death."

P. 300: "...... only in the Septuagint was 'young woman' mistranslated into 'virgin.'" The Septuagint is the famous Greek translation of the Tanakh made in the 3rd century bce and the mistranslated 'young woman' is in Isaiah 7:14, which became one of Isaiah's prophecies about the Messiah accepted by Christians because of the mistranslation.

P. 309: "...... 'the poor,' ebionim in Aramaic, was the name of Jesus' sect. Admission to the Ebionite cult was obtained (as Acts 4:32-34 makes clear) by liquidating one's property and giving the proceeds to the cult."

Since Harwood is a Canadian and he barely mentions any of the problems theofascists create in Canada, he appears in 800 to be obsessed with the problems theofascists create in the U.S. He doesn't explain his intense focus on the U.S. until page 323: "As a Canadian, I consider myself America's friend, and America's current status as the most superstitious, ignorant, scientifically illiterate, theofascist nation in the civilized world is terrifying to me." That is understandable. The U.S. emerged out of World War 2 as the major military superpower and was soon corrupted by that power, which has made it the most militarily aggressive nation on Earth. Put into that equation the abundance of weapons of mass destruction the U.S. possesses and the possibility that a fundamentalist Christian could one day be sitting in the White House with his or her finger on the WMD trigger, do the math, and the answer is that Harwood's terror is justified. However, I would have enjoyed two or three articles about what's going on north of the border - and I'm convinced it would have increased 800's excellence.

800 doesn't have a unifying theme, therefore it has no flow of development towards a unified conclusion. The first part of the book is essays, the second part is book reviews, and the third part is reviews of his books by others (including me, so the reader is justified in being suspicious about my objectivity in this review). It seems that just about everything Freethought writers write about gets covered in this book. Religionism (especially the fundamentalist kind) and the Republican Party get most of the pounding. The books he reviews are from Voltaire's God & Human Beings to Zecharia Sitchin's The Twelfth Planet to George W. Bush's Decision Points to Richard Dawkins's The Magic Of Reality. He writes about books he disliked about as often as he writes about books he liked. If a reader finishes the first two parts wanting to read other Harwood books, the third part of 800 will be appreciated for its help in deciding which Harwood book to read next. A reader who has read one or more of the Harwood books reviewed by others probably will find it interesting to compare his or her opinion to the reviewers'.

I did have disagreements with Harwood. I disagree with his support of military action to make sure Iran does not develop nuclear WMD ("Pacifism: A Personal Philosophy Or A Quasi-Religious Psychosis?"). Being a citizen of Texas, USA, I disagree with his Canadian opinion that the U.S. Supreme Court has gone too far to prevent wrongful convictions ("The Bill Of Rights - And The Supreme Court's Insane Interpretations"). I disagree with his reviews of The Grand Design by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow and Adventures In Freedom by Kaz Dziamka (the latter disagreement is also worthy of suspicions about my objectivity because Kaz is an editor who has been very friendly to my writing). I disagree with his perpetuation of the most famous myth about Madalyn Murray O'Hair in his review of The Unbelievers by S. T. Joshi. This didn't surprise me at all. I am certain every reader will experience at least one disagreement in a book that covers as much territory as 800.

Opus 800: Rationalist Papers 2010-2011 deserves to be in the library of every Atheist, Freethinker, Secular Humanist, and nontheist. Any person who is interested in the pursuit of intellectual excellence and/or in exploring Freethought thinking will be rewarded by 800. If any of secularism's sectarian opponents are serious about persuading secularists they are wrong, 800 will show them how much hard work they will have to do to achieve success (my prediction is that 800 will prove the work is much too hard and the sectarian will decide to continue relying on Big Lies, pseudoscience, and theofascist activism). Those of us who are convinced religionism deserves our Ecrasez l'infame! attitude will especially enjoy this book, and that is the major reason why I enthusiastically recommend 800.

Hitler's Silver Box-A Novel
Allen Malnak
Two Harbors Press
212 3rd Ave N, Suite 290, Minneapolis, MN 55401
9781937293369 $16.95

Mayra Calvani

Hitler's Silver Box is a compelling, exciting thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the end.

In a two-story Georgian house in one of Chicago's affluent suburbs, Max Bloomberg, an old bookseller, is brutally killed. Before murdering him, the killers burn his holy books and ask him for 'the box.' The old man refuses to give them any information. However, unbeknown to them, he's left his secret journal to his nephew.

Enters Dr. Bruce Starkman, Chief ER Resident at Chicago's Cook County Hospital. Bruce is crushed when he learns about his beloved uncle's unexpected murder. Although Bruce would like to accept the murder as an unfortunate turn of fate, he soon becomes suspicious. Why was Uncle Max, an orthodox Jew, cremated? Uncle Max would never have allowed cremation. Why was his bookstore vandalized? And why is a black Chevy following Bruce lately? The situation gets more complicated when he inherits a large sum of money and property from his uncle, suddenly making him a suspect.

Thus begins Bruce's search for the journal, and once he discovers it, the reader is transported to 1945 when Max was 23 years old and a prisoner at the Theresienstadt concentration camp. Tension escalates, innocent people are killed, and together with Miriam, a beautiful and extremely smart Israeli woman with military training, Bruce travels to Paris and the Czech Republic. It quickly becomes evident to Bruce that he must outwit the neo-Nazis and find the silver box his uncle built - and the secret document hidden within it - if he is to save the world from an imminent Nazi resurgence.

The premise is ambitious, the stakes are high. Hitler's Silver Box is a well-written novel full of non-stop action and suspense. The story is written from multiple points of view separated by chapters. From the beginning, I was hooked. The pace is quick and the scenes full of tension. There's a lot of dialogue and little exposition, thus propelling the action further. I especially found Max's journal engrossing and compelling, distressing and shocking. The horror of Max's story touched me at a profound level. It is one of those tales not easily forgotten. The journal adds depth and another dimension to the book. I also liked how the voice, pace and tone in the journal are different from the rest of the novel. The protagonist, Bruce Starkman, is sympathetic and I really enjoyed all his 'medical' insights; it's obvious the author is a medical doctor himself. Miriam, with her quick tongue, adds a lot of color and spunk to the scenes and I wish she had appeared much earlier in the story. I didn't care much about Bruce's ex-girlfriend, who's quite active in the beginning, though keeping in mind what happens to her, I suspect why the author didn't make her too likable.

In short, Hitler's Silver Box is a fast-moving, entertaining read and one of those books that would make a good film. Recommended.

The Brook Farm Murders
Lois Wells Santalo
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
Distributed by Dictionary Hill Press
P.O. Box 204, Alpine, CA 91901
1456459678, $11.65,

Melanie Thompson

Though well aware she is jumping into something dicey by moving into the co-op farm in the Glacier Hills near the University of Michigan, Jill Szekely feels she has little choice. True, there had already been two questionable deaths at the farm at the moment when she signed up to become its live-in librarian. Yet because of her compelling need to attend graduate school and meet the academic requirements for a career as a psychiatric social worker, she can afford nothing more elaborate than co-op living.

Trouble is not long in coming. Within hours of Jill's arrival, her old friend Renee Corliss disappears with one of her children, leaving a second child of her own, as well as one she was babysitting, in the car alone. This was totally unlike Renee. Since she would never have done such a thing of her own volition, it seems she has to be the victim of coercion. But how could that happen? Her divorce, complete with custody battles, was about to become final; had her ex managed somehow to whisk her away? Or had one of the locals who objected to Brook Farm kidnapped her just to scare off the co-op? Or was it possible after all, as the police believe that she might have run off with the mysterious soldier who'd just surfaced after years of MIA? Such a gesture seemed unthinkable for a woman who'd always proved reliable. Could she abandon her own child, and her friend's, just to be with a man who'd once canceled plans for marrying her on the grounds that she wasn't Jewish?

Since the police are convinced Renee chose to go, while former roommate, Alison, busy caring for her own child, seems prepared to rely on nothing more tangible than a scary Tarot card spread to solve the mystery, Jill feels she is the only one who can approach the search in a sensible way. Though she didn't seek the task, it seems to have been thrust upon her.

In going to the rescue of her friend, Jill soon finds herself involved in far more complications than she bargained for, and is called upon to save more victims than just Renee and her son. Luckily, Jill's pianist spouse, Zoltan, arrives to assist and, working as partners, they plunge into the heart of the mystery and learn what is really going on in the area. In the process, the book asks some probing questions about eugenics and population control, questions already worrying to people in the fifties while becoming ever more of a concern today.

A well-crafted and suspenseful mystery, this second Jill Szekely story is a worthy sequel to the first, Dorothea in the Mirror. The ongoing theme of marital issues caused by Jill's husband's dedication to his concert career provides further insight into the problems of young musicians and their spouses. This author has repeatedly proved her ability to make her murder mysteries, like those of P.D. James, novels of substance as well as tantalizing puzzles.

In her earlier books, the author received critical praise for her gift of creating interesting and unusual characters, and she here offers up a whole co-op full of people the reader would love to meet. The book has a strong sense of place, with descriptions of the moraines left by receding glaciers in the Ann Arbor area, and interesting and realistic tips about the co-op housing movement on the Michigan campus. Highly recommended.

The Melancholy MBA
Richard Donnelly
Brick Road Poetry Press
P. O. Box 751, Columbus, GA 31902-0751
9780984100569 $16.00,

Michael Meyerhofer

The Melancholy MBA is the debut collection of Richard Donnelly, and in addition to being timely, it's also pretty damn impressive. Donnelly's style is unique in that he manages to break new ground (especially in how his frequent use of caesura forces the reader to take his/her time, really digest the language of these poems) while deftly sidestepping the pretension and unfriendliness all too often found in "experimental" poetry. Put another way, these poems are wonderfully fresh and original yet distinctly human in their accessibility.

The "quiet desperation" famously mentioned by Thoreau is everywhere in these poems, made palatable by wry wit blended with the seething frustration and guilt of Middle Management, America. In Office Window, the narrator remarks how he's just been given "a new office with a window" and, nearing middle age, is finally able to see "Minneapolis sunshine" (38). One could point out the irony of this, suggesting he could just go outside if he wanted to see the sun, but then you have to wonder how visible the sun would be in the city - not to mention the American ridiculousness of having to choose between a paycheck and sunlight.

Another example is Jelly Beans, an early poem in which an unnamed character seems unfazed by the near loss of a "three hundred thousand dollar" account, but sternly questions whether the narrator is the one who has been stealing jelly beans from the jar on his desk (30). On first read, it's a funny poem combining the frustration of trying to deal with an incompetent who cares more about safeguarding his sweets than keeping his job. On second glance, though, there's something sad and familiar about that situation, a bit of human frailty staining the machinery gears. We see this again in She Tricked (52), where we read how an unattractive woman famous for tricking "a man into getting her pregnant" flirts with the narrator, who "[doesn't] blame her," perhaps because he recognizes something of his own loneliness and desperation in her actions.

Fans of films like Office Space or even the much darker He Was a Quiet Man will find much that is familiar here, to say nothing of those who themselves have actually worked in factories or offices and experienced firsthand the struggle to maintain individuality in a setting that, perhaps by necessity, wears down the creativity and complexity of the human experience in favor of mechanical productivity. For instance, in Cabo, the narrator overhears a group of salespeople being berated like disappointing children, warned that they may lose their "spiffs" if they don't meet their quota. You can almost see the salespeople hanging their heads, shifting nervously, even though we (like the narrator) have no idea what a "spiff" means in this context.

Those themes continue in Your Life, which contains perhaps the book's most striking scene. There, an obviously dissatisfied narrator contemplates an affair with a woman who claims his life is "so perfect," but instead of taking decisive action one way or another, he hangs up, clears his schedule, then simply spends "half an hour... staring at the wall" (54). The poet need provide no further details for the reader to imagine the indecision, excitement, and self-loathing that may be going through the narrator's mind, all being clear illustrations of the very mortality the narrator both fears and seeks to embrace on the deepest level possible.

However, these poems are not merely concerned with dissecting futility, posing the question of what constitutes a physical or a moral life worth living. Nor is The Melancholy MBA a two dimensional view into the mind of a modern businessman (stereotypically as foreign to most poets as, well, poetry to Wall Street). One of this book's strengths is its unassuming ambition, plus its ability to maintain verisimilitude while illustrating the paranoia, classism and/or racism interwoven in the business community. Poor People is an excellent example (reposted here in its entirety):

there are some poor people
in the world

I see them at the Northland Park
Community Center or
Dell Foods in

they wear dirty sweatshirts
stained sweat pants old
broken tennis shoes
their hair hangs
around their faces
their oily hair

it's almost like being crazy
is what it looks like to
me until one of their kids
kicks in your
door at two a.m. and says

I'll show you crazy (39).

Some of Donnelly's best uses of tongue-in-cheek humor occur in poems about the opposite sex, many of which also have some underlying feminist commentary or critique of the human condition. For instance, the sectioned poem Six Short Poems about Love begins with a vignette about a woman who refuses to bring the narrator coffee, saying she'll only do that for her husband, but in fact, "not even for / him" (12). The rebuke seems playful, though, whereas in The Good Manager, a frustrated narrator tries to distance himself from a female employee who seems to be asking for leniency, a raise, and a personal shoulder to cry on, though he finishes by telling her to "button / up the top / of that blouse" (17-18). While that poem could be read as a lighthearted critique of an inappropriate worker, an alternate view would be to read the poem's title satirically, so that the rebuke is how the narrator feels he should respond, for whatever reason, but doesn't. Perhaps my favorite example, though, not to mention my favorite line from the book, is the beginning of Sex Poem, which artfully blends eroticism with measured self-deprecation:

A woman's body
is a foreign country
and you are not a native
you are a man with a stamped
passport (24).

Underneath these small, often funny tales of lust, ambition, and petty betrayals, the real strength of these poems is their obsession with Man's mortality, coupled with the absurdity of our daily situation. Somehow, though, Donnelly manages to illustrate all this with the timing, charisma, and lyrical acrobatics of a stand-up comic. The end result is that we not only agree with him, nodding and sometimes laughing as we turn the page, but we feel better (and stronger) for it.

Christina Ohlsson
Atria Books
1230 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020
9781439198896, $25.00,

Regis Schilken, Reviewer

I cannot think of a topic more terrifying to any reader than that of child abduction! While a kidnapping probably has never happened to any of us, we secretly hope it never occurs to any parent, particularly when the abductor has obviously abused the child and may still be doing so.

In Christina Ohlsson's book, Unwanted, just such horror takes place on a train traveling from Gothenberg to Stockholm. A young girl had kicked off her small shoes and fallen asleep on the seat in the train's coach number two. Not wanting to disturb her sleeping daughter, her mother steps outside the train to make a phone call. A signaling problem on the tracks ahead holds the train detained in Flemingsberg.

Within minutes, while her mother is distracted with her phone, she realizes the train is departing. There is no way to safely catch up and climb aboard. Using good sense, the Flemingsberg station calls the train to have one of its conductors explain to the little girl what happened. Mother will travel by cab to meet her at the next station.

Unwanted! This does not happen!

After seeing the small girl sleeping, when the conductor returns several minutes later, she has vanished from her compartment. Police are immediately called but to no avail. Minutes drag into hours and eventually into long days for the girl's hysterical mother who is estranged from her husband.

Police initially think this is a simple case of a father kidnapping his daughter after a custody battle. The police inspectors assigned the case are rather odd characters. The chief investigating inspector insists that a younger female counterpart and a second male investigator always defer to him who knows better. Yet, the bright young woman nevertheless continues to have her own intelligent thoughts about the case.

When the missing youngster is eventually found dead, this team of investigators knows it is tracking a deranged, merciless killer. Forensics proved that his youthful victim had died "of poisoning, an overdose of insulin" (199). But now, a second child evaporates similarly into thin air. Will this investigating team eventually find this second child knowing the first was horribly murdered? Now, the team of investigators cannot help but swallow their egotistical pride and collaborate, pasting clues and events together that indicate a second child murder will certainly follow.

Unwanted is not a light read. It will stir up appalling fear and compassion that will overwhelm your imagination and sense of morality. For a first book, Kristina Ohlsson has put together a remarkable story, even though many of her male characters seem gruff, mean, and/or disturbed. I would recommend this tale to readers who like deadly, frightening tales. Although there is little bloodshed in the story, gore is certainly implied.

This is not a tale for the faint of heart. Indeed, it is frightening. It will impress in your memory a feeling of real frustration that all police and investigators endure when an investigation eventually ends in murder.

Use Your Power of Command for Spiritual Cleansing and Protection
Rose Rosetree
Women's Intuition Worldwide
PO Box 5560, Chico, California 95927
9781935214038, $14.95,

Rohma Kellert

I have always been sensitive to energy. I began to meditate at age 18 and right from the start had "otherwordly" experiences, some of which were really frightening. The negative energies in rooms and around people were a constant source of pain, and I often attributed how awful I felt to my own mind, when in reality I was simply cluttered up w/ a huge amount of astral gunk that was not of my own making. I have studied long and hard to deal with this with some success, but not enough to satisfy me. I practice healing and bodywork, so protection and clearing are personally and professionally vital to me on a daily basis.

In every healing class, the question of protection looms large and scary for students. Some teachers try to downplay it - the astral is just an illusion, your beliefs and a big dose of white light will protect you.

I've studied w/teachers who insist you can't pick up the energies of others, whatever you're experiencing is just in your own subconscious. Then there were teachers or healers who saw astral invasion every time a door opened and a new person entered the room, carrying entities that wanted to attack the rest of us.

Neither perspective seemed healthy or reflective of reality. The physical world is full of germs. Denying it doesn't keep you safe, but developing a cleaning obsession will just make normal living impossible and render you crazy.

If you've ever struggled with the fear of picking up unwanted attachments, ghosts, or psychic attack, or if you're involved in difficult relationships or feel overwhelmed by life, unwanted thoughts, or stuck in old, outworn patterns of behavior, Rose Rosetree's latest book, Use your Power of Command for Spiritual Cleansing and Protection, is the eminently down to earth answer.

Ms. Rosetree is a pioneer in the field of energy spirituality. She taught Transcendental Meditation for 17 years and in 1986 became a practicing regression therapist and is a certified hypnotherapist. 1986 was also when she began teaching her original material on energetic perception, developing skills of energetic literacy, and her face reading system. She has written three instructional books on these subjects. She also has gone on to develop an effective training program for empaths and has written two instructional books on that subject, plus books on co-creating w/ God and developing effective skills to attract what you want. She works w/clients from all over the world and teaches students in Virginia, Japan and England.

Ms. Rosetree's latest book is an effective how-to manual for successfully decluttering your aura, your space and your psyche of five common types of astral debris while protecting yourself from psychic attacks. These include astral ties, negative thoughtforms, psychic coercion, ghosts, and as a bonus for those who are seriously engaged in personal growth and transformation, how to give yourself an energy makeover. With Ms. Rosetree's expert and entertaining tutelage, you will gain practical understandings and skills in freeing yourself from a lot of unnecessary suffering while keeping yourself clear and able to move forward in life. It is written in straightforward style, filled w/ humor and honesty, clearly and sensibly explaining the differences between the spiritual, astral, and physical realms of existence. In the first chapter she breaks down the five simple tools everyone needs and already owns to clean and protect themselves from all manner of astral goop.

Unlike many other systems I've studied, this one does not require long-term working to develop the ability to channel light or create elaborate healing structures. There's nothing to burn or spray, no crystals or salts, no complex prayers or rituals. Rose explains the five tools you need are already within you, waiting to be put into effective action. In this system you need to use your awareness and your breath and Rose teaches you how, with simple exercises that bring fast results. The big gun, your power of command, is defined by Rose as effective speech. Not shouting or begging, simply requesting. But requesting by knowing the what, where, and why of what you're requesting, while being actively connected with the of the Divine being of your choice.

Over the course of 46 very short pages, Rose gives you precise, easy to follow instructions to achieve just that. Each set of step-by-step instructions comes with a learning exercise that even a child will be able to do. And then it's on to learning what each type of astral debris is and equally simple, yet highly effective exercises to learn the practical skills that will be yours life. Over the next chapters each type of astral goop is defined, it's affects delineated, and the remedy taught in clear, simple step-by-step exercises, complete with guidance for noticing and evaluating the results for you in the here and now. So not only will you learn what sorts of problems require remediation and then perform the remedy, you'll also develop greater skills in self-awareness, which, Rose says, is an essential tool of psychic protection.

Having taught many workshops, Rose anticipates the questions and doubts that may come up for readers. With humor and commonsense she disarms resistance and convinces even those of us who are scared to try, to go ahead. She gives real-life examples of students and herself. Each chapter ends with an easy to follow set of instructions set in a text box for easy reference.

I've put this set of skills to the test in my life and can report that they've brought this empath immediate, highly positive results. I'll gratefully be using them for the rest of my life.

Leaving Lukens
Laura S. Wharton
Broad Creek Press
P.O. Box 43, Mount Airy, NC 27030
9780983714804, $20.00,

Sandra Heptinstall

I have read Ms Wharton first book, "The Pirate's Bastard." I did enjoy it a lot. Yet as I began to read this book, I found she was not just a onetime author. In fact I enjoyed this book even more than the first.

I loved the characters in this book and the way, Ms. Wharton has created them. The flow of the story is excellent and l did not find even one page or paragraph that was boring. You are captured from the start.

The book starts on May 2000 at a reunion and then goes back to WWII. There we find adventure, love and intrigue. The ending blew me away. I had to read it twice and then it hit me. (It was a slap me silly moment for me.) Just one sentence told me what I longed to hear. I did not want this story to end. Nor do I think you will either, and that is why I am giving this book a five star rating.

Faith of the Heart (Back to Omaha Adventure)
Jewell Tweedt
E-published through Amazon
c/o Amazon Digital Services
B006Z8KY, Kindle $2.99

Teri Davis

Fiction / Romance/ Christian

Claire Secord is the type of person that each of us wishes we could be, hardworking, reliable, with values and beliefs reflected in her daily life. Since the death of her parents, she has worked as a nanny to two rambunctious boys in Gettysburg while still heartbroken over the loss of her fiance who was fighting with the Union Army nearby. During a battle, he disappeared. Now, she presumes he is dead.

Claire receives a telegram from her aunt explaining that her husband recently died of a heart attack. Her aunt asked her to come to Omaha to help with the running of their small store in this frontier town. Since this is her only family and she feels indebted to them, she immediately quits her position while anxiously wondering if this is the best choice for her.

Life seldom works out as we expect and Claire is shocked when arriving in Omaha only to discover that her aunt now has also died.

Greeting Claire is the handsome sheriff of Omaha who escorts her to her new home and store. What does Claire know about operating a general store? She begins her new life by cleaning.

Entering this transition in life is her fiance who now has a new life and identity. Claire has never taken off the necklace that was a sign of their promise and love for each other. Why not, unless she still loves him? One thing though is the same. He still wants Claire as his wife and to begin their life together back East.

Claire has proven her own sense of commitment and love to her fiance but has he proven his love or just his desires? Can she love this man who now has a new name and life? Is he really the man that she loves or does she have a stronger feeling for someone else? She knew that she loved him once, can this love be rekindled?

Jewell Tweedt is a native of Omaha, Nebraska. Having previously written several magazine articles, she teaches school while also writing the next book in this series.

Read Faith of the Heart to discover the love of Claire's heart.

Will soon be available in print form with about 250 pages. Printed copy will be around $10.00.

