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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 12, Number 5 May 2012 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Bethany's Bookshelf Buhle's Bookshelf
Burroughs' Bookshelf Carol's Bookshelf Carson's Bookshelf
Christina Johns' Bookshelf Christy's Bookshelf Clark's Bookshelf
Crocco's Bookshelf Daniel's Bookshelf Gary's Bookshelf
Gloria's Bookshelf Gorden's Bookshelf Harwood's Bookshelf
Heidi's Bookshelf Karyn's Bookshelf Logan's Bookshelf
Lois' Bookshelf Margaret's Bookshelf Maria Ryan's Bookshelf
Paul's Bookshelf Peggy's Bookshelf Richard's Bookshelf
Steve's Bookshelf Theodore's Bookshelf  

Reviewer's Choice

The Great Animal Orchestra
Bernie Krause
Allen & Unwin
PO Box 8500, 83 Alexander Street
Crows Nest, NSW 2065, Australia
9781781250006, A$29.95

Ann Skea

Did you know that the common South American Potoo sings the blues and a Musical Wren's voice sounds like pitched white noise, but both sing in the pentatonic scale which is common to traditional human music ("think of the opening bars of 'Oh! Susanna' or 'Amazing Grace')? So, too, do many of the birds of the world's forests.

Bernie Krause is an expert not just in bird song but in the capture and analysis of total soundscapes from many different environments. Each soundscape records the combination of animal 'song', wind, water, rain and other weather conditions, all affected by the shape of the land, the season and the time of day. His archive of "nature orchestrations of unaltered habitats", soundscapes of remote tropical forests, glacial terrains and every other sort of habitat, is unrivalled.

Because of human activity, many of these 'biophonies' (a word Krause created to describe the sound of living things) we are unlikely ever to hear again. Is this important? Yes, says Krause, "the combination of shrinking habitat and increasing human pandemonium has produced conditions under which the communication chances necessary for creature survival are being completely overloaded". And we, too, are creatures.

The Great Animal Orchestra is not a green polemic however, but an account of Krause's experiences collecting these soundscapes and his discoveries of patterns and meanings within them. Some of his experiences were elating, some terrifying. Few sound recordists have sat alone in the middle of the Amazon jungle, heard a cat's low growl, its breathing and its stomach rumbles through their headphones, and suddenly realized that a jaguar was no more than an arm's length from their microphones. Few will have crawled down into a glacial crevasse: "not a recommended activity". And few will have sat in a native dugout in Borneo so absorbed in their work that they only belatedly notice that they are surrounded by crocs. It is best, too, Krause tells us from experience, not to sit in the path of a pissed-off gorilla. Luckily for him, he was merely flung aside and landed face down on top of his recording equipment in a patch of stinging nettles.

Not all of this book is as dramatic as that. Bernie Krause is a musician with a wide background in classical, folk and jazz music. He started to learn the violin and composition before the age of five, graduated to guitar (in spite of the pursed lips of his parents and others) at the age of 18, and, with the advent of synthesizers and electronic music, began to experiment and innovate. He had already forged a successful music career when a commission from Warner Brothers to write a theme (together with Paul Beaver) for a series of albums concerned with ecology unexpectedly took him into the wild to record natural sound. It was a "happy accident" and a life-changing experience, which led to a lifelong passion and a new career recording the sounds of the natural world. His musical expertise is brought to bear analyzing his recordings and he writes knowledgeably about the musical components of his biophonies.

His work has prompted him to ask questions about the origin of human music; about the meanings and patterns which he has observed; about the changes humans make to their own environment and to that of other, once pristine, habitats; and about the ubiquity of 'noise' in our world. Amongst other things, he comments on the way 'noise' has been and is being used to change to shape our own lives: restaurant design which deliberately increases noise and causes stress levels which prompt a quick turnover of customers is just one example.

If you want to know how ants 'sing' or how "murmurs from the wild" have shaped our own song, dance and other musical expression, Krause can tell you. And if, like me, you end up wanting to hear some of the things Krause describes, then search on your computer for the video clip, 'Dr Krause Discovers a Singing Cottonwood Tree', and be amazed by the percussive rhythms which pervade the world of nature and which, without Krause's skills and curiosity, we would never have know of or heard.

42 Rules for Applying Google Analytics
Rob Sanders
Super Star Press
20660 Stevens Creek Blvd., Suite 210, Cupertino, CA 95014
9781607730408, $19.95,

Bonnie Jo Davis

"42 Rules for Applying Google Analytics: A Practical Guide For Understanding Web Traffic, Visitors, And Analytics So You Can Improve The Performance Of Your Website" by author Rob Sanders is the perfect book for new webmasters or those with experience like me that find Google Analytics confusing. This book is an easy-to-read guide that is the opposite of other bulky, complicated books by other authors.

The 42 rules in the book are separated into the following sections and include thirteen figures:

Part I Preparation: What You Need to Know before You Begin
Part II Monitoring: What You Need to Focus on to Make Decisions
Part III Reporting: How to Get the Information You Need
Part IV Reading: Specific Action Steps to Help You Optimize the Data
Part V What Now? What to Do with the Data Now That You Have It

The author teaches readers how to discover who is visiting your site, where they come from, how long they stay and what they do during their visit. I found the explanation of Google Analytics jargon particularly helpful because you can't understand the data if the language is foreign to you. Also included is information on preparing your website for traffic with the best content and well researched keywords.

I have used Google Analytics for years to measure website traffic but I found much information in this book that I was not aware of or did not understand. If you need help with Google Analytics I highly recommend this book over using the member run forums offered by Google where much misinformation and daily flame wars are waged. For a reasonable price you can purchase 42 Rules for Applying Google Analytics and keep it on your desk to refer to over and over again.

If you aren't certain this book is for you be sure to visit the publishers site at and sign up for a free excerpt!

Michelle Obama: A Biography
Alma Halbert Bond
Greenwood Biographies
Box 1911, Santa Barbara, CA 93116-1911
9780313381041, $37.00,

Cassandra Langer

I recently got a message from Michelle Obama talking about her husband, Barack and asking for money to support his campaign.

I have always enjoyed reading Dr. Alma Bond's novelistic treatments of celebrated women, including Maria Callas, Camille Claudel, and most recently Jacqueline Beauvoir Kennedy, because of their deep psychological insights. Although Michelle Obama, her latest book is a more traditional biography it is no less insightful for being non-fiction.

Organized into 13 fact filled chapters, with an introduction, helpful time line, selected bibliography, and index, and augmented by a series of black and white photographs, Michelle Obama takes its rightful place in a spate of recent biographies on the first African American First Lady. It is a book that gives us more than a skin deep portrait. This comes as no surprise since Bond is a psychoanalyst with a string of credentials to her credit as well as years of private practice. Add to this that she is an accomplished writer and you have a winning combination.

Beginning with Jim Robinson, Michelle's great-great-grandfather, a slave on the Friendfield Plantation in Georgetown, South Carolina, in the early 1800s, Bond traces the history of the Robinson untangling their complex beginnings. She details how much of the wealth that our country enjoys came from the labor of African American slaves and the slave trade itself. As Bond notes Jim Robinson would have been astonished "to learn that his great-great-granddaughter was living in the White House.

Moving on to Marian Robinson, Michelle's mother, Bond fleshes out the strong and loving connection between the First Lady and her mother. She tells us that Marian is a disciplinarian whose parenting instilled a great sense of responsibility in her children. They were never allowed to get away with anything. Marian is a woman who values family as does Michelle and she is fiercely loyal to them but not above telling them when they are wrong. She is also a loving and somewhat indulgent grandmother to Malia and Sasha. When she is not at the White House helping out Barack and Michelle she is comfortable ensconced in a small house in "a predominantly black working-class neighborhood. It is the same home that Michelle and her brother, Craig grew up in. Until three years ago, Marian who is retired was part of a car pool with her sister, Grace Hale, who lives just around the corner. On Thursdays, she took yoga classes taught by her brother Steve Shields. Five of her siblings are still alive and live within 15 miles of each other.

In chapter three Bone discusses Michelle's father Fraser Robinson III., saying he was a "superb father". Living in a time of racial prejudice, a job with local government was especially prized. Fraser was able to earn more than $40,000 a year that enabled him to put his children through college so that Michelle and Craig could go to Princeton. He knew the value of an Ivy League education and was determined that his children would have the opportunities he never had. He also worked overtime so he could make this dream a reality by adding an additional $20,000 a year to the family income. Due to his efforts Marian was able to stay at home and be a full-time mother to their children.

However, in order to protect his family and earn a decent living, Fraser had to turn a blind eye to the corruption of the Daley political machine that employed him. Bond does not pull her punches in describing the kind of environment that existed during this era. Michelle followed in her father's footsteps, ending up working in the major's office but she later quit that job. Her brother Craig sums it up by remarking, "We as a family were extremely cynical about politics and politicians."

Fraser developed multiple sclerosis in his early 30s but despite considerable pain he went on working so his family could enjoy a good life and his children could do better than their parents could in the future. His example taught Michelle and Craig that they could have anything they wanted in life, as long as they worked hard enough for it. Craig called his father, "the gold standard" of husbands. Fraser and Marian paid for college at Princeton for both their children using savings, an insurance policy, and credit cards. As Bond is at pains to point out, Mr. Robinson's stoicism helped to shape Michelle character. Fraser died in his mid-50s in 1991, a year before Michelle and Barack were married.

Michelle's brother, Craig appears in chapter four. Almost two years older, he is very protective of his sister. Both Robinson offspring are smart, driven and have always been encouraged to their best. Michelle has an abiding love and admiration for her big brother and the feeling is mutual between them. Craig, an outstanding basketball coach was called upon to pass judgment on Barack when Michelle first began dating him. Barack passed muster even though he wasn't the best player on the court. What Craig liked was that his future brother-in-law didn't suck up to him. What he told his sister was, "your boy is straight, and he can ball".

Craig, like his baby sister, is highly successful. He has a master's degree in finance from the University of Chicago and has become a managing director at the firm of Loop Capital Markets. He has a six-bedroom house and fancy cars. Even so, he gave it all up to do something he loves which is coaching. At the age of 37, Craig left the trading floor, went through a messy divorce, and took a low paying job as an assistant coach. He remarried in June 2006 and is proud to be the coach of the Oregon State men's basketball team. Whenever called upon by his baby sister and her husband he joins the Obama presidential team giving his all to the "yes we can" man.

The education of Michelle Obama is a chapter in itself wherein, Bond details how Michelle became the savvy lady she now is. At Princeton she learned how to come to terms with being a black achiever in a white world. She graduated Princeton with honors and entered Harvard Law School in 1985 where she once again excelled. Upon graduation she joined Sidley & Austin, a large corporate law firm.

In chapters six and seven, Bond discusses Michelle's career as a corporate lawyer, her community service and her character, as well as her meeting Barack. It is here that we dig into the meat of what Michelle is really like as a career woman, wife, and mother.

Chapter 8 and 9, the author discusses Michelle's marriage to Barack Obama and how she manages the White House. At his swearing in, Barack acknowledged, "I would not be standing here tonight without the unyielding support of my best friend for the last 16 years...the rock of our family, the love of my life, the nation's next first lady...Michelle Obama." Michelle like former first lady, Hilary Clinton is one of the most admired women in America

One of the reasons as Bond notes in chapter ten is because of her parenting skills. In fact, both Obamas are excellent role models of good enough parenting despite incredibly pressured and responsible jobs. When the children wanted a dog, for example, Malia who is allergic presented them with the challenge of finding one that would be comfortable for both children. The nation's eyes and hearts were riveted on this family drama. In the end the family ended up with Bo, a purebred Portuguese Water Dog. It was the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy and his wife, Victoria who saved the day and Bo who had been returned by his first owner because he did not fit well into that household. Unbeknown to Michelle and Barack as well as the girls, The Kennedys sent Bo to their own obedience trainer and then made a gift of him to the Obama family.

Malia and Sasha face their own challenges growing up in the White House. Bond addresses these issues with compassion and awareness of just how difficult it can be. As a mother and a working woman, Alma Bond knows how painful it can be to see your children going through an unprecedented transition from a normal family life to life in the White House. Here Bond talks about the children's differing personalities, Malia as calm and peaceful and Sasha as sweet and vivacious.

Michelle Obama has, like Jacqueline Kennedy gained a reputation as "first lady of fashion", albeit in a more down to earth formulation. She shops at J.Crew and tends to favor a more realistic style of dressing. No extremes for Michelle. Her taste is not classic and understated when it comes to color. She sports her own look favoring striking shades of tomato red, lemony yellow, shimmering violet and sparkling white. Also she likes striking accessories. She wears feathered brooches, gumball sized necklaces, and various slender studded belts encircle her trim waist. As a first lady she proves you can look stylish dressing in pieces from ready-wear manufacturers. It's refreshing and sends a strong message, "I'm just like you", to American women.

In the final chapter, Bond describes the impact of Michelle's influence as a first lady. She compares and contrasts Michelle with other women who have served in the White House, including Eleanor Roosevelt, Jacqueline Kennedy, Pat Nixon, Betty Ford, Rosalynn Carter, Nancy Reagan, and Hillary Clinton. She then goes explores the shared interests of first couples such as acting, law, community service and so on. An added bonus is her consideration of the significant roles that first ladies play in assisting and supporting their husbands in every way while in the White House. She points out the considerable psychological stress that being first wives have placed on marriage and family life. The pressure of being a public advocate too takes its toll on the women who serve this country. In Michelle Obama's case the daunting job of dealing with the problems of military families and the overwhelming mental health issues that emerge in the aftermath of war have meant that she has far less time to devote to her daughters and their needs.

First ladies must put on a face. They develop a tough skin, unflappable manner, brilliant repartee and a style all their own. It is not a matter, as Bond is at pains to tell us, of if they like the job or not. They have no choice once their man is in the White House and sitting in the president's chair. Eleanor Roosevelt, surely one of our most admired first ladies braved the currents of the day taking unpopular positions and showing charm, warmth, and grace under fire from the administration's enemies. She even managed to convert some of them to her positions. Bond concludes her biography of Michelle Obama suggesting that Michelle may be one of the best first ladies we have ever had.

Despite being geared for younger readers, Alma Bond's Michelle Obama is a book to be enjoyed by all ages. It is packed full of interesting and relevant information and gives us a psychological window into our current first lady that does not rely upon a lot of hype and star shine. For that reason along it is worth a read.

Blood Magic
Jennifer Lyon
Ballantine Books
c/o Random House Publishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
9780345506344, $6.99

Chasity Brewer

'Blood Magic' was a powerhouse of a novel, it had every element you could want in a paranormal romance. 'Blood Magic' gives a new twist on the world of witches. I have read novels about witches and witchcraft since I was a little girl and never before have I ever seen it done like this. The story captivated me from the very first page and it just pumped out adventure and adrenaline filled scenes right after the other. Axel and Darcy have such a powerful love story happening that it is hard to turn away from. Darcy feels like she just wants to lose herself in him and Axel feels the same but he can't allow the curse and his bloodlust to take over and take her life! The exchanges between those two were so passionate, powerful, and beautifully written. I am absolutely in love with these characters and I cannot wait to read 'Soul Magic' which is the next book in the series.

Darcy had never fit in she always knew she was different but tried to be as normal as possible because her adopted father told her she was evil. Well it turns out Darcy isn't normal at all she indeed an earth witch and she could possibly be the very most important and powerful one though she has never known it. After a series of confusing and terrifying events she finds herself prisoner in a witch hunter's house. He has been cursed just like all the other hunters with a terrible bloodlust for witch's blood but Axel and his men are determined not to go rogue and have dedicated their lives to protecting earth witches and killing rogues. Now Axel has run into a problem his four year old sister, Hannah has been cursed with the death mark and will die soon if they cannot get a earth witch to remove the spell. This is where Darcy comes in; Axel kidnapped her and is depending on her to save Hannah.

Darcy has no idea where to even start considering she didn't even know she was a witch but after seeing Hannah, she realizes she cannot walk away and let a poor little innocent girl die; she has to at least try. She begins to work on her witchcraft and she and Axel realize that they are in the fight of their lives, in more ways than one.

Axel and Darcy have such a heavy lethal attraction to each other and soon begin to realize they need each other and can help each other more than they ever could have imagined. Besides the story of Darcy and Axel there are plenty of other characters that play their own parts in the story, each one is important and I really love the aspect of that. There is no meaningless character in this book.

It is such a compelling and powerful story, just when you think everything is going to be ok, their world gets flipped upside down again. The whole time I was reading I was just waiting for Axel to take Darcy into his arms and overcome the curse but I never ever saw the ending coming. That is a rare talent, to completely throw the reader off throughout the book. 'Blood Magic' was such a captivating, thrilling story, with unforgettable characters that you won't forget and it will leave you craving the next book. I give it five stars!

Creatures Of The Night
Heather Beck
Treasure Cove Books
7290 B Investment Drive, Charleston, SC 29418
9781926990064, $9.99,

Daniel Stone

Creatures Of The Night is the third book in Heather Beck's scary stories for kids series, The Horror Diaries. It's an anthology of supernatural creatures that include vampires, a werewolf, mutant eels, hungry pumpkins and vengeful loons. Creatures Of The Night uses a lot of imagination to create stories that are fun, creepy and suspenseful.

In Werewolf Hunting, Bill's hunting lodge is threatened by a rouge werewolf but there's something even worse in the woods! Werewolf Hunting kept me guessing to the end and I loved who the real culprit was. I loved the twist in the tale. It was a well-told, gripping story!

Eyes of Red tells the story of a girl who discovers an abandoned warehouse full of vampires and that her new boyfriend is one of them! I loved this story because it uses scary, old-fashioned vampire myths to create a new kind of paranormal romance. It was creepy, suspenseful and full of twists.

The Pumpkin Patch is about evil pumpkins that grow in Scott's backyard and then terrorize everyone! This story was very imaginative and vividly written. Since it's fun but also creepy, I highly recommend it.

Night Of The Eel is an adventure story set in Scotland. When Alex and her father enter an eel-catching competition, they discover something in the water that no one knows exists! Alex and her father's relationship added heart to the story, and I liked the scientific explanation of the mutant eels. It made the story feel real. Most of all, I loved the twist at the end!

Call Of The Loon is about a camp that's under an ancient curse. Unfortunately, Lorelei has just arrived at the camp! Terrifying and unique, you have to read Call Of The Loon. It will leave you wondering where in the world does Beck get her ideas. To date, it's my favorite story from The Horror Diaries.

Creatures Of The Night is a great book because it's unlike anything else I've ever read. It combines fun, scares and imagination to create stories that are impossible to put down. It's very well-written and filled with surprises. I highly recommend it!

One on One: Behind the Scenes with the Greats in the Game
John Feinstein
Little, Brown & Company
c/o Hatchette Book Group
3 Center Plaza, Boston MA 02108
9780316079044, $27.99,


I have not read many of John Feinstein's books but that didn't hold me back from reading this one and it should hold others back either. This book is not about a year in a particular sports like most of his others; rather it is about the ideas and circumstances surrounding his other books. Feinstein talks about his writing experiences including his perception of various athletes and some of the friends he made along the way.

Feinstien's style is honest and straightforward and as someone who has been to many major sporting events, he has some interesting stories to share. The diversity of the book (college basketball, army-navy football, major league baseball, golf, and tennis) can make it appealing to all types of sports fans.

The biggest caveat is that like most books that take a trip down memory lane, the narrative is sometimes sidetracked, which confuses the timeline a bit. However, like most memoirs written by sportswriters, the variety of sports coverage and figures makes the book rather interesting and entertaining.

Pyongyang Architectural and Cultural Guide, two volumes in slipcase
Philipp Meuser, editor
DOM Publishers
Berlin, Germany
9783869221878, $49.95,

Henry Berry

The first volume is a photographic gallery of Pyongyang buildings divided into major architectural categories--urban planning, residential buildings, cultural venues, education and sport, hotels/department stores, transport infrastructure, and monuments. Buildings' exteriors are shown, with occasional photos of parts of interiors. Overall, the treatment is the gross architectural forms and styles--as limited as these are as constrained by the North Korean Communist ideology--not details of interior design, materials, individual artists, or features notable for artistic or other reasons. What is notable overall despite the broad-ranging perspective with the large number of buildings shown is the repetitiveness of architectural concept. Though categorized into major categories in terms of the buildings' kind or function, the North Korean architecture is basically either functional (e. g., apartment buildings, government buildings) or monumental (e. g., statues, commemorative or symbolic structures).

The concept "juche" discussed briefly in the second volume accounts for the architecture. The term meaning simply "self-reliant" has broader, significant historical and political connotations. In a 1991 work on architecture parts of which are excerpted, the North Korean leader Kim Jong-il (d. 2011) wrote, "Juche architecture regards the masses' aspirations and demands as the sole criterion for the evaluation of beauty." Although this is standard Communist ideology, for North Korean leaders since the end of World War II, "juche" was a principle intended to develop a distinctive national identity apart from Soviet Russia which had been Korea's ally in the War against Japan occupying the Korean peninsula.

The photographs of the many buildings in Volume I have brief captions or annotations containing facts about construction or features (e. g., capacity) or historical notes. Volume 2 contains illustrated essays on varied facets of the Pyongyang architecture. In this volume, one finds photographs of buildings under construction, photos of North Koreans in other social settings, pictures of leaders and government officials, and posters on the sides of urban buildings or monuments meant to work in conjunction with them in representing the strength of social unity, the relationship between leaders and the population, and other principles of the nation's ideology. One of the chapters of the second volume is "Learning from Pyongyang - On the Legibility of Spatial Production." The topics of urban architecture and Communist ideology are implicit or explicit in most of this volume essays.

use of the two-volume set as a travel guide is noted by the editor. He also notes that all visitors to North Korea are monitored continually by the authorities, not that this interferes with viewing the architecture. But even if one does not plan travel to North Korea, the set works as a unique informative illustrated study of the architecture of this infamous, closed society. On this subject, it is encyclopedic.

Getting out of Dodge City, Heading For L.A. On the Atchison, Topeka and Sante Fe
Dr. Clifton E. Marsh
P.O. Box 151 Frederick, MD 21705
9781456089436, $24.95,

Mayra Calvani

Getting Out of Dodge City, Heading for L.A. on the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe is a short novel that reads like a memoir and that will appeal to those interested in black American history and the dynamics of poor black American families from the early 1800s to the 1960s.

The story begins in 1821 with our narrator talking about the origins of the Atchinson, Topeka and the Santa Fe railroads, how they replaced the old Santa Fe Trail, and the impact they had on the people of Dodge City, Kansas. Author Clifton E. Marsh describes the city as "the dust bowl queen of America," a dry place where "the wind and sand blew so hard a man could catch sand pneumonia." It is in the heart of this city where our narrator's family come from, starting with General Burnie, the imposing grandfather who was a laborer at the railroad. The tale spans three generations, from the grandfather to his beautiful daughter Marguerite who eventually moves to Los Angeles and marries Clifton, to her two sons, Jesse and Hugo, born from different fathers and who both live different painful lives that reflect the lives of other Black men during the 50s and 60s. Homelessness, street gangs, sexual and drug abuse are just some of the subjects explored in this story.

Because it has lots of narration and exposition and very little dialogue, Getting Out of Dodge City, Heading for L.A. on the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe reads more like a memoir than a novel. I was a bit put off by several punctuation mistakes and by the use of purple prose in some love scenes, but on the whole, this is a poignant, honest and heartfelt account about a black family trying to survive and improve their lives in the midst of a decaying society that is full of obstacles.

Resisting Elegy
Joel Peckham
Academy Chicago Publishers
363 West Erie Street, 4W
Chicago, Illinois 60654
9780897336253, $19.95,

Rick Crabtree

In Resisting Elegy, (Academy Chicago Publishers) Joel Peckham does what all humans do, resisting or not, in lieu of trauma; follow chaos through to chaos, normal through to normal. In February 2004 he was travelling with his wife and two sons in Jordan on Fulbright teaching scholarships. They popped over a hill riding in their van, one son unbuckled in the front seat, wife unbuckled in the back, to find a truck sitting in the road, unavoidable. His wife and oldest son died in the crash, leaving his younger son without a mother and brother, and himself physically crippled from the accident. This is the first cause for the book, as Peckham narrates his life before the crash and the rebuilding process afterwards.

Peckham is described as a satellite (the name of the first essay in this collection of six) by the head of the Fulbright program, in orbit around his wife (Susan Atefat Peckham), a National Poetry Series award winner, and mother in law, always with his sons, never at the center. He shows us his family in characteristic precise style, speaking of his older son, "Even with his lids happily shut, you can tell he has his mother's eyes. Even cut short, his mother's hair. Like one soul in two bodies." And then so early in the novel, we're positioned to face the tension held between before and after the crash, a shadow of the chaos intrudes, "Cyrus stands at the top of the driveway in Michigan in his red snowsuit. Two years later, that will sit lonely in the basement of a rented house. Waiting for his father to claim it." It's those thoughts, those admissions of pain and inevitability laced throughout beautiful description that give this collection of essays their collective momentum.

What Peckham does is give people a language for suffering that's poignant and actually useful, packaged in a narrative structure that is true to life under any circumstances, non-linear. Marriage close to failing, two sons that adore their parents, in-laws from a country unaccustomed to American norms, and the wreck; he describes his wife as visibly stunning, intellectually attractive, at one point backlit, "a living shadow . . . She turned to me and said something I can't remember. And I'd like to think she smiled." We're shown the picture of the wreck. Two corpse descriptions. Aftermath.

And then follow-through - the second essay ("Scream") is a narrative from the year after the wreck, of a father physically recovered (for the most part) from being all but crippled, picking up his son from a play-date, and slipping on the ice to fall on his formerly shattered hip. He has to be x-rayed, being put on the table with technicians all around him he is taken back to the wreck, to remember flying up, "I think of Cyrus leaving the seat of the van, his shoulder and head hitting the glass first and splintering around him in a lethal rain . . . Did he feel pain? Did he have any idea what was happening to him as he flew up and up? And did he scream?" Exquisite prose is typical in Resisting Elegy, as well as human moments of suffering inescapable to those of us having faced horrendous events in our lives (as I myself lost a brother to a random car accident nearing six years ago).

In "The Neverland," the third essay in the collection, Peckham explores life with his remaining son, speaking of the darkness that comes after such an event, how those demons come of their own accord during the mundane daily chores like making a cup of coffee, or giving his son a bath, "suddenly I'm in Jordan again after three days without hot water, finally able to get the kids warm and clean, reveling in their nakedness and being together, shrieking and splashing, laughing and crying. Brothers." The loneliness of having family members close to you lost to an accident, a misplaced vehicle, seatbelt dangling after a crash, is the most unnavigable facet of suffering. No one quite understands your new found position. No one quite understands what to say, how to help, if to help at all. All that we have as sufferers is to know that we are not alone, that there are others that know our new found language and the ache that settles in your chest to have your heart beating as if in mud. That language is often silence and gestures, often so acute that all we need is an awareness of each other's existence. Resisting Elegy gives us that awareness.

The scene we are left with at the close of the book evokes a feeling familiar to sufferers, that of the neverendingness of what has happened and the recognition of the unfixable, no solutions for this first cause. After going through his family's things (with his in-law's) at their house, his older son's bike has somehow made it to their new home. In this simple scene of throwing away the bike that will never again be used, the shame of throwing away memory and ties to earthly things becomes as vivid as it actually is for anyone that has had to sift through life leftover after death. Peckham writes, "I waited until nightfall to throw away the bike," waited to be far from judging eyes, to be witnessed only by the stars. He remembers the bike fragile in his hands, how he was sweating in the night, the soundlessness of it hitting the inside of the dumpster, and the roar in his head. That roar never really goes away, maybe like a train (as Peckham describes it) in the distance, still loud as ever if only further away.

A Bitter Veil
Libby Fischer Hellman
Allium Press
1530 Elgin Avenue, Forest Park, IL 60130
9780983193814, $16.99

Teri Davis

For many of us growing up as children in the middle of the twentieth century, we expected to have our dreams fulfilled, love, marriage, education, a successful career, ...

Hindsight always gives a person an advantage. However, in A Bitter Veil, an American girl, Anna, meets an Iranian boy, Nouri, who is studying engineering in Chicago. They meet in a bookstore and begin to discuss Persian poetry. This is the beginning of their loving relationship.
It seemed like the perfect match even though she was blond and he had dark hair. Both had that Aryan look about their eyes. At that time not many people in this country had married someone from this area of the world. Being That in Iran at this time had about 46,000 Americans living there and appeared progressive with technology, styles, and habits, no one could have predicted how things could and would change in a very short time.

Anna had never been close to her family so her love for Nouri fulfilled her and she eagerly anticipated having an extended family, even if it is in Iran. Fortunately, Nouri's family was wealthy and greatly benefitted from the Shah's reign basically living a Western life in Tehran.

As the couple begins their new life in the modern Iran of 1978, the southern section of Tehran is having demonstrations and riots due to the inequality of opportunities inside this country. The southern part of this city is poor, the northern section where this couple lives, appears not to even be aware of the problems.

When the Shah leaves and the Ayatollah returns to the country, many people are eager for the change, this should fulfill their hopes and dreams. However, when the U.S. Embassy is attacked and those inside are held hostage, the attitude towards Americans and modernization quickly changes. This reversion to the old beliefs is difficult for those who were in favor with the previous governmental powers.

In A Bitter Veil, the voice of Anna is realistic and believable. Libby Fischer Hellman extensively researched this time period, the changes in Iran, and those people who actually underwent this experience. This in-depth fictional story is well-organized, engaging, as well as informative of actual historical episodes and the effects on those Americans in Iran.

A Bitter Veil is a true historical experience. Even though it is a romance at first, it is also a mystery, and definitely reflective to the changes within Iran.

Hindsight always makes us reflect into a right or wrong situation. A Bitter Veil allows us to view the changes through the eyes of a naive Westerner while also having the reader develop a deeper understanding of the people.

Bethany's Bookshelf

How to Save $50,000 on College
Laura H. Gilbert
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781460969663, $9.95,

College grows more vital in today's society, but the price tag is all too high. "How to Save $50,000 on College" is a guide for those who want to better plan their education so they aren't spending the rest of their lives paying back student debt. Down to earth with's own brand of humor, Laura H. Gilbert presents a strong pick for those trying to make their college career a reality. "How to Save $50,000 on College" is a strong pick that shouldn't be overlooked.

