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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 14, Number 3 March 2014 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Ann's Bookshelf Cheri's Bookshelf
Crocco's Bookshelf Gail's Bookshelf Gary's Bookshelf
Gloria's Bookshelf Gorden's Bookshelf Julie's Bookshelf
Karyn's Bookshelf Katherine's Bookshelf Marjorie's Bookshelf
Mason's Bookshelf Paul's Bookshelf Sandra's Bookshelf
Susan's Bookshelf Teri's Bookshelf Theodore's Bookshelf

Reviewer's Choice

Angels and Ogres
Jody Mitchell
Jody Mitchell Publishing, Inc.
9781629212883, $7.99,
ASIN: B00GXHCNCC $5.99 (Kindle)

Andy Jordan

Angels and Ogres: How Do You Walk This Life and Who's On Your Shoulder is neither a fantasy novel (as one might anticipate from the title) nor self-help: it's a blend of autobiography and poetry and uses the life story of the author (who has suffered from major health problems all her life) to explore consistent themes of her experiences.

Now, most poetry titles practically require a degree to understand. The poetic form often confuses and challenges rather than inviting general-interest readers to the table.

Not so with Angels and Ogres: here the poetic structure is an accessible invitation beginning with a smorgasbord of various forms, from free verse to rhyme. Each poem is accompanied by a blank section of 'reflective notes' (lines inviting readers to spontaneously jot down their impressions.) And each poem provides a piece of inspiration, from the rhyming verse 'Cloudy Day' ("Never give in to dismay/Good things can happen on a cloudy day...") to self-assessment ("I am forever proving I am worthy/Always meeting controversy/Why am I singled out?/Each and every time I am kicked about...")

From thought-provoking pieces about coping with life to spiritual insights and inspirational reflections, Angels and Ogres is a gentle reminder of life's uncertainties, of courage, and (most of all) of the hope that can evolve from 'impossible' situations. It's a fine inspirational read; especially recommended for others coping with chronic illness. This group will welcome the author's clear poetic insights on crisis management, life perspective, and even acceptance.

Gregor the Overlander
Suzanne Collins, US
557 Broadway, New York City, New York
9780439678131, $6.99,

Benjamin R. Shores

Almost every teen that has read a book and watches movies know who Suzanne Collins, the creator of the almighty Hunger Games, is. Most who savor her literature in that series, though, have no idea of her other literary achievements, such as the stunningly well-crafted Gregor the Overlander.

Though written in third person, this tale almost seems to be narrated by the protagonist, Gregor, whose whole life seems to be pushed and pulled by the Underland, the existence of which he is not aware of until he falls down a grate in his laundry room with his little sister, Boots. Boots is a child who loves the Underland, especially the large cockroaches. Saved from rats by the cockroaches, they are brought to the pale skinned humans of the sunless Underland. They then send him on a quest with two humans, two bats, two spiders, two cockroaches, and one sarcastic rat. In the end, Gregor's lost father is saved from the rats, revealing a betrayal that rocks the Underland, fulfilling the Prophecy of Gray.

Out of the multitude of complex books that I have read, I would say that this book is better than some of the most enjoyable. Suzanne Collins explains the characters and the intricate politics of the Underland so that you could almost believe that she had been there, and had been through the same sticky situations as Gregor and his innocent little sister. What I really enjoyed, though, it is how Sandwich's prophecy unfolds as the plot of the book does. What you expect to happen is not the case, something you will begin to anticipate as you read this series.

The overall theme of this book is to appreciate family. Gregor's family falls to pieces when his father disappears down the vent to the Underland, and it only gets worse when the same happens to Gregor and Boots. This is not to mention the great lengths that Gregor goes to get his father back and how broken Luxa is. The innocence of a child could be a moral, or as the Underlanders put it: "courage only counts when you can count" (pg.140). Boots is quick to make friends and try different things, simply because she is young and does not understand danger.

I would recommend this book to anyone who likes science fiction or fantasy, so if you have a tendency to enjoy other such writings, this is not your book. Do not expect to be challenged by Gregor the Overlander, for it is not exactly sesquipedalian. Gregor the Overlander Is a great introduction to an even better series.

Letter Grade: B+

Solo: Signed
William Boyd
Jonathan Cape
c/o Random House Group
20 Vauxhall Bridge Road, London SW1V 2SA
9780224097475, 18.99 Brit. pounds, (Kindle, $12.99)

Erik Martiny

In this surprising new episode of the Bond stories, William Boyd sends the sleek secret agent to single-handedly stop a civil war in a fictional West African country called Zanzarim. The first part of the novel is based on Boyd's first-hand knowledge of the crisis that afflicted Botswana before independence in the early 1960s. War-torn by the lust for oil, parts of the country face large-scale violence and starvation.

Bond's character, age and background are modeled on Ian Fleming's original creation but the reader is also given welcome insights into Bond's traumatic experience of World War Two. Boyd's Bond is a companionable character: we're allowed to savour meals with him, witness him engaging in star-jumps and other training exercises. It is an unusual pleasure to be able to identify with Bond as a real man of flesh and feelings. This ordinariness and fallibility is at first a little disconcerting for those who have come to expect invariably superheroic stolidity and aloofness but it draws us closer to the character, allowing the reader to experience what it really feels like to come up against the most provocative and double-edged Bond women.

The novel offers the best of both worlds in that it varies the pace, allowing for comfortable couch reading; at other times, especially when Bond goes solo on a personal revenge spree, you are left gripping the book at the edge of your seat. There are a few gory moments but nothing too harrowing and suspense is carefully handled.

Black Eagle Force: Fourth Reich
Buck Stienke, and Ken Farmer
Timber Creek Press
312 N commerce Street, Gainesville, Texas 76240
97809991239009, $16.99,

Israel Drazin

Stienke and Farmer write exciting, suspenseful, enjoyable, bestselling, and award winning military action/techno tales about the Black Eagle Force. This is their sixth book in the exciting series, an adventure story filled with action. The authors also write western tales. The heroes of the dramas are virtual supermen, good looking, extremely strong, and smart.

The six books focus on the powerful uniquely equipped Black Eagle Force. The US Posse Comitatus act of 1878 limits the power of the federal government to use military forces for law enforcement. Accordingly, according to this novel, President Ronald Reagan had a secret civilian ultra rapid deployment black ops strike force organization established that was independent of the military for plausible deniability. This is the Black Eagle Force. They protect the country. The president made sure that the Force had the best trained crème de la crème men and women, special ops personnel from all military branches, and the most up to date equipment, far better than any other military organization. Their motto is Semper Paro Bellum, Latin for Always Ready for War. The men and women in this Force are usually tall, muscular, handsome, capable, and sure of themselves. They are uniquely close to one another and, as brothers and sisters, frequently josh with each other.

This volume, probably the best in the series so far, has more than a bit of science fiction attached to it, but not so much that readers who dislike sci-fi will not enjoy this book. The story begins near the end of World War II. The Nazis recognize that they are beaten but want to save Adolph Hitler and the leaders of the Third Reich, and because of their advanced science, are able to do so. Years later, a plane flying over South America carrying the US Secretary of Defense is shot down by a plane carrying the Nazi Germany symbol. Although some people on the plane are killed, the Secretary survived and is being helped by other survivors in a South American jungle.

The US President is informed and realizes that the Secretary and the others are being pursued by Nazis. She contacts the Black Eagle Force to save the Secretary and other survivors and, more significantly, to stop the Fourth Reich from reaching its goal of world domination. She does not know that the Fourth Reich has already inserted its personnel into key governmental positions.

Killing Jesus
Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard
Henry Holt & Company LLC
175 Fifth Ave, New York, NY 10010
9780805098549, $28.00, 304pp,

K. Anne

If you know Bill O'Reilly from Fox News, you will be able to hear him talking throughout this book. He definitely writes like he talks. Whether that is good or bad, I leave up to you. This is one of three books the pair (O'Reilly and Dugard) collaborated on. The other two are Killing Kennedy (which was made into a tv movie) and Killing Lincoln. So far, I have only read Killing Jesus. As O'Reilly has stated on his show, this is a historical book, not a theology book. Although he felt inspired by the Holy Spirit to write this book, it is not intended to inspire but to inform, and that it does. The reader travels back in time to the period when Jesus lived. Geographical and cultural references deliver images to the mind's eye that are both beautiful and horrible. I realize that the book is entitled, Killing Jesus, so I should have been prepared for the graphic horrors of that time but I was hoping those details wouldn't be so....... detailed. This book is not for the faint of heart. Not only does the book describe Jesus' crucifixion but also the common tortures of that time period and then the debauchery of the Kings and other men in power. Certain things about these leaders I didn't need or want to know. I received an education I could have done without. Unfortunately, I cannot "unknow" these things. Thanks Bill.

Ok, onto what I did like about this book. The politics behind Jesus' arrest and killing are explained far better than any other book I have read on the subject, including the Bible. Being a historical book, the authors made fervent effort to produce an accurate account of who was governing and the circumstances that might have drove them to make fateful decisions. Most of us read Bible stories, in Sunday school, about a wonderful man named Jesus. We learned about His kindness, His miracles and wondered why those "bad guys" killed Him. If you were perplexed by that quandary, you won't be after reading this book. It is clear that Jesus was a maverick who made those in power feel threatened. Possibly losing their power, status and funds made them desperate to extinguish the threat and they felt unfettered do so by any means. The book ends where the facts end and faith begins. The facts of Jesus' life and death are not disputed among the erudite scholars. It is only the resurrection that is disputed and whether or not He was the Son of God. Historians of all faiths or no faiths do not argue that Jesus lived, preached, was very popular, stirred up turmoil and died on the cross. The arguments are about what happened to His body after burial and whether or not He rose. Some claim that His body was stolen or He just "swooned" and did not actually die on the cross. In either case, this book does not go there. It is strictly a factual history book detailing undisputable facts. Therefore, people of all faiths or no faith at all can read this book without getting "bent out of shape".

I recommend this book.

Known Devil
Justin Gustainis
Angry Robot Books
Lace Market House, 54-56 High Pavement, Nottingham, NG1 1HW, UK
9780857661661 (print) 9780857661678 (Ebook), $7.99

Mayra Calvani

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Known Devil is the third instalment in Gustainis' Occult Crime Unit urban fantasy series. Though I had not read the first two books, this one was completely stand-alone and didn't make me feel I was missing anything. I have, however, read other books from Gustainis in the past (Evil Ways, Black Magic Woman and Sympathy for the Devil), and thoroughly enjoyed them. He is a fabulous writer.

In this exciting new series, Detective Sergeant Stanley Markowski of the Scranton PD's Occult Crimes Unit, and his partner, vampire detective Karl Renfer, try to keep law and order in a world where supernaturals - or supes - have come out of the closet and walk the streets with humans. Markowski's daughter, a vampire witch, is eager to help and offer her expertise, especially because she's attracted to Karl.

A new drug has hit the streets, Haemoglobin Plus - better known as Slide - the first drug that addicts supes, and as a result, a new wave of crimes has risen in Scranton. Stan and Karl are right on the case, interrogating both humans and supes alike, trying to find out who is behind the new drug: Pietro Calabrese, the Godfather of the local vampire family? Wizard Victor Castle, the unofficial head of the city's whole supernatural community? The Delatasso family? Or the new Patriot Party, who has declared supes "abominations before the Lord?"

If you love urban fantasy a la crime noir, you'll love this book. Gustainis is smart, gritty, snarky. I just love his sharp, witty descriptions. Take a look at a few:

"He had salt-and-pepper hair, wide-set brown eyes, and a thin moustache in the middle of a face that was no harder than your average concrete wall."

"He stared at me with eyes that had probably looked dead even before he became a vampire."

"The terrace outside the front door is open in warmer weather, for those who like sharing their food with the local bugs. I prefer to eat inside, where the only insects I'm likely to encounter have two legs."

"I saw a puzzled look on his face - maybe because Karl's grip, like every vampire's, is colder than a banker's heart."

Gustainis is also a master at providing comic relief. I laughed out loud at times. Stan is a likable, sympathetic character, tough yet kind when needed. The world building, the setting, and all the supernatural details come through in a genuine, realistic way. I also enjoyed all the police procedural, showing once more, as in his other books, that Gustainis has done his research well.

The story moves at a fairly quick pace, propelled by entertaining dialogue and lots of action scenes. Particularly interesting is the dynamics between humans and supernaturals now that they have to co-exist side by side. But best of all, is the author's gifted prose, a pleasure to read. Highly recommended for fans of detective urban fantasy!

Visit the author's website.

Little Big Man
Thomas Berger
Random House Inc.
1745 Broadway, New York, NY, 10019
9780385298292, $16.00,

Paul Binford, Reviewer

"I am a white man and never forgot it, but I was brought up by the Cheyenne Indians from the age of ten."

This is the opening line of Little Big Man, published in 1964 by Thomas Berger. Jack Crabb tells his story to a self-proclaimed "man of letters," a Ralph Fielding Snell, whose attention was drawn to Crabb by an attendant at the nursing home where Crabb lived out his last days. The nurse told Snell that a "dirty old man" claimed to be 104 years old and the only surviving white man at the Battle of the Little Bighorn.

The resulting interview led to a tragic-comic re-telling of the western epoch, ranging from the early pioneers to the settlements and towns. A misunderstanding on the prairies leads to the massacre of Jack's family by a party of Cheyenne Indians, after which the orphan Jack is adopted into the family of Old Lodge Skins, the chief of a small village.

Life in the village grew on Jack; he soon learned the ways of the Indians, starting by tossing away his boots, putting on moccasins and getting his new name. He tells of family life, rivalries, codes they lived by and the raids against other tribes. Berger, having researched over 70 books about the west, describes what seems to fit with other books I've read about the Indian life, including their spiritual beliefs. According to Old Lodge Skins, the world is a great "universal circle."

During a battle with the cavalry, Jack is "rescued" by a soldier and taken to Fort Leavenworth, then given a new home in "a fairly prominent town in western Missouri." Not being very tolerant of the Christian pounding by the preacher in his new family, Jack soon made his escape.

The story within the story of course is a hoax. There is no Jack Crabb, nor is there a Ralph Fielding Snell. The invention allows Berger to tell the tale in a literary sense, using the vernacular of the time as Jack's voice. It allows the narrator to travel from the wagons on the Santa Fe Trail, to the bordellos of Dodge City, where Jack gets tutored in the ways of a gunfighter by Wild Bill Hickock. Then he's off to the wide-open prairies again as a buffalo hunter, to the railroad gangs on the Union Pacific Railroad, and back and forth between the world of the white man and that of the Indian.

Jack makes an acute observation regarding the curiosity of both sides. "Nobody at Leavenworth ever asked me a word about the Indians I lived among for five years. But neither had it occurred to the Cheyenne to ask me about the ways of the white man, not even when they was being destroyed by them." This reminds us of current conflicts, and that some things never seem to change.

The railroad devastated the Indian way of life. According to Jack, "...the railroad cut the continental buffalo herd in half, for them beasts would not cross a track even while no train was on it, and the Indians knowed this by now." They did take some measures to protect the herd, including this:

"...I ought to say first what the Cheyenne done at Plum Creek, for it was quite a success for them and never done before or since to my knowledge. They derailed a whole freight train! Somehow they pried out the spikes and bent a rail up into the air, then give it a twist so when the next engine come along, why off it tumbled and the cars followed suit. I don't know where them Indians had got so clever."

The story ends at Little Bighorn, which George Armstrong Custer hoped would be a follow-up to his fight on the Washita River, eight years earlier, where he attacked and destroyed a Cheyenne village. As we know, Custer was wrong. There were 7000 Indians from several tribes camped along the Little Bighorn.

There isn't much excuse for the wholesale slaughter of the American Indian, yet Jack Crabb offers somewhat of an explanation. As he tells the reader, "And then a lot of people had got sick by now of uppity redskins. It was after all the one-hundredth year since the Declaration of Independence, and they had opened a Centennial Exhibition in the city of Philadelphia, featuring a deal of mechanical devices such as the typewriter, telephone, and mimeograph; and it did not seem logical for such a country to be defied by a bunch of primitives who had not invented the wheel. So President Grant okayed the campaign against them."

Little Big Man is worthwhile reading for those of literary taste, as well as history buffs. I like both, literature and history, so it was a very good read. It was made into a movie in 1970, directed by Arthur Penn with Dustin Hoffman as Jack Crabb/Little Big Man, and Chief Dan George as Old Lodge Skins.

Thomas Berger is the author of some two dozen novels, including a sequel titled The Return of Little Big Man.

The Ghost of Winter Joy
Mike DiCerto
Zumaya Publications
1105 Nueces St., Suite 3, Austin, Texas 78701
9781612711119, $12.99,

Peggy Tibbetts, Reviewer

Book 3 in the Adventures of Rupert Starbright series, "The Ghost of Winter Joy" finds our hero stuck raking leaves in boring, old Graysland. To his amazement he uncovers a small golden bell buried in the yardback. His father Polgus seizes the bell and tries to get rid of it but Rupert rescues it from the trash. When he shows it to his grandma she tells him that golden bells - or gildens - were part of Winter Joy which is no longer celebrated in Graysland. Rupert is determined to find out why. His curiosity takes him on a journey to the past where he strikes up a friendship with the child version of his own Grandma Folka.

But all is not what it seems. A creepy character named Gripper pursues Rupert from the dull present into the shadowy past. While the past might be history, Imaginings still play a big part. This time around with the help of two giant parakeets and a mysterious globe that contains a cat with glowing eyes, Rupert battles spider creatures, an army of skeletons, and flaming firebirds as he endeavors to uncover Gripper's evil scheme.

And oh yeah, who is this Moxie Starbright character anyway?

As with all the Rupert Starbright adventures, imagination is the key to solving all sorts of problems. If you are already a fan of Mike DiCerto's brilliant fantasy series, Book 3 reveals a few more pieces of this entertaining puzzle. If you have not yet discovered Rupert Starbright, "The Ghost of Winter Joy" is the perfect book to spark your curiosity and send you scrambling for Books 1 (The Door to Far-Myst) and Book 2 (The Secret of My-Myst) so you, too, can enjoy all the wonder and magic the imagination has to offer.

Simply Notice: Clear Awareness Is the Key to Happiness, Love and Freedom
Peter Francis Dziuban
Balboa Press
c/o Hay House
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781452576855, $17.95, (sc), 237 pages,

Michael Jeffreys, Reviewer
Collective Evolution Magazine (November 2013)

In Simply Notice - Clear Awareness Is the Key to Happiness, Love and Freedom, Peter Dziuban, invites the reader to become aware of something that is usually overlooked: the singular act of NOTICING itself. Before you can be aware of a flower, you first have to notice that a flower even exists!

This ability to notice is nothing that we ourselves cause, bring about, or "make happen." It is LIFE spontaneously noticing itself. But because it happens so quickly/effortlessly/naturally, it is easy to overlook.

"The functioning of Life--this alive presence of Life right here, now, is not something that you personally are doing or making happen." -Peter Dziuban

The big "Aha!" can hit you when you realize that it is LIFE itself doing ALL the noticing, and not a mental "me" in the head. Because even this "me" that claims to be YOU is noticed by something!

But by what? Notice(!) that the mind attempts to "figure this out" using thought. But WHATEVER answer it comes up with MUST be noticed by something, so it's the "something" we are interested in and not any particular thought. Another word for this "something" is presence. And, as Peter reminds us throughout the book, this presence isn't anything that any of us makes happen--it is thanks fully to LIFE itself that it is so:

"This aliveness literally is the very presence of Life itself--because only Life itself can be this aliveness. This is the real You because only this is what is actually being alive and aware right here...notice it never goes away." -Peter Dziuban

The key to seeing this is not to start out from, or with, the commonly held dualistic belief of being a "little separate me," who is trying their best to become whole. Rather, we start from Wholeness itself, the ONE Life itself, which is the only LIFE actually alive here now and we see there is nowhere to go or get to:

"Instead of starting out as one little personal life and seeing everything in terms of it, turn the perspective around. Look out from, or begin to 'see' in terms of the one Life that is all Life--rather than a single body that appears to be in Life. See in terms of the whole, not one little part. After all, it really is the job of Life itself to be alive and aware here, now--not 'you.'" -Peter Dziuban

While at first the mind can hear this as something negative, as a loss of individual power, of self-identity, in reality the only thing that can ever be lost is what is false, for Truth never goes anywhere.

From Chapter 5, Notice Whose Life This Really Is:

"If anything is taken away, it would be misconceptions and stress arising from a mistaken belief that Life itself is a personal ability or responsibility. This also means that right here, there is always something functioning that is far greater than 'little me' and all my personal concerns."

And how does one come to see this for themselves? By simply noticing, or being aware of the thoughts in the head, instead of identifying with/as them. What's the difference? When you cry at a movie, it's because you have "identified" with the image up on the screen. You have momentarily forgotten that you are the one sitting in the seat in the theater, and instead identified with the moving colored light on the screen. But are you ever actually the character in the movie? If the character in the movie dies, do you? No. But none-the-less, the experience can feel very real when identification is running.

On the other hand, noticing is more like watching a cloud. You are simply observing it. (As opposed to thinking you ARE the cloud, which again would be identification!)

Throughout Simply Notice are little "meditations" you can do to get a direct experience (and seeing this for yourself is everything!) of what is being pointed at. For example, on page 52, Peter has you observe your thoughts:

"Watch how the thoughts come and go.
One moment a thought is there, then it's gone.
Soon, a new thought comes up.
Notice also that there is something which is noticing or perceiving those thoughts.
But that which is noticing is not the same as those thoughts."