Aaron's Bookshelf

Private Lies
Warren Adler
Stonehouse Press
9781931304658 Paperback: $19.95; Kindle eBook: $2.99

PRIVATE LIES is a mesmerizing read, starting with the powerful voice of Ken Kramer in the opening pages. I'm not going to provide a detailed plot summary, other than to say that this novel is a commanding glimpse into the minds of four very distinct characters. Mr. Adler rotates between these points of view, from a dispirited writer who has lost his dream and now settles for a job writing ads (Ken), to his long ago ballerina lover with whom he parted ways twenty years earlier and who he now runs into by a pure twist of fate (Carol), to his loving and enthusiastic wife, a virtual "earth mother," who has organized his life and bore him two children (Maggie), to the final corner of this very odd rhombus, a self-engrossed, gourmand who's always touting his latest "cause" and who can talk the best dinner partners under the table (Eliot).

One is immediately plunged into mystery and suspense when the story opens with a chance meeting between Ken, his wife Maggie, her new client Eliot, and his spouse, Carol. Ken knows she's Carol - his past lover - yet she doesn't acknowledge him. Not a glance, no eye contact, no conversation. Ken spends the whole evening wonder if this ethereal, swan-necked, divine creature is really the woman with whom he spent months of hot passion two decades ago. He's positive it's her; but why does she pretend not to know him?

Little by little, delicious secrets are unveiled. We discover Carol's past, which I won't divulge here, and finally get a peak into her mind.

I expected the story would stay in New York, set in apartments and coffee shops and restaurants, when suddenly the plot twists and we are airlifted to Africa!

The contrast between the scenes in the dark, dirty city to Africa are vibrantly divergent. Africa - land of the parching sun, torrential downpours, rare danger, and raw resplendent beauty - invades the minds of the quartet by unleashing inner urges, some not so pretty. The land influences and entices, invades sensible thoughts and tempts all four to go where they hadn't dared before.

If it seems like I'm being cryptic here, I am. I don't want to spoil the plot.

There are several twists in this story that made me stand up and applaud. Well done, Mr. Adler! It was these twists that grabbed my attention and made me love the book even more. As they should, secrets are unveiled and the plot runs wild with surprises coming in more frequent waves toward the end. Most satisfying.

I would recommend this book for adults only, particularly those who aren't shy about reading delicately described sexual encounters. These tastefully drawn passages of great passion were evocative and sensual, adding to the texture of this finely woven literary tapestry. As in THE DAVID EMBRACE, Mr. Adler writes voluptuous and fiery passages when it comes to passion in the bedroom, or in the mind.

I've heard that PRIVATE LIES was up for a movie, and that was one of my first thoughts when I finished it. "What a great movie PRIVATE LIES would make!" I do hope that Hollywood grabs hold of this one and runs with it.

I highly recommend PRIVATE LIES for the thinking man or woman, and for those who enjoy diabolical, twisty plots and lush scenery.

The Black Cow
Magdalena Ball
9781927086469 $16.99 pbk.
9781927086476 $TBA EPUB eBook
9781927086483 $TBA MOBI eBook
9781927086490 $TBA PDF eBook

Reading a book by Magdalena Ball is a wonderfully peculiar experience. One moment, you're sitting innocently in your chair with your Kindle, and the next minute you are whisked inside the brains and bodies of her characters, intimately connected with their soaring spirits or their angst.

I've read Ms. Ball's books before, and have been enthralled by them. SLEEP BEFORE EVENING was the first novel I read, and I was absorbed by the well-told story. I've read her poetry, and been impressed with the way she weaves love and science and the wonder of the universe into her work without sounding pretentious or sappy.

BLACK COW, her new release, is a literary novel that breaks through to new levels, immersing her readers into the lives of an Australian family in very serious trouble. The problems don't show on the outside, but they're deeply ingrained in the fabric of the family, in their souls, and in their hearts. The metamorphosis of this very authentic family hurts, is hard-earned, and will make you beg for resolution.

It's not an unpleasant experience - on the contrary - but it feels so real that the reader will absorb Ms. Ball's characters' pain like litmus paper soaks up water. I literally had to put the book down and stop for a while, because the stress James and Freya experienced in their intensely acquisitive world felt so uncomfortable that I thought my own blood pressure was spiking.

I ached for them to stop the madness, to look at each other and help each other, and to start thinking about what matters most in life.

Not only do husband and wife James and Freya, or their children Cameron and Dylan jump off the pages, but their inner thoughts and dialogue ring true. Written in third person POV, the reader moves effortlessly from mother to father, to anorexic daughter to the love-starved son. It feels natural and not forced, which is often a hard situation for 3rd person writers to avoid. See this segment from the daughter's point of view just after her grandmother passed:

Cameron began to cry, so silently that it was almost not a cry at all, just falling rain on three generations of women through the memories of past, the unreliability of the present and the non-existent future. In the cooling entropy of now, she felt a deep connection with the woman who appeared on the page before her, and then jerked her head up, shocked by the snapping of the string. It was as if a helix had unwound inside her. Suddenly the room seemed intensely empty and looking at the picture, Cameron knew that her grandmother was dead.

What resonated most with me were the epic truths behind the story. I often lament today's society where kids rarely play outdoors just for fun, where their lives are over-organized with everyone hurrying from one activity to another, where every room in the house has a television/DVD player and/or cable box, where each parent has a nice new car, where even children have iPods or iPhones or iPads, where families go on lavish vacations, where shopping is forever for new items (God forbid people are seen near a Salvation Army or Goodwill store, where so many good deals are to be had!), where meals are mostly takeout or quick-fix versions because both parents have to work to help pay for all the prior junk, and where there are few if any slow-cooked meals in anyone's lives...

What happened to one parent being home, making real mashed potatoes, cooking banana bread, or simmering a stew all day long? What happened to the freedom of coming home from school, getting hugs from mom or dad, finishing up homework, and running outside to simply play? What happened to picking up a stick to sword fight, to digging in big piles of dirt, to jumping in mile-high mountains of leaves?

What happened was people wanting too much stuff, like Freya's family in BLACK COW. What happened was the stuff growing and building to such an insane level that both parents "have" to work to sustain it.

This vicious cycle is intimately depicted in BLACK COW, and as much as I already fervently believed in living life naturally, simply, making family count first, and being one with nature, this book made me savor it more, made me examine my life even closer, and made me grateful for the decisions we've made as a family.

Being a father myself, and having spent 28 years in corporate America, I related to James' pain. The stress involved in nonsensical, impossible corporate goal setting, the day-to-day grind through traffic and with people who aren't even close to being friends, really drove home and made me grateful I had personally escaped that life and now work for a small company where the work that gets done actually makes sense! See this insightful passage from James' viewpoint:

You keep moving like a shark through the ocean so you didn't die by standing still. But that was a mistake. People didn't die by standing still. Reflection wasn't deadly. They wouldn't die from taking time away from the grind, even if none of them turned on their phones, though there was Cameron texting, even as she was walking towards the plane. It was the motion that would kill them. What was deadly was the running and gathering and shoving to get in front. He leaned towards Cameron: "Turn off the phone."

When the story pivots after several devastating problems rise to a head, and James can take it no more, the family moves to a breathtakingly gorgeous farm in Tasmania, a long-time dream that Freya has harbored and tried to promote. James quits his job, Freya leaves her real estate sales position, and the kids are uprooted from their private school with the hope that they can run this cow farm, raise their own vegetables, create their own electricity, capture their own rain water, and manage it all with little or no experience.

The process is not easy, there is no magical solution or healing of all ills, but little by little, they pull together. The move to Tasmania was my favorite segment of BLACK COW, and I savored each page. I lusted after the land with Freya, ached to run my fingers over the black cows' furry necks with James, felt the family's pains when they weeded carrots, and reveled in the fresh air and gorgeous scenery. Although we live on three acres in the country and grow big gardens, our days of tending livestock are over. But now I want that farm. Badly.

Magdalena Ball writes with insightful realism, but there is beauty and passion and hope woven into the words, as well. See this segment where Freya's vision is starting to come clear:

The sweater was a vibrant heathery pink, white and green, with bands of snowflakes, crosses and circles. It was more than beautiful. Freya couldn't stop touching the wool, which was both soft and tough. It was fibrous, textured, and yet still smooth. Jane and her partner were trying to make a living from their unique wool, and there was interest from the mainland. They only lived five kilometres in the opposite direction to Hobart. Though Freya's own knitting was still a far cry from perfect, somehow the beautiful yarn, Jane's tips, and those clicking needles were unknitting the muscles in her body and she felt herself relaxing into a kind of half-trance. She couldn't quite hear Jane's words as she smiled and kept on with her stitches. Something was becoming clear to her instead. Her life was like this sweater, and she could knit in whatever colours, textures, and emotions she wanted. No matter what, she was the creator of her life, and she could make it glorious or dull, beautiful or flat. It was hers to create. Her children and husband might be inspired or hindered by her, but they had their own lives to knit.

BLACK COW is an intelligent, deeply reflective story of a family who reaches its deepest lows, then transcends the expected norm to reconnect with the earth and each other in a joyful, satisfying adventure.

Aaron Lazar, Reviewer

Ann's Bookshelf

Granta 118: Exit Strategies
John Freeman, editor
12 Addison Ave, London, W11 4QR, U.K
9781905881550 A$27.00

I always thought that Douglas Adams's dolphins had the perfect exit line: " So long, and thanks for all the fish" . But was that part of an exit strategy? My dictionary defines 'strategy' in terms of the art of war, planning, and self-protection, but Granta's interpretation of it is much broader. It covers, as the advertising blurb tells us, "how we get ourselves out and the repercussions that follow", which includes war but also the contemplation and remembering of many different sorts of endings, such as the end of a writing career, of a love affair, dying, memory loss, extradition and environmental disaster.

As always, the pieces chosen for this issue are unconventional, entertaining, thought-provoking and well-written. The writers, photographer and poets come from many different backgrounds, cultures and countries. Some are well known, like John Barth, who wonders whether a recent hiatus in his writing after fifty-three years of being published is 'The End?'. Clearly not! Others are newer voices, like Jacob Newberry, whose 'Summer' explores the uncertainties of gay friendship.

Some pieces are factual or based on fact. Susan Minot's,'Thirty Girls', tells the story of Sister Giulia, a Catholic nun caught up in the kidnapping of her schoolgirl charges by the Lord's Resistance Army in northern Uganda. Other pieces are pure fiction. David Long's, 'Bonfire', reads like a young man's erotic fantasy remembered years later when the domesticity of marriage and children dominate his life. Claire Messud deals with her own feelings when a writing commission takes her away from her dying father to Beirut, where, with only a sketch-map hastily drawn by him from memory, she tries to find the places where he spent his happy childhood. And Vanessa Manko imagines an interview and the resulting deportation from the U.S.A of a Russian man during the roundups of supposed communists and anarchists in the early 1920s.

Stacy Kranitz's poignant photographs of a family living on the disappearing Isle de Jean Charles in the Gulf of Mexico, show the effects of the world's rapidly rising sea-levels. And four very different poems explore endings, searches, losses and the puzzle of life. The poetry is not easy, but like all good poetry it condenses powerful emotions and thoughts into brief, vivid experiences for the reader.

And there is much more. The complete list of contents can be seen on the Granta website at, where you will also find additional exit-strategies posted on the Granta blog and a range of sample pieces from the Granta archive.

Waiting for Sunrise
William Boyd
Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
9781408818589 A$29.95

The Year is 1913, the setting Vienna. Lysander Ulrich Rief is a 28 year-old English actor. He is "a young, almost handsome man" and "almost a dandy" and he writes poetry. His surname, he says, is Old English for 'thorough', and in Anglo Saxon it means 'wolf'. But he is hardly a thorough wolf, maybe because he has a distressing problem for which a friend has advised him to seek psychiatric help in Vienna where, under the influence of Freud, psychoanalysis has become popular.

Dr Bensimon, is an English psychologist and a follower of Freud. He diagnoses Lysander's problem as anorgasmia and, naturally, a psychological trauma in Lysander's childhood is duly uncovered.

Meanwhile, Lysander has met Hettie Bull, a sexually predatory, Coca addicted, English sculptor who is living in Vienna with her common law husband, artist Udo Hoff. Hettie, in the time-honoured way, cures Lysander of his problem; but later, when she discovers that she is pregnant, she accuses him of rape and he is arrested.

So the scene is set for Alwyn Munro and Jack Fyfe-Miller, attaches at the British Embassy, to intervene and, subsequently, to facilitate Lysander's daring escape over the Austro-Hungarian border and back to London.

Part two of the book is set in London in 1914. We meet Lysander's glamorous Austrian mother; his elderly and frail step-father, Lord Crickmay Faulkner; his step-brother, Harley Street dentist, the Hon. Hugo Faulkner; and his uncle, Major Hamo Rief V.C., who makes exploratory expeditions to Africa and who has brought back with him the "very sweet boy" who had been his African guide. Each of these characters play a role in Lysander's eventual career as a British spy after he is recruited by Munro and Fyfe-Miller in lieu of payment for the legal fees and accommodation incurred in their rescue of him from Vienna.

But I jump ahead. First, war is declared between England and Germany and Lysander decides to "do his bit" for England and enlists in the army. Then Munro and Fyfe-Miller turn up again and the skulduggery begins. Lysander is sent to the front line with a couple of grenades in his pack. He must make an excursion into no man's land, toss the grenades and go 'missing-in-action' . He must crawl through a pre-arranged gap in the French defences and join the French army and, there, Fyfe-Miller will meet him and organize his transformation in to Abelard Schwimmer, a German-speaking Swiss railway engineer who has been in a sanatorium in Belgium and is now on his way home to Switzerland. Once in Geneva, Lysander/Abelard must meet the British agent, code-named 'Bonfire', who will lead him to a German Consular official who has been receiving coded messages from a British mole. He must then, using his "ingenuity" or a bribe, obtain the password which will allow the British to decrypt the messages and catch the mole.

In the last part of the book the action becomes faster and the plot more involved. Discovering the identity of the mole becomes the main theme, no-one can be trusted, and the story ends with an unexpected twist.

It is all quite entertaining, but I had a number of problems with this book. Perhaps most importantly, I did not warm to Lysander, who seemed to me to be a bit of a prat. I also found it hard to believe that the fledgling British intelligence service was quite as amateur in 1914 as this book suggests. And there were elements of the plot which I found completely unbelievable. At one point, for example, Lysander is shot three times at point-blank range, in a confined space, and he survives. Many of the characters, too, are little more than caricatures.

Reviewers in the British media have been enthusiastic about this book. Le Carre's name is mentioned on an advertising flyer, but it is nothing like a Le Carre book. James Bond in 1914? Perhaps. The basis of a forthcoming popular film? Very likely: It has all the necessary ingredients - Lords and Ladies, an Elizabethan Manor House, exotic settings, arty types, drugs, hot sex, hints of homosexuality and perversion, trench warfare, espionage, goodies and baddies. How could it possibly fail?

Ann Skea

Bethany's Bookshelf

The Cult Worship and the Warriors
Maria Sanctissima Trinidad
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432776534 $14.95

Professional nurse and devout Christian Maria Sanctissima Trinidad shares a chilling true story (names are changed to protect those mentioned) in The Cult Worship and the Warriors, written partly as a warning to readers of all faiths against the insidious pull of cults that may mime Christian faith, but in practice put other gods before the one true God. Maria tells of her personal experiences being drawn into a small cult led by "God's chosen teacher" that called its members Warriors. Gradually, Maria came to understand that the abuse, bullying, and even life-threatening humiliations of the cult were against the will of God. The Cult Worship and the Warriors concludes with a cautionary description of distinguishing features of cult leaders - notably their magnetism, and the common prevalence of negative character disorders among them, even psychopathy - and an explanation of why people are lured to join exploitive cults. "To be informed is to live a life and prevent living and keeping up to a deceptive cult standard that is both an insult to human spirituality and human intelligence. It is degrading in the sense that freedom of worship is stalled and hampered by a sick psychopath with no regard to society's norm and standards." A strong cautionary tale, The Cult Worship and the Warriors is highly recommended.

Justice in America
Russell F. Moran
Privately Published
9781463632700, $14.95,

The rule of law seems to be failing America. "Justice in America: How it Works - How it Fails" discusses the problems with today's legal system from the perspective of Russell F. Moran. He discusses the very purpose of Justice, the ins and outs of the modern legal system, the court system, the constitution, and how this all weaves in and out of America as a whole. "Justice in America" is worth considering for those seeking an intriguing perspective of problems with today's law.

L. E. Muesch
Privately Published
9781614344483, $16.95,

A lost love can drive someone too find a closely guarded truth. "Chacachacare" follows Ely James who tries to find an old flame there, thirty years after the fact. An abandoned leper colony supposedly held what was left of her, but none of the records there even support her existence. Tracing local legends surrounding the area, and working with others looking for the truth of loved ones, "Chacachacare" is a riveting and original novel of mysteries and what is left behind. Also from L. E. Muesch, is "Dark Trader" (9781614344520, $16.95), another tale of the search for truth of old romance, this time through the lost ships of the nineteenth century.

The Dashing Mister R
M. Daniel Nickle
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781461039488, $13.95,

Against time, one man must wade in against the worst of it all. "The Dashing Mister R" is an exploration of the bizarre from M. Daniel Nickle as he explores a tale of the truly bizarre as one individual must face the weirdest of New York and the dark side of what we truly don't understand. "The Dashing Mister R" is an excellent pick for those seeking truly original and unique fiction.

Looking for Answers Through Dirty Glasses
Matt Kuntz
Privately Published
9781468001129, $11.99,

We all live through tragedy, and the struggle is to find something of worth in spite of it all. "Looking for Answers Through Dirty Glasses: Finding the Divine in a Challenging World" is a spiritual read from Matt Kuntz, as he shares his own journeys through the world, seeking the struggles of those in Africa and the challenges laid before him as a Christian. "Looking for Answers Through Dirty Glasses" is a fine pick for those seeking much inspiration about the world.

The China Gambit
Allan Topol
Vantage Press Inc.
419 Park Avenue South, 18th floor
New York, NY 10016
9781936467259, $14.95,

A father's vengeance should never be overlooked. "The China Gambit" is a novel from Allan Topol as he presents a story of Craig Page, an ex-CIA agent looking for who was responsible for his journalist daughters death as she was chasing a major story. Working with her daughter's old boss, he finds layers of conspiracy of rogue generals and terror looking to put the entire world on edge. "The China Gambit" is a choice pick for those who love high end military plots, very much recommended.

Born to Soar
Welles T. Brandriff
Privately Published
9781466480155, $13.95,

Even as many menfolk were consumed with the war, women who wanted to take to the sky found no shortage of opposition. "Born to Soar" is a historical novel from Welles T. Brandriff, as he tells the story of an aspiring pilot who dares to take to the sky in non-combat missions during World War II. Going against the wills of family and community, she makes her way through the Women's Air Service Pilots group to claim her wings. "Born to Soar" is a charming and much recommended work of historical fiction.

Susan Bethany

Buhle's Bookshelf

Pi - The Great Work
Marty Leeds
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781466497481 $14.99

Pi - The Great Work is an amazing tour of the connections between mathematics and metaphysics, walking the reader through decimal parity/theosophical addition; squaring the circle; the mystical properties of numbers such as 3, 6, or 9; the properties of the Rubik's cube; so-called "magic squares"; and many more numeric conundrums, especially the eternally mysterious aspects of the irrational number Pi. A wealth of black-and-white diagrams make Pi - The Great Work easy to follow even for readers with little background in mathematical matters. Snippets of historical mysticism associated with numbers and mathematical problems intersperse this user-friendly complement to metaphysical studies shelves. "How can lost sacred knowledge be uncovered, seemingly completely intact, regardless of time, language, or cultural pretenses? Maybe the Perennial Philosophy is a story. A story written in the Heavens, that can be decoded only with the language of God. Mathematics."

The Hole Behind Midnight
Clinton J. Boomer
Lulu Publishing
3101 Hillsborough Street
Raleigh, NC 27607-5436
Smith Publicity
No ISBN $TBA pbk. / $5.99 Kindle

Available in both paperback and Amazon Kindle editions, The Hole Behind Midnight: A Story of the 25th Hour For Adults Only is a savage mystery featuring hard-boiled protagonist Royden Poole: he's a recovering alcohol addict who smokes like a chimney, and lives with a form of congenital medical dwarfism. Investigating a break-in, thievery, two missing-person cases and more, he becomes embroiled in an underworld web of murder, torture, even forced sodomy. The graphic violence and cursing of The Hole Behind Midnight are not for the faint of heart! Weird, wild, and action-packed, The Hole Behind Midnight is a charged dark fantasy-mystery ideal for readers who dare to experience something shockingly different.

Gods in the Machine
Marilyn Peake
Privately Published
9781466467255, $17.99,

The control of faith can easily be weaponized. "Gods in the Machine" is a science fiction delve into the future as space tourism begins to take off and the world's governments take to using the high orbital nature to craft vision generating devices, that can lead the faithful to believe a wrongful vision. "Gods in the Machine" is an intriguing thriller of the future, worth considering.

Ideas for Saving America
Carter Coberly
Privately Published
9781466463370, $7.99,

The past few decades of control by both parties have left America in sorry shape. "Ideas for Saving America" is Carter Coberly's call for how to drive America back in the right direction, away from the twin precipices of mounting debt and overly centralized power. Placing blame on both political parties and the special interest groups that are funding them, "Ideas for Saving America" offers many ideas on how to correct America's path away from financial ruin, "Ideas for Saving America" is a very much recommended pick for political opinion collections.

The Persian Room
Patty Farmer
Vantage Press Inc.
419 Park Avenue South, 18th floor
New York, NY 10016
9780533165117, $28.95,

Four decades of high society, a lightning rod for some of the best. "The Persian Room: An Oral History of New York's Most Magical Night Spot" is Patty Farmer's history behind this famed nightclub in which from 1934 to 1935 was a focus of many singers and stars as they passed through New York City. As someone who lived close to the club and holds the history dear to her, Patty Farmer presents a dedicated and much recommended pick, making "The Persian Room" very much recommended for any history collection focusing on New York City and Entertainment.

Refrain from the Identical
Jo Dee Luna
Privately Published
9781451577358, $14.99,

The personal touch is perhaps the most important step in any creative endeavor. "Refrain from the Identical: Insight and Inspiration for Creative Eclectics" is a call for artistry from Jo Dee Luna as she encourages readers to add their own touch, express themselves creatively, and live their lives for the chance to create once more. "Refrain from the Identical" is a thoughtful read for anyone who enjoys artistry.

Texas Wildflower
Debra L. Hall
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781456769772, $13.75,

A father is something that is too often a mystery. "Texas Wildflower" follows young Violet Tippon's exploration into the whereabouts of the father who was absent from her life. As she leaves St. Louis to find the truth of who he was and where he may be in a quiet Texas town, she discovers new friends and a whirlwind adventure that she never expected. "Texas Wildflower" is an exciting and much recommended read for general fiction collections.

In Love, In Pain
Janice Moss
Privately Published
9780983652670, $15.95,

What breaks down something that has worked for so long? "In Love, In Pain: Identifying Destructive Behavioral Patterns in Romantic Relationships" is a collection of romantic scenarios, settling up the challenges that five women face as they discover what may destroy their relationships, offering many thoughts and ideas of how much a relationship can endure and what should endure. "In Love, In Pain" is a thoughtful and practical read, much recommended.

Willis M. Buhle

Burroughs' Bookshelf

Bridge to Oblivion
Henry Hoffman
Martin Sisters Publishing
9781937273194 $15.95

Bridge to Oblivion is a suspenseful novel of tragedy, death, and conspiratorial cover-ups. Years after a runaway freighter sparked one of the worst bridge disasters in American history, which sent rush hour passengers on Tampa Bay's Sunshine Skyway plummeting to their deaths, the sister of one the victims is spotted as she suffers a fatal fall from the reopened Skyway. Novice detective Adam Fraley witnesses her death by random chance, and cannot let the matter go - but the deeper he digs, the greater his personal danger, as he gradually reveals a cutthroat ruthless link between the tragedies and the Machiavellian machinations of a powerful community figure. Exciting and dramatic, Bridge to Oblivion is especially recommended for mystery buffs.