How to Spread Sanity on a Cracker
Jackie Hennessey
Venting Sessions
9780985031800, $9.99,

Motherhood opens up a whole new world, and that new world often drops on us like a ton of bricks. "How to Spread Sanity on a Cracker: Mom-mom Whines, Cheese, Rants and Recipes" is a discussion of life and its many challenges as mother Jackie Hennessey calls out to other mothers in fellowship in how to make it all come together, keep your sanity, and save time. For any mother who feels they were thrown into the deep end, "How to Spread Sanity on a Cracker" is a strongly recommended pick for parenting and self-help collections.

The Colonel is a Lady
Beverly Thompson
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781456308100, $10.00,

Although not permitted on the field of battle, many women took the call to fight for their men's lives. "The Colonel is a Lady" tells the story of Lt. Colonel Evangeline P. "Jamie" Jamison, who surged beyond what was expected of women of the Vietnam era, who also contributed to the World War II and Korean War efforts. Sharing her story through these wars and her push to create the Vietnam Women's Memorial, "The Colonel is a Lady" is a strong pick for military biography and history collections.

Operation Seeding
Michael Andrisano
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432781187, $16.95,

Weather is life. "Operation Seeding" is a thriller from Michael Andrisano as a corporation takes over the skies with cloud seeding, giving man the ability to control the very weather itself. With a four month downpour causing massive flooding and loss of life and property, Bob Thurston, CEO of the founding company realizes the evil his technology is capable of, and must set out to stop those who would do so in acts of terrorism. "Operation Seeding" is an intriguing take on science fiction and thriller, much recommended.

Poetry Books Don't Sell!
Harry E. Gilleland, Jr.
Lulu Publishing
3101 Hillsborough Street
Raleigh, NC 27607-5436
9781105473470, $12.99,

Poetry is a taste one doesn't know they have until they try it. "Poetry Books Don't Sell!" is a collection of poetry from Harry E. Gilleland, who hopes to make his work as an introductory to the medium of thought, with easily accessible and enjoyable poems. With much to ponder, "Poetry Books Don't Sell!" is worth considering for those who want a taste of poetic, skill, recommended. "Ancient Enemies": How the modern dog does hate the cat!/You'd think this hatred was in their genes./Encounters between them yield combat,/New meetings replaying ancient scenes./Africa gives clues to what this means.//Vital to each is the fight for food./So reaction to rivals is rude.//Large 'cats' do dominate the 'dogs' there./Intrusions in their feasting causes fights./Of one another each must beware./Now, dogs elsewhere repay ancient slights.

Essays in Idleness
R. Duane Seaman
Author House
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300
Bloomington, IN 47403
9781463427801, $15.49,

We see much in life and often don't piece it all together until later. "Essays in Idleness" is a collection of essays from R. Duane Seaman as he reflects on his career of growing up during the Depression and World War II, and working with the Apollo program. Sharing his unique life story through a series of essays, "Essays in Idleness" is an original take on memoir and life, very much recommended reading.

Dark North
Paul Finch
Abaddon Books
9781907992896, $9.99,

Against the might of Rome, the armies of Arthur will face their toughest challenge yet. "Dark North" is another entry into Paul Finch's 'Malory's Knights of Albion' series. Focusing on Sir Lucan, with renown as the Black Wolf of the North, as he joins the campaign with vengeance in his sights. His wife has left him, and he views a certain Roman officer responsible. Faced with dark magic, a concerned square, and everything else, "Dark North" is a riveting read of low fantasy and high adventure, very much recommended reading.

Wally Wander
Nova Melia
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432779108, $16t.95,

When your life seems to crumble at every turn, it's not a stretch to begin blaming yourself. "Wally Wander" follows young Wally, a young woman who can't seem to catch a break in the avenues of friendship. But further investigation may lead her to believe that this all isn't mundane, and there may be greater forces at work against her, through the knowledge other dimensions and something that may be magic. "Wally Wander" is an insightful and spiritual read that stretches into the paranormal.

M.D. Keating
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
1460973658, $6.50,

An old friend can bring with him his old problems. "Sunburnt" follows a writer facing his life's grief and his alcoholism as an old friend turns up in his life with new opportunities is and many new problems. Fast paced and riveting reading, "Sunburnt" is a fun and quick read, not to be overlooked.

Chasing Rocky
J. P. Flaim
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300
Bloomington, IN 47403
9781468507690, $17.95,

Getting punched in the head for a living seems crazy to some, but it's a dream for J. P. Flaim. "Chasing Rocky" is a memoir from Flaim, as he shares his own stories and journey into the world of professional boxing, and the harsh challenges to break into it. A grueling test of the human spirit and drive, Flaim presents a thoughtful delve into the many twists and turns to becoming a professional fighter. "Chasing Rocky" is a must read for anyone who has dreamed of trying to live up to Rocky's legend themselves.

Bliss, Bliss, Bliss
Chrissi Sepe
Xlibris Corporation
1663 South Liberty Drive
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781465347701, $19.99,

As we face our adult lives, we look back and try to think of what went wrong. "Bliss, Bliss, Bliss" is a read following young Felicity as she copes with her life's sum of problems, trying to look for love and a lasting life for years to come. "Bliss, Bliss, Bliss" is a fine read for those searching for a slice of life novel that shouldn't be overlooked.

What Your Eyes Have Not Seen
Michael W. Cadry
Publicity Department
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781468550658, $13.95,

As we approach uncertain Armageddon, how are we to prepare ourselves for God's judgment. "What Your Eyes Have Not Seen" discusses the faith of author Michael W. Cadry, as he shares his knowledge and beliefs surrounding the time of chaos and the following Second Coming of Christ. A faithful read that discusses Revelations and its powerful ideals, "What Your Eyes Have Not Seen" is a strong pick for Christian collections focusing on the End Times.

The Job
Cramer Louis Jackson
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432784584, $8.95,

When something is too good to be true, you look for the downsides everywhere. "The Job" follows Joe, a man down on his luck as he gets a job offer for what may be his dream job that he never really knew. The downside to such a job quickly becomes apparent, and Joe finds new aspects of his job that must be evaded. "The Job" is an insightful and much recommended read for any general fiction collection with hints of the unusual.

Hillel Ramirez
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781456584870, $16.99,

The bonds of family are far from immune from corruption. "Tear" is a novel following Joaquin Weitzmann as he faces the family he so direly wanted to leave behind. With a mother out for her own greed, Joaquin realizes he cannot ignore them forever, and must set out to make the family more of a family, and understand what family really is. With a brutal honesty, "Tear" is a fine read by Hillel Ramirez, a choice and much recommended read.

Before I Forget
Morayo Olayombo Ruth Luwoye
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432780296, $11.95,

Education is taken for granted in America. "Before I Forget: Ola Goes to School" is a memoir from Morayo Olayombo Ruth Luwoye who shares her life's struggles, and how her desire to seek education drove her forward, through poverty. Driven by her faith in God, she shares her life's challenges of growing up in Nigeria. Moving with charming illustrations throughout, "Before I Forget" is a strong addition to any international memoir collection.

Susan Bethany

Buhle's Bookshelf

Bill Lynch
Best Friend Marketing
9780983936206, $19.95,

Our best friends can be our best teachers. "Woof!: Real Lessons from Real Dogs" is an inspirational read from Bill Lynch as he shares the heart felt relationship that can be formed between a man and his dogs on many levels. Discussing the many things a dog can bring into our lives to be used in our own lives with other people or otherwise, "Woof!" is a humorous and poignant read for inspirational and pets collections, highly recommended.

The Case of the Unwanted Pounds
Fred A. Stutman
Medical Manor Books
9780932232265, $19.95,

The origin of these pounds that showed up out of nowhere is a mystery that baffles many. "The Case of the Unwanted Pounds: A Weight-Loss & Fitness Mystery" is a unique approach to fitness and weight loss from Fred A. Stutman as he provides a humorous collection of mysteries with strong health advice woven in and out throughout. With tips on creating a quickly effective diet, creating a workout, and avoiding over doing it, "The Case of the Unwanted Pounds" is a strong pick for health collections looking for something different.

A Time for Everything, second edition
Michael L. White
Parson Place Press
9780984216369, $12.49,

There are points in our lives where we are left with questions with no clear answers. "A Time for Everything" is preacher Michael L. White sharing the story of one Kevin Zimmerman, as he presents Kevin's story of being lost in his life and how faith allowed him to find the right path and place him in the track to peace and salvation. Now available in its second edition, "A Time for Everything" is a strong addition to Christian memoir and inspirational collections.

Of Pebbles & Grenades
Ramon G. Corrales
Author House
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300
Bloomington, IN 47403
9781463448202, $17.95,

Controlling the self is an important aspect to living life to the fullest. "Of Pebbles & Grenades: 3 Keys to Self-mastery, A Manual for Becoming a Secret Agent of Love & Transformation" is a spiritual and inspirational read from Ramon G. Corrales who advises on how to gain a more complete mastery of one's life and use it to find purpose and empowerment on many levels. "Of Pebbles & Grenades" is a strong pick for personal spirituality collections.

Zero Balance
Ashley Fontainne
World Castle Publishing
9781937593933, $11.99,

Evil is something that can't be killed and done with. "Zero Balance" is the follow up to Ashley Fontainne's previous book, 'Accountable to None', following the pursuit of justice of Olin Kemper, of the people he had hurt and the people who are pushing to end him. From the struggles to keep one's goals straight to the price of punishment, "Zero Balance" is a riveting read with plenty of twists and turns throughout.

Know God and Love Him
Joanne M. Rypma
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432773991, $17.95,

God's love is universal, one must know how to embrace it. "Know God and Love Him: Prayers with Scripture" is a discussion of Christian spirituality, as Joanne M. Rypma advises readers on how to bring God's love into their lives, drawing from scripture and finding their own personal truths in their lives. For those seeking prayers to bring them closer to faith, "Know God and Love Him" is a prayerbook very much worth considering.

Hidden Treasure
F. Aster Barnwell
iUniverse, Inc.
c/o Author House
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300
Bloomington, IN 47403
9781462043330, $22.95,

Our faith can sometimes be the missing piece in our lives. "Hidden Treasure: Jesus's Message of Salvation Transformation" is a powerful read from F. Aster Barnwell as he advises readers to follow the gospel and find their own empowerment and gain a better grasp of their lives, transforming themselves into one blessed by Christ's love. Discussing faith in its many levels with ideas for followers of other beliefs as well, "Hidden Treasure" is a strong addition to Christian and spirituality collections.

For the Love of Dog Tales
I. L. Cannon
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781463580469, $13.95,

Man's best friend does not have a life of boredom. "For the Love of Dog Tales" is a collection of short stories from I. L. Cannon as he presents stories of Canine-kind, from those who face the cruelty of dog fights to those who are on the trail of murder, to those who are simply companions to those who need it most. "For the Love of Dog Tales" is an excellent pick for those who short fiction lovers as well as dog lovers, highly recommended.

At the Precipice
Jim Snell
iUniverse, Inc.
c/o Author House
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300
Bloomington, IN 47403
9781462034567, $9.95,

Health problems can often ambush one all at once. "At the Precipice: My Three-Year Journey from Stroke to Good health with Type 2 Diabetes" is a memoir from Jim Snell as over a three year period he was hit with a stroke and a diagnosis of diabetes and through determination, regained his health and livelihood for many years to come. "At the Precipice" is a strong pick for any memoir collection focused on health and recovery.

Love & Tequila
David M. Koch
Outskirts Press
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432781484, $20.95,

Drinking can destroy lives, and Randi quickly learns how. "Love & Tequila" follows Randi Blanchard as her alcoholism spirals out of control and leaves her life broken and in shambles, with her husband trying to take her children away, spurned by drinking and infidelity. Trying to recover her life is a road that's a rough one to walk, but she realizes it must be done, and what is truly important. "Love & Tequila" is a poignant read from an author who has faced the destructive power that alcohol has on families.

Collecting for Beginners
Jeff Figler
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781461077435, $33.28,

Collecting can be a riveting hobby, looking for that rare piece to complete something. "Collecting for Beginners" is a guide to collecting and its successes from Jeff Figler, who an expert on sports collecting and has collectibles from other aspects of culture as well such as music and politics. The advice focuses on learning about your particular obsession and the rarities, finding said rarities, and acquiring them. "Collecting for Beginners" is a must for anyone who wants to start collecting and do it well.

Child of Orion
David Carter Kaut
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781463709136, $12.95,

The dawn of civilization is of much curiosity to man. "Child of Orion" delves into the earliest civilization, offering a scenario of a civilization that predates the popularly believed oldest civilization in 6,000 BC, the Sumerians. Using a narrative story to explore the culture, David Carter Kaut brings a fascinating and strongly recommended read to the table.

Mississippi Moon
Theresa M. Lennon
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781448668243, $15.00,

A gauntlet of tragedy is the quickest way to beat down someone's resolve. "Mississippi Moon" is a memoir from Theresa M. Lennon as she shares her life's long endeavor of being on the wrong side of life, mental illness, addiction, and almost losing it all before clawing her way back into life. "Mississippi Moon" is both tragic and uplifting, very much recommended reading.

Son of Youth in Revolt
C. D. Payne
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781466436084, $15.95,

To be a teenager again is often mused, but it never prepares us for facing the future. Volume 7 of the Nick Twisp series, "Son of Youth in Revolt: The Journals of Scott Twisp" follows the middle aged Nick Twisp as he faces his own teenaged son's rebellion, reminding him of himself as a youth. Another entry into the humorous Nick Twisp series, it presents a story of father and son and how people never truly change as they get older. "Son of Youth in Revolt" is a fine pick for anyone who wants a reminder of the teenaged years they left behind.

Willis M. Buhle

Burroughs' Bookshelf

Bruce's History Lessons
Bruce G. Kauffmann
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781440106522, $32.95,

History is damned interesting for those with the initiative to appreciate it. "Bruce's History Lessons: The First Five Years" is a collection of columns produced by Bruce G. Kauffman, who with four hundred fifty words or less sought to produce tidbits of history for readers nationwide in newspapers. For those who want a little bit of everything in history, "Bruce's History Lessons" is an excellent compilation of columns that should prove an interesting read in plenty of short bursts.

The Missing Link on Mary Lincoln
Anne G. Snow
iUniverse, Inc.
c/o Author House
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300
Bloomington, IN 47403
9781462041053, $11.95,

The widow of Lincoln has captured the imagination of the people just as her husband did. "The Missing Link on Mary Lincoln" is a short introduction into the life of Mary Todd Lincoln, as Anne G. Snow presents her studies of the First Lady, painting a unique picture of the woman with black and white photography throughout. "The Missing Link on Mary Lincoln" is a strong pick for anyone in an interest in the Lincoln family.

Ajit Jaokar
Future Text
9780955606991, $12.99,

It can seem like time to ponder it all is at a premium in today's fast paced world. "Meditation in the Age of Facebook and Twitter" is a spiritual read from Ajit Jaokar who advises readers to use meditation in conjunction with today's social media which has become a dominant force in today's society. An intriguing exploration of this relation, "Meditation in the Age of Facebook and Twitter" is a strong and much recommended read, not to be missed.

Lead by Greatness
David Lapin
Avoda Books
c/o Jane Wesman Public Relations (publicity)
322 Eighth Avenue, Suite 1702, New York, NY 10001
9780983467700, $19.95,

Nothing inspires like a good example. "Lead by Greatness: How Character Can Power Your Success" delves into the leadership philosophy of David Lapin, a leader in both the religious and business worlds as he grants advice on success in the latter, stating that one should never let success allow them to rest on their laurels, and continue providing an excellent example for your employees and followers. "Lead by Greatness" is a strong and much recommended pick for business and self-help collections.

Not So Great Expectations
Richard Fruncillo
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781468000931, $7.95,

Waiting for perfection will keep you waiting forever. "Not So Great Expectations: A Relationships Exercise for All Couples in Love" is a guide to inspire those in relationships to stretch their lives expectations and ideals further to make the most of their lives on many levels. Discussing the many questions couples should ask each other about the bond they share and what's going forward, "Not So Great Expectations" is a strong addition to community library collections focusing on relationships.

For All Women at the Well
Anne Noble
Tate Publishing & Enterprises
127 East Trade Center Terrace
Mustang, OK 73064
9781618623317, $8.99,

The times we meet the crossroads, we look for a place to go and hope for someone to push us in the right direction. "For All Women at the Well" is an inspirational Christian read from Anne Noble as she advises readers on how to embrace their faith and ideal on many levels and find their joy and fulfillment in life spiritually. "For All Women at the Well" is an insightful and much recommended read for Christian and Women's studies collections.

Restoring Power
Richard S. Kordesh
iUniverse, Inc.
c/o Author House
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300
Bloomington, IN 47403
9781462048717, $14.95,

By caring for our own children, we create a positive environment for the children of others. "Restoring Power to Parents and Places" is a discussion of parenting and community and how allowing parents to lead their families and communities allows for success in neighborhoods, encouraging leadership from parents where it matters. "Restoring Power to Parents and Places" is a strong pick for parenting collections for parents who want to make a bigger difference and leave a community worthy of their children.

Fourth Branch - Money Trail
Daniel Shine Kim
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432784669, $20.95,

There is nothing in the world that can go without improvement. "Fourth Branch - Money Trail: No More Financial Corruption" is an argument from Daniel Shine Kim, as he discusses his idea for routing financial corruption in today's financial systems which seem to be drenched in it. Worth considering for anyone with a strong interest in economic systems, "Fourth Branch - Money Trail" is not to be missed, highly recommended.

Stone Child's Mother
Virginia Nemetz
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781462072941, $17.95,

We look for explanations for the strength to push our lives forward. "Stone Child's Mother" is a metaphysical and spiritual memoir from Virginia Nemetz as she discusses her own path of spirituality and life, and how to look for the guidance through life to heal and make a difference in our life. "Stone Child's Mother" is a strongly recommended pick for followers of spirituality and metaphysical thought.

Ocean Letters
Joseph Woods
Dedalus Press
9781906614423, $14.95,

We trvel through life, leaving home and experiencing much. "Ocean Letters" is a collection of poetry from Joseph Woods as he explores these concepts as well as what we left behind as children and where we are headed. "Ocean Letters" is a fine assortment, not to be overlooked for general poetry collections. "Bamboo": The bamboo/wind-chimes/you brought back/and hung high/in the yard/bleached in their/first foreign winter,/rang hollow/in the months/that followed.//Two winters on, their ends split,/the bamboo/wind-chimes//have changed/their tune//to the timbre/of bones.

Traveling a Rocky Road with Love, Faith, and Guts
Sylvia L. Ramsey
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781463554675, $12.99,

When life throws everything at you at once, you just have to keep trucking. "Traveling a Rocky Road with Love, Faith, and Guts: Bladder Cancer, COPD, Caregiving, Polio, and More" is a memoir from Sylvia L. Ramsey as she shares her journey to facing cancer and many other ailments, and how she found the strength to overcome them all even stronger. "Traveling a Rocky Road with Love, Faith, and Guts" is a fine addition to any health-related memoir collection.

Too Dumb to Meter
Kennedy Maize
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
Sawmill Creek Communications (publicity)
1800 Harpers Ferry Road, Knoxville, MD 21758
9781466420526, $14.95,

The sheer power of nuclear energy should never be played with lightly. "Too Dumb to Meter: Follies, Fiascoes, Dead Ends, and Duds on the U.S. Road to Atomic Energy" is a collection of history and criticism from Kennedy Maize, who writes on how he believes the sheer potential of nuclear power has blinded the world and led them into embracing nuclear energy for both war and electricity all too quickly. "Too Dumb to Meter" is a sneering take on nuclear energy for those looking for a rebuttal to the miracles of nuclear power.

John Burroughs

Carol's Bookshelf

Women on Poetry
Carol Smallwood, editor
Colleen S. Harris and Cynthia Brackett-Vincent
McFarland & Company
PO Box 611, Jefferson NC 28640
9780786463923, $45.00,

Women on Poetry: Writing, Revising, Publishing and Teaching is the handbook every poet and teacher of poetry should carry. This book brings awareness to not only the art of poetry but also to the voice of women. It is a tool for both the seasoned poet and for the new poet trying to make their way. Jenny Sadre-Orafai challenges the poet to enrich their writing life and consider other genres. Others guide us through family and career demands to make time for writing. We are nurtured to find our writing tribe as Kate Chadbourne suggests and given the tools to promote experimental poetry. It's about finding voice, digging into life experience, and as Tracy L. Strauss suggests knowing how to "take the truth of tragedy and turn it into an art form." Doris Lynch instructs how to cast our fishing line into the pool of ideas and begin our poems. Bonnie J. Robinson prompts us to "write a poem of protest; then, write a poem reconciliation." Women on Poetry is an invitation to introspection and creative self-actualization, inspiring us to be both practitioners and mentors.

Dr. Christine Redman-Waldeyer, founder and editor of Adanna, a journal about women's topics and issues is the author of two books of poetry, Frame by Frame and Gravel, Muse-Pie Press.

Women Writing on Family: Tips on Writing, Teaching and Publishing
Carol Smallwood and Suzann Holland, editors
The Key Publishing House Inc.
1075 Bay St., Suite A102/230
Toronto, Ontario, M5S 2B2, Canada
9781926780139, $27.99,

Striving to be politically correct, we avoid expressions such as "female writer", or "female poet." And yet, we cannot ignore the distinctiveness of the female literary voice. Women have historically been preservers of the language, and as society's storytellers, it is only natural for them to record and retell family memories. This volume, however, goes beyond the subjects of female writers and their family histories. Women Writing on Family covers issues and processes familiar to all authors, from the original conception of an idea to the delivery of a final product. Though focusing primarily on family history writing, it also addresses more general aspects of the craft while devoting much of its attention to the unique experiences and challenges faced by women authors.

Co-editors Carol Smallwood and Suzann Holland share a remarkable body of work between them. Contributors come from different walks of life, approaching a multitude of writing aspects from their distinctive perspectives. They are professional writers, college professors, school teachers, psychologists, sociologists, journalists, political scientists, nurses, and business owners.

Vera Gubnikskaia, Librarian, Orange County Library System, Orlando, Florida

Carol Smallwood

Carson's Bookshelf

There is Nothing Wrong with Black Students
Dr. Jawanza Kunjufu
African American Images
9781934155608, $15.95,

Black students can succeed, they just need the right motivations behind them. "There is Nothing Wrong with Black Students" is another entry into Dr. Jawanza Kunjufu's series on the struggles of Black children in many aspects of their life. In this volume, Kunjufu presents the successes in Black education, adapting cirriculum, and how to apply the successes of many educational experiments. "There is Nothing Wrong with Black Students" is a strong addition to any community library Black studies or education collection.

Gents with no Cents
Ron DeLegge II
Half Full Publishing Group
9780984719907, $24.99,

Wall Street is in chaos, and Wall Street itself could be very much to blame. "Gents with no Cents: A closer look at Wall Street, its customers, financial regulators, and the Media" discusses the insanity of Wall Street, as Ron DeLegge II hopes to put the financial crises in context as he explains the thought processes of Wall street and how it led to troubles, a rag to riches to rags to riches to rags story that seems to repeat endlessly. "Gents with no Cents" is a fine pick that shouldn't be overlooked by any general interest and economics collection.

Brainrush II
Richard Bard
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781468006001, $13.99,

Terror grows most freely where you least expect it. "Brainrush II: The Enemy of My Enemy" is the follow up to Richard Bard's previously Acclaimed Brainrush, following the life of Jake Bronson as he finds that the very enemy he fought for so long seems to be building itself up in his own hometown. Bronson begins to investigate the cell and it will take him far and wide, and he starts to doubt if he alone can stop the plots. "Brainrush II" is a fine pick for fans of the previous and for readers of action thrillers in general, very much recommended.

Kat O'Shea, editor
Leap Books
9781616030209, $16.99,

The memories of the past refuse to simply fade into history. "Spirited" is a collection of short fiction from many writers as they touch on everything from the remnants of ancient Egypt, alternative pasts to far flung futures. These stories offer interesting situations that may startle and shift the ideas of the world. "Spirited" is a strong collection of fiction that shouldn't be overlooked by any community library collection seeking short fiction anthologies.

Leaving Story Avenue
Paul Larosa
Park Slop Publishing
9780983796305, $13.95,

Journalistic integrity can often quickly become a thing of the past. "Leaving Story Avenue: My Journey from the Projects to the Front Page" is a memoir from Paul Larosa as he reflects on his rise through the ins and outs of the journalistic world, with his first step being the notorious tabloids. A humorous and personal memoir that should be hard to put down, "Leaving Story Avenue" is a strong pick for general memoir collections.

Fatal Philosophy
David S. Alkek
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781463646219, $15.00,

When a killer is driven by a philosophy, detectives have to break that philosophy to stop the next death. "Fatal Philosophy" is set in the scene of Dallas Academics as David S. Alkek creates a tale as prominent people are slain throughout. Jason Colbert, detective, has to crack down on the agenda of the killer, to figure out who is next and stop it. With the help of a psychologist, they must understand the mindset of murder and quickly. "Fatal Philosophy" is a strong pick for any mystery fan.

The Magi in Winter
G. W. Kroeker
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781466452725, $12.95,

The harshness of the elements can often place us in a rough situation. "The Magi in Winter" is a novel following Erik Leiden, who wants a peaceful Christmas holiday in Bavaria. Flying there in the dead of winter, he befriends a most unusual airplane passenger - Jenny Heilman, an expecting mother flaunting wild punk regalia. The two form a synergistic bond, and their lives may be changed forever. "The Magi in Winter" is a unique and much recommended romance.

The Rosecross
Francis X. Caiazza
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781434880727, $13.99,

As the body trail piles up, the clues become more scarce. "The Rosecross" is a novel of corruption and mystery in society, as Francesco Micco moves to find who killed his Judge father and his wife, and seems to have begun targeting others in his family as well. Finding that the conspiracy may run up to the highest office in the country, "The Rosecross" is a riveting read of twists and turns that will prove hard to put down.

Emotional Medicine
Penelope Young Andrade
Tenacity Press
9780615517087, $18.00,

Our emotional health is often shoved to the side in our lives, much to our detriment. "Emotional Medicine: Cry When You're Sad, Stop When You're Done, Feel Good Fast" discusses the principles of emotional health, as Penelope Young Andrade, psychotherapist, as she discusses the importance of the emotions in our life, and how they can affect us in other ways. With tips and advice for making one's emotional health flourish, "Emotional Medicine" is a strong pick for self-help and empowerment collections.

Chronic Pain and Debilitating Conditions Resolution
Olivia Roberts
Findhorn Press
9781844095704, $19.95,

Precision is needed to answer the constant ailments that plague our lives. "Chronic Pain and Debilitating Conditions Resolutions: Make Unwanted Symptoms Disappear!" is an advisory for those who are plagued by chronic pain in its many forms, as Olivia Roberts, professional therapist as she advises to define their symptoms and act accordingly to regain their health and their lives. "Chronic Pain and Debilitating Conditions Resolutions" is a fine pick and very much recommended reading for personal health reference collections.

Fat is the New 30
Jill Conner Browne
PO Box 400818, Las Vegas, NV 89140
9781612181400, $14.95,

The world is a terrible place. That's why we laugh at it. "Fat is the New 30: The Sweet Potato Queens' Guide to Coping with (the crappy parts of) Life" is a humorous memoir from Jill Conner Browne as she shares story of life and the lessons learned and how to apply them to all of life's horrible situations. For those looking for humor or advice that may or may not work, "Fat is the New 30" is a strong pick for both humor and self-help collections.

August 29
Gandharva Raja
c/o Author House
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300
Bloomington, IN 47403
9781462064274, $13.95,

Revelations of faith can change everything. "August 29: How Kabir H. Jain Became a Deity" is a religious novel following the divide in Islam and the rift that sits within it. An intriguing insight on faith from Gandharva Raja, "August 29" touches on many aspects of the Islamic faith using the multi-faith city of New Delhi and the holy month of Ramadan as excellent backdrops, making for a solid and very much recommended read.

Michael J. Carson

Christina Johns' Bookshelf

Horoscopes for the Dead
Billy Collins
Random House Publishers
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780679604501, $11.99,

This was the first time I ever read a book by Billy Collins. Being a horror writer myself, I found the title intriguing. It lies in your mouth easily and falls out like a twig wandering down a waterfall. Considering that Collins has penned 8 other books and edited 3 collections, it is amazing that the only thing I know about him is that he served as the poet laureate for the United States from 2001 to 2003 and poet laureate for the state of New York for 2004 to 2006.

Horoscopes for the Dead consist of 54 poems, divided by numbered sections. My personal favorite in section One, is Grave.


What do you think of my new glasses
I asked as I stood under the shade tree
before the joined grave of my parents,

and what followed was a long silence
that descended on the rows of the dead
and on the fields and the woods beyond,

one of the one hundred kinds of silence
according to the Chinese belief,
each one distinct from the others,

but the differences being so faint
that only a few special monks
were able to tell them all apart.

they make you look very scholarly,
I heard my mother say
once I lay down on the ground

and pressed an ear into the soft grass.
then I rolled over and pressed
my other ear to the ground,

the ear my father likes to speak into,
but he would say nothing,
and I could not find a silence

among the 100 Chinese silences
that would fit the one that he created
even though I was the one

who had just made up the business
of the 100 Chinese silences -
the Silence of the Night Boat

and the Silence of the Lotus,
cousin to the Silence of the Temple Bell
only deeper and softer, like petals, at its farthest edges.

A Distinguished Professor of English at Lehman College in the Bronx, Collins has won several awards. He has been called "The most popular poet in America" by the New York Times. These citations pale in the shadow of his poetry in this collection which is personal, sometimes lyrical and easy to read. Each poem here is like a story about its subject. Collins does what most poets try to do, he evokes completeness in a few, small words. Appears easy to do, but is actually a very hard task.

Readers will want to peruse this book. Read it, put it away, and then get it out and read it again. Billy Collins is just that kind of poet.

The Curse
Mike Norton
Oni Press
1305 SE Martin Luther King Blvd., Ste. A
Portland, OR 97214
9781934964880, $14.99,

This book is the result of cartoonist extraordinaire Mike Norton's taking the "24 hour Comic" challenge and was written in the course of twenty four hours. It is a graphic novel.

Opening in the middle of a fight between the lead character, Crowley, and his girlfriend Debbie, the reader finds that Crowley has a hard time holding onto a job. He hasn't paid on rent or anything else for quite a while. Thus, Debbie is kicking him out. Warning here; adult language is used throughout this book. If you don't like cursing, you may want to pass on this work.