What becomes obvious, sooner or later (IF you actually do the meditation), is that if you are what is effortlessly observing your thoughts, than they cannot be you!

And now for the dropping of the other shoe: THEY NEVER HAVE BEEN.

Every thought you have ever had has come and gone, and yet YOU have never budged. Thoughts always appear to/in YOU, never the other way around.
Taking it a step further, Peter says:

"Try to notice what is present in between the arising of thoughts. What exactly is left after a thought has gone?"

This is where words break down as he reminds us:

"Notice that it is not possible to think what this open space is. The moment that's attempted, you've got a thought--and not the open space."

And when we are quiet/still within, it's even possible to become aware of something that may have previously been overlooked or not consciously noticed:

"If you tune in closely, whatever this invisible open space is, you can feel it is gently alive. Even though it may be no thing, it definitely is present and alive as no thing."


Peter's first book, Consciousness is All, is one of my favorite books but can be quite challenging for those new to the pure non-dual "Absolute" perspective of LIFE itself.

Simply Notice is written more for the "general public," as noticing is something that everyone is already familiar with. In fact, that's the "problem"--because noticing is so natural to us we don't even notice that "noticing" is happening!! Meaning, we aren't consciously aware that a tree, for example, is currently being noticed (that the "spotlight" of Consciousness is currently trained/focused on what we label a tree), we simply see a tree. The difference is as subtle as it is profound.

Each sentence in the book is really getting you to "slow everything down," and begin to notice things about your original eternal and pristine nature that have become (innocently) obscured due to the overlay of mental concepts. These concepts and suppositions are not inherently yours, but were unwittingly "picked up along the way." Suddenly, they can feel quite heavy and burdensome as we begin to remember our true nature which does not require ANY concept/belief to exist!

The layout of the book is such that there is space between each sentence, which allows the reader to reflect on what has just been read before moving on to the next "pointer."

Lastly, I want to encourage you not to take anything Peter (or I!) say on face value. Check everything for yourself...otherwise, even though you may agree intellectually with the ideas, they will not burn brightly in you because they lack the power and conviction that can only come from one who knows from direct experience.

What Jennifer Saw
Hal Schweig
Black Rose Writing, Inc.
PO Box 1540, Castroville, TX 78009
9781612962733, $16.95, 278pp,

US Review of Books

"Before his wide, disbelieving eyes a grotesque apparition, a tattered, bedraggled, but menacing vision materialized in the room, at once real enough, but at the same time, murky, insubstantial, disembodied."

Jim Harris, the patriarch of his family and father of four children, is beloved by all his hometown of Monroeville, Missouri, where he works as a real estate developer and is a town leader. The family is one of traditional values, and the children are exceptionally talented and well-behaved. Yet lurking beneath the facades of Jim and his wife Mary Beth are characters with significant dysfunction. When Jim is murdered in his home, the skeletons flow out of the closet in this supposedly healthy family. Leading the way in exploring this murder is Kay Cutler, a reporter for the Monroe Clarion. Besides the murder of Jim, the town that considers itself "The Camelot of the Midwest" is as rife with pathology as the Kennedy Camelot story to which it is compared. Including political strife and a police officer who is deranged himself, this story of the horrors within the family is intersected with the horrors regarding the city's leaders and police force.

This book has it all--intrigue, adultery, apparitions, murder, sociopaths, misogynists, mental illness, ethical misconduct and abuse, terror and evil. With sometimes creepy detail, the reader is taken on a journey through the flawed family members and into the town of Monroeville, where the outright denial of its sins is rampant. It has surprising twists which keep the reader engaged throughout the entire book.

Loose Ends: Short Stories Started During the Vietnam War
James N. Zitzelsberger
Moki Lane Publishing
1199 E. Black Wolf Avenue, Oshkosh, WI 54902
9780989410502, $19.95 (paperback), $9.99 (Kindle), 210 pp.

Ed Byrne, Reviewer
The Brillion News

Hilbert native Jim Zitzelsberger wrote the novel Cry for the Water Buffalo in 2010 and it won strong acclaim for its accuracy in depicting the Vietnam War as a civil war, telling it both from an American and a Vietnamese perspective. American veterans of the Vietnam War gave it deep praise for being true to the experience.

But Loose Ends may be an even better book about the American experience in Vietnam, following the experiences of members of the Navy Seabees and of a Wisconsin Seabee in particular. The stories carry experiences that are often humorous and sometimes tragic and heartbreaking. But the local angle isn't what makes this book attractive. It is Zitzelsberger's ability to find the truth in little things and let the big picture develop naturally.

The book takes a young man named Cow - after all, he comes from a small rural community in Wisconsin - through his tour of duty in a muddy outpost in a dirty and, for the U.S., unwinnable war. Zitzelsberger chooses words as a surgeon chooses incisions. His description of a C-47 gunship is beyond accurate: With guns blazing and buzzing like a rattlesnake's tail, the tongue of the fire-breathing monster stretched all the way to the ground in what looked like one solid red line. On Cow remembering events from his childhood after seeing a report on the death of a soldier he grew up with: Baseball and the 8th grade, odd things to think about here and now, thought Cow. Then he said aloud to no one in particular, "How do you figure? How do kids in elementary school get from baseball games to here and never back to bat again?" This is the stuff of which honest tears are formed.

I was trying to think of a better, more honest, book about war. But I could not, and this one is a portrait of what war is like from within the battle lines.

The book is available at in both a paperback edition and a Kindle edition. It is worth much more than the price.

The Power of Two
Lori J. Sawicki
Identity Novels
5637 Pebble Ridge Ct. Ann Arbor, MI 48108
9780989482202, $7.49 (PB), $1.99 (Kindle), 200 pages,

Lisa Runge, Reviewer
Kindle Book Review Team

This review is from: The Power of Two (Kindle Edition)

As a member of the Kindle Book Review team, I have reviewed a lot of books, thirty-four to be exact. That number not include the ones that I have declined to review for various reasons. So, when I say that The Power of Two is the best book that I have reviewed so far, as a member of the KBR team, this statement should not to be taken lightly. This is a great book.

Aimed at middle grade readers, an oft-neglected group, this book tells the story of Jamie and Pru, a pair of unlikely but ultimately perfectly complimentary best friends. As this first-person narrative begins, Jaime has decided that she has had enough of life in the middle of a pack of popular girls. She makes a daring move to stray from the crowd, and the consequences are more emotionally jarring than she anticipated. Fortunately, she befriends the socially awkward, tiny, chronically ill, wise Pru. With Pru by her side, Jamie begins the lifelong process of discovering both who she is and who she aspires to be.

As I said in the opening of this review, I absolutely loved this book. The characters were authentically flawed, the interactions between middle school girls rang true, and the friendship between Pru and Jamie was heartwarming without being smarmy. Jamie is a poet, and her poems that pepper the book are of varying quality, from a bit dopey and sing-song to truly beautiful, which seems about right for a sixth grade girl.

I would recommend this book to anyone, but particularly to girls feeling stuck in those middle years, wondering if anyone will ever see them for who they truly are. I could go on and on about the great qualities of this book, but suffice it to say that this book earned every one of my five stars.

The reviewer received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest, independent review. She is not affiliated with the author or Amazon.

Ann's Bookshelf

GRANTA 126: Do You Remember
Sigrid Rausing
Granta Books
12 Addison Avenue, London, W11 4QR
9781905881796, A$24.99, $16.99 (US), paperback, 256 pages

"We are what we remember, and even when we invent, we write what we remember".

There is a huge difference between our every-day, conversational, "I remember" exchanges with family and friends and the rememberings in this issue of Granta. The rememberings in Granta become skillfully crafted stories, created by writers, photographers and artists who tell unusual tales in a great variety of ways. And not all of the stories are true.

Anne Beattie's account of a young writer's visit to an ageing and sick poet who had once been her tutor, is bizarre and funny. True or not, Beattie knows how to make an outrageous man's behaviour live on the page.

Similarly, Jonny Steinberg's true account of his experiences in the KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa, offers a vivid and disturbing picture of the way in which past history and racial tensions still haunt the lives of those who live there. Following up the story of the death of a young white farmer in 1999, Steinberg tries hard to objectively untangle the complex racial and land-ownership issues involved. He comes to no solid conclusions, but his wide-ranging interviews demonstrate the importance of memories, and the knowledge, experience and 'smarts' which they underpin and which newcomers to the province do not have.

Other true stories are more personally revealing. Bernard Cooper writes a fascinating account of his introduction, at art school, to conceptual art. His first lesson with Vito Acconci was clearly very strange, as was his fist homework assignment - to bring in nothing - but it opened his eyes to a new way of creating art which blurred the line between public and private. Perhaps as a result of this, his essay here becomes a graphic creation from memories of warring neighbours, art school, conceptualism and his loss of virginity. Norman Rush's piece, on the other hand, is more straight-forwardly confessional as he reveals his early obsession with nudity.

Olivia Laing's remembering of the life and death of David Wojnarowicz is particularly moving. From a minute Times Square apartment in the strangely tenanted block of an old permanent supportive housing residence, she begins by exploring a photographic art work in which Wojnarowicz, using a mask, recreated scenes of Arthur Rimbaud in New York. She tells something of Wojnarowicz's difficult early years, his diagnosis with AIDS and his fight against the homophobia and ignorance which, in the early days of its spread, made AIDS sufferers invisible victims of prejudice and prevented access to the drugs which could have helped them survive. In Wojnarowicz's archive at Fales Library at New York University, Laing becomes immersed in his journals, films, dreams, model cars, toys and various other memorabilia. Finally, she opens the Magic Box - a work of art? an amulet? - no-one knows its purpose or significance, but Wojnarowicz kept it under his bed. Laing, "sick with rage" against a system which denied Wojnarowicz life-saving drugs, movingly offers us the contents of David Wojnarowicz's Magic Box as "a spell against silence, a prophylactic to repel prejudice".

Another art-centred piece in this issue of Granta begins with a group of letters which passed between Janet Malcolm and Marta Werner. Malcolm wanted to cut up the only copy she could find of Werner's, Emily Dickinson's Open Folios. The book belonged to Werner, who allowed the "cutting" and "scissoring" of her book so that Malcolm could create abstract collages of images, charts and astrological texts. Some of the resulting art works are reproduced in this Granta. Unfortunately, although the reproductions are fine, their small size is totally inadequate for an appreciation of the original. Other photographs in this issue, like those by Brigitte Grignet of Aysen in Chile, are similarly disadvantaged by the necessarily small size of the reproductions, although these beautifully photographed real-life images do manage to capture memories of a dying community.

Of the poetry included in this issue, I particularly enjoyed the smooth movement and radiant brightness of Fiona Benson's 'Toboggan Run', and it brought back memories of my own.

Other peoples' reminiscing can be fascinating or boring, but I found the great variety of offerings in this particular issue of Granta thoroughly entertaining.

The Song of King Gesar: A Novel
Alai, author
Howard Goldblatt and Sylvia Li-Chun Lin, translators
Canongate Books Ltd.
14 High Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1TE
9781847672339, A$29.99, (paperback), $9.99 (Kindle), 392 pages.

Like the Mahabarata, the Shahnama and the Ramayana, the Song of King Gesar is an ancient, epic hero-story which, for centuries, has been part of the oral tradition of an ancient culture. Like these, too, it has been elaborated on by story-tellers over the years until there are hundreds of different episodes and versions. In Tibet and Mongolia, where the story is still told as chant-fable (partly poetry, partly prose), King Gesar, his miraculous birth, the marvelous feats he performs, the demons he banishes and the divinities who watch over him, is a widely-known and much-loved hero. He is believed to be an historical figure whose deeds are recorded in fable and myth.

The epic of King Gesar is said to date from the 12th century or earlier. Hundreds of versions have been collected and written, and it is reputed to be the longest ancient epic poem in existence. The first English translation was published in the 18th century; and one 20th century, Han Chinese, abridged version runs to forty volumes. Luckily, the Tibetan writer, Alai, has managed to reduce his re-telling to a manageable length, and this has now been published in English by Canongate as part of The Myths series.

There are many different accounts of the miraculous birth of Gesar. In Alai's novel, it is a Buddhist monk, Master Lotus, whose magic is so strong that he can "catch a ray of light as though he were scooping up water, wave it as though it were a willow branch and fly on the light's back", who advises the deities on the choice of Gesar's parents. Senglon, a member of the Mu clan whose eldest son is already a victorious warrior, is to be Gesar's father; and Metog Lhartse, the youngest and favourite daughter of the Dragon King, is to be Senglon's second wife and the mother of Gesar. Master Lotus, seated on a white cloud, appears to Metog Lhartse in a vision to announce the news. In some accounts the 'miracle' of Gesar's birth is that he has no earthly father: in Alai's account the 'miracle' is that Metog Lhartse experiences no birth pains despite the baby being "the height and weight of a three year old".

The storyteller in Alai's book is a young shepherd, Jigmen, whose dreams reveal the story of Gesar and whose own life is inextricably entwined with that of his hero-king. Like many another mythological hero, Gesar has a miraculous horse, a magic bow and arrow and a demon-slaying sword. In some versions (but not Alai's) he is also expected to return to earth at some future date.

Sadly, for a poetic work which still survives as a performing art and is still chanted to many people by bards, there is little poetry in the text of this book. Sadly, too, in spite of my love of oriental mythologies, there is a limit to the amount I can read in one book about deities, Bodhisattvas, beautiful maidens, miraculous flights, heroic feats and shape-changing demons. This book was still too long for me.

Making Soapies in Kabul
Trudi-Ann Tierney
Allen & Unwin
83 Alexander St. NSW 2065, Australia
9781743314272, A$29.99, (paperback), 304 pages

If you can cope with true-blue Aussie lingo; a cast of hard-drinking "chicks" and "guys'" who have names like Tiggy, Muffy, Lynchy, Marg, and (surely a pseudonym?) Dick Willy; and if you can stomach phrases such as "coming along for shits and giggles", "her nut-job hook-up" and "the poor sods who had no teeth"; then you may well enjoy in this book.

Trudi-Ann Tierney, an Australian TV producer, sometime actress and former solicitor, was experiencing a hiatus in her career. Listening to a friend who was currently head of production for the biggest and most successful TV production company in Afghanistan, she decided that she "wanted in".

Initially, she took on a temporary job as stand-in Staff Manager of a new bar and restaurant in Kabul, called 'The Den'. The staff were Pashtus and Hazaras (two different ethnic groups) who frequently did not get on with each other; there was a "safe room" in case of police raids or insurgent attacks; and the weekly "Grog runs" to pick up alcohol supplies were highly illegal. Unlike other bars in the city which were frequented by "Do-Gooders" - "aid-workers and NGO employees" and "slight fresh-faced fellows and posses of pretty young things", 'The Den's clientele consisted mainly of "Knuckle Draggers" - i.e. western private security contractors. This made for an interesting, if rough, introduction to "Kaboom Land", and Trudi quickly became firm friends with "a big, loud, scary man" called Al who regularly drank all night at The Den and who, with his equally scary mate, Wayne, helped her survive those first traumatic weeks. Al's story provides one of the few genuinely moving episodes in the book.

After four highly eventful weeks, Trudi was offered work with the Moby Media Group which produced not only self-devised, advertisement-funded, popular TV programmes, but also brief, privately funded propaganda items for TV and Radio. There, as one of a handful of ex-pats, she moved from writing scripts for a counter-narcotic themed drama series called Salam, to being Head of Drama. As such, she was responsible for "casting, wardrobe, set-dressing, location scouting, props buying, scheduling, budgeting, catering...and any other random tasks" . She was a woman supervising an inexperienced team of young Afghan men in an Islamic county, her 'offices' were tiny make-shift premises, and there was minimal equipment and an equally minimal budget. Bombs, corruption, cultural prohibitions, sickness, dirt and pollution, extras who vanished mid-shoot, temperamental actresses who crossed the border from Pakistan to play parts an Afghan actresses could not play without shaming her family - all these were part of the job.

"Bat-shit crazy", and "on the downside of forty", as Trudi describes herself, she gets by with the help of alcohol, Valium (eventually) and what she claims is the common practice amongst expats - "copulation as a diversion".

Making Soapies in Kabul is a very personal and unashamedly honest account of one Australian woman's experiences living and working in post-Taliban Afghanistan. It is full of laughter and tears, bravery and foolhardiness, hangovers and coarse language. And if you don't like it, then "tough titties" would be Trudi's likely response.

Ann Skea, Reviewer

Cheri's Bookshelf

A Counterfeit Priest
Paul Cross
Create Space
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781490547909, 374 Pages, $14.36, Paperback
B00HS2MREU, 318 Pages, $2.99, Digital

"The truth is often hidden Henry, and many times when found, it's still not recognized."

Henry Hawkins is a documentary filmmaker bent on exposing the truth and this one is personal. Not wanting to go against his wife Julie's memory or her faith yet he wants to expose the Catholic Church for their responsibility in her death and the death of their baby. Julie agreed with the church's teachings against birth control. After becoming pregnant they find they had to make a choice the baby's life or Julie's. According to church teachings and Julie's wishes she wanted the baby to live-days later the baby dies too. Two years later Hawkins begins his quest for the truth.

Arriving in Italy with a letter from Cardinal Contini Secretary of State of the Vatican Henry hopes it's all he needs to meet with the Cardinal. After run-ins with the guards and the Press Office Henry finds he is no closer to the Vatican than when he was in Los Angeles. After a strange set of events Henry finds himself working as Contini's secretary. Henry can't believe his luck as he is on his way to have the truth he seeks especially when he starts finding out Contini's secrets. Cardinal Contini, who is known as the red pope, seems to have the virtue of Judas as he puts money ahead of the things of God to obtain a rich profit. Than the Pope dies and Henry finds himself sequestered with the College of Cardinals and their secretaries determining who will be the next Pope, an inside look that very few ever see. Is this all luck or is the Holy Spirit on his side time will tell as the race is on to get the truth he seeks or is exposed as the counterfeit priest.

A different perspective of the internal workings of the Vatican and the political process of voting in a new pope mixed with the intrigue of suspense of Henry's escapades. So well written and executed one has to wonder is this truth or fiction. Cross has an outstanding way with word descriptions that leap off the page and draws the reader into the sights, sounds and even the smells. Add fully developed characters that seem so real, a rich plot full of twists and turns as well as a surprise ending and you have a novel that just can't miss.

The War on Drugs: An Old Wives' Tale
Christine Shuck
Lulu Publishing
3101 Hillsborough Street, Raleigh, NC 27607-5436
9781300628996, $12.99, 172 Pages, paperback
B00B4BQJ8G, $4.99, 247 Pages, Digital

"We are normal people, with decent cars; a well-cared for child, and great neighbors in a quiet suburb south of Kansas City."

Dave and Christine Shuck were not your normal marijuana growers. They have a home and a family, a normal life. Than Dave loses his job in desperate times people take desperate measures in order to survive. They made a choice maybe not the best choice but a choice just the same. They broke the law and they admit that, the real story here is the court system and the process of our law and the treatment of someone who breaks the law when a judge tells Dave his crimes are no worse than a child rapist one must scratch our heads.

Here we are given a unique and extremely rare look at a first person account of normal people caught in the system after admittedly breaking the law. Shuck has given us a glimpse into their personal lives, captivating her readers and drawing us in as if we are reading a personal diary, as we see and feel their pain and fears. Superbly written with great attention to detail as we learn about the lessons learned, the system the good, the bad and the ugly. Overall this book is extremely thought provoking especially the history of marijuana. It doesn't matter which side you are on in the marijuana debate this book will cause you to give pause to think more deeply on this very timely subject. An excellent message that needs to be read by every adult as everyone deals with some form of addiction illegal or not and a system that needs to be looked at more closely.

Cheri Clay

Crocco's Bookshelf

All The Baby Animals In The Wild
Emily Thomson
Lilt House
Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
ASIN: B00I8VW4NO, $1.99

Kids of all ages treasure books about animals. Emily Thomson introduces her readers to new vocabulary while teaching facts about baby animals in the wild.

For example:

the zebra foal
is lithe and fast
her stripes flash by
when she runs past.

Thompson writes in rhyme. What better way to engage children to the written word. The enchanting pictures of the baby animals will increase children's curiosity.

I read, All The Baby Animals In The Wild by Emily Thomson, to my two and a half year old grandson and he enjoyed it.

All The Baby Animals In The Woods by Emily Thomson
Lilt House
Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
B00IAZ08UY, $0.99

Animals living in the woods attract readers of all ages. Emily Thomson writes in rhyme enticing children to learn facts while adding to their vocabulary.

For example:

the baby raccoon's
a feisty fellow
he's very clever
never mellow.

The delightful pictures of the baby animals complement the poetry.

My two and a half year old grandson enjoyed the book, All The Baby Animals In The Woods by Emily Thomson.

Mary Crocco, Reviewer

Gail's Bookshelf

Rich in Love: When God Rescues Messy People
Irene Garcia & Lissa Halls Johnson
David C. Cook
4050 Lee Vance View, Colorado Springs, CO 80918
9781434706881, $14.99,

Irene Garcia's inspirational memoir, co-written with Lissa Halls Johnson, releases February 1st with an account of foster parenting, faith and trust that began so differently the narrative reads like two stories in one. It's also a compelling tale of teen pregnancy, early marriage, abuse, addiction and a DUI arrest as well.

A normal reaction after ten years of alcohol-fueled abuse would be divorce, an action Irene seriously considered when her husband was sentenced to five days in jail for drunk driving. Even though she didn't want a divorce she no longer believed in his promise to change. Was change even possible after all these years.