Dollars & Uncommon Sense
Steve Repak
February Partners
9780983901105, $14.95,

Making your money work for you has gotten harder as money grows more scarce. "Dollars & Uncommon Sense: Basic Training for Your Money" is an advisory on economics from Steve Repak, as he suggests readers revise their views on money, control how they spend their money, get their debt under control, and build themselves to sustainable wealth. "Dollars & Uncommon Sense" is a thoughtful pick for those who want to make and keep their money.

A Knight on Long Island
Tom Humphrey
Privately Published
9781466387126, $14.95,

How would a romantic hero fare in a world with no heroes? "A Knight on Long Island" is a novel from Tom Humphrey, as he twists Twain's classic to place the knight errant, the wandering knight of romance in a land filled with villains. Sir Bill, resurrected by science, seeks to find honor and justice and rescue a damsel, where none of those things seem to matter anymore. "A Knight on Long Island" is a humorous and thoughtful spin of fantasy and modern events.

Setting the Hook
Peter M. Hunt
Privately Published
9781453734209, $15.99,

A tragedy creates a legend. "Setting the Hook: A Diver's Return to the Andrea Doria" explores the diving legend of the Andrea Doria, a ship that sunk to 240 feet below the water in 1956, proving to be a fascinating discussion for those in the diving world. Seeking to salvage the ship, wealthy adventurer Peter Gimbel sought to restore the ship, a task that was easier said and done. Since then, there has been constant exploration of its rescue and those who dared to work on the dangerous project. "Setting the Hook" is a fascinating read of true adventure, very much recommended.

Salome's Conversion
Rohn Federbush
Privately Published
9781466401389, $41.28,

In ancient Palestine, a place to belong was still yearned for. "Salome's Conversion" is a historical novel of ancient Palestine, as Rohn Federbush creates a tale of Salome, daughter of Herod and the guard who brought her to Jesus of Nazareth and their journeys under the guidance of Jesus. A different perspective on Christ from his early converts, "Salome's Conversion" is a fine pick for fans of Biblical fiction.

Public Information
Rolf Margenau
Privately Published
c/o Smith Publicity
1930 E. Marlton Pike, Suite I-46, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003
9780615504759, $25.00,

The Korean War is often forgotten in the overlay of conflict in the twentieth century. "Public Information" is a novel from Rolf Margenau writing of Wylie Cypher, a man whose entry into the military in 1952 finds him ending up in the Korean conflict. As he travels the region, he learns much about the world, the army's brotherhood, and life. "Public Information" is a fine read well worth considering for historical fiction collections.

John Burroughs

Carson's Bookshelf

An Impossible Dream Story
J.V. Petretta
Dog Ear Publishing
9781457506802 $15.95

An Impossible Dream Story is a work of fiction, but author J.V. Petretta draws heavily upon his own life experiences to bring to life this novel of coming to terms with personal identity. Vinny Pirelli has loved bicycling since he was six; he pedaled in part to escape the darker elements of his life. An abusive, alcoholic father; horrifying incidents of sexual violence; even his own attraction to other boys led him to repress more and more, even as he grew up, joined the military, married, and sought business success. Ultimately he must confront the secrets he has been hiding from everyone, especially himself, and come out about his sexual identity to his wife. Recklessly pursuing sexual freedom brings a terrible price, and a diagnosis of AIDS. Now a sixty-five year-old man facing the prospect of sickness and early death, Vinny fights back by daring to embark upon a 2,500 mile bicycle-book tour. Dreams, determination, and drive fuel this emotional and compelling saga, highly recommended.

A Thousand Bayonets
Joel Mark Harris
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300
Bloomington, IN 47403
9781462032686, $18.95,

When the warzone comes home, there is no longer a place to flee to. "A Thousand Bayonets" follows investigative journalist John Webster as he returns from Afghanistan to his native Canada and finds that war may have followed him home, in the form of gang violence. Scarred by what he has seen in Afghanistan, a gang war is the last hing he wanted to experience. "A Thousand Bayonets" is a novel way of looking into the impacts of warfare, much recommended.

Found Absolute Love in the Higher Power
T. N. Norris
Privately Published
9780615438610, $11.99,

When the world shows no love, it can be easy to abandon any hope for it. "Found Absolute Love in the Higher Power" follows Norris, the author who describes being abandoned by her mother at birth. Abused, she lives hopeless, until she leaves her family and looks to find faith within God. "Found Absolute Love in the Higher Power" is a read worth considering taken from the authors own endeavors.

Galway Romance
Thomas D. O'Hare
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
978143277657, $23.95,

A brush with fame and a travel through the world can change one's life forever. "Galway Romance: A Holiday Romance" follows author Thomas D. O'Hare as he recounts his tour of duty where he met Mary, and finds a whirlwind romance that was exceptional despite its short nature. "Galway Romance" is a fascinating tale of true romance, very much recommended reading for anyone seeking a story of true life romance.

Above and Beyond
Heather McKeown
Vantage Press Inc.
419 Park Avenue South, 18th floor
New York, NY 10016
9781936467129, $14.95,

When you live life in the air, you gain a unique perspective on the world. "Above and Beyond" is a memoir from Heather McKeown as she shares her stories of being a long time flight attendant and uses the stories within to spin into an inspirational and uplifting story, as she seeks to inspire readers to reach up and succeed in their own way. "Above and Beyond" is a charming and much recommended pick for self-help and memoir collections.

Michael J. Carson

Christy's Bookshelf

For Six Good Reasons: A Smoky Mountain Novel
Lin Stepp
Canterbury House Publishing
225 Ira Harmon Road, Vilas, NC 28692
9780982905418, $15.95, paperback, $0.99 ebook

Social worker Alice Graham has trouble placing six orphaned children without breaking them up, which she does not want to do, so Alice decides to foster the children. Needing a larger home, she finds a beautiful house in Greenbrier, Tennessee. While touring the home, she notices a man astride a horse on a ridge above, watching her. Alice feels a pull toward him that is puzzling. When she and the children move into the home, Alice discovers the man, Harrison Ramsey, is her neighbor. Chemistry definitely sizzles between them but Alice, a widow, feels her priority is raising the six children, and Harrison, left at the altar by two different women, has no desire to get involved with another one. But circumstances keep throwing the two together and both turn to God for an answer to the future of their relationship.

This heartwarming story, third in the Smoky Mountain Novel series, will engage the reader from beginning to end. Stepp nicely develops the chemistry between Alice and Harrison, along with the prickliness of their relationship as the two go through a bit of an emotional roller-coaster with their feelings and interactions. Readers will root for the relationship to bloom as Alice's foster children develop a fondness for Harrison, and he for them. Stepp skillfully blends romance, inspiration and the intricacies of family dynamics into a charming, uplifting book.

Getorix: Games of the Underworld
Judith Geary
Ingalls Publishing Group
P.O. Box 2500, Banner Elk, NC 28604
9781932158892, $15.95, paperback, $5.99 ebook

In the sequel to Getorix: The Eagle and the Bull, Getorix, a former Celtic slave, plans to leave Rome for his native country, where he intends to return his deceased father's signet brooch to its rightful place. But before he can do so, his friend Lucius, son of a Roman general, is kidnapped by Celtic raiders costumed only in blue paint. Lucius's mother implores Getorix to save her son, and he sets out to find Lucius aided by Keltus and Brosch, two Celtic slaves from Lucius's household, and Senias, a druid prophet. Getorix discovers that the kidnapping was at the behest of Consul Marius, a Roman general and very powerful man. When the warehouse where Lucius was being housed burns to the ground, most assume the body found is that of Lucius, who was instead rescued by Getorix and his allies. But Lucius's mother does not want this secret known to Marius so Lucius plans to escape with Getorix to Gaul but the two seem doomed to become pawns in a political struggle to oust Marius.

Very few authors have the skill to pull their reader into the time and place as if they are actually there, walking along the streets, experiencing sights, sounds, and smells. Judith Geary does this with much finesse, which this reviewer finds even more admirable due to the fact that she writes about ancient history circa 100 BCE. Her portrayal of the political turmoil in Rome at that time through characters and scenarios is fascinating and informative. The plot is fast-moving and suspenseful and readers will be reluctant to put the book aside.

No Such Thing as a Free Lunch
Shelly Fredman
Aquinas and Krone Publishing LLC
6730 Githens Avenue Floor 1
Pennsauken, NJ 08109-2418
9780980044812, $12.00, paperback, $2.99 ebook

Brandy Alexander has a new job as puff piece reporter for a local television station in Philadelphia. Brandy replaced a popular reporter who was fired for being too hefty and none of her coworkers likes her because of this with the exception of anchorperson Tamra Rhineholt who befriends Brandy. But their friendship is short-lived when Tamra is found dead, apparently of a suicide. Brandy thinks there's more to it than that and is intent on proving her friend didn't kill herself, which places her own life in danger. To the rescue are the two sexy guys in her life, ex-boyfriend and cop Robert DiCarlo and new friend and bad-boy Nicholas Santiago. It's bad enough someone's trying to kill her but to make matters worse, Brandy's mother and father return to Philadelphia to attend the bar mitzvah of Brandy's brother and Brandy's still dealing with nightmares from her last life-threatening escapade.

Shelly Fredman's Brandy Alexander No Such Thing As series offers readers humor, suspense, romance, and mystery, all delivered with great panache. Brandy is an endearing character, a somewhat klutzy woman who finds herself torn between her feelings for two men, one from the past, the other in the present and hopefully future. Her attempts at amateur sleuthing always get her in trouble but Brandy manages with each installment to land on her feet, ready to take on the world.

One Shot Too Many
Appalachian Adventure Mystery
Maggie Bishop
Ingalls Publishing Group
P.O. Box 2500, Banner Elk, NC 2864
9781932158953, $12.00 paperback, $5.99 ebook

CSI wannabe Jemma Chase is back for another thrilling adventure in the latest addition to the Appalachian Adventure Mystery series. Jemma's hosting a meeting of the local photography club when newspaper photographer Scott Barker convulses and dies. Jemma calls her boyfriend, Detective Tucker with the Watauga County Sheriff's Department, to the scene. Knowing Jemma's propensity to engage in amateur sleuthing, Tucker warns her to quell any desire to help investigate. Jemma's life is pretty busy as trail-leader, photographer and carpenter for her parents' dude ranch, yet she keeps her ears open for any information she can pass on to Tucker. Once poisoning is confirmed, Tucker and his partner begin to focus on the members of the photography group and it seems everyone has a secret that could possibly lead to murder if revealed. When a past love steps back into Tucker's life, he tries not to let this distract him from his case or his feelings for Jemma.

Maggie Bishop excels at pulling her reader into the moment with vivid, colorful descriptions of locale and fauna. Jemma Chase is an appealing character, a strong young woman who matures more with each book. Her life as trail-leader for the dude ranch is an intriguing concept and Bishop's description of daily activities at the ranch is interesting and fun. With great skill, Bishop delivers subtle clues as to the murderer, providing her readers with a challenging mystery.

When Pigs Fly
Bob Sanchez
iUniverse, Inc.
c/o Author House
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300, Bloomington, IN 47403
9780595407705, $18.95, paperback, $2.99 Kindle

Dietrich Kohl, who calls himself Diet Cola, thinks he has the winning ticket for the lottery, but he's scheduled to go into the pen for the next little while so breaks into the home of Brody and Carrick Durgin and hides the winning ticket in a vase on their mantle. The vase is actually an urn containing the ashes of the partner and friend of their son Mack Durgin, a retired cop who has relocated to Arizona. The Durgins send the urn to Mack, who carries it with him while he decides what to do with the ashes and along the way meets up with Calliope Vrattos, who's on her way to California, trying to escape an overzealous Elvis impersonator whose jaw she broke. When Diet Cola gets out of prison, he breaks into the Durgins' home only to learn the urn is now in Arizona. During the bus ride to Arizona, Diet Cola hooks up with Frosty and Ace, two dim-witted shoplifters who know Mack and are just dumb enough to think they can get in on whatever Diet Cola's after. Once there, they pair up with the Elvis impersonator stalking Calliope who has planted a GPS on her car. Into the fray steps Zippy, a druggie with a shaved head toting a zipper tattoo, who thinks Mack's having an affair with his girlfriend. And one can't forget Poindexter, the javelina, who's been set free in the desert and misses eating brussel sprouts and TV time with his owner yet manages to lumber his way into the lottery ticket caper.

Bob Sanchez provides his reader with one hilarious romp, rapidly firing scenes so over the top and humorous, the reader is constantly smiling or laughing. Sanchez even offers the javelina's point of view on occasion, raising the comedic bar even more. Think Elmore Leonard meets Carl Hiaasen, which makes for a fun, enjoyable read.

Christy Tillery French, Reviewer

Clark's Bookshelf

My Funny Valentine
Linton Robinson and Karla Telega
Bauu Press
PO Box 1945, Winter Park, CO 80482
9781936955016, $9.95,

Valentine's Day is nearly upon us so that all those lovers out there better get hopping to find that perfect gift for their significant other. Linton Robinson and Karla Telega have compiled a hilarious collection of anecdotes, short stories, and other catchy trivia in "My Funny Valentine."

Some great old one-liners that have survived through time:

"What the world really needs is more love and less paperwork"...Pearl Bailey
"Love is what you've been through with somebody."...James Thurber
"Love is an electric blanket with somebody else in control of the switch."...Cathy Carlyle

A collection of short stories normally would not be that entertaining, but what these editors found was a collective theme of funny humor, which partners can read to each other and enjoy a rib-tickling guffaw. Some are corny as all get out, but as you page through and find others, you ignore the shortcomings.

A review that ignores these two love poems would be incomplete. After reading them to my wife, we both had a hearty laugh!

A poem by woman

Before I lay me down to sleep,
I pray for a man, who's not a creep,
One who's handsome, smart and strong,
One who loves to listen long,
One who thinks before he speaks,
One who'll call not wait for weeks,
I pray he's gainfully employed,
When I spend his cash, won't be annoyed,
Pulls out my chair and opens my door,
Massages my back and begs to do more,
Oh! Send me a man who'll make love to my mind,
Knows what to answer to 'how big is my behind?'
I pray that this man will love me to no end,
And always be my very best friend.

A poem by man

I pray for a deaf-mute gymnast nymphomaniac with huge boobs
who owns a bar on a golf course, and loves to send me fishing and
drinking. This doesn't rhyme and I don't give a d---.

By John Philipp

Reminders before Valentine's Day come from all nooks and crannies so that you guys out there can stay out of the doghouse. If you want to give a book like this, there is plenty of space on the inside front cover for you inscribe it to your lover! Interestingly, the costs of this book is not much more than a card or a small box of chocolates, so get with it fellas and gals and try something new for Valentine's Day, and you might see miracles appear. This is a five star book for that funny bone of yours!

Robert Ludlum's: The Janson Command
Paul Garrison
Grand Central Publishing
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780446564502, $27.99,

Robert Ludlum's bestselling books had always centered on a theme of suspense and action. He was the author of 26 novels; each one was a New York Times best seller. Robert died in 2001, but his legacy of characters live on through additional novels written by an array of authors who continued to captivate the developed audience of 225 million readers. Paul Garrison has picked up the baton and has written a spine tingling novel the "Janson Command."

Paul Garrison is a renowned author of critically acclaimed thrillers, "Fire and Ice," "Red Sky at Morning," "Buried at Sea," "Sea Hunter," and "The Ripple Effect." His ability to create scenarios, which are compelling, complete, and challenging were hone to perfection so that when he wrote the "Janson Command" he was able to pick up the pace to perfection.

Readers will marvel at the first one hundred pages where the intensity of past encounters, new characters, and thrilling exploits move so fast that you cannot escape the compulsion to read on and turn the pages as fast as you can. Paul Janson is an outstanding lead character who introduces his ingenue Jessica Kincaid by demonstrating her skills as a crack shot and afraid of nothing in her quest to get the bad people. The involvement between Paul and Jessica make this an adult book, but do not be distracted by the side play between them, this book does not center upon their relationship, it is about a country which had been over thrown by a despot and is trying to regain its democracy through its previously deposed president.

To keep you entertained, there are plenty of murders, battles in murky waters, travel in luxurious jets, and this is all in the first segment of the book. One of the outstanding features of Paul Garrison's writing is his ability to set the scene and then swiftly describe the action in detail, but with a paucity of words so that the reader does not get bored. His description of Janson's personal jet makes you feel as though you are riding in one of the empty seats. Private jets now seem to be only for those who are engaged in high finance and Paul is no exception. A select clientele who pay millions for him to accomplish his assignments finances his activities.

Paul Janson's background is interspersed throughout this novel so that as you go along you get a good understanding of what he is capable of doing. In his past, he had been a government assassin who would accept missions of eliminating targets of the United States. He was extremely good at his job earning the title 'The Machine.' This stood for the acknowledgment that he was methodical and performed extremely efficient.

A thriller that once again ends with a happy conclusion that leaves you satisfied, but at the same time opens the door for the next assignment that Janson and his associates will undertake. This is a five star book, which appeals to the thriller in all of us.

Death Benefit
Robin Cook
G. P. Putnam's Sons
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399157462, $26.95,

Innovative technology invades stem cell research in this compelling novel by Robin Cook who weaves a tale of suspense in his latest novel "Death Benefit." Cook does not need much identification as his many novels have earned him accolades from a vast audience of readers. "Coma" is one of his outstanding books, which sparks many memories of this premier author who has earned all the recognition he receives.

The many issues, which permeated our use of stem cell research in the political arena a few years back, take a backseat to the good this research can do. Creating body parts is the message this book delivers. Imagine people living longer if organs like kidneys, pancreas, and liver are laboratory cultured so that those in need of them could have them transplanted immediately. Waiting lists would become passe.

What Robin Cook has done with this book is become an advocate of stem cell research and delivers his message with the underlying theme of murder, suspense, and investigation by a 4th year medical student Pia Grazdani and her boyfriend George Wilson. This fast-paced book introduces what we perceive as the main characters, the Nobel Prize winning research scientist Tobias Rothman and his assistant Dr. Yamamoto, then as swiftly as we get comfortable with them, they mysteriously die! Pia having worked with this pair for three years knows how meticulous they are in their methodology of handling toxic substances and she cannot believe the scientists would be careless enough to have caused their own deaths.

Greed is introduced through Wall Street types who error in calculations of a new money making scheme which they hope will replace the real estate fiasco. Their involvement leads to the hiring of mob types to assassinate the Columbia University Research scientists without suspicion. The entanglement of the mob types lead George and Pia on dangerous escapades as they seek to find out more about the deaths of the scientists. Threatened are their careers to become doctors as they break University rules in their quest to get answers.

There are times in flashbacks of past events that you wonder why a particular passage is important. Then, a few chapters later, it all comes together. Pia Grazdani is a strong hero and her voice is clear throughout this book. Robin Cook earns kudos in his ability to portray Pia's feminine side.

One of the outstanding features of "Death Benefit" is the use of medical terminology and procedures giving it a clear understanding for the layperson. One does not have to be a doctor to enjoy this medically based story.

As with many of Robin Cook's other excellent novels, "Death Benefit" is very satisfying in its concluding chapters. There are surprises, revelations, and suspense. All loose ends cleverly tie together in this five star book's finale so that you are not left feeling this is a prelude to a subsequent novel.

Clark Isaacs

Crocco's Bookshelf

My Take Away Vampire
Derek Haines
Amazon Digital Services
B006EKO5D8, $0.99,

A spoof on the vampire craze? A hilarious comedy?

If you read My Take Away Vampire as a comedic vampire spoof, then you will absolutely love Derek Haines novella.

The vampire is Agatha and the comedy comes from Reggie, who is her botched vampire attempt. There is Mr. Fipps, a ghost in the cemetery where Agatha and others sleep for about 300 years. The other characters you simply must have the fun of discovering yourself.

I recommend reading this amusing story especially if you laugh at the zany vampire craze. It's a quick read and Derek Haines does not disappoint his readers with his appealing writing style. He develops his characters in depth which entice his readers to yearn for more adventures. Such is the case in My Take Away Vampire, but I can't tell you which character I hope to follow because it will spoil the story.

So check out this entertaining novella and enjoy a good laugh!

Shadow of the Sun
Laura Kreitzer
Obsidian Mountain Publishing
Amazon Digital Services
B00495XR6G, $TBA ebook,
9780982903353, $12.99 pbk.

As a precocious child, Gabriella matures into a young woman who secures an early career as a supernatural specialist. Regarded as a genius, her character lacks appropriate attributes.

The story is repetitious and if condensed would better keep reader's attention. For this reason, at times it is difficult to continue. As the main character, Gabriella has inconsistencies. Being introduced to readers as being intelligent, her dialogue and decisions don't typify her character.

The story itself has its merits and I applaud the author's efforts. It shows Laura Kreitzer has a creative imagination that she will expound in future books.

Readers who enjoy an angel fantasy story will enjoy Shadow of the Sun. The grammatical, sentence, spelling, and omitted words are flaws; however, one can still enjoy the story if it's an entertaining subject.

The Squirrel That Dreamt Of Madness
Craig Stone
Craig R. Stone
Amazon Digital Services
B005JU92GO, $2.99,

There are two ways to view this book, one is as a crazy, fun, entertaining read. The other is as a serious, thought provoking, wake up call to the age old morals: Things aren't always what they seem; don't judge a book by its cover. Craig Stone skillfully intertwines both views with his readers in mind.

Against the advice of family and friends, Craig leaves his regular 9-5 day job and after work social life to become an unemployed, homeless man, living in a park in London.

Craig writes, "It can be a struggle sometimes balancing doing what you want to do with doing what everyone else wants you to do; especially when nobody really understands what you are trying to do including yourself."

My favorite parts of the book are the serious, thought provoking parts, where Craig expresses his innermost feelings about what he is doing in the park, and I get to peek inside his brain. I enjoyed gaining insight to the man who turned his life upside down for ten days. At times I found myself thinking he was crazy, other times I felt he was brave and courageous.

This crazy, fun, read is more than entertaining as Craig's imagination goes wild creating characters from the people he meets in the park. His writing skills are overloaded with metaphors and similes that I read over more than once, even jotting some down. One of my favorite similes: "If I am worried and thinking about my bags all day then no matter where I am I have not put them down; like a CEO going on holiday with his work blackberry."

Share Craig's ten days in the park by reading The Squirrel That Dreamt Of Madness. It will remind you of forgotten morals while at the same time entertain you with a very crazy, fun, story!

The Gratefully Undead
Rebecca Cesar
Amazon Digital Services
B0076QU466, $2.99,

If you like zombies, this is the book for you. The main character, Laurah, is a young independent woman living in New York. After another hard day at work, she falls asleep at her desk only to wake up in the early morning hours to the streets filled with zombies.

She meets Marc in her struggle to survive and both team up to save themselves and the city of New York. They butt heads with clashing personalities, but each grow on one another to form a lasting friendship.

The Gratefully Undead demands a precise vocabulary which is appropriate for the subject. The story is a horror adventure as the reader routes for Laurah and Marc to survive. Do they? You will have to read it to find out!

My favorite part of the story is when Laurah has a dream. In these two pages I enjoyed the author's true writing style. She uses beautiful words and descriptions as it is a delightful dream free of zombies.

The Gratefully Undead is labeled appropriately, however, if profanity was omitted, middle school students could have enjoyed the story.

Mary Crocco, Reviewer

Daniel's Bookshelf

Now You See Her
James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge
Little Brown and Company
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316036214, $27.99

My wife has been reading James Patterson, and I am the recipient of her book reads after she finishes them. I have found several series interesting to hold my attention craving a fast page turner. I can manage these books in the time between more lengthy novels. I do like different genres, which sometimes they might be more detailed in plot and description. Time is in the essence, then as it takes different style authors to fill ones reading time. James Patterson has that lighter story-telling writing that works for me.