As Crowley is trying to decide what to do, he is attacked in the park by a pirate who is a vampire. This story seems to get weirder with each word read. When Crowley is attacked, the reader is only about halfway through the first tale in this book. There are still two more tales to go.

This is a graphic book. The vocabulary fits a certain audience, mostly young people, and is conversational. The illustrating is hard and defined, stark, all black and white. Readers will want to make sure they pay attention so that they don't miss anything.

When Crowley talks to the dog, it is in a conversational vocabulary.

"Crowley: (He is walking dog in the park right after being kicked out of Debbie's apartment.) Don'tchu worry, Baxter. We were able to get Debbie we can get another chick." In the next panel, where he is still walking the dog, Crowley tells: "One trip to the park with you and we will be knee-deep in booty again." It is at this point that a vampiric pirate jumps out of the bushes and attacks Crowley, biting his arm. The curse has begun.

The day after the bite, Crowley starts to turn into the vampiric pirate, one thing at a time. By the time he is changing, the reader is finding out that his girl, Debbie, had been stepping out on him. The new dude in her life, Brian, decides to take Debbie to Crowley's favorite restaurant and it is there that the pirate pays the new couple a visit. Hoisting Debbie over his shoulder, Crowley proclaims: "Gots me booty!"

Story 2 here is The Curse II: The Cursening.

Story 2 opens with Brian taking Debbie and her infant Oscar, to a bed and breakfast. The place is in really bad shape and as Debbie points out, hasn't been used in quite some time. When birds mess Debbie up, it leaves Brian in charge of Oscar. Not a good idea as that "chick from Duran Duran," comes along to take the baby.

This is when Baxter shows up with his business card. Paranormal Investigator, it deems Baxter and that enables Brian to believe that a dog can be a P.I.

Now it is on! Will Brian get the boy back? Is Debbie really dead, being pecked to death by birds? And who is that "chick from Duran Duran" anyway?

The Curse 3.0 is the third story here. It opens with two guys going into a Traitor Joe's store and finding out that Crowley is dead. When another man comes in, one of the guys recognizes him as an actor who played in Re-Animator. The newcomer rejects this - saying that he is wrong, but the newcomer is still suspicious.

When the two guys leave the store, the actor is behind them with two hypos. He tells them, "It was Star Trek! You inbred cretins! And I only played one of them as gay!" All the while, the actor is shoving the hypos into the guys and medicating them. Keep reading you won't want to miss the end!

This book is pretty good, but is probably better for readers with knowledge of the characters here. A small amount of time was spent on any kind of back story. But, the book was good and worth a read. When is the next edition coming out?

Christina Johns

Christy's Bookshelf

Murder at the Jumpoff
Jenny Bennett
Canterbury House Publishing
225 Ira Harmon Road, Vilas, NC 28692
9780982905449, $14.95,

UT professor Donald MacIntyre is reported missing when he doesn't return home from an off-trail hike in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Ranger Hector Jones puts together a search-and-rescue team and finds MacIntyre's body at the bottom of the Jumpoff, a cliff known to off-trail hikers. Since MacIntyre was an experienced, well-respected off-trail hiker and the nature of his injuries indicate foul play, Sevier County Sheriff's Detective Sally Connolly begins an investigation aided by Hector. They learn MacIntyre told his wife he thought he was being followed but the one person who had conflict with MacIntyre has an alibi for the date of his death. They focus on MacIntyre's wife, who was in the process of divorcing MacIntyre and is suspected of illegal activities, but she has no motive. Interviews with MacIntyre's friends begin to point to a murderer whose motive is senseless and deranged.

Jenny Bennett brings her expertise as an off-trail hiker to Murder at the Jumpoff, weaving a galvanizing mystery into an environment that is tough and dangerous. Hikers will enjoy reading her vivid descriptions of different trails and locales within the Great Smoky Mountains and mystery readers will certainly enjoy a challenging and suspenseful plot. Sally Connolly is the ultimate investigator, tough, down-to-earth and likeable. Bennett skillfully introduces characters whose live intersect, at times superficially, yet eventually are revealed to be linked to the murder by one person.

Zero Time
T.W. Fendley
L&L Dreamspell
9781603183338, $16.95 paperback, $4.95 ebook

Xmucane leads a time-travel expedition of 16 from Omeyocan to Earth, each landing at different places and different times, the last arriving 6000 solar years after the first. Their goal: to gain the healing properties of Earth's natural environment in an effort to save the population of Omeyocan from extinction due to a genetic flaw that prevents future breeding of males. As time draws near for the expedition to end, Xmucane, aided by her Great Serpent, leaves her original destination and travels to present-day Machu Picchu in the year 2011 to save Earth at the end of the Mayan Calendar in December, 2012. When Philadelphia science writer Keihla Benton joins an archeological team at Machu Picchu, she quickly learns her past is not what she thought and that if Earth and the civilization of Omeyocan are to be saved, she must join with her birth mother Xmucane to help defeat the Lord of Darkness and reestablish ties with her sister.

T.W. Fendley has certainly written an interesting, suspenseful book. Genred historical fantasy, Zero Time could be classified as one heck of a sci-fi involving time travel and aliens, all tying in with the Mesoamerican culture and the end of the Mayan calendar. Although the names of characters are at first a bit difficult to read, with practice, the reader quickly overcomes this and is rewarded with an imaginative, compelling, smartly written read.

Christy Tillery French, Reviewer

Clark's Bookshelf

Bitter Freedom: Memoir of a Holocaust Survivor
Jafa Wallach
Gihon River Press
P.O. Box 88, East Stroudsburg PA, 18301
9780981990637, $18.95,

Holocaust books have special meaning as they tell what happened under the Nazis in World War II and before. The occupation of Poland and the establishment of Ghettos is often the theme of many of these books. What makes "Bitter Freedom" stand out from the rest is how several family members were able to survive in the face of extreme odds against them.

Historically, Germany and Russia were allies at the start of the occupation of Poland. A river divided the two segments so that the Nazi regime was on one side and the Russians were on the other side. People who lived on either side of the river found themselves having to live with different types of oppression. Nazis shot Jews, Gypsies, infirmed, and put them in concentration camps if they were lucky enough to survive. Russians took away land ownership, animals, crops, and said they belonged to everyone.

Those who were still alive struggled to make sense of all the turmoil. "Bitter Freedom" is the story of unbelievable circumstances, which enabled a husband, wife, and her two brothers to survive the fate of 6 million Jews throughout Europe. Natan Wallach was a physician who was able to continue aiding the ill until it became apparent he and his wife would suffer the fate of the rest of the Jews in their area.

Escaping from a fenced enclosure during a confused period when the Nazi soldiers were not sure of their roles, Natan and Jafa Wallach had one of those ironic twists of fate. Guards for a period of a few days left the gates open and the couple just walked out of their confinement!

Natan and Jafa sought refuge at the home of the town's mechanic. Under his mechanic shop, they found a place to hide. When they first entered this underground hideout, they had a small shovel with which to dig out a space to lie in. Little did they realize at the time that they would be there for the next 22 months! The mechanic, Jozef Zwonarz, was the only person who knew they were in this 5 x 4 1/2-foot hole, which was 4 feet deep. During the day, they had to be silent! 20 feet away was the Gestapo headquarters with their trained German Shepherds.

During this entire period, it appeared to the Nazis that Jozef Zwonarz was a patriot for the German cause. In reality, he was a saboteur! He put salt in their gas tanks, aided the underground, and got food for his hidden friends.

Many twists and turns that take place with regard to the survival of the Wallach family showing how under the most oppressive conditions the will to survive can conquer the evil that some men do to others. Even after liberation by the Russians, the Wallach's had many harrowing experiences until they emigrated to the United States in May 1947.
This is a highly recommended 5 star book.

Soda Springs: Love, Sex and Civil Rights
Terry Marshall, Illustrations by Chuck Asay
9781770671645, $28.99

Civil Rights in a small Colorado town in 1963 by Terry Marshall's "Soda Springs" in his novel of "Love, Sex, and Civil Rights." Young love of Ricky Sanders when he returns home from college and resumes a relationship with Ginny Sue his high school sweetheart who lives on a neighboring farm.

This is story is not just about love and sex, but the meaning of civil rights is explored just as passionately as Ricky and Ginny Sue get to know each other better. The framework revolves around how Ricky has to give up his summer plans to get involved in freedom marches and sit-ins which take place in Alabama with the peaceful demonstrations of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Ricky's dad has an accident, which incapacitates him for the summer months that are most important to a farmer. Dad is wheel chair bound after tipping a tractor over on him and Ricky must do the farming chores.

A relationship between Ricky and his dad strained through the years because Ricky had gone to Cornell for his college education. Dad had wanted him to become more involved in the farm, but Ricky had plans that are more ambitious for his life, which did not include the farm. The accident changed the need for family, as the crops were now more important than any personal ambitions.

Sunday school at church became an outlet for Ricky to vent his civil rights feelings. He was able, with the assistance of Ginny Sue, to put forth some rather riske' play acting to portray the Negro plight in America. However, this was not the concern of the people living in this small Colorado town who had a negative black population. Their concern was more for the Hispanics who lived among them.

Terry Marshall's background as a Head Start director, activist, and protestor in a small town such as Soda Springs brings credence to the descriptive activities portrayed in this book. Interspersed throughout the book are references to real occurrences, but these are done to set the scene rather than comment upon them.

"Soda Springs" is an adult book. Sex plays a part in the relationship, which develops between Ricky and Ginny Sue, but also with the rest of the characters who recognize how this couple has maturated beyond high school. There is a coming of age seen by adults as normal, but with the need to take precautions before untimely pregnancy intervenes. This is not an openly profane book and the topic, though suggestive, has a delicate balance of civility.

Conflict with some of the characters adds suspense and how they interact adds to this novel. Terry Marshall brings a glimpse into the past to life with richly illustrated drawings by Chuck Asay. This is a highly recommended 4 star book.

Thinking in an Emergency
Elaine Scarry
W. W. Norton & Company
500 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10110
9780393340587, $14.95,

How to react in a critical situation is what Elaine Scarry's new book "Thinking in an Emergency" concerns. There are "four models of emergency thinking" to illustrate the ability to carry out life-saving procedures.

Starting with CPR and the background of the techniques that can save lives is what the first part of the book covers. How to do CPR brings some revelations showing that anyone can perform some simple life saving techniques. However, strong recommendations are for retraining cycles every six months to keep these skills fresh as there continues to be updating in performance of CPR. In addition, those rhythms to keep oxygen flowing to the brain are best by teamwork. Scarry outlines the history and usage in a straightforward manner to inspire everyone to be a lifesaver!

Mutual aid contracts for communities are very interesting. We in the United States rely upon the government to provide aid in disasters. New Orleans with the FEMA fiasco is an example of people waiting for someone to help them. There are communities in Canada, which sign compacts designating roles with very specific parts that neighbors play in rendering aid. The finiteness of specifics to the bringing of a ladder falls upon some individuals. They conduct drills in preparation for disasters. Do we conduct such drills? No, we rely upon the federal or state governments to bring the aid.

Third is the Swiss shelter system, which ensures all Swiss citizens access to underground shelters in the event of nuclear war. While the United States was building a larger nuclear arsenal and expending funds for war, the Swiss were putting their money into the shelter systems. Today, they have 110% capacity for their citizens and no nuclear weapons.

Fourth in Scarry's model of emergency thinking is the United States constitution, which establishes a prohibition on initiating armed conflict without a formal declaration of war by both houses of Congress, and the additional prohibition of an executive military force that acts independently of the population's authorization and consent. During the past sixty years, have we followed these precepts? Elaine Scarry thinks not!

Elaine Scarry is a Professor of Aesthetics and the General Theory of Value at Harvard University. She has received the Truman Capote Award for her writing. In 2005, "Foreign Policy and Prospect" magazines placed her among the world's one hundred leading public intellectuals.

"Thinking in an Emergency" is the inaugural book in Norton's new Global Ethics series with Amnesty International. This series is for our nation's leaders and the public at large to voice their opinions when it comes to engaging in activities which might lead to war without due deliberation.

Philosophically, this is a very intense book with many references to some of the most outstanding thinkers of past generations. Education is the foundation upon which our nation rests and this book raises awareness of some vital issues. This is a five star book, which is highly recommended.

Letters to Zerky
Bill Raney & JoAnne Walker Raney
Nickelodeon Press
1515 Broadway, 44th Floor, New York, NY 10036
9780982138410, $14.95,

The year was 1967, San Francisco, during the Vietnam war when the Raneys, Bill, JoAnne, baby Zerky, and their miniature Dachshund, Tarzan, embarked on a one year trip across Eurasia.

In "Letters to Zerky: A Father's Legacy to a Lost Son and a Road Trip Around the World", author Bill Raney has written an extraordinary travelogue in memory of his son Zerky and his wife JoAnne, who both died a few years after returning to the United States. Thirty-six years later, Bill would compile "Letters to Zerky," A Father's Legacy to a Lost Son and a Road Trip Around the World, including the diaries written by JoAnne. Fascinating photos and maps are interspersed throughout the book, each telling their own story.

The Raney family journey began in Munich, Germany where they bought a new Volkswagen Van that would be their home for the next year. They would travel over 23,000 miles, about 1,000 miles short of around the world. A heart-warming adventure most people would not experience in a lifetime. Traveling in those years was relatively safe and the dollar was strong.

In their travels, they faced cold weather, hot weather, rain, snow, and even got sick. At times, having a small child and a dog in tow was not easy. Medical care and veterinarians were limited. One huge problem was flat tires due to rugged road conditions, which frequently hounded them. Mechanics were scarce and tire tubes were hard to find.

Bill considered Prague, Czechoslovakia to be dark and medieval-looking, but possibly more beautiful than Paris. However, visiting the catacombs of the Spielberg Castle, famous for dungeons, tunnels and torture chambers was a stark reminder of the Nazi regime. The castle is now a museum.

Athens, Greece proved to be boring except for the beaches and their visit to Olympia, where the Greeks held the original Olympic Games. The amphitheater was in good condition. After 25 centuries, the seats in the coliseum had held up well as they were made of marble. Zerky had fun climbing blocks of stone.

In Iran, a first search was made of their van. Authorities looking for drugs thought dog food was "hashish". In addition, their dog, Tarzan, perplexed them! They wondered what purpose he served. Bill said he belongs to our baby, he protects the family from harm, and his bark scares people away! After checking the vehicle thoroughly, they were able to leave.

Andorra, Spain was scenic with lush green meadows, mountain streams and Roman-style architecture. The nearly 12,000 natives spoke Catalan, Spanish and French. There are no taxes; phone service was virtually free which made it appealing to Bill and JoAnne that this might be a great place to retire. Unfortunately, as most discovered places, people began to flock there.

They flew to Nepal in the Himalayas, as roads were impassible for their VW. New Year's Eve, 1967 was at Camp Hotel where they made plans to take a 150-mile trek through wind, rain, and snow at very high attitudes. Zerky and Tarzan kept warm as a guide with a large wicker basket carried them. After spending a month in Nepal, they left for warmer weather.

At the India-Pakistan border, they found this to be a dangerous crossing. Guns were everywhere! No photos allowed! It was becoming hot and crowded with people. The smell of curry was everywhere. JoAnne was pleased to see colorful Saris and faces of the woman exposed. Animals were roaming all over, as they are a vital part of Indian religion. In addition, were the sacred cows! Thousands of them live in New Delhi sharing space with 8 million people. Cows have the right of way in India and it is a crime if you strike one.

In Benares, the holiest city in India, the Raneys watched in amazement cremation ceremonies. Peoples' ashes were thrown in the Ganges to the river goddess, daughter of Himalaya, the mountain god. Daily festive rituals celebrate cremations.

Finally, they went to Calcutta in February 1968, where the family spent three weeks touring while waiting for a boat to Panama. They spent a holiday honoring Lord Krishna celebrating fertility and spring. On to Bangkok, Hong Kong, and then they would catch a boat to San Francisco. They returned home in April 1968.

Bill Raney remarried two years after JoAnne died. Years had passed before he dedicated a small grassy area near the High School where Zerky had been killed by a truck. After writing his stories, Bill wrote "Zerky's Waltz," a CD that comes with this book. Bill still rides his VW dubbed "The Zerky Mobile".

Letters to Zerky is a wealth of information about this amazing adventure taken a long time ago, and a story that deserves telling. This is a five star book!

The Lord God Bird
Tom Gallant
The Quantuck Lane Press
c/o W. W. Norton & Company
500 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10110
9781593720476, $24.95,

Excellent prose comes from writers who take the time to explore deeply moving topics and take them to heights, which are not only imaginative, but are earth real. Tom Gallant in "The Lord God Bird," has brought a character to life, 'the man', who is an inspiration and inspires a throw-back to a time once thought to be extinct, just like the Ivory Billed Woodpecker who soars as a beacon gliding to new life and shares equality with 'the man.'

Here is a novel written in the style of Hemingway or Steinbeck in their early years. Gallant has a methodology of writing which many aspire to, but few attain. Using few words to say what he feels, 'the man', is able to convey tenderness, alertness, and all-encompassing passion, which is definitely masculine. His love to share with those around him leads to a couple of relationships that help him step away from grief that he had been experiencing during the past 10 years after his wife had died. Recovery for him was learning to live again in the moment.

One of the outstanding features of this book is the ability Gallant has to bring "The Lord God Bird," to life through the bird speaking to its mate and other animals. Lewis Carroll in "Through the Looking Glass" had Alice communicating with animals and Gallant creates an experience equally as well. Readers will explore their own imaginations without raising the least bit of concern when hearing a bird speak to them.

Another outstanding aspect is showing the parallel between the animal kingdom and humans as they share the planet. Each has their own place, but they desire peace on their own that takes precedence over mingling with the other's life.

The Ivory Billed Woodpecker is a bird thought to be extinct until there was a sighting in 2004 in Arkansas. That and descriptive references to "The Lord God Bird" were the impetus for Tom Gallant to write this book with this specific title. There have not been any other sightings since that time and a bounty of $50,000 is still available for the confirmation of a sighting. Gallant's book is one of strictly fiction.

Living in a rural setting and still being worldly is what this novel demonstrates. Raising children, animals, being self-sufficient and respecting nature are some of the parts of this story. Interpersonal relationships thrive and respect for nature abounds as 'the man' learns to live again.

A strange facet of this novel is the 'man' has no name throughout the book and the same holds true for his father and grandfather. All the other characters have names throughout the book. This imparts a very tranquil spirit throughout the entire story.

This is a five star book that is highly recommended. You should seriously consider placing "The Lord God Bird" on your bookshelf and handing it down to your kin from time to time so they can get in touch with great writing.

Clark Isaacs

Crocco's Bookshelf

One Last Love by Derek Haines
Derek Haines
Amazon Digital Services
B007L5C424, $2.99,

They took 'it's never too late' to a whole new level!

A beautifully written love story with a message of tolerance is what Derek Haines brings to his readers. His main character, Bonnie, as he likes to be called, is transferred from a hospital to a hospice to live out his last days. It's here that he sheds his grumpy old bastard reputation and his prejudices with a little help from another patient, Madeleine, his unexpected last love.

Bonnie shares his last days with patients he held strong opinions about in life, to name just a few; a homosexual, a typical teenager he would never have related to, and a pompous 'prat'. All contributed to changing Bonnie's lifelong perceptions. His awakening, being in the last days of his life, may not have made any impact except for a last minute mea culpa, but Derek tells the story in such a way that you will be forced to think about your own attitudes.

Bonnie's life wasn't a barrel of laughs; he had crosses to bear, like many of us. A bad marriage which ended in a suicide, bad relationships, and losing his son at age 11. He hid his insecurities by being brash, but as Madeleine says, "Everyone knows you've got a soft centre under that grumpy crust of yours."

I recommend One Last Love for those who enjoy a thought provoking romantic story with subliminal messages. For Bonnie, he experienced an epiphany in his last days of life. Along with that, he fell in love, perhaps the truest love in his life. If not for Madeleine and his new friends, he would have died alone.

I was left with one final message in One Last Love. Don't be afraid to be open-minded and let people in. One shouldn't wait for companionship and love until the last days of your life, even if unexpected as was the case with Bonnie and Madeleine. They took 'it's never too late' to a whole new level!

Derek Haines, as always, brings his characters to life. Each one will captivate your heart. Readers will truly enjoy meeting Bonnie and his last minute friends who change his life if only for a few days.

Need You Now
Beth Wiseman
Thomas Nelson
Amazon Digital Services
B005ENBBOW, $8.79,

A family coping with everyday struggles is the gist of Need You Now. A stay at home mom, a dad working his way to partnership, and three children who are not perfect describes this religious family.

The story begins with the family's move from the city of Houston, TX to out in country in an effort to improve their life. Their son, Chad, was in trouble, and they thought leaving the city would be a fresh start.

Chad improves, but their daughter, Gracie, develops major life threatening problems, brought on by stress. Their youngest daughter has special needs, and the marriage is in trouble at one point. So all is not well and Beth Wiseman takes us through the journey of these struggles.

The book is a nice wholesome story where families may read together and discuss what they would do if they were in any of the situations. There are lessons to learn.

However, I thought it was a bit too perfect. For the situations Beth Wiseman introduces and includes in her story, I feel they should have been expounded on. I feel more realistic dialogue was needed.

I was disappointed with the ending. I felt the characters needed more closure for the readers. It left some characters and their struggles hanging. This may be the author's purpose, if she has a sequel in mind.

The best friend of Darlene, the mother, was a strong character in the story. Once again I would have liked her to have been given more depth.

I recommend Need You Now for families who read Christian based books. It certainly is a nice story, especially to those who pray to God and have a strong faith.

Harriet Beamer Takes the Bus by Joyce Magnin
Zondervan Publishing House
5300 Patterson Avenue, S.E.
Grand Rapids, MI 49530
9780310333555, $14.99,

Harriet Beamer Takes the Bus is a fun story about a 72 year old widow who loses a bet resulting in her moving across the country to live with her only son and his wife.

Harriet Beamer lived a quiet life in Philadelphia with her dog, Humphrey. She has a best friend, Martha, who she loves very much. Her son, Henry, and his wife, Prudence, live in California with their cat, Sandra Day.

When hanging Christmas decorations at home, Harriet falls and breaks her ankle. She didn't think it was broken, so she felt confident when she made a bet with Prudence that if it was indeed broken, she would sell her home and move to California to live with them. She lost the best.

Harriet didn't want to squelch on her bet, so she sold her home and most of her belongings, and moved to Henry and Prudence's home in California. She made an astonishing decision to take a bus to California, vs. a quick plane ride. She wanted to live a little and experience life before settling in with her family in her new home.

She collected salt and pepper shakers and realized her collection was accumulated from other people's travels. She wanted to obtain her own collection and planned her trip around this new quest.

Harriet Beamer Takes the Bus is full of unexpected adventures readers of every age will enjoy. It's great fun to share Harriet's journey across the country where she discovers a lot about herself. She thinks she has a future and that God has a plan mapped out just for her.

I felt Joyce Magnin enjoyed writing this book. It flowed beautifully and was a page turner till the end. I particularly enjoyed learning a bit about our country's historical places where Harriet visited on her trip.

It's an enjoyable quick and easy read with memorable characters. I would love to see a sequel to this book to see how Harriet's life turns out living in California with Henry, Prudence, Humphrey, and Sandra Day.

Willow Pond
Carol Tibaldi
Amazon Digital Services
B006NQHE36, $2.99,

A crime story set in the 1930's complete with speakeasies and gangsters. A toddler, Todd, is kidnapped while playing at Willow Pond with his nanny. His mother, Laura, a suppressed housewife at the time, and his father, Phillip, a famous actor, try to find their missing boy.

Crimes in the 1930's were solved by police and newspaper reporters. In this investigation, it took about a year and a half because of incompetence by both.

Laura lived with her Aunt Virginia for most of her life after her parents died in an accident. Virginia was the owner of a speakeasy and had questionable connections. She used them to help find Todd.

Most of the story's tension comes from the relationship between Laura and Virginia. Laura wants to become her own woman after being stifled in her marriage, and Virginia is a very strong and powerful woman. They clash during their efforts to find Todd, each using different methods, and Laura has a hard time in the end when Virginia's hidden tactics comes to light.

Willow Pond flows beautifully as Tibaldi masters introducing and building her characters. She integrates the history of the era when apropos.

Tibaldi sheds light on how a woman owner of a speakeasy spends her day, how cops and reporters try to solve crimes back in the day, and how women are perceived in and out of marriage.

Tibaldi includes romance to Willow Pond. What would a good story be without lovers and tough decisions? Laura has her share of ups and downs and readers will enjoy the ride.

I recommend Willow Pond for readers who enjoy romance and crime. It's a quick and easy read.

I would have liked to see more history of the time period integrated throughout the story.

As far as Laura's character is concerned, for me, I just didn't like her. She drove me crazy! There was not enough effort being done to find her son and she went on with her life way too fast and cheerfully to suit me during the year and a half. I realize one must go on, but I thought Laura should have experienced more anguish during such a time. Instead she had it pretty easy and it seemed her character would have been more realistic if the scale was tipped more in hardship than good times.

I was born and raised on Long Island so I was very familiar with Suffolk County and all the towns in the story. With this in mind, it was quite the read for me.

Mary Crocco, Reviewer

Daniel's Bookshelf

Kill Shot
Vince Flynn
Atria Books
c/o Simon & Schuster, Inc.
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781416595205, $27.99,

I finished reading his previous book on the story of his main character Mitch Rapp in his early days of being recruited for the CIA entitled American Assassin. I enjoyed the flashbacks retelling his story-line, and this book takes off where that story ended. It intruiged me that Flynn would do this, but the idea was he wanted to formulate the roots of Rapp's past. Flynn showed his earlier days with the others in his recruitment to show how this all started for Rapp. A trend of continuous story is a favorite of authors to keep the readers wanting to follow up on their favorite characters through a serial form of plotting. I enjoyed my choice because of the familiarity and liking this better thriller writer on the CIA format of eliminating evil in the world. In this case the ones who brought down the Pan Am Lockerbie flight where Rapp's love of his life, and his friends died. It happened along with a total of 270 civilians on that tragic day.

Mitch mission is in Paris, France, and he has to eliminate a Libyan oil minister by using the effective kill shot of two shots to the head. He was trained to do it that way. He quickly finds out that the advance team along with him missed something in the planning on the entire mission. A surprise lurks in the hotel's shadows late at night and it's what Rapp learns is a trap set for him. His presence was detected by a group of people heavily armed with submachine guns firing large quantities of bullets into the room. Rapp becomes trapped while fighting for his life. The casualties mount to nine, but Rapp is only involved with the four armed protective guards and the minister. Now he flees from the police and the people searching for who caused this shootout. He ends up swimming in the river, and he manages to gets away. He stays under the radar, but shortly after the shootings he notices he received a flesh wound. His eventually phones his girlfriend Greta, after a little healing time. She and him lay low while Rapp, lets the woman who recruited him know he is ok. The boss send his trainer, and he brings someone else to silence him in Paris. Then the CIA boss, Thomas Stansfield cancels his first order to find him, and bring him back. Rapp is caught between those that prefer him dead, and those who really want him to be brought back. Rapp's trust is compromised by being extra cautious, and he is watching every move that comes closer to him,since he is not sure they can be trusted. Now he is cornered in a country with the team who trained him, and their main agendas are that he doesn't return.

Vince Flynn is the # 1 New York Times bestselling author of twelve previous thrillers. His latest novels before this one are entitled American Assassin and Pursuit of Honor. I was encouraged and steered to his stories about this CIA trained agent. His missions seem to take him on the most dangerous ones including protecting this country from outside threats at home. I eagerly await Flynn's next novel with anticipation about his main character Mitch Rapp's early days in the CIA.

Eye of the Red Tsar
Sam Eastland
Bantam Books
c/o Random House, Inc.
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
9780553807813, $25.00,

I selected a fiction book covering 1917-1929 historical period Russia. The book flashbacks via the main character's recollection with the days preceding and after the revolution of the Tsar's Nicholas Romanov's family. The author's account of the Romanovs' most trusted investigator whose name is Pekkala. I like this history of that period. I also own the next book in the series. I had purchased both at a library bookfair.

Pekkala is prisoner # 4745-P and he is banished by the Soviet state to a life between heaven and nowhere in the forest on the outskirts of humanity. He was one of the most trusted secret agent of the Romanovs. He actually was the right hand man of the Tsar himself. He lives a harsh existence in which even the most strong might perish in the merciless Soviet winters.

Now the state needs him one more time to help catch the Romanov's killers and try to locate the royal child rumored to be alive. All of this is to give Stalin the international coup he wishes for and Pekkala will get his freedom for his reward. He is to find the survivor of that bloody night and he will change history. Pekkala must go back to his past where he once reigned, and he will eventually meet that man who betrayed him. Also the woman who loved him and disappears in the fires of the rebellion. That will include the shocking secret he is going to uncover, that might shatter the essence of the land he loves. Sometimes the price of learning the truth might be better left alone, but there is a drive for Pekkala's freedom that remains his driving force. He doesn't want to stop, until he closes this case to his satisfaction. He does it to honor and learn the truth for the Romanov family.

Sam Eastland is a pseudonym for Paul Watkins. This is his first book in this series with Red Coffin/Shadow Pass and Archive 17/Siberian Red to be the second and third consecutively in this series. He has promised more to come after those three books. I can hardly wait, and I will savor these books slowly to digest the stories as there length is just perfect.

Daniel Allen

Gary's Bookshelf

The Chase
Diann Mills
Zondervan Books
c/o Zondervan Publishing House
5300 Patterson Avenue, S.E.
Grand Rapids, MI 49530
9780310333173, $14.99,

"The Chase" seemed like it would be a good suspenseful read but shortly into the work the author does something that lost any interest in her novel I may have had. Her character Karis Walker is just too laughable. She is confronted by five Hispanic males in a run down neighborhood who could rape or kill her. The leader tells her that they will only take her purse this tme. She responds by saying that there are business cards in her purse and that if they come across clues for the case she is working on, please call her. I had to laugh at the stupidity of this character and the situation that are just not believable. I am also surprised that no editor of the publishing company caught this glaring mistake. Readers should not bother with "The Chase"

50% Off Murder
Josie Bell
Berkley Prime Crime
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780425247020, $7.99,

"50% Off Murder" is the first of a series of novels that is off to a great start. Belle has written a witty mystery that has a lot of dazzling characters who fill the pages of this delightful mystery. Maggie Gerber and the other members of the Good Buy Girls are amusing ladies who are always on the prowl for the perfect bargain. Along the way one of their members is charged with murder. Maggie makes it her mission to help prove her friends innocence. Readers who want a laugh out loud mystery should enjoy "50% Off Murder"

Carte Blanche
Jeffery Deaver
Pocket Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781451629354, $9.99,

I love James Bond novels and usually they are great reading. Sadly "Carte Blanche" doesn't come across as one. Deaver was a good choice but he lost me when he told early in the work the age of this James Bond. From then on I had a hard time believing that this is the same character who faced such enemies as Goldfinger or Bloefeld. I found "Carte Blanche" to be a ho hum addition to the James Bond series of novels by Ian Fleming, Robert Markham, John Gardner, and Raymond Benson.