Although not likely, Domingo's time in jail with time think was life-changing. The first day he was filled with self-pity. The second day he blamed the police. The third day he blamed his brother, uncle and family. The fourth day he realized alcohol and beer helped him forget "horrible childhood" memories. By the fifth day he knew he only had himself to blame. Even worse was realizing he treated his sons like his father had treated him.

Domingo's prayer-fueled remorse gave him the courage to call Irene and say: "I'm a new man...and will never drink again. If you leave now, you'll have only had my worst years..." instead of my best years. "...will you forgive me?"

Irene no longer trusted or loved her teenage sweetheart yet felt she had to agree. She too had changed since meeting weekly with the friend who led her to say yes to a "personal relationship" with Christ. Reading the Bible, trusting and turning to Him in prayer gave her a closeness she'd never experienced growing up Catholic.

In the years to come Irene would call this time their "honeymoon years," when the "unthinkable happened" and she fell in love with Domingo all over again as God healed their marriage and Domingo's relationships with his sons. In time they wanted more children but Irene's ectopic pregnancy made that impossible. Then they considered adoption and foster parenting, however, this is only one piece of their amazing story.

The rest of the Garcia's story is a genuine, heart-warming account of God's intervention not only in the lives of Irene, Domingo and their sons, but in the lives of thirty-two children, many of them special needs kids the Garcia's would foster or raise in the next thirty-two years. A story Meredith J. Graham writes about in Chico News.

Many children's accounts, the lives they lived before the Garcia's welcomed them into their home, aren't easy to read and all stories don't have happy endings. Yet their inspiring accounts shine with extraordinary examples of faith, trust and love that reveals God uses ordinary broken people when they surrender and submit to God. Just ask the Garcia's.

For a preview of this encouraging book watch Irene and Domingo's YouTube interview.

The Ether: Vero Rising, an Ether Novel
Laurice Elehwany Molinari
5300 Patterson Avenue SE, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530
9780310735557, $16.99,

Laurice Elehwany Molinari, known for the critically acclaimed "My Girl" classic, introduces Vero Rising February 4th, the book that debuts "The Ether" series. It's an action-packed fantasy wrapped in the magical adventures of twelve-year-old Vero Leland reminiscent of the award winning "Harry Potter" books, a series I think readers of all ages will identify with and want more of.

Vero lives with his parents and year-older sister, Clover in a typical Maryland suburb yet his compelling attraction to heights and flying is anything but typical and often gets him in trouble. Such as the time he climbed the ladder to the roof when he was four and deliberately fell "backwards," convinced he could fly. Instead, a "powerful force" caught him midair, lowered him to the ground and a voice said, "Vero, that's enough with the flying."

In time Vero discovers he's a fledging guardian angel destined to train in the land of Ether at a school named "Cathedral of Angels for Novice Development, Learning and Edification," known as C.A.N.D.L.E. He soon meets Ada, Pax, Xavier X, Kane and Greer, kids like him, who live normal earth lives until they find themselves traveling back and forth to the land of The Ether, a spiritual realm between heaven and hell populated by angels who train them and demons who intend to kill them.

Thus begin the exciting escapades of fledgling angels-in-training, taught by angels Raphel and Raziel and supervised by archangels Uriel and Michael. Join them as they learn to fly, usually from a running start, learn to recognize, listen for and trust "God's voice" and other extra sensory powers that include thought communication.

All of these attributes and more are needed when the group is challenged by the "Wicked One" and the "Malture's," demonic beings who do his bidding not to mention their battles with the Leviathan sea monster. Or when they find themselves in the "Pit of Acid" confronted by "Golems, huge, unthinking beings" only whispered about in centuries past. Yet all of these horrific beings pale when Vero comes face-to-face with Abaddon, king of the locust-like creatures who guard the bottomless pit from Revelation 9:11. His is the face of pure evil not unlike what Harry Potter faced.

While "Vero Rising" and "Harry Potter" series share similar other-worldly settings, characters and plots, their world-views are quite different. Harry's powers come from an unknown source in a narrative driven by magic, warlocks, witches, wizards and spell casting. Vero's world-view is Christian, his powers from God, and he's taught by guardian angels, warrior angels and fallen angels who prepare them to do battle with forces of good and evil.

Although I'm long-past the targeted age range of 9-12 I enjoyed every word, from the exceptional characterizations to the imaginative plot to the cliff-hanger chapter endings. The intense action and fast pace deliver an enjoyable story appropriate for all ages that also offers a Christian based alternative to those with objections to the dark arts of the Harry Potter series. Best of all, it's just good story telling and a serious contender for readers of Harry Potter.

Dee Henderson
Bethany House Publishers
11400 Hampshire South, Bloomington, Minnesota 55438
9780764211843, $15.99,

Dee Henderson's talent for creating character driven, Christian themed romantic suspense with fascinating plots, schemes and counterplots characterizes Unspoken. Where dual storylines, intricately linked, sweep through pages fueled by murder, kidnapping, lies and deceit as long held secrets bubble to the surface, secrets that challenge the sanity and future of Charlotte Graham.

However, Charlotte's given name was Ruth. She was a bright and vibrant sixteen-year-old when her abductors kidnapped and held her captive until local police and FBI agents rescued her four years later. Now, eighteen years since her rescue she still hasn't spoken to anyone about what happened.

Even though her abductors had been killed during her rescue the experience had left a God-shaped hole that challenged her faith and destroyed her trust. She couldn't understand how a loving Father allowed what happened to her. The worst part was knowing God would forgive her abductors if they asked. She didn't. She couldn't.

Currently, Charlotte's days were busy running the largest storage facility in the United States, only part of an extremely large legacy inherited from her grandfather that included rare gold coins and other business interests. Otherwise, Charlotte kept to herself.

Until she meets Bryce Bishop, a savvy businessman known to have the "Midas touch" who deals in high-end gold coins. Bryce is intrigued when Charlotte sets up shop next to his business with the offer of buying him out or having her as a competitor.

Add a mysterious phone call from an FBI agent who his good friend Paul Falcon endorses. A military trained body guard, incredible wealth and a reporter determined to learn Charlotte's secrets and readers have a captivating romantic suspense. Wrapped in themes of forgiveness, healing and restoration, even though the spiritual issue of why bad things happen is never fully answered.

The pace is slower than I expected but Henderson kept the pages turning, just not with the same urgency as when I read "Full Disclosure." Paul Falcon and Ann Silver from the previous book add to the narrative and keep the pace moving as they work to solve a cold case of a child kidnapping-murder with surprising connections to Charlotte.

"Unspoken" can be read as a stand-alone novel or as the sequel to Henderson's first book, "Full Disclosure." Her next book, "Undetected" releases April 29, 2014. From advance notices it appears to be a standalone title or the beginning of a new series I plan to read.

'Hope for Alcoholics, Addicts and Inmates'
Gary L.
Inspiring Voices
1663 Liberty Drive Bloomington, IN 47403
9781462404575, $19.99,

Gary L's inspirational account describes the disease of alcoholism through the lens of personal experience and Alcoholics Anonymous in "Hope for Alcohol, Addicts and Inmates." It's a story of addiction, surrender, personal responsibility and spiritual insight that could only be learned when Gary hit rock bottom and came to the "end of himself."

Today he compares those initial days and weeks of recovery to walking through a confusing, complicated maze still in the grips of alcoholism and stinkin' thinkin. ' Now he attributes his "one-day-at-a-time" recovery to the help of God, his wife Patsy and Alcoholics Anonymous.

Yet it's more than Gary's story, it's also how God used Gary's sobriety and recovery experiences in the life of Matt, a prison inmate who wanted to "change his life."

While Alcoholics Anonymous discourages alcoholics from giving advice they are encouraged to share their "experience, strength and hope with another alcoholic." A mentor sponsor support relationship AA founder Bill Wilson found very important to sobriety.

When a friend Gary wrote to in prison asked him to share his story with a fellow inmate Gary saw it as a mentoring opportunity and agreed. Those letters, now in this book, share Gary's "spiritually awakening message" about sobriety, recovery and the 12-step program, the heart and backbone of Alcoholics Anonymous.

His letters to Matt include reassuring daily entries, inspirational quotes and scripture verses with space to capture thoughts and feelings in a "thirty-day spiritual journal." Completed journal entries reveal recovery from alcoholism happens mentally, physically and spiritually.

Gary's sobriety began March 2, 1971 and continues today. He remembers who he once was, yet focuses on "who he's becoming," even though he has many years of sobriety behind him. He believes the process of "becoming" won't end until he meets his Creator. An approach he teaches others in his roles as "Christian minister and spiritual counselor."

Gary's realistic account takes readers through the rocky waters of recovery as Gary learned to live one day at a time with the help of God, his wife and AA. A critical aspect of recovery taught by my professor, mentor and dear friend Father Royce in my undergraduate and graduate work in psychology and the addictions at Seattle University.

Father Royce, trained in the Jesuit traditions, is considered the father of alcohol studies. He "taught... the nation's first standard college course on alcoholism in 1950 that became the Seattle University addiction studies program in 1973... the first in the nation."

Gary's breadth of personal and professional experience makes this book an excellent choice for anyone struggling with addiction in themselves or a loved one. For more information contact Gary or visit his website: Hope.

Love Our Vets: Restoring Hope for Families of Veterans with PTSD
Welby O'Brien
Deep River Books
PO Box 310, Sisters, Oregon 97759
9781937756642, $15.99,

Welby O'Brien, Portland, Oregon teacher, counselor and author penned "Love our Vets" for the families and loved ones of veterans who suffer from PTSD and TBI, traumatic brain injury. Her marriage to a 100% disabled PTSD veteran and a masters degree in counseling give her an intimate understanding of disabled vets and those who love them.

Her practical, hands-on resource begins with "Reaffirm" where she offers a brief overview of what PTSD is, whether it can be cured and what to expect if you're in relationship with a PTSD vet. In this section she provides brief answers to 63 questions such as how to handle conflict, physical abuse, drug or alcohol addictions, firearms, inability to make decisions, paranoia and more. The questions are numbered for ease of lookup in the table of contents.

Part two, "Replenish," features an inventory of needs caregivers deplete who are usually too busy caring for others to care for themselves. Welby's survey format encourages readers to "think through each need" listed and note where they're deficient in their day-to-day challenges. She warns if personal needs are ignored illness or a complete meltdown can occur.

"Reflect," the third segment contains brief truths of "heart-baring wisdom gleaned from the lives" of those who live with or love a PTSD vet, such as:

"We do not always need an instant solution."
"I have been with him instead of trying to fix him"
"Don't argue with them when they're triggered."
"Truly I can't fix this."
"Don't forget to pray."
"Patience and love are empowering."
"It will never be perfect, but it can be good."

A group discussion guide, section summaries, Purple Star Families Home Preparedness Guide, "vicarious trauma" article (second hand trauma similar to second hand smoke) and thirty-one days of daily prayer complete the book.

Welby's guide is for the average military member, spouse, partner or parent of traumatized veterans and was written without confusing military and medical terminology. The issues and situations she writes about are real and sometimes dangerous. Her suggestions include the importance of boundaries, when dangerous behavior is unacceptable and why it's sometimes best to leave. Some read the book randomly, others cover-to-cover and some use it as a reference guide.

I found myself laughing, crying and empathizing with the problems our returning vets have to deal with. These brave men and women need our thanks, our help and perhaps most of all our gratitude for our ability to live in freedom when the price they pay and continue to pay is so dear.

Other websites veterans can find help include:

Make the connection where veterans find encouragement, support and share experiences.
Wounded Warrior Project who encourage vets to thrive instead of just survive.
Veteran PTSD & Service Dog change veterans lives.
VA Resources for jobs, careers and internships.
Websites for Veterans and Military Personal
Military friendly employers

The Storm Inside: Trade the Chaos of how you feel for the Truth of who you are
Sheila Walsh
Thomas Nelson
P.O. Box 141000, Nashville, Tennessee 37214
9781400204878, $21.99,

Sheila Walsh, Christian Vocalist, featured "Women of Faith" speaker, popular Bible teacher

and best-selling author releases "The Storm Inside" February 11th. With a narrative about emotions, Satan and God's truth for women of all ages, especially for "mature, faithful, and wise servants of Christ," writes Walsh.

I was surprised to read "mature" women in Christ until I read the introduction, where Walsh writes about speaking to a large group of "ministry wives" in the spring of 2012. She arrived in the 200 seat room early to do a microphone check. Then placed 4x6 cards and pencil on each chair and said a brief prayer for the woman who would sit there.

Her message theme from Psalm 86:11"would focus on the power of telling the truth," something Walsh hadn't always found easy. Although she believed in transparency she could only share parts of her story and couldn't talk about her "fear, shame and anger" until she experienced a "crisis of faith" that set her free. That morning Walsh would discover she "had a lot of company."

The audience overflowed with women just like the featured speaker, women whose devotion to God was unquestioned, who had walked with God for many years, "yet the very same burdens weighed down their hearts" that burdened Walsh's heart.

A beautiful exchange took place that day that needs to be read in the author's own words. It was an exchange that made Walsh feel as if she stood on holy ground as "God in His grace pulled back the curtain and allowed her to glimpse a profound "truth that could set His daughters free."

That "glimpse" gave birth to this book about feelings, Satan and a "truth hope connection." She writes, "Truth is the light house on a stormy pitch-black night that steers us clear of the feelings that would wreck us." Everyone knows feelings can change moment-by-moment, however, truth, like God's Word is rock solid and never changes.

Join Walsh on a journey of hope through ten transformative chapters of biblical truth supported by scripture with illustrations from Walsh's personal journey. Where readers learn to identify and overcome the "fiery darts" of Satan and live in the freedom God intends for His daughters. If you struggle with heartache, disappointment, fear, bitterness, un-forgiveness, anger, regret, abandonment, shame or insecurity, "The Storm Inside" is a must read. Click on the link to learn more about the book, upcoming events and Sheila Walsh.

Get Prayer and Get It All
Rick D. Padgett
4900 LaCross Road, North Charleston, SC 29406
9781492946304, $10.00,

Rick D. Padgett's 2013 book, Get Prayer and Get It All endorsed by Karen Covell, founding director of Hollywood Prayer Network, is a powerful, interactive study on prayer. The devotional style study began as a year-long experiment where Padgett and a friend committed to select a passage of scripture a week for discussion and pray for God's guidance and teaching. The incredible results are captured in this book.

He uses "all" in the title and throughout the book to illustrate significant life-changing moments, such as when he encountered Christ at age 18 and his daughter's birth. He couldn't know that tiny scrap of a girl swaddled in blankets would become the "master of his universe" until he saw her. He calls those moments, "ALL exchanges" where something of great value is recognized.

Fatherhood also taught him the joy of giving himself in ways he never had before. He writes, "That wrinkly little bundle with a head full of wet ringlets, swirled in a mousse of amniotic fluid...assumed her role as queen of my heart." His overwhelming response prompted the thought, Wow, God! Do you really feel this way about me like I do about her?

For the first time he saw God's devotion to His children from a Father's perspective, a Father who's eager to say yes to His child, just as he was eager to say yes to his daughter. Padgett's new perspective redefined his understanding of God as a Father and changed his prayer life.

This small book with a big message about God as a Father and the importance of prayer is written with a dash of humor and a healthy dose of wisdom. Chapters, enhanced by scripture, personal examples and stories, end with first-person, heart-felt prayers, questions to reflect on and suggested scripture readings.

In David Sanford's Christian Post Q&A Interview Padgett explains how his initial one-on-one prayer experiment grew into an empowering prayer group nicknamed "Forge 218." The group combined Genesis 2:18 about man and isolation with the first and second commandments, added obedience and prayer to forge a new name and new understanding of why "It is not good for man to be alone" in life or in prayer.

Padgett's book is an excellent choice for individual or group use. Click on the links to purchase a copy, request a free pdf copy or to learn more about Westgate Ministries House of Prayer, or to read Rick D. Padgett Blog.

Gail Welborn

Gary's Bookshelf

The Black Stiletto
Raymond Benson
Oceanview Publishing
595 Bay Isles Road, 120-G, Longboat Key, FL 34228
9781608090631, $15.00

"The Black Stiletto" begins a series of tales about a woman who becomes a vigilante crime fighter much the same way as Batman did. Like Spiderman she is perceived by police and others in law enforcement to be the same as any criminal, even though she is taking on mobsters and other thugs, while the general public loves her. Told in diary form the story takes place in 50 years ago and the present. The writings by the Black Stiletto take place in the 1950's. Her son, who is in the present day, is given her diaries and learns of his mothers secret life, while a gangster from the past tells his story in the present. He reveals that he is looking to settle a score with her because she killed his brother. "The Black Stiletto" is page turning suspense with well defined characters and good vigilante escapism

Missing You
Harlan Coben
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
978052534942, $27.95,

Kat Donovan a NYPD police officer learns the real story of her dad's death and also about the man she once wanted to marry. Also she gets involved in a case to find a missing person. "Missing You" is a tightly drawn tale of suspense that unfolds slowly and then picks up speed to the final revealing conclusion. Along for the ride are many interesting characters with generous doses of tension that make this a great page turner thriller. Harlan Coben is a master of this type of novel and "Missing You" shows why.

Confessions The Private School Murders
James Patterson and Maxine Paetro
Little Brown and Company
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316207652, $18.00

Many of the characters from "Confessions of a Murder Suspect" are back in "Confessions The Private School Murders" Tandy Angel whose parents were murdered is back and now she has set herself up as a detective. She is about to tackle a case the police are not really trying to solve, of several women who have been murdered, while she is also trying to prove her own brother's innocence. Patterson and Paetro who also write the "Women's Murder Club" stories have another winner with this YA series. Though marketed as a YA title the Confessions novels have all the elements that make Patterson novels so much fun to read. "Confessions The Private School Murders" should not be missed by Patterson fans.

Stay Close
Harlan Coben
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780451233967, $9.99,

A photographer, a woman with a shady past and a cop are all a part of "Stay Close," a fast paced thriller from Harlan Coben. This time the story deals with a situation that took place 17 years ago and how three of the people are affected by the long ago events. Coben once again has written a tale that races along with great writing, believable characters and tense situations that all come together by the end of the book. Coben is a great story teller and "Stay Close" is another reason to add him to your list of writers to always look for.

Mr. Monk Gets On Board
Hy Conrad
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780451240958, $23.95,

Watch out world! Adrian Monk goes on a cruise and the ship will never be the same in this newest installment of the Monk series "Mr. Monk Gets on Board." Natalie Teeger leaves to go on an important cruise and finds that Adrian Monk invites himself to join her. It's a good thing though because there is a murder and Monk makes it his business to solve the case. There is an interesting history of this particular story that Hy Conrad tells at the beginning of the book. The series is funnier than ever as Monk, the obsessive compulsive detective, tackles all kind of problems. "Mr. Monk Gets on Board" is another rousing laugh out adventure of the Adrian Monk that fans of the show should not miss.

First Love
James Patterson and Emily Raymond
Little Brown and Company
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316207041, $26.00

Based loosely on a relationship Patterson had many years ago the story is one where two people who have much in common take a trip around the country and experience many different things that celebrate life. Even though they steal cars, a motorcycle, a truck and do some criminal things, the reader is taken along on their journey feeling empathy for both characters and wanting the story to not end the way it does for one of them. "First Love" is a fast read. Though some of the subject matter could be depressing it is a very enjoyable Patterson novel.

Margaret Powell's Cookery Book
Margaret Powell
St Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9781250038562, $16.99,

Margaret Powell now takes readers on another tour of her world of service in some of the greatest houses in England in "Margaret Powell's Cookery Book." She tells more stories of her life of but most of the focus is on the many different meals she prepared as Cook in the homes she worked in. She also compares foods she made for work and for her own house. There are many wonderful sounding recipes that readers can make themselves. Her three books "Below Stairs," "Servant's Hall" and "Margaret Powell's Cookery Book" are the basis for the TV shows of "Upstairs Downstairs" and "Downton Abbey" that no fan of both can afford to miss.

Dragonspeak Drew the Boy Who Talked to Dragons
Andrew Robinson
Cricket Cottage Publishing
409 Hoffner Avenue # 127, Orlando, Florida 32812
97814776556634, $9.99,

10 year old Drew escapes some bullies and is tired of the constant arguments his parents are always having believing they do not care about him. He stumbles upon a cave and finds that his life is never the same afterwards. Now he enters a world filled with all kinds of new exciting things for him to do including talk to dragons. "Dragonspeak Drew the Boy Who Talked to Dragons" is a YA magical fantasy adventure that is filled with interesting characters, great dialogue a wonderful ending that is a set up for other adventures of Drew in the future. Fans of fantasy should love "Dragonspeak Drew the Boy Who Talked to Dragons"

Stop Means Stop
Gay Wasik-Zegel Illustrated by Lorrie J. Smith
Cricket Cottage Publishing
409 Hoffner Avenue # 127, Orlando, Florida 32812
9781489589415, $9.95,

Charlie is a healthy little boy but he has a major problem. He just goes about whatever he wants to do and never listens to anyone on anything. "Stop Means Stop" is a fun kid's book that shows why it is wrong to be like Charlie. The lessons the author presents for kids are for them to learn to be more responsible people. "Stop Means Stop" can be enjoyed by kids and parents alike in this charming children's story.

Gary Roen

Gloria's Bookshelf

Homicide My Own
Anne Argula
Pleasure Boat Studio
201 W. 89th St., NY, NY 10024
9781929355211, $16.00 (PB), 219 pages,

After so thoroughly enjoying the author's second book, "The Other Romanian" (published in June 2012 by Pleasure Boat Studio), I was anxious to go back to her first novel, "Homicide My Own," and am pleased to report that this book was equally delightful. Displaying the same consistent wit and clever prose, it introduced the protagonist, Quinn (the only name used by the author for this character), when she was still a cop in Spokane (after having served in the LAPD) and before becoming a private detective in Seattle, Washington, where the second book takes place.