Nina Bloom has two separate lives, and she is hiding in one of them because it's safer. So once you see her in one of them, she has to disappear in another life for safety. Her secret life began nineteen years ago, when she was younger and foolish. Nina made some past mistakes, and accidently got into trouble. She drove and ran down a person killing him in the roadway. A police officer Peter Fournier, who has his own agenda and motives covered up the crime. She was unaware of his past and murdering issues. They got married, and she had to face a controlling life with him. She was motivated to get away from this past and seeking a newer family situation with his daughter. The previous life was kept quiet even though, she faced one of his associates known to her as the "jump killer" in a life and death struggle. She escaped and somehow got away. She eventually learned a terrible secret that caused her to run for her life and change her identity.

Nina Bloom now is living this new life with her daughter, and as an attorney making a good life for herself, with help she got the schooling from her own employer firm. While working there she learned new work skills. She inherited by choice a very public case to help someone who was accused of being the "jump killer" and she knew from an earlier experience that was wrong. She now faces and confronts her past demons, while having to be placed into a life and death confrontation. She does need a satisfying conclusion to resolve her past problems to continue with a much better life going into the present. Then the horrible past will have been erased for her life to be as only one again.

James Patterson has written the most New York Bestsellers and he is the author of the Alex Cross Series, Detective Michael Bennett Series and the Women's Murder Club Series. He has started a new series entitled Private and there are two books in that one to-date. Kill Alex Cross, 11th Hour and I, Michael Bennett are the latest offerings in each of the adult series this year. Kill Alex Cross is out now, and 11th Hour (May 7, 2012 release date) and I, Michael Bennett (July 9, 2012 release date). My wife likes to read him and I benefit on their fast paced plots in between the many different authors I read. He co-authored this book with Michael Ledwidge where their last book together was Tick Tock. That book was the last Michael Bennett book out on the book stands. I look forward to reading James Patterson latest in Alex Cross and Michael Bennett.

Karin Slaughter
Delacorte Press
c/o Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
9780345528209 $26.00

I indicated in an earlier review of Karin Slaughter's novel Broken, that I was fortunate to find this book at a local library book fair. It was the second time for me. I spotted her latest book Fallen at the same location. It seems the previous owner had discovered her books before me, and I was the lucky receiver of a good find. I knew I liked her last book for it's intricate plotting. She lines up well as one of the better crime writers today.

Faith Mitchell's mother was watching her daughter, and she isn't answering the phone at her house. Faith arrives to find blood on the doorknob of the house, and the front door is wide open. At the time she enters the house she is unaware of what the circumstances could be when she walks throughout the inside doors and rooms. All she wants to find out is that her mother and infant daughter are safe. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation training she received vanishes as she enters the house with her gun drawn. A dead man is found in the laundry room. She sees a hostage situation in the bedroom. Deadly force is needed in the hostage situation, and more questions than answers as she is unable to locate her mother. Her daughter was hidden in a shed behind the house. Faith will need help from her partner Will Trent, and they both will need the help of trauma doctor Sara Linton. The facts now change, so Faith just isn't just a cop, as she has suddenly become a witness and a suspect. She has to battle a thin blue line of police corruption, which includes bribery and murder. She will have to go up against the people she has the most respect. Faith will have to trust them in her efforts to find her mother, and she must learn the truth or leave it alone.

Karin Slaughter is the New York Times and #1 internationally bestselling author of eleven crime thrillers. Her first novel Blindsighted to Broken and now Fallen. Her latest Criminal will be released in the summer of 2012. I look forward to it, and I hope to retrieve her earlier ones when my reading them is possible.

Daniel Allen

Esther's Bookshelf

War Room: The Legacy of Bill Belichik and the Art of Building the Perfect Team
Michael Holley
IT Books
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780062082398, $25.99,

Books that write about a legacy while that legacy is still in progress always make me wonder...

"War Room: The Legacy of Bill Belichik and the Art of Building the Perfect Team" is supposed to be about Belichik's genius or savvy in maximizing and manipulating his draft picks. This book is about that and much more. War Room comes to tell a story, about a man, whose influence spread beyond the team and franchise he rebuilt. The main focus is on Belichik but it broadens to include the relationship between him and the two men he guided to positions of GM.

Holley does not hesitate but begins the story immediately and does not let up throughout. This book was a surprisingly fluid read and the pace and style kept the story moving and the information interesting. Many insights about the running of an NFL franchise and the implementation of the idea are revealed throughout the narrative, making it a read worthy for all football fans.

Ball Four
Jim Bouton
John Wiley
c/o Wiley Professional Trade Group
111 River Street, Hoboken, NJ 07030
9780020306658, $15.95,

"You spend a good piece of your life gripping a baseball and in the end it turns out it was the other way around."

If there were only two books you had to read on baseball this would be the other one. A friend of mine had been trying to convince me to read this book for months and I had it sitting in my "to get to" stack. I still can't believe I didn't get to it sooner.

Ball Four is one of the best and most entertaining books I have ever read and that's not even from a sports point of view. The book literally comes across as Bouton describes it "just taking notes" and the anecdotes and stories he shares are hilarious and revealing. Forget the write or wrong of writing this book, this book makes ballplayers human again. From a fan's point of a view, from a baseball point of view, and from a people point of view this book is a must.

Now in the wise, wise words of Joe Schultz "zitz 'em and go pound Budweiser!"


Gary's Bookshelf

Paradise Falls
Jonnie Jacobs
Five Star Books
295 Kennedy Memorial Drive
Waterville, ME 04901
9781594153785, $25.95,

"Paradise Falls" is the first new Jonnie Jacobs novel in several years and it is worth the wait because Jacobs has branched out into the suspense genre with a chilling wonderful read. Jacobs who has written many exciting legal thrillers now tells a story of a quiet small town that is hit by a major crime. The tale unfolds with the disappearance of fifteen year old Caitlin Whittington and moves along briskly to its final surprising ending. Detective Rayna Godwin, who is assigned the case has some personal issues she has to deal with while she delves for clues of what happened to Caitlin. "Paradise Falls" is a suspenseful page turning thriller .

Ed McBain, editor
c/o Tor/Forge
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York 10010
978765347510, 7.99,

There are four editions of "Transgressions." In this one readers can see why Stephen King and John Farris are two of the best writers in the horror field. King's "The Things They Left Behind" is a frightening tale of a man who has guilt that he is alive after his co-workers were killed in the World Trade Center bombing of September 11, 2001. He called in sick that day and now lives with the fact that he should have been one of them because he was faking illness. Farris in "The Ransome Women" tells a chilling tale about a reclusive portraitist who is not all he seems to be.

Steel and Other Stories
Richard Matheson
c/o Tor/Forge
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York 10010
978765329424, 14.99,

"Steel" has a long history dating back to the "Twilight Zone" when it was one of the episodes of the show. Now it is a major motion picture that has been expanded. Tor has re-published the shocking short story that started it all with many other long lost pieces by master story teller Richard Matheson. "Steel and Other Stories" is another great collection of rare gems by Richard Matheson.

The Sweet Rot
Written and Illustated by Joe Simko
Schiffer Publishing Ltd
4880 Lower Valley Road, Atglen, PA 19310
9780764334061, $16.99

"The Sweet Rot is a different kind of kid's book with weird names for characters and a dark and sinister look to it. Its main character Pukeboy is in search of advice on how to learn to whip his fear of appearing in front of an audience playing guitar. Though kind of bizarre "The Sweet Rot" has many positive messages for kids to learn about life. An added bonus is how Simko author, and illustrator, has used many different colors to give it the dark look that begins with the cover enticing the reader to want to turn the pages to see the fascinating artwork throughout the book.

The Sweet Rot Raiders of the Lost Art Book 2
Written and Illustated by Joe Simko
Schiffer Publishing Ltd
4880 Lower Valley Road, Atglen, PA 19310
9780764338281, $16.99

PukeBoy is back in another adventure that introduces many new and interesting characters in the second installment of the Sweet Rot series. Artist Gumshoe artwork is missing and PukeBoy and the gang have a certain amount of time to find it. "Raiders of the Lost Art" is much lighter in tone than "the Sweet Rot but it also has lots of great lessons for kids to learn. "The Sweet Rot" and book 2 are both great for adults as well as kids because the artwork is such an added bonus for being so different from what you normally see in children's books

The Desert
Bryon Morrigan
L& L Dream-Spell
Dark Hart Press
PO Box 8009, Ward Hill, MA 01835
9780978731861, $15.99,

Something strange happens at the beginning of the war in Iraq in 2003. A whole platoon of soldiers completely disappears without a trace. Six years later a journal is found that documents, what happened but the same thing is beginning all over again. The author takes a real situation of the war in Iraq and turns it into a very well written tale of horror that has readers turning pages to find out the mysteries that keep happening to the troops. "The Desert" is a great suspenseful read that has many twists and turns that will keep readers entertained.

Poker Face The Rise and Rise of Lady Gaga
Maureen Callahan
Hyperion Books
77 West 66th Street, New York, NY 10023-6298
9780786891382, $14.99,

Who is she? Where did she come from? How has she gotten to the top so fast? These and other questions are revealed in "Poker Face The Rise and Rise of Lady Gaga." Callahan details the life of Stefani Joanne Germanotta, a plain looking girl nicknamed The Germ and shows how she evolved and became Lady Gaga. There are many pictures that add to this remarkable story of a woman who now is living out her childhood dream to be one of the biggest rock stars in the world.

The Art of Falling in Love With Your Time on Earth
Mannie Bilig
Luthers Publishing
1009 North Dixie Freeway
New Smyrna Beach Fl 321686221
9781877633744, $15.00,

"The Art of Falling in Love with Your Time on Earth" is an easy to follow approach to living a much happier life. Unlike other books in the field of metaphysics that lately have been too difficult to follow Bilig's writing is simple to understand and he has a keen insight into how we all can make our lives much nicer.

The Magic of Pointe Shoes
Patricia Storelli
Llumina Press
7101 W. Commercial Blvd Ste 4E Tamarac Fl 33319
9781605946917, $25.95,

"The Magic of Pointe Shoes: Everything a Dancer Needs to Know About Pointe Shoes All the Secrets Revealed by the Experts" is for students of the art of dance and it is also for those of us who enjoy ballet and do now know much about the shoes the dancers wear Storelli has a charm in her writing that tells the beginnings of the shoes, things that can happen when the wrong shoes are worn and a lot more that anyone can understand. There are other books about ballet but "The Magic of Pointe Shoes" is the first to include so many different aspects told by so many in the field. "The Magic of Pointe Shoes" is educational, informative and interesting account that will make viewers of the performers have a deeper appreciation of the training they put themselves through.

Coach Can Fitness Fun
Mike Alexander
Outskirts Press Inc
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432742364, $12.95,

"Coach Can Fitness Fun" gives lots of tips to kids how to live healthier lives by playing with friends, different sports that they can also find to be lots of fun to play. Some of the lessons are the importance of drinking water and eating vegetables and other foods as well as getting the proper amount of sleep. Parents of young children should read "Coach Can Fitness Fun' as well to help reinforce the positive messages of the author.

Gary Roen

Gloria's Bookshelf

Where All the Dead Lie
J.T. Ellison
MIRA Books
c/o Harlequin
225 Duncan Mill Road
Don Mills, Ontario, Canada M3B 3K9
9780778312680 $14.95 US/$17.95 Can.,

As this newest entry in the Taylor Jackson series opens, although the serial killer whose death ended the last book, "So Close the Hand of Death," is no longer around to continue his terror campaign, his legacy is very much alive: Both Nashville homicide lieutenant Taylor Jackson and her closest friend, medical examiner Dr. Samantha Owens Loughley ["Sam"] are still traumatized by the events which led to his death at Taylor's hand, one month earlier. [The two women's jobs are described by the author thusly: "Taylor protected the living inhabitants of Nashville; Sam uncovered the secrets of its dead."] Taylor suffers from a combination of PTSD and guilt, in addition to the aftermath of the gunshot to the head which she sustained, following which she was put in a medically induced coma and then didn't waken for another week; Sam had been horribly tormented and brutalized.

The series should probably be read in order, as there are a lot of backstory references and characters: The mysterious man known as Atlantic, the whole history of The Pretender [the aforementioned serial killer], etc. This book has an unexpected change of venue, from Taylor's native city to the UK, when her erstwhile suitor, James "Memphis" Highsmythe, the Viscount Dulsie, invites her to spend the holidays in his castle [yes, 'castle!], to help her recover from her emotional, physical and psychic wounds. Since she is experiencing some unexpected ambivalence in her relationship with Dr. John Baldwin, to whom she is now engaged - - some friction has developed over an issue having to do with his son, another part of that backstory - - she decides to accept his invitation.

Once Taylor arrives in Edinburgh, she finds that Memphis, a Detective Inspector with the Metropolitan Police, is in the midst of investigating a series of disappearances: three teenage girls have gone missing in London, and he is in charge of the case. Much of the rest of the tale deals with that investigation, as well as Taylor's attempts at recovery and the complications caused by her relationship with Memphis, a recently widowed man equally mired in grief over his wife's somewhat mysterious death as with his passion for Taylor.

Another well-written and engrossing entry in a terrific series, this one is also recommended.

Under the Dog Star
Sandra Parshall
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. 1st Ave., Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781590588789 $24.95,

This is the fourth entry in Sandra Parshall's Agatha Award-winning series, which brings back Rachel Goddard, veterinarian in Mason County, in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, where there has been a rash of mysterious disappearances of family pets from all over the area, posters of which cover the walls of Rachel's animal hospital. At the same time, reports have been coming in of a pack of feral dogs attacking ranches and homes at night, stealing eggs and killing chickens, threatening the safety of the homeowners and the local farmers' livestock, and causing somewhat of a panic among the citizenry. Some of them are up in arms, literally, and want nothing more than to form hunting parties, rifles at the ready, to find and kill the animals. Rachel has other plans: She is setting up a sanctuary, where she can house the animals and try to get them to bond again with humans, rather than the other members of the pack.

The stakes suddenly escalate in fast and furious manner when a local man is viciously killed, and when it appears that an animal is to blame, those already planning to hunt them down become crazed. But Chief Deputy Sheriff Tom Bridger, with whom Rachel has been living for the past month, sees the evidence as pointing to a human killer who uses a trained and vicious dog as his weapon. The powerful novel details some very real horrors and ugliness in our society [a hint of which was provided in real life by football player Michael Vick].

The ensuing investigation and chase becomes more and more complex: The victim was not without enemies, outside of and perhaps within his own household, which includes several adopted children and not a small amount of animosity. The author has created some beautifully drawn characters, who come vibrantly alive in the hands of a terrific storyteller. The suspense mounts to very high levels as the tale draws to an end, much too soon. I loved it, and it is highly recommended. [It might be noted that the book is also available in trade paperback, $14.95]

A Trick of the Light
Louise Penny
Minotaur Books
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312655457 $25.99,

As with Miss Marple, or the folks who live in the environs of the protagonist in "Murder She Wrote," and as a couple of the residents of Three Pines say, "there must be something in the water," almost "a cottage industry." And to quote the author, "this little village produced bodies and gourmet meals in equal proportion." For shortly after Louise Penny's newest Chief Inspector Gamache book opens, a celebratory party held in that bucolic Quebec village just south of Montreal is dampened when a dead body is found in the garden of the hosts, Clara and Peter Morrow, with her neck broken. A decidedly personal manner of death, all agree. The dead woman, Lillian Dyson, was Clara's BFF [before there was such a term] many decades earlier, their friendship coming to a shattering end when Dyson's treachery became known, and it had been years since they had had any contact. The party itself followed a vernissage, a private solo showing of the artist's work at the Musee d'Art Contemporain in Montreal, a dream come true for Clara.

Armand Gamache, the deceptively mild-mannered head of homicide for the famed Surete du Quebec, and his second in command, Jean Guy Beauvoir, are investigating the murder, not the first time they had come to Three Pines on such a mission. As Gamache says, "Why not just move the whole homicide department down here?" [In jest, almost certainly.] Jean Guy, with his unspoken love for Gamache's daughter [who is, after all, married], is still recovering, mentally as well as physically, from a horrific incident six months prior, as is Gamache himself. [Although not essential, I'd recommend first reading the prior book in the series, "Bury Your Dead," as to the events and the repercussions thereof which ended that book.]

The inhabitants of Three Pines [a village so small it doesn't even show up on a map] who have been introduced to readers of the earlier books are still present, including Ruth "the demented old poet;" Gabriel and Olivier, the gay owners of the local B&B; Myrna, the bookstore owner; and assorted horses, including one that looks a moose. There is also an interesting sub-plot on the subject of AA. The dominant theme is "do people change," and there are many examples of the possibilities, as well as the need, for such change, with varying degrees of success. The book describes the rivalries, egos, politics and backbiting that exist in the art world, as well as a good mystery. It is a true pleasure to read, well deserving of its recent nomination for the Agatha Award for Best Novel of 2011, and is highly recommended.

The Good, the Bad and the Murderous
Chester D. Campbell
Night Shadows Press
8987 E. Tanque Verde #309-135
Tucson, AZ 85749-9399
9780984604449 $15.00,

In his seventh novel [six have featured p.i. Greg McKenzie], Chester Campbell has brought back for only the second time Sid Chance. Chance is a former member of the Army Special Forces in Vietnam, and had been a National Parks ranger for nineteen years, as well as a small town police chief for ten. He has now set up shop as a private investigator in Nashville, Tennessee, occasionally but ably assisted by his good friend, "Jaz" LeMieux. At Jaz' behest, and despite Sid's skepticism, he agrees to look into the arrest of a young man accused of murder. One of the major factors in how convinced the cops are of his guilt is the fact that he had served several years in prison after killing another young man when he was all of twelve years old in the aftermath of a drug deal. The current murder, of which he protests his innocence, and as Sid and Jaz investigate it, appears to have connections to a Medicare fraud set-up. As the investigation proceeds, Sid becomes more and more convinced that the boy is innocent, and that moreover his own personal integrity is at stake, and things heat up. On a more personal level, Jaz herself has been accused of racial harassment of an employee of her company, which morphs into something much more serious as the tale unfolds, and she and Sid believe that they are both being set up. The good, the bad and the murderous indeed.

Jaz is a fascinating character: Now a successful businesswoman, she had served in the Air Force Security Police, and spent a few years as a professional boxer before becoming a patrolwoman with the Metro Nashville police force. This is a well-written and strongly plotted novel, and is a welcome addition to the series. I loved the regular poker group to which Jaz and Sid belong, which they call the Miss Demeanor and Five Felons Poker Club, among whose members are a former Criminal Court Judge and a retired reporter, as well as the tip of the hat from the author to Tim Hallinan and his Bangkok mystery novels, and to Lee Child and his Jack Reacher books.

A very enjoyable read, and one that is recommended.

Baronne Street
Kent Westmoreland
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781453702710, $15.95,

This first novel by Kent Westmoreland introduced Burleigh ["Burr"] Drummond, and takes the reader on a wild ride down Baronne Street, home to, in less than equal parts, sleaze, beautiful women, horny men, free-flowing liquor, old money, drugs, prostitutes and corruption of all kinds. Shocking, to find all that in N'Awleens, right? A place where, among the tantalizing smells emanating from the wonderful restaurants, it takes "a little longer to identify the sickly sweet odor of unearned wealth."

Now a private investigator for three years, twenty-eight-year-old Drummond is hired by a beautiful, moneyed woman to find out why her husband is suddenly behaving in a 'peculiar' manner, paying him very handsomely for the privilege. The ensuing investigation turns up much more than either the client or Drummond bargained for, much of it very, very personal to the detective.

He is assisted in his endeavors, as usual, by Morgan Cross, 35 years old and 'the coolest guy' he'd ever known, reputed to be many things [among them mercenary, hit man, and spy], and indispensable to Drummond. The latter has his own "special talent," to wit, to "manipulate delicate situations discreetly and keep the consequences quiet." A tall order in this case, as it turns out.

This was a delightful read, with believable characters and terrific setting and dialogue, and one I highly recommend. I can't wait to see what's in store for Burr Drummond and his New Orleans in the next book, one I certainly hope is in the pipeline. [It should be noted that the book is available in paperback or as an e-book through Amazon or your favorite bookstore.]

Paul Levine
Bantam Books
c/o Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780553806748 $25.00,

"Lassiter" is prefaced with a quote from Lenny Bruce: "In the halls of justice, the only justice is in the halls." A very realistic assessment of the US legal profession and justice system, one which comes alive in the ensuing pages. The newest novel from Paul Levine moves along in a very entertaining manner, until suddenly it evolves into something much tighter and delivers a dramatic courtroom scene a la Perry Mason or, more contemporaneously, Law & Order. Which I really should have expected from this author, having read many of his thirteen previous books and enjoyed them all. Presented with wry humor and a very likeable - well, perhaps I should say 'sympathetic' - protagonist, and with nary a[n explicit] lawyer joke included!

The past of Jake Lassiter, Mr. Levine's criminal attorney protagonist, self-styled 'follower of his own rules,' who refers to his clients as 'customers,' comes back to haunt him on the day he is hired by a lovely woman who introduces herself as Amy Larkin, in jail in Miami on a charge of First Degree Murder, who swears her innocence. He soon realizes that she is the sister of a teenage girl he had very briefly known [and with whom he was even more briefly intimate] nearly two decades earlier, who seems to have disappeared and is presumed dead. The man Amy is accused of killing had presumably been mistaken for her true target: The man quite likely to have been the one responsible for her sister's fate; a man who in those years was involved in the making of pornographic movies, among other even sleazier operations, and the last person Lassiter himself had seen her with before she disappeared.

Since that man has in the intervening years become quite a wealthy businessman and philanthropist, having been known to contribute quite heavily to the coffers of some prominent politicians and office-holders, proving him complicit in the earlier events will be quite a difficult task. Jake, who has himself evolved from the jock he had been [a linebacker with the Miami Dolphins, and whose dog is of course named Csonka], after which the night-school lawyer has become a somewhat successful criminal attorney with an office in South Beach and a strong sense of justice, no matter how that end must be achieved. The ensuing investigation goes down many unexpected roads, to a stunning conclusion that left this reader riveted. The book sort of sneaks up on you, until suddenly you're hurtling through an incredible and thrilling tale with all the ingredients: a good mystery, funny dialogue and great characters. Highly recommended.

Gloria Feit

Gorden's Bookshelf

How to Wash a Cat
Rebecca M. Hale
Berkley Prime Crime
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780425232040, $6.99,

'How to Wash a Cat' is a fun readable book. It is full of unusual and quirky characters. It has two cats with opposite personalities stealing every other scene. It has a complex story with clues from the historic past of San Francisco and today. It is a very entertaining light read. A perfect book for a long weekend relaxing trip. But it does have a weakness. It has a messy end.

A young accountant is living a dull live in San Francisco and one great joy -- She brings her two cats, Rupert and Isabella, to her Uncle Oscar's home/antique shop for a Saturday meal of fried chicken. When Uncle Oscar dies under unusual circumstances, she inherits his shop in the historic Jackson Square neighborhood of San Francisco. She moves into the shop and is forced to unravel a mystery that extends from the early Nineteenth Century and the California Gold Rush to her Uncle's death.

This is a great light reading mystery that will really click with anyone who owns or has owned a cat. The feline characters are nearly more enjoyable than the people. The weak ending makes this a book to look for in the library or on the discount shelves. The quirky fun story means that you will not be disappointed spending the time finding the book.