Scholastic Book of World Records 2012
Scholastic, Inc.
557 Broadway, New York, NY 10012-3999
9780545331494, $10.99,

Scholastic is back with the newest installment with the world records book for 2012. This {newest edition} tells the highest paid actor, the best soundtrack, sports figures and different aspects of their careers, city with the most skyscrapers, best tourist city, highest attended theme park and lots more. "Scholastic Book Of World Records 2012 is for anyone of any age who wants to learn more trivia.

Dirty Jayne
Amy Mitchell Illustrated by Jean Spencer
Mayhaven Publishing Inc
PO Box 557 Mahomet, Il 61853
9781932278796, $19.95

"Dirty Jayne" is the story of a willful young girl who has her way even if it means not taking a bath or shower. The author is telling kids why it is important to have personal hygiene and what can happen if you do not take care of yourself. The author has a very good underlying message to kids. Jean Spencer's artwork adds to the telling of the story. "Dirty Jayne" is a fun book that is the first of a series.

Wiggely Giggely Goggley Gum
John Tippey
1663 South Liberty Drive
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
978146534947 $21.95,

Wiggely Giggely Goggley Gum is on a mission to deliver a birthday present to a friend. Everyone he comes in contact with wants to know what is in the package he is flying around with. He will only give it to a special person. The story is lighthearted and fun as readers are treated to many interesting characters. Tippey's use of bold colors highlights the story even more and makes "Wiggely Giggely Goggley Gum" a fun kid's book for people of all ages to enjoy.

The Glimmers Starring Ruby Shroo
Robert Agnello and Nick Meola
On The Lamb Production
9780615595672, $8.99,

Glimmers and Dimmers are positives and negatives that we all live with everyday. The authors have made them characters in this interesting kid's book that teaches children personal responsibility. Dennis is not a bad kid he just does some things that are bad. Today he gets his brother Murray into trouble. The question is does Dennis let Murray take the punishment for what he knows he caused?

Border-Pups Crash Bat
Courtney Freeman
Illustrated by Thersa Finnelli
Hound Comics, Inc Hound Kids Division
P.O. Box 803 Levittown, New York 11756,
9780984695904, $7.99

"Border-Pups Crash Bat" is a book that teaches kids there are negatives and positives to everything we do in life and that we all have to learn what each of us does best. There are lots of positive messages throughout "Border-Pups Crash Bat" that make it an enjoyable kid's book to read.

Fat, Drunk, and Stupid
Matty Simmons
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York 10010
9780312552268, $25.99,,

Through the years there have been several books written about the making of the movie "Animal House" Now Matty Simmons who was there from the beginning of National Lampoon tells all in "Fat, Drunk, and Stupid: The Inside Story Behind the Making of Animal House". Simmons goes into detail how and the Lampoon was formed, why the magazine wanted to branch out and make movies, all the problems it took to get "Animal House" cast and made, scenes that were never filmed, where the stars of the movie are today, other projects the Lampoon was involved in bringing to the screen and lots more. No fan of "Animal House" or the Vacation movies should miss "Fat, Drunk, and Stupid

The Ultimate Job Directory
SM Consulting
Outskirts Press Inc
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432741846, $22.95,

There are many jobs listed in "The Ultimate Job Directory" that people can apply for and make some easy money. There are many different types of companies listed that anyone looking for employment should look into. Some of the things people can check out are market research positions, mystery shopper companies, and there are many business opportunities to look into. "The Ultimate Job Directory" is a great resource for anyone looking for work.

Gary Roen

Gloria's Bookshelf

Perfect People
Peter James
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780230760523 18.99 BPS,

[This book is presently not available in the US, only in/through the UK/Canada]

Dr. John Klaesson and his wife, Naomi, still reeling after the death of their four-year-old son from a congenital disease, have decided to consult a well-known doctor ['among the richest scientists in the world at the moment, and arguably the most controversial'] in order to try to have a baby that will be born without that gene [which each of them carries]. A controversial subject, to be sure, with hot-button terms of reference including 'gene manipulation,' 'genetic engineering,' and the more inflammatory ones such as 'eugenics' and 'designer babies.' She is twenty-eight, he thirty-six. A brilliant scientist himself, with a research lab at USC, Klaesson is convinced that this is the way to go, despite the enormous monetary cost and his wife's initial reluctance. As she writes in her diary, 'Trying to find that point where medical ethics, the acceptable boundaries of science, individual responsibility and plain common sense all meet. It is very elusive.'

One gets a glimpse into a brave new world - or is it a nightmare? The author paints an almost- too-real picture of science run amok. If this is the future - - whew! [Unless, of course, it is already here.]

With all the implications of these practices, all the possibilities, both good and ill, it is an intriguing and at least somewhat terrifying scenario that is laid out, with tension building as a sense of menace pervades the narrative. And despite the fact that this is not one of this author's wonderful Roy Grace novels, there will be dead bodies and murders to be solved. The author has obviously done a serious amount of research, presenting various sides to this complex issue, making them understandable to the reader, and the result is a fascinating novel that, despite its daunting size, reads very quickly, and it is highly recommended.

[Speaking of the Roy Grace books, the book includes a few chapters from the next in the series, due out later this year - - something to look forward to, to be sure!]

The Boy in the Suitcase
Lene Kaaberbol and Agnete Friis
Translated by Lene Kaaberbol
Soho Crime
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9781569479810 $24.00,

The authors met at a Master Class, Ms. Kaaberbol the teacher and Ms. Friis the student, and the relationship developed into the two collaborating on one of many relatively recent Scandinavian novels which have become a sensation in the US and around the world. With good reason.

As the book opens, a young woman, Karin Kongsted, opens a locker at the Central Station on instructions from her employer, and pulls out the suitcase which had been placed therein. When she opens it she finds inside it a small boy 'folded like a shirt' and barely alive. And while the reader might guess what's in store, the authors have many surprises in the tale that unfolds from this shocking opening.

After a disorienting start, in which this reader felt a bit like a pinball pinging from one side to another as the first five chapters introduce three different characters, that feeling fades as each is quite soon tied to the others, though they are at first strangers to one another, and are transported to Poland, Denmark, and Lithuania. We meet Nina Borg, nurse, wife and mother of two, a woman given to frequently checking the time for no apparent reason, who had worked in various parts of the world with a network dedicated to saving illegal immigrants from those "who circled like sharks, waiting to exploit the desperation of the refugees and take their chunk of the vulnerable flesh." Karin calls Nina, a friend for fifteen years although they had been estranged for the last several, and pleads with her to help, saying "You're always so keen on saving people, aren't you? Well, here's your chance."

Ms. Kaaberbol did the imperfect but still very good translation from the Danish. The novel is the first in the award-winning Nina Borg series, and the first to be published in the US. [The authors are presently writing the third book in the series.] It is a dark, but riveting book. I read it over a two-day period, not expecting to finish it on the second day I opened it, then discovering, several hours later, that I had done just that.

Highly recommended.

One Was a Soldier
Julia Spencer-Fleming
Minotaur Books
c/o St. Martin's Publishing Group
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9781250003874, $14.99,

In the tiny Adirondack town of Millers Kill, in upstate New York, a group of seven recently returning veterans are attending therapy sessions, PTSD the common factor among them, affecting each differently. There is also a 25-year-old woman, ex-Army. Each is finding the transition back to civilian life a difficult one. They are a rather disparate group, variously described as "the doctor, the cop, the Marine and the priest" or, less kindly, "a cripple, a drunk, a washed-up cop...," any or all of whom might be at risk for suicide.

Against all odds, Clare Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne are, finally, going to get married, and fans of this wonderful series can breathe a sigh of relief. Clare, an Army Major and an Episcopal priest originally from southern Virginia, has just returned after serving eighteen months in a combat zone. Russ, the police chief from Millers Kills, in upstate New York, is now widowed [after 25 years of marriage], and they no longer have to hide their love. But believing that he has never gotten over his wife's death and that he is starting to have second thoughts, she starts having second thoughts of her own. For his part, Russ thinks "What did she want out of marriage? Specifically, marriage to a guy fourteen years older, who thought God was a myth and whose job could get him killed."

The chapters of this newest book from Julia Spencer-Fleming, her seventh and her strongest yet [high praise indeed], alternate between these two major plot points, until they merge when one member of the therapy group is found dead and Russ is the lead investigator. Clare is convinced, all evidence to the contrary, that it was murder. In denial, perhaps, because that might threaten her own sense of safety, fighting, as she is, her own demons. Russ, too, is ex-Army, had served in Vietnam, and is mindful of the problems faced by returning vets.

There are several plot twists, including wholly unexpected ones near the end, and the precision of the way they are woven into the tale completely satisfying. In addition, the book makes the reader aware that aside from the obvious politics involved, one tends to forget the toll on lives lost and ruined by wars now lasting over a decade.


Wherever I Wind Up
R.A. Dickey with Wayne Coffey
Blue Rider Press
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780399158155, $26.95,

This is a fascinating tale, about a fascinating man. R.A. Dickey is much more than a talented pitcher: He is a former English lit college student; he once [attempted to] swim the Missouri [and was partially successful]; and most recently climbed to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, a height of over 19,000 feet, for charity, in an effort to raise awareness and funds to stop human trafficking and prostitution in Mumbai. He is a devout Christian, and though at times less than perfect as a Christian, husband and father, that is no longer the case, and there can be no doubt as to his love for and devotion to his wife [his childhood sweetheart], his children and his God.

Nominally, and obviously, a sports book, this novel is much more than that. To the author's credit, he names names, and is generous in his praise while being candid in his assessments when circumstances warrant it. In addition to an insider's view of the game of baseball, there is the occasional quote from ancient Greek or Chinese philosophers. In 2011 he completed his 15th season of professional baseball, in a remarkable story. Despite some horrific abuse suffered when he was eight years old, detailed in the book, he overcame great odds to be where he is today, also detailed in the book.

Full disclosure: This reviewer is a passionate fan of the New York Mets, the team where Mr. Dickey is now a trusted part of the five-man pitching rotation, and I have been a Mets full-season ticket holder for 25 years, attending at least 70 [out of 81] home games each of those years. But my admiration for the author goes beyond the obvious - he is a courageous human being as well, as this book makes clear. Called a "phenom" when he started out, he was the Tennessee State player as a senior in 1993, an All-American at the University of Tennessee and a starter for Team USA in the 1996 Olympics. After playing in the minor leagues over a long period of time, he is offered a signing bonus of $810,000 by the Texas Rangers. It is the realization of his dream. Until he undergoes the routine physical examination required before the contract can be signed, and it is found that he was apparently born without an ulnar collateral ligament - the main stabilizing ligament - in his elbow, and the offer is summarily withdrawn. Ultimately, he signs for $75,000.00. How he proved himself, remained in the major leagues, and became one of the premier - and few - knuckleball pitchers pitching today, is quite a tale.

The book is highly recommended, for readers who are baseball fans certainly, but for those who are not as well. As you can probably tell, I loved it.

Kill My Darling
Cynthia Harrod-Eagles
Severn House
555 Madison Ave., NY, NY 10022
9780727881373, $28.95,

In the newest [and very welcome] Bill Slider mystery, the Detective Inspector is presented with a missing persons report: Melanie Hunter, a young woman who is a paleontologist at a prestigious Kensington museum, has not been seen in a day, and though that is normally not a matter for the police at that early stage, there is a hint of Sherlock Holmes in the fact that her dog, usually a very quiet animal, has been left alone in her apartment and has been barking a lot. When her downstairs neighbor lets himself into the apartment with the key he had been provided for just such purpose, he takes the dog back with him and reports the incident to the police. The worst fears are realized in short order when the woman's dead body is discovered.

Suspicion first falls on that self-same neighbor, who is found to be a convicted murderer, though out of prison for several years. Although everyone who knew Melanie says she was very friendly and loved by all, there are soon several serious suspects, and no real proof or evidence to narrow it down. Slider, always a sensitive soul, finds the girl's death haunting him.

Slider is a wonderful protagonist, and his colleagues in Shepherd's Bush cop shop are delightful creations all, including D.S. Porson, king of the malapropisms and mixed metaphors, described variously as having "the looks and charm of a bunion," wearing a "greatcoat, the folds of which were so voluminous a Bedouin could have kept his entire family in there, and several of his favourite horses as well." The author's trademark evocative descriptions of people and places are terrific as always; the writing throughout is wonderful in its humor and poignancy, and the mystery thoroughly satisfying, with a fascinating resolution that is truly unexpected - - though all the clues are there.

Highly recommended.

[The UK edition was published by Severn in October, 2011, ISBN 978-0-7278-8137-3, 19.99 BPS]

Never Tell
Alafair Burke
c/o HarperCollins
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780061999161, $24.99,

Ellie Hatcher and her partner, J.J. Rogan, return in the fourth book in the series, as they are called to a posh townhouse in the West Village in New York City, the scene of a suspected suicide of a 16-year-old girl, whose body was found in her bathtub, wrists slit, and a suicide note nearby. When Ellie can't understand why the case requires the attendance of two homicide detectives, she finds the answer in the insistence of the dead girl's mother that it cannot have been suicide, it must have been murder, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding.

There is a suspicion that the dead girl had something she was hiding from both friends and parents; that she was a little too wild, too adventurous; added to the fact that prescription pills were apparently somehow involved, but nothing that they can pin down.

Ellie brings her own subjectivity to the situation, as she still has not come to terms with her own father's suicide a couple of decades earlier - a cop in despair after years of unsuccessfully chasing a serial killer and using his own gun to end his life.

A major theme of the book is that "sometimes more than one truth defined a family."

The main story line is interspersed from time to time with entries from a blog by an anonymous "former victim and current survivor" of ongoing rape/child abuse by the blogger's stepfather, as well as tantalizing snippets dealing with an ex-con in Buffalo, NY, the relevance of which is a mystery all its own, until one is tied in about one-third of the way into the tale, the other not until much later, in this intriguing and suspenseful novel.

This is the author's eighth novel, and this entry in the Ellie Hatcher series is every bit as good as its predecessors. The characters are very well-drawn, and Ellie's evolving personal life [her significant other is an ADA with whom she often works, as she does again in this case] every bit as interesting as the investigation she is pursuing. Highly recommended.

Gloria Feit

Gorden's Bookshelf

End of the Drive
Louis L'Amour
Bantam Books
c/o Random House, Inc.
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
9780553805376, $4.99,

There are two ways to look at End of the Drive. If you are not a current fan of L'Amour's stories, it is a great introduction to his style of storytelling and a way to enjoy the art of short stories. If you are a fan, you will have the added enjoyment of linking these stories with later works. L'Amour frequently used short stories as test beds for his novels. He might take a short tale and use it to create a chapter or even expand it to create a complete book. You will also find that L'Amour was partial to using similar themes for many of his stories. You can easily spend an enjoyable evening considering why the similar themes. Was it an occurrence that happened to him that sparked the repeated thread or is it a more basic cultural meme in this country?

End of the Drive is made up of eight short stories. These stories seem a little more edgy and adult than many other pulp western tales. This is a nice change that expands the core genre. Westerns deserve a little more respect from the literary critics and general readership than they get. These stories should silence many of those criticisms by proving that good storytelling, in any genre, is good storytelling.

I can recommend End of the Drive to any reader. The simple style of storytelling seems effortless but when you drill down into the work you will be amazed at the complexity and details L'Amour can impart in so few words. The quality of the writing and the universality of the themes will fit with any reader.

Dana Haynes
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780312544157, $9.99,

Haynes has found his own niche in the action/forensic detective genre. He has created a set of unique forensic characters who study plane crashes. The details of the investigation have a feel of gritty reality. He then adds in an action overlay to the tale that accelerates the plot and pulls the reader from one page to the next.

Tommy Tomzak is a NTSB investigator and pathologist who is leading a large team of experts investigating a plane crash outside of Portland. He wades into the carnage of the crash site, finding victims and preserving the wreckage for clues to find out what caused the crash. In-fighting within the team between the egos of the individuals involved, dominate the workings of the investigative team. But a bigger problem looms. Individuals involved in causing the crash have infiltrated the investigation. They have plans on bringing down more planes. With hundreds of deaths already staining their hands, the lives of a few investigators working to stop them is of no consequence. Tommy and his colleagues first have to survive before they can stop the killers.

Crashers is a fast breathless read. The forensics are great. The tension, intrigue and action yank you into the story and pull you through to the end. Its one weakness is the timeline. Haynes uses an extraordinary fast time line to keep up the tension. So fast that it becomes a detriment to the storyline. This condensed timeline use by writers has become part of the standard writing style for contemporary authors. The accelerated timeline could easily have been compensated for with a judicious touch of a more classic writing style. Overall, Crashers is a must read for any action or forensic detective reader. The visceral flow of the story will keep the reader going from the first page to the last. My recommendation is to find the book as soon as you can.

S.A. Gorden, Reviewer

Harwood's Bookshelf

Pity the Billionaire: The Hard-Times Swindle and the Unlikely Comeback of the Right
Thomas Frank
Metropolitan Books
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780805093698, $25.00

"But the scenario that should concern us most is what will happen when the new, more ideologically concentrated Right gets their hands on the rest of the machinery of government. They are the same old wrecking crew as their predecessors, naturally, but now there is a swaggering, an in-your-face brazenness to their sabotage.... Social Security, of course, will be one of the first institutions to go on the chopping block, as the essential injustice of protecting the weak dawns on them. Why should society pay for the retirement of someone who hasn't been responsible and collected Krugerrands?" (pp. 186-187)

That passage from Thomas Frank's Conclusion is perhaps as accurate a summary of what the evolutionary throwbacks of the theofascist Far Right are doing to America, as MSNBC's epitomizing of Republican philosophy as, "Let them die." Unfortunately, whereas Maddow, Schultz and O'Donnell intersperse their analyses of the problem with useful suggestions for its solution, Frank does not. I am reminded of the Letter in the Christian bible in which the writer asks (James 2:15-16), "If a kinsman or kinswoman is naked and lacking daily food, and one of you preaches to them, 'Go in Peace. Be warm and filled,' but you do not provide them with the body's needs, of what use is that?"

Frank identifies Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged as the inspiration for the belief of the richest one percent, that screwing the ninety-nine percent is the American Dream, and quotes right-wingers who hail Rand as an opponent of any kind of social safety net. And he denies that the Far Right have a religious agenda. Since his book was presumably written before Rick Santorum made clear that he plans to impose Vatican sharia on the seventy-five percent of Americans who are not Catholics, and before all of the Republican contenders began preaching a purely religious prohibition of birth control, perhaps Frank was less wrong then than he is now.

Among the most loudmouthed apologists for the abolition of democracy, Frank pinpoints the zealots of Faux News and recognizes that they are not nice people. Even someone who did not already know that is unlikely to benefit from reading "Pity the Billionaire: The Hard-Times Swindle and the Unlikely Comeback of the Right", since persons to whom the problem is not self-evident are least likely to come up with a solution. The strongest praise I can give Pity the Billionaire is that it will do no harm.

Science and Religion: Are They Compatible
Daniel C. Dennett & Alvin Plantinga
Oxford University Press
198 Madison Avenue, New York NY10016
9780199738427, $9.95

In a debate with theologian Alvin Plantinga in 2009, Daniel Dennett hypothesized that an extraterrestrial known as Superman from the planet Krypton came to earth a half-billion years ago and manipulated terrestrial lifeforms so that they would eventually evolve into Homo sapiens. He did not suggest that such a visitation actually happened. Rather, he argued that the Superman hypothesis was qualitatively equal to Plantinga's hypothesis that an entity known as God did the same thing. An audience member asked Dennett if he attached evidentiary value to the fact that hundreds of millions believed that God did it, while (probably) nobody believed that Superman did it. He answered (p. 47) that the God hypothesis "was first assembled in an age of scientific ignorance, when almost nobody had the idea that the earth was round, and no one had an inkling of its age." As for the popularity of the God hypothesis today, he pointed out that, "roughly half a million people say they believe in the Angel Moroni's golden tablets. I rest my case." He concluded, "It is clear, is it not, that whatever resources Plantinga uses to shore up his hypotheses are available to me to shore up my rival Supermanism. This is a mug's game."

Much of Plantinga's argument stems from the assumption that the doublethink of "much maligned" apologist Michael Behe is (p. 33) "right, or anywhere near right." Dennett says of Behe's first book that (p. 32), "When copies of the book arrived, we were appalled. This was not at all a serious science book, but largely disingenuous propaganda, full of telling omissions and misrepresentations." Dennett suggests (p. 49) that, "Plantinga still has to decide whether he wants to defend Michael Behe as a naturalist or acknowledge, with Behe's critics, that he is a theological speculator, not an investigator playing by the rules of science.... Plantiga's stout 'defense' of Behe actually undermines him." Dennett also seizes the opportunity to reject Stephen Jay Gould's ridiculous "non-overlapping magisteria," that no one but Gould himself has ever taken seriously.

This book represents my first encounter with Alvin Plantinga's arguments, and I do not see it as providing sufficient evidence to denounce him as unteachable, the way such [what is a polite euphemism for "brain amputees"?] as Alister McGrath, Michael Behe, and William Dembski are unquestionably unteachable. While Plantinga's responses to Dennett are inadequate to the point of being purblind, they are not plain dumb, as every word from the pen of the cited unteachables is dumb. I have long viewed Cambridge University Press as a conscious propagandist for the God delusion, and I suggest that, if Science and Religion: Are They Compatible? had provided a definitive "No" to that question, OUP would not have published it. Despite favorable back-cover blurbs from believers secretly rejoicing over Dennett's failure to (completely) blow Plantinga out of the water, my conclusion is that it will not occupy "a unique and special place in the literature on this topic." I might add that I have never understood why a writer as merely adequate as Dennett is consistently cited as one of the "four horsemen" of atheism, rather than the much more skilled Victor Stenger.

Meaning and Value in a Secular Age: Why Eupraxsophy Matters
Paul Kurtz, author
Nathan Bupp, editor
Prometheus Books
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst, NY 14228-2119
9781616142315, $19.00

Meaning and Value is a representative collection of the writings of Paul Kurtz relevant, leading up to, and justifying his coining of the word, Eupraxsophy, and virtual creation of the concept. He explains that, "Eupraxsophy differs from antiseptically neutral philosophy in that ... unlike pure philosophy, it is not simply the love of wisdom, though this is surely implied by it, but also the practice of wisdom." He states that, "Historically, it has been the role of philosophy to support general interpretations of the universe." Mark Twain had a different perspective. He defined a philosopher as a blind man in a dark room searching for a black cat that is not there. (H.L. Mencken later applied that same definition to a theologian, adding the words "__and finding it.") My view of philosophy is that its purpose is to obfuscate reality by translating comprehensible language into doubletalk, incomprehensible even to other philosophers, for the purpose of sending the message, "Look how clever I am." To say that Kurtz's book may be the most comprehensive refutation of religion by philosophical arguments currently available, would be analogous to saying that "Scientology for Dummies" may be the most comprehensive refutation of Flat Earth Theory by glossalalia currently available. It is no surprise that Kurtz is not cited as a religion-debunker alongside Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, and Victor Stenger, since he writes in a language (philosophese) that is half a degree removed from the impossible-to-translate Etruscan.

Many of Kurtz's concerns about morality, ethics, justice, and social responsibility have no connection to religion, except in the sense that theists propagandize that right and wrong are whatever their capricious Sky Fuhrer says they are. Kurtz is aware that, "Many friends and foes of humanism maintain that it is a religion." That is like calling baldness a hair style. Religiosity is in fact, "an abandonment of all of the standards of objective science and philosophy," so far removed from reality that, "lingering forms of religiosity ... involve the willful commitment to doctrines in spite of evidence to the contrary." Self-evidently humanism is the precise opposite of religion.

The reality is that, "religious systems of thought and belief are products of the human imagination. They traffic in fantasy and fiction, taking the promises of long-forgotten historical figures and endowing them with eternal cosmic significance." Kurtz recognizes that, "Some of the classical religious models ... are in a profound sense antihuman, and the source of deep-seated misery and unhappiness." The target of that comment is cults that practise total withdrawal from the real world, such as Buddhist ascetics. But it is even truer of "my god hates your god" cultists, such as heretic-hating rugbutters who crash airplanes into buildings, and "right to life" Manchurian Candidates who murder doctors for providing women with a necessary medical service.

Kurtz recognizes that, "Moral codes ... have an adaptive function; one can postulate that those groups which had some effective regulation for conduct were better able to survive, reproduce, and compete with other species or human groups, and thus transmit this favorable trait and these learned behavioral responses to others." But he declares that, "a basic distinction can be made between customary morality, which refers to the moral conceptions that already prevail in a given cultural group, and ethics, which involves a reflective and critical component."

There is probably not a nontheist in this galaxy who has not noticed the hypocrisy of, "those who are against the killing of fetuses [but] defend other forms of killing such as capital punishment or the killing of innocent civilians in times of war." But about the only point on which Kurtz echoes Dawkins is his observation that, "To infer a divine being as the cause of the universe, only pushes our ignorance back one step; for one can always ask, Who or what caused God?"

Whether Eupraxsophy will outlive its creator as a useful description of the kind of thinking it epitomizes is problematical. Fortunately for Dr Kurtz, his place in history will not stand or fall on the answer to that question.

A Universe From Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather than Nothing
Lawrence M. Krauss
Simon & Schuster Inc
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781451624458, $24.99

Let me get my one gripe out of the way before I start discussing a book in which I found no other avoidable weaknesses. And that gripe is not with the book's author, Lawrence Krauss, but with the writer of its Afterword, Richard Dawkins. Since Dawkins is clearly not a slow learner, I can only conclude that he is capriciously stubborn, refusing follow the majority of secularists and even liberal theologians in switching to the scientifically neutral dating system, CE (Common Era), in place of the insultingly Christian terminology, AD, that tells this planet's six billion non-Christians that they are living in the Year of the Master. Dr Dawkins: Theists are quite capable of peddling their own propaganda. They do not need you to peddle it for them.

I expected A Universe From Nothing to focus on the claims of religion that are incompatible with observable reality. Apart from a handful of paragraphs, it does nothing of the sort. Instead, 99% of the book is devoted to providing answers from theoretical physics to the question, "Why is there something rather than nothing?" Even believers capable of following Krauss's answers can nonetheless dismiss them with the rationale that, even if he is right, God remains the first cause of why he is right. This book adds nothing meaningful to the refutations of religion by Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, and particularly Victor Stenger, whose arguments from physics are much more persuasive than Krauss's.

Nonetheless, Krauss does raise some valid points. For example (p. xii), "[T]he declaration of a First Cause still leaves open the question, 'Who created the creator?' After all, what is the difference between arguing in favor of an eternally existing creator versus an eternally existing universe without one?"

Also (p. 142), "A god who can create the laws of nature can presumably circumvent them at will. Although why they would have been circumvented so liberally thousands of years ago, before the invention of modern communication instruments that could have recorded them, and not today, is still something to wonder about."

And (p. 141), "If immutable laws governed the universe, the mythical gods of ancient Greece and Rome would have been impotent.... What held for Zeus would also apply to the God of Israel. How could the Sun stand still at midday if the Sun did not orbit the Earth but its motion in the sky was actually caused by the revolution of the Earth, which, if suddenly stopped, would produce forces on the surface that would destroy all human structures and humans along with them?"

On the issue of whether there could be objective good and evil without a lawgiver to decree which was which, Krauss remarks (p. 172), "What if God decreed that rape and murder were morally acceptable? Would that make them so? While some might answer yes, I think most believers would say no.... because reason suggests that rape and murder are not morally acceptable. But if God would have to appeal to reason, then why not eliminate the middleman entirely?"

As for America's status as the most ignorant, scientifically illiterate, Manchurian Candidate-ized Cuckoo's Nest in the Western world, Krause cites the reality (p. 145) that, "polls suggest far more people believe in angels in the United States than believe in evolution." While he does not explain that angels originated as deifications of the fixed stars (and archangels as the wandering planets), he does report the long-time belief that stars and planets moved because each one had an angel to push it. He offers no argument in support of evolution, presumably in recognition that anyone who can reject such a proven reality is beyond the reach of reason.

Krauss shows that the laws of astrophysics make a universe from nothing not merely possible but inevitable. Some theists will dispute that. But even those who accept it will not see it as a compelling argument for the nonexistence of a Prime Mover. Dawkins' opinion to the contrary notwithstanding, Krauss is basically preaching to the choir.

Beyond Religion: Ethics for a Whole World
The Dalai Lama
McClelland & Stewart Ltd
75 Sherbourne Street, Toronto, ON, M5A 2P0, Canada
9780771046032, $26.99

"His Holiness, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, is the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people." (cover blurb)

Camel excrement! The Dalai Lama is no more the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people than the Catholic pope is the spiritual leader of the German people. He is the spiritual leader of the tiny minority of Tibetan citizens who happen to be Buddhist monks. Until Mao Zedong's fascist thugs annexed Tibet to his concentration camp called China, the Dalai Lamas had been absolute dictators of a totalitarian regime every bit as tyrannical and oppressive as Mao's own. As for referring to a peddler of the opiate of the proletariat, religion, as "His Holiness," while applying such a title to Buddhism's powerless figurehead is less obscene than applying it to the most prolific mass murderer in human history, Joseph Ratzinger, whose self-serving ban on condoms caused sixty million deaths from starvation and AIDS, it is nonetheless offensive to anyone whose moral evolution exceeds that of a great white shark with rabies.

In what might be seen as a response to the question of whether Buddhism with its lack of gods is a religion, the DL refers more or less in passing to the existence of both theistic and nontheistic religions. Apparently he sees a discipline that treats "not believing in the mores the cult believes in" as reprehensible, as being as much a religion as one that denigrates "not believing in the gods the polis believes in." One could argue that, by that standard, Scientology and Marxism are religions. The DL does not elaborate. He simply treats his Buddhism as a religion, and proceeds from there.