Quinn is assigned, along with her colleague, Odd Gunderson (he's Swedish, but also odd), to drive up north to Shalish Island, which is about as far as one can go in Washington State and still be in America, to pick up a man who had been charged with rape of an under-age (14-year-old) girl and bring him back to Spokane. The two make an unusual pair: Quinn is from the coal regions of Pennsylvania, 49 years old, and self-described as a "menopausal madwoman," has a 20-year-old son in the Navy and a shaky marriage to a pharmacist. Odd is in his early 30's, rather taciturn: "Unless something truly amuses him, at which time he cracks half a crooked smile, his face remains a blank." Once they arrive at the tribal police station to pick up the prisoner, they somehow become involved in a 33-year-old double murder, the only unsolved murder still on their books. Although why they do is another matter. As Quinn tells Odd, "You ain't a detective. You're a cop, and not even a cop from around here. We issue citations, we quell domestic disputes, we roust hookers and dope smokers, and we are sent on s*** details like this that no one else wants." But they definitely do get involved, and at some point the book veers off into "paranormality at its spookiest." But while this more often than not turns me off as a reader, it only made this book more intriguing, and it's a wonderful mystery.

Quinn, who admits to having a "Pennsylvania coal-cracker accent," also has a language all her own, some of it translatable, and some not, e.g., "ain't," translating to "true?"; a "boonda" guy and "yonkos" (I have no idea); "the arfy-darfy" (ditto); and the ubiquitous "da frick" (that one I could understand) and "Woi Yesus" (ditto). Her Native American characters have names like Seth Shining Pony, Sidney Everybodytalksabout, and Bobby Young Elk, and the Northwest apparently has points of land named Point Deception, Point No Point, Point Doom, and Point Sinister (you get the picture), and a street called Pullorbedamned Road.

I frequently found myself laughing out loud, and read this book in one day. It is an absolute delight, and is highly recommended.

Jon McGoran
c/o Tor-Forge
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780765334701, $24.99, HC, 384 pp,

Three years after Philadelphia narcotics detective Doyle Carrick's mother and stepfather move to what he'd always thought of as the sleepy countryside of Dunston, Pennsylvania, he finds himself driving there for the second time in several days, the first time to attend his mother's funeral, the second to attend that of his step-father. The second time, though, he can stay somewhat longer, since he's under suspension after an incident that also mandated he undergo mandatory Anger Management sessions (which he takes as a suggestion, one that he ignores.) But the town, on closer inspection this time around, doesn't seen quite so sleepy, that myth quickly disintegrating as Doyle comes upon drug dealers, menacing land developers, crop fires, and trucks intent on running him off the road. And local law enforcement doesn't seem to take any of this too seriously.

On the positive side, Doyle meets the woman who lives across the road from his parents' property, beautiful Nola Watkins, who has a serious problem with genetically modified crops and a serious interest in organic farming, one that she has turned into a burgeoning business, selling her produce to some markets and food co-ops in Philly, as well as a couple of restaurants and high-end caterers. But she has been under some pressure to sell her property, as most of the people in the area seem to have done, and has been receiving phone calls with nothing on the other end except a dial tone.

The novel is well-written, suspenseful, and cleverly plotted, with an engaging protagonist, at the same time raising important and timely environmental issues. There's a lot of action, and a lot of leavening humor. The plot twists when they come are unexpected and quite startling, initially requiring a willful suspension of disbelief, but quickly turning into an unexpectedly believable scenario. Fast-paced and very enjoyable, the book is highly recommended.

Gods and Beasts
Denise Mina
Back Bay Books
c/o Little, Brown
237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10017
9780316188531, $15.00, PB, 352 pp.,

Alex Morrow, DS with the Strathclyde police, is back in the newest book by this Scottish author. The twins with whom Morrow was pregnant in the last book, the wonderful "The End of the Wasp Season," are now a few months old. As the new book opens, she is deep into what is referred to as "the Barrowfields investigation," when a new case comes her way: One week before Christmas, during the course of an armed robbery in a busy Glasgow post office, an elderly man who was patiently waiting in line suddenly is seen to assist the gunman, but not before handing his young grandson to a stranger, soon after which the grandfather is brutally murdered by the robber, who makes a clean escape. The only clue the police have is the fact that the alarm system was not working the morning of the crime. And the additional fact that the innocent bystander to whom the young boy was entrusted turns out to be much more complex than he at first appears.

I have had nothing but praise for the several earlier novels by Ms. Mina that I have read, and would like to say that this newest book was equally wonderful. But I have to admit that I found it slow-moving and felt almost disjointed, as the several story lines unfold, including rampant control of the city by gangs (mostly involved in the drug trade, said to be worth more than a billion pounds a year in Scotland); police corruption; and a goodly amount of political discussion. The final pieces don't fall into place until nearly the very last page. I should perhaps add that Paddy Meehan, the protagonist of several of Ms. Mina's earlier books, makes a couple of peripheral appearances here.

I will still look forward to future offering from this author, but this one didn't come up to the high level reached by its predecessors for this reviewer. Oh, and should one wonder, the title is from Aristotle: "Those who live outside the city walls, and are self-sufficient, are either Gods or Beasts."

A Criminal Defense
By Steven Gore
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
Kindle and Nook ebook, 978006219802, $9.99
9780062025074, $9.99, PB, 338 pp.,

In this newest novel by Steven Gore, he takes on the dark side of one aspect of the American criminal justice system, exposing practices including, e.g., suborned perjury, manufactured evidence, witness intimidation, and corrupt attorneys, investigators, and expert witnesses such as psychiatrists called to bolster claims of diminished capacity. And it should be stated that he does do quite a convincing job of it. (He promises that in his next book he will take on the prosecutorial side of the same coin.)

Former San Francisco homicide detective Harlan Donnally, now 48 years old, has for the last 10 years been running a small cafe in Mount Shasta, just north of his old turf. But when Mark Hamlin, a prominent 55-year-old attorney, is found hanging under the Golden Gate Bridge, half naked and in a state of sexual arousal. Donnally is shortly thereafter appointed the Special Master to investigate the case and protect any attorney/client privilege that may be discovered, he is drawn back into a world he thought he had left behind. The judge makes clear that Donnally's brief is just to "let the facts be known and the truth be seen." As the judge advises, "Hamlin had enough enemies to make up a firing squad." And Donnally finds that he is putting himself in harm's way in the process: "By accepting the role as the special master to investigate Hamlin's murder, Donnally realized that he had become a proxy for the man, the living dead, and he didn't want to become the dead dead."

Donnally is an interesting protagonist. He began life, for the author, as a "bit player" in Mr. Gore's earlier novel, "Act of Deceit," a standalone, which evolved into the series in which this is the next entry. Equally interesting is his significant other, Dr. Janie Nguyen, the psychiatrist who had done the mandatory psych evaluation following his killing of a suspect in the line of duty after the incident in which he was shot and seriously wounded, leading in turn to his retirement. The next installment in the series should be equally engaging.

The Boyfriend
Thomas Perry
Mysterious Press
c/o Grove-Atlantic
841 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9780802155122, $15.00, PB, 288 pp.,

The protagonist and his adversary in this newest terrific, suspenseful read from Thomas Perry have many similarities: Both Jack Till, retired LAPD homicide detective now working as a private investigator, and the man he nicknames The Boyfriend are both highly intelligent, patient, meticulous, proficient with various kinds of weaponry, and very lethal. Mostly they are both loners. Till, however, has a daughter with Down Syndrome of whom he is very protective. His wife had left them and divorced him shortly after she was diagnosed, unable to cope. Holly is now 28 years old, employed at a florist shop and living in a group home where she is well looked after. Till had retired after 23 years as a cop, and now embarks upon a relentless search for a killer.

The man Till is seeking is completely cold-blooded. He preys upon young, beautiful women, all of a very similar physical type, and all 'working girls,' albeit highly-paid escorts earning several thousand dollars a day, as opposed to streetwalkers. And all very vulnerable to the young, good-looking charmer, to their peril. He has apparently killed several of them in all different parts of the country. He has come to Till's attention when the parents of the latest victim seek his help, when the police have, literally, no clues as to his identify. He agrees to take the case and undertakes the investigation, and soon uncovers the connection to the other murders. After 23 years as a cop, he "had an instinctive sense that this man was something he hadn't seen before."

Thomas Perry is the author, among his 21 previous books, of the wonderful Jane Whitefield series, and his newest is as much a page-turner as were those novels. He manages an ending that is wonderfully elegant. This was a terrific read, and is highly recommended.

Runaway Man
David Handler
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY,NY 10010
9781250011626, $24.99, HC, 246 pp.,

Benji Golden is the eponymous protagonist in this newest book by David Handler, so called because since he got his license as a p.i. he has gotten a reputation for tracking down young runaways. His late father was a hero cop, a homicide detective whose exploits were made famous when a movie was done about his capture of a subway serial killer who had terrorized New York City a couple of decades ago. Since his death a couple of years back the p.i. agency he'd founded is run by his widow, Abby, who had the distinction in her youth of being "the only Jewish pole dancer in New York City," under the name Abraxas (nee Abby Kaminsky from Sheepshead Bay). Baby-faced Benji (nickname "Bunny") still calls her "boss," to which she strongly objects. They are ably assisted by Rita, a gorgeous 42-year-old computer wizard who was a lap dancer back in the day, and Gus, their "grizzled office cat."

When a partner in a white-shoe Park Avenue law firm comes into their office and wants to hire Benji to find a young man, a college senior who has gone missing and who is apparently about to inherit a considerable amount of money from an unnamed client, the very large fee offered makes it difficult to turn down, despite the enigmatic way in which the situation is presented: No names, no clues, and no mention of the law firm's name allowed. Benji, being the resourceful investigator that he is, and assisted by a cop who was like a big brother to him, his father's mentee, Lieutenant Larry "Legs" Diamond (I loved that!), does track down the young man in question, but at some cost: Several murders soon take place, the ensuing investigation at one point leading to a gathering of the strangest bedfellows imaginable, including the Police Commissioner. Benji's own life becomes threatened, but he is determined to find out who is behind these crimes, and hopefully stay alive in the process.

This was one of the most enjoyable reads, and protagonists, I've come across in a while. The writing is sprinkled with terrific wit and humor. The author also includes a lot of fascinating New York history, of much of which I, a life-long resident of the city and its suburbs, was unaware. Parenthetically, this Brooklyn-born-and-raised reviewer loved that Benji's mother and grandmother were raised in that borough (and I forgive him for having a poster of NY Yankee great Derek Jeter hanging on his wall), and that he loves original soundtrack albums of great Broadway musicals. "Runaway Man" is a quick and terrific read, and is highly recommended.

The Sound of Broken Glass
Deborah Crombie
Bourbon Street Books
c/o HarperCollins
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780062246852, $14.99, PB, 416 pp.,

The central geographical theme in this newest book from Deborah Crombie is the area of South London known as Crystal Palace and its environs, with each chapter preceded by some fascinating information. It certainly has historical importance, originally known for the site of The Great Exhibition, a great iron and glass building moved to Crystal Palace Park in 1854 and destroyed by fire on November 30, 1936. Its importance in the present-day tale spun so wonderfully here, however, is as a crime scene, when DI Gemma James is called to investigate the murder of a well-respected barrister found in a seedy hotel in the district, naked, trussed, and apparently strangled.

At irregular intervals, there are flashback scenes in the same area taking place fifteen years in the past, when a 13-year-old boy is befriended by his next-door neighbor, a young widow, providing a lifeline of sorts for the lonely youngster, whose alcoholic mother has little time for him. The connection with present-day events becomes clear much later in the book.

The personal life of Gemma and her husband, DS Duncan Kincaid, and their blended family, primarily their 3-year-old foster daughter, Charlotte, is once again a major part of the plot. He is now on leave from Scotland Yard to be primary caretaker of Charlotte and the other family members, the boys, Kit and Toby, and their assorted animals: Sid the cat, the terrier Tess, and the cocker spaniel Geordie. Things become complicated when Duncan realizes he has a personal connection with one of the suspects, and a second, similar murder takes place.

This is a thoroughly enjoyable novel, much like the prior books in the series, which is high praise indeed. The plotting is complex and suspense-filled, the characters wonderfully well-drawn, and the book is recommended.

Let Me Go
Chelsea Cain
Minotaur Books
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312619817, $25.99, HC, 368 pp.,

For those unfamiliar with this fascinating series (and as I wrote in my review of the prior entry, "Kill You Twice"), Archie Sheridan, a detective now heading the Major Case Task Force in Portland, Oregon ("known for its blush-tinted scenery, and its serial killers"), for 13 years had headed what was termed the Beauty Killer Task Force, dedicated to tracking down and bringing to justice a megalomaniac serial killer whose victims were tortured and killed in gruesome ways, graphically described. Their target, Gretchen Lowell, a stunning blonde who claims she had killed more than two hundred people, almost claimed Archie as one of her victims, but despite slowly torturing him over a 10-day period [during which time, among other things, she removed his spleen - - without anesthesia, of course] and leaving him in a medically-induced coma for a month, she let him live. After her capture, she was locked up in the forensic psychiatric services ward of the State Hospital. And after two years on medical leave, and now addicted to pain pills, Archie was able to return to the Task Force, his marriage only one of the things destroyed by Gretchen.

There has always been a strong connection between Archie and Gretchen. As he says, "She will never let me go." (Thus the title.) Years later, his scars, which still itch and sometimes bleed, are a constant reminder of her brutality, but he can no sooner escape them than he can the power and sexual pull she still exerts over him. The book opens as two important events are about to occur: Halloween, and Archie's birthday. And Gretchen, having escaped from the asylum ten weeks ago, is determined to make both of them something that Archie will never forget. The book takes place over an action-packed three days.

Initially Archie gets involved in the investigation into the murder of a DEA agent who had been running a deep cover operation involving dirty cops and a major drug distribution organization headed by Jack Reynolds, a notorious local crime kingpin in Oregon. He and Archie had crossed paths before, when first his daughter and then his son were apparently among Gretchen's victims.

Returning here are Henry, Archie's best friend on or off the police force; Henry's significant other, Claire, now very pregnant, also on the Major Case Task Force; and Susan Ward, a reporter who had been fired 7 months ago from the Herald and still very much in Archie's life, as well as her pot-smoking mother, Bliss. Also returning are the usual ingredients of this series: a great deal of graphic sex and violence, the two often intermingling at the oddest times, including a couple of Archie's flashbacks to his times with Gretchen. There are three story lines here: a second murder, of a young woman (the 2nd of many in the novel, of course); the murder of the DEA agent and the DEA investigation which the dead man headed; and of course the ongoing one dealing with the search for Gretchen. As are all the entries in this series, it is a dark and fast read, and one that is recommended.

Havana Lost
Libby Fischer Hellmann
The Red Herrings Press
272 Summerfield Road, Northbrook, IL 60062
9781938733383, $16.99, PB, 281 pp.
9781938733390, Mobi and Kindle e-book: $4.99

This newest book by Libby Fischer Hellmann, a departure from her acclaimed Ellie Foreman and Georgia Davis mystery series, introduces the reader to Francesca ("Frankie") Pacelli in the not-so-distant Havana, Cuba of 1958, in the days leading up to the revolution headed by Fidel Castro which overthrew the Batista regime. It was a time that I can clearly remember, when the US and New York City in particular hosted Castro and greeted him as a hero. Frankie's father is a mafia capo, mentored by Meyer Lansky and operating one of Havana's most sumptuous hotels and casinos, before the revolution changed everything in the lives of the Pacellis and all of Cuba.

The ensuing portions of the book take place initially in Angola during a time of great unrest in that and neighboring regions of Africa, where apparently half a million Cubans were sent by Castro to preserve that country's Marxist government (referred to as Cuba's Vietnam). It was a time of great upheaval in many parts of the world (which encompassed also the tearing down of the Berlin wall). The novel then follows its protagonists, Frankie and what is left of her family, to Chicago and Miami over ensuing decades. Frankie is now head of the Family, and much of what ensues arises out of her need to retain control and to exact revenge for the murders of some of those closest to her over the years. And just when the narrative threatens to lag, the plot takes another unexpected turn, amping up the suspense and usually bringing with it more violence in the process, with the reader seeing the argument of socialism vs. capitalism vs. avarice up close.

Though I must admit to not leaning toward multi-generational sagas, nor historical novels, with apologies for the cliche I found this to be a book that transcends both genres, presenting as it does an engrossing tale, one which is recommended.

Watching the Dark
Peter Robinson
Morrow Paperbacks
c/o HarperCollins
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780062283979, $14.99, PB, 384 pp.,

The 20th entry in the wonderful Inspector Banks series by Peter Robinson opens with the shocking killing of one of Banks' colleagues, a decorated detective inspector, on the grounds of St. Peter's Police Convalescence and Treatment Center, where he was a patient. The Major Crimes Unit, or Homicide and Major Inquiry Team, as it was now known, operating out of Eastvale, is assigned, the investigative team once again including DS Winsome Jackman ("all six feet something of her"), DC Gerry Masterson, and DI Annie Cabbot, Banks' close friend, who is just returning from a convalescence after having survived her own brutal wounds and subsequent convalescence in events described in a prior entry in the series.

Because there had recently been a hint of police corruption, Inspector Joanna Passero, of Professional Standards [the equivalent of the American IAB], is assigned to work with Banks. Their working relationship, perhaps understandably, is an ambivalent one, at least initially. Very shortly, another murder takes place, and there are indications that the two killings may be related. Another angle that comes into play is a six-year-old cold case involving Rachel Hewitt, a 19-year-old English girl who seemingly "disappeared off the face of the earth" in Tallinn, Estonia, a case that had haunted the dead inspector for the intervening years, having been involved in the investigation at its inception in Tallinn.

The author expertly juxtaposes the lines of investigation, with Annie and her colleagues handling the Eastvale aspect of the case, and Banks the second killing, which appears to involve illegal migrant labor activities, ultimately taking him to Estonia, though he is warned not to get diverted by the Hewitt case. Following his instincts, as always, Banks is determined to do his best to bring closure to the girl's parents if at all possible. A complex plot, carried off in smooth fashion, in a book that is highly recommended.

Gloria Feit

Gorden's Bookshelf

30 Pieces of Silver
Carolyn McCray
Off Our Meds Multimedia
Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
B004HB1W82 $3.99

Most readers today will love 30 Pieces of Silver. I enjoyed it but I had problems with it. It is the same problem that too many contemporary authors fall into. The modern action genre has been pushed into making all aspects of the story subordinate to the action and that this action has to be so extreme it fits the more extreme graphic novel genre better than a print story.

Every part of a fictional book has to fall between two extremes. There has to be some form of reality for the reader to connect with but there has to be some fantasy to fictionalize the story. The history and science in 30 Pieces is superficial with a heavy and liberal dose of fantasy. The story pushes the limit for a book in a genre looking for a reality feel but the story is just barely within the limit of acceptable rewriting of fact. Where my problem with the story comes in is with the intense, near supernatural, protagonist to the heroes. The history and context in the plot takes a second, possibly third, place to the non-believable protagonist's abilities. The result is where McCray could have built a stronger link to the historical and technical story the history/tech becomes a simple fill between fantasy action sequences.

Dr. Rebecca Monroe is in the Amazon jungle trying to be accepted by a local tribe to run DNA studies. She has been working on trying to find a genetic link to human civilization throughout history. An armed US government special forces team pulls her from the jungle. An explosion has occurred in France at the base of the Eiffel Tower exposing a catch of very old skeletons dating back nearly 2,000 years and she is needed to investigate. Nearly immediately after Monroe is taken away another armed team arrives and murders every member of the tribe. Monroe must find the clues hidden in the bones and history to unravel key events in the early history of Christianity before the fanatics dogging her steps have the chance to kill her and steal the history.

Most contemporary readers have little knowledge about history and the fictional historical back story is twisty and sensational enough to excite. But anyone who has a real background in the history will have problems with the books events. McCray could have built a real alternative historical back story if she had not let the action take over the tale. The story does travel across the world and from one end of Europe to the other with each stop filled with exotic locations adding a nice dimension to the tale. Action readers will find more than enough to 30 Pieces. They might even be overwhelmed by the action. If you can disengage from reality 30 Pieces is a great story. But if your taste is leans closer to the possible 30 Pieces is not the book for you.

Powder Burn
Mark Chisnell
Off Our Meds Multimedia
Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
B00C4HXZO0 price: $2.99
eISBN: 9781483940047

Unlike what is implied in the blurbs Powder Burn is a survival action adventure and doesn't have a real supernatural connection. Chisnell doesn't fall into the trap that many contemporary authors do and actually has a storyline that doesn't require an unreal fantasy to deliver. Sure there is some fantasy, otherwise you can't write fiction, but it is within the bounds that an intelligent reader can compensate for. The characters have a real feel to them. The physical story is logical. The interactions between the characters are okay. But the story as a whole is just a small notch above average for the genre. For snowboarders or mountain trekkers, the story will be great. The location niche and reality pulls the story up for them. But for the typical reader, the story takes just a little too long to connect.

Sam Blackett is a want-to-be reporter. She joins a pair of snowboarders and a videographer who are planning on being the first people to board an extreme and near mythical run in the Himalayan mountains. Everyone is keeping secrets from everyone else on the trip. They each have their reasons for secrecy but a resentment builds because of it fracturing the party when they need to be together. The trip starts off good but soon starts to fall apart as the clandestine team of snowboarders encounter both the extreme environment of the Himalayas and a military occupation of a local government.