Flash and Bones
Kathy Reichs
c/o Simon & Schuster, Inc.
1230 Avenue of the Americas, NY, NY 10020
9781439102411, $26.99,

Reichs' 'Temperance Brennan' books have one thing in common -- believable forensic details. Reichs also uses strong detective mystery storylines. On some of her stories, the coincidences become too stretched. In this novel, she does mix multiple events together but there is a more realistic theme pulling all of the threads together. 'Flash and Bones' is a solid forensic mystery story.

It is race week at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. NASA car fans by the hundreds of thousands and the media have staked out the Speedway. Temperance is called out to a sanitary landfill that is located on the Speedway property. During an inspection of an older section of the landfill after a rain storm, a barrel filled with asphalt with a few human bones protruding was found. This body brings into focus past and current disappearances at the Speedway. The FBI, a possible terrorist group and feuding ex, current detectives and a cast of good-old-boys round out the story's characters . Temperance has to maneuver through multiple groups of people with different agendas and personalities to find the killer before he kills again.

'Flash and Bones' is a more classic read with its single location and more focused mystery than some of Reichs previous stories. She also spends more time with the heroine navigating around a variety of different characters with personal biases. The result is a cozy type detective story with a strong forensic core. 'Flash and Bones' might not make big headlines but it is such a solid cozy no mystery reader will be disappointed picking the book up. It is also an easy recommendation for any reader wanting an interesting, relaxing story to fill an empty weekend or a few nights.

S.A. Gorden, Reviewer

Harwood's Bookshelf

Why I Became an Atheist: A Former Preacher Rejects Christianity
John W. Loftus
Prometheus Books
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst NY 14228-2119
9781616145774, $21.00,

"Why I Became an Atheist: A Former Preacher Rejects Christianity" is a "revised and expanded" version of a book first published in 2006, amended to take into account comments and criticism of the 2006 edition. That does not mean that religious apologists will not try to dispute this latest version, recognizing that all possible objections have already been refuted. If definitive falsification of the god delusion was capable of curing the most intransigent believers, religion would already have ceased to exist. As long as biblical literalists are able to shut out the reality that the earth is older than the few thousand years depicted in their bibles, and that species evolved over billions of years rather than coming into existence in a single week, as bibles assert, such believers clearly could not be cured even if Jesus materialized on the White House steps and told the world that he had lived and died like any other man, and that he was not a god and had never claimed to be a god. Whether Loftus's updated book will encourage more nontheists to come out of the closet, as the books of Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, and Victor Stenger have done, remains to be seen. But don't hold your breath.

Loftus explains (p. 11), "Unlike some skeptics who think the Christian faith has been debunked so many times before that it's now time to ridicule them, I still treat it respectfully." How do I interpret that? Is he agreeing that the Christian faith has been debunked so many times, without it disappearing, that a new approach is needed? Or is he arguing that the approach that clearly has not worked, that of treating ridiculous beliefs as if they are not ridiculous, should be continued? He equates (p. 12) belief in Western religion with belief in Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, Allah, Zeus, Baal, Poseidon, Thor, or Odin. He writes (p. 458) that, "The notion of a punishment after we die is sick and barbaric." Of course it is. But if that is treating religion respectfully when Loftus does it, why does he consider it ridicule when Dawkins or Harris does the same thing? Personally I agree with Harris, that treating moderate religion with respect encourages and facilitates the terrorist activities of extremists. Even the most peaceful theist needs to be shown that he and millions like him are the reason there was an Osama bin Laden.

Loftus echoes Dawkins in pointing out (p. 52) that, "Believers are truly atheists (i.e., non-believers) with regard to all other religions but their own. People known as 'atheists' just reject one more religion for pretty much the same reasons."

Loftus's strongest arguments are the same ones that have been made by every rebuttal of religion ever written. For example (pp. 97-99), "the biblical God, Yahweh, is a hateful, racist, and sexist God, modeled after ancient barbaric people and their rulers. He customarily punished people, even babies, for the sins of others.... Christians think Muslims are wrong for wanting to kill free-loving people in the world, and they are. But the only difference between these Muslims and the biblical God is that they simply disagree on who should be killed.... This God even commanded child sacrifice."

Loftus ventures further into the field of biblical criticism than the above-mentioned Big Four. Unfortunately he does so as what is best described as an autodidact. He acknowledges his dependence on Bart Ehrman, Richard Elliot Friedman, G. A. Wells, Robert Price, all excellent scholars, and others whom I view as second-ranking, and repeats their conclusions uncritically. But he seems to have chosen whom to copy by tossing a coin. I can only wonder if he would have included so much with which I disagree, for example that the Deuteronomist wrote all of the books from Deuteronomy to 1 Kings, even though 1 Samuel is as self-evidently an amalgam of narratives written by authors whose theology was mutually incompatible as Genesis, if he had bothered to read God, Jesus and the Bible: The Origin and Evolution of Religion, as far as I am aware the most complete analysis of the authorship of the whole bible currently available, or The Protestant Bible Correctly Translated, that would have drawn his attention to the absurdity of attributing 1 Samuel to the Deuteronomist.

Loftus raises the "problem of evil" that believers have been desperately trying to rationalize away since Epicurus asked the question over 2,000 years ago: If humankind is under the special protection of a deity that has the omnipotence to be able to abolish all non-manmade evil, and the omnibenevolence to wish to do so, why does it continue to exist? He also wants to know (p. 468), "If God exists, then why doesn't he show me?" Until believers can come up with a better answer to those questions than "mysterious ways," they simply cannot be taken seriously.

Much of Loftus's book is devoted to refuting the arguments of Christian apologists Ut, Mut and Tut (Loftus uses their real names). The weakness in such an approach is that ninety percent of believers have never heard of Ut, Mut or Tut, and can no more be cured by learning that their arguments have no credibility, than a communist can be cured by learning that the arguments of Robert Owen (Robert who?) have no credibility. Nonetheless, if nobody bothered rebutting Ut, Mut and Tut, the idea would spread that they could not be rebutted. (Keep in mind what happened when astronomers refused to dignify the fantasies of Immanuel Velikovsky with a rebuttal.) Someone had to rebut the apologists, and Loftus has written a definitive refutation that only incurables could dispute - as they no doubt will continue to do. Fortunately the arguments of the "new atheists" are reaching the masses, and religion's days are accordingly numbered. Without Loftus to pull the rug out from under the incurables, that might have taken longer.

Note that this review was based on an Uncorrected Advance Reading Copy. Quotations and cited page numbers may be changed in the final version to be published in April 2012.

50 Popular Beliefs That People Think Are True
Guy P. Harrison
Prometheus Books
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst NY 14228-2119
9781616144951, $18.00,

Not one of Guy Harrison's fifty contentions about popular beliefs was either new to me or inconsistent with what I already knew or believed. That cannot be interpreted as evidence that he is right. But it is a flattering reassurance that my own education has reached a satisfactory state of fulfillment. I did not read every sentence in his 458 pages with sufficient focus and concentration to assert that there are no more statements with which I disagree than the statistics cited on page 253, to the effect that there are one billion more Christians, half a billion more Muslims, and over one billion less nontheists, than is actually the case. This despite Harrison's awareness that pollsters deliberately rig their questions for the purpose of soliciting the answers the theocrats commissioning the poll wish to receive. Not surprisingly, in view of the foregoing, his bibliography lacks Living Without God, by Ronald Aronson, who does know how to analyze polls correctly. But he made no other significant statement of fact with which I disagree.

Harrison is a skeptic. He explains (p. 17) that, "Skepticism is really nothing more than a fancy name for trying to think clearly and thoroughly before making a decision about believing, buying, or joining something." He adds (p. 18), "No one should doubt that the lack of skepticism is a largely unrecognized global crisis." He quotes the oft-repeated truism (p. 28), "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." And he concludes (p. 417) that, "if I hadn't adopted a skeptical outlook early on, I might have wasted countless hours worrying about psychic readings, horoscopes, and whether or not one or more of a million gods approved of me."

Is there such a thing as a psychic detective? Obviously yes, in the sense that there is no shortage of swindling humbugs who so describe themselves. But (p. 72), "Here is the most telling fact of all to consider when assessing the validity of psychic detectives: the police don't use them ... because they know they are a waste of time.... If psychic detectives really could 'see' crimes that have already occurred and find missing people ... there would be a full-time psychic on the payroll of every police department in the world. But this is not the case."

Even if all psychics are either cranks or humbugs, does that necessarily make extra-sensory perception a delusion? Perhaps not. But (p. 69), "ESP, or 'psi' as researchers often call it, has been studied for many years now, and still no researchers have managed to produce an experiment that can be replicated by others and confirmed."

Is there such a thing as a witch? Again, obviously yes. Adherents of the Wicca religion call themselves witches, even though they do not claim any of the powers attributed to witches in traditional witchlore. But belief in witches as a force for evil is far more widespread than most Westerners are aware (p. 357): "Can we really live with knowing that 'witches' are still being burned alive?" It is happening mainly in Africa, India and the Caribbean, but it is happening. And even in America, "Sarah Palin ... apparently believes that witches possess dangerous powers because she participated in a church ritual designed to protect her from them."

Was there ever a continent, now lost, called Atlantis? Harrison's answer (p. 365) is, "While I have no problem with the possibility of an ancient coastal city named Atlantis being destroyed by a volcano, earthquake, or tsunami, it's an entirely different thing, however, to believe that the inhabitants of this city were aliens, were magical, or were technologically advanced to the point of possessing nuclear weapons and aircraft." Nuclear weapons? Harrison explains (p. 125) that the author of that masturbation fantasy was the same lying humbug who for all practical purposes invented the nonexistent Bermuda Triangle and authenticated the Roswell starship crash.

Area 51 in Nevada is the site of top-secret military research, including futuristic-appearing aircraft. Among popular fantasies about what else is housed there, Harrison writes (p. 384) that, "Some Area 51 enthusiasts also maintain that the government is developing teleportation and time travel capabilities there as well." Anyone who thinks that teleportation and time travel do not violate the most basic laws of physics is scientifically illiterate.

While Harrison does not go so far as to deny that IQ tests measure something, he recognizes (p. 52) that, "while one's current intellectual ability can be measured, intellectual potential cannot." My personal experience in finishing 37th in a class of forty in grade one, and first in a class of forty in grade two, would seem to support that conclusion.

The danger of inaccurate beliefs is relative (p. 201): "Believing in Bigfoot and the Loch Ness monster is relatively harmless compared to believing in a real monster called alternative medicine." Also (p. 208), "an alternative medicine is called 'alternative' because it has not been shown to work by the tried and true methods of modern science. If it had been, nobody would call it an alternative medicine. It would simply be called medicine."

On astrology (p. 141): "The ancient Babylonians never launched a scientific quest to find a genuine link between human behavior and the location of astronomical objects. No, they just looked up at the night sky and then made it all up."

Unlike those skeptics who avoid treating religion as critically as they treat parapsychology and alternative medicine, Harrison confronts it head-on. The most obvious question to ask any professed believer is (p. 33), "Why do most people who believe in a utopian afterlife fear death and avoid it at all costs?" Equally self-evident (p. 245): "Unlike religion, for example, hatred, wars, and terrorism are not often inspired by belief in Bigfoot and the Bermuda Triangle." Likewise (p. 247): "If somebody's hell turns out to be real, it's going to be awfully full. And it will be filled mostly with religious people who got in line behind the wrong god."

It has long been recognized as a statistical certainty that, if enough monkeys pounded on enough keyboards for enough eons, one would eventually type out War and Peace. When the author of The Bible Code programmed a computer to go through his preferred bible translation, delete everything else, and retain only every letter that appeared in the fifth place after a B (a randomly chosen letter and number), it produced intelligible words that the author interpreted as prophecies of events that occurred two thousand years later. So impressed were gullible godworshippers (there's another kind?), that The Bible Code became a bestseller.

Skeptics responded. Using similar randomly chosen letters and numbers, they were able to find an equal number of prophecies. But whereas Code had published only allegedly fulfilled prophecies, the skeptics reported prophecies that had failed, such as a prophecy that Yasser Arafat would be assassinated (he died of illness at age 75). Harrison writes (p. 60), "Bible-code believers must ask themselves why a god would encode incorrect predictions." They must also wonder why a search for a similar code embedded in Moby Dick found prophecies of the killing of M. L. King and J. F. Kennedy.

Does it surprise anyone that the Bible Code author chose to publicize "prophecies" of events that had actually happened? As Harrison notes, "Experienced skeptics know to be on the lookout for postdictions. These are predictions that are discovered and lauded after an event occurs. Nostradamus believers love them." And why would true believers draw the line at a god-embedded code, when they have no difficulty believing that the same god inspired a bible that states in fifteen places that the earth is flat? As for some prophecies, from biblical prophets and supermarket tabloid psychics, being observably fulfilled, Harrison points out (p. 268) that, "even a broken clock shows the correct time twice per day."

Harrison indicates that he avoids using the word "cult," and advises others to do likewise. His reason is (p. 296), "Imagining a separate and distinct beast called 'cults' suggests that we don't need to be on guard against any and all groups that exercise excessive control over members, encourage fanaticism and irrational belief, and are led by people who are abusive and power crazed." That sounds like an accurate description of all religions, trade unions, and the military. "Cult" is an eye-of-the-beholder concept that most people interpret as any belief system smaller than their own. To Mormons, Scientology is a cult. To Catholics, Mormonism is a cult. And to nontheists, Catholicism is a cult. And the greater the number who view a belief system as "not a cult," the more dangerous it is. America could survive the election of a non-fanatic Mormon president (Romney). It could not with any degree of certainty survive the election of a fanatic Catholic president (Santorum) dedicated to imposing Vatican sharia and making America subservient to an unrepentant Nazi pope.

The media's reluctance to criticize even the most absurd religious beliefs leads Harrison to note (p. 175) that, "the controversy between modern biology and creationism/intelligent design in the United States is usually reported as though it is a clash between two rival, but equally valid, scientific theories. But nothing could be further from the truth." And the media go no further than questioning the eyesight of persons reporting subjective observations when religion is involved (p. 58): "Sometimes we can be so good at identifying patterns that we 'see' things that aren't really there. That's how we end up with people seeing the Virgin Mary on a slice of toast." And few would dispute (p. 308) that, "virtually every person on earth would have heard about it by now if there were even one archaeological discovery that confirmed even one of the Bible's supernatural claims," especially since the media has widely publicized claims to have found Noah's Ark (p. 303), when no such claim has ever been validated.

On the sheer absurdity of intelligent design as an alternative to evolution by natural selection, Harrison asks (p. 281), "Why are there hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, supervolcanoes, the Ebola virus, and so on? Any designer with an ounce of compassion would have left those out of the recipe." Of the argument he makes for the reality of evolution, perhaps the most irrefutable (except to unteachables) is (p. 261), "We look at the human being and we look at the ape and we can see that they share more common features with each other than they do with anything else. So, just like a brother and a sister, we can assume that they have a common ancestor. That's really all there is to it." My own response to ID is that anyone who believes the human body was intelligently designed by a benevolent, omnipotent designer cannot have ever sat on a toilet seat or watched a TV ad for tampons.

I was unaware that mainstream universities have been accused by creationists of censoring or silencing professors who wanted to teach evidence supporting intelligent design. But even if such was the case, Harrison points out (p. 277) that, "Surely Oral Roberts and Liberty Universities would not censor their professors or students if any of them could make a compelling case for intelligent design." In fact neither of those indoctrination centers posing as universities has attempted to justify ID with evidence a legitimate scientist could take seriously. ID is religion, and they know it. And when the Christian gospels put into Jesus' mouth a promise that, if you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer, Harrison asks, if that is true, (p. 290), "Why won't God heal amputees?"

Harrison reports (p. 407) Stephen Hawking's opinion that, "I don't think the human race will survive the next one thousand years." In my view, Hawking is too optimistic. Unless humankind exterminates religion within 100 to 150 years, religion is going to exterminate humankind within 300 years.

In order to limit his chapters to precisely fifty, Harrison had to omit many popular beliefs that he could as easily have included. I will not suggest which of his chosen fifty he should have left out in favor of my own choices. But I would have liked to see his response to such contrary-to-fact beliefs as: (1) hypnotism exists as something other than placebo therapy; (2) psychoanalysis is more therapeutic than tea leaf reading; (3) the science-fiction cult called Scientology is less ridiculous than the Flat Earth Society; and (4) the existence of a school of theology or divinity in a university does not call into question the legitimacy of the whole university. Nonetheless, his fifty were generally well-chosen, and he did a thorough job of blowing them out of the water.

God and the Folly of Faith: The Incompatibility of Science and Religion
Victor J. Stenger
Prometheus Books
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst, NY 14228-2119
9781616145996, $20.00,

It annoys me immensely whenever a media person cites a list of "Four Horsemen" of superstition-debunkers that does not include Victor Stenger. Stenger's bestselling God: The Failed Hypothesis guarantees that he will eventually be credited alongside Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens with wiping the god fantasy from the face of the earth. That does not mean that I think he can do no wrong. Even Dawkins, author of the incomparable The God Delusion, has written books I could not give an unequivocal endorsement.

The same is true of Stenger. I wrote of his The Fallacy of Fine Tuning, that the physics in the book was "so far beyond my expertise that the only endorsement I am able to give is by saying that his previous books give me the confidence to take his word for it." The same is true of God and the Folly of Faith. Anyone who has not at least passed Physics 101 will find some of Stenger's arguments beyond his comprehension.

That said, let me cite some of the conclusions he reaches based on arguments I did understand. For example (p. 13): "Science flies us to the moon. Religion flies us into buildings." (p. 16): "Science and religion are fundamentally incompatible because of their unequivocally opposed epistemologies." (p. 109): "Evangelical Christians seem to think that teaching the Bible will bring more people to Jesus. In fact, the opposite is likely to happen. A recent poll showed that the more people know about religion, the less likely they are to be religious. The best way to become an atheist is to read the Bible from cover to cover." That echoes Isaac Asimov's observation that, "Properly read, the Bible is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived." And my own reading of the bible led to the recognition that it is the most obscene paean to evil ever written, with Mein Kampf not even a serious challenger.

Stenger contrasts faith with trust. Scientists trust the findings of other scientists that are supported by evidence and not falsified by contrary evidence. But (p. 15): "Faith is belief in the absence of supportive evidence and even in the light of contrary evidence." He also contrasts religious hypothesis with myth (p. 156): "Science does not conflict with religious myths any more than it does with Harry Potter. Although sometimes based on actual events and personages, myths are basically fictions." But (p. 205): "The argument presented in God: The Failed Hypothesis that God does not exist beyond a reasonable doubt is a scientific one. It is based on the fact that the theist (as opposed to the deist) God should be detectable by his actions in the world, and has not been." In other words, since the myth that Jesus rose from the dead is fiction, it cannot be subjected to scientific evaluation. It is when theists claim that Jesus' resurrection is a fact of history rather than an incident in a work of fiction, that it becomes testable by the methodology of science and fails to overcome the falsifying evidence.

Stenger does not share the view of some nontheists that religion is no more dangerous than belief in Santa Claus or the Great Pumpkin (p. 20): "Those who rely on observation and reason to provide an understanding of the world must stop viewing as harmless those who rely on superstition and the mythologies in ancient texts passed down from the childhood of our species." What makes that admonition vital is that even moderate theists are conditioned to believe that right and wrong are whatever their imaginary Sky Fuhrer or its self-appointed scriptwriter says they are (p. 245): "If God defines what is good and what is evil, then those who follow God's commands are morally justified to commit similar atrocities. History shows the result: holy wars, burning of heretics, the Crusades, the Inquisition ... eventually leading to the Holocaust." For the benefit of persons who swallow the Big Lie that the Holocaust was atheist-inspired, Stenger points out that Hitler and his heretic-hating fellow thugs were committed Catholics.

Stenger responds to the doublethink to which apologists have resorted in order to defend their position in the face of what has been called the problem of evil. He cites a Templeton Prize winner (awarded to rationalizers who can harmonize A and not-A), that (p. 269): "the only way to justify evil and suffering and maintain belief in God at the same time is to relax at least one of his traditional trinity of attributes: omniscience, omnipotence, and omnibenevolence.... Of course no one wants to believe in a non-omnibenevolent God, but either omnipotence or omniscience can go."

He also draws attention to mythmakers' free use of their imaginations to explain away inconsistencies in their allegedly historical narratives (p. 17): "The claimed prophecy that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem was fulfilled after the fact by the Gospel writers inventing implausible, inconsistent, and historically disprovable scenarios by which Jesus could have been born there." Since Stenger is not a biblical historian, he does not mention that Jesus was actually born in Capernaum, since that is an issue on which he would have to take my word for it.

While Liberal theists acknowledge that the universe is billions of years old, but argue that the "seven days of creation" were eons rather than 24-hour days, inflexible dogmatists have tried to explain away the evidence of a cosmography incompatible with Genesis. Stenger recognizes that failing to rebut the dogmatists might give the impression that they cannot be rebutted. So in addition to dignifying the incompetent ravings of apologist Dinesh D'Souza with a rebuttal (p. 278), he also paraphrases the defenders of biblical literalism (p. 25): "that God is pulling the wool over our eyes, planting phony evidence that carbon-dated fossils, geological formations, and galaxies are older than the 6,000 years since creation implied in the Bible...." Actually literalists argue that it was the god Satan who planted the false evidence, apparently unaware that they are thereby implying that the god Yahweh gave him permission to do so - either that or Yahweh is not omnipotent. Stenger continues, "And if religion doesn't work in the sphere of nature, why should we expect it to work in the moral or other spheres?" My argument has long been that, if we cannot believe the bible's fifteen assurances that the earth is flat, why should we believe its description of a god revealing its existence?

Stenger cites (p. 275) surveys that put the number of nontheists in America as low as 12 percent. Is he unfamiliar with Living Without God, in which Ronald Aronson showed that, properly interpreted, the polls reveal that the number of nontheists is in fact 36 percent?

On the role of religion in maintaining an inequitable distribution of wealth, Stenger notes that (p. 273): "The rich usually exploit the poor and religion is very often a tool of that exploitation, offering promises of a better life in the hereafter." On the connection between religion and politics, he cites a Pew Forum poll from 2004 (p. 296): "that 70 percent of traditional evangelicals were Republicans.... A more recent Gallup poll reported that the very religious were 19 percent more likely to be Republican than the non-religious." That should surprise no one. Contenders for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012 are unanimous in their determination to repeal Barack Obama's Affordable Health Care legislation. Since God is observably unwilling to lift a finger to save the lives of Americans who cannot afford food, shelter or health care, it is logical that God's Own Party would be unwilling to save the lives of persons their deity thinks should be allowed to die. God, as depicted in the bible, has the moral evolution of his scriptwriters of more than 2,000 years ago - and so do Republicans.

Note that this review was based on an Uncorrected Advance Reading Copy. Quotations and cited page numbers may be changed in the final version to be published in April 2012. Also, the Uncorrected edition did not contain a bibliography or an index. Since Stenger's books usually include such items, they will probably added to the final version.

The Minority Report And Other Classic Stories
Philip K. Dick
Kensington Publishing Corp.
850 Third Avenue, New York NY 10022
0806523794, $14.95,

Philip Dick was one of science fiction's giants. He ventured far outside of the mainstream of Asimov, Clarke and Heinlein, but he never, to my knowledge, crossed the line from science fiction to fantasy. There are no other writers with whom he can legitimately be compared, except in the sense that his originality prompts comparison with Shelley, Verne and Wells.

That is not to say that Dick's every vision of the future was restricted to events and technology that conceivably could some day exist. Many of the stories in this collection, including the title story that became a movie starring Tom Cruise, involve "precogs," persons acquainted with information that had travelled backward in time. While there is no shortage of scientifically illiterate ignoramuses, calling themselves parapsychologists, who have brainwashed themselves that precognition exists, there is no reason to suspect the clear-thinking Dick of harboring such a delusion. He wrote about precogs for the same reason Star Trek creator Gene Rodenberry had the Enterprise travel faster than light: because without such bending of the rules of reality there would have been no story to tell.