He writes (p. 26) that, "I am not among those who think that humans will soon be ready to dispense with religion altogether." Nonetheless he is very much a secularist - as were James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin, in case any reader does not know that. He writes (p. xiv) that, "I am confident that it is both possible and worthwhile to attempt a new secular approach to universal ethics," since (p. xiii-xiv), "any religion-based answer to the problem of our neglect of inner values can never be universal, and so will be inadequate. What we need today is an approach to ethics which makes no recourse to religion and can be equally acceptable to those with faith and those without: a secular ethics.... I am of the firm opinion that we have within our grasp a way, and a means, to ground inner values without contradicting any religion and yet, crucially, without depending on religion." He explains (p. 185) that his book attempts, "to outline what I consider to be the key elements of a purely secular approach to ethics and to promoting basic human values. It is a project I have been committed to since I came to see that no one religion can ever hope to satisfy everyone." And in an introduction to Part II, he elaborates (p. 101), "[T]he practices presented here require no religious belief or commitment. Instead they constitute an approach to living ethically and in harmony with others, with a deeper sense of well-being, which can be practiced in a way that is independent of any specific religious or cultural perspective."

He refutes the Big Lie most vociferously preached by religious zealots (p. 45): "Many people mistakenly believe that compassion is a religious practice. This is not the case. It is true that compassion is central to the ethical teachings of all of the major religious traditions, but in itself it is not a religious value." If Stephen Jay Gould had recognized that truth, he would not have invented his imbecilic "non-overlapping magisteria," that attributed morality to the magisterium of religion.

The DL is aware of what godworshippers are doing to the human habitat in the conviction that their deus ex machina will intervene to prevent them from accomplishing species suicide. He writes (p. x), "[W]e have to recognize the possibility that human activity is damaging our planet beyond a point of no return, a threat which creates further fear." He also recognizes (p. 73) that, "If, for example, politicians take their country to war without having fully considered the likely consequences, then even if their motivation is sincerely compassionate, the outcome is likely to be disastrous." I get the impression that he is crediting George W. Bush with mere thoughtlessness rather than despicable motives. If so, it is not an evaluation I share. That he was aware of Bush's role in starting a badly-considered war is made clear in the words (p. 88), "A further factor which makes violence an unrealistic means of resolving conflict is the unpredictability of its outcome.... The result was a ... conflict which has devastated the lives of millions of innocent people." And to avoid appearing to advocate appeasement, he recommends (p. 66), "Punish the actor in proportion to the misdeed, but do not indulge the desire for vengeance."

Despite his conscientious study of more reliable sources, there are areas in which he is as disinformed by the mass media as any other religion addict. For example (p. 98), he cites among "the greatest fighters against injustice of recent times" Mohandas Gandhi, making no reference to Gandhi's determination to impose Hinduism's obscene, oppressive caste system on the whole world, and Mother Teresa, apparently ignorant of her status as a lying, swindling, hypocrite who solicited millions of dollars to feed the starving and misappropriated ninety percent of the money she collected in order to benefit her order and the Catholic Church. He quotes the "golden rule" as a valid guide to morality (p. 106), even though it is a perversion of the "silver rule" taught by some of history's greatest moralists. "Do not do to another whatever is hateful to yourself," is both ideal and actually possible. "Do to others what you would have them do to you," is at best impossible (I cannot give a billionaire a million dollars, as I would have him do for me), and at worst monstrous (should I forcibly rip the clothing off a supermodel and gratify my lust, in depraved indifference to her own wishes, as I would have her do to me?). And he advocates adoption of the lotus position for contemplative thinking (p. 162), unaware that it dates back to matriarchal times, when men twisted themselves into a resemblance of the ruling caste by folding their legs into the shape of a vagina.

For some reason, the DL ends his book with a declaration (p. 188) that a century of peace, a century of dialogue, "is my prayer as well." This despite having earlier acknowledged (p. 4) that, "When I was ill some years ago, it was certainly comforting to know that people were praying for me, but it was, I must admit, still more comforting to know that the hospital where I was being treated had the very latest equipment to deal with my condition!" And when (p. 3) a public speaker in India "expressed his conviction that, with the blessings of the Buddha, the state of Bihar would now prosper.... I suggested, half-jokingly, that if Bihar's prosperity depended solely on the blessings of the Buddha, it really should have prospered a long time ago!" Those observations prompt me to wonder if the millions of Christians who regularly pray for world peace have ever asked themselves whether they could stop getting zero results by redirecting their prayers to the god of the rugbutters or the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

As surprising as it may seem for a pusher of religion, the Dalai Lama comes across as basically one of the good guys. Throwing off the last of his indoctrination and officially declaring himself a secular humanist is almost certainly economically unfeasible. But it would be a good thing for the human race, and even better for the DL himself.

The Last Myth: What the Rise of Apocalyptic Thinking Tells Us About America
Matthew Barrett Gross & Mel Gilles
Prometheus Books
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst, NY 14228-2119
9781616145736, $18.00

I am not the person the authors of The Last Myth would have chosen to review their book. They would have chosen persons who applaud the book's message and endorse its basic conclusions, but lack the expertise in biblical criticism to recognize their status as rank amateurs in that field, and not even particularly discerning amateurs. While I conform to the first half of that description, I do not fit the second.

Gross & Gilles' most grating misdemeanors stem not from inexpertise but from a conscious policy of parroting religious propaganda as if it were objective reality. When they describe the Christian junior god as "Jesus of Nazareth" (p. 85), that error can be attributed to lack of better knowledge. Clearly they are unaware that "of Nazareth" is a blatant mistranslation of a Greek word that identified Jesus as a member of the Nazirite sect, and could not possibly have carried a geological denotation. And when they write (p. 90) that Jesus was "arguably the greatest apocalyptic preacher in history," that is an evaluation that might sound reasonable to the unlearned masses. In fact Jesus was a nobody who did nothing, an insignificant preacher whose ten-minute war of independence had no impact whatsoever on the Pax Romana. If Paul of Tarsus had not capriciously chosen him from the dozen or so recently executed messiahs to be the posthumous figurehead of his new, gentile religion, his name would be as unknown today as it was to the historians of his own time. If the authors had any familiarity with the findings of the Jesus Seminar, which concluded that less than twenty percent of the words attributed to Jesus in the gospels were ever spoken by him, they would have known that.

G & G's description of Paul as "Saint Paul," the anonymous fourth gospel as the "Gospel of Saint John," and Revelation as "Revelation of Saint John," goes beyond political correctness and well into the realm of indefensible propaganda. If Jesus addicts want to call dead Christians "Saint," that is their privilege. For alleged historians to do so is tantamount to declaring that the decrees of the brainwashed are objectively accurate. But when they write (p. 152) that, "Jesus Christ was born to save humankind," that is as incompetent an evaluation of a historical reality as the claim of homophobic zealots that their imaginary Sky Fuhrer created AIDS to punish sin.

G & G state (p. 85) that Rome was, "the fourth major empire to conquer the Hebrews." It is hard to escape the conclusion that they are parroting the book of Daniel, which retroactively prophesied that the Jews would be overrun by four empires, which in turn would be replaced by a kingdom of saints. The Last Myth's implication is that the Daniel prophecy was accurate. But Rome only conquered the Jews long after the composition of Daniel. The prophesied "four empires" constituted the apocalyptic author's interpretation of events that had already happened, and therefore obviously did not include Rome. The prophesied kingdom of saints was the Maccabee hegemony that had already been established.

According to G & G (p. 86), "Jesus preached that the temple would be destroyed, with every stone thrown down." They acknowledge in an endnote (p. 223) that, "whether Jesus actually spoke about the destruction of the temple ... remains an open question." Since they must have been aware that very few readers would check the notes, their writing the narrative as something that actually happened, and only questioning its accuracy in a note, strikes me as trying to have their cake and eat it. The most charitable interpretation of their citing of the gospel reference to "every stone thrown down" is that they were unaware that such a prophecy, but less precise, was actually made, in 63 CE, decades after Jesus' death, by one Jesus bar Hanan, a beggar even more deranged than his illustrious namesake.

G & G report (p. 10) that, "59 percent of Americans believe that the events foretold in the book of Revelation will come true." That would have been a perfect place to point out that the Armageddon passages in Revelation constituted a prophecy that had already failed by 73 CE. I can only assume that G & G did not know that, or they would have reported it. The earliest author of Revelation, an Essene writing between the siege of the Jerusalem temple in July 70 CE and the destruction of the temple in August of the same year, prophesied that the last battle of the war currently in progress would take place at Armageddon, north of Jerusalem, and end in a Jewish victory. In fact the last battle took place at Masada, south of Jerusalem, and the Jews lost.

They also report (p. 102) that 40 percent of Americans believe that the Christian bible is inerrant, literal truth, compared to 6 percent in Great Britain, and that the same 40 percent believe that Jesus, whom they call "Christ," as if he was really the fairy tale character he believed himself to be, will return within their own lifetimes. Since they are aware that Jesus promised to overthrow the Roman occupation - although they mistakenly think he promised to do so at the time of a "second coming" that he could not have preached, since he believed he could not die with his revolutionary mission unaccomplished - within the lifetimes of persons listening to him preach, they saw no point in drawing attention to the absurdity of such a belief. But they denigrate as equally absurd the belief of 58 percent that "the next few decades will see a new world war." Given that Islamic zealots make the Christianity of the Inquisition look moderate, and the most fanatic rugbutters are trying to acquire nuclear weapons that they assuredly plan to unleash if they are not preemptively stopped, such a fear - perhaps "belief" is too strong a word - is not unreasonable.

The portions of The Last Myth devoted to religion are so incompetent that they raise questions about the accuracy of the rest of the book. However, since I lack expertise in the non-religious apocalyptic thinking that constitutes the authors' major focus, I do not dispute that (p. 121), "Rather than killing off apocalyptic beliefs with reason, the advances of science and technology have exacerbated apocalyptic anxiety by giving birth to more scenarios that could produce the end times, from meteor strikes and epidemic disease to global warming."

In view of G & G's lack of expertise in biblical analysis, it is unlikely that they will trespass into that field a second time. But if they do consider a venture so ill-advised, they should first read what the experts have to say. Books they should consider include:

Bart Ehrman, Jesus Interrupted;

William Harwood, God, Jesus and the Bible: The Origin and Evolution of Religion;

Martin Larson, The Essene-Christian Faith;

Robert Price, Jesus is Dead.

Further recommendations can be found in the bibliography of God, Jesus and the Bible. But those four are the logical place to start.

Starship Troopers
Robert Heinlein
Penguin Group
375 Hudson Street, New York NY 10014
9780441014101, $16.00

Starship Troopers depicts Robert Heinlein's concept of an ideal future - a totalitarian military dictatorship in which citizenship and the right to vote are only granted to honorably-discharged military veterans. His justification of such an ideal is (p. 193), "Under our system every voter and officeholder is a man who has demonstrated through voluntary and difficult service that he places the welfare of the group ahead of personal advantages." In Heinlein's ideal society, there are 31 capital crimes, including assaulting a superior officer or making a strategically unsound decision while occupying a position of command. Also, flogging is a common punishment for any offence more serious than spitting on the sidewalk. Children are raised in accordance with the "spare the rod and spoil the child" dictum, and, for failing to prevent taboo violations, the father of a disorderly child receives the same punishment as the offender. In other words, Heinlein's ideal differs very little from that of Attila the Hun. And that ideal is declared to have evolved as an inevitable consequence of the permissive nature of the mores of the twentieth century, in which the hive mentality of the military was not imposed on the population at large.

Even though Heinlein recognized that war was the trigger and inspiration for a large proportion of today's technological advancements, he did not suggest that war is intrinsically good. Rather, he portrayed war as an existing reality that was started by the other side and would always be started by the other side. In an age of starships and colony planets, the other side were "Bugs," arachnoids controlled by a hive mind and lacking individual self-awareness. Once the Bugs waged war on Earth, "because it was there," their nature made cessation of hostilities impossible except by the total extermination of one side or the other. Given the cold-war conditions that prevailed at the time of writing, it takes no great leap of intuition to deduce that Heinlein's concept of a hive-minded enemy incapable of negotiated cooperation was the Soviet communists. In fact Heinlein did not live to see the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. He did get one thing right. His portrayal of "social workers" and "child psychologists" as mindless, self-serving, self-deluded, Manchurian Candidate-ized parasites whose existence is a waste of perfectly good oxygen, was right on target.

The most incomprehensible element of Starship Troopers is that it emanated from the same imagination that gave the world Stranger in a Strange Land, the most reasoned, irrefutable denunciation of sex-hating religion prior to Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion. Too much significance should not be attached to the scene in Troopers in which Heinlein's hero spent three ecstatic hours in the company of an enraptured female, only to summarize his total satisfaction in the words, "She kissed me goodnight." The scene perhaps reflects the unwillingness of publishers in 1959 to acknowledge that sex exists. But it simultaneously hints that Heinlein may have been godphuqt into believing that only sinners copulated without a licence from a sky pilot.

So why the change of attitude? Did Heinlein undergo a 180-degree turn in his philosophy of life between Troopers (1959) and Stranger (1961)? Both books were written with a convincing sincerity that belies the hypothesis that he did not believe the implications of every word he wrote. But at the same time, not even the most flip-flopping politician could simultaneously believe two philosophies as diametrically opposed as Heinlein's two versions of reality. Since Troopers gives the impression of being written by a god addict, and Stranger by a nontheist, perhaps in the intervening two years Heinlein was cured of his brainwashing, as I was cured, totally, permanently and irreversibly, by my first ancient history course on the origin and evolution of Western religion.

Nothing else comes to mind to explain why every Heinlein book after Stranger reiterated and elaborated on his recognition that, in the absence of depraved-indifference consequences, there is no sexual sin except rape, and no sexual perversion except self-inflicted abstinence. In his third version of a future history, The Past Through Tomorrow, an absolute theocrat named Nehemiah Scudder became First Prophet - clearly a warning of what could happen if the complacent masses allowed a zealot such as the twentieth-century precursors of Rick Santorum to obtain real power. Such a warning seems more prescient now, when the whole Republican Party appears to have forgotten the words attributed to Thomas Jefferson, that "the price of liberty is eternal vigilance," than when it was written.

The 2006 special-effects movie, Starship Troopers, was about a war between humans and arachnoid aliens. Other than that, its resemblance to Robert Heinlein's book of the same name was as superficial as the resemblance of the movie, Sex and the Single Girl, to Helen Gurley Brown's cookbook of the same name. I shudder to think what a similar treatment would do to Stranger in a Strange Land.

William Harwood

Heidi's Bookshelf

The Man Who Ate the World in Search of the Perfect Dinner
Jay Rayner
Henry Holt and Company, LLC
175 Fifth Avenue, NY NY 10010
9780805086690, $25.00,

Of meals, words, and so much more

I'm a food writer playing catch-up. Other than my joyfully expanding pile of cookbooks (thank you lovely publishers), I usually read science fiction and fantasy. Actually, I prefer the classification of speculative fiction. As a result, I needed to dig in and connect to the food writing world. With hundreds of blogs and writers, how to find the best place to start?

The 2011 Best Food Writing collection led me to a number of authors. Rayner is one of those featured. I came to the book with a serious bent to study, understand, and become more current in the market. What I discovered between the pages far exceeded my goals. I laughed, sighed, and discovered something about my own writing, eating, and desire to devour cookbooks as a passionate hobby.

Rayner brings together the questions of eating out, high-end dining, and the overlays of culture. Eating in Michelin-rated establishments around the world becomes a vehicle for more than just indulgent food. Prompted by a conversation with celebrity chef Mario Batali, the food critic launches on a unique journey. For those willing to travel with him, you can make your own discoveries.

I discovered my well-developed voice of neutrality from nearly two decades of technical writing was a long-dead meal to be shed from my personal menu. After months of reviewing cookbooks, for the first time the shine began to dull. Gathering friends and offering satisfying food continued to be great pleasure, one of my most dear in fact.

Perhaps the Venn Diagram of Midwestern heritage and my father's Jewish genetics result in a hardwired need to feed people and feed them very well indeed. Compared to what I grew up eating, I'm the anomaly, the outlier. Youngsters from the Minnesota neck of the woods weren't expected to like brussel sprouts, chevre and kiwi before Junior High. Many peers would never want to even try foods so far from Swedish Meatballs and lefsa. Still, I loved the usual tastes.

Reading "The Man Who Ate the World" re-ignited the spark to read, cook, eat and then write about the foods in the cookbooks waiting for my attention. There are over fifteen so far for the next few weeks. Reading the unleashed emotion of one man's quest from dish to dish reanimated my own dreams. And cleared the way for my private, personal writing voice to get involved. The fiction-writer me lived in secret, searching for unclaimed bits of time for expression.

Here, I discovered that this genre lets a writer be silly, cantankerous, pithy, and introspective. Rayner shows that successful writing stands on its own. Foodies who haven't found this book are definitely recommended. So are those who love travel works, stories, and personal essays. In this case, food is the topic but humanity is the star.

The Advanced Oenophile
Denman Moody
Fort Bend Publishing
10707 Corporate Drive, #170, Stafford, TX 77477
9781468053647, $17.95,

Successful for A Specific Audience-Ponderous Done Well

Sometimes a book is more exciting before you open it. For the wrong reader, this is true for "The Advance Oenophile." You see, I'm not advanced when it comes to this topic. In fact, I live with a serious wine nerd, so frankly, I don't really bother. I don't figure we both need to be experts in the same area. He's happy out in the professional cellar with his wine thief sneaking tastes of various wines or wrangling with a state agency over the details of taxation and shipping. And God bless the man. He loves it and he's great at what he does. Plus I get to pal along to many events.

As a result this book dove into more depth that was personally interesting to me. That said, I have to tell you that for a detailed, ponderous and sometimes overwhelming subject, Mr. Moody does a great job with the content. He goes out of his way to make it interesting. Any place where human interest and the unending quirks of personalities in the wine world can be included, he bolsters the material with such content.

His efforts keep the book from being simply a dry textbook that would be of little use to those outside an introductory course on extensive wine knowledge. The book has a specific audience and should be well-received by those looking for such source material.

If you have developed a wide base of familiarity with categories of wine, styles, and regions, take the next step with this book. The dense, survey-style presentation takes you to a much deeper understanding of the specifics of regions, styles, grapes, and even some history of how these developed. On the other hand, if you're headed to an event covering a specific style, "The Advance Oenophile" makes a great resource to take a carb-up approach to information for a specific focus.

I was astonished how after only skimming a section on a specific style I recognized more information on wine labels on a recent shopping trip. This is likely how I will use the book the most. Thanks the engaging writing style, you really can retain information even with fast read.

On the other hand, that individual who is a knowledgeable consumer ready to advance their expert status, the book is useful for long-term study. The variations in wine, terroir, styles, and methods seem never-ending. You can use this book to learn and master the differences. At the very least you will improve your ability to identify a great buy for your own consumption - and much more is also possible.

Raw Chocolate
Matthew Kenney and Meredith Baird
Photographer: Adrian Mueller
Gibbs Smith
PO Box 677, Layton, UT 84041
9781423621058, $24.99,

Stunning Flavors Created by Effort

Raw Food reaches past trendiness into a normal part of life these days. Restaurants, cookbooks, and even most kitchens are equipped to produce raw dishes that satisfy the palate and your hunger. Most cooks have a food processor, definitely needed to get the best results from "Raw Chocolate."

Preparing raw recipes involves some challenges. For example, many require advance planning. A home primarily eating a raw diet has the usual nuts soaking on a daily basis. Those exploring this approach to food or the raw-curious must handle the "Raw Chocolate" cookbook with deliberate intention.

Read the cookbook first - from getting oriented to ingredients, techniques and timing - to choosing a couple of initial recipes that inspire you, I don't recommend plunking the book down on your counter and diving in. I love jumping into a new recipe; here, you are likely to end up doing a header into the muck under the lake. Although paralysis is unlikely, the "now" scenario makes success equally elusive.

Take the time to understand the special ingredients, add them to your pantry, and plan ahead for these recipes. The time and effort is worth the investment.

A good starting place is the Macadamia Brittle. Once you've created a batch of tempered chocolate you may feel impatient to complete a recipe. Consider starting with the brittle. The combined powerful presence of the chocolate base, rich macadamia nuts and swarthy smoked salt reminds my mouth of a dinner party with my best friends. The flow of great conversation, interesting dishes, and the comfort of friendship resides in the flavors of each piece.

One recipe I tested demonstrated the planning needed to complete the recipe. Fortunately, the authors made sure to tell you in the recipe it takes three steps. We found "Blueberry Bliss" to be a rewarding effort. Purity of chocolate flavor is one of the joys of raw chocolates. In many cases we've become accustomed to eating chocolate vastly changed by heavy processing. When you get the specified ingredients and follow the instructions, chocolate reveals a different personality. The bigger, stronger flavors pair with a more delicate touch on the tongue rewards the home cook who commits fully to these recipes. Blueberry Bliss combines this different chocolate reality with health-boosting, flavor-happy blueberries.

One note on the Bliss recipe and other candy-cup items in this book will make things easier. I used the mini-cup silicon molds. Although I don't care for silicon baking pans (floppy, out-of-control and hard to manage in the oven for my taste) the baking cups are dream. I didn't even need paper liners, though they fit in perfectly. Easy to chill, clean, and fill, those cups made the day.

Despite the surfeit of chocolate joy, a white chocolate recipe tore up the tracks and stopped the train dead in place. Part of the fascination with this recipe is the transformation that occurred. Everything was in the food processor, doing the raw food NASCAR routine. Stop the machine, check the texture, taste the results, start the engine and repeat. And repeat. All of a sudden, something changed. The color lightened, the texture lost any tiny remaining graininess. Then the taste: the component flavors disappeared into a deadly blend that dropped me to the kitchen floor in a full-on swoon. I thought only Victorian women swooned, until I tasted "White Chocolate Fudge."

The ingredient list is pleasantly short for a raw recipe. Clearly soaking the nuts makes them something more than yummy tree-fruit. Raw food techniques intimidate some people. If I can bribe you into giving them a try based on the phenomenal results in "White Chocolate Fudge" or "Blueberry Bliss" you won't regret venturing into Raw Chocolate territory.

The Pressure Cooker Cookbook
Tori Ritchie, Photographer: Sheri Giblin
Weldon Owen
415 Jackson Street, Suite 200, San Francisco, CA 94111
9781740899833, $19.95,

Make a Pressure Cooker Your New Best Friend

Pressure cooker popularity rises and falls over time. Fortunately, they are trendy again. With improvements over the last decade or so in safety, that trend is well justified. In addition, the pressure cooker helps you turn affordable ingredients into amazing dishes in less time.

"The Pressure Cooker Cookbook" makes a great maiden voyage guide for those who want to learn how to use this specialized cooking vessel. The instructions are well-written and easy to follow. On the other hand, the flavors produced in the recipes remain sophisticated. If you are new to using a pressure cooker your taste buds don't have to go back to kindergarten.

The specific combination of manageable techniques and sophisticated flavors really boosts the value of this lovely little book. The images are inspiring and helpful for the completed dish. I did, however, wish my version of the "Braised Chicken in Lemon-Basil Sauce" got the gorgeous color in the photo. I'm still working on matching that color. Of course the flavor was so great no one who tested the results found it lacking in any way. With the lemon slices cooked down tender while retaining the enlightened lemon flavor, any leftover lemon bits were fished out and devoured.

Another favorite was the "Moroccan-Style Tomato-Rice Soup." The dish would be a fabulous, fast (only 9 minutes of cooking time) meal when fresh tomatoes reach over abundance. Keep the kitchen cool with this short-order dinner. The earthy spices play against naturally acidic tomatoes. The resulting flavor clears your palate and inspires just one more bite, then another and another. My husband wished for some lamb to accompany the soup - and we still finished all about 1/2 cup of the recipe!

Among all the satisfying flavors, one recipe really stood out. The results were an extra blessing as the main ingredient was on sale due to seasonal supply. I highly recommend "Curried Cauliflower Soup with Spicy Croutons." You'll be surprised how silky the soup is without any dairy, so it's great for anyone who avoids animal or dairy products. The flavor surprised me. I just never expected cauliflower and curry to come together in a stunning relationship.

Roasted Cauliflower is a trendy recipe in many new cookbooks today, so the different twist on this ingredient got me in the kitchen to try it out. My head of cauliflower cost less than a dollar! With such great results more is coming soon. Even better, with your pressure cooker it's only 5 minutes cooking time - what's not to love!

Giving this cookbook a rare, 5-star rating may seem a bit of stretch. However, it's about the sum of the parts being greater than each alone. First, using a pressure cooker means you spend less time preparing meals and more time eating good food. In addition, you get impressive results with affordable ingredients: definitely a plus in today's reality. Last and certainly not least, the book is actually affordable as well. Most books offering this level of flavor and photographs will cost you more. The size of the book is a little smaller and most likely is where the savings comes in for the publication. You know what, you won't care! The retail price is a small splurge, it will be easy to fit on your bookshelf, and you'll come back to these recipes over and over. In my world that is the ideal cookbook for my kitchen.

So grab a copy of "The Pressure Cooker Cookbook" and try a new recipe. Invite someone over to share it with you: it's time to Cook! Eat! And Laugh! You don't need fois gras or truffles on your table to have a great time and feast on fabulous food.

Norwegian Cakes and Cookies
Sverre Sætre
Skyhorse Publishing
307 West 36th Street, 11th Floor, NY, NY 10018
9781616085568, $19.95,

Homey Tastes with Updated Twists

I saw this cookbook and new I had to get my hands on it. I grew up in Minnesota; my family didn't make many of the Scandinavian specialties. The smells and tastes of holiday gifts from neighbors are cherished memories. I just knew this book would bring those things back into my Northern-California home.

The results, in fact, were more memorable than expected. Perhaps this is due to the chef's handling of traditional recipes with personal interpretation. The almond and butter cookie recipe, shared at a meeting of about 100 people, drew snackers to me droves asking about the recipe, the book, and the cookies. One advantage of this recipe was the small amount of flour; I made four batches and it was simple to make one gluten free with a good flour substitute (I use the Namaste brand and highly recommend it for those in need).

Without a doubt, however, the "Caramelized Apple Cakes" won over all the testers. Although they had cookies and cakes, I've learned a silence similar to that before thunderous applause at the concert hall when people begin eating a dish, is the best recommendation I can get. A fabulous recipe doesn't need words, descriptions, or puffery. The little happy sounds of someone savoring the results of my kitchen accompanied by little scrapes and dings of flatware says it all.

This recipe received this kind of reception. Serve the fresh out of the oven. Prepare to dazzle guests with brilliant simplicity that weighs lightly on your hosting abilities. You even prepare a large portion of the recipe the day before. Just watch your timing. Pop them in the oven as the main course goes out to manage the approximate 50 minute cooking time. And then bask in the gratitude of your guests. Believe me they will be grateful, except for the squabbling over any additional cakes. The amount someone is willing to barter for seconds is astonishing!

My Pizza
Jim Lahey, with Rick Flaste
Clarkson Potter Publishers
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, New York, New York, 10019
9780307886156, $27.50,

Gourmet Pie Made Easy for Home Cooking

Is there anything more elegantly rustic than the perfect ingredients laid out on fresh pizza dough quickly cooked to dining perfection? When I get to eat one of those perfect combinations, my answer is always, no - this is the pinnacle. Sometimes at home it seems impossible to reproduce such results. "My Pizza: The Easy No-Knead Way to Make Spectacular Pizza at Home" is the answer to that conflict. You can make and create fabulous pizza at home.

As everyone knows, perfect pie starts with the crust. It doesn't matter if that coppa is the freshest, best-cured on the planet. Placed on dough that doesn't measure up and that brilliant bit of salumi loses the war for success. Lahey starts off by teaching you how to make fabulous pizza crust in your home kitchen. His method is simple, manageable, and flexible. Nearly anyone who wants to cook at home is busy, probably too-busy. The no-knead method in this book helps you reach your gourmet pizza goals and save time.

Another great aspect to the book is the very specific instructions, for different types of ovens, for baking perfect dough. Sometimes it seems impossible to make great crusts as home. Very few people have that seasoned oven with bricks and flames for the ultimate crustiness. The method in this book teaches you the tricks you need to up your pizza-intelligence with your oven. Some additional reading and preparation is involved. You'll be glad you bothered when it's time to eat your creation.

The Cauliflower pie was a great success. The combination of charred cauliflower and green olives surprised everyone. Pre-cooking the cauliflower as described gave it a very meaty presence on the pizza. And something about cooking this combination together also changed the character of the green olives. Individuals who didn't normally care for green olives loved the pizza.

A variety of the tested recipes pleased the testers. The curiosity that was lovage pesto had everyone guessing. I love stumping my tasters. This one succeeded. Everyone liked this unusual pesto and no one identified the primary herb. (Not to worry if you can't find lovage - the recipe includes substitutions.) Everyone agreed the interesting recipe was worth mentioning. And they all wanted a copy; perhaps the best recommendation of all.

Espana: Exploring the Flavors of Spain
James Campbell Caruso
Photography: Douglas Merriam
Gibbs Smith
PO Box 667, Layton, Utah 84041
9781423624233, $40.00,

Stunning Images, Tantalizing Recipes and Pithy Writing

At times a cookbook is more than just a cookbook. It might be inspiring, enlightening, or a special kind of coffee table book. On a rare occasion an individual book draws qualities from a variety of genres. "Espana: Exploring the Flavors of Spain" blends each aspect into a satisfying presentation.

When the book first arrived, I was singularly unimpressed. It was a large format, truly weighty and seemed more fitting to look at than earn a real place on my crowded kitchen shelves. I've owned more than 400 cookbooks in the past - today I'm looking for real cooking value when it comes to shelf space. Two bibliophiles occupy our home, so competition for library space is fierce on all levels.

However, in this hobby of dedication, there is one important rule: if you request the book, one is obligated to review it. In my case, that means making at least three recipes. Such is my commitment to myself, readers, authors and publishers. I hate reviewers who don't actually make anything but yak on and on about a collection being good or bad.

My opinion changed after forcing myself to select some recipes and start cooking. This started with the fact that when I propped the substantial collection on my recipe stand it stood easily. I didn't need any clips, weights or other jerry-rigged shenanigans to keep it open. The stand and protective Plexiglas cover sufficed.

Working in the kitchen also opened my eyes to beauty of the recipes. Many of them require a brief ingredient list. Yes, you may have to do some hunting to find the specific type of cheese called for or stretch your budget for some good saffron to get the best results. You will not, on the other hand, find the recipes difficult to follow or complete. The techniques called for most home cooks can handle.