This book is an easy recommendation for any mountain skier or trekker. The story is sound and the location is exotic. For those without the personal link to the environmental setting of the story, Powder Burn is an average survival tale that is worth looking for if you have a few dollars to spend.

S.A. Gorden, Reviewer

Julie's Bookshelf

Growing Up
Robby Gallaty
c/o Prime Star Publicity
9781462729982, $14.99, 248pp,

Synopsis: "Growing UP: How to Be a Disciple Who Makes Disciples" is specifically written for Christians and informing them about three essential relationships every believer must be fostering; showing the how to begin, lead, and reproduce a D-Group (i.e., Discipleship Group); explaining why a D-Group of 3 to 5 is more effective than an 1-on-1 relationship; revealing a proven method for HEARing from God; presenting one spiritual discipline that every disciple should be practicing; offering six questions every believer MUST be able to answer; noting the difference between an addition and multiplication strategy; providing answers to commonly asked questions about disciple-making; and a great deal more!

Critique: Articulate, biblical-based, fundamentally sound, as inspired and inspiring as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking, "Growing UP: How to Be a Disciple Who Makes Disciples" is memorable and enlightening reading which is very highly recommended to the Christian community regardless of denominational affiliations.

Moral Enterprise
Derek Pacheco
Ohio State University Press
180 Pressey Hall, 1070 Carmack Road
Columbus, OH 43210-1002
9780814212387, $57.95, 240pp,

Synopsis: "Moral Enterprise: Literature and Education in Antebellum America" descriptively and analytically investigates an important moment in the history of professional authorship. Author Derek Pacheco (Assistant Professor of English and American Studies, Purdue University) uses New England "literary reformers" Horace Mann, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Elizabeth Peabody, and Margaret Fuller to argue that writers came to see in educational reform, and the publication venues emerging in connection with it, a means to encourage popular authorship while validating literary work as a profession. Although today's schools are staffed by systematically trained and institutionally sanctioned teachers, in the unregulated, decentralized world of antebellum America, literary men and women sought the financial stability of teaching while claiming it as moral grounds for the pursuit of greater literary fame. Examining the ethically redemptive and potentially lucrative definition of antebellum author as educator, this book traces the way these literary reformers aimed not merely at social reform through literature but also at the reform of literature itself by employing a wide array of practices - authoring, editing, publishing, and distributing printed texts - brought together under the aegis of modern, democratic education. Moral Enterprise identifies such endeavors by their dual valence as bold, reformist undertakings and economic ventures, exploring literary texts as educational commodities that might act as entry points into, and ways to tame, what Mann characterized as the "Alexandrian library" of American print culture.

Critique: A seminal work of extraordinary scholarship, Professor Pacheco detailed, documented, and erudite literary analysis is enhanced with insightful Notes, an extensive Bibliography, and a comprehensive index, making it a strongly recommended and core addition to academic library collections. It should be noted that "Moral Enterprise: Literature and Education in Antebellum America" is also available in a Multi-Media CD edition (9780814293409, $14.95).

Naked Came The Post-Postmodernist
Melvin Jules Bukiet, et al.
Arcade Publishing
c/o Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.
307 West 36th Street, 11th Floor, New York, NY 10018
9781611459098, $22.95,

Synopsis: Who killed Eric Davenport? A senior mathematics professor at Underhill College has been found dead in his office, the victim of murder. At Underhill, a small liberal arts college with a pricy tuition and a pampered student body, all of the students are close to their professors. But at least one loved Eric Davenport in a deeply inappropriate fashion. Some hated him. And then there is the faculty at war with itself. And the idiotic administration. And the twin boys who live next to campus. And what's with all those praying mantises?

Critique: "Naked Came The Post-Postmodernist: A Mystery" is the collective work of Sarah Lawrence writing class 3303 - R, taught by novelist Melvin Jules Bukiet. That alone would merit curious attention, but even better, "Naked Came The Post-Postmodernist: A Mystery" is a terrifically entertaining read from beginning to end and highly recommended for both personal reading lists and community library Mystery/Suspense collections!

Memory Power 101
W. R. Klemm
Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.
307 West 36th Street, 11th Floor, New York, NY 10018
9781616086121, $14.95, 298pp,

Synopsis: With over 200 well-researched tips and 300 scholarly references, Memory Power 101 is specifically written to help students get better grades, aid professionals in essential confidence building, and give seniors a means of taking control of senility. In "Memory Power 101" Dr. Klemm explains the different kinds of memories and how they are stored and accessed in everyday situations. He offers advice on learning how to focus and pay attention so that key pieces of information are more easily used. He talks about the importance of cues and stimuli both when learning and in recall, discusses repressed memories, Freudian slips, the roles of both exercise and sleep in building a better memory, and more. With his advice, you're bound to improve your memory of names and faces, as well as read and heard information. Keep better track of numbers and places, and even remember where you left your house keys and where you parked your car! Memory Power 101 is a unique book that can help almost anyone be more successful and happier.

Critique: A professor of neuroscience at Texas A&M University, William R. Klemm is also a gifted author able to layout a thoroughly "reader friendly" text that meets high standards of scholarship while being easily accessible for the non-specialist general reader with an interest in improving their memory at any stage of their life. Informed and informative, insightful and practical, "Memory Power 101: A Comprehensive Guide to Better Learning for Students, Businesspeople, and Seniors" will prove to be an exceptional addition to personal, professional, community, and academic library collections.

The Healing Curve
Sara Chetkin
Rainbow Bridge Books
140 Rainbow Ridge Road, Faber, VA 22938
Sgarlat Publicity
PO Box 4204, Charlottesville, VA 22995-43904
9781937907198, $16.95, 144pp,

Synopsis: "The Healing Curve: A Catalyst to Consciousness" chronicles an intensely personal journey that is both physical and spiritual. On one level, it is a book about the ardent quest for true and lasting restoration from scoliosis. The story begins in the physical, leading us across the United States, Brazil, New Zealand, and Europe . . . encountering healers, exploring cathedrals, and meditating in gas stations. But the journey often ventures inward, offering up powerful truths about our potential as human beings and how we can access this potential to create joyful and abundant lives. With each experience the seeker shares her spiritual insights as she realizes her own limitations and strives for awareness and deeper understanding of herself and her place in the world.

Critique: As thoughtful and thought-provoking as it is inspired and inspiring, Sara Chetkin's introspective commentary on her personal life experiences is a deftly written and thoroughly engaging story from beginning to end. "The Healing Curve" is very highly recommended reading, especially for those engaged on their own journey of self discovery. It should be noted that "The Healing Curve: A Catalyst to Consciousness" is also available in a Kindle edition ($7.99).

Julie Summers

Karyn's Bookshelf

Emma Tupper's Diary
Peter Dickinson, author
Kathleen Jennings, illustrator
Big Mouth House
150 Pleasant Street, MA 01027
9781618730633, $12.00,

Massachusetts imprint Big Mouth House brings back into publication this quirky 1971 tale whose best legacy may be a reminder of how much creativity once went into enlivening summer. With personal electronic devices generations away, and their father gone on business, a group of aimless, young adult siblings and their visiting teenage cousin, Emma Tupper, hatch a scheme to transform an antique submarine, hand-built by their enterprising grandfather, into a mock monster. The plan is to lure gullible tourists to their remote Scottish loch. Dickinson, unequivocally a master writer, combines lush lakeside scene setting; biting, darkly witty dialogue; frequent family spats, punctuated by wry humor, that sharply define each young person's temperament; and wistful scenes of having nothing to do but swim, hike... and use scrap fiberglass to build a monster atop an old, questionably functional, underwater vessel. That the characters spend entire afternoons preparing the contraption to launch from a rustic boat house into a loch of uncertain, potentially dangerous depths harkens to a more innocent, slower era. Nail-biting adventure ensues as the plan proves more difficult -- and more dangerous -- to pull off than anticipated. An environmental message about leaving remote places and real creatures undisturbed remains relevant today. Updated with a new cover and illustrations, this remains a great, now classic, summer read.

16 Things I Thought Were True
Janet Gurtler, author
Sourcebooks Fire
c/o Sourcebooks Inc.
1935 Brookdale Road, Suite 139, Naperville, IL 60563
9781402277979, $9.99,

In a world increasingly run on personal technology, does face time still matter? Reeling from an internet video of her gone scandalously viral, Morgan's life further skids on news that her single mother has possibly fatal heart disease and her biological father is alive and living just a few hours away. A spur-of-the-moment road trip with an eccentric co-worker and newly befriended male boss, to confront her unsuspecting father, challenges Morgan to see that what matters. What is most important -- her quantity of Twitter followers or the quality of her real-life relationships? Up-to-the-minute technology; fast-paced, tightly woven relational and plot twists; a message about communication that poignantly prods but doesn't preach; and an endearing cast of imperfect teens who are seeking their way all come together in a spot-on, highly relevant young adult read.

The War Within These Walls
Aline Sax, author
Caryl Strzelecki, illustrator
Eerdmans Books for Young Readers
2140 Oak Industrial Dr. NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49505
9780802854285, $17.00,

Powerfully written and hauntingly illustrated, this account of the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto uprising is finally translated into English after its original publication in Belgium in 2011. The facts behind The War Within These Walls are chilling history. While somewhat fictionalized, the book is based on real events and brings in real-life Jewish resistance leaders such as 23-year-old Mordechi Anielewicz, who died when the uprising's command bunker was gassed by the Nazis in the final days of the standoff. In stark black and white, Strzelecki's abundant pen and ink illustrations convey a gamut of desperation, disbelief, death, fear, pain... and hope. The text is succinct and rapid-fire, following the story of Misha, a fictional Jewish teen, as he moves into the ghetto with his family; watches those around him suffer from illness, violence, oppression and starvation; becomes friends with Mordechi Anielewicz; and decides to fight back, knowing he will likely die in the effort. The short length - just 176 pages and heavily illustrated - is just right for reluctant young adult readers. All readers, regardless of age, will come away changed. Deeply moving, literally and visually.

John Burningham, author and illustrator
Candlewick Press
99 Dover St., Somerville, MA 02144
9780763665753, $16.99,

Outwitting a bully is the way to beat them, a wise hare demonstrates in this re-telling of a classic African folk tale. For Burningham, it's also a return to a beloved picture book. In 1968, he illustrated a retelling of the story by author Letta Schatz. This time, Burningham has paired his 1968 art with his own text; it's wholly his, visually and literally. The story is about a quick-witted hare who becomes fed up with the mean tactics of an elephant and a hippopotamus. He individually challenges both to a tug-of-war, then arranges it so that each, unwittingly, is pulling at the opposite end of the same rope. After a lengthy contest, the elephant and hippopotamus realize they've been duped and are competing against each other. But by then, the hare is long gone. The classic fable is told in a simple, sometimes sharp-tongued style. The vintage, hand-drawn illustrations are earth-hued and softly blurred, punctuated by periodic bright color and elegant in their simplicity and fine details. A beautiful pairing, together at last.

Karyn L. Saemann, Reviewer

Katherine's Bookshelf

Blood Brothers
Doran Ingrham, Buck Stienke, Ken Farmer
Timber Creek Press
312 N Commerce St, Gainesville, Texas 76240
9780989122085, $16.95,

Who would have thought the Black Eagle Force writing team could keep their exciting adventures going? I did. Doran Ingram, Ken Farmer and Buck Steinke have written a new Mark Ingram spinoff entitled Blood Brothers. The plot follows Mark Ingram to Africa to help his blood brother, Rhino out of a potentially dangerous situation. Then he is 'transported' to Hong Kong in a second plotline involving illegal ivory poaching.

"'I want the main honcho...I cut off the snake's head here once...and already, there's a snake taking his place. You take me to the man in Hong Kong... I'll help you.'"

The thrills and plot twists are classic for these three BEF authors, so you will not be disappointed. You are going to have to read this book to experience the exciting twists and turns that Mark Ingram and his team go through.

Doran Ingrham's former life included the USMC, Risk Management/Close Security Specialist and extensive experience dealing with terrorists. He has appeared in commercials, TV and films. He now lives with his wife in an undisclosed location.

Buck Stienke is a retired captain and fighter pilot for the United States Air Force and a graduate from the Air Force Academy. He was a pilot for Delta Airlines for over 25 years and also executive producer of the award winning film Rockabilly Baby.

Ken Farmer served in the Marine Corps and graduated from Stephen F. Austin State University. Ken has been a professional actor, writer and director with memorable roles in Silverado, Friday Night Lights and Uncommon Valor. He continues to write and direct award-winning films, including Rockabilly Baby.

Outing the Cat Lady
Crystal Wood
Tattersall Publishing
1155 Union Circle #308194, Denton, TX 76203-5017
9780983591931, $9.95,

There are several requirements to being a Cat Lady. Crystal Wood catalogs them in her delightful book, Outing the Cat Lady, and gives you insight on why any of them would potentially make you a Cat Lady.

"In this book I have identified nine characteristics of the contemporary, cosmopolitan Cat Lady, which are thoughtfully listed below. If you can identify with only one of them, you are merely teetering in the brink of being a Cat Lady; but if you can tick all nine, you are definitely a Cat Lady, and now is the time to come Out with style."

You will know it is time to come out when you have read and reflected on the author's very astute observations as a well-known Cat Lady of the first ilk. My fear is that if I list the requirements, according to "cat-hoyle", I will spoil it for you.

This is a book that you can't miss, whether you are a cat-aholic or not. It is a tongue in cheek look at the love of all things "cat". From acquiring your cats (buying or adopting, whichever is your pleasure) to your personal romantic habits with the proverbial curious feline looking on, this book is a wealth of information to help you cope or at least accept.

The artistic endeavors in this book are very well done by Rebekah Wells. The illustrations are not only funny, but so very descriptive of living with a congregation of curious and entertaining felines.

With this being said, as a Dog Lady, but also a liker of cats, I am of the opinion that much of what has been said by Ms. Wood can be applied to the canine species (and possibly to other domesticated and semi-domesticated animals).

Crystal Wood lives in Denton, Texas with her husband and a herd of cats of uncertain lineage. She and her husband work with Texas Siamese Rescue ( transporting felines all over the United States and Canada, even all the way the Scotland. She is also the author of two well-received novels, Cut Him out in Little Stars and Fool's Joust. Her "real" job is as a freelance graphics artist and production designer.

Rebekah Wells lives with her husband in Litchfield, Staffordshire, England. When not working on her wonderful drawings, she can be found roaming the countryside, with her husband, exploring abandoned abbeys and crumbling castles, visiting celestial cathedrals and magnificent manor houses to feed her passion for history.

Katherine Boyer

Marjorie's Bookshelf

The Pluto Files - On the Road with Neil deGrasse Tyson
The Rise and Fall of American's Favorite Planet
Based on the book The Pluto Files by Neil deGrasse Tyson
PBS Distribution
ASIN: B0038LOWF6, $24.99

This DVD is from the NOVA series on PBS. It is a history of how Pluto was discovered in the 1930s by an amateur astronomer in the Midwest and how Neil deGrasse Tyson maybe inadvertently caused its downfall from planethood. Tyson is the director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York City and when he helped design the huge 3-D display of the planets circling the sun, he didn't include Pluto. Rather he relegated it to a display in the basement that shows the outer Kuiper belt at the edge of the solar system where he thought Pluto belonged. This raised a storm of protest even making the New York newspapers. So Tyson takes us on a journey through the midwest and southwest in pursuit of the relatives of the man who discovered Pluto and on to talk with the scientists who eventually decided that Pluto wasn't a planet. There was a vote, and it got voted out of the planetary system. Pluto, as it turns out is only 1500 miles wide, only half the length of the United States. A midget after the gas giants. And because it can't be seen well through our existing telescopes, it may not be round but shaped more like a potato which means it should be in the Kuiper belt with the rest of the icy rocks at the edge of the solar system. Tyson is a wonderful educator and seems to gear his programs to children, which makes science more entertaining. This is an informative DVD, suitable especially for kids.

Journey to the Edge of the Universe
Narrated by Alec Baldwin
As Seen on National Geographic Channel
Produced by Pioneer Productions for National Geographic Channel
B00IN77YRG, $19.97

The journey starts on planet Earth and continues to the very edge of our Universe. It goes to the moon, sun, all the planets with great photographs and animation, then continues further and further out. Most of the time seems to be spent just getting out of our solar system but then it speeds up to the end. From Earth to the moon is 250,000 or three days by spacecraft. Because there is no atmosphere on the moon, Neil Armstrong's foot prints are still there. It's 20 million miles to Venus, very similar in size and gravity to Earth but its atmosphere is choking with carbon dioxide and could be Earth's future, according to narrator Alec Baldwin. (The script for the journey is pretty dramatic at times and uses emotionally loaded words to scare us.) We pass Mercury that has a powerful gravitational pull for a planet of its size. Its core is iron with a thin mantle. It may be a remnant of a larger planet. We arrive at the Sun in which one million Earths would fit. Its sunspots are black and massive, and some could fit 20 Earths. We jump to Mars and Alec speculates it could be Earth's ancestral home. We pass through the asteroid belt which Alec says are the birth certificates of our solar system because we have dated the ones that crashed into Earth. On to Jupiter which is all gas. Alec calls it a monster that would fit all the other planets inside. The red spot is an electric storm that has been raging three hundred years. On to Saturn whose rings are made up of the remnants of a moon. It is a gas ball that would float on water. We explore its moon, Titan. Neptune is next which is covered in methane gas. A storm ranges as big as Earth. It has ferocious winds. We pass Pluto and more frozen worlds, and we're 8 billion miles from Earth. Voyager I is 10 billion miles from home. Now we are 5 trillion miles from home and in interstellar space. Accelerating we reach Alpha Centauri, first solar system beyond ours. Miles become meaningless. We now measure in light years. Light travels 6 trillion miles a year. Twenty light years from Earth is star Gliza 581, same age as our sun. Whether we encounter life out this far is mere speculation. From here on out it is as if the Earth never existed. Alec says the universe is too bizarre and startling for us to know what lies ahead. We pass Orion's dark cloud which is a vast star factory. One wonders how many stars have come and gone. Then we get to how the universe began. We come to the Crab Nebula and go pass a pulsar star. Alec says we come to something malevolent, a black hole. (I wonder how he knows.) No light can escape a black hole. He says we are at the edge of human understanding. Maybe the whole universe is inside a black hole. He says the more we see the less we know. And we are still in the Milky Way Galaxy. We look back. Who would miss us in all this when we are gone? We speculate in all these stars some must be capable of supporting life. There could be millions of civilizations just in our own galaxy. Beyond the Milky Way is intergalactic space. No horizon, just millions of galaxies and dark matter. Alec decides we are the universe and the universe is in us. Now we're at the Andromeda Galaxy. The further in space, the further back in time we go. 200 billion light years from home we close in on the edge of the universe. Now we see a quasar, a swirling caldron of super heated gas. It's as heavy as a billion suns. The galaxies look like primitive plankton. They are disappearing and we're going back before the stars were born and back to when the universe was born in the big bang. Everything that ever happens follows from this moment. But we still don't know what sparked it. And our journey ends. This DVD is educational, if overly dramatic at times, and suitable for all age groups.

The Universe - an amazing journey from the Sun to the most distant galaxies.
produced by Tim Tully
Universe Productions.
B00007H24F, $17.99

This journey from the Sun to distant galaxies is presented courtesy of the lenses of three telescopes: the Hubble, SOHO (Solar and Heliospheric Observatory), and TRACE (Transition Region And Coronal Explorer). The advantage of viewing space from telescopes in orbit is that there is no interference from Earth's atmosphere. The journey begins with the Sun and fabulous video and still photos for the sun's broiling surface. The telescopes used coated mirrors and convert images to visible photos. We learn about the sun, sunspots, coronal mass ejections, solar winds and solar flares. The next section of the journey is the planets. Some highlights are: Mercury has the most variable temperatures. Venus is covered with opaque, poisonous clouds. Earth's atmosphere looks very thin from space. Mars has a massive cyclonic storm over its north pole. Jupiter has a giant red spot that is a massive storm. Saturn experiences seasonal changes like Earth because the axis is tilted. Uranus looks like a green blob. Neptune has stormy weather, and Pluto got demoted as a planet. We travel beyond the solar system and experience our galaxy, the Milky Way, which we can see overhead at night. We are actually viewing the edge of the galaxy. Earth lies in a sparsely populated section of the Milky Way. We go through globular clusters, star clouds, nebulae, and stars so distant, it boggles the mind. One realizes that our galaxy is made of mostly of stars in various life stages. The photos from here on are from Hubble which has different cameras capable of photographing with different filters. The numbers like 1,000,000,000 miles an hour, 25,000 light years away, a surface temperature of 10,000 degrees Celsius, 3 million light year cluster, 200 miles per second, 40 million light years form Earth are difficult for the human mind to fathom. We travel beyond the Milky Way with endless photos of more galaxies in shapes, sizes, and colors that dazzle. There are near galaxies - less than 100 million light years and remote galaxies - over 100 million light years form Earth. Some are so unimaginably far that the light was emitted a billion years ago. The most awe inspiring for me was the photo named "Hubble Deep Field" that is dotted with galaxies at the far reaches of time. The photography and narration is superb in this highly educational DVD, suitable for all ages. One has a sense upon ending of how small we really are in the greater scheme of things.