"The Mold of Yancy," dating from 1955, is about a public figure who spouts cliches that do not actually say anything, for the purpose of deterring the masses from thinking. Yancy, it turns out, is a public relations construct who does not really exist. In an endnote written for a "best of" collection in 1978, Dick explained, "Obviously, Yancy is based on President Eisenhower." He reiterated the story's message that, "everything the government tells you is a lie." I find myself wondering if Dick arbitrarily picked Eisenhower because, in 1978, it was still economically suicidal for a writer to acknowledge that the source of wisdom who did not really exist was a fellow named God.

"The Unreconstructed" conforms to the description, "a narrative without a plot." The endnote does not make it any more comprehensible. In Dick's defence, even Babe Ruth struck out a lot.

I am told that the movie version of "Minority Report" changed Dick's ending. I do not see how that could be done without destroying Dick's incomparable logic, the way movie versions of The Postman Always Rings Twice destroyed James M. Cain's logic. Since I cannot find out firsthand without sitting through a movie starring a Scientologist, I guess I will just have to take other people's word for it.

"If There Were No Benny Cemoli" is about a Commander of Armies that a trusted publication portrays as real, even though persons searching for him find clear evidence that his reported activities simply did not happen. The publication is identified as a newspaper, but "The Book" would be a more revealing description. The endnote reports Dick's belief that, "at least half the famous people in history never existed. You invent what you need to invent." Again, I suggest that the nonexistent focal figure was a barely disguised God.

"Waterspider" is set in a distant future when science fiction writers of the twentieth century are retroactively interpreted as precogs, and SF conventions as precog seminars. Researchers travel back in time to kidnap Poul Anderson and have him clarify an imagined precognition that he once wrote. Dick's story could not have been written without resorting to the "what if?" hypothesis that time travel can exist - and that is all the justification it needs. Everybody's favorite Star Trek episode involved time travel. While "Waterspider" is no City on the Edge of Forever, it will interest readers who recognize the names of the SF writers the visitors from the future encounter.

Since science fiction writers cannot really foresee the future, it should surprise no one that Dick's imagined next-century included a surviving Soviet Union and a World War Three. But it seems hard to justify his describing a twenty-first century in which cigarette smoking was still as prevalent as it had been in the 1950s. Did he really think smokers would be as impervious to evidence as god addicts?

While a science fiction writer who believes in religion is as much an aberration as an astronaut who believes in a flat earth, and Philip Dick was not part of that unteachable minority, it is worth noting that it was Dick who once observed that, "For his sake, I hope that God does not exist. Because, if he does, he has a lot to answer for."

William Harwood

Heidi's Bookshelf

The Apple Lover's Cookbook
Amy Traverso
Photographs: Squire Fox
W. W. Norton & Company
500 Firthe Avenue, NY, NY 10110
9780393065992, $29.95,

Excellent Resource, Interesting Read and Tasty Recipes

The Apple Lover's Cookbook is part history, part entertaining read, and part cookbook. The author covers an introduction to the history of the apple and the incredible genetic diversity. The next time you eat or cut open an offer, consider that each seed is a completely unique item. Each seed would produce completely different apples if grown to that stage--and the resulting fruit may have little or no resemblance to the parent tree. This is an example of the wide-ranging genetics of the apple.

Another aspect of the book that is useful relates to cyclopedic style presentation of types of apples. It starts with a table that contains most varieties of apples and how best to use them. With expanding access to more than the usual types of apples the list is helpful.

A number of the recipes also stood out. While apple recipes are common, it's always interesting to find new ones such as a savory tart with a different, satisfying take on crust flavors. My favorite recipe, however, was the Swedish Apple Pie. You don't even need a crust to make this great dessert. If, however, you're looking for an exhaustive cookbook on apple dishes, this book doesn't qualify. It's actually a well-rounded presentation. The content shines, the recipes are satisfying, and at the very least this book is worth a trip to library. For those who have access to lots of apples or simply enjoying increasing their understanding of favorite foods, read on! For fans of the television shows "Foodology" or "Food Science" you will find this book a satisfying book.

The BeeKeeper's Bible
Richard Jones
Steward Tabori & Chang
115 West 18th Street, Ny NY 10011
9781584799184, $35.00,

Interesting, Extensive and Recommended

"The BeeKeeper's Bible: Bees, Honey, Recipes & Other Home Uses" comes close to being a real tome on everything apiary. It includes history, facts, educational information for all things bee. Although on one level I knew humans had been keeping bees for a long time, seeing the illustrations and ancient content regarding the practice was intriguing. While it's unlikely anyone would say that bees have been successfully domesticated, they certainly hold an important place in culinary history for human kind.

One of the most interesting aspects of the book related to information for urban or suburban bee keeping. One could host a small hive in a surprisingly small area. Even this arrangement could result in at least 60 pounds of honey for a family's personal use! Most families would more than find their annual need met at this level.

In addition to providing a solid educational introduction to beekeeping, the book also describes ways to use honey and beeswax. The recipes range from cosmetics to home care such as furniture polish. Some people will be surprised how simple it is to make lotion and skin creams at home. With natural ingredients that are typically affordable and easy to find, the benefits can be huge.

You will also find a number of tasty recipes. One of the tarts was very yummy, but my favorite was the Honey Polenta Cake. This rustic recipe is somewhere between a sweet side dish or a dessert. It was very popular at my house with residents and guests alike. If you are looking for a good investment to expand your options with bees, honey and beeswax, this book is a great place to start. If you're not ready to take the plunge, at least find a copy at your local libray.

Dennis Brouse on Horse Training
Dennis Brouse with Fran Lynghaug
Voyageur Press
c/o Quayside Publishing Group
9780760340608, $24.99,

Useful, Accessible and Well-Illustrated

If you are looking for a manual you can use to effectively improve your relationship with your chosen equine companion, this book is highly recommended. Dennis Brouse teaches you how by starting at the very beginning.

Part of the value and process of this instruction manual is teaching a rider how to lead a horse in ways they understand. By following the process you will master the body language needed to be the dominant personality and how to bring your horse to accept and work with this fact. As a person who grew up in the business of breeding and raising animals, I was pleased to find a book that focuses on using natural instincts and behaviors to create the desired outcome.

Too often the average person doesn't have or get the help they need to impact animal behavior in a positive way. As a result the relationship can become and remain strained or combative. When you are dealing with unwanted habits and your horse, thanks to this book you now have other options. Mr. Brouse expertise is clear.

In addition, the book is written in a way that most readers can use and understand. Each technique is also illustrated in a step-wise method with photographs. Use the pictures to be sure you are using equipment properly, are prepared to observe the body-language of your horse and other details.

Whether you are dealing with difficult behaviors that are basic such as refusing the bit, fighting the girth or more advanced issues such as head-tossing and riding problems, Dennis Brouse on Horse Training is a great resource. By starting with the earliest lessons you can rebuild the foundation needed for a successful partnership and improve every aspect of your experience.

Boomer Selling
Author: Steve Howard
Action Press
201 West Orchid Lane, Phoenix, AZ 85021
9780982191101, $19.95,

Boomer Selling is big business. In many cases they are the age group with the most money to spend, the most to loose and gain from many products that are now available. This group is also often the most difficult to reach. My interest in the book came from the fact that this is my primary market. These people have been receiving sales pitches their entire lives. So how do you succeed in this market?

Seve Howard answers those questions. As a Boomer himself, he better understands the group and how to work with them. Like many sales books, he structures the information so it is accessible and manageable. One of the best things about this system is the serious wake-up call that many salespersons needs.

I have worked in sales for decades with a variety of products and industries, more people need to stop using out-moded tactics that just alienate potential customers. Many well-established companies still don't understand this reality. They are still operating with assumptions and plans that are decades out of date.

I look forward to applying the principles and tools provided in "Boomer Selling." If you offer products to this age group or want to understand how to make products attractive to these clients, this book is definitely recommended. In some cases you will get a starting point that will lead you to seek more details. And the book also gives you a standalone document to get started being successful in this valuable market.

Heidi Sue Roth

Karyn's Bookshelf

Ancient Egyptians
Kingfisher Readers
Philip Steele, author
Kingfisher Books
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780753467688, $3.99,

Fact-filled, yet appropriately simple text, abundant illustrations and lots of fun break-outs (how exactly did their toilets work?) will lure kids to this primer on ancient Egypt. Steele wields a broad brush for his targeted, 1-3-grade, audience, introducing them to a host of interesting facts about Egyptians, circa 6,000 to 525 B.C. Topics include the pyramids, tomb robbers, hieroglyphs, fashion, mummies, what they ate and how they waged war. A timeline and glossary aid understanding. Part of a wonderfully kid-friendly new collection of stepped Kingfisher readers. Crafted for five reading levels for children through third grade, the collection offers appealing topics including butterflies, dinosaurs, what animals eat, baby animals and pirates. Additional titles, to be released in May, are set to include coral reefs, trains, the human body, volcanoes, weather and the rainforest. A great new tool, sure to appeal to kids and the teachers who work with them.

Kid Confidential: An Insider's Guide to Grown-Ups
Monte Montgomery, author
Patricia Storms, illustrator
Walker & Company
c/o Bloomsbury Publishing
175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010
9780802786432, $8.99,

Bookstores are crammed with adult titles that purport to decipher kids. Now, kids get their due. But unlike often somber adult books about child rearing, this one spews giggles. With abundant use of elementary school humor, Montgomery picks apart what makes adults tick. Few adults are left unscathed, with everyone from parents to babysitters to teachers going under the knife. What, exactly, is a grown up? Montgomery sets out to define adults, and offers a primer on how to co-exist with them. Short, attention-grabbing chapters include "How Soccer Moms and Baseball Dads Ruin Your Fun, and Why," "Toys: Like Yours, Only Way More Expensive,"and "Substitutes: How to Behave Around Someone You Will Almost Certainly Never See Again." Individual topics include the perils of wearing high heels, what really goes on in the teachers' lounge and whether it's OK to laugh when an adult farts. Montgomery also tackles why adults shout at televised sporting events, different types of teachers ("the commander," "the best friend,") and how to spy on an adult party without getting busted. Lots of bullets, boxes and humorous illustrations contribute to the readability and fun. But "Kid Confidential" is not all silliness."Are adults afraid?"poses one Q&A. "Yes, but not as afraid as kids are. They worry more...." Entertaining and sometimes surprisingly poignant, a great, age-appropriate roadmap for little people who yearn to understand big people.

Saga of the Sioux
Dwight Jon Zimmerman, author
Henry Holt and Company
175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010
9780805093643, $18.99,

The bloody 19th Century faceoff between U.S. soldiers and American Indians is cemented in the nation's psyche. Few books have explored the epic conflict better than "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee," the groundbreaking account of Indians Wars in the U.S. from 1860 to 1890. It was published in 1971 by Dee Brown. But children also need to know American history, in words they can understand and are ready to hear. Now, at long last, an age-appropriate adaption of Brown's work exists for kids. Aimed at fifth-graders and older, "Saga of the Sioux," is narrowly focused on a segment of Brown's book; the conflict between the U.S. and the Sioux Nation. The original book was far broader, delving into conflicts between the U.S. and many Indian nations. This adaption succeeds on many fronts. The narrow focus helps keep the length in check. And the unavoidable reality, that this is often a battlefield memoir, is beautifully handled. Kids are spared excessive details of wartime atrocities - committed by both sides - but get enough description to sense the terrible weight of the hostilities. The Sioux wars stretched from Nebraska to Montana, including clashes in Minnesota, Wyoming and the Dakotas, as the U.S. aggressively (and often illegally) forced concessions of Indian land and the Indians fiercely fought back. The sacred Paha Sapa, or Black Hills, and the discovery of gold there, are key to the story. Legendary Sioux warriors - such as Red Cloud, Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse - and their great U.S. nemeses - such as General George Custer - dot the pages. Historical photos and drawings are plentiful, as are maps, all aiding readability. An important, terrible story adapted for an age group that -- if introduced to it early and encouraged to keep learning -- may, one day, actually comprehend its enormity.

A Monster Calls
Patrick Ness, author
Jim Kay, illustrator
Candlewick Press
99 Dover St. Somerville, MA 02144
9780763655594, $16.99,

When called upon to complete this unfinished tale by Carnegie Medal-winner Siobhan Dowd, Ness resolved to not try to emulate her voice. Ness, instead, took what Dowd began before dying of cancer in 2007, and made it his own. But Ness himself is immensely talented, with a Carnegie Medal to his own credit. The resulting collaboration is a painfully insightful story about grief and letting go, made richer with the reality of Dowd's untimely death at age 47. Thirteen-year-old Conor is enduring one of the toughest things a child can face: the impending death of his mother from cancer. Compounding Conor's woes are an absent father, who has left Conor and his mother in the British countryside and relocated to the United States; his own denial over the advancement of his mother's condition; anger over a best friend's careless talk that has spread word of his mother's illness around school; a reoccurring dream in which he must make a too-real, horrifying choice; and, most importantly, the sudden coming to life of a massive, ancient yew tree that visible from his bedroom window. Ultimately it is Conor's involvement with the yew tree - which, Dickens-like, challenges him to listen to three parables and then to tell a fourth story of his own -- that defines the novel. The tree's three parables are maddeningly not straightforward; in fact, they're as confusing as Conor's current life path, and that brings more anger. The truth that Conor must admit to as he tells the final story caps the novel's wrenching arch. Kay's dark, haunting illustrations add to the book's shadowy otherworldness. Unforgettably, masterfully conceived, written and illustrated. Let the awards come.

Another Man's Treasure
James V. O'Connor, author
Post Mortem Press
601 West Galbraith Road
Cincinnati, OH 45215-5009
9780615516523, $15.00,

Culling your stuff makes for a happy home. Organization matters, too, in writing. O'Connor's novel about a home organizer whose work and marriage take some sudden, complex turns is skillfully penned, witty and suspenseful. But it's the careful attention to plotting that ultimately drives its success. Ted, a former stockbroker turned home organizer, does mostly mundane work helping clients clean closets and re-arrange furniture. Then, he lands a job clearing out the mansion of a recently deceased, eccentric octogenarian whose son is convinced that something of great value is hidden in the home's crumbling, junk-strewn rooms. But how, exactly, does one define treasure? Meanwhile, Ted's increasingly personal relationship with Janet, a divorced client, threatens to derail his already strained marriage. Although the reader won't recognize their significance until much later, O'Connor introduces his most important plot points in the first few pages. From there he weaves an impressively tight, well-ordered tale. Most every element introduced contributes, somehow, to the overarching story. Tangents are minimal. And in the end, all the puzzle pieces come together. Amid surprise twists and page-turning intrigue (is the mansion haunted or just creaky?), two pieces of Ted's life that had seemed unconnected -- the house and Janet -- unexpectedly mesh, carrying the story to its thoroughly satisfying end. O'Connor also does other things well, including describing the mansion. The once grand, now dank Queen Anne, with its requisite hidden passages and closely-guarded secrets, assumes a persona of its own. Ted, Janet and other living characters are also fully and believably developed, with some excellent, at times wrenching, relationship twists. And even small things like the Halloween, and later Christmas, seasonal settings feel carefully, not at all randomly, selected. Great mystery, memorable drama, expertly boxed up.

Karyn L. Saemann, Reviewer

Kaye's Bookshelf

Writers on the Wrong Side of the Road
Sassy Brit and C. C. Bye, editors
Chase Enterprises Publishing
Box 2922, Kenora, ON, Canada, P9N 4C8
9780978177447, $23.35,

Quoting from the back cover:

"We took away the rules and let them write whatever the hell they liked: This is what we got, and there's more inside..."

Writers on the Wrong Side of the Road, an intriguing title with an artistically dramatic cover, is a collection of 18 eclectic, short stories, some with an erotica orientation: Hold-up by Lucille P. Robinson, Judgement Day by Angelika Devlyn, For Art's Sake by Elizabeth Coldwell, Simon Seeks by Nathan I. Yocum, The Barefoot Hero by Tim Fleming, The Cenotaph by Casey Wolf, Take Two by Kit St. Germain, The Journey by Megan Johns, Triona's Beans by Casey Wolf and Paivi Kuosmanen, THE MEAL by Mike Brecon, Seven Deadly Sins by Karen Cote, The Smile in Her Eyes by John B. Rosenman, Slumfairy by Tonya R. Moore, New Leaf by Megan Johns, Man Slaughter by Lucille P. Robinson, Pronghorns by Casey Wolf, FRAME OF REFERENCE by Mike Brecon, and Malpas by Marion Webb-De Sisto.

The editing by Sassy Brit and C.C. Bye is excellent, and the entire presentation is beautifully professional. If you like the short-story genre and want something unique and innovative, you might consider this read. My personal favorite was Malpas, a novella, by Marion Webb-De Sisto, an erotica beauty and beast.

Four D
Gregory Morrison
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781463792664, $8.53,

Quoting from the back cover:


If everything around you slowly disappears

"Four Rooms"

If you end up in a dark room with four doors

"The Principle of Luidgi"

If you want to change your life


If you decide to end your days

"What would you do?

Characters in "Four D" are fighting for their happiness, but for every one of them, the meaning of happiness is something different. For the character is "Space," it is a choice to be made. For Elise, the character from "Four Rooms," it is to open all doors and get out. For Luidgi, the character from "The Principle of Luidgi," it is to change his life. Lastly, for the character from "Guest," happiness is to meet somebody wise and trusted. But all this has a price and every one of them will pay - sometimes it is highest price.

"These tense, mysterious stories contain incredibly engaging plots that will not leave any reader feeling indifferent."

I did not feel that these four stories were chapters of a book but actual, individual short stories. The first story, "Space," I did not understand. My feeling was that it was written by an alien to and for aliens. The second story, "Four Rooms," was unique and interesting. We follow Elise as she struggles to find her way out, to escape or to wake up...we'll never know. The third story, "The Principle of Luidgi," was the most understandable and began with the conclusion, then filled us in. I did not connect with the fourth story, "Guest."

I may not have fully understood these stories but I'm always intrigued by such unusual writing. Gregory Morrison says that these stories are about people fighting for their happiness - the concept unique to each character. I wonder.

Four D is Gregory Morrison's first book. It's well edited and different. You might give it a try for a change of pace and to see if you can understand these strange, unusual stories.

Kaye Trout

Kiplinger-Johns' Bookshelf

Monsters of LA
Lisa Morton
Bad Moon Books
1854 W. Chateau Ave., Anaheim, CA, 92804
9780983779933 $20.00

Dracula, The Phantom, and The Invisible Woman are only three of the LA Monsters that Morton deals with in this unique volume. What makes this volume unique is the way that Morton builds a modern day story around each of her characters which explains the characters in a way understood by the modern day reader. Morton also peppers each story with parts of another story in this book which ties the stories together in an entertaining way.

"Of course, L.A. has more than 20 monsters; it probably has tens of thousands, if you take into account all the hustlers, gangbangers, white-collar criminals, street crazies, and other assorted badasses living here. But these 20 are famous. These 20 are the rock stars of the monster world. These 20 are Hollywood legends." Morton tells this on page 13.

"Frankenstein" leads off the collection of short stories. What do you think a modern day Frankenstein's story would be? How about basing the story on a war-torn relic of a man left physically revolting by a doctor, named Victor by the way, who was trying to help in the throes of war? To tell anymore would give away this tale, but I recommend it.

"The Bride" ties into "Frankenstein." A very short story, telling any of this one would ruin it and you certainly don't want to ruin the impact of the tale. Read it.

Then there is "The Mummy." This is a solid tale about the fear of getting old. Morton grabs this story and tells us about a woman who wants to try anything to maintain a youthful appearance.

"She was only 39, and most would have guessed ten years younger, but age was starting to work its insidious erosion on her. She spent two hours everyday working out, had a personal trainer and her own nutritionist, and had undergone every thing from Botox and Lipoplasty to hot stone massage to seaweed wraps... but her limbs were starting to take on that ropy look that she saw in the rail-thin older women at the Beverly Hills restaurants and shops. She knew that Darren would never divorce her (or at least not for another few years) but she was looking at her future and imagining Darren Dulac, CEO of one of the nations biggest insurance companies, still showing off his sagging, chicken-necked wife in another ten years.

"She couldn't do it." Monsters of LA, page 89.

Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, The Phantom, The Hunchback, The Invisible Woman, The Mad Scientist, The Werewolf, The Haunted House, Cat People, The Creature, The Alien, Kaiju (Giant Monster), The Devil, The Slasher, The Killer Clown, The Urban Legend, and The Zombie are the other subjects in this book. For a satisfying, wondrous experience, discover Monsters of LA.

Anya's Ghost
Vera Brosgol
First Second Publishers
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y.10010
9781596433320 $15.99

Walking presumably to school, not paying much attention to where she is walking because she is thinking about her friendless school days and her interaction with peers at school, Anya loses her footing and falls into a hole. The hole turns out to be an old, unused well.

As Anya looks around, she sees a skeleton lying on the well's floor. It isn't long before she sees a ghost resting on the skeleton. Though the ghost tries to be friendly, the cynical Anya isn't having any of it. Why should this ghost be her friend? None of the kids at school wanted to be friends. As far as the ghost goes: Anya and the ghost don't even know one another. Later, when Anya falls asleep and the ghost wakes her up in time to scream for help to a boy passing the well, the girl wonders if the ghost is friendly. The boy passing the hole hears Anya and she is well on her way to being saved because the ghost woke her up.

This is a graphic novel, so the reader has to go on artwork and dialogue to formulate the tale. The artwork here is black and white and depicts the sometimes somber story well.

Though this is Vera Brosgol's first book, her credits include storyboards for animation as well as comics and illustrations which have appeared in The Flight anthologies. It is interesting to consider that Vera Brosgol was born in Moscow, Russia, (but has lived most of her life being American) and Anya and her family are Russian. This is Vera Brosgol's first book.

When the ghost shows up in Anya's everyday life, possible because the ghost's severed finger is in Anya's possession, the girl decides to keep the ghost in her purse when she is in school. The ghost proves her friendliness by assisting Anya with a test for which she did not have time to study. Following several tasks done for Anya, the girl decides that having a "ghost friend" may not be that bad. After all, it's not like she has any other friends. The ghost tells Anya that her name is Emily and she was in the well because she had been murdered. Thus begins Anya's quest to solve Emily's murder.

Spouting good vocabulary, excellent illustrations and a story that grabs readers at the very beginning and doesn't let go until the very end, Anya's Ghost is a great debut book from a writer we will surely be seeing more of in the future.

Christina Kiplinger-Johns

Logan's Bookshelf

War Stories
Stephen G. MacDonald
Privately Published
9781466464445, $14.95,

War is hell, and unlike actual hell, many return to tell their tales. "War Stories: An Enlisted Marine in Vietnam" is a memoir of war from Stephen G. MacDonald, as he shares his stories of going to war in Vietnam and the things he saw as a field radio operator on the edge on the of the DMZ in 1967.From the extensive training demanded of a marine and life under constant threat of death, "War Stories" is a much recommended pick for anyone seeking wartime memoir.

A Dubious Dream
Gerald J. Kubicki
Privately Published
c/o Chicago Distribution Center
11030 S. Langley Ave.
Chicago, IL 60628
9780821419847, $18.95,

Great power can lead to great peril. "A Dubious Dream" is the third entry into the Colton Banyon mystery series from Gerald J. Kubicki, this time covering Banyon's clash with the mysterious black diamond that has the power to turn men into super heroes or lead them to an early grave. Working with those tracking it, Colton must see if it's power is truly worth finding. "A Dubious Dream" is well worth considering for general mystery fans.