Then came the results. Tasty, impressive, clean, and unexpected. One recipe for marinated Manchego stuns in its simplicity. Easy to prepare, interesting to look at and an enjoyable twist on a cheese course to eat. The recipe lets anyone have a cheese course - accessible, rustic and sophisticated in one lovely dish. The tasters all agreed: it's exactly the kind of recipe that melts my heart and charms my intellect.

A variety of salads also pleased on varied levels. The star of the tested recipes however, came from the "Huh, never thought of those flavors together" category. Every cookbook gets a bloodhound treatment for these precious combinations. You rarely need extraordinarily fancy ingredients to get amazing results in your home kitchen. The real key is quality, appropriate preparation, and new dance partners to open your tastes to unexpected pleasures.

"Baked Spinach with Goat Cheese and Raisin Compota" completely fills these needs. Reading the recipe hit that unexpected combination button. The list of ingredients seemed to be one of those that could be great, below average, or just silly. My over-developed sense of curiosity and adventure can't resist such recipes. I ended up tasting Haggis, 100 year old eggs, chicken feet at dim sum, and many other oddities for the same reason. (The eggs basically tasted like dirt, by the way. Better than starving, but not a delicacy that won my vote.)

In the case of this recipe, a three-on-base home run flew into the stands. I made my version all in one stone-ware dish. Besides not having that many small terra cotta dishes, with a line-up of 10 dishes for a testing lunch, I opted to save space and time. The first reaction of all the testers was how pretty the dish appeared in the bake ware. The contrast between green spinach, creamy white cheese and sunny little sultanas ensured everyone wanted a taste.

Those tastes consistently surprised. Everyone commented about how they never considered putting raisins and spinach together. With the various flavors and textures in each component playing against each other, the ensemble surpasses the individual players.

The goat cheese and sherry may be a bit of an indulgence in your home - trust me and the 9 testers - it's worth it. Once you make this recipe, you will have a new standard in your repertoire that is sophisticated enough for a dinner party while still useful on a regular night at home. This recipe, and many more from this rare, 5-star rated book, are worth the time to cook, eat together, and laugh with at your own table.

Edible Wild Plants: Wild Foods from Dirt to Plate
John Kallas
Gibbs Smith
PO Box 667, Layton, Utah, 84041
9781423601500, $24.99,

Useful in the field and the kitchen

Foraging and wild foods are hot topics today. A variety of options exist. "Edible Wild Plants" is a great choice for those wanting to begin or expand the range of opportunity. The author has created a highly educational book that is useful from beginning to end.

One of the outstanding qualities of the book relates to instructing readers about stages and qualities of plant life. Other foraging books reviewed in the past year didn't touch on these facts. The depth of information describes how different parts of a wild edible plant will taste and perform differently based on the life cycle of the plant (young vs. mature) along with positive or negative growing conditions.

Paper finish and binding also make the book an exceptional find. With a field-guide size, the resistant finish of the pages and solid but flexible cover provide a useful book to carry while hiking or on specific foraging expeditions. Only one thing is missing from the guide - something lacking from most of the foraging guides recently seen.

The book would be improved by a regional listing of plants that can be foraged. Some wild edibles can be found in a variety of growing zones, but not always. I found my plant-hunting slowed down by needing to research potential finds before heading out. The book remains useful for individual users, research needs, and other educational applications.

Once you get your foraged, wild ingredients in the kitchen the book continues to be helpful. Some plants should only be consumed in small, rarer amounts. You will also learn which plants are best cooked before eating, including recipes for your finds.

Thanks to the amazing amount of content, the outstanding quality of publication, and the wide-ranging applications for the book, it earns a five-star rating. Readers expand their understanding of wild plant cycles, options for foraging and increasing options for eating while spending less money. If you're looking for an exceptional resource on safe foraging, this book is highly recommended.

Creating Time
Marney K. Makridakis
New World Library
14 Pamaron Way, Novato, CA 94949
9781608681112, $22.95,

Unlock New Thinking About Time

Many trendy books and publications, such as those by Gregg Bradon and many others, describe different relationships with time. Even with all these sources the average individual finds it difficult to truly change the underlying assumptions embedded in culture. Finding a way to make these changes is a true challenge.

"Creating Time" can help many people bridge the gap between theory and practice. The author guides you through varying concepts regarding time. The genius of this book is turning wishes and theory into practice.

The book combines brief text pieces, each surrounding a concept or technique followed by an exercise or project to increase the reader's understanding. For those who succeed well with intuitive or creative methods, the book could be a break-through discovery. In addition, kinesthetic learners potentially reap large benefits from the action-focused perspective.

Some readers, on the other hand, will find the approach too indirect. The "read and explore" model lacks high appeal for individuals who work in a linear, stepwise motion. Fortunately the colors and styling of the book reflect true to the approach. The colors and style of the cover, along with remaining graphics throughout the book, match the creative orientation of the book - along with the title of course.

The publisher, New World Library, again offers readers a good value for book-buying money. High quality graphics, many illustrations, and a pleasing weight to the paper combine with a unique educational approach for a self-help book. The results are uplifting, beneficial to many readers left wanting with more clinical methods, and just plain fun for changing your relationship to time.

Caseus: Fromagerie Bistro Cookbook
Jason Sobocinski
Lyons Press
c/o Globe Pequot Press
P.O. Box 480, Guilford, CT 06437
9780762761180, $24.95,

Cheese, Charm, and Lovely Flavors

One of the joys of modern cookbooks and food writing relates to genre expansion. While classic, revered dishes and language continue, more room exists for irreverence or quirkiness. The field for 2012 appears to be bringing together the publication of these less-traditional voices with stunning recipes. The Caseus Fromagerie Bistro Cookbook lands in this space with feline agility.

Reading the book provides a strong impression of the chef, restaurant, and patrons. They all share wry humor, a desire to enjoy food made well with fresh tastes that shine through, and the room to be individual. The accessible layout and language, with inspired images make the a pleasure to devour this book before even making any of the recipes.

A number of the recipes won the vote to be on our repeat list. Often, precious jewels should up in expected places. That happened here. A stunning side dish appeared with a recipe for lamb kabobs. The kabob recipe was well done, but the Cured Lemon Quinoa on page 100 was plate-licking good.

I recently started my journey with making cured lemons during the Meyer Lemon season here in Northern California. So far, I don't have enough recipes to use up the bounty. Finding the quinoa with cured lemons recipe added a new standard to my arsenal. The instructions for preparing the quinoa were perfect for releasing a satisfying starchiness while keeping an elusive, al dente toothiness.

One important note: the recipe for the quinoa lists the mint as optional. I strongly suggest you include it. The nutty grains, zingy lemon, smooth comforting butter come together as a stronger family when you include this ingredient adding a minty touch of flair and kitchen clown. Please, don't skip the fresh mint for this recipe.

On the other hand, our tester taste buds were divided on the Crab and Grapefruit over Zucchini Ribbons with Sheep's Milk Feta. I found the first bite tasted fabulous. The combination delighted and intrigued. Others continued to enjoy the dish. My initial infatuation didn't last; like a beautiful crush with a black-board squeaky voice, the rush to meld with the dish failed after the first bite for me. Others simply didn't agree. You may have to try this one yourself to find out how it strikes you.

The Marcona Almond Pesto Pasta also pleased our palates. This recipe was more of a reminder that pesto doesn't mean you have to be locked into same, classic ingredients. It reflects the reality people more likely used what they had on hand. As another reviewer stated, this one reflects the classic riff idea.

The dish I've already made multiple times--to finish off today's breakfast in fact--is simple, elegant with so many applications it's impossible to guess how many times or places serving it will serve you. The simple combination of cheese, a hint of spice and sweet goes piques your interest, intrigues the mouth and satisfies the appetite. "Cabot Clothbound Cheddar with Honey & Black Pepper" wins hands down for favored taste and an incredibly useful recipe.

A Lifetime of Recipes: Fabulous Fresh Fruit
Beverly Jo Noble
Noble Printing Services
9780984897470, $24.95

The author presents a collection of recipes in the traditional style. Cooks looking for a baseline resource can consider the book a useful addition. Organized by season containing recipes for matching product. The book is more meaningful for those living in California, as it reflects seasonal availability for this region.

Readers will find the recipes are laid out in a two-column style reminiscent of older style books. The only consideration is making sure you are working from the correct recipe after looking away. "A Lifetime of Recipes" also comes with the ordinary, frustrating binding - like most new cooking titles, the spine is more of a large-magazine style that doesn't open flat or easily stay open. Fortunately, the book also offers colorful pictures to go with the style reminiscent of that magazine.

Overall the recipes offered good flavors. A number of the completed results needed some help when it comes to appearance. While the Greek Chicken Soup won our taste buds over, everyone agreed more visual appeal would be a big boost. Unfortunately, a recipe for salmon crusted with orange and cranberry needed more help. The flavors did not combine successfully. Perhaps a fish with white flesh, say cod or haddock, would work better, but pork would've have been our first choice. The Mediterranean Lamb Chops recipe, on the other hand, offered taste worthy of repeating in my home kitchen.

Heidi Sue Roth

Karyn's Bookshelf

Haunting Violet
Alyxandra Harvey, author
Walker Publishing Company
175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010
9780802798398, $16.99,

Ghost whisperer, murder mystery, Victorian-era teen romance. Harvey expertly blends an array of intriguing elements and terrific writing into this witty, chilling and sometimes surprisingly poignant page-turner. Sixteen-year-old Violet's mother is a spiritualist fraud, hosting elaborately staged fake seances for wealthy clients who are usually too grief-stricken to realize they're being duped. But when Violet and her mother are invited to conduct a series of seances at a country estate, it becomes clear that Violet actually can see ghosts. A recently drowned teenage neighbor's effort to finger her murderer threatens to expose both Violet's mother's fraud and Violet's gift. Violet must figure out the murderer's identity if the ghost is ever to find peace. Harvey successfully sets her story in Victorian times without it feeling stuffy or constrained. The country estate setting is classic whodunit with vast gardens and lots of rooms in which various characters spontaneously spy, plot, hide and find romance. And Violet is wonderfully believable as she struggles to accept her unwanted talent and hurtles toward a truly frightening climax. A start-to-finish great read.

The Young Birder's Guide to Birds of North America
Bill Thompson III, author
Julie Zickefoose and Michael DiGiorgio, illustrators
Peterson Field Guides
c/o Houghton Mifflin Company
215 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10003
9780547440217, $15.95,

Kids new to bird watching need to know what different birds look like, but also how to look for them. This wonderfully comprehensive, child-friendly guide lists more than 300 common birds. Each gets a full page complete with a habitat map, explanation of their distinct call and a wow! element that tells something particularly interesting about them. The amount of detail is just right, informative but not overwhelming. Additionally, there's an extensive how-to section that covers everything from what to wear in the field to how to use binoculars to the need for skills like note taking. And it reminds fledgling birders to be green, i.e., don't litter and be mindful of delicate natural areas. The paperback format is perfect for slipping into a backpack. A great starter book for kids who want to explore this potential lifelong pastime.

The Beetle Book
Steve Jenkins, author and illustrator
Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
215 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10003
9780547680842, $16.99,

Jenkins' magnificent illustrative and narrative detail might make adults' skin crawl but kids will be enthralled by this comprehensive look at beetles. Scores of varieties of the ancient insect are featured, from the tiny boll weevil to the frighteningly large titan beetle that lives in the Amazon rainforest and can be bigger than an adult hand. The featured array is just the surface, however; hundreds of thousands of types of beetles have been identified and more are discovered every year. Some of Jenkins' illustrations are oversized and in full-color, aiming to show magnified body parts. The rich variety of colors attests to nature's diversity. Others are life-sized black silhouettes. The book is wonderfully readable with two-page spreads devoted to a host of topics such as a beetle's senses, life stages and sounds they make. Informative and accessible with just the right amount of kid-pleasing 'ick'.

I Lay My Stitches Down: Poems of American Slavery
Cynthia Grady, author
Michele Wood, illustrator
Eerdmans Books For Young Readers
2140 Oak Industrial Dr. NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49505
9780802853868, $17.00,

Stunning, intricate artwork compliments richly layered poetry in this emotive ode to American slavery. Grady doesn't just set out write about slavery. She takes a much more challenging path, pointedly grounding each of her 14 unrhymed poems in quilt-making language and lore. Quilt-making was a common craft among African American slaves, and Grady's quilting references run deep. Each poem is ten lines of ten syllables, mimicking the shape of a quilt block. To represent the three layers of a quilt, each poem makes three references to spiritual, musical and sewing or fiber arts themes. And the title of each poem, such as traditional fish, north star and birds in the air, is an actual traditional quilt block. Short, explanatory paragraphs beneath each poem lend additional insight and depth. But Grady's palpable effort to set her words in a certain context is matched by Woods' effort to incorporate both slave era history and traditional fiber art into her illustrations. In each painting are a quilt pattern and a historical image tied to a poetic slavery theme such as labor, punishment, separation, spirituality and hope. A simply gorgeous collaboration.

Karyn L. Saemann, Reviewer

Logan's Bookshelf

Whispers of the Greybull
Stephen B. Smart
High Mule Publishing
9781450766425, $16.95 pbk / $8.00 Kindle,

A new shot at life won't come easily to young Cole Morgan. "Whispers of the Greybull" tells of the Greybull Ranch, a Wyoming ranch that houses many secrets around it. Cole comes to the ranch to start anew after the death of his parents, but in the process he learns that nothing will come easily, as the ranch's old mysteries still stand. To find what lies in the mind and what is making everyone, even the animals uneasy, "Whispers of the Greybull" is a fine read for lovers of western fiction, recommended.

Misfits, Debtors, Drunkards, & Thieves
Timothy Scott
Tate Publishing & Enterprises
127 East Trade Center Terrace
Mustang, OK 73064
9781618621733, $21.99,

A last chance at being something greater is often an upward struggle. "Misfits, Debtors, Drunkards, & Thieves" follows a collection of titular types who must embark on a struggle against the goblins that threaten their homeland, working under the threat of being disowned and left to die. "Misfits, Debtors, Drunkards, & Thieves" is a strong pick for anyone seeking a blend of thriller and classical fantasy epic.

Perpetual Patterns
Neil N. Chopra
Shadow Script
9780985086008, $10.00,

We try to understand the world in many ways, often having varying degrees of success at it all. "Perpetual Patterns" is Neil N. Chopra's exploration of fiction and thought, as he uses poetry and prose to sort through his ideals of life and try to come to terms with his own life's ideals while faced with the weight of society bearing down on us, as we look for something worth doing. With much insight throughout, "Perpetual Patterns" is well worth considering.

K. Williams
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781468193084, $25.99,

The 1930s were a prelude to a world at war. "Op-Dec: Operation Deceit" delves into a story of high society, and the daughter of high society in Claire Healey. Driven from her parents, she travels throughout New England, and in the process they uncover secrets that many with money and power would prefer to keep quiet, and Claire isn't sure how far they will go. "Op-Dec" is a riveting read with plenty of twists and turns, highly recommended.

Resurrecting America's Entrepreneurial Spirit
Joe Nicassio
Bobbi Vaughn
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781468540321, $24.95,

Success can still be attained in today's America, you just need the drive to succeed. "Resurrecting America's Entrepreneurial Spirit: A Practical Approach for Creating Jobs" is Joe Nicassio's call to drive one's own success further in life, keeping oneself healthy and knowing the roots of negativity that keep one from succeeding, either in the job hunt or as a self-employed individual. "Resurrecting America's Entrepreneurial Spirit" is a strong pick for anyone who wants to drive themselves to greater success.

Worlds Apart
William V. Crockett
Crockett Holdings, LLC
9780984860203, $15.99,

Romance can stop a revolution. "Worlds Apart" follows young Neeve, a Celtic woman who wants to free her people from the weight of the Roman empire. But when she finds herself falling for a commander as she spies on the Romans, she is split between staying true to her mission or embracing what her heart wants. "Worlds Apart" is a riveting historical fantasy, worth considering for fans of either genre.

Woman of Fairville
Melodie Rakes
Tate Publishing & Enterprises
127 East Trade Center Terrace
Mustang, OK 73064
9781617779084, $20.99,

As one love fails, we try a new, and the cycle begins anew. "Woman of Fairville" is a novel from Melodie Rakes, as she tells the story of jaded single woman Bobbie Jo Patterson as she turns away from another cheating lover. With a new chance in Zachary Arthur Huntington, she hopes to dispel her reputation of failure and find something worth living up to. "Woman of Fairville" is a charming romance of small town love, very much recommended reading.

Soulless Grounds
Denise Burtz
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781469918136, $14.50,

For most twins, they are just like anyone else. "Soulless Grounds" is a novel from Denise Burtz, exploring the lives of twins Zander and Elizabeth, who live a normal life, until Elizabeth is captured by an underworld demon, and Zander must realize the gifts they have as twins to reunite and get out with their body and soul intact. Blending horror, humor, and adventure, "Soulless Grounds" is a solid addition to any fiction collection.

Strategy of Numbers
Clint Irwin
Dog Ear Publishing
9781453763124, $14.95,

In a far flung future, Paris is no more. "Strategy of Numbers" is a novel of a post-apocalyptic future where the world is not what it once was. As the ruins of the old Paris are uncovered, the opportune are quick to jump on the chance at the valuable materials within the old ruins. But excavating what was lost could have consequences, and only a gravedigger and an old foreign prophet believe it should be dug up...and the consequences will be come clear. "Strategy of Numbers" is a riveting read that should prove hard to overlook for science fiction fans.

Cooper's Promise
Timothy Jay Smith
iUniverse, Inc.
c/o Author House
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300
Bloomington, IN 47403
9781462084081, $15.95,

Running from the law by fighting wars he doesn't want to fight, life is a no win proposition. "Cooper's Promise" follows Cooper Chance, an army sniper who deserted his troop, and faces persecution if he returns home. Working as a mercenary, he falls deeper into the wars of Africa, trusting those who he shouldn't trust. An opportunity out though, may yet await him. "Cooper's Promise" is a riveting thriller that shouldn't be easy to put down.

Simple Guy Diet
Skip Lei
Lulu Publishing
3101 Hillsborough Street, Raleigh, NC 27607-5436
Smith Publicity
1930 E. Marlton Pike, Suite I-46, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003
9781105271052, $12.99,

Finding the right diet can be hard, especially when you are a man and don't want no womanly diet. "Simple Guy Diet: A Stubborn Man's Unexpected Success Story" is a diet guide aimed at guys who want to try a simple and to the point diet to drop some pounds in their life, with a to the point method that aims at courting a straight up manly way of dropping the pounds. "Simple Guy Diet" is a fine read that shouldn't be overlooked by those looking for new ways of losing weight.

Carl Logan

Lois' Bookshelf

Death Comes to Pemberley
P.D. James
Borzoi Books
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780307959850, $25.95,

P.D. James is not the only author tempted to write a sequel to Pride and Prejudice. It seems to be an alluring prospect; I've personally known two others who hoped to invade that territory. One wanted to avail herself of the contemporary author's freedom to enter the characters' bedroom, allowing her to describe in detail the Darcys' wedding journey, which she imagined to be very erotic. Another planned to tie up, as James has done, some loose ends left by Jane Austin.

In an attempt to win acceptance from her parents for his quest to marry Elizabeth, Darcy contrived (in the original) to make an honest woman of her sister Lydia, who'd run off with Windham, the scapegrace son of the Darcy family steward. This was done by bribing Windham to wed Lydia. When Lydia arrived home happily announcing that she was married, her shocking gesture in running away with a man was forgiven, the family regained their proper status in society, and Darcy became the hero of the day who'd accomplished the hoped-for outcome. Opposition to the Darcy-Elizabeth marriage melted away. But problems didn't. The two marriages combined to make Windham brother to Darcy, a most uncomfortable fact for Darcy who held high standards for his relatives and had no wish for any such dubious connection. It was almost inevitable that Windham would one day get in trouble and Darcy would be forced to involve himself once again with his odious brother-in-law. In the P.D. James version, this is exactly what happens. Even though Darcy has denied Windham the freedom to visit his estate of Pemberley, he can hardly do the same for his wife's sister, who wishes to attend a ball at Elizabeth's grand home. And of course Windham must accompany Lydia up to the very door of the house in order to assure her safety.

It was the night before the ball, and the coach was passing through the woodlands on the estate, with the driver in terror and the horses obstreperous because the woods were reputed to be haunted. A third person shared the coach, Captain Denny, a friend of Windham who planned to spend the night with him at a nearby inn after Lydia had been dropped off at her sister's. For reasons unknown, Captain Denny left the coach at a point very near to the single cottage in the area, and Windham rushed after him to bring him back. When shots were heard, the coachman pushed on wildly to the main house, with a hysterical Lydia crying out that her husband had been shot. The coachman believed he heard the two men arguing before Captain Denny rushed off, but Lydia denied this, insisting that the pair had been friendly and amicable. In any case, a search party returning to the spot, led by Darcy, finds Denny dead and a very drunk Windham hovering over the bloody body and announcing that he did it, he killed his friend. Witnesses in the cottage seem to confirm his guilt.

The only problem is that Denny was not shot, but was hit on the head - and there was no blood-spatter on Windham to suggest that he'd done such a deed, nor any blunt instrument to be found. Could Windham's confession be accepted, since he was drunk at the time? Or must he be believed in his later, sober insistence that he had no idea what happened, no memory of the incident other than that he found the body? Darcy, the only person in a position to investigate, is very torn, wanting to prove his lifelong enemy's guilt if it exists, yet not wanting to bring disgrace to his own family.

The author manages to sort out all the confusing threads of this mystery and tie things up in typical James fashion. She also manages - a much more difficult feat - to write the book in the Jane Austin style so that it comes across as a real and believable sequel to the original. This has its hazards, as the old fashioned style is less immediate and more distancing than the one James is noted for. There are none of James' usual great descriptions, and the characters, named but not described, don't seem as alive and real as those in her other books. However, it was an interesting challenge and she accomplishes what she set out to do; she takes the reader back to the story of Elizabeth and Darcy and ties up the loose ends in a very believable way, creating a fascinating mystery in the process. She is probably the only contemporary author who could have combined, successfully, the techniques of the nineteenth century novel of manners and those of the twenty-first century murder mystery.

Crossing to Safety
Wallace Stegner
Penguin Books
375 Hudson Street, New York, N.Y. 10014
0140133488, $13.95,

Wallace Stegner needs no help from me, or any reviewer, to place him high on the list of great writers of the twentieth century. He demonstrates an incredible magic with words. He grabs and holds the reader's attention, not with the novelist tricks of hinting at what is to happen and then holding it off from happening, generating suspense as most of us do; but with a technique all his own which seems to defy analysis. I read this book as I read his others, wondering why I felt compelled to continue. Granted, the style was rich and the story beautifully written; but then, I'd read it before and knew the outcome. Usually, we read a novel to find out what is to happen. A second reading is designed to let us go slowly and enjoy the beauty of the prose. With Stegner, I find myself twice riveted. And all this in a quiet sort of tale in which I'm led to await no major, earth threatening catastrophe.

This book is about the relationship between two couples who manage to develop a lifetime friendship. A quiet subject - but the interest is sustained by the writing style. Pick any few sentences at random, and they will grab you and lure you on. Here's some from just past the middle: "What had happened to Sally and me was that the future had been restored to us as a possibility. Despite Sally's crippling, we thought we could make it. The Langs, too. They had built themselves into Madison like stones in a wall." Somehow the hint of an unknown, unplanned pitfall across the path is always present as an underlying theme while the two couples interweave their lives. The reader is spellbound waiting to see what will come. With this technique, even relatively small events such as the failure of a hoped for job to materialize, sending one of the couples out of the area, can prove devastating. There is no need of a major catastrophe to give the story a focus and a climax. The wife's struggle with crippling polio, and the friend's - Sid's - breakdown on facing his wife's death, is disaster enough. The interplay of the four characters, shown in retrospect while the two couples await the first death among them, stands as a story in itself.

Wallace's ability to compel the reader's interest is not limited to this book. The same is true of others, especially his Pulitzer-Prize winning novel, Angle of Repose. This is written more like a memoir than a novel, recording the life of a woman who wished to be an Eastern socialite but ended up as a Western pioneer. The tension between wish and reality keeps the book a page-turner.

I'm sure Wallace Stegner's work will provide many a graduate student with material for papers and theses for years to come, but he should not be relegated to the universities. He always provides a great read for the layman. He is well worth revisiting from time to time, for enjoyment as well as analysis.

Lois Wells Santalo, Reviewer

Margaret's Bookshelf

The Truth About Cats
Molly Brandenburg
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781467907538, $8.99,

Cats prove to be strange enigmatic creatures which often prove difficult to understand. "The Truth About Cats: Notes from the Feline Underbelly" is a collection of illustrations and comics from Molly Brandenburg on the mystery of the household cat, presenting her unique brand of cat humor that will resonate with any cat lover. "The Truth About Cats" is a fine pick that shouldn't be overlooked by comics and pets collections.

Of Animals and Angels
Marguerite Antonio
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300
Bloomington, IN 47403
9781469709567, $9.95,

We find divinity in many places. "Of Animals and Angels" is a collection of thought and spirituality from Marguerite Antonio as she presents a collection of looking for greater spirit and knowledge, looking for the light of angels no matter where we go. With a charged and devoted message that shouldn't be overlooked, "Of Animals and Angels" is a strong pick for any spirituality collection, highly recommended.

Love Life 101
Daniel Flynn
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781453779996, $18.00,

When you're close to losing it, it can be quickly clear that you need to love life. "Love Life 101: What Near-Death Experiences and the Mystics Teach Us About Love, Romance, and the School of Life" is a spiritual and inspirational read, encouraging readers to embrace the love in their lives and the bigger picture that their relationships forms. "Love Life 101" is a strong pick for new age spirituality collections looking for another perspective on the importance of romance.

Hearts, Dead and Alive
Kate McLachlan
Quest by RCE
9781619290174, $15.95,

Showing up with a severed heart is not the best way to proclaim one's innocence. "Hearts, Dead and Alive" follows fifth grade teacher Kimberly Wayland as she finds a heart in a dumpster. Not immediately turning it in, she lies to the police when they come to question her, but as she digs herself into a deeper hole, she finds she has to be the one to find the origin of said heart. "Hearts, Dead and Alive" is a strong pick for general fiction and mystery collections.

The Resurrection of Hannah
Kathryne Arnold
Author House
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300
Bloomington, IN 47403
9781456725204, $14.95,

The flows of times sometimes throw us back into history. "The Resurrection of Hannah" follows Samantha Clark, hit with the ennui of life as a psychotherapist and her desires to find the spark of life once more. Her searches for something more make her stumble upon the remains of a past life, and tracing this past life may expose much truth about her current one. "The Resurrection of Hannah" is a strong pick for general fiction collections.

A Girl in the Dumpster
Jack Apfel
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781362011360, $30.95,

A lost child may help many people find their way. "A Girl in the Dumpster" is a novel following a collection of women in the small town of Candlesberg, WI. As a homeless woman finds an abandoned child, she meets Anne, a woman with a daughter of her own, and a unique and familial bond forms between the four of them. "A Girl in the Dumpster" is a unique and poignant tale, very much worth recommended.

A Love for God
Gerry Bibaud
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781453748459, $14.99,

God's love should not be a one-way avenue. "A Love for God" is a call from Gerry Bibaud, stating that Christians should work to show their love for God in return for his, for to take love without returning it is akin to thievery. For Christians looking for a powerful motivational read with plenty to consider, "A Love for God" is a strong pick for those looking for something to drive their spirits further and closer to the almighty.

You Never Have to Remember the Truth
Dominic Gugliatto & Kelly Moran
Lulu Publishing
3101 Hillsborough Street, Raleigh, NC 27607-5436
9781105521997, $29.99,

When justice fails, many try to make their own way. "You Never Have to Remember the Truth: The Nick Gugliatto Story" tells the story of how Lawrencia Bembenek was wrongfully accused for the murder of her husband's ex-wife, was sent to prison, and was then broken out and they fled to Canada. Wanting his story heard, letting out how the prison break was planned, and much more, "You Never Have to Remember the Truth" is an intriguing spin on the push for justice in our world.

Kingdoms of Experience
Kennard Lipman
Arts & Letters Press
9781460933596, $15.95,

The Jewish faith has always encouraged a deeper consideration of the world around them. "Kingdoms of Experience: The Four Worlds of Kabbalah as Prayer and Meditation" discusses the philosophy and contemplation that comes with Jewish mysticism, as Rabbi Kennard Lipman presents a comprehensive study on its relationship to modern psychology and thought, as well as connections to other faiths. "Kingdoms of Experience" is a strong pick for any religious studies collection.

Island Life
Edwin P. Cutler
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781466468566, $14.95,

Greed knows no limits. "Island Life" is set around the Island Life Resort, owned by Amanda, who is accused of murder by her cousin. As Stacy Biddle, a young man who knows little of this conflict, shows up, he finds himself with Amanda, as their romance spins into something unique between them, before realizing the plot to steal Amanda's fortune from her. "Island Life" is a choice read for those who love blends of romance and intrigue.

Stella Atrium
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781462070428, $19.95,

The plight of survival is sometimes the only challenge our lives need. "Sufferstone" is the first book in the Dolvia Saga from Stella Atrium. She writes of Kyle Le, a woman of Dolvia denied the burka placed upon most women of her tribe. A chance meeting gives her the chance to expend her unique powers over the world and gain a realization over the struggles of the land. A story of survival in a cruel world, "Sufferstone" is a choice pick for science fiction and fantasy fans.

Mini Skirts and Laughter Lines
Carol E. Wyer
c/o Smith Publicity
1930 E. Marlton Pike, Suite I-46, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003
9781908481818, $15.99,

After five decades of it all, sometimes you've just had enough. "Mini Skirts and Laughter Lines" is a unique delve into the life of Amanda Wilson, a woman facing a half century of life and having enough of it all. With a family who couldn't care less about her and it approaching the status of mutual feelings, she looks for something new and finds it. But the mistakes of the past can't be completely forgotten. "Mini Skirts and Laughter Lines" is a fine and strongly recommended read for general fiction collections.