Marjorie Thelen, Reviewer

Mason's Bookshelf

Gardens Of Fire: An Investigative Memoir
Robert Kenny
UWA Publishing
c/o International Specialized Book Services
920 Northeast 58th Avenue, Suite 300, Portland, OR 97213
9781742585109, $29.99, 272pp,

Synopsis: In 2009, as the Black Saturday wildfires swept through the state of Victoria, Australia, writer and historian Robert Kenny defended his home in Redesdale. His fire plan was sound and he was prepared. But, the reality of the fire was more ferocious and more unpredictable than he could have imagined. By the end of the day, Kenny's house and the life contained within were gone. The years that followed were marked by grieving, recovering, and eventually rebuilding - a process starkly framed by the choice between remembering and forgetting. "Gardens Of Fire: An Investigative Memoir" is a riveting story of personal loss, woven with intellectual and historical investigations of: fire in the Australian landscape; mythologies of fire; and ideas of loss, home, and community. Offering something of value for the victims of wildfires, this personal account is stimulating writing, edged with beauty, grief, and hope.

Critique: As articulate as he is candid, Robert Kenny's autobiography is a compelling read from first page to last. "Gardens Of Fire: An Investigative Memoir" is an extraordinary account of extraordinary events, making it highly recommended for both personal reading lists and community library Contemporary Biography collections.

The Merde Factor
Stephen Clark
c/o Ulverscroft Large Print (USA), Inc.
PO Box 1230, West Seneca, NY 14224-1230
9781444818024, $35.50, 360pp,

Synopsis: Englishman Paul West is living the Parisian dream, and doing his best not to annoy the French. But just recently, things have been going TRES wrong. His apartment is so small, he has to cut his baguette in two to fit it into the kitchen. His research into authentic French cuisine is about to cause a national strike. His Parisian business partner is determined to close their English tea room. And his ex-girlfriend seems to be stalking him. Threatened with eviction, unemployment and bankruptcy, Paul realizes that the MERDE really is about to hit the fan...

Critique: A wonderfully entertaining novel from first page to last, "The Merde Factor" ably demonstrates and definitively documents the impressive narrative skills of author Stephen Clark. This large print edition is especially to be recommended for community library collections.

The Shadows Of Owls
John Keeble
University of Washington Press
PO Box 50096, Seattle, WA 98145-5096
9780295993157, $28.95, 460pp,

Synopsis: In a literary thriller about science, power, and the lives of ordinary people, "The Shadows Of Owls" is the story of a woman whose passion for her work puts herself and her family at serious risk. Kate DeShazer is a marine biologist whose research threatens the construction of an oil pipeline in Alaska's Chukchi Sea. A group of extremists, hired by an international petroleum conglomerate, intimidate her, steal her records, and leave her fighting for her life. Her husband Jack and son Travis are pulled into a web of international intrigue and violence as they try to save her.

Critique: Professor Emeritus of Creative Writing at Eastern Washington University, John Keeble is himself a master wordsmith with a gift of narrative fiction and the creation of identifiable and memorable characters. A solid entertainment from beginning to end, "The Shadow Of Owls" is highly recommended for both personal reading lists and community library contemporary fiction collections. It should be noted that "The Shadow Of Owls" is also available in a Kindle edition ($15.63).

Understanding How Components Fail: 3rd Edition
Donald J. Wulpi
ASM International
9639 Kinsman Road
Materials Park, OH 44073-0002
9781627080149, $169.00, 300pp,

Synopsis: One of the first books of its kind and written specifically for engineers and technicians, this fully updated and significantly expanded third edition preserves the previous editions focusing on the metallurgical and materials evaluation for failure mode identification. Comprehensive information covering the basic principles and practices are clearly explained. Recent technical knowledge and analysis tools are added: Addition of fatigue striation counting, modeling, and crack rate prediction, Addition of Microbiologically Influenced Corrosion (MIC) technology, and elevated temperature updates.

Critique: Authoritative, practical, comprehensive, detailed, deftly written and expertly presented, "Understanding How Components Fail" is enhanced with the inclusion of a glossary and a comprehensive index, making it ideal as a technical college Engineering Studies curriculum supplemental textbook and a critically important professional reference. This new edition of "Understanding How Components Fail" should be considered as a core part of professional, academic, and technical college collections.

Sam McKegney
University of Manitoba Press
301 St. John's College, Winnipeg, MB, Canada, R3T 2M5
9781611861297, $29.95, 224pp,

Synopsis: Between October 2010 and May 2013, Sam McKegney conducted interviews with leading Indigenous artists, critics, activists, and elders on the subject of Indigenous manhood. In offices, kitchens, and coffee shops, and once in a car driving down the 401, McKegney and his participants tackled crucial questions about masculine self-worth and how to foster balanced and empowered gender relations. Masculindians captures twenty of these conversations in a volume that is intensely personal, yet speaks across generations, geography, and gender boundaries. As varied as their speakers, the discussions range from culture, history, and world view to gender theory, artistic representations, and activist interventions. They speak of possibility and strength, of beauty and vulnerability. They speak of sensuality, eroticism, and warriorhood, and of the corrosive influence of shame, racism, and violence. Firmly grounding Indigenous continuance in sacred landscapes, interpersonal reciprocity, and relations with other-than-human kin, these conversations honor and embolden the generative potential of healthy Indigenous masulinities.

Critique: A work of impressive and seminal scholarship by Sam McKegney (Associate Professor of English and Cultural Studies at Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada), "Masculindians: Conversations about Indigenous Manhood" is as informed and informative and it is thoughtful and articulate. Comprised of twenty conversation-based articles, this insightful work is strongly recommended, especially for academic library Native American Studies reference collections and supplemental reading lists. It should be noted that "Masculindians: Conversations about Indigenous Manhood" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

Deadly Censorship
James Lowell Underwood
University of South Carolina Press
718 Devine Street, Columbia, SC 29208
9781611172997, $39.95, 328pp,

Synopsis: On January 15, 1903, South Carolina lieutenant governor James H. Tillman shot and killed Narciso G. Gonzales, editor of South Carolina's most powerful newspaper, the State. Blaming Gonzales's stinging editorials for his loss of the 1902 gubernatorial race, Tillman shot Gonzales to avenge the defeat and redeem his "honor" and his reputation as a man who took bold, masculine action in the face of an insult. The result was an epic murder trial testing the premise that biting editorials were a legitimate exercise of freedom of the press or an abuse that justified killing as a form of self-defense. "Deadly Censorship: Murder, Honor, and Freedom of the Press" is courtroom drama and a true story.

Critique: A fascinating, detailed, comprehensive, documented, deftly written account, "Deadly Censorship: Murder, Honor, and Freedom of the Press" by James Lowell Underwood (Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Constitutional Law, University of South Carolina School of Law) is an impressively presented work of seminal scholarship that is especially recommended for academic library20th Century American Judicial History reference collections. It should be noted that "Deadly Censorship: Murder, Honor, and Freedom of the Press" is also available in a Kindle edition ($23.99).

Principles of Equity: Henry Home, Lord Kames
Michael Lobban, editor
Liberty Fund, Inc.
8335 Allison Pointe Trail, Indianapolis, IN 46250
9780865976153, $24.00, 680 pp,

Synopsis: Henry Home, Lord Kames (1696 - 1782), one of the leaders of the Scottish Enlightenment, was a judge in the supreme courts of Scotland and wrote extensively on morals, religion, education, aesthetics, history, political economy, and law, including natural law. His most distinctive contribution came through his works on the nature of law, where he sought to combine a philosophical approach with an empirical history of legal evolution. He embodied the complete "Enlightenment man", being concerned with the full spectrum of human knowledge and its social use. However, as a lawyer and, after 1752, as a judge on the Court of Session in Edinburgh, he made many of his most distinctive contributions through his works on the nature of law and legal development. Principles of Equity, first published in 1760, is considered his most lasting contribution to jurisprudence and is still cited. In his jurisprudence, Kames specifically sought to explain the distinction between the nature of equity and common law and to address related questions, such as whether equity should be bound by rules and whether there should be separate courts of law and equity.

Beginning with a general introduction on the rise and nature of equity, "Principles of Equity" is divided into three books. The first two, "theoretical," books examine the powers of a court of equity as derived from justice and from utility, the two great principles Kames felt governed equity. The third book aims to be more practical, showing the application of these powers to several subjects, such as bankrupts. "Principles of Equity" is significant as an example of the approach of an Enlightenment thinker to practical legal questions and as an early attempt to reduce law to principles. There is evidence that this book was well known in the formative years of the United States and that both Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson were familiar with Kames's treatise.

Critique: The newest entry in Liberty Fund's outstanding 'Natural Law and Enlightenment Classics' series, "Principles of Equity: Henry Home, Lord Kames", expertly edited and enhanced with an informed and informative introduction by Michael Lobban, is a very highly recommended and core addition to academic library collections. It should be noted that "Principles of Equity: Henry Home, Lord Kames" is also available in a Kindle edition ($5.99).

Wingbeats and Heartbeats
Dave Books
University of Wisconsin Press
1930 Monroe Street, 3rd Floor
Madison, WI 53711-2059
9780299294700, $21.95, 228pp,

Synopsis: Wingbeats and Heartbeats is a wingshooter's odyssey to the wild places where, at the end of the day, the companionship of faithful gun dogs and good friends matters more than a bulging game bag. In this sometimes humorous and sometimes poignant collection of essays, Dave Books celebrates a time-honored connection to the land and the hard-earned hunting rewards of an outdoor life. Through these essays, readers tag along on adventures in the forests of Wisconsin and Minnesota, the fields of Iowa and North Dakota, the prairies of eastern Montana and Nebraska, the mountains of western Montana and Idaho, and the deserts of Arizona. Books also writes of the game birds that hunters pursue and admire: grouse, quail, woodcock, doves, chukars, Hungarian partridge, and waterfowl. A heartfelt tribute to the freedom and magic of the hunt, Wingbeats and Heartbeats is a book that has much to say about work and fun, success and failure, and the sights, sounds, and smells of a day afield.

Critique: It is no surprise that Dave Books is an effective and skillful storyteller. He has won awards for his writing in a number of hunting/fishing oriented publications over the past forty years and is the former editor of 'Montana Outdoors'. "Wingbeats and Heartbeats: Essays on Game Birds, Gun Dogs, and Days Afield" is outstanding and entertaining reading for hunting enthusiasts. Very highly recommended for community library Sports and Nature Studies collections, it should be noted that "Wingbeats and Heartbeats: Essays on Game Birds, Gun Dogs, and Days Afield" is also available in a Kindle edition ($10.49).

Glenn Ogura
iUniverse, Inc.
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300, Bloomington, IN 47403
The Barrett Company (publicity)
12021 Wilshire Blve, Suite 600, Los Angeles, CA 90025
9781475988550, $25.95, 486pp,

Synopsis: Young idealist Zack Penny usually gets to work early to take in the surroundings and breathe in the crisp, mechanically filtered air, knowing that one day his own company will be very different from Display Technik. As he follows the vision of his highly successful, results-at-all-costs mentor and C.E.O. Allen Henley, Zack quietly nurtures a big dream-to create a new company of high morals and values, one that will revolutionize the world through the creation of wallpaper-thin displays to completely surround a viewer. That dream is set into motion one morning when he realizes an important paper has been taken from his office. Moments later, Zack learns someone has turned him in. After his boss, who also happens to be the father of his girlfriend, Mary Anne, gives him one last chance to pledge his loyalty, Zack resigns. Determined to realize his vision, he soon steps into his new facility with high hopes and no idea that Henley has already put a plan into action with the intent of systematically destroying Zack, his perfect company, and, most of all, the relationship between Zack and Mary Anne, who is unwittingly caught in the cross-fire. In this fast-paced thriller, a young entrepreneur faces moral dilemmas in Silicon Valley, a place where the inner working of the legal system favors the aggressor.

Critique: With this major contemporary novel (and one that could well and accurately be inspired by today's Wall Street scandal stories), author Glenn Ogura demonstrates a rich woven and adroitly capable storytelling talent that is ideal for suspense laden thrillers that engage the readers total attention from beginning to end. Very highly recommended reading, "Startup" would prove an enduringly popular addition to personal reading lists and community library collections.

Through a Venetian Looking Glass: A Novel Of Remembrances
Hans Peter Braendlin
Fithian Press
c/o Daniel & Daniel Publishers
PO Box 2790, McKinleyville, CA 95519
9781564745514, $15.95, 288pp,

Synopsis: Jean-Pierre Petitfeu and his wife, Claire, have spent five days each year in Venice, ever since they lost their ten-year-old son in a boating accident. Each year they take their walks and eat in their favorite restaurants, swept away again and again by the beauty and history of Venice. On the first day of their twelfth visit, Jean-Pierre discovers, hidden behind the cornice of a wall in their room, an old manuscript, the memoir of a man named Giovanni Pietro Pofoco, who lived in Venice at the turn of the sixteenth century. Rich with death and passion, Pofoco's memoir reads like an adventure story full of sex and violence, with idealism at war with the corrupt establishment. Presumably Pofoco died in the early fifteen hundreds, although as we read more of this remarkable story, we may come to doubt that he died at all.

Critique: A superbly crafted from beginning to end, "Through a Venetian Looking Glass" is an engaging and sophisticated work that clearly documents Hans Peter Braendlin as an author of imaginative and complex storytelling talents who is able to attract his reader's total attention from first page to last. "Through a Venetian Looking Glass" is very highly recommended for personal reading lists and community library collections.

Jack Mason

Paul's Bookshelf

Uncharted: Big Data as a Lens on Human Culture
Erez Aiden and Jean-Baptiste Michel
Riverhead Books
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, New York NY 10014
9781594487453, $27.95,

Everyone has heard of Big Data; huge amounts of information, usually involving computers or the Internet. Is there a cultural or historical equivalent of Big Data?

Yes, and it comes from Google's intention to digitize all the world's books (or, at least, a significant portion of them). The authors created an algorithm that would search all those books for certain words. On a chart, it will show, for instance, how many times, per million words, the name "Abraham Lincoln" was used, or "World War II." It can also be used to compare the historical use of pairs of words, like Satan/Santa, evolution/DNA, men/women, war/peace, tea/coffee or old school/new school. It can be found at ("Possibly the greatest time-waster in the history of the Internet." - Mother Jones magazine). Google needed convincing that this was a good idea, that it would not open them up to millions of copyright infringement lawsuits.

Using this algorithm, it is possible to look at things like historical attempts at censorship. It can range from Nazi attempts to remove Jewish artists like Marc Chagall from the German cultural landscape, to the 1950's Hollywood Blacklist. A person can also look at how long a certain word or phrase stays in the cultural memory. For instance, "Korean war" has a huge jump in usage in the 1960's, then an equally huge drop in usage soon after, down to its present level of almost nothing.

The book also looks at the evolution of the English language. If we have pairs of words like drive/drove, what happened to thrive/throve? Also, what happened to words like burnt, learnt and dwelt? It all has to do with irregular verbs, which change over time.

This is a fascinating book, but it will take some effort on the part of the reader. It's very well done, and it gives the reader the chance to do their own historical research.

Remembering Love
Nadine Christian
Eternal Press
c/o Damnation Books LLC
P.O. Box 3931, Santa Rosa CA 95402-9998
9781615728558, $18.25,

This is a tale about a woman returning to her birthplace after many years, love and family secrets.

Holly returns to Pitcairn Island after spending much of her life in a New Zealand foster home. A native of the island, her parents died in a murder/suicide when she was a child. (Pitcairn Island is in the South Pacific. The nearest recognizable land mass is New Zealand. The island's claim to fame is because of the story, and the movie, "Mutiny on the Bounty." The only way on or off the island is to get a ride on a supply ship that visits the island four times a year.)

Holly runs into Jack, her childhood friend from when she lived on the island. The attraction is mutual and instant. The people on the island (the total population is around 60) seem to thrive on gossip; the worst offender is Masie, an older woman who implies that Celeste, Holly's mother, may have been unfaithful.

Just before Holly and Jack are ready to take their relationship to the next level, a huge and sudden obstacle threatens to destroy it. Holly's search for answers is complicated by learning that soon after Celeste died, Masie intentionally burned all of her things. Does Holly find out the truth about her mother? Do Holly and Jack get back together?

Not being a romance reader, I was ready to not like this book, but I was pleasantly surprised. It moves very easily, and it is set in an exotic part of the world (the author lives on Pitcairn Island). It is recommended for everyone, especially those who don't normally read romance stories.

Paul Lappen, Reviewer

Sandra's Bookshelf

How You Leave Texas
Alana Cash
Hacienda Press
9780970392299, $8.00,

I have reviewed another book by this author (Tom's Wife) so I had a sense of style to begin with. This book did not disappointment me. The book has four different stories in one book. Each story has a woman who leaves TX for different reasons. Most leave to try and capture their elusive dream.

I really wish two stories were made into books. They left you wondering what was next for the character. To me that is good story telling. The story holds you and you never want it to end. It does not get any better for a book.

Rated PG

I Can Do It
Dana Lehman
Lehman Publishing
105997 Hough Road,. Allentown, Michigan 48002
9780979268694, $16.95,

Once again the illustrator draws your eyes to this book. Ms. Judy Lehman Illustrations are full of color and fun. Once you pick up the book the author's story keep you reading. I love everything about this book and the lessons a child can learn. To keep kids focused on each page, the author has different animals hidden so children can find them.

This book teaches kids about believing in themselves. It is reinforced by questions the author asks. This book is number three in a series. All of the books I gave a five star rating. I highly recommend this book. Your kids will love it.

Rated G

Sandra Heptinstall

Susan's Bookshelf

My Grandfather's Pants
Tegon Maus
Tirgearr Publishing
B00HZH5A7O, $3.99

Genre: Contemporary/Fantasy

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

The first thing I can remember writing was for her. For the life of me I can't remember what it was about... something about dust bunnies under the bed and monsters in my closet. It must have been pretty good because she married me shortly after that. I spent a good number of years after inventing games and prototypes for a variety of ideas before I got back to writing.

It wasn't a deliberate conscious thought, it was more of a stepping stone. My wife and I had joined a dream interpret group and we were encouraged to write down our dreams as they occurred. "Be as detailed as you can," we were told.

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

About the book: Jack Laskin is an ordinary man. More than ordinary according to some. Running the family hardware store and a life that would bore a snail, nothing exciting ever seems to happen to him.

Then, at his mother's urging, he tries on a pair of his late grandfather's old pants and everything changes -- most importantly his emerging love life. It's not long before his mother and her meddling friends get involved.

When an old friend of his grandfather's tells Jack he has something she wants, his new-found life takes another turn. Having no idea what he is supposed to have, Jack looks to his girlfriend, Connie, and her brother, Robert, for help.

In the end, the answers will all be found in his 'Grandfather's Pants'.

Great fun to read.

Jack Laskin is just an ordinary man; he has a girlfriend, looks after his mother and runs the family hardware store. When, one day his mother gives him a pair of his grandfather's pants, he doesn't really want them, but she insists they'll be perfect for him.

Being a good son, Jack dutifully wears them, then he discovers things change, suddenly those around him treat him differently, it's almost as if he's become someone else...

As the magic continues, he discovers family secrets beyond belief, and when a ghosts from the past come wriggling out of the woodwork, he find himself committed to solving a mystery which spans generations.

This story is fantastic! It is totally different to anything I have read before. As the storyline unfolds, it is sexy, humorous and very entertaining - absolutely brilliant!

Available in Kindle format from

The Treebobs and the Dizzy Broomsticks
Declan Harney
Tales4All Limited
B00A44447W, $3.39

About the book: Mischief and magic abound when the two wicked witches of the magical forest, Badlot Barbara and Rotten Rena, decide to open up their very own broomstick shop in the middle of the forest. Of course witches from miles around pay a visit and cause mayhem while test driving their broomsticks. However, the Treebobs come up with a most cunning plan to put the two wicked witches out of business with quite dizzying results.

Ever wondered how broomsticks fly - find out in this magical story.

When the peace of the forest is broken by the sound of tree saws and evil cackling, Treebob Bluebell and two fairies are sent to discover what is happening.

In a clearing, they find Rotten Rena and her cousin Badlot Barbara waving their wands and cackling with laughter as giant saws move through the air cutting down trees and scaring all the tree dwelling animals.

It's not long before the Treebobs and fairies find out what they are doing, posters start appearing for a broomstick shop. As witches arrive from near and far, and try out broomsticks, the forest dwellers become very unhappy and they form an action committee, but what can it do?

Well, have you ever wondered what magic makes broomsticks fly? You can discover the secret in this story, and then find out if Rotten Rena and Badlot Barbara's plans can be thwarted, or is the forest doomed to the sound of witches zooming around, cackling with laughter, as they try out broomsticks?

A brilliantly entertaining story, which is wonderfully narrated by Lindsay Abbott.

Available from:
the Tales4All website as an Audio CD or for MP3: as an Audiobook:

In Paperback:


also from: as an Audiobook download:

Through These Doors - The Manoir at Bout L'Abbe
Diane Condon-Boutier
Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
B008ND8742, $4.99

Genre: Historical,France,WW2,Romance

About Diane Condon-Boutier: Diane Condon-Boutier was born in Bay City, Michigan, in 1961. Youngest daughter of a junk food factory shipping manager and a librarian, her favorite activity to this day, is reading a book while eating potato chips. Earning a B.A. from the University of Central Florida in Orlando, in French language studies, history and culture left Diane with a penchant for long walks on sunny beaches and crazy rollercoaster rides in theme parks animated by very large mice.Thus, it is not surprising that an internship to France aiming to perfect the art of French slang resulted in an undying love for the country itself and all things French. Diane calls Normandy her home today. She lives in the countryside outside the lovely port city of Dieppe, where she revels in a daily dose of history and the unique culture the French take for granted.She shares a creaky old house with a few too many spiders and two cats, sometimes harboring one or the other of her adult daughters: Rebecca and Abigail. Their home, named "Le Clos du Herisson" or in English: "Hedgehog Close" is available for rental under a B&B basis.