Angelic Healing Soups
Angels in Aspen
Privately Published
9781466337817, $24.95,

A bit of soup can do much in connecting our souls. "Angelic Healing Soups: Hope in a Pot" is a spiritual cookbook from Angel in Aspen, who spins a series of soups and soup-styled recipes to help us through the struggles of life. With charming photography and art throughout, "Angelic Healing Soups" is a creative spin on typical cookbooks, worth considering for followers of spirituality and lovers of soup.

Passage to Hiroshima
Gordon T. Allred
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432769307, $10.95,

On the eve of war, people still passed between America and Japan. "Passage to Hiroshima" is a story of a rocky voyage between Hiroshima and the American West Coast. Following Zenji, a Japanese America, and his unique romance with Prasana, a woman with multiple personality disorder. With a touch of adventure that proves uniquely compelling, "Passage to Hiroshima" is an excellent pick for historical fiction collections.

Kurt Haberal
Privately Published
9781463681616, $14.99,

Doing the right thing often comes with a price tag that's way too high. "Hibernal" follows Robbie Holt as his paths cross with a senator and gives him information that he may have not wanted to learn. Driven from his home by scandal, he must decide whether his integrity is worth his life, as he finds himself clashing with powerful people who could easily order him dead. "Hibernal" is a riveting read with plenty of intrigue, very much recommended.

Now You See It, Now You Don't
John Daly
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432777319, $24.95,

When murder is on your trail, you start to wonder why the world seems out to get you. "Now You See It, Now You Don't" delves into the chronicles to buddy cops Mason and Striker, who have a storied past. But as they try to work their way through a web of cruelty and unsavory nature in their world, their friendship and duty will be tested. "Now You See It, Now You Don't" is a fine pick for anyone who enjoys mysteries and the buddy cop dynamic.

Carl Logan

Lois' Bookshelf

The Promised Land
Vakerie Stocking
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
1466321045, $15.99,

Be warned, reader! This book is painful to read yet impossible to put down!

It reprises the horror tales of racial strife in the sixties. I didn't find the period fun to live through, and my feeling now is that it's past and I would like to forget about it. But of course the past is never truly gone. Events of long ago continue to probe their ghostly fingers into the present. Racism waxes and wanes, but it lives on.

The Promised Land gives us a complex but tightly woven plot in which twelve-year old Joy, newly moved to northern Florida in the custody of her divorcing mother and having as yet no friends, is in the process of building a friendship with a biracial boy at school, Clay. She is unaware that the area, so close to Alabama and the drama of Montgomery, is a hotbed of the KKK. Meanwhile, Joy's mother, Jessica, has fallen in love with her lawyer, McKendrick, who is a leader in the KKK. As both relationships deepen, the tension is stretched to an almost unbearable degree.

Joy does not dare tell her mother about her friend; she meets him at the library, claiming she is studying with a girl. Meanwhile, Clay's father is attempting to open a dress shop in the white area of town, and McKendrick along with other KKK members has vowed to stop him at all costs. Joy's mother, gaining hints of Joy's relationship to Clay and determined to stop it, takes Joy out of school. The library meetings grow increasingly important to Joy as Clay is now her only friend. With her mother away on dates with McKendrick, she is often alone. She begins to go home to dinner with Clay, at the very house the KKK has targeted for destruction. Events move toward their inevitable conclusion, and only a last-minute surprise twist of plot saves the book from becoming a Grand Opera story complete with all-around tragedy.

The twist of plot is believable and handled by the author with great skill. Valerie Stocking is best known as a playwright, but in this book she proves she can write vivid descriptions and bring characters to life on the page as well as the stage. The author says it is her wish that readers will feel grateful that it isn't the sixties any more. I can only answer: Yes!

The Assault on Reason
Al Gore
The Penguin Press
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, N.Y. 10014
9781594201226, $25.95,

In all the excitement about Al Gore's reports on the environment, this volume on politics seems to have been overlooked. This is unfortunate, because it is as important in its way as are the environmental studies, and it is equally "lucid, harrowing, and bluntly effective," to quote the New York Times about the earlier book. The assault on reason in government continues to erode our democracy.

A scary but cogent book, it needs some updating. As it stands, it ought to be read backward, starting with the opening pages of the last chapter, which provide cogent reasons why all the rest is important. Without this information, the present opening seems dated. It rehashes the sins of the Bush administration, apparently needlessly. We all remember all too well about the shock of Abu Graib, about the lies assuring us of Saddam having weapons of mass destruction, and about the Patriot Act which led to the eroding of civil rights. The reader tends to wonder if he really needs to review all that.

Those last-chapter pages tell us why. The author documents studies that indicate how little the contemporary voter knows about politics. Many can't even name their own representatives in Congress. It's not possible to have a democracy with voters who fail to understand the issues or the people representing them. We have let ourselves be confined to TV ads with thirty-second slogans in place of in-depth analyses of government problems. The big firms with their high-paid CEOs spend a fortune to come up with those clever slogans which offer little regard for truth, but sound so good that everyone gets caught up and joins in the chanting of them. Then, looking back, it becomes clear how those unfortunate events happened, how easily young troops were manipulated toward bad behavior at Abu Ghraib, how easily we all yielded up our civil rights in the name of protection from terrorist plots. Step by step, we've given ground, learned to live with what Gore here calls "convenient untruths," and hardly noticed what was happening. Our votes have been bought in subtle fashion.

Our great hope, Gore says, is the Internet. Unlike TV, which denies us the right to answer back, we can express our opinions on the Internet and keep a dialogue going. Unfortunately, much of the dialogue is trivial, but at least the Internet offers a forum of public debate, as TV does not.

Lois Wells Santalo

Margaret's Bookshelf

Break the Cycle
Tracy S. Deitz
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781466375215 $12.99

Trained domestic violence victims' advocate Tracy S. Deitz presents Break the Cycle: Healing From An Abusive Relationship, a straightforward guide to ending an abusive or destructive relationship and rebuilding one's life. The personal story of survivor Lydia adds an individual touch to the broad yet invaluable recommendations, peppered with suggested "healing processes" such as "Relationships of respect do not require one person to sacrifice dearly held values", and "Shield yourself with strong, supportive people to buffer against vicious attacks by abusers". Break the Cycle primarily focuses on the emotional problems that must be confronted to resist and end abuse, as opposed to precautions against physical threats or violence that are especially dangerous at the time one chooses to end a harmful relationship. Yet the testimony and practical steps are invaluable to ground one's mind, heart, and soul, and therefore be better able to think rationally during an extremely difficult time. Although Break the Cycle has a spiritual side in that the final two chapters encourage the reader to trust in God at their advocate and experience God's deliverance, the preponderance of its message is an encouraging open letter to sufferers of all religious backgrounds. Break the Cycle is highly recommended as a mental and spiritual supplement to domestic violence self-help guides that delve more into the practical side of protecting oneself from the violent retribution of an abusive loved one.

Gina, the Queen Bee
Jackie Shirley
Privately Published
9781467910453, $13.95,

Life as a housewife would just be boring. "Gina, the Queen Bee" tells the story of Gina, a woman driven to go beyond her limits, founding a biker club and tearing up the ranks as a boxer, living life on her own terms. A story of going against the times and driving oneself to live life to the fullest, "Gina, the Queen Bee" is an excellent and recommended pick for community and library general fiction collections.

Protect the Innocent
Jim Calaway
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432779252, $13.95,

The passion for justice can be multiplied when the victim is an innocent. "Protect the Innocent" is a crime novel as author Jim Calaway tells a story of the drive behind Shaun Sullivan, a man who serves his job well, but will go to no limits to avenge a wronged child. "Protect the Innocent" is an intriguing novel of a man driven, worth considering.

How to Open Your Own In-Home Bookkeeping Service
Julie Mucha-Aydlott
Privately Published
9780979412424, $49.95,

Finances that get out of hand can often seem quite overwhelming. "How to Open Your Own In-Home Bookkeeping Service" is a guide to those with the mathematical know how to turn it into a successful business. Julie Mucha-Aydlott explains what is needed to keep comprehensive, legal book keeping, with additional info on understanding taxes. It also covers on how to attract clients and create a business plan on your end. "How to Open Your Own In-Home Bookkeeping Service" comes with a CD with sample business plans, making it a choice and comprehensive pick for aspiring entrepreneurs.

The Profit Motive
Leif P. Damstoft Sr.
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432785437, $9.95,

Greed and selfishness have been leading the world into ruin. "The Profit Motive/The Prophet's Motive: Wrong or Right" is dual-sided book from Leif P. Damstoft, as he explores both sides of the coin and offers intriguing ideas on how to manage it all and save the bank from being shattered. "The Profit Motive/The Prophet's Motive" is a read with plenty to think about on the crisis, recommended.

Defending a King
Karen Moriarty
c/o Buy Books On The Web
1094 New Dehaven Street, #100
West Conshohocken, PA 19428-2713
9780741470317, $27.95,

Michael Jackson was a legendary performer who was often marred by controversy in life. "Defending a King: His Life and Legacy" is a biography from Dr. Karen Moriarty as she presents the life story of the King of Pop, trying to offer a more complete understanding of the often erratic behavior that the platinum artist had during life, and led to many accusations that may have been baseless. "Defending a King" is an alternative perspective on Jackson, worth considering for fans of the man and his work.

Glen Joshpe
Privately Published
9781468004960, $12.95,

To change the very rules which life works can open a whole new can of worms. "Rust" follows a scientist who discovers something that may alter the flow of life and time in the secrets of Africa. His discovery will make him the target of those in power who want to control it and place humanity's future under their command. "Rust" is a fine pick for those looking for a science fiction thrillers set in the modern day.

The 2012 Prophecies
L. P. Simone
Privately Published
9781463567330, $14.42,

Is one's own life worth the entire world? "The 2012 Prophecies" follows Cory McClintock as he struggles to decide if he can do what it takes to save the world. The Mayan prophecies seem to come more and more true, and as the world seems to be rushing to hell, Cory finds out that the only thing between the world and salvation is his own life. "The 2012 Prophecies" is a fine pick for general fiction collections.

Margaret Lane

Maria's Bookshelf

The Sense of an Ending.
Julian Barnes
Alfred A. Knopf
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780307957122, $23.95,

Review Title: Philosophical Fiction at its Finest.

The Sense of an Ending reads like a collection of philosophical musings by a proper English gent. This story or rather the way it's told is relevant now and has a place in today's literary world. It's also mercifully short. I say this because I am not at all sure this would have worked as well had it been longer. I needed to keep reminding myself throughout the book that this is indeed a fictional story. We meet Tony and his cohorts while they are still in school. They are arrogant, cocky and ready to take on the world with the exception of Adrian who is far more soft-spoken and introspective. Adrian is quickly deemed the most intelligent of the bunch and his friendship is enthusiastically pursued by Tony and his friends. Time quickly passes and Tony is now a man in his early sixties, amicably divorced, looking back on his life and regarding it critically. He has lost touch with his friends and the death of Adrian continues to haunt him. He receives a letter and small sum of money from the mother of an old girlfriend, the same girlfriend who dumped him forty years earlier to go out with Adrian. The girlfriend's mother also leaves him Adrian's diary which is physically in the possession of the ex-girlfriend. How her mother has come to possess this diary is part of the mystery that slowly unfolds into a bit of a twist at the end of the story. The pacing is calm and relaxed yet not too slow. The story spans forty years and though this may seem excessive it should be apparent that it's necessary to the story line to go back so far. For those past the age of forty especially, Tony's reflections and insights alone are worth reading the book. The story itself is unremarkable in its ordinariness but this is also what makes this book something that stays with the reader long after the last page is turned.

The Magic Room: A Story About the Love We Wish For our Daughters
Jeffrey Zaslow
Gotham Books
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9781101553633, Kindle $12.99,

Review Title: Inspiring Stories; Could Have Gone Deeper.

Let me start off by saying that Zaslow really hit the mark with his idea of the non-fictional accounts of six brides whose common link is that they all bought their bridal gowns at Becker's Bridals, a Midwest institution since 1934. The setting of this bridal shop was a natural place to tell this story and served to connect each separate story as well as seamlessly link to the shop's unique history.

The Magic Room is the room within Becker's Bridals where brides who have possibly found "the dress" are invited to view themselves in all their splendor. It is a room with soft lighting and an abundance of mirrors complete with a pedestal engraved with the initials B. B. Zaslow, a New York Times journalist and father of three daughters weaves together a sentimental tale of life and love shown through the stories of these brides, their parents, grandparents, fiances, and children. He offers a good amount of insight on the ways love and marriage have evolved over the years as well as the customs and traditions of a wedding. Check out the current custom started in 2006 of "trashing the dress". I was fascinated by this ritual that I didn't even know existed till I read the book. Married in 1998, my dress was lovingly taken to the cleaners by my mother and preserved immediately following my wedding. Fourteen years later, I am still wondering what the heck to do with it. I thought about selling it many times but could never bring myself to do it even though I know I will never wear it again. Trashing it however seems unthinkable.

Shop owner Shelley Becker has worked at Becker's since she was fourteen. Peppered throughout the book are chapters devoted to her unique story as well as her own ill-fated marriage. The chapter highlighting her own wedding read like a bad omen. Shelley's story is of a family living in a remote and rural Michigan town who have managed to keep this bridal shop in their family for more than seventy five years. Her story dates back to her grandmother Eva, the tough minded business woman who was the family's matriarch. The shop passed down to Shelley by her parents is now the place where she has honed her bridal business chops. Her eldest child, Alyssa currently works there as well and it is hinted at that one day Alyssa will be the one to take over. Shelley is a treasure trove of information on how brides-to-be have evolved over the years as well as their relationship to their mothers in particular. It seemed that both Zaslow as well as Shelley had a hand in picking which future brides would be showcased in the book. Zaslow makes mention that only the worthy ones were considered as he offers his version of what being worthy means. In other words no trashy, bridezilla types were even considered. For the women to be chosen they had to be deemed worthy people first. Zaslow romanticizes much of these stories as you would expect a father of three daughters who have yet to walk down the aisle themselves would. I respected his perspective on the lives of these women however not all these brides were likable and some of the decisions they made, captured by Zaslow, begged the question "what on earth were you thinking?" In the end I found myself most interested in the untold stories such as why Julie would marry so soon after her husband's untimely death instead of waiting a year or so after the engagement? Also, why would she choose to put her children through a full wedding ceremony complete with a shopping trip to Becker's to find a new dress when her children were so against her getting married again. Why not get married more quietly and without all the pomp and circumstance of her first wedding? Julie's decisions came off tacky and disrespectful which although natural to infer is sad because we know that Julie has endured immense suffering and who wouldn't ultimately wish her well. This is where Zaslow falls short with the development of each component of the book. It seems he did Julie an injustice by not delving deeper into her story.

Shelley herself is painted in a very forgiving, overly nurturing light. Yet, she comes off as stoic and subdued, actually bordering on an ever present dysthymia. Her demeanor serves as a metaphor for popular perceptions of small town life and why some of the most passionate people can't wait to leave it behind. Shelley herself seems conflicted at times as to whether or not she should have made a life here. One can't help but wonder what Zaslow's personal feelings toward her were as he mentions her "near perfect figure" (something that seemed unnecessary to mention) and that although she hates to lose a sale, she always manages to find the silver lining and wishes each and every bride well. Perhaps this is true however it came out sounding forced and insincere. This is where Zaslow's romantic notions seemed to get in his own way. It seems that he also did Shelley a disservice. By painting her the way he did, she came across at times as inauthentic and not quite real. Large parts of her life were omitted such as any information regarding her two sons. Not even their names were mentioned and only her daughter appeared in the book. Perhaps her boys wanted no part of a story taking place in a bridal shop? Still, I can't help but think that writing about her relationship with her sons might have given better insight into who she is.

This book, obviously written as a labor of love from parent to child turned out to be so much more than the sum of its parts. It is a testament to life, relationships, and what carries us from one day to the next. It is a story much greater than what is contained in these pages. Although these stories are largely incomplete, it is still worth a read. The questions this book inspires are what just might offer the most insight after all.

American Ground Unbuilding the World Trade Center
William Langewiesche
North Point Press
19 Union Square West, NY, NY 10003
0865475822, $9.99,

Review Title: An Explanation.

A chilling and unsettling account on the destruction of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 as well as the clean-up effort in the long months to follow. I cannot say for sure whether all Langewiesche's accounts are indeed accurate or if he cited several untruths as his critics point out. I have to assume that even if there are errors, there has to be a fair amount of truth to his telling. He was given full access to the site and his writing reflects his gratitude of that monumental honor. He interviewed most of the major players in charge of the unbuilding. Why wouldn't someone trust his reporting unless they had some kind of inside knowledge which refuted his claims? I just don't see him having any motivation for not telling an accurate story which is something that is alluded to by his most vehement critics. He does not delve far into the individual stories of suffering, such as the firefighter widows of 9/11 who make a short appearance and are depicted in this instance as a kind of a lynch mob. In regard to the context that they appeared and when Langwiesche witnessed them, I believe that he was simply reporting what happened, not making any kind of personal judgment against them or downplaying their suffering in any way. I didn't get any sense of the disrespect that others spoke about. I will also go as far as to say that a book like this will always draw some overzealous criticisms simply due to the nature of the event and the heightened emotions it elicits.

Aside from the actual fact telling, the all too real emotions depicted here both positive and negative will not be tolerated by all. Langwiesche manages to embrace all human emotion while still remaining focused on reporting. There are some people who will not be able to stomach certain truths about human behavior and how some of those held as heroes may have also behaved in ways that were anything but heroic. Once an image has formed for some, it may not be tainted and probably for very good reasons. For those who are interested in truth seeking and the study of human contrasts; this book will provide the necessary component to a historical event so monumental that all its stories could never be told. Langwiesche writes with the right amount of reverence and sensitivity yet manages to provide us with the necessary information to better understand those stories and their plausible outcomes. His work provides a sense of coming to terms with quite possibly the most catastrophic event many of us will witness in our lifetimes. His book is a reminder of the importance of that most critical final step of the recovery process, moving on.

Maria P. Ryan

Melissa's Bookshelf

Brodi Ashton
Balzer + Bray
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780062071132, $17.99,

Brodi Ashton's Everneath is a modern day retelling of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice and the first book in a series centered around Persephone and her underworld kingdom.

This young adult novel tells the story of Nikki Beckett, a teenage girl with only six months left until she is forced to return to the underworld or Everneath, When the story opens, she is just waking up from a hundred year sleep in which an Everling, Cole, has absorbed her energy by stealing her emotions. Few survive this process and even fewer come through unscathed, but Nikki is special, making it through with some pieces of her personality in tack. While Cole wishes her to join him as an Everling, she chooses to return to the surface, hoping to rejoin her family and reunite with boyfriend, Jack. Although a hundred years has passed for her, only six months have passed for her family and friends. Six months, however, is long enough for everything to have changed. When she returns, her father is suspicious and angry, and her friends are emotionally scarred by her disappearance. Nikki hopes to spend her remaining time healing the hurts she caused by leaving and also in finding a way to avoid returning to the Everneath.

Everneath is a brilliant concept with its basis set firmly in the myths of Persephone and Eurydice. With the Everneath, Brodi Ashton creates a suitably scary and original underworld filled with ghostly sludge and hive-like caverns. Her concept of skimming emotions for energy appears to be an interesting new spin on the ever popular vampire genre. Overall, she successfully takes a popular myth and creates her own original spin on it. The difficulty with Everneath, however, does not lie in the concept or in Ashton's world creation. Ashton creates a very vivid world but, unfortunately, chooses to populate it with flat characters. Our heroine, Nikki Beckett, has no personality, and the male leads, Cole and Jack, are uncomfortably abusive and domineering. Nikki has no hobbies or interests outside Jack and knitting. She does nothing to forward the story and instead, stops things dead by stalwartly refusing to do anything. She stands by while Jack and Cole battle over her and do all the legwork. These three characters have been seen in various incarnations since Twilight, but here they are at their most uninteresting to date.

Brodi Ashton tries but ultimately fails to make Everneath a truly compelling debut. Nikki Beckett's dullness makes it impossible for this book to succeed; and since there are plenty of young adult novels with interesting heroines, I would recommend readers seek those out rather than looking for signs of life in Everneath.

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight
Jennifer E. Smith
Little, Brown and Company
c/o Hatchet Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316122382, $17.99,

Was it fate that lead Hadley to miss her plane to London by only four minutes or was it mere coincidence? In The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, Hadley considers such heavy material as fate, love, and marriage as she travels to London for her father's wedding and very possibly meets the boy of her dreams.

A series of mishaps leads Hadley to be late for her flight to London; this isn't terrible news for Hadley as she was dreading the trip to her father's wedding anyway. Unfortunately, she is able to get a seat on the next flight out -- one that will arrive just in time for her to be able to fulfill her bridesmaid duties. As she waits at the airport, she has a chance encounter with Oliver, a handsome, young Brit, who assists her with her luggage as she wanders through the airport. Oliver and Hadley strike up a conversation in the cafeteria that lasts through the entire flight to London. As they get to know each other, Hadley wonders if she and Oliver were meant to meet, and if so, does that mean they are meant to meet again?

Jennifer E. Smith's book is a lovely, little romantic comedy -- perfect for both teens and adults. The reader is immediately drawn into Hadley's drama as she frets over her father's remarriage and her sense of abandonment. We commiserate with her as she deals with her anxiety inducing claustrophobia, and we root for her to find hope and a little bit of happiness on her trip to London. When Oliver comes into her life, Hadley is given that gleam of hope, and it is enjoyable to watch as Oliver becomes a friend and confidant to Hadley just when she needs it most. From here, the story takes a fairly predictable path. And yes, we may have seen this all before in any number of romantic comedies, but that doesn't make it any less enjoyable here.

The characters in Smith's book are relatable and likeable, and the story is a perfect balance between sugary sweet comedy and emotional family drama. It is a fun, light read and highly recommended for anyone wishing to renew their belief in love and destiny.

Melissa Prange

Peggy's Bookshelf

Salvage the Bones
Jesmyn Ward
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9781608195220, $24.00,

Brace yourself. Jesmyn Ward pulls no punches in this raw portrait of a poor, rural Mississippi family in the ten days leading up to Hurricane Katrina. Fourteen-year old Esch Batiste is the lone female among three boys and her father. Her mother died during the birth of Junior, several years earlier.

At the core of this story is China, a beautiful white pit bull. She is brother Skeetah's prize fighter and - it turns out - the family's great white hope. As the story opens, she births a litter of puppies (her first) worth hundreds of dollars in the local dog fighting scene. Esch holds a special bond with China because she is the only other female in the family, and Esch longs to be as loved and pampered as the dog. Ward draws a striking parallel between these two lives. Just as China is seduced into the dog fighting ring because of her lot in life, so is Esch sexually used and abused by her brothers' friends who hang out at the "Pit". When Esch discovers she's pregnant she keeps it secret, a revelation that in her family puppies are more valuable than another mouth to feed. While Esch observes China's indifferent, even weary attitude toward new motherhood she comes to terms with her own dilemma.

Overshadowing all of this is Hurricane Katrina. As the storm gets whipped up by warm gulf waters so does the sturm and drang in the Batiste family, all of which climaxes into a powerful, discordant crescendo that is unforgettable in its savagery. "Salvage the Bones" won the 2011 National Book Award, perhaps because Esch and the rest of the Batiste family are so achingly real they haunt you beyond the pages of the book as you wonder if they will be okay. The one true hope in this story is that we at last comprehend the tragedy of poverty.

Sand Queen
Helen Benedict
Soho Press
853 Broadway, New York, NY 10003
9781569479667, $25.00,

Helen Benedict's fictional portrait of female soldiers during the Iraq war is based on her research for "The Lonely Soldier: The Private War of Women Serving in Iraq", which focuses on the true stories of five female soldiers.