Margaret Lane

Maria Ryan's Bookshelf

Live Wire (Myron Bolitar)
Harlen Coben
Penguin Group
375 Hudson St., NY, New York 10014
9781101476161, $9.99,

I love Myron Bolitar, who doesn't? He is both the quintessential every guy and fantasy man all wrapped up in one. I have secretly held a crush on Myron for years. This book lives up to the name and does not disappoint. It is a great latest-in-the-series addition. I realize the downside of a series with reoccurring characters but cannot understand how anyone would not think this one lives up to the rest. Perhaps this is Myron's last book? There was a shift in the relationship between Win and Myron toward the end so maybe that is a sign? All I know is that I have immensely enjoyed this series and every last book in it. A best selling author hailing from Essex County NJ, if you have yet to read any of Mr. Coben's works, you are in for a real treat. He sets his stories primarily in the Livingston/West Orange area with plenty of NYC thrown in.

Close Your Eyes
Amanda Eyre Ward
Random House
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780345494481, $25.00,

The story of the murder of a 46 year old mother as her 2 children, 8 year old Alex and his 6 year old sister Lauren slept outdoors in a tree house on the property of their beloved New York home doesn't live up to its potential. Alex and Lauren's father is spending life in prison for their mother's murder in spite of indefinite proof that it was he who killed her. We follow the broken lives of Alex and Lauren as they navigate their way. Now in their thirties, they suffer from the trauma of this horrific past event as well as a lack of closure. Alex believes in his father's innocence while Lauren thinks him guilty and has cut off all contact. By the end of part one Alex, who has joined Doctor's Without Borders and has left the country, disappears. The story suddenly and abruptly switches over to a new central character, Sylvia, whose connection to Alex and Lauren is slowly revealed along with Sylvia's best friend Victoria, a severely troubled drug addict whose life is unraveling. The meeting at the end of the book between Lauren and Sylvia was nonsensical in that Lauren seemed to be unaware of who Sylvia was though she should have been. The story does offer resolution in the end but by the time all was revealed, it felt completely anticlimactic. Even the connections between the characters felt weak and unresolved. Also Lauren's bout with the symptoms of what can only be described as post traumatic stress disorder were ridiculously poofed away as soon as the mysteries of her life were worked out.

Every Last One
Anna Quindlen
Random House
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780812976885, $15.00,

The first chapters of this book read as the dull, mundane trappings of a middle-aged, overindulgent, helicopter type mother who revels in the fact that it is her house in which all the kids prefer to hang out. There are so many books on the market today entertaining this genre that I almost closed the book and moved on to something else. We realize that Mary Beth never really sees what is truly in front of her and in her quest to be everything to all three of her children; she fails to set the types of limits and controls that perhaps may have diverted disaster. Maybe perhaps, maybe not? One can find multiple criticisms of Mary Beth's parenting style however this is beside the point. I found myself bored and wondering when the story would just get to the point. Although the jacket alluded to "something shocking" happening, in no way was I prepared for what actually did happen. Keep in mind though that there are clear signs along the way to the potential of a scene this upsetting. The shock value was high and it was dropped like a bomb into this ridiculously trite story. Maybe this was the whole point, to shock the reader out of their coma? The good news is the story does get better from here though it literally needed to be murdered first. I am not sure that I agree with the way the turning point scene was written and indeed even more criticisms arise on just what the heck Mary Beth and her husband were thinking in letting their kids come and go all night long especially after they themselves exercised such poor judgment in their over consumption of a good time. A few more safeguards and again maybe the whole thing could have been prevented. The relationship between Mary Beth and Deborah should have gone further in answering some pivotal questions. There were also alluded to issues between Mary Beth and Glen that were never explored. The biggest issues I have with the resolution of the story are the unanswered questions. What was it that Mary Beth truly learned from this incident? What was it that fundamentally changed in her? The story simply does not go deep enough in honoring the commitment the author took on when she chose to write this type of story.

Maria Ryan

Paul's Bookshelf

Making Bank
Claudio M. Ghipsmann
Bridgeway Books
P.O. Box 30071, Austin, TX 78755
9781934454398, $15.95,

"Making Bank: The Personal Finance Lessons They Never Taught Us in School" attempts to distill a subject like personal-finance into small, easy to read pieces. The author speaks as someone who learned personal-finance the hard way.

The first thing a person should do is to purchase, or free download, some sort of money management software like QuickBooks. Get in the habit of entering all of your income, and all of your expenses. After that is done, you can start printing reports, like a Balance Sheet and Profit and Loss, which will show you exactly where your money is going. Each month your expenses need to be less than your income. If that is not your situation, the sooner you start changing things, the better.

If you are thinking of getting into the investment world, have extra cash on hand, and pay off your credit cards first. Decide on your level of acceptable risk. Are you more interested in safe, conservative investments, or in high risk investments that could go through the roof, or crash and burn? There are, seemingly, 1 million places to invest, so research is needed ahead of time.

Paying off your credit cards, by itself, is a good way to put money in your pocket. Imagine a card with 20% interest, and you are carrying a $2000 balance. You are giving the credit card company $400 a year, for no reason. Pay off the card and that $400 will go in your pocket. Banks are getting rich on the everyday mistakes of their depositors. Use only your bank's ATM, and you will save that one or two dollar fee each time. Sign up for online access to your bank account, and check it often. When your balance gets low, you can transfer money from another account, or just not use that account for the time being. It will save you from an overdraft fee, and a bad check fee, which can be substantial. Get familiar with your 1040 form, so you can intelligently talk to your tax preparer, or do it yourself and save some money. The author also looks at insurance, real estate, and how to take care of your credit score.

This book does a very good job in taking the reader through the basics of personal-finance. Money management skills are rarely taught in high school, so even if the reader takes away one or two concepts from this book it will be a big help. Yes, this one is worth reading.

Black Market Billions
Hitha Prabhakar
FT Press
1 Lake St., Upper Saddle River, NJ 07458
9780132180245, $29.99,

Shoplifting (now called Organized Retail Crime) is no longer perpetrated just by people from the inner city needing money for drugs. It is a multi-billion dollar, worldwide industry enriching various terrorist groups all over the world.

These are very tight-knit groups, akin to Mafia "families." The "boosters" travel certain routes around America, doing the actual shoplifting. They give the items to a Level 1 fence, who might give or sell them to a level 2 or 3 fence. These could be legitimate import/export businesses doing the fencing, with the illegal part as a sideline. By this time, it is nearly impossible to track the items. Sometimes, the items are sold right back to the retailer from which they were stolen. They could also be sold on online auction sites (like ebay), and they could show up at your local flea market. There are occasional high-profile seizures of millions of dollars in fake or stolen goods, but, in general, the thieves are several steps ahead of the authorities.

Various law enforcement agencies, from the local to the federal level, either can't, or don't want to, share information. They all want the "big score." Individual state laws are full of loopholes, or are ambiguous, about basic things like the definition of "shoplifting." When someone is arrested, the local District Attorney's office might not want to spend the time following the money, or may be interested only in "Mr. Big." There are a number of ways to move money overseas that get around the federal $10,000 threshold. Thieves are certainly using them, but legislation has yet to catch up.

What can the average mall retailer do about it? They can start by training their employees to watch for shoplifters. Especially during the holidays, many part-timers are hired who are not trained in loss prevention, or who don't care (very often, employees are doing the stealing). Stores need to balance increased spending on loss prevention against not driving away customers. During the current economic uncertainty, everyone wants a bargain. Is that "discounted" designer handbag or infant formula really such a bargain knowing that your money could end up in the coffers of Colombia's FARC or Hamas?

To call "Black Market Billions: How Organized Retail Crime Funds Global Terrorists" an eye-opener is a huge understatement. It is a very interesting book that is highly recommended.

Job Searching With Social Media For Dummies
Joshua Waldman
John Wiley & Sons
111 River St., Hoboken, NJ 07030-5774
9780470930724, $19.99,

Everyone says that using social media is the contemporary way to find a job. This book attempts to painlessly take the reader through the process.

First, do an online search of your own name to see what the Internet says about you. If there are any drunken or racy photos of you on Facebook, for instance, restrict their availability, or delete them, now. You can count on a potential employer doing the same search. If an online search comes up empty, the author explains how to fix it. Why should a potential employer consider someone who doesn't exist online? Next, you need to come up with your own personal brand. What do you want potential employers to know about you? How will you distinguish yourself from the millions of other online job seekers? Use keywords that search engines will recognize, but don't go overboard.

For those interested in any sort of professional job, LinkedIn should be the first site to visit and fill out a profile. Consider joining, and contributing to, a few groups, to let as many people as possible know that you exist. Put your resume online, with an appropriate number of search engine keywords. Target it for different companies. Find some way to tell a potential employer what you can do for them, how you can make their lives easier. Don't tell them what you have done in the past. Consider a video resume, especially if you are interested in an arts or creative position.

Strongly consider signing up for Facebook and twitter, if you have not already done so. They are both good ways of expanding your network, of letting more people know that you are job hunting. Be sure to follow your target company/companies. The book also looks at connecting with the specific hiring manager at your target company. In more and more cases, they will be doing the hiring, not the Human Resources Department, which has been scaled back, or abolished.

There is a lot to job searching online, and this book does an excellent job at explaining it, clearly and succinctly. Even if you do only a few things in this book, and not all of them, you will be far ahead of most job seekers. It is very much worth the money.

Red Alert
Stephen Leeb & Gregory Dorsey
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Ave., New York, NY 10017
9780446576239, $27.99,

America is in a race with China that will go a long way toward determining our future quality of life. Few Americans know that this race is underway.

World supplies are growing very tight of certain key minerals (sometimes called strategic minerals) that are absolutely vital for the smooth running of a 21st century economy. Names like neodymium, europium, indium and niobium may sound very boring, but you can't run a high-tech economy without them. China has spent years, and a lot of money around the world, getting its hands on every bit of such materials that it can find. China is doing it not just to keep their economy growing, but because, one day, the supply will run out, and they want to be in the driver's seat.

For a number of other, equally important, minerals, of which America imports all of its supply, the world's biggest supplier is China. The American attitude is that technology will save the day. How is that going to happen if China decides that some vital mineral will be much less available?

Estimates put the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan at nearly $3 trillion. Even a portion of that money would have been much better spent on renewable energy, especially solar energy. China is the world leader in making solar panels, and their lead widens every day. How can America have any hope of catching up when federal investments are in the hundreds of millions of dollars (at the most), and China's investments are in the billions of dollars?

Everyone has seen pictures of acres and acres of electronic equipment dumped all over China. The methods to extract the metals inside may be low-tech and toxic, but even a small amount of gold, for instance, per monitor, multiplied by millions of monitors, is a substantial amount of gold that China can use elsewhere.

America can not depend on new sources of oil to power its economy, because the authors assert that "peak oil" has arrived. It is the point at which the era of "easy" oil extraction has ended, and any new discoveries will be harder and harder to extract ("Drill, baby, drill" is simplistic, at best).

"Red Alert: How China's Growing Prosperity Threatens the American Way of Life" is a fascinating and very important book. It is very much worth reading for all Americans, and especially for all members of Congress.

Stop Alzheimer's Now!
Bruce Fife
Piccadilly Books
P.O. Box 25203, Colorado Springs, CO 80936
9780941599856, $19.95,

Dementia is a huge problem for a rapidly growing number of people all over the world. "Stop Alzheimer's Now!: How to Prevent and Reverse Dementia, Parkinson's, ALS, Multiple Sclerosis and Other Neurodegenerative Disorders" shows how to prevent its onset, and even reverse the symptoms, without drugs.

Dementia, which includes Alzheimer's, ALS, Parkinson's and other such diseases, can come about in a surprisingly large number of ways. Did you know that Alzheimer's is also known as Type III Diabetes? The connection between them is that strong. The toxins can come from an improperly cleaned out tooth that is getting a root canal (it is very difficult to properly clean out such a tooth). For some people, the cause can be getting the wrong anesthesia during a routine operation. Be very careful when taking a statin drug, or any drug that alters brain chemistry (the book contains a list of drugs that seniors should avoid). Other things to be reduced, or avoided altogether, are aluminum, like in frying pans, and excitotoxins like aspartame. The author does not mean to say that being diabetic, or taking an over-the-counter medicine, or living on diet soda will automatically to Alzheimer's or ALS, but that such people are more susceptible than the average person.

Now, on to the important part: how to stop dementia, or at least greatly slow it down? Raise your body's ketone levels by consuming at least 5 tablespoons of coconut oil (available at your local health food store) every day. It can be used in food preparation, or taken separately like a supplement. Go on a low-carb diet; how low depends on your fasting blood glucose level. If you don't already do so, get in the habit of reading nutrition labels. Get your teeth checked, and correct any existing infections. Take dietary supplements, including an iron-free multivitamin, Q10, Magnesium and Vitamin C. Get some Vitamin D in your body, either through taking a supplement or being outside. Have at least 1 serving of fish per week. Last, but not least, get some moderate physical and mental exercise.

Stopping dementia does not get much easier than this, especially if your family has a history of it, or the symptoms have already started to show themselves. For those who are Alzheimer's caregivers, consider trying some of the things mentioned in this book (you have little or nothing to lose). This book is extremely highly recommended, for everyone.

3 Steps to Recovery
Dan Farish
T-87 Publishing Co.
P.O. Box 773, Freeland WA 98249
9780983581109 $18.99,

"3 Steps to Recovery: One Man's Triumph Over Alcohol and Drugs" is the story of one person's journey from alcoholism to recovery and sobriety.

Dan was your average native of the Boston, MA area. Dad worked as a subway janitor, and seemed to come home angry every night. Taking it out on his family, Dad reached new levels in Mean, Rotten and Nasty. He was the person in the neighborhood who would loudly complain if the local kids were making too much noise, or if someone rode a loud mini-bike past the house. Mom was not much better. A number of times, she stuck her head in the oven, wanting to commit suicide. The rest of the time, she would take Dad's side against her children. Dan's older sister, who had no problem in standing up to Dad, packed a couple of suitcases, and practically ran out of the house the day she turned 18, never to look back.

During adolescence, Dan discovered the "joys" of alcohol and drugs. He would stay out all night nearly every night, drinking a case of beer daily. Soon, he was drinking all day, too. There were several smashed cars and run-ins with the law. Somehow, Dan graduated from high school, after which, he too left home. Marriage, and 2 children, soon followed. They moved to a small town in Tennessee, where they opened a pizza place. Their total lack of experience in running a restaurant was not important. For a couple of years, the place was thriving. Dan turned the restaurant into the local after-hours drinking establishment, which was not a good idea (he was still drinking heavily every day). He also upset the "wrong" people in town. After the restaurant failed, he decided to try again, in Atlanta. This time, Sue, his wife, wanted no part of the new restaurant. Still drinking heavily, this one failed pretty quickly. Dan finally realized that he had hit rock bottom, and agreed to rehab.

He though very little of the 12 Steps in Alcoholics Anonymous, and of group therapy. His attitude must have showed, because he was named Most Likely To Fail by his counselors and the rest of his group. He was also kicked out of the program with only three days left to completion. After much soul-searching and sleepless nights, he reduced the 12 Steps to only 3 Steps, and held on to those very tightly. Is he still an alcoholic, or did he kick his addiction? Did his vital organs shut down from all the beer he was drinking? Can the 3 Steps also work for any other addiction?

This is a very inspirational story. Farish is also a really good writer, who does not sugarcoat anything. The 12 Steps will not work for everyone; perhaps the 3 Steps will work. Anyone affected by alcoholism would do very well to read this book. It is very much worth the time.

Wagons to Hangtown
Diana M. Johnson
Superior Book Publishing Co.
16417 Superior St., North Hills CA 91343-1836
9780966150469, $16.95,

Set in the 1850s, "Wagons to Hangtown: A Story of the California Gold Rush" is novel about a trio of young men who travel across America, seduced by that word: gold.

Edward Daingerfield, his cousin, Richard, and their friend, Lewis, are not the only ones heading west. In St. Joseph, Missouri, they buy provisions, and have to wait their turn crossing the Mississippi River. Eventually, they join a wagon train. Trying to make the crossing on your own is, on many levels, a really bad idea. After many trials and tribulations, including a couple of deaths from cholera, and passing the skeletons of wagons and animals that didn't make it, the train reaches California.

The trio find a spot to start their gold prospecting, and immediately get to it. They do find some gold, enough to buy supplies, but their luck is generally bad. After several months, Edward takes a part-time job at the local post office, in order to provide a more steady income. He becomes an early mailman, delivering mail by stagecoach to the nearby towns and villages. Edward gets involved in writing for a couple of local newspapers. After a couple of years, Richard and Lewis head back home to Indiana, having actually made some money. Edward decides to stay in California.

Edward can't get Mrs. Gould out of her mind. She is an older woman who came west as part of the same wagon train, and whose (second) husband was one of the cholera casualties. She now runs a rooming house in Sacramento, which Edward visits every week for a home-cooked meal. Also coming west is Ellen, Mrs. Gould's 10-year-old daughter. During the trip west, she boldly announces that, one day, she and Edward will be married. Does it happen?

This story is full of excellent writing. Edward Daingerfield is an actual ancestor of the author, so the research is meticulous. It's interesting from beginning to end, and is very much worth the reader's time.

Paul Lappen, Reviewer

Peggy's Bookshelf

Life on Hold
Beverly Stowe McClure
4RV Publishing
PO Box 6482, Edmond, OK 73083
9780983801825, $17.99,

Myra Gibson's sixteenth summer begins with the discovery of a shocking family secret. The man she calls her father is not her birth father. Her world is shattered. She always thought her family was perfect. Her mother, the TV anchorwoman certainly acted like they were perfect. In fact, Mrs. Gibson forbids her to see Jeremy because he's not perfect enough for her. After Myra discovers her mother's secret she sheds her good girl persona and decides rules are meant to be broken. Myra's search for her birth father leads to a summer of forbidden love and reckless adventures into the local county music scene.

Beverly McClure deals with complicated issues like adoption, teen pregnancy, and family secrets with realism and sensitivity. Teen readers can easily relate to Myra's pain and rebellion. Part coming of age, part teen romance, "Life on Hold" is full of surprises.

Letters From the Ledge
Lynda Meyers
Hallway 11
PO Box 312, Baldwinsville, NY 13027
9780615583822, $10.88,

Seventeen-year old Brendan Evans has lost his first love, Tess. She committed suicide. Stuck inside his grief, Brendan spends hours every night out on the ledge of his Madison Avenue apartment building writing letters to her. But he's not alone. Sixteen-year old Sarah watches him from her bedroom window as she writes in her journal. She has lost her younger brother to cancer and feels stifled by fear most of the time. Then there's Paige and Nate who watch Sarah watching Brendan. Paige was brutally beaten and raped two years earlier. She still feels trapped by the terrifying memories. A new work assignment for Paige opens up a contact with Brendan. A chance meeting brings Sarah and Brendan face-to-face. Each connection offers Brendan a chance to save his life. Will he clean up his act or will he take the leap instead?

Lynda Meyers weaves these characters' lives into an intriguing story about life and loss and the powerful desire of the human spirit to fly free. "Letters From the Ledge" is a book for all ages - especially teens - because it shows you can recover from anything. Life really does get better.

Me'ma and the Great Mountain
Lorin Morgan-Richards
A Raven Above Press
530 N Genesee Ave., Los Angeles, CA, 90036
9780983002031, $20.00,

Me'ma and Bright Eye, her wolf companion, lived happily with her grandfather in Sunken Creek, their native village. He taught her about the meaning and value of the purple leaf tree in their lives. But the settlers had arrived and all but destroyed the purple leaf trees, except for those on the Great Mountain. Me'ma also learned she possesses the ability to communicate with animals and the spirit world, a gift from her ancestors. But she does not yet understand it. One terrifying day the evil Baron and his men arrive on horseback and destroy the village and capture the villagers. With the help of Bright Eye, Me'ma escapes with her two purple leaf dolls, Xetacu and Tchesue. Thus begins Me'ma's amazing journey to find safety and a new life on the Great Mountain. Along the way she meets some unusual characters in the animal and spirit world and discovers the secrets of her own special gift.

Adventure flows like a river as the struggles and courage of indigenous peoples are revealed through the eyes of one brave girl. "Me'ma and the Great Mountain" has plenty of humor and peril and peculiar characters to keep young readers fascinated - maybe even awestruck.

Knuckle & Potty Destroy Happy World
James Proimos
Henry Holt & Company
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780805091557, $12.99,

Knuckle and Potty are cute little cartoon characters. But they are fed up with their author and fed up with Happy World. Knuckle Tiggerelli is a pink tiger and Potty Polarberg is a green bear. They enlist the help of Winkie the Pug. He is - you guessed it - a blue dog. Winkie sends them to the Outer World to have a talk with the author. But the author turns out to be someone else entirely and he won't budge. He insists on making them cute and cuddly. Next they visit Chicken in the Beret, a red chicken who talks in rhymes. But he's not much help either. Eventually they find the perfect weapon to destroy Happy World. Of course nothing turns out the way they planned. "Knuckle & Potty Destroy Happy World" is a graphic novel for young readers with loads of colorful cartoons to keep them turning the pages. Kids will love this silly story with its cast of zany characters as they get what's coming to them.

Peggy Tibbetts, Reviewer

Richard's Bookshelf

Prepare Yourself to Be Blessed: How to Purposely Enter Into Abundant Living
Kevin Boyd
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768441055, $14.99

Kevin Boyd has a fluent dynamic writing style that is well-paced presented and in a reader friendly format. "Prepare Yourself to Be Blessed" is Biblically based, uniquely creative and highly imaginative.

The book is filled with principles for impacting others, while fulfilling personal potential. Kevin is a gifted communicator, his writing provides:

Motivation that accelerates action
Inspires introspection
Opens the door of opportunity
Challenges a dynamic spiritual adventure with an imploding power from within

Kevin offers sage advice on key principles for success in spiritual living, leadership skills, marriage and family life, and personal development. He focuses on basic fundamentals participation, responsibility, forgiveness, decisiveness, gratitude, and a forward looking attitude.

The contemporary illustrations are relevant, pointed, memorable and entertaining. His Biblical examples are engaging, eye opening, and practical for personal application. The end notes are well documented and provide a wide range of resources for further study. Another excellent feature is the chapter review section at the end of the book which provides important summary statements of the contents of each of the eight chapters.

The title of the book offers the reader a chance to "Prepare Yourself to Be Blessed." I was not disappointed. Highly recommended by well-known Christian Leaders.

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

Leadership: From Ordinary to Extraordinary - The Character of a Leader
Stephanie A. Parson, PH.D.
CGI - International
13506 Summerport Village Parkway, Suite 336
Windermere, FL 34786
9780578048703, $27.95

The Dynamics of Building Professional Qualities of Leadership

Stephanie A. Parson, PH.D. uses a whole person approach to leadership training by introducing a practical approach to understanding the principles of leadership as an ongoing dynamic program of skill building. This is a step by step process of transforming your leadership style and capabilities, a faith experience.

In her book "Leadership: From Ordinary to Extraordinary - The Character of a Leader" Parson guides the reader through a series of self-assessment activities and exercises which help the reader discover and determine their potential leadership skills and to assess their growth throughout the process of their leadership journey.

A quick look at the background and experience of Dr. Parson will add credibility to the positive endorsements of leaders in the military, business, and education fields. Parson's writing is well organized, clearly articulated, and filled with practical sage advice for her reader.

The book is intended to be used as a study manual incorporating observation, interpretation, correlation and application. "Leadership: From Ordinary to Extraordinary - The Character of a Leader" is an outstanding resource for anyone who has made the choice to build on their strengths, grow with the opportunities afforded them and experience the dynamics of their personal leadership potential. Highly recommended.

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

The Shifting Romance with Israel
Dr. Raymond L. Gannon
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310
Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768441093, $16.99

An Examination of Zionism and American Pentecostalism

Dr. Raymond L. Gannon traces the parallel growth of the Pentecostal and Zionist movements through the 20th Century in his book "The Shifting Romance with Israel." He examines the growing ambivalence of the American Evangelical and Pentecostal movements toward the nation of Israel to provide an in depth study and analysis.

I found Gannon's development of the historical, biblical, and eschatological views and their influence on American Pentecostalism ideals at the beginning of the 20th century fascinating. He begins with the views of the New World Puritans working back through the understanding espoused by church leaders including: Luther, Calvin, John Fox, and the earlier Puritans Theologians. He also introduces the pre-millennialism, dispensational, and restoration movements and their unique differences.

In addition to the historical influences leading up to the formation of the ideology of Pentecostalism, Gannon analyzes the ideology of Zionism, including a look at Anti-Semitism, and Messianic Zionism.

Extensive end notes add credence to Gannon's meticulous research and also serve as a resource for future study for the serious student of prophecy and eschatology. An accompanying glossary helps the reader identify more closely with unique vocabulary included throughout the analysis.

"The Shifting Romance with Israel" is must reading for every Evangelical, Pentecostal, and Mainstream Denominational leader. The reader should make the book available to everyone within their sphere of influence. Highly recommended.

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

Pure Grace: The Life Changing Power of Uncontaminated Grace
By: Clark Whitten
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310
Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768410408, $15.99

Getting a Grasp on the True Meaning of God's Grace

Pastor Clark Whitten introduces the reader to a new freedom, joy, hope, and passion in his book "Pure Grace: The Life Changing Power of Uncontaminated Grace."

Whitten challenges the reader to honestly consider their perception of God's grace and the life changing power that comes with understanding the fullness of the scriptural revelation of salvation and sanctification.

Whitten reveals how the message of grace from Biblical teaching includes: The truth of the finished work of Christ on the cross, it is Christ who empowers us to live the Christian life, and the thrust of our testimony should be the world changing "Good News" of the gospel.

In uncomplicated terms, Whitten articulates a clear presentation of Christians and the "Law," Jesus as High Priest, the New Covenant, and the place of confession, repentance, and conviction.

"Pure Grace: The Life Changing Power of Uncontaminated Grace" is a book for every believer who is looking for a personal sense of spiritual revival, a renewal in their spiritual life, and a desire to re-capture the simplicity of that "first love" experience of devotion to the Savior. An eye and heart opening reading experience which translates to new joy, hope, and freedom for fullness in Christ.

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

God's Way: Plan for Our Success Nehemiah's
Connie Hunter-Urban
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768441086, $15.99

A Plan for Success - Lessons on Rebuilding from Nehemiah

Connie Hunter-Urban is a skilled communicator, a uniquely gifted teacher who understands the basic elements of building a solid foundation. "God's Way: Plan for Our Success Nehemiah's" introduces important principles for successful kingdom living and reveals a plan for "Rebuilding the Gates in Your Christian Journey" from the book of Nehemiah, chapter 33.

Hunter-Urban likens the Christian walk to a marathon and a growing, maturation process. A look at the map of Jerusalem (Appendix 1) provides the reader with a visual picture of the progression of the spiritual journey of the believer. Connie sees the sheep gate as falling in love with Jesus, our salvation; the fish gate as sharing the good news of the Gospel, and the old gate as digging deeper into the Word. These phases prepare us for facing trials, building our character, spiritual warfare, true worship, and fulfilling our destiny.

I especially gleaned insight from the parallels with the charts in the appendix showing the "Levels of Ezekiel's Rivers" and the "Wilderness Tabernacle.

Connie's message is biblically based, filled with acumen, written with clarity and passion. It is deeply profound and well organized. "God's Way: Plan for Our Success Nehemiah's" provides an excellent blueprint for "Rebuilding the Gates in Your Christian Journey."

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

Cursing the Church of Helping It?
Anna M. Aquino
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768440485, $14.99

An in Depth Look at the Sin of Balaam

Anna M. Aquino calls the church and individual Christians to unite in a spirit of love and compassion in her book "Cursing the Church of Helping It?" a wakeup call to the dangers of pursuing the spirit of Balaam. Her writing is candid, articulate, and convincing.

My eyes were opened to the realization of the important lessons drawn from Balaam's errors. His name is mentioned specifically in seven books of the Bible:

Numbers 22 - 24
Deuteronomy 23:4-5
Joshua 13:22
Nehemiah 13:2
2 Peter 2:15
Jude 11
Revelation 2:24

There are dozens of other reference alluding to the nature of Balaam's sins clearly indicating God's displeasure. I was impressed with the Aquino's broad scope of well documented research. These resources are an import tool for future study.

Anna shares stories from her experience to illustrate truths from the scriptures, sometime in heartbreaking stories, and at other times relates humorous incidents to bring home a lesson. The reader is challenged to self-examination and motivation to take action by intentionally extending compassion to others in an effort to unify the church and bring honor to the name of Christ.

"Cursing the Church of Helping It?" is an excellent Biblical study exposing the spirit of Balaam.

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

Relentless Love: Unfolding God's Passion, Presence, and Glory
Thom Gardner
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768441031, $15.99

Touched by the Heart of God's Unmerited Love

"Relentless Love" encourages the reader to focus on three aspects of God's mercy. Each chapter is filled with life-changing insights and instruction for reflection, prayer, and journaling. A series of spiritual growth exercises provide guidelines emphasizing:

God's Mercy - Feel the Passion
God's Mercy - Experience the Presence
God's Mercy - See the Glory

Thom Gardner understands the ministry of equipping and healing members of the Body of Christ. His writing is filled with examples from the Scriptures, rich in practical illustration, and powerful in application. I found myself engaged in the truths of God's compassion, forgiveness, and his abundant blessings toward me as contemplated the nature of unmerited love.

Whether describing the heart and character of God, His acts of mercy, or His understanding of our humanity, Gardner skillfully guides the reading into a new longing for the presence of God and a deep seated desire to see His glory. The contemporary stories illustrate the struggles and sinfulness of man and the power of God to meet us in our need, to provide redemption and renewal as His love and plan for each of us unfolds.

"Relentless Love: Unfolding God's Passion, Presence, and Glory" is a refreshing reminder of God's unmerited love and mercy. Powerful, Christ centered writing!

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

Romancing Death: A True Story of Vampirism, Death, the Occult, and Deliverance
William Schnoebelen
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768441123, $16.99

An Analysis of Pop Culture, the Occult, and Spiritual Bondage

William Schnoebelen introduces his book "Romancing Death" with a candid look at his experiences in the occult, witchcraft, and vampirism. He openly discusses how he was blinded by the dark and dangerous deceptions of satan, disguised as an angel of light. He details how he became involved in WICCA, witchcraft, and satanism.

Schnoebelen introduces the reader to the phenomenon of the vampire in religion, culture, and history. He explores contemporary vampire cults, lore, and literature and the myth and reality of vampirism. He looks at how the vampire is portrayed in popular fiction, films, and television.

He goes on to warn how contemporary authors, in this genre of books, are targeting susceptible teens as their readers. He alerts parents, youth leaders, and educators of how over exposure can result in addictive behaviorism during these sensitive formative years.