These rooms are mostly spider free.Diane is also the author of a well followed travel website:, as well as several short stories, one of which was published in the Goodreads anthology "Menage a Twenty".Her debut historical novel: "Through These Doors, the Manoir at Bout L'Abbe" tells of lives spent in her part of Normandy, from contemporary times back through the pages of history to the Middle Ages. It is the first in a series.

About the book: If these old walls could talk, would you listen? When a house has a story to tell, historical events to relate and lives to share, it should be given a voice; especially when the house is French and possesses a certain "je ne sais quoi".

"Through These Doors: the Manoir at Bout L'Abbe" tells of the German occupation of Normandy during WWII and the scars left on their unwilling French hosts. A fragile coexistence between the factions struggling for control of Normandy is born, while internal conflicts between certain German officers and their Nazi leaders complicate the impossible relationship between a young French girl and the soldier she finds herself drawn to.

It also speaks of Debra, the American woman who convinces her French husband to buy the manor house in the 1980's. She finds herself listening to whispers of previous occupants and being accused of insanity because of it. Still, the house will not be silent and Debra submits to its dubious support as her stormy relationship unfolds.

Those of us, who love old houses, will admit to standing in them, and wondering what tales the house could tell - if only it were possible.

This story, unusually, does just that, and the property in question is the Manoir at Bout L'Abbe in Normandy, France. A majestic building like this, set in its own grounds, would have many tales to tell, for such an imposing building, in times gone by, would need regular maintenance, staff to look after its grounds and animals, indeed, such a property would have supported, at one time, many workers.

The story begins in 1987, when young American, Debra, moves into the house with her French husband Phillippe. The house welcomes the happy newlyweds and in time children, however, over the years, things change with unforeseeable consequences...

However, a house of this age can look back a lot further than that, and earlier in the 20th Century, it had been occupied by German troops in WW2. In a fly on the wall way, the house gives the reader a fascinating glimpse into life in wartime France and through the lives of the Fournier family, we have a chance to perhaps understand a little of the emotional strains of war on the French.

The author has brilliantly described the beauty of the French countryside and its wonderful buildings. Through her historical research and attention to detail, she has produced a very interesting and totally absorbing book. Whether you are interested in France, the war, history, or just want to read a good story, I can thoroughly recommend this book.

Available from in Paperback

and Kindle format in Kindle format

and in Paperback

John Needham
B00IAZX3Y2, $6.56,

Genre: Memoirs

About the book: When Jay Harding is given his grandmother June's diary after her death he discovers a vivid picture depicting one Englishwoman's life from childhood during the dark times of wartime Britain up to the present day. But he's already learned dark secrets. Prior to her passing his grandmother had told him the story of her forebears beginning in the early optimistic years of the twentieth century, before the world was torn apart by the cataclysm of the first terrible 'war to end all wars.' That account gave testimony to shocking abuse, institutional cruelty and tragedy. Now he reads on . . .

As Jay journeys through the rich tapestry of his family history we find that in many ways it's the reader's own. For every family has a story to be told. Intertwined threads of earlier lives influence who we become. Jay sees his ancestors' histories in handwritten pages yellowed with age; in sepia and black-and-white pictures dulled by time; in a poignant remembrance of lost love in a silver frame; has heard it told in his grandmother's voice, tremulous in her decline. In exploring his forebears' histories, Jay finds the rich echoes of the past resonating with his love-blessed present, inspiring him to meet the future.

Several themes run in parallel through this rich novel: the repercussions of sexual abuse, the continuum of female sexual reproduction, the woman's view of fighting wars and running the world and the changing social mores throughout the twentieth century. It is a compelling social and family history; that of so many families of the last one-hundred-and-five years.

This story starts with Jay, standing in the church at the funeral of his Grandmother, June. After the wake, his Granddad offers him the opportunity to read his Grandmother's diaries, which she has kept since she was a child.

That night, Jay and his partner Helen snuggle up together and open one of the journals....

As they begin turning the pages, they find themselves drawn back through the years to June's childhood. But then another, parallel narrative appears: we are taken back two more generations to begin with June's own grandmother. The story spans 105 years, and follows generations of the same family, down the female line, starting with Juniper, an attractive young woman who becomes a Governess in 1906. Her life, like so many others was moulded by circumstances beyond her control. When World War 1 started, everyone, including her boyfriend was sure it would be over by Christmas, but unfortunately, as we know it was not, and our glimpse into her life gives a wonderful insight into what living before, during and after the First World War was really like.

As the story progresses, I found it fascinating to read about the changes in attitudes, fashions and morals throughout the 20th and into the 21st Century.

At the end there is the opportunity to sample the authors debut novel 'Convergence', which is about Martin, one of the characters in this book.

This, in my opinion would make a good book for students of Modern History to read, or anyone interested in family life in the 20th and 21st Century. Within its pages you will find it all, love, life, birth death, the full gamut of emotions. At the very end there is a satisfying, surprise plot twist.

Available at in Kindle format

Engine 24: Fire Stories 3
Joe Corso
Black Horse Publishing
B00I9GEJO0, $3.07, 62 Pages,

Genre: Memoirs,action

About Joe Corso: I grew up in Queens,New York and my motivation to write came from my wish to help my grandchildren pay for their college education. So far I've completed 13 novels and a number of short stories including my popular 'ENGINE 24 FIRE STORIES' trilogy and I've just finished the 5th installment in the 'TIME PORTAL' series.
I'm just completed 'LAFITTE'S TREASURE' and then I plan to revisit 'THE STARLIGHT CLUB 5 which I shelved about a year ago, When that book is finished I will write a sequel to my western 'THE ADVENTURES OF THE LONE JACK KID', titled 'THE RETURN OF THE LONE JACK KID'.


THE STARLIGHT CLUB won the silver in the 2012 eLit contest in the 'TRUE CRIME' category'. In 2013 the book won HONORABLE MENTION in the 'HISTORICAL FICTION' category'.

THE LONE JACK KID won 'FINALIST' in the 2013 Readers Favorite in the 'WESTERN' category.

My short story 'FIRE: BOX 598' won the BRONZE in the 2013 Readers Favorite contest in the 'HISTORICAL NON FICTION category'.

Go figure. If I would have known that I could write a good story. I would have started writing a half century ago.

About the book: The final book in the Engine 24 Fire Stories trilogy focuses on the more turbulent times that firefighters had to endure in New York City during the years 1963 to 1975.

In this book, the era of Kennedy's assassination, race riots, and looting are related through the eyes of a NYC firefighter. Joe Corso describes where he was and what the reactions of the firemen and officers were the day that President Kennedy was killed.

The author describes what it felt like to be detailed to La Casa Grande - "The Big House."

Engine 82 was one of the busiest fire companies in the world during the race riots of the 60s. It was located in the Fort Apache section of the Bronx - and the tenseness of always having to be on guard in a hostile environment in which those men had to work is shared in gritty detail.

Corso writes of how one good firefighter lost and then regained his nerve; he writes of fires long forgotten and how, over the last 50 years, our moral codes have changed, especially pertaining to one fire that happened many years ago on Bedford Street in the West Village.

I have loved reading the previous Engine 24 Fire Stories series of books and couldn't wait to start this one. The author Joe Corso is a retired New York fire fighter and his memories of the different incidents he has attended over the years as part of the Engine 24 crew are compulsive reading.

As Joe tells his stories, he sets the scene beautifully, taking the reader with him through memory lane deep into blazing buildings and dangerous situations. In this book, we stand alongside him as he watches the looting and race riots of yester years, and discovers some of the mysterious and secret places, which exists below New York City. Through one of the stories we are reminded how much morals have changed in current years and, wait by the phone with him, years later, as with bated breath, he hears the fate of his old company in 9/11.

Reading these books you quickly discover that to be a fire fighter, you not only have to be incredibly brave, you also have to have absolute faith in your comrades and know you can trust fellow crew members literally with your life. These men form deep bonds of friendships, which often last a lifetime and become a family, close, and supportive of each other.

Telling a good story is an art, and to be able to write that story as well is a real gift, the author Joe Corso definitely talented beyond words.

Susan Keefe, Reviewer

Teri's Bookshelf

Grey Howl
Clea Simon
Severn House
110 East 59th Street, 22th Fl., New York, NY 10022
9780727883469, $27.95,

For Dulcie Schwartz, working on her final thesis at Cambridge University while balancing her school schedule with her private life is challenging, especially with a boyfriend who works night. Her boyfriend, Chris, has finally changed his schedule from working nights to days and hopefully will be seeing Dulcie more frequently now. Computer technicians, especially competent ones, are frequently needed at all hours, especially at universities.

Cambridge is hosting this year's prestigious ELLA conference, the Association of English Language Literature Academics which is a big deal since usually the conference is in exotic places such as Dubai and Oxford. Dulcie feels privileged to be presenting her paper on the genealogy of a Gothic novelist. She realizes that she has not earned fame or notoriety in the field yet, but this is a phenomenal opportunity and the first major step in her chosen career.

Martin Thorpe is currently the acting head of the department and the keynote speaker. Since the university is also interviewing for this permanent position, he is extremely nervous and relies on Dulcie to be the university liaison keeping all the behind the scenes planning moving smoothly. The university is planning on interviewing certain presenters while visiting Cambridge for the conference for this cherished position. Being that this is a field known for its rivalry among the members, the competition will be fierce. Would someone purposefully sabotage another person to gain favor with the university?

The conference is be using the Science Center. Since there will be little use of the building since this is the time between classes and final exams, the use of this building's large lecture hall and numerous classrooms are perfect. However someone in facilities maintenance thought this would be the perfect time to update the plumbing. They hope of have most of the restrooms available when the conference opens.

Dulcie has an unusual talent. She can communicate with certain cats with the guidance of a deceased much-loved pet, Mr. Grey. His insight guides her where humans cannot begin to comprehend.

As one visiting professor is setting up her presentation, a disaster occurs. Her presentation has disappeared. It was on her computer but now there is no trace of it. Can Chris recover the presentation? Was the presentation ever on the computer? Is this a tactic? Where is the missing professor? Are there unknown relationships between the presenters? Is he avoiding Dulcie or is he purposefully hiding? Why?

Clea Simon currently has three series of cat mysteries. So far, there are four novels featuring Theda Krakow and three with Pru Marlowe. Grey Howl is the seventh in this Dulcie Schwartz series following Shades of Grey, Grey Matters, Grey Zone, Grey Expectations, True Grey, and Grey Dawn. She currently resides in Cambridge, Massachusetts working on her novels and contributing to various publications with her husband who is writer, Jon S. Garelick.

Grey Howl is a fun, fast-paced mystery into the world of academic literature conferences. Some of the conferences probably have more drama than the novels discussed. The humor with Mr. Grey makes the reading light but with the real world of graduate classes at any major university.

I look forward to reading more of these delightfully fun mysteries by Clea Simon.

A Visit from Santa Clops or The Fright Before Christmas
Gig Wailgum, author and illustrator
Wailgum Art Yarns
Charleston, North Carolina
9780985078034, $9.99,

"Twas the night before Christmas and all through the home," is the beginning of this slightly unconventional Christmas tale. What could possibly rhyme with home that could set the foundation of this traditional poem?

Did you ever think about the rest of the family who had Saint Nicholas. Just like everyone else, he came from a family complete with uncles, aunts, and cousins. Being that the entire family was needed for his success, Saint Nicholas is for the "good little girls and boys".

What about those who were naughty?

Saint Nicholas has a cousin, Santa Clops whose duty it is to deliver the lumps of coal to those naughty children. Clops is slightly different from his cousin most notably by the one eye in the middle of his face. He resides at the South Pole Instead of reindeer, Santa Clops uses flying penguins.

A Visit from Santa Clops is based on the traditional poem with a dark side complete with illustrations perfectly matching the story on a background on a nauseating green. Where Santa Claus' suit is clean and shiny, Santa Clop's suit is similar but covered in soot from the coal.

This story is best for those who appreciate the parody of an alternative story The visual pictures are not scary but perfectly match the story in rhyme.

Gig Wailgum is an artist from Connecticut. His character of Santa Clops has been featured in the New York Times Book Review, The New Yorker magazine, as well as the cover of Seattle is Stranger newspaper.

A Visit from Santa Clops is a fun but perfect reflection with a different perspective on the timeless poem. With the naughty children's father saving the day, the older children of all ages would delight in reading. The vocabulary and references to a "fro" and "Ed Allan Poe" definitely places this story as appropriate for older children, this is probably not the best choice for pre-school children.

A Visit from Santa Clops is a fresh approach to an old tradition.

Hollow City
Ransom Riggs
Quirk Books
215 Church Street, Philadelphia PA 19106
9781594746123, $17.99,

Everyone wants to be near people who understand them. People who have common abilities are often close to others similar to them.

For children with unusual natural abilities, they quickly discover that normal people are curious about them, but also fearful. People are afraid of those who they do not understand. So how do these children exist in the world?

Simply, they find each other and hopefully have the protection of a caring and nurturing adult.
In Hollow City, the story of Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children continues with the children being pursued by wights. Definitely reminiscent of the German forces surrounding Britain with their submarines, the wights are chasing the children as they quietly are in a boat searching for land after their home was destroyed. Whether the children are captured alive or killed, the pursuit is on.

The children are accustomed to having the protection of their leader, Miss Peregrine. Unfortunately, she is stuck in her bird form and cannot change back into a human form. The only possibility of saving her is for another ymbrynes to help. Besides being chased, time is also an enemy since the longer she is a bird, the more she loses of her human self.

Hollow City is a page-turner that continues with these unusual children. The character developments excel in this book. Whereas you were meeting the peculiars in the first book; in the second the personalities as well as the peculiarities are more apparent and strangely enough, realistic. With the life-or-death threat, the beliefs and values of each of the children is apparent now.

Hollow City is the second book in this trilogy by Ransom Riggs. The story would be difficult to really understand without the background of Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Story being read first. Essentially, the story continues and will hopefully conclude with the next novel in this trilogy.
As the children are pursued by the wights with the dangerous hollows lurking inside each time loop at each turn, will they ever be able to rest?

Hollow City is recommended for young adults from eighth grade.

Ransom Riggs is writes Strange Geographies which is a series travel essays for Mental Floss Magazine. His debut novel was the first in this series, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children..

Hollow City is more engaging and faster-paced than Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children. These books are best understood if read in order.

Do you have a secret undeveloped or peculiar talent? Read Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children and Hollow City to discover your possible destiny.

Clifton K. Meador, M.D.
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781491029275 2013, $10.95,

Fascinoma combines the words 'fascinate' with 'oma.' The suffix 'oma' usually denotes a growth or tumor. ... Thus a fascinoma is medical slang for an unusually interesting medical case."

Combining the unusual with the study of medicine is the perfect title for this compact collection written in layman terms.

Doctors, fortunately, are usually correct in the assessment and treatment of most patients but it is impossible for a correct diagnosis all the time. Also complicating this process is the realistic fact that not everyone reacts exactly the same way to every disease. Most experienced doctors vividly remember those few cases where their diagnosis and treatment did not work. These are those stories which fortunately are resolved but often require a different approach.

Some patients have unusual allergies which can cause life-threatening situations. Others can have self-inflicting wounds that unfortunately result in the patient in an endless loop of consultations without ever solving their real problem. From ticks to cinnamon schnapps to accidental poisonings, these cases daily confound the medical staffs throughout the world.

Fascinomas is a collection of thirty-five situations with real-life patients who names have been changed. Also, some of the names of their physicians have also been changed. Their situations usually first begin in emergency rooms and are frequently referred from one doctor to another who specializes in that particular ailment. Unfortunately, many of these true life stories and life threatening.

Each selection is only a few pages long written in layman terms and very understandable to the non-medical community. The cases are fascinating. With each one the reader is experiencing the examination from the doctor's perspective along with the traditional and non-traditional insight needed to heal each person. In one case, a nurse solved the patient's dilemma accidentally.

The purpose of this compact collection of case histories is to better inform the medical community of these rare cases which can occur in others. By not writing this collection as a medical journal, Fascinomas is a quick and easy read even for exhausted emergency room doctors.

Dr. Clifton K. Meador has been practicing medicine for over fifty years. He graduated from Vanderbilt University in 1955 and is an emeritus professor of medicine at Vanderbilt School of Medicine and Meharry Medical College as well as being selected as chief medical office of Saint Thomas Hospital and dean of the University of Alabama School of Medicine. Currently, he resides in Nashville, Tennessee.

"Fascinomas" is for everyone who enjoys real-life medical mysteries.

Nursing a Grudge
Diana Orgain
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781492934028, $2.99, Kindle,

Most new mothers dream. Many dream of successfully balancing family, career and truly believe that they can handle it all.

Kate Connolly is not most mothers. She has dreams of running her own private investigating agency but first needs to learn the skills. Fortunately her mentor, Albert Galigani, a retired law-enforcement officer, conveniently is her mother's boyfriend. Yes, life can become complicated quickly. Kate Connolly, private investigator, is her dream as soon as she learns the skills and can be licensed.

Kate is looking forward to reconnecting with her an old friend. Jill is a restaurant review critic who is quickly gaining notoriety in the San Francisco Bay Area.

This is the perfect outing where Kate can bring her daughter Laurie with her. As Jill arrives dressed beautifully in boots with extremely high heels that Kate never could and would wear. Her outfit immediately makes Kate a little envious as she quickly realizes how a child can change a life.

Jill explains her latest challenge in being a critic. A new restaurant, Philosophie, is owned by the famous Brent Miles and Jill's review did not recommend the place. The owner had called and threatened her to change the review, "make it sincere or else".

Kate notices a man in a Smith and Wesson skull cap seems to be following Jill. Why?

As the women continue to chat, Jill receives a phone call stating that her boyfriend has fallen from Painted Rock and is currently at the hospital. He is an experienced hiker and should not have fallen. Jill quickly leaves to go to the hospital. Kate quickly pays the bill and also leaves for the hospital to pick up Danny, a two-year-old whose mother is in labor.

Guess who is also arriving at the hospital? There is the man in the skull cap.

Nursing a Grudge is a fun, cozy mystery with a protagonist who has to balance a family as well as a budding career while still concerned about loosing the weight from the pregnancy. Added to this Kate has agrees to help friends and family along the way.

Diana Orgain is the creator and author of Maternal Instincts Mystery Series with Bundle of Trouble, Motherhood is Murder, and Formula for Murder. She resides in San Francisco with three children and a husband.

Nursing a Grudge is the fourth novel in this series which is successful as either a standalone novel or as part of the series. These novels are quick, fun, cozy reads in a logically organized mystery. Each novel is a quick page turner with the intended audience of young mothers. These are fun, humorous novels that are great light reading.

13 Shots of Noir
Paul D. Brazill
Untreed Reads Publishing
Kindle edition, $3.99,

What short stories catch your attention? Which stories stay with you?

Authors who tend to shock and surprise the reader are well-respected with a following of loyal readers who might not actually enjoy the content, but truly appreciate the surprise in these unpredictable tales. Legendary writers and editors in this category include Alfred Hitchcock, Rod Serling's "The Twilight Zone", Roald Dahl, Falkner, O'Henry and Edgar Allan Poe. These writers of darkness make us uneasy even when we appreciate their creative gifts.

13 Shots of Noir by Paul D. Brazill is definitely one of these uneasy, uncomfortable collections of short stories. Each one involves a crime and a cover-up with an ending most of us could or would not predict. These are not tales of justice, but tales of irony.

What excels in this collection is the imagery in each very short tale. You can easily visualize each event as the story unfolds, complete with the blood and gore. These stories excel is sensory details. These senses of sound and smell create a story much darker and sinister.

The first story, "The Tut" was nominated for the 2010 Spinetingler Award. The tale revolves around Oliver Robinson who has been married for forty-five years. He is sick and tired of his wife's "tut" whenever she is unhappy with him. She sighs and "tuts". She scolds him and "tuts". Reminiscent of Poe's "The Tell Tale Heart", he becomes obsessed with this "tut". Read the story to find out the rest of this story.

The other twelve stories are similar but still completely unpredictable. Each unique and engrossing even though sometimes, you don't want to know the rest of the story. However, you need to finish and ponder after each one.

Each story has the reader focused in one direction when suddenly the story switches gears. This sharp turn is logical but at the same time, shocking. These stories are addictive.

Paul D. Brazill was born in England and currently resides in Poland. He continues to write as well as translate many written works.

13 Shots of Noir is a quick read but one that continues to ponder long after each story.

Lake Country
Sean Doolittle
Bantam Books
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780345532140, $15.00,

Does punishment for breaking a law suffice for justice? For some people, when the punishment does not match the crime, they feel that it is their personal responsibility to do the right thing. They feel personally responsible to equalize life for the victim. In their mind, someone needs to do the right thing.

But what if doing the right thing in a person's mind requires breaking the law?
Wade Benson is a successful architect who works long hours. Five years ago when he was exhausted, he fell asleep while driving home. He caused a traffic accident resulting in the death of a young twenty-year-old woman, Becky Morse.

Unfortunately for Becky's mother, her son also lost his life in Iraq at almost the exact moment as her daughter's death. How can one person ever heal from the death of both of her children in two separate places on the planet with one day?

For some reason, Wade's punishment was to spend two days on the anniversary of her death in jail for five years. This year is his final imprisonment. The local television stations cover this story every year and televise his entrance and exit from the jail annually. Even the media questions this punishment as justice? Is ten days equate to her life?

For ex-Marines Darryl Potter and Mike Barlowe this doesn't seem fair. They served in Iraq with Becky's brother. They have seen Mrs. Morse and the effect of her deaths with her grieving. Darryl especially feels that Mrs. Morse is owed something from Wade Benson. What could make up for the deaths?