This story, "Sand Queen" revolves around two young women caught up in the Iraq war. Specialist Kate Brady, 19, is a guard at a makeshift prison camp in the desert near Umm Qasr in southern Iraq during the early months of the war. Naema Jassim, 22, is a medical student and war refugee. She and her family fled their upper middle class lives in Baghdad to live with her grandmother in Umm Qasr. But soon after their arrival her father and younger brother were arrested and sent to the prison camp.

The two women meet only a few times at the prison camp when Naema comes to find out information on her father and brother. It is that connection that sets up an interesting juxtaposition of their lives in the midst of a hideous war. Kate comes from a Christian fundamentalist family background and is flung into a hellish life complicated by constant harassment and abuse by fellow soldiers and prison inmates. She is every bit as much a prisoner as the Iraqi men behind the concertina wire. Naema, on the other hand, comes from a family who values education above all else, even religion. The war has destroyed everything in her life and made her a prisoner of circumstances. How each woman struggles to cope with brutality, devastation, and loss is a captivating study in human nature. Although one can't help but think under different circumstances - as in not war - these two "enemies" could have been friends.

Readers who are strong enough to see beyond the barrage of inhumanity portrayed throughout will recognize that war makes victims of everyone, which explains why "Sand Queen" reads a lot like a gripping horror story. The ruthless war devil lurks around every corner eager to suck the soul from another innocent life. And, like a really good horror story, this is an unrelenting page-turner that preys on your psyche.

The Fairy Dogfather
Alexandra Day
Green Tiger Press
3645 Interlake N, Seattle, WA 98103
9781595834553, $15.95,

Hector has a big problem that requires the help of a fairy godfather. So he writes a note to the universe to ask for a fairy godfather. But he mixes up the 'g" and "d". Much to his surprise the Fairy Dogfather shows up. Hector might be the luckiest kid in the world except the Fairy Dogfather smokes a cigar and uses big words. And he doesn't seem the least bit interested in Hector's problem or granting wishes. All he wants to do is eat. And he even makes Hector fetch the newspaper for him. Typical dog.

The addition of a glossary helps young readers understand what the heck the Fairy Dogfather is talking about. Alexandra Day's Norman Rockwell-esque illustrations add another layer of enjoyment to this delightful story. Destined to become a classic, "The Fairy Dogfather" is a great addition to your home library to be read again and again.

Peggy Tibbetts, Reviewer

Richard's Bookshelf

The Lamb and the Seven-Sealed Scroll
Dr. Richard Booker
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768440751, $16.99

An Inside Look at End Times from the book of Revelation - Chapters 4 - 12

"The Lamb and the Seven-Sealed Scroll" is the second in Dr. Richard Booker's series "Understanding the Book of Revelation. In this verse by verse study Dr. Booker looks at the context of the book of Revelation of the Bible from the Hebraic roots. He draws from his extensive Hebraic-Christian studies to help the reader understand the background, culture, and the literary style of the Jewish people at the time of John's apocalyptic writing.

Dr. Booker introduces the reader to the meaning of John's revelations of the lamb and the seven-sealed scroll and their meaning to the seven churches. He boldly acknowledges that his view challenges some traditional teaching prevalent today. He carefully documents support for his conclusions.

The review questions accompanying each chapter stimulate independent thinking, personal application, and group discussion. This feature gives serves to provide a dual person. The book can be used as an individual study guide or as a curriculum resource for group study and interaction. The end-notes provide a comprehensive source of books and resources for future study and reading.

"The Lamb and the Seven-Sealed Scroll" is thought provoking basic "end times" teaching for truth seeking laymen and theological alike. Dr. Booker's writes with clarity, conviction, and authority.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Dollars & Uncommon Sense: Basic Training for Your Money
Steve Repak, CFP
RFS Publishing
Savannah, Georgia 31406
978093901105, $14.95

A New Look at Practical Principles for Taking Control of Your Money

"Dollars & Uncommon Sense: Basic Training for Your Money" is written the goal of helping the reader think and do differently in relation to handling their money, enabling them to "grow in their wealth." Steve Repak begins by introducing the reader to six key traits of wealth builders. He goes on to present practical principles, priorities, and plans for building a personal financial foundation that leads to financial freedom and wealth building.

Steve candidly shares his own personal experiences of "digging his way out of debt." This straightforward approach helps identify him with his reader as a fellow traveler while inspiring them to retrain their thinking patterns.

I found the listing of "useful websites" an excellent resource for keeping briefed on the current status and trends in areas specifically pertinent to my financial planning and strategy. Another helpful feature Steve provides are the easy to understand and implement worksheets for tracking, summarizing and planning your personal spending.

Repak's writing is informative, practical, and empowering. I found the sidebars, charts, graphs, and illustrations helpful for clarification and reinforcing visually the material in text adding an additional dimension to understanding and retention of the important principles being introduced. Each chapter ends with a series of "Take Home" pointers. The helpful keys aid in application and assimilation of the chapter contents.

Steve Repak's credentials and successful career as a Certified Financial Planner (CFP), consultant, and motivational speaker, qualify him to author this potentially life changing book, "Dollars & Uncommon Sense: Basic Training for Your Money." Highly recommended.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Living Isaiah 54
Mary Elliott
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768440522, $15.99

Discovering the Many Faceted Expressions Describing Our Relationship with God

Mary Elliott explores the unrelenting love of God for his people as described by Isaiah in the 54th chapter of his writing. Elliott draws a parallel of the weary, defeated, children of Israel who felt they had been forgotten with individuals today who may feel those same thoughts of being passed over by God.

In a beautiful way Elliott helps the reader grasp the concept that the heavenly Father is looking for a passionate, loving, relationship with his children. She offers hope to those who fell abandoned, the frail, and the disheartened. She leads the reader to an understanding of God unfailing love, forgiveness, and faithfulness.

I found the "Prayer Nuggets" to be powerful examples of worship and intimacy with the father. The format of the book includes a page for notes or journal entries at the end of each chapter. These personal entries can become important reminders of an important phase of your spiritual journey. An interactive study guide is included for adaptation in small group learning sessions or for individual study.

"Living Isaiah 54" presents a verse by verse study of an often overlooked Biblical principal. The book is filled with insight from the heart of one who has experienced the feeling of abandonment of which she writes. The personal lessons Mary speaks of have been assimilated with life changing results in her life, providing her with the opportunity to counsel with others who are looking for this same passionate, loving relationship, between God and his sons and daughters.

"Living Isaiah 54" introduces an important concept for anyone wanting to discover the many faceted expressions of an intimate relationship with God

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Igniting Furious Love
Darren Wilson
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768440690, $16.99

A Compilation of the Teachings on God's Supernatural Love

"Igniting Furious Love" is filled with stories of the amazing things that God does through us when we relinquish our fear to Him and step out in faith. Darren Wilson has compiled the articles by the nine speakers participating in the Furious Love Event which took place in Monroe, Michigan during April of 2011.

The reader is challenged to respond to the:

Call to being Jesus' disciple
Call to see and use the power God makes available
Call to focus on Jesus
Call to a worldview that includes spiritual warfare

Darren's message is bold. Each contributor included in this compilation presents a powerful model or concept that goes beyond the teaching and trends established by traditional theological norms, but always with openness, documented with scripture, promoting a relationship with Christ as Savior and Lord, and committing to love and acceptance of the individual.

The candor revealed in the prayers at the end of each chapter are awesome, intimate, and open recognizing the magnitude of God's greatness. As with Darren's earlier book, this openness resonates with me.

"Igniting Furious Love" goes beyond a life of reason to discovering one's destiny by stepping out in faith committed to being centered on God's will. A powerful presentation of spiritual potential.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Vicki's Key
P. M. Terrell
Drake Valley Press
9781935970033, $16.95

Intrigue, Action, Romance, and Mystery

"Vicki's Key" takes place in the S. E. corner of North Carolina's Robeson County. Vicki Boyd possesses a unique physic gift of remote viewing. She is employed by the CIA in a physic spy program. Plagued by nightmares after participating in a failed mission, Vicki resigns her position with the CIA. In an attempt redefine herself, Vicki takes a summer job assisting an elderly woman, Laurel Maguire in a business enterprise.

She soon discovers that Mrs. Maguire has had a stroke and his being cared for by a nephew, Dylan Maguire. A romance develops with Dylan which further complicates Vicki's dilemma and confusion over her work with the CIA.

In a frenzy of plot twists Vicki finds herself at a new level of involvement with former CIA associates Christopher Sandige and Sam Mizzoli. She is evaluated by a parapsychologist, attacked by a lurker, and drawn into the drama of murder and the roiling black water of the Lumber River.

Terrell is a master at skillfully combining drama, action, suspense, and romance to engage the reader in an adrenaline rush of page turning adventure. Her careful research into psychic phenomena, CIA procedures, and terrorist activities add credibility to her writing.

Vicki's key also provides the reader with insight into the trauma experienced by young children when they lose parents through tragedy, and the impact this has on their development. Terrel introduces the question of how a physic gift like Vicki's may be considered a "curse" by some in terms of social development, self-worth, and building intimate relationships.

It is a refreshing experience to read good writing. I can always count on P. M. Terrel to come through with a good story.

P.M. Terrel's suspense/thrillers are recognized for their unexpected plot twists, page turning action, unforgettable characters and breathtaking descriptions. "Vicki's Key" is no exception. I am eagerly anticipating each new book in the "Black Swamp Mysteries" series.

Richard R. Blake

Suzie's Bookshelf

The Pleasure Club: The Wolfman
Madison Layle
Cobblestone Press
9781600887024, $2.99 ebook

Penelope's innermost fantasy has always revolved around movies that feature creatures of the night. Though the Pleasure Club she discovers a way to act out her greatest desire. She fills out her application and asks that her dream date feature a wolf man.

Blake is a professional animal trainer. He is pleased that he is contracted to provide a Pleasure Club night with Penelope. This opportunity will allow him to be able to combine his real life job and fantasy one together in a unique way.

Penelope is beyond words when she sees how close to perfect The Pleasure Club has turned her fantasy into a reality. Blake is everything her hungry soul has been craving. As she turns her body over to his skillful hands, will he provide her a fairy tale night that she soon want forget?

THE PLEASURE CLUB: THE WOLFMAN is a wonderful addition to the Pleasure Club series. Madison Layle has written a book so worthy of the Pleasure Club series. For anyone who is new to the Pleasure Club series, I highly recommend it as one of the best I have discovered. The reader can choose to dive into the series with any book for each one offers their own standalone story.

Teach Me, Master - Neighbors 3
Qwillia Rain
Downtime Press
c/o Amazon Digital Services
B005CQ7DIY, Kindle $3.99,

Triss Long fills the pages of her erotic novels with real live scenes acted out by her neighbor. From afar, she watches him play erotic games with his many lovers. The tools he uses to bring his latest conquest pleasure include blindfolds, ball gags and whips. Triss is captivated by how his skillful hands seem to bring them to unspeakable pleasure. Secretly, she wishes that she could change places with them and enjoy her own exotic fantasy.

Triss fantasy turns into a reality when a chance encounter puts her in the right place to meet Vince Black. Vince is a master of BDSM; he is well skilled in providing the ultimate sexual release.

Will Triss throw caution to the wind and allow Vince to take complete control of her body? Or will stay in her safe, dull, world where only her most intimate thoughts can be captured on paper?

TEACH ME MASTER is a superb offering that provides a spellbinding look into BDSM. This is the first book I have read by Qwillia Rain, but I assure you that it will not be my last. I was highly impressed at how she was able to weave these two characters into my heart. It takes a highly skilled author to be able to create a worthwhile BDSM book. Ms. Rain earns high marks for TEACH ME MASTER.

Teach me Master is the third in the Neighbors series. The other two titles include:

Meeting A Neighbor's Needs
A Neighbor's Ultimatum

Training The Master: Pleasure Partners Book Seven
Ann Jacobs
Ellora's Cave
1056 Home Avenue, Akron, OH 44310
9781419932502, $4.45,

As a child, Pak Lin was taught at an early age not to have any type of emotions. To allow himself the opportunity to care would be setting himself up for heartache. He studied under his father to learn to make sexbots. Although he perfected them to provide the highest form of sexual satisfaction, like him they were void of any feelings.

Pearl enjoys the pleasures a sexbot can provide. Her sexual appetite has often been the cause of wearing the sexbots out. She craves a real live man to provide her the warmth that is lacking from a sexbot. When she is mated to Pak Lin, she hopes that he will provide her the emotional outlet her soul craves.

Pearl is disappointed when she sees that Pak Lin is as cold and distant as one of the sexbots he creates. She vows that she will be the woman to bring life back into his emotionless soul. Will Pak Lin be able to allow her to tear down the walls surrounding his heart to allow love the opportunity to make its way in?

TRAINING THE MASTER is another superb offering of Ann Jacobs THE PLEASURE PARTNERS series. The PLEASURE PARTNER SERIES has been a running favorite of this reviewer. From book one, I have been enchanted by how she is able to link one book with the next. For those that worry about starting a series in the middle or at the end, don't be because each book can be read as a standalone novel. Ann Jacobs has made me see fantasy in a whole new light. I must admit until I discovered her I was not a fan of the fantasy gene. Now though the discovery of THE PLEASURE PARTNERS series I find myself a true fan.

TRAINING THE MASTER is the seventh book in the Pleasure Partners Series. The other titles include:

His Pleasure Mistress - Pleasure Partners, Book One
Pleasure Slave - Pleasure Partners, Book Two
Enslaving The Master - Pleasure Partners, Book Three
Imperfect Partners - Pleasure Partners, Book Four
Perfect Master - Pleasure Partners, Book Five
Her Alien Master - Pleasure Partners, Book Six

Suzie Housley

Theodore's Bookshelf

A Darker Shade of Blue
John Harvey
Pegasus Books
80 Broad St., NY, NY 10005
9781605982847, $25.00,

Of the 18 short stories in this collection, four feature Charlie Resnick, seven north London detective Jack Kiley, and one in which they both appear. Each, of course, is a well-known protagonist featured in prior John Harvey novels. And their characters come through even more strongly in a short story.

As Mr. Harvey writes in an introduction, the short story form gives an author greater latitude to experiment with an idea or character to learn whether or not use can be made later in the novel format. The extremely well-written, well-constructed short stories are a prime example of that observation.

Not lost in the shuffle is Harvey's fascination with the world of jazz, nor his descriptions of London and outlying areas, especially the more depressing aspects of English life and the world of crime.

Highly recommended.

A Mortal Terror
James R. Benn
Soho Crime
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9781569479940, $25.00,

The Billy Boyle World War II Mysteries follow the progress of that conflict in this, the sixth installment, albeit it with a different twist. It brings Billy his first murder case, either as a Boston detective (in his previous civilian life) or as "uncle" Ike's special investigator. But the horrors of the war in Italy, and especially the Anzio beachhead invasion, provide the backdrop for the tale.

When two officers are found murdered with clues left behind, one a ten of hearts on the body of a lieutenant and a jack of hearts on that of a Captain, the signs of a possible serial killer bent on revenge against the brass emerge, causing concern back at Eisenhower's Supreme Headquarters. So Billy is recalled from a three-day pass during which he met with his girlfriend in Switzerland and sent to Naples to begin an investigation into the crimes. Then he has to face the fact that his younger brother is arriving as a replacement in the very platoon in which he suspects the killer is a member.

The author, a librarian, writes with accuracy of the difficulties and what would today be called PTSD endured by the GIs, as well as the physical hardships and psychological manifestations of infantry warfare. His plotting is taut, descriptions graphic. All in all, the series just keeps on getting better and better. And the Second Front hasn't yet been opened. The series has a long way to go, and that's a good thing.

Highly recommended.

Save Me
Lisa Scottoline
St. Martin's Griffin
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312380793 $14.99,

Bullying, and shining a spotlight thereon, is heralded as the reason this novel was written, but it plays such a minor role in the story that one wonders why it is even raised, except perhaps for the widespread publicity attendant to the subject. It does occupy, along with much extraneous and superfluous background, about the first half of the book. It is not until this reader got past that point that a modicum of interest arose.

The plot is a mishmash of twisted lines. It begins with a fire in a newly opened elementary school, in which three persons are killed and two young children injured, one of whom is the young victim of the bullying, the eight-year-old daughter of Rose McKenna. Rose, serving as a lunch mom, saves two girls (one of them the bully), ushering them toward an exit, and returns through the fire to save her daughter, who is locked in the bathroom, emerging initially as a "hero," but then criticized when it is learned that the bully was injured in the fire (how? It seems she returned to get something she had left behind) and Rose is accused of ignoring her in favor of her own daughter.

Faced with civil and criminal charges, Rose undertakes to discover the reason for the fire (officially attributed to accidental causes) when she suspects foul play. This leads to further action, somewhat beyond belief. The novel is carefully constructed and well-written, but somehow doesn't fulfill its purpose, since, essentially, it is a murder mystery, but so overloaded with superfluous subplot that it becomes burdensome to read. The author usually writes legal thrillers which I have found to be so much better, and I for one hope she returns to that milieu.

A Bitter Truth
Charles Todd
William Morrow
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780062015709 $24.99,

This Bess Crawford mystery, set during World War I, finds her on a short leave from the front, intending to spend the Christmas holidays with her parents. When she arrives at her apartment in London, she finds a young woman huddled on her doorstep, cold, hungry and distraught. In sympathy, Bess takes her up to her room and learns that she has run away from her husband and home because he has abused her, and her disfigured face is proof.

From this improbable beginning, Bess becomes involved in a family's secrets and along the way in a few murders, since she accompanies the young woman back to her home and family. The novel rambles on, as the plot unfolds and the police fumble in an effort solve one murder after another. Bess returns to France, only to be recalled by the police for additional inquiries.

There are some excellent aspects to the novel, including insights into the lives of upper crust Britons of the period. But it appeared to this reader that to bring the plot to a conclusion, the mother-son author duo reached out to contrive a solution that has little if any foundation. Nevertheless, the book is an enjoyable read and is recommended.

Jo Nesbo
c/o HarperCollins
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780062119698, $7.99,

There have now been several Harry Hole novels, but this was only the second to be published in the United States (the first was "The Redbreast"). Both demonstrate the author's uncanny ability to continually lead the reader astray with one red herring after another before disclosing, in a final twist, a most unexpected denouement.

In the present novel, these principles apply to two separate story lines. One involves a bank robbery in which a woman is shot in the head. The other finds a woman with whom Harry had a short affair shot in her bed the day after Harry had dinner at her home (but he can't remember a thing about the evening). In fact, there are clues implicating him in the deed and in fact, the cover asks the question: "How do you catch a killer when you're the number one suspect?"

The translation by Don Bartlett from the Norwegian flows smoothly. The novel was a number one best-seller in Norway, spending 39 weeks on the best seller list. Past novels from this author saw Bangkok and Australia as settings, and the next to Hong Kong - Harry certainly gets around! Highly recommended.

Quarry's Ex
Max Allan Collins
Hard Case Crime
c/o Winterfall LLC
333 Central Park West, NY, NY 10025
97800857682864 $9.95,

Max Allan Collins writes noir crime novels which read very much like Mickey Spillane, with whom he was a close friend and collaborator [and completed some started by the late author]. This novel is no exception, and is full of sex, violence and hard-boiled prose. It is a prequel to a long-running series about a hit man who has turned the tables on other assassins by developing a new business: collecting his fees from intended victims by eliminating killers and those who hired them.

This novel takes us back in time, providing the back story for the Quarry series, when he was a young marine, met Joni and married her, returned from Vietnam to find her in be with another man (who he murders) and then going off the deep end. After a while, he is contacted by the "broker," and becomes a paid assassin, until he kills his "employer" in a double-cross and stealing his files which identify other murderers. With this information, Quarry turns the tables, targeting them for elimination and saving the intended victims.

This brings us to the present story during which, purely by accident, Quarry finds his ex-wife married to a movie director, the latter the target of a pair of killers Quarry knows from the files. The ex is really incidental to the story, which revolves around Quarry's efforts to save the director's life and identifying who retained the killers. It is fast and furious, with colorful characters, entertaining with panache, and is recommended.

Getting Off
Lawrence Block as Jill Emerson
Hard Case Crime
c/o Winterfall LLC
333 CPW, NY, NY 10025
9780857682871 $25.99,

I'm sure there must be a point to this novel, other than the obvious story about a young girl, abused by her father for many years. When she grows up, he shuns her, and she feels neglected, so she kills both her mother and father, then goes on a long-term sex spree, going to bed with a succession of men and then murdering them.

The rationale seems to be that she is killing her father over and over. So what?

Lawrence Block [writing here as Jill Emerson] is more than capable of writing a more meaningful tale. After all, he's done it many more times than not. This just isn't one of them. It isn't even good erotica, no matter how well it's written. And it is unfortunate that I am precluded from further comment as to the novel's conclusion, which might or might not be a spoiler.

The Perfect Suspect
Margaret Coel
Berkley Prime Crime
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780425243480 $25.95,

When she wrote "Blood Memory," featuring reporter Catherine McLeod, Margaret Coel meant it to be a stand-alone novel. Well, she waited three years before that changed, and now we have what appears to be a series.

The plot of this entry is pretty straightforward, including politics, unfaithfulness, unrequited love and, of course, Catherine's doggedness in following the story. From the beginning, the reader knows who murdered the handsome, charming, adulterous gubernatorial candidate, a beautiful blonde police detective he spurned after a torrid affair, following which she attempts to remove witnesses to the murder (while Catherine attempts to find them).

The Catherine McLeod novels lack the charm and detail of the Wind River Reservation mysteries. They are, of course, being Margaret Coel novels, well-written and tightly constructed. But somehow "Suspect" remains somewhat predictable. Nevertheless it is a good read, and is recommended.

The Vault
Ruth Rendell
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781415624083, $26.00,

Old soldiers may just fade away, but apparently not so Reginald Wexford. Retired as a chief inspector, free to read and enjoy his leisure, now that he also has access to a second home in London, he is chomping at the bit. When he gets a phone call from Tom Ede, now a detective superintendent, asking him to act as a consultant on an unusual case, he jumps at the chance.

The police investigation is at a standstill. Four bodies were discovered down a coal chute, three apparently there for more than a decade, another just a couple of years. Who are they? Why hadn't they been discovered before? Why were they murdered, and who killed them? Painstakingly, Wexford pursues each elusive "clue," logically and doggedly. Just as important is his intuition, which propels him forward, conjuring new theories and assisting his analysis.

Artfully written, the author provides a sweeping view of London as Wexford follows the various paths leading to solving the mystery. Especially poignant is a side story involving Wexford's daughter.


Death of the Mantis
Michael Stanley
Harper Paperbacks
c/o HarperCollins
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780062000378 $14.99,

The title is derived from the symbol, a praying mantis, of the People, the "Bushmen" of Botswana, the setting for this, the third Detective Kubu mystery. Kubu, the nickname for David Bengu, assistant superintendent of the CIK, means hippo, which describes his girth. Now a father, Kubu faces the challenges of protecting his family from the dangers of his profession and the love of his job.

And no greater tests confront him than those in this novel. Initially, Kubu faces a relatively simple case: A park ranger is found dead, with three Bushmen near the body. One detective decides the three are guilty of the murder, but Kubu is beseeched by a boyhood Bushman friend to look into the case. The lack of evidence forces Kubu to free them. Subsequently, additional murders in the vicinity raise further questions and lead Kubu deeper into the investigation.

The authors [Michael Stanley is the nom de plume of Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip] provide significant insights into the lives and culture of the Bushmen, sort of nomads living a primitive existence in the Botswanan desert. Of course, these observations play a crucial part in solving the murders. It is an absorbing work, intriguing from the first page. Carefully constructed, without a superfluous word, the novel carries the reader swiftly from beginning to a logical, but unexpected, conclusion. Highly recommended.

Theodore Feit

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

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