Other features included in the book are: a synopsis of the "Twilight Saga," Biblical admonitions, insight in to Mormon doctrine compared to Christian theology, and a guide to Biblical entertainment. The extensive end-notes provide an excellent resource for further study.

The narrative is filled with examples of individuals delivered from demonic bondage. His testimony of victory over enslavement to the personal addictions to drinking blood and the use of cocaine give additional credibility to Schnoebelen's conclusions. Readers will be divided in their acceptance of these conclusions. His writing is strong, authoritative, and disturbing.

"Romancing Death: A True Story of Vampirism, Death, the Occult, a guide to Biblical and Deliverance" is a wakeup call to Christians to the dangers of occult, the reality of spiritual and demonic, and the promise of deliverance of these powers.

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

The Ultimate Guide to Understanding the Dreams You Dream: Biblical Keys for Hearing God's Voice in the Night
Ira Milligan
Destiny Image Publisher, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768441079, $19.99

A Guide to Understanding and Interpreting Dreams

"The Ultimate Guide to Understanding the Dreams You Dream" is written to carefully guide the reader through the complex world of dreams. Author Ira Milligan maintains that in these end times God uses dreams to:

Encourage and direct Christians in their walk with Him - Getting direction
Warn sinners to repent
Provide guidance to the Church
Reveal divine information and knowledge

The subtitle of the book "Biblical Keys for Hearing God's Voice in the Night" suggests that the reader should consider the importance of recognizing the difference between a dream and a "night vision." Milligan also suggests that reader began a dream journal as the first step in learning to interpret your dreams.

The book is divided into two parts: Part One helps the reader understand the common use of the dream in God's communication with His people. This includes insights into interpreting symbols, understanding Bible numerology, and finding answers through colors. Milligan also discusses how all the creatures of creation, modes of transportation, and metals play a part in dream interpretation. I found the chapters that included rules to follow, and answers to frequently asked questions especially interesting and helpful.

Part Two provides a comprehensive Key Word Dictionary of Dream Symbols with Scriptural Illustrations. This section is a very practical tool for reference, research, and application.

"The Ultimate Guide to Understanding the Dreams You Dream" is an authoritative guide book for individual Christians, those involved in Inner Healing and Spiritual Warfare ministries, as well as for clergy and lay ministers.

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

Lady in Waiting
Jackie Kendall and Debby Jones
Destiny Image Publishing, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768441062, $16.99

Building Relationships and Finding Fulfillment through Abandonment to the Lordship of Christ

The unique feature of this newly revised edition of "Lady in Waiting" is the focus on finding fulfillment for the longing of the heart through a relationship with Jesus and developing the ten qualities of a godly woman found in the book of Ruth. Jackie Kendall and Debby Jones collaborate in an intricate balance of instruction, interactive study, devotional inspiration, and motivational story illustrations. The book is divided into four sections.

Part one is made up of ten chapters. Each chapter includes Biblical instruction, practical illustrations, and profound questions for reflection. The reader is directed to take action steps or guidelines for personal application and assimilation. Part two provides an interactive study guide for group or individual use, taking the reader to a deeper level of understanding and application. Part three contains daily devotional thoughts gleaned from the classical writings of well know women including: Madame Jeanne Guyon, Mother Teresa, Susanna Wesley, Hanna Whitall Smith, and many others.

Part four includes a wonderful compilation of seventy-seven poignant, unforgettable short stories from real life. Each story is designed to stimulate reflection and personal application.

"Lady in Waiting" is relevant for women in all walks of life. It is a guide and a guard for the single woman, a marriage support for the married woman, and a comfort for the widowed or divorced woman. Encouraging, motivating, and inspirational - Highly recommended.

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

The 7% Solution: You Can Afford a Comfortable Retirement
John H. Graves, CLU, and ChFC
Safe Harbor International Publishing
10790 Encino Drive, Oak View, CA 93022
9780983573128, $16.00

An Investment Resource for Taking Charge of Your Investment and Retirement Goals

In his book "The 7% Solution" financial advisor John H. Graves, CLU, ChFC, provides the reader guidelines for determining their retirement needs, and for indenting the sources of income and retirement.

I was especially appreciative of:

The helpful work sheets
The suggested websites
The reading and resource suggestions
The reader friendly format
The logical progression of the material
The investment guidelines

The assignments and exercises suggest at the end of each chapter are filled with pointed questions to guide the reader in discovering their personal retirement and investment goals, and help in formulating action steps for the wise investment counsel in areas of stocks, bonds, annuities, real estate, and business buyouts.

The information packed fourteen chapters, are filled with guidelines, tips, authoritative principles, tax planning, and practical suggestions for selecting, maintaining, and monitoring your portfolio.

There will be those who find the Graves approach controversial - I found Graves' writing articulate, convincing, and stimulating. "The 7% Solution" provides the reader with an investment resource for taking charge of their investment and retirement Goals."

This is a book I plan to keep available for ready reference in these times of economic uncertainty. I am going to recommend "The 7% Solution" to family and friends.

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

Why Do We All Love Dr. Seuss? Discovering the Mystery and Magic of an Icon
Lois Einhorn, Ph.D.
Robert D. Reed Publishers
P. O. Box 1992, Bandon, Oregon 97411
9781934759585, $11.95

A New Awareness - Seeing the Extraordinary in the Ordinary

Dr. Einhorn introduces her observations and interpretations of the writing of Dr. Seuss by sharing her insights on some unique often overlooked subtleties. The Dr. Seuss books:

Encourage the building positive values and vision
Emphasize important character traits
Expand a child's awareness, curiosity, and creative imagination
Entertain with humor, clever illustrations, and comical visuals
Embolden children to think for themselves
And offer the reader an opportunity to, experience the joy of reading aloud with an attentive, appreciative audience of children

Dr. Einhorn draws noteworthy parallels from the stories of Dr. Seuss and classic thinkers, spiritual leaders, writers, and others. The message is timeless, the teaching universal. She includes quotes from people like: Albert Einstein, Edwin Markham, Khalil Gibran, Howard Thurman, Eric Hoffer, and Cicero to re-enforce her observations.

I personally, begin reading Dr. Seuss stories to my own children, then to my grandchildren, and now to the great grand kids. Thanks to Dr. Einhorn's keen insights, I now better understand why it is important for me to pass along this important source of core values, exemplifying: Trust, unity, courage, integrity, gratefulness, and so many more wonderful lessons.

"Why Do We All Love Dr. Seuss?" is entertaining, informational, giving the reader a new awareness enabling them to see through the eyes of Dr. Seuss's characters the extraordinary in the ordinary. Highly recommended.
I was provided a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Comeback: Overcoming the Setbacks in Your Life
Rick McDaniel
WestBow Press
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, Indiana 47403
9781449741266, $11.95

How to Comeback When Unexpected Circumstances Set You Back

Rick McDaniel's motivational messages have inspired thousands of followers to change the direction of their lives as they have been given new hope and purpose. "Comeback: Overcoming the Setbacks in Your Life" offers the reader the same opportunity to draw from Rick's own experiences and from the real life stories of others who have comeback from personal setbacks.

Whether your personal setback is the result of:

A job loss
Health issues
A broken marriage or relationship
Financial collapse
Or, other unexpected circumstances

Rick provides guidelines and principles to help you discover the cause for your personal setback, the lessons to be learned, and the steps necessary to move change direction and move forward.

Applications are drawn from successful businessmen, sports figures, entertainers, and other leaders who have comeback after setbacks. These stories tell of changed hearts, changed direction, and taking advantage of new opportunities. Sports enthusiasts will especially enjoy Rick's interview with Mr. Comeback - Frank Reich. Whatever your interests may include you will find inspiration from the chapter titled "The Ten Greatest Comebacks of All Time."

McDaniel's writing is clear, articulate, and fast-moving with easy to follow practical guidelines, suggested action steps, and principles for application and assimilation.

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

Darkness Follows
Mike Dellosso
Charisma Media
600 Rinehart Road, Lake Mary, Florida 32746
9781616382742, $13.99

A Downward Spiral of Darkness

"Darkness Follows" combines the elements of a psychological thriller, a supernatural suspense novel, and the intrigue of a sinister political conspiracy. Within the first few pages I became engaged in life of Mike Dellosso's protagonist, Sam Travis. Dellosso vividly describes the diagnosis of Sam's auditory hallucinations, his depression, and the dark ominous psychosis Sam experiences as he relives the details of his brother's death twenty- years earlier.

Sam Travis, a self-employed carpenter, fell 20 feet off a roof in an accident. He suffered a severe trauma injury to his head. I felt like an outsider looking on, empathizing, as Sam deals with impending madness, a slave to the shadowy figures of darkness, the voice of Tom, his dead brother, and the sounds of battle all around him. Add to Sam's confusion the journal of a Civil War Army Captain written in Sam's own handwriting and you will understand why the madness has only begun.

A strong theme of family love and the importance of the importance of accepting God's unconditional love is woven throughout the novel, a non-judgmental, non-preaching message.

A complex fast moving plot features a broad array of characters, haunted by their past, driven by forces good and evil beyond their control or understanding. Intense story telling - highly suspenseful.

Richard R. Blake, Reviewer

Steve's Bookshelf

The Litigators
John Grisham
Doubleday & Company
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
0385535139, $17.53,,

One thing that must be said for Grisham is that he's never afraid to try varied genres. From Painted House, to The Bleachers, to The Firm, Grisham stretches his wings hugely. I wasn't quite ready for The Litigators because most of his lawyer stuff carries the raw edge of suspense. This was basically a comedy with occasional attempts at tension. Starring a law partnership called Finley & Figg, I almost felt like this was going to be Dickensian, but Grisham kept a firm foot in contemporary America. Oscar Finley and Wally Figg are slightly stereotypical, with Finley the tough old Scrooge who lurches around perpetually complaining and Figg the unethical ne'er do well with a line of divorces, always a step away from the booze. By a freak accident, a well paid bottom dweller at a huge law firm goes on a drunk and ends up at Finley & Figg's, and, what do you know, this David Zinc decides he likes the small time. Always on the search for the one massive money case, Figg decides their fortune will be scored in suing a pharmaceutical firm for a heart med. Suddenly they're in way over their heads. Meanwhile, David gets involved in a few minor cases. One involves an immigrant family whose little boy gets lead poisoning from a pair of costume Nasty Teeth for vampires. As these three stooges stumble their way deeper and deeper into litigations, the reader wonders if they will possibly end up just commiting suicide as the easy way out. If you're looking for some light entertainment disguised as dark humor, pick up the book. Grisham has some fun with it.

Seabiscuit: An American Legend
Laura Hillenbrand
Ballantine Books
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
0345465083, $11.98,,

I actually wish I'd read Seabiscuit before I saw the movie. The story was captivating and rare enough that reading about it first would have been a treat to savor for weeks. In my opinion, this was one of the few cases in which the movie was almost as good as the book. In any case, Hillenbrand has done an exemplary job at putting together the ultimate unlikely hero story. Perhaps the greatest charm of the story is the forlorn and tawdry little group that came together with a cantankerous, runty piece of horseflesh to form a team that would take the sport of horse racing by storm. You've got Tom Smith, the weird trainer famous for his secret practice sessions with Seabiscuit. You've got Red Pollard, super eccentric jockey who specializes in taming unruly racers. And you've got the star, an ugly horse who just happens to be able to fly with the right management. Seabiscuit became America's hero at a time when millions felt like underdogs and were ready to cheer their hearts out for any underdog that showed heart. The greatest novels throw crisis after crisis at the protagonist until the reader is frantic with fascination to discover how the hero will prevail. This is one the rare true stories in which the real life obstacles become so mountainous that the reader is almost overwhelmed. You don't have to like true adventure and you don't even have to like animals. The story is so powerful, it will still captivate you and enchant you. Do yourself a favor and pick up this book. It's a keeper.

Hawaii: A Novel
James Michener
Random House
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
0375760377, $11.47,,

My favorite Michener novel is "The Novel". This is probably partly because I'm a writer myself. As I contemplated my review for Hawaii, I did read some reviews and they fascinated me. It would be interesting to know a profile of readers who love Michener. Please indulge me regarding the comments prefacing my review of Hawaii. Michener's books are almost invariably incredibly lengthy. And he gets away with what would be literary suicide for many writers. Most all his books include hundreds of pages of exposition: geologic research, cultural backgrounds, historical references, family trees/genealogies, archaeological discoveries, geographical information, etc. I've read stern warnings in many instructional books regarding the temptation to include all your research in a novel just because you spent so many hours compiling it. The books state how boring and tedious this can become for readers to wade through all this exposition in a desperate search for the plot.

It's a little amusing to me how many readers acknowledge Michener's penchant for massive exposition. Then some reviewers typically go on to say that the book was still great and engrossing, etc. I'm a researcher as well as a writer, so it's saying a lot for me to state that I think Michener does go a bit overboard at times with the truckloads of background material. But he's great enough to still keep an interesting plot moving along and sell tons of books.

Regarding Hawaii, I read it and, like others, found sections of it quite interesting. One section, however, disturbed me quite a bit. It seemed as if the missionaries were caricatured as horrible human beings. They were foolish, sour, stern, mean-spirited, and even cruel at times. I'm not saying Michener is lying. I believe that some early missionaries misunderstood grossly what it meant to evangelize and invite people to consider the salvation offered through Christ's death on the cross for mankind. They thought that native people's cultural mores must be forsaken for them to be "Christianized." They sometimes made cultural mountains out of molehills and forced standards upon native peoples which did not even come from the Bible. Christian missions has changed in huge ways and for many decades it has spread the gospel of Christ without destroying the cultures and customs of various people groups. Michener doesn't mention that.

Steve Fortosis

Theodore's Bookshelf

Fly By Night
Ward Larsen
Oceanview Publishing
595 Bay Isles Rd., Longboat Key, FL 34225
9781608090297, $25.95,,

In this thriller, the protagonist, Jammer Davis, attempts what we all know to be the impossible: to be a perpetual motion machine. A pilot (like the author), ex-U.S. Air Force, investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board, and rugby player, Jammer is asked to go to Sudan where the CIA believes a crashed drone might be hidden in an airplane hangar owned by a local air freight company called FNB (you guessed it: Fly By Night) Aviation.

Well, Jammer goes to Khartoum purportedly to investigate an airplane crash and finds himself in the midst of a secret operation which precludes him from looking into the hangar. Instead, he gets involved in all kinds of superhuman feats which often strain one's credulity. .Whatever facts prompted his investigation appear to be at odds with what he learns or surmises on his arrival, and leads to all kinds of exciting adventures both on land, at sea and in the air.

The story is replete with all kinds of excitement, danger and mishaps, with some violence thrown in. And from a technical point of view, there is plenty of aviation background there to be included by an experienced pilot such as this author. It is a far-out and gripping plot, and is recommended.

Iron House
John Hart
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9781250007018, $14.99,,

Iron House was originally built in the Western North Carolina mountains as a psychiatric facility for Civil War veterans, later to be converted into an orphan asylum, one that was poorly supervised and maintained. Into the home came Michael and Julian as babies. Through the next decade Michael, the stronger brother, sought to protect his younger sibling who was continually victimized by five bullies. Then Julian reached the breaking point, stabbing the leader of his tormenters. Knowing his brother couldn't hack it, Michael removed the knife from the dead boy's neck and ran away, "accepting" blame for the murder.

Ironically on that same day, a young woman, wife of a very rich and powerful U.S. Senator, arrived at Iron House specifically to adopt Michael and Julian. And so it came to be that the weaker brother grew up in luxury, developing into a gifted author of children's books, while the stronger one arrived in New York, drifting to Harlem as the leader of a gang of boys, soon to be "adopted" by a notorious mob leader and developed into an enforcer and killer. Then Michael falls in love and wants out of the mob life so he can lead a "normal" life.

That is the background from which the book develops. The remainder is the chase of Michael and his woman by the mobsters who fear he would betray them, and his attempts to protect his brother and his lover from them. At the same time, other complications develop to keep the reader's interest at a peak. While on the whole this is a gripping tale, one could view it as a potboiler, full of cliche-ish overtones. Nevertheless, it is a very well-plotted, interesting read and is recommended.

The Litigators
John Grisham
c/o Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10018
9780385535137, $28.95,,

Early in his career, John Grisham wrote novels that whacked a home run every time. But even Babe Ruth couldn't do that every time. This book is workman-like, perhaps a double. But then, if you can do even this often enough, you're an All Star. And John Grisham certainly is that.

The story is extremely contrived, with sort of caricatures for characters. It might have been more fun if they were less predictable and more cartoonish, if that's possible. Attorney David Zinc belongs more in a soap opera than a legal novel. His two partners, Finley & Figg, are even more unbelievable, other characters even more wooden.

But all this criticism doesn't negate the fact that Grisham can still write an entertaining novel, albeit somewhat stilted and predictable. About the only interesting character in the book is a 90-yer-old Federal judge, presiding over a comical case. So, despite all this negativism, the novel is recommended with caveats.

The Two Deaths of Daniel Hayes
Marcus Sakey
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780451236920, $15.00,,

Daniel Hayes wakes up on a beach in Maine, half drowned and with a loss of memory. This sets the stage for a slow, dramatic tale as he attempts to reconstruct his life. He finds a car nearby which is apparently owned by someone named Daniel Hayes from Malibu, CA. Is that him?

Then he decides to cross the country in an effort to find out who he is, after fleeing a cop attempting to arrest him in Maine. Dan is a scriptwriter, and his efforts are like episodes on a TV show. When he gets to Malibu, he sneaks in to what turns out is his home. So he has a name. And a home. He soon discovers that a female character on a television show is his wife who apparently was killed when her car went over a cliff. While he searches for answers, the plot thickens.

And quite a plot it is. Interspersed with fairly crisp prose are simulated scripts, sometimes fantasy, others integral to the story line. The reader is kept off-balance with the question of whether Dan fled to Maine because he killed his wife. And when that question is answered, a whole new mystery arises to keep one turning pages.

The novel is a finalist for the Thriller Award, and is recommended.

Betrayal of Trust
J.A. Jance
c/o HarperCollins
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780061731327, $9.99,,

The fact that this novel is the 20th J.P. Beaumont book in the series speaks for itself. The novels have deeply drawn characters, tightly constructed plots, and enough imagination to keep a reader entranced throughout. "Betrayal of Trust," of course, is no exception to that rule.

What starts out as a secret mission on behalf of the Washington State Attorney General and the Governor leads J.P. Beaumont and his partner and wife, Mel Soames, on a trail with deeper and much more nefarious consequences. Initially the Governor, Marsha Longmire, with whom J.P. went to high school, discovers what appears to be a snuff film on her step-grandchild's cell phone and requests him to investigate. This leads to a much more complicated case, with more potentially far-reaching damage to all concerned.

Perhaps the most powerful novel among all the books in the series, this is an easy one to recommend wholeheartedly.

An American Spy
Olen Steinhauer
Minotaur Books
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312622893, $25.99,

This final novel in the trilogy picks up after the slaughter, in the previous novel, of 33 "tourists" engineered by the Chinese spymaster, Xin Zhu, head of the Expedition Agency of the Sixth Bureau of the Ministry of State Security, setting the stage for a complicated plot in which Milo Weaver, one of the few surviving "Tourists," is a reluctant participant. The ensuing events are like a chess match played blindfolded.

The Tourists department of the CIA is shut down in the aftermath of the slaughters, and its chief of six months, Alan Drumond, and Milo are unemployed and seeking jobs. But Alan can't let go and comes up with a scheme to "get" Xin Zhu and revenge what has happened. This sets off a chain of events causing each participant to make moves and countermoves without really knowing what the game really is all about. Nor does the reader.

All in all, the trilogy is a wonderful work, and this novel caps the previous two by being even better-plotted and -written. The characterizations are marvelous and the unexpected twists in the plots sometimes ingenious. The insights into the way the Chinese Republic is governed, and the minds and machinations of its officials, is worth every struggle the reader has with the myriad number of names and the devious plotting of the principals. By all means go out and get a copy and read this fine work.

Highly recommended.

Stolen Souls
Stuart Neville
Soho Crime
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9781569479834, $25.00,,

After two previous harrowing D.I. Jack Lennon novels set in the time of the Troubles in Belfast and Northern Ireland, "Stolen Souls" centers instead on the subject of sex trafficking. A young woman lured from the Ukraine with the promise of working with a family, teaching its children English, instead ends up in a brothel from which she escapes only to wind up in mortal danger at the hands of a madman.

To get out of the brothel she murders the brother of a powerful gangster, setting off a chain of events, including three more murders, which brings the detective inspector into the picture. He finally traces the whereabouts of the woman on Christmas Eve (all the action takes place during that holiday) and the plot involves rescuing her from the thug's attempt to murder her in revenge.

The novel is written in powerful prose, with increasing tension and vivid characterizations. It is quite a switch from the previous noir tales of the violence and fragility of the Irish peace. But it is welcome proof that the author has the wherewithal to continue writing a series beyond its original dramatic theme. Jack Lennon is a human and sympathetic policeman with plenty of room to grow.


Bodies in Winter
Robert Knightly
Severn House
555 Madison Ave., NY, NY 10022
9780727868022, $28.95,

A former New York City cop, the author takes on a theme that probably would have achieved martyrdom if his pension was not already vested: police corruption. The protagonists, Harry Corbin and Adele Bentibi, two detectives in a Brooklyn precinct, draw what seems to be a cut and dried murder case: a former cop, just released from Attica prison, murdered just outside his home.

But the two, an unlikely pair to be partners (he's a by-the-book careerist, she a holier-than-thou seeker of justice), start to investigate despite warnings from higher-ups to slough off. As they continue, despite the pressures, they learn of possible conspiracies among cops, and even that possibly the victim was framed. Additional murders compound the confusion.

This is a different kind of police procedural, albeit a step-by-step description of how a case progresses. Instead of seeking perpetrators outside, they have to look inside. And a final twist never anticipated (by this reader, at least) adds irony to the efforts. An interesting couple, Corbin and Bentibi, and they make another appearance in a sequel, "The Cold Room," which is next on the list for this reviewer.


The Snowman
Jo Nesbo, author
Don Bartlett, translator
Vintage Books
c/o Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780307742995, $14.95,

The Harry Hole series presents the reader with somewhat of an anomaly. On the one hand, we are informed that Norway is virtually free from serial killers. On the other hand, Hole is reputed to be the only detective in the nation with experience in catching serial killers, having accomplished his experience in Australia and also attending an FBI course. And then, serial killers tend to appear in the Harry Hole novels, including this one.

The first of several missing persons is a married mother, and the only clue is a snowman outside her home. Shortly before her disappearance, Hole received a mysterious letter which, in retrospect, leads him to believe there was a link between it and the woman's vanishing. In reviewing unsolved cases, Harry and his team find an alarming number of wives and mothers have gone missing over some years.

Once again, Jo Nesbo has written a taut thriller, one that is forceful and gripping and, this time, full of madness. His novels just keep on getting better and better. Fast-paced and staggering, always keeping the reader looking ahead to the next shift, keeping one off balance with wonder.

Highly recommended.

The Cold Room
Robert Knightly
Severn House
555 Madison Ave., NY, NY 10022
9780727880857, $28.95,,

This novel is the second Harry Corbin-Adele Bentibi police procedural, with the two protagonists picking up from the beginning of their relationship at the end of the previous novel, "Bodies in Winter." It is mainly the story of Harry's fixation on solving the mystery of a disemboweled young woman whose dead body was found in an isolated location under the Williamsburg Bridge near the East River. Adele plays a much lesser, but important, role in the plot.

It turns out that the victim was one of a number of East European women illegally brought to the United States to work as domestics under near slavery conditions by a couple of gangsters. With little to work with in the way of clues, except his own talents, Harry has to identify the woman, gain access to others to rescue them and nab the culprits, including her murderer. And it ain't easy.

Harry is a maverick, but a talented one, and is offset by the cerebral Adele. But both are passionate in their own way. This second volume is as well-written as the first, and one wonders why there hasn't yet been news of a third. Let's hope the author is hard at work.


Hell Is Empty
Craig Johnson
Penguin Books
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780143120988, $14.00,,

This, the seventh novel in the Walt Longmire series, is perhaps the most harrowing. It starts out simply enough, with Walt, the Sheriff of a Wyoming county, and his deputies transporting three murderers to a rendezvous with two other local Sheriffs and Federal officials. One of the felons, a psychopath who says he hears supernatural voices, has indicated he killed a young Indian boy years before, and offers to locate the bones for the officials. There is a rumor, also, that he has secreted $1.4 million, perhaps in the grave.

This sets the stage for a harrowing experience for Walt, as the convicts escape, killing FBI agents and taking two hostages with them as they climbed Bighorn Mountain. A determined Walt follows under blizzard conditions, which almost kills him.

As in previous entries in the series, the geographical and environmental descriptions are awesome. The reader can feel the cold and ice as they penetrate Walt's body and inundate the mountain peak in glasslike cover and snow-filled mounds. Another excellent book, full of Indian lore and supernatural phenomena.

The next book in the series, "As the Crow Flies," is due out in May, and the Walt Longmire TV series will begin airing in June, 2012.


The Innocent
Taylor Stevens
Crown Publishing
c/o Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780307717122, $27.00,,

In reviewing the debut novel featuring Vanessa Michael Munroe, "The Informationist," I pointed out that ordinarily I react poorly to super-heroes, and called her sort of a bionic woman. However, in that case I set aside my prejudices and looked upon the character favorably. Not so this time. In this sequel, Munroe is considerably less appealing, but no less destructive as an assassin and action figure.

The plot is relatively simple, built around a kidnapped child hidden away for eight years in various cult sites, now located in Argentina, subjected to sexual abuse. Munroe is asked by her best friend to rescue the child, now thirteen, and she agrees, in part out of obligation and also to give her something to occupy herself to escape her own demons. It seems that she suffers violent nightmares recounting her past murders.

Certainly the novel is as well-written as the first in the series, and the topic obviously is worthwhile. Somehow, however, the overwhelming detail tends to drag, and this reader, at least, found the mind often wandering. The information about the workings and philosophy of the cult seemed superficial, though the rescue of the girl was vivid. I felt, however, that the conclusion was a little too simplified to be realistic, sort of "Oh yeah, let's end this now." But on the whole, it is not a bad read, and is, despite the aforementioned reservations, recommended.

Jonathan Kellerman
c/o Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780345505705, $9.99,,

Sometimes the adage "the more things change, the more they stay the same," refers to a good thing. Certainly it applies to the Alex Delaware series. For 25 novels, the basic plot has remained the same: a crime is committed and Dr, Delaware and Lt. Sturgis investigate, analyze, philosophize and eventually solve it. This 26th story in the series is no different.

A beautiful young woman, obviously waiting for a "date," first observed in a rundown hotel by Alex and his paramour Robin, is found later up in the Hollywood Hills shot in the face. Sturgis invites Alex, by chance, to witness the scene, and the good doctor is able to identify the victim by the way she was dressed. There is little in the way of clues or evidence, but that doesn't stop them from researching and theorizing ad infinitum.

One would think that an author would tire of characters and plots after so many novels, but they remain fresh and interesting, readable and enjoyable. [The 27th book in the series, "Victims," was published by Ballantine in March, 2012.]


El Gavilan
Craig McDonald
Tyrus Books
c/o F&W Media
4700 E. Galbraith Rd., Cincinnati, Ohio 45236
9781440531941, $24.95,,

This novel basically asks a simple question: What is Justice? It pits several characters against each other and looks at the social unrest caused by illegal immigration on a small Ohio town. Two lawmen, Tell (yes, his father was enamored of Louis L'Amour westerns and named him after William Tell Sackett) Lyon, newly appointed Chief of Police of New Austin, and Able "El Gavilan" Hawk, the county sheriff, play the dominant roles in this tale. The sheriff of an adjacent county also plays a pivotal part in the action.

An interesting technique the author employs to fully inform the reader is interspersing flashbacks with earlier events in the various characters' lives to give an insight into present actions and motivations. While the tensions created by the unsettled and undocumented population of the town may be an underlying premise of the plot, the story is more concerned with the various principal persons and, as such, is more of a character study than any other genre. Needless to say, "El Gavilan" (Spanish for "the hawk") is a well-worthwhile book to read, enjoyable, and written with verve, and so is recommended.

Down the Darkest Road
Tami Hoag
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780525952398, $26.95,,

Unlike the prior two entries in the Oak Knoll series, this plot is somewhat obvious and predictable. Not that one can envision the story any differently. What unites the Oak Knoll series are three characters, profiler Vince Leone, his wife Anne, and detective Tony Mendez. But this novel really is about the Lawton family, and especially the mother, Lauren.

The Lawtons were a happy family of four living in Santa Barbara, that is, until the 16-year-old daughter was abducted and never returned. A suspect emerged, but there was no proof, so there was no closure. Two years later, the father died when his speeding car plunged into a mountain canyon (a suspected suicide). That left Lauren and a younger daughter, Leah, to cope with the tragedy.

The tale is all about the devastating effects on Lauren and Leah, and the inability of the police to do anything since there are no clues or reason to arrest the suspected perpetrator. Then Lauren decides to move to Oak Knoll "for a change." But lo and behold the suspect is there, and the fun begins. An interesting but somewhat flawed addition to what were two previous excellent novels in the series. But then, we'll take a rain check and look to the next one.

Despite reservations, it is recommended.

Getting Lucky
D.C. Brod
Tyrus Books
c/o F&W Media
4700 E. Galbraith Rd., Cincinnati, Ohio 45236
9781440531989, $24.95,,

The latest in the Robyn Guthrie series has the free-lance writer involved in a couple of story lines. To begin with, she is asked to pick up on a story for a weekly newspaper after the original reporter dies following a hit-and-run accident. The story involves a new development in town based on extreme "green" principles: almost 100 per cent energy independent, among other features, using solar power.

Robyn is obsessed in finding the one responsible for the reporter's death and becomes overly involved with the real estate development, which leads to various complications further into the plot. The author uses several devices to offset the seriousness of what essentially is a murder/crime plot, including the by-play between Robyn and her mother, as well as her on-again-off-again relationship with her present lover, a former jockey turned talented accountant and apparent man-of-the-world when it comes to knowing anyone who is anybody.

The novel is written in the first person, told from Robyn's point of view. There are some excellent wise-cracks throughout the story. However, this reader, at least, could have done with less information about Robyn's love life, or lack thereof, and more in-depth analysis of the main characters, who seemed more like stick figures than major players. However, with that caveat, the novel 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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