Darryl Potter and Mike Barlowe don't have much in their lives. Both had difficulty holding a job and gambling with bookies. By living together Mike is more realistic and attempts to keep Darryl in the real world.

The Elbow Room is the local bar where the two spend much of their time and they can frequently have free sandwiches and cheap beer from their longtime friendship with the owner.. As a bar owner, he realizes the need to sometimes get away from life. He owns a cabin located up in the Lake Country where everything seems to work itself out.

Maya Lamb, a local news broadcaster, recognizes the irony of interviewing Juliet Benson for the local television news station. Juliet is the same age now as when Becky Morse died. How strange to speak with the daughter of the killer who could easily have been the dead girl.

Darryl decides to settle the score for his wartime buddy and the mother of the two who have been dead for five years. He is going to take Wade Benson's daughter from him so that he understands. His plan is to kidnap Juliet.

Can anyone find or save Juliet?

The race to save Juliet's life is on with Mike, Maya, a bookie, the bartender, and law enforcement trying to find her.

Who will live through this?

Sean Doolittle has recently been a featured author with Mystery Scene magazine as one of five best new authors to follow. His previous novels are Rain Dogs, Burn, Dirt, Safer, and The Cleanup which one the Barry Award. He resides in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

Lake Country is a haunting tale because it is easy to see this story as real. The race to save Juliet's life is page-turner where you literally cannot turn the pages fast enough. The empathy for Mike who really is attempting to do the right thing is heart-wrenching. The contrast of Doolittle's clean and clear writing is for this messy story truly masterful. This is story telling at its best.

You are with the characters understanding the logic of each but basically from Mike's point-of-view.

Lake Country is one of those books where you will want to reread certain sections. This is a phenomenally written mystery.

The Sad Tree and Pronuba
Christina Steiner
Mary Manning-Illustrator
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432798932, $14.95,

For anyone who has ever felt alone, a friend is always appreciated and valued. For a single tree in the desert life can be lonely with only the moon, wind, sand, stones and rocks for companionship.

Deserts are the natural habitat for lone Joshua trees that live throughout America's Southwest. These trees seem to be isolated and unlike other trees, are not part of a forest.

Unique to this tree is their cooperative relationship with the Pronuba moth. Both the tree and the moths rely on each other for their species to propagate. The Pronuba moth needs a place for her eggs to incubate and the Joshua tree protects these from the wind and the blowing sand. As the eggs hatch and continue through the stages of their life-cycle, this co-dependency is important for their lives. The moth leaves her eggs within the shelter of the tree while also collecting pollen to transport to other locations for other Joshua trees to grow. As the eggs hatch, the grubs feed on the seeds and their life-cycle continues while the seeds of the tree are spread in the area.

This concept can be difficult to understand for children. It is not immediate and happens over time. "The Sad Tree and Pronuba" is a story accompanied by illustrations which explains this life-cycle concept using a tree named Joshua and the moth, Pronuba. The story simplifies the science procedure seen as a special friendship. This story has wonderful illustrations which perfectly match the words of the story.

Christina Steiner, the author, resides in Southern California who was inspired to write this story after a visit to the Mojave Desert. Mary Manning, the illustrator, is a well-respected artist who specializes with landscapes featuring America's Southwest. These two storytellers both in words and pictures perfectly matched the story.

"The Sad Tree and Pronuba" is a wonderful story telling the tale of friendship surrounding the scientific concept of pollination whose target audience is for children aged 5 to 12. This difficult concept is beautifully written and illustrated in this story of the Joshua tree and the Pronuba moth. Reading "The Sad Tree and Pronuba" is educational and a wonderful story that both parents and children will enjoy to read and reread.

Poisoned Ground
Sandra Parshal
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. First Ave., #103, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781464202247, $24.95,

New developments offer economic revivals for small communities. The possibility of new jobs is exciting for most small towns even for Mason County, Virginia. Who wouldn't want a new development in a small town? This would offer new jobs and opportunities to a diminishing community.

However, not all is as it seems. Most of these new jobs would be at minimum wage with no to little chance of advancement. Added to that, this new development would likely pollute the land and the water as they take over this community, not to mention the loss of family homes and lifestyle of many local farmers who for years have lived off the land.

Is this opportunity to cater for the wealthy patrons of this new adventure with a spa worth it or is it destroying the community? What is the cost of progress?

Rachel Goddard enjoys her life in the Blue Ridge Mountains as a veterinarian and recently married Sheriff Tom Bridger. Supporting her best friend, Joanna who is being offered money for her horse ranch, Rachel is drawn into the conflict within the community especially since the slick developers seem to be forcing people to sell their land.

When Joanna's neighbors, Marie and Lincoln Kelly are shot, people are beginning to wonder about the actual cost of this development in terms of people's lives. It was well-known that Marie and Linc were against selling their land. Could someone be tipping the scales to favor the development? Why would anyone want to murder two elderly farmers?

To author Sandra Parshall she truly understands these changes that are happening to her communities throughout Blue Ridge Mountain area. She lives in Northern Virginia with her husband who is a Washington journalist. This is a challenge to numerous rural communities.

Poisoned Ground perfectly envisions both viewpoints of community development surrounding an intriguing mystery. As Rachel supports her friends and clients in her animal care business, she is drawn into the situation of conflict while also being privileged to discover clues to assist her husband with solving the murder.

This is a fast-paced mystery which keeps your interest through the last page. With well-developed characters who are realistic within a logical mystery that continues to unravel with each page. Even though this is part of a series which has won an Agatha Award, Poisoned Ground does not require knowledge from previous books in order to understand the story.

Anyone who enjoys a good mystery would like Poisoned Ground. I would categorize this book as a cozy since the story is straight-forward in direction.

Curl up with Poisoned Ground and enjoy a good book to read.

The Troop
Nick Cutter
Gallery Books
Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl.
NY, NY 10020
9781476717715, $26.00,

Many scouting troops have camping traditions. Taking five boys in their teens onto an island in the Canadian wilderness is an annual event for Tim Riggs who is the scoutmaster as well as the local doctor of this close-knit community. He realizes the value of taking the boys away from their families for a weekend to an uninhabited nearby island with a cabin. They can camp outside or use the cabin if it rains. What could possibly go wrong in three days?

For Kent this trip is tolerated. He is accustomed to being a leader among his peers being both popular and athletic. At the other end of this small social hierarchy is Shelley who is strange along with his nerdy friend, Newt. Ephraim and Max are likable and get along with almost everyone. As expected the relationships between these five is teasing with sometimes a streak of meanness from Kent.

Tim Riggs is accustomed to their pranks. As a bachelor, his life is fairly dull and he looks forward to this time each year.

During their first night, a stranger lands on the island in a small boat. He is pale and ravenous. He acts as if he has never eaten. With his extreme thinness, the voracious hunger pains seem to move under his skin.

Dr. Riggs immediately suspects that the man might have a tape worm. He chooses to examine the stranger within the confines of the cabin as a precaution while having the boys camp outside. He makes it very clear that the boys are not to reenter the cabin until he allows them back inside.

Reminiscent of "Lord of the Flies", The Troop explores the conflict of doing what is best for everyone and doing the best for yourself.

For Kent, he sees himself as the leader of the group. In school he is popular and athletic. He is the top of the social hierarchy of this group. At the bottom is Shelley who is just a strange duck. He relies on Newt for friendship. Newt is the nerd. Somewhere in the middle are Max and Ephraim who are both easy-going and likable. They attempt to be the peacemakers, somewhat mediating Kent's comments.

The characterization in The Troop is phenomenal. As a reader, you can visualize each person throughout this page-turner. Each event is well-described while maintaining a terrifying pace in the story. Even the setting of the island is visually descriptive perfectly matched with the pacing of the story.

The Troop is one book that you will want to read in one-sitting. You do not want to leave the story as you hope for the best for each character. What is most horrifying in this thriller is the realism! This is a story that could be a possible situation.

The author Nick Cutter is the pseudonym for Canadian author, Craig Davidson. His other published books are Sarah Court, Rust and Bones, Fighter, and Cataract City as well as many short stories.

The Troop is a wonderful book to read on these cold winter nights inside a house which is not on an island in the Canadian wilderness.

Teri Davis

Theodore's Bookshelf

Charlie Huston
Mulholland Books
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017-0010
9780316133722, $26.00 hc,

How can a simple plot grow so complex? The idea behind "Skinner" is interesting, and relatively uncomplicated: the possible threat from a Mumbai slum to world order, and a pair of investigators seeking to learn more about it. One of the investigators is a woman, Jae, who builds and controls robots and has a gift for seeing underlying relationships. The other is Skinner, who specializes in protecting assets (and whose maxim is to make it too costly to attack the person he is guarding by killing the attacker and then anyone else involved in planning the assault).

However, the story is obfuscated by all sorts of characters and side issues that can weary the reader. The initial chapters are slow reading, and the following pages are just a bit less ponderous.

Tamarack County
William Kent Krueger
Atria Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781451645750, $24.99 hc,

Cork O'Connor has encountered some bizarre crimes in the previous 12 novels in the series, but in "Tamarack County" he faces a very personal one affecting his family and the home and county in which he lives.

It all begins when the wife of a cantankerous retired judge disappears and her car is found abandoned on a rural road. Then a dog is found brutally decapitated outside the home of his son's girlfriend. Then his son is endangered and Cork begins to see a pattern involving the conviction and long-term sentencing of a possibly innocent man 20 years before, when Cork was merely a beginning deputy, long before he became sheriff of the county (later to retire).

The plot moves forward with a surprise resolution. Missing from this entry in the series are the usual graphic descriptions of the weather and terrain, a trademark of a William Kent Krueger book, except for the continually falling snow and occasional blizzard. The novel is written, as usual with any book from this author, with a degree of smoothness that makes for fast, easy and rewarding reading, and it is recommended.

The Highway
C.J. Box
Minotaur Books
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312583200, $25.99 hc,

The Joe Pickett series has always been a favorite of mine. However, this standalone gets off to a slow start, a very slow beginning. The reader has to plow through half the novel, learning about two teenage sisters driving supposedly to their divorced father in Omaha for Thanksgiving. The older sister, Danielle, is an airhead; the younger, Grace, practical and determined. Danielle is driving and decides to go to Helena to visit her boyfriend. And thereby hangs a tale: They break down along the way and a predator long-distance trucker abducts and imprisons them in a dungeon.

At this point, the reader has reached the halfway mark of the story, the plot of which is just about to begin. And the rest is quite obvious. Cody Hoyt, who appeared in a previous book, is a renegade detective who gets fired just as the girls disappear. They were attempting to visit his son, Danielle's boyfriend, so Cody undertakes to find them. When his partner, Cassie, a relative neophyte, doesn't hear from him for several hours, she determines to follow his footsteps.

Joe Pickett quality the novel isn't. It certainly is well written, but tedious and, to some extent repetitious. While the story is somewhat interesting, it is not particularly entertaining or gripping. And certainly not suspenseful.

Murder Below Montparnasse
Cara Black
Soho Crime
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9781616953294, $14.95 (PB),

A couple of disparate situations comprise the plot in this 13th Aimee Leduc mystery: The main story revolves around the illegal art world and an unknown Modigliani hidden for 70 years, while Aimee's partner, Rene, unwittingly becomes involved in creating a computer program for an American start-up that enables illegal front-running, a type of insider trading. As the novel opens, Rene is being transported on a private corporate jet to Silicon Valley to take up his duties as chief technology officer at a significantly higher salary and stock options.

At the same time, Aimee receives an envelop containing 5,000 francs from an old Russian emigre to help him because he "owes her mother." It turns out that he needs more than help because a valuable painting, a Modigliani portrait of Lenin, is stolen from his room. The rest of the novel is Aimee's attempts to find the missing art as well as her mother and the various culprits.

The past novels in the series have been based on crimes occurring in various parts of Paris, and this latest entry stretches the plot because Montparnasse plays such a minor role. Nevertheless, as in all Aimee Leduc stories, Paris plays a major part as background. Somehow, this reader felt the novel did not quite reach the level of past entries. While the writing and descriptions were of the usual high quality, the progression seems strained, and the ending forced. But then, I suspect that ending is the setting for the next time we meet Aimee, which I await with great anticipation.


The Missing File
D. A. Mishani
Translated from the Hebrew by Steven Cohen
Bourbon St. Books
c/o HarperCollins
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780062195388, $14.99 (PB),

There's an old saying: "Those who can, do; those who can't, teach." It is a fitting almost reverse description of the author of this debut novel. He is a literary scholar and editor of international fiction and crime literature at Keter Books in Israel, specializing in the history of detective literature. So he is something of an anomaly. He has created a new protagonist, Israeli detective Avraham("Avi") Avraham, an introspective character who, while being a policeman, is unsure of himself when he is away from his duties.

In this case, he is confronted by the mother of a 16-year-old boy who is said to have left home one morning for school and disappearing. .As Avi investigates what should be a simple missing person inquiry, it spirals out of control and takes over his life, ultimately becoming complicated by a neighbor who inserts himself into the investigation with what may be false information.

Aside from the fact that the novel is set in Israel, where crime is a rarity, it could just as easily be a tale told elsewhere. Avi is a memorable protagonist, and the plot is well thought out. He is bruited about as the preeminent Israeli detective of the 21st Century. The translation is smooth, and the twist at the end is so unexpected that it is worthy of a more seasoned novelist. And we look forward to the sequel, "A Possibility of Violence," due out from Harper this summer.


Heirs and Graces
Rhys Bowen
Berkley Prime Crime
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780425260029, $24.95 hc,

Lady Georgiana Rannoch continues to live hand-to-mouth, yet manages to eat well by landing plum assignments. In this case, she is asked by Her Majesty the Queen to undertake to train an "uncivilized" Australian youth, Jack Altringham, in the ways of nobility since he is an apparent heir to a dukedom. It seems the present duke is disinclined to provide an heir and the young man is discovered to be his nephew and the next in line. He is the offspring of the duke's brother who married a young lady in Australia and was subsequently killed during World War I, and has grown up on a sheep farm shearing bovines.

And what would a Royal Spyness Mystery be without a murder or other crime to be solved? So shortly after Georgiana travels to the duke's estate to meet and coach Jack in what fork to use, the duke announces he is going to adopt his valet and make him his heir. The next day, the duke is found dead in a glen on the estate, and it doesn't look good for Jack, whose knife is found in the corpse's back.

Like the other novels in the series, the plot combines humor and crime-solving, with Georgiana helping to crack the mystery. It is good, old-fashioned fun. She is a fun character, and the writing is equally charming. The plot is clever and the story, despite the death, is lighthearted.


Eva's Eye
Karin Fossum
Translated by James Anderson
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
222 Berkeley St., Boston MA 02166
9780547738758, $25.00 hc,

First published in Norway in 1995, this novel is the first of the Inspector Sejer Mysteries. He is introduced as a quiet, methodical investigator, and is presented with an interesting case: A man, missing for months, floats to the edge of an icy river, witnessed by a woman, Eva Magnus, and her daughter. Sejer is already working on another unsolved murder, a woman prostitute who was found dead just about the time the man went missing.

From this beginning one would expect a methodical police procedural. Instead, it develops into a study of Eva, who plays a key role in the developing plot. A single mother and a starving artist, who only occasionally manages to sell a painting, lacking financial resources to pay her bills, she becomes the focal point of the novel.

To some degree, the book is a bit confusing. Whether it is the original writing or the translation is difficult to determine. There are a number of interesting techniques which the author demonstrates, along with a tricky conclusion. The story is well-developed, but I found it slow reading. Having read some other novels in the series, this book certainly demonstrates the characteristics of future Sejer investigations, especially the in-depth portrayals of the various personalities involved. At the least, from an historical viewpoint, therefore, "Eva's Eye" can be recommended.

A Cold White Sun
Vicki Delany
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. 1st Ave., Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781464201585, $24.95 hc,

Life in Constable Molly Smith's Trafalgar, BC, usually is tranquil, with lots of skiing in the winter and kayaking and hiking in the summer: a tourist's haven. Except this particular winter witnesses the senseless murder of a high school English teacher, shot in the back while walking her dog. There are no witnesses and no evidence. It remains for Sgt. John Winters to follow up. Molly plays a minor role in this investigation, as opposed to previous entries in this series.

The novel develops more as a study in character development, as the various persons inhabiting the resort town continue with their lives, while Winters frustratingly seeks the culprit. Attention is paid to Molly's love life, as well as that of her mother, Lucky, widowed for a few years and keeping company with Molly's boss, Superintendent Keller. The reader is given deep insight into the family of the murdered victim: a two-timing husband, a 10-year-old daughter and a disinterested teenage son. Then there is an employee of Winters' wife, Eliza, who embarrassingly sees in various males the son she had to give away at birth.

All the plots and sub-plots are melded artfully, keeping the pages turning swiftly. The characters are superbly drawn, and descriptions of town life well described. And the skiing scenes float by smoothly. The author moves between the various plot lines with ease, and the novel is recommended.

A Cold White Sun is also available in a trade paperback edition (97815464201516, $14.95) and a Large Type trade paperback edition (978146420152, $22.95).

Sandrine's Case
Thomas H. Cook
Mysterious Press
841 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9780802126085, $24.00 hc,

There have been many novels depicting, describing and analyzing criminal courtroom cases. Some are narrated by lawyers, a la Grisham. Others by p.i.'s. Some even by witnesses, prosecutors or just plain old cops. Rarely has there been a novel from the point of view of the defendant, learning more about himself as the testimony unfolds. Yet that's what this book is all about.

The novel is a detailed analysis of a man, Sam Madison, who is charged with murdering his wife, Sandrine. The two were professors at a small college in Georgia, married for many years when she is diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease. Apparently the prosecution believes he killed his wife to avoid watching her die slowly and having to care for her. The case is largely circumstantial, but is carefully built upon a strong series of clues about Sam, and how he changed over the years, disillusioned with life and the town in which they lived and taught and the college, and developing into a person different from the one he was when the two first met.

The plot follows that trial, day by day, giving the author the means to develop the changes in Sam's personality as each witness tells of observations Sandrine made to them. It proves quite a learning experience. It slowly develops toward an unexpected conclusion, unforeseen but logical. Written smoothly, it reaches the unpredictable ending to what otherwise could be a confusing but troubling case.

Highly recommended.

Death of Yesterday
M.C. Beaton
Grand Central Publishing
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, 16th Floor, New York, NY 10017
9781455504756, $8.00 (PB),

Contrary to the old adage, familiarity breeds contentment. After all, a series that has been around since 1985 must have something going for it. And the Hamish Macbeth novels certainly do: The small-town Scottish police sergeant himself and his uncanny insights and uncommon and unorthodox manner; a cast of characters that repeatedly stays on form; plots that follow a pattern but are different from one another; Macbeth's eternal hard times from his superiors; his forlorn love life; his pets, a wild cat and a dog; and a lightheartedness that is easy to take and read.

The latest entry has the death of a woman haunting Macbeth although her arrogance originally annoyed him when she reported a possible date drug rape. This gives the author the chance to subject Macbeth and other police officers to a type of omerta in the small northern Scottish village where the crime took place. So, no witnesses. How to solve the mystery? By plain hard work.

This is the 29th Hamish Macbeth mystery. It is replete with a flavor of good single-malt scotch, as usual. And just as important, the author describes the bleak economy in northern Scotland, lack of jobs, employees fearful of being fired from the only employer in town, and the general social milieu of small-town snobbishness. Recommended.

Compound Fractures
Stephen White
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780525952602, $27.95 hc, $11.99 (Kindle),

After a couple of decades, this series draws to a conclusion. It picks up from events that took place in the penultimate book in the series, "Line of Fire," in which Dr. Alan Gregory's wife, Lauren, was shot by his friend and partner. Floundering in his personal and professional life, Dr. Gregory begins to learn disquieting information which threatens his ability to function and protect his family.

Consequently, Gregory begins to question the people around him, and starts looking at them with mistrust, especially his good friend and sometime partner in various endeavors, detective Sam Purdy. Together, Alan and Sam face a future fraught with danger, the result of the murder in an earlier entry in the series of a woman intent on murdering their children.

The plot really is somewhat disjointed, and seems to be put together haphazardly. It lacks the tightness of previous entries in the series. Gregory comes across in this novel as an insecure person, suffering from a persecution complex. Would you want to be treated by such a psychotherapist? On the other hand, Sam Purdy finally grows up and seems a lot smarter and more capable than in the past.

The basis for a recommendation in this instance is derived from the entire body of work, which this novel brings to an end.

Rain Dogs
Baron R. Birtcher
Permanent Press
4170 Noyac Rd., Sag Harbor NY 11963
9781579623180, $29.00 hc,

The year was 1976. The nation was celebrating the end of the War of Independence. But in California, it was the beginning of a different kind of war as the Colombian cartels were flooding the state with cocaine and fighting for control of the market. The relatively quiet days of mom-and-pop type marijuana growers and recreational smoking was coming to an end.

The story is summarized in the lives of various participants: Steve Devlin and Sonny Limon, two "dirty" border guards on the payroll of a Mexican, El Rey Zamora, a cruel drug lord; and Colt Freeland and his colleague, who grew weed in the mountainous area of Humboldt County. Their lives somehow intertwined and the story is told in the first person by Colt's partner.

It is an intriguing story, filled with violence and, in some cases, redemption; in other cases, poetic justice. But in any event, the flood of drugs began and continues to this day. The language is in keeping with the characters. The only criticism that can be made revolves around the portrayal of the various participants, who seem wooden and in need of more depth. However, the story works, and is 